Category Archives: friends

With the cows on a winter day.

A cup of tea with Farmer Betty, that was all that Pippin asked for. Instead, five of us drank cups of the freshest milk at the close of a dairy-rich afternoon.

Nearly twenty years ago (we all pinch ourselves here to be sure this is real) Pippin worked on this dairy for a summer, and the intimate and intense dailiness on her part joined with the great hearts of all three current generations of the farmers to create a bond with our whole family.

Betty gave us a very hands-on tour and let the children help bring the cows into the barn for milking, carry dry feed and milk to heifers and calves, pet the cows who were okay with that, and peer into the giant tank to watch milk come straight from the milking machines through a cooling device.

This farm is not too far from the ocean, and when rains are heavy the tides affect the creeks on the property. The pasture was flooded only a few days previous, so we definitely needed our mud boots. Everyone except me had rubber muck boots, but my solid Vasque hikers worked well, and were easily sprayed off before we entered the milking parlor. All the kids enjoyed testing the feel of their boots in the varying muckiness of the terrain.

I liked the cow dog Lady, who looked just like a pet we had when I was a teenager; she liked to snuggle up to me. We heard from the other family farmers that she is affectionate with them, but only responds to Farmer Betty’s commands as to herding the cows.

Unlike the milk that the calves drank from buckets and bottle, what we got in cups had already been brought to a cool temperature; it wouldn’t be further processed until it reached the creamery. I hadn’t drunk raw milk in many years and it tasted pure and wholesome. Betty asked the children if they could taste alfalfa, or clover maybe? Or floodwaters? 😉

These farmers can still remember the old days when the milk warm from the cows would flow over exposed metal pipes containing freon, for quick cooling. When everyone went to fully contained conduits for more sanitary transport, the taste of the milk changed because it was not ever allowed to “breathe.”

I was soaking up the whole delicious atmosphere of the place; it will likely be a long time before I experience a milking parlor, with its aromatic mix of disinfectant and sweet milk, or a pasture wet with spring grass and manure. The air was chill, and our feet numb in the wintry mud. As we were getting in the car to go home Lady was still at the ready, and over the cow barns a full moon was rising.

Beets in the farm box led to this!

It was a mildly wild evening with eight kids scampering upstairs and down around my house, playing the piano, building with Legos, occasionally squealing, being happy and good. They weren’t my grandchildren, but most of two young families from church who blessed me by coming to eat my soup.

Recently I had received cabbage and beets in my farm box, it being the season for such vegetables. Ah, borscht! Then I ate the red beets beforehand, and my borscht was made with golden beets, so it was not so exciting visually. But it was beefy and really yummy.

There was more of it than I could eat, and the obvious solution to that problem is dinner guests. I invited one family of seven to start with, but the afternoon of The Event, my goddaughter Mary’s siblings (we’ll call them Family B) were being cared for at Family of Seven’s house (call them Family W), and Mother B and Mary got held up and couldn’t retrieve them when planned; I drove 20 minutes and brought them to my house (Mom W’s car couldn’t fit any more bodies) so that they could eat with us and we could proceed as planned.

The dads B and A were nearby, too, one having arrived by train in the neighborhood – and somehow all three vehicles and two dads arrived at my house at 5:00, and we soon gathered around two tables for our soup and bread. I’ve been wanting to get to know Family W better, and it worked so well for their children to have B children around for their first visit to my house.

It occurred to me a little late, when I was halfway up the highway to do my part in the ferrying, that I could have just taken my soup to their house, and it would have been much easier for everyone. But not as much fun for me. In many ways, soup is useful and satisfying.

A gathering of godmothers.

As I was scrubbing and shining the windows on a brisk afternoon, I made peace with myself over the tea party. Housemate Susan and I had planned one since the middle of Advent, but as the date grew closer the argument played in my mind, about whether it was ridiculous to take on another project right now, or perfectly sensible.

Now I knew it was worth it, because otherwise I don’t know when I’d have gotten around to the windows. And cleaning around the lower reaches of the kitchen, etc. The day before, I remembered that I like to use my vintage white napkins at tea parties, and I actually located them upstairs, where every room but Susan’s is dreadfully chaotic for reasons I’ll go into later. I ironed about ten soft cloths with help from a spray bottle of water infused with lemongrass oil. Happiness.

What about a centerpiece for the table? I was using my birds-and-forest table runner, which made me think to check by the creek for some berries and conifer branches, of which I brought home a bagful. All of that had been washed by rain, but was still fresh enough that not one berry fell off.

In the early stages of our idea, the party had been named a Godmother Party. I wanted very much to have the female members of Susan’s goddaughter Gigi’s family, and then it followed naturally to invite my three goddaughters who live in the area, and my godmother, and the godmother of my goddaughter’s sister… and so it went. Not everyone could come in the end, but it was a beautiful time. The little girls got to play outside in the playhouse a bit; the grownup ladies enjoyed a relaxing cup of Christmas tea, near the cheery fire of oak logs that Susan carefully tended. No rush.

Of tea, we had three pots full. “Joyous Jasmine” green tea came from Brewlette, a hipster sort of Indian source you can find on Facebook, in a gift pack from Kate. That was the most flowery, aromatic tea I have ever experienced.

We had a strong black tea from Russia, which came in this churchly tin, and another delicious and festive blend named “Nutcracker Rooibos” — The children drank that as it is caffeine-free.

Cookies, peanut brittle, mini-quiches, chocolates, fancy nuts, and thick slices of my dense Swedish sourdough rye, with plenty of butter. I haven’t mentioned yet the lemony Greek butter cookie twists that Susan made, but you can see below how cute they are.

‘Twas a Fifth Day of Christmas feast!

Bright day and shining friend.

After two cloudy days, one of which was a little drizzly “down here,” we woke this morning to bright blue skies. As I was sitting at the breakfast table I noticed that the mountains in the distance had snow on them, and were transformed. Their changed appearance added contrast and texture to the entire landscape. 🙂 I would go on the deck and take a picture of Pikes Peak as soon as I ate the last bites of scrambled egg.

I forgot to do it, but I did take a picture of my sourdough sponge that I had put to ferment the night before. There isn’t a large enough bowl here for it so I had put it in a casserole and then set the lid on. It was nice and bubbly this morning and I put the lid back on. In a couple of days it will be sour enough for me to want to make some kind of bread with it.

I forgot to take that mountain picture because I was so excited about my trip to the Denver area today to see blogger Pom Pom! She and I have known each other through our blogs for nearly ten years, but this was to be our first in-person encounter.

It took me 45 minutes to make the drive, in Soldier’s little Honda Fit with its stick shift. It makes me feel younger to drive a manual transmission; when my back is not out it is fun. The short trip was pretty nice, watching the sky and few clouds, and the fascinating and varied terrain, which I resolved to read more about. What is this — the high desert, the high prairie, a high mountain valley, or something else? I got more views of the snowy peaks on my drive there, and again late in the afternoon on my return. The topographic high point of the drive was Monument Hill, 7300 ft.

My time with Pom Pom was quite lovely. Of course she is a much fuller and whole person when encountered altogether and not just through words, and I already knew that I loved her. We did talk and talk, and we took a walk around her neighborhood that is very colorful with turning leaves. She gave me a yummy lunch, with the slenderest candles burning like sun rays out of apples decorating our table. I wanted to take pictures of everything in her house, but I didn’t take one picture, because she in her shining self commanded my interest — my very self-centered interest, it appears, because I do believe she got me to talk about me 80% of the time. Well, we will meet again and I hope again, when I visit Soldier and Joy in the future.

Here is something so surprising, that Pom Pom and I found out today. We talked about our book groups, and what we had been reading, etc., and discovered that the current selection for each of them is a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s stories. How unlikely is that? Her group is meeting before mine so she may help me prepare for a challenging discussion.

This evening I interrupted my dinner when I saw the sunset, already fading, and took its picture. Next week we may get some snow, before I return home. And one day maybe I’ll get an image of the snowy mountain view posted here. For now, to you, a Colorado evening turned to “Good-night!”