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homestead happenings: predictably predictable

August 11, 2011

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.

like this one!

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.

chokecherries: darkening

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.

dusky penstemon

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.

I think Col was noting what it took to spend the summer solo in the mountains. He'd like to put his name on the sheepherding list for next summer.

The highlight was when the kids got to sit on Willie the horse. And we all want to learn Spanish now.

Better even, then all of Rose's fantasies about pink ponies.

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.

Roasted Zucchini

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.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    August 11, 2011 5:17 pm

    Super fun post! Love ya, Dan

  2. August 11, 2011 7:37 pm

    A. I love Dan’s theory about hunting. If I were to hunt, that’s exactly how my brain would operate.

    B. I loved hearing that I’m not the only one who re-uses an unwashed baking pan…

    C. Your little trip looks like it was amazing!

  3. August 11, 2011 8:21 pm

    wow…that is sweet magical spot. loved the photos. and your beautifully expressed gratitude.

  4. August 11, 2011 8:24 pm

    Wow, I’m sitting here in a fleece jacket thinking, “wait, summer hasn’t even started yet, has it?” and you’re there in the middle of it, eating it and hiking it and soaking it all in.

  5. August 11, 2011 8:26 pm

    I’m seeing fleeting glimpses of a grown girl in the smile I’m seeing in my kitchen lately. Not quite yet, but still coming. And too, am predictable. I love it. I also love that when I use the word “rhythm” it sounds so much more enchanting!

  6. Christy permalink
    August 11, 2011 10:18 pm

    What a magical place! Can’t you just day dream about one (or both) of the kids bringing their special someone there. (You know in like forty years ;-) )

    And where exactly are you going to squeeze a horse onto 1/8 an acre. Because yep, the real thing is SO much better than pink ponies. (double wink. I had serious unrequited horse lust as a girl. I was cruelly forced to settle with occasional rides on my grandpa’s mule.)

    Am not predictable yet as I am new to the gardening experience. But already find myself saying, “well, next year…” As in next year NOT eight banana pepper plants. Next year sweet potatoes. Next year more corn…etc. Looking forward to being predictable though.

    Your family always makes me smile. Thank you for sharing, (And could you send good squash vibes Arkansas way. Squash bugs demolished ours…grrrr)

  7. Ellen permalink
    August 11, 2011 10:44 pm

    Amazing…seasons and crops come and go with predictabiity and a certain comforting sameness, but children are constantly surprising. What a great blessing!

  8. August 12, 2011 1:17 am

    Love the wall tent and (goodness!) that cabin! Totally awesome. I would love to tuck away in there and write, if only for a day. The way you spend your summers is so fantastic. Your crisp photos and luring words make me want to trade my (grey and cool) beach days for sunny mountain weeks.

  9. August 12, 2011 12:09 pm

    I’m so taken by this post I don’t even know where to begin! You have a way of making even the most ordinary things like roasting veggies extra extraordinary. I love your descriptions and I love reading about your life in the mountains. And this is the case of the chicken and egg – not sure which came first. Is it the beauty of the mountains that captured my heart or the beauty in your words that made these mountains so gorgeous.

    Either way, I’m happy every time I visit you here. Your life may not be for me (since I’m too prissy for camping and gardening), but I love reading about it all the same.

    p.s. It’s awesome that you found your names in the guest book!

  10. August 12, 2011 12:20 pm

    Everytime I read your posts and see these glorious photos, I want to move to Colorado. I have to remind myself we have plenty of pretty here in CA, once you get past the fake boobs and concrete.

  11. August 12, 2011 12:40 pm

    What an absolutely exciting thing to do. I loved when you wrote about Crayola colored meadows. How beautiful.

  12. Ania permalink
    August 12, 2011 4:17 pm

    oh, sour pickles are totally THE BEST! I used to make them every summer, eat them all winter long and drink or use the water for cooking too.

    The paragraph about being up there… PERFECT!

  13. August 13, 2011 6:32 am

    Wow! Its amazing that you ran into a Peruvian sheepherd on yor hike! I have been fascinated by this profession … what a lonely job yet full of magical moments it must be. Maybe I need to visit Colorado then and ride along with one of these lonely travellers. It was a hot topic aorund last Christmas..on how lonely these shepherds were around Christmas. I am glad you posted a pic of the tent. Enjoyed virtually being there.

  14. August 13, 2011 11:12 am

    Perhaps I’m especially, excessively hormonal, but this is the part where I started to tear up: “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 love the simple appreciation of the predictable, yet extraordinary and the way your family manages to embrace all of the things you find on your adventures in the mountains. I’m glad you pulled off homestead happenings!

  15. Charles Clayton permalink
    August 13, 2011 4:49 pm

    I feel like a moron for not knowing the tree in our driveway was a chokecherry. Thanks for teaching me something new about my world. I look forward to exploring more of your blog.

  16. August 13, 2011 8:52 pm

    did your comment in the guest register say something about birthday suits???

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 14, 2011 7:59 pm

      I think it said something about the woodstove cranking so hot that we slept in our birthday suits. That’s all I’m telling.

  17. August 14, 2011 6:07 pm

    It’s so cool to be able to finally include the kids in family places that are special. I think they understand at some level that they are old enough to be included in some things, and it is special to them, too.

  18. August 15, 2011 11:35 pm

    Totally beautiful.


  19. Emily H. permalink
    August 16, 2011 9:28 pm

    Beautiful pictures, beautiful words, beautiful memories! Thanks for sharing.

  20. David Smith permalink
    August 17, 2011 3:16 pm


    2/19/99 Dave Kasper Silverton

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 17, 2011 10:18 pm

      The best part was Dave’s comment in the register: “just stopped by for lunch,” after Dan and I spent ALL DAY snowshoeing up there.

  21. August 19, 2011 12:18 pm

    you guys lead such a charmed life. i’m so in love. i’ve heard of those cabins, but never been to one. super groovy!

  22. September 2, 2011 2:18 pm

    I never thought of it that way, well put!

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