Wednesday, March 28, 2018

They just keep growing: 2 x 7 = 14

(Disclaimer: this was a VERY hastily thrown together blog post and is high on photos with just a little commentary. BUT tomorrow starts the FINAL deep clean of this spring and so I knew this was my last opportunity for awhile...)

As of Monday, our gals are 2, 7 and 14. The part of me that has always loved number patterns is very happy! Kids...what a marker of the passage of time! 

Today included something that is incredibly minor in the scheme of things and yet felt rather monumental - I pumped for the last time at work and brought my breast pump home. Jason is cleaning breast pump parts for the last time as I type. Will he miss that and will I miss pumping? Not exactly...but kind of. Or maybe it is more that I will miss the stage of life that it is a symbol of. I have pumped for close to half of the last 14 years - lots and lots of ounces of milk for our girls and for a handful of other babies. But the diminishing returns made the decision to stop rather obvious. So time to pack it up and close that chapter of my life. 

Terah is, however, not showing signs of weaning any time soon so the "lactation chapter" is still open for a bit longer! That said, she's seeming less and less like a baby every day. Here's a recent coloring session. She still much prefers being without clothes than with. Here's two picture in addition to the video as proof that she would still likely be pretty content in a nudist colony!

This past week included lots of opportunities to celebrate our middle daughter and she soaked it up! Alida's been pretty excited about turning 7 and I think her birthday did not disappoint. She had a 7th birthday party with 7 girls complete with a sleepover and multiple Easter egg hunts! I took off for her actual birthday and we enjoyed a mommy/daughter date out which was a highlight for her and me. She couldn't stop chattering about how fun and special it was. And she designed her menus and helped Grandma make birthday cupcakes. There were presents/coupons gifted, the opportunity to choose her sisters' outfits for the day, and in many other ways being allowed to be "in charge" which she milked for all it was worth! Terah was not always as gracious as Kali was about giving Alida lots of opportunities to lead the way on her special day, but she did sing Happy Birthday to her lots!
It wasn't on her birthday but right before her birthday festivities we had our biggest/best snow of the year. An added bonus to her birthday week!
The snow and recent rains helped make it easier for Jason and Kali to focus on finishing Kali's hanging bed AND the ladder. Kali is now climbing her climbing tree each night to get into bed. You don't get the full effect with these pictures! Kali moving over to her new bed freed up her bed for Alida to make the ascent to the top. She decided to have first night on the top bunk be when she turned 7. So she has slept great two nights on the top bunk and my sense is there will be no turning back. 
That opens up the bottom bunk for...TERAH! Nope, hasn't slept there just yet but it's all ready for her. Another life transition just around the bend. Am I ready?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

First day of spring musings

Here we are again! As the rain pours down, with a wintry mix and snow on the way later today and tomorrow, we welcome spring! I'm marking the first day of spring by successfully moving all our freezer stuff into one and defrosting the chest freezer that hadn't yet had it's turn at getting a short break this winter. The remaining food fits in one, just barely! And today I'll use up the last of the frozen green beans and our last pureed persimmons. It's starting to be that time of year, where we use up things just in time to have a long enough break from them to get real hankering for the planting, weeding, tending, harvesting and processing work and fun of the coming growing season. 

I've had so many thoughts and emotions swirling through me the last number of days. I'm not sure I have the time or this is the place to air them all, but I'll give a taste of life of late and may find ways to insert the things that are not easily described in words or expressed through the photos.

Yesterday, after a particularly challenging morning at work, I swung by the post office to mail Kali's photo for a Cricket art contest. As I stood at the mailroom window my eyes fell on a little plaque there on the wall. "Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire." My goodness, those words... They have been ringing in my head and heart every since, and I'll admit to having a lump in my throat most of the last 24 hours. Somehow the urgency felt deep within me to find the courage to figure out what that means for my life and our family's life is present with me in ways it hasn't been for a long time.

Then this morning, Jason and I attempted our morning coffee and Sabbath poems alone. We successfully had coffee and read some poems but not alone. As is often the case, kids, even in their sleep, sensed that the parents were about to sneak in some time just the two of them and instead we enjoyed our coffee and poems with Alida and Terah, interspersing breakfast-making for them and the interruptions that are commonplace!

We ended our reading time with a long poem called The Farm. I felt understood on the deepest level as we read it - thanks Wendell Berry! It's pages long so I won't share it all here, but here are a few tastes.

"Stay years if you would know
The work and thought, the pleasure 
And grief, the feat, by which
This vision lives...

For you must learn to live
With neighbors never chosen
As with the ones you chose. 
Coyote's song at midnight
Says something for the world
The world wants said. And when
You know your flock is safe
You'll like to wake and hear
That wild voice sing itself
Free in the dark, at home...

But don't neglect your garden.
Household economy
Makes family and land
An independent state.
Never buy at a store
What you can grow or find
At home - this is the rule
Of liberty, also
Of neighborhood. (And be
Faithful to local merchants
Too. Never buy far off
What you can buy near home.)...

Eat these good beasts that eat
What you can't eat. Be thankful
To them and to the plants,
To your small, fertile homeland,
To topsoil, light, and rain
That daily give you life.

Be thankful and repay
Growth with good work and care.
Work done in gratitude,
Kindly, and well is prayer.
You did not make yourself,
Yet you must keep yourself
By use of other lives...

There is no end to work - 
Work done in pleasure, grief,
Or weariness, with ease
Of skill and timeliness,
Or awkwardly or wrong,
Too hurried or too slow.
One job completed shows
Another to be done..."

I believe it was at this point in the poem that I said something like "has he been here before?" I feel a fullness of emotion in me as these words slip in and around my spirit. They resonate at the deepest part of my being - something like what sets my soul on fire maybe?!

As we make our way through the book of Sabbath poems it's amazing to me how much life and love is woven throughout, as well as deep grieving. There is also a sense of how our lives and work are part of something much bigger than ourselves, but also how we come and we go. I have found my heart full of thoughts of those that have made such deep imprints on our lives and who are not with us physically as we make our way through the seasons of this year, namely our neighbors and friends, Samuel and Robert. 

There is nothing like a blooming amaryllis to be a constant reminder of someone. Robert loved amaryllis and before his death he gave us some seeds to try. Normally they are grown from bulbs and we had never done either before, but we are not normally ones to turn down seeds. We tucked them in the soil and waited. Our long wait is now being rewarded as the first two plants bless us with their extravagant blooms. I can almost imagine Robert outside our large picture window taking a look at what surprise splash of color unfolds before our eyes. I wish he could see these flowers, new to the world. 
Kali's aforementioned artwork being submitted to her kid's magazine...
And then there's Kali and Jason's bed project. It's coming along and is truly a project where the process will be as valuable as the end project. They have finished preparing the wood and are now installing the bed in Kali's room. At times I can find myself feeling impatient with the process - it is no small feat to take one's climbing tree and transform it into a bed with hand tools. But when I get in touch with what this process has been for Kali and Jason - to spend hours together working side by side, using tools that have been handled by loved ones no longer physically with us, my patience expands. Jason has used an adze given to him by Samuel and Kali has used a draw knife that was her great grandpa's, whom she never had the privilege of meeting. Here she is in action.
We took a trek to Charlottesville this past week to take advantage of a March sale at the organic mattress store where we got our mattress. The girls enjoyed trying them out, and Kali's mattress should be shipped within the next few days. The hope is that not long after its arrival, her bed frame will be installed and ready for use. The snow coming might aid in the completion of that goal, as it makes spring outdoor work just a tad challenging! As we always try to do, we made the most of the miles driven over the mountain. We combined our mattress shopping trip with a lovely visit with Noreen and family, one of Nora's doctors during the last week of her life and now wonderful friend of ours. As we near the 10th anniversary of Nora's death, we are hoping to more deeply engage in a writing project with her that has been bubbling up within us over the past decade. It's time to bring it to fruition! And this feels like the right timing and season in our grief journey to dive more fully into the process. I've been on the lookout for 3 yellow flowers the last number of weeks and finally found them a few days ago in the fire ring. That time signifying enough warmth in the year to take our fragile baby outside has come around again. 
And while the soil is still too cold for entrusting seeds to the ground, there are warm stints that we are taking advantage of. My how good it feels to get out there and do some family work together. I can't think of anything I enjoy more honestly. AND the new garden fence is enabling us to do projects we have never risked doing with chickens on the loose. We are laying down feed sacks and mulching paths heavily with leaves and it all stays where we put it. We are doing to love this new fenced in area!! The work has involved many wheelbarrow rides for the littlest and lots of gate guarding and opening/closing for the middle gal. As well as chattering about all sorts of things, and of course a dose of griping when the work starts to feel long.
On the inside of the house, we've got seeds started and little plants reaching for the sun. We are itching to start moving them from the little cell packs to the soil that will nourish them and allow them to grow to their full potential. But for now we tend them indoors. And my focus continue to be on using the harvests from last season to nourish us, with a smattering of fresh spinach to savor and give us a taste of what is to come! It was fun to celebrate St. Patrick's day with a large spinach salad fresh from the garden. And another treat for that holiday was a surprise visit from Jason's sister. Our green meal was even more delightful with our numbers expanded with loved ones to fill our table!
The other day I had one of "those mornings" where I just plowed through food preparations and processing in the kitchen. I counted up the milk jars used and I had gone through 8 gallons of milk making ricotta, farmer's cheese, cheddar and yogurt. I'm finally in a groove with farmhouse cheddar and am really excited about the results. My last few batches, that were still ones I had waxed before ditching that unnecessary step, had little pockets of unintended blue cheese, but the one I cracked into this morning is just what I'm aiming for. It's about time to try a longer aged cheddar, but that will take a day when I'm feeling particularly adventurous!

That same morning, I made one of those brunches (turned out to be closer to lunchtime) that kind of expanded as I went. Before long there was a cottage cheese cheddar oregano bake in the oven, alongside roasting squash and a sorghum yogurt cornbread. On the stovetop I had tomatoes stewing with some of the last shallots and, to top off the meal, I steamed fresh spinach. Is there anything sweeter and fuller in flavor. It was clearly one of those meals that wanted to not only be savored but also photographed. The textures, colors and love that went into it is not easily captured!
Times up so to end a few snippets that didn't neatly fit in anywhere else but that I didn't want to lose sight of. Terah is still often a mommy's girl but she can't help but find daddy pretty exciting sometimes. Recently she wanted to go out with him for chicken chores and he was happy to oblige. Here's the cute pair:
And there's our almost 7 year old eagerly counting down the days to her birthday party and then her actual birthday. She was trying on her outfits for her party today and the Easter eggs are already filled for the hunt. I enjoyed a very short "Alida Mommy date" the other morning when we went to town together and did a co-op run for some needed birthday party fixings. As always, she soaked up that time and our littlest was mostly ok with the arrangement, though she made it very clear to us that for her birthday she wanted all of us to go to the co-op together!

And our oldest is not sitting around twiddling her thumbs. When not building her bed or tending her ducks or helping with the spring rush on the homestead, she is enjoying various creative pursuits. She recently had a poem published in Cricket and just yesterday the paper had a little blurb about her fame.

These gals get a lot of credit for making life what it is: rich, exhausting, rewarding, exasperating, challenging, hilarious, sweet, full of opportunities for growth and oh so very full!