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Homestead Happenings: all different now

November 17, 2010

Daylight savings came and snatched away anything resembling fall. It’s all different now. The occasional short sleeved shirt will surface in our laundry like a relic from a bygone era, as strange and impractical as a chastity belt. I fold the shirt and put it away thinking see you in five months.

It’s hard to be in love with November. Even the trees seem like they’re trying to shake free of the lingering brown leaves. The landscape won’t be breathtaking again until some snow falls, and even then, it’s an intimidating beauty, like when this incredibly gorgeous man was working on our house years ago and I couldn’t actually speak to him without blacking out.

It’s more about endurance now than besotted declarations of love.

Which is perfectly fine. My friend Steph told me she was glad to see the end of garden season and I totally understand. It makes me happy to think of the soil resting, all those billions of microorganisms going about their invisible lives, sipping nitrogen and dying in the arms of hungry nematodes.

And really, I keep waiting for the mallet of winter to come swinging at us in this dramatic way, knocking out everything I cherish like a cascade of dominos. But it’s not like that. It’s more like a recalibration, where I notice my sudden and fierce devotion to fingerless mittens, or how I’ve found myself thinking “not bad” when the outdoor thermometer says 39F.

The incredible Southwestern sun makes 39F strangely pleasant, plus fingerless mittens.

27F this morning - but they distract themselves from the cold by Rose daring Col to "poke me in the eye" and then howling with injustice when he does. I pretend not to hear them.

Daylight savings scrambled our sleeping hours and the kids are waking up crazy early. 5:30 is pretty typical, though this morning they both got up at 5 am, which makes you wonder, as Dan did this morning “where is this heading?”

Today we saw stars with our coffee, which might make you think it’s not actually morning, unless you heard Col announce, “That’s morning star; I’m in love with her.”

My friend Sue is always horrified to hear of our family’s premature wakings, as if it could be contagious, passing to her innocent daughters. But being awake to watch the curtain lift on the stage called daylight always feels lucky when you’re there. Lucky like walking away with the veggie chopamatic consolation prize, when you really wanted the new car, or simply to still be asleep.

Everyone is at their best in the morning, energized by the first glint of sunlight and the cheery reunions with toys and coffee, respectively. And I am not yet worn down by small revolutionaries who want to wear leotards outside in 30F weather or sneak empty bullet shells into kindergarten.

All before 9:00 am:

Col and Rose laying out "hide glue" squares to dry. Hide glue is made by boiling animal hooves, rawhide and other animal bits into a supremely stinky concoction. Dan says this was an extra good batch because of the roadkill snakeskin he threw in. The glue is stored in squares and then melted as needed to apply sinew to the back of a bow, obviously.

the damn leotard

Col snuggling with hide of pine marten because hide glue isn't strange enough

Dan and the kids spotted this dead pine marten on Molas Pass last weekend, which is a pretty amazing find. On the way home high level negotiations took place in the back seat in which Col traded his entire desk including rock collection to Rose for sole rights to the marten.

Dan skinned the animal, dried its hide in the sun and it came out lovely and soft. Col got to bring it to school to show his kindergarten class (which is another reason I love his school). He told me that some of the kids thought it was disgusting, especially when he pointed out where the penis used to be.

Dan and the kids also found a roadkill deer that same morning, which got hauled home in the Subaru. Our freezers really couldn’t hold another niblet of meat, so, like the Robin Hood of Roadkill, Dan passed the deer onto our friends Chris and Sage, who were pleased for the gift of good meat. And as usual, our cat, seven chickens and the local magpies  (whom Dan feeds via scraps on our shed roof) got some meat too.

Robin Hood Jr. brings some deer heart to the hens

Overheard this morning:

Col: Let’s say I killed this marten.

Rose: Okay. And you were my daddy and my mommy was home food shopping.

Col: Right. But let’s say you can’t touch it.

Rose: Wellllll, no. Let’s say I could only touch it when you were gone.

Col: How ‘bout you went back to your little toys.



28 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristen permalink
    November 17, 2010 8:39 am

    what a great laugh this cold November AM. thanks for a great start to my day. I’ll have to ask Riley what he thought of the pine marten.

  2. November 17, 2010 8:58 am

    Haaaahaha. Many laughs. Love the extra weirdness padding of the pine marten.

    I have what is probably going to sound like a really silly question from a non-hunter/non-scavenger of roadkill: do you not have to worry so much about scary germs on the raw meat because it’s fresh and because it’s not from a meatpacking plant? I ask because I am over-the-top careful about raw meat in my house with my kids, and I always see yours standing next to or holding chunks of raw meat. My assumption is that in its freshly-butchered state, it’s not an issue. Is that correct?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 17, 2010 2:03 pm

      > ” I always see yours standing next to or holding chunks of raw meat.” Ha. That makes me laugh. Last weekend Dan and the kids found a dead owl and the kids explained that they were allowed to touch it but only with mittens. And then they buried it in the woods, which was a good project for a 5-year old boy. The raw meat the kids hold is always freshly butchered, or freshly thawed. Then we make them wash their little paws. But think about the Indians in pre-hand sanitizer days. I think we’re a germ-phobic society, and some of the phobia has revolutionized public health, but we’ve probably taken it too far.

      • November 17, 2010 6:46 pm

        Yeah, I kind of felt like a germaphobe loser asking, but I do think there’s a considerable difference between the meat your kids are holding and the kind bought at the store, even if it’s organic. It’s so great that your kids get the exposure to their food source in this way.

  3. November 17, 2010 9:06 am

    Oh how do I even comment on this? Except to say I love it. xo

  4. November 17, 2010 10:08 am

    Rachel, I just love your posts, they are so real and honest. I feel as if I have a window looking into your life as it progresses, what fun!
    I love the idea of your handling of “roadkill” etc. with your childern. It’s good they aren’t being shielded from life, your a good mother and wife. Ginny

  5. November 17, 2010 10:25 am

    I can’t get over “dying in the arms of hungry nematodes.”


  6. November 17, 2010 10:31 am

    So you know how we exchanged emails recently about learning to write by reading great writers? Well, thank you for being one of those great writers. This post sings. As always.

  7. Bonnie permalink
    November 17, 2010 10:58 am

    I have a question too and it’s a dumb one. What is the safe span of time to eat road kill? I am assuming there is no window of safety if the animal is frozen but what if the animal is just cool? Is it a “nose test”, meaning if it smells good, it IS good?
    Fascinating reading. Bonnie

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 17, 2010 2:07 pm

      Good question. The sniff test is a good clue. If the meat smells off in any way, leave it for the coyotes and ravens. If the animal is bloated or stiff, not a good sign. Roadkills need to be picked up quickly and opened up to cool the meat immediately. I defer to Dan, who doesn’t mind sticking his nose and hands in a dead roadside animal.

  8. November 17, 2010 12:08 pm

    The hide of a pine marten. And snuggling. I love how all things go together when I’m at your home.

    I’m learning from you. My son, the great hunter, is upping the ante and his mom is getting squeemish. But then I say, “How would Rachel handle this?” And I dive into the bath of blood and the feast and simply revel in the Life of it all. It can all be sacred. Because all can be shared and all can be snuggled.

    It’s in my mind that I draw the lines of distinction.

  9. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:29 pm

    Our world is covered in slushy snow and the kids have embraced it whole-heartedly. I am working on NOT being like others who, while living in Iowa, declare they hate winter. It is inevitable and I must embrace the little amounts of goodness. Like the ability to gather asparagus and rhubarb in the springs because of our lovely cold winters. Best wishes with the early risers!

  10. November 17, 2010 1:15 pm

    “He told me that some of the kids thought it was disgusting, especially when he pointed out where the penis used to be.”

    was my favorite. it was just so little boy.

    i love when you write about meat and road kill. it brightens my day and reminds me to stretch.

    p.s. i want to start a window box veggie garden this winter. is this even possible?
    p.p.s. clearly you need to host a q&a here…

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 17, 2010 2:09 pm

      Robin, if you have a south-facing window, yes! Lettuce and herbs will be quick-growing and easy. The plants will get leggy, reaching for the sun, so if you can rotate the box, that is ideal.

  11. November 17, 2010 1:16 pm

    oh and we got hit by the time change also. they already were early risers but now i am almost embarrassed to mention the wake up time to friends.

  12. November 17, 2010 2:03 pm

    Your fingerless gloves look perfect :)
    We also have early risers (and seriously, why do people think it’s going to be spread to their kids? We get the same reactions!) and it amazes me how the early hours are when the kids are at their best… I wish it were the same for me!

  13. November 17, 2010 2:35 pm

    I love hearing tidbits of your life!
    Morning is such a special time… but here I am fighting the tide in the other direction – my son wants to stay up ’til 11 or 12 and won’t wake until 9… I miss so much “morning” this way! But I do get my sleep. Is there anyway to have it both ways!? Loving your road kill… stone was just whining over the last of the ‘gifted” venison in our little freezer. Your kids are a crack up, too!

  14. Melissa Neta permalink
    November 17, 2010 5:19 pm

    love the photo of you writing outside! so hip with your fingerless gloves (: dude, i think 39 would make me cry.

    always love the gems the kids spout, too.

    great post–shocker–xo from (sunny) sf

  15. November 17, 2010 5:31 pm

    a sign of a good writer is that she can get a total vegetarian non-hunter, non-roadkill girl to come back and back to keep reading posts about meat, showing meat, showing deer heart….
    if it was any other writer, I might wince. But not you. I do love reading all your homestead happenings and I’m so impressed by you and your husband. Thanks for the fun and inspiring reading.

  16. November 17, 2010 9:40 pm

    and here i was, outraged, that the bear’s wake time up is now 7:45am.
    the audacity.

  17. jamie permalink
    November 17, 2010 11:22 pm

    I love it when you share tidbits of your kiddos, they always crack me up :) Also, jealous of the pine martin hide.

  18. Ashley Brass permalink
    November 18, 2010 9:51 am

    Oh Col’s lil words of wisdom to Rose always put a smile on my face.

    My fav of this entry

    “let’s say you go back to your lil toys”

    HAHA. So awesome

  19. November 18, 2010 12:51 pm

    I have just lifted your line about veg-o-matic – credited of course:

    is in there something about theft being the ultimate compliment? At least you know now that your own early risings are fodder for other people’s art.

  20. November 18, 2010 1:40 pm

    I’ve not been active in bloggyland lately, so I’ve not been reading many posts but I have to say, I’ve missed your blog the most. The rhythm and poetry in your words, the beauty and life in your description, the humor and warmth in your voice – they are the very definition of exquisite.

    Rachel, you have such a gift!

  21. Dan permalink
    November 18, 2010 11:04 pm

    Hi! This post is killing me with laughs! You really have a winning way of showing the story, and I appreciate how you make me seem like a decent fella after all. Love you, Dan

  22. November 19, 2010 5:39 am

    Gaw! Sitting here with a ludicrously large grin pasted on my face. Such a different reality: we’re at 300 m and we stop to admire roadkill and attendant maggots. Then keep walking home. So far, we’ve checked badger, fox, ehm, that’s all I can think of right now. Maybe I should have a second cup of coffee.

    But you know, blacking out in the face of beauty, pine maarten penis and little sibling dismissal? Priceless. You have an excellent eye and ear. Do not EVER misplace your laptop, for the sake of us all.

    PS I think I may have one up on you. Because yes, chickens are so the omnivores: my ones go after–kill and manically consume–lizards.

  23. November 19, 2010 4:58 pm

    Such a great combo of words in this post!
    Perhaps it is time for a visit to my paradise over here if November is that blah in your paradise. ;) !!
    Hey, have our kids been talking? 4:45am this morning. We are heading the wrong direction on the clock!


  1. Mama Non Grata » Blog Archive » I can haz compromise

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