Monday, May 23, 2016

Contentment

Last night a friend brought Patrick and Maggie home from their Austin college home. Backpacks, suitcases, boxes of shoes, lots of the running variety. Stuff galore, carried in through the bakery. Siblings all around. Of course the first thing we did was tour the college kids around the yard. They oohed and aahed over the baby raspberries. Delighted in the new grapevines and plum tree that is sporting new green leaves. Marveled over the fig trees, with the biggest load of figs we have had in our five seasons here in Alpine. Perhaps they like the generous feedings of chicken manure the past two years? They said hello to chickens, to baby peppers and eggplants and ignored the unmowed yard, commented on all our hard work this spring. While everyone finished getting things together, I sat at the table, exhausted from a long weekend of work, and Maggie massaged my head, played with my hair, and loved on me. Oh, to soak up that tenderness and physical affection.

Then everyone moved into the kitchen, and all my five children, mostly taller than me, and pretty much on their way to adulthood, sat around the same table. Six of us. Family. We feasted on a giant pork roast, cooked all day long while I was at work. Roasted cauliflower, crispy around the edges. Green beans from the farmer's market, sauteed with red peppers and garlic. A giant pot of mashed potatoes, cooked by Thomas.

I am not exactly sure what we talked about. Not politics. Not religion. We just laughed and felt the absolutely refreshing joy of being. I hope you know what I am talking about. The comfort of being in a place where you don't have to be any particular thing, because you are known and have been known, and can't really pretend anyway. Maggie left the table to spend time with her dear friend who happens to be home for a visit. Rose went to finish up some homework. Thomas took off to his apartment, sated by the meal and icecream. Patrick and Nora took on kitchen cleanup, and when I went to bed, I smiled to hear them chatter away as they cleaned up the dishes.

In a blink, everyone will be off and about for summer adventures. I do not wish for my kids to all stay home and sit at my table everyday! But oh, the delight I experience when they come back and we share garden, and stories, and food and love.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I can't help it.

By the way, sometimes the most amazing ideas for blog posts pop into my mind. Other times, well, I just feel tired, dried out, in need of a serious watering. So I write what I see, the most boring of things. But it is a catalogue of sort for me. A reference point. A farm girl's almanac. A reminder of the beautiful everyday stuff.

If I didn't worry about sharing intimate heart details, or get stage fright, or just plain ole, introverted scared when I think other people besides my mom might read this, I have all sorts of things to say about grief, mid-life dating, parenting as a single parent, working, over working due to security issues. I could write about learning to navigate all sorts of different, but universal situations that seem to hit most of us in some form or another. I am tempted to write about my temporary and continued journey away from church life. Or the terrific, but wobbly faith journey I am on, that is not exactly as orthodox as many of my potential readers might wish to see, but is rich and good, and definitely spiritual.

But that would be scary. Not like there are tons of you readers out there now, anyway. I know mom reads. Maggie. And by the way, it makes me so happy to share a taste of the everyday with you, Maggie, girl who gets my heart. And some of you other crazy hangers on.

I still haven't yet quite figured out the whole new identity thing, post Philip's wife and homeschool mom of a bunch of kids on a farm. I am still the same gal. Had he not died, I would still be learning to navigate this evolving era.

Just want to keep it real. And who knows? Be forewarned. One of these days I might let you know what is truly going on! HAHAHAHA! Or perhaps tell you some funny anecdotes related to my tendency to say never. Please, never say never. Perhaps a few words about last year's catastrophic fall apart, the many painful break ups that resulted from that pit period, a trial run on antidepressants that left me more depressed than ever before in my life. And how having what felt like all the props pushed out from under me, all seemingly at the same time left me in the perfect place to heal and seek help and grow in some rather amazingly beautiful ways. Personal studies on attachment theory, to help me navigate the whole new relationship scene, helped me uncover some areas where I needed to improve with my kids. And made me aware we have some pretty amazingly secure attachments, all things considered, and I give God thanks for that. A back and knee injury led me to get worried and scared and then proactive as I determined that full time hard labor might not be the best thing for me over the next ten or twenty years. So I have enrolled in the local university, to seek a masters degree in counseling. A path I began 24 years ago, and was put on hold when Thomas came along. And then Patrick, Maggie, Rose and Nora.

I am still waiting on the gentle rain to fall for me. A few drops have been sprinkled, and I see clouds in the future. Promising ones. Not scary ones. The girls and I have reinitiated read aloud at supper time. Tuck Everlasting. I have gotten back into a walk around the loop evening practice. Am cutting the caffeine intake and working on bringing balance into my world. Evening meditation, being still, soaking up sweet moments and remembering to hug the girls, long hugs, not just quick ones, have also been quite beneficial. Just as I have had to spend an inordinate amount of time watering the garden with the hose, am trying to water my soul in every way I know how.

Hope you will remember to do the same. And in the in between times, I try often to say Thank you, thank you, thank you. To the God I can't quit believing in, even though I quite often wish to.

No Such Thing As a Free Ride... or, I Love My Garden

A couple days ago I planted two kinds of sweet potatoes, some purple ones, and some Beauregard. I tucked some around the okra, thinking that the leaf growth would offer a bit of natural mulch and shade. I planted some in the front bed, where last year I had zucchini and peppers and a couple of tomato plants. I put japanese cucumbers around the bamboo structure used by pole beans last year.

Changing it up a little! White potatoes are in the other front bed.

Four, or was it five? rows of Panther Edamame, a heritage soybean variety, got tucked into the bed that produced many pounds of onions last year. My first time to try soybeans! Radishes, turnips and spinach got planted in front of the chicken yard fence, a shady zone that might be perfect for those cooler weather loving plants. I tried climbing things on that fence last year, but the shade got in the way. Gardening means experimenting for me! Figure out what works. Change and shift when something doesn't.

Let's see. I am finally getting a break from watering, although that is one of my mindfulness practices. We have had afternoon showers for a few days, and the ground is moist. Raspberry canes are taking off! One is covered in little babies! Blackberry bushes are making their way into our world. We have to have faith! Plum tree is enticing me with the hint of green buds that should manifest into leaves. Grape vines are poised to leap! Flowers are blooming all over our property, little rain drop flowers, lantana, cactus, esperanza, larkspur. I bet cenizo, aka purple sage, will be full on by this weekend.

Okra is double its size from last week. Yellow squash is covered in thumb-sized babies. May have to eat them this weekend! Butter. Salt. What more does one need? Eggplant are covered in blossoms and we have baby peppers and tomatoes. A grocery store in the backyard that demands payment of a little love and attention. I think I can afford that price.

The floors are swept, the laundry done, the spare room cleared and ready for a college kid. But the dust that covers every single surface of my house, minus kitchen and bakery, is a good indicator that I have been investing in our food future!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A record.

Damson plum tree planted. Also two champagne grapevines, no, not for champagne, but for eating out of hand! They are tiny and seedless and originated in Greece. Also a red catawba grapevine. Because, well, you know! And a Zinfandel. All situated outside my bakery window, a place with plenty of sun, and in my line of vision, so I will tend them. A pineapple guava planted, in the corner of the yard, where the rain comes off the carport.

More okra. Some potatoes. Another batch of onions. I noticed a bloom on one of the raspberry plants. Squash are forming little buds. So are the tomatoes and peppers. Am having to water because we are terribly dry. Conserving in other areas so the water can go to the plants.

Oh, here's something nifty! I let our fountain get filled with gnarly moss last fall. As the water dried up and evaporated, a lovely, mossy carpet was formed. I lifted it out in sections and used it to mulch different parts of the garden.

I hope the plants will be happy here. I welcomed them with love. We are hopeful. Oh, what nice memories of damson plum jam on the farm. Mouth watering now.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Temporary Cold Snap

We drove to Abilene the other day to watch Rose and her pal run in the regional track meet. Before we took off, I went around the yard, offering water to the new blackberries and fig tree. The desert willow on the other side of the fence had one blossom and millions of buds.

When we got back, to cold, gray, wintery weather, the willow tree grabbed me by surprise! She is decked out, delicate orchid-like blooms, waving proudly and defiantly in the weird little cold snap. As if to say, "Bring it on, North Wind! I just bought this new outfit and I'll be darned if I am going to cover it up with a gray woolen jacket."

The yard is crispy dry. The grass is dormant. But somehow around the fringes, flowers keep blooming like crazy. Lantana graces my kitchen window sill.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Surprise! OR Look What the Full Moon Brought Us!

A couple of days ago I was tending the bunnies and had the sense I should prepare Petunia's nest box. Checked the calendar. It was still significantly early. If you set the mama's box up too early, they just eat the hay in the nest, instead of create a nest in it.

Saturday, I told myself. Plenty of time.

Yesterday was crazy! I had a couple of kid things happening, school, the launch to some work being done on a little house I own. Special bakery orders. Lots of multitasking and coordinating. Thomas and I were just about to head over to the little house when I saw the chicken and bunny food waiting to be delivered to the coops.

We ran the bags over to the coops to feed the troops. I noticed strange movement in Petunia's duplex. Four squirming, mewling, VERY COLD little baby bunnies!

I chided myself for a second, excitedly greeted Petunia and Prince Charming, wrapped the little things up in my t-shirt and tucked them in, next to my body. Ran to the rent house, tended that business with babies by my tummy. Got back home, set up their nest box, rubbed them with bunny fluff, and tucked them in. Evening came and all seemed well. Still alive.

I try to pay attention to that still and quiet little internal nudge. Yesterday was a good reminder! We can see more than we can see if we just let ourselves!

Happy Birthday, bunnies!

PS Black Beauty and little BunBun, Petunia's first baby, now live with our friends in their backyard. I had great ideas we would integrate rabbit meat into our locally grown protein source list. So far, we haven't been hungry enough. But the manure has already enriched the gardens. And the bunny care has enriched the lives of me and the kids!

PPS this morning the nest box was fully fluffed out by mama. One baby didn't make it through the night. Mama had separated it from the bundle. The rest were warm and safe, deep in the fluff.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Track Season

A few years ago, I watched Thomas run and leap in Special Olympics track meets. Then Patrick and Maggie, their long limbs stretched, gliding along, like music.

Rose jumped into the scene in middle school. Now a sophomore. We watched her run today at the area meet in far away Denver City. Good grief? When moving to far West Texas, I had no earthly idea I would have kids in the Athletics program at the public school here. Let alone how many miles they would cover, by their own minimally-soled feet, and by the school buses, as they covered practices and run club and cross country and track meets.

My one season of high school track consisted of a somewhat overweight coach yelling at us to "Just go run! Do those hills!"

I pretty much always came in second to last. Choir and yearbook were pretty much more my speed.

Our homeschool physical education program was directed by my late husband. He loved to run. He found an old Navy Seals exercise book at a Goodwill in town. Led the motley crew through their calisthenics by the back door on the milking pad after morning chores, then across the back field, over a felled tree, up and over a fence, down the hay meadow, over and around the barn, finally to the house, huffing and puffing and ready, well, somewhat ready, to hit the books.

Who would have guessed? The day we moved in, a couple of running neighbors saw the kids pile out and suggested we contact Rick Keith, the high school long distance running coach. I guess the kids contacted him.

The rest is history.

That man has been more than a coach to my kids. They have probably spent more waking hours with him than with me the past five years. He explained to me that his philosophy involved teaching kids to enjoy running for life. Not just a high school competitive sport, but a lifestyle. He would drive them to gorgeous ranch roads for high desert sunset runs. He would run with them to Dairy Queen for Sundae runs. He would buy them shoes, probably knowing they were well beyond a single mom's budget. He taught them how to glide and not injure their knees. To run for themselves, to compete against their times, to set reasonable, achievable goals, and then coach them, step by step, week by week, in the how to reach those goals, just a bit more challenging than they thought they could reach. And sure enough. Walked them step by step, rather, ran with them, stride by stride, along the way.

For the past five years, that man has encouraged, cheered, consoled, scolded, taught, and more than anything else, has loved my kids.

He doesn't drive alongside, yelling at the kids to run. He works right by them, teaching them nutrition, giving them books, showing them inspiring videos, basically, has been as spiritual a leader as any priest.

College kids still come home to run with him on their vacation. And love to brag on the runs they do for fun, as they run for their life! Yesterday Maggie was so stressed by her rigorous course work at St. Edwards and her jobs that she paused to take a ten mile run. The other day, Patrick joined the UT cross country run club and they ran from Austin to San Jacinto, all night long, 200 miles, for the Texas Independence Relay. They and Rose ran in the Big Bend Ultra 30k this winter.

And now, Rose, a sophomore, after making it to state twice in cross country and so far once in track, ran again in the area meet today. I decided to close the bakery and go to watch her run, all the way up in the Texas panhandle. She got first place in the two mile. Her friend was right behind her. Watching those kids run fills my heart with such joy and delight. I remember seeing Maggie conquer exercise induced asthma, striving harder than any kid should have to, training her, not for athletics, but for the real life hard stuff that requires some grit. Some go for it. Some push and drive.

You have to understand... I don't really care about athletics. Or competitions. I yell for pretty much every kid that runs along that track or across the finish line. Just ask my poor embarrassed kids!

It is the back story. The farm. The wet tennis shoes and panting kids and dad. A journey. A coach who is so much more than a coach. I will owe him my whole life through. And thank God for him regularly, as I see his fingerprints all over the lives of my kids as they fly away from here. And continue to see his gift as he offers up his presence. What more does a young, tender, growing teenage girl need if her dad dies? A young man, missing philosophical discussions and hikes? What more than a kind, devoted, dedicated, hard working man who not only believes in her, or him, but runs alongside, giving strategies for making a way into the world that awaits.

I am not sure how Rose did in the one mile this evening. I have to work tomorrow, and was afraid I would be too tired to do so if I stayed for the final event and had to get home by one oclock tonight. I know she loves the two mile and I cheered like a crazy fool. Coach Keith will be riding home with them on the bus, late and exhausted after a full day in the sun, directing his kids. And will be back at school in the morning to teach.

I don't care how she did. I am proud. And thankful.

So very thankful.

How Rich Am I?

The tomatoes are set out. Some cherry, thanks to seedlings gifted by my dad. Brought home Easter weekend in a yogurt container, tender little babies. Some yellow cherries. A few Early Girls, just cause. A couple heirloom varieties. A Solar Fire, because we live in the desert!

The peppers are set out. A couple of shishito, a japanese pepper, great for the grill. Jalapenos, of course. Several New Mexican varieties, because, well, we all know how much my kids and customers love green chili quiche. A thai pepper, because they are beautiful. And super hot. And just right for a Thai stirfry. Am thankful for a giant yard with many little cubbies. The thai one is on the other side of the house, so hopefully all the other peppers don't cross pollinate and turn super spicy!

Cucumbers nestle against the trellis. I think I saw a couple of okra seedlings pop up to say hello. Eggplant, the asian variety and the italian are tucked in their special spots. Yellow squash, near the Early Girls. Zucchini over by the okra. Green bean seeds to plant, some on one side, some on the other. Potatoes, very late, but better late than never. Dill is up. Basil growing. Chives aflower. Stevia nestled near the mint for kids who like tea. Mexican Mint marigold for moms who like tarragon. The cilantro and arugula are bringing in plenty of pollinators. Roses and irises are blooming their sweet little hearts out. Sage is begging to be browned in butter. The lime tree and olive are tucked into the gazebo, along with all the other green house plants. Leeks continue to offer savory compliment to meals. Wild sunflowers provide tasty salads to bunnies.

The established fig trees have babies the size of my thumbnail. The new fig, Chicago Hardy, is unfurling velvety leaves. Two varieties of blackberries, planted a couple weeks ago, show a tiny swelling on bare stalks, I have faith. Two years of sheet composting along a fence. Please God? A friend brought by six raspberry plants. I found dry soil along south fence to be surprisingly rich and deep. They will live in dappled sunshine in between the pecan and the neighbors giant pine.

I had the vision of berries for several years. Every vision takes a few steps, some waiting. Faith. Hope.

Claret cup cactus smile at me. Prickly pear stick out their hands to wave, ready to offer bouquets in a week or so. The desert willow is poised. For something. A party next week? The purple wildflowers my sister planted two years ago. Why? Because she said I needed them. Are giant happy greetings to me, every time I step out the bakery door. I think they were very happy to have some of the ashes of my friend, Peter, from Ontario, laid to rest among them, right by the door, where he and his wife came to inhale and devour my breads on their twice yearly visits. Honeysuckle, gifted and planted by Patrick, was it last year? Year before? Right outside my bedroom window, for obvious reasons, is sweetly surviving its desert life.

Others, so many, I am too tired to look up their sweet names, yet they give me delight as I look at them and honor their beauty. They give the pollinators great delight too!


Quite rich, says she, enjoying the bouquets, whimsically scattered about the house.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Red Skies by Morning Bakers Take Warning!

My mornings typically begin long before day breaks. Especially bakery days! Don't get me wrong, on a day off, I dearly love to let the late morning sun wake me.

This morning, a half hour before sunrise, the sky was washed with a pink glow. Rising sun painted the clouds preteen hot pink, not red like the old saying. But with the colorful early morning came a damp, cold chill. Maybe those clouds will deliver some rain? Please? Please?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

One more thing... OR a lovely kettle...

I forgot to mention the exquisitely choreographed dance Thomas and I witnessed on our walk the other day. I counted at least sixty buzzards, slowly, gracefully, an act of worship it seemed, in measured swoops, no big hurry, drifting in and around one another, honoring the moon. The creator of the moon. The evening sky, and their tribe.

I never knew buzzards to be graceful. Now their evening dances are lovely to me, as they celebrate the end of the day and move in to roost.

Yesterday, after hours of blustery wind, the air was filled with sandy particulate from the Sahara desert or somewhere dusty and dry. I could see no periwinkle skies turning purple. But the buzzards danced anyway.

PS I realize many folks are not so fond of the vulture, but they are quite helpful, taking care of highway cleanup. I don't plan on adopting any, or having them roost in my trees! But really, you should check them out. A group of dancing vultures is called a kettle. Did you know that?