Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Henny penny

Yesterday a miracle happened. Two and a half weeks ago, I put the three barred rock hens in with the other laying hens and they got out of the laying hen pen, which has no "roof". One turned up dead on my front yard a la Zee, I assume. The other two were never heard from again, despite the efforts of Gunnar and Liam to find them (many clues were reported, but no hens). About a week ago, I swore I heard one on the other side of the road. The next day, I thought I heard another in the yard. I searched and searched but no luck. I figured we were being haunted by chickens gone or maybe I had a ventriloquist chicken.

But yesterday, Judy was looking at the hens in the pen and I paused with her and then stopped dead. There in the pen was one of the barred rocks. Guess she figured it was better in than out. Amazing. We have so many dogs in our neighborhood. She's just the luckiest hen ever, I figure. Anyway, it's a really good deal, because that means we'll have three new layers this fall, which is exactly what I wanted in the first place. Good stuff.

Yesterday Judy and I dispatched the last of the meat birds, turned on the new freezer and filled it up with 13 birds, plus the last batch, plus salmon. Good good stuff. It's amazing to look at all that food and think about the winter and being snuggled in and set. After that, I snuggled a sick Théa while Judy snuck off and cleaned my coop. So sneaky. Then, Hans and Olive began canning the pink salmon that Mike caught. Wow. What a day. It's amazing. Returned the plucker, worked on a Web site for ions at Mike's, collapsed... Did I say the busy days were in May? Perhaps I was mistaken.

Monday, August 22, 2011

This concludes your summer vacation

Wow. How did that happen. It is 10:45 and pitch black outside. Tomorrow, I will rise before the sun does and try to pry my son from his bed to go to school. Grade 2. Hoorah. It's been an awesome summer - lots of outside time and sunshine and experiences, some with me, some with friends, especially Liam's BF, Oskar, who sadly leaves in a day or two to live on Kodiak. Closer than Oregon, but still... harumph. But wow, Liam has swam, biked, played soccer, acted on stage, played piano, climbed mountains, had fireweed wars, camped, roasted countless marshmallows, sang loudly, played with friends until he collapsed, gone to fairs, played with the Wwoofers, attempted to swim in the reservoir, and so many other awesome experiences. I have no kid guilt where Liam is concerned. He got good stuff this summer. Théa, too. Good, good stuff.

We got word today that Liam will be with Debbie Piper this year at McNeil Canyon. That means he will be in a 2&3 class instead of a 1&2 class. I'm relieved on many fronts, and excited for him. He's going to have a great year, I predict.

As summer draws to a close, there is so much to do. The high tunnel needs to be ordered. The siding needs to go on. Tomorrow we butcher the last of the chickens. There are fish coming in every day from Mike's net. The garden is exploding with produce - cabbage, zucchini & squash, broccoli (omg the broccoli), beans, and my pumpkin is turning orange. All needs to be canned, processed, etc. So much to do. So little time. Zoiks. So it doesn't yet feel like the summer is over, in many ways, but there is an undeniable shift from growth to preservation.

Now, I'd better get to sleep, or tomorrow morning's zoom to school will be infinitely more painful. Why exactly did I give up coffee last week?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New friends

What can I say, really, about these wonderful Wwoofers that come through our house? This week, we bid goodbye to Isa, who seems like she's been here forever. Isa has been a wonderful force in our family - playing amazing pieces of music on Liam's piano, painting pictures with the kids (and on the kids, sometimes), making compost piles and something with cabbage that I'm afraid I'm afraid of, but others rave about, and generally enhancing our summer greatly. I came home one day to find Isa, Olive, Théa and Liam in the middle of a "dance party." Not only did I feel completely comfortable leaving my kids with them, I often felt they might well be better off. Harried single mom or two energy-packed women willing to dance with you to loud music? I think the choice is obvious. These two really just made my summer work - I've been working three jobs at times and it has been tricky to balance it all without plopping my children in front of endless movies. Isa also had the honor of helping me with the last major chicken slaughter - a job she did with grace.
The best part about these two women, and many of the others who have come through the house over the past two years, is that they give me hope for future generations and in so, my own children. They are not glued to the computer or their cell phone or consumerism or any of what I consider to be the fast foods of life. They are interested in art and writing and music and good food and growing organically and wonderful things. I'm hopefully that their energy and enthusiasm will add another layer to Théa and Liam's experience of growing up in this extraordinary place with these extraordinary opportunities.
It's hard to say good bye to great friends. Isa and I were both pun-masters - what a joy to have such company to laugh with! I never could have imagined that this would be the way my life and my kids' life would turn out. Théa absolutely adored Isa - in fact, part of me imagines (hopes?) Théa might be quite a bit like Isa when she grows up. Funny, cheerful, bright and opinionated, a little mischievous.
So our flock has been reduced this week, but we are so glad to have Olive staying around for the next few months. I've talked to a lot of people who have said how they don't think they could handle having another person or two in the house all the time. For me, it enhances my life. It just works. For all of us. Yay Wwoofers!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I went out to the garden tonight to collect some stuff for a last-minute omelet and found... abundance. This morning I had gone to the farmer's market for carrots and a few other yummies that didn't propagate for some reason this year. Beets. And we are in the inbetweens with lettuce - some more coming up, and more to follow that, but right now, pickings (literally) are slim. At the farmer's market, there was a buzz. Each stand was stocked to the gills with all sorts of things - potatoes, carrots, salad greens, celery - it is the height of the Alaska growing season. So I don't know why I was surprised to find my own gardens overflowing tonight, but I was.

The bush beans are heavy with beans, the squash has finally started to produce with some degree of enthusiasm, there is cauliflower and broccoli and the tomatoes are ripening. Even the basil looked somewhat enthusiastic today. In the outside garden, those cabbages that haven't been ravaged by slugs are forming wonderfully. The turnips should be thinned, the broccoli and cauliflower are growing well, and even a little chard and spinach is coming in. A little, but what can you do. For the first time this year, it looks like time to start putting some things up! YES! Pickles. Blanching. Bring it on. The hoop houses themselves have all but disappeared in a sea of pink - the fireweed is in full bloom and very tall this year - over six feet in many places. I couldn't help shooting some images.

It's been busy here - we are starting to work on the great siding project. Gack. First board goes on tomorrow, come hell or high water. And there have been chicken butchering days - using a borrowed chicken plucker - wowweee - that thing was fantastic. We butchered 13 chickens in 2.5 hours, from pen to fridge. Yowza.

Wwoofers Olive and Isa have become part of the family - Isa leaves on Tuesday and I don't know what to do about that - I'll be so sad to see her go. The two of them have been wonderful with the kids - Théa is in heaven at being let into their "clubhouse" where they have body paint - her very favorite thing. For Liam, the girls play piano and sing constantly and listen to his long, long stories, so patiently. Olive is planning to stay on - she just got a job at Fritz Creek baking bread in the early morning hours, and I'm thrilled to have her here as long as possible. Elsewhere in the world, Mike's daughter Ella finally returned after a summer in Colorado, and that makes everything seem a little brighter.

It's time to pick blueberries and soon raspberries, and make jam, and fill the $20 garage sale freezer I picked up yesterday with the final round of chickens. There is so much to do, but it's a good busy. There were a couple of cold days last week where I lit the wood stove and started to think about winter's fast approach. Then it got hot and sunny and all that was pushed back into the corner again - but not really. It's dark as I type this - I saw stars the other night. Change is in the air. On one hand, I wish I could hang on to the long days, warm weather and fullness of summer. On the other hand, it will be good to nestle down to a softer paced life soon. An abundance of a different sort.