Monday, March 25, 2013

The B word....

....or should I say a pair of B words.  The last few weeks on the homestead have been all about baby bunnies and bees.  Charles' blue ribbon winner Dot, had kits in the wee morning hours of March 8th.  This is our first experience with baby bunnies and it has been so much fun!  It is simply amazing how quickly they grow.  They have gone from little pink things to sweet bundles of fur, each developing their own little personalities.  We can't wait to see how they continue to develop.


We ordered two new colonies of bees the beginning of the month, and this weekend we picked up another hive from the beekeeper that we bought our hives from last year.  Of the two hives we went into the winter with, we lost one of them.  They were queen-less going into winter and already starting to thin out late last Fall.  The hive from the wild swarm that B captured last summer seems to be humming right along.  If all continues to go well we should be able to split that hive mid-spring, which will give us four hives total going into summer.  As a result of the lost hive, we had an unexpected honey harvest this weekend.  It is all draining now, but it looks to be more successful than the single boxes that we pulled off of the two hives last fall. To top it off, this honey has a completely different flavor...simply fantastic!

Though we were sad to lose the one hive, we know that it is a fact of life. It seems fitting that nature took something from us at the same time she gave us something in return, the two B's.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Time to Shine

Today the sun is shining and it is simply gorgeous.  The kind of spring light that revitalizes the soul after the long dark months.  As a result of this glorious light, the snow pack has taken on a pearly aura as it gracefully recedes.  Let us hope that the coming storm continues to stay South of us and we only get the predicted 1-2" tomorrow evening, and not more to sock us back in,  I am so enjoying watching my yard and garden begin to reappear rested and ready for its time to shine.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

#scintilla13 ~ Queen Mab and Robert Frost

Introducing the Musical
Charles first grade musical 2010

Memory is an amazing thing.  I have memorized songs, lines from plays, dance steps, really any number of things.  But when it comes to long-ish memorization's  two specifically come to mind.  They are two very different yet equally powerful stanzas, coming from two formative times in my education.

When I was a sophomore(at the time a theater major) in college, I had an amazing diction coach named Jan Gist.  I have always, had a love for Shakespeare.  It was Jan who taught me to truly appreciate the nuances of interpretation.  I remember clearly the practice sessions while preparing Mercutio's Queen Mab monologue.  Jan made sure that I thought about my breath control, tone and 'chewing' my words. She also taught me the importance of  varying my voice as such to bring forth the sarcasm and pageantry in a unique way.   I still remember the words and while thinking about it this morning, realized that here, some 21 years later, I would present this speech in a completely different way, yet using all of the tools that she instilled in me.  Such is Shakespeare, the words so rich, that individual interpretation can be varied and oh so powerful.

Four years earlier, before I became involved in high school theater and was still trying to find my voice through a very shy veil,  I had to memorize and present a poem for a class.  It was here that I found Robert Frost and fell in love with words that would soon be an anthem of sorts following me through my life.  Something that I recite for comfort and inspiration.  The Road Not Taken taught me to take my own path and enjoy the ride.  A play on it is the byline for this blog.

It is funny those things that you remember and that leave lasting impressions.  Of these two distinct memories, one is composed of words I learned by, the other, words I live by.

This post is part of the #scintilla13 project.  Today's prompt: What is the longest thing you know by heart (poem, speech, prayer, commercial jingle)? Why did you learn it?
The Scintilla Project

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

#Scintilla13 ~ Developing Palates

 this picture was taken 3/24/12, with six inches of snow still on the ground here right now, what a difference a year makes!

When moving to the farm almost six years ago, aside from offering our kids the space to spread their wings, we wanted to produce as much of our own food as possible. The first year of our garden I purchased no produce from the grocery store except for onions and fruit. As our garden grew to include those things, we purchased less and less, I tried to keep our fresh foods solely those we produced.

I struggled with all of the components of our food culture, wanting to provide the healthiest alternatives to the kids while showing them first hand where their food came from. As the years have passed, I have eased up on myself some; now including locally produced items to full in the gaps. We also have taught the kids about eating seasonally. This was a little tougher to describe with the year round varieties at the grocery store, but they get it.

Dovetailing with our relationship growing food, we also love to cook. I have always been a baker, but once I struck out on my own, I learned to also enjoy cooking. I'm a recipe follower. I have learned over time to add my own twist and have become more adventurous. B just cooks. No recipe, only vision, and always amazing. Three years ago we started a cooking club with a few other couples, we call ourselves the Tastebuds. We pick a monthly theme, map out a 4-6 course meal, each couple brings ingredients, and we spend many hours cooking together and eating. Slow food at its best. The kids are included and mostly just hang out together, but are always on the periphery taking it in.

Recently Sidney has shown an interest in learning to cook and she's participated in a few lessons from dad, and done some experimenting on her own. Both of the kids have always done well with trying new things...sure, sure, they have their frustratingly picky moments, but they do OK. Sidney has loved oysters on the half shell since she was six, and Charles has always had a taste for spicier foods. Sidney is now taking it a step further, experimenting. She had sliced oranges the other day and decided to sprinkle feta over them..loved it!

Yesterday, as a treat, because it is spring and wind chills are in the single digits, I bought strawberries. They are seasonal in California this time of year, so not local, and our large berry patch is months from producing. This little treat lit up both of the kids eyes, not only were they incredibly excited, but strawberries had never tasted so good to them. Do you know why? Because they haven't had any since the last of our strawberries last season. Eating seasonally gives you something fresh to look forward to and really appreciate when it is around. Food is the center of our hearth and home. Conversations, dreams, laughter are things that all happen during the preparation or eating of food. Developing palates for a lifetime.

This post is part of the #scintilla13 project.  Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.
The Scintilla Project

Monday, March 18, 2013

#scintilla13 ~ Chance Meeting?

Then & Now ...almost 20 years

Was it a chance meeting, or just a matter of timing?  Twenty years ago this May a couple of weeks after I returned from studying abroad, I headed out to visit a close friend of mine who had moved to Kansas.  I flew into Kansas City where we were spending the night and then leaving the following morning on a road trip to New Orleans.  Coincidentally, on the evening that I flew in a couple of friends of hers from school were going to be in town at the same time.  They had just finished a road trip of their own and were headed back to campus to begin their grueling clinical rotations in Veterinary School.

This was the night that I met B.  We went to dinner on the Plaza in Kansas City and the conversation was relaxed, with  maybe a few shy stolen glances on both of our parts, as we realized how effortlessly we clicked.  As the evening progressed it turned into a night full of conversation that lasted until dawn, when we parted ways.  Sleep did not seem as necessary in those days, as after breakfast we headed out just as planned.  My friend and I spent the next three days traveling, adventuring, and enjoying; but decided to return early to spend my last couple of days touring her new home, and maybe spending a little more time with my new friend.  I ended up extending my plane ticket for an extra two days, during that time the buds of plans began to bloom in our conversation.  When I returned home a daily letter writing campaign started between the two of us...yes, this was before email was commonplace.  By mid August, B had used his only rotation off to drive out to visit me and meet my family, I had transferred colleges for my final year, and moved across country.

This week, despite the snow that is lingering well past its welcome, we will see the first day of Spring, which is also our wedding anniversary.  On this cold spring day we will welcome our fifteenth return of the day.  To think, had the timing been off at all, we may not have met that night.  The demands of school may have prevented us from even being introduced once we returned.  This chance meeting, or luck of good timing has produced my best friend, life partner and an amazing dad to our two beautiful children. Our adventure really has just begun, and it has been such a ride so far, I can't wait to see where we go next.

This post is part of the Scintilla Project, Day Six prompt:  Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.
The Scintilla Project

Saturday, March 16, 2013

#Scintilla13 ~ Ticket To Ride

I studied at the University of London for a semester during my junior year in college.  One of the biggest changes that I faced, aside for living in a flat with 5 other girls, was transitioning to public transportation.  I wasn't completely naive, I rode the city bus system to and from high school, but beyond that, I drove.  When I landed in London, I entered a world of public transportation that I had never experienced before, the tube.  I grew up on the West Coast, and we did not have a subway system.

I remember when I got my pass and began to find my way to school for the first time.  My flat was smack dab between two tube stations on the Piccadilly Line; one was Knightsbridge and the other South Kensington.  I decided on Knightsbridge, because it was located on a busy street with lots of shops so I could browse windows on my way, one, a little ditty was named Harrods.  After I shut the door to my building behind me and stepped out onto the walk I was greeted into a stream of fast moving people.  I would pick up a coffee or a baguette on my way and keep pace.  I always new when I was getting close to the station, because I could smell the earthy fragrance of roasting chestnuts from a street vendor that stirred them in a large barrel next to the entrance.  As I descended underground into the station I could immediately feel the pulse of the city.  Masses of people racing every which way.  At the base of two levels of escalators, murals spread across the walls showing colorful spiderwebs indicating different lines and their destinations.

It didn't take long to get the hang of it, and the secondary component of subway walk when you are not riding.  About mid-way through my stay, I decided that I wasn't getting enough exercise, crazy of course, I had never walked so much in my life.  My solution was to walk the stairs on all of the escalators in and out of the tubes instead of riding them.  I can assure you, it was at that point that I was effortlessly in the best shape of my life.  In line with that walking, if I was running a bit off in my time, I would head off to the South Kensington station.  It was located at the other end of a lovely little neighborhood, and on my first trip I found these great street musicians.  Needless to say I frequented this station if I was traveling at certain times of day, and I rode the escalators instead of climbing them just to be serenaded for a couple of minutes. 

I learned to love the camaraderie of the underground.  It never felt trapped or claustrophobic, it felt more social, not the isolation solitude that we have in our cars.  Everyone had a common goal, to get someplace.  I never felt unsafe or afraid,  just like part of the ebb and flow.  Fast paced, no nonsense and utterly alive. That defined London to me. 

This post is part of the Scintilla Project.  Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip.
The Scintilla Project

Thursday, March 14, 2013

#scintilla13 ~ Czech Republic/Slovakia

Eight years ago a group of North Americans invaded the Czech Republic and Slovakia for four days. A good friend from veterinary school who now lives and works in Canada was getting married to his Slovakian sweetheart. So a small group of both Canadian and American friends spent a long weekend in celebration. As a result of this whirlwind trip I have come up with a Slovakian wedding celebration survival checklist.

Step one: When you check into your hotel in early afternoon, rest and drink a ton of water. This will help with jet lag and prepare you for an intense drinking experience.

Step two: When your Canadian friend offers you red bull and vodka while resting at the hotel, simply decline. Firstly, it's gross, and secondly, refer to step one.

Step three: Use the principle 'when in Rome'. Try the local fare! But also, when as a large group at dinner the first night and you see a friend paying zero attention to anything but the conversation he is in, just watch. You might just see him down a glass of absinthe like a shot, not knowing what it is. Then you will see him virtually explode.

Step four: On your day sight seeing (after 3 hours sleep) sing with the locals, even if you don't know the language, and carry water. Inevitably it will be 90 degrees on a fall day when you are hoofing it.

Step five: Once you settle into the new hotel after a picturesque train ride to Slovakia, walk the town and breathe in the history around you.

Step six: When having supper at the brides families vineyard, prepare for a not so slow, steady infusion. Shots of plum brandy (slivovice) await upon arrival, followed by fantastic food, dancing, and a trip to not only the hosts wine cellar, but to the neighbors as well for a tasting.

Step seven: The wedding celebration lasts minimally 18 hours, so be thoughtful about footwear. The day will begin with photos and a procession through town.

Step eight: It is somewhat ok to be a 'rude American' at the reception, when after a respectable amount of time with the folk band, the friends of the groom, begin to DJ with their iPods.

Step nine: While stepping out for air in the evening, invite the random passerby into the reception for a few minutes. In a small Slovak town, they likely know the family and will in turn invite you across the street to their party for a drink.

Step ten: Carpe Diem! Participate in the culture fully and enjoy the experience. What an amazing trip with a special group of people!

This post is part of the Scintilla project.  Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….)
The Scintilla Project

#scintilla13 ~ Whooo, Are You?

Do you recall the firsts?  First jobs, the first times two very separate worlds that you live in collide, a little bit of reality mixed with magic?  When I was seventeen, that time when high school is over and college is just beginning and your circle suddenly pulls apart, like a soap bubble, into two distinct spheres.  It was during this time of transition that I began my stay as a cast member at the happiest place on earth.

Interesting that some of life's first real adult lessons associated with work happened at such a place of animation.  I worked in main street merchandising and guest control (nice phrase for directing traffic huh?).  What, you may ask, did this include?  The diversity of tasks that presented itself to me was fantastic; money handling, film and sundry sales, watch sales, magic supplies, and of course the anything and everything in Disney's famous Main Street Emporium.  More firsts then came; grave yard shifts and working on holidays normally spent in their entirety with family.  One of my favorite tasks was when doing stints on guest control during the electrical parade.  This always took place after dark and was followed by a fireworks show.   Basically, I would walk up and down the sidewalk keeping paths clear and making sure those guests watching the parades were in designated areas.  Why was this so good?  Well I pace the street up until the parade stepped off, once the parade began people, including myself were transfixed by it.   A favorite as a child, now it was a part of my nightly life, what luck!  I would get a few minutes to suspend my disbelief before the duties got hectic again.

There was more to the Disney experience than just learning the aspects of a diverse job.  There was also developing the relationships with co-workers and learning how to function in yet another sphere.  The camaraderie of cast exclusive nights, when everyone on the attractions knows what is next, and participates in it, added its own magic. On that first cast night that I attended,  loads of us crammed into the elevator in the haunted mansion.  As the door closed and the story began, every single person recited it by heart using loud spooky voices in unison with the recording.  So much fun!

Most vivid however was one morning after working my first graveyard shift for a grad night. When all of the energy of the thousands of high school kids had dissipated, I could feel myself along with the whole park exhale.  Bleary eyed and more than a little punch drunk from the experience I made my way across main street to turn in my cash drawer and head home.  As I meet the dawn I see maintenance workers sweeping and all else is quiet.  Then, on the loud speaker above the firehouse comes familiar music, the theme song from Star Wars fills all of Main Street.  So surreal, bridging the spheres of childhood and adulthood like a final kiss as the bubbles pulled apart.

This post is part of the Scintilla Project.  Tell a story set at your first job.
The Scintilla Project

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White Smoke

One minute we have rain, the next light snow.  Each time I feel a flow of spring like writing, we get a dusting, and this morning does not seem to be an exception to that.  Yesterday afternoon there was that ethereal feel in the air.  As I was running errands it was predominantly blue sky overhead while snowing intermittent sparkling flakes.  It seemed to show the struggle of seasons, and left me wondering which one would win out the day.

The garden has been on our minds as we inventory seeds, make lists, and peek in our cold frames to find the hardiest of hardy still plugging along.  A few months ago I joined the planning committee for the Eco-Justice Center (check it out!)  It is a wonderful organization and we have attended events there for years.  As EJC continues to spread its wings, based on their mission of Community, Contemplation, Creativity, and Cultivation, it seemed to be a natural extension of our homestead goals to become a part of this group.  Next week there will be an equinox celebration complete with a blessing of the seeds.  Somehow this feels perfect as we celebrate both the birth of the new season and our fifteenth wedding anniversary, as the snow dissipates into the white smoke announcing spring.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Signs

 The signs are here.  This week there have been birds singing, a random snow storm, followed by a slow, yet decided thaw.  

 It brought us shorts and snow boots.

Budding maple flowers and a day of blue skies.

And baby bunnies, which deserve their own post, so this shot is just a tease :)

Rain is headed our way today which is to offer its own clue of a pending springtime.  Yes, lots of standing water and mud is sure to be in our future!  But oh what a feeling that the signs are there!

Saturday, March 2, 2013


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