Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fried Egg Sandwiches

Gray and cold today...what's new (that's a statement, not really a question.)

Today was a "get some stuff done day" on the farm. Had to drag the hay feeder from three acres away (up hill) to the barn for winter feeding. Had to help Nic start staining the siding for his cabin. Had to scratch the cow. She is pregnant and apparently feels itchy...I remember that feeling. Had to buy feed. Had to take Wizard of Oz, this year's herd sire, home. Oz had begun jumping the fence. Wizards are funny that way. It seems he was bored with his over-sized buck suite. Anyway, it appears that he has "settled" the whole group, and his magic is no longer required. We made a significant dent in all of the above. Some is actually completed. I think the cow will need scratched again before it is over.

The beautiful white dog pictured is, well, "In the dog house." I awoke to what looked like manna (or at least how I have always pictured manna) lying on the pasture. Nope, it was wool. I tasted it to be certain that it did not melt in my mouth or taste sweet like honey, ha ha, jus' kiddin'. The culprit - Gus, who with his girl/mate/sidekick Bo-Peep, is the guardian of the herd, which is now part flock. The sheep, it seems, have now learned that they may not look at Gus's food, approach the gate where he feeds, or for that matter, socialize with his goats. I'm sure in time it will all change. They will become his sheep. Thank heavens I had sense enough *rare* to bring home a small flock. They really needed the social support.

The egg picture is a symbol of tonight's supper. For all of the expense and time that goes into this smallhold, that picture is the silver lining. No matter how soon the money runs out before the pay period is done, no matter how much you over spent at Christmas, on the nights that you just don't feel like cooking, there will be fried egg sandwiches.

Nothing seems to bad, and no day seems to have been too hard, when you have a fried egg sandwich.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

29 years and counting...

I'm blogging backwards today....

The week before Christmas (December 18-20) George and I celebrated my birthday (46, &#@!%&) and our 29th wedding anniversary. Reaction? We LOVE Nashville! It is the perfect composite of our favorite things: music, history, music, architecture, music, community, music.

Our purpose in going was to attend the Grand 'Ol Opry at the historic Ryman Auditorium to hear Emmy Lou Harris, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, and Ralph Stanley. Did we ever get a lot of bang for our buck! Many of the Opry gang were there, old and new. That stage is never still or bare. Half the fun is watching the individual performers talk and hug and enjoy each other as they wait in the wings. They seem like a closely knit family. The stage hands are consummate professionals, quick, deft, and focused. What a wonderfully entertaining design the weekly radio show is - especially live. Little Jimmy Dickens (who is very appropriately named) celebrated his 89th birthday that evening, he has been a member of the Opry for 62 years. The Opry is a unique venue. The people who grace the stage are very skilled in their crafts.

And the must read its history. Originally named Union Gospel Tabernacle (1891,) it was commissioned and designed as a church, by ship captain Thomas G. Ryman, after he had a conversion experience. It has been maintained and is appointed like any church of the time, and you can feel that spirit in the building today. The performers weren't shy in talking about their faith during the show. We felt a very kindred spirit with them. We weren't expecting pews. Sitting among the audience, like church faithful, you are intimately situated among your companions and fellow members of the audience. The whole experience draws everyone together. Our show was number forty thousand and something-or-other!

On Sunday we visited The Hermitage home of President and Mrs. Andrew Jackson, at their request of course. The dome seen here is their grave covering. It was very very cold that day as you can probably tell by the general gray color in the photographs. Surprisingly we were not the only pilgrims present.

Among the presidential homes that we have previously been guests in, the Jackson's seems the best preserved. Part of its success lies in the fact that it has always been privately maintained by a ladies auxiliary whose soul purpose is its preservation. They are very proud of their commission. They had life-like models of the pair dressed in dance attire. What a little dumpling she was, four feet and ten inches on a tall day...and about a size sixteen (today's sizes.) He was a svelte six foot one and lanky. His face characteristically long and thin. The president's bedroom is exactly as it was on the day that he drew his final breath, fourteen years after his beloved wife's passing. The wall paper, 180 years old and imported from Greece, looks new, as does the paper in the bedrooms. I was amazed! The interesting story behind the foyer paper, which is a mural, is that it was hand painted for Mrs. Jackson based upon a favorite part of Homer's Odyssey (why won't this software let me underline that?) It is wonderful to see, first hand, the importance of classical education upon the people of their time. Had they not been so intimately schooled in the Greek democracy what might our government have become? The weaving of the ages fascinates me.

To the Hermitage is credit for the best historical tribute to slaves that I have yet to see. I tried to imagine President Jackson's reaction were he to be teleported back in time and see his field slaves images (larger than his own) hanging in the entry way. I had mixed feelings about that myself. While no one is more happy than myself to see history properly accounted for, I am old fashioned enough to feel that the President of the United States should be upstaged by no one. I think this amazing exhibit would have been better suited to a room of its own, or perhaps a building especially designed for it. But it was beautiful, moving, and painfully honest about the reality of slave life.

My favorite thing? I stood on the porch where Davey Crockett and Sam Houston (who practically lived there) slept on hot summer nights when the house was too hot. I, like so many, tend to compartmentalize my historical figures. I fail to remember that they were each other's contemporaries and friends. Incidentally, did you know that Crockett was the single dissenting vote in Congress against the Native Removal Act which heralded the Trail of Tears? What a man.

Strange to think that Tennessee was ever the western most boundary of this amazing country. Imagine Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett, and others like them blazing trails with no GPS, synthetic fabrics, cell phones, MRE's, or the like. Just good 'ol leather, muzzle loaders, horses, dogs, hard tack, fat back, and a Bible.

We had, or I had, a little fun at the Hermitage in the little cabin pictured here. It was part of the original Hermitage home and later converted to a slave cabin (after the Jacksons hit some pay dirt.) The doorways are about 5 feet high and emblazoned with large bronze markers reading "WATCH YOUR HEAD." I was safely in when I heard the sound of a coconut being struck with a hammer and a list of expletives flying from my husband. Fortunately we were alone. A master's degree in pastoral theology can do little in moments like these. He said, into his hands, "Why didn't you warn me?! Why don't you ever watch out for me?!" All lies, but I couldn't answer, for I was doubled over in hysterical laughter for the next five minutes. The kind of laughter that causes one to be incontinent. At this point he refused to walk with me any farther. I had to visit the Belted Galloway cattle (cow who looks like Oreo cookie) alone.

In concession I have assured George that if he should ever walk into another door way causing a cerebral hemorrhage and irreversible brain damage - I will provide his every need and take care of him.

...twenty nine years will do this to people. I wonder what happens at thirty?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

Hmmm, what can be said of Christmas for me?

The best part of Christmas this year is that we all retired to a chalet in Dillard, Georgia, from December 24th to December 27th. We slept, ate, played games, ate, talked with each other,ate, watched T.V. (we don't have cable at home,) and ate. We couldn't get our lazy butts off the couches or chairs. Everyone truly relaxed and did nothing. I am not normally very good at that. However, with my children and husband in such close orbits around me I didn't want to be anywhere else. The people that mean everything to me in this world were all together, all healthy, all happy, and with me.

For the high points - and pictures (which I actually remembered to take this year.)

To our oldest, Joseph, we bequeathed my father's onyx and gold ring. The jeweler, amazingly, restored this ring to "like new" condition after years of abuse. I remember vividly going to Service Merchandise to pick this ring up, with my Mom, who never bought anything of significance for Dad for Christmas. I will never know why that year was different. It seemed a very big deal to her. I can even picture where the counter was in the store. Joseph is pleased. He will be more pleased when it is properly sized. Oh, and he got a book of Revolutionary War stories. His brothers gave him the second season of the Muppets T.V series. Joseph has always wanted to live in a subdivision with the Muppets as neighbors.

Joseph is now sharing his Christmas loot with his new wife, Joni. This was their first Christmas together as a married couple. His list is shorter now.

To Joni we gave a George Foreman grill so that she can grill veggies, paninis (which we think is a fun word to say,) and Joseph can cook his own meat. We also gave her an awesome journal to collect her dinner party memories in. I WANT TO SAY AGAIN HOW MUCH I LOVE MY NEW DAUGHTER-IN-LAW. *Joni, thanks for sharing this Christmas with us. I fully understand how much one longs for their own family at Christmas. It was a sacrifice of love. It felt so natural to have you with us.*

Chloe and Hannah-Jo presented Joni with an adorable French toille apron and matching crocheted beret. Nic and Ethan gave her onion soup bowls. Jonathan VERY proudly presented her with a Le Crueset honey pot...more on that later.

To Ethan (we're going in birth order here) we bequeathed a gold ring (starting to sound more like a funeral than Christmas) which George's parents gave to him on his 20th birthday. George grew into, and then out of, that ring. Sometime in the early 80's we had to go to the Convenient Care Clinic and have it cut off of his finger. Guven's jewelers made it all shiny and new for Ethan. He also received a George Foreman grill (to grill and consume large quantities of chicken,) a wipe-off board (to keep track of important things, though he has Google apps too) and a book on Biblical principals of finance (because he has a lot of money for a single fella.) The ring looks mighty fine on his pinky finger. Nic and Jon did not buy him anything, but he didn't buy anything for them either.

To Nicholas we gave a scientific Christmas. He received an anatomy coloring book, and pencils, which he just loves (it's always the cheap stuff.) We also gave him Ken Burns' documentary on the National Parks. We all love that one. He got warm socks and a brown shirt to go with his birthday vest. From Joseph and Joni, a microscope slide set. In it are slides showing mitosis, frog sperm, you name it. Nic wants to be a veterinarian. We give practical gifts. One never knows, as a vet, when you might need to identify a frog sperm.

To Jonathan we gave bee keeping equipment (that explains the honey pot and Jon's 2010 aspirations to make honey...with the bees.) He also received a fishing rod (gonna be outdoors a lot this year.) He got sneakers. I'm happy about these gifts. I usually bomb on Jon's gifts, he makes me guess. He never knows what to ask for.

To Chloe we gave an ipod Nano. She was thrilled. She even smiled (that's a hard one.) She got Barbies, clothes, pajamas, jewelry, and her favorite - books. In the Christmas gift library was Harry Potter's Half Blood Prince, Little Women, and a Julie (American Girl doll) activity book. We didn't hear much from her all weekend after that.

To Hannah-Jo we gave a Barbie Camper. This is the 2009 version of one that I received at about her age. The boys played with that camper at Nana and Granddad's for years. We love to camp and Hannah-Jo loves, win. She also received clothes, a doodling book, jewelry, pajamas. Hannah-Jo, like Jon, doesn't ever know what to ask for. She is grateful for everything. Incidentally, she performed again this year with the Georgia Children's Chorus. They have an anual appointment at the State Botanical Gardens and the Hugh Hodgsen Hall at UGA. What a joy they are to hear.

Our children gave to George and I generously this year. For myself they bought a cream separator. For those of you who are wondering, "What the heck?!" I will explain. Goat's milk doesn't have large enough fat molecules to cause the cream to rise. you have to spin them out. The result, delicious mouth coating cream, ice cream, coffee cream, etc. This was a very pricey gift and a wonderful addition to our micro-dairy. For George they purchased the complete collection of the Beatles albums, ingeniously stored on a tiny USB card, craftily designed to be the stem of a fake green apple. We haven't heard from George since. I bought him a cozy robe, sweater, and shirt. He is quite dashing in them.

We also had our friends, the Turners with us. We have been each other's "family away from home" for seventeen years. We gave the Turners Snuggies. They looked (all weekend-because they didn't take them off) like large blue monks.

This chalet "thing" started with Joseph and Joni's wedding this past spring. We stayed in one and hosted the rehearsal dinner there as well. That was chalet number 15, this one was number 20. Each have their strong and weak points. The Gooneybush house is tiny, our family is large. I like the chalet plan. They clean up when we leave. Nice. We hope to make it a tradition. I have fond memories of Dillard as a child, so do my kids...I am hoping to personally see four generations enjoy the place, and make memories.

We took four dogs. You say, "Oh my!" That was only half of them. Jon's dog, Nola, is in her puppy/teenager stage. She was not fun to have in an unfamiliar environment. It took all of us to keep her balanced. It was like having a young infant again. Did she pee? Is she hungry? Can we get her to nap? Who has her right now? Had I seen all of that coming she would have stayed at home in the back yard. Another dog, Arlo, stayed home. He didn't stay in the back yard...I had to dispose of a dead chicken thanks to him.

Our four new sheep managed to stay alive and fed while we were away. Anytime we add a new species there is a question of will the thing (the farm) stay in balance. It was risky leaving them that way. Our friends, the Dzimianskis, farmsat for us. I just don't know what we would do without them. Thanks guys.

...we are blessed this Christmas 2009.