I’m blogging over here, now.
I’ve had like five or six glasses of wine and I’m listening to Coldplay, so. You know. I know this makes me uncool.
I have a news update: College.
Do you know that college was like a decade ago?
Where are you? How have you been?
Tonight I am longing for a relationship like the one I had with you in college: A time when all we had on our agenda was to form relationships with people of the same age and race and socioeconomic background and interests. Back when we could daydream about our future instead of daily grinding it out.
Mae, Colleen, Talya, Chris, Emily, Jess, Sarah, Meggan, Bryony.
How are you guys? What are you doing?
I have not been really CLOSE with anyone since you. When it comes to friendships at least.
I have dear friends and acquaintances now, but we don’t sit hours in coffee shops talking, discovering new, increasingly naïve layers of ourselves by 2, 3, or 4 a.m. We don’t have a waitress who knows us by name. We don’t hike up to the top of the mountain. We don’t sit on the roof smoking cigarettes until the sun comes up.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit it has been so long since I’ve had FRIENDS. You’ve probably collected a whole host of them by now. Maybe you’ve forgotten our time together.
It’s just that I’ve just been so busy and FRIENDS take so long and they are so weird.
I’ve been thinking of venturing down that path again. A path with friends. I think it is because I quit my job, the job I was learning when I knew you, and I live in the country fulltime now and there is a tendency to FEEL the silence instead of comfortably enjoying it.
Jack Hanna, the governor. Nobody calls anymore, so I am restless.
I am going to find some people, but.
I don’t think it will ever be like it was, will it?
Let this stand as proof that we were alive in the months of May and June. Barely.
The calendar ticked over from April, and suddenly, The Dirty Life that I long for turned into the Life of a Crazy Person. The truth is, there’s plenty out here in Bangs to keep me busy BEFORE the fulltime job writing my stories for the paper, but ah, well. My postnatal return to working mama has a history of being slightly insane, doesn’t it? I should have expected this.
Here are a few snapshots of my world right now:
First, let’s start at the dining room table.
In this photo, you can make out a drill, some exterior deck screws and wire cutters from futile attempts to secure my goat milk supply from three hungry triplets (with a pen that separates goat mother from her offspring at night, if you must know). There’s Molly’s uneaten vegetables from the night before, (see related photo, below) a towel that did not succeed cleaning up a can of spilled peaches, some goat minerals (expected) and Borax that arrived from amazon.com. In my delusional Benedryl-infused state, (poison ivy covers my body, thanks) I thought it would be cute to make my own laundry detergent. It also looks like someone forgot to do dishes last night.
My dad told me that when he reflects on his 50 or so years on the planet thus far, the years in his late 20s when he was raising two young children were the best. He calls it the Good Life and says that during that period, he felt he had a clear purpose: To go to work, to earn a living and to keep things alive. He said he remembers he felt exhausted and stressed out most of the time, but that if he ever picked a time to relive, he’d go back to those days because it was then that he felt most alive. And nights. Because he went to night school while mom kept his babies alive.
This sounds like something a crazy old man would say!
Admitedly, right now, it’s tough to imagine looking back on these days fondly. We’re doing what we need to do to keep mortgage paid, and to keep those seven, eight, nine or ten doctors who all want $50 a month happy. But I’m covered in poison ivy, I think I have pink eye, I’m exhausted, and I’m losing ground. I am enjoying those few precious moments as hard as I can — the mornings spent milking Rose (seriously!), the times Eleanor giggles when I’m washing her neck. There are joyful bookends to the days. But the middle is a little hectic and we don’t really have a Plan B right now. Although, at times, bankruptcy sounds WAY more fun.
For those thinking, “oh, shut up.” take heart: I DO realize that things could be much worse. When confronted with my version of mini-catastrophes, the Lord presents to me a path with two clear options: I have a choice to lose my shit or to keep it together and keep trudging forward. I am blessed in a thousand ways every single day, and it’s these blessings that keep me from choosing the former. Although I have hollared more swear words into the night than country air was ever intended to hold.
I’m just afraid that I’m going to look up from this laptop and my girls will be in their late 30s and I’ll just get around to taking Ellie’s picture. I’m blogging, I know. But only once a month. This is a severe reduction in theteet.com!
I have to go because Molly is eating fence staples. I’m not joking.
I’m pretty sure I heard Seth’s car door slam about five minutes ago, but with all this screaming, I’d stay in the car, too. It’s safer there.
I love you.
Bare with me.
The pigs don’t get much play on theteet.com/
Well, some of it might be because pigs are soooooo early 2007. Been there, done that. And also, they are evil.
Keeping one orphaned pigs lessens its power. But with three pigs … things are different.
Every morning that I take food out to these beasts, I feel a bit reluctant. All I can think of is how I’m making them stronger. I’m providing them with ground corn, oats and vitamins, and they’re taking those nutrients and they’re turning them into lean muscle mass: Muscle mass they will use to one day eat my baby.
Sometimes when I have Eleanor in the sling for morning chores, I wonder what would happen if I dropped her, and how long it would take them to eat her.
Granted, these pigs have not so much as smacked their pig lips around Molly or Eleanor. In fact, if one were not paying close attention, he or she may think these pigs have developed a kinship with my children. Molly sometimes holds her little paw up to their pigs noses as they sniff and she giggles uncontrollably.
But they’re planning something. Oh, yes. They want to eat my babies.
I do not trust these pigs.
One of Knox County’s worst gravel roads took me home from the feed mill the other day. I found a break in the rain where could help load a ton of chicken and hog feed in the back of the pick-up. I watched them ground the corn that had been delivered from the fields around my house — including the farmer who delivers his corn one tiny grain cart at a time, several times per day during harvest. They put it into bags and we loaded it up and I took it home. You have to stomp on the gas three times before the truck will start. She requires a bit of “feathering” on the drive home if you’d like to avoid stalling.
Anyway I’m pretty sure it was the sexiest thing I have ever done in my life. I probably lost a few points when I buried the truck in our muddy yard 40 seconds later and I had to call AAA for a wench.
I stab things with needles and burn things and herd things into their pens and milk things all of a sudden. Did anybody else see this coming or am I the only one who is surprised by us?
How am I supposed to go back to work tomorrow with a straight face?
It’s happening again. I know too much.
I don’t care who you are — once you’ve squeezed your goat’s teats until your breakfast drink comes out, you’re never the same.
Although I’ve waited what feels like my whole life to obtain it, I cannot drink my goat’s milk right now. And I blame society.
Do you know how many gallons of milk I’ve consumed in my lifetime? A lot. Do you know how many animals I have personally milked? None. Maybe a fake cow at the state fair, and I guess I could count myself on occasion — but other than that, I am totally oblivious to the process. I am used to buying a gallon of milk, pouring it on my cereal and moving on with my life in perfect ignorance.
Now, drinking milk has become a thing. (I think I can hear it bleating in my refrigerator right now!)
Every time I become directly involved in the production of my food, there’s always a period of … adjustment. When my pig was butchered, I could barely eat bacon, for cripe’s sake. When my chickens went to heaven, I had to gag the chicken salad down like it was human flesh or something. And the eggs … oh, the eggs! I couldn’t be anywhere near them. (Chicken menstruation, by the way, when you think about it.)
That’s the problem.
Do you EVEN KNOW what milk is??
White liquid fat. Protein. Calcium. How does it become so white?? Grossy.
My first few sips of fresh goat’s milk were delightful (“It’s like Snowville Creamery only MORE DELICOUS,” I thought. “How is this possible?!”). But the more I thought, the worse it became until finally Seth had to finish my glass at dinner because I couldn’t take another sip.
The problem is that I’ve known this glass of milk all its life.
I just keep imagining it inside my goat. I can see her out there, crunching on grass, drinking water, pooping, peeing … *gulp* … giving birth. The whole glass just smelled and looked and tasted like Rose the Goat. And I know it came from her because I squeezed her boobs while it came out. I am intimately intertwined with the animal that produced my food. TOO intimately. I monitor the shape of her bowel movements. I pulled her children out of her vajay-jay. I can fully comprehend this milk. And it disgusts me.
At present day, there’s nothing I enjoy more than the superior color and taste of fresh eggs from chickens I’m well acquainted with. (Thanks, Grandma Johnson!) And I very much look forward to dinner guests so that we can plop one of the juiciest, tastiest TeterRange chickens on the grill. But at first, for a moment, I was repulsed by these same things. (Some would say I’ve grown up. That I’m eating with the fullest pleasure–pleasure that does not rely on ignorance, that is.)
Eggs, meat … guess it was only a matter of time before dairy was made real for me. Can someone tell me how much longer until it passes?
I feel I haven’t been forthright about the surge of agrarian in my lifestyle. There are times when, instead of feeling like my morning is one long reading from the book of Psalms, I find myself wondering who is available to watch the kids while I go file for divorce.
And these moments are far more interesting to read about, right sickos?
The root of all problems is that Seth and I acquired lots of animals before we were actually “ready” for them. (preparedness = overrated!) Society could frown upon that, however! If we had waited until we were ‘ready,’ we would be dead or at least elderly. We probably won’t have $50,000 for a new barn and permanent fencing for a few days at least.
So, sans food hoppers, water lines, manure spreaders or hay lofts, we do things six buckets at a time. Whether it’s food, water, shelter — every action is sort of piecemeal and takes a lot of steps (and buckets!) from our back door to the animals. Most of the time this works out just fine. (Thank God Grandma Johnson got Molly that Radioflyer wagon for her birthday, amirite?Multipurpose!) The rest of the time, there is inclement weather.
During storms of wind, rain, hail or ice, things become very precarious as we stake down tarps that cover shelters, we reinforce portable fencing, we try in vain to keep bedding dry, and everybody just sort of buckles down at the mercy of God here on Six Buckets Farm. (Get it?!) Sometimes the air is filled with words like, “Jesus Christ!” (but not in the way you would read about in Matthew) or, “I’m putting everyone on Craiglist,” and other times we say things like “sonofabitch” or “Shit!” and then Molly follows us around repeating these phrases and then we feel even worse.
But you try to keep your goat’s shelter from blowing away in a hailstorm and then come lecture us about keeping your language clean. Not easy!
Luckily, there is a name for this kind of portable farming, (Seth would know — I think it’s intensive rotational grazing or something? I have no idea. I call it “Celebrating inefficiency”) and it’s becoming very trendy and even people with permanent structures are looking at things like portable electric netting and hoop houses and other things you can manage livestock with for $500 or less.
As Seth says, the whole theory behind the system is that once he animals make a big stinky mess, then you move on to the next patch of untouched land. Kind of like how we settled America. But unlike urban sprawl, eventually, by the time you get back to the first patch, the land has been mowed, tilled and fertilized and is all the better for it.
But damned if it isn’t a lot of maintenance in the meantime.
But we’re getting better. Slowly but surely we’re coming up with the system. Tarps are being replaced by metal roofing. Cattle panels are being reinforced with 2x4s. We’re getting there. Pretty soon, a storm will pop up over the horizon and no one will panic. Maybe everyone will stay dry, even, but in the meantime. We’re here. Smile, everybody.
I actually very much enjoy this work unless the weather is bad, or unless Seth and I have different ideas about how the process should go, or what particular patch of land the animals should be moved to next. If I’m not throwing electric fencing at Seth, then chances are, things are very good.
I’m thinking about creating a Terror Alert chart so that everyone will know whether it is safe to travel to Bangs. You know, for the tourists.
I don’t expect anybody to understand it, but I could stand out there for hours — and mean I have, I guess — watching the chickens scratch behind the piggies, and watching the piggies dig behind the goats. And here comes Molly, following the whole lot in her baby Carhart overalls with a bucket of pine cones she’s collected for Lord knows what ultimate purpose. Baby Eleanor’s in the sling along for the ride or, on the colder days, she’s fast asleep up in the house.
On a daily basis now, I find myself thinking very uncynical things like, “This scene feels like one long prayer,” and “Look how all these creatures can fall into a rhythm” and, for me, a semi-professional snark, this is an unusual and a refreshing change of pace. I think this means I have found my happy place?
Either that or the postpartum hormones are still leveling themselves out. Either way is fine by me.
Welp, I have done the impossible. I have achieved sandwich bread perfection.
Through trial and error, through rises and falls, through … four weeks of maternity leave, I have finally made the perfect sandwich bread. It’s a partial white/wheat/oat concoction that can withstand the abuse of the new or nursing mother:
This bread can can hold itself together under the pressure of an ungodly amount of sandwich meat with the support of only one hand. No crumblies. Even after the third or fourth day, this bread keeps its shape and tastiness–assuming it makes it that long. We heart our carbs out here in the hinterlands. They burn hot in the gut on lonely rural nights.
I’d like to thank all who helped me along the narrow and rocky path of sandwich bread success, including master bread-maker Michael Padula, for the tip about increasing the oil from 2 tbs. to a full quarter-cup.
That, along with the reduced rising time, finally created the winning loaf.
Here is the method, for those who think that only suckers buy their own bread when 25-lbs. bags of bread flour cost something like $13 and hearty homemade bread can be its own meal:
4 c bread flour
1 to 1-1/2 c wheat flour
1/2 c oats
2 tbs. yeast
2-4 tbs. sugar (we go full-on 4 tbs. for that Amish buffet roll flavor)
1 1/2 tbs salt
2 c hot water (warm if you are proofing, hot if you are mixing yeast in with dry ingredients)
1/4 c oil
– mix dry ingredients, including yeast (be sure to ‘proof’ yeast separately if you’re not using instant)
– mix in hot water and oil for 5 minutes and check consistency. you want it to be wet, but you don’t want it impossible to knead because it is sticking to your hands. Better to err on the side of too wet, in my experience.
-that’s what she said
– knead 8 to 10 minutes (this subs in for an upper arm workout, in case you’re cutting out luxuries like gym membership fees) I like to spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and beat the crap out of the dough right there on the counter. Molly ‘helps.’
– separate dough into two loaves and let rise until doubled in size — no more than 30 minutes. 20 minutes is the zen for me.
– punch down dough and rework. i’ve found success by not kneading very much at all before second rise. some people just put the dough in the oven and go with it after the first rise, but a second rise works best for me.
– let it rise for not very long at all. put it in the oven almost immediately. I just let the oven heat up to 350 while the bread is in there rising. I let it bake for 25 minutes.
– consume 2 loaves of bread in one night. one-handed. it’s ok. you’ve earned it.