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Friday, February 27, 2009

Bread in the Dishwasher?

This blog allows the best AND worst of me to come out :) It was very cathartic to have a forum to shout out how I feel and I appreciate the supportive comments. I will be content with what I have, I will develop new skills. While I do not believe in GOD, I do have faith that things happen for a reason and I have the grace to accept.

Speaking of new skills...I made bread in the dishwasher yesterday! The 5 minute-no-knead that has been going around the blogs lately. Our house was to cold, it wasn't rising so put the entire bowl in the dishwasher and allowed it to start a drying cycle-made sure it wasn't getting cooked and it rose beautifully!

The compact is still going well, I did buy two pyrex 9x13 casseroles-after looking for them first at the resale shop. We have been cooking ahead on weekends but I didn't have anything to put a double batch of lasagna in. I am going to need some new work clothes, I will have to scout out a local nice as new store-Goodwill is fine for jeans but they didn't have slacks there. So the pyrex and a gift purchased for E10's birthday are the only NEW things I have purchased since christmas. it really is not a big stretch for me-I'm pretty cheap ;)

The weathermen were calling for 6-10 inches of snow last night-it looks like we received about 4, what a relief. The chicks will be very disappointed-they Had high hopes for a snow day! I have to psych myself up for another 4-6 weeks of winter. I haven't ordered any seeds yet. I will be working on a new garden plan this weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I need a good rant so anyone who thinks I am this smart-have-it all-figured-out sort of person needs to get out now.

I am really good at stuffing my feelings down so nothing shows, sometimes so deep that even I can't tell what is going on. This decision to stay in town has really shaken me. From a rational point of view it makes sense, but my visceral reaction is despair and anger. Why is MY dream last! I don't WANT to wait 12 more years before having this chance. On the surface I am all calm and accepting but underneath when I loosen the lid a little to take a peak underneath I am PISSED. Mad at myself for not having the courage to take a chance. Yes the whole doing it for the kids educational and social well-being is a fine rationalization, a fine excuse-I'll just take one for the team-right? Allowing work and responsibility to come before dreams. I have this ache within myself I need to acknowledge. I may not act on it, but I DO need to acknowledge its existence.

I can stay here and be a 'Yardsteader' but I will always wonder if I copped out.

I'll finish with a quote which I love from the Lord of the Rings - the character Eowyn "a cage: to stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Plans for tomorrow

I feel as though I have reconnected with old friends. I have been away from the computer for awhile but you guys are still here doing these great things, thoughtful commentary on our world, our culture and planning for spring. I can feel the warm sun and smell the dirt right off the monitor. It's good to be back! Tomorrow is my day off work and I am trying to group my thoughts and plans together. I want to try out this 5min no knead bread i have been hearing about-my family is pretty sick of my bread machine stuff! Drop off tax stuff to accountant. Continue to work on cleaning basement- my oldest's birthday is coming up and she is planning a sleepover party. I thought I would give the girls the basement-move the TV down there so they can watch a DVD and maybe use the craft area to made bracelets or something. So that means I/we need to transform my dumping ground into a happy space!

I am feeling a need to create art, so that will be on my list as well. Oh yes -grocery shop and meal plan for next week. We are supposed to get 4-8 inches of snow sometime tomorrow, I am hoping it holds off until later in the day.

As far as the yardstead goes....I talked to some one at the village about rules and regulations-well most certainly no poultry in the village! (I am even supposed to licence the rabbits! LOL! I'm breaking the law already) I wonder if I can convince anyone that a pygmy goat is a 'customary' pet, they are certainly less of a nuisance than an outside dog barking incessantly.

I am finding myself looking at parts of my yard, thinking grape vines here? Where do the raspberries go? How hard will it be to tear out these bushes and plant blueberries? I think part of my problem is that in a yard my failures will be very visible, but so will my successes. I am boldly going where I have never gone before! Thanks for being there ya'll.

Monday, February 23, 2009

where dreams and responsibility collide

No, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. But I was in Las Vegas for a professional meeting, which is pretty much the same thing! Las Vegas is another world IMHO. It was good to get away for a while but even better to come home! I have avoided total burnout -for the time being anyway.
My 10 year old daughter is signing up for her middle school classes. She has opted to take all EDGE classes, which are accelerated classes. She is also getting excited about Forensics and Band class. DH and I are finding it very hard to take the chicks out of this school district. We have been listing the pros and cons of each location in our minds. We have decided stay where we are. We have about 3/4 of an acre in a quiet neighborhood, a fantastic (but big) school district, we are both within 3 miles of our work, and my Mom lives 5 blocks from us. We are going to focus on the urban homestead but still have our camper on Dad's 40 to play and cut wood on.
I am more than a little sad about this, but also excited about the potential to turn our lot into a model for what can be done 'where you are'. The drama queen in me still wants to turn my back on my normal and socially acceptable life, but the parent and responsible adult knows this will be a good thing. I will still cut way back on hours in May once we have more help at work. There is no buyer for my portion of the business in the near future so retreating just is not realistic. Ugh! This responsible crap is not any fun. I will put away 'escape to the country' for now and concentrate on energy conservation, creating vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and time with my girls.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nothing to Fear...

I have been walking around for a whole week with a gnawing ache in my belly, a tight chest and a sense of panic. That feeling of a large important deadline approaching and an impossible number of minutia which must all be accounted for. Now this IS a somewhat normal state for me in short bursts, but prolonged anxiety is really not me.

I believe I am freaking out over the prospect of really truly taking the plunge into voluntary simplicity. It scares the shit out of me sometimes, and other times it seems like the most sane thing in the whole world. With all the negative vibes out there about the economy and TEOTWAWKI and VGD (very great depression-thankyou meadowlark) I must be insane to throw away my cushy income, right? Or not. I had a talk with my business partner yesterday, about my expectations and plans once we move, thinking that would alleviate some of this turmoil. Or not. It's like I'm talking a foreign language to her. I guess I am.

A lot of this goes back to my sheople problem, I've dreamed of escaping the herd, I have a very good plan, but am worried about the execution. BAAAH!

Just a post-script: After reading through about a week of missed favorite blogs and some reflection I have decided to view that pit in my stomach as something else--excitement. The difference between fear and excitement is just point of view and attitude! K

Sunday, February 8, 2009

In My Grandfather's House-Final

In My Grandfather’s House… final
By: Amie Johnson 1976

On the other long wall opposite the fireplace you could see the loom and Grandfather’s carpenter bench. Both always seemed to be busy for Grandmother wove all the cloth and blankets needed for the family; and Grandfather, working with wood and leather, repaired, mended, and made all the farm and home equipment.
I spent many happy hours at grandfather’s workbench. At first I watched; then I learned to use the tools by carving pegs, wooden bowls and spoons. Using the last, I learned to make shoes. By the time I was fourteen, I was making shoes, wooden bowls, and spoon for myself and others in the family who wanted them.
Above the bench hung the tools; the metal part for these were forged in the blacksmith shop near the stables. Under the bench was stacked the raw materials for making things. I recall seeing dried lumber, tanned leather, wagon wheels and furniture to be finished or repaired. I learned to make benches, skis, and water pails that didn’t leak; and here I made my own chest or trunk.
At the other end of the house beyond the carpenter bench was the parents’ bedroom—usually open to the living room. A woven curtain hanging from a pole could be drawn across the entrance when privacy was desired. A straw mattress lay on hewed planks that were held together with cross pieces and wooden pegs. This rested on saw-horse legs. Concealed underneath was a smaller bed which could be pulled out at night for the two youngest children. There were wooden pegs on one wall where garments were hung. A small table holding a copper bowl with tallow and wick completed the furnishings.
The low ceiling above the bedroom and “gung” was also the floor for the storage loft above. This alcove had a small window and was open to the living room for better circulation of air. One could look up and see the woven materials suspended from poles—ready for the tailor who came around in spring. Grandmother Engel once told me that a visitor judged a family’s wealth by the number of woven pieces displayed in the loft, as well as the amount of smoked meat hanging from the rafters!
Also visible from the living room below were the cedar chests, decorated with rosemaling, where each member of the family stored his personal possessions. The name of the owner and the date of birth were painted on the front, embellished with fancy scrolls in bright colors.
Upon climbing the ladder and passing the stacks of dried flatbread, you would see a cot directly under the small window. This was reserved for the schoolmaster who traveled from one home to another while teaching the children in each district. The midsummer nights were as light as day until 10 o’clock and that is when I found time to sit up here and read from the schoolmaster’s library. Books that dealt with biography and history whetted my appetite for more learning.
When you realize the fact that my grandfather was five years older that Abraham Lincoln and then compare the homes they lived in, then you can see that Grandfathers house had many treasures. I’m glad that I was there to enjoy them.”

As told by Andreas Fluge Johnson in the year 1955

I have two more stories like-one is more about Grandmother Engel, and the second is a recounting of another relatives crossing to America and eventually establishing a homestead in Tigerton WI.

Thanks for reading--I find these recollections really moving-but I guess that is because they are part of my heritage. I'm also trying to glean some insight about their lives and find a way to incorporate some old traditions into my new life. Kris

Thursday, February 5, 2009

In My Grandfather's House - Part 2

This is part two.. A big thanks to my oldest 'chick' for help typing!

In My Grandfather’s House...Part 2
By: Amie Johnson 1976
Girls in the family always helped, thus learning these skills at an early age. Since we were a family of boys, Mother had a hired-girl helping her. Together they made dough and rolled it out on the table in the main building. What was the recipe? Oats and peas, ripe and carefully dried over the iron plates in the firehouse, then stone-ground at our mill by the river. The women just added water and some salt, stirring the dough until it was just right to roll out.
Bread-baking took several days to a week- depending on the number of mouths to feed. What an aroma drifted over the country-side. And tasty! I don’t think a hungry boy ever enjoyed anything more than I did Mother’s flatbread. I helped by keeping the fire going and carrying the bread to the storage loft in the main house. There it was stacked on special wide benches that were raised from the floor so that the cat could run underneath. He would take care of any mouse that dared nibble! When the stack reached the rafters, another pile was started until there was enough bread for six months. Usually bread was baked in fall after harvest, and in spring before planting time.
Bins for barley, oats and peas were built into one wall of this firehouse. These were the grains that meant abundance or a meager existence, for porridge and bread were the staff of life for people in our valley. Only once in Grandmother Engel’s memory did they face winter with the bins nearly empty. That was the year the crops froze in July. But that is another story!
Cheese was made in the firehouse, also. Here Grandmother kept the huge copper kettle in which buttermilk accumulated. When it was full, it was time to make cheese. I liked the young cottage cheese and the sweet preme ost; but I never could see how the older folks could eat gammel ost. How could they stand the smell? It wasn’t until years later that I appreciated the sharp tang of gammel ost.
I remember seeing tallow stored here also. This was used for making candles and soap as they were needed. You can see that the firehouse was in use at all times of the year.
Not so with the main house. During our brief summers we lived, worked, ate and sometimes even slept out-of-door. Grandmother Engel and I at the saeter in the mountains often feasted on wild berries to supplement our usual lunch of flatbread and slices of dried meat. Summers to me meant sleeping in the hayloft, running barefoot, tending the sheep in the mountains, fishing, swimming, boating and swinging the scythe with Grandfather Daniel.
Bit when winter came, the main house was our refuge. It was also a workshop, a living room, a place for cooking, eating, spinning, weaving, making shoes and furniture—all in one large room.
The entrance hall, or gung, was quite dark in the winter. You could hardly find the pegs to hang your coat and cap, or see to wash your hands in the wooden wash dish there on the bench. The water bucket, made of pine boards bound together with roots, stood on the floor in the corner with a wooden dipper in it. This bucket was carried daily to the spring and filled with cold fresh water. Any washing that had to be done—whether clothes, kettles or bathing—was done at the spring or in inclement weather here in the gung. There was no indoor toilet. When nature called, one followed the well-worn path to the privy back of the house.
Grandfather’s house measured about twenty-six by twenty-four feet on the inside. It was one huge living and work room that always smelled of new pine lumber and tanned leather, mixed with wood and candle smoke and savory meat cooking over the fire.
The huge stone fireplace, usually swept clean and not used during the brief summer, was the center of activity all the rest of the year. Near the top of the large opening were three stationary iron rods running parallel with each other, one lower than the others. On these rods there were movable hooks where Grandmother hung kettles for cooking or warming water. When the breakfast oatmeal was cooked, the kettle was moved along the rod to one side, where it could simmer or keep warm. After breakfast she began to prepare the meat or fish and the vegetables were added to the meat, making delicious soups and stews. I remember seeing three kettles of food over the fire at one time, but this was only when guests were expected.
Low one-person benches were placed before the fire on the stone hearth. When you sat before the hearth, you could see the long benches against the walls on both sides of the fireplace. These, covered with woven blankets, served as sofas or beds for the children. One was moved to the table when more seating –room was needed.
To the right, near the fireplace, stood the two spinning wheels. Most of the spinning was done by Grandmother Engel and my mother. I know the room was not very warm for they worked with fingerless wool knit gloves and sheepskin jackets.
Beyond the spinning wheels, at the far end of the room, stood the table. The top was made from a twenty-four inch hewn plank, now worn a smooth as glass and it rested firmly on saw-horse type legs. Using the movable benches, there was no problem in seating all of Grandfather’s eight grown children and their families when they came to visit.
Serving meals was a simple matter in those days. Much of the food was dried, and we used our fingers. When a kettle of hot food was placed upon the table, each person took his own wooden bowl and spoon from the beam above and helped himself. After the meal was finished and the bowls were scraped clean, each person put his own away, and the table was clear!

Link to pictue of Alhus.
Just for reference: saeter is a mountainside meadow used for summer grazing, also may refer to a hut in grazing meadow.
Gammel ost is 'old cheese' -supposedly a dessert cheese and that would make preme ost 'young cheese' I guess-I could find no google references.

In My Grandfather's House-Part 1

I was never very interested in family reunions. They were an obligation and uncomfortable for my introverted self. I am sad now at what time has taken from me, I will never be able to get that back, my grandparents have passed away in my teens and twenties before I really appreciated them. The following was written by my father's mother. Grandpa Andy was my Great-grandfather and this is part of my heritage:

In My Grandfather’s House
By Amie Johnson 1976

During these days of America’s Bicentennial, my thoughts have gone back to my own ancestors of Northern Europe. They had not yet begun to immigrate to America; but were living in the valleys surrounded by glaciered mountains of Norway.
At the time that George Washington was building Mt Vernon, how were they living? What kind of homes did they have?
Grandpa Andy (his real name was Andreas Fluge Johnson) lived with us for many years and delighted our children with stories of his adventures as a youth in Norway. How fortunate that I recorded these events and descriptions at the time, for Grandpa Andy died ten years ago, at the age of eighty-nine.
It was a lazy summer afternoon, I remember, and we sat in the shade of the big elm. Grandpa was resting after hilling the potatoes. I moved my lawn chair closer to his and, with paper and pencil in hand, began questioning him about the oldest dwelling on the Fluge farm in Norway. This was his grandfather’s house. Being the youngest of five boys, Grandpa Andy said he spent more of his growing-up years in his grandfather’s house than he did in their newer log dwelling built some distance away on the farm. I wanted to know about the older house.
Tucking a pinch of Copenhagen snuff behind his lower lip, Grandpa settled back and began remembering. I have written his account pretty much the way he told it that day.
‘My grandfather’s house was one hundred years old when I was born. The date, 1774, was carved deeply into the wood above the entrance. I used to feel proud to think of all the generations of my people who were born and grew up on the Fluge farm—not only in this house, but in earlier, humble homes. Catholic priests used to keep records of birth and death on rolled-up sheepskin parchment; but these were destroyed when the church burned about fifty years ago. So there’s no telling how long our family settled on the Fluge farm. I remember Grandmother Engel telling about the Black Death—the plague of the 1300’s—as it was told by word-of-mouth through the generations. I heard, too, of a Nels Fluge who, around the year 1600, made a name for himself with his feats of strength.
Only the oldest son, by birthright, could remain and raise his family on the farms in Norway. So I was lucky. Grandfather Daniel was a first-born son, and so was my father. I wasn’t, so at age eighteen I had to leave. I decided to join two of my brothers here in Wisconsin. I say I was lucky because my happiest memories are hose of growing up surrounded by mountains and lakes, and the friendliness of Grandfather’s house.
Not many people living today remember the great log homes. They were built and furnished entirely by hand form products of the forest. Instead of nail, they used pegs carved from wood. Those were the days when the ax was the mightiest of all tools. With a sharp ax a man could cut down the trees, notch the logs so the corners of the house world fit together, hew timbers, and even make a table, benches and beds.
The logs which formed the four walls of this building were at least two and a half feet thick. They lay securely one upon the other, sink-notched at each end. The dwelling was three logs high and boasted only five windows.
Two of these windows were located close together at one end and gave light to those eating or working at the long table or weaving at the loom. Two others, also together were located above the carpenter and shoe-making tables on the long back wall. The fifth window was at the other end, above the storage loft. Sorn Fluge (Grandfather Daniels grandfather) who built this house must have been proud to put in panes of glass. Stretched skin was common before this time.
The roof, insulated with snow during the winter, was a lively green in the summer. Grass and even flowers grew on it. Sorn made the roof by laying birch bark over the rafters and then covering the bark strips with squares of sod. It was tent shaped like our roofs; but there was no chimney. Either chimneys weren’t known then, or they wasted too much heat—I don’t know.
Instead of a chimney, there was a little roof door that could be raised from inside the house by pushing an attached pole. Usually this roof door was raised in the morning when the fire was built in the fireplace. It was closed for the rest of the day for the coals glowed hot and smokeless. Every housewife knew the secret of firing only in the morning and cooking over the glowing coals, thus keeping her iron kettles free from soot.
Under a third of the house there was a root cellar which stored the winter’s supply of potatoes, cabbage, turnips, carrots, onions and sometimes apples. We boys made daily raids on the turnips, entering the cold, dark cellar through an outside door at one end of the building.
To the right of the only entrance there was a stack of wood ready for the fireplace. Well I remember that woodpile! Before I could reach for my skis after school, Grandfather would sat, “How about the wood?”—and out I would go to chop some more.
The woodpile was handy also to the firehouse built a few yards to the right of the main building. This was where fish and meat were smoked and dried as they hung above the central fire pit.
This was also the place for bread-baking. Twice a year the women-folk baked the flat bread on huge cast iron plates over the fire. Grandmother Engel, sitting on a low stool, turned one huge pancake at a time with a flat wooden stick until it was crispy-dry and flecked a golden brown. Then she put it aside to cool as Mother came from the house with another thin round of dough draped over a stick. I marveled at her skill as she flipped the rolled-out dough which was two feet in diameter onto the hot iron—without tearing it.
My finger are tingling so I will stop here for now. It is a beautiful sunny day and I can feel my motivation returning! Kris

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winter, Go Away!

We had a close call this weekend. My oldest daughter was tentatively diagnosed with Whooping cough and our family was quarantined for three days until the results came in -negative! So we had three days of family togetherness which was nice. Rearranging work schedules was not fun but it all turned out fine in the end. We have had a local outbreak and one child in her class was positively diagnosed.

I am having a big case of the blahs. I'm feeling panicked/anxious which is typical for me in the week before my period. I'd really like to crawl into bed with a meaningless but fun book and an endless cup of hot cocoa.

I am going to 'Sin City' in a couple of weeks for a conference-I need to log 30 hours of CE every other year for my professional license. I am looking forward to it, I need some help to turn me off this trail of burn-out I am currently on. I dread it because i know i will be in 'domestic debt' for leaving my husband alone with the girl. I am going to attend some of the small ruminant lectures-goats, sheep, llamas, oh my! If I want to own them I better learn more!

On the up side -while cleaning my closet I found some family reunion/history documents I had stored (thrown) in there. There are stories and drawing of the home my great-great-great-(great?) grandfather lived in Norway. Beltane rituals, food storage and preparation, these are taking on a whole new significance for me as I try to go back (forward) to a new way of life. I will spend some time copying a few stories into my blog as I have time.

Erin the Red