Monday, March 27, 2017

Resilience, Please? Keep Moving Forward, finding moments of delight everyday, feelings don't define me.....

A big flock of little birds ate my swiss chard seedlings.

The chives are blooming purple pompoms. The sage is exploding in purple bouquets. The rogue larkspur shoots out delicate, purple butterflies. They saw the wisteria and grew jealous. She sat back to take a break from center stage to give her companions a chance to shine.

The oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear, at least I think so. I planted a little patch of silver queen corn. Watered it in.

Theo and the kids helped me move giant playmobil world out of the greenhouse. We are preparing the nursery for babies. Cornish cross chicks, that will provide chicken dinners for my family. Pekin ducks to provide bug eating services and future protein sources for the family, and toulous goslings for vineyard weed eating.

When I showed Theo the broken down fence, and cried, she rolled up her sleeves, confident that the two of us could tackle the problem and win.

The big posts that were set decades ago into concrete have thoroughly rotted. The fence first fell a month ago, and kids propped it up with boards until a moment came.

Yesterday was the moment.

Necessity is a catalyst for resiliency. Not enough finances to replace rotten fence, we managed the best way possible. The two of us shoved, pushed and heaved the section into a lovely upright position. I scrounged for wire and we wired the fence up to three big swing posts. I grimaced at our rogue, feminine approach to home maintenance, thinking of the many men who might laugh at our efforts. I defied anyone to criticize our methods. I grimaced, until I saw how sturdily the fence stood. How inexpensive and thorough the repair.

We laughed and clapped hands at our ingenious manner of trouble shooting. And moved on toward more pressing tasks.

Then I spent a good bit of the afternoon sad, weepy and miserable, wishing to return to farm life, hard as it was, wishing to return to cheesemaking and dinner parties and peepers. Knowing there is no going back, only forward, I changed clothes, went to St. James Episcopal for a Taize service. First time in church in months. I volunteered my mom to play the piano for the contemplative chants. Candles were lit. We sung. We listened to readings, from scripture, from Rumi, from an ancient Buddhist teacher, another piece attributed to a Ute leader. We sat in silence. I breathed.

I don't have the wish to return to church full time at this point in my life. Which is a more personal story than I care to share right now. But the Taize service was a gift to me. Sharing music with my mom, giving her some insight into contemplative prayer and chanting was a gift.

Monday, March 20, 2017

We Keep Changing Things Up

As many of you know, St Patrick's Day is a pretty huge family ritual day for our family. The Irish roots run deep and it seemed like a way we could touch our heritage.

And no, not by drinking green beer under a leprechaun poster! Years ago I found a lovely picture book about St. Patrick written and illustrated by one of our favs, Tomie de Paolo. Back in the early homeschooling days, we cut out potatoes into stamps with three leaf clovers and celtic cross. We made a green and gold tablecloth out of an old white sheet. Said tablecloth is still in existence, but we forgot to use it this year. Every year we would invite stacks of little friends over for a big tea party, with cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, fruit, of course loads of homemade soda bread and jam, the special porcelain tea cups, followed by family dinner of corned beef and cabbage. Every year we would read aloud the story of St. Patrick, one of our heroes, and be grateful for his life.

One year we even took our feast and table cloth with us to Big Bend National Park, all the way from Ft. Worth, our home at the time, and celebrated in the Chisos Mountains, savoring our hot tea in the cool spring mountain air.

The past few years we have had kids go different directions and to tell the truth, it always felt a bit painful as we tried to reinvent this tradition.

This year, I was busy at work when I realized I forgot to buy corned beef. Never mind. We had soda bread. We took it and a bunch of fresh brussels sprouts to mom and dad's place. No tablecloth...But we sauteed cabbage with onions and bacon, probably more irish than corned beef anyway! Rose went to the garden with Dad and they picked a huge bowl of kale which I sauteed with garlic and olive oil. A bunch of buttery leaf lettuce and ruby red radishes for salad. We sat at the table, thankful, plates filled with nutritious, beautiful green stuff, grown and prepared with love.

What more could we wish for?

Seemed pretty awesome to me. But for goodness sake! Next year, please help me remember to carry over the tablecloth!!! And for Daddy and Thomas's sake, we had better cook some potatoes!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Few of My Favorite Things

We ran away to Big Bend National Park for a few days this spring break. A site near the Rio Grande, great views of Sierra del Carmen in Mexico and the Chisos Mountains to the west. Shorts weather, a bit breezy, perfect for sleeping outdoors.

The coyotes yipped and screamed in the not too far distance. The remote paths and roads were crawling with visitors from all over the world. Sometimes we locals get a bit impatient when we have to deal with traffic jams in the middle of our special place. Then I think about all those people, enjoying the amazing outdoors, breathing the fresh air, especially all those college kids. They could be sitting in their dark apartments in the city, faces glowing in blue white isolation. Instead, they are climbing, delighting, exploring, sharing days with friends, making real connections.

For years I have had to fight to find desert solitude. Planning, preparing, phone calls, just to get everyone squared away so I could find the space to breathe by myself.

This year I rushed down to the park a day early to prepare base camp. Kids weren't ready to go, they wanted to meet me next day. So did my parents.

No problem for me! I carried down food for two armies, got situated, watched the full moon rise, felt crazy nature energy, read books, slept late.

They all trickled in the next afternoon, we worked together preparing a giant meal. My dad and Rose sat and helped me scoop out seeds from a couple dozen jalapenos. Then they filled them with cream cheese and garlic. I grilled them and some venison fajitas. Along with plenty of red peppers and onions. We made a giant bowl of fresh pico de gallo, see recipe below. Tortillas warmed on the grill, filled with good things. Mom took pictures and breathed inspiration for future paintings.

A hike down to the Rio Grande, rock skipping, rock throwing over to Mexico (Thank God no one has gotten around to putting up a wall yet!) and a sunset that cast pink and lavender glow over the universe as we knew it.

Plenty more fun, but by the next afternoon, everyone decided to go their separate ways. All of a sudden, I found myself alone. And I didn't even have to work for it.

I gave half a thought to going back home to work. Camp site was reserved for two more nights. I decided to stay.

It felt weird.

Not being alone. I have no problem with the quiet.

What felt weird was reality sinking in that my kids are growing up and moving on. They like to go camping with their pals. They enjoy their time with me, but it is as it should be. From me they learned to love the Big Bend, now they love to show it off to their friends.

I get this inkling I won't be fighting so hard to grab some solitude. I get this inkling I will have to fight hard to make family campouts happen. It is a battle worth fighting.

We made some super sweet memories. I enjoyed some time in my healing place and read three books plus quite a bit poetry. Managed to get back home and fit a week's worth of work into four days and still work in my garden.

Tradition. How many spring breaks have we enjoyed in the Big Bend? I don't know, but it feels right and good, no matter what flavor or constellation.

Pico de Gallo, my dad's recipe

*one onion, minced finely. Any onion good, but a red onion is super yummy
*two or three tomatoes, chopped finely
*one or two jalapenos, minced. Here's a little secret: when you shop for jalapenos, we have noticed that the ones with a blunt end are less spicy than the peppers with a pointed end! Why don't you test our hypothesis?!
*juice of two limes, or more, to your taste, we love lime!
*two or three cloves garlic, minced
*one bunch cilantro, chopped finely
*salt to taste

Stir together, try to wait until flavors blend together. If you can. We find that we have to taste for salt, for lime, and before you know it, half the bowl and half a bag of corn tortilla chips has disappeared into thin air!

Friday, March 10, 2017

We Have Everything Inside of Us, even when things look wintery and barren...

Oh my. It has been so warm, the fig trees have leafed out. Baby figs are so adorable. To think, all winter long, those leaves and figs were tucked in nicely, well-hidden in the smooth, gray branches. Seeing them, exposed, vulnerable, makes me worry a bit. A hard freeze would definitely do them in. If I were well prepared, I could cover the large trees with giant tarps, and put a little lamp or something underneath. That might help protect them.

No freeze in the near forecast. Fingers crossed.

Dreaming of Ginger Figgy Tarts in the bakery.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Record.

Evening before last I planted a bed with Provider green beans. An heirloom variety supposedly good for germinating in cooler soils. And planted another bed with danvers carrots. The wisteria are in full bloom and the air is perfumed by the old fashioned scent. I am tempted to take the olive tree and the lime tree to their summer positions on the gazebo, but let's be real! We are in the high desert and frosts hit intermittently until early May. So I know some of my gardening is a gamble, but with sheets, thermal cloth and crossed fingers, plus some global warming trends, I figure a bit of a gamble isn't going to cost me so much.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Medicine. Good Nutrition.

Yesterday I didn't have to go into work until noontime. That left me some morning choices! Clean house, work on paperwork, or garden.

Yes! I made the right choice!! Spinach, tatsoi, arugula, chard, some herbs, a few tomatoes and one jalapeno, stuck in a warm microcosm part of the backyard, as a gamble.

I felt more energized and happy than I had in a long time. Energetic enough to take a two mile walk with Nora, cook dinner, and then clean the kitchen and mop the filthy floor.

Growing food is good for my soul. I am grateful for the window of opportunity.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Happy Bouquets Decorate My House Again (On why living in far, southwest Texas is a good idea for me)

The wisteria, bare branches, a bit scraggly, throw out buds and flowers, in defiance. Defiance of what? she asks. The red bud, stuck in between bare limbed, scraggly pomegranate and naked Rose of Sharon, brags flamboyantly, hot pink buds glowing in the backyard.

Spring takes me by surprise, every year a wonder. Just about the time I think I can bear the dark of winter not one day longer, she gently takes me by the face, turns me around, reminds me, indeed, signs of the resurrection are all around. The red catawba grapevine I planted last spring, along with the two champagne grapevines (not for champagne, but for adorable, tiny little grapes) are now unfurling their bright green leaves. Chives in the herb garden are standing up straight, letting me know they would love to be sprinkled on some deviled eggs. Hens are back in business, thank goodness! Each day I am happy to receive their payment for room and board in a basket of pink and tan and robins egg blue eggs, which will feed me omelets and will make cookies for the bakery, and pound cakes for girls.

I don't really feel like smiling on the outside. But my insides are quite thankful for the friendly seasonal reminder to keep moving forward.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Must Be Spring?

The other day I found a perfectly lovely nest, nestled in the vines I was pruning. Silvery strands of weeds, golden grasses, shredded grocery store plastic bags, all gently woven together into a transitory sculpture that gave me delight.

I called Theo and Rose, we paused our labors for a moment to smile.

A few days later, we continued our work, pruning the vines before bud break. Theo called my attention to a painted bunting, perched on the fence. A few yards away, a large flock, the village, fluttered and danced. I was surprised to see so many of those little gems. They must be journeying from their warm winter holidays. I wonder where they summer?

Tuesday I drove home at dusk from my journey to Odessa for a six month check up with the oncologist. When back, I poured myself a glass of wine and walked around the backyard, feeding the chickens, fixing their fence from foxy marauders, watered some plants. Dozens of vultures swirled and swayed in the evening sky, colorful sunset, dusty air refracting the pink and gold. I called Nora out. She joined me and we sat in the swing, feeling warm and calm.

One night last week I drove home at dark. Something swirled and rolled in the middle of the street. As I grew closer, the headlights revealed a couple of foxes, in flagrante delicto. They were so involved in their moment of delight, they didn't move from the street until I was right upon them.