Monday, July 28, 2014

Full days

Our week was packed to the very top, every ounce of fun you could possibly imagine crammed into a finite amount of hours per day.  If there only were more hours!
Right after teaching my cheese making class, Steve's old-time friend from high school arrived with his mate and four kids in a rented RV.  They brought the rain with them (after weeks and weeks of drought), which followed us to Lopez Island, where it hardly ever rains.  Alas, one of the two days we stayed there found us crammed into an RV together, huddled away from torrential rain.  What fun it was!!! You wouldn't think four adults and seven kids could have enjoyed each others' company packed into a small space like that, but we did.  The couple was lovely in so many ways, and we spent lots of hours talking, exchanging ideas, and just having fun.
On the island, we stayed with our friends Scott and Brigit, who run Sweet Grass Farm and grow the tastiest beef I ever ate.  They fed us hamburgers one night, and ribs the other, and I swear it was a religious experience!  If you have never tasted grass fed Wagyu beef, you haven't lived.  The cows were hugely pregnant and about to pop (indeed, one gave birth the day we were there, but the protective mama didn't let us get close to her calf for photo shoots).

Once back from our island getaway, lots of food needed my attention.  I harvested and froze broccoli and cauliflower.  The kids and I picked plums from  a friend's hedgerow, which I made into plum butter.  We also gathered the last raspberries of the season, which, naturally, have to be devoured with whipped cream.  Our animals greeted us more (the pigs) or less (the chickens) enthusiastically.

On Saturday, the whole family drove to Bellingham so the boys could participate at Kids' Vending Day.  They sold their Tie Dye T-shirts, bird houses and wooden spoons.  I think part of why they like going to market is not necessarily the making-money-concept, but because they go with their best buddy Alden who makes wooden walking sticks.
When we're not busy dealing with food, animals or selling stuff, we are outside.  Pond, meadow, forest - whatever we can get.  As long as the sun is shining and the garden is brimming with food, I don't much care where we are!  Ahhh, it's a good life!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Honey, blueberries, raspberries and more sweet abundance

So we are thinking about getting into honey bees. Both Steve and I have always been fascinated by them, and we know how important bees are for our survival, since they pollinate our food. Have you ever thought about that? If there are no bees to pollinate your food, there won't be any food. Period. And the honeybees are perishing at an alarming rate. I won't go into all the reasons and politics of all this right now, but I do want to show you some images from our friends' recent honey extraction. We watched (and sampled) as our new bee keeper friend Jerry prepared his top-bar hives for honey harvest. What a fascinating process, and what an incredible, golden end result!
My hope is that bees are so much less maintenance than, say, goats. We could do this!

Talking about sweetness: our lives are filled with blueberries and raspberries at the moment. We are blessed to have Cascadian Farm nearby, with acres and acres of these addictive morsels of flavor (certified organic!). We are taking full advantage of that! It helps to have kids that are old enough to help fill the picking buckets, so picking doesn't take hours and hours. I took the kids picking in the evening the other day, and since we've been suffering through a heat wave and it was still hot even later in the day, I bribed them with ice cream (also sold at Cascadian Farm). They picked well.
The next day we went after raspberries. We gathered a bunch of friends, both adult and kid size, and headed for the field, where we picked, chatted, and caught up with each other.

In the meantime, Steve has been cranking on the addition to our house. He starts early in the morning and ends in the evening. Within five days, he got it all framed with a roof on. What a guy! This will be an amazing addition to our lives, and I am especially excited about the extra bathroom and bathtub with a killer view!

The garden is, of course, blooming and growing and feeding us royally. It not only feeds our bodies, but also our senses with all the gorgeous smells, textures, and sights. Eva loves wandering through the rows of vegetables, snacking on kale that's higher than her. I've been making a lot of carrot salad with our crunchy, sweet carrots. And there's cauliflower cheese soup, naturally, since I have lots of pounds of cheese stored away in my cheese cave.

The week ended with a cheese making class I taught. Eight people attended, and five of them were kids or teenagers. What a joy to teach these young people how to make cheese! They were really into it, and I captured a moment of cutting cheese on my camera. This was one of only two classes I will teach this year, so if you are interested in attending my last class in September (September 20th), please let me know so I can put you on my list! You will get to sample a lot of cheese I make.  More info here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


My heart feels overwhelmed with gratitude at the moment. I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful place with such high-quality friends. This past week has been filled with cultivating love, friendships and community. It started with a three day vacation for Steve and yours truly, without any kids! Our dear friends and fairy godmothers took care of all three rugrats while my sweetie and I goofed off on South Whidbey Island. Just last month, we met people at our neighbors' music jam, and they must have liked us because they offered their beach house to us. For free. And when I say beach house, I mean a beautiful vacation house RIGHT AT THE BEACH, with a view of the Olympic Mountains!

We read for hours.  We went for long walks and mellow bike rides.  We talked and talked and talked and talked.  We took afternoon naps.  We cooked healthy food.  We went to restaurants eating unhealthy food.  We looked at each other a lot and giggled, not believing our good fortune.  We felt guilty about not missing our children.  We did not milk any goats, did not feed any pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs or cats.  We did not do any laundry, nor did we weed any gardens.  We mowed no lawns.  Instead, we immersed ourselves in this:

When we came home, the fun continued, at least for me and the kids.  Steve is  putting his nose to the grind stone, building an addition on our house, which will give us a second bathroom (a necessity with five people wanting to use the bathroom at the exact same moment).  It also gives us another bedroom, and a hallway for storage (which is sorely lacking in our house, hence creating messes and piles everywhere).
While Steve has been working on that, the kids have been attending friends' birthday parties non-stop, which enables me to hang out with the parents of these kids.  I am feeling incredibly fortunate for this community of ours, with like-minded parents who home school their kids as well (and some of them don't).  Do you want to see where these birthday parties take place?  One was here:

And the other one was here:

What a paradise of a life we have!  Tonight, I made dinner from many different vegetables I grew in my garden and harvested just minutes before, while little Eva happily held court with her stuffed animals in the flower-filled, sun-drenched yard.  Our neighbor walked our goats over to our barn so he could milk them, since it was his day to milk.  Steve walked in with a armload of basil he gathered to contribute to dinner.  The boys were away at a sleepover with friends.  And I was surrounded by everything I love, including the chamomile I harvested from the garden days before, to be dried hanging from the rafters.

I am deeply grateful.  Life has been challenging, but right now, it is so good.  I am learning to slow down, to be more present, to rest in the awareness that I am good enough just the way I am.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I will leave you with several snapshots, including one of a moth we found on top of my car.
What are you grateful for these days?

Monday, July 7, 2014


We've been surrounded by insane beauty, and I mean that in a good way.  Beauty as in nature, nurturing relationships, and plenty of opportunities to equanimously practice staying-in-the-present (as opposed to freaking out in the face of an emergency).  Case in point: We took the RV to Port Townsend for Kai's Fiddle Tunes Festival Kids Camp.  It's a three hour journey that involves a ferry ride to the Olympic Peninsula.  Halfway into our journey, one of the RV's rear tires blew with a sickening noise.  There was no jack in the RV, and after several phone calls to several places, and after unsuccessfully using a borrowed jack from a gas station, we realized that we needed professional help.  And the saga began.  Two tow truck companies (don't ask me) and three hours later, we were on the road again, having missed our ferry reservation and having had plenty of opportunities to practice the aforementioned staying-in-the-present attitude (as opposed to freaking out in the face of an emergency).
Here are Steve and Kai heroically trying to detach the spare tire, which was stubbornly secured with rusted nuts and bolts, while I unheroically hid in the RV, trying not to sob hysterically while a very, very bored four-year-old Eva jumped on the bed, screaming for the 107th time, "When are we leaving, when are we leaving?"

Alas, things looked up after this particular hiccup.  In fact, Fiddle Tunes and visiting with our dear friends Joy and Cedar was a blast.  We parked the RV in their driveway, next to their amazing paradise of a garden.  Kai biked the ten minutes to Fort Worden every day, learned several new tunes and honed his fiddle skills.  Eva played with our friends' little daughter, frolicked on the beach, and consumed massive amounts of strawberries, thimble berries, raspberries and cherries.  Lukas, the good sport, tagged along merrily wherever we went.

Since fiddle camp only occupied three hours in the morning, we spent the afternoons lazing at the beach, visiting with friends, knitting, and just plain being lazy.  It does wonders for the soul, that business of being lazy.
When you live in the wilderness, as we do, spending time in a place like Port Townsend is kind of earth shattering.  It's such a foreign and blissful notion to be able to bicycle to any place you want, say the bakery, or the Food Coop, or the library.  Where we live, it takes an hour drive in the car to get to these places.  

Back home in our wilderness paradise, we were greeted by lots of weeds, lots of produce ready to be harvested, and a grateful old Pluto-dog who looked older somehow.  The grass grew to epic proportions in the five days we were gone.  Kai remedied this on the riding lawn mower as the goats watched him.  Steve immediately got behind the rototiller to "weed" the garden paths.  Apples, plums, and blueberries waved at us enticingly, not quite ready for harvest, but soon, soon.  The clematis had climbed over the goat shed on top of the fig tree, while many other flowers competed for our attention.  Ahhh, home, sweet home...

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