Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, The Host, Prague Winter, Shakespeare in Italy, and Seven Daughters of Eve

Let’s talk books! The good, the pedantic, and Stephenie Meyer’s already-made-into-a-movie foray into science fiction.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars, because this book can only be described as uneven. On the one hand, I was absolutely fascinated by the Kingsolver family’s adventures in producing most of their own food for an entire year. Probably because I already had my own fantasies about moving to a farm and subsisting on my own heirloom vegetables and heritage farm animals. I loved the recipes and seasonal menus, as well as the practical information on homesteading, including hilarious accounts of things like mushroom hunting, using a year’s bounty of zucchini, and breeding turkeys. And of course I related to the trip to Italy.

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The Three Billy Goats Gruff

These are our newest little friends. We recently met them through a passion we share: raw goat milk. We first got hooked on raw milk back when Tony was going to school at B.Y.U. Every week, I would drive with baby Axa out to a farm in Payson to see the gentle jersey cows and pick up a couple of gallons of what could most accurately be described as “liquid flowers.” When we spent a year in Washington State, raw cow milk was unavailable, so we were introduced to the glorious earthy decadence that is raw goat milk. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when we moved to our little 1-acre “farm” in Fallbrook, and became the delighted owners of two lovely (albeit devious) la mancha goats.

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Fall at the Pumpkin Patch

Last Friday we drove an hour up into the hills to pick fall apples. We filled three buckets with Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Empire, and Rome apples, enough to grandly fulfill Grammy’s dehydrator ambitions, eat all the sweet, crunchy apples we could want, and have apple crisp with vanilla ice cream for family home evening treat tonight.

On the way home, we decided to stop by the pumpkin patch.

We only intended to stay an hour or two, but Murray Family Farms is no ordinary pumpkin patch. It’s a 360-acre autumn extravaganza. After eating our picnic lunch on a shady table outside, we let the children play in a sandbox thing full of field corn. It was actually pretty fun. The corn went down so deep you couldn’t even reach the bottom if you stuck your arm all the way down.

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The Dog That Walks By Himself

Perhaps we are in need of a dog after all. Before last week we had no one to steal our socks, lick up spills from the floor, or cover our hands with warm kisses.

I guess we can consider him an “oops baby” of sorts. After further grilling of all our neighbors, we were able to uncover the story of how a little black puppy came to be all alone yelping in the street outside our house. Apparently, the nice old man who lives across the street and spends hours every day sitting outside on his front porch was sitting there as usual two Fridays ago at 7:00 in the morning. A strange car drove down the our dirt road and stopped almost in front of our house. The woman inside the car opened the passenger door, and a dog jumped out. Then she shut the door, drove off, and left him!

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How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

We are not a family in need of a dog. Yes, it’s true that we’ve always kind of wanted one, but we are certainly not at the point of going out and buying a puppy. In fact, we exercised remarkable restraint a few months ago when the half wild dogs on the beach had six cute little roly-poly puppies, and Rambo kept asking us if we wanted one.

Yesterday, though, as we were heading off for our morning time at the beach, we walked out our front gate to so much yelping I thought there must be a dog fight. It turned out to be just one dog, and not a very big one, at that. He was in the bushes next to our dirt road, and I assumed he must be upset because his owners had left him outside for a few minutes.

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Let the Chickens Stay

Have I told you how much I love our landlord? We have lived in a lot of different places since we were married, and had some pretty interesting experiences with landlords. So I know how to appreciate a good one. Ours is a doctor, who (for us at least) does house calls. He fixed Tony up with the proper medications after an unfortunate run-in with a hammam foot fungus. He doesn’t tell us to turn off the lights or take short showers, despite the fact that our utilities are included in the rent. He doesn’t try to give me lessons in cleaning. He loves our children, and has never once complained that they are noisy. In fact, while we were moving into our new apartment, he arranged Axa’s room just how she wanted it, and let her help.

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The Little Prince

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”

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Spring is the mischief in her

We have two goats. Sweet Betsy, as her name implies, is a patient, gentle creature who trip-traps tidily to the milking stand and back. While Sweet Betsy is the intelligent one who jailbreaks them periodically from every fastener we put on their gate (she’s currently working on a combination lock), she does sedately allow herself to be returned to her pen when discovered truant.

Not so Hershey. Her flighty mind is not fitted for the painstaking care of opening fences. But once she has escaped, she prances like one possessed. I amble in her general direction with my rope, speaking to her calmly as if we were friends. She watches me intently, and then just before I get close enough to slip the rope over her head, the devilish gleam surfaces in her eye. She feints right, leaps left, and scampers away to safety. Then she makes for the top of the compost heap to crown herself queen of the mountain, lording it over me as I trudge after her. This charade is repeated several times in a row, until I am forced to call out reinforcements. With one small child on either side of me, I am finally able to herd her back into her pen, where she continues to prance, tossing her head rakishly at me.

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At present, we have five lovely little hens that were gifted to us last month. We’re enjoying them very much, but three of them are too young to lay eggs, and one is suspected of being hermaphrodite. So one lone chicken is shouldering the heavy burden of laying eggs for the Familia family. She does her best, no doubt, but we get around one egg every three days. Split between four people . . . well, you get the picture. We’re still buying eggs.

But last night we were given another wonderful family of chickens. We haven’t brought them home yet, but we’ve named them. Two are the cute, chubby kind with black and white barred feathers. Tony christened those ones Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Axa named the two strikingly dark red hens The Foxy Ladies. And I claimed the privilege of naming the two golden pheasant-type chickens Demeter and Persephone (continuing in the same vein as Venus and Daphne, two of our current chickens). But most wonderful of all is the large black iridescent rooster. Several weeks ago, Axa had said when we got a rooster he would be named High King Peter. But when she saw him, she decided it didn’t fit. Not at all. He is as tall as her waist, and utterly fearless. After some deliberation, she decided he would be called The Great Achilles. Ironic, I thought. Being a rooster, I would say his heel is his very least vulnerable part.

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