Thursday, August 20, 2015

Changing of the Season

Whoa! I feel cold in the bakery this morning! I guess it isn't really cold, but 60's feel different than 80's. Reminds me that fall is my favorite season and surely she making ready for her journey to Alpine.

Maggie drove away yesterday after tearful hugs and prayers of blessing. My tears! We will see her again for a few hours on Friday, getting her installed in the dorm. We will get Patrick situated and then come back home to a house that is steadily emptying out.

I was a little testy with Patrick at one point yesterday afternoon, then realized I was sad, and needed to cry. So I did. And ran errands on my bike and sought comfort in a chili relleno burrito made by the nice lady at El Patio. Yes, it was comforting! I told myself that feelings of grief are not shameful, but rather lovely and natural considering the sweet relationship I have with my kids.

Patrick and I sat outside for our dinner last night and talked about important things. We watched the chickens scratch for bugs and eat grass. Little girls, not so little any more, were all out clothes shopping in El Paso, using hard earned funds, seeking their bargains. Thomas was at his apt, probably enjoying tv or the computer. The house does not feel sad at all knowing that former inhabitants are now off and about, growing up. It must be used to that pattern, as the Turners, who built the place had their own blended family with five kids who all went their different directions, too. The house knows that kids come back for holidays and family celebrations, and as the years pass bring partners and babies and new stories to share.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

It is August. Past mid-August, and time to say farewell to Maggie and Patrick. We head to Austin as soon as the bakery closes Thursday evening. Actually, we drive to Mom and Daddy's, camp out all over their house, eat a great big, Daddy breakfast, then go to install the two. One in his second year on the campus of University of Texas. The other a few miles south, St. Edwards University.

I am so proud of these kids. They worked so hard, each getting tons of academic awards and grants making it possible for them to get accepted to wonderful universities. Their running discipline has taught them endurance that pays off in many areas. Their work helping on the farm, volunteering here around Alpine, all the meaningful relationships, have been excellent means to prepare them for this next step in their journey.

To tell you the truth, my worries about how they will adapt are next to nothing.

That said, sending off these children who are growing into adult friends makes my heart tender. Ouch. Right about the time we grow able to converse about meaningful things, we are able to understand and appreciate each others differences, off they go. And I lose friends, not to mention amazing help!

I remember the last scene in Nanny McPhee, one of our favorite kids movies. Saying farewell is a tender thing indeed.

How will we manage, our new family dynamic? Rose and Nora and myself, with Thomas coming over several times a week for dinner and dishwasher duty in the bakery? I think we will manage just fine, and probably the girls and I will move into a lovely new way, more time to enjoy one another, less laundry, fewer shoes scattered around the house.

Holidays will become more and more precious as college kids come home and share stories and new philosophies and grand ideas and failures. And we will sit around the table and talk and talk and revel in the truth that family, even when scattered, is still family. We know each others stories, regrets and rewards and love each other deeply.

And just think! Someday it will be just me, and think of how much more time I will have for writing! (I realized a few months ago that my margin had been eaten up, my hours were filled up to beyond normal human capacity. The things that give me joy, like solitary hikes, gardening, writing, were having to be shoved to the side because I was overinvolved. All good stuff. Church leadership, work, friends, kids. I have taken up extra jobs. The bakery continues. I am so thankful that I have options and control over my life. I let go the leadership positions, some of the social stuff, sold the car, ride to shop and odd jobs on my bike, have taken up meditation, and am getting more rest. I am feeling better than I have in a very long time. Somehow that makes me think that writing will happen more naturally because it is definitely a sign of mental health and balance for me. I love the discipline that my monthly food column offers. It is fun developing seasonal recipes and rooting for the local food movement. But there is something about this blog community that keeps me grounded. You guys who read so loyally are amazing. The encouragement you give me is priceless. Thank you!!! More on the journey soon... )


Gardens in May are bright and tender and full of promise. June and July, the picture of vibrant fertility. August rolls around a bit tired, somewhat bedraggled, just about played out around the edges as the heat and the squash bugs take their toll.


The tomatoes and peppers just keep on coming. Ratty green bean vines and squash vines get pulled and manure and straw are spread. Once again a beautiful canvas, ready for garden artists to exercise faith again, trusting that cooler weather awaits and with that swiss chard, spinach, ruffly green and pink lettuces, giant kale and turnips and carrots.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Two days ago we found the first ripening figs on the trees in the backyard.

Each day we go out, seeking little gifts.

If we are patient and careful, we are generally rewarded with treasure, bites of heaven, rich, nutty, decadent proof that we are loved.

We might have to peer under leaves and behind branches. But sure enough, this time of year means quite a few contemplative moments as we steal away into the backyard, seeking a tasty treat.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Trying to start somewhere...

How do I return to blogging when it has been thousands of miles since my last post? Filled with highs, lows, delightful moments, dark, sad gut-wrenching grief moments, garden stuff, recipes, road trips, supernatural provisions, mile posts, celebrations, new recipes, and more?


Today is Thursday. That means we reached peak bakery output in our week. Monday I had some bakery orders for Girl Scouts. Pita bread for thirty and piles of hi fiber, tasty, seedy banana muffins for the same gals who headed out to camp and kayak and hike. Then Tuesday, working on inventory and making ingredient orders, shuffling papers, tending to accounting. Bill paying. Kids' college financial aid loose ends, and unbelievably big piles of ridiculous things I have to sign and send for this and that. Then I come up with a loose list of what I plan to sell on Thursday. Wednesday I scrub and clean and clear away unfinished paperwork and begin to mill. I make cookie dough and stick in the fridge to ripen. I mill more grains with my stone burr mill from Meadows Mills in N. Wilkesboro, NC and then mix warm whole grain flour with coconut oil, yogurt and iced water to form a tender pie crust for fifty veggie tarts.

Three twenty eight am comes early for this night owl. I tried to go to sleep at 8:45, probably drifted off by 9:30pm.

Thank God for ritual. The alarm goes off. I don't think. If I think, I will go back to sleep for another two hours because that would be logical. I get up anyway, shuffle directly into the kitchen. Put on the kettle. Turn on the bakery lights and pull out gallons of local raw milk to warm. Take the french press coffee pot, fill with water and shuffle out to garden to pour the watery old grounds onto whichever plant cries out to me the loudest.

This morning it was the tomato plant in the front bed, on the side by the mailbox.

By the time I have shuffled through those steps, the kettle begins to whistle and the milk is warmed. I grind the coffee beans, pour the water and let the coffee steep while I take warmed milk into the bakery, and begin to perform alchemy.

I have three giant mixing bowls that will occupy several gallons of mixture. Summer sales are down as customers are traveling, and distracted and out and about. So instead of larger mix, I place two pans filled with twelve cups each of warmed milk from Z-Bar Ranch into two bowls. Add a couple of cups of Fain's raw honey to each. A couple of tablespoons of yeast. Into the silver bowl I add around 18 cups of spelt flour. Into the white plastic bowl with a crack I add 16 cups of golden wheat flour. Into the other white plastic bowl I pour 7 1/2 cups warmed water, add yeast and 8 cups of the golden wheat flour to begin the sponge for the italian peasant bread.

By this time, the coffee is fully steeped, and while I am still not having to think or really be awake, I do know it is time to press and pour myself a very large cup of coffee, leaving plenty of room for heavy whipping cream. By now, 3:47 am.

I beat the sponge for the italian bread fifteen minutes or so. The third pan of milk should be warmed by now, ready to be transformed into Grainier Seedier Milk and Honey bread sponge.

At this point, the music is cranking. Dixie Chick station on Pandora.

For some reason, every song seems to make me sad. What the heck? I was hoping for energetic, girl band power music! But there are a couple of songs that really tap me into grief mode.

So I cry. And keep on working. I have a bowl of old grain that needs to be tossed to the chickens, so I walk outside into the dark, pre-dawn backyard, and marvel for a moment at the waning moon, already high in the velvety black sky. I think about the outing Thomas and I made on Tuesday evening. I really wanted to go, then, right before time to drive to Marfa, I told Thomas I was just too tired to head out. He let me know he had his heart set on our excursion, so I went with him, out to the truck to make the 26 mile drive west.

We didn't really know where we were going, but the event had been advertised. A Japanese movie made in 1953. Ugetsu. Subtitled. Free.

We get to the location. Find a big yard with a barn door open. We hear sounds of people milling around. I feel kind of strange and foreign. We don't know a soul. We pick a couple of plastic chairs and I notice an acquaintance who walked in. Ahh. Relief!

The movie is set in 17th century, civil war torn Japan. I find myself delighted to recognize many Japanese words and understand them! The fable is a story of two families who get caught up in the ambitious search for fame and riches, one man wishing to become rich as a potter, the other as a soldier. At the onset of the story, there is a prophetic word given, suggesting that the search for said riches would bring them all to ruin. The sassy wives try to encourage the husbands to live a simple life, but the men are hell-bent on the path to success.

I find that even though the movie is dated, filmed over sixty years ago, Thomas and I are fully engaged in the story. As it progresses, we find ourselves in the middle of a Japanese fairy tale, with the men reeling in their moment of glory, seemingly achieving all they ever desired, with fame and glory and doting women and all. Of course they have a few twinges as they remember their wives and the other life, but assume they will have plenty of time to make all things right.

Meanwhile, we witness scenes where the wives suffer terribly for the foolhardy choices of their husbands. It is painful to watch.

As the story comes to an end, well, I guess most of you will probably never watch an esoteric Japanese film from the 50's, so perhaps this won't spoil things for you too much....Well, the one husband, who becomes a glorious soldier, finds his abandoned wife in a brothel, broken and hard. They somehow manage to painfully reconcile, and return to their farm and the day dreamer finds purpose and joy in working beside his wife. The other husband manages to barely escape a ghost lover who wishes to take him to her kingdom in the other realm, and finds his way back home, where he is greeted by the ghost of his wife who was murdered by desperate soldiers. He repents and finds his purpose in his work and caring for his son.

And we are left to see that some lessons just aren't learned the easy way.

That pain and suffering are most often the only path to enlightenment. Because we are not quick to listen to advice? Because we forget to think of others?

The movie left me a bit stunned and pensive.

And I felt so grateful to share that experience with Thomas! And enjoyed pondering many things while I continued the baking.

After the italian comes the ancient seedy. Then the Spelt Almond Raisin Rye. While the dough mixes and yeast rises I prepare brownie mixes and pancake mixes. Then make a giant pan of almond raisin granola. I boil the syrup, just to the right point, add vanilla, and mix with oats and cinnamon. The aromas are overwhelming!

And so the day continues, the sun rises at some point, the flour and water and yeast turn into bouncy balls of dough, cut out and weighed, kneaded into loaves or rolled into pizza crusts. The oven whines, the heat builds, and steam and amazing smells fill the neighborhood. I send out my email list to customers and post the menu on facebook.

At ten thirty or so in the morning I pause to eat lunch. The kids are up. The girls get ready to go to work. I wash a big pile of pots.

By twelve thirty the bread is all baked, all 75 loaves or so. I get the baby quiches going, make pound cakes and cookies and a giant jar of green tea for me, served over ice. The rain begins to fall and I run outside to catch buckets of water to dump into the fish pond. The rain falls so furiously I get completely soaked! Thank goodness this is right before shower time. I think I collect fifty gallons of water in the five gallon buckets before my break comes to an end.

Thank God for gully washers!! My garden won't need to be watered today!

Customers pop in early and by three thirty I have a steady stream. All are my friends. How lucky am I? They are happy and grateful to pick up their bread and other good stuff. I am exhausted and happy and grateful for my job.

So there you go.

I want to write. I truly do. But I don't know where to begin...

So perhaps if I just start where I am that will help prime the pump. I miss you guys.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Tired of flowers yet?

After spring break I grabbed my priest and we ran down to the park for a day trip. We were ridiculous, oohing and aahing all the way down. Unfortunately, I mean, fortunately, cell service is better than it used to be, and a parishioner was able to reach our priest with a legitimate need which cut our trip short. Instead of a long hike all the way up Lost Mine Trail to meditate, and a sit in the Hot Springs and a peaceful prayer in Boquillas Canyon, we hiked up midway the trail and had a picnic on a saddle point up in the mountains, ate our feast and then drove back to Alpine.

I only felt a twinge of selfishness, wishing that duty didn't call, but thankful for a priest who cared enough about the truly important things that matter.

I was so thankful to share with her a bit of my sanctuary.

A week later, friends from North Carolina who were friends way back in New Jersey came to visit. So what do we do? Load up all the kids, the bathing suits, the picnic, my parents and drive like maniacs down to Big Bend for picnic and swim in the Rio Grande time and sit and play in the rocks and take pictures of flowers and act like tourist time! It was spectacular. We were amazed to see even MORE wildflowers in this desert heaven of ours. While the kids climbed up the sand hill and cavorted in the Rio I meditated quietly, stacking little river rocks into statues and bridges and buildings, managing to set all my thoughts to the side. The sun baked our skin and the sand felt gritty and real and the sound of kids laughing in the river was more intoxicating than any glass of champagne.

We bragged and told stories of our favorite times in the Hot Springs, grabbed our towels and hiked the half a mile or so to the ruins that used to be a thriving health spa run by Mr and Mrs. Langford pre-Pancho Villa. One has to pass the ruins of an old Post Office and store, a few palm trees, some old cabins made of adobe. And then, with a creek on one side and canyon walls on the other, a cane brake to the right, if you are lucky you will notice the petroglyphs, rusty red, thousands of years old, leaving us all to wonder and guess the meaning of the ancient graffiti.

Another bend, past some illegal contraband, I mean trinkets, left by enterprising neighbors from across the knee high river, you will see a foundation made of cement, filled with clear, hot water and sand and probably half a dozen people or more, sitting in 105 degree water up to their chest, watching the cold Rio flow to the side, and rocks and riffles and bats and a brilliant starry sky.

I was so happy to relax in my favorite spa, I strolled right in, cut offs and tshirt, and sat down in the bath. And jumped right up, curse words flying out of my mouth. Can you guess why?

My brand new smart phone, which I recently bought to replace my other broken smart phone, was in my back pocket.

For a few hours I was quite disappointed.

Then all of a sudden I realized I had been given a gift! No texting, no easy email checking, no messages to urgently return. And our friends delighted in the magic and we were so happy to share.

My mom, a professional artist, had a camera glitch. Which meant a trip to the national park in a historical wildflower display with no photos!

Darn. She had to come back a few days later and darn, I had to take the day off to drive down and chauffeur her as she took pictures for painting research.

How much can a person exclaim over wild flowers? For as far as the eye could see we saw blankets of blues and yellows and purples and pinks and yellows and whites and lavenders and more.

Over and over again I felt so blessed. So rich. So thankful to share this moment with my mom. So aware that my life is good.

Old timers are saying that it is the best wild flower display they have seen in their lives.

All those seeds, tucked in the sand and rocks and cactus. Waiting. Resting. Just being.

And then the rains came. All at the right time. And the temperatures were just right. And all of a sudden, there is a feast, an impressionistic wonder, a banquet. And we were able to enjoy it because we didn't do something else, but instead decided to go for delight.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Seize the Day

The girls and I worked most of our spring break. They ran and studied. I worked a couple of moonlight jobs and the bakery. Nora went on a trip with one of her BFF's. You already know how divine my silent retreat was, down in Big Bend National Park. Saturday morning chores not quite done, we loaded up the camp stove, some amazing food, sleeping bags and a full tank of gas and headed toward our mini vacation. Most of the drive Maggie and I exclaimed, over and over and over again about the breath-taking wildflower display.

It must have been getting ridiculous, as Rose rolled her eyes at our exuberant outbursts every five miles along the road, sighing, ooh and aahing over yet another patchwork quilt of wildflowers blanketing the desert floor.

Pinks, purples, oranges, whites, yellows, blues and reds. Silvery green, blue green. Yellow green. Mountains that usually rise up tan and khaki were washed in burgundy and green. Blue skies were loaded with massive clouds, whirling and floating, casting shadows on the hills in the distance. Landmarks as familiar to us as our own backyard, after a lifetime of camping trips to Big Bend, were now strange and new. Exotic and foreign, these desert pavement stretches now covered in colorful vegetation.

We drove down Old Maverick Road, a bit past the Ernst Tinaja turnoff. Roads were fairly rough, but the old pickup bounced along with no effort at all. Instead of 70's music, we sang along with all the contemporary pop artists. As we approached our camp site, Maggie exclaimed that it looked like we were in a scene from Lord of the Rings! The soft, rounded hills were like a bosomy embrace. Truck doors opened up to a crushing wave of perfume. Wow.

I set my sleeping mat and bag up on top of the knoll, with an iconic view of the Chisos Mountains. Maggie tucked her bag at the bottom of the knoll. Rose made a nest in the back end of the pickup.

We cooked up a feast, watched magnificent display of stars, tucked in to sleep and then were nearly blown from the face of the earth by 45 mile per hour gusts of winds! It was pretty awesome, and not in an entirely lovely sort of way. Wow. At one point I raised my head to investigate and the wind blew my pillow far from me!

We survived, and by morning the air was calm and still. The girls and I feasted, drank coffee for a long time, sharing conversation about books, like, friendships, God. We hiked. Lazed around. Ate picnic feasts, exclaimed more over wildflowers, and then shared what might have felt like the most peaceful sleep ever, with no harsh winds, just a simple, friendly little breeze that tucked us each into our beds that night.

Only two nights out, as work beckoned. I really didn't have the time for that quick camping trip. But so glad we went anyway.

How I treasure those moments with the kids. Maggie is about to graduate and I am grieving her departure already. Happy to make the time to share with my daughters and sons when opportunity presents. I am so blessed.


Our yard is filled with an abundance of flowers. Many roses that have not bloomed once in the four years we have lived here. Wild flowers. Bluebonnets that I seeded a year or two ago in faith. A big stand of delphinium? How the heck did that happen? I didn't plant them. I almost pulled them out a month ago when I was reclaiming a grassy, weed filled bed to be used for edibles. Something caused me to pause. A distraction? A guardian angel?

Another plant with silvery green pointy foliage was also about to be yanked. I left it to hit the kitchen or work on church emails or something after only tossing a couple or three. Next day I returned to the bed and found the "weed" with a weird head appearing on subtle stem. Curiosity caused me to leave it be, since there were plenty of other weeds I clearly recognized, like wild mustard and ragweed, that could be attacked in my ten minutes of outdoor, backyard meditation.

A couple of days later I went outside to be greeted by the most whimsical, gaudy, salmon pink pom-pom flower you have every seen! A poppy! I never planted poppies. Several places in the yard, scattered here and there, those silvery green, sharp-toothed leaves popped up, unexpectedly, with no effort on my part, bringing fluorescent delight to parts of my yard I never noticed!

Volunteer tomato plants are emerging around the perimeter of the chicken yard fence, which is sturdy enough to hold onto pine needles, leaf debris and soil, mixed together with a little free fertilizer, thank you, lady hens.

Sometimes life is so hard, so demanding, I feel alone and afraid.

Then these crazy flowers and veggies throw themselves before my face as if to say, "Look! Look! We know how much you needed a smile and a reminder! Hang in there! You are NOT alone! Get It? I mean, really? What more do we need to do?"

And then a friend will call. A hug will be given at just the right time. Kids will offer me the gift of themselves and all of a sudden, courage wells up, and once again, there is enough.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Sometime last month I ran away from home.

Well, it was a calculated run away, with kid care and animal care arrangements made ahead of time. I felt frazzled and hungry and near desperate for some alone.

Don't get me wrong! I love my family and home deeply and thoroughly. But life is full of stress and concerns and medicine to me is alone time.

I took care of church business, took care of kid stuff, loaded up a sleeping bag, camp stove and ice chest, a few books, journals, hiking boots and plenty of coffee and cream, of course, and drove down south to Big Bend National Park, my favorite retreat. The goal was a two night, day and a half silent retreat.

With permit in hand, I drove through the park, turned left at Panther Junction Visitor Center, a few miles down the paved road I made a right turn onto a fairly smooth Glenn Springs Road. I sang with the 70's station, feeling free at last! No cell service, no email, no bills, no worries. Dusk descended and the Chisos Mountains, a sky island with peaks almost 8000 ft high, silhouetted in the darkening sky. Many songs later, I reached Juniper Canyon turn. A dead end road that leads to two significant hikes, but not much else. Besides solitude, big skies, mountain views and peace.

As soon as I turned onto the rutted, 4wd road, my nose was surprised by the most amazing gift! The richest of perfumes, a blend of bi-colored mustard and moist creosote came in and filled the truck cab. It was magical! As if the land was spreading itself out in a welcome to me! "We knew you were coming! Delighted to have you! Come on in, come on in. We were waiting. Do we ever have a feast prepared for you!"

I turned off the radio. Let the sounds of the mountainous desert begin to soak into my bones.

I spread my sleeping bag onto the ground. Well...okay, onto my thermarest pad! and watched the constellations make their appearance. I watched the clouds scurry across the sky. I decided that instead of spending hours working on important stuff, I would spend hours being still, watching the clouds, the mountains, the sun and moon. I would be quiet and explore and dally, and sit and walk and try to just be.

And I did!

I wish everyone had the opportunity, or made the opportunity to experience a little quiet in their life sometime. Quiet, but with background orchestra of perfume, stars and evening bird song. Plenty of effort to get there, but worth the price paid!

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Track meets are in full swing. The fig trees are covered with little green buds and tiny leaves that look hopeful to me. The oak tree in the backyard is covered with tiny little leaves, the size of a squirrel's ear? Tiny threads of baby leeks look a bit more erect. Sunflowers are sprouting up everywhere. The zinnia seeds are just now sprouting. Green washes over trees down the street. Eggs galore come from the clucking hens.

Makes me want to find a cherry blossom tree, take a bento box, and spread a picnic and write silly haiku.

Makes me think matzoh ball soup is in our near future. And Easter vigil. And lamb cake.

Makes me think girls will be dressing in pretty pastels and whatever cold, bitter vestiges of winter that remain will be blown away by powerful winds, sweeping through the region, carrying us into summer and sunburns and short-sleeves.