Archive for August, 2012

Summertime on Lake Superior

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 by Tonia 4 Comments

This summer has been extremely busy for us, between work and family events and just trying to keep up with the garden and all our projects around the homestead. But every chance we get, we head to the beach to relax and play- usually with the dogs and with friends.

We have a time-share on a beautiful 25′ sailboat with some friends, and we’ve really been enjoying learning how to sail {it’s been on our bucket list for years. When you live on Lake Superior, you need to know how to sail. It’d be like living in Vail, CO and never going skiing!}

On calm days, it’s fun to put her on autopilot and just zone out, letting the waves rock you into a little nap. On windy days, she gives you an exhilarating ride that awakens your senses and makes you feel {lucky to be} alive. We’re so lucky to learn on such a big, safe boat. She’s made to be seafaring, so she can definitely handle anything the lake throws at ‘er.

But small boats have their perks, too. Our neighbor’s father built him a little sailboat as a college graduation gift. She’s light enough to haul behind the truck to the beach {read: doesn’t need to be docked at a marina all summer} but big enough to carry a few friends and a few cases of beer. Pre-tty nice!


We haven’t taken the dogs on the boat with us yet, but Charlie does enjoy riding the stand-up paddle baord with me!

Hooray, hooray, hooray for this gorgeous body of fresh water that we’re so blessed to live right next to. Hooray for the waves of cold, prickling water that wash over you, healing and calming your body and mind. Hooray for boats, dogs, beer, friends. And hooray for the occasional opportunity to forget about the To-Do list and just plaaaay.

Out With the Old in With the Old

Posted on August 7th, 2012 by Tonia 7 Comments

Mike and I went through our closet this spring, tossing anything we don’t wear into boxes to donate. I had already done this last winter, as part of the 30 for 30 Challenge, so I didn’t have very many pieces to donate this time around. I decided to be really strict with myself and even get rid of things I really like, but never wear.

For example, I had a beautiful gray wool dress from J Crew that I had never worn because it was a tad too big on me. I’d been saying I’ll get it tailored for the past two years. But there it sat, untailored and unworn in my closet. It was time to face the fact that I was never going to bother with it, so I may as well give it to someone who will use it.

That same week, a friend of mine decided to host a clothing swap at her house, ladies only. Perfect timing! I brought my small box of clothes and a six-pack of beer.

There were eight or nine of us total and, thankfully, a few my size! We chatted, drank beer, stripped down to our skivvies and played dress up. Our host had thoughtfully propped every mirror in her house along her livingroom wall. I was reminded of all the hours spent in the basement as a kid, digging through our enormous wooden chest of dress-up clothes {thrift-store prom dresses from the 1980′s} and putting on fashion shows. I convinced my poor little brother that “all the cool boys wear dresses” so that he would allow me to dress him up as well {I’m so, so sorry about that Danny…}

It was fun to see my friends enjoying my clothes- they looked damn good in them! And I found a couple things for myself:

This sheer blue top is so breezy and easy to wear on a hot day. It’s long enough to be worn as a tunic, with leggings or skinny jeans, or over my bathing-suit for going from the beach to town.

These Carhart overalls were a major score. They’re a little big on me, which makes them perfect for layering long-johns or pants underneath for working around the farm in the fall. There’s nothing better than a pair of already-broken-in Carharts. I snatched them up the second I saw them!

Next time I’m having trouble donating clothes because they’re “too nice” to dump on the curb in front of Goodwill, I will definitely host a clothing swap. In related news, I have been doing a great job at shopping for clothes a LOT LESS. And when I do, it’s for things like flannel shirts, a new bathing-suit because the old one was stretched out, and horseback riding breeches; things that will get used heavily and last a long time. I still love fashion, though. But I’m content to window shop for the most part.

Raising Backyard Chickens: Butchering

Posted on August 5th, 2012 by Tonia 7 Comments

Jen and Trevor bravely offered to help us butcher our 10 remaining meat chickens. They have some experience with this from their time working on a farm in Washington, and we were really grateful to have their skills on hand that day.

Mike did the honors of cutting off the heads, J&T helped pluck, gut and quarter, and I rinsed and packaged them for the freezer. We averaged 15 minutes per bird from beheading to freezer.

Things went smoothly thanks to all the helping hands and our friends’ knowledge. But right around the 8th bird, Mike started feeling depressed. Watching that many little lights go out in rapid succession gets to a person.

I was secretly relieved to see him feeling that way. If he had been totally cheerful and fine about the whole experience, I would have been a little creeped out!

Yes, they were “just gross meat chickens” as most farmers refer to them. They sit all day long in their own poo. Even if you give them the space to roam around, which we did, they prefer to just squat by the feeder and shovel grain down their gullets. They have one purpose in life: to eat as much as possible. They were at their full-grown size in six weeks flat {by comparison, our egg chickens are only about 3/4 grown, and they were born at the same time as the meat birds.}

But all things considered, it was still hard to kill them all in one go like that. It felt a little like a factory assembly line, and I didn’t like that. I much prefer the one-off approach where we could take the time to thank the bird for its life and really process what was happening.

We have a freezer full of breasts, drummies, wings, livers and thighs. We have jars upon jars of chicken stock. We’ll be enjoying this bounty all winter long in the form of stews, soups, enchiladas, pasties and more.

The whole process of raising our own meat so far has been both easier and harder than I expected. At times, I’ve been surprised at my own ability to shut off my emotions towards the animals. I’m sure this is an automatic response in my brain designed to protect me from identifying too much with the very animals I’ll be eating shortly. I’m both ashamed by it and grateful for it. Being such an intense animal lover, I would surely crumple into a sobbing pile of self-hatred and empathetic suffering if not for my brain’s protective mechanism.

Other times, I can’t help but picture what it feels like to be that animal- confused, scared, and most likely in pain even though we take the most humane route when we kill them and they die very fast. The understanding of it clenches my heart. We’re the reason for that pain and for its life ending. They trusted us, looked forward to seeing us every day when we fed and watered them, and now we’re killing them.

I feel all of this deeply, and still I do think that raising your own meat is a good way to go about eating meat. I feel so much more grateful for meat. I appreciate it in a completely new way, on a whole other level, in a deeper part of me, than before. And I rest easy at night knowing that our animals lived great lives up until their very last moments. You can’t say that for most of the meat in the grocery store.

The Story of the Terrible Smell that Followed Us Everywhere Until We Figured Out What it Was.

Posted on August 3rd, 2012 by Tonia 4 Comments

It hovered in the kitchen. But we had taken out the garbage, emptied the compost pail, and cleaned the sink. What could it be?

Later in the livingroom, there it was again- even stronger this time! Dude, what is that?

It was on the back porch, in the office and in the bedroom. The smell waxed and waned, mercifully fading at times only to pop up again.

“Is it me??” Mike sniffed his shirt, checked his armpits. “Is it YOU?” He sniffed in my direction. Our eyes fell on a brown thing, quietly watching us from a shadowy nook with large, guilty eyes.

Oh. Case closed.

The culprit in this story was none-too-pleased that we discovered him. No idea what he rolled in, and I hope I never find out.