Archive for June, 2010

Easy Bake

The past few days have been HOT in Tehachapi. Normally I wouldn’t mind heat, since I grew up in a place where 100+ degrees in the summer was relatively normal. However, I never fully appreciated the value of air conditioning on such days; that’s right, here in our little homestead we have no A/C.  Thank goodness for the beautiful old oak that shades our roof, because without that I think the house would feel more like an easy-bake oven!

That being said, it’s still much more comfortable than our little apartment in Playa was during the warm season. We get a really nice cross breeze through the house, and can leave the windows open at night without fear of burglary or loud parties interrupting our sleep. In Playa, the house had absolutely no ventilation, so it was always hot and stuffy even when the temperature outside topped 80 degrees. Here, there’s definitely more relief, even if it’s hotter.

Rob and I have been busily getting ready for the arrival of his parents, sister, brother, and sister-in-law on Saturday. The house is slowly taking on the guise of relative calm, and I am finding homes for all of the piles of “I’ll-think-about-it-later”s. Rob has really done a great job of getting the outside of our property ready. Because of all the spring moisture, we had some huge growth spurts for grasses and weeds around the property. Mustard weeds could have formed a jungle. Thank goodness for our riding mower and cooler mornings, or we’d never be able to tackle it all. As it is, we’ve had to spread many of these chores out over weeks and weeks.

My mom is also coming up today to spend the night and help me do some last minute preparations. I always look forward to our “girl time” together. As I get older, I appreciate her presence and advice in ways that, in my youth, I had  just taken for granted. She’s a fine woman, my mom.

That’s about it on the homestead. Oh, we’ve had our first few encounters with rattlesnakes here. Rob killed an adult right near our chicken coop, and saw an adolescent in the one patch of high grass we haven’t gotten to yet. Luckily these guys send out a clear warning before you get too close, but boy is it frightening! The scariest moment was when Sugar stumbled across the coiled adult near the coop. Thank goodness she came when we called. Yikes.

Advertisements

A Simpler Life

When we started this journey a little over a year and a half ago–through reading, researching, learning, and dreaming–it was easy to romanticize the “simple life.” After all, I had seen the beauty of laundry hanging in the wind and drinking homemade root beer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I read blogs of chicken owners, talked to farmers at the farmers markets, and we even planted a few raised beds of our own. I began making my own cleaning products, cleaning up our eating, and trying to learn how to sew my own clothes.

Then we moved to the country and grabbed the “simple life” with both hands. We used less natural gas by doing things like hanging our laundry to dry. We planted a 140+ square foot garden. We began tending our orchard and grape vines and berry canes. We got chickens that will start laying eggs in the Fall.  Our living space got bigger and thus our ability to host friends and family joyfully increased. Ah, yes–the “simple life.”

But let me tell you–this simpler life of ours is certainly not easier.

Not that I’m complaining. But I’d like any readers out there who imagine this life as more recreational or less busy to understand that voluntary simplicity requires a lot of hard work. A lot. We rise with the sun and go to bed shortly after it sets, and are usually exhausted. Rob works hard at his job and then comes home and works hard on the land. I work hard to keep our house a home, to keep the behind-the-scenes show running, and then try to help in the evenings when and where I can.

And yes, there are things I miss. I definitely miss Rob and I having time in the kitchen together to cook. The demands of evening chores usually mean that dinner needs to be done by the time he gets home, so he doesn’t have the time to participate in one of his most fulfilling activities (which is also a great source of talent, I might add). The commute also is tiring for him, so I’m not sure if he would even want to cook when he gets home; but still, I miss the days when I used to play assistant chef. He makes such better meals than me!

I miss the rare night when we would dim the lights, make popcorn, and watch a movie on TV. Since moving here we haven’t set up the TV in the house, and don’t necessarily plan to (thank goodness). And we certainly have watched a movie or two on my laptop computer. But, I’ll admit, it’s just not the same.

I’m looking forward to the greater sense of relative calm that will hopefully come in the next few years, once our routine and garden and orchard and berry patches are established and require a little less oversight.  I pray daily that Rob’s job would be less stressful. I appreciate each sacrifice that both of us make on a daily basis to give us this beautiful, wonderful life.

This simpler life has it’s advantages and disadvantages, although I must say that it brings more fulfillment than I ever felt living in Los Angeles. It’s not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the lazy. It’s for the hopeful, the dreamers, and the slightly looney. It’s for Rob and me, for the family we’ll someday have, and for Sugar, Midnight, Easter, eight chickens and a hive full of bees.

The simpler life is a harder life. But it’s a good one. Of that, I’m sure.

Blue

One of the most striking differences between living in the countryside of the Tehachapi Mountains and living back down in LA’s urban sprawl is the sky.  Here, the sky truly is blue.

As a kid, I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in the 80’s. Back then, days known as “third-stage smog alerts” were frequent. These were the days when you would come home from a day at school and your lungs would hurt as you fell asleep. I remember frequently, especially during the summer, I would feel the dull ache when I inhaled–but I didn’t really think about the impact of the dirty air. As a kid, few things seem to have lasting consequences, and since the ache would be gone by morning, it didn’t bother me much.

I’m lucky to have grown up without many breathing problems, but I knew plenty of friends who had asthma. Measures have been taken since those days to clean up the air, but we just didn’t do as much about it back then. Often the sky was a hazy mix of bluish-gray and light brown, or sometimes it just seemed like a colorless white sheet. But when I would go up to the San Gabriel Mountains for summer camp, I remember marvelling at the sky. It really was blue–a blue that I never saw in my daily life. I remember sitting in the ampitheater of the camp as they would do introductions each year, and the blue sky would distract me. It would be the first thing I noticed every single year. It was entrancing.

Now, as an adult, I find myself returning my gaze to the sapphire sky. The air up here at 4,000 feet is clean and crisp. There are never any dirty, hazy days.  The sky retains its magical blue, and the air just smells different.

It’s sad that children and adults alike can’t all appreciate the sky on a daily basis. I know there are things being done, policies taking effect, and awareness being raised…but I think it will be a long time before children in a city like Los Angeles can gaze up into a clear blue sky.  Creation care goes beyond just environmental policy or the politically-laden “green” movement. Creation care embeds appreciation in the hearts of those who participate, and requires a true understanding of the intrinsic value–not utilitarian value–of the various elements of our beautiful world.

Our children deserve a blue sky. Not only because it is healthier for them, or because there are domino effects of the pollution. These are good and important reasons, yes. But even simpler than that–our children deserve a blue sky because God made it beautiful.

Exhale

My friends, I can finally exhale. The class is over, as is my commute down to Pasadena (at least, for now–but who knows what the future holds?).  Although I’m still not feeling great, I’ve been able to settle down into a functional combination of rest and work. Things have been changing inside the home, outside the home, and across the Tehachapi Valley in general.

The weather is finally consistently warm–almost hot–and the hillsides have changed from emerald to a dusty gold. The oak trees dot the hills with their dark green, reassuring presence. Things have turned dry, and it’s the time of year for hot, windy afternoons, snake sightings, and iced tea.

There are many things to do around the homestead these days, and there is never enough daylight or energy to do it all. Robert’s family is coming to stay with us in less than three weeks, and the house has a long way to go before they arrive. It’s been difficult to stay on top of housework with my class and feeling sick lately, so each day begins with a long list of catch-up household chores. And then there’s the outside! Wonderous things are happening, yet sometimes it feels like a bit of a treadmill. Stop running and something’s bound to fall off the track. Between bees, chickens, garden, and overall maintenance, we’re never lacking for something to do. I’ll admit to having an evening or two where I long for the cold, early darkness of winter and nights sitting under a blanket, practicing my fiddle. But everything has a season, and in the midst of a snowstorm I’ll inevitably long for a summer breeze.

Here are some visual updates from the homestead, since a picture tells more than I ever could describe.

The bees are doing great! We have four supers (boxes filled with foundation for comb, pollen, eggs and honey) already!

Our older grape vines (the ones already established, not the ones we just planted this spring), as with most of the things in our garden, are showing little signs of what is to come:

My husband looks quite natural as he rides our mower to get the most ferocious of the weeds in our yard (mustard weed really is viciously reproductive).  We tried tackling it with our push mower, but some things just need to be handled with a more powerful beast. Maybe someday we’ll trade it in for a tractor! 🙂

Finally, we decided to take a much-needed break from everything on the neverending to-do list and take a little day trip up to the southernmost end of the Sequoia National forest, about 3 hours away. The silence and grandeur of these ancient giants helped to put everything in perspective. It was as if they whispered to us about the smallness of our tiny daily emergencies. It was everything I needed, and more.

I hope to continue to update more regularly now that things have slowed down a bit. Thanks for your patience until now; exciting things are beginning to happen!

Ugh

Hi guys–sorry I haven’t posted! Between a whirlwind trip and back to New Jersey, finishing up the quarter for my exegetical methods class, and feeling sick as a dog, I’ve had a hard time blogging.  Things are poised to calm down in the next week or so, and I’m hoping to go back to daily postings.

For now, I wanted to share with you the progress of our little chickadees. Is it strange to anyone else that they are self-segregating?