Homestead

...now browsing by category

 

Dream life?

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

So often after telling somebody where we live, we get: "Wow, you are living the dream life." Or, "You are so lucky." And, depending on the time of year, I say,  "Yep, I know," or I politely nod, hoping they will move on quickly.  I apologize if you have said something like this to me and I seemed aloof; I probably didn't feel that way about you, just people I don't know.

It's tough, though.  We knew when we made our decision to live here that we would be going against the grain: of "normal" family life, of parental expectations, of career considerations, of the 21st century generally. We were also taking on three huge new responsibilities all at the same time: new business, new home, and new kid on the way.  Sometimes I feel like we have always lived like this, even though it has only been three and a half years.  We have always lived like this as the four-person family we currently are, so imagining anything that came before now seems like a hazy memory.

This place is so loaded.  First of all, there is history dripping off of every rusty barb of old wire, old door knob, worn-out apple tree and falling-down fence post.  Families, long before my family, turned this place into the spectacular, intimate marvel that it is. And now we live here, on borrowed land.  I feel like I could never do it justice, because this is not mine, and they (the homesteaders) didn't know me.  I imagine they expected their own descendants to be living on their carefully-tended land a century after they laid claim to it.  But instead, an unrelated caretaker picked by committee is now creating her own memories on this hardscrabble parcel that already has so much memory stored up in it.  My little blip of time spent here doesn't amount to anything in homestead years.  But the impact the homestead has had on my life will be forever.

Also, we know we won't live here forever, so putting down roots any deeper feels dangerous.  I've fallen deep, and the break-up, when it happens, is going to be hard.  I try to keep a measured distance, appreciate the here and now, and try not to hang on too tightly. Axel was born here: How much deeper an attachment could I have?  I won't even know until we leave.  And then I fear I will pine away for my lost love, with overly romanticized memories of the good-old-days. See what I mean?  Loaded.

Also, there is the pressure of being in the public eye.  Expectations of every history buff, environmental studies person, non-profit group, parks and rec worker, random visitor, head honcho of said non-profit, all placed on one shoulder or another as we shuffle along trying to keep up with the gardening, chickens, kids, gates, fences, foxes, sheep, cooking, cleaning, grant writing, other jobs, water,  life.

The fear of going feral, or rather of giving the appearance that we've gone feral without realizing it, is always on my mind as well. Do other families bathe as infrequently as we do?  Are their cars as dirty? Do they have this many spiders crawling around their ceiling?  Do we seem strange now that we have accepted our unconventional life as normal for us?  Do we smell bad?  Do I look older? Does this prairie dress make my butt look big?

The hardest part about being the caretaker on this 1890s homestead for me is that I can't fully experience it the way I would like to: uninterruptedly.  Homesteading is not my job; I have to go into town for that, several days a week.  So, I'm a part-time homesteader with so many plans and ideas and wishes and dreams, feeling like there isn't enough time to see them through.  So it goes.

My dream life is rich, if not completely as I want it.  I bend and twist my thoughts around this from every angle, and what I come to realize is that I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

They’re here…

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

We were out of town for Memorial weekend, living it up at the Hampton Inn with its creature comforts.  It was nice to get away.  It was nice watching TV.  It was nice taking long guilt free showers.  But, now we are back to reality, and it's pretty good.

We came home to find that Agnes' eggs did in fact hatch.  While she was out getting food for her newbies, I snapped a few pictures.  I wouldn't call them cute necessarily.  They are a bit unrecognizable.  I can't really distinguish body parts yet, but I'll be taking pictures everyday to document their progress.

I was a little concerned when I saw that Agnes was not in her nest with the baby birds.  They look so pink and vulnerable, and it hasn't been warm.  I wanted to intervene and put a hot pad under the nest or something, just to make sure they stayed warm.  Was she ditching them?  Did she not sufficiently bond with them?  I decided to trust that Agnes knew what she was doing.  And, it turns out she does.  When she returned, I secretly, and very quietly glanced out the door.  I could see her tail feathers shaking a bit with each regurgitation she unloaded into her babies mouths.  Good job Agnes.  You got this.

The lilacs are filling the air with flowery goodness.  They surround the old farmhouse, and bring it back to life a bit.  I can picture Emma flinging open the windows to let the springtime smell clean out the winter doldrums.

These old trees come back every year with new blossoms.   Old, dark, knotty bark contrasted with fresh new blossoms gives them an instant face lift every spring.

Apple blossoms are "snowing" right now, according to Axel.  And, speaking of snow, the rivers are HUGE because of all of that snow, huh?  While we were driving west, I was amazed at how much water is forging through the various rivers we passed.  We are definitely in surplus.

Rhubarb finally got my serious attention.  I cut a bunch of stalks and am making strawberry-rhubarb pie with it.  I'm thinking of making some rhubarb preserves too.  Anybody ever try that?  Seems like it would be a good thing to have mid-winter for a pie filling or something.

Thank you lilacs for making my house smell better than it usually does.

We have a plethora of eggs and spinach currently, so what better to use those up than quiche?  I got this recipe from my new favorite food blog Smitten Kitchen.  It turned out awesome.  It's made with half and half, cheddar and parmesan cheese, spinach, green onions and eggs (of course), so you can't really go wrong.  I used the spinach from our garden instead of frozen, which is what the recipe called for.  Again, it was super good.

And, with that my friends, I shall end this post.  Happy Tuesday.

Blooming out, Rocking out and Figuring out.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

We've had quite a weekend.  Monumental in many ways, and totally ordinary in others.  First of all, everything is just about in full bloom right  now.  The apple trees are lighting up one by one with pale pinkish-white blossoms, and are all abuzz with bees.  The pear tree is at it's pinnacle of absolute blooming beauty.  Right now.  In a day, or perhaps even today, the steady fall of petals will begin and fruit will start to appear.  She should really live it up while she's still got it.

And then there are the not fully bloomed but equally spectacular apple trees getting ready to burst into glory.

The rhubarb snuck up on on us before we expected it.  This early bird of a fruit makes a damn tasty beverage too.  It's rhubarb-onade if you haven't heard about it.  Recipe to come, after we make it!

Speaking of recipes, this here is Dandelion Soup, made by Asa and Axel.  Ingredients are: stagnant rain water, sticks, plum seeds from last season, grass, dandelions and a big rubber blue ball.

Asa the Chicken Catcher

My main man Andy had a  rock show reunion this weekend.  Humpy played on Saturday night with other Missoula vintage faves Sasshole and Spanker.  What a line up!  I haven't seen Andy rock out since the late 90's.  They did not disappoint either.  Some highlights were the oh-so-nostalgic mosh pit that formed a few songs into their set, the fact that smoking is now prohibited so you don't go home smelling like a giant cigarette butt, and drinking PBR.  I was home by 12:30, and felt great the next day.  As a thirty something mother of two, you couldn't ask for a more perfect rock show.

In Agnes related news:

She now has three eggs in her nest, and she diligently sits atop them all day.  We don't even use the front door anymore, so as not to scare her.  Though a few times by accident one of us has flung open the door only to be met with an angry Agnes.  She flies over to the fence post, looks you straight in the eye with her head cocked a bit, and unabashedly chirps you out.  Then, when you've given her sufficient space, she'll fly back to her nest, fluff her feathers and settle down onto her eggs, looking quite smug I might add.

Agnes is pretty much always on her nest, except this morning.  I noticed another, smaller, more red-breasted robin was perched on the side of her nest.  I found it curious, so watched for a minute.  I'm pretty sure this new robin is a male, because of his more red breast, so I'll call him Tom.  After a few minutes, Tom flew off, and immediately Agnes flew back into her nest and settled on top of her eggs.

I haven't done my research yet, I aim to tonight, but could it be that the male mate helps protect the nest?  I've noticed Tom hanging around in the front yard near the nest prior to this.  But this was the first time I've seen him actually baby sitting the eggs while Agnes was off shopping or whatever.  In light of this new information, I now have a total bird crush on Tom.

Do any of you have some robin nesting habit knowledge you'd like to share?

 

Some things of beauty…

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

We have been up to our ears in stuff to do lately, and right as this crazy season has come to its peak, the boys and I left town!  We left Andy to tend to the Homestead on his own.  He dehydrated, pickled, canned, steam-juiced, and brewed lots of tasty morsels and beverages.

Before we left we helped him pick a bunch of apples from a neglected tree in town.  He's using these apples in particular for hard cider.  He's made it before, and it is the perfect combo of dry, slightly sweet, apple-y effervescence.  Hopefully this batch turns out just as good.

Axel is so homestead.  He was born here on the floor of our living room.  He has eaten homestead dirt, played in the galvanized steel tub under the water pump, consumed plenty of fruit that has fallen off trees here in the orchard, chased chickens, hiked trails, played in the Moon Cabin, explored the root cellar, dug in the garden.  He has played here almost every day of his life.  This is what he knows, and I think that is so cool.  And, so homestead.

Asa appreciates the Homestead with a wider perspective than his brother's.  He remembers living in a neighborhood, with neighbors close by.  He remembers having his own room, probably, even though he didn't sleep in it.  He understands that most places have modern plumbing, with flushable toilets, and a seemingly endless supply of water to do fun things with, like bathe everyday, or run in the sprinklers.  But he doesn't complain about not having these things.  He has decided to embrace this for the adventure that it is, I think.  Because he is always up for an adventure.  I think the Homestead has definitely become home for him.  He loves it for its complexity, and freedom.  And so do I.

Brothers.

The goats and sheep are heading back to their winter home soon.  We are going to miss them.  The Homestead is going to be a less poopy, furry, noisy place, slightly less demanding, until next spring, when they will all come back to do it all over again.  At least we will still have the chickens, and the cat.

Asa and Axel found another skull.  I think this may be a sheep skull from last year.  They are fascinated with bones, skulls, and creepy stuff in general.  I used to tend to avoid bones and cadavers while walking around.  I didn't feel the need to pick them up and examine them,  probably because I was taught that they were gross. But having boys has opened to me up a whole world of things I didn't used to do.  It's awesome.

Apples are on the trees in late summer, just like they have been every late summer for 120 years.

Another familiar image in late summer here in Montana.  A smoke-covered fuchsia sun.  Beautiful.