Sunday, August 19, 2018

Kali's golden birthday and all that surrounded it!

This afternoon I finally downloaded the photos/videos off the camera. It had been over two weeks and Terah had a good number of stints with the camera in that time! There was nearly 400 photos/videos on it. I promise not to bore you with even a small fraction of them all, but there were some keepers too! I love seeing what she comes up with! This first picture here was one of my favorites of the many Terah took!

Now the focus of this post is intended to be on our now 15 year old who celebrated her 15th birthday on the 15th of this month, but let me share a few other snapshots before getting to the festivities:

Snapshot 1:

Thankfully I have no real injuries of late to report. However, Kali's last day of drama camp was on costumes and makeup and they learned how to make themselves look rather beat up. Kali's was impressive enough that the woman checking us out at the library on our way home from camp asked Kali what had happened. It definitely looked like it hurt - not pictured here was a pretty nasty bruise on her ankle to complement the other cuts and bruises. While this may not necessarily be a very important life skill, Kali had a really fun time at camp and she has now officially "aged out" of the Larkin Arts homeschool classes and camps. Our baby is outgrowing things for kids. How is that so? I love that she is still young at heart and enjoys playing with kids of all ages!

Snapshot 2:

It's still raining A LOT! So in 2017 we had about 5 inches of rain in late July. We followed suit this year but it just hasn't stopped. We get some sunshine and then rain and then more rain and then some sun and then storms. We have had MANY afternoon thunderstorms. But rain and sunshine often mean great rainbows too and we have enjoyed those immensely. The best was the one that we could see the full rainbow over the mountain in front of us and then the clouds came across making for quite the colorful display of sky beauty! 
 Snapshot 3:

Our kids love our friends! Alida will often ask, "Is anyone coming over today?" While they may appear reserved or shy upon initial meeting, they do warm up pretty quick. And it seems no one gets them out of their shells better than little people. So we soak up and savor our visits from our baby neighbor friend, who is now doing very impressive push ups/down dogs. Terah was attempting to copy her. On that particular visit, Terah and Alida were also deeply engaged in an exciting game of dress up. They are so silly! Soon thereafter some other friends came over for a playdate and the crew was quite spiffy!
Snapshot 4:

Our beans just won't let us. Where are the bean beetles this year? We have picked bushels and bushels - our freezer is stashed with gallon bags of beans and we've made lots of dilly canned and fermented beans. Our cucumbers have wowed us - 100 quarts or so of canned pickles, gallons of fermented and we have been eating and eating them. We have had plenty to share of both. I'm so glad for kiddos who enjoy helping snip beans (the eldest always, the younger two sometimes). Moods are highly unpredictable in our home these days but when we are in a groove of good moods and general helpfulness, the food processing scene is the best party I could hope for! Terah is often resident photographer of our parties!
The tomatoes have been horrible (in terms of amounts), but we have had a few crazy large ones - see below. Too much rain! I have canned some salsa, some sauce, some diced tomatoes and some paste, but nowhere near the amounts we would normally hope for in a year. Maybe it will be the saving grace of the weeks coming up to not be flooded with tomatoes, and we might just eat more beans and pickles this winter and less tomato products. Thankfully, I still have some left from last year! We have really enjoyed eating fresh salsa with our HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS made from our home grown corn. That may be the subject for another post sometime - one of those step by step recipes with photos. Stay tuned. :)
 Here's our great tomato peeler/choppers:

Snapshot 5:

Terah and Alida are something else. Have two gals ever adored each other and played so well together AND gotten on each other's nerves so badly (and thus their mother's?). The other day Alida came downstairs from my folks' saying she wanted to go where Terah couldn't interrupt her. Terah then wanted to go downstairs so she could interrupt. What a kid! They are both adorable and fun and exasperating... They will sometimes play for long stints together without any arguments and the center of that recently has been Terah's little bike. They discovered that even Alida could "fit it." Here's a short clip of that and then one of them being sweet together - it's not nearly as fun to video the grouchy moments! Finally, I decided to include Terah's newest use for a bag made of bag that her Aunt Emily made for me years ago. :)

Snapshot 6:

August is a month that is busy and full for us and very celebratory with a birthday and harvests in abundance. It is now also colored by memories of our neighbor Samuel who died a year ago. Without very intentionally trying to time it this way, it just so happened that this weekend was a large chicken butchering (and cheese making) weekend for us, in which we invited a few folks to join us and learn the ropes on both. So as it turned out, Jason was butchering many of the chickens that he had raised in the coop he got and rehabbed from Samuel on the one year anniversary of his death. Life and death... We still miss him so much!

Phew, this is already a long post and we are not even to the (almost) week of birthday celebrations. I better dive in and take you for a quick ride through before Terah tires of her bathtub play. Tomorrow also starts my 80+ hour work week with orientation starting Wednesday so I need to get more sleep than I've been getting!

The first celebration was her birthday sleepover party! She decorated the front room herself! She made the bread for the pizza pockets! She helped make salsa the day of the party. The day before and day of she helped with the (not one or two but) THREE homemade ice cream custards. Yep, we went all out on this one! I'm so glad my kids insist on not being left out of the preparation part of their birthdays. I couldn't do it without them. The only hard part was Alida was as eager to participate in every step as Kali and was trying to steal the show from time to time. Kali is so patient! She let both Alida and Terah help along the way.

We enjoyed pizza pockets over an outdoor fire, homemade ice cream, and then late into the evening some rounds of Apples to Apples. Lots of laughter and good food and celebrating Kali and good friendships!
A few friends were able to bunk over and enjoy a birthday brunch with us and some games in the morning before departing.
In there somewhere between her birthday party and her actual birthday, I got a gift from Kali even though it wasn't my birthday! I had a coupon from YEARS AGO for "one footwach with lochon." We know it was a long time ago because her spelling is much improved, and I think her foot massages with lotion are also better than they would have been years ago - so I guess I got my coupon with interest. :) Another not really birthday thing but an outing the day before Kali's birthday was using some more summer reading program coupons - the last ice cream cone (and the best from a local creamery) and a trip (the first for the girls) to the Green Valley Book Fair. There we verified that Terah was in fact 3 ft tall and would be able to ride lots more rides at the fair this year. We also experienced once again that Terah cannot seem to eat an ice cream cone without biting the middle of the cone when you turn your back for a second!
So with new books, she was ready for her actual birthday! We enjoyed a fancy birthday breakfast together on the day of her birthday and then in the evening got to celebrate with my parents who arrived that day. Alida and Terah had given their presents to her at her party (Alida gave her a watch because Kali is always borrowing hers, a chocolate bar and 15 cents and Terah got her yellow piano books from Gift and Thrift - yellow is the essential part of that). I had saved our presents for her actual birthday - another book to read, many more piano books along with a coupon for a professional piano tuning and 15 piano lessons in honor of her 15 years.

Ok, bath time is over so here's a few pictures from our annual trek to the Rockingham County Fair. We picked the right night as the day after we were there power was knocked out by a storm and it poured. There were a few sprinkles but otherwise perfect weather! We looked at a few animals, went to the frisbee dog show and had a birthday picnic, but otherwise we rode rides, rides and more rides! Let's just say that by 11 p.m. I was very ready to just stay put on the carousel with my head leaning on a horse while Terah did it over and over again. Most kids were tucked in bed by that time so the ride was not in high demand and the guy running it just let us stay on. I think we did it at least 7 times while the older girls and Jason took in a few final rides. Jason and I were both very ready to be done spinning for awhile. We are not getting any younger! It was fun to meet up with Emily, Jonas and Ivy for part of the evening. Terah had been saying earlier in the day that she was not going to be scared on the rides but Ivy might be. In the end, the opposite was true! Terah was definitely not sure about some of the rides, and on one I even had the guy stop it so I could get her off, in part because I was worried she might throw up (but in the end, I think it was just fear and not nausea I was seeing on her face). Most of the pictures here are with Terah because the older girls were enjoying older people rides and I never had a camera on those! They both tried rides they were too scared to do last year. None of us did the "death drop" one. I think once in my lifetime was enough on that one!! So another fun excursion and I'm glad I have a year to recover before the next time...
And now here we are! I'm so glad that my parents are here for a few weeks around this time. It's so refreshing to me for the kids to have the fun of and special times with grandparents around when their mom is completely strung out! They are enjoying playing games and reading stories and now as I finish this up Terah is watching Mom do the finishing touches on the rugs she just took off her loom. Oh, and now Terah wants to bug Grandpa who is trying to read, so time to sign off and head back to our house! ...but Terah knows she can get a few more minutes of Grandpa's attention if she asks to look at some birds with him. :) Smart girl! So ending with a "thanks Mom and Dad for making this season of the year not only tolerable but much more enjoyable for all of us" - and only for my mom would I put a thanks at the very end of a book-length blog post, because my mom is probably the only one that will read this far!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

August is here, ready or not!!

Two weeks has passed since our return home, so I should be fully readjusted I suppose. I guess mostly I am, though we haven't really had a "normal" week since. The older girls left for a thrilling week with cousins and grandparents a few days after we came home and now this week they are doing a morning art camp in town, meaning that I'm providing daily shuttle service. That ends today, which will be more disappointing for them than me (though I think even they are eager to not leave home every morning)!

So here's some visuals from our life of late. I should start with a quick news flash though, for anyone sitting on pins and needles about Kali's free range ducks. THEY CAME BACK! The next night when she went to shut in her other ducks they were by their coop. They had, it appears, just gone for a sleepover next door. Sigh! We (ok, I!) have had a little conversation with them about how if you go on sleepovers without permission you will then be grounded for a few days - which they were! Now we have again had enough rain to make our place interesting enough with water features to keep them closer to home.
On the cusp of leaving for a week, here she was tying herself up! We missed our chatterbox! She definitely enlivens any space she is in and her mind is so active these days cooking up things to do (often that make big messes with craft supplies). She was so excited for a week in WV but also nervous about a horseback ride in the plans - which she ended up LOVING!
Kali got in on making one snipped bean tower before leaving for the week, and several since returning. I'm not sure where we are in the green bean harvest but we are shocked and thrilled with the low level of bean beetles this year. Not complaining and happy to see the gallon bags slowly build up in the freezer!

With the older girls gone, Jason and I had a little side kick with us for the week and a mighty cute one at that. She was mostly at my side but when Daddy was doing exciting things like feeding the pigs or collecting eggs, she was often eager to switch alliances!
Terah still requests stints with the camera. I always enjoy seeing what shows up when I download. This one was one I saw her really working on to get the angle she wanted on the jam jar. A favorite snack recently has been yogurt with wineberry jam.
So much for Jason and I having coffee and enjoying Wendell Berry poems to start our day ALONE! But I can't say I've ever felt disappointed to hear her little pitter-patter out to us. And a dose of Wendell Berry is good for all ages!

It was different to just have one kid in the backseat. It meant more room for lugging other things and Terah especially liked the day we went to look over a flock of Jason's chickens at someone else's farm to pick out breeders. Rather than sisters, she had a chicken on each side of her. 
On the return trip, we swung by a farm that was done part of their sweet corn patch and was open to allowing free gleaning. It was a beautiful evening, though a little unnerving to have two guys pull up on a tractor with guns (looking for deer to cash in crop damage permits but still)...
In the end the corn processing was full of mixed emotions. We learned that what we thought was no or very little sprayed corn was actually sprayed quite regularly. So our corn husks went to the landfill rather than the compost and while we did freeze what we had gleaned, we decided not to go back for more as initially planned. We don't want to mess with the fungus in our soils by adding fungicide. We've been working too hard at healing and improving soils to knowingly set ourselves back on that front. But it's still hard to see what appears to be such a wonderful healthy local food go to waste. Hard choices!
We've had many days where the mountain has been obscured (at least in part) from our view. We've had more than 5 inches of rain since we arrived home. The sprinkler and hoses are firmly tucked away for now. We've got more days in front of us with chances of storms. Thankfully there have been pockets of sun for drying things off in between.
I sure missed having a team of food processors when Kali and Alida were in WV. Sometimes I resorted to Terah typing them an email to get myself a few more minutes to finish off a load for the canner or some such food processing task. She was always happy to write to them! But she wanted a new color to type with about every 10 seconds, which made focusing on anything for any length of time a bit of a challenge!
She was pretty excited about her load of tomatoes one day from HER garden! We didn't go prepared to her patch so she came back with a nightgown full. She is catching the bug I think - the gardening one that is!
Now these are NOT from our trees. They are from our neighbors who had an incredible peach year and were headed to the beach and so offered the remainder of what was on the trees to us. I have never felt so rich as when I looked out onto the porch at what Jason brought home. Better than winning the lottery!
We canned and froze a bunch and just ate the last ones fresh the other day. This will be a treat all winter. It's been years since I've canned any peaches so we will savor them. They also will be a reminder of Samuel every time we crack a jar open, not that we are really needing any help remembering or missing him. This month will mark a year since his death.
This is what our kitchen table often looks like these days. 
This is what the stove often looks like these days. Tomatoes are just coming in so haven't canned any yet but have been able to make several batches of tomato shallot sauce, which is a taste sensation if there ever was one! And cheesemaking is still a regular occurrence. I'm ready to proclaim that I'm a confident cheddar maker. I think swiss is up next.
And then they got home and our house felt complete again and immediately exponentially more complicated! It was so very good to see them and so wonderful to hear of all their fun adventures. The stories are still spilling out now and then.
Their return also meant a short but sweet visit from my parents. Terah no longer has any fear of swinging high and now it takes two to keep her content with pushes!
This is one of my favorite spots on our property right now! It's going to convert me I believe. I've always been more into growing veggies than flowers but this brightens my spirits every time I look outside. Our table is often laden with more than one bouquet right now!
So the other day, Terah apparently was getting out of bed to come to me at the end of her afternoon nap and decided she'd snooze a little longer (standing up). Silly gal!
And here's another silly gal with a very cute "hat." She has had more "frumpy times" in this very spot since returning home - long days, too short nights, and no cousins and grandparents to make life extra exciting and interesting!
It seems kids can smell/sense/intuit when their parents might enjoy some quiet moments together to start their day. Our most recent coffee/poem morning was joined by not one but two gals!
Here's what is happening in art camp: Kali is doing drama and here she was ready to be a pirate. Alida is doing painting and here is her beach scene. They are really enjoying it and both have friends in their classes.
And that brings me to last evening. Apples we had gleaned from our friends' tree had been sitting for enough days to make the place smell "appley" and they were turning yellow. Time to sauce them!
We didn't get started until after my afternoon work stint and Terah's nap, and once I had cheese made, supper in the oven and a few other projects wrapped up. Thankfully it was not a load like some years - so doable in an evening!
I had spectacular and frequent taste testers! It was enjoyed plain, with cinnamon and at the end of the evening with pecans and chocolate chips (which melted into it). All gave it several thumbs up!
We started filling the first jars after 8:30 so I did see in the new day before crashing but it could have been worse. There are 21 quarts out on the porch to clean off and add to the growing rows of full jars in the root cellar. And here we are at harvest day again so I might sneak out and bring in a load or two before waking the girls for the last day of art camp!
There's my scrapbook pages for the last while. Much more could be said about the under current of emotions as I go throughout my days. Since the girls arrived home, one thing that has been once again impressed upon me is both the preciousness of life and how fleeting it can be. They needed to go an alternate route home from WV (there aren't many!) due to a truck accident on the Allegheny Mountain. Since their safe arrival home, we learned that the truck driver (who was hauling a truck load of eggs) was killed and we have learned that he was a friend of our Kurdish neighbors. He had a wife and two small children and his wife is expecting their third child. He was working in an unfulfilling job with not great working conditions but just trying to pay off some bills before looking for something safer and more satisfying. Now his family likely will have no choice but to return to Iraq without his support here. And likely they left there hoping for a better and more stable life here. My heart has been breaking for them. I have wanted to hold our gals close and have felt like cursing these boxes of metal we drive around in. I've also been feeling angry at all the unjust systems that create these kinds of tragedies. It feels like this accident was not just a fluke one, but one built from many layers of injustice. Oh to figure out my place in the beauty and ugliness, abundance and scarcity in our world!