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homestead happenings: on the brink

May 3, 2012

We’ve just arrived at the tippy top of the seasonal roller coaster where I’m peering—for a breath-holding second—steeply down at the free-fall of summer. We’ve been cranked up the long, slow incline of spring, scattering lettuce seeds, watching the river swell, marking the calendar with camping trips, knowing that soon summer will zoom on its own momentum. Fast. As it always does.

It’s at this change of seasons, which writer Gretel Ehrlich says, “deserves a separate name so the year might be divided eight ways instead of four,” where something tugs at me. There’s something about being hereagain, on the brink of summer.  Everything is so familiar—seasons colliding in our mudroom: sandals jumbled with snowboots; me wondering if I have to actually sing to the carrots to get them to germinate; the kids’ limbs browning up—and yet, a whole year has passed. (Also, a year ago we were here. How is this possible?)

I think it’s this passage of time that is most confounding to me as a mother, how slippery and incremental it, how you can’t see it or touch it but it’s the chisel shaping your beautiful children every moment.

On the homestead:

:: Anyone need some dirt?

Digging has commenced on the root cellar and Col has a new purpose in life. He hangs around the dig site like a groupie waiting for someone to sign his trowel. He’s constantly working his own side projects – avalanches, gullies, dams – on the edges. It’s kind of like having a rebellious employee on your crew. The other day I was giving my carrots a pep talk and overheard Dan telling Col,”now, I like having you here. But you can’t just start absentmindedly hacking away at the root cellar walls.”

You think you’re coming over for a playdate, and next thing you know, there’s a shovel in your hand. Thanks, Chris! The digging is taking place inside our luxurious shed, no need for a shade tarp.

Notice: I dont have an actual *name,* or maybe “Rachel” is too long to spell.

The volume of dirt that is coming out of the ground is a bit startling; it’s like the ground is turning itself inside out. Some of it, mixed with chicken coop bedding, has gone to our new potato bed, which gives me a silly thrill, knowing those potatoes will go back in the hole from whence their dirt came. And incidentally, the “sangre” potatoes we planted (from the San Luis Valley below the Sangre de Christo mountains), are the same potatoes buried in the White House garden this spring.

Our neglected front yard, which the kids refer to as the “back yard” because it feels so remote. Tupperware Heights, baby.

:: Someone left a sweet May Day gift in my car on Tuesday. Who was it? Was it you? We loved it.

This gift has put a new twist on holidays for Rose because someone can just come *leave candy in your car.*

:: In a weird but completely normal deja vu, I found myself shoveling goat manure with the threesome, Col, Rose and their friend Mathew, just like last year. Last year the kids’ project was digging up worms for chickens, this year it was kamikaze hammocking.

:: The other day Col and Rose were pushing each others’ buttons all morning, fighting and crying like they were rehearsing a scene. Okay, let’s try it again from the top, I’ll man-handle your polar bear and you do your jungle scream. I finally sought refuge in the garden only to be begged back inside, tearily, by Rose. When I got back inside the house was quiet and they were reading side by side.

I can’t even begin to understand. In fact, that is often my mantra.

:: Stage 1 of the mother#$%!!@* pinata we are making for Rose’s birthday, which needs 3 more layers and which I look forward to laughing about someday.

:: Books! I am reading Gretel Erlich’s memoir, Solace of Open Spaces, which is absolutely lovely in its descriptions of blinding blizzards, getting struck by lightning, cavernous loneliness and the scouring winds of Wyoming. Really. Have you read it? I am sad that it’s only 130 pages.

The kids and I just finished Witches by Roald Dahl, and I just have to wonder about this guy and his children’s books about horrible creatures eating children. Perhaps things were different in his day, you know, less insipid singing purple dinosaurs and more tingling, engrossing and safe fright. We all loved Witches, even if we had to read it during the day.

Read anything good lately?

:: Lettuce porn:

:: Crabapple porn:

I’m humbled by all your interest in hollyhock seeds. (And I do have enough for everyone) .My blog friend mb, whom I had already sent some seeds to awhile back, e-mailed me a photo of her hollyhocks sprouts, all proper and civilized in greenhouse trays, which made me reconsider my planting instructions, which were like: throw them somewhere and forget about them.

(Rose just told me, “you’re typing fast, and you even get the right letters you want.” And I don’t even have to use loose dirt to write my blog posts).

I hope you’re all enjoying this bridge between seasons.



24 Comments leave one →
  1. Kara permalink
    May 3, 2012 7:00 am

    Lovely. I think the 4 inter seasons are my favorites times of the year for the possibilities of the time to come mixed with nostalgia for the season not yet passed but leaving. Thanks for sharing these moments and the recognition of this period’s portent.

  2. May 3, 2012 8:29 am

    i am down for DIRT *and* HOLLYHOCKS. i am Also Down to shovel goat shit, help with the root cellar and generally just offer enthusiastic garden apprentice support. xo

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      May 3, 2012 9:56 am

      We’ve got a shovel with your name on it, darling. xo

  3. May 3, 2012 8:42 am

    And the “I wish I’d said that” award goes to Rachel, for…this passage of time…slippery and incremental…the chisel shaping your beautiful children every moment.

  4. Dan permalink
    May 3, 2012 9:00 am

    I love this, Honey, thanks for taking the time to boil it all down into these beautiful words, thoughts, and images. A gift! I love the idea of those potatoes growing in the top soil of the excavation, only to be stored in the “hole” later this fall! love you, Dan

  5. May 3, 2012 9:24 am

    yes, yes, yes, slippery slope indeed.

    and i still think your hollyhock planting instructions are superb. it’s a yard, a garden, let it grow, let it be. just nurture.

  6. May 3, 2012 9:34 am

    hahahahahaha. i didn’t have any instructions, so i thought i’d do a little of both (some in pots, the rest thrown willy-nilly, at various time points since you sent me plenty and i have no idea what temperature they like- oregon coast not equal to durango colorado, etc.) and that way i’d know what they look like so i won’t pull them out when the willy-nilly ones grow. (i know it’s wrong that i’m 34 and don’t know what they look like… well, now i do.) not putting all my hollyhock seeds in one basket, you know. i am purposely not going to go back to my own blog looking at posts from one year ago, because that whole passage of time thing- wow.

  7. May 3, 2012 9:51 am

    Years ago, I attended an archeology talk on the astronomy/pectroglyph connection (spirals that line up to solstice events etc.) and the speaker mentioned cross-quarters, which are the dates that fall half way between equinox and solstice and were celebrated as times to plant, reap, etc. (Because who are we kidding, the first day of spring is almost always too cold to plant anything, but the first of May, now we’re talking). They were all celebrated in ancient times. As I listened, it was more like remembering something I had forgotten. Had never heard of them, but immediately loved the idea. Ground Hog Day, May Day, Halloween, are all based on cross-quarter days. (Nothing for early August in this country – perhaps we should invent our own). Here’s a blurb. “Equinoxes and solstices are separated by precise 90 degree angles according to astronomical convention. The cross quarters exactly bisect these and served as Celtic boundaries for each of the four seasons. The Celts named the cross quarters Beltaine, Lughnasad, Samain and Imbolc.”

    Oh, and I read Ehrlick’s “Match to the Heart” many years back. Crazy story. Now I’m just buried in farming/gardening books.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      May 3, 2012 9:59 am


      Cross-quarters! Yes! Thank you so much for this.

  8. Bree (via e-mail) permalink
    May 3, 2012 9:54 am

    I’ve been struggling with wordpress to leave a comment on your site for what feels like months now. I can’t figure out my username/password/email address issue. I’ve tried everything I can think of so after another week of messing with it, I figured I’d just email you. So the whole point is, I’d love to be a part of the hollyhock giveaway and also wanted to say I LOVE your blog. It makes me smile and laugh and sometimes cry…. I just adore it. Today’s homestead happenings was a true gem!!

  9. May 3, 2012 10:12 am

    Lovely Rach. Thanks again for words that blow the sweet smoke of inspiration into my heart and bring tears of grateful wonder to my eyes as I gaze at the La Platas once again. I love you. :) Let me know if you need some facepainting to accompany that pinata for Rose’s birthday. My treat.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      May 3, 2012 10:21 am

      omg, omg, hells yes!

  10. Jen M permalink
    May 3, 2012 10:45 am

    Beautiful post…as always. The passage of time – way too fast when you have littles. The change of seasons, well it just reminds me of “this time last year”.
    Childrens stories…my husband has a large book collection that was once his grandparents. Among many first editions he found a collection called “Children’s Story Hour”. It is ten volumes originally published in 1907. It contains stories like Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretal etc. To say they are horrific is an understatment! My husband was reading them to our just turned 5 year old, when in Jack and the Beanstalk the giant kills Jack’s father. A lot of those stories talk about the death of a parent or something else unthinkable. Crazy to think our grandparents and parents grew up on that stuff!

    Thanks again for your generosity of the Hollyhocks. My little guys can’t wait to sow them.

  11. May 3, 2012 1:41 pm

    I’m thinking of building an earth oven. I’ve gotten as far as getting a book from the library about it. Maybe I could get some dirt for that…

    P.S. No matter how impatient you might feel with the pinata process, I must warn you not to put a pinata with a blown up balloon inside in the sun to dry. Unless you want a paper mache hat or other things that can be made by exploded pinatas.

    Be well.


    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      May 3, 2012 2:43 pm

      Okey doke. Moving pinata off our porch right now. Thank you.

  12. May 3, 2012 6:23 pm

    Rachel, what do you do with the crabapples once they are born??? Looking forward to DIY kitchen segment on that. xo~a

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      May 4, 2012 3:39 pm

      When I was really deep in my scavenger phase, I made funky little sweet breads with them. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get nutty enough this fall to extract the pectin from them for canning fruits.

  13. May 3, 2012 6:43 pm

    i am perhaps a bit jealous of your root cellar! what a great gift for a homesteading family to have, eh?! we talked a bit about one last year(?), i think…but that is as far as we got:) i love this post…indeed…heading toward summer and all that delicious fresh food…and the craziness that accompanies the busyness. cheers to all!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      May 3, 2012 8:41 pm

      Pennie, we talked about it all last summer and then abandoned the idea because it was crazy expensive to get digging equipment into our weird-access yard. I was resigned to storing bits of food in our shed, in our crawl space, in friends’ basement (as we did last winter) and then Dan got all fired up about hand-digging the thing.

  14. May 3, 2012 7:58 pm

    i love all of this inter-seasonal goodness, but i’m writing to say that my kids still can’t listen to the whole story of the Witches and they’re just round the corner from 10 and 7! i found my mom reading it to them one day, raised my eyebrows and then wasn’t too surprised to hear them skulk out of the room nervously looking for a different book to read. i think roald dahl is a genius and i’m freakin thankful he wrote less-than-syrupy stories for us to enjoy!!! (Matilda and the BFG are favorites around here…)

  15. May 4, 2012 11:40 am

    My daughter never finished “Witches” the book, but someone gave her the movie and she made it through that, which then had her going back to the book.

    I just finished rereading “Hens Dancing” and “Summertime”, both by Raffaella Barker. It’s British chick lit, laugh out loud funny. She’s a single mom, living in the English countryside trying to keep up with her garden, chickens and her three kids. I highly recommend them.

  16. Emily permalink
    May 5, 2012 7:00 pm

    My children also enjoy watching me type. They gleefully say helpful things like, “mama, you spelled something wrong! The red wiggly came up!”

  17. May 10, 2012 2:05 am

    Solace, of course! It’s Wyoming’s theme-song (except it’s a book). Some of our good friends are long-time family friends of Gretels. She hangs around these parts. I’ve read other books of hers, but Solace is a favorite and for good reason. Anyway. I just finished “The Paris Wife” for our book club and was immediately inspired to re-read The Sun Also Rises, except I don’t have a copy on hand, so am settling for The Great Gatsby until I can get a copy of Hemingway. I have a new appreciation for that machismo ass after reading a fictional account of his first wife. I’d like to read A Moveable Feast next, unless I get burnt out on the lost generation. Next month’s book club selection was mine, This Dirty Life. I think you recommended it once, no? Oh, wow, it’s almost 2:00 am. Shit.

  18. May 14, 2012 8:35 am

    Thank you for the book recommendation!

    I’ve been reading Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich. I think I need a break between chapters, though. Maybe I’ll finish it this time, if I read it more slowly?

    And I love your blossoms. Mid-May and I’m already nostalgic for the blossoming trees …

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