eating from the garden

We planted our blueberry bushes four years ago. And the first two years you have to take all the flowers off of the bush so that the energy goes into the root system and making it healthy and strong. Last year was our first harvest, but we were at family Bible camp that week and missed our first harvest. We have weeded our bushes every year, mulched around them, and piled up pine needles to increase the acidity of the soil. So you can imagine the great joy we are feeling this year picking our blueberries! I have made blueberry jam and we are trying a batch of dehydrated blueberries at the moment. We have some in the freezer too. And most of them are in our bellies from fresh eating all day long. 

Does anyone have any favorite blueberry recipes to share with me? We would love to preserve as many as possible, but haven't done this before!

Also, last Sunday after church I made my first plate of Fried Green Tomatoes. And then I took my annual picture of my Fried Green Tomatoes. :) I treat this moment like a holiday. It brings me so much joy. Here's the recipe, if you're interested...

Celebrating Alden

We celebrated Alden on Friday night with cake, presents and a slip-n-slide. He did that whole fight-the-nap-when-mom-really-wants-me-to-nap-well thing that day. Such a phenomenon to me. He napped a total of an hour that morning, when usually he naps about 4 hours each day. So by 6pm, the birthday boy was starting to fall asleep. We quickly had to get the cake and presents so he would be awake for his own party! You can see his was a little zoned.
But it made for good snuggles all around! It was a super duper hot and muggy day. A heat advisory was even issued. So we spent half the party inside eating and then went outside for the cake and presents.
I love these two pics of Uncle Kyle and the girls finishing Alden's cake. Look at their faces...
My mom got him this soft tree stump full of woodland stuffed animals. The animals come out and you can put them back in the stump. Alden LOVES this thing and Ivar put it in his crib. So now every naptime and bedtime when I put Alden in his crib he sits up and gathers his stuffed friends telling everyone in a falsetto voice, "hiiiiii! hiiiiiii! hiiiiii!" I shut the door and he happily jib jabs with his friends until they all fall asleep.
And here you can see the very first picture of Ivar's new rabbit (bottom left). More on her later. But she is getting excellent care for Ivar. He is very diligent and is taking his rabbit responsibilities most seriously.
 I think my niece Sonna took this picture of Oma Zina, and I think it is so gorgeous of her! She and Lisa literally came from the airport, straight off a flight from Jersey right to the party. And she looks radiant.
 Mostly it was just good family time. I didn't have a theme. I didn't have a single decoration. We just ate and celebrated Alden. I made him a butter cake with cocoa-cream cheese frosting. It was delicious. And I made everyone else cream-cheese strawberry pie. That was important to me...that we have good desserts and that Alden have a little homemade cake.
We ended the night with a slip-n-slide and setting up the new pool Mimi and Papa got Alden. It was so steamy that night...perfect for getting out the garden hose.

So there you have it. Alden is One. What fun!

shopping with elsie

On Tuesday I took Elsie to Burnsville Center. I needed a new swimsuit and we both decided we could use a new summer dress. So we drove together on our mother-daughter date and Elsie talked a mile minute, thrilled that we were going to the mall together.

"Mom, don't you think the corn fields are just so pretty? I wish there weren't any houses at all and it was all just God's creation. What if that was all you could see? Just God's creation and nothing else?" And we talked about beautiful places all over the world where you can't tell that a person had ever been there. She tried to imagine it.

And then we got to the mall and Elsie was ecstatic. "Mom, would you like to live here? I would like to live here. Just think, then you could have your friends over for supper and everyone could eat Subway or Sbarro and then after you could ride the moving staircases together. Wouldn't you love to live in the mall?!!" And I commented that I still liked living back where there were cornfields and God's creation and just a few houses. But she assured me that we could live at both places and just choose each day where we wanted to sleep. After her big slice of Sbarro we went up and down the escalator six times in a row. She was delighted and so was I.

When we were in Old Navy she started to dance to the music. She saw that I was watching her and I said, "it's fine. It's fun to dance to the music." And then I started to dance a little. And then she froze and told me, "Mom, please don't do that." There was no one around (my childhood mall is so empty made me sad!) but I still managed to embarrass my 5 year old.  In the dressing room she told me she would just close her eyes because, "it's kind of gross watching you try on swim suits." Oh my word, I laughed so hard.

We ended up finding the dresses above at H&M for $5 each. So we got two sets of matching dresses for the girls, and I love them so much. Wish they had it in my size. That would be my dream.

I came home and told Rory, "I just enjoyed a trip to the mall for the very first time in my life." I have never been a mall shopper, or a shopper of any kind. But shopping with my happy, chatty, delighted daughter was the best. And I found a swimsuit!

And it's not gross.

Alden's Birth Story

Alden is One today! To celebrate his big day, I decided to finish writing out his birth story. I had it half way done, and last night I completed it. These are always such a joy to write and reflect on. There is nothing like laboring and delivering and getting to meet the living soul that God has knit in your womb. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Here is Alden's Welcome to the World Story:

Alden. The word that comes to mind when I think about your arrival is Peaceful.

I suppose your birth story began on the days leading up to your arrival. You were cozy in my womb and didn't seem to feel any hurry to come out. So we waited through your due date and to be completely truthful, felt absolute peace about whenever you wanted to come. I was in high spirits. Our family took a lot of day trips together and it was a really precious and slow time in my memory. We walked around Carleton College one morning, walked around the Farmer's Market. We took care of lots of house projects. And I spent an hour or two up in the barn just with you each afternoon, as I had all summer. I have some special, peaceful memories of being up there praying and singing with you tucked inside.

It was a week past your due date that we went back for our scheduled doctors appointment. Everything still checked out fine, but clearly you were very comfortable. And given your sister Harriet's late arrival, the doctor gave me the paperwork to be induced the next evening.

For seven days past your due date I had been in such a peaceful place. But then I saw the paper with my full name and the plan for pitocin. I think I had been so sure that you would come naturally (my forth baby!) and I felt so, so disappointed that once again, I'd have to be induced.

On our way out of the doctor's office I went to the bathroom and started to cry. And cried quietly the whole way home. I couldn't even articulate why I was so sad yet. I didn't understand how badly I had wanted to go into labor naturally. Ivar and Elsie started naturally (though later required pitocin) and I think after Hattie I just really wanted to do this with my body taking the lead.

When we got home I walked up to the barn alone and cried some more. I walked up the stairs that I had walked up and down seven times the night before. I looked at all of the scripture I had written on the walls. And I just felt sad.

I wish I could say I did something super meaningful in that moment, but instead I got on my phone and started scrolling facebook. And while scrolling I got a text from my friend Jenna, "can we bring you kale, sausage and lentil soup for dinner?" I replied an immediate yes and then I cried some more, so grateful. That text sort of helped me figure out the next step. We would have dinner. And then bedtime. And then we'd get up. And the next night we'd go in and start things up so we could meet you.

So I calmed down, went in the house and later we ate a hearty meal. It was late that night that I remembered Jenna had put the dessert in the freezer telling me I may want to save them for after the kids went to bed. So I went to the freezer and found this box. I gasped because I had never seen this brand before and because we knew we were going to name you Alden if you were a boy. Joy overwhelmed me. I still didn't know if you were a girl or a boy, but somehow this little sweet moment reminded me that there was an actual person about to arrive. I didn't need to be sad. I needed to get excited, no matter how it was going to get started.

But to my great surprise, contractions began over night. The next morning your Mimi and Papa Marlene and Madison came to pick your brother and sisters up. And your dad and I hit the house like never before. I was moving bins of clothing, cleaned the kid's room, caught up on laundry, vacuumed the house. Then we went to Menards, CarTime, the dry cleaners (and dropped off our comforter that we forgot to pick up for 5 weeks!), and then to McDonalds drive through. Your dad asked what we should eat and I said, "something that I'll probably never want to eat again.") We went to a park for a picnic and it was a glorious day. Then we walked all over Carleton's campus and found a Hawaiian shaved ice food truck giving free snow cones to prospective students. And even though we were twice everyone's age and walking through contractions, they let us pass as future Carl's.

We went home and walked the gravel road, walked to the pavement to get a picture of the barn. Walked home and hoped things would intensify. They were strong enough that we decided not to go to the hospital to get things started. Instead we kept letting my body do it's thing.

Your dad and I ate cooked kale and snap peas for a late night snack. I definitely regretted that later when things intensified at the hospital... We watched Nepolean Dynomite and then went to bed for like 30 minutes. And then my water broke. I was concerned things would go very quickly now, and since we just had a cousin deliver a baby in the car on her way to the hospital, I felt like we should get going.

In retrospect, we probably should have called the hospital and they would have told us to wait a while longer. But instead we called from the car and the very kind nurse said to keep coming. When we got on the maternity floor it was nearly empty. I think one other room had a mom and baby in it. But every room was vacant. This was amazing because two nights earlier my doctor had said every room had been filled.

They checked me out and I think she knew right away we were a long ways off. I walked the halls and the contractions hurt so badly. I remember thinking, "I remember this. Labor pain is really awful." We walked the halls another time and then your Dad said he needed to lay down. He was feeling woozy. I wanted to lay down too. We slept until morning. Contraction stopped. In the morning our doctor came and started the pitocin. A while later I got an epidural. And at noon our doctor came back. Rory and I were both reading good books. The room was quiet and as she checked me she looked up with wide eyes, "Do you feel like you need to push?!!" "I don't feel much of anything, really." "Ok. You need to push. We are having this baby very soon."

So I put my book down.

Alden, I am writing this one year later and this moment is making me laugh so hard because this is still your disposition. I don't be mean to bother you, but could I get a diaper change over here? I wouldn't want to impose, but I'm ready to go down for my nap now. I don't want to interrupt your quiet book time, but I believe I am ready to be born.

So I started pushing and I think it went quite quickly. You came out and they lay you on my chest and said you were a boy! A boy! A boy! I was so surprised! And completely overjoyed. I could not believe I had two sons. Alden Ananias. I had chosen your middle name. Heard the story of Ananias at church a few months earlier and loved that Ananias was so brave and obedient, able to hear God's voice and to follow his instruction to go find Saul on Straight Street, the worst persecutor of Christians. Ananias was so courageous! He went to Saul and told him that Jesus was the true God. And Saul had a radical conversion and went on to be the very awesome Paul who spent his every waking moment telling of the transformative power of Jesus Christ! I love that Ananias was so faithful and could hear God's voice. That's my prayer for you, too.
So you were here. And I will tell you that I felt great! After having you I was walking around like normal. I have no idea how that is even possible, but I felt so good and strong. Right away! With your brother Ivar I had to have help getting my legs up into the bed for like a week after having him. But here I was, feeling great, wolfing down my french toast, sausage, yogurt and fruit cup with great joy.

You latched on right away and ate for a bit. But the next day you took a lot of time off to sleep. I had a nurse that was very concerned that you hadn't nursed on schedule. But I wasn't worried a bit. I knew you'd eat when you were hungry. And I was right. I started to feel a little empowered as a mother during my hospital stay. I began to realize that I knew quite a lot, mostly that I didn't need to worry about too much. I could be calm and confident. I had done this before. I felt steady.
We just got to stay one night because we came in the night before. That was a bummer because I wanted to rest and sleep at the hospital another night before going home. You were the first baby that we let the nurses take while we slept. That was a huge change, but we felt so comfortable because there were four nurses and you were one of two babies on the floor. We knew you'd be well cared for. and you were right across the hall. That was a sign of a very awesome maternity ward and two exhausted parents.
And then we came home. We came home to a farm fully in motion with so many things to do. But you have always been so up for anything...happy to be here...glad to be along for the ride. You are my calm and content and wonderful baby. And here we are now, one year later, and you continue to be exactly those things. Alden, you are a Pure Gift. Those were the words I heard while pregnant with you, and that is what you continue to be for me. I am so glad you are mine.

to market, to market, to kill a fat pig

Last night I went to bed utterly exhausted but at 1 am I woke up wide awake. I had sipped a Diet Coke all day yesterday, and the caffeine was having its way with me. Immediately I began to worry about loading the pigs up this morning to take to the butcher. How in the world were we going to convince two 250-300 pound pigs to step up into a dark trailer? It seemed so unlikely. Especially at 1 in the morning.

So I got up and began watching youtube videos on 'how to load pigs into a trailer.' And then all my fears were confirmed. Each video talked about how their first few times loading pigs were complete disasters. I watched story after story and the "lessons learned" were all things we already couldn't reverse. They said, "don't ever introduce the trailer the morning of the big load." Whoops. They said, "begin feeding the pigs in the trailer a week before you take them away so they are used to being in there and hop up gladly to be fed." Trouble was, we just got the trailer the night before from the butcher shop on loan. They said,  "Don't feed them the day before so they are extra hungry to hop in the trailer." Too late. They said,  "Load them up at night so you can sleep and don't have to worry about how it will go in the morning." No kidding!

I sat back at my computer and asked God, "Lord, what are we going to do?" And for some reason I felt I should make brownies. The thinking was that they would smell the brownies and want to go into the trailer to eat them. So I made brownies. At one point I saw the oven numbers. They said 350 and I realized I didn't know if that was the time or the oven temp. Because it was about 3:50 when the brownies came out.

Finally I went to sleep, only to wake up at 6:30, nurse Alden, get up, milk Darcy and then head to the pigs. We had neighbors come to help us and it went pretty well. The first pig, having smelled my brownies, got into the trailer no problem. He gobbled that brownie and I felt very satisfied and proud.

But the second pig saw his buddy up in the trailer and seemed wise and knowing. No brownie was going to coax him. He got close a few times. He got his front legs in the trailer many times. But never those last two legs. We tried many things but to no avail. Rory ended up taking the first pig to the butcher and came back home to try again with Biggie. That's what I started calling this pig. It was actually AbraHam, but today I called him Biggie...likely 300 pounds of big pig.

Biggie wasn't having it though. He had us figured out. And even though I had baked a chocolate cake while Rory was taking the first pig to the butcher, he still wouldn't be seduced into the dark trailer.

Rory continued to wait him out, baiting him with his water and feed in the trailer but by noon he decided he had better call the butcher to tell them he wouldn't be making it in. He had been at it since 7am. But they offered to send a worker out for $20 to help us. Brilliant. Best $20 spent. Ever.

They guy came and was built for moving pigs around. In fact, he made the comment that living pigs aren't nearly as heavy as dead-weight pigs. He ended up putting a five-gallon bucket on Biggie's head getting him good and discombobulated while tuckering him out. In the end he and Rory were able to push Biggie's hiney into the trailer. It was muscle against muscle but I think Biggie just could smell my delicious chocolate cake in the back of the trailer and decided to give up the fight. The sweaty, muddy, exhausted men might say it was their brute force and determination that got him in there.

Either way, it ended well. And we are so glad. We have SO MANY experiences like this, learning on the fly, trial and error, failing, trying again, learning from mistakes, watching videos, reading books, asking questions. It's a humbling way to live! It would be great to know all things about all things from the start. But every experience is brand new and at the end of the day we can lay down and say exactly what we learned that day. It keeps you on your toes. It robs you of your sleep. But there will be a day come August that we will eat a BLT and the B the L and the T will all have come from our own farm. And that is the reward for the exhausting, exhilarating and memorable days like today.