Monday, December 15, 2014

I can hardly believe it!

Lately, our lives have revolved around food, Santa, nature, and fish. I don't know if y'all are sick of photos of Luke and his catch of the day, but he's been bringing home Dollys, Silver salmon, and Steelhead. This boy knows how to provide for his family, and he's only ten years old. I admit it: I am proud.

Here's another thing I'm proud of: I totally revamped my website. You have to understand one thing about me: I'm not a technology savvy person. However, in spite of myself, I have managed to make a beautiful website that has gotten a lot of awesome reviews. I can hardly believe it. Check it out here and tell me what you think. Honestly, I am looking for feedback, and that includes negative constructive feedback.

The food I was talking about earlier? Here is some of it. Home made pizzas. Apple pie with the last of our stored apples from the Liberty tree out back. Baked fish with carrots, leeks and kale from the garden. How these vegetables manage to survive with all the deep frost is beyond me. They soldier on bravely in the freezing wind. I love them so.

Steve looks like he's drinking wine, but it's actually salad dressing he made.

I hesitate doing this in this blog space, but I feel I must, because a lot of what we are about is running our small businesses. My small business is giving you 25% off before Christmas, because I want you to support local (me), and I know you haven't done all your Christmas shopping yet. Go here, and enter coupon code “Christmas” at checkout. Thank you!

Let me leave you with impressions of our week. The sun came out once, it really did. But don't let that fool you. It's been mostly grey downpour, causing the rivers to flood.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

This is important

I need to tell you about something, because I think it's important.  It's one of the most beautiful things I have heard in a long time.  Every time I listen to it, I get goose bumps, and chills run up and down my spine (which could be annoying, if you think about it, except it isn't, because it is so gorgeous).
I'm talking about my very dear friend Andrea's CD called "Sacred Breath", where she reads her wilderness-and-nature-inspired poetry, set to ethereal flute music by our friend Peter Ali.
Both of these people should be world-famous, they are that good.  They are famous in our state, but really should be known everywhere.
Truth be told, I usually am not crazy about  poetry.  But there is something about Andrea's way with words and images that stir my soul (and give me the aforementioned goose bumps).  Coupled with Peter's absolutely gorgeous flute playing, and... swoon!
So here's the thing: I urge you to get one (or more) of these CDs as a Christmas present for someone (or yourself).  Then you would see hear what I am raving about, and you would also support someone local, someone I care about a great deal.
Instead of supporting a big corporation, your purchase would go to a real-life, blood-and-flesh family.  And no, I don't get kickbacks on this.  It's just so darn good, and I want everyone to buy this CD.  Okay?
Go here to her online store and get it now.  Thank you.

Here is what the description says:

Poems inspired by wilderness from our very own author, Andrea Weiser, set to ethereal flute music by Peter Ali. These 12 original poems will nudge your soul. The beautiful tones of Native American and nordic flute music are all original by Peter A. Ali, as he responds to the imagery and depth of each poem. Hear eagle, wind, river, the core of a grandfather tree in the voices of flutes as you travel on a metaphorical journey. Professionally recorded at Fire Mountain Music of Mt. Vernon, WA, the sound is crystal clear. Presented with gorgeous cover art by our local favorite, Don Smith. Each cd case is made of 100% recycled paperboard, cd label hand applied with a permanent sticky back. Artwork ink on the cd itself is non-soluable, so even if you are in the Pacific NW it won't get ruined in a drizzle. This is a unique product that will open your heart space. A perfect gift for someone you love. Experience what live audiences already know--these two voices will heal you.

PS: If you want to buy more local stuff, you can also support Steve and me and buy Christmas gifts in our online stores. Here is Steve's, and here is mine.

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to make a Christmas wreath

It's inconceivable to think that we suffered a heat wave three months ago.  I try to remember the sensation of blistering hot sun on my face when I bundle up my little daughter for an excursion into the woods to collect greens for a Christmas wreath.  I remember swimming in the creek a few months ago, while I admire a frozen cascade of icicles decorating the same creek now.  Yes, winter is here.

The cold weather means it's sunny - a rare treat in our rainy Northwest Mountain region.  Eva and I took advantage of the sunny weather to collect materials for a Christmas wreath last week.  Fortunately, our yard is filled with hemlocks, cedars and firs, so the only thing we had to hunt for was holly, which we found at a neighbor's a mile from our house.  
Here is how I made our Christmas wreath this month:

Step one: Gather green stuff.

Step two: Try not to be distracted by the ducks, who quack at you while you cut fir boughs, because they are cold and hungry, and their water is frozen, and they want to be let out of their electric fence so they can waddle around in the yard.

Step two and a half:  Feed the ducks before you head in the house to make your wreath.

Step three: Head into the house for hot chocolate, then find an unused wire clothes hanger and bend that into a round shape.  Put all your greenery on the kitchen table and try not to get poked by the holly.

Step three and a half:  Grab a bandaid and cover the bleeding wound inflicted by the prickly holly.

Step four:  Cut your bunches of greenery to about six inches or so and bundle three or four branches together.  Attach them to the clothes hanger with craft wire.  Repeat the procedure an inch or so below to cover up the area you just wired together.  Repeat many times.  Beware of the holly.

Step five:  Hang your beautiful wreath by the door on a nail and admire it.  Instruct your two sons not to slam the door too vigorously, so the wreath will survive until Christmas.
Then go outside again, because there is rain in the forecast, and the sun is just too tempting.  Take your old, old dog for a walk.  Be grateful for your life.

Monday, December 1, 2014

We ate cockroaches, mealworms, and crickets for Thanksgiving. I'M NOT KIDDING YOU!

We ate cockroaches, mealworms, and crickets for Thanksgiving.  By "we" I mean Steve and Lukas, and our wonderful friend Brian, who brought them along for a stir-fry ingredient.  Although you can eat them raw, too.
Brian is onto something.  There are bug farmers in the world who believe that raising bugs for protein is the answer to world hunger, and I think they have a point.  You don't have to grow massive amounts of grain or grass to feed them.  They don't take up much space compared to cattle or pigs.  And many people in other places on our planet already eat them regularly.
As much as I absolutely love and adore Brian, there is no way in hell I will pop a fried cricket into my mouth.  You couldn't pay me enough money to bite into a tasty mealworm.  And cockroaches?  (Excuse me if I run into the bathroom and throw up right now...)
But my darling husband and son ate bugs this Thanksgiving.  Rite of passage, ey?

We had a wonderful time visiting with our friends these past two days and were very sad when they left, bugs and all.  I keep marveling at the caliber of people we call our close friends.  I got teary eyed looking around our Thanksgiving feast table.  (Don't worry, we did serve our homegrown chickens alongside our friends' homegrown bugs.)  We are very lucky to have such amazing folks in our lives.

And the other blessed thing?  Snow!  It snowed!  A little.  Enough for the little ones to put on snow pants, hats and mittens and roll a big snowball across the yard.
What are you thankful for right now?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sparks are flying!

These days, you need to be careful of crossing our path.  Sparks have been flying in every direction.  Steve and I are finding ourselves sucked into a powerful vortex of creation, which finds us armed with knitting needles and axes, and which catapults pieces of yarn and fiber (in my case) and wood chips and saw dust (in Steve's case) into our space.  
We are in a creation frenzy.  My knitting needles are moving so fast, I swear they heat up.  I finished my gorgeous, gorgeous sweater and am now working on custom orders.  A couple of weeks ago, several people posted pictures of a knitted fox hat on my Facebook wall, asking me if I could make these.  Ha!  Could I make these?  Yes, I could.

I am taking custom orders to knit these up on my smoking knitting needles as fast as I can.  If you want one (baby, toddler, child, or adult), let me know.  You can go here to order it.

And can I show off my sweater?  I feel a tiny little bit self conscious about boasting so much, but I love it, I love it, I love it!

In the meantime, Steve taught a bow making class to eight people.  It was a full house shop for sure!  I love that there are so many women wanting to learn the art of bow making.  (It helps that their instructor is so damn handsome).  They were all so excited and jazzed about making their own bow, they told their friends about it, and now Steve has to schedule another class for December.  If you want to participate, let us know ASAP so we can reserve you a space.

The other creative thing my hubby and I have been cooking up is a video about bow making.  He wants to show and share that you can make a bow with a green, fresh cut stave in a week, instead of having to wait for a year to cure it.
We are having fun with this, and I am learning more about video making.
Interestingly, our boys are watching what we're doing, and now they are making their own movies about spy stuff, involving blood (ketchup) and suspenseful sound effects.  I kind of wish they were making educational movies about nature instead, but if they are learning tech-stuff with blood and guts, so be it.

Here are some pictures of Steve doing his thing with the bow making.

What creative things have you been doing lately? 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Asking some hard questions

I'm heartbroken about not having goats in my life anymore. The past few days have been sunny, and I've been outside more, walking by the glaringly empty, quiet goat barn, without anyone maahing at me as I stroll by. Our homestead feels fake without goats, like we are not real farmers anymore. I feel freer now, less busy with milking and making cheese, but I'm also emptier.
Balancing homesteading with our freedom is tricky. We love growing our own food, raising animals for milk and meat and eggs, but it takes a toll: You have to be there. Or if you want to go away, you have to arrange for people to milk the goats, feed the pigs, ducks, chickens, and dog, and water the huge garden. That's a tall order.

So here's the thing: Both my husband Steve and I have a lot of adventure and adrenaline in our genetic makeup. Steve grew up in Papua New Guinea for the first ten years of his life, and later he traveled the world, trekking for days in the Himalayas and other exotic places. He was a rock climber and got a thrill from dangling down for hundreds of feet off a slap of rock, secured only by a rope. He also (I shudder to imagine it) loved exploring deep, dark, scary caves.
Myself, I had plenty of my own adrenaline seeking going on. My only mode of transportation for years were various motorcycles, and I toured to faraway places like Alaska. I took off alone on a motorcycle trip around the country with my Honda 800. (Where I ended up creating an organic farm in the Ozarks in Oklahoma, for a millionare who was scared of Y2K and wanted to be self sufficient. But that's a story for another time.) Also, I was a hang gliding pilot, throwing myself off various mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

So you see, both Steve and I have plenty of adventure in us.
When you are homesteading, however, you have to be a homebody. When we met 13 years ago, we were both ready to settle down. And we did. We grew our roots deeply into this land of ours that we transformed from an overgrown alder forest into a productive homestead, nurturing all kinds of vegetables, fruits, berries, animals, flowers, herbs and eventually, three children.
We are lucky that we have an incredible community of friends and neighbors, and these people happily took on regular milking shifts for a decade. A decade! If it hadn't been for their help, I would have never gotten goats. Our family of five would have resented being tied down to the homestead. We were able to get away a lot: hiking, backpacking, road tripping.
But still... we had to come back.

I got rid of my goats so I could decrease my work load and stress. Because as much fun as goats are, they also deliver plenty of stress, say when a goat decides to give birth in the middle of the night, but things don't progress in labor, and then you have to push your arm into the screaming goat's uterus and pull out babies. Sometimes they are dead. That's hard. That's stressful.
And our children are getting older. They want to do things other than stay at home to play with baby goats (why, oh why is there anything more important than playing with baby goats???).
So for now, we have our freedom back, and that's okay with me, and maybe even a little exciting. And sad.

To celebrate our freedom, Steve took the boys on a canoe camping trip on the Skagit and Sauk River last week, in the beautiful sunny but bitter cold weather. I wasn't there because I really, really like my wood stove and soft bed, but the guys took pictures, and we want to share them with you, so you can celebrate our freedom with us.  And celebrate Luke's seven pound silver salmon!!!

And then you can come over for tea and cry with me, and let me show you pictures of the baby goats.

Packing the canoe.  Mama makes them all put on life vests immediately.
They packed massive amounts of food.
Dad kisses Eva goodbye.  Sorry, girl.  This is a boy's trip only.
There they go.  I let them go with a nervous heart.  Rivers scare me a little.
Bye, bye! Be safe!
They found this rotten King salmon head.  This is a size nine boot, so it's big.
Do you see the two eagles in the tree?
That's my boys, paddling in a side channel.
Steve, the best Dad in the world.  Really.
Pretty, yes?  There's fish in that water, I tell ya.
Did I tell you that the purpose of this trip was not only Dad-Sons bonding time, but fishing, fishing, fishing?

Looking at this picture makes me wish I had been there.
It was cold, really cold.

Luke, the fishing champion, has a big silver on the line. Steve stands guard with the net.
He got him!!!  He got him!!! Seven pounds!!!!!
It's a monster!!!
The mighty hunters and gatherers paddling home...
... to show off their prize to the women!
And tonight, my family is cooking me dinner (see salmon on the left).