Monday, June 19, 2017

Father's day fun and more

So a few days back we hit somewhat of a collective crisis point and I a personal one, of which I will spare you the details! But it felt like a mini-turning point of sorts on both fronts and we have actually officially let go of something. AND it hurt! I felt like crying when we made the decision but also know that if it is easy to let go of things then it must mean we are doing a bunch of things that don't matter to us. We will be allowing the four rotations of our dryland garden to revert back to pasture/grass once we harvest out what is sown in there currently and will do minimal care of what is sown there, taking what we get! It will be there waiting for us when life provides space to expand once again. But for now this feels right! And since making that decision, while there are still heart pangs when I think about it, it seems that we have felt maybe just a tad lighter as we go about our days!

There have been some really fun times in the last few days! Terah and I enjoyed a walk with Emily and Ivy the other day, along with blueberry picking and visiting back at our place for a bit. Our girls are smitten! Terah graciously let Alida have a turn holding Ivy, which I will admit surprised me (that there is laughter in this picture and not any screams of ""). I love that when Terah talks about "happy" she is normally either talking about "I I" or she has now added to that sentiment talking about her arm and noting that "Ben" fixed it. 

Friday evening was slated to make pizza pockets over the fire with friends. It POURED for a long time Friday afternoon and was still drizzling when they arrived. So we broiled open faced pizzas in the oven and enjoyed the thought of gardens getting a good drink. But after dinner it wasn't raining and there were s'more fixings waiting to be used so I suggested we do a fire anyway. Very little fire risk since the whole fire ring was full of a few inches of water! We'd never made a fire before while splashing in water around our feet. It was FUN! And really beautiful too as the sun set and the fire was reflected in the water. And an additional source of entertainment was the ducklings enjoying a swim. Here they are:

Then Saturday we had supper club, expanded to include additional college friends who were in the area for the week. What a beautiful and fun evening. Our group has expanded to the point of us adults being outnumbered by our offspring and what a lot of good quality kids! It's so fun to see them establishing relationships with each other that don't depend on us. There was lots of running around, laughing, and as you can see rolling down hills.

And then Father's Day came around! It felt like Mother's Day as my first gift of the day was an hour plus of "morning burst time" all alone. I love starting my day that way!! I got up before 6 a.m. so I could make a funny cake pie for Jason to enjoy with a cup of coffee before chores. I was pleased with the results of making the pie crust with our lard and then the pie with 100% sorghum flour. Yummy flavor! We enjoyed our coffee and pie with the littlest gal and then soon after the older girls woke to enjoy a piece as well before getting started on their day. 

In that hour plus I also got another batch of cottage cheese started (the first batch disappeared in one sitting!), skimmed cream for butter, started yogurt, made fresh ricotta and got started on our brunch. Oh and got the currant jam going- Jason had hinted to his daughters that IF they wanted to give him a Father's Day present he would gladly accept them picking the red currants to make jam. AND he went as far as to request that we give the Victorio Strainer a try for a smoother jam. He got his wish! I think I had done about 3 rounds of dishes before 10 a.m. I was doing a lot of playing in the kitchen!

Jason got chores done and pruned the last apple tree, while Kali got her duck chores done and I made brunch. We sat down to a feast around 10:30 a.m. - yogurt skillet cornbread with fresh currant jam, a special mushroom, hot sauce, sausage quiche just for Jason, and a sausage, greens egg bake for the rest of us! We were well tanked up for the day after that one! Once our bellies were satisfied it was time to get all sun-screened up for garlic pulling. It's not my favorite time of day in June to head out to work but with possible storms in the forecast we really wanted to get the garlic pulled and hanging in the garage so off we went! I won't say that we enjoyed 100% cooperation (especially with our littlest who gets hot so easily and normally seems to all of a sudden desperately want to nurse when we are outside trying to complete a project), but it wasn't too bad (let's say it has been much worse). And thankfully it is the time of year when the trees help us out a lot by providing many pockets of shade. Here's a smattering of pictures of our garlic harvest fun. And FUN it was! One of my jobs was going ahead of Jason and pulling large baskets of weeds to either mulch with or give to the pigs. They were happy, happy pigs as I brought load after load of some of their favorites - smart weed at the top of that list.  I would take the younger girls with me in the wagon so they could watch them savor their treats. I told Jason that I knew what caption I would put with the first picture below: "Tangly Woods television!"
As if that hadn't been enough fun in our day, the storms did not materialize and so we were able to enjoy a family jaunt to the blueberry patch as the day cooled. There was a nice breeze so very few bugs and the berries plentiful. Jason said it will likely go down in history as the best family blueberry picking time ever (I think we might be able to top it if we had a time where Alida had remembered to get a drink before we walked all the way to the patch and then found herself suffering from intense thirst the entire time we were there, but it was still pleasant overall!). What a lovely day! Now let's see what this new week has in store for us...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Just in case we needed a little more drama in our lives...

Life has been interesting of late! Flavorful and full, with some beautiful and emotional times thrown in there. By Sunday of this weekend, I was wondering if things could get any crazier. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'll kick this blog off by noting that I'm typing right now while ALIDA reads to Terah! She has been interested in learning to read for quite some time and making progress but nothing like some external incentives for this gal! The summer reading program started at the library not 10 days ago and Alida is already done her sheet - completed 10 hours of reading yesterday. And now she is working to help Terah with hers! Here they are reading together the other night in bed - one of Terah's favorite activities of the day!

So now backing up to our weekend - ever since our three day stint at Lost River we've been just a tad into pizza pocket making opportunities and I've planned them in whenever possible! We've got one coming up later this week and last Friday we enjoyed having Emily, Jonas and Ivy over, along with some of Jonas' family. It was a lovely evening to be outside and food always seems to taste better both outside and cooked over an outdoor fire. Of course Terah was thrilled specifically with one of our guests. These two are just too much!
Jason and I had a very different experience on Saturday related to fire - less relaxing and not exactly enjoyable, but meaningful in its own way. We got to know new neighbors recently when they came to our house concert after seeing it announced in their church bulletin. It was so lovely to meet them and see them making connections with others at the concert. At the end of the evening we exchanged contact information and they warmly invited us to stop by and see the home they were building on Mt. Hope Lane right down the road from us. So when a google alert came through my email noting multiple fire trucks on the scene of a fire on Mt. Hope Lane a few weeks back, they came to mind immediately and a few hours later they responded to my text confirming that indeed it was the home they had been building for years that had been burned to the ground. It was a timber-framed home that they were building themselves, using wood from a pre-civil war barn (yes, it had been years in the making and was finally nearing completion).

They had a work day on Saturday and thanks to my mom's offer to hang out with our gals (no kids invited to this particular event!!), we were both able to spend the morning with a group of folks there to help sort through and clear out the rubble. If something can both be heartening and depressing at the same time then the morning fits that description. I've never helped clean up after a home has been demolished and found myself thinking about and feeling lots of things as I sorted through the ashes looking for any remnants of valuables to help remind them of what they had for insurance purposes.

They noted that as they lay in bed the night of the fire they reflected on the fact that they had dreamed of building such a home together and they had done it! I felt so deeply inspired by their resilience in the face of such loss! I was reminded once again about how important it is for the process of our living to be as important or more important than any particular outcome or end goal. My that is hard for me to keep in mind at times! But sometimes a crop fails or in this case a house with most of one's belongings burns to the ground when a mouse chews through an electrical wire. I took a small stone tile home with me from the fire to serve a tangible reminder of this lesson, as I will no doubt need reminders.

That evening we got to spend some time together as a family hauling some very large and heavy rocks from around our place to Nora's garden - one of the activities that got bumped off our anniversary retreat day when we overfilled it! This included a lot of fun for the girls including trailer and cart rides, and then walking atop the big rocks. They are already a hit, and will be even more so when arranged and placed in their final resting spots. These are rocks Jason has been eyeing up for this very purpose for years, so it was fun to at least make a small bit of progress on this stage of Nora's memory garden.

Then Sunday arrived! Mom headed back to wild, wonderful, WV (eager for my dad to rejoin her after his Alaska birding trip), and we got into a fun day all at home together. The day appeared like a normalish one anyway, and I got into puttering on kitchen projects and laundry and some harvesting. I was determined also to carve out some time to read to Alida, even if she has a stack of Patricia Polacco books from the library that are almost too intense for me! I was reading to Alida when I realized that Terah was getting sleepy so I better change her diaper so she could just drift off nursing while we read. I brought a diaper out to the futon for her. She wasn't exactly fully cooperating with the plan but that's nothing new. I grabbed her hand to pull her out of the nook of the futon so she was positioned for her freshie and seconds later she was screaming - her "something really hurts" scream. I couldn't see anything wrong, didn't feel like anything had been out of the ordinary and she was still moving both arms. But clearly she was hurting as she would nurse and then wail, nurse, drift off, cry out, etc... She finally fell pretty soundly asleep in my arms but I couldn't lay her down without her screaming. I kept hoping that a good nap would fix it but that was wishful thinking! 

She woke relatively happy until she tried to get up or move her arm and then the pitiful cries started up again. She would cry if I even talked about moving her arm. By this point the girls were having fun with our neighbor friend who was over to play, but even telling Terah that D was visiting wasn't enough to cheer her or take her mind off her left arm. So time to consult with Jason - were we in for another ER visit? Would this one be even more traumatic and land us another huge medical bill? We had isolated the pain to her elbow and were reminded of friends whose one daughter had multiple instances of nurse maid's elbow. We gave a call to talk it over and also put in a call to our neighbor (who had come to our rescue when we were determining what to do about Terah's lip cut). We were just about to get ourselves ready to head to some urgent care facility - after figuring our which our insurance would honor - when our neighbor called back. He asked Jason if by chance Terah's arm was pulled away from her body, which is exactly what had happened. He said, "I'll be right over...this is one of my favorite things to do." We waited for less than 5 minutes until he showed up, gently held onto Terah's elbow, did a little twist and said, "she'll be ok in less than a minute." He had heard it pop back in place and knew from much experience (including it happening multiple times to their kids) that as soon as she got over the scariness of the moment she'd be fine. He was right! I had given her a daisy that she was holding in her right hand and within seconds without thinking about it, she reached out to play with it with her left and relief coursed through me! And that was that! Well, other than the fact that I felt like jumping up and kicking my heels and I was very chatty for awhile, which is how I get when I feel such relief after something that could have been so much worse. We felt so so grateful! 

So our day proceeded with welcoming two new house guests for the week, chatting some with the couple having a wedding here July 1, happily watching the girls painting outside at the picnic table (relief again!!), finishing the days tasks so we could walk home with our neighbor and join her family for Ifthar (the evening meal after they end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset). I felt like I had run a marathon or traveled a long distance by the end of the day. We didn't get home until well after 10, having enjoyed a feast with our Kurdish friends.

In other news the first round of barley has been threshed and winnowed and is drying on racks in the garage. Jason has deemed the concrete pad a winner for the job, even better than the garage floor and easier to clean up at the end of it! It's still not a "quick" job to thresh grains by hand but Jason is developing some systems and having a ball! And the older girls got in on the fun - and Terah wanted to and "helped" for a short stint! We loved using barley flour but it is all around time intensive as we have to grind and then sift to remove the hulls. So we'll keep experimenting (in all our free/spare time!). 

And in case I wasn't finding enough to do, I'm experimenting more with dairy products. My second round of cheddar is waxed and aging and I just started a batch of cottage cheese this morning for the first time - stay tuned! I'm making butter, yogurt and ricotta more often than ever - sharing it with folks that want to give it a try and hoping to inspire some more folks to make their own and sign up for a herd share. To that goal, I'm cooking up a short 2 hour workshop on "how to make butter, ricotta and yogurt with a baby on your hip." I hope to do a trial run for some work colleagues next month. 

We might soon need to have more than 3 pigs to consume all the buttermilk, skim milk and whey I'm generating! Or I need to slow up on that front - the more likely best next step as I look out and see squash and tomato and pepper plants growing awfully fast! Those cracks of time used for those things will soon need to be devoted to chopping, freezing, canning, drying, fermenting, etc... In the meantime, we are still in the spring/summer weeding/pruning stage of things and generating lots of treats for the pigs (we all like an excuse to take a load their way and watch them root through it for their favorites). We all agree that they are fabulous additions to Tangly Woods!

One of the books I read to Alida today was about an art teacher who was very important to Patricia as she developed as an artist. One of the things she told her students was you are not to just look at things but you need to actually see them. That stuck out to me and I've been thinking about it as I go about my day. I am going to keep working at not just looking around but actually seeing! Glad that one of the things there for me to notice right now is the blooming orange butterfly weed!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Honoring, remembering and celebrating Nora!

This year, like the last several, I found myself thinking a lot about the people who surrounded and supported and loved us through our time with Nora. I'll admit that there wasn't a lot of reflection carved into the days surrounding this anniversary, but in the pockets of time where my mind and emotions could wander, they did so most often to the people who were close to us and to her. And so it felt fitting to spend the evening prior to the morning she died up the hill enjoying a simple supper of soup and cornbread with our neighbors. This time we brought the meal and are hoping we can be a steadfast comforting helpful loving presence, journeying with them as they face illness, loss and pain. When Nora was with us, the meal they brought to UVA is about the only thing I can remember eating during that time. The meal, the music, the conversation - truly comforting!

Months ago we had marked June 4 as one of our "family retreat days" and Jason and I were jointly assigned to planning the day. At that time the only certain activity had been to go for a little fishing excursion. As the time neared the list of potential activities for our "retreat" day seemed to expand exponentially and the day was feeling anything but retreat-like as I envisioned how it might unfold. So either we should rename these days to minimize unmet expectations or figure out how to retreat with three kiddos along for the ride! In the meantime, I'll focus on the things about the day together that were most meaningful, and just mention here that in all honesty it was one of the harder anniversaries for me - partially because of the personal space I find myself in currently, partially because the day didn't pan out as I had hoped for it too and partially because the few tears that managed to find their way out when reading a kind note from Nora's geneticist was only a leak in the dam and I am still longing for way to open the flood gates wide! All that acknowledged, there were many moments of that day (and all our days) that I treasure and want to be the times I think most on when looking back, thus the focus on those times!

We learned that Sunday was a big mountain bike race where we normally hike to Hensley's Pond, so we altered our plans and just walked to our neighbors' small pond about a mile down the road. It wasn't until we were loaded up and heading out that the thought dawned on me: "Kali is probably not going to want to go fishing!" I asked her and she got one of her looks and confirmed that she was very uncertain whether she would or not. In the end she didn't, but we had lots of good conversations going to and fro the pond and there on the pond's edge while Alida fished with pleasure and no reservations. Kali has started to feel a keen sense of compassion for all living things, and a desire to not actively pursue hurting any (this extends to things like ants and mosquito larvae at this point). She is a good mix of her mother and father on this one - I rashly became a vegetarian at the beach one year when one of my sisters and dad were cooking some clam-like things and I felt so bad for them and Jason has always been fascinated with the natural world but also has always had a mix of emotions when observing and enjoying the creatures around him (really liking watching the fish he got and put in his fish tank and then also realizing that they probably would rather not be in his fish tank). I am glad for the conversations we are having together as Kali is not alone in her feelings - I struggle on every butchering day, especially with my/our power. But it continues to feel like the only way for me to have integrity in this struggle is to engage it and not run from it. I will admit that I've struggled to be patient at times - when she doesn't want to take her ducks to our mosquito-breeding little pond for them to help us control the mosquito population on our place or when she is uncertain if she will ride her bike along the road, wondering if she will squish more ants riding or walking. Am I ready for where this personal journey will take her? I hope so! And I look forward to learning from and with her along the way. She is wrestling with important questions and her duck project will be central to this learning journey no doubt!
Alida trying out her birthday fishing rod from Aunt Emily and Uncle Jonas

Terah particularly liked the "baby" fish - she loves all things baby-like!

Kali still enjoyed being there as there were plenty of trees luring her!
Terah didn't even make it the whole way home, sacking out in the jogger on our walk back. So while she napped the older girls and Jason picked about a quart of sour cherries off our tree - first time ever! It was just enough for a very small sour cherry crisp and a few popped in our mouths during the pitting process. That was probably the most low key part of the day - the girls pitting and eating sour cherries while Jason put new strings on his guitar and Terah was still napping so I got to putter around for a bit in relaxed fashion! It was the post-nap time that got a little crazy, for a retreat any way. What, of all the things we could wish to fit into the rest of the day, would we prioritize?

We should know better than to think we could quickly get something in the ground. We do love gardening together and we did really, really want to finish the last seeding before some predicted rains. But things always take longer than expected and in the end the younger girls hung out with my mom while Jason, Kali and I got sorghum planted. It's not that I didn't enjoy aspects of the time, but I felt like I spend a lot of the time feeling sad that we weren't all out there together, that we weren't instead gathering rocks for Nora's garden, that we didn't plan better such that the day could have felt more relaxing and less rushed and then just trying to accept it for what it was...

I think it was nearly 9 when we were all inside and ready for the promised ping pong competitions and pudding with fresh mulberries. I was about to fall over by this point but mustered up enough energy to at least get 5 points playing ping pong with Jason and to chase some balls around when playing with Alida. Terah got pudding all over herself and then was entertained riding tricycle, which she really needs a few more inches on her to do well but makes a valiant effort pushing herself around on her tiptoes! Then we headed downstairs to sit together on the couch and watch the few videos (thanks again and again and again Aunt Anna!!) we have of Nora. Alida struggled to make it through them, tearfully noting that they are too sad. Terah oscillated between calling Nora "I I" when they were the more "normal" pictures of her and getting a little teary herself when pictures highlighted Nora's "oddities" or were ones where she was in the hospital with lots of tubes - it was like she could tell something was different about those pictures. So we comforted our two youngest while we sat with our own emotions and memories of a time before their time. Life with a capital "L!"

Last evening we gathered with others at Virginia Blood Services for our blood drive in honor of Nora. It was a great evening - I'm used to feeling completely wasted by the end of these events but this time it felt oddly smooth and less chaotic. Maybe it is that kids are getting older. Maybe it is that Terah was more comfortable there and even enjoyed interacting with people she never had met before. Maybe it was that I was able to donate with no trouble early in the evening and so that wasn't on my mind. Maybe it was that Mom was there keeping the snack table well stocked and helping watch kids. Maybe it was that they had an extra staff person and were fully prepared for us descending upon them. For whatever reason, we had more donors than ever (18 gave successfully) and I was able to at least greet all of them and even chat for a longer time with a few. I love that it is a mix of new folks and regular donors each time, a mix of people that have known us for years and years and some that have only known us since Nora's death, and people from all aspects of our lives. There are good vibes throughout the place and the kids add a special touch to the time. Already looking forward to the next one this fall - Nora's 10th birthday so we'll make it a biggie!
We all thought it was so cute that when we said we wanted to take a family picture before leaving, Terah got right in line the way she does for the family pictures we take on our front porch the first of each month! So we followed suit, and didn't notice until it was pointed out to us that we left a space for Nora in our line up!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Soccer fest, recent harvests and good times by the fire!

It's hardly time for another post already but here I am! I'm really working hard to stop saying, when asked how I'm doing, something to the effect of, "pretty well but it's a really busy time." Because that is now pretty much all the time! So I won't say it, but will let the fact that I'm already feeling the need to update my "virtual scrapbook" after 48 hours speak for itself. There are things I love so much about being part of the yearly cycles and seasons. There is also something about it that means there is no "catching up" and as soon as you are "done" it starts all over. It's a good thing we love all the activities that are part of each season, but Jason also recently referred to living at our place as being potentially like a vortex (it can suck us in, and if we don't find ways to stay replenished and enjoy the process, suck us dry!). So here's some of the work, play and replenishing of the last few days!

Jason and I were both rather pleased with ourselves and our work on Thursday! I'm not sure if there is any activity Jason enjoys much more than harvesting and putting barley in shocks for drying. My dad always cringes when he sees our growing barley and starts scratching his arms, having some kind of mini trauma response from memories of getting all itchy in the stuff. It clearly doesn't seem to bother Jason much as he seemed to be more or less in his "happy place" when I visited him in the patch to see his work. It looks pretty sweet!
 Yesterday then we got the bronze flint corn, millet and PA dutch squash planted in that same rotation of the root field. And then we all worked together to gather hay Jason had scythed and mulched the rows. Gathering hay is a good job for me. It's kind of like sweeping floors outside - it's rather straightforward with predictable and obvious results. Jason said the main difference is that unlike sweeping indoors you actually get to use the stuff you sweep up outside. :)

My "happy place" on that same day was standing with my loads of dried oregano and stripping it off the stems. In the morning Terah and I cut our main oregano patch to the ground and loaded up the solar dryer. Within hours it was dried and ready to jar up. My hands smelled of oregano by the time I put the large jar full in the pantry! I know you could likely buy a comparable amount for very little money but it would not be of comparable quality! And now the patch will grow and we can do it all over again! Plants...they are just something else!

So while we are sharing about our happy places, the older girls are in one of theirs right now! Last year I think we could count on one hand the number of mulberries we got. This year the trees are LOADED with dark, juicy berries! The girls picked a few quarts the other night to go with homemade vanilla pudding - there were no leftovers of either! They've been out all of Terah's nap seeing if they can pick enough for jam, or to dry, or to freeze some. We are getting to the time of year where what will limit what we tuck away for the winter is the time we have to go out and harvest. So glad my girls love picking berries. Terah was rather distraught at not being able to go with them - I mistakenly mentioned mulberries right when she was about to fall over from tiredness. But she'll get to join them when she is refreshed after a good nap.

She had a busy morning today accompanying us to Soccer Fest! Kali had her last game at 9:15, then there was time to explore some of the "bouncy houses/slides" brought in to the soccer fields for the occasion, and then Alida's final game at 11:45. Terah had a grand time, but almost didn't make it home before sacking out! She doesn't necessarily pay close attention to the game, but every now and then she'll give a shout out to her big sister on the field. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed the games and seeing how much our girls have improved over just this season. At Alida's age sometimes it still seems a bit like a game of "bunchball," but they also have little spurts of great play. Kali's age is super fun to watch! Those girls work hard and I love to see Kali pushing herself and loving it! She had a lot of great breakaways today and I just marveled at how she has enjoyed being engaged in a sport now for years with what I perceive to be relatively little to no stress or anxiety or nervousness and has steadily improved to the point that she can really hold her own most of the time out there. How fun! For now, I'm also glad to have our schedule simplified for awhile; I'll be ready to sign them up again in the fall if they are still interested!
 So one of the things that keeps us from getting completely sucked into the vortex around here is setting aside time to connect with friends and to actually relax in our space. Last evening was one such time. Now that the chicks and ducklings are done with the kiddie pool our girls can use it and we filled it up for the first time yesterday. As expected, Terah is a big fan! She went through at least 3 outfits yesterday and by dusk I had given up and she was running around naked or in my arms wrapped in our picnic tablecloth! It was a pretty sweet evening - we were tired from a day of hard work, the air was cool and there were few bugs around, the fire smelled good and supplied us with delicious pizza pockets, we got to hang out with Jonathan and enjoy walking around our place looking at all the growth and changes (it helps to have others look at it with us as it highlights all the successes for us when we so often just see all that is yet to be done that we aren't getting to), and the girls were all happy and easily entertained. I was one again thankful for Jason's amazing design skills after our recent camping trip experience - his fire ring design is perfect for having kids around!

I imagine I'll be back in this space before too long. Tomorrow marks 9 years since Nora died and we'll be spending the day as a family together. Then on Tuesday we host a blood drive in her memory. It looks like the orange butterfly weed might bloom right on schedule!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Our daughter the duck, and some gardening updates!

Well, the baby is taking a 2 plus hour nap and I'm out of steam for doing work work (my office job, that is) for this afternoon and so I'll see if I can crank out a quick blog update before she wakes and it is time to go pick up her big sisters from their play date and then get working on dinner that we'll enjoy with friends later this evening!

Things are HOPPING around here - well the bunnies are literally hopping. as is our littlest gal now. Jason and I are mostly working as fast and hard as we can to keep semi on top of the growth and new life happening all around us! I just savored my first sugar snap and snow pea today - the snow pea was ready, the sugar snap I just couldn't resist and would have benefited from another day or two. The mulberry trees are LOADED and so juicy that our fingers were purple in short order when we picked a few this morning. I've made vanilla pudding to go with mulberries the girls promise to pick as soon as they arrive home - 1 in the container for every 2 or more in the mouth I assume!

We are still working to get the rest of the garden things planted. It's slow going trying to get all the gardens up and running but we are getting there - it looks like rain may hold off now until Sunday which is likely going to give us enough time to get the last squash and corn in, as well as the sorghum and maybe some dry beans. We got the sunflowers in right at dark last evening and before that our big planting day was sowing potatoes!

That was a pretty exhausting and exhilarating day! In a month from today we'll be having our second wedding here at Tangly Woods (another former student in my program). The couple is spending some time working with us in the gardens this month and also preparing the spaces their guests will enjoy on the special day. We didn't break them in slowly at all as day 1 of them coming out to help was "potato day." It required breaking sod, digging and cleaning out trenches and then the exciting part of using our first biochar in the trenches before putting a little soil on top and then finally the potatoes could go in and get covered. There is no way we would have gotten it done without their help. I went through a few shirts and pairs of socks that day and was feeling some muscles I don't often use . It was fun to work with others and to savor the satisfaction of a completed job at the end of the day. Now we wait and see what impact biochar has on the soil and our potato crop. Exciting!

Jason has hardly been away from the home place except for his little ventures out to Smithland Soccer Complex. He took over coaching Alida's team for the 2nd half of the season, when JMU ended and they lost a whole bunch of coaches. While it sometimes feels a little hairy to fit that in right now, I think he is enjoying it once at the fields with the girls. And seeing how much Kali and Alida are enjoying it makes it worth it. Kali noted that she is a little sad to see this season wrapping up this weekend (while I admit that I'm ready for a break again until fall). They are both ending their seasons strong as each of them scored their first goal (of this season for Alida and ever for Kali) in last Saturday's games. Mom was the lucky one to see Kali's and Jason was there to cheer Alida on - I sadly missed both, but it was fun to hear about it!

Back on the home front we've got chickens running all over the place. Right now there is probably close to 100 chickens of various ages in the composting chicken coop alone and all 4 broody pens in there are full too with hens sitting on eggs! When you go in in the morning the noise of peeping and clucking and crowing is impressive! And watching them all pour out the door or down the ramp is one of my favorite activities. They all seem to be enjoying their lives immensely AND they are providing a very valuable service to us in the process. We've been so very happy to not be finding hardly any ticks this year thus far and we are crediting all the chickens for that reduction! My favorite is to watch a mama hen out and about with her chicks, teaching them the ropes. Pictured here is a mama who was jumping up to get the ripe barley heads and pull them down for her and her chicks to enjoy. Really, who needs TV!?

On Monday of this week Kali had an unusual day. I've asked her to consider doing a guest blog post but to date she has only said that she'll think about it - more or less a polite no! Awhile back she had put "duck coop day" on the family meeting agenda and Jason was worried this was about building another coop. He was both relieved and amused when Kali sponsored her item to say that she wanted to spend a day in her duck coop to see what it would be like. Monday was her "duck coop day" and she spend from the time she was done their morning chores until nightfall in their coop - only coming out if one of us let her AND the ducks out for a little time running around! Jason delivered lunch to her and we all joined her for a picnic supper outside the coop to keep her company - as she was getting a tad bored by that hour, noting that the ducks seem to have more to do in their coop than her. She was hard core too - she took her sun hat and water (no time keeping device or reading material). I would have gone stir crazy!!
Well, I'll end with a little picture of my side kick today! I miss Kali and Alida when they are gone for the day but also relish the simplicity of just keeping up with one kiddo and cherish having a little one on one time with our youngest, as that is a rare occurrence. We've had a fun day in the kitchen and gardens and I guess I must have wore her out - it appears I may have to wake her in order to get her sisters here before dinner! We got the solar dryer out for the first time this year and have a mammoth batch of oregano dried and ready to process. It's good we are about to have everything planted as the harvesting is about to start picking up with berries coming right, peas on the cusp of fattening and the normal trickle of herbs for drying and making pesto with, lettuce and kale as we want it, making tea as often as I can stand to, etc... We have about finished harvesting garlic scapes and I've been able to off load grocery bags full to others to enjoy! Yes, to add to the descriptors I've been using to characterize my life (overjoyed and overwhelmed) I will have to add a third: abundance!