Sunday, August 28, 2016

Slow Pizza U.S.A.

Two days to make the sourdough dough . . .

One hour to roast and puree the tomato sauce . . .

Twenty minutes to grate the mozzarella cheese* and slice mushrooms and bell peppers . . .

And finally . . .

Half-eaten pepperoni.

Half-eaten bell pepper and mushroom.

It's a long way from Papa John's delivery, but worth the wait for sure.

* At least I wasn't making my own mozzarella and pepperoni. Though I don't rule out any crazy kitchen preparations anymore.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Travel-weary Tomatoes

Last summer, I did not plant a single tomato seed. In fact, I didn't plant anything at all. This was a particularly wrenching decision, because that very spring I had been sent several packages of tomato seeds saved and stored by my good Internet-friend Finny

She lives in California and actually farms for a living now, but this was before she was a farmer and she had an amazingly prolific and well-cared-for backyard garden from which she got impressive quantities of tomatoes. And then she saved the seeds. And then she packaged them up all pretty in little special envelopes with photos on the front of each variety and description of the fruits. 

It was all very efficient and exact and totally not the way I do things. Finny's a nice friend to have.

But then I didn't plant anything. So the seeds sat in my freezer, patiently waiting until I got off my ass and had a garden again.

This spring, I did. Thanks largely to Cubby's enthusiasm for planting tomato seeds, we started quite a few in the spring and got the plants in the ground in due time. A. had to surround them with fencing to keep away the aggressive deer, and they set quite a lot of fruits.

Then we moved. All those poor tomatoes, abandoned at the very cusp of ripening.

However! All those trips A. has been taking back to Blackrock, while challenging for me, do result in him bringing back large quantities of produce from the garden. The MiL certainly can't eat it all, so every time he comes home, he brings me something from the garden. 

When he pulled up yesterday, he unloaded a box of tomatoes and an entire Styrofoam cooler totally full of basil.

I spent about 45 minutes this morning making at least two quarts of pesto, and then I roasted the tomatoes with a head of garlic (also from the garden at Blackrock). They were almost all Finny's tomatoes, which had traveled in seed form from California to Blackrock, grew in the garden at Blackrock, and then traveled from Blackrock to the Canadian border.

They look pretty good after their long journey, don't they?

Of course, a box of Finny's tomatoes must be made into Finny's sauce. So they were. And it was good.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Allow Me To Unburden Myself

One of the biggest challenges to this relocation for me has been the fact that for much of the week, I'm alone with the kids here while A. goes back to Blackrock to work on closing out his work in that county. He's gone for three or four days (and nights) during the work week and, as I know you will have guessed, this sucks an awful lot.

It's not so much that I'm the sole caretaker for them, it's more that they look to me for entertainment and, well, I just don't do that as well as A. does. This is mostly a problem for Cubby, of course, because he's the oldest and the most enthused about the things that A. does with them. Things like fishing or exploring or helping them build forts. I'm not likely to do these things even if I didn't have a 20-month-old child to haul around, but I'm definitely not going to do them while hauling said child.

A. leaves Jack behind with me when he takes Cubby and Charlie out for adventure. I don't have that luxury, and so I am the Worst Mom Ever.

Cubby spends a lot of time mad at me because I won't take him somewhere. Charlie spends a lot of time mad at me because, well, because he's Charlie. Jack doesn't spend too much time mad at me, because he's still a little young for that, but he is in an unfortunate throwing and hitting phase, as well as a waking-up-screaming-from-naps phase.

Someone is always screaming or crying. Sometimes it's me.

All this to say that I feel a little stressed out pretty much all the time and I feel like I should be doing something to make this easier, but I really don't know what.

I take them somewhere almost every day--the pool or the playground or the library--which sometimes seems more trouble than it's worth, what with Jack's frequent need to sleep, Charlie's frequent meltdowns, and Cubby's frequent sulking because wherever we go isn't as fun as fishing with Daddy.

And then we get home and everyone's hungry and I have to make something for dinner with three kids screaming and crying and throwing things down the stairs and WOW, DID I MENTION THIS SUCKS AN AWFUL LOT?

I really do not think this is going to rank right up there as a fond time in my memory. I feel like I'm somehow failing, but then I remember that I'm still making yogurt and bread, doing laundry, sweeping the floor multiple times a day, reading hundreds of pages of books over and over and OVER (another phase Jack is in, which is at least significantly less destructive than pounding on the walls with wooden toys), walking to the neighbor's house to feed the chickens, taking everyone to run on the nearby dirt road, stopping for ice cream sometimes, and in general doing the best I can.

It's enough.

Sure will be glad when this transition is over, though.

That's all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cucurbit Domination

When A. told me that the house we're renting had a vegetable garden, I was all excited. Then the landlady told me we were welcome to whatever was in the garden, and I was overjoyed.

But when I got here and inspected the garden, I realized that although there are a few tomato plants, a couple of underwhelming pepper plants, some beets, and about half a dozen snap bean plants, the vast, VAST majority of the small garden is completely filled with cucurbits.

There are a few winter squash plants--mostly some variety of butternut squash--that I was pleased to see, and I can sort of deal with cucumbers because we like eating sliced fresh cucumbers with vinegar and salt in the summer and pickles all the time, but zucchini? I am mostly ambivalent about zucchini. And those yellow summer squash? Nope. What's the point? They have no taste that I can discern.

And yet, of course, cucurbits are the most prolific of plants. We have been absolutely overrun with summer squash and zucchini. The brushy area next to the garden is littered with cast-off summer squash, because I gave the kids permission to pick any they see and have contests to see who can fling them the farthest.

I've made some half-hearted attempts to cook the zucchini, but only A. and I will eat it, and we're not really that enthused about it. Which pretty much leaves me with zucchini bread. The children will eat that form of zucchini. Of course they will, because it's just a kind of cake with token shreds of zucchini. This means that I use about one zucchini a week by mixing it with large quantities of flour and sugar. That leaves me with, oh, about a dozen zucchinis in a week that I'm not using.

I might freeze some for stealth chili additions in the winter. Or I might just let the kids use them for bow and arrow target practice. Probably that.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

When Woodchucks Go Hiking

We went for a family hike this morning in some very nice pine woods. Jack was in the pack; Mia was with us; it was all fine family fun. Cubby and Charlie were trotting along quite merrily with their sticks, until it warmed up and we got to a different kind of forest (more hardwoods than evergreens) and the bugs started, well, bugging us. Cubby and Charlie got fussy about the bugs--probably also they were just tired at that point--so we turned around to come home.

A. suggested that perhaps they would like to run barefoot on the path on the way back. Most of the path was heavily covered with a nice springy layer of pine needles and they thought this was swell. A. decided to join them in their barefoot trail run, leaving Jack and me the only ones still with shoes.

After a brief stop at a stream to (fail to) catch minnows and frogs, eat some nuts and drink some water, we rallied the troops for the last half mile or so. Cubby and Charlie were not too pleased to press on. Jack was quite excited about running down the trail on his own tiny legs. He fell a lot, but seemed happy enough. Charlie was so unhappy and whiny and slow, I suggested to A. that maybe Charlie could ride in the pack, because I was ready to be out of those woods by then, thanks very much.

Charlie thought this was a great plan. Charlie is so skinny, A. couldn't even tell the difference between carrying him and carrying Jack. We continued on in this way for a little while, until Jack became too distracted by toxic berries and tree roots that wouldn't budge despite persistent pulling, and I scooped him up to speed up and catch up to the rest of the crew.

When I reached them, A. insisted on taking Jack and carrying him on his shoulders. Charlie was still in the pack, so A. basically stacked the two younger children and continued on. Still barefoot, remember. As was Cubby.

And then, just before we came to the trailhead, Mia dived into the brush and emerged with a twitching juvenile cottontail rabbit clenched in her jaws.


I spent the last ten minutes of the hike hoping fervently that we didn't encounter anyone else on the trail. Perhaps they might have looked askance at a barefoot man packing two children, trailed by a third barefoot child and a large dog with a dead rabbit in its mouth.

Perhaps definitely.

We finally made it back to the car, disposed of the rabbit (much to Cubby's voluble displeasure, but rabbits can have a lot of parasites in warm weather, so we thought we'd better not risk it), buckled everyone into their seats, and came home.

Fine family fun, indeed. For a family of woodchucks, anyway.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Since moving to this house, our dog Mia has been pretty chill. Though the woods around us are teeming with animals, none of them seem to venture anywhere near the house. Why would they, with all that space unspoiled by humans and our noise? And now that we no longer live on a busy road with runners and cyclists to monitor constantly, Mia is free to sleep 16 hours a day under the pine trees by the front porch.

It's kind of like a doggie retirement home.

That's why it was surprising to hear her start barking continuously at around 4:30 this morning from her bed on the enclosed porch. She did it long enough that A. got up to go out there. He didn't see or hear anything, and after seeing him, Mia seemed to consider her warning sufficient and went back to sleep.

One short hour later, Charlie was in our room to inform me his bed was wet. After dealing with that and getting him back into bed, I let Mia out of the enclosed porch and out the front door. She still seemed somewhat agitated, so I decided to go out with her. Just in case she saw something for real and decided to take off.

I was still tired and displeased about being awakened twice before I needed to be up, but then I walked onto the front porch and saw that the sun was just starting to rise, and the moon was still shining as brightly as if it were the middle of the night.

Photos of this sort of thing are always much less impressive than in real life, so you'll just have to trust me when I tell you it was quite spectacular.

So thanks to Mia the Brave and Charlie the Wet for making sure I was up and out to see that. It was a good start to the day, after all.

(And I didn't see anything alarming outside, either. You know I was thinking of that damned bear the whole time.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Country Roads, Take Me Home

About a quarter-mile from our new house is a dirt road with basically no houses on it. This is very convenient, because it means that I can walk with all the kids to that road and they can run far ahead of me without worrying too much about cars. Cars are few and far between, and going pretty slow in any case because of the rocks on the road.

This also means we can take a walk without venturing into the woods. This is important, because the woods around here are no joke. They go for a long way with no interruption, and it's pretty easy to get lost in them. A. went into the woods across the street from our house with Cubby and Charlie last week, and even he got a little lost.

So, no woods for me, thanks.

But this dirt road is perfect. It's close enough that I can carry Jack home when he's had enough of walking. Mia and the children can run freely right down the middle. There are wild berry bushes along the side of the road for leisurely snacking. And the stop sign at the end of it is a perfect target for spear-throwing little boys.

Country idylls 'R' us.