Saturday, October 29, 2011

Honeysuckle has NINE!!!

 She did it!! This morning about 4:30 Anita was awakened by little squeaks. She has temporarily moved the hutch into her studio because nights are getting cold and sometimes does give birth on the hutch floor, which means the babies need to be quickly moved into the nest so they don’t die from exposure. They are born fur-less and blind. When she turned on the light, there was Honeysuckle, cleaning up baby bunnies. We are happy to report that she is calm, eating carrot tops and doesn't mind if we touch them.
Suddenly having NINE grand-bunnies is making Anita act (or at least feel) like she's eaten ten pounds of white sugar. Especially telling since she’s thinking of passing out cigars.

Of course worries aren’t over. Will Honeysuckle actually NURSE them? There have been calls MaryLou, the very expert breeder and owner of Honeysuckle’s Heathcliff and now a friend to Anita – Marylou is reassuring like a La Leche League coach talking to a new mom. She says that rabbits nurse very quickly. They instinctively do not spend much time hovering over the nest for fear of predators. So they hop on, the babies bounce up and grab a faucet, get a few sucks, and in a seconds mom is gone. However, if it doesn't look like the babies have fed by tonight then Honeysuckle may need a little encouragement about latching on and even get a dose of oxytocin to get things started. So we’ve calmed down a little.

We have a plan in place and if their little bellies are not round by bedtime, Anita and I will hold her and put the babies on the nipples two by two.

And furthermore, we WILL NOT think about what the back porch will look like in a month if all nine babies survive. We will try to get some videos up soon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cannibal Jack

      We have a challenge. Denis is supposed to carve a jack-o’-lantern with a theological theme. Anita is going to do a bunny-pumpkin. I did mine last night - a cannibalizing zombie eating one of our pie pumpkins. I think it will win. We have friends coming from NY who, I’ll bet will be impressed with our level of sophistication. They will judge.

     This year I saved the seeds and roasted them. It’s easy to do. They are really addictive and good for fiber and lowering cholesterol. This will help balance out the left-over treats, I plan to eat this year. I always debate: should I buy crap candy so I won’t be tempted to eat what doesn’t get passed out. Or buy what I love so I can treat myself for days following. The basket with mini-Hershey bars, Peanut Butter Cups and Mounds Almond Bars are waiting by the front door.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Put the seeds in a colander and rinse them. Pick out the larger bits of pumpkin innards.
Place them in a baking pan. (I use my largest cast iron skillet for this.)
Drizzle 1 T. olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt to taste.
Place in 350 degree oven for 18 minutes. Stir. Check degree of crispness. If not crunchy, bake for another 10 minutes or until desired crunch is reached.

Just these two pumpkins made about 3 cups of roasted seeds.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Honeysuckle doesn't tell

      We’re there again. Not knowing. Feeling her belly. Are they babies or feces? Three weeks ago she spent a happy weekend with Heathcliff. But whether she’s actually pregnant or not, we don’t know. Maybe she doesn’t know either, she’s so demure. But she’s ready. She refuses to use her littler box having turned it (all on her own) into a nest once again:

      She worked so hard trying to pull the curtains down that Anita took pity and gave her some rags and wads of sheep’s wool. She seemed so grateful and spent a long time, as mothers will, arranging and rearranging the environment. For added affect she placed a piece of the wool rug in the corner.
     Her wool has grown so long, she can barely clean herself. She’s overdue for a shearing, but we hesitate just in case. She will need some of it to line the nest on delivery day. Today we gave her a little trim and cut a basketful off her belly and ruff. There’s still plenty left for her to pull, but she is looking at it like “How dare you!”

      If (big if) this is going to happen it will be sometime this weekend. If it doesn’t we may require emergency therapy for dashed hopes. Like large quantities of chocolate, mashed potatoes and many episodes of Project Runway

P.S. She has two litter boxes. The 2nd one is on the floor of porch, she uses it in a randomly scattered rabbity fashion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The rhythm of rest

After market on Saturday, after sorting the vegetables, and fixing a late breakfast, I decided to stay away from the office. When work and office are at home it can be hard to leave it alone. Survival means doing things that need no justification. We should watch birds. Nap. We should make things. Something beautiful from stone or wool or flowers. Unnecessary. It should have no reason to exist other than to please the looker. It’s part of rest and restoration.

I remembered a neighbor lady whose entire yard is ringed with hydrangea shrubs. I wondered if she would part with some of those enormous round blossoms that turn minty green and rust in the fall. Kismet! She was in her yard when we drove past and generously let us have as many as we wanted. (We keep a pair of clippers in the car because you never know when you’ll find weeds that must be gathered, like teasel or cattails.)

For years an old butter churn sat in the laundry room, falling apart, gathering spider webs. I had no use for it, but couldn’t get rid of it. I don’t know why it took so long to understand it could hold a fall arrangement on the front porch. I glued parts together, tightened the screws and waited for it to dry. I put a brick in the bottom to hold it down when the wind blows and stole some of Honeysuckle’s sawdust bedding for ballast. I didn’t have much to work with. The fragile mounds of hydrangea blossoms needed contrast so the dark cattails tucked in among them lifted the design, but it still needed something. I couldn’t think what until I spied a small set of deer horns that had hung on a nail in the garage for years. Somehow it worked. The creamy hardness of the horns hanging down. Their pointy-ness. The jest of it. It’s part of rest and restoration.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Coffee. Obscurantum-itis.

Explaining the odd name of this blog. We live at Toad Hall. We drink coffee, nay, love it. So in a way … I know, you get it. So….. coffee….

Yesterday, I awakened despondent and wordless. (mainly vacation-needy) I know some writers make best-selling novels out of the bleak and pathetic. I only manage to stare out the window. When I mentioned to Denis that all I wanted in LIFE was a cappuccino from Kopplin’s, he said, go, even though it’s in St. Paul – 90 minutes from where we live.

In the warm wool of a coat found at the thrift store, in the white feather-fern across the surface of my coffee, to the sound of leaves kicking along the avenue, and from the blue Mississippi lined with golden trees beneath the arches of the 35th street bridge, I detect beams of Sabbath. Which I seem to need more of these days. Leisure is a necessity.

If Denis had not given me the gift of insisting I go, I wouldn’t be reminded of why I think Kopplin’s makes the best coffee anywhere. I love him. Denis.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quotes from The Dirty Life

          This book by Kirstin Kimball made the Toad Hall Gift List this year, deciding which teaser quote to include was hard. Here are a couple that were too lengthy, so as not to waste them: here they are. Consider buying her book or giving it as a gift.

The following was a discussion I recognize - it was one Denis and I had any number of times, especially during our early years when people thought we were crazy to do what we were doing, too. And sometimes we were.

          When we’d talk about our future in private, I would ask Mark if he really thought we had a chance. Of course we had a chance, he’d say, and anyway, it didn’t matter if this venture failed. In his view, we were already a success, because we were doing something hard and it was something that mattered to us. You don’t measure things like that with words like success or failure, he said. Satisfaction comes from trying hard things and then going on to the next hard thing, regardless of the outcome. What mattered was whether or not you were moving in a direction you thought was right. This sounded extremely fishy to me. (p. 77)

There is a certain insanity that takes us, for me, it happens when I walk into a yarn shop, or the florist warehouse in Minneapolis, and yes, when the seed catalogs arrive in the spring. I must force myself to turn away or leave if we are going to have money for groceries.

           If it had been left up to me, we would have grown one of everything from the catalogs that year. In the winder squash section along, I underlined twelve intriguing varieties, including Candy Roaster, Turk’s Turban, Pink Banana, and something called Galeux d’Eysines, which the text told me meant “embroidered with pebbles.” The herb sections made me completely nuts. How could you NOT order one packet each of saltwort, sneezewort, motherwort, and Saint-John’s-wort, plus a sample of mad-dog skullcap, which the text said was once a folk remedy for rabies? At a buck a pop, how could you go wrong? The whole trick of seed catalogs is that they come into the house in winter, when everything still seems possible and the work of growing things is too far in front of you to be see clearly. Luckily, Mark knew this and had quietly retrieved my list and crumpled it up, so the box that arrived at our door contained the seeds of edible things that are general liked by humans, a reasonable number of varieties, and nothing that ended in wort. We sorted through the packets, separating those that would be direct-seeded in the field from those that needed to be started early, in a greenhouse, in a few short weeks. We did not have a greenhouse, but building one was on the list. (p. 119)

          This is Frieda. She's not from Kimball's farm in NY but, still. She represents another Dirty Life, with our friends at Easy Yoke Farm here, in Minnesota. She's beautiful, isn't she?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pasteurized Processed Cheese Spread

I follow the “Amish Cook,” a syndicated column written by Lovina Eicher, an Old Order Amish woman and mother of eight children living in Michigan. There is nothing special about her writing, as it is nearly always a mere accounting of what the family is doing: what daughter is hanging laundry or sweeping the kitchen, the menu when they visited sister Emma and husband Jacob, what is being grown or canned from the garden, who is cleaning the barn. I think my fascination is with the life they lead, which we think of as simple, or plain, as they would say, but it is no romantic dream-deal.

I also mistakenly assumed the Amish are as strict with their eating as they are with their dress. But in this they’re like a lot of ordinary folk: big on sugar and white bread. I wait for mildly shocking recipes like this.

Church Cheese Spread

6 pounds Velveeta cheese
1 ½ cups butter
8 cups cream
Put everything in a roaster and bake at 200 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes until melted. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent from getting crusty top as it cools. Serve on a sandwich with or without meat.

This was made in large quantity for the lunch after a church service. Once or twice a year each family in the community must take a turn hosting the church service on their farm.