Sometimes the really big things happen without being noticed. Which is to say, when you’ve given yourself a very long list of goals and dreams to tackle, sometimes it’s possible to wake up years later and suddenly realize you’ve made them real. Transformation rarely happens overnight, and the effort to make changes is usually incremental. As much as the thought of going ‘poof!’ and having a whole new life seems wonderful, it can’t be as good as taking a moment to realize how far you’ve come on your own – without magic – through your own conviction that the direction you’ve chosen is the right one.
It might seem trivial, but this thought came to me as I was transferring another batch of chicken stock into my big mason jars to store in the fridge. (Note: I use chicken stock ALL the time, even in summer) I’ve been pretty busy with work and chores and life and pushing into the yoke without taking the time to look up and notice the field, so to speak. So then I remembered this: A couple of years ago (which, as I approach 40 seems a very short time indeed) chicken stock came from boxes. Sure, I knew how it was made and could have made it myself, but I was an urban singleton, and the cheap, convenient bounty of Trader Joe’s was just around the corner. When I moved back to the Ranch I even continued to buy chicken stock for a while until my savings dwindled to the point where I realized even the little purchases had to be rethought. $2.99 a quart for something you can make from scraps?! Heck no!
So I started buying whole chickens, cutting them up for parts or roasting them whole, and boiling the bones just like my mom had always done when I was growing up. I found that when a whole chicken was roasted with the leftover tops and ends of a leek or two (recycling veggies! who knew!) shoved in the cavity, not only was the chicken extra delicious, but throwing the whole carcass, leek and all, into the stock pot made the most lovely stock imaginable. Huzzah!
Then, the other day, as I was funneling a gallon or so of homemade stock into the mason jars as has become a regular activity for me, I realized the big thing that had happened. The stock was made from a chicken I’d raised myself! Of course raising chickens wasn’t something that came and went without me noticing, as readers will know, that experience was new and exciting and a lot of work. I definitely was conscious of every step. But it wasn’t until I was pouring that stock that I actually stopped to look back, all the way back to Sara from a couple years ago, buying 4 cardboard containers of chicken stock every week. From that to putting big glass mason jars of homemade stock from home grown chickens into the fridge!
And then I started to notice other things too: discussing with my roommate how my green tomato pickles (which I made on a whim last fall because my Roma tomato plant was covered with fruit that was never going to ripen before the first frost) were the best thing ever to dice up and mix into tuna fish salad, and how it was a shame they were almost used up. Or searching for the last jar of peach jam – made from the peaches of my own tree – in the pantry so that I could whip up another batch of that spicy-sweet Asian marinade I concocted for the locally raised grassfed beef short ribs we had in the chest freezer.
And it made me realize that other big dreams are right on the horizon now. We just ordered the filters and strainers we’ll need when we start milking Peaches in a week or so. I am making plans for how I will harvest my first batch of honey. And the 12 tomato plants I started from seed this spring have set fruit that is just about to ripen.
There are so many things I wanted to do when I moved up here, so many things that seemed nearly impossible, or at least impossibly slow to take shape. And now here I am, the dreams are real, the fruits of my labor are ripe and ready for me to enjoy. It’s like putting on a coat you haven’t worn in a while and finding $20 in the pocket: you earned the money, and you put there to begin with, but for a little while you forgot you were looking for it and then suddenly there it was. It’s like that, but way, way better.