As his school holiday break drew to a close Mr E harvested the first of his two rows of carrots from the front yard. He'd planted them to break up the soil, just as he'd planted beans to nourish the soil...this all being in preparation for a 'proper' planting season next year due to there being such a lot of work to do on the dreadful soil we inherited when we bought the house a year ago.
He pulled around 8 kilos (17 pounds) of carrots from that first row, which I later scrubbed and juiced (Mr E loves carrot juice and drinks it every day), the pulp destined for our tumbling composter which he made recently from a 44 gallon drum, though a handful was given to the chooks who gobbled up every little bit. The second row will be pulled next weekend and I'll blanch and freeze some of those before juicing the remainder.
Our glut of cheap winter strawberries came to and end so I made more jam...
...as well as a Strawberry Shortcake. And here's where it all gets interesting.
After I prepared the shortcake base, spread it with the fresh jam I'd made the day before, scattered grated apple across the jam and a sprinkle of lemon zest...
...covered everything with sliced strawberries and finished with a smattering of more shortcake mix...
...I popped it in the oven to bake for around 40 minutes.
At the 15 minute mark a loud commotion from the chickens ripped through the air and we heard panic. Flying out the door we saw a dog with one of our chooks in its mouth racing across our front yard and heading down the side of the house.
Mr E flew after the dog and threw himself on it which allowed the chicken to escape in terror.
He wrestled the dog to the ground, holding it the best he could in its now panicked state whilst yelling to our neighbour (it was one of their dogs which had escaped their yard and dug under our fence) for help. I opened the gate for our neighbour and raced out back to find the chickens.
The darker one was the victim and huddled in the corner of the coop; the lighter one was hiding behind Mr E's shed - both of them traumatised.
Once the neighbour wrapped his dog in a blanket to calm it and take it home my husband came out back and said, "You need to take me to the hospital"...he'd been bitten to the bone in his left thumb and had numerous lacerations across his arms.
The chickens were safe so we locked them in the coop, switched off the oven, grabbed bottles of water and headed out to the hospital where we spent the next five hours.
My love had a tetanus shot, got x-rays of both hands, had wound irrigation, antibiotics and dressings applied - apparently a dog bite cannot be stitched closed as it can lock in the bacteria if there's any present.
Arriving home that evening we pretty much collapsed on the couch and that's when the shock set it. At first adrenaline is driving you on, but then it drains away and the reality of what has happened becomes clear. My beloved has very sore hands still and his neck took a pounding when trying to restrain the dog so he's quite stiff and achy there too...but he's okay.
This all came on top of the motorbike accident we witnessed a week before, during our drive around a very windy deserted road in the mountains. First on the scene and having watched it unfold, my dear husband kept everyone calm and did what he could until more help arrived and eventually an ambulance. The rider went head first into the mountain after his bike flipped and along with concussion he had some nasty facial and hand injuries...but his helmet and protective riding gear saved him.
Watching how Mr E stayed calm at that awful scene and in doing so kept everyone else calm, especially the injured rider, I was able to do the same during and after the dog incident. This had been a big life lesson for me and my dear husband commended me for it the following day. All I could think of was "God never wastes a teaching opportunity" for indeed I would have been a bit of an emotional mess if not for seeing how my husband handled a very stressful situation the week before.
We renamed the chooks (for those not in Australia, we call chickens 'chooks') because we didn't really like the names they came with (Nutmeg and Cinnamon)...it still felt like they belonged to someone else.
After the nasty dog incident we named the injured chook Bess (she's the darker one) because we used to have a very brave chook named Bess many years ago and this new Bess of ours is very brave too. She survived the attack with just the loss of many feathers, and though she no longer shows any desire to wander into the front yard she is back on the lay, missing only the day after the attack.
The lighter chook is now Daphne because she's very funny and we always thought the character of Daphne in Frasier was quite a hoot.
Back to the kitchen:
I finished baking the strawberry shortcake that night and drier than usual it was still delicious and we enjoyed it covered in custard. There's something to be said for comfort foods.
I've also had a successful sour dough bake, first for the year as I'd not pursued bread making this year the way I used to.
Personally I thought the dough a bit wet but it baked with a good crumb texture and Mr E loved it.
Next time I'll bake it in a tin but for this loaf we wanted rustic to serve with bowls of savoury mince.
I had enough starter left to build up for the next loaf but decided to pop it in the fridge for a few days because we didn't yet need another loaf. It will come out today and I'll begin feeding it again for a new loaf on Friday.
I've also returned to a process I followed many years ago when my son couldn't stomach wheat.
We did gluten free for a long time but then discovered Sally Fallon's book and by soaking the flour for 24 hours before baking with it my son no longer had any digestive reaction.
Mr E and I have decided to follow this way of baking again and indeed, it's so gentle on the digestive system that we wonder why I ever stopped preparing muffins and cakes this way.
The only thing I do differently from Sally's recipe is swap her teaspoon of salt for just a pinch, otherwise it's too salty.
Here's the blueberry muffins I made, and I also made apple cinnamon muffins for freezer.
There's a huge difference in texture and delight when muffins and cakes are made this way...so much better.
Well I've already scrubbed the shower with vinegar and bicarb this morning and tended to the animals, done dishes and a general tidy up - plus wrote this blog post - but now I need to vacuum and mop before brewing a cup of Twinings chamomile and spearmint tea (my new favourite) and sitting down to write the pattern for a project I completed in August.
Note to self: "Do not put off pattern writing, you just create a stressful mind, Jennifer."
I pray today that the Lord will use every trial and every blessing in your life to teach lessons which will carry you in good stead for the future. After all, He wastes nothing, neither should we.