Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Garden Happy

The garden is planted!  The garden is planted!  Today was a fun day.  Corn, beans, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, several herbs, broccoli, chamomile and a few flowers ideal for cutting... the peppers are the only veggie not yet in the ground.  Whew!  Good thing I had the boys helping me!

I added several edibles to my list this year but didn't really want to enlarge the garden (or make Wade move the underground irrigation necessary to do so), so this summer finds all sorts of veggies interspersed with perennials around the yard.  A "salad" bed (lettuce, carrots, radishes and spinach) is tucked in near roses and hollyhocks, some of the tomatoes are gathered around a little blue spruce and surrounded by irises and day lilies, and the peppers will fill in some gaps around my still small blueberry bushes.  I think the effect will be a fuller, lusher look, though harvesting may be more of a challenge with the produce scattered all over the yard.

The next three days call for rain, so I'm hoping for soft, gentle sprinkles to soak those babies in.  Praise the Lord that food production and plant propagation are such lovely, fragrant and tasty affairs!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Best smells ever

Intoxicating in lavender...

Heady in white...

Redolent in purple...

Can you smell them yet?  Stick your nose deep inside and inhaaaaaaale...  
Heaven will smell like lilacs, if you were wondering.

Oh, but this smell is such a close second.
He plays outside in the dirt and trees and grass and worms, races in to dinner, then sits on my lap afterward while we read Bible.  And the sweaty, dirty, naturey smell of boy wafts from his hair and draws my nose down into his mop.  He wonders why I sniff a lot while we read Bible.  I'm not crying.  I'm just smelling him.  He smells like boy still young enough to sit on my lap.  It's a fleeting scent, and so I savor it.  Inhaaaaaaaaale....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Several weeks ago I started playing around with making my own yogurt.  It's a treat I rarely buy, since our boys can easily polish off a quart in one sitting, and that gets a little pricey to do on a regular basis.  However, I've discovered I can make a quart of yogurt for about $1.  Yup.  For the price of one gallon of milk, I can make a gallon of yogurt!  And I do, almost every week.  Here's the awesomely simple and fantastically economical recipe for yogurt by the gallon (it's just as easy to make by the quart -- just divide the two ingredients).

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

1 gallon of milk (I use 2%)
1 cup of plain yogurt (after your first batch, you can save a cup for starting the next one)

Let milk and yogurt come to room temperature before using (totally optional, I often forget, but it makes the process go a little faster).  In a large pan, heat the milk to 185 degrees over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once it reaches 185, keep it at that temperature for 5-10 minutes.

Set the pan of hot milk in a sink of cold water until milk cools to about 120 degrees.  Add yogurt and stir well.  At this point you can add sugar and flavorings if you want (vanilla is good) or keep it all plain.  Remember to keep a little bit plain for starting your next batch!

Pour into jars, lid them and keep warm for five or more hours.  There are several ways to do this: 1) if your crockpot has a "warm" setting, set the jars in it (or you could put the yogurt straight in the crockpot and spoon it into jars after it's finished); 2) put the jars in a cooler with some hot water (about 120 degrees); 3) fill a large pan or crockpot with hot water, put the jars in the pan and set it in a warm oven.  I like option 2 best.

After five (or six or seven or ten) hours (or whenever you remember), put the yogurt in the fridge to cool.  Enjoy with fruit, granola, graham crackers or whatever floats your yogurt boat.

If your yogurt comes out runnier than you like, you can try adding a cup of powdered milk, keeping it at 185 degrees a little longer, or using milk with higher milk fat on your next batch.  Hope this is useful to some yogurt-lover out there!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Farm Girl Wannabe Too

My cousin Allison sent me on a trip down memory lane today with her blog post Farm Girl Wannabe over at Scribbles and Dreams.

Her dad and mine farmed together, and although I, like Allison, was never really a “farm girl,” I too reaped the benefits of a childhood full of country memories and farmyard reminiscences.

One of my fond memories rides on the waves of Allison’s -- that of harvest time, which I’m sure is not one of my dad’s favorite memories!  (Dad chopped all day, milked all night, then got back in the chopper until the work was done -- several days without a pause for sleep, although he did confess to sleeping in the tractor.  Somehow he always managed to wake up in time to turn around before driving out of the field, which was mind-boggling to me)  While Allison and her siblings were in the silage truck with her dad, my brother, sister and I rode in the chopper tractor with my dad.  I mean no offense to any of my uncles, but I always thought that since my dad was the only one who ever drove the chopper tractor and operated the dumpbox, that he must have been the bravest, strongest, best-est farmer on the farm.  Okay, so I still think that.  He’s my dad!

Chopping was also the season our family had the most picnics.  Mom would pack up dinner and drive us all out to whatever field the guys were working so that our family could eat together.  We’d pull into the field and bounce along over the corn stubble or grass tufts, following the tractor until the dump box was full.  Then Dad would sprint to the car, eat dinner in record time, and race back to the tractor in time to dump the load into the silage truck before it even came to a complete stop.  Totally heroic.

My favorite farm girl memory though, is when my dad would wake me up early on Sunday mornings -- still dark out -- and take me with to do the scraping and get ready for milking.  He’d hold my hand and we’d walk through the spooky spot where the old barn rose up on one side of the road and the woods leaned in ominously on the other side, then down the road past a couple houses to the farm.  I don’t remember much of what we did at the farm those early morning nights.  Mostly I remember walking with him, my little hand in his big, rough one, our barn boots making that distinctive barn boot slapping sound.

Sometimes I wish I could give those same memories to my kids.  Sometimes I worry they’re missing out on so many great things by being “town kids” instead of “farm kids.”  But then I remember that behind every sacred memory was love, and whether it was a farm, home, vacation or friendship memory, it was the infusion of love that made it powerful, wonderful, memorable.  Maybe my kids won’t have memories of riding in tractors or swinging in hay lofts, but they’re being showered with love, which guarantees that they’ll have some great ones of their own someday, no matter where they grow up.

Thanks, Dad, for the great farm girl memories in my heart.

Friday, May 03, 2013


Today is the last day of our 2012-2013 school year -- wahoo!  Let the book-throwing and ice cream eating celebration commence!

Last year I began the morph into year-round schooling, a change that will carry over into this year, despite the boys' protests.  Now before you go thinking I'm a totally mean mom to mandate school even when the weather is beautiful, consider that we only do school four days a week during the summer, and a typical off-season school day is between one and two hours long, and some days that includes a 45-minute swimming lesson.

And as much as the boys grump and complain about it, they seem more content and less restless on days that have some semblance of schedule to them, and a little bit of school helps with that.

And those extra summer days allow us to take more days off for visits, trips and vacations, or to just finish up the school year early if we don't end up using them all (hence book throwing on May 3!).

And keeping up on math and Spanish during the summer keeps us from having to spend the entire month of September re-learning what we've forgotten.

And we're not a farming family.  We're a gardening family, but we don't need to entirely abandon school for a whole season in order to make a living.

And we will take a couple weeks completely off before the new school year starts up again later this month.

Have I justified this decision enough yet?  Why do I feel like I need to?

Anyway, back to the real point of this post -- we're celebrating the last day of school today!  Yea!!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Great Minds

Several weeks ago I stumbled across a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that lodged in my brain and has made me more aware of what kinds of things I (and others around me) talk about.  She said, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people."

At first I felt rather self-conscious as I tried to remember what I had talked about that day and what this said about my mind.  And what about my children?  What kinds of minds have I been training up?

But after many days of mentally logging our family's topics of discussion, I feel a sense of relief that Eleanor Roosevelt would have approved of much of our dinner table conversation (because, you know, isn't the former First Lady's opinion pretty much the most important thing to be worrying about in life?).

However, I'm wishing I'd physically logged those table topics because right now, on the spot, I can't think of any of them, and there have been some great ones.  I'll start writing them down and share them sometime in the future.  You know, prove to the world that Ms. Roosevelt would think our minds are in fine shape!