Monday, May 31, 2010

Homestead Gratitude #10

The criteria we considered when we moved to Wisconsin and thought about our dream home were pretty specific.  An old farmhouse, a barn and a silo, oak trees, water running through it, a wrap around porch, plenty of land for running, a garden and animals.  Well we got almost all of it (only really shy the running water, and we plan on putting in a pond someday).  We were so surprised that we couldn't find this property when we were looking, and even more surprised years later when we came across it when not looking for it at all.  I was reminded of this at sunset tonight when I caught the sun, warm and wise, on the wrap around porch.

Rhubarb Day

 We had thunderstorms this morning, and that was the perfect opportunity for me to process some of our rhubarb.  Really what motivated me to get going was a recipe I saw on Food TV by Giada De Laurentis.  She was doing an apricot bar as a dessert.   Growing up, my Gram would always make apricot bars and they were some of my favorite things, I could literally sit and eat a whole pan of them!  So, I decided to try this recipe and instead of apricot use Rhubarb.  Ohh what a treat! 

I made 5 1/2 jars of Rhubarb Jam and then used the crust recipe with a minor alteration (I used almonds instead of walnuts). 
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 packed cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup (4 ounces) Slivered Almonds
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all of the dry ingredients, then add the melted butter, vanilla and egg.  Place 1/2 of the mixture in the bottom of a greased 9X13 backing dish.  Spread one 13 oz jar of Rhubarb Jam over the bottom crust and then sprinkle and press the other half of mixture on top.  Cook at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Easy!!

I managed to get the jam and bars made, as well as getting about 5 cups of chopped rhubarb frozen.  I'll probably get one more good harvest out of our plants.   I could eat it all now, but I think it will be even better when in the chill of late fall or early winter I dig into my stocked freezer to find a little treat!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Slllloooowwww Down

Now with my main commitments at the kids school complete and summer quickly approaching I started to relax some this week.  But it didn't slow me down, just make me less frantic.  Why is that?  Why do we fill every moment with things that need to be done.  Is it just me?   Or is it more a broader societal culture?  I see everyone doing it!  Even when relaxing, there seems to be a goal, a necessary accomplishment so that the time was productive. 

This week has been a roller coaster.  What better time to gain perspective and really make choices about this 'race' we're in. My grandpa, who turned ninety at the end of last month, has had 3 heart catheterizations in the last 2 days.  Though we knew a pacemaker was a necessity for him, the things that unfolded prior to were a surprise.  One is never prepared for that news to come.  I am amazed at how fluid a situation can be. Where you can go from worry, to relief, to further worry about what the doctor's report is, to near devastation, to elation, to worry, and then finally to relief once again.  This all being said, I live 2000 miles away and am furiously communicating via email, text and telephone.  You know those calls?  The ones where you're not sure what you're going to hear the next time you answer.  I so commend my Dad and Uncles who were there riding the roller coaster in person.  And to my brother, one of the three Bill's, who called me to give me the news when it was at it's worst, asked my opinion, and even though we talk very infrequently, we were one in communicating and bouncing thoughts around.  For that moment of closeness, I am truly thankful.

Once through the end of the week, being at the top of the ride, we hit an unexpected nosedive, when we got a call that informed us that there is a major plumbing leak at the old house.  ***Disclaimer, I've said this year I wouldn't mention that place much, and I haven't.  We now have a tenant and are 10 days in to breathing a sigh of relief***  The leak will involve tearing walls out to find out where what they think is the main stack is leaking.  So now, since this happened on a Friday before a holiday weekend, we're all stuck.  Waiting for insurance to call back, the contractor to get authorization to take a look, and feeling horribly that this family of five can now only use one of the two full baths through this weekend.

So now in light of how life can speed up and get so crazy in a moment, a lesson you think I would have figured out by now!  It's time to slow down,  why not?  Life ends up speeding up on it's own anyway, why go unnecessarily fast at the in between times?  Enjoy every moment we have with those we love, count blessings, and learn not to worry about what you cannot control.  What better time of year to do this, than now?

Savor the long, warm summer days,
listening to the trees rustle in the soft breezes,
watching the clothes on the line flutter,
swinging on the porch,
listening to the screams of happy children fast at play,
cut wild flowers,
walk in the garden,
and slllooowww down!

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Ant and the Peony

 I must start this post with the acknowledgement, that my dear B gave me the idea of how to utilize this photo in a blog post, Love you hun ;-)

What a lovely and symbiotic relationship between the little ant and the peony.  I love our peonies.  We have several bushes, and as you can see they're getting ready to bloom.  The peony prepares its bud to bloom by becoming covered in a sweet nectar.  Interestingly, this attracts and is food for the ants, who have a feast and over a little time help the giant double blooms unfold.  They help one another just by existing and going about their own business.  Yet, neither of them knows how they effect the other.  Hmmm, it makes you ponder to what extent all of our little actions affect the world around us.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Suddenly Summer

Our weekend was beautiful.  Sunday hit close to ninety degrees at our house, and it is going to be warm all week!  The air has the mugginess of late summer, and even though this quick change is a shock to the system, feeling the hot sun reflecting against a crystal clear sky is good for the soul.  It's early in the season to see these temperatures, but I won't complain, our growing season has just gotten ever so slightly longer!  Hopefully the chill will stay away.  This warm snap has made many items in the garden ecstatic! Just look what we have here.....
The peas have doubled in size and been mulched in & our Swiss Chard is just poking it's head up in between the rows.

 The potatoes are emerging and our experiment is working!  These are our own seed potatoes from last season, and were covered in mulch and straw rather than buried  in hills.  Can't wait to pick them!  I hope it's as easy as the research says with this method.
Lookie at the beans!  They're all coming up and doubling in size from day to day (they just poked through yesterday!  Green Beans and Red Beans are flourishing.  The Soy beans are a bit shy, but still coming up.
 The tomatillo's are actually getting blooms!

Everything is getting so big, we're finalizing trellis work and giving all of the beds a heavy mulch treatment to deter weeds.  This will also add to the no till environment we're creating for the future.  Memorial Day weekend is approaching.  This is truly the marker of safe planting here in Wisconsin (we always tend to get a head start for the good or bad of it :-).  Happy Planting!

Monday, May 24, 2010

One Moment in Time

Friday was the First Grade Musical. It was entitled "Through the Pages" and each of the four classes took on one story.  When each class was doing their section, the remaining three classes are in the chorus.  This is quite an event every year and my second experience at it.  Charlies class did Wizard of Oz/Wicked.  They decided to end their Oz sketch with the closing song from Wicked to highlight that the Wicked Witch of the West wasn't really bad, just misunderstood.  It dovetailed in nicely with their IB principles and pacified the girls in the class who were assigned the witch role, instead of Dorothy or Glenda.

In my desire to learn to sew, I figured, why not volunteer to be one of the sewing moms for the musical?  That will force me into a deadline situation and I'll have to get it done.  Typically each class has one boy and one girl costume/character that all of the boys/girls represent.  Ironically, in my inaugural sewing quest, Charlies teacher decided to split up his class into Scarecrow, Tin man, Lion for the boys, and Dorothy, Glenda, and The Wicked Witch for the girls.  So the wonderful head sewing mom, Barb, took me under her wing and I took on most of the boys costumes.  I began my journey with pants, scarecrow pants to be exact.  I sewed three of them and then graduated to lion costumes.  This was exciting for me, not only did I get to reinforce my pant making skills, I had to incorporate tails into them too.  I also learned to make my first shirts with the lions.  I'm now able to add elastic to sleeves and waistbands.  I know this is crazy, but it truly excited me, these little baby step accomplishments.  Finally I did the Tin Men costumes.  Once again shirts and pants, but this time I learned how to sew in collars, and how to attach joints!  Ah, the little victories. 

All of the costumes turned out great!  Several moms put in tons of hours of work into making and adorning, the costumes and accessories.  Check out the manes on the lions, they were hand crocheted! I'm thankful for the experience and am happy to have worked along with such dedicated moms on this project.

As for the stars, our kids, I'm so proud of them.  They enthusiastically performed two performances Friday.  A Matinee that was seen by the 525 person student body, and then another 600 or so friends and family who viewed the evening show.  It is quite a production and the line up for seats begins anywhere from 1-2 hours prior to the performance, depending on the year.  It gives you the impression you're lining up for concert tickets, such an energetic feeling!  The 2010 first grade class definitely made the most of their "One Moment in Time!"

Homestead Gratitude #9

Our property is has fairly dense areas of conifers.  Several specimen trees are spotted through the yard, and the entire West side of the homestead is a wooded border of pine.  One of the sure signs of new life are all of the neon green tips that pop out from the ends of the branches.  As they open, they are so delicate and very soft, almost like a paint brush.  Seeing this light show of green is a sure sign of the growing season and a homestead gratitude.

** I took this photo a couple of weeks ago and am doing a bit of grateful catch up :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eighty-Five Degrees, a little Jack Johnson and bubbles on the Porch

 It has been a crazy several days with my kids school year activities coming to a head.  As I sit here in the perfect setting, with my family close at hand, I sip a glass of white wine and relish the accomplishments of my kids this weekend after much hard work.  I will be posting a couple gratuitous entries with bragging pictures of the First Grade Musical and then the Brownie sleep over, that resulted in flying up to Junior Girl Scouts.  I need to clear my fuzzy, yet happy mind a bit (due to 3 hours of sleep last night). 

I hope this weekend has brought you warm sunshine, and a few care free bubbles on the porch.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ride of Silence

Last night was the ride of silence.  This is a worldwide event to reflect solidarity in safe and respectful biking.  To remember those killed or injured by automobiles, and to remind motorists that sharing the road is essential.  It's been almost a year since our Split Second in Slow Motion.  Due to that moment, B was pinned with a red arm band to wear as opposed to the black memorial armbands worn by most of the other riders.  I believe he was one of only a few in the 100 or so cyclists who wore that color last night.   
 This picture marks the first half of the group, the remainder are waiting to turn onto the road.

It was a moving experience to see the solidarity of this large group riding en masse.    As I say to B and his friends every time they leave....Ride Safe!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homestead Gratitude #8

 One of the things I love most about this time of year is the bonfire.  It's a true symbol of the fair weather season.  Last night we had our first bonfire.  Charlie had his birthday sleepover and we thought that roasting weenies and doing s'mores would be a great way to do dinner.  The boys had a great time, for a short while and ran off to other adventures.  B, Sid & I sat for a long time enjoying. 

A bonfire is such a sensory experience.  I love the smell of the smoke, the warmth the fire throws, the amazing colors of the flames as the light of day dims and fades, and the sound of the wood popping.  This is the time of year when people emerge from their homes after a long seasons hibernation.  We're back on porches, sipping wine and watching kids run late into the lighter evenings.  The natural evolution is celebrations, big and small, around a fluid and lively fire.  We've solved many of the worlds problems with our little fireside chats.  I look forward to much time gazing into a bonfire while feeling a cool evening's breeze.  I can picture myself sitting with friends by the fire and looking up to a sky full of stars, that mirror all life's possibilities back to me, and I smile. 

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

It has truly felt like spring this weekend.  The weather has been beautiful and we've actually had some sunshine today!  Between Charlies birthday party last night, our Survivor finale bash this evening, and with the anticipation of company this week I've been madly doing some spring cleaning to prepare for guests.  Also, after the last weeks push on the garden, we have virtually everything in the ground, most of the trelis' complete, and have fully finished 12- 6'x18' raised beds. These beds take up just over half of the garden space and are much more efficient, giving us more garden area than we used all of last year.  You can check out the 2010 Garden Plan in the sidebar to see the details of everything we've planted. 

I'm enjoying a lovely view of filtered sunlight this afternoon from the couch with an ice pack. It seems my back is well on it's way to being out.  I can pinpoint nothing that I've done to trigger it.  What a frustration! .  So I will sit here with the kids, relish an episode of The Walton's and relax for a while.  I catch glimpses of B mowing, ear buds in and a beer in one hand, true relaxation.  Nice now to be lazing on a Sunday afternoon.

**Hopefully some of the next garden shots will show lots of growth and sprouted seedlings :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Making Faeries

Sidney loves to make things out of what's around her.  She'll take a leaf and a blade of grass and create a small woven purse, or create a little nest and leave it out so that some small creature can use it.   The last few days she's been making faeries.  She just explores the yard and finds little things around her and begins to create. 

When we turned over the keys to the house last night to our new tenants, she had carefully made a beautiful little one and set it on the wrought iron fence.  I said oh let's take that home so you can save it.  No, she wanted it to stay with the old house, so the new people living there could have their own fairy. 

 Such simple little creations that reflect a creative and care free imagination.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cluck, Cluck...AKA Homestead Gratitude #7

 notice some of our lovely raised beds in the garden behind them :)
Meet Cinnamon and Speckles.  Having these two hens, and a few more babies in their teenage years, has been a true joy.  Moving to the county and having acreage, albeit outside the city limits by a few feet, has afforded us the great pleasure of having a few hens.  Not only are they a great love of my daughters, we have a supply of beautiful free range eggs and a wonderful addition to our compost that enriches our garden. 

Some friends of ours are working hard to promote an ordinance that would allow backyard chickens within the city limits.  Just three hens, as pets and for egg production only, and they'd be licensed.  I was truly amazed at the outcry, by a few, spewing half truths that only come from a complete lack of education on the subject matter, that has given many pause.  Beyond that, the name calling.  Hillbilly, redneck or attention seeking and holier than thou.  This is crazy to me.  These are a few conscientious individuals who are seeking a knowledge of sustainability and teaching there kids about where their food comes from.  They are not trying to force their views or lifestyle choices on anyone.  Just trying to go through the appropriate channels to legally make that choice. 

For the record, We're no hillbillies. We're business owners, I have a masters degree and B is a Veterinarian, We volunteer in the community, and are active parents in our children's school. We also still own a home in the city and have a vested interest in the neighborhood.

So I'll get off my roost now, but I had to mention this support of my city neighbors.  My dear chickens are absolutely a homestead gratitude!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fading Glory

Today was rain.  It began in the early morning hours and was still misting when I got home with the kids this evening.  It was as I walked into the house after a crazy busy day that I saw this scene.  The approaching twilight gave just the right light for the moment.  It allowed me to slow way down, breathe and simply appreciate.  As this tulip fades in the evening light take a moment to marvel at all of the little beauties around you.


 Today was filled with work, hard work.  It represented a closing of an era, and the new beginnings that each years garden brings.  Last week we rented the other house!  This allows us to recoup a significant portion of our monthly expenditure and start to exhale a little.  Today we had movers out to completely vacate what items remained.  Now, three years later, what's there should have little meaning.  Much of it, which is now sitting in the barn, will be sifted through and finally discarded.  That said, there are a number of things that are almost like new discoveries and will have a fresh usefulness.  I felt a little sad walking though one last time.  It seems that the final removal of our things allows us to let go of the house,  that is truly bittersweet.

Once we'd completed the unload at the homestead, we needed to jump right into getting garden work done.  We're expecting an inch or so of rain tonight, so time was of the essence.  This years garden has turned into quite an ordeal. While prepping to produce not only for ourselves, but our farm basket families, we've really worked hard on reconfiguring the structural layout of the garden.  We've been expanding and creating an aesthetically pleasing permanent backbone to this love of ours.  We now have 10 of our 12 raised beds completed and different produce specific trellis' built.  The 12 beds out does last years garden by 2 and we've only reconfigured half of our garden space.  The rest we'll do slowly over the summer while things are growing, so we can plant our fall/winter crops.

With all of these dreams we're working on to make our reality, you'd think I'd have vivid nightly dreams.  Not tonight, I'm much too tired!

**due to being so tired and not wanting to struggle with an iPhoto problem I was having this post published a little late.  Now I must have some coffee.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Homestead Gratitude #6

 One of the most relaxing things to me is sitting on the back deck when it's evening and I've managed to get all of the lawn mowed in a couple of days.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a horrendous task at all.   I love the mowing.  I find it strangely relaxing, centering.  I can take in cool breath and exhale.  In an effort to get it all done at once (because I neurotically can't stand and incomplete task)  today may have been an exception since I was mowing with our very elderly tractor in third gear.  I admit, I had to stop after I got about two-thirds done and down shift to second in order to save myself from being shaken apart.  But it was well worth it.  This evening as I sit and sip my wine and eat my lovingly made Mother's Day dinner, I can gaze upon our homestead and take it all in in it's manicured beauty.  I can take a deep breath of the fresh cut grass as the evening chill and dew set in.  This is bliss.  May you all have a little bit of bliss this Mother's Day!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day Weekend Seven Years Ago

 Seven years ago today, my little Mother's Day present was born.  Truly from the moment of his birth, Charles was a little ball of testosterone energy.  He is constantly moveing, thinking, figuring out, and has always had an innate ability to take things apart and put them back together if for no other reason, than just to see if he could do it.

He had a very busy day, beginning with pancakes and then a boy scout field trip to the Racine Heritage Museum. No sooner than he got home from that, we headed out to soccer (there was a very short break when he went outside to find the perfect rock to sharpen the arrowhead he came home with.  "Just like the Native Americans did, do you think I could catch fish with it when I rope my stick to it?"---you see busy).  His coach made a reference to all of the parents looking like they were at a Packer game.  You see all of the winter clothing that I'd washed and put in the attic last week, came out today for the game.  It was 40 degrees with a driving wind and drizzle.  We're going to freeze tonight too...hello May! 
When we came home from soccer, dad was beginning to assemble his main gift on the driveway.  That then became a father son activity to complete.  I think he's pretty happy with it.  His dinner request was butter noodles, shrimp and asparagus.  Then he wanted my grandma's cardamom cake but with a twist,  he wanted banana frosting.  I cringed at this a bit, I'm not a big banana fan, but it's his birthday and he gets what he wants.  So I whipped up a banana butter cream frosting and it was to die for!  I guess any flavor is impeccable if it's included with the words butter cream!
To my little man with a huge personality, giant heart and a face for every occasion, Happy Birthday!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Homestead Gratitude #5

 As I sit here on this rainy morning sipping coffee and listening to a steady pitter patter on the roof, I glance out the window at the wooded areas that surround the property.  The barroness of winter has now turned into a blanket of almost neon green tender leaves that now surround us like a soft blanket.  Oh so close to all we need, yet in our own little oasis that has a simpler, slower feeling of a time long past.  I love the intimate feeling of being wrapped in my little homestead cocoon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Homestead Gratitude #4

 One of the things that I enjoy most, is our evening walk about.  As long as I can remember in our life together (which is nearly half of my life now), B and I have taken a morning and evening tour of our garden or yard.  We've surveyed growth, dreamed and unwind-ed while partaking in our morning coffee or evening libation.

I don't think it's meant so much as since we've moved to our little homestead.  Now not only do we have a vast (in our world) distance to traverse, but these dreams seem to take on a life of their own.  So many of our dreams now aren't just what is growing right now, though watching the daily progress is so satisfying.  No, our dreams now are deeper, more integral, more structural.  Like we're building something much more permanent here.  Things that we won't necessarily enjoy tomorrow or the next day, but we can envision in the years to come.  For this I am truly grateful.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Homestead Gratitude #3

Innumerable wishes that by simply being here, makes them feel as they'll come true.

Isn't it bliss? Just remember the simple pleasure of childhood,
when blowing a dandelion's tender, feather-like puff
would make your heart skip a beat as you
waited for some facile,
yet wonderful
wish to

Monday, May 3, 2010

And We're Off!

 Newly made and installed pea trellis'.  The peas have doubled in size since I took this picture early on Sunday morning!

This weekend we got a few more structural things completed in the garden and managed to also transplant some of our basement starts in the ground.  (we also finished moving all of the dang sod from the berry patch excavation, but we're trying to forget that experience)!  There is oh so much more to do, but the amazing sense of accomplishment has us utterly jazzed!  We have now decided that snow fence, now on sale, is the perfect substrate to trellis squash on.  So B invested in some more of that today, and hopefully by the weekend, we'll have some of these little plants that are busting out of their seedling recycled yogurt cups also nestled in the warm earth.  Yea!  We're off!

In the foreground are the eggplant's, and in the background are the new cucumber trellis' & cucs!

Homestead Gratitude #2

 Please overlook the innate grubbiness of boys being boys :)

I love to watch the kids forage in the garden.  Once mid-summer arrives, they just walk and eat their way through the raspberries, mulberries, tomatoes and truly anything they can get their hands on.  It's early in the season and amazingly, one of Charlies favorite things is to nibble on chives.  He will come in the house with major onion breath, but incredibly content.  Gratitude number two, watching the children, and ourselves partake in the properties bounty.  The seasons eatings on the homestead have begun!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Homestead Gratitude #1

 Reason number one we absolutely love living on the farm...... Reading and relaxing in a tree on a warm, breezy afternoon.
 I had the idea while taking these pictures, that maybe I'd begin a recurring post that highlights all of the wonderful reasons we love the farm.  I thought, why not give myself a deadline of 100 reasons for the project.  Then I started to hyperventilate at the thought of adding another big project to my commitments. So,  I decided that in order to create a more balanced, less frantic atmosphere, I'll just post them as I can and we'll see how many I end up with!  I think I'll call it Homestead Gratitude.

May's Dandelions and Apple Blossoms

The dandelions are abundant this year.  They are so beautiful, they almost glow.  It can be tough, the plight of a dandelion. Since we don't want to add any herbicides to our lifestyle, when they come for a visit and then poke up periodically the rest of the summer, we've decided to enjoy their presence.  I found this story, by Hans Christian Anderson, that I thought fit perfectly.  Enjoy!

But as the apple blossom looked out upon the field she thought: "Not all of the plants are rich and beautiful, as I am, some seem poor and plain." And she noticed a little, common, yellow flower, which seemed to lift up its sunny head and grow everywhere.

The apple blossom said to the plain little flower, "What is your name?"

"I am called the dandelion," replied the little flower.

"Poor little plant," said the apple blossom. "It is not your fault; but how sad you must feel to be so plain and to bear such an ugly name."

Before the little plant could reply a lovely little sunbeam came dancing along and said: "I see no ugly flowers. They are all beautiful alike to me." And he kissed the apple blossom; but he stooped low and lingered long to kiss the little yellow dandelion in the field.

And then some little children came tripping across the field. The youngest laughed when they saw the dandelions and kissed them with delight. The older children made wreaths and dainty chains of them. They picked carefully those that had gone to seed, and tried to blow the feathery down off with one breath, making joyous wishes.

"Do you see," said the sunbeam, "the beauty of the dandelion?"

"Only to children are they beautiful," said the proud apple blossom.

By and by an old woman came into the field. She gathered the roots of the dandelions, out of which she made tea for the sick, and she sold others for money to buy milk for the children.

"But beauty is better than all this," still said the proud little apple blossom. Just then the princess came along. In her hand she carried something that seemed like a beautiful flower. She covered it carefully from the wind. What do you think it was? It was the feathery crown of the dandelion. "See!" she said, "how beautiful it is! I will paint it in a picture with the apple blossoms."

Then the sunbeam kissed the apple blossom, and as he stooped low to kiss the dandelion the apple blossom blushed with shame.

Source: "A Child's Story Garden," Hans Christian Anderson

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April in Review

Here are the pictures from my April blog camp 365 photo's.  Please check out the group if you want to see some fantastic work!


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