Archive for January, 2010

Our Future Dinner Table

What you see here is the beginnings of what will hopefully be our table’s bounty come summer. I’ve spent the last few days measuring out our future four-square garden plots along with walkways to make everything easily accessible. As you can see, I’ve staked and roped everything off, and even this small act makes it feel like it’s really going to happen. We’re starting the process of living off the land.

The black tarps are there because we’re hoping to kill the sod underneath. I already worked a lot of the sod out yesterday with a tiller and a rake, but there was plenty that remained, and since we’ll want to use that nutritious soil for our semi-raised beds, we have to make sure there are no grass seeds hiding in there. Thus, the black tarps.

So here’s our plan: we’re going to let the sod die, then dig up the top layer and throw it onto the compost. Then we’ll dig about 12″ -18″ deep and lay down some hardware cloth (I’ve read that this is more effective and longer lasting than chicken wire for keeping out gophers). We’ll line the entire bed with the hardware cloth. Next we’ll put in our boxes–we’ll see if they actually end up very “raised” after all of this is said and done. They might just be in-ground boxes, which wouldn’t be bad, but I’d prefer a little raised to make it harder for slugs and other critters to get to the yumminess. After that we’ll fill the boxes with the same soil that used to be there.

Around the boxes, we’ll lay down some mulch or something similar. And then around the entire thing, we have two plans: first, we’ll put a fence in to keep out the deer. Then, we’ll dig a little trench around the fence (or perhaps slightly inside, I haven’t decided) to lay in some more gopher-type wire (not sure if that one will be hardware cloth as well or chicken wire, which tends to rust quickly after a few years). We’ll fill in the trench after laying in that barrier, so it essentially will just be an underground fence. Finally, we’ll line the outside of the fence with flowers like marigolds, daisies, and lavender. I realize the only repellent flower there is actually the marigolds, but I love daisies and I want our bees to be lured into our garden by the tempting lavender.

 A lot of work, but also a lot of hope. It feels so good to be outside in the fresh air, feeling the warm sun on my face as I work the land. I can almost taste the carrot soup, the roasted garlic, the mashed potatoes straight from our land. Most of all, I think, I taste the potential of it all. First ordering bees, now the beginnings of our garden. It makes me feel like I am truly doing what I was made to do.


The Power of Daily Choice

We have more power than we think when it comes to the food industry (although this can apply to so many of our cultural problems):

“The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences.”   -Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma

Check out Michael Pollan’s visit with Oprah and his important discussion about our food:

I Love Having a Dog

Sugar is settling in nicely, and we’re slowly beginning to understand how different it is to be responsible for a dog than it is to be responsible for a cat. Our dog is a lovely, happy, super-energetic little thing, but boy does she demand our attention! And so we’ve settled into a different pace of life once again. The morning and evening rituals have transitioned to incorporate long walks and training exercises. She has become my traveling companion around town, waiting patiently in the car while I run my errands (of course this will change when warmer weather comes). And then there’s the strange dilemma of her fear of our cats, especially Midnight, who has crowned himself King of the Castle and hisses at her whenever she’s near. This sends her straight into her “den” to comfort herself in the midst of this feline rejection, and leaves us shaking our heads at the cat who can control a pit bull with a simple raise of an eyebrow.

I’ve found that, despite it’s occasional inconveniences and definite demand of time, I love having a dog. I’m excited for the day when Sugar will get another doggie playmate or two. I look forward to the day when our training exercises are a little further along and we can really begin to have some fun (I even have some tasks around the homestead that I’m hoping to teach her to help me with).  But most of all, I have to admit that I love her undying affection. She truly wants to be near us and make us proud of her practically every minute of the day. And she’s come leaps and bounds from that night we brought her home weeks ago–so we continue to affirm how proud we are of her hard work. It’s not easy being shuffled from place to place, never knowing quite what is expected. But she’s home now. And we’re glad that she’s a part of it.

Bee-coming a Homestead

In the cold months of January, homesteaders around the country are cozied up inside, salivating over seed catalogs and planning for warmer months. We now join the throngs that dream of April chicks, putting up deer fencing and contacting local apiaries for supplies.

Today I took one step closer toward our homesteading goals and ordered our bee supplies. Our little garden hive box and all of the necessary clothing and necessary tools should arrive within 5-7 business days. Then, between April 16th and 30th, we’ll hopefully get a box in the mail that contains our bees and their queen. Whoa.

In some ways this is daunting to me. I’ve never been stung by a bee, and I’ve heard it’s not pleasant. However, I’ve also heard that beekeeping is one of the easiest homesteading activities that one can do, and the side benefit of having our own honey will just be divine. Between now and May we’ll have plenty of time to read our beekeeping books and become well acquainted with all of our equipment. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of really starting our life in the country…somehow this makes it more “real.” After all, not many of my Los Angeles friends have a backyard hive (although I hear it’s possible). Next up: fixing up the chicken coop. We’re ambitiously hoping to order pullets for April or May. We’ll see if we can do it in time.

To be honest, I’m just happy to have something on the horizon other than working on that darned bathroom. The end of our first homeowner’s project is in sight: the tile is laid, the bathtub installed, the walls painted. Now we just have to seal the grout, varnish the wood stuff, and hook up the plumbing. Small potatoes compared to what we’ve faced so far.

My heart continues to overflow with thankfulness. Every day I get to wake up to clean air, beautiful hills and kind people. Years ago I never would have dreamt  that this would be the life that nourishes my soul and gives me a zeal to wake up every morning. But here I am. And if it’s a dream, I hope I never wake up.

Within the Snowy Hollow…A Bathroom is Born

Working hard, and enjoying family time…I’ll write more soon, for my reflections have been many and my gratitude tremendous.

Above was a picture of our house this morning, and below is a picture of my handiwork!

Moments in Time

Although most of our days lately have been spent working on getting our bathroom back up and running, I’ve found myself more and more recognizing the larger picture of our situation. It’s true that this remodel has been an inconvenience to say the least–on our bodies, our time, and our finances–but in the proper perspective, it’s truly just one moment in time. One instance of inconvenience.  Sometimes inconveniences, when in an inappropriate mindset, can feel like the end of the world. We fall into frustration, impatience, sometimes even despair.

Until you witness real, life-altering events.

Yes, it’s tempting to feel like a bathroom remodel is taking over our lives. But I’ve been closely following the story of a woman who attends my childhood parish, who was in fact only a few years apart in age from myself. While giving birth to her fourth child, she started seizing and her brain was without oxygen for an extended period of time. When they were finally able to bring her out of her coma, she had to begin to learn how to talk, how to use fine motor skills, how to function again. And her family will never be the same.

And then there’s my brother-in-law, who is a commander in the Navy. He left yesterday to go to Haiti–just one of the thousands of people who are going into the devastation in the hopes that they will be able to help. We can’t even imagine what the daily circumstances are in the aftermath of such a disaster. We just can’t. It’s hard to even wrap our minds around what is going on there, because it’s so far outside the experiences of our lives.

So I can’t help but see this “inconvenience” of ours as more of an opportunity to recognize it’s place in the larger scheme of the world. To use any small measure of displacement as a moment to stand in dignified solidarity with those who are dealing with much, much more challenging circumstances. And to be grateful, so grateful, for these moments that we’ve been given with family and friends to work on this project.

It’s all in the way you look at it, I suppose. Each moment in our lives is an opportunity to recognize it’s larger place in time. Each moment presents us with a chance to spend it consciously–and it’s up to us whether or not we waste it on frustration and regret, or appreciate it’s opportunity through solidarity and gratitude, holding each other up along the way.

No Longer Storybook Lore

When I was growing up, we’d learn about the seasons in school. I’d read books about the changes that come with each season, and I remember the pictures: Winter brought snow, spring brought flowers, summer brought green and heat, and in fall all of the leaves dropped from the trees.  Sure, I’d always think. That sounds nice. But it doesn’t actually happen.

And in the suburbs of Los Angeles, it didn’t happen. Well, at least not to any real extent. Certainly there was no snow. Spring did bring more blooms than usual, but because they never really left the scene, it was only slightly noticeable to a child. Summer was certainly hot, so I noticed that difference. But one of the most striking differences that I’ve noticed since moving to Tehachapi is the barren winter trees.

I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I can’t describe why it’s so beautiful to me. Perhaps its because of the rustling sound the branches make as the wind pushes its fingers through them. Perhaps its because it means there won’t be any more leaves to rake up. But I think it’s actually because of the beautiful, joyous potential. I know that the leaves will return in the spring. The resurrection awaits.

I’m so grateful for this changing of the seasons, this palpable rhythm of the earth. I am so grateful that I can stand as a witness to this change, and that it is a living testament of life’s promise right outside our door. I am so grateful for the nakedness of those branches, and for the knowledge that they will be full once again in only a quarter year’s time. I’m so grateful.