Saturday, 30 January 2010

More Things I didn't Expect to Be a Part of Our Farm Adventure

Worms. Worms are gross. Not the earthworms some people keep for kitchen compost or fishing I mean gut worms, tape worms, round worms- worms in poop. No animal of mine has ever had worms.

Then we moved to a farm. The pigs had worms, three kinds. We took care of that and all was well. I never thought twice about the domestic animals though. I read that chickens can get worms, but I figured we deal with that in the Spring.

Then one of the dogs pooped in the house and was sick. As I was cleaning it up I noticed the noodles, um, worms. Great. The vet was surprised that I was surprised by this. It is apparently something all the farm folks know, farm dogs and cats need to be wormed 1-2 times every year. So on my great big list of things people should know who are considering farm or rural life: worms, get to know all about worms. Ew.

Then there are skunks. There are a couple seasons where the skunks are worse than usual, where you are more likely to encounter them with your vehicle for example. However, don't think that skunks only magically appear in April and September and hide the rest of the year. No no, they are always out there waiting to spray which ever animal you have decided can live in your home and sometimes they steal eggs and bees too or just generally muck up the normally heavenly smell of fresh farm air.

Add to the list of critters you'll have to deal with as a threat to your own livestock and/or kids and family: coyotes, opossums, raccoons, snakes, rats, owls, weasels, muskrats, foxes, skunks, neighbor dogs, feral cats, deer, bob cats, reckless hunters, mink, hawks, moles, loose cattle/bulls, mice, spiders, ticks, lions, tigers, and bears oh my. Oh and poachers/tresspassers/reckless drivers. Just saying. It is not all fantasy land safe to let the kids run around outside, there are different things to worry about, but things to worry about none the less.

Poop. Farm life is all about poop. You or I can romanticize it plenty and talk about bacon and apples and honey and fresh milk- but really my life right now is about 80% poop. Cleaning out the chicken coup- poop. Pig poop. Cow pies. Identifying predator poop outside the chicken pen. Septic problems/ maintenance, worms in poop, watershed concerns, manure for garden fertilization, horse apples, diapers (ok, that's just because Blueberry is potty training but not yet there and not just because we live on a farm), ect. It just seems like I am constantly scraping poo off my boot. Like I am just surrounded by a bog of poop. I have even learned to tell the subtle difference in the scent of each critters poo- so I KNOW what I have stepped in or which way the wind is coming from. Not all the smells out here are woodsy pine or fresh cut hay. Alas.

Utilities are ruthless. Not that I have ever been late, but there is no grace period. If you are late with a payment, and they are up front about this, your utilities get shut off. In the city, you have a month of grace and can work something out if something comes up. Not out here. That applies to water, electricity, Internet, and propane. I have to read my own water meter which is 1/2 a mile away from my house and then calculate my own payment from a confusing chart. Also, utilities are more expensive by unit here, though we use less than we did in the city so they are lower payments for us compared to what we are still paying in Des Moines for the house that won't sell.

Gas is more expensive than in the city. In Des Moines right now gas per gallon is about $2.36 but in the nearest town to us it is $2.56.

Trash. Burn it or haul it. Disposable diapers and the like do not burn. It is a good thing we use cloth. You know what though, much of what we throw in the garbage doesn't burn either so we have to haul it and the dump is 45 minutes away. $10 per truckload though.

Tires. We have had more flat tires here than in the city and tires made for gravel and dirt roads are more expensive. Tractor tires go flat too. A lot.

4 wheel drive. Required. Often. Sometimes it is not enough.

I am sure there is more. I know that as we were getting ready to move out here I asked people to share these kinds of tidbits with me and none of these things except the flat tire issue came up. None of these would have deterred me though. I would have just liked to know.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Foggy Day, Foggy Mind


Our days have been icy and foggy. We had a hoar frost and I missed photographing it. We had everything coated with an inch of ice and I missed photographing it. So, today when the fog rolled in so thick that Lil'Bug thought we were in the clouds of heaven I ran out to try and snap a memento. Fog, however is a tricky subject to capture. I did my best. I think I prefer my view from the inside.

 My mind lately has been full of ideas and regrets and contemplation. I've tried to meditate to slow things down a bit and gain some clarity, tried to talk things out with friends to process and sieve, but to no avail. Then we had no Internet for a week. My fault entirely- I used up ALL of our allotted whatevers watching BBC comedies, in their entire runs (you know, like 6 seasons.....). We'll be back up soon. Until then I have used the free wifi at the local Pizza Hut parking lot, a local coffee shop, some random person's unsecured signal in Sherman Hill....ugh.  

Being without Internet has brought me to the conclusion that I waste a lot of time on the Internet. Not in quantity but rather in how it breaks up my day and steals from my creativity. If I need a recipe, I just look one up. Music, just turn on Pandora. Need a contact? Just google the yellow pages? A question answered, again just google it. In some ways this should free up my day to do other things, time saved would be put to good use, right?  But instead it allows my easily distracted brain and thought pattern to wander online, check emails, update facebook, pause longingly at blogspot feeling guilty about not updating my blog.......start another draft to add to the 45 drafts I have lingering there, IM with Aunt Bee for a while......look up a book on Amazon that I can't justify spending the money on......look up bank account status to verify that......and suddenly 2 hours are lost and the dishes have piled up and the girls are fighting and dinner needs to be made and maybe the pipes have frozen.

I am tired of winter. I am tired of being sore and cold. I am tired of ice, freezing pipes, propane bills, shoveling snow at the house in DM and getting fined anyway. I am sick of  car problems and furnace problems and everything else that has gone wrong this winter. I want and need sunshine. I dreamed of warm sun shine on my skin last night. Soaking in the vitamin D. Eating spinach and strawberries and Reichart's Dairy-air feta cheese.

Maybe I am just getting older.

So....all of the frozen-ness has got me out there with a mental ice chipper trying to break free. I have a couple things that I have decided to actually complete before moving on- like my novel that is a couple chapters short and the submission folder in my office drawer will get returned as requested. I have a couple of volunteers to read and edit and the feedback has already been amazingly helpful. I really feel like I need to get these things done and out of the drawer to be able to move on.

So this week has actually been really good even if we are just now cutting through the fog and breaking ice dams.

Oh and also here are some random pictures from our week for Grandpa who is starting his new job really far away!


Blueberry loves to help me cook and to steal my tea. 

We had a chicken get locked out of the hen house, actually maybe two or three did, but I found this one and brought her in. I thought she was frozen and dead and then she blinked at me. She stayed in for a couple days and the girls cared for her and then brought her back out. The other two were attacked by dogs and killed. I am really sad about one of them, as it was Rainbow, one of the gentler Americauna hens.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Eggplant Venison Moussaka

What started out as an assignment to the lamb/goat dish for our freezer meal group and ended up with a complicated two weeks of pipe unfreezing duty, -30 windchills, and no supermarket in the lower 2 tiers of Iowa counties carrying lamb or goat plus a nice coincidence of a friend shooting "too many" deer and the order finishing up processing exactly on freezer meal day.......ended up as this interesting dish.

Basically cut up into cubes 4 lbs of eggplant. Salt and let rest for 30 min. Then pat them with a tea towel to soak up excess water and toss them with olive oil Roast until they are nicely browned.

Then brown 2 pounds of lamb or venison, and add 4 medium cloves garlic, minced, and 1 medium diced onion. Cook until they are softened. Add 24 ounces of diced tomato, 1 T dried oregano and 2 T dried parsley, a 1/2 cup of wine (it said red, we used Horny Heifer white), 1 t sugar, salt and 3/4 t cinnamon (or to taste, about 1 teaspoon of each to start).
The sauce is basically an alfredo, which when made from scratch always starts with a bechamel, and you add cheese and spices according to what you will use it for. The basics for this sauce can be used to make an assortment of different sauces, including a sauce for vegetable casseroles, macaroni and cheese, or an alfredo sauce for pasta. The only variances will be the type of cheese and spice you use. Here is the base for this one:
Melt 3 T unsalted butter in a sauce pan. Once it is completely melted, add 4 T of flour, or enough to absorb all the butter, but not make a dough-it should still be sort of runny. Let this cook a bit-many cooks make the mistake of adding the liquid too soon, and you end up with a floury taste in your food. Flour needs to cook-otherwise it tastes like (yes) flour. The flour should darken just a smidge-too much and you enter the land of roux. Save that for gumbo :) To this mix slowly add 2 cups of whole milk, stirring it in as you go. If you dump it all in at once, you will separate the flour and liquids and cool the pan too much. You want the mixture to thin out, but not too much. It should thicken the longer it cooks. Once the sauce has thickened just a bit (and by a bit, I really mean not too much) add 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (Romano would work well here, as well). Stir it in until well blended, then you will start to flavor the sauce. Start with a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg (it makes all the difference to use fresh grated nutmeg. There is so much more flavor. Make a point to start as soon as you run out of that Tone's container in the cupboard-okay?) Also add a little salt and pepper, and just keep adding the three until it has enough flavor for you. After you have it flavored (you better have been stirring the whole time, or else it will congeal), layer the eggplant and meat in a casserole pan, then pour the sauce over it all. Bake until heated through and bubbly.

That's it.

I was thinking that I don't like eggplant though and the dish might be better with roasted sweet potato. If any one tries that or has an opinion let me know.

Friday, 8 January 2010


Yes, even digital cameras can burp. I had my flash turned off and a speed setting on and Blueberry just attacked. It was cute. Not an intentional photo, but a bit what I am feeling. Their childhood is whizzing by in a blur and the more that I try and capture it, fumble with settings, and sit down to type the faster the jig gets played and my shoes are falling off trying to catch up.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Winter Bliss

Winter means digging through the summer harvest and making things with STRAWBERRIES! This is a pineapple upsidedown cake that I used strawberries for the pineapple. I was not sorry that I did, it was amazing. I will post the recipe soon.

Winter means Lil'Bug getting frustrated that baby Blueberry keeps getting into everything and then Mama insists on taking oodles of pictures.


And finally, winter means that everyone gets cabin fever so very terrible that they volunteer to clean the play area. Playing with vacuums is a lot of fun kids! If I could add a soundtrack to the pictures I would, the kids were boogie-ing to Havalina Rail Company's Grass Roots and exclaiming, "Jesus come and take me home!" with an accordion and fiddle playing. Sometimes Lil'Bug will request, "some of that accordion love!"

Speaking of, we got our fiddles but the snowstorm may prevent us from trekking northward to our first lesson tonight as Dearest took the truck and I am on pipe duty- not to mention the windchills are -35 or something. Despite the cold, we are holding up well, the vistas are breathtakingly beautiful, and we are patiently waiting for Spring. I've got some new projects rattling around in my head thanks to E. at MamasMelodrama and the Simply Food blog is really taking root too. Winter is a necessary season and we'll all be more ready for Spring because of it.

Still, I miss my mama friends both near and far.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Shedding Old Skins

The snake shedded. Have I mentioned we got a snake?

Shedding is pretty cool. The entire skin was intact. We got the snake, Oreo, from the Iowa Reptile Rescue- a very cool organization run by a very cool family.

I've been thinking that sometimes we all need to shed old skins to make way for the new too.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A bit on the chilly side . . .

But it warmed up, so I decided to take a walk on the pond.

I did say "on" the pond . . .

There are feet afoot!

View across the pond to the west.

Another view from the dock.

I can see my house from here!

View from the hill at the north west corner of the pond

These critters used the buddy system.

I think this was a neat tree or something . . . it was really really cold . . .

The hill we hope to have a cabin on someday . . .

I walk all zig zaggy apparently.

Not sure what this was - a bunch of critters were up here tearing apart hedge apples it appears.

Heading back towards the truck . . .