Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Little Room that Does it All

You know it's true.

I've started a number of projects on this lil' ol' blog and have a handful of them just waiting for me to get back to and call it a wrap.

There's the time the cows came home.  But, first, they ran away.  I've only written Part I. I've been told it's moooo-ving.  Right.

Libby got a facelift. I promised a nice set a spell on the front porch with photos.  But then I painted the front door.  And I don't like how it turned out.  I haven't re-painted it.  So we wait.

January, the month of beginnings, brought the start of a mini series about personal finances.

And, if my math is right, I'm still short five out of 31 Days of Green Acres.

Here's how this all fits together.
I'm doing a little "housecleaning"- for real, and in my blog content.
Spring has been long in coming and winter needs clearing out.
So, as I sort, purge, reorganize, and get new projects started, I'm evaluating many of my loose ends.

Turns out that more than once I've said I'd offer a photo tour of this old farmhouse, but have only posted scattered images.

And, I've been participating all along over at Edie's:

Here's the connection.

Today's link up is about our homes.  What have we been doing to live more intentionally in our houses, apartments, townhomes, and yurts.  

Well, I haven't seen anybody link up with a yurt, but that would be way awesome!

So, would you like to come on in? Not only do I long to be more hospitable, today's link up offers an opportunity to purposefully make good on one of too many unfulfilled commitments.

I've got one space in particular I've been working on since September.  Yup, for for-eveh.
We have a zero budget decorating policy around these parts, so everything you see is thrifted, a dumpster score, or built in our shop.  
And, when I say that, it makes me giggle that I've given this space a name with such gravitas.

The Library.

She doesn't take herself all that seriously.
Furthermore, it is not lost on me that she doesn't hold that many books.
But, that's what we named her when we moved in and it stuck.

She's an office, therapy center, conference room, reading nook, coloring space, filing center, refuge, retreat, sick room, and music room.

Early mornings she and I settle into each other for prayer, scripture reading, coffee, and contemplation.

At midday she graciously accepts more stacks of paper to be added to my helter skelter administrative system.

Evenings she welcomes me to write, talk with kids or Weekend Farmer Hubby, and often catch up on email and social media.

She's a jack of all trades and is gracious enough to be master of none.

Formerly a bedroom.
Still a work in progress.


Two final images for you:

The final frontier- once I've sorted a few other areas, these shelves will be full of handy books and supplies for home education.  Oh yeah- I forgot.  I'm on the lookout for the perfect light fixture.  The bare bulb just isn't rocking my world.  But, it does light my world.

And, lastly, a nod to the master ( tee- hee )!

Tell me, where've you seen this before?


Thursday, April 18, 2013

He Calms the Storm

We've been working on an important project at Liberty Farm.
And, should we succeed, it will revolutionize life together.

It's something that we've been dealing with for almost 21 years.
And finally, it wore us (me), out and it's time came.

Six children, hundreds of thunderstorms, bad dreams, and itchy pajamas later, Weekend Farmer Husband and I are no longer allowing our youngest to share our bed and middle of the night snuggle time.

This is revolutionary on many levels, but foremost is physical.
I can feel my arms when I wake up.
I sleep several uninterrupted hours in a row.
Clarity of mind is easier to achieve without constant sleep deprivation.
My preschooler is less irritable because she's getting better sleep.
And, the sanctity and precious nature of our marriage bed is being resorted.

Except for last night.

Dinner by candlelight during power outage

Hours and hours of pouring rain and rolling thunder made a symphony of the night, and the littlest among us was undone.

We allowed her to suck her thumb.
We gave her "special" blankets.
She slept with a flashlight.
Her kitties curled into her side and offered their warmth and comfort.

And none of that was enough.

So, when she came and whimpered in her fear that she was come apart, her loving father made room for her, drew her near, and assured her of his protection.

And she rested.
Satisfied and safe.

The storm didn't abate.
In fact, although we're not being pelted at the moment, dark clouds are gathered in the sky, and will release themselves on us soon.

Still, she sleeps.

And I'm reminded how for the Christian, we too have an open invitation to crawl right up next to God the Father, broken, needy, weary, and undone.  Amass with fear and the failure of self soothing, we have endless access to comfort, mercy, tenderness, care, love, and rest.

This changes how I pray and how I think.
Life is stormy.
And all too frequently, I too find myself undone.

For so long I've had a habit of soldiering on, and like we've done many times with our littlest, sought immediate comfort measures.

But, they've been of my own making and built on foundations of sand.
Prone to being swept away by the stormy winds and surges.

I'm learning to run to Abba Father, God the Most High, quickly and often, and seek comfort and courage in His presence.

And although storm clouds gather - literally and figuratively, I've a shelter in the storm.

Lyrics here.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Flavorful, Succulent, Tender - Every Time

You've noticed haven't you, that the demand for locally raised, sustainably produced, fresh, real, whole, and flavorful food is on the rise?

And, you've also observed that there's a surge of interest in homestead practices, self sufficiency, earth keeping, participation in co-ops and markets, natural non toxic products, all things homemade or handmade,  and farm shares, right?

In fact, I think there's a word that's been adopted to try and capture the essence of some of these practices, and although I've not mentioned everything the word implies, much of what I've written is included when someone describes themselves as "crunchy". It's kind of fun reading through the urban dictionary and other sources when you put "crunchy" in the search bar!

When Weekend Farmer Husband and I made our big move to Liberty Farm, being crunchy was completely off the radar.

That was then.

Now, we at many levels talk the talk and walk the walk.

Why this long introduction that has nothing to do with the title of this post?
Well, first, if you've been here very long, you know that's typical.
Second, it's important that you know that much of what follows comes out of a vast share-house of people like you and me who are interested in the same topics, and have written and shared extensively on their success, failure, and practices.
So, what I'm about to record is a compilation of many generous sources.

For the last three years we have raised Freedom Ranger chickens to fill our freezer and eventually our bellies.  We purchase our chicks here, and if you visit the website, you'll get an easy overview of the breed and their distinctives.

They are quite large when finished. They are big breasted, long legged, with substantial thighs.  So, it's taken some getting used to when cooking.

If I remember the following steps, our dinner is flavorful, succulent, and tender - every time.  (phew, you were wondering weren't you if I'd ever get there?!)

  • First, and I'm coming to believe most importantly, give these birds plenteous time to defrost.  Like days.  If it's a whole chicken I have it in my refrigerator for up to 5-7 days just slowly thawing, tissues softening. If I've been flighty - right- when I'm flighty and I forget to plan ahead, I sometimes rush this process, and without fail the meat is less flavorful and not as tender. Chicken should be tightly wrapped.
  • Second, use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.  For me this began because my oven does not have a thermostat (no joke), so the temperature is not well regulated.  I have learned to cook by "feel" until such time as we replace the oven.  And, my trusty partner is an oven thermometer that can endure the heat of the oven and give me feedback about doneness. Your "normal" super store chicken is quite a bit smaller with more moisture injected into its tissues, so they cook much faster.  Which leads me to my next point.
  • Third, allow enough cooking time.  These birds (given my particular wonky oven) take up to 1/3rd longer than the name brand chicken I used to get from my grocery store.
  • Fourth, be generous with oil or butter when preparing your bird.  I've come to love butter for oven roasting chicken, and let me tell 'ya, even Paula Deen would be shocked by the amount of butter I use!
  • Fifth, get your chicken started in a hot oven.  450 degrees. Then, back the temperature off to 350-375 for the remainder of the cooking time.  If my oven isn't behaving too schizo, I keep it hot for about 25 minutes, and then finish out at the lower temperature. (Most of the birds I prepare for our family are between 6.5 and 7 lbs.  Yup, you read that right.  Smaller birds = less time)
  • Sixth, once your wonderfully aromatic chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, pull that golden masterpiece out of the oven, discretely wipe the corners of your mouth because you're starting to drool. Wait. That's just me. Let the bird "rest". At least 10 minutes before carving.
  • Seventh, keep in mind that I am an intuitive cook.  I rarely consult recipes and am prone to cook and create from what's available in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.  If what I've written is not detailed enough, use your mighty computer to source more specifics.  I'll link some helpful info at the end of this post to get you started!
  • Eight, if a whole bird is too much for you (and there are many reasons why that could be - no guilt, I promise), fire up your YouTube channel, sharpen your knives, put on an apron (I like cute and colorful ones), and watch and learn how to portion up a whole chicken.  
Ignore the straight face and focus on the cute apron.  It was Monday. And February.  And I live in the North.  Brr.
  • You then have options.  Dark meat in stews or soups.  Breasts on the grill or in a spicy pasta dish.  Endless opportunities.  Remember - plan ahead for defrosting.  In my family, this approach requires me to defrost three whole birds, but the variety and flexibility of using different part of the chicken at different times make the refrigerator space and time worth it. 
What? you're wondering if I have a restaurant size refrigerator?  Mwahahahaaaaah! Nope. I have a humble 16 year old "regular" refrigerator.  Maybe even a lot like yours?

  • Ninth and finally, keep trying.  It's taken me awhile to fine tune my process to accommodate for the different kind of bird and meat than I'd been accustomed to.  Commit to the value of the product, the practical ideology of supporting your local farmer, and the nutritional benefits of whole, real food.  No experience is ever wasted, and if you end up with a mealtime bust, clear the table, whip up some scrambled eggs, or bread and cheese, or whatever. Shred the chicken, turn it into soup, salad, or casserole, and purpose to try again.  You won't regret it.
Okay, my fellow crunchies and crunchy wannabes - join the conversation! Share your best pins, Aunt Ginny's no fail recipe, or your questions.  Please? We'll all be the better for it, and so will supper.


Link to the You Tube channel with myriad tutorials on cutting up whole chickens here.
This is an informative blog post about the chickens I reference and we use the same practices at Liberty Farm.  Bonus - specific recipe included!
Many of these tips are a repeat, but it's sometimes helpful when sources independently confirm each other.
This post has lots of comparable information as well, but toward the bottom there's a yummy looking recipe for a split roasted chicken.  Will definitely be trying this!
And, last but not least, this a a magazine article reprinted from Alice Water's (a queen bee crunchy if you ask me...) The Art of Simple Food.

Note: Although I've read each of the posts above, I've not explored the each blog in depth - maybe you'll come back and tell me what you found?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reluctant Quiet

Quiet here.

I find quiet challenging.
My thought life is always "noisy", and writing, being with you, editing photos, and bearing testimony to the good news of the gospel in my life is something I crave. It helps cultivate the "noisy" into something productive.  Redeemed, maybe?

I'm trying to make my peace with no time to write, no chance to make connections here.
I've somewhat always subscribed to the truism that you make time for what's important - how can I have so many important things that keep me away from other important things?

I don't particularly join in the camp of mommies needing to make time for themselves, but I do think some things do need to have hierarchy, or a balance of priority in our lives.  Like brushing my teeth.
(Which, some days, seems too much, frankly.)

So far in this quiet I've kept my commitment to exercise regularly, read well (much to my chagrin it's been mostly online - books are much better for me), and keep some sort of sleep schedule.

Somebody's been practicing tying knots on momma's shoes!

But, that seems to be all the discretionary time I have.
I have to admit I'm a little nervous about this as we've got nothing in the ground, since our Northern climate has yet to yield to warmth, and we have very few animals on the farm.  We need our pastures to "wake up" in order to feed them!

If I can't wiggle my schedule around now (with fewer commitments), how will I ever make it through our busy season?

A long winter/late spring is keeping us cooped up, and I think to some degree is the culprit in a perpetual cycle of both low level and acute illness that keeps visiting us. I should not underrate the impact of always having illness in the home.  None of it is serious.  All of it exacts it's price.

Gah- the price, appears for now, to be quiet.
So, I'm reluctantly paying up.
Trusting that the ticker tape of words that scrolls just behind my eyeballs will be just as vital when it comes time to write it down as it was when it first appeared.

Tending to our home, serving the needs of viral achy bodies, cultivating patience, and making peace with quiet are the markers on the trail right now.

Time to get my boots on and start walking the journey of another day.