Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I know our lovely fall was longer than usual, but I still could have used another week of nice weather, just to get my yard and garden picked up and put away.  We have had a few snow storms since October, but they always melted quickly.  This time I don't think I'll be as lucky.  Now I get to finish up my fall chores in the cold and snow.  Not all of us are complaining though.  My kids have already broken out the sleds and rediscovered the necessity of gloves and boots.

Cold weather notwithstanding, I love this time of year.  In this area, we always run out of water before the end of summer, so snow is always welcome.  The ground seems almost relieved to finally be covered with it's blankets so it can sleep for a while.  I kind of like how we are forced to slow down a bit.  I think it helps us remember what we are supposed to be focusing on.

Starting to snow
Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday.  I've kind of been bitter toward Christmas for a while because it seems to overshadow this wonderful day.  The observance of Thanksgiving has become a day to eat until you are sick, watch football all day, and plan your Black Friday strategy.

My husband asked me at some point in our marriage, why I like Thanksgiving so much.  At first, I said it was the food, but as we got talking about it, I realized I don't like turkey all that much, and soggy bread is something I just can't eat, so stuffing is out.  I do like mashed potatoes and gravy, but I can get that any Sunday.  Pumpkin pie is great, but I like other pies too.  So it's not the food...  I like college football, but I don't need to watch it all day.  It certainly isn't that.  Family has a lot to do with it, but even getting together with family, I feel that something is missing.

Growing up, we had  a long-standing tradition of going to my great-aunt's house to eat a huge meal, most of it home grown by her, visit with lots of relatives, and then play and relax, and even watch some football.  The smells of her house still come to mind when I think about it.  My Aunt Allene is gone now, and we've been kind of lost on Thanksgiving ever since.  We can re-create the food, gather family, and watch football, but something has changed.

I think it's her.  My great-aunt knew probably better than anyone what it meant to starve, to have nothing.  She practically raised her children by herself.  She dug post holes for a dime a piece to make money.  Her garden wasn't a hobby, it was survival.  When she was able to put on a Thanksgiving feast, she was truly thankful just to be able to eat.  Despite her hardships, she was the happiest person I knew.  She really knew how to be thankful, and it could not be contained inside her.  Her home was warm, not just from the cook oven.  She made it that way.

Ever since I came to that realization, I have been trying to find ways to really observe Thanksgiving.  It seems to me that Thanksgiving should be tied to Christmas, but not as a shopping holiday.  Doesn't it make sense to start the advent with overwhelming gratitude?  I know I am very thankful for the birth of the Savior.  Can Thanksgiving be observed as a spiritual preparation for Christmas?

After the snow
In my latest attempt to read the Old Testament, I learned something I had not known before.  Thanksgiving is actually biblical.  It started way before the pilgrims.  In Exodus 23 we read about three feasts that the Israelites were to observe.  Everyone knows about the Passover in the spring, but I had not heard about the other two: the feast of the harvest, when the first fruits were harvested in summer, and then the feast of ingathering, at the end of the season when everything was harvested and tallied.  It hit me that even way back in the bible, people were inclined and even commanded to be thankful for the crops that would sustain them.

So how do we show true gratitude today?  Are we content with what we have?   Is "thank you" a common phrase in our speaking?  I know I really want to teach my children to be grateful for everything in their lives, but I also need to teach myself.  I get frustrated with my son because he is never satisfied.  If you give him one candy, he wants three.  Go to the zoo today and he wants to go tomorrow too.  I am somewhat the same though, so I need to work on myself first.

"Give Thanks" My daughter's attempt at decorating for Thanksgiving.
Here is what I plan to do this year and I hope to include my children as well.  We are going to write down people that we are thankful for.  Try to think of someone other than close friends or family.  In past years, I have chosen people that taught my children at church, because that is a hard job sometimes.

Once we have a list, we will think of a gift to give them, but this is not about buying things.  It can be as simple as a verbal thank you, or a note.  I like to give a homemade food item, or something that is useful.  I think this year I will be making  cinnamon sugar almonds or maybe some kettle corn to give.  In years past, I have given homemade jam with fresh bread.  The point is not to be fancy or expensive, so that the "thank you" of the gift can shine through.

Hopefully, we can make this holiday what it once was for me, and maybe my kids will learn a bit about gratitude on the way.

So, who are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Introducing Teekaroo

I am Teekaroo, and I am a dirt road dweller.  A few years back, I wrote a blog called Daydreams of a Cowgirl.  However, babies and moves and life got a bit too busy for me to keep it up.  I often thought it would be nice to have a few of my sisters to blog with.  We often joke that between two or three of us, we make one really useful person, so when my sister suggested to me that we team up to share our love of our back-road lifestyle, I thought it was a great idea.

I will pull up some of my old thoughts from before, but there is also plenty to talk about from the here and now.    I love gardening, although our harsh Wyoming climate makes it difficult.  I also enjoy cooking and sewing and raising animals,although I am kept pretty busy with my little ones and the never-ending adventures of keeping an old house running.  These days you will find me in my little house at the end of a dirt road or chasing pigs out of my yard.

Homemade Turkey oven

My big brother is a Renaissance man and Wyoming Cowboy to the core and as much as I absolutely adore him, he puts me to shame in just about every aspect of my life!  He puts his heart and soul (and brain) into every worthwhile endeavor he has.  Right now that means being the best dad, supportive husband, volunteer coach, PTA member (I dont think he's the PTA president right now), self-employed, small business owner with impossibly difficult hours and demands (that is normal-people talk for being a rancher), horse and dog trainer, gardener and homemaker that he can be.  I'm sure I've left some important things out but you get the idea.  To illustrate, my brother visited me a little while back, I think he was picking up a horse that he was going to train as he was on the way to his kids' sporting or rodeo event (only 3 or more hours of driving for him, his wife and kids), so while he was in the neighborhood, he dropped off some garden vegetables he and his family had grown, threw in a couple bottles of jam that he had made, talked about the milestones his kids were hitting as well as some of the joys and struggles that came from coaching them, chastized me for hiding out from the PTA-saying, "You need to be more involved in your kids'education, sis!"-and then proceeded to give his two bits about his wife's demanding job schedule (she had worked all night and was now traveling all day to sit on hard bleachers and cheer on the kiddos, bless her heart), as well as some local and national educational and governmental issues.  I sat there feeling more than a tiny bit inadequate as i accepted the food and goodies and wished him, my sister-in-law and the kids good luck.  This is my brother, the Renaissance, Cowboy man.  Are you getting the picture?  

One year, my brother somehow decided that his family was going to raise a turkey for Thanksgiving and host the big event at his home.  By the time the holiday came around, this home-grown turkey, plucked and ready to cook, weighed in at over 40lbs.-Thats a big bird!  Everything is great until he realizes that this sucker is a few sizes too big for his oven!  Now this is my brother we are talking about.  He is not going to cut this bird up to make it fit in his too-small oven.  Oh no. He 
decides he needs an oven that will cook his bird as it was meant to be cooked.  Trouble is, buying something like that at an appliance store isn't really his style either.  His solution was to build one.  He cooked the turkey in his yard, and it was delicious and perfectly cooked, (as was the pepper jam he made specifically to go with it).  Afterward I thought, "That was amazing.  I need to write that down!" So here goes...


My brother used a large chunk of pipe/culvert that he had lying around (I have no clue about the exact dimensions but in my recollection it was about 3ft long and big enough in diameter to fit his turkey in.)  He gathered up two big metal plates to use on either end of the pipe to make walls and or doors (whichever he needed at the moment) and that done, He drilled a hole in the top of the pipe on one side and stuck the end of a BBQ grill thermometer in the hole so he could gauge the temperature.  He dug a pit in his yard big enough to fit bunches of firewood and the pipe with room to spare.  He decided he could use some bricks to cover the pipe and retain heat, hold the metal plates in place at either end of the  pipe and one or two of the bricks could do double duty inside holding up the cooking rack for the turkey.  He got the fire going under and all around the pipe and about 10 hours later it was hot enough to really do some cooking! (No lie, when i asked him how long it took him to get the temperature hot enough to cook it using just bits of firewood, he said "About ten hours."  Wow, I get impatient waiting for water to boil and it takes less than 10 minutes!)  Once the oven was hot enough, he popped the turkey into the pipe and let 'er cook.  The bricks did a great job holding the heat in and keeping the temperaturw fairly constant. I asked my brother how long it took to cook and he said he couldn't remember but he had done the math at the time for how many pounds at that temperature.  I decided to look it up online and although I didn't find a site that gave the spefic cook time for a 40lb. Turkey, it looks like about 4 hrs. cooking at approximately 350 degrees would do it.  Anyway, after all that, out came birdzilla , cooked to perfection!  Here's hoping your Thanksgiving  is perfect as well!   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Introduction to Dirt Road Renaissance

We are some folks from Wyoming who have done some traveling across the globe and, after a few years, wound up realizing that there's no place in the world we'd rather be than living a simple life down a Wyoming dirt road. By "simple life" we mean filling a need or a want by making-do, doing it yourself, re-purposing, re-cycling, re-claiming, etc.  So why the name, Dirt Road Renaissance?   The term Renaissance Man or Woman most often denotes someone whose expertise spans many different subject areas.  In our experience, no one seems to have more areas of expertise and abilities than folks, who by necessity, have to figure out a way to do it themselves or do without.  Often those people live at the end of a dirt road.  Although we certainly don't claim to be experts, we created this blog to share some of our "unique" projects, shenanigans, humor, know-how and way of life with those of you who live down a dirt road-

-if only in your heart.