Making a Lemonade Day from a Lemon

By , September 14, 2019

I had an irritating errand to do this week in order to get re-hired for my job (I job-share with someone else — they work part of the year, I work the other part, and because we’re temp employees we have to get re-hired each time and it’s always a hassle-y process). In the past I had to just go to the HR office nearby to get fingerprinted but this time I had to drive to the next town an hour away for this stupid, simple 10-minute task — a waste of my time, energy, and gas.

I decided that in order to have a good attitude about the errand, I needed to make it fun for myself. So after the appointment, I stopped in at an antique shop across the street and took my unhurried time looking at everything. I got three little things including a little kitty picture frame, and this great book The English Country Home and wooden jar. I walked to a nearby cafe and got a fun treat-drink, and then I drove to a little town I’ve always been curious about, and stopped at a public open space area, which I had all to myself, and absolutely basked in the feeling of being in the mountains. I had forgotten how good it felt and how much I had needed it. The smell!!!!!! Spicy, earthy, pine-needle-y, heavenly smell. I’d forgotten how good the mountains smell. I came upon a little creek and spent a lot of time poking around there and soaking in the sound and sight of the moving water.

It all felt so incredibly good. It seemed like terrible timing to be away for a day since I have so much going on especially with all the garden produce flooding in. I miss a day and I get behind. A vacation day was extra-needed, and I didn’t realize it until it was happening. I’d done something Fun that day (!) and I came home feeling uplifted and renewed. I spent the next day flattened and fatigued unfortunately, but I made that stupid errand ‘work for me’ and it was worth it!

*****

Beauty All Around

By , September 7, 2019

Look at that sky!

When I was a kindergartner, I had a wonderful ‘daycare mom’ who was an artist named Karen. Her soulful, cocoon-like home was as warm and welcoming as she was, and she especially loved filling giant canvases with luminous oil paintings of soaring, heavenly clouds. Just beautiful, beautiful works of art. To this day I think of her every time I see a sky like that one.

***

Well we have had some glorious flowers in the garden this year. Look at them! So beautiful. ♥

*****

Late-August Vegetable Garden Tour

By , August 26, 2019

Hello!

It’s a busy time of year in my garden; in late August the produce is really starting to flood in, meaning a LOT of kitchen time between now and October!

All the time and effort spent thus far in my garden is really starting to pay off though. We have our own private organic farmer’s market just outside the back gate! Here, I’ll show you…

Let’s start in the fruit “orchard” where we have one apple tree, two peach trees, and three or four grape vines. Believe it or not, these are two of the peach trees I started from seed, documented in this post from 9 years ago! I make the grape jam that I love from the grapes, and have been starting to use our cut-up Winesap apples as the fruit in my morning green shake. Later on, I’ll make big batches of applesauce with them.

Standing at the North end of the garden:

Standing at the South end of the garden:

Celery:

Honeydew melons:

Watermelons:

*****

Photo Tour of The Good Life Center: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine

By , July 19, 2019

Care and artistry are worth the trouble. They can be a satisfaction to the practitioner and a joy to all beholders.

-Helen Nearing

***

In early August of last year I visited Forest Farm with my family on a special trip to Maine, and it was one of the top highlights of the entire trip. What a special place; I didn’t want to leave. Forest Farm was the entirely hand-built homestead of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of many books including the classics Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World and its sequel Continuing the Good Life: Half a Century of Homesteading. (Still relevant! The value of old books… see previous post.) My copy of Living the Good Life came down to me via my dad, from his mother many years ago. Growing up, his family would take beloved summer vacations to isolated Harborside, Maine and they would hear about the “commie” Nearings who lived nearby. Helen and Scott’s door was always open to those interested in observing, helping, and learning, and Forest Farm still welcomes visitors as The Good Life Center, carrying on the Nearings’ tradition of sharing and showing.

I took many photos! Are you ready for a visit?

***

Driving to The Good Life Center through tiny Harborside:

Arriving at the Nearings’ driveway. It was a peaceful, hot, still, muggy afternoon here.

It was very quiet; bees buzzing, small waves lapping the shore in the cove across the street. A few other visitors sifted through while we were there. You just park and amble in. Very laid back, you’re welcome to wander and stay as long as you like, soaking it all in.

This is the caretakers’ cottage over the summer:

Helen and Scott’s beautiful hand-built stone house:

 

Here is a photo of Helen doing the stonework:

Let’s go in. Here’s their kitchen — an airy, light-filled, feel-good space:

Those were the beautiful bowls and spoons they used.

Here are their mugs:

Here’s their kitchen as it was:

Helen and Scott on the right:

Now we walk into the living room, with a cozy wood-burning stove, book shelves lining the walls, and a wonderful view of the surrounding forest and out to their cove:

Here’s more of the house; this area is used as the little bookshop now. Visitors aren’t allowed upstairs to the bedroom but you can peek up the stairwell:

Here’s their original sign:

Let’s go out to the garden and greenhouse now. There’s a little apple orchard in the protected area between the house and the walled garden:

Here’s that lovely walled vegetable garden:

Behind the greenhouse:

Overlooking the walled garden toward the house and greenhouse:

Compost piles on the left, outside the garden:

The rest of the land is forested. There are some walking trails you can take through tall trees, ferns, tall grasses, and dappled shade.

Here’s their cove across the street:

And here’s the mission statement of The Good Life Center:

That concludes our visit to Forest Farm. I hope you enjoyed it!

***

Just up the road is Four Season Farm, owned by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch — names you might recognize if you’re a gardener. The land was once part of the Nearings’.

*****

Old Books, New Perspectives

By , July 11, 2019

None of us can fully escape this blindness [of our own age], but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. . . The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

-C. S. Lewis

I ran across this quote in a quote book I have, and I agree with it. It puts a finger on the feeling I got after I read two old books recently — that feeling of getting the long-range view.

I think it feels good to get a dose of perspective.

The two books were:

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. I found this book to be so interesting I could read it again, even though I usually bypass books about history. It isn’t so much a detailed midwifery record as a day-to-day record of a moment in time on the Maine frontier (what’s now Portland) in the late 1700s, from a woman’s perspective. Since it’s Martha’s personal diary record and not just ‘the highlights’ of a life, there’s a real window into what the daily grind was like. The author does an absolutely excellent job with this book; it’s obvious how much time and care she put into it. After reading it I discovered it had won a Pulitzer Prize for History. I found this book by chance on the clearance rack at my favorite used bookstore, and not knowing what it was I took a 50-cent chance on it. I heartily recommend it.

Peig: The Autobiography of Peig Sayers of the Great Blasket Island. By Peig Sayers. I’m interested in the Blasket Islands and this book has been on my mental list for over a decade. I was so surprised to see it in a neighborhood “library-on-a-stick” on my bike ride to work last summer. It’s about Peig’s life growing up in rural Ireland in the late 1800s until her death in the 1950s. I wasn’t as riveted by this book because it didn’t go into enough detail about life on the Blaskets (Peig moved there only after marriage), but I’m glad I read it so I could hear her tell the realities and concerns of life at that time, in that place. It’s not a long book, and I found it worthwhile.

Reading is the only way you can get this stuff — perspective from centuries ago, straight from the horse’s mouth.

It seems to me that every era has its headaches, troubles, and complications. Do we ever really move ahead? Or do we just travel down the track, swapping one set of struggles for another?

*****

Dawn Chorus Herbal Tea Recipe for Spring

By , April 7, 2019

It is Spring. Brown and barren, with the greenery of hyacinth bulbs barely beginning to nose up through the dry soil. Now and then, a wet snowstorm, slush, and mud. This is Early Spring in Colorado, giving way to a period of ephemeral, rarefied beauty that makes it difficult to keep eyes on the road as one drives around a city. Millions of fragrant light pink, dark pink, and white crabapple blossoms filling tree after tree, petals fluttering in every direction on the breeze. Fuchsia redbud trees in protected corners with an iridescent glow on gray days. Cheerful tulips and hyacinth and green grass in front yards. Bushes bowing heavily with lilacs. Fresh spring rain showers. Robins, finches, sparrows, blue jays, flickers — nearly constant birdsong from dawn until dusk. What a feast for our senses.

It is around this time that this winter-lover’s eyes begin to really crave green. It is so nice to see the green!!

I have also rediscovered an old favorite herbal tea blend called Dawn Chorus — it’s a nice one for Spring. Mountain Rose Herbs gets the credit for this one, but it’s such a simple blend that I reverse-engineered a recipe for it quite a while ago. Mountain Rose is so often out of stock on stuff and their shipping is so expensive, that I stopped using them — but I still love this tea blend. My own recipe might have more rose petals in it, which is even nicer than the original.

Dawn Chorus tea blend:

1 part green rooibos (or red rooibos, for a taste that’s different but every bit as good in this blend)

1 part stinging nettles leaf, dried

1 part rose petals, dried

Mix together.

Put a heaping teaspoon into an infuser* in your mug. Add boiling water, steep for 5-10 minutes, squeeze out, add milk!

Then sit down and enjoy it. I am a big tea drinker. A chain tea drinker. I used to have a rule where I had to sit down while I drank my cup of tea. Over time, the rule faded and I’d be up chopping vegetables between sips of tea, starting a load of laundry with a cup of tea in my hand, going out to get the mail with my cup of tea, cleaning up and taking things from room to room with my cup of tea, writing emails with my cup of tea. I’ve recently decided to follow this rule again, most of the time. Taking that quiet moment feels good.

*Infusers! There are so many crappy ones. My favorite is the People’s Brew Basket in stainless steel (made by Republic of Tea — I get this locally at the health food store for about $3.50) and this one which is good for wide mugs. Fill-able tea bags are also sold, but you can make your own with coffee filters like this:

*****

 

In Loving Memory of Our Precious Liz

By , November 2, 2018

 ♥ Liz ♥

July 18, 2000 – May 14, 2018

This is a hard post to write.

It is with such deep sadness that I tell you that we lost our precious little Liz to an aggressive oral squamous cell cancer (a mass under her tongue) on May 14th. She would have turned 18 on July 18th, 2018.

My precious girl, my precious Liz…my guardian angel physically watching over me for almost 18 years…she was that once-in-a-lifetime cat. Not just a cat, but her own person. A highly evolved heavenly being, she loved me with unflagging loyalty and dedication until literally the very last moment of her life. The amount of unconditional love this precious being could give was staggering. I will be forever indebted to her.

She was of pure intent, with none of the aloofness or air of ulterior motive that cats can have. She was absolutely nothing but sweetness. So, so dear and sweet.

♥♥♥

I hate that this cancer took her away. And the rest of her body was still in good shape… I feel that she still had good, solid years left in her.

The upside to this was that her body supported her right up to the end. She maintained her weight, she maintained her spunky spirit, and she was able to be herself and do the things she loved to do. She was a happy cat and she kept having great quality of life right up until the last week or two when things really got real.

In late February she lost the ability to eat by mouth due to the tumor. But she was still so robust and otherwise completely her normal everyday self that we elected to have the veterinary oncologist place a feeding tube — like a little port in her neck, protected by an adorable white padded collar — which was a great solution and Liz adapted to it, no problemo. I continued to bake chickens for her and cook 12-hour chicken bone broth, which I would puree for her in my Nutribullet blender along with her Balance-It vitamin supplement, various other supplements, Chinese medicine, homeopathic remedies, my own flower remedies, as well as some wet food (either Newman’s Own or the Science Diet a/d Urgent Care that the vet gave us.) I was so grateful for that feeding tube!! Being able to continue to nourish Liz gave us three more priceless months with her, and I hold the memory of that sweet time dearly to my heart. We got to simply be together for as long as we possibly could.

The chemotherapies we gave her (oral Palladia at first, then IV Carboplatin) both worked for a little while but then stopped working. Liz and I elected not to do palliative radiation sessions because of the low success rate combined with the fact that she’d need to be sedated each time.

Lizzie didn’t want to be euthanized, so we were together right till the very end, surrounded by all the comforting familiarity of our childhood home where we grew up together. She fought literally to her last breath, but the cancer finally just got her, and took her.

Even on her last day on Earth, we were outside together enjoying the fragrant spring air, sunshine, and lilac blossoms in the peaceful, familiar backyard. Her beloved yard! Her last few days were tough and rough, no doubt. What I found interesting was that even through this, and right up till the very end, her tail continued to do its usual light tapping “all is well” sign. She also tried to reassure me as best she could, with her special noises, purring, and nuzzling me. Her last day was really hard. It was a struggle, and she could no longer purr, but her tail continued to lightly tap, and she made deep eye contact with me for reassurance. That was a hard, scary day. My wish for her was that she could cross the rainbow bridge peacefully in her sleep, but alas it was not to be. I’m just glad we were together in familiar surroundings, not in the hospital, no strangers around… just us two together, staring death in the face, being brave for each other, and cherishing every last possible second together. ♥

Liz was an extraordinary cat; a very special being — she really was a guardian angel to me — and she brought me such joy and unwavering love and truly constant support over the almost 18 years she was with me. I am lost without her. I don’t know how to express how much I desperately miss her. We were so close that we were practically one in the same. And you can surely bet that I am grateful for each and every one of the probably thousands and thousands of photos I’ve taken of her over the years. And even more for the videos. I wish I had more videos.

Precious Lizzie we miss you.

♥♥♥

There are so many pictures of her that I love. But here are just a few.

Baby Liz. She showed up one Friday morning at our back doorstep, and we took her on our camping trip to the mountains the next day!:

♥♥♥

The rest are from just this year — in her last 4 months on the Earth:

For some reason she loved celery and celery seeds almost as much as she loved catnip. One morning I found my bucket of homegrown celery seeds like this! I wonder who did it!?!

Making chicken for her!:

Taken the afternoon of May 14th… I was so worried about her, and at the same time cherishing every second with her. This was one of her favorite mouse-watching spots:

♥♥♥

Good Days and… Crash Days

By , January 18, 2018

Hi again!

I was so excited that my blog post worked that I wanted to start updating you on stuff. Unsure where to begin with that, I decided to “start where I am,” so took my camera around and took pictures of various things on what had been a good day recently. I was going to post the pictures that night, but was feeling kind of off color, so didn’t. The next day was a big crash day, so here over a week later I am bubbling up to the surface, thinking about that post again! I’ll put the original pictures up, plus those from the next day too. What better way to update you than to show you the Reality.

These green shakes I’ve been making are delicious and nutritious: pineapple, green apple, fresh ginger piece, spinach, parsley, rice milk, milk thistle seed, pumpkin/sesame/sunflower seeds, turmeric powder, protein powder, brewer’s yeast, spirulina, kelp powder.

Unloading coffee grounds, to be spread in the gardens.

I love flower gardens even in Winter — the browns and the branches.

This soup was so good. Black eyed peas for New Years — soaked near the woodstove as pork neck bone broth simmered on top of the woodstove. Then the black eyed peas cooked on top of the woodstove in the broth, as I thawed some frozen cooked-together zucchini and onions from this year’s garden, and opened a home-canned jar of homegrown organic heirloom tomatoes! Mixed all of this together, ate with chunks of avocado, and oh my gosh!!!

 

That kombucha did eventually get bottled much later in the week…

…but there were more important things to do.

Next day.

Maximizing that sun patch, with freezing chills.

Fever of 103.5°

Anymore, I let fevers burn. After a bad experience several years ago while bringing down a 104° fever with tylenol (like that weird movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), I thought Never Again. “Why do we do this?” I started to wonder, why disable this potentially helpful immune response? Later on, I came across Anthroposophical medical literature (Steiner-based — like Waldorf schools and biodynamic agriculture) where their view is that fevers are healers not to be tampered with. Burn off the dross! Top, top priority is keeping up with oral hydration though, that is for sure!

My standard hydration thing for when I’m sick is diluted juice. About 1/3 juice, 2/3 water. I always have several jugs of apple juice on the back shelf for times like this, just in case.

If you’re guzzling diluted juice, don’t forget your other electrolytes. Potassium and sodium are easily washed out with lots of liquid consumption. If you have a huge nonstop headache unrelieved by hydration, try getting more salt in. I like Ume Plum Vinegar in some warm water, like a salty broth drink. It’s your one-stop salt shop, with an astounding 1050mg (44% daily value) sodium in 1 tsp (5mL). It’s also really good mixed into plain yogurt as a salad dressing, for when you’re not sick. 😉

Potassium powder is cheap at the health food store (or buy it at grocery stores in the salt section as the “NoSalt” brand potassium chloride salt substitute). The NOW brand in the picture has 365mg (10% daily value) in 1/8 tsp (0.7 g). By comparison, a medium banana has ~420mg of potassium. The way I take the potassium is put some water into my mouth, measure the powder and dump it into my mouth, swish to dissolve, and swallow. Down the hatch.

And if you’re blowing your nose a lot like I am this time, these two are my favorite things to rub on, in, and around my chafed nose and upper lip: Weleda Calendula Diaper Rash Cream (goes on white but rubs in) and Alaffia brand Africa’s Secret.

***

I’m doing better. I’d been noticing something simmering since Christmas, a lung exacerbation (a flaring-up of the ever-present infection where there is lung scarring), and then I think this was just some wandering virus on top of that which really came on like a Mac truck. Not the flu, but some other thing. F came down with it too, several days later. We’re both better but not best. I’m still “running warm” with some lung unhappiness. Hanging really low, taking it slow.

***

May you be keeping healthy and warm!

*****

 

 

Happy 2018!

By , January 5, 2018

Happy New Year! I am still on the planet… are you!? It’s been a while.

This is a test post; for mysterious technical reasons beyond me, I haven’t been able to post anything to my blog for quite a while. Since I couldn’t really try fixing it with a hammer, I thought I’d just ignore it because things sometimes start working again if you leave them long enough.

I hope you have been well!

*****

[Edit: IT WORKED!!!]

 

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