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My pickle journey began on a crisp January day this year. I was flipping though Annie’s Heirloom Seed Catalogue, while fantasizing about warm weather and all the stuff I wanted to grow in the garden.

Me: “Hey! We could grow corn and make our own popcorn!!”

El-D Squidward: “No.  The deer will eat it.”

Me: “Then we need to plant enough for the deer to eat too! What could be better than homegrown popcorn!?”

El-D Squidward: “Being dead…or anything else.” (ok, maybe he didn’t say that part exactly, but the sentiment was expressed in the look he gave me.)

I continued flipping pages in the catalogue and came to the page with cucumbers.  Homemade pickles! I kept this thought to myself, lest I be told a plague of cucumber-eating locust were expected this year.

I pondered pickles for few months, then ordered the seeds for Boston Pickling Cucumbers.  The date was March 24th.

I planted them on May 6th. Little fuzzy plants began pulling themselves out of the ground a few weeks later.hanging on

 

El-D saw them coming up and built them a fancy trellis.  On May 11th it occurred to me that  I really needed to be growing dill if I was going to make pickles, so I planted some.

As the cucumber blossoms started turning into fruit, I realized  that this pickle thing might acutally happen.  The search for recipes began in earnest. I watched the Good Eats episode on pickle making as part of my research because Alton Brown is THE MAN.

cucumber 2016

After painstaking research, I finally decided on  Curbstone Valley Farm’s Classic Dill Pickle recipe.  Four stores later, I had managed to acquire almost all the ingredients.  (Where the heck does one find juniper berries??).

Today, pickle preparation began. Today alone was a 5 hour labor of love.

pickle fixins

I have the scalded skin to show for it.  Seven months after the pickle idea popped into my head, I have this…

pickles

<cue angels singing here>

 

 

Sing it with me y’all!

…and now I only have three weeks to wait.  This batch will be ready August 2. *sigh*

EarthdeerHobbit1 (2)Fairy.jpg

hanging on

You reach out with any little part of yourself and rise from the dirt to be what you are.  How you make my heart ache with your sense of belonging.

Vanity of vanities!  We all have the same breath.

(Solomon was right.)

 

 

 

Back in July we got a couple of new hens.

Hobbit (left) was named for the feathered feet.  Chicken Little (right) was named for her catastrophic reactions to treats being dropped on her head.  By “treats” I mean spinach stems or strawberry caps – nothing at all that should cause a concussion or “end of the world” behavior.   Hobbit would *always* be the first to snatch up the treat. This would instantly send Chicken Little into “the sky is falling” mode, in which she would chase Hobbit around the cage in a panic, all the while peeping frantically. Hobbit wouldn’t even eat the snack at first, preferring instead to run around with it taunting Chicken Little.  If I dropped another treat in for Chicken Little, Hobbit would drop the first treat, snatch up the second treat and take off running with it.  Rather than taking Hobbit’s discarded treat, Chicken Little would act like it didn’t exist at all and continue her incessant peeping and chasing.

The silly little birds grew and grew and it quickly became evident that they were nothing like the dignified Myrtle, Pearl, and Gertrude, or even crazy Freebird. These two chicks were friendly and more than a little nuts. They’d practically jump in our pockets each time we opened the door to their cage.

At some point Chicken Little stopped growing, but Hobbit kept getting bigger and then began developing iridescent greenish black feathers like a peacock.  I was in denial for a long time even though the evidence was before my eyes.  The day after Christmas when we opened the back door to let Moon Pie out for her morning routine, our little Hobbit announced to the world his manhood with a “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!!”

Hobbit

Hobbit demanding a close-up and Chicken Little in the background

My village people can’t take it anymore.  They have set fire to the village in protest. Six months without resolutions is too many.  Abort Mission!  My village people are not ready for the laissez-faire approach to life. (Click HERE for more village people context if you missed the first post).

There is a time and a place for surrendering to what is and for accepting life as it comes.  And then there are the rest of the times and places, during which I need exorbitant details to obsessively micromanage in order to keep myself occupied and entertained.  I need goals and measurement and progress – or at least the illusion thereof.

These realizations hit me last week as I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.   This book was an emergency, impulse vacation purchase.  Having abandoned every book I had packed, I had to have something to read to tide me over until I could get home. Rubin’s memoir is peppered with tidbits on the art and science of happiness, combined with her meticulous list of a year’s worth of resolutions to guide her in the practice of achieving joy.  Her resolutions are organized by month, category, and sub-category, all of which are rigorously tracked.  The book annoyed me to no end!  It’s no fault of the author.  I claim full responsibility for the baggage I took with me inside the cover.  I saw my own annoying OCD resolution-tracking self on every page and it made me itchy and irritated with the fact I didn’t have a single resolution to track this year.

So here I am in July making my New Years Resolutions. My first resolution for 2015 is:

1. Cook something fabulous and complicated every other week.

I don’t cook.  I am plagued by mageirocophobia, or the fear of cooking. You see, I have this history of setting devastating kitchen fires. Yes, that’s plural, as in fires$$ of the devastating-call-the-fire-department-and-the-contractor-and-the-insurance-company sort. A certain member of the family gave me the nickname “Housefries” once he started talking to me again, which was weeks after I burned down his kitchen and half the family’s wardrobe. The wardrobe aspect of this story needs explaining. What happened is, in the heat of the moment (literally) I tried putting out the kitchen blaze by smothering it with the contents of a nearby laundry basket full of clothes. As you might imagine, this only succeeded in making it all much, much worse. Go figure.  On the flip side, meatloaf flambe with a side of smoked socks should get some points for creative culinary pairings.  I wish that had been an isolated incident. My father may still bear the scars from another of my kitchen fires.  And then there was that unfortunate Christmas morning we were forced to use a fire extinguisher we had JUST received as a gift.  Even the fact that people give me fire extinguishers as a non-ironic Christmas gift should tell you something about the magnitude of the problem.

Despite my checkered and charred past, I am increasingly drawn to the kitchen and the alchemy of cooking. I am inspired partly by the thriving herb and berry garden I’ve planted that needs something to do besides look pretty. Plus there are all these fabulous cooking blogs I read and drool over, like Peri’s Spice Ladle  and Once Upon a Chef.

Yesterday I kicked off my resolutions by making vegetarian lasagna with fresh basil from the garden.  I picked mint to make Strawberry and Orange Salad with Citrus Syrup and Fresh Mint, which I polished off this morning for breakfast.  There was a lot of strawberry and orange juice leftover so I poured it in a popsicle mold for later. Knowing this popsicle awaits in the freezer has made me happy all day.  It’s the little things.

One of my subgoals is to finally do something with the crabapples.  We have an abundance of crabapple trees and each year I think something should be done with them, but I never manage to figure out what.  A friend popped over last week randomly and told me about her grandmother’s recipe for candied crab apples. This year it’s on! I have my recipe picked out for Spiced Crab Apples based on her gram’s recipe.

Another sub-goal related to food is to stop eating after 7:30 p.m. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating dinner between 8:00-10:00 p.m., which is ridiculous and unhealthy.  Part of the problem is I teach yoga classes two evenings a week, and I don’t want to eat right before them and I’ve been too busy to catch a decent lunch, so by the time I’m done with class it’s late and I’m famished, so I eat like a Viking (well, a vegetarian Viking) then I crash. This must change.  I need to make time to  eat a big late lunch and then be done with it.

In conjunction with the cooking thing, I also want to have people over more for dinner.  I’m intrigued by the idea of having a dinner party with mixed and matched guests. Just the thought scares me.  I have no idea how to do this sort of thing. People of the Web: who out there has experience with dinner parties? Can you give suggestions? Themes? Ideas? Testimonials?

Flowers!

Flowers!

More Flowers!

More Flowers!

Daffodil Duck (aka Daffy)

Daffodil Duck (aka Daffy)

Dear Far-Flung Family & Friends:

I am alive and well despite my lack of digital communications.  I’m having difficulty facing the screen when there is so much  presently unfolding “out there” in multiple dimensions that is demanding attention. Nonetheless, I miss you! You really should come for a visit.

This month marks two years since we arrived at Peace. Love. Home.  I continue to be awed everyday by the largest and smallest things.  Eggs for instance appear daily, as if by magic, in the dog house.  I could build a pyramid  large enough for all four of the chickens to live in with the eggs they laid this month.  How do all these eggs fit inside these fluffy feathered girls?

all my eggs in one basket

this is not even a quarter of my eggs in one basket

The chickens are comical in so many different ways.  When I go around the barn to tend to the ducks, they try their hardest to spy on me.  They cram themselves in the corner between the doghouse and the fence practically on top of each other as they vie for the best view.  When I walk back around the corner into their line of vision, the chicken totem pole disbands and they scatter as if those nosy girls couldn’t possibly be interested at all in anything I could ever do.

Apparently, word has gotten out that this place is “bird friendly” because we’ve been visited recently by interloping fowl trying to figure out how to get IN on this domesticated action.  The two wild mallards below have been touring the property regularly, checking out the ducks’ pen and the chickens’ digs.

 

june2014 003

Myrtle, Pearl, and Gertrude bow respectfully as they bid the interlopers adieu.

 

There’s also a lone Canadian goose who drops in to check everyone out.  He wanders around in the mornings honking incessantly for hours at at time.  One afternoon last week I spotted a coyote who was drawn in by all this birdy action.

Perfect strangers (of the human variety) have also dropped by this summer to share stories and cry at the kitchen table with me about things that matter, which turns out is quite a lot.

 

I think I do more reading in the colder months than the warmer ones, how about you?

My leisure time in the summer seems consumed by flowers, bull frogs, and butterflies. In the dark of winter I will spend hours reading in the bathtub or bed, but in the summer I’m usually too exhausted by daytime existence and heat to read in my usual haunts. Reading for fun happens mostly in little snippets of time, mostly while I’m in transit –  like in the car being shuttled to a family function, or while waiting for someone’s luggage at an airport, or in a too-long line at the bank.

 

If you’re looking for something to read this summer, here are a few Book Quickie Reviews of the stuff that occupied my winter nights:

Title:  Fowl Weather 

Author: Bob Tarte

Why I Read It: It has a duck on the cover! (I’m a bit bird-brained in case you haven’t noticed).  I spotted it on the shelf at the Goodwill.

Synopsis: It’s the memoir of a kindred spirit who chronicals life with his menagerie. In his own words, it’s the story of, “how thirty-nine animals and one sock monkey took over my life.”

Highlights: Bob Tarte makes me seem normal by comparison. He’s funny and taught me a lot about my ducks.

Most Relate-to-able Quotes:  What can you ever say to a dead duck?  

It bothered me that I’d exhibited more patience with a duck than I seemed capable of extending to my mother…

 

Title: Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Why I Read It: It was a good book day at the Goodwill.  I hadn’t read anything by Gladwell, but I’d heard good reviews about his work. The idea of thinking without thinking was compelling.

Synopsis:  Through a wide range of case studies and behavioral research Malcolm explores the cognition behind “gut feelings.”

Highlights:  I am in awe of Gladwell’s ability to synthesize information from many different lenses into such a coherent picture of unconscious cognition.  He weaves together research and examples from such far flung fields as marital communication to military strategy (actually those two domains may not be as disparate as they seem on the surface) to museum curation.  It was as fascinating as it was well-written.

Recommended to: Folks interested in psychology will love this book. Also, firefighters and police officers, and others who must make quick, high-stakes decisions would benefit from this information as well as educators and policy makers.

Best Quote:

We live in a world saturated with information. We have vitually unlimited amounts of data at our fingertips at all times, and we’re well versed in the arguments about the dangers of not knowing enough and not doing our homework. But what I have sensed is an enormous frustration wtih the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding….we are desperately lacking in the latter (Gladwell, 2005, p. 264-265).

Title: Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

Author: Claire Dederer

Why I Read It: Yoga and Memoir – these are a few of my favorite things!

Synopsis: Dederer shares her experience of coming to terms with motherhood and balancing a career with family life through a (sometimes reluctant) yoga practice.

Highlights: I love stories about the transformative power of a yoga practice.  Dederer tells her story with a wickedly funny kick.

What surprised me: I wasn’t expecting from such a funny flippant lady the depth of knowledge and insight with which she wrote about the women’s movement of her mother’s generation and the cultural trends in our own generation.  She challenged me to think more deeply about my own relationship with my mom and the social and political factors that defined mom’s generation and how that might have led to some of her baffling behaviors.

Best quote:

Without our mothers and their mass 1970s exodus to who knows where, we might not have gotten those crucial years of learning who we were.  I am not sure any of the mothers meant to give us this gift, this terrible gift of freedom…they bought our freedom with their courage (Dederer, 2011, p. 297).

——-

Disclosure: I signed up to be an Amazon Affiliate, which means 1.) I can use their book cover images in my posts without having to worry about them suing me, and 2.) if you use one of the links I provide in the blog to purchase the book on amazon.com I’ll get like a nickel or something.  I’m disclosing this so you will be aware that if you click on a book link, our electronic “footprints” will be walking together toward amazon.

 

 

Aaaaaahh!   Another semester complete.

I started thinking the other day that it’s time to start subtracting things from my life again.  And that’s when I lost my keys. They’ve been missing for the last two days, which is perfectly fine by me.

The same thing happened last May.  That time, they went missing for two whole weeks.  When I’d finally had enough of being keyless, I sat down and called my keys back to me.  (I know that sounds ridiculous, but it totally has worked for me with lost keys and cats).  Anyway, a few hours later I got a call from the library — someone had found my keys in the street several miles away from my house.  How my keys wound up in the street is beyond me.  It’s not like I threw them out the window or anything.  I chalk it up as one of life’s great mysteries, kinda like finding not-my-pants in my closet.   Anyway,  the someone who found my keys noticed I had a library card on the keyring so he took them to the library and had a librarian call me to come pick them up, which is kinda funny because I couldn’t pick them up — I didn’t have keys to get there!

When you lose your keys you can’t leave your house unless somebody comes and picks you up.  Hm….unless you have a spare key, which would change everything.  I bet you’re thinking by now that I probably should get spare keys since clearly this is a regular thing for me.  But let’s apply a little logic here:  I can’t even keep up with my regular keys, so how would you expect me to keep up with spares?   Ok so when *I* lose *my* keys I can’t leave my house unless somebody comes and picks me up – or well unless El-D takes me somewhere.  And this is pretty fabulous any way it plays out — either staying home or being picked up.   I love being picked up and taken places. It’s a whole different sort of thing than driving someplace.  I can also appreciate being stranded at home.

I’ve said all that to say this: I’ve been both picked up and stranded the last two days. And it was good.

Here are the beautiful things that have happened on the farm this month:

tom kha with a heart-shaped green onion

tom kha with a heart-shaped green onion

 

Horses ate

Horses ate

 

 

Olaf, Giggles, and Chopper took a bath

Olaf, Giggles, and Chopper took a bath

 

beauty unfurled

beauty unfurled

 

… and who knows when the time seems right I might sit down and call back my keys.

 

Christmas Goaty Goodness

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