Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lacey's Back

Good news! As Melanie says, Lacey is back to being a chicken. Of course, she was a chicken before.

If you remember from an earlier entry, Lacey had a broody spell. We first noticed her behavior change in mid-December. During such a time, her hormones were racing and she was "in a family way" which of course is a part of Nature's plan. She wanted to have baby chicks, but winter was definitely not a good time. You can just imagine that her 3 Human friends were saying "No, No, No," and yet feeling pretty helpless about matters going on.

We kept removing eggs she had laid and she did quit laying. She had "brood patches" on her breast where the feathers dropped out, creating greatest heat for eggs. These brood patches were "highly vascularized", which means the skin thickens, is red, and has lots of blood vessels underneath.

She was cranky. Most of the time, she was fluffed up like a porcupine. In fact, she looked like she was in a snit most of the time. She stayed in the nest box all the time, except when we removed her, took her outside, encouraged her to eat and drink. We'd bring her out and in no time, she'd be back in the hen house on her way to her nest box.

Truthfully, we were a bit worried about her because she got really skinny. Would she come out of it? We didn't know.

One day last week, she was done sitting on the nest. She is now out with the other chickens. She is a bit skinny, and she is smaller than many of the other hennies. We are curious to see how and if she regains that weight. She is lively and quick.

As you may remember, Lacey laid the first egg on Butterfly Hill Farm. She is a very sweet little henny and we are so glad to have her back.

Welcome back, Lacey!

Breakfast

Today's breakfast started yesterday. Melanie said "Let's make butter." So she got down the old Dazey Churn Richard made butter with when he was a child. The Dazey Churn is a 1 gallon glass jar with a lid, paddles and crank that with a little time and some elbow grease turns cream into butter. Our recipe was:

2 pints Cream,
3 People,
1 Dazey Churn,
30 Minutes,
equals
1 and 1/2 cups yummy Sweet Butter and
1 pint Buttermilk.

The following slide set shows some of the action.
~~~~~
Our next question was: "What do we do with fresh buttermilk?" And our response: "Let's have Buttermilk Pancakes." Melanie headed to the cookbook stash and invented the following recipe. Yes, invented this recipe. We 3 Crawfords love to cook. We know what we like; we increasingly know how to put things together; and voila! food tailored to our own taste. Yes, we do have mistakes, but we call them lessons and learning along the path.
~~~~~
Buttermilk Pancakes
~~~~~
1 and 1/3 cups white flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups buttermilk (or yogurt)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 and 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 tablespoon Rapadura (closest substitute is brown sugar)
2 tablespoons melted butter
~~~~~
Soak flours in buttermilk overnight. Will create a "sponge". Next morning, stir in remaining ingredients. Add water for desired consistency. Cook on hot oiled iron skillet. Eat. [Cookbooks for inspiration: Nourishing Traditions (Fallon, 2001), Joy of Cooking (Rombauer et al., 1997)]
~~~~~

What you see below is our breakfast this morning: Buttermilk Pancakes, Fresh Sweet Butter, Crawford Molasses (Yes, the Crawford clan has reclaimed Molasses making!), Pecans (from Moberly, 60 miles away), and Filtered Water. Yummy!
What was playing on the Big Screen TV? Birds were eating exuberantly at the feeders. Here you see male and female Purple Finches and Goldfinches at the feeder Richard built. They are eating Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, which give them extra energy for the winter season. And the 3 Humans were sitting inside chowing down on our wonderful breakfast. Who had the best breakfast? It depends on who you ask.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Look at the 2 Humans

As daylight softened toward evening, I quickly noted to Melanie: "Look at the 2 deer." We stood for several minutes at our big screen TV watching the deer feed on scratch at the edge of the front lawn. Richard, Ladd, and the 2 cats were in the back walking through the garden. The deer, ever alert, would feed and then look up toward us. Melanie said: "Do you suppose the deer say: Look at the 2 humans"?

Grandma Says

~~~~~
Count your blessings.
~~~~~

Gratitude

Glinda writes:

Yesterday (January 29), we had high winds (25-30 miles per hour with gusts up to 40), temperatures of 8 degrees Fahrenheit, windchill at -11. That made for horizontal snow. If you had to be out and about, you needed to anchor yourself to a large rock.

This was a great day to meditate on Nature's power. We Humans are quite small in the scheme of things. Gratitude emerges for warm houses, heat, warm clothing, hot meals. It hasn't always been so, nor is it so with everyone in these times of abundance. We might also ponder the beautiful balance on Earth that supports life as we know it. We are blessed far more than we even know.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chicken Snacks

Melanie reminds us chickens need greens too during the cold season. So she has tried an experiment: sprouting their chicken scratch seeds (oats and wheat). They love them!

Digging for Roots

Glinda writes:

Over the course of my 59 years, I have addressed many problems. My favored and by far most effective strategy in dealing with problems has been to go for the root, i.e., the cause. Otherwise, I put on bandaids, cover holes, and react with surprise when the next unexplained manifestation of the problem arises. This is not easy, and often takes considerable courage to look at things I would rather ignore. But ignore, I cannot.

What are the roots of the environmental crisis of our times? Some trace environmental degradation to those with an "anthropocentric" orientation. Big word. Big meaning. "Anthropo-" means human and "-centric" means centered. In a nutshell, it means humans with this view are self-absorbed. They have blinders to the web of life which supports their being. With such an orientation, humans believe they are the primary focus of everything that is. Should we operate from this system, we believe ourselves to be "above" or "separate" from all that is. In that separateness, we are indifferent to Nature. We think Her vast reserves are merely resources for our use. We think She feels no pain. Such an orientation is usually held beyond conscious mind; it, however, becomes powerful, even devastating, in practice. We become capable of a kind of destruction that knows no limits, has no bounds.

This view is largely held by those with a Euro-centric background or those influenced by it. It includes those with roots in Europe and of course the U.S. That does not mean that everyone from these regions prescribes to or practices from this orientation.

I believe that this is largely a socialized relationship handed down over countless generations. It is something we have been taught or rather it has been forced upon us. It has been largely unexamined by those of us from this background until the current time. It's time we did.

Recipe: Crawford's Homemade Pizza

Kara and Cathy, here are the ingredients.
This pizza is for you and anyone else who is up for homemade pizza!
~~~~~

Time allocation

  • 2 or 2.50 hours from start to finish (beginners may need a little longer)

Servings

  • Feeds 4 hungry people

Pizza Dough

  • 1 tablespoon yeast (1 packet will do)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of warm water (not hot)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 and 1/2 cups white flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1/4 cup onion chopped fine
  • (optional) 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablepoons olive oil

Lightly mix flour, onion, garlic, parmesan cheese, and salt until evenly blended. Set aside. Add yeast and sugar to warm water. Stir. Within about 10 minutes, the mixture will get frothy. That means the yeast (which is alive) is working. Immediately add yeast mixture and olive oil to flour mixture. Stir to create a soft dough which holds together and is workable by hand. If more liquid is needed, add warm water, a little at a time. Knead for 5-10 minutes on floured surface until smooth.. Place dough in a warm (not hot) greased bowl; then turn dough over so that all sides are greased. Cover with a cloth and place in a warm area. Let rise until double. Push down. You are now ready to assemble the pizza.

~~~~~

Pizza Toppings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (sometimes we use pesto for a small section)
  • Ground turkey or beef
  • 1 cup mozarella or pizza cheese
  • Your favorite toppings (ours are: black olives, fresh peppers in assorted colors, onions, tomato; all are sliced thin)
  • Herbs (we use: rosemary, basil, marjoram, parsley, thyme, oregano; fresh in summer and dried in other seasons)

We get the toppings ready while the bread is rising. Brown meat (Richard usually adds a little rosemary and sage for a slight "sausage flavor"). Generously oil pizza pan or cookie sheet (baking sheet should have "lips", high sides, rims, whatever you call them). Our baking pan is 11x15". Optional: We sometime sprinkle cornmeal on bottom of baking sheet. Press dough evenly across baking sheet, creating high edges along sides so fillings do not spill over in oven. Brush 2 tablespoons of oil over dough. Pour tomato sauce evenly over dough inside the edges. We often put some pesto in one corner, instead of tomato sauce. Place your own toppings on pizza. We put cheese on next; otherwise it burns. Place remaining toppings with herbs last.

Bake at 325 for 1 hour or until done. We like a slower oven. We usually test the middle to make sure it is not doughy. When the middle is done, your pizza is done. Get ready for a feast. It is no longer "Crawford's Homemade Pizza"; it is now proudly your own. You can't buy these at the store!

~~~~~

Story behind the pizza:

When we first moved to Grand Forks in the mid 70s, we spent a lot of time with Bill and Michael Sheridan. Bill is an inspiring cook, one who deeply appreciates the culinary arts. I remember one occasion when Michael (Bill's son who was 11 at the time) stayed with us. Richard and I came home from work all beat out. You get the picture. I suggested we take the kids (Melanie was about 7 or 8) out to eat. "It would be a special treat." I proposed this to Michael, who had a cold at the time. He looked at me and said: "How about homemade pizza? I will give you the list of ingredients, you go to the store and buy them, and I will make the pizza." I think he changed our lives.

Over the years, we have made many homemade pizzas. In the early years, it was Michael's Pizza and after so many trials and modifications, it became ours. We have made pizza for Crawford family gatherings, birthday parties, just for fun, just because we wanted homemade pizza. We've shared the recipe and taught others to make it. We used to enjoy a pizza now and again at one of those lovely impersonal corporate places. But theirs can't hold a candle to this.

O.K. Now this is yours, if you choose to make it so. Get wild. Get crazy. Make it just as good as you would like for it to be!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hug a Tree

Glinda writes:

When was the last time you hugged a tree?
Somewhere out there,
Noble Tree is waiting for Thee.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grandma Says

~~~~~
"What on Earth are they going to think of next?"
~~~~~

To which Glinda replied:

"Mama: The next major focus for our energies is world peace,
both inner and outer peace,
something we have sought for so long."

Murmurings

Winter is the season when the Earth sleeps. We humans should make no mistake in our assessment of those stark branches of trees, brown prairie grasses, open soils. Nature is not dead. All of Creation seems to be taking a much needed slumber.

On the farm, we 3 humans are getting some much needed rest after a very intense year and prolific harvest besides. We believe it is the natural cycle for humans to want and need rest in the thick of winter. We are blessed with a schedule which is more in tune with Nature's cycles and accommodates our precious needed down time.

Underneath winter's paintbrush, murmurings of spring are beginning to arise. Seeds from 5 of the 7 companies have arrived. We know another is in the mail and the other we haven't heard from yet. Those little seed packs are now separated into 3 boxes according to who is taking the lead: Melanie's, Richard's, Glinda's. Stacks of books and magazines are higher than in the preceding months. Some are for pleasure and others are for our own research on growing plants, dreams and upcoming projects for the farm. We are also creating storage areas for canning jars in the basement and converting a closet into a pantry just off the kitchen. Such things should make us more ready for this next year of growing.

Today was a beautiful "bluebird day". The temperature was in the 50s with blue sky, wispy clouds, very little breeze. The sun has set and the chickens are now in. On these lovely days, the hennies and the roosters stay out until the last minute, like little children at play. Melanie called on alert. Scampy, her cat, was out and the Great Horned Owl was hooting. So we quickly headed out: the 3 humans and Ladd, the dog, in search of Scampy. From close by on the edge of the woods, we could hear the owl calling. Scampy was quickly located at the edge of the north woods and relocated into the house. We smiled and wondered about "June," the Great Horned Owl we observed last April who was eating June Bugs underneath the yard light. Overhead in the darkening sky, we could hear strings of geese honking to make contact on their flight.

During these days, we hear calls of songbirds who are beginning to tune up, almost like a symphony, for the spring's show. Perhaps it is the original symphony of which we have a bit part.

We are enjoying winter. At last, we are accepting winter. It has taken us a while. But now we are reveling in it. Spring will come and we hope it will not be too soon. Regardless, we too will be ready and excited for that next act of this grand play.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Epiphany

Glinda writes:

In some moments, directions along the path are perfectly clearly. We see the light. Signposts are there. A door which had not been present or noticed is opening. We are moved to take that first step. The image above is just that for me. Permit me to tell a story...

In 1985, I was doing a family book on Richard's Mother and her quilts (Ethel Kirkpatrick Crawford and her Quilts, 1985, unpublished). Although she was ill at the time and her boys with their families were scattered, we all gathered her quilts (with her direction) and we took pictures of them. They were considerable, which was no surprise.

A few weeks later, Mom C. (which is what I would call her) was feeling better. At this time, she and I had regular phone conversations across the miles between her home in Missouri and ours in North Dakota. We went over the pictures, one by one. A rich panorama of stories unfolded. While in my naivete', I had expected only to tell the story of the quilts; the stories tucked in the seams of those quilts were those of her life and that of her family. And as always with story telling, one gets off-track. Being off-track is sometimes where one is supposed to be all along. This is one of those "off track" stories.

Mom C. told me that the next time we came home, she would show me some quilt blocks tucked away in the dresser in the little bedroom. Those blocks were at least 100 years old. She was not sure who had made them, but they were family blocks. A quilter had begun the blocks and never finished them. I never saw the blocks. But, as the years wore on, I became entrusted with them since I was the only one who even knew part of the story. She and I never discussed them again.

In 1989, I headed on sabbatical to Columbus, Ohio. I tucked those blocks into my already overstuffed car. Surely, in a larger metropolitan area and the quilt country Ohio was known to be, I could find a quilter who would help me finish the blocks into a quilt. I did indeed.

On an excursion to Germantown in the heart of Columbus, I found a magical older lady who was a quilt historian. She also collected and sold old quilt fabrics. As I remember, the front room of her shop looked somewhat conventional: stacks of fabrics, quilt tools, and books which I immediately knew could become fast friends. Beyond, other rooms had stacks of fabrics laying about as if she had just returned with armloads of treasures from an estate sale or rummage excursion. The scent of Grandmother's stash was tucked around the fringes, as if we were visiting her attic, closet, drawers outside the reach and rush of modern time.

I told this magical lady what little I knew of the blocks. She became animated. She laid the blocks out, stood with a posture of alertness and held her hand beside her cheek as she reached across the boundaries of time: "What would the quilter have said?" "What story would she wish to tell through these blocks?" It was if she could touch an earlier person, time and place, something for which I yearned.

The story unfolded. She could tell the blocks would have been done in the late 1800s, by the thread used in seams and vintage of fabrics. They were made by one quilter, since the hand stitches and thread were the same. The design was "Wagon Wheel". As with many crafters, designs came straight from the lived experience of her time; and yes, wagon wheels were important motifs in daily life and in westward expansion. The fabric pieces must have been from her scrap bag. In some cases you could see seams from clothes that had been worn and cut for a future quilt. Nothing should be wasted.

After explanation of what she knew might be the story, the quilt historian carefully arranged the blocks, suggested a blue gabardine for border, muslin for back. She had both on hand and went right straight to where they were stored. She told me in no uncertain terms that I should do the stitching by hand. She suggested handquilting 1/4 inch from seams and a rope-like design for the border. All these things would be consistent with what the quilter would have chosen in her time.

After the rush of my work day, I began handstitching the blocks together at night. I even found a circle of quilters who applauded me on. Quilting and handstitching are meditations; the insights and mystery of life unfurl. I came to know those blocks somehow bound me to an unknown quilter, 100 years before. While she did not know me, she had purposefully created these blocks for me. She had presented some gift for me, 100 years later. By this time, I was quilting the blocks. I reached a point where I stopped. I could not go any further. It occurred to me that I was preparing this quilt for another quilter to finish some 100 years later. The epiphany was clear:

My work is to prepare for some unknown quilter who will follow.
She will finish this quilt.

I carefully stored the quilt. The years passed. The boys' Mom passed after declining health and 4 years in the nursing home. In 1995, I began a career shift toward teaching Environmental Studies. Again, the teachings of the quilt were clear and this time, they expanded.

My work is Earth work.
My life is intended to prepare for those who follow.

In some ways, I wonder if this is not a message for all of us. It just took me a while to get it.

And so, Dear Friend, should you come to our house, you may see this quilt. For the moment, it is hanging just behind my computer screen as I type this. Sometimes I tuck it away for safe keeping, out of the air and light which would deteriorate it more quickly. Would you believe 18 years have passed since this original insight? That means that of the initial 100 years, only 82 remain. That's kind of exciting!

And as I close this entry, I would ask of you: What were those moments in life when you also knew the work that you were intended to do? Have you too had a deep sense that your life is to prepare for those who follow?

Photo below: I am hand quilting the Wagon Wheel block quilt in Columbus, 1990. At this time, the epiphany is working but not yet clear.

Quote

This above all: to thine own self be true.
~
Source: Hamlet (Shakespeare)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Recipe: Swiss Steak

Ingredients:
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds red meat, sliced 1/2 inch thick (round steak or roast; beef, venison, or buffalo)
  • 1/2 cup milk (we use almond milk as a non-dairy option)
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for sauteeing (I used olive)
  • 6 cups canned tomatoes with juice
  • peppers (I like an assortment of color, so I used 1/2 of 1 green, 1 red, and 1 yellow, but you can use green alone if you desire)
  • 1-2 medium onions

Directions:

(1) Slice peppers and onions to healthy 1/4 inch thick, yielding "circles". Place half in the bottom of roasting pan or baking dish. This will keep meat from sticking on the bottom.

(2) Trim fat and connective tissue from meat. Rinse. Pat dry. Place in dish filled with 1/2 cup milk. Then move to dish with flour, salt and pepper to taste. Make sure pieces are well coated.

(3) Heat oil in skillet (we use cast iron) until oil sizzles when a bit of flour is added. Place flour covered meat in frying pan. Cook until golden brown and slightly crispy. (Meat will not be done.)

(4) Move meat to roasting pan or baking dish. Place remainder of peppers and onions on top. Then pour tomatoes and juice on top. You should have an inch or so of juice in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover. (Steam will make the meat nice and tender.)

(5) Place in oven at 275. Cook about 1 1/2 hours. Shift temperature to 325 and cook for 1 more hour or until done. Meat should fall apart when pulled with a fork. (I have cooked this all day in the crock pot.)

(6) Serve with boiled potatoes and canned green beans.

~~~~~

Glinda's Notes: This is an old family favorite on my side. It is perfect for a winter meal, with its bright colors, slow cook, hot and steaming presence. Mother says this was one of Grandmother Lottie's favorite dishes, which I did not know.

I remember having this when I was growing up. Sometimes Dad would make it on those days when he was not working in the winter. It was a treat to come home to the aroma of this cooking after being outside in the cold. Customarily, the meat would have been beef. The cook would have pounded it with a meat cleaver to "tenderize" it. I do not find that I need to do that. (Is our meat more tender these days?) I even wonder where my meat cleaver is.

We had this last night. As is our custom, we note where the food comes from, especially those things we have grown. The tomatoes were heirlooms we grew last summer and Richard had canned. The venison was local and part of the fall's harvest. The potatoes were from our garden and are among our last. Richard had grown and canned the beans.

I love reclaiming these old family favorites. They feed the body and the spirit, are a comfort and yummy good.

Hint: Do you get teary-eyed when you chop up onions? Try putting the onions in the freezer for a few minutes just before you cut them. Sometimes I even put the cut onions in the freezer until the whole batch is chopped. I do not leave them in there long enough for them to freeze. We are talking just a few minutes. Somehow, the cold air stops that the part of the process that leaves me in tears. What did the Old Timers do?

Fact

  • Since the turn of the 20th century, 97% of fruit and vegetable varieties have become unavailable commercially. Instead, the market has concentrated on a very few uniform varieties. (1)
  • The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy reports that nearly half of the historic breeds of chickens are endangered. (2)
  • Grandma would have a fit.

Sources: (1) From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. 3rd Edition. 2004. Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. Page 4. (2) Seed Savers 2004 Summer Edition. Page 31.

Day Begins

Glinda writes:
Crystals
touched
by proud morning sun
yield
gleaming jewels
in tallgrass.
Goldfinches
head
to and from
tips of tall trees
in celebratory
morning flight.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grandma Says

~~~~~
Keep it simple.
~~~~~

Grandma Says

Glinda writes:

Our high speed, disposable, "modern" age seems intent on trashing aspects of our lives which have meaning and enduring value. Those very elements provide guideposts we need for direction in these precarious times. Among them, the wisdom of Women Elders seems in danger of extinction. Indeed, our youth-centered culture with its focus on physical strength and distorted model proportions has a dismissive attitude toward people with ageing bodies (particularly those of females). Our knows-all culture blatantly discounts the considerable wisdom, strength, courage, understanding of and commitment to life across generations tucked inside many of our Women Elders.

I miss these ladies, the melody of their voices and their wise words which popped out at some of the most unexpected moments. At least, the wise words were unexpected by me; they would probably just smile. They spoke a language that was not on the approved list for someone like me who was educated and on some upward climb.

My Grandmother "Ottie" (Lottie Hart Brenz) cared for me when I was a baby and she lived with my family. (Ottie was my name for her, because I couldn't pronounce my "L's".) She passed when I was 2. My Croatian Grandma Dora Budiselich Bloskovich's given name in the Old Country was Dragica, meaning "beloved". I didn't spend much time with her because she lived in Iowa and California until I was in the 10th grade. I remember making things with her, including bread. Although she spoke no English and I spoke only those words and phrases I was taught to say, she would speak volumes between us while our hands were working the dough. Grandma Dora passed in 1966 when I was 18. Great Aunt Lula Myers Hart took care of my brother and me when we were growing up. She left school in the 2nd grade, but she was one of the smartest people I have ever known. Although in her 70s, she ran circles around the 2 of us, knowing before we knew what we were up to. Like so many of the ladies, she would say these short, simple statements that just summed it all up. You couldn't question what she said because her words emerged from the truth we all seek.

While Aunt Lu was not my Grandma, she was of that generation. In fact, all the ladies of that generation were the Grandmas. They spoke a direct, loving, knowing wisdom which was far beyond their young charges. All my life, I have yearned for and found ladies who would fill that niche. In North Dakota, Joan was one. As we were packing to leave, she came to our house, put her rainbow colored cane on the floor, sat down, and told Melanie and me with no excess words some lessons we needed to know if we were moving to a farm. When she was done, she picked up her cane and left. We just received a Christmas card from her; always the teacher, she wrote: "Don't forget to go the the County and State Fairs to check on the goats."

I am deeply sorry and ashamed the culture I come from has diminished those voices. I find that nothing less than a tragedy. It is their voices I yearn to hear. I would like to know what they would say to us that is important for our transitions in these turbulent times. So I am placing myself in a posture where I am open to those voices. Richard and I have been brainstorming those statements the Old Timers used to make. And of course, I am listening more and more to Mom.

This entry marks a series of posts called "Grandma Says". I will include those statements I remember which I feel are important guideposts for living in our times. The seeds of their words were planted deep inside of me. At last, they are ready to emerge.

What, Dear Reader, would your Grandma say that is important for our times? What are those gems of living she would share?


Photo above: Grandma Ottie with me at almost 2 months, October 30, 1948.

Photo below: Me with Aunt Lu in her room at the Baptist Home for the Aged in Ironton, Missouri, fall 1968. I was 20 and she was 85 at the time of this picture. Later, when Aunt Lu was in her 90s, she was on a panel of elderly from the Home for a group of nurses in training. She was asked: "What is it like to be aged?" To which she directly responded: "I am not aged. I am ageing. And everyone in this room is ageing too." Enough said.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nature Notes

  • Today was a gray, overcast day, with temperatures in the 20s, freezing drizzle and light snow in afternoon and evening. As the day began, we still had light snow cover in protected areas. Otherwise the ground was bare. A light breeze was out of the southeast.
  • As is his morning ritual, Richard filled feeders in the yard with black oil sunflower seeds, which provide high energy needs for birds in cold weather. This morning, he noted 300 Goldfinches and 14 male Cardinals around the feeders in the yard. Who knows how many female Cardinals there were because they are harder to see. They fed intently, almost feverishly at times. We have noted such behavior when migration is imminent, the weather is about to change, or it is extremely cold. By mid afternoon, the Goldfinches were mostly at the top of the trees, resting, perhaps. We also noted Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Bluejays, House Finches, Tree Sparrows, and a fluffy Fox Squirrel.
  • A walk in the woods about noon turned up lots of sign of Turkey scratching in the oak leaf litter on the ground. Those Turkeys can sure make a mess. (I can just imagine what they would say about Humans.) We saw 3 Deer who promptly headed out of view. A Turkey flew from its roost in a tree. We saw Fox and Raccoon droppings. We also saw considerable disruption in oak leaf litter under a cedar tree. Richard thought it was a Turkey, perhaps with help from a Fox Squirrel. Glinda heard Bluejays with their distinctive call and Woodpeckers tap-tap-tapping.
  • About 4 pm, a Red-tailed Hawk was sitting prominently in an oak tree to the southwest of and clearly visible from the house. We love these new windows; they are big and it is almost like we are "in Nature". Shortly thereafter, a Tom Turkey with beard clearly visible flew into the same tree, 40 feet above the ground and 20 feet down from the Red-tailed Hawk. Richard wondered if they were both choosing the tree for their night's roost. He could almost hear them say: "I hope you don't snore." Just as they were settling in, 12 Crows flew in and sat a few trees away. The Red-tailed Hawk had flown away and the Crows seemed indifferent to Mr. Turkey.
  • Richard has placed "scratch grain" in a few places around the yard's edge to attract Bobwhite Quail. Scratch grain (referring to grain chickens like to scratch around in) includes wheat, oats, corn, and sunflowers. So far, he has only attracted the 3 Deer, which is way too close to our new fruit trees.
  • As for the Chickens on Butterfly Hill Farm, it has been a 20 egg day.
  • This was one of those days when it would be easy for Humans to say: "Not much is going on." Everything was going on. One just has to stop, look and listen.

And what in Nature did you see today, Dear Reader?

~~~~~

P.S. So much of our society is disconnected from Nature. Sometimes I see these disconnections and I just have to smile. (Other times I don't.) This time I did. The spell-checker on this Blog site highlighted "Red-tailed" and gave me some options: Red tailed, retailed, detailed, redialed.

The Original Big Screen TV

Glinda writes:

We last watched TV in 1995. It just didn't add anything to our lives.

I remember those days in the early 90s when I came home from work drained. We would have a quick supper and I would sit with my feet propped up in front of the TV. I was too tired to do anything else. Television didn't add anything. In fact, that talking box seemed to take more away. Sitting there made me even more numb. The focus was on somebody way out there in some important place. It was as if the tube was an energy drain. I would sit there with whatever little energy I had and the tube would extract that little I had left. I was almost paralyzed in front of the constant drone of hype and spin, heightened emphasis on violence and sex, advertisements telling me that my family and I weren't quite right without some magical material fix. Yes, we enjoyed a few programs on special channels. For the most part, it was time for TV to go.

In the mid 90s, Richard and I had 2 students who literally carried their TV out of their basement apartment. At that time, such a thing was just not done, especially by young people. With that simple revolutionary action, they planted seeds in us. Why couldn't we do the same? So we cut the cable and just quit watching it. We kept the box around for occasional special movies we carefully screened.

Some magical things happened. We read more. We talked more. We played more. We gardened more. We spent more time in nature. We oriented furniture at our windows and we oriented our yard so we could be present in nature any time we wanted. We would sit at either of the 2 big windows with our cups of tea and observe the birds, squirrels, butterflies, snowflakes, and seasons 24-7.

I am proud to report that Nature has returned in our lives to Her proper place as the original big screen TV. She is free. Her availability came as a benefit of our birth. She has resolution you would not believe and is 3-D to boot. She features a wider screen than one can comprehend. She even offers not just visual and audio but drama for other senses as well. She continuously plays on more channels than we can know. The drama is incredible and often it is subtle, so you have to watch carefully in ways we never knew we could.

By contrast, human contrived television gave us blinders to focus solely on human contrived existence and a script someone else wrote. Being present in Nature opens us to who we are meant to be. We are part of Nature, rather than separate from Her. With this little adjustment, our lives were still busy, but balance, groundedness, peace and tranquility were more evident. At long last, we had begun a journey to come home to who we were meant to be.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fact

"Only about 10% of the fossil fuel energy used in the world's food system is used for producing food; the other 90% goes into packaging, transporting, and marketing. Locally produced food is more energy efficient, with the majority of energy used going toward food production. "
Source: "Thinking outside the Shopping Cart", compiled by John Hendrickson. In Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. 3rd Edition. Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. Copyright 2004. Page 4.

~~~~~

Musings on Butterfly Hill Farm:

  • Fossil fuel (coal, oil, gas) is a limited non-renewable resource.
  • What we use today will not be available for future generations.
  • The use of fossil fuel contributes to greenhouse gases and global warming.
  • Because life styles in our society are heavily dependent on oil, the use of fossil fuel (oil in particular) is a major issue of national interest which results in our nation's actions in other's homelands on the Earth.
  • The difference between the taste of produce sold in conventional grocery stores and produce locally grown is dramatic. We speak this truth based on lifetimes of research over the course of our combined 155 years eating 3 meals a day, less only if we weren't feeling so good and sometimes more. We use as standard: produce from our childhoods in the 1950s and 60s when most people in our experience gardened and were very proud of it, produce we have grown in our own gardens over the years, produce we have purchased from local farmers through farmer's markets and Community Supported Agriculture, produce grown organically without the use of those nasty modern chemicals. We find today that locally grown produce tastes like veggies and fruit should taste. They are vibrant and alive. By contrast, the shipped in stuff grown often on poor soils with some nasty chemical stuff often tastes like "food models", or produce that has been grown less for taste and more for appearance and transportation qualities. We compare instead that juicy red ripe tomato, fresh vibrant strawberry picked at peak, and watermelon with sweet juices dripping and seeds spitting out the sides. These come from local growers and from our own soils and hands.
  • We will cut our own indirect use of fossil fuels in the food supply. We will buy local as much as possible which includes buying from local farmers and producing our own food. We will be mindful of those times when we do not. (For example, after the sweets and heavy foods of the holidays, we now want fresh vibrant produce: tossed salads and fruits.)
  • We find such practices much much more satisfying and fulfilling.
  • Yum.
~~~~

Above Photo: These strawberries were grown and picked May 22, 2007, at peak of ripeness by an Amish family 10 miles from our farm. (Can't you just smell them? taste them?) When Richard's brother called that morning announcing they were ready, we jumped in the car to join him and the kids on their way there. We immediately brought the strawberries home, tenderly washed them, removed stems, and froze them. Well, some did not make to the freezer. The frozen strawberries maintained frozen peak for about 6 months. We believe that produce should be eaten at peak. That means fresh strawberries are an early summer ritual and treat, depending of course on all systems of nature supporting our humble human plan.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thank You

Today is a special day. On Rolf and Ilse's farm about 40 miles to the northwest, a steer will be taken to feed our family over the coming months.

We shall go "deep" here. If you are not in a place to go deep or consider these things, you may want to skip this entry. If you are curious or opening to these things, prepare for the ride. As with all of our entries, these are our thoughts. It is not our intention to force our view of the world upon others. These are simply our views of the world and our way of being in it. Here we go...

While once numb to these things, our views of meat, animals, and family farms have surely changed over the years. These are some of the underpinnings of our thinking. They are different from those held commonly in popular culture. They are thoughts which help us live life as a sacred gift and bring peace into every step.

In the web of life which supports our being, for something to live, something else must die. Animals that die offer a sacred gift that we may live. As we look at this link, we see a growing bond with such beautiful creatures. That bond merges into an enormous sense of gratitude and humility. We are compelled to make sure the animals are treated well with dignity and respect. They are happy while they are here. That means free range and organic as much as possible. The land and people who bring the animals to us must also be treated with respect and dignity.

In traditional cultures, there is a deep understanding and appreciation of this vital exchange. For something to be taken, something also must be given. It could be a simple acknowledgement, a spoken thank you to the creature and to the Divine Being. Or it could be an intentional action along the path.

At the point of giving by the steer today and with each bite we take, we thank you, beloved Creator, creature, family and land which sustains us. We will do our best to make sure we honor that sacred gift in every step.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Grandmother's Flower Garden

Glinda writes:

This summer, I plan to create what I am calling "Grandmother's Flower Garden" in front of our new home on Butterfly Hill Farm. My humble plantings will be in tribute to the female family members from those generations before me. That would include: Mother-Dorothy Bloskovich, Great Aunt Lula Myers Hart, Grandma Dora Budiselich Bloskovich, Grandma Lottie Hart Brenz, Aunt Louise Brenz Wells Glassburner, Aunt Ruth Irene Brenz Griffin, Aunt Mary Bloskovich Bryson, Great Aunt Della Brenz, Great Aunt Clara Brenz Wiles, all those family members I have not known who would have planted flowers before me (including Great Grandmother Matilda Waibel Brenz, Great Grandmother Louisa South Hart), and older women who were not family members but have had an influence on my life, like Richard's Mother Ethel Crawford.

When I think of these ladies, I think of many things, but one of my favorites is flowers. While these ladies worked very hard and seriously at their varied roles of homemaker, Mother and for some wage-earner, they took time to plant flowers sometimes out front and other times in little corners of their yards. Some planted flowers more than others. They planted the old robust flowers, not those new fangled, eye-jarring, sometimes bizarre varieties of our modern world. The ladies greeted guests with their flowers when they arrived. They sometimes cut flowers, put them into vases, tucked them into corners of their homes or took them to family and friends.

I have been poking around in those somewhat dusty, "long time since I have visited" corners of my memory to remember the flowers they would likely have. I have also been talking with Mother to see what she remembers. She has called her sister (my Aunt Ruthie) who lives in Oregon. I am watching this list emerge as if it were flowers sprouting in the writing of this little post on our blog. So far, these are the plants I plan for "Grandmother's Garden," and these are some of the memories that come as their beautiful petals unfold.
  • Gladiolas: When we were dating, Richard used to bring me "Glads" from his Mother's garden. I just found out in the last few days that he didn't always ask. His Mother's beautiful flowers must have come with an open invitation to sharing.
  • Roses: My Mom has always gathered beautiful bouquets of roses for her house. When we arrived home after a long journey from North Dakota, she would put them on the bedstead in our room. When I was a child in the 1950s, I remember Mother had Paul Scarlet Roses, vigorous climbing roses on a white trellis Dad had built for the backyard. My Croatian Grandmother Dora loved roses. When she and Aunt Ann lived in southern California in the late 50s, my elderly Grandmother was simply thrilled with all the flowers, which she no longer could grow. Sometimes, she would head to the neighbor's to pick a rose or two. The family was a little concerned. The neighbor was not, and simply smiled. My Grandmother could have all she wanted.
  • Hollyhocks: "We always had hollyhocks," Mother says about her childhood. Aunt Louise had Hollyhocks on their farm. When I was a little girl, I remember looking up to those tall flowers which seemed to extend to the sky. I also remember learning to make sweet little dolls from them. Was it with Aunt Louise?
  • Phlox: Mother's Daddy (Fred Brenz) loved Phlox.
  • Geraniums: Mother said that Geraniums were a favorite of her family when she was growing up. They were red. Her Daddy planted Geraniums in a planter on each side of the sidewalk, just before you came into the house. Her Daddy loved all growing things.
  • Peonies: Oh, how I loved Peonies. In rural northeast Missouri, they were called many different names: PI-nees, PEE-ah-nees, PEE-OH-nees. I remember going to Aunt Della's where the cement walk had a dark red Peony on either side. Mother especially liked the dark red ones. Peonies always bloomed around Memorial Day so they were standards whenever we would decorate graves.
  • Cosmos: We don't remember much here, except the old-timers had Cosmos.
  • Sweet Peas: Mother remembers her Dad loved Sweet Peas. He always planted them in a row and they were tall.
  • Daisies: Mother doesn't remember much about Daisies. I remember the song "Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer do. I'm half crazy, all for the love of you." We would sing it loudly and proudly in elementary school. I also remember the game we were taught as we picked off the petals one by one: "He loves me. He loves me not."
  • Columbines: My Mother has some growing on the south side of the house. For Mother's Day last year, Dad had picked for Mother a beautiful bouquet of Columbines, Roses, and anything else he could find growing around the yard. Mother had been very sick in April so Mother's Day was even more special than usual. It was very beautiful to see this lovely bouquet Dad had picked. My 89 year old Papa passed about 2 months later.
  • Snapdragons: I remember being fascinated with the opening and closing motion of the flower when I pressed it with my fingers. It was just like a little mouth. Mother remembers that too.
  • Lily of the Valley: Great Grandmother Matilda had Lilies of the Valley growing on the east side of her house. Mother remembers they were the kind with the little heart on them. They came up every year and you did not have to replant them.
  • Salvia: We always had red Salvia when I was growing up.
  • Lilies: I remember banks of the old farmyard lilies. They seemed to mark where the old farm homes had been.
  • Snowball bushes: Mother doesn't remember much about these when she was a child. However, Mother and Daddy have beautiful Snowball Bushes.
  • Sunflowers: Mother thinks her parents had Sunflowers next to the vegetable garden, but she will have to think on this. I don't remember much about Sunflowers when I was growing up. We had lots of glorious sunflowers this year and took many pictures of them and sometimes us. I later found a picture of Aunt Mary standing beside a huge one in the backyard of their new home in Prairie Village, Kansas, in the mid 1950s.
  • Zinnias: We always had Zinnias when I was growing up. They were a standard. Mother remembers the same.
  • Dahlias: Mother remembers that her Mother and Daddy always had them. They were beautiful and had to be dug in the fall.
  • Cox Comb: We don't remember specifics but we know these were a standard with the old timers.
  • Celosia: Mother remembers her Mother and Daddy called them something else.
  • Coleus: I love the beautiful varied color of these leaves. Aunt Lu had Coleus inside. She would often "root it" in a bright sunny area.
  • Poppies: Mrs. Wagner was the lady across the street from our house in Kirksville. She had what seemed to me to be a whole field of Poppies. As an adult, I am sure that they were not that big. They were bright orange.
  • Irises: Our family always had Irises when I was growing up. Richard's Mother was fond of her Irises. Aunt Louise loved Irises and had several varieties. When we moved into our own home in North Dakota in 1976, family members sent starts of Irises. When I was growing up, Irises were often called "Flags" and bloomed about the time of Memorial Day. They figured prominently in bouquets on the graves.
  • Cannas: Aunt Ruthie and Mother remember these from their childhood. They remember a special family story and they smile across the miles that now separate them.
  • Golden Glows: Aunt Ruthie remembers these by the back door of their house when they were growing up, but neither she nor Mother remember what they looked like. I said I would do an internet search.
  • 4 O'clocks: Mother remembers that, sure enough, they bloom about 4 o'clock. Her Daddy loved these.
  • Violets
  • Pansies: My Grandmother "Ottie" loved pansies. I have a picture of me celebrating my 1st birthday with a bowl of pansies in front.

Our "Grandmother's Garden" will take a while to construct and it will be several years before it is fully developed. Of course, those things are always changing. I am seeking plants now. My highest priorities are to find old plants from our family. Few of those old plants remain., although I do have some. It is my hope to integrate as many as I can find. For others, I will try to find old varieties in the current seed catalogs or from stashes of family and friends.

And so, Dear Reader, what of these lovely flowers and ladies has meaning to you?

~~~~~

Quilt Photos at Top and Bottom: Richard's Mother Ethel Kirkpatrick Crawford created this lovely "Grandmother's Flower Garden" quilt for her new grand-daughter Melanie in the early 1970's.

Photo Above: This little lady in the picture is my Great Grandmother Matilda Waibel Brenz, on my Mother's side. She is pictured in her garden by her house on West Burton Street in Kirksville. While she passed before I was born, I remember going to this house to visit her daughter, my Great Aunt Della, when I was a child. Great Grandmother is pictured with Uncle Harl Wiles (my Great Aunt Clara's husband). When we lived in the city, I had constructed a "cottage garden" in our backyard. Seeing this photo some years later reminded me that many of those things that I loved came directly (but unknown to me) from those who came before.

Photo Below: This is me at almost 3 with Great Aunt Lula Hart in the backyard of the house my family rented at 510 West Pierce in 1951.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Snacks

Glinda writes:

I hope you are not getting tired of chicken pictures, because I am certainly not. These are just about the most amazing creatures. Talk about characters. I never thought I would ever fall in love with chickens but I am proud to report I have.

I took these pictures today. Richard and Melanie had peeled apples for drying and for making Apple Dumplings. While the apples were drying and the Apple Dumplings were cooking, we headed to the chicken yard with some chicken snacks of apple peelings and cores. The chickens were simply thrilled that their humans had brought them such magnificent treats. Later, Melanie brought them sorghum cane seedheads. Again, they were thrilled. Next summer, we will be raising some of their food.

I have to admit today I made some peace with chicken poop. That's a big deal for a former town girl. But today, I could see a direct relationship between what they ate, their poop, and the enrichment of our soil.

No, I did not get down on my belly in the chicken yard to take these pictures. I simply held the camera down at their eye level. I surely should not take any credit for these pictures. The credit belongs to the chickens.
(Above) I am almost embarrassed that I do not know the chickens by name. I know some. I will know more. Melanie was chief consult on names. Etta (in back), Button, and Penny chow down.
Lacey is still "broody". What that means in chicken language is that she wants to have little chickens. Winter, of course, is the wrong season for such things. During this time, her hormones must have been racing. She was cranky, her feathers were all fluffed up, and she wanted to stay in the nest box pretty much all the time. Richard and Melanie would bring her out, but she would go right back in. Her broodiness seems to be passing. She is still all fluffed up and cranky, but she is spending more time outside.

Yummy!

Freddie, Blackberry, Rocket, and Penny nibble on sorghum cane seeds. Etta is in the background.
Button's comb (lower left), Freddie, Penny, Rocket, and Blackberry consider the feast before them. In typical fashion, Freddie will often stand back and let the hennies eat. He also will grab bits of food, drop them, and call for hennies. He is a chivalrous kind of guy.

As I muse over the experience in the chicken yard on this day, plus the vibrancy and individuality of these feathered ones captured in these photos, I wonder: "How did I ever come to view chickens as only meat or producers of eggs?"

Monday, January 14, 2008

Today We Ordered Seeds...

Selecting seeds either through a commercial catalog or one's own seed stash seems the gardener's deepest expression of and commitment to hope. Those little seeds come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They embrace a kind of magic or "awe", as they both hold the great gift and great mystery of life. While friends of the gardener, seeds wash over him/her a humility which is nourishment, comfort, and reward. This season of selection reminds us that we plant these seeds but, no matter what we do, the growing inside them is a force far beyond ourselves.

We live in modern age which tests some of these deep spiritual beliefs about gardening and the practical notions of the gardener's (the people's) role in protecting seeds for all time. Our society's obsession with technology and justification of any approach if it returns economic gain create some potholes we need to work through, both as a society but also as gardeners.

We 3 Crawfords are deeply concerned about the loss of genetic diversity of seed stock, the concentration of the "ownership" of seeds in the hands of a few multi-national corporations worldwide, and the manipulation of seeds beyond what would be seen in nature. As a result, we do our best to find heirloom seeds. We feel a commitment toward growing plants that represent diversity of seed stock and somehow connect us to the work of gardeners across time (including our own family members). Seed Savers Exchange, Seeds of Change, and Shumway's offer heirlooms and practices which mirror our concerns. Pinetree Garden Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Gurney's, Burpee's, and Totally Tomatoes are also sources we used this year.

Today was that magical day we ordered seeds. Here is a sneak peak of our list. This is by no means an endorsement. Plus we have other seeds in our gardener's stash and trees/shrubs already sinking roots into the soil.

Veggies:
  • Amaranth (Burgundy, Manna De Montana, Red Garnet)
  • Arugula (Apollo)
  • Asparagus (Jersey Knight Hybrid)
  • Beans (Baby Thorogreen Lima, Blue Lake Bush, French Horticultural, Tendergreen Improved)
  • Beets (Beet Queen, Bull's Blood)
  • Broccoli (Packman)
  • Broccoli Raab (Di Rapa Novantina)
  • Brussels Sprouts (Jade Cross, Tasty Nuggets Hybrid)
  • Cabbage (Best Kraut, Chinese)
  • Cantaloupes/Muskmelons (Ambrosia Hybrid, Amish, Banana, Athena Hybrid, Bidwell Casaba, Boule d'Or, Casaba Crenshaw, Collective Farm Woman Melon, Dessert-Swan Lake, Eden's Gem, Eel River, Gurney Giant Hybrid, Hales Best Jumbo, Haogen, Healy's Pride, Pride of Wisconsin)
  • Carrots (Bolero, Danver's Half Long, Nantes Coreless, Negovia, Oxheart, Scarlet Nantes)
  • Cauliflower (Early Snowball)
  • Celery (Giant Pascal)
  • Corn (Bon Appetit, Gotta Have It Hybrid Sweet, Incredible Corn, Mandan Bride)
  • Cucumbers (A & C Pickling, Diva Hybrid, Sweet Marketmore, Sweet Success Hybrid)
  • Eggplant (Casper, Fairy Tale, Florida High Bush)
  • Fava Bean (Windsor)
  • Fennel (Florence)
  • Kale (Lacinato, Red Russian, White Russian)
  • Kohlrabi (Early White Vienna, Kossak Giant Hybrid)
  • Leeks (Blue Solaize)
  • Lettuce (Amish Deer Tongue, Black Seeded Simpson, Buttercrunch, Bronze Arrowhead, Crisp Mint, Forellenschuss, Gold Rush, Grandpa Admire's, Iceberg, Mascara, Paris Whtite, Red Salad Bowl, Slobolt, Yugoslavian Red Butterhead)
  • Mustard (Green Wave)
  • Okra (Clemson Spineless, Red Burgundy)
  • Onion (Ailsa Craig, Australian Brown, Red Wethersfield)
  • Pak Choy
  • Parsnip (Hollow Crown)
  • Peanuts (Jumbo Virginia Type)
  • Peas (Amish Snap, Eclipse, Green Arrow, Maestro, Sugar Ann, Super Sugar Snap)
  • Pepper (Banana Bill Hybrid, Beaver Dam, Big Chili II Hybrid, Bulgarian Carrot Pepper, Buran, Costa Rican Sweet, Garden Sunshine, Jalapeno Goliath Hybrid, Purple Beauty, Quadrato Asti Giallo, Sweet Goliath Hybrid, Sweet Red Ruffled Pimento, Yummy)
  • Popcorn (Giant Yellow Hybrid, Snow Puff White Hybrid)
  • Potato (All Blue, Caribe, Carola, Red Gold)
  • Pumpkin (Amish Pie Squash, Rouge Vif d'etampes)
  • Quinoa (Faro)
  • Radicchio (Red Surprise)
  • Radish (Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, German Giant Parat, Minowase)
  • Rutabaga (Joan)
  • Sesame (Afghani)
  • Soybean (Shirofumi)
  • Spinach (American, Bloomsdale Long Standing, Nobel, Red Malabar)
  • Summer Squash (Black Beauty Zucchini, Summer Crookneck, Woods Prolific Bush Scallop)
  • Swiss Chard (Five Color Silverbeet, Fordhook Giant)
  • Tomatillo (Green Husk)
  • Tomato (Big Beef Hybrid, Brandywine, Celebrity Hybrid, Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Druzba, Early Girl Hybrid, Early Goliath Hybrid, Green Sausage, Homestead, Hungarian Heart, Isis Candy Cherry, Italian Goliath Hybrid, Moonglow, Nyagous, Old German, Original Goliath Hybrid, Principe Borghese, Speckled Roman, Suncherry Extra Sweet Hybrid, Sunsugar Hybrid, Sweet Baby Girl Hybrid)
  • Turnip (Just Right Hybrid, Purple Top White Globe)
  • Watercress
  • Watermelon (Crimson Sweet, Melitopolski, Orangeglo, Sweet Dakota Rose)
  • Winter Squash (Anna Swartz Hubbard, Boston Marrow, Buttercup, Gaileux d'Eysines, Guatemalan Blue Banana, Hopi Orange, Lady Godiva, Table Queen, Waltham Butternut)

Fruits/Berries:

  • Blackberries (Darrow)
  • Gooseberry (Pixwell)
  • Raspberries (Red Latham)

Herbs (Culinary and Medicinal):

  • Anise
  • Basil (Genovese)
  • Bee Balm
  • Beneficial Insect Attracting Flower Collection (Calendula, Cilantro, Fennel, Feverfew, Korean Licorice Mint, Sweet Alyssum, Yarrow)
  • Black Cumin
  • Calendula
  • Caraway
  • Chamomile (German)
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin
  • Dill (Grandma Einck's)
  • Elecampane
  • Fenugreek
  • Horehound
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender (English, Lady, Munstead)
  • Lemon Balm
  • Lemon Grass
  • Marshmallow
  • Milk Thistle
  • Parsley (Giant from Italy, Triple Curled)
  • Spearmint
  • St. John's Wort
  • Valerian
The gardener smiles at this season. With those orders and sorting through those carefully stored seed stashes, the gardener has an eye on the growing season just around the corner. While winter brings a welcome rest, reflection, and planning, that season of growing is on its way. Perhaps it began on this day. And those seeds were first planted in me.

Nature Notes

  • While we 3 C's were at the east window reviewing our plans to order seeds , Richard noted a Krider's Red-tailed Hawk out back. We stopped, pulled out the scope, and took a look. This hawk is uncommon especially this far east. This beautiful light colored bird was radiant with the sun streaming through its feathers and distinctive reddish tail.
  • Richard noted the sun is coming up perceptibly earlier. Its rise on the eastern horizon is moving north. We had not been able to see such subtle differences when we lived in the city
  • Richard noted those energetic Tufted Titmice are beginning spring rituals, singing courtship calls ("peter-peter-peter"), and setting up territories in response to lenthening days. The little guys are sometimes in our backyard but more often in the woods nearby.
  • Cardinals seem more active when daylight is lower. Late this afternoon, Melanie counted 10 Cardinals in our backyard.

Talking Trash

Fact: Americans generate 4.6 pounds of garbage per person per day. Think about it: That is 1679 pounds of garbage per person per year. The average household was 2.6 persons (2003, U.S. Census Bureau, 1/13/08) which equates to 4365.4 pounds of garbage per year. That is over 2 tons of waste per average American household per year. I find that fact to be absolutely disgusting. And just imagine what the average person's contribution is over the lifetime. What a "gift"!

Several years ago, it occurred to me that our family contribution to the landfill was the legacy we leave to future generations. It was as if all that waste I placed in the garbage can was a gift to unknown future generations. I could almost see their hands arising from the garbage can to receive that gift. My own inner voice countered as if a visceral reaction: No, thank you!

Several epiphanies happened along my path to raise this awareness. (1) When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I would accompany my father in our big green station wagon on those weekly trips to "the dump". In those days, it was "do it yourself" disposal. Otherwise, the stinking stuff would accumulate in the summer's heat in our garage. I remember my father driving through that entrance, over a rise, and down that precarious road into a place where we were surrounded with mountains of sharp, glistening, almost confetti-like, stinking trash. I could not wait to get away. (2) In the early 90s, I was given a reference which showed how long it took stuff to biodegrade, in other words to return back to the Earth. Common ordinary stuff took dozens, hundreds, even thousands of years. (3) I started seeing waste wherever I went, including my home town, retail outlets, when I traveled to intensely peopled areas like New York, Cairo, and Venice. (4) I remember seeing garbage piles in Luxor, Egypt, which seemed to "melt" back down into the Earth. Because the materials were largely organic, they biodegraded very quickly. At that time, western consumerist practices were creeping in. That waste just sat there. And they wanted to be like us? (5) Although I had not asked for them, people sent me pictures of waste. Melanie sent me a picture of a garbage barge headed out of the New York harbor. You could almost smell it. At the same time, I began reading about waste washing up on beaches on the east coast, including some pretty hazardous stuff. (6) In 1997, Grand Forks experienced a devastating flood. This natural disaster laid waste to many possessions of families in our community. We carried the heavy, dripping, stinking stuff up to the berm, where a pile 6-8 feet tall from house to house lined city streets. I began to see how little we needed. (7) When the new millenium began, a contentious issue for our community was the re-siting of the city's landfill since the original one was soon to be full. Turtle River Township in Grand Forks County had been targeted for the city's dump. I went to some of the hearings and followed the issue on local news. I discovered with great disdain the effects on local residents who had long histories of living in the area. Perhaps one of the most inspiring stories came from Ann Leesom, who spoke with quiet eloquence regarding the effect such a siting would have on her neighborhood. The reality that my garbage was soon to sit in their country township filtering into their lives filled me with disgust. (8) I began to have a growing awareness of what I was putting into the garbage can on its way to the landfill. I could no longer do nothing about it. Being too busy didn't cut it. This was important. Business as usual? No, thank you.

Over the years, my family and I began gradually reducing our waste stream. We got the bulk of this practice started while we lived in Grand Forks and were busy with our work-a-day worlds. This was important. We started with one thing that really bugged us (recycling). We got good at it. Then we moved on to something else. We got good at it. Looking at our waste now, I am proud of what we have done. We will do more. These are some of the things we do and we started them all, one at a time:
  • We consciously consider waste when we purchase products. If the product produces waste which cannot be recycled/reused and it is not essential, we look for another choice.
  • We buy in bulk. In Grand Forks, we carried our own clean containers to fill at Amazing Grains, a natural food store. It is not so easy here in northeast Missouri but we will figure it out.
  • We recycle as much as we can: paper, cardboard, plastic. We feel fortunate to have an excellent recycling center in town about 10 miles away. In Grand Forks, we had curbside recycling, a project begun by an Eagle Scout. Here, we have to carry the items. We stack them in the garage and periodically take them into town.
  • We pick up waste that we find wherever we go and we recycle it.
  • We reuse products until they are no longer functional. That includes plastic bags and tubs.
  • We compost kitchen scraps in our own luscious compost pile or take it to the chickens who do a gleeful chicken dance whenever they see that blue bucket coming.
  • We do not put yard and garden waste into the garbage, but rather put it in the compost pile. The next year we have soil.
  • We carry our own bottles of water wherever we go.
  • We don't eat fast food, whose waste lasts far longer than the quick meal.
  • We convert old cotton sheets, towels, clothing, etc., into soft wonderful rags, which we use instead of paper towels (the only exception is that I find paper towels superior for windows).
  • We use handmade cloth napkins at meals. We continue to use them as long as they are clean. (If you are company at our house, you get fresh ones.)
  • We pass on magazines to friends, coffee shops.
  • We give books to the library or book sales for special causes.
  • We try never to waste food.
  • When we have big meals at our house for a crowd, we give the extra food to the mission.
  • We take used clothing to thrift stores.
  • We shop at thrift stores.
  • We print on both sides of paper.
  • We buy recycled when we can.
  • We purchase only what we need.
  • We carry cloth bags to the grocery store or other retail outing.
  • We do not purchase fads or fashions some guru in some place far aways prescribes as "in"; we establish our own trends; we use, wear, and surround ourselves with things we love that will endure for a long time.
  • When we moved, we downsized a huge amount. We passed items on to those who would use them. We had to be very mindful about this. We hardly had any increase in our garbage during that time.
  • We try never to take styrofoam. That includes "doggy bags" when we eat out.
  • We look to my Mom for inspiration; her 1930s Depression background shows us the work of a master in never wasting anything.

This entry precipitated quite a discussion by my family. We looked again at what we contribute to the public landfill. While we have decreased substantially the amount of waste we contribute, we concluded we could do better. And we will. Isn't life fun?

Dear Reader, what meaning do you make of these things in your life?

~~~~~

Top photo: Richard takes the week's garbage out to the road for pick-up. Since our scale is missing among the unopened boxes of our move, he estimated the weight instead: 15-18 pounds. Almost all weight and volume was cat litter. The remaining was next to nothing. That is a huge decrease from years past and significantly less than the national average. For this week, we produced less than 1 pound per person per day. Multiplied over 365 days, that is still a chunk to pass on. We shall be looking at what we can do about cat litter and some other things besides.

Note: The fact quoted at the beginning of this entry came from a magazine Sarah Saltmarsh passed on to us: Organic Gardening, November-December 2007-08, page 16. We cannot bear to throw magazines away. It is even a stretch to recycle them. We like to pass them on to others to stir those good ideas out in the community. Perhaps you could call it planting seeds. Thanks Sarah!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Affluent

Glinda writes:

"Affluent" is often used to describe members of our "modern" society, particularly for those of us privileged to be in middle to upper incomes in the U.S. Blessed with such privilege, we think about what affluent means: being "rich", having access to lots of cash (our own and somebody else's, today's and tomorrow's), having an endless stream of material goods in the latest fashion, a big house in the right location, lots of garages, cars, techy toys, freedom to travel whenever and wherever we want. It often transcribes to doing whatever I want with my money and not considering the consequences to anyone or anything. In fact, the "other" is often not even on the radar.

Affluent is defined by the dictionary on my bookshelf as "1. flowing freely, 2. plentiful, abundant, 3. wealthy; prosperous, rich". As a noun, it means a "tributary stream". [New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd College Edition, (c) 1984, p. 23.] It is curious to me that money comes into the latter definition of the word.

I am offering a redefinition of affluent for my own personal dictionary: the privilege of...

  • knowing something is wrong but not quite knowing what to do about it,
  • knowing and doing what is right,
  • knowing one's truth and following it,
  • celebrating the multitude of companions along one's way, those human and otherwise, those seen and unseen,
  • acting in a way that preserves the welfare and happiness of all beings, including oneself, now and in the future,
  • following one's spiritual path in the purpose one is intended with humility and grace.

A tall order? To whom much is given, much is expected. I shall carefully fashion my own tender and tentative steps along the way.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Guests

On Wednesday evening, we had 4-legged guests on their way in. On Thursday morning, we had 4-legged guests on their way out. Thirty-eight 500 pound calves paid us a visit. Along with them came neighbors of the 2-legged variety.

On Thursday morning, Melanie took the above picture as the black calves came over a small rise. They were followed by their owner on 4 wheels, an Amish neighbor on a 4 legged and our own Richard; the latter are not pictured. You can see the calves' ears and their curiosity at yet another new landscape and the chicken yard. Mostly, the hennies stayed next to the chicken house. Etta, the smallest yet dominant rooster, stayed with the hennies. Freddie, our squishy rooster, took the lead. He kept himself as close to the fence as possible inbetween the hennies and calves. He stood as tall as he could reach with all 8 pounds in the face of 19,000 pounds of calves. Inspiring, huh?

The calves were led by another neighbor who was carrying a white bucket filled with food. He hollered at them "Here, calves. Here, calves. Tea time. Tea time." And off they went back home.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Land Where Time Stood Still

Glinda writes:

People in western Euro-centric culture ("modern society") seem to have a love-hate relationship with time. Watches and clocks are everywhere. Almost every room has multiple clocks, plus at least 1 timepiece on every person there. Computer screens have digital clocks ticking away where we can quickly look down to see "where we are".

As a society, we seem tied to them. Or, is it tethered? Their presence suggests: we are late, we have more work to do and less time to do it, we never have enough time, hurry, hurry, hurry. With the current emphasis on multi-tasking, things have speeded up to a frenzy in many cases. The mere presence of a clock seems to produce an adrenaline rush for us to get the energy to complete the next task. If adrenaline won't kick in due to tired, overworked, or ageing adrenals, then coffee or cola will provide the bandaid needed.

Watches and clocks used to have a dominant presence in the lives of the 3 Crawfords. This was particularly true when we were in that outside "world of work", which of course was spinning its own reality. You know the game. I remember a former department chair who bought his lucky charges stately professional pens with clocks on them. (What was he saying?)

In fact, we 3 Crawfords now have a delightful amusement for such things. I haven't worn a watch for 8 years. When I was teaching, I discovered everywhere I went, I could always find a clock. In a pinch, I could find a person with a watch.

Something peculiar happened since we moved to Butterfly Hill Farm. Such a shift seems to be symbolized in what happened with Richard. When his old watch broke as he was nearing the end of his last year's contract, he bought a pretty pocket watch with ducks on it. The new watch promptly quit after he arrived on the farm. He bought another and the same fate met this new watch. Perhaps he is not supposed to wear a watch.

When I look around our house, clocks have a less prominent face, for which I am grateful. We have 2 clocks in the family room and both are unobtrusive. One is on the computer and the other sits high on a bookshelf, where only Richard can see it. He was the one who wanted it. We have no clocks in the kitchen. The one on the stove is broken and we are resisting using a microwave. We have a Grandfather Clock in the dining room with its responsible and comforting tick-tock-tick-tock. We have clocks in 2 bedrooms. We also have 2 lovely family heirloom clocks which do not work. Of course, the vehicles have clocks raising their little innocent faces up to us.

So what happened on our journey which shifted our tie to time? We did some studying and thoughtful reflection on the society we come from and the kind of life we want to lead. Folks in Western "modern" culture have a "linear" orientation to time. That means each minute only comes once. So if you don't stuff it full, you have lost it forever. Talk about escalating tension.

We did some research on other traditions that are much more to our liking and seem a better fit with the natural cycles of life. Many traditional cultures believe time is "circular". Things happen when and if they are supposed; when we miss something, it will come around again if it is important. While we were in North Dakota, we were introduced to "Indian Time". We get there when we get there. Instead of being out of breath and feeling behind, we are much more relaxed. I also have noted a more relaxed feeling in me when others arrive as well. I am grateful when they arrive and I am not judgmental about the time they do.

Our study of Buddhism gave us another message to savor. We try to live in the present moment, which is all we have. The next moment does not matter because this moment, this breath, is all there is. That orientation also brought more peace and relaxation about such things. We breathed sighs of relief.

Under the cover of all of these musings, we still have some sense of time. But it is different. We generally know the time, in fact, relatively close. If we have a meeting in town in some office which is decidedly linear, we respect their need and we are "on time".

But overall, we are much more oriented toward natural cycles. The giant riestat in the sky is turned up in the early morning. Light increases heralding the sun; the sun comes up; day begins. Depending on conditions outside, it's time to let out the chickens. Later, the sun goes down and the day begins to quiet; after some quiet evening time, we soon will head to bed. You may wonder how I know if things are done when I cook. I can see the Grandfather Clock in the dining room. But I more often let my senses guide me. I know when the bread is done by smell, sight, and touch. Yummy. That knowing took a few years and a lot of cooking.

We have choices about the meaning we make of time and the meaning we make of life. Now that we are at the farm and seeking a simpler life, time has a different meaning. We are richly blessed and we smile.

Above photo: Richard's 2 broken time pieces are above. I laugh because one is upside down, which I overlooked when I took the picture. And really, what difference does it make, after all?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Welcoming the Ancestors

Glinda writes:

I loved school when I was growing up. I buried my nose in book after book. I just could not get enough of that book and school learning. One of my favorite childhood gifts was the set of World Book Encyclopedias I found under the Christmas tree when I was in the 5th grade. By the time I was in junior high, my Mother had begun a college fund for me. Since I was good at school and Kirksville had a college, there was no doubt I would continue my education.

Education was a funny thing in those years and perhaps it still is in many parts. We studied things far away. It was as if important things like history happened to someone else, someplace else. We learned to speak a kind of English which was educated, meaning we dropped those colloquialisms that expressed color and gave distinction to the people and place which was home.

Perhaps education then was not so much about learning, as it was like a pair of scissors that separated us from the value and distinct stories of our ancestors, our families, ourselves. Every step of the way, we were less connected to our families and ourselves. Upon graduation, the most logical next step was to move away. I did at age 20 and did not return until I was 58.

Something happened to me these past couple of decades. Perhaps with young adulthood, the tendency is to center on oneself. As I aged, I began to see myself as a part of a long line of people who would come before and hopefully would come long after. I yearned for the distinct melodies of the voices of the older ones in my family. I yearned for the old stories. I yearned for the simplicity and wisdom embedded in every word. For some of my relatives, formal education had ended at a very early age. Yet, learning for living extended every day of their lives. When I think of what many knew, I saw an encyclopedia vast and beautiful. In some ways, it made my own education, which was extensive, seem paltry.

How could I reclaim these things? Many of the old ones were long gone. I began to see the limits of what I knew. I asked for help from the ancestors, who I believe still live around me, through me, as well as in others. I came home. I began to sit at the feet of any and all who might have snippets of information I might begin to piece together for the fabric of my life. Many of the memories buried deep in me began to return. I created an artpiece called "Mine" which honored those who have come before and their connection to me and my family. This visual includes copies of photographs put together in a way which resembles a quilt. I have placed it prominently in our dining room where those who came before are welcome at our table. We are dedicating the farm to reclaiming our heritage. Somehow, we are surely guided each step of the way.

Photo: "Mine" by Glinda Crawford, 2004

Chickens + Water + Soil = Muddy Chickens

Melanie and Richard (with Glinda as scribe) write:

We've had a lot of rain and our frozen ground is thawing. In the chicken yard, that equals some muddy chickens. Richard has been putting fresh straw down so they have nice dry places to go, plus the hen house is open, of course. Today some of the hennies looked like drowned rats, except with feathers instead of fur. (Not that we have ever seen any drowned rats.) Some hennies were more excited about mud than others. Others were as pristine as fresh fallen snow. The Buff Orpingtons seemed to be cleaner than the White Plymouth Rocks. The roosters were not muddy, even though we did see them in the mud. Those chickens who seemed to like the mud were doing their little mud dance, looking intently for whatever they could find.

Kayte was the worst (or the best, depending on your perspective). She was drenched. She had mud all over her beak, wattles, and comb. The feathers around her neck were incredibly wet. But she was just as peppy, mischievous and curious as always. At the end of the day, she stood inside the hen house preening under the heat lamp to put her feathers in place and to dry off. Tupelo, on the other hand, was very clean. Not a feather was misplaced. You would not have known she was in a muddy chicken yard. It is interesting to see their different personalities emerge. Kayte and Tupelo were at either end of the spectrum and both seemed quite content about it.

The muddy hennies seemed to enjoy the mud more than their human friends did. We were not crazy about having muddy and wet chickens. Somehow, wet chickens in cold weather seems like they might catch a chill. It was not like we didn't want them to have fun.

We did give them straw to lure them into the house, offering treats (yummy sorghum seeds and a favorite-scratch grains) and turning on the heat lamp. The lamp offered warmth and a place to dry off. Tomorrow, we will let them out later in the day so that they do not have as much time to play in the mud.

Photo: There is no photo because no pictures were taken. We thought you could use your imagination on this one.

Sacred Gift

Glinda writes:

In my meanderings of life, I have traveled far and wide: seeking. Those wanderings at the interior of me have been by far my hardest and most exquisite. On all my meanderings, I have pondered some very basic questions about the meaning of this great adventure I seem to be traveling.

For me, life is a sacred gift. It is a gift from a Divine Being, One who bears many names in many traditions. For me that Divine Being is Creator, Grandfather, God.

In the story I have come to know, the Creator gives us life. He gifts us with breath, with steps along the path. Then it follows that breath is also sacred. So too are those steps. He has also honored us with a whole realm of Creation infinite beyond our wildest imagination, from which we draw company and sustenance. While I am not perfect by any means, I seek to honor that gift in every breath, in every step. I intend to honor that family of Creation with whom I am gifted to share this time, this space.

How could I not?

Photo: We have watched for Bobwhite Quail with great excitement on our little farm. Late one afternoon, Melanie and I returned home after being in town. Fresh snow lay all about. Richard was inside making a wonderful dinner. I discovered tracks of about a dozen quail right next to the front of the house. We could easily figure out the time. These beautiful little creatures had walked in front of the house and virtually under Richard's nose within the 30 minutes before.