I wonder…

I wonder what the Moon family talked about in that tiny little cabin, when they were all trapped inside during an icy cold winter?  Did they have to store up words during the spring and summer, like they would potatoes, onions, and squash?  Did they file away topics-to-be-discussed during the busy months outside, just for those long February days when they were so tired of seeing each others' faces they could barely stand it?

They must have gotten intensely irritated with one another, living at such close quarters.  Hearing each little grunt, moan, heavy-breathing-while-eating moment.  Watching one another complete daily routines over and over without distraction must have been maddening at times.

We spend a lot of time inside during the winter here too, here in this tiny little house.  We don't have a TV.  But we have a computer, and we also work outside of the house a few days a week.  We have a comfortably heated car that can transport us places that are comfortably heated, like the library.  So, we can escape one another easily, when we feel like we need to see something different for awhile.

Maybe they didn't annoy each other at all.  Maybe it didn't occur to them to be annoyed by little things.  Or they didn't allow themselves to get annoyed because they were trapped, and needed to make it through a long winter with sanity intact and relationships healthy.  I wish I could answer these questions.  I wish I could talk to Luella Moon.

I miss my grandma.  Being on the Homestead makes me wish I would have spent more time with her, asking her questions about her childhood and so on.  She was a farmer, seamstress, water-color painter, wife, mother, cook, and so much more.  Thinking of Luella makes me think of my grandmother.

The Moon cabin was the original structure, a "frame house", 12 by 24 feet, built by the Moon family when they first started their homesteading venture in 1889.  It was a temporary residence while they built the farmhouse.  And, although they probably built the bigger farmhouse soon after, they did likely have to endure at least one winter in that tiny cabin.  A five-person family in a 12 by 24 foot room!  We are lucky to live  in our 770 square foot cabin.  I will try to remember that come February, when I'm ready to chew off my own arm.

Moon Cabin

Butter Churn

*side note*

The Moons and their extended family lived on the Homestead for about 18 years, before selling to the Randolph's in 1907. So much of what we see here on the Homestead today is  left from the Randolphs, who resided here from 1907-1996.

I'm starting to get slightly panicky as the weather gets gradually cooler.   Winter is closer, and soon I will be worried about freezing pipes, frozen roads, cabin-fevered kids, and irritation levels.  But for now, I'm going to go ahead and enjoy the end of summer and beginning of fall.

Some things of beauty…

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.


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.

from the garden

Successful recipes from our garden:

Pickled Fennel

*makes one jar on the smallish side

1 cup red wine vinegar (or experiment with other vinegars)

1/2 cup sugar (or less)

teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

1/3 cup water (or less)

fennel chopped into 1/4 inch pieces, remove woody core

1 teaspoon of each: celery, mustard, caraway seeds

sprig of thyme or marjoram

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, and water in sauce pan and bring almost to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve.  Add fennel, lower heat and simmer for five minutes.  Put seeds and sprig in jar, add fennel and vinegar mixture.  Put in fridge, and wait a day before eating.  This is really good for a stomach ache, or flatulence--or so Andy tells me anyway.

Blanched Purple beans with olive oil and Balsamic vinegar

No trick to this one here.  Just put beans in boiling water for two minutes, then submerge them in ice water until completely cooled.  Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt to taste.  Toss it up, and munch.

Beets with gorgonzola, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Steam beets, chill in fridge.  Toss with gorgonzola, walnuts, vinegar and olive oil.  Devour, because it's primal how delicious this is.

Dried zucchini and yellow squash

We re-discovered our food dehydrator that I scored at a yard sale five years ago.  I'm so glad we kept it because we have used it a bunch already this year.  Andy came up with this idea because he hates zucchini and squash.  He cut them into thin rounds, sprinkled them with salt, and put them in the dehydrator, until they were kind of crisp but also kind of chewy.  They are really good!  The kids don't really like them, yet.  I'm gonna keep offering.  I heard you need to offer something at least eight times before giving up, with kids anyway.

Dried Apricots (not from our garden, but gleaned from a tree in town, because we don't have any)

We just washed the apricots and sliced them in half, put them in the dehydrator and dried 'em.  I like them to still be a little chewy on the inside.  Andy thinks this is no good, because they could go moldy.  To which I say "Store them in the fridge, babe.  Who wants to break a tooth on a dried apricot?"

Unsuccessful recipes from our garden: (I won't include the actual recipe, because, you won't want them)

Chicken, zucchini, yellow squash and couscous with coconut sauce.

This was just a big blob of mush. yuck.

Breaded and Grilled Zucchini and Yellow Squash.

Doesn't this just look gross?

I'm pretty much convinced that zucchini should be used for baking and drying only.  Sure, it does fine on a pizza, but only fine, not great.  However, I have made a chocolate zucchini cake that is insanely good.  I'll hunt down that recipe for a future post.

Conclusion?  Next year we will not plant as much zucchini and yellow squash.