Friday, February 19, 2021

Friday Food: Short and Sweet

I seem to have been uncharacteristically succint in my food reporting this week. I promise I won't let it happen again.


Short version: Leftover meatballs, shrimp, rice, frozen green beans, and soup

Long version: I woke up with a cold this morning, so I made soup for myself. Just some of the leftover meatballs with some of my canned rooster stock, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and frozen green beans. A. and Cubby ate that, too, with the addition of the leftover shrimp, while the other children had the plain leftovers.


Short version: Fried bull meat, bread and butter, frozen peas

Long version: I used one and a half quarts of the canned bull meat for this--just fried in tallow with salt, paprika, and garlic powder--saving the remainder of the meat and liquid for the next day.

Pause for some horse hoof trimming.

Not a skill A. ever expected he would need, but here we are.


Short version: Two revealing stews

Long version: A. had purchased some pigs' feet last time he was at a store, because he loves to make stew with them. I . . . do not. So I left the pigs' feet to him. He cooked them with a package of pork necks, a huge onion, several heads of garlic, and about five hot roasted green chilis Miss Amelia gave me that I've been afraid to use because even the mild chilis can be too spicy for me.

It was a strong soup.

For the less bold among us, I made a stew with the bull meat, a jar of pressure-canned beef stock, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, mild green chilis, frozen corn, a can of kidney beans, and some sour cream.

The boys ate my stew with a little of A.'s fiery broth mixed in, and declared it good. I thought that was a fitting representation of how A. and I parent: A combination of stability on my end and excitement on his.

Poppy also ate several of the pigs' feet. My southern grandfather used to eat pickled pigs' feet, so I guess she's just carrying on a family tradition.


Short version: Beef pot roast, roasted potatoes, frozen peas

Long version: A small arm roast cooked with salt, pepper, tomato juice, and sliced onions. Pretty basic. As is most of my cooking.

The only load of laundry I managed to do this week was, of course, dried inside on the drying rack the MiL gave me.

Disembodied hand courtesy of Poppy.

And why was it the only load of laundry I did this week? Because the ground froze, and with it, the drain pipe for the washing machine. Good thing there was no school this week, thanks to frozen and burst pipes in the elementary school. No one can tell how dirty your clothes are on Zoom.


Short version: Carnitas-style pork, garlic bread, cucumbers with salt and vinegar

Long version: I finally conquered the last intimidatingly large package of pork in the freezer, cooking about a third of it, and hacking the rest into manageable pieces before putting it back in the freezer. I had been dreading dealing with that for awhile, so it's nice to have it done.


Short version: Cubby's tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs with cream cheese

Long version: Cubby has been wanting to make the tomato soup recipe from his ATK kids' cookbook again for awhile, and I figured Ash Wednesday was a good opportunity. Kids aren't required to fast or abstain from meat, but I make meatless food for them anyway. It's not going to impact their health, and it's a good reminder that it's a notable day.


We made a quadruple recipe of this soup, which is "creamy" from the bread that's cooked and blended into the soup. It's a good thing we made so much, because all the boys ate multiple bowls and it's all gone.

It is very good tomato soup.

Sandwiches seemed like a bit of overkill, given the bread in the soup, but I gave each kid half a sandwich anyway. They were pleased. It's certainly not much of a penance to be meat-free if this is what they have for dinner instead.

The eggs were for A. and me.


Short version: Carnitas tacos, with avocado!

Long version: Just the leftover pork fried for tacos, but we had avocados, thanks to A.'s trip to get hay earlier in the week.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Make Way for the Demo Crew

Exciting news: Work has resumed on the casita!

Okay, so it doesn't sound that exciting, but it was. Because walls came down. And small children were the ones wielding the crowbar.

Lemme back up.

A couple of weeks ago, before our weather took a turn for the Siberian, we had a day that was relatively warm, but hellaciously windy. When the wind is blowing up to 30 miles an hour, outdoor work is unpleasant, to say the least. 

But not working is not something A. is good at. So indoor work it is! And, again, this being A., not indoor work in the sense of cleaning windows or scrubbing floors. No, he needed to destroy some stuff.

Good thing we have that house next door.

He went over there to finish clearing out the mess he made the last time he did demo work on the inside, pulling down the ceilings and so on.  We all went over to inspect the progress--and, in the children's case, run around shrieking and unfettered in an empty house--and then A decided to just "take a look" at the exterior walls, to get a better idea of how they were constructed.

This is the oldest part of the house, which is handmade adobe bricks.

Adobe bricks can't be left exposed, since they are literally just mud and sand and would get destroyed if exposed to the weather. It used to be traditional to put a plaster over the exterior of houses, a job allocated to women that had to be done every single year. 

In this case, the adobes were covered with the original mud plaster, then with nails and chicken wire, and then cement. The chicken wire and nails give the cement something to adhere to, but it makes for a nasty mess when it's pulled off. Which is of course what A. proceeded to do.

He started peeling the cement covering away near the window, then around the corner . . .

Just taking a look, indeed.

And then, quite unexpectedly, as he got around the corner, the weight of all that concrete pulled the entire section of wall covering off to the right of the door.

It was very dramatic.

Next we all went inside that same section of the house, so A. could  "take a look" at how the inside of those walls was constructed.

You see where this is going, don't you?

Adobes with mud plaster, just like the outside. 

And then . . .

We didn't really need this wall, did we?

As it turned out, no, we definitely did not need that wall. It was a very flimsy divider made of two-by-fours and dry wall, and it served no good purpose. So A. started to whack it down. I stopped him, though, and suggested that perhaps he could allow his own small demolition crew to save him some work. 

I mean, they spend their lives trying to destroy things. Why not harness that natural destructiveness to the good for once?

So A. turned over the crowbar and let them go to town. 

Cubby started them off, gleefully sinking the crowbar deep into the drywall and yanking holes in it.

Charlie continued where Cubby left off.

Then Jack.

And finally, that small girl in the purple boots there. You don't think she was going to be left out, do you? Although she needed some assistance with the heavy-duty crowbar.

And so, whack by joyful whack, they took the wall down.

I can't really express to you the scene at this point.

So much noise. So much hysterical joy.

Until eventually, all that remained standing was the door in its frames. A. took over again for this part, until there was nothing left standing.

Although I am generally a big fan of separate rooms and doors--I would never willingly live in an open-plan house--these two rooms were very small, and it's a great improvement to join them.

Now there is yet more clean-up to be done, and then, when the weather finally warms up for good, A. can start fixing walls and actually re-building the house. 

Although that probably won't be nearly as much fun for the children as the demolition has been.

Monday, February 15, 2021

T.T.: The Pick-Up Battle

(Yes, I published this on Monday night. It was an accident, but eh. Close enough.)

I am a big fan of kids picking their own messes up. Just ask my own kids, who have had the misfortune to be saddled with a terribly cruel mother who insists that they clean up their widely scattered and incredibly numerous toys every night. 

EVERY NIGHT! Someone call a lawyer! This must be unconstitutional!

They have actually said that. To which I reply, "There is no constitution granting you any rights in the Republic of Mom. Get going."

The only way I have found that really motivates them to do this without constant nagging is my long-standing rule that they can choose not to pick up, but I will put every last one of the toys they leave out in the trash unless they at least try. I give them a warning half an hour before bed (and, okay, sometimes a few more warnings on particularly contentious days), and at least one of them will reluctantly drag his siblings along to start picking up.


Because they are still young children, and because there are SO MANY things to pick up every night, they inevitably miss some things. The small weapons for their small soldiers, a stray Duplo, one of the farm animals that gets in a corner . . . there are always a few things that don't get put away.

I'm not a monster. I don't throw away every single thing I find on the floor after they've picked up. If they make a good-faith effort to clean up, then that's all I ask.

Those stray bits do tend to build up over time, though. In addition, when some of the younger ones are helping, they have a habit of just throwing every single thing they find right into the toy box without separating out the sets of things to put into the bags or boxes designated for them.

The result is that even when they pick up, there's still kind of a mess in the toy box and toy room (Charlie and Jack's room).

Eventually, they need a toy intervention.

Every few months, I clear out the toy box and properly organize everything in it, so all the toy cars, animals, "guys," Magnatiles, Duplos, blocks, etc. are separate and in their own containers. I also clean out the corners of the room, under the desk, behind the toy box and so on where things get lost.

The result is a clean room and organized toys. And the result of that is much happier play times, both because they have room to play and because they can find all the pieces to everything and thus do not become locked in mortal combat over the only two long orange Tinkertoys that they can find.

The last time I did this was just before Christmas, and the result was this impressive . . . installation.

Fair warning: If you do this, they will take the opportunity to take out every. single. thing. you have organized. And soon it will not be organized.

I also take the opportunity to surreptitiously dispose of anything that's broken or just doesn't get played with much. Some people rotate toys and store the ones that aren't being played with, thus leading to fewer toys to be picked up or sorted, and also more excitement when the kids see toys that they haven't had for awhile. I would do this if I had the storage space, but I don't.


Although I'm all for teaching kids to take care of their own things, I also encourage helping them out every once in awhile. Because we all need a reset sometimes.


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Snapshots: Weathering the Storm

Happy Valentine's Day! We're celebrating by trying to keep everyone and every thing alive.

We were anticipating that the brutal cold affecting so much of the country this weekend would arrive here on Sunday, after a night of snow.

Instead, we woke up in a frozen cloud on Friday morning, with eight degrees and some snow.


It didn't let up, either. We lost one lamb the first night we had the frozen fog--lambs don't do well with moisture, and definitely not cold moisture--and another we brought inside Friday to warm up by the woodstove. 

When night fell, A. caught all five lambs and shut them in the kids' bathroom for the night, absent any other options for keeping them warm during yet another foggy, well-below-freezing night.

"I can't believe we're having a lamb party in our bathroom!" Charlie exclaimed. Yeah, me neither.

Unfortunately, that lamb lying down in the photo--the same one we had to warm up inside during the day--didn't make it through the night, bringing our total count of surviving lambs now to four.


The lambs were not exactly quiet during the night, and were definitely not quiet at 5 a.m., when they let everyone know they needed their milk, STAT.

A. got up to bring them outside to their mothers, then went back to bed. Charlie and I got up, too, and so we were awake when the power went out around 6 a.m.

Luckily, Charlie was prepared for just such an eventuality, and went to retrieve his solar lantern from his desk.

Nothing gets between this boy and his book.

I was also prepared, with my grandmother's rotary phone, which I plugged into our landline in place of our cordless phone so I could call the electric company and let them know our power was out.

My children were fascinated by this relic from ages past.

The lady who answered the phone was not at all surprised. It was a widespread outage.

We expected it would be out for awhile, so A. fired up the generator.

Meanwhile, outside, everything was covered in rime, an excellent word for a substance that is very dangerous to animals. 

Beautiful, but dangerous.

Even the dogs were all frosty and shivering. For the first time in their lives, we brought them inside. A. had to carry them into his office to thaw out, as they were too freaked out at entering a door to go in on their own. 

I kept the lights off, hoping they would sleep rather than destroy things. A forlorn hope, as you can see. These are emphatically NOT indoor dogs.

A. also managed to set up a space in the barn/shed with a heat lamp for the lambs. He arranged it so he could put hay near there for the ewes but keep the horse out. This way, the lambs can get off the snowy ground, where they were lying next to their mothers. Those ewes are so woolly they don't notice the weather at all, but it's obviously deadly for their lambs. 

It's supposed to be below zero for the next two nights, as well as dump several inches of snow on us, so everything that can be sheltered, must be.

I feel really sorry for the ranchers here, many of whom are in the middle of calving, and none of whom have shelter for their hundreds of cattle. There are going to be a lot of livestock losses this weekend.

We can only hope there are no more at our place. We've done all we can. Now we just have to wait for it to warm up.