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Homestead happenings: bioregion

April 11, 2011

I feel compelled to share—as a counterbalance to my last post—that Rose is truly all the colors of the girl rainbow. Here she is yesterday, rounding out the assembly line of children digging up red wigglers from a pile of goat manure and caching them to feed chickens.

the passing of the worms

*** ** *** ** *** ** ***

Last week was cloudy and rainy and windy, which isn’t so great for carrot germination (the wacky carrot germination idea is proving to be, well, wacky, – no carrots up yet) but when you’re trying to grow things in an arid place that averages 300+ sunny days/year, a little rain is like the sky blowing kisses on your small plot of earth.

I love how different regions have their own distinct feel. Here in the Southwest it’s bright, dry, dusty and spacious. There is lushness too, but mostly it spreads out from creeks and rivers like a child’s watercolor strokes bleeding into paper. “Green” is a relative term which includes the dusky tones of sagebrush. The landscapes are grand, the sky is a canvas, and you can almost always climb a little higher to get your bearings. And when the air is clear you can see into neighboring states.

When Col was a toddler and Rose was an embryonic amphibian, we moved temporarily, to Humboldt County, (Northern Cali, redwood country) to bring Col to sea level where he could finally run and slide and jump, untethered to the oxygen cord. We chose Humboldt for many reasons, though mostly we were attracted to its differentness. It was moist and heavy and salty and green. Dan and I would watch the mid-morning fog move in like a hungry animal, swallowing up buildings and forests. When the fabric on Col’s stroller molded from humidity, it felt like a rite of passage.

Humboldt County, 2007, 38 wks pregnant with Rose

Obviously there’s no perfect place (although I have been known to call living at 6512 feet paradise). But, I dare you to find more insanely gorgeous wildflowers than here, in the San Juan Mountains:

On the homestead:

:: Dan sort of lost his job, and then he got it back in a different, less-attractive version with reduced hours and a lower wage. (When someone mentions say, a new restaurant, Dan will say, “let’s try it! Oh wait, we can’t. I just got a pay cut, not a raise).  We’re still sorting everything out. The upshot is Dan’s been around a lot more, doing projects on the homestead.

Dan built this little overhang out of scraps-on-the-premises for the downstairs folks' bikes. Previously 6 - 8 bikes were all entangled in our shed, and extracting your own bike was sort of surgical.

Dan is working on consolidating our 3 sheds into one, which means we’re getting rid of a lot of the stuff that gets thrown in a shed and forgotten for 13 years.

Like feathers and gourds, apparently.

I’m wishing on a pink pony that by the end of summer, we’ll have a root cellar.

:: We’ve been making a batch of cookies every week. And somehow, because the cookies often have shredded zucchini, sesame seeds, raisins, unsweetened coconut and peanut butter amongst the flour-butter-honey-chocolate chip base, they feel healthy enough to eat, oh, about 5/day.

:: 2 weeks ago when Col saw me wrap a dozen of our chicken’s eggs for a 4-year old’s birthday present he said, “Mama? Eggs are more like something you give another mother. Birthday presents are like games and toys and books.” He said it in the same gentle voice that he’ll use in ten years to say, “Mama, socks are not like something you wear under sandals.”

I persevered with the eggs and some additional treats and we talked about being able to give special gifts without always buying new things, partially because our financial picture is changing, partially because we all have too much stuff already, and also because we produce a lot of cool stuff on this homestead.

The following week we had another birthday party and I told the kids we could buy some marigolds and plant them in a pretty pot for our friend Aniya. “No!” Col shouted like I suggested we actually pinch Aniya for her birthday. “I don’t think we should spend any money. Let’s dig up something from the yard.” And so we did.

day lillies and apple mint - a lovely gift.

:: We took our first manure run, a few buckets of the most luscious goat manure just a short drive from our house. We brought Col’s buddy Mathew along, because, well: digging, poop, worms and goats.

Mathew has chickens too and everyone wanted to bring a little worm snack home to their hens.

I’m in love with this property where the goats live. It’s within city limits, but with an irrigation ditch and acreage. When the owner told me she was considering selling, Dan’s voice piped in my ear, let’s buy it! Oh wait, we got the pay cut. But I’m glad this goat lives in our bio-region.

Tell me about your bioregion. If here, it’s bright, dusty, dry and spacious, what 4 words describe your place?

XO,

Rachel

*Also (because it wouldn’t be a 6512 post, without an also), I love how you all were cheering for Hal’s 13-year old tomato seeds just as much as I was. Can seeds feel love? I’m thinking yes.

*And, the new, spring, print  issue of Edible San Juan Mountains is out, and I have a little article about roadkill in it. The comments I’ve gotten so far have been along the lines of “fascinating and er, nauseating.” My friend Jojo says “don’t make it too sexy, or we’ll start getting competition.” Word, brother.

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 7:41 am

    Gaaaaahhh!!! I love mountain meadows full of wildflowers! How breathtakingly gorgeous! When I was a girl of twelvish, I was quite certain I would move to Durango when I grew up and could leave Denver, and would live there forever. Oh am I reminded why! Aaaaahhhhh wildflowers. Holy moly!

    My bioregion, right now: sunny, muddy, stormy, daffodilly.

  2. April 13, 2011 8:06 am

    wet. humid. warm. then hot. ha! This year I started tomato seeds in an outside greenhouse (okay so it was wooden boxes & an old sliding door) and the tomatoes are all thickly stemmed with huge leaves and their standing about 8 inches tall right now. My husband thinks I have an obsession going on. anyway….. the humidity & warmth means so many bugs and fungus things for plants. it’s challenging to water enough for the heat, but keep the plants dry so you don’t encourage mold…..
    on another note the subtropics mean cool lizards that eat the zillions of bugs and so many amazing tropical flowers and lush jungle plants that grow all over….

  3. April 13, 2011 8:27 am

    Rachel, since you lived in Humboldt, I thought I would tell you about an issue a friend of mine is involved with. I guess California Department of Transportation has a project coming up that involves widening Hwy 101 through Richardson Grove in Southern Humboldt Co. that will likely jeopardize some of the old grove of redwoods there. Here is more informatin and an online petition to keep it from happening in case you are interested:
    http://www.change.org/petitions/defend-ancient-redwoods-save-richardson-grove

    Well, my bioregion, especially at this time of year is gray and wet (very wet!). It has rained everyday for the last week, but by summer we will be bright and sometimes humid and sometimes dry. In July we might get up to the upper 90’s which will feel oppressive, but by August we could easily be wearing a sweater on a cool rainy day. We have weather diversity here in Central PA I guess you could say.

    Sorry to hear about Dan’s employment situation, but often when one door closes another opens. It certainly looks like he is making good use of the extra time…who knows where that might lead maybe more writing time for you ;).

    Blessings and peace~ elizabeth

  4. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    April 13, 2011 9:10 am

    I believe seeds feel the love. My little tomato sprouts were lolligagging regarding true leaves. So when I would check, I’d tell them that they could do it. “Who are you talking to?” the kids would inquire. Now, all sprouts have true leaves and it looks like I may, for the very first time, grown my very own tomato plants. Love works :)

  5. April 13, 2011 9:24 am

    I love and hate the cookie shot because now, my stomach is rumbling for them and nothing sounds good except for those cookies I see here!

    Sorry to hear about Dan’s job – with my pending mostly unpaid maternity leave, two extra mouths to feed and more expensive housing, I will be able to relate soon enough, although I’m not as handy as he is.

    As for my bioregion, I can’t really tell beyond the tall buildings and concrete. If I had to guess I would say, humid, cool, strange and unpredictable.

  6. April 13, 2011 9:24 am

    If you’ll forgive a contraction and some slangy grammar, I’d say our bioregion in four words is: “We’ve got it all.”

    I just might agree about the wildflowers. It’s been years and years and years since I was in Colorado, but I remember being so taken with the flowers — possibly even more so than with the magnificent views.

    So sorry about the pay cut. Ugh.

  7. April 13, 2011 9:31 am

    Rachel – I love how lives independent of one another can have such similarity… Since I’ve stopped my “crafting” business, I’ve been feeling the financial pinch. Cole and I are taking a roadtrip, and he’s heard me express my concern over my dwindling savings which is supposed to fund said trip… He’s starting to talk about it the same way your Col is. I’m finding the lack of cash to be difficult, but also sort of a relief. It’s forcing me to do things in a way that I’ve always wanted to do them, but never needed to… kinda like giving eggs to a 4 yr old as a bday gift! :)
    You KNOW what my bioregion is like… but I would like to comment that I LOVE The Dirty Life….! I hardly ever read a book that doesn’t have instructions in it somewhere, so this is a true treat. I’ve laughed out loud, cried, been inspired, drooled, and I’m not so many pages in… If you know any other books like this one that I might love, I’m all ears! Enjoy your Spring!

  8. April 13, 2011 9:32 am

    Those pictures are amazing, so many different colors in those mountain meadows. Sorry to hear about your husbands job. He is quite the carpenter, your overhang looks great. Hope those carrots hurry up and germinate for you.

  9. April 13, 2011 10:43 am

    My bioregion…trying to think of the right word: stalwart. It feels like it has been like this forever, and will continue whether anyone is watching or not. It’s been heavily logged at times, and yet, like the tortoise that wins the race, it just keeps slowly moving forward, repairing itself and continuing on. There’s a real feeling of biocontinuity, if I can coin a word. Similar to Durango in terms of rainfall (supposedly – though it has been uncharacteristically wet for the inland northwest, they tell me), but 5,000 ft lower in elevation, and so more gentle. Go north and there are trees as far as the eye can see – pine, spruce, fir, but also hemlock, larch and cedar (the real one, not junipers). Go south and you are in the rolling hills of the Palouse, some of the most fertile wheat growing land in the country. The cost of living, reasonable. The people, resourceful. The local food movement, burgeoning. Doesn’t quite feel like home yet, but it does feel GOOD.

  10. April 13, 2011 11:23 am

    I say start a collection and BUY THAT LAND. I’ll put in the first $20.

  11. April 13, 2011 12:50 pm

    My bioregion: smoggy, concrete-y, sunny and beautifully artificial (sometimes, it’s not an oxymoron).

    Dude, so sorry to hear about Dan’s effing pay cut. “Your Money or Your Life” to the rescue! Or something. I’m a grant writer. Ever do any? I’m getting harassed constantly to do work on the side. With your writing chops, surely there’s a way to bring in some extra buckage that way? Or something. I have ideas. Now, if you only lived down the street, I’d swing by, eat all your cookies and brainstorm contigo.

    Also, Col is awesome. What child goes from toys to let’s dig up a gift from the yard that quickly? Seriously. That kid is a rockstar.

  12. April 13, 2011 1:00 pm

    I love your family :-)

  13. Melissa permalink
    April 13, 2011 1:42 pm

    How I love the prego shot of you on the beach with little Col! And your description of the fog–all these years of living in SF with no effing way to describe and then you just do it perfectly (;

    Did you already share your cookie recipe? I would easily eat 5 because, as you say, they are *healthy*! The Annie’s bunny pretzels I am hoovering at my desk right now, not so much, plus, they are for Avi post pick-up (I have learned to arm us with snacks for the ride home over the bridge, during which Avi gets a big kick out of us calling “The traffic guy”, aka, 511, on the speakerphone) so I need to exercise some restraint!

    You should buy that land. Go for it. It’s true your readers would contribute, including this one!

    Four words to describe Berkeley this morning? Cold, gray, lush, wet. Somehow doesn’t seem to capture the magic we are feeling but I hadn’t had any coffee yet, either. xo

  14. Chris permalink
    April 13, 2011 2:23 pm

    It’s such a joy to follow your family through each season in turn!

    Bioregion in 4 (or so) words, Twin Cities, Minnesota: forest meets prairie, birdsong, creeks and wide rivers, deer and coyote.

    Signs of spring in the last week:

    A bald eagle circling over the Mississipi taking advantage of a wild spring wind.

    Wildflowers nestled in the still-brown grasses of a hilltop meadow.

    Woodpeckers flitting from tree to tree in a forest flooded by spring meltwater.

    The lovely smell of last fall’s leaves rising from the moist, warming ground.

    Sometimes it’s hard to discern underneath the sprawling suburbanization that dominates the senses here, but the natural history of this place is so rich!

  15. April 13, 2011 3:27 pm

    First, 300 days of sunshine?! Holy smokes, sister.

    Second, damnit about Dan’s job. I really do think the whole ‘one door closes, another opens’ thing is true. At least it feels better when those bitchy door are slamming in your face. Something wonderful is about to happen.

    Third, you all pregs with the bow and arrow?! Love.

    Fourth, my bioregion is
    vastness meets density,
    arid meets lush,
    wild,
    rich,
    unrelenting and sweet.

  16. April 13, 2011 3:46 pm

    Right here, right now: lightness and blossom, spring AND summer.

    All year round? drought, monsoon, desert, marsh.

    (Oh, and I LOVE that billy goat. Thanks for sharing!)

  17. April 13, 2011 3:47 pm

    I LOVED the girl child post.

    I like this one alot too.

    My bio-region in 4 words?
    hot/cold/grey/pink

  18. rose permalink
    April 13, 2011 5:39 pm

    when i think about how to describe the town i live in (and grew up in) i think about a wool sweater i have that is beautiful and well-made and fits well. i try to love it and wear it, but it’s just itchy enough that i can never make it out of the house in it. i can’t get rid of it either. it gets packed around with me wherever i go and i keep coming back to it. trying to love it, but never quite getting there…

    i think Dan’s boss gave you all the gift of time. ;) good luck figuring it all out.

  19. April 13, 2011 5:39 pm

    Drippy, green, mossy, gray, damp, cloudy, mild, windy, punctuated with the occasional burst of a sun which makes everything come alive (people and plants) and grow inches a day (or so it seems) and makes everything sparkle. That’s right now.

    For the entire rest of the year it’s raining.

  20. April 13, 2011 8:04 pm

    you totally rock, rachel. love this!

  21. April 13, 2011 10:55 pm

    wild, cold, vast, migratory

  22. April 13, 2011 11:08 pm

    Find your best friends, go in on purchasing together, talk (lots, lots, lots) about it, and develop an intentional community. Seriously! It could be a possibility??

    We would love to do just that…problem is everyone I talk to about it wants to live somewhere different ;-) Kind of creates a challenge IYKWIM.

    Sorry to hear about D’s job, like someone just mentioned, one door is possibly about to bust open wide for y’all.

    Four words: luscious, vibrant, moist and balmy (which has all of us giddy and chaotic-ly active)

  23. Christy permalink
    April 14, 2011 12:51 pm

    Our four words would currently be: warm, green, blooming, and humid.

    We are lucky in north Arkansas to have four distinct seasons. But (for me who dislikes cold) pretty mild winters. We get some snow a few times a year, but it is always melted off in less than a week. The summers here are very humid and in the 90’s.

    Oh, and the garden. The peas are officially up. As are the radishes. Some potatoes have sprouted, and some lettuce. Everyday my Nan and I are checking to see what new things our warm sunny days and mild nights have brought us. We have everything in the ground now except okra!
    And I have a couple of canning books headed my way. My grandmother has been canning, well, her whole life, but I learn better by reading first, so! The past two days have been spent clearing out overgrown parts of our yard. So me, the girl who couldn’t wait to leave the country and not two years ago was paying someone to MOW her yard now has a three family garden and happily works the day away clearing vines, weeds, branches, and leaves. My hubby has taken to lovingly calling me Farmer Joe.

    But the very best part is, I love it. All of it

    Oh, and I loved the post on Rose (well both of them). Because I relate. My mother has pictures of me up in trees…with my dolls.(My mother was the only girl between two boys. She never had much use for high heels, makeup, or frilly things. And I think was often at a loss with what to do with a child who loved “girlie” things) And maybe that is part of the joy I am finding in the outside world again. In my teens, I thought I had to pick one. I have been discovering over the past couple of years that I don’t. I can spend the day fishing, or camping, or digging in the dirt and still enjoy dressing up and going out. (Did that ramble make any sense?)
    Sorry about Dan’s work situation. Sending good vibes westward to Durango.

  24. April 14, 2011 3:55 pm

    wet, moderate, shady, lush
    although i could have just dittoed erin. :)
    i just read that carrots take a long while to germinate… don’t lose heart. carla emery says she seeds them with radishes so she’ll know where to hoe because the radish sprouts come up quickly, and doesn’t have to wait for the carrots to show up. (encyclopedia of country living).
    bummer about the pay cut! the picture taken across the bow and quiver is awesome. :)

  25. coleen permalink
    April 14, 2011 6:02 pm

    Wow, can I get on your birthday list???? I would love the eggs and the plant!

    My area right now is sunny, warmer, gray, rainy, its spring in the eastern part of the US.

  26. April 15, 2011 5:45 am

    this whole post was so rich and delicious i don’t know where to begin in responding.

    but since you asked, here’s my bioregion (in slightly more than four words)…

    ocean waves, pine forests, sprawling pastures, quaint villages, rambling stone walls

    keep your chin up sister. i see many wonderful things in your future, despite (or maybe even because of) the, you know, pay cut.

    xo

    ~e

  27. Emily permalink
    April 15, 2011 7:40 am

    I didn’t know how to describe my bioregion when you posted this. Then yesterday the kids and I went hiking, and it came to me. It was quite an adventure to see a wetland that we suspected existed between two public lakes/parks. I’d looked at aerial maps, but wanted to see for myself. Once we got to the creek entrance, we walked and walked, stumbling into a set of dear antlers (that we didn’t bring home, silly I know), a skull (that we did bring home), four blue heron nests (I forgot the binoculars), a turtle and many many frogs.
    Then suddenly the creek opened up on the right and there was a huge (remember that word it comes up again), green, lush, buzzing, wetland. Beavers had dammed the area at some point, but were no longer there. It was covered with cattails and in places, ponds with accompanied lily pads. White egrets in and out of vision, dragonflies, butterflies, songbirds, deer, etc etc. I could go on and on.
    I’m not great with distance, but it stretched for maybe a mile in length and half that in width. Which is when I giggled, because I grew up in AZ, and a “vista” here in the piedmont of NC is much smaller than the state to state vistas in AZ. And my first NC thought was “huge”. So my AZ self giggled.
    Here, in my bioregion, I’d say it’s packed full of wet, lush, green, hot, buzzing life.

  28. April 15, 2011 10:35 am

    Oh my goodness! The pictures! Esp. the ones with fields of flowers. Please tell me that you twirl around in them and sing “The hills are alive…”

  29. April 16, 2011 4:35 pm

    i love the idea of giving plants as a gift! when we found out we were expecting our first child a neighbor gave me a beautiful jade plant that i still cherish ;-)

  30. April 25, 2011 8:18 pm

    Hi Rachel, I though for sure I’d found all the farmwife, homesteading and farmgirl-wannabe blogs there are already, but then I found you in the Telegraph classifieds – now why didn’t I think of that before? LOL, of course, it HAS to be a Durango thing! (I’ve been here almost 6 years now and am still learning).

    We’re located at 7000 ft., somewhere between the 160 and the 172, and get a great view of the mountains – where Durango rests at the far left of. (we don’t get many flowers here, but we get 1/2 the snow that the North side of the 160 gets- and we love watching the clouds crawl across the mountaintops, leaving us alone, especially during snows, but also the monsoon season lightening shows are awesome!)
    I have ONE basil plant that is spindly from overwintering the office window, but I let it go to seed… and a few indoor-started morning glories (the only thing I’ve had good luck with up here!)
    I understand the money thing too. We seem to have a micro climate in the jobs-conomy aspect too…. I remember being told when we moved here: If you want a million dollars in Durango, bring two!

    No goat, no chickens, no pony- only some little dogs. Still a farmgirl wannabe dreaming up the plan! I haven’t gotten very far in your blog yet, to see the honey and other things you mentioned, but will visit often to follow your footsteps! I imagine them going in leaps and bounds.
    Thanks for sharing.

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