Where’s The Snow?

The ducks have had their first cold season this year and it’s been a very, very easy one for them.

Our snowfall has been practically non-existent.

Temperatures have only been in the low teens.

Blinding blizzards and deathly cold sub-zero temps haven’t appeared.

A few weeks ago we even hooked our garden hose up to fill up their swimming pool.

And that was in January!

We have had winters in the past few years that have given us knee-deep snow drifts.

With winds blowing so strongly that the slats in the barn walls can’t keep out the flakes who, with a vengeance, make their way into the horse’s stall.

Building mini drifts in the corners where they were not welcome.

We have had temperatures in the past that have gotten so low that I feared the goats would freeze in the night.

And I have wandered to the frozen barn in the wee hours of the morning, my lungs freezing up as I take my first breath once I open the back door of the house.

Walking the one hundred yards to the critter house in the backyard.

Only to turn on the barn light and see that the three stall residents are perfectly content and probably really annoyed that I just woke them up.

But not this year.

The cold and snow haven’t come a’knockin’.

whistle

At least not yet.

We live in Illinois.

And it’s not uncommon to get a big snowfall in March or April.

Only to have it all melt away two days later when the temps rise again.

And, indeed, this may happen in the next few months.

I’m hoping for snow.

And I’m not such a big fan of the cold weather anymore,  as I get more gray hair and deeper aches in my knees.

Here’s why I’m crossing my fingers for some snowfall.

Summer.

When you have large animals that live in your backyard and those large animals rely on pasture grass to eat in the summer, you wish for snow in the winter months.

The snow melts and adds moisture to the earth and allows for lusher pastures.

Now, I’m no weather expert, but I do remember hearing the famous Chicago meteorologist Tom Skilling of WGN News give a detailed description years ago about the direct effect of snowfall and summer temperatures.  It involved the cooling of the earth’s surface as the ground is buried under the cold snow.  And when the sun is out in the summer and the sun rays are bouncing off of the ground, the cooled ground means the temps aren’t as high.  But, if the ground hasn’t been cooled by snowfall then the  sun’s rays in the summer are hitting already warmed earth and the temperatures are higher.

Or something like that…

Remember, I told you I’m not a weather expert.

But it makes sense to me.

Deserts don’t get snowfall and they are darn hot!

Warmer summers mean warmer animals in my backyard.

And less grass growing in the pastures.

And then we need to buy more hay to feed them and that costs more money.

And we will have to water the pastures to get the grasses to grow.

And that water costs money.

And the horse sweats more.

And she will exert more energy cooling herself.

Which means she needs to eat more to cool herself.

Just as she does when it’s really cold outside.

She has to make energy to keep herself warm hence she needs to eat more.

It’s a cyclical life on the farm.

Each season brings its plusses and minuses.

Spring brings us beautiful, hardy, green grass.

And mud.

Which ends up all of my floors in the house.

Summer brings the heat and the grass begins to brown by the end of July if we don’t get enough rain.

But, we get more vegetables from the garden to nourish us.

Fall finally brings cooler temps.

But, pasture time is dwindling down.

Winter is the hardest season for hobby farmers.

We have taken the garden hose away and lug buckets of water to the barn (since we don’t have a water hookup in the horse’s house) to quench the thirst of a pony, two goats, five chickens, and six ducks.

And we often have to do this lugging more than once a day.

water to the barn.jpg

We keep the pastures closed in the winter.

Which the horse hates!

But, the goats have figured out a solution.

Man Farmer cut a small doorway in the fence for the ducks to get into the back pasture if they want more room in the winter to wander around.

The red chickens can jump fences.

The white chickens hate winter and stay close to their coop during really cold days.

So, the doorway is for the ducks to use.

ducks.jpg

It’s the perfect size for an Indian Runner Duck to pass through.

But…

One afternoon a few months ago I looked out my kitchen window, like I do about 2,489 times a day, and noticed that our goat Yogurt was in the back pasture.

Hhmmm…

I thought the back pasture was closed?

Then, when I looked out the kitchen window a bit later and she was in the barnyard again.

Strange…

I asked Man Farmer about it when he got home and he went to check and there wasn’t a large hole in the fencing, the gate wasn’t broken.

The next afternoon…same thing.

The back pasture was locked up tight, yet Yogurt was in it.

Grazing on what she could find amidst the winter grass.

I grabbed my can of cherry lime La Croix, leaned on the kitchen sink, and watched.

And waited.

And then I saw her wiggle her goat body, that has a very wide belly, through the hole in the fence that is only big enough for a duck squad to pass through in a single file line.

Well, I’ll be!

That fat-ass got herself through the tiny hole in the fence.

Processed with Snapseed.

Then she told her sister Tulip how to do it.

And now they both wiggle through the duck hole in the fence.

Much to the chagrin of the horse.

Who I think now hates the goats.

Because her most favorite thing in the entire world…

…more than rolling in the dirt…

…more than naps in the sun…

horse-nap

…more than getting her face caressed with the big brush with the soft bristles…

is eating grass in the pasture.

So, you see, it’s imperative that we get some snow in the next few months.

Buttercup relies on the lush spring and summer grasses to feed her tummy.

And, in a way, it feeds her soul as well.

buttercup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keychains

We have had a child with a label.

No parent wants their child to be THAT KID.

The kid who is different.

The kid who is sick.

The kid that gathers sympathetic looks from her teachers and other kids’ parents as if those looks themselves will save her.

All the while thinking “Thank God that’s not my child.”

Our daughter was fighting for her life at a time in her life that was fresh and new.

And because of the timing of her disease and treatment…it’s been forgotten.

Her peers don’t remember much about it.

Just as she doesn’t remember much about it.

Yet, every time a teacher in her middle school classes brings up the words “someone who has had cancer” every single head in the class turns to her.

Still.

She still has that label of “kid with cancer”, but it’s greatly, GREATLY diminished.

We don’t tell teachers about her past anymore.

We stopped doing that in 4th grade.

She’s now in 6th grade.

And she’s become much more comfortable telling her story.

She’s a survivor.

She knows this.

Recently, in science class, her teacher said this statement after talking about ultraviolet waves causing skin cancer…”I’m sure you know of someone who has had cancer.”

And, this is no exaggeration, Zoe said everyone in that classroom, kids who she’s known since she was 4 years old, turned (as she sits in the back of the classroom) and looked at her.

She said the teacher was a bit dumfounded.

And continued talking about how hard chemotherapy and radiation were to go through.

And Zoe said the teacher seemed to be looking right at her during this speech.

And Z was nodding in agreement.

And then the teacher, who seemed to now understand that this girl in the back row of her classroom with the long brown hair, quirky taste in leggings, and eyeglasses was a survivor.

When one of the students raised his hand to ask if getting chemo and radiation hurt, the teacher looked at Z for the answer.

She smiled and said, yes chemo can hurt.

And that radiation can mess with your senses.

“What do you mean it can mess with your senses?” the teacher asked.

“Well, when I had radiation (to her brain) I smelled a really bad smell in the room.  But that smell didn’t really exist.”

Radiation to the brain, in different levels of intensity, can cause a patient to smell a rotten egg-like odor, or see a bright light shining into their eyes as they lay on the radiation table.

Z’s friend Dylan then leaned over to her and whispered “do you still have cancer or are you all better?”

She told him that she had been declared CURED in December of 2015.

Dylan has known Zoe since preschool.

But, these peers seem to have forgotten that she was once “the sick kid.”

Which is exactly what we hoped would happen.

She is in an accelerated math class.

She has a 4.0 GPA.

She is a musician and a writer.

And while it seems she has been able to move on from the stigma of being “the kid with cancer”…she has found herself stuck with a new label.

Well, she’s had this label for quite a few years now.

Her backpack holds 36 different keychains on it.

I know this number to be true because her most recent count occurred this past Tuesday.

Thirty six baubles adding weight to an already hefty middle schooler’s backpack.

She jingles and clanks as she walks into school every morning.

And when she’s running to the bus at the end of her school day, she makes a lot of noise.

She has to run through the high school wing to get to her big yellow ride home.

And older kids have been heard to yell out to her…”HEY!  I love your keychains!”

She didn’t want cancer.

That label was attached to her without her consent.

But, Keychain Girl…

Well…

That’s a handle she can comfortably live with…

keychains2

 

 

 

 

Killing It

My friend Mark has a thing for online feel-good videos.

He needs to see the kindness and empathy that his fellow human beings direct at one another.

He likes videos of dogs being rescued from frozen ponds and kids going to nursing homes reading to the elderly residents.

I get it.

I love that stuff too.

It helps us to have faith in each other.

After seeing nasty tweets about Baron Trump by adults (who does that?!) you need to see a video of corgis pulling a chicken on a sled.

You need it!

But, I’m here to tell you that there’s something else you need in your life right now.

Something that will really get your heart pumped.

Something that will really put a big ol’ smile on your face.

That something is called…

Game Shows on TV!

I’m totally serious about this folks.

Feeling shitty about your in-laws?

Hate your job?

Sick of not being able to lose that weight you gained when you were pregnant?

I mean, I just had a baby.

Never mind that it was 8 years ago.

Who’s counting…geesh.

Tired of the divisiveness of the news?

Turn on Let’s Make A Deal on CBS and you’ll be transformed!

Watch a round of Wheel of Fortune and it will be as if you just spent a day at the beach!

A round of Jeopardy with Alex Trebek always (usually) makes me feel better about myself.

I say “usually” because if I’m having an off day and all of the categories presented on Jeopardy consist of Lakes and Rivers, The New Testament, and Rocks , I know I’m not going to “win” today.

I am horrible at Lakes and Rivers!

But, I’ll tell you this.

If I am having a bombtastic day and Jeopardy comes on and I am getting ALL of the category answers correct and then I KILL IT on Final Jeopardy (kill it as in the three contestants don’t get the final question, but I do!) it’s a great natural high.

And when my youngest daughter is sitting with me and is SO proud of me and shouts at me “MOM!  YOU REALLY NEED TO GET ON THAT SHOW!”  I mean, come on…

It doesn’t get much better than that.

But wait.

It does!

Jamal on Let’s Make A Deal has come on the show dressed as a carrot.

A grown man dressed as a carrot.

And he’s a teacher.

And he has the opportunity to win a car.

Spin the big wheel and if the arrow lands on the car, it’s yours!

And he spins.

And I’m sitting in my kitchen with my fingers crossed for him.

Oh, please, please, please, please let the arrow land on the car.

And the wheel is slowing down.

And Jamal is stuck standing in a taut position…his shoulders are tight, his face is in a grimace.

He’s frozen.

And so am I.

Where will the arrow land?

Slower…

Slowing…

Oh!

My!

GOD!

It landed on the car!

He won the car!

Are you kidding me?

That guy just won a car!

I don’t even know him and I’m so excited for him!

I’m excited for him because I believe in happiness.

And fun.

And humanity.

And if we can’t be happy for one another.

What have we become?

Jaded and distorted.

Divisive and resentful.

Life is full of surprises.

Let yourself be happy for someone other than yourself.

It feels good to feel good.

We need more of that in the world right now.

In this complicated and confusing world that we are currently living in…watch a TV game show.

And root for the stay-at-home mom on Jeopardy who is KILLING it on Jeopardy today.

 

 

 

 

 

The Recipe Box

When we inherited our home from my grandparents, we inherited THINGS and not just a house.

Things like…

an antique desk

a WWII shell

Royal Albert bone china from England

a hall tree

a staircase finial for a staircase that doesn’t exist anymore

Van Briggle pottery

and a recipe box.

While the WWII shell is the most mysterious thing we inherited…how did Grandpa get that thing home from the South Pacific?  I guess anything was possible in a pre- TSA world…The item that brings the Man-Farmer the most joy is my Grandmother’s recipe box.  And one recipe out of all of the oleo and lard infused delights has really stuck with him.

The recipe for Georgia Brown Bread.

recipe-card

I have no idea where my Grandmother got this recipe from nor do I know why it’s named after either the state or a gal named after a state.  Or is it named for the Eurasian country?  I have no idea.  When doing a search online for Georgia Brown Bread I found absolutely nothing.

NOTHING!

On the world-wide web!

Man-Farmer found recipes online for breads with similar ingredients.

But, nothing under the name Georgia Brown Bread.

I found recipes for Boston Brown Bread.

But those use molasses and rye flour while the recipe for Georgia Brown Bread contains none of that.

What it does use is dates.

Dates soaked in hot water.

Now, Man-farmer has many talents.

Besides being a metal detectorist (ugh!) and being able to watch bad B horror movies for hours on end, he has food skills.

Like, he went to culinary school and knows some shit about why ingredients do what they do in recipes.

He told me that the Georgia Brown Bread gets its brown color from the dates soaking in the hot water.

I had no idea.

He has made this recipe a few times.

My mom has this recipe as well and has made it before.

The really unique part about making Georgia Brown Bread and the thing that intrigued Man-Farmer the most, thus encouraging him to bake it was…

the baking vessel is cans.

Cans that used to hold pinto beans or sliced carrots.

Cans that you were going to put into the recycling bin (you do recycle don’t you?!) can be thoroughly rinsed out and a beautiful bread can come out of them.

So, without further ado, I give you my Grandmother Dorothy’s recipe for Georgia Brown Bread.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.  I have altered the “telling” of the recipe a bit from the original recipe card for user ease.  Be sure to slather each piece with plenty of butter.  I’m not talking about a margarine spread or some other You Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter crap.  I’m talking REAL Butter.  Salted butter.  Okay?  Thanks.

Georgia Brown Bread

4 pre-washed cans (the recipe calls for #2 cans…we always use emptied out vegetable cans)

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoon butter (unsalted)

2 cups white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup dates (whole or chopped)

2 cups boiling water

2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped nuts (we usually use walnuts)

———————————————————————–

Cut up dates (if not using chopped dates) and place in a large heat-proof mixing bowl.

Sprinkle dates with baking soda and pour boiling water over them.  Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar.

Add eggs one at a time followed by the flour (make sure you turn the mixer down to low speed when adding the flour!), salt, and vanilla.  Combine thoroughly.

With the mixer on low again, add the nuts and the contents of the cooled dates bowl.

Mix until combined.

Fill the cans 1/2 full of batter and cook in a 350° oven for about 50 minutes.

Cool cans on a wire rack and remove bread gently from cans once cooled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Came Tumblin’ Down

At our farm, Christmas lights can go up on our house as early as October or November.

It really depends on the weather.

My husband, the man-farmer, outlines our roof and our front porch with white lights.

Man-farmer…

I like that.

That’s his new name.

MAN-FARMER!

Okay, sorry, I’ll get back on track.

SO, he outlines our roof and porch and puts the lights on a timer so that they come on at dusk (which in the winter can be as early at 4:00) and they turn off at midnight.

He also decorates the base of our windmill with multi-colored lights so that it looks like a very festive tree from afar.

We live on a fairly busy street.

And our house sits back from the road, nestled behind the trees.

It’s a nice treat for commuters to get a glimpse at night of white twinkling lights in the distance.

At least, I hope drivers enjoy them.

Do people even look up?

Who knows.

There are no street lights on our rural road and I HOPE drivers smile when they get a glance of our twinkling twinklers.

AND we are trailblazers on our street.

I do not lie about this!

We were the FIRST on our block (which has only three houses) to put lights up.

My grandparents never put lights up outside during the holidays.

As soon as we moved in, our first Christmas here, the lights went up.

Then a few years later another house put up some lights.

And then the last house on the block put some up.

But, he’s trying to outdo everyone because he not only puts up lights at his house, he’s gone gaudy with those inflatable reindeer and snowmen.

How dare he.

But, alas, the street is now a bit cheerier during the holidays than it was a decade ago.

All thanks to the man-farmer.

He got the lights up this year in November.

Turned them on on December 1st.

And then the wind came.

New Year’s Eve was blustery.

And when we woke up some of the lights had fallen out of their clips and were dangling from the roof.

We weren’t going to turn them on anymore (we turn them on December 1st and turn them off January 1st…we need to lower the power bill, ya know!) and so man-farmer was going to take them down.

It wasn’t windy.

But a little slick out.

And so he got out his extendo-ladder.

You know, a ladder than extends from a normalish size to a longer size.

He set the ladder up and locked the extendo part before leaning it against the house by our back door.

He climbed up and removed the light timer from the extension cord that feeds into the garage where the whole shebang is hooked up to electricity.

Then he moved the ladder over to get onto the roof that’s over our kitchen.

It’s the lowest part of our roof, maybe 12 feet up?

I don’t know.

It could be 10 feet.

I’m not good with numbers.

It’s taller than him and he’s about 6 feet tall.

So, he moved the ladder over and started up.

He got to the roof and time froze.

But sped up at the same time.

Because he had extended the extendo-ladder.

But had forgotten to lock the extendo part.

And it fell down.

And he fell down.

It was a very Clark Griswold moment.

Starting at the roof, he hit every rung on the way down the extendo and landed on the brick walkway that separates our home from our garage.

None of us saw anything.

The girls and I were in the house.

But we all heard a huge crash.

Which was the ladder smashing into the bricks (after it tore a hole into the aluminum siding).

Zoe was in the kitchen and she went to see what all of the commotion was.

There she saw her father lying on his back next to the ladder.

His hat and eyeglasses had been jarred off of him and lay as prone as he was on the bricks.

“Go get your mother” he moaned to her.

She ran into the bedroom where her sister and I were and told us that dad needed help.

When I got to him and saw him sprawled there, my first question was “did you hit your head?”

I think I asked him that ten times.

Because of my friend’s husband.

He hit his head after falling off of a ladder and received a traumatic brain injury.

And it took lots of rehabilitation for him to be where he is today.

And I had flashbacks to that when I saw my husband, man-farmer, on his back atop the brick walkway with his extendo-ladder next to him.

He assured me he hadn’t hit his head.

Now, man-farmer does NOT deal with pain very well.

His own pain or others in pain.

He proceeded to get up TOO QUICKLY and I had to tell him to “Whoa, slow it down there buddy!”

There was no rush to become upright again.

We got him into the house.

His lower back was where his pain was located.

And his shin was bleeding as he had gouged it on the ladder rungs on his way back down to earth’s surface.

We discussed whether or not to go to the hospital.

Upon my examination…

Yep, I’m a self-imposed doctor.  Being a momcologist does that to a person.  I know way more about medical things than I really should because my kid had cancer at one point in her life…

I decided that he didn’t break anything.

He was able to move his arms and legs and his breathing was okay.

Then he started sweating and stating that he thought he was going to pass out.

I told him to calm down and that his body was having a reaction to his pain and it would be okay.

And he is okay.

We popped into the doctor’s office two days later and she said he was okay.

He was suffering from a very sore lower back and she said he was having back spasms and he should get better within a few weeks.

And he’s getting better.

The doctor gave him muscle relaxers and he has popped a few in the evenings.

He’s gone back to work and has gone back to the barn.

He isn’t carrying heavy buckets of water to hydrate the barn dwellers.

I’m doing that.

When man-farmer went down and I had to take over ALL household and farm duties, I got a sense of what it would be like to be a single mother around here.

Luckily, the kids were still out of school on winter break.

They took great care of dad.

Gigi knew he would be okay right away.

She took it upon herself to get him band-aids for his jacked up shin as soon as we saw what had happened to his leg.

One of the band-aids had the words “you’re okay” on it.

And she knew if he put that on, he would be.

I wish man-farmer would let some of her optimism soak into his own being.

He can be a bit of a pessimist.

Kids sometimes know more than us adults.

He’s going to be okay.

And the lights will be taken down in the spring.

fullsizerender

 

Continue reading

New Year…Newish Thoughts

The year has changed from 2016 to 2017.

Seriously, where are the flying cars?

Remember when we were kids and the year 2017 sent your mind racing towards robot maids and jet packs?

and yet…

I still do my own dishes and drive around in a minivan with too many miles.

sigh…

BUT…

I think I may try a new blog site.

And we will see how things go.

I mean, I’m growing up.

I’m using Sensodyne toothpaste now and my husband has taken to wearing inserts in his shoes.

Things are really movin’ and groovin’ here on the farm and this new WordPress blog seems to be easier for me to use than the old blogger site I have used since I wasn’t using Sensodyne toothpaste.

SO…

New year.

New Blog Page.

Still the same name as before.

Life at Cheshire Farm.

The way to get here has changed from www.lifeatcheshirefarm.blogspot.com to www.lifeatcheshirefarm.wordpress.com.

Simple enough, right?

Please refer back to my old page for my many words of wisdom (who’s rolling their eyes…I saw that!) and my funny stories of life at the farm.

Refer back to lifeatcheshirefarm.blogspot.com to read about a little girl who fought through a diagnosis of leukemia.

Because the girl I’ll be writing about here is cancer free.

And  a pre-teen.

So, I’m sure I’ll have much to write about for many years to come!

And her little sister is only 8.

Good gravy…

I’m scared.

I hope to write more in 2017.

I’m going to try to write at least twice a month.

Hopefully more.

I want to explore ways to showcase my farm photography a bit more.

I want to write about hope for the future and not dwell so much on what has happened to my daughter.

But, to explore with her future.

She’s in middle school now.

Where true tests of strength must also be exhibited.

She will learn to take the strength she discovered within herself out of the sick bed and into the real world.

Where hormones and girl drama and embarrassing parents coexist.

And her sister is coming into her own.

She’s learning to be brave and she’s starting to discover her own voice.

Well, she’s always had a voice.

A loud and piercing voice.

But she’s starting to step up when it matters most.

When bullies are on the bus.

When she’s bullied herself.

A new year.

New ideas.

Well, Hello there 2017.

We’ve been waiting for you…

chicago