Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm not judging you

The kids in the water, in the middle of a week-day when they should be at school?

These are my boys and their best friend. What you have to know about this picture is that the water is very, very cold, and that one of the kids is holding a Go-Pro camera, shivering, edging his way to the middle of the river, where giants shadows rest on the river bottom.

The shadows are Silver Salmon.

The reason the kids are braving the glacial water at the end of September with an underwater camera in their cold hand is because they want to film these salmon.

Problem is, the salmon dart away as soon as they sense splashing water from approaching humans, thus the kids didn't get any salmon footage.

So they moved on to building a mud slide, sledding on their bellies head-first down the slick, dark river mud.

They could have been sitting in school all day, but they're homeschooled, so they get to chase salmon and play in mud instead.

Please let me get one thing straight:

I'm not judging you if you don't homeschool.  It breaks my heart to think some people might feel judged by the pictures I share on social media.  This DID happen a couple of weeks ago when I posted the picture below, and someone asked, "You are not judging me, are you?"

Of course I'm not!

I'm sharing our journey, and homeschooling happens to be a big part of it.  But is homeschooling for everyone?  

God, no!

Every family is different, and many parents are not willing or able to homeschool.  Many kids want to BE in school.  Mine don't, and I'm glad.

Homeschooling is a huge deal, and although I'm showing you highlights of the best things in our life, it's really NOT a big, huge party and filled with adventures all the time.  Yes, there's lots of joy, and yes, there are many adventures, but there is also plenty of stress, pissed-off-ness, pull-our-teeth-out, boredom, drudgery, and never-ending chores.

Got it?  I'm not judging you.  Period.

Moving right along.

Things are busy.  There's so much to do, and the laundry is stacking up while I prepare our homesteading/wilderness retreat weekend.  There are still spots available, but we have ads coming out October 1st, so things may fill up fast.  If you want in on the action, do it NOW!

I have to make a conscious choice to relax and give myself breaks.  When the work is never done, and when you homeschool, you don't get much chill time.  That's why knitting is my mental health medicine.  Here I am working on a wool sweater for winter, and farther down is the cardigan I made during the summer.  Hurray for knitting (and chocolate) to help me stay sane!

Talking of busy: I've been making lots of goat milk soap, because, oh my!  These goats produce a lot of milk!  I absolutely love these soaps and have fallen in love with some of the molds out there to produce extra-special bars.
(I teach soap making at our weekend retreat, by the way).

Ever since I started using my own goat milk soaps, I don't have to use lotion on my skin any more.  My soap is super moisturizing, creamy and luscious, if I say so myself.  

I sell my soaps in my online Etsy store if you want some.

This post is already getting long, but I have to tell you about two more things:

Cider pressing!  Our neighbors' family made a really cool cider press and brought it up to try it out, knowing there were plenty of apples in our 'hood.  We picked some off our trees and headed over there, kids and dog in tow.  This homemade press cranked out some pretty awesome apple juice!

The other thing: a mother-and-son (and dog) hiking trip that will go down in history.  It's a trail called Cow Heaven that's only a five-minute drive from our house, but we've never done it.


Because it's grueling.  Ten miles and 4,000 feet elevation gain, through some pretty magical forest, but without any views, until you finally, finally emerge into the open into meadows of blueberry fields with gorgeous views.

On the way up, already tired and sick of hiking, we managed to stir up a wasp or hornet nest on the ground.  I got stung in the knee and calf, and Raka the dog got stung on her snout, which we realized only until we were on the top.

It hurt.  A lot.  Both my legs kept swelling, but I didn't have any medicine or plants (like plantain) on hand.  At the top, I remembered that ferns can draw poison out, so I crushed up some and put them on the stings.  That's when we saw swollen Raka's lip.  One of my friend's dogs had to visit the vet ER after being stung by wasps, so I got scared.  

Remembering a wilderness emergency course I took years ago, I recalled the magic of urine.  Yes, I'm talking about pee.  So we all got down to business.  We had consumed a lot of liquids on the way up, so business was booming, if you know what I mean.  I medicated my own stings with the magic potion, and it helped.

The boys peed in a bottle (which elicited an enormous amount of hilarity) and when that was done we poured it over the dog's snout, which elicited more hilarity.  I will spare you the details, but know this: her swelling went down.


I look tired and sad. My wasp stings hurt. Hurt. Hurt. Hurt.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hang with us!

Do you want to spend a weekend with Steve and myself, learning homesteading and wilderness skills, get fed organic food, and meet some cool people?

Then come join us!

We have some ads coming out October 1st, and the retreat is already filling up, so if you want in on the action, sign up FAST!  Space is limited.

If you want to learn more on our website and see the line-up of classes, click here.

We would love to have you!

PS: The whole weekend is only $199, including organic meals, so it's really, really affordable. We will charge more next year since this is a pilot project, so act now if you want to join us at this great price!

Monday, September 19, 2016

I knew it was coming...

This morning I woke up earlier than usual, roused from sleep by a persistent sound I thought was a mouse that had found its way into our bedroom.  Then I realized the sound came from another source: RAIN.  When I stepped outside later, I heard the distant roaring of creeks and rivers nearby that had been filled up by this hard rain for the first time in months.

Later I built a fire in the wood stove to ward off the chill, and even later, when I took the dog for a walk, I saw new snow on the top of nearby mountains.

It's fall.

I knew this was coming, but nothing quite prepares you for the shift of glorious summer to dark, wet fall, seemingly from one day to the next.

The vegetable garden is starting to look appropriately autumnal: empty.  There's still lots of kale, collards, beets and winter squash, but for the past few weeks, we've harvested the rest of everything else: beans, broccoli, garlic...

And tomatoes!  Tomatoes!  Thanks to our greenhouse, they produced gorgeously, and I've made tons of salsa.  As soon as I make a big bowl of it, it's gone.  Scooped up with corn chips by small and large hands alike.

Also, we've consumed pounds and pounds of Greek salads, thanks to a prolific cucumber year and my homemade goat Feta cheese.  Here is a picture of our dinner one night when it wasn't raining yet: Greek salad, homemade bread, my Cabra Al Vino cheese, beet kvass and beet wine we had made six years ago.

Another prolific food this year: apples and kiwis.  The trees in our orchard are loaded, and I already made tons of applesauce.  We still have one tree with late apples, completely bent under their weight, possibly producing so heavily because we buried our oldest son's placenta under the tree when we first planted it almost 14 years ago.  

Too much information?  Sorry.

Placenta or not, the apples are delicious, and we will press them into cider later on.  Eva and her friends tried their cider pressing skills at the Marblemount community market and loved the process, especially the drinking part at the end.

With the coming rain, we shall spend lots of time indoors, putting food by, preparing great meals, and making stuff like Kombucha mixed with elderberry syrup.

Are you disgusted yet by how healthy we are?  I am.  It's sounds way too PC - elderberry syrup kombucha - but it's pretty darn delicious.  You do know that I teach how to do this in my online fermentation course, right?  You can go at your own pace and start and finish whenever you want, while I virtually hold your hand.

What else  does fall look like on our homestead?

... Goats that are getting ready to be bred, in preparation for next year's milking and baby goat season...

... The garden is getting put to bed, with cover crops and floating row cover to keep birds from eating the seeds, which doesn't work because the deer sneak into the garden at night and get the row cover all messed up.  These deer and birds are in it together, I tell ya.  It's a conspiracy...

... Kids are jumping on the trampoline every chance they get, before it gets bogged down and soggy from rain...

... Soap making in preparation for Christmas season...

What's up in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The trip of a lifetime - or another reason to homeschool!

After six months of dreaming and planning, my husband Steve and our two sons travelled to Alaska to fish for nine days.  It involved a plane ride and a seven-hour ferry trip, depositing them on the remote Prince William Sound, where fish are famous for being abundant and very large.

Also, Grizzly bears abound.  

For me, the mother who had to stay back with our six-year old daughter to take care of our homestead, the thought of Grizzlies caused much anxiety, so I forced my guys to get potent bear spray, made them promise me they would sleep INSIDE the rented minivan every night, and call me at the end of each day to assure me of their non-demise.

They had the time of their lives.  No grizzly bear sightings (only tracks), but a moose and her baby, tons of sea otters, millions of birds, and a whale.

They got up very early every morning, were drenched by two whole days of rain and then sunburnt by three days of glorious sunshine, caught 150 pounds of beautiful Silver Salmon, and while fishing bonded with each other as only a father and sons can who fish in Alaska, away from the influence of a worried Mom, annoying little sister and schoolwork.  This is homeschooling at its best: out in nature and learning hands-on about all kinds of things.

These are moose tracks, next to my husband's very LARGE hand. Ergo: this was one big moose.

Since I wasn't present during their adventure (if not bodily, then definitely mentally), I asked the boys to describe their trip through their eyes.

Here is what Luke wrote, eleven years old and obsessed with fishing, and explaining why he wept on his knees at some point:

"It's amazing how your mind and attitude can change everything that happens. On our trip in Alaska I experienced this. We where fishing in a river, literally word-famous for its Coho (Silver Salmon) runs, on the prime time of the run. It was our first day fishing, and we had hiked up to a hole that looked good, and we started fishing. 

Probably in about twenty minutes my brother Kai got a fish on, and the second his pole bent, I could tell this fish was much bigger than the ones in Washington. He fought the fish for maybe five minutes. Then he finally got it close enough to shore for me to scoop it up in the net. When I was holding the beautiful female fish in the net, I knew it must have weighed nine or ten pounds. And for a Silver, thats big! 

Ten minutes later my dad caught a nice male, and it must have been just as big, but it was also very beautiful. Now my brother and my Dad had two big ocean-fresh fish, and I had nothing. I was now getting kind of discouraged, and the more I fished and got no bites, the more I got discouraged. And the more I got discouraged the worse the fishing got for me. Finally it got so late in the day that we hiked back to the car, and that day I didn't catch anything.

Steve, a.k.a. Dad
The next day we woke up really early, so early we were the first ones at the creek. We tried two holes and I caught one, but Kai and Dad each caught their limit of three fish for that day. I was fishing for quite a while after, and I finally got one on, fought it for really long, and Dad had literally touched it with the net, trying to get it, and it was right next to shore and Dad was reaching to get it with the net, and the hook came loose! I looked, stunned, at the water for a second, then fell to my knees and cried. I never caught any other fish that day.

The next day, our last day, I envisioned intensely us all catching our limit. Kai caught a nice Silver at the hole where I had lost that one, and then we hiked up really far. We crossed the creek twice, and got to an amazing hole where we each caught a fish in about the first ten minutes! 

Then Dad caught another one at that same hole. So now Kai and Dad each had two fish, because Kai had caught that one at the lower hole. We then moved up to a even higher hole, where Kai and Dad each caught another, so now they each had limited out, and I had only one. 

Then I realized that this day was turning out to be like the day before, and I started to get frustrated and discouraged, and then I said to myself in my mind, “Lukas, you WILL catch two more fish!” So I turned my mind around, and I started smiling and saying, “Yes, I WILL catch two more fish!” and I got myself happy and exited. 

And I did end up catching those two fish! And I was even more happy, and that day was awesome! So that experience really shows how the power of your mind is one of the most powerful things in your body."

Lukas, looking sufficiently proud, don't you think?

So now it's me (Mom) again.  They brought home lots of fish, some of which I cooked up the day they got back.  It is unbelievably delicious.

My guys are full of stories.  They were happy to hug me and take showers, even let their little sister kiss them, eat apple sauce cake I had made, and even didn't complain when I sat down with them to review their homeschooling plan for the year.  

They're chill, these dudes, because they just came back from the trip of a lifetime.

That thing that Kai is holding? It's bear spray. Yep. 

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