Monthly Archives: February 2011

On the mend

Harper became ill a week ago…starting out with a fever and vomiting, and then morphing into horrible congestion, drainage, and eventually, an ear infection.

Having a child sick is so very hard on so many levels.  Beyond the emotional drain of watching your precious child suffering, and the physical drain of  tending a very unhappy baby day and night, is the halting of all activities beyond the confines of the home.  There is no daycare, so work is left to pile up.  There is no happy baby playing while supper is prepared or dishes washed, so frozen pizza is eaten and dishes are stacked on the counter.  Nights are a haze as the one fitfully wakes, cries, sleeps, coughs, wakes, sleeps.

Time slows down and there is only the babe nestled in your arms, each congested breath causing the heart to ache, the worried brow to furrow a little deeper, and the arms to wrap even more tightly around this tiny bundle.

But with healing love, patience, and time, the sickness passes.  The energetic child returns, and the sun begins to shine once more.

Today we are seeing the sun.

Advertisements

Gifts in the snow

Giving thanks to our feathered friends today for the return of the eggs! Even without any supplemental heat or light, we only missed out on a month and half of eggs. Thank you, chickies!

Breakfast of Champions

Hello, my name is Heidi, and I have a cereal addiction.

Yes, I am one of those people who can (and occasionally will) eat cereal for every meal.  There is something satisfying about a bowl of crunchy grain topped with some rich, cold milk.  (and how can I really be blamed when we get whole, organic, pastured milk delivered to our door from a local farmer?)

I’ve been trying to mix it up in the morning by accepting eggs when Wyatt offers them, cooking oatmeal or millet on occasion, and eating toast and peanut butter from our homemade bread.  But breakfast cereal is my true staple and I’ve accepted that this may never change.

While speaking with my Mom about my wish for a better breakfast option (since cereal is one of the few “processed” foods I consistently eat), she suggested I make my own cereal and provided me a recipe for homemade “Grape Nuts.”  With only whole wheat flour, milk, honey, baking soda, and salt as the ingredients it seemed like a great option.

I whipped up a batch about two weeks ago, with great results.  And the process was incredibly easy!

First you mix the ingredients and spread them out on a greased cookie sheet.  (I used coconut oil for the pan)

You then bake the mixture for about a half an hour.  When it was finished baking it came out like a soft, cookie-like bread.

While it was still warm, I broke off pieces and put them through the shredding blade on my food processor.

I then put the shredded crumbles back in oven for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until crisp.

I stored the cereal in a couple of jars to keep everything nice and fresh.

The cereal was delicious!  It was sweet like a graham cracker and had a crunchy texture.  The only things I may do differently next time is to shred it by hand with a cheese or slaw grater to ensure that all of the cereal has decent-sized pieces (the food processor over-did it for a portion of the cereal), and add less honey since in the morning I prefer a plainer, less sweet taste.

So there you have it, simple, homemade cereal.  I can have my cake (or cereal) and eat it too.

Midwinter

Today is Midwinter, the seasonal holiday marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Below is a blog post from 2008, the first time we celebrated a seasonal holiday.  Enjoy, and Happy Midwinter!

February 2nd, known in the U.S. as “Groundhog’s Day,” marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice (the start of winter) and the Spring Equinox (the start of spring). In various traditions this day is also known as Imbolc or Oimelc (Irish Gaelic/Celtic), Day of Brigid, and Candlemas (Roman Catholic).

Like most holidays, Groundhog’s Day has Pagan roots. The word Imbolc or “Imbolg” means “in the belly,” and is a reference to the pregnancy of animals (particularly ewes) this time of year. Closley related, “Oimelc,” means “ewe’s milk.” The Celts, their religion tied closely to the earth and the changing seasons, celebrated this time of year by focusing on the lighting of fires (which reflected the warm sun’s growing strength over the coming months), and holding festivals for the goddess Brigid, who eventually brings spring back to the land. Winter was a harsh time for these ancient Europeans. For them the success of the new farming season was of great importance. Imbolc rituals were performed to harness divine energy that would ensure a successful crop.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the day is known as Candlemas and marks the six week period after Mary birthed Jesus. This day is traditionally celebrated with the lighting of many blessed candles and a feast.

The Groundhog’s Day tradition was imported from Europe, where German people had followed the hibernation patterns of the hedgehog to try to get a sense of how long winter would last. In North America this tradition was carried out with the groundhog, and today we still look to “Punxsutawney Phil” each February 2nd for a divination as to how much winter still lies ahead.

In any sense, now is the time of Midwinter. We are halfway into winter, halfway to spring. Each day the sun grows stronger and makes the day a little longer.

The idea of Midwinter spoke to Wyatt and I, as we are trying to be more mindful, peaceful, and spiritual. We like the idea of acknowledging the passage of time and the changing of seasons, and a celebration focusing on the earth resonates with us. We decided that we would have a little Midwinter celebration of our own. So last night we lit all the candles in our house to acknowledge the sun’s growing strength, turned on a peaceful album called “Winter in the Moors” (featuring instrumental Celtic music), and made a Midwinter feast of Carrot & Potato soup and a handmade braided bread. While we waited for the bread to bake, we sat at our candlelit table drinking hot tea and reading poems. Afterwards we spoke about what our hopes are for the coming seasons. It was a beautiful, insightful, experience that left us both with a feeling of deep peace in our hearts and a connectedness to the rhythms of the earth.

steaming tea and bright candles

Midwinter feast of soup and braided bread

I’ll leave you with one of the poems we read. It’s a beautiful piece from Wendell Berry (farmer and writer, well-known author of Culture and Agriculture: The Unsettling of America).

Within the circles of our lives
we dance the circles of the years,
the circles of of the seasons
within the circles of the years,
the cycles of the moon
within the circles of the seasons,
within the circles of our reasons
within the cycles of the moon.
Again, again we come and go,
changed, changing. Hands
join, unjoin in love and fear,
grief and joy. The circles turn,
each giving into each, into all.
Only music keeps us here,
each by all the others held.
In the hold of hands and eyes
we turn in pairs, that joining
joining each to all again.
And then we turn aside, alone,
out of the sunlight gone
into the darker circles of return.

May peace live in your heart this Midwinter season.

Winter Chickens

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Today’s forecast calls for windchills in the range of -30 degrees.  Seems like nothing should be surviving outside in these temps!  But our hardy winter chickens are doing well, hunkered down in a thick bed of straw and cedar shavings, their coop insulated by a deep layer of snow that envelopes  the walls.

Yes, the chickens are doing well this winter.  We have a path shoveled across our backyard to their coop allowing us to dutifully head out each day to give them their feed and change the water in their heated dish.  We also save back and give them any the vegetable scraps, egg shells, and stale bread that comes out of our kitchen to ensure they still get some fresh food.

Chicken snacks

They provided us eggs through December but finally stopped laying at the beginning of January when we started experiencing some significant cold snaps on top of dealing with the least amount of light in the year.  Our strategy is just to keep them healthy, comfortable, and well fed until they start laying again.

Behold, the winter chickens!

Chickens at lunch today...current temps: 1 degree with -17 to -23 windchills