Friday, May 27, 2011


Spring is definitely in full force here on this little rainforest homestead.  I have to keep reminding myself not to get ahead of the season.  I am so longing for the warmth and sunshine and abundance of summer that I forget to enjoy all that springtime has to offer.

the comfry is up to my shoulders!

unpredictable skies
the last of the tulips

the bees flying and the art cottage still waiting to be finished

strawberry blossoms
baby greens!

blueberries setting fruit

the raspberries are loaded with buds!


yummy borage blossoms... if only some could make it out of the garden and into a salad before the kids eat them all!

copra onions looking good

bumble bees loving up the comfry

water iris about to pop!

ooo... calendula

We are way behind on many springtime needs here on the land.  So many big projects that I thought we would have finished by now, plus just the usual demands of spring.  But, it's OK.  One step at a time, right?  I need to remember to stop and smell the spring rain and take it all in... and revel in the satisfaction of the things that are getting done.  There is much beauty to behold among the work that needs attention.

Spring is a time of growth and new beginnings... and there are many fresh new opportunities knocking at my door right now.  Now, it's up to me to invite them in!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Solarium Progress Report

Things are cruising right along on the solarium/greenhouse rebuild.  Oh boy!  It is sooo satisfying and exciting to see it finally coming together.

All the old rotted wood and broken glass has been removed.

The framing is all rebuilt and stained.

The ceiling panels of glass are up and in place.

The long wall of glass is up.

Yup.  Progress feels good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alpine Love

Friends of ours have a little community farm on some borrowed land just a short drive from us.  It's a very sweet spot and their arrangement is great.  A small group of folks all work together to tend to the greenhouse, gardens and animals and all get to share in the bounty and learn as they go before making the big step of committing to land of their own.

I've been visiting a bunch lately and have been loving up on the horses and goats.  Getting my farm animal fix while we continue to work toward suitable pasture here on the homestead.  There are three beautiful horses who are the most loving and affectionate beasts you could ever imagine.  They snuggle.  I'm not kidding!  If you scratch them along the neck or behind the ears, they snuggle up and massage your back with their lips!  It's the funniest thing!  As someone who has dreamed of having horses since I was about six, not only getting to spend time with them, but also getting loved up in return is about as close to a perfect moment as I can get.... face buried in horse mane, fingers scratching as fast and deeply as I can, grease and dirt building up and caking my hands, horse hair covering my clothes, and big wrinkly soft-as-butter horse lips rubbing my sore shoulders in return!  Heaven!

And, if I thought that was as good as it could get.... oh dear!  I had yet to fill up on baby goat magic.  There are two mama Alpine Dairy goats on the farm, Derby and Sassafras.  They both kidded last week and I got cuddle up both sets of twins just a day after birth.  Derby's kids were born on Monday, and Sassafras's were born on Saturday.  Oh my goodness!  They are so sweet!  If you are ever having a rough day and need a little reminder of the goodness in the world, hold a baby goat.  Seriously.  My heart melted right there on the spot and I honestly question if I'll ever be the same again.

To that end, of never being the same again I mean, Steve and I are seriously considering purchasing the female babes.  They are so incredibly sweet and I am so very smitten.  I can't even believe that I am writing this here... actually putting it out there into the world.  It would be a dream come true.  Goat cheese any one?  If the kids turn out anything like their mamas, we will be up to our eyeballs in goat milk someday.  They are some seriously milky mamas.  Just looking at their udders made me ache.
Sassafras's baby girl, Ginseng.
I know that it sounds crazy, as I began this post with the point that I was getting my animal fix while we work towards suitable pasture, but with this particular acquisition, it could work out quite nicely.  Our friends who own the mamas are in no rush to get rid of the kids.  They would happily hang onto them until we are ready.  Plus, we need all the brush cleared for the new pasture area.  And who is better at brush clearing than goats?

Who knows?  Only time will tell.  As I've said in previous posts, Steve and I don't make big decisions quickly.  We ponder and mull, hem and haw, discuss and deliberate.  Hmmm....

What do you think we should do?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kiss the Moon

Between a tweaked neck and so much going on around here, I haven't had much time to post lately.... And I'm sorry for that.  Writing here is something that I really enjoy and I would like to get back to a more regular rhythm.  That being said....

Last weekend was so full and so wonderful.  I got to see Medeski Martin and Wood and dance until my heart swelled with that goodness only dancing brings, have a delicious breakfast alone with my mom, learn to spin wool into yarn (!), watch Sequoia participate in her first ever gymnastics meet, and (of course) work on the land.  Wow!
Shallots awaiting their new home.
Sequoia's meet was so sweet!  She is not actually at competition level, but the gym where she practices holds "mini-meets" a couple of times per year where all the kids, no matter their level, are invited to show off their skills.  There were routines as sweet and simple as three-year-olds working hard at awkward somersaults, and those as technical, complicated and breath-taking as you might see at national events.  I am so proud of Sequoia.  She was really, really nervous and almost didn't participate at the last minute.  But, she chose to push through the nerves and give it all she's got.  And she did beautifully!  I wish that I had photos to share but, alas, I do not.  Way to go, girl!

And spinning... oh spinning!  I knew I would fall in love, and fall hard I did.  I am taking a two-part class in Seattle at The Weaving Works.  Part one was last Saturday morning and I nearly had to pinch myself to believe it was real.  I felt giddy and tentative and shy as I sat down for the first time ever in front of a wheel - an Ashford Traditional.  The instructor told us all to start treadling and get used to how it feels.  I was so in awe of the timeless beauty in front of me, I was afraid to put my foot on the treadle.  I managed to overcome my silliness and began treadling away.  The steady whirring of the wheel was hypnotic and soothing, and I thought to myself, "Wow, this is so relaxing...."

Then I actually tried to spin.  Oiy!  It was no longer relaxing at all!  It was hard and awkward and confusing and oh so frustrating!  I would pinch too hard and the yarn would twist so much that it would clog the orifice, then pinch so lightly that the roving would fly through my fingers without twisting at all.  I would draft too much and the wool would wisp into nothing and I'd loose the end of the yarn to the bobbin.  Or, I didn't draft enough and fat chunks of barely spun roving would squeeze its way through the orifice to cover more than its fair share of my hard work.

I did finally kind of get the hang of it and was able to relax a little.  By no stretch of the imagination did the yarn I was creating even kind of resemble what most would think of when they think of yarn, but I was actually spinning nonetheless.  And as those luscious wool fibers slid through my fingers and spun up into yarn, my heart strings twisted right up with them.  My dear friends, I am hooked.
my first ever bobbin's worth of homespun yarn

bobbin number two
 getting better!
I was allowed to borrow a wheel from the shop for the week until my next class this Saturday.  I have been practicing every chance I get.  It's surreal to see a spinning wheel in my own living room.  I have to say, I really like it... a lot.  I'm going to have to work on making that a permanent reality I think.

Tonight I have a date with a friend to spin with her.  I can't wait.

Last night I worked in the garden until I could no longer see what my fingers were touching just before my eyes.  I got to watch the swollen, golden glowing moon rise above the garden with my fingers still plunged deep in the soil.  At first glimpse, my breath caught in my throat, my heart pounded and the blood rushed in my ears.  My family close to my side, a wheel by the wood stove, earth on my fingers, and a full moon so close I could kiss it.... love.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Building with Cob

Cob building is another passion of mine.  Having spent much time working with clay in a ceramics studio (and loving every second of it), building with cob was a natural fit for me.  It feels so good to shape and sculpt a dwelling... the ultimate functional piece!

One aspect of cob construction that I was completely amazed by is the incredible feeling of community that is created as well as the building itself.  And that community is built right into the walls... each conversation, the laughter, the songs, the stories people share as they work together to sculpt a home.  I absolutely love it.  It is all massaged right into the cob and the house is a home before it is even lived in.  It has a feel of something ancient with stories to tell long before history has been created within its walls.....

So, here is another lovely and inspiring video for your viewing pleasure.  It allows for a little chat with Ianto Evens and Linda Smiley of the Cob Cottage Company and authors of The Hand-Sculpted House, and some great views of some very beautiful cob creations.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Herb Spiral Beauty

Good morning!

So sorry for the lack of posts over the last week.  I have thrown my back again and sitting at the computer hurts more than anything.  The spinal kink couldn't have come at a worse time, since there is so much to be done around here.  I am still plugging away at things, just very slowly and carefully.

Speaking of getting things done, I am very excited to share what my super incredible and amazing brother and sister (in-law) have created....
Check out that beautiful herb spiral!  Isn't it lovely!  They felt inspired and motivated after reading the Herb Spirals and Spiral Gardens post and they built one of their own.  I think that it is just absolutely perfect.  I can't wait to actually see it in person with my own two eyes.
So, there you have it, a living example of a beautiful and functional herb spiral.  While Richard and Suja are truly exceptional people who rock this world with their positivity and love and do everything they put their minds to extremely well, building an herb spiral really is an easy project and anyone can do it.  If you feel at all inclined, I encourage you to jump in and create one.  It's great fun, so satisfying and such a delightful result... as demonstrated above.

Thanks, Richard and Suja, for allowing me to share your photos here.  I love you guys so very much and can't wait to squeeze you again soon!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


OK, the big news....

Steve and I have finally (after more than two years) decided what to do with the solarium!  I know, I know... it takes us forever to do just about anything.  It's our process, our way.  And it works for us.

A little history for those of you who are just becoming acquainted.  On January 6, 2009 (the night before my birthday and 3 days before Cedar was having another major surgery) a windstorm blew down a very large Douglas Fir tree onto our house.  We are very lucky.  The kids and I were in the living room when it came down.  Had the tree fallen even slightly to the left, it would have smashed strait through my bedroom and the living room.  Instead, thank goodness, it went through the solarium.

The blue tarp is covering the worst of the damage.
I'm actually not sure if "solarium" is the right word for what we have (had).  Could maybe also be called an atrium or attached greenhouse.... you get the idea.  I wish that I had a picture from before the tree fell so that you could get the design concept.

For the last two years we have made NO progress on fixing it because we could not decide what to do with the space.  For a while, the plan was to enlarge the footprint and turn it into a family room with a bedroom off to the side.  The extra bedroom would be great since there are the four of us in our little two bedroom house.  It all seemed well and good and like a great idea, but we just could not agree on the layout.  Plus, there was all the hassle of property lines, permits, concrete trucks, blah, blah, blah....

A couple of weeks ago a friend of ours who is an architect/contractor came out to look at the site and give us some feedback.  His suggestion: just fix it and recreate what we had but nicer.  Ding!  A lightbulb went off in both our heads!  It's the first suggestion or idea that immediately felt good to both of us.  Success!  We finally have a plan!

The reason we planned to change the use of space was that the solarium was not very functional, even before the tree smashed it to bits.  There was no heat, uninsulated glass, and it is heavily shaded (keeping it very cool most of the time).  Plus the doors going between the solarium and the kitchen/dining room are interior doors, making it more of a drafty heat sink for the house rather than something useful.  However, that is all about to change....

We are going to replace all of the glass with insulated low-E glass and we're going put our old, tiny Vermont Castings wood stove in the corner so it can finally be kept heated.  We are even considering putting radiant heat in the floor, but we'll see.  We haven't priced that out yet.  Along the stem wall on the exterior side, cold frames will line the building providing a great space for starting seeds in the spring and protecting and further insulating the otherwise crummy concrete stem wall.  All of the trees that currently shade the room are scragly things that are growing far too close to the house anyway, so we are making plans to take them down (plus they are just the right species and size for plugging with mushrooms!).

Once completed, the room will not only function well as a comfy place to be, but will also offer a great space to start and grow plants, and will finally provide heat to both the kitchen/dining area and Sequoia's bedroom (which currently lack any heat source).  I have a vision of setting up a spinning wheel next to the wood stove in the winter and being able to spin away while the fire crackles and the rain patters on the glass above my head.  Dreamy.  Not to mention visions of Solviva dancing through my head.

Oh... I am so excited!  Now that we have a plan and I can see it all in my mind's eye, I feel so impatient.  I can't wait!

The glass arrived today.  It is stacked up against the house just waiting to be put to use, tempting me like an oasis in the desert (a desert of grey skies and rain, that is...).  Now we just need some dry days to be able to start construction.  Unfortunately, the weather forecast is calling for rain as far into the foreseeable future as we can venture.  But, I've waited 28 months.  I can probably wait a few more weeks.

I've been working on many design sketches for the final layout and I plan to post them once completed.  I hope to convey the usefulness and efficiency of the space in the designs.  So, keep your eyes peeled for those to appear soon.  Oh boy!  It's so incredibly exciting!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weekend Productivity!

Wow!  We were busy bees over the weekend.  It was sunny and warm here in the rainforest and, honestly, when that happens... we've gotta go for it with gusto!  And go for it we did!

We were so busy I can't even remember what all we did.  Is that crazy?  I know it involved much wood stacking (again and always), seed sowing, garden bed prepping, onion set planting, manure hauling, sheet mulching, path making, sweater knitting, and sewing prepping.  Maybe more?  I can't remember.

Some weekend scenery....

Oh yeah... we also made some strawberry rhubarb crisp!

a sneak peek at my soon-to-be-finished knitting project...
I can't wait!

the madrone just beyond the garden as the week's stormy weather finally lifted Saturday afternoon

Big Leaf Maple blossoms
the nectar and pollen flow was so heavy this weekend that it looked like it was raining...
happy bees!

bleeding heart!

tulips... I love tulips!

the oddly tiny egg we found in the nesting boxes this weekend (?)

apple blossoms are coming on....

and bursting open!

the sword fern fiddle heads...
so beautiful

Orb Spider web catching the morning sun

embodiment of spring
As you can see, another great weekend here on our little rocky hilltop.  I hope yours was fabulous too!

 I've got some exciting news to share about some happenings around here later on this week.  But, it will have to wait until a later date.  This tired body has got to rest for the night.  Here's to a smashing week ahead!