Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A dead bear in the creek, a heat wave, and summer in the garden

What do you do when a heat wave hits and temperatures soar above 90 degrees for over a week?

If you're like us, you find yourself a wild creek or a pond and live in it.

Considering that our creeks and rivers here in the Pacific Northwest are fed by glacially cold water, some of us jump in for a few seconds, and then jump out, screaming.  That would be me.

My kids, however, act like salmon.  They swim in this freezing water and stay in there for a long time, while I sit on a sun-scorched rock watching them in amazement.  How can their systems handle it?

Fortunately, we also have a pond close by, which is warmer.

Talking of wild creeks: We found a dead bear in a creek the other day.  Yes, a real bear, black, male, adult, big.

In all our years living here, we have seen many alive bears, but never a dead one, let alone one in the creek.

We don't know what happened.  The Fish and Wildlife people believe it got hit by a car and died of internal bleeding, since there are no signs of gun shots.

It's sad to see this beautiful animal dead, swaying in the water and starting to stink.  Hopefully, it will feed many other animals while it disintegrates...

The wildlife here has been insane: coyotes howling next to our goat barn, lots of bear, deer... I wonder if they are as hot as we are and are getting careless...

Heat or not, our homesteading life marches on.  Veggies are abundant, canning season is in full swing, and goat milk is flowing.

The kids and I made dilly beans the other day.  My recipe can be found on my Patreon blog here <---

Soon, it's time to make bread and butter pickles from my cucumbers.  They're loving this heat!

My goat is giving me 3 quarts of milk a day, which I make into yogurt and cheese.  I've been really into making Gouda lately, and several wheels are aging in the crawl space underneath our house.  As I type this, a wheel of Cheddar I made this morning is pressing in our cheese press.

You do know that you can learn how to make cheese in my self-paced online cheese making course here <---, right?  Most of my students use pasteurized, store bought cow's milk, and it works fantastically for cheese!

One of my students just wrote me this email:

"I was scared, worried, nervous. I wasn't thrilled with my Colby (which I did from another site). Wasn't very good. So I was nervous about trying my Gouda. WOW! After seven months, this is the best Gouda I've ever tasted and I've tasted many because I love Gouda. Corina, you were so right and following your steps led to an awesome product. I can't wait to get making some more since these two wheels aren't going to last very long. Thank you, Corina, You Rock! And she is ALWAYS available for help and comments. Now after I make a second batch of Gouda, I really want to try one of your other cheese recommendations."

Isn't that nice? Thanks, Edward!  I get great reviews all the time, but I thought I would share this with you all!

I better wrap up this post for now.  My middle son Luke wants to go mountain biking with me, which is crazy, because it's kind of hot out.

But as soon as the Cheddar is ready to turn over in the cheese press, I will let Luke haul my premenopausal butt up that mountain.  I'm gonna sweat and swear and burn, but gosh-darn-it, I'm gonna give it my best.  My teenager wants to spend time with me?  I'm game.

Luke has been building mountain bike trails on our five acre property.  It involves a lot of digging and hauling rocks and tree stumps in extreme heat, but he's doing it.  Crazy kid.

I'll leave you with images of summer:

~ My daughter and I biking (not crazy, break-your-neck stuff like Luke): she did 14 miles without hardly complaining!  I'm proud of her...

~ New flags to decorate our house...

~ Tomatoes from the greenhouse...

~ On a walk...

How's your summer going???

PS: We still have three spots available for our homesteading and wilderness skills retreat for adults! Click here to find out more <---

Friday, July 20, 2018

How to get kids off their electronic devices - and adults, too!

There was a moment of panic at this year's homesteading and wilderness summer camp.  I had just gathered a group of kids to milk the goat when we heard a blood-curdling shriek. 

The noise continued, and after our shock we realized it was a coyote.  The sound came from very close by, which was a problem because after milking we were supposed to head to the creek with ten kids their parents had entrusted to our care.

So after milking the goats, we locked them up (the goats, not the children) and headed off into the forest.

After all, we live in the wilderness, and this summer camp was supposed to teach the kids about wilderness skills, and one of them is this: wild animals live around us, and most of the time, they leave you alone and are scared of you.

Do you want to head into the woods with us to see how our summer camp went?

What are you waiting for?  Come on!  Come on!

As always, our two days of summer camp were filled to the brim with learning, fun and food.  

Some of the kids' favorite things were practicing camouflage and playing wilderness awareness games involving hiding, covering each other with moss and ferns, and painting themselves with charcoal and mud.

We taught them how to build primitive shelter in the woods, and the sacred order of survival (what do you need to focus on in most survival situations in terms of shelter, water, fire, food).

This year's summer camp happened in the middle of an intense heat wave, which was perfect, since we have several creeks and rivers to jump into.

And jump into the icy cold water they did!  I could not believe how much these children got into it! I'm a wimp when it comes to cold water, but the young'uns jumped and swam and splashed and dove to their hearts' content.  It was a joy to watch their exuberance, pride and smiles stretched from ear to ear.

Actually, I teared up several times.  This is why we do these camps: to show kids what it's like to be away from their electronic devices, so they can do what kids are supposed to do.

Apart from being in the woods, the kids spent time in the shop making their very own traditional wooden long bows.

As usual, some kids were more into it than others, depending on attention span, grit and age, but a bunch of them cranked out some nice bows.

And the ones who weren't into it did other stuff instead, like rough-housing on the trampoline, chasing each other, playing various games in the yard, or snuggling with the dog(s).

In fact, I apologize for the parents whose kids fell in love with our canines and now are relentlessly whining about wanting a dog.  Truly, I am sorry. 

Other learning activities at our camp included milking the goat and making fabulous bread.

It always astonishes me how two loaves of bread vanish in about three and a half minutes when I bring it to the creek for lunch on the second day.

For the parents who are wondering about the recipe, I teach the whole thing in my online fermentation course.  

Ask your kids: this bread is fabulous, and so, so easy to make.  No kneading needed. (Did you catch that word play? What a clever little non-native English speaker I am, eh?)

What else can I tell you about these two days?

Steve and I are tired.  This is a labor of love, and lots of work.

Every year, once it gets dark and the kids are still yapping and laughing in the tipi or the tents, and all I want to do is go to sleep, I think to myself, "Why in the world are we doing these camps every year?"  But once the kids settle down, and all that's awake are the stars and the frogs and the occasional coyote, and I remember all their laughing faces, I know why we do this.

The kids need this time outdoors.  Do you know that inmates in a maximum security prison get more outdoor time than your average kid nowadays?

I don't know about you, but that breaks my heart.

If you want to be part of next year's summer camp, get on our wait list below:

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summer bounty in full swing

This happens every year in July: the food bounty comes on so hard and fast, we get overwhelmed.  It's an incredible berry and fruit year, and we need more hours in the day to pick them all: 

There's red and blue huckleberries in our forests, and salmon berries, thimble berries and Oso berries beckoning us on our walks.  I wrote an essay in the Llewellyn's 2018 Herbal Almanac about wild berries and why they are so good for you to eat (order it here <---).

Then there are cherries in our orchard that we have to pick before the birds get them, and fortunately our kids are very motivated to beat the winged creatures to these sweet treasures.

Some mornings, little Eva is out there climbing on the ladder to grab cherries from the tree before I even had my coffee.

We also grow a bunch of Goumi berries in our yard, because they are famous for their high nutritional, anti-oxident content, especially a high lycopene content (cancer prevention and heart health).  You can order a plant here <---.

They taste okay to me, a little tart, with a big seed inside, but the kids ADORE them.  Spitting seeds at each other while picking berries is a plus, of course.

And finally, to add to the picking-the-abundance-overwhelm, raspberry and strawberry you-pick at Cascadian Farm opened.  This famous farm is only 15 minutes away from our homestead, which is dangerous because they have excellent berries, ice cream and coffee.

You can imagine that our garden is going nuts.  The potatoes bloomed already, and I bet if I stuck my hand in the soil right now, I could steal some new potatoes already.

We've had a bunch of rain in June, so it's a jungle out there.  All the plants are happy, including the honeysuckle that has taken over one side of our house and keeps climbing higher every year.

My potted herbs on the porch and free-ranging herbs in the garden are thriving as well, and I already dried a decent amount of majoram, oregano, sage, basil, thyme and peppermint.

The past few weeks have brought a flurry of celebrations: my birthday first, then our wedding anniversary, and a couple of days later Steve's birthday.  Oh, and Father's Day, which we spent camping in the Methow Valley!

Our son Luke, who has taken over cake-baking-duties in our household, has been feverishly cranking out goodies.  He's better at cakes than I am, which is saying a lot because I'm a pretty good baker.

It's a good thing we have many bottles of homemade blackberry wine with all these celebrations!

Our cabin is coming along nicely.  Steve and the boys are working on it, while Steve is teaching them how to build from the ground up.  And our friend came over for a few hours as well, so progress is happening!

Eva and I help, too, when time comes to raise a wall.  You can watch the action happen in our "Homesteading in Paradise June Highlights" movie here <---.

Luke, mountain biker extraordinaire, takes advantage of the height of the floor platform, hurling himself into the abyss on his bike, while I watch with my heart in my throat.

Other news of the month: Our oldest kid is driving.  Kai is going to driver's ed and is getting lots of practice driving, since driver's ed is one hour away (one way).  So he's driving two hours every time we drive to town, with me on the passenger seat knitting, contemplating how fast these kids are growing up, and compulsively watching out for any lurking dangers on the road...

Is this crazy, or what???

I have to spend lots of time on our homestead in the wilderness to decompress from the stress of my son driving, I tell ya.

Today, I'll leave you with images of my daughter making natural cleaners with lemon-infused vinegar, Borax and baking soda...

Steve enjoying his morning coffee...

And our dog Raka, whose jaw was paralyzed for over a week, but who's fine again...

And you?  How are you doing?  Are you getting hit by harvesting-the-bounty overwhelm?

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