IN WHICH SHE DISCOVERED

I wrote this a few weeks ago, shortly before things turned a corner and became much smoother. Mark and I were genuinely sleep deprived and had been for weeks. For now both of us are on the other side of that darkness (it's downright divine what a few solid hours of sleep will do for your psyche), but this piece of writing still holds true for me. This pinnacle evening changed my outlook and continues to do so. 

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In a dimly lit bedroom, wet cloth diapers and coffee mugs strewn about, deep nighttime filled the sky outside the window and I, replete of energy and grace, sat crumpled in bed with my face in my hands. Our daughter was in need of sleep but inconsolably crying, and in that moment it seemed the crying would never end. I had just handed her to Mark, with whom I'd been bickering over I Can't Even Remember and It Didn't Matter. Wishing for a romantic chimera instead of a greasy-haired day at home, I s'pose. In my despondency I prodded God: Where is the gift in this? Mired in self-pity of my own creation; aligning myself with the sorry sort I knew in books. And then, as though a shroud of self-asborption evaporated, I looked up to see my husband on his knees beside the changing table, eye-level with his quieted baby, whispering sweetly to her through his own exhaustion. Right then and not a moment sooner I knew: This is the gift. It's not hidden or late to arrive; this very nowness is the gift. And suddenly my perspective went from pleading to praising. The two people I love most in this life, with whom I get to share my bedroom, a warm room in a house I cherish, which is situated in a town that is also home to my family and all of my childhood memories . . . that's all gift? Oh right, so it is. The exhaustive bouncing and ceaseless crying and nights that turn morning too soon are not chapters to be omitted from our story. Nor are the toothless smiles, or the suppers eaten with a babe on the breast, or the sweetness of family bath time. Turns out there is grace—freely given and abundantly available—even in the sorriest moments and sourest attitudes (of which I have had many). In fact, it turns out life really and truly and sincerely is All Gift. 


—S

THE PARABLE OF THE RED CLOGS

 
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Allow me to describe what I keep referring to as The Parable of the Red Clogs, a tale of desire and displacement. 

We live in my grandma's red brick house, situated in a town that can't sustain a new business to save itself unless it's a hair salon, of which our town has three. There is, though, one old standby that has lasted decades and will carry on in perpetuity no matter it's eventual fate: the hardware. Weathered, unchanged, too good to be true but, actually—impossibly—it is true. Fortunate to us, it is situated in a way so it is what we see out our westerly windows. Specifically, we see a vintage light-up street sign that says DUTCH STANDARD PAINTS inlaid on a red clog motif. If ever the hardware goes the way of mom-and-pop hardwares the world over, I hope I can buy the sign off of them. It is a relic of childhood, a totem of small-town survival and grit in the age of Amazon, and it's a sign with a red clog . . . and I love clogs.

I am the proud owner of a pair of navy rubber German clogs with a tipped-up toe. I live in them, even in winter. They look identical to the clog on the hardware sign, except for the nagging and obvious difference that they are not red. The company sells a red pair. Do I need them? No, I do not, except when I am going through anything hard, whereby my answer becomes Yes, clearly I do. Buying an identical product that I do not need goes against my personal ethos and feels irresponsible in a time when we are raising a baby on a single income and trying to purchase land. Yet, when I am feeling blue, unappreciated, lonely, and sometimes even when I'm hungry, I hear on repeat: You deserve the red clogs — No, you need the red clogs.

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What I need, I know, is companionship with humans and especially with God, not German rubber. Displacement of emotion is a curious, real thing. The mental back-and-forth over the clogs happens often enough that I use it as a gauge for how on- or off-track my faith compass is. Does that sound absurd to you? Maybe it is. But by assessing how badly I desire Stuff, I know how badly I need to express gratitude for what I do have. In my life gratitude is found through prayer. Prayer and paying attention; the former makes the latter notably easier.

A quick examination shows just how much God has put into my life; all of my wildest dreams have come true through what can only be divine intervention. I have wild dreams percolating yet, but on the whole I am blessed beyond reason. Our two-month old is growing astoundingly and I get to witness each moment of her life. My husband loves us and cares for us and makes me laugh every day. I know how to knit us clothing and, as of recently, how to sew. I can darn a goshdarn sock. Mark brews delicious libation for our whole family to enjoy. I live near family and we eat healthful food. Junk food, too. What else is there to want for? Not red clogs. (At least . . . not today.)


—S

DOWN HOMEBREW | TART CHERRY SAISON

 
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This beer was brewed for the holiday season, which stands as evidence of my lack of blogging activity lately. . . blame the baby! (Just kidding, don't blame her for anything.) Instead of your usual sweet, spiced Christmas Ale (see: Great Lakes' version), I wanted to keep playing around with saison—the chameleon of classic beer styles. So, I brewed up my standard saison recipe and poured in a bottle of tart cherry juice once active fermentation had slowed down. The yeast made quick work of the sugars, leaving behind a nice, tart pairing for family gatherings & holiday treats. Whether it was the flavor, the rich color, or merely the intention behind it, this Tart Cherry Saison made for  a wonderfully festive Christmas companion!

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Tart Cherry Saison

Appearance: Crystal clear! Deep orange color; addition of tart cherry juice resulted in darker color than previous saisons.

Aroma: Cherry—hooray!

Taste: Tart, some clove (see: Paulaner comparison), finishing dry-but-not-too-dry.

Mouthfeel: Full, round body with lively carbonation.

Style: Saison

ABV: 4.7%

Hops: Saaz.

Malt: Pilsner, Vienna, Flaked Wheat.

Overall: Reminiscent of Paulaner Hefeweizen, but with that snappy saison finish.


—M

BEES & SPOONS + A RETURN TO INSTAGRAM

 
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A few things happened in the last week. 
1. Rosemary discovered her tongue. We discovered how adorable a tongue can be.

2. We finished the in-class portion of Farm School. We are in this program, and it has proven to be very A+.

3. We, along with our brother, rejoined Instagram. Our intent is to use it for sharing our journey in all manner of homesteading, farming, land searching, etc. Much like our blog, but a lot less personal. No photos of Rosemary (probably). No diatribes about politics (ok, we don't do that on here either, but we bet you would just love it if we did). No getting wrapped up in "should I post this?" or "how do I caption this?" — because that is why we left social media altogether two years ago. It was unhealthy, and too personal, and left us feeling more distant, not closer, to our peers and inspirations. But we are back as the united front of @downhomefolk. Please follow along or say hello if you are on IG! Our brother Zach has joined as @downhomespoons, where he's sharing his process and handiwork in spoon carving. His spoons are our among our most favorite wares. They perform beautifully, feel special, and wear the look of a product made with care and craft by two hands. It's worth mentioning that he is totally self-taught, and built our bed frame and a tree house (!!) for his children. Here's hoping he will build us a farm house someday.

4. We are planning to raise bees again! Excitingly, this year we'll be focusing on actually selling raw honey and wooden honey spoons. Our first genuine farm enterprise, except in our town backyard and Zach's basement wood shop. We don't have land yet, but that's not stopping us from pursuing our goal of raising living things to share with you. Do you want a jar of liquid gold this fall? Can you imagine buying your loved one (your honey) or your coworkers a sweet little bundle of backyard honey and a spoon, all tied up with twine? Well . . . we hope so. If you've never tried raw, local honey, and if you've never owned a handmade wooden ware, might you allow us to help you change that?


—M&S