Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kicking off family nights...

Family meetings really are a great idea! So much good has come out of them and some fun ideas. At our most recent one (we have had all of 2-3 since Alida joined us but the most recent one was particularly "productive" on the generation of creative ideas) we unanimously agreed to start having more regular meetings and family nights.

Tonight was our first ever "official family night" and we decided together that we would go for a walk after dark (Kali's idea), would build a fire in our fire ring (my idea), and would roast marshmallows (Kali's idea) - and Jason and Alida were approving of our ideas, or at least they went along quite willingly.

Leading up to this evening, the Myers-Benner girls had a very fun day at home together and my body is feeling that weary good feeling. Here's a few of the things that filled our day while Jason did some machete work clearing around peach trees in the morning and worked for our neighbor this afternoon. We made homemade grape nuts - haven't done this in years and got inspired when looking in Mom's cookbook for another use for buttermilk. We made graham crackers so those of us that like s'mores could enjoy one (or several) by the fire - I attest to their yummy-ness! We made a double batch of french bread - to share with neighbors, for lunch and for friends coming over later this week. We made blueberry cornmeal loaf (also for sharing and a hosting event and because I got inspired when I saw some organic lemon zest in my freezer that really needed to be put to good use sooner rather than later). We made a peach kuchen and a peach/sour cherry kuchen - again for friends coming over. We made a batch of green pasta for a lasagna and for spaghetti for dinner tonight.

It's been fun to watch Kali's resurgence of interest in cooking/baking with me - sometimes she'll have a cookbook on the counter open to a recipe when I get home from work.

In between the cracks of time in the day I squeezed in a few walks (two of which included naps for Alida), some outdoor play time with Kali, laundry, lots of dishes created by the fun had above, and managed to get all our floors swept so that I don't have to watch Alida with an eagle eye when she is crawling around (for a day or two at least).

A very fun day! It ended with Alida nursing to sleep by the fire while Kali chattered and roasted (or charred in some instances) marshmallows. It was the first time we ever made a fire "just for us" and not for an event in which others were joining us. We'll be doing it again...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


This entry may seem to include two very different entries, and in most ways it does.

The first item of news is that Kali lost another pet today. Henny Hen died in front of Jason as he was doing the morning chores at her pen. She had not been perky for some time now and in chicken years had lived a good life, but it is still a little sad. We'll remember her presence in the garden fondly and her jumping up and down in her pen when we brought her grubs, rotten tomatoes, etc... Kali shed a few tears but did not show nearly the grief she did when burying her first pet, Curious Hiddley. I still feel a little sad whenever I peel carrots or put carrot tops in the compost, wishing I could take them out to him and hear him ring his little bell coming out to see who was coming and with what kind of treat.

That's the best segue way I can make to the video below. I was eating a carrot at dinner and Alida let out her very excited sound she makes in eager expectation of me sharing something with her. I gave it to her for a few seconds and then was worried about those 8 little sharp teeth getting off a big chunk. So we got the grater out and shredded some on her tray. She LOVED them!!! Jason thinks maybe we should get in the habit of shredding carrots all over our floor to distract her from the dirt that she is insistent upon finding AND consuming. She now knows that the mats at the doors are great places to find treats. And she is getting fast at the crawling thing. We are loving it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dinner tonight

Last evening we had our first family meeting in a LONG time (since September I believe it was). Kali had chosen one of the agenda items which was to discuss her making dinner "all by herself" sometime. We were game and there was nothing on this evening so we didn't waste any time setting the date. I wasn't sure whether to come home from work hungry or full. What a funny dinner it was!

Kali was very cute jabbering as she made plans and worked to keep us out of the kitchen during the 1/2 hour or so of her preparations. We were permitted to sit down after being guided into the dining room with our eyes closed and started with her "fruit juice" concoction that she made in the blender with a few blueberries, peaches, sugar (A LOT) and water. She had made toast with peanut butter (put on before toasted) that had sat in the toaster while she made her juice. We each got a small half roll and some sweet juice. She was into her meal and having a grand time chatting about it. Jason's plate was empty almost immediately and we were trying not to chuckle. She had put applesauce on the table which Alida and I were enjoying while we waited for our next course - cheese toasts which were waiting in the toaster for her to make the final piece of the meal - blueberry smoothies. That was the highlight (of the food we enjoyed) and she was proud of her success. She even helped clear the table and clean up some spilled smoothie.

She suggested she do it more often - like once a month or 12 times a year! She is also requesting cooking classes. I've agreed to both!

The highlight of our time together at the table was no doubt Alida's antics. Enjoy:

At last a woodshed!

Building a woodshed has been on our project to do list for longer than we would like to admit - okay, so years. We've used a makeshift system that has worked, but with a goal for something more long lasting and user-friendly. It has gotten put on the back burner for some time but finally made its way to the top of the priority list. Jason has been thinking about and designing it for some time - such that when we needed to cover the old stairwell during construction, he built the roof for the woodshed to be that cover. But since that time it has been sitting on stacks of wood waiting for its final resting spot - which it found last weekend! Thanks to some friends for loaning their muscles for a half hour or so, the roof was placed on top of the posts and Jason took it from there. Just yesterday he finished the siding for the little lofts and I imagine when the weather warms there may be a sleepover happening out there if he can convince Kali to join him. He was pretty happy with the final results!!

Monday, January 16, 2012


I, Jason, couldn't help myself. Though the weather has just now finally gotten good and cold (twenty degrees or so at night for a few nights), there are subtle indications that spring is in the works. For one thing, I have a few more minutes of daylight now, morning and evening, to squeak in a few extra tasks around the place. Also, there were a few hens that responded almost immediately to the lengthening daylight after the solstice and kicked into their regular-season egg laying pattern.

What was I to do but start some seeds? Not outdoors, but inside under a two-tube fluorescent fixture in the old kitchen. It's not a perfect setup...the seedlings look a tad leggy. Perhaps some genuine grow light bulbs would improve things, but for now this will do. In any case, it is obvious spring fever is striking me a bit early this year; I am taking great satisfaction in gazing at and thinning my seedlings. I've started onion, lettuce, kale, parsley, and a minor experiment in wheat--the details of which would be too droll for most (suffice it to say that my wheat seed didn't come in time for fall planting and I'm mostly using it for spot cover cropping, so I thought I'd see if I could catch up). The whole seed starting enterprise was precipitated by my desire to start my onions just as early as I could, as I've usually felt my onions from seed have had a hard time reaching their full mature potential (I understand that to get nice thick starts I might wish to start them in September in a cold frame...didn't get to it!).

There is nothing quite like thinning lettuce seedlings to make one feel huge and clumsy. When I spy a weaker seedling in a clump of five (I like to have a crowd to choose from...always breeding!) I suddenly feel I have all the dexterity of a gloved gorilla, or like I'm trying to prune peach trees with a backhoe.

Sometimes I have the same feeling when I'm trying to probe Alida's mouth to extract some dust fuzzy or fleck of firewood bark she's managed to locate and acquire (I try not to interfere unless I'm truly concerned she might have something worrisome in the hatch). In fact, in general I find I can feel clumsy handling the baby in tender moments. I think back on my college days...all that time spent in labs teasing insect wings into good positions for diagnostic display, all those microscope slides, the gram-sensitive mass balances...has something happened to my physical finesse? Once in a while when my earlobe itches I reach up and give it a little rub between my thumb and forefinger, and every time I am a bit jolted by the roughness of my own touch. I am thrown back instantly to my hands feel just like my Dad's hands did.

And for the same reasons. My dad is one of the most gentle people I know; he has a light touch with people, musical instruments, tools, animals, and wood. I like to think I've picked up some of that same character, though I still work towards it. But I remember times when he'd be removing a splinter from my tender palm, or guiding me through a door, or helping me with my shoes and I would take notice of the force of his grip, the roughness of his finger skin, in ways I'd never have noticed my Mom's. It used to bug me...why couldn't he be more gentle when he was being gentle?

Now I know why. There are times when I have an opportunity to, say, build a shed or move some soil, cut a tree or split some firewood, and then I need to take a break to, say, feed the baby or change her diaper. Despite the fact that I may need to hurriedly wash up to my elbows or jerk off my contaminated clothes before receiving the vulnerable being into my arms, there is quite a mental (not to mention motor skills) leap to make between driving a galvanized 16-penny nail and q-tipping an eyelash from a child's conjunctiva (part of the eye).

I really wouldn't have it any other way. That's the kind of challenge that appeals to me. But there are times it is a bit disorienting, especially when I'm attempting to do any "rough" or "dirty" work while carrying Alida in the front pack. Managing intense physical forces while protecting fragile, precious infant body tissues requires careful attention, which can have an exhausting effect far greater than the physical demands themselves.

And so I can see the wisdom of our culture's historical division of labor: rough and forceful work for some (the ones who tend to have more upper body strength generally got this job description) and the tasks requiring tender attention to others (the ones who lactated had a natural advantage here). It's easier to not have to make such drastic gear switches all the time. But the dichotomy between "men's" and "women's" work was never complete, and much harm has come by way of making the practically based generalities into rigid expectations.

I think the main thing lost by accepting a definition of one's self as either rough and forceful or soft and tender is a truncated experience of human living. That is to say, I would be sad to think I'd never expect myself to hoist a heavy load or dig a post hole. I love that work, and have never felt complete if I go very long without some of it. But I would also feel incomplete would I never stroke my girls' hair, transplant a wire-thin wisp of onion, examine a day-old chick, or, as I have done the past two nights, gently kiss my baby daughter on the head until she drifts off to sleep.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Can't keep up!

Alida is changing so rapidly! Her comprehension of things is expanding exponentially and she seems to perfect new skills overnight. Some examples can be found below! She was enjoying sharing the new stuff this week with her Grandma Myers and last evening with Aunt K.

Friday, January 13, 2012


So when we put up the Christmas tree we "asked Alida" to consider waiting to fully start crawling until it came down, knowing the Christmas tree would not fare well if Alida was able to get her hands on it. As it turns out yesterday was the day - both for taking down the tree and for Alida beginning to officially crawl.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January tomatoes

It seems worth noting that we just consumed our last garden tomatoes! They have been sitting on our counter "ripening" for a LONG time!! No they were not the delicious, juicy tomatoes one thinks of biting into in mid-July, but they added some nice color, texture and little flavor to our pesto pizza the other night! In other news, Kali has been eagerly anticipating a response from her senator to her letters and petition regarding protecting the rain forests, monkeys and the creation of a law against tailgating. Well, it finally arrived and Kali practically flew up the driveway to show Jason the envelope and then soak up every word. While she felt encouraged that she had spurred her senator on to further his commitment to protect animals, I was once again annoyed, though not surprised, by the form letter that didn't address her concerns directly. Oh well. She is already concocting plans for future letters...