Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Crying into my coffee. Also: baby ducks.

The reason I'm crying into my coffee this morning?  After homeschooling my three kids their whole lives (the oldest is almost 15), my husband and I dropped them off at public school this morning for their first-ever day of school.

By no means am I an overprotective helicopter parent, but it's completely surreal to have my kids gone from me.  After raising and educating my kids being my sole purpose for one and a half decades, handing them off to teachers that I don't know feels strange, and a little bit wrong, but also right in many ways.

Because it's time.

All three of them requested to go to public school.  I wrote about it here, in case you are wondering what's up with that.

So anyway.  Here I am, back at home, with lots of plans of what I have to accomplish today.  The garlic has to be harvested, yogurt needs to be made with the goat milk, the garden has to be watered, not to mention laundry and food prep.

But the tears keep flowing, and the house and yard are entirely too quiet without any kids biking, playing and making messes.

My cure for grief is this: watching our baby ducks.  Let me show you.  Our Mama duck hatched these cuties a couple of weeks ago, and here they are.  The first few pictures are of them being only one day old.

Okay, looking at the baby ducks helped.  Now I need to go hug a baby goat.  Or my dogs, since I won't be able to hug my kids til 4pm.  

They will be on the school bus for two and a half hours each school day, leaving at 6:30 am and coming home just before 4 pm.  Can you tell I'm freaking out?  This is hard.  I won't go on and on about how strange this all is, otherwise you'll get annoyed with me.

This empty house will be our new normal from now on, and I better get used to it.  If you know me, you realize that my time will get filled up with all kinds of projects.  I will tell you about an exciting thing I'm working on soon.

In the meantime, check out this Back to Basics summit I'm part of.  It's FREE, and I'm one of the presenters.  I'll tell you more about it soon, but you should register for free now to learn all kinds of skills I know you want to learn!

Let me show you pictures of the past days.  There was an eclipse, of course, which we watched with our special eclipse glasses in our backyard.  We only had 90 percent totality, so it didn't get completely dark, but it got much colder, and the shadows on the ground very gorgeously patterned.

As always, our lives revolve around food.  We gathered Oregon grapes for making wine (I will write a tutorial for this soon), fed the chickens whey from cheese making, harvested onions and potoatoes, canned apple sauce, fig jam and dilly beans, and made amazing food straight from the garden and chicken coop.

Also, watch for my tutorial on making fig jam soon.

Now let me go pet the dogs.  I bet they miss the children, too.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A phenomenal retreat! What a treat!

Our homesteading and wilderness retreat last weekend was PHENOMENAL.  I'm a little speechless about it - not because I feel brain dead at the end of teaching skills for two whole days, but because it's hard to describe the depth of this full immersion experience.

The gist of it is that both Steve and I fell in love with every single one of our eight participants.  There were six people from Canada and a newly married couple who flew in from Texas.  We had one pregnant couple, a mother-and-daughter-duo, and two long-time friends from Vancouver island.

I know people left our homestead Sunday evening inspired, motivated, empowered, nurtured and fed, both on a physical and a soul level.

This year was very different from last year's retreat in October, where a huge storm knocked out power and our ten participants had to stay indoors most of the time due to the high winds.

This time around, people spent plenty of time in the sunshine, picking figs, apples and plums, harvesting cabbage for making sauerkraut, and eating meals on the porch with a chicken or dog in their lap.  In fact, my dog Yoda, who usually is totally focused on only ME, cheated on me by going goo-goo-eyed over one of our female students.

We started out the retreat with Gouda cheesemaking.  Since my goat doesn't give as much milk as usual, because her babies are still nursing on her, and since I sold my second milk goat a few months ago, I wanted to teach people how to make cheese with store bought cow milk.

The milk refused to set up and coagulate, so it didn't go as planned, but everyone assured me they learned a lot anyway, and they got to eat tons of  my different kinds of goat cheese, so they were happy.

What good sports they were!

After that class, I taught how to make goat milk soap and salves.  Part of the class included harvesting calendula flowers in the garden to infuse in olive oil.

Look how beautiful my students are!  Every single one could be a professional model, don't you think?

Back in the kitchen, we mixed oils, lye, goat milk and essential oils, poured this in beautiful molds and then strewed dried calendula petals over everything.

Steve taught some people wilderness skills during this time, and since he didn't take any pictures, we don't have photos to show you.  They learned about making primitive shelter, friction fire, and wilderness survival.

After a full day of learning and teaching, everyone headed down to a magical place by the river, and several brave souls even jumped in.

While they hung out by the water, my sons Luke and Kai helped me clean up  the kitchen and start dinner.  I pride myself in putting on a gourmet meal banquet for our students, including several organic, home-cooked dishes, including plenty of wine.

People loved it, and I loved that they loved it.  It's a win-win, man!

Also, I really want to do a shout-out for my sons.  These guys are so important in running a smooth show here, since Steve and I don't have a team of people to help put on this retreat.  We do it all ourselves, from creating the content to marketing to cleaning the house and homestead to teaching to cooking to cleaning up afterwards.

The next day started with milking goats.  I always love this segment of the retreat, because most people have never squirted warm milk from an animal's teats.  It's a special experience, and there's lots of cheering happening when the milk does flow.

After a generous breakfast and pots of coffee, some of us headed to the goat barn again to learn about raising goats, and others headed to Steve's shop to make their own wooden bows.

My goat people learned everything they need to know to raise goats, including hands-on stuff like trimming hooves.  I also show them videos I filmed on how to disbud (take horns off) and how to help a goat give birth.  It's all graphic stuff, but real-life, important things to know.

After all this, they learned archery and how to shoot their bows, and my group learned how to make sauerkraut.  This involved harvesting all the cabbages from my garden first.

We made 20 pounds of sauerkraut in less than two hours.  It's awesome to have such competent helpers in the kitchen!

I also showed them how to make another fermented super food: beet kvass.  It looks like wine, and we had fun taking some pictures of the Mom and Dad-to-be with this drink.

So there you have it.  I get a little teary looking at these pictures, because we had such fun and adored these people all so much.

One value of offering this retreat is not just in the skills people learn, but in the connection and interactions with one another and us.  There are so many informal chats going on, about our paths, lifestyle, giving inspiration, connecting deeply...  I love it all so much.

If you are are interested in attending next year's retreat, please sign up for our waiting list below.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Water and shade, and tons and tons of food from the garden

By the time you read this, I'll be teaching people how to make Gouda cheese. Or if you read this in the afternoon, I'll show how to make goat milk soaps and lotions. Eight people are signed up for our homesteading and wilderness retreat, and today, we spent all day cleaning, pre-cooking and getting ready. We're excited to welcome these eager people to our homestead.

I thought I'd write this blog post in between cleaning, because I have to take a break sometime, right?

Before I show you all the fruits of our labor in the garden, let me take you to Larrabee State Park close to Bellingham, where we camped, hiked, kayaked and mountain biked last week. It's beautiful there, but I wouldn't recommend spending the night since trains blow their whistles by there all night long. I didn't get much sleep.

Aside from going to Puget Sound, we also sought out water in other places.  It has been soooooo hot, and for a while, there was lots of haze from the wild fires.  The smoke has lifted, thank goodness.   

Below is a picture of Baker Lake, where we found a rope swing, which promptly hurt Kai's friend when she got some pretty serious rope burn.  Also, we've been floating on the Skagit River, which is much colder than Baker Lake or the Puget Sound.

And of course, we are seeking shade below the beautiful, huge cedars that thrive in our climate.

So now after showing you all our play pictures, let me show you work pictures.  There's lots of that going on at our homestead, of course, and all of it centers around food production and preservation.

First, the garden: It's thriving and cranking out lots of food.

We harvested our red onions, and if you want to watch my tutorials on how to harvest and cure them, you can go to my youtube channel and learn for free.

Eva likes harvesting zucchini.  She makes them into dolls.  Seriously.  She draws faces and clothes on them, and she gives them names.  I have to take a picture of this one of these days...


I'm harvesting herbs as well, to use in making medicine and teas, soaps and salves.

Also: fig jam.  I'll make a tutorial on how I make jam with the many figs our tree is cranking out soon.  Nothing gets wasted around here: if fruit turns overripe, the chickens get to eat it.

I'm going nuts with the cookbook I told you about in another post.  Below are millet maple syrup muffins I made from its recipe.  They are to die for, and really healthy, so technically, they won't make you die but live longer, I guess.

Lastly, I'm making lots of sauerkraut, beet kvass and yogurt.  I teach how to do all this in my online fermentation course.  You should totally check it out, because this is the season to learn how to ferment food and drink.  It's all so, so good for you, and much easier than you might think...

I'll leave you with two special images: One if of impending winter, so firewood has to be chopped and stored.

The other is of the newly born baby ducks our duck hatched.  They deserve a separate blog post, but for now, you'll get one picture.

Okay, I'm off to clean some more.  And then I'll make lasagne and quiche for our retreat.  Bye!

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