Thankful

Saturday, November 26, 2016

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Butter, in the shape of a turkey.  Thank you, WinCo Foods.

Thanksgiving came to the farm in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, or more specifically, in a set of several massive storms that dropped inches of rain. We don’t see rain as anything out of the ordinary, so life went on in the usual fashion, with the exception of the dogs who for the task of doing their business, were escorted outside with the covering of a giant umbrella. No one likes to get that wet. Truly, we received about two inches of rain in 24-hours, and then it slowed down to a little less than that.

Our gathering was small: dear daughter, dear son and his dear girlfriend and her dog that refers to Justin as HER boyfriend, and who I refer to as my dog-in-law, and Craig, Dad, Stella, and myself. Six adults, two dogs, and a turkey breast instead of the whole bird, was just about the perfect number of everything.

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The Daisies, minus Craig, the picture taker.

So, you may ask…..what does a Daisie Thanksgiving look like? We cook food. We eat way too much. We nap, and we watch TV in the form of the Macy’s Parade, and sportsball.

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There was a lot of worrying going on.

One member of the family does laundry, and one member works on projects. I’m guessing it looks very similar to everyone else’s holiday gathering. Political conversation was banned, and my phone gave me serious warnings throughout the day regarding “Areal Flooding.” We sit on the side of a small hill, so we are immune to any flooding that may occur, so this, thankfully, becomes interesting information for us. We watched the rain, I tended the turkey, the side dishes, and the fire, and I reveled in the sound of the voices of my family, and the joy of having them all in the same room gathered around the table.

I am a big fan of these types of events. I could easily do it every week, but that’s not the way life works. How does the song go; “Children get older and I’m getting older, too.” We live in different cities and have our own lives, but these times together renew my spirit and remind me of the things I am so thankful for.

Again, the message here: Live in each moment as it happens. Look deeply into the eyes of those surrounding you during these magical moments. Savor the time together and the gentle thread that binds you securely to your loved ones.

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And, who’s not thankful for a holiday that demands cooking with alcohol?  (fyi: sherry in the mushrooms, whisky in the pumpkin pie, and orange liquor in the cranberries.  Had I actually made the Derby Pie, spiced rum would have made the photo……maybe for Christmas?)

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Bringing in the Sheaves

 

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Raspberries, and Dad the berry picker

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

There is a little known fact about myself that I will share. I’m certain it will come as a surprise, and I probably shouldn’t tell tales so shocking in nature. Here it is: I don’t like to harvest things. I’m not thrilled with picking raspberries, especially EVERY 3 DAYS without fail as is the custom here at the farm. I don’t like to pick strawberries, apples, blueberries, cherries, etc.

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Cherry picking.  It can be death-defying.  And yes, this tree has seen better days.  No worries, though.  We’ve planted another one to eventually take it’s place.  We should never be without pie cherries.

This comes from my early years. As a child, I, along with every other child living in the Willamette Valley in the 1960’s, was sent to the fields by our parents, to pick berries and beans for the local farmers. There was a cry from the farmers for labor, and the parents of the 60’s obliged. Rest assured, this is not a thing anymore, but when I was growing up, all of us kids were involved in this form of “child labor.” There were buses that picked us up and took us home. If the bus didn’t run in your area, there were parents who carpooled kids out to the farm. It was a good reason to dread the summer months. I suppose it did provide a source of income for some, but the small pittance I earned, didn’t quite make me the millionaire I had my sights set on. For the farmer I am, this activity didn’t grab my soul, and somehow, this feeling of impending doom hasn’t ever really left.

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Some of the potato crop.  Believe it or not, these are volunteers.  The original potato that started this crop, probably came from the compost that is spread under the raspberries.  They have overtaken the last row of the berries.  We encourage this volunteerism here at the farm.  It’s a good thing.

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Cucumbers

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Pears, picked and ripening in the shed.  (They are “lifted” when green and allowed to ripen off the tree.)

Please don’t misunderstand. I do pick things. I’m an adult. I do it because I have to. I might have mentioned my distaste of crop harvest to my dear Dad. I am quite certain it was both a shock and heartbreak, but he is a smart man. As he played out the summer scenario I do believe he understood the next part of the story:

I like to preserve things. I love to can. I like making “concoctions.” Our freezer is full of bags of ice cube sized things like roasted red peppers, tomatillo sauce, pesto’s of various origins, as well as bags and BAGS of raspberries and freezer jams. On the shelves, are my stores of canned applesauce, pears, pickles, relish, jams, jellies…….and the list goes on and on.

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Canned.  Pears.

We have reached détente. Fruit, and possibly produce, appear and I deal with it. There are times when the timing of my side of the bargain is not, shall we say, convenient.   But at this point in time, the harvest related activities are mostly over, so I’ll allow myself the grace to forget some of the more stressful situations that may or may not have occurred. (And, I will assure you, they did occur with an alarming frequency.)

And so, another season comes to a close. We all survived the harvest, perhaps not unscathed, but a nice spoonful of blackberry jam on that piece of toast while sitting by the fire, might just make it all worthwhile.

Peace to you as you watch the leaves drift to the ground.

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Figs.  They’re my personal favorite.  I pick these myself.

 

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What Comes Next?

 

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

It has been a difficult week. I’m not saying this to be cliché. I am broken to the depths of my soul, and I would be remiss to pass over the events of the past week with drivel about the plumbing, yard work, etc.

This country is wrecked. People are scared, emotionally charged, and hurting. If you don’t believe me, check your Facebook feed, watch the news, read the paper. Change is coming and it’s not going to be pretty or comfortable, or even safe. This is not a political blog, and it won’t move in that direction.   But, I’m not going to tiptoe around my beliefs. I am a feminist, a humanist, and a generally compassionate person, and I am afraid. We elected the school bully to our highest office, and his stated agenda paints a terrifying picture of life to come. For all of us.

I am not alone in my fear. My daughter, her women friends, my women friends, and my LGBTQ friends are afraid. I am worried about the state of my friends with disabilities, my friends whose skin color isn’t “lily white,” and those whose families came from another country. I am worried about the environment. I am worried about the future.

My life on this earth won’t last forever, but the choices made in my name and yours, will follow us like a python stalking it’s prey. This isn’t about “my candidate” loosing the election. I have suffered the disappointment of defeat before. This is about this person’s well-documented plan as to how he will alter the course of history. It will be more than a “bumpy ride” for the next four years. We are in for trouble.

In the hope of solidarity, strength, and safety from persecution, I wish us all the resolve we need to move forward.

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Magical Summer

 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

For the most part, we live a fairly unremarkable existence here at the farm. We tend to the things that need tending to, which means that we stay busy. I’ve mentioned this before. We are mindful of the weather and the changing of seasons and all that brings. We mow the grass, weed the flower beds, tend the garden, prune errant bushes, pick the fruit, do the laundry, fix things that need fixing, and attempt to clean up after ourselves. We have grown complacent with this life. But this summer something else happened. This magical series of events interspersed themselves with the usual goings on and turned an otherwise mundane season into a time of great anticipation, and life.

We had company. Dear friends and family members came to visit. This is not a small or insignificant thing. These people of ours came from near and far. They came to visit us ON PURPOSE. Many had not been to the farm in years.

Before each of these groups of folks arrived, they admonished me NOT to “cook or go to a lot of trouble.” As much as I understood their intent, I really did want to cook. Their presence gave me reason to cook. I had things I wanted to make, and things I wanted to serve to more than the usual three of us. Placing food on the table, for us to share, gave me the opportunity to gaze upon their beautiful faces, listen to their voices, and marvel at the wonder of it all, as we ate our meals together. They brought joy and life to our corner of the world. Their stories, their words, and their laughter breached the disconnect that sometimes makes its way into our lives.   To say that this presence graced us is an understatement. It made our summer. For me, and for my family, this IS the life in life.

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My kids…….all of them……biological or not

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Duplos and kids

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Journaling for his school, back in Australia

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My cousins, my kids, Dad, Stella, and I

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“This is the track that Dad built.”

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My cousin and I baked a cake while the rest of the group went on what I refer to as a: “death drive.” (More than a “three hour tour.”)

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A birthday cake for my brother-in-law, who came to see us on his birthday!

And to those who I have no photos, Neil and Jenny, Don and Wendy, Jon and Trish, Dick and Helen, and John and Karen, a heart-felt thank you for coming to visit. The gift of your presence meant (and means) the world to us.  Thank you for gracing us.

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The Dog Days of Summer

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer is a good time for our wonderful Stella. She likes warm weather. The hot weather doesn’t seem to be quite as enjoyable for her. As we say, a black dog in the sun is much hotter than a lighter colored dog. This is not just our made-up logic. Pups, the neighbor dog, who has black fur, is always much hotter than her counterpart, the White Dog.

I digress. I was discussing Stella the Wonderful. She enjoys a temperate climate. We are happy to offer that to her, here at the farm, in the beautiful Willamette Valley.

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Resting on the patio

She is fortunate. There are many reasons for her good luck, but in this instance it really pertains to our myriad collection of things related to leisure. We have lawn furniture to rest on. These pieces of outdoor furniture are not in the sun. In addition, they have provided a comfortable place to rest for EVERY dog that has ever come to the farm. All dogs, past and present, seem to know that these are provided for their enjoyment and relaxation. If we should happen to have company that are inclined to park themselves on said outdoor furniture, Stella is a polite hostess and simply sits with them, usually in their lap. Because EVERYONE loves Stella, this works out pretty well for her. She is quite comfortable sitting in the lap of someone, and they simply put up with a little discomfort in favor of being snuggled by a sweet dog.

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A favorite lap to lay on

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Another great napping spot

We also have copious amounts of lawn and grass, some concrete, (it provides a sort of radiant warmth to a dog) and then there is the gravel driveway.

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A nice warm patch of concrete to rest the old bones

It goes without saying that in unpleasantly hot weather, there is the bed in the house. This would be our bed. Nice and comfy. So many choices for naps. Most days, this quandary of where to rest is solved by moving from one location to the other.

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A nice pre-bedtime nap

But, the all time favorite discovery of the summer revolves around the wheelbarrow. Craig happened to be up in the shed fooling around with various things and with the wheelbarrow. He happened to put Stella’s car dog bed into the wheelbarrow. Stella, looked at the wheelbarrow, looked at Craig, and looked at the wheelbarrow. He asked her if she wanted to get in the wheelbarrow. She jumped in. He proceeded to wheel her around. Up and down the driveway. She enjoyed the ride, and a new activity was born. Yes, she does live a charmed life, but then again, life with Stella charms us maybe more than it does her. It is just the way it works, and we couldn’t be happier.

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Wheelbarrow rides.  Who could resist?

 

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Come for the Chicken, Stay for a Swim.

Friday, August 19, 2016

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We have been gifted with two quite remarkable things this summer. We’ve had some pretty mild and pleasant weather and we’ve also had a fair amount of company. The first of these facts is remarkable because we live in Oregon and, in spite of that fact, these events somehow happened simultaneously. Dependably nice weather, aka not raining, is hard to come by in these parts. Knowing that we were going to have company, and knowing that our seating arrangements for a dinner-time experience are limited, I bought a couple of plastic folding tables, made a couple of tablecloths and some table runners, and waited for the guests to appear.

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My new tablecloth and runners!

It is a known fact that I like to cook. It is also quite true that I like to cook for the masses. With all of these things coming together at once, it has made for a lovely summer of eating on the patio with friends and family. It is also possible that these events allow the odds to be stacked a little more in my favor as to menu selection as the majority rules, with entrée selection. In other words, the pickiest eaters in my group are directed to eat around the objectionable items, such as kale salad or chocolate cake.

But all this joy is not meant to happen without a downside. Like many folks, our summers of blissful dining al fresco seemed to be plagued by the damnable yellow jackets. They infiltrate our somewhat peaceful existence and seem to cause a level of distress among diners that make for anything but a relaxed mealtime. And then there is the ever-present fly swatter that my dear Dad likes to use as the second line of defense against these beasts. His first option is the brown bag. He uses a small, sack lunch-sized bag, blows air into it so that it is full, uses a string or twist-tie on the end, and sets in the bushes somewhere near where we are eating.  This is supposed to mimic a wasp’s nest, which is supposed to frighten the yellow jackets away. If you ask me, there is NOTHING that frightens a yellow jacket.

In order to avoid Dad’s third choice in the eradication of the yellow jackets, which would be insecticide, I have my own plan. I have done this for years and I have pretty good luck. It does pair nicely with my own personal hospitality goals, even though it results in the untimely demise of our uninvited dinner guests.

I have a moderate selection of plastic containers that have been given a second life prior to their toss into the recycle bin.

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Yellow jacket traps in the clothesline.  Redneck, but effective.

If need be (in the case of the ketchup bottle) I cut the top off, so that I have access to the inside.  I poke a hole in each side close to the top of the container.

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Yellow jacket trap

 

I thread a bamboo skewer through this hole, and attach a raw or cooked (small) piece of meat to this skewer with a twist tie. I put a couple of inches of apple cider vinegar, and a drop or two of liquid dish soap (to break the surface tension) and set these around up high…..near where we are eating…..but not within reach of any kids or curious adults. (or possibly Stella, although she hasn’t seemed interested)  The yellow jackets arrive. They eat. This meal weighs them down. In their attempt to leave my little diner of sorts, the take-off maneuver begins (and ends) with a downward fall. They land in the water. Since they don’t swim, they don’t leave. Ever.

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Yellow jacket trap with “guests” taking an eternal swim.

And, there you have it. If, in fact, you wish to try my “kountry method” of pest control, I’ll pass on a couple of helpful hints:

  1. I have been known to stockpile fatty meat remnants for just such events.
  2. I have also used our apple cider in the traps when I have been desperate. (or, out of apple cider vinegar….or both)
  3. You do need to re-bait the traps every 24 hours. The vinegar continues to work, the meat seems to loose it’s “attractiveness.”
  4. Use plastic covered twist ties. It makes #3 much easier.
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It’s Summer (the livin’ is not always easy)

Friday, August 12, 2016

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So far, it’s been a fairly uneventful summer for us. This could change, a fact that we are all too familiar with. To date, we have dealt with the demons that have reared their ugly heads, worked through the annual tasks, and enjoyed the respite from the crises that lie on the horizon, hidden from our view.

We’ve done the standard things. We went to the Alien Festival parade in McMinnville.

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Locals

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Alien float

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More parade highlights

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“LoveBomb Gogo”  They make an annual appearance in the parade.  We love them.

It will come as no surprise that it’s an annual favorite with a majority of the Daisies. Personally, I have only missed one or two parades over the last 17+ years. Dad might not be a fan, so he and Stella stayed home and watched TV. This year it rained on our parade. A. Lot. Of. Rain. We bought plastic bag rain ponchos. This is Oregon, and these events realize the state of our weather and the vendors come prepared.

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Craig and I.  I’m wearing my rain poncho.  It was a typical Oregon day. (rainy)

We visited my dear Mother-In-Law over Memorial Day weekend. She was in the process of having a garage sale and purging her stash of wool fabric, and the stash of many of her friends. Dad and I shopped her sale, and we each came home with “a little something.” Actually, Dad came home with a large garbage bag FULL of wool.

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The garage sale!

This led into an extended session of rug braiding that began the second we arrived home and continues to this day.

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Step #1 – sorting

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Cut into strips

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More sorting

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Sewing the strips together

I suppose it goes without saying that we have been dealing with fruit. We had a nice (small) crop of strawberries, a larger spring crop of raspberries, and cherries. The raspberries are picked every three days, and to date we (actually, Dad) have picked 75 pints of berries.

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Dad, picking the pie cherries

We have six cherry trees, all of them a different variety. They ripen at different times, which means: picking for days. And in years where our luck is not so good, the rain pays us a visit. This issue of inclement weather causes a lot of worry in our house. There is concern that the rain will split the cherries and the crop will be no good. This does happen. We also have some “nervous nellies” who want things picked regardless of their degree of ripeness, just so the fruit is off the tree when the rain comes. I am not one of these people. I take issue with freezing cherries that are sour, but should be sweet. My people are aware of this philosophical difference of opinion that we seem to have. This year the Mount Morency, (pie cherries) and the Lamberts didn’t suffer this fate. The Bings were mostly eaten by the birds, as were the Vans and Lapins. Again, this is pretty much an annual occurrence and it does cause a lot of concern. The Rainiers, which are the last to ripen, succumbed to the rain this year, and split. They were picked anyway and given to me with the admonishment that they were split, but okay. The splits were not okay. They were beginning to mold. They were unfit for human consumption, and I brought up this little issue.   I had a better idea.

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Dealing with the cherries that were okay

Let’s just say that sometimes these things that are a problem for others, aren’t such a problem for everyone, or for me. I put the split cherries into a bucket and used them for a dye bath for a couple of my clothesline baskets. It appears that after years of fooling around with natural dyeing, I managed to make this dye almost “fast,” which means I don’t think they will bleed if they get wet. This is a BIG deal. (FYI Judy – I pre-washed with washing soda, used a salt water soak as a pre-mordant, and then dyed with the semi-strained liquid dye)   I’m pretty happy with the color, and am contemplating doing a little more dyeing later this summer. You know I can’t resist the Queen Anne’s Lace. Lovely fragrance. Lovely pale green color.

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Making the dye bath

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Cherry (with a little raspberry) dyed basket

Life would not be our version of “normal” without the usual repair work. The weather station ceased to give us the information we needed to know. This led to work that we would rather not see being tackled by people over a certain age. We are of an ilk that are absolutely aware that what goes up must come down, and a roof is one of those places where a rapid descent makes for a shortened lifespan. This task was completed without incident, and said weather station is now working properly.

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Up on the roof.  Weather station repair.

We dealt with trees who failed to produce, or continue to exist, for that matter. After succumbing to whatever malady that befell them and the previous two to three sets of trees who preceded them, we unceremoniously jerked them out of the ground with the merciful help of the tractor. We hope this is something the other trees who are standing nearby will take note of. On a more serious note, there is bad juju in the soil in that area. We have not had good luck with any of the trees planted there. Personally, I think it is time for the trees to go and garden beds to take their place. Not all the farm-based Daisies agree with this idea. I guess we’ll just have to see what the next season brings.

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And with that, the dead tree left the farm.

We live in an older house. This means there are occasional plumbing issues. And by occasional, I might mean they occur more frequently than some believe the word “occasional” refers to. We deal with some of these things, and others we pretend to ignore. As you might suspect, this only works for us on an “occasional” basis. One of the most common occurring situations would be the line that runs from the house to the septic tank. Continuous lengths of pipe apparently didn’t exist at the time this house was built. This is an uneducated guess on my part, and my second guess is that the way many small pieces of pipe were originally placed end to end, is the way it “was always done,” and so ended up being done here in the land where fate is not tempted by change.

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Dad surveying the plumbing situation.

All this aside, we have trees whose roots seem to be attempting to find nourishment in the small spaces between said pipes. The trees really have this battle all wrapped up, and some of us do know that. We have a plan for this situation. With many thanks to Rotor-Rooter, we are able to fight back with a vengeance and a giant 4 inch plumbing snake with a voracious Amazonian piranha-like attachment on the end, that makes history (at least for another 12-15 months) of this usurping of the soon to be “night-soil” in the making. And so, Roto-Rooter became one of our visitors to the farm, this summer. This young lad with the nastiest of jobs solved one of our two plumbing problems. As for the unsolved, it’s one of those things we’ll just pretend to ignore.

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The issue that refused to be “fixed.”

And jumping to a happier subject, this year brought more cakes into our lives. We have summer birthdays here at the farm. Dad turned 92 in June, and Craig had his big day in July.

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Dad’s 92nd Birthday Cake.  It’s an Angel Food cake with Seven Minute Frosting and gumdrop flowers.  It’s a tradition that I don’t change up. Ever.

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Craig’s cake.  Chocolate cake with raspberry filling and mocha frosting.

We visited friends who also celebrate a July birthday, and I took the opportunity to make another cake.

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John’s birthday celebration

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A close-up of the cake.  (It’s a fondant flower!)

But, the best of all was the wedding of my dear neighbor’s daughter who got married at their house on July 8. I was honored to be the cake baker.

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There was a lot of multi-tasking going on during the wedding cake decorating.

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These projects tend to overtake my limited amount of space.

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Making flowers.

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So. Many. Flowers.

It was a lovely evening with a small group of family and friends in attendance. I thought the cake turned out pretty well, and as it should be, the love and joy that surrounded that day, wrapped its magical embrace around each of us. The day was a highlight of the summer for me. I wish this lovely couple a lifetime of happiness together. Seeing the joy in their faces, I know in my heart, this is exactly what the future holds for the two of them.

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The wedding cake!

 

 

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