The Happy Peasant Soaps

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rainmilk, Sticks and Stones and When I Was Young




I grew up in the suburbs. A city girl for all intents and purposes, but we gardened and canned food, went camping and took vacations at Lake Michigan. So, I was no stranger to getting my hands dirty.

My mother and step-father retired to 'Up-North'. We built a pine 'vacation/retirement' home complete with new wood stove and five acres adjacent to state land. We had pet rabbits, a pig named Petunia and some geese that followed my mom around everywhere, honking as they went. So, it came as an utter bewilderment, really, when I was asked to babysit for our Mennonite dairy farmer neighbors down the road from our 'retirement' home, and found their farmhouse, um, messy. Not just one day messy or, we haven't had time to tidy up messy, but really really, unfathomable to me at the young age of 15 kind-of-messy. This family milked an entire barn of dairy cows and it was the finest quality cow's milk. Creamy and fresh. They also piped classical music into the barn for their cows day and night to keep them happy and calm. This from a simple midwestern farm family in a white farm house of modest means.

Flash forward to today. Here I am living in a simple midwestern white farm house of modest means. When the wind blows from the north, we can distinctly smell the barns in the house and, though I don't have Vivaldi and Mozart in the stalls and pens, I do now own a milk goat and some sheep in addition to our farm's cattle, pigs, chickens and honeybees (I wonder how bees would like classical music???). But, the most succinct message I am trying to get across to you today??? My house is 'Mennonite Dairy Farm' messy! There are piles of clean clothes on the floor, just as the Mennonite family had. There are clean mason jars covering the counter year round, just as the Mennonite family had. There are bags of lamb's milk replacer on the kitchen floor and baby lamb bottles and herbal goat toner and milk pails and filters and bowls of slightly over-ripe bananas and sourdough starter and drying herbs and sometimes unmade beds (something you would have NEVER ever caught me doing, and still....still...this is a life or death only thing), and boots with mud and muck scattered hither and yon. Sometimes the cat bowl is empty and sometimes the canary chirps his special chirp for 'feed me, my bowl is empty'. Yes, I now understand, in full glorious surround-sound dolby enhanced color realization, just EXACTLY what was going on in that lovely Mennonite farmhouse from my past. Exactly.


Amelia, the goat, has been nibbling on banana peels, as she is doing here (yes one of the slightly over-ripe ones from the bowl in the kitchen).



And I have been turning creamy sweet goatsmilk into feta cheese,



and homemade pizzas with chevre, garlic, fresh tomatoes and onions,



and Amanda has been foraging at the creek with her daddy for wild asparagus (almost bigger than her),


On another note, we endured approximately 9 days of cold rainy weather, of which I had the pleasure of milking Amelia the goat, outside. After I finish milking her, I set the pail of milk outside of the gates of the pen to take in to the house. I noticed, last week that there were quite a few raindrops added to the milk. Rainmilk.


While spending so much time outside these past few weeks, I have come to see that getting rained on and dried by the sun or wind, and having twigs and hay and straw in my hair, and mud on my legs, amongst other things, is not so bad. In fact, I think we could all use a lot more time outside. A lot. I have never felt healthier or more relaxed. I have even paid more attention to the beauty of the sticks that fall from the tree limbs,
and the stones that dot my way. I have made time, though I didn't have any left to make, to take my children fishing in the pond near where the cattle are pastured. We didn't catch any large mouth bass or bluegills, but the dried grasses around the perimeter of the water were warm and soft from the sun, the poplar tree overhead clicked its leaves in a soothing rhythm and the water was sparkling while the birds sang out their warnings to the new young, that intruders were nearby.
The large 'stick' pictured here is a Witch Hazel tree from our woods. It seems we have an abundance of them and my husband brought me an entire tree so I could try my hand at making homemade Witch Hazel astringent.

When I called my sister on the phone and told her that the farmer had hauled home a Witch Hazel tree from the woods she laughed and promptly recited, in very thick Medieval English, "M'Lady! I've brought you a Witch Hazel tree from the wood. Be ye so kind as to accept my gift and turn these branches into a fine medicinal?" I love this image. Can't you just hear the sparse Cantata music playing?

I stripped the fresh bark with a pocket knife and snipped the small branches with pruning shears into 1 inch sections. Then I filled a kettle and covered it all with distilled water and boiled, then simmered it all for 8 hours. I then filtered it, added distillers alcohol to preserve and bottled it. I ended up with over two gallons of beautiful astringent to which I plan on adding Attar of Rose and Lavender.


Sticks and stones didn't break my bones, they healed me. May your day be full of natural beauty, relaxing thankfulness and maybe a glass of magical rainmilk.

3 comments:

basketsbyrose said...

A home is not messy just lived in! Living makes a home what it is!

Anonymous said...

YOur house is never messy..lived in like mine and our kids are the happier for it. I love coming to your home. Because that is what it is- a home.

sheepy hollow said...

Hello! It's been a while since I visited...so busy! AMELIA is beeeeutiful - I just love those Nubian ears! Your cheese looks yummy. Will you share your recipe for goat's milk ice cream? I'm planning to make some with my 4-H goat kids too! Your farmhouse is awesome. I often say an old farmhouse has a soul! Hugs, Jenny