Love is a Nuclear Bomb

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My little Anna has a new favorite practice. She likes to pat the floor next to where she is sitting to indicate she would like you to sit by her. She will keep her face completely serious as she slaps the floor repeatedly until someone answers her patting call to sit with her. I am often too lazy to bring my body all the way down on the kitchen floor to sit, but her siblings are much more willing. I get a big kick out of when her older brothers of fifteen and eighteen snuggle up next to her on the floor to enjoy an ice cream cone together or to have a little chat about our cows and chickens. She just adores farm animals. If she wants me to sit with her she is quite smart and will point to the couch instead of the floor.

She seems to say with the pitter-patter of her small hand: Come sit with me and let’s enjoy life together. I feel happy to be with you. You are special to me and I am happy just to be with you. 

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As a mother I am called so often to sit. Sitting to nurse. Sitting to keep a child asleep. Sitting to comfort a sick or crying child. Sitting to lighten the load of a heavy child. Sitting to be close to more than one child. Sitting to read books with children. I sit, and then I sit some more. At times I am nothing but relieved to sit all the while fulfilling my mothering duties, other times I am just biting at the opportunity to flee.

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I knew a woman who knew how to sit well. She sat as well as a stoic on a tree stump fasting. She sat at her station like a loyal soldier. It was a leather chair gifted to her from one of her sixteen children after her last chair grew too worn. She had maybe three chairs during the twenty years I knew her. It was a throne that even after she died last spring, I still do not feel worthy to sit upon. It had held such grace and wisdom, gentle patience, and then pain followed by unshakable peace. I still feel her presence just looking at that chair.

She welcomed people as unassumingly as a small child like Anna. I had met her when I was seventeen and was a bit of a mess. I had started dating her son which I imagine would have worried someone like herself. I most likely had fragments of pink Manic Panic in my hair and wore clothes that went against her modest sensibilities, though never did she indicate anything but acceptance and kindness toward me. I can still remember when I heard through other family members that she liked me. It was settled. I was welcome.

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The truth is, she liked everyone and welcomed them. Her house was always full of those that wanted to be near her. She knew what most people only say: People matter more than things. People should love their neighbors, not gossip about them. People should be there for one another. Being present is important.

Her life was not glamorous. Her life was riddled with bodily pains that she barely mentioned and sacrifices innumerable. Her life was often messy and loud, not because of her doing but because of those that loved her and needed her. I do not think I could have handled her life, and I am sure she heard that from others more times than she needed to, but she did not focus on that sort of thing.

Though her chair is now empty and people are becoming more comfortable filling it, she has left much to ponder. I feel I can now talk to her anytime. I know what she would say to me. I know what she would say to you. I know what she said was true.

Come, sit with me. You are enough.

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In Honor of Carol Pearson

Carol said love is like a nuclear bomb. Thank you, Carol, for igniting it and sharing it with me. We will always miss you but you have left us with so much love and the bomb is spreading its splendid plume. Bernie just had twins!

Hallejuh, Our Struggle Ends.

 

 

 

Santa Lucia Brunch (and no-guilt cinnamon rolls)

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My husband and I have almost the same heritage. I am Finnish/Swedish/Norwegian and Irish. He is, for the most part, Norwegian and Irish. Living in the township of Oulu, Wisconsin, an original Finnish homesteading community, has really called us both back to our Scandinavian roots. How we would have enjoyed talking with those homesteading ancestors. It often feels like we have to reinvent the wheel with farming know-how. The outdoor sauna was a major selling point for me on this homestead as my family on my mother’s side always took sauna and I wanted to give that to our children.

As  Catholics, and Scandinavians, the tradition of celebrating St. Lucy’s day was a fun way to add more koselig (cosiness) and fika (eating yummy things like pastries and cakes with coffee) into our lives. See those ancestors were smart. When you live in frigid temperatures with little daylight, it helps to fill your days with cosiness, like warm mugs of tea and cocoa, snuggle up to the fireside, wear comfy slippers and put your feet up. I LOVE winter. It’s an excuse to slow things down! It’s a time to pipe dream and knit, reflect and kiss those sweet baby cheeks. I do hope you have some sweet cheeks that you can kiss.
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For our low key brunch I made a big cast iron pan of scrambled eggs with spinach, onion, and sharp cheddar, just to balance out the major sweetness from the two batches of cinnamon rolls everyone was waiting for, and woke up smelling. That’s so much fun to do! Much better than mean old, “Wake up!!”

One of the cinnamon rolls were according to a recipe, and one according to a non-guilt indulgent criteria. Thankfully the latter was good enough that I did not entertain the former.

No Guilt Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting:

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CINNAMON-STEVIA FILLING

8-10 packets of stevia

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix in a small bowl; set aside

Set the oven to 425 degrees

BISCUIT DOUGH:

2 1/2 cups ground almond flour

4 packets stevia

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Whisk dry ingredients. Add butter and mix in almond milk with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle almond flour onto a work surface and “gently pat” (it will be moist!) into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick.

Sprinkle cinnamon-stevia filling over the surface leaving an inch or so around the perimeter empty.

Roll the long end up, patting as you go and doing so very gently. You may want a spatula to help form and lift as you go.

Cut rolls about every 2 inches and place on baking pan with a 2 inch edge. I used a high fluted pie pan. I got eight rolls, though when they were baked they melted into each other so they will resemble more of a cake than a roll. More almond flour would firm it up, but I liked it moist and cakey.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes. They will be gooey looking, but it’s good believe me.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

1/3 package cream cheese thawed

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

2 Tablespoons sour cream

2-4 packets of stevia *based on your sweet meter

Cream contents together with a fork or mixer until they are well blended. Mix in stevia.

Spread over slightly cooled “rolls”.

Yummm! And sooooo filling. I am still full from the brunch and it’s dinner time. My husband asked a few times if they were really low-carb. I think they were a winner!

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More koselig in the home.  Handcrafted soaps, beeswax candlelight, and cranberry garland.

There are just a few Sweet Cardamom Kisses handcrafted soaps listed on my ETSY and it is a perfect scent for the Finns in your life. It’s the next best thing to pulla, a Finnish cardamom-spiced sweet bread. My mother makes such a beautiful braided pulla.

Here’s to koselig! And, Santa Lucia!
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Dearest Decor Ghosts of Christmas Past

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Introduction:

Picture a gigantic, gaudy, sparkly red and green ball of panic, trussed up with anything that emits Christmas, marching like a trumpet band into your house to camp out in every nook and cranny for a whole solid month. Imagine with your nose an olfactory hallucination of a noxious, artificially scented evergreen dust bomb exploding in your house. Taste, if you will allow me, a cheap dry freezer burnt sugar cookie that you are only eating because it’s Christmas time. It’s Christmas time and you must eat it.

This was my experience toting up a few harmless Christmas decorations from the basement last week. It was hard to recognize the feelings of anxiety masquerading as slight displeasure and dissonance with mere decor placement. Because?

Rising Action:

Why in the world would Christmas decorations cause me to feel panicky? Dramatic? I am sorry, but I guess, yes. And, are there much greater problems in the world? And, again, uh huh.

Nonetheless, please forgive my shallow concept of drama and just know it was still a mighty festive panic that crawled up my throat like a roach Grinch and punctured a serious drain on my newfound Christmas cheer.

All I could think was when will this all be over.

Normally, I do enjoy rummaging through the seasonal decor and finding just the right spot for Mr. and Mrs. Claus, the reindeer, the numerous bunches of artificial foliage, wreaths, three or four nativity sets, miniature trees, sleighs, bells, ornaments, lights, candles. Oh boy.

Yep. Festive panic.

Over the summer I anticipated this stimulation overload and went through the Christmas decorations and pared things down to what I really liked and/or is sentimental enough to hold onto. So, naturally taking them out for their time to shine was the appropriate thing to do and should have been a pleasure after being so nicely and neatly stored away. Because, obviously you use the things you keep, and it was now my duty to display them whether I liked it or not.

There they were propped up on the mantle, looking dumb and still dumber, and nothing like what I hoped for or my Christmas pinterest board. Baa. I guess that’s the way things are. Humbug. It must be the house that is making these decorations look so bad because I remember these things looking so nice in Christmas past.

I can’t just have Christmas decorations and NOT use them?

Wait. What?

Climax:

I packed those decorations right back up and down the stairs, and guess what? They didn’t care at all. They were like maybe we’ll have a shot next year? Yes, maybe next year if you survive the next summer purge. Maybe? Anyways, it’s not you, it’s me.

Falling action:

Now. What do I like?

Oh, that’s easy. I like simple. I like clean. I like berries, pomegranates, cranberries, oranges. I like real evergreen garland, twig wreaths, beeswax candles.

Denouement:

Why, hello there, Christmas spirit! So glad you came back for me.

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20161202_120842p.s. This is happening upstairs. I thought you should know. If you don’t understand: Here. Thanks, Mary A. for the great idea! Now the kids are complaining that the clothes are too dry, and the washer sounds like it is going to take off the ground. Dear Santa….

Hip Homeschool Moms

Going Around and a Peasant’s Twig Wreath

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We went for a little shopping trip yesterday. All we needed was a basket and gloves, no money or a car. I knew I needed to go when I started perusing “natural decorations” online at Target. Only the girls were interested in my little trip. I told them to be on the look out for “pretty things.” We pulled out the snow gear and went for a walk around the yard.

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My mother and I started a twig wreath together a few weeks ago, but mine didn’t turn out quite right. Here is my first wreath, a pinterest fail, for sure.

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It was a good start, and I almost just lived with it. However, all was not lost. Turns out that adding some thin spindly, alternating branches to it really helped fixed things! And, I am SO happy with it now and for the price of free! Well, I guess you do need floral wire but I had some around the house and I hope you do, too!

What you need:

Wire clothes hanger

Lots of branch tips from birch or a bush with spindly alternating branches.

Floral wire

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First: Unravel a wire clothes hanger and twist at top to make a circle shape. You can see mine is not perfect and that’s okay.

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Second: Break branches.

These are the first wreath bundles and they made a good base to fill the inner circle. I unfastened my “fail” and reworked it. Break your branch ends to about 8 inch length and bundle them in groups of 8-10. You are going to need about 13 bundles and will add more, so don’t secure them just lay them out on a table.

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Third: Add in your spindly branches.

Mine were about 12-18 inches. If you would like it shorter or longer just adjust the length here.

Fourth: Secure the bundles with floral wire as you work in one direction. I wrapped them once about 2 inches up from the base with about 1 1/2 feet of wire. I only had silver colored wire and colored them in with black marker to cover the metal color. Yes, it showed. If you have black or brown wire it would be ideal.
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I like the way it looks simple for Thanksgiving, but may add a few berries and a bow for Christmas and then take it off for the rest of the year.

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Ballet pointe shoe bag in the making…

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Mary made a little wreath by stringing leaves on floral wire.

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Etsy shop is updated with seasonal soaps and gift options.

Happy Thanksgiving, Week!

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Creamy Wild Rice & Salmon Soup

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I do not pretend to be a fabulous cook, and definitely do not claim in any way to be a food photographer. BUT, this soup had all nine of my people singing their nums and yums all the way from baby to adult.

Some words:

“This soup is sooooo good!” Brutally-honest-adolescent

“Can you make this soup everyday?” Quite-serious-toddler

“Can I have more?” Not-a-big-fish-eater-person

“I LOVE this soup!” Fussy-eater-everything-makes-me-feel-sick-child

Disclaimer:  I, as in my husband, have been making the same repeats for dinner over the past few nights and that may or may not have something to do with those extremely receptive and happy palettes.
20161107_190159This recipe may challenge type A’s as I can give only general directions. So take it with a grain of salt. Generally speaking after I make a recipe a few times, I just go with vague recollections. My cooking is more an art form, perhaps of the caveman type, or whatever-is-in-the-cupboards approach. If you like to cook like this, or would like to give life on the edge a shot, this is the recipe for you!

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What to grow, gather, forage, fish, or just boring purchase.

Recipe will feed a starving family of nine for dinner with enough left overs for the next day’s lunch. Cut recipe in half for normal people portions, or just freeze or share half.

1 filet wild caught salmon (*smoked salmon that would be a wonderful alternative, too)

8 oz. wild rice

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

4-5 carrots, chopped or shredded

8 oz. portobella mushrooms, sliced and diced

4 celery stalks, chopped

4-6 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup heavy cream, or half-n-half.

4 tbsp butter

olive oil

*parmesan

**chicken stock

***add any vegetables you have or really like. Experiment! Peppers are really good, spinach, kale, etc…What do you have in your fridge?

I like to make this soup on our wood stove in a dutch oven, but it has been so warm here in November we are not making fires, yet.

Process:

Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Smear 1 tbsp of olive oil on sheet. Place salmon skin side down on sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil over top. Season with sea salt and black pepper. If desired add other seasonings, like rosemary and thyme. Bake at 375 degrees until fully cooked about 20 minutes. Salmon should easily flake apart.

Meanwhile cook wild rice in a large stock pot. Wild rice cooks 3 parts water/stock to 1 part rice. I generally do not worry about this measurement when I am making soup because you are not trying to cook out the water. I just cover the rice about three times its size with water/stock, let it reach boil, cover, and cook until tender, about 45 minutes.

At this point my husband and I went on a quick 20 minute walk and I just hoped everything would be fine, and it was.

With about 20 minutes remaining for rice, melt 4 tbsp butter in a cast iron pan. Saute onions and garlic until translucent, add carrots and celery. Then add mushrooms or any other quicker cooking vegetables, like peppers if desired.

Add more stock, or water, to wild rice once cooked if you like your soup thinner. Add flaked off bite size pieces of cooked salmon. Add cooked vegetables.  Add cream and grated cheese. Stir until cheese has melted.

Top with freshly ground pepper and parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

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In the Presence of Gratitude (also guest posted at Blessed is She)

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At times when the sun casts its light over our lawn, I feel like I am looking at a stage in a play. Especially when it’s the orangey-yellow-green light before a storm. It makes the whole yard look like it is lit up with an artificial glow and appears surreal. I am not particularly fond of artificial light.  I much prefer natural light, but it can feel so nice to be suddenly transported to another perspective. It can feel so good to be jostled out of your daily grind and stupor and be reminded that this world is something beautiful, surprising, and mysterious.  And perhaps more importantly, that you have a part to play in it.

In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton, captures this thought much better than I could. He writes, “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

For a few hours yesterday, I felt cornered into darkness. A funk had cast a dark shadow over me as the sun went down, and with it a heavy cloud latched onto me like a cold, wet blanket. It didn’t make any sense. It was a perfect Friday evening. We were making a nice dinner and later in the night, my husband and I, would watch some Masterpiece Theatre. Perfect really, in my little world.

I am sure a glass of red wine and a shopping spree on Amazon would have solved things fast enough. Feeling resolute, I chose to talk about these feelings with my husband. The usual downers are the same. Money is tight.  Our appliances are broken. I don’t have enough time for everything I need to do. So many things are simply beyond my control.  I feel alone. I feel needy. I feel my brokenness.

Talking with my husband can be like a spoonful of medicine.  Sometimes it comes bitter.  Sometimes it comes sweet. These little conversations have been countless in our twenty years of marriage. I start naming off a litany of dismays. He catalogs them into things that can be fixed, things that can change, and things to accept. We pray about them, but there is one thing that always remains before us, and if we lose sight of her, everything is lost- the beautiful presence of gratitude,.

It’s a practice we keep, this gratefulness. A sort of game where we list all the things we are grateful for: our children, our marriage, our daily bread, our faith. We think of hard times and how things worked out. We think of how we have grown and how we can still grow. We think of other people in hard times. We recollect small blessings: a working fridge, a cow that got bred, a hot cup of soup. We try to step outside ourselves and see things from another perspective.

As I was swimming around in the darkness, I got jostled back unexpectedly into the light. Our twenty month old tripped onto her tummy while pushing a train car around. She was having so much fun chasing her older sister around with her “arr”, as she calls it.  And then, suddenly she was planted right onto the top of the plastic train with her tender, chubby tummy. It is always so heartbreaking when they go from so happy to so sad, so fast. What purpose I felt to be able to pick her up and love her. To just smother her back into safety.

In that baby hug, I was revived. My litany transformed. Me just hugging her makes it all worth it. Come broken water heater and heaps of laundry all the days of my life. Yes, this is why I am doing what I do. I am so thankful for her, for him, for them! My ingratitude melted away in that hug.

This morning as the light pours in through our east window I am again transported. The darkness has left me, finding me either unwilling or perhaps the chemicals are just back in sync. I am thankful that as the darkness clouded my vision yesterday, I managed to bask in it without thrashing about, only to hurt myself and others. Call it chemicals or hormones. Call it seasonal or spiritual. It’s probably all those things.

Whether we like it or not, whether the sun is shining or not, this is our call time to stage. We don’t get to manage the lighting offstage or write the scene for our part. We don’t get to decide we aren’t worthy of the part we are given and we can not play the role someone else has been given. We only have the choice over the sort of character we play, what we do, and the hope we can change for the better.

Am I the selfish, bitter woman I loathe? Am I the strong, gracious woman I admire?  Gratitude, God’s lovely maiden, should be my script, our script. She is our guardian of happiness. She is our fortress of peace. She is our gaze to heaven.

20161107_203514I got to watch my daughter Mary dance last week during one of her four weekly two and a half hours of brutal ballet. Hard work and grace really pay off. 

Thank you for reading I love to hear from you!

 

Spiffin-up da’ Whole House in a Mornin’

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If you came to our house unannounced you would be greeted by a chicken on the porch, a bag of garbage by the door, and a tribe of half-naked cherubs turning cartwheels, hurdling piles of unfolded laundry. Just a heads-up, I may have to shoot you at this point because you would have seen too much. No offense. Give me an hour, or three, or preferably a day, or three. This way I can make the appropriate accommodations for your upcoming arrival, and then, come right in, you nice person, you! Are you a coffee or tea person? Stay for dinner? Take a sauna? Move in much?

The term “Spiffing-up” should tell you something about this post. This is not how to deep clean your whole house in a morning’s time. Spiffing is a bit like spoofing for the purpose of this post. It is an inside joke with your cupboards and closets. They are all laughing at the fact that the house looks clean while you just chucked phone chargers and batteries into the spice cabinet.

In order to carry out this all-around aesthetically pleasing clean in three hours or less, you are going to need a somewhat impromptu visit from a special someone. That’s the only part of this process you can’t control. You are going to need a special somebody that may just think your family is full of nut jobs if they were to see your house in its current state. For us, that is usually any person that does not know us very well but happens to have two working eyes. (We used to have an almost blind priest over for dinner. He didn’t work out for this purpose.)

Preferably this person should also have a good reason to peruse your entire house. If you suspect they will only come in through the front door and visit at the dining room table, you will inevitably only spiff-up said places and not get the whole house clean which is our goal here. Once you are aware of a very near visit from that special someone, you will embark upon a cleaning frenzy that you never thought you were capable of undertaking.

If you have children, like myself, you are going to need to pretend you do not have children. Tell the kids you love them and make sure they aren’t dying of immediate hunger. Tell them mommy is turning into a witch on a broom. You can only hope and pray your children won’t be in a particularly crafty mood or want to stick stickers all over the wall to help decorate. I pray they don’t have any major life crises, like coming to the realization that we are all going to die and that you are older than them so you will probably die first.  These sorts of crises develop around age five and come on rather suddenly. Try to avoid talking about the dearly departed, Michael Jackson.

Older children need to know to never question your cleaning tactics. That now you are a totalitarian dictator and they are merely your subservient pawns. If you ask them to pick up that large piece of floating cardboard outside, they simply perform task. Tip: Watch out for a spell they can cast on you that makes you think they are way too weak to carry cardboard and are simply swamped with all the tasks of showering and brushing teeth. To break this spell, do not let them shower until they perform task A, B, C. The sky is the limit once showering is on the line. If you tell them they need to scoop off that large chicken poop on the porch that your guest may slip on, tell them they are simply a cog in the machine. You can tell them this also isn’t a difficult task and suggest holding off on that shower until afterwards <wink>. They will tell you those things don’t matter and you can tell them their opinions don’t matter. They won’t fear you turning them into frogs, but behind the iron curtain there are no media devices.

Six Magic Fast House Cleaning Hacks:

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1. Pay attention to your entrance.

This area gets so clogged-up in our house and gives our guests their first impressions of living with nine barbarians, well eight, I for one am a lady. We do so many mess-making things in this area. We put our garbage here to be taken out, chuck off our “muddy” barn boots, store tools for current projects, as well as a moving station for things going out to the car and donation items. Sprucing up this space comes absolutely first. And shoes… SHOES!

2. Clear.

Clear all tables, counter tops, display shelves. Wipe them down. Then place just a few pretty things on them. Lay out your favorite table cloth and fill a pretty bowl with some fruit or something natural from your yard. Put everything else out of view. If you’re moving fast and have the time, put things where they should go. If you’re running slow, tuck them wherever to be properly stored later. Or just never mind.

3. Pick up.

Pick up everything that isn’t furniture. In my house, that would be toys, clothes, shoes, toys, clothes, shoes, repeat. Sweep or vacuum all floors, and then mop only if needed. Shake out rugs.

I know you’re thinking I should get these little kids picking up their toys but this is a mission. I just go. It’s a storm that is coming into each room and children need to move. I am down to one hour, people. The kids are practically starving to death after two hours of not eating, and don’t let the baby catch a glimpse of you! See what happened; holding baby and cleaning with one arm now. All you can do then is sling the baby, as in, put the baby in a ring sling.

4. Straighten.

Straighten tablecloths, pillows, throw blankets, bed skirts, bed spreads, towels, rugs, books, and visible dishware. Clean, crisp lines make things look instantly good.

5. Scrub.

Scrub only things that will be seen or used. Toilet, sinks, oven top.

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6. Freshen.

Freshen things up with something great smelling. I love cleaning with Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena multi-cleaner. Spark up a lovely aromatic candle. Or better yet if you made good time, bake something delicious and sweet, like banana bread or apple crisp, for your lucky guest. And yes, kids too.

Awe. That wasn’t too hard. Your house is looking so bright and clean. Time for you to spiff up yourself!  Get out of those rags!  Then proceed to rescue your children from the witch, brush their hair, fill up their cups, and take your remaining 10 minutes reading a book together to welcome mommy’s nice, new home and look like you’re in a Jane Austen movie, sitting so prim and proper in your clean house.  This little spell will be presentable for twelve hours tops, so plan accordingly.

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What are your cleaning hacks?

 

“Concerning Vegetarians and Chickens” a poem (part one)

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Chickens are not vegetarians.

I am a vegetarian that butchers chickens.

My husband loves chicken.

He eats chicken even after butchering one an hour ago.

If you eat chicken, you should probably try butchering one.

One daughter has become a vegetarian this year.

We like vegetables.

Chickens like vegetables.

Chicken manure makes great compost.

Tractor chickens over your old garden to add nutrients in over the winter and do your weed pulling.

I am a vegetarian that butchers chickens.

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Click to read part two-The Chicken Crossing-A Reflection

 

“The Chicken Crossing” a reflection (part two)

20161019_07485920161019_0750012016-10-09-21-09-39_resizedOne of the meat birds habituated with the Australian hens. She now thinks she is one of them and so do we. 

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The other day my husband thought someone was at the door. He heard a faint tap, rap, tap. He opened the door and there was no one there.

“I am down here.”

It was one of our many, and one of our many, many, chickens. They are crossing new thresholds. They are indeed “crossing the road.” And why, you might ask, are the chickens crossing the road?  I have the answer for you and it’s not very funny, so never mind it.

Looking out my patio doors this cool, October morning, I see them pecking at some cucumber plants, conversing while taking a turn about the south garden. One here, one there, one just about everywhere.

Our baby has become afraid of going outside without someone right next to her to shoo the chickens away. Most of the chickens are where they should be-in our makeshift chicken tractor next to the strawberry garden. I wish we would have butchered them while it was warmer, but there is no going back to warmer around here.

The positives when we finally harvest them are manifold:

1. We will not have to buy anymore chicken feed.

2. The girls’ chicken chores will be finished.

3. Our freezer will be full of seventy free range chickens.

It’s a big win-win, really. Come on now, I’m trying to get pumped! Come on, get pumped, old me.

Estimated from our last year’s harvest, it takes us about seven minutes a bird, from catching the chicken to plucking out its last feather. Not anyone’s most favorite seven minutes, but a character building seven minutes, nonetheless. We have about seventy birds on our to do list. So seventy times seven equals some sort of biblical proportion that is causing me to procrastinate so much this year.

I can not wait to have this chore, finished, slashed, chucked, scratched off the list. The pain of procrastination I feel looking out at them and knowing that we just need to hunker down to a whole day of hating life, getting shot in the face with chicken feathers and other chicken things, is starting to wear on me as I sit knitting, drinking tea, and perusing online fabric stores.

Can’t I just always do pleasant things? My husband said I could, and that I do in fact do them a lot of the time, but it might not make me happy. I don’t know. I think I am perfectly happy carrying on this way, but I might need some chocolate and a pair of blinders for those patio door windows.

Maybe we can keep seventy chickens as pets?

“Never mind…. Tea and chocolate, I’ll be right back.”

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Click to read: How We Harvest Chickens-A Tutorial

 

“How We Harvest Chicken” a tutorial (part three)

20161019_082907I am sorry I have to show you this shirt. This shirt is just wrong on me for so many reasons. I promise I never wear this shirt in public. It was a find at a garage sale thinking my teenage son would like it. He wanted nothing to do with it. When I was looking for some clothes to do farm chores in, I fell in love with how comfortable it is. I do not own any t-shirts because I only buy pretty things for myself. Naturally, when I began looking for appropriate attire to butcher chickens in, this looker came to mind. I do not mean any disrespect with this shirt, nor did it help with my chicken rapport.

The whole thing sucks. I do not like butchering chickens. At all. Does any one? Probably, not. BUT. My family does eat a lot of chicken.

The whole thing sucks. The whole thing in that Adam and Eve ate that stupid apple and then childbirth began to hurt and then the weeds and thorns, sickness and death. BUT. This is life. Life can suck; life is good. Birth hurts; babies are wonderful. Husband sweats and toils; I buy things. Chickens die; chickens taste good. Chicken harvesting seems logical considering the circumstances.

If you have never butchered a chicken and you eat chicken, I would encourage you to try it. In fact, why don’t you come over here next fall and I’ll let you have a go at it while I sit on the couch. I think it is an honest thing to do, butchering a chicken. I don’t think there is anything unethical about eating chickens and therefore believe there is nothing unethical about butchering them, though it can feel so wrong. We as a people are not accustomed to the sacrifices made to get chicken to our plates. Both the sacrifice of the chicken and that of the farmer.

A Brief Tutorial on How We Harvest Chickens:

What to Gather:

Sharp hand axe, log with two long nails pounded in to form a V to hold the chicken’s head steady, assortment of sharp knives, five gallon pot full of water and some dish soap with a source of heat to warm it, 1-2 five gallon buckets, chicken plucker (not necessary but very nice, trust me. And do not use the electric screw driver attachment one, again trust me), tarp to lay chickens on, plastic gloves, large cooler with ice and water, freezer bags, a good chunk of time and a cheerful, pumped-up spirit! Come on get pumped! There’s only way to do this and it’s doing it.

Job Positions Available:

The “Getter.” This job is harder than it sounds, especially if you have free-range chickens that have out smarted you and have roosters that look like mob kings. “I respect you, Mr. Rooster. Carry on.” This job entails getting a very good grasp of a chicken about their front wings and attempting to keep them calm. The Getter will need to be able to walk backwards because out of respect we don’t like them to see the place of execution and the color red can cause alarm to chickens.

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The “Chopper” and the “Holder.” These two positions need to have a really good working relationship. One may mess up their part and they will need to keep it together for the chicken’s sake. This is the worst part. I am usually the Holder and my oldest son, the Chopper. He has a very steady hand and does this job very well and very fast! The bigger the chicken, the harder it is to hold. I look away, pray for the chicken and thank God for him, and then usually sputter, “I hate this.” The Holder than has to endure the chicken’s nerves shaking out before laying them down. My husband assures me that the chicken is dead at this point, though it seems to still be suffering. Again, sucks.

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The “Dunker.” Things start to look up a bit at this point. The Dunker dunks the chicken in a large pot of 145 degree water with a squirt or two of dish soap for 45-60 seconds. This loosens up the feathers for plucking. This is such an important step to do right because chickens have a lot of feathers and if this part is done well your plucking job will be a snap.

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The “Plucker.” The plucker places the chicken over the plucker machine and gently moves it about to get off as much feathers as possible under and over each crevice. The rest of the feathers will need to be plucked off by hand. It is best to get right to the hand plucking after the machine plucking but we let the Gutter have the chicken first so the chicken cools a bit and the feathers can tighten.

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The “Gutter and Cutter.” This is my husband’s job. He is basically the surgeon that comes in to do the hard work. I do not envy this job and you will have to ask my husband about it because I got nothing for you. I am choosing to stay uniformed, so I never get this job. He basically makes the chicken look like it does when you buy it at the grocery store. He removes all the insides and chops off the feet. Have some five gallons buckets handy for the remains.

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The “Packer.” This is me again. You want to act fast, and having 70 birds makes packing fast not a possibility. You want to get them cold very fast and when you have warm chickens packed next to each other they insulate heat. I have found that 35 is a manageable amount for me to get cleaned, packed, and frozen. The kitchen sink works well enough and you’ll find some warm water will get off any additional sticky feathers. If you cut some of the chicken into pieces, the left overs will make great stock to freeze or can.

I hope I have not completely turned you away from chicken harvesting. They are a lot of work and it’s not particularly fun work. BUT. Your family will be enriched. The kids may not know it now but down the road they will thank you for it. And, you’ll come around too, once you pull out that nicely packed frozen chicken and make some fabulous chicken and dumplings that your whole family raves over and your grocery bill has just significantly dropped.

If you’ve had enough of chicken butchering, I certainly have had enough, I am working on a post about something much more nice and comforting. Three Seasonal Soups in a Dutch Oven: Homemade Chicken Stock; Creamy Salmon and Wild Rice Soup; and Cheesy Broccoli Potato Soup

Stay Tuned!