Monthly Archives: July 2012

Diggin’ a Ditch Where Silence Lives…

…Words sung by Dave Matthews.  Those words strike my core.  One of my favorite lines of all time.

 When I started spending a lot of time in my studio about 12 or so years ago, I  thought I was going stir crazy with the isolation.  I would emerge from the dungeon of creativity in late afternoon and be beside myself with the need to communicate.    I really thought that it was a negative.  You don’t understand, I have to be BY MYSELF ALL DAY !!!   is how I felt.  And it was,  as long as I thought of it in those terms.  Isolation.

BUT THEN ……. (I cant figure out how to make my font bigger on this program.  I would like to see those words bigger.)

…. I saw it differently.  I began to study Contemplative prayer.  It is  a type of prayer where you learn to sit in quiet.  And listen.  And learn.

It sounds like meditation.  And it IS a form of.

Wiki’s definition for meditation is:

The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (like sports), which range from techniques designed to promote relaxation, contacting spiritual guides, building internal energy (chi, ki, prana, etc.), receiving psychic visions, getting closer to god, seeing past lives, taking astral journeys, and so forth, to more technical exercises targeted at developing compassion, love, patience, generosity, forgiveness and more far-reaching goals such as effortless sustained single-pointed concentration,[3

That is not what I wanted to learn.  That is WAY to broad for me.  Too much wiggle room.  I wanted a tight fit.  My intention was to narrow in on Christian contemplation.  The wiki definition refers to it as a “gaze of faith”  or “a silent love”.  I love that.  A silent love.  Wow.    It also says it is   “the soul’s inward vision and the heart’s simple repose in God.”

So,  in my journey,  I have learned that there is a difference between “isolation”  and “solitude” .  Isolation  can bring about negative feelings and emotions.  It is not intentional state of being.   We get stuck inside ourselves and negative thoughts and feelings swirl around.  It is just the act of being alone.

Solitude can be a rich experience where we empty the contents of our mind that  float around getting clogged and jammed and invite God in to teach us wisdom,  guide us and just simply love us.    But it is an intentional act.  We have to want it.

I am amazed at what difference it makes.  I leave my studio time  with a sense of calm and peace and a feeling of being loved.  It is truly remarkable.

You do not have to be sitting doing nothing to be in contemplative prayer.  You can be doing.  The only requirements are to allow your mind to empty.  And allow God to fill.   Pretty simple, eh?  Not really.  It is hard.  But anything we put our mind to is hard.   Dave’s  song is all about it.  Diggin’  a ditch aint no easy task.

Sometimes it takes A LONG time to quiet ourselves and just be.   We live in a loud,  over stimulated world.  The media and what not want us to be overloaded with “stuff”.   And it is SO easy to invite it all in.  And maybe we don’t want it all in,  but if we sit in its presence its comin’  ready or not.  Unless we get quiet with some solitude.

Also,  since it is a form of prayer  we have the idea that  we should be the ones doin’ all the talking.  Not so.  Speaking for myself,   I need to shut up every now so that I can hear, learn,  and be loved.

So, how can this be done?  It can be done anywhere, anytime.   Turn off external hardware (radio, tv, computer,etc.  It will all be there waiting for you.  And believe me when I say you will not be missing anything).  Invite God to your side.  Then just be.  When your mind wants to go somewhere without you.  Yank it back.    Your plan will suit it better.  Take in the present moment without making a judgement about it.  Look  what is going on outside your car window.  Without making a judgement about it.  Spend the moment NOT MAKING A JUDGEMENT about it.  Just take it in like it is the first time you’ve seen it.  Let your mind slip from that moment into the next and just sit in it keeping it open to hear what He wants you to see, hear and learn.  Without making a judgement about it.

Takes practice.  I hope you’ll give it a try.

It will take you to new heights.

God bless,

Karen

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The Ever Lovin’ Tomato

That’s what I call a lovey tomato.

Tomatoes are starting to roll in at a fast clip.  If you are growing them you might concur.     My sister showed up last fall with a colander full of orange cherry tomatoes.  While I dont have any experience really in cherry tomatoes, I did recognize these tasted different.  Like candy.  Truly.  I have never tasted anything like it.   I spent the better part of the winter and early spring researching (I am the queen of research) the origin of these little gobblie things.  The best I could tell, they were Sun Sugar.

Sun Sugar Cherry Tomatoes

I bought 3 plants to fill our tummies and I am going to turn into an acidic something or other if I am not careful.    And while mine are sweet, I am not convinced mine are as sweet as hers.  I am eating probably about 50 a day.  Poppin’ em like sugar.  That is a good way to develop food sensitivities.  Eating too much of one thing.  Like wheat.

I have found SUPER easy ways of preserving tomatoes that are literally as easy as throwing them at the freezer.

Pop whole tomatoes with skins on in gallon freezer bags and throw in freezer for future use.

Sundry them.  Cut them up in half and lay cut side up  on cookie sheet and pop in oven on 200 for about 6 hours.  Until they are leather hard.  Not brittle.  Transfer to zip lock bags.

I do not go through the hassle of peeling my tomatoes.  I’m not sure why people do.  Peels in my sauces have not caused a problem for me or those whom I share with.

Last week I shared with my family a super easy luscious  pasta that went like this:

Pasta from the Shieling

When tomatoes are roasted they sorta have that “tang” of sun-dried but more subtle and yummy with olive oil.

Serves 4.

Cut 6 good-sized tomatoes in chunks and lay on cookie sheet.

Drizzle with generous olive oil.

Sprinkle with generous amount of minced garlic.

sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Roast in oven at 275 for a 2 hours.

Add it to your favorite pasta (Tinkyada is  a hands down wonderful gluten-free pasta.  My people can’t tell the difference.  Give your body a rest from wheat this time.)   doused in olive oil and garnish with chopped fresh basil and shaved parmesan.

Please enjoy!

My neighbor’s horse  going eye to eye with a  monster insect.

Pops and I keep thinking about horses.  We have miles of trails behind our house.  We know they are lots of work,  but what isn’t?  What I don’t want to do is invest in a money pit.  I keep being told that I can’t simply have my horse out on a hitching post and  just get on him whenever I need to move about on our property.  Isn’t that what the cowboys did?  Do you have an opinion on why we shouldn’t?  I would really like to hear.

Have a super blessed day.  You are loved beyond measure.

Karen

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What Do You Get When You Put 2 Suburbanites With…….

2 farm cows at midnight?    STRESSSSSSSSSSS!

Last night we went to visit friends at a near by lake.   These are folks we knew from our old life in the suburbs.  They are a lovely couple whose son went to high school with our youngest.  We ran in to them at church here in our new community not too long ago and found out they have a houseboat as a second home on a lake.  We were delighted by the invite to their second “home” for an “evening dinner cruise”.   They were outstanding hosts and we definitely feel a new friendship budding.  We had a blast.   Now,  we’ve rented a houseboat before so we kinda know the drill.  It’s a box on a pontoon, right?  Not this one.  This was a luxury liner.   85 feet long.  The top deck could have easily partied over 100 people.  It was breathtaking.  We could not cruise it since a wannabe storm blew in and never materialized but lightening pursued.   Pops wanted to see this thing move so badly.  Hopefully,  we will be invited back to see this thing cruise.  For those of you who live on coasts, you have to know that we landlockers don’t see these things movin’ around  too often in these parts.

Not theirs but one similar. Longer than our house!!

We loved hearing about their life and how they came to be boaters and they got a hoot hearing about our crazy, insane journey about how we came to be “farmer’s” and all the shenanigans going on around here.  They knew us when. When we lived on a cute cul-de-sac with a lawn (well sorta) and no dirt.

Usually we put the little kiddies to bed at dusk.  We did not get home until after 11.  So we had to tuck our 70 little creatures in late.  Yes, they were beside themselves with our tardiness.  (And again this morning when I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to start their day) 

We drove down the very dark drive to tuck the guineas and cows in and we got blocked in the road by our two large cows. (Boy,  I wish I had a camera to  document this.  It was a treasure.  Pop was even too stressed to read before lights out)   What the heck?  What are they doing in the road?  First I thought it was Simon, our Newfoundland.  Maybe my memory of Simon was a little distorted.   You know how you  get so tired and things get out of proportion.   I immediately had visions of this becoming a 3 ring circus and taking many hours of precious sleep time to wrangle these guys back into their homeland.

Pops got out of the car and started walking toward them and they immediately shot out into total blackness.  Maybe they would walk (or run) into town.  Maybe the suburbanites would lose their cows.  Maybe we would become the laughing-stock of this here country com-mun -tity.  Pops asked me to go get some feed.  Pops was a hero last night, by the way.    He was a smooth cow -getter -into- pasture guy.  By the time I got back he and the cows were making their way down the road toward homeland.  These guys are big guys as they walk past our car.  (John, are you listening?  I thought about calling you to find out what to do).  He got them down to the big gate and asked me to block the drive with the car so he could then guide them in without the option to book it.   Can you believe that I blocked the driveway and then locked my doors and rolled up the windows?  Yes,  you probably can.  What did I think was going to happen?  I did imagine them rolling my car.  I imagined them hitting me in the head.  I did not imagine them trying to open my locked door however.    My blocked car worked.  They walked right into their pasture and it only took 20 minutes away from  of our beauty sleep.

I really wish I had photos to share about our harrowing experience.  But…I dont,  so enjoy a favorite photo  that was taken when we were renting a cottage the winter we were building the farm.

God bless,

Karen

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What Hour Trips Your Trigger?

The Witching Hour?   Or the Darkest Hour?   I read that the witching hour is around midnight. When the goblins come out and bad things happen.  The term is supposed to stir anxiety and fear.  I’m thinkin’ that is not the hour that trips my trigger.  There used to be a time when “darkness”  held something desirable for me.  I thought being out in it, milling about with it , was comforting.  I still find it peaceful at times and I love to walk out at night-time and look at the stars and sit around a camp fire but I am not drawn to the dark hours.  Darkness now for me means day is done.  Job well done.  Get cozy between my sheets.

Night Window      Edward Hopper

The Eleventh Hour?  Oooh.  That almost always triggers panic in me.  Getting everything done at that last-minute.

Happy Hour?  Or Cocktail Hour?  Are we only “happy” at cocktail hour?  Just wondering.

Rush Hour?  That is my favorite hour.  (Just kidding.)  But about 10 or 15 years ago I changed my tune about this hour.  It can be used for MAJOR contemplation.  Or clipping my fingernails.  Or plucking my face.  It’s all a part of  that Serenity prayer I spoke about,   “Help me accept the things I can not change”  I have learned since I can’t make those cars get out of my way I can use  that time for myself and sit in it with peace.

Dinner Hour?  Great time.  It is T-bone and Ribeye’s  favorite time for sure.

They like to throw their dinner on their backs. Gee. Maybe we should consider that.

Consider the Golden Hour.  Now THAT really trips my trigger!  Early in the morning when the sun is rising and it causes the dew to glisten on the vegetation and the shadows be long.  The yellow light is falling everywhere.  And in the evening when the light again is making all the colors in nature rich and luscious.  An artists dream.  Landscape painters find the golden hour(s)  to be the quintessential.

My chores lead me to the golden hour in the morning and the evening.  The smells that go along with those hours are earthy, heady and intoxicating.  The sun is warming the earth in the morning or cooling it in the evening and it seems to emit aromas that send me over the edge with delight.

Our pond

Marc Bohne Painting

The Angelus, Jean -Francois Millet, 1857

Enjoy your hour today what ever that may be.  I am nosy.  I would love to know what hour trips your trigger.

God bless,

Karen

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Rain and Pickles. Pickles and Rain.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about  the weather.  WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE WEATHER?

We lived in New Orleans for three years in the early 80’s.  Oh my goodness.  If you want to feel oppression at its best (or worst) take a stroll through New Orleans in July or August.  Summer has never held the same meaning for me since those days in the Crescent City.

Ahh, those were the days! Still not sure if they were good days or bad.

I have been running from the sun and humidity ever since.  If there is a shade tree, I will find him and he WILL  become my friend.

Since  we  moved to the farm, I have had to buck up and take the heat.  My chores take me outside throughout the day and I have now decided that 95 is nothing.  Much time has been spent in trying to   convince myself of that.  I have realized that 98-99 is the danger point for my animals so I am pretty calm if it stays under that.

BUT FOR CRYIN” OUT LOUD!!!!

I’m just sayin’.

On a serious note, I look at the country scape, suburban scape, or where ever you have your eyes set right now,  (if you live in the heartland) and I want to weep.  I will accept the 95 degree days if we could just get water to our trees and crops.  In all of my years, I have not witnessed such a sad state of affairs.

What happens when trees totally dry out?  Do they just fall over?  I keep imagining trees falling randomly onto roads and highways.

Where do we get water if our lake source dries up?

What happened to Atlanta when their lake source dried up a couple of years ago?

What is going to happen to our trees that are indigenous to this area when they are no longer capable of surviving?

Are we going to be witness to a severe shift in our environment and ecology?  Our environment may survive this season,  but two seasons in a row?

Am I being paranoid?  Maybe.

We say the Serenity Prayer a lot around here:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

I need to say it more often so that I can stop worrying about things I have no control over.  I obviously think that if I worry enough that it will start raining.   Or worse yet   cynicism  will creep in because I have lost faith that it will ever rain.  That is the worst thing that I could do.  Cynicism is more toxic than worrying.  So, I think I’ll jump back on the saddle and say my Serenity prayer.

Homemade pickles

We have cucumbers coming out of our ears!  Many recipes I have looked at contained sugar.  I did not want to do that.  This recipe is supposedly the same as Bubbies.  Found in grocery stores.  Kind of considered top of the line, old style, wonderful pickles.  My family are pickle snobs so this was/is tricky for me. Ours are done and they taste wonderful.   What is really cool is that it said if I wanted my pickles to keep a crispness crunch to add oak leaves to the jars.  We only have 90 acres of oak trees so it was my pleasure to oblige.   We like crispy pickles.

If you are growing them, please use this recipe.  It is yummy and healthy.  If you are not, buy pickle cucumbers at your farmer’s market and make them.  It is super easy.

If you do not have a lot of experience in fermentation of foods (natural way of preserving food which has been used hundreds of years until we discovered chemicals) it may be scary as it contradicts the way we have been taught to preserve food.  I have been doing it for 7 years and it works.  And not only does it work,  it provides you with naturally grown probiotics which we all need desperately.

Pickles from the Shieling

The following ingredients will fulfill the requirements for a 1/2 gallon ball jar.  Use less if using smaller jars. You may use whole, spears or any cut you would like pickles.

Fill jar with pickles

Add:

3 T. non- iodized sea salt

1 Head of garlic, peeled chopped

1.5 T. whole dill seed

1 T. whole coriander seed

1/2 t. whole mustard seed

1/2 t. whole peppercorns

1/2 t. fennel seed

1/2 t. red pepper flakes

1-3 oak or grape leaves

Fill jar with filtered warm water and put lid on.  Shake about to dissolve salt and mix ingredients.  Open jar back up and put a weight of some sort on top of water to keep the cucumbers submerged.  You do not want the pickles to get air during the fermentation process.  You can use  a stone or small tile.  I used two sticks crisscrossed that were wedge into the neck of the jar.  It keeps contents stuck underneath.   Keep a loose seal on jar lid.  Set in nice warm place for 1-4 weeks.  Check after a week and see if they are tasty enough for you.  I kept mine on the shelf for 2 weeks and they were perfect.  Afterwards place them in cool place (refrigerator or cellar) for as long as it takes to eat them.  Once they are done sitting and you put them in fridge it is no longer necessary to keep weight on pickles.  They are self preserved through the fermentation process.  Enjoy!

As I finish this post after starting last night, I’d like to report 1/4 inch of rain.  It was specTACular!

God bless,

Karen

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“You Cant Always Get What You Want, But If You Try Sometime

..You just might find, you get what you need.”

Words sung by the beloved Rolling Stones.

Can’t  speak of them without paying homage to them, now can I?

I did not take this photo, although it would have been pretty cool if I had.

Not sure there is anyone out there who hasn’t sung that  tune under their breath at some point or another to themselves or directed at someone else.   I think I walked away from my kids on numerous occasions hummin’ the tune.   It’s easy to sing it about someone else but it stings when you have to sing it to yourself.

There are definitely some things that I want.  I want real bad.  And it has become obvious to me that I (and our society as a whole) have a hard time differentiating between  wants and needs.  I say “need” a lot.    I need to take a shower.  I need new sheets.  I need to eat dessert.  I need to cut the grass. I need to comb my hair.  I need to hem my pants.  I need to buy more spatulas to add to my other 5 because I may need to flip 6 things at once.    These aren’t real needs, are they?   I think we say “need” to convince ourselves of the urgency of our wants.  We learn when we are toddlers to interject  that urgent word to be taken seriously.  I NEEEEEED that cookie!!!!!!

Ok.. So what do I want so badly today?  MILK!!!!!  I know I don’t NEED milk because I have gone 7 years without it and have felt great.  In fact, I have felt better living without it than living with it.  But my mind has convinced me that I need it.  I yearn for it.  The honest truth is I would love a tall glass of cold, cold milk.  I miss it.  And I’d like to see it in my life again.  No big deal.  So why have I gone to such great lengths to touch it to my lips again?  Maybe I’m OCD.  Who knows.

I cannot tolerate cow dairy.   I figured that out 7 years ago.  Felt sick from it for 30 years prior to the discovery.  But, hey, who’s counting?   When we bought the property 5 years ago, I began planning our dairy goat venture.  5 years of research led me down the road to buying 3 goats.  2 does and 1 buck.  I had the set up for many years of milk production to fill my tummy with yummy thick 6.5% butterfat milk.   COULD NOT WAIT.  Got the girls pregnant.  Waited patiently, then impatiently for many more months than it should have taken for these little kiddies to be born.  The day arrived.

I began milking the two does several weeks ago.  Between the two of them I got about 6 ounces.  Ok.  That’s ok, I thought.  We’ll get there.  I brought the milk in, strained it, plunged it in ice water then stuck it in the fridge.  I am a huge advocate of raw milk.  Many medicinal qualities and unbelievable amount of nutrients that are killed through pasteurization.  (I will tell that story another day). I wanted those nutrients.!!!   I wanted my body to feel what it was like to have those intense nutrients.  The milk tasted U.N.B.E.L.I.E.V.A.B.L.E.

Two days into the milking, I began to get the same symptoms that I get with cow milk.  Respiratory infection symptoms.  By the way,  this has nothing to do with raw milk.  I got the same symptoms from pasteurized milk.  There is enough difference in goat milk and cow milk I was hoping that difference was going to be the difference for me.

I have “leaky gut syndrome”  (I know, sounds gross.)  which is where the intestinal wall is weak in some places and undigested proteins from foods leak out into the blood stream and poison the body.  The intestinal wall can heal and people can resume foods but mine must not be healed completely.  And may never.    Lots of foods can do this and manifest itself in many ways in the body creating symptoms of illness that may not seem related to food.  We think that all food problems will only be felt in the stomach.

Our bodies can be compromised and weakened by many things we consume.  Processed foods.  Chemicals.  Alcohol.  Sugar.  Gluten.    And then, if compromised, the foods that can wreak havoc are corn, gluten, dairy, tomatoes, and nuts.  Probably meat for some people.  Things that are more complicated in nature that take extra time,  energy  and enzymes to digest.

So……. I have 6 goats.  And I can’t drink the milk.  Got goats?  Got milk?   Yes.   And since I haven’t gotten more than 6 ounces at a time and everyone else here can drink cow dairy, I am baggin’ the dairy thing.  (I think…)  I am very disappointed as I have spent an enormous amount of time learning, dreaming,  planning, etc.  and I am at a loss.  I feel really sad that I didn’t get what I want.   My plan did not work out.  Maybe I shouldn’t put so much stock into “my” plan.   My warped mind still keeps trying to figure this out.  I think, surely, I can get this thing to work in my favor.  When you spend so much time working toward something it should work, right?  That’s what I think.   But I’m afraid it is not to be.

But I always get what I need.  Thank God for that.

God bless,

Karen

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And The Beat Goes On

Pops and I had great discussions last night.  Really touching base for the first time in weeks.  We have had guests almost solid for three weeks.  It has been really great to have spent the time with all that came by but a rest is in store for sure.

One topic of discussion was our anniversary.  Next Tuesday.  30.  Did I just say 30?  I gag when I try to put my name in the same sentence with doing anything for thirty years.   I haven’t even turned thirty yet.

It’s a long, long road.

Most years we take time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go.  I had someone tell me once that doing that is a bunch of ” crap” as they put it.    For us, it is a necessary step to ensure growth.  It is  our intention to live with purpose and thought.   How can we do that if there is no reflection?  Simply existing or wingin’ it is not an option.  There HAS to be more to it than that, right?  I mean, we only get one shot at this, I’m thinkin’.

Marriage is really really REALLY  hard.  To me,  it is hands down the greatest test of perseverance. What in the world can we even compare it to?  When I really think about it it seems really bizarre.  To spend the majority of your life with one person,  fighting all the battles that are laid out before us.   Goodness gracious.  Thank you, God,  for giving me  Pops to be on my team.  I need people on my team.  Don’t you?  Now,  I have wanted to kick him off my team on numerous occasions and I know he has wanted to do the same to me.   But with  work, and I mean WORK, we have come a long way.  We are not above whatever it takes to keep this machine running.

Bridal Compassion, 2003

For me, the most precious thing about marriage is the history that is weaved through time between two people.   My  husband has known my business for the better part of my life.  His eyes have seen the same thing my eyes have seen for thirty years for goodness sakes.  Isn’t that insane?

So, what does this have to do with farming??   Well, it certainly is a part of where we have chosen to go.  Making this decision has added a richness and complexity to our marriage that I would not have imagined.   Challenges and learning new things is a part of our daily life because of this farm and we are not in a stagnant place.  That puts us in an environment that  encourages growth.

What do I want to do or accomplish this next thirty years?

Of course, love him more.  He always wants more, more, more.

1. Figure out a way to get 6 more hours in my day.

2. Sleep.  Sleep a lot.

3. Learn how to give a vaccination to a baby goat without it going limp in a near death state.

4. Learn to like or tolerate male chickens, male goats, or male any animal for that matter.  ugh.

5.  Get my dogs to poop where I want them to.

6. Turn this global warming thing around.  I am close to solving it.  I will let you know when my scientific research is complete.

7. Save all the glorious trees in the world.  Probably should stop building things then, huh?

8. Get my self organized by putting things back where they belong.  huh?  Really?  Did I just say that?

9. Stop cleaning my house as often as I do.  Once a month is too often, people.

10.  Finally, accept myself for who I am.  Sometimes I can’t quite get the hang of living with myself.  I still don’t understand who it is living inside here with me.

I do feel confident that if I set  just one goal for the next thirty years, everything will fall gently into place.  That one goal for me is to grow more holy. Unfortunate things will continue to fall upon us, but with His Grace, the love will persevere.  That,  I am positive.

I want the flowers I grow to be pretty some day. Like these.

God bless,

Karen

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