summer chores

Im tired.  Bone weary, eyes bleary kind of tired.  Mind fuzzy, can’t put a thought together tired.  You know the kind.  We all do.  I wore Willow on my back a few milking’s ago when it was hotter than a bread oven and the air was as still as a cup of water on the countertop.  Sweat didn’t drip off me, it came off in sheets.  The baby’s bare belly stuck to my tank top so tight I had to peel it off.  Flies were thick on Sorrel’s eyes while mine were left alone but stinging with hot salt.  I slugged the bucket up the hill, foamy milk sloshing from side to side, a tiny black dog hoping for a spill trailing behind me and I laughed a little.

It was just so evident at this very moment the choice we are making.  I could just go to the store and spend only a few dollars on milk, and while bacon isn’t cheap, surely it is easy.  Cast iron, sizzle pop, crunch.  No problem you’re doing just fine.

I laughed because even though all we do is a little crazy at times, it is always enjoyable.  I never regret having to do a single chore because I am so grateful to be able to do them.  My legs are strong, my milking hands are capable, my back has never, ever been more sturdy.  This work- it is good work.

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And I believe I know four little wildlings who tend to agree.

 

reading list

I almost always have a stream of books stretching from beside the bath tub all the way to the wood stove (that still has a fire glowing I may add). UPDATE!  I started this on Tuesday and as all good New England springs do- it looks like it will be skipping straight to summer now, so our woodpile can get a rest officially.  I devour fiction the same way I do non, in big gulps after everyone has gone to bed and its just me and my own brain working, while soaking in a nice hot tub. Once upon a time I enjoyed parenting books, and honestly with four small children under my care, I suppose I have more use for that genre than ever before, but at this point I want nothing to do with them.  I want to exercise the part of me that does something else.  Anything else really.  Like the part of me that bakes and knows what I am doing, I mean really knows.  The part of me that experiments with raw milk cheeses like a chemist.  Or the part of me that can swallow a prose filled WWII young adult novel whole, with hopes to discuss with my niece in a couple of weeks.

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But more importantly… the sunshine!

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Have an awesome weekend.

dairy queen

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In the words of my awesome cow-lending-neighbor, “Be the alpha cow!”.

Yes, turns out by tying up the old lady’s head a bit higher and pumping my lungs with a bit of confidence, the milk is coming easy and without kicks.  Now, in addition to some seriously content and fast growing milk-fed pigs, there are six of us humans who are also undoubtedly satisfied with this jerseys high butterfat content and the products we are churning out with it.  (Punny!!).  Each milking I am scooping off the previous milkings cream, so thick its like yogurt, into a mason jar and then every few days I am turning that golden liquid into the sweetest butter you have ever imagined.  You can actually taste the spring time goodness, I swear.  I have tried my hand at ricotta and tomorrow I will make a favorite, cranberry ricotta cake, for a new mama of three.  I am quite sure that recipe will have to be doubled.   I have creme fraiche on the docket among other imaginings…  But most importantly it’s the butter.  The butter and the lattes.  They really go hand in hand as nothing foams up better than skimmed milk- and with a thick slab butter on toast to go with it you can’t go wrong.

Watch this for some serious butter making-

And finally here is a yummy recipe that I thought was worth sharing.  If you don’t grow sorrel (the green not the cow) you may like to.  It is so easy and is the first thing popping up when the snow melts.  It’s a lettuce so thick that it quenches your thirst and its strong lemon flavor is an asset to everything from soup to sauce to salad.  Hopefully you can get your hands on some soon!  The wild variety would likely do fine in this recipe too, though I haven’t tried it.

Double sorrel sauce

Chop down a patch of sorrel (about four cups)- wash then saute with a diced onion or shallot.  Mix in about a cup of fresh cream and simmer for a minute or two.  Puree and pour generously on fish, chicken, boiled potatoes or anything else that needs a lemon-y spring drizzle.

spilled milk

I have been up for over an hour.  The sun came up, or dawn mixed with night long enough the sky is now the color of a muddy rain puddle.  And then I heard the bellowing. I was waiting for it, it was my first go around in the rain, and I was wondering how it would feel.

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I have had a few friends with milk cows.  Friends that had to scurry away from a meal in the evening to milk, or couldn’t stay out too long for their days began too early.  Always, a tinge of jealousy at their never ending supply of foamy white milk hit me right in the chest.  Seeing those big eyed jerseys with their bouffants on top, and silky soft noses, made me want one like I can’t explain.  And recently, my wishes came true!  With the pigs settled in nicely, we knew we wanted to feed them as much milk as possible.  It makes for the healthiest of meats, and the most delicious- never mind cost-effective.  My sweet dairy-farming neighbor was kind enough to let us borrow Sorrel, the old lady jersey, for the summer.  We have had her about a week and she looks perfect out there.  The milk is sweet and delicious for both us and the cloven ones on the other side of the garage.

There is only one problem.  I am holding back tears not to cry over spilled milk.  The girl has no patience for me, and likely misses the 6 minute milking back at the barn on the machine.  And after about ten minutes in she starts kicking like an excitable baby (if a baby had a leg the size of my body and a foot that could crush me of course).  It is frustrating to say the least.  I am finding myself on dairy forums, on the phone with cow-ish people, and just generally fretting.  It goes without saying I am truly learning to appreciate every drop of milk.  Our food is so precious, and behind it is work.  Hard work.  In the rain work.  During a bout of sickness work.  All the time it is work.  I can’t believe it took me 33 years to see this so clearly.

This morning, I came in from milking with a little more knowledge, a tight lipped determination to hold on hope, and a little over a gallon of milk.  I made a latte because that was the most sensible thing I could do, and then I toweled off my wet hair.  I’ll try again this evening.

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Until then- all this nice rain is going to help the garden so!  It feels like things are really going out there now.  We are eating regular meals of asparagus and herbs and sorrel too!   Soon enough our lettuces and peas will be part of the repetoire too.  And my absolute favorite- fresh flowers on every table.  The world smells pretty good right now.

Now wish me luck with this kicky cow!

a sweet six year old

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Owl pellet dissection, blown eggs containing clues to a fantastic scavenger hunt, and paper airplane decorating/throwing tradition made for a sweet and memorable sixth birthday party.  I couldn’t help but reminiscing the caution (bordering on fear) for last years celebration.  This boys ill ease in a crowd prompted the beginning of the drop off party, a much-needed and well-loved change turns out.  It also turns out that this style of kids birthday party is so, so much easier for us than the invite a whole bunch of kids and their parents over, feel pressure to clean and serve beers and nice meals, and your kids just want your attention but you can’t give it to them, variety.

 

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And I tell you this six year old dazzles me.  I cut no less than five inches of platinum blonde off this boy the day before his actual birthday.  I wiped off his very dirty face, and cleaned his almost embarrassingly dirty ears, and what was underneath shocked me to tears.  He is a beautiful, charming, and compassionate little boy, whom I am so lucky to call my son.