We grew a lot of black beans this year! It rained a lot this year! That means that many of them sprouted before we got them out of the field, threshed and winnowed. So sitting in our common room for awhile was four loaded trays of black beans. It looked like a daunting job with a mixture of sprouted, moldy and good beans. We were faced with the dilemma that is so often a part of our life at Tangly Woods. Do we take the "unreasonable" amount of time needed to sort through all these black beans to pull out the good ones - which probably wouldn't amount to no more than 20-25lbs of dry beans. There was no way we were going to "justify" the activity by comparing to what a sack of 25lb of organic black beans would cost. But is that the gauge we should be using? Well, we sorted one tray's worth, found the activity rather addicting and then made refried beans with them. That made the decision. They were scrumptious - once again we learn that food grown here tastes best! We spent hours together sorting beans while kids played around us or joined in. Yes, a considerable amount of time spent on the activity but if framed as good and fun family times that resulted in lots of black beans that we will enjoy this winter, the beans then are almost a bonus! I often get the sense that some might feel that we are "wasting" our time doing so much by hand when you could just go to the store and buy "the same thing." I would argue they aren't the same thing, I would also argue we aren't considering all the costs of such a mentality (and some are already paying the price of it), and I would finally argue it is a pretty good alternative to family television watching time. You might wonder if I'm trying to convince myself. In part, I am! We are not immune to the pressures felt from our economy and culture.
Well, that clearly could be a blog post all it's own, but let's move along. Isn't this a beautiful sight? What you don't get are the beautiful sounds accompanying it. I'm very much enjoying the fruits of Kali's birthday gift of piano lessons, and she seems to be thoroughly enjoying them, too. It's once again a new experience for me of seeing someone choose to pursue something (after a long time contemplating it) and then enjoy practicing and improving with no pressure or anxiety involved - AND no need for me to enforce practicing or bug her to go over her "homework." It's delightful! So much so that I offered to do a duet with her on the piano for "Sing for your Supper" at Jason's aunts over Thanksgiving. We were great in rehearsal, Kali was great in the performance, and I screwed up. But it was fun!
So more on our Thanksgiving travels: I won't waste too much space on the care ride. 81 and 78 are never enjoyable roads for me to travel on and this time was no different. Terah is not a very enjoyable kid for me to drive long distances with and this time was also no different. I also was not as prepared this time as sometimes - I did good packing food for the meals on the road but neglected to think through the "entertainment." With no working CD player, we were subjected to a lot of "I hate the car" and "I want out of the carseat" and "I want to play." The good news was that Terah transferred from bed to car on the way to and from PA and slept some of the way both times. Had she been awake all 5-6 hours, it might have done me in! Even as it was, I was VERY glad to get to our destination safely on both ends of our trip!
Once in PA, we had many good family times. There was baby holding, swinging, cushioned-sword fighting, horsey riding, family walk/talks, singing, candle making, game playing, feasting, and did I mention baby holding? You will see some visuals below of our time together, but the best view I had in the few days we were there was the first photo here - I don't hold a sleeping baby in my arms very often any more and especially away from home with no to do lists looming. It was luxurious!! So we soaked up time all together and then we all departed and since that time are all exchanging notes on the pathways the various viruses we all shared with each other are taking as they make their ways through our bodies. I think there are a precious few from the family that have been spared illness. But despite it being a long time since I've had a good night's sleep (Terah is no less dramatic now with a cold than she was before), it was worth it!
Upon our return home, our chief task this week was to finish collecting leaves for the year. We had self-imposed an end of November deadline for ourselves. We decided by that time we should have enough for the year and we need to move on to other projects/tasks. So we hit it hard on the days I was not in the office this week - most of Tuesday and Thursday and then this morning. The pile has been above the wire numerous times and then we "worked" (ok, played) hard to compact it to add more. What satisfying work - fresh air, good exercise, fun family times. I'm in!!
Below we will share some instructional videos on the proper technique for compacting an enormous leaf pile. :)
#1 The dive:
#2 The face plant:
#3 The child drop:
If you are needing some additional tips and suggestions there are more where those came from! Jason and I make a really good raking/hauling team. And Jason knows all he has to do is mention how many leaf bundles he was able to take on one trip, and I'll be working hard to rise to the challenge. Our top number was 5! Thankfully the back injuries triggered by a previous virus seem to be healing up pretty well such that we both felt pretty good (in our backs if not our noses and throats) for our final day! We are grateful to our neighbors for allowing us to rake and haul away their leaf and pine needle crops. They seem equally glad to have us do it for them! The added benefit is that their massive yard of trees is also equipped with a play house, a swing, a slide and a trampoline. So we have built in kiddo entertainment when the thrill of raking leaves wears off. So I'm not sad to see this "season" come to a close, but I will also eagerly anticipate it when it comes around again next year! We are sure this is more than we have ever collected in a year and should keep us stocked for our humanure composting, chicken and duck bedding, paths and garden mulching, etc...
Our outdoor work time is greatly curtailed during this time of year by the hours of available light. This often means we are racing the sun at the end of the day to get the evening outdoor chores wrapped up, but it also means longer evenings for indoor things. Jason has been noting the length of his hair for awhile now. Last evening, kind of spur of the moment, I noted that he has just showered (clean hair is a must for donating) and we were home "early" (before 9 p.m.) from dinner and visiting with Emily, Jonas and Ivy. So we sprung on the opportunity for a hair chop!! What we didn't realize was that our middle daughter was going to really struggle with this - it's a change after all and we had not given her sufficient time to adjust to the idea of a shorter-haired father. So while Terah happily went off to find her scissors to practice cutting daddy's hair and Jason worked to get his hair dry in front of the fire and to keep Terah from chewing on it (?!), Alida mourned the pending change. And she didn't do it all that quietly! Kali had faded again (the viruses taking their toll) and missed the whole thing. The ending was as we suspected it would be. Alida had an excellent frump session, I gave a useless lecture, we cut Jason's hair, and she couldn't even remember being upset about it this morning and loves her daddy just as much with short hair. I've got four long locks of hair to send off on Monday!
If you have made it this far, congratulations! The best part is about to come. I want to close with a brief reflection from our morning reading/coffee time today. Jason and I are reading together Philip Ackerman-Leist's Up Tunket Road and it's another book that we feel inclined to underline about half of. It's so nice when we find a book that we no longer need to try to write because someone else already has. He articulates so many of the challenges, dilemmas, joys, questions, successes, failures, and musings about the homesteading journey that we resonate so deeply with! In this morning's reading, I was calling out "Amen" in some instances and feeling so grateful to him for articulating the connection that I feel with what we are trying (no matter how flawed) to do at Tangly Woods with my undergraduate studies in peacebuilding and liberation theology. I have sensed in my core the connections all along but at times struggle to put words to it. Thanks Philip! Here's one snippet: "Latin American liberation theologians - faced with death, economic oppression, and even opposition from their superiors in Rome - saw faith as a way to help their communities find their way out of seemingly impossible situations...This moment of doubt, confusion and uncertainty is what liberation theologians would call aporia, an ancient Greek word meaning 'without a door.' Aporia became not an impasse but rather the beginning point for new vision and understanding...In the face of so many global challenges, I find the minuteness of any given homesteading venture to be much the same, as we humans work to navigate our way through some of the biggest challenges that we have ever posed for ourselves. We are groping for a door, trying to determine where to put our faith and, subsequently, our energies...I believe that our best chance of dismantling our current ecological aporia will come not so much from our ability to harness the wind, sun, and tides as from our willingness to harness our wants and whims...and to find joy not so much in simplicity as in simple pleasures." Yay for leaf raking together!!