Thursday, August 29, 2013

Firewood with the littles

When I was a little girl, growing up on 100 acres of mixed deciduous forest on the Canadian shield, every year my little sister and I would help our parents stack the split firewood to dry down by the turnaround, and move the dry wood up to the house and re-stack it inside the woodshed. I have fond memories of the bouncing of the tractor trailer as we rode it back and forth as we were moving the wood, the smell and feel of the wood and the grit associated, and the various critters and their trails we would uncover as we moved the wood.

I remember moving the wood from the trailer into the wheelbarrow, and then wheeling it across the plywood ramp from the trailer into the woodshed, having to adjust the plywood as the load in the trailer got lighter with each wheelbarrow-load, making the trailer approach and then get higher than the woodshed floor. Moving wood was a family affair, and although it was fun, it was serious - we needed that wood to stay warm in the depths of winter. Heating pretty much exclusively with wood, as my parents did and still do, was pretty common where we lived. They had a woodstove in the basement, a cookstove in one side of the kitchen with a large brick chimney behind it, and a fireplace coming off the backside of that chimney in the family room.

Now with 2 little girls of my own, and a wood stove that is our main source of heat, bringing in firewood is again a family chore. This year is the first year Little M has been an active participant, and although she's only stacked a handful of pieces of firewood, I'm glad she's sharing this piece of my childhood.

Every winter we go through between 3 and 4 cords of wood. In our woodshed, that means the lean-to is filled with 4 stacks of wood, and the breezeway has 2 additional stacks. We try to have another stack at the end of the carport, although that usually doesn't get touched. In future years, we want to convert the small closed off room off the breezeway into our main wood storage area, and use the lean-to for equipment storage (like the wood trailer), and thus be able to have nearly 2 years worth of wood on hand, but we're not quite there yet.

We cut our wood (well, the mister cuts our wood) either on the wooded portion of our property, helping to get it thinned out to reduce the forest fire risk, or up on the national forest land using a firewood permit. Normally by this time of the year we've got more, and have just a few loads still to get, but with Baby E we're running a bit behind. Worst case scenario though we just would need to buy some from a friend, so I'm not that worried, and most likely we'll get the wood taken care of mid-fall in the lull before duck hunting, or later once the lakes start freezing and the woods get a bit chillier.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Last week of summer

Ok, so its not technically the last week of summer, but since grouse hunting opens on Sept 1st, and that to me signals the start of fall, I'm treating this like the last week of summer, even though we will undoubtedly have warm summer temps for a while longer. In honor of this last week, I thought I'd do a little picture post of what I'm noticing & loving this week.

 I'm loving these plums, tasty as always, way too plentiful as always, but this year very exciting because I just happened across this recipe for cherry plum jam on a great blog I intermittently read! Hopefully I will have time, empty jars, and energy once they are fully ready to preserve their sweet & tartness for the winter months to come.

 I'm noticing a (slight) decrease in the wasp population that has been occupying the sunflower area of the new side garden after I cut back about half of the sunflowers and after the mister hung wasp traps for a couple days. Those wasps, they be a dying in those traps!

I'm wondering if the cucumber plants will have any more cuc's before the end of the season. I've got 2 batches of fridge cuc's in the fridge right now, but was hoping to maybe attempt a fermented batch to ease my way into fermented foods. Maybe that will be a goal for next year though.

I'm hoping we see a bunch more of these zucchini's, as I've only got enough shredded and frozen for one batch of our favorite zucchini bread! (recipe here, although we alter it a wee bit). Next year I will definitely plant more zucchini plants. Apparently 3 isn't enough for us any more between stirfries, zucchini bread, and the pigs!
I'm (still) missing the big pines, although I'm hopeful that the little willow and the maple will grow and fill in that gap on our property.

 I'm noticing the big stack of clay pigeons appearing on the porch in anticipation of an evening spent honing in our shooting skills in preparation for grouse season this coming weekend.

I'm loving how the pigs are digging up the area that will be used for our expanded garden area next spring.

 I'm noticing all the little things around the house and property that my dad can help with when my parents come to visit in about a month.

I'm loving this trailer-trash-y area because despite its shabby looks it gives the yard a bit more purpose and direction, and hints at steps, retaining walls, and garden spaces to come years down the road.

 I'm noticing that in years to come there will need to be a different watering plan in this area, as shockingly (hah!) not watering these plants doesn't produce great results!

 I'm loving having a few moments to spend fixing things around the place with two cooperative little girls one morning. A little altering of the latch location and now the gate opens and closes with ease!

 I'm loving the newly fixed bottom (half) step, and how much easier it is to get up and down onto the porch now, and wondering how I let it stay broken for months! (well, not really wondering - new-baby-itis!)

 I'm loving seeing my rowing machine back from a pregnancy-induced vacation at a friends house since last fall, and wondering when I'll have time to get back on it and start getting my body back in shape!

 I'm noticing how the baby's blanket gets used by every other member of the family but her, but knowing that she'll have her turn with it in due course.

 I'm loving all the volunteer sunflowers in the garden, even though they are all horribly located!

 I'm loving the little conifers that we've grown from seed taken from pinecones we collected in California years back on a roadtrip through the southwestern states back before kids.

 I'm loving our best garlic harvest yet, half cleaned, largest cloves saved for planting soon (apart from a few my husband used before he understood my bowl system!)

And most of all I'm loving this sweet face, that crazy hair, who loves walks on mama, especially to the garden as long as there is no bending over :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our favorite swimming spot

This summer after Baby E arrived we found ourselves with not a lot of mama energy for doing things like hiking and exploring, but lots of time for relaxing and playing. We ended up doing a number of drives around exploring new backroads and taking various short day trips to see the sights. We drove the backroads southwest out of our valley into the next in that direction, and northeast out of our valley into the next in that direction. We also stumbled upon this cute little swimming/beach spot right off the highway on one of our loops up and down adjacent side valleys.

We've been back every couple of weeks, and only twice have we had other people there. It was better earlier in the season when the river was still fairly high, when there was less beach space and less people on their summer vacations, but visiting it mid-week like we tend to generally meant less chance for others.

There's room for our blanket and towels, sandcastles & sandturtles, fishing, swimming, wading, and rock skipping.

It has the perfect mix of sand and cobbles, shade and sunbeams, depths and shallows. Its further than our nearest riverside beach, but that one is way too busy all of the time. We like our solitude!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


The summer is coming to an end. A few short weeks until September arrives, and with it, the start of our fall hunting routines. I'm excited for grouse season, garden harvests, our first frosts, the equinox, duck camp with the whole Williams clan, and the mister and I's birthdays. We turn thirty this fall you know!

This evening, as the mister was off working yet another night shift, the girls and I went for a walk. There is rain coming in for the next couple days, and the evening was dim with the first light layer of clouds drawn across the sky. The warm breeze off the ponderosa pine and bitterbrush hills, combined with the somewhat dim lighting and a hint of humidity in the air, reminded me of some lonely late summer evenings nearing the end of my masters. How great it is to live in the same habitat that I fell in love with tracking my beloved gophersnakes. How unfortunate it is that that habitat is so dang far from home.

I'm feeling lonely these days. Life with a little one does that, I know. I've been here before. That's the nice thing about doing this whole little baby thing for the second time. Not only is it easier the second time around, but I know that it was harder last time and I still got through it. I am a Katy after all. I get through things, it's just what I do.

Speaking of getting through things. I'm in a season of life right now where close friends are hard to come by. Well, I have them, but they are just far away, and in vastly different places in their lives. My old friends that is. Oh, I've got friends here, a couple are even good friends, really nice people, but they are new. You know that feeling of having known a friend close to forever? Yeah, that kind of friend is somewhat lacking from my way-out-west-in-a-different-country life.

Also lacking even around here is friends who have the same family situation as me. A part of that right now means having a toddler and a little bitty baby. Part of it means trying to homestead. So when a family with two littles around the same age as my girls moved in just down the road, and seemed to be living a minimalist, earthy lifestyle on a seriously renovated bus, I was pretty excited. They move away tomorrow. They were just here for a very short time, and we only got to see them a couple times, and really barely met them, but they made my heart yearn for that not-alone feeling that comes from having people around you striving for similar goals. Having friendly close-by neighbors, especially ones who are in the same life stage.

I'm rambling, but them moving away, or really the dream of what they could have been in my mind now having to fade, has had me sad at the what-might-have-beens, and somewhat irked anew at the unfortunate realities of life where we are, and the demographic split we exist perched between here. There really isn't anything for me to do, except maybe venture out of my comfort zone to stop by and gift them a farewell present from the gardens, and focus back on my little family, our gardens, our animals, our property. After all, even this loneliness is only a brief season in life. I have to believe that...

Now the little who isn't quietly sleeping on my front right now wants to play make believe, so I'd better go play L's house with her, where she is L (her friend at daycare), and I am L's mom... After all, I do love my life, even when it's feeling too isolated.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Week's end

Waking up from a perfect (and long!) nap with both littles, husband already off to work a couple hours of overtime before his night shift (all the better to afford mama to stay home longer and relax back into work you know) I reflect back upon our Friday.

Up early before the mister arrived home from work, before the sun had angled across the valley to light upon our house. Then baby back down for a good hour before the little miss herself woke up. Bills all sorted and paid, plan for the day made. Gardens watered. Little miss up, fed her favorite breakfast of eggs please mama. Mama showered, everyone ready for our day.

Our 8 (8!) quick errands of the day almost all run before swimming lessons, then swimming (level one again this year but oh such a more confident water girl we have on our hands!), then lunch and a brief playtime in the park with some of Little M's best friends after their lessons. Home for snacks (smoothies, yum!), mister awake, ready (showered and smoothied too - yum!), and off to work, supper in the crock pot (honey sesame chicken - currently smelling delish!), and all of us girls (the three dogs too!) down for naps :)

Once we finish our suppers, evening awaits our recently awakened bodies - feeding the pups, our papa-is-at-work nightly ritual of a stroll on the hill-shaded road, chicken, garden, and sometimes pig chores in the dusk, then bedtime lunch and bed for Little M and walking and dancing the babe to bed for me.

Ahhh this is what our summer is.

Monday, August 5, 2013

8 weeks old!

Little Baby E is 8 weeks old today, and boy how fast the time has flown. How different a summer baby is than a winter baby!
modelling their new outfits from Aunt E
I'm loving the combination of sweet baby smells and fresh summer evening breeze smells. The almost daily walks right before dusk with the girls and sometimes the mister. The evenings spent walking barefoot back and forth on the back deck with her as the light fades from the sky. The occasional early morning when she wakes briefly before the sun has reached our tucked away valley and we venture outside to take photos and enjoy the dawn. The few hours spent here and there working with a baby snug on my front, sprawled in my lap, or nestled in one arm as I squeeze some paid hours in at home or in the office - how I love the flexibility my employers allow me!

This summer babe doesn't yet know the bounty that is coming in daily from the gardens, but I'm mindful as I put up food for the winter to come, that these morsels of home grown food will be some of her first tastes. I'm excited for peas and applesauce to be early on the menu for her this winter!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Not enough

I'm well over 100% sure that its the lack of sleep and the blur that comes along with newbabyhood, but I've been struggling with feeling Not Enough lately. Often its just Not Rested Enough, but when the sleep deprivation gets really bad, generally once 2 in the morning has come and gone and I haven't gotten any sleep and have been walking the (otherwise screaming) baby for quite literally hours upon hours back and forth in the otherwise still house, then the Not Enough feelings morph into something a little more sinister.

Not Crunchy Enough, Not Conservative Enough, Not Green Enough, Not Religious Enough, Not Hippy Enough, Not American Enough, Not Crafty Enough, Not Farmer Enough. I don't generally doubt my Mama Enough, Gardener Enough, or my basic Katy Enough, the things I thankfully feel pretty secure in. But the other things? The things that once the tired bug wears me down I worry about friends or potential friends or heck even strangers caring about? Yup, those Not Enoughs bite me with a vengeance when I'm tired.

Give me a bit of rest and I once again bounce back and remember that comparing myself to others never gets me anywhere, and that most importantly, just because X person or friend is More X than me, doesn't mean I need to be more that way, or even that they would like me any more if I was more like them. But the tired bug... whoowe does it do a number on me.

What I've found to be the best cure is to get back to my good ole before-kids-came-along-to-wear-me-down roots. For me right now, with 2 littles to juggle, that means spending some time in the garden, getting the house a bit tidied up, and doing a bit of creative organizing or rearranging. That generally gives me the space to feel more solidly grounded, remember who I am, and help me to remember that if I really want to be More of something, it isn't that I'm Not Enough now, its that life is a journey, and maybe I'm not there yet, so all I need to do is head that direction.

Generally that is enough to make me see that most of those Not Enoughs aren't things I remotely care about being More of. Other of those things are things that I am comfortable where I'm at on the spectrum of Enough. And a few of those things are things that I'm working (often very slowly) towards being More of, but (normally!) content where I'm at on that trail. If I'm still needing more help to feel Enough, then I spend a little bit of time (as time allows!) working on what seems like the next steps to being More, which today meant starting to rearrange the kitchen cupboards a bit to emphasize the 'from scratch' food ingredients and tuck away the cans and boxes.

So yes, boo to the tired bug, and here's to believing you are Enough! (cause no matter what, you are!)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Late July Garden 2013

Late, as per my current norm, but here is the garden near the end of July. The raspberries starting to taper off, the green beans starting to take over, and the cucumbers almost producing enough for our first batch of pickles of the season.

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