Keep up with the goings on around the farm!

Keep up with the goings on around the farm!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Preserving the Harvest...including a fruit leather tutorial!

It is spring. For us this means fresh strawberries. Lots of fresh strawberries. They taste like heaven, especially since the only strawberries we see throughout the winter are last seasons frozen surplus-tasty but so clearly lacking the sun kissed warmth of a freshly picked berry.  Strawberry season not only brings juice dripping smiles, like every successful crop it brings endless hours of processing in the kitchen. This year the patch is just a tad bit bigger than last year yet is producing twice as much. Sweet news.  Right now we are picking baskets like this one daily.
Now let's take this bounty into the kitchen.  The first thing we do is trim the tops, they go into the chicken scrap bucket, I think the chickens love strawberry season as much as we do!  Trimmed berries  fill a casserole dish headed for the freezer. This year we started using a Foodsaver. The berries absolutely must be a little frozen to be vacuumed packed. Ben has learned how to operate the device and he is now in charge. 
Now this prepares us for a sweet winter. One of our favorite meals is flaxseed pancakes topped with homegrown strawberry syrup. These berries will cheer up a chilly morning when they are cooked up with a little maple syrup!

We also use the berries for fruit leather. This is a great way to pack a lot of nutrition and savings into a lunch box. My boys love strawberries but they do not always get eaten when I pack it in the lunch box, actually that is the case with most fruit. With fruit leather if the kids don't finish it, we can save it. It packs home well, unlike the half eaten pear or apple.  Whenever we have a surplus of fruit I take the time to extend its life by making fruit leather.  So here we are, two weeks of lunch box packing left and lots of strawberries. Let's make so e fruit leather!

First we prepare the fruit. For this batch I used our own strawberries and four mangos leftover from the last co-op order.
I purée the fruit in my food processor. I think a blender would work just fine. We are looking for a chunk free slurry!  I have found that color is a huge factor when making fruit leather for kids. If it is red they will eat it guaranteed. Yellows maybe, brown (typical of fig purée) slim.  I always try to add something red! Each fruit will impart its flavor so the kids are developing their palate without too much risk.
Once you have your pure fruit slurry (that is right no extra stuff!) you can move to the next step. I have done fruit leather in the oven, in a small circular dehydrator, and now in a large temperature controlled dehydrator. All work fine but you have to pay attention, especially in the oven.  The ideal temperature is between 135 and 145 degrees. If you find your family likes the fruit leather I totally recommend making the purchase of a food dehydrator or sharing the expense with a friend or neighbor! I finally talked myself into spending g the money for an Excalibur dehydrator and I do not regret it. It is temperature controlled, has 15 square feet of space, and has fruit leather mats.  Last year I was cutting all my mats out of parchment paper which was a total pain when I was making a lot.  No matter what you need a mat, if you don't have one line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour your slurry.
Shake out the slurry gently trying to get level coverage. It is recommended to try to make the center slightly thinner than the edges since the edges will dry our more quickly. I have yet to be successful in this...
Load up your device of choice. 
Set the temp.
Wait. It usually takes between 4-6 hours. You have to check it periodically. You are looking for pliability.
When you like the pliability you can peel it right off. I like to roll ours up and slice it. Usually the first peel goes straight to the kids! 
So good. So nutritious. So easy. So pure.  I encourage you to give a try. Find a local farm or farmers market and when the fruit is ripe, process it. I have made many batches of fruit leather at once and frozen it in rolls. It is a great way to eat fresh and whole without bumps, bruises, or stains in the backpack or lunch box!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Culling the Flock-with an entourage

Today I traded a dozen eggs and a luffa for a hired gun, that's right-a sharpshooter. I needed help. My poor hens were suffering from a non stop show off of "I have more cock-a-doodle-do than you do" game amongst the resident roosters.  Here is a little history about our "roo-splosion," then I will explain the bit about my entourage.

Last August we received our first mail order shipment of chicks. It was a "bargain bag," meaning an assortment of leftovers. What a deal right? Not so much. Twenty six adorable chicks arrived. Of those twenty six we have had to dispatch eighteen roosters. One still remains, or I should say at least one still remains as we are still a little unsure of the sex of two more, which secretly deep down means we think they might be Roos too.  Don't get me wrong, when I orderd straight run chicks I knew I was going to have to cull roosters, however I didn't expect it to be quite as dramatic as it has turned out to be. 

About six weeks ago my husband and I, despite chilling rain took care of nine. I was totally tired of feeding so many roosters, not to mention tired of watching them begin to torment the hens.  It was cold and wet outside and the kids wisely stayed inside to play Legos. As my fingers were starting to numb around rooster number six I began cursing myself for allowing this to happen. Removing feathers is a total pain. The birds looked so skinny. (Because they were heritage birds, not a standard grow super fat quick meatbird) It was beginning to feel like a whole lot of work for a little bit of meat.  On the bright side, not growing up on a farm, I was gaining confidence in dispatching and eviscerating a chicken. Afterall apart from a few well chosen books recommended from Mother Earth News I had learned all of my skills from an assortment of YouTube videos including but not limited to a chicken evisceration performed by a young woman with a toddler wrapped in a sling on her back and a dispatch done by an authentic hillbilly under his deer stand. Anyway, I was thankful that I had only managed to catch nine. I would have cried if I had had to pluck one more bird under the slow and steady drizzle of a winter rain in Georgia.

Fast forward a couple weeks. I head to the coop to let the chickens out. On my way I resolve that if I can catch a rooster I will engage myself in the gruesome task of rooster culling. At this point I have attempted a few catches before and the roosters seem to be up on my game, so much to my surprise I was successful in catching not one but three more. Here goes. This time I go at the whole thing alone. Husband and boys spending quality, non violent time together. Three is bearable I say to myself. I can do this. I did. I was super proud of myself.

Another week or so, I catch one more. Only one more. The others are getting savy and my tricks of treats are no longer effective. Neither apparantely is cornering.  Well, I have one. He is bothering the hen. Better get to work.  Again, all by myself. Something about being all by myself is peaceful, even though I am hardly doing anything peaceful. I am killing a chicken and ripping its guts out. Gross.

I keep trying to snag the remaining roosters. I would like to admire their tenacity and allow them to live. I can't do that though. I love my hens. I love my eggs. My hens are suffering a relentless assault of rooster ego. And dinner is good, my family needs dinner. So I keep trying.

Now here we are back to today. I resolve to get help, aim and shoot help.  This may seem cruel but my hens really were suffering. I ask my husband to invite a gun loving friend to help us out.  Now comes the entourage. The friend comes with his two beautiful children, eight and two. My kids love friends. Now I have four kids curious about this rooster killing thing. My kids know what has been going on. They know where their dinners come from. My first kill both boys were there, eager to learn.  The second time they understandably asked to play somewhere else and were rather reserved about eating meat at dinner. Apparantely they have come full circle. They watched the last rooster evisceration with curiosity, questions, and respect. Still I wasn't quite prepared to do the whole job with four big pairs of eyes and hands.

At the coop my hired gun gets two Roos. I bring them back to my chopping block and sever the heads. This is where it got a little weird. The kids were very interested in the head. They were very interested in the death throws. They had questions. Why is the beak still moving? Thus the resulting stick poking at still moving chopped off chicken head. The death throws at our house are explained as the chicken flapping its spirit away helping it make its journey to its friends. My kids are used to this, it seemed to go over well with our visitors. Let's all help wave the chicken spirit off to chicken heaven and honor their lives.  

Now I have two chickens handing upside down bleeding out and I am beginning to wonder if this is an appropriate activity for a group of kids to be a part of on a Sunday afternoon. It is just kind of gruesome, it makes my heart beat faster, I get a little ache in my stomach, and honestly I can't wait for it to be over.  I want a beer. Or two.

It's not over. Time to scald and pluck. Yes, the kids help. Curiosity still the motivator. The question is still rolling around my brain, what kind of mother am I? Nightmares anyone? 

I move my operation and begin cutting off the feet, cutting the poor bird open and removing the guts. Interest is peeking on the kids part so as each part is removed we talk about it and look at it, the heart, lungs, never ending intestines, and the windpipe. The teacher in me approves of this. Anatomy. Biological science. In house field trip. I am a good mother.

Wait a second. These children just watched me point out a kill and finish the deed with my own hands. I am a murderer. Bad mother.

Why am I conflicted about this? What is my adorable little entourage teaching me about my choices? 

Luckily the children's interest had waned for round two. I had a good bit of time to think about these questions as I moved through the motions on my own.  I am bravely concluding that I am not a bad mother because I allowed my children to watch me kill an animal, more than once. I am not a bad mother because I plan on allowing them to watch me do it again and again. I am not a bad mother because I hope they participate more as they grow.  I am making a conscious choice not to shelter them from the sometimes unpleasant realities of life. I take pride that our friend felt it was a good choice to bring his kids and encourage them to participate in a brutally real event.  This is closing the circle allowing it to continue going round and round. The circle of respect. The circle of thankfulness. The circle of need. The circle of giving and sacrifice. The circle of life.

We ate curried rooster and biscuits for dinner. It was good. I had a homebrew with it. I deserved it. My kids are happy. I don't think they are going to have nightmares. Their father is reading stories to them  right now. I hear giggling. There are two more dinners in the freezer. Tomorrow we are going to transplant some strawberries. Tomorrow is not going to be gruesome. This spring will be sweet.  If it ever comes. I am tired, but I am smiling. 

Sweet dreams.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My First Eggasm

Did the title get your attention? I hope so. There really is such thing as an eggasm and it is amazing! My husband coined the term this winter when I came running into the house with Evoline's first egg.   I was overflowing, grinning ear to ear, my thumb and forefinger delicately holding up a tiny light green egg for everyone to see, somewhere inside thinking that everyone would or should be as excited as I.  Evoline was a special bird, the first to hatch from a clutch of eggs I was incubating in my classroom. Evoline was actually lucky enough to have most of our elementary school watching and cheering her tough journey out of her egg on their classroom smart boards via a live feed I had hooked up above the incubator. As her comb began to redden, a sure sign laying will ensue, I stalked the hen house even more vigilantly probably annoying all its occupants.  So yes it was very exciting, even exhilarating to finally discover that little egg. 

 I like my husband's term, even though it was clearly poking fun at me. I like it because I think it explains a lot of my motivation in the pursuit of homestead happiness. It is hard work spattered with failures and disappointments. Just last week I nearly cried when we returned from a week away to find that my entire row of kidney beans sprouted and molding in their pods after a week of steady rain. I mean they were beautiful when we left! I was expecting the usually painfully dry July weather to scorch the beans into dry legume heaven. Or how about that melon that I have stalked since pollination? Know what happened to that one? My good friend the squirrel decided to have just enough to ruin the whole melon. On the bright side the chickens got a good treat that day. We also thought we were so smart to  take free mulch from the local public works. Amazing stuff. Makes everything grow like crazy. Little did we know that one or two loads was heavily laden with a hidden demon, a weed we call Bermuda grass. Yup. Bad stuff. And guess what it grows in that super rich mulch like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. There is always work to be done. Wood to be chopped. Animals to be fed. Blisters and backaches. Predators. Grass to be mowed. Weeds to be pulled. Harvest to put up. Pruning. Cleaning. Blah blah blah. But amidst all that toil are moments of Eggasm! It is not just for eggs, although if you like receiving gifts I highly recommend raising some chickens because collecting eggs everyday feels like Christmas everyday! It is the first bean sprout that erupts from your painstaking efforts to cultivate the darkest soil ever. It is the first squash blossoms and finding the bees busy at work pollinating. A full wood shed before the first frost. The first baby green tomatoes, the first hint of red, and finally the first bite. Cooking with your own garlic. Watching the beans climb your newly designed trellis just like you imagined!  Your child's smile after that first bite of fresh corn on the cob picked that morning.  Staring at your pantry filled with your own preserves relived through the dark winter months as you spread blueberry heaven on freshly baked bread.

When I tell people that I am trying to grow as much of my own food I can the first response I get is in reference to how much money we must save on groceries. Someday I do hope that to be true but that is not at all why I do it, and honestly we just aren't that good yet. First and foremost I want to raise a healthy family and I just don't trust or respect our current food system to support me there. I respect our planet and I want my actions to benefit her, again not happening with our current pesticide laden, monoculture food system. But let's be realistic here, I could carefully monitor every purchase, peruse all the local farmers markets, join a CSA, be off the hook for all the toil. If I chose that route however, where would all the Eggasms be?  

If you haven't yet experienced a real Eggasm, I want you to find a seed. Plant it. Nurture it. Cry if it dies but please don't give up. Find another and try again. I promise you once you have your first Eggasm, you will never turn back. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day by day the dream comes true.

It has been a while. My dream of self sufficiency hasn't wavered, even if my writing has...lots of improvements on the homestead have happened this past year. The chicken project is going well, we are now collecting two to three eggs a day. They are happy birds and I am learning how to partner with them. We also have two rabbit hutches built for pasture. Last weekend we found our bunnies and they are adjusting well, still awaiting names. We invested in a deer fence around the veggie garden for which the wait for spring is even harder. I can't stop fantasizing about future crops. We are working hard to protect our struggling orchard, hopefully this year we can spur some growth there. Our partnership with the guinea fowl holds promise, we have let them loose on the garden and they haven't fled yet!

Lots of work and lots that I feel so proud of. I am going to try to post more regularly as a way to document our progress towards independence.

Today these are the things that I am proud of...

I made banana flaxseed pancakes for breakfast with our own eggs, thank you Rosey and Betsey.
I ate an amazing salad today topped with our own pecans and dressed in a vinaigrette with our own garlic and local honey.
I made soup stock with our own garlic, peas, and bright orange pumpkin. I can't wait to eat it tomorrow!
My kids played outside most of the day utilizing their incredible imaginations constantly.
I let my chickens out on pasture today and enjoyed a moment of peace sitting with them in the warm sunshine while sipping a hot cup of coffee.
I washed 25 wine bottles in preparation to bottle our first farm wine tomorrow.
I picked a basket of kale with Simon and smiled when he said "I can't wait to eat this yummy kale!"
I have a happy, healthy family that loves being together and I wouldn't want my life any other way.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Love Dirt!

Life on the homestead is pretty dirty right now. Spring planting and bed preparation has begun in earnest, Adam is bringing home nightly pots filled with transplants discarded from client's homes, spring garlic is finding itself in the cast iron skillet, garden greens are getting tossed in vinaigrette, flowers are popping everywhere! The dirt under my fingernails is now a permanent fixture, alongside blisters, poison ivy, splinters, and an occassional scrape. Inevitably someone needs something from inside and few of us are patient enough to unlace so the floor bears a gritty shine, soap dishes are lined with dirt splashes, the chopping block even sports a few dirt crumbs carried in by radishes and gloves, a pile of dirt-caked overalls and socks linger at the back door too dirty to wait in the hamper for wash day, and dare I speak of the lovely ring around the tub! This is life! I am going to cry when I have to return to school on Monday, once again closed in by four walls and a mountain of paperwork, luckily I work with amazing children and have managed to cultivate the beginnings of a decent school garden, so technically I am still engaged with dirt in my professional life, and so exhausted by being indoors for so many hours a day, that upon my return home I find myself rejuvenated by the possibility to get really dirty before preparing dinner, tubbies, and bedtimes, that I jump right in, weeding with a grin!

What is this love affair I have with Dirt? Could it not be the most amazing substance on Earth? I think of the Native American Folktale, "The Earth on Turtle's Back". I read it recently to my fourth graders who are beginning a unit on Native Americans. I chose the story to illustrate the theme of Survival but as I think about my affair with Dirt, this story comes to mind. Could it be that Dirt = Survival? Quite possibly so. Shall I share a quick version of the story with you, I am glad that you in the beginning there was only water, Sky Woman has a dream that the Tree of Life is uprooted, such a powerful dream must come true Sky Man orders the tree to be pulled up. Curious Sky Woman leans over to see below and falls, falls, falls down toward the ocean abyss. The water animals look up and see this creature falling. They send the swans up into the sky to catch and cradle Sky Woman. Immediately they recognize that she cannot live in the water, clearly her body lacks the appropriate adapations. The concerned animals decide they need to build her a place to land and live so one by one they attempt diving to the ocean bottom to bring up some Earth. Failure after failure occurs, and just as they are ready to give up teeny tiny muskrat says she or he (I can't remember and do no wish to offend...) will do it or die trying. (This is the survival theme I was shooting for with the kids; determination, motivation, etc.) What do you think happens, is little muskrat successful? Do we walk upon Earth everyday? (please don't argue this one with me, even if you walk on concrete most of the day, Earth is hiding below, just waiting for a breath of fresh air.) Yes, muskrat barely makes it to the surface, clutching one handful of Dirt. The ocean animals are all quite impressed, but quickly realize there is no place to put this Dirt. Wonderful, wise old turtle volunteers his or her back for the Dirt. Muskrat's hand lays the dirt on turtle's back and it begins to multiply covering all of turtle. The swans gently lay Sky Woman on turtle's new Earth back. In her clasped hand is the clutch of seeds she grabbed attempting to catch her fall out of Sky Land. She lays the seed in the dirt, and alas life as we know it began. Isn't that a wonderful story? It speaks to so much of why I love homesteading. I want to be an active participant in my family's survival. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Are our goals overwhelming at times? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Hands down the best life I could imagine for my family.

It is such a strange world that we live in now. In so many ways it is so disconnected to what we are, dirt. We can walk down any aisle in a grocery store and pick out just about anything we want, regardless of season, distance, or practicality. One might argue that this privilidge is so healthy, I mean fresh strawberries in December, yeah vitamin C. But is it healthier? Is it really any better, is there really any vitamin C left after the genetic modifications, long journey from Florida, and ripening in a truck? What happened? Have we completely fooled ourselves into thinking that having everything and in quantity at our fingertips is natural or normal? No wonder our student's lack the art of patience! How many have to wait, or resist the oh-so-tempting urge to pick their strawberries before they are ready?

Anyway, back to Dirt. We are what we eat. What we eat comes from dirt. We are dirt. It is our responsibility to care for it. If, anything at all, please start a compost bucket in your kitchen. Delegate a hole in the corner of your yard, or invest in a small home composting tub. Give dirt back what it gave you and I promise you it will not dissappoint you, or your children, or your children's children...

I started this post over a hot cup of tea last night, after a long busy day deconstructing pallets and recycling them into raised potato growing bins, preparing and planting our new addition to the farm titled "Cherry Lane", and scooting the chicken tractor around the yard to all the juicy clover patches. It must have been more exhausting than I realized because when my son asked me to read him some stories before bed, and asked me to snuggle him to sleep, I too drifted off, not to wake until the sun came up. So, I finish this post next to a steaming cup of coffee and a beautifully long list of to-do's for Saturday at the farm, no doubt involving OUR best friend, DIRT!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spring Fever

The pinks and purples of spring are taking over the perennial beds.

Springtime is just around the corner. Signs are everywhere from the daffodils, crocus, and lily pips to the non stop chatter of songbirds from dusk till dawn. With the dream of feeding our family better produce that will last us longer throughout the year, springtime means lots of planning and lots of work. We have our seeds picked out. Tomato and eggplant sprouts in the kitchen window. Bush cherries are expected in the mail any day! We have been busy expanding the vegetable gardens. This year we are going to try out a no-till method. I am lucky to be able to aquire lots of cardboard from the school cafeteria so we are prepping and almost ready to go. The strawberries look promising, as is our large crop of garlic. We have herbs aplenty; rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and oregano-I think a lucky combination of a sheltered herb garden and a mild winter. Peas are sprouting and the lettuce is growing. Blueberry buds are turning pink. All good things that I am very proud of.

And chickens are back on the farm. Six: Omelet, Scrambled, Mega-a-Zega, Modo-Bodo, Skipita-Friskita, and ?. They are quite a lot of fun to watch eat and grow. They do have their own little personalities.

Balance is still the goal. I wake up early, get Ben and myself off to school, teach all day, attend meetings afterschool, sometimes attend an evening class, all of which would seem utterly exhausting, and it is. But somehow no matter how tired I feel, the second I turn in the driveway I am instantly ready to charge at tasks with new vigor. Weeding while the children swing, orchestrating dinner, sitting beside the chickens, planting spring seeds, and jumping in mud puddles. No wonder I am behind on housework, can never seem to get my kids to bed on time, and once horizontal-out for the count.

The list is endless and the days never seem long enough. I can't imagine a life any other way.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Wet, Rainy Season is here.

Well, it is finally raining in Georgia. We suffered another severe drought this summer. Hopefully this now endless seeming rain will help bring the water table back.

What does this mean for us at the farm? Despite the rain we have been busy; planning gardens, transplanting, and cleaning up.

This has been our first pecan year at the farm. So far this season we have probably collected around 100 pounds from around 12 trees. There are still trees out there that haven't dropped yet, which is good because we are not looking forward to crawling around the moist grass in search of nuts. We are enjoying the bounty, snack time is nut cracking time. Often Adam and I find our self in competition for cracked nuts with both the dogs and the boys, we just can't crack them fast enough for all the hungry nutmunchers as Adam likes to call them.

We had a large brushpile that has been growing from our first spring on the farm. We finally took the plunge and set the pile on fire for the first step in prepping the area for our perennial veggie and berry patch. Now on my to do list is weaving some more trellises for the blackberries. We found a nicely crowded patch of young pines in the woods that we have decided to cut into a forest hideaway for the kids that will provide the necessary poles for the project. I am looking forward to putting aside time to play in the woods with the boys and harvest our poles.

Adam and I are enjoying looking through seed and plant catalogs, dreaming about future purchases! We have already placed our seed order which includes seed potatoes and sweet potatoes, both a first for us at this farm. This year we are planning a large garden down the center of the Pecan grove that we will plant in the Native American Three Sisters style; squash, beans, and corn. I haven't yet picked out the beans for that yet. I have yet to eat a pole bean that I truly enjoyed, any suggestions? We are thinking maybe a been for shelling, which means a lot of canning, but we do eat a lot of canned beans throughout the year. Probably a good bet.

Almost all of the hundred garlic cloves I planted this fall have shot out of the ground. Can't wait to taste fresh garlic this spring.

I am hoping for a strong strawberry patch this year. I have always struggled with this plant, but I think this year we have at least the best chance yet. They are now in the ground long before spring, soaker hoses in already, lots of sun, and high hopes. We just need to combat the weeds that seem to have infiltrated from the mulch pile. I think I will put in a request with the custodians at school to start saving me cardboard again to line the rows organically before the real warmth of sun hits. All the strawberry farmers use black plastic and even though there fields are all weed free something just doesn't sit right with me and black pastic in my garden.

Adam has been inspired to delve into his big landscape dreams for the property. The driveway rockery has begun and transplanting is in high gear. We are again thankful for the rain as we truck loads of plants to the farm from our old property. It is amazing to me that we planted a half acre property and cultivated it to the point that we are able to remove enough plants to completely landscape this five acre property. We were fortunate to buy a property that had once been a cattle farm so the soil was rich and black, so unlike the typical shovelfull of red clay that we expect here in Georgia. Adam also discovered the free local mulch pit which provided hundreds of yards of rich organic material which created a "Little Shop of Horror's" effect, lots and lots of healthy happy plants growing. Perennial gardening is where it is at if you like to move plants around and grow your gardens. Variety is lacking however and we are enjoying putting aside a little budget to add some new plants to our iris and seedum laden beds.

On my list of to-do's is to get a few chickens. Adam pulled the tools out and built a chicken tractor recently, a movable coop that we plan on moving around the pecan grove primarily. For one the electric dog fence doesn't go there, remember Leo is a chicken killer, and the other reason is that Pecans like Nitrogen rich soil. Spending time at my sister's over Christmas and enjoying her farm fresh eggs has re-invigorated our desire to bring chickens to the farm.

Adam has also cleaned up his pallet area. This has become a winter routine for him. During the busy season stuff just accumulates from pallets, rock cages, and pots. The pallet stack was getting so tall I was beginning to worry that it may fall over and potentially endanger something living.

Pickles, we need to eat a serious amount of pickles before growing season begins. Jelly too. A goal for next year is to be more creative in my canning endeavors. Tomatoes are a breeze, I just freeze those and use them throughout the year. I just made a delicious pasta sauce from our summer tomatoes. Tomatoes are so easy to through into chilis, curries, and soups. Now that I have an immersion blender it is even easier to turn the tomato harvest into something the kids will eat happily too. We still have peppers in the freezer, need to think up something good for those. We are eating the frozen peaches almost daily in smoothies. Still have chili peppers in the freezer, one of these weekends I am going to attempt my own hot sauce. Definitely need to think smarter about food preservation next year, learning through experience what works and what doesn't. One goal-instead of I think I will put Adam on that one.

On a sad note, our cat Luna has disappeared. We haven't seen her since before Christmas. I know how cats can be and I have not given away her food yet, but with each passing day we know that the likelihood of her return goes down. She was always rather aloof and rather prone to scratching for no good reason, but we did enjoy her daily visits for a quick nibble and pet. It was nice having a cat around, I can't remember many times in my life when there wasn't a cat nearby doing the cat thing. Luna wasn't the closest cat I have ever had but I do miss her little black face and her little crooked neck. We miss you Luna, wherever you are.

On a happy note Rama just had his thirteenth birthday! His face is getting whiter by the day but he still manages puppy play when something sparks his interest. Mostly he just lays around keeping his eye on any potential goodie that may come his way. Summer is going to be hard for him I think. I don't think he is in hiking form anymore. He was a trooper this summer but there were times on the trail that I began problem solving how we were going to carry him out of the woods. I really don't want to be in that predicament, nor do I want to see his face when we have to leave him behind. That decision is going to suck.

Ah well. Life just has a way of going and going and going. Fleeting moments of frustration, happiness, and all out exhaustion...are we lucky to be here navigating the road.