Sunday, January 20, 2008

Trying Not to Come Undone

After we bathed the babies and put them in bed, Jay went outside to put the chickens back in the coop. They had been out for about an hour, as usual. I was unloading the dryer when he stuck his head in the house.

"Bad news," he said. "Two hens are in the coop. I think the rest are dead."

I put on some warm clothes and went outside to help. I didn't do much more than walk the perimeter of the fence to see where the chicken-killer might have entered. Jay found ten chickens, some with their heads bitten off. That means that four are still at large. I'm assuming that the chicken killer(s) took the four missing chickens with them when they left. I have a call into our neighbor to see if his dogs might have brought home a chicken dinner.

They weren't pets. I didn't have a close, personal relationship with any of them. They were all, at some point, going to end up on my table. But I did save them vegetable scraps because it's nice to hear the sound of happy chickens. And I did chuckle when our pubescent roosters tried to crow. They were actually starting to sound respectable. And I did like to watch them run across the yard looking all chicken-y when they were let out for their late-afternoon romp.

We put a lot of money and wo/man hours into this project, and it's aggravating, maybe even infuriating, that it was all for naught. Jay's outside in the cold and dark trying to teach himself how to slaughter a chicken. I think it makes him feel like our investment wasn't in vain. Even if he makes a total mess he can still get some practice.

I kind of feel bad for the two hens that are left. Their pals are gone, and who knows what kind of trauma they went through watching everyone else get killed. Maybe there's some sort of chicken therapy we can get them in.

So this is the end of Round One of our chicken experiment. It didn't exactly turn out like we had planned.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Carnivores' Biweekly Christmas

This fall the Bernheisels subscribed to a CSA with some other families in town. We don't have enough subscribers in our group to warrant the CSA owner coming to our town to drop off food, so every other week someone in our group drives to Hohenwald to pick it up. And then everyone in the group meets at a local church to get their orders.

The fun thing about the CSA is that we never know what we're going to get each time. Because the CSA distributes what's made available by the local farmers, there's really no way of knowing what to expect. In years past, this would have been cause for great alarm on my part, given my dearth of knowledge about cooking. Now that I've honed my domestic skills (slightly) I find myself giddy with anticipation every time Jay walks through the door with his two cold-storage bags full of meat.

Sometimes the food turns out great. The other day I used a chuck roast to make a rockin' vegetable beef stew courtesy of FoodNetwork and Paula Dean. We've also roasted few whole chickens and grilled out lots of pork chops.

Sometimes things don't go so well, though. We gnawed our way through some darn chewy pork ribs the other night, barely getting enough meat off to fill our bellies. And the ground beef is so lean that just a few extra minutes on the grill will turn hamburgers into hockey pucks.

But the quality of the meat is unreal. Ground beef browning in a pan makes the whole house smell rich and musky. Even the typically-dry white meat from a chicken breast is sweet and juicy. The bacon has an unbelievably rich flavor and even the pork ribs are tasty if first baked in the oven before being grilled.

Before, when I shopped for our meat, it was easy for me to remember the inventory in the freezer because I had chosen it myself. Now, I have to make a list of what we receive in our order to help me recall what's waiting to be eaten. Every morning I read out a list of what's left in the freezer and Jay and I get excited as we choose what to have for dinner.

Last year I was talking to my grandmother, who is an unbelievable cook, about the current state of health and diet in our country. She said that she was raised to believe that no meal was complete without a starch of some kind, but in the past few years she realized that there was really no good reason for that. I agreed with her at the time, but now I understand why our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were so used to having a potato or rice or bread with a meal--because good quality meat is expensive! On more than one occasion I have pulled out a one-pound package of pork chops, turned it over in my hands, and wondered if it was enough by itself or if I should take out another to go along with it. Hating to forfeit another meal's worth of meat, I often choose to open a box of couscous or make a tabbouleh salad. Is it healthier? I don't know. But it's one of the few sacrifices I'm willing to make for the sake of saving a buck or two on food.

This week I'll be figuring out what the heck to do with a pork roast. I say toss it in the crock pot. Jay says pull it and make an Asian dish. The good news is that we have two, so let the experiments begin!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Things to Make Me Blow My Drink Out of My Nose

The scene: Joshua's room. We're putting together his new Solar System Puzzle for the umpteenth time. He's gotten the hang of the pieces, so now we're working on identifying the planets. He's especially taken with Venus, probably because it's located at the bottom of the puzzle where he has a good view of it. I ask him to identify the letters in Venus.

Mama: What's that letter?

Joshua: V!

Mama: And that one? (We continue on)

Joshua: E. N. U. S!

Mama: What does that spell?

Joshua: JOSHUA!

A few minutes later he becomes interested in the blue planets at the top of the puzzle.

Joshua: What's that one?

Mama: Neptune.

Joshua: What's that one?

Mama: Uranus. (Yoo-Rey-Nuhs)

Joshua: That's Joshua's Ranus!

I love my job.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I Hereby Resolve

In a surprising change from years past, I have made a New Year's resolution. That's right, just one. And if there's just one it must be a doozy, right? Oh, you bet it is.

Are you ready?

Hang on to your hats...

Hold on to your seats...

Here it is...

I hereby resolve to be in bed with the lights out by 9:30 at least four nights each week.

Whew. Didn't think you could handle that much excitement, did ya?

I figure that with that one resolution I could actually accomplish a lot.
  1. It will definitely make me a better parent. Well, at least a more well-rested, patient, and tolerant one.
  2. I'll be healthier. Maybe I'll even get rid of this pesky middle ear issue that's been bothering me for almost four weeks.
  3. I'll lose weight. See, in order to actually be tired enough to go to sleep at 9:30, I have to cut out Jay's evening dessert-making experiments. That's four nights per week without dessert. My taste buds will suffer but my waistline will thank me.
So there it is. The resolution of an old mama. I already made it last night and I'm gunning for it again tonight. The excitement around here is almost too much to handle.