Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mountain peaks, blueberries, goat cheese, and wild rivers

If I really were to document our summer, I would have to post a new blog every single day. So much is happening here on a daily basis, I can't keep up with the pictures. It's marvelous and magical!

The picture below sums it up well, since it contains so much of what's going on.  See my dirty feet?  That's because I weeded the garden barefoot, since I don't mind stepping on slugs.  Except we don't have any slugs right now because it hasn't rained in many weeks.

You see the laundry hanging on the line in the background?  Yup, lots of that going on. I do a load every day, just about.

And the chicken poop on the patio?  Although we try to shoo them off, one chicken in particular thinks she is entitled to live on the patio, since yummy morsels of food get dropped on it regularly.

One day, I decided to tackle the weeding in the garden, which explodes with vegetation this time of year.  Most of the green explosion I encourage, because it's all about veggies, but lots of it consists of weeds (some edible, like purslane and chickweed).  The upper half of the picture below is "before", the lower half is "after".

Here's a before and after picture.  It literally took me two hours to free four of the paths and garden bed from weeds.

So much bounty is coming out of the garden!  It's a grocery store out there, and we gather meal ingredients outside every single day, often multiple times.

Blueberries are cranking, too, and the pesky chickens like to steal some from the low-hanging branches.

I am so happy about the large volume of food being produced on our homestead.  Much milk is flowing, too, and I make lots of chevre and yogurt at the moment.  

Since I'm only milking one doe, I haven't accumulated enough milk to make Gouda or Cheddar yet, but that's okay with me.  It's a nice break, not making ten pounds of cheese every single week like I used to.

We love cookouts by our fire pit in the back yard.  Honestly, almost all of the food comes from the homestead, including the sausages we make with our pork and goat meat.

Our lady duck is broody.  She hides in the Sweet Cicely and lies on her eggs all day, with short breaks to eat, drink and visit with the boy duck.

So far, there are four eggs in the little nest she made.  Our dog Raka has found some of them and eats them, which pisses me off more than I can say, but I don't know how to protect these eggs.

The chance of real baby ducklings might be slim, I'm sorry to say.  Between Raka and other predators, I just don't know if it can happen.

I wish I could wrap the mama duck in bubble wrap as she so patiently incubates her eggs.

Talking of eggs:  Look at the picture below.  Which egg do you think is store-bought?  Hint: Look at the color and texture, and you'll know.

We are finding time for hiking, hanging out by the river with friends, and sleeping out in the forest.  These things are so important to us...

Here is last night's scene, where Steve took all three kids to sleep in the woods without a tent.  I joined them for dinner but walked back home to sleep, because I like my soft bed where there are no mosquitoes...

I am blown away how lucky we are to live in a wild place, where we walk five minutes and get to the best huckleberry picking spot ever by the creek.

Also: weddings!  For July, we have three weddings on our calendar!  And at all of them my little singing group trio is singing for, which is so fun!  I'll put our singing in July's Homesteading in Paradise movie, so keep an eye out for it if you want to hear us sing.

That's us, and we call ourselves "Kitchen Sync", because we usually practice around the kitchen table.

Last but not least, last week's hike was mind blowing, full of granite slabs and high peaks, waterfalls, and awesome company.  Squire Peak (or eight mile creek) is sure worth the sweat to get up there.

Have you gone hiking lately?

Monday, July 10, 2017

The garden in July - and lots of amazing food!

Our July garden is phenomenal.  Despite the late start of the season, we are eating out of it every day.
There are lots of veggies and of course plenty of unruly flowers happily spreading themselves all over the place.

Let me show you.  Here's the entrance of the garden, protected by poultry netting, because the free-range chickens and ducks would destroy everything in it.  We don't have to electrify the fence, and it works great.

Here's a view of the mallow, borage and calendula flowers interspersed with all the veggies.  Plus the flowering cilantro, poppies and bellflowers.

Why do I interplant like this?

Because it's darn pretty, and because the bees loooooooove the flowers.

Now here's a tour of the veggies.  There were so many, I had to make a collage of some of them.  Below: zucchini, broccoli, kale and peas.

Next up: garlic, onions, and beets.

Furthermore, carrots, cabbage, pole beans.

Also: collards, cucumbers, and of course, tomatoes.  And tucked in the corner of the garden: sunchokes.

It's all about food around here, as usual.

The kids are contributing to the food scene.  Kai's speciality is breadsticks, with lots of butter and garlic powder.  Look at that huge pile in the picture.  How long do you think did it take the five of us to eat them?  Ahem.

I'm just now cutting into some killer Tomme cheese I made last year.  Killer not because we'll die when we eat it (I hope), but because it's just so good.  Creamy, nutty, great texture. 

Wait, am I boasting?  Sure I am.

And look at this cake! Yes, it's cake, albeit decorated with flowers, and I made it for our friend's wedding last week.  It's my gluten free, no-refined sugar sweet potato almond cake, which sounds weird and boring, but is anything but.

Cherries have been coming on strong in our orchard, and we scramble to pick them before the birds do.  

Also, the chickens have been laying eggs like crazy.  I noticed today that my duck is sitting on her eggs, so maybe we'll have baby ducks in a month.  That, or the broody duck will be eaten by raccoons.  I sure as hell hope not.

What can I show you next?  

Ahhh, I got it: home made pasta, since we have so many eggs.  These noodles are always a hit, although you might not believe this according to Eva's grave face.  She was grumpy because it was such a hot day, and I made her help me with the pasta.

You wanna eat?  Then you help.

Also, here she is helping me harvest calendula flowers for making calendula infused oil for my goat milk soaps.

I will leave you with a photo of the moon over the ridge.  Have I told you that I love July?

How about you?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Glorious, glorious June! Homesteading in Paradise!

Ohhhhh, dear ones, June was sooooooo full and glorious and also hard.

Watch my little video I made for our "Homesteading in Paradise" series for June.  Honestly, it's worth it.  

If you usually don't click on my movies, this one is worth watching.

Have fun watching, and let me know what you think of our crazy life!

Friday, June 30, 2017

They begged us to let them stay longer at our kids summer camp June 2017

As we sat around our closing circle, I had to hold back tears.  This happens every time after spending two days with the kids who attend our summer camp.  We get to know them, laugh with them,  watch them learn, bond with them, and when they tell us what they liked most about our summer camp, I lose it.

This time, there were a total of 15 kids (including our own three), and many of them expressed their appreciation about how nice everyone was, and how respected they felt.  Sigh.  This is what we aim for...

And then they begged us: "Can we stay here for one more week?"

(If you want to send your kids next year, you can get on our waiting list).

Also, I made a movie about this camp, and you should totally watch it after reading this post.

One of the reasons we only do this camp for two and a half days is because it's a lot of work, and it takes a lot of effort.  Steve and I do all the teaching, cooking, cleaning up, and supervising.  We love doing it all, and at the end of camp, we are tired.  

Our good friend Mike Brondi, an experienced youth educator who has worked for North Cascades National Park for decades, helped out for a day.  He is an extraordinary story teller and teacher, and we were glad to have him.

Let me show you some of the stuff that happened.

The kids showed up at our homestead Sunday at 5pm, in time for a little orientation around the farm, boffing with foam swords, harvesting stuff in the garden and dinner.  

Afterwards, we headed out into the forest for a treasure hunt, where kids sharpened their observation skills by finding natural things we hid for them: antlers, skulls, feathers, arrow heads.  They each got to keep one thing.  Sorry, dear parents, for sending  your kids home with deer skulls.

Since the day of their arrival was the hottest day of the year so far (97 degrees), we also fit in a dip in the creek.  The kids soon realized that our creeks and rivers are fed by glaciers, and that when you stay in too long, your extremeties go numb.  Did that keep them from swimming and having fun?  No.

Some years we hold the camp later in the year, when salmon spawn in the rivers, but June is too early for that.  Still, the good thing about June is that salmon berries are ripe.  The kids picked all the bushes in the vicinity of our camp clean.

When we got back, we gathered around the campfire, which Steve lit without a lighter but a friction fire, and told stories, while roasting marshmallows.

After one more foam sword fighting session close to dark, the kids went to sleep in the tipi, treehouse, or tent.

In the morning, we headed into the forest for primitive skills lessons, where the kids learned how to build a primitive shelter or debris hut, played awareness games, identified plants and wildlife, learned about the sacred order of survival, did a fire challenge, smeared mud and charcoal on themselves for camouflage and learned how to stalk.

Afterwards, we found another spot in the creek to jump in.

Home for lunch, and then I taught them how to make fermented bread.  The bread is always a huge hit.  When we eat it the next day, the kids go nuts for it.  I teach how to make it here, by the way.  

You're welcome.

Then they started making their own traditional long bows.  It's a lot of work, but, man, were these kids motivated!

After dinner (and more sword fighting), our son Luke showed everyone how to flint knap arrow points.  Later, Steve taught them how to make cordage out of natural fibers while the chickens strolled among the kids.

And of course, ice cream.  I was popular for that one.

Next morning, I taught the kids how to milk goats.  Everyone got to try it, and they all did well.  I wish I could hire them all to milk goats for me.  

After breakfast, the kids worked on their bows some more, and then got to practice archery.  You should have seen how proud they were shooting their own bows!  And they should be!

When the bread was done baking, we went to the river once more, where everyone fought over the bread, ate a huge picnic, and jumped into the creek again.  We saw an owl and wolf tracks.  It's never boring around here.

Our little fluffy dog Yoda was a hit.  People fought over him, and the whole duration of camp, he never lacked any attention for a split second.  In fact, he seemed relieved when everyone left.  Ahem.

I will leave you with an image of me and the youngest participant, who backed himself into a patch of nettles and cried bitterly.  Nettles hurt!  Fortunately, I knew just what to do.  After a hug, I grabbed a handful of plantain leaves and ripped them up in my blender with water.  I slathered the green stuff all over his poor legs, and right away, it took the sting out.  Then we pretended to be green aliens, so I needed green legs, too, of course.

PS: If you want to participate next year, you can get on our waiting list.