We came home tonight to this lilac just beginning to bloom! A second blooming this year!!
It's hard to believe that the kids are starting school next Thursday, just a week from today. The summer has flown by and I can say it has been our best family summer yet! We have seen a return of some warm late summer days and are finally beginning to pick a few tomatoes. This time of year I begin to contemplate fall; harvest, storing food, school, new beginnings.
Funny, the meaning of fall harvest is so profound to me now. We have to pick our food, slowly clean up beds as they fade, plant crops for late fall harvest, plant beds to winter cover crops, and store the fruits of our labors away. All of this frenzy is for a clean up that leads to tucking our little farm in for the winter. With that thought passing though my mind, I came across a blog post last week from Mama Schell. It discussed the catharsis that comes from purging, simplifying. Her post was called 40 bags in 40 days. The basic premise is to pick forty different areas, clean them out and dispose of or donate what you no longer need, use, want, have grown out of, etc. By taking a space, even if it is as small as a drawer at a time, this overwhelming task becomes much more manageable. So when I think of the settling in coming soon, I want my space to be as simplistic and comfortable as possible.
Since school is approaching, I began today with organizing the attic closet and all of the school mementos that I have collected from pre-school forward. Everything is now better condensed into manageable quantities. The kids in turn will spend some time tomorrow going through closets and drawers to determine what fits and what type of school shopping we may just need to accomplish before next week. Then I will continue on through my forty areas.
Isn't this a great idea? Fall is coming and when you go to open your windows and let in the amazing fall air, wouldn't it be nice if that air could fill your newly reclaimed space? What forty areas can you look at to begin to simplify your life?
The first morning we were in Colorado, we had booted the kids outside to play and we were scurrying around getting ourselves put together so we could meet our friends, and gracious hosts, for a acclimating hike. As I with somewhat bleary eyes walked through the house I came toe to toe with a chipmunk....in the kitchen! Somewhat startled I yelled out for a "boy" to help. The little chipmunk meandered his way, quite knowingly, through the living room and out a crack in the back screen door. After we secured the screen, he hopped onto the screen door as if to say...'hey, I didn't get a treat for my trick!' We had to be careful of this little guy the whole trip. He was quite the opportunist, always looking for entry.
On the flip side of this, we were two of four families in our little cabin. A first time vacationing together and it was quite a dream. During the night, I would hear footsteps stirring upstairs a number of times during the night. I just chalked it up to kids or adults needing to be up during the night. No biggie. Well, we found out after we left that our housemates also had a similar nightly experience only thinking it was us. Interestingly, they realized it wasn't when the footsteps continued downstairs after we had left. Funny, we were all so courteous of one another, that had one of us actually mentioned it we may have come to the conclusion that we had a house guest of another kind.
To house guests, invited and uninvited, always make for amazing memories!
**though the second photo has nothing to do with this post, I thought the orb like flare was appropriate :)
Living in a circa 1930's log cabin for a few days amplified the splendor of mountain wind. I don't know if it was the time of year, a typical day, or if all of the currents that pour East into the plains come swirling through the Rockies in rapid succession. Whatever the cause, the weather was simply fluid. One moment it would be pristine, the next gusts of wind would usher clouds and thunder in.
Just when I would get set to hunker down and watch the storm or figure out what to do with the now indoors children, it was gone. This wasn't just a one time deal. It cycled repetitively over the time we were there.
It was like a ballroom dance in the sky moving from waltz to polka. Ebbing and flowing. Always blowing the sounds of the mountain through our lovely little cabin.
I had forgotten how much I adore hiking. When we lived in Las Vegas, a lifetime ago, we spent many a weekend hiking at Red Rock Canyon or on Mt. Charleston. Now, ten years later, a hiking mountain vacation was on the agenda. Not only did it feel oddly familiar, like riding a bike, but I also had a number of flashes back to the past as my muscles remembered the drill. It felt like I could just glide over the terrain moving rhythmically like a pulse (which was elevated, by the way, in the altitude). What was even more exhilarating than being back on trails, was how the kids both took to it.
It was hard to keep up with Charles. This child has to climb everything in sight when we are not on a gorgeous alpine mountainside. Our cabin was situated in the gully of a boulder surround. When we kicked the kids outside to explore the first morning, what struck me most was how fearless Sidney was too! She thrived on made up games, climbing and just being outside (as always). I now know I can take this farm girl and put her in the mountains and she is still my outdoor girl, regardless of the location.
We were a group of sixteen, eight adults and eight children and these kids had begun to accumulate a multitude of scrapes, scratches, and bruises, which they all seemed to be wearing like a badge of honor. Something that was hard earned, meant to be compared, and marked their passage through the vacation. We gave them quite a bit of freedom with their climbing within a few basic guidelines. They tended to watch out for one another and thrive when their parents gave them the ability to do a little bit of free range hiking.
It's hard to believe that it has already been a week since we left for Colorado. Last Saturday, after the final garden tour attendees had driven away, we finished packing the car, loaded up, and headed West caravaning with friends. We cut the sixteen hour trip into two day busy days. I mentioned how much I love a car trip. There is something about seeing the country up close, the experience of a slice of life from every area, and with this trip, the wonderful camaraderie of two families in the long hours together, that make even the fatigue of driving feel oh so worth while.
Our first stop was a family favorite, and a little better than half way to Des Moines, our evenings stopping point. Iowa 80 is the "Worlds Largest Truck Stop" and it does not disappoint. The kids could run around and jump in and play in the huge cabs that were in the show room. This was followed what was a mediocre supper, but nourishment none the less. We didn't arrive at our hotel in Des Moines until close to midnight. We were fortunate to get two of the last three hotel rooms in town what with it being the opening weekend of the State Fair and the little fact that the Straw Pole had just finished hours before.
Now you would think that two advanced degreed, technologically pretty advanced families could figure out how to self check into this hotel whose lobby had now closed. Well let's call it extreme fatigue that we didn't see the coded lock boxes (that contained our room keys) as we walked in and proceeded to wake up the night manger who explained this simple fact over the phone. Yet, I couldn't get the darned box open. I only needed to put in the first three letters of our last name....well that's easy since our last name has all of three letters. Well after three attempts at my three letters it locked me out for four minutes. The problem was solved once we determined that they had spelled our name wrong...you know the three letter name. That four minutes felt more like thirty, but once it finally finished it's absurd countdown, it freed our hostage room keys, so we could finally lay our exhausted heads down. We were only able to pour our half asleep children into their respective beds,after we located sheets for the pull out beds they would be sleeping in and got said beds made! I did mention slice of life, didn't I?
After long hours, fun chatty stops, a huge downpour, an after dark arrival that had us searching winding mountain dirt roads for our sweet rustic cabin, we ended our trip and began our vacation. When the light of day once again kissed our world, this is what we saw. What a difference two days makes!
This is one of our stone crop plants, that blooms deep pink in the Fall~ it's blushing!
As the last couple of mornings have had that tell tale crispness of an approaching fall, and the sun is a little lazy in making it's morning appearance, we head West. Our family along with a few friends are road tripping to the mountains of Colorado this week on an epic journey that is sure to bring wonderful new experiences and a deeper bonding of family and friends.
I'm not sure what the Internet situation, or lack there of will be while we're there, so if I am quiet for a little while, know I will return as soon as I finish chasing summer.
A short time ago, a friend of ours who is spear-heading a co-op grocery in our town, asked for B to write a little bio about what has led us to what we do, what inspires us to be so excited about the prospect of the Wild Root Market, and why we want to be founding members. He spent a lot of time contemplating his responses to her prompts and I was so impressed with what he ended up with. Here is his bio...
My journey from conspicuous consumer to semi self-sustaining loca-vore.
After my father passed away at an early age my mother would take us on summer long car vacations, often visiting as many as 15 states as we "cousined" our way around the south. One of my favorite stops was my cousin Russell Ray's farm in Shorter, Alabama. There were tractors, horses, all nature of fowl and hound roaming about and did I mention tractors? These idealistic rural experiences at such a young age instilled in me a sense of awe about rural life.
"If my mom ever gets married again, please let it be to a farmer." I hoped.
Well, she did!
My life is certainly richer for the experience of working on large industrial style family farm. Being a jack of all trades and knowing in a very real way what "hard" work means are valuable everyday. But, suffice it to say that reality did not match the bucolic fantasy that had been percolating in my brain. Apparently my childhood vision of the agrarian life went out of style a few generations before I was born (think "The Waltons"). I couldn't have been happier to shake the Kansas dust off my shoes and seek my own way in the world.
So, off I went, matriculating my way through college, veterinary school, first job as a professional person, marriage, home ownership (many times), parenthood, business ownership and so on. But, as the now WE gained what I hope is some modicum of wisdom about life and how we all fit together in the world and affect it for good or bad, the desire to grow and fix and build things with OUR hands was always there. In fact, those passions started to look like a fine way for one to journey through life. Whether we satisfied that itch by landscaping and gardening in the several suburban properties we have called home, by converting a room or garage into a shop in which to build "stuff" or by talking and dreaming about what would constitute our ideal home. The sun was going to warm our skin and dirt was going to take up permanent residence under our finger nails.
Then the whole thing finally gelled one afternoon while I was indulging another of my favorite activities, exploring our fine corner of the state on my bicycle. I'm not the head down go till it hurts kind of cyclist, at least not all the time. I like to take note of the flora and fauna and all the different places people call home. While approaching an intersection in Franksville, I noticed a For Sale sign on a neat little farmhouse complete with a barn, dairy building and silo. This was a Friday afternoon, we signed the contract the next Wednesday. We have the good fortune to become the "next" family to become the caretakers of this 120+ year old farmstead on six acres.
Jumping out of the dream and into the reality of exploring a more self-sufficient relationship with what we eat and the impact we have on the earth has opened the door to a wider community of like minded people.
The punchline is that we did this to our selves to fulfill an unrequited childhood fantasy of mine. That is certainly an over simplification, but to see that fantasy flesh itself out every time I step through the door is surely inspiration to continue to explore how much we can do for ourselves.
Sorry for the juvenile humor. But after a visit from some good friends that involved satiating ourselves on a good bottle of wine, chatting, and wandering aimlessly while we snacked our way through the berry patch, in lieu of dinner. Well, that seemed the perfect ending to the weekend! :-)
It is hard for me to fathom how quickly this summer is flying by. This is our latest progress picture of overall garden growth. We have gotten farm bags 4 into the hands of their rightful owners and 5's distribution is almost complete. We have had to fully harvest a couple of beds which has made room for fall planting, which we began Thursday.
We are primping everything for Racine's first Vegetable Garden Tour next Saturday, of which our house is a stop! The weather has remained very warm and we are a few short days from the summer onslaught. The tomatoes are beginning to blush their colors.
This vine (as they all are) is heavy with fruits. This variety, will remain green and you can just see the hint of striping these tomatoes will have. We are eagerly readying our jars, and searching out new recipes for loads of summer processing.
With that work just around the corner, we are also excited to see that our fall squash is beginning to gain size. I feel a little bit like mama bear getting ready to store our rations for hibernation, and there is something strangely comforting about being able to do just that. I feel fortunate that we can work at, grow, produce, prepare and store healthy food for our family that is always within arms reach.
For my own tracking and if you're interested, our last two farm bags included:
Farm Bag 4
Bag of red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce & bok choi
Bag of Cucumbers
Bag of first Green Beans
Yellow Zypher squash
Summer Fennel harvest ( excessive heat made these begin to bolt so, small bulbs)
Farm Bag 5
Large Bag of Swiss Chard
Last few Cucumbers (see this article if you're interested in why)
Yellow Zypher & Geode Squash
Large bag Green Beans
Small jar of exfoliating hand scrub that I made
Back in May when I was perusing the June issue of Good Housekeeping magazine (my gram got me a 5 year subscription to it when I moved away from home in 1993 and it's been a part of every month since), I found a list of sorts on 30 Ways To Make This Your Best Summer Ever. I tore it out and set it aside, then found it again today. Let's see how we're doing so far....
1. Life is short, get your hair wet when you swim. Check!
2. "Eating is really one of your indoor sports. you play three times a day, and it's well worth-while to make the game as pleasant as possible"-Dorothy Draper Check!
3. Take your phone call outside, preferably barefoot, standing in a thick carpet of grass. Check!
4. The 10-minute, $10 personal trainer- a jump rope. Not Yet.
5. There's no shame in shelving the classics when it's hot out- it takes too much self-discipline to page through actual literature. Check! I seem to have gotten quite easily into George R. R. Martin of late.
6. "To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug."~Helen Keller Well, our Colorado trip is in a couple of weeks.
7. Teach your kids about the joy of gardening. Double Check!
8. Turn a dinner of farmer's market produce into a decadent feast by whipping up some compound butter. Just mix room-temp butter with blue cheese and chives, and let the heat of the veggies set the melting in motion. Will try!
9. The almighty wind is yours to harness- all it takes to get swept up is a $5 kite. Not Yet!
10. Have a winning go-to look-whatever works for you (for Jackie O it was all about white jeans, Jack Rogers sandals and a collarbone-revealing T-shirt). Check!~ mine includes white denim capris :)
11. A pedicure can cover a host of sins. Check~even if self done!
12. Never turn down a chance to have a glass of champagne. Check~ or prosecco!
13. Eat dessert on the porch. Everyone gets a Popsicle, and no one has to fear for the rug. Check~ most meals too!
14. Ripe, thin-skinned summer vegetables. Check~ definitely got that covered!
15. Try this activity. Show your kids how to make really big (and really tiny) bubbles, using pipe cleaners as different sized wands. Combine a cup of water with 2 Tbsp. of dish washing liquid and 1 Tbsp. glycerin, and go for it. Not Yet, fun idea!
16. Attract a colorful buzz of hummingbirds and hang close to a window for a front row seat. Check~ well not for hummingbirds for for finches, chickadees, and everything else around here!
17. Don't underestimate the feel-good power of a playground swing. Hop in the saddle and experience the leg-pumping, heart-pounding joy of soaring for yourself. Not Yet!
18. Drive-ins are back! Not Yet~ need to get there tho'!
19. Collect two wildflower bouquets-one for your bedside table and one for an elderly neighbor. Every time you look at yours, thing about brightening two people's days. Cut plenty for us, now I need to collect for a neighbor, maybe a former resident of this house!
20. "Every summer I move a full-size bed right out on the porch, fill it with colorful mix and match pillows, and find that the whole family loves to hang out and relax on the bed" Annette Tatum~ Don't think I can swing that one!
21. Shave time and money off party preparations by skipping the high-maintenance flowers and decking out your table with a bowl of lemons. It worked for Vincent van Gogh; it will work for you. Check!
22. Reward your brood with "dirt" (crushed Oreos sprinkled over ice cream for dessert). Check!
23. Now playing on the biggest screen of all: shooting stars, Venus, and the twinkling magic of the Little Dipper. Spread out a blanket, and watch the show. Check~ I'm counting masses of evenings catching fireflies!
24. Find a quiet place and let the beauty of sights and smells wash over you. Check!
25. To fake-clean a house, turn on a fan and get the air moving, throw clutter in a basket, and concentrate only on your house's most high traffic areas. Deep clean after Labor Day. Check~ well off and on, I guess I'm too type A to wait that long!
26. Take a page from high-end Zen house cleaners and disperse scented oil in a diffuser as you clean or sprinkle a few drops of essential oil on a cloth or sponge. Check!
27. All hail the almighty flip flop. Triple Check, in fact this will be a post all of it's own!
28. Kid-churned strawberry ice cream. Not yet!
29. Backyard fads come and go, but a classic, nothing-fancy hammock will keep you dozing in the sunshine forever. Check!
30. Wisdom for the ages: "Summer afternoon- summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." Henry James~~ Indeed.
Whew, now there's a list! I was really surprised that without trying, we have managed to get most of this list done just in the busyness of our summer. How much have you gotten done? As we head into the first weekend in August, take a moment and reflect on your summer, and enjoy!
**the above list is taken from Good Housekeeping Magazines' June issue, and adapted :)