Friday, September 1, 2017

Bulk Pork Purchase 2017

We bought a half pig from the Ibelings this year.  This little piggy went to fair and it is a terminal fair so they all go to butcher after.  We were offered a whole or half and went with half, thankfully since our freezers are so !

This pig was processed at Sorg's so this will be our first time trying the bacon and ham.  Hopefully we'll like it!  They charged $20 (1/2 the kill fee), $.50 for cut and wrap (appears this is only on dressed weight, not on hanging weight), $.45/lb for smoking (we had 33 pounds that got smoked, just hams and bacon), and $7.50 for a trucking fee.  So the total charges to Sorg's was $91.35 for 98 pounds of dressed weight.  When I weighed our meat I came up with 96.5, but it was on our bathroom scale, so I figure it was close.

Here is what we got...
Bacon   13 pounds
Country Ribs  1 pack, 2.5 pounds
Pork Chops  8 packs, 15 pounds
Butt Roast 2 packs, 7.5 pounds
Hock  1 pack, 4 pounds
Loin Roast 1 pack, 3 pounds
Jowl  2 packs, 3 pounds
Hams 2 packs, 23.5 pounds
Sausage  15 packs, 15 pounds
Shoulder Picnic roast  2 packs, 6 pounds
Spare Ribs  1 pack, 3 pounds
Neck Bones  1 pack, 1 pound

We also got 10.5 pounds of fat to render down.  I could have had them do it and probably will do that in the future.  We also got a pork bladder for the kids to blow up and play with like Laura Ingalls Wilder did.  The kids are so excited that they gave us one!

So it broke down as follows $70 to Ibelings, $91.35 to Sorgs which is $1.67/lb for the meat and if you include the fat it comes to $1.51/lb total.  Either way a good price for everything!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Meat Chickens 2017

This is an interesting year to report on our meat birds as so many variable are in play.  This year I wanted to order all cockerels again, but the hatchery was sold out.  Not a problem, I just went with a straight run of 20 and 5 replacement hens, expecting there to be 6 hens and 21 meat birds.  When I got to Sharon to pick them up there were only 20 meat birds in the box and one of them was dead.  There were 6 hens, however and all seemed fine.  In the end I didn't lose anymore meat birds, thankfully, but of the 19 I got 13 were female.  Considering they always come out basically 50/50 this was a rather unpleasant surprise.  I lost one replacement hen the day they moved out side because she was killed by the neighbors dog.

This year I also switched to organic freed from DeLongs.  I used one bag of organic starter and then went to an organic grower, but after finding out it was like 16% protein I returned the unopened ones and went to a 21% starter/grower.  So total we used 1 bag of starter, one of grower, and 6 of the 21% protein one.  A total of 8 bags of food for 25 birds through week 4 and 24 birds for 9 weeks.  The total for feed was right around $241.86.

We butchered a total of 19 birds (and our teeny, tiny rooster, Chocolate, but his numbers aren't in the totals.)  We had 13 females and 6 males and they finished out with a total of 124 pounds!  Our largest birds were 7.5 pounds and are smallest were 5.5 pounds with a 6.5 pound average.  So really, they did well on their weights, partially because we waited until 9 weeks to butcher.  We also did collect 2 pounds, 11 oz of liver and hearts and 2 pounds of gizzards.

So the breakdown of our organic, pastured chickens was $1.95/pound!  I was seriously concerned we'd be much, much higher, so I was very happy with that.  If you count in the organ meats it comes down to $1.87/pound.  And these numbers include the grain for the replacement hens, which added no value in meat as of now.  They are now eating the same no soy, organic ration as our laying hens, but for 9 weeks their feed costs are buried in the meat birds numbers.   All in all a good year, even with the challenges.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What I read 2017 Edition!

**1. Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie  Reread this for a book study and it was just as good as the first time.  Being restful, not frantic and fueled by anxiety, knowing that God has got this and that my best work is all I can do.  A great encouragement for any homeschooler who has faith in God!

**2.  Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist  Almost more of a collection of essays about leaving the frantic behind and finding a slower, smaller, sweeter way of living.  We spend so much of a lives thinking we need bigger, better, more and yet, the joy, the soul of living is not the career aspirations it is the people we are with.  I think this is one I need to reread again too!

*3.  Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy  Another collection of essays, arranged through the four season. Christie and her family moved to Maplehurst a beautiful old brick home with 3 acres surrounded by fields of new homes on the land that used to be a part of the farm.  We see her have a new baby, fight depression, plant a garden, meet the community and come full circle all while loving God.  Some real gems in here, another 'read again' type book!

**4.  Lillac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly  Oh, this book!  It is based on the true story of the Polish 'rabbits,' the ladies that were experimented on by Nazi doctors at Ravensbruck.  The story bounces between Caroline Ferriday (a NY socialite, turned tireless worker for French orphans and the Polish ladies after the war), Dr. Hera Oberheusern(the only female doctor who was convicted at the trials after), and Kasia Kuzmerick (who was arrested with her sister and mother and survived the prison and the experiements.)  Caroline and Hera are real people and their lives are followed closely in the book; Kasia and her sister are based closely on a pair of real sisters.  Such an amazing and terrible read.  It was one that was hard to read and hard to put down. 

*5. Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf   A true love story.  The love between a young married couple going through a truly horrific ordeal and the love they have for God.  Katherine suffered a massive stroke in her brain stem and her survival was a real miracle.  She has gone on to have a lot of recovery and they have even had another baby!  But it has been such a struggle, she has lost the use of the right side of her face, her hearing in one ear, so much independence and the early years of her oldest son's life as his primary caretaker (he was 6 months when this happened.)  Really strong faith got them through and their love for each other is amazing to witness.

**6.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Another fantastic WWII book.  This one features two sisters, Isabelle the one who fights with the resistance as "the Nightingale" helping downed pilots cross the mountains and Vianne, the one who is in the little village with Nazi's in her home, trying to save her little girl and then her best friend's son.  The girls have had a rough childhood with no mother and a father who returned broken from WWI.  There is love between Isabelle and Gaetan, there is loss, so much loss, and there is survival in every sense of the word.  Ari, the first of 19 children Vianne helps save comes back into the story many years later, Julien, the child conceived in rape at the hands of the Nazi staying with Vianne never knows his full story, but is raised as an American with a loving family who only learns of the heroic role of his family all those years later, Sophie, the little girl who grew up with no childhood who survived with her mother who (we learn during those late years of the story) died 15 years before of cancer.  A great read with a bit of can't wait to figure it out narrative.

*7. Simply Tuesday By Emily P. Freeman  I started this book last year and don't think I finished it and here it is again in the same boat. This time I almost did and found it to be good, but not the same kind of connection other books in this same idea have had.  Her main idea is that we need to get small, to keep things focused on the small, to think of the ordinary, every day that "Tuesday" is all about.  She uses the imagery of heaven being one inch  off the ground often and the idea of benches that we build and rest one.  We invite others to be with us on those benches, but we can't force it, just as we can't force the good stuff in life. 

**8.  The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick  Such a sweet, quick read.  Made for a perfect snowy Sunday by the fire book!  Arthur's wife has died and it is one year later. After 40 years of marriage he is having a hard time letting her go, but has somehow seemingly lost his son (who is in Australia with his wife and two daughters) and daughter (who just lost a baby and got divorced and lives around the corner.)  He decides to clean out his wife's clothes and finds a charm bracelet with a tiger, an elephant, a book, a paint palette, a flower, a ring, and a heart.  He starts the journey to find out his wife's story and her past is much more than he could ever imagine.  In the process he realizes his friendship with the neighborhood caretaker widow is important, he does things he never dreamed off and he reunites his family.  Very sweet, in the vein of Ove, but less grumpy :)

*9. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool Abilene Tucker is sent to Manifest, Kansas by her father after a life spent riding the rails.  She feels abandoned, but quickly is loved on by two new friends, Shady, the bar/church owner she lives with, Hattie Mae, the newspaper writer and Miss Sadie, the town diviner and the one who eventually tells the story that helps Abilene learn about her past and discover her future.  It jumps back and forth between the time when this mining town of immigrants starts gearing up for and sending its young men off to war and the time that Abilene is there trying to figure out her story.  A good read about finding home.

**10. The Orphan, The Widow & Me by JT Olson  I don't even know what to say because I loved this so much.  His story has always impacted me, but the things I didn't know were happening when I first knew their family were amazing.  The work he does now is so wonderful.  The story of bringing Grace home was just perfection..."She chose me!"  Such an important book for such important work they do!

*11. The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden  Young rich girl meets young poor boy over their shared love of Chopin.  Girl gets shipped to Europe and the boy gets very rich, but also crazy bitter over the death of his father.  They reunite and sparks fly, but the hatred gets in the way and then it becomes very much about her helping him find God.  Of course it all works out in the end, but not until the girl's life is in danger, the boy's fortune is almost lost and the bad guy becomes Christian.  It was good, but not nearly what I thought it would be based on other reviews.

12. First Women The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower  A whole lot of information about the last 10 first ladies.  It is obviously based on many, many interviews with staff and those who knew them best.  Lots of interesting stories and yet it was far from my favorite read...too much jumping around.  It almost seemed like she was trying to get so many quote in that it couldn't be just the interesting story it should have been.
*13.  Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron  I really liked this book and debated as second star.  The story of his alcoholic father that had a shadow life that they didn't know about, photos of him golfing with the president and lots of unknown men coming to his funeral.  The mother who stayed through it all working to keep their family afloat during the rough years.  The Nanny who came with them from their wildly wealthly days in London to the rougher days in NY.  And his recognition of God in the Eucharist, his drinking and drugging, return to God through it all and eventual celebration of the Eucharist as an Episcopalian priest.

**14. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman   I have loved everything I've read by this man!  This is a very short (read it in about 40 minutes) novella about a boy and his Grandpa and the father as well.  About losing memories and keeping them and love and overcoming touches it all.  So good!

*15. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv  Major preaching to the choir in this book! He does a great job laying out all the reasons kids need to be connected to nature and then the challenges that there are to that now.  He spends a fair amount of time talking about the political steps needed, the connection to spirituality, and the people who are fighting to make nature more available.  The biggest takeaway is really how crucial it is for people to be connected to nature for their own mental and physical well-being.

*16. The Awakenig of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera  There is so much I feel like I should love about this book....a young lady comes to a village that has made the decision to step back from the world a bit, she is a librarian, there is so much quoting of great literature and Latin, lots of discussions that are philosophical, a budding romance, the wide feast education of four children, 16 weeks in Italy and more.  However, I just couldn't love this book like I thought I would.  It was a good read and maybe in a different mood I would have loved it.  I did love this quote at the end, "Time seemed to stretch out indefinitely when you did things properly  It froze, halted, stopped suddenly, like a clock that has wound down.  Then the small things, the necessary things, even the ordinary, everyday things, especially those one performed with one's hands--how mysterious that man could do such beautiful things with his hands--were revealed as works of art."

**17.  I liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi  I didn't like this book, I LOVED it.  It left me in tears at the end!  Madeline commits suicide and leaves her husband, Rory, and daughter, Eve, mourning her, but also completely devastated as to why their 'perfect' life would drive her to do that.  Maddie can influence their actions and thoughts and does so to try and help them find some peace and happiness.  More people come in to the story and we see all of them dealing with grief, the secrets families have, and how we all need to be a lot more focused on those we love.  The switching between points of view is really well done and the story line is so good.  The ending helps tie a lot of things up wonderfully and you see so much healing and love that it just made me weep!  So good.

*18.  The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo and Peter Meehan  Wow!  That is long title and author list.  A great little cookbook by the two Franks who started the restaurant the book is named after.  Simple Italian-American cooking with very simple ingredients.  Like how quick and easy they make everything feel!  Wish I had a big old bowl of their Sunday sauce and some hunks of meat they talk about too.  Makes you want to throw a big Italian feast for everyone right now.

**19. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple  Such an interesting novel told using emails, conversations, and thoughts of Bee, the daughter of Bernadette, an awarding winning architect who built two amazing houses and is now lost in her own manias and Elgin, the Microsoft 'god' with the fourth highest ranked Ted talk.  There is a interesting battle between Bernadette and the 'gnats' from the school, boarding school, Antarctica, and over eager assistants (in India and in Seattle).  Basically, an easy read that is way more interesting that I would have ever thought!

*20.  Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King A very interesting book about the history of Michelangelo and his relationship with Pope Julius II, the work he did for him including the Sistine Chapel.  There is  lots of great history about how the painting was the done, the challenges with the architect, Raphael, and all the other players in this time of history.  A good read, but sometimes hard for me to stay with because of the multitude of artists and people to keep track of!

*21.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline I am torn about giving this one or two stars.  Who would have thought a book about video games would be so good?  It is the future, the world is crumbling, everyone is escaping reality into the Oasis, a virtual interactive world. The creator has just died and for years everyone is trying to solve the puzzles he left behind in order to win his entire fortune.  Following the High Five group as they make strides to solve it, the evil Sixers who are cheating, the little love story that develops, the 80s pop culture all adds up to a really good book.

22. Rachel Carson and Her Sisters by Robert K Musil  I was excited to read this book about women who have shaped American environmental policy.  This promised to talk about the ladies who opened the doors for Rachel Carson and those who have followed in her footsteps.  I read about a quarter of the book maybe, but it is just seemed to bent on connecting the ladies and making sure that all the things they did 'in spite of being women in their times' and they did 'better than the men of their time' (I feel like those should be in big, important looking capitols) that I feel like the story just disappeared.  I was hoping for an engaging read on women who have braved big discussions, broken down science for the general population and just had an impact on our world.  I felt like I was getting an overly forced agenda shoved down my throat.  And I just don't have time to find out if it ever changed...

23.  **The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines  The "Fixer-Upper" couple tell their story from childhood, through college (and selling books!), to marriage, and all the different ways their businesses have worked.  They are so connected as a couple in their faith, with their children, and so passionate about what they do.  A quick read, but a good one about a great family focused couple.

24. *So Long, See you Tomorrow by William Maxwell  I feel like this books is better than I realized because I read it in chunks and I almost think I would have loved it more in one sitting.  The background of the story in Lincoln, IL and two families who help each other but end up being torn apart by the affair of one of the men and women which results in a murder.  The narrator is a town boy who gets to know one of the sons after the fact and most of the story is him imagining what happened to cause the murder and why he didn't do more to befriend the boy. Reminded me of My Antonia in some ways.

25. *Lady With A Spear by Eugenie Clark A great autobiography of Eugenie Clark's early years.  She spends most of the book discussing her diving in the S. Pacific and the Red Sea and the book takes us to the point of getting married and coming back to write up all her research after the year at the Red Sea.  She was such a barrier breaker, she followed her passions, and her descriptions of all the fish, as well as the people she encountered is wonderful.  Loved reading about her in the two younger books and then reading her words here.

26. *Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead  The story of Cora, a slave girl who was a 'stray' because her mother ran when she was 10.  The fact that her mother was never caught is a huge factor in the story, but in the end we learn she actually was coming back of her own accord and was killed by a snake.  Cora and Caesar decide to run when their master dies and his even worse brother is to take over their plantation.  Lovey follows them and is caught and killed. The underground railroad involves actual hidden stations and trains in this novel.  We see Cora enjoy life in North Carolina for while until the evilness of that system seeps in and she must escape again, this time from Ridgeway, a slave catcher obsessed with her because of his inability to catcher her mother. At this point Caesar is caught and killed.  She lives on Valentine's farm in Indiana for while and seems to be settling into a happy life and even love, but that all explodes when the whites in the area can't take having such a large settlement of free blacks in the area.  It is a good book and one that makes you sick about slavery for sure.

27. *Dark Matter by Blake Crouch  Jason Dessen is a scientist who decided to marry his pregnant artist girlfriend, Daniela and have their son Charlie.  In doing so they both compromised their careers, but found real happiness together.  Jason's specialty was the idea of a multiverse, that every time we make a decision our reality splits into two, one with each decision. Jason is 'abducted' by a different version of himself where he ditched Daniela and had a huge career.  This Jason2 takes over Jason's life and sends him back to his.  This leads to all kinds of chaos, but he does eventually find himself back in his real Chicago life, along with at least 50 other Jasons, all trying to get back to living with Dani and Charlie.  There is violence, there is mind boggling science and there is, at the heart a love story of epic proportions.

28.* Hamilton The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter  This is the full libretto and footnotes of the musical Hamilton.  It also includes essays on most of the main actors and other players in getting this to stage.  I had no idea of the 7 years it took before it went to Broadway.  I listened to the full cast recording recently and enjoyed it.  Now I have a better understanding of all he put into the hip-hop musical about one of our founding fathers.  So much history from so many places and centuries!  It was worth the read.

29. *Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education in 5 Simple Steps by Sonya Shafer  Really a workbooks, but a great way to set goals for an education, a year, a term, a week and a day.  I'll be working through the worksheets as I prep for next year!

30. * A Butterfly Journey, Maria Sibylla Merian, Artist and Scientist by Boris Friedewald  We read a great little picture book about her, but this is a more grown up biography complete with many of her beautiful paintings.  She was so connected to the early book publishing of scientific knowledge and helped us learn that caterpillars don't spring from mud...amazing what a little close study of something can teach you!  She is most known for her work around 'summer birds' as she called butterflies.  Her trip with her daughter to South America (Suriname) was filled with discoveries and such a rarity for a woman to do.  She had to return to Europe due to her health, but continued to be involved with drawing, cataloging and studying her entire life. 

31. ** Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough  What a creepy book!  I knew there was a twist and you think you have it figured out, but then the final twist is C.R.A.Z.Y!  Granted by the end you believe that people can go through a 'second' door in their controlled dreams and go see other people and maybe even change bodies with them.  Adele is married to David and they have some serious baggage (her parents died in a fire, he saved her, poor farmer boy marries rich heiress, she goes to mental facility, many breaks with reality and scary things happen), but when David meets Louise at a bar and they flirt it begins a whole new round.  Turns out David is her boss, the new doctor where she works.  Then Adele bumps into her and does everything she can to make her her new best friend.  So Louise (single mother of Adam) is caught loving both of them and not able to come clean to either of them.  And it gets crazier from there :)

32. *Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly  I listened to this on audio as I drove to KY.  It is a VERY in depth look at Jesus' life, the historical time period and the crucifixion.  Such interesting material and so much of it!  I enjoyed it, but think I would have liked reading it more.  Amazing to think that this poor, humble man with no country to rule and no army to command has completely changed the world and is the most famous human to ever live.  But then again, when you believe he is God incarnate it isn't that surprising :)

33.  *Butter by Elaine Khosrova  How can you not love a book about butter?  The history of it, the scientific bashing and then relenting, the margarine wars, how to make it, the small batch artisans doing interesting things with it, the different animals that people milk and make butter from and even a recipe section.  A very interesting food book that only reaffirms my believe that butter is definitely one of the best food stuff out there!

34.  *The Soloist by Steve Lopez  Mr. Lopez is a columnist for the LA Times who hears a homeless man playing on a 2 string, beat up violin. He eventually learns that this man is an amazing musician who studied at Juliard on the upright bass, has taught himself a ton of other instruments and is mentally ill.  He writes about him, collects instruments for him, works hard to try and help him find a safe place to lay his head and has to come to the understanding that he cannot force him to get the medical help he needs.  Along the way they get to experience Disney Concert Hall together, meet many other musicians and Mr. Lopez writes about him and helps a whole lot of other people realize the complex challenges facing the mentally ill and homeless.  Another audio book while driving to KY.

35.  *When Children Love to Learn Edited by Elaine Cooper  A collection of essays that deal with the practical application of Charlotte Mason philosophy mostly having to do with school settings.  It covers education being a discipline, a life and an atmosphere and then many little essays about different subjects and a collection of charts to apply it all.  I was distracted by the school aspect a lot and didn't find it as engaging as others I've read, but it did have good information in it

36. * Miraculous Abundance by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer  This French coupled chucked their careers and started a small, organic, permaculture based market farm.  This books is very much about why they feel the world needs to return to very small market farms that use hand labor and draft animals and get away from oil.  They have done many studies and determined that 1/4 acre is enough to grow enough food for a family and many others.  They talk a lot about food forests, gardens, aqua, and other ways to make small areas crazy productive.  Lots of philosophy about the direction of our world and lots of using modern and historical ideas to get the best of both worlds.

37. *The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter  The first of GSP's books that I've read and a very charming, easy read.  Elnora is an amazing naturalist in the swamps of the Limberlost, but she has not had an easy life.  Her father died in the swamp and her mother was giving birth to her and never forgave her for not being to try to save him.  The wonderful couple next door gave her a loving refuge and helped her in her quest to go to school.  Elnora sold the moths, cocoons and things she found in the Limberlost to fund her education and ended up being the head of her class.  She works one summer with recovering Philip and a love drama ensues when he returns home to his very spoiled, society fiancĂ©.  In the end it all works out as best you could ever hope and it is a sweet, lovely way to spend time reading. 

38.* A Year in Nature with Stan Tekiela  A collection of essays he has written about all different animals in many different environments.  They are collected by season and area great little introductions to different species and their behavior and habitat.  He is a wildlife photographer, field guide author and wildlife lover!

39. *The Land Remembers by Ben Logan  The author shares the stories of he and his family on their farm in SW Wisconsin.  Many stories of siblings being kids and mother planting her garden.  A nice collection of reminiscing that follows the seasons of the year and focuses on family and farming.

40. *The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell.  Helen and her husband, LegoMan move from London to Denmark when he is recruited by Lego.  She leaves her big shot magazine career and decides to freelance, specifically focusing on why the Danes are always rated as the happiest country in the world.  In the books she weaves her research and people she meets with stories of adjustment and homesickness.  They do slow their lives down enough (because of how the Danish society functions) that she eventually conceives, something they've struggled with for years.  And they decide to stay a second year!

41. * Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi  The book follows one person in each generation (for many generations) who are all related to one of two half sisters.  The original girls never knew each other existed, but one ends up marrying a white man in Africa and her family stays there and the other is sold as a slave and her descendants are in America.  The novel shows the many sides to the slave trade, the whites, the blacks, the fallout for generations here in America and also in Africa.    At the very end one person from each family meet (they never know they are related) and they take a trip back to Africa with some interesting closure.  My description doesn't do it was a really good read.

42. Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington The story of three girls who are all part Aboriginal and part white.  They are taken (as all half castes were) to a facility to be 'educated' and the girls escape.  The spend 9 weeks following the huge rabbit proof fence of Australia walking their way home to the station they were raised on and where their families are.  The girls were so young and yet they were able to evade those searching for them and survive!  The writing isn't great, but it was made into a movie I guess.  It does make me curious about the way Aborigines were treated (and maybe still are?) and shows how crazy social programs can be!

43. *The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly  Karen is a straight laced girl from a good family who is attending college in languages, something she has an amazing gift for, but she has little direction for the rest of her life.  She meet Biba and her brother and they spend a summer in their falling apart mansion steeped in drugs and sex and a very eccentric life.  You know from the beginning that there are going to be two murders and the story jumps between his getting out of jail and resuming life with Karen and their daughter Alice, but the two people who are murdered are a bit of a surprise as is the way it all goes down.  And when it turns out that Alice (born when he is in jail) isn't actually either of their child, but is actually Biba's (a secret Karen won't tell anyone) and then Biba reappears, seemingly from the dead and wants to claim her which leads to yet another murder the book really grabs you!

44.  * The America Revolution by Bruce Bliven, Jr.  The Landmark about the American Revolution read while we cover that topic in June.  A great, easy read that covers a lot of information from generals and battles in a very chronological order. 

45.  *The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman  I liked this book, but felt that the author was trying too hard to include all the things from her research and since she was using first person accounts and writings it just didn't flow as well as I would have liked.  The story is amazing, but the writing didn't make it as engaging as it could have been for me.  The story is about a zoo keeper, his wife, and their son who ran the major zoo in Warsaw, Poland.  When the Nazis invaded they killed many of the animals for sport and many others were killed during the bombings.  The family mostly stayed there and used the buildings and tunnels to help hide people in the general hustle and bustle of their lives.  Some of the animals had been taken by the Nazis and sent to other zoos and in the end it helped save some of the rarer animals (Przewalski's Horse for example). 

46. * Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs  A very sweet, conversational biography  of Louisa May Alcott.  I had no idea that she was a Civil War nurse or that her family was so connected to many writers of that time.  The Emerson's were particularly close to her family, often providing extra gifts or money to help during tough times.  The Alcotts moved around a lot due to lack of funds and broken dreams.  Her father was a thinker and had ideas on shared property living (odd) and changes in education (were pretty wonderful) and although his schools closed and his traveling lectures didn't bring in much money he was respected for his ideals.  Louisa took it upon herself to support the family after she was a nurse and recovered from the illness she got in the process.  She started writing and found it to go very well financially once she released Little Women!  The story is very much the real story of her sisters, with many people from their life showing up, even if not in the true to life way.

47. * String to Short to be Saved by Donald Hall  This book is full of stories of Mr. Hall's summers spent on a New England farm with his grandparents.  He shares stories of haying, of picking blueberries and milking cows.  He spent most of his growing up summers and even some of his college summers with his grandparents.  In the end we see him introducing his wife and children to the farm, his grandparents deaths and his eventual decision to move back to the farm with his family.  Nicely done, overall.

48. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline  A work of historical fiction that looks at the figure of Christina in the painting "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth.  We see him at work in their old farm house, we learn about his father N. C. Wyeth, but most of the story focuses on Christina and her family.  We learn of the sea faring tradition that goes back generation in the Hawthorne (Hawthorn) families and how when there was only a daughter left Christina's father John Olson marries her and keeps the Maine coastal farm going.  Christina has some sort of debilitating arthritis and we watch her go from a child who limps and falls  a lot to a woman who can't walk at all and uses her elbows to scooch around on the floor.  Christina and one of her brothers stay on the farm and we meet them in their middle/older age and see flashes back of how life came to be that way...loves lost, disease progressions, parents dying, etc.  Enjoyed it.

49. *Green Ember by S.D. Smith  Heather and Pickett are young rabbits who end up neck deep in adventure.  Early in the story they see their family home being attacked by wolves and are pretty sure their little brother and parents were lost to them.  They end up getting away and are aided by other rabbits they've never met.  It turns out that many of the stories their father has told them are their own family history and the rabbit that saved them is their uncle and his charge.  They are taken to a safe haven community where they see many rabbits trying to come together to return their world to a peaceful place like it was before one of their relatives was a turncoat on the greatest leader their rabbit clan ever had.  In the end they end up discovering and saving the rightful heir who was under their nose the whole time.  Lots of adventure and a great juvenile book.  Looking forward to the next one.

50. *Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome  I found half of this series of 12 for sale and finally got to read the first one (which we don't own.)  A classic series, but not in our library system, unfortunately.  Two groups of children meet up as allies (after a war to decide which was the leader) and spend many days camping on an island with all the adventures that go with it.  The swallows are a family of 4 children and the amazons are two sisters.  Again, great reading for kiddos and I enjoyed it a lot too.  Hoping I'll be able to read the entire series somehow!

51. *Homesick My Own Story by Jean Fritz  We love Jean Fritz's history books for kids and this book is her own history as a child!  She was born in China and lived there until she was about 8.  This book features roughly the year before they head back to the US and she gets to meet her grandparents and return to a place of home.  Her father was with the YMCA and during this year her little sister is born and dies after only a few days.  We see how the ex-pats all live and the beginnings of the uprising. 

52. Outlaw Tales of South Dakota by Tom Griffith   A collection of essays about different outlaws who are either from South Dakota or associated with them.  It was okay, but I think he tries for very poetic writing and it gets to be a bit much.  Interesting to see how the wild west functioned!

53. *Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken  The story of Sheldon and his wife, Davy, from their first meeting, their intense love and setting up all kinds of systems to protect that (including never having children) to them moving to Oxford, meeting C.S. Lewis, becoming Christian, and Davy's early death.  A big pull of this book is the 18 previously unpublished letters between Sheldon and Lewis and the friendship that develops.  I found so much of the book to be pompous, but in the end the road to finding Christ and the walk that he and his wife went through after were very interesting.  All in all a good book and worth reading.  Liked the though provoking ideas that were shared about earthly love dying in some way---through losing appeal and communication with each other, through death, or any of many other ways.  The severe mercy Lewis talked to him about was how her early death left their love intact without her stronger commitment to her faith driving a wedge between them or Sheldon being so jealous of God that he forced her to draw back. 

54. *Ember Falls by S. D. Smith  The continuing story of Heather and Picket, Smalls and Emma.  This book had even more action (pretty much non stop) and an epic battle that really seemed destined to end in complete destruction of all the rabbits Smalls did get killed in this book and we discover that orphaned Emma was actually his sister and heir of Jupiter.  The very end is a real cliff hanger and there is strong hope that Heather and Picket's mother is still alive!

55.**Teaching from Rest by Sarah McKenzie  Yes, I read this book in Jan.  And yes, I'm counting it again.   I needed to read this as we head into the school year this fall and it didn't disappoint.  And just today I read a quote by Zig Ziglar that is perfect about how you will look back and either wish you had or be glad you did.  I want to be glad I did when it comes to my kids and cramming more and more into our days isn't the way to do that.  We are on a different path this fall and I need to just stay true to what works for our family.

56. **Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter  Such a sweet read!  The Keeper of the Bees is a soldier who was injured and has spent two years in a government hospital with a wound that won't heal.  He is going to be sent to away to basically die and decides to head out on his own.  Along the way he meets people who take him along and eventually finds his way to a beautiful home right as the owner is in need of medical attention.  He summons help and is left in charge of 2 acres of flowers and vegetables and bees, lots of bees!  He and the Scout Master meet and eventually the Keeper of the Bees starts a healing program, learns about bees, meets (and marries!) Storm Girl, reclaims his faith in God and say good-bye to the Bee Master as he dies.  The inherited land ends up being home to a horse for Scout Master (aka Jean), a place for a new baby with his neighbor and a place for his wife, who is the girl he married, but not the one who claimed his name...some interesting twists and turns along the way!

57. *The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane by Kathleen Kaska  Robert Porter Allen devoted his life to saving the Whooping Crane and the Flamingo and ended up helping both!  He worked with the Audobon society and spent so much time all over the country (and Cuba, Bahamas, etc) finding nesting grounds, doing studies and the like.  He was married and had two kids, but it is hard to see when he had time for them based on the crazy schedule he kept in the wilderness.  All in all it is amazing to see how far the whooping crane has come, from numbers as low as 15 in the wild to now having so many more.  At the end of the book the author gives updates on the cranes that have been taught to be wild and immigrate and it is fascinating to read. I wish the book was a bit more engaging, but all in all the story is amazing!

58. *Lady Almina and the Read Downton Abbey by Lady Fiona Carnarvon  This is the story of Lady Almina who was a 5th Countess of Carnarvon.  She was a rich girl who married into the family and her wealth (or really, that of her father, who was never actually acknowledged publicly as her father) was the money needed to keep the castle Highclere and the estates with it at the level they had always been.  Almina turned Highclere into an amazing hospital during WWI and nursed her husband (and later her second husband) as well as countless other soldiers.  She was a force to be sure and there are many parallels between her and the characters on the show.  One interesting tidbit is that her husband financed and was involved with many digs in Egypt and was actually the financier of the dig that discovered King Tut's tomb.  He and his daughter were there as it opened (Almina was home sick.)

59. * Boom Town Boy by Lois Lenski  One of the geographical series she wrote for young people.  Very interesting take on what oil can do to a family...making them crazy with wealth for a bit, but then mostly missing their farm and their neighbors.  The land was so destroyed, as were some people, but in the end this family did their best to recreate their old life on a nearby farm.  So well researched and looking forward to reading the rest.

60. *Black Star of Kingston by S. D. Smith  The prequel to his Green Ember series.  This is a tiny book and a fast read, but I enjoyed it more than the others.  I think it was just as action packed, but easier to follow and just more engaging.

61. Bread Toast Crumbs by Alexandra Stafford  She shares her families no knead recipe and many variations before continuing with recipes you can use it in.  Way  more uses than you'd think!

62.* Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain  Very interesting, lots of research driven findings and just a great book to open my eyes the introverts in my life, including me :)  Giving me lots to think about as a mom and wife.  Need to be sure that the introverts are given the time and space to bring out their best.  Also, saw a lot of myself in things she wrote about too.

63. *Prairie School by Lois Lenski  This regional one is about a school in South Dakota!  She had lots of letters from them (she was living in FL) and went there to meet the families.  She always did lots of interviewing, but this one is based very specifically on this certain town and these people. This is the story of how they survived the winter of 1949 told to her that spring.

64. *Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles  A very quick read that is geared towards young adults, I think.  Evie (rhymes with Chevy) enters Loon Lake Sanatorium as she is trying to recover from TB.  She rooms with Pearl (the drama queen, movie star wannabe who ends up having a hemorrhage when it seems she is ready to go home), Dena (the cranky loner who has lost her entire family to the disease and also seems to be better, but ends up dying in the adult section), and Sarah (the Jewish girl who keeps it a secret and seems most likely to die, but is recovering by the end of the book.)  There is a backdrop of WWII, lots of history of TB treatment woven in and a (hopefully) happy ending even among the loss.

65.  Galileo and the Magic Numbers by Sidney Rosen  A really good read similar in tone  to a Landmark.  The story of Galileo's life went, from his challenges with the church and scientific belief at the time to his relationship with his father and need to support his family.  I'd love to own it, but am not willing to sell a kidney to get it :)  A great way to show how science is a living, changing thing and that scientists are always asking questions!  I loved the part about the first (and following) telescope and how it blew everyone away!

66.  *The Lake House by Kate Morton Quite a mystery!  Sadie Sparrow is a detective who is sent to her grandfathers for a 'rest' because her partner finds out she is the leak to the press in a missing mother case.  (In the end it comes out she was right, of course!) In the midst of her vacation she stumbles on this beautiful, deserted Lake House with a mystery of its own.  She ends up getting very involved in the whether little Theo was killed or stolen all those years ago and his two surviving sisters (one who is Alice, a mystery writer) mix in.  There is lots of guilt for everyone and each one feels they have responsibility, but none can put all the pieces together (shell shock for the beloved father, an affair for the secret keeping mother, the real father of the baby boy, the sacrifice needed to protect Theo and also the secrets of the family, the horror of their grandmother.)  In the end it comes together too well in some ways, but the story was a good one with lots of twists and turns about what could have happened all those years ago.

67. An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling  I just don't know about this book.  I think I'm not in the right place to read it, even if that means I might need it more than I realize :)  It is about finding a rhythm between being an active, ministering Christian and having a quiet, close relationship with Jesus full of rest.  There is a real dichotomy between the two and finding a place between work and rest as a Christian is tough.  I didn't fully read this book, it needs more than I can give it at this point.

68. *Beartown by Frederik Backman  I've read everything that is translated to English at this point and Ove is still my favorite.  I find many of his books to be heart breaking and all are emotional, but this one is completely heart wrenching.  I think it deserves more stars, but I am scared to put myself through it again.  The writing is slower and more repetitious than most his books, but in a way that makes you really live through the sub plots and emotions of what is happening.  Beartown is hockey through and through.  Maya, the GMs daughter is raped by the star player, Kevin, the week before the final that can literally change the destiny of this slowly dying forest town.  The responses are both fully expected and shocking.  The teammates, the coaches, the Pack, the local bar and all the stories following them really make this so real.  Really good writing and yet, so hard to read.

69. **The Wheel on the School by Meindart DeJong  Such a wonderful story!  For me it started slow, but it got better and better.  Since this is one of Kelby's favorite authors right now and Kathy and so many recommended it I wanted to stick with it.  The kids in Shora, Holland discover there used to be storks, but they've stopped coming because the roofs are too steep and there are no trees.  So they band together to find old wagon wheels to perch on the roofs for the cranes.  There are connections made to the town grump, kids testing their limits, Dads home from fishing helping out, drowned cranes, kids lost in bell towers and more as the town comes together.  A sweet ending to a good book!

70.  *The Song of the Cardinal by Gene Stratton-Porter  I didn't realize this would actually be about a specific cardinal and his song, but it was!  It talks about his growing up and first migration to FL and then return to the river by the Limberlost.  He is twice the size of others and can sing like you can't believe.  We watch his courtship and eventual pairing, his friendship with the farmer and his wife and near death experience.  Charming writing, a really fast read, and lots of learning about birds!

71. *The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith  Precious Ramotswe has set up the first detective agency to be run by a woman in Botswana.  Her father left her money to open up a shop and she decided to help people and be different instead!  A very charming read where we meet the auto mechanic who loves her, see some of the dark side of black magic, and watch how Mma's ability to just notice things and puzzle them out helps her solve cases in such clever ways.  This is a series and I think I'll be reading more of them.  Quick to read, but good, nonetheless!

72. *The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart  I liked this book a lot!  I have seen it recommended a lot in book lists for kids and adults.  I have a feeling my kiddos will enjoy this one a lot, especially if we do it as an audio book.  A group of 4 kids (two orphans, one we think is an orphan and another one who ran away) are all brought together by Mr. Benedict to help save the world from the Emergency.  They have to go to L.I.V.E (an institute run by Mr. Curtain, who turns out to be Mr. Benedict's twin brother) and figure out what he is doing to broadcast this messages into people's heads and then figure out how to stop him from doing it before he boosts power and controls the world.  Really engaging and fun.  I look forward to reading the whole series.

73.*Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith (the second book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series)  Another quick, but nice read.  Precious and Mr. J.L.B Matekoni are engaged and this book introduces two children he brings home from the orphan farm to join the family.  The cases involve a mother searching for her son (he died on the farm he was working on and she gets to meet a grandchild!), a cheating wife, and J.L.B's maid gets her just due!

74. *The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo   This book made me read faster and faster to see what was going to felt like a slow motion train wreck coming, but yet, maybe not, but then yes, something... Lucy and Gabe meet on 9/11 and their relationship seems cosmic immediately, but then is cut off at the knees when he reunites with his ex.  Is it the drama of the day?  But somehow they stay interwoven over decades and do have a very intense relationship until he decides to leave to be a photojournalist.  She eventually moves, gets married and has babies all while feeling like her husband doesn't support her dreams the way Gabe did.  They keep dipping into each other lives and end up having an affair when she thinks her husband is cheating on her (turns out he was buying her the house they met at!).  She gets pregnant, gets called to Gabe's bedside where she has to 'unplug' him and finds out the baby is his.  The ending is disappointing in many ways, but the books is very intense even as it breaks my heart.

75. *The Morality of Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith (#3 in No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series)   These are just nice reads, morality without being preachy, learning about Africa and specifically Botswana.  In this one Mr. J.L.B is depressed and doesn't figure into the story much, but we see the secretary become assistant manager of the garage, the apprentices actually start working, the solving of a poising case and finding the beautify contestant who is actually moral and good.

76 * This Strange Wilderness The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain   A really nice biography of JJA.  It is written for young adults, but it makes a nice, quick read that encompasses his entire life, especially focusing on his relationship with his wife and children and their part in making Birds of America a success.  I didn't realize how poor they were and how his going to Europe to sell subscriptions is what made him a star.  BoA was sold in subscription and 5 volumes of art were done to finish it.  He was the first to tag a bird, the first to paint them in realistic poses and the first to try to document all of the species in America.  Such a wanderer at heart too!  There are multiple paintings scattered throughout the books as well.  Highly recommend for a good overview of his life in a living fashion.

77. *Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown  Billie Flanagan is a larger than life person who has lived through a repressive childhood, the 'Lost Years' of eco terrorism and life with a drug dealer, now she is wife to Jonathan and mom to Olive and living a 'perfect' life.  She has been gone almost a year, lost during a solo hike and is about to be officially declared dead.  We see Olive struggle at school, start seeing her mom in vision, a superfluous plot point about her sexuality and the distance between her and her Dad.  We see Jonathan struggle with writing the memoir of his marriage, with money issues and develop a relationship with his wife's best friend, Harmony.  The books is an intense ride through many secrets, through found children and it twists and turns until the very end.  They finally realize she is dead and we see them moving forward in a better space....but then the last couple of pages show us how right they were to believe she is still alive!

78. * The Singing Hill by Miendart DeJong   A sweet, simple book told from the point of view of the 6 year old boy.  His older sister and brother go to school and we see him left home with his Mom and very much treated as the baby brother by them.  He and his father get into a scrape with a bull when trying to sail boats, he finds a horse, and ends up bringing it home in the middle of a rainstorm.  Trns out the sweet grandpa he had befriended is the owner and lets him keep it!  All in all it is a sweet story.

79. Code Girls by Liza Mundy   Oh, how I expected to LOVE this book.  Such a great story, but the storytelling left a ton to be desired for me.  The book is about the women who were recruited from colleges and teaching school to come to Washington and break the encrypted codes from Germany and Japan.  Their efforts really helped us win the war, especially their work in the Pacific theater.  However, the focus on so many people and the extra details she threw in and the brow beating about them being female and how amazing that was, along with the snide comments about the times and the men really ruined it for me.  It would make an amazing movie, along the lines of Hidden Figures, if the right person took it and made it about their stories and less about the political feminism that she couldn't move past.  Really neat to hear how they even worked with the Enigma machine, especially after watching that movie.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pastured Lamb Breakdown

We purchased a pastured lamb from a local farm for the first time this fall.  We've tried lamb a few times and really liked it, so we figured we'd jump into an entire animal.

The live weight was 130 pounds and we paid the farm $1.50/lb for the live weight.  The hanging weight ended up being 73 pounds which was pretty close to the expected based on what we found online.  At that point we were estimating we'd end up with about 54 lbs of take home meat, but it ended up being less.  The processing fee at Country Pride was $75 flat.  The take home ended up being 47 pounds which meant the total was $5.74/lb for everything we brought home, higher for the cuts we actually will use.  This was lower than expected, especially since we got everything bone in and go the liver and heart.  Not sure if it was just an extra fatty animal or if it was the way it was cut, but the price ended up about $1/pound higher than expected.  Personally I was also surprised by the strong flavor of the meat.  I like pastured raised animal because they have more taste and the lamb we had previously was pastured as well so I am not sure if this was an older animal or was male or what, but the shanks were strong. The kids seemed okay with it though and the stew I made was enjoyed.  I am glad we did this, but am not sure if we will do this again. 

Rib Roast, 1 packages, 2.5 pounds
Ground Lamb, 3 packages, 3 pounds
Chops, 4 packages, 7 pounds
Leg of Lamb, 2 packages, 11 pounds
Rib Steaks, 2 packages, 3 pounds
Shoulder Roast, 4 packages, 12 pounds
Shanks, 4 packages, 4 pounds
Neck 2 packages, 2.5 pounds
Stew Meat, 1 package, 1 pound
Liver, 1 package, 1 pound
Heart, 1 package, 1 pound

Friday, November 4, 2016

Preserving 2016

Another good year!  At recent count there were about 560 jars filled in our basement.  That included all size jars and everything from maple syrup to tallow to tomatoes.  Makes my heart happy to see so much good food in safe on our shelves!  Only about a dozen of regular and wide mouth quart jars not filled and maybe 2-3 dozen pints and smaller.  I could can up some beans or stock just to fill every jar, but I am out of Tattler lids and had to buy single use ones, so until some jars are emptied and lids available I am pretty much done with canning.  And considering how stuffed the freezers are I get a break there while we start eating them down!  This is a list of what I put away, although not complete on the freezer side.

Cannned Items
Maple Syrup from our trees (many quarts from bulk buy too) 4 pints
Wild Grape Juice  2 quarts, 2 pints
Strawberry Sauce 12 pints, 1 half pint
Pickled Garlic Scapes  4 pints  ( recipe)
Mulberry Jam 3 pints, 3 half pints
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Jam 4 half pints
Ginger Rhubarb Jam 8 half pints
Vanilla Rhubarb Jame 4 pints, 2 half pints
Cherry Juice 4 pints
Garlic Dill Pickles 10 quarts, 3 pints
Ghost Pepper Garlic Pickles 11 quarts, 2 pints
Bread and Butter Pickles 5 quarts
Dilly Beans 5 pints
Pickled Jalapenos 1 pint, 1 half pint
Rhubarb Sauce 13 pints
Peaches 14 quarts, 1 pint
Diced Tomatoes 20 quarts, 13 pints
Rotel 8 pints
Tomato Sauce 1 quart, 4 pints
Tomato Soup 11 quarts
Tomato 'water' 5 quarts
Addictive Tomato Chutney 10 pints
Garden Marinara 14 quarts
Pizza Sauce 6 pints
Diced Green Tomatoes 4 pints
Zucchini Relish 8 pints
Applesauce 95 quarts (maybe I should 5 more to make it even?)
Spiced Apples 9 pints
Apple Cider 1 quart, 1 pint
Boiled Spiced Cider 6 pint and a half, 1 half pint
Pear Butter 2 pints, 3 half pints
Pears 13 quarts
Salsa 7 quarts
Roasted Corn Salsa 10 quarts
Green Tomato Salsa 6 quarts, 1 pint
Green Beans 13 quarts

Celery Leaves 1 quart, 1 pint
Apples 4 quarts
Blueberries 1 pint
Cherry Tomatoes 2 quarts +

Mulberries 4 gallons
Rhubarb 2 gallons
Strawberries (whole) 3 gallons, 3 quarts (sliced &sweetened) 16 pints
Blackcaps 8 quarts
Red Raspberries 2 gallons
Blueberries 5 gallons, 10 quarts
Peaches 3 gallons
Kale 18 bags
Swiss Chard 10 bags
Beets 14 bags
Garlic Scapes, chopped 7 bags
Green Peppers 1 gallon
Puffball mushroom 2 containers
Patty Pan Squash 3 bags
Zucchini, shredded 10 bags
Yellow Squash, diced 2 large bags
Zucchini Butter 10 containers
Pesto 9 containers
Green Beans 25 bags
Corn 16 bags
Snow Peas 5 bags
Roasted Veggies 1 large container, 9 pints
Pumpkin 12 pints (3 more pumpkins to cook down)

Other items we grew
Garlic 77 bulbs
Onions (lasted until November)
Potatoes 10 blueberry boxes (approximate)

We also purchased a pastured lamb this fall, more to come on that breakdown.  We still have beef from our 1/2 three years ago, the chickens we raised this year, and five layers (and now a rooster!) who are still giving 4 eggs a day or so.  We planted an apple and pear tree, a bed of strawberries, more raspberries and are talking about adding more raised beds.  We are still getting kale, Swiss Chard, spinach, some beets, the last carrots and a few snow peas from a late planted even now in November.  Our honey comes from a close neighbor and our milk from Wundrows. We have been buying a bit of pork here and there from Country Pride, but need to buy another full hog next year.  Our bacon and German Sausage come from Bluebird in Delmont and we love it!  This was the first time we tapped for syrup on our Silver Maple trees and will definitely do that again.  The strawberries were from Skellys and Wunbergs. We picked green beans, raspberries and bought squash from Wunbergs as well.  Currently have a full bushel + of butternut and acorn squash and two crates of apples stored.  This was our first year successfully growing a lot of onions, although we still ate them very quickly.  The garlic we grew was beautiful!  And the potatoes did really well in the raised bed, not as great in the ground garden.  Apples were from neighbors and Aunt Betty in SD and a few from our trees.  Pears were from Orchard Ridge.  Our grocery breakdown will come soon, but it won't be much different than last year!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Meat Chickens 2016

This year I ordered 20 meat birds again, but went with all males.  Based on how it turned out I think it would be good to continue to order all males!  Also processing was made much quicker and simpler by using a great set up including a very tall table with a 'guts hole' in the  middle, multiple large garbage cans for soaking, a free standing large water pot with propane under it to keep it at exactly 150 for scalding, and a plucker!  We started at 9 am. Two of us (or 3 or 4 with younger helpers) would kill and bleed the bird, then one would scald and pluck the bird in about 2 minutes flat.  They went into one barrel to start cooling and then were fine plucked and went into a second.  From there we eviscerated and they went into a third barrel to continue cooling.  After a while they were moved to the fourth and final barrel.  It was so fast that in about an hour the plucker and water bath stand were already loaded and up and most the helpers had left.  I finished eviscerating the last 5-6 birds while a friend hosed off buckets and did some clean up.  Once they were all in very cold water we headed in for an hour of chatting and looking at the gardens.  After that she headed out and I started cleaning gizzards and packaging birds with another friend who was there to pick up her (very helpful) son.  We packaged and rough weighed the birds. And this was still all done before 12:30!  They left, I did some more clean up, took a shower and made a late lunch.  We were done with our lunch and all clean up by 2 pm.  And it was never rushed, there were no back aches, and it was amazing.  If we had 2 on hatchet duty, one on the plucker, one picking and 3-4 eviscerating we could literally be completely done in about 2 hours.  Amazing!

I ordered 20 birds and got 21.  All 21 made it to butcher weight, but I lost one the day before butchering!  I was so disappointed.  It was eating and normal at breakfast and dead at lunch.  I was so proud that I hadn't lost any and so upset at the waste, but it is what it is! I did harvest one bird at exactly 8 weeks as it looked like it was having issues.  The others were butchered at 8.5 weeks.

The kitchen scale was broken, but the rough weights came out to 114.5 pounds for the 20 birds that were butchered.  We also harvested about 14 oz of hearts, 2 lbs, 3 oz of livers and 1 lb, 5 oz of cleaned gizzards.  So just over 4 pounds of offal.

I used 8 bags of feed total for this group and fermented their feed all the way through.  The last 3 weeks or so I started adding dry on top of the fermented to push up their weights a bit.  We had some hot weather patches, but they did well through them.  The range in size was from just over 4 pounds (one that was harvested early) to almost 7 with most being in the 6 pound range.

Total costs   20 chicks $31.40, 8 bags of feed $101.04 for a total of $132.44.  When just counting the birds themselves it works out to $1.16/lb for our birds which is fantastic!  Very happy with our harvest and thrilled to have them in the freezer!

Monday, January 11, 2016

What I read 2016

A running list of what I've read this year.  * is pretty good, ** is pretty great

1. **Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss  (amazing home goods, canning, personal care and more, blog)

2. Food Gift Love by Maggie Batista  (recipes and how to package them, just didn't jive with me)

3. *We are All Completely Beside Ourselves  (girl and chimp raised as twins, twisted way of telling story, but a good read)

4. *Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (world has fallen apart, story of traveling Shakespeare troupe and how people cope years later, all stories are connected and slowly you learn how)

5. *Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay (sweet read about an orphan grad student seen through her letters to her benefactor)

6. **Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher (great cookbook with easy, inexpensive meals, maple oat breakfast cake!)

7. *Travel Guide to Heaven by Anthony DeStefano (interesting take on what our exerience of heaven will be now and after the second coming)

8. * The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (saw movie a while ago so it felt like I was reliving that, rabid Eagles fan with mental issues, girl with a set of her own, withdrawn Dad, missing you years, and a dance contest...yup, pretty crazy book)

9. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (funny, but way too worried about everything being liberal, series of essays some of which have him taking on different personalities)

10. *Missoula by Jon Krakauer (very disturbing account of how rape is deal, specifically looking at Missoula, but really applies everywhere, drinking and drugs are at the start of every. single. case. and  I just am even more focused on raising our kids to make good choices all the way around)

11. *Wonder by R. J.  Palacio (a young adult book about a boy with physical deformity and heading to school for the first in 5th grade, quick read, well written)

12. *tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed (advice letters she has written as Dear Sugar, many dealing with the craziest of love situations, but also fairly univeral in emotion)

13. **The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle (funny, touching, real book about her marriage and her faith...last year I read Sparkly Green Earings by her about motherhood, also great)

14. *brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (free verse style, story of her childhood, mother leaving father, moving in with grandparents, then to NY with mom)

15. Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka (didn't make anything, lots of pretty photos, good sounding recipes, but nothing earth shattering to me and everything is lowfat, etc., pretty much real food, good advice on portions)

16. *365 Slow Cooker Suppers by Stephanie O'Dea (read the blog during the year she made 365  crockpot recipes, yummy ideas including recipes not on the blog)

17. *the new Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown (everything you could ever want to eat made in a cast iron skillet)

18. **the Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook (read it before, but wanted new ideas from it, Amish Chicken Bake and the Simple Berrry Cobbler are both favorites)

19. **Nobody's Cuter than You by Melanie Shankle  (another funny, great book by Melanie, this one about friendships and faith)

20. * Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay  (story of two sisters (one a chef) and their dad and cancer...their mom's cancer and Jane's cancer...sweet love story added in and lots of Austen references, just like Dear Mr. Knightly)

21. ** Listening is an Act of Love edited by Dave Isay (Storycorps project records every day Americans being interviewed by those they love, a collection of a few of the 10,000 they've recorded)

22. *Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Risfka Brunt (a young girl loses her uncle, the love of her life, to AIDS back in the 80s when it was new and scary, discovers his partner that her family hid from her and helps him in his last months, lots of issues with her sister, but in the end the family pulls together again)

23.  *All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr  (WWII, a young blind girl, her museum loc/ksmith father, a diamond, an orphan with a gift for radios and the sadness and desperation of the times...the story jumps between the two stories and timeline, but is not hard to follow and shows many beautiful things in the midst of horror, I don't have the same crazy love for it as many do, but it was a well written, wonderful read)

24. **For the Love by Jen Hatmaker (her writing is like talking with a great friend who can make you laugh and think all at the same time, she has big love for Jesus and wants us all to focus on that a whole lot more and being critical of ourselves and others a whole lot less, a wonderful quick read for any woman who is over scheduled, over Pinterested, and just wants to live their life in a fun, whole, Jesus loving, family centered way)

25. * Carry on, Warrior by Glennon Melton ( writer who has had some posts go viral, so a few of the chapters I had read on fb or somewhere, thoughts on motherhood, faith, brokenness, and her past addictions, lots of good stuff, some uncomfortable stuff and generally a good read for moms doing their best to raise their babies to love God and people through our own stuff)

26. * Americanah by Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian love story of boy and girl who separate when she goes to America, starts a race blog and how they reunite many years later when she returns to Nigeria where he is married, with a child and also newly wealthy and all the ups and downs to them getting back together)

27. **The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield (3 preachers kids, their parents, uncle, aunt, and grandparents, a lost job, a suicide, the creepiest, meanest neighbor, a saved boy, love, loss, strength, a bar, a store and so much more, I really loved this book and Swan is an amazing character)

28. The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (a bookseller, the boy she meets, the deception she is doing, the breakup, a trip to England with his Grandmother where she meets her criminal father, lots and lots of literary references, decent writer, but I think I'm done with this author for now)

29. **My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl (Gourmet goes under and she spends a year cooking in her own kitchen and figuring out what to do next, like her writing, love the recipes and the story too, 136 recipes that she says saved her life)

30. *Good Cheap Easts Dinner in 30 Minutes (or less) by Jessica Fisher (another good cookbook with fairly frugal, but also easy meals, Black Bean Tortilla Casserole was a hit)

31. ** The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (couldn't put it down, but heartbreaking too, memoir of her childhood growing up with an alcoholic, but dreamer dad and artist and most likely mentally ill mom, with four kids, a penchant for moving often, little food, heat or normalcy and how they got through and escaped to 'normal' life...not a great description of the book, but quite a read)

32. *Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl (a follow up to Tender at the Bone, so basically a memoir of her early professional life, her first marriage, affairs, early second marriage and attempt at adoption, so well written, a few great recipes, but also a very different lifestyle and value system than I have, she's lived a varied and wild ride of a life)

33. **Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Frank Drum tells the story the summer of '61 when four different deaths hit their town.  The first two happen quickly and set up the story, but the next one you know is coming, but you don't know who, just keeps you wondering and waiting and speed reading and then trying to solve it does the same thing, a very well written book)

34. * Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (her first fiction book, Billie works at the mag Delicious! and it closes unexpectedly, she stays on to work the phones and discovers a hidden room, letters to James Beard from the war and a librarian who had joy in hiding clues, there are great foodies folks, a handsome man, a sad back story, and some sluething, overall a decent read)

35. ** Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (everyone should read this book, about being sick, dying, aging and more, what we do right, what we need to do better, the conversations we need to have, important stuff to be talking about with those we love)

36. * The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball (city girl falls in love with farmer who falls in love with a 500 acre farm that has seen better days, they work to offer a whole diet CSA and she learns to stick and not run, made me gasp out loud in places, quick, good read)

37 and 38. * Nature Anatomy and Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman (painted sketches of all the curious parts and pieces of the natural and farm worlds, great info, a little bit about a whole lot of things, great for helping improve sketching as they are simple line drawings)

39. ** When Breath Becomes air by Paul Kalanithi (about to finish his training in neurosurgery and take on the world he discovers stage IV lung cancer, his story of being sick, of living, of his growing up years, his marriage and all the highs and lows, his love of literature and science are woven so beautifully)

40. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer (centers around the 1984 murder of a woman and her child by her bro-in-laws, but mostly a look at the background of Morman faith, the fundamentalist sects that break off and the way that it led to those men committing the murder, found it very repetitive and not organized the best)

41. *Gap Creek by Robert Morgan (Julie marries Hank, moves from the mountain top to Gap Creek valley and deals with trials from her mother-in-law, to the man they live with and then his death, giving away money to crooks, almost starving and drowning, losing their baby, and on, good read about a strong woman)

42. **A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (Lily and Nick, spoiled Budgie and golden boy cheater Graham, Kiki, college and young adult life in the 30s, love found and lost, friendship and betrayal, family secrets and the daughter covering them up without even realizing it, high class life on Seaview during the summer, and the whirlwind of Lily and Nick finding their way back to each other and the hurricane that destroys the community the same day, loved this story)

43. **Essentialism by Greg McKeown  (the trivial many and the vital few, a millimeter in a million directions or a mile in one, lots to chew on here having to do with how we live our lives, the impact we have, lots related to business, but also just life, should reread often)

44. *All Stories are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer (Valentine's Day and an earthquake in San Francisco, Max and Vashti come together after years apart only to be torn apart again, Gene should have known about the earthquake, but shot information down and spends day trying to get back to his ailing partner Franklin, children trapped with some odd ducks, it was intense at times, okay)

45. *Bossypants by Tina Fey  (funny, likeable, self-depreciating, pretty much exactly what you'd expect from Tina Fey, she doesn't get overly political like so many comedians, mostly talking about her career, does address the differences in the questions she gets because she is a woman, but not overly hung up on making things sexist, mostly she talks about outworking everyone if you want to be the best)

46. *Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner (two sisters Emmy and Julia have to leave their mom and London for the country during the bombing of WWII, Emmy wants to be a bridal designer and her sneaking back to London, with young Julia in tow, sets up a horrific separation of the sisters for 20 years, wonderful country foster mother Charlotte and Thistle House eventually work together to reunite them in a most extroidinary way)

47. *Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Vivian is a 91 year old train rider, who started with a different name, lived through two horrible placements and finally found a family and yet another name change, Molly is a foster care teen who has had a rough go of it herself, they work together to clean out an attic and find an unlikely friendship as well as family in the end, a good fictional read about a real event in our country)

48. **Miracles from Heaven by Christy Wilson Beam (The story of a family and their battle through a chronic disease with their young daughter, Annabel.  Their lives are overtaken with keeping her alive and not pain wracked and yet they are so strong in their faith, after a crazy falling through a hollow tree accident Annabel which results in a visit to heaven and Jesus's promise of healing they do indeed get their miracle!  So good, was made into a movie)

49. *Food Matters by Mark Bittman (focus on eating clean, whole foods with special emphasis on eating very little meat, he is encouraging this way of eating for the sake of the planet as well as our health, pulls it off by eating vegetarian/vegan all day until dinner and then basically eating anything, caused him to lose weight, eat cheaper, and reduce his pull on the planet's resources, 'eating sane' is mostly in line with how we try and eat, although we eat more animal products overall, but agree with him that Big Ag is not the way to raise our food)

50. ** Don't Leave Me This Way (or when I get back on my feet you'll be sorry) by Julia Fox Garrison (Healthy working mom has debilitating stroke and brain hemorrhage, the story of her getting sick, getting better, her faith,the Drs and medical people she meets along the way, Dr. Jerk, Dr. Neuro, etc, finally knowing why it happened (cold medicine!) and why she knows she is a better person now)

51. ** Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie  (Helping put first things first and realize that we are shepherding God's children as we are homeschooling and we need to rest in that He is in control of the outcome, we need to make the process right, not stress about checking off the boxes, but about coming alongside them to help them accomplish what they can and were made for, about relationships, not completed worksheets, should reread!)

52.** The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (Story of Peekay from about 5 years until 19, started slow for me, but reviews were great so I kept on, his time at boarding school, influences, decision to become welter weight champ of the world and learning to box, meeting Doc--absodoodle!, Morrie, work in mines and major final scene, in the end it was pretty amazing and you couldn't help but love Peekay.)

53. * Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports From My Life With Autism by Temple Grandin (A collection of essays on different aspects of autism and treatments and abilities in general and her specific situation and life stories, focused on her career and how she got there and her relationships, her insights are amazing and you can see the differences in how her brain works in how she tells stories and the somewhat repetitive nature of her writing, very helpful to those who love people with autism.)

54. * My Double Life Memoirs of a NAturalist by Frances Hamerstrom (Very eccentric Wisconsin naturalist who along with her husband, is credited with saving the prairie chicken, she was raised in a wealthy, rigid family, but as an adult lived in crumbling farmhouses and raised their children with no running water, but amazing bird study material, so interesting to read about someone close to home with such a different life.)

55.* My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich (Sweet read about Mrs. Brown, a cleaner at a hair salon who is often treated poorly and overlooked, she may seem plain and simple, but impacts her neighbor's granddaughter, has a super model move in for a while, takes an amazing trip to NYC and finally get the Oscar de la Renta black suit that she wants, it is perfectly tailored and the whole world kind of helps her accomplish this goal, in the end you find out she wants it to wear to her weekly visits to her son's grave, heartbreaking in the end, but a great little read.)

56. ** The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro (Grace, and English woman,  is in a marriage that has turned very cold and suddenly finds out she has inherited an apartment and a large fortune from Eva d'Orsey in France, she travels there sure there has been a mistake as she has no idea who Eva is, the story of how they are connected and the characters she meets along the way are fascinating, started slow for me, but as it continued it drew me in more and more and in the end was a great story)

57. *for one more day by Mitch Albom (Chick is a former professional baseball player who has lost his wife and daughter due to his drinking, tries to kill himself and ends up spending a day with his deceased mother and learning a lot about life and love in a short time, learns why his parents divorced and finally chooses her over his dad in his heart, touching with a circle back at the end that is very sweet.)

58. **The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin (Janie is raising Noah, who is 'quirky' and wants to go home and see his mama, even with her in their home, and can't stand water, after many doctors she finds Anderson who has spent a career studying reincarnation in children who remember a past life, they find out about Tommy, who was killed by a neighbor accidentally, lots of interesting side pieces to the story and really suspenseful for a non-thriller book.)

59.  *People with Dirty Hands by Robin Chotzinoff (She spends time traveling the country visiting other gardeners from formal estate gardens to wild cottage gardens to the largest tomato growers in the country, interesting characters)

60. *Downton Abbey A Celebration by Jessica Fellowes (A great peak into all the characters and sets of Downton with episode information as well, neat to see the actors talking about their characters and the photos are beautiful!)

61.**Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro (Maeve Fanning, or May as she calls herself in the Boston shop, gets a job in an antique shop and works hard to pass herself off as high class, has a rocky relationship with her mom, has spent time in an institution after running away to NY and missed her best friend's wedding in the process and eventually runs into a girl she met there who turns out to be very wealthy, she becomes friends with Diana and runs in her crowd, living a double life, hard to summarize, but I like this better than the Perfume Collector I think.)

62.**The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood (Quinn and his twice ex-wife Belle have a son who has befriended and convinced to go after a Guinness World Record a 104 year old woman, before he unexpectedly dies, Quinn steps in to take care of Ona's yard and fulfill the scouting duty as a way of being there for his ex-wife when he wasn't during their son's life, he and Ona become friends, Belle marries the scout leader rather hurriedly, they meet Ona's illegitimate 90 year old son, and Quinn grows up while becoming actual friends with Ona, this is mingled with the recorded conversations that Ona and the boy did about her early life, her friendship with Louise, her parents' sacrifices, her marriage and such, really good book with sad ending, which explains the beginning)

63. * Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (Set in England and Malta during WWII, Mary is a rich girl who becomes a teacher who simply must teach even if they are Negros or cripples once the children are evacuated to the countryside, Tom is her boss and almost fiancĂ©, eventually all of them are killed leaving Mary in a terrible state, but writing to Alistair, Tom's best friend who is starving in Malta, losing his arm and goes MIA while being transported home, I was loving this book for so many reasons, (quick wit of the characters, the spiral into realities of war, a peek into the minstrel shows world) but the ending was odd and hard to get so it left me unsettled, possibly meant to as war does that to everyone's lives.)

64. * in a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware (Lenora gets an invite to a 'hen' aka bachelorette weekend for Clare, who she hasn't talked to in 10 years, she and Nina decide to go, when there finds out Clare is marrying the love of her life, James, in the end James is dead, Flo kills herself and Nora is under suspicion for the murder and is almost killed herself by the golden girl turned psyco Clare.)

65. *Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Story of three generations of women who all end up abandoned by men in different ways, the grandma never leaves India, the daughter leaves to follow a man, the grand-daughter never gets to India, they all have triumph, they all have hurt and none feel whole because of the way they end up cut off from their mothers and families, told in little individual stories and sometimes hard to follow, but a good book.)

66. **Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (Historical fiction based on the true WWII story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the greatest tragedy in maritime history, the Germans were evacuating refugees and packed 10,000 people into the ship, this story focuses on a German who has turned against his country (Florian), a nurse (Joana), a pregnant via rape by Russians Polish girl (Emilia), a psychopath sailor (Alfred), the Shoe Poet and the Wandering Boy, they all travel together and work to get on the ship and survive, each character gets pages of their point of view and it is constantly flipping, but really well done and completely intense, really good.

67.The Perfection of Morning by Sharon Butala (Thought I'd love this since she moves to a large farm/ranch and the subtitle is an apprenticeship in nature, however it just seemed so focused on her dreams and a weird almost psycobabbley self rebirth thing, parts that talked about her adjustment to the country after her second marriage and the landscape were pretty, but I just couldn't get into it as it was too much about her inner musings and figuring herself out.)

68. Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860 by Mary Ann Hafen  (Almost like a conversation of Mary Ann's stories of growing up as a Morman who immigrated here and then across the country with her parents, her plural marriage, raising children and her faith, interesting)

69.*The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (Hugh and Daniel are the well off nephews of Agatha and her war office working husband, and Beatrice comes to teach in their small town, it is shocking to have a Latin teacher that is female!  The story follows her settling into the town, the movement to war, Hugh and Beatrice falling in love, the scholarly gypsy boy who enlists, all the deaths in the early part of the war, lots of small town gossip and outrage and heartbreak of war with a bit of love found thrown in.)

70. **Gold by Chris Cleave (Zoe and Kate are rivals with a VERY complicated past, which isn't fully revealed until late in the story, they race bikes in a velodrome and are Olympic caliber riders, Kate gives up two Olympics to raise her little girl, while her husband competes and wins, Zoe wins as well, this story focuses on their last chance at an Olympics, a rule change that will leave one girl home, a very sick daughter and all the complications of the relationships of the 4 of them.  Great read!)

71. *How Not to Die by Dr. G  (She does autopsies for a living and basically runs down all the things you shouldn't do if you want to live a long life, if you are paranoid this might not be the book for you!)

72. **A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Ove is the local curmudgeon and is trying to kill himself so he can join his beloved Sonja, however his new foreign neighbors and their children, a cat, his previous best friend Rune and his wife, Jimmy, the fat computer guy next door and others all end up foiling his plans accidentally, he is a man who speaks little, works hard and because of their 'incompetence' he is needed and can't take the time to end it all, his backstory, that of Sonja and all the rest of the backstory is so touching, I cried multiple times and it made me want an Ove in my life too, a great, touching, funny read.)

73. *Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Lydia is the dead daughter that this book revolves around, but the stories are much more complicated than you can imagine, Marilyn wanted to be a doctor, but her home ec teaching mom wanted her to find a man from Harvard, she did, but James was Chinese and she never talks to her mother again, Marilyn freeks out and leaves her family at one point and Lydia promises herself that she will agree to everything if her other comes back, which leads to her being the beloved child while Nath is ignored and can't wait to escape to college and space and Hannah is the younger never noticed sister, James has an affair that starts the day of the funeral, they all have secrets from each other and all feel a sense of responsibility for Lydia's death, in the end there is a lot of hope they they will pull together and pull through.)

74. *The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (Cecilia seems to have it all, great daughters, loving husband John Paul, success with Tupperware and so organized it is crazy, she finds a letter from her husband that she is to open upon his death and it turns their lives upside down, three women's lives intersect, one with a murdered child, another ends up with a severely injured one, there is an affair, a reconciliation and lots of humor in the middle of this turn your world upside down story.)

75. *Trim Healthy Mama Plan and THM Cookbook by Serene and Pearl (I read the old book and was pretty turned off, but know people who have had great success, so read the new book and it is better, I am focusing on eating fuels separate (S and E) and just eating the food we normal do, we'll see how it goes!)

76. *The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Frances and her mother take in a boarder couple, Lillian and Leonard, I thought this was more of just historical fiction, and there is a reality to the post war London it is set in, most of the book focuses on Frances and her previous relationship with Christina and the new one she starts with Lillian, Leonard is murdered and more than half of the book follows what happens after that night, it is engaging, but not my favorite read.)

77. ** 50 Great American Places by Brent Glass (A book that walks through one historic place in each state, but not necessarily the ones you would imagine, there are connections to other places as well, but a really neat way to travel through our country as they are listed in the chronological order, not in any type of state order.)

78. *First Comes Love by Emily Giffin (Josie and Meredith are sisters who have a pretty rough relationship, much of the family drama comes from the loss of their brother, Daniel, 15 years ago, their parents are now divorced, Meredith is a lawyer, a mom, and is not sure she should have married Daniel's best friend Nolan, Josie is a 1st grade teacher who is planning to get pregnant with a sperm donor, or maybe the guy she met through Match or maybe her best friend Gabe, it is a fast read with good characters.)

79. * A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (Marguerite and Theo are chasing Paul through different dimensions because they believe he killed her father, they use the Firebird, which her parents invented after her genius mother figured out that there are an infinite number of dimensions, but all in the same time frame, she goes into Tsarist Russia, futuristic seeming London, and on a station in the middle of the ocean, she figures out that she loves Paul and he couldn't have done it, but also has feelings for Theo who still doesn't trust Paul, although he loves him like a brother, interesting idea, too much back and forth love stuff, but a quick interesting read.)

80. **The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Don is a geneticist who is obviously on the spectrum, even as he doesn't recognize it in himself, he decides to start the Wife Project to meet a potential mate, but in the mean time meets Rosie and starts helping her identify her biological father, she has none of the qualifications of the wife project, but is obviously meant for him, also features his friend Gene who is a philanderer and his wife, Claudia who no longer wants to be in an open marriage, Phil, Rosie's dad and others, very sweet, quirky story.)

81. * Eating Wildly: Fraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal by Ava Chin (A memoir about her relationship with her grandparents, her single, boyfriend hopping mother, her absent, never wanted her father and a few boyfriends, including the one who becomes her husband, each chapter connects to a foraging food story and a recipe as well, good read.)

82. *The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell (This book is very popular and well written, but the subject matter could not be more depressing, Shuggie lives with his mom, Glenda, who is overly provocative, affair having woman, his 'dad,' Red, who is an abusive, part time, druggie/drunk who makes Shug steal drugs from sick patients's homes and has an affair right in front of his son, Shug gets caught, cleans up after Glenda and her lover kill Red and never mentions it and ends up having an incestuous relationship with his mom, just crazy.

83. * The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather (Robin gets divorced and loses her job in the same week, moves to a little cabin on a lake in MI and figures out how to continue to eat very well and locally on a budget of $40/week by bartering with neighbors and preserving in season, she, her dog, parrot and new kitty build a community and she shares recipes, it is a great read for local eating and recipes.)

84. *Brain on Fire My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (Susannah is a healthy, busy 24 year old reporter for the NY Post when she suddenly seems to have gone mad, seizures and hallucinations are just the beginning on a month long hospital stay that does nothing to show what is wrong, then a new doctor sends for testing and a fairly rare auto immune disease is diagnosed, she heads home and starts treatment and eventually makes a full recovery, an interesting story about how our bodies can attack ourselves and when it involves our brain it completely changes our entire life, she uses her dad's journal, doctor interviews and such to rebuild this lost month of her life.)

85. ** My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman (Elsa is 7 and lives a very different life with her mother and stepfather who are expecting Halfie and her Grandmother who keeps escaping the hospital to be Elsa's biggest protector/storyteller/friend/cheerleader, Grandma was not the best mother, often missing in her work as a doctor in war zones bringing the lost home with her, now she is an amazing Grandmother weaving amazing fairy tales that all turn out to be about the characters in the book, the treasure hunt she sends Elsa on after her death, the revelation of the personalities and connections of the other residents in the house and the storytelling are amazing, he wrote A Man Called Ove and this is right up there too!)

A Partial History of Lost Causes (Started and didn't finish...shocking, I know!  Russian chess player goes from freezing in a horrible room to a superstar because of his abilities, just not that engaging to me at the time.)

86. *Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Fascinating story of a scientist and her study of plants, trees and such, part memoir, part science lesson, all good!)

87. *Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen (An interesting story of an Asian immigrant family that is connected with the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, a bit of a mystery surrounding Rose pops up and the implications are kind of story changing, all done in a fun historical fiction way.)

88. *Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (A novel, but based in mostly fact surround Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah, they both leave their families, tour Europe, we see Frank's career go really well and also stall, they return and build Taliesin, she eventually gets to see her children a bit again, the tragic fire that killed her, her children, and workers, it is quite a story with conversation so well done that it reads as thought it is not a novel!)

89. **Birtt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman (She has left her husband at the end of My Grandmother Says to Tell you She's Sorry and we pick it up with her living in hotel and trying to find a job, but still a complete control, cleaning machine, she heads to the small, failing town of Borgand ends up a soccer coach, even awkwardly meets someone and could be getting her life together if not for the fact that she is ready to take her husband back at any point, Borg is changed by her in a  big way, there is tragedy and it is a wonderful book like all his others!)

90. *Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (A heartbreak of a book about his life as a lawyer fighting to end the death penalty, free innocents in prison, and change a very broken system, so many cases that just blew me away with the injustice.)

91. ** Omnivoer's Dilemma by Michael Pollan  (He follows our food systems and how that has shaped our meals through Big Ag/corn and fast food, Grass and Joel Salatin's farm and the forest and a hunted/gathered meal he does with the help of some friends, a great reaffirmation of making good choices, the actual costs of our Big Ag food to our bodies and our world, let alone the animals in it.)

92. * Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowly  (Lily is a dachshund who develops an 'octopus' on her head and is nearing the end of her life, Ted is her owner who has struggled to find love in his life until he found Lily, they 'talk,' they play board games, they are completely wrapped up in each other,  he becomes so obsessed with her octopus that the story turns fantastical, the end is as sad as you imagine it will be.)

93. * I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows  (Historical fiction of a sort based in the dust bowl, Annie and Samuel Bell are trying to make it through with their surviving children, Fred and Birdie, the loss of connection leads to Annie cheating, Birdie thinks she has found the love of her life until he leaves with his family, but leaves behind a coming baby, Fred has dust asthma and meets a tragic end, this is such a sad story, but somehow they keep on even through the dust, the boat, and the death of children.)

94. ** Find Her by Lisa Gardner (Super intense and fast paced, Flora was kidnapped and held for more than 400 days, she has survived, but isn't the same girl, she devotes herself to learning to protect herself and obsession on bringing home other victims which leads to her ending up taken at a nightclub, but killing the man that morning only to be taken again the next day, finding Stacey, the girl was looking for and then trying to save them both, D.D. Warren is the detective in the book and there is a series of books with her, good read that keeps you guessing and interested the entire time.)

95. *Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (Memoir of a family and culture in crisis is the subtitle and pretty much sums it up, J.D. talks of his 'crazy' family, a mother who married and lived with many men, Mamaw and Papaw who gave him a safe harbor although not a classic one in any stretch, joining the Marines, going to college, graduating from Yale Law school, a successful marriage and all the many things he has done that were never expected and actually separate him from his family and culture, many say this book describes why Trump was elected, I think it is an interesting take on the culture surrounding Appalachia and hillbillies and families in general.)

96. * The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (Anne and Marco attend a dinner party next door leaving their 6 month old Cora asleep and alone in their shared wall home, they get home at 1:30 to find her gone, the secrets that unfold after include Marco's business is in the tank, Anne's step father denied helping him again, even though the money is her mothers, the neighbors have a camera that could help solve the crime, but implicate them in things too, Anne's got a history of blacking out and not remembering violent acts she commits during those times, and at any point any of them could be connected, turned out that Marco was involved, but so was the step father as he was trying to get $$ to sneak away with his lover, the same neighbor whose party they were at, a good twisty read, but lags at times and man, the secrets one family can have!)

97. *The Mothers by Brit Bennett (Nadia's mother committed suicide and her father struggles to have a connection to her and their church, The Upper Room, she spends a summer with Luke, the pastor's son, and gets pregnant, gets an abortion and the rest of the novel is about the way that abortion haunts their lives, Luke missing his child, Nadia escaping to college, but never really letting go of Luke and the idea of Baby, Aubrey, her friend she never tells about any of this who also lost her very alive mother to an abuser, and when Aubrey and Luke get married and Nadia comes home from Law school to take care of her sick dad the affair begins, the friendship falls apart, the secrets all come out and the church falls apart too.)

98. * The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen (Mona is the daughter of Lisa and this is Lisa's story of being a child sent on the kindertransport from Vienna to England when the Nazi's were over taking Austria, Lisa was a piano prodigy and this story of her leaving everything she loves, working in a factory, eventually getting to audition and being accepted into the Royal Academy of Music in London, Mona and her sister are also concert pianists so the legacy of Lisa's parent's dream lives on!)

99. **My Antonia by Willa Cather (A classic I finally read!  Told from the perspective of Jim Burden, a fellow child growing up with her, we learn the story of Antonia and the other families of this small Nebraska town, how difficult it was to make it as a new immigrant, how the girls that are hired out to town help the families make it, but in the end their marriages and subsequent farms are often the successful ones, we learn how strong, down to earth, and wonderful Antonia is, we see how a few of the girls go out into the world and do not come back and how different those lives are, one of her 'prairie trilogy novels' and often called the great American prairie novel, worth reading.

100 ** I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (A little boy is killed in a hit and run accident, the novel jumps between the police investigating and their lives and Jenna/Jennifer who I thought was his mother, turned out she was involved in the actual accident and was hiding in the seaside town to avoid her abusive husband, the twisty turns throughout, the people of the seas side town, the sweet vet, the police chief who makes a good choice in the end are all great, the very, very end is not how I would have ended it, but over all a good read.)

101 ** The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (A very engaging novel that follows an Irish indentured servant, Lavinia who arrives small and sick when her parents have died and Belle, the daughter of the master who was raised in the big house until about age 10, unknown to his new, young wife,who is the slave running the kitchen house, the horrors of slavery, the threat of being sold, opium use by the ladies of the house, so much in this book, Lavinia ends up the wife of Marshall, the son who was destroyed by the abuses of his tutor and the hatred of the overseer, the ending is heart breaking, but also freeing in that Belle finally is free as is Lavinia, really worth reading, but hard to explain.)

Not a bad year of books!