Savoring the Remnants of Winter

Posted on March 26th, 2013 by Tonia 6 Comments

We still have two feet of snow on the ground around here, but I’m trying not to complain because this is the first “normal” (read: bleak, snowy, cold, seemingly never-ending…) winter we’ve had in about five years. Even though I am looking forward to the return of sunshine and greenery, there is something comforting in the fullness and earnestness of seasons. It just feels right–as if all is well with the world (plus, 5 months of cold weather means we have less scary bugs. Really, my favorite thing about winter is that it kills everything. If you’ve ever seen the hideous/poisonous life forms that live in the warm states, you will agree with me that an annual mass bug-freeze is a great thing. And not shaving my legs is my other favorite thing about winter.)

Spring should be showing up sometime next week, so before then I’m relishing the last hurrah of “winter activities”. Once the garden is cranking and there are things to be done outside around the homestead, there will be no time for listening to podcasts while baking glutenous, sugary “snacks” that are really desserts, organizing shelves and cupboards, therapeutically sifting through unused belongings and putting them into boxes and donating them, obsessively Googling things like “natural options for de-worming horses” and “essential oils for horses”, and sneaking snuggle sessions with Charlie in the middle of the day/whenever the mood strikes.

Mike has also been savoring the remnants winter. Lately he has spent a lot of time in the kitchen, plastic gloves on, radio blaring Punch Brothers, up to his elbows in ground pork. He cranked out two types of sausage last week: Spicy Italian pork sausage from our pig and tomato-basil-chicken sausage from the chickens we raised last summer. We ate the Italian sausage last night atop homemade pasta and marinara made from the tomatoes I canned last Labor Day…DELICIOUS.

He also started a batch of homebrew (and, ahem, sprayed the entire kitchen with foamy wort in the process), which is now fermenting in our dining room and should be ready to bottle and drink in a week or so.

It has been very fun to work on these quiet projects together. I’m grateful I have a partner who likes to learn and try new things, and that he doesn’t mind spending hours upon hours painstakingly creating stuff that, in the end, we eat! God I love food. Really, it’s all about food. Amiright? Everything. All of it. Food.

Every spring I go through the same horrible break-up with “winter food”. I freak out about the fact that we’ve been surviving mostly on pasta (gluten), stored root vegetables (starches), and baked goods (sugar) for five months and we need to “be better”. So we start making green smoothies every day. We grow a million kinds of lettuces and we eat mounds of salad. We work out (kind of). We drink more water. It feels great and it’s good and everything.

But we’re not there yet. That’s next week. This week we’re savoring winter. Cookies and pasta and pizza and beer are still happening. Don’t cheat me out of my last precious week of winter! I will kick you. And then I will eat another chocolate-chip muffin.

IN YO’ FACE, SPRING!

P.S. A big, huge, warm hug to everyone who left a comment on this post. You rock. I love you.
P.P.S. We’re all set up and ready to go for maple syruping, and we think the season will be kicking off this weekend! Stay tuned for lots of sugary fun!

Three month update

Posted on March 6th, 2013 by Tonia 21 Comments

Well, hi! Are you still out there? If so, thank you, and I apologize for my long absence. Three months without a post on here must seem strange after 3+ years of fairly regular posts, and I feel I owe you an explanation.

It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to write about. We’ve done a few {I think} blog-worthy things this winter, and I had several ideas for posts about low-impact living and homesteading that I was researching and preparing, but for some reason I’ve been feeling really disenchanted with the blog lately…or actually, the whole internet in general.

I struggle with striking a balance between documenting life and just living life. Sometimes it seems like we {it’s not just me, right?} are so preoccupied with taking photos, tweeting about what we’re doing, and updating our blogs that we don’t take time to simply savor the moment or experience something on our own terms instead of via social media.

There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy in writing a blog about a simple, low-impact, homestead lifestyle focused around the important things in life, when what blogging requires {to do it right, anyway} is an immense amount of time spent sitting in front of a computer screen instead of doing the things I’m writing about! It’s tough for me to reconcile this dilemma.

Why is this all coming out now? Probably because I’ve been blogging here for over three years and have never really taken a significant break from it. And maybe it’s natural to ruminate over things more in the wintertime, because we find ourselves in the dark with nothing but our thoughts. And also most likely because I’m feeling a little self-conscious lately about how hypocritical my life is.

For instance, I want to live as low-impact as possible but at the same time my life pretty much revolves around horses. I don’t write about it very often on here, but I teach riding lessons at a stable down the road, I volunteer with a hippotherapy program, I own two horses and ride every day, I attend clinics and I will be competing at shows this summer. And anyone who knows anything about the horse world knows that it doesn’t exactly mesh well with an eco-friendly lifestyle. Basically, the two most defining aspects of my life are at odds with each other. It’s very confusing. And that’s just one example of how my life is hypocritical…I assure you, there are many more.

All of these muddled thoughts are heavy on my heart lately, bringing me moments of clarity and then confounding me again. It’s a lot of work; figuring out where you stand in it all. And quite frankly it’s smiting my desire to blog. But that said, I miss sharing what we’re up to with you all, and I really do appreciate your patience while I get my shit together over here. I think I just need time to live my life without thinking about how it’s all coming across to others.

So, I’m not saying goodbye for good to the blog, but I can’t say when my next post will be. I’m going to let this play out organically. I don’t want to force anything…you all deserve better than a bunch of half-hearted posts. I tend to update Twitter and IG fairly regularly, because they’re so easy and quick. So if you miss me, please follow me there.

And now, just to prove that I am indeed still alive and kicking, here is a little taste of what we’ve been up to for the past few months:

January
1. Mike brought his camera to the barn and took photos of me with my horses as a birthday present to me. We had so much fun trudging around in the snow with the horses, who were feeling extra frisky that day, and I ended up with a series of really pretty photos to cherish. Thank you, honey!!
2. I got the flu and it SUCKED.
3. We made Lonza {a traditional Italian cured meat} out of a loin strap from our pig. It soaked in a fennel and orange brine and then cured in the root cellar for a month. It turned out delicious!! We’re pretty proud of ourselves.
4. We made bacon from part of the stomach of our pig. We smoked it in the smoker and cured it with salt. It turned out very smokey and salty…perfect for flavoring soups but a little too intense to eat alone. Going to adjust the recipe a bit and try again…

February
1&2. We have had fantastic snow this winter and we took advantage of it by getting out hiking and skiing as often as possible.
3. I’m knitting a cowl. It’s bright pink and makes me happy.
4. We usually follow up a brisk hike with a hot drink from Big Water Coffee in Bayfield. They know what they’re doing.
5-7. Mike’s big brother came to visit from MN along with his wife and their baby, Lainy. We took them hiking out to Lake Superior and watched the sun set over the frozen water.
8. I am a tree-hugger. This should come as no surprise to anyone.
9&10. We spend inordinate amounts of time snuggling our dogs.

March
1. We still have a lot of snow. A lot of snow.
2-6. We went to the sugarbush to scatter pails and set taps for the upcoming syrup season. My favorite time of year! Can’t wait for the sap to start flowing.
7. The little lemon tree in our bedroom–which we painstakingly kept alive all winter–is putting out tiny fruit!!!!
8. Our neighbors received coconut banana bread from us this year on Valentine’s Day.
9&10. A couple friends of ours took a road trip to Maine to do some fishing and returned with buckets full of fresh oysters that they caught! They invited us over and we gorged on fresh {the shells still had sea water in them!} raw oysters. Such a treat!!

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2013.

Posted on January 1st, 2013 by Tonia 1 Comment

Image courtesy of Bayfield, Wisconsin’s Hannah Stonehouse Hudson: Sunrise over Lake Superior, first day of 2013.

Hi friends! How were your holidays? We are still finding bits of Christmas wrapping paper in weird places around the house, recovering from all the over-eating, and trying to settle back into a work schedule after a gloriously long break from computers and phone-calls and to-do lists. It’s not an easy transition to make, hence here I am typing a blog post instead of facing that ugly mountain of work! Thanks for the distraction! I can always count on you guys to have my back, that’s why I love ya.

If you follow me here and here, you saw that we ended up staying home for Christmas instead of going to our families’ houses because of a badly-timed broken propane boiler. My family swooped in and saved the day by bringing their Christmas meal and all the merriment to us! We ate well, played games and exchanged gifts and it was so nice to not have to drive anywhere. I could get used to this broken-boiler-business, actually. It might just mysteriously break every year from now on..

But, sadly the broken boiler meant we missed out on spending very much time with Mike’s side of the family, so we’re headed down to them in MN this weekend to make up for lost time and to bite our nails through the first NFL Playoff game between the Packers (yaaaaay!) and the Vikings (boooo!) all together. Mike and I will be the only Packer fans in the room, so please pray for us. ;)

Last night, we celebrated the last evening of 2012 and the dawn of 2013 at a friend’s house down the road. It was about zero degrees (F) once the sun went down, but that didn’t stop a group of about eight of us from x-country skiing around their property. We wound through tall pine woods and over farm fields and in-between 100-year-old apple trees. The stars and moon were out in full force, lighting our way and giving us an excuse to occasionally stop and catch our breath. The sky was so massive and blanketing. We looked like little black ants under its cover.

Back at the house there was a sauna heating up, chili on the stove and gallons of clementine-rosemary cocktails waiting for us. Nothing feels better than a warm cabin and amazing food and some booze after a good ski. Conversations and laughter swelled right up until 11:59 when someone shouted “Oh Shit! It’s almost midnight!” and we all quickly refilled our glasses and scooted next to the person we would kiss.

There’s a lot on the brink for our group of friends in 2013. One couple is moving away for a job opportunity (the kind you move away for, because it’s that good.) One couple is having a baby. One couple is getting married. And a whole slew of us are soldering on with various irons in the fire. We are all so blessed to have each other for support, encouragement and, when needed, distraction. The same person I can debate politics with or confide struggles to is the same person I can crack open a PBR with and say “that’s what she said” to. Looking around the room last night I thought about how friends like this are so incredibly priceless and necessary and rare and beautiful, and how I feel like the luckiest person alive to have them.

So far so good, 2013. So far so good.

I’ve gotta get to work here, so I’ll leave you with a list of things you may have missed recently if you don’t keep up with me on Instagram or Twitter. Happy New Year!!

1. We butchered our turkeys. “Thanksgiving” the tom was 37 lbs, dressed! Photo from his last day right here, and photo of the end result right here.

2. We went to Lambeau for a Packer game with Jenn and Trevor and froze our butts off like any good fans would do. It was a blast!

3. We made our first sausages with shoulder meat from the pig. It’s delicious.

4. We made a little wooden barn for Christmas for our niece Amelia, so she can play with her wooden animals in it. She loved it.

5. Mike welded a tree stand for our funny-shaped Christmas tree. It even holds water! We might be on to something. Should we start an Etsy shop? LOL! P.S. Benefit of trees/tree-stands like this is that they take up very little floor-space.

A Very Merry Christmas to You!

Posted on December 21st, 2012 by Tonia 2 Comments

The world is tucked in for the night under drifts of soft snow.
The chickens are nestled all snug in on their shed.
The dogs are anxious and ready to go.
They know at Grandma’s house lots of treats will be fed.
But the roads are icy so we’ll have to drive slow.

Have a very merry Christmas, all! We are heading off to be with our families for the holiday. Looking forward to the good company and good food. Meet you back here in about a week!

Love,
Tonia, Mike, Charlie, Jack, Cleo, the chickens and the horses.