Sunday, September 30, 2012

And Off She Goes!

Remember that post from earlier this summer, where I talk about my sweet, cautious kiddo walking ever-so-slowly through all the events at her 4-H gymkhana?

Heh. Yeah. Once again, she's proven to me that she is not one to be rushed, but that when she is good and ready, she can do anything she sets her mind to.

We've officially gone from, "C'mon, Chloe, trot!" to "Whoa, slow down!"

See that? She's loping! She has finally discovered what fun it is to sit astride a running horse... and now it's all she wants to do.

Yes, it makes my Mama-heart skip a beat. But it also thrills me to see her having so much fun with Angel, and to see the confidence she's gaining.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fall Splendor

It's fall up here on our mountain... a little earlier than normal, even. It's amazing to think that we are so blessed to live in a place where folks come just to look at the colors of the trees. Our little piece of paradise is surrounded on all sides by hills and mountains just covered in golden aspen and red oak. Truly, a glorious view.

But we decided to go for a drive the other day, and immerse ourselves in the colors of fall. And it was beautiful.

This whole country is covered in fall splendor right about now, but my Colorado heart is certain there is nothing more beautiful than mountain after mountain glowing with aspen. 

 Happy Fall, everyone!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cream of Wheat

My kids were starting to get a little jealous of my homemade pumpkin spice latte habit. They kept asking if they could have one too, and while I try to be a pretty nice mom, I'm not nice enough to give them coffee first thing in the morning. (Or ever. Just to be clear on that.)

As they were staring longingly beside me as I whisked up the pumpkin and the spice and the cream, I had a little idea. And it was a good idea. One good enough that I think it's worth sharing.

Pumpkin Spice Cream of Wheat.

It's a super-fast, super-simple hot breakfast for a chilly fall day. And it helps with the guilt of those delicious lattes every morning. This recipe makes two servings, and takes about five minutes to prepare.

In a sauce pan, make your cream of wheat as directed. I actually use Bob's Red Mill wheat farina. It's 2 cups of water to 1/2 cup wheat, boiled for a minute or two. I usually add 1/4 tsp of salt to the cereal as it cooks.

When it's done, remove it from the heat and add:
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Mix it all together well. Spoon into bowls, then top with a bit of half & half and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Okay, so I'm not a food photographer, and this doesn't look very pretty. But it's really, really good. I promise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meeting the March Family

I realize that not every mother has a deep love of literature. But for those of us that do, there is no greater joy than sharing our beloved books with our children. The characters that were our dear friends now become the friends and even playmates of our children; the lands and the times we knew so well come to life again as our children experience them. It's a lovely gift to share.

Our literature studies are my very favorite in our day. It doesn't ever feel like school. Long after the work books are put away, after dinner and dishes and chores, when Two Little Girls are snug and clean in fresh jammies, we settle down into the living room for our literature studies... which simply means relaxing while Mom reads out loud. It's a bed time story in their eyes, not school, and so they love it all the more.

As our study of history courses through the developments of America, we have come up to the Civil War. And so, after much anticipation, we began Little Women last night. To read, "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," out loud to my daughters gave me a thrill that only other Lovers of Books could understand.

And as the characters are 'sketched' for the reader, as Jo is described as the tomboy with thick, beautiful hair always pulled back, who has a pension for writing stories, I saw the glimmer in The Oldest's eye as she related herself to this most-beloved character. Littlest One was coloring in the living room as I read, but stopped and looked up at the description of Amy, the baby of the family, with her blue eyes and blonde hair.

As the girls in the book confess their 'bundles', complaining of the housework they don't enjoy and of how hard it is to be good, both of my own girls by this time were fairly riveted. How beautiful for them to realize that they can related to young girls growing up during the Civil War, a hundred and fifty years ago. The struggles of young girls haven't changed much, in some ways. And when the characters in the book vow to stop complaining and try harder to do a better job, I could see the consideration wrinkle it's way across The Oldest's forehead as she thought about how she could apply that to her own life.


With forty three chapters of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy to come, I look forward to the cooler fall nights as we snuggle down and share their stories together. And I daydream of all the wonderful books to come. When we are done visiting with the March family, we'll meet Anne Shirley, and Sara Crewe. If I am blessed enough that they will still let me read aloud to them when they are in their teens, I will happily introduce them to Heathcliff and Catherine, Jane Eyre, and Mr. Darcy. So many beautiful, wonderful books are out there for us to enjoy together. My only concern is that there may not be enough time for all of them!

Monday, September 24, 2012


I never intended to be a Horse Mom.

While horses are beautiful, lovely animals, putting my smallish nine year old on one of them and sending her off to ride was not on my to-do list. When we moved up here to our little farm, I had visions of goats and chickens... maybe even a mini-jersey cow.

I put her in gymnastics when she was three. We tried dance lessons at age six. I offered karate. But by then it was too late. She had already become a Horse Lover.

I think it started around the time she was two. From about that time, she spent most of her days pretending to be a horse. The love grew over the years, though she never did ride a horse until only the past year or so. But not having ridden one didn't matter in the least. At the age of seven, she determined to save enough money to buy a horse.

Of course, every seven year old has big plans. But how many of them actually succeed in bringing them to fruition? Childhood dreams change with the seasons, don't they?

Fast forward two years.

She has saved $186.65.

Generally, this wouldn't be enough to buy a horse. Unless you happen upon a family with a little girl who has a lovely old mare, and is ready to move up to a horse with more spunk. And then said family hears that there is a little girl out there who has saved nearly $200 of her own money, and wants to sell this sweet old mare to that little girl. Their only goal was to put the mare in a home where she would be well-loved, well cared for, and would teach more children to ride.

So after two years of saving every penny received from birthday money, Christmas money, and other special holidays, my daughter turned over her life savings...

and brought home her very own horse.

Meet Angel.

She's twenty four years old. Yes, twenty four is old. But for my cautious little girl, that is the perfect age. She's been a 4-H horse for awhile now, and knows how to do everything. She is so gentle and sweet tempered and well experienced in raising little girls. We're already enjoying every moment spent with her, and she seems to enjoy the constant affection that Two Little Girls have to offer.

If you've never watched one nine year old girl sell her first horse to another nine year old girl... well, let's just say it's a very touching experience, and one I won't soon forget.

 I know it was a hard thing for her to do, but she knew that her sweet Angel was going to a home where she was going to be loved and cared for, and would have two more little girls to teach to ride.

And watching my own daughter hand over her money and walk her new horse into the trailer... I'm proud to say I didn't cry. Because I could have. I am SO PROUD of her! How many nine year olds can say they bought their own horse? So many times she would see a toy in the store that she would've liked to have bought, but she passed it up because she wasn't willing to spend her "horse money". She knew what she wanted. She set her goal. And she didn't let anything get in the way.

She's already ridden Angel a fair amount here at home, and the two of them are getting along beautifully. She's a good, safe, reliable horse who knows how to handle small children. And that, to me, is priceless.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Potatoes: The Treasure Hunt

Some days, it's hard to tell the difference between what is work and what is play.

Take digging potatoes, for instance. Surely smiles like this don't come from hard work...

And laughter of this variety can't come from chores... can it?

Ah, but maybe it can.

There are some wonderful opportunities out there for convincing children that work really can feel like play, if only it's approached with the right attitude. Or if it's turned into a wrestling match for the biggest potato pulled out of the ground.
We've never grown potatoes before. This whole Digging Potatoes experience was a splendid one, for all three of us.  It's a veritable treasure hunt, and one that requires Two Little Girls (and their Momma) to be elbow-deep in soil. And any job that involves a good bit of getting dirty is bound to be welcomed.

I'd love to offer you all a few great tips and hints for growing and harvesting potatoes, but I've got nothin'. We're brand new at this, and from all I have read, we did everything all wrong. The skins are thin because you're supposed to withhold water for a couple of weeks (someone should have told that to those rain storms that keep rolling through in the afternoons.) You're supposed to wait until the plants die back after frost to harvest, except that more than half of our potatoes already weighed over a pound and a half each, and I can't see letting them get any bigger. It'll only take one potato to feed all four of us at that rate.

So while they won't store in the cellar long, and they aren't anywhere close to being the perfectly shaped potatoes you find at the store, I'm sure we'll happily be eating baked potatoes and home-fries for a few weeks to come, anyway.

And next year, I'll read about harvesting potatoes before I decide to dig them all out of the ground. ;-)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why I Saved that Fancy Dress

I remember going through my closet when we were packing to move to this house. As I got to the stash of formals and semi-formals pushed to the very back, I considered e-Baying them. After all, I'm a mom. Mothers have no reason to own a handful of different fancy dresses. Most of them haven't been worn since before The Oldest was born.

And then today, I received an invitation, written in pencil on construction paper, as I was fixing dinner. "Dance, dance, dance!" it read. "You are invited to Chloe and Cora's ball and feast. Please wear a fancy dress and dress shoes. Tickets are two dollars."

You should have seen their faces when I showed up in the play room wearing a shimmery, strappy semi-formal and sparkly silver heels. "Mom! You look.... um, you actually look.... pretty." Sigh. All that effort, and that was the best she could do for a compliment? But hey, a compliment's a compliment. I'll take it.

And so we turned on Vivaldi, and I twirled around the playroom in my fancy high heels, doing my best to look graceful while dancing with a four foot long stuffed dragon. Both girls (and several stuffed animals) gave speeches, we feasted on crocheted play food, and we danced some more. (The second time, I had the pleasure of dancing with Grover. He's a much better dancer than Dragon.) And then the timer rang saying dinner was done, so I bid them adieu, curtsied, and thanked them for the lovely time.


Did I have time for a ball just then? Of course not. If I'm to get all of the "important" stuff done around here, I'll never have time for such things.

Except that, at that very moment, that ball was the most important thing I could have done. I could tell because of the looks on their sweet faces - eyes wide and enormous grins, giggles and curtsies and faux-British accents that are saved for only the most special of moments.

I hope I remember more often to take care of those Very Important Things before anything else.  Too often it seems that laundry, dishes, dirty floors and dusty furniture take precedence. How many times have I been invited to a play, or a puppet show, or a ballet recital, or a picnic, and couldn't find the time to attend? I'm not sure the number, but I'd be ashamed to admit it even if I did.

It won't be long before there are no more invitations, no more balls, no more stuffed animals, play food, and dress-up clothes. And those things are the ones that matter most of all.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When all else fails, climb higher.

If only we could explain to the barn cats that if they would just stop running, the silly puppy wouldn't feel compelled to chase them...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Urgency of Fall

I don't whine very often. Or, well, I try not to. I love having a blog filled with cheerfulness and stories of happy and satisfying things. Because really, my life is filled with happiness and satisfying things. And I know I don't have a right to complain. But once in awhile...

Honestly, I don't think it's complaining. It's just stress! There is SO much to do, and so much I want to be doing, and I don't know which way to turn, I don't know which way is forward or which way is backward.

I think feeling the fall in the air is making me feel like I'm under pressure to get everything done. The land around me is sending out it's warning, "You only have a month left to prepare yourself before the ground is frozen solid and it's too cold to go outside!" I hate how gleeful it is in this threat - all those bright, beautiful leaves of flaming red and golden amber, happily announcing that winter is, in fact, just around the corner.

Don't get me wrong, I love fall. I love that the sweltering heat of summer is finally gone, that the air is crisp and we can play outside without risking heat exhaustion. I think my problem is that I love fall so much that I just want to sit outside and enjoy it, instead of all this work I'm doing inside.

I'm to the point where I don't care if I see another ripe tomato as long as I live. Or at least until next July. Pints and quarts of salsa, soup, dried tomatoes, diced tomatoes, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce... it's all in there, stored up to keep us nourished this winter. And I still have one more box to go. A month ago all I wanted was to be eating raw, sliced tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper. Well, I'm over that.

School is (somehow) back in full swing. We manage about four hours a day on a good day... which means more like two hours a day on average days. Somehow, getting tomatoes in jars before they rot seems a lot more pressing than learning why Franklin Pierce was a fairly worthless president. Aw, who am I kidding? Even riding the horses or chasing the goats seems more important than Pierce.

The garden is nearing it's end, and I'm encouraging it by failing to water it - ever - and hoping it'll just hurry up and die off. It's done its job, we have veggies in the freezer. Now, I would like a break from weeds and aphids and squash and hungry grasshoppers. I think I'll dig the carrots today. Because nothing is more fun than digging carrots out of compacted clay soil. Really, you should try it.

The house hasn't been properly cleaned since, um... we moved in back in February. Spring came so quickly that by the time we were unpacked, we were suddenly drowning in The To-Do List that comes with trying to learn how to care for a 40 acre ranch. Animals and outdoor work and outdoor play take precedence over house cleaning. I wash laundry, and dishes, and occasionally (if it rains) I manage to dust or vacuum. But this darn beautiful fall air is making feel like I need to be deep cleaning... which is, of course, impossible when one's entire kitchen is brimful of vegetables and fruits that the fruit flies are dangerously close to consuming in their entirety.

It's nothing that doesn't happen every single year about this time. An urgent need to get everything done coupled with an urgent need to sit in my wooden chair on the deck and bask in the beauty of fall.

I think the best remedy for it is to go pour a glass of wine and sit and watch the leaves change colors.

After I finish canning these tomatoes.

Monday, September 10, 2012

And 'Justice' For All

Have you ever tried to photograph children and goats together?

It's nearly impossible - they never stop moving!

Someone will almost always be blurry because there is always a tremendous amount of running and giggling going on.

Of course, occasionally they stand still... if there is grain involved.

We have a new goat. The girls are calling her Justice. You know, because we already have Liberty... so now we have Liberty and Justice.

She's a Toggenburg. I didn't want a Toggenburg. I wanted a Nubian. But this sweet lady was for sale, and it didn't take long for her to tug on our heartstrings and decide that if she needed a new home, it should be our Forever Home Farm.

She's friendly as all get out, following the girls wherever they go (whether they are holding a grain can or not.) She's almost four years old, and is pregnant and due in January. You know, because if we're going to learn how to raise kids, we might as well do it in the dead of winter up in the mountains.

We're excited to have her.

This also means we will be giving Snickers, our Goat-On-Loan, back to the neighbor, who was kind enough to let us bring her home to keep Liberty company until we found a permanent goat. (This was after learning the hard way - twice - that you really can't just have one goat.)


I'm not sure I ever really wanted goats all that badly... but I gotta tell ya, they sure are tremendous fun. And the smiles they put on the faces of Two Little Girls makes me love them all the more.

Welcome Home, Justice!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Rooster Beware

Remember that nasty, mean rooster I mentioned? He was awful - 'Ruler of the Roost' to the extreme. If any of the other roosters would even try to come out into 'his' yard, he was attack them, make them scream, pull out feathers, until they ran back for the indoor coop. They were all afraid to eat, or get any fresh air. It was getting ridiculous.

So we found a good place to re-home him, a place that made everyone much happier.

The crock pot.

Chicken and dumplings. Yep. A much better place for him.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pretty Flowers

I'm not a flower gardener. I have a few plants in a little flower garden, more for the sake of my beauty-loving five year old (who is very much a flower person) than for myself. I grow food. Food sustains us. It is useful, and brings immense satisfaction from the time it begins to grow to the time it finds its way to our table.

That being said, we grew The Prettiest Sunflowers Ever this year.

It's called Earthwalker. The plant is taller than I am, and looks more like a bush than like the usual sunflower stalk. It's covered with dozens of flowers and buds. What's better, the hummingbirds are all over these flowers! When I go out to water, they zoom past my head and make me duck. I only wish I knew if these were heirloom or not- if they are, I'm totally saving seeds for next year.

It's simple, easy to grow flowers like this one that almost make me want to be a flower person. Almost.

Earthwalker seeds can be found at Pinetree Seeds, one of my favorite companies for ordering seeds. Great prices, great service, and a decent heirloom selection. (And they didn't pay me to say this.)