Gluten Free Eating and Apple and Onion Roasted Pork…

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So….I’ve embarked on this gluten-free journey and so far so good!

 I have been so tired with a general feeling of crapiness for such a long time now, that I figured it was time to try something different.  Years ago, when the low carb craze hit, I did it and felt great (of course, I was a lot less fluffy then *wink, wink*)…but I remember feeling great.

 We eat great quality foods.  We eat organic foods with no preservatives or GMO.  We eat lots of fresh produce and meats that we raise ourselves (organically) or that we buy from friends who also grown organically.  We cook almost all of our meals at home, so we know what goes into them.  We don’t use chemicals in our home and use homeopathy as a means of getting ourselves well and  food based remedies as well.    We eat raw garlic and I make a bone broth (stock) at least once a week.  Why in the world am I so tired and icky??  I’ve been feeling that wheat/gluten is the culprit for a while but haven’t made the jump until now.  You see….I LOVE bread!  It is what I eat when I don’t feel good, it is what I eat when I do feel good, some form of flour is always being eaten here at home as a meal or with a meal.

I thought that the transition would be harder, but honestly, it hasn’t been!!  I feel better, have more energy (I’m not ready to run a marathon yet…) and am not craving the bread like I thought I would. Yay!

Sooo…as I embark on this journey I will create new recipes, I will try new recipes and let you know how they turn out!

My first official GF recipe is a Roasted Apple and Onion Pork Shoulder.  You could easily use a pork roast or tenderloin too!

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Ingredients:

4-6 lb Pork Shoulder (Pasture or organically raised if possible)

Bacon Fat saved from breakfast (you can use olive oil and butter or coconut oil)

5 Cloves of sliced Organic garlic

2-3 Medium Organic Onions, sliced

2-3  Organic Apples, sliced (skin on)

16 oz (or so) of organic chicken stock (homemade would be best)

1.5 Tbl Organic Balsamic Vinegar

3 Tbl Organic Maple Syrup

3 Tsp Organic Cinnamon

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put about a TBL of bacon fat into the Dutch oven on the stove on a med-high heat and sauté the onions  and garlic.  Once they are beginning to brown, add the apples, cinnamon and the balsamic vinegar.  Cook for a few more minutes then  remove from the pan.  Add about a TBL of bacon fat to the pan.  Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork shoulder.  Sear all sides of the pork to create a beautiful brown crust.  Once all sides are browned, add the chicken stock (should come  about 1/2 way up the pork) and scrape the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all of the yummy splatters into the sauce.  Add the onions, garlic, apples and maple syrup to the pot.   Cover and place in the oven for 2.5- 3 hours or until the roast is easily pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the roast (or roast pieces as it will probably fall apart) from the pan and set aside.  With an immersion blender directly in the pot, buzz the juices, apples and onions together to create an amazing gravy.  I may have splashed a bit of maple syrup into the gravy before buzzing… 😉

Crock pot Option:  I would assume that you could throw all of this into a crock pot, put it on low, go to work and return to an amazing dinner too!!

Although I did not get any pictures of it, I served this with organic carrot sticks roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper and with roasted organic acorn squash.

Roasted Acorn Squash:

Halve the squash carefully as they have a tough skin

Scoop out the seeds

Add a small pat of butter to each half of the squash

I added a teaspoon of brown sugar, salt and pepper to the squash

Roast for at least an hour at 350 degrees or until very tender.  Spoon the juices from the middle of the squash over the squash and scoop out onto the plates.

The kids LOVED this entire meal…I thought the Hubs was going to dive into the pan, he was nuts over it.  I’m glad that I wrote it down!

Bacon and Sausage everywhere!!

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Bacon and Sausage everywhere!!  After the processing of the pigs, it is always bacon and sausage time.  With each of the 8 bellies weighing about 9 lbs and about 100 lbs of ground pork, we were in for a busy weekend.

We started by curing the bellies with a traditional salt, sugar, molasses and herb dry rub for 7 days.  On day 3 of the cure, we drained the liquid that had been purged and re-rubbed with more cure.  Using salt as a cure allows us to NOT use pink salt ( sodium nitrite/nitrate).

After day 7, we smoked the bacon with apple, pecan and cherry wood and froze the whole bellies and were ready to slice!

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Once it was frozen, we sliced and packaged the bacon…maybe we ate a bit too.  I’ll never tell!

 Homemade bacon from organically raised pigs is so different from store-bought bacon.  It’s flavor is so concentrated that you really only need to eat a few slices to get your fill.  Even the most carnivorous of folks get their fill after a few pieces.

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There is something so amazingly cool about making/growing your own food.  Actually it is not all that difficult and mainly requires a time commitment.  There are plenty of folks out there that do it and work a full-time job outside the home..it is entirely possible to do, if you really want to. 🙂

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The sausage…it really is the stuff  that dreams are made of!  Last year we went to a different butcher and for some unknown reason, the ground pork that we got wasn’t the best as it had hard chunks in it…gross sounding, I know.  The really unfortunate part was that we didn’t realize until it was too late and we had made 100 lbs of sausage with it and sent it off to our family and friends.  😦  We always taste test the sausage before we stuff it, but didn’t find anything odd in the samples that we tried.  That was last year…this year a different butcher and AMAZING Sausage!  We played around with maple syrup in the sausage, but found that it often burned when cooked, as pure sugar will.   I was poking around Amazon and found this maple syrup powder and thought we’d give it a whirl.

The stuff is amazing and was perfect for our maple breakfast sausage!!  We used quite a bit to get the flavor that we were looking for.  It turned out so yummy!  One word of caution..it is a very fine powder so it will get everywhere if spilled or mixed to fast.

We also made an italian sausage, neither sweet nor spicy…just in the middle and oh so yummy with fresh garlic, rosemary, fennel and other spices!!

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For the past 2 years of sausage and bacon making, we look at each other and say “we are not doing this again next year!”  I am not going to lie…it’s a lot to add to our plate, especially this year.  But, when we get the feedback from those who eat it and want to order again already for next year…it all seems worth it!

 There is a really great feeling that happens when feeding those you care about great, wholesome food.

**sigh**   I do love doing this. 🙂

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Ps…I wanted to add a picture of us making the sausage…but I couldn’t seem to take one that wasn’t terribly phallic. 😉

Piadina…My new love!

Welcome to the yummy world of Piadina!

Piadina is where I want to live, well actually it isn’t a place (not that I know of anyway), but to me it is a fluffy little island that I forever want to live on or at very least eat everything off of!

Piadina is a soft, fluffy little Italian flatbread made with lard, I said it LARD! Mmmm.

I first tasted a yummy morsel like this many, many moons ago.  It was light and fluffy and it was filled with a caesar salad.  Ever since then I have been searching for that flavor I had no idea what it was, I figured it was an Indian style flatbread.  The hubs was bored and since no plain old chicken salad sandwich will do at our house, he whipped out “I’m going to make Piadina!” five minutes before the lunchtime hunger melt down.  I had no idea what  he was talking about so I rolled my eyes knowing that the wrath of hungry littles was about to pound on him like a sledge hammer carnival game.  Good luck, I thought.  But alas, Dad is way more fun than Mom, so he was able to keep the natives at bay.

I let him do his thing and stayed out of the way until I smelled the fluffy goodness in the pan!

OH MY WORD!  It was heavenly!  Not in a brownie out of the oven heavenly way, but in a salty, bacon-ish angels calling sort of way.  I know, you are thinking “it’s just bread lady!” but it is ohhhh, so much more.

I ran over to the stove, I may have “accidentally” pushed one of the kids out of the way, tore a piece off the bread, shoved it into my mouth and I was taken back to that silly salad-wich that I had tasted years ago int he midwest!

 It was AH-MA-ZING.

Since I wasn’t really interested in the process, honestly I thought “you’re making flatbread, not interested” so I didn’t take any pictures until I tasted it, and then all I could do was snap one picture before I devoured this sandwich. 🙂

Piadina

 You must try this, it doesn’t take long to make and its flavor is amazing.

I am very much on a sprouted what kick lately, but I ran out of the sprouted wheat flour. Boo…So I vow to make this with sprouted wheat and see if there is a difference.

The recipe credit belongs here, to Food52 Blog and to her Nonna!  Thank you Nonna, no chicken salad sandwich will ever compare.

Here is the recipe:

Serves 6 (recipe can be multiplied)

  • 3cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 heaping tablespoons shortening or leaf lard
  • 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • Fillings of your choice like Prosciutto, ham, mozzarella, fritatta, salad, Nutella, pretty much anything you want .  ***I vote Chicken Salad!!***
  1. Place flour in a mound on pastry board or counter. Sprinkle on salt and baking powder, and mix together with your fingers.
  2. Make a well in the center. Drop in the shortening and rub it together with the flour using your fingertips. Lumps are okay! And it will still be pretty floury.
  3. Make a well again and pour in water and milk. Mix with fingers until dough comes together. Add a little more warm water or flour, if needed. You want a soft dough – not at all sticky. Knead for a couple minutes, and roll into a log shape.
  4. Alternatively, all the mixing can be done in a large bowl. I like to use a fork to mix everything together.
  5. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, using a scale if you have one. With one hand, gently roll each piece on the board/counter into a ball. Mom says to use your thumb and nudge the dough ball under with each turn. Set each ball to the side on a sprinkling of flour and let rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Heat griddle to medium. Slightly flatten a ball and roll out dough to about 9 inches in diameter. Gently lift and place on hot griddle, scoring the piadina all over with the tines of a fork. If bubbles appear, quickly pierce those suckers with the fork. Cook each side for a few minutes or until each side develops some lightly browned spots. Remove to a clean dish cloth. Repeat with each ball, and stack each cooked piadina over one another. Loosely cover with a dish towel. When done, cut piadine into quarters and enjoy with your favorite sandwich fixings.
  7. Piadina freezes well. Reheat on a griddle.

Bacon, Sausage and Lard…

Phew… we’ve had quite the busy week!

2 – 30 lbs hams curing and waiting to be smoked.

13 pints of lard rendered and canned just waiting for pie crust.

100 lbs of sausage (breakfast and Italian) made, stuffed and packaged.

Almost 70 lbs of bacon cured in molasses and maple for 5 days then smoked, sliced and packaged.

~Blueberry Maple Sausage

~Sweet Italian and Blueberry Maple

~Getting a little Maple Yumminess..

~Rubbed and curing for 4 days

~Resting an hour before the smoker

~Smoked for hours and ready for the oven!

We still have so much to do…I must have 80 lbs of fat left to render, but the majority of the hard work is done.

Rendering fat….

Thankfully a friend rendered fat from a pig that she purchased earlier this month and warned of the odor and being very sensitive to odor myself, I am glad that I decided to cook the fat outside on the porch in slow cookers…It definitely had a certain smell to it.  Outside it wasn’t bad, actually we were cleaning up the yard in anticipation of hurricane Sandy and my son yelled “it smells like potato chips!”, which it did. 🙂  That being said, when all was said and done I had the whitest snow-white lard I’ve ever seen.  Because our pigs spent their lives outside in the sun, their fat is chock full of vitamin D, second only to cod liver oil!  Can you imagine??  Have you ever tried to stomach cod liver oil?  Not my favorite by any means.  Good to know that my pastries and morning eggs will have serious amounts of vitamin D…perfect for the winter. Yay!!

Anywho, here is how I did it.  You can literally set-it and forget-it!

~Sunny day rendering a little lard

Cut your fat into small pieces, the smaller the better, the more lard you will render out.

Place it all in a crockpot

Add 1 inch of cold water to the bottom of the pan

Set the crockpot on the lowest setting

Cover and forget for about 6 hours

You’ll see the fat shrink and the lard will begin to fill the pan.  When the fat (which will become cracklings) begins to brown, it’s time to strain, strain through cheesecloth in a strainer.  This will be the whitest of white lard.  Perfect for baking.  Pour hot lard into sterile jars and top with sterile lids.  They will self seal and be shelf stable.

Place the fat pieces back in the pan and continue to render.  When the cracklings resemble bacon pieces, you can strain it a

gain and this straining will be a bit darker and have  a little bit of a bacon/pork flavor, perfect for breads and frying.  Anything that you want to have a little more of an in-depth flavor.  Some people save the cracklings and add them to salads or anywhere else you’d want a little crunch.  I can imagine that a chicken breast coated in panko crumbs and cracklings would be AMAZING!

I, however ended up tossing them as it was really late and I was kinda tired of them…if I’m being completely honest. 😉

~lard, glorious lard

Here is the dream shot, although not a great one…

Our goal….

~Our own eggs AND bacon!!

From the very first egg gathered from our backyard chicken house over 3 years ago we said “wouldn’t it be great to have our own bacon to go with it!”…

 Much to the nay-say of others and many thinking that we are nuts….we did it!

We did it!!

And we will do it again, next spring.

 It has been so much more than a learning experience, it has really made me more aware of where my food comes from and where I WANT my food to come from.

I do have to admit that I can’t wait until next year to have little piggies running around outside…they really are such neat creatures. ❤

If anyone local is interested for next year….let me know.  We would love to share our home grown food. 🙂

Off they go….

Off they go…

When we got these little ones over 6 months ago, we knew what their purpose joining us here on the farm was.  We respected, loved and cared for these animals from the moment they arrived to us.  We vowed to give them a healthy and stress free life in turn for them providing us with healthy, stress free meat for our family.

That time came this past Sunday…

I knelt down, looked each one of these creatures that I’ve been caring for in the eye and said a heartfelt thank-you.

It was now time and we had work to do.

The sun was shining for the first day in what felt like forever!  We gave them some of their favorite food to buy us a little time to make the necessary preparations…it is true that a pig will do just about anything for food.

We backed the trailer in, filled it with hay and positioned the ramp, we were ready to go…or so we thought.  When the time came, the gate was opened.  I stood in the trailer, shook the bag of food and after checking out the situation, 3 of the 4 came walking up  the ramp.  The other, well he wasn’t going anywhere.  He was going to make us work hard today. 😉

After a muddy 2 man, 2 woman, 1 hog, country fair style pig scramble, he was on the trailer and they were ready to go.

Once the trailer pulled away, the farm-yard was still sunny, but very quiet.  I have to admit that it was a little sad, they were my little buddies, always ready to greet me because I usually came bearing food. 🙂

Will we do it again?

YES!

 Our first year with pigs was a success!  And by success I mean, we raised healthy, well cared for, drug free, stress free pigs and my FEAR of them getting loose and having to chase them all over God’s green earth didn’t happen…thank goodness!

  We are very fortunate to have land and the time to grow food for our family and friends.

That is our pig adventure for now…

Perhaps next year, we’ll add some pastured chickens for meat….maybe. 😉

The last of the warm summer days…

Every year about this time I look around and think, did I have my windows open enough this summer?

Did we get enough fresh, warm air?

Did we do all that we wanted to this summer?

The answers:

There is never enough open window time. 🙂

The air is always fresh, though not always warm. 🙂

No, the summer escaped us, but all of the major ideas were accomplished.

Our garden was not uber fruitful this year.  We had a giant crop of cucumbers early on, before the beetles got them.  The  tomatoes did well before the hornworms got them.  Zucchini also did well, before the beetles came…We just donated the garden to the pigs, they loved it and are still digging out there, for a few more weeks anyway.

The seasons seem to change so fast around here!  One day it’s sweltering, the next the fire is roaring.  I fear that I’ve hung my last load of laundry on the line until the spring.  As much as I will miss all of the outside doings, I will have more time to take care of things inside now. 🙂  Bring on the baking, blogging, crafting and homeschooling!

I am ready.  We have had a very busy summer and are ready for a little slowdown.  We have some buttoning up of the farm around here, the chicken coop needs to be cleaned out and winterized, the pigs off to the butcher, summer gadgets put away for the winter and on and on….

Now that the warm weather is coming to an end, the grill will go away and so will one of our favorite meals.  It’s quick, a great vessel for leftovers and tastes great…

Since this is a quick grilling pizza, your sauce and toppings must be warm when they are put onto the pizza.

We used some leftover bacon from breakfast and garden goodies to make this one…

Pre-flip…

Post Flip.

Grilled Pizza!!

1 Dough ball

Leftovers from the fridge, garden etc…

Sauce

Cheese

 You can buy dough at the store or make your own.  I always pick one up while shopping, it keeps great in the freezer and is so quick and useful.  This dough was an organic sample given to us (perks of the “other” job)

Pre-heat grill to high, scrape your grill clean.  It often helps to take an old, clean towel drizzle  it with  olive oil and rub down the hot grill grates (quickly) using tongs to hold the towel.

Let dough sit out at room temp for about 20 minutes.  Rub a little olive oil on a sheet pan (leaving the corners dry).  Hand stretch the dough then place it on the tray.  Stretch the dough to the corners of the tray pressing the dough into the dry corners  (it helps the dough from shrinking back).

Meanwhile heat your sauce stove top.

Sauté all of your toppings.  I often just do this in a pan on the grill, top down with the pan handle sticking out while it is heating up….why waste the heat. 😉

Now….

Turn your grill to medium-high.  Slide your dough off the pan an onto the grill.  Close the grill and wait a few minutes.  Your dough will rise.  You are looking for nice grill marks on the underside and a nice crust.  Once that is formed, using a big spatula, place the spatula under the dough and begin to lift, quickly place your other hand to guide the top when flipping and continue the flip.

Now it’s time to top your pizza with the warm sauce, cheese and toppings.  Close the cover and allow cheese to melt and bottom to get a nice crust.  Once this is done, lift one side of your pizza, slide your original pan underneath and Voila! Dinner!

So Easy…you can omit the sauce and make it into a flatbread….

Pre-cook eggs, add salsa instead of sauce and you’ve got breakfast pizza…

Give it a try!  It’s an easy way to keep the kitchen clean and cool. 😛

If anyone out there has any organic remedies for squash beetles and hornworms, I’d love to know! 🙂

Fighting, fences and depression…..

Sibling rivalry is alive and well in the farm-yard!

After a little routine (well less than routine this year) lawn mowing, we heard a terrible squealing coming from the pig pen, not an oops I touched the electric fence squealing, but something quite different.

Three of the pigs had the 4th cornered and were biting his tail and hid quarters. 😦  The gentlest of the bunch was under attack.

We hopped in and separated them but once they see the red color of blood…it’s game on!  So after they went at him again, we decided that we had to separate them and the only way to do that was but splitting the area with the electric fence, him in one side and them on the other.

Yay!  It worked!  We tended to the wounds and he healed within a few days

New problem..pig depression.  Now, I am no pig psychologist, but we had one depressed piggie on our hands…it was pretty easy to tell.  Pigs eat.  They eat ALL of the time, they eat almost anything.  It’s amazing what will go through a pigs digestive tract only to show up on the other side.  Stories for another day though.   I knew he was depressed, because he would just push his food around and take a few bites (not to mention the escape to the side with his pals that ended up with more wounds).  He would sleep beside the fence, just inches from his pals.  It was truly sad and very heartbreaking.  When I went  to scoop the poop, as I lovingly refer to my chores as, he wanted to play with me.  He was lonely, so we bonded.. full well keeping in mind that this animal could eat me or crush me against the fencing. He missed his buddies and I was no substitution. 😦

We decided that they needed more space, so we ordered some electric netting and decided to sacrifice what was left of the garden so they would have a little yummy distraction when we put them all back together.  It was really cute, they sniffed each other and went on their merry way to till our garden.  They made quick work of it and have been pig happy ever since.  Every once in a while, Red will sneak up to one of his buddies and give a little snout rub as if to say “I missed you”.

I believe that this is the picture that got me shocked to the bone…um, yeah…the new fence works. 😉

They are hovering around 200 lbs each and are just a joy to watch.  I learn so much by watching them…they are such smart creatures.  The most peaceful part of my day is doing my chores, feeding them and watching them.  I really think we are ready to make the jump into farming a bigger property….I feel it in my bones. 🙂

Now…if only my bones would find that perfect piece of property!! 😉

Stay tuned!

Bacon Jam!!!

 Now I figured with a name like Bacon Jam, that THIS would be a recipe that I would really like…Man, was I wrong!  I am IN LOVE with bacon jam…I mean really in love.

This is our new go-to condiment.  It goes on burgers, in grilled cheese, with cream cheese on crostini, in chicken salad, on baked potatoes and we’ve only had it in the house less than a week!  I would venture to say that it would be amazing with a little vanilla ice cream! Yum!!

I brought a jar to a family cook out and made everyone try it!  Unless everyone was just being polite…the reviews were (as I suspected…) “where can we get some?!?”

(My husbands bacon jam filled dinner plate! Ha, ha)

Looks like I’ll be putting Bacon jam on my Christmas gift list!

Want some of your own…

Here ya go!

 After my family filled their plates the first night right out of the crock-pot I filled 3 jelly jars and 4 smaller jars

3 lbs bacon

4 medium onions sliced

8 cloves garlic

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)

1.5 cups brewed coffee

1/4 cup molasses

2 bay leaves

Chop the raw bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet (render out the fat) until the bacon is nice and crispy.

Remove the bacon and set aside.  Cook onions and garlic in remaining bacon fat until translucent.

In the meantime, put the rest of the ingredients in a crock pot.  Transfer the onion and garlic mixture and the bacon bits into the crock pot and set on high for 3-4 hours or until you have a runny jam like consistency.

I got impatient and put it into a wok and reduced it that way (the smell was intoxicating and I just couldn’t wait anymore!)

Pull out the bay leaves and zip it all in the food processor until the bacon is broken up, just a few spins.

Put it into jars and refrigerate.  Add to everything!!

My favorite so far is store-bought natural rotisserie chicken, pulled and mixed with mayo and bacon jam! Delish!!

I would think you could can in a pressure canner, but I will ask the experts before I make that claim for sure. 🙂

Next time I think I’ll experiment with a savory bacon jam.  This one is on the sweet side, I can just imagine one with a bit more garlic and rosemary….Mmmm….

Pigs, Pasture and Amazing Grace….

After a VERY busy few weeks, things around our little farm have calmed down a tad…well, enough for us to tackle a few of the things on the to do list.  One of the big ones was to move the electric fence outside of the pig enclosure to move the Babes into fresh greens. Well, it was more like getting up the nerve to move the electric fence outside of the pig enclosure to move the Babes into fresh greens.

It’s a pretty nerve-racking feat.  You see, the hubs is not home for most of the waking hours and that leaves me to “chase” pigs, should the need arise.  This is not something that I feel is in my repertoire of things that I am good at, but the pigs needed some fresh greens and this is the easiest way, so my fears remain on the back burner.

So, move them we did and what many have told us it is true, they say that pigs won’t cross the line where an electric fence was…that is unless there is pig feed on the other side!  We opened the gate and they went right up to it, but not past it.  We tried to coerce them, push them, chase them and nothing until I shook the feed bucket and they came a running, right past the gate into the field.  Those Babes truly LOVE their organic pig feed!

Whenever they see me, they snort, grunt and occasionally bark and when I grab the feed bucket they start frothing at the mouth, literally.  NEVER, ever come between a pig and their feed, they go nuts trying to get to it!

( A happy pig, is a muddy pig. 🙂 )

Once they were through the gate, they started chowing away on the greens and digging up the dirt with their snouts looking for bugs and whatever else smells yummy at that moment. 🙂

Once they were settled, the hubs and I grabbed a couple of chairs and just watched them do what they do while we sat in sun chatting about the future, our goals, and dreams for our bigger farm.   The kids were actually playing and getting along, then we heard it…bagpipes!  Seriously?!?  Now, where we are situated, there aren’t a ton of people around us and hardly anyone is around on a late Sunday afternoon, but someone was playing the bagpipes.

 As magical as it seemed at the moment, I soon realized that it was coming from the church not too far away.  There were no services at that time, just someone playing amazing grace on the bagpipes.  There was no traffic and no noise, just peaceful amazing grace.  Even after I realized that the sound wasn’t coming from the heavens (bummer), it was still magical.  After all, it isn’t everyday the we are treated to a private concert of amazing grace while sitting in the sun, talking about what the future holds, watching our kids play peacefully and seeing our animals enjoy new pasture.

It was a magical, well needed afternoon.

Thank you Bagpiper, whoever you are 🙂