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Archive for December, 2014

Land of 10,000 Flakes

I didn’t exactly wish for it, you know. Our lack of snow, I mean. I didn’t fervently wish like I do to be skinnier/richer/younger/smarter or anything in between those things. If one lives in northern Minnesota, there is supposed to be snow, and lots of it. We know it is coming. We wait for it. Some of us even look forward to it. HE and I have lived here in the frozen tundra about eight years now, and even we expect it. Since I was too lazy to do any research this week, I’ll just tell you that the average snowfall in Minnesota last year was approximately a gazillion inches. Since our vintage snow blower breaks down at least once every winter, enough was enough. We decided to buy an all-terrain vehicle. It was not purchased for fun, but for work, and around here, there’s plenty of that. Hauling things around the farm, snow removal, and (ok, I’ll admit it) a little recreational trail riding. That involved purchasing a trailer to take it places, plus a snow plow to attach to the front. All of these things involve $$$ and more $$$, but I’m not complaining, because HE paid for it. He is the one who does all the snow removal around here, too. All I have to do is sweep a bit of that white stuff from the deck, pour a cup of hot coffee, then write about the adventure of it all and the rest of my very exciting life. Last year, the year before that, and the year before that, the first of the gazillion inches came in November. This past November, the ATV was parked in the garage and ready to go. I think he even washed and buffed her with a chamois cloth. There she sits in all her shiny plow-endowed glory, waiting for the snow to fall. Here it is the end of the year, and we’re still waiting. Oh, we’ve had a few inches of it here and there, which the unusually balmy December breezes melted into puddles and slush, which have now frozen into a bumpy slippery mess. Mother Nature has a great sense of humor. If we had decided to patch together the old snow blower for one more year, she would have probably sent us a gazillion and two inches of snow. If we were to breathe a sigh of relief and think we’re in for a mild, snowless winter, she’ll send a blizzard in late April or even May. For those of you who don’t live in Minnesota, don’t think that hasn’t happened many times before. I hate to admit it, but I am actually looking forward it. Not in April or May of course, but a good heavy January snow would be wonderful. Happy New Year! May Mother Nature be kind to us all.

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“You’d better watch what you wish for!” That’s what they say. I like it when wishes come true…most of the time. I have often wished that my chickens would get broody and hatch a few baby chicks. That has happened only on a rare occasion, up until now. At the moment I have two or three broody hens, but unfortunately, the middle of winter is not the time to raise baby chicks. (Those of you in other parts of the country have just had the official first day of winter, which was December 21. In northern Minnesota, we call this time of year “the middle of winter” just to keep ourselves sane. We all know that if we are lucky, winter will end in April, so we’re nowhere near the middle.) Collecting eggs in the coop has become a defensive maneuver for me, since when chickens are broody, they’re mean. One of hens starts making visceral noises like some sort of caged wild animal whenever I enter the coop and pecks at me if I am within a foot of the nesting box. I guess I might do the same if a Farm Woman wearing heavy winter boots and her husband’s large protective leather gloves came stomping in every day and took my babies. HE may call it nagging rather than wishing, but over the years, I have wished for there to be a little more light around my chicken coop. He wired the inside a long time ago, but especially at this time of year when it is pitch black outside, I don’t like that long lonely trek to the coop when I am probably surrounded by hungry wolves and coyotes. Even though I have a bright flashlight and an off-key but cheerful whistle, I know I am being watched from the shadows. These days, if you look far to the north towards my house, it is not the northern lights that you see, but my new outdoor lamp. It has a glow bright enough to light up the whole township and on a timer so we can afford the electric bill. It’s funny how a little bit of light can scare away the wolves, whether they are real or imagined. Since these two wishes came true, I thought I would wish for something else, just in case: Whether you read the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” before you go to bed tonight, I wish you peace. May the light of this peace illuminate the paths you take every day, bring you comfort, and scare away the wolves. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Peace on earth.

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Missing Joseph

Joseph is missing. I am speaking of my friend’s Joseph, whom she wrapped carefully last year after Christmas and nestled him gently with the rest of her nativity set, put away safely for another for another year. She went through each piece of wrapping paper again, but to no avail. Joseph has left the stable. Even though most of the attention has always been on Mary and the baby Jesus, Joseph is an important part of the Christmas story. Important, but kind of in the background, as dads tend to be. I think they like it that way. Joseph wandered around the city of Bethlehem looking for a place to stay, and could only find a stable. I wonder if Mary was urging him to stop and ask for directions? Being in labor, I’m pretty certain she at least urged him to speed up the donkey just a little bit. This time of year, more modern Josephs wander around the Christmas crowds with a deer-in-the-headlights kind of look. Funny, but when they reach for their wallets to pay, they get the same kind of look in their eyes. They rearrange the furniture to make enough room for the biggest, tallest, most beautiful tree they have ever hauled home. They rearrange it again, just to suit HER, because it is a well-known fact that it will be a merrier Christmas for everyone if they do. They haul the boxes of ornaments and decorations up from basements and down from attics. The original Joseph, being a carpenter, probably made toys for the young Jesus to play with. More modern Joesphs put together toys until three in the morning on Christmas Eve, only to be awakened at five by a houseful of excited young voices on Christmas morning. They are awakened again from their after dinner football naps, perhaps by an exuberant toddler taking a flying leap and landing on their belly. Although my own Joseph isn’t usually the holly jolly mistletoe type of Christmas guy, he drove all over town to buy the perfect gift for a very special little boy and always has a big part in making Christmas dinner. My friend tried to insert a few stand-ins to take Joseph’s place in her nativity set, but even the small ceramic Santa of the same size didn’t do the trick. Besides, with all that red and white, Santa didn’t match. Update: Thank goodness for eBay, as my friend was able to find a matching Joseph replacement. Christmas just wouldn’t have been the same without him.

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I come from a long line of Christmas bakers. My mom always made several types of cookies, including the traditional Scandinavian sandbakkel, krumkake, and beautiful crispy rosettes, dusted with powdered sugar. They would melt in your mouth. My grandma made Finnish prune tarts, with the dough folded to look like stars, and stored them in brightly decorated Christmas tins. These were always served with fresh coffee, almost strong enough to stand a spoon upright in the cup. Since milk is much healthier for children, we got our coffee served half and half with milk, with a couple of spoons of sugar stirred in for good measure. Dad was more of an eater than a baker, and was one of the 10 people in the state who actually liked fruitcake. I used to start my baking early in December, making at least four types of cookies and two types of fudge. Everyone’s favorite were the rolled-out sugar cookies, cut into shapes and decorated with colored sugar or frosting. Those, by the way, were my least favorite because they were so much harder to make and I have no patience when it comes to rolling out and decorating cookies. Pans of peanut butter and chocolate fudge were made and shared with neighbors, who in return shared plates of their own sweet treats. Times have changed, though. I don’t think I’ve done any Christmas baking in the last few years. The dietary needs and habits in our family have changed tremendously. Some of us are grain and gluten-free, some are low carb ketogenic, some are sugar-free, and some are all of the above. Except HIM. He rolls his eyes at the rest of us and looks around hopefully for cookies, and sadly, there are none. You’ve got to feel just a little bit sorry for the poor guy. Here we are in the season of peace on earth and good gingerbread men, and there are no Christmas goodies in the house. I have seen several recipes for sugar-free-low-carb-gluten-free-ketogenic cookies, but I’m afraid that they will taste exactly like they sound. So, in the true Christmas spirit, I will toss my stale flour to the chickens, buy fresh, and make a batch of something sweet to leave on the table for that jolly old man…and for HIM. You don’t think Santa Claus has gone gluten-free, do you?

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