Thursday, August 30, 2012

Two Little Girls and One Dead Turkey

From the beginning of The Turkey Project, I was worried about how Two Little Girls were going to respond. I prepared myself for dramatic tears and declarations of vegetarianism. I assumed it would be ugly. After all, they are both old enough to remember five months ago, when those little baby turkeys were adorable, fluffy, inquisitive little creatures that they could hold in their hands and nuzzle softly.

I was worried for nothing. When the time came to butcher our birds, the girls were excited as all get out. Not that we weren't all a bit sad, too, but they were just so interested in the whole process that it far outweighed the sadness, and the prospect of good turkey meat for many dinners to come helped, too.

I vetoed having them in the barn during the actual killing. When they tried to spy through a crack in the door, I shooed them away. It wasn't that they were thrilled with the idea of murdering a turkey, it was simply that the whole idea of how it would happen was fascinating to them.

As soon as the bird was dispatched, and we carried it into the shop to process it, the girls were in there with us. As The Daddy pulled the guts out, the comments and questions came pouring out. They saw firsthand the trachea, the gullet (which we cut open to show them the food still inside), the heart and liver. Not only did they see them all, but they touched them. Hands clad in rubber gloves, they loved touching the different parts. They noted that the gullet was surprisingly hard, that the lungs were particularly bloody and fragile, and that everything was still very warm. They held the feet and examined them (before giving them to the dogs), got to see what hollow bones look like, and were able to see up close how a ball and socket joint works.

There was also much talk about exactly how we were going to cook him, and how good he would taste.

Are they scarred for life? Absolutely not. They're not even refusing to eat meat. In fact, I think they are far better off on many levels for having been a part of this experience.

Most of us, throughout middle and high school, dissected a number of different animals. I remember crawdads, frogs, and even a cat. I also remember being thoroughly disgusted with the entire project, but there was one reason for that: we were made to think it was a disgusting activity. The kids in the upper grades talked about how awful it was. The teachers even told us that it was coming with a hint of dismay. It was assumed we would all be grossed out, and so we were (or at least, the girls were.) It was simply expected.

You see, I think it's all about the approach. We never hinted to the girls that this would be a 'gross' or 'disgusting' endeavor. It simply 'was'. We never required or forced them to have any part of it. If they didn't want to eat turkey this fall, I wouldn't make them. But, being already quite homeschool-minded, they viewed the whole process as educational. They asked a million questions, and we did our best to answer them. When we didn't know, we tried to figure out the answer together. They were indubitably thrilled when we finally got around to cutting open the gizzard, so that they could see the rocks which the turkey had swallowed in order to digest his food.

The much anticipated Opening of the Gizzard - 
note the rocks inside.
As they got bored, we certainly didn't make them stay. The Oldest stuck around for part of the plucking of the second turkey, decided she didn't particularly care for plucking, and just hung out for a bit before going out to ride her bike. Littlest One happily plucked for as long as we let her. By the third bird, both were more interested in feeding feet to the dogs, chasing their laying hens around, and just playing the way little farm girls do, and that was fine.

The other reason that I really feel like this was a healthy experience is that I know for certain that my daughters will forever appreciate every piece of meat that is set in front of them at the dinner table. For five months, they fed and watered the turkeys each day. They lifted Turkey Boy into the coop at night when he could no longer get in alone, and eventually built him a bridge to make his life easier and more comfortable. They treated all three with great respect, if not necessarily love, until the ends of their lives. Having walked this journey, they now have no doubt exactly what is involved in putting food on the table in front of them, and they will forever have a deeper appreciation for it.

There are few cultures like ours, where children are so far removed from their food that some don't even realize that "chicken" actually comes from a dead chicken, and that "turkey" is actually just that - a turkey. On so many levels, I really think that is sad.

So no, I don't think my girls are scarred. I think they are far better off for this experience. I doubt they will ever be quite as fascinated as they were this year, and I'm not sure I could ever require them to help with the processing of meat (unless it is an animal they hunt and shoot themselves.) But I think over the course of several years of this, they will have the skills necessary to accomplish it if needed, and they will always appreciate, maybe a bit more than other people, the food that is set before them.
Miscellaneous thoughts on the subject:

*When you bring the birds home, DO NOT NAME THEM! Not even "Thanksgiving" and "Christmas" or "Thigh" and "Breast". Call them turkeys. Names bring forth perceived personalities, and personalities make them friends.

*Begin referring to them as "food" immediately. Discuss what will happen, preferably before they take up residence in your brooder. Address concerns, sadness and uncertainties frankly and honestly, but compassionately.

*Provide pets. When The Oldest was upset at the thought of her sweet white poult eventually being eaten, we agreed to adopt a new batch of laying hens. This gave her something new to love and invest her emotions in. Adding a couple of little banty hens to the flock was not an expensive or difficult thing to do, and it, eh, smoothed ruffled feathers quite well.

*Do let your kids help care for the poultry. They should know, firsthand, how much work goes into raising birds, whether it be for eating or for laying. This is where the appreciation factor comes in.

*Don't force them to take part in anything that makes them uncomfortable. If you intend to raise meat birds year after year, there is a good chance they will eventually be comfortable with the whole deal and will learn the process. Some kids can handle this all right away, others can't. Don't push them.

*If you can, start them young. Littlest One has seen animals butchered since she was two years old. It doesn't even register as anything disgusting to her, it's simply how her meat is prepared. And she does like her steaks. Blood, bones, raw meat, even a severed head - none of that stuff fazes her because she's grown up with it.

*Use it as a learning experience. There is no greater way to learn than hands-on; even public schools will admit that. If they want to touch, let them. If they want to help, encourage it (even if it makes the process take hours longer than it would otherwise.) If they would rather just watch, allow it, and always answer questions as well as you can.

*Go into it without prior expectations. Don't assume that they will feel any certain way. Kids, as a general rule, want to live up to their parents' expectations. If you have no expectations, they will be free to react as they will. When they do, be compassionate, and be honest.

*Do discuss the importance of respecting the turkey's life, and that his life was taken to sustain theirs.

Obviously, I'm no expert. These are just things I learned over the past months, raising and butchering our own meat alongside my children. I'm sure there will be folks who disagree with me, and I would be thrilled to hear any other suggestions folks with more experience have to offer. 

This post is linked up at The Prairie Homestead's Weekly Barn Hop. If you have any homestead-related posts to share, be sure to link up as well!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes on Turkey Processing

 I remember being about eight or ten years old, on a camping and fishing trip with my family. My father, like any good and decent father, decided he was not going to raise a young lady who was incapable of gutting fish. And like any reasonable little girl, I reacted with hysterics.

It was a really bad day. I'm still not sure I've forgiven him.
Based on my past history, I suppose it's rather surprising that I now willingly take part in the butchering of animals at home.

Today was T-Day. Our turkeys, which we raised up from day-old poults, were starting to get too big to keep around. We raised a broad-breasted white tom and two broad-breasted bronze hens. (We'll get into the ethics of meat breeds some other day.)

I should warn you now that if you're a vegetarian, or if you're happier not knowing how your meat makes it to your table, you should stop here. Go find a blog about puppies or butterflies or something. You'll be much happier.

I think I'm going to divide this blog up into three parts, since I have discovered butchering turkeys in this fashion is a multi-faceted endeavor. (This means that you, the reader, get to read about dying turkeys for three days! I knew you'd be excited.)

Before we went out to take care of business, I found this blog by Braided Bower Farm and was immensely grateful that they had taken the time to write it. It's honest, to the point, and pretty well covers the whole process from beginning to end for the average home butchers. So if you're here looking for info on butchering a turkey, I encourage you to head that direction. The rest of this blog will be the notes I would add to it.

*We read the way Braided Bower Farm accomplished their killing, tried it, then improvised a bit. I think it's worth mentioning. We laced a rope through the rafters in the barn and hung a 5 gallon bucket from it. In the bottom of that five gallon bucket, hubby cut a turkey-head sized hole. Putting the turkey headfirst into the bucket, with the head coming out of the hole, worked something like an extra large killing cone, keeping the bird from flapping wildly as it bleeds out.

*Another five gallon bucket was placed beneath the bird-bucket to catch the blood. The amount of blood kind of surprised me. I was expecting a slow dribble. In reality, when the neck was slit, it sounded like someone turned a garden hose on in the bucket.

*Yes, sounded. I didn't watch. I'm a weenie. I held the rope keeping the bird suspended, but I closed my eyes for the actual slitting of the throat. I raised these birds from day-old poults! I felt kind of terrible. But only kind of.

*If you can find somewhere indoors to work, it's worth it. Yellow jackets in the fall are desperate for meat, which is what you are working with. Best not to risk being stung while you cut and slice with sharp knives. There are also flies, which are generally nasty. We used the shop. With the windows open. Because butchering anything doesn't smell very good.

*In the toolbox: a broad-bladed skinning knife, a narrow boning knife, and a sharpener; some needle nosed pliers and/or tweezers for removing bits of feathers; bandaids and triple-antibiotic ointment in case your husband slices his finger open (oops.); a bucket or other disposal method for guts, feathers, skin, and other bits that you won't be keeping to eat; a large trash bag to cover the table and keep clean-up simple.

*We didn't boil/scald the bird to pluck it. If you've ever plucked geese before, plucking turkeys is a breeze. With two of us working, it took less than half an hour to have the bird plucked clean.

*Determine whether it is really worth the effort to pluck. Obviously, if you want a roasted Thanksgiving turkey, you'll want the skin on. But if you'd just as soon bake a breast now and then, or cut up the thigh to use in soups or pot pies, skinning the bird might make more sense. We did both. It's also easier to find freezer space for pieces of a turkey than whole turkeys.

*I wrapped the meat first in plastic wrap, then in a double layer of freezer paper. I feel pretty confident this will work. For the whole bird, which weighed 20 pounds dressed out, I wrapped with about fourteen layers of plastic wrap, then a double layer of freezer paper. This was akin to wrapping a Christmas present with absolutely no rhyme or reason to its shape. It wasn't pretty. But it was well-wrapped, and will hopefully taste great on our Thanksgiving table.

*From the 40 pound tom, we ended up with 20 pounds of meat once he was dressed out and the meat removed from the carcass. The breasts weighed 6 pounds each. From the 25 pound hen, we ended up with about 12 pounds of meat. It's safe to assume that you'll end up eating about 50 percent of the bird's live weight.

*I saved the carcasses, necks, and wings from the cut-up birds to make broth.

*We also saved the feet for the dogs, who were thrilled with the treat.

I suppose that's about all I have to add for notes. Next to come will be processing meat with children around, and the ethics and morals behind it all. Stay tuned... you know you want to. ;o)

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Start of the School Year Panic

Oh my goodness, I've taught them NOTHING for WEEKS!

I'm pretty sure every homeschooling mother feels this way occasionally, when life just gets too busy for "school". At least, I like to think they do, because otherwise I'd feel painfully alone, and very much like a failure.

We do sit down school most of the time. Okay, some of the time. Eh, well, once in awhile I go through a spurt and have them sitting down working on workbooks. Sometimes.

Unschooling scares me. I need more order and control than that. I can't be an unschooler! How will my children ever learn math, or grammar, or the history of the world, if I let life be their teacher?

And then I talk to other homeschooling mothers who are ordering a year's worth of curriculum in every subject for their children right now, and realized I have ordered nothing. We're still finishing up last year's math books. We finished The Oldest's English book, and I have no plans for what will come next.

And there isn't time! We are racing through our day, putting up veggies and cooking and handling chores and horse-shopping and stuff. Surely horse shopping is far more important than the 7's mulitplication tables. Isn't it?

I'm in a state of minor panic. How are these children going to be successful wives and mothers if I'm not sitting down for six hours a day teaching them things they need to know? How will my kindergartener succeed in life if we don't have time for construction paper crafts and finger painting? What about all these other homeschool families that are gearing up for a new school year with fresh new school books to crack open for the first time, and wonderfully organized schedules to follow? We can't compare to that. I'd love to start school at 8 o'clock every morning, but there are animals to feed and play with, and stalls to clean and veggies to pick, and some days we don't even have breakfast until 9.

Breathe. I am going to stop freaking out, rejoice in the brilliance of my children, though it may not be "standardized brilliance" and I'm going to be grateful for the lessons our lives teach us. Because while this life doesn't offer up a whole lot of long division, it offers so much learning in so many other areas, the kind of learning that only a life up here can give them. And right now, that's going to be good enough. I'm going to let them enjoy the new life we are living up here for awhile. They are little, and they are excited and happy. There will be time for other things later.

And I'll keep telling myself that every day, until I actually embrace it. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

South Dakota National Parks: Junior Rangers

If you ever make it to any of our nation's National Parks, and are a homeschooling family, make sure you check out the Junior Ranger Program. It's an absolute must.

Admittedly, it takes a whole lot of extra time, but the level of learning just cannot be found in any other way. They are there. They can see, smell, touch their surroundings, and the Junior Ranger program encourages them to look at all the tiny details they would otherwise glance right over.

If you visit a park ranger, they will give your kids a workbook, based on their age. The program usually includes kids ages five to twelve, and there are different requirements for finishing based on how old they are. The workbook is filled with activities that require them to walk through visitor centers and read the displays, search for details, and answer questions. They cover all kinds of history and science and social studies, and some of them really make kids think. Many of the programs require a hike or walk through the area, where they will complete a 'scavenger hunt' while looking for little bits of nature around them.

Usually, in order to complete the program and receive a badge, you are also required to attend a ranger talk, walk, or other program. We learned years ago how educational these can be - rangers are full of information specific to their park, and they love to share it - especially with kids. On our trip, we spent an hour being led through a cave, we listened to a talk about fossils (complete with real fossils to look at and touch) and we attended a walk around Mt. Rushmore where we were taught about the history and geology of the project.

When the book is all finished, and you've attended your ranger program, your kids take their books back to the visitor center where they are presented with a certificate and a Junior Ranger badge. They are also required to take an oath that they will do their best to preserve America's lands and share their newfound information with family and friends.

My girls earned three badges on this trip. First, we visited Jewel Cave National Monument:

Since the ranger leading the walk knew they were working on their Junior Ranger badges, she gave them the honor of occasionally leading our tour group to different locations. They loved this.

And of course, The Daddy and I are were just as fascinated (if not a little more) than the girls were with all the cave formations we saw. Really neat stuff down there - definitely worth the time if you are in the area, and aren't claustrophobic.

After that, we drove through Badlands National Park. It has it's own kind of beauty, though it's not far off from what we have here in Western Colorado. The colors were more impressive though. I did buy some yarn as my trip souvenir in the colors of the Badlands. :-) 

Next, we visited Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. It's awe-inspiring, the way the mountain was carved. You don't really have any idea just how huge it is until you are there and actually seeing it.

And after all those, we took a quick scenic drive through Custer State Park. While not a National Park, Custer does have a Junior Naturalist program available for kids too. I was a little bummed we couldn't spend more time there, as I think this area might have been my favorite out of everything we saw. Wildlife abound...

And who can resist pushy donkeys that actually stick their heads in your car begging for treats?
We sure can't.
We drove all the way through, looking at the Needles, and driving along narrow, twisting roads and low, one-lane tunnels. I would have loved to have just stopped and spent a day or two hiking and looking and taking it all in. The plethora of different geological formations all through South Dakota is so impressive.

We're blessed here in the west to have so many different National Parks within driving distance, but I know they are scattered all over our country. So if you're looking for a really neat, hands on way to teach your kids some stuff about the world they live in, definitely go check them out. Each one has something different to offer!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Earlier this summer I spent half an hour digging up this area near my front porch, fluffing the soil, adding compost and perlite, and then planting some iris bulbs from my mother-in-law's garden.

Promptly after I finished, a certain little puppy came along, removed every single iris, piled them off to the side, and trampled down the soft dirt. It is now his favorite sleeping spot - cool and in the shade.
It's a good thing I love him so much... I'm going to have to live without flowers until he grows up a bit! But puppies are better than flowers, anyway. Flowers don't drip slobber down your boots, and who could live without that?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Crafty Kiddos

 Charlotte Mason was a big proponent of teaching kids 'handiworks'. I can see why. If they're working on something, it keeps them sitting. In one place. Without screaming and yelling. And I'm all about that.

It also gives them something useful to do when they otherwise would just be sitting around, like on car rides back and forth to The Big City, daily quiet time, story times, or during a movie.

The Oldest has wanted to learn to embroider for a very long time now. I finally got around to teaching her what little I know about it, a simple satin stitch and a chain stitch. She is embroidering the front of a pillow for her favorite stuffed cat, Luna. 

Sometimes I'm amazed at how much patience she can have. Every stitch was carefully placed. She kept the work as neat as a nine year old possibly could, and really stuck with it.

Littlest One - being as she is the Littlest One, and therefore must always find a way to do things like her big sister - was taught to finger knit. It's a simple process, though I wasn't sure if she'd be ready for it yet. Boy, did I underestimate her ability! Once she figured it out, she really took off with it.
One headband finished for herself, one finished for a friend, and now she's making one for the friend's mom... she has plans of handing out headbands to every woman and girl she knows for Christmas this year.

I love giving them something like this to do. We don't do "paper crafting" very often, because we honestly don't have that kind of time. There aren't construction paper art projects cluttering my fridge and walls, we don't do a lot of gluing cereal and cotton balls to paper for the purpose of calling it school. But these kinds of crafts are useful ones. They can take these skills and turn them into something beautiful and useful, and something to give to someone else. Those are the kinds of crafts I like seeing them learn.

We had a little talk about setting goals as the girls were working. I told them how, when I knit or clean house or anything else, I set little goals for myself. I tell myself "I'm going to finish four inches of this sleeve" or "I'm going to clean for fifteen minutes in the bathroom" before I get tired and take a break. Each of them set a goal - The Oldest to finish all the petals of her flower, Littlest One to finish one headband. When they reached their goal, they got to feel that little sense of satisfaction at having completed something without giving up first. I hope that's a habit they will continue throughout their lives. The tiniest goals set and met will eventually provide big results!

While I'm posting pictures, here's a photo of Littlest One's hair wrap. I did them a week or so ago while the girls sat and watched a movie on a lazy Saturday morning. I let them each pick out the colors they'd have, and two charms to hang on the end. Littlest One has a hummingbird and the letter C, and The Oldest has a horse charm and the letter C.

I remember doing these a lot when I was a kid - it was fun to recreate it with them. We didn't knot the whole thing down the way we did when I was young though, these are just wrapped and knotted every so often, so they will come out when they get tired of them. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Growing and Using Fresh Beets

I didn't have the pleasure of tasting fresh beets until I grew them in my own garden. Apparently not a lot of people buy and cook fresh beets... probably because (if they're anything like me) they don't know what to do with them. The only way I had beets as a kid was pickled, from a can. They weren't my favorite... though admittedly, no vegetable was my favorite as a kid. I'm not sure what was wrong with me. I'm glad I outgrew it.

Since then, beets have turned into one of my favorites. Who knew such sweetness could come from an ugly ol' root that you pull out of the ground?

And they're easy to grow. I don't think I've ever not had success growing beets. They're relatively insect-proof, they survive if you forget to water, and they can handle both hot and cold temps. Here's what I've learned about growing beets:

*The seed is actually a small pod. When it sprouts, it will likely produce five or six little sprouts. Pull out all but one.
*Plant early. March is good in most areas - about the same time you plant brassicas (broccoli, etc.) If you plant a row every two weeks, you'll have fresh beets all summer (though sprouting seeds is usually hard in the hot, dry months.) If you want to can beets for later use, plant a big patch all at the same time.
*You can eat beets at any size. Golf-ball sized beets are the most tender, but even as much as three inches across, you can roast them and they will still taste great.
*Beet greens are essentially the same thing as Swiss chard. Cut the leaves at any time - the beet root will still keep growing, so long as you leave a few leaves on each plant. Toss the greens with some olive oil and garlic and saute them a bit for a great side veggie. Or, if you're drowning in beet greens, freeze them as you would spinach. They're great in soups and casseroles.

Variety matters. Depending on what you're going to do with your beets, choose a variety that suits your plans. Here are my favorites (I believe all of these are available through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and many other places):

*Bull's Blood - a dark purple-red root, this one is easiest for peeling if you're going to be putting them up for winter. It also stains the worst though.
*Golden - these ones are great for serving raw or roasting. They are perfect for messy kids, since they don't stain like the red beets do. They are a bit hard to sprout, so plant a few extra. I think goldens are my favorite, in general.
*Chioggia (candy cane) - If you want to impress your kids, the novelty of having a red and white striped beet is fun. The colors do run together a bit when they're cooked, but that doesn't take away from how pretty they are.
*Detroit Dark Red - if you want a dark red roasting beet, this is a good one. Doesn't peel as easy as Bull's Blood though. It has an "earthy" flavor that some of the others lack, if you like that sort of thing. I love mixing the Detroits, Goldens, and Chioggias when I cook, so I grow plenty of each of them.
*Crosby Egyptian - these ones are neat because they grow very much on top of the soil. You can tell how big your beets are getting just by looking, instead of having to dig around them every so often.

Beets will store For. Ever. Well, not forever. But for a really long time.

*When storing, leave about an inch of the tops and leave the long tap root.
*You can put them in a plastic bag in the fridge for months. Don't seal the bag, they need to breathe or they will mold.
*Try storing them in a root cellar or basement, in a container filled with damp sand. Don't forget to let them breathe. When I tried this, I had fresh beets into February the next year.
*If your beets feel a little soft after storage, put them in the fridge in a bowl of water for a day or two. They will firm back up.
*Beets can be frozen or pickled and canned, too.
*To freeze or can beets, you want to peel them first. Do this by putting them in boiling water for about half an hour. The skins will slip of fairly easily (or very easily with Bull's Blood) and the beet will be fork tender. Then slice, chop, or whatever, and put them by however you choose.
*When canning, a pound of beets is about a pint preserved. A 5 sq. ft. beet bed will easily produce 30 pounds of beets or more, and more greens than you could ever eat. 

Also worth noting:

*Beets will dye things red. This is useful if you have a skein of handspun yarn that you want to be pink or red. This is not as useful if you have a four year old, who will also be dyed pink or red.
*If you're going to can and/or freeze beets, go buy a stack of black kitchen towels. Unless you want your favorite rooster-printed kitchen towels to have a permanent pink tinge to them. 

My favorite beet recipe:

Roasted Beets

Cut the tops and taproots off of enough beets to feed your family. Expect them to eat a lot, so plan accordingly. (Usually 2 medium sized beets per person is good. Or more. They'll probably keep eating them as long as they are on the table.)

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the raw beets. Then slice them into 1/4-1/2" wedges.

In a glass baking dish, toss the beet wedges with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, enough to coat them liberally. Sprinkle with dehydrated, granulated garlic (or garlic powder), dried oregano, and salt and pepper.
Roast uncovered in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Check them every so often and give them a stir to make sure they cook evenly. They are done when they can be stabbed easily with a fork.

The tangy taste of the vinegar mixed with the sweetness of the beets is really impressive. My kids devour these sort of like candy.


While it's harder to sprout beet seeds in the summer, August is the perfect time to plant if you want a fall beet harvest. Just so ya know. ;-)

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Giant Cabbage

I've never grown cabbage before. Mostly because it takes up more space than what I had readily available in my garden in The Big City, and also because... well, honestly, I don't really like cabbage all that much. Nor does anyone in my family get particularly excited about it.

But now that we live in The Tiny Little Town, with more garden space than I know what to do with, cabbage made it onto the "To Try" list this year. Really, I just wanted to see it grow.

And it's fun to watch - what start out as a couple of tiny little leaves, in a few months are enormous leaves that spread wide and far, with a little head growing in the center. And that little head, before you know it, turns into a Very Large Head.
I should've picked it a long time ago, yes. But I didn't know what to do with it. We've made coleslaw, I'm making Chinese chicken salad for dinner tonight... and that's with the little 2 /12 pound cabbage I picked last week.

This one weighs in at over 6 pounds.

Umm... oops?

Really, it's a shame we don't like sauerkraut. 

My aunt does that - plants things just to see them grow. Then she gives away whatever she harvests. When you garden as much for the fun and satisfaction of growing things as you do for the food you produce, I think that just happens.

I've still got six more cabbages in the garden (the horse trampled the other four. I wasn't happy about it then, but I don't mind anymore.) I guess I better start finding volunteers to take some of it off my hands, because my family isn't going to be impressed if we eat nothing but cabbage for the next month, and I don't think summer cabbage stores well in a root cellar.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Moment to Breathe

 It's been a busy weekend. There is always so much to do, so much work to be completed when The Daddy is off. But sometimes it all has to be shoved aside so we can just enjoy this life up in the mountains. The work will always be there. These girls are growing up too fast, and time must be taken to stop, and breathe, and watch them grow.

And there is no better place for this than the great outdoors... outdoors that doesn't involve taming goats or feeding peach scraps to chickens, or weeding gardens or baking.
 We packed up a quick picnic dinner, threw it in the back of the truck with the fishing poles, loaded up the kids and the lab-dog, and drove the fifteen minutes to a nearby lake.

We wandered and explored a trail up the side of a hill, surrounded by the smell of spruce and damp forest earth. The aspens whispered stories to us as we picked our way through the rocks, watching Two Little Girls skip and run and collect sticks and hold mini-races along the way.
 Watching these girls outdoors like this is probably my Very Favorite Activity. I love the way they fly along the path, arms stretched out - truly spreading their wings. I love how they see some tiny little thing and they stop abruptly to inspect. I love listening to them play dinosaur or horse, and I love hearing what they think about as we walk along. Both of these girls are so truly in their element in places like this.
 On the way back to the lake, we stopped at a raspberry patch for a quick snack. If you've never picked raspberries from the canes growing on the side of a forest trail, you haven't really lived.
 When we finished our hike, we settled down by the lake to drown some worms. Clearly, the fish were more interested in the gnats and the mosquitoes landing on the surface than they were in the worms we were offering. But that's okay, because Two Little Girls were more interested in more rapsberries and trying to tame marmots than they were in fishing. It worked out just fine.
 Sometimes we forget to stop and take these breaks. We love what we are doing up here, all of our farming chores that usually feel more like play than like work. But these moments, the ones free of any direction, are still so important.

Must. Not. Forget. To. Breathe.