Monday, September 29, 2008


(The pictures for this post were taken during Sunday afternoon's football game. Andrew was the photographer and I was walking in the woods during the game, so I wasn't there either. Normally, we play our games in the evenings so the pictures don't pertain to this particular blog story.)

With cows for an audience and poo piles for goal lines, the eight of us line up against each other--four on four--and once again prepare for the kick off. On the other side of the field, Andrew cocks back and lands another powerful kick on the worn football with a merciless amount of force. It was a high one. An excited cry went up on our side of the field when Stephen caught the ball and took off. The other team suddenly became alive. While Stephen was able to out juke Michael, he was no match for Andrew who tagged him (yea, we were playing two-hand touch) at the 35 yd. line. Stephen whipped the ball over Michael's head toward Annie's waiting arms, but before the ball reached it's intended, it was snatched out of the air (once again) by Andrew's long arms. "Oh yea!" I hear Johnny shout from behind me. It's obvious whose team he's on. There's an uproar from my team as he streaks across the field. "Get him, tag him!" However, the boy is slippery and fast and made it to the 10 yd. line before he was finally tagged by Theresa. He gently tossed the ball to Johnny who promptly started running the wrong way! "Johnny! Johnny, wrong way!" By the time he turned and started in the right direction, I was able to easily touch him. Johnny threw it back to Andrew with pride (even though he didn't actually make any yards on his play). Andrew caught it and was immediately touched by Theresa. He quickly tosses the ball behind him to Michael and proceeds to block for him. However, the pass was knocked down by Stephen who quickly recovered it and threw it to me. I feel Lizzy's hands tagging me even as I caught the ball. I tossed it to Annie who was hanging on the outskirts of the group. She made it over halfway across the field before Andrew caught up to her and touched her. She passed it across the field to Stephen who was immediately tagged by Michael but got the ball to a wide open Theresa in our in-zone who completed our 5th touchdown of the game. "YEA!" we all yell. "Drat!" they all respond. Everyone is excited and riled except the cow that is still standing in the same spot calmly chewing her cud with a look of mild interest.
"Oh no," I hear Johnny muttering as he follows his idol, Andrew, back down field to their side. "It's okay," I hear Andrew encouraging his team. "We'll cream them on this play." "Yea right," Stephen informs us, stepping back for the kick. It's good...

For me, our football games are one of the most peaceful times of the day. It's dusk and, though we have to play hard to beat the impending darkness, there's a certain peacefulness that comes with watching the vibrant colors of daytime wind down into shadows and silhouettes around the farm. The evening streaks of red, purple and orange streaming between fall colored trees outlines the gentle, cud-chewing cow causing her to appear the perfect picture of peace.

Oh, and behalf of a sister, I'm supposed to inform you that the girls won the game that Andrew photographed above.

(My apologies toward the poor quality of these pictures. They are actually stills taken out of various movie clips that the boys are/were making about our football games. If their movie turns out, maybe I'll get to share it with you!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Isn't technology amazing? When Theresa milks every morning and evening, she witnesses the same 'squirt, squirt, squirt,' into the bucket, but due to this picture being taken right in the middle of the 8th of a second that it takes for the milk to fall into the bucket, we are able to see what it looks like frozen 'midstream'. Theresa especially found it amazing, commenting that it comes out so fast you couldn't ever see this with the naked eye. So, you can consider yourself privileged to see this:

A lucky girl with one of the best chores in the world:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cabin Update

[Edited to add a few more recent pictures]

Hi, come on in and take a look at our progress!

Don't stand in that doorway forever, come on in!

Watch your step! There's no floor yet. And please ignore the ugly braces... those are only temporary.

The builder sitting on his creation and Daddy's little man in the windowsill.

Let's hand the camera to Andrew and check out the view from up there!

The latest is the top plate beam that the rafters will rest on.

A corner (the little log end poking up isn't part of anything, it's just a scrap that got in the picture).

A close up of Andrew's top plate corner joint.

I hope you liked your visit. Come again soon!


Friday, September 19, 2008

Bear Fat... wow....

Be forewarned, this is one of those 'wow' posts. The kind where you keep muttering, "wow," under your breath, in kind of an exasperated, intrigued, disgusted and amazed way.

Alright, so our latest project is, (you are reading this right)—bear fat.

Bear fat oil is known for making awesome flaky pastries, or any deep frying, and it's wonderful for its waterproofing abilities (the Indians used it for waterproofing their canoes!). It's also supposed to make a good replacement for oil in lanterns.

The process of rendering includes cutting any pieces of meat off of the fat and then cutting raw bear fat into one inch cubes.

(These pictures didn't turn out very well, but they show how many of us were working at a time to complete this project: Me, Liz, Theresa, (2nd pic:) Dad, Annie, Andrew and (camera guy) Stephen.)

These cubes are boiled down until an oil rises on top. We ladle that off...

... and strain it through a cloth and then boil it down again into pure oil.

After that it's canned in sterilized quart jars, cooled, and stored away in the pantry. (It firms up at room temp.)

Oil is one of our biggest expenses and would be one of the hardest things to make from scratch on the homestead, so we are very grateful for the bear fat substitute.

However, the fat goes bad quickly. We all have to work hard and quickly to get it cut up and into the boilin' pots." Mom also burned a pot on the first try, and wow, the house stunk for a good few hours after that! When done right, there is positively no smell or taste in anything at any time.

We've been making the crusts for our fall apple pies with bear fat and they're very good. It made excellent grilled cheese this afternoon, too! We had one child hold out on the apple pie, after cutting bear fat all day, but the next day the little chicken caved and tasted it--admitting that there was no difference whatsoever.

When Theresa was trying to convince the chicken to taste the pie, she mistakenly said in her haste: "the fat bear pie is good!"

LOL. Wow...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Simple Sights that Stick...

It was such a sight to see: the pony cantering by and the two girls riding the rocky stride with good seats. I was surprised and impressed. The older had a smile that stretched from ear to ear as she directed the pony's movements. The younger simply laughed. A deep, natural, loud belly laugh that said it all. Because she had the back seat and her feet only made it to just past the older girl's knees, she had to hold tightly to her older sister's waist to keep her balance. The pony herself seemed rather cautious, but at the older girl's reassuring urging, she again stretched her legs and cantered the remaining length of the pasture in under 10 seconds, her thick, long and 3 colored mane billowed back into the girls like something out of a fairy tale book. She seemed to derive her playful, happy strong, energy from the girls' constant giggles. It was obviously morning, as the sun was still doing its morning stretches across the pasture. When I moseyed back to the gate, they had watered their pony and the younger one had leapt off to open the gate. I came up just in time to see their 'secret' mounting method: the older girl stiffened her foot and the younger one stepped on it, gripping her older sister's hand, she swung surprisingly easily up onto the pony's back behind her sister. Both burst into giggles as the pony started off in a jolt in search of some green grass and they momentarily lost their seats. I was relaxing in the shade of the apple tree by my flower pot when they decided to go for a walk down the road. Their smiles disappeared down the hill, but their giggles still rang in my ears and followed me to the house until the door closed behind me. The moment stuck with me all day and left me with a feeling of contented happiness.

In case you don't know our family well enough (yet!), the girls were Theresa and Lizzy and the pony was our wonderful Lena:

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's that I see? Could it be?

Fall has come to the U.P!
Slowly but surely...
One in every ten trees thinks it's getting chilly at night!
We should be in full color within a week or two. (And I'm sure that my young photographers will capture it for you all!)
The apples agree that it's time to turn red:
Our favorite thing about fall: Besides, of course, the apple pies that sister dear is currently preparing for the hungry hardworking menfolk. Gotta go chop apples, talk to you later!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A 5 Year Old Slave Driver!!

Coming down the stairs, I noticed that the rain had stopped, so I called to Johnny to come work outside with me. He was at the kitchen counter struggling to grind wheat by hand. He followed curiously. Standing on the porch, I felt more than saw that it was still raining, or misting rather. A lazy trickle dripped from the porch roof.

At this point, I wasn't sure if I still wanted to work out in the fields--spreading manure is what I had had in mind. We got our rakes out of the shed and then had the options of acting on our plan--or going with Dad to get hay in the rusty ol' pickup. But by now, Johnny was hooked on the idea of working in the field. So we said goodbye to Dad and his pickup and marched off through the misty rain to the left front pasture.

As we began our work, it became apparent to me that 5 year olds don't have to pause for breath when they get talking. Even though my arms and ears grew weary, it was interesting to hear all the deep thoughts and strong opinions that rest inside the mind of a 5 year old. First of all, after working for about 20 minutes, I got loudly told off for taking a break to (as he put it): "you're stopping to look around and--(demonstrates by cocking hip and planting a fist on it)--staring at the trees and stuff while I'm working. I think I'm a better worker than you."
I knew I should've been insulted by his little mock demonstration of me 'staring at the trees' (I wonder where he learned that??), but I couldn't help my smile so I turned away to hide it and told him to get back to work.

After about 40 minutes, I asked him if he wanted to go in. "What?" he responded, shocked. "We have the whole pasture to do!"
Now it was my turn to respond with a shocked, "What?!" After a long period of reasoning, I got the little workaholic to narrow it down to the front left pasture, though I was still doubtful of finishing it, since it was already around 5:30. He went on to explain to me the importance of spreading the manure, how we're helping our family and our animals by helping the grass grow better.
"Mary, do you want the animals to DIE?"
"No," I muttered, entertaining images of having the little slave driver do the whole pasture by himself.
"Well, then KEEP WORKING."
"And stop complaining!"

As we worked further down the pasture, the real reason for his hard work ethic started surfacing. You see, his brothers have started teaching him how to play tackle football (I know, already!) and I suppose, naturally, he's not so good at it, yet (though, he didn't altogether admit that). He's been toying with the idea of: 'embarrassing Michael by tackling him to the ground!' I told him it's wasn't nice to wish embarrassment on his brother. This threw a monkey wrench in his plan... momentarily. "He won't mind that much, Mary," he explained. "He always tells me to try as hard as I can."

The other reason he was demanding that we worked longer and harder was because he: 'wanted to marry a nice girl who liked him for his muscles (cough, cough) and he would work really hard for her on their farm to make her happy' and he 'wanted to practice now' so he could 'get the big muscles'. "And besides Mary, all we did today was school and card wool, we HAVE TO do more work. It's our punishment for not working hard enough today!"
Speak for yourself.
"Excuse me, you can punish yourself if you'd like," I told him. "I'd rather just work until I'm tired, thank you."

Suddenly, the back door opened and Lizzy's head poked out with the announcement: "Annie's apple pies are done!"
"Okay!" I told her. "We'll be in soon."
Suddenly, little Mr. Do-The-Whole-Pasture-Tonight spoke up: "We can't come in, we still have to finish this pasture and it's going to take a long time!"
I looked at him shocked. Johnny? Turning down fresh hot apple pie?!! Who was this kid anyway and what did he do with my brother??
He giggled, adding, "Probably at least an hour!"
Lizzy closed the door before I could correct his outburst. "You might be out here for another hour," I told him. "But I'm going to get some apple pie while it's still hot."
"No you can't," came the bossy reply. (!!) "We're gonna finish TONIGHT, okay?" Another lecture followed about the importance of work, of spreading manure, and of not complaining, (I thought lecture giving MY job?).

By now, I had noticed that the misty rain had soaked through my clothes and his. It was the type of rain that did its wetting job without you realizing it had happened. Our hair was wet and stuck together in pieces. Drips formed at the end of each piece, sending an occasional drip irritatingly down our faces.
"Your hair is wet," I told him.
"Oh, who cares?" he replied without stopping.
I shrugged. "Is mine?"
"Uh, a little, but it doesn't matter. Keep working."

I finally marched in, with him following me protesting the whole way. Though, I think he enjoyed his slice of pie every bit as much as I did mine.

Well, I have that same 5 year old nagging me to come work so I will be chatting with you all later. Thanks for sharing in my 5 year old experiences. They are truly adventures, each and every one! If I could, I would record each adventure in a giant, red leather bound book and treasure it forever. After all, they won't be 5 for long...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Look Through My Window

I love my window! No where else can I look out and see most of the farm in one glance. I feel a burst of pride and happiness as I take in the animal pens, the woods, the volleyball net and the gardens in one swipe. I pinch myself to make sure that I'm not imagining it and it is, in fact, my home(stead). Here's a glance out my window in the spring:

(Note: Andrew milking by the wood line:)

After a rainstorm:

With the recent project of putting up the shakes on the gable ends, Dad and Andrew got a glance through our window, opposite of what I usually get to see.

A typical, messy, girly, loft bedroom, house to 3 teenagers and 'the little sister' :-)

This is where we chat about our deep and usually useless topics. (Ugly 'curtain', new one in the works).

Usually, we will just finish relating our silly stories, only to look over and see 'the little sister' in the corner with her doll houses and we realize by her look that she's overheard our whole conversation:

Looking out my window at the horses and the garden on an ordinary summer day.

The horse pen at dusk, out my window:

Out my window: Ahh, time for bed!

My window--my little niche in the world:
Oh, and this was last year before the shakes were in place (obviously).