There are some to our north who might chuckle at our enthusiasm for this morning's snowfall. I could never imagine what it would be like to live for months with snow so deep your windows seem cut in half... but this? This today was totally magical (and if we're being honest, it's also probably going to be the only snowfall for the season).
So we got out, we crunched, we tasted, we made a very small snowman, and by lunch, we watched it all melt away.
So short-lived this Texas snow always is. So special.
Chuckle away, northern friends.
It won't be long before you'll be calling 90 degrees hot, and it will be our turn to chuckle.
Yesterday, in the midst of all the sleet excitement, the coming and going, and the bundling and unbundling, the cat got out... and came right back in with a "gift" for the family.
It was a little towhee (and I'm sure he didn't suffer much, don't let the feathers worry you). After thanking Rory for the gift (ahem), we took it outside to find a peaceful place for it to "rest." The noteworthiness of this story, for this Mama anyway, is the tenderness and sweetness of the Littles as we searched for a place to tuck the little bird.
They held it gently, they stroked his smooth feathers, and they whispered to each other with a reverence that naturally fell over them, no prompting needed. I just stood back and watched, and my heart swelled with their wonder and tenderness.
They decided a little "cave" made by a few rocks leaning against each other, where the sleet had not accumulated and a bed of leaves still showed, was the place for the little bird. They carried him to the spot, gently tucked him in, said good-bye, and then ran off on their next adventure. I lingered for just a few more seconds, letting the juxtaposition of the bird and their innocence soak in, then I joined them.
It was just another moment mid-cycle: seasons, feelings, life. And I'm glad I looked up, and I noticed.
Right now, I'm loving the first (and probably the only) bad weather day of the season! School is closed, the hubs stayed home from work, the sleds came out, and the fire is roaring. There will be hot chocolate, puzzles, soups, and at least one full load of socks, mittens, wraps and hats. It'll be a good day.
Over the last year or so, I've been on a kick that's sent me down a rabbit hole of real, whole, natural, and traditionally-prepared foods. It sounds pretty basic and obvious, but I was shocked by how difficult it actually is to eat this way. It just amazes me how hard we have to try to avoid processed, factory-farmed stuff.
I am convinced, however, that it is well worth the effort. Very well worth it.
One of the biggest- and best- changes we've made since drinking the refined-sugar-free natural-dye Kool-Aid (ha ha) is switching to raw milk. Another switch that's becoming part of our yearly rhythm is buying a quarter of local grass-fed beef and packing our freezer with it (this year we included the offal along with the bones). With gratitude we gather our own organic, deep orange-yolked eggs every day, whenever we can we buy organic fruits and veggies, and I'm slowly adding more and more home-fermented veggies, condiments, and beverages to our stores.
My latest endeavor has been natural yeast. I've wanted to try baking with wild yeasty beasties for a long time now, but have always been intimidated by the whole process. Then, last week, I got my free natural (aka wild) yeast in the mail and I went for it.
It was obvious after my first attempt at bread baking with my natural yeast that I need a whole lot more practice with this new medium. What I know about bread baking does not translate to this new-to-me method. My first loaf was way too wet, which kept it from supporting itself when it proofed, and thus yielded two round "loaves" that were about 1 1/2" thick in the middle. They were tasty, though, so I don't feel completely defeated (deflated? ahem).
I found myself shaking my head as I pulled my flat bread out of the oven; how sad that this ancient craft and knowledge has basically evolved out of our common consciousness. Something like baking with natural yeast was something common even 100 years ago, but that along with so much more has all but disappeared thanks to this industrial food machine that has its vice grip on our culture.
My poor dad has to listen to me rant about this very thing every time I finish a new book or find a new blog that speaks to me, but the truth is I can't not see it now and I can't stop working towards my ultimate goal of whole-home conversion to traditional, nourishing, non-industrialized food for my family... my whole family. Which is why I chew on his ear whenever I get all fired up (and anyone else's, if I get the chance).
Plus, I really enjoy rediscovering what my ancestors knew and the reason why behind those old world processes.
So now I have a live yeast culture living in a jar on a warm spot on Scarlet's salamander, I have fermented sauerkraut in the fridge ready to accompany our meat entrees, and I have my eyes set on learning how to live-culture raw dairy and brew beer!
Holy moley, y'all! Right now it's 27 degrees and I'm curled up by our wood stove enjoying it's first fire! Yes! Three things about how exciting this is:
1. I lit it from kindling with no help from a 'starter.'
2. I actually got the fire to take and maintain and it is now working at "optimum efficiency," or so says the insert handbook.
3. It does not stink like smoke in here, and it's been burning for almost 3 hours!
I keep thinking about the first time we lit a fire in this big, then-unknown-to-us-dysfunctional fireplace. It was a dark and stormy night, I got a few giant logs started in there, and thirty minutes in to what I thought would be a nice cozy evening smoke started billowing out of the fireplace and into the room (which was apparently a chronic problem that no one thought to mention, as you can see by the stains on the stone behind the mantle). I had to rush out into the sleeting night, grab the wheelbarrow and snow shovel, cram them through the back door, scoop out the burning logs and evacuate them. We then had to open all the windows to air out the house.
From that moment we know something was wrong with this thing. It took us a year to figure out it couldn't be fixed, and we needed to just bypass it all together and install a wood burning insert.
So we did.
And then the weather warmed up.
For a long time.
And now, now it's freezing, and the insert is working!
So right now- and for the rest of the day I think- you'll find me near the wood stove (yeeeessss!) with whatever in hand that I feel like doing, reveling in the warmth and smiling from ear to ear.
Wishing all a little bit of coziness on this chilly Monday, too. Have a good one!
We have a very plucky rooster. It makes me think of that quote by the character 'Ruby' played by Renee Zellweger in 'Cold Mountain,' when she laments flogging roosters, and says, "Let's put 'im in a pot!"
The thought has crossed my mind about ours. Sadly, though, the whole reason why I have a rooster is for the protection of my flock, and Chicken Joe is truly just doing his job. There are days when he crosses the line, though.
He's attacked Henry (several times). He's attacked Audrey. He gets after me sometimes when I step in to feed the girls if he doesn't like the sound of the bag/bucket/container I'm carrying.
And now... now he's growing spurs. It won't be long before I'll have to decide if he's worth the trouble that I can see coming. I don't know if I'll ever have the girls truly fully free-ranging the property, so having him around may be all for not.
He is a truly beautiful bird, though, and despite him being a "meanie" as the kids say, they still try to "make him kind." I can't escape the possibility that I may meet with a little opposition if the day comes when I want to put 'im in a pot!
Yesterday I gave Henry the tops from some carrots to toss to the girls, and when he didn't come right back inside I went out to find him like this, dangling the greens above Chicken Joe, speaking in a soft voice, and saying, "It's OK Chicken Joe, it's OK, see? I'm not dangerous, I'm wike a chicken friend!"
...and much to my surprise, it kinda looked like Chicken Joe was listening!
So there we have it. He's not quite a year old, his spurs are only about an inch long (so far), he's kinda turning in to a "meanie," and we kinda love him. So now what do I do?
...the last of the technical parts of the wood stove insert installation process, headed by the hubs and aided (a little) by yours truly.
...some creative containment strategies and a pleasantly minimal mess when said wood stove project was wrapped up (compared to other DIY's we've done recently anyway).
...some multitasking while fireplace-working: the assembly, seasoning, and breaking-in of our smoker with our free-range turkey from Hempstead (yes, it was delicious and moist, though a little tough as free-range birds often are).
...the refilling of our freezer with another quarter of grass-fed beef, delivered to the door by generous friends straight from the pastures where it was born and raised!
...a break from all the work at the end of the weekend, some beautiful late-winter light, and a meandering walk through the woods complete with animal track hunting and spotty carpets of moss.
Right now, I am beginning to concede that we probably won't have much of a proper winter this year, but the sunlight and mild breezes are a decent consolation. Truly, it has been a bit of a struggle not to work like it's early spring and start digging in to the garden beds (but we all know as soon as I go there, the weather will take a turn... probably right as tender sprouts start waking up)! So today, as the temps stretch into the low 70's, I'll be fighting my Spring fever with doses of Clean-Up-And-Finish-The-Fireplace... and balancing that with just a little indulgence in Get-Out-In-It (because who could resist, really?).