Monday, April 30, 2012

Sometimes you just need to cuddle with your mommy

Nutmeg has been busy this morning, and now she's all tuckered out, so she cuddled up with her mom, Bunny, for a little nap.

Nutmeg is one of the puppies from a litter born in early February, seen in the photo below:
Not a bad bit of growing she's achieved, in less than three months. We're thinking she's gonna be a big girl!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Birthday Blues

It's my birthday today - and it's a big one. I'm fifty years old today. I've never been one to care whether or not people knew my age, and I always thought the "staying 29" thing was kind of dumb. Why tell people you're younger than you are? Then you just end up looking old for your supposed age.

In spite of the fact that I'm not upset about turning fifty, I am rather grumpy today. (This is almost certainly related to the date of the month, so take my grumpiness for what it's worth - mostly just a response to those ghastly hormones.) It does seem like turning fifty should be a cause for celebration, or at least an opportunity to have a special day, but that's certainly not likely to be my experience.

My day, so far, has involved driving into town and spending two hours in the bank. It could have been worse, of course. (Even on my hormonal days I try to remain optimistic.) I could have had car trouble. I could have had to do all the shopping, as well as the banking, but instead Boo and Gus went into town with me and handled the shopping while I was stuck in the bank (for two hours).

Sooo, I guess I'll just try to get over my bad attitude. Besides, Rachel is making a pan of fudge for me, instead of a birthday cake. It's hard to stay grumpy, even on a hormonal day, when there's chocolate fudge in the offing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What a truly odd dry season!

It's the middle of April in the mountains of western Honduras. What does that usually mean? It means no rain at all, after months of almost no rain. Plants appear brown and dead. The leaves have mostly fallen off the trees. The cows have grown scary-skinny. The riverbeds are empty. Watching out for forest fires is a continual worrisome activity. Water usage restrictions help us stretch out the last bit of water in our storage tank until the rains arrive. (Check out this post from one year ago, to see what I mean.)

This year, however, things are different.

This is the one year when we were counting on having a dry dry season, so that Allen and Russell and their crew could build the two bridge supports that need to be constructed in the middle of the riverbed. The guys worked like crazy for months to get to this point in the construction at the time when one would expect the riverbed to be at it's dryest - but it wasn't to be.

We've officially concluded that there's no way the bridge will be completed this year. Because it's raining. And raining. And raining.

The yard is green, the cows are fat and happy, and our water tank is full and overflowing. It has rained most every day, for the past two weeks or so - and these have been hard, steady rains. This is all wonderful, of course, except for the bridge project.

Oh well. I know Allen and Russell have other projects to work on while it rains, especially after months of such single-minded focus on the bridge construction. Iris and I will be happy to have our husbands home a bit more often, and hopefully they will not be so completely exhausted when they are home.

By the way, I'll continue to post the pictures from the bridge construction, until I'm caught up . . . the menfolk have completed much more of the project than I've reported on so far.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ohhhh, a new toy for me!

I just discovered! It's a free online photo editing site. I took the picture I used for the top of this blog, and I played with it and created this:

I think Boo and I are going to have some fun with this site!

The Sky by Boo

Boo has been working on her photography again. All of these photos were taken from our property, over the past month or so. They're all worth a closer look (you can click on a picture to see it in a larger size). The last one is my personal favorite. It reminds me of a pastoral painting.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Ham Report

Yes indeedy, we ate home-grown, home-butchered, home-cured ham for Easter dinner! And the results?

It was good.

There is room for improvement, as we cure the three other hams-to-be in the freezer, but we definitely enjoyed the ham we created this time!

Now, here's how we did it:

I pulled the cut of meat (from the rump of the pig) out of the freezer on Monday morning, to start the thawing process. We weighed the meat, using our not-so-very-accurate bathroom scale, and came up with about 9 - 10 pounds (including the bone).

I used the recipe on this site for our home cure. The pink salt (instacure #1) was the only ingredient I didn't have in the house. I was able to order a package of this salt on Amazon, and Josiah brought it to us in his suitcase last Sunday.

On Monday afternoon I mixed up a double batch of the water, brown sugar, kosher salt, and instacure. Allen found a perfectly sized tupperware amongst our plastics, and this container held the meat and the liquid with no room to spare - so that the meat was completely submerged. We put this into a cooler, and added several 3-liter bottles of ice, to keep it cold. You can, of course, just put the meat in the fridge, but since we had just had a trip to San Pedro Sula (where we stocked up on some special grocery items) and had also received some edible goodies from Josiah's mom (thanks Johanna!), our fridge was pretty full. The cooler with ice bottles - changed for fresh ice every day - worked just fine.

Late Sunday morning we removed the meat from the cooler and from the liquid cure, washed it, plopped it into a baking pan, and started baking our ham in the oven at 350 degrees. Oh, I also took a couple of strips of pig skin with attached fat (which have been in the freezer since the butchering) and draped those over the top of the ham. I did this because a store-bought ham normally has the skin (and the fat under the skin) left on one side, and ham cooking directions generally say to cook the ham "skin side up." Our ham was completely skinned, so I hoped this would help keep the meat moist during the long baking process.

There are some things I'll do differently next time:

Although I followed the directions which said to cure the meat one day for each two pounds of meat, our meat wasn't quite cured all the way through. A few spots deep inside the meat, while perfectly edible good pork, weren't ham. The fact that I started off with a frozen ham might be a factor. Next time, I'll thaw the meat for at least a day before starting the cure, and I'll give the curing process a couple more days.

We'd have liked the ham a bit saltier. I might add more salt to my next brine, or I might just see if the additional curing time adds to the saltiness of the end product.

A small amount of the meat had a bit of a chalky texture. I'm not sure why this was - and as we were eating the ham at a family holiday dinner, I didn't take the time to examine if this was meat from any particular area of the ham. I suppose this could have been caused by the cure, or the baking process, or even the diet of the pigs - I just don't know. I'll need to do some research about this, and see if I can improve the texture for next time.
At any rate, we've definitely achieved ham! I'm happy, and with three more hogs in the pigpen (one of those belongs to Russell), I'm thinking we'll have a lot more ham dinners in our future!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Josiah's First Week in Honduras

Our new helper is here! Josiah is the 18 year old son of friends of ours, and he'll be staying for the year, to work in the ministry and help in whatever other ways he can.

Josiah arrived on Palm Sunday, the beginning of the biggest holiday week of the year. This timing meant that his first week has been different than our usual days. Allen has actually taken several days off from his work at the bridge this week, so Josiah has been helping around the home place instead of at the construction site. He's been great about jumping in with whatever work is needed. Here's a list of some of the activities he's been a part of so far (usually working alongside some of my kids):

- Giving our fluffy lapdog a hot-weather hair clipping

- Boxing up all of the Bibles and study materials we had out here at the property, as we're doing all of our book sales from Russell's house now

- Re-organizing some of my books, to make better use of the newly emptied bookshelves that formerly held the books we sell

- Administering flea and tick repellant on all nine dogs. This included having Josiah pick up several of the dogs to weigh them

- Hanging up (and later taking down) laundry at the clothesline multiple times

- Overseeing Ben's school work. If someone doesn't watch Ben do his math, he starts to daydream and forgets to continue working the problems

- Tearing down and re-configuring the pig shelter on Tuesday (a major job), and then moving the shelter to a new location today

- Occasionally feeding and/or watering the pigs

- Helping load the car with the boxes of books, and with boxes of Kids Against Hunger food, as we shuffled stuff between here and Gracias

This may not sound like a significant amount of work, but that's only over the course of 2 1/2 days. On Monday, Bethany and Ben took Josiah for a walk down our property, and showed him around a bit. We also let him have some time to unpack and settle into his room.

We're excited to have Josiah here with us. The only regret (and this from Ben) is that he couldn't bring along his little brother, since he and Ben are good buds. But it helps that Josiah has an occasionally annoying little brother of his own - you can tell that it has helped him build up patience as he deals with the occasionally annoying little brother in our family.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Another Scorpion Saga

I awakened in the night, about a week ago, feeling a sharp pain in the back of one knee. I groped for the light, and tried to determine the cause of the pain, assuming that the most likely scenerio was that a scorpion had stung me. We occasionally get stung or bitten by other insects besides scorpions, so I couldn't know for sure unless I found the culprit - but I didn't find anything.

A few days later, I walked into my room in the middle of the day and a movement caught my eye - it was a scorpion, walking along my bed near where the bed is pushed up against a wall. I ran for the bug spray, but when I got back the scorpion was nowhere to be seen. Aaaargh!

I stripped the bed, sprayed large quantities of Raid all along the edges of the bed where it touches the walls, and hoped, really hard, that I had poisoned the scorpion! When I went to bed that night, I definitely felt some concern that the scorpion might still be alive, but I tried to convince myself that the quantity of poison I'd sprayed made this highly unlikely.

There were no problems through the night, except that my asthma was acting up a bit, and I had to use my inhaler a couple of times. When I'm in bed, I keep my inhaler under my pillow, so I can easily grab it when needed, even while still half asleep.

Just as it was getting light that morning, I reached under my pillow for my inhaler, and couldn't find it. I flipped the pillow up out of the way . . . and there was the scorpion right under my pillow - right where I had blindly groped about several times during the course of the night, reaching for my inhaler! I really cannot believe it never stung my hand.

I ran for the bug spray again . . . but Gus had borrowed it the previous evening to repel an ant invasion in his room (the ants were carrying off the dog food, piece by piece). Not realizing this, I grabbed a spray can I thought was bug poison. Happily, I realized what I had in my hand before I actually tried to polish off the scorpion with furniture polish. Going old-school, I smacked the scorpion multiple times with a shoe. It isn't all that easy to smash a scorpion when it's on a soft surface like a mattress, but I had lots of motivation, plus I think the scorpion was already about half dead from the poison I'd sprayed the previous day.

And now, I can rest easier, knowing that there is one less scorpion in my bedroom.