Thursday, March 27, 2014

Oso Mudslide

I can't publish another post here without acknowledging the tragedy that happened only 50 minutes away from us. On Saturday, the mudslide in Oso, WA killed many people. Our community is in a state of shock and grief, and so are we as a family.
I don't know what to write about it. I feel numb and heart broken. People we love dearly had to evacuate their houses in case of a flash flood. People we know got killed. We drive on Highway 530 often, right past the mountain that collapsed onto all these cars and houses.
We have several friends who are first responders and arrived at the scene minutes after it happened, pulling survivors out of the massive devastation. Everyone is incredibly sad, and many break out into tears whenever they think about it. The people who are trying to rescue and recover people are facing hellish conditions.
Since we don't have television, I have been obsessively monitoring the internet (or the radio when we are in the car), to find any new information. Our neighbors have TV, so I go up there in the evenings to listen to the press conferences and news.
Everyone desperately wants to help, including us. One night, there was word that they were looking for local volunteers with chainsaws and equipment to come help dig through the mess, and Steve was ready to go. But then they got swamped with responses, and everyone was told not to come.

Today we went to the town of Darrington to deliver food and care packets to residents and volunteers. Darrington is close to Oso and got cut off because of the mud slide. We regularly go to this town for its library and lively contra dances. Today, it was a media circus. Several TV stations are set up in front of the local grocery store and community center.
We were struck with the strong community spirit there. As we parked our car by the community center, we immediately ran into an acquaintance who directed us to the kitchen. We delivered the food cooked by our neighbor, and also some of my goat cheese and goat milk soaps. The hall was a bustle of activity with people cooking, providing food and a place for families to gather. Upstairs, donations were being delivered and stored. A lot of sadness hung in the air, but also a lot of love. We witnessed many hugs.
Once we got outside, we were approached by a young man who turned out to be a reporter for Kiro News. He was very respectful of our space and told us he would leave us alone if we didn't want to talk, but might we be willing to answer a question? “How do you talk with your kids about all of this?”
I usually don't have much patience with media, but I was intrigued by the question. I think it's an important one. So we let ourselves be interviewed by this man who was incredibly sensitive to the situation. Even Kai and Lukas talked.

Both Steve and I feel it is very important to be open and truthful with our children, and to address their questions and fears. Since we don't have TV, our kids haven't been bombarded with images too much, but they do see pictures and videos I monitor on the internet and listen to the radio reports. They also see my own grief and my own tears, and they understand how tragic this really is. We've been talking with them a lot, especially addressing their concerns about a mudslide happening close to our house.

Our hearts go out to everyone who has been touched by this tragedy.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Life and death

A sad, sad day today.  My goat Coco gave birth three weeks too early.  I had no idea it was coming.  I sat down at lunch when Kai came running in from the outside, yelling that Coco was having babies.  At first, I thought he was joking.  When I sprinted out to the barn, I found a dead goat baby in the straw, and another one barely breathing.  Their mother seemed confused, but started licking the one that was trying to live.  I grabbed it, dipped its umbilical cord into iodine, and started rubbing it vigorously, drying it off and stimulating the blood at the same time.  'Three weeks early', I kept saying.  Way too early.
The whole family helped.  Steve happened to be home, and the boys kept running back and forth, fetching me the things I yelled for.  Towels!  Feed sacks to put the baby on!  Iodine!  Molasses water for the goat Mom!  The computer to google info on premature goat births!
We brought the baby inside, right in front of the wood stove, so she would keep warm.  She breathed.  I milked colostrum from Coco and fed the baby a drop at a time with a syringe.  I wasn't prepared for birthing yet, so I didn't have a tube feeder on hand.  My friend Jenni came by, which is a big deal because she has lots of kids and lives 45 minutes away, but she managed to help me anyway.
We tube fed the baby, which was a first for me - and quite terrifying, because the tube needs to be inserted into the stomach, not accidentally into the lungs (which will make them drown once you feed the milk into the tube).
The whole time, someone held the little one.  Lukas lay down in front of the wood stove with her, stroking her and talking to her.  Steve held her while I tube fed her.  Afterwards, I put her next to my skin in a sling, like a human baby.  She died two hours after being born.

I am sad, very sad on one hand, and also relieved on the other.  If she had lived, I would have had to tube feed her every two hours, day and night, possibly for many, many days.  I would have had to make a bed for her in front of the wood stove and cared for her around the clock.  She probably would have had tons of health issues, having been born so terribly early.
But it wasn't meant to be.  As long as she lived, she had people who held her non-stop.  I hope she felt the love.  She never even opened her eyes.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Glorious spring days!

It's days like the past two that make living worthwhile. Days spent outside in the sun, digging in the earth, planting stuff, getting my vegetable garden all planned out. My back is hurting from all the shoveling and hauling compost in the wheelbarrow. But – oh – what wonderful compost it is! It's my pride and joy, home made from my goats' bedding, and it will nourish hundreds of pounds of vegetables I will grow for my family this year.  I forced bribed talked Kai into helping me shovel.  He's younger, and he has a better back.
I don't like using a rototiller in my garden, because it's not great for soil structure, and because it murders worms and other beneficial creepy crawlies. I use a broad fork, which loosens the soil without mixing it all up. It's backbreaking, yes, but it makes for some pretty nice muscles! The boys and I planted our garlic yesterday. Most people do it in the fall, but since it's so wet here in the winter, I like to plant my garlic in the spring. It always turns out gorgeous. The seed garlic I used is all from our crop last year.  Look at them in shorts and T-shirt!  Shorts and T-shirts!!!

Here, my crew is separating garlic bulbs.
And here, they are tucking them into the soil.

Other signs of spring: growing bellies on the pregnant goats (we might have baby goats in a little less than four weeks), crocus blooming in the yard, my seedlings thriving in the greenhouse, rhubarb unfurling its leaves, buds swelling. It is glooooorious, darlings!

I know, she looks skinny from that angle, but believe me, she's got a belly on her.

Also, there were picnics by the beach in Bellingham, and bike rides to the playground in Rockport.  The boys rode ahead of me, while I pulled my heavy four-year-old in the bike trailer.  We did a 15 miler the other day, in order to train for our ride over the Cascade Mountains in the fall.  It's going to be a party, I tell you, and the more people want to join us for the ordeal, the better!
We went frantic with the past two days of sunshine, because we know it surely will rain again, for days and days and days on end.  And it still might snow a bunch...  So we took advantage of the sun and made "paint" with ground rocks by the creek.  The boys promptly decorated all of us, and we had fun taking selfies.  

A selfie with me and Kai after our bike ride, with Sauk mountain in the background.

Last but not least, our chickens got a haircut this week.  We thought the ladies were slacking on their egg production, since we only got one or two a day, sometimes none. But then we realized the little stinkers fly over the fence and hide their eggs in the forest somewhere.  We are tired of buying expensive, organic grain for them, just so they can hide their eggs from us.  So we armed ourselves with scissors and headed for the chicken pen.  Catching them can be tricky, and once we had them in our arms, they screamed bloody murder.  We cut off their flight feathers so they can't fly off any more.  Since we did that, there have been plenty of eggs in their boxes again!  Hurray for outsmarting chicken brains!

And then, of course, there's always the knitting.  The knitting, the knitting, the knitting.  This week has been all about the Lotus Hat (pattern free on Ravelry).  I cranked out three of them, and we get compliments wherever we go.  I even put one up for sale in my Etsy shop.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Of skiing, flowers, and baby goats

The big reason I am trying to be as fit as I can is not because I want to have a small waist or a healthy heart. The reason I try to go for daily walks, or a bike ride once a week, or maybe even a run is not because I want to weigh a certain amount. Sure, I care about having a healthy heart, and being slim is okay (although, truth be told, I have always wanted to be more curvy).
The main reason I want to be fit is so I can keep up with my kids.
This week, for example: We went on a mini vacation up to Canada, where we found a really good, last-minute deal on a hotel. The week before, we had bought cheap cross country skis at the thrift store ($4 for a pair of skis!). Steve and I had to take turns taking one of the boys out to ski, since they both share boots and skis (originally mine, by the way). So Lukas and I took off on the groomed trails at Lost Lake. As we headed into the winter wonderland, I felt nervous about my nine year old son's non-existent cross country skiing experience. Would Lukas be grumpy and moody, mad that he couldn't keep up with me, or mad at the skis who would constantly trip him?

Ten minutes later, he had left me in the dust snow.  Sweating and panting, I watched my kid as he effortlessly glided out of my sight.  I didn't mind too much, since I was high on exercise endorphins, but it did make me step up my commitment to get more cardio exercise in the future.
My goals for this year are riding our bikes over the North Cascades Highway to Winthrop, and also to take the boys back packing again.  I HAVE to be fit to survive accomplish these things.
I hardly have any photos of our days in Canada, since I was too busy bundling myself and the kids up, and too busy trying to stay on their tails as I panted after them.  We must have been a sight.  Amidst all the sophisticated world travelers finding themselves in Whistler, here were we Sahlin's with our duct taped boots, hand knit wool hats and sweaters and low tech, ancient gear.
But, oh, we had such fun!  Cross country skiing, tubing down the mountain with inner tubes, jumping our hearts out at a place filled with trampolines (for all the snow boarder dudes practicing their acrobatic nonsense!).

Riding up on the gondola

I made him stop long enough to take a quick picture.

In the trampoline place, Lukas was in his element.
So was Daddy.
Let's switch gears from snow to spring, shall we?  There are signs of spring about, especially at my friend Erin's flower farm.  The other day, we dropped the boys off at her place for a playdate with her son, and little Eva got to pick anemones in their green house.  Will you look at these flowers?  Doesn't your heart rate speed up when you look at these beauties?

My friend Erin with Eva "helping" 

Another sure sign of spring: Baby goats.  My goats still have a few weeks to gestate their babies, but some of my friends already have frolicking goat babies.  Here is a little buckling that was born a few hours before this picture was taken.  He has his own sweater.

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