Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So I went hunting...

I think my husband fantasizes about having a wife that hunts. Always one to try to fulfill his fantasies, I went along with him for the first three days of archery elk season this year. I wasn't out to shoot anything, but just to come along and see what it's all about.

I got all decked out in camo. Camo on women is not attractive. I'm pretty sure Tiffany Lakosky is the only woman who can make camo look hot.

But anyway.

I got all decked out in camo and I trekked all over a mountain behind my husband. He's not one to stick to the trails, making it a less-than-easy hike. I learned quickly that I should stay several steps behind, after being whapped in the face repeatedly by branches he was pushing past. We whispered when we had to speak, we stood very still and listened a lot. I saw bugs bigger and scarier than any bugs I've ever found in my garden. I learned that just about every forest plant has thorns or stickers of some kind, and most of them really hurt when they get stuck in your socks. I saw mores species of mushrooms than ever before, making me really wish I'd had a mushroom field guide to take along. I learned that elk are highly elusive creatures. I experienced hiking up a mountain in the dark, sitting on the ground -in the dark- and learned to suck it up and just not think about what kinds of creatures might be crawling up my back as I sat there unable to see.

All of that was alright. I enjoyed the hiking, however strenuous it may have been. What I was not expecting - and did not enjoy - was the 'Sit Still and Be Quiet' part. I mean, I knew I'd have to do that. I just didn't realize how boring it was going to be. Two hours of sitting and watching nothing happen at a pond in the woods was enough to drive me to the edge of insanity. There are a lot of things I'm pretty good at. Sitting still for any length of time doesn't fall into that repertoire. Neither does being quiet. Both at the same time? Pure misery.

I'm glad I went along. It's nice knowing what he's doing while he's gone for a week at a time and then returns (hopefully) with a few hundred pounds of meat. However, I'm perfectly content to stay home and can tomatoes and wait for him to arrive with said hunk of meat. I'd love to get to watch him shoot something - not for the enjoyment of watching an animal die, but for the enjoyment of watching my husband do the one thing that thrills him more than any other. But I don't have the patience to Sit Still and Be Quiet long enough to ever see that happen.

So no, he didn't shoot anything while I was out with him. But he has the rest of this week, and a few of the days on his next week off, to shoot our yearly supply of meat, and if we're lucky, bring me a bear skin rug. I'm heading up tomorrow with the girls to hang out at his camp. We'll be of no use to him, and might actually make things more difficult, but I'll jump on any excuse to avoid housework and sit outside in the sunshine. Be back in a few days, hope everyone has a lovely week!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - Week Two

It's been a weird summer. No one's tomatoes are ripening yet, and I've only had a few compared to what I'm normally harvesting by this time of year.

But my Early Girls are finally starting to ripen, and I used a couple of them today in the recipe for Raw Spaghetti Sauce I'm posting for this week's Garden to Table Challenge post, along with some garlic and basil from the garden and a few other simple ingredients.

My sister in law made this sauce last week, and I had the pleasure of sampling it while I was out at her house last weekend. Raw food "concoctions" scare me - usually because they involve some version of avocado, my Most Hated Food. If I'm going to eat something raw, I'll take it in it's original form, thanks. But this sauce is different. It doesn't taste like health food, it's just really yummy, and happens to be really good for you too. No one can deny the benefits of raw vegetables, and this sauce makes it easy to eat a lot of them.

The recipe is from How We All Went Raw, a raw foods cookbook that I've had the pleasure of flipping through. If you're interested in adding more raw foods to your diet, I highly recommend checking it out - it's full of recipes for cooking all kinds of "normal" things, using raw ingredients instead of cooked.

Anyway, on to the recipe -

Raw Spaghetti Sauce
2 cloves garlic
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 c fresh basil
1/4 c fresh oregano
1 tsp sea salt

Put all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

Now, if you're looking for a simmered-all-day, chock full of Italian sausage and pepperoni, hearty sort of sauce, clearly this is not it. Tossed with some homemade pasta, it's great for a light, summer evening meal though, with tons of flavor and not all the heavy ingredients in most spaghetti sauces. It's also really fantastic as a dip for bread, or maybe grilled cheese sandwiches.

Two things in my kitchen come as accepted fact. 1)I am incapable of following a recipe and 2) I will never have all of the ingredients a recipe requires. Based on those two facts, I made a few changes to the recipe. I used a couple of tablespoons of organic tomato paste instead of the sun dried tomatoes, because I didn't have any. I used a couple of teaspoons of dried oregano, because I killed my oregano plant. I thought the two cloves of garlic that I peeled looked kind of puny, so I used four cloves instead. When I make this again, I'll also add a chunk of onion and maybe half a bell pepper and see how it turns out. While I won't promise it'll work, I can't think of any reason this sauce wouldn't freeze well, making it a great 'convenience food'.

Happy cooking.... or, well, blending.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A friendly reminder

It has not been a great week. Okay, well, most of the week has been just fine. The past two days though, have been pretty ugly. I was sobbing and lamenting to my husband via email last night that I can't even remember why I bother with doing things the way we do, from gardening to preserving to homeschooling.

Tonight I took Cora out to McDonald's for what has become our weekly Friday night ritual. We had the pleasure (ha ha) of sitting behind four middle-aged elementary school teachers who were apparently out for their end-of-the-first-week bitch fest.

It was irritating, to be certain, but it was a blessing. I clearly remember now why I homeschool. One talked about how she found a little boy and a little girl locked in a bathroom stall together with their pants down - at SEVEN years old! Another laughed about how she'd found her own seven year old son kissing a little girl. Oh my good gracious.
Another was lamenting to the others about how hard it is to keep fifty kids under control when there are only two teachers in the room. Now, I don't doubt it's a heckuva job to teach that many kids at once, but for heaven's sake, why on earth do they have to? If only there were more teachers.... or more homeschoolers.
I listened to them gripe about everything from poorly disciplined children who make it hard for the other kids to learn, to how to decide how much to dumb things down for one particular kid, trading "time out" techniques and how best to avoid having to do hands-on projects because they are too much of a hassle.

Thanks, ladies. If had forgotten why on earth I keep my children at home with me all day, every day, without a break.... well, now I remember.

Disclaimer: I in no way mean to insult these women. I don't doubt for one second how hard their job is, between unruly kids, learning difficulties, monstrous class sizes, uninvolved parents and limited funding and materials. I think the whole learning/schooling system is messed up, but I do commend public school teachers for their efforts to make the most of what they're given.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Growing Up and Independence

Ask any mother, and she will tell you that children simply grow up too fast.

Thus is not the case with my sweet Bigger Girl. Not that I'm going to complain - much - but she's always been slower than most when it comes to big feats of independence. It's just her personality, and I try not to let it frustrate me. I should appreciate it, right, this extended period of "I need Mommy"?

Tonight, we had another Breakthrough of Independence.

My kiddo gave herself a bath without any help.

Now, don't laugh too much. If it weren't for her super-thick, waist-length hair, we could've accomplished this years ago. But it really is kind of tough to wash that much hair, and we've been working for awhile now on getting her to do it well without help.

For half an hour this evening, I got to sit and play with Littler Girl while her sister happily played and washed in the tub. And at the end of it all, I was still dry and Bigger Girl was proud of her accomplishment. Man, oh man, am I glad it finally worked out!

Sadly, Littler Girl is not afflicted with the same Anti-Independent gene. And so she was screaming and crying when the shampoo got in her eyes because "I'm a big girl too. I can wash myself too. I don't need your help." Gah, it's a shame we can't join the two together and get them growing up at just the right speed, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - Week One

Wendy over at Greenish Thumb posted a challenge that sounds like fun, so I'm jumping in since the Kinder Gardens challenge is over. (Totally fell off the bandwagon with that one. Blogging in the summer is so hard!)

Anyway, the goal is to share seasonal recipes that make good use of homegrown or locally grown veggies. If I'm being honest, most of the meals in our house consist of stir-fried garden veggies and a starch, or stir-fried garden veggies and elk steaks. But once in awhile, I do like to have something a little different.

This week's recipe focuses on fresh sweet corn. If you're from around here, you know that Olathe farmers grow the best sweet corn in all the world. It's common to find trucks on the side of the road selling corn 4 for a dollar, or even 10 for a dollar if you're lucky. I don't grow my own corn - we just dont' have the space to justify it. But I do grow onions, leeks, garlic, turnips and basil, so this makes good use of some of our harvest.

Summer Corn Chowder (original recipe from Colorado Farmer's Market Cookbook. I altered it a little to fit us.)

1 stick butter
1 medium onion
2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small potatoes, chopped
4 small turnips, chopped
6 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off, cobs milked
1 1/2 cups raw goat's milk
1 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and leeks, cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the potatoes, turnips, corn and corn "milk", and basil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the milk and broth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 40 minutes, till potatoes and turnips are fork-tender.

*Disclaimer: I am NOT a great photographer, and especially not with food.
This soup tastes way better than it looks in my pathetic photo.

If anyone else wants to join in, I'm sure she'd love to have you! I look forward to getting some new recipes to try as the garden harvest starts pouring in.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Garden Pictures

Because garden pictures make me happy...

"Mommy? I want to eat this pepper."
"You can't just eat a pepper, sweetheart. It's not
like an apple."

"Okay, then. Maybe you can. Is it good?"
"Mmmmm Hmmm."

The girls planted beans this year, and they're growing out of control. I put an old sunflower stalk in their garden for the beans to grow on. It finally snapped in half under the weight of them. Now, it's the perfect height for little girls to do their own bean harvesting again.

C'mon over to our house, where we garden in our underwear.

"Mommy. I found a really big bean!"

This time of year makes for some enormous vegetables - the ones that managed to hide long enough that they just keep growing and growing until we finally find them.

Even the sunflowers are huge this year, almost up to the phone lines.
Funny how kids just love anything that grows to be enormous.
"Mommy? This carrot has flowers."
"Ew, don't eat that. It won't taste very good."

Aside from the thick core down the middle, she did end up eating it all.

I think I'm going to stop making dinner. They'd probably be more content to sit in the garden and eat whatever they can reach off the vines.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poor Me.

I'm gonna whine for just a minute.

It has been one heck of a week. It was the first week of school. Both girls have colds, so we've only managed to squeeze in a lesson here and there between long bouts of laying on the couch, sneezing everywhere and a constant flow of nasal mucous.

My basement flooded, and I've been dealing with slightly rude flood clean-up guys for the past four days. They keep saying they're going to be here at a certain time, and they don't show up. It's finally cleaned up and put back together, but it was definitely a hassle. And the chemicals from the carpet cleaner give me a headache.

I'm supposed to be having a yard sale this weekend. The ad is already paid for, so I can't back out. That means there is junk piled high all over my house, awaiting the sale on Saturday. Junk and clutter irritate me. And of course, the Two Little Girls keep pulling things from the yard sale pile, trying to negotiate with me about selling them. I've now got the yard sale piles covered with sheets.

My dog - who is fully potty trained and has always been reliable - has pooped in the basement twice, and peed on my bed, and all over the kitchen.

Added to the toddler that still keeps pooping in her underwear and occasionally peeing wherever she happens to be standing, I am SO done cleaning it all up.

Two Little Girls are usually pretty well behaved and get along beautifully. Today, they have been replaced by Satan's spawn. Snotty attitudes, fighting and arguing and yelling, talking back and refusing to do anything I ask them to. Let's all pray tonight that Satan takes back his spawn and returns my sweet children.

I bought fifty pounds of peaches this afternoon at farmer's market, because I'd promised the farmer I'd be there this week to do so. Every time I walk into the kitchen, those fifty pounds of peaches are staring at me, taunting me, reminding that I'm crazy.

My birthday is only two days away, and birthdays depress me. Thinking about being Closer To Thirty kind of makes me want to cry.

Alright, I'm done whining. When the peaches are canned and the yard sale is over and I'm Closer To Thirty, when the snot stops running and Two Little Girls remember how to behave, and when I find a way to keep all the excrement contained, I'll feel much better.

So just in case you were wondering, life's not always perfect here, either. :o)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Homeschool Crafty Goodness

Our character study today was about obedience. It was based on Proverbs 15:3 "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." Nothing like scaring a kid into by telling her God is always watching her.

But anyway.

On our schedule today was craft time, but I wasn't prepared for it - I had no idea what craft we were even going to do, let alone any supplies. I checked out familyfun.com for some ideas and found this neat little weaving project. We may not have a good stock of craft supplies right now, but yarn is one thing that is never in short supply in this house. And after yesterday's storm, plenty of sticks were lying about in the yard. It took a bit of practice for her to get the weaving down, but it turned out to be a pretty neat project, especially with some leftover Noro Kureyon yarn.

If you clicked on the link, did you notice the name of the project is God's-Eye? I totally didn't catch the connection until Chloe pointed it out - she decided that it must be called God's Eye weaving because it goes all around and covers everything, just like the verse from our character study.

Love it when totally unintentional, but really cool correlations happen during our homeschool adventures.

Of course, Littlest One had to get in on the action - if you're looking to entertain your toddler, teach her to wind yarn around a stick. It takes some practice, but it'll keep her busy for a good long time.
Disclaimer: please ignore the disaster area behind my kid in this photo. Remember the flood? Yeah well, it might be as much as a week before we can move all of Chloe's junk back down into her room. Until then, we're just living with the mess.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's raining, it's pouring.... it's flooding.

The other night, we read On The Banks of Plum Creek, chapter 14 - the chapter when the spring rains flood Plum Creek, and Laura describes the pelting, driving rain and the roaring sound of the creek as it floods over the banks and up to their little dugout house.

As the rain came pouring down today, Chloe was reliving Laura's story. When we looked out the window, we could no longer see the sidewalk. What used to be a street now resembled a fast-running river.

The lady at the flood clean-up place said it's the heaviest rain she's seen in 20 years.

Yes, that's right - flood clean up place. After the storm dissipated, I went down to put away laundry in Chloe's basement bedroom and discovered a very wet floor. The carpet was saturated and the storage/laundry area of the basement was covered in two inches of mud. Rain is a good thing... until it comes inside.
I attempted shop-vac-ing the water out, but that proved to be ridiculous. I gave up and called my husband in a mild panic. He gave fantastic advice - call a flood clean up crew, sit down, put my feet up, and have a drink. He gives good advice, doesn't he?

The flood guys came. Three hours later, they had the water all removed and there are fans and dehumidifiers running in the basement. The carpet pad will have to be replaced when they come back in a day or two. They shoveled out the thick layer of sediment and got everything pretty well cleaned up.

I'm really glad he suggested that, because it would've been an overwhelming task for me to take on alone!

So now, we wait for them to come back tomorrow to check the progress of the fans. In the meantime, Chloe's happy to be sleeping in my bed, and all of her belongings are in the living room.

It's gonna take a week to recover, between the stress and the mess. I'm just glad the worst of it is over now! Of course, we haven't gotten the bill yet...

Oh. Yeah. And today was the first day of school. Aside from the catastrophe in the basement, it was actually a really good day. :o)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cora's Three!

With every birthday that comes to pass, I'm a little bit more amazed at how time flies. How did my sweet Littlest One already get to be three years old?

We had a "leggy bug" party for her, with just a few friends and family. We learned that there really is no limit to how many kids can fit into a kiddie pool...

There was dancing, limbo, Pin the Spots on the Leggy Bug, and the Slip 'n Slide.

And of course, there was a cake.

I should mention that -yes- we did make the lady bug pink on purpose. When we were picking out party decorations, she had to choose between a realistic red lady bug or the pink one. She picked pink. Chloe told her, "Ladybugs aren't pink, Cora." Cora pointed to the one on the plates and said, "That one is." So pink it was.

And of course, if you're a three year old little girl, even the cake must be pink.

She had a grand time picking all the border shells off of the cake and eating them.

When we talked about the party, she was expecting the cake. She was expecting singing and dancing and music and games and friends. There was one thing that came as a total surprise though -


She had no idea people would bring presents, and then when they did, she didn't realize they were from her. When she opened the first one, and we said it was from Violet, she opened it, then tried to give it to Violet. Never did it cross her mind that she might get to keep it for her own. It was the sweetest thing - this will probably be the last year that the presents aren't the most exciting part of the party to her. She was just thrilled to have her friends around her and eat a fancy cake, she didn't realize there was anything more coming. Love baby innocence.

So my baby girl turned three, and I just sit here in awe as she sleeps next to me. She's sweet and silly and funny and smart, and I love the little person she's turning out to be.

Friday, August 13, 2010


There are a lot of great things my husband is. Spontaneous is not generally one of them. But that wasn't the case last night...

We had finished dinner, gone to farmer's market, and were enjoying fresh peaches over ice cream for dessert. He mentioned that it was possibly the last night to view the Perseid meteor shower. He said it would be fun to drive up to Divide Road at three o'clock in the morning so we could get a great view. I told him I wasn't so sure I wanted to drive two hours to view meteors at three o'clock in the morning. But why not drive up now and sleep up there?

And so we did. We packed the girls and the sleeping bags into the van and found a nice spot up on the Uncompahgre Plateau, out in the open and overlooking a canyon. We didn't bother setting up the tent - our purpose was to look at stars - so we put the girls to bed in the back of the van and just set up our bed on the ground.

I've never just slept out in the open like that before. You'd think, being as I'm a girl who's terrified of bugs, that I'd have a hard time sleeping with the thought of bugs creeping on me at night running through my head. But honestly, once it's completely dark and all you can hear are the night sounds of the outdoors, thoughts of wild beasts crawling into bed with you completely outweigh the fear of bugs.

It was so worth it! I've never seen a sky that beautiful, so full of stars, very little moonlight and no trees to block our view. It's easy to feel very small and insignificant when you can really see just how vast the sky really is. We could see planets and constellations and satellites and the Milky Way and a few dozen shooting stars between the two of us.

I find it a bit amusing that our children didn't question our sanity in any of this. They are just always willing to go along and see what adventure comes next. They got a nice little astronomy lesson, and Chloe got to see her first shooting star. Calling it a homeschool field trip makes it seem far more reasonable.

I woke up around 3 am to the sound of owls talking back and forth. Clearly, owls aren't at all concerned about whether or not they are waking campers in their forests - those birds are noisy. Each had a very distinct call - one would shout, another would answer, and then one far away would add in his two cents. Owls make lovely background music to a very active night sky, especially when accompanied by coyotes yipping every so often.

It was definitely the shortest camping trip we've ever gone on - about 12 hours total - but it certainly will be one of the most remembered!

Has anyone else out there been able to enjoy the meteor shower this year? It may still be visible tonight, if you're in the mood to get up in the middle of the night to see it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Spoke too soon...

Remember in my last blog post, how I was enjoying the relaxation that came with this part of summer, when I wasn't spending every afternoon canning?

Ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha.

That was before we picked apricots at the neighbor's house...

This is just one of the four baskets we filled - twenty two pounds in all. Love generous neighbors.

Also love having a hard working little girl that willingly washed and pitted nearly all of them for me!

Of course, it wasn't just apricots - we've got tomatoes coming on now, and cucumbers that were discovered hiding in the vines. And then the neighbor brought over four huge zucchini and a couple more cukes for us.

In two afternoons, we put up

one batch of apricot jam
3 quarts plus 3 pints of apricots in syrup
1 pint of dehydrated apricots
2 pints of crushed tomatoes
3 pints of bread and butter pickles
3 pints of zucchini pickles

Certainly not a bad start to the canning season. Sadly, afternoons spent relaxing in the sunshine and watching the girls play are long gone - it's all uphill from here!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Getting started...

I love this time of year, when the summer crops are just beginning to come on, and I can easily keep up with the preservation of the excess without getting overwhelmed and stressed out.

Every afternoon, I chop a few peppers, dice a few tomatoes, and pack them neatly in the freezer. I might put up a jar of refrigerator pickles or whip up a batch of pesto for the freezer, but I'm not yet having to spend hours slaving in a hot kitchen. This is when food preservation is fun.

The first pitcher-full of pesto ready for the freezer - our version
of convenience food!

I laughed out loud when I read Kristin's post from 2008, because that's exactly what I know is coming. I wait and wait and wait for ripe tomatoes, and then I'll whine and bitch and complain after I've spent six weeks canning tomatoes every afternoon.

For now though, I'm enjoying the little bit of work that comes with knowing we'll be eating garden tomatoes well into the winter. And I'm enjoying the delicious meals that keep finding their way to my table.