I think about farms a lot, the small communities that are side-by-side with farms, the cities that are fed by those farms, the safe drinking water that comes from safe, effective land use. The symbiosis of the communities humans have formed. The ways we all seem so desperate to break that symbiosis.

When I share with people in my rural home or my rural hometown that I spent a decade in Chicago and loved every moment, they are generally aghast. Small town Illinois hates Chicago, as small town Missouri hates St Louis and small town Louisiana hates N’Awlins. I know that is true for these states and I assume it holds for all states. City folk don’t usually hold the same open animosity for rural places, probably because they reserve their anger for suburbs. I hope we can all agree that suburbia is stupid.

There’s a weird assumption (almost always backwards) that cities consume resources from rural areas but don’t return anything valuable. This is crazy. And the basis of some really bad things.

Racism is the reason suburbs exist, but it also keeps ruralists rural. Not all people outside a city are racist, and not all city folks are racially inclusive. But it’s clear that a lack of exposure and the complete isolation of white people in rural areas has allowed some pretty wacky notions to flourish.

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Posted by on June 21, 2019 in Uncategorized


For Krissy and Greg

This family Greg is joining, this is a good family. We’re loud and crazy. We’re silly and too likely to tell the truth. We love each other and respect each other and accept each other. Most of the time. Politics aside. 

This family is so accepting and nonjudgmental. People show up in our lives and we love them, whoever they are and whatever they bring to the table. It’s charming and incredible. It’s a gift.

My dearest Greg, I’m not like that. Time and life makes me wary. I think Krissy will always be, in my inner mind, a sweet teenager who is just waiting to get in as much trouble as the world (and Teri) can handle. I always think Krissy is too innocent and too sweet, and I try to keep an eye on her.

I learned that she’s just as good at being tough. That she’s wise and worldly, and she has amazing friends who will pull her out of a fire no matter what. That’s just about everything in this world – friends like that. 

It’s just about everything in this world, except for that one friend. The friend who falls into your arms after a hard day and celebrates your smallest victories. The friend who looks into your eyes and never looks away. The friend you call for when you’re sick. The friend that’s all your best friends and everything that’s best about you rolled into one and who loves you more than you love yourself.

I didn’t understand that sort of friendship until recently. It’s something that has to happen for you to recognize it in other people. So, Greg, I was wary of you. I was afraid of how good you seemed for my Krissy. I respect her and trust her and I know she makes good choices, just like the family is known for, but I was always waiting for… Something. The mask to fall, the truth to come out. Call me jaded. 

But I know who you are in Krissy’s life now. I know that you are that friend, and that friendship is so real. I know that it takes time to nurse it, but now that I recognize it I also see that it’s everywhere. That it’s not only possible to remain happy, but it’s the way you are meant to be. That it’s not about getting over a fight, but anticipating feelings and working with your partner first. 

Life will never be easy, not for anyone. But I see you now, making each other’s lives a little better. I see you making the effort. I recognize who you are. And I love you for being the only person who could possibly keep up with Krissy’s awesomeness. 

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Posted by on June 21, 2019 in Uncategorized


There is always a project.

Or twelve.  I will never catch up.

Right now I have the following on the front burners:

Make the female child’s Halloween costume, finish painting the female child’s big girl bed and actually put it in her room, take about a zillion classes for work, clean my desk (still, always), rake the yard and mow and weed again before winter, clean the back porch, get cardboard out of the basement and burned, clean the laundry room (spiderwebs are taking over or this sort of thing would never make it to any burner of mine, let alone the front), buy pumpkins hopefully in time to carve them, go through the toys to donate the ones that are now too young for both kids (or I will never fit that aforementioned bed in the kids’ room), go through my clothes and make the hubs go through his (neither of us have had new clothing for like 3 years, funny what kids do to you), shop for new clothes (hello thrift stores!), get shoes for everyone, clean the ceiling fans, find somebody to replace our stupid furnace…

Oh good lord, it’s worse than I thought and I’m not even done with the list.  For somebody who can’t find the time to do dishes and laundry I think I’m in trouble.  And I have so many things on my back burner that will obviously not even be touched.

This just makes me wish I work full time so I have a reason to be in this pickle.


Oct 25 Edit

I guess I got overwhelmed when I posted that, because I didn’t even get to the actual issue.  Before I had kids, my house was frequently messy.  I was often behind on getting things done because procrastinantion (or outright laziness) got in my way.  I was busy reading, or visiting friends, or traveling a little bit on the rare occasion I had the money and time all at once.  I lived how I wanted to live and the world be damned.

Now, I think about those days a lot.  More than I should.  I suspect that it’s a normal parent thing… missing the freedom to piss off on your own time, not having the constant and incessant demands of small children, being able to pee all by yourself.

But for the first time in my life I want a clean, organized, beautiful home.  I want things to be perfect for the kids, even as I realize that there is no such thing.  I don’t want to be finishing my daughter’s Halloween costume at 3am when she has to wear it to school at 5 hours later.  It all worked out, but that’s not the right way to do things.  It could have been a disaster.  I could have ruined the costume.  Maybe she would get over it in 10 minutes, or a day, or forget in 3 months that it ever happened.  But I wouldn’t.  I would never forget letting my child down, or forgive myself for it.

I just feel a lot like I’m teetering at the brink.  I plan and schedule and create the perfect calendar, but I don’t always pay attention to the appointments that are written on tomorrow’s date.  I worry over making the Christmas tree beautiful and bright enough to be seen from orbit, but I don’t get enough sleep and get crabby with the whole family.  I work my butt off “part time,” and end up blowing all that money on fast food that I don’t want my kids eating anyway and falling into patterns that aren’t healthy and make everyone’s lives miserable.

And when it comes down to it, there are a lot of nights like tonight.  I needed to do… everything on the above list except the costume.  And instead I sat down with my daughter after the baby went to bed and we made a heart out of tissue paper and glue to give to her cousin.  Maybe she forgot it in 10 minutes, or will forget tomorrow or a month from now.  But I won’t.

Every moment like that with my children makes all the sleep deprivation and missed appointments and chaos and worry and antidepressants worthwhile.  Because before, when I looked around my messy house everything was mine.  Mine mine mine mine.  Now, nothing is mine, and I don’t want it to be any other way.

I do still want to pee alone though.



So we rent out half of our house.  This is nice in that we have extra income, not nice in that I really really want that space.  It’s also a lot more work than it should be.

When we first bought our house, it was set up for an upstairs apartment.  Our plan was to wait and see what would happen, live in the space a while and then decide what to do.  Well, somebody knew somebody who really needed an apartment right then, and it turned out that we had a tenant who actually moved in before us.  Definitely not the plan, but we rolled with it.  And to be honest, it saved us.

So after 15 months, our tenant has moved out.  We rented the apartment to the first people who saw it and still get emails about the rental.  (How do you take an ad off craigslist?)  We have 4 days to do about 3 weeks worth of work up there.  Don’t get me wrong, we had a very responsible tenant; there are just things that need to be addressed now that we didn’t know about before and she didn’t really care.  I think she didn’t care – she never mentioned them.

So now some wallpaper has to be removed and we have to paint the kitchen and touch up the living room.  We have to clean carpets and kitchen cabinets.  We have to replace the faucet in the bath tub.  We have to repair about a dozen little things.  And we have to do the winter-is-coming preparation that we would have needed to do whether we were changing tenants or not.

It is a little frustrating to me because I am trying to find time to do our personal stuff and that time just doesn’t exist.  It’s also expensive at a time we can’t really afford it.  Life goes on and on and on.

Our new tenants have a baby boy just 2 months older than our son, so we are pretty happy about that.  They are happy they can use the swing set and the yard.  We have another adjustment to make.  Just like every other month.  We are looking forward to the challenge…


Baking Bread, Breaking Bread

I have cinnamon bread rising in the kitchen now.  I love making bread.  For one thing, nobody ever asks me for the recipe.  I like that especially because bread recipes are long, tedious, and it requires some experience to translate the directions.  I don’t have a bread machine and I don’t want one.  I wouldn’t know what to do with it.  Besides, bread baking is as close to church as I get, and I cherish that reminder of my relationship to the universe.

I bake cinnamon bread a lot.  Other breads not as much, but I want to start making our sandwich bread.  I hate all that ultra processing in store breads, and bakeries are not typically any better.  Cinnamon bread is my daughter’s favorite thing.  She loves it as toast and when I make French toast with it she thinks it’s the best thing in the world.  At the store, for all those crazy and hard to pronounce additives and preservatives, they charge about five bucks for a very small loaf.  I loosely figured what it cost me to make it, and I figure even when I use expensive ingredients it’s about a dollar a loaf.

Sure, it’s very labor intensive, but it is a labor of love.  I smile about my daughter’s stories from the day.  I think about the marvels of the world.  Yeast is a powerful ingredient and brings, in me, a strong emotional response.  This thing is alive.  Alive.  It grows and eats sugar and creates this incredible relationship with the gluten in the flour.  You can pull a little chunk off and stretch it between your fingers until you can see through it.  It smells of the best of the world’s pleasures.  It’s musty and earthy and imbued with centuries of human history.  This is what I love to feed my children.

When I started pastry school, I will admit I was not excited about the bread making portion.  I wanted to learn about chocolate and sugar.  Bread?  Somebody else could make it.  And it turned my whole world upside down the second it started.  All the qualities we cherish and strive to achieve – patience, artistry, willingness to let a thing be its simple self, care, tenderness, timeliness – they all come out when you bake bread.  They have to, or you don’t get very good bread.  Try making a croissant without patience, or hand knead a brioche without tenderness, or try to fuss too much over cinnamon bread.  You will see what I mean.

And bread is one of those things that maintains cultural significance despite reason.  Why do we still value the ceremony of breaking bread with each other?  Why does bread, hot and fresh from the oven, remind everyone of their favorite memories, even those who have never had hot fresh bread before?  Why do we revere the talent of a baker, even if we never purchase his handicraft?

I once read this great story about a woman who grew wheat in her front yard, and before the neighborhood black party she would have all the kids come over to harvest and mill the wheat and make the bread for the party with it.  I want to do that one day.  I want my children to experience that thing that reaches further back in our shared lineage that almost nothing else we can recreate today.

No culture lives without bread.  As far as I know, no religion is without at least one bread parable.  There is a reason for this.  Bread is a part of us.  It has been since we decided to settle in one place.  It reminds us that we don’t have to be nomads and that we can be where we are and create something perfect out of the simplest and most complicated things.  We could use more of that notion these days.

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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in cooking


Being a Bad Housewife

So I have been a terrible housewife for several weeks.  Tired, unmotivated, blah blah blah.

I blame my laziness for my laziness.  I have not been to the farmers market in a month.  It’s hot, I say.  I’m tired, I say.  We’re broke, I say.  All true.  Also all excuses for not doing what I know to be right.  It’s got to stop.

But it won’t this week.  I had a wart removed from the bottom of my foot yesterday, one that I should’ve taken care of a long time ago but didn’t.  I tried all the home stuff, which didn’t work, even duct tape.  (Don’t waste the duct tape.  What a silly idea.)  Then I just gave up and limped a little.  So when the doc finally took care of it, she said, “stay off your foot for a week.”  Right, I have two small children.

So today I had to go to the basement.  And proceeded to fall right down the stairs.  Bunch of scrapes and bruises, injured pride, and a twisted ankle.  The one attached to the sore foot.  My amazing aunt stopped by moments after I fell, thankfully, so she played with the kids while I nursed myself a bit.

I managed to go back down tonight, on my feet all the way to the bottom, to do some laundry, but the husband is going to have to bring the clothes up from the dryer.

Isn’t life fun?

I have managed to print my weekly calendar.  We haven’t had one for a few months and I just can’t live like that.  The more the family grows up, the less I can remember.  I looked and looked for one that I liked and that would work for our needs before giving up and making my own in Excel.  It has room for work schedules, my husband’s class schedule, appointments, menu planning, chores, holidays and events, and that famous “other.”  There is also space at the bottom for to-do this week and to-do next week.  It is a full calendar.  I have to write very very small.

I will be honest and admit that I have only used the space for menu planning twice.  I keep up with everything else, but I can’t get that meal planning done.  I think I just waste too much time on the computer.

The chores are on a weekly rotation, so I have set things to accomplish each day.  On weekdays, this includes stuff that needs to get done (at least) weekly like vacuuming and scrubbing the bathroom.  Occasionally I even get a day ahead.  It’s a good feeling when that happens.  Rare, but good.  Obviously, the dishes and laundry and tidying up that get done every day are not listed.  My goal is to keep all these basic chores to less than an hour to an hour and a half each day.  On weekends, the chores are on a monthly rotation – stuff like shampooing the carpets and real dusting.  Yardwork is scheduled in the warm months, and house maintenance in the winter.

So far, I’m happy with it, although I think it could use a little tweaking.  There are several chores not listed that I spend a good amount of time on – the big ones being financial stuff (bill paying, budgeting, figuring out how to live on our income) and that pesky menu planning.  Adding those make my time limits go up exponentially, so I’m not so keen on the idea.

What I need to work on is a separate chore list for the kids, one with stickers and stuff.  So far, I’m not real into the rewards.  Nobody rewards me for washing dishes, right?  I’m sure that will change as the kids get older and rebel.

I’m also still working on getting a nice, organized office space.  I have looked and looked at Pinterest for inspiration, read several books about organization, and even know what I want to do, at least to start off.  Finding the time and motivation to get it done…  Hopefully soon I will be bragging about the results.


Putting Up

So the kids and I visited my aunt Susie and her neighbor and our mutual friend Cathy (who is also my “putting up” mentor) at their farms today.  I love going out there.  My daughter said, “Horses make my heart happy.”  The kids love the wide open spaces, and really love the animals.  I love the visits and the bringing home of a bounty.  Life is kind of funny.  Cathy was my boss, and we quickly became friends.  I had no idea that she and my aunt were close friends.  It is a small world.

Anyway, Susie took Keegan around to chase goats, and gave us 18 wonderful eggs that I just adore.  Yay farm eggs!  I have many rants about the goodness that is to be had from free-range local eggs, but I won’t bore you this time.  That is to come…  She also generously loaned me her cooler.

At Cathy’s, I went out with my daughter to pick blackberries while Cathy practiced her grandma skills with my son.  Her grandson is due in about 9 weeks, and she is excited as can be.  Usually my daughter is great at picking berries, but today she picked enough to fill her belly and got bored.  Fortunately, Cathy arrived just in time and took both kids to see the horses and cows.  The pigs were particuarly smelly today, so they didn’t get a visit.  Now, picking berries on a beautiful summer afternoon while your kids are off exploring and getting muddy is just about as close to heaven as you can get on this planet.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I was quite generous to the birds, and I got about 2 gallons of blackberries.  Pie time.

Speaking of visiting the animals, Cathy sent a bunch of beef home with me.  I wonder how well I’m going to handle it when the kids put together the fact that we are eating a cow that they have pet, and bottle fed, and generally adored.  I’m glad I get to put that one off for a while.

Cathy loaded me up with 30 bags of last year’s corn (each bag is about 2 cups, perfect for dinner).  When I talk about Cathy’s corn, I want you to know that I love this corn like I love nothing else, except maybe chocolate.  My husband jokes about breaking into her house to steal more when we are running low.  I have no idea what makes it taste so good, but it is phenomenal.  This wasn’t a good year for corn, and it makes me a little nervous.  We really love this stuff.

So this year, she also sent me with my own corn to put up.  I’ve never put up corn before.

I shucked it on the porch while my husband played games with my daughter.  It was peaceful.  After getting her to bed, I did dishes and got the kitchen cleaned up per Cathy’s orders.  Everything has to be sanitized.  Water has to be ready.  Ice has to be ready.  I have to be ready.

This is the recipe for putting up corn:  Shuck corn.  Bring a big pot of water to a good boil.  Drop corn in pot.  Bring back to a boil, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.  Drain corn and dump it in an ice bath.  Let it get really good and cold, so the milk can get back into the kernels.  Cut from the cob.  Measure into freezer bags.  Freeze.  Simple, right?

It took me two hours to make eight bags.  Eight.  And I’m not counting the time it took me to shuck it.  This is no way to get a lot of corn in the freezer.  One of these days, I will be good at it like Cathy, who did god only knows how many dozens of bags in 4 hours this morning.  So as of right now, we have 38 bags in the freezer for the year.  Considering that we have been known to eat it 3 or more times a week, we are going to have to learn to conserve…

It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a garden yet.

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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in cooking, food, preserving