Monday, August 14, 2017

Liquor, Doughnuts, and Other Forbidden Pleasures


I had my big outing in the Small City today, the main purpose of which was to check thrift stores for maternity clothing for me and any clothing at all for my clothes-destroying sons. A. asked me to pick up some whiskey for him at the liquor store while I was in the city, too.

There happens to be a liquor store just down the street from the thrift store, so after I did my shopping, I decided to walk to the liquor store. It was only about 300 yards. Definitely not worth getting in the car again.

This did mean, however, that I had to walk back to my car parked at the thrift store on the busiest road in the city, obviously pregnant and carrying a similarly obvious brown paper liquor store package.

Super.

In addition, my little walk took me directly past the bakery that sells the best doughnuts in the entire world. Thanks to that little issue with gestational diabetes--which is entirely controllable for me if I'm careful of what I eat--I am no longer eating doughnuts.

Harsh. Way harsh.

I marched resolutely past the bakery, holding a bottle of liquor that I am also not permitted to ingest.

The only thing I could take comfort in was the coffee mug that I found at the thrift store. See, I dropped my coffee mug last week and broke it. This was my special mug. The mug in which I drank my coffee every single morning for the past eight years or so.

It was one of those camp-style mugs, the kind that are extra wide and straight-sided. I like that style because they are particularly stable around rampaging children, and also hold a little more than a standard mug. This is important because of the amount of milk I put in my very strong coffee with chicory.

I thought I could just use one of the many other mugs we have. But none of them were the same shape, and I was sad every morning when I drank my coffee out of an inferior mug.

Because of this, I was actually planning on going back to the local Huge Outdoor store from which I originally purchased my mug to get another. Even though it had a picture of a gaping fish on it that I really did not care to see first thing in the morning.

But while I was at the thrift store, I decided to check their selection of mugs and ta da! There was just the right kind of camp mug for 99 cents, with the benign logo of the YMCA on it. So it's even an improvement on the ugly fish mug.

I may not be able to have liquor or doughnuts, but at least I can once again enjoy my coffee from a proper (and gratifyingly cheap) mug. It'll have to do.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just Call Me The Crazy Garden Lady


This morning I actually said to A., "I hate to leave my garden for a whole week. But I guess I've done everything I can to prepare it for my absence."

Apparently, the garden is my fifth child.

Then again, all my children are coming with me tomorrow when we leave for Blackrock for a week, but the garden will be left to fend for itself.

My preparation mostly consisted of stripping the pea and bean plants of every last small pea and bean, so that I don't come home to overly matured legumes that have caused the plants to stop producing.

Can we just talk for a moment about how incredible it is that I'm still harvesting peas in mid-August?

Peas are a cool-weather crop. They stop producing when it gets hot and dry. At Blackrock, I would rarely get more than one good harvest from the pea plants before they would wither away. But here, this year, it's been so cool and wet that it took forever for the peas to start producing anything at all, but once they did they don't seem to be giving up.

I did pull the shelling peas out this morning, though. They were starting to die, and were harboring an alarming colony of slugs (another result of our cool, wet summer), so I decided to rip them out. I left the snap peas in, though, after harvesting a full two quarts of snap peas from three plants.

The carrots have also been outstanding this year. A. planted a full two packets of seed in April, and they all came up. We started eating the thinnings from the carrots about two months ago, and we've had a steady supply since. The kids more or less free-range in the carrot rows, eating however many they want whenever they want, and we still have incredible quantities of quite large carrots out there.

Unfortunately, the weather that has been so beneficial for the peas and carrots has been very, very sad for the summer crops. Particularly the cucumbers and tomatoes.

There are dozens upon dozens of tomatoes on my sixteen plants and not a single one was ripe. Not one. What a screw. And here we are facing down a killing frost in about a month.

However!

As I was working my way around the tomato forest to get to another patch of green beans to harvest, I spied . . . is that red?

Yes! It's the much-anticipated First Tomato!

I found it in the very center of a remarkably bushy Juliet plant. I haven't been checking the interiors of the plants much, figuring the tomatoes on the outside that are more exposed to the sun would ripen first. I guess I was wrong, because I found the one Juliet that was entirely ripe, and then a few more that were almost ripe, and all were way inside the tomato jungle.

Cubby was in the garden with me when I found it, and he was so excited that he raced into the house yelling to the household at large that there was a ripe tomato.

That's my boy.

Everyone came out to admire the tomatoes I had found. And then I ate the ripe one. Myself. Oh yes, I did. It's a tradition.

I now have some hope that when we get back in a week there will be a lot more red to greet us in the tomato patch. That would be a sweet homecoming indeed.

And in the meantime, we have lots of snap peas and carrots for our long drive tomorrow.


Nothing like homegrown carrot sticks.

Farewell, beloved garden. Ripen lots of tomatoes while I'm gone, okay?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Don't Use That Word


This morning when I announced my intention of sorting through and organizing the disaster of clothing bins in the utility room, A. said The Word. The Word that always comes up with pregnant women and that inspires irrational irritation in me.

"Ah, nesting."

Ugh.

There is no doubt that nesting is an actual phenomenon. It's just the way it's said that always annoys me. Kind of condescendingly, as if hormones are the only reason a woman would choose to, say, scrub the grout in the shower. Never mind the fact that a pregnant woman--especially a woman who has been pregnant a time (or three) before--knows damn well that if that grout doesn't get cleaned now, she's going to be staring at filthy grout for months as she slowly loses her mind with newborn-related sleep deprivation.

Anyway.

The reason I wanted to do all the clothes sorting now is so I could figure out what the kids might need when the colder weather comes. Then I can look for those things at thrift stores when we're at Blackrock next week. There are no thrift stores up here, so I want to look at the thrift stores there first, and then buy online what I can't find there.

While I was sorting clothes, I pulled out the extra convertible carseat we have so A. could put it in the Subaru for Jack. Except when I pulled it out, I noticed that the cover and straps were covered in mildew.

Sigh. Must I be plagued by mildew wherever I go?

I pulled off the cover to wash, which was surprisingly complicated. Many little elastic pieces to be unhooked and buckles to be disconnected and so forth. Then I decided I might as well do the same for the infant car seat I got from someone recently. That was also amazingly complicated to disassemble.

I then hauled the plastic shells outside to hose them down and scrub them with vinegar. They're drying outside right now, as are the covers.

I suspect that I will need A.'s help to figure out how to get those covers back on, however. They will probably defeat me on my own. Besides, if I'm going to be nesting, I might as well drag Papa Drake into it with me, right? Right.

At least we have two months to figure it out.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You Can Take the Boy Out of Blackrock . . .


A. had to learn many home repair skills while living at Blackrock. Unless you want to spend a literal fortune to pay carpenters and so forth, it's kind of a necessity with a 160-year-old house. 

One of the skills he learned that is definitely unusual was masonry. Because, of course, Blackrock is not just an old house, it's an old cobblestone house. With stone foundations. And those foundations require periodic repair if you don't want your house to literally fall out from under your feet.

So he learned how to replace stones and re-point mortar. He even learned how to mix his own mortar, because the mortar used on old houses like Blackrock is not the same as the modern pre-mixed bags of concrete and so forth available at places like Home Depot. Apparently the old mortar was more flexible than the modern mixes, and therefore is less likely to crack as the foundations shift with freezing and thawing and so on. 

A. also discovered that he has a great affinity and liking for stonework. Handy if you live in a place like Blackrock. He got pretty good at it.

But then we moved. Our current home is only fifteen years old and made of wood on a poured foundation. No need for masonry here.

Except . . .

The church we attend in the village happens to be an imposing stone edifice. And one of the first things A. the Amateur Mason noted was the sad condition of the mortar on the cut-stone front steps. It's crumbling and in many cases completely missing and growing grass. There are other areas that need repair work, but he was pretty sure he could repair the steps in an appropriately professional fashion.

However, the fact that he's not a professional made him a little shy to bring this up with those in charge of church maintenance. I mean, how many random people would really be able to do a repair like that in any kind of acceptable manner? Most people would just slap some modern concrete in there and call it good. 

The thought of this horrifies A., however, and he was particularly concerned that if the deterioration continued, the powers that be would decide to just take out the existing cut-stone steps and replace them with poured concrete steps.

Sacrilege in A.'s eyes.

So he got up the courage to ask the deacon if he might repair the steps for them. (For free, obviously.) After the deacon consulted with whoever he needed to consult, A. got the go-ahead.

Last time we were at Blackrock, he stopped at his favorite masonry supply yard to pick up the supplies he would need. And then he got to work.

This is very slow work. It takes him about two hours to do one step. There are ten steps. He can only work if there's at least a 12-hour window with no rain to enable the mortar to set. This has been somewhat difficult to achieve during this cool, wet summer we've been having.

There is also the issue that the children do not appreciate it when Daddy disappears for hours without them.

A. brought Cubby along with him the first time he went, figuring Cubby might find it interesting. He did find it interesting. He also learned how to do it. It seems ridiculous to think that a seven-year-old can do masonry work, but apparently Cubby's affinity with tools extends to trowels. A. reported with some amazement that not only does Cubby help, but he can actually just DO the work. Like, the two of them just work along side by side. Cubby actually makes the work go faster.

Of course, then Charlie wanted to try. Which meant Jack had to go. And THAT meant that I had to go, too. So we all loaded up on Sunday afternoon and descended upon the church.


Charlie's contribution was mostly scraping and sweeping the old mortar and dirt and grass from the cracks so A. and Cubby could mortar it. Charlie tried working with the trowels, but he doesn't appear to have the same natural feel for it that Cubby does. 

Thankfully, the third (and definitely least helpful) apprentice mason fell asleep in the car on the way to the church, so I just left him sleeping in there while the other three worked. When the inevitable fighting over tools began, I removed Charlie and Jack to the playground. Cubby elected to stay behind to keep working.

A.'s goal is to finish the steps before freezing weather arrives. Mortar won't set in freezing temperatures. So he's got about a month and half. With Cubby's able assistance--and mine in the form of keeping the other two out of the way--he should make it.

So the church gets its steps repaired for free and A. gets to do his beloved masonry. Everyone wins.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Professionalism in the Workplace


Some background: A. uses our home landline phone for his home office. Because cell phones usually don't work here, he needs the landline. Through the miracles of modern technology, it routes through his old work number. No one knows the call is going to or from our home, but it is through our landline. He takes the mobile handset into his office when he's working, so I don't pay any attention if the phone rings during a work day.

When he makes a call out via his computer (again with the miracles of modern technology), the phone in the house rings, for reasons I'm not very clear on.

There is a corded phone downstairs on which I usually have the ringer turned off, so it doesn't wake the kids up. But when we had a power outage a few days ago, I turned the ringer on so I would know if someone was calling. I hadn't yet turned it off again.

And now the stage is set . . .

I was upstairs in the kitchen preparing to do battle with sourdough dough. All three children were downstairs playing some game that was rendering them increasingly hysterical. The phone rang. I ignored it, because A. had the handset in his office.

And then I heard A. bellowing, "KRISTIN!"

I thought he had gotten a call saying someone had been in a horrible accident or something. I went to the door just as he came in scowling and saying, "I'm trying to make a work call and the kids are shouting 'wiener' on the line."

I went downstairs to find the phone back in its cradle and both Charlie and Cubby disavowing any wrongdoing. I suspect Cubby was the one who picked up the phone, and Charlie was the one shouting the offending word.

A. left the house yelling, "No wieners when I'm on a work call!"

I impressed upon the children the importance of them never picking up the phone or saying that word*. And then I turned the ringer off again.

When A. came back in a little while later, I apologized for the incident. He shrugged and said he got the case anyway. I asked who had been on the line. "A private client who wanted to hire me. It's okay, though. I just told him, 'That was my kids on the line yelling wiener. It wasn't a prank call or anything.'"

I'm sorry, anyway. For all of us.

* And Cubby wonders why I yell more than Ma. I bet Laura and Mary never did anything like this.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Let's Just End the Suspense


Because I know you were all on the very edges of your seats, waiting to hear what vehicle we could find to transport our ever-growing crew of children and the extra-large dog.

We've been a one-car family for almost three months now, which has been fine, but we do need a vehicle in which all six of us can actually ride. Since we do want to be able to bring the baby home from the hospital in October. The Subaru is not that vehicle.

After months of nationwide searches for full-size vans and Suburbans, we got . . .

A 2005 Honda Pilot.

Not a car that was particularly on our radar, but A. saw it for sale at the (tiiiiiny) used car place in the village and thought it was a pretty good option for us. Plus, it had the great advantage of being seven miles away, which made things a lot easier.

It's an 8-passenger SUV, which I'm sure automatically makes me a way cooler mom than when I drove a rusting-to-pieces old minivan, right?

Right. I'm pretty sure no vehicle is going to save me from uncool mom status at this point, but I can imagine, anyway.

It seems to be a nice car. No rust, which is a good starting point. It also has the great advantage of having all-wheel drive, which is actually almost a necessity where we live. There were many dicey moments with the minivan in our driveway last winter, and the last thing I want with a car full of children is dicey moments in bad weather.

My only questions when A. talked to me about it were if it had functioning air conditioning and if the seats can fold flat. Thumbs up on both counts.

Also I wanted to know what color it is. A. looked at me like I was crazy at that question. No, it doesn't matter what color it is, I just wanted to know. (It's a gray-blue color, like the color of the one in the page I linked to above, actually. Perfectly acceptable.)

So now we have a vehicle in which we can transport all four children. That means we can actually take this baby home from the hospital when the time comes. Victory.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Back in the Ring for Another Round


Last night we began the transition for Jack to sleep not only not in his crib for the first time ever, but also in his brothers' room.

That's right. Three man cubs. One cave. Complete insanity.

And by "began the transition," I mean that A. took Cubby's and Charlie's bedframes out of their room, chucked three mattresses on the floor, and left them to it.

That was not altogether successful.

Finally, at 10 p.m., I entered the fray to sit on the floor at the foot of Jack's mattress, sing a few lullabies, and quell them with my very presence until they fell asleep.

My foot was also asleep by the time they fell asleep, but hey! At least none of my teeth got knocked loose!

By the third kid, expectations are kept niiiiice and low.

Wish us luck in our continuing re-education. We're gonna need it.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Winter Provisions


Awhile ago when A. was moving the rams' electric fence to a new spot, he let them out to graze freely. They ended up right next to my garden. Thankfully, these sheep are much less aggressive than those wretched Cotswolds that would bulldoze their way through any obstacle to get to cultivated plants.

I found the combined sight of much of our winter food preparations--albeit still on the hoof and in the ground--to be amusing enough that I took a photo of it.


Obviously, those boys in the pea patch will not be eaten this winter. They're doing some pre-prep for themselves by bulking up on foraged vegetables before I can get to them.

The sheep have already passed the cute stage and are steadily working toward the stage when it's a relief to butcher them. Actually, I would be happy to do it now. They have a habit of yelling as soon as they see a person--no doubt in the hopes of the dried corn their shepherd occasionally feeds them--and they continue this yelling in the pasture adjacent to the garden as long as I'm working in there.

That's okay, though. I work away at staking the tomato plants with the background noise of blatting sheep, and I vindictively plan all the lamb stewed with tomatoes I'm going to eat this winter.

Keep it up, boys. The loudest one goes first.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Just Keeping It Real


I just thought you should know that my brilliant, sensitive, and obviously very advanced seven-year-old son has been licking the window on the front door now for the past five minutes.

This is what happens when summer break lingers on and you get bored and start behaving in a way that makes your mom lock you out of the house*. But you can totally get back at her by making stupid noises and licking the door window. That'll show her.

Lick away, Cubby. As long as you stay outside.

P.S. I did not take a picture, because honestly, it was kind of gross. I don't think anyone needs a permanent record of a tongue pressed on glass. Ew.

* Yes, I do indeed literally lock them out with some regularity. The last time I did it, I locked myself out with them (with the key in my pocket, of course) to keep a stubborn Charlie outside while I weeded the garden. They didn't know I had the key, though. They were convinced we were going to have to live outside--and were not at all upset by this notion--so they spent the next couple of hours making wooden toys for their fort and gathering supplies for survival. They didn't even notice when I went back inside. And that's why I lock them out. They want to be outside, they just don't always know it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We'll Skip the Elephant, Thanks


Today A. and I will celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary. And by "celebrate," I mean we will be driving six hours in a car with three small children and a very large dog on our way back to the north country from Blackrock.

Better than fishing dead rodents out of a cistern. Good thing we set the bar so low on that anniversary, right?

According to the silly list of themed gifts, from which I have always derived great amusement, the fourteenth anniversary calls for "ivory/elephant" as the traditional gift--I can see why that was nixed--and gold jewelry as the modern gift.

I'm just happy that our couch is coming up to our new house in the trailer we're pulling behind the car so I no longer have to cram my pregnant self* on a love seat to read books to the children. I would much rather have the couch than a bracelet. And it's appropriate, considering the couch was our wedding gift from the MiL.

I think I can best sum up marriage to A. by saying that when I hear this song, I always think, "Thank God I got one of the better men." Even after fourteen years. Or maybe especially after fourteen years.

Happy anniversary to A., one of the best men I know.

* Speaking of pregnant, I did indeed fail my glucose test. Three months of blood sugar testing and glycemic index analysis ahoy. Bah.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

An Excess of Glowing


Here we are at Blackrock for a week of family fun and revelry, and I cannot stop sweating.

I know. It's charming.

But seriously. After a year in the often frozen and almost always dry north country I had forgotten how damn humid it can get here. That's what does it. It's not the heat--yesterday the high was only 82 degrees--it's the fact that the sweat never evaporates.

It's really too bad that I'm not one of those people who glows or gently perspires, either. Nope. It's just sweating. And it's not helped any by my somewhat advanced state of pregnancy*, I'm sure.

I realized yesterday that while I may get hot at our new house (mostly because the sun tends to be quite strong), I didn't remember the last time I actually had beads of sweat on my face. And everywhere else, which means you're left feeling constantly damp and uncomfortable.

I suppose this means a return to my ancestral city of New Orleans is out of the question.

It's supposed to cool down somewhat after today, but the humidity isn't going anywhere and there's a chance of thunderstorms every day. More sweat.

I'll almost certainly be singing a very different and unhappy tune come April when there's still snow on the ground, but for now . . . go north, young woman. If only to dry out.

* I don't have the results from the gestational diabetes test yet. I'm not holding out on you, I just left town and don't know myself yet.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Saved by Strawberries


This morning I had to go to the hospital in the nearby larger village for a three-hour glucose test. This is a prenatal test for gestational diabetes, only required if you fail the one-hour test given at the doctor's office. And for the first time ever, I did fail it.

Way to go, little girl! Keep on differentiating yourself from your brothers! (But not this way, please.)

So I had to go into the hospital, where they took a blood sample after I fasted overnight to see what my fasting glucose level is, then gave me a gaggingly sweet orange-flavored bottle of grossness to drink, and then drew my blood once an hour for the next three hours.

Because it took almost an hour to do the registration and initial blood draw, that meant I had to sit at the hospital for four hours.

I brought a book. It was okay. I didn't pass out or throw up or anything. Not even a headache. And hey! I got to read for four hours! Practically a vacation!

But I could still think of a lot of other things I would have liked to have done this morning. And I bet A. could think of a lot of things he would have rather done than supervise our three sons and Cubby's friend who came over early for a day o' play.

So is an overnight fast and four hours at a hospital with multiple encounters with a needle a better alternative than four small boys careening around? Jury's out on that.

Anyway.

By the time I finally got jabbed for the last time and was free to leave, I was really, really ready to go. But just as I walked out the door of the hospital, I saw . . .

Strawberries?

Yup. There was a guy setting up a table right outside the entrance and putting out various fruits and vegetables for sale. I guess he's there every Wednesday at 11 a.m., and I just happened to walk out right as he was setting everything out.

Good thing, because there were only six quarts of strawberries, and I bought two of them. I suspect the remaining four didn't last long.

So the first thing I got to eat after fasting for 17 hours was a fresh strawberry. Yum.

I decided after that it would probably be wise to not ingest any more sugar, even in fruit form, so I dutifully ate the nuts I had brought to break my fast and brought the rest of the strawberries home to the kids.

I wouldn't say the strawberries made the whole trip worthwhile, but it made the end of it that much sweeter.

(I don't have the results of the test yet, so just cross your fingers for me, okay? Thanks.)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Practically Giddy with Freedom


Thus far, having Cubby and Charlie home for summer break hasn't been as bad as I'd feared. Maybe it's because I already had Jack home with me, so it's not as if I was going from child-free days to child-filled ones, but I really think they've done a pretty good job of entertaining themselves.

I mean, sure, we've had our moments (or days . . .) of constant squabbling and unpleasantness, but generally they've managed to find things to do.

They've added on to their fort under the spruce trees, built bases for their "guys" (action figures) out of cardboard boxes, made books*, peeled potatoes, made a smugglers' cave, picked and shelled peas . . .


A sight to warm this shelling-averse mother's heart.

Made stew out of the empty pea pods and day lilies . . .


These two lowly sous chefs did most of the prep, and then Master Chef Cubby stepped in and added some sugar and water. Yum.


They actually ate some of it, too. Good fiber, I guess.

Despite their general self-sufficiency, they do appreciate being taken somewhere on occasion. Yesterday the whole family went fishing and then to a playground. And today, A. took them to climb a mountain.

Mountain climbing is Charlie's particular interest. He informs us he's going to climb Mt. Everest when he grows up, so he needs to start practicing. It was he who requested to climb a mountain last year, which resulted in the ridiculous 7-mile trek with three small children and a lame old dog. A. decided that he would aim a little lower this time. Today's mountain hike is only a mile long. 

Mia was not invited. She can no longer climb even a minor mountain. Nor can I, in my current state of seven months pregnant and feeling it. So the two old invalid ladies stayed behind and let the robust young men tackle the tiny mountain.

Which means I am home alone. For at least four hours. 

WHATEVER SHALL I DO WITH MYSELF?

Well, first I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned up the kitchen and living room, because I'm one of those people who can't be truly relaxed if there's a mess in view. Then I started laundry. Then I went out to the garden and did some harvesting. Then I dealt with the produce I had harvested (washing lettuce, cooking kohlrabi greens, etc.). 

Anyone without children is probably reading this in horror and thinking, "THIS is what freedom looks like if you have children? I AM NEVER HAVING CHILDREN." But those of you with children know that anything you do without those children in attendance takes on a meditative quality when you can do it at your own pace and without interruption.

Next on my mental docket is a shower. And then I'm going to cull some toys from the overstuffed toy box, which is a task I can only do on the sly when my hoarder children aren't around to protest my throwing out that precious plastic piece of junk that came off of a juice box or something.

I also deliberately saved some coffee from this morning's pot, because I'm going to have a milkshake with my lunch. Oh yes, I am. And no one can stop me.

FREEDOM.

* Inspired by the book sale at the local library, Cubby decided they should sell their homemade books in front of the house. He spent a good long time setting up his display, making signs, putting on price tags, fashioning a money box, and so on, and then some lady actually stopped and gave them TEN DOLLARS for two of their books. Thankfully, it rained that night and ruined his business enterprise, or I'm sure he would have been hitting up every passing car to buy his creations, which I was not entirely okay with.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Not Winning Any Cake Wars Here


When I asked Charlie what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he was characteristically elaborate and imaginative.

"The cake should have little bits of whipped cream all around the sides, and strawberries in the whipped cream, and ice cream in a mountain in the middle."

After further questioning, I ascertained that the cake and the ice cream should be vanilla. Also that there should be frosting--vanilla, of course--but only around the edge. Underneath the little bits of whipped cream.

I feel sure someone with some kind of cake decorating skill could have made something lovely from those instructions. But this is me we're talking about here, so this is what he got.


Thankfully, the strawberries rescue it from a completely monochromatic and nuptial color scheme.

I'm not a proponent of non-chocolate cake and have never made a vanilla cake, so I had to find a recipe. I used this one from Smitten Kitchen--only a half recipe, which made plenty for us--mostly because it had buttermilk in it. I like buttermilk in baked goods. The cake reminded me in texture of pound cake, which is a good thing for me. Also, it was easy enough to make with all three boys "helping" me, which was another of Charlie's stipulations for his cake.

Strawberry season is over here, so I had to use the frozen strawberries I buy in big bags from the store for fruit shakes. Definitely not as good as fresh, but they did serve their decorative purpose. I fully intended to buy whipped cream in a can--something I actually have never purchased--to save myself the extra step of whipping cream to finish off the cake, but I couldn't find any at the gas station/dairy store I stopped at, so I bought the real cream and had A. whip it for me. Probably for the best in the end. 

Of course, it turned out that Charlie mostly ate the ice cream, whipped cream, and strawberries, because he doesn't really like cake all that much, but he seemed happy with my attempts to make his vision come to life.


Plus, he blew out all his candles on the first try. Success.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Five



Happy birthday to
the irrepressible Charlie.
A true original.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not the Takeaway I Was Hoping For


I'm currently reading The Long Winter to Cubby and Charlie as their bedtime book. There are many valuable lessons to be learned from this inspirational story of the Ingalls family enduring a harsh winter of deprivation: endurance, fortitude, courage, industry (keep that coffee mill grinding for the literal daily bread, girls!), and gratitude.

So what does Cubby say to me yesterday? "How come in The Long Winter, Ma doesn't ever yell like you do?"

Probably because her kids didn't do things like lock the bathroom door behind them with poop in the toilet so no one could get in to flush it until the key was found. And not just because they didn't even have a bathroom.

She had four girls who were seen and not heard, and Pa would take a belt to them if they disobeyed their mother. Does that sound good to you, Cubby? No? Then be thankful for the yelling.

That's not what I said, but it's what I thought. What I said was, "Just because it's not in the book doesn't mean she didn't do it."

Though she did probably yell less than I do.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

All the Comforts of the Smugglers' Cave


Cubby burst in the front door yesterday, followed by his two minions, and asked me if they could use their jackets for the floor of their smugglers' cave.

Say what?

"What smugglers' cave?" I had to ask.

"The one we made under the picnic table," he replied.

"And what are you smuggling?"

"Peas from the garden. So can we use the jackets?"

"Sure."

"YAAAAAY!"


The wily smugglers in their camouflaged cave. With a padded floor.

Monday, July 10, 2017

More Fat, More Better


It's kind of a running joke with A. and me that I'm famous for my potatoes. Whenever one of his friends would eat with us, that friend would inevitably ask how I made the potatoes. It didn't matter if they were roasted or mashed or whatever, the potatoes were always the best thing in any dinner I prepared.

I joke that it's because they're cooked with such love, because I myself really love potatoes. What I usually told his friends was that they were so good because we grew them ourselves, so they were really fresh. That's partially true, but I think what it really comes down to with potatoes is salt and fat. To make really good potatoes, you always need more of both than you think.

I have come to discover that adding fat to almost anything will make it better.

Tomato sauce for pasta is good. Tomato sauce with cream or bacon is better.

Yellow curry is good. Yellow curry with heavy cream is better.

Corn chowder is good. Corn chowder with sour cream is better.

And I can now add another to my list: Stir fry is good. Stir fry with a peanut sauce is better.

The peanut sauce I made to go along with our meatball lettuce wraps was not universally beloved by my family. In fact, I was the only one who really liked it, so I had a lot left over.

I decided to make stir fry last night to use up some of the carrots, kohlrabi, greens, and snap peas coming out of the garden, and to use up the rest of the peanut sauce.

YUM.

My standard stir fry sauce is soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and a little sugar. Those things are all in the peanut sauce, too, but the addition of the peanut butter really makes the sauce just that much better. Tahini would probably work as well.

The only member of the family that didn't eat the peanut sauce this time was Charlie. Of course. But everyone else happily consumed the previously unloved peanut sauce.

Gotta have that fat. It makes everything better.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

They're in the Army Now


You thought I was kidding about Cubby and Charlie peeling potatoes for me, didn't you?


I was not.

We just won't talk about the incredible mess of potato peelings that had to be cleaned from every surface within a two-foot radius by the time they were done . . .

Friday, July 7, 2017

Setting the Record Straight


A comment my mother made recently about my kids never eating Twinkies or Mountain Dew made me think: I come off as a totally insufferable food snob, don't I?

I do. I know it.

Though there is no denying that I spend a lot of time and effort growing, prepping, and cooking the best foods I can, I also can't pretend that that's all we eat, all the time. It's mostly all we eat, but it's also just what I'm most likely to post about. Because the yogurt cake* I made on Wednesday with tiny wild strawberries and a second cutting of rhubarb from the garden is much more interesting than the fact that I bought some kind of Thin Mint ice cream sandwiches at the grocery store yesterday.

When we drive to Blackrock, I do pack carrot sticks and sandwiches made with homemade bread, but I also buy Extra-Crunchy Cheetos at the gas station to eat in the car.

I buy tater tots sometimes, because they're good. (Though not, interestingly, much of a time saver. I can peel and cook potatoes in the time tater tots take in the oven.)

I have on occasion eaten more than one Snickers ice cream bar in a sitting.

I have never purchased raw or organic milk.

We buy ice cream cones at the local ice cream place with some regularity.

I have seen in various places the "80/20 rule" of eating, which means that 80% of your diet should be whole, healthy foods, and the remaining 20% can be, well, the other stuff. We probably are more around 90/10, but I think 80/20 is a pretty good goal.

I have no real reason for explaining all of this, except that I would hate to portray an unrealistic portrait of what is, in the end, a real life behind the small portion that I share here. And real life sometimes includes tater tots.

*The yogurt cake was really good, though. And easy to make if you're not spending stupid amounts of time searching for teeny wild strawberries.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Kid Cookery


I don't cook with my kids. For them, all the time. But with them? Nope. The reason for this, as anyone with children will tell you, is that involving children in any task increases the time and patience required by at least two times that required by an adult performing the same task alone.

But Cubby in particular has always had a great interest in anything to do with growing and preparing food. He's already got the gardening thing mostly down, so the next logical step is teaching him to prepare the food he grows. He's been asking lately to help me in the kitchen. Unfortunately, his requests usually come at the crunch time of dinner prep, when I'm doing five things at once and am minutes away from actually getting food on the table.

So I say no. And then I feel bad.

I do want him--and all my children--to know how to cook. It's an essential life skill, to say the least, and one that is obviously very important to me. It's just getting up the energy to deal with two children in the kitchen is sometimes harder than it should be.

There is also the point that I must find a time they can help me when Jack isn't around, because Cubby and Charlie are quite enough to be instructing and managing. I do not need a volatile two-year-old thrown into that mix with knives and raw meat.

The perfect moment came today when I was summoning my willpower to get up during Jack's nap and do some dinner prep. My plan had been to make pork meatballs and peanut sauce for lettuce wraps. I have insane quantities of butterhead lettuce coming out of the garden at the moment, and I figured if I can convince the kids that lettuce wraps are just like tacos (except for the fact that they're green and, you know, vegetable matter), I could get through a couple of heads in one meal.

I decided to make the meatballs because I only have ground pork at the moment, and I thought it would be more palatable to them in meatball form. Not to mention much less messy to eat.

While I was contemplating the making of the meatballs and peanut sauce, Charlie and Cubby came inside and commenced to sprawling around in the living room in the universal pose of bored children everywhere.

So I asked them if they wanted to help me make meatballs.

Of course they did.

They watched me mince up some green shallots--a couple green shoots of the shallot plants in the garden, which was my substitution for green onions-- and add all the ingredients (all of which I totally made up with no recipe) to the bowl with the pork as I explained about binding meat together with bread crumbs and eggs. They attempted and failed to crush the garlic in the garlic press. They smelled the soy sauce and ginger powder I added to the mixture, Cubby with relish, Charlie with distaste. Predictably.

And then they got to squish raw meat with their hands. Rad.

They did fairly well rolling the meatballs, although I had a hard time keeping them from smearing raw pork filth all over as they reached into the bowl together and over each other to put the meatballs on the baking pan.

After all the meatballs were made--and after they washed their hands very, very thoroughly--they helped me make the peanut sauce. I've never made peanut sauce before myself, so I used this recipe. They liked helping me mix it together, though neither of them liked the sauce after it was done. It's a little heavier on the soy sauce than I think it should be, but it will be good with the pork, anyway.

And then dinner was mostly done. I got my prep work done, they got to be entertained for ten minutes, and I checked off that guilt-box of cooking with them. For now.

Maybe tomorrow they'll get to peel potatoes.

Be careful what you wish for, kids.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One Reason Among Many I Love Having a Garden


Yesterday I went into the vegetable garden to water some volunteer tomato plants we had recently transplanted to a better spot, and a couple of basil seedlings that I FIIIIIINALLY got in the ground. While I was out there, I thinned a few carrots and also yanked a couple of kohlrabi plants that were starting to bulb but were too close together.

Cubby had come with me to inspect his own tomato plant, and when he saw the tiny carrots and junior kohlrabi* I was holding, he asked, "Can I have those so we can have a feast in our fort?"

Well, I guess if you want to bring fresh vegetables into your hideaway under the spruce trees and I won't be seeing you for many minutes while you also consume the best possible vitamins and minerals money can't buy, it's all right with me. Twist my arm.

I could have made their feast complete by letting them harvest some of the peas that are almost ready, but I'll save that exciting treat for another day.

You want kids to eat their vegetables? Let them loose in a vegetable garden. Works every time.

* I did save one kohlrabi for myself--over Cubby's objections--because man, I do love fresh kohlrabi. And I'm treating the leaves of the kohlrabi the same as the radish greens: clean them and cook them immediately. Even those few plants I pulled yielded a couple of servings of cooked greens to go with my eggs tomorrow. Bonus.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

An Alcoholic Raincheck


I'm not much of a drinker. (Um, many posts to the contrary. Cough.) I don't stock bottles of wine to drink with dinner, or beer for those lazy evenings that are so frequent with small children around.

Snort. (Anyway, I very much dislike beer.)

But I do love my cocktails. I love to try different combinations. I love to incorporate things I've made into them, to create something that could never be purchased at a fancy bar, even if I had access to such a place.

I just really like sitting down with an icy cocktail topped off with seltzer and drinking. Drinking one, anyway. Okay, so it's usually a double, but still only one.

Alas, even that one is unwise when I'm in the middle of one of these frequent pregnancies of mine.

Most of the time I don't even care. As I said, not a big drinker. But there are times. Times like the Fourth of July, when a gin and tonic seems like the perfect way to celebrate a holiday and a long summer day.

Hello, Fourth of July! I will not be celebrating you with a gin and tonic this year.

But next year . . . by the Fourth of July next year, I should be recovered enough from Baby #4--meaning not so punch drunk from exhaustion that ingesting alcohol seems superfluous--that I can toast Our Great Country with gin.

God bless America. And not being pregnant. Someday.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Stalking the Wild Strawberry


One of my great interests and joys in life is foraging for food that tastes just as good as--or better than-- anything that can be purchased, but that is, of course, free. Free is what foraging is all about, after all.

One of the best high-value forageable foods is berries. Here in the north, there are wild red raspberries and blackberries, which I've been impatiently waiting for. We're still a few weeks from ripe raspberries, I think, but this weekend A. casually mentioned that the kids had found wild strawberries in the grass by the house.

HOLD UP. Wild strawberries? SHOW ME IMMEDIATELY.

I've had a great desire to try a wild strawberry for some years. I've read about them in various books, but I had no idea they grew here. At Blackrock, there was a plant that grew something that looked like a strawberry, but wasn't. A. called them mock strawberries. He informed me that it's easy to tell them from the real wild strawberries. The mock berries hold the fruits straight up on the stalk, whereas the real strawberries bend towards the ground on the stalk.

I didn't verify this information, but since I have to assume he'd be loathe to poison his pregnant wife, I took his word for it and went out to pick some bendy wild strawberries.

Unfortunately, it had rained that morning, so the berries were sort of waterlogged. This dilutes their flavor, which I wasn't blown away by. They definitely tasted like strawberries, but they didn't have the intensity of flavor I was hoping for. This is true of any berry after it rains. It's best to pick them on hot, sunny days.

Nonetheless, I continued to pick them. And dude, that is definitely a commitment. Wild strawberries are TINY. They're about the size of a wild raspberry, and they look kind of like them too. That familiar, almost heart-shaped strawberry shape with the tapered bottom is not what wild strawberries look like. And unlike raspberries, they don't grow clustered on canes that are conveniently up off the ground. They grow spread out and low down to the ground, and many of them were covered by long grass.

Of course, they also don't have thorns, so there is that in their favor.

In the end, I got about a quarter-cup of strawberries after picking for 15 minutes.


Immediately after taking this photo, I covered these eensy weensy berries in sugar and heavy cream, as is their God-given destiny.

The children of course wanted some strawberries, too, so I sent them out to get their own. I figure they're lower to the ground than I am; it's easier for them to pick strawberries, right?

Right. Plus, after all the effort, I didn't feel like sharing.

I was excited to finally try wild strawberries, but I think I'll stick to buying quarts of tame ones at the Amish farm. All of a sudden $3.50 a quart seems like a very fair price. 

But when the red raspberries get ripe? Then the foraging is on for real.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Let the Easy Livin' Commence

Okay! School has been successfully concluded*, as has the family visit. We've taken the first of the summer road trips to Blackrock and returned yesterday. I've done the accumulated laundry, started some bread, and noted the weedy state of the garden, but haven't yet taken any steps to correct it.

Now we just sit back and cruise through summer vacation. Well, as much as three small boys, constant weeds, cooking, and laundry, and more road trips will allow us to cruise, anyway.

Happy summer, my lovelies! Doing anything fun?

* Complete with Class Leadership Awards for both Cubby and Charlie. A., whose own grammar school days featured more deficiency reports than awards, still can't get over the fact that he has children with school behavior so exemplary that they receive certificates in recognition of that fact. I guess that means I can take all the credit, right?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Embracing Low Standards


I never buy cereal. Never. Ever.

It's not that I don't like it. In fact, I like it quite a bit. So do my children. It's more that they (and I) will eat great quantities of it and still be hungry an hour later.

What a waste of money. And time, because then I have to make more food for them.

But we have guests arriving today, and I thought possibly I should have something in the kitchen that could just be opened and eaten without any prior preparation.

(This, by the way, is A.'s fondest and most-unattainable dream: Finding something in the kitchen he can just put in his mouth.)

So I bought some Cheerios.

They've been sitting in the pantry all week, but I remembered them when I realized I had bananas, blueberries, and fresh strawberries we found at an Amish farm yesterday, but sadly no yogurt. What else could I do with those fruits for breakfast?

OH, I KNOW.

Hey, kids! Big treat for breakfast this morning! Cheerios with your choice of fruit, WHEE!!!

"YAY!" said Cubby.

" YAY!" said Charlie. "This will be my first time eating Cheerios at home."

I know, son, I know. You can tell your future therapist all about your deprived childhood.

They each had two bowls.


This could be an advertisement for Cheerios, except that I started out by saying they were a waste of money, so I don't think General Mills will be contacting me for an affiliate deal anytime soon.

Speaking of those guests, we're expecting my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. Finding room for three more people to sleep in this two-bedroom house is significantly more difficult than at eight-bedroom Blackrock.

No worries, though. I've got it covered. As long as guests are willing to sleep on the floor of a kids' bedroom with stacked-up bed frames.


Eat your heart out, Pinterest people.

And on a fold-out couch in the downstairs playroom that has no door to shut out the noise of three small children and two adults that wake up way too early.


I will at least clear out a few stuffed animals and a few dozen building pieces. Because I am ever the gracious hostess.

And as long as my kids can manage to all camp out in the laundry room for three nights and actually sleep.


Really, who wouldn't find this relaxing and conducive to deep slumber?

Eh. Sleep's overrated. Bring on the good times, family-style.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Journey to Find Roots (and Soda)


My dad discovered shortly after we moved here to the Canadian border that his great-grandfather actually immigrated to the U.S. from a community in Quebec that's only about 40 minutes from our house. We found this a funny coincidence, and A., who is more into family history than I am (probably because he actually knows all of his family history, as his family on both sides has lived in the same place for hundreds of years) wanted to go take a look at the place.

So we went on Saturday.

It was a very spontaneous trip. We didn't even leave until after Jack woke up from his nap at 3 p.m. We did find my ancestral village. It's actually pretty trashy and creepy, and I think A. said it best when he remarked that it was a good thing my ancestors left. We found the cemetery with some gravestones of people with the family name, although I'm not sure exactly how they're related to me.


Charlie is not in this photo because he was sulking in the car after staging a really spectacular post-car-nap meltdown. He didn't miss much.

Up to this point, none of the children had been too impressed with our journey to find our roots. They were bored. And hot. 

So we went to the beach.


With ten square feet of sand and everything.

What we actually did was drive a few minutes to see the St. Lawrence River, and then stumble upon a public park with a small beach. Perfect. A. had mentioned before we left that we might go to the river, so I of course brought extra clothing for the children. Because any time you bring children into close proximity to water, you'd better have extra clothing.

Except I forgot Cubby's, so after we were done at the beach, he had to sit in the car in his T-shirt and underwear while I hung the Classy Flag of Drying Shorts out my car window on our way to a restaurant for dinner.

The restaurant we stopped at was one just on the Canadian side of the border very close to our house that's well known for their French fries. And, of course, poutine. Because that's what French fries are for around here: drowning in cheese curds and gravy.

I myself am not a fan of poutine--why sog up perfectly crispy French fries?--but I am a fan of French fries. Because this was our big day out, I even got a can of soda for everyone. Usually I'm totally Unfun and get the kids water or juice, or, if they're really lucky, one soda to share. Because does a two-year-old need 12 ounces of corn syrup? No. 

But this time they each got their own 7-Up. Based on the excitement this generated, you would have thought they'd won the lottery.

Turns out, it's just that easy to make lasting memories. When I asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was, they unanimously said the beach and the soda.

Sand + 7-Up=Good times, kid-style.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What Dad Really Wants for Father's Day


Actually, I have no idea what your dad wants for Father's Day. Not even sure what my own dad wanted for Father's Day.* But I know what A. wanted.

Biscuits: These.

Quality time with his scythe:


Cutting and stacking hay is where it's at for summer fun.

And Mass: Coming right up.

Happy Father's Day to A. He's not like any other dad I know, but he sure does do up this fatherhood gig in his own inimitable style.


Three cheers for Dad!

* What he got? A lame e-card and probably a phone call later. Celebrating in style as always, that's me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Green Kind of Morning


I had to take some drastic harvesting action in the garden this morning. The hot weather we're having has inspired the radishes and arugula to start bolting.

Despite the delightful imagery, bolting does not mean they're dashing madly from their earthbound prison. Instead it means that they send up a flower shoot and simultaneously get disgustingly bitter and inedible.

So. Got to harvest 'em before the bolting.

I had to pull out and throw away several unsalvageable radishes and a few arugula plants, but I was just in time to harvest most of it before inedibility.

So this morning I washed and spun dry a gigantic bowl of arugula, plus a smaller bowl of Bibb and green leaf lettuce for those in the family (ahem, Charlie) who don't care for arugula.

The radish roots were all pickled, and this time I blanched and froze the radish greens. I have found with all kinds of greens that they are definitely a feast or famine situation. It's very easy to get sick of them during their short season, and then miss them terribly when they're no longer available. I've had my fill of radish greens now, but come about October when I'm making my beloved vegetable soup and digging around for ingredients, I will be very happy to find that bag of radish greens in the freezer.

I just finished eating some leftover pasta for lunch into which I dumped the last of the previous batch of cleaned and stored arugula. I suspect the arugula is going to be finding its way into a lot of random things in the coming week. And then whatever is left will probably be blanched and frozen as well, for some yet-to-be-determined purpose.

Definitely no need to drive fifty miles for my five calories of leaves now. Mission accomplished, A.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Achieving Perfection


Today we scored with perfect weather. Perfect. For me, anyway. It's 65 degrees, sunny, high pressure, and a slight breeze. After days of low pressure, unseasonable heat*, clouds, and sometimes high winds on top of all of that, this is bliss.

I realize, however, that perfect weather is a highly subjective thing. My mother--a woman famous for wearing long underwear in Tucson, Arizona--almost certainly does not consider 65 degrees perfect, no matter how sunny it may be.

Which begs the question, my lovelies: What do you consider perfect weather?

* Apparently, 85 degrees is so hot for here that Charlie's T-ball game on Monday was almost canceled for fear the kids would suffer from the heat too much. My Arizona- and Florida-dwelling family members are no doubt rolling their eyes at that at this very moment.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Boy Lessons


It's so nice for Jack that he has two big brothers. I mean, who else would think to teach him to say "diarrhea," and then prompt him to say it again and again until Killjoy Mommy shut that particular hilarious game down.

He said it perfectly the first time, too. He's a natural at this boy stuff, apparently.

Heaven help me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Radish Wisdom for the Ages


I've never been able to get too excited about radishes. They're something I've always grown. I always plant them in the rows with the carrot seeds, because the radishes are ready way before the carrots, and pulling them out helps to space out the carrots. The efficiency of this appeals to me.

Also, I do like that radishes come up so fast. Radishes and arugula are always the first two things to eat out of my spring garden, which makes them somewhat exciting.

But only somewhat.

I could never really figure out a way to eat large quantities of radishes. I don't eat them straight, because I find them too peppery. They're fine in salad, but there really isn't a lot of lettuce yet when the radishes are ready. And anyway, that only uses up a few radishes.

But this year, I've cracked the radish code.

Pickle them.

Specifically, I pickle them using this recipe, but with about half a teaspoon of salt added. All I have to do is put all the ingredients in a wide-mouth pint jar, shake it up to dissolve the sugar and salt, then add in the sliced radishes. Sometimes I add in very thin carrot or cucumber sticks too. Whatever fills up the jar. Then they just sit for awhile.

The cucumbers and carrots are really good in the brine, but the radishes are excellent. The sugar tames the spiciness of the radishes and makes them taste just like slightly sweet pickles.


Plus, look how pretty. In pink, no less.

I can use the same brine for two batches before it gets too diluted and I need to make fresh brine.

The kids love them, and I really like having some kind of vegetable on hand that they can be counted on to eat every time. You know, for those times when we have a vegetable for dinner that they're really not okay with eating. Like radish greens.

Which brings me to the next discovery.

I was never able to deal satisfactorily with the secondary harvest of the radish tops. I would take off the greens and store them in the refrigerator. Then I would be uninspired to actually wash them and cook them, so they would invariably yellow and get thrown away in a few days.

What a waste.

This is my new plan for radish harvests. When I bring in the radishes, I dump them directly in the sink, all intact, and soak the dirt away. I usually have to drain and refill the sink a few times to get all the dirt off.


Swish, swish, drain, refill. Repeat as needed.

Then I twist off the roots, slice them up, and put them in the jar with the brine. Next, and this is key, I immediately cook the greens in a skillet with olive oil and salt. Sometimes garlic powder. If I don't have time to do this when I come in from harvesting, I'll just leave them in the water until I do have the time. 

It only takes a few minutes, and then I have cooked greens in the refrigerator rather than a bag of dirty leaves. Cooked greens never get a chance to go bad, both because they last longer, and also because they're so easy to throw into stuff--pasta sauce, stir-fry, bacon rice, or just plain with my eggs in the morning--that they get used up quickly.

And there you have it. Pickle the radishes, cook the greens immediately, and I will never again have a problem using up my radish abundance. Hooray.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Return of the Sheep


(I'm hoping at least one of you is close enough to my pop-music generation to start singing that title in your head to the tune of "Return of the Mack.")

A. has been inexorably moving towards getting some sheep for a month now. First he brought his electric net fencing up from Blackrock and used it to make a pen. Then he made a gate for the pen out of trees he cut in the woods. Then he bought some cattle panels to put around the sides of his trailer to make it safe for sheep transport. Then he got his trailer re-registered and inspected.

And then, this morning . . .


They're baa-ck. (Of course that was terrible. You expect anything less from me?)

He went to Vermont to buy five ram lambs. The white ones are a Romney-Texel cross, and the darker ones are a Dorset-Texel cross. (That's for those of you out there who know what those breeds are, and care. I must confess I am not one of those people.)

The sole purpose of these lambs is to eat grass all summer and then feed us all winter. We will not be overwintering animals in this arctic climate. A. originally thought he might sell some of the finished lambs at auction, but now he thinks he's just going to butcher all five of those. By himself, because I will be about 9 months pregnant with Child #4 and in no mood to be dealing with five carcasses.

Though I am not enthused about having sheep around again, I must admit these seem to be quite docile and quiet sheep, in direct contrast to my infamous nemesis, Bonnie the Cotswold. A. also reminded me that I should be thankful he only got rams. No one wants ram lambs around after they outgrow the cute lamb stage. Had he purchased any ewe rams, he would probably have been unable to bring himself to dispatch them in the fall, and then we would be right in the thick of sheep flocks again.

At the moment all five lambs are working away at the overgrown grass in their pen, unwittingly preparing themselves for their ultimate fate. And A. is a happy (if temporary) shepherd once again.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fringe Laundering


I have mostly come to terms with the fact that A. and I--and by extension, our family as a whole--will never be mainstream. In fact, we've pretty much consciously chosen not to be. I am different. I do different things. I love making cider vinegar or tallow or soap; I love foraging for wild food; I love the sight of laundry on a clothesline. I really dislike television, cell phones, buying things, and anything made of plastic.

So I know I'm not a typical American. But I think in the case of my current laundry habits, I'm not only not mainstream, I'm way on the fringe.

Okay, so I still use a modern washing machine (when I start doing laundry on a wash board, then I'll consider myself really 'round the bend). But you know what I don't use in that washing machine anymore? Laundry soap. Of any kind. Not even the homemade kind that I had been making and using for years.

The reason I stopped using it is because Ruth Goodman told me I didn't have to.

If you don't know who Ruth Goodman is (and I'm guessing most people don't), you can find her all over YouTube, and she's well worth looking up there. She's a British historian who specializes in actually trying out everything she can from every time period that interests her. She makes clothing, goes without bathing (instead using dry brushing daily), uses traditional cleaning methods, and on and on and on.

Her interests seem to be nearly limitless, and her enthusiasm completely endearing. She's been in numerous BBC shows in which she and other historians try building a castle in France, or living and working on an Edwardian farm, or a Tudor monastery farm, or a Victorian farm. Or whatever.

I love Ruth. She's just so charming in her own incredibly enthusiastic way.

She has also written a couple of books, which I have of course read. I think it was in the one about Tudor England where she mentioned that she no longer uses laundry soap on a regular basis, because it's really the agitation of the washing machine that gets dirt out.

Hold up. No soap? Like, at all? I was intrigued.

I have, of course, heard the oft-repeated advice to use less laundry detergent than specified by manufacturers. And the water here at our house now is very hard, which tends to lead to detergent build-up on clothes anyway. There was also the point that if I wasn't using it, I didn't need to make it.

So I stopped using it. I didn't tell A. at first, because I knew he would be skeptical and I wanted to try it first to see if it worked.

It did.

Now, this does require using more hot water than would be feasible at Blackrock, but we have hot water here. I actually mostly use warm water, but I do use hot for some loads. After a few weeks of never using laundry soap of any kind, I confessed to A. He immediately sniffed his t-shirt and said, "Even my clothes?"

Yup. Even his. Nothing smelled, nothing looked bad, nothing, in fact, seemed wrong with it at all. And that's been my laundry routine now for at least the past six months.

I do have a bottle of some kind of fragrance-free liquid detergent that I occasionally use for greasy kitchen cloths and so on, because grease does require some soap to be lifted off of fabric. I also use a stain-remover for the perennially grass-stained knees of Cubby's baseball pants. But other than that, just water.

This might not work if I had professional clothing to worry about--A.'s court clothes always seemed to have ring around the collar or grease stains on them somewhere--but our dressiest clothing now is khaki pants, so that's not a great concern of mine.

Now, I am well aware that most people are not going to be going laundry-detergent-free anytime soon, which is of course fine. But it's definitely an option. You know, if you want to jump out of the mainstream and into the uncharted waters of fringe laundering. Or something.

Monday, June 5, 2017

They Got Me, But Good


Yesterday I spent about half an hour in the garden. I planted cucumbers, dill, and filet beans, helped Cubby plant his tomato plant and lettuce plant that he brought home from a field trip to a children's museum, did a little bit of weeding, and got DEVOURED by bugs.

Dammit.

After I came in from the garden I went straight to the kitchen to get to work on rooster stew--Ms. Rita comes through with another rooster, hooray!--and so it wasn't until quite a bit later that I went in to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

I had little spots of dried blood all over my chest, neck, and ears. This is the signature of the wretched black fly. It's very disconcerting to inexplicably see blood all over your skin. You don't even feel them biting, so that blood is the first indication of an attack.

The bites don't actually start to itch until the next day, which would be today. And today I have to drive to a city for a 20-week ultrasound*, which means I will be appearing in public with red, scabby welts all over my neck and chest. Too bad it's not winter. Today would be an excellent day for a turtleneck.

Except NOT not too bad it's winter, because it's supposed to rain all day today, and in winter that would mean four hours of driving in the snow.

Then again, if it was winter, I wouldn't be covered in scabby bug bites.

Anyway.

Off I go, bug bites and all like a real northwoods bumpkin, for my big city adventure. Yee haw.

* FYI if you're thinking of going rural: You may have to drive 170 miles round trip to a big medical center for anything other than routine office visits or an ER. At least, I do. Whee.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Small (and Temporary) Triumph


On Wednesday I decided I'd better get photographic evidence of that rarest of sightings: The completely clean playroom.


You'll probably see a Yeti before you see this again.

Okay, so it's not exactly a Pinterest-staged playroom. You don't see any whimsical alphabet wall hangings or carefully placed and aesthetically pleasing wooden toys. But you know what you also don't see? A confetti of cut paper on the floor, multiple "houses" and "bases" made out of cut and taped-together cardboard, block castles guarded by Storm Trooper action figures, and some straight-up trash. All those bits of tape and paper and random pieces of plastic wrap from when Cubby made a "video game" and . . . I don't even know. I just threw it away.

I did not, however, throw away the cardboard creations. Those  I stashed in the back of their closet so I can't be accused of throwing them away should they suddenly demand the fate of those artistic creations. And if they don't ask? Then I'll throw them away.

Anyway.

I got it all cleaned up and vacuumed and dusted and everything.


Pretty sure Jack's giving a fist pump for Mom here.

Twenty minutes later, Cubby and Charlie got home from school and immediately began to trash the joint again, with Jack's able assistance.


Oh well. At least they're cute.