two hellos and a kidnapping

two hellos and a kidnapping

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random happenings, snapshots & recipes

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I don’t know if you noticed I stood you up last Thursday, but it’s been a little exhausting around here. I know we’re small. Two calves in one day is no big deal on a large farm. But you haven’t met these calves. I know Milking Devons make some amazing milk, but these moms must make rocket fuel.

Just after dawn, Molly says hello to little Max

The first day for new babies is usually kind of quiet – being born is tough business and they spend much of that day tucked into a warm place getting some battery-charging sleep.  But the second and third days, look out. Those poor moms spend hours running after their kids trying to get them to listen. Which doesn’t work any better for cow moms than it does for human ones. The more the calves get chased, the more fun the game. I haven’t figured out how to tell the Ladies if they just turned and walked away, those babies would run right back.

Of course, along with the exhaustion are some moments of heart-warming charm and  cuteness. Like this morning, when all three babies were playing inside the barn. Chasing each other around the posts, zooming around the corners, jumping and bucking like puppies with wild eyes and tongue-lolling grins.

Both Bling and Molly had their babies on Thursday. Molly early in the morning, Bling late in the evening.  Molly’s kind of a pro and a bit wild at heart, so she passed on the maternity ward and chose instead to hide in the brush pile.  I knew I’d find a baby when I couldn’t find Molly.  Now, you’d need to see her to appreciate just what a wide load Molly is. And if you did,  you’d see what a feat it is for her to make herself invisible. Since it was a warm, dry and sunny day, Molly and Max spent their first day napping together in the sun.

For Bling, it was a different kind of day.

Bling is young and this is just her second calf. She’s such a goofball, with her funny way of always seeming surprised, it’s hard to know what to expect from her. She was fussy all day, pacing up and down and going off by herself. She was still fussing at dinnertime and I wanted to be able to grab her if things weren’t going well, so I locked her inside the barn and everyone else out.

After a few hours of discomfort and fussiness, hello Beatrice!  Once she was up, licked & fed, I was able to lock them inside a stall. Then, everyone else could come back in for the night and I could finally head in for my dinner.

Friday morning, all’s looking good – the Ladies are outside eating hay and Bling’s looking perky but calm, peeking over her stall for room service.  Zay, as usual, was trolling around outside the stall looking for ways to steal Bling’s breakfast.

I didn’t see the baby right away, but the hay was piled up pretty high, and napping babies tuck down pretty low.  Since Bling wasn’t fussing, there didn’t seem to be any cause for alarm.  But, when I filled the water buckets and I still couldn’t see any little lumps, I went in and started pawing through the hay.  I still can’t believe it, but it’s true. No baby. Anywhere inside the barn.

Now, clearly it’s not impossible, but pretty unbelievable.

Trying not to panic, I head out towards the herd at the hay bales.  Where could she be? Well, over by the bales, tucked into the brambles was a tiny lump. There she was, curled up, all alone, taking a power nap.  How did she get there? It’s such an unlikely hike for a brand newbie with no clue about where she is.  Well, I have no witnesses, but I’m pretty sure I know what went down.

Little Beatrice hidden in the brambles

I haven’t told you much about our Zay-monster. Good thing she’s so amazingly beautiful, because her only other endearing quality is the fact that she’s such an outstanding mother.  So outstanding in fact, she steals other Lady’s babies.

Suki had her baby first this year, and she doesn’t take crap from Zay. Molly’s a little scared of Zay, but she hasn’t forgotten her wild ways and still has a few tricks up her sleeve. But Bling? Bling’s no match for a troll like Zay.

Bling takes candy from strangers, and will tell anybody anything if they scratch her chin and tell her how pretty she is. It seems Bling’s little one slipped out under the gate and Zay spirited her off and hid her in the brambles.

Unscathed by her adventure, little Beatrice wasn’t having any parts of letting me get close enough to pick her up and carry her back to her mom in the barn.  So, I went for plan B – lock up the kidnapper and turn Bling out for some undisturbed maternal bonding.  Happy mom that she is, Bling went running straight to Beatrice & resumed her so rudely interrupted motherly duties.

The alleged kidnapper behind bars...not looking very remorseful to me..

and left....

Bling chases Beatrice right...

and does her best to tell Beatrice not to take rides from strangers

Whew – another day survived with just a few minor incidents.  Soon enough these little ones will pick their own favorite spots, stop crashing into the fences and become much more predictable.  Can’t happen soon enough for me.

We need a nap!

in which it’s not life without death

in which it’s not life without death

Christmas Day was a sunny, spring-like day here at the farm. I treated myself to a solitary hike around parts of the property I don’t visit much and indulged myself in a few dreams.

Standing in the warm, safe sunshine,  it’s easy to feel lulled into a sense that all is right with the world.  But then I turn the corner and find myself face to face with this poor unfortunate soul.

Clearly death did not come gently this time.

I can’t tell about the turkey by the bend in the creek – all that was left of that poor bird is a pile of spiky feathers. I hope her death was sudden and swift.

And the fawn’s leg, hair and hoof intact that showed up last summer sharing no clues about the life or death of the living baby deer once attached. A random reminder left anonymously in a peaceful, lovely meadow.

There’s a dark current that runs beneath our sunny, peaceful moments.

Without the shadows, the light would not be nearly so bright.

in which the brook babbles merrily

in which the brook babbles merrily

How many ways can a brook babble? Moving water is an endless source of fascination whatever the tone of voice.

One of the things I love more and more about the farm are the running streams. The water is cool and clear and gives shelter and nourishment to tons of wildlife and the Ladies.

The sound is soothing and happy and can surprisingly be heard from the spot that soon will be home. I always loved the sound of running water from my bedroom window….

Beautiful Zay by the pond

in which we come bearing gifts

in which we come bearing gifts

It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! Come on, you know it, perfectly said by the King of Christmas Grinchiness himself, Dr. Seuss.

I’m not much in the mood for cookie baking, gift wrapping or braving the crowds this year. I’m a Holiday Dropout I suppose, feeling more introspective than extroverted.  Nevertheless, whatever my whim, it’s always impossible for me to be untouched by the solemn wonder of the holiday season.

Most holidays, my enjoyment comes as much from my preparations as from the generosity I receive from others. While addressing Christmas cards, I am washed with fond thoughts of the person I am writing to. Preparing gifts of baked goods, wrapping holiday gifts and finishing them all with personalized tags makes me feel the same warm appreciation for the intended and gratitude for the people in my life.

This year, it’s a different sort of holiday due to my relatively homeless state; one that is broader in its scope of giving and receiving. Without a house of my own for the holiday, the usual activities are not so usual and feel odd and impossible.

But I’m far from homeless – while I have no actual house, I surely have a home.  And, since my home lives in the realm of imagination this year, so also do my thoughts of holiday giving.  The gifts I want to share this year are not ones found in shopping malls or grocery stores, but ones that have expanded the boundaries of my heart.

I find it often happens that serendipity plays its part in delivering the very message or salve you need in mundane, unexpected ways. This year I have been fortunate to have received many such synchronistic gifts just when I needed them most.

Here’s a few I’m happy to share with you; I hope they bring the same pleasure to you as they did to me. But I expect it’s possible that what’s magic to me may not say much to you. Or me either when I encounter it later at a different time and place in life.

That’s OK and as should be.  When the student is ready, the teacher appears, isn’t that how it goes?  You get the idea – if my gifts don’t speak to you, maybe they will remind you of synchronistic gifts of your own that meant much to you this year. And maybe you can pass those on too – someone you don’t know somewhere you’ve never been is waiting to hear from you.

I love this authentic and special holiday CD produced by Pat Humphrey with her daughters Lynn and Amy. These old carols are from around the world, and their angelic, ancient harmonies are so soothing to me I listen to them all year. Click the arrow below to begin listening or click on the title to visit The Rosa Minstrels site and listen to the whole CD.

[bandcamp track=2675635637 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

The internet is such a mixed blessing. It steals as much as it gives, but what it gives can be a delicate thread of human connection when your world rotates on a slightly different axis.  This heartwarming advent calendar from a complete stranger  Gloria Nicol at The Laundry Etc. in the UK made me feel much less Grinch-ey this  year. Click here to enjoy the calendar yourself – there’s still a few new surprises to come.  A photographer, writer, jam maker and shop keeper, you can visit Gloria here.

A Special Jewel of an Advent Calendar from Gloria Nicol of The Laundry Etc.

In sustainable farming circles, Wendell Berry is all that and more. Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m a huge Wendell Berry fan. But let’s not forget another old friend of the farmer, E.B. White. Not often mentioned in sustainable farming circles these days, E.B. White’s gifts rest in the realm of childlike (but far from child-ish) wonder and observation. His writing about his lovely and simple life in rural Maine in One Man’s Meat is a quiet joy that leaves you with tidbits you’ll be mulling over for a long time.

A gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy the reading first, plenty of rumination sure to follow...

I think it’s time to re-introduce real, old-fashioned mail. Written on paper, by hand, smudges and all.  This hand-made holiday card was just the balm I needed at a moment it meant the most.

The prayer-like and devotional quality of farm chores makes this card so true for me. Caring for the land and God's creatures is most certainly a way to kneel and kiss the ground...

The Digital Library of the Sketchbook Project is a bottomless source of fascination. Enter this rabbit hole at your own risk – you may be gone a while! I am so in love with this project and am blown away by the submissions. True gifts from the heart from not so ordinary people all over the world.  A live exhibit too: what a treat it would be to be able to spend a quiet afternoon with my nose tucked into the real pages – one of these days I’ll be there!  (Video of artist Lauren Nash and her very personal experience with the Sketchbook Project. Shows there’s a bit of magic for giver and receiver.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4CAQFDEXMs?rel=0]

How do we find this stuff? Well, one way is by visiting our our friends at Sustainable Eats who host a wicked good blog hop called Simple Lives Thursday each week.

I hope the boundaries of your heart are expanded this holiday; after all isn’t that the true reason for the season?

The Merriest of Christmases from the Ladies of Auburn Meadow Farm

in which we say: BLAH HUMBUG!

in which we say: BLAH HUMBUG!

Sparrows in the brush looking their puffed-up cutest…

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Maybe I shouldn’t say this out loud, but I’m having a hard time mustering up the Christmas Love this year. Of course, the weather isn’t helping. Mud season is the only time I mind living in Pennsylvania, and this year we’ve got plenty of it. Boot-sucking, slippery, filthy mud that is.

Mud and sloppy rain makes everything I do twice as hard.  It’s hard on the animals, hard on the farmer, hard on the wardrobe, hard on the spirit, and vehicles get stuck making chores super frustrating. Give me frozen ground and a pretty snow carpet any day.

Today, it’s raining and mushy and actually pretty warm. It’s gray and lackluster and not nearly sparkly or crunchy enough to put me in the proper pre-Christmas spirit.

But the Ladies don’t seem to mind the drizzle one bit. The brook in the front pasture is babbling which is hard to not be charmed by, the birds are scuttling around in the brush looking their puffed up cutest and my spirits are lifted after a brisk walk to check the fences.

Even at her most drab, Nature and her creatures give my heart a lift. No tinsel or store-bought ornament can compete with her humble yet awe-inspiring beauty.

So, I exercise my womanly right to change my mind and now give thanks that my heart has been filled with love and gratitude.

It’s hard to not be enchanted by the sound of a babbling brook no matter what the weather…

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I’m pleased to find myself filled with Christmas Spirit after all.  What lifts your spirits when you need some holiday cheer?

In which it’s so quirky it has to be great

In which it’s so quirky it has to be great

Pickled home-grown concord grapes!

I don’t know about you, but I have to give that Molly Wizenberg a big ball of credit for her ability to make me feel like what I’m about to share with you is something a friend told me at lunch instead of something I just read in a book.

Her blog Orangette is a warm and funny favorite and never fails to turn me on to something funky and fresh that I had either forgotten to look into or had never heard of at all. And, she links it all up so nicely, I don’t have to do a thing to get right to the good stuff.

A HomeMade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Molly’s book  A HomeMade Life  was one of my favorite reads this summer.  In the book, Molly tells the story of the pickles she and her husband made for their wedding and shares the recipes. All the pickles sound pretty great, but pickled grapes? That one had my full attention.

You really should read the book, but if you can’t wait that long, the printable recipe and a link to an excerpt from Molly’s book is here in our recipe archive.

I was pretty amused by Molly’s husband Brandon’s vinegar habit and charmed by the special and personal touch the pickles added to their wedding. I mean the man has 30 different kinds of vinegar! I don’t have 30 different kinds of anything except cows.

The great thing about pickle recipes is that they are forgiving as long as you don’t mess with the acidity. I followed the recipe as best I could without having the luxury of 30 different vinegar options and having to make do with a faded old jar of mustard seed left over from some pre-loaded decorative spice rack my mother got as a gift about 20 years ago.

My grapes still have their seeds - next time I'll definitely take the time to cut the navel and remove the seeds. For this batch, you have two choices; swallow or spit.

My grapes were home-grown Pennsylvania Concords gleaned from a friend’s yard. The flavor of the grapes was pretty exciting and rich – but the skins are a bit more rubbery than supermarket grapes which I actually think added a little extra oomph. It was my first time tasting home-grown grapes like this and I admit I was a little excited. You won’t find grapes with rich Concord-y flavor like these at your supermarket.

Following the recipe, it would have been going the extra mile to seed them and cut the navel out as Molly does, but going the extra mile last night would have meant never starting the first one, especially since my grapes have seeds. So, when you try my grapes, you have two choices: swallow or spit. I’m glad I threw perfection out the window and was extremely satisfied with good enough. Having never made them, I wasn’t sure they warranted the effort of all that seeding and navelling prep work. Next time, I’ll do it happily; they’re absolutely worth it. These grapes have officially been added to my list of pantry must haves. Now I just have to figure out how to grow my own Pennsylvania grapes, preferably the seedless kind.

Now that these pickles have my full attention, I’m inspired to assemble the perfect bite. They paired well with last night’s chicken and are addictive with a thin slice of crystal-ly aged cheese like Parmesan Reggiano or super sharp cheddar. These grapes could bump a sandwich into a whole new galaxy.

But most fascinating so far has been pairing my pickled grapes with deep, dark, rich and heavy chocolate things like flourless chocolate cake, ganache, dark chocolate fudge, that sort of thing.  How do I know this??

Purely by accident, my spoon happened to brush against dark chocolate frosting before dipping into my grapes. The mixture of the dense, fudgy frosting and the vinegary, grapey liquid was really pretty amazing. Where I’m headed with this I have no idea. Truffles? Double chocolate individual flourless cakes served on a puddle of pickled grape juice?  Homemade dark chocolate cordials with a pickled grape and plenty of  juicy goop inside? Or maybe just a spoonful of said chocolate frosting out of the fridge with a pickled grape perched on top and drizzled with plenty of juice…..

Pr-ETTY addictive. How would you eat a pickled grape?