Wednesday, February 04, 2015

A Week in Illinois

Last week Nathan and I trekked to the midwest, to spend a week in southern Illinois with his family. His parents own a small, picturesque farm, the kind you picture when you think "small, picturesque farm." Not only does it include a lovely and comfortable house, but there is also a red barn, a herd of cows, a bunch of sheep, and an incredible vegetable garden. (Empty now, since it is winter, but we enjoyed its bounty thanks to a deep freezer and the miracle of canning.) 

Roo guards the sheep; the cows are pretty laid back. 

We were in Illinois for about six days, during which time many things happened. I drank roughly 100 cups of coffee, went thrift shopping, and played an epic, three hour game of Guesstures (I was surprisingly good at it, until I spilled a glass of wine on the carpet). We also toured the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis with Nathan's brother and his girlfriend (they live near the farm, just one town over) and that was fun. Even as a devoted craft beer snob, I was able to appreciate and admire just how massive the Budweiser empire is. While lagers are not my cup of tea (I tend to like really dark, flavorful beers, like porters, stouts, and anything that resembles coffee) I enjoyed everything I sampled and had a great time.

The highlight of the trip, however, was that while we were in town one of the sheep gave birth to twin lambs and I GOT TO BOTTLE FEED A LAMB IN FRONT OF THE FIRE WHILE IT WORE A DIAPER. No big deal. 

Just kidding. It was a huge deal. And not actually an ideal situation - it was a difficult birth (they boys were breached) and when they finally emerged, the second lamb (which I named Romeo) was small and weak. He wouldn't nurse and one of his back legs seemed to be dislocated or strained - he could barely stand on it. Nathan's mom decided to intervene and we spent a few hours bottle feeding him with some milk from his mama, and keeping him warm in the house. My job was Official Cuddle Buddy, which I'm pretty sure is my true calling. Romeo ended up recovering enough to rejoin his family in their pen (but not before putting on a wool sweater!) and he's been gaining strength steadily ever since. I was very relieved. While I know the realities of a farm can be harsh, I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to Romeo. Honestly, can you blame me? 

Although we flew to Illinois, we drove back - it's a long story, but we're now a two car family, at least for a little while, and I am humbled by the generosity of our family, as usual. The drive takes about 15 hours and we decided to split it over two days. For once, we didn't have the dogs with us, and it just so happened that we'd be driving through Asheville around hour 10 anyway. We've been wanting to visit Asheville since we arrived in North Carolina, and this seemed as good an excuse as any. 

We were only in town for one night, but it was long enough to drink many beers at Wicked Weed Brewery, ogle the mountains, and promise one another that when we're finally able to buy a house, it will be in Asheville. All in all, a productive evening and a wonderful trip. 

While we were in Illinois, I did the math and realized I hadn't visited in over four years, which is just shameful - especially since I truly love my in-laws, and visiting the farm is such a treat. But now Nathan and I are both done with school, I work from home, and Nathan's schedule is pretty flexible. We finally have the time and resources to see the people that matter, and this makes me very happy. Especially since I have a little lamb named Romeo to keep tabs on.