Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fishing fever, or "Why my sons hugged their weeping mother at the river"

I have a new addiction: fishing.  Wait!!!  Before you roll your eyes and turn away from this blog post, thinking "booooooring", or "I don't want to look at a bunch of dead fish", bear with me for a minute, will ya?

It started with Lukas, my ten-year-old son.  He caught the fishing fever.  Bad.  Then it hit his Dad, my wilderness-mountain-man-husband Steve, because he had to keep up with his fish-obsessed son.  Our twelve-year-old son Kai is kind of into fishing, but not as whole-heartedly and obsessively as the other menfolk in our family.

They keep bringing home salmon from their fishing excursions, which I either make into a delicious dinner, smothered in olive oil and garlic, or Steve transforms into heavenly smoked salmon.

One day, I tagged along with Kai and Luke and got curious.  I threw the fishing line in a few times, dreamily admiring the scenery.  Then a fish bit the lure.  Fish on!!!  What a rush!  I shrieked for help, and Lukas sprinted to my side, coaching me on exactly what to do.  When I landed the beautiful fish, Luke asked me if I wanted to kill it.  It somehow felt important that I did.  When it was over, I cried.  Both my sons fell into my arms, held me and reassured me what a great job I did.

So why do I fish?  Yes, it's great to provide fresh meat for dinner.  Yes, it's wonderful to breathe fresh air by a wild and scenic river.  But really?  I fish so I can spend time with my sons, to let them mentor me in a craft I don't know much about, to feel their arms around me when I succeed, to hear them cheer me on and encourage me.  I love these boys of mine.  And yes, I love the salmon, too.

Lukas, the master fisherman
Kai with a big one

Steve with his huge silver salmon

The scenery, as I already mentioned, is breathtaking around here.  There is early morning mist, there are spring-like downpours drenching us and sun heating us up minutes later, there are rainbows blessing our hunt for salmon, and there's little Eva, bless her heart, patiently playing in the sand while the rest of the family fishes. 

I keep winking at the boys as we reel in our fishing lines, telling them, "You could be sitting in school right now."  They roll their eyes at me, but I know they are grateful NOT to be sitting in school right now.

We did start up our homeschooling schedule, though.  They have to do formal schoolwork for about three hours in the morning (unless we are fishing, ahem, then they have to do school work in the afternoon).

With fishing homeschooling in full swing, life is busy.  Since the days are shorter and it gets darker sooner, I do get quite a bit of knitting done.  Eva asked me to knit her a mouse, so I did.  And I just finished a lovely hat for myself, to keep my ears warm at the river.

Let me leave you with a heart full of gratitude for Mother Nature.  How blessed we are to live in the boonies.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eye candy for September - the last kiss of summer

Are you feeling the intensity of these times?  Old grief rising to the surface, fears to be faced, and your own truth to be unearthed?  If you are not feeling it - great!  Lucky you!  For the rest of us, here is what I think:

Despite all the suffering in the world, in the face of pain and sadness and confusion, there is just as much (if not more) beauty, tenderness, joy and love.  In my humble blog, I intend to hold space here for these qualities - the positive and negative.  I feel like I am an ambassador of sorts to inspire you, cheer you on, and keep things real, even if it means admitting darkness (and I have done this in some of my blog posts).  Today, I say to you: May you all allow yourself to feel your feelings in these crazy times and know you are not alone.  We are all in this together, and we all do the best we can.

When things get too overwhelming for me, I go into the mountains.  How lucky I am to live amidst so many vast mountain ranges teeming with wild energy.  One of my sweet friends and I, with our children, hiked to a gorgeous mountain lake the other day.  A few days before that hike, I took my kids and their friend to explore another region that fed our souls.  I would love to share the beauty with you here.

...because you need to take a football when you hike in the mountains...

Ohhhh, beauty!
Ah, come on, let's give you more of it.  I walked through my garden a couple of days ago and want to share the beauty that lingers there.  Surround yourself with beauty.  Spend time with a friend who is not afraid of big feelings.  Give gratitude.  Bravely live your truth.  Be gentle with yourselves, sweethearts...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Share with the bear

Recently, we have spotted enormous heaps of bear poop everywhere: on many trails around our neighborhood, on our driveway, under our apple tree, on top of my beets!!!  Please!  On top of my beets!  Turns out the bear has been feasting on our apples, of course, but also on the very beets I had planned on making pickled honeyed beets with.  Hmpf.

I saw the bear when I was working on the computer upstairs - in broad daylight.  The reason I looked out the window was because the ducks were quacking more hysterically than usual.  And there he she it was.  A big, black bear with teddy bear ears, looking straight at me.  I started yelling for the rest of the family downstairs to alert them to the bear, and although the window was wide open and the bear heard my shrieks perfectly well, he she it never moved - just kept checking me out.

We all ran outside, and even though we made quite a racket, the bear just serenely stood under the apple tree for a while longer.  When we got closer, it finally bolted.  Here is a very bad photo Steve managed in the excitement.

When we got to the apple tree, I mobilized our family to immediately pick all the apples.  It was a miracle the bear hadn't climbed up the tree and destroyed it already.  When I checked out my vegetable garden right next to the tree I saw bear tracks amidst all the deer tracks, and a big pile of bear poop on top of my beet bed, with half of the beets gone and the rest with the tops eaten off.

Since I had taken a shower earlier, I was still in my bath robe, furiously pulling beets, harvesting basil, and micro-managing the apple picking.  Ahhh. Country livin'...

Instead of the usual dozen or so quarts of honeyed beets, I only made 5 quarts. Hmpf.
Oh well.  I shouldn't be so resentful of the poor bear, who has had a tough time with this droughty, fiery, smokey year without many berries in the mountains.  The bears are hungry.
Talking of hungry: Steve smoked all the salmon that the boys caught on their river adventure.  They continue to catch fish every day, good boys!

Also, I harvested squash a couple of days ago, a little disappointed with the meager crop (compared to other years).  And, of course, I keep making cheese like mad.  This week, I experimented with Gouda, flavored with cracked pepper and mustard seeds.  We'll see in two months how it tastes.  

(By the way, there is still time to sign up for my online cheese making course!)  Have you watched my movie yet?  In it I give FREE tips and tricks for making great Gree Yogurt, Chevre and Gouda.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


September! Fall! Autumn! Indian summer!

Whatever you call it, in our neck of the woods, this time of the year means one thing for our fishing-obsessed sons:


Look at that catch.  Insane, right?

Steve organized a float trip on the Skagit River for six homeschooling friends (boys-only!), most of them between 11 and 14 years old.  One canoe, one drift boat, one raft and two days later, they had caught 19 salmon.  Granted, they are not the fancy Kings and Silvers that most people covet - these here are Humpys (Pinks), which most people don't consider particularly good eating.  But when they are put into brine and then smoked, they are awesome.

The dudes started out in the rain.  We have been desperate for rainfall, what with the drought and wildfires and all, so we are grateful for it.  But watching the guys get ready for their two day adventure on the river, huddling in the rain, I felt a little sorry for them.  They didn't care, though.  

After a safety talk (What to do when you fall out of the raft? Which way to point your feet? What if you get sucked under a fallen tree sticking into the water?), they set off.

When I picked them up the next day, they were tired, but fizzing with excitement. 19 salmon.  What good providers they are!

I think it's important for the boys to have guy time without us doting females around.  They can grunt around the camp fire, spit and chew, scratch their balls uninhibited... They get to spend time with the older, wiser men - fathers, mentors and good people, all of them.

My almost 12-year old son got to share a tent with his 14-year old friend, who apparently told him how to get a girlfriend.  It tickles me to no end to know that my son is getting advice from a peer.  I asked him what the advice was, and Kai reluctantly told me.  "You tell the girl something nice about the way she looks."

Huh.  Yeah.  Works for me.

When the guys are out bonding and doing manly things, Eva and I stay behind to take care of the farm and animals.  It's kind of nice when it's just the two of us.  Quieter.  Gentler.  We did some girl things: paint our nails, do mud facials, eat chocolate.

Also, fall?  Fall means harvesting things we grew, admiring things that other people grew, canning, pickling, fermenting.  I continue to make over ten pounds of cheese every week.  (There's still time to sign up for my online cheese making class).

I'm getting addicted to making fancy kombucha drinks, where I make kombucha and then ferment it a second time with fruit and ginger, which makes it delightfully fizzy.  It tastes like the most expensive ginger ale you can buy, except it costs so much less to make your own (and it's much healthier).

I will leave you with a picture of my three helpers, with new haircuts, compliments of the head lice that are now completely under control, thank you very much.

How is your fall going?

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