The year the music died

The Grim Reaper has been on a tear with musicians in 2016. And it’s only April. At this point people have had enough already and I’m seeing tweets like, “That the universe would form a protective layer around Paul McCartney, we pray.” (@unvirtuousabbey)

But none hit me as hard as the news that Prince had died. I’ve had the all-Prince iHeartRadio station on non-stop ever since, taped the airing of Purple Rain on VH1, read every Rolling Stone article, watched every video I’ve seen shared on Facebook. The depth of grief I felt took me by surprise, and I’ve been thinking about why the past 4 days.

My grandparents gave my parents a stereo the first Christmas after they were married. In 1969, a stereo was a rather large piece of furniture. It took up a lot of real estate in the living room of the tiny farmhouse they rented near New Haven. When I came along almost a year later, they wedged my crib alongside it, end-to-end, because the upstairs bedrooms were too cold for a winter baby. My mom says when I was fussy they’d put me in my crib, put a Johnny Cash or Elvis record on the stereo, and I’d settle down and go to sleep.

“Or maybe we just couldn’t hear you crying over the music. Either way,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

Indeed.

When I was 15 months old they moved to the farm on River Road where I grew up. There I got an upstairs bedroom, and the stereo lived in the dining room, smack dab in the middle of the house. The soundtrack to my childhood was The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Captain & Tennille. Later it was Willie, Waylon, and Kenny Rogers. Those three still take me back to the farm crisis of the 80’s, and I can feel again the cloud of worry that hung over my parents and the uncertain future of our own farm.


Me in front of the stereo, Christmas 1972

There was always music on, whether it was on that stereo, or the 8-track cassette player in their avocado green Pontiac, or on Saturday morning “American Bandstand” when my mom would have a dance party with me in the living room in front of the tv. I give my parents credit for always being pretty tolerant about what music I listened to. The only albums my mom ever banned from the house were the Violent Femmes and 2 Live Crew (which was actually my friend Susan’s album I had borrowed.) Even then, she just asked that I only play them in my car.

(Although when I brought this up to her she said, “Oh, was the Purple Rain album bad? I guess I never noticed.” Better listen to the song “Darling Nikki” again, Mom.)

When I was 13, the first album I ever bought for myself with my hard-earned babysitting money was Purple Rain on vinyl. I had a little record player of my own in my bedroom. But I preferred to play it on the big stereo in the dining room, lying on the blue-and-brown shag carpet, my ear right up to the speaker so that I could catch every lyric, every instrument, every riff. I had never heard anything like it. The funk style, the raw lyrics that flowed like poetry, the openly sexual themes. My dramatic 13-year-old-self related (or wanted to) so deeply to his frustrations with his parents, with love, and the simultaneous beauty and desperation that is life.

That, I realize, is the reason his death has hit me so hard. His was the first music that was my music and not my parents’ music. And it feels like the end of an era, as I imagine Elvis’s death felt to my parents. Prince was so insanely talented, and creative, and original. Does it make me old and crotchety that, in this moment, I can’t identify that same level of creativity in any of today’s music? Probably.

So I pulled out that Purple Rain vinyl I bought in 1984, and played it on the little record player I have now. I sang along, every lyric still rolling off my tongue as easily as they did at 13. And I said a prayer of protection for Sir Paul McCartney.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s next

So without the farm business to share here, I’ve been left wondering what exactly to do in this space. I still have the desire to write. But what to write about now? As much as I like food, and I will continue to share the occasional recipe, I’m not interested in turning this into a food blog.

So I hope you’ll bear with me as I figure it out. The topics here will likely get a bit random for a while.

For one, there’s my long-standing fascination with all things Ma Ingalls, pioneer women in general, and the Amish. I’m not entirely sure why (although this gives a little background). Their lives were (are) simpler in some respects, but more complicated in others – or at the least, a hell of a lot more work. But I find myself drawn to ideas of simplicity as my life becomes evermore full.

And then there’s connection. Sure, they were often isolated for days or weeks, even months on end. But they had deep connections with their children, their extended families, their neighbors. They took time to write letters. They came together as a community for church and barn raisings. For all the talk of how connected we are now as a society and across the globe, thanks to modern technology, is it true connection or just surface connection? I find myself craving true connection.

My mother is as (or more) surprised as anyone at my interest in the domestic arts. Although given the number of hours I spent dressed up as Laura Ingalls, making her braid my hair, making Dad set up the pop-up camper in the yard as my log cabin… should she really be surprised? Really?

But there is the fact that I lived on cheese & crackers, and cereal, and crab rangoons from the mall during college, and Hamburger Helper in our early married years. There’s my general lack of interest in a perfectly clean house and lack of skill in keeping a neat and organized household. And the whole not-making-my-bed thing. There is that.

But thanks to my mom and my grandma and 4-H, I did learn some skills – how to bake snickerdoodles; how to comparison shop; how to refinish a wooden footstool; how to sew a sassy pair of shorts.

So over the years I’ve become interested in gardening, and sewing, canning and preserving, and bread baking.

So I’ll likely go delving into the lives of my foremothers to glean what I can for my own modern domestic bliss. Among the many other things that interest me… memory keeping, zen, time management, living with intention… stay tuned!

11 years ago:
Happiness is…

10 years ago:
Take 2

9 years ago:
Chicks

8 years ago:
How to Cook : Ground Pork

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

A new normal


Chicken nuggets were the star of supper tonight!

2 weeks post-Whole30, and I’ve fallen into a new normal. A really good new normal. And by “really good”, I mean really tasty.

I decided to take the approach of eating “clean” on days 1, 3, 5 and 7. On days 2, 4, and 6 I allow myself some leeway.

For me, “clean” means a modified Whole30. It means butter, and natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup; baked goods like chocolate chip cookies made with Whole30 approved ingredients, or all-fruit smoothies.

Days 2, 4 and 6 are for ice cream. And a bun for my hamburger. A piece of whole wheat toast with my eggs. Oatmeal and yogurt. Dark chocolate. Seriously, those are the few things I look forward to on even-numbered days. Other than these, I haven’t really missed most of the things that are prohibited on Whole30. If anything, my cravings are now for the foods we ate on the Whole30.

So far this has worked well. Having days 7/1 back-to-back gives me a nice mini-reset every week. If it’s an odd-numbered day and ice cream sounds good, it’s easy to tell myself I can have it tomorrow. And most days I do have the ice cream. But sometimes, by the time tomorrow rolls around, I don’t even want it anymore. The even numbered days allow for “life” to happen – life things like potlucks, and track meets with concession stands.

The internet makes it easy, with so many great Whole30 and Paleo recipes to try. Tonight Liv made these chicken nuggets, and they were so so so good. Like, I can’t even put enough “so”s in front of the word “good” to tell you just how good they were. We paired them up with some of our favorite Whole30 and Paleo sauces – the Basic Ranch dressing from the Whole30 website, this honey mustard sauce (Paleo if you use homemade or approved mayo) and this ketchup (Paleo, or Whole30 if you omit the honey). Did I mention it was so good?!

If you’d like to follow my Pinterest boards and see what we’re cooking up these days, I have a Whole30 board and a Clean Eating board.

What finger-lickin’ good thing have you made this week? Please share!

11 years ago:
Today I am…

10 years ago:
Spring

7 years ago:
Happy Easter!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Whole 30 Experience


Sweet potato sausage hash

I don’t remember how I even heard of the Whole 30 program, but I’d been thinking about trying it for a while now. I felt like my brain just wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, and my energy levels were terrible. I kept thinking, “I’m too young to feel this old!” And I was pretty sure the culprit was my diet. I felt absolutely addicted to sugar and was deep in that cycle of eating carbs and sugar, only to crash a couple of hours later. The Whole 30 plan sounded like just what I needed to detox myself and establish some better eating habits in the process.


Breakfast

In a nutshell, you eliminate dairy, grains (including the gluten-free ones), alcohol, sweeteners (including the natural ones like maple syrup and honey), and beans, peas and legumes. And there are other rules about not eating foods that may technically be in compliance because they’re made with approved ingredients, but they’re not allowed because they are the types of things we typically eat mindlessly. Like dessert, and anything deep fried.

In other words, you give up everything good and cry for 30 days. Matt said, “I give you a Whole 3 days.” Such a supportive husband. (He obviously knows me well.)


Stuffed peppers

Of course taking on something like this is easier when you have a partner. So I enlisted Olivia, because she has a keen interest in health, nutrition, and all-around wellness. She’s thinking of majoring in nutritional science next fall. She’s always chastising me for buying potato chips and granola bars. I knew she’d be game for it.

We decided we wanted to get through Valentine’s Day and the state wrestling tournament before we started, so we settled on March 1st as a start date. I did some planning, gathered recipes, did some shopping – and we began.


My breakfasts definitely got more colorful this month

Day 1 was easy. The enthusiasm was high, and I felt great about the healthier choices I was making. It was a piece of cake!

A piece of cake I couldn’t eat.


Steamed mushrooms, zucchini, and carrots with ghee and dill

Days 2 through 10 were harder. These were the days my body was detoxing all the crap I’ve put into it recently. I was hungry a lot. I craved sugar a lot. The brain fog did start to lift, which was nice, but I kept asking Matt, “where is all this energy I’m supposed to be feeling?!” Some days were akin to having PMS. I just wanted to bite the head off anyone around me. Especially if they were a chocolate rabbit.


Tuna for lunch

About day 10 I finally started feeling that promised surge of energy. I’d read that it’s more typically day 16 before that happens, so I felt lucky there. I didn’t fight to stay awake in the afternoons anymore, which was awesome. It was tempting to call it good at that point and turn it into a Whole 10 program.

But the second half of the program is when your body starts to make a physiological change and adjusts to burning protein and fat for energy instead of it’s old standby carbs and sugar. As the month went on I wasn’t hungry all the time, and I felt like I needed less food to stay satisfied. I was shedding pounds. Most days I felt fantastic.


Meat sauce over cauliflower rice

And then there’s the process of ditching those eating habits that are more psychological. For example, I realized I use eating as a procrastination tool. “I need to do this, but I’m going to sit down and eat something first.” Or after my morning walk, it was habit to go to Kwik Star and get a muffin or a mocha (or both!), totally defeating the point of walking 3 miles.

I thought the hardest part of the plan would be not eating all the foods I couldn’t have. Sure, sometimes I really craved a chocolate chip cookie, or I’d catch a whiff of the sour cream and cheddar potato chips Matt was eating and they would sound good to me in that moment. But for the most part, what I couldn’t have didn’t really bother me. I didn’t think that much about what I couldn’t eat, and focused on what I could eat. I enjoyed trying new recipes. It was actually kind of a fun challenge for me to follow the rules.

I’m not sure what that says about me.


Easter deviled eggs

It was good that I had asked Olivia to join me. Because she’s a stickler. When I suggested we allow ourselves a cheat day so that we could partake in the brownie sundaes at her cheerleading banquet, she replied, “Mother! It’s only 30 days. If you want to go back to eating crap the rest of your life afterwards you can, but I think we can get through 30 days without cheating.” After that I never felt tempted to cheat. I would have felt too guilty disappointing Olivia like that.

(Okay, confession time. I did cheat a few times. On Day 1 I had a mint, just popped it in my mouth without thinking about it until figuring out later that it was off limits. Olivia had a piece of gum on Day 1, too. She thought we should start over at Day 1 the next day. I told her I would karate chop her in the shins if she made me start over because of a mint and a piece of gum. On Day 17 I made a “dessert” for my Bunco group. It was terrible, the only thing I made this whole month that I didn’t like. So I’m not counting that, either, but I do need to make that one up to my friends. Finally, on Day 27, Easter, I made Olivia and I dessert. A fruit tart, of sorts, made with approved ingredients. It was fabulous and I will definitely be making it again. #sorrynotsorry)


Zucchini noodles – loved these in place of pasta!

The whole experience definitely kept the scientific part of my brain engaged, observing how I felt going through the physical detox, observing some of the habits and routines I’d built around eating, figuring out how to adjust recipes to follow the rules. There was only that horrible dessert that I didn’t like. Otherwise the whole family liked everything I made and I’ll continue to make those recipes in the future.

The hardest part was the increase in time I spent cooking. I remember saying to Olivia at one point, “I don’t want to be hungry because I don’t want to eat because I don’t want to cook.” I enjoy cooking, but I wasn’t used to preparing a meal for myself 3 times a day. Prior to this, if I even ate breakfast, it was something fast and easy and processed. Lunch was leftovers, or a repeat of breakfast. But at least, working from home, it’s not as much of a chore to fix myself breakfast and lunch. Olivia had it harder than me. She had to be at school early most days, so she had to fix herself a breakfast before she left. And pack a lunch to take to school. There were a number of special school events during the month where she couldn’t eat what everyone else was eating. But she’s a trooper. And a stickler.


Meatballs marinara over zucchini noodles

So the 30 days is over. I have my brain back, I have my energy back, I’ve shed some lbs. Now what? Part of me is scared to go off the plan because I feel so fantastic. Part of me just wants some Ben and Jerry’s. So the next challenge is finding my new normal. I’ll report back on that one.

Would I do it again? Yes, if I need to. I can’t argue with the results. But I’m hoping to forge new eating habits so that I don’t have to do it again. I have lots of recipes pinned that I haven’t gotten around to trying yet, so I’m looking forward to those. And I’m going to learn more about things like “carb cycling” and “intuitive eating”.

What do you think? Have you done a Whole 30, or is it something you’d think about trying?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

An Update


My reminder of my 2016 One Little Word

So when last we left off with this story, our cattle shed had collapsed and the future was uncertain. I can’t say as much has changed. The insurance did not come through. (Bye bye, Farm Bureau!) We won’t have any beef to sell at market this summer. We haven’t decided on chickens yet but if we do raise any, we will probably only raise what we have orders for and no extra’s. And we’ll have just a limited number of beef quarters to sell next fall.

My intention was to spend the first few months of the year Doing Analysis! Making a Plan! Instead, I just sort of let. it. be. Let myself sit with the idea of letting this chapter of our lives go and starting a new one… or not. I still love our little farm, but sometimes you have to let one thing go in order to make room for another. I feel like I even foretold the answer to myself in this blog post, almost exactly 11 years ago, which concluded with “I don’t know if our little Sugar Creek Farm business is the destination on my journey into agriculture. I have a feeling it’s only a stop along the way.”

I admit I’ve become somewhat jaded about agriculture since I wrote that post. And I have always felt it – that the farm, the blog, were not the destination but rather an important part of the journey to something else. I just wish I knew what that something else is.

So bear with me if I use this space to figure that out. This blog is one of my most cherished possessions, simply for the record it’s been of our lives. I love reading through the archives and seeing what we were up to on this day in the past. It makes sense to me to continue on here, even if we don’t continue on with the farm.

I watched a video by Mike Dooley yesterday, and one thing he said stuck with me:

“You teach best what you need most to learn.”.

So my writing in this space may take a turn towards that… the things I need most to learn right now. Things like,

how to change directions;
how to get over the fear of putting yourself out there and being subject to criticism;
how to “art” (yes, that is actually a search I typed into Google);
how to make time for writing;
how to revive a rusty cast iron skillet

Not even kidding on that last one. I read something about a potato and salt, and I’m totally going to try it.

As humans, no matter what our age, I believe we should always be learning something or we might as well just dig ourselves a grave. Tell me, friends, what do you most need to learn right now?

11 years ago:
Welcome, Rudy!

10 years ago:
Disneyland

9 years ago:
I spent my evening…
Garden, March 28

8 years ago:
Good for what ails you

6 years ago:
Things making me happy this week

5 years ago:
Unfolding

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Popular

I confess, I geek out a little bit every week when I get the email with my weekly blog stats. It’s just fun to see how many visitors I had, where they came from, and what they were looking for on my little blog that’s just a blip in the big old blogosphere.

Can you guess what my most popular post is? It’s the most popular in terms of visits, links, pins… all of it.


Tutorial :: Kindle Case

Yep, it has nothing to do with the things I blog about most, farming and cooking. Which makes me wonder if I should be taking my blog in a different direction. But I haven’t been doing any of these types of crafty projects lately.

One project I’ve got on my mind, however, is how to get “caught up” with my photos and scrapbooks and all of my kids’ “stuff” that’s accumulated the last 20 (gasp!) years. I may not have time to work on it much, with a graduation party to put together. That will come up faster than I want it to. But for sure, when I get to it, I’ll blog about it!

9 years ago:

Sewing

Miscellany

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Popular

Intention :: OLW 2016

“Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.
Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Appreciate your friends.
Continue to learn.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.”
~ Mary Anne Radmacher

It’s been a couple of years since I picked a word for the year, and about 5 years since I followed through with Ali Edwards’ One Little Word class and completed a OLW album for my word. But I’m trying it again this year, and enjoying it very much so far.

Sometimes you choose your word, sometimes it chooses you. Late last year I watched Dr. Wayne Dyer’s movie “The Shift”, and then read his book The Power of Intention. It’s a hard book for me to describe, it was a hard one to wrap my brain around, but it really gave me a new perspective to think about. And as I continue to read more of Dr. Dyer’s books, I wanted to keep the word “intention” in the foreground of 2016. He says something like, do you want to live the same year 70 times? Or do you want to live 70 years? I don’t want to get stuck in a rut of living, I want to be intentional about how I live my years.

The class assignment for February is to choose one thing to do every day. My big, main intention for the year is to write. I know, I’m a bit of a broken record in that department. But I’m choosing writing as my one thing this month, whether that be morning pages, blogging, poetry… whatever. Just so I’m writing.

“If one advances confidently
in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life
which he has imagined,
he will meet with a success
unexpected in common hours.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

What are your intentions for 2016?

2 years ago:
R.I.P., BWD

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Intention :: OLW 2016

It is what it is

Sharing some pictures of the Great Shed Collapse of 2015. The insurance guy was out. If they determine it was caused by snow, we get nothing. If they determine it was caused by wind, they will pay the claim but only a percentage of it can be used for demolition and cleanup.

It would be easy to drop into a “can’t win for losing” kind of thinking. Instead we’re of the attitude that it is what it is, and what will be will be.

So no plan going forward yet, we’re in wait-and-see mode on that front. In the meantime the calves have shelter in the large quonset huts that we had for the sows, and Matt is ferrying water. It will do for now.

Because we won’t have retail beef available for farmers market this summer, we’re pondering on what to do about chickens. Do we not raise them at all? Do we raise them and come to the market with just them, maybe the first Saturday after each batch is butchered? The one difficulty with chickens is taking pre-orders and then getting people to actually pick them up. And there’s the question of whether paying the market fee, and carrying the liability insurance makes sense. Without beef to help cover those costs, it might not.

I would love to hear thoughts, ideas, suggestions from all of you!

10 years ago:
Year In Review (a guest post by Matt)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Intention (& a free printable)

‘Tis the season. New year, new reflections, new intentions.

I’m one that tries to take the mindset that any day – every day – can be a new start. And yet I love me a good year-end reflection and dreaming and goal setting.

I think my New Year’s intentions have been more-or-less the same the past several years.

Do more of the things that bring me joy.

This includes creating… writing, music, art. Being outdoors. Reading. Connecting and relationships. Taking good care of myself.

The past several years that hasn’t really come to fruition. I’ve felt really stagnant. But looking back on it, I think it’s just because we’ve been in the trenches of parenting teenagers. It’s rewarding work, but make no mistake, it is work.

So I don’t beat myself up about feeling stagnant, realizing that I may have been stagnant creatively, but there was other good stuff – important stuff – going on.

2016 will see us shove another one out of the nest. Come fall there will be a new normal and a different balance of boys-to-girls around here. And I’m crossing my fingers that maybe just a little bit of space will open up for me to pursue some of those joys of mine.

For sure there will be some space this May thru October, when I would normally be at farmers markets. Since we won’t have retail beef to sell, the time I normally spend at market will be open for… whatever.

I already have visions of a weed-free garden dancing around my head.

*~*~*

I wanted to share something with all of you to kick off 2016. You can download the PDF of a 2016 calendar I put together at the link here: 2016 Calendar

I like to print this off on white cardstock, stick it on a clipboard, and hang it above my desk. Putting this calendar together is a joy, and sharing it with all of you makes it even more so.

Look at me, meeting those intentions of creativity and connection already 😉 Here’s to tackling those 2016 intentions head on!

3 years ago:

Hello. Howdy. Hi. Guten tag.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Regrouping


Titus watching the boys run water in the blizzard

The last few months have been interesting around Sugar Creek Farm.

For one thing, I sold out our on-the-hoof beef quarters. I didn’t mean to. Usually we keep around 3 head for the next summer’s farmers markets, and usually we’re still trying to get the rest of the quarters sold right up until the last one is butchered. So this summer I was just happily taking deposits for beef quarters and dropping them in an envelope, not giving it a lot of thought. When I finally sat down to compile the orders and assign butcher dates, I couldn’t believe I’d sold all but half a head. And that half a head is what we need to feed our family for the year.

Oops.

So that means no retail cuts of beef for 2016.

About that same time, it was time to buy our calves for next year. And considering we’d sold all of our beef without really trying, you might think it was time to expand the herd. People have really been seeking us out because we’re grass-finished, and attending the Clear Lake farmers market this year allowed us to introduce our meats to a whole new clientele.

Except that feeder calves were really, really expensive this fall, for the second year in a row. And switching to grass-finished has been more expensive than we anticipated. We just couldn’t get it to pencil out. So we bought back half the number we usually do.

That means that in 2016 we either sell them all on-the-hoof again – at the correct premium for grass-finished – or we sell none on-the-hoof and save them for 2017 farmers market.

Decisions, decisions.

We’re tired. We’re tired of losing money. We’re tired of marketing. We’re tired of not having money to put back into the farm.

And then our cattle shed collapsed in on itself in the middle of the blizzard on Monday.

So it’s time for regrouping. Maybe regroup isn’t the right word, because it might be time to retire. I can wrap my brain around that possibility, but it’s harder to wrap my heart around it.

2 years ago:
Deadheading

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Regrouping