Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Liam was sick this Saturday - spiked a fever of 103 out of nowhere. I took this pic of him and it reminds me that while I think of him as a pretty big kid, he's still really a little guy, too.

On Monday I took Thea in for testing. She's had a rash for more than a month - a pretty painful-looking one, too. And though she's two, and life is challenging anyway, I can't help but think that having blisters all over your body must add to the frustration levels. She tested positive to dairy, no surprise, and cats, which she had been negative to twice now, so that was disappointing. I'm still percolating on the cat - it would be nice to get rid of the carpet and vacuum more and see how that goes. But hopefully some cream Thea got will help clear up the rash - if not, it's back for more tests next week. Once again, the frustrating thing about dealing with allergies is the enormous grey areas - no one really knows what causes what, what responses are from what, and when things will flare up. No one really knows anything.

Today I woke to sunshine blasting in the window on my day "off" - what a pleasant surprise. All summer, the weather report has failed to predict these amazing days so you pretty much have to be ready to just hit them when they show up. Unfortunately, I was running a little off plumb, but a couple cups of coffee and a great visit from a longtime friend helped get things rolling.

Victory of the day, for sure, was managing to cajole my lawnmower into action after several days of rebellion. Weeds grow so fast this time of year, and it was as if they had exploded during the past couple days to the point where the kids were pretty much wading to the swing set... not OK. But I splashed some gas on the fuel filter, and up she fired... hurray! It is so silly how satisfying it is to have a nicely mowed carpet of green.

Then it was on to the other two projects that had been languishing of late - the compost bins (thank you Randy for the pallets!) and framing in the fan in the back of the greenhouse. The latter was important because the way I had it set up, the cool air was pouring in from the bottom of the hoop house when it was ventilated and I don't think that helped the plants out, but it would get too hot without some ventilation. So it needed to be fixed. Now the ventilation all occurs on the top half of the hoop house.

Now, it is 10:30 and I'm totally exhausted but amazed once again at how much you can get done when given an entire day, sunshine and no desire to leave your property.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

chicken slayer

Today I killed my first chicken. I've participated in the destruction of hundreds in my life, but never had to actually do the deed. It was, as Liam put it, a little dramatic. It felt strange to hold this warm being and know I was going to end its life. The first one didn't go that well. The second one was messy. Then it pretty much evened out. I was still too squeamish about it myself to do the head-cutting in front of the kids, so I waited until they had wandered off before snatching one of the big chickens and beheading it. I didn't want them to see the expression on my face, which I'm sure was a mixture of determination and anguish.

The rest of the process, the dipping in hot water, plucking, gutting - that was no big deal. And I suppose it gets easier, right? And they were nice, fat chickens, and looked mighty fine all vacuum-sealed in my freezer. Yeehaw. Not an easy process, though.

What was really interesting, though, was the response from the kids. Liam was really interested by the whole thing - he especially liked looking at the heart and the lungs and stuff like that. His friends Sam and Blaze were over today and they were pretty intrigued by it all, too. Théa was pretty interested in the fact that we would eat it. But there was never any real concern for the chickens as beings - it was just matter of fact - they were meat birds, and they were meant to be eaten. Funny. They get it and I didn't really even tell them. I dare say these kids are becoming farm kids at an alarming rate.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

when life hands you lemons

It is inevitable that challenges will present themselves when you try to take on big projects with little revenue and even less experience or time. Yesterday, as I sat at my desk stressing about it all, I sent out the wish into the universe that this was the worst of it - that jacking my house up to replace a rotten beam was as far down as I have to go. I hope that's the case. If so, we're on good ground.

Today, John Stryker, builder extraordinaire, jacked up my house, chainsawed out the offending beam, put in a new one, and we even got the jacks back to Ulmer's on time. Huge relief. It was a blasting sunny day - very helpful. Liam was home with me, as was his friend Casey. My friend Doug came through and gathered up the boys and took them bike riding, and then swimming in the reservoire. Liam had so many stories from the day, he couldn't stop talking all the way down the hill this evening to pick up Thea, and even all the way back up. I wish I could have gone, but was relieved to be here for the process, and as well, to get a few things done - dump run, pick up essential items from Spenards, etc. Very productive day.

My friend Randy came over yesterday as well to add his two cents, scratch heads with John, and generally offer moral support. Once again, I am reminded why I love Homer. Community.

Thea and Liam came back today after 5 days at their dad's - Thea was a bit huggy, but otherwise cheery. Liam was good, too. It feels like they are both settling into the summer routine - if there is actually a routine to it. I could be wrong, but the transition from one house to the other seems to be a lot less dramatic these days. Is it because my focus is less diverted, my energy less jangled? That's not saying much, but maybe.

Monday, June 21, 2010


The sun is just going down on the longest day of the year, and what a beautiful, sunny day it is, as well. Outside, there are birds singing so loudly that I can hear them clearly though no windows are open.

This weekend, I ran a 1/2 marathon - my first race longer than a 10k. I didn't run very fast,(2:07) and suffered dearly afterward for my lack of knowledge about pre-race eating (and consumption of stout the night before), but I am still proud to have completed the race, and see it as a significant accomplishment, given that 9 months ago, I could barely complete a mile. So now it's on to setting new goals, training for the next race, and enjoying the level of fitness I have attained thus far.

It was lovely to spend time in Anchorage with my longtime friend Jerzy, who I originally came to Alaska with 18 years ago, and who has, along with his wife Paula, turned into family in my eyes. Whenever I visit their pristine space in Anchorage, I always come back feeling refreshed and reinvigorated with new energy to tackle my life.

Which is a good thing, since there is plenty of life to tackle. In the past week, the renovation project has grown by leaps and bounds, first by the realization that we needed to put in concrete pilings to support the rebuilt laundry and mudroom areas (there was no foundation in the original building) and then the recent discovery that the corner beam that holds up the entire house was rotting to oblivion. So now it's a matter of jacking up the house and fitting a new beam underneath - good god. Deep breaths, deep breaths.

Still, despite these trials, it was wonderful to come home, amid the glow of sunlight, to the gardens, the flowers, the chickens, and even the construction project, knowing that all are indicators of forward progress, a greater sense of self-sufficiency, and a means of providing for my family. Bring it on.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

land of the midnight sun

The gardens are in. The chickens are cooped. All that is left to do is some work on the flower beds and some refinements to the hoop house ventilation and the rest is just watering and weeding - no small task, but doable compared to tilling new soil and constructing things.

We are all tired after the past month of mania. The kids have just a couple more days with me before their dad gets back from his first fire assignment. It's been great having them here for a longer span of time, but also trying, as I knew it would be. Thea and Liam are now becoming a bit more adversarial toward each other, normal sibling stuff, but still obnoxious to listen to. And with all the projects on hand, there is less time for goofing off than there probably used to be (though I don't recall much of that in the past, either). Thea has moved into the "Why" phase - as in "put your boots on, Thea." "Why?" "Because it keeps our feet dry" "Why?" "Because I said so, that's why."

Liam started soccer today - so happy to be out there running around on the field. It's a little more competitive this year - he's in the next age group up. They play actual games. There are 8-year-olds playing with him. But he seemed to really enjoy himself, and when I showed him the soccer uniform he got, he said, with a sincerity only Liam can muster - "Is that for me?? Oooh, thaank you Mom. Wow." Such a funny kid. Tonight at dinner he used the word verbose. God help me, I don't know what it is, but he sort of inhales vocabulary.

Today, Thea didn't have a nap at Nikki's. I thought maybe that was that - no more naps. Bound to happen some day. But then on the car-ride home, she konked, and I woke her up and carried her inside and started doing the chores, and came back in 5 minutes later to see her fast asleep on the couch. We tried to wake her for dinner, but no dice. She was OUT. Probably will wake at 4 a.m. or some evil hour screaming for food. I'm hoping not.

As for me, I suffered a social setback of sorts this week, then had to ironically photograph a wedding the next day, still reeling. But the love between Kara and Mike was amazingly visible and very inspiring. I hope they make it. I hope they maintain. One of the flags people made for them said, simply, "Love is a decision." What a great thought.