Monday, April 29, 2013

A long weekend

Our internet connection proved to be elusive once more... I don't know how long it will last this time, but I thought I might as well pop in and send a little hello, even if I don't have anything very articulate and coherent prepared.

These days, long, full and busy, seem sometimes so very much alike that it's hard to believe things will change sometimes; and yet I know that they will. Right now, I have little girls who are thrilled so easily - by looking into a fruit bowl and seeing their favorite fruit, or by noticing an interesting-looking bug at the roadside. One day, this shall pass (though I hope my daughters will retain, at least somewhat, the childlike ability to find happiness in the little things - an ability I work on cultivating in myself). One day, they will go on and make their own separate lives, and I can only hope that these lives will still hold a place for us. 

So for now, let us seize the moment and enjoy the sweet simplicity of life. 
Last Friday, my husband made oven-baked breaded salmon with assorted vegetables. It looked so colorful and lovely that I decided to snap a photo, just before it went into the oven. And believe it or not, it tasted even better than it looked!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend, and have started an equally great week.

With friendship,

Mrs. T

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Goodies

This morning, I was inspired to make these mini-buns with very simple goat cheese, a couple of eggs (home grown of course!), some baking powder, a little olive oil, and just enough flour to make the whole mix workable. I added some fresh rosemary leaves from the garden for their wonderful aroma. Form little balls with your hands, place in a baking tray, and they are ready to go into the oven - to come out 20 minutes later, delicious-smelling, crispy on the outside and soft inside. Yum. 

I must say it really has been a delight to have fresh goat milk on hand. I use the milk in cheese in all kinds of buns, pancakes, fritters, quiches, lasagna and so much more. Not to mention milking is actually fun now that I got the hang of it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

They are alive!

For those who have been wondering about the fate of our eggs after the electricity shutdown last Saturday, here is an update: last night we candled the eggs, and most of them are looking good... and there are a couple that look as though they were never fertile in the first place, so I suppose all in all no damage was done.

It was difficult to take a high-quality photo, but if you enlarge it and look carefully you can see the embryo and blood vessels. 

So, our snuggling with them under the blankets for warmth probably helped! 

Here are some links about what to expect/do if you are incubating eggs and the electricity shuts down.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Everything for free

Well, perhaps not everything - but you definitely can get for free, or almost for free, things that people usually pay substantial sums of money to have. 

One of the things that I find most thrilling in our journey towards self-sustainability is not doing without (although it has to be done at times, and can be very character-building), but rather, finding out creative ways to obtain some of the things we need without paying, or with paying much less. How?

1. Make it. This can refer to many things: sewing, carpentry, repair works, building, plumbing, and a lot more. Don't be afraid to mess things up, or to end up with work that looks "unprofessional". You learn as you go, and the satisfaction in doing something with your hands is great.

2. Find it. People throw away many useful things in very good condition. The computer desk I am currently sitting behind while typing this was obtained this way, as were other items of furniture in our house. They weren't thrown away because they were only good for the dump, but because someone was moving and had no room for a particular piece of furniture, or because they bought something new instead. We have also found home utensils, excellent books (in very good condition, too), and more. In time you learn to keep an eye open when you drive by, especially in the last couple of weeks before Pesach. 

* Warning: this can get addictive. While it's wonderful to save good things from the dump, consider whether you really need it, or your home will soon be overflowing. Ask me how I know.  

3. Perhaps someone is giving it away. Look through appropriate websites. In Israel it's agora.co.il. There are endless lists of people giving away furniture, clothes, baby equipment, toys, books, and more. One man's trash is another man's treasure, they say - can't think of anything truer than that. For example, someone used to have rabbits, and now he has a cage he no longer needs - but we could use just such a cage for our baby chicks. 

If you can't find someone who is giving it away, it is very likely you will find someone from whom you can buy it second-hand, for a fraction of the original price.

4. Barter. If someone has something you need, consider whether you might also have something they need, which you can offer instead of money. It might be something you make at home, or a skill you can trade. For example, one of my neighbours makes really beautiful pottery, and I know she wants chickens. If we have a surplus of chicks this year, I might offer her some, in exchange for a piece or two of her pottery. Another neighbour started a beehive this season, and once they start harvesting I intend to find out whether they are interested in trading some honey for fresh goat milk. Perhaps you are a computer ace, know a foreign language, play the piano, have a hand for carpentry, or, in short, have a skill you can use in exchange for getting what you want/need.  

Defying the money economy can be fun. It is also a challenge of sorts. Many times, we did one or all of the above (making things ourselves, looking for someone who is giving something away, etc) not because we could not afford to pay, but because we saw no reason why we should. It becomes a way of life. The bonus part of it is bringing people closer. By making contacts through giveaway lists (lately we have been more on the giving side) we met some wonderfully interesting people. Compare this to just walking into a big impersonal store, picking up an overpriced item, and paying for it perhaps without even saying a word to the cashier. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A very stormy Saturday, and finally some chicks!

Last Saturday was very stormy and cold - by Israeli standards, of course. We had wind, rain, hail, and I had to pull out the warm clothes from the upper shelves where I (very confidently, since it's already close to the end of April) put them a little while ago. 

Even worse, on Saturday morning the electricity just flopped out, and because operating electric appliances on Shabbat is forbidden, we could not even attempt to fix it. So, we were stuck all day long with no heating, no lights, no way to heat our food, and worst of all - no way to keep our incubator running. We just put in a batch of eggs on Wednesday, among them some Sebright eggs my husband purchased as a gift for me, and I was devastated. It was 15 degrees (C) in the house, and dropping rapidly, and I knew the chances of our eggs are dwindling with each passing minute.

"Wait," said my husband, "there's something we can do." 

... I took the eggs to bed with me, made a nest (yes, like a good broody hen!) and spent all day snuggled with them for warmth under two thick blankets. Come evening, we (temporarily) fixed the electricity problem and set the incubator to run again. I'm still not sure whether my "hatching" helped at all, but we had nothing to lose, and it was quite an experience. Hopefully, in a day or two we can candle the eggs and know for sure. 

The tiny Sebright eggs we put under our broody, who yesterday was just in the final stages of hatching her first clutch of eggs. This morning we went out to the sounds of chirping, and put mother hen and her four chicks in a cardboard box at home, away from the cold, wet and dangers of the outside (cats, dogs, foxes, hawks, etc). The Sebright eggs went back into the incubator. Thanks, dear little hen, for helping us keep them warm! 
 I really wanted to take a picture of her with all her chicks, but they just keep huddling under her wings. So cute. This is the first time we got chicks hatched by a broody, and we're so happy.
 Here they are in a plastic box, where I put them for a minute to take a group photo. The light yellow chick on the left actually came out from an "adopted" egg, but the hen doesn't seem to notice. :o)
One of the chicks held by Shira. I know it looks this way, but she really isn't pinching the little one's beak!

So, as you can tell, we are having fun despite the atypical spring weather.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In memory of Irena Sendler


This year, time has really been whizzing by, and so it happened that Holocaust Memorial Day came and went and I didn't dedicate a post to it, although I very much wanted to. Now I would like to take the opportunity to share with you all a bit about the unique destiny of a heroic woman I only recently discovered.

Irena Sendler was born in Poland in the year 1910 under the name of Irena Krzy┼╝anowska. There is a page dedicated to her on Lowell Milken Center, a website that specializes in "celebrating unsung heroes who change the world", and you can also read about her on Wikipedia. She was a young woman when the Nazis rose to power; and while all around Europe the evil was either hushed up, rationalized or condoned, Irena found it in herself not only to recognize it, but also to stand up to it, saving countless lives.

During the years 1942-43 Irena, using various methods which show her ingenuity and bravery, managed to smuggle around 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto. I get goosebumps just thinking of what kind of a fearless spirit one must have in order to accomplish something like this. Irena, along with the help of others, gave the children false identities, hid them in foster families, convents or orphanages, and made lists of the children's real names. The lists she put in jars and buried them in a garden, optimistically believing that some day, the evil rulers would be vanquished and the Jewish children she saved would be able to proudly wear their real names again.

Irena Sendler was, ultimately, captured by the Nazis, tortured and sentenced to death, but with the help of friends managed to escape and spent the rest of the war in hiding. Despite the great danger – if she was caught again, no doubt she would be facing instant execution - she did not discontinue her work among the Jewish children. In 1965, she was recognized by Yad Va-Shem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, as a "Righteous among the Nations", a title of great praise.  

Our sages say, "he who saves one man, saves an entire world". Consider, then, how many worlds Irena Sendler saved – not only the 2,500 Jewish children, but also their children and grandchildren and all the generations to come. Not to mention that she gave the world an extraordinary example which is an inspiration to us all to reach out, in any little way we can, and do good. She was rewarded by being able to see how her work bears fruit, and no doubt she rejoiced to know that the children grow up and build lives and families of their own.

These words now come to my mind: "If this city has even ten righteous men, it will not be destroyed". Jews have lived in Poland, and the rest of Europe, for many centuries. They had a vibrant culture and flourishing communities. They contributed in the way of literature, architecture, economy, science. No country had ever seen anything but good from its Jewish community – and yet in the midst of the cultured, well-educated, humanistic 20-th century, a totalitarian regime rose which wiped it all out in just some short years. And only a few had the courage and spirit to actively resist. Those few, in my opinion, are the "ten righteous men" (and women, of course) thanks to whom G-d did not make Europe go up in flames. The countries where the evil deeds happened live on, and so does our memory of what happened.

It is so very, very important that it does not fade away. There are still Holocaust survivors living, but there are fewer each year. And there is our generation – some of us knew in person Holocaust survivors or war heroes, so we will never doubt their words... but we, too, will pass away some day, and so the personal element of connection with this great tragedy will be lost. Already some are denying the Holocaust – and if I could, and if I weren't Jewish and didn't know any Jews, perhaps I would be tempted to deny it too, because it is too horrible to contemplate the idea of one nation systematically destroying another, men, women, children, the elderly, the infants. And there Divine command comes to instruct us: "Remember what Amalek did to you". Because only then you will be able to strike in time, and stand up to Amalek again and again.

Irena Sendler died in 2008, at the age of 98. May her life and legacy never be forgotten.

You can visit the Lowell Milken Center page to read about more little-known heroes of blessed memory. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Back after a short (and unexpected) break

I've been out of internet connection for a couple of days, due to some technical mistake on my own part, and later on account of Independence Day, which gave my husband two days off work. The first day was spent visiting family and watching the fireworks display in the evening, and the second day was so cold, windy and rainy that we spent it almost entirely inside, enjoying a very leisurely pace of a day which we don't have often.

Now that I'm back, I've been watching some videos on sustainable and economical house-building, and I thought a couple of them might be interesting to you, for example here


And here is another video... I especially liked this step-by-step tutorial.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Promise you'll never forget me


christopher robin, forget, love, pooh bear, winnie, winnie the pooh
"So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."


Today was the second time I read this chapter with the girls. 

Is it normal that my tears are flowing? 

It's a little hard to explain, but I'm thinking about us being still little children in many ways, even when we are adults... especially during those moments when we are lying in bed in the darkness, or praying, or dealing with something tragic, or doing what we have always loved, ever since we were little. 

I'm thinking about this Promise, never to forget the child in us... or the child in our children, when they grow older and become adults. Because this childlike-ness is probably one of the best things there are within us. The thing that keeps our eyes open to wonder and beauty; the thing that allows us to live, love, laugh, enjoy unreservedly, and seize the moment for all the goodness in it. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A cool and quiet day

 Today was probably one of the last cool days we are going to get before next fall, and it certainly merited taking out the candle holders and oil burners to brighten up the kitchen as I went about my morning work. I loved every minute of watching that warm cozy glow.
Then we proceeded to a have a nice, quiet but full day which included cooking, drawing, play dough, milking goats, walks, visiting, reading aloud, lounging in the hammock, feeding chickens and shoving goats out of the living room, among many other things.

And now that the day is drawing to a close and the girls are asleep, I'm listening to this lovely music.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Do you worship Me?

I continue with the policy that states even half-formed thoughts and incomplete essays may be aired out. 

Years ago, when I first stepped upon the path of becoming more religiously observant, I had a near-subconscious message I was carrying to G-d: I know Your truth, I accept Your truth, I live by Your truth and make the necessary sacrifices... and You, in return, give me peace, happiness and a clearly defined road for the rest of my life. 

Need I say that it does not work this way?

Not long ago I listened to a lecture by a rabbi who said something which rang very true with me. He said, "when a person first begins the path of religious observance, G-d helps him. He gets encouragement. He gets unexpected support from places he didn't even dream of... but a little later down the road, G-d begins to test him. He asks: do you worship Me, or do you worship My religious community? 

And there I hung my head in shame. Because, yes, at the beginning of my road the religious community seemed very very appealing (and in many ways it still is), and I very much wanted to fit in with it and leave behind any problems of our wider society such as promiscuity, divorce, late singleness, etc. In a way it worked. I got married when I was 22 and had my children at 23 and 25; I now live in a (mostly) religious settlement, fit in as an integral part of it, have people over for dinner/lunch/occasional visits, host play dates, cook meals for women who had recently given birth, and compare tips on how to tie tichels. 

But I also realize now that fitting in with a community is not all, perhaps not even most; that religious communities, especially small ones, may, and do, have their own flaws, such as hipocrisy, gossip, holier-than-thou attitudes, and what I call "womb whispers" ("Is she pregnant? She must be pregnant. What, she still isn't pregnant? Isn't it about time she was? Do you know if she has a problem? Should we pray for her?") (my answer to all of the above would be, it's a private matter unless one of the directly concerned personally confided in you)... however...

... a community/congregation/branch of faith is not G-d and should not be viewed as such. Marriage, children, family, education, work, projects, a way of life, all of these are important things... but not something to worship. 

There were times when I grew very bitter. I said to G-d, "I know what You offer is true, but sometimes I wish I had never found out. I wish I could just have gone on with my life the way it suited me." I did not really mean it then, and I don't think so now, but what I did grow to realize is this: I need to distinguish between what G-d commands, and what society dictates (just a recent example: G-d asks for a chametz-free house before Pesach. Society expects clean windows and newly painted walls. Therefore, the burden is social expectations, not a harsh and demanding G-d). 

And this question still rings in my ears: do you worship Me, or do you worship those who follow Me? 

Do you worship an idea? A dream? An ambition? A person/group of people? A famous teaching? Are you driven by greed, lust, selfishness, pride? 

Do you worship anything but Me?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A jumble of thoughts

This isn't going to be a coherent post, and for this I apologize in advance... just some thoughts that have been swirling in my head for a while now, so I thought I might as well let them out. So... here they are, in no particular order.

* I love to dream. Dreaming is good; but I know that some things will work out better than I dreamed, others won't work out at all, and nothing will ever go exactly as planned. 

* It's OK if my house is a bit messy. It means real people are living a real life in it, complete with projects, food, crafts, games, friends, etc. The purpose of a home is to provide shelter, comfort, welcome, not museum-shiny pieces of furniture. 

* Likewise it's OK if my emotions, thoughts, plans, are a jumble sometimes. It means I'm only human. Sometimes I'm angry, frustrated, overwhelmed. It's OK to cry sometimes, and it's especially good to know that G-d knows my thoughts better than I could ever formulate them myself.

* Today I opened my doors to children (other than my own) and goofed off with them. I consider it a very worthy pastime. And last week, our table was extended to seat 10 people, and it was full, and that was great. 

* I'm thankful for health, my family, friends, a comfortable home, a freezer full of food, shelves full of clothes, nature, animals, art, music, books to read, projects to do, and everything that comes with living life.

* Isn't it wonderful how children are so trusting, so easy to laugh (and their laughter is so contagious, too!), so easily content, so vividly interested in anything and anyone? The most lovable adults I know have preserved these very qualities. 

* I'm thankful for all of you. I'm thankful for your thoughts, comments, emails, friendship, concern, sharing of ideas, prayers, your sincerity, your different talents and wisdom, your constancy in following my little blog, your tales about your precious lives. I love you all, and I love how different we all are, and how much we all still have in common. 

* I have been accused of becoming too focused on my little life. I confess it is true. Most of my efforts are currently spent within my home, for my family, and sometimes for extended family and neighbours as time allows. I'm fine with that.


* I seek peace.


Perhaps there is more to come, some other day...

How to make salted olives



1. Pick some olives from your local trees, around Rosh Ha-Shana.

2. Decide you are too busy preparing for the holiday to deal with them now; put the bag of olives in the fridge.

3. For the next couple of weeks, every time you open the fridge, sigh and say to yourself, "I really need to do something with those olives."

4. Forget about the olives.

5. Re-discover them months later, when you are arranging the fridge for Pesach. Tell yourself, "oh, cool, I had green olives and now I have black ones!" Throw away the olives that have spoiled. Congratulate yourself for saving more than half.

6. Decide that now you might as well make the olives kosher for Pesach. Remember you have no kosher for Pesach containers, and come up with the brilliant solution of disposable aluminium baking pans.

7. Soak the olives in water. Put them in your bedroom to make sure the kids don't touch them with chametz-filled hands.

8. Change water every day, to get the bitterness out of the olives. Oops, there's a leak in one of the aluminium pans. Mop up the spill.

9. After two weeks, drain the olives, put coarse salt on them and press them with something heavy. Every other day, dispose of the liquids that come out.

10. Once the olives are properly wrinkled and salty, serve. Smile as you are being told that the pickled olives you made two years ago (those which cost you much less effort) were a lot better tasting.

11. Prepare for the next olive harvest.

Illustration photo from www.briggishome.com

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I'm back

I've had a very intense week and a half or so of frantic cleaning, cooking, guests, more cooking, more guests, a lovely day trip, more cooking, more guests, and finally, last night, putting the kitchen back together after Pesach. 

Now that everything is more or less in place, and I've begun folding the mountainous pile of laundry that accumulated during the days of the holiday (the girl's shelves were nearly empty - seriously), I'm taking my time and enjoying just looking around, poking here and there, seeing what there is to be done, what projects might be started or picked up again - with no pressure. 

The weather is still nice, summer heat has not quite kicked in yet, and I'm looking forward to a lot of nature walks, relaxing outside in the hammock, reading, writing, crocheting, mending, sewing, baking (I miss that!) and all the good things that come with the season.

I hope you are all well, and intend to catch up with you soon!

With friendship,

Mrs. T