Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Again with the daisies and dandelions

I love those little lawn daisies ... you know, the three-inch-high flurry of white that hovers above your lawn just an hour after you mow? (Or is that just my lawn?)

Also the dandelions. A little later in the season the yellow polka dots will dominate my acre or so of grass that pretends to be a lawn. And as an aside, you know you're a country girl when you give serious consideration to just haying your back yard. For horse feed. Or profit. Because hay prices are related to weather and gasoline prices, we're anticipating paying approximately three thousand dollars a ton this summer. Since we are only feeding three horses it shouldn't bankrupt us much.

And speaking of fiscal parasites... I think I have figured out how the ponies can pull their own weight. It makes perfect sense! Work with me here: Gasoline is expensive and so is horse feed. Cars need maintenance but ponies just need love and the occassional hoof filing. So you see, a pony cart is on my wish list. It'll come in handy in case of global financial collapse or my increasingly likely conversion to Plain living.

But back to my lawn "problems."

I just choose to like the lawn daisies and the dandelions. It's a glass-half-full thing for me. Not to mention that they're pretty. I hope you're okay with that.

I also have a much-beloved whirligig clothesline, just erected this past weekend thankyouverymuchhoney, that would be against CC&Rs in most neighborhoods but which fits right in with my glamper and my attractive weeds.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A dog's life

Bonnie Belle wouldn't move off the couch. She'd lived too long to be denied.

Plus she was just cute.

I am beginning to understand that I could easily become a purse dog person.

Please don't be offended if you currently have a teacup dog in your handbag.

There's something so portable about a smaller dog. I truly enjoyed being able to bathe Bonnie without a forklift or a garden hose. I loved how she never brought home large unidentifiable bones from the woods across the road. And I liked having her on the front seat of the Suburban as we went to town. She asked so politely for treats at the coffee drive-through. She never pulled on the leash and she usually didn't smell too eau de dog like some other outdoorsy canines I've known.

And don't tell anyone but I kinda liked watching a movie with a dog by my side on the sofa. It turns out I'm not so much the go-out-and-play-ball kind of dog owner but rather the sit-by-the-fire-and-read kind of dog owner. You know, where a dog appreciates good literature and is basically a cat with a wagging tail who (bonus!) doesn't get on the counters.

Recently I got in big trouble, and by that I mean Luuuu-ceeeEE, for attempting to rescue yet another and even smaller spaniel. But who could blame me? (My long-suffering husband, apparently.)

I'm on dog begging hiatus. There's an amendment to our pre-nup and everything. (Joking! Joking!)

But I miss Bonnie Belle. She went to puppy heaven far too soon. The fact that it coincided with postpartum whatever notwithstanding, I'd love to love another Bonnie Belle. (I was planning on naming the new spaniel "Maybelline.")

We will likely have a large, farm- and ranch-appropriate dog again. Don't get me wrong; I did love Jake with all my heart. That was a DOG. All Golden Retriever and golden boy, he was a great, athletic, supersmart dog's dog. Police officers were known to compliment him (and my husband) on Jake's manners. Heeling without a leash? No problem. Saving random children's pool noodles from the treacherous lake wakes? He was on it. Command of "sit," "stay" and "spot" in three languages? That was one smart dog. (Plus he hardly ever got on the couch unless he was sure we weren't coming home before he could vacuum it off.)

Our next dog may be another Golden and may be a Bernese Mountain Dog (even bigger and doggier I'm sure). But there will always be a place in my heart for the little Springer Spaniels and the way they look like they're straight out of a Dick and Jane reader. It's a simpler, gentler dog. Mostly understanding only single-syllable words. But still.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rhubarb and strawberries and cherries oh my

My second-year orchard is tiny and valiant.

My rhubarb plants, in the ground three years now, are finally ready to provide me a pie or two. Or even some rhubarb champagne. Left to ferment until it's alcoholic or consumed sweet with ice, it sounds delicious. It calls to mind my responsibility in our family as the keeper of my grandfather's massive oak wine press. In San Francisco and Calistoga he used to press grapes for sweet wine for my grandmother. She preferred it sweet, he did not. Making it thus was an act of love from a man whose love language was service long before love languages were named.

My strawberry plants are blooming but not yet fruiting. The plants themselves were gifts from my father's garden. I'm so glad to have them as he recently removed his amazing strawberry beds in favor of, I believe, more herbs. Grandchildren across the county are still crying over this choice. I guess the cousins will have to visit my little farm to taste Grandpa's berries... that is if the deer don't get them first.

Gardening is probably a love language all its own.

This afternoon for instance I really, really needed a time out. You know the kind I mean. After a full morning of school under the influence of spring fever and a full afternoon of flute lessons and fruitless bathing suit shopping with two pre-teens, one first-grader, a preschooler and a baby... followed by a walk that no one wanted to take and then a dinner that no one wanted to eat.... Let's just say toward the end of my day I wanted to some alone time in the garden.

I dug into the newly weeded raised beds with my bare hands. They were probably still a little too wet for planting but I would not be denied.

Little lettuces. Little spinach. Little happinesses all in a row.

This year I am satisfying both my instant gratification and my delayed gratification needs by planting six packs of starts surrounded by seeds and seedlings of my own planting. Brilliant, to my way of thinking. It's easier than labeling and faster than succession planting and, bonus, it's fun.

I returned to the house in time to love on the baby, the preschooler, the first-grader and the pre-teens before bed. Isn't that the best kind of time out, after all? The kind that re-sets one's attitude?

Today I'm grateful for my garden, for my orchard, for the weeds that overrun my flowerbeds and necessitate another mommy time out (or five) this week. I'm grateful for the legacy of gardening and for the love of plants.

What are you grateful for today? Is it garden-related?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Another miraculous weekend

I mean that.
The everyday miracles were everywhere.


And tiny.

But no less miraculous.

I hope yours was lovely too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

At the intersection of Quilt and Barn. With some out-of-character End Times discussion.

There's that patchwork barn from my road trip of a week or so ago. Really the dreamy light does not do it justice. Can you imagine how many pizzas that rancher had to buy for the teenagers who painstakingly used all the oops paint in a creative manner? (Imagine with me, if you will. 'Cause I don't know anything about this barn or its owner other than it made my girls and me smile and wonder and make up fun stories about its quirky paint job.)

Outside my window the forget-me-nots and lilacs have upstaged the fading show of daffodils and tulips. Daisies and columbines wait in the wings for the next act. This springtime is gorgeous in our area, and I'm almost feeling guilty because I know so many are suffering through floods and severe weather patterns. Friends of ours who are serving in the earthquake recovery of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti are already experiencing punishing heat. Other friends are just now driving home to Oregon from storm ravaged Kentucky. The news from around the world is bleak. The radio and television stations are talking about the end of the world and they're not singing lyrics from a pop song when they do so.

The African violets on my windowsill have nothing to do with the parade of blooms outside, with my continuing barn obsession nor with the darting hummingbirds nor mounting projects stacked on my sewing table.

And, honestly. My faith has nothing to do with predicting whether tomorrow is the beginning of the end of the world. I hesitate to say any of this for the record, on the world wide web. But my faith is in the thin vein of beauty and truth, an ore much more precious than a prediction of dire circumstances on a certain date.

My God is a God of mercy and, yes, I hope you know Him too. I hope that judgment day is not a reason for fear for you because none of us can achieve the standard but through grace. Amazing grace.

My pantry is full and, yes, I hope yours is too. But I hope you aren't just hoarding water and canned goods for a catastrophe but rather thoughtfully planning how to take care of yourself and your family and your neighbors if need be.

Oh I so rarely get on a soapbox here but I can feel myself stepping up there now.

I read on a web site today about how much food to store per person for certain periods of time, making my notes and commenting to myself how similar the lists were to the provisions the pioneers must have packed for their westward journeys. And right after I found myself nodding with the web site's writer, I read that I should instruct my family to never, under any circumstances, disclose that we have stored food for emergencies.


Because I want you to know, my real and virtual neighbors alike, that what I have I will share. That whatever we can do for one another in the event of an earthquake or storm or financial hardship is what we should do.

It's obviously easy to say this from my comfortable chair in front of my computer screen, electricity humming and refrigerator full, children tucked in and husband reading by the sound of the Giants game on the radio.

I have a comfortable chair, a comfortable life. I'm guessing you do too.

But I never want to be so comfortable that I forget that some others are decidedly not. I want to share my comfort, my knowledge of God's mercy and grace, before others are frightened into a judgment day panic mode just as I want to share my pantry's contents with a hungry neighbor.

Take care, dear readers and neighbors. And as you're driving through the countryside of life, imagining the motivations and small joys of your fellow man, remember too their likely pains and trials as they too try to gather beauty in a sometimes ugly world.

I don't think tomorrow is the beginning of the end. But I do think we should live like it is. Not with fear nor with secrecy but with confidence and compassion. I think we should, I should, be willing to be a little less comfortable while it's still an easy choice. I think I should (because I know you don't come here for the preaching) place more emphasis on the bits of beauty, the patchwork-painted barns and the blooming violets and the play dough parties, because they are my icons for the joy of the world, for the hope of grace and glory amidst difficulty and strife. A true icon is very different from an idol; an icon points us to a larger truth while an idol, of course, is a substitute for the Truth.

May you find Truth and beauty and rest this weekend.

(And may I return with a lighter post next week.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring fever meets summer planning? And a little melodrama.

From my spot on the lawn I have done the math.

We have just three weeks of schoolwork left before summer vacation.

I almost regret the nearing of the end of this school year. Don't mind me, it's just my bittersweet acting up again. You see, next year Madeleine and Sarah will begin logic curriculum. My babies, those creative nutty bookish sweethearts, are ready for more advanced studies whether or not I'm ready.

Isn't this the way of motherhood? Just when I'm all snuggled down with infant Salvador and ubercontent with my rocking chair teaching style, he's ready to wean and the big girls are ready for their own desks, [classical] educationally speaking.

Ah, well, at least I still have Grace and Laura to torture. I mean, to read aloud to. You know what I'm talking about even when I dangle my prepositions, don't you?

And then will come Salvador with the Tonka trucks and the We Help Daddy texts.

The thought, the mere thought, of him starting school is enough to make me lose control of my tear ducts.

I'm preparing for empty nest syndrome and I like to get a running start. That's all.

From whence does all this melancholy and melodrama spring?

From looking at the short list of what must be done before our whirlwind summer can commence.

It's a pretty short list: A little geography presentation, a little Constitution recitation, a little long division. And then let the school holiday begin, coinciding tidily with the end of my stint of teaching exclusively elementary school and preschool students.

I'm not ready, my father said to me when I announced my engagement to be married fast upon my graduation from university. (Maybe it was slightly before, but that's hardly the point.)

And now here I stand at a hardly comparable milestone with the same reaction. I'm not ready.

Of course life doesn't give me a warning, a "ready or not" chant during which to secure a better hiding spot. (Living in the moment might have its drawbacks when one is gobsmacked by the future.)

So. For the summer. We are hosting family, camping, taking a road trip or two, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, gardening, riding ponies, sending children to theater camp (Melodrama! I kid not.) and church camp and art camp and then taking a deep breath before we jump in the deep end. Again.

It reminds me a little of the time Madeleine (now 12) was about to lose her second baby tooth. She must have been five and the first tooth had come out just a month or so beforehand. As she approached me with the news of the wiggliness, her baby self said very soberly, "Mom, I don't want you to freak out or anything. It's bound to happen."

Yes, Miss Madeleine, it is.

What are you planning? What milestones do you pass this season?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I had something meaningful posted

But it's gone.

And now we can forget about me ever remembering it again. Follow? Me neither. Clearly.

But we're having a fine weekend. We're playing with the new chicks. (I know! More chicks!) I went thrifting and bought some very exciting vintage fabric. Some of it is for my canned ham renovation and some of it is for summer wardrobe sewing.

It's looking like summer will finally find us here in Western Oregon.

Look at Salvador! (And the church steeple across the road. That's a little artsy, isn't it?) I took that picture from my very ambitious spot on a quilt on the lawn, where I laid around and read Stephen King's "On Writing" for an entire afternoon. Manoman that's a good book. I didn't expect I'd think that, frankly, because most of his fiction is not my preferred genre at all. But his memoir/writing guide is brilliant, insightful, crazy good.

Sarah's loving "Goose Girl" and those yellow shortalls. I'm not sure she's taken them off except for at bedtime.

I'm loving my special Wild Salad with dandelion greens, violas, chives and mixed lettuces. A little balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with crushed garlic -- yummy springtime dinner.

What are you loving? What are you reading?

And did anyone see my missing post or did I dream that?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I can see for miles

Oh my word. It's sunny and 70 degrees outside.

The camas are blooming.

The lambs are frolicing.

I can almost hear Maria singing.

(the hills are alive)

It's all too picturesque for blogland.

I hope your day is lovely as well. I'm going to plant something now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Groovy, again

This is another of those "groove back" conversations.

The ones where I ask the room at large whether there's a groove to, in fact, recover.

I have never been that groovy a gal. At least in my own estimation. In spite of more than a decade of ballet I can't really dance all that well. I'm not even very graceful, to tell the truth. (A broken hip and a bad knee and a collection of other clumsinesses are testament to this vicious cycle.) And although I was told in my youth that I had perfect pitch I subsequently damaged my hearing and can't currently carry a tune. (Don't mind me though because I still do sing. Show tunes especially. It's good to embarass your children.)

I like routine and I love tradition. I dig a good garden furrow as much as the next farm girl, I do, and I've earned all the lines on my face through laughter and tears and too much time squinting at my handsome husband on a baseball field.

So even though the riff on a groove is cool in concept it's never really worked for me. And it's not that I think a groove is the same as a rut, although sometimes it seems comparable. I consider it more of a fault line, really, this shifting, mobile area of life that flirts around somewhat like a dance but less predictable. I fear the jolt when the comfort zone is inexplicably disturbed by the moving plates of life.

Pretty soon my baby turns 1.

Pretty soon my oldest turns 13.

I don't have time for a groove. I'm too busy looking up at the blue sky, looking down to see where my feet are placed, balancing on a beam of life with my arms wide open.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Momma hens

That poor girl looks like she'd love some privacy in the nest box.

And what momma among us doesn't understand?

Today, though, I'm so very glad to be buried in babies and expecting my mom for dinner and in general nesting.

I hope your Mother's Day is lovely, dear reader.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I put some miles on my husband's car. I filled my tank and my memory cards, literal and figurative.

I'm so grateful for my mom. Not just this weekend but all the time. I am blessed with a loving mother and with children who make me. This is a time to celebrate the women who mother you, the mentoring relationships you have with others, and the concept of maternal nurture.

Most years I accept lovely gifts of flowers and globby clay pots and fingerprint paintings. This year I'll make dinner and I'll soak up all the mommy love I can.

Who doesn't love that?