Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy birthday, Alida!

We now have a four year old in our home!  The week of Alida's birthday didn't afford much extra space for reflecting as Alida spent the Tuesday before her birthday ill, the Wednesday before her birthday perfectly normal, the Thursday of her actual birthday ill again, and the Friday following her birthday (thankfully the day of the planned birthday celebration) well again.  A very odd virus, and one we are glad to see has excited (and only inflicted one out of four of us).  She weathered it pretty well considering - I think Kali and I were having a harder time with the injustice of it (particularly since she was also sick on her third birthday).  But the fun had already been planned out to span a number of days, so she still got to enjoy special times with family and friends, making birthday cupcakes with Grandma, playing a new game and putting together several new puzzles, holding the new chicks that hatched on her birthday, and was well enough to enjoy a little trip to the Mountain House with Grandma, Grandpa and me.  She wondered when we would get to do a trip just like that one again - seems unlikely such an opportunity will come around real often (as it was the first time ever).  It just so happened that Jason and Kali were headed to a two-day soil workshop on Saturday and Sunday, so Alida and I were free to go on our own little excursion.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here we are enjoying the last sour cherry pie filling that Mom and I canned on the day of Alida's birth!
Alida enjoyed being sung to at her birthday party - she even started off the song for us:

Here are some of the cute fuzzballs that shared Alida's birthday with her. The mama was not impressed with my camera:

The weekend before Alida's birthday we enjoyed a lovely day outside planting more seeds, enjoying a picnic lunch with friends, and doing our quarterly Adopt-a-Highway run along our road.  We had even gotten to a point in the weekend's garden work that Jason felt free to join us.  It was really fun to enjoy a leisurely walk with friends - we did pick up trash and recycling but also enjoyed lots of good conversation along the way.  It helped alleviate my annoyance at those who somehow can consistently fling things out their car windows and live with themselves - what I'd really like to feel more  of is sympathy and grace because it seems to me that it is quite possible those that do not appreciate the beauty around them may not be experiencing as much beauty in their lives as I would wish for every person around.

Speaking of beauty, our spinach patch is one of the loveliest things around right now!  We are so thrilled with how the spinach, planted in the fall, wintered over without any covering and is now set to provide us with luxurious spinach salads for weeks to come!  I love seeing our girls crunching away at freshly picked greens. It is coming at a great time, as I'm down to one or two containers of frozen spinach.  It's time to restock!  And we aren't the only ones enjoying spinach - we've been picking the white and yellowed leaves for the ducks and they are quite impressed with that treat.

The ducks and chickens are loving all the green things sprouting. Kali's ducks have started laying again, after they took a longer break than any of us thought necessary!  And we are all still very much enjoying "duckie" and his familiarity with all of us - though his dabbling has gotten a bit more intense as his bill has gotten larger and stronger.  He is very cute how he likes to follow Kali out when she is doing chores.  However, if he gets too far from the pen, he turns around and heads back to be with the others.  And he knows right where the door is now.  See for yourself:

Now this week we are enjoying having my folks around for a number of days.  It has been lovely for a whole host of reasons!  It has freed up Jason to keep progressing on the bathroom project on the days I'm at work, and we can now (really truly) see the end of the tiling coming into view.  By the end of tomorrow, he should be ready to let it cure and move to planting onions before returning to grout the shower and bathroom floor.  And then on to the remainder of the project.  As I type he is working to finish out the mural - the finishing touch being a V of geese flying across the sky.  Mom noted that this shower might cause some wasting of water as people will be inclined to look at all the features of the shower longer than would be necessary to get clean...

The girls have also enjoyed having grandparents around.  Alida has particularly enjoyed daily teasing with Grandpa about her love of black olives and his dislike (which I believe is a bit exaggerated for the reaction is gets from her).  They also enjoyed a trip to town with Grandpa which included a stop for ice cream and a visit to the library.  They've gotten in on some fun projects with Grandma, including making laundry detergent and paper Easter baskets.  Alida definitely enjoys have two additional book readers around!

For myself, I just feel completely pampered.  It is so lovely to come home from work and have dinner ready to go.  This morning I even took a few moments, while I was taking our monthly pictures around the property, to sit in the woods.  I watched the chickens making their rounds.  I had always wondered if they ever come down into the little pond.  As I sat there quietly, taking in my surroundings, a whole group of them wandered down the bank and started drinking.  It was a very peaceful and special moment for me.  I want to find ways to carve out those little pockets of time in my days more often.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Welcome spring...

...we've been eager for you!!  Here's how we spent some of this first full day of spring:
Welcome little one!  The girls both got to see the first chick hatch.  There are a few more pips but this is the only one to hatch so far today (except another batch should be hatching under a hen in the composting chicken coop).
Chick hatching is exciting every time - never seems to lose its thrill.  The peeping kept the girls running back and forth from their play to cheering the chick on.  They were patient enough that they both got to enjoy the big moment!
It's planting time!!  Let's hope we are done with super hard freezes or long cold stints because we could not contain our eagerness any longer.  All the peas are in the ground - let's hear for sugar snap, snow and hull peas (I guess we should no longer exercise any restraint and eat the remaining ones in our freezer...)
Kali is amazing; she is picking up gardening at an alarmingly fast pace and seems to be enjoying the work and sunshine and new skills thoroughly (her dad is not all that sad about it either!).  
It never ceases to amuse me how quickly the free-ranging chickens flock to where Jason is if he is in a garden with a tool in hand.  They snatch up the worms as fast as he unearths them.
It was such a lovely, lovely day today but this picture is actually an attempt to show what Jason and Jonathan worked on some yesterday.  I'm actually happy they aren't super obvious...  We are adding electric fencing to a large area and all the posts are in and ready for the electric tape.  This will hopefully increase our squash and corn yields and enable us to plant more things outside the main garden fence this year.
The soil in our garden is continuing to get richer every year.  It amazes us to see the soil healing and becoming dark and rich and easy to work.  These first four beds have peas, the second rotation of four beds has spinach (and we'll fill in with lettuce tomorrow) and the last four beds has lots of weeds and some lettuce that made it through - we'll be filling in with spinach and we got one whole row filled with beets this evening).
And who would want to eat inside on a day like today. We enjoyed our first (of hopefully many) supper at the picnic table!  A lovely first day of spring - and I'm not even mentioning that I didn't have to get up to an alarm this morning and I got to enjoy a long midday walk with my sister-in-law, who also happens to be one of my favorite people.  A good day!  Now to fold the laundry...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day

The windows are open, the roosters are crowing, the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming!  The excitement around here has been building for St. Patrick's Day.  Kali wanted to make a green meal so we had our menu crafted, only to receive a few more recent tweaks, for weeks now.  For a family night this week, in addition to doing some fun brainstorming together about how we might make money and all stay home, we made shamrocks and decorated our big picture window.  We got some books about St. Patrick's Day out of the library, educating ourselves a bit more about the background of this day (other than the fun of wearing and eating green).

We did enjoy a very green lunch.  If we hadn't had dinner plans with friends already, we could have easily spread our menu out over two green meals...  Here's the run down: chicken tenders sauteed in garlic with parsley or basil pesto; roasted rosemary and garlic potatoes (also good with pesto on them), the last steamed broccoli from the freezer, our first spring spinach salad, and buckwheat banana zucchini bread with either rhubarb or strawberry jam.  No one went hungry!!

We are all enjoying a good dose of daily sunshine and fresh air.  This morning we found ourselves all out in the same region of the property for awhile: Kali doing her duck chores; Alida and I chopping down amaranth stalks to make way for peanuts, and Jason using the wheel hoe to prepare for onions and potatoes.  I also meandered about a bit and found some new flowers blooming.  Here's some of the sites we are soaking in these days: 
Our goldfish is no longer in a barrel of frozen water. That fish just gets bigger every year!
The first tiny purple iris along our front walk.
We always think of Nora when we see the first cluster of "three yellow flowers."  This year they popped up around the same spot but there are actually two clusters - this is one of the two! 
The first miniature daffodil blooming in Nora's garden.  We got these from two different places but we think these are ones we got at my Grandma Myers' funeral.
Duckie still enjoys "dabbling" at Kali and coming out of the pen with her but he gets nervous if he is too far away from his other duck companions.  She got her first duck egg of the year yesterday - which she ate for breakfast this morning.
The chickens never want to be far from us when we are gardening.  They know that we unearth bugs that they happily consume and turn into high omega-3 eggs for us.  Thanks chickens!
Alida helping me cut down the amaranth stalks (until she nicked her thumb with her pruners).  Then the drama commenced until Kali graciously went in with her to get a band-aid - you would think those things were magic!
A few more beautiful flowers blooming in Nora's garden!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Is spring just around the corner?

It seems that the world around us is undergoing a wonderful transformation!  It felt so glorious to head outside this morning with a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork to put leaves on the last leg of the new garden area that the ducks were finally able to be moved off of (once their pen was no longer frozen to the ground).  Kali was outside climbing a tree, Jason (taking a break from the bathroom project to get some fresh air and sunshine) was working on the winter outside list that hasn't gotten much attention of late, and Alida was my side kick either pretending to be a mother hen laying eggs or my father (it's hard to keep up with her imagination these days).  We hadn't let the chickens out to range since Jason wanted to see if one hen was just laying an egg or going broody again, and so they were "talking" to me as I loaded up leaves (as if they knew I was out there and had the power to let them out and they could not understand why on such a glorious day they weren't out and about already).  It's so satisfying to let the ramp down and watch them file out and go running off to make their rounds.  What a satisfying morning!

The snow is almost completely gone, and I (who didn't seem to get my mother's unquenchable love of snow) am ready for that to be the end of it until next winter.  I love seeing the green popping up from the ground, and the splash of color from the first crocuses of the year.  The bees haven't wasted any time and are buzzing around the flowers eager to make their contribution to spring's yearly transformation.  Yesterday Jason and the girls went for a long nature walk (at this point Alida's strongly prefers "naTURE" walks over "naPPY" walks).  When they returned and we were getting laundry in, supper on the table and wrapping up a few other tasks, Jason found a turtle that clearly had just emerged from hibernation.  The girls and I had found one at pretty much that exact same spot last year.  It seems it is time to wake up and soak in some sunshine.  We certainly feel ready for it.

The girls munched on some leaves of spinach and we are happy to note that pretty much all our spinach plants (uncovered for the entire winter) have made it through as well as many of our covered lettuce plants and even a few vigorous uncovered plants.  It's hard to not want to throw caution to the wind and start planting stuff!  But experience has told us that is not wise - we are not interested in losing our onions again.  However, Jason and I did spend a rare hour or so this morning before either girl woke to plan out our garden plantings for the spring, which was exciting and my mouth is now watering for fresh peas (though we amazingly are still enjoying frozen peas, which is a first for us at this time of year and something we hope to repeat in future years!).

One of the current fun weekly traditions is that Kali's interest in cooking has not waned and she is now on the schedule to cook weekly.  She clearly looks forward to her cooking days with much interest and is getting a knack for planning and executing her plans.  Last night we enjoyed chicken breasts sauteed in garlic, steamed garden peas, and creamy parsley pesto noodles.  There were no leftovers.  The most amazing part of the whole meal for me was that Kali spent an hour or two after dinner doing all the dishes (other than the sharp knives).  It took her at least 4 times as long as it takes me but the dishes got clean and she had a fun time doing it.  She was in her own little world and admitted at the end that she did some playing while doing the dishes.  Whatever works!  I got to play multiple rounds of Mastermind with Alida, her current game obsession, and read some stories.  A tradition I hope continues far in to the future!

Time to get lunch on the table.  Here's two pictures of recent bathroom progress.  It's coming along!  The shower project has continued to evolve in exciting ways - it will now include a Fibonacci sequence, the creation myth and a sunflower mural.

Re-installed wood sunflower that used to be behind the bathroom door...
See a portion of the Fibonacci sequence and/or the creation myth?