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Making Butter

Every week I like to whip up a batch of butter. I skim six or so gallons of milk and add the cream to my electric churn. Years ago I read that if the butter seems slow in coming you should sing this song:

Come butter come
Peter’s at the gate
Wants a butter cake
Come butter come

Insert your name and sing to the tune of your choice.

You can see the butter has separated from the buttermilk.

I line a colander with fine cheesecloth and run cold water over the yellow lump to wash out all the buttermilk. Periodically, I'll wrap the butter in the cheesecloth and give it a good squeeze.

The final step is to shape the butter into a brick and wrap it in parchment paper. It then goes into the freezer.

More Magic

Sunday morning: Bread

Later Sunday morning: Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

Sunday night I loaded a large Dutch oven with a salted and peppered chuck roast, sliced mushrooms and onions. I doused that with red wine and popped it into the oven. A smaller Dutch oven contained beef soup bones and onions – my recipe for beef stock.

We’ll be eating well all week.

The Magic of Fire

Friday night: Start the fire.

Saturday night: Make pizzas.

I hate to run, but after reading Born to Run I’ve decided I should embrace what my body was so obviously (not) designed to do. I bought a pair of Vibram Five-Fingered Sprint shoes. I wisely decided to train for the Turkey Trax 5k held on Thanksgiving morning. I invited a friend to join me in the training and the run.

Yesterday at coffee, that same friend suggested we run a 10k. In September. No way, I said. I know my limitations.

I came home and downloaded the Couch to 10k app on my iPod.

Heavy sigh.

Ruby Peach (the red dog) and I made our first training run this morning. I love technology. A kind female voice told me when to run (30 seconds) and when to walk (four minutes). She softly interrupted the music I’d copied into a Running playlist – Pink snuggles up to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Katy Perry is flanked by Cat Stevens and Mud Boy and the Neutrons, John Lennon follows Glee.

The app is designed by some dude named Lucius Kwok. With a name like that, how could you not love his app? Check out his Couch to 5k video.

Inspiring.

What I Learned in Yoga

When it gets hard – smile.

YogaSol

This summer I have practiced yoga religiously. Three times a week when I can. In a deviation from my normal behavior, I have happily left the farm for the drive to town for yoga. I’ve gone mid-day, with the lunch crowd, and have learned to do my own yoga, to accept my body’s limitations and its potential on any given day, and perhaps, most importantly, I’ve learned to breathe. Deeply. Rhythmically.

I go to YogaSol, housed in a deep purple warehouse in Columbia’s North Village Arts District. The new studio was finished this spring and you can tell it was designed with love. It is simple and uncluttered and perfect.

I not only learned the poses, improving my physical strength, balance and flexibility, but I learned how to unclutter my mind and to slow time.

I am used to feeling my schedule and to-do list balanced on my head like a burden, a heavy weight whose desire is to destroy me. Through yoga I have become unhurried, relaxed and more ready to take on challenges.

I got a lot done this summer, and I did it at a leisurely pace which meant I enjoyed everything more. I’ve kept up with this blog and started writing fiction, reminding myself that writing isn’t a luxury, but that it, like yoga, must be practiced religiously.

Oklahoma Joe’s

John took a week of vacation that has included a lot of mowing and one foray to the big city to see friends. We rendezvoused in Kansas City, Missouri then loaded in our car to head to Kansas City, Kansas to check out a bbq joint called Oklahoma Joe’s.

I admit, I was skeptical.

Oklahoma Joe’s? In Kansas City?

Slabs of hot meat on a 110-degree day?

I went online to find it is a locally-owned business that had a store in Oklahoma as well as Kansas City. Its genesis was a group of competitive barbecue fiends – the Slaughterhouse Five (great name) – and when the Oklahoma store closed, the K.C. one remained Oklahoma Joe’s.

The ambience was everything a bbq place should be. It’s housed in a gas station – really, a functional, fill-your-tank gas station. On the restaurant side you stand in line and wait, and wait, and wait, to make it to the front where a guy takes your order. Without being told, the instructions are clear: Wait till he makes eye contact, place your order succinctly and completely, and move along. There are other customers waiting behind you. It was crowded and loud and two of our compatriots ended up with barbecue sauce on their sleeves.

The food was everything bbq should be. In our group there were a couple of rib plates and two sandwiches. I had the pulled pork special with a side of onion rings. My sandwich was delicious and tender and the sauce was spot on. The report on the ribs was that they were the best – this from carnivorous connoisseurs.

This year the horseflies have been phenomenal. Not just the quantity, but the quality, of the beast has increased. As I’ve swept up the milking parlor in the evenings, I’ve noticed blood stains where their feasting has dripped off the cow and onto the concrete – like the spattered chalk outline at a homicide scene.

If you manage to smack one clamped onto a cow’s back, it spurts blood, covering the cow, your hand, your clothes, with the horsefly’s dinner. Disgusting.

They have also been really black this year. Black and huge and humming – the size and sound of a hummingbird. I get jumpy while I milk and I hear one buzz by followed by the scary silence when it lands on my back for a bite.

This year the hummingbirds have been phenomenal. They’re as thick as rain clouds around the two hummingbird feeders I fill once or twice daily. They greet me at the door, hovering at eye level while I replace the filled feeders on the back porch.

Many years ago I took a camping vacation with my dog, Murphy. I had never camped before, so I bought a one-woman/one-dog sized tent and practiced setting it up and taking it down on my parents’ farm. I made sure my over-sized Golden Retriever was comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a tent – he was comfortable sleeping anywhere, I don’t know why I worried – and then we packed up and headed out.

We went west, in May.

I learned a few things on that trip – such as it snows in May in Cimarron Canyon, New Mexico. I’m afraid of bears. I need extreme solitude.

We camped in New Mexico, stayed with friends in Arizona, and camped again on BLM ground in Moab, Utah.

The Moab campground was wind-swept and barren and beautiful. I set up my tent by a small bush and proceeded to explore my surroundings. That night Murphy and I slept well – the way you do when your lungs are filled with fresh night air. The next morning I awoke to a loud buzzing around my tent. It was intense and frightening and I worried I had staked my tent over a hornet’s nest. I didn’t look forward to finding out that I had.

Leaving Murphy safely inside, I peeked out only to find we were surrounded by hummingbirds.

Hundreds of them.

It was magical.

The End of the Rainbow

Last night it threatened rain. Big clouds boiled up from the south and the thunder rolled. Skinny lightning strikes drove through the clouds, but if it rained, it didn’t rain here. There was even the hint of a rainbow, threaded through the clouds, showing no beginning and no end. Like this heat wave.

After a summer of two or three hummingbirds at the feeder, this morning we awoke to a cloud of them. I’m out of sugar, so a trip to town is in order.

Every night the resident raccoons come out to mervil around the bird feeder, looking for snacks. They’ve even been tearing down the corn stalks, which is okay. The corn produced little this year and the coons need the nourishment more than we do.

Almost Halloween

The garden is dying, as is the yard. Even the trees are suffering with brown leaves.

Last night the barn cat lay spread long on the concrete floor of the barn, her mouth open as she panted. You can hear the chickens panting before you go into the chicken house. The calves’ backs are damp and the cows flanks are hot to the touch. No one is comfortable.

I pulled up the zucchini, which produced beautifully this year. As did the cucumbers. I pulled up the dead vines of summer and winter squash that did not produce anything but mushy fruit. Into the compost pile went the bug eaten eggplants.

The only thing that came up fruitful was the pumpkin crop. I picked more than 20 sugar pumpkins. Because we had fired up the bread oven this weekend, I sliced the pumpkins in half, pulled out the seeds, and set the halves cut side down on cookie trays. Then I slid the pumpkins into the bread oven where they cooked for an hour or so. Once the pumpkin seeds were dry, I sprinkled them with salt and olive oil and spread them in thin layers on cookie sheets as well. They went in the oven next to the pumpkin halves. Out came pounds of cooked pumpkin for pureeing and freezing, as well as a big bag of toasted pumpkin seeds for snacking.

It smelled like Halloween.