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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.




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.

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)

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.



The New Digs

24 Jul

I would like to share some photos of our new home on the farm. Just a few snapshots.

The best aspect of this place so far is the space. Oodles of space. I am beginning to wonder if this may spoil me for life. We live on 112 acres and it is hard to describe how vast and private it feels. You cannot see any neighbors – the properties to the north are all pasture land, to the east and west are woods and to the south is land placed in conservation – meadows, creeks and more pasture. We basically live in our own little universe.

My kids are taking full advantage. They just wander all day long and I don’t have to worry about much – just need to supervise when they go near the creeks or pond. Sebastien generally stays close and I like to keep an eye on him at all times but Maya is all over the place. I may be naive to let a 3 year old climb a tree on her own – but I figure if she falls, I will hear her and there is nothing I would have been able to do for her if I were standing right there anyhow.

More so though, the space let’s me breath. I think the space is more beneficial to me as a parent than it is to them as children. I can pick raspberries for an hour while the two of them scamper about, too ingrained in their own play and exploration to bother me every 3 minutes. I can actually get something done. Start and finish a project. While picking raspberries may seem trivial, it is a monumental accomplishment when your primary job is really to watch and entertain your children.

There are also certain elements that I thought I would miss about our old house but, in fact, I actually enjoy. For instance, we don’t have a dishwasher here so instead of letting your dishes pile up by the sink, you need to wash them right away. This seems inconvenient but you end up spending little amounts of time throughout the day at the sink with a clean kitchen to show for it, instead of a good chunk of time at one part of the day whilst looking at your dishes all day. We also chose not to have wi-fi in the main house, just in the office. Again, I thought this would be hugely inconvenient, but it has proven to be a blessing. It regulates our online time to a few concentrated times a day instead of constantly checking our devices, surfing the internet or what have you. It was something that I was conscious about in the old house but was such an incredibly hard habit to break.

Alas, so far the country is treating us right. Granted, it is summer and we can play outside from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. I may be singing a far different tune come November. Until then, we will profiter to the max.



Small Footprint Right Outside a City

7 Jun

I usually won’t post someone else’s photos on this blog but this house was just too stunning to pass on. I am going to quote the description right from the designer and homeowner’s website since it spells it out so effectively.

“This little house is where Jessica and her family have been living for the last several years. It sits on a five-acre property on Sauvie Island, an agricultural island on the Columbia River 15 minutes north of Portland.

The house is an interesting experiment in reduction and reuse not only because it is only 540 square feet or because it was remodeled using nearly exclusively reclaimed materials, but because the building itself is now being recycled for the fourth time. It was first built in the early 1940s as part of Vanport Village; a quickly erected development built to house shipyard workers. When Vanport Village flooded in 1948 this particular little house was floated down the river to Sauvie Island, where it became the goose-check station. Years later it was remodeled to become a rental house.

When Jessica and Yianni bought the property in late 2008, they decided to remodel it without adding to the existing footprint. Their first step was to redesign the interior for maximum space efficiency. A ‘great room’ houses the kitchen, dining room and living room with large, comfortable, built in sofas that double as twin beds for guests. Drawers under the sofas hold children’s toys and a wall of shelves houses books and more. The ceiling was opened up in the main space, but the bathroom and bedroom have lower ceilings to accommodate the parent’s sleeping loft above, accessible by a walnut ladder. The children’s room has two bunk beds as well as a full bed for guests. A pull-out closet makes maximum use of the narrow space near the bunk beds.

New high-efficiency windows come right down to the sofas and offer a fun way for kids and cats to enter and exit the house. The walls were insulated, then faced in reclaimed wood siding, most of which was found on site in one of the barns. The new floors are local Oregon white oak, and the dining table was made from locally salvaged walnut. The range is a vintage Craigslist find, and the tub was a salvaged from a friend’s demolition site. A wood-burning stove easily and efficiently heats the small house.

As part of the remodel, the worn out roof was replaced with a green roof, planted with moss and ferns gathered along the Columbia River Gorge. The green roof offers insulation as well as a playful visual counterpoint to the traditional white cottage.

Despite its size, the house is welcoming and comfortable and nearly every weekend it is full of family and friends coming from Portland to enjoy a day in the countryside. In addition to living in a small footprint, Yianni and Jessica have been working towards food self-sufficiency. Their first year on the property they built a 1200-square-foot green house, planted vegetable gardens, rows of berries, and fruit trees. They are also raising chickens for meat and eggs, keeping bees, and making cheese from the milk of a neighbor’s goats and cows.”

Now how inspiring is that?!

Meeting the Farmers

31 May

I have always been a fan of farmer’s markets. I mean, how wonderful to actually meet some of the people who grow your food? But I have a confession to make. I don’t often attend them.

Here’s where life with two kids under 3 starts to interfere with your wants and desires (and no, I don’t mean those wants and desires, get your head out of the gutter, geez). I would love to be that parent who happily straps their kids in the bike trailer and sprints away to pick out their fresh veggies and fruits but frankly at this point I would rather walk over hot lava. Coordinating it all seems so damn daunting. Inevitably, one of my bike tires is always flat or someone needs snacks or has shit his pants all of which adds minutes to departure time. Time is crucial is outings like these has we usually only have about a 2 hour window before someone needs a nap or a meal. Plus the actual timing of the markets never seem to work out. Weekend markets are almost entirely off the map because we are usually out of town and weekday markets tend to be right smack in the middle of nap times or the dreaded meltdown hour so dragging two cranky kids across town just isn’t high on my list of “to do’s.”

So that is my laundry list of excuses. Still think I am lazy no good mother who can’t buck up and get her kids to experience the joys of food foraging? Me too. But this all may change now that we experienced Colinwood Farm carrots this past weekend. After almost a week of traveling across country for me and many long child-hours logged in for my husband, we decided to forgo the annual camping trip we make with a large group of friends and kick it in the city for the long holiday weekend. Our neighborhood farmer’s market is quite famous and usually just teeming with people which is another reason I have a habit of avoiding it with two young kids. But with partly cloudy skies and most of the city out of town, we decided to succumb and head down. Boy oh boy was it worth it!

My daughter picked out the first container of strawberries I have seen (grown locally, not the steroid ones in the grocery stores) and some exquisite carrots. Now, the girl is good at picking out the veggies but only so-so in the eating part. But, let me tell you, after a little sauteing in some coconut oil with a dash of honey, even my daughter who has never ever met a carrot she liked (even as an infant she would spit out the pureed kind), gobbled them up in an instant. They were sweet and had so much flavor. A trek through the throngs of people may be in order for another bunch or two of these tasty little guys.

Blooming Garden…Spring Has Sprung

30 May

I know in some parts of the country Spring sprung many many weeks ago but here in Seattle Spring can be very indecisive. Snow in April is not unheard of but either is 70 degrees in early May. She usually brings plenty of rain and little dabs of sun but this year we have seen more sun with just the perfect amount of the wet stuff. My garden is in full swing. If little fingers can resist picking green berries and hard figs, I think we will have plenty of goodness to gobble up later this summer.

Kale and a random assortment of lettuces, spinach and anything else my daughter decided to throw in the mix

Strawberries…cannot wait for these

itty bitty basil

string bean and snap pea teepees

cilantro. for a great tip at making your cilantro last look here.

As summer brings us our bounty I will give you more of a tour of our yard…we had to sadly cut down a 60 year old cedar tree a few weeks ago (it was dangerously leaning and we were told by the professionals that it was indeed a hazard tree meaning it has to come down now before it falls on your neighbors house) so portions of our yard are still under general construction. We don’t have a very large yard but we have managed to pack in plenty of veggies and fruits thanks to some permaculture design help from my sister. All in all we are growing: pears, plums, hardy kiwis, blueberries, a wide assortment of herbs, strawberries, a variety of greens, snap peas, string beans, carrots, fennel, grapes, tomatoes, figs, and raspberries. We like to get our money’s worth.

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