No Cohesion Here


I only prepare food if there is a lovely bouquet on the table…. one must have standards.

There is no cohesive theme to be made out of today’s post.  I’m not in a particularly cohesive mood truly.  I take off with the kids for Spring break today, so I am just sort of racing around doing those dumb things that shouldn’t be pressing tasks but become so when you are out of your home for 6 days.  I HAD to make sauerkraut.  Either make it or face rotten cabbage upon our return.  I tossed in some golden beets, so I am excited about what that might be like.

I also had to clean out the refrigerator.  Or rather, I didn’t have to, but if I didn’t leave it wiped down now, I would surely regret things later.

Other news besides kitchen regrets to avoid:  the foundation is looking, well, like you could actually build something on it.  It is nice to see the footprint of our studio.  My first concern when Dad first started designs was that the addition not look weirdly out of scale with the house.  I didn’t want it too large.  Our house is super big in terms of square feet, but many of those square feet go up (or down), so the house retains a “small farmhouse” charm.  I should have trusted him more.  It is most likely going to be perfect.  Of course, now I have moved on to worrying that it might be too small!  Where will I put all my shit?

IMG_8178And this lovely little thing?  It’s our SAUNA!  Isn’t our house going to be awesome?IMG_8177I’m pretty pleased with the work getting done around here.  I DO wonder why dudes working on the foundation can’t seem to pick up their own nails?  Here is what Zephyr gathered up for me for the very economical wage of $2.  I should suggest that they pick up their own nails or pay my minion!

Goodbye Late Summer

Wow, it is really “goodbye summer” today as the rain pours down without ceasing.  Outside my window looks like Noah’s flood.  The plastic turtle pool in the backyard is full and overflowing, the trees are bent in half in the wind, and the windows are streaked with rain drops to where we can hardly see out.  The kids are running wild around the house, stir-crazy after being inside for a few hours.  Goodbye Summer.  You sure know how to leave a girl.

Since you are gone, Summer, I thought I might do a quick blog of some of our last few lovely days.

The week before school started up, I was itching to get out to Sauvie Island to see what farm wonders I had been missing.  Peaches have been prolific this year, so out we went to get them.  Cousins Carmel, Amalia, and new Oren joined us as well as Aunt Tuyen.  Zephyr was doing something.  Why can’t I remember what?IMG_7309 It’s pretty fun being out in the peaches.  The trees were so loaded that they were breaking branches from the weight of the fruit.IMG_7310 You know what is great about picking peaches with other people?  They pick for you!  So if you are a food horder like I am, you can take all the stuff that they pick!  Back at home, Clementine, Brad and I had this canned up in less than 2 hours.  It felt like a MASSIVE accomplishment.IMG_7311

On the weekend, we thought we would hit the 4-T trail with the kids.  Brad and I did the trail on our own a couple years ago (for our anniversary), but the kids had not experienced it yet.  It is sort of a unique concept—the 4 T’s stand for

  • train (you take the train up to the zoo)
  • trail (you walk on a trail….duh)
  • tram (you get on the tram at the top of OHSU and ride down to the waterfront)
  • trolley (okay, so no one actually calls it a trolley.  You get on the streetcar, which in another town might be called a trolley, and take it from the waterfront back to downtown)

Clementine thought it might be fun because she wanted to experience the tram.  The tram costs $4 to ride UP, but is free going down, so taking it was a good opportunity to get a free ride.  Little did she know, she would have to haul her pregnant body 4 miles first!  Maybe we forgot to mention that?IMG_7314

The trail traverses some pretty lovely hillsides around Portland.  At times, you really feel like you are out in the woods, even though you are close to town.  The kids loved running ahead of us and jumping off logs and such.

Brad hauled Madina when she got tired—4 miles is a bit much for a 2 year old.  She was pretty light, but it was a hot day, so Brad and I reminisced about babies sticking to our backs.  No more of those in our future!

Everyone is still smiling at Crown Point.  Clementine forgave us by the tram at OHSU.IMG_7312Back at home, I found this guy in the compost pile.  SOOOOOOOO cute.  Why are they so cute as babies but would freak us out running across our boots in the chicken coop at night?  And I don’t like seeing them in the grain barrel.  Okay, so I don’t like seeing them much at all once they are grown up, but this little guy was darling.  (In case you don’t recognize him, he is a RAT.)  I am also a rat in the Chinese zodiac, so maybe that is why he appeals to me.
IMG_7304Goodbye summer.  It’s been nice knowing you.

Hike to Nowhere (Secret Beach in Gold Beach)

We hit our first real event of family trauma today.  Packing up to leave Crescent City, our propane tank for our stove ran out half way through cooking our Bob’s Red Mill creamy rice.  Creamy rice cereal is great when cooked to a creamy consistency.  Half-cooked crunchy rice is not.  The kids ate it dutifully (sort of).  I kept insisting that it was fine, but it was definitely not.  Everyone ate enough to keep from starving, but no more.

Once in Brookings, the kids begged for clam chowder at the harbor.  It was only 10:30am, but a big bowl of fattening clam chowder suddenly sounded great to me too.  Brad watched sort of horrified as I bought bowls of chowder for the kids first thing in the morning.breakfast After our “brunch”, we set off to find a hike that Brad remembered from his childhood that would take us down a cliff to a seemingly unreachable beach far below.  It started through a thick, dark forest.hiketo nowhere Then it came out into a meadow full of Queen Anne’s Lace.  Then it ended.  That was it.nowherehike We tried another path, but that one seemed to skirt dangerously high cliffs and then go no particular place too.  After a few more false turns, we decided to head back to the car and look at beaches to the north.  We start down the path from the headland and Inez insists on going down a side path to look out over the ocean from another viewpoint.  “I’ll go with her,” I tell Brad, thinking that he will head back to the car with the kids.  My path with Inez goes in a loop along the cliff and then rejoins the same path we were on initially, only 30 yards back from the viewpoint.

Inez and I go hopping back and run into the kids waiting on the path half way.  “Where is your dad?” I ask.  The kids didn’t know.  Brad had seemed really disappointed at not figuring out the hike down to the beach, so I figured that he had gone back to one of the false trails to look for another option.  The kids and I went back to the car.

Once at the car, we all pulled out our pocket knives and started whittling.  Both older kids had bought pocket knives with their allowance while in Brookings.  It was sort of fun sitting in the sun messing with our knives.  Time passed.  No Brad.  Even though I know that Brad is not a rash nor dangerous person, I became worried.  The kids became worried.  People walked by on a path to the north.  They hadn’t seen Brad.  At this point it had been about 50 minutes, and it was difficult to conceal my concerns to the children.  Zephyr began to whimper.  Inez, my dramatic one, said, “Dad is dead!”.  I began to imagine all the horrible things that could have happened to Brad while out exploring a route to a beach off a 100 foot cliff.  It wasn’t pretty.  At the same time, I comforted myself with the knowledge that Brad is SO NOT risky that he can be a spoil sport sometimes.  This is not a person who will climb on dangerous things or seek any sort of thrill.  Brad is a worrier.  He jerks my neck out of joint pulling me to safety when I step into the crosswalk too briskly.  He is constantly pulling me back from perceived edges.  If you can see anything from any height, you are TOO CLOSE!  To end up dead at the bottom of a cliff, he would really have to be thrown off it.

All the same, the kids and I decided to run down the entire path again, skipping the view point.  This time I looked carefully at the trail, searching for footprints or any signs of a person bush-wacking.  Nothing.  Zephyr commenced heart-breaking calls for his father.  “Daaaaaaad!  Okay, now we are really, really worried about you!”  Sob.  Sob.  Inez continued to say NOT COMFORTING things.  Francis encouraged me to run up on the highway and call 911 immediately.  Inez suggested 9-0-1.  I tried not to, but I started imagining what I would do if we needed to do an all-out search for Brad.  Should I take my tent into the woods and stay there until he was found?  Surely I could FEEL my husband in the woods.  I would find him!  But who would help me if my husband had fallen to his death and I had to raise three kids alone?  Suddenly I was full of morbid thoughts and the entire course of our lives seemed so short.

And then Francis saw Brad up ahead on the path.  The kids yelled out “Dad!  Dad!” in such happy, grateful voices.  They ran to hug him as my fears and relief turned to irritation.  How could he scare us like this?!  It is very insensitive to go off exploring for an hour without checking back in.  But as I approached, I was met with outraged Brad face—-not chagrinned-I-really-screwed-up-please-forgive-me face.  He was mad at me!  Brad thought that I was going to walk on the small trail with Inez and COME BACK to where he was.  He hadn’t realized that the path I took with Inez was a loop.  He had waited at the viewpoint for 50 minutes.  (May I point out here that if Brad turned around, he would have seen us come out right next to him.  I must add that Brad and I often can not find each other in public places even when we intend to meet up.  I blame his habit of sitting very still and not looking around.  I think he would blame my unpredictability, but I would like to assert that I often see him from afar and he won’t notice me at all until I yell at him from a couple feet away.  In order to help us with this issue, I bought him a very bright orange coat.)

So we were all mad.  Brad was angry at the kids for running ahead, angry at me for not returning to the viewpoint, and angry at himself for not figuring out where the stupid trail to the beach was.  I was mad at Brad for being angry at the kids and for blaming me when I thought his actions were illogical.  The kids were relieved that their father wasn’t dead, so they were apologizing for whatever they figured would make him happier.  Every apology of theirs made me madder at him.  Essentially, everyone was pissed.

We stormed into the car and two minutes down the road, Brad saw the right trail head.

A memory from 30 years ago is bound to be dull, so I didn’t blame him for not remembering the correct trail, but at this point I didn’t care to find this mythical beach.  I was irritated with the whole excursion and couldn’t imagine a beach wonderful enough to be worth all this bother.

But we did find it.  And it was beautiful.

secret We sat in the sun while the kids played.  Okay, so Brad played with the kids while I fumed a bit in the sun.  Then I fell asleep and woke up feeling a bit better.  It occurred to me that at the heart of the problem was very wrong assumptions of each of our characteristic behavior.  Brad won’t go off on a trail all by himself to “find the right way”.  He doesn’t have an ego like that.  I on the other hand, won’t go off on a side trail and expect anyone to “wait right here” until I return.  I don’t make anyone wait around for my whims.  And I don’t get lost easily.

Then all was forgiven.secretbeach With some sadness, we tore ourselves away from the beach and headed north to my friend Maria’s family beach house in Nesika Beach.  They are so kindly letting us stay here for a couple days on our way through.

It was pretty great to pull into a real house where we could wash our dishes in the dish washer and do a load of wash.  And a bed.  With pillows for under your head—I don’t have to use my sweatshirt!  Luxury.

We had also been talking about chicken pot pie for about three weeks.  Brad rolled out pie dough and I scavenged for stuff to throw in it.  Even though our ingredients were sort of weird, unity was restored through chicken pot pie.potpieOn the counter there was a note from Maria’s sister who had been at the house the week before.  “You really HAVE to go to Secret Beach”.  I looked at the map and saw that it was where we had been.  Oh yes, we know all about Secret Beach!


The kids have learned how to properly say “Ashland” by now, but we still like to say it the way they did when they were littler—- like “Land of Ash”.

We’ve been in Ashland since Monday evening.  This trip is always the highlight of our summer, and this time is no different.  We’ve rented a house with my parents and gone to plays for the last 10 years, maybe skipping a year here and there when busy having babies.  I was the one having babies (in case you wondered).  The great thing (apart from just being with my parents who are pretty fun), is that we go to shows at night while they go during the matinees.  Francis has accompanied them to a show a year for the past few years, and Zephyr will get to go to his first show at OSF next year.  We chat about our play choices in the morning.  I like having fun with my parents outside of visiting them at home.  Mom is more relaxed when we aren’t in her actual space, and everyone enjoys the plays so much that there is a lot to talk about.

grandmajoyce For the kids, the best thing about Ashland is playing in Lithia Creek.  Brad and kids do a game called “River Explorers” which involves walking up the creek and looking for animals.lithiacreek It’s nice when we come late enough in the year so that River Explorers isn’t too freezing cold.kidcreek This time, our house rental was right across from the Ashland public library.  We let Francis go there by herself, which she loved.  She spent most of her time in the teen section reading graphic novels.

This isn’t a great picture of the family, but this particular meal was sort of funny.  Towards the end of the trip, we needed to use up the old weird food, so we did a whole meal of bizarre left overs.familylunch Inez created this masterpiece: jello on a tortilla.  It’s whole-wheat, so you know it is healthy, right?inezjello Zephyr’s creation: scrambled eggs AND jello on a tortilla.  Mmmmmmm!grossI know it isn’t a matter of high-culture, but one of my favorite things to do in Ashland is go second-hand shopping.  All my life I have loved a good second hand store.  As a kid, we always bought our clothes second-hand as a matter of necessity.  It wasn’t cool then, nor something you advertised much.  Now that I can afford to buy things new, I still gravitate toward the bargains.  Besides underwear and a pair of needed shoes every now and then, I buy all the kids’ stuff used or we get hand-me-downs from neighbors or my older sister.  When in Ashland, I like to hit Earth Friendly Kids where I buy every pair of shoes that is remotely near their sizes.  Here are the kids in their new Earth Friendly Kids clothes and shoes—-
kidsclothes Aren’t they cute?picnic

Our last full day, we had a picnic in the park.  So lovely!

Here are our plays for 2013:

Joyce and Doug

  • My Fair Lady (with Francis too)
  • Taming of the Shrew
  • The Unfortunates

Ingrid and Brad

  • Cymbeline
  • The Heart of Robin Hood
  • The Unfortunates (Ingrid scalped a ticket)
  • King Lear

Awesome trip to Ashland.  On to the Oregon Caves and Del Norte State Park!

Next up, the Oregon Coast!


Through Burns to French Glen

When you last heard from your intrepid explorers, we were about a day ahead of schedule coming out of John Day.  We had some time to kill in Burns.  Yes, Burns.  I really wish that there was a county fair or something going on.  All these cowboys (like the normal citizenry of Eastern Oregon) make me want to pet some cows.

We rambled through Burns looking for something good for lunch.  Finding nothing that looked good, we started looking for that quintessential, unhealthy and charmingly small-town place, somewhere with waitresses who call you “hon” and lots of flavors of milkshakes.  RJ’s Drive In Restaurant.  We found it!  And it was delicious.

The weather was strange and blustery, and it had started raining these large, tentative drops, so we thought we might give the hot springs outside of town a try.  Crystal Crane was highly recommended by the super friendly former rodeo queen who worked at the Visitor’s Center.  She described it as having “nice water, not slimy like some places”.  I didn’t quite get if she was talking about water quality or clientele.

Crystal Crane was interesting.  It was actually a gussied up pond in the middle of scrub brush.  You paid a very reasonable $3.50 to go in the pond and take a shower afterwards.  It was definitely the thing to do.  The kids were besides themselves with happiness, being able to swim around in this huge bathtub.  Right after getting in however, we began to experience the strangest weather that I have ever been part of.  First there was thunder which made worry-husband, well, worried.  I am not sure what he was worried about, but he seems to think that thunder is just God’s warning before you are fried by lightening.  Next, it began to rain.  This was amusing and sort of fun.  Then it hurt.  It was hailing and the stones were getting larger and larger.  We took shelter in the lee of a shed and waited for the hail to stop.  I liked Crystal Crane.  It was perfect for kids.
IMG_6716 As we were going the back way into French Glen, we thought that we would go see Malheur Wildlife Refuge.  This is the off season for migratory birds in this area, but the pamphlets said that they had 200 examples (stuffed?) of birds that pass through the refuge.  We like birds.  After miles and miles of a dusty gravel road, we arrived at 3:45 and the place was closed.  CLOSED with a big sign on the door that said they were open until 4pm each day.  Booooooooo!  I understand that the weather is crazy.  I know you wildlife rangers must be tired of sitting around waiting for someone to drive 1000 miles to come see you, but please, stay open to the bitter end!  We walked around the grounds (still with crazy weather blowing) but still gave Malheur Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center a big thumbs down.  (The buildings looked awesome and I hope one of my children comes out here to work some day or do research.  Otherwise, I have to face the facts that I will NEVER see it again and that makes me mad.)


Off we went to French Glen with dust storms blowing all around us.  One was particularly scary as we could suddenly see absolutely NO ROAD in front of us.  I didn’t take a picture of that.  I just held my breath and went slowly, hoping everyone in front and behind was doing the same.

IMG_6719 Once in French Glen, OH!  What a charm!  Eleven people make their home here.  Now there are crazy kids too.



We have the whole upstairs of a house to ourselves.  The French Glen Hotel is run by the State Parks system.  It’s pretty dang nice.

Speaking of crazy children, the French Glen School has two classrooms, K-3 and 4-8.  Can you imagine?  I read in the hotel that the teachers used to stay at the hotel.  Their room plus board was $30 a month.  All meals were provided by the hotel staff who also walked their lunch over to the school at noon.  I’m a bit jealous.  Lunch as a teacher has always been sort of a sore point for me.  First you only have about 30 minutes to wolf something down.  At my old school, kids were always interrupting.  And you had to bring your own lunch from home which you assembled in the wee small hours of the morning out of the weird left overs from that week.  My husband tells me about this thing called “business lunch” or “lunch with the team”.  What is that?

Anyway, here in French Glen, through the 30’s, they brought the teachers lunch and I hope it was good.IMG_6729

The chicken coop here is really impressive but has no birds in it.  The hotelier told me that his chickens would not come home to roost (?) so they ended up being eaten.  I don’t really understand the issue here.  I would move into this chicken coop.


The sky is quite large overhead.  It is sort of the Montana effect.

I had thought we were coming in late, so I did not make dinner reservations.  We ate a strange collection of camping food that might go bad if not taken care of—peanut butter and Kumquat jelly (thanks Autumn!) sandwiches, last night’s dinner curry, salami and beers from the tiny mercantile.  It’s sort of like the teacher’s lunch minus the beers.  In bed early to sleep the night away in the quietest town in all of Oregon.


Enterprise, Wallowa Tramway and Exhaustion (by Inez)


I’m at Terminal Gravity.  (Enterprise).  They make lemonade, sandwiches, burgers, and nachos.  (And beer—Ingrid)

There is a river there.  We played in the water and the parents drank beer.


Devra and Gavin came to meet us!  We’re happy.IMG_6516

We saw the tram (Wallow Tramway).  It rode us up the hill.  (Mount Howard)IMG_6522

We saw animals.  We saw mountains.



This is Wallowa Lake.IMG_6524




This is Francis standing at the edge of a cliff.  IMG_6535




We did a walk around the top.  We fed the chipmunks and squirrels.IMG_6537





(Clark’s Nutcracker)IMG_6556

(This is Ingrid here.  Inez didn’t feel much like writing at all.  It’s really early and she is cold and wanting to take my coat and sit on my lap.  I would rather that she had just stayed in bed so that I could get this done.  Anyway, we are having a great time in Enterprise.  We had lunch and met up with Devra and Gavin at Terminal Gravity.  It is a pretty great brewery and has an really excellent environment for families with kids.  The kids mess around in the drainage ditch and the parents can sit and talk.  The food was really exceptional too.  Everything is sort of how I would make it—- not that I am an exceptional cook, but just that it is simple and made with nice ingredients instead of pre-frozen crap that is often in pubs.

Devra and Gavin agreed to go give the Wallowa Tramway a try.  The tickets are spendy, but it is quickly apparent that the experience offers you a lot for your money.  Brad and I tend to shy away from touristy experiences that cost, but I felt that this was going to be something pretty unique that would get us up in the mountains really quick.  It was.  The tram ride was pretty long and gave us amazing vistas of the surrounding mountains.  At the top, there was a 1.9 mile interpretive trail with signs for unique plants and animals.  The chipmunks and columbian ground squirrels begging made me cringe.  I am not in favor of feeding wildlife, (there is plenty around for these guys to eat on their own), but the kids found discarded squirrel food on the ground and got a huge kick out of having the little rodents eat out of their hands.

On the way back to our tipi, we stopped and jumped into Wallowa Lake.  Francis swam around a ton.  The rest of us were sort of tired and cold in that clear, snowmelt water!

One last day in Enterprise area tomorrow.  We hope to find a good hike.)



Sauerkraut. Just you try to spell it.

I’ve always liked sauerkraut.  I know my name is Ingrid, but I am not Germanic in the slightest.  My love of sauerkraut is a developed taste.  While I did volunteer work in Toronto, Canada, I had some somewhat late, wild nights in the exciting city.  As I was poor, I did a lot of walking (stumbling?) home from nightclubs at ungodly hours.  Yes, I was doing the work of God, but even so, I kept some ungodly hours.  Anyway, street vendors catered to the likes of me—you could always find a bratwurst vendor at 2am who was waiting to take your $2 and give you SERIOUSLY THE MOST PERFECT THING IN A BUN EVER— with tons of sauerkraut on it.  It was cold out, but bratwurst with sauerkraut on it tasted so perfect late at night.  Now I am in bed by about 10pm every night, but I still crave sauerkraut.

At first the goal was to find good sauerkraut.  Bubbies was a no.  Nalleys was a no.  Then I attended a Werth family gathering and had something so amazingly crunchy, so delightfully citrusy and light.  It was perfect.  The relative responsible for this culinary sensation told me how he MADE it.  I remember him describing a “stone” (huh?), the necessity to “weight” the kraut, the “crock” it sat in, how the crock kept you from needing to “skim” bad stuff.  I sort of half listened, or listened in a way that seems thorough at the time, but is woefully inadequate when I find myself trying to replicate someone else’s experiment.

I could write here about the health benefits of sauerkraut, but truthfully, others have done that and it is not the most interesting part of the whole undertaking for me.  I like the product, not the rationale behind it. If you are interested though….

I planted cabbage in the garden and watched it carefully until it was ready for harvest.  I got myself a food grade container.  I cut up the cabbage and salted it liberally (too liberally as it turned out).  I filled a jar with water to provide weight to push the cabbage under the brine, covered the entire thing and waited a couple weeks.

It was….okay.  It was….really salty actually.  And the white scum on top, while harmless, was sort of freaky to get around.

Fast forward a couple weeks.  The short comings of my procedure were pretty clear to me.  My jar had a narrow top which meant that the plate and jar that I used to push the cabbage down were actually too small to effectively do the job.  I did not dig scraping the white scum off the cabbage each day.  It just freaked me out.

So I got serious.  I got on-line.

I don’t really shop much.  I don’t buy clothes (at least not new ones) and I don’t have any expensive hobbies besides my chickens.  I don’t get haircuts or seek out fancy makeup or buy jewelry,(except from Brad’s cousin’s wife) so I feel justified in springing for cool toys every now and then.  My cool toy happens to be a sauerkraut crock.

It came all the way from Poland, so you know it is good!  It is a perfect cylinder, brown ceramic with a lid and this really cool air seal thing so that you know that bad germies are not getting in your goods.  Best of all, it has lovely weights that fit in there perfectly.  No fuss.

It is week three of my newest batch of sauerkraut.  The crock sits in our kitchen next to our refrigerator sort of out of the way.  Every now and then I hear a gentle “blub, blub”  of air escaping from the fermentation pot.  All is well in my crock.  Awesome.

The crock can ferment away for anytime from 2 weeks to 3 months.  I can’t wait to try our kraut!  Maybe in the dead of winter it will provide just that little bit of needed boost that only cabbage can give us.


Spring Garden 2011


I realized that I sort of jumped the gun on the garden photos with my mulch post.  I just had to share my excitement while it was fresh.  I truly spread the mulch and then ran into the house to blog about it.  That is the sort of lightening-fast response time you can expect from me on important, breaking news about mulch!

This last weekend I plowed through the garden, putting most of it in on Sunday.  (Plowed!  Get it?!  Ba-dump-bum!)  It was a day of rest, but I couldn’t help but think of this work as the most enjoyable thing that I could have possibly done that day.  I remember reading in Little House on the Prairie how Laura wasn’t even allowed to cut dresses out of paper for her paper dolls on Sunday because that was “work”.  It doesn’t feel like work to dig around in the dirt, so I felt just fine laboring through the whole day.

I saved one bed for the kids to help finish off.  They like the whole “planting” part of the garden, but not the digging or breaking up soil clods part, so I prepared the beds and let them sprinkle seeds willy-nilly.  I’ll thin them out later.

plant waterer (?) Well, she is NEAR the plants at least.


We put in:

  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • ONE zucchini
  • ONE crook neck squash
  • ONE lemon cucumber
  • bush beans
  • snap peas
  • kale
  • swiss chard
  • three different types of lettuce
  • onions
  • marigolds (to ward off insects in the brassicaceae)
  • beets
  • sunflowers

Now how did we have room for all that?  The answer is—we didn’t, but I like to try to pack it all in.  I always get too many different varieties of seeds and starts.  I forget what we are planning to do that year, get swept up in the moment and buy it all.  In terms of food harvesting, I always want MORE.  I am something of a food hoarder, which is why my freezer is packed with too much meat, I pick more peaches than I can can, and I kill myself peeling too many apples for apple sauce all while wishing I had filled JUST ONE MORE BOX.  In the summer, some berries are not enough.  I want more.  (It just occurred to me that this is why I have TEN chickens instead of the FOUR we started off with.)  MORE!

bean sower


Oh For a Bit of Wild Onion!

Brad and I were amused by Zephyr after watching Star Wars for the first time.  Of all the interesting and funny things that happened in that movie, he thought the most important was C-3PO walking off in a different direction from R2D2 on Tatooine.  The big line he would repeat to tell this story?  “I’m not going THAT way!  That’s too rocky!”. And then he would laugh like crazy.

Yeah.  I don’t know that I would sum up the movie that way either.  And yet I sort of relate to fixating on minor lines or ideas.

This last week I put the garden to bed for the winter.  I hauled leaves, I hauled chicken manure, and then spread it to a depth of about two feet.  Things should rest and rot down until sometime in April when I will call out the forces and turn the soil (if I am lucky.  Last year it rained well into June, so I won’t count on April).  Before closing the case on the garden I pulled up the last of the onions.  They were small and I really shouldn’t have left them in this late.  Because they were out in the frost, they had a little slime on them, and yet I was so thrilled to have them.  They make me think of Sam in Lord of the Rings who just yearned for a bit of wild onion to improve the campfire food on the way to Mordor.  “Oh for a bit of wild onion!”  I thought.  “Oh for a bit of wild onion!”

I don’t know what it is about the yearning for wild onion that was so appealing (and memorable!) to me.  Why do I remember this about those books and not other, probably more important, elements?  While raking leaves, I thought:  maybe the onion is a theme!  If the onion is a theme, then it would be of Sam’s desire to give his best, to nurture his friends, even while in grave danger.  The onion is about a hobbit taking risks, but still desiring the good life—the life that an onion affords.

I don’t think the onion is a theme.

But my onions were good.  I made them into a soup.  Hobbit Onion soup.  Zephyr and I are not so different.


It’s good to remember that for as many times as everything goes wrong and the day is a total mess, sometimes everything goes wrong and the world is unperturbedly perfect.

We decided to go berry picking on Sunday.  I had been out there earlier in the week and had affirmed that there were still berries to be found.  I was sure that there would be even more by the weekend as all the red marionberries would have ripened up.  Wrong.  We got out there and the fields were picked clean.  I had never really contemplated the phrase “slim pickings”, but that is what we found row after row after row.

You had to keep moving to find the smallest marionberry.  You also had to look all the difficult places—underneath, behind big thorns, down low on the ground.  In short, it sucked.

But still it was beautiful.  The farm was empty.  The island (Sauvie) was quiet.  The sun was preparing to tip over the edge of the earth, the birds were swooping through the air, and there was a sweet and light breeze making everything young and fresh.  Not many berries, but it sure was great being out there.

The kids got tired of picking fairly quickly so I sent them off down a row to a field beyond.  Inez toddled after them for all she was worth.  They found a barkdust pile and some ripe blueberries and were happy.  Brad and I could pick and chat quietly and we were happy.

This is of course when disaster struck.  Now that I think about it, it looks like the first stages of disaster are captured in this photo!  Inez decided to take off her diaper which was dirty.  Not being able to remove her overalls properly in order to escape the diaper, she manages to wrap clothing and diaper and sandal up in a horrible net of shit.  And then she stepped in it.  It is what our family likes to call a “shitastrophe”.  The older kids started screaming.  I come running (although slowly, I admit).  We didn’t bring any diapers with us as we like to live on the edge.

I try to extract the child from her excrement and then try to wash her up by dumping full water bottles over her backside.  Unfortunately for her they were ice water.  (That’ll teach her to excrete!).  I put her shirt back on her, wash up my hands over and over again, and get back to berry picking.  The kids amuse themselves throwing barkdust and flowers at us.  We tolerate it reasonably well.

After we quit tolerating it and both yell at them for throwing bark in the berries, they run off out of view to the next field and Brad and I consider chucking it in.  We have a pants-less baby, a nasty diaper, poor picking conditions, and questionably clean hands.  I call for the older kids.  No kids.  I call again.  Nope.  I decide that I need to go find them.  After wandering across a field of blueberries, I see a side field that looks promising.  Francis and Zephyr are standing in it, shoveling handfuls of thornless blackberries into their mouths.  The field is SO AMAZINGLY FULL OF BERRIES.  There are tons.  I send Francis back to fetch Brad and in the next 20 minutes we pick more than we had picked in the previous hour.  We fill bucket after bucket after bucket.  It is awesome.

Back at the farm stand, we pay for our berries, use soap and hot water on our hands, and improvise a diaper out of a sunhat and a clean onesie.  (Luckily we do find a clean diaper wrap in the car, and when you have one of those, you can shove just about anything in it and make it work.  Once at a movie, I removed my camisole from under my sweater and crammed that into a diaper wrap to get the kid through the next hour.)

Sometimes the world is great.  We’re dirty, we’re tired, but we have plenty berries, plenty joy.