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Homestead happenings: full

May 16, 2011

So seriously, we’ve been fishing a lot lately.

I got an assignment to write about trout fishing for a magazine I love (and Dan’s been commissioned to do some field sketches). Except it’s a terrible time to catch fish because of the spring run-off muddying and whipping up the creeks. But damn if we don’t love a challenge (Dan: fishing, me: writing).

Step one: tying flies. I think this one was a goat hair Muddler Minnow - hair saved from the 2 mountain goats who spent the night with us long ago in the Weminuche Wilderness. What the goats really wanted was the salt from our urine, which made getting up to pee in the middle of the night slightly nerve wracking.

The kids have their own poles and Dan has been such a hero, teaching them to cast, working with the quirks of their cheap equipment, retrieving snagged hooks from bitingly cold creeks, and taking their fishing lust seriously.

Last week at Pastorius Reservoir Col fished for 3 hours straight, throwing his line out and reeling it back like a wind up toy designed to do one thing. “I like how you keep fishing kid, that’s the way to catch fish – to keep fishing,” Dan said to Col’s stalwart figure on the banks, which is the simple kind of wisdom I imagine fathers have been saying to sons in Minnesota for the past 10,000 years.

We saw a flock of white-faced ibis (uncommon, migratory) slicing through the air like a platoon of black jets, and in a moment which couldn’t have been more stunning if scripted by Hollywood: an osprey swooped down and pulled a wiggling, silver trout from the lake.

~white-faced ibises~

Oh, how I love this place.

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

On the Homestead:

:: Last week we woke to a light dusting of snow on the nearby ridges that tuck in our valley. The day blew in windy and cold and at one point I stood at the window watching snowflakes and apple blossoms swirl to the ground, which is totally how Spring would describe itself if it had an “about” page.

Spring is coming on S L O W in a delicious sort of way, like someone leaving one bite of brownie on your doorstep each day.

And yet, life is full; full of summer dreams and good garden work and noticing each new tree as it pops with green.

Everyone’s wearing their own brand of spring euphoria. I toss seeds in the ground like some giddy old woman throwing cracked corn to the pigeons, chuckling to myself as the names collide in my head: teddy bear sunflowers, golden parsnips, bright lights chard. Col’s been building castles and huts and mouse-houses with pieces of lumber, rocks, sticks and mud; he calls me over to see his latest architectural feat and my heart swells with this funny happiness for him –  that he gets to be himself. And Rose putters around the yard steeping mint leaves and dandelion blossoms in muddy water, serving up tea to chickens, and when she thinks no one’s watching, taking exploratory, gritty sips herself.

the dirt pile (we won't talk about the current laundry situation)

No one seems to be able to pull themselves away from a late afternoon in the yard, except it’s not really late afternoon anymore, it’s 7pm and there’s no dinner plan other than the same pot of pinto beans we’ve been feeding the family from for the last 3 days.

:: Last night Dan said “I’m going out to pick some spinach and chives for my omelet tomorrow morning,” which keeps flitting through my head like some notable movie quote.

The crazy thing is that this is the *back up,* patch for when we run out of the coldframe spinach planted last fall.

:: Col’s artwork from school from their “spring sing” performance. Why does a bunch of kids singing never fail to make me cry?

:: Last week from inside I saw our cat snatch a bird from the masses feeding on the ground. I sent the kids out to see if they could retrieve it. They found this pine siskin in our sunroom and carried her gently outside.

Col and Rose took turns holding her (and petting her, which according to Col: “touching a bird is not like touching a frog. Because you know those oils? On your hands? Those can kill a frog. But not a bird.”). We eventually put her inside our bird-feeder hotel high off the ground, to recuperate and hopefully fly away, which she did. Afterwards Col said “she was just catching her breath.”

“Right,” I said. “She was probably thinking: oh boy, first that cat had me, then those kids had me.”

“But those kids were more nicer,” said Rose.

:: Dan brought home a truckload of the most luscious horse manure (locals, I’m telling you, this stuff is the bomb and there’s plenty more).

Wheeling buckets into the yard via skateboard.

The Summer Olympic manure snowboarding event, obviously.

:: Dinner last night: trout on a bed of steamed nettles:

Rose is still working on napkin etiquette.

Delicious. And if you want to know who ate the fish eyes, you’ll have to read the article in June.                          

Have a lovely rest of the week! May it be full of all the things you love to fill up on.



*thanks for the birthday wishes for Rose! You guys are the best. 

26 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2011 7:20 am

    every single time i read i think…this. yes *this* is my favorite post ever. absolutely. hands down. best ever.

    and then the next one comes…

  2. Kathy permalink
    May 18, 2011 8:04 am

    “Spring is coming on S L O W in a delicious sort of way, like someone leaving one bite of brownie on your doorstep each day.”
    Same here in Michigan, but with the rain, the bite would not last long!
    Ah, paradise, spelled “Durango.”
    It’s been YEARS since I have caught my own trout and fried it up the same day. Once or twice at Ragged Mountain, for breakfast, and at Ah, Wilderness too, 1970, where one could learn all things trout and wilderness. I am starved for paradise.

  3. May 18, 2011 8:16 am

    I love the picture of Dan tying flies. Although we do not use mountain goat hair, my husband ties a lot of flies with rabbit hair…the flies are known in our family as “the great white whoopies.” No idea why. Loved this post.

  4. May 18, 2011 8:53 am

    I have been thinking about getting some horse manure from the fairgrounds. It is for my vegetable garden. Do you know if it makes good fertilizer?


    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 18, 2011 12:57 pm


      It has been awhile since we’ve gotten poop from the fairgrounds. Last time there were a lot of wood shavings in the manure, which take longer (and use more nitrogen) to break down than straw. Perhaps if you dig deep down in the pile you’ll find some well-composted stuff.

      Good luck! Rachel

  5. Molly permalink
    May 18, 2011 10:12 am

    Thanks for writing in a way that shines light on the blessings in everyone’s ordinary life.

  6. May 18, 2011 11:20 am

    Wow – what a plethora of lovely things to share! We are right on course with our too-smart-6-yr-old-col(e)s-who-love-to-fish… and also the trout nettle dinner looked fantastic!!! Around my house, it would have been Cole eating the eyes! Also, it’s nice to know that spring comes on slow, somewhere other than just here. We don’t ever have the snow (right on the coast) but the buds take achingly long to burst forth!

  7. Naima permalink
    May 18, 2011 11:27 am

    Great pictures Rachel! Leaving Durango for more than just a couple days is a really good way to realize how much I love and miss it, and you guys! Give my love to Rose, Col and the homestead. :)

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 18, 2011 2:28 pm

      Nothing like leaving home to realize you live in paradise (rainy paradise right now). Rose has been trolling for snacks and love and conversation downstairs lately.

      Love, Rachel

  8. May 18, 2011 8:10 pm

    Kids are more nicer, aren’t they? And so’s that back-up spinach patch. Can Dan make me an omelet??

  9. May 18, 2011 8:16 pm

    I sincerely hope your kids know how truly blessed they are…

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 18, 2011 9:30 pm

      What a nice thing to say. Thank you.

  10. May 18, 2011 9:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing about the ibises; that would have been the highlight of my week to have seen them! Couple that with the osprey trick, and it sounds like a magical moment!

  11. Chi-An permalink
    May 18, 2011 11:36 pm

    Fish eyes! My brothers and I used to fight over the fish eyeballs. So much so that my mother was known at the fish counter as “the lady who wants the fish with 3 eyeballs.”


    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 19, 2011 8:36 am

      Yay yay yay! The fish with 3 eyeballs! Love hearing this.

  12. May 19, 2011 4:20 am

    I laughed several times reading this, which is wonderful since a handful of other posts this morning made me cry. Think I’ll stop now and start my day on this note.

  13. May 19, 2011 8:26 am

    I love your husband and the way he interacts with your kids. It’s no wonder you love him too. It shows. “I like how you keep fishin’ kid”

    Gotta love that. Slow parenting. Noticing parenting.

  14. May 19, 2011 11:10 am

    So much good stuff here. I feel inspired to knit your kids a half bird, half frog doll. Something about their narrative – really cracks me up.
    Love the little girl that ties flies with her daddy. And look how proud Col is beside the artwork. And I’m with you, a group of children performing always makes me teary with pride.
    “I imagine fathers have been saying to sons in Minnesota for the past 10,000 years.” Love this. My husband has those quotes from Montana fathers. Would be a neat book you could make Dad for Daddy’s day.

  15. May 19, 2011 12:16 pm

    mmm i have no knack for spinach. kale, chard, every other green. maybe i should try a different seed co. i LOVE rose’s grin in that picture after she took a “surreptitious” sip of chicken tea. the part about fishing is the best. fishing is what gets my son up and out of bed in the morning. we live in a fishing town, and it’s apparently taboo to encourage your kids to fish here (it’s kind of a dead end job i guess is the thinking), but i do encourage it, and his dad is actually good at it so that’s awesome. i myself have a $7 crabbing/shellfish license in my pocket even though i suck at it. all i gotta do is keep trying, as dan says, and eventually i’ll catch one. quinn has been the happiest boy alive when he has caught his few fish and crabs of his short lifespan, and i have no doubt he will catch many more, he definitely has the love. looking forward to your article!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 19, 2011 3:23 pm

      I had stopped growing spinach because it pretty much sprouted and then bolted. But, by sowing spinach in early March and covering it at night I’ve tricked it into thinking it’s living in coastal Oregon.

      Growing children at 6512 feet:

  16. May 19, 2011 8:43 pm

    That’s the way to catch fish — to keep fishing.

    It’s my new mantra!

  17. May 20, 2011 12:49 pm

    this whole post is so beautiful, that i feel full up just after reading it. but i think my favorite is the pic of col with his art…his smile, the work (it’s all so great and unique) and the concept that a child’s art truly does deserve to be framed and shown with the best of them all.

  18. May 20, 2011 10:07 pm

    Love it! Especially your descriptions of spring’s potential ‘about’ page and being stuck in the yard till…oops, it’s dinner time. That has sooo been our lives these past few weeks. I swear it’s only 5 when we realize it’s really 7…and alas, where is that home-cooked meal already? Oh, what, I was supposed to be inside cooking?!
    PS My husband makes rockin’ omelettes too. Just cajoled him into making them this morning actually. And I was thinking this morning, I hope I’m not the only wife who has a killer-omelette-making-man. :)

  19. May 22, 2011 7:11 pm

    Things have been crazy but I had to stop by for my fix of your fantastic writing!! What wonderful pics, too! Rose is our girl (you can’t beat fishin’ in satin or a little probiotic tea) and what a neat person Col is. Such a beautiful life. :)

  20. May 23, 2011 1:45 am

    It’s been a slow spring here too, hoping to catch up with planting tomorrow and the rest of the week. The 50+ tomatoes are looking vibrant and healthy…we just need the sun dialed up a notch to plant ’em under the hoop house. Birds…we had one fly into the house and exhaust itself and knock it’s poor self silly trying to fly through the living room window. I was frantically trying to throw a blanket over it and it finally made it to one of the open doors and landed in the rhubarb hedge. We didn’t notice it after that. I sure hope it was okay!

    We’ve been fishing too, cast after cast, no fish yet :)

    Things are looking beautiful on your land, Rachel.


  21. May 23, 2011 3:39 pm

    I get so excited when I see others enjoying whole, bone-in fish too. You can hardly find fillets where I come from and growing up, I was always happy to help my mom gut the fish as she prepared to cook them whole. Now I’m the only one in my house who handles that.

    As for Spring slowly finding its way to us – you don’t say! We’ve had so much rain we’re building an ark around here. More thunderstorms in the forecast means even though we technically live on the beach now, we can scarcely enjoy being outside building sandcastles. Sigh. So close yet so far.

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