Saturday, November 17, 2018

Soccer's over, leaves have fallen, and our first snow and ice!

Cold weather has arrived! I'm typing this having now thawed from this evening's soccer game and in the front room near the woodstove! This week we had our first ice/snow/sleet, which didn't amount to much but enough to make the outdoors a winter wonderland and to take out our power for over 24 hours. It was not a planned vacation day, but it was amazing how the loss of electricity slowed down life considerably (and I kind of enjoyed it). Yes I was eager for the water to come back on so I could wash a day's accumulation of dishes. But I was dismayed by how within a moment of the power coming back on, I felt anxious and a flood of all the things I could (and should) now do. It reminded me a bit of dropping my cell phone and deciding not to replace it. No, we are not giving up electricity...yet. BUT it was a shocking reminder to me again how much we rely on it and how much it controls our lives. I don't like that! I did enjoy heating lunch on the woodstove and making buttermilk cheese there as well!

The power outage also made for a memorable first sleepover for ALL of our gals at Emily, Jonas and Ivy's home. The older girls had multiple times in the past, but this was Terah's first time and she was excited! I hoped the power outage would not be unnerving for her especially, and some texted photos of them making shadow puppets and Terah with her little headlamp on helped me fully relax knowing they were having a grand time. We enjoyed a rare evening with my parents (with the ability to finish our sentences without interruption) and savored sleeping side by side without our littlest in between us. That said, I was excited to be reunited with them the next morning!
We got one day of leaf raking in before the winter weather. We hope to get back to it, maybe as soon as tomorrow. Jason and I are still nursing sore backs and so we were both trying to be careful with our leaf loads. It was about as fun as we remembered it! The only part of the morning that was unsettling for me was when I raked up a bunch and heard some kind of hissing/squeaking sound. I didn't think it was a snake but couldn't place the sound and then I saw something that was clearly not a leaf. It ended up being a red bat. We aren't sure if it was well or not, but we put it into the woods and put some leaves over it for warmth and hoped for the best!
The biggest news is that this year we have two additional leaf haulers - mighty cute ones at that!

See for yourselves. Here's Alida at it:

Of course Terah didn't want to be left out of the fun. She made it all the way down the hill to the leaf pile with her load. I love that working together as a family is one of our favorite ways to spend a day!

And here's the rest of us at it - yes, lots of smiles that day! 
 As of this evening, another fall transition is upon us. After a soccer season full of rain cancellations, the season came to a chilly end! Last week and this week the league gave up on the soccer complex where they normally play and utilized the EMU turf field. Both weeks were COLD but this morning Alida had the added adventure of playing on a field covered in ice and snow. For some of the kids, they were clearly DONE with soccer for the year and READY for snow play. It was rather entertaining to watch the focus be diverted over and over again from the soccer ball to snow ball material. By this evening, the fields were clear for Kali's last game. For all of our girls the next season will bring changes - Kali will need to move up to the high school teams, Alida is very ready to move up a level too and Terah will be old enough to start if she wants (and her parents can handle a third soccer player in the family). In the meantime, I've been trying to explore if there are any options in the area for youth to play field hockey. I recently got my sticks out and Alida clearly has a natural affinity for the sport and seems to really enjoy it. So we'll see where that leads, if anywhere.
So here's how our trio feels at the end of the season. Terah was sticking her belly out as far as she could and we all had a good laugh at it so figured it was worth sharing:
In other news, the corn is all shelled (thanks to lots of helping hands and the power outage and bad weather for working out doors). We are now in the midst of sorting through our black bean harvest - it was hard to know if it was worth it to spend the time sorting them as up to 1/2 are spouted/molding. It was just that kind of year for some crops. But after enjoying them last evening with dinner and refried for lunch today, we'll be completing the sorting job. Yes, we can buy black beans but we can't buy these black beans. Yum!

I'm still having fun making cheese and right now am just 1 cheddar block shy of having my whole shelf full in my makeshift "cheese cave." Two weeks ago three women connected to Allegheny Mountain Institute came for a cheese making day. One of them has successfully made feta, which I really wanted to learn! I have a gallon jar of feta in brine in the fridge that will be ready to try shortly. Fingers crossed, as my one and only other try did not end in feta. The good news is that this time the blocks of feta are still well defined, whereas last time they all dissolved back into a cheesy glop! We were even able to finish up our cheesemaking in time to enjoy a hike to the lake (it was gorgeous with the leaves at the peak of their colors - though I must say I'm enjoying the photo now more than I enjoyed the scene then - since we had lost one of our fellow hikers by the time we got to the lake and I wasn't really able to relax until we were reunited!)
And, finally, we are enjoying a stint with my folks in their quarters upstairs and the Christmas music is floating down the stairs. There's a festive feeling in the air and the train is now set up in the common room again. The excitement was palpable when the train started going up. Terah and Alida were practically jumping up and down and Terah kept shrieking, "I so 'cited...I so 'cited..." That she was!
In closing I will say that I continue to feel mixed emotions about this blog. I feel like I am normally trying to put up posts in haste and with multiple distractions, and so it seldom includes the things that I'm feeling, pondering and wrestling with deeply. It might name from time to time some of the hard stuff but it clearly emphasizes the fun, beautiful, exciting things. But just this evening I was talking with a friend staying with us who is teaching a weekend class at CJP. She noted that the class reflected in a circle process something that is bringing them joy right now. A number of them expressed gratitude for the question - noting that it's been such a painful and difficult time that they have not taken time to reflect on what brings them joy. So maybe that could be a helpful way for me to think about this blog - it often gets me in touch with the people, activities and things that bring me joy in life!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nora's 11th birthday and Halloween

Brief announcement: Last Saturday we said goodbye to Sara and saw her off for her next adventures! We fit a lot into the month together... We have no idea of apprenticeships are in our future here at Tangly Woods, but we were glad to give it a try to I think we all learned a lot! It hasn't yet been "just us" since there were Airbnb guests here the whole weekend until hours before Mom and Dad arrived. They leave this evening and then the next Airbnb guests arrive tomorrow. This place has been hopping with activity and people! Now to the subject matter for this post:

Other than trick-or-treating up the stairs to Grandma and Grandpa's last night, our actual Halloween day was very un-Halloween like. But we did enjoy a Halloween party with neighbors and friends last weekend. We had a panda, a princess and triplets! Not having any grand ideas, Kali, Jason and I decided to dress up as each other. We do not have a picture of us becoming quadruplets, but the best part of our costume ended up being having a friend arrive at the party dressed in brown shoes, jeans and the same Virginia Blood Services t-shirt (without being in on our plan). It was a fun moment! We enjoyed a lovely hay ride, with the added treat of seeing a flock of wild turkeys and some deer. They didn't seem too bothered by us riding near them and Jason enjoyed thinking of them saying to each other, "don't worry, they are in a cage."

This Tuesday then was Nora's 11th birthday. We decided to go to Storybook Trail. We had only been there one other time. We learned about the trail from Samuel and Margaret, as it was a favorite spot to take their family. It was also the last hiking spot Samuel went before he died, as the trail is handicap accessible. It felt like the right spot to go to remember Nora on her birthday. It was a gorgeous, cool and clear day! Just days before, we had discovered that Terah was now tall enough to ride the tricycle so all three girls had bikes. What a hit! I don't know how many times Alida commented on how fun this was and how we should come back more often!
We enjoyed a picnic atop one of the large rocks along the trail. We got to watch various hikers go by, and my favorite was two men hiking with a small dog on one leash and a large cat on the other. Only one of us got a very short post-lunch snooze (actually, I think it was not a successful snooze but it was a good spot to try for one).
It was fun to take the back road to and from - though the ride home was less fun since Terah was tired but is not, and never has been, a car sleeper! Thanks to Terah being more interested in being upstairs than with me during this short visit from my folks, and thanks to them being willing to have her hang out with them, I got in on a short gardening stint with Jason upon our return home (and that was after getting to go for a walk with Mom) - yes, the day had lots of meaningful times of connecting with those closest to me, which is always my top goal for Nora's birthday!

In the evening we made an outdoor fire - as it was too beautiful to stay inside - and made pizza pockets over the fire. I got to sit for a few minutes in Nora's garden as the fire got going and enjoyed the few flowers (mostly orange!) not yet killed entirely by the frosts we have had to date. It was a good day!
The two most touching moments around Nora's birthday came on the eve of her birth and then the morning of her birth. When I got home from work Monday, I was snuggling with Terah and catching up a bit. We were having a late 3rd birthday celebration with my folks and so she was eager for her birthday meal and to be sung to. I mentioned that the next day was Nora's birthday. She looked at me with the quizzical look she is so good at and asked, "Are we going to sing Happy Birthday to her?" We talked about it and in the end she noted that Nora had died but she was still here (and definitely wanted us to sing to her - which we did!).

Then the morning of Nora's birth, we were all able to enjoy breakfast together (thanks to my dad helping us with the chore routines!). We sat down to eat and looked at our pre-meal blessing card for that day. It was the only meal we ate at home around our table all day and the card up next was the song "When the Rain Comes Down." This is the only song in the stack of cards from the lullaby CD that we played 24/7 in Nora's room before she died, and it happened to be the one we started Nora's birthday singing together. Of course we included the verse, "When a baby smiles, she's smiling for everyone!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Blood Drive in honor of Nora's 11th birthday!

Next Tuesday will be Nora's 11th birthday and as we normally try to do we had scheduled a blood drive on her birthday. As it turned out, Virginia Blood Services has been bought by the Red Cross and the future of that blood donation center has become uncertain (at least to the employees there!). So we moved up our drive and were the last group in there before the close for a complete clear out, training, and then hopefully re-opening. At this point we don't know if we'll be able to host blood drives as we have in the past! As this one approached, I wondered if maybe folks are tiring of this ritual and if maybe we've "milked this one" for all it's worth. After the event I have come to the conclusion that I don't think so!

Once again the evening felt like a celebration and a wonderful gathering! Despite 6 of us (Jason and me included) were not able to give since we were not "symptom free," we still had 16 successful donations throughout the evening. There was lots of great kid energy, wonderful snacks to share and some splashes of orange.
Without my mom there to help, I was trying to balance keeping the snack table loaded, getting some photos, and keeping track of kiddos. So it wasn't exactly an event that provided a lot of space for reflection, but I did have one deeply heartfelt moment. At one point I looked over to the table where I had put our two books about Nora for folks to take a look at. I noticed that Phoebe was there reading the blog and went over to see if she had found any pictures of herself as a baby. Sure enough, she was right near a page of her adorable baby self! She sat there for a good while reading excerpts and I felt my heart swell. She was Nora's only baby friend and it means the world to me that she seems to still feel interested in being part of Nora's continued story and presence in our family.
I have been grateful for two the opportunities this birthday month to share aspects of Nora's story and our journey with her. Earlier this month I spoke to a group of undergraduates taking a senior seminar at EMU on suffering and loss. The only problem was that the class was only an hour long. Today I was on a panel (of 2 of us) for biomedicine students at EMU to share in their "Patient's Perspectives" forum they do yearly. Both times I felt so grateful for the chance to talk about Nora. It seems as the years go by, there are less opportunities to do so, so when I get the chance it's kind of hard to get me stopped...especially if someone wants to talk about palliative care! I can get just a tad fired up! 

I was reflecting on the way home today that I still feel her birth month more in my body than I do the month of her death. I think there is something always so striking about the change of seasons occurring at this time of year and the colors around us changing as well. So here we are in October again!! 

10 days and I'm behind!!!

Well, I just sat down to do a blog post about Monday's blood drive and realized I've got a few other things to catch up on here. So here's some random tidbits:

Soccer season is now fully underway and here are the girls in action! Jason has mostly had a break from coaching Alida's team this season, though he is on board as the lead coach for this week. They are both enjoying it and Wednesdays are now really full as they are both also taking a homeschool art class downtown on Wednesday afternoons. So when it gets to 10 p.m. on a Wednesday evening (or after as it is now), this family is ready to call it a day! Terah has already sacked out...
But it's not quite time to turn in yet for some of us. We just lugged all our trays of sweet potatoes down to the back kitchen for Jason to weigh, sort and tuck away in the root cellar! The curing in the 3-season room is complete and it was time to put that room back to order (turn it back over to Mom and Dad in other words!). We don't get to tuck many nuts away just get, thanks in part to these little guys, but we do plan to enjoy a good number of sweet potatoes. The figures are just in - we have 179 lbs of mahon yams and 179 of beauregard sweet potatoes. Yep, it's kind of fun when it works out that way. Alida just came and said, "that's not very much" and then I told her that was 358 pounds of sweet potatoes, to which she replied, "whoa!"

It's cover cropping and seeding time around here - we like to have that done by the middle of October but it looks like we'll be glad if we get them all in by the end of the month. It was a big relief this past week to get both the garlic planted and also our fall spinach!
This week we enjoyed having some additional hands around and were able to get some bed reshaping done (to hopefully help us handle excess rainfall in future years better than we did this year) and a rye/vetch/winter pea cover crop in the root patch.
I do enjoy days when lots is going on around our place - even if sometimes it can feel like too much of a good thing. One of my favorite moments on Tuesday was coming out with Terah on my back to get laundry in before the dew made it wet again. I was working on dinner inside for the 10 of us, but outside I found this scene - a lively bball game happening on 1/2 of the concrete pad and some threshing happening on the other half! I think we are making good use of that space!
The pigs have been tanked up on sweet potato vines and other weeds, but after a harder frost this week the weed supply is diminishing rapidly! So we were happy for an apple cider pressing day at the neighbors to provide us with lots of buckets of apple scraps. The pigs LOVE their apple/yogurt slop. And thankfully they have all stayed within the bounds of their electric fencing recently. One night when Jason was away I did the evening rounds and was feeling good about getting some things done for Jason in his absence. I was taking the pig bucket back to the shed when I looked up and saw one of our red pigs walking towards me. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on as it was rather disorienting to see a pig trotting towards me out in the open. It's nice they are tame!! AND I got her back in. I was impressed with myself and then the pig was out again minutes after Jason got home!
We've still got a fair amount of threshing and winnowing to do, but the amaranth is all harvested and we just gleaned sorghum from our neighbor's patch before it is mown down! Other than a few raspberries, nettles, tea and a few herbs, this year's harvests are done. We'll be eager to turn our attention soon to "leaf harvesting."
So hopefully that means we are moving towards a bit of a slower time. I know at least the parents in this household are just a tad TIRED! It doesn't help that we have had a cold virus of some kind moving through our home for well over a month now! It's not been the kind of sickness that changes our day to day plans, but sure has made our nights not as restful. But there is still plenty of happiness and sweetness around, especially where these two are concerned!
The highlight of this past weekend was Alida and Kali taking part in a Heidi play that their friend wrote and directed! It was so fun seeing the kids enjoy themselves both at the practice and performance. Lots of giggles!
No mishaps at all, other than Kali and her co-servant almost dropping Clara. :)
They were happy and it seemed maybe a tad proud, as they should be. It was great entertainment! They were already talking about the next play they might want to put on together!
Terah enjoyed the fact that while the big kids were practicing and also on performance day she got the large trampoline all to herself! That was until the "cast party" when the herd of performers came tearing over. She wanted out of there fast!!
p.s. We have a YouTube video of the performance if anyone is interested in seeing it, let me know!