So long, my little Peanut…

The day we got Peanut

The day we got Peanut

It seemed like yesterday that Curt and I decided to get a puppy.  We were just college kids wanting a little animal to care for, not realizing the adventure that lay ahead of us.  On a beautiful, sunny day in June of 1999 we traveled from Omaha about an hour to the small town of Red Oak, Iowa.  We’d found an ad in the paper (imagine, no Craigslist!) about a dappled wiener dog that was for sale and decided to see if we liked her.  No one I know has ever gone to see a puppy and not returned with it in hand.

Taking our new little puppy

Taking our new little puppy

When we arrived, the local veterinarian who bred and was selling the doxies said she was the last one of her litter, the runt.  He brought us to a room with the runt and two other tan doxie puppies.  The two tan ones were playing together, the black and silver dappled one was on her own, sniffing the edges of the room.  My first instinct was to go for one of the tan ones, clearly they were playful and got along well with other dogs.  But Curt turned to me and said he really liked the dappled one.  “She’s different and she’s the runt,” were some of his arguments to win me over.  I thought she looked rather odd with her speckled fur, but Curt insisted that she was unique.  Curt very rarely states his preference on things, so I’d learned that when he does, it was best to go along with him.  Irregardless, the decision was over once we held her.  We were sold.  This little puppy was coming home with us that day.  Little did we know, at the time, how significant her exploring on her own would be and how that would define her personality.

The drive home was memorable.  I had never had a dog before and was getting used to holding her on my lap, while also being fearful of her peeing on me (which she never did).  She crawled up onto my shoulder and for awhile was sitting across the back of my neck.  While we drove back to Omaha we began to come up with names for our little puppy.  For some reason, all of mine centered around food and within a few minutes I blurted, “How about Peanut?”  Peanut just seemed perfect.

Curt and Peanut, the first day we got her

Curt and Peanut, the first day we got her

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, we began to fall in love with our Peanut.  We treated her like our baby and, truly, she felt like one to us.  She relied on us for food, shelter and companionship and we gave all of that to her abundantly.  After seeing a picture of this little odd-looking dog, my dad told me, “She looks like a dog only a mother could love.”  That couldn’t have been closer to the truth.  I soon began to empathize with her and what I thought she must be feeling.  This may sound ridiculous, but not wanting her to be lonely by herself on the ground, she could often be found studying with me on the table or chair, or eating dinner on Curt’s lap and from the first night we brought her home, she slept in our bed.  She was our baby.

Typical night of studying

Typical night of studying

A dog only a mother could love

A dog only a mother could love

It became evident that there was a reason Peanut didn’t associate with the other dogs that first day we met her.  As we watched her personality manifest itself, we learned that she much preferred to be on her own, sniffing and finding exciting things.  She was quite adventurous, completely disobedient and very strong-willed.  She didn’t care about sitting, staying or coming, she simply followed her nose and went where it led her.  We took her to Memorial Park in Omaha, where she fearlessly played with dogs much bigger than her and chased after squirrels from tree to tree.

As usual, lost in the grass :)

As usual, lost in the grass in the apple orchard 🙂

Her favorite place by far was the farm in Percival, Iowa, the house and acreage where Curt grew up and where his parents lived.  Surrounded by miles of soybean and corn fields, it was a dog’s utopia.  As soon as we turned off the main highway, Peanut would begin to sniff the air, smelling all the animals and other “wild” scents in the air.  Within a mile of the house, her head would be clear out the window, ears flapping in the breeze and tail wagging uncontrollably.  Pulling into the driveway, she would paw at the door, anxiously waiting to be let out.  Once we opened the door, she flew out and would disappear into the yard.  Her innate hunting instincts would lead her to the bases of trees trying to catch squirrels and through the apple orchard following the scents of rabbits.  I smile remembering the sound of her bark as she desperately tried to catch up to squirrels clearly out-running her across the yard.  Although she never caught one, to my disappointment she had a few baby rabbits for Easter.  When we moved to Oregon and began backpacking, Peanut’s spirit for adventure happily steered us along trails through old-growth forests and her passion for snuggling made her the perfect sleeping bag companion for me.

Camping in central Oregon

Camping in central Oregon

Peanut’s nose and obliviousness often got her into trouble though.  We almost lost her as a puppy on the farm once, when she disappeared into the cornfields.  She was lost for over an entire day and night, and we feared that perhaps a coyote would get her.  I couldn’t sleep and my heart ached to think she would die alone.  Thank God that didn’t happen, but it wouldn’t be the first time that this dog would cause us anxiety.  Over the course of her life, she would get bitten by three different dogs, inhale three boxes of chocolate and would nearly die on a cold Oregon beach.  Thankfully, she always made it back to us and we swore she would live forever.

Despite all the running and romping, Peanut’s favorite pastime was sleeping.  She could’ve, and often did, sleep for hours upon hours.  And it wasn’t uncommon for me to have to drag her out of bed at noon.  When I would come to get her, she would roll on her back and look at me as though to say, “Can’t you see how comfy I am?  Please don’t move me.”  I wondered what she dreamt about, as she yipped and appeared to run in her sleep.  Chasing after a squirrel probably.

Peanut and Mango cuddling as puppies

Peanut and Mango cuddling as puppies

Despite being blind, for awhile Peanut could still locate a cozy place to curl up

Despite being blind, for awhile Peanut could still locate a cozy place to curl up

Life was great for her up until about two years ago in early 2011 (she was 13), when we began to notice Peanut tripping while walking or when trying to jump on our front porch.  At the same time, the colors of her eyes had also began to cloud, which the vet attributed to normal age-related sclerosis.  Over the course of 6 or so months, about the time Laird was a year and a half, her eyesight appeared to get much worse.  Suddenly she was tripping all the time and wasn’t able to find her way back to our house, and she seemed less interested in going for walks.  There was now a definite cloudiness in her eyes and, hoping that it was just cataracts that a simple surgery could correct, we took her to an eye vet later that year.  I was devastated to hear that she had retinal degeneration, a condition that had no cure and would eventually leave her blind.  Within a few months, our beloved dog, who had slowed down but was still full of spunk, could see nothing but faint shadows.  Amazingly, she still managed to get around our house, finding her way to her water dish and up the ramp onto the couch.  But, it was clear, the fire in our feisty Peanut was diminishing.  What saddens us most about Peanut’s deterioration was that it coincided with Laird’s becoming a toddler and Leini’s birth, meaning it all happened without Curt or I really noticing.  It pains me to say this, but the once abundant pictures of her and Mango became nonexistent and both dogs, who had been the center of our lives, were barely noticed at all.

What baby?  I need to catch up on my sleep.

What baby? I need to catch up on my sleep.

A year ago, shortly after Leini’s birth in early 2012, it occurred to me that Peanut was completely blind.  And it seemed that the loss of her eyesight was defeating her spirit.  She simply slept all day, her body began to become quite frail due to inactivity and she no longer wanted to do anything.  I matter-of-factly stated that I didn’t think Peanut would live through the summer.  She did, but she didn’t appear happy.  In fact, she bumped into everything and howled incessantly whenever she felt that she was alone.  Having a new baby and a toddler to manage, I found her howling and need for constant attention to be more than I could handle and would become frustrated with her.  I am filled with regret when I look back at the way I treated my most faithful companion during her time of need.  How did I let life steer me away from being compassionate?

One of the last times she would explore the park in the spring of 2012

One of the last times she would explore the park in the spring of 2012.  She could barely see.

Within the last month or so, Peanut got worse.  Whereas before, we could place her in a comfortable spot and she would eventually fall asleep.  Now, she was pacing in circles and every time we tried to settle her into her bed, she would get up and continue to bump around the house.  She was anxious, depressed, lost and confused.  She needed help.  She needed peace and she begged us for it in her howls.  We just didn’t realize it until now.

DSC_3499

Putting your dog to sleep is a confusing act to do.  To find that perfect time is emotionally taxing, too soon and you are cutting short the potential in a life, too long and you are putting your dog through misery it doesn’t need to suffer.  Not only do you have to make this decision, but you also have to deal with the emotional pain of losing your companion.  I didn’t realize my responsibility as a pet owner was to make this decision for my dog.  I simply thought she would do it on her.  She would have, eventually, but not without suffering through days and possibly years of mental torture.  In retrospect, I wish I could have saved her from the last year of suffering she had endured.  For in 2012, she was definitely not happy and not the same Peanut we knew.  Over the course of the year, we had forgotten who are beloved family member had once been.

It was a week filled with anguish and fear, yet hope for Peanut.  We cuddled her and let her curl up in our bed with us, which she hadn’t done in over a year.  I held her constantly and whispered words of love in her ears, hoping that deep down in her confused mind she could make sense of them.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to say goodbye.  Saturday was beautiful, unseasonably warm and sunny here in Portland.  Peanut’s favorite weather.  My lifelong dream for her was to eventually move to Hawaii, where she could spend her days just laying by the pool in the sun.  For lunch, she ate one of Curt’s famous waffles and we walked to the park we had visited so many times in her life here in Portland.  The kids, Curt and I played together while little Peanut soaked up the warmth of the sun in the stroller.  As the minutes and hours ticked by, the feelings of doom and loss were already heavy in my heart and mind.  We hurriedly strolled back to the house and quickly put Laird and Leini down for their naps.  The time had come.

Headed to the park one last time

Headed to the park one last time

Spending her final day, sleeping in the sun on the stroller

Spending her final day, sleeping in the sun on the stroller

Despite being vegetarians, for her last meal Curt grilled Peanut (and Mango) a bacon wrapped steak and she devoured it within seconds.  “We should’ve gotten a bigger one,” Curt joked with a smile.  We were definitely on edge though and somberness filled the air.  Shortly thereafter, the vet arrived at our house and explained her process to us.  We nodded in agreement while the tears in our eyes began to overflow onto our cheeks.  She said she would give us as much time as we needed.  With candles lit and pictures of little Peanut close by, I held her on the couch as we said our goodbyes.  “I love you, Peanut.  You’re a good girl.  I will miss you,” were words I whispered in her ear through a cracking voice and tears.  She was anxious and wanting to escape from my arms like usual.  We then prayed for her, thanking God for the blessing of her life and the happiness that she had brought to us.

Our last picture together

Our last picture together, trying to hold it together

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

We told the vet that we were ready for the sedative and, while eating a white chocolate truffle, she gave it to her in her hind leg.  Within seconds, Peanut was no longer anxious and no longer sad.  I didn’t realize she would be that sedate, but her body laid gently in my arms, sleeping so peacefully without a care in the world.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders knowing that she was not tormented by anxiety or confusion any longer.  Curt wanted to hold her one last time, so we switched off and relished the last moment we would ever hold her and feel her heart beat.  Knowing this was it, we said our final words of love to the life that we had loved dearly for nearly 15 years.  The life that had been with Curt and I through the good times and bad, as well as our successes and failures.  The life that inspired us to become vegetarians and to respect the lives of other animals.  The life that brought such incredible joy to ours and taught us the responsibilities of nurturing and caring for others, regardless of species.

Peanut's last living picture.  She actually is just sleeping.

Peanut’s last living picture. She actually is just sleeping.

With heavy hearts and an unspoken desire to have this all go away, we signaled to the vet.  While I held and petted Peanut, and we told her how much we loved her, she was given the final injection.  As I continued to talk to her, trying to reach her before she left, I could feel her heart, so little in size, but so large in depth, slowly stop beating.  Every memory I ever had of her flooded my consciousness.  Every lick, every wag, every snuggle.  And within a few seconds, her heart stopped completely.  She was gone.

I’ve never had a life end in my arms before.  I hope never to experience it again, although with Mango just a year younger than Peanut that is highly unlikely.  It is surreal and indescribable.  It leaves your heart feeling heavy with sorrow and your mind bewildered.  You become breathless.  It was the worst experience of my life, yet I can’t imagine Peanut’s final breath being taken any other way.  She was in my loving arms, sleeping.  I am thankful that God gave us the chance to say goodbye, the chance to make up for the last year and the opportunity to end her life without pain and suffering.

Before the vet took her body to be cremated, we let Mango, who had been nearly asleep on the floor, say goodbye.  She quickly licked Peanut on her face a few times, sniffed her and backed away.  It seemed obvious that she knew Peanut had passed on and it truly did appear that she was saying farewell to her sister.  Laird also said goodbye, but without ever remembering the “true” Peanut and the amazing dog that she was, it was hard for him to understand what all the fuss was about.

After she had passed

After she had passed

It's hard for me to see her not wearing her collar

It’s difficult for me to look at her collar

The vet loaded Peanut, who was now in a pet bed, into the back of her car.  I got one last look at her body, in peace, before turning away in tears.  A pit in my stomach, a weight in my chest, I missed my dog already.  Returning to the house, the sense of loss, of a life having just ended, was overwhelming.  We cried and hugged more, trying to comfort one another and begin to face the realization that she was gone.  After getting the kids from their rooms, we headed out to dinner.  What happened at the restaurant is a blur.  I can’t recall if I slept much at all that night, with memories of my dog racing through my head.

Aside from Peanut being gone, one thing that changed immediately is the amount of attention we give to Mango.  Having realized how quickly time goes by, we now shower her with love and attention.  I can only imagine the heartache when she eventually passes on and we no longer have any dogs.

Life without Peanut

Life without Peanut

Sunday was challenging.  There wasn’t a second that passed by that my beloved Peanut was not on my mind.  The hole in my heart seemed to grow the more reality sunk in and there were many times I stopped and just cried by myself and on Curt’s shoulder.  I even cried in front of Laird and hugged him so tightly.  I know he probably thought I was crazy (it’s never too early to start teaching young boys about females and their emotions).  That night I found old pictures of Peanut during our time in Omaha and we reminisced about all the funny and silly things she would do.  It was what we needed, remembering her before the blindness got the best of her.  She was not only a beautiful dog to look at, she was also fearless, rebellious and carefree, completely disobedient and always up to no good.  Yet, she was a lap dog and she won hearts over for simply sleeping peacefully in a lap on the couch.


Always a front seat passenger

People often commented on what a beautiful dog she was.  I have to agree.

110_1055

Looking around the house, I miss seeing her basking in the sun shining through the window, sitting in front of the heating vent and racing around the living room after finding out we were taking her to the park.  Most of all though, I miss holding her in my arms.  I don’t know if the spirits of dogs live on, but God, I hope so.  I hope to meet my Peanut with her tail-wagging in heaven someday.  I hope to never forget the joy and happiness she brought to our lives.  And I hope that, wherever she is, she never forgets how much she was loved and adored by her family and friends.

My dear Peanut, I miss you and love you so much.  Thank you for the 15 years you gave to us, years and memories that we will never, ever forget.

Cherishing Peanut

Cherishing Peanut in her final days

DSC_3557 DSC_3553 DSC_3537 DSC_3511 DSC_3499 DSC_3496 DSC_3495 DSC_3488 DSC_4066

An egg-cellent summer

Part of my goal for this blog is to explain to my kids why we live the way we do and to also shed light on issues that other’s might not know about.  Most people who know us, know why we are vegetarian.  But rarely do I ever get into detail about what exactly it is about our food industry that is so appalling and sad to me.  So here I go….

Anyone who knows about factory farmed eggs knows that egg-laying hens might just be the most inhumanely treated animals in our food industry.  These poor animals spend their lives stuffed in cages too small to move, stand and stretch.  And because they are confined to small, over-crowded cages, their beaks are removed to prevent harmful pecking and injury.  Egg-laying chickens are also denied food, water and light to encourage further egg-laying.

I just couldn’t eat eggs from an animal that was treated like this

When I learned of these horrific conditions a few years ago, I knew that I had to buy different eggs.  So I switched to buying “cage free” or “free-range” ones, thinking that these chickens were better off.  After all, they aren’t in cages and are free to go outside to roam; as the box says they’re “cage free.”  Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Similar to their caged counterparts, cage-free chickens are packed into dark, overcrowded sheds without the room to be chickens.  Typically their “access to the outdoors” is a small opening in the shed that the chickens generally do not exit because their food and water are indoors.  After months/years of thinking I was buying eggs from happy chickens, I felt disgusted and resolved to stop eating eggs.  As a family (yes, I converted my family) we adopted a vegan diet for a few months, but switched back to vegetarianism over my concern about Laird’s overall nutrition.  The next best option was to find local, truly free-ranged eggs.  You can find anything on Craigslist.

“Cage-free” eggs. Still seems pretty awful to me.

When I worked in Salem, Oregon, I found it quite easy to get my hands on raw milk and farm fresh eggs through Craigslist.  My office was on the edge of the city near many local farmers, and I never had to drive more than 10 minutes to pick these essentials up.  However, since I stopped working, it’s been a bit more challenging to find affordable milk and eggs nearby.  I did have a consistent Portland egg source but he recently gave his chickens away because of noise complaints.  Luckily, on Craigslist I found Kerry, a man in Yamhill, OR, who has free-range Rhode Island Red chickens and was looking for someone to buy his eggs consistently.  He offered to deliver them to Portland (30 miles) for free if I would get at least 10 dozen a week.  10 dozen?!  “Where will I find 9 dozen people to buy eggs?” was my initial thought.  But, I began thinking of all my mom friends who also want the freshest food possible for their family.  I sent out an email, some texts and asked friends in person and before you know it, I had a clan of women wanting fresh eggs every week.  That was about a month ago.

Eggs from happy chickens

As the egg distributor, every week before the weekend arrives, I take egg orders from everyone and Kerry delivers them to the mini-fridge on our front porch.  Throughout the early part of the week, Curt or I will either do handoffs at playdates, church, basketball camp, bbq’s and make home deliveries.  Thankfully, everyone lives within a 2.5 mile radius.  I’ve had as many as 20 dozen and as few as 10 dozen delivered.  Oh, and the eggs…the eggs are big, brown and beautiful, with blazing-orange yolks and perky whites.  If you’ve never tasted or even seen the difference between a factory-farmed white egg and a farm-fresh brown egg, you MUST.  It’s quite shocking.  The latter actually tastes like an egg.  For me, it’s gotten to the point now that if I know an egg is factory-farmed I can’t actually enjoy eating it; thinking only of how the poor animal suffered in order to make this egg.

On the left, farm fresh egg. On the right, factory farmed white egg. I don’t think the picture does the difference justice.

The eggs are amazing indeed, but as I told Curt, do you know what the greatest perk about being an egg distributor is?  Getting to hang out with friends every time we deliver them.  This must be how it used to be, when the milkman would drop off milk at your doorstep.  Okay, so maybe that’s too idealistic, but regardless.  I look forward to dropping off eggs and catching up with friends, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute conversation.  Five minutes that would’ve otherwise been lost to text or who knows what.  In our incredibly fast-paced world, it’s nice to be doing something that is a step back in time.  Letting chickens be chickens.  Delivering eggs.  Talking to people face-to-face.

Need eggs? 🙂

**Please think twice the next time you buy eggs from the grocery store.  Look on CL, there might just be someone selling free-range eggs in your area. **

Making pickles

I love pickles.  I usually eat them until I’m sick to my stomach.  Maybe it’s the salt, or possibly the vinegar, but something in that pickle juice makes my mouth water.  There have been a few occasions when I’ve eagerly downed the leftover brine after finishing the last pickle in the jar.  I’m not sure what’s wrong with me.  Before I met Curt, I had no idea how good a fresh, “homemade” pickle could actually be.  Curt’s mom and Aunt Rosine have pickled cucumbers for as long as he remembers and I have been lucky enough to have had some of these farm fresh pickles.  Naturally, canning my own pickles has been on my to-do list for awhile now.  And this was the summer I finally made some for my family.

No, this is not Africa

The biggest, most-energetic cuke I've ever seen

After calling around the Portland area, I found a small farm in Oregon City that has you-pick vegetables (cukes for 50 cents/lb!).  We arrived on a 90 deg day, carried our buckets (and Laird) to the rows and rows of vegetables and began finding the perfect cukes to pickle.  It was a little frustrating as the farm had a rule that we couldn’t pick ones that were smaller than 3 inches and those are typically the best to pickle.  But after about a half-hour we had roughly 13 pounds of cucumbers and a very muddy kid.  We also picked some fresh sweet corn, which turned out to be the sweetest, juiciest corn I’d ever had.  Of course Curt claims he’s had better.  But he’s from Iowa, and that’s all they know how to do in Iowa…grow corn.

Finding our pickling cucumbers

This is the recipe I followed for my pickles and I used the low-heat pasteurization method of canning to get the crispest pickles possible (nothing I hate more than mushy pickles)

Pickle recipe

  • 7 wide-mouth quart jars, lids & rings
  • Fresh dill, heads & several inches of stems shaken free of bugs
  • Cucumbers, washed, scrubbed
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more)

Our pickling cukes, all washed and ready to be packed

Fresh dill, garlic and jalapenos from our garden

Brine

  • 8 1/2 cups water
  • 3 1/4 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt

Whole, sliced and spear cut pickles waiting to be filled with brine

Water, vinegar and salt

Directions:

  1. Wash jars in hot, soapy water.  Rinse and fill with hot water.
  2. Fill canning pot half-full with hottest water and set on high heat.
  3. Place lids and rings in medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  4. In a large saucepan, bring brine mixture to a boil.
  5. Fill the jars: Place a layer of dill at the bottom, along with a clove of garlic.  TIGHTLY load the cukes in the jar to the neck of the jar.  Add a few sprigs of dill to the top and another garlic.  I also added peppercorn and jalapenos.
  6. Once all the jars are loaded, pour the brine into the jars and leave a half-inch head space.
  7. Add lid and ring to the jar and finish filling all the jars.
  8. Place the jars into the canner and add water to cover jars by an inch.  Heat the cukes to 180-185 deg for 30 minutes.  It is critical to have the temperature within this range.  Too low and the bacteria may not be killed.  Too high and the texture of the pickles may change.
  9. Remove the jars from the water.   Allow to cool before checking the seal.  Try the pickles after 3-4 weeks!!

In the canner

Cooling down. Now the waiting begins...

Daddy showing Laird how to pick some corn

It’s been two weeks, and after checking my jars I discovered that one of them hadn’t sealed properly.  Yay!  That meant we were able to try them.  And…..they were freaken awesome!  So worth all the effort.  Laird and Curt both loved them.  Of course I tried the brine too and all I can say is yuuuuuuumy.  If I made it again, I’d probably increase the amount of vinegar.  But not bad for my first try.

Garden stuff, blueberry picking and canning

Fresh-picked berries

We went blueberry picking about a month ago and again a couple weeks ago and altogether  hauled away about 15 lbs of blue-purplish balls of yumminess.–“like a plum,” Laird says of the blueberry.  Our freezer is getting fuller and fuller every weekend as I try to savor and preserve every flavor reminding me of summer for the coming fall and winter.  So far all we have are frozen strawberries, blueberries and corn, this is in addition to a pantry stocked full of strawberry jams.  But, I’d love to freeze green beans, peaches and who knows what else in there as well.  Whenever I say “let’s just stick in the freezer,” I can feel Curt’s look.  This is the “there-is-no-room-in-the-freezer-crazy-woman” look.  So I’ve taken to canning also, which I’ll post about later.  We’ve also used our solar dehydrator to sun dry fresh tomatoes, peaches and, well, bananas (although those aren’t local).

Our taste testers

This turd is trying to push me over

Anyway, here are some pictures from our fun days picking berries and the slowly ripening produce from Laird’s garden.  We relished our fresh broccoli, green beans, chard, cucumbers (just 3), jalapenos, potatoes, basil and soon to be ready (?) tomatoes.

Blueberry and peach jam cooking away

Beans from Laird's garden. Perfect sauteed with garlic, lemon thyme and lemon juice.

Our first tomato this season!!

Laird at 20 months

Xander and Laird ready for a bike ride

Gosh, where has the time gone?  Every time I look at the little guy he looks different to me.  Less baby-ish.  More kid-ish.  So what is Laird up to these days?  He’s still under the wonderful care of his sitter, Liz, who watches him and a few other kids three days a week when I’m at work.  I think he has a hard time taking his naps there though, probably due to all the commotion, and by the end of the day is exhausted and delirious.

Mondays and fridays are his mommy and me times, days that we do whatever it is we feel like.  Realistically, these days are times where I tirelessly try to get the house reorganized from the weekend or the week by doing laundry, cooking, cleaning and maybe some gardening if it’s nice.  We occasionally have playdates with friends and more recently have started venturing to the park more often.  His favorite place to be is outdoors though and he will beg me saying “Outside?   Outside?”

Laird’s vocabulary is expanding rapidly.  I am often taken completely off-guard when he boastingly states the name of an object that I had no idea he knew or remembered.  Pineapple, penguin, guinea pig and surfboard, are examples.  It’s also amazing to see him start putting words together to from short sentences.  I know, every human goes through these stages and eventually learns how to talk.  But, I just can’t believe how fast it all happens.

Bath time fun!

We are still cloth diapering and after a recent episode of diarrhea/mushy poop, I cannot wait until he is potty trained.  Laird has started showing a (very) remote interest in using the potty.  He might say “stinky diaper” or “go potty.”  From which I will then walk him to his little potty only to have him see it, say “potty” and then “all done, all done,” without having done anything.  I’m finally starting to believe all those people that warned me that “boys take longer to potty train.”  Really, how much easier could it be for boys?

How is little man’s hair looking?  Pretty crazy, actually.  Due to the sloping shape of Laird’s head, the top of it sticks straight up, while the rest of it all lays neatly.  I’m still waiting patiently for it to grow back.

Henry and Laird playing at the park

About Laird’s diet, many people often ask me, “Will Laird be vegetarian also?”  And while trying to disguise sarcasm, I reply “Yes, he will be a vegetarian.  At least while we’re feeding him.”  What I really want to say is, “Of course!  Why would I feed my child meat, if I don’t eat it myself?”  He eats a diet full of whole grains and lots of veggies.  He loves his bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, filled with bananas or strawberries, sometimes peanut butter, hemp seeds and raw cow milk.  Lunch is at the sitter’s and since she is vegetarian also, is fed similarly.  Dinner is all over the board.  He doesn’t mind spice and so we give it to him.   Whatever we eat, he eats.  Thai curry, Mexican, pasta, Indian, veggie burgers, etc.  But nothing beats the look on his face when I ask him if he wants blueberries for dessert.  The light in his eyes could illuminate the sky.  He loves blueberries.

At the Children's Museum

Sometimes I wish I could pause the hands on the clock and slow life down for just a bit longer to relish this amazingly, fun time…

Tending to the garden

Peanut tending to Laird's garden

Laird’s garden is finally planted!  We’ve been hit hard in Portland with tons of rain these past few months.  April was one of the wettest months in recorded history and I’ve been itching to buy my plants and get them in the ground.  I’m still a little wary though, especially after last year, when our summer didn’t arrive until mid-July and, even then, it rained continually throughout.  If memory serves me right, I had a total of two tomatoes that turned out to be edible.

Spring is (hanging) in the air

I would love to meet whoever designed this house and ask him “What the heck were you thinking?!” at the same time I hit him over the head.  Okay, so I don’t advocate violence, but here’s my gripe.  We live on a fairly large, third-of-an-acre lot about ten minutes away from downtown Portland.  Every year, at about this time, I get irritated at the person who decided to build our house on the south side of the lot.  To make the situation worse, our garage is also on the south side of the house, cutting off whatever daylight we get from reaching the rest of the house.  Maybe it was the best they could do.  But one would think that in a place that rarely sees the sun, the last place a house should be built is on the south side.

So for six years now, we have brain-stormed to find a suitable place on our lot to grow our veggies; one that gets more than four hours of sun during the summer.  Aside from growing a garden on the roof, the best we could do is plant our veggies on the far north side of the lot, where the garden just clears the shadow of the house.

South side of the house with hostas, bulbs and herbs

Over the past few years, I’ve attempted to grow tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, beans, onions, leeks, squash, herbs and lettuce.  Usually with less-than-ideal returns.  I’ve also tried over and over again to grow peppers, particularly the spicy ones, to no avail.  And each year I tell myself “This will be the year for the pepper!”  Apparently they like really sunny weather, so it is no surprise that I am left with one, shriveled up, disappointing pepper at summer’s end.

On our garden menu this year are: Tomatoes, broccoli, chard, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, squash, beans and kale.  Some from seed, most from starts and most organic.  It’s a little ambitious considering the location and size of the garden, everything is closer than the plant guidelines recommend.  But, as usual, I’ll cross my fingers and hope for the best.

While Laird was taking his afternoon nap, we also turned the compost, weeded and planted more annuals around the house.  It is a beautiful time of year, everything is so fresh and green.  I can feel that summer is just around the corner!  And thank goodness, because my body can’t wait to finally thaw out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Say Goat Cheeeeeeeeeese!

After the surprising success of my mozzarella cheese, I thought I would try my hand at making goat cheese.  The cooking process wasn’t much different than the mozzarella, with the only difference being the addition of a goat cheese culture.  The final result was a tart, crumbly, creamy white chunk of yummy goodness that was quickly devoured.

Goat Cheese Recipe

Equipment:

  • Large stainless steel pot
  • Stainless steel slotted spoon
  • Colander
  • Thermometer
  • Butter muslin cloth
  • String

Most of the ingredients and equipment

Ingredients:
  • 1 gallon goat’s milk
  • 1/4 tablet rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 1 packet chevre (goat) culture
  • Salt
  • Herbs if desired
Directions:
  • Cleanliness is of utmost important.  Sterilize everything that will come into contact with your milk and cheese.
  • Heat the goat’s milk on low until it reaches 86 deg

Heating the milk

  • Once the milk hits 86 deg (and not any higher), add the rennet solution and culture packet.  Stir well and take off of the heat.
  • Cover and allow to set undisturbed at room temperature for 12-24 hrs.  I waited approximately 16 hrs.

Curds are now separated from the whey

  • At this point, the curds should have separated from the whey.  Spoon the curds into the butter muslin which is laying on the colander.  It is probably better to cut them in cubes before placing them in the colander, instead of doing what I did.

Placing the curds into the colander

Look at all those curds!

  • Once all the curds have been strained into the muslin, bring all 4 corners together and hang with a string to allow the curds to strain further.  Place a bowl underneath it to catch all the whey.

My hanging cheese arrangement

  • After 6-8 hrs, the cheese will have a creamy consistency and should be spreadable.  I preferred a crumbly cheese, so I waited a total of 24 hrs before taking my cheese down.

Final product made from 1/2 gallon of raw goat's milk

  • I added salt and some herbes de Provence to some of my cheese.  It was delicious.

Someone LOVED the fresh cheese

Goat cheese salad

Whole wheat pasta with zucchini, bok choy, kale, tomatoes and goat cheese!