Homestead happenings: 4 kids, 2 dogs, 1 sheep, 1 bunny and a gazillion mosquitos
So, I don’t know what kind of summer goals you have, but I’m proud to announce that I’m getting over my squeamishness with the aphids that appear on our greenhouse lettuce, which is to say…the cute little bright green ones? I might be eating them, only, you know, accidentally, dressed in vinaigrette.
Also, the earwigs that burrow into the lettuce folds only to wriggle out—gasp! alive and shiny black—as I part the seas of salad with my fork? I am not eating them, they do give me the heebies, but they are not ruining my meal.
“Put him outside!” Col, crusader for insect-rights, insists when I carry an earwig to the sink to drown it. This is the same boy who perches in our apple tree, ready to catapult himself into the potato patch below to nab a grasshopper (who’ve been munching the potato flowers. Does anyone know how this affects the potatoes?).
“Looky this big one I got!” Col exclaims over a fat brown grasshopper. I suggest he throw it to the chickens, alive, gladiator-style. But, Col is more likely to build a Shangri-La of a grasshopper habitat (“do you think the grasshoppers would like some hollyhock leaves, Mama?”), from which the winged bandits eventually escape…back to the potato patch.
So, I’m hoping to become less squeamish, to follow the lead of my children who chow deer liver, who last Sunday ate 10 trout eyeballs each, and who casually hold crickets in their cupped hands while wiry black legs probe their delicate skin.
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So, you’re wondering how we spent the weekend with the strange brew of creatures?
We woke up Saturday morning at 10,200 feet to robins singing a summery tune, Glenn strumming his fiddle, a lone sheep bleating, and a sheepdog circling its charge, trying to lead her back to the flock.
Every summer, about 7,000 sheep get moved up into the San Juan Forest to graze, which can be hard on wild plants, but is a continuation of a rich history. (Dan has a dream of spending the summer cataloging the aspen tree “graffiti” – the words and drawings carved into aspen trees decades ago by lonely, hispanic sheepherders. Living history that will live just as long as the individual tree – anyone want to sponsor him?)
Our camping compadres, Kristi and Glenn (who also appear here) recently bought a little pull behind camper and now they have room for
more toys, extra blankets, Daisy the bunny! Daisy loved nibbling on wild grasses with four small children trailing her like secret service.
I have nothing to say about the mosquitos, except that back at home when a certain 30-something year old mother was whining about her copious bites, a certain 6-year old boy said “Mama, mosquitos have to live too. Also, they feed birds and spiders and trout and that’s how they’re good.”
We frolicked and lounged and drank coffee late and beer early, while Hearts the Dog insinuated herself into the fold of families. She hiked with us and accepted our gifts of popcorn and cheese and guarded our tents during nap time. Like mothers do, Kristi and I worried about why the dog was so skinny and where her food and people were and about the bloody gash on her back leg that made her limp. There was talk, when the dog was still with us at dinnertime, (eating her own plate of mac’n’cheese) about taking her home (which was either highly unethical or going to save her life). Even Dan threw a nugget of raw elk sausage to Hearts.
After dinner we took a walk to the spot where we had last seen several sheep and a few horses. We figured if Hearts belonged there, she might recognize her home. The clouds were whipping themselves up into a thick batter.
Hazel and Rose were negotiating a complex trade: wooden kitty for pink stuffed bear.
And Hearts, that old trickster Australian Shepherd with the sweetest blue eyes, loped up to her horses like they were old, familiar friends; and they were. “Thanks for the food and love, suckahs,” she wagged as she bid us adieu.
We made it back to camp just as the clouds poured into the mountain basin and lightning cracked open the sky. Col, Dan and I retreated to our tent like a Kansas storm cellar while Rose played “a game about Yahtzee” in the camper with everyone else.
And another camping trip wove itself into the mental stacks of our family library.
* I am thinking about writing a post on camping with kids, like with tips and ideas. If you have any questions you want answered, you can leave them in the comments.
Andy Goldsworthy-inspired dandelion art:
ps: My camera died and I took all these pix on Dan’s work camera. When I looked for these photos on Dan’s work computer, most of his files were called: big bucks on 32nd st, or, bobcat at cemetery, or, elk calves on Prow Mountain. Love what you love, Right?