The crocuses and daffodils are popping up on the south side of the farmhouse, offering a touch of color to the otherwise brown world outside. The bunker wall is lined with dandelion greens, promising to be the first spots to have yellow heads waving in the breeze. The freestall curtains are lifted when the sun is out, giving the cows a view of the outside world and a breath of fresh air. The time change has gifted us with more hours to toil away in the sunlight. This means now I’m in the barn when the sun sets and it looks as though everything is bathed in gold. Aside from a good sunrise, this is my favorite time of the day in the barn. Sometimes it feels like the cows even take a moment to chew their cud slower and appreciate the beauty that far too many times we let pass unnoticed. The weeklong forecast tells us to expect spring rains daily. It becomes a chore to trudge to the barn in a downpour, no doubt about it. However, the speed at which the grass and plants suck up the moisture and change colors is a joy to observe.
    We are focusing on some spring projects in the barns to get done before the fields are in need of attention. Peter is cleverly planning a pen renovation while the kids are off on spring break. As they say, “Many hands make light work.” It will give all the boys something to do, not to mention they will feel good about the obvious improvements they make to the herd’s living conditions. We are hoping to convert a catch-all area on the farm to a bike shop area for this wild bike-loving crew of kids. A place for them to keep track of their own tools, instead of leaving Peter’s tools scattered all over the place. All this work is sure to create some hearty appetites, so I’m already mentally planning meals for next week.
    Cora spied Grandpa’s Easter egg stash and has been asking nonstop about when it’s time to hide them again. Kids – they have memories like elephants when it comes to fun activities like that. I wish their memory was as quick for things like shutting the door to the chicken coop. Easter is right around the corner, and my mouth salivates with the tasty dishes I think of for Easter dinner.
    So, I turn on some of my favorite springtime music, “Orinoco Flow” by the Celtic Women, and get to work on my meal planning. I’m hoping I can convince the masses that a pork or beef tenderloin would be more exciting than ham this year. It baffles me how routine we are with our holiday meals, and the idea of change is preposterous. I’m guilty of it as well; I only make certain dishes for each. Easter needs bacon wrapped asparagus made by Lynzie, Jell-O with bananas smothered in Cool Whip, a salad of fresh greens and all sorts of things by Stacy, made-from-scratch crescent rolls and buns, mashed potatoes with cottage cheese and French onion dip, and then – where my tendency to go overboard emerges – pies.
    Ice cream pies, fruity pies, cream pies, meringue pies, cheesecakes. You can’t go wrong with pie. I have many an eager taste-tester, and a winning pie recipe is decided by how long it takes to eat. If it’s super tasty, it may even get hidden in the back of the refrigerator in hopes that no one takes that treasured last piece. (I may be guilty of this.) The sheer act of rolling out piecrusts made with my home-rendered lard is a calming one for me. And I love the challenge of making a good meringue, which often leads me to think I should make just one more pie. Leftover potatoes may get forgotten in the fridge, but pie never goes to the chickens. There is always someone that needs pie. My Taste of Home Best of Country Pies cookbook is one of my favorites. What follows is a recipe I tried this winter, it was a winner (for the raisin lovers) that will grace our Easter table. Happy Easter to you!

Raisin Custard Pie
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins
1 pastry shell (9 inches) baked
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, add milk until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat, continue stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir a small amount of hot filling into yolks. Return all to pan. Bring to a gentle boil. Cook and stir for two minutes more. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and raisins. Pour into pastry shell. For meringue, beat egg whites in small bowl until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy. Spread over hot filling, sealing edges to crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until meringue peaks are golden brown. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Serve warm or cold. Store in refrigerator.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.