Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer Days and the Lovin's Easy

Homemade ice cream made with raw sugar, raw milk and raw cream. Oh. My. God. Yum.

Kids are playing with the chickens and they free range every day now.

Canning bounty so far: strawberry jam. Half made with raw sugar, half with honey.
Freezing bounty so far: sour cherries and blueberries.

Aubrey at swimming lessons at the outdoor pool -- a special treat here.

Ditto on the Robert Joe-Man. Outdoor swimming is the best!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'd Take Waffle Brains Over Spaghetti Anytime

I'm watching the chickens poke around in the yard and coo and chirp and pretend to fly. They gallop and flap their wings, lifting their feet every so often. It looks exactly like a three year old leaping around the house with a Superman cape on.

My husband is leaving for work. I hear his car door close and the ignition turn and him drive away. Some days I'm glad he goes so I can get some work done around the house. During most of his days off I mill around restlessly, knowing I should be doing something but fretful that I'll miss quality time with him if I, say, run errands.

But today I don't want him to leave. I try to shed the feelings of abandonment and decide how my day will pan out.

My intention was to process the eight pounds of strawberries I picked yesterday, after picking them. But I'd promised my son a visit to friends. I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent there admiring the house and the cool games and books on the shelves ... and the pantry! Oh my. I want my food storage to look like theirs. What a bounty.

So I decide to make the strawberry jam this morning. I leave the house early to get the extra honey and sugar I need and then stop at BiMart to get the lids and rings we were too tired and hot to get yesterday. Oh, and the tool one uses to reach into boiling vats of water to retrieve glass jars from the canning bath. I need one of those, too.

BiMart was closed for another hour. I have to leave to get home so my husband can go to work.

I finally manage to get the children dressed and they brush their teeth. But now I don't want to go. I don't want to make jam today. I'm feeling that familiar monster, Overwhelm, prance around my shadows this morning.

I have to take the children to TWO birthday parties today. Hideous thought.

I enjoy gathering with friends as much as the next person, but when Overwhelm strikes, I notice all the things that need to be done immediately.

I'm picking up more raw milk tomorrow but still have over half a gallon in my fridge from last week. This is probably because I haven't baked any bread in weeks and my housemates have stopped drinking milk ... and Paul's afraid to now. I need to do something with this extra milk.

I can borrow my friend's butter churn and make butter. I can make yogurt; I can even make a farmer's cheese.

I need to make that strawberry jam.

I need to work on my book pitch again.

I need to continue compiling my book. I've got essays and prayers and pictures and journal entries but I want to round it out a bit more -- and I'm frantic to know in what order to put the essays. Should it be chronological? Thematic?

My kitchen is a mess; I can't find the candy thermometer for making the jam.

I need to call 811 Call Before You Dig's number to find out where we can dig post holes for the clothesline and I'm worried about the Chilean Guava bush I planted last week. (Two weeks ago?) It's crispy and rustly ever since being sunk in the ground. Should I fertilize it? Water more? Move it to a shadier spot? My wisteria is looking shabby, too.

Overwhelm can lead quickly into Despair if I'm not looking, and I can start to believe that I'll never make it as a gardener, I'll never be able to live off my own land (small as it is) and Monsato will still get my business because I can't seem to find any products on the supermarket's shelves that don't have soy something in them.

I still have soap making supplies on my kitchen counter from WAY before and I desperately want to go to the chiropractor and for my kids to stop fighting. Also, the chickens still need a home. The dog crate won't cut it for long.

After a handful of gluten-fee pretzels with soy lecithin in them -- shit -- and a cup of organic, shade-grown, fair trade, decaf coffee with raw cream and agave nectar in a chipped Willamette Writers mug, I start to calm down.

Gregory Kompes once said at a Willamette Writers Conference, "Do just one thing a day." He was talking about writing careers and websites and marketing, but I think it applies to harried, un-schooling, wannabe urban homesteader moms, like myself, too.

It's sound advice. Just do one thing. Just one thing.

Funny. At the conference he handed out little wooden cubes and told us to write on each side something that contributed to our writing career: updating your webpage, adding an article to a directory, submitting something, writing, sending a thank you card to an editor. The idea being you'd flip the cube everyday and to do your "Just one thing" for the day, and know that that was enough. It had to be, or we'd all go nuts trying to fit it all in.

I took two cubes, confident that I had more than six things to do.

Today I re-wrote the cubes directions for more homier things: write a letter, go on a field trip for fun, sew a project, hand-make a gift for someone I love, freeze or can something, write an essay or blog entry, research a plant or garden tip and do it, knit, make a dairy product (cheese, ice cream, butter or yogurt), bake bread, weed, make dog food.

In a panic I realize I have far more than twelve things and I need more cubes. What about trying
new gluten-free recipes on the kids? What about the family cookbook I want to compile? What about submitting query letters?

Should I erase the field trip and substitute the cookbook?

Oh my god. I forgot I need to touch up the paint on the bean bag toss board for Faerieworlds this Friday! And the kids' swimming lessons start this week!

Despair retreats as I start to laugh at the sheer enormity of chaos my brain imbues. (It could be hysteria though.) Oftentimes I feel I'm living a Seinfeld episode where either so much happens at once that it's funny, or a bunch of beautiful "nothings" happens all day long.

It astonishes me that I can think of all these things at once without breaking into a nice calm meltdown. A friend once told me that women's brains were spaghetti and men's were waffles. Men could compartmentalize and blessedly think of one thing at a time. Lucky bastards. Waffle brains and they can pee outside without wetting their jeans? Come on. This is hardly fair.

Yes, I have spaghetti brains. Everything I think of reminds me of something else, which reminds me of something else.

Which reminds me -- I need to put the chickens back in their pen before we leave for the birthday parties, lest a neighborhood cat comes calling, or one of the chicks manages to crawl under a neighbor's fence and they turn us in to the City for having five chickens instead of two.

I think I'm Kramer today. Or maybe the Jason Alexandar guy. What was his name? George.

I wish Paul were home. (sigh)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Posting

Posting on my blog during the summer is ethereal. Just when I remember to blog something, the whim passes. Or I remember I need to do something else and veer away to perform this sudden task -- forgetting the blog post in the interim. Or I'm breaking up the enumerable fights the children seem to be having these days. Or I'm working on my book. Or I'm picking fruit, or looking for u-pick farms or dreaming about canning and wishing I hadn't missed the strawberry season because Paul's favorite jam is strawberry. Or -- Ug -- recovering from a car accident.

So, those are my paltry reasons for not posting.

I am going to be doing the NaBloPoMo for August. So I will become a larger presence on this blog. Meet me here to see how my August is shaping up. I'll be going to the Willamette Writers Conference to pitch my book to three different agents, I'm taking the kids to a Faerieworlds Festival, we have our annual Spiralscouts camping trip, and there's a trip to the coast planned, too. Not to mention I want to pick and can and freeze peaches and goddess knows what else.

Our chickens will move to a permanent home, too. Maybe even before August. Their place is temporary right now.

Our housemate built this the day after the neighborhood cat got into the yard and the chicken's playpen and we lost a chick for a night.

I think I'll go play with the chickies now. They are still afraid of me after three months. Hmm. I think I'll let them out to free roam and capture one and sit among them and just hold it on my lap. I'll bring some kale to feed them. Maybe I can lure them to me. (Yeah right.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

guilt trip

Sorry I haven't been writing in here more often. But I have excuses, really I do.

The first one was a car accident. Rear-ended, car totaled. Compressed disc(k?) at L5 and still having headaches. I suspect I had a very mild concussion, but the urgent care doc didn't think so.

The second one was my kids came home from three weeks in Massachusetts and I've been snuggling all over them. (In fact, I am also planning a little welcome home party for them tomorrow.)

The third excuse is actually taking up more mental and physical space than the other two. I've got the Willamette Writers Conference coming up next week and I'm pitching my non-fiction book: "Grief Shadows: Young, Pregnant and Widowed" to THREE different agent/editors. So I'm working on my outline, essays and most importantly -- my pitch.

I'm also trying to settle into my routine of having the children back.

It's harder than I thought.

I really just want to grab a bowl of refried beans with rice cheese melted over it and start writing my next essay that is plaguing my brain. It's buffeting around in there doing cartwheels trying to get my attention before I forget it and it melts away. I understand this and want to honor it, but ... (and, as my gramma used to say, "here's the BIG but(t) ...") instead I must: worry about Robert being on the xbox 360 too long and make lunch for the kids who are STARVING and starting to concoct weird things in the kitchen, and get to the store to buy water balloons for the gathering tomorrow and food. Get the back yard decent. (Read: pick up poop and mow.)

I guess that means no essay for now.

But how will I remember what I want to say for later, and still stay present for the kids and my other responsibilities, like ... oops. I forgot to feed the chickens this morning.

Best go check that now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I'm so torn about what I should be doing during this "vacation". 'Cuz that's what it really is. My kids are gone for three weeks to visit family in Massachusetts. I had great visions of:

reading voraciously
watching movies in the middle of the day
making soap
cleaning all rooms in the house until they shone
and writing every day.

So mostly none of those things have happened and they've been gone a week.
I did do some catch-up work the day after they left and did some extra sleeping here and there. And all weekend I was at a Sustainable Living Festival at Wise Acres farm (which was super cool and wouldn't have been able to do easily if the children were in my care).

Monday I did some errands and Tuesday I did a bunch of baking and made a weeks worth of dog food (and watched a movie in the middle of the day). And designed a chicken coop.

I have done a bit of writing. I hack-edited a chapter in my novel on Monday and yesterday I made a blog entry. So some writing is being done. But not quite like I thought.

Why am I so hard on myself? I seem to have far more expectations on myself than anyone else does. And that's fine, but when I feel bad because I don't reach those expectations ...

Maybe I should focus, as my mother-in-law says to do, on the things I DO accomplish every day. A "Look What I Did!" journal to be written in every night before bed.

I did some weeding in the garden this morning and went to a memorial "Celebration of Life" service for a woman I used to work with. Sad, but lovely.

And now I'm going to hang out with my man. He's got two days off and we've got no kids right now ... ;)