Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Christmas Revolt

It wasn't until yesterday at Church that we realized what exactly we had done by not going to family's on Christmas Day.

We had taken back our own Christmas life.

Well, in truth, we never had it, seeing as how this was the first time we had ever done anything like this.  We felt like teenagers sneaking out of the house - and only one of us is a true teenager.  And we did the opposite of sneak out - we snuck in !

Now before the flaming starts, let's set some background:

We've been married 23 years.  We have a sixteen year old.  In all that time we have had no fewer than three FOUR Christmases a year.  Get this....

....With all the same people.  Who live within the same 60 mile radius.  Who we see at least twelve times a year already.

The year our daughter was three, we had SEVEN Christmases.  All with the same people; we just changed houses.  It started on December 21st and culminated on January 1st.  By the seventh gift opening, our daughter curled herself in an Ikea doll bed as far away from the rest of us as a 24 foot room allowed.  She lay under her blanket in a too small bed, sucking on a fake baby doll bottle.  The family had to open all her presents.

Okay, stage set?  Do you see where I'm coming from?

Last year, Thanksgiving, we decided we were done having two of those.  For 22 years we would have one Thanksgiving in Seattle at 1:00 and drive to Portland to have the other one at 6:00.  Cray, cray, right?  We decided we were doing the alternating thing like most, normal, sane people do.

Cue the music.

Christmas 2014.  The invite came in for the January 1st gift opening.  Then came the invite for Christmas Day 2:00 dinner.  Then Christmas Eve dinner.  The first two are with the same people - just different houses.

I think we could have started a couple fights!
Okay, revolt time.  As a family (and since it was December 18th when we made this decision and there were no more rooms available in any respectable hotel in Costa Rica) we decided that Christmas Day was going to be OURS.

I know, I know; cherish these moments.  Family is family.  No one is going to live forever.  I get that.  We drove 300 miles every Christmas for six years, sometimes in blinding snowstorms,  because it was "Grandpa's last Christmas".  And finally, one year it was his last Christmas.  We were bitter that everyone else was in charge of our time and we felt we were guilted into this arrangement.

I made the announcement that we would not be joining my family at my brothers on December 19th, 2014 (at about 12:43, it was such a monumental announcement).  Word got out within a matter of minutes.  The inquest began.  Wait, what?  I'm sure you'll change your mind.  You should come anyway, just for a while (yeah an hour and a half away, no thanks) What are you going to do? (underlined with: make it a good reason)  If you change your mind...

We didn't change our mind.

Our teenager woke up at 10:30 am.  In years previous, we would have already rushed through the opening of our own stockings and presents, eaten breakfast at the in-laws, opening stocking there and be showered and ready to drive to the next Christmas.  By 10:30 am.

We opened stockings and presents, made breakfast, went to our own corners to play with new toys, watched House Hunters International and Buying Islands, dressed and went to the 3:40 showing of the Hobbit.  We reaquainted ourselves with the X-Box and a new Lego Marvel game.

Serious Lego Game going on here...
We had Chicken Noodle Soup for Dinner.


Or so we thought until we brought it up to church.  During the meet and greet, we were asked what we did for Christmas.  We told them (it's church, you can't lie).  The husband was fascinated.  The wife was amazed.

They wanted to be us.

The simplicity.  The lack of stress.   No schedule.  No guilt. The fact that we were our own unit.

We will go to the traditional gift opening on New Years Day.  It will be fun and I will enjoy it more now that I'm not bitter about someone else deciding what I am going to do with my time.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tree Hoarding - Seriously???

I went out today and purchased a once-live Christmas tree, just like I've done for the past 24 years of our marriage.  This one was pre-cut (although farmed locally) so there is nothing sustainable about it (sorry).  It was $14.99 plus tax.  I strapped that sucker on the top of the Highlander and drove home (only stopping once to make sure it was REALLY tied down).

To my five acres of Christmas-tree-loaded farm.

Say whaaaat?

Honestly, we have hundreds of five to eight foot Douglas Firs, Nobles, Frasiers, Spruces, and I don't know what else planted across our property.

We have for seventeen years.

You see, when I announced my pregnancy to my husband, he went out and purchased about fifty trees - oh, and a tractor.  Go figure.  I don't know what his thought process was - he was procreating too?

Just one section of the rows and rows of trees.

See, in a bucket, ready to (some day) be planted.
And grow more.  That I can't cut down.

Anyway, he has purchased several hundred trees in the past sixteen years.  He goes to the supplier who supplies the Conservation District, so he gets little saplings for pennies.

Hundreds of them.

And pays teenage kids to plant them.  And he plants them.  And I plant them.  And everyone who ever comes on our property plants them.

Many of them are big enough where they aren't saplings anymore (like they were when we bought them).  They are full fledged Christmas tree size.

THAT HE WON'T LET ME CUT DOWN.  Not one.  Once a year, can't I have one?  Nope.  If I take that one, there will be a hole and we can see the neighbors.  Nope, that one and we can see the train.  Nope, take that one and we can see the one behind it.

Tree hoarding.  Never heard of such an affliction.  

One of us needs therapy.  And it's not me. :) 


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Friday - Not - Shopping

I've been feeling guilty.

About not feeling guilty.

I do this a lot, sadly.  It's sort of a waste of time.

You see, I didn't go Black Friday Shopping.  Better yet, I wasn't up at the crack of dawn even considering it!  I didn't look at the ads either on the computer or newspaper (yes, the in-laws still get those).  I was sawing logs under a goose down comforter.

I didn't take my teenage daughter either.  (Reason #436 she will need therapy later - we have a notebook and are keeping track.)

That's where I think I should have taken my teenage daughter.  You know, waiting in line for the door to open, experiencing the rush and pandemonium and solid disrespect for fellow mankind.

For a 32" television.

That we have enough of already.  Really, I've run out of rooms to house the things in.

My teenager has experienced A LOT in her sixteen year life.  She was swimming at four months, skiing at three, soccer, basketball, music instruments (um, seven instruments ?? ), raising her own food, driving a tractor, helping out with elementary students at my school, travel across the world.  I mean, this kid has fed orphans in Haiti.

And I feel guilty because I didn't take her Black Friday Shopping?

Kindergarten curriculum
My family first got a taste of what consumerism had done to us when our daughter was eight.  We took her and a friend to Jamaica.  On the bus ride from the cruise ship to the horseback riding venue, we drove through part of the real Jamaica.  Not the all inclusive resort area, but the homes where the resort employees lived.   Her friend, who was nine, turned and asked my husband, "are these people poor?"

"Probably not to them, but to our standards, they would be," he replied.


We were driving past small three-room four-walled traditional island homes, that I'm sure had running water and electricity, yet to a nine year old's eyes, they looked like hovels.

When we went to the South Pacific in 2013, it was the same thing.  Again, we stayed in a nice resort, but we visited four schools on two of the islands.  While I was talking to an eight year old, I commented on his yellow Los Angeles Laker basketball jersey that had the name James on the back.  "Oh," I told the student, "you like Lebron?"

He just stared at me.

Turns out, a ship brings cargo full of hand-me-downs to the island and donates them to islanders.  This kid had no idea who Lebron James was; he just knew he had a yellow/gold tank top jersey to wear under his uniform.

Seriously?  And I can put my finger through the back of the
heel.  Trust me, I did!  Yikes!
Last spring, my then-fifteen year old went to Haiti.  Black Friday shopping?  Yeah, um, no.  Not even on a list of importance.

Since those travels, our entire family has begun to see belongings in a whole new way.  They just aren't important to us.  My daughter could care less that her three year old, $8 shoes from H&M are about a year past their prime.  I have tried to buy her new ones (Keds, just because).  She hides her shoes in her room so I don't throw them away! (My thinking is that, if I throw them away, she has to get new ones.  hmph).

This leads me to feeling guilty for not feeling guilty.  Ya get that?  I don't care that I didn't go Black Friday shopping.  I don't feel guilty about that.  So I sort of feel guilty because I don't feel guilty.

Instead we fed the birds suet cakes, cleaned out the chicken coop and got the chickens fresh shavings for this cold snap and watched House Hunters International.

And read on the internet about the mayhem at the mall.

Guilt, over.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner - Forty Seven Pound Turkey Style

My Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama Finale - and a Question and Answer session.

Well, the huge Forty Seven Pound turkey got put in the oven at 1:00 am on Thursday, carved at 2:00 pm Thursday, and we said blessings around 3:15 pm.

No one got sick!  


We got a lot of questions about this bird so I will try and answer some of them here:

Where did you get it?  Feed store as a two/three day old poult (yes I had to look that up. poult = baby turkey)

How old is that thing?  We got three of them in May of 2013. We butchered April of 2014 so not quite a year.
We got pheasants at the same time.

How much does it weigh? (ready to go into the oven)? 47 pounds

How much did the live turkey weigh before you butchered it?  Don't know.  It was hard enough to wrastle a 47# dressed turkey; can't even imagine weighing a live one.

What are the dimensions? 20x15x9 all wrapped in butcher paper and saran wrap and more butcher paper.

How did you get a turkey that big?  Umm, not sure (apparently no so good at this question and answer thing)

What did you feed that thing?  Grass, garden pickings and some grain.

Are your sure it's not an ostrich?  Pretty sure.

Is your oven big enough?  Yes, the oven's a GE Performance and measures 24"L x 16"D x 17"H.

Is your pan big enough?  Nope.  I had to borrow one from my workplace and it was still four inches shy on the width.

Are you going to "spatchcock" that thing?  This means snapping the backbone so it makes it "smaller".  And nope.  We didn't do it.

Are you going to cut it into pieces to cook it?  No, we did it whole.

Are you going to dig a big hole and cook it luau style?  That's a good idea, but no, did it in the oven.  And after the neighbors did a pig once and burnt the thing into nothingness, I'd be too scared too.

How about smoking it?  I don't know if a smoker would be big enough.  And, more importantly, I don't own one.

You used a brown bag there?  What's that all about?  Yes we did use brown paper bags.  Six of them stapled together.  I usually Reynolds bag them, but the max size on those are 24#.  The brown bag method is mentioned here: .food.com/recipe/kidd-kraddicks-famous-brown-bag-turkey

How long is that going to take to cook?  According to the directions, 10 hours.  13 minutes a pound times 47 pounds equals 611 minutes or 10 hours.  At 350 degrees, or 325 degrees convection oven.

How long did it actually take to cook?  We put it in at 1:00 am.  The internal temperature reached 165 around 7:00 am.  And this was after I turned the oven down to 300 around 5:00 am.  We left it on 200 until 1:30 when we started carving.

Do you think the meat will be tough?  I didn't know when we started the whole thing, but it turned out it was super moist.  I will say the skin wasn't real moist, but that was on the top, exposed the most to air.

How many people are you expecting? Fourteen.  And we all like turkey.

Do you like leftovers?  Yup

How many leftovers did you have?  Nary a one.  Not kidding.  The family took every last bit.  In the words of my daughter "I guess you know they liked it."  We got the ham.

Why didn't you let the poor turkey live?  He was bred for meat and we knew this the day we got him.  They aren't meant to be kept forever.  He got so big his legs were already at risk for breaking under the weight.

How can you eat something you raised and named?  One, we didn't name him (well, he was either Baker or Broiler, we're not sure which).  Two, I know exactly what goes into my animals so I know exactly what I am eating.  I can only be in control of that if I raise them.

How can you butcher something you raised?  I wasn't sure I could.  Once the logic side stepped in, knowing it was a "meat turkey", I didn't really have a choice.  I know how he died and it was as humane and quick as possible.  We said a blessing and thanked him for providing nourishment.  It sounds corny (believe me!) but that was important to me.  Our fifteen year old daughter helped (as a matter of fact, she did a lot of the work herself, with my husband's guidance) so I know the next generation has some experience raising their own food.  It's not for everyone, and it is a hot topic, and I'm sure not going to judge anyone who thinks it's inhumane.  Just like I hope I'm not judged. 

So there is our Thanksgiving Turkey Drama for the year.  

You can follow the beginning here:  The Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama and on our Facebook Page 

Tinfoil Time

My Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama continuation...

After a sleepless night and a timer going off really too early, we decided to let the turkey rest in the oven for a while and take him out of the brown bag, flip him over and tinfoil at a really low temperature.  

It looks soooo good.

One thing we did notice was that the skin was a little plasticy feeling.  Which is another reason to flip the bird over (we cooked it breast side down).

We flipped it over and managed to get it on tinfoil.  This was no easy task considering it was still juicy, slippery and, um, 47 pounds!

Back into the oven it went.  Note the coffee mug for a size reference.  It was either the mug or the bottle of wine...

Back into the stove at 170 degrees, just keeping it warm until carving time at 2:00.  Mind you, it was 10:30 am when we took this picture.

To see how this whole thing started, go here:  The Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama

To see our cooking method, go here:  Bagging the Bird

To follow us on facebook, go here:  facebook.com/TheAccidentalFamer

Why Is The Timer Going Off?

My Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama continuation...

Our huge turkey went in at 1:00 am Thanksgiving Day.

We did the brown bag method which meant, according to everything I'd read, it would be 13 minutes a pound at 350 degrees.  Thirteen minutes times a 47# turkey is 611 minutes or 10 hours.  Our oven has a probe (or a fancy meat thermometer ) so I can set the probe temperature at 165 and it will beep when the internal temperature is met.

So why is the damn thing about to go off at 7 in the morning!!!!????

Mathematically, this makes a 47# turkey mostly fully cooked in less than seven hours. 

Being smart, I pulled the probe out, stuck it in somewhere else.  Same thing.  I did this until I practically aerated the bird.

We put in a traditional meat thermometer (after a thorough hunt for it - anyone else keep theirs in their garage, hmmnnn?).  Read the same thing, if not a degree or so higher.

So we turned it off and let it rest.  And freaked out.

So see where this started, go here:  The Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bagging the Bird

I've cooked a jillion turkeys in my life (okay, seven, maybe eight) and we've ALWAYS used the Reynold's Bag.  Easy, no mess, FAST, tastes awesome.  That was the plan this year.  Until I read the bag, oh, on Saturday the 22nd.  Of November.

Max for the large Turkey Bag is 24 pounds.  I have a 47# bird!

Luckily I have very smart co-workers.  One handed me a sorta big enough pan.  On Monday.  Another told me about this brown bag cooking method.  She described it and I thought, "that just might work".

Off to get brown paper grocery bags.  

Lots of them.

A thick handful.

And then another thick handful.

I did buy stuff at the grocery store also so I only felt a little guilty as I snuck off with my stash.

I got home, cut off the bottom, opened them up and stapled five of them together.

Yes, five.

The dog is certainly not sure what to think

Here's the premise, short version:

  • Empty the bird of giblets and neck.  Since it is our own bird, I knew I had already done this.
  • Fill cavity with a carrot, onion, garlic cloves and celery.  
  • Put bird into a paper bag.  Since this was not going to conventionally be lifted and wrangled into a bag, we opted for the open method.
  • Staple it closed and put it in the oven.
  • Oven at 350 degrees, 13 minutes every pound.  That makes 13x47= 611 minutes, or 10 hours.  Okay....
We did poke the oven probe into it before we put it in to make things easier.  We even got it on the correct side of turkey/probe connection.


...To here...

...to here...

Not bad for 1:00 am. 

Let's see what happens next.

To see where all this started, go here:  The Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Really Big Thanksgiving Turkey Drama

Okay, this 45/47# turkey bird thing has gone bezerk.  So I'm going to try to do a running tally of the unfoldings.

To start, we raised this bird from chick/baby/whatever you call a teeny fuzzy turkey.

He was raised as a meat bird so we knew he would get big.

Just not that big.  We finally had to butcher him before his little legs snapped from the weight.  He was raised on grass, garden vegetable trimmings and a little bit of grain.

We did our own butchering and he dressed out at 47 pounds.  To prove to unbelievers, I recently took a photo of this, but, since I was on my own, couldn't balance the thing on the people scale and still read his weight, the scale only read 45#.  Still, he was 47# when we put him in the freezer.

Now we have to cook him.

Here's the plan.  He's been thawing for several days.  We are praying it's enough.

I was going to brine him and all that, but I couldn't find a clean, unused garbage can soon enough.

I was going to Reynolds bag him, until I realized they are only for 24# turkeys.  That's small potatoes.  So a co-worker suggested brown bagging him.

Then I realized I would have to staple FIVE of them together to MAYBE get him in.

For now he is still in the cooler.  At midnight, we attempt to put him in the oven.

Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Non-Pinterest Thanksgiving

As the big day looms near, I am beginning to re-think my offer to host Thanksgiving at my house.

It seemed like a good idea around November 3rd when I realized it would be at my mother-in-law's house down our driveway.  For years she has said she's "never doing this again" and in an effort to reduce her stress, I offered up my house.

 - insert finger-gun-pointed-at-my-head gesture here -

My 1000 square foot house.

Actually none of this is the scary part.

The scary part is that the bloomin' turkey is 47 pounds.  That's not a typo.  47# bird.

He started out pretty small.  And I don't even know if this is the
turkey - it's a really cute picture, thought.

He was a well fed bird.

Now that I've been thinking things over, I'm pretty sure I should be heading for the hills.

I might (might) have found a pan big enough for him.  He will fit in the oven - I've measured.

But the fact that I have been pretty lacsadasial about the whole thing is pretty much bugging the hell out of everyone around me.

Here's the deal.

This is not going to be a Pinterest Thanksgiving.  

There will be no fancy centerpiece (did you miss the 47# turkey part? Centerpiece enough), we will be using Costco cheapo white paper napkins, the chairs aren't going to match and the platewear just might if no one brings a buddy.  And you use your fork for turkey and dessert alike; no do-overs.

I am going to divvy out the to-do list with abandon.  I don't care if I make the rolls or my mother in law buys them.  I wasn't going to make them from scratch anyway.  The potatoes will be peeled, cubed, boiled and smashed with milk.  Done.  No chives, no chicken broth, nothing "fancy".  Maybe butter.  (And this is if they even get peeled in the first place!)

 I might brine the thing if I can find a bucket big enough.  And clean enough.  which means probably not  The turkey is going to be put in a stapled together brown paper bags and put in the oven. The stuffing will be Stove Top.  There will be no individual Brownie Trifles for dessert (although probably some time in December just because), but there will be Costco Pecan pie with Costco whipped cream in the aerosol bottle because it came in a three pack.  Thanksgiving via Costco.

Bottom line, the fanciest thing is going to be glazed carrots.  Only because I like them.

And the carrots are still growing in our garden meaning they're free.

So I am not going for Pinterest Perfection.  I am going for relaxed family, food and football time and praying like hell that the bird gets fully cooked.  Not aiming for picture perfect.


Although I promise to take pictures if the turkey catches on fire.

In case you still don't believe the 47# part...  The best photo I could get of the turkey on the scale without the turkey landing on my foot (over and over and over).  Yes, it only says 45, but by the time I balanced the turkey-filled cooler on my toe, on the scale, and got the camera in my hands, my toe-lift pressure lowered it two pounds.  Really, it is 47#

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Beginning of Acceptance

Today I was mowing the back 40 (literally) and I came to realize something:  Somehow I became a farmer.

There was never any intent.  There was never any grand plan.  There was never any spiral notebook filled with photos of barns and cows and corn cobs.

If anything, in high school my plan was to head to the big city of Seattle and put my roots in the asphalt of the city.

My stepping stone to that concrete pad was a small school on the Coast of Washington that gave me a basketball scholarship.  Then a summer job to pay for the next year of college because I was on academic probation because, dang, college was fun.

Then a co-worker who asked me to go on a ride on his motorcycle to go see some baby goats.  I turned down that fantastic pick-up line.  A month later I got stood up and asked HIM to go to dinner - at a seafood resturaunt (I hate seafood).

We were married a year later, in 1991.

Being young, broke and super lucky, his grandparents had 60 acres in the Cascade Foothills.  While his parents and uncle had part of the property, the original house still stood on one acre and he lived in it.

I use the term "stood" loosely.  It was a ramshackle sorta-two-bedroom, partially insulated building with four walls that really needed a paint job and a roof that really needed new shingles.

Fast forward twenty-odd years to the fact that I can't imagine myself living anywhere but here.  I have traveled all over the world, and at each location, I turn to my husband and say "nope, not here" (and we've been to some doozy places in the South Pacific).

And this big ole gigantic friggin' mess.
I came into this farming thing by ACCIDENT.  Growing up on half an acre, turned into an acre, then another acre, one and a half of that a strawberry field, I knew how to put seeds in the ground and water them.  But butcher a turkey?  Split wood?  Put up fencing?  Ha!

I've done it all now.  Every single hysterical, comical, folly bit of it.  By the skin of my teeth most times.  If you are looking for an expert answer, go somewhere else.  This girl isn't going to tell you what pH your soil should be to make your carrots grow.  But this girl can tell you how to plant three rows of carrots so your dog can dig up one row and you still have two for your kitchen table.

Reality.  That's what it is.  With a huge dose of humor and humility.   And a whole lotta God and grace to go with it.