Tuesday, January 20, 2015

january hymn

Today it is the hard times that bring me back to you, friends. I don't know that I could accurately convey just how difficult this past weekend has been, but take my word for it - it was terrible. Of course, it wasn't without some high points: meals taken with family, evenings with friends where laughter abounds; but the days seemed tainted somehow, with this aura of doom floating just overhead. 

Even now as I prepare to go in to work on a perfectly warm and sunny day, the kind of day my heart should find joy in, I feel adrift in the world. Where are we going? What is the point? Even to think that I could spend the day surrounded by pets and favourite past-times I am left feeling uneasy. I suppose for that it's good that I can't. To keep busy and make chit-chat might be the only salvation from this funk I'm feeling. A low, deep vibration that spells trouble.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I think the August garden may well be my favourite. The cucumber plants are dying slowly, the big slicing tomatoes are still producing one or two beauties each week, and the heirloom currant tomato, a breed I'd not heard of until this year, is cloaked in tiny, sweet little morsels - so many I'm not sure what to do with them. Already I've let most of the crop over-ripen and fall off as I hid inside in the AC during the long hot July afternoons.. but now that it's August I can take my time picking, roasting, freezing - dealing with them however I see fit or have time for this week. The chickens love those little toms, preferring me to rip each one open for them to peck out the soft centers. They feasted on over-ripe figs too, jumping up like pups to get a sweet nibble. My husband asked me this week what my plans are for the winter garden, and I suppose it's about time for me to really put some thought into that: what to plant, if anything; which beds need re-weeding before we lasagna-layer them with compost and mulch; whether to finally dig-out the big square bed (we've been moving the chicken-coop around it trying to kill off the thick bed of grass that is its current cover); is there a place we want to put in a garlic crop? I start a new job this week on top of all this, so I will need to become more proactive with my off-time if I want to be in a good position for spring. We are also hoping and praying that Mr will get a new job with regular hours, and that we will still be here in the spring.. I think I'll sew some prayers into the garden and see what she brings us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

putting up

This first year of real summer heat, of seeds planted that actually grew, I find I am learning a lot in my garden. Specific things, like "don't plant things so close together because they will get larger than you ever thought imagined," and more vague things, such as "you'll thank yourself for planting fruit next year." I am learning to wait until you're ready to eat the things before picking them, no matter how exciting it may be to pull up some veggies while gathering eggs in the morning.. no one wants to eat a limp carrot. I've watched my heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes turn from flowers to tennis-balls, and larger - I swear one of those suckers is going to weigh in at almost two pounds! And now, in this first week of July, I am having to contemplate what to do with my excess bounty which means my first official year of canning, or "putting up" which is a term that fills me with an heretofore-unfathomed joy. 

I started with pickles. Simple refrigerator pickles, no canning necessary, just easy around-the-house ingredients making a sweet-and-sour crop that is curing out of the way. I tried one yesterday and I think they're wonderful. Soon I'll launch into dill pickles for my husband, which will deal with most of my cuke-crop. I'm researching ways to keep my tomatoes: most likely I'll roast them with garlic and onion and pack them in oil, although they'll need to be kept in the fridge or freezer and that's going to eat up a lot of chilling space. Oh, how I want a deep-freeze! One of our neighbours has a large fig tree than I'm going to raid for jams and preserves; she also has an apple-tree that has been dropping fruit onto our carport for weeks, so I need to get up and gather some off the branches before they all turn to bruised mush on the concrete. I am thankful for my laziness that I didn't get planted half of what I'd dreamed; I've never experienced heat and humidity like we've had lately and I cannot imagine having to toil away endlessly to keep up with the crop this first sweltering summer.

The chickens have doubled in size since they joined us, and we've been able to give away and sell eggs to family regularly. The cicadas drone, the dogs pant, the birds call, and all the while my garden grows; waiting impatiently for me to catch up with it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

On Chickens

One summer, some years ago, I spent a week in Portland Oregon and since then I have wanted chickens. My friend there had 3 hens who happily pecked around her yard, jumped up for treats, and supplied us with breakfast every morning which we ate out on the patio while watching them do their silly chicken things. I was enchanted. As the years rolled by and I grew and developed my wants and dreams, I realized who I wanted to be when I "grew up" - a woman who has chickens. More than that, certainly - a down-to-earth, reliable, fun, slightly kooky, fairly "earthy" woman - but a woman who owns chickens, for sure. This spring I have worked hard on my garden and enjoyed the rewards of planting seeds and being able to share their bounty with friends and family (and strangers!) a few weeks later. I have felt the pride that comes with sweat and sore muscles after clearing, weeding, and tilling a space for your favourite foods to grow. And not long ago, with Mr.'s full approval and equal excitement, it happened. I became a woman who has chickens.

 It happened so quickly - we bought supplies and built what is commonly known as a chicken tractor. We picked colours and painted in the hot southern sun. We overheated and made some wrong cuts, and we were sliced by stray pieces of wire. We made what seemed like 80+ trips to the hardware store (but was only 2, I'm sure). And after 2.5 solid days of work, we went and got our chickens. 3 hens of different breeds, a little worse for wear from their previous home, came to live in our little coop. Having my chicken experience limited to that visit to Oregon I did lots of reading and research before and after they arrived, and fretted over every aspect from coop placement to roost size, and about their feathers/legs/toenails... but it has turned out beautifully. They are silly and funny and magnificent. They sunbathe in the lawn and dirt-bathe in a pile. They chatter to us in their ridiculous chicken voices, telling us exactly what we should be doing or not doing with their home. And the best part: in less than two weeks we were rewarded with eggs - pink-ish brown beauties that never fail to make us laugh with the simple joy of their existence. How amazing that you can build a home for a creature, give it food and water and room to roam, and you are rewarded by little tokens of gratitude. Now, I know the chickens don't actually thank us with their eggs, but it sure feels that way. Already we're hoping to expand from three birds to five or six - they're addictive like that. And now, I realize my original goal was so misguided: I am so much more than a woman who has chickens.. We are a family with chickens, and with a full appreciation of all they are.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

establishing routine

Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet, friends - otherwise you might never jump in at all. I am in that both-feet state of mind this week as I return from my Canadian sabbatical, refreshed and rejuvenated and with a heck of a lot to do. I came home to a smaller household as Mr's beloved dog gave in to old age while I was gone, but I find that I have more to do now rather than less. Our younger pup has so much energy to burn off that some days I find myself exhausted just looking at him; my cat is desperate for my attention and affection; and my husband is battling a shift that sucks at a job he hates, and he needs me to bolster him and keep our life in order while he deals with the drudgery. Meanwhile I dream of bursting gardens, wood-fired ovens, chicken coops, maybe a vacation to the beach... my hopes for this summer are endless. What does all this mean? It means that it's time I wake up and smell the coffee, as it were. There has been a profound change in me during the last year, and I am keenly aware of it. The time has come for me to step up to the plate and truly swing with all my might if I want to see our dreams realized.  

I am starting fairly small: trying to set up a routine for myself. Housework broken down into days of the week, forcing myself out of bed so that I can get things done before the husband comes home, making sure to get outside for a couple of hours every day to play with the pup and weed the garden and keep a close eye on our newly-tilled beds. Trying not to overlook those pesky little chores that seem to get put off for months and months. These things seem so minute, but I feel that without them my days will dissolve into an endless chorus of "I can do it tomorrow" wherein tomorrow never comes. 

So far, I feel like it is going well. I am trying to approach each task with vigor and make the most of all the hours in my day. Having spent weeks with my darling grandmother - watching her complete more tasks every morning than I may sometimes do in a week - made me feel appropriately lazy. If I want to be even half the woman she is I'm going to need to step it up. I want to do something to make myself proud, and being able to be more productive and efficient at home seems like a pretty fine place to start.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


There have been many changes since I wrote here last, friends - but today I'm being moved to gush about the change of seasons, the kinetic energy I feel in my muscles and bones that scream "Spring is coming!"  I am not a winter person (I know that some people are, and I applaud their fortitude) - cold weather puts me into stasis, where it is all I can do to pull myself out of bed and perform the medial tasks required of me to keep us happy and clean. There are no plans made, no bursts of energy to start some great project or other - there is just hibernation and dreaming. But today... today I awoke with that FEELING, like a cat ready to pounce, that change is coming. I have big dreams for us this year: for our new home in a new place; for our lives and our animals; for our lovely big yard and the property that backs onto it. This is the year I want to give to, and get back to, the earth. I want to know the community we're living in, and help them with their endeavors. I want to surround my loved ones in things I've made, and give to them the fruits of my labour. I can feel those dreams and hopes and wants coiled inside of me, like a snake about to strike.

So today, I will use my burst of energy to make my home a little cozier - and continue to dream about the months to come.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

sea glass

It's supposed to be spring, friends! From the Rockies moving east the country is being battered with sub-zero temperatures and howling winds, and the south is not being spared. We had two beautifully gorgeous days that were sweet with spring before being plunged back into the depths of winter. Life has been a roller-coaster for us, filled with hopes heightened and dashed, nourished and pulverized. We are in limbo. I am trying to keep busy. 

The best thing to come out of this miserable weather is that I'm free to spend my days curled on the couch crocheting, having Park and Rec marathons and drinking pot after pot of steaming tea. Although I'd promised myself not to start another project, I was quick to backtrack with the knowledge that my bestie back-home's birthday is on the horizon! Instantly I dreamed of a 60's-mod blanket in rich blues and greens with black detailing, and rushed off to make it a reality. The colours remind me of sea glass, those shards of bottles transformed by the surf into something truly precious. My hands ache from working on it, but it is so unbelievably pretty that I almost don't mind. I hope she'll like it!

I am starting an online gardening course this week, and hope to regale you all with photos of my various homework assignments around the house, as well as pictures of my busywork once it warms up enough to spend time outside. Keep cozy, everyone!