Sunday, 23 November 2014

Prairie Fire Holiday Bread Stuffing

 I forgot the soak the beans for what I usually bring to market for sample and was scrambling this morning to make something. Then I had a brilliant and silly idea to make stuffing. Of course, Thanksgiving is next week, right!?

So why silly? I hate stuffing. I have a complex and broken relationship with stuffing. Hate is a mild statement. I refused as a child to eat anything that was cooked in what I crassly referred to as a turkey's a-hole. Not going to eat it.

Add to that a certain family member's experiment adding "herbs" and then because of my steadfast rule of NEVER eating said stuffing, being the only person at the meal sober? Yes, the memory of my quite high grandmother calling me a lesbian and trying to strangle me over the mashed potatoes has marred my relationship with this classic dish.

But I am over it. Hell is a thing we carry with us, not a place we go- wisdom courtesy of Neil Gaiman. It is time to make the stuffing.

So......I found a couple easy crock pot recipes (not making it in a poultry's arse, on that I am firm). I studied the recipes on my iPhone as I walked the aisles of the grocery store. Goodness I love that we carry all of human knowledge in our back pockets so casually.

4 cups of no/low sodium organic chicken broth
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons of Prairie Fire Seasoning (or your favourite Cajun salt plus some herbs)
12 cups of dry bread crumbs

Boil the broth and melt the butter into it. Add seasoning a teaspoon at a time until it tastes just right to you. For me that is 2 Tablespoons.

Pour seasoned buttery broth over the dry bread crumbs in a crock pot. Fluff a bit with a large spoon but don't over work it. The broth will steam and settle so let it be. Cover and cook on high for one hour (or dutch oven in oven at 200 for an hour).

There you go. That's it. It was so good I ate half of it at our booth between talking to customers. Me. Who hates stuffing. Seriously.

Lily was my helper and made beautiful art while we worked the market day.  Love this girl and her eye for colour and her customer skills. She is one cool kid.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Holiday Madness and Joy

The holidays are strange things, especially in our American culture. We create these coming togethers, a good thing in theory, but then we blow that up. For many people it becomes an explosion of showing everyone what you have, what you do, what you are better at. Birthday parties become circuses with the guests getting gifts, Thanksgiving has so much stress and family drama that people opt to work to get out of it, Christmas is such a mess that people actually get killed fighting over toys on Black Friday.

Goodness. What have we done to ourselves.

Good can come from this though. A few years back the family decided that Christmas would be at the farm. This decision was made in October, plenty of time, right? I had an 11 month old special needs baby and we had finally moved the rest of our crap out of our city house (a house 2x the square footage) to the farm. I was teaching seven sections that term.  Everything was chaos and I was burned out.

That year, I hired a company called Jess Marie Services to help me sort through the chaos that was both in my head and in my house. For three months we cleaned and sorted and hauled out junk once a week. Then she started tackling the small house things like painting and hanging pictures and painting the mural on my kids wall. And talking me through a lot of my anxieties. Christmas at the farm was cancelled that year anyway, but we were ready. And I gave myself the gift of budgeting for Jessica for the whole freaking year. She'd come, reboot the whole house, tackle a project with me, and be gone just after lunch. This helped me regain the footing I needed in my own life. 

Fast forward to this year: My awesome, amazing aunt decided to spend Thanksgiving at the farm.Of course, this is the aunt that I take after.....she forgot to tell me of her plans and I found out a couple days ago from another family member.

My plans had been to sulk around in my pajamas all day eating frozen pizza and watching cheesy Christmas movies. Kids approved of this plan. Well, junk those plans....DEEDLE IS COMING FROM TEXAS! (Deedle is her family nickname from when she saved my baby sister from dying of an accidental drug overdose of grandmas heart of many family legends).

There was no freaking out this time, no rush to clean everything to perfection. Instead? I first called Jessica. Ha. She came and rebooted the house. See?

Then I invited friends and family to come too. The more the merrier.

I used Pinterest to build a menu. I will link to that or make another post in just a bit. I have to finish sorting out the details. Basically, I am making a kick ass main dish that is more traditionally true to historic American cuisine than a turkey would be. Side dishes will be simple and classic and whatever guests bring too.

Oh and the pie! The pie will be a tribute to my first foodie love: pumpkin, apple, peach, and cream cheese pecan. I love pie. The more pies the better. Yay pie! Also, pies are easy as pie. I can whip up these in about 20 minutes of prep and cook them all at once.

We'll pick up the tree Wednesday and decorated it Friday while we have a Cajun catfish fry and rock out to Zydeco Holiday music.

It doesn't matter if my house is magazine ready. I don't have to have a picture perfect spread. All I need is a big table and my family. We'll get out the really good dishes and we'll make some really good memories.

How far I have come, y'all.


* One last thought though. If the holidays suck, that's ok. If pajamas and frozen pizza are what get you through? Do it. If working a double shift is better than drowning in old family grudges and drunken emotional breakdowns/rants/attacks? Do it. Do what you need to do. Pretending to be joyful and making postcard perfect memories does not bring you closer to Jesus, breaking emotionally does not bring others to Christ, and destroying your own mental health for the happiness of others is not your job/obligation/role. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others who might be struggling. Go gently into the holiday. If you have to wade into a dysfunctional mess, know that what they say and think about you reflects more about them and their character than it does you. Hang in there.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Isaac Turns FOUR!

My dear boy. We are so blessed to have you in our lives. You turned four last week and greeted this new year with joy and hilarity. You follow your sisters like a sweet little duckling and watch me in the kitchen to get extra sweetness as I cook. Your favourite drink is eggnog and you LOVE apples. I love that you sign for trains in your sleep and have learned to speak with your verbal words this year, though it is still a slow victory and we struggle to understand you- it is getting better every day.

I love you.

I love what you have brought to our lives! The sheer joy in your morning grins, the way you dance and sing, the love you show all of us every day. And we know. We know how lucky and blessed we are, you are, to be alive and healthy and thriving. Not many 22q kids are so lucky and many have lost their lives this year. Someday you'll understand life and death and this will mean something to  you, but right now? Four is wild and wonderful but also innocent.

Four will be fantastic. We will see the storms, the snow, the holiday lights! Ride trains and horses. Mostly, we will snuggle and talk and make art together. I love you little buddy.

Lily turns 10!

Lily made me a mother ten years ago and this last decade has been a wonderful journey! This last year Lily bridged in Girl Scouts, took up playing the piano in formal lessons, created with clay, rode horses, explored caves, raised a bottle calf, a lamb, and a runt pig, and created so much joy in the world for herself and others.

Cheers to you sweet girl and may ten be just as filled with adventure and joy! You are creative and interesting and brave. I love spending time with you, I love the care and kindness you show to the smaller than you children in our lives. You give up your candy at parades to the littles who can't go fetch it, you tuck in your brother at night, and you are the most passionate girl I know. I hope that passion changes the world someday, but for right now you are the bright light in my day. You have big goals for yourself this year and my hope is to support those goals and help you make them happen. Love you Nixie.

Monday, 3 November 2014


November for me is about cleaning: instead of Spring cleaning, I do a fall purging.

An accounting for.

A turnover.

A clean slate.

Three days in and I have sorted and purged 1/2 the outgrown and damaged shoes. Filled two trash cans full of junk mail piled on my desk. Done eight loads of laundry.

I have sat down and organised what work is about to be submitted. Lined up Spring and possibly fall teaching assignments. Paid tuition for a retreat that I am very excited to attend again.

Meal planned. Chore charted. Scrubbed dishes and wiped down shelves.

Three days in and November is already looking fantastic and hopeful. 2015 is going to be an outrageously fantastic year, full of promise and new growth.

With that, I present to first published essay: In the Bareness of Winter, page 136 in the fall issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal. Not available online, to read it you will have to get the print edition. Cool, eh? This essay was really hard for me to write, to share this event on our farm. I also had a fantastic group of friends proofread and cheer me on during the process. If November is for gratitude, let me tell you all, having friends like these? Friends that fill me up instead of tearing me down, friends that cheer me on when I am scared to do the next big thing, friends that stop me from quitting by driving me to the airport, bus station, poetry reading, picking me up from said places too..... friends that love me through the darkness of my insecurity and self doubt? I am extremely grateful. More than mere words can express.

Look! They even printed the accent mark!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

200 Trees

As many of you know we are hard at work raising funds for an Indiegogo campaign.....

But what isn't obvious from this campaign page is an amazing donation we got this week from Versaland Farm in Iowa City. Grant called us, knowing we'd probably buy a lot of the stock from him anyway, and offered to donate 200 trees to the project. He also gave us some tree guards and sold us stakes at cost.We toured his farm and saw his adorable Kune Kune Ossabaw cross pigs. The hills were lined with trees from his tree mob planting project this summer. Amazing.

These pictures are from his farm. This is what our planting will look like very soon. Our project wasn't going i the ground until 2015, but these sweet trees have to go in right now. This is an amazing gift. We are very grateful and even though it doesn't look like it on our fundraising page, this puts us at 20% of our goal of 1000 trees in the ground. Thank you Grant!

If you have a donation that isn't dollars that you'd like to make, let us know. Much of Permaculture is about giving what you have and creating relationships. 

In honour of Grant's donation we are adding a donation category for 10$ (our previous lowest one was $25). 10$ will buy one tree, just the tree.  Many of us farmers and farm fans are on tight budgets. We are hoping that 10$ isn't too much. The option is at the bottom of the perk page.

That said, if you know a family that has a child in the hospital or a neighbor that is struggling, we encourage you to spend your charity with them. As parents of a special needs, medically fragile child, I know that the holidays are the hardest and medical bills pile up. If you find yourself with a choice, please do not hesitate to put your $$ to use close to home. Part of my hesitation for creating a funding effort for our tree planting was knowing that our close friends are raising money for medical needs. It took a lot for me to get to the point that I could make this campaign, thinking about their needs while we want to plant trees.

So those are my thoughts today. Get out there, do good in the world. That's a seed worth planting!