Friday, April 30, 2010

It must be the mud

(Photos by the girls' friend Katie. Thanks, Katie, for the evidence.)

The horses come in from the paddocks each evening.

They rub their crusty, muddy selves all over the barn.
They further shed mud on the girls.
The girls help the process along with curry combs and, on warm afternoons, with water hoses and sometimes with my kitchen towels. (Hah. They thought I didn't notice?
Then my daughters bring the mud in to my laundry room. It's not an intentional transfer of property, but it seems to me that they're moving an awful lot of soil. Possibly they could find a way to put that directly on the garden on their way back to the house?
The next morning the horses go back out and roll themselves in mud like it's a spa treatment. They graze in the sun, moving along with it all day until the mud bath is cracked and caked like a facial.
As the sun gets low in the sky and the maple trees cast long shadows, the girls call the horses in.
They cluck over their charges and mildly chastise Dolly and Two Spot for their errant mud-seeking ways. As spring blooms, my girls inhale the essence, the best parts of my childhood: warm horses, hay-seed-dusted barn floor, saddle soap. It's odd how comforting those scents are to me today, even in the face of the laundry pile. Maybe especially in the face of the laundry pile.
So the girls transfer the dirt from their horses and I transfer my girlhood joys to my daughters.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Last night I was visiting with a mom from our community. She and her husband are raising three boys and a tiny daughter. Her days, she said, are full of footballs and wrestling gear. Calls to insurance agencies over sports injuries. Carpools for three sons in three sports apiece. (Her daughter, still a preschooler, has yet to assert any extracurricular interests.)
I wonder whether our fifth child is a boy or a girl. I wonder whether this baby will love horses. Or books. Or ATVs or firefighting or something equally foreign to me. I wonder how this child will change our family in ways I can't imagine now. And I wonder what little parts of my childhood, and my husband's, we'll relive with this new life.
(Before you decide I've lost myself with the pregnancy-mush-brain-sentimentality: I know it probably all involves mud. And laundry.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

But wait! It's a gardening post!

The dog found that harmless little garden helper snake during our recent outdoor project weekend. Thank goodness for "zoom" on the camera. Regardless of its reputation as a soil helper and pest deterrent, Grace and I stayed far, far away. Everyone else thought it was cute. (I'd like to redefine cute for certain members of our family.)

I think it's more than a little ironic that Laura will literally and unashamedly roll in chocolate and will happily but surreptitiously eat cat food, but has a conniption over a little garden dirt on her hands. She gets only one of those traits from her mother.

And now we get to the gardening part! (Those are not sea creatures but rather small hairy representatives of being truly rooted at this home. In fact, we've now lived here nearly four years... a record in our oft-moving marriage. Planting of a long-term crop is significant, I tell you. And also? When a parenthetical statement gets this long it probably should be another post.)

Mr. Suite dug two 12-inch-deep trenches for my new asparagus crowns. The dog just supervised. I explained to him more than 10 years ago that the only unforgivable dog sin is digging in the garden. He seems to understand.

After the trenches were prepared, Madeleine carefully mounded dirt at 15-inch intervals and lovingly placed the roots over the mounds, staking each mound as she went. For two weeks I've been sifting soil onto the new growth. In three years we'll eat homegrown asparagus. I'm pretty sure there's a lesson in delayed gratification here. (Um, and at the risk of getting all philosophical on you, there might be a lesson in the totally foreign concept that we won't move in a seven-year span. Yikes.)

So we started the garden with some cabbage, a few rows of peas, a dozen rainbow chard and a half-dozen varieties of lettuce. My role is greatly reduced (to that of supervision) by virtue of being in the magical third trimester. See how that's working for me? It's better than last year's unending physical labor. So far. In a month and a half or so I guess I'll make up lost "ground" with another kind of labor.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Easily pleased

Early each morning Sarah opens the chicken chalet for our feathered friends and then she gathers the eggs. It's a gift every day. I count the eggs. I speculate on who's laying and who's slacking. The color of the eggs is my main clue.

When I was a young girl we had chickens, even some of my beloved Ameraucanas who lay the blue-green eggs.

I didn't prefer the chickens then. I thought they were sort of a nuisance. Also, in my memory, the hens we had when I was growing up would fly into the woods and lay their eggs at sites unknown. These eggs were only to be discovered in a putrid state much, much later by my mischievious younger brother and his pranking friends.

Sarah speculates that maybe I like chickens so much better now because I don't have to feed them nor do I have to go out at dusk (usually) to count them on their roosts and lock them in for the night. I just know: I like seeing just-washed eggs in the morning light. I like knowing I don't have to drive anywhere prior to fulfilling an omelet craving. I like the funny little noises the hens make when they've newly laid an egg. I even like their fluffy hind ends.

I have gone off the deep end, dear reader. I'm talking about chicken hindquarters on my blog.

They do say the internet is stripping us of a sense of decency, decorum and appropriate disclosure.

Just call me "Exhibit A."

Friday, April 16, 2010

My $2.99 family room makeover ... the tease edition

Those are the mix-and-match fabrics I grabbed from my stash for a much-needed sofa slipcover.

Needed? Nah. (I am so mortified to post that picture. It's almost as bad as the kitchen before of yore after which Lexi exposed evidence, hotly debated by me, of a tequila/margarita "habit." Exposed stuffing... almost as bad as suspicion of drinking on the blog.)
We've actually had a SureFit slipcover on this sofa for the past few years or so. I think the brand name SureFit is ingenious in the same way a small car becomes "comfortable" in the advertisements. Of necessity there's no mention that you can't get your knees to fit between the steering wheel and seat. In this manner, the SureFit slipcover, while cute, needs constant adjustment, tucking, cursing, and so it's time to make a fitted cover for the body and new upholstery for the seats to hold it all together.
I wanted a new sofa even though this one is unbelievably comfortable. Well-made in that annoying heirloom furniture way. (Ugly but too good to throw out.) It's just, um, not my color scheme and it's HUGE. It takes up the entire den. So I wanted a new sofa even before some mysterious strange phenomenon (can you say "my children never jump on the furniture"?) started pulling the upholstery and underlying thin layer of down and feathers to bits.
However: I shopped for MONTHS for a new sofa before deciding to tackle this project in the face of my shopping failure. (Hardly a first. Shopping and me, we're like t --- h --- i ---s.) I have slipcovered before, friends, and it's not a job for a girl in her third trimester with accompanying asthma, pre-term labor, a family to feed, etc.
Nevertheless. I'm sewing. And I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don't ask how I know

Vinegar water and a half-hour's elbow grease will remove an entire tube of pink lipstick from the tongue-and-groove wainscoting.

But no amount of eagle-eye care can guarantee that all of the purple glitter is out of the alfredo sauce.

(I think that's why they're called the "terrific" twos.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Farmgirl loves controversy

Not really.

(Maybe if I did there'd be more comments. Y'all would be so fired up and angry with me and my opinions! It'd be exciting! (Which is my code word for horrific.) It'd be one of those blogs. I'd be one of those bloggers.)

I love peace but not necessarily silence. I love being alone but not being lonely. I love the company of a very good friend or a very good book. I love a debate but loathe an argument.
Conflict avoidance? I'm often the champion by virtue of being absent from the controversy playing field.

But what to do when the controversy comes to one's own door?

The closer I get to 40 (gulp) the more I realize that conflict is integral to living fully. That turning disagreement into cooperation or at the very least understanding is the end game. That it's not always possible to be alone. That, dang it, being a team player does matter.

Maybe because of my tendency to prefer solitude I have limited team sports in my life (so to speak). But as a mom, and a member of a community, it's important to play well with others. I watch my daughters in their abilities to navigate difficult social situations and I am awed. Where did they get these skills?

Where can I get some?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hunky delivery guy comes through

Several months ago, I posted a picture of this sparkling gem:
... in a birthday fairy plea that was mostly wishful thinking.

But lo and behold, what should pull into our lane today but a trailer full of this:
And then the most handsome man I know started doing this:

And some more of this:

And pretty soon I'll be telling you all about how a greenhouse is a farmgirl's best friend. (Or, more to the point, the husband who's willing to build that sparkly folly is a girl's best friend.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

May I direct your attention to Ring Number Three?

At Christmas Sarah wanted to learn how to juggle. The first sunny day she asked Madeleine to paint her face. It's all coming together for me now. I'm not a mom, I'm a Ringmaster!

And on the other side of the Big Tent, the fierce and fearless bunny takes on an intruder chicken despite its imposing beak. Why Little Red decided the grass looked greener in the bunny run is anyone's guess. Maybe it was her lifelong dream to run off and join the circus.

After a little popcorn perhaps we can watch Laura perform the high-wire act: a death-defying feat that involves SNAPPING OFF THE DAFFODIL BUDS BEFORE THEY BLOOM.

The only problem with my circus analogy is that the dog makes a lousy lion. Put your head near his fierce mouth and all you'll get is slobbered.

The greatest show on Earth. Is that trademarked? If not, I'll take a service mark on it on behalf of my menagerie.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ham is traditional at Easter?

I think Grace felt the pressure to ham it up for the pictures. It was so stormy, with wind and sideways rain and even a power outtage at our house, that I spared the girls a trip to the backyard daffodil patch for photos. (Last year I even made them lie down in the flowerbed. In their dresses. What kind of mom...? (But WAIT! There're some of the award-winning results in the top right hand column.))

This year was even more challenging than last year with the photos. We had to wait for a break in the storm system to go outside. Then we could barely make it as far as the shop for the background... so much less lovely even than beat-up daffodils. They didn't have to sit on a bench or anything. Just stood in front of the straggly raspberry patch while I knelt on the ground for a better (?) angle. And then I remembered I'm 7.5 months pregnant and I couldn't get back up again.
Nope. Not joking. But everyone else in the family laughed at the sight of Mr. Suite helping me up from the soaking wet grass, so feel free to join in!

When we arrived at Grandpa and Grandma's house in the afternoon the girls were so glad to see their cousins! No one wanted to stand still for a picture there either. What else is new? But they're all so gorgeous and sweet that I just tried to capture their growing up. It seems like we have been missing one cousin or another from the photo every Easter for years, but this year they're all accounted for. That makes the picture a treasure. (Plus no one is visibly picking his or her nose. A-hem.)
The boys are so outnumbered by girls at the family get-togethers that they needed a little time to themselves. But just a little. I think the boys were secretly glad that our family, which contributes just less than half of the gang of kids, didn't get to go see Mr. Suite's family a state away. (We had a last-minute cancellation by our farmsitter.)
The big kids on their nine-clue scavenger hunt. It was 41 degrees outside and they ran so fast between Great Grandma's, Grandma and Grandpa's and Uncle John and Aunt Jennifer's houses that they took off their sweaters! Those are some speedy-smart children!
(Photo note: Mr. Suite chased the older children with the camera for that event. I told you they were fast.) While they did that, the four "littles" broke out the sweets.
And did a good job sharing.

Cousin Cayden dressed to match her roll of candies. "Smarty" indeed.

Grandpa and Laura and Madeleine sharing naptime. Who is faking?

Sarah a study in black and white against the colors of springtime.

The sun finally came out just in time to set. Laura was not happy to leave.
It's always hard to say goodbye to the ones we love. We wish we'd been able to spend the celebration with their cousin Rio, too, and all their grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles.
Then I remember that we're blessed to have family, loved ones, to miss. We're blessed by the incomparable sacrifice and miracle that Easter represent. We're blessed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Good Friday

We're having a quiet day at home with our hot cross buns. Hope your day is blessed as well.