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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Elk Bugling

When I was a young girl, we lived near Estes Park, in Colorado. I have a vivid, sweet memory of striking out one crisp, fall afternoon with my family and my best friends' family in search of bugling elk. We found a field with hundreds of elk grazing. While we sat in the ancient, white station wagon eating white bread and vegetarian turkey sandwiches, we listened to a magnificent chorus of screeches and squeaks. For some reason, that memory has gone with me and become one of comfort.
So on this trip to Yellowstone National Park, I told The Wood Artist that one of my main objectives was to hear the elk. We entered the Park's North gate and proceeded to the village of Mammoth. Imagine my surprise when we found a herd of elk right in the village, resting and grazing in the shade of the buildings. One bull strutted around proudly. He would swagger through his harem and in one glance rearrange them. Then, in one magical moment, he stretched his neck out and let go a magnificent screech.
Now, I live in a wild place and get rather used to bears, deer and other wild things. But, I think that moment rivaled the day I saw 10 grizzlies in one hike! O.k. I know that sounds nuts, but maybe it was the emotional tie to my childhood. Whatever it was, I was instantly hungry for squishy white bread and turkey sandwiches!

More on our trip to Yellowstone coming.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Own Declaration of Independence

Someone once said that growing a vegetable garden is like a declaration of independence. How true! I love that feeling of self-sufficiency one gets while bringing in a harvest. The last few days have been filled with that for our family. I learned how to braid onions and hang them to dry in our garage. I've harvested hot peppers to dry. We already have two bins of dried tomatoes for soups this winter with more in the dehydrator. The Wood Artist harvested heads and heads of rock-hard cabbage for the root cellar. I must try making sauerkraut this year. There is much more to be done to bring in the harvest, but I am already getting that feeling of coziness that accompanies being ready for the deep winter snows that come to my part of the world.
I will be away for a few days as we are taking a long overdue, short vacation. We are going to a National Park that I've always wanted to see..... Stay tuned. Nanette

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Rites of Fall

Our family is obsessed with picnics at our local nature reserve. It is where The Wood Artist took me on our first of many dates. We spend more summer weekend evenings there than anyone I know. We drag anyone who will go with us there. It isn't usually hard to get them there once or twice as it happens to be one of the most beautiful, recognizable landscapes in the world. But there are a handful of friends who will return with us again and again. These have become true kindred spirits - the kind who are like an extension of one's family. They fit like a comfy, old pair of shoes and you just expect to enjoy their company on a regular basis.

Yesterday was one such day. After church we headed to a trailhead with one friend and took a small hike. I was not in my best hiking form and everyone else didn't seem to mind. It was unseasonably warm and we found a cool spot by a small brook. The Wood Artist and Mr. Blueberry eyes explored the area and hunted tadpoles. They found a frog, which we played with for a while. Laughing Water begged chocolate from our friend, The Wanderer. The Wood Artist struck up a conversation with a hiker who passed. It was the most pleasant of afternoons. Toward evening we made our way to our famous picnic area. Here we met up with fellow die-hard picnic friends and cooked our dinner, laughing and eating the evening away.

As it turns out, it may have been one of our last of the season. Even as we drove home in the dark, the lightning could be seen. A short time later fall rains began. I'm not ready for it. My onions should have been harvested before the moisture came. But for today,I must relax and not worry about what didn't get done.

We are making the best of it. Beethoven is frolicking out of our BOSE. Mr. Blueberry Eyes has made a charming castle out of a blanket and the cat pole. A blue flag flies to signify the king is in residence. His Majesty and his mighty hunting hound (our Yorkie) peer at me from time to time from a castle window.

Laughing water is learning to operate the sewing machine as she stitches strips of cloth together. We made the strips from old polyester pants given to us by a local community service center who could not GIVE them away. (There ought to be enough about the evils of polyester pants for a post all its own!) Anyway, these strips will eventually be made into a crocheted rag rug for my kitchen. Laughing Water is learning the ins and outs of operating a sewing machine and alternates laughing over her successes and crying over her mistakes!

I must go and cut more strips for her. Nanette

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

World War II

I've developed an interesting taste for World War II biographies. I'm not sure why that genre of literature has captured my imagination so. I'm not a lover of war or violence. I think it is the psychology of the whole thing - the morbid fascination with how masses of humans can be persuaded to do unimaginable, inhumane, raw evil and still walk about with a great deal of self respect. It is a solemn reminder to me that I could be so deceived.
Through the years, I've read quite a list of first-person accounts. I like a true, eyewitness account. It lends the edge of reality that I can't dismiss when the story gets scary. This really happened. I can understand historical fiction for eras where there is a derth of eyewitness. But WWII is not one of those. (I know there is some WWII historical fiction that is worthy. Tricia Goyer is one author that I give exception to. She has researched so extensively that one learns much more about the war than just a spun story.) But the books I'm posting are all true. Do you have any to suggest? Is anyone else out there WWII biography lover?


Garden Harvest

Today we picked three large bowls of tomatoes from the hoop house. I made a big tomato/cumcumber/red onion/dill salad. I find it very gratifying to eat so much of one's meal from what you've grown. We had a great deal of dill fern that smelled so good. I harvested much of it and will dry it tomorrow for the winter's supply of dill weed. Likewise, the excess tomatoes that we don't eat or share will be dehydrated for winter soups. Our tomatoes this year have had trouble with end rot and some splitting. Anyone know the cause/cure?
I have a personal theory I'd like to throw out for comment. It seems the economy is in distress and everyone is talking about it. Some say we will have a recession for another 18 months, or so. Others say it will be a depression rivaling the 30s or worse.
I was musing to myself while I toiled in the garden today. If the worst senario happens, it seems to me we are in more trouble than the Great Depression. Why? Because our society has become more dependant on a global goods market and we have fewer skills in the survival lines such as growing/preserving our own foods or making needed articles with our hands. With that has come the idea that it is the government's responsibility to take care of us.
Last year in our homeschool we read "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I highly recommend this true story to children and adults alike.) We were mesmerized by the sheer drama of survival in this story. I wonder if many people today would have the skill or stoutness of character to survive such a life-threatening situation. Or would many of our young people risk their lives like the brash Almanzo Wilder to save his town from starvation and protect his own assets at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe in the spirit of survival in humans and the general good hearts and pull-together spirit of the American people. I just wonder how self-sufficient we really are. We may have an opportunity to find out.
What is your opinion? Are we more prepared or less? Nanette

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Articulating Thoughts

I spent the weekend at a town a few hours away from where we live. I had enrolled Laughing Water in a seminar that teaches young people to effectively communicate in the public speaking arena. We learned that only 5% of people feel comfortable speaking in front of a group. That gives pause for thought when you consider that each of us has things we could share with others - be it a cause, knowledge of a specific subject, or life-saving information, (maybe even the Gospel?)
Now, Laughing Water is one of those gregarious souls who loves talking to people - one at a time. She could talk to anyone about anything for any amount of time. (The child spent many hours of her summer selling books door-to-door with her church group and LOVED it.) But the thought of talking to a group of people truly frightened her. We arrived the morning of the seminar in a frightful state of mind. I could barely coax her out of the car.
I was delighted with the young people that led out in the seminar, however. They were an amazing group of people with an energy level and a zest for God that was contagious. Laughing Water had a nice time. She even volunteered to recite her poem twice for her small group.
I attended some of the parent workshops and was struck with the importance of teaching our children to know what they believe and articulate their thoughts. There were very young folks there who have taken on big issues and are not afraid to give a voice for those less fortunate. Two of the interns working with our younger ones have taken on the subject of human traficking. They research, lecture and raise funds. We're talking 17 year-olds. Another young teen-attendee is currently doing research for a medical doctor who is scheduled to debate the sanctity of life vs. euthanasia.
It wasn't all heavy stuff. One intern simply wowed the audience with an interpretation of the poem, "Oh, the Places You'll Go". He has us shrieking with delight.
Once again, I was reminded that our children will rise to the level of whatever mental food we place before them. Whatever our personal choice for their system of education, we simply cannot afford to provide them with mediocre mental food or role models.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Time for a Chai Latte

Chai Lattes are my love language. I was first introduced to them a few years ago at my daughter's music school, of all the unlikely places. On the other side of the wall was our town's most loved and famous coffee grinding establishment. All through the lesson, they would share their rich aromas with us while we shared our virtuoso (or not) sounds with them. Mothers would come in an settle their child to practicing and then make a mad dash for their guilty (and expensive) pleasure. Now I am one of those people who enjoy the smells of coffee, but cannot abide the flavor. Additionally, I usually shun the use of caffeine. I'm jittery enough all by my lonesome, thank you! But then Francine shared with me that her guilty pleasure was not coffee, but Chai.
Chai? I'd heard of it, but assumed it was a coffee. I decided to bite. If nothing else, it wouldn't hurt to look like I fit in socially! :) After my first sip, I was hooked. The flavor, the spices, the richness, the smoothness, the scalding heat. Yummmm!
Now, our budget doesn't exactly accomodate a $3.75. Latte every week, so I limited myself. About once a month. Friends started to catch on and would treat me occasionally. I knew it was getting out of control when I knew exactly which spot in town had the best Chai (the original shop). Then I made the mistake of letting Mr. Blueberry Eyes and Laughing Water try it. Laughing Water loved it, but with Mr. Blueberry Eyes it was different. He would get this far away look in his eyes. He would gush about how much he loved his Mommy. He would swish it around in his mouth. He would ask for it. It was his love language, too.
When I started taking the children out for "Mommy -Chai dates", I realized it was time for therapy. Our budget simply would not sustain this kind of addiction. So I summoned my courage and asked the cute girl behind the counter for some help. She joyfully gave me the inside scoop - exactly what brand and where to purchase it in bulk. I had struck gold. I guiltily looked over my shoulder as I snuck out to my minivan. Score!
Alas! Knowledge is power, but it can also be disappointing. Now I could look at the ingredients and found that it had black tea (caffiene). No wondering I've been a little more jittery! Soooo, if anyone out there knows of a REALLY good green tea Chai Latte mix, please, come to my rescue!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Our Garden

Because we live in a Northern climate, gardening can be a gamble. This year was no exception. This is our first year of planting a serious garden. It is 100 ft. long and 70ft on the west end and 40 ft. on the East end. In the middle of the garden, The Woodworker built a 40ft. long hoop house. It is about 12 ft. wide and tall enough to walk through. We planted our most temperature-sensitive crops in it - tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, basil and other herbs as well as greens.

It was quite a year. On June 10, it snowed big, fluffy flakes for 9-10 hours. In July we had a frost scare - and did escape. Toward the end of August, the weather turned cold and a little rainy.

Despite the weather, we've been pleased with the results. Last year, the garden was an abused hay field. Who could have guessed it would produce such bounty the first year. Part of that I credit to an organic fertilizer I used called Sea Solids. People just stare at the huge plants and ooh and ahh over the wonderful flavor of the vegetables.

To Start a Blog

I've wanted to start a blog for a long time and I guess this is as good a time as any. It will take time for this non-computer savvy country girl to learn "the ropes". Bear with me. I smell a new adventure!