Saturday, June 28, 2008


I spent a good deal of my life chasing Perfection. Thankfully, I do not sit in that space any longer.

Over the years, I had discovered that Perfection is a kind of self abuse. Now why would I want to do that? At the very least, such seekings caused considerable tension in my life because I was chasing something I never could quite meet.

In a quilt book which was given to me in the late 1980s, I discovered that the Amish believe that perfection is a state associated with God. Humans cannot achieve such lofty heights and should not even seek to do so. As a mark of this, Amish women include a block in their quilts which is out of sync with the pattern. Achieving a state of imperfection was never a problem for me. I am just now more comfortable with it.

In my quest to live sustainably, I give myself the gift of recognition that I am imperfect and that my path through these things will likely be imperfect. I will make mistakes. I may step off the path. It's OK. I continue my upward climb, ever seeking my goal but celebrating the fact that I am Human. I am finding my way in some pretty mixed up times. I find myself surrounded by kindness and hope.


Earth, Water, Air and Fire
Are the Recipe for Life on this beautiful Garden Planet.
Our Being depends upon these wondrous things.
It follows that...
What we do to Earth, we do to Life Itself.
What we do to Water, we do to Life Itself.
What we do to Air, we do to Life Itself.
What we do to Fire, we do to Life Itself.
We were entrusted by a Benevolent Creator
with these Elements upon which Life Itself depends.
Taking care of Them is a Sacred Trust.
Taking care of Them is about taking care
of our Companions on this Journey.
Taking care of them is also about taking care of Me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Baby Steps

OK. Where do we start to take on a sustainable lifestyle? Once we agreed that sustainable living was a value we intended to address, it was quite easy to get overwhelmed with it all. So much seemed "out of whack" in the world around us.

Baby steps came to mind. When a baby learns to walk, s/he is on their own journey to become mobile. No 2 babies do it exactly the same, but some similarities appear. 1st the baby begins to crawl. Then s/he begins to walk around familiar objects and trusted people. A magical moment happens when the baby begins to stand without support. It's delightful to see who is more surprised: the baby or the adult. The baby begins to see familiar objects just out of reach. And Bingo, the baby begins to walk. Those 1st steps are usually short and awkward. Ker-plunk! the baby falls down on his or her toosh. Over time, the steps become more sure. And then the child begins to run. Look out world.

We decided to start with those things that mattered to us most. We got good at them. Then we headed onto the next thing that mattered. With every new initiative, awkward steps were involved. And then, we just took off. The whole process has become more even and smooth. We are on a roll. And we are not going back.
Photo above: The little 2 month old Roosters come spilling out of their house to greet a new day. Some come exuberantly and others tentatively. I can relate.

We Consciously Choose What We Eat

In the early 90s, we began to notice food in commercial grocery stores was tasteless and often spoiled. Food in restaurants was loaded with the drama and romance of lands far away. Colors, spices, and presentation seemed to disguise a basic lack of taste and vitality in the food itself.

Neither would pass muster with the Old Timers (the Grandma's and the Grandpa's) who knew real food. Something was wrong. Very wrong. We just couldn't put our finger on it. These little discoveries along the path led us to some interesting adventures and a big question: What were we going to do?
  • I remember those last few conventional strawberries that we ate. They were expensive, out of season and a very long way from home. They were exquisitely beautiful on the outside, seemingly models of perfection. But they were absolutely tasteless. They would have made good plastic food models.
  • I remember those last few conventional apples that we ate. They were big and beautiful, a standard color and size. I remember picking them from the beautifully stacked grocery store bin. I had already begun to salivate. I loved apples and wanted a real apple in the worst way. Well, I got an apple in the worst way. By the time I was home and began to eat them, the apples were mealy. Some had even begun to spoil from the inside out. (I discovered that this was a part of how they were developed by growers. Most busy consumers wouldn't take the trouble to return them and would instead just throw them away.)
  • I remember those last commercial chickens at the meat cooler that I bought. The yellow fat was a strange color. They quickly spoiled. The last 2 I purchased, I couldn't bare to prepare or eat them, so I threw out. I felt terrible. Those were living beings and I just threw them away.
  • I remember those last loaves of bread stacked with preservatives that we bought. They did not spoil. If not eaten in a timely way, food is supposed to spoil. That's one of the fundamental laws of Nature.
  • I remember those adventures into conventional restaurants. We were terribly busy during those years so we would often eat out. Over time, I discovered a strange taste in my mouth and sometimes instant digestive issues upon eating out.

My tightly ordered and packed world was coming unraveled. These little experiences provided some very important clues. I began to read everything I could find. Fortunately for us, food mattered a lot. Also fortunately for us, I taught in a related area and I could dig even more deeply into this area. Plus, I found myself surrounded by others who were coming up with their own big questions. And to top it all, we had a local food co-op ("Amazing Grains") where we could purchase organic food from a staff who cared about the produce they provided consumers.

My family and I began to try alternative strategies. After 15 years, our practice has evolved into the following. We consciously choose to eat:

  • food from the hands and hearts of local farmers who have similar values,
  • foods from local farmers we know by name,
  • food we grow ourselves,
  • food from beings respectfully treated,
  • foods grown on healthy soils where the Earth is treated with respect (that means no synthetic chemicals),
  • food without additives whose names we cannot pronounce,
  • foods with the least amount of commercial processing (a tomato fresh picked from the Garden or our own preserved Marinara Sauce rather than some commercial label),
  • foods from heirloom seeds "Grandma or Grandpa raised",
  • food from recipes that are a part of our food heritage,
  • foods lovingly prepared,
  • foods in season at their peak of freshness (like the Black Raspberries Richard picked this morning),
  • foods giving a fair price to growers.

These foods take us back to the rich tastes and loving preparation of our childhoods. The food are vibrant and alive. They are is healthier for the Earth, for all living beings, including us. These little adventures are the very foundation for this Farm and our experience here. We are not going back.


Picture above: Black Raspberry Buckle with Cream

Dust Baths

June 23:

Chickens enjoy their dustbaths under the new little Apricot Tree. In case you wondered, that's Combie, Blacktail, and Pretty Girl (from left to right).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Is Why We Do What We Do...

We 3 C's are deeply serious about caring for the Earth and caring for Future Generations of All Beings. We simply cannot do anything less. While commonplace in other countries and societies, this walk has not been easy in this Culture, as it is definitely against the flow of conventional Western practice. Sometimes we do indeed feel like we are swimming upstream.

Why do we do it? Check out this video which is from 1992 and most recently sent to us by Angela Swiec who is now in Poland. Why we do this is summed up in the voice and being of this Child speaking before the United Nations Earth Summit. In this case her name is Severn Suzuki. But s/hecould be any child: those we know and others of All Colors and All Cultures on this Beautiful Planet which is Home to all of us.

Walking this path has become easier for the 3 C's. We are following what are hearts know that we must do. For us, it is simply the right thing to do. How could we not?

We do not force our ideas on others. We take comfort that we are a part of a growing community which is waking up to these things. I see hope sprouting like a newly planted Seed in soft, wet, yielding fertile Soil.

Monday, June 23, 2008

1st Local Meal of the Season

We try to eat local as much as possible. That includes foods from our Garden during the growing seasons and from the storehouse of foods we have produced and preserved. We find it especially hard to eat local during that inbetween season when the Garden has been planted but is not yet in production. That would be now.

We were excited that we had our 1st almost completely local meal this evening: Fantastic Panfried Catfish (caught by Ronnie Saltmarsh from a little pond owned by Jennie and her husband near Green Castle, with egg batter from our Chickens), Terrific Tartar Sauce (with Green Onion and Parsley from this year's garden, Dill Pickles Melanie made in 2007 which included ingredients mostly from the garden), Wonderful Sweet Corn (grown and frozen by neighbor Bonnie in 2007), Vibrant Steamed Greens (Lamb's Quarter which surely came in seeds with the compost from Rolf and Ilse; Yea! for "weed" seeds!).

Items which were not local included: flour on Catfish; olive oil and Earth Balance used for frying; Earth Balance on Greens; "Veganase", Cayenne, Lemon Juice, and Salt and Pepper in Tartar Sauce.

Yummy! Thank you Friends and the Earth!

Summer Solstice

June 20:

Today marks the Summer Solstice. I remember being taught that this day is the longest day of the year. But there is more.

Traditional peoples saw this as one of the major Earth holidays in the "turning of the wheel". These peoples saw and see this day as a celebration that the cycles of Nature continue and their lives as peoples of this Planet, which were dependent on these cycles, would have the potential to continue as well. Our Western calendars are loosely based on these same holidays, while they may be called other names.

We 3 C's celebrate the life giving capacity of this Great Earth and see ourselves as tied to Her cycles. We pray our actions may be in synchrony with the Creator's Great Masterpiece and Great Gift of which we are simply a very small part.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


We 3 C's have committed to growing as much of our own food as we can on this little Farm. As I plant these Seeds in the Soil, tend these Plants and watch Nature's cycles, I know at a growing level of consciousness that I am wholly dependent upon the Life Force of this Planet. I shall do the best I can as I plant these Seeds, nurture these Plants, and care for the Soil. But their growth, maturity and fruition are far beyond that which I can ever completely know or do.

When I shopped exclusively at the Supermarket all those years, I did not sense this vital connection between these things and me. I thought the food I bought and consumed came from the Corner Store or the Pipelines that led to it. I do not think I even considered any other reality. I was too busy with important Human doings. I know I took little or no time to care.

Planting Seeds and nurturing Plants are acts of Humility and Grace. My sense of Gratitude for these Simple Life Giving Things from a Force Far Greater than myself grows by leaps and bounds. My Spirit dances at the Miracle I am only beginning to know.

Last Frontier

The Last Frontier
is not a distant piece of Earth or Space.
It is rather the interior landscape of one's Soul.
To explore that Frontier,
I must yield
to that which is at the Heart of Self
and All That Ever Was, Is, or Will Be.

Glinda Crawford

Friday, June 20, 2008

We Can Do Better

We need a new Stove.

Scratch that: Our old white Range is somewhere over 30 years old. It was the 1st appliance we purchased as kids in our late 20s when we moved into the 1st house we ever bought. That Range has been a tireless and loyal Work Horse, preparing more dishes and meals than I could even think to count. She didn't ask for much. Sure, she needed replacement parts on occasion. We took care of her and she took care of us. Through it all, she stood by us all those years.

Fast forward 3 decades: We took our Trusty old Range to our new home here on Butterfly Hill Farm. We had been advised from an individual in Grand Forks whose family had a long history of appliance repair to take Trusty. Plain and simple: They just don't make appliances like that any more.

But Trusty is a little tired these days. This old Range's oven element burnt out a couple of weeks ago. Plus, the largest burner seems to have a mind of its own, including high heat when you least expect it or want it.

We are a family that cooks. A lot. I am excited to tell you that the Slow Food Movement is alive and well on Butterfly Hill Farm. We cook from scratch. We integrate old family recipes with new found gems and those we create ourselves. We grow as much of our own food as possible which means canning over a hot cook stove in a hot season. We are courageous spirits. And it is worth every bite.

Consequently, the Range is a central part of our family's lives. Call it a Family Hearth. If we are going to acquire a new one: The Range must be a Work Horse. We are committed to acquiring quality. We want the Range to last a long time. We believe in taking care of our appliances, which includes repair. We do not believe in disposable appliances. Our landfills are full.

Enter the year 2008. The Rules have changed:

  • Trusty was from a generation which the standard was serving families reliably for 25 years. She is basic and she is no frills. Appliances now last 10. Or less.
  • Most Americans do not cook. They eat out. They nuke their highly processed food. They do not place the heavy demands on their Range that we 3 C's do. Consequently, Ranges today are light weight. Flimsy. In electric Ranges, smooth cooktops are the standard for up to high end; electric coils (which is what Trusty has) are now narrow, the cheapest and lowest quality. (Hers are thick and substantial.) Neither smooth tops or narrow coils would hold up to the demands of our family. The canner's hot water bath heavy weight plus our iron skillets would provide a challenge, breaking the smooth tops and coils, or scratching their delicate surfaces. At the very least, their life spans are decreased.
  • In the past, Ranges were made stateside, products of people and companies who were proud of their work. Now, Ranges are made off shore at the instruction of multi-national corporations and consumers who want the product for the least price. I cringe at the labor conditions for workers who are our global neighbors in such a massive system which lacks a caring ethic. They are people just like we are, just trying to make the best of their lives and the lives of their families. I know from reading that such corporations create systems which could only be called slave labor. That is not the energy I desire to stir into the world. That is not the kind of world to which our family aspires to live.
  • Repairmen are almost a thing of the past. Today, people just throw things away. Some of our reading showed that other canners had broken smooth tops and found buying another range was cheaper than repair. That's not what we want.
  • Manufacturers have figured out that to keep in business, appliances need to last less long so consumers just keep coming. To accomodate this, obselescence is built in through fashion or falling apart.
  • We did buy a gas stove which was delivered yesterday. The range appears to be a Work Horse. There are some problems: we find the off gassing of the chemicals from the Propane additive reduces indoor air quality. That is a no-no. We are having a repairman visit this next week for possible adjustments. I am not so sure Gas is the answer but it does appear to be the sturdiest choice. For now.
  • We are checking out the possibility of replacing the elements on Trusty at a local business which deals in used appliances and their repair. Plus we are looking into the purchase of an older range with new elements from the same generation of which Trusty is a part. Apparently, there is a 96 year old company which has made it their business to make new parts for used appliances. Should we make this choice: color will not matter. Avocado, copper or gold just might be in style here. You could call it the original "retro", which we have noted in catalogs demands a very high price for fashions of this day.
I know we will find our way. One door closes and another opens. Stay tuned. As a family and as a society, we can do better.

Dear Reader: How are you finding your way through this maze?

Notes: The above information comes from standing at the stove a lot of years, teaching consumer and household equipment classes at the collegiate level from the late 70s-mid 90s, teaching peace studies/environmental studies classes from the mid-90s-2005, (lately) talking with folks who sell new and used appliances and folks who fix them, plus internet searching.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Big Push

Gardening season has been slow this year, at least for the Humans. It has moved in fits and starts. Rain, storms, cool temperatures have kept us out of the Garden in the usual expected timeline anticipated by Humans. Nature follows Her own timeline.

Consequently, many of the cool season plants (Spinach, Radishes, Kohlrabi, Beets) did not get planted or did not do so well under the conditions. We planted inbetween rains when the soil was dry enough to work. Melanie and I discovered the virtues of raised beds and permaculture, which permit the Gardener to reach easily into the bed from the straw paths we created. We have been a little "on edge" just waiting for those precise moments to get our seeds and plants in the soil. Our "ordered process" seemed at times to be in disarray. All the while, the Summer Season moves on.

Yesterday was the Big Push. The Soil was dry enough to plant. It was the Full Moon Day. We try to plant according to the Moon Sign, as much as we know of it. We know enough to know that we want to know more. The Waxing Moon is the time for planting above ground plants and the Full Moon Day is the last day of that cycle. We could feel and see the Rains coming in. Rains are a blessing on newly planted plants and seeds. They seem to give the plants just the push they need.

We knew this was the Big Day. We headed eagerly to our seed stashes and our plants. Richard's planting was complete. He gave much needed support for our efforts. We went quickly back and forth from House to the Garden and through the Garden. I can imagine that the pattern of our footsteps was similar to those old Family Circus cartoons which always made me smile.

As the Daylight was ebbing, we knew we had meant most of our goals. We sighed with relief knowing that the Garden is now almost all planted. We headed to the house and the 1st of the rains began. Sleep felt good.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I walked out to the Big Garden this morning. On this high and relatively flat place on this little Farm, Richard has carefully planted Amaranth, Quinoa, Sorghum, White and Yellow Field Corn, Sweet Corn, Peas, several Sunflower varieties, Squashes, Pumpkins, Melons. Assuming the growing season goes well, the tenders do what they oughta and the wildlife don't take more than their fair share, these vibrant Plants will feed the 3 C's and the growing flock of Chickens. On this day, Richard was finishing rototilling.

The new Plants were making their presence known, standing tall and proud in the Soil. As I walked across the Big Garden, I was filled with Gratitude for what this Earth provides for us. I felt a kinship to these lovely Beings who are also at home in this Soil. They and the Earth are providing us Life.

Our Lives come from this Place, this Earth. Contrary to popular opinion, our Lives do not come from the Grocery Store, Some Overly Inflated Big Box Store, or Some Human Marketing Genius. They purely and simply come from this Generous Earth, this Great Mother of us all.

While standing there in the Soil, I looked down and saw the patterns of the Plants in Rows, the lovely Soil, the Track of the Rototiller, and Richard's Footprints. I hope and pray that as we stand beside these Companions, we Humans also become an expression of gratitude from the Earth and All Beings back to us. Plain and simple, it just seems the right Path for Us to seek.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pansies Smile

Pansies smile as the sun begins to set.

Seedlings Arise

After the Seeds are planted, Gardeners walk carefully about the Garden. Even the smallest of changes is noted. Tiny miracles are at work beneath the soil. We cannot see them. But we believe.

On June 8, another moment of awe arrives as the 1st Horticulture Bean seedlings emerge from the moist Earth. Tiny Beet seedlings also make Their presence known.

Such moments present the Humans with how very little we know and how very little we can do. Sure, we can plant Seeds. We can also build trellises to support their growth. We can weed and hoe. Such little actions pale against the Big Drama. We are set in a Great Mystery which surrounds us, nourishes us, uplifts us.

Life is good.

Musings in the Making of Strawberry Preserves

Making Strawberry Preserves is a long process. It is a craft and a skill that I am sure no midwestern Farm should be without. The whole process is also a practice in patience, a seasonal ritual, and a meditation. It is a great learning experience which I am sure becomes perfected the longer one practices. A lifetime would be a great investment.

First I got the Strawberries. Next I got out my canning equipment (jars, lids, rims, stainless steel pot in which to simmer the Strawberry mixture, Pyrex measuring cup to pour finished mixture into jars, wide mouthed funnel for ease of pouring into jars, canner, tongs to lift out hot jars from hot water bath, hot pads, tea towels, wooden cutting boards to set hot jars on to cool). I made a quick check that I had all the ingredients.

Strawberries from local Farmers (and hopefully eventually from our own Patch) generally are very tender berries. I believe this is particularly true with the older varieties. Consequently, we need to use our Strawberries almost as fast as we get them from the Strawberry Patch and handle them as little as possible. Once the Strawberries arrive, those other important Human agendas need to be set aside. The Strawberries will not wait.

We washed the Strawberries and hulled them. (Hulling means taking the green tops off and a bit of the core.) Parts with imperfections are removed; some berries which are "past peak" are tossed into the compost bucket with the tops. The Chickens will be thrilled.

I put the ingredients together into my favorite stainless steel pot. The pot goes on our aged stove at medium to medium high heat. I cook and stir the mixture. And I cook and stir. And I cook and stir until the mixture is thick and comes off the spoon in sheets, rather than a steady stream. Stirring is more and more important as time goes on because the mixture will be more prone to stick.

Hopefully, along the way, I will have some Elves and Fairies who will come eagerly to my assistance. Richard and Melanie helped with the details including assembling equipment, getting ingredients, and hulling the berries. As the 1st one up, Richard will likely put away my clean dishes in the sink when he gets up tomorrow morning.

This is not a task which I can do without focus. I need to attend to what is going on. The whole process took about 4 hours, not counting getting the berries. I did not use commercial pectin, which would have saved time.

So I stayed with it. The whole exercise yielded a meditation and some very interesting thoughts. I was trained as a professional Home Economist in the late 1960s. We did make Jams, Jellies and Preserves in the lab. That training did help my understanding of the process but it was no substitute for experience. My Cherry Preserves which I made in lab didn't pass muster. While perfectly sealed, I turned the jar over and those beautiful Cherries floated exuberantly to the top. As a student teacher spring 1969, I did teach a unit on such things. That was somewhat of a hoot. True confession: I have never made Jams, Preserves or Jellies at any other time in my adult life.

Richard on the other hand has become quite a master at making Chokecherry Jam. Chokecherries were wild berries commonly found on the Northern Plains and used extensively by Native American Tribes. Chokecherry Jam there is a big deal for many especially the older folks and those with rural backgrounds. These days, most folks may smilingly share their Jams but won’t reveal the location of their patches. Over the years, I watched Richard’s little experiments in making Chokecherry Jam and Syrup and his attention to detailed copious notes. I have tasted his results. They were splendid and quite legendary among our friends in North Dakota.

So here we move to the Farm. Depending on the year, fresh fruits in these parts abound. We don't do much with sugar in our household, but Strawberry Preserves seem a rite of passage for our new endeavor. So far, I have made 4 batches of Strawberry Preserves. The 1st batch was to perfection: lovely red color, good flavor, nice spread, great on ice cream. The 2nd batch was also "spot on". But I got in a bit of a rush on that 3rd batch; worse yet, I got a little cocky and thought I had figured it all out. For Batch 3, once again the fruit floated to the top. I believe the mixture will be quite forgiving and I shall need to recook it. The 4th batch seems right on target. I will need to test it tomorrow.

We live in a high speed society. We rush about doing all kinds of things. We seem to know a lot about a lot of things "skin deep" but rather are Master to none. I think back to those that I have known (and know) who made (or make) such things as Strawberry Preserves. They put a lifetime of experience into every jar. I can imagine that I will over time get a feel for this process and a feel for the mixture itself. With time, experience, and attention, the whole process will become second nature. After a respite of almost 40 years, I’m up for that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Moments arrive when one glimpses the exquisite wonder of Life. I think we should live our Lives in a way that we deeply know every moment is exquisite wonder. Every moment is an expression of the Sacred Gift of Life.

Our hurried and unsettled modern times elevate the Human and its supposedly Superior Material Projects. Such "living" somehow wipes those moments away. Perhaps ways of being in the World are not a "living" but rather a "dying" of the Spirit and a dying of who we have been meant to be.

Even in these often dark times, glimpses of the exquisite wonder of Life arise. Because of the Power of this Force, these moments cannot be overlooked. They are glimpses of the Life we seek in every step upon this Path.

Rainbows are on that list of such exquisite moments when we come back to Home and back to Center. Rainbows emerge from times of Darkness as All Beings move into Light, Hope and Promise.

Winter here was of the sort when Nature made her presence known. We were in and out of storms. White often blanketed the land. We personally loved it. We had just moved from North Dakota whose Winters taught us a humility and awe in Nature's power. We had learned to pray that Creation's purpose and needs could be met in these things we as Humans could not understand. The Winter here was reminiscent of the Missouri winters I remember. The Locals have talked much about it and have found it quite unsettling.

The Spring has been another test of sorts. Temperatures have stayed cool. Rains have been frequent. Since the Soils have been muddy, Gardening has been a stretch, which for some means impossible and for others, means whatever you can reach from the Path.

As we have moved into Summer, we have been confronted again with Nature's power and perhaps even her fury. Winds, storms, rains, high humidity, and heat have been constants these last few weeks. The motion in the Clouds and Sky have produced paintings I do not remember seeing before. The Energy has been quite unsettling.

The last system of storms ran through these parts 2 nights ago. Then it began to rain, a steady even Rain all night long. I found the Rain nourishing, calming, settling and grounding. Yesterday was a gray day with occasional sprinkles.

As the Day moved into Evening, the Sky opened yielding to a Sun throwing beams of light across the Land. On the Eastern horizon, a brilliant yet soft Rainbow appeared. I felt a peace, calm and joy. In that moment in time, all was right with the World and on this little Farm. Such Moments bring such deeply nourishing feelings.

My childlike magical self ran to capture the Rainbow in digital format. Such things are pitiful renditions of Nature's splendor. But I did my best.

The kid in me chased about to find the Rainbow ending or perhaps beginning in our newly planted Garden (photo above) or in the new Brooder House (below) which is almost complete. The Brooder House (the tiny little house at far left) will house the growing Hennies who now are 6 weeks old as we will soon separate them from the increasingly rambunctious and growing Roosters. And next year, this Little House is where the broody Hennies will set with their Babes whose home will be upon this Land.

Monday, June 9, 2008


June 4:

Strawberry season has arrived. Tonight we are having homemade Vanilla Pudding with farm fresh Whole Milk and homemade Vanilla interlayered with fresh Strawberries just picked by an Amish family this morning. Yummy.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Enter from the East

Chester, the Tree Frog, showed up on the door lock this morning. In fact, he spent the whole day there, just about 3 feet above eye level of an occasional meandering Chicken. If you would have visited us, we would have requested that you enter from the East so as not to disturb him.

I understand that the tradition of many peoples is that the entrance of the house is in the East, which is also the place of the Rising Sun. Chester surely must have been helping us to make that shift today.

Always Have Bread on Hand

We have lived in the City a long time. In fact, I had lived in the City all my life, up until a year ago May. All told, that was 58 years. My City Rules don't seem to work here. I am not so sure that those City Rules work so well there either.

We should have a collection of Rules we have learned from our Farm experience. The Farm and all the Beings here have a lot to teach us. We are trying to be open to the lessons. We learned an important lesson today. But first, a little background:

Richard and I were in the midst of preparations for dinner. We were making a Carrot Salad (Grated Carrots+a little Chopped Celery+Raisins+just enough Mayonaise to hold it together). Mom used to make this when I was growing up and I loved it. This time I added Peanuts. Plus, I was going to add some Parsley and Chopped Green Onion from the Garden. I was also putting chopped "Scapes" (those curly things that look like old time phones that emerge from the tops of Garlic) as garnish on top of the Liver and Onions. Yum!

Out to the Garden I go with dark blue graniteware colander in hand. As this was one of our 1st episodes of collecting from the Garden, you can almost see me dance down the steps of the deck.

Stop... The Garden Gate is open. The Garden is full of exuberant Chickens. Yikes! Chickens can do a lot of damage to a Garden and in no short order. I hollered at Richard. He came running. We both went into the Garden, not having a clue about what we should do.

Our 1st attempt was to try to push the Chickens out. Have you ever tried herding Cats? Multiply that times however many Chickens you have in the Garden and you have a sense of the complexity of the task. It isn't exactly like those classical images of herding cattle on that 1950s-60s television program "Rawhide". You can also get a sense as to how helpless we Humans with our Superior Brains and advanced degrees looked in the face of some once gleeful and now confused Chickens.

Flash... Some Farmer memories pop up out of the memory banks. I remember hearing tales of Matt Klawitter bringing an errant big Pig back to pen by simply carrying a feed bucket. I remember hearing tales of leading the 37 visiting Cows through our property earlier this year with a white feed bucket and calls of "Tea Time, Calves, Tea Time". In both instances, that simple trick worked.

So I quickly headed into the house and emerged with, you guessed it, slices of bread. Once the Chickens figured out what I had (which took a split second), they came running.

In musing on these things, I conclude that frustration, flayling your arms about, getting mad, herding the Chickens of Butterfly Hill Farm just doesn't work. I think these little insights may have some meanings in other places in the world as well.

Today's Farm Rule: "Always have bread on hand." (And figure out how to more securely lock that Garden Gate.)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Strawberries and Experiments

Today my brother-in-law Hollis with 5 year old Grandson Pearce and I again picked up Strawberries from the Amish family. I picked up 4 more gallons of beautiful Strawberries. (I can't remember the variety.)

Richard and I quickly hulled and halved them. He is so fast at such things. Then I put them into bags. I took the bags straight to the freezer, 4 or 5 at a time. It was amazing how quickly they were starting to deteriorate. This is the way that my sister-in-law Deleta does them.

Two days ago, Melanie and I had hulled them. We put them onto a cookie sheet or cake pan with their tops down. They were a work of art. Then they went straight to the freezer. The next morning, I put them into freezer bags. I like them this way. They are beautiful served and it is easy to take just the amount you want from the bag at serving time. But I wonder: Are they more apt to suffer freezer burn? I do not like that taste. Ick! So this time, I tried them Deleta's way. There will definitely be less surface area than with the distinct berries and that should make a difference.

I also decided to make Strawberry Jam. I used a recipe from an Amish cookbook, which calls for Strawberries, Apple Juice, Lemon Juice, and Honey. I used chopped Apples because I had no juice. I think the Apple Juice is added for pectin. Next time I will use grated Apples, a Granny Smith if I can find an organic one. Green Apples have more pectin, so I am told. I suspect that the Lemon Juice stabilizes the color. The color was beautiful. The Strawberries, while good, do not have the richest of flavor. So the Lemon Juice and Honey were a little more pronounced than my taste. I remember that we got Strawberries from down around the Macon area last year and their flavor was terrific. Next time I shall use such berries (if available), grated Apples, same amount of Lemon Juice, but 3/4 of the sweetener (half White Sugar and half Honey).

I want to serve this on biscuits dripping with butter, over ice cream, or drizzled down a stack of pancakes or waffles. Richard and I just had ice cream with 2 Strawberries Pearce had picked for us and the Strawberry Jam I made today. Our dessert was yummy and it was beautiful.

I think I am destined to coming up with my own recipe for Strawberry Jam. I remember going to a tea shop in Totnes, England. I had Scones, Clotted Cream and a wonderful soft flowing Strawberry Jam on top. The English side of me certainly has a taste for such things. I am up for a wonderful adventure.

My notes say that as of today, we have 19 quart and 4 gallon freezer bags of Strawberries (about 2/3 full), and 4 1/2 half pints of Strawberry Jam. (Until about an hour ago, I had 5 half pints.)

These are such beautiful days of grand and noble experiments with the Earth's produce that She serves for my family and me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Daisy Mae

This little Hennie is simply adorable. Her name is Daisy Mae and she is a Barred Plymouth Rock. She is 5 weeks old. Already you can see her black and white stripes, which she promises to wear quite proudly as an adult.

Daisy Mae is on the small side in our flock of new little ones. In the photo above, she is standing next to a White Plymouth Rock Rooster. I really don't think she has any idea that he is any bigger than she is.

Daisy Mae is quite the little social creature. She is very gentle. She loves her Humans and is very trusting of them. She will pop up into your hands, preen herself, cuddle up, and go right to sleep.

One should never underestimate the power of this gentle creature. In fact, she is quite the revolutionary. She knows who She is. She knows what She wants and She goes for it. She led the flock of 67 from their Little House for that first time into the Great World of Tall Green Grasses and New Adventures. She is a thoroughly modern Woman of the World.

Bread Crumbs

June 2:

Sarah Saltmarsh comes for a visit and we head to see the little ones. Some call Chickens "Nature's Valium". I think they may be onto something.

Melanie drops Chicken treats saved from a stash of leftover bread from Great Grandmother Hennie. The word is out. Look at those little guys run in a frenzy for those treasured bread crumbs. Upon collecting a morsel, they run quickly away with an entourage of opportunistic Chicks following. (Note bread in beak of Chick at right.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Magic Moment

Big projects are always fun. Changes are always interesting. Ups and downs come and go. Unexpecteds arise at unexpected times and places. Some moments, one wonders: "What on Earth was I thinking?" "Will I ever get this done?"

Our Garden is a big project. We had all of our seedpacks and plants carefully stashed, just waiting to find their proper spaces in the soil. We had plans in mind but we were also willing to go with the flow. And we were willing to interweave Richard's Garden, Melanie's Garden, and Glinda's Garden into Our Garden. Nature gave us some challenges and some lessons. These will be ongoing. Overall, we just didn't know exactly how all of this would come together.

These past few days, we finally have been able to get into the Garden. And where do we start? Sometimes looking at the whole thing is a bit overwhelming. So we started step by step.

Then that Magic Moment comes. The project is not complete, but it finally has found shape, form, order, and purpose. While the wings were tired (and stiff and sore), all of sudden they experience lift. At last, it is all coming together.

Yesterday, that Magic Moment came. We are not done planting the Garden. But it is all coming together in a beautiful way.

Monday, June 2, 2008


May 30:

We had been hurriedly planting in the Gardens with every dry moment this last week. About 3/4 of the Gardens are planted. The Sorghum Cane was planted May 21.

Today, we had 2 wonderful nourishing rains plus some typical Missouri steamy early summer heat. We headed about the gardens noting the emergence of seedlings. To our utter amazement and joy, the Cane was also up in the field.The emergence of seedlings touches a deep place in the heart of Gardeners. Perhaps it is that place of awe at the Great Mystery of which we are a part.