rural living

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Tomorrow we are headed to the Common Ground Country Fair, a “celebration of rural living,” as they call it. We didn’t do much while we were there last year, choosing instead to wander the grounds, wide-eyed. This year, however…I browsed their schedule tonight to see what was being offered tomorrow: beginner beekeeping, blacksmithing demonstrations, antique tractors…yes, please!

We’ve been doing quite a bit of rural living here this week. Pansy and Petunia breathed their last, and are now safely stored in the freezer. I was asked if I’d watch, and the answer is both yes and no. I felt an obligation to observe the actual hatchet blow, though I passed on most of the dressing process. The girls both wanted to help pluck, and so they did, later pulling up their little chairs to oversee the rest of the work. Once each bird resembled a store-bought roaster, I took over – washing, plucking any errant feathers, wrapping and storing. I was surprised that they were both mostly dark meat, and J speculated that it’s because they had such freedom to move around the yard, really using all of their muscles. I haven’t done the research to confirm, but I suspect he’s right. If that’s the case, isn’t it interesting to put the pieces together and realize just how all that prized white breast meat in the store is achieved. These birds are on the small side, and definitely aren’t buxom, but I’ll find a use for them, and be grateful they lived well.

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We picked apples as a family earlier this week, ducking out on our lunch break to visit a local orchard in that small square of time between when I finish my paid work for the day and when J leaves for his own job. In a matter of fifteen minutes, we had half a bushel of Cortlands, and almost that many Honeycrisps, fresh off the trees. Part of our apple haul became pie – one for the table and another filling for the freezer – and I’ve made one batch of crockpot applesauce already, with more to come.

There was a chill in the air today, and so something warm for dinner was in order. Steaks and butternut squash soup, all ingredients locally sourced except the onion. Pie for dessert, of course. I managed to cycle two loads of laundry on the line, and make a trip to the library with the girls so Daddy could study in peace. It was so very nice to have everyone home, working together on our own little projects.

 

let’s make a list

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1. I have really amazing and funny friends. And it would be really amazing if they all lived close enough to hang out all the time. Alas, that is not the case, and so we text. The other night, I learned about chicken shaming. I think Petunia needs a sign. That darn rooster escapes the run every morning around ten, and poops on my picnic table while crowing her (his) brains out. Here’s your sign…

2. Speaking of roosters. I put the call out on Facebook to see if we had any local friends with “processing’ experience. We’ve decided to “dispatch” the Twins. Yes, it’s a very real event and I should probably stop speaking in euphemisms. We’re going to kill two of the roosters and put them in the freezer to eventually eat for dinner. I feel very calm about the decision, and I think that’s good. J doesn’t seem at all bothered by the actions to be taken; his only worry is having sharp enough tools to be humane. Even the Facebook chatter has been really supportive – lots of input from experienced friends, though sadly, no one local enough to join us for the day. We’ve done a lot of reading, but part of me really would like to have someone here who has done the deed before. I suppose we’ll have to wing it.

3. Our apple tree has no apples on it. I’m not sure how or why, but every single one wound up on the ground, rotting before I could scoop them. The pigs next door have benefitted, for sure: I dropped off another pan of slightly bruised fruit just this week. We’re guessing it’s the drought that caused them to let go and fall, but we’re no apple experts.

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4.  We went looking for lighthouses last weekend, and wound up on an island. It was Open Lighthouse Day here in Maine, and my mother-in-law was visiting with her husband, so we decided to be touristy. J took us down to Portland to hop up the coast, stopping at five or six lighthouses along the way. Or at least that was the plan. We parked the car, and bought tickets for the ferry, and somewhere in the middle of the bay, J realized that there were no lighthouses on the island we were headed to. Oops. So we enjoyed lunch together (they were out of lobster!) and then ice cream (Swee’s first cone), and rode the ferry back to the mainland. We did eventually make it to the Portland Head Light, half an hour after the museum closed. Still, a nice day out and about.

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5. Hornworms! Good gracious, these buggers are gross. They cling to the tomato plant when you try to pull them off, and then squirm in your gloved hand with a heft that made my stomach crawl. We found four yesterday, the first I’d ever seen in person. Our chickens weren’t interested in eating them, so I wound up just squishing them with a rock. That was a decidedly nasty experience as well: they actually pop.

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6. More local eating. We finally investigated a local farm stand that we’ve driven past a thousand times. It’s not right on the road, and I was hesitant to explore on my own at first. But I found a bit of time where I was out and about without the girls, and decided to check it out – and I’m glad I did! Great produce and flowers. We’ve been back several times already.

7. Seven years ago Monday, I walked with my father down the aisle of a tiny stone chapel to meet a skinny, nervous boy at the same altar where I was baptized twenty-seven years earlier, and where my own parents were married just a few years before that. Behind me sat almost every person who had been influential in my life. Next to me stood my best girlfriends, the ones who taught me how to be a girlfriend. In front of me, my own uncle helped our pastor give the message and imparted his wisdom for our journey ahead. The photos look like I heard every word, but really, the only thing I remember is the hand that squeezed mine through the service. I never dreamed then that one day we’d end up here, or that our story would look like this. And it hasn’t always been easy (is it ever?), but he’s never let go.

Where is your story taking you this week?

last hurrah

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We hit the beach last week. A last hurrah before we bid farewell to Summer.

It was cold and foggy, with a little drizzle on and off. We picked Swee up at school and packed into my little RAV, and off we went. There were maybe a dozen cars in the lot when we arrived, and I almost wished we hadn’t come.

And then when we walked down onto the deserted beach, it felt a bit like coming home. I grew up spending weeks at a time on the Jersey shore. Not the shore on tv, but a sleepy island town with beautiful white beaches and wholesome families on vacation. Where the horizon stretched for miles and all you could see was water and sky. The beach here hasn’t felt like that, what with the rocks and pine trees on one side, and the rocks and islands on the other. But last week, blanketed in fog with the hurricane-induced waves crashing on shore, it felt like my beach, and almost like home.

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HomeHow do you get to know a place the way you know the places you grew up? The smells and the feel, almost right, and yet not. Can you intentionally cultivate the knowledge of place that’s naturally born of being a child somewhere?

We didn’t bother with bathing suits, and just slathered sunscreen on any exposed skin before walking the sand in hoodies and pants. The girls clambered on and around the driftwood structures left behind, and chased the huge flocks of seagulls. We jumped in the waves, soaking our clothes, and then stripped the babies down to their birthday suits, little white hineys running and laughing along the shoreline.

I hate leaving the shore, and always stop to breathe deeply before settling my melancholy into the car. When will I get back?

there’s still time

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My newsfeed today was filled with children in new clothes, most with stiff backpack straps over their shoulders and many holding up fingers or signs to indicate their new step in the journey. So many happy faces.

Our own journey begins on Wednesday. We are venturing into strange and uncertain territory that I am not entirely sure I want to explore. Swee will be attending pre-K at the local public elementary school, and she is so pumped. It’s a small class – only nine students, and two teachers who seem really sweet. There will be ample time for play, and my smart, assertive little miss is showing no signs of anxiety. That’s all me.

I haven’t done any school shopping yet, and she needs a haircut, badly. No idea what I’m going to pack for her lunch (they eat as a class, though it’s only a half-day program). I’m not even sure where I stashed her backpack. It can wait. I’ve still got time.

Instead, we’re playing hard, and I’m trying to keep my nerves from fraying. I shouted today, which did nothing to improve the nasty little moods both girls woke up with. None of us are perfect. But we flew the kite and played tag with the grasshoppers. We dug in the sandbox and slurped up the last of the peaches given to us at the library this weekend. We baked biscuits for the dogs. We read stories and picked flowers and did much snuggling.

And now that they are finally asleep, I’m drinking mint tea while I click through all the photos that never make it off the camera card. I’m soaking my tired, garden-stained feet and soaking up the images of summer sunshine before everything changes again and we’re forced into another season of the unknown.

an intention

Commit.

It came to me on my mat. Flat on my back, as shavasana was coming to an end. Commit. Imke – our instructor, our guide – encouraged us to revisit the intention set at the start of our practice, and to release it if it no longer served us. I hadn’t really set an intention at the beginning, but here it was. Commit, and commit fully. Commit to myself, commit to those around me.

I have long lived the habit of keeping my options open, perhaps as a defense mechanism, for if you don’t commit, you can’t get hurt, right? I’ve puzzled through the years at the feeling of disconnection I carried as a teenager and young adult, and over the last week or two since this intention presented itself to me, have begun to consider that perhaps I held myself too closed off from people, even friends, not quite committing to my relationships and yet always stunned when I got left out or let down. That changed a bit in college, thankfully. 

To commit, to be vulnerable. To not live as though I am always waiting for something or someone better to come along, but to welcome opportunities and not hold them at bay. Not at the exclusion of all else, but contrariwise, being honest and open and accepting of the good things that come my way, with confidence that it is ok to do so. The idea of keeping my options open was always meant to provide freedom of choice when in actuality, it kept me from really and truly choosing anything.

And so, two small steps.

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Bread. I have now made bread by hand. I have also accepted a friend’s invitation to learn. To join her in her kitchen, to listen to her instruction, to be open about my own ignorance on something and allow myself to be taught – not by a subject-matter expert, but by a peer. Why is it so difficult to admit what we do not know?

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Kayaking. Yesterday, I went kayaking. One-on-one with another friend. A week or so ago, I boldly asked if she would take me, and she enthusiastically agreed. I was not immediately coordinated (the fear of ‘not being any good’ has held me back from so much, too much), but got the hang of it by the end of the outing, and it was a beautiful experience – talking, paddling, enjoying the sun and the breeze and the water. Why is it so difficult to ask for what we desire?

I don’t know what will be next, but I hope I remember to say yes. Yes to the invitation, yes to myself, yes to all of the options that will help me grow and connect and be real.

in the garden: august 11

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Oh my, it is hot here, and not just by Maine standards. We hit 97* today, maybe higher. Everything is parched and crackly. I’m trying to carefully water my plants in the mornings and evenings, and when I forgot to water altogether several days ago, I thought all was lost. Thankfully most things bounced back, though my pumpkins have a few crispy leaves that won’t recover.

The tomatoes are loving the heat, though I do think they’re the only ones right now. I need to scout out some taller stakes and retie the long drooping arms. They’re trailing along our paths and are in serious danger of being trampled.

I’m told to expect three days of rain starting tomorrow, and while I am hoping that’s true, I’ll believe it when I see it.

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The blackberries along the edge of the yard are still producing like crazy, and my girls are scarfing them faster than I can pick. My triceps and shins are scratched and scabby from the brambles, but I can’t pass up free fruit. Swee ate that entire pint above in the time it took me to water the rest of the veggies. It’s no wonder blackberries command such a price at market.

I’ve always been a hobby gardener, planting mostly tomatoes and peppers. I did two short rows of rainbow carrots one year, and the entire crop was just enough to use in a shepherd’s pie. That was eye opening. However, this year I’m truly getting a glimpse of how much space and work would be required to actually farm and produce enough for us to eat. This is the biggest garden I’ve ever had. We harvested the broccoli from five plants last week and it was barely enough to feed all of us at one meal. How many rows of broccoli would we need to plant in order to have several side dishes worth, and then put some in the freezer for winter? I don’t know the answer to that.

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Our chickens are almost 16 weeks old, and from what we’ve read, could potentially start laying any time now. We’ve opened up the nesting boxes, though I haven’t seen any of them show any interest in exploring as yet. They do, however, like to snatch grasshoppers out of my hand and run away to devour them. June bugs and ants are also favorites.

So there we are. We didn’t produce nearly what I thought we would at the start of the season, but still more than we ever have before. I suppose that’s the way of it, hmm?

What are you bringing in from the garden this week?

 

 

 

only four

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1. Roosters. Plural? Maybe. I think there’s still a teeny chance that Dottie is a she, but (s)he has been making a noise that sounds an awful lot like a traditional cock-a-doodle-doo. I’m way bummed, and can’t imagine dispatching either (s)he or Pansy. Maybe we shouldn’t have named them, because goodness, I do like them both.

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2. Bread! I’ve still not attempted my own by hand (meaning sans breadmaker), but we checked out the Maine Artisan Bread Fair last weekend, and interacted with a lot of people who know what they’re doing. As usual, I’m glad we took the girls because they need to be out and about, learning how to handle themselves among other people, but really, I feel like we missed a lot because we were chasing and instructing and parenting.

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3. Sunshine. Lots of it lately, and not much rain. The gardens are dry and the ground is cracking. Our lake is so, so low. All that sunshine makes for gorgeous days however, with puffy clouds and big happy flowers. Our first sunflower opened yesterday, and the rest look ready to burst.

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4. Fall? Maybe soon. Yellow leaves are drifting down onto the town beach, and the nights are crisp. My girls are back in long-sleeved jammies with pants, and there’s a scent to the air that makes me think of football. I’ve been watching our pumpkins swell and grow (gardeners: do I need to do anything with them other than make sure they stay on the vine?). Our apple tree dropped a lot of fruit during a rare storm, so I’ve gathered it up for the pigs next door. We’ve been budgeting for snow tires, and talking about how to get the snowmobile running for this winter. Seems odd to have such conversations in 87* weather, but we know the cold is coming.

And that’s all I’ve got right now. Balance has been elusive this past week, and I’ve been left feeling like I’m burning the candle at both ends. I suppose that if there’s food in the fridge and on the table, and if my littles are smiling and (somewhat) clean, then it will all iron itself out in the end, yes? Of course it will. And a little seasonal shift to refresh us all might actually be most welcome.