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Homestead happenings: let there be light

November 29, 2010

I feel a little sheepish writing this, as if I’m about to tell you about–surprise!–the new car sitting in our driveway. But really, all I want to say is that I just removed my socks because I was too warm. Oh, and I’m inside, with no heat on and it’s 31 degrees outside. Our house is heated primarily by the sun, which seems at least as valuable as a new car. (Incidentally, Dan and I still think of our 10-year old car as new, while the 21-year old truck is starting to seem old).

Notice the 32 oz. bottle of hot sauce on the table, which is apparently another way we survive winter.

We have four huge south-facing windows in our 800 square foot house and on sunny days (which are frequent here in the Southwest) the heat and light pour in with such loveliness and force, that you often have to take off your socks. I think this is how we survive winter.


The sawing of the blue hubbard squash for Thanksgiving

We had a great, multi-generation Thanksgiving. There were boisterous children and sentimental grandparents and a group of us feeling the luckiness of being between those two life stages. There was Chris’s cut-with-a-spoon venison coming off the grill and Dan’s cloverleaf rolls plumping in the oven and an elk roast stewing in porcini-applesauce thick with butter. After we finished our piled-high plates, lips still smeared with grease, Amy’s father said “okay, really, where’s the turkey?”

He was joking, because there was no turkey, nor has there ever been a turkey at our Thanksgivings during the past decade of elk and deer abundance. And I wondered if someday when Col and Rose leave home and have Thanksgiving at someone else’s house they’ll be like what’s up with the bird?


Kids table: these four have been hanging out since the girls were infants. When Col heard Rose and I were “dressing up” for Thanksgiving, he promptly grabbed his buckskin cape. (Not pictured: the lovely and dinner-scorning Iris)

It’s interesting, this indoctrination of the kids into the tradition of holidays, non-traditionally speaking. Though I love the lights and singing, the good cheer and parties, Christmas is not a big deal in our household. Someone (let’s say her initials are RT) already spilled the beans last year that Santa’s not real, although this morning Col said to me “Clay says Santa likes when you write him notes, does he?”

Every year Dan and I further negotiate the merging of our childhood holiday traditions (his: Christmas with a capital C; mine: slacker Hanukah), into something that feels meaningful to both of us, which so far has been a quirky hodge-podge of dreidels and fuzzy re-tellings of the baby Jesus story, which the kids and I inexplicably adore.

I was musing to Dan about what traditions we keep around here. “Does planting the first tomato seedlings count? What about the fall fruit harvest?  Spring manure runs? Butchering Day? Is it okay that the kids skip the awe of a present-strewn Christmas morning because they get to shovel cow poop with the family?”

“Oh sure, and that stays with them a lot longer than any of those toys,” my dutiful husband replied.


Col leaned over to Dan at dinner last night and said “I’m falling in love with you Daddy,” which is how I’m feeling about everybody these days. This morning Col wore Rose’s red velvet dress to school, unbuttoned all the way so it was more like a dapper cloak. “It’s a king’s jacket” he said proudly. And I agreed, loving him so much as he walked into the Rainbow Room with the dress sashaying above his snow boots that my heart was a little sore. And Rose is just so lovely and brave, dipping her whole head underwater at the pool and then sputtering up for air, barely catching her breath before asking, “am I amazing Mama?” Last night when I leaned over to give Rose a good night kiss, she asked to smell my cheeks and when I laughed she said “you can write that in your blog Mama.”

This is the red velvet cloak from the back; kingly, right?

Meanwhile Dan is falling in love with buck deer as he does every winter when the snow pushes him and the deer out of the high country at approximately the same time. Town is crawling with deer feeling the call of the rut (mating season) and we’re always making little detours or “short-cuts” to try and spy some of the neighborhood big boys. Last weekend, on a date, Dan and I walked downtown hand in hand until he spied some big buck tracks in the snow; we promptly changed directions, following the tracks to a deer holdout—one buck charging around sniffing the rumps of indifferent does—deep in the tall rabbitbrush.

Cemetery buck sleeping off a long night, photo by Dan

As my friend Sharon once said (after driving with me and Dan on a particularly elk-y stretch of highway {Hwy 160} at a particularly elk-y time of day {dusk} at a particularly elk-y time of year {winter} in which Dan made me pull the truck over numerous times to lift binoculars to his face), “it’s wonderful to be so passionate about something.” Indeed.

Catching up on the days events at dinner: Col draws a picture for Dan of the buck we saw with only one antler.

Also, in Strange Animal News, Dan rendered a bunch of deer fat and has been cooking his eggs and french toast in the melted white globules, which he claims is mild and delicious. I’m slightly frightened that I’ll wake up after Dan leaves for work and bite into a stack of “unlabeled” french toast he’s cooked in deer grease.


Overheard just now:

Col: Rosie hit me!

Rose: I didn’t hit you, I punched you.


Tonight we’ll bring more light into the house by igniting candles for the first night of Hanukah, (or Harmonica, as Rose calls it), after we string up our Christmas lights (see? hodge-podge).

May you be flooded with whatever brings light to your life this dark time of year.


26 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2010 8:32 am

    Love this :) Thanks for sharing….

  2. December 1, 2010 9:47 am

    I love your little snowflakes and of course all the sweet and funny stories of your blessed life. May your season be filled with much joy, warmth, and light!

  3. December 1, 2010 10:17 am


    If I weren’t smiling so big the tears would have room to roll down my cheeks.

    I’m so touched by the way to live. Blending dresses and harmonicas like they all belong. Because, of course, they always have. And, foolishly, someone began, long ago, to listen to a set of rules that said we had to sort our lives into piles of this and that. So we put Christmas lights on trees and dresses on girls.

    Thank you for bringing us all back together into a pool of big-breath-amazing. And passion. And binoculars. So we could see it all.

  4. December 1, 2010 10:49 am

    Boy do I envy you that sun. Our little valley is basically socked-in from November through April. Durango-1, Missoula-0.

    And I love love love that king cape.

    Our celebrations are also hodge-podge. We celebrate Yule, which is basically our way of smooshing everything celebrate-able under one title. We’ll light candles, hang stockings, read Kwanza stories. It’s great for us, basically a month of fun, but hard on the grandparents who are always trying to write the right thing on gift tags. Basically tongue-tying themselves while we shout “just call it Yule for goodness sake!”

  5. December 1, 2010 11:00 am

    i just like this so much. thats all… thanks for shooting goodness out …

  6. Sarah permalink
    December 1, 2010 11:29 am

    Love this – all of it…. the Kingly cape, the amazing swimming feats, the “Harmonica” and Christmas traditions… Happy Holiday Goodness to you!

  7. Barb permalink
    December 1, 2010 11:30 am

    Yay! the snow is falling again (on your blog).

  8. December 1, 2010 12:46 pm

    Your home looks and sounds so cozy… :)

  9. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    December 1, 2010 1:08 pm

    I’m simply amazed that Rose would allow her big brother access to the dress/robe. Lucy would be lamenting “But it’s MINE!”

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      December 1, 2010 8:21 pm

      Rachel, we’re communists. Very few possesiions can be claimed solely to belong to one or the other.

  10. December 1, 2010 1:17 pm

    Col–TOTALLY kingly. Super awesome look, little man.

    Mama R–um, now I want to try rendered dear fat. But maybe not on my french toast so much.

  11. December 1, 2010 7:53 pm

    Hodge podge is what America is made up of.

    Love your post!

  12. December 1, 2010 7:59 pm

    Warm, funny, and wonderful – as always.

    And how did I not know/not remember that you are an interfaith family? Our little den of lapsed Catholic mama and atheist Jew dad lit the first candle on the menorah tonight (right after hanging up popsicle stick Christmas trees that the boys made at storytime). Always glad to know of others mixing and matching.

  13. Emily permalink
    December 1, 2010 9:54 pm

    I thought something was wrong with my Mac!! I caught on that they were snowflakes about the time you started talking about deer and winter mating. Whew!

    Oh yes, the Holidays. Well, I’m third generation atheist, and my husband was raised Southern Baptist. My daughter asked about the whole Christmas thing when she was about five. Not knowing where to start explaining it, I borrowed the “Little Bible for Little Eyes” from the neighbor. We started from the beginning. We got to the story about God murdering of all the first born male Egyptians, before I called my husband. He told me please not to try and educate the children on religion until he got home.

  14. December 1, 2010 10:30 pm

    Yes…someone who lives in a house as small as us. I love it.

    I’ve been thinking about traditions a lot lately (and writing about them) and I absolutely agree with Dan that all those things qualify as tradition. Traditions are what we make them…something that happens again and again, that helps us to tell the passing of time. And my child is much more appreciative of an experience…than a crappy (or even lovely) toy.

    Sounds as though you are all sorting it our beautifully. Happy Holidays. xo

  15. Diane Petersen permalink
    December 2, 2010 12:23 am

    I love every word of this!!! Thank you so much!!

  16. December 2, 2010 9:38 am

    Hodgepodge sounds nice and comforting…we’ll have a night of latkes and dreidl spinning next week just for fun. And I’m sure your kids will look back fondly on their years of shoveling manure while all their college roomates will remember is years glued to the TV and wii (which they got for Christmas).

  17. December 2, 2010 10:59 am

    P.S. And I do have to admit that is a distinct advantage of not attending public school–you can get away with wearing your sister’s dress to school

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      December 2, 2010 3:48 pm

      I know! I had to wonder how the dress would go over at the neighborhood public school. When I picked Col up he didn’t have the dress on and I asked why he took it off (waiting for him to tell me someone teased him about it) and he was like “Mom, I had to put my snowsuit on.” Duh.

  18. December 2, 2010 1:13 pm

    I love that you prefer to eat wild game for Thanksgiving. It would certainly be my first choice as well and definitely a much healthier choice when compared to those poor greasy store bought turkeys. I love how you cut your squash…now why haven’t I ever thought of doing ours that way…hmm.:)

  19. Melissa permalink
    December 2, 2010 4:51 pm

    Love this post–we are all about the hodgepodge over here, too . . . but I am really delighting in Hanukah this year! Avi is sooo into it; he made a bitchin menorah at school, too. xo

  20. December 2, 2010 5:12 pm

    I’m totally taken with the title, “The Sawing of the Blue Hubbard Squash…” I’m so inspired now.

  21. December 2, 2010 8:20 pm

    We are hodge podge too. Chanukah, Christmas and Yule. Any excuse for a party, just like how I grew up. Haha.

  22. December 3, 2010 2:07 am

    Oh, I love it when you talk “real.”

    Yes, traditions are what we make them, and your kids will grow up with their own quirky traditions and memories of the seasons.

    What got me about what you wrote was Rose asking “am I amazing?” That is so cool! I love the age where the little ones think they are super special – I hope I can stave off that horrible, awkward, painful self-doubt of teenage years until the very last minute. If my girl thinks she’s amazing now, perhaps some of that will stick into her adult life. Good job, Mama.

  23. December 4, 2010 12:32 am

    Happy Hanukkah- We’ve been busy lighting our menorahs and making Latke and cabbage rolls- We’re hosting our big shin dig tomorrow night so the monkeys are SUPER excited-

    Have a great Hanukkah weekend!

  24. December 4, 2010 12:46 am

    it’s the real diy spirit coming through in that holiday hodge podge. : ) and such a lovely post!

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