homestead happenings: predictably predictable
If you weren’t sure what month it was, you could peek in our kitchen and find me hunched over the latest batch of zucchini and squash to be cranked out of the leafy assembly line. Green and yellow cylinders press cartoonishly through my knife, a spray of colorful cubes fly out the other end. Everything tumbles into the glass baking dish (unwashed since the last zucchini roast – yesterday), an olive oil bottle tips imprecisely with a wink, the dish sprouts wings and soars—coughing and sweating—into a 400F oven.
Oh right, it’s August!
Here’s another clue:
Dan’s been literarily cross-training with the books The Power of Positive Thinking, and Backcountry Bowhunting. Also, he’s been eating elk liver for breakfast. Archery season starts in 3 weeks and as you may know, Dan likes to finish up all the elk meat before heading out in the woods with his bow because he believes a hungry hunter is more likely to be successful. This means all those packages that have fallen to the bottom of the freezer—heart, liver, ribs—are getting defrosted. I am famous for opting out of the more gnarly cuts like the semi-digestable, sinewy lower leg, which Dan chews at for whole August evenings, farting and defending his meal, as if someone was talking trash about his Mama
Also, it’s that time of year that I’m taking more pictures of garden produce than children.
Were so predictably predictable around here.
Daily, I squint up at our chokecherry tree, assessing ripeness, remembering that it was last August when I could barely pull myself away from the chokecherry-splattered kitchen for the annual, late-season camping trip to Lizard Head Wilderness. And sure enough, the 3rd August weekend of our calendar is already marked, “Lizard Head camp,” and the chokecherries are darkening with ripeness.
The kids however, are like these bright comets flashing through the universe, shedding night-time diapers and toddler-mispronunciations like so much cosmic dust. It’s lovely to behold, and also unsettling, like reaching up to the chokecherry tree to grab a handful of fruit, only to find it has turned, overnight, into an elm.
But, here’s the thing – and you parents know what I’m talking about – it’s exciting too. I thought I might not get around to making a batch of lacto-fermented pickles (the original sour pickle, fermented like sauerkraut) until Rose was lobbying for birth control, but lo and behold, there’s a crock full of sour pickles in my bedroom doing their bubbly thing.
And Sunday afternoon we brought the kids to this special place that’s been part of our family lore but always seemed too remote and complicated to haul children to. It involved waking kids up at an unmentionable hour and zooming through the thick, dark fabric of morning to arrive here, at 11,000 feet just as the sun flashed on the peaks.
It was so good to be up there, walking through the crayola meadows, each wildflower singing it’s own particular anthem. I had this overwhelming feeling of giddy gratitude: to be up there, to have legs that work, a strong back, to know these plants like relatives, to be loved.
I carried Col on my back much of the way, which was sweet, sort of like having a transistor radio strapped to my neck with a cheerful DJ broadcasting a running commentary on every little thought that touched down in his mind. I really love rocks Mama, look – a beaver chewed on that stick, don’t step in the marshy seep, yeeeeooooouugh! sorry, I was just so excited I shouted.
After 2 1/2 hours we arrived at this historical mining cabin, open to the public, though not in any guidebooks, nor on any trail.
Dan and I snowshoed up here in winter twelve years ago and spent 2 nights in the cabin burning wood and reading the historical graffiti inked into the wall (which includes: Found Fred Olsen dead on lower bunk. July 11th 1953 and Seen the ghost of Fred Olsen. 3 days sober. 1971). We found our names in the old guest register.
And had the kids scrawl themselves into history.
Col was mostly interested in all the mining flotsam still up there.
I liked how life was growing up around all the old equipment, including rusting old bed frames.
When we got back to the truck a sheepherder had set up camp, his “dos mil” sheep scrambling up the mountainsides.
He spoke as little English as we spoke Spanish, but we learned that he was from Peru, had kids back home, and had been herding sheep in Colorado for 5 summers. (He also had an awesome silver sparkly belt and a transistor radio piping in a Spanish station at 11,000 feet). He let Col poke around his tent.
The highlight was when the kids got to sit on Willie the horse. And we all want to learn Spanish now.
While the kids snoozed all the way home (their necks so jacked and tortured in their carseats, I had to remind myself that kids are made of rubber, as my friend Claire says), Dan and I congratulated ourselves on the bittersweet joy of kids growing older.
Chop zucchini into small pieces, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and fresh garlic. Roast @ 400F for 45 minutes or until brown on the outside and collapsing on the inside.