Sunday, September 27, 2015

Our weekend in wild, wonderful WV!

With permission from our midwife and our emergency birth kit and my medical records in hand, we headed to the hills Thursday afternoon for one last little family vacation away before we hunker down and eagerly await Spark's arrival!  I did chuckle this morning at the fact that should we have needed the emergency birth kit and had welcomed Spark in WV, we hadn't thought to throw in any clothes, a receiving blanket or the carseat.  So we really weren't prepared, but we are now safely at home and on Jason's list tomorrow is to clean out the car and get the carseat installed.  And we have no travel plans (farther than a family outing to the Grand Caverns on Jason's birthday Tuesday) before the birth.

Prior to packing up and heading to WV, I canned our very (for sure this time) last few tomatoes (one round of tomato paste and a few jars of green tomato curry).  By the end of the upcoming weekend, we'll have picked all our peppers and chopped up the plants to make space for us to get in there and dig sweet potatoes. We are feeling enthusiastic about the crop, as the sweet potato hills are pushing up the soil and sweet potatoes are sticking out of the ground.  It's one of our most enjoyable family harvests, which hopefully I'll get to participate in at least part of!

It felt good to Jason and me to get our pre-WV trip to do's done and to be able to leave home feeling eager for a weekend together as a family and with good friends.  I even left my computer at home and made a commitment to my family to be off email until we returned today. It was a lovely break, despite having over 100 emails in my inbox to wade through upon my arrival home.

The first leg of our trip took us back to Allegheny Mountain Institute for Jason to evaluate the flock of chickens he had given them back in the summer when we were there to give a day long chicken workshop.  He picked out 3 breeder hens from the flock for his Allegheny breed and after enjoying supper with the group there we headed to Harman, where we were until this afternoon.

This was our third annual Myers-Benner-Godshall-Showalter weekend at the Mountain House. It has quickly become one of the highlights of my year - a weekend that is full of many of our favorite things (lots of game playing, fabulous food, hikes in the mountains, watching kids enjoy their budding friendships, those of us in the middle generation getting to enjoy complete conversations while grandparents entertain the grandchildren, and this year some wild cranberry picking).

We got there about a day before the others and on a walk Jason and I noted that one of their apple trees was loaded.  So on the spur of the moment, Kali, Jason, Alida and Dad went and picked several bushels of apples and we added some applesauce making to the fun festivities of the weekend.   I was very grateful to Spark for not only staying in utero for the weekend but dropping such that my lungs had more capacity than the last time we were in West Virginia and for that reason I was able to enjoy a few energizing mountain hikes.

As is common after such a weekend, the youngest in our family is showing signs of a weekend of over stimulation, lots of fun minus daily naps and eating differently than she normally would at home.  So she is flopped on the bed behind me spouting out all sorts of unreasonable things in a whiny sing song voice.  I think a good night's sleep will be good for all of us as we kick off another week - and Jason and I both entering a new year of life.  So bedtime stories here we come! I'll end with just a few other pictures from the last few days...

Saturday, September 19, 2015


As I sit down to write, at least four things stand out in my mind (and are also front and center in my emotions) today.

1. Today marks 37 weeks: so I've officially arrived at "full-term!"  Spark will continue to be packing on the ounces between now and when she decides to make her entrance into the outside world, which at this point could be anytime.  I'm still hoping she might give us until October and let me get in on sweet potato digging and wrap up a few more things at the office (as well as enjoy one final trip with friends to the Mountain House to visit Grandma and Grandpa Myers), but it also feels good to be at this point and know she is at a healthy stage of development whenever she is born.  She's still quite an active little gal and has dropped giving me more room up top (aiding to increased comfort in that region) and on the flip side a lot of pressure down low (contributing to the feeling of needing to pee quite often)!  This past week we had our "mock delivery" with the midwives to give Jason a crash course in what to do should they not make it in time. The girls' doll Zelda filled in for Spark and "was born" two-three times during the appointment!  I guess such an exercise should make the pending transition feel more real, but I'm not sure if there is any way to fully prepare for the changes coming.  I will also admit that I have felt surges of emotion as I think of this pregnancy coming to an end, knowing that in all likelihood these are my last days/weeks of experiencing what it is like to have a little one growing inside me.  I'm trying to savor the kicks, jabs, squirms and hiccups.  I'm getting enjoyment out of Alida using Spark as a slide (which the midwives credit for Spark having dropped so significantly into my pelvis!).  I'm enjoying the belly kisses from both girls which will soon, in all likelihood and as it should be, transfer to Spark directly.  The other night I couldn't keep tears from coming as I looked at my blossoming belly.  I think pregnant bellies are really beautiful and amazing!  I've loved having one four times over the past dozen years, each producing a unique and precious gift for our family.  I am very excited to meet this fourth daughter of ours and I recognize that I will also be grieving the end of a stage of life for us.  We'll see what other beautiful, stretching (maybe not quite as literally as pregnancy), life-changing stages await us!

2. First soccer games for both girls today:  I'm not sure what makes one a "soccer mom" but we do have two enthusiastic kids playing soccer this fall.  Kali is on the same team with the same coach as last season (though a good number of new players and some that have moved on).  Alida transitioned from mini-kickers to a real team for kids 5 and under.  It will be a family effort this fall with two practices each week (thankfully on the same day at the same time) and two games each Saturday (unfortunately at very different times requiring two trips to and fro).  All I can report thus far is that day 1 went well and provided some good belly laughs at the second of the two games.  Kali continues to improve each season and I was really impressed with how well her team played together for having one practice pre-game (and all their games are first thing at 8 a.m.).  I really like how comfortable she seems with her team/coach and how much she is enjoying this physical activity.  I'm also grateful that she is no longer resistant, but actually enthusiastic, to Alida's budding interest in the same sport.  She's really sweet giving Alida pointers and seems to get about as much of a kick out of watching her play as we do (in the picture here she is giving Alida a little half time pep talk!).  While Alida seems to have some natural talent for the sport, adding a coach and teammates and goals and spectators seemed to befuddle her just a bit.  And she is not alone in this.  The U5 teams play on small fields with no goalies and two small goals and however many players the team has on a given Saturday.  So they started 3 on 3 and moved to 4 on 4 when another player for the other team showed up.  I'm not sure the number of kids really matters as at any given time one or more of them are running off the field to a parent, or flopping into the grass or kicking the ball the wrong direction or wanting aimlessly around the field or the sidelines.  At one point the herd of little people were all bunched up on the field and were falling like bowling pins as they were all going after the ball.  It was really quite amusing to watch!  Alida improved dramatically even in the 40 or so minutes of play and she seemed to have a really fun time. She said she didn't even really mind her head on collision with her teammate (he seemed to get the worse end of that deal, at least if recovery time says anything for who got hurt worse).  It didn't take Alida long to fall asleep when we arrived home - thankfully I only had to make it through about half of Dr. Seuss's The Sleep Book as I was also quite drowsy myself.

3. Tomatoes coming to an end:  Between Kali and Alida's soccer games today, I did our every other day harvesting.  It feels good to see that winding down and we are helping with some of the winding down.  The number of marianna, hungarian paste and drying tomatoes has been tapering off steadily.  Of course I can't stand to not pick them as long as they are producing, but we also need to call an end to tomato harvesting/processing so we can move on to other things.  So as of today, I chopped up the last of those varieties and all that is left are the slicers on the treliss which come in amounts we can consume.  We have a good supply on the canning shelves of salsa, sauce, diced tomatoes and one precious round of ketchup.  I have enough on trays for one final something or other this week (probably paste), and enough green tomatoes to make a batch of fermented green tomato pickles.  But I feel space opening up, as we are bringing in a bucket or so of produce every other day, rather than several bushels!  The peanuts are dug and drying in the garage, the potatoes are bagged up under the stairwell, and the squash is coming in in stages as it matures.  The big things yet to harvest are the remainder of the peppers and digging sweet potatoes, followed by focusing on getting in cover crops before frost.  The list appeared rather daunting when Jason and I got it all on paper the other week, but I'm feeling less urgency to it as we slowly chip away at the tasks and also recognize that some will happen before Spark and some after and that's ok. I think we both kind of wanted to have a "clean slate" when she was born but that is not a realistic hope or expectation and isn't even really necessary.  We love being outside on fall days and that won't change with a baby in the house.  I may not be as helpful, but I do envision doing some raking this fall with a baby on my front!  

4.  It's moving day: Last but definitely not least, it's a big day on the home front!  Over three years ago Jonathan and Rachelle moved into the in-law quarters for a then undefined period of time.  Right now the "cleaning team" (most of Tangly Woods folks minus Alida who is napping and me who is in charge of feeding everyone at dinner and who is hanging with Alida until she wakens) are busy at work upstairs readying the place for Mom and Dad.  Should anyone at this point feel inclined to ask, "So when are your parents moving in?" do not bother!  My answer will be the same as it has the last 5 or so years! While the feelings are mixed on a day such as this, overall I'm grateful that the time has arrived for Mom and Dad to assume occupancy (whenever they wish to be here) of the home they designed and had built for themselves. They have been incredibly generous to allow several other families to benefit from the space, while they have enjoyed the first years of their retirement in West Virginia.  I hope that they will soon be able to benefit from the space that many others have found to be beautiful and comfortable.  This is another one of those changes and transitions that includes some grieving, as well as looking forward to what is ahead.  I'm grateful for the lessons learned through our various community-living endeavors and hopefully the practice we have had will make us better neighbors and housemates to Mom and Dad in the future.  It also feels good to have the transition be a bit less abrupt since Tangly Woods meals will still continue, just with Jonathan and Rachelle joining us from their new home in Harrisonburg.  

Speaking of Tangly Woods meals, I better get a move on so there is a meal ready for the hungry cleaners!  I'll wait to post this in hopes that maybe I'll actually remember to take a picture of all us at our meal tonight!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Catching up is pointless!

This feels like a rather common occurrence: I come to the blog to see when I last wrote and it dawns on me how much has happened since my last posting.  This time is no different except that this time around it feels like it has been fuller than usual.  It has a whole lot to do with the fact that as of yesterday I'm at 36 weeks and the countdown until Spark makes her grand debut is coming fast!  It seems both Jason and I have a case of nesting, though (as much as I'd like it to include the indoors of our home), the focus is on harvesting some of our final big crops (peanuts, sweet potatoes, squashes, corn) and tucking in beds for the winter with various cover crops.  We are eager to be able to devote the vast majority of our emotional and physical energy to the nurture and care of this little gal and to our family's adjustment (but it will come soon enough and I'm reminding her that she doesn't need to be in too much of a hurry!).

Jason is working on the garden plan as we speak and will need me for the "plan becomes reality" conversation here soon.  So in light of that, this will be a post of many pictures and few words...
This is my view for much of the day when I'm at home working on various food processing projects.  Yes, I'm very careful to keep my protrusion out of the path of sharp knives!
Friend and former CJP student joined us for a 24 hour potato digging and salsa making blitz!
A break in the harvesting and food processing for watermelon. Alida was spitting a seed on Spark!
Our family picture for September highlighted each of us holding a fruit grown on our property - Alida has our first pineapple, Jason cantaloupe, Kali watermelon, I'm holding a peach and Spark was trying to hold a bunch of grapes but this picture caught her dropping them!
Here's Alida harvesting our first pineapple - the top was planted from a Blessingway that women friends held for me when I was pregnant with her.
It's pretty cute, but not as cute as the gal holding it!!
Yes, four pictures with the pineapple!  It was a very ceremonial cutting and partaking - one quarter for each of us. It was amazingly scrumptious!!!
Fall harvests!  There's more where those came from...
Jonathan and Jason started working on a roof structure to store various kinds of carbonaceous materials.  It's a work in progress to date... 
We hosted a chicken and duck butchering day, inviting some of the fellows from Allegheny Mountain Institute to join. Lots of learning took place, good food and conversation, and our freezers are now officially full.  Hopefully we don't land upon any road kill deer in the near future!
During Kali's week in WV this summer she started on three hats - one for her, one for Alida and one for Spark. Here are all three girls wearing their hats!
Their littlest sister is joining a crazy bunch!  These kiddos crack us up many times a day with their antics...
Many counter spaces (or in this case the guest room chest top) look something like this at this time of year.  Just about as soon as I catch up on one load, another comes in (we are needing to do a major harvest on the gardens about every other day). 
Our first ever red raspberry peach jam from our bushes/trees.  Yum!
The very last watermelon and cucumbers.  Until next summer!
One of my pre-baby wishes was to locate no-spray apples to make sauce from.  It didn't seem like the year to be without applesauce with Spark coming along.  We didn't expect to land 9 bushels to do up.  Yes, we did in fact say we would take pick all of them to process on shares.  And,  yes, we did them all in 1.5 days.  Go Myers-Benner team!
It's one of the things Jason and I love most to do together. So often he is on other tasks and I'm food processing but I wasn't taking this feat on without him!
The girls both enjoyed cranking.  Otherwise, Alida was mostly a good source of an occasional distraction or humorous entertainment.  But without Kali chopping we would have been doing it most of today too!
The first day Jason and the girls did slip out to get the spinach in the ground.  
And when I slipped out to photograph them I couldn't help but also get some of the veggie amaranth.  So beautiful, even if we have had too many other veggies to eat any of it...
Spark will appreciate this come next summer.  Not sure how she felt about me being on my feet for 18 plus hours...
The best helper ever!  She loves being part of all aspects of our home and homestead. She asks me at least a dozen times a day, "is there anything I can do to help?"  
Trombone squash that got away from us stuffed with chicken sausage, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, herbs and cheese on top.  Way beyond edible!  This was dinner on the second day when I had come to the conclusion (after the first day) that I should not live on apples alone if I don't want a very rumbly tummy!
We are into chestnuts.  Either Jason or I are scoring and boiling chestnuts daily for the girls currently.  They love to go out and collect them each day and bring in their finds.
Here they are peeling chestnuts, but of more interest to me was the apple rhubarb crisp and apple red raspberry crisp in the background.  Yes, we may soon be "appled out" at the rate we are consuming apples and apple products currently!
Did I mention the girls amusing us?  We still do nightly "tick checks" even though we haven't found one in months.  The girls are finding ways to make it a more fun ritual so they normally have some combo of Jason or my clothing on when I come find them in the closet.  Don't be disturbed - only clean underwear goes on their heads!
Alida couldn't quite last as long as we needed to stay up last night to finish off the applesauce!
Here was the sight before I went to bed about 1:30 a.m.  And we had already removed about 60 quarts from the porch and I canned the apple butter inside.  Yep, LOTS of applesauce!
And to not go through food processing withdrawal today I'm trying a new thing - homemade ketchup!  It smells great but is taking a long time to get thick.  We'll see what the morning brings but Jason and Kali used it already in its runnier form on roasted potatoes and Jason is a big fan!
Today was just too gorgeous of a day to not go for a walk.  And another pre-baby wish of mine was for one more family hike to the lake.  We did it!  And it was lovely!

Alida loves sitting on Spark.  And she can now do it without any hands!!  She can only do it for a few more weeks so she might as well enjoy it while it lasts!