Friday, February 29, 2008

Congratulations, Rachel!

Here she is right before we went into the auditorium...this is a happy day for us all!

All the medical programs were represented at the ceremony. Here she is in the lineup of the practical nursing graduates, after having their names individually called. They are holding miniature candlestick lamps (with candles), waiting for the candlelighting ceremony and the Nightingale Pledge.

This is an approximation of what was read during the ceremony:

The Nightingale Pledge

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

Yes, I know the picture quality is atrocious. It's my fault, not my camera's. It's not easy getting a good indoor pic in the dark when you're crying through the whole thing!

At the Indian Restaurant, (her favorite) where we escaped afterward, we had the whole place to ourselves, and stuffed our faces with Curried Lamb, mango and mint chutnies, and Garlic Naan. Rachel opened cards, received more money from relatives than I currently have in my account, and received some bracelets and a new watch from our faraway family friends in North Carolina (thanks, Lisa!!!) And $25 is hers to start microlending through

We toasted Rachel, each of us who teamed up with her, and especially God who saw her safely through each step of the way with protection and also provision. It was such a fun night!

Rachel: "Ok, well that was an awesome meal! I'm 3/4 stuffed...I saved room for my sweet tooth...what's for dessert? I could go for some ice cream or cake!" (we've been off sweets for a while at the house, except for fruit)

Me, wondering why I hadn't brought a cake: "I didn't bring a cake, Rache...uhoh..."

Rachel: "How about we stop for an ice cream on the way home?" (looking hopefully at J, who was the evening's driver)

J: "Ok, but everything is closed, I think, at this hour" (it was pretty late, and we're not in NYC)

So y'know what happened....we stopped at a convenience store on the way home, picked up a box of donuts, and after about 5 minutes of Rachel's polishing off two or three Krispy Kremes we heard her groan from the backseat, followed by "I'm seriously going to regret this..."


Happy Graduation, Rachel....we love you so much!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tikkun Olam and

J and I have a belief in Tikkun Olam, or "the repair of the world," as an extension of the WHY in what we do for ourselves and our family. It is a Jewish/biblical concept of life purpose being in somehow contributing to the healing or transformation of the world around us, rather than the focus being only to better ourselves. In all we do, and in the homestead life we're pursuing, tikkun olam is at the heart of what we want to leave as a heritage...because life is very short. I am daily reminded how fragile it is.

The enormity of need can often discourage folks from feeling that a single act of kindness or integrity will make a difference. Yet that old canard about the pebble being dropped into the pond and the ripple effect extending outward is very true. I don't worry about the enormity of need anymore...we are bombarded with overwhelming needs around us we can't begin to meet. But if we respond even in a small way as a natural part of who we are, it is participating in the "repair of the world." And those small actions do save in literal ways... a concept the sages stated succinctly when they penned "he who saves a single life saves the world entire."

I am very thankful for today...our daughter graduates her first leg of nursing school. We are so very very grateful, but not only for her achievement and our sense of team spirit, but also for every day she had to drive in the dark there and back, and came safely home. I just thank God every day my family is gathered safely back together. I see those memorial flowers on the roadside in different places along the highway that say "drive safely" and it turns my attention to those who have lost much, likely during an everyday commute.

My heart goes out to my coworker, whose grown son is now back home, his kidneys slowly failing him and preventing him from an active life. And her second son, in special forces in Iraq, whom she'll only see perhaps once a year, and hear from only sporadically. She works hard for the money to support herself and her other teenager, plus the sick son...and has to find the inner strength to not despair and to keep her chin up and make it cheerfully through her workday. Which she does, beautifully.

There is much to pray for, and much for which to be grateful.

A while back, Monica wrote about micro-lending and an organization called Kiva. You can check out their webpage at

I am encouraged that with a very small amount of money from folks like ourselves, we can help in a very large way folks who, indeed, homestead for a better life. The money is repaid and can roll over to another family or individual of our choice, or can simply be recovered and put back into our pocket.

It is an incredible opportunity at very little risk, and a definate way to give that anyone, even children who save some loose change, can participate in...and that does, indeed "repair the world."

We celebrate God's graciousness tonight with our daughter with many thanks. We invested much to help her on her way to this point, and are grateful for the blessings. We celebrate also by investing in the lives of others...we'll do so in her honor as part of our graduation gift to her. that way our joy will be compounded and invested in some lives where pennies make a difference.

I invite you to give a look-see to see if you might be as excited about its opportunities as we are. Lending small, for very big dividends ! :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Raspberries, Gooseberries, and Grapes, Oh My

J and I had a day together yesterday, which was wonderful, and we ran a bunch of errands together...which we like to refer to as "date" time :)

He's excited about collecting trees and plant starts, with the future goal of planting them on our Someday Property after they've grown some more and are a closer age to fruit-bearing. He happened upon some plants yesterday with prices in the too-good-to-pass-up range, and he nearly danced a dance right there in the nursery when he found these:

Here they are tucked into some soil till we get ourselves a little more organized and get some proper soil and fertilizer and some bigger pots...

And here are the weatherproof tags we devised by cutting label-sized rectangles from a gallon- sized milk jug, labeling each with a permanent marker, and attaching plastic-coated wire to them via a hole made with a standard hole punch.

I wasn't aware that some of these plants could grow here in Florida, and I was even a bit skeptical as we spoke with the nurseryman at the checkout counter. The plants we purchased were a couple of grapes, a few red raspberries, 2 different gooseberries, and a red currant plant. Red currants in Florida?? Hmmm.

But on the assurances of the nurseryman, and the glee of my overjoyed husband, one made it home with us. The raspberry canes were divided upon potting, and we need some more pots for everything to have enough breathing room. Let's see how they all do in pots...we'll sure try to keep them going. I'll be really happily surprised if we CAN actually grow red currants in zone 9/10...

Has anyone out there tasted gooseberries? Neither of us has, and we're curious about the flavor!

Rachel's Eye Portraits

My daughter enjoys photography, and she's making a series of eye portraits. Here are a couple...

More Dehydrating

Some jars of flavor!

It's not new to most, but it's new to me...dehydrating. I posted about our first attempt at using the bargain dehydrator J picked up recently. Here's an update of how things are progressing.

This shot is the After of the sliced mangoes and strawberries. You can see how much they shrank compared to before.

I've still not perfected the timing, and I think these turned out a lot crisper than what I'd associate with dried fruit products in the grocery store. But I'm not sure how to compare them. First, I did not pre-treat any of the fruit to keep it from darkening during drying, except that when I did apples, I cut them on the same board I'd just cut mangoes and oranges, and I think the acid in the juices kept them a lighter color than they'd be otherwise.

So far, I've experimented with drying mangoes, strawberries, oranges, and apples. Next up will be onions, but I didnt want to put them in the same drying as fruits in case somehow the flavors would blend (don't know if that happens).

I've not perfected the thickness of the slices of fruits yet...still not sure how pliant the end result should be. We're in Florida, and humidity here makes things spoil quickly, and I think I dried everything beyond what I should for snacking. The mango slices are crispy, like a chip, and so are the strawberries.

But what they lack in chewiness, they certainly make up for in concentrated flavor. Wow, it packs a powerful taste punch!

So far, I've used the dried strawberries in our granola with milk, as a cold cereal, and they are great. I used the apples to mix with raw almonds and (store bought) dried cranberries, to pack as a snack in J's work lunches. And I've used the dried mangos, crumbled into smaller pieces, in hot oatmeal...and J loves it!

Here is a pic of the mangos plumping up when boiled in the oatmeal (along with some dried cranberries, which also plump up considerably). They turn plump and tender in no time in a hot liquid. J's used some of the dried fruit in his hot morning tea, too. We eat a lot of oatmeal for breakfast because it's healthy, cheap, and it sticks to your ribs for hours till lunchtime. The fruits make it anything but boring, and a generous pat of real butter and even some raw almonds cooked in it make it even more delicious.

And here is where they disappear :)

Here's a pic of the oranges, which I dried with skins on (not sure why). I have a feeling they might be really terrific to whip up a homemade batch of Orange addiction my daughter has at a local Chinese takeout. I'll be looking for a good (easy) recipe and see if I can approximate it...I notice they had dried orange peels in the sauce, and it was fragrant and intensely "orangey."

Another shot...looks like a bird shape in the middle. Ah, playing with food...

(Photo credits for the two orange shots go to my daughter, Rachel, the REAL photographer around here) :)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

2008 Florida State Fair: Sheep

I love the fair!

We recently had a chance to travel to the Florida State Fair, and had from mid-morning till mid-afternoon free to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes...a treat!

Since we didn't have any teens with us this year, the midway and its rides were our backdrop, but we weren't there this time to ride any rides. Even with focusing on particular areas of our greatest interests, there was still too much to see and do all in a single day. We didn't even try...we just enjoyed what we could until we had to leave.

Of course, our first beeline was straight to the animal barns. That's where we spent the better part of the day...hooray!

I think different animals are housed at different dates, and we happened along on the dairy cattle show date. There were no beef cattle to be seen at all in the barns, but we had our fill of watching dairy cattle shows, visiting the barns and seeing the animals up close, and seeing TOGETHER what our first impressions were up close and personal. After all, we're very inexperienced with animals other than having done a lot of reading. But more about the cattle in the next post.

The first building we entered, of all the barns, was a barn where they had a mixture of livestock for close viewing (and admiring...and scratching under the chins...) There was a milking stand set up for school kids in one area, and many of the pens featured Dwarf Nigerian goats, a mixture of other goats (dairy and meat), and rows of different cattle breeds...the horned ones off to the side, and gosh those horns were MASSIVE. But smack in the middle of these other pens was a pen of Barbado sheep...some appearing to be crossbreeds and the ram appearing to be standard (I think). There were other sheep in other pens, too, such as the delightful Jacob's sheep (which I also love), and many of the standard breeds. It's funny...being there AMONG many sorts of animals is a pretty good test of just which ones make your heart skip a beat and beat a lot faster than all the others. It was quite a surprise...

I was surprised how much I liked the dairy goats and dwarf goats. I was very drawn to the Jersey fact, I could have happily have staked out a place on a nearby hay bale and communed there for hours, if we'd had hours to commune. And yes, oh yes, I could rouse myself daily at some unearthly hour to milk one, were that opportunity to ever be given me in the future!

What really surprised me was the Barbado sheep, though. The sheep I saw in the pen lacked the uniformly bold markings of Barbados Blackbelly sheep, and these had more variable markings, and the ram had the horns of the American Barbados breed, which is popular especially in Texas ranches.

I've read up on breeds suitable for my area, here in Florida. Much thought is along the lines of "Sheep?? In Florida?? Give it up!" But there are meat sheep farmers who raise St. Croix, Katahdin, St. Augustine, and Barbados Blackbelly sheep here, or crosses such as the above breeds x Dorper. All of the above are haired sheep...sheep with goat-like hair rather than wool fleeces, which is an advantage in the tropical high heat and humidity. There is also said to be a great parasite-resistance and an ability to thrive on variable forage found here. I really don't know anything beyond what I've read, though, and I've yet to see any sheep grazing pastures except for a farm about an hour away that had a few St Croixs or Katahdins. I was realllyyyy hoping there would be a great representation of these breeds at the fair when we went. This barn was just a taste of what I hoped was housed in the Sheep and Goat building farther down the path.

I'd wondered about the Barbados Blackbellies. For some reason, they'd caught my curiosity a lot in my reading, and they are said by some to retain wilder instincts and alertness, making them suitable for a "wild" flock or one closely handled. It seems they don't flock tightly together, though, and they follow a leader rather than are driven as a flock. They've retained a strong mothering ability and are prolific, lambing 2 to 3 lambs on average and coming into heat at any given point yearround. Anyway, they have a leaner frame and more deerlike in appearance, with dark badger-ish black markings. And I reallllyyyyy wanted to see some up close.

When I saw the pen marked "Barbado," I knew I'd found their close relative, the American Barbados. And they were are some pics:

What a lovely pair :) I knew this was not a Barbados Blackbelly because the purebreds are polled, and here was evidence of horns on both mama and baby...and all the other sheep in the pen. The American Barbados are horned. I have no idea if the term "Barbado" is just a looser umbrella term for all the related Barbados-origin variations at large, or if it is something more specific. But I knew I was getting closer to seeing a Blackbelly up close. Here are some more pics of the "Barbado" sheep in the pen:

Hello, fella with the handsome horns! And ooooh, what's curled up next to you? Oh, yes it is...those tiny lambs, snoozing away (And at this point, I had to deliberately try not to squeal loudly in public)

And here is a terrible, blurry, picture of the tiniest of lambs...all curled up next to Dad. I was having serious maternal surges at this point... To put it in perspective, this sheep breed is small, and rather petite in comparison with the standard breeds. They are nearly deerlike, and graceful in appearance. This ram, if he were standing, would have been no taller than most Australian shepherd dogs, or thereabouts. All curled up, he hardly took up any room at all, and though I know he's a ram, he was really docile. Yes, I know not to anthropomorphize, and I know he'd be formidable when in rut. Obviously, here he was on a better day...and these little toy-sized babies were snuggled right up to him, sleeping right through the cacophony of touring school groups and curious onlookers. And they're adorable...

He had a harem of gentle ewes in the same pen, but I couldnt resist peeking at the contented trio.

Ah, this little one just finished snacking at Mom's Milk buffet. I could seriously have sat right in the middle of this sheep tableau happily all the day.

But where were the Blackbellies? My hopes were up...I hadn't expected to find anything close. Later, we made our way to the sheep and goat barn.

There was not a goat in sight, so we concluded that perhaps the goat events were on different days, and we'd lucked upon a sheep day. As we made our way around the sheep barn, we saw a lot of sheep, but none of the pens were marked. Many of the sheep wore wool protective blankets (not sure what they're called), and nearly all the sheep had wool, rather than being haired sheep. In fact, nary a haired sheep was to be seen...and I thought that very odd. But what do I know? I'm the amateur.

The temperature that day was in the low 70s, which made for a perfect day weatherwise. But in the sheep barn, even with the big fans blowing, the un-airconditioned 70s temps found most of the sheep (with their wool coats) looking quite wilted and stressed by heat. But what do I know, being an amateur? Still, I swear they were near to panting.

Many of them were quite large, the size of a small pony compared to the diminuitive sheep we'd just been hanging out with in the other building. At this point, J had had enough sheep bonding, and he found a corner of the building to sit a while and chat with others who were in there looking like we were. I walked up and down the aisles, and I was unmoved...loving being among the animals, but not finding just what I'd hoped to find. Since the pens were not marked, I don't know what breeds I was looking at. I didn't see any haired breeds, but was not sure if the grooming style obscured one type from another, since many were shorn. Would show grooming shear hair off a hair sheep and make it look like the others? I didn't see anything that I thought might be a Katahdin, St. Croix, Jacob's, or Dorper.

I got to the next-to-last aisle, and in the VERY LAST pen saw this:

Whoops, hello!! Wait, could it be?? She had all the markings of a blackbelly!
I think those used to be horns, or else they're scurs, so this is probably not a Barbados Blackbelly, but she has the distinctive blackbelly markings...the badger face, brown haired body, and black underbelly stripe extending up to her tail area. Beautiful! And these pictures do her no justice...she was simply lovely! She had "feminine" features and was very friendly.
The hair was the even texture of a bristle brush, and her muzzle (or nose or snout?) was soft and would fit in the smallest cupped hand (she was very gentle and curious). And the eyes were a dark hazel brown. Ah, I was in love! This picture is a close-up, but it doesnt capture her small size.

I was in serious love. What an exquisite sheep! Her legs were not even as big around as a broom handle, and she looked like she might be expecting (though again, what do I know? I'm an amateur)...but, well, you see what I mean

And another picture, just because :)

And finally I had to go. And say goodbye. Even though I still didn't know the name of the farm or who raises this beautiful animal.

I can't wait till we can have a place for an animal this lovely to graze...

So it was a reluctant goodbye...

...and on to the dairy cattle barn, and the surprises that awaited us there! :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Latest Addition to the Pre-Homestead

Yes, I realize a picture of a dehydrator is about as exciting to a homesteader as watching another slide show of Grandma's Alaskan Cruise. But it's new to us!

(Squirm, but I'm rattling on in happiness!)

J came home with it last night, and I woke up to find the box on the kitchen counter...yippeee!! The first things I'm trying are the fruits/berries I found languishing in the crisper drawers. Those are mangos and strawberries. Let's see how they turn out.

R asked if we can plug it in somewhere it doesn't make that vacuuming sort of noise, but anywhere in this house, it'll be heard. So I told her it's "white noise." She gave me her opinion of that sort of white noise (quite frankly), but later apologized. We'll see if we can sleep through it.

It may become like the box fan of her early got to where she couldnt sleep without it.

We'll see! :)


I have many more posts to write, but as I sign off for this evening (and procrastinate the rest a couple days longer), here's a pic from the State Fair, in which I fell in love with...a sheep.

Yep, there is a latent, lurking sheperdess in me harkening from some ancient DNA, no doubt. More about all that later; but for now, a pic...

Way Late Very Procrastinated No Excuses But Here It Finally Is Blogroll Update!

And now you know why the most important people in my life rarely get birthday cards in time... but I'm becoming convinced they love to see me grovel and writhe in paroxyms of anguish (haha, oh yeah.. ;-)) as a result...but, er, ah...ah well, without further ado, here is the thoroughly belated blogroll. And yes, I've probably left some very important blogs off the list inadvertently, so if you don't see yourself on the sidebar and would like to be, let me know!

All these blogs deserve a better introduction that I am providing. You need to read them, embrace them, love them, as I do! Not that I'm telling you what to do (Like I tell my daughter to finish her spinach... ) These blogs are full course meals AND dessert :) Each one is as unique as its author(s), and far more fun to follow than I can paraphrase here! but I'll try, for once, to compress the description of each into one sentence (expect run-ons)

Future House Farm chicken composter, garden adventures, amazing rain barrels, freezer stash of homegrown'll want to read every past post in Meg and Kelly's wonderful blog, and follow their journey!

A Posse Ad Esse "From possibility to reality" is the blog of a can-do enjoy and have as a catalyst in turning your own dreams into real elbow-grease endeavors.

Boulderneigh Michelle from Oregon spins a blog about her love of farm, home, raising shetland sheep, and working with beautiful fibers.

Homemaking Homesteader will make you want to find her at home just when taking the homemade (from homeground grains) bread out of the oven...another homesteader who loves to innovate, cook (check out all the crockpot recipes) and homecraft a line of soaps and cleaning products.

Kentucky Hollers Big City girl moves to the Ken-tuck foothills to have her dream of living in the country...and all the fun (and pains) of that journey!

Down on the Farm Follow the days of a farm family at South Peacham, Vermont's Old Shaw Farm.

Raining Sideways Sally Vincent's lush and seasonal writings about life on her Devon farm...reads like poetry :)

Bean Sprouts A great blog from a family in Cheshire, UK....there are gardens and bees and chickens...and a recent post about apple recipes that's currently making me reallllyyyy hungry...

Dancing in a Field of Tansy Creativity, frugality, beauty, and's all here in this Tansy's terrific blog :)

Edifice Rex Candid and honest account of a commercial carpenter and potter in Northeast Alabama builds a homesite built on personal philosophy of treading lightly on the earth, being imaginative, living well, and living affordably.

Muddy Clogs Portland, OR resident gets her shoes dirty implementing urban permaculture principles, growing things and (I'm so jealous) raising chickens.

Urban Hennery Laura's city hens, and a blog for any locale!

OK, there are so many more, but I've got to go for now. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

More to come, but later...

I'm Baaaaaack...

Good lawdy miss claudy, has it been this long since I've been here??

We got the computer fixed and it always takes longer than we anticipate.

There's LOTS to tell...but I'm going to break the reportables down to separate small posts here rather than one monstrously rambling one.

It was good to have a break...after all, one needs to remember what life is like "unplugged." And now that I remember, it's good to be back! :)

OK, now for breaking the news into bloggable bits... here come a few separate blog posts...on yer mark...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Land Hunt Laundry List...and the State Fair!

Tomorrow I take this computer in for a tune-up, so the blogroll update will have to wait a few days more...

We're off for a week!!!! J and I actually got the same days off, so we're taking to the county where we are hoping to finalizing something sometime regarding getting land. I am always really energized when we can get away for a change of scenery. One of those days will be spent driving a different direction and trying to have a day at the state fair...hooray!!

The State Fair is one of my favorite things in the world, ever since the days in my early childhood, when I lived in Memphis, and my parents would take me to the Mid South Fair. Every year we went, and I still remember it from a child's-eye view. The lights of the midway, the music, the aromas of kiosk food, having to decide among candied apples, salt water taffy, cotton candy (in pink or blue), corn on the cob, or frozen chocolate dipped bananas...all of it added up to a childhood sensory nirvana. There were the cattle, the goats, the poultry, the rabbits...and the pony ride! (anything to do with horses had me mesmerized). And there always was the Budweiser Clydesdale team, especially massive when you're a kid of only 5 or 6. There were the 4H exibits, the canned goods, the science projects, the spinning engines and turbines. There was bunting and cinderblock. There were miles of people and miles of parked cars and miles for the bathrooms.

The Memphis fair was in the fall, usually just corresponding with a dip in the temperatures. Mom would manage to get my sister and me to sit still on a stool long enough for a woman in a booth to snip our silhouettes out of black paper on white, to give as holiday gifts for the grandparents later in the year. When the day was over, we'd collapse on the cold naugahyde seats of the old Chevy-2 and sleep all the way back home.

I'd never been back to a fair, any fair, until last year we went to a nearby county fair. It was SO much fun! When J proposed we get away and sneak off to the State Fair this year, I began counting the days. Now, one day left!!

We'll do a lot of footwork on the other days elsewhere...things that can't get done from a distance and require going to county departments and asking questions and gathering specific information. Hopefully we'll get some more pictures along the way, too. All related to the properties we're trying to get. Oh, how we're trying to get something finalized!

Just getting out of town feels like movement, and a vacation. The hotel has a breakfast bar and if I want to sleep in one day and just be a lump and watch cable shows on TV, that's a novelty, since we don't get any TV reception here. Mostly, I hope we get to tromp around on some properties and commune with the wildlife and get worn out, and then recharge and do it some more. I SO love being in the country. Land, fair, hotel, no dishes to wash...oh yeah, I can handle it :) So woohoo, here we go!!

The computer will be on vacation at the repair shop in the meantime. I should be back here in 7 to 10 days, replete with corn on the cob, fair and land photos, and a bunch of forms and county this-and-that to read over. I hope everyone has a great week!

I'm jazzed!!

How to Give Yourself a Concussion and Meet The Country Doctor's Wife All in the Same Day

I had some traveling to do mid-week, and this required a stop off to get a Chik-Fil-A sandwich. Not local food, not pastured poultry, not organic. So I'm not there yet, bear with. Anyway, I pulled over into the nearby parking lot and got out of the car to stow some trash that had accumulated in the front seat in the trunk.

Remember my car? The beautiful Lemon from Hades? We hadn't had any run-ins for awhile. Fingers and toes have been crossed for a couple months now, as apparently my wayward vehicle had decided to more or less behave. For now. There is no Ford Taur-O-Scope by which to determine what days it's better to drive it and which to jail it in a closed garage.

This day was bright and windy, in the 70s. I got out of the car and pushed the "trunk" button to release the lock. I had to push a couple was jammed. I tugged on the trunk hood. Finally, it gave way. I raised it and leaned in to deposit the junk I'd cleared out of the front seat. Just as I was leaning in, I felt a WHAM as the hood slammed down on the front of my skull, just above my forehead. It happened so fast I just yelped and saw stars and stood there, bent over into the trunk, moaning and holding my head in my hands, waiting to see straight. I was knocked stupid! lol

There wasn't any blood, and I told myself it must have been a freak gust of wind that bounced the trunk hood up and then down hard, but I suspect it was just another of my car's little tantrums.

I went through the rest of the day in a fog. J was working long hours and needed me to take his vehicle in for maintenance later that afternoon. I did, but I was still dazed...or something. My head throbbed and I felt confused and crabby. I took my new copy of "Everything I Want to do is Illegal" by Joel Salatin with me to read in the waiting room while the dealership worked on the truck. There was a long line ahead of my vehicle waiting for service. I settled in.

Finally, the service person came in and explained that they'd finished the oil change. I nodded. She explained that 3 of the tires were bad. I squinted up at her, head throbbing. She explained how they did not recognize the brand of tires because obviously they hadn't been purchased through the dealership, and blah blah blah, a white noise of upsell-speak. I nodded.

After she was done explaining all that, I realized I hadn't registered some of the particulars, so I asked her "So what exactly IS wrong with the tires you say are bad?"

"They're worn out," she replied.

Only I didn't understand her. I saw her lips move and heard noise, but sincerely didn't understand her words. I squinted up at her with more concentration. "I'm sorry, what did you say?" I asked.

"They're worn out," she said more slowly.

I was having a trunk-concussion disconnect. It didnt compute. Her words sounded like the teacher on a Charlie Brown TV special. I was getting embarrassed. How do you explain to a stranger that your car tried to brain you and you're feeling mentally impaired? I tried again. "I'm really sorry, I'm having trouble understanding you. What did you say??"

Now she was standing only 3 feet away. She stared at me soberly with an odd expression, and very slowly enunciated "THEY'RE.........WORN..........OUT???" She waited for me to nod affirmation that I'd finally understood, and then she fled.

Now I can laugh about it, but when I got home I felt awful and went to bed immediately. J was just getting ready for work (he's working nights) and asked how the oil change had gone. "Something about tires, but I really couldnt tell you," I said, and pulled the covers over my head. "Do I need to take you to a doctor?" asked my husband. "It looks like your head is still bothering you."

Visions of medical bills loomed in my mind. Of this being no big deal and my being a wimp with just a bruised lump, and of having to wait most of the night in the ER just to be told to take 2 Tylenol and not to operate heavy equipment for a few hours.

Or visions of some overeager resident wanting to try a new procedure on me. That made me think of tried and true veteran physicians who do what's called for in the moment with no fuss and a That's That efficiency. Then I recalled something I read on a blog once, the CountryDoctorsWife blog...something involving staples and head wounds.

No, I would stay home. There was no blood, no gore...nothing requiring a staple gun.

So I fell asleep. And then I had the most vivid and lifelike dream.

Here's how the it went: I thought I had fallen asleep, and then I heard a knock on the door. Holding my head and wondering who it might be at this hour of the night, I went to open it. I swung the door open and there, in front of the plate glass security door, was Rechelle from CountryDoctorsWife, holding a digital video cam (the light was shining right in my face) and I heard her say, "This is Rechelle from, and I'm here paying you a surprise visit!"

"Rechelle??" I said, shocked. I couldn't grasp what someone I'd never met would be doing at my front door. (I only recognized her from having seen the home videos on her blog.) I couldn't remember if the house were clean and neat, and all this was being caught on camera, live. I know Rechelle's blog, but I don't know Rechelle, have never met her in person. Or corresponded. I do enjoy her blog a lot, though.

"Well, GOSH...hi! What are you doing here??" I didn't know what to say. Offer her a muffin? Did I have any muffins? On second thought, were my dishes washed and was my refrigerator a mine field? Sheesh, I wondered how I looked just out of bed.

Invite her in? Of course...I can't NOT invite her in! My head was still fuzzy. I invited her in.

Rechelle was animated, funny, and with camera running was busy giving a witty commentary about my unswept entryway, my untrimmed shrubs, and the plate glass security door. She navigated it with no bodily trauma.

She had a suitcase and after some friendly chat, still in the doorway, she asked to be directed to the guest house.

(We have a guest house??)

She seemed to know that we now had one and where it was, and of course at this point in the dream, everything morphed into unrecognizable detached other-worldliness, as if I were in someone else's dream.

I followed Rechelle to the back yard and to...a guest house. My guest house, I suppose. I was thinking to myself "my gosh, I don't remember having a guest house...I wonder if I put out any clean sheets?"

Rechelle was talking and laughing and videoing the whole thing. We chatted some more and I looked around the guest house interior. It was a studio efficiency with one fold out bed. I was fixated on figuring out if I had any clean sheets on the bed ...of the guest house I didnt know I had. We said goodnight and finally I asked if there were clean sheets on the bed. Then I heard a voice, and looked, and her husband, The Country Doctor, poked his head out from under the covers of the fold out bed, seeing what all the commotion was about.

I apologized for my confusion and told them if they needed anything, I'd be at the house. I simply didn't remember they were coming for a visit, or if I'd left them any food or stocked the bathroom with plenty of T.P. for their stay. I told them I'd slammed the trunk hood on my head. Then I remembered the staple gun incident.

And I said goodnight. And fled!


(end of dream)

Real Milk

On Wednesday, February 2008, I had my first glass of real unadulterated milk.

I did not contract a dread disease, nor drop dead. I drank it to the last drop. My family drank the whole container to the last drop. I can say that we are still hale and healthy, and perhaps even a tad healthier.

Just letting you know.

Now I'm ruined for any other sort.

5 Things About Myself

Wow, my first meme! Thank you to Monica for tagging me...hers can be seen here at her site. I, too, could eat Mexican every day and not ever get tired of it...guacamole, mmmm!!!

Ok, here are a few other things...

1. I'm 41 years old, and in my lifetime I've relocated 23 times. I'm hoping the next move is a permanent one!

2. My interests are so varied I don't have enough lifetimes to do all the things I want to do in life. I am a square peg in a round hole. None of my interests are "mainstream" or "normal," and so I am a happy kook. In many ways, I belong to a past era rather than the modern world. But I really have an appreciation for hot water and indoor plumbing!

3. I am married to the man God picked out for me, and he is the man of my dreams. The difference in our ages would make me a "younger woman," which is also par for the course, (see #2)

4. I've been up and I've been down, but my weight has always been my nemesis. Currently, I'm up. Having tried half of my current years to diet, I will never diet again. We're incorporating a lifestyle overhaul, and that's my focus.

5. I have to really shut up about two subjects that are really important to me, but which rarely appear here in the blog: my religious beliefs and my views on government. Suffice it to say I don't fit into "normal" with either of those and am greatly concerned that I be allowed the responsibility for making my own choices of faith, food, education, and property ownership without fear of surveillance, force, manipulation, legal bureaucracy, or microchips.

Now I'll look for some willing victims out there in blogland to tag... :)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Back Soon!

I have a really busy day ahead, and it doesn't look to be over till about midnight, whew! (of necessity)

I'll be back after dark on Saturday night or sometime Sunday, especially after being tagged by Monica at SmallMeadowFarm for my very first meme, woohoo! (that'll give me time to think of 5 things by then, hopefully :))

Until then, I hope everyone's weekend is restful and safe. We have a good number of friends in the Tennessee/Arkansas/North Mississippi area, and are very relieved to say they were not harmed in the recent large tornado system that passed through. But many many people were harmed or killed, and our prayers go out to their families and to all those who are picking up from the devastation.

We all hug each other a little tighter, and in my quieter moments, I'll be sending out cards I've meant for months to send "just because" to the homefolks scattered so far away, because life is short and sometimes we need to say those things we think but so often never get around to expressing.

My day now charges on like a bull, till shabbat...

Shabbat shalom!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cheap Eats: Egg on Toast

I've mentioned before that my very frugal Depression-era maternal grandparents usually rose early and at the same breakfast every day, together on their back porch as the sun came up...egg on wheat toast and bad bad instant Sanka or Nescafe. By the time I remember the meals very well, they'd been convinced by my parents that cracking an egg in a pan over a pat of real butter and cooking it that way was arterial pergatory, so Grandma instead began poaching a cracked egg in a small amount of water. She seasoned it with salt and pepper and they each had an egg of a piece of wheat toast.

I've never been a big egg lover. But eating REAL eggs from happy, unconfined chickens tastes and seems different to me. And though there is absolutely NO difference in nutrional content, I prefer brown eggs over white.

My husband, until we get our own chickens, will not eat eggs by themselves. So I usually buy eggs to use as ingredients in other things, but seldom just for the eating solo.

I woke up today just before sunlight and remembered my grandparents porch dates and simple breakfasts of egg on toast. I mentally calculated just how frugal a meal this is, and how satisfying. So I shuffled to the kitchen to see if I might approximate it...minus the rubbery texture from cooking it with water, and with a couple simple additions.

I took a small amount of diced onion and put it in a little pile and then flattened it gently while it sauteed in a drop of olive oil. When it was getting nicely cooked, I cracked an egg over it...would have used two, but there was one lone egg left in the fridge. Then a grind of salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper, which added a nice red. I allowed it to cook till semi-firm (wasn't in a runny egg mood today) and then with spatula scooped it intact, cooked onion on bottom and egg on top, onto a hot piece of toast. Then topped it with salsa (didnt have fresh, so used canned.)

That's not quite how grandma made it...but oh, it really hit the spot!

I'm thinking of how filling that was, and how inexpensive. I'm trying to be more and more aware of just where the grocery money is going these days, in anticipation of the days when we hope to have very little outgoing money for food at all, and grow our own. Eggs, sauteed onion and salsa on toast...wouldnt be a bad way to start a morning on a back porch :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dust that Rocks

Restoring the mineral content of soil is the aim of proponents of applying rock dust as an amendment. It's not an entirely new idea, but is highly likely an idea whose time has come. I first read about rock dust, I believe, in PathToFreedom's site.

But the impetus of my post (this one) was having read the excellent latest entry (02/02/20008) on Stuart and Gabrielle's Permaculture In Brittany blog site about their own adventures finding an affordable source locally...local to Brittany, that is :) I love following their progress in adapting many approaches with a permaculture emphasis. You'll love seeing Stuart's search for a locala rock dust source. Looks like he hit the mother lode!

I'll be following this topic with interest, as scientific trials expand, per the article here.
According to the article

...The recognition of the healing powers of rock dust comes after a 20-year
campaign by two former schoolteachers, Cameron and Moira Thomson. They have been
battling to prove that rock dust can replace the minerals that have been lost to
the earth over the past 10,000 years and, as a result, rejuvenate the land and
halt climate change.
To prove their point, the couple have converted six
acres of open, infertile land in the Grampian foothills near Pitlochry into a
modern Eden. Using little more than rock dust mixed with compost, they have
created rich, deep soils capable of producing cabbages the size of footballs,
onions bigger than coconuts and gooseberries as big as plums...

...The couple say that the rock dust means that crops don't need water to
produce harvests of magnificent vegetables. 'It would be perfect for Third World
countries that are usually unable to grow crops because the land is so dry,' Ms
Thomson said. 'This could hold the solution for them'...

Here is Permaculture Magazine's article about Rock Dust.

And here is the link to the SEER Center, with testimonials.

And one final link, from Remineralize the Earth.

Agriculture/Earth Stewardship and the Torah: Greenbelts Around Cities

This is the first part of what will likely be a slow but interesting (to me :)) periodic series related to discovering how the Torah applies to homesteading today. There are a lot of instructions within the texts, and some are specifically mentioned to apply only in the land of Israel, while others are more broadly applicable. Since none of it has really applied to my family before now, I'm very unaware of most of these verses and how they will or won't apply to us in the (hopefully) near future.

I'm slowly trying to chip away at the different biblical teachings related to farming and environmental stewardship. Though I've barely scratched the surface, it's already turned up some surprises. I'm finding the topics to be very interconnected with compassion both to humans and animals, provision for people of lesser means, and recognition of fruitfulness as a blessing from God.

A beginning point for me, when finding specific questions in the scriptures, is a word search in any of the great (free) online sites that have concordances where the original Hebrew can be found, and from there all other mentions of the same word every other place in the texts. This helps to look at all the other verses containing identical words or phrases and examining them to see context and application. For instance, if I have a question about "seeds," I can look up on an online concordance program and it will show me the Hebrew word for "seeds" and also every other verse where the word "seeds" occurs, which helps me see a broader view of anything related to that term...including any teachings, how broad or narrowly the term is applied in different contexts, and any consistent or repetitive elements that link them. It's not hard, and I'm no scholar; it's amazing we have these valuable tools available to us for free.

There are a lot of commandments and mentions in scripture of topics related to agriculture, since the ancient world was highly agrarian; even city dwellers of that day had a different exposure to and awareness of agriculture than city dwellers of today's world, who might have never seen a cow...or a field being planted...or a vineyard. Apparently, citygoers often kept crops and animals of their own (see article below). Today it is difficult for many of us who weren't born into farming to readily identify types of trees and know which provide fruit and which provide different types of wood or sap, etc. Not so the ancient world. Of necessity, there was a closer inter-connection.

In fiddling around with trying to find agriculture and animal-husbandry and stewardship of the land sorts of instructions in the texts, I ran across an interesting find on, since one of their categories of Q&A is Agriculture. It is about the provision of green belts around cities, separating "city" and "countryside," and to provide beauty, enjoyment, and citizen participation in agriculture and keeping livestock. It also, by measurement, contains the size of the city to prevent over-expansion. How very different our world today would be if developers were limited by law from developing such areas, and cities had to consistently incorporate these provisions. Here is a snippet of the full article (by one of the site's contributing writers Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen) that can be found here:

According to the urban planning of the Torah, city residents are entitled
to a green belt, and as the classical biblical commentator, Rashi, explains,
this open space is to serve as an 'aesthetic enhancement of the city.' This
green belt therefore gives urban dwellers a connection to nature; moreover, it
brings benefit to their animals, as they can roam and graze there. According to
another classical biblical commentator, the Sforno, this open space also enables
city residents to have 'beehives, dovecotes, and other such items'....

...These laws seem to be designed to maintain an urban population that
engages in agriculture – that is to be the basic model for the nation – and to
prevent the expansion of the cities into metropolises detached from the fields.
The cities already in existence must not expand beyond their limits at the
expense of the fields…When the population increases, new cities should be
established in sites that have never been used for agricultural

...Cities serve as economic, cultural, and spiritual centers; however, from
the holistic perspective of the Torah, cities must provide their residents with
a connection to nature and with the opportunity to cultivate the earth. Even
urban dwellers are to experience the following messianic blessing: 'They shall
sit, each person under his vine and under his fig tree.'

Friday, February 1, 2008

Chicken Wish List

This is the wish list at this point:

Partridge Rock or Wyandotte

Silver Laced Wyandotte

Buff Orpington



Buff Brahma

Jersey Giant . An alternate choice would be Australorps...any preferences between the two out there?

Barred Plymouth Rock

Golden Laced Wyandotte

If I'm not mistaken, they're all brown/tinted/colored egg layers and are good dual purpose chickens. Does anyone have any feedback as to possible drawbacks to any of these breeds, from experience?

Another question I have is what, if any, is the difference between the Rock type and the Wyandotte type there a difference in weight, temperament, hardiness? I often see some of the particular colorations listed for both, but don't really know what would figure into a preference for one over the other.

Are there any particular favorite chicken breeds you might have that aren't here? I'm not experienced and the list is comprised mainly of chickens I'm guessing are good foraging fowl and good for multipurpose egg and meat. And they're really beautiful...

There are so many others I love the look of...these are simply the ones that keep reappearing whenever I narrow down what I am attracted to.

Photos from these sites: