Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving reconsidered

By now, of course, it’s all a crazy and yet wonderful blur. Late Wednesday, four men working in the basement to unplug a pipe leading to the septic tank. Roots, coming out in bundles, like black fishermen’s nets tangled with seaweed. Laborious task. Reinforcements called in. Smells of baking pumpkin cheesecake should be filling the air. Instead, in the basement at least, there is faint odor of sewage.

The 100 feet of pipe is unplugged. They’ve paced it out, they know the length of it, the snake that pushes through appears to have made it all the way to the tank.

So why is the water backing up still?

The men pack up their machines and head out. You have a major problem – the lead guy tells us. Backed up tank maybe. Or worse, your drainage field’s not working. Dig out the manhole tomorrow. See where the sewage level’s at.

Thanksgiving morning. The golden grain was gathered all, the maize the nuts and the fruits of fall... a childhood song that I remember.

Ed has been digging since sunrise, uncovering the manhole to the tank. Looks awfully full in there. Still, for the time being we appear to be (cross your fingers here) okay. The system, however troubled, allows for some water usage. There’s a failure somewhere and quite likely we’re a hair’s breadth away from having to replace the entire sewage system at the farmette, but right now the water has resumed draining. To a dangerously high tank, but still, it’s draining.

Ed gives the thumbs up, for today at least. Proceed as usual. We’ll attend to the problem tomorrow. Okay, fine, but how do I make up for the lost yesterday?

I’m on track with breakfast. Sometime in the night I made the cinnamon rolls. Yeasty, spicy, rising now, ready to bake. Easy. They come out hot just as daughters, one boyfriend (other one has left to be with his clan) and Ed come together for the morning meal.

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Lunch is easy, too. Traditional favorites. Squash soup with goat cheese herbed dumplings and chive scones. Daughter helps, food’s ready in good time.

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But as my girl and I clear the table and attack the dinner menu, I realize that not baking the dessert earlier is going to be a problem. The pumpkin swirl cheesecake is ridiculously complicated. I hadn’t bothered reading through the recipe. Bake your own fresh ginger cookies for the crust? You’ve got to be kidding.


After, bake the crumbled cookie crust for a half hour, then, finally, bake the whole cake in a water bath, steaming it in a slow oven for two hours. Really? And when does the turkey get its turn? And the sweet potato rounds? And the cranberry muffins?

As the cookies bake, my younger girl and I take a break. She lives in the city. My mothering ways tell me she needs fresh air. Can’t do anything with the oven in use anyway. We walk across the fields...


Down to where the deer play. You can’t see them through my camera lens, but they’re there, distantly, specs of graceful movement.

It’s late. At the farmhouse we move into high gear. Both daughters and boyfriend are in the kitchen now, cooking chopping, moving from one dish to the next. The cheesecake is out. As I stuff the last herbs under the skin of the bird, we plunge the muffins in for a quick bake. Finally, at 5:35, I put in the turkey.

Meanwhile, we munch on appetizers – the sweet potato, the fried sage. Cheeses, artichoke bits, smoked salmon...



...and we take a break for a movie. And then my little one and I race to the finish line. Turkey’s out, mushrooms are browning in butter, brussel sprouts are pan roasting. Potatoes are tender, ready for mashing, cranberries are ready, corn needs a swirl with the chipotles.

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We sit down to dinner just before 9. Within the acceptable time frame of this holiday, no?


Oh, yes, the pumpkin swirl cheesecake with the ginger cookie crust. That too.


Today, we recover. Ed and I weigh the probability of bypassing a major retrenching of the sewage system. Not even a small chance. We check levels, measure distances, look at the original plans of pipes and tanks made up for the previous farmhouse owners. Looks like the next weeks will focus Ed’s attention on this major project. For today, he finishes painting the outside farmhouse trim. How fortuitous that the painting project is nearing completion (except for one dormer – saved for spring now, for sure)!

In the late afternoon, Ed drives a captured mouse from the sheepshed. Isis is getting mouse lazy. Spending too much time moving from lap to lap, watching movies with us at the farmhouse.

Country living offers up interesting surprises.