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Thursday, July 31, 2014

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Dear Officer,

You've asked me to give you a narrative of what happened yesterday in the huckleberry patch.  Here it is, as nearly as I can remember. 

Around mid-morning I was following my brother, Schnicklefritz, up a mountain road where we were to meet some friends to pick huckleberries.  Schnicklefritz was riding on a moped.  The moped began having mechanical trouble and we decided to tow him behind the car.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  After driving this way for a couple of miles, I noticed that there was an old Jeep behind us.  Since this mountain is rather popular among pie pickers, I didn't think much of it.  Presently, however, I noticed a red, flashing light on the dash of the Jeep.  I stopped.  The driver commanded me in a very authoritative voice to pull over at the next wide spot.  Being a law abiding citizen, I did.  At this point the driver pulled up beside me and asked if I was okay.  I told him I was.  I noticed that he was one of three males in the Jeep.  He said they were rangers from a local ranger district and proceeded to pass me.  Immediately, I said to my children, "They are not rangers.  The are not in an official vehicle.  They have no government plates, or uniforms."

I didn't think much more on the subject because it quickly became apparent that towing a moped was not in Schnicklefritz's best interest. (He nearly catapulted over the embankment.)  We determined that he would push the moped the rest of the way up the mountain and I would go on to find our friends. Along the way, I passed a lady and a teenaged boy who looked like huckleberry pickers.  Their eyes, however, were a bit wide and they looked slightly rattled.  Again, I didn't cogitate on it.  Now, I have to say, I have a great weakness.  When I set out to pick huckleberries, I'm, shall we say, focused.  Knowledge of this will help in understanding my response to the rest of the day's events.

Presently, I came around a corner and spotted a tent and a car.  In front of the car was a gentleman who was a dead ringer for Bilbo Baggins.  He was short, had curly, mouse-colored hair, wore only summer shorts, no shirt, no shoes.  Apparently this Bilbo was feeling deeply connected with his Took side, as he was pacing back and forth in a guard-stance.  He had an AK47 slung over his shoulder and puffed smoke rings in the air..  He flagged me down and asked if I was a commercial picker.  I said I wasn't and he stated that there were rangers checking permits.  I then discovered that Bilbo was in our group of pickers.  He politely laid down his weapon and we introduced ourselves.

We began to compare notes and he stated that the "rangers" flashed a badge at him and said they were under-cover, checking permits.  (That covert operation didn't last long.  "Hi, I'm under cover.") I was busily pulling out buckets and bear spray and was listening with mild interest.  He repeated another tidbit or two that sounded downright unprofessional of them. They had frightened the other pickers so badly that they left. I raised an eyebrow when he said they all had shotguns lying on their laps.  "You know, Bilbo," I said casually as I tromped over the bank for the first purple gold, "I don't think they are rangers."

By this time, I was beginning to realize that Bilbo was a slightly paranoid soul.  It occurred to me that  I shouldn't have pointed out the fact that these undercover rangers were likely just bullies armed to the teeth. At this point I did notice that I was in a rather interesting situation, but, the berries are really good this year, and I was focused.  Besides, there were others there, whom I knew, and I felt safe enough.  After some chatting, Bilbo's brother, Lundy Taylor, decided to check with the police.  (Think Lundy from the tv miniseries, "Christy".  He isn't at all like Lundy, but Laughing Water's first siting of him was through the berry bushes and he gave her that distinct impression.)  The police confirmed that they had no compliance checkers in the area and were keen to check up on the story.

The berries really are amazing and we were in some good patches.  When the real ranger got there, I gave him my story.  He gathered Bilbo's story, too, though I noticed that the AK47 was no longer slung over his tanned torso.  I went back to picking.  Presently, I heard the officer leave.  Then the  Jeep.  The Jeep however, began driving back and forth by our area and I began to worry about my car.  I left the most amazing bushes to check on my car.  About the time I arrived, the Jeep came back, with only the driver.  I was wondering where Undercovers II and III were, when Undercover I stepped out of his vehicle and tried to engage me in conversation.  I noted that his side arm was, at least, in its holster.  Bilbo and his reappeared AK47 were on my other side. (My bear spray was feeling slightly anemic.) We chatted briefly about lies for a moment and I decided to move on as it appeared that he was trying to escalate the situation, and, frankly, I had berries to pick.

After that, it seemed best to remove the children, so I offered to take a Grandmother, and the four children between us home - just in case.  Bilbo magnanimously offered to patrol ahead of me for a bit, which did not set my mind at ease.  As we rolled slowly down the road, Bilbo sauntered back up to meet us and only then did I realize that he intended to go with us.  Now, we were crowded.  Every seatbelt was used up and my son was sitting in the way-back with my berries.  Bilbo graciously showed me how he was unloading the AK47 and then jumped in the back of the car and we drove the 45 minutes down the mountain trail.  We didn't see Undercovers I, II, and III, but we were told they left the mountain about 10 minutes behind us.
 
After taking everyone to safety, I returned to mountain and had a peaceful evening picking huckleberries with Schnicklefritz and Lundy.  I netted about three and a half gallons. - Nanette


Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Twilight Walk Through the Garden II

The brassicas are growing nicely.  They are large enough that I can take the chicken wire off of them.
I can already taste the pickles....
Mr. Blueberry Eyes is particularly excited about the garlic scapes.  He likes them pickled with the cucumbers.
The herb garden...
The elderberry plant is setting on quite a few berries.  I hope to make elderberry syrup for medicinal purposes.
A baby Bartlett pear!  It will be my first year for pears.
A first for golden delicious apples, too!
The three currant bushes are getting large and lush.
The grape vine is starting to twine up the fence.
Emmert wheat.  This should be a fun experiment.
There is so much more, but that is for another post. - Nanette

A Twilight Walk Through the Garden I

Come walk with me through my garden.  Evening is my favorite time to check the progress in my plot of Earth.  This is a cold, rainy year and some of my crops are doing great and some are not very happy.
I think this is the best year I've had for spinach.
I planted about 4 kinds of kale.  This is "Ragged Jack"
Snow peas in the making...
I'm so excited over the progress of the asparagus patch. 
Blueberry crop in the making....
I had to replant the zucchini, so it is a bit behind.
I'm trying a new potato method.  I laid the seed potato on top of the ground and covered it with straw. As the potatoes grow, I layer compost, leaves, etc. on it.  If huge green plants are an indication, it will be a good harvest.
Good Mother Stollard pole beans will grow on the fence.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Splendid, For Short

 I've wanted to try my hand at bee keeping for a long time.  I know NOTHING about bees and wasn't at all sure how to start.  But, about a year ago, we had some great, new neighbors move in.  Mr. Blueberry Eyes was delighted because they have kids he can play with.  I was delighted because they enjoy experimenting with plants and creatures like I do.  And they keep bees. 
 This spring they offered to help me start my own hive and I was delighted. So now we're on a learning curve.  I have a little hive tucked in by the corner of the garden.  We have plans to paint cute things on the hive, but we'll see....
 
 This is the queen as she arrived.  She took to the hive and it is now thriving.  Like most creatures around our place, we felt compelled to name her.  So, I'm pleased to introduce to you Her Majesty Lady Regina Maria Elizabeth Splendidopolous LXXVIII.  We'll call her Splenda for short.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Life is Like That

      I'm sitting at a new coffee shop in a strange town that oddly feels like home.  I've brought my kids here to see their friends and to participate in spiritual refreshment and community service.  I'm supposed to be in a meeting, too.  But I'm playing hooky.  Today didn't suit sitting in a meeting.  It called for soul nurturing. So I'm reflecting.  I'm thinking about my garden and what a metaphor for life it is.
      This is a particularly yummy year for my garden.  Some of my perennials are starting to flourish and I'm realizing some long held dreams for this spot of earth.  My pear tree is blossoming (above).  I bought it as a spindly little thing a few years ago.  Now every graft has set on a flourish of blossoms.  I'm told I'll have to pick off much of the fruit this year.  Its best for the tree to put more energy into the roots.  It also makes the fruit that is left bigger.  I don't like culling and thinning.  Its not in my nature, but it is an important skill every gardener must develop. How like life!

 My apple tree also blossomed.  Those are golden delicious apples in the making.  I got so excited I popped down to my favorite local nursery and bought two more. You can roll your eyes.  Its okay.  I know I need help.
 We found some great sources for garden amendments this spring.  A local dairy boasts hormone/antibiotic-free, well-aged manure, so some gardening friends and I lined up trucks to be loaded.  Then Brother Schnickelfritz found a great source for llama manure.  We hauled a lot of wheelbarrow loads of poop onto the garden.  One day you are wallowing in poop.  The next, good things are growing.  Life.
 My strawberry patch is having mixed results.  Half of it is crazy productive.  Within a week or so, we'll have a heavy crop of juicy berries that are completely unmatched by anything you can find in the supermarket.  Half of the patch got a bad start last year and I had to replant.  Life is like that.
My father-in-law gave me a large amount of raspberry canes last year.  I planted them and watched them anxiously while they decided whether (or not) to put down their roots.  I couldn't be sure.  Last fall the visible part was so-so.  But in the turning of winter to spring, life burst out of them You can't be sure what is going on underneath, you know. Life is like that, too.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Place to be Safe


I'm slipping and sliding my way over the constricted snow-turned-ice when I see him.  I'm heading toward the chicken coop to put the girls to bed and gather the white and brown orbed gifts they left for me today.  He is coming toward me from the opposite side of the coop, a young teen with nice clothes and a popular hat.  He's been crossing that neighborly fence for a lot of years now, though with decreasing regularity. He's a little older than my son, but they spotted each other, two little towheads, when they were quite young and he was drawn across the fence by the promise of play. Many were the happy hours those two spent playing in the garden mud hole.  I can see them now, freckles sprinkled all cinnamon like across their noses, robbing my carrot patch, washing the dirt in the sprinkler.  They ate so many carrots that summer I thought they would burst. I won't forget the delight in their faces as they helped husk the painted mountain corn, oohing over each new collection of jeweled colors.  How they played! 
 
 He seemed content to stay with us for long periods of time, cheerfully pitching in with the chores.  He was polite and loved eating the healthy fare I fed them.  Yet he was a mystery. His parents never came over to meet me.  His grandmother and I had chatted over the fence, but no one in his family bothered to check if he was in a safe place.  He would go home reluctantly, as late as possible, often after our northern summer sun had set.  Mostly he came in the summer.  He lived elsewhere during the school year.
 
As time went on, he seemed to find other interests and visited less often.  I heard rumors that made me worry a bit.  A dad with a hair-trigger temper. A devastating accidental death in the family that broke his little heart.  Each spring, he would arrive a little taller, always adorable, but a spot of sadness on his little face.  We just tried to welcome him.  It was a puzzle.  A clean, well dressed, polite boy, but clearly at risk, he was.
 
Tonight, he made his way into the house, obviously feeling welcome. We hadn't seen him for months and he had grown tall.  He made small talk and I probed gently. I was met with the briefest of answers.  He joined us for Scripture reading and I prayed for him and his family.  I prayed peace and joy for them.  I sent my son to bed then.  It was bedtime and he was exhausted from a long day of skiing.  But still the boy stayed. He seemed reluctant to leave. He joined our banter about remote countries in Africa, diamonds, industry and we made guesses over some of the vocabulary words in Laughing Water's geography text.  It was dry homework.  But he stayed.  I wondered.  What is he avoiding?  Why is this more interesting (more safe?)?  He finally stood to leave and slowly made his way to the door.  Using his cell phone for a flashlight, he moved silent across the field of ice between our homes. 
 
I've always fancied that I should be in a foreign land, spreading the Gospel.  But tonight, I had a deep sense of knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be - even if it is just to provide a boy with a soft chair, a little laughter, and a prayer. - Nanette

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Homemade Laundry Soap

I've had some people ask for my laundry soap recipe lately, so here it is.  I got this from the "Back Porch" magazine a couple of years ago.  Making my own laundry soap is so easy and has save me a pile of dollars!  Laughing Water makes it for me now.


                                           Homemade Laundry Soap


* 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha soap
*1/2 c. washing soda (not baking soda!)
*1/2 c. borax powder

- You will also need a small bucket, about 2 gallon size.
Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan.  Add 6 cups of water and heat it until the soap melts.  Add the washing soda and borax and stir until it is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir.  Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir.  Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.  You use 1/2 cup per load.

Note: The finished soap will not be a solid gel.  It will be more of a watery gel that looks a bit like "egg noodle soup".

The soap is a low sudsing soap.  So, if you don't see suds, don't worry.  They say it is not the suds that do the cleaning.

Tips:  I love to add a few drops of essential oils, like lavender or citrus to the soap.  It makes it smell so fresh.  I also shred several bars of the Fels Naptha soap at a time and store it in a jar.  This saves time when it is time to make up a batch.

Enjoy! - Nanette

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Thirteen Colonies

 So I'm an auditory learner.  Sure, there are some things I learn better by seeing or doing, but give me a book on tape and I'm happy as a clam.  The little piece of sand that irritates my clam-ness, however, is when I have a student who is not an auditory learner, which happens with distressing frequency.  Their eyes glaze over.  They fall asleep.  Or, in the case of my very kinesthetic son, climb a nearby wall.  I've been puzzled over and over as to why my own two kiddos don't get into my history classes more.  Its my favorite subject and I find it distressing to get to the end of a history lesson and realize that their retention was less than stellar.
 So I'm on a mission to rework my classes.  I'm hoping it is a springboard for some very cool future professional development for me.  My goal is to find activities to make history come alive for my visual learner as well as my kinesthetic learner.  So here's our current project.  I went to a local natural fibers yarn shop and purchased wool felting tools and a large assortment of wool roving in delicious colors.  I love they way they look in my basket.  Then we used an overhead projector to trace a map of the original thirteen colonies in the United States onto a piece of wool blend felt, one yard in length.

Each colony is being depicted in its own color.  You can tell by the blur in the lower corner that Mr. Blueberry Eyes is loving the movement of this project.  I'm not sure how we'll label them yet.  Its a work in progress, but I was so excited that I wanted to post a sneak peek. - Nanette

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Blizzard

We've spent the holidays in Oilville with The Wood Artist and my parents.  It has been a relaxing and restful time, filled with yummy food and family games.  I needed the opportunity to rest and be creative (more on that in another post).  I didn't feel like I was quite ready, but it was time to head home and start life again. 

We loaded "Lello", our trusty car, and headed out this morning.  As I first guided her onto the highway in between the oilfield vehicles, I groaned inside.  There was freezing rain and, despite my studded snow tires and four-wheel drive, it was slick.  I persevered, but each new car in the ditch made me squeamy.  I knew from looking at the forecast that I was racing against time.  There was an arctic blizzard coming in across the plains from the North and heavy snow moving in from the pacific northwest.  I had only so much time to get 550 miles down the road before they hit.  Going 45 mph was not going to get me over the pass in time.  Finally, I just turned around. 

We pulled into Mom and Dad's driveway just in time.  There was another accident and the semis were backing up. We unloaded everything and tried to settle in.  The Mighty Hunting Hound looked at us in bewilderment!  Were we not just here?  What was that about?!

 In time the roads melted and we were able to run to town for food stocks and supplies before the blizzard hit.  
As the night progressed the blizzard started and it came time for Dad to bring the dogs in.  We've always told the kids about how the old timers had to tie a rope from the house to the barn so they wouldn't get lost in blizzards, so Dad decided to have a hands-on history lesson with Mr. Blueberry Eyes.  We didn't have a long enough rope, so they just tied themselves to each other and headed into the night.  They did "chores" and brought the dogs inside. 

After that we had everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vegie pizza with home-made, 1/2 whole wheat crust.  We sat around visiting with two gentlemen who rent from mom and dad and had a first class evening.

Wind chill temps are supposed to dip to -60 degrees for the next three days, so we are staying put for a while.  From the news reports, most of the country is feeling this arctic blast.  Stay warm, my friends.  Slow down.  Gather round.  Nourish yourselves.  Make and share memories. - Nanette



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