Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Summer 2013

 It's been months since I checked in and posted anything, which is why today I'll be posting lots of wonderful photos! Lets see, our summer was full of animals, kids, Mohawks and camping trips, farmers markets and parties. Our house was full all summer long with kids and animals and various adults, much to the annoyance of our neighbors, I'm sure. My dad passed at the beginning of June, which has clouded our recent experiences. His service was stunning and he's greatly missed.
Stella lost a tooth and wrote an adorable note to Nik and I, as the Tooth Fairy, explaining that we've already given her more then the world and that she appreciates our efforts. Seriously a tearful parent moment!!! I, of course, cannot let this one last childhood myth die and I denied the lie, protesting that the Tooth Fairy still breathes.

My Godchildren Lilly, Leroy and Libby came to stay with us a few times during the summer and we enjoyed them immensely. They're so wonderful and beautiful and I'm so lucky that I get to love and cherish these children and they're not even mine! I get all the good stuff with them and I really only give a little bit in return. Josh and Jason, especially, are totally in love with 4 year old Leroy. He's like a little brother to them, but better, because they never get annoyed or irritated with him. And Lilly, 10, is Stella's best friend and almost sister. She's a wonderful helper and sweet spirited playmate. Libby, 3, is hilarious and is the household comedian. They were such a joy to have around this summer!

I was invited to work for the Pearl Bakery at the Portland Farmers Market again this summer and it was wonderful! I enjoyed working with one of my favorite people on the planet, Andrea. We spent our Sundays and Wednesdays laughing and selling bread and meeting excellent people and sweating. What a wonderful way to spend a summer!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Visit From The DIY Fairy

 This past Sunday we had a very special guest at the homestead. Julie Sabatier from Destination DIY (www.destinationdiy.org) stopped by to interview us. We spent about a week trying to get the 'stead looking nice; all the while the kiddos built forts and damned up irrigation canals and basically created chaos. All in all, by the time Sunday morning rolled around, everything looked about as chaotic as it usually does. Which I suppose, is at least truthful. I did manage to vacuum the living room though, less than 20 minutes before she came! She might have caught me on her mic, bribing the kids to be on their best behavior. There was the choice of money or video time involved. Oh what she must think of my parenting skills!
Lucky thing for us, one of our broody mama ducks decided that morning was the perfect morning to show off her just-hatched chicks. In addition to our 9 two week old ducky chicks and 3 week and a half old goslings, it was super cool to show her 10 just-out-of-the-egg ducklings. Whitney Houston and Maybelle (goatie extraudinairs) tried to eat her radio bag, of course, and Poncho Villa (our roo) wouldn't crow for her despite our chasing him frantically around the Habitat. The rabbits ignored us and the chickens clucked contently for her radio mic.
Ms. Sabatier spent a few hours asking us questions about the livestock and our ethics behind the choice to homestead. By the end of our time together, my tongue was dry and I'd contemplated never speaking about myself again! She asked quite a few questions of the kiddo's and I'll admit that I'm so darn proud of Joshua, Jason and Stella's answers to her probing questions. They spoke candidly and wisely. Sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day work that I loose out on really enjoying how intelligent and insightful my kids are. I'm so amazed they came from Nik and I! I'm also proud of myself; I only lost myself once to a fit of giggles at the awesomeness of the moment! And of course, Nik was well poised and beautiful the whole time, as he always is. The segment Ms. Sabatier interviewed us for is concerning homesteading and it should be out on her website, www.destinationdiy.org, in June and it'll be on OPB radio sometime in July or August. Each one of these events that happen in our lives, whether it be a spot in a local magazine or a quib in the newspaper or a few minutes on the radio, helps to create a wonderful childhood for the kids. When they're awesome adults doing amazing things, they can reach back and hear or read a little bit about their childhood and for that, I can't ever be thankful enough.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Break and Child Labor

Happy spring y'all!!! Every year around this time I question whether or not this whole homesteading thing is for me. Every winter I get to be lazy and sit around and read lots of books and knit stuff and be self indulgent. I usually put on a few extra pounds and enjoy doing so! Hmmmm, cheese. And then spring comes; usually it seems to happen over night and I'm never ready to get up off the couch and begin the long haul to harvest. In anticipation of my self imposed pre-spring apathy, Nik took a week off work to help me get the 'stead into shape. The kids also had week off.

We started the week with the arrival of 9 yards of dirt. Now when I look at 9 yards of dirt I think, oh crap that's gonna be a lot of work. When kids look at 9 yards of dirt they think, oh crap! I'm gonna build tunnels and caves and live in that mound for as long as mom'll let me! Which is what Josh, Jason, Stella and about 6 other neighbor kids did. Jason built this crazy awesome tunnel and cave in the center of the mound and proceeded to fill it with snacks, juices and sleeping paraphernalia. And every night he begged me to let him sleep in it. The kicker is that it rained a whole bunch and his boy cave became more of a mud room then the awesome chill zone that he had intended. Throughout the week I'd find random kids, mine and everybody else's, with no shirt or shoes on, wallowing in the mud pile. We're a dirty influence on those nice neighbor kids! Eventually we got all that nice dirt to where it needed to be, namely Nana's yard, to fill all the duck dug holes. We also created this neat little stream and some swales and berms to help direct the water instead of letting it constantly flood us.Whitney Houston (the goat, not the songstress) kept getting out of the Habitat and devouring our neighbors' beautiful food forest, so we had to rebuild about 200 feet of fencing. Before our help arrived, in-laws and kids, Nik and I spent a good two hours "discussing" how we should proceed to put the fence together. I had just finished with an especially witty quip about fencing etiquette when I slipped and fell into the biggest pile of duck poop, EVER! Unfortunalty, the way that I fell encouraged my face to land softly, in said duck poo. I'd rather not gross anyone out, but I have to admit that I ingested enough of my share of duck excrement. Ewww! Needless to say, Nik felt so bad that he let me have my way and the fence got done like I wanted it to. I like to call that feminine prowess.
Half way through the week Nana got an additional 9 yards of gravel to re-gravel the driveway with. I think that I must be innately lazy because looking at that huge pile of gravel and anticipating the work of spreading it, about made me soil myself. Fortunately, Nik and the kids are easy to bribe. The kids required money and Nik's request was adult in nature. Both easily granted! We had some help from my good friend Jess with the gravel but Josh was being such a butt that I think I spent the majority of the time chastising him. He's almost 13 and boy oh boy has he learned to complain! Not from me, I assure you; he probably picked up a few pointers from Nana. At one point I had to threaten to bury the boy up to his neck in compost in order for him to continue to shovel. Not that I would have done it, mind you, but I was tempted! At one point he took the time to research child labor laws and vigorously tried to convince me that I was unlawful in my direction of labor, with regards to him and his brethren. His point was so passionately argued that I consented to offer him a "working" wage, to be redeemed at the end of the week in the guise of a "reward". Their reward was a trip to Wunderland with enough money to see a movie, indulge in some sugary snacks and play the video games.

Because I have given up driving (I'm never ever going to drive again), we had to take the bus with all the kids. Oh man did I get us in over our heads! I often walk or take the bus with my own children and it's usually a pretty laid back experience. We each bring a book and money, each child accountable for themselves, under my direction. We invited the 5 kids that had helped so much during the week and each one of them had a little zip lock baggie containing the money he had earned in addition to bus fare. None of these kids had taken the bus before and they were all excited for the journey to begin. I felt like a mama goose walking her goslings to the water for the first time. It was idyllic, for all of about 10 seconds. One kid would go one way while another went the other, both into an oncoming car or rabid dog or off a cliff. 4 kids lost their bus money and I had to scrounge to find more. One kid tried to hide behind a tree as we herded them onto the bus, in the midst of a temper tantrum. Another tried to sit on a homeless man's lap while his buddy pulled the guys' grayish mustache. The one little guy that was just calming down from his tantrum mode asked an elderly lady if she was an "antique". All the while there's another of my little angels pulling the stop cord over and over and over. And then Nik starts singing "The wheels on the bus", loudly. All on the 8 minute ride into downtown Milwaukie.
    Needless to say, I don't think I'll be attempting this sort of excurs
ion again. The highlights include fights between boys, the mooning of buses, attempted run amuck-ness, picking gum up off the ground and trying to chew it, open viewing of highly intoxicated individuals followed by loudly worded questions. All in all, good times. What really matters is that all the kids had fun and I honestly hope they did, they all deserved it. In essence, spring is chaos, right?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Banty Bowl

Happy February! Most years, January and February is spent huddled down, reading books and knitting and creating in the home. I really feel that quality down time in the winter energizes us for spring and summer. Winter is when we relax and play. There's not that much work to do out in the garden or barnyard; no picking, plucking or canning to be done. It's really the time of year I look forward to the most. Our flock (ducks, chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, goats and rabbits) is smaller in the winter and they're happy to just be lazy too!
Not this year though! 4 broody hens had different plans for us when they hatched 34 chicks this past fall. Bantam chicks. Bantam chickens are great for pets or play, but they suck for an urban farmer. They're smaller then other breeds and are bred for their attractive good looks and spunky personalities, not for egg or meat production. All full sized chickens fly but as they grow, they do so less and less. They become heavier and more interested in grubs and food on the ground. Banty's never loose their ability or desire to fly. My fencing abilities are not of the best quality and it's become increasingly hard to keep our little feathered Friends from roaming the neighborhood.
So yesterday we butchered. We had 9 roos that were driving us and the neighbors bonkers so our amazing friends and neighbors came over and helped teach the kids how to butcher a chicken. This was the first time that the kids had actually taken part in butchering an animal. Jason actually delivered a mortal blow to a chicken he called "Mr. Jerky Roo". I'm so proud of Jason, Josh and Stella! And what a great way to spend a Super Bowl Sunday! While we set up the butchering areas, the kids threw the football around the front yard and loosened up for what did become an emotional event. We all expressed our thanks for these amazing (though sometimes annoying) little birds. This couldn't have been the event that it was without the care and love of our friends and neighbors. I'm so grateful that we are surrounded by such a great community!