Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater

I feel so guilty. I have something to confess. 

I, yes, I have been doing a horrific thing.

Jay and I rarely watch live TV because we record shows on our Digital Video Recorder to watch together. And yet, there have been times when I've been stuck at home due to poor health while he's out teaching young Royal Rangers how to grow into men of honor and integrity (as well as how to light fires with flint and make a rope bridge), running errands, at a meeting, or (worse) at the fire station nobly risking his life for the general public...

and I (this is so hard)...

I've (sob)...

secretly (deep breath)...

watched an episode without him.

Okay! Okay! I admit it!

I've watched more than one episode without him.

Maybe even three.

Maybe even an entire season.

Or six.

A few times he almost caught me. He came home earlier than I expected and asked, "What are you doing?" I was vague, misleading, and distracted him with food. 

My refusal to answer his question should have told me that I was behaving badly.

But did it really hurt him if he didn't know? We never promised we wouldn't watch an episode without the other person. I was careful to say nothing about my foreknowledge of a pre-viewed show when we watched it together. I even helpfully pointed out a detail or two that would be important to the plot later on. Helping is good, right?

A couple of times I almost gave myself away by "guessing" the ending. He thinks I'm unusually clever, so why disappoint him? Doesn't every man long for a clever wife? Why tell him that instead he has a DVR cheating wife? That would just be cruel!

Yet, for all my justifications, I know it's wrong. 

I know I should stop.

I know should confess to Jay. 

I know I should make an appointment with our pastor for marriage counseling.

I know I should floss twice daily.

And I will.

Right after I finish watching the newest season of Sherlock on Masterpiece Mystery. 

Verse of the day: (Mark 4:22) "There is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light." Okay! I'll tell him already!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fermented Fraken-'shrooms (with Beet Kvass recipe)

I should have known not to marry a man who'd been in Intelligence in the military. He seemed so sweet. I never suspected the plots fermenting behind those gorgeous guileless, green eyes.

Before marriage: 

Me: What in the world is that stinky pile of garbage doing in the far corner of your yard?

He: It's a compost pile.

Me: That's disgusting! You can buy soil and fertilizer.

He (agreeably): If you don't like it, sweetheart, then I'll get rid of it.

Nice, right? Oh, no. The brainwashing already began.

After marriage:

He: Wouldn't it be great to have a few backyard chickens, sweet pea? They're low-maintenance, and I could offer you fresh eggs for breakfast, my love.

Me (basking in the endearments and thinking about breakfast in bed): I guess that sounds reasonable.

See what he did there? I didn't. 

Until it was too late.

As I wrote in one of my most popular posts, gradually and with great skill did Jay con me into raising chickens, organic gardening, organic composting, making organic lotion, and grinding GMO-free wheat to make homemade bread. 

(On second thought, I take back "with great skill" because it took him nine years to get me started.) If you don't know what I'm talking about, please click here to read Hen Hazards before continuing so you'll understand the depth of my city-girl demise.

I have now been sucked even further into the homesteading quicksand.

Jay has been subtly lobbying for a beehive, so I agreed to take an introductory class at a local farm (www.whisperinghopefarm.com) just to inform him that bees are too much work. The class was cancelled, and I ended up in a class on fermentation.

You heard me. I said, fermentation.

I was hesitant, but as soon as we arrived, one of the farm's nanny goats lulled me into lowering my defenses. 

Gentle, little Gertrude and me
I'm obsessed with goats, so I couldn't think with all the goat-love floating in the air.

Then the sweet and earnest teacher gave each of us a swig of pineapple kefir (a drink made without dairy that contains more beneficial strains of probiotics than yogurt) that naturally has a dash of alcohol.

My body is completely unused to any alcohol (I gag at the alcohol content in mouthwash), so I can only conclude that the merest drop in the kefir impaired my judgment.

Why do I think so? Because I took copious notes and then drank a shot of kombucha.

What is kombucha?

Let me enlighten you. It's the liquid from something that is not a giant mushroom but looks like a giant mushroom that grows in organic tea. The tea is drained after a few days, added to juice, and left a few days longer to ferment into a fizzy drink. 

Photo of the non-mushroom 'shroom from a Craigslist ad

Yet below is a photo of me willingly consuming 'shroom juice.

It doesn't matter that it tasted good because look at that non-mushroom mushroom thing growing in the jar! 

I. Drank. It's. Juice.

Why? Why would I do such a thing if I wasn't brainwashed?

Don't give me all that jazz about anti-oxidants, liver cleansing, joint care, intestinal health, candida fighting, immune system support, etc. because it looks like a giant mushroom is growing in the tea.

Then I made beet kvass. (In my defense, see how tipsy I look in that first photo?)

It's a jar (I had a pint jar, but you really need a half gallon size) nearly filled with chopped organic beets (leave the skin on and don't scrub when you wash it because that's where the good cultures are), two tablespoons of unbleached sea salt mixed in distilled water (either I'm turning into a hippy or I was indicating the salt content in the second photo), and either 1/8 cup of whey or 2 tablespoons of starter culture (if you don't have whey or a starter, then just leave the kvass sitting for three weeks instead of three days.). It's covered with a coffee filter or cheesecloth (never metal--metals will kill your culture) and left in a warm room to lacto-ferment for three to five days. The beets must be strained out (with a plastic strainer) and discarded before drinking the kvass. The kvass can then be refrigerated for weeks.

How does it taste?


And smells like a sweaty baby. 

I hate beets and it's salty. (I understand it's supposed to taste better if you ferment it with a bit of onions and cabbage. Of course, then it will smell like sweaty feet.). But am I choking down a couple of tablespoons a day? Of course. That's just how brainwashed I am. (I mash it in with squash, potatoes, or scrambled eggs to disguise the flavor. I'm wimpy.)

And don't give me all that rockabilly about it being full of probiotics and enzymes, used for 2000 years in Europe and the Orient to prevent against infectious diseases, and touted to regulate blood sugar, clean the liver, and help with digestive issues. That doesn't take away from the fact that it's fermented beets, people!

I even took home my tiny tupperware of kefir grains and have been diligently fermenting my own dairy-free probiotic-powerhouse kefir mixed with organic pear juice and sealed for a day until it gets fizzy.

How is it?

It smells disgusting. 

But it tastes way too good for me to pretend otherwise.

Okay, it really doesn't smell bad either (I just got on a roll with writing disgusting.). 

It's incredibly easy to make and tastes like pear champagne. I put it in a cobalt blue bottle (so pretty), which makes it even lovelier to drink. As soon as I get the milk kefir culture, I'm going to make milk kefir, too.

What's happened to me? I'm fermenting.

Remember when I pranked our pastor by gleefully forcing him to swallow what he thought was fermented mare's milk? Now I actually know how to make it! 

If anyone is so inclined to milk a mare for me.

You know, if someone showed me how, I could probably milk one myself.

Oh, help me.

Please help me.

I desperately need deprogramming.

Especially before I attempt to squeeze dairy out of a lactating horse.

Verse of the day: (Isaiah 43:18-19a) "
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" And that new thing happens to be a cheese-making class at Whispering Hope Farm where we'll milk a goat. Seriously! I'm going to milk Gertrude. And you'll hear about it, no doubt, in a future post...

For the story of our pastor and fermented mare's milk, click here.
For a story about an early chicken-owning mishap click on Daylight Nightlight.
For a story about how we almost were arrested because of my homemade body oil click on Our A-Bomb-Able Trip Home.
For the story about why to never, ever, ever get backyard chickens, no matter how sweet they are, click on Hen Hazards.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I'm Not Childish; I'm Adultish

I find little more annoying than adults who refuse to mature, so I hate the posts on social media that say things like, "Don't ever grow up!" Really? Do we need more immature and irresponsible adults who lack good judgment? I don't think so.

But I'm equally against the ridiculous notion that adults can't have just as much simple, beautiful fun as children.

I saw a photo of a toddler drinking from a hose with the caption "Oh, to be a kid again." My first thought was, No one told me that I had to stop doing that when I became an adult. Our house has well water, so when I'm outside playing (yes, I call it "play" when I take a moment to pet my chickens, swing on the glider, or exclaim over the teeny ground strawberries), it's perfectly logical to hang my head under the outside faucet to slurp up a drink rather than take off my boots to go into the house. It's just as expedient, efficient, and enjoyable to do that now as when I was a child.

I still lie in the grass with my dogs on a sunny day. I still love to discover tiny, star-shaped flowers hiding in the bushes.

I still get a thrill when I see a striped lizard chilaxing in the sun. 

Or a tender blue and black butterfly showing off.

I still blow dandelion seeds into the air.

A few days ago Jay, my cousin (Linda), and I, with as much enthusiasm as children, tried to whistle using acorn caps. Why? Because it's fall. And the acorns are on the ground. And the acorn caps are begging to be whistled through.

That's not childish; that's ageless. 

I didn't give up ice cream or chocolate chip cookies when I became an adult, so why would I give up other things I enjoyed?

I have a huge box of crayons and sometimes I color to relax.  How old do you have to be before you're not allowed to color anymore? It's incredibly soothing. It's mentally better than a glass of wine because I'm not numbing my senses in order to relax; I'm fulfilling my senses. I love the smell of crayons, the rhythmic sound of the wax rubbing off onto the paper, the smoothness of the crayon in my fingers, the blend of the hues, the look of black lines and white spaces slowly coming to colorful life...

Paul said in Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things." Lest we misunderstand, he listed what he meant by childish things: selfishness, envy, pride, irritability, and rudeness. He never said he put away childlike faith or joy or laughter. We preserve those things. 

I have more fun as an adult because I have better sense and more freedom. If I want, I can eat a brownie for breakfast. And sometimes I do! When we go to a restaurant, I ask to see the dessert menu first. Sometimes I get my dinner to go and just relish dessert. I have enough grown-up self-control to limit my sweet tooth, but also enough joie de vivre to indulge it when I'm in the mood.

A friend told me that she went to a dinner where one of the guests brought bottles of bubbles for everyone. I've never met that woman, but I love her! After they ate, this group of ladies walked through the green Pennsylvania countryside, blowing bubbles in the dusky light. At what age are we supposed to stop enjoying this? People, there's a rainbow in every bubble! A rainbow to remind us of our Creator's creativity and love.

Not my photo, but I'm unsure to whom exactly the photo credit belongs
There's a warm satisfaction in blowing an especially big bubble or attaching two or three bubbles without popping them. There's beauty in seeing their shimmering roundness float through the balmy air. The other day someone said to me, "You can't say the word 'bubble' in an angry way." I've tried; you simply can't pull it off. Why would anyone ever give up something so wonderful?

I received an order today, which is always exciting. I'd forgotten that when I filled out the on-line order form, in the section for additional instructions, I'd written "Tell the next person you see, 'My left elbow is turning green. The cat told me it was because of the grapes.'" The person filling my order highlighted it and wrote "This" with an arrow and a laughing face by it. 

Sometimes in Delivery Instructions, I write, "When I answer the door, tell me I'm having a good hair day. Sound sincere no matter how I look." It's fun to make people grin at any age.

I love to giggle with friends. Laughing so hard that we end up on the floor with red faces, holding our bellies. That isn't childish; that's adultish. 

In the wee hours of the morning, Jay and I plan to get up, climb on the roof, and huddle under blankets to watch the Blood Moon eclipse. Yes, he has to work in the morning, and I have someone coming over before 9 AM. But why not?

Grow up!

Have fun! 

I assure you that they are not mutually exclusive.

Verse(s) of the day: (Luke 18:15-17)
"One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so He could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering Him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, 'Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.'" Don't be childish; be childlike. Be adultish. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Jay Begs Me to Watch More TV

Due to some health issues, I tire easily, so I'm frequently stuck at home, alone. To cope with confinement, I read. Quite a lot. And sometimes cabin fever and random information are a dangerous combination.

Shortly after marriage, I read a book wherein a detective solved a crime by looking at the date stamped under the lid of the toilet tank, reasoning that people wouldn't put an older toilet in a newer house. Don't ask me how the age of the dwelling helped him solve the case because I don't remember. 

But I do remember being fascinated by that bit of trivia. It's no shock, I'm sure, that I promptly went into our Master bathroom, lifted the toilet tank lid, and looked at the date. I then realized that I lacked the strength to hold the hefty piece of ceramic.

Me (calling Jay at work): Honey, I have good news and good news. First, I discovered that our house was indeed built in 1974 as evidenced by the date under the toilet tank lid. Isn't that clever?

He: The date is on the deed. Why would we need to look under the toilet tank lid?

Me: Um, well, to make sure that the deed wasn't forged?

He: You have trouble hanging onto a glass of water, so why would you try to lift the tank lid?

Me: Yeah, that's a really good point; wish I'd thought of it. Um, but my other good news is that I've urged you to replace that toilet on the grounds that its harvest gold color is hideous. (To see how hideous, click here.) But now you can feel good about replacing it for practical reasons. 

Jay (groaning): You broke the toilet? If you had to look under the lid, why didn't you just wait until I got home?

Me: Um, because I'm me.

I really had no other defense.

Then I read a book wherein one of the characters in the Old West needed a light source, so she ingeniously made a button lamp.

We live in an older neighborhood and sometimes our power goes out when it rains. Since we rarely replace our flashlight batteries, I thought it would be a good idea to practice making an alternative means of light. It was easy to wrap a scrap of cotton cloth around a button and tie it with thread. I put it on the base of our garlic roaster so the house would smell like an Italian grotto if there was any lingering odor trapped in the ceramic. I'm romantic that way.

I covered the cloth with oil and proudly lit the button lamp.

It burned beautifully, making me feel quite capable and homesteader-ish.

It burned lower, and as Jay walked into the room, I suddenly realized two things. One, that buttons were made out of metal, bone, or glass a hundred years ago, and, two, that burning plastic buttons create toxic fumes. Oops.

Oddly, Jay was not impressed with my resourcefulness.

And he was not amused with having to open all the windows in 31 degree weather to air out the house.

(Note: Should you, too, feel compelled to try this, I'd advise you to use a quarter instead of a button. And make sure you have 100% cotton cloth since synthetic material will melt, not burn. Who says my blog isn't educational!)

I also read that flint and steel could be used to start a fire. My mind raced. What if the power went out and we ran out of bread, peanut butter, and cereal? How would we fry an egg? (Never mind that we have a giant box of matches and a couple of lighters by the fireplace.)

I acquired some flint (don't ask where) and struck it upon steel to see if I could create a spark. It took several tries, but then a shower of sparkles lit up the room! I was thrilled!

Jay (panicked): What are you doing!?

Me: Seeing if I can start a fire with flint and steel. Like this! 

(More sparks)

Jay (shoving a stack of folded towels away from me): Stop that! Are you trying to burn down the kitchen?

Me (shrugging): I just thought that one of us should know how to make fire without matches. What if there's a blizzard and the power goes out and no one can get to us for weeks and the only thing left to eat is raw eggs? 

Jay: In North Carolina?

Me (offended at his lack of enthrallment of my newly acquired ability): It could happen. And you'll thank me when you're eating cooked food solely because of my skills.

Jay (rolling his eyes): Skills? Who are you, Napoleon Dynamite? And I know all about fire; I'm a firefighter.

Me: Which means you know how to put fires out, not how start them. (Striking the flint for emphasis and relishing the drama of the ensuing fireworks.)

Jay (exasperated): Stop doing that in here!

Me: Fine. I'll go practice over the tub. That should be safe.

Jay (alarmed): No! You could catch the shower curtain on fire. Or the bath mats. Or towels. Or something. Please just give them to me. If we're ever in a survival situation, I have no doubt you'll discover fifty different ways to set things on fire.

Me (pleased): Why thank you, honey! 

That was a compliment, right?

I'd list more examples of how books have inspired me, but I'm in the middle of a story that explains how to sharpen a machete with a rock, and I want to practice. Jay will be thrilled with my knowledge if we're ever stranded in a jungle with a dull knife.

Jay just read the last paragraph, put his face in his hands, and groaned. I think he was overcome with profound gratitude at my initiative to teach myself survival skills. Isn't that sweet?

Verse of the day: (Luke 12:35, 40) " Be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning, like a servant waiting for their master to return... You must also be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him." I'm ready and hope you are, too.

To read why Jay has issues with me and open flame, click here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gift Gaff

One year my dad bought my mom a fishing reel for Mother's Day. She doesn't fish. And once Jay gave me juice boxes for my birthday. Not his best idea. But men are not the only ones who are gift-challenged. Our cat also lacked gift-giving skills.

In the beginning of our relationship, she brought us dead voles. She placed the first one gently on my pillow so that when I opened my eyes in the morning, its carcass was a few inches from my nose.

My reaction made it clear that I was not blessed by her gift. 

I found the second deceased vole outside of my bedroom door when my dad was visiting. I'd heard him walking past the room a few times that morning, so I asked, "Dad, why in the world would you leave a dead rodent in my doorway?"

He answered in surprise, "Oh, I thought that was a cat toy. I kicked it up and down the hall a few times trying to get the cat to chase it." 


Since I didn't play with (or eat) her deceased presents, our feline friend decided I preferred vibrantly healthy ones. She cheerfully brought live moles, voles, mice, and lizards through the cat door and set them free to skitter throughout our house.


This mole pup was a bit startled to find himself on our foyer slate.

I didn't mind the moles and voles so much because they're slow and easy to catch. But deer mice have cheetah-like reflexes. One night, I chased one all over the house, frequently tripping on my stretched-out knit nightgown. We were both spent and gasping when I finally cornered him. 

In a last desperate dash, he darted up my long sleeve.

Inside my sleeve.

Inside my sleeve, to my shoulder, and down my back. 

I ran shrieking into the backyard, hoping he'd escape into the grass. My nightgown was baggy, so I never knew where he was until I felt the brush of his furry back tickling my skin as he climbed around the inside of the gown. Anyone out at 2 AM would have thought I was doing a dance homage to the moon as I hopped around, squealing and slapping at my body. 

On an unrelated note, does anyone want a free cat? 

Verse of the day: (I Peter 4:11a) "Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ."   

To read about more unwelcome gifts from my pets, click here.
To read about the best gift to get a man, click here.