Saturday, January 3, 2015

In Which We Are Animals

Recently Gus has been of the mind to wonder how nice would it be if we were animals? He considers it while dangling a yo-yo-cum-horribly insensitive dog alarm through the stairs over sleeping pups. He asks it of us from the sidelines of whatever too-big-for-you-who-are-still-so-little task Craig and I find ourselves wrapped up in. And it's never just animals that he wonders us to be; there is always the stipulation that we imagine ourselves Animals With Nothing To Do. It's terribly sweet and naive, for, save beasts led by human hand, I think we could agree animals most often find themselves in positions of having everything to do. But what I hope for him is that as he ages out of a wholly innocent mind into one that bears the weight of life and death with all its joy and turmoil, he can cling to this perception of his. That to meet one's own needs isn't a burden of everything to do at all, but rather a privilege of the living. And until then may he have as many days spent as Animal, chasing sun spots 'round the house, cup of switchel in hand and an avid reader of all Winnie-ther-Pooh's tales by his side.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nog for the New Year

Happy New Year's Eve from a darkened northern corner of the states. I'm up before sun and family, and am happy to see that there is in fact a time of morning at which the chickens are not demonstrating their ultimate power over me by roosting mere inches away from my front door. As I wait for the last day of 2014 to crack itself open, and really it can take its time, I'm caught up with the age-old signpost for new year behavior: the beloved and bemoaned resolution, or intention if we're feeling New Age-y today. I want to hate resolutions. I want to say that today, any day, is the day for change, for righting the course or making one's self better, but the truth is I believe in and feel the power of a fresh year. Despite it being just another rotation of the earth, only slightly different than those preceding, New Year's Day has a weight to bear that's all its own and I can't help but take it a little more carefully into my hands.

Last night as we decompressed from the day, a child fresh in bed and the kettle close to a whistle, I called Next Big Animal. And I'm sure you're just as unclear on what that means as Craig was at the time, unless of course you've found yourself in a similar situation needing to call Next Big Animal for yourself. What I mean is that I'm tired of waiting. No more cows, save those that come by way of the maidens already in our charge, and perhaps, much to even my own disappointment, no more pigs for now. Sheep is the word. And if we're being honest, Patience is also the word. Wouldn't it be something to just buy a flock? And before that to have bought all the cedar fence posts one would need so as to have Peace regarding one's livestock and the road that runs right in front of their pastures? Is it not one of the the great ironies of the world- the money and resources needed to farm? But as my loving husband said to pull me out of an anxiety spiral set off by talk of water pumps and permanent fencing for our growing herd, let us live in today, with today's problems. Indeed.

The eternal struggle to find balance was at an all-time, tipping-towards-an-utter-lack-of, destructive high at the end of this current year, and I've only just realized how deeply affected we all were by it in the past few days as things have eased up. As we move into longer days in the new year I'm committed to seeking balance, as cliche as that may ring. I'm reasonable enough to know there is no ultimate balance, each day a different set of circumstances with a different set of needs, but a consciousness set towards striking somewhere within range of that elusive ideal should help avoid the crash and burn I felt, and thus so did the entire family, in the past month or so. Right? I need to believe that family, farm, and shop can exist healthily, productively, and happily in the same realm.

A few days ago, as I was coming up for air and returning to my most basic and essential habits, I made homemade eggnog. It's always a great victory when in the dead of winter I realize I can make something we all love almost entirely from local producers. Now, Craig would tell you I made sweet milk. And Gus, I never got much of a critique beyond seeing the bottom of a nog glazed jelly jar. But myself, I was quite pleased and told the naysayers they could keep their paws off my sweet milk, thank you very much. What ultimately brought the homemade eggnog into question was a dearth of creaminess. I, in my quest for an All Things Maine Eggnog, opted out of using cream. Although its base was a creamy raw milk, it was still all milk, all the way, whereas a typical eggnog is made somewhere in the 40/60 range of cream to milk. It is perfectly fitting though, to emerge from a fog of life lived in extremes with a recipe that lacks traditional balance.

When the clock ticks us into to a new year this late evening, I hope that you all find yourselves in a place of contentedness, whether that be in a cozy bed long since asleep or with your lips firmly planted on someone you love, or at the very least someone you think of fondly. Perhaps you're not one for resolutions, and if that's the case I hope your journey gets its breath of fresh air whenever you see fit. But, if you are that sort of person, go forth! Seize that energy that wells up in so many of us this time of year and do your best to extend it indefinitely. And now, as for me, the sun is up, full and proper, and there is much to be done.

Homemade Eggnog

First and foremost, I cannot stress how essential it is to gather your raw milk and pastured eggs from trusted sources. Of course you can sub in some large scale dairy, but I would never ever suggest that you eat raw eggs from the grocery store. At this point in the season our egg basket is so low that we eat them fresh and can't justify sacrificing them for a treat like eggnog. Instead, I seek out farms who produce eggs ethically and humanely, as closely to the way we care for our own hens as possible, to sub in when our numbers fall short. My hope is that all who try this recipe will do the same.

As luck would have it, we were completely out of nutmeg when it came time to add the spice so I had to improvise, resulting in an eggnog that could be mistaken for a chai. Perhaps we've discovered, at least in part, why some were less than believing in the homemade nog. That being said, I'm a convert to the multi-spice eggnog and I think you will be, too, if you give it a try.

It's also of note that homemade eggnog is not your mama's eggnog. The ingredients and their quantities make for something that more than verges on healthful. Perhaps we shouldn't wash all our meals down with it but you need not serve yourself seconds with a side of guilt.

6 yolks from eggs of hens on pasture
1/4 cup raw honey
5 cups raw full cream milk
2 tablespoons genuine maple syrup, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cloves

*if you happen to have nutmeg that you can grate fresh, grate 1 teaspoon and reduce cinnamon to 1/2 a teaspoon.

Whether by hand or by machine, whisk egg yolks until fluffy and a touch lighter in color. Next, thoroughly blend egg yolks and honey. Once mixed and the seizing up of the honey due to the cold milk can be avoided, add in other ingredients. Mix thoroughly and serve liberally. Enjoy as far into the new year as your heart desires.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Post-Christmas Post, Having Little to Nothing to do with Christmas

Here I am, still waiting on Winter In Earnest, thinking of the tomatoes to be started in March and the calf due in May. I'm thinking of big swaths of dye plants and raised beds made from whatever we can find in this and that pile. I'm thinking of growing more potatoes and more squash and maybe, hopefully, finally, some rhubarb of our own. I'm thinking about more pigs and broilers and considering that maybe I should just stop eating meat once and for all seeing that I can't seem to make complete peace with the process. Wondering though- is fiercely loving homemade chicken broth all the peace one really needs?

There's a want for a goat, for no particular or logical reason, and I'm starting to believe that those who cannot have children exactly when they wish should not be around friends with bred livestock. Also- where do the sheep go in this equation and will they write on my tombstone Believed Herself To Be Farmer, Was Actually Lover of Very Large, Very Involved Pets?

Gus has been promised some new chickens of his own at the very least. Some cochins. If I'm not mistaken, Melanie mentioned that they were particularly friendly, something very much needed after Martin Rooster King angrily climbed the poor kid's back last spring. So, if nothing else, there will be more chickens.

There's much weighing and mulling to be done. The land and animals, the baby. Progress with one seems to hinder the other and I can't land on which deserves what from us no matter how many hours of the day I spend rolling it around in my head. There's talk of pursuing this over that, talk of slow and steady with efforts divided, talk of letting go. But I'm utterly consumed with thoughts of another baby. So much so that some days I feel less like myself and more like one screaming thought: I want a baby I want a baby I want a baby. A lurking monster, on the prowl and in my brain. Tomatoes and calves and all the other future inevitables aside, I'm working to exist in whatever my current space- the one with the knitting in my hands or the head in my lap or the unflappable chickens shitting up my porch as I slide out the front door. And that's where you'll find me. Until.