Cheap Renters

A recent Sunday-afternoon hike to Bill Falls (a.k.a. Hippie Hole) reminded me once again of how much ownership people think they have over these places that don’t belong to anyone, yet belong to everyone. As the sounds of loud music and profanity-laced conversation reverberated through the canyon near the Falls, I moved downstream, away from the chaos. It is truly amazing how many bikinis, beer bottles, and profanities hang out at Big Falls when the weather is nice enough for swimming. One reason my favorite time to go is winter. No one else is there.
IMG_4055eWhen I go deeper into God’s country, I want to see God’s order, not man’s chaos. I want to hear the silences and sounds of solitude. I want to smell the freshness of the wilderness, not beer and chlorine (yes, Big Falls actually smelled like chlorine…). I want to hear the music of the creek, not rock music. I don’t want to see garbage clogging up the creek. I don’t want to see broken glass, bottle caps, misplaced sandals, and abandoned pool toys. Essentially, I want to see less of people. More particularly, less of the profanity-spewing, intoxicated, pot-smoking variety. I like going there and seeing people having good, honest fun. But why does “fun” now have to include drugs and alcohol? Honestly, it is no wonder so many of the events for the local search and rescue involve Big Falls. When you combine beer and boulders and deep water, the results are likely to be devastating. As they too often are. We have these beautiful places to enjoy, places that are relatively untouched, and it is a shame that they are overrun during the summer with drugs and alcohol. When I see people with their piles of beer bottles (yes, literally piles), I find myself wondering whether they even care to remember the hike or not.

It is irritating to hike down to arguably one of the most beautiful corners of the Black Hills, with the graceful Falls, the pools of water, the towering granite crags, the mountain goats, the lush foliage in beautiful fall colors…and be greeted with a profane atmosphere that would merge well with a college campus, piles of beer bottles, and exceptionally skimpy swimming suits.

And this dynamic I think we have to blame on locals. Tourists don’t know enough about the area to go there with coolers of beer (the mental image of someone trying to navigate the trail to Big Falls carrying a cooler of beer is hilarious, by the way). So all you local kids who think it is cool to go down there to drink underage and smoke pot, get a life. Leave the Falls alone, so those not into drinking and pot smoking actually feel welcome there. And, just a thought, it might save you a fine or jail time. Sarah and I went to Big Falls much earlier this year, probably in May, and pretty much decided never to go there by ourselves again, at least not without taking a gun with us. The feeling of vulnerability is intimidating, when as females by ourselves we realized that the guys up on the rocks were smoking pot and watching us. At least I had my hefty lens with me. I knew I could do at least a little damage with that.

So please excuse my rant. But these Hills, these scenic spots, do not belong to us. They are on loan to us for a little while. I wish people would quit acting like cheap renters.

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The Freedom of Inconvenience

There is something wonderfully simple yet gloriously complex about the process of watching the tree bud out in the springtime, watching the flowers shed their petals and be replaced by infant fruit, then watching the fruit mature, and ripen, then picking that fruit at the right time and processing it, canning it as various delectable spreads or syrups or sauces, stacking the jars neatly in the pantry to be used at a future date…the process is immensely satisfying. I love the thought that must go into identifying the fruit, identifying its readiness to be harvested, sorting it, juicing it, and canning it. The thought and learned skill that goes into the entire process, whether it be the observation and waiting, or the careful, gentle work, the meticulousness, the specificity – they all contribute to the satisfaction I get when looking at a row of jars of jewel-bright jelly.
IMG_3912And yet the whole process is terribly inconvenient, to our modern way of thinking. I was in the middle of making a batch of spicy wild plum sauce, and Sarah commented facetiously on “how much money we’d save” on spicy plum sauce, by having canned it ourselves. “Wait…we don’t buy spicy plum sauce.” And she is right. We don’t. I’ve never tasted spicy plum sauce, I’ve never used it, and I didn’t even know it was a thing until I found the recipe and decided to use some of my wild plums to make it. Why bother, honestly?

As I have been canning over the past few weeks, it has occurred to me how much time actually goes into very little of a finished product. The time it takes to pick fruit and properly process it means a lot of time goes into each finished jar. It would be so much faster just to buy it at the store.

But there is no satisfaction when admiring a jar of store-bought jelly, or a factory-sewn skirt, or thawing out a frozen meal. The satisfaction comes from having a task, completing the task, and knowing it was completed well. There is something deeply fulfilling about being capable of taking a task from start to finish, whether in the process of foraging and food preservation, or in the art and science of reading a sewing pattern and ending up with a beautiful handmade garment or other item. There is something joyous about starting with an empty stockpot, and serving up something delicious from scratch. There is something invigorating about taking a cluttered house and turning it into a haven, or taking a pile of laundry and seeing it flutter clean and fresh in the sunlit breeze.

My 40-minute commute to work could be seen as an inconvenience or as an opportunity to pray, listen to music, or just to ponder life. Our 45-minute drive to church is time to visit with family. The time it takes to do dishes by hand is time my sisters and I like to spend listening to podcasts or laughing with one another. When I have a task like canning that requires hours of my time, it is freeing and invigorating to be forced to slow down for the time it takes to accomplish that task and focus on one single thing, rather than the million “important things” that crowd into my mind. It is freeing to have to stand outside in the sun and fresh air while hanging a load of clean, wet laundry on the clothesline. It is freeing to be carefully chopping vegetables for a fresh soup. It is freeing to kneel over a length of fabric, pins in hand, or feed the fabric carefully through a sewing machine.

The inconvenience is freedom to me.

 

 

Change is in the Air

I hate change. I naturally kind of revolt at the idea of change. So I have actually been dragging my feet about this for almost a month. But it is time to embrace the change!

When I first began to write this blog two and a half years ago, I wasn’t entirely sure of my focus, or even for whom I thought I was writing. We had just moved here, and initially I was simply chronicling our move to the Black Hills from Illinois. But over the last two and a half years, a lot has changed, and I’ve found my focus broadening in some senses, and maybe narrowing or becoming more focused in other ways. This year and this next year are also going to be times of transition and change, as I transition from work as a medical scribe full time to teaching piano and working on growing a photography business. Due to all these things, I’ve decided to change the name of my blog. I wanted to make this as an official announcement before I actually change the name, particularly since some of you have been following my blog more or less since the beginning! Until the name changes, I’m not going to announce it, but rather provide a head’s up that some changes are in the works!

The new name isn’t particularly meaningful, but I wanted to rename the blog in a way that would (I feel) more accurately reflect the content that I am writing or want to write, in the sense that it would broaden the focus from strictly “homestead” to country life or the country spirit in general. I have no idea what the future holds, so broadening it in this way would potentially allow for future changes that God could bring. At least, this is the goal of changing the name. It will also be a way to unify a few of my different pursuits, since I am in the process of launching a photography business and will before too long be sharing my website/portfolio officially. And since I also am officially teaching piano, a name change on this site would allow me to unify all three of those things endeavors, to a certain extent, as far as “creating a brand” goes. It would be nice to be able to direct people or potential clients to similar websites, rather than three completely unrelated ones. So keep a look out for that change…Other than the name, nothing else will be different for now.

Thanks to all who read this blog and for being a reason to continue to write! Your feedback is encouraging, and, speaking for probably all bloggers, it always gives a boost to the day!

Looking forward to seeing where things continue to go!

 

Goodbye, Luna

It always hurts to lose something you love, or someone, even if that someone is “just” a cat. I think we will all shed tears over this little critter, publicly or privately, and each miss him in our own way. He was Anna’s special cat, but all of us loved him. Even Dad, who always puts on a pretense of thinking that the critters are “just” critters and relatively useless ones at that, will miss Luna. Luna seemed like he was doing better day-before-yesterday, and seemed to be responding to our attempts to nurse him back to health, but he took a turn for the worse yesterday morning and fell asleep for good sometime this morning. We’ll miss his quirks and his cuddles.We had Luna for 2 years, and his personality has always amused and delighted and befuddled us. His looks were like a scientific illustration of a cat – he was perfect, with a long, thick tail, a perfectly proportioned body, and beautiful pale eyes. But aside from his looks, nothing else was dignified about him. He’s the cat who, even when quite full-grown, would curl himself up ridiculously to “nurse” on his own belly fur, a habit that he caught on to doing when his sister, Koshka, apparently missing their mother, started sucking on his belly when they were just 2-month-old kittens. Koshka eventually grew out of the habit, but not Luna. He’s the one who fell in love with Jess’s dog who was here for the first 9 months that we lived in the Hills.  The two of them would love on each other, with Luna allowing Baby to groom him from head to tail. He’s the one we babied when he managed to get part of his tail degloved this winter when he got his tail closed in the front door, and he put up with our clumsy doctoring and his poor cone very patiently and sweetly. He was a forgiving cat.  He’s the one who would taunt the dogs, then turn on them, claws unsheathed, and send the dogs scattering hilariously. Luna always strutted around like he was some hotshot, and then would go do something stupid. It is kind of hard to believe that crazy, beautiful cat is gone.
IMG_9040We all loved him.

 

Recipes | Wild Plum Jam

The wild plums are sure bountiful this year! I don’t know what they were like last year, but this year has been amazing. I went picking again this morning with a friend, and we picked about 6 gallons of plums! I couldn’t believe it. When we drove up to the (secret) plum thicket, my heart sank a little, since the branches seemed awfully bare. But we climbed down into the thicket and the ground was covered with beautiful, firm, ripe fruit. Most of what we picked we actually picked off the ground. The plums that were still on the tree were barely attached and just fell off into our hands, or fell to the ground as we shook the branches.IMG_4288eYesterday, I finished processing my first batch of plums as plum jam, and it did not disappoint. Here is the recipe, the process adapted from a recipe on Kitchn and a Sure-Jell recipe.IMG_4270eIngredients

  • ~1 gallon of plums
  • 1 box powdered pectin
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. butter (optional)

Process

Wash plums and cut off bad spots. In a stockpot with about a half a cup of water, cook the plums with pits, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, mashing the fruit as you go. A potato masher can also be used to help loosen the pits. When the plums have reached a sauce-like consistency, remove from the heat and pull out the pits, leaving as many of the skins as possible. Use an immersion blender to blend the pulp and chop up the skins. Measure out 6 cups of pulp. There will be extra. In a stockpot, combine the plum pulp and the powdered pectin. Add butter if desired to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Mixture should continue to boil even while you are stirring. Add the sugar. Return to a boil, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Skim off any foam that forms, and save for a taster.

Pour into prepared jars, clean the rims and threads, and seal jars with two-piece canning lids. Process 10 minutes in hot water bath (I adjusted for altitude and processed for 15 minutes).IMG_4272Notes

Jam differs from jelly in that jelly uses only the juice, while jam uses all of the usable fruit, including the skin. Plums can be pitted before or after cooking. Either way is bound to be tedious. I left the pits in and after an hour of pulling the pits out, I was almost in tears. Part of that may have had to do with the fact that I didn’t start processing them until 11:00 pm, so it was 1:00 am and I was still pulling pits out. So it was bad timing. If I make jam again, I don’t know if I will leave the pits in and cook them, or pit them ahead of time. I may try to use a ricer, which would unfortunately pull the skins out, but would at least make it easier to separate the pits and the pulp. It would be worth a try. IMG_4281eI had never made plum jam before, and I don’t know if I have ever even eaten plum jam before. But it is exquisite on bread with a generous quantity of butter. Enjoy!

 

apple harvest — The One-cow Revolution

Here is what my aunt and uncle in Ohio are up to. The life and work of some real homesteaders!

Diversity pays off in different ways. Not everything we grow “makes” (matures to harvest) every year. By September we are beginning to know what the storage cellars will be offering us this winter — to know what “made” and what didn’t. This year will be remembered for its two biggest projects: a wedding — […]

via apple harvest — The One-cow Revolution