Confessions of a Former Rhubarb Snob

In March, I turned down Farmer John’s generous offer of some of his rhubarb crowns to start some rhubarb in my own garden. “No thank you,” I said, thinking that rhubarb was so unpleasantly tart there was no way my family would ever benefit from having the stuff on our place. Silly me. What *was* I thinking?

In defense, my only real memories of rhubarb include my maternal grandpa’s enthusiastic offering of a juicy red stalk freshly picked from his prized patch. My mouth still puckers up in shock just thinking about it!

According to Farmer John, I was suffering from RDD–Rhubarb Deficiency Disease. A very common problem with a simple enough remedy–a serving of Farmer John’s wife’s delicious rhubarb crisp! What a mind changer. Next spring, I’ll be the one doing the asking, er, begging–more like it! All five of us are now very big into rhubarb! Our palates just needed a little educating!

This is the farmer’s wife’s recipe, and it is incredible! I’ve never ever had a fruit crisp with a better topping. This topping is a perfect blend of crunchy and melt-in-your-mouth, and making it with REAL butter is a must. Also, I’ve learned that this recipe only makes enough to whet your appetite. Doubling it into a 9×13″ pan is the only. way. to. go. Last night I fixed us a double batch, using six cups of rhubarb and 2 cups dark sweet cherries I had in the freezer. WOW. I can’t think of a dessert that compares. We’re already wondering how we’re going to survive once rhubarb goes out of season…wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! (Yes, I know they sell it in the frozen fruit section, but it just won’t be the same) :O(

Rhubarb Crisp

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place 4 cups cut-up fresh rhubarb in an 8″-square ungreased baking dish.

Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

For topping, measure into a bowl and mix:

  • 1 1/3 to 2 cups sugar (depending on tartness of rhubarb)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Add 1/3 cup butter and mix thoroughly until mixture is crumbly.

Spread evenly over rhubarb.

Bake 40-50 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

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This next recipe comes from the April/May issue of MaryJane’s Farm magazine. They have a great article on rhubarb. One of my new favorite magazines!

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 TB butter

Preheat oven to 375*F. In a large bowl, stir together first four ingredients. Add sugar, egg, and sour cream and beat well. Stir in rhubarb. Pour into a well-buttered 8″-square baking dish, or 8″ cast-iron skillet. With a fork, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Sprinkle mixture over top of cake. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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The good news about planting rhubarb is that it is a perennial plant, so it will come back year after year…Farmer John has had his rhubarb patch for 25 years. He’s got a nifty raised bed method going on at his place–several rows of recycled, inverted tires filled with garden soil and large leafy rhubarbs! Nice, neat and handy!

So, what are your thoughts about rhubarb? Does your palate need a little educating, too?

*My* palate is reminding me that there’s a bit of rhuby red crisp left in the kitchen…

Snapshots of the good life!

“Farmgirl livin’ makes for a more cheerful person, no matter where you are. It’s hard to describe in words what that means–you just know; you just live it.” ~Michaela Rosenthal, in the Apr-May issue of MaryJane’s Farm magazine

Check out this adorable Barred Rock chick, one of 156 that arrived this past Thursday morning. Fear not, these chickies are for laying eggs, not for butchering! (and not for possums either!!!!!)

Farmgirl livin’ to me is…

  • planting green beans barefoot in a gentle rain
  • flats full of plants I started from seed under grow lights
  • cute lil chicks with yellow diapered bottoms
  • cute lil girls with garden hoses–watch out!
  • fresh rhubarb crisp with a few dark sweet cherries thrown in
  • grilling steaks over a pile of smoldering logs in the back yard
  • puppies frolicking with chicks
  • letting the goats do the mowing when I don’t want to
  • cast iron skillet cooking–and fried chicken fresh off the broiler I raised myself
  • collecting clean bee-you-ti-ful brown and green farm eggs and having an overabundance for angel food cakes, deviled eggs and egg salad sandwiches
  • running down the road to the neighbors to watch them capture a swarm of wild honeybees

Aren’t these “cackleberries” purty?

Check out our fully critter proofed barn stall. See all the “playpens” outfitted with heat lamps, feeders and waterers? There are six such “stations” in this one barn stall…each with 26 chicks. Four Aldi’s orange boxes, and two large green wooden crates. All in all, a cushy brooder house, completely wrapped in chicken wire so no bad guys can harm the tenants. This project kept dh and I busy till 1 am the night before–nothing like waiting till the last minute…

See the post office boxes atop the green crate? Can you believe those small boxes were home sweet home to 156 chicks? Kept them nice and warm, and we had no casualties! Yay!

Another fun thing to note, the circle of sleeping chicks who’ve found their preferred temperature range…just beyond the radiating heat lamp!

This is the other half of the barn stall full of chicks…the blue barrel is full of organic chicken feed…$100 worth! We’ll see how long it lasts…

Lovely day for mowing, but who needs to? Just turn the goats out…see my irises? They’re the only flower that goats and chickens leave alone…to my knowledge and experience! Behind that grain bin is a nice expanse of green grass, home to our two field pens. When they are full of chicks, I get to traipse down the hill twice a day to check their feed and water, croon at them a bit, and move their pen to fresh grass. Thus the term: Pastured Poultry.

I’m in love with this 10 inch cast iron skillet my mother in law gave us. It’s the best for frying chicken,  scrambling eggs, baking deep dish pies…

By the way, this chicken was my smallest of the broilers, weighing in at 4 lbs 14 oz. Not too shabby! We even had a couple that were close to 7 lbs! One chicken was just enough to feed our family of 5, with one piece leftover. In telling my mom this, she said that in her childhood, one chicken had to feed their family of 8, and  her mom always claimed that her favorite piece was the neck. What a woman.

Saving the best for last…rhubarb crisp! Watch for a post soon in which I explain my reformation from being a rhubarb snob into a rhubarb hog…this is GOOD stuff! We are a family of converts…

This is the life for me! “Have what you want and want what you have”…right?

Hard Life Knocks on the Farm

fieldpenA horrible sight greeted me in the field pen this morning. Let me preface this gory tale by saying I haven’t experienced this scale of blood boiling murderous rage and trembling hysteria ever! And all over a chicken!

That shows you how sheltered a life I’ve lived, if nothing else. Let me remind you, I’m an Austin “pansy” transplanted into this mid-westernly rugged way of life. My husband has kindly dealt with most of our animal euthanization, and up till last fall, I wouldn’t have thought I could even stomach butchering chickens.

Two long days last week were spent helping our neighbors butcher their 100 broilers, along with 12 of our 16 broilers. I left four of my broilers home to “grow up” a bit more. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t.

On Friday night, something got into the field pen (pictured above) and made away with one of my birds. It left a chicken foot and back to tell the tale. Now this only slightly appalled me. The thought of a predator calmly sitting in the pen licking his chops on friend chickie WITH the other 3 chickens cowering in a corner watching?!? The nerve! The other thought for consternation was: Well then, now something has discovered a pen full of tasty treats and he will for sure be back for more! Argh!!!

Hubby assured me he had it under control. Somehow a varmint had popped a couple of zip ties off the base of the tarp and pen, and then had climbed up the inside of the tarp till he could get through the pen’s panels to the chickens. Hubby, an accomplished trapper, set a trap using the chicken remains I’d found, and though I had a few issues with leaving my remaining three birds at the crime scene another night, I decided to leave it in God and hubby’s capable hands.

After all, it was a perky Saturday afternoon, and I was blithely gardening and selfishly didn’t want to think about where to put three homeless broilers. Yes, I could have/should have butchered them, but I had a glorious day for gardening, a dry garden for once this wet spring(!) and lost myself for eight straight hours tilling, planting, making wide raised beds with my fun eight year old’s help…

Along came Sunday morning. Dh went to check his trap. Bad news. The thief  set off the trap, successfully stole the bait AND made away with TWO more chickens!!!

In a snit I stomped down to the field pen to gather up lone birdie intending to put it in a safe spot till I could get around to butchering it in the afternoon.

TOO LATE! Upon arriving at the field pen I caught said varmint in the process of enjoying one last luscious morning snack. In broad daylight!!! Good grief. There goes another fried chicken dinner!

I’m glad no one saw my snarling face as I gave that POSSUM the what for. If Christians had swear words, I would have used them. I mean, I screamed at that mangy, nasty, greasy nosed snot. And then I screamed for my husband!!! Finally he stuck his head out the front door and I yelled, “GET YOUR GUN AND GET OUT HERE!!!”

He kindly obliged.

Meanwhile, Possum is stock still, mildly looking me in the eye, probably wondering what kind of crazy weirdo could make such a racket. I can’t tell whether the chicken is dead or not, so I assume it is. It’s laying inert in the grass in front of Mr. Bad Guy. I’m standing there, shaking like a victim, throat burning from my hollering fit, heart racing, eyes streaming. SO mad and just willing my husband to hurry so Possum will get his just desserts.

Finally hubby arrives, pistol in hand, and possum scrambles for his life. How satisfying. Take that, and that. BANG BANG. We see the chicken move around in the pen and dh is optimistic.

“Maybe the chicken was just playing dead,” he says, opening the door and going in to scope things out.

I’m feeling more and more of my city girl roots. Frozen to the spot. About to melt into a sniffling puddle of writhing anger and grief. Very weird combo. I really think it scared dh because I’m normally cool as a cuke.

“Nope. It’s not playing dead. But it’s not dead either.”

Possum has been eating my live chicken from the feet up. It’s missing its entire back end, and it’s still alive!

Okay. At this point, I’m a bawling mess. I don’t care if I resemble my four year old after a nightmare. Thinking about that stupid possum not even having the decency to kill the chicken first. COME ON.

And you’re thinking…sheesh, you just participated in a killing spree of these same chickens only three days prior! What gives?fieldpeninterior

Well…to that I’d sputter…”But we did it humanely! And-and, that was the purpose behind the past eight weeks of growing up chicks. To feed my family, not a family of possums!”

So I’ve had all day to ponder this ordeal, and have come to some conclusions. Bear with me. You might wonder at my need to make this mean something…but I believe God allows all things for a reason, and that we can learn so much if we just wait on Him to open our eyes and understanding. After all, Jesus used many every-day things to portray his teachings through parables. So here goes. This is what I’ve processed about my emotional upheaval this morning.

The quivering rage I felt towards that possum helping himself so INHUMANELY to my chickens is NOTHING compared to the righteous anger of God when another one of His children dies without Him. The Bible tells us that “He is not willing that ANY should perish, but that all should come to repentance…” How impossible it must seem to such a loving God, that any of His creation could live a life for any purpose other than what God created it for, much less live life rejecting God’s free gift of salvation–free to us, but costing God so great a price–His son’s life.

How angry He must get at our apathy towards people who don’t know Him as their personal Savior. He’s given us very clear directives–the Great Commission,  for Heaven’s sake–and how many of us are actually actively sharing what Christ has done for us with our friends and neighbors and yes, even strangers at the grocery store?

You know, I was pretty apathetic towards my chickens’ plight, preferring to garden the day away. I spent from 2 p.m. till 10 p.m. playing in the dirt, letting hubby deal with the traps, and do the evening chores for my chicks. In retrospect, he thinks he only saw 2 chickens in the pen Saturday night, which means one more was whisked away during the daytime Saturday. I could have been more on top of things. Knowing something had gotten to my chicks was one thing. SEEING it with my own eyes on Sunday morning was an incredible SLAP in the face.

You know, in other countries and continents, mutilations and killings of Christians is something people see on the streets. Subscribe to Voice of the Martyrs if you don’t believe me. It’s one thing for me to tell you about it. But what if you had to watch it happen to your little girl? Or your husband or wife? God sees these horrendous happenings every minute on our planet.

What anguish,  grief and anger He must have towards the evil one, and yes, even those of us who go life’s merry way. Too busy gardening or homeschooling or working to worry about messy things like that happening half a world away.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8, that we need to be sober and vigilant because the devil is like a roaring lion, roaming the earth,  seeking whom he may devour.

God is a real and personal God. We are His creation. He cares about us to the point of knowing how many hairs we have on our heads! He knows every sparrow that falls! This is a loving God–this kind of love none of us can fathom. How He must long for us to exhibit even a blink of compassion for the lost who have before them the yawning hole of everlasting fire! Or the ones that are being martyred for daring to have faith in Him? How much time does it take to remain aware of the persecuted ones and pray for them on a daily basis? Why is it so hard to share the good news with the unsaved people in our lives when taken into account that they will burn in hell forever without it?

It supremely bothered me to see the wasteful demise of something I’d raised for a worthy purpose. It’s been worrying at my mind all day. Hymn singing and my daughter’s homemade brownies have helped somewhat, but I hope this experience stays with me enough to remind me that real Christianity happens in the nitty gritty ugliness of life.

Until next time,

Mary

On the Homeschooling Bulletin Board…

This is a “scrapbook” post for all our family and friends who couldn’t make it to Homeschool Presentation Day this past Saturday! What a great time we had, celebrating all our students’ accomplishments this past school year. I especially appreciated the Christian thread woven throughout the performances, from guitar solos of “Jesus Loves Me” to a cappella renditions of favorite praise songs…and of course, classical piano pieces, amazing and convicting dramas…plenty of budding talent and a great time of being with others who relate tobordercollietalk and appreciate the unique approach of this lifestyle.

My own children were involved in two group skits, yes, even our four year old was tickled to have two lines all to herself! Our 11 year old daughter did a fabulous talk on Training Border Collies, not leaving out a single detail of all the points she’d labored over in practice the week before. She’s come so far since last year’s talk on ornithology (she’s a huge bird lover), exuding confidence and audience rapport…which is especially exciting to her mother, who does much better in *behind the scenes* scenarios! Here she is with her neon green poster board which represents pasture…with cattle and a Border Collie velcroed at crucial points to be used in illustrating various stockdog commands such as “Come by” and “Away to me”…she finished her talk so winningly:

Now you can see why Border Collies are my favorite dogs. First, because they save so much time. Second because they make such great companions. And third, because I happen to own one.

And if you want to own one, see me after refreshments!

(lol, she was so cute saying that last line, wish I knew how to put her talk on youtube! Btw, part of the reason it’s so cute is that she really does  raise and sell Border Collies, and has for the past 3 years)

walkthru2Then the three girls did a ten minute presentation on the first five books of the Old Testament, courtesy of their Grandpa’s teaching them his Walk-Thru-The-Bible this past school year every Friday morning. My oldest prompted her sisters through each book, sharing chapter titles, highlights and easy ways to remember key events and places the Israelites stayed as God moved them through these books. We used a big map of Old Testament lands to trace the life of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Joshua.  The funny/embarrassing moment during this presentation came when our youngest decided–in a fidget–to remove her button up sweater and twirl it around her shoulders and head maddymadelynneskit1and in the air above her…finally our oldest snagged the wayward sweater, amidst giggles and blushings, and they got back on task.

Here’s my middle daughter (on the left) performing “Pray Continually” with a good friend…

And my oldest and youngest daughters performing, “Middle of the Road” with another friend…

skit1But the best part of the evening was the grand finale…a skit done by my good friend and her husband and three kids about the importance of being a good witness when under conviction!

Two more weeks of school left! We’re excited about summer doings which for us will include one day a week working at Farmer John’s CSA farm, tending our own garden and the *big* chicken project–raising 150 chicks to sell as laying hens in the fall. VBS is approaching quickly…as is an Awana Awards Camping Trip to a nearby lake…

May will be over before we know it. What’s up next on your calendar?

Here’s to Being a Thankful Kiddo

This past weekend I helped host a 20 year reunion for 50 ladies who, at one time or another, had been a part of a support group for stay-at-home-mothers that our church sponsors. Let me tell you, at this party, we had it all…

Free childcare for the six hours of party! Starbucks coffee bar with treats to welcome them in. A cloth bag (with flair buttons!) filled with goodies and all their registration info. Their choice of an ultra gorgeous beaded bracelet or bookmark. A catered lunch. A fancy tea party. A table spilling over with wonderful door prizes, including a weekend getaway for two.  A concert pianist to inspire us and an awesome guest speaker from out of state. Twas a grand event!

Our speaker’s main focus was on being thankful especially in the middle of  hard things, yes, even crises. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful when you’re at a Mom’s Day Off and being spoiled rotten, but how about when your roof leaks or the rent is due, or your child is hospitalized? Or in our speaker’s case, when God gives you a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

If we agree that God allows all things for our good, and that’s scriptural, then we can praise God anyway…He honors that kind of sacrifice.  He, uh, actually even commands it. In 1 Thessalonians and Philippians we’re told to “Rejoice always”…and in other scriptures, to “Give thanks in everything.” These are divine directives and we as God’s children need to obey.

From a parenting perspective, this is such a great concept to drill into our children, as soon as they’re crawling around taking things in.  I just have to share this wisdom-slash-cute story from my good friend, Jana. If only I’d been this smart in regards to brown spots on bananas. ;O)

Ever since my kids were little, when I serve them bananas, if they have a “dark” spot I’d go “MMMMMM, you get the yummy stuff. That’s the sugary part.” (I learned this trick from a psychologist I worked with pre-kids!) Today when my 4 year old got the last banana, it had a dark spot on it and he said “Mom, look! I got the yummy cinnamon!!” :) Rather than cutting this part off and teaching my kids it is “yucky,” I’ve taught them that it’s good. (I guess this mostly comes from laziness!!)

Isn’t this is how we should look at the trials in our life? Instead of looking at them as “bad,” we can see them as GOOD things God sends us. God has used trials in various ways in my life. At the time, it was a “dark” spot for me and I sure didn’t see any good. But looking back, I can look at it as sweet. His word says “… I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Pretty simple in concept, a bit harder in real life, but definitely doable. And so much easier for our kids if we raise them in these great habits from the outset.

Today we moved my oldest daughter upstairs to her own room. For about seven years now, she’s shared her room with her sisters and I totally advocate room sharing for bonding siblings! She is so excited to have her own space to call home tonight, but admitted to her sisters that she’ll miss them. Miss their talks at night. Miss blaming the room messies on someone else. *Wink*

Her little sisters were a bit jealous at the beginning of the move. They began retaliating by saying things like, “She can’t come in our room anymore.” But with a bit of encouragement, they were soon helping her cart her belongings up the steep stairs and letting her know she’d be sorely missed.

Teaching thankfulness is as simple as expecting your children to count their blessings. Are they upset because someone else got a pair of Nikes and they didn’t? Remind them that they have a pair of healthy feet and legs to carry them around. Are they wishing they had something else for dinner? Read them articles about people in third-world countries that have to walk several miles each day–both ways–to collect a bucket of well water pure enough to cook with and drink.

So many reasons to give thanks in everything. We’re just too used to having it all, huh. A little perspective on contentment never hurt anyone.

Praise the bridge that carried you over.  ~George Colman

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.  ~H.U. Westermayer

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  ~William Arthur Ward

Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.  ~Author Unknown

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say “thank you?”  ~William A. Ward