Monday, October 25, 2010

Crispy day, pumpkin run, family fun

Brace yourself.

This pumpkin patch, corn maze, farm stand, family day recap may be long-winded.
(Heaven knows the day itself was windy enough.)

It also may contain more photos than a dial-up country girl's blog oughta.

But we had so much fun and I wanted to share a little bit of it with you.

Some apples were bigger than Madeleine's head.

How can that be?

They were organic and everything.
I think.

Salvador gave this pile of pumpkins "one thumb up."
He was the cutest little trooper in his front pack and striped cap all day long.
And he didn't even get to pick a pumpkin.

He is a pumpkin. Wouldn't you agree?

We tried for a money shot but 'twasn't to be.

I don't know why I try.
(Actually, yes, I do know why:
There's an inexplicable moment of hope with every staged shot.
And also?
The failures are really, really funny to me.
I just love the drama.
Lucky for me I have four girls.)

Maybe for Christmas I'll get one snap of everyone smiling.

Without fingers in anyone's nose. Or crossed eyes.

Or cross tempers.
Or open mouths to say 'let's go already, Mom'

I can call it, that photo, when it happens, my Christmas miracle.

Ah. The landscape. It only needs light to be cheerful.

We managed to dodge a couple of inches' worth of raindrops
on our pumpkin patch and corn maze adventure.

It felt as though the wagon would blow away.

But it didn't.

Laura had to point out the "doyt." She wanted a clean pumpkin.

Who raised this dirt-averse country child?

She actually cried over the mud on her boots.


And then some more tears because we couldn't take home a goat.
Disconnect, anyone?
The pumpkin is dirty but the goat isn't?

Look! Up in the sky! It's another...


Not that this is remotely pumpkin- or corn-related...
they just liked feeding the goats.

But we liked the hot cocoa and kettle corn and Grandma time the most.

Our friend Zoe (the tallest girl in that farmgirl photo above) joined us.
She's practically a member of our family.

Except, you know, her own family loves her a lot too.

This little girl is not only not related to us -- we don't even know her.
I just thought she was too cute panning for gold in her purple boots.

I love family days. Don't you?

Monday, October 18, 2010


Did I mention it was all birthdays, all the time, around here?

It's good to take time to be happy.

To wear our fanciest fancies or our comfiest jeans -- or both.

To picnic on the floor.

To pass the baby around.

And around.

Until he's ready for daddy time.

It's good for cousins watch the game.
(And for those on wine glass patrol -- that definitely didn't belong to the girls!).

It's good to make some wishes, blow out some candles.
And it's good to have enough children to help when the wind
requirement is more than aging lungs can manage.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Three birthdays and a funeral

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
-William Blake

We attended a memorial service last weekend for a wonderful neighbor who's gone to be with Jesus. Losing Barbara Brewer was a poignant reminder to cherish the birthdays, indeed all the days, while we have them. Losing her was also a reminder to wear lipstick whenever you feel like it, not just when there may be cameras.

Barbara was virtual mom and grandma and visiting nurse to many. Organic farmers and ranchers before it was marketable, she and her husband Joe are legends in our rural community. They founded the volunteer fire station and hosted probably thousands of agricultural college students on their ranch. She taught Sunday school and called me and dozens of others with prayer chain notices. She played piano and had beautiful posture and a stunning family. She spent her last days encouraging others. The photos shared at her service showed a pretty girl growing into an amazing woman. Her life and death were inspirational in the true sense of the word, spirit breathed into life.

I can't tell you how many fun August afternoons the girls and I spent picking blueberries or grapes in Barbara's yard overlooking acres and acres of rolling hay fields. My littlest would always find a kitten and Barbara would always encourage us to take it home with the yummy fruit. Looking back I know the most important thing we took home with us was the memory of her hospitable way of life, her metaphorical and literal open arms and welcoming front porch.

Losing Barbara made me miss my grandmother all over again. It made me think about homemaking as an art again. It made me grateful (again) to have moved to the country, where neighbors can be your family too.

We celebrated three family birthdays this last week as well. My husband, myself, my mom. Joy and sorrow intertwine and a tapestry of life emerges.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So THAT's why one bagel costs $1.25!

oldGluten intolerance notwithstanding, we Suite family members love our bagels. When we do venture into a college town near us, we enjoy a splurge at a local bagel shop as much as the next Scrabble-playing girl.

And while we have for years been okay with baking a loaf of yeast bread (or five), making homemade bagels seemed too ... mysterious ... for us.

Until this week!
This was the week I donned one of my trusty vintage aprons and my courage. I cracked the Betty Crocker for procedural help and began with a yeasty bread dough of my own non-recipe.

(Roughly four cups of white flour, one cup of whole wheat. Two eggs. A cup or so of warm raw milk and a couple tablespoons of melted butter. Three teaspoons of yeast. Some kosher salt. Knead until your shoulders hurt. Rest. (The dough and yourself.) Let rise in a covered bowl until roughly double in size. Or, you know, use your bread machine on "dough" and a recipe. Whatever your modern homesteading heart desires.)

An hour or two later, split the risen dough into two, then each of those into six equal parts.

Roll each lump of slightly stiff dough into a ball and then make a hole in the middle. Stretch the little lump into a sort of a bagel shape. Contemplate this shape as a metaphor for a stage of life, an icon of ... something. (Not really. It seemed funny to me at the time.)

Check to make sure the baby is still asleep because you have a lot of steps left before you have bagels.

After the bagel-shaped lumps of dough have risen for about 20 minutes, broil them about two minutes per side. Betty says they're not supposed to brown. But I didn't read ahead, so mine did. Oh dear.

Meanwhile boil six cups of water, Betty says, with a tablespoon of sugar. Next time I'll boil more water in a bigger pot or else use multiple pots.
Pop the broiled bagels into your boiling/simmering water for seven minutes. I turned mine over halfway through because, hello, they floated like tiny life preservers. I promise I'm not speaking metaphorically again. A bagel is good, but it's not that good.

After they're all boiled, bake on a well-buttered (Betty says "greased" but that word grosses me out) sheet for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Imagine you've died and gone to a bagel shop.

Imagine all the varieties you'll make next time. Blueberry. Onion. Cranberry. Parmesan. Not necessarily together.

Toasting optional!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

There's the book budget to consider

It may be obvious from my (lack of) posting schedule that things in real life have been busy.
Twice a week we leave our home to study and play and exercise with friends
in a modern version of a one-room schoolhouse.
Four times a month we leave our home to serve at a rural food ministry.
And every once in a while we leave our home because we need provisions
... what the non-pioneering-obsessed like to call groceries
and animal feed and the odd cleaning supplies.
But the one thing I'm actually willing to leave home for?
When we run out of books.

I have, like every mom I know, a long "to do" list. Mine these days is a little homemakery, homesteady (ooh, homesteady; I may have a new favorite imaginary word).

During different times of my life I've preferred the "done" list.

It can be encouraging to sit down at the end of a day or a week and list what one has done. You know, other than eating bon bons.

If I were questioning whether I'd accomplished anything I might make a "done" list. A self-administered pat on the back.

But these days? I am acutely aware of moments of mute powerlessness,
of my innate weakness
and, for crying out loud, my humanity.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm still supermom and all. A-hem.)

I keep a "to do" list these days because otherwise I might FORGET that I have anything to do other than play with the baby. Read to the toddler. Sneak in an hour of writing or photography.
Bake something.
Harvest the autumn garden in a sunny mood.

I might forget that the big girls have persuasive essays to finish
and instruments on which to practice. I might forget that the electricity bill is due
and the prescription for someone's glasses needs to be rechecked.

There's a new forgetfulness, even vagueness, about me that seems awfully inconvenient
given that I'm responsible for the education and feeding
and general state of the laundry of five children.

Give me an afternoon at home and I'd better have that chalkboard list, my calendar and computer nearby. Or else I might just while away the day just being. Without doing anything.

Not exactly superhuman of me. But it's pretty human, I think.

What do you think?