Winter book review…

Today’s favorite looks like a children’s book. But it’s not….. really.

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Our Miss Boo, by Margaret Lee Runbeck,  has line drawing illustrations by Peggy Bacon. The book came home with me from a local thrift store last spring. Old library bindings always catch my attention.

You’d expect it to be a children’s book. It’s rather short and simply written. The illustrations ( or “decorations”) make it look like it’s aimed at a child. But it really has much more to say to adults.. The little volume is a lovely reminder of the sweetness of childhood and the joy of simply living.

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Ms. Runbeck’s language is often tongue-in-cheek and always captivating. One sentence and you are transported into her world.  I found myself rationing the book…… one chapter each night, and looking forward to the next with childlike anticipation.

“What we wanted, really, was a house, and not a baby.      But the architect drew her into the plans.”

The adventure of parenthood begins here. There is a quality of serendipity in this story. The unexpected turns of life that define our journey….the joy of seeing the world through a child’s heart. I loved the atmosphere in Miss Boo’s house…. and I wished I could stay longer.

My take-home? Don’t ever outgrow wonder. Slow down and savor the moment. Always a good reminder.

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Sitting there at my desk, unaware and precious, she outweighed all the unanswered questions, and the uselessness and sorrow, and I thought:

“Of all the dear sights in the world, nothing is so beautiful as a child when it is giving something. Any small thing it gives. A child gives the world to you…it opens the world for you as if it were a book you’d never been able to read.

….a child has so little that it can give, because it never knows it has given you everything…”

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Cynthia commented on Goodreads.com, “I think this is one of those magical books that make you pause and see things differently. I’m in awe of the author who wrote this lovely little parenting manual in 1942…..”

I completely agree! The little book HAD me from the very first sentence! Generally I place these vintage gems up for sale on my Etsy shop at Fromthemousenest.etsy.com. But this one….I just can’t part with it. Miss Boo has earned a spot in my permanent collection.

If I had a little lamb, I’d take such care of him. I’d tie him at night under the butternut tree. And he’d never get lost. And if he was hungry I’d say to him, “Eat, my little lamb. Eat moon-beams and butternuts.”

Find a copy and read it….but you can’t take mine!

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A little goatie post…in the middle of a tough day.

My family is spending unexpected time in the intensive care unit of the Abbott-Northwestern Heart Hospital in Minneapolis this week with my Dad. What do you do at times like this?

You walk through the deep waters knowing the One True God has promised that they won’t overwhelm you and that He will walk every step alongside to an eternally good conclusion.

You fill your heart with gratitude for the blessings of having someone like Dad for an entire lifetime.

Larry knows me well…he sent me a video of my goaties. It made me smile.

I think Dad would smile to.

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A year of gradual progress on the Home Front….

NOTE: I started this post several weeks ago….but like so many things on a farm (even a little pretend farm) interruptions HAPPEN! So, better late than never? Enjoy the pics of warmer days:)

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We’ve been on the homestead for a year now as of September 29th. Natural to look back and see what has been accomplished.

We somehow managed to keep the lawn mowed…mostly.

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Welcomed 15 Indian runner ducklings , 26 Silver-laced Wyandotte chickies and 2 Nigerian dwarf kids to the farm. None had permanent housing, so the upstairs bathroom turned into a temporary poultry nursery and the dining room doubled as eating space for the humans, and sleeping quarters for the doeling and buckling.

Plowed and tilled a large garden….planted it, weeded it……. lost some of it to the chickens……… fenced it, and got some of it actually harvested.

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Started a temporary compost pile….the nicer one may be constructed next spring.

Learned how to clear snow from a rural driveway with a town-person’s walk behind snowblower.

Dug out a little more flower bed around the house …… Added Apricot Drift roses along the curve of the “veranda” on our anniversary.

Planted a few pine trees and 2 baby apple trees. My dad sent us a sweet 16 and a honeycrisp that are growing nicely just east of the wood shop.

Larry put up a temporary clothesline for me using trees in the front yard. Works just fine. Maybe next year I can have him make me the one I saw on pinterest….

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Wethered our first buckling.

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Went to pick up a new companion wether for Buttercup and came home with 2….welcome to one week old Burdock and Thistle.

Gave our first shots to our new livestock.

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Gathered our first eggs……and then LOTS more!

Harvested our first chickens and ducks…..a sad reality to life on a sort of real farm.

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Two annual First Baptist Church youth group bonfires successfully completed with no fire trucks needed.

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First dill pickles in pretty quart jars…

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Built a duck coop, chicken coop and goat home out of one of the old corn cribs….well they’re not all quite done yet, but useable.

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Built our first fence…..the goats now have their own pasture.

Planted our first deer garden back by the oak trees. Larry set his deer stand up and can now enjoy the view from above.

Taught the growing chickens and ducks how to come home to the coop every night.

What we’ve learned. What is left unfinished….

A LOT is left unfinished!

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Warm Bread Pudding…

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Winter on the farm is the perfect time and place for home-made bread pudding. And our Kitchenaid convection oven , which seemed like a ridiculous luxury when we first moved in, is the perfect place to bake it.

Amelia came for the night recently and this is what we worked on.

Got out our basic bread pudding recipe. Preheat oven to 350 and gather ingredients….

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melted butter…

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a loaf of torn up bread….some farm fresh brown eggs….milk…..sugar……

…cinnamon and Trader Joe’s bourbon vanilla.

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It’s already starting to smell good in here!

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Pop them into the oven.

One with raisins for grandpa , and one without for the rest of us. 35 minutes later the house smells fantastic and dessert is done! Now it’s time to make dinner.

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New career in the plumbing business…

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Our kitchen sink drain has been leaking…..there are so many outdoor things that need to be done before winter that I really didn’t want to bug Larry to work on this. So I just let it leak into the garbage cans and emptied the water with the garbage.

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But I was a deer widow last week…..so…..

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A couple of hours on youtube and a trip to the Home Depot later…..

First remove old sink strainer and all loose pvc plumbing underneath the cabinet…

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Clean up the old pipe pieces, cuz they seemed to be in pretty good shape….(slimy and dirty though!!!) Lots of soap and a nail brush later….

Run to Home Depot for new top hat and beveled washers…

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Putty the new sink strainer basket….hey….not that bad!

Clean out the sink REAL good and set the new basket assembly into the hole. Thread the nuts and washers on underneath as per instructions on the box….

and partially tighten from underneath to squeeze out some of the putty and form a seal. Looking good so far.

Clean off extra putty with plastic putty knife and repeat.

Now the basket is nice and snug.

Dry fit the pvc under the sink to make sure everything fits. Then wrap pipe threads with plumbing tape and put it all back together, hand tighten the compression nuts until snug.

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Fill sinks…..hold breath…..pull plugs and cheer!!!  It worked!

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No more wet garbage cans!!! (Monroe  inspects the job and gives it a paws up)

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The dangers of a Library Basement Sale……

The local public library had a used book sale….

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I tagged along with my daughter and her 4 kiddos. Thought I might find a nice old book or two.

Didn’t really need any….

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An hour and a large box later…..

Next job……sort into “keepers and sellers.”…

Photograph, research, catalog and post all the “sellers” to my etsy shop.

Find a place to store these beauties!

Scored an almost complete set of World War 2 histories by Winston Churchill….

a stack of Thornton W Burgess children’s books….Mother West Wind’s ChildrenThe Adventures of Lightfoot the Deer, Adventures of Old Mr. Toad….

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A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six…..and a pretty little Tasha Tudor.

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Can you ever REALLY have too many books???

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Pickles and other chemistry experiments…

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The first year garden crop is starting to produce. Got the ground tilled a bit late due to life’s challenges and unforeseen detours. But it still did surprisingly well.

Lettuce and spinach etc was last to go in and now looks like this:

The lettuce patch....
          The lettuce patch?

I KNOW, did that backwards like many things this year.

Oh well!

The sunflowers (both varieties) were a bit of a surprise. All were MUCH taller than the seed packets predicted. And the “apricot” variety certainly did not turn out at all apricot. Dark yellow instead. But pretty… and the sunflower seeds are developing nicely.

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Planted two varieties of heirloom corn. All rows were completely horizontal on the muddy ground after a mid summer storm. Amazing recovery, they actually are sort of standing up now. However, L’s decorative Wyandotte chickens made a feast out of the westernmost variety last week.

They enjoyed them a great deal and left almost nothing for the human tenants of the farm.

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Cucumbers soaking in Trader Joe’s produce wash….

First try at preserving was traditional pickles.

The grandkids and our daughter came out and helped pick. The plan was for very small whole pickles. Well, it is certainly interesting to see how many larger cukes were hiding out in the little patch. I swear, one day all are faithfully picked, and the next morning several monsters have appeared. They can blow up into mutants in less than 8 hours.

This is the first year in almost 20 that we’ve had a food garden so it’s been awhile since I got the canning equipment out…Hey! It was still there!

Found some fun uses for a few thrift store finds…

A vintage train case became home to all the small canning supplies.

And snagged a cute metal cart a couple weeks ago…..functions great as a temporary canning station. Nice to be able to move it around while I’m working! Love that it’s yellow…

Fresh dill and freshly picked cucumbers…..granddaughters packing and brining and screwing on lids. Really fun day. Looking forward to sampling these to see how our first run turned out.

Not too many things as pretty as home preserved food in clean quart jars.

Special thanks to the mama toad who guards our cucumber patch and keeps me company while I pick and weed. She is so polite…..moving onto the wood chip path while I work and then tucking herself in among the vines as soon I am finished.

Next on the list are dilled green beans, salsa, plum jam and who knows what…

Green tomato rescue….

Another lesson learned the hard way. Who knew chickens loved tomatoes?

The culprit.
                          The culprit.

The hens spent weeks strolling the garden, only eating the bugs. It was great. Natural bug control! Then…..one day……I found this:

A previously lovely pepper plant-complete with ripening peppers.
A previously lovely pepper plant-complete with ripening peppers.

Couldn’t see deer tracks, so blamed the bunny rabbits.  I grieved a bit. Last time I planted a salsa garden in the community garden plot, someone stole every single pepper plant just before harvest. Sorta felt cursed. All 18 plants looked this bad. Oh well.

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Still, the chickens looked innocent. Only eating bugs and weeds when we worked together. Smart little ladies…..until one day….one made the mistake. She attacked our tomatoes right in front of me! What nerve!

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Soon the whole flock was decimating the tomato patch. Efficiently picking the near ripe ones, pecking holes in the skins and expertly devouring all the flesh inside. It called for an emergency Fleet Farm run for fencing. In the meantime, I picked a few bowls of green tomatoes to get them before the enemy did.

Up went a hastily improvised fence that so far has kept about 98% of the carnage at bay. But what to do with bowlfuls of green tomatoes?

Green tomato salsa!

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                Simmering….

And it turned out awfully good.

So there, chickens….. We win.

The priceless love of a good dog…

The Priceless Love of a Good Dog…

At first her name was Daisy. She spent most of her time in a too-small dog crate. It wasn’t her fault that she may have grown bigger and stronger than her family could handle in their apartment.185899_10150111894201893_7320200 enza cropped_n

So she found herself without a family….on display… hopeful…lonely…. confused. Until my daughter’s family brought her home and rechristened her Enza, a name derived from the character in a wonderful story…..

It’s a tearjerker story.

190481_10150111894031893_6164445_n 188756_10150111893936893_5265794_n…….we should have been prepared.

181968_10150111894136893_3650152_nSo entered our Enza…..boundless with energy.

She chewed and swallowed dish rags. She loved messy diapers. She went on multiple forays into the kitchen garbage….. She simply didn’t know how to contain her gratitude for taking her into our lives and giving her a forever family. I think it took a good long while for her to realize that she could stay. She tried so hard to thank us that she knocked things over….even some of us.

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But, oh those beautiful eyes and that intelligent face. Volumes can be spoken without any words when a dog’s eyes meet its master’s. Her eyes spoke the deepest “thank you” every time she saw one of us. Every single moment of her life, her new family brought unadulterated joy to her doggy heart.  Exuberant…. wonderful…..(sometimes painful!)…. joy…..

I remember saying, “Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of this stage.” Ooops. Maybe not….enza copy

But I don’t ever remember coming to the house to visit without stopping for a moment to greet the keeper of the gates. I never forgot to give her a good scratch on her chest and a “good girl.” And she never forgot to thank me. Ever.



veterinary hospital signThen came the call in the middle of the night. Something was terribly wrong.. I drove to town to stay with the kids while my daughter took Enza on her last car ride. It was so obviously the right thing to do. Who knew how long she had been in pain, uncomplaining, staying at her post?

I watched my daughter bundle her in a blanket and drive off into the dark and my heart broke. For Enza, for her family, and for me. I said my goodbyes through tears and now it was me who was overcome with gratitude. For a beautiful dog who loved beyond measure and gave every ounce of her heart to all of us. Well done, good girl.lonely heart raindrops

2015-08-22_1440216432Now it is Dillinger, the English Spaniel, who sleeps on Enza’s sofa and snuggles with her kids. He keeps watch over her yard and greets me when I visit. He hasn’t replaced her. No one could. But he has picked up the baton she has handed off to him and he carries on well the job she started. They are a good tag team. Enza and Dillinger and our kids. It is a sweet sorrow to know the priceless love and the loss of a good dog.

Thank you to all the good dogs of my life.
Thank you to Freckles, to Tammy,  to Maggie, to Tori and to Inga. And thank you to Enza. Well done, good dogs….

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First eggs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First farm eggs....from the ducks!
        First farm eggs….from the ducks!

Had to take a few moments to post the pics of our VERY FIRST EGGS from the farm! Take a look at husband’s face….very proud daddy.

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Thank you to our awesome and funny looking Indian runner ducks for tomorrow’s breakfast….

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