Monday, December 22, 2008
As any writer worth a darn, I try to pay attention to the surfacing themes in my life. We find these themes all around us, and sometimes they spin a web around each other in ways that simply cannot be ignored. Over the last few weeks I've been repeatedly seduced by the idea of the gap. In fact, these days I seem to find it everywhere I go. In yoga, the space between inhale and exhale is referred to as the gap - like an ocean wave cresting and then, after a suspended moment, rolling on to the shore. In good storytelling, "the substance of the story is the gap that splits open between what a human being expects to happen when he takes an action and what really does happen; the rift between expectation and result, probability and necessity." (Thank you Robert McKee).
I am a person who is not easily satiated. I want big doses of life in all of its paradoxes, and find myself balancing a pastoral setting with the cacophony of culture, a desire to eat what I grow with a lust for wine and chocolate, solitude with community, the honor of mothering with the need to write and write and write something worthy, a safe solid place in my heart for those people and places I love most deeply with the push -the itch- for a new challenge and a new direction. In order to balance this insanity, I must sometimes live in the gap between each, to breathe, to take stock, to be grateful ... content.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I've been meaning to write something about the beauty of winter here. I know I say it every year - the gorgeous snow, the crisp cold, the white landscape - I love it all. But something this year really strikes me...and that's how simply lovely it is here at Christmastime.
Now, I know Mary and Joseph didn't walk through snow drifts to arrive at an inn decorated with tinsel and a trimmed fir tree. And yet there is still the picturesque white Christmas and snow-laden pines and sleigh rides to dream about. To look out the window and see all three of these things in my very own yard is dreamy, and sweet and heart warming.
We walk through the frigid, snowy woods, bundled and brisk, sit in front of the fire at home, sip tea and mulled wine, bake holiday goodies, and slow down. Together. It warms my heart and does my soul good.
"May your days be merry and bright. And may all your Christmases be white."
When Chris and I dusted off our cross country skis yesterday, Ellis would have none of the sled we planned on pulling him in behind us. He remembered the little set of skis in the garage rafters and was determined to learn. I was so proud of him - from start to finish, he did it all by himself, shuffling along, feeling the snow sliding underneath him. Unfortunately the bindings are feeling their 30 years of life and we'll probably need to get an updated pair for some real practice - soon!!
Friday, December 05, 2008
At 2 and 3, these kids seemed just old enough to do a little Christmas cookie decorating, so we dusted our hands (and faces and clothes and the floor) with flour and got to rolling and sprinkling. While they both consumed far more sprinkles and dough than actual cookies, and despite the red dye #4 and sugar-on-sugar, I think it was the start of a good old holiday tradition.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
I've been meaning to pull our hand written ledger off the wall for a while now...the preserving season finally came to a close at the beginning of November when the last of the carrots were pulled from the ground. I like this list not only because of the gratification it gives me, seeing the numbers of preserved foods grow, knowing we'll still enjoy our fruits mid-winter, but also because it is indicative of what's in season when, from rhubarb to root vegetables. In addition to the list below, our basement (aka root cellar) also holds 4 rubbermaid tubs of fresh potatoes, carrots and beets stored in sawdust, nearly 30 winter squash, a good batch of onions, as well as dried basil, oregano, thyme, dill, and chamomile. So, for the books...
2008 Canning and Freezing Inventory & Record
Date -- Quantity & Food
- 5/26 -- 7 pints rhubarb sauce canned
- 6/22 -- 14 jelly jars rhubarb jam canned
- 6/28 -- 4 pints strawberry freezer jam
- 7/4 -- 3 1/2 16oz bags spinach frozen
- 7/8 -- 4 gallon bags strawberries frozen
- 7/14 -- 2 batches cilantro pesto frozen
- 7/28 -- 2 1/2 pounds beet greens frozen
- 8/5 -- 1 gallon bag sliced summer squash frozen
- 5 jelly jars dill relish canned
- 8/8 -- 10 batches basil pesto frozen
- 8/16 -- 1 gallon bag sliced zucchini frozen
- 4 pints sweet pickle relish canned
- 8/17 -- 1 gallon bag shredded zucchini frozen
- 1 gallon bag blueberries frozen
- 8/20 -- 10 pints tomato corn salsa canned
- 5 quart bags sweet corn sliced and frozen
- 8/29 -- 5 quarts tomatoes canned
- 4 quarts dill pickles canned
- 9/6 -- 16 quarts tomatoes canned
- 9/9 -- 13 quarts applesauce canned
- 9/11 -- 5 quarts applesauce canned
- 7 quarts tomatoes canned
- 9/8 -- 8 gallon bags blueberries frozen
- 9/12 -- 4 quarts applesauce canned
- 5 quarts tomatoes canned
- 9/13 -- 6 quarts tomatoes canned
- 5 quarts applesauce canned
- 9/20 -- 28 gallons pressed apple cider (then frozen and/or made into hard cider)
- 9/24 -- 8 quarts tomatoes canned
- 9/27 -- 7 pints tomato salsa canned
- 9/29 -- 14 pints applesauce canned
- 9/30 -- 7 pints tomato salsa canned
- 1 gallon bag hot and mild peppers frozen
- 10/4 -- 13 pints tomatoes canned
- 11/2 -- 3 quart bags carrots sliced and frozen
- 3 gallon bags apples sliced and dehydrated
- 21 lbs, 7 oz tomatoes sun-dried
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It just doesn't seem right that after a year's worth of anticipation, a three-day weekend should pass so fast. Our annual Veteran's Day festival with some of our favorite ladies Amy and Corrie Jackson came and went like the wind, leaving us wanting more. More wine, more bone-crushing hugs, more Tillamook cheese, more tamari almonds, more back rubs from heaven, more homemade granola, more pots of coffee, more trashy magazines, more pumpkin gingerbread, more laughing, more wine, and more wine. And more love. Only when the Jacksons come to visit do you feel that they bring with them more than what they consume during their stay. We love you girls! Can't wait until next November!!!!
Monday, November 03, 2008
Halloween came and the boys even got to make some trick-or-treat visits without their winter parkas on! We spent the afternoon with the kids in Minneapolis, visiting Great Grandma Cedarleaf, eating candy, and answering the door for the trick-or-treaters at mom's house.
It's been amazingly warm here all October and now into November. And believe me when I say that this is NOT the norm for the great midwest. It's 70 degrees on November 3rd - and while it's probably messing up the ecosystem somehow, I'm looking at the glass half-full and am just enjoying the Indian Summer.
We've been able to finish up some outdoor projects sans long underwear and winter gear, which is always a plus. The chicken coop is painted, new garden beds are being dug for next spring, and there is even laundry hanging on the line today.
And what is fall without a few tosses in the leaf pile? Ellis and Owain saw some serious air being thrown into the pile, emerging with leaves stuck to every sticky surface of their grimy, country-kid selves. You should have seen the bath water last night.
This week brings visits from Amy and Corrie - hooray!! - and Gaga and Boompa, so I imagine the kitchen will be busy and the house full of good food and good company. And this weekend there is snow in the forecast, so that long underwear won't stay in the winter box for long. I've got to get back outside and soak up these last few hours of warm weather! Cheerio!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I thought I'd post a few shots of our nearly-finished chicken condo and yard - Jay is just putting the final touches on this little beauty and I ran out of barn red paint, so that's yet to be completed, but I wanted to share the bounty of our flock. For good measure I've also included a shot of the little red hen made famous in my previous post...
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Let's start from the beginning. You have to understand, there's been a whole lotta canning going on around here. Tomatoes and apples mainly, or things including tomatoes and apples. We can. Yes, we can. Si, se puede. So we've had a string of nice, Indian-summerish 70 degree days here and I haven't had the heart to stay inside and can, which got me thinking about the girls a little bit. While our chickens (the first batch plus a bright shiny set of 6 added to the flock last week) are enjoying their new and gorgeous chicken condo very much indeed, we hadn't yet gotten to putting in their yard, which means they were stuck inside on a bright, sunny day. And just like my mom used to do when she'd catch us kids staring gape-jawed and glassy-eyed at the boob tube on a summer afternoon, I decided to kick those little chicken butts out for some free ranging.
Now, when you check the internet for information on this kind of thing, you might be surprised at how wildly the opinions vary. You get the folks who want to convince you there are HORRIBLE CARNIVORES around EVERY CORNER just WAITING TO DEVOUR your precious girls in the WORST POSSIBLE way, most likely by RIPPING THEIR HEADS OFF and sticking them on a stake outside of the coop, just as a warning to the rest of them. Then of course there are the people who will REPORT YOU to the SPCA IMMEDIATELY if they hear you are keeping your chickens LOCKED IN A COOP like so many small, feathered inmates. For the most part, though, I found the general consensus was that if the chickens had been in the same coop for a while, they'd consider it home, chilling out around the premises, eating a few ticks and other six-legged undesirables, and then flying back in when night fell, because they do like to cuddle up for bedtime.
So here's what happened. I opened the door, and the chickens all flapped out madly, rejoicing in their freedom and promptly disappeared into the neighbor's cornfield. I kept an eye out for them all day, but to no avail, and I went back and forth between feeling confident they'd find their way back and being worried that they were most definitely stupid enough to get hopelessly lost in a giant cornfield. So when dusk fell, I made my way out to the coop and found four of them - two of our beautiful, glossy, brown-egg laying Red Stars, the white one that hurt her leg a few months ago and Speckle, the friendly one. They seemed perfectly confident and happy to be back home. I went back in to the house, leaving the coop door open because I figured more might come. And that's when it happened. There was a rapping, a rapping on my kitchen door. And I went to answer it expecting a neighbor or perhaps a Jehovah's Witness who had gotten turned around on the county roads. And what I saw was the third Red Star, just standing on the deck watching me with her head cocked to one side. I went out on to the deck and she did a little dance around my legs and then as I walked down to the coop, she followed right along with me, hopping down the stairs and heeling as well as any little dog. It was the darndest thing.
At any rate, at that point our half-wit rooster had come stumbling out of the corn about 300 feet down from the coop with several of his ladies in tow. And then he proceeded to miss the coop entirely and bed down back in the corn, attempting to roost on a single downed stalk with three hens. This ended up requiring a late night ambush wherein my shockingly adept chicken wrangling husband was able to grab THREE while they slept. The rooster came back acting all nonchalant this morning while we worked on getting the yard up, and then the neighbor's beagle flushed out a very startled looking Barred Rock later this afternoon. So at this writing, we have 10 of our 13 chickens back in the coop, including a rooster whose DNA I'm not even that sure I want passed down to future generations.
Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books that were popular back in the 80s? That's kind of how I feel about my time spent on this farm. For better or worse, I tend to learn from my mistakes. Do you let the chickens out for an adventure? If you do, go to page 23. If you decide to keep them in, go to page 34. Good luck!
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Ellis: It's fall now, mama!
Me: How can you tell, Ellis?
Ellis: Because the leaves are falling! And the helicopters too! (the helicopter seed pods from the Box Elder tree). But these helicopters don't have windows.
It is fall. Red, orange, yellow, green, brown, gold. And that blue sky. This morning, Chris, Ellis and I took a walk through our neighboring field - a favorite place for skiing in winter too - and had a perfect view of autumn in all its splendor.
And, back in the garden, we have been taking down and cleaning up...preparing for winter and next spring. What was this in July:
Is this today:
Being the order-happy person that I am, I take great joy in this clean slate. I feel like it is the least we can do for this earth - put it to rest, appreciating the dark, rich soil, rid it of any remaining weeds - especially given the incredible bounty our garden blessed us with this year.
With all that is insecure with the economy, all that is in upheaval in politics, all the anxiety and fear and experts and politicians and media...today I simply turn off the radio and take refuge in the peace of the hills and valleys down Lostview Lane.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Nathan, Barbara and Sanne just left this morning after a quick weekend visit. Ellis and Owain just love their cousin Sanne, who keeps up with them like she's always lived with savage toddler boys.
I started thinking about the upcoming indoor antics to be had this winter - forts and playdough with the boys, soups and crockpot goodness at mealtime, snowy days and a steaming hot tub before bed. I like to note these good blessings not because I want to portray a blissful lifestyle, but because it is these kinds of things that beautifully balance our daily stresses and decisions and difficulties. This life may be aging me prematurely, but it's richer and deeper than I ever imagined.