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homestead happenings: it’s all good

September 6, 2011

~spotted in the Needham neighborhood~

After making 7 half-pints of jam and 8 pints of syrup, I’ve given our chokecherry trees over to the evening grosbeaks. It’s worth it for the pleasure of hearing the crick-crack of their beaks crunching through seeds like bony pliers. And, it’s like typing in “ironic comedy”on Netflix – because I’ve spent the last couple weeks painstakingly extracting the clingy flesh from the unusable seeds, and they—these elegant birds—are doing the exact opposite, munching the seeds and leaving the purple fruity carcasses behind.

But it’s all good – our purple-splattered walkways, the seedheads scraping against the sky, the inevitable endings.

I’m feeling surprisingly fine about fall. And not to be all Californian (which is my birthright), but I’m totally trusting in the process. One month ago, we closed our blinds against the heat of the sun; now—back on speaking terms—we fling them open; soon we’ll be begging for as much as we can absorb. Everything changes.

~okay, I’m just a teensy tiny bit anxious about the end of fresh tomatoes~

Everything is so here now, so bursting with Septemberness, and yet, if you walk through the garden you can hear the plants quietly chanting Buddhist sutras on the nature of impermanenceThe garden is both at its height—broccoli spitting out side shoots, tomatoes coming off in your hand—and its slow decline. Strawberries are roaring into ripeness, while one garden bed over, basil is trying, wearily, to just go to seed and be done.

~the morning glories: so here now~

~even the grasshoppers seem sort of benign and comical this time of year~

~Rose sampling our first backyard apple – still a little tart~

Yesterday, without nostalgia or ceremony, I cut back all the new growth on the tomatoes and winter squash so the plants can concentrate their energy on existing fruits. I also cut back all the hollyhocks—which brightened our garden for so long—clearing away forests of seedy stalks, so every little edible thing could be brushed by the sun.

~armful of hollyhocks, a tiny fraction of what I cut. I dumped them in the chicken coop and the chickens were like “PRESENTS!”~ 

~honeybee snoozing/enjoying a pollen-drunk stupor in a hollyhock~

Maybe the kids are my inspiration – the way trust and courage pulses through them like blood. We dug up one robust potato plant recently, only to find the tiniest, single peanut of a potato tuber, and I was all ready to be shocked and indignant when Rose wagged her finger at the potato plant cheerfully and said, “you sneaker-poo!”

~Look! We have a virus! the kids said, while every blue pen in the house mysteriously disappeared~

We had such a good time while Dan was gone hunting, the kids and I. We tend to do a lot of socializing and not so much laundry. I did however, shell a lot of acorns.* The rate of processing proves to be about 2 hours for 2 cups acorn meal. Chokecherries aren’t much more promising, 26 cups of raw berries makes 7 cups jelly. But if you’re raising children you’re used to these sorts of baffling statistics of productivity. My friend Melanie told me about this hybrid tree you can buy at the nursery, chokeberries, same flavor, no seeds. And I’m stodgy enough to be like, whatever (chokecherry juice still caked on my glasses), where’s the fun in that?

~processing acorns, session VXIIX. I even brought acorns to the park, to shell while the kids grew 2 hours older. Those 2 cups of acorns are in the freezer, slated for Dan’s birthday cake, to be frosted perhaps with chokecherry frosting. photo by Rose~ 

Dan is home after five days hunting. No luck yet, but as he says, “very exciting encounters.” He hunts with a primitive handmade bow, which means he works his ass off getting within shooting range of an elk and success statistics are in the range of chokecherries and acorns. Here he is telling hunting stories to Chris and Karen. I’ve never heard him talk so much in 16 years.

~I wish Dan had a blog so you all could hear his awesome stories. Thanks Karen for being from Brooklyn and not flinching when Dan described coming upon the buck that fell 200 yards downslope. Thanks Chris for listening and talking shop with Dan and for appreciating a never-been-frozen buck deer backstrap~

The kids too are ripening under the September sun.

Rose can now hula hoop while walking and is working diligently on blowing bubbles with gum (hugely stymied by the hippie gum we buy her). She also spontaneously hopped up on a chair last night to help me wash dishes, and actually sped up the process. And Col, who is quiet and humble like his dad, corrected me the other day when I was reading him a poem about the night sky.   “Actually,” said my 6-year old boy, “the night air isn’t black, it’s more like the Earth’s shadow is on the sun.” Right-o (sort of).

These children, who are always quietly chanting buddhist sutras on the nature of impermanence, seem to be just a little louder than usual.



* I’m thrilled about the small acorn revolution that is taking place, with so many of you e-mailing me with your acorn questions and aspirations. Please know that our local oak tree (Gambel Oak) produces acorns with very low tannins. If you’re working with other species, the tannins could be pretty strong; try leaching tannins with water (Google it – it looks fun and exciting) and maybe start with a small batch. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

* Also, it’s entirely possible that I’m all California-go-with-the-flow because the world is still bright with flowers and cherry tomatoes. Hopefully I can keep singing this tune in November.

* Also #2: e-mail subscribers, are you getting e-mail notifications?

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy permalink
    September 7, 2011 7:59 am

    Hi Rachel- yes, I get an email every time you post – I love knowing I have something fabulous to open and read :-)!

  2. September 7, 2011 8:07 am

    love :) and yes…. getting email notices here!

  3. September 7, 2011 8:35 am

    “where’s the fun in that”? HA

  4. September 7, 2011 8:36 am

    26 cups of berries for 7 cups of jelly? I’m pretty sure that qualifies you for sainthood.

  5. Susan permalink
    September 7, 2011 11:24 am

    Rachel, your thoughts and words are like 16 layers of happiness cake. xoxoxo

  6. Christy permalink
    September 7, 2011 11:25 am

    “…if you walk through the garden you can hear the plants quietly chanting Buddist sutras on the nature of impermanence.”
    Love, love this. I struggle so much with staying in the hear and now. The garden does help with that. I do not easliy do sitting meditation. (My hubby teases me for my monkey mind.) But in the garden, doing the same repetitive tasks, my mind stills.

  7. Aunt Barb permalink
    September 7, 2011 11:36 am

    Col upside down qualifies as one of the top 10 photos ever on the blog, and there have been sooooo many good ones. Love it.

  8. September 7, 2011 12:37 pm

    Rachel, what surprises me about coming to your blog is how much I love it. This sounds wrong, but I want the wrongness to be ALL right. You tell hunting stories unabashed. You talk about hula hooping while walking and I smile. Everything here is super plain. You talk about the mundane of life: the living, but with such Exuberance that it becomes Mystical or Hyper-Alive.

    This is THE VERY THING I’ve always wanted to do and somehow have not quite gotten my arms around it. I think it is because I often back away from the most plain things, thinking “people won’t be interested in that.” I try to “dress things up.”

    It is your authentic love of your life that draws me in and comforts me with serenity. I’m beyond grateful to you for telling these stories and for loving your family and your garden and your food so dearly. It plants peace in my day.

  9. Melissa permalink
    September 7, 2011 1:21 pm

    oh, this post is a lovely break in a busy day . . . but you know I’m *always* California go-with-the-flow . . .

  10. Anonymous permalink
    September 7, 2011 7:52 pm

    this reminded me a lot of an adrienne rich poem i used to have and love. i will look for it and share it with you. thanks for your lovely writing. i’m a bit of a lurker (not commenter) but i often read and relish your writing.

  11. September 8, 2011 6:20 am

    Oh, how I can relate to the children chanting Buddhist sutras on the nature of impermanence. Mine seems to be working extra hard lately to remind me that there really is very little that lasts just as long as I try to hold on to it.

    Everything in your garden (and your home really) still looks so vibrant, as I’m sure it will manage to all through the winter. I love this time of year in Colorado!

  12. September 8, 2011 8:05 am

    This is so lovely, your blog. I’m so glad you stopped by so I could find yours! Your writing is just delicious, Rachel. Your garden bounty is gorgeous, your dedication to shelling acorns is slightly deranged (as is the chokecherry jam and syrup making), and your very obvious love of living a natural life is beautiful. I’m looking forward to coming back and basking in your words and life.


  13. September 8, 2011 11:24 am

    you are so fun to read. i’m going to trim some new growth on our winter squash plants now. hadn’t thought of that before…..those butternuts are looking sort-of small for this time of year. especially at 6700. i wish i could take your fermentation class. maybe someday you can teach a class in boulder…..that would be nice!!

  14. September 8, 2011 2:12 pm

    On the nature of impermanence … every time I look at these updates from you, and all these marvelous pictures, I think, Wasn’t it just May and snow was falling over there?

  15. September 8, 2011 2:28 pm

    Girl, I need you to come out here and school me in the ways of the garden. We had our first this year and we did well, I think, but now things are shooting off and going to seed and I stand before it all confused. But then I eat a perfect tomato and get over it.

    Love your writing, love this post. Lovely, lovely.

  16. September 8, 2011 2:57 pm

    This is the first fall/winter season change I’ve felt really peaceful about in…well, I cannot remember. Maybe never.

    Like you, perhaps I’ll check back in with my happy self come November. ;)

  17. September 8, 2011 3:09 pm

    impermanence. :) yeah.
    i’m so totally going to gather my first round of acorns soon. or haycorns, as quinn and piglet and pooh like to say.

  18. September 9, 2011 1:41 am

    The chokecherry-acorn time warp is so awesome and very much like parenting. Love your description of Dan’s hunting stories. I’d love to hear them too.

    That’s going to be one damn good cake.

  19. martha permalink
    September 9, 2011 10:07 am

    Adrienne Rich

    This high summer we love will pour its light
    the fields grown rich and ragged in one strong moment
    then before we’re ready will crash into autumn
    with a violence we can’t accept
    a bounty we can’t forgive.
    Night frost will strike when the noons are warm
    the pumpkins wildly glowing the green tomatoes
    straining huge on the vines
    queen anne and blackeyed susan will straggle rusty
    as the milkweed stakes her claim
    she who will stand at last dark sticks barely rising
    up through the snow her testament of continuation.
    We’ll dream of a longer summer
    but this is the one we have:
    I lay my sunburnt hand
    on your table: this is the time we have.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      September 10, 2011 1:30 pm

      Thank you very much for this gorgeous poem. The last four lines: swoon.

  20. September 9, 2011 11:41 am

    Funny, that this time of year we spend so much time cutting back and pulling out and putting on, like our arms are continually putting on winter’s coat. So much to pull in our garden, so much wood to stack and so many blankets to ready for cool nights on beds.
    Love: “we closed our blinds against the heat of the sun; now—back on speaking terms—we fling them open; soon we’ll be begging for as much as we can absorb. Everything changes.”
    My four year old Lucy peered over my shoulder at this post and keeps saying, “why do they have blue feet? don’t they want green feet?” I told her how it happened and now she wants to send your loves a green marker.

  21. September 27, 2011 11:59 pm

    omg, that bee picture!

    and okay, those pictures of your kids, too!

    what a lovely incantation into september.

    love. life.


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