Wednesday, April 04, 2012

satisfied juggling

This being a "real homesteader" stuff, none of it is hard, as in difficult.  What it is is a juggling act.  It isn't hard, as in difficult, to throw a ball up in the air.  Try to keep three of them going at once and see what happens.

This morning, for example.  As always, a plan is helpful and ours had gotten this far:  we'd have a fire because we had bread (wow, I've been baking this bread for more than FOUR years) to bake, and we'd have sausage and grits for breakfast.  When the milk came inside (from milking the cow and then goats), it quickly came to my attention that we were busting at the seams with milk.  Again.  This happens.  This happens rather continuously when you are milking.  This only doesn't happen when milk production goes down to match consumption levels at which point the milker inevitably wonders if it is really worth milking.

We'd been in one of those lean times of milk for some time now.  Or maybe we just weren't paying enough attention to the milk.  Whatever it was, now, without re-freshening the cow (still), but with adding three goats to milk, the milk would drown us if we didn't do something.  And I had just made cheese and buttermilk and yogurt and sour cream two days ago.  So, another batch of cheese. 

So, here's the juggle part:  First, there's another batch of cheese.  And the first batch of butter in quite a while.  And buttermilk buttermilk out of the butter whey.  And don't forget that the bread was already on.  And even as I'm still immersed in the juggling and sitting here writing this, I haven't checked the status of the goat milk but we have, umm, lots.

So, here's the juggle part:  The oven has to be hot hot to bake the bread, and the iron pot it is baked in has to have soaked the heat for an hour before the bread is put in there, and the dough has to have been kneaded (in a manner of speaking) two hours before it is baked;  Two gallons of milk has to be creamed then its temp raised to 88*, and inoculated with cultures to make the cheese taste good, and then held at that temperature;  The cream has to be pretty exactly at 55* to begin churning.  And husband, using the heat of the wood cook stove to make fudge so that has to come precisely to soft ball stage, then cool pretty precisely to 130* to beat.

(Did I mention that only one of our thermometers at the moment measures in Fahrenheit?  And that Celsius is way less accurate?  Still, industrial surplus thermometers are what we have and it just makes like that much more interesting.  It also means all my instructions have notes as to the equivalent C temps.)

(And did I mention that I was also doing laundry and that the washing machine has to be filled up by buckets of water because if it tries to fill itself up, it leaks (out the drain hose) (if you know what that's about, especially how to fix it, I'll love you forever).)

I don't know, now that I write it all out, maybe it doesn't seem like that much, but trying to keep it all straight, to time everything, to not drop any of those balls, it isn't hard but it takes a great deal of attention.  And frankly, going to work (making money) so that you can buy the stuff is a whole lot easier, and provides ego strokes that homesteading/providing for yourself will never provide.  And every single thing that you do to provide for yourself I swear produces more dishes to wash and more laundry to do too.  We're saved on the laundry mostly because we just don't change clothes as often as normal people, but nothing will save you on the dishes.

I'm thrilled to have as much feta and mozzarella as I care to eat, and motz that is that nice golden color that comes from the grass that the cow is eating.  I'm thrilled and my stomach is soothed to have that buttermilk and yogurt.  That butter is just too sublime for words.  And bread is the staff of life, quite literally.  Life is just plain better with real food.

But that becomes the next thing:  what's for supper.  Turns out tonight it is a stew.  And the rest of the family is heading to the garden while I finish the cheese and the cleaning, making sure to leave time to work my horse this afternoon.

And tomorrow is a juggle of work and riding and teaching and appointments and errands and farm sitting and manure.  We've gotten really good over the years at knowing our limits, at saying "no" to the one-more-thing that would make the whole day unpleasant, that would turn satisfying into stressful.

(this post has a soundtrack so start humming the song Satisfied Mind and read it again!)


el said...

That's cool to hear you're getting milk (still) out of your cow. I have milked through with my primary doe for over 2 years and I always wonder why more people don't do that: as you and I know, lactating's a lot easier on a body than the birth process.

And we have two other does to freshen...lots of babies expected. And lots of milk!

I guess the only thing I would kind of say is I am one of the only "homesteaders" a lot of people know so when I show up at a function with cheese or a salad they think I am some kind of god. It's a lot more interesting than talking about--much less doing--what I do for my paid work, that's for sure.

Here's to juggling.

CG said...

well, yeah, we get some of that "worshipful" attitude too -- and I'm not very amused by it honestly. I'm usually irritated that they aren't doing it. But then I'm the kind of guru who would slap someone for following me. That (following, worshiping) is SO counter-productive. Being inspired is good.

Also, showing up at a function with something that people will oooh and ahhh about is a lot different than doing it, day in and day out, for one's own consumption. As I used to joke, "heck, I don't cook from scratch -- I make the ingredients!"

But I guess I was also referencing in my own head all those people who think they work "so hard" when all they do is shuffle some paper or something, or maybe they do "work hard" but at something useless/with no redeeming qualities. And also, those people who think they can't do the homesteading stuff because they think IT is "so hard", when it isn't at all. And it does have its own rewards!

Perhaps I'm just fascinated with "identity" (in a psychological theorist sort of way), and work is a major way that people gain "identity". I think, sometimes, that "identity" could be defined as how you think other people see you.

So, really, I'm working myself into another attempt at my living without mirrors post.

btw, this cow we've been milking for 3 years now I think. She was a reject from a dairy, her production went down (oh surprise surprise) when she got to a certain point in her pregnancy. I think it has taken her almost this long to get used to being a homestead milker instead of a production milker. When we get our fences furbed again, we're just going to buy a bull and see what happens...and then sell or eat the excess. We've never been as successful in continuously milking the goats, but then that probably has something to do with the fact that the billy runs with them.

el said...

(Now I have this image in my head of you in flowing robes smacking your followers. Hah!)

Well, you're really on to something with the "x is so hard" thing, both in the perception and the doing. It IS identity for so many, and I'm not necessarily thinking about employment. There's a certain woman in my family who just expects the world to stop and bow to her because she's raising 2 kids under 4 and STILL makes dinner every night (out of packages, but let's not quibble) and I kinda shake my head, because she doesn't, you know, have a job besides.

I guess my mirror is one of a woman trying to achieve a certain base competency, you know? I want to be able to do fairly well (as in, not fail overmuch) at whatever it is that I am doing...and yeah, I stretch myself in the juggling, quite often, to do it. Do I expect to be, say, a prize cheesemaker? For my family, and maybe a few dear friends, yes, sure. But not at the expense of everything else I want to do well, like (here I am going to say it) making money at my actual profession. It's just keeping the ball in the air, as you said. And laughing when it falls, because it will. Sometimes, life throws you a lot of balls. And sometimes, people want to juggle.

But I do honestly wonder what people do with all their time. And then I am reminded of the existence of the television.

clairesgarden said...

televison does suck up a lot of time, destroys imagination, provides images that people lust after.. my neighbors think that everything should be as exciting as they see the soaps on television and do not realise it is 'made up'. they do not have jobs so have plenty of time to make trouble. they have no capacity for peace or mindfulness, and have now destroyed my peace so much I will have to move on. its difucult that I have worked so hard to have my own little home for nearly ten years and now it comes to nothing as I move into a room in friends house.

CG said...

sorry about your experience Claire. I also think "shopping" as a pastime, as a recreation, creates much "want" which then turns to suffering. People think if they have more stuff they suffer less.