Friday, August 13, 2010

Rattle, Rattle, Plink!

I love the sound of canning!
If the house is quiet enough (ours usually is), there is the steady hum of water boiling, a gentle rattle of the canning pot lid as the water heats to a rolling boil. A steady drone of play from the girls comes from the "toy room", interrupted only by minor skirmishes or even more dreadful prolonged silences.
For the record, today's prolonged silence was courtesy of Nugget, who found a lone apricot slice on the floor and decided the toy room walls needed sprucing up. Beans was also quiet, as she was licking apricot off the walls.
With the last batch of fruit in the canner, I tucked babies in for naps. As I turned the stove off, the rattle faded away, the last of the steam hissed to a stop. As I sat with a cup of coffee on the couch, surveying the overall state of chaos (canning supplies fill the sink, toys scattered on the floor, apricot clinging to the wall), I am at once exhausted, knowing the cleaning up waits for me, and comforted by the intermittent "PLINK! PLINK!" of each jar of apricots, peaches, and cranberries sealing themselves. Nothing lives in a vacuum... Except for some sweet treats for this winter lining my kitchen counter.

Today has a definite sense of "football season". When we lived in Alabama, we were serious spectators of SEC college football. (I could care less about professional football... But college boys on a football field running into eachother? THAT makes for a great Saturday afternoon!)
when the weather begins to cool, and the air gets a little crisp, the wave of "homesickness" always surprises me. I suddenly long for fall afternoon football games followed by friendly skirmishes in the backyard, or picking pecans with our old neighbors, or spending allday with a Boston butt on the grill, or my "famous" buffalo wing dip in the crockpot and a house full of friends.
Fall makes me miss our old friends.

Buffalo Wing Dip:
in a crockpot, combine:
2 large cans of chicken, drained
2 packages cream cheese
1/2 bottle ranch dressing
1/2 bottle (or more) Franks Hot Sauce

Let it simmer a few hours before game time. Serve with tortilla chips. That recipe will get you invited back year after year. In the word of one of my old redneck friends, "HooWee! 'Ats some good stuff right there, buddy!"
That recipe can even make you tolerable to folks when they don't like your team choice,
though I don't recommend being the ONLY Auburn fan at an Alabama vs. Auburn game, even with that dip. You might want to bring along some brownies AND that dip to that kind of party. Especially if Auburn is winning.

I digress.
Seeing as how it isn't Saturday, we don't have TV service here (nope, not even antenna service), and we can't eat wing dip on account of dairy anymore, I had to find something else to do with our perfect fall weather.
Our day started early. By 8:00 am, I was already done with our usual morning routine. Kids were pinging off the walls. Well, Beans was pinging. Little Nugget was rubbing her eyes and regretting her decision to get everyone out of bed at 5:00 am. She was soon content to "nursey and night-night". Beans and I wasted no time donning long sleeves and light jackets, and getting outdoors. By 10:00, we had all the farm chores (plus a few extra projects) done. By 11:00, we had worked together to stack a 4 ft high wall of wood between several trees on the property. This is next year's burning wood, wood from trees we cut down from clearing more of the property for next year's farming. It was pleasing to see it not going to waste.
With little of the morning shade left, Beans and I sat on the bench in the garden, Beans eating snap peas from the vines, me listening to the sound of chickens clucking.
I never tire of that noise. I grin every time I hear the content noises of our flock talking amongst themselves.

A small cry interrupted our repose. Nugget was inside shouting, "Wake! Wake! Hiya!"
Beans grabs my hand and practices hopping like a frog all the way to the house.
"Mama, can I have eggs an' bacon for lunch? With avocado and chips? And a grapefruit?"
"Sure thing, little one." my little farm girl always manages to capture my heart when she's doing litle independent things like hoppin all the way to the house.
A few minutes later, bacon is sizzling and my farm girl is helping me crack eggs into a bowl. She identifies which eggs are from which chickens. I love that. She pushes her head against the screen door and yells outside, "Thanks Big Momma! Thanks Little Red! Thank you for my yummy lunch!"

I'm not sure it gets much better than this.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gluten Free Dairy Free Blueberry Muffins

I'll post farm news later, but thought I would put this up before I forget.
You can successfully make any substitutions you need to, just add you liquids last so you get good consistency.

Total of 2 cups gluten free flour.
I used:
3/4 C quinoa flour
3/4 C brown rice flour
1/4 C corn meal
1/4 C tapioca flour (if you sub this, make it something that helps bond ingredients, like arrowroot flour or potato flour)

2/3 C sugar
1 TBL baking powder (not a typo!)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp xanthan gum (do not substitute! This Does the job of gluten without the severe stomach pain for those who can't have it!)
1/4 tsp salt
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste

3/4 C almond milk (don't panic! You can sub in any safe "milk". The almond milk was my own sub for regular milk!)
1/2 C canola oil (or other, if you are fresh out of canola)
2 eggs (don't panic! Any egg replacer will work. Also, you can soak flax seed in water overnight, then use about 1/4-1/2 cup of that gooey mix to replace the egg. You'll also have the benefit
of adding serious nutrition to your muffins)

1 tsp vanilla extract
Blueberries. Fresh, frozen, canned (drain if you go
this route), wild, domesticated, whatever. As many as you like in your muffins.
preheat oven to 375•

Important: DO use separate bowls to mix wet and dry. I know, I hate the extra dish to wash too, but with gluten free flours that don't absorb as well as wheat, you'll need to mix at the last moment or it will be clumpy lumpy. Who wants that?

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients separately, then add the wet to the dry. It's going to be thick! If it seems too thick, add more milk substitute. I added liquid until
it was a bit thicker than cake batter, but not as thick
as cookie dough. (hope that's not too confusing!)

Add berries, stir to coat evenly. Spoon into muffin tray. I DO use liners! (Because who wants to wash out a muffin tin? Not me!)

Bake 18-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes
out clean.

Brew a pot of percolated coffee. Have a muffin and contemplate your day. Try not to eat the whole pan in one sitting. You should save some for lunch.
These muffins are best enjoyed with a toddler who says, "Momma, deez muppins are da awesome-est ever!"
awww... I think I wanna make more muffins now!

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

So it took me a few hours, but I got over yesterday's post.
Many thanks to the Lind and supportive commentary from those of y'all that offered it.
And many thanks to my oldest son. I called him this morning to give him a heads-up. He reads his mom's blog with about the same consistency that most teenagers complete their homework, but I didn't want him blindsighted, either.
For the record, he is MAD. He found it unbelievable that someone would dare make assumptions about his family or his feelings.
In his words, "Yeah, I'm totally cool with what you wrote though, mom." Then he gave me a stern lecture about really needing to know how the Internet works, and how some people ON PURPOSE find blogs to disagree with and start cyber-fights.
"Seriously?" I asked him.
"Um, yeah, mom. Some people just don't have anything better to do with their time."
I suddenly felt a little better about having kids that "waste time" playing video games. At least they aren't picking cyber fights.

Back to farming.
I meant what I said last night.
Farming doesn't hurt as bad.
I was feeling a bit deflated last night as I tucked the girls in and sent the chickens to the coop. And lonely. J is off hunting again. (No luck on last week's moose hunt, and this week was the subsistence caribou opener.) I generally don't mind the hunting trips (can't complain about free, organic, free range food, really). But feeling small and lonely stinks.
I'll admit, I stuck around in the chicken coop looking for a little company. At least until the fumes got to me.
I watched an Alaskan late summer version of a sunset. By sunset, I mean I watched the sky look a little like rain was coming. I scanned the garden for signs of life or food. I looked at the temperate gauge and realized that the chill in the air wasn't just hurt feelings- fall is in the air.
I took a deep breath of crisp, cool air. I saw the sun poking through the tree line in that way that confuses you for a moment as to wether it's sunrise or sunset. I zipped my jacket and headed back to the house, kicking loose rocks down the driveway as I went.
The warmth of the house hit me as I walked in. I'd been canning all day and the house still had a good steam built up. 7 pints of blueberry syrup, one pint canned blueberries, 2 pints of raspberry-rhubarb jam, and a half-pint of fresh blueberries sparkled like jewels on the kitchen table. I set the fresh berries in the fridge, contemplated a cup of coffee and some knitting, then accepted defeat and headed to be instead.


Morning found me in better spirits. Apologies at once to those of you suffering from heat waves in the lower 48, but I woke in a chilly house at 6 am to girls bouncing on the bed demanding breakfast. A quick check of the thermometer outside confirmed it. It was only 48 degrees outside.
I grinned in spite of myself. I always get a kick out of Autumn. Anything that even remotely feels like Autumn gets me feeling pretty zippy. I handed the kids bananas and prayed they wouldn't kill eachother as I threw on some day-old jeans (the best kind!) and a sweatshirt before ducking out into the morning air.
Oh! Fall! It felt like it. It smelled like it. The air even tasted like it. I grinned at the sun peeking through the tree line in that way that confuses you as to whether it's sunrise or sunset. I dialed my son's number as I fed and watered birds.
I made gluten-free, dairy-free blueberry muffins that didn't suck. (anyone interested in the recipe, post in the comments. It's easy and hot skippy! They were good!)
The aroma of hot coffee and blueberry muffins mingled in the air. I surveyed the day's work and after downing a few muffins, got to business.
A mid-morning break and I called my mom to chat. We aren't "every dayers" or even "once a weekers", but it sure was nice to hear a voice from home.
I wondered how hunting was going.
I read stories to the girls.
At nap time, I lingered in the chicken coop, trying to see if any of our new hens are acting like they might want to lay. This is the time of chicken season where you want to start seeing results. It coincides with the time they start eating about 40 lbs of organic feed a week.
The chickens are now 17 weeks old. We should be getting eggs any day now.
The rest of the day passes uneventfully.
I am relieved.
The girls get tucked into bed.
I wander outside to the homemade bench we have by the chicken coop to watch what J calls, "The Chick Channel" (haha).
I watch birds establishing peck order. I watch then do the same things they do every night- peck ground and preen feathers. I watch another late summer Alaskan sunset, and linger for a few minutes even as it starts to rain.
Tonight, I no longer accept defeat.
I brew a cup of coffee.
I listen to rain hit the metal roof.
I knit.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Truth Be Told

So... Anyone who reads the comments on this blog is probably wondering a lot of things. So let me just publicly reply to my latest critic, "Karen", who I can honestly say I have no f-ing clue who she is, but has decided to throw down the gauntlet.
To answer some questions:
I am "Ms" (Mrs, actually) Nicole.
And to answer your questions and assumed accusations about my other children (two sons):
- you are absolutely right. I had zero moral character twelve YEARS ago when their dad and I divorced. I was an alcoholic, borderline drug addict, selfish, self-serving horrible excuse of a mother and human being. My self-serving attitudes coupled with addictions led meticulous a place in life of absolute debasement and worthless life decisions one after another.
Go ahead.
-Yes. I LEFT my boys. I willingly left them with their father and loving, doting grandparents who have spent the last 12 years providing them a stable, NORMAL life, even a tad induldged, by my standards. A life I certainly would not have been able to provide for them for quite some time after the divorce from their dad.
Go ahead.
I still stand by that decision. My boys have had a life full of love and normalcy that a mother who really needed to get her act together could not have provided.
- No. I have not seen my boys since I moved to Alaska. This seems to be by mutual
agreement. My younger son has informed me that he considers me his "birth mom" and his stepmom his "real
mom". My older son seems to have the same sentiment, though he is less outspoken about things like that. Regardless of how he feels about that, we maintain contact and keep in touch.
Go ahead.
All the family members involved seem to be on the same page. All of these decisions have been discussed among all the parents involved.
We all knew a long time ago there would be aftermath in everyone's lives.
All of us (boys included) think that it would be more difficult and more detrimental to everyone's sense of normal and comfort fo me to barge back into their lives and assume the role of "mom", regardless of how well I've cleaned up over the last twelve years.
Many times I have been judged as being unfeeling or uncaring about what I left behind.
I am not unfeeling or uncaring.
I just know I did a lot of damage in the past.
Sometimes, the best way to "make ammends" is to apologize and then keep the hell away. Especially if that is what those that were hurt want you to do.

I don't even begin to pretend or think that I am a perfect mom these days. It took me nearly a decade to feel like I was worthy enough to pursue a happy marriage or any more children. I am
more keenly aware than anyone how I don't DESERVE a bit of my current life or happiness, but truly for the Grace of God, and accepting that Jesus died for really shitty moms and addicts- GOD has redeemed me and seen fit to give me such a wonderful life.
That's really good, because before I accepted that forgiveness, I almost nearly ended my own life because of the guilt that I was carrying around. It's a horrible feeling, being disgusted with yourself.

When I talk about my current life, express my opinions, or otherwise share on this blog, it IS from my new life.
"If any man (or woman) be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new."
Thank God.
Thank God.
I do like the "new creature" I am better than the old thing I passed myself off for before.

So, Karen- if you are still reading my blog (in spite of your threat to leave) I hope that clarifies a bit. I hope throwing down the gauntlet achieved what you wanted. Think what you want to. Stop reading if you want to. Don't buy my crummy memoirs when I get around to writing them. I don't give a shit.

Family and friends- sorry this exposes so much personal stuff. Boys, you especially- I hope that the judgent other people pass on our family dynamics don't stick in your spirits. I've said "I'm sorry" a million times to both of you. I love you in that "birth mom" kind of way, and I am so glad that in spite of my decisions, you still let me peek in on your lives from time to time, and that you still treat me with more respect than I deserve from you. I am so grateful to your "real" mom and dad and grandparents for doing what I couldn't.
I only hope to do better by your sisters.

So.. All readers, sorry to mind vomit on this. Many of you have asked questions over the years. I hope you can see why I never really brought it up.
Also sorry for the swearing. I hate to hear yucky words, but in this instance, I just couldn't think of anything more intelligent to say.
If you are a local reader, please respect my privacy and my personal heartache that I have carried for years- don't ask me about it. My past, this post, this chapter in my life.

Now if y'all don't mind, I'd like to get back to just blogging about the much simpler life I am currently carving out for myself. Farming sure as fuck doesn't hurt as bad.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Now if y'all don't

I don't like to get preachy, but you know what? Thank GOD for forgiveness. Mine. An anyone else who calls on Him
and asks for it. It is His free gift for the taking.