Monday, September 26, 2016

Our yearly getaway to wild, wonderful WV

So I'd really like to update the blog before Jason enters a new decade of his life.  And looking at my week that window of opportunity is now. But it's a common evening here at 9:19 p.m. We are sitting at the table and Terah is eating nubbins of popcorn that we feed her (as fast as we can get them ready), a Gang of Four game is happening that I was playing a moment ago and just let Jason take over my losing hand, Alida is getting tired and so is finding things to complain about even though she is creaming us all in the game...So this will be, as has been the pattern of late, probably disjointed and rapidly completed to move toward the bedtime routine.

This year was our fourth year going to WV for a weekend with three generations of friends - 6 children, 4 of us parenting those 6 children and then 4 grandparents. What a lovely adult to child ratio, especially since all the adults are quite fond of all the children and the grandparents and grandchildren are particularly happy to be in each other's company! That gifted those of us in the middle generation two lovely mountain hikes where the only thing keeping us from finishing our sentences was that we had so many things we could talk about (making up for lost time) that we followed a number of rabbit trails.

A highlight of the weekend for us was book-ending our weekend away with time at Seneca Rocks. Our family headed over a day early and played/swam in the river. The girls tried out the rope swing for the first time and were hooked! The river was low due to lack of recent rains and the water was crystal clear! After swimming and splashing, we hiked to the top all together and then met my folks for an evening picnic. On our return home, all of us picnicked there and wanted to show our friends the swimming hole. Well it wasn't long before the majority were wet and our girls had donned swimsuits again.

In the days at my parents' place, lots of games were played, songs sung, birthdays celebrated, books read, cranberries picked, swingset and slide exercised, delicious food enjoyed, and children doted upon. The time was fun (with some relaxation in the mix). Still being Terah's mommy at night meant my nights were no more restful than they have been so I didn't exactly return home feeling caught up on sleep. And there are times that I definitely wonder if the stress of preparing for a trip and the stress of unpacking and settling back in is worth the time away. This time the time away was so good that the answer feels like a definitive yes!

Here's some glimpses into our time away!
I love pictures of caring adults holding hands with children - especially two of my favorite people!

I threw a ball in the water and the breeze took it away fast, right into this fallen tree. Jason was our hero, and enjoyed it.

She loves the water, and I'm loving watching her enjoy water (especially as she gets to be a stronger swimmer).

On our hike - Alida wasn't too tired yet but working on it! She made it with two piggyback stints...

At the top - we made it!

Terah was scared of our swings the last time we tried - something had changed and she loved the swing and even more the slide. If she would see the swingset from inside the house she would cry to go out. No doubting what she wanted!

Terah is always up for an adventure. She was so excited with her two buckets in hand...

She was quite the little cranberry picker!
Could this be much cuter?!

One final meal together before heading home. All the food was great, but eating outside for multiple meals was such a treat!

A final dip in the river...
And one final one of two more of my favorite people!
Ok, must end this, but first two quick videos. The first was one of the things I found on the camera when I downloaded photos this evening. Some parents might find things there that mysteriously showed up when their children got a hold of the camera. In this case, it was my hubby who was the culprit. Would you have known what it was if you hadn't read the video title?

And, so I don't get in trouble for putting a video of a squash and none of Terah, here she is working on her kissing skills. It's pretty cute, though here she was a bit inhibited by her desire to also brush her teeth and/or eat toothpaste.

Okay, I'm literally typing a word and having to move my computer to the other side of me as our little Terah-monster comes towards it swiping at the keys. And then she walks around and goes for it again. So much for thoughtful reflecting...

Friday, September 23, 2016

September family book report by Jason - and it's not even October yet!

August’s book report was a tad overdue, as the attentive reader may have noticed.  Given my New Year’s Resolution to read a book a month, and my subsequent roping in of my family by opening the selections to their input, combined with my wife’s obsessive compulsive (not actually clinically true) personality, I find my own self compelled, by outward as much as inward pressures, to engage a tried and true practice for catching up:  CHEATING!

In this case the cheating is constituted by the using of a book that was started over a year ago, and has been read by myself and Kali together rather than just me.  The book is titled What if?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe.  The blurbs and endorsements on the book are a direct and explicit attempt to market to self-described nerds.  Kali is too young to be categorized but is interested in fringe intellectual topics, whereas I must own my identity, and there it is.  Part of it, anyway.

The book is actually a compilation of web comics by the artist/author who publishes the online comic xkcd.  As such, it is not just wantonly fascinating, but also quite funny.  Excellent fodder for people who like to think and laugh as much as Kali and I, and that is why Janelle got it for us for Christmas one year.  Every now and then we would pick it up and read a strip.  But recently Terah has needed more privacy to be able to fall asleep, and our family James Herriot addiction had sadly run out of new stories to exploit, so it made sense to use it as bedtime reading in the girls’ room.  Alida didn’t understand it all, but enjoyed it anyway, which was perfect because it allowed her to drop off to sleep easily, after which time Kali and I would try to muffle our giggles a little and try to keep from reading ‘til midnight.

To get a sense of the kinds of things discussed, imagine trying to understand what would happen if a baseball were hurled at 90% the speed of light (it’d be a pretty big problem…details in the book) or if a wall were built in the shape of the periodic table of the elements, constructed from one-cubic-foot solid blocks of each of those elements in their places.  Such a wall would have to be built from the top down, since the bottom row contains several blocks that would each obliterate everything in their surroundings immediately upon their creation.  So, yes, some of it gets pretty gory, but there are also pleasanter considerations, such as whether you could drop a piece of meat from high enough to cook it with the frictional heat arising from high-speed passage through the atmosphere.  Turns out you run a fine line between charring it to bits and cooling it more than you heat it.  The best compromise would be a crispy-charred surface with a dead raw middle.  Highly unsatisfying as an entrée (I don’t foresee a restaurant where your steak plops onto your plate from outer space automatically cooked any time soon), but quite satisfying to follow along with the author as he considers the question.
The questions come from the public, who can submit them on his website, and he peppers the book with little breaks to consider some of the oddest, most eyebrow-raising ones he has received, which he calls “Weird and Worrying questions from the What-if inbox.”  Many a chuckle for the Myers-Benner nerd contingent was thereby procured.

No quotes this time, just a recommendation:  If a person is nerdy and frivolously curious, they would be well-served to pick up a copy of What if?

P.S.  Please note that I am not now behind, but rather ahead of my resolution’s stated parameters.  My dear wife is so pleased!

"August" family book report by Jason

Several years back, the resident friendly curmudgeon of our church made a book recommendation during sharing time.  I respect this fellow’s mind and sense his hesitancy to go out on a limb in public, so I heard the recommendation with interest.  However, I was never able to follow up on it before this August, when I selected Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals as my book to read for the month. Well, August being what it is at our homestead, I didn’t get it finished in August.  Also, it is hard to make much progress in a book when you feel the need to go back and underline twenty percent of it (ok, I exaggerate, but not much!).  The upper corner of the book is now substantially thicker than the rest from all the dog-earing I did to alert me to indispensable quotes for this report.

Indispensable though they may seem, I will now summarily dispense with nearly all of them, since re-writing much of the book will not be much help in distilling its essence for you, dear reader.  Also, I haven’t the time.  If you desire that experience, feel free to borrow my copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and skip the non-underlined portions.

I don’t know what I expected out of the book, but I think I just assumed he we would propose four different actual or hypothetical but believable meals and help us follow the supply chains to their source, thereby understanding more of the implications of our eating patterns.  That sounds eminently helpful, if a little dry for most readers.  I never expected it to be so lively.

Mr. Pollan doesn’t employ the desiccated style of many journalists.  His ambition seemed to be not only to document or summarize or even just to explain or interpret, he seemed to believe that his job here was to understand, and to help us understand, too.  He is not the reporter on the edge of the pool, he dives right in with the swimmers.

As such, he chose the strategy of direct involvement with each step or element of his journalism rather than relying exclusively on observation, archival research, or interviews, though he employed all of these techniques. For example, he didn’t just visit a beef brood herd, then a feedlot, etc.  He instead purchased a young steer being prepared for shipment, then a few months later went back and located his steer where it was spending its days in a pen with many of its fellows scarfing corn and wading around in their manure.  He didn’t just spend a day following Joel Salatin around on his farm with a notebook or recorder, he went and stayed there for a week, working on the farm, and then prepared a meal for some friends with some of Polyface Farm’s products.  He and his family, for the “processed food” example, scarfed a McDonald’s meal in the car.  It was no good sitting down and reading Animal Liberation, he thought he should start the book while sitting down to an exquisite steak at a nice restaurant.  And when it came time for the ultimate connected eater experience, he killed the wild pig himself, foraged the mushrooms, kneaded his own wild yeast bread, etc.  He even tried to make the salt himself…I won’t ruin that story for you, but I can tell you it is a tad sobering, if a bit comic, too.  I deeply appreciate this style of journalism.  People can get technical information the standard way, but the journalist who enters into their subject so fully ends up, it would seem, with so much more to say, and has an ability to connect it so much more clearly and with so much more presence to the reader than the conventional exposé.

Not that it wasn’t also an exposé.  He showed his investigative journalist chops off very well, exploding many popular myths along the way, and uncovering surprising connections.  But it was as much a matter of crafting his personal philosophy as an eater and cook as it was a matter of facts and fictions, but as a book of philosophy I must say it was of the most practical sort.  Yes, the issues are profound and overarching, but they are also intimate, every day issues.  Nothing could be more immediate and personal than food:  it is what I am putting into and through my very body now.
The title comes from a concept developed by a researcher who was working with rats, which are as omnivorous as humans (this is why they like our garbage piles and kitchens so much).  He was curious about how rats chose what to eat and not eat.  He developed the opinion that this was one of the rat’s chief challenges in life.  When you can eat almost anything, you then face the question that the Monarch butterfly caterpillar and the koala never face: what is the right thing to eat?  As Americans, Pollan argues, we are and have been for some time in the throes and the grip of trying to answer this question for ourselves; for our health and the health of the environment.  Food fads, food movements, and what he calls our “national eating disorder” owe much of their energy to a dilemma that is basic to our omnivorous nature.

As we try to resolve this ancient question and in so doing vacillate from one food fad to the next, food corporations see opportunity; each wave of change opens the door to getting us hooked on yet another processed or mediated food product.  They face their own dilemma, it would seem, in trying to craft a growth industry from food, the yearly increase in consumption of which is too thin a gruel to impress investors.

What makes us in the U.S. especially vulnerable to this dynamic, Pollan says, is that we lack a key cultural notion that humans all over the world have always used to buffer against this natural insecurity:  a cuisine.  We have never yet settled into a series of accepted foodways that we can rely on to relieve the burden of decision making that accompanies the omnivore’s dilemma.  What is right to eat?, the world asks, and the human usually answers:  What I grew up eating, of course!  What my religion tells me to eat, what my taste buds are tuned to enjoy, what is safe and available and familiar.  But here in the home of the brave we are emboldened by no such security.  We are an amalgam, for better or worse, of so many foodways from so many places, and that amalgamation has happened within the part of history that has been strongly influenced by capitalist economics.  It has long been recognized by food corporations that getting people to change their habits constitutes an opportunity; they have been deeply involved in official recommendations, legal schemes, and honest and dishonest research results for as long as such things have been done.  Nowhere in the world are the effects on our psyches and bodies so evident as here.

In the end, not too many solutions are proposed.  He sets up the dilemma nicely and details a few of the efforts to defend or continue or establish some alternatives.  I admire his honesty, though, in not holding out fictitious carrots to tempt us forward:  If we would only change this law, or buy from this place, or boycott this product hard and long enough, we could turn this thing around.  If there is to be a solution to this, it will be as varied and diverse as the landscapes and peoples that make up the places of this fine land.  The people of each place must respond in their own way, with the resources they have at hand.  And it won’t happen instantly.  Efforts to explore alternatives may seem symbolic, frivolous, or inadequate, but my view is that those are terrible reasons not to try them out, to exercise those long-atrophied cultural muscles.  I’ll end with one long quote from the end of the book, when Michael Pollan is reflecting on the meal he made from foraged foods:

“Was the perfect meal the one you made all by yourself?  Not necessarily; certainly this one wasn’t that.  Though I had spent the day in the kitchen (a good part of the week as well), and I had made most everything from scratch and paid scarcely a dime for all the ingredients, it had taken many hands to bring this meal to the table.  The fact that just about all of those hands were at the table was the more rare and important thing, as was the fact that every single story about the food on that table could be told in the first person…Perhaps the perfect meal is one that’s been fully paid for, that leaves no debt outstanding.  This is almost impossible ever to do, which is why I said there was nothing very realistic or applicable about this meal.  But as a sometimes thing, as a kind of ritual, a meal that is eaten in full consciousness of what it took to make it is worth preparing every now and again, if only to remind us of the true costs of the things we take for granted.  The reason I didn’t open a can of stock was because stock doesn’t come from a can; it comes from the bones of animals.  And the yeast that leavens our bread comes not from a pack but from the air we breathe.  The meal was more ritual than realistic because it dwelled on such things, reminding us how very much nature offers to the omnivore, the forests as much as the fields, the oceans as much as the meadows.  If I had to give this dinner a name, it would have to be the Omnivore’s Thanksgiving.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Applesauce and our little walker!

First and most notably, Terah is perfecting her walking skills! She is working on speed walking, pivots and quietly slipping away to some spot to conduct mischief before we can miss her. One of her favorite things is walking into the arms of someone who loves her!

A food processing season would not feel right without an applesauce making day. We weren't sure if it was going to happen this year - in part because of the huge supply we made last year and the fact that my mom had graciously made some to share with us as well. But when I visited our neighbor last week and on our walk we saw their liberty apples starting to fall from the tree, I acted quickly to make sure the deer didn't get all of them. The next day the girls (all three of them!) and Jason went and picked as much as they could while I was at work, and a few days later the older girls accompanied Jason to pick up the rest of the drops. The pigs are enjoying most of those and, in thanks for us picking the apples, we were gifted a bin of apples for sauce. So our Sabbath activity this week was a family applesauce making day and it was fun!

We get our system down more and more each year, and this year had the twist of a curious, mischievous, mobile baby to contend with! Leave it to Jason to figure out the perfect answer to averting disaster. He rigged a baby gate on our front porch and we put all the "baby safe" things on the porch and the propane burner on the front walk. Terah was very intrigued by it and while she made it clear she was interested in getting to the other side, she never really got upset about being hemmed in. I think she liked that the door to the outside was open more than usual and she could go in and out freely.

Alida was our master cranker. She did a superb job at that for a good part of the morning while Kali was out taking care of her ducks. When Kali (finally) joined us, she dove into chopping and got in on a little cranking and cleanup as well. Terah really enjoyed sampling the apples. She was thrilled to find the bin on the kitchen floor and she would pick one out, take a bite, and drop it on the floor (for those familiar with the Ramona stories, we deemed it a "Ramona moment" for Terah). She also was into taste testing the applesauce and did remarkably well carting around with me. She took a super short morning nap but it worked out well so that she got in on more of the fun action and then was ready for a good nap once we were wrapping up.

The day before had been the girls first day of soccer and we celebrated by redeeming one of Kali's bday coupons. We did a few town errands, including a stop for library books, and most importantly went to the Farmer's Market for Kali to spend her $13 on eggplant and other things of her choosing. We also got some additional items and had a picnic before heading home. The eggplant was destined to be breaded and fried so on top of making applesauce all day, we made fried eggplant for our lunch.  It's always worth it, but it does feel like a production. We are thrilled to finally have a homemade crumb recipe we are very fond of (blend together: rolled oats, flax, nutritional yeast, salt and oregano). They are scrumptious fried in coconut oil.

While it was a full day, Jason still took time for his after lunch stretch. This is now a tradition not to be tampered with. When he is done eating, he stretches out on the living room floor. This is Terah's signal to start begging to get down from her high chair. I clean her up (at least moderately) and put her on the floor. She toddles or crawls over and attacks. If she happens to lose interest, Alida is always happy to fill in.

So I have to finish by telling a story on Jason. Last evening I was cleaning the applesauce jars, labeling them and tucking them away in the root cellar. I was admiring the full and colorful shelves, which makes me feel ready for frost and the fall and winter seasons. Jason came in with Terah to admire with me, though not a relaxed admiring since Terah is VERY interested in all the things in the root cellar (in glass jars). We went back out and continued our chicken conversation. I should have known that Jason would not be thinking about much else if the subject of our conversation was chickens. After a moment I noticed that he had followed me to the kitchen without Terah. I glanced towards the stairwell and noticed the door open. I urgently reminded him that she climbs the stairs now. He nonchalantly assured me she wasn't on the steps by saying, "no, she's in the root cellar." I bolted! What part of his brain told him that the root cellar was a better place for this little gal to be solo? Disaster had not struck but she was looked kind of pleased and surprised that she had been left in "the china shop" unsupervised. Gotta watch that back door! We shared a good laugh.

I'll end with a picture of the beautiful shelves. It was hard to get it all in. All but the top shelf is full. The bottom is leftovers from last year and the rest is this year's labor/play. There is one smaller shelf at the back of the root cellar with jams from last year - which we are grateful for as this hasn't been as good a berry year. We feel thankful, as well as rich, when we step into the room. We look forward to sharing many feasts together and with others from these shelves...

Monday, September 12, 2016

A pilgrim and his relic

To me, Massanutten is a sacred mountain.  True enough the bowl formation (I recently heard it is the weathered crater from an extinct volcano) on the other side of the ridge is now covered in ski slopes, housing developments, and even a water park, but our failure to acknowledge its importance with our habits does not diminish its status...the glow of electric lights reflected on low-hanging clouds that we can see many nights in winter may be a smudge on western humanity's reputation, but the mountain cannot be humiliated.

Even on this side of the ridge, the resort had attempted several decades ago to install a housing development, and to this end they cut in and paved a road across the slope, graded a series of streets and cul-de-sacs, and one homestead was built before the project was halted.  Nobody has heard any rumblings of a resurgence of that notion, though they keep the trees cleared from the grades, for the most part.  The western slope (the part we can see from our house) is currently used by hunters, mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers (like us), and countless forest plants and animals.

I think of the spiritual resource of Manssanutten Mountain many of my days, as I watch the clouds form and dissipate over its peak, as I watch the bulk of its ridge darkening in the twilight, as I feel its presence always while I go about my tending.  I know many Valley residents feel similarly; it is a primary symbol of what living here means to us.

So it is always a special time when we take an opportunity to go there.  From our doorway it is about a mile of hiking before we can enter a zone of the slope that always calls me out of the immediate and into the depth of time in this place.  It is not virgin forest, but in the places where it was too steep for even the Shenandoah Valley's daring (and perhaps ignorant) wheat farmers to plow, suddenly the vegetation changes and diversifies.  Plants survived here that were wiped out in the lower reaches and have not yet managed to return.  It is such a stark reminder to me of the radical ways human intervention has changed the composition of the land.  For the most part we eliminated these soil/plant communities so thoroughly and for so long that their absence is what we consider normal.

Mostly we valley dwellers seem to think (if our actions are more to be believed than our words) that we have no need for these banished species.  But once in a while we have occasion to realize some piece of what we have given up.  Our recent decision to start a planting of blueberries precipitated one such realization. We are trying to hold ourselves to the standard of reducing or even zeroing out our dependence on purchased inputs for the sustenance of the plantings which we hope will sustain us.  As such, we chose not to use peat moss or imported pine bark chips to amend the soil in the blueberry bed, but rather to use wood and brushy debris gathered from our place, found at various stages of decomposition.  Our hope was that this would provide the high organic matter, richly endowed with micronutrients, low pH soil environment that promotes the health of blueberry bushes.  Situating plantings such that they have what they need to thrive on an ongoing basis is the key strategy to reducing dependence on inputs.  Think of the inputs as medicine for a sick ecosystem, and remember that most medicines have side effects.

In the case of blueberries, there is often only so far you can go with reducing inputs by soil components alone.  There is usually a piece missing.  Blueberries, like the rest of the members of the heath family (the Erycoids), coevolved with a category of fungus that can only survive in the wild when it is in a symbiotic, direct-contact relationship with blueberry roots.  This is not an uncommon story for plants...most of the world's plants form similar relationships with fungi.  Combined root/fungal strands in the soil are called Mycorrhizae, and the fungi in question are known as Mycorrhizal fungi.  The plants supply sugary root exudates to feed the fungi, which return the favor by acting as an extended, more versatile root network for the plant, the fungi being in possession of enzymes which enable the gathering of a wide variety of the minerals required for the plants' growth.  They also supply water to the plant in tight times. In blueberries this relationship is so integral to both species' functioning that the roots lack "root hairs", extremely fine roots that most plants grow in microscopic abundance to increase the absorptive surface area of their roots.  Blueberries have no need for such details...the fungus (known as Erycoid Mycorrhizae) has them covered.

Except when it doesn't.  When you realize that neither blueberries nor their mycorrhizal fungi can survive the plowing process (let's be fair, blueberries may never have grown at this elevation...I don't know), and decades of plowing is quite enough to wipe out even the supply of their seeds and spores in the soil, it is understandable that when new plants are brought in (often if not usually nursery plants arrive with no mycorrhizae at all) they cannot find any trace of the biological partner on which they so depend.  The attentive farmer has little choice, then, but to try to compensate by acidifying with sulfur, supplying frequent water to the vulnerable roots, applying fungicides to plants rendered weak by challenging conditions, and adding nitrogen and other fertilizers.  All three of these things are quite hard on soil fungi populations, so that even if a spore were to happen to drift in and germinate, there is a good chance it would not survive, or at least would never have a chance to be of much use.  And so the system is caught in a cycle from which escape will never happen must be planned.

In our case we decided to try to head that cycle off, to the extent that modern-bred blueberry plants will allow, before it got started.  I poked around online trying to see where I might order a drench of Erycoid Mycorrhyzal spores to innoculate the root zones of the plants, but found nothing meaningful.  Eventually I concluded that our best bet was to go up on the mountain and take some soil from around the base of some healthy wild blueberry plants, then bring it back and give it to our new planting.  I liked that better anyway.

And so our hike up the mountain yesterday was not just the fulfillment of Kali's birthday wish, it was also a pilgrimage for me, a journey into the closest place where I can feel enveloped in the eternal. Reaching my trowel into the dry but startlingly duffy soil under those blueberry plants felt like reaching back, or maybe forward, in time, collecting a little piece of this sacred mountain to take home with me.  I knew I was dealing in things that are beyond my comprehension.

Today when it was time to add the soil to the blueberry bed, I opened the little plastic bags and the smell of the forest climbed up through the air to my nose, bringing home to me the reality of what I had done.  This taking there and giving here: was it a sacrament or a sacrilege?  Still unsure of the answer, I strided down the hill to the blueberry plants with their nursery I.D. tags still flicking in the breeze.  I scooped into the soil until I found the edge of the root ball we had sunk there a week or two ago.  Making sure I had exposed some of the roots, I took up a handful of the rich duff--my pilgrim relic--and stuffed it carefully down against them.  I did this twice for each of the eight plants.  As I tucked the soil back into place over the wads of duff, I felt like I should say some kind of blessing.  Or maybe a greeting:  Welcome back.  May you prosper here.  I would like for us to be friends.  Maybe together we can make this world a little more whole.

Kali's birthday present was for all of us!

As Kali's 13th birthday approached she really couldn't think of anything she wanted/needed. What a gal! I encouraged her to think of experiences she might enjoy and so she got a nice array of coupons, great for spreading out the celebrating. One of them was going hiking on new trails on the Massanutten mountain and yesterday she cashed it in. I was glad it was one of the ones she hoped she might do with our family, as I didn't want to miss out. It was a lovely evening and we spent over 3 hours out there, getting back right at dusk. Terah enjoyed a lot of it awake and got a snooze, which aided in her enjoying the awake parts. Kali had a grand time directing us at every intersection and Alida did an amazing job following Kali's lead and making it the whole way on her own two feet. I hope more hiking is in our future this fall! 
This butterfly caught my eye on our way down the lane! 
I didn't provide the first snack - autumn olive berries along the trail.
I loved all the rotting wood and holes and wondering who lived in all of those spaces.
Lots of beautiful alive trees too!
I was so proud when Alida said, "I'm limiting myself to taking 3 things home." Before I could comment, she was deliberating on a forth beautiful leaf. By the time we were nearing home both hands were full of treasures...
Jason also brought home some treasures - soil from around wild blueberry plants to hopefully inoculate the soil around our new blueberry planting!
She graciously didn't make us follow her up and over the tree - she tried to climb about any one that looked even remotely possible.
We found two little buildings.
This one was definitely a chicken coop.
This silly gal seemed to enjoy riding upside down more than right side up when awake!
Terah was happy for a break from the pack and time to play in the leaves...
AND eat a snack!
At this point, I exclaimed again how amazing it is that we can hike to views like this from our doorstep!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

11 months on the 11th!

There would be a lot of things that could be said about this day, September 11, 2016. It's a big day for many in our country and around the world, especially with Eid falling on this day this year. I thought about how good it felt to take a three plus hour hike as a family this evening on the mountain that we look at every day. It was beautiful, fun, refreshing, energizing (and a tad exhausting by the end but in a good way), and peaceful (mostly - can't get too picky with three kiddos along for the adventure). I wish everyone could experience those things on a daily basis!

For us today was another milestone with Terah now on the downhill to being one year old in just a month from today. How is that even possible? In honor of her 11 months today, I'll share two of her favorite things right now.

She loves having Alida walk her about the house. They are just the right size for each other. She doesn't need help as she has gotten to be a little walking pro in the last week. But she still enjoys zooming around with Alida when the invitation is extended:

And peek-a-boo is also a favorite - her she is the one peeking but she likes it when we hide too:

After our internet has once again been off, and this time all day (a nice break but wasn't a planned one), I am trying to get a blog post up after 9 p.m. when kiddos are getting tired and my patience wears thin more quickly. So more on our hike (a birthday coupon for Kali) will have to wait for another time. Here are just a few other pictures from the past week:
Yes, we still photograph our food! Stinging nettle biscuits with homemade butter, stinging nettle squash egg bake, fresh salsa, garden peppers and grapes gleaned from next door. No shortage of delicious food around here!
They are still so so sweet with each other. I love how Terah reaches for Kali when she sees her!
The tomatoes are on a rapid decline currently. We'll use all the diced tomatoes, sauce, salsa and paste we have made and I'm not as eager as I am some years to see them come to an end, but ready or not it's coming. No ketchup made this year and no dried tomatoes (but we have some of those from last year yet)...
Terah is trying to figure out what her family is getting her into this time. Off we went to do our Adopt-a-Highway...
The two older girls were the main picker-uppers, and for that we were grateful!
Terah rode in the jogger for 1/2 and then on my back for 1/2. She was a trooper!
Our back counter - a little canning and a lot of seeds!
Jason and I bought ourselves an early birthday present - a badminton set. Here we were trying it out. Alida and I claimed the victory, but it was a close game against Jason, Terah and Kali.
I think we are going to have another soccer player! She did her first phrase for Jason this week - her "ah" with her outreached hand for "I want..." and then it was followed by "ba" which is her word for ball (and about everything else). Cute!
Love, love, love! Terah patting her little cousin - if only she could learn "gentle" in the next few weeks...
The last watermelon - that is a season she wishes was not over this soon!
And to end another summertime meal - the last watermelon and cantaloupe, fresh tomatoes, hash browns with the "first use" potatoes, an egg veggie scramble, pepper slices and fermented pickles.