Sunday, September 30, 2007


Being on the farm has been a greater educational learning experience than any learning experience I've endured with books, chairs, pencils, paper and a professional teacher.

This summer I learned:

- I need to water, water, water - especially new seed beds
- I must mark a bigger space around the hops so they are not accidentally mowed
- to plant peas as soon as you possibly can in the season
- that lettuce needs to be staggered every week
- to communicate clearly and daily - what you would like to do and what you have done
- to slow down
- to clear all the popple - there is a lot of baby oak trying to grow on the side of our hill
- to clear project decisions with all four in the house
- that slug-n-go is a great slug bait and to use it liberally...
- and that hot sauce kills slugs too
- that one does not plant tomatoes where the potatoes were and/or potatoes where the tomatoes were
- to activate your yeast two to three days before brewing beer
- to avoid testing the strength of the electric fence while it is raining
- to wear steel toed shoes when doing anything other than gardening
- that egg wash helps ravioli edges stick and adds nice color and texture to bread
- to cage non-pole tomatoes so they stay off the ground
- never underestimate the Red Cedar's current
- poison ivy is out in April


Owain is my son

The other day I went out to chop wood during Owain's first nap. I grabbed a nice, warm, blue stocking cap to keep warm with the morning bite still in the air. The hat was new and fit wonderfully. When I came back in sweating and thirsty Charis informed that the new warm, blue stocking cap was indeed the one she just bought from Goodwill for Owain for this winter. Sure enough, it fit his head too. This jump started me investigating all the ways we are similar: Like father, like son. We both:

- apparently have the same-sized head
- prefer to be outside
- like to run around naked
- love bread and cheese
- have a high-pitched, ear-piercing call
- love the water
- have a belly button that is an inny but has an outty part inside
- are infatuated with Charis' breasts
- do not like to go to bed
- think we can do anything
- are abundantly stubborn
- make statements that make no sense to the listener, but make complete sense to us
- enjoy being where everyone else is
- love to pick tomatoes and apples
- think we know a lot more than we do
- love to dance, but look like complete dorks when we do
- have foreheads that stretch way back with minimal hair
- know the same amount of Spanish
- share attention-span lengths
- are always busy and never still


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Up, up, up the hill

The land just south of our property belongs to neighbor Bill. It consists of un-farmed, rolling hills and it's a favorite place to walk and wander. There is one big hill in particular that is a perfect destination and spot to sit and reflect... or wrestle with Ellis. He and I walked "up up up the hill" twice yesterday because it was so beautiful. I had to go back a second time with the camera. If you haven't been to the farm yet, this little video clip of the land and our farm will hopefully give you an idea of the breadth of where we live and what we see.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fruits of the Fall

I feel a little like the proud parent, showing off our home grown food all the time. Really, though, I'm just so excited about the applesauce (38 quarts so far!), apple butter, squash soup, jack-o-lanterns and fresh pressed cider that fall brings here at the farm. Here's a little visual taste for your enjoyment.

Apples ready for the cider press...little do they know their fate!

Pumpkins ready for carving

And squash ready for roasting...a little butter, a little cinnamon, a little brown sugar. Mmm.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ahh, Fall

Anyone who knows me also knows that I savor this time of year. Yes, there's something sad about squirreling away the swimsuits and ratty towels for another season, but the smell of the late September air is reminiscent of a toasted marshmallow, sweet with the smoky scent of dying leaves and the recently resurrected hot tub fire. And characterized by a certain new snap - not quite a bite yet - soothing in its cool embrace. The cornstalks I'm viewing out our front window have taken on a pale, ghostly hue overnight, and in fact the general palate of this place is changing from sunny, fresh green to deep reds, yellows and oranges everywhere I look. The horses are getting their fuzzy coats already. The bugs are diminishing, and the equine sigh of relief at this is almost audible. Gideon's forecart is nearly finished and once I track down a harness, I can start driving him in earnest.

I would have a hard time living somewhere without defined seasons. I relish the way the chores change, from the watering/weeding/sweating of summer to the harvesting/preserving/flannels of autumn. An early and especially austere frost and difficult growing season (drought in the beginning of the summer, deluge in August) has left us with a diminished tomato and cucumber crop this year, and the melons and squash got stopped in their tracks. But the apple trees have flourished, dropping the equivalent of nine quarts of applesauce a day, mocking me with their astounding fertility and seeming ability to magically grow more fruit every time I look. Of course, being gluttons for punishment, we have also picked at the neighbor's place, and will go to Jay's co-worker's house for breakfast and picking Sunday morning so we can get the cider flowing. And the house is currently ripe and spicy with the scent of cooking apple butter.

The babies entertain and sometimes annoy us with something new every day. Ellis' sly sense of humor and tenderness and Owain's drunk-midget walk and cheesy grins make up for their special screaming language and recent toy and turf wars. One of the best thing about our kids is that they seamlessly fit into our life here in so many ways. They love to be a part of things (as you can see in Chris' post, they'll wander around in a dirt trench for hours without complaint). They enjoy chores of all sorts, and live to play outside. This general enthusiasm for farm life on their part makes me excited for our future here. I'm currently on the hunt for a pair of good winter boots for Owain so that we can continue to enjoy our outside play through the winter and stave off the typical cabin fever the great chill brings.

I have deeply appreciated the recent visits by Kathie Gray and Matt Plies, along with the profound realization that our life-long friends will also be Owain and Ellis' life-long friends. I also know we have good things to look forward to: my Aunt Glenda's wedding in October, a visit from Corrie and Amy Jackson in November, new windows and a cozy wood cook stove for the house, Christmas with the families, and then a spring bringing with it the promise of fresh farm eggs and a new place to put our seedlings.

I continue in my journey to search with the hope that my questions just serve to foster new questions, to beware the stagnation that certainty brings...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chicken-heated Greenhouse Foundation

A year or so ago our friends Kelly and Keller in Minneapolis gave us a greenhouse from the backyard of a house they were renting out. It is Juliana brand greenhouse, about 12 x 12 with corrugated plastic glazing. In order to have a year-round greenhouse in Zone 4 winters you basically have two options: provide a source of heat (usually electric or gas), or design a solar greenhouse. We are creating a combination of the two options by attaching the greenhouse to a horse shelter built by the previous owners, insulating it well, and housing chickens in it to provide some extra heat during the winter. Here's a picture of the two structures independently situated:There are many design problems to solve with such a structure, but the first and most important in many ways is how to do the foundation. The frost line in this area is down to 4 feet, meaning that in order to have a structure that is insulated well the foundation needs to be insulated down to 4 feet. After considering several options, we decided to build the foundation walls out of below grade certified treated wood. 2" rigid foam insulation was used on the inside of the walls, and 1/4" treated plywood on the outside. We put the boys to work on this one so Jay and I could work on getting the hot tub in working order. Here are some pictures of the process:

First they dug the trench:They they checked to see if it was level:
They added gravel on the bottom where the frame would sit:Then they started building the walls (and apparently got a little sidetracked):
They added the rigid foam and the plywood and surveyed a job well done:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vacation at Home

Not only have Chris, Ellis and I had the immense pleasure of being HOME for a whole WEEK, but we've been spending this glorious fall stretch with our good friend Matt here at the farm. On what I hope is his annual September visit to the farm, Matt is like our long lost roommate, fitting in to our home life seamlessly while gracing us with his cooking, conversing, crossword-doing, project-assisting, child entertaining skills.

We went on a hike over the ridge to our local abandoned farm. It's like a new adventure with each season - the way the woods look and smell, the way the grasses move, and the way the dilapidated buildings are set against the valley.

On Friday we celebrated Ellis's 2nd birthday with fresh tomato-orange soup & green beans, oatmeal bread, Tillamook cheese, crispy apples from the tree, and apple crisp for dessert. It's apple season and we're enjoying them in many ways every day. Watch out, though, every other apple has a little nibble or two taken out of it, courtesy of our apple-lovin' boys.

Matt's been helping with a big priority project: the hot tub redux. After months of dealing with a leaky tub, it's been taken apart, re-leveled, and put back together in new and improved ways. Keep your fingers crossed! Our men have labored over that tub to make it water-tight and keep that fire hot, so we're hoping for more mid-winter soaks before bed.

The chicken-coop/greenhouse is going to be one killer structure... after the 4 foot deep trench is filled with gravel, an insulated frame, dirt, and posts, then the structure disassembled, moved to its new location, and rebuilt. Chris and Jay are diligently moving on this project, for which I am forever grateful. I vow to pluck eggs from our future chickens' cozy coop cubbies daily, and to savor them, each and every one. In the meantime, the boys are LOVING the trench. Who needs a state of the art swingset or treehouse when you can have your very own TRENCH to run around in?! The dirt pile out back and the trench out front have seen more of our boys than any toy or game we own. It's a messy, beautiful thing. I've learned to embrace it whole-heartedly...when Ellis looked up from racing cars in the dirt pile with his tongue covered in dirt, I thought, "where else is the dirt so sweet and full of goodness?"

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Kathie at the farm

We eagerly anticipated the arrival of Kathie Gray here at Lostview, and our dear friend quickly made an impression, bearing homemade delights from Oregon (hot fudge sauce, apricot nectar, blackberry sauce and strawberry-rhubarb jam) and charming the wee ones like a modern day pied piper with her musical gifts and willingness to get down on the floor and play. We just love Kathie. I was honored when she paid us compliments on our gardens and meals, but also had to remind her that she was and still remains one of my biggest role models in so much of what we aim to do around here! I'm always impressed when somebody who is here at the farm essentially on vacation is totally excited about the chores. Kathie was the impetus for getting a big batch of applesauce canned (some of which is pictured above), and was an enthusiastic harvester throughout her visit.

Owain was completely taken with Aunt Kathie and spent much of the time pestering her to read to him. Owain is quite the character these days, munching raspberries (also pictured above) straight off the bushes - which are conveniently located at eye-level - and mooing at the cows in the nearby pastures. He also rides the horses with me now with relatively little help, grabbing mane and balancing himself!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day, indeed

Here's what got accomplished, between Jay, me and Owain today:

1) Barn mucked out, water troughs scrubbed and re-filled, horses fed, cleaned up and trimmed
2) Gideon's forecart painted (first coat) and new tires put on
3) Hot tub disassembled for maintenance
4) Extra large batch of applesauce made
5) Batch of molasses cookies made
6) Green beans picked fresh for dinner
7) Ripe tomatoes picked, peeled, stewed and canned
8) Milk retrieved and pasturized
9) Flowers watered
10) Batch of beer brewed
11) Kitchen floor swept three times
12) Small child somehow prevented from acquiring serious head injury while taking flying leap off of deck stairs
13) Same small child successfully bathed and retired for the night

I'm going to bed.