Sunday, 30 March 2014

Farmhouse Chicken and Dumplings

I found one last chicken in the deep freeze. It was a small bird, but I was really needing to do something special with it. I made chicken pot pie. We had chicken on pasta. I made nearly a gallon of broth.

We were on our last 2 quarts of broth and I had a nagging in my belly for this. A friend made it for me last fall, but I knew I could spice it up a little and make it my own.

So. That is what I did.

For the Soup Base: 

Chicken broth simmered with onions, celery, carrots, tarragon, turmeric (just a pinch), swamp fire salt (basically garlic, cayenne, and pepper if you don't have any, but you should get some from us.....), and chervil, and thyme. Then I took my pie crust recipe and rolled them into small dough balls with some Aleppo pepper. Once the carrots were cooked (about 30 minutes), I dropped the dough into the simmer and covered for 30 minutes.

Then I added 1/2 cup of cream. The flour from the dumpling balls thickened the soup base too.

That's it. That's all.

For the dough balls:
3 cups of all purpose unbleached flour. I use Bob's Red Mill or the local Paul's Grains High Gluten. Either one works well.

1 teaspoon of kosher salt.

3/4 cup SALTED sweet cream butter frozen and then cut into 1/4 inch pieces. I prefer to make my own butter BUT there is no noticeable difference between that and store bought in this recipe.

1/4 cup of frozen lard. Pig lard. I'm not kidding. Use local, pastured pig lard if you can. HUGE difference. (If any of you local ladies want to try it let me know and I'll share a bit.) Cut into pieces.

1/2 cup of very cold water.

I also added Aleppo pepper and thyme to the dough. That's optional though.

Put the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse to blend. Then add the butter and lard. Pulse until mixture is crumbly. Fluff the mixture if needed. Add the water slowly while pulsing and stop once the mixture starts clumping like course crumbs.

Take mixture out and knead with your hands on floured parchment paper. Form into two balls and squish into disks. Wrap in plastic or paper and stick in the fridge.

When it is time to make into bitesized balls, take out and work the dough quickly. Makes about 30 small bites.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Library Day in Knoxville

We love the library in Knoxville. The kids section is isolated in the upstairs, the librarian really friendly, and the set up is just calming for the kids. They do well at this library.

Not all libraries are kid friendly, even if they try to be.

We also had a connect 4 tournament and LILY almost beat me! It was a draw.

I love Knoxville, but it is 45 minutes away, so my goal is to create experiences closer to home for the summer and drive less. I may have to if Chad can't fix my car, whoo baby is the farm truck expensive to drive!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Baaaaaa Humbug.

We have a bottle lamb. That's what I will say took  me from blogging this week, (not the real reason which was that I was frantically and freakingoutedly submitting carefully reworked and reworked and reworked again pieces for submission and meeting deadlines like a BOSS).

So, as an apology, which is made of the stuff that heals relationships.....I present to you (and to Aerica) pictures of baby lamb!

We had to tote it to town with us when it was getting feeding every 2-4 hours.

But then she wouldn't poop and got lethargic. Oh. The things we do for lambs.....I got grumpy about her living in the kitchen too. In my dream kitchen there will be a mudroom with a tiled, with drain, heated animal/lamb area.

We got her to poop finally. We asked for a couple tips. One of them was don't feed her like this.  Put the bottle much lower to the ground than I am showing here. Isaac was just too cute though. He stuffed all his grapes in his cheeks and grabbed her bottle. Oh honey.

No worries, we got her running and jumping and pooping. SO MUCH POOPING.  Our schedule is now just three feedings a day and she stays outside in a pen with another sheep after lunch, gets brought in at bedtime. The other ewe (Cream Puff) is not a cuddler and it is still cold here. 23 degrees and SNOWING this morning.

So that's what's up here. I'll fill in the other missing pieces tomorrow, but stay tuned for more cute kid pictures, two recipes (Chicken and Dumplings and Venison Roast), and a waxing poetic about waxy poetry.....and another, less happy story from the farm and why Cream Puff is up by the house. Don't read that one if you are hormonal and cry easily. It's not nice.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


One of my goals has been to blog everyday. I mean, of course I miss some days and prioritise tasks, but I have been averaging 25/30 days and I think that's pretty darn good! It has also served as  a reminder of how amazing the life we live is, searching out happy to photograph and share everyday has been glorious and lovely. It adds a bit of sunshine and gratitude to the mundane. So I don't see missing three days in a row to be a failure to my goal. It isn't a pass/fail kind of life we lead.

Another of my goals has been to empty the draft drawer, the one that has been growling at me for almost twenty years. Oh that's a long time! I did it though. Every last poem in that drawer has been either retired, revised and sent out, or formatted into a collection and sent out. It was a lot of work. Almost 40 hours of intense revision, another three formatting, and 2 hours entering data into duotrope. This has taken a lot of time over the last three weeks, but well worth it. I sent the whole collection to a book prize with one of my favourite poetry journals, photographs to Flyway, and followed through with that 15 year old revision request. Yes I did. Finally. It is done. Now, it isn't a regret that I get to carry with me and it doesn't get to push me around. I did it.

New goals:
  • Continue to send work out. At least a submission a week, researched and carefully selected. I can do this.
  • Create a work space at home. A just for me space, with my computer and my books. A corner of a sunny room. 
  • Blog food at least once a week. 
  • Clean up the porch and hang my swing. 
  • Make iced tea every day.  
  • Clean the baseboards and windows.
  • Take the kids camping and fishing as soon as it is warm enough.
  • Walk a mile outside everyday that the sun is shining, ride five miles on the bike inside if it isn't.
That's it. That's the list for the next three months. What are your goals? What are you doing to move towards your dreams? 

Saturday, 8 March 2014


I am never idle, it seems. Even when I am still, my mind is going over emails and invoices and conversations. Thought requires this time, it feels like sometimes I am even doing this in my sleep.


I keep myself busy. I tell myself that the good work we are doing, raising children and growing food for others in our community, is work worth my time. Oh, it is!

Still, the moments, it feels like it was just a moment, I had to myself with my own thoughts last month have stayed with me. It was in this time that I could refocus, polish, and really come to face what my goals and dreams are for my own creative being. This is important. I am an individual in a family unit and not just a collective identity. We are not a hive. Nurturing each child to be their individual person is important, but I do not have to forgo nurturing myself too (not instead of).

So today, I challenge you, what is your core being? What is your dream or goal that has lingered in a dusty box or in a drawer or on shelf in the shadows of work or motherhood? Why not take it out a bit and look at it?

Taking a moment or two for gratitude, pausing to feel the happy or the sad, just is a necessary part of being human. Why else are we here, living this life, and given the intellect to reflect and think on it? It is in the quiet moments that poetry is happening, if only I can bridge the neurons to the ink and paper in time before the wisps are gone like warm breath into the cold winter chill.

And with that, I log off and go work on my dreams for 30 minutes. I can do that. I have that much quiet and focus left in me today. Happy is that gift of a solid block of time to work.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Happy Home

The light of day was fading, all hazy and pink as the fire set through the bare trees.

Today my happy is my husband. We did chores together, we enjoy spending time together. We don't travel together and a lot of folks have squished their noses at this. I like to travel and do things, Chad HATES travel. He has to do it for work. Now that we have kids and a farm, we just take turns going on our adventures. That works for us. When we did go places together long before we had children, we basically walked around looking for book stores and cheap but tasty food. Then kids came along and we still did that. I learned to cook, and kindle happened, and we moved to a farm. Yet, I still love to go other places, especially historical and artsy places. Lucky for me, kids give me a great excuse and budget for day trips! Whooo hooo!

Still, there is nothing like the happy that we have together. Quiet nights like this, though cold and wet as Spring brings us ice melt and thawing trees, are still where my heart is. What good is travel if you don't have a home to return to? I don't know, for that is not something I lack.

When I recently took a cross continent solo trip, for the first time ever, it was a surreal experience. I learned a couple cool things about myself. The first being that I am perfectly capable and competent and can make friends and comfort wherever I go. Another was that, while I could make myself at home where I landed, it was not home without Chad and the chaotic love explosion that are my children. I never had need to miss them before because they are always with me. I missed them so much it hurt my chest, especially at bedtime.
My happy is that I am blessed to know a love so fierce and wonderful.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Kuddos to the Kiddo

This kid. Oh how I love her!

Today we decided to do Daddy's farm chores so that he could spend more time studying and reading to them and generally make his life easier, while also assessing our own ability to complete the tasks without him when he travels.

We loaded two bales of hay in the truck, breaking them down first because they weigh 60lbs each and I cannot lift that. Lily busts out her pocket knife and got to work cutting twine, like it was no big deal and what she was supposed to do. I mean, it was, but I didn't ask her or instruct her on that.

Then we filled a bin with water in case the tanks were still frozen. They were not, but better safe than sorry. Fed the pigs, the dogs, and then loaded the little kids up in the truck and headed to the pasture.

Once there, up in the truck bed, Lily and I tossed the bales over the fence and poured the water together into the tank. Fed Zim. Next was to check on the weaker lamb and assess the state of the inside of the shelter. All was fine.

Clean up stray twine left in the grass, lock up the gates.

She was a quiet and helpful chore partner. We will make this a daily outing and I plan on letting her take the lead soon, asking her to assess and make decisions. That's how we roll on the farm, the chores start as just watching, then helping as able, soon helping side by side, and so forth.

Still, she has earned her farm cred today and I thought I'd make note here.

Criticism and Nodding Heads

I am used to people cheering what I do. I have a fantastic support system. I have friends, loyal and sweet, that offer encouragement and do nice things for me. My kids think I am beautiful and smart. My husband thinks I am sexy and smart and dangerous. Awesome.

I am used to criticism. Every semester I get a student or two sending me poorly grammared angry emails telling how I am the worst person to ever teach, should be fired, and the fact that they did 8 of the 40 assignments and paid their own tuition is enough for a passing grade! Oh, I get called many colourful though not imaginative names and accused of many trespasses, and I have come to accept it gracefully and respond kindly and firmly.

I have had fall outs with friends and family, so I also know what it is like to have people I care about think poorly of me or what I endeavour to do for my life work (parenting style, is usually the crux here). I am an outlier and I know what observations come with occupying that territory.

No, the criticism I was not prepared for was none of these.

Re-reading the revision notes from the writer's retreat I found a small box with a note suggesting that I work on sentence structure and get a good grammar book.


It hurt deeply because the line drawn from the box to the comment was not to the age old Oxford comma complaint, nor to anything arguable. It was to a long run on sentence with no punctuation at all. That's how I write poetry, most of the time, e.e.cummings style.

The problem with that is that I am not Edward Estlin. My work has been much improved since taking this to heart. Though, many poems are still suited to that, it is more intentional now instead of just free flowing.

My relationship with revision has been tumultuous. My freshman year in college, when asked to revise, I laughed and said that changing what I had written was a betrayal, an adultery to inspiration and muse. I would not so stain her (my muse's) dress with such ink and blood. Oh the dramatic ego of youth! That particular professor got me to agree to at least pay attention to the strength of end words and then let me be.

No one challenged me after that. Until now. That is a blessing.

That is the problem with having a youthful talent though, it is all impressive intuition and no skill. Now, I can laugh at that impish youthful poet, but it is a sad laugh. Sad, because I walked away from something I loved, something I was good at, because I was stuck and could not master the craft.

Now I know that I can never master such a fancy, but that doesn't mean I cannot enjoy it and improve my aim, brush stroke, and swordplay. Feet on the floor, I lunge and tarry daily now. Sure, fencing imaginary windmills is just that, but at the very least I am training.

So now revision is my training ground, an old lover I am getting to know again. Sometimes it is painful and lonely and full of regret, but here I am.

This is my happy. Doesn't really seem like it should be, right? I am happy to be standing in this harsh light, following a dream I thought was lost. No more regrets. Let's do this.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Tuesday Mornings

Tuesdays are always what feels like off the wall chaotic and busy.

We load up at sunrise and head to town. This morning, chores had to be done: water from a leak cleaned up, pasture check on a lamb that is struggling but still doing fine, stoke the wood stove, load the truck. On the road by 6:30 am. Gas station breakfast and truck maintenance were done too.

Isaac's doctor appointment, then real breakfast, break up girls fighting (sigh) over Holly being friendly with strangers in the doctor's waiting room. It was a mom she knew, but Lily didn't know that and was being very protective. Long quiet talk about appropriate ways to handle situations like that, but not shame her for trying to do the right thing.

Breakfast. iHop free pancake day.

Ballet class. More truck oil checking and filling.

Then to Grampas. The kids were just so happy to see him. They also spent quiet time with great grandma and did not want to leave until 4. That was much longer than I had planned on spending, worried about tiring her out.

Holly cried once we were on the road home, she wanted to stay longer to see Nana.

So, the day goes on and when we arrived at the farm, the concern shifted towards checking on the lamb and playing outside. Early bedtimes were had and three children fell asleep telling a collective story about Dreamland, Prince Isaac, Princesses Lily and Holly, and Queen Mama the bohemian jeans wearing royalty that loved her children all very much.

And there's my happy.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Today's Quiet Moment.

I didn't get a picture for today's happy.

So, here is my list:
Today the meals I made were delicious and appreciated by all three children.
We had fun checking on lambs, shopping, checking on lambs again, and being with each other.
Isaac practised making different animal noises! It was adorable. Quack quack!
I read poetry. Two new books came in the mail today and both are lovely. So far, in each, I have discovered a shiver poem. The kind of lyric that makes you shiver with fear, delight, or just beauty that is found. Delighted to have that be in my day and to have both of those authors in my proximity and path.

Chocolate and Earl Grey tea. Add in a quiet moment, with poetry in hand, and that brief and fleet moment is near perfect. Especially when the quiet was the children snuggled up discovering something new together, yet on their own from me. Oh precious.

Now they are all three sleeping piled on each other, sort of snoring, one laughing in her sleep.  We have an early day tomorrow, but the promise of maybe seeing Grampa got them in jammies, teeth brushed, and into bed early. Oh Holly woke up this morning telling me how much she misses Grampa and Nana and how she wishes she cold spend the day with them every week like last year. It was heartbreaking and precious. If I had video captured the moment, I am quite certain someone would be signing papers and moving here next week. ;)

So I add to my pile of happy, the blessing that my children have extended family that they love so much and that love them back. Speaking of which, I should probably call my brother and his wife and invite them for a visit in the Spring. Their daughter will love the baby lambs!

So that is my happy for the day. (A picture from last week too.....)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Happy Project

There's this thing, 100 days of happy.

I can do this. I do this every day already. Even if I am having a crappy day, I can find 5 minutes to be happy, to look around and be grateful, to love. If the day is collapsing on my head, I step outside and look at the stars, sit and drink tea alone, or snuggle my babies.

Why take part in this then? To help others do it too. 3 years ago, when Isaac was diagnosed with 22q11 Deletion Syndrome, I thought I could not/should not share his story. I thought that violating his personal medical privacy was a horrible crime to commit, so I kept to the private boards. I only shared happy pictures and good things on the blog. But then? Someone, an expectant mother with a prenatal diagnosis of 22q, who was given the choice to abort her baby and was seriously considering it...found my blog through those groups. She saw happy. Today, that baby is a thriving toddler.

Sometimes when we show others the possibility of something as simple as happy, a miracle happens.

Here's to that miracle. Here's to happy.