Welcome to Living from My Abundance

welcomedeck

We all have an abundance of something, and sometimes we see our own abundance better through the eyes of someone else. We were put on this earth to share, to love, to give and to grow. Let’s live from our abundance together. And leave the legacy we are called to leave. Keep reading for tips, ramblings, recipes and more.

Sending Off Sir Loin

While the solar eclipse is exciting news all over the U.S. today, we had some pretty big news of our own here on our little farm.

Our first steer went in for butchering today.

I remember the very first time we saw Sir Loin.  He was in a neighbor’s pasture, and we were told to go take a look at him.  Our neighbor wanted our heifer calf, Brisket, and wondered if we thought his young bull would be a fair trade.  Dave and I pulled over onto the grassy shoulder of our country road and sized up our neighbor’s offer.  The conversation went a little something like this:

Me:  He’s bigger than Brisket.
Dave:  He looks healthy.
Me:  He has a sweet face.
Dave:  I think he’s about 6 or 7 months old.
Me:  I hope he’s not aggressive.
Dave:  He’ll need to be castrated.
Thoughtful silence.
Me:  What do you think?
Dave:  Sure.

And that pretty much clinched the deal.  Later, after my favorite vet castrated the animal, I asked if everything looked good.  The vet replied with something like, “You guys made one heck of a trade”.  That was good news.

We immediately dubbed him Sir Loin and set about making his stay at Country Haven a healthy and enjoyable one.  He was even-tempered and relatively friendly.  He made buddies with our 4 month old heifer, Red Rose.  They became friends quickly and showed lots of bovine affection for one another.

Sir Loin was often the first to come running when I took a bucket of produce scraps or sweet potato vines to throw over the fence.  He loved his snacks, and would often follow and frolic alongside us on our evening walks around the pasture.  He was always willing to stop what he was doing for a fistful of red clover, and he intimidated more than one uninformed guest by intensely staring in their direction, snorting while not-so-patiently waiting for a fresh handout.

People have long asked if it would be difficult for me to eat Sir Loin, and I’ve always replied with a sound “nope”.  However, I will say that I will miss his presence.  He had a sweet disposition, and he was an asset to our little farm.  Having said that, we know that his purpose was to provide healthy, low-cost beef for our table.  Today was the day to begin the transition from field to freezer.

I am thankful for what I learned from Sir Loin, and I am thankful for the opportunity to experience growing our own beef.  As a special send-off, we were able to give him lots of his favorite treats over the weekend–mealy watermelons, cantaloupe rinds and corn husks, plus lots of fly-swatting and back-scratching to boot.  He sure did have it made while he was here.

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Lord, thank You for this new provision for our family.  Thank You for letting us have a hand in the process and for increasing our knowledge about growing good food.  May we share this beef in a way that brings You glory, showing the folks around us how big You love them! 

Waiting for the Bell

Ringing, dinging, buzzing, singing.  We are a noisy bunch of folks these days.

It’s a wonder that we can focus on anything with all of the chirping, whistling, humming and vibrating that’s going on around us.  Most of us are answering our phones in the checkout lines, drive thru lanes, on date nights and even in church.  We’re pouring out our hearts in waiting rooms, school rooms, break rooms and even bathrooms.  (Puh-LEASE!)  We scramble to answer our phones while we’re driving, groping frantically through our purses and consoles.  We carefully position our phones on the steering wheel so that we can even text while speeding down the road at 60 miles per hour, seemingly forgetting that we cannot control everything.  We interrupt friends, ignore children, tune out spouses and neglect to thank the folks who hold open our doors, wave us ahead of them at the 4-way stop and bag our groceries.  Many of us even try to maintain two conversations at the same time, confusing a multitude of people around us.

And yet we keep on doing it.

What is wrong with us that we think we are so important?  What makes us live as though we truly believe that the world will stop spinning if we ignore the bells?  How can we justify putting other people in danger for the sake of a text?  How can what is happening on social media trump precious time spent with our children at the park or extended family on holidays or even our evenings with our spouses?

We’ve got some priority issues, folks.

The number of people who have liked our status does not determine our worth.

The continual chirping of our phones does not dictate how much we are needed.

The world will not spontaneously combust if we silence our phones while driving.

Unless the good Lord wills otherwise, the sun will still rise if we leave our phones on the kitchen counter through the night.  (We’d probably sleep better, too!)

We have got to discipline ourselves to tune out of some things for the sole purpose of tuning into the important things.  We have got to unplug from the little things so that we have the energy to plug into the big things.

We simply must recognize the difference between a distraction and a priority. 

When we choose to heed the chirp of our phones over the well-being of the people around us, we are allowing our legacy to be compromised.  We must be intentional about our investment in those we love if we want to have a positive lasting legacy.  Boundaries are a good thing.  It’s time to set some for ourselves.

 

Flapjack

Last Sunday morning, I went out to take care of all of the young meat birds.  I had slept in until after 7:00 and was feeling quite refreshed.  The Cornish-X chicks are always so happy to see me, and they seemed even more eager to be fed this morning.  An extra 45 minutes of sleep for me meant a longer wait on breakfast for them.  They’re certainly fat enough already, so I knew they’d be fine.

I was wrong.

Apparently, a couple of the birds decided to attempt to make breakfast out of one of their young coopmates.  Now, keep in mind that these birds are out on fresh grass; they had plenty of green options to hold them off until their high-protein mash arrived.  Their impatience or self-centeredness–or whatever–made a pretty rough start for one little gal.

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This is Flapjack.  She’s looking pretty good right now, and we are thankful.  Last Sunday morning, though, she was a raw, bloody mess around her throat.  She had a one-inch flap of skin hanging, wide open, from her neck.  It was difficult to tell how bad her injuries were because of the blood, but I sprayed the wound with an aerosol bandage and separated her from the flock.  We will probably keep her separately for the duration of her stay here at Country Haven, which is only four more weeks.

This experience has made me glad that people aren’t chickens.  I mean, I can’t imagine living side-by-side with my fellow man and suddenly being ripped to shreds by someone else’s impatience or self-centeredness.  I mean, can you imagine what it would be like if people didn’t have the decency to just respect the folks around them even when they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted when they wanted it?  Can you truly imagine living in a world where people acted that much like animals?!

Yeah, so can I.

There are a lot of really good things about this life–plenty of green grass beneath our feet, so to speak.  It’s all a matter of focus.  We can choose to perpetuate the problems or to rise above and be part of the solutions.

Glazed Pears

I have watched television chefs make one version or another of glazed pears for years.  I don’t know why, but they’ve never really piqued my interest.  Last spring, though, I watched Jacques Pepin make some apricot-glazed pears, and they grabbed my attention.  (I don’t know.  Maybe it was his French accent?)

Anywho, I decided to make a simpler version, sans apricot preserves, and they were a huge hit for my hungry crew…and so simple to make!

This could certainly be prepared with fresh pears and a honey or maple syrup glaze, but I opted for a simpler route this time.

2 T. butter
1 (15-oz.) can pears in light syrup
1 cinnamon stick

Melt butter in saute pan.

Add pears and about 2/3 of the juice, along with cinnamon stick, to melted butter.

Drink remaining pear juice before the kids come in and start fighting over it.  (Learn from my mistakes, people.)

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, gently stirring and basting, until liquid is reduced to syrup consistency.

Eat these sweet gems plain, over ice cream, on pancakes and waffles or with a biscuit.  Delightful.

 

Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Splitting and Stacking

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s August.  It seems like summer has just begun!  I usually mark August by days of harvesting, preparing and preserving bushels of produce.  Without that abundance so far this year, my seasonal clock is a little wonky.

Having said that, the lack of canning and freezing responsibilities allows us the opportunity to work ahead a little bit for cooler temperatures.  This morning, my son and I are rotating the remainder of last year’s firewood to the outsides of our big stacking area so that we can fill in the middle of the area with newly-split logs.  We will work our way from the oldest into the newest wood as the winter months grow colder.  My husband strategically places the hardwoods in the center stacks so that we have access to them when temperatures are traditionally the most frigid.

This weekend’s daytime highs are supposed to be in the 70s, so we are seizing the opportunity to split and stack to fill those inner rows while it’s relatively comfortable to do so.  Dave has an impending total hip replacement, so I know it will be a load off his mind to know that we have a full winter’s supply of heating fuel stacked and ready to burn.  I am comfortable with a variety of farm chores–using a chainsaw is not one of them.  Eeek.

So, I guess I can be thankful for the lull in kitchen responsibilities that allow me to be outside on such a beautiful day, doing something that I know will bless my husband to have done.  I daresay I will even have a little bit of time to work in my flower beds before the afternoon temperatures soar.

 

Life and Death on the Farm

Right now, we have fuzzy babies on the farm.  Not only is there Bitsy, the surprise that hatched in the hen coop a couple of weeks ago, but we also have 49 Cornish-x chicks and 10 turkey poults.  They are currently spending the cool nights in our garage.  My first task every morning is to feed and water the little ones.  It is a very gratifying job, because they are always completely thrilled to eat.  I can almost read see the gratitude in their fluffy little faces.

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This morning, I had the unfortunate task of disposing of a little one that died through the night.  Isaac noticed that it was puny the night before last, and we tried to nurse it back to health yesterday to no avail.  In the two weeks since the babies were delivered, this is the first one we’ve lost.  That’s a pretty good record so far; we hope it lasts.

After the garage babies are taken care of, I head to the barn to let Roscoe and the hens out for the day.  Bitsy now scratches out and about the pasture with her momma and two or three “aunties” that help keep her out of mischief.  (We hope it’s a her, but we don’t really know.)  This is also a good job for me, because these birds are always eager to get out and look for their breakfast.  We currently have a hen setting on a clutch of eggs, so this is a convenient time for me to check on her as well.  Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch, and I think we’re a third of the way through that cycle.

While at the barn, I check any traps that we’ve set.  Currently, this consists of a mouse trap that is catching something every time I set it.  This makes me happy.  With nearby pastures, fields and woods full of rodent food, I have a really hard time sharing the grain I’ve bought with mice.  One momma mouse can give birth to 40 pups a year.  Since I am not interested in determining the gender of my trap’s victims, I count every catch as being worth 20 points.  This week, I’ve scored 80 points.  And it’s only Wednesday!

We’ve not had trouble with predators in the barn so far this summer, so we haven’t had the live trap baited for a couple of months.  However, in the semi-darkness of the dawn, I saw something scurry under the barn on my way out this morning.  It was bigger than a mouse, so methinks the trap must be set tonight.  This is one of my least favorite responsibilities.  I don’t mind the setting of or even the catching of, but the dealing with whatever we catch is blechyness times a million for me.  Fortunately, my son is getting pretty good with his .22 rifle.  I think he’s ready to take over this less-than-desirable farm chore.   He shot and killed a raccoon that our dogs treed last month.  I really appreciate his willingness to pitch in and help in this area.

There is always life and death to deal with on our little farm.  Not all of what we do is pleasant, but it all has its place and its purpose in our days.  Even the death of the little chick can serve as a reminder to be grateful for the 49 chicks which we hope to grow into food for ourselves and for others.  I cannot say that I rejoice in the death of the chick (although I do kinda rejoice in the deaths of the mice), but I am thankful for the lessons I can learn in its passing.

With trapping of the mice, I am reminded that vigilance is necessary.  If we are careless with what we’ve been given, those resources may be taken from us.  The gifts with which we have been blessed today are not guaranteed to bless us tomorrow.  We must do our part to be wise and worthy stewards of God’s provisions–even when what needs to be done is far from pleasant.