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homestead happenings: no longer cool

October 5, 2011

Several light years ago, Dan and I lived with our friend Donna Mae and her cat, Stinky. One night Dan was home alone and Stinky scratched at his bedroom window so Dan compliantly let her in. Twenty minutes later Stinky showed up at his window again (having got out through the cat door) and meowed cutely. Dan let her in again. Apparently this went on for an hour, Stinky riding on the ferris wheel of Dan’s window, around and around until Dan finally realized the cat was playing a game and he was the sucker.

When I came home that night I found a note from Dan saying: Stinky is no longer cool.

This still cracks us up, 13 years later, and I thought of it tonight as I realized that I too, am no longer cool. I am no longer Zen Mama beaming from my zucchini-stuffed cushion while fall bursts like fireworks outside. I am no longer singing peaceful come what may anthems while the seasonal lights flicker off. No, tonight I’m hobbling around the soggy garden, laying sheets and blankets over the tomatoes, shivering and cursing the storm blowing in like a bad omen, a bad omen that smells a lot like frost.

Just yesterday I was swooning over the cosmos bobbing around so magenta-ly and saying to Dan, “as long as this cosmos is blooming, I just don’t mind the garden starting to wither.”

~this cosmos! yesterday!~


~these tomatoes!~

Turns out, I don’t mind the garden withering as long as it’s still 80F degrees out and the tomatoes are coming off in my hand.

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

Some of you have asked for more details on our homeschool co-op. Voila, details:

The homeschool co-op, which meets once a week in alternating parents’ houses is like something that Mr Roarke and Tattoo might have dreamed up for disgruntled first graders on Fantasy Island. Oh, you kids are sick of worksheets? How about hands-on science experiments demonstrating how plants expire water? How about class held outside? And hey, just take as much time as you need to eat lunch or finish a project.

The homeschool co-op’s first 4-week unit focused on plants and all the parents did such beautiful and thoughtful projects with the kids, I got teary reading about them in our collective notebook. Now we’re studying Primitive Skills and Ancestral Ways. When I heard that one parent is going to construct a brush shelter with the kids, and another is teaching them to make fires primitively, my heart soared because this is Col’s exact fantasy.

At our house, we painted pictographs on rock:

Dan got to be the Vanna White of primitive tools in his workshop of fascinating and unusual treasures. Here kids, would you like to pound deer sinew into fine threads that can be dipped in hide-glue and used to attach obsidian knife heads to antler handles?

~Oh this? Just Dan singing elk chants while shaking hoof rattles like most fathers in America~

One thing I loved that Dan taught the kids is the importance of showing respect for the animals we eat. There are many ways to do this but my favorite was “speaking well of the animal,” so at dinner lately it’s been like having a hard-of-hearing aunt at the table while the kids proclaim, “I REALLY LOVE THIS DEER BURGER. YUM. THIS FOOD IS YUMMY.”

Col is also at the local public elementary school 2 days/week, in a classroom with other homeschoolers, kindergarten through fifth grade. That classroom is a bustling, happy place and recently Col told me he had two new best friends at school. “Honey, that’s wonderful! What are their names?” “Um, I don’t know,” he replied, “the guy with glasses and the other guy.”

On the homestead:

It’s fruit season here, and we’re picking apples, saucing apples, eating apples,

drying apples (and cherry tomatoes and pears…),

I finally got the lacto-fermented pickles down (recipe here). They are so crunchy and sour and delicious, when I eat them I feel like I should be sitting at the counter of a Brooklyn kosher deli with a guy named Moshe. (Or maybe that was the Brooklyn where my dad grew up in the 1940’s and 1950’s, I hear it’s different now).

~it’s alive~

We pulled up some of the squash plants that were covered in powdery mildew, and it’s always amazing to me how little root can nourish so much plant. This zucchini root was about 6 inches, which is a good reminder that one foot of good soil is plenty deep.

I sunk some lettuce seedlings in the spaces left behind by the squash we pulled. Soon the cold frame will go on that garden bed.

Dan is working on tanning a hair-on deer hide, in the shed, at night, with the skunks.

Yesterday a package came in the mail from Lacey, who was my partner for Mary’s amazing bioregional swap. Not only did we get elderberry syrup! gnome money! and herbal skin cream! but the kids got these beautiful hats. Lacey, color choice: perfect.

Rose reading a book on carpentry, “and den the girl said, well, maybe I’m not your friend anymore when you tease me because I don’t like that.”

My current recipe collection, on the inside door of a kitchen cabinet, starting to get a bit chaotic. How do you organize your recipes?

Seen on a bike ride, still laughing about it. Stinky?

Aspen leaves from the high country.

And really guys, it’s just frost, just the end of fresh produce from the garden and farmer’s market, just the end of bare arms until sunset. That’s all. Just like every other year; no biggie. If you need me I’ll be sitting vigil with the tomatoes, sipping the fermented ginger ale.



ps: have you entered the fantastic giveaway yet?

24 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2011 8:16 am

    Um, sorry, you’re still cool. Waaaay cool.

    Laughed about Stinky. Love that story. And your love for the guy you married.

  2. October 5, 2011 8:56 am

    Love the cat sign I definetly had a good laugh…while sitting at my desk…

  3. October 5, 2011 9:57 am

    Love the post and the pictures! How do you have a homeschool session at the local public school? That sounds like my dream.. homeschool but still have a couple of days mingled with others kiddos.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      October 5, 2011 1:48 pm


      It’s a local program, this “shared schooling,” and probably could be imitated anywhere. I believe the public school gets $ from the homeschoolers and so is motivated to keep the program going, which has grown in students every year. It’s a really lucky situation: allows me to work, allows Col and I to have some space from each other, allows Col to feel like part of his neighborhood school where so many friends go, and it’s free!

  4. October 5, 2011 10:22 am

    Yay!!! So glad the package arrived! We have been enjoying the lovely goodies as well, thank you so much. I promptly made coconut flour biscuits with the dried tomatoes and decided that grape jam could totally be slathered on them. Delicious! I’ve set the seeds aside until I can figure out the perfect spot for some Bee plants :) I cant wait to tell people, ‘Oh those? Yeah, those are from this really awesome family out in Colorado that sent me seeds they saved from their plants. And they’re really cool’.
    Also. I want to come be a participant in your homeschool co-op. How fun to paint on rocks and make tools from elk horn! Your kids have it made. Thanks again for the homemade goodies!

  5. donnamae** permalink
    October 5, 2011 1:03 pm

    The way I remember it is that someone else was home. There was no cat door. You were in the kitchen letting her out while Dan was in his room letting her in. She was smarter than all of us put together. How else could one explain how she escaped from her cage and wandered innocently through a plane filled with passengers, without notice? I’ll never forget the look on her face when our eyes met and she was 7 seats up in the center aisle. I looked at the woman across the aisle from me and said, “that’s my cat”. Stinky will always be cool.

  6. October 5, 2011 4:02 pm

    hey hey! now i’m feeling guilty about dissing my garden! :) saw the cat sign, too. we thought it was ours that went missing a few months backs, but ours wasn’t so darn angry! you’ve inspired me to post about how i deal with recipes…no rhyme or reason to it, but sort of fun…give me a few days!

  7. October 5, 2011 7:26 pm

    Amazing stuff! I love the school co-op!

  8. October 5, 2011 8:06 pm

    a) Wow, that’s still a lot of tomatoes (I just picked all of mine–green–in anticipation of frost tonight).
    b) Those pickles are beautiful!
    c) Love the cave-man homeschool.
    d) Recipes–I just (re)discovered recipe cards and I love, love, love. I bought a multicolored pack of 4×6 index cards and use different colors for different seasons (blue–winter; yellow–spring/early summer; red–harvest; gold–anytime. I wish there had been a better color selection, but there you go). Whenever I make a dish i like from a cookbook or blog, I transfer it to the appropriately-colored card so that I can remember to make it again. My dad made me a gorgeous recipe box for x-mas to keep them in (seen here:

  9. October 5, 2011 8:37 pm

    Oh Stinky…you are one funny kitty!

    Missed being here, Rachel. Trying to catch up. Happy Fall. <3

  10. October 5, 2011 11:41 pm

    loving the window into your learning at home(stead) days :)
    really, i never saw you as a mom with kids at school. it just couldn’t last, you folks are so unschoolers. this is way more fun, yes?

    loved catching up, busy fall here too, though your kitchen witchery is forcing me to bow deeply to you. you are awesome with the lacto-everything! i wish i could take a class witchou.

  11. October 6, 2011 8:12 am

    Recipes – I have a few small binders I keep them in. One strickly for canning recipes, the other for our favorites. I’ve actually punched holes in some of them, most are shoved in the front pocket. But, I know exactly where they are.
    And handwritten ones? I have a small notebook.
    Really, it’s much more organized that it sounds.

  12. October 6, 2011 8:12 am

    Recipes – I have a few small binders I keep them in. One strictly for canning recipes, the other for our favorites. I’ve actually punched holes in some of them, most are shoved in the front pocket. But, I know exactly where they are.
    And handwritten ones? I have a small notebook.
    Really, it’s much more organized that it sounds.

  13. October 6, 2011 8:39 am

    I made 2 gallons of ginger ale….. it rocks! Got a second batch ready to bottle this weekend. We put the last batch in a small soda keg, let it finish up in the laundry room and then put in the keg/beer fridge. I love watching the kids get soda out of the tap…. so cool!?!
    Have you visited nourished kitchen? We just signed up for a year of menus…. awesome stuff that is GAPS approved & GF and just good traditional food….. I get all swoony like I’m oogling over a new baby when I read the menu each week…. it’s ridiculous really.
    And, the inside of my cabinet looks just like that… I think it’s the best place for the loved recipes…

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      October 6, 2011 10:08 am

      Stephinie, the scraps of paper inside the cabinet *does* sort of work. These are the mainstay recipes – bread, mayonnaise, and right now: sour pickles. Did your ginger ale go alcoholic? I’m so fascinated by the alchemy of fermenting and how the ginger ale is better (re: tipsy) than I could have planned for. Also, if the ginger ale is capped, do I need to store it in the fridge? If I keep it out will it turn to vinegar? I get email updates from Nourished Kitchen. I’ll check out the year of menus. Do they send someone out to cook for you? :)

  14. October 6, 2011 1:50 pm

    danna white is so awesome. quinn’s dad was attractive to me for some of the same reasons, though dan seems to lack in the areas that made me decide to leave him. but yeah, quinn’s having a good time with his bow and arrows with obsidian heads attached with sinew and, in his case, i think not hide glue but pitch. and speaking of deer… was it a town deer?

    wish i could sit vigil with you and your ginger beer. i hear you, big time, sister. (i’m not ready for cold frames yet.)

    hahhahaha organized recipes. yeah right.

  15. October 6, 2011 3:33 pm

    Hey, Rachel –
    I made some ginger ale and bottled it. It is still very good – slightly alcoholic (1-2%?) – bubbly and not vineger. Mixed with vodka and fresh lime juice and a lovely Moscow Mule is in my hand!!
    Thanks for writing the blog and keeping me inspired~

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      October 7, 2011 2:26 pm

      And you keep the ginger ale out of the fridge? Maybe the alcohol is just a byproduct of the yeast eating the sugar? Did you buy yeast or harness the wild ones?

  16. October 7, 2011 8:00 am

    The guy with glasses and the other guy. Love it! (And the pictographs.)

  17. Meg permalink
    October 18, 2011 8:56 pm

    Hey, how did my cat get to Durango?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      October 18, 2011 9:01 pm

      Is yours the stinky one or the one that bites?


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