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Les Saisons

30 Apr

Another difference that I have noticed from living on the farm: the seasons are quite apparent.

The first signs of Spring could not be missed – the chatter of the birds intensified, the slight warmth in the afternoon was appreciated, we had a pair of mating eagles visiting us for days on end and the slow changes of the flowers, plants and trees were clear as day.

This was the first year that I can remember not pining for Spring to arrive – the Winter didn’t seem to bother me as much this time around. It probably has something to do with the gazillion ski weekends and the fact that I have two very active youngsters who seem to keep me quite busy and therefore, perhaps I just didn’t have the time to wish away Winter. In any event, despite the fact that I wasn’t looking for Spring, it was hard to miss it around here.

I think in the city our activities didn’t change as much throughout the seasons – we were not tied to the earth and weather as much as we are now. There are no zoos to hide out in or daily story times to partake in out here, so when the weather turns from cold and rainy to slightly less cold and slightly less wet, you tend to notice. No more rain gear for outside adventures – although the boots are staying put. 

My parents grow a pretty diverse and large garden, so the Spring means work. Seeds to sow, seeds to plant, greenhouse to clear out, weeding to do…you get the idea. We try to help as much as we can, but basically at this point we are only good for the consumption part of the equation.

Which brings me to my next observation – these kids are suckers for anything they can pick themselves and eat. They eat a fair amount of veggies in the winter, but the greenhouse full of leafy greens reminds me how much more they eat in the summer. I could dip spinach in honey and spread chocolate sauce over carrots and they will not touch them – but fresh carrots that they pick right from the ground? Gone in a second. Chard or kale leaves from the greenhouse? Eaten like candy. I have no idea why this is, but I am taking full advantage. We make daily trips to the greenhouse to munch and graze.

 

 

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Here Kitty Kitty

28 Apr

In the city I did not to notice a huge difference in safety, security or activity when dusk turned to night. The street lights popped on allowing us to see almost just as well as during the daylight hours, the number of cars driving by didn’t slow down all that much (until much later in the night) and the daytime noises seemed to carry on save for a few bird tweets who settled into bed somewhere and the honking of the boats pleading for the bridge to open, now all docked and done for the day.

But here, dusk is a very different time. The hundreds of birds and their endless daytime chatter shack up for the night. The frogs take their place with their croaking harmonies. The owls may start to make themselves heard. Sometimes you will hear the yips of the coyotes. But mostly it gets dark. Really dark.

This is no jungle but their are plenty of creatures out there. And my mind has a nasty habit of grossly over-thinking what lingers beyond the illumination of our porch light.

Turns out, a cougar does.

Well, not exactly outside our house – more like on the other side of the property, acres and acres away. But still! Holy shit Batman.

A few weeks ago while doing barn chores, my mom noticed that one of the older llamas (one with an injured leg no less) was lying down way off in the wooded area in the horse pasture. All the animals usually come straight in during this feeding time so the lying llama was a concern. As she predicted, it was dead. Killed and dragged about fifty feet and “hid” under some brush. Classic cougar kill.

So we hooked up a night vision camera on the tree overlooking the general area and collected some photos of the cougar coming back night after night just around dusk to feast on her kill. She ultimately dragged the llama a few hundred yards, under a fence and closer to the wooded area behind said pasture. Cougars are beautiful animals and ones that you rarely see, let alone capture on film. Needless to say, we were all pretty amazed at the images.

While the cougar sighting wasn’t a shock – we know they are out there along with bears – it was a reminder that we no longer live in a predictable urban neighborhood.

We live in the wilderness.

Back in the Saddle Again

27 Apr

Wow, it has been quite a while since I sat down to write about our life on the farm…you may think that I am just way too busy but in fact, I got lazy. You see, we didn’t sign up to have internet in our cottage – so in order to check my email or browse online or post, I needed to walk a whopping hundred yards to the office to do so. I was pretty good about this in the beginning but then, well, I got lazy.

So, after nine months of living out here on the farm, I finally decided it was time to plug back in to the world wide web. I avoided doing so for a variety of reasons – but mainly because it’s a pain in the ass. And this exercise did fair any better.

I dialed up the phone company to hook us up, hoping that it would be a simple switch (the cottage has had internet in the past). Of course, this was not to be, but not for the reasons I expected.

This little town I now call home did not have any more portals for me to hook into. I had to have the poor guy on the phone explain this to me several times – no portals? So, you are telling me that all the people behind me that may move to this town or decide one day they want to be connected to the outside world simply cannot? Are you serious?

Yes, as he so patiently explained, indeed they cannot and either can you.

Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore. I guess this is one of the oh so subtle downsides to living in a small town.

In the end, I purchased a router extender to extend the service from the office to our house. Et voila, I now have the whole world in my living room again.

It feels good. It feels new and fresh. I can look something up in a click of a button again! Hooray for technology!

In any event, I hope this allows me to start writing again….so if you are still out there dear readers, I’m baaaaaaack!

A Routine to Love

10 Dec

IMG_2855“Because rhythmical activity speaks so strongly to children, it is helpful to bring conscious gestures into our household tasks such as folding clothes, sweeping floors, and washing the windows, car or floor. The children will watch, join in or help or simply take it all in as they go about their work of playing. By becoming conscious of our own activities, by regulating our daily lives in a harmonious, rhythmical way – by valuing what we do around our children – we are shaping their will forces, and helping their physical bodies to develop in as healthy a way as possible. In return, our children give us the gift of slowing down, of becoming aware of our movements and our emotions and of appreciating the uniqueness of each moment.” You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin

I believe I have always enjoyed routine. Indeed, when I look back through my life I can see that certain problems developed when a steady rhythmical flow was disturbed. I, of course, could not see that at the time – only through a few hours of counseling and deep thought would that realization come to pass.

DSC_0249I have fought by love for routine since every now and again as I do love me a little spontaneity. I like when people just stop by without making a prearranged date, I like hopping in the car for a impromptu trip across town or succumbing to a sudden urge to buy tickets to South Africa (ok, a bottle of wine may have something to do with that last one). But over the past few years, after two children have made every day a bit unpredictable, I have come to realize that I only like this spontaneity in small doses. To wake up every day without a plan or a project or any inkling about how those darn kids will act or not act is enough to drive a person a little nutty. Enter the frazzled and bored stay-at-home parent that we all read about (or are).

I first starting bringing back some routine with the week’s menu – I have a chalkboard in the kitchen that acts as the week’s menu. There is Monday Pasta, Tuesday Tacos, Wednesday Meat, Thursday Rice and Friday Soup day – every Monday we have pasta, what kind of pasta differs from week to week (soba noodles with kale, smoked salmon fettuccine or a simple veggie pesto) but every Monday we all know we will be eating some sort of noodle. And so on. This makes our meals so much easier to plan on Sunday night when I write out what each day that upcoming week will provide. I find that when I have all the options in the world, I get a little bogged down by all the yummy possibilities that we end up eating breakfast for dinner because I couldn’t make up my mind. I blame Pinterest or the bevy of addicting cookbooks out there. So I just leave the weekends for the lavish meals…which means nine times out of ten I don’t have to cook them since we are often on the go all weekend.

IMG_2821We have also come up with a weekly routine for the kids – inspired by the Waldorf books I have been reading. Mondays are my favorite. We are home from the weekend…no school, no commitments. We usually spend the morning outside exploring around – today we were on a hunt for the items needed this week for our advent garden.

Week Two:

The First Light of Advent,

It is the Light of Stones,

The Light that shines in Crystals, in Seashells

And in Bones

 

The Second Light of Advent,

It is the Light of Plants,

Plants tat reach up to the Sun

And in the Breezes Dance

 

The happy children spend their days

Preparing for the holidays

They’re wrapping up presents to share

It’s Advent Time, so We Prepare

 

The trees and bushes of the forest

Who bend and dance with the wind

Saw (child’s name) (working hard, being kind

To another child, etc) today.

The Trees and bushes are giving these

Children gifts to put on the nature table.

You may choose a gift of a flower, seed, leaf

Or berries to put in our Advent Garden.

IMG_2858Then once Sebastien heads to nap, Maya and I get a few hours to play together, just the two of us. This is time I have recently come to really cherish. Today we made play doh – Maya made a lake and a salmon family out of hers. We played house, danced a few ballet performances – her and me, and made many a mud pie and soup in the outside play kitchen. Three hours later and we were eager to greet the sleepy boy and invite him into our play.

DSC_0243Children are so damn creative and their imagination is wild. It is a blessing to be able to spend this time with them. But it is truly through this new idea of a weekly routine that I have been able to see this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Farm Life So Far…

20 Sep

It has been two months since we moved from the city to the farm and here is what I have learned thus far:

  • Running a farm – even if it is just a family farm that feeds its residents only – is hard work. Hard enough work that with two young children, I have had very little time to help.
  • We eat way better. With fresh veggies or fruit to pick for every meal and a long drive ahead of us for meat, we have increased our produce intake and reduced our meat/dairy intake. It feels good to eat greens every day.
  • We spend less on thoughtless shopping. With a 30-45 minute drive ahead of any shopping excursion, we buy less of the “oh sure, let’s just swing by the thrift store real quick” or “hmmm, I don’t feel like cooking, let’s order a pizza.”
  • Life is slower. I no longer feel bored after an afternoon in our cramped backyard and feel the need to drive around in search of something to do. I now realize how much I would just hop in the car to go to a thrift store or grocery store just to get out of the house. I now know that that caused a bit of franticness and a little too much activity.
  • Living in a small community is totally rad – the bookmobile guys know me by name, the ladies in my yoga class are chatty and want to know more about me, the owner of the grocery store I frequent knows me and we have kids in the same class…everyone is so nice.
  • We drive longer distances but less often. This feels better for some reason – less frantic.
  • My kids are soooooo happy frolicking around.
  • There are so many aspects that make a farm work – there is always something you could be doing, fixing, making or cleaning. I suppose that is true with any residence but if you have animals that depend on you and gardens waiting to nourish you if given the proper attention, there is a stronger need here it seems.
  • I am more organized (which I didn’t think was possible. Organize may as well be my middle name) and more creative. With longer distances to stores, mail and banks, I have to plan ahead as to hit all the needed spots in one outing. I devised a better weekly menu guide for myself to further organize our week – more on that later.
  • It’s ok if my children touch horse poop, pick up dead moles or mice and poke at coyote scat with a stick. This is not going to kill them. Just remember to wash their hands afterwards…especially the little guy who likes to suck his thumb.
  • It’s hard to be bored here.
  • I have been back to Seattle twice in two months and I don’t miss a thing yet (aside from our friends but we have managed to see everyone about as much as we did when we lived within 15 minutes of each other).

Is it Time to Say Goodbye Already?

5 Sep

Fall has arrived. It was bitter cold this morning – the breeze was frigid. By the afternoon, the temps push back up into the mid-seventies, but you can sense a change. That little whip of a cold morning sure made it clear – summer is coming to a close.

The activities around the farm this week definitely compliment this change. One day, I spent 12 hours making tomato sauce and canning it. We have pickled and canned the rest of the cucumbers and green beans. Gramma and Grampa (with a little help from the little ones) stacked two cords of wood under the shed. Crab season is complete and the salmon are starting bite. The blueberries are dwindling down and the last of the berry crops, that delicious end-of-summer blackberry, is at its picking prime. Time to start planting the Fall crops and taking down the summer debris.

Preparation has begun.

Reasons You May Be a Country Gal at Heart

27 Aug

1. You don’t freak out when your 1 year-old son comes jogging up behind you holding a dead mole by its ear.

2. Checking for possible spiders hiding under your comforter every night before you hop in to bed is not a nuisance.

3. Hearing what sounds like a rather large animal in the brush as you walk back to your house at dusk excites you.

4. Watching your son throw horse poop (cowpies) off the creek bridge just makes you giggle.

5. Everything closes by 7 and you are ok with that.

6. You now own five pairs of boots.

7. You let your daughter carry home 6 dead crab shells from the beach to float in your kiddie pool. Apparently that’s where they now live.

8. Finding a dead weasel in the lawn outside the gardens sends you rushing to find your kids to show it off.

9. Your arms are sore from picking berries all summer and you like it.

 

Scaling Down

1 Aug

When we moved to the farm and to our new home – a hundred-year old cottage that was the original home of the property – there were a few aspects of the house that I overlooked at first and only after we were packing up our city house did it occur to me that maybe these things would be a problem.

First off, there is no dishwasher. I know, boo hoo, major catastrophe right? Well, in a sense, yes, actually. These two kids of mine seem to go through dishes like they aren’t the ones cleaning them. Hmm…food for thought. Anyhoo, I had this horrible image of dishes piling up and quickly taking over my kitchen, my dining table…some sticking out from under the couch. But here’s the breakthrough: when you don’t have a dishwasher, you actually do the dishes. Like, right away. Now, I am a fairly clean-freak sort of gal, so maybe it’s just my slice of type-A neurotic tendencies coming out, but by god, there is rarely a dish to be seen messing up my counter. You stay on top of your dishes and therefore your mess. Makes me second-guess the need for the 24 mugs we have seemed to acquire.

Next up we have fridge space. The kitchen is lacking some strategic appliance placement. Basically that means there is no room for a normal-sized fridge. When we remodeled our city house, we purposely found the smallest normal-sized fridge we could (actually quite hard to find these days) so the thought of going all the way down to a college-dorm-sized ice box wasn’t too daunting but still reserved a place in my “what to do about that” list. So we have the counter-sized fridge in the kitchen and another of the same size in the back mudroom. The second one holds all the sauces, condiments and extra eggs or flour that you don’t use on a regular basis. The main fridge holds everything else – and it turns out when you live on a farm where the produce aisle is a fifty yard walk away from your front door, you don’t need a lot of cool storage space.

Meals are so simple for me these days, mostly because it’s summer and you just go out and pick your dinner, but also, quite frankly, because we got rid of ¾ of our stuff in our fridge. You only have 3 or 4 dinner choices rather than 24. This tired ol’ brain just cannot process that many options at the end of the day. Or maybe not ever. Hmm…maybe I’m just getting old?

The simplifying of your stuff just makes so much sense to me right now. Again, perhaps it’s the chaos that two children bring in to my life, that I just want to strip everything else down and start fresh.

Bear with me, but here is some more of the physical stuff we have minimized- after the jump:

Continue reading

Hay is for Horses…and Llamas

30 Jul

We helped hay yesterday – well, I should clarify, my husband helped hay yesterday. I put the kids to bed and road by bike out to the barn to watch for a few minutes. You need moral support for these types of things you know. Someone has to cheer you on.

It’s a funny thing, this farm life. While I sat there, watching bale after bale ride up into the hay loft, it struck me how living on a farm really forces you to live in the present as well as plan for the future. Harvesting and haying are both activities that need to be done at that specific point in time. If you wait a week or two, the berries will be gone, the hay will be wet and ruined and the veggies will be rotten. You very much need to act when the opportunity presents itself. On the other hand, you are also planning for the future – you are jamming those berries, storing that hay and canning or pickling those veggies for the colder months.

The cycle of the farm is so interesting to someone who could, for almost my entire life, just walk or drive to a store and buy whatever I needed at that time. Craving a strawberry crumble in February? No problem. Corn on the cob in April? Yeah, why not. But even more than being able to find any given food at any given time of year, I could also grab some paper for the printer or more crayons for the kids or shampoo for my hair. Now that we live 35 minutes from the nearest grocery store (although there is a fantastic little mini mart that has organic and local stuff just in Quilcene, but it doesn’t have everything you might need) we need to plan quite a bit ahead.

This feels a little more authentic – if you will allow me to use that word. It feels satisfying to live off your land (granted, I have done none of the work to make this land productive – so I am fully reaping all the benefits – I just harvest what I can and will do a lot of canning, jamming and such in the Fall) and in turn, it feels as though we are living within our means. Even if we can afford to shop, buy and acquire, not doing so feels really refreshing. In the city, I felt like I was spending money everyday even though it was mostly stuff we needed (what? we didn’t need new curtains or yet another summer dress? nonsense!). Now we do one big shopping trip a week and while I imagine that I am buying and spending similar amounts, it feels like less since it’s only once a week and not a few times a day. And yes, yes, yes I could have done this in the city as well but I am a weak weak person and the temptation to do it multiple times a day was just too much. The convenience of having all those stores and all those options at my fingertips whenever I so desired was just too much for me to resist.

So basically I suppose I am grateful for this forced break from my habits. It allows me to realize how distracting it was to run over to the co-op real quick for a few items, then across the street to see if anything leapt out at me for the kids and finally a swing by the thrift store “just to look” – all that activity really drained me by the end of the day. Or even having to haul the kids in the car to go to the zoo, the beach, the park…it was all adding to the already exhausting task of caring for two toddlers.

So that was my a-ha! moment of the week. I now deserve the rest of the week off. Thank you.

The House at Maya Corner

27 Jul

Today we woke up to drizzle. Seems to be the story of the summer – a handful of blazing hot days followed by a day of light drizzle or full on rain then back to sun. It is actually fine by me. You don’t have to water your garden that way. Plus it gives your skin a little break from the rockin’ tan it is acquiring.

So we headed out, in full rain gear, to waaaaaay back at the far end of the horse pasture and set out onto the trails that my parents have created through the woods. Beautiful trails – I have been walking them in the morning, just me, alone with my thoughts, which is a highly rare affair these days. The trails are actually wide enough and groomed enough to fit our rugged double stroller through, so stroll we did (I am so over carrying around a 22 pound toddler whilst nagging a 40 pound toddler to hurry it up). We found a really magical little spot on the creek – tons of river rocks, logs to climb over and under, little pockets where the water pools up and you can catch a glimpse of the little salmon fry swimming about. We played at this spot for a long while before continuing on in search of huckleberry bushes.

Maya aptly named this spot The House at Maya Corner (gee, I wonder where she got that name!) and quickly reassured It that she would be back soon. It was a pretty enchanting experience actually. I sat there by the creek watching these kids so deep in play in nature and thought, now this is exactly why I wanted to live out here for a little while. Kids are so very happy in this environment. Anyone who has read Last Child in the Woods would contend the more nature time your kids get, the better. And I have to agree. Watching my daughter create her own little world under tree limbs and over creek beds and witnessing my son utterly mesmerized by the rippling water and all of its gifts, is a moment I would love to recreate over and over again. It was peaceful. It was engaging. It was simply captivating. Slowing down and taking a breath of fresh air was good for my soul as well – even if it was interrupted occasionally for mosquito swatting.

Having access to this wonderland every day is going to be so fun.

We finished off the walk with a full-on slip and fall into the second creek (Maya was not too keen on that part – I literally was pouring water out of her boots) and a salamander spotting. I think the salamander saved us from a little meltdown – thank you little guy.

And for lunch, another recipe share:

Asian Kale (from Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book)
Serves 4-6

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, thinly slices
2 small carrots, peeled and julienned
1 red bell pepper, diced (I skipped this one)
2 tablespoons gomaiso (this is  REALLY important – do not skip adding this traditional Asian sesame salt – it is what really makes this salad pop. But if you must, as I had to today, just toss in some sesame seeds)

Dressing
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive ol
2 tablespoons tamari (I used soy sauce)
1 4/4 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (skipped this as well)

(I also added a bit of red miso – it was quite tasty)

Combine the kale, carrots, and bell pepper in a large salad bowl.

Prepare the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients as listed and mix well.

Pour dressing over the kale salad mixture and toss. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. The longer it marinates, the stronger the flavors will be. Add in pumpkin seeds and gomasio before serving, toss  and serve.

 

 

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