Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas preparations

Few things say "Christmas" to me more than an assortment of wood shapes (bought on Etsy), a handful of inexpensive acrylic paints, some nontoxic finish, and a few clandestine painting sessions with my older children.

This particular present is for the toddler, who has only a few toys and who was felt to be in need of his own "Blue Army." The older children intend to show him how to play with it via multiple joint demonstrations. 

Peaceful Play

Before Christmas we try to sort through our toys and give away what we don't need "to make room for Baby Jesus." But it has the additional effect of making our children aware of the toys they do have. 

I was preoccupied with Christmas preparations this morning when I became aware of the happy noises of play up in our toy lift over the kitchen and went to investigate. There I found the older children had set up a house/store for the younger ones, who were enjoying themselves immensely. I was struck by their creativity in making a stove and kitchen counter and providing food for hungry dolls. 

In a recent talk I spoke on the importance of having the right amount of toys in proportion to the child. I think this picture is satisfying partially because it show the right ratio of toys to children. It's a good ideal to strive for, because it brings out peace and playfulness, both of which we love to see in our children.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ridiculously Homemade Breakfast

As I was eating breakfast this morning, the suburbanite-city girl in me was astonished to realize I was eating sausage made from our own pigs together with bread made by my sister and fried puffball mushrooms harvested on our own property along with homemade butter from our own cow's milk.
At some point I should probably admit to living on a farm and being a country girl. But it's still slow to take.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our Corn Harvest

There is a story behind this picture, a tale of ambition, tragedy, and indefatigability; in short, a farm story.
Each year we have tried a new crop on our small homestead. We are fairly good at livestock, but remain below-average gardeners. This year we decided to raise a large corn crop in the pasture where we keep the sheep. So we planted corn and ringed it with a wire fence to keep the sheep out, and the corn grew tall and green in the summer sun. 
Then we purchased our seasonal herd of six pigs, and decided to put them in the same pasture behind sturdy hog panels. The pigs grew along with the corn and all was well. Then we took a trip to Michigan to see our farming relatives, and a good friend came by daily to check on the garden and feed the animals. She noticed the pigs were getting frisky and adventurous and tried to reinforce their pen. Alas.
The very day of our return, the pigs staged their breakout. They tunneled under their fence and broke into the sheep pasture. Unable to get any further, they proceeded to go hog-wild, and smashed down the fence surrounding the corn crop which was just coming into tassel. 
The sheep gladly joined the bacchanal, and when our friend arrived, she found the corn decimated and the porcine marauders hamming it up in the field.
Needless to say, my husband was stunned and devastated when we emerged from the hours-long trip to behold the ruined field, guilty-looking sheep, and snickering, gorged pigs. For a bleak moment it looked as though we would never take a family vacation again, much to the dismay of our children. 
Seeking to assuage the grief of their parental farmer, the children suggested replanting the corn in our kitchen garden. Dubiously, my husband agreed and and five rows of corn were sowed the last two days of July.
Fortunately, the frost held off throughout September until pig butchering time arrived. This year we had even fewer regrets about slaughtering the pigs, who managed to escape over a dozen destructive times before meeting their most timely end.
But the resulting pork, tender and succulent, was well worth the trial. My husband had thought that the only way to eat our own corn this year would be to eat the pigs who ate the corn. But today the children managed to harvest ten ears of corn to go with the breaded pork cutlets for our youngest son's birthday dinner. We did our own decimation of the corn crop, as can be seen, and as my husband observed, sometimes revenge is sweet corn.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stacked Pancakes a la Farmer Boy

Rainy day. I ended up making pancakes and since we were out of maple syrup, I made brown sugar syrup by heating about a half cup of brown sugar with about a quarter cup water in the microwave for about 30 seconds at a time and stirring in some corn syrup. 

It was only then that I realized I was making stacked pancakes just as Almanzo's mother had done in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A cheerful revelation that brightened my morning!