Category Archives: Diary of a Redneck Englishwoman

The Planner

11.26.17

Oh dear, I found myself lamenting the other day about the holidays being a good month away yet here we are, being bombarded with all manner of Christmas reminders … advertisements in the newspapers, the Christmas songs that blossomed on the radio the day after Thanksgiving, endless number of Christmas films one sees as one tries in vain to find a somewhat good programme on the telly … yes, Christmas is coming! I feel so unprepared, but then again, this seems to happen to me every year so why should I be surprised this one is any different? Maybe it is because this particular year seems to have passed at a very alarming rate. Darrell and I are not the only ones who feel this is so. Many folks I have chatted with express the same sentiment! Time seems to have gone into warp speed.

As I sat the other night contemplating how Christmas has become so commercialized, how we start seeing the holly wreathed advertisement pages in the paper, the snow, Christmas lights and holiday shoppers portrayed on television commercials, I felt a tad grumpy. Is it no wonder after close to two months of being bombarded with such advertisements Christmas can often lose it’s charm? Hang on a minute! Now who is being a bit hypocritical here? Have I not recently been showing off my wares on the computer? Professing my tasty peanut brittle, my Traditional English Christmas Cakes, my soaps and lotions, sausage and cheese gift boxes would make ideal Christmas and Holiday presents? Guilty as charged! I become a tad red faced as I realize I too have slipped into this commercialization modus operandi! But wait a minute, I can explain, really I can! Does my soap not have to sit on the drying shelves for about four weeks before I package it up for sale? My Christmas cakes need a goodly bit of maturing on the pantry shelves, cheese has to sit in my cheese cave to develop it’s distinctive flavor, sausages take more than a day to make… yes indeed, a lot of advanced planning is involved in our little cottage industry is it not? Ahhh… part of me feels a tad better. Of course I have to plan ahead! My faithful customers would be disappointed if they placed their holiday orders only to find I had not planned ahead! Still… one cannot help feeling a tad commercialized like the big shops!

As I look at my calendar, a true paper calendar by the way, there are very few squares that do not have some sort of writing in them. From notations recording when pigs were dispatched to when sausage meat was mixed, stuffed and placed in the smoker. Colour coded blocks indicating when folks would be coming to visit the farm, occasional doctor appointments, CPR classes, when milk cows were bred, pigs farrowed et cetera. Even Mr. Stumpy has a date to his name… although he does share it with a notation about Spic being bred by Casper and an EMS class to be held in the church. The EMS class was cancelled by the way! Yes, my calendar has a tendency to fill quite quickly. November started out having very little noted on its page. A quiet month I thought. But slowly the days filled with activities worthy enough to be recorded. As I flip the page to December, other than a couple of bazaars, a notation about attending The Nutcracker Ballet and doctor appointments, when to post off customer’s Christmas gift boxes, December is quite open!

A good few years ago, my dear pal Lynda Thomas gave me a Five Year Planner as a Christmas gift. I now am on my third such calendar and sometimes it is amusing to pull out on old planner from the files and look through the preceding years to see how much, if any, things have changed. As I glance at previous November and December pages I see they too are filled with notations of things to do and memorable activities. As I glance back through the past couple of months in my current book, despite not taking in the wild game to process for customers as I have in years past, my calendar does not seem to be as empty as I had planned. Too many date squares seem to be filled with notations. Of course that is not always a bad thing! One would greatly dislike being bored!

But as I look at the still overly full monthly pages of the past year I notice how few show activities just for my dearest Darrell and I. Did we not decide that things were going to slow down so we could have more time to do fun things together away from the farm? We did indeed! Did it happen? Well, not really. There was always something that came up or the weather was way too hot to go fishing, or we had to do this or do that. We really do love our life here on the farm and could not imagine living any other way. I still may have too many irons in the fire but that is me, who I am and will always be, a work in progress to try to change! But as I glance at my planner calendar and flip to January I see a nice, almost blank page, just a few reminders of dates when sows are slated to farrow and one of my milk cows due to calve. Maybe before more of those blank squares are filled in with anything else I need to set aside time for Darrell and I to go to do something fun, like visit the coast. Advanced planning can be a grand thing to do… not just for work things and farm things but for fun things too.

Yes, this year has gone by so quickly, in a blink of an eye one might say. Christmas is just around the corner again and New Year’s will be upon us before we know it. When I turn that page in my calendar planner on January 1st, I want to see time blocked out in red. Not for pigs farrowing or milk cows calving, not for butchering or sausage making, not for EMT classes or teaching but for Darrell and I. Next year may zoom by just as quickly as this one has, but along with all the irons in the fire a big one will stand out, one with our name written on it.

Tom Turkey

11.19.17

Goodness me! Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Tom Turkey is still strutting around in his pen fit as a fiddle! Actually, he was supposed to have met his demise last New Year’s but had a reprieve. Then he had the tag on him for Easter dinner but that too passed with him being substituted for a ham. Fourth of July was definitely going to be his Waterloo then, my calendar became filled with teaching CPR classes, farmer’s markets and such, plus the weather was quite warm, a turkey dinner did not sound quite so appealing. During the year numerous little girls and boys who came with their families to stay at the farm had the fun of seeing Tom Turkey strut around the chicken pen in all his glory! Delighting in hearing him gobble back at them when they made their “gobble, gobble” sounds to a bird that outweighed some of them! But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Yes, Tom’s days are numbered, actually it may be better to say, his hours are numbered!

I know he is only one turkey, but I would rather butcher 3 pigs than do fowl. Wonder why that is? It will not take long at all to dispatch Tom, large as he is, for I will dry pluck him instead of pulling out all the paraphernalia to go through the scalding process. Ah! As much as I miss home grown chicken I do not really miss the dispatching of them. Well, part of me does not. There is something quite rewarding to start out early in the morning after chores are done and by noon be all cleaned up and have 25 birds in the freezer. The key is having a good system! I like systems and routines once they prove themselves to be time saving! In fact, we ended up with a very large cooler that had a wonky lid, which negated its use as a food storage cooler. Immediately I decided it was the perfect replacement to my old “chicken scalding cooler” that had served us for many years but was so leaky it was in dire need of replacing. Now even though I have no future plans for raising 50 odd meat chicken again, it is always a good idea to be well prepared…. just in case.

No, Tom will be dispatched and dry plucked. He has been residing in a part of the chicken coop along with our little pullets. I really should have snapped a picture with him and his tiny little chicks! Here is this whopper of a bronze turkey living with a dozen little newly fledged chicks and one tiny banty rooster. When we get new chicks, after they are old enough to forgo being under a heat lamp, they are taken down to the main chicken coop and moved into the “number two” chicken house to acclimatize them to their new life. Their pen area is separated from the regular laying hen area by a sturdy chicken wire barrier, allowing the older hens to see and accustom themselves to what will one day be their fellow egg layers. Had I put the fledged chicks in with the adult hens, all manner of pecking and chasing and harassment would have occurred! This way, when the dividing fence is removed allowing grown pullets to mingle with old hens for the first time, neither a pecking nor a squabbling will occur.

Now in the main “big chicken” area, a fine and handsome Barred Rock rooster rules the roost! Very respectful of humans … he is scared to death of me! … he is Lord and Master over his flock of hens. A short while ago I had the bright idea of removing the dividing fence and letting all the fowl mingle. Tom turkey had been residing beside the regular laying hens, separated by the fence of course, since he was just a wee little thing! I had no idea the kafuffle that would ensue by putting Tom turkey and Lord and Master Rooster in closer proximity to each other! Tom outweighs Rooster significantly so I thought there would not be any problems. How wrong I was! Once the fence was removed, that feisty rooster took off after Tom turkey, which I thought would hold his own and even thrash this smaller fowl. But no! Tom turkey was soon cowering in a corner while that cocky cockerel thrashed him! No worries, I was sure they would come to a truce, but that was not to be! One of our guests staying in the bunkhouse heard quite a ruckus down at the chicken coop and headed that way thinking something was amiss. She found poor big, old Tom turkey cringing in the corner of his house, straddling a perch, with the rooster thrashing the daylights out of him! Brave lady that she is, she went inside, extricated Tom who was unable to extricate himself, and after informing me of the situation I once again separated Tom and his little gang of pullets from the main chicken flock.

For days afterwards, when Rooster would see Tom turkey strutting alongside the division fence, he would fluff up his feathers and charge ineffectually towards his foe. Poor Tom would instantly cease his strutting and run in an ungainly fashion as fast as he could to the other side of his pen! Poor lad! Well, the time came but a week or so ago when the pullets were of an age to start laying and thus it was time they joined the main flock. Since I could not put Tom in with them because of his fear of Rooster, there was no option but to separate him from his chicks. So a smaller section of the chicken coop was fenced off just for him and the rest of his companions joined the laying crew with nary a ruffled feather. Tom still struts his stuff, Rooster still charges the fence, the pullets are starting to drop eggs willy nilly all over the chicken coop run (they have not quite figured out there are nice nest boxes inside the main chicken house) and a modicum of peace reigns. For some reason, Rooster pays no attention to the little banty rooster… yet!

Yes, today is most likely going to be the day when Tom leaves this world. I will miss him in a way. He is quite a character. But let us just say he will be glorified on Thanksgiving Day… along with mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts from the garden as well as carrots, stuffing and gravy. Yes, he has had a good life, a relatively long life for a turkey and will have a swift, humane departure. Thank you Tom turkey.

The trussed half bird…

Winter is knocking…

11.5.17

It’s Guy Fawkes Day! “Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot! We see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot!” Well I know folks in America do not celebrate Guy Fawkes Night as those of us of English descent do, but it would be a fitting night to have a roaring bonfire going out there I am sure! The brightness outside at almost 5 o’clock in the morning… no, make that 4 o’clock since the clocks just turned back… suggest the first measurable snow is on the ground. Yes indeed, as I peek outside I see snow covers the ground. Although it is a mere 30 degrees outside right now, by Monday night the predicted low temperatures are supposed to dip down to 18 degrees. I think winter may be knocking at the door. I do not know if I am quite ready to let him in!

I know I have said it before, numerous times in fact, how this year seems to have flown by at a very alarming rate! Here we are approaching the first bazaar of the season, the Condon Fall Festival on November the 18th, and I feel I am not ready! Just had an order come in last night that made me think I will be running out of cheese before I know it and here I thought I was well stocked for the coming holiday season. Oh well, since it is cold and snowy outside today, maybe a lotion and fizzy bath bomb making session is in order. The house may smell quite interesting since the delicious aroma of Christmas cakes still permeates the air from yesterday’s activities!

Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these pickles. For example, I was going to have the butcher in John Day come out and dispatch the beef steer that was more than ready to spend a few weeks in the cooler. I had even thought of having the pigs in the butcher pen done by them as well, since I was not absolutely sure how Mr. Stumpy would hold up to the skinning process. But then I decided I needed to get the animals dispatched sooner than when the butcher had an opening available and decided to take the plunge and put Mr. Stumpy to the test. Consequently, on a bright sunny day at the beginning of October, steer was dispatched. It went not too badly, considering I had a brainwave to try a new way of removing the innards (bad idea!) no time records set, but the job was done. Then I decided I needed to make more sausage since the cooler was running and we were getting low, so hauled 100 pounds of beef out the freezer and made a batch of Summer sausage and pepperoni. That was no sooner done than the beef was ready to cut and wrap. Two days after that I thought “Why not get some of the pigs in the butcher pen done?” I was thinking of us dispatching at least four or five but am glad now that Darrell insisted on only three. I was feeling awfully slow as I went to work on “disrobing” them, but it turns out we had three pigs processed, from kill shot to cooler in a tad over three hours time.

The following day, which was last Sunday, was more or less a day of rest since I had agreed to teach a CPR class in John Day on Monday. Wednesday was pig processing day. Thank goodness for my old Butcher Boy meat saw! Three pigs were cut and wrapped, bacons and hams set to rest in their brine baths, freezer full of little white packages. Thursday saw me once again in John Day teaching yet another CPR class and yesterday the belly bacon slabs were popped in the smoker while I also mixed up another batch of Christmas cakes and got them in the oven. Now I need to get a goodly number of Fizzy Bath Bombs made plus some more soaps and lotion too so as to be completely ready for the holiday season bazaars! Maybe Darrell wasn’t joking when he said he wanted to look at my calendar to book a date with me! It is my own fault. I see an opening, a blank spot on the calendar page and before I know it, have planned an activity. So I only have myself to blame for my somewhat frenetic lifestyle. But I would not change a thing… well… perhaps just a little.

Even though some days just feel as if there are not enough hours in them to accomplish all I would like to, there is still time in the day to sit by the fire with a good cup of tea at hand. The early morning hours are spent chatting with Darrell about what is on the agenda for the day, what projects need attending to. Projects we have in plenty! Our root cellar is almost complete. Darrell is now waiting on the painter to get her part done so shelves can be installed and the potatoes, cabbages and squash set to rest inside for the winter. Up at the shop we are enclosing an area of the attached lean-to shed so as to make a weather protected spot for another car. This will mean two of our old cars can be worked on at the same time, allowing Darrell and I to spend evenings at the shop working side by side, him on Scorcher and me on Pearl or Nessie. Right now both girls are residing in the arena while Scorcher sits in the warm shop!

Well, the fire needs stoking, my second cup of tea is on the brew and it is still only 5:30 a.m. according to the clock. Lass at least adjusts well to the turning back of the clocks. I try to get her prepared for it by waiting an extra ten minutes or so a day over the course of a week until I am a good half an hour later than normal in heading down to milk. By the time the clocks change, she is used to me being “behind” schedule. So when I head down to milk this morning, at what to her will be nearly forty-five minutes late, she will not be too displeased with me.

Yes, Old Man Winter is knocking on the door. With a good fire in the stove, a hot cup of tea to warm one’s hands, the smell of Christmas cakes permeating the air, I think I can let him in. Although not yet officially his season, he seems to be giving us a harbinger of things to come. Maybe he will be kindhearted and wait for a while before becoming firmly entrenched, allowing us to enjoy a few more days of autumn sunshine. After all, we have projects to finish that are more happily done on a bright, sunny day! But whatever is in store weather-wise, we are ready. The pantry is well stocked, the woodshed full and plenty of tea in the caddy.

 

 

 

 

Cake baking time again…

10.21.17

It is a cool, breezy, rainy day today. A good day to find an inside job to do! Darrell is working up in the shop on Scorcher, his 1958 Chevy Impala, a fire going in the woodstove to keep him warm. I decided today would be a good Christmas cake baking day once milking and feeding chores were done. All the ingredients for this special cake were subsequently brought out of the pantry and piled on the kitchen counter comprising 18 eggs brought to room temperature, two pound of butter set to soften, dried fruit, spices, treacle and brown sugar, all waiting to be measured and mixed in my big white bowls. I normally make three large cake batches at one time so our kitchen counters are quickly covered in bowls, bottles, bags, spoons and all manner of fixings!

The special recipe I use for this traditional English Christmas cake is comprised partly from my Marguerite Patten’s “Every Day Cook Book” and partly from my precious “Farmer’s Weekly” old cooking book given to me many years ago by my aunty Kay… in fact both books are from aunty Kay! The cake, full of currants, raisins, sultanas, glace cherries, mixed peel, lemon rind and slivered almonds is held together by a little four, plenty of butter and of course, eggs. Allspice and cinnamon, a goodly dose of sherry, treacle and soft brown sugar round out the ingredients. It takes a while to measure everything out and get the cake batter mixed up but that is nothing to the preparing of the cake tins!

I have an ancient old cake tin that has made goodness knows how many Christmas cakes in it’s lifetime and it never, repeat, never gets washed, merely wiped clean with a dry cloth after use. This old tin has a patina all of it’s own, slightly blackened and seasoned, just perfect for this special baking event of the year. Nothing else has been, nor will be, baked in it but Christmas cakes. Since I now have a number of folk out there who place orders for our Traditional English Christmas Cake, I have had to add a few other pots and pans to my cake production line up. Since the cakes, be them 5” or 8” in diameter, all seem to take about three and a half to four hours to bake, the tins must be thick and sturdy and very well lined. Not being able to find tins comparable to my good old traditional English one, I have put some heavy stainless cooking pots, sans their handles, into service. The bottoms of all are lined with two or three layers of brown paper then circles of greaseproof paper are cut to fit on top of the brown paper. Next, a band of greaseproof paper, three-fold thick, is fashioned to line the sides of the tins with little snips made in the lower edge so as to conform to the bottom of the tin to make a good seal.

Once this is done, the rich cake mixture is glopped into the waiting tins which are then given a jolly good bang on the floor so as to really pack said mixture down. This ensures a good solid cake that slices nicely. Then into the oven they go. After about an hour the temperature is reduced… a challenge when using a wood cook-stove… and the cakes cooked for an additional few hours or so. Now the waiting begins. How does one know when they are done? Well, an uncooked Christmas cake sings. Really! You listen close and the cake will be humming and singing away! A quiet cake is a done cake! Right now the cakes have been cooking for almost two hours and I just popped a cover of brown paper on top of the cake tins to stop the cake tops from getting too brown. The whole house smells delicious! All the bowls, spoons, cups and plates have been washed up and put away and the remaining dry ingredients stored back in the pantry. No one would know what a mess the kitchen was just a short while ago. Somehow when I bake, I seem to get stuff not just all over me but also on the floor, the cabinet doors, all over! How nice it is after all the mess to see a nice clear kitchen counter again.

This year seems to have flown by at quite an alarming rate. Hard to think we are rapidly approaching November with December and, dare I say it, Christmas just a short ways around the corner? Whenever Christmas cake baking season is here my mind starts drifting towards the making of peanut brittle, mincemeat pies and treacle tarts. With such a rainy day and a good fire going in the old wood cooker a nice hot chicken dinner sounds good too. Funny how a slight change in the weather makes sticking close to a toasty warm fire with a good cup of tea at hand much more appealing than working outside.

A quick peek in the oven, a gentle press on the cake tops followed by bending an ear to listen… no, they are not quite done as yet. This is always the hard part, the waiting for them to stop singing! Once out of the oven, the cakes will rest in their tins to cool until later on tonight when they are turned out. With their casing of greaseproof paper that lined the tins still attached to them, they sit covered with tea towels until the morning. The final act before heading off to the pantry shelf will be a liberal basting with a respectable brandy, a snug wrapping in more greaseproof paper followed by a good swaddling of plastic wrap. Now they sit patiently for a while, as a Christmas cake should get to “age” for at least six weeks before being enjoyed. Soon they will be shipped out to customers for their special Christmas treat. Cake orders are just starting to come in so I know there will be a few more days like today for me in the next fortnight or so. Oh well, somehow I will manage to bear sitting inside tending the oven, reading a good book and drinking tea! Of course I could always fill the waiting time by making cheese, soap or fizzy bath bombs… hmmm… maybe just the good book and tea will do.

Stumpy’s progress.

10.15.17

The middle of October is upon us, the nights are getting colder and my goodness is it nice to get the fire lit and roaring in the stove of a morning! As I age I feel these nippy autumnal mornings make that scalding hot first cup of tea all the more appreciated! So in eager anticipation I am waiting for the kettle to come to a boil. This past week has been an eye opening one for me, in a good way I should quickly assure you, but in a way that once again has me contemplating “Life”. I guess I need to start out by giving you a Mr. Stumpy update.

It is hard to believe it has been a mere six months since I lost the last joint of my left middle finger, thus began the life of Stumpy… or as he is often known… Mr. Stumpy. I still have not come to a conclusion as to why he should be referred to as a “he” over a “she”, but that is just the way it is. Anyway, this has been quite a journey and I know it is not over as yet. Along the way I have come to discover a myriad of things that said middle finger is important for, things one might never have given thought to had one not lost a goodly chunk of one’s finger. Yes, a whole new appreciation blossoms. This journey has been both humbling and enlightening.

As you all know, the dispatching of animals followed by the subsequent butchering, wrapping and storing away of the little white packages in the freezer is very much a part of my life here on the farm. To the dismay of my autumn customers who faithfully count on me processing their deer and elk from carcass to cuts for the table, due to my not knowing how Stumpy would behave when a sharp knife was in close proximity, I made the decision to forego any custom game cutting this season. I did not want to be under the pressure of having a number of carcasses in our cooler, awaiting my administrations, to discover I could now only get through one deer a day when in the past three had been a breeze! Also, there was the fear that since Stumpy still has that urge to stick straight up in the air, he would do so at an inappropriate time which would cause him a major wound. Do you know how hard it has been to say “no” to so many loyal customers from all over the country? But it was the right decision and I stick by it.

So I am sure you can imagine the trepidation I had when Darrell harvested his buck deer. Now I could have let him skin it and dress it out, but the butcher in me would have none of that so out came my knives and to work I went. Slowly at first I started the process of disrobing the deer, keeping a very watchful eye on Stumpy. I had to remind him a few times to tuck himself out the way and found by making a few slits here and there in the deer’s hide I could make handy holes which allowed his neighbours to more easily pull the hide away from the flashing knife and thus keep Stumpy out of harms way. It was a challenge to change my skinning style, but I managed with nary a nick or a stick. What a triumph that was! It made that night’s dinner of liver and onions so much sweeter! Of course when I am processing an animal I have an internal time clock ticking away in my brain, I find I try to equal or beat previous “processing” times and this was no different. Being awfully careful, as I did not want to inadvertently slash Stumpy, the process felt terribly slow. Darrell, who had popped to the house to make me a nice cup of tea, assured me I was maybe at most about 10 minutes slower than normal and for goodness sake stop worrying as I was not in a competition! How right he was! It was an accomplishment and a relief to know with a bit of training, Stumpy could behave and allow me to get the full dispatching job done.

So, was I ready to tackle something larger than a deer? Maybe. I would think about it a bit. Since my accident I have found it takes no time at all to lose a great deal of one’s strength and despite trying to not compensate too much with my right arm, I have indeed lost a great deal of strength and dexterity in my left hand and arm. Whereas I used to be able to grasp the top of a gallon jar full of milk and carry it with ease with either hand, I am only just at the point of being able to handle a half-gallon with my left hand. Since Stumpy still cannot fully bend downwards like his partners, grasping with any strength is still a challenge (thus all the little holes in the deer hide!) His predilection for sticking up in the air is a habit that is awfully hard to break! So, how would my left hand fare while skinning out a fully-grown steer? I guess there was only one way to find out!

Last Monday dawned bight and fair, a good day for dispatching. After milking was accomplished and feeding chores done, Darrell and I headed to the paddock where Steer and his sister Heifer resided. A big pan of grain was set down in front of Steer and he died a happy chap. My goodness but he was big! His sister munched away on her hay while Darrell with the tractor, removed Steer from the paddock to my customary spot where the skinning and processing would take place. Normally we start such a deed about 8:30 or 9:00 o’clock in the morning. Today we were “late”, it was closer to 10:30 a.m. when we began. Propping the carcass up on it’s back with blocks strategically placed, I began skinning away. Now a steer hide is way thicker and much heavier than a deer hide! Normally I pride myself in removing a hide with little in the way of holes or nicks in it, but that was not the case here! To help Stumpy and my slightly weakened left hand, I once again reverted to making numerous “hand holes” here there and everywhere in the hide! Not pretty, but it worked. All in all the skinning was accomplished in near normal time, Stumpy was hanging in there like a trooper. The evisceration process, which for those readers of a sensitive nature I shall not go into detail at this time, was should we say, challenging. I decided to try a new method, which I thought might be easier on Stumpy. Alas, it was a nightmare… I have never been so inclined to stamp my feet and have a temper tantrum as I was at that moment! I should have stuck to our “regular” method! But no worries, the deed was finally done, the carcass taken to the butcher shop where it was subsequently quartered and lodged in the cooler. Despite taking nearly three and a half hours, the deed was done! Stumpy was tired and a tad stiff and sore, but he had survived the test! Another big step forward!

Yesterday, I was over in Bend, where a lovely lady I met during the eclipse event had invited me to come to her house to showcase my wares for her friend’s shopping pleasure. Her big, round dining room table was the perfect spot to display soaps and lotions, bath bombs, books and all the other odds and ends I make and sell. While the ladies chatted and shopped the thought really came home to me… what a wonderful life I live. Driving home that evening I thought once again I would not change one thing about the life I have. Stumpy has again reminded me that life can change in the blink of an eye, we can accept and adapt and keep right on moving forward or give up. Things you thought you might never do again can be done… maybe with a little more time involved… but can be done, and what a wonderful thought that is at the end of the day. Home, warmth of a fire, kettle singing on the hob, a new day before us, my dearest beside me… what more could one want?

Hunting Season is Upon Us!

10.1.17

It is a little past four o’clock in the morning. When I woke up, even without my glasses on I could see the stars brilliantly twinkling in a very dark sky. It will be chilly out there, a good morning to light a fire in the old wood cook stove and get the place warmed up. Autumn is upon us and with it will come soups and stews, meat pies, cakes and bread baked to perfection in the cooker’s capacious oven. Nothing beats a loaf of bread cooked in an old wood cooker!

The good old wood cookstove!

But this time of year also heralds the start of hunting season. Actually, yesterday was opening day and Darrell harvested a nice little buck that is currently hanging in our cooler. Now we do not take hunting season lightly! For us it is not about the antlers but about good tasty meat in the freezer, so we have a rule, head or neck shots only. Darrell did a grand job as usual and shot his buck right in the ear, dropping him in his tracks with the lad not even knowing what hit him. No wasted meat, no trauma or stress on the animal, a swift, clean harvest.

I have to say; I was a tad nervous as to the butcher shop we took the buck. This would be my first time skinning out an animal with Stumpy. Would he behave and stay neatly tucked out the way or would he insist on sticking ignominiously straight up in the air? He has that tendency you know… if danger is near he still insists on boinging straight out of what he perceives to be harms way! Unfortunately, when it comes to some things, pointing straight up instead of being tucked down like his compatriots tends to put him directly at risk of a bonking or worse! In the case of skinning an animal, a very sharp flashing knife is being wielded often in quite close proximity to him. So it was with slow and steady moves that I began the process of skinning the buck, reminding Stumpy on a regular basis to try to remain as tucked as possible with his neighbouring digits. All in all it was a success! I discovered I still do not have full hide gripping strength back in my left hand but with effort I can keep Stumpy safely out of the way so as to get the deed done in a timely manner.

Well, Darrell has his buck in the cooler, now it is my turn. So after another cup of tea, I grabbed my trusty rifle and headed off to see if I too could put some meat in the freezer. We are still terribly dry around here and as such, creeping quietly around in the woods is a bit challenging. Progress is by a few steps forward then a slow look around to see if I can spot a telltale switch of a tail or twitch of an ear signaling a deer is on the lookout. Slowly, slowly I made my way, taking my usual route when I head out back to look for deer. After painstakingly making my way to a thick copse of brush and downed trees a goodly distance from the house, a place where I have found bucks bedded down in the past, I saw some bushes up ahead quivering. Yes, I spy an ear and a couple of legs; a deer is munching away behind that scrubby brush. But drat! Here I am, quite exposed with nothing but a patch of bare ground around me and one stubby little scrub brush in front of me! Yes, I see antlers… a nice little forked horn… no wait! There are two of them, both about the same size! But since they are mostly hidden behind the thick scrub ahead, I find I will have to crawl forward slightly on hands and knees to get a clear shot.

Slowly, slowly I move from my crouched position to all fours, moving ever so slightly clear of the little bush in front of me. Ah yes, that is better! Now if only one would step forward I will have a dandy shot at a mere 40 yards. I am sure you have all had the feeling at one time or another that you are being watched? Well just as I was settled and prepared to shoot, I had that uncanny feeling something was watching me and since we do have cougars in our area, I slowly turned my head to check over my shoulder. What do I see? There, just a few yards from me, staring intently with ears forward, nose quivering and hair standing on end was another little buck! He gave one loud snort, which of course alerted his two companions to the immanent danger, and all three took off like rockets! Well that was interesting to say the least!

So up I get and slowly begin the forward trek that would loop me around through what we call “The Mahogany Wood” and bring me back home. Now often on this little area of our property, deer will browse on the bitter brush and rabbit brush that dots the slightly hilly ground that is also is home to a nice growth of Mountain Mahogany. These bushy trees provide wonderful habitat for all manner of wildlife and deer and elk especially. Seldom have I passed through this area without seeing deer and this day was no exception. However, due to the hilly hammocks, it is often the case you top one slight rise to find yourself near face to face with deer! So slow and steady is the watchword. Trying to keep some brushy cover in front of me, I make my way through the wood and am ready to top the final rise where the trees end and a flattish area dotted with sage bush spreads out for a few acres before a steep gully breaks the terrain.

Naturally, as I top the rise, a twitching ear greets my eyes and I find myself just yards from a young doe and her baby. I freeze, hoping they did not see me for where there is one doe there are sure to be more and maybe even a buck too. Yes, there are more does nearby. They munch contentedly, totally unaware of my presence while I try to remain like a statue. But remaining like a statue, half crouched over, in the act of taking a step forward is not a comfortable pose to hold for long yet if I move, someone is sure to see me! Oh no! A cramp is coming on! I can feel the muscles in my left thigh begin to scream in protest, the sweat breaks out on my brow, I will have to move and blast the consequences! As I slowly reach down to grab my aching leg the young doe sees movement, gives the loud alarm snort and all I hear are the sounds of bounding deer going every which way. The alarmed doe does not know quite what way to go, so back and forth she bounds, trying to figure out what or exactly where I am before dashing off across the open area. Well so much for that hunt!

Cramp relived I start heading homeward yet still remain alert. One never knows, something may still be ahead. As I wind my way through the tall sage I see him. Well, I had an idea it was a “him”. All I could see was part of a body and part of a face staring directly at me about 120 yards away. The top of the head was obscured by brush and although I was pretty sure it was a buck, until I spied antlers there was no way I was going to shoot. I froze and he froze. Slowly, slowly I dropped to one knee and brought my rifle up to look through the scope to see if any antlers could be discerned. He moved slightly. Yes! He had antlers and was a very, very nice mature four-point buck! A deep breath to steady myself, readying for the shot, all he had to do was step forward a tad from behind that bush! But this canny chap had not lived as long by being careless, he stepped forward a smidge but kept most of his head and neck concealed by the brushy foliage. I could have taken a shot on his body but just could not bring myself to do it. If I couldn’t drop this fine fellow with a single shot in his head or neck I would not shoot. As if knowing he had me pegged, he turned his tail towards me and trotted up and over the hill, keeping a good screen of vegetation between us. Ah what a lad he was! Should I have shot? No, I was right in holding off. After all, as I have said before, you cannot eat the antlers. Maybe today will be the day…

Summer’s bounty

9.17.17

There is a very definite autumnal tang to the air. Last night was not quite as chilly as the night before when the temperature dropped to 32 degrees, subsequently giving us enough of a frost to kill the green beans, squash plants and put a good dent in the tomatoes. The weatherman had predicted nighttime temperatures of 40 degrees so I should have known it could drop lower than that, but did not listen to my belly and so did not bother to drag the heavy tarp from the shop to the garden to cover up the tomatoes. Drat it anyway!

Yet something must have been giving me the feeling the summer season was coming to a close, as I had the uncanny urge to pick green beans! This year, Darrell’s green thumb outdid its’ self in the green bean department, and the corn department for that matter. His green bean plants were loaded with lovely, long, tender fruit. We have been picking green beans for ages now, giving a bunch to his son Andy, sold some at market, eaten them stir fried in Chinese, cooked on the Bar-B-Q, sautéed in olive oil and garlic, mixed with bacon and chicken stock… we are getting a tad “beaned out”! But the urge to pick was there so grabbing a box I started work down the first row. Soon my box was filled to overflowing; Darrell came to join me and soon went for a five-gallon bucket, which also was rapidly filled to the brim. Next a 52-quart cooler was procured and when that was filled we stopped! What were we going to do with all these beans!

Now I normally will put up a two-year supply of beans, corn and tomatoes but fell off my schedule last year as if you will recall, we were thinking of selling the farm and moving on. So really I should have knuckled down and preserved this bounty of green beans but I for one would rather eat corn than beans so opted to preserve that golden harvest instead. After lugging the full cooler back to the house and depositing it in the laundry room, I decided to see if our friends at the Thomas Orchards could take said beans off our hands and sell them down there. Indeed they could, so yesterday morning the beans and a big tub of corn were duly delivered to the fruit stand in Kimberly. Yes, corn too. Although not as pleased with his corn this year, the ears are rather long and too slender for Darrell’s taste, we do have a goodly amount, plenty for canning, freezing and eating fresh. That is on the agenda for Monday, Darrell will pick me coolers full of corn then the canning begins!

I really do enjoy canning corn despite the mess and time involved. The cutting of golden kernels from the cob… getting ones ‘self well splattered with sticky sweet juice in the process… the filling of pint jars freshly washed and rinsed with scalding hot water standing in tidy rows on the kitchen counters. The two big pressure cookers, looking like some sort of weird bombs sitting atop the cook-stove waiting to be filled with layers of jars for processing. Then comes the watching of the pressure dials, seeing the heat is turned up just right so as to keep the pressure at a steady 10 pounds for the required 55 minutes. Ah, but the reward of seeing rows of jars on the pantry shelf filled with golden sweetness is so worth the effort and in the middle of winter, to open a jar of our corn is to remember the sun of summer!

Somehow, this year has zoomed by at quite an alarming rate! Maybe it was having such a long and tedious winter filled with some very unforgettable and hopefully never to be repeated events, followed by a sudden start to summer. The weather went from cold to hot in a flash and I mean hot! So many folks have commented on the length of time we have been in the very high ninety degree to over one hundred degree range this summer with nary a break. The winter snowmelt and wet spring was great for grass production but then the hot summer temperatures brought the worry of thunderstorms and fire. Thankfully we have been spared the devastating wildfires that have plagued other parts of Oregon and our neighbouring states of Washington, Idaho and Montana. When looking at fire maps of the United States it seems as if the entire western region is ablaze! Thankfully cooler weather is upon us and much needed rain is in the forecast. So despite gently grumbling at how we went from 90 degree days to 60 degree days in just about a day, I really am thankful for the weather change.

But as the feeling of autumn hits, there comes with it an almost frantic desire to get things ready for Old Man Winter, as he must be just waiting around the corner I am sure. Just like a squirrel, I feel the need to make sure our pantry is brimming with stored food. Darrell has already filled the woodshed both at the house and the shop, our winter store of hay is in the barn and grain bins are full of animal feed. Yet there still is much to do. It is a good feeling to be prepared is it not?

The animals too are feeling the seasonal change. All of a sudden the deer have started to group together and are coming out to feed earlier and earlier of an evening, prowling around the vegetable garden perimeter just longing to find a way in. There is a reason we have such a tall fence! The Redwing Blackbirds arrived yesterday and descended on our corn, a sure sign it is ready for canning and I heard the first Sandhill Cranes passing overhead on their long journey south from Alaska to Mexico. Their haunting trill always signals the seasonal transformation, from hearing them fly over us in the spring as they head north to their breeding grounds in Alaska to the their southward journey heralding autumnal change. All creatures know.

Last evening I hauled the big tarp to the garden and diligently covered the tomatoes. It was a bumper crop this year, lovely large fruit still green as grass, but what an abundance of them! Maybe we will be fortunate; maybe enough will have survived the touch of frost from the other night. Maybe Mother Nature will be gentle and spare us a strong killing frost thus allowing the fruit to ripen to a rich red. Then, another garden bounty will be harvested, canned and set to store on our pantry shelves. To be opened in mid-winter, the aroma of freshly picked, red ripe tomatoes rising from the jar as they are added to soups and stews bubbling away on the woodstove. Yes, Old Man Winter may be just around the corner but we will be ready, snuggled in our little log house, fire roaring in the grate, a pantry full of summer’s bounty to sustain us. Hmmm, I am actually looking forward to it!

Family “eclipses” all!

8.27.17

To say this has been an epic week would be a gross overstatement for sure! Maybe that is why the title of this morning’s musing is “Family eclipses all” is so very appropriate! This time last week saw Darrell and I sharing our farm with a wonderful family and a few of their friends who had made the jaunt to the Triple H in order to view the total solar eclipse in the path of totality. Monday rolled around and the time for this epic celestial event approached. Our visitors headed down the hill into Monument so as to watch the eclipse with the rest of their family gathered at the little Monument airport. Darrell and I along with Brandy and Bella settled in to observe the skies from the comfort of our own front deck.

With welding helmets at hand, dogs at our feet and peacefulness all around us, we waited. Every once in a while I would don either my special solar eclipse viewing glasses or my welding helmet and glance at the sun to see how far the moon had obscured her face. As the two-thirds stage approached there was just a slight change in the feel and “look” of the air. Three-quarters of the way the bees were still happily working the catmint flowers alongside our garden path. Gazing at the sun and slowly seeing the moon obscure even more of her surface, to where the sun herself through the protective lens looked like a sliver of new moon, the temperature dropped and shadows lengthened. Darrell and I waited for that moment of totality… me with bated breath, Darrell with stoic nonchalance. Then it happened… the sun disappeared and the brilliant corona was visible to the naked eye. Stars popped out and the temperature dropped markedly. An eerie silence surrounded us for even the bees had suddenly disappeared. The air had a surreal quality to it that is hard to explain. Darrell suddenly reminded me to grab the camera and take a picture although a picture will never quite capture the essence of this celestial event. Would I have travelled hundreds of miles to witness it? No, most likely I would not, but to see it from one’s own front deck with one’s best friend sitting right beside you holding your hand, well that was worth so much more.

As quickly as totality happened, it was over. The sky once again began to brighten, stars winked out and the temperature began to rise as the bees returned and resumed their steady drone. Life goes on.

After the eclipse event, the many folks who had descended upon our little town and others in Grant County started wending their way home. Darrell and I had made plans to head south to Reno in order to attend and sell our wares at the big gun show held a couple of times a year in that bustling burg. We were going to leave on Thursday but decided with our wedding anniversary just around the corner we would head off half a day early. The last of the folks who had visited the farm for the eclipse would be here until Thursday and they obligingly offered to take care of morning chores for us and Darrell’s son Andy and his family would arrive on Thursday afternoon to “farm sit” for us until our return on Monday. Excitedly we prepared for this little holiday of ours, a rare time away together from the farm. With the truck packed to the gills, animals fed and watered, we said fond farewells to our visiting friends and then headed off down the driveway on holiday.

Since we left home Wednesday afternoon, the first leg of our journey saw us driving about 320 miles south and spending the night in Alturas, California. We did not get too much sleep and were on the road again before daylight the next day, easily making the remaining 170+ mile jaunt to Reno where we checked into our hotel room and then set up Darrell’s table. The remainder of the day was spent chatting with other vendors who had also set up early, then finished up with a super meal at the hotel’s Grand Buffet. As we headed up to our room after eating way more than we should have, we were excited about the opening of the show the following morning. Once in the room I turned on my computer to check emails and messages only to discover our world would be turned upside down in a moment. We discovered Darrell’s younger sister Ruth had suffered a debilitating stroke.

This news hit us like a ton of bricks! The message said Ruth had been struck totally blind by the stroke and was currently in an ICU ward in Springfield, a town close to where she lives. We were able to get her daughter’s telephone number and Darrell called his niece to get an update and more information on how his sister was doing. The report did not sound good. Apparently Ruth had been misdiagnosed at one doctor office as well as one hospital before her daughter took her to another facility that made the correct diagnosis. However, this time delay precluded the use of the clot busting medication so there was no way to remove the clot that was pressing on her optic nerve thus rendering her sightless. Darrell was in a stew! There was no way we could leave that night as we could not get into the exhibit hall to retrieve everything from Darrell’s table. We would have to wait until morning. Needless to say we once again had a sleepless night.

Up bright and early, we packed up our luggage and headed down to the hall in the hopes of being allowed to enter to gather up all our wares and get on the road. Thankfully, the show manager happened to be outside the exhibit hall and after hearing our story of Darrell’s sister, expedited our way into the hall and with the aid of a security guard we were all packed up in a jiffy. Soon we were speeding on our way north for the 430 mile trip to get us to Ruth.

We arrived at the hospital where Ruth was supposed to still be in the ICU ward and were delighted to find she had been moved from that unit to a bed in an observation ward located in the old part of the hospital. After an extensive search we found her and what joy it was to see Ruth looking so well! From what we had last heard, she was almost totally sightless and was under threat of another serious, life-threatening stroke which made Darrell more than ever want to see his sister. It was so good to be able to hug her and sit and chat with this remarkable lady. Her spirits were high, she was as tenacious as ever and more than ready to get out of that hospital bed! Ruth was indeed a very lucky lady. She has quite severe glaucoma and bless her heart, knowing that one day soon she most likely would become fully blind, she regaled us with witty stories of how she had already memorized “steps” between each room in her little house in preparation for what she knew was an inevitable event. She just had not expected blindness to hit her so quickly! Darrell and her joked at how they were now alike in that he too is blind in his left eye with diminished sight in his right. Thankfully she does have some sight in her right eye and we all hope and pray that as the clot in her occipital region subsides her sight will continue to improve.

After a lovely visit with Ruth, the arrival of an orderly to take her for an MRI prompted us to go find a room for the night and grab something to eat, promising to come and see her again after we had dinner and before we headed off for much needed sleep. Upon returning that evening we chatted again for a while then said we would be back in the morning to check on her, reassuring her the long drive up from Reno was well worth it to see her smiling face!

The following morning, after breakfast, we popped in and had a grand couple of hours visit with Ruth who was more than ready to make her escape from that hospital ward! I must admit, the harried nurses and overcrowding in that hospital wing made Darrell and I greatly appreciate the compassion and care received by patients in our local Blue Mountain Hospital!

After taking leave of Ruth with promises to call her immediately upon our arrival at home, we began the final leg of our journey, the over 260 mile trip home. Tired but so glad we had seen Ruth, we pulled into our driveway yesterday evening with relief. A journey of 1230 miles later, the majority of them quite stressful ones, had brought us full circle home. Some family members had questioned why we should give up our so looked forward to holiday in order to make such an epic jaunt to see Darrell’s sister when there really was nothing we could do for her. Well let me tell you, the look of joy on Ruth’s face when she saw her brother enter her cubicle, the tears that flowed from Darrell’s eyes as he hugged his little sister were worth every single mile and every single stressful moment. We would do it again in a heartbeat. After all, the eclipse may have been a spectacular epic event… but family love truly eclipses all.

 

Morning drizzle

8.13.17

How lovely it was to wake up this morning to the very soft sound of rain pattering down on the roof and deck. After what seems an interminable age without the slightest bit of moisture direct from Mother Nature, this soft drizzle was much appreciated. Last evening, Darrell and I sat on the front deck as some huge raindrops splashed down. We were in hopes of a downpour but instead got just enough to make some dark splotched areas on the deck’s parched wood. A brief spattering and it was over.

This time of year, any moisture falling from the sky is very welcome. Fire is our greatest fear so as we watch the clouds building we have mixed feelings, will we get some much needed rain or will those clouds bring only thunder and lightning? Thankfully for us we were spared lightning although the huge rumblings meant someone was feeling the brunt of the storm nearby.

It really is quite amazing what a natural watering from Mother Nature does to one’s garden. Despite being diligently dampened on a regular basis with water from our well via hosepipes and sprinklers, the plants seem to relish the “true” dampening coming from the skies up above. They seem to grow almost before one’s eyes and instantly flourish. I am sure our corn and sunflowers sprout inches immediately after a rain and the weeds, well they just go right to town! Yes, nothing beats a natural soaking.

I had to smile yesterday morning. We have a family from Portland visiting us this weekend, dad and his twin 11-year-old children. As we all went down to the lower farmyard to feed Lass and the pigs, a few large raindrops started to spatter down. In the 70 plus degree warmth of the morning I relished the droplets falling on my face and shoulders, this to me was a treat! The youngsters however, pulled up their sweatshirt hoods and eventually headed for dryness of the bunkhouse until the brief shower was over. I too may have done just the same at one time in my life, now, during summer’s drought, I relish the slightest moisture coming from above.

This summer has been quite brutal as far as hot weather goes. Our chickens are showing their displeasure by cutting back on egg production, Lass too is down on her milk although still giving up nearly 5 gallons a day for me plus some for her calf as well so I cannot complain. But in this heat she is more content to find a shady tree to lie under rather than head out the back to forage. Trying to get as much done in the coolness of the early mornings as possible is the name of the game for us for by noon the heat is driving us to find a shady spot. This whole year has been a bit of a muddle as far as temperatures go. The wild and wooly winter was followed by a very wet spring which just as Darrell predicted, turned off into a blazing hot summer. Not to wish our lives away, but we are looking forward to some slightly cooler and damper weather! It is just too dry out here!

Of course before much longer we will be inundated with people in our little community as the great extravaganza, the solar eclipse, will see a huge swath of Oregon swamped with people from all over the globe. We in Monument, as well as other towns in Grant County, are in the “Path of Totality”. As such, we are preparing for an influx of visitors the likes of which we have never seen. If only half the number of people show up that are expected, we will still find resources stretched to the limit! With only a week to go until the celestial event, people are on edge wondering what to expect. Some landowners are hosting huge numbers of eclipse viewers, opening up their fields and sectioning off camping spots to take advantage of the flood of people looking for a place to watch the sky. Eclipse mania is upon us! For ourselves, we are content to have a lovely family from down in California return to stay with us. Two years ago they were here for a family reunion and at that time booked our bunkhouse for this event, which to tell you the truth I had no inkling of at the time! They and a photographer lady from the Seattle area are the only ones who will be staying at our farm, which is perfectly fine for us!

Let us all hope those folks who are planning on coming to our little part of the world to view this celestial event will treat our lands with kindness and consideration. May they come and enjoy our beautiful area, leave no fires behind them and return home safe and sound.

 

Letting go…

7.16.17

As I woke up this morning and glanced out the bedroom window, the early light of dawn was just a glow on the horizon, reminding me yet again that we are on the downhill slope of another year. There is a bit of a chill in the air, a welcome coolness after the heat of the past couple of days, but a harbinger that firing up the wood cookstove of a morning may not be that far off. Daft thinking I know, since we still have the remainder of July and all of August’s heat to get through. Right now we have guests staying in the bunkhouse or this cool morning would see Darrell outside, firing up the chainsaw, cutting the logs piled in our driveway turnaround into chunks destined for the woodshed. Early morning is definitely the time to get cracking on chores like this before the day’s heat drives you to seek shelter indoors.

Sitting waiting for my first cup of tea to brew, I realize it is a very dear friend of mine’s birthday today. She turns 57, just as I shall turn 57 in September. Goodness me, why 57 sounds so much older than 55 or 56 I have no idea, maybe because 60 is looming around the corner? I think I am going through a mid-life crisis. Once again it hits me how very short our lives are and how much we tend to work, work, work instead of making time to play. Now when one has been brought up with the old adage “Work first and play later” firmly drummed into one’s being, playing before working in an anathema! Yet more and more a part of me is raising up a rebellious head, determined to defy that part of me so well programmed by my father all those years ago. I can choose when to say, “Let’s take off for the day!” and put all thoughts of the chores waiting to be done at home behind me can’t I? Of course! Sounds so easy to do yet how hard it is to take that step away from old habits. Yet when one does, an almost gleeful little girl feeling steals over one, an uncontrollable urge to giggle wells up inside. As we throw a map, fishing poles and tackle box in the back of the truck, grab some snacks out the pantry and head off into the dawn’s early light to who knows where (after judiciously feeding all the farm critters of course!), I glance over at Darrell sitting beside me and we both feel a tad like truant schoolchildren. It is however a grand feeling! We must do this more often.

This maybe is what has brought forth the feelings inside me that it is time to allow change to slip in to the old routines, to let go of some things here and there, make some changes in our life. What on earth has brought this on? Maybe the realization of mortality as a flashback to this past winter and the roof collapse debacle, maybe the realization I am starting to slow down, that I cannot go 90 miles an hour all the time. Maybe just that I finally came out and admitted to Darrell that I am tired. Do you have an idea how hard it was to say those three little words out loud? Incredibly hard! I think Darrell was quite relived that I actually voiced them! Now anyone who knows me will understand that there is no way I can just sit and do nothing, it is not in my nature, but I have made up my mind that I need to cut back here and there. Small steps towards slowing down!

Well, that was easy to admit and spit out in the open! So then comes the huge dilemma of what to cut back on, what to possibly give up, what to change et cetera, all the wile trying like mad to not feel guilty about any of it! Stumpy has helped me out in one respect… haven’t I always claimed I lost the end of my finger for a reason? He makes his feelings known in a swift and sure manner, letting me know instantly and often very painfully, that I need to rethink how to accomplish common tasks. The other day I had the making of sausage on the agenda. Grinding the meat was no problem; it was the mixing in of the spices that was the daunting task. How would Stumpy cope? He hates to get cold and a fifty-pound lug of ground meat is cold! The pepperoni mixing was slow but not too bad. The summer sausage was even easier as I got into the swing of things, however the salami almost did him in! Those whole peppercorns were just too abrasive on Stumpy’s still tender end! But one handed I got the job done. Darrell offered his help but stubborn me declined, I could get this done and done indeed I did!

Stumpy brought up a good point, I can work around his tendency to boing up in the air out of harms way at a moments notice for the most part, yet I have to admit I have to be so very aware of him at all times. He does not bend as easily as I feel he should, he is still a fat, chubby little thing and my goodness does he get cold easily! I find I have lost some strength in my left arm, natural I suppose since I cannot grip as well without the full use of a middle finger, but I am working on that. What concerns me, and we shall soon put it to the test, is how Stumpy will fare when it comes to skinning out an animal or butchering a beef. His tendency to stick straight up in the air, while comical sometimes could become a liability where sharp flashing knives are concerned! I shall have to be extra cautious! Maybe I need to give him some more time to recuperate, more time to work on his flexibility and strength, more time to toughen up tender nerves. Yes, time.

Then the thought hits me… time… time to slow down, time to go fishing, time to just sit on the front porch and watch the sun go down. Oh drat! Is this a subtle way to make me let something go? You know, I think it is. I ask Darrell what he would think about me giving up my autumnal work of processing wild game for folks? Normally he responds to such an enquiry with a comment such as “I need to leave that decision up to you”, so I was surprised when he came out with a resounding “Good idea!” He worries about me being in the butcher shop all day cutting and wrapping elk or deer. He will worry more because of Stumpy. Can I do this though? Can I give up all my loyal customers who have relied on me for the past few years to process their harvested game animals from carcass to little white packages? Oh dear me, saying “no” is not my forte… yet there is a part of me that once the subject was voiced I realized it was the right decision to make. The guilt will no doubt insidiously try to seep in when I get a telephone call asking if I can cut and wrap an elk or two or three, but I must and will be strong. This is one thing I will let go… at least for this year. Stumpy and Darrell will be relieved!

Yes, making the decision to slow down a tad, to cut back on some of the things I do is not easy, it makes me feel awfully lazy! But you know, along with such thoughts come calmness, a peace and a sense that I have made the right choice. Is this what a mid-life crisis is about? Seeing that life is short and it is time to stop and smell the rose’s a bit? If so, I think I am on the right track. Thank goodness I have a strong man beside me, to help guide and support me through this chapter in my life. What on earth would I do without him? Ah… he just brought me another cup of tea… yes, what indeed would I do without him…