Perhaps, at the beginning of a new Season of Growth and Birth, it swells. Unbidden, longed for.
Nature, Spirit, the Divine beckon.
The well-spoken, heartfelt, and rhythmic words - poetry, sacred verses - most evoke this need, this yearning.
What is this yearning which arises? This inward aching?
It is that which is deeper than either the spoken or written word. It is the deepest wisdom and ancient hope of belonging to something greater than self.
We yearn for spiritual grace, the given and received blessing, the kind words and most evocative thoughts, the gifts of undeserved and loving grace.
We re-member, and invoke the remembrance of home, kindred spirits, those gone and departed souls, and those yet to be known. Of love unbidden. Sublime in its embrace.
We yearn for Wild Grace. For Love...and Peace Profound.
We pray for, and imagine what it might be like. We dream the dream of Wild Grace. But...we must look beyond perceived differences to find it!
At this time, this Season of rebirth, resurrection, and renewal, we are most susceptible to beauty, love, gratitude, forgiveness, and for the Presence of the ephemeral mystery...of which Wild Grace is a part...
...of God. The Cosmic. The Universe...that Great Mystery from which we arise and into which we all shall one day disappear...trailing ephemeral clouds of memory and legend. Hope and Greatness.
Sometimes we forget. Yet, it is there in our deepest being. And we remember again, if only fleetingly, that we are already what we aspire to become.
Blessed and Beloved, there is no fear, no repression or oppression, no loss that is too great for the healing that comes from embracing Wild Grace. Being Wild Grace.
Wild Grace is found within. But also reflected around us...seen in our daily mirror, and in the faces of loved ones. In nature. And, accept it, or not, within the personae of our enemies.
Surrender to Wild Grace! Be Wild Grace! Remember...all things, beings, and events...are our teachers. For good, or ill.
Dive deep, Beloved. It is there! Beyond Fear, Anger, Blame, Judgement. Beyond the fearful ego and its need to win at all costs - even those "costs" which do damage to the self and others.
Be vulnerable! Surrender! Therein you WILL find strength and the Peace you crave!
Wild Grace is our birthright. Our true inheritance! Our beingness, one to another. Forever...into that eternal and illumined Night of Sleep and Awakening.
Wild Grace. It is found on the outer borders of fear, anger, and yearning.
Find Wild Grace through reflection. Prayer. Attention. Love. Charity. Humility. Surrender...
You may have to surrender many times in many ways. Again. And, again. Never ceasing. Know that deep within your very Soul shine all the stars of creation!
Beloved, you WILL find it. For how can you not? When you ARE the very thing and beingness that you seek.
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How did the Rose
Ever open its heart?
And give to the world all its beauty?
If felt the encouragement of Light
Against its being
We all remain too frightened
by Hafiz (Sufi poet)
More and more people these days are discovering that they're gluten-intolerant. Gluten intolerance results in uncomfortable and often painful symptoms after ingesting gluten-containing foods such as wheat and rye flour.
I re-duxed this wheat flour-containing cobbler when I invited the Zengers, whose farm is just down the road from the Cottage, over for dinner.
I prepared an entirely wheat-free dinner of beef and cheese enchiladas, Spanish rice pilaf, and Orange-Almond Salad. Ah, but what to make for dessert?
The following recipe is the answer!
Gluten-free Apple Cobbler With "Clotted Cream": (serves 6)
1-quart canned apples, drained
1/4-cup turbinado or granulated sugar
1-TBS cornstarch (instead of flour)
1/2-cup finely chopped pecans
1/2-cup rolled oats
1/2-cup rolled oats ground to flour consistency (instead of wheat flour), a coffee grinder works well to grind the oats.
1/2-cup packed brown sugar
2-TBS each melted butter and oil
1-tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter or oil an 8- or 9-inch tart pan or pie plate. A quiche pan works well, too, and that is what I used.
To make the cobbler combine all the Cobbler ingredients - drained apples, sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Spoon into your baking pan.
For the topping, mix all topping ingredients - pecans, rolled oats, oat flour, brown sugar, butter and oil, and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl.
Spoon and spread the topping ingredients on top of the apples.
Bake the cobbler for 40 minutes.
This is a "facsimile" clotted cream when you don't have, or can't get, the real deal! It's thicker, with more body, than whipped cream and is wonderful on scones with fruit preserves or lemon curd.
Measure and set out the cream and yogurt 60 to 90 minutes before you make the clotted cream. You want these two ingredients to be close to room temperature.
1-cup heavy, or whipping cream
1/3-cup plain, full-fat yogurt (don't use low- or non-fat)
1-TBS powdered sugar
In a small bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the yogurt, or beat in on low speed. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low until thick and smooth, two or three minutes.
Clotted Cream can then be refrigerated until serving time. It will last one to two days in the refrigerator.
I've named her Opalene. She's black until the Sun shines on her feathers which glow an iridescent green. Opalene's coloration reminds me of some black opal gemstones, hence her name. Opalene!
I'm not sure what breed of chicken Opalene is...perhaps an Australorpe - a good layer that lays brown eggs - is calm and easily tamed.
At first rather wild and scared of every new thing she's encountered since she arrived last week, Opalene, is taming nicely by eating lettuce (she didn't seem to know what it was) out of my hand. She now comes running when she sees me in the yard because I often bring the Girls treats, such as rolled oats, cottage cheese (for calcium), bread, and lettuce.
Opalene too, found the nest boxes and has been laying her eggs just where she should! Good girl, Opalene.
Night before last, the night after introducing Sugar Baby (from the infamous Nighttime Chicken Wrangle), I inserted the big red hen (whom I've named, Jessamine) into the coop.
In the morning a very confused Jessamine exited the coop trailing after Sugar Baby. I'm sure the questions ponging around in Jessamine's chicken brain were...
"Where the heck am I"?
"What place is this"?
"How exactly did I get here?"
Jessamine stayed close to Sugar Baby, her flock mate and fellow kidnapee.
Jessamine is a big Rhode Island Red of even temperament. She seems fairly fearless in the face of the Cottage Cats, my dog Shadow, and me. Sugar Baby was afraid of me, ran from the cats (so, of course they chased her), skittered away from Shadow who was very intrigued with the small, white bird-thingy.
Now, Shadow is half Labrador retriever and half pointer. So after pointing at the the new Sugar Baby she decided to "retrieve" her. After several times telling Shadow, "No", she decided that Sugar Baby was just a chicken of another color and not an exotic game bird, after all.
Shadow paid no attention to our new Jessamine. And, Jessamine completely ignored Shadow. Jessamine is too big for the cats to want to tangle with as they've been head-pecked by numerous chickens for invading personal poultry space.
Sugar Baby led Jessamine right through the Back Garden and straight into the Kitchen Garden which has been opened to the chickens so they can scratch and peck lots of bugs ahead of my Spring planting.
Jessamine was soon finding lots of plump worms that had awakened with the thaw and thereupon decided that her new home was a keeper.
Like Sugar Baby, Jessamine figured out on her own (or perhaps from Sugar Baby) to head back to the coop and use the nest box to lay her egg. Good job for her first day in her new home! Better the nest box than hidden under a bush somewhere.
So far, so good in introducing two new Chicken Girls to my existing flock. No fights. No squabbles. A little confusion. Not a lot of mingling between the new Girls and the old Girls. Two separate camps, cliques, flocks?
It took only two days for Sugar Baby to realize which side her bread was buttered on...who, in fact, was the purveyor of food and treats. ME!
Now, each time I go outside little Sugar Baby comes running to greet me. She's a fast little dickens - a real Ferrari among chickens - who can dart under the expectant beak of a Girl aiming for a snack and whisk it away. I've quickly become very fond of her.
Just one more wrangled chicken to introduce...next post!
Last night, under cover of darkness, I lifted one of the new Girls out of the temporary holding hutch and put her into the coop with my other chickens on one of the roosts.
This new hen, whom I've named Sugar Baby (she's white as sugar and quite small) latched onto the roost with her toes and there she spent the night. It was my hope that in the morning my Girls would awaken and assume Sugar Baby had always been there.
Chickens seem to shed their old brains and grow a new one bereft of memories (all except those relating to food, where to find it, who provides it, etc.) during the night.
If I'd have introduced Sugar Baby during daylight hours, my Girls would likely have attacked her. However, when everyone awakened, no attacks occurred. It seems that chickens assume that if you all awaken together, you all belong together!
I'm introducing the new chickens I acquired during the "wrangle" one at a time. I don't want them to gang up on my Girls and alter the existing hierarchy, but instead to become a part of it.
So, last night it was Sugar Baby's turn. She was a bit upset when she finally ventured forth out of the coop, but then she discovered that there were wonderful things to eat beneath the duff and leaves in the Back Garden.
I hoped that Sugar Baby would know that she was to return to the coop to lay an egg. She'd only spent last night in there.
Sugar Baby began to make some distressed cacklings in her wee, high-pitched voice. She wanted to get back to the temporary hutch she'd spent her first night in and where her two flock mates still resided. She seemed drawn to the sounds of their cacklings.
However, in a few minutes she'd found the nest boxes in the coop and after a bit of indecision settled in to lay her egg.
We carefully, strategically, thoughtfully plotted our chicken wrangling caper. We were not going to rustle chickens! That would be illegal although I'm not sure that the rustling of fowl constitutes a serious problem anywhere in the U.S.
A friend of mine in a nearby rural town, Beth Merayo, knew I wanted to plump up my chicken population by a few hens. They needn't be layers as my own Chicken Girls were providing all the eggs I needed. But a few older hens, past egg-laying, would beef up my poultry patrol platoon for added insect and weed abatement here at the Cottage.
Chickens are such useful creatures. They lay eggs - a perfect protein - and that alone endears them to me. But there's so much more I love about them!
Chickens prowl the garden scratching for insects, thus constituting my most effective strategy for pesky bug eradication. Chickens save me lots of weeding time by gobbling up many as they sprout...kochia, foxtails, cheat grass, the billions of elm seedlings that come up each Spring, wild tansy, stink weed, and more! They also snarf up my flower garden's heartsease and bachelor's button seedlings but that's another issue altogether.
Chickens cultivate and fertilize the soil as they scratch about pooping as they go. When I clean out their coop in the block barn I toss those gleanings onto compost piles and into gardens in the Fall to "mulch" in over the Winter.
The sight of chickens poking and pecking about, taking dust baths, grazing on the lawn, chasing and catching grasshoppers, and napping on a soft bed of leaves is entertaining, calming...quiet pleasures I can enjoy for hours. I think chickens are very attractive birds, too.
I LOVE chickens. They are, unapologetically, one of my favorite creatures in the whole world!
So, Beth and I went a-wrangling for chickens. Beth knows a gentleman who wants to get rid of all his chickens. She's feeding his flock while he's out of town and he told her to "come get all she wanted".
We planned our wrangling-raid for dusk when chickens head for their roosts and become more docile as nighttime falls. We gathered cages and carriers so we could haul our be-feathered booty safely away. We dressed in old clothes, funky shoes (that would become even funkier after chasing chickens through the hen house, around and around their run, and through vast quantities of panic-induced pooping.
And then, when all was ready...we struck!
I'm after this wee, very spry, black chicken. Someone forgot to tell her that chickens are supposed to become more docile at dusk. She gave me a run for my money! But in the end my very unspry self caught her.
When Beth and I entered the hen house the chickens were just beginning to settle down for the night. As soon as they saw us their chicken-intuition kicked into high gear as they perceived our foul (fowl?) intentions and began flapping and squawking and kicking up copious clouds of feces-laden dirt and dust. Yarghhh!
Apparently, these hens didn't know they were supposed to become somnambulent at dusk. They about wing-beat us to death trying to get away. All parties involved in this fracas, human and hen, squawking, flapping, panting, running, kicking up dust! But we got 'em...eventually.
Beth successfully "bagged" these two Araucana hens who are a bit frightened right now and clamped together like suction cups, but they will calm and settle down nicely in their new home where they can roam her vast lawns grazing and hunting plump worms! Like me, Beth doesn't eat her chickens...only the eggs. Our chickens simply retire to lives of leisure when they enter "ova-pause".
All in all, Beth acquired four new hens to supplement her flock. And I snared three to bring home with me - a Rhode Island Red, a small white one (possibly a Leghorn mix), and that cute black one (breed unknown) that I cornered after a strenuous jog around the chicken yard a few too many times!
Chasing chickens is hard, dirty work. They don't like being cornered or caught, kicking up a huge fuss and making their human captors very tired at the end of it all.
By the time I drove the few miles home to my wee, rural burg, my car smelled like panic-projected chicken poop (I'll hose out the carriers tomorrow). I left the car windows rolled down to air out the...um, aroma. Surely, my new Girls emptied themselves of everything they'd eaten for the past two days!
I settled the new hens into a straw-lined hutch in the block barn with water and food where they could calm down in peace, seclusion, and darkness.
In a few days I'll introduce them into the coop - at night - with my own Girls and when they all awaken together they'll simply think it's always been that way and it's likely they won't fight.
Yet, introduce new chickens to an established flock in daytime and they'll fight and carry on making a big ruckus over the "invaders".
I think my new hens will enjoy free-ranging the front lawn and gardens, savoring the earwigs in the Orchard Garden, gleaning the large Back Garden, and doing early Spring clean-up in the Kitchen Garden.
I'm not sure if the new chickens Beth and I caught are past their egg-laying prime, or not. All seemed fairly spry and fast-moving. We'll find out in the next few days whether they've still got eggs to lay...after they settle in.
If I get more eggs than I need, I know people who'd love to have free-range, organic eggs from "pastured" chickens ("pastured" simply means that a hen grazes on green grass, laying highly nutritious eggs, rich in Omega 3).
Ahhhh...the country life! I want...no, NEED...a bath!!!
Remember those small, round decorator tables?
Maybe you even have one or a few. They were really popular over a decade ago. They can still be purchased at stores (Kmart, for one). Those tables come with three screw-in legs and a round piece of glass. You can choose a round tablecloth and coordinated topper to compliment your home decor from a display nearby.
I had three of those decorator tables but during my recent clutter clearing I got rid of all the tables, keeping the tablecloths and toppers which are in the Battenburg lace style.
The toppers are 36-inches square which makes them longer and wider than most store bought cafe-style curtains such as those I use throughout the Cottage.
My bedroom window is large and the pair of ready made cafe curtains were barely big enough to cover the window when I wanted to shut out the light or the night! Ditto for the large sitting room window...those two panels (that match the bedroom's curtains) didn't quite provide enough coverage when pulled closed.
The topper-into-curtain idea is not a new one. Last Summer I snatched the blue and white check curtains off the laundry room door to make cushion covers for the back porch chairs (see below).
Below are a few more views of the Battenburg toppers re-purposed as new bedroom curtain panels.
The former bedroom curtains joined the two panels on the large sitting room window. The four matching panels, instead of only two, cover that big window nicely.
* * * *
Before I purchase a needed item or the elements to create it, I put on my thinking cap to see if I can recycle something I already have. I call this "elective frugality", one of the important components of my Cottage Lifestyle.
Elective frugality allows me to be creative, to re-purpose/recycle, to save money, and add style to my home. This is a quadruple "win, win, win...WIN"!
Broody Girl has Spring fever and "sprung" herself onto a tree stump in the Kitchen Garden. She's feeling pretty perky, and glad to be free, after her three-week stint of sitting on her nest brooding some eggs, none of which hatched. Perhaps they weren't fertile, after all, or perhaps she didn't turn them every day as she should have.
I've flung open the gates to the Kitchen Garden and let the Chicken Girls in! Their early Springtime job is to cruise about and and snarf up all the earwigs and other buggy things that will want to eat my veggies when they sprout.
While the gardens still wear their Winter "drab", wee green things are beginning to come up!
The ice and snow are melted (for now...another storm is coming next week) and I've planted collards and leeks. They can take the cold. Even if we get a snowstorm it melts off quickly and simply serves to water the cold-tolerant crops I've planted - and will plant in the next few days - such as spinach, lettuce, arugula, radishes, beets, and carrots.
Indoors, I've started seeds for tomatoes, sweet peppers, and eggplants. Next month, I'll start the flower seeds that will eventually be planted outdoors when the weather becomes more reliably warm.
Peek-a-boo cruises the big raised bed for worms! The chicken wire hoop protects newly planted collard seeds from chickens and cats, both of whom love to dig in freshly tilled soil. A "field fence" tomato cage marks the future locations of a tomato plant.
One of the Cottage Cats, Thai Boy, and Peek-a-boo come to check out my recent activity in the big raised bed. I've inserted the poles for the tepee upon which runner beans will be planted in mid-to-late May after all danger of frost. I push the poles into the ground in early Spring while it's still wet beneath the surface from Winter snows. Pushing poles into sodden soil is much easier than pounding them into dry soil
Here at the Cottage we all have Spring Fever!!!