Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Tree Hunting 2011

This year we almost didn't go Christmas tree hunting. Our house feels smaller and smaller and we hesitated about getting anything else to take up space. But I'm really glad we decided to go. We went with Leif's parents as usual and his dad led the way as usual.

Well, this year we ended up weaving into the hills of the Kaibab mountain and it took a while to find a spot that didn't have too much burn out from forest fires. This lengthy drive could have been miserable. But we were very blessed and the kids stayed happy and content. Leif and I did something that we don't do enough. We sang together for the children. We sang all of the Christmas carols that we could think of. It was extra special when Jakob joined in with the songs he knew. Otherwise the kids just sat back and took in the moment and the Spirit that was with us. One of those truly special moments as a family.

Eventually we found a spot with some trees that might work. That was after the boys and I got to ride in the back of the truck while Leif followed in our car. We had gotten all of the snow gear on and I didn't want to stuff everyone back in their car seats just for a little ride up the road. Jakob and I sang Jingle Bells on this little trip and I was able to explain to him the story that the song told. He thought it was neat that we were "dashing through the snow" just like the song says. Caleb loved pointing out the tall trees and at one point he was helping me count them. JJ sat in the cab of the truck with Grandma and Grandpa.

Upon our arrival to our hunting spot we piled out of our vehicles and started walking through the beautiful forest. There was snow on the ground and a bright blue sky. We hiked through the snow covered hills and before we knew it we had found the trees we were looking for. The hike out there wasn't a big deal. Grandma helped Caleb. Leif carried JJ, and the rest of us walked. Well, the hike back wasn't as easy. I didn't bring the carry pack on the hike (I left it in the car.) We had hiked further then we realized. But you do what you have to do when you're in this kind of situation. Grandma took Caleb again (who now insisted on being carried.) I tied my scarf into a makeshift sling and carried JJ. Leif carried one tree and Mark carried the other. Jakob carried himself and he may have been the loudest grumbler out of the bunch;) We hiked up a hill and made it back to our cars though and we all lived to tell about it.

The final adventure of the afternoon came as we were driving out of the canyon, right at the last bend. The snow had piled up on this particular hill and though both vehicles had both picked up speed to get through the snow the truck started to get stuck and we had to stop. Fortunately the truck got out. Our little car didn't. I really didn't want to get stuck. But it was actually kind of fun trying to work together and I was blessed with more strength then I thought I had. And the children stayed quiet and understanding. The funniest moment was when Mark climbed in our little Ford Focus with the little boys and backed it way up. He then came back around the bend at top speed racing with the boys hoping to break through the deep snow. He didn't quite make it through the snow but we all got a great laugh out of the attempt. Just as we were trying to put traction down on the road (bark, limbs, etc) a large 4X4 truck came up the road and promptly pulled us right out without a second thought. A true blessing!

We wound ourselves down the mountain toward home to the sound of the little boys first and ongoing   expressions of discomfort and hunger. I didn't mind them at the moment because I knew we were on our way home. I was just grateful they waited this long to breakdown.

We arrived home with two really nice trees, a few sunburned faces, and several great stories. We all went in the house and dished us up yet another plate of Thanksgiving leftovers. Great memories with a great family. We are Truly Blessed!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tom the Turkey Stole the Show This Year! - Pit Roasting a 36 Pound Turkey!

I have mentioned in previous posts that we raised a turkey especially for Thanksgiving this year. Well, he grew up and we prepped him for our Thanksgiving feast. WOW! Was he Big!!

He wouldn't fit in our oven. So we dug a deep pit outside and lined it with bricks. In the meantime, I pulled the turkey out of the fridge (it took up a full shelf) and I put him in my MIL's bathtub, filled it with water, and poured in about 12+ cups of salt. There was actually the top inch of the turkey that didn't get covered in water. So I poured a bag of ice over it to keep it cold. After a few hours in the tub I seasoned and stuffed the turkey with spices, fruits, veggies, chicken broth and ginger ale. Then we wrapped the turkey in about four layers of tin foil. We then wrapped it in chicken wire.

Going back to the pit: In order to heat the bricks up we started a fire the night before Thanksgiving and kept it burning through the night. Leif and his mom took shifts to keep the wood on the fire. At around 7:00A Leif and I went down to put the turkey in the pit. We moved the coals to the side, lowered the turkey into the pit breast down, threw a wet sheet over it, covered that with coals (next time I would use burlap because the sheet held a lot of water and put some of the coals out that could have been useful for the top of the turkey), and then we buried the turkey with the dirt that we had dug out to make the pit. He cooked in there for 6 hours.

While he was cooking we cooked and baked all of the other yummy fixins' for the dinner. I ended up making three really yummy pies. I made a German chocolate, a pumpkin, and a pumpkin cream cheese. I used one of the pumpkins we grew in our garden for the pies. They go a long way. And, MMM! Yummy! I made an amazing sweet potato casserole thanks to a recipe my sister sent me. There was so much good food. More food then we could fit on our plates. We've eaten leftovers for lunch and dinner the whole weekend. It's been Awesome!

So going back to the turkey. We pulled him out of the ground an hour before dinner was scheduled. We put in the thermometer on the back (top) and it wasn't cooked all the way (Bummer!) However, we turned him over and the breast that had been directly on the bricks was finished. So we cut that off and served it for dinner and then put the rest in the oven to finish cooking. It turned out great and we have enough meat to feed us through the winter (for real!)

We had a really nice time visiting with family throughout the afternoon and evening. We've enjoyed sharing meals and adventures together throughout the weekend as well. We went Christmas tree hunting. But that's a story for a different post.

We experienced a fun homestead style Thanksgiving this year and it was a lot of fun! The best part was sharing the fun with the family for sure!

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