Thursday, August 2, 2018

August is here, ready or not!!

Two weeks has passed since our return home, so I should be fully readjusted I suppose. I guess mostly I am, though we haven't really had a "normal" week since. The older girls left for a thrilling week with cousins and grandparents a few days after we came home and now this week they are doing a morning art camp in town, meaning that I'm providing daily shuttle service. That ends today, which will be more disappointing for them than me (though I think even they are eager to not leave home every morning)!

So here's some visuals from our life of late. I should start with a quick news flash though, for anyone sitting on pins and needles about Kali's free range ducks. THEY CAME BACK! The next night when she went to shut in her other ducks they were by their coop. They had, it appears, just gone for a sleepover next door. Sigh! We (ok, I!) have had a little conversation with them about how if you go on sleepovers without permission you will then be grounded for a few days - which they were! Now we have again had enough rain to make our place interesting enough with water features to keep them closer to home.
On the cusp of leaving for a week, here she was tying herself up! We missed our chatterbox! She definitely enlivens any space she is in and her mind is so active these days cooking up things to do (often that make big messes with craft supplies). She was so excited for a week in WV but also nervous about a horseback ride in the plans - which she ended up LOVING!
Kali got in on making one snipped bean tower before leaving for the week, and several since returning. I'm not sure where we are in the green bean harvest but we are shocked and thrilled with the low level of bean beetles this year. Not complaining and happy to see the gallon bags slowly build up in the freezer!

With the older girls gone, Jason and I had a little side kick with us for the week and a mighty cute one at that. She was mostly at my side but when Daddy was doing exciting things like feeding the pigs or collecting eggs, she was often eager to switch alliances!
Terah still requests stints with the camera. I always enjoy seeing what shows up when I download. This one was one I saw her really working on to get the angle she wanted on the jam jar. A favorite snack recently has been yogurt with wineberry jam.
So much for Jason and I having coffee and enjoying Wendell Berry poems to start our day ALONE! But I can't say I've ever felt disappointed to hear her little pitter-patter out to us. And a dose of Wendell Berry is good for all ages!

It was different to just have one kid in the backseat. It meant more room for lugging other things and Terah especially liked the day we went to look over a flock of Jason's chickens at someone else's farm to pick out breeders. Rather than sisters, she had a chicken on each side of her. 
On the return trip, we swung by a farm that was done part of their sweet corn patch and was open to allowing free gleaning. It was a beautiful evening, though a little unnerving to have two guys pull up on a tractor with guns (looking for deer to cash in crop damage permits but still)...
In the end the corn processing was full of mixed emotions. We learned that what we thought was no or very little sprayed corn was actually sprayed quite regularly. So our corn husks went to the landfill rather than the compost and while we did freeze what we had gleaned, we decided not to go back for more as initially planned. We don't want to mess with the fungus in our soils by adding fungicide. We've been working too hard at healing and improving soils to knowingly set ourselves back on that front. But it's still hard to see what appears to be such a wonderful healthy local food go to waste. Hard choices!
We've had many days where the mountain has been obscured (at least in part) from our view. We've had more than 5 inches of rain since we arrived home. The sprinkler and hoses are firmly tucked away for now. We've got more days in front of us with chances of storms. Thankfully there have been pockets of sun for drying things off in between.
I sure missed having a team of food processors when Kali and Alida were in WV. Sometimes I resorted to Terah typing them an email to get myself a few more minutes to finish off a load for the canner or some such food processing task. She was always happy to write to them! But she wanted a new color to type with about every 10 seconds, which made focusing on anything for any length of time a bit of a challenge!
She was pretty excited about her load of tomatoes one day from HER garden! We didn't go prepared to her patch so she came back with a nightgown full. She is catching the bug I think - the gardening one that is!
Now these are NOT from our trees. They are from our neighbors who had an incredible peach year and were headed to the beach and so offered the remainder of what was on the trees to us. I have never felt so rich as when I looked out onto the porch at what Jason brought home. Better than winning the lottery!
We canned and froze a bunch and just ate the last ones fresh the other day. This will be a treat all winter. It's been years since I've canned any peaches so we will savor them. They also will be a reminder of Samuel every time we crack a jar open, not that we are really needing any help remembering or missing him. This month will mark a year since his death.
This is what our kitchen table often looks like these days. 
This is what the stove often looks like these days. Tomatoes are just coming in so haven't canned any yet but have been able to make several batches of tomato shallot sauce, which is a taste sensation if there ever was one! And cheesemaking is still a regular occurrence. I'm ready to proclaim that I'm a confident cheddar maker. I think swiss is up next.
And then they got home and our house felt complete again and immediately exponentially more complicated! It was so very good to see them and so wonderful to hear of all their fun adventures. The stories are still spilling out now and then.
Their return also meant a short but sweet visit from my parents. Terah no longer has any fear of swinging high and now it takes two to keep her content with pushes!
This is one of my favorite spots on our property right now! It's going to convert me I believe. I've always been more into growing veggies than flowers but this brightens my spirits every time I look outside. Our table is often laden with more than one bouquet right now!
So the other day, Terah apparently was getting out of bed to come to me at the end of her afternoon nap and decided she'd snooze a little longer (standing up). Silly gal!
And here's another silly gal with a very cute "hat." She has had more "frumpy times" in this very spot since returning home - long days, too short nights, and no cousins and grandparents to make life extra exciting and interesting!
It seems kids can smell/sense/intuit when their parents might enjoy some quiet moments together to start their day. Our most recent coffee/poem morning was joined by not one but two gals!
Here's what is happening in art camp: Kali is doing drama and here she was ready to be a pirate. Alida is doing painting and here is her beach scene. They are really enjoying it and both have friends in their classes.
And that brings me to last evening. Apples we had gleaned from our friends' tree had been sitting for enough days to make the place smell "appley" and they were turning yellow. Time to sauce them!
We didn't get started until after my afternoon work stint and Terah's nap, and once I had cheese made, supper in the oven and a few other projects wrapped up. Thankfully it was not a load like some years - so doable in an evening!
I had spectacular and frequent taste testers! It was enjoyed plain, with cinnamon and at the end of the evening with pecans and chocolate chips (which melted into it). All gave it several thumbs up!
We started filling the first jars after 8:30 so I did see in the new day before crashing but it could have been worse. There are 21 quarts out on the porch to clean off and add to the growing rows of full jars in the root cellar. And here we are at harvest day again so I might sneak out and bring in a load or two before waking the girls for the last day of art camp!
There's my scrapbook pages for the last while. Much more could be said about the under current of emotions as I go throughout my days. Since the girls arrived home, one thing that has been once again impressed upon me is both the preciousness of life and how fleeting it can be. They needed to go an alternate route home from WV (there aren't many!) due to a truck accident on the Allegheny Mountain. Since their safe arrival home, we learned that the truck driver (who was hauling a truck load of eggs) was killed and we have learned that he was a friend of our Kurdish neighbors. He had a wife and two small children and his wife is expecting their third child. He was working in an unfulfilling job with not great working conditions but just trying to pay off some bills before looking for something safer and more satisfying. Now his family likely will have no choice but to return to Iraq without his support here. And likely they left there hoping for a better and more stable life here. My heart has been breaking for them. I have wanted to hold our gals close and have felt like cursing these boxes of metal we drive around in. I've also been feeling angry at all the unjust systems that create these kinds of tragedies. It feels like this accident was not just a fluke one, but one built from many layers of injustice. Oh to figure out my place in the beauty and ugliness, abundance and scarcity in our world!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Unplugging and Re-engaging: Cape Charles and Tangly Woods

So we have been back from our luxurious week long vacation for just over 3 days now. Those of you who know me well can likely imagine that "blog post about Cape Charles" has been on my very lengthy to do list, and bugging me. Partly because I wanted to do it while it was fresh and also I wanted to do it before more life happened that impacted what I might include here. Alas, that didn't happen and so here I am. I'm eager to share about our fun, relaxing and week of meaningful connecting times. But I also need to be honest that the transition home has been very challenging for me and I'm not really emotionally in "vacation mode" anymore. So I don't know how this will go. I knew that taking a full week off would be so very good for us (it was) and the coming back would be stressful (it has been). A hike with just Jason last night (thanks Emily and Jonas for our date evening), including a good vent session and a few tears and an adrenaline rush from a bear close to us, was helpful. I also enjoyed getting out to do some weeding this morning and I pulled the onions all by myself as the sky was threatening rain. Additionally, I was grateful for a productive work stint this afternoon. Now I find myself pinned down by a sleeping cute little gal so it seemed time to tell those interested about our trip! It's long folks, so you can also just scan through pictures if you like!

Wednesday, July 11th

As I committed to doing, I turned my computer off before we left for our trip and it remained at home. I did not check email at all while we were gone. What I didn't even think about committing to, but ended up doing without even trying, is that I didn't open my date book from when we arrived until we were on our return trip home. We did have our cell phone, which we used a few times to connect with folks back at home (like my parents when the gas line was chewed on our car AGAIN by a critter and was spewing gas and needed a return trip to the shop for the same repair) and a few others, but that's it! Other than that, the time was focused on being together, being outside and in the water, connecting and relaxing and we met and exceeded those goals! Jason could even relax while driving us there, since my dad generously let us use his "smart" vehicle, which more or less could have driven us there without much assistance! It did not keep us from making one wrong turn on the way though!
Amazingly, we were packed up and on the road, playing the Indigo Girls' Get out the Map by 8:31 a.m. We had three very excited girls in the backseat - Kali had actually already finished her breakfast since she woke early and couldn't go back to sleep!
One of the best things about a vacation like this is getting to experience it through our children's eyes! This was the first week long trip we took since our Maine trip 5 years ago - when Alida was 2 and Terah was not even dreamed of! It was fun to see Alida taking in the first glimpses of the bay - trying to guess how many gallons of water it might hold. Terah was excited but also hesitant about some things - we had to reassure her that we would go in and then back out of the tunnel. We had planned to have our picnic half way across the bay bridge tunnel but do to construction work the stop off was closed. So on we went, arriving with everyone still wide awake but the littlest starting to be ready for a snooze! The house was as cute and tiny as we remembered it!
 After a quick "picnic" lunch on the living room floor, we quickly transitioned to what became our early afternoon routine. This was the only thing we never mixed up or messed with on any day of our trip! Sometime in the 1-2 range, it was nap and reading time. What a glorious tradition! I read stories to the two younger girls and then nursed Terah to sleep. I think Terah and I were the only two that fell asleep every day and I think Kali is the only one that never got a nap. But lots of good reading time when we weren't snoozing - I made through 2 entire Sun magazines! I intentionally did not bring any novels as I did not want to get stuck in a book that I couldn't put down! Connecting with Jason and kiddos was at the top of my list for the week and that goal was met beyond my expectations!

Everyone was chomping at the bit to get to the bay that first evening. We decided to not swim but did put Terah's swimsuit on as we knew she was not likely to stay dry - how smart we were! It made us very eager for the morning! It was as expansive and lovely and not crowded as we remembered it - there were very few other people around. Alida started her shell collection that evening and we even found one beautiful delicate orange shell that reminded us of Nora. It was so good to be there again! I just felt very full a lot of the week - watching our three girls and thinking about all the life that has been lived these past 10 years since we were last at the bay.
 
That evening before we headed back to our cottage to bed down for the night, we walked 2 blocks the opposite direction to get to the little Central Park (yes, we were about 2 blocks from the bay and about 2 blocks from a great park and not many more blocks than that from a great ice cream shop!). It was getting dark and it was hard to pull Terah away! Thankfully whenever we had to transition from one thing, we were normally transitioning to another fun thing thus avoiding most meltdowns successfully! For me one of the highlights of walking around town was the beautiful flowering trees!
Thursday, July 12

We were up and out the door by 7:30! Yes, this was the Myers-Benner vacation plan! We were equipped with coffee/milk and granola bars/energy bites and all wearing swim suits. We had the beach almost to ourselves and almost immediately got to watch dolphins swimming in the bay!

The unexpected treat for us was a loaner life jacket rack on the beach. There were ones that fit Terah and Alida perfectly and with them on before too long both could swim alone. This was especially thrilling for Terah! And was mighty cute. Here's two short clips of our swimming gals!


Our normal routine was to try to come in from the beach between 9-10 a.m. to rinse off, eat a "real" meal and then either hang out and play games or go into town. We decided to go for a little explore this first day to check out the town. We enjoyed reading some books at the library and there learned about an "owl prowl" on a nature boardwalk nearby happening Friday. We also landed at Brown Dog Ice Cream for the first of three visits there during our week (every other day!). Terah's belly couldn't even contain her whole first ice cream cone but she was pretty sure she wanted another one to take with her. We were finally able to get her thinking about other things and on our way home swung by a little gourmet food shop where we picked up some bread and crackers to go with the many spreads and cheeses and sauce I had brought along.
Back for naps OR reading time and then the evening was spent back at the bay and playing games at the cottage before winding down for the night. I think over the course of our week there we played all the games we brought, and that's saying something. We took a lot! I got grouchy during one of our Rook playing times and Alida with Hearts. Otherwise, we were mostly good sports, but I was only a good sport since I managed to beat Jason in Upwords. It's nice that it worked out that way, but Jason knows better than to let me win!

 Friday, July 13

This is the scene that greeted me upstairs each morning. These are not normally early rising kids! But some fresh air and bay water was a great way to wake up. Or a walk on the beach with coffee in hand. Or shell hunting! It was amazing to me how Alida could just spot shells. We likened it to her uncanny puzzling abilities! I would just walk right by them and before I knew it she had a handful of periwinkles (her favorites). This is what the beach looked like when we would arrive. Occasionally a walker/runner or folks with dogs (they were allowed before 9 a.m.), but we were usually leaving when other beach goers/swimmers were just arriving. The one morning we were having so much fun until after 10 a.m. and that was the only day Kali and I got very slight burns on our back (the kind that itch!). That necessitated putting sunscreen on our backs one day just to prevent further exposure but otherwise it was a sunscreen free beach week!

We saw dolphins again but they weren't coming up often and Alida said, "This is a boring watch." :) She was more into the shells! Another time, when asked if she wanted to pull her hair back, she said, "Yes," and then added, "It's not really a vacation if you have to keep pushing the hair out of your face!" Terah did a lot of ergo-riding on me throughout the week and I have to admit I soaked in the snuggles!! It won't be too much longer that she can cart around that way.
Friday was the only meal we ate out. I had thought we would more or that we would at least go grocery shopping, but other than the few things we bought on the main drag in Cape Charles, and our ice cream cones, we were able to make do with what I had brought from home. That meant more time for swimming and games and naps! And it meant Friday was one of the two times we got in the car the whole week! We had a 5:30 p.m. reservation at The Shanty on the bay and sat outside eating our seafood where we could look out over the water. From there we were able to find the nature boardwalk where the owl prowl was taking place. We were there an hour early so walked the boardwalk, coming back in time to meet the group. How fun! It was enjoyable to do something with "locals!" There were about 15 of us and we walked out, watched the sunset over the bay, got to learn about the owls in the area and then walked back in the dark and the ranger called in several screech owls that we all got to listen to and watch. I'm not sure if the girls loved seeing the owls or telling Grandpa Myers about it to try to make him jealous more. Either way it was a hit!
 Saturday, July 14

Same old routine: to the beach early, back for brunch and games, naps and reading, and then we decided to take the evening off swimming. That almost didn't work when we decided to take a peak at the beach and the tide was lower than ever so we wanted to walk out and see it. Of course Terah wanted to swim so once again we all had to use our best diversion techniques to get ourselves out of there in our regular clothes dry! We went to the park for a bit, got ice cream cones and then went to check out the "experimental film festival" that was happening. It was happening in a roped off/closed section of the main street and to get in the roped area was $15/person. We had no idea how long our family would last we hardly wanted to spend $75, so we lingered outside the fenced area (since the huge screen was visible from blocks away. It felt a little like "cheating" to Kali so she kept asking if it was really ok! We got to see the sunset and play around the pier until the younger kids were ready to head back. The films were ok but not particularly highlighting what was special about Cape Charles, which was what I was hoping for. It did get Jason's wheel's turning on other art projects that could be really exciting collaborations between artists in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

That evening as we were about to go back to the cottage Terah said she wanted to go home. I told her we were doing just that - heading back to the cottage. She replied, "No, our actual home." This was her first, but not her last, request to go home. I think it's sweet she missed home! Even with all her people there with her, she still missed Tangly Woods!

 Sunday, July 15

We decided it was time to let the kiddos sleep in for a morning! We were on vacation after all! Alida was up first and so the two of us snuck out for a walk on the beach - so special! Terah didn't actually end up sleeping in all that much either so once we were back they played in the backyard while Kali caught a few more winks. We then had a breakfast picnic outside and headed inside for lots more games! Then, you guessed it, naps and reading and back out to the bay for the evening. It was very low tide and so we went outside the swim area where Jason proceeded to step on a crab and get pinched by another. Alida was ready to go play in the sand then! After some good sand play, including having fun burying me completely except for my head, we were brave enough to venture out for some more swimming! As we were coming in we met friends from Harrisonburg again who we discovered were not only in Cape Charles at the same time as us but happened to be staying in the house next door!
Monday, July 16

Back to our early morning beach routine. It was a great morning for seeing lots of birds on the beach. When we went to Maine, I loved the loons! The equivalent for me at Cape Charles was the pelicans. I loved watching them come across the water and soar right above the water, going up and down with the air currents. We got to see a group of about 30 come right at us and split just in time to go around us. It was such a privilege to be so close to all these amazing creatures and watch how they make their living!

After beach time and getting cleaned up from that we did one more town walk to get a few supplies and one more ice cream cone. Jason was not up for a third ice cream cone in one week so he enjoyed some fresh squeezed lemonade and a little jaunt to a local artists' gallery. After getting refreshed with naps and books, we did our only other car outing to Kiptopeke State Park for the evening! It was a hot day and so we headed to the trails first (in the shade). It wasn't long though before the trails headed out to an overlook and before long we were out on the beach. It was a lovely less trafficked beach and so there were lots of large shells (and sadly more trash). Kali was soon as busy picking up trash as her other sisters were picking up shells. We were all rather loaded down by the time we came back to our car to put on swim stuff.  
We had a picnic on the beach there and then enjoyed swimming. No life jackets so Terah used her little floaty boat for the first time and Alida her swim noodles. The boat was perfect as there were more waves and she could ride them. It was another gorgeous evening! The area looks really dry so I knew many were probably hoping for rain. It's so different to be a vacationer in a spot and be thankful for sunshine and gorgeous days. If I was a farmer there, I would have been hoping so much for a good rain storm!
Tuesday, July 17

One of Jason's hopes for the week was to do some fishing. For a number of reasons, that hadn't panned out to date. This was his last chance so I woke him at 5:30 a.m. and off he went bleary-eyed to the pier! He got to watch birds catch fish successfully, but he only had one bite while out there. He was still in good spirits when we joined him for one last round of coffee/snacks and then swim time! Our swim time ended a bit prematurely when Terah got something in her eye and was pretty upset about it. Then Kali stepped on something that wiggled and we were all ready to head back!
We were in "clean up mode" on all the food stuff so we put together a brunch in our little kitchen and then had to quickly get ready to actually be somewhere at a certain time. It was a rude awakening to keep some kind of schedule. Barefoot Puppets was doing a show at the local civic center so we enjoyed another event where we got to mingle with some local Cape Charles' folks and watch two fun puppet shows before taking part in a little puppet-making workshop. We now have 3 spider rod puppets in our home.
Home for one more nap (for the parents the last for likely quite some time) and then one final evening at the bay. Terah took her boat, which was a good thing as the waves and currents were much stronger so that was an easier way for her to get around without us touching her - normally her goal! She loved to float away from us or play "hello...goodbye" by spinning herself in circles. After swimming, the younger girls and Jason played on the shore for a long time in the sand so Kali and I went for a little swim just the two of us and a nice long walk on the beach. We got to watch a great blue heron up close and saw lots of other bird activity! We said goodbye to the beach as the first raindrops of the entire week started falling, and headed back for on more evening of popcorn and games (interspersed with me trying to get some laundry done and packing started).

Wednesday, July 18

We had considered dipping down to First Landing State Park on our way home for the girls to experience the ocean on this trip, but wisdom prevailed in our family conversations and we decided to go straight home. It had been such a good week and we hardly wanted to sour it on the last day but being all hot and sandy for most of the trip home and having to cover ourselves in sunscreen for a midday beach jaunt. We were up, packed and on the road by 8:15 a.m. It was hard to say goodbye to the little house that had provided so many hours of fun and relaxation, but there were also things we were looking forward to about being home!

We all soaked in some last glimpses of the water, and Kali rolled down her window for a few more gulps of salty air! Then as we drove towards home we made a few lists together of what made this week a true vacation week for us, what we were looking forward to about being at home again and what things we were not looking forward to or felt worried or anxious about. As we approached home, I definitely feasted my eyes on the deep shades of greens and the mountains! But we would miss: daily naps, the break from tick checks, lots of game playing and beach time, no computer and tight schedules to adhere to, less laundry and dishes, more cuddling and connection time, lots of reading... But we were also looking forward to: a larger dining room table and bathroom, garden veggies, sleeping in our own beds, the big windows and natural light, a compost toilet that never clogs, tending our chickens, ducks and pigs again, using a good sharp knife and cooking, and much more...

And while I enjoyed the break from food processing, I'm also happy to be back to chopping large quantities of veggies daily. I actually need to head out to do a big basil picking. But I cannot end this post without giving a huge shout out to my parents! They made this vacation week possible and we are so very grateful! We relaxed in a way we would not have otherwise, knowing they were there tending and enjoying the place. I'm so glad the animals behaved themselves in our absence - sadly as of last night Kali's three free range ducks have disappeared. I'm very glad that didn't happen on Dad's watch, as it is clearly no one's fault but still very sad when it happens! While we might hope they are out enjoying a new life of freedom, the life they had here was pretty good (free in the day with nightly predator protection) and more likely they were a very hearty meal for some predators. :(

But back to the thanks: Mom and Dad always go above and beyond, with touches that made the landing home so much smoother than it would have been otherwise. They also had to troubleshoot getting our car towed to the shop and are loaning us their second vehicle that will get us to tomorrow (when we can pick our car back up and see if we can successful deter whatever critter is addicted to chewing holes in our gas line). We even got to enjoy dinner together before they headed back to their Mountain House - including trout cakes so we could ease back into our non-bayside-life! After they left I canned two loads of pickles and froze my first round of string beans (but it was done by a reasonable 10-11 p.m. rather than probably 12-1 a.m .if Mom hadn't picked the cucumbers and beans and washed the cucumbers and snipped the beans for me. THANKS MOM & DAD! It was a trip that won't be forgotten by any of us for a long time - and if we do forget, there is now this incredibly long blog post to refer back to!