Friday, November 22, 2013

A very leafy "staycation"

So we've been to West Virginia with wonderful friends and back since the last post (which included enough fun to be an entry all on its own), but that's not going to be the focus of my musings today.  I'm copying off of a wonderful, rejuvenating, fun week off work where I didn't go anywhere.  Well, that's not quite true - we went out one evening for a monthly supper club with friends and another evening for a small group monthly dinner we are part of.  So in 8 days I got in the car 2 times, both times with my family and for something purely pleasurable!  Just the way I like it!

Several months back a friend of ours asked Jason about doing a side job for him.  It was the kind of carpentry work Jason enjoys and is really good at and so he decided to go for it.  We knew there was no way it could be done in a timely fashion if it was to just fit in the cracks, so I looked for the first week in my work schedule that didn't already have meetings in it and blocked it out as a vacation week - or in this case a staycation since Jason was the one going off to work and I was staying put.  Since we weren't preparing to go for a trip, the week kind of snuck up on me.  In reflecting back on the week, I think this actually had a profound impact on my enjoyment of the week off.  I had little time to build up expectations and went into the week open to whatever it might hold - which ended up being a lot of leaf and pine needle raking!

Tuesday evening on our way to and from small group I was reflecting some on the week.  I put it right up there as one of the best vacations I've had in a long time. Here's a list of the things that made it so wonderful: being at home, not waking to an alarm, staying in "comfy clothes" all day every day, playing games with the girls, puttering in the kitchen, making and eating yummy foods together as a family, reading stories, going for walks and jogs with Alida and a bike ride/jog with Kali, having friends over, being outside a lot, getting lots of exercise raking and making a noticeable difference around our property, being more involved in the daily rhythms with the ducks, chickens and goats, getting a few naps and reading a book for pleasure.  It really was lovely!  It was hard to see it come to an end and the catching up phase at work is far from complete...

The week also held more big transitions here at Tangly Woods.  After enjoying Emily and Jonas' presence on our homestead for a number of months, they moved to their home in Ktown over the weekend.  We all knew it was an inevitable change and something to be celebrated (a milestone in their home renovation project), but it was hard to be 100% happy about it.  There is no way to replicate the experience of bumping into each other often because you live under the same roof.  I know all of us will remember those months together fondly.  I was amazed at how the girls took the transition in stride and were right in there helping to load the truck - they seemed to do better with it than me.  Maybe they are used to the comings and goings around here by now.  We are all glad that they are just a super quick drive or a pleasant walk down the road!

Jason did finish up his carpentry job in time to have Tuesday free for a duck and chicken butchering day.  He didn't manage to do that, however, without pulling an almost-all-nighter one night.  I woke with a start at 4:30 a.m. to see the porch lights still on and, upon searching around the house, didn't find him sleeping anywhere.  When I called he was on his way home so I got his supper warming which he ate around 5 a.m. before crashing.  It reminded me of the push before we moved into this place where Jason worked 36 hours straight on rewiring the rooms that we were planning to move into first.  Not the kind of thing you want to do often and I was very glad to have him home safely.  The next evening we sent him off to bed around 7:45 p.m. and the girls and I hung out for the evening.  Alida is on the cusp of really being able to play games with us, but still needs lots of coaching most of the time.  And if she is at all tired and starting to get rammy she is more likely to mess the game up by throwing cards or removing pegs...  The game we are having fun with right now is Mastermind, which Kali is now ready to play the hard way (according to the scoring rules).  So we fit games in here and there between tasks.

I wouldn't have gotten nearly as much raking time in if the girls weren't enjoying being together so much.  They played at the swing set, took the goats for walks, played games inside, came along and jumped in my leaf piles, etc...  And then, of course, there were times that Alida wanted her mommy and so I could be found with a sheet full of leaves on my back and hauling Alida on my front - no wonder by the end of the week I thought I saw the faint definition of arm muscles. :)

I was glad to get to ease back into work. I had two full days of work this week and now am home enjoying a three day weekend.  The first morning back to work, I had to tear myself away with Alida just barely holding it together - the little quivery lips do me in every time.  Thankfully yesterday she was still sleeping when I left and this morning we happily woke up side by side.  She'll turn to me and say, "I'm all done sleeping" which is very appropriate at 7:30 in the morning and less so at 11 p.m. when she hasn't fallen asleep nursing but seems to think the night is already over.

In general Alida seems to be more of a sleeper than Kali. She is still consistently taking an afternoon nap, which Kali gave up way earlier than this.  And most days she falls asleep in the jogger while I'm getting a walk or a jog in.  She will sometimes insist that she doesn't need a nap or wants to keep playing but she never resists for very long and normally sleep overtakes her by the time we reach the end of our road, sometimes the end of our lane!  But from when she wakes up until she crashes for a nap, she's a busy little gal.  This is her right before the nappy walk trying to put multiple hats on her head...She's got lots of ideas for her day - coloring is currently right at the top of the list, but she is also my little side kick in the kitchen.

I'm glad my girls seem to enjoy being in the kitchen, since it is my favorite room of the house. And I'm glad that they are both currently semi-adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. I don't feel like I've done a lot of blog posts about all the yummy things we are eating lately, but maybe that is because it is starting to be the norm - that our meals are colorful, delicious and the ingredients largely sourced from right around us. That is so very exciting to me!

Jason was in charge of supper last evening.  Our neighbor G had some extra deer bones that he passed to us which Jason cooked down for soup stock.  He then picked the meat off the bones and set it aside.  He added some of our home grown potatoes to the stock and then sauteed some of our purple onions and garlic in venison fat and added that.  Finally, we put in a whole bunch of chopped carrot TOPS and the chopped venison.   The bowl of steaming soup seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper was delightful.  Why have we been composting all our carrot tops?  I find it so odd that I've never looked into whether we could eat them. They are super tasty (a little like parsley), as are the carrots we are digging right now (the first delicious carrots we've grown here).  And since I'm still a little obsessed with all the things you can make pesto with I decided to google "carrot top pesto."   Of course it exists, and I made it and we enjoyed it, alongside the soup, on rolls made with pureed stinging nettles and ricotta whey. Yum!

I got to play in the kitchen this morning, in between getting more loads of leaves from our neighbors.  Here's what we enjoyed for lunch (I was going to take pictures but forgot, so use your imagination!):
  • Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes - our home grown sweet potatoes tossed in olive oil, chopped garlic and rosemary picked right outside our back door!
  • Roasted Sunchokes (otherwise known as Jerusalem Artichokes) - given to us by our neighbor and which we enjoyed much more than ones I had made a few years back.  I just tossed them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Alida gobbled them down!
  • Savory Spinach and Broccoli Quiche - made with spinach from our friends down the road, broccoli from next door, our onions and garlic and chicken eggs, and milk from our milk share. 
  • Cranberry Pecan Orange Muffins - the only "semi-local" thing in these was the wild West Virginia cranberries hand delivered to me by my mom!  This was an attempt to use up some cranberry pulp she had given to me and to make maximum use of my oven while I had it on this morning.  
I've gotten a better sense of how Jason can be so hungry by lunch time too.  After a morning of raking and  hauling leaves up and down hills food looks and tastes mighty good!   I find it so satisfying to be getting more involved on the outside of our home with projects, not just getting things at the doorstep and turning them into meals.  It's nice to be getting a more complete picture of the process, though I still rely quite heavily on Jason's expertise pretty much anytime I'm working on something outside.   You may be wondering what we are doing with all these leaves - I think our neighbors (while seemingly happy to see them raked for them and removed from their lawn) may be wondering the same thing.  We are stockpiling as many as possible to use over the winter and for our humanure composting system.  And then we are putting a thick layer down in various areas that we no longer want to have to mow and are transitioning to planting areas or walking paths.  After this past year, we are quite set on reducing the areas that we mow around our place.  This is a step in that process.

Jason hasn't gotten in on much leaf raking at all this year since other projects have kept him sufficiently occupied.  We have our sights set on wrapping up some construction projects this winter and today is the start of one of those.  Finishing up the eaves is the kind of thing we might never get to if it was up to me, since I tend to not notice this kind of thing.  But now that he is working on it, I'm excited to have the outside of our house look like we didn't stop before we were done!  Getting near the top of the priority list on the inside of the house is getting around to putting trim on the windows we replaced last year!

Well, I now have a not-so-little sleeping bundle in my arms.  I think the construction noise outside may have roused her prematurely and she isn't quite ready to wake up.  When she does, if it hasn't started raining, we'll see what headway we can make on some more pine needle hauling. :)  I'm kind of getting a kick out of myself this fall as it feels familiar to my weeding binge this past spring.  I started noticing weeds along the roads and would dream about weeding.  Well, I'm noticing leaves everywhere!  I think it probably has something to do with how I enjoy visible results.  Weeding and raking both give one the gratification of making a very noticeable difference immediately.  I think Jason is enjoying the fact that I'm determined to get as many as possible on the days I'm at home!  So maybe a staycation in the spring for weeding and a staycation in the fall for raking should be coming seasonal traditions! I could get into that.  For not, it's time to play a round of Mastermind with Kali!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blood drive; who would have known it could be so fun!

What special memories are created through an evening like last night!  I arrived at Virginia Blood Services, with one of my colleagues who was donating with us, about 40 minutes into the blood drive due to every road (it seemed) in Harrisonburg being tied up with traffic.  We learned upon arrival that it was due to a major accident on 81.  The accident ended up delaying others and kept at least one donor away.  That, some last minute forgetfulness, and of course the germs floating around kept a handful more away.  But there were a dozen of us who donated and a great cheerleading squad (a few quiet adults and a bunch of rowdy kids that were thrilled with the array of snacks provided).  Whenever I give blood I think about the seeds my dad planted taking me along with him when he donated when I was little. I don't remember much other than being treated special and getting snacks.  At the time, I was quite certain it was never something I would do!  So I was thrilled to have a bunch of kids there having a grand time.  Hopefully, at least a number of them, will be inspired to donate once they are old enough to do so.

It's always particularly exciting to have new donors join us - we had at least 2 last evening, along with some who had not given for a long time.  One of the highlights for me was finally meeting someone who had only been a "virtual friend" for years due to our shared history of both having had to say goodbye to a baby daughter.  While there is nothing wrong with connecting by email and facebook, there is nothing like a real human hug and an in person connection!  And how special to do that at the blood drive...

The highlight of the evening for me was the deciding moment where my hemoglobin was checked.  It had been months since I had been able to give due to low iron. I had been religiously doing everything I could think of to get it up and was hopeful that I had succeeded.  When the machine beeped the nurse said, "you won't believe this."  Not only had I gotten it above the 12.5 threshhold, I was all the way up to 14.2 - plenty to spare!  I told her that I wanted to open the door and shout that I was eligible to give!  She said, "go for it" so I did!

I had felt more nervous about it during the day that I had previously because I was out of practice and I was apprehensive that I would be turned away again (yes, I guess that means that I nervous about doing it and nervous that I wouldn't be able to).  Things that involve needles become much bigger in my head than they need to be.  And over time they only get bigger.  So I'm glad to be back on track and in tune with the reality that it is such a very minor discomfort for something that can hopefully be very helpful to someone else.  And to once again feel the little flood of satisfaction with it going well and with this very small ritual that connects me to Nora and our journey with her in a special way.

Last evening was unique in that only a small percentage of those that joined us ever knew Nora.  Most have become friends of ours since that time or we have reconnected since that time and our lives have intersected in meaningful ways.  It feels like the circle has widened of those who have been impacted by the short time that Nora spent with our family and that means a great deal to me.  I enjoy the opportunities events like last night give me to talk about her.  I don't want the memories to fade, but it seems inevitable that many do over time.  Sharing the stories is one way to keep those memories alive!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Donuts, soccer and more!

Our last few posts have been very word heavy, so here's a little visual entertainment!

We've had a few very full days of family fun, even if some of the fun had to be modified due to lingering colds. Here's Alida trying out eating a donut off a string for the first time. 

Saturday was Kali's final soccer game - maybe she should eat many donuts the eve of all her soccer games.  It was fun to note her improvement over the course of the season.  We even caught a little piece of the action.

We, along with some Benner family members, headed to Vintage Virginia Apples and Albemarle Ciderworks for their Apple Harvest Festival.  We came home with 20+ pounds of delicious apples and have been enjoying them ever since.  We also went on the most thrilling hay ride ever - through beautiful woodland and up and down hills and around some curves that caused the wagon to creak enough that I leaned as far away from the sides as possible.  When we were getting off, the driver was counting us. I asked if we set a record and he said he thought maybe.  We were all so tired of waiting in line that we were piling on the wagon as fast as we could.

From there, we headed to to the Blue Ridge Tunnel in Crozet and enjoyed a candlelit dinner with most of the Benner family.  Quite memorable! It was an odd sensory experience to be hiking through the forest with Papa John's pizza wafting into my nose! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wealth Grows on Trees

I, Jason, know money doesn't grow on trees, but all the same I felt rich today while raking leaves.

Certainly many folks regard tree leaves as a nuisance, but we treasure them as a resource.  Forest ecologists could probably talk for a year straight about the cascade of life that tumbles around in the leaf litter layer on the forest floor, nearly completely fueled by the breaking of chemical bonds in, primarily, the cellulose and lignin components of spent leaves.  If your eyes can be little enough, you can pull aside the leaves and see the duffy soil teeming with invertebrates, and netted with fungal hyphae and plant roots.

Chickens' eyes are apparently little enough.  While J (who lives in the in-law quarters and works with me usually two days per week) and I raked leaves, it became time to let the chickens from the composting coop out for their daily frolic.  Janelle came and joined us in the raking for a while and we agreed together:  It is such a pleasure to watch chickens in the woods.  This is their most natural environment and they glory in it (assuming chickens can glory at all, which I assume they sort of can).  Anyone who has ever ranged chickens in a manicured yard can attest to the fact that chickens love nothing more than to pull back the mulch from anywhere it has been tidily applied and discover the treats lurking therebeneath.  A forest floor covered in leaves can be thought of as a vast, uninterrupted mulched bed, and sifting through it hour after hour is their favorite pastime, but it is far from idle for them.  Judging from the number of times they stop their scratching and peck fervently at a spot a few times--sometimes with several chickens crowding around the same spot--they are finding serious goodies.

I can attest to that also since I am the feed dispenser around here most days.  If I haven't been home in the evening to let them out for two days running, I find there is a minor but noticeable uptick in feed consumption (Even on those days, however, their feed consumption is less than my other chickens because of what they gather nicking through the composting litter).  I can also attest to the quality of those goodies, since I eat the eggs.  On the pan, the yolks are orange and perky, standing tall and round while frying.  Scrambled, they glow yellow and have a warm, rich flavor.  I can't eat oak or cherry leaves myself, but I can eat the eggs that come from the chickens that eat the bugs that eat the microbes that eat the leaves.  Cha-ching!

We were raking leaves mainly from an area we've never really done anything with before, but which we are wanting to clear of saplings, young trees, and autumn olive shrubs to make way for an access path for bikes, cars, animal range pens, and people on foot to be able to make easier use of the land in the middle of our property.  Ideally, this ground will grow grass on it so that it can withstand repeated compaction without serious soil damage, excessive muddiness, or erosion from wind or water.  As such, leaves in that area are a liability, just like they are for the lawn grass minded homeowners all over the country who are spending precious hours these weeks firing up their leaf blowers and herding all the pesky leaves from their lots onto the curb to await being forcibly ingested en masse by a large vacuum truck driven by municipal employees, then regurgitated onto giant piles, where eventually people like us drive up and fork great mounds of them onto our pickups or utility trailers, take them home and spread them around in our yards.  So.  Where was I?

Oh, yes, so the leaves were a problem where they were, but we had another problem elsewhere.  In places we have mounded soil in long rows on contour with the slope of the land with the idea of retaining water long enough for it to penetrate the soil surface so we can grow more plants and trees, which will make more leaves...I'm getting ahead of myself.  The problem we had was that the soil on these berms, as we call them, was bare, unless you count the hordes and multitudes of baby wild grass and weed plants that have germinated enthusiastically there.  Nature abhors a vacuum, you understand, and I don't mean the kind driven by municipal employees!  If those little weedlets are allowed to grow up, we will either have a tremendous and frustrating weeding job on our hands next spring or we will have lots of unwanted plants in our productive ground once they complete their life cycle and go to seed themselves.  What to do?

Fortunately, fortunately, my friends, we have leaves!  As J and Janelle and I cleared the leaves from where they laid, allowing the life-giving light in to any grass wishing to grow in that space, we loaded them into wheelbarrows and wheeled them merrily up the slope to the berms and distributed them in a six-inch layer over those hordes of weedlets, effectively cutting off their light.  Cha-ching!

Leaves can also provide the carbonaceous foundation for the sanitizing and nutritious litter layer in a composting poultry coop, make an excellent weed-controlling mulch layer (that breaks down into the loveliest and most nourishing organic matter) for tomatoes and other garden plants, and when chopped or partly mouldered make the finest cover material we have yet found for our "humanure" toilets.  Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!

I said to J as we were raking in the new area that as we begin to open up more of our land to our use, I am going to begin to feel very rich.  The truth is that we are currently using a very small percentage of the eventual available total, and of that part we're using now, only a fraction (if any) is producing at its maximum potential.  If we return to the soil and the forest at least a portion of what we take, I believe we'll see a crescendo of productivity that we can ride like dolphins in the surf.

As I emerged from the woods with the last barrow of leaves to spread on one of the new berms, something caught my eye in my peripheral vision.  I turned my head and nearly caught my breath: The west flank of Massanutten mountain was glowing; billions of oak, maple, poplar, hickory leaves dangling delicately from their twigs shone like gold coins in the evening sun.

Fall musings...

November is here!  Among other things that means it is National Novel Writing Month ( - Kali and I both find ourselves in front of a computer right now, me to do some much needed writing and Kali to get going on her story.  She'll need to write a hundred words a day to meet her goal.  I'm eager to read it!  While we both write, Alida is getting a nap, which hopefully won't be interrupted prematurely by her cough.  While I do love fall (it is probably my favorite time of year) I don't like what seems like the resurgence of viruses floating around.  The girls both have colds, the kind that are just annoying not debilitating.  But enough so that we have gone forward with cancelling this evening's much anticipated fall party with two other families.  Bobbing for apples just didn't seem like the activity for today...  To ease the disappointment in the younger generation of our household (namely the 10 year old), we will go forward with making homemade donuts and I feel hopeful there will be some Tangly Woods members that will happily oblige filling in for some rounds of donut eating off strings!

So now I find myself sitting in our front room looking out at the colorful scene in front of me.  The light on the mountain today is striking (we must be at the peak of the oranges).  On Tuesday on my way in to the house from a nappy walk I felt almost a physical pull towards the hammock. It was the eve of Nora's birthday, right about the time they would have been starting the induction.  But my mind was just swirling with the many, many things I felt I "had" to get done yet that day.  Alida's nap times feel like this precious spot in the day where I sprint to do the things I can't do when she is awake.  I ended up spending most of that nap doing computer work that had to be done and that I felt annoyed about.  Hardly rejuvenating or reflective time, which was what I was craving.  I also felt frustrated with myself for not taking the opportunity as it presented itself to slow up for a bit and create a space in which my emotions could feel safe to emerge.  I never spent much time in our hammock before I went on bedrest with Nora and haven't spent much time there since. I remember watching the mountain change as fall approached and Kali making me "cakes" to eat out of pine needles, leaves, rocks, etc...  I wanted to allow myself a moment to travel back in time and be with who I was then and who our family was, just for a moment. 

In many ways I feel like I've been trying to make up for turning down that opportunity ever since then.  It's been a hard week.  I can never predict what I might want or need on the anniversaries of Nora's birthday and death.  And them sometimes when I finally figure it out, it's a bit late.  As soon as I got to work on Wednesday, I knew that I should have found a way to take a vacation day. I wanted so very much to be at home with my family.  Instead it, along with yesterday, was one of those crazy "work as fast as you can all day long and still feel horribly behind" days. 

The week hasn't been all bad. I treasure the memories from Tuesday evening when we enjoyed some family "huggy lovey" time in bed together before calling it a night. We all snuggled up and looked at and read through the book that Mom made about Nora.  It seems that the start and end of our days are sometimes challenging right now and so I have felt particularly grateful for some smooth and special family bedtimes lately.  May it continue!

Some of the "bumps in the road" have definitely been more challenging due to my own lack of extra reserves.  I don't feel very emotionally resilient and have found myself struggling with a higher amount of anxiety and tension.  While there are multiple factors (at least 16 based on the list I created last week in my one stint of journaling - the first in 4 months or so), but I haven't felt that my reaction to those stressors has been what I would like it to be.  So I finally took the step, thanks to a good friend's nudging, to get started on another round of counseling.  I've always found it helpful but it was feeling daunting to try to fit in yet another thing.  I'm glad that I fit it in - it's such a unique hour in my week to sit uninterrupted with someone whose only job is to listen to me talk, ask questions and offer an outside perspective when it seems appropriate. There are a number of things that have been sticking with me since but one in particular. 

I've felt, more at this stage of my life than any other, that many of the things that I love most about my life are also the things that can make me feel like I'm going completely crazy.  It's like two sides of the same coin.  I often feel like I need figure out what to let go of, but approaching it that way feels so unsatisfactory to me.  I was grateful for a new way to think about the stress that I carry, much of which related to things that energize me a great deal.  She shared the analogy of holding a cup of water.  If you hold a cup of water for a minute you probably won't even notice it, several minutes and you still probably won't think too much of it, an hour and your arm might start to feel very tired or even start to fall asleep, and if you tried to do it for a full day your arm would probably start to twitch and hurt or you may not be able to do it at all.  She talked about stress being like that - noting that it is important for all of us to find time to set that "cup" down and shake out our arm, do something else for a while and then pick it back up.  Same with the things that create stress. 

So I'm thinking about that a lot.  How do I take just a few moments here and there (like the break in the hammock) to truly set aside the busyness of the day, the relationships that I ponder and analyze and hope for changes in, my sense of inadequacy being a mom, etc... and be present to the moment, the world around me, the beauty within me...  I was grateful she didn't suggest any new routine that would take an hour or so daily.  She seemed to "get it" pretty quickly that I don't sit still very often, nor do I wish to.  But I feel ready to find and create little spaces in my day to be more in tune with what is happening inside of me and to also be open to observing what is happening around me.  On the nappy walk today my mind was churning as it often is.  All of a sudden I looked up and in the pasture right next to me was a whole herd of baby cows.  They were cute, but it wasn't their cuteness that struck me, it was the fact that I almost completely missed them.  How many things do I miss completely because I'm not paying attention (because I'm so absorbed in my racing thoughts or, in the case of a nappy walk, worrying that Alida won't fall asleep and then the rest of the day will be more challenging...).  I find that slowing my mind or altering my thoughts patterns is one of the biggest challenges in my life.  But I have a strong motivation to keep working at it!  I don't want to miss all the beauty around me.

If you have stayed with me on this post, congratulations!   I recognize this is a bit more of a "journal entry" than a blog post, but I think of this blog as mostly for us and if anyone out there wishes for a glimpse of the life we are creating here in our little part of the world, I'd like it to at least be a semi-accurate one. 

This past month was our month for lot of hosting and the upcoming month is one with more travel. We enjoyed visits with friends from PA and Canada and enjoyed a whole week with Jason's brother around, who was helping Emily and Jonas on their home renovation project (which we are happy to see moving along for their sakes, but are not ready to have them move out!).

Things on the home front keep plugging along with new and different projects as the seasons shift:  all the cover crops are in, the strawberries are weeded, thinned and mulched, the first big freeze came and so the main garden produce still growing is the carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach, dill and tea, Jason is working on various digging projects and chipping up brush piles created by the clearing the goats are motivating us to do (and helping with), and we got our next humanure composting outdoor station set up.  We also enjoyed some leaf raking together, both here and at a neighbor's who was happy to have us rake their leaves (and take them)!  It's fun to see us finally accumulating lots of mulch materials and extra organic matter.  I can't quite imagine how much food this little plot of land is going to produce if we continue to improve our soil at the current rate. Pretty exciting to think about, and a tad bit daunting!

There are some big things coming up.  Kali's last soccer game is tomorrow (she's very sad to see the season end, while I'm happy for a break and easing up of the weekly schedule).  We have a weekend of fun with family members on both sides of our family planned, and then the blood drive for Nora on Monday. Jason and I are both very much hoping that we are symptom free and can donate.  Kali heads to WV for the week with my folks and then we'll join her for a weekend with my parents and some friends.  Going to WV is definitely one of the "set the stress down" activities that I look forward to!

The one event of the upcoming week that has brought on some additional anticipatory grief is that, after much thought and deliberating, we will be reducing our goat flock from 3 to 2.  This is not even an easy thing for me to write about - but again I'm not interested in painting a picture of our lives without the angst and challenge that comes with trying to be intimately involved with our food.  Eating meat continues to be one of those things that I feel fits with the way I envision our lives here a and sometimes it is very hard for me!  I also continue to feel a compulsion within myself to be involved in butchering and processing meat, if I'm going to eat it.  It causes discomfort, but I want to allow myself the freedom to feel that discomfort and not shy away from it.  I know that I can be a vegetarian without too much trouble (I did it for years).  Many of my favorite meals are meatless and while we eat more meat now that I ever have in my life, it is still not a daily occurrence by any means.  But I know that I'd still be part of killing things if I only ate vegetables (my potato mulching experience where I unearthed a little mouse nest was clear proof of that).  So I feel more inclined to try to include animals into our farm (and diet) in respectful ways and to be grateful for the source of nourishment they provide.  But I haven't sorted out all my feelings about it, and there is no doubt in my mind that the challenge will be taken to a new level this week. Kali is feeling very sad but clearly adjusting slowly to the idea (or readjusting since this was always the plan from the beginning).  We don't fault her for any feelings she has about it - and are grateful when she is able to identify the source of her sadness (it has provided opportunities to process emotions a bit which I'm very glad about).  We've made the plan for butchering to be while she is in WV, as she feels that will be easier and we agree. 

We'll be keeping the twins (the smaller of the 3 goats) for the foreseeable future and my guess is that they will graduate to "pet" status.  We still need to all talk about it to make sure that is the shared expectation.  I think we'll learn some things from this stint of goat raising.  For one, it is harder not to get attached to mammals and in this case I feel a strong drive to meet their needs immediately (since these particular mammals have a baby-like cry - it's no wonder they call them "kids").  All of us probably need to think about how we approach our "farm animals."  What level of involvement works for each of us individually in instances where we know the final plan is that we will eat them? My learning curve on this one is quite steep and I haven't settled out at a comfortable place.  I'm not positive that I ever will, but I do feel good about the journey we are on together as a family.  The tears are okay and the conversations feel like important ones to have together.  I think we are learning more about each other and ourselves in the process.

...I now have a little gal on my lap, in the process of fully waking up from her nap.  Let me close with a few pictures of fun new things.  The captions will explain them:

Harvesting and drying saffron.
Saffron flowers
Opening up the mason bee tubes, what we will find?
Cocoons!  Here we are washing them - made of silk so water proof.

Using an old toothbrush to get the bee poop, mites, etc... off.
Here they are drying. The small ones are male the large female. They are now safely tucked in the crisper drawer of the fridge until spring.  I bought 10 and now have 70-80 cocoons.
We'll end with a picture from my hike to the lake with a good friend last weekend (and Alida sacked out in the jogger).  The hike followed an amazing picnic lunch that we all enjoyed together provided by the same friend - I was cashing in a half birthday coupon and I can honestly say without doubt that it was the best half birthday present I've ever received!