Monday afternoon I started missing Aaron and Thomas Ladner. We haven't gotten to see them much lately, so I asked their mom if they could come and spend a couple of days with us. We live too far apart for short visits. She agreed, and their eldest brother, Chad, delivered them about 8:00 Tuesday morning and stayed until about 1:00--an unexpected bonus. Nathaniel got home from school in time to have lunch with us. Then the boys played pool while Emma made ice cream for dessert.
The visit started off with a lot of noise, because Emma's latest batch of chicks had started hatching about midnight. She brought the incubator in to the living room where she could keep an eye on them. Thirty-plus chicks chirped robustly all day, providing background music for every activity.
That afternoon Aaron and I practiced making individual meat pies. Emma is in love with the idea of picnicking, and I thought meat pies would be a good start for filling the basket. Aaron chopped and grated away while I ground flour and worked on the dough. I fried a couple and baked the rest. I preferred the baked ones, but I was disappointed in the crust. Emma thought more butter would have improved it. I think I will just try using white flour next time and see how that turns out. The meat filling tasted wonderful, though.
Afterward, Aaron wanted to go exploring, so he talked Emma and Thomas into crossing the 40-acre field next to us to see what was beyond the trees. Nathaniel was still recovering from an allergy attack, so he stayed home.
The explorers didn't get back until after dark. They had discovered a pond and a "glen of honeysuckle". Emma said that Aaron picked a bunch, handed it to her, and told her to make herself a crown, which she did. Aaron and Thomas got extra exercise when they had to carry her over a bramble patch because Emma was barefoot and her dress and apron kept getting caught on brambles.
Tree fairies only come out in the moonlight.
Thomas gives thanks for getting to wear the flower crown too.
Naturally, Fiona looked the best wearing it. Emma gave it to her for dessert, and that was the end of it.
Wednesday morning I cooked a big breakfast: biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, grits, and bacon. Then Nathaniel took Aaron and Thomas on a tractor ride in the front loader. I saw them go by the kitchen window, speeding between all the oak trees, and I was just praying, "Lord, please don't let their eyeballs get poked out! And don't let Nathaniel get too frisky and dump them out on the ground!"
In a few minutes Nathaniel texted me to come out and take their pictures. Of course he made up every excuse as to why he couldn't be in any of them. I got Emma in a couple.
After the milking was done, Emma picked mulberries before taking Fiona back to her pasture. Her hands were stained purple with juice. Fiona, who loves mulberries, licked one of Emma's hands and then. . .slurped it into her mouth and bit it. Before Emma had fully recovered from that, Fiona chomped into Emma's dress, my favorite yellow dress, and wouldn't let go. I don't know if Emma had dripped mulberry juice on it, or what. Finally the durned old cow ripped the fabric, making about a five-inch gash right about Emma's mid-thigh. Luckily Fiona didn't bite through to the chemise.
Meanwhile, Aaron and Thomas had gotten a pail and were picking more mulberries in hopes they could gather enough for Emma to make them a pie. During a short break, Thomas told me that he thought that Emma had a melancholic temperament. It had been so long since I read about the four temperament's, I went and pulled my little book off the shelf to read the descriptions and see what I thought. I agreed with the melancholic verdict. Then everyone got curious, and we spent over an hour helping Emma take the test at the back of the book. Somehow it just didn't work. The results did not seem to describe her. So it was an interesting exercise but a big waste of time.
Aaron and Thomas didn't find enough ripe mulberries for Emma to make a pie with, but they talked her into baking chocolate meringue (for Aaron) and pecan (for Thomas) pies that afternoon. She decided to make two of each. All Aaron agreed to do in exchange was tell Emma where she could find the shovel so that she could dig herself a pond. Thomas agreed to build Emma a cart. I think that he was thinking along the lines of Popsicle sticks. I don't think that he knew that Emma has seen and photographed the one that she wants.
Since Mr. and Mrs. Ladner and Chad were all going to join us that evening for supper before taking the boys back home, I was glad that Emma was making four pies. About 5:00, Aaron asked me if there was something that he could do to help. I suggested that he go get Fiona from her pasture and tie her up at the house in preparation for milking time. He agreed, and the next thing I know, I see Fiona trotting across the front yard with a wicked gleam in her eye and Aaron in hot pursuit, looking slightly panicked.
I ran out front in time to see Fiona take off across the field, lickety-split. I yelled at Aaron to follow her. Emma, in the middle of whipping egg whites, asked if I needed her, and I told her no, that I would take the car and chase Fiona down. I won't go through all the gory details, but we ended up at a house a half mile down the road with a deputy?, Aaron, Thomas, and Emma. There Emma was able to grab Fiona's halter when Fiona stopped to look at some dogs inside a fence.
When Emma turned and started leading Fiona toward the main road, I had one of those experiences where I suddenly see Emma through the world's eyes, and I realize how odd she must look. She was wearing a dress, her purple gingham Edwardian apron, and no shoes. Most of her hair was pinned into a low chignon, but she had a halo of wispy hair floating around her head, and she was leading a milk cow down a dirt road. I was not the only one who noticed. I recognized an odd expression on the deputy's face as he looked at her, but he didn't say anything.
Thomas, on the other hand, tried to find a word to describe her appearance, and he ended up telling her that she looked "homely"! Ha! He thought he was complimenting her.
Aaron was worn out, so I took him home in the car. Thomas helped Emma with Fiona. The deputy followed them in his big Dodge dually for a while. Thomas said that people passed them very slowly and stared. The passengers of one van actually rolled down their windows to get a better look. That's probably when they noticed that Thomas and Emma were singing Loch Lomond, adding to their strangeness.
After the Fiona Fiasco, it was back to the pie making. I put on some Texas swing (Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys) to give us the energy to finish preparations for supper. Emma and I danced around the kitchen together. Mr. and Mrs. Ladner and Chad arrived, bringing some of the best-tasting charcoal-grilled burgers that I have ever tasted. The evening ended with a round of enthusiastic guy hugs and back slaps in the kitchen. Nathaniel actually picked Chad up off the ground. (Chad is about 6'4".) I wish that I had had a video camera.
Yesterday we were all really tired, but by next week. . .I think we'll be ready to do it all again.