Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Making history and other spring news!

So a new thing happened at Tangly Woods this spring that feels rather monumental! It's now somewhat dated news, but over a week ago something transpired that has not happened to date on our homestead: the girls and I planted a major crop without Jason! This may not seem like noteworthy news but it is! Now it is important to state that we kind of swooped in to do the fun and easy parts after Jason had spent a lot of time wheel hoeing and trenching, which are undeniably the tough parts! But we must still celebrate successes where they can be found! It turned out that Jason had a date to make a picnic table with our friend Tim on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and there was rain in the forecast. We didn't want to pass the opportunity up to get potatoes in the ground. Together we laid most of the biochar in the seams. When it was time for Jason's attention to shift to picnic table construction, the girls and I carried on! We finished putting biochar, and then duff when we ran out of char, into the potato trenches, covered that with some soil and then planted potatoes on top. We tucked them in and wished them well! We made a pretty good team and were done well before dark. Yay! Now, I guess our success will truly be apparent when the potatoes come up!
While Jason wasn't able to finish the picnic table that day, we prioritized getting it done soon after and we are now enjoying a second outdoor eating space up on the concrete pad. It's a winner!
The chickens are also big fans of us eating outside!
While we are on the picnic theme, we enjoyed a lovely outdoor meal over at Emily and Jonas' recently. I was proud of myself for remembering my camera. I often neglect to take photos when we are all together since it often feels like "just normal life" and somehow I think we often have in our heads that we are to photograph the special or unusual things. But honestly lately it seems that the commonplace everyday things are grabbing my attention as much as anything! That seems to be true for Alida too. I will not bore you with the 200 or so VERY ordinary pictures I just downloaded from our camera, but here's just two that I thought were worth sharing.
It's been such a striking spring. I don't know if it is actually any different this year or it's just how it is every year when color and green edible things return. The forsythia were so striking, the first batch of tea tasted so fresh, the fruit trees are giving glimpses of the potential of fruit to come, and the red buds and violets are delicious! The world outside our windows is so alive, colorful and textured! There are birds singing choruses all throughout the day and the chickens and the mamas with chicks are providing constant entertainment. When I take moments to breath deeply and take it in, I'm filled with wonder!
I mentioned the red buds! They truly deserve their own paragraph. What a tree! There are splashes of pinkish purple all around us and some of our favorites are right below our home in Nora's garden. I hardly remember how little they were when planted a decade plus ago when we brought them from my parents former home in Mount Joy. The other day after a long stint of gardening/playing outdoors together, it was past time for a meal and we all landed in Nora's garden. Feasting began and continued with enthusiasm for some time! The pictures don't quite do justice to the smacking of lips, munching of flowers right off the tree, and the delight of the beautiful moment all together. I included a short video at the end that helps give a better sense of it!
Spring has also been the bearer of one major disappointment (with another likely this Friday). After convincing ourselves more or less than our red pig was pregnant, her due date came and went with no major activity to report - other than us reading into her every grunt or change of movement and sleeping horribly one night as we kept waking to check on her or think about her. We had attempted to hold the dream of piglets loosely but had obviously failed! The black one would birth at the end of this week, but at this point we are doubtful since all the signs we used to judge the red's pregnancy proved to be inaccurate (and they were the same things we were noting on the black one as well). We are still working on plans b, c, or d if at the end of this weekend we are still "pigletless!"

As springtime gets more complicated on the homestead and at my work, we were able to shed one weekly commitment this week when Alida's little foray into field hockey at JMU with the Purple Pups program came to an end. It was a fun ending as it was parents' and kids' night and so I was able to brush up on my field hockey skills. Kali willingly took care of Terah on the sidelines, who was ready to go home soon after the hour got underway and who was not impressed at the snack of pumpkin seeds I had brought along. I didn't realize how discontent she was until reviewing the videos Kali took of us playing with Terah grumping in the background. I was having too much fun to notice I guess. We played a parents against kids game and I scored my only field hockey goal of my career (I always played defense). I immediately felt bad scoring as I was unsure if we were supposed to let the kids win or not. I tried to reign in my enthusiasm after that until they mixed things up and put parents and kids together on teams and then I felt I could unleash my competitiveness when going up against the other parents!

On the home front it feels like we are entering some new phases/stages - some welcome and some not so much. Alida and Terah are becoming such sweet playmates. They are big into Easter egg hunts right now and also playing school. Alida will come to me exclaiming how good Terah is getting at her letters - with a surprise and delight that warms my heart. She seems thrilled at Terah's progress and her hand in it! She really has a right to take some credit, as I have yet to put any serious time and attention into Terah's letter comprehension and she is making big strides on that front. 

Terah is also shifting from being a tag along side kick who is cute and chatters but is mostly not all that helpful. She is starting to expand her ways of helping and seems thrilled when she can make genuine contributions. The other day she wanted to vacuum. It's not exactly an efficient use of time when I end up standing there watching how cute she is and then calling the whole family to come see her. Not a time saver but my was she a pumpkin trying to manage the large vacuum without help. She has been actually helpful in other areas in the garden especially. She loves to help me pick spinach and while it's more a hunt for the big leaves for her, she does make a dent in the picking time. She's also a good rock picker upper and my how we can use as many hands for that job as are available. And the other day when we are weeding together, she went up to the house by herself to get her sunhat and one for me. It may sound little but it's really huge!! Now, I probably should state that she is still more often helpful in the sense of entertaining herself so we can work, rather than helping with our work The other evening when we were all out weeding, she was doing her variation of "wheel hoeing" in the yard for quite some time:
Now our middle spunky gal - she's something else! She is smack dab in the middle of loving to tease, play tricks and most regularly hide her older sister's stuff - the essentials like her tooth brushing/flossing supplies. It's a nightly ritual which I tired of long ago and which Kali seems to be sustaining some level of interest and entertainment in (to the point of attempting retaliation sometimes). In general it would just be funnier at 8 p.m. than it is for me at 9:30 or 10 p.m. when Terah needed to be asleep long ago. This too is likely to pass and I'm trying to bear it as gracefully as possible in the meantime. Alida seems to love to giggle and frump in about equal proportions and seems to like to complain about her life and the "injustices" in it and then to proclaim something to best ever in adjacent sentences. In her opinion, this was the "best Easter ever" as the girls were decorating eggs. We used markers this year since I didn't have any good fake or naturals dyes at the ready. I'm glad for flexible daughters! The eggs turned out great but also bled through more and made anyone's hands who held the eggs a mess. But it was not an option not to color eggs, that's for sure! I have given the girls the warning that the plastic eggs will need to make their way back to that attic soon. This year we had them down on multiple occasions and I will admit to tiring of finding plastic eggs everywhere, even when I have no intention of taking part in a hunt!
I cannot get through a post about this spring without commenting on the rains. Rain, rain, rain! The ducks are LOVING the weather! Before the last deluge we still had water running actively out of our root patch. It seems we have springs opening up in our main gardening spaces. Weeding the garlic right now would mean wading through the water in the paths. I will admit that my anxiety was not kept in check all that well in the last rains. I chalk it up much more to a broader anxiety about the larger climate changes that seem to be accentuating at a rapid pace than this one particular rainy time.

We did have to provide some extra TLC for one of our chicks during the last rain storm. Several chicks found their way into an outdoor cage and then could not remember how to get back out. They were drenched when Kali found them and 4 of the 5 scurried off to their mother but the one was more or less unresponsive. It probably was suffering from hypothermia. It was too weak and cold to even peep. Jason held it over one of the warm incubators for awhile until Kali took over the chick cuddling responsibilities. It is kind of amazing what warmth can do to a small creature. It slowly started opening its eyes and we knew it was on the mend when it started peeping incessantly for its mama. We reunited them in the evening and it is doing just fine!

As the rains poured down last Friday night, friends were making their way to our home for the weekend. I was relieved when they arrived safely and was hoping the long and arduous journey would feel worth it to them by the end of the weekend. I think it did! These are new friends made through the STAR training Jason and I took part in in February. Charlotte was in our training and quickly identified that there was a great chance of her partner, Craig, being a bosom friend to Jason. She was right! We enjoyed a weekend of cooking together, looking at seeds, talking about our pasts and our futures, and generally getting to know one another better. We have reason to hope we might get to see much more of them in the future and that thrills us!

Now it seems we can't get to the end of this post without sharing at least one food photo. I've been slacking on that front, but the other morning when we sat down the breakfast with the above mentioned friends, I had to get up for the camera! What a feast - Tangly Woods eggs, fresh roasted potatoes, a greens saute of nettle, kale, spinach and onion with red buds on top, a cilantro sauce and cooked lentils. A feast for the eyes and the tummy! And while this plate of food was consumed inside our home we are finding ourselves eating as many meals together outside as in right now. The bug load is still low and the weather is still cool in the evenings - perfect for picnics and sweatshirts (my favorite)!
The main trouble with picnics is the outdoors is so much more exciting and so keeping Terah and Alida at the table for any length of time is hopeless. And getting them to feed themselves rather than the chickens has also proven to be quite difficult. The chickens are not complaining, but I will say that I get rather annoyed when we come in from a meal and minutes later a child proclaims they are hungry! I guess I can just send them back out to the red bud tree! It's worth the minor annoyance - especially after a day spent in my office as I looked longingly out at the blue sky and sunshine!

Now a day at home is underway. The next round of eggs are hard-boiled and the first batch of cheese is draining. Jason just headed out to do the morning chores. It seems that Dad and I have to give him a turn at it sometime and my list is long enough to keep me occupied for the day! Later this morning I'll take Kali to (potentially) her last orthodontist appointment before her braces come off!

Jason and I did squeeze in reading together this morning the last of the essays in the booklet I recently bought from an incoming CJP student - she compiled these stories and did paintings to go with as part of a summer internship in Pittsburgh. Our copy is now available for sharing and I highly recommend this compilation of short personal stories on "It's Personal: Investigating [My] Whiteness" with the subtitle of "The Stories of White People and Internalized Racial Superiority." So stretching and challenging in good ways. Threads of those stories now weave with my own and go with me throughout the day.

I will close by sharing the other thing on our minds and hearts a lot these days. For the last number of weeks, we have been following along from a distance the heart wrenching journey of another Norah. We went to college with Norah's parents and happened to both be at UVA at the same time - our Nora was in the last week of her life and their Norah in the first. Several weeks ago, she was taken to UVA with a combination of viral and bacterial infections as likely to have happen as being shocked by lightening. After three weeks of intense care and attention, showering of love, medical interventions to try to save her life, and hoping and praying for healing, her body suffered multiple strokes and she died Friday surrounded by family. My heart breaks for them as I cannot imagine saying goodbye to a healthy 11 year old daughter. I remember commenting how different my journey of grief would have been had it been Kali. It's not about the depth of love as much as the quality of the relationship, and possibly even more so about the nature of the loss. I have thought often when meeting parents who have lost a child to illness or an accident, that that feels more tragic somehow and that you can definitely call it untimely. In Nora's situation, there was deep grieving and there continues to be a sense of loss and longing. Yet in many ways Nora lived out her genetic potential and Norah will not have the opportunity to do so. We will continue to hold their family close and look forward to learning more about Norah and celebrating her life and grieving her death at the memorial service this weekend.

What I wish for all kids is that they would have the opportunity to relish snacking on red buds to their heart's content!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Family photo shoot, Ruby's Arcade, first day of soccer, potato prepping and peas are up!

I've got an exhausted 3 year old sacked out on my lap. She could not keep her eyes open any more and they hurt to have open so it's great that they are now closed. We are pretty sure she is facing her first bout of pink eye. She has a lot to say about it and I hope it is short lived for her sake. For some this may be entirely too much information, but for the record I would like to note that about 3 months after Terah stopped nursing, I still was able to extract enough milk tonight to put some drops in her eye in hopes that it would be soothing. She fell asleep moments later so I'm going to give it at least a tiny bit of credit.

Alida has continued reading the blog books with enthusiasm and lately has been commenting when she finds multiple posts in close succession. So I'm aware that it was just two days ago when I last posted, but I imagine the title of the blog is enough to tip you off that there are just a few things worth commenting on! And this is things to note just from the last 24-36 hours!
Yesterday we headed to town for a family outing that was kicked off with a photo shoot with our friend and my colleague, Howard. He has ruined us for anyone else taking our photos as it about as low stress and low key as a photo shoot could be which is the only way it works for us. Unfortunately, Alida had remembered a little too much about how accommodating Howard was and how she had been nervous and then had a grand time last time. She was in one of her silly goofy crazy and impossible to settle moods. So the smatterings of 200+ photos we have give a pretty good sense of this stage of family life - and that's what it's all about right? Here's a few of our collective favorites:

Once done smiling for the camera, we continued smiling a lot as we were off for April's family outing and Terah was in charge! She was pretty pleased with this opportunity but also needed some guidance - at one point she was noting that she was out of "gift cards" and so we should go to the co-op for gift cards. :) In the end, we went to Shirley's Popcorn for the girls to cash in their March reading sheets for a bag of popcorn - wow, that stuff is intense. I am enjoying Alida and Kali sharing their chocolate, peanut butter and caramel variations more than Terah's jelly bean variety!

From there we went to Ruby's Arcade for some duck pin bowling and wood fired pizzas over a game of Sorry and Upwords. It was a noteworthy evening in that Kali beat Jason in Upwords for the first (likely not the last) time! I managed to come out victorious but not by that much and so I have a feeling that my experience of losing to Kali is just around the corner. Will I be a good sport about it?

It's a loud but fun place - Kali was the only one that had been there for a birthday party before. Terah was pretty cute with duck pin bowling. It was a great activity for a rainy afternoon that was not good for outdoor farm work. That meant we weren't chomping at the bit to go anywhere. Once our pizzas were polished off and kiddos were getting antsy to move on, we headed home to feed our pigs, do the evening egg rounds and we ended our day by looking through all the pictures from the day together - which was not as relaxing as sometimes since Terah was too tired to keep her eyes open but really didn't want to miss seeing them. 

Friday's rain wasn't enough to cancel the first day of soccer games, thankfully! The girls both had their first practice Thursday evening and are off to a good and fun start! Alida is now playing on a U9/U10 co-ed team with new coaches and only one player that was on her team in the past. Kali is now on the high school co-ed team with one friend and two former teammates. There are supposedly a few other girls on the two high school teams but at today's game Kali was the only gal out there! The friend I was sitting with commented on Kali's bravery. She noted that there was a lot of male energy out there and while that was fine and good, she just wouldn't want to put herself right in the middle of it! Both girls were in good spirits after their games, and very little of that had to do with the fact that their teams both won today.
My Saturday's will be rather chopped up for awhile. Jason and I were up early enough to finish going through our STAR manuals together over breakfast and mugs of tea. We even had time to read the first essay in the compilation of stories that we plan to go through together next entitled, "It's Personal: Investigating [My] Whiteness - the Stories of White People and Internalized Racial Superiority." It should give me plenty to mull over when shifting from our morning time together to the day's tasks. Today it included doing the morning pig and chickens chores, then heading to Alida's game, back for an hour for lunch and refilling water bottles, then heading to Kali's game, back home for a few hours of CJP work before joining Jason in the potato patch!

That's where he spent the entirety of his day! On days like this, I often think of Kali years ago seeing her daddy and commenting, "He's a hard workin' daddy!" That he is! This is the last rotation of the root patch to need a "makeover" to the three bed variation. He wheel hoed the whole thing and then did the first round of trenching, loosened more soil and got through the deeper digging in two of the three trenches. The girls and I just got in on an hour or two of "rock harvesting." My goodness there were a lot of rocks - I emptied 3 full wheelbarrow loads onto a travel path that needed to be raised up. Once again we are just relocating the resources!
On the way back up to the house to put the finishing touches on dinner, Terah and I went through the garden to see if seeds were up yet. Yay, for pea seeds and their friends! They are up, along with some spinach, lettuce and beets. It definitely feels like there is new life all around us - between the plants, the flowers, the trees, the chicks and will we be able to add piglets to that list soon? Our Red Rock sow is due a week from yesterday and my patience is not holding up so well. There is nothing to do really but to wait and so waiting (and hoping) we are!