Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rain & Food

Can you believe it?! Rain!  We really, actually, truly got rain!  And I mean real rain.  We got the kind of rain that soaks your clothes through down to the skin in moments.  We have not felt moisture like this in months.  I honestly can't really believe my eyes after so much time spent in the dusty, dry heat of this summer's drought.  But, true blue... it's pouring out there.

The fire I mentioned yesterday has been mostly contained and is being extinguished by this miraculous deluge.  Truth be told, I am not a lover of rain.  In fact, I kind of can't stand it.  But I have never been so grateful in my life for a downpour such as we've had today.  It's amazing watching the rain forest come alive again.  Thank you, rain.  Thank you, winds, for bringing the heavy moisture our area has so badly needed.  Wow.  It's like the entire bioregion is breathing a sigh of relief.

And with the grey, wet weather came a day focused on food.  Today was about staying cozy, making yogurt and cheese for now, and breaded eggplant and canned tomatoes for later (and a very quick and simple sheep shelter). 

With this hot, dry summer we've had, we were actually able to grow a good amount of eggplants even without a greenhouse.  Our favorite way to consume eggplant is via Eggplant Parmesan.  So... when we get a bountiful harvest, we slice them thin, bread and fry them and then freeze them for later use.  And what better to put up along side one's future eggplant parm?  Why, crushed tomatoes, of course!  And when the fridge has more milk than you can possibly drink, then yogurt and cheese it is.

And what would a stormy afternoon be without a good puzzle with papa?  Tomorrow promises more rain and, therefore, more time in the kitchen.  I think we'll be on to more tomatoes, pickled string beans, perhaps some mozzarella and kale chips!  Nothing like a rainy day to get me in the mood to hover over a steamy stove.  



So... yeah, it's been a while.  Life is busy and I've felt the pull in directions other than the computer.  On this particular evening, however, I feel compelled to write here.  I think it's because I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around something that is happening so close to my own back yard.  Danger in my stomping grounds.  And when mind benders prevail, I write.  Usually with pen and ink in my paper journal, but tonight I'll write here instead.

I'm sure many folks are aware that our region of the country (the pacific northwest) has been having a crazy drought this summer.  Record high temps all summer.  No rain. And I mean NO rain.  None to speak of since I don't even know when... April maybe? My animals are "grazing" on dried up, burnt out, brown, dormant, sizzled up pasture.  Plants that I have never ever seen show any sign of stress are shriveled up and laying limp on the ground.  The usually damp, springy rain forest floor crunches in dry gasps beneath my footfalls. 

And when the rain forest dries out, what's to stop a tiny little spark?  Nothing.  And so it is that the mountains and valleys and forests I love are burning.  We are living in a tinderbox.  It is terrifying.  It's funny... living here, the things people have asked me if I'm worried about - earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, etc - and I've never felt anxious about any of them.  This fire danger though.  This is something that has my full attention, my hair raised, and my bags and photo albums packed by the front door.  The danger is so very real, so tangible. 

Many days over these last many weeks it has looked like sunset all day long.  The light remains golden orange from sunrise to sunset as smoke hangs in the air from fires burning as close as a few miles away, and sometimes from the huge complex fires on the other side of the mountains depending on which way the wind is blowing.  It's absolutely crazy.  And each day that we make our way through the hazy firelight we wonder... where is it coming from this time?  Is it close?  Are people safe?  Are animals safe?  Do we need to prepare to move quickly? And my heart aches when I think of those people and animals who are not safe. 

And it happens so quickly.  Again, when there's been no rain, on the heels of a winter with no snow, what's to stop a little spark? 

Yesterday was another hot one.  Not as hot as it's been, but a good 86 degrees or so and humid.  After a morning of harvesting tomatoes and string beans and weeding the hoop house in the heat, I decided to head to the river with the kids to cool off for a couple of hours.  Sequoia, Jade and I loaded up the basket with snacks and water bottles, shoved it in among bales of alfalfa in the back of the truck and headed for our closest and favorite swimming hole. 

We waded around, climbed logs, skipped rocks, watched young salmon nibble at our ankles, picnicked on the rocks and dreamed of the river being full enough to actually swim in as it is in normal years.  Jade gleefully chased after falling leaves as the breeze picked up in the late afternoon.  He squealed in delight as the wind whipped his hair around and sent yellow leaves swirling down into the mild current of the lazy bend in the river.  He was so sad to bring his game to a close when I realized it was getting late and we needed to get heading home.  But, he quickly acknowledged with a smile on his face that we could come back in a few days to play again, and next time remember the net to catch more leaves.

As we drove out of the valley, we stopped at the best spots - by the field that has so many sunflowers, at the spot where they are rebuilding the bridge that washes out every winter when the river floods so that Jade could look at the big crane truck, at the field where the llamas live so we could giggle at their funny expressions and, of course, by the biggest cow pasture which is currently home to the cutest and most curious calves who are just old enough to stray a bit from their mothers to say hello at the fence.  All three of us were happy.  The evening was warm, the sunlight golden and beginning to slide sideways across the valley, the breeze picking up and keeping us cool.  It really felt so incredibly 'just right'.

As I was crawling into bed last night, content from a good day of hard work followed by what I could only describe as a perfect afternoon in one of my favorite places, Steve informed me that the valley was on fire.  My heart broke right then and there.  I had that moment of pain in my chest that burns and stabs simultaneously, my breath catching in my throat and my extremities going a weird cold and tingly.  The beautiful, powerful, magical valley I had just been in a couple of hours before (not to mention the day before that, and the hundreds of times before that) was burning.

There have been many fires close to us this summer.  Two of them have been less than two miles from here.  Several more, less than ten.  But there is just something about that valley burning.  I love that place so much.  I sat on the banks of the river yesterday, slipping smooth rocks between my fingers, smelling the fragrance of cottonwood resin in the air, feeling the warm, late summer wind on my face and the sun on my back, and thought to myself many times how magical that place is.  It is medicine to me.  It truly heals me to be there.  Whether it's the physical medicine from the plants and trees that grow along the banks, or the song of the river, or the whispers of the mountains that rise from the valley, or the spirits of the people and animals that have come and gone long before me... that place is my medicine.  And my heart is on fire along with the forest that burns. 

I wish for rain. I wish for safety.  I wish for healing.  I wish for Jade to catch leaves floating on the current again soon. 


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Around the Homestead

Well sweet friends, it has been quite some time, hasn't it? I must admit that blogging is not currently at the top of my priority list, though I'd like it to fall back into the rotation.  So today, as I sit in the waiting room while one of my children has a dental appointment, I'll give a photo update of the last few months around the homestead.  Sound good?

My sweet boy turned two.  TWO!

Trampoline bliss has returned!

Our well has failed (again) and been fixed.  Once and for all.... We hope. 

A tiny office/art studio nears completion!

And the new mobile chicken palace approaches completion and its maiden voyage as well!

An enthusiastic and fascinated little guy I know has very much enjoyed all the construction going on around these parts.

Bees are flying!  And collecting!  And pollinating! 



Elder Berry

Big Leaf Maple
Trees are blooming all over the homestead!

Sun showers are a regular thing these days and make the tulips sparkle like jewels....

The pasture is growing strong!  It's knee-high to some, and chest high to others.

Strawberry blossoms


keeper onions

snap peas

shelling peas


butterhead lettuce

red huckleberries




And the gardens are breaking dormancy, sprouting and growing!  Hooray!

I hope that wherever you are life is treating you well, your hearts are full of love and your days full of smiles.  I also hope that you enjoyed this update of life on our little homestead.  Blessings!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The gift I didn't know I needed

Does it ever happen that something comes to you that so deeply fills you up, and you didn't even know that particular hole was there, needing to be filled?  Well, that just happened to me!  My amazing mother-in-law (whose birthday it happens to be today... happy birthday Aurora!), fabulous and intuitive woman that she is, sent me a giant box of roving for my birthday. 

A few years back, while visiting my beautiful East Coast family for a special 90th birthday celebration, I discovered the most amazing little fiber farm* in a neighboring town to my mother-in-law.  This particular farm raises Icelandic and Shetland sheep, two breeds I am pretty keen on and whose wool I really enjoy spinning.  Well, despite the fact that we had precious little time to spare, I carved out an hour or so to go visit that spot and arrived to find not only the most picturesque, dreamy 100 acre rolling farm, but also a fiber and yarn store where they sell their self-produced and processed goods!

Needless to say, I was in heaven.  A giant Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog named Ranger greeted us in the driveway and escorted us into the shop.  There I found rack after rack after rack of the most lovely natural color and dyed roving and yarn. Yum. And through the back doors of the shop, a mirco fiber mill where all of the farm's wool is processed.  And just outside the front door.... that's right, 100 acres of rolling pastures crisscrossed by streams and dotted with sheep.  Oh my.  I kind of get a little fluttery just thinking about it. 

So, anyway... back to the box of fiber.  Mother-in-law extraordinaire sent me 40 oz of beautiful Shetland roving in the most lovely natural colors from the above farm for my birthday.  In all honesty, it's been quite a shamefully long while since I sat down at my spinning wheel.  But today, with that gorgeous fiber peeking out of the box at me and a baby who happened to take an oddly long nap, I dusted the wheel off and got to spinning.  Oh my goodness....

I had no idea how much I needed that!  As soon as my foot began treadling, the wheel began spinning, and the fiber began sliding through my fingers, I just felt a sort of peace and contentment that I've been lacking these last few weeks.  The simple joy that comes from just making, doing, creating.  As that wool spun up into yarn, my breath deepened and much stress and tension that I've been clinging to seemed to soften and slip slowly from my shoulders.  Ahhh... yessss....

Sometimes I get so caught up in the everyday this's and that's that I forget to create.  I am slowly learning that allowing myself to be creative and artistic and giving myself that time is so very crucial to my happiness.  It feeds my joy.  And without it, I get a little lost.  So thank you, Aurora!  Thanks for a gift much, much greater than the physical gift itself.  I really needed it... and I didn't even know!

*I'd post a link to the farm, but I cannot seem to find a website for it.  Sorry!