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I call it just a day.  A real day.  I spent time away from the computer.  I opened and learned the new pressure canner I bought.  We have so many tomatoes, and I know I need to learn to put things up.  It’s part of it.  Though I have heard the stories of pressure canners blowing people up, I know they must be relatively safe, and it is time I got acquainted.  Tomatoes are supposedly easy to put up.

I hate reading manuals.  I like my reading to have a narrative quality even if non-fiction.  I’d much prefer learning my being taught by a breathing being, but time has not allowed me that, and none of my family that lives closer to us cans.  I withstood the reading, working through the text step by step, trying to be hands on instead of reading and then doing.  I readied 7 quart jars.  I knew I’d fill those and have left overs.  Yet, when I smashed in the tomatoes as instructed by the manual, I found that I could only fill 4 of those.

As soon as the jars were prepared, the girls and I got the best surprise.  At my back door, stood my daddy.  He had come just in time to be present for my blowing up the house.  But, it all went off without a hitch.  The best part is my daddy was smiling and seemed at ease.  He has a job that carries with it a huge responsibility, and sometimes I wish he could leave it behind.  I always remember my happy daddy fondly.  Nobody else can be happy like him.  When he is happy he can hold the world on his back and go with simple movements, unhindered, laughing.  Oh, the laughing.

Dad helped me fix the air conditioner away from the stove.  Our little wall unit blows the flame on my gas stove, so I had turned it off.  It was like a sauna in the cabin.  He couldn’t stay long and we were alone again.  The jars finished processing.  I did my yoga practice.  Ivy napped.  When I got the jars out of the canner, I got this…

Floaters.  I should have poured off the juice I got after packing and put in more tomatoes.  The jars are sealed though, and John’s Mamaw – canner extraordinaire – says they are going to be just fine to eat.  They will be used for soups and sauces this winter.  I’m so pleased that the blight didn’t wipe them out this year like our last year’s crop.  We are making progress even if baby steps.  We’ll eventually walk with few stumbles, then glide.

First, you start with real good garden soil, a set of plant starts, and eventually you will have a gorgeousness that looks like this.

 

When the first pea pods appear, they will be tender enough to put in the skillet without steaming first.  If you like peas in the pod, you’ll leave them on longer, but to make this dish, you’ll need to string them, and/or steam them for tenderness.

Make some bacon.  A whole pack is nice because you can eat while you cook.  I prefer to buy bacon free of nitrates or nitrites and sugar when I can find it.  Sautee some onions in bacon grease until they start to brown.

Then, add the washed pods and peas.

Cook them over medium to high heat until they are fully greased and tender.  The amount of grease you use depends on your tastes.  I use the whole pan from making the pack of bacon.  When tender, crumble in some bacon and serve.

 

You’ll notice that this dish is similar to the Appalachian green beans and kilt lettuce and onions.  Pork was a mainstay of the Appalachian diet, and used to flavor many dishes from cornbread, beans, to greens.  Because chickens provided eggs and cows provided milk, they were not butchered as regularly as hogs.  When not eating pork, or chicken for Sunday dinner, Appalachian peoples ate the meat of hunted animals including, rabbit, deer, squirrel, wild turkey, opossum (some folks didn’t care for it), and groundhog (has a reputation for being greasy).  In our family we eat rabbit, deer, and wild turkey, as well as fish caught from our lakes and streams.  I prepare a traditional foods diet for my family most days.  I have found that if we eat foods that we are genetically predisposed to tolerate, then we have better outcomes physically.  My family has lived in the mountains for generations.  My ancestors were Irish and Cherokee primarily.  My husband’s were Melungeon.  By keeping the traditional Cherokee and Appalachian food ways we were familiar with, and researching those that had been lost to industrialization we have found healthy eating.  Being involved in where your food comes from both animal and plant forms, is extremely rewarding.

A gal has her first moon time and is initiated either gently or suddenly into womanhood.  A woman experiences pregnancy and birth or feeling love for someone more than any love she has ever felt for herself or another – a different love – and she is initiated into motherhood.  Today, I was initiated.  I took another step out of the speeding rat race of the world back into the days when woman, wife, and mother were words for many other jobs as well.

Yesterday was a blessed and sunny day.  We spent the day outside, enjoying our chickens who have finally started laying and setting.  The house chickens have found a safe nest – their third try.  The barn hens began using the nest boxes and sticking close to the barn.

House chickens - Roy and Little Girlfriend - on the bird table

The other day we found six of Little Girlfriend’s eggs in Lars’s doghouse.  She wasn’t setting, so we ate them.  She moved the nest under the old coop.

The girls played in the sandbox.  I planned for a breastfeeding workshop I am giving soon, sitting next to them in a straight backed chair with my lap desk and the sun giving the perfect light.

This morning it was gloomy.  The rain clouds came overnight.  John was preparing to leave for the weekend, and we had just finished our pancake breakfast.  Our neighbor, Brett, walked up on the porch in time to finish the last of the pancakes.  He wasn’t coming to eat though.  He was coming with photos of a hawk, down in the barn, killing our setting hen.  Brett wasn’t able to stop it.

We work really hard at getting things just so.  It seems to go better, then the natural world reminds us where we are in the scheme of things.  It didn’t take me long before I had a plastic grocery bag in hand and shoes on my feet to walk down to the barn.  I got there and realized the hawk hadn’t broken her skin, only her neck.  I picked her up by the feet, put her in the bag, and brought her up to the cabin to be prepared for eating.

I used a Buck knife my daddy gave me to remove her head.  She was our sweetest and prettiest hen.  The knife wasn’t the type I needed, but the best I have.  I tossed her bitty head, with cute tufts of beige feathers that stuck out from her cheeks, into the trees.  I made a quick phone call to my dad for some reminders and instructions, and John and I took her to the creek to gut and pluck her.

I remembered my great grandmother, Golda Johnson, and her deep fear of chicken feathers.  I remembered the story of my Uncle Vince ringing a chicken’s neck, and its body flying off and into my great great grandmother’s well, ruining the water.  I remembered my grandmother’s (Ida Hansel) disgust at a chicken and her druthers of not fixing it to eat.

John stood by to observe, and I stuck the Buck knife into her soft belly slicing downward.  The knife hit a shell.  When I opened her, I pulled out a perfectly formed egg.  The one she’d lay today.  I set it to the side.  With two fingers I began to remove her innards from the cavity of her still warm body.  I understood for the first time how much of her little body was devoted to making eggs.  To being a provider of life and food.  I held her tiny, healthy heart in my hands a moment to look at its perfection.

Plucking was harder.  It took me a minute to get the hang of it.  I finished her in the house, after a scald in the pot.  Plucked, drained, gutted, and washed, I placed her in a freezer bag to be fixed when John comes home.

I knew at some point we’d eat some of the animals we raise.  Deladis took it well.  She knows where her food comes from, and she likes meat.  Ivy cried a little, but I think she sensed my downtrodden mood.  I wasn’t ready to do it today.  Not without numerous diddles running across the field following their mama.  Not without a fridge full of eggs.  I couldn’t let her go to waste.  She wouldn’t leave her nest.  She couldn’t run.  In her death, she’s giving us a most healthy meal, and a perfect egg.  Both will be prepared with love.  We will consume her and know her.  We will know personally our food.

I think of the Appalachian women whose job it was to kill and prepare chickens.  Appalachians mostly ate hogs, but on a Sunday, fried chicken was a nice dinner, especially if you were expecting company.  I wondered at their chore of feeding the chickens, holding them under their arms, gathering their eggs, wringing their necks, plucking feathers, and preparing them into a special dinner with all the love they had to give.  It was the least I could do for our hen.

Later on, we stopped at McDonald’s after a prolonged doctor’s visit.  From the drive-thru I saw a mama dog with heavy teats wagging her tail at every stranger that passed by, hoping for a bite.  She hadn’t gotten anything, and she was begging so politely.  Hungry to the core as only you can be when nursing a baby, and yet she begged with more humanity than some people I’ve encountered on the city streets. We got our food, eased the truck next to her, called her over, and the three of us females donated half of our meat portions to her and her pups, wherever she had them waiting.  She ate without chewing, her front paws on my seat.

I’ve been initiated.  It’s hard to wash the smell of blood from your hands.

The last week (well, since Tuesday) I’ve felt like Death warmed over.  Now, I ain’t been too far from home, so I don’t know if that is strictly an Appalachian expression, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were.  Us mountain folk love to discuss our ailments.  I don’t know when that came about, but as long as I have been alive, it has been true.

It usually goes a little something like this….  You see Linda’s, Mamaw Flora at the grocery store.  You go to church with Linda, so you feel you should say a hello.

“Hello  there, Flora.  How you today?”

“Aw, not too bad.  I got the arthritis so bad in my hip I can’t hardly get up and down.  Linda can’t help me none… much.  She had the stomach virus this week, and Fred (Linda’s husband) has been down in his back.  He’s too old to be working underground, but he can’t retire.  Not right now.  But, we ain’t doing too bad.  Can’t complain.”

So, I’ve felt like Death warmed over, folks.  I’ve had the whole sinus thing going on, and I’ve just felt plumb wiped out.  John’s been off his feet because of swelling and blisters from all the hard work he’s had to do these last weeks.  Winter was rough on us this year.  But, we can’t complain.

This week we’ve had visitors from Princeton University who said the trip to the cabins here to talk to John and George were the highlight of their trip.  I haven’t felt like keeping up with the girls, but they kept up with me. 🙂

Ivy found the dress up clothes that Deladis never bothered with, and was a Princess for two days.

Deladis had to get in on the picture taking fun without really playing dress up.

Today, we were all feeling a little better.  The girls went to stay with John’s mom last night, and husband and I got some much needed sleep.  The sunshine this morning lured us out to the barn and the garden plot we’ll be sharing with our friend and now neighbor, Nathan Hall, for some work.  Nathan has huge ideas of the real learned variety.  He has somewhat of a degree in agriculture.  We’ll have a nice organic garden this year. 🙂

This morning we spread nice wet and aged poopy throughout the area where we will plant over the next few weeks.  The aged poopy came from the barn, and the nice fresh stuff, Nathan brought back from some where off.

The barn door.

This area will be disced and more manure spread as we go along.

Soon, we will be adding more animals to the mix.  We’re looking for meat goats and some larger chickens for egg laying.  We did get six eggs from our house hen yesterday!  Crazy!  They are tiny little things too.  She isn’t setting though, so they’ll be breakfast.

It’s a beautiful day, and John’s Mamaw is celebrating her 82nd by cooking her family a nice old time dinner.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and being a little better than not bad. 😉

There’s nothing like six or more inches of snow to give you a hankering for a treat from your childhood.  Here in the mountains a big snow provides an easy way to make an iced cream treat that is as good as it is cold.

Snow Cream

Snow cream is simply made given you trust the snow to be clean enough to consume.  The way I make it, all of the ingredients are estimated.  The important know how is the concept I suppose, then you can make it to your liking.

Start with melting a sweetener of your choice into some heavy cream or whole milk. (You can also use low fat milk, but I don’t think it would taste near as good or be very nutritious for you.  Treats should not be empty calories in my opinion, so go for the gusto!)  The sweetener we use is honey and/or maple syrup. (We use only unrefined/moderately refined sweeteners that hold plenty of nutrients such as iron or enzymes.)  Since our sweetener is already liquid it doesn’t require a lot of heat to completely mix with the milk.  Allow the milk mix to cool, and add a little vanilla… or a lot if you are like me and love strong flavors.  Next, gather your snow in a large stainless steel bowl or pot.  You will want to compact it a bit and gather a large amount.  Scoop from the top layer of snow only, being careful to not dig down too close to the ground.  At least 4 inches should be on the ground for making snow cream.  I was always told not to eat the first snow of the year as well.  Once back inside, slowly mix the milk soup into the snow stirring thoroughly, but with a gentle touch.  Keep mixing until it is to your desired consistency, then eat and enjoy!  The Haywoods certainly enjoyed their snow cream this year.

Or, you can do like I did as a kid wanting snow cream.  Take your favorite pancake syrup and a spoon outside, squeeze some into the snow, and chow down.  🙂

I’m wonderfully optimistic about the year to come.  I think I’m finally coming to an understanding of what it means to let go and let God.  To kick off the new year, I have decided to start a series of posts on things we have a right to know about (in fact in many situations our life depends on it), but for whatever reason they are kept “secret” whether through planned secrecy or by tactful exclusion of information.

John and I spent the evening on the couch last night watching our new Netflix arrival – Food, Inc. .  I’ve been waiting on this movie since it came out a while back.  This film demystifies our current system of industrialized food and the problems that arise from our expectation of fast and cheap food.

It was a little over a year ago now when a prolonged illness of mine prompted me to switch our diet to a traditional foods diet as proposed by The Weston A. Price Foundation and authors like Sally Fallon and Nina Planck.  Since then, I have noticed a tremendous change in my health and well being along with that of my husband and children.  I have lost and maintained a 100 pound weight loss (though I was already losing weight before changing my eating, I contribute most of it to traditional foods).  I have more energy.  My gums no longer bleed when I brush or floss my teeth.  But, the most noticeable for me is my relationship to food.  I no longer fear food making me fat, because I know that what I am choosing to eat is real food and not something fabricated in a factory.  I enjoy my food and I eat plenty of it.  I’m eating things the diet industry tells us will make us obese and sick – butter, bacon, red meat, and whole fat dairy.

This approach to eating (I don’t call it a “diet” in the terms of how most of us view the word) has changed my life so completely that I can’t help but get excited about sharing it with others.  However, all to often I have noticed people don’t want to hear the truth about where their food comes from, and I tend to get tuned out.  Instead of accepting that there is a problem here and we are in need of huge change as a society, they continue to eat from the conventional store shelves food that more often than not is some kind of factory made variation of corn or soy bean products and they wonder why they are sick with things like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, or obesity.  Why is that?

The fact of the matter is that we have a right to know where our food comes from and under what conditions it is being processed for our consumption.  Our food is life.  What we put into our body directly affects how we are able to live our life.  However, now that our food supply is being controlled by just a few multi- million (billion) dollar corporations that treat their farmers and factory workers like second class human beings, who don’t care at all about the health of the animals they process for meat, and treat our meat, produce, and dry goods with a variety of chemicals to give them unnatural shelf lives, we are being kept in the dark of food practices that if they were public knowledge would incite the citizens of this country to demand a change.

The truth is that 1 in 3 children in this country born after 2000 will develop diabetes1 in 3 children in this country are either considered overweight or obeseLow-income Americans (under $30,000) a year find it hard to afford a healthy diet.  This comes along with the idea of fast food being cheap.  You now can buy chips for a lesser price than a head of broccoli, and then there are dollar menus at fast food restaurants.  The question of food availability also arises.  Living in rural Appalachia, I find it extremely difficult to find food I feel is appropriate for my family, and I have to make too many compromises.

Our country is facing an epidemic that is inexcusable.  We owe our children a better chance at a healthy life than this.  We owe it to ourselves as well.  While industrialization has brought about many good changes in our way of life, when its principles are applied to certain more personal areas of our lives, we find we are detrimentally affected by its lack of concern for the greater human good as opposed to the low cost production industry holds so dear.  A few profit from the loss of many.

After viewing this film and others like it, I can’t help but encourage others to become informed as well.  Know where your food comes from.  Know that in one pack of ground beef there is meat from 50-100 cattle.  Know that most chickens raised for commercial slaughter for companies like Tyson never see the light of day or feel grass under their feet.  In fact, they are lucky to be able to bear their own body weight on their brittle legs.  Know that the tomato you are buying that is so pretty and red was shipped to your location in many cases over thousands of miles, and picked while still green.  It was ripened chemically.  Know this, and decide to change it.  There are farmers out there with answers to this problem.  We can have normal, affordable, healthy food.  We can live without the fear of food related disease.  Arm yourself with knowledge.  Then, cast your vote for the foods you want every time you choose your purchases at the grocery.

I sat in the living room with Ivy in my lap watching the fog come up the holler this morning, and wondering how the rest of the weekend will play out.  The gas company is still working on roads and new pipeline.  The yard is becoming a mud pit, and I am ready to have the peace back around here.  Today, I caught about five of them hovered around the chicken coop.  One of them was giving one of our roosters hits off of his cigarette.  I quickly went out on the porch to make myself known.  I was about to have words with him, but I was able to restrain myself, and they just as quickly left our yard.  I know that when all is finished, it will be better for us and easier on the vehicles, but right now, it’s hard.

mud

I’m having to keep the girls inside for the most part.  Today, it was so beautiful, we had to venture out for a quick swing while we caught some quiet.  What you see here is the new road.  We had to move the swingset.  The road took our compost pile, all my wild blackberries, and my bird feeders that I made with the girls.  However, it will prevent us driving through a large part of the creek.  Hopefully, we’ll have a bridge over the deepest part at some point.  Right now with the rain, we can’t park anywhere near the house.  We are parking about a football field’s walk in the mud from the house.  The dozers and inloaders coupled with the type of work they are doing has kept us out of the hills this fall.  Usually, we are in them most days.  I had wanted to take pictures of the trees and all their colors.  The leaves are pretty much gone now.  I took this next photo from the yard, catching a patch of trees that hadn’t been so blown by the wind.

red

I’m trying to look on the bright side of things.  John has described this month as the month from “hell”, and for him it probably has been.  October is my favorite month, so I’m giving its redemption my best shot. 🙂  I went to the produce stand on Wednesday and discovered that as long as there is something to be sold and people buying, they will be open!  They carry some local goods like potatoes, honey, sorghum, and other canned items.  The rest of the produce is trucked in from North Carolina, but it is a family business and small.  It is an outdoor stand.  Though the produce is not organic, its flavor is magnificent.

Here are some of the winter items I stocked up on, just in case they close.

produce

In that basket are apples of all sorts, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and butternut squash.  I plan to peel, slice, and freeze some of these apples for fried apples through the winter.  Some of the green ones will make an apple pie.  I have Mutsu and Granny Smiths.  Sweet potatoes are something John and I have never liked until we started cooking more traditional/whole foods.  Now,in this area, most sweet potato dishes that are served are very sweet, almost like a desert.  Brown sugar, margarine, and marshmallows are added along with other spices.  It makes it taste wrong to both John and I.  However, we have found that we love them fried in butter with nothing added except occasionally a little nutmeg or cinnamon.  I thought about making sweet potato chips with some of these, or baking a few.  Yum!  I can just see the melted butter.

I also got a few huge cabbages for sauerkraut making, and a box of the nicest onions.  The red ones in the picture are the best tasting onion I have ever put in my mouth.  They are so sweet.  The little ones are PeeWee Vidalias.  I’ll have to report back on those.

onions

Before John left today, we talked about cooking.  Neither of us can remember when I made a dinner last.  😦  I cook breakfast every morning.  It is the family meal we rely on.  This month we have been apart most of the time for dinner.  I don’t cook when it is just me and the girls.  They eat so little that we just eat lunch type foods.  I miss dinner.  That is why I bought the butternut squash.  I have never had it, and I want to make something different.  I want to eat things that are in season.

This morning, I made fried apples from the fresh apples I bought yesterday.  The girls and I really enjoyed them.  It is a traditional Appalachian food.  Many families had apple trees on their little hillside homestead.  I’ll post my recipe on the favorite recipes page.

apples

Thanks ladies for the well wishes for the girls.  It is a minor thing – cold like.  I’m thinking either from all the wet weather or the sitting in the car cart at the mall when we went for my birthday.  It is that or the mold issue.  We are still working on that.  The ventilation has brought some help, but not quite enough.  We are looking for a dehumidifier.  If that doesn’t work…  I hope that isn’t the problem.

It is more than a blessing to be able to live in this holler and in this cabin.  It is perfect for us.  Our landlord is a true friend.  I wish so much that it wouldn’t have to ever come to an end, even when things are a bit off kilter.

This is my final week of being thirty.  At the end of this week I’ll be thirty-one.  A few days ago I discovered my first real gray hair.  It is long and sparkly.  I wonder what my gray hair will be like.  I’ve seen some women with the most beautiful long and luscious gray hair.  There is a seventy-one year old woman in Yoga Journal magazine this month with the greatest head full of gray curls and two cute little braids on each side.  She is so lovely.  So far, I don’t mind getting older.  The thirties have proven to be a very different time for me as of now.  I hope it continues in the direction it is going. 🙂

The weather broke today, and we had a lovely day of sun.  It is too bad that John is so busy preparing for the next two weekends of traveling to Memphis for River Arts, and then Louisiana for the Blackpot Festival.  He’ll be missing my birthday and trick-or-treat. 😦  After this month, our dry time begins, so he has to try to earn as much as he can while there is the opportunity.  Whoo-hoo for self employment in the arts!  Really, he loves it and it allows us a unique lifestyle that is both hard and wonderful.

Today, we started a week around the theme of corn with Little Acorn Learning.  I’m excited about it.  Tomorrow we are going to be making simple corn husk dolls.  For breakfast in the morning we’ll have cornmeal pancakes and fried apples with some sausage.  I can’t wait.  I loved showing the girls, today, about shucking corn, removing the kernals and grinding meal.  I wish we had a hand grist mill.  They are so expensive though.  I saw a coffee bean grinder in the Michael Olaf catalogue Child of the World that was very inexpensive. I wonder if that would work for some flour making?  If I had my preference, most every gift the girls got would come from that catalogue.

There wasn’t much time for being outside today.  We went to the library after spending a half hour at the pharmacy and found some great corn books.  Our library is only one room, but the librarians do their best with what they have and seem to genuinely love their job.  We love the library.

I’m not sure that we’ll have more outside time tomorrow.  The gas company is working on the new road and gas lines on the property.  They have a huge dozer parked in our side yard.  I’m not sure how safe playing outside will be until they are finished.  We are going to work on winterizing the cabin.  We have a condensation and mold problem.  Bad mold problem. 😦  Tomorrow we will be covering the windows with plastic and getting a dehumidifier.  I’m not sure what else will help.  We’ll see.

So, October is going by.  It’s not the best October by far.  We’ve missed going to the Louisville Zoo for trick-or-treat for the first time since Deladis was born, there has been too much rain, and John is so busy.  Yet, it’s okay.  We make the best of things and it works out.  I watch the wonder in the girls’ eyes and try to remember to keep my heart light.  I rested this weekend at my mother’s while John was away.  Deladis got to ride a horse at a birthday party for her friend, and we got to spend my grandmother’s seventy-fifth birthday with her.  Those are great things.  My biggest lesson learned this month is to stop fighting.  Stop trying to make life into something, but experience it as it comes.  Be still.

Cease striving and know that I am God…

– Psalms 46:10

In Spring, you are born.  In Summer, you mature.  In Fall, you grow older.  And in Winter, you pass on.

-Luther Johnson (my great-grandfather and owner of the former Cowshed Trading Post in Isom, Kentucky)

It has turned off cold really fast this year.  I remember last year at Halloween I was more than comfortable in just a sweatshirt trick-or-treating with the girls.  This year, I’m thinking I’ll need a jacket unless something changes.  This and the fact that all the cool weather vegetables have started coming in at the fruit stand (the closest thing we have to local farmer’s market… the food isn’t organic and it is trucked in from North Carolina)  have made me start thinking about and cooking the foods we tend to love in the cold weather months.

The last trip we made to the fruit stand was made for getting apples, but I saw some big, beautiful, round cabbages that were just waiting to be picked up by me. 🙂  I immediately started thinking about cabbage dishes, kraut, stuffed cabbage, before deciding on cabbage and brats for this particular head.

My mother introduced me to this dish as an adult, but I remember her and my grandmother making it in my childhood, before I would touch cabbage. 😉  It is a traditional dish, and I have added some of my own flares for flavor.

Cabbages and Brats:

Before fully cooked, you can see a few brats sticking up...

Before fully cooked, you can see a few brats sticking up...

  1. Slice brats and chop cabbage.
  2. Heat skillet on medium heat with a little bacon grease in the bottom.
  3. Brown the slices of bratwurst.
  4. Add the chopped cabbage.  Add enough liquid (I use homemade chicken stock, you can also use beef stock or water.) to make the cabbage swim a bit, but don’t cover the cabbage.  It will wilt as it warms.  You may have to turn the fire up a bit at this stage.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. When cabbage is tender the dish is finished.  Serve hot.

I served it last night with fried potatoes and onion and cornbread.  It really hit the spot and with that combination was a really budget friendly meal.

I have been making my own chicken stock for quite sometime, and it is much different than the flavored water you get in the store. 😉  I make it from left over bones, gristle, some skin and fat (if we haven’t eaten it all), and the usual organs and gizzards that are left within roasting birds.  To that I’ll add some bits of veggies that have been left over, or quickly chopped – onion, carrots, and celery.  I then add some salt, cover it completely with water (as much as will fit in the stock pot without spilling over while cooking), and bring it to a boil.  After it comes to a boil, I turn the heat down to a simmer and let it cook for around 12 hours.  I check it to make sure too much water hasn’t left the pot, and if it is getting low I add some.  When the time has passed, strain out all the bones, bits, and veggies, and put it in a container for refrigeration.

The final result after refrigeration, looks like this…

stock

Notice all the fat rises to the top.  Some will skim this fat off and use it for cooking, I like to leave it in to add flavor to whatever I’m using the stock for.  The stock is not a watery one.  It is thick and gelatinous.  This is how you know you used enough bone and have gotten the optimal amount of nutrients from them.

It is delicious and adds so much to any dish, especially soups.  It makes an excellent warmed drink as well, for those days when you feel under the weather.

Cooking like this is another reason I love the fall of the year.

Lars - age 10

Lars - age 10

I bought the October Guide from Little Acorn Learning.  With all the wonderful festivals and holidays approaching I wanted a little help with ideas, and some help organizing myself.  Nothing beats having it all in the palm of your hand.  Our theme for the week is birds, and another great thing is Little Acorn includes a sort of weekly virtue in the theme.  They even provide a caregiver meditation to remind you to take time for yourself.  I love that!  The virtue for this week is showing kindness.  Not only are we to help create awareness of the need for kindness in our children, but we are challenged to become aware ourselves.

Mondays are “cooking days”.  This is where the girls help me with a cooking project.  Today’s project from Little Acorn was creating a homemade pet treat.  Our pet is a dalmatian whom I’ve written about a few times here.  His name is Lars.  John and I bought him as a two month old puppy the month before we were married.  He is ten years old.  Lars was our first baby.  He shared our bed.  We took him on special trips and bought him special treats.  Lars destroyed our couch and my collection of pewter figurines (yes, the dog demolished a soft metal with his teeth!) and we still allowed him to remain in the house.  We were over it in less than a week and carrying on as normal.  Unconditional love.

Then, came along Deladis.  Despite the fact that I had balked at the thought that becoming a mother would change my relationship with Lars, it did.  There was little time to snuggle with him on the couch.  He was so rowdy it was impossible for me to walk him while Deladis was with us.  His little shenanigans became more of an aggravation than something clean up and look over.  Keeping Deladis from eating out of his food bowl was a challenge.

Ivy came along.  We found out that Deladis was allergic to dogs, and we moved back to our mountains.  We could finally keep Lars safely outside, and we chose to do that, for Deladis’ sake and for the fact that dalmatians shed 24/7 all year around.  Their hair is not only white, it is fine.  I know (even with him outside) I will be sweeping his hair up long after he is gone.

With Lars outside, it has become even easier to not interact with him.  I shoo him out of the compost where he likes to visit and eat egg shells.  I peek out the door when he barks.  I make sure his food bowl is full.  Every now and then, I will pat his back.  But, mostly, he’s just there and I’m just here.

Lately, I’ve been doing more thinking about this because I know it won’t be long until he won’t be there anymore.  Though he gets around much like an adolescent dog, he has started falling through the cracks between the porch steps and gets stuck.  I have to pull him out.  I know he has lost hearing in one ear that stays infected most of the time despite our efforts to help him.  I’m pretty sure he has cataracts because he has started barking at us when we approach the house until we are right up on him.  When I see his legs shake beneath him, I know he has arthritis.

He doesn’t complain.  He isn’t sad.  He loves my children, and still follows me on walks and around the yard ready to protect me.  He lets Ivy mount him like a pony.  He cuddles with Roy (our rooster) on the front porch.  He is nothing but sweet, gentle, and kind, in spite of my not giving him the attention I once did, and being displaced by our “real” children.

When we gave Lars the treats we made, he wagged his tail like he did when he was a pup and we gave him the gourmet treats from the Three Dog Bakery.  Deladis gave him the first one, then, Ivy.  I gave him one as well.  Then, as I was putting the remainder away, he was standing in the door, and I couldn’t resist letting him have a fourth treat.  I’ll be sorry when he is gone from my doorway, drooling over my cooking.  I don’t think I’ll ever love another dog as I have him.

A part of showing kindness is recognizing the finite state of our bodies.  Realizing that we are all here only as long as the miracle of life continues to allow us to take another breath.  The time for kindness is now.  The time to release our fear and stubbornness is now.  There is no other time.

…patience which is the first condition of real Love. In Love you give without attention to all the mistakes of another as the sun gives light and warmth to all people…

– Yogi Bhajan (on the Shabad Kriya)

I’m finding it harder and harder to even come from that anxiety driven place anymore.  It is becoming easier to stop myself from riding the waves of stressful emotion.  When you truly let go of expectations, extensive future planning (within reason), and begin to focus on the now, and your blessings, it becomes more difficult to be selfish enough to be impatient.  And yet, we are all human.

Kindness is a huge thing.  I think in the modern way of life it is too easy to avoid even the simplest acts of kindness.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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