Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Coming

Morning shadows on the farm ~
We are in full decorating mode. This year I set the Christmas village up on the front porch. Not quite finished yet.
I think I need Julia's help.
We bought a new artificial tree at WalMart. It's not huge (6.5 feet), but we have quite a small house.
Our previous tree (4 feet) went on the front porch with the kids' decorations.
You know how it is -- the decorated parts of the house look lovely, but the REST of the house looks like this:
Adam is doing his live garlands for the front of the house again. He snipped cedar branches:


And he assembled them with florist wire on the porch. I must say, we've used that porch a lot since he enclosed it!
He's been leaf-gathering again. 'Tis the season of mulch-making! He even drives the truck to other people's houses, with the lawn mower, and mows and bags their leaves, and hauls them back to the farm for his compost pile. He's committed!
He's also working on our floor in the dining room. It had some "soft spots" -- dry rot. He painted on some wood sealer/hardener of some sort, and then filled the spaces with a wood filler. The areas are now quite hard and solid to walk on. He also sanded this high-traffic area. Next we will pick out a stained polyurethane. The whitish parts won't show then.
We took time out for a little date last night at Aggie's for our usual cheeseburgers and fries after I got off work. Adam is writing his Christmas cards. I used to send out Christmas letters years ago, but then we all got email, so I stopped :)
One day this week I let the chickens into the orchard to forage. It was a bit tricky getting them back into their enclosed yard/coop.
Here is Punkin, and Punkin's back. She has a bare spot with no feathers. It looks rather bad, but it is not raw or bleeding. She is Bernie's favorite, so he pulls her feathers out like this. It doesn't seem to do her any harm, but it does worry me a bit. I know if she's ever bleeding, the other hens will peck her quite badly, so I keep an eye on it.
There is absolutely nothing green growing in their yard (thus the foray into the orchard), so I usually throw them a handful of something over their fence. I feel so sorry for them, with nothing green to eat! I've discovered they love sorrel but dislike collards and turn their beaks up at lettuce.
And now for something darling. This is a little boy from my work place. He made a paper airplane. Look at the words.
Can you figure out what he's written? Pretty clever! He's only in 1st grade.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Few Pretty Things

 A rose from a friend's garden last Saturday. Yes, we have roses in November, and even December.
I took a series of shots of these two boats on the river as they approached each other, as they met/overlapped, and afterward.
 This may not be very pretty in the technical sense, but it is lovely to me! This is the old-fashioned food mill I bought at the thrift store for $5. I made applesauce at work with the children, and oh my!! It worked like a charm! So much easier than my other hand-crank food mill, plus this one is much easier to clean, and gentler on aging hands. I used 6 lbs. of apples this day, half Granny Smith and half some other small red, hard apple.
 I loved watching the applesauce come gloop-glooping down the cone.
 I'm weaving again. Julia told me I need to do bright scarves, not these dull, muted autumn colors I love. Haha! So here's one:
 I'm doing a very loose weave so that the warp yarns can stand out and be seen.
Here they are, below:
 This is a fun, fast scarf.
 Speaking of colorful, yesterday at work, I had the children make these easy wreaths -- "thankful hands" or something like that :) I traced the hands and copied them onto colored construction paper.
 They cut the hands out, and then we glued them together as wreaths. Some of the kids wrote names of people they're thankful for, on the hands.
 This morning Adam and I went to the church to prepare the Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. I set up the long table (for 20 people) while Adam fiddled with turkey and ham in the kitchen.
It is very truly fall now. Cool outside. A skim of ice was on the chickens' water this morning in their yard. I've graduated from listening to Handel's Messiah to Bing Crosby. Soon I'll snuggle into the sofa for an evening of White Christmas and wish very much that Anna were here. ((heavy sigh))
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

'Tis the Season!

This is my mother-in-law's home in Holdrege, Nebraska. Isn't it picture-perfect? She always does such a lovely job of decorating for Christmas!
We don't have any snow here, of course. We are pressing on toward Thanksgiving. Sunday evening, the Oriental community gathered at the Catholic Church (because they have the biggest sanctuary) for the Thanksgiving Service as we do each year. They also decorate well!
 Adam was one of six pastors seated up front. Each man played a part in the service.This year Adam read the liturgy.
 Today (Tuesday) is my last day of work this week. Wednesday I'll bake a pumpkin pie. Thursday morning I'll make my mother's out-of-this-world sweet potato casserole, plus a green bean casserole. Adam will spend the morning at the church preparing turkey, ham, gravy, and dinner rolls for the feast ... and at 2:00 about 18 of us will gather in the fellowship hall for a large, wonderful Thanksgiving meal. It's a great event each year, and I'm looking forward to it again!
Our church ended up packing 37 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes this year. That's more than last year, but not back up to our all-time high :) That's just one more part of our season of thanks, of giving, of celebration, and of worship.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Humble Steamed Egg

We've talked before about the delights of a morning boiled egg, remember? I enjoyed the insights of many readers about their childhood experiences with eggs, egg cups, accompanying toast. That was fun! That was nearly two years ago. (Two years? How can it have been two years?)

Now we have our own fresh eggs -- big round eggs with yolks the color of a huge harvest moon.
Adam read about steaming eggs. He steams lots of things; steaming is fast, efficient, and low-calorie. He steams whole potatoes. He steams wheat berries too. Years ago we collected Revere Ware pots at thrift stores, so we have a decent set for steaming:
You could even use both steamers in a stack, in a crunch on Thanksgiving when burners are in high demand!
When we use Ruby's big eggs, seven minutes is needed for a perfect soft-center egg, provided it is plopped immediately in cold water to arrest cooking (say, for a salad). But if I want a piping-hot soft-center Ruby egg, 6.5 minutes is perfect, and not a second more. If it's a smaller egg from Ethel, Lucy, or Punkin, I lift the egg out at 6 minutes.
That was yesterday's egg, almost overcooked in the yolk. See how it is gel-like? The yolk is deep orange, creamy, and tasty. The white is perfectly cooked. I peel just the top, lift off the cap of white, and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the glowing yolk, and stir it in. Eggs need salt.
 This was my egg five minutes ago :) I stopped it a few seconds earlier; its yolk is a little runnier. Lovely with Adam's fresh bread toast with peach jam.
This is still my favorite egg cup lady! Julia asked this morning if she is Humpty Dumpty's wife, haha! But I have quite a nice collection of egg cups, thanks to a dear friend.
If you have a good steamer arrangement, try a steamed egg soon -- you won't regret it!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Working

I'm blogging less, and I've decided it's because I'm working. I've been working at this afterschool program for kids since August, 2015, so it's not a new thing. But gradually ... it's affected my blogging. My mind used to hover over our home life like a dragonfly, always looking for things to tell you about, always thinking and assessing matters. Now my mind spends a lot of time evaluating how much my legs hurt today, what I have to prepare for the kids at work today, how much time I have before I have to leave for work, and am I relaxing enough before I do so I'll have the energy. After work ... I come home and konk out.
Mornings are my fun time!
Adam gets an early start to maximize his mornings before naptime. He's nearly finished this roofing job. It's such a sad-looking, plain-Jane building right now, but I do have hopes for it. We will paint the exterior something very happy. Today I continued hacking back the weed trees and vines around it. I removed the horrible canna lilies in front and put in some elephant ears and daffodil bulbs.
There's a little chimney stack on the back that Adam's flashing today. Someday I picture this as an adorable little cottage with shutters on the two windows, and maybe a tiny porch on that front, and a little woodburner inside (using that chimney). Cozy with soft chairs and a day bed. I don't know that we'll ever be able to run water out there, but if we did, wouldn't that be delightful? A tiny kitchen! A teeny-tiny bath! One can dream.
 Just like last year, our squatty crabapple tree is blooming just before the first frost.
Silly tree.
 This is my tarragon in the herb bed. I read that it's quite hardy through winter here, so in the ground it will stay.
 In the photo below, the cinnamon basil is in the back (kind of purpley) and is about zapped by cold and ready to give up the ghost. The green in front is the lemonbalm. All summer it's been overshadowed by that basil, but now it will have a few months to recover itself and take over. It's winter-hardy too.
 Some of our prettiest fall color is in the vines on the pecan trees.

In other parts of life, all is well. My biopsy at the surgeon's came back as a harmless lipoma, and I don't need to remove it unless it becomes unsightly or uncomfortable. Adam is doing fine and working harder than ever. Our church is doing well lately. We've had several new couples begin to attend regularly in the past 6 months to a year, and that's both a joy and an encouragement. This week I completed all the onerous steps to getting Julia admitted to UNC Asheville for next fall. She knows a few people there, so has chosen that school. She hopes to be an art major (no surprise).

I still teach my ladies' Bible study each Monday morning. Adam and I enjoy our weekly date to Aggie's, the local burger/sandwich place in town. Philip and Kara are coming for Christmas, which delights my heart! And Peter and Shani (who are engaged -- I put that on Facebook -- did I share it here as well? -- well, now you know!!) are coming too, which will be fabulous! A houseful, and I will have a full heart also. I have a Facebook Messenger chat with Anna about once a week to catch up with her life. Aside from burning her feet really badly with a hot water bottle a couple of weeks ago, she is doing very well. Considering she moved alone to a faraway culture, started a new career, and found herself an apartment ... I'm very proud of all she's done. I don't think most people could have done it with such apparent ease. She's a pretty amazing girl.

A scattered post, and some of this news is mostly designed for family who read here, and with whom I don't keep in good contact.  Frankly, I don't seem to do anything different, i.e. "photo-worthy," these days. I toodle around the farm, watch Adam work, collect eggs, tidy the house, work with children each day, and crash in the evenings. Any of you living on a hamster wheel too?

Friday, November 11, 2016

My Apologies

I've been quite negligent of my blog. I've started writing three -- count them, three! -- posts, and not published them. One was on the political fervor. One was on spiritual matters. One was a poem. None were quite fit to print.

Plus, I must admit, it's my favorite time of year: Autumn!!! And I love to be outside in the cool and crisp. My mind is engaged in the sheer beauty of the slanted morning light across light fog, and the fact that I might need to wear gloves but certainly a jacket. Pecans are littering the ground. We had a frost warning a few nights ago. In the pitch black Adam and I went to the garden with a flashlight and picked every single green tomato, and brought them inside.
I did this once with my mother in the mountains. We wrapped the larger tomatoes in newspaper, placed them gingerly in cardboard boxes in her dark laundry room, and ate them as they ripened. I think they lasted till Christmas. These are smaller fruit and more numerous.
In other news, Julia colored her hair strawberry blond. I think it's pretty. And I'm so glad it's not green or blue, for now.
I'm slogging through the chore of getting her graduated from high school in December, and admitted to community college (as a regular student) in January, and then admitted to university next fall. It's a lot of tedious work with online applications
The front porch is such a pleasure!
 By noon it is the kind of dry, toasty warm out there that makes you want to snooze, the kind of warm a kitty cat would love. I ate lunch out there yesterday, and then worked on reassembling a broken seashell wind chime.
 It's so peaceful, even with the cars going past. The extra barriers dull the sound though, and the privacy there now makes it quite restful. I've been knitting again for the winter farmers' market:
Scarves, scarves, and more scarves. It appears that the huge cowl neck look is in, more than ever.
Adam is working so hard in the garden, preparing it for next spring. He wants beds and fence and everything to be ready to go. I'll post more about that soon on the farm blog.
Yesterday I went to town to get a biopsy on a lump on my back -- nothing to worry about! It is almost certainly just a fatty lipoma, but the surgeon wants to be sure about it because of my family history. And today I'm off work for Veterans Day (yippee!!), so I'm relaxing and enjoying the day.

 I just had a long, sweet talk with Anna in Japan. I miss her so. Happily, she will be spending Christmas with Kesse, her cousin who also teaches in Japan. That is a great relief to me. I can't bear to think of her being lonely there. Anna burned her feet rather badly about a week ago. She had a mean run-in with a hot water bottle. She did go to the hospital and has been carefully tending to her feet. I admonished her lovingly as a mother should, and told her to be sure to go back to the doctor again after her medicated wrappings are used up. One must be careful with feet.

Love to all! Enjoy autumn!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Search for the Perfect Winter Beverage

I long for a hot beverage in wintertime, and Adam has striven to provide it. But I have such stringent criteria!
1) It cannot have caffeine.
2) It cannot be a heavy milky drink. (I like hot cocoa and such drinks occasionally, but not nightly.)
3) I do not like coffee.
4)I dislike most decaffeinated teas, like green teas and fruity teas.
Finally Adam found the perfect hot drink, and it's so simple:

3/8 of a lemon (3 wedges)
1 Tbspn of honey
1 clove
Boiling water

This is a refreshing drink. The hot lemon gives it a complex taste, but not tart. I don't always like honey in drinks, but the lemon balances it well. Adam likes more lemon and more clove in his. And I love that this drink is both healthy and low-calorie. Give it a try next time you need something hot to drink, and don't want the same-old coffee or tea.