Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Long Winter's End

It's been a long few weeks. Will is on the East Coast scouting out prospects as we plan for the Great Unknown Post-PhD Future.  We're crossing every finger and a few toes too.

 (I think he's also having a great time.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mary is wishing the animals would just butcher, wrap, and pop themselves into the freezer. I knew goats were pesky but I forgot that they are diabolical and can actually fly.

The prospect of selling the house is terrifying and exciting. I am using Will's absence as an excuse to purge and downsize without anyone saying, "Hey, I was saving that for the kids." I might even paint some walls. There's also nobody to remind me that it takes a lot of gas money to drive to Ottawa, so we've done a few trips and bought some very necessary organizational furniture. (I feel like I'm going to confession right now....)

It's still Orthodox Lent around here, and this year I'm trying to be very sombre and focused, so no movies or music...for me. The kids are being fuelled with Ninjago. We get quite a lot of firewood and animal chores out of one episode. I monitor them to make sure they haven't lost their appetite for more elevated art, but a few weeks of crap diet hasn't done too much damage. And it has inspired a whole lot of improvised martial arts and an interest in kanji too. I love both Japanese and Chinese alphabets so it's lovely to find scraps of paper, maps, secret messages strewn about! And all that zany humour...very good for the morale during this last stretch of winter.

I am listening to Ancient Faith Radio podcasts while I work and really enjoying the ramblings of Fr. Thomas Hopko. He has a talk on the Sermon on the Mount which knocked me off my chair last year. (This is the time of year when I come face-to-face with my humanity....and realize just how far I have to go on this Christian journey.)

Oh yes, and egg candles!

Monday, February 29, 2016

This Leap Year Morning

One year ago I posted a picture of me at twenty weeks pregnant. I'm a little bit horrified to notice that this year I look exactly the same. Oh the timely austerity of Lent.
Not unrelated: this is goat milk butter, curtesy of Hannah and Josephine, our lovely ladies in the barn.
This, my friends, is bullet proof coffee made with goat milk butter. It is something between dense whipped cream and whipped butter, but sweeter. You need a cream separator to collect cream from goat's milk as it's naturally homogenized. Then we churn it by hand. Will and I often joke about our posh life....calculating the cost of labour and milk, we are eating forty dollar pats of butter.  Ha! We're rich! You just can't put a price tag on some things.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A little bit of Lent

I lost the lens cap for my camera about a month ago. The reward for finding it has gone up to five dollars and we've even gotten flashlights to look under the piano...but in the meantime I have expensive-camera-paralysis. Which means that a whole month of Mio's life has passed without photos because I'm pretty sure that the moment I take the camera out of its bag is the moment the lens will meet its doom. As if that matters. (Winter financial reality check hello! It all matters!) 

I feel like all I've been doing these days is internal work. Hard work. Like learning how to communicate with husband (11 years together and I'm only just realizing that we actually don't speak the same language. We're possibly not even the same species.) Learning how to deal with stress in a way that it's properly diverted instead of exploding in people's faces. Then there's the ongoing repentance from being basically human, and other such problems. It's all good.  It's just very.... Lenten. It wouldn't be Lent without hard internal work.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fat Booties

What with all the babies being born, it's time to get knitting again!

 I can't seem to stop knitting these. They knit up fast and are just so chubby and adorable. I do find the ankles a bit tight, but consumer feedback tells me this keeps them on baby's feet. 

Knitting notes: it's a free pattern found here.  The knitting/blogging world has known about these for a long time, apparently, but not the grateful recipients. The feet must be bootied!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rings and Things

Hugh wanted me to add the above picture to show his perfect poise. 

I've been teaching a little history class to my kids and a few friends. Their mum, in return, has been teaching science. It's been totally fabulous to outsource some learning, and I love the weekly discipline of presenting a class. I miss teaching. 

Here's one of the little history projects they did for our Ancient Mesopotamia study:
Built the Code of Hammurabi out of cardboard and black paint and, when they ran out of black paint, charcoal. It was a beautiful cooperative effort.

They carefully copied the image from the top of the famous stele. Hammurabi is receiving his right to rule from the god Shamash. Then they copied it by eye with white oil pastel.

 Each child came up with ten rules for the house which must be written on the stele and obeyed. The Code commands that if we spill the compost, we must pick it up with our teeth, if we do not eat our vegetables, we must eat more dessert...

Below, Hugh and Kai demonstrate how the Code came to be: Hammurabi spake, and it was written.

I read aloud the fabulous, juicily poetic children's version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean. I highly recommend it! It was the basis for the most entertaining and philosophical conversations we've ever had about life, death, immortality, love, friendship, grief, courage. And it really is an exciting story.

The author muffs up the character of Siduri, the wine seller at the edge of the world. Siduri, in my opinion, holds the key to Gilgamesh's quest. In McCaughrean's version Siduri is a fat, tipsy buffoon who doesn't care about lofty quests for immortality. I went to the original epic to find the real Siduri, whose wisdom unlocks the problem of Gilgamesh's obsession with immortality.

               When the gods created man
               they alloted to him death,
               but life they retained in their own keeping.
               As for you, Gilgamesh,
               fill your belly with good things;
               day and night, night and day, dance and be merry,
               feast and rejoice.
               Let your clothes be fresh,
               bathe yourself in water,
               cherish the little child that holds your hand,
               and make your wife happy in your embrace;
               for this too is the lot of man.

Immortality might be outside of our grasp in this life, but the present moment can be luminous—this too is the lot of man!

Saturday, January 23, 2016


wintergreen collected by Hugh and Will for winter tea
solution to the problem of rendering goat fat

Once again, soap! This is going to be a yearly tradition (along with eggnog, yes) because I can't get enough of this beautiful substance.

I just made one batch this year. The big excitement was using tallow from our own goats. Goat tallow is every bit as disgusting as it sounds. Hugh's solution was quite sensible while it was rendering in a crock pot. After straining it and storing it, however, it was virtually odourless.  It stored well, too—almost three months at room temperature without any sign of rancidity. I melted it down and mixed it with olive oil and coconut oil and the soap turned out perfect, just the right texture and very nourishing for the skin.

I scented the soap with essential oils that a friend gave me for laundry soap...ravensara (which smells a bit like eucalyptus), mint, and orange essential oils. The little brown bits are balsam fir needles which I pulsed in the coffee grinder. I was hoping they would add scent to the soap, but alas. For exfoliation purposes only.