Sunday, February 25, 2018

Room #5 The Kitchen

Yes, this process is addictive, fun, challenging and full of surprises! I'd say that we all have "the bug" now and it seems before we finish one room talk of the next one on the docket starts. So, just to let everyone in on the plan: our goal is to finish the rooms in our main downstairs living space by Easter. We are hoping that will not be an April Fool's joke but that we'll welcome April with this phase of the project behind us.

What remains is our bedroom and the front room (living and dining room). We've got both blocked on the calendar! They will be big ones! I find myself walking around wondering what things will or won't "make the cut" and Alida keeps noting how much dust there is to be gotten rid of in the rooms yet to be done. I told multiple people after we finished the back kitchen that I felt like the easy grabs were done. It felt like the rest of the spaces were ones we use heavily and I didn't imagine there would be much to get rid of. How wrong I was! What is pictured here was ONE of the growing stacks of things to get rid of as we went through what was to be returned to our kitchen.

Knowing the kitchen was going to be an intense multi-day process, we made two good decisions: 1. Dive in when our most enthusiastic co-conspirator was here - my mom! and 2. Spread it out over a number of days - 5 to be exact!

We dipped our toes in on Tuesday by doing the cleaning closet. That eased us into the project, not to mention then organizing our cleaning supplies for the following days! Included here is a before/after picture, but it doesn't really get all the significant changes like: no longer are there overflowing bags of rags such that we have to root around through ones that are not absorbent to find a "good rag"; hooks and nails have been adjusted for ease of accessing cleaning tools; gone are cleaning supplies that were in our home when we moved in over a dozen years ago; and out went dusters that were so dusty they couldn't possibly be useful for dusting! Jason and I also pre-ripped brown paper for fire starters so we no longer have to fear waking kiddos when ripping paper to start a fire in the early mornings. It's that kind of thing that is so small but so hard to take time to do ahead of time but makes such a difference in our day to day!

We also pared down our collection of cloth bags. I like cloth bags and we all use them almost on a daily basis, but when you have so many they are falling off the hooks it feels a bit excessive. So I can now find the bags we most like more easily! That's the thing about this process. We are getting rid of things that are useful and that we have even used somewhat recently. But clearing out all these things that we kind of like but aren't our favorites, makes our favorites much easier to locate quickly. I really had more fun cleaning the kitchen after cleaning our cleaning closet, as silly as that sounds! Ok, that's probably enough on day #1! We then had an "off" day as I worked in the office on Wednesday.

Day #2 (Thursday) we decided to tackle the pantry and paint cupboard. Thankfully it's the time of year when we have less in there than at the end of the harvest season. But it was not lacking in stuff. We didn't get rid of nearly as much from the pantry - as most of it is things we'll consume (almost everything in there is edible), but we did a pretty major reorganization and I feel like we dealt with some minor inconveniences, as well as at least one possible safety issue - the fire extinguisher has been on the wall of the pantry and the reality is that if there was a fire at the stove it is possible we would not find it safe to reach it where it was. So it is now installed in the cleaning closet! I had some helpers for part of the day - ones that were especially eager to taste test some of the chocolate chips found in the pantry. Terah has also fallen in love with Kali's walnut triangle lunch box that Daddy made for her. It really is not a great lunch box in that its carrying capacity is rather abysmal. BUT it has made a very fun new toy for Terah - she has carted it all over the place the last few days.

It's kind of hard to tell a lot from the before/after, but it feels different to me!
Jason was in charge of his paint cupboard and has a load to donate and we got "paint the garden shed red" back on the shorter term project list.
Day #3 (Friday) was the drawers/cupboards day! I was able to help unload a lot of it before taking off for nearly half the day to gather with women friends, one of whom is going to welcome a new baby soon! It was kind of hard to leave the buzz of activity on the home front, but was also the kind of gathering I get to enjoy so rarely so I tried hard to savor it. Those back at home worked steadily at finishing up the unloading and Mom was once again such a wonderful help getting cupboards and drawers wiped out. Each day, as I have done on other deep cleans, I "take off" during Terah's nap to put on my office job hat for 2-3 hours. So our evening job that day was to sort through everything (most of this was spread out on our living room floor) and put back what we wanted and set aside what we did not. That process was at times tedious, at times freeing, at times dangerous or messy (when Terah found the sharp bread knife or wanted to open various food items). But we got it almost done and had once again surprised ourselves with how much space we had created by weeding out the non-essentials! It is not hard to get in touch with how much I love open spaces!! We didn't get to refilling one major cupboard and one drawer by the time we needed to call it quits for the day for the sake of everyone's sanity!
Day #4 (Saturday) was the "BIG" day or at least the most disgusting day! This was the day to tackle the main room cleaning - from ceiling to floor - getting to spots that haven't been touched since we moved into the room. I will let the pictures speak for themselves but will note a few things. I did not get pictures of a few buckets of black water from the stove work Jason did. And thankfully there is no video of me falling when I tried to climb up on the counter using the oven door handle to bear my weight. Sometimes my lack of common sense disturbs me - I should have known that putting my weight on the handle would make the oven open. As I fell, I felt rather disgusted with myself AND glad I was the only one in the kitchen at the time. My shin and knee continue to remind me of my lapse in good judgment! 

Mom was at our back kitchen sink for probably a few hours just washing, washing and washing things. I did the main dusting and sweeping (I think I swept the floor at least 3x that day alone) and then Jason was ready to join us and took on some of the more tedious jobs - the ceiling fan, the high walls, the vent fan, etc... 
It was about an hour or so before dinner time when Jason asked if we were going to take out all the drawers and clean under/behind/around them. I hadn't even thought of the possibility - but once the possibility was raised it was hard to feel like it wouldn't be "cheating" to skip it. We pulled one out to check how bad it was and soon they were all out and we worked on it together as fast as we could - determined to try to wrap up the cleaning by dinner! I finished scrubbing the floor as darkness fell and we got the "supper's ready" call. That's right - once again Mom treated us to a wonderful feast for our weary bodies and hungry bellies! Some notable parts of the meal that were extra special included fish one neighbor had given us, breadsticks made from my grandma's recipe, bread dipper I had found in the cupboard from Jason's sister, fried potatoes from our garden and later after more work was done apple crisp made with apples from another neighbor and homemade cheddar cheese. It all tasted so good! 
By the end of the evening we had most of the kitchen restocked! The pictures below are the after ones, taken at the end of Saturday night.
So, you might be wondering, what was day #5? Well, part of it was enjoying the labor of the previous days! Jason and I started the day with our Wendell Berry Sabbath poems and coffee together. It was a nice change of pace! And then it was VERY fun to make brunch in the kitchen this morning. I've always thought our kitchen systems flow really well - Jason designed the space well. But some pathways were feeling clogged and today it felt more open and free flowing. Things make more sense again and drawers and cupboards and counters aren't cluttered with extras.

We had one file drawer that we did a speed sort through this evening and my recipe bin that needed sorting got a quick once over. Both of those space still needs a little more organization but that will wait for another time - kind of like our main filing cabinet. At this point, I'm ready to call the kitchen done and go cuddle up with Alida and read her to sleep.

I will end by saying that this week I've found myself talking about how much this deep clean resonates with something that I'm thinking a lot about in my own personal life. The process of taking stock: taking things out, looking at them, sorting them, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, cleaning your space and then "moving back in" feels like something that is good to do in our homes and also in our lives! I feel like I've kind of been embarking on both - with one feeling a lot more successful that the other to date!

What I have told a few close to me recently is that I feel like I'm getting to chip away at the "pulling the stuff out" part of the process but then feel a bit stuck on when, how, and where to go with stuff and how to carve out the time needed to do the deep personal work that will feel so beneficial once done, but is not as quick as cleaning a room, and can't be done nearly as easily with kiddos in the wings. I need to keep playing around with the analogy, but just like I've felt the need to patient in getting around to this kind of deep cleaning of our home, I'm hoping I can be patient with myself as I navigate through this particularly full and chaotic stage of family life!

So what are the rest of us up to?

After the last post, you may wonder what the other 4/5 of this family is up to, when not keeping up with our littlest gal. Here's a few brief snippets from recent days!

Jason is trying to keep up with his chickens. As I type this he is doing his evening rounds and part of that will include his now daily "Easter egg hunt." We are ranging a lot of birds right now. Often Jason will try to leave them in for the first half of the day so the hens lay in the next boxes that he made for them and which are convenient for egg retrieval. Well, we are balancing that desire with loving the extra nutrition of eggs from chickens that get more of their diet from foraging AND when we have a lot of chickens in a coop we know that over crowding leads to picking. So they are enjoying nearly full days of freedom and my are they taking advantage of it. We've been hearing cackling (associated with egg laying) coming from all directions and Jason has found eggs in many locations, including a nest of 20 tucked under a rotting tree up in the woods. Recently he noticed that some hens were spending a lot of time in one of our window wells. He decided he might as well put some straw down so they weren't laying eggs on gravel. The hens are very fond of his decision and the news of this new comfy nest seems to be spreading far and wide. Yesterday there were 10 eggs in the window-well and there were 8 by mid-morning today when I peaked in. It's like a revolving door with hens lined up to take their turn. Alida even saw a hen jump in on another's tail today. We can see them from our back kitchen window and Jason is tempted to take the screen off so we can just open up the window and pull in about the freshest eggs you could hope for. Yep, we are all thinking this is kind of fun! Yesterday was a record day for Jason. It was the first time at Tangly Woods that he hit 4 dozen eggs from our flocks in one day. Yes, we've got a lot of eggs! Kali's ducks are also picking back up and her Dutch Hookbills just started in.

Some extra warm days had us feeling a tad behind on the spring farm tasks, but then cold returns long enough to remind us that we are still in the latter part of February. We've got onions, parsley and cilantro started and hope to start the next round of seeds soon (peppers, basil, cabbage, kale, sweet potatoes...). Jason and Kali have been enjoying working together a lot lately! The other day they got chicken compost placed on the garlic rows after Jason went through with the wheel hoe. It's fun to see the green shoots poking up. They have also been spending hours working on Kali's climbing tree - slowly transforming it with hand tools into her hanging bed - hopefully to be installed before the spring burst of activity gets underway. Alida enjoys joining in here and there. It's nice to be working with tools that are safer to work with when young children are around. Jason is enjoying using one that Samuel gave to him that he hadn't had the opportunity to put to use before!
When Alida is not with Kali and Jason engaging in their projects, she spends hours being "crafty." She and Terah spend a lot of time playing together - and it is normally either the sweetest thing you have ever seen or they are at odds constantly. I wish I knew exactly what made it go one way or the other! Some of her current favorite things to do including coloring, play dough creations and tea parties (I think her recent loaf of playdough bread looks rather edible!) and putting puzzles together. She is a girl after her Grandma Myers' heart! The other night after my folks left for an evening out, she was still up in their quarters working on something. I told her to come on down when she was ready. A long while later I realized she hadn't appeared so Kali went up to check on her. She was puzzling and said she would be down soon. Another long period of time passed and I believe Kali did a second check. She finally came down admitting how addictive that activity is! So much for being scared when she is all alone. She's growing up - and is starting to get excited for her birthday coming up one month from tomorrow! We will then have a 2 year old and a 7 year old and a 14 year old (my math brain likes that our kids' ages will be 2 x 7 = 14 for a few months!).

And what about me? Well, I am still really enjoying trying to learn the art of cheesemaking. I've got quite a row of cheddars aging right now and have learned that waxing seems to not be advantageous in getting the flavor that we really go for. We just finished off the first cheddar that I had air dried/aged and it was spectacular! I'm also enjoying the signs of spring, even if I'm a little nervous that it's a tad early for some things to be bursting forth. That didn't keep me from stopping to admire the clump of purple crocuses in Nora's garden the other day. The spinach is starting to have leaves worth making a salad out of, which is very exciting and our Lenten rose is in full bloom. The longer days and brighter colors springing forth are welcome! And as I go throughout my days, enjoying many of the activities within them, I'm also trying to be attentive to many of the swirling thoughts and emotions that seems to be par for the course for this 39 year old these days. 
One of the things occupying some of my mental space and a good amount of our time this winter is our continued "deep cleaning" projects in our main living space. We are nearing the completion of the next room so stay tuned for the run down...

Our budding photographer and videographer!

I just downloaded photos/videos and my goodness Terah has been busy! Our camera is a new found love of hers. And I've gotten to the point of not being sure it is worth the fight to keep her from ever using it. So we rubber-band or safety pin the strap to make it smaller  and less likely to fall off her shoulders and then entrust her with it as she traipses around the house snapping photos to her heart's content. She was belly laughing as we went through all her crazy shots, until she realized she would prefer to be the one holding the laptop and operating the buttons for the pictures. Then we were arguing about her other love - my work computer. Sigh! That and phones... My these devices are addicting!

Anyway, I deleted probably well over 100 photos and many videos as well. But I thought some of you might enjoy getting a glimpse into what she decided to snap on her explorations with camera in hand! Here's a little video of her sisters and then what follows are a few of my favorite pictures:

When she is not pursuing her passions for photography, she is also working on her budding musical talents. I'll just go ahead and let you in on what her original composition performed here is about. One of our favorite Terah mispronunciations is how she says "chameleon." You will have many chances to hear it repeated in this song!

Finally, one of her other passions in life is being a cousin to Ivy! It's fun to see them getting to the age where they can enjoy each other's company - the flip side, of course, is that they are now often interested in the same toys (we are working on inspiring our 2 year old to discover the joy of sharing!). Speaking of Ivy, Terah is off with the older girls for a play date down the road. Exciting times (for kids and parents alike)!

I'll end this with one of my favorite Terah vignettes of late. The other night the two older girls were at a sleepover. Jason and I took advantage of the relative simplicity of our lives with just one kiddo under roof (and, after all, it was Valentine's day), to play a round of Upwords. After I had beaten Jason soundly at the game, which meant we were all still in good moods, Terah was having fun with the little letter tiles. "Fun" means she was pushing them all off the table onto the floor and, as she did, saying, "Oopsie...oopsie." I jokingly said to her, "I don't think that's the right word for it." Without missing a beat she said, "Purpose" as more made their way to the floor. That gal doesn't miss much!!