The garden no longer needs watering, just saving every night from frost. Insects are no longer a threat – yesterday I watched with a little wistful fondness a grasshopper springing around the lettuce. It’s almost like living in reverse, here in October, like backing down that long ramp that launched us into the wild carnival of summer, undoing and unstitching all the open windows and forever-light days, re-dedicating ourselves to kale and sunshine. Each stray honeybee I spy in the fading hollyhocks is like a visitor from a strange and faraway planet buzzing out a little song about impermanence.
Oh this? Just the little river that runs through our town.
Right now all the changes are so fascinating – it’s like being stoned 24/7. Wow – look at how the trees are all glowing! Now look how they’re all dropping skirts of yellow leaves at their feet! Wow! WOW!
And confessionally speaking, all this beauty makes me a little anxious. Not about winter coming (winter is the dark pause necessary to illuminate every other season). No, what I’m anxious about is how to fully inhabit and appreciate the technicolor fireworks of fall itself. It’s all so fleeting and breathtaking; it literally makes me gasp. Every day we sit at the kitchen table watching the crab apple trees flare deeper into color. And then just today I noticed the leaves were starting to dull. And I felt a small pinch of despair in my chest. Did I love it enough?
The crab apples.
Inside, Col tells me, “I feel like lighting something on fire.” He rolls paper cigars, melting wax and wood shavings into the center, and I suddenly see the wisdom of channeling boys into sports. Rose has taken possession of my old cell phone, and stripped of any communication abilities, it simply plays endless rounds of ringtones. She dances to Gaga-techno, and Patriot-band tunes, and my former ringtone, jolting my nervous system into reaching for a phone call that’s actually a 7-year old prancing in her undies to musical soundbytes.
Suddenly all I can think of to offer the kids for snacks is apples and kale chips. The first time I made kale chips, Col said, “These are really good and also really bad.” I take this to mean: I like how these have the salty crunch of potato chips, but I’m also a little disappointed that they’re not actually potato chips. Fair enough.
And yet, they’re compelling in an unclog-your-arteries and holy-antioxidants! sort of way. Col’s friend, Sebastian, told us wistfully yesterday, how he loves kale chips, and I said, with zero parental grace, “Did you hear that, Col and Rose? He loves them.” (Sebastian is my fantasy child: he comes over and exclaims, “Your cabbages are amazing, Rachel. Can I pick some raw chard?” He hangs out in the chicken coop trying to hold each hen, loves hiking and thanks me profusely when I foist zucchinis on him. I have other fantasy children: Mathew, so polite! Stella, always asks for seconds on my meals. Iris keeps herself hydrated without reminders.)
In my fantasy world my children are eagerly massaging oil into kale leaves, bright sunny faces never having contemplated a particle of unwholesomeness. When really, Col’s outside lighting faux cigars and Rose is mistaking tinny 30-second ringtones for actual music.
And yet, I’m thankfully programmed to love this life, to find a way to appreciate the crab apple trees in December, bare and iced. To walk outside to a garden laid low by frost, and marvel over the kale, standing tall and leafy. To fearlessly put a bowl of kale chips (which really are delicious) out to a crowd of kids as if I didn’t know they prefer shrink-wrapped hydrogenated oils. To hand Col the lighter and dance along to “Club Mix” with Rose.
One large bunch kale
1 1/2 TBSP coconut or olive oil
2 TBSP nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBSP coconut oil
1 TBSP chile powder
juice of one lime
1/2 tsp salt
Remove leaves from stem, wash and then thoroughly dry kale leaves. Preheat oven to 350F. Melt coconut oil in a jar in pre-heating oven, remove carefully and add salt and nutritional yeast (or the alternate: lime juice, chile powder and salt) to jar and massage into leaves. Place on baking sheet. I’m not too fussy about keeping the kale from overlapping, in fact, I cover the baking sheet entirely. The baking should take approximately 20-25 minutes, but after 15 minutes, check on kale and flip leaves around with a spatula. You want the kale to crisp without burning.
Post-massage but pre-cooking.
Really, truly delicious. Promise.
We come to the high country for one night.
“It’s like being people again,” Dan says, small yellow fire crackling like the echo of fall aspens.
We walk up to the pass, breath-steaming, looking for elk and deer: brown bodies against tawny slopes.
Nighttime, back at camp: thousands of stars unveiled. Pulsing flames in a black ceiling.
Morning: before dawn; jackets, boots, mittens, hats, we walk up to the pass.
Moon hovering, last bulb in the sky.
Jumbly rock iced in place.
Nose dripping, cheeks stinging, muscles singing a grateful hymn.
The sun arrives on daily rounds, drawing out every living thing.
Dan glasses the slopes, I catch my breath.
Five buck deer graze on bronzed slopes.
To stay warm, we walk.
In the tall, dark timber: an explosion of wings, grouse flushing from under foot.
This is Dan’s hunting territory.
The stories spill, fifteen years worth:
“I slept there once or twice.” (a nondescript grassy mound big enough for one)
“That’s a nasty creek, cliffed-out and craggy. We try and avoid it.” (Except all the times they don’t).
“Dave stopped for a snack here, his sleeping bag rolled all the way down the mountain.” (Smiles upon remembering)
The Hard Way bull, Sweet Hips, The 420 bull (not what you think), BK Bruiser, Big Timber Buck: all the animals named, remembered, celebrated, a gift from this land to our bodies.
Back at camp:
Clouds charge across the sky.
Fresh snow with fresh coffee.
I send out a Mama’s prayer: may the kids have gotten enough sleep last night and enough protein this morning.
You could come up here next year and hunt with me, he says.
I just might.
1) I’ve been teaching my first round of creative writing classes to 9-11 year olds, a fearless and sincere age. Class meets at my house which means students may be greeted by the smell of a simmering deer roast, heavy on the garlic. Or they may glimpse Rose streaking through the living room under the guise of “just looking for something,” when really she just wants to peek at all the big kids hunched over notebooks. I’ve been known to pull carrots from the garden, distributing them to complement our studies on generating sensory details. After our first class, at which Kayleigh nearly fell out of her chair agreeing with Julian about how Harry Potter books transport you to another a world and how much we like that, I thought, I’ve found my people. Except, well, the slight age difference. Middle school classes coming in November.
2) Dan is gearing up to teach a series of bow-making classes, starting in November. Really, you start with a tree limb (called a stave in bowyer vernacular), and end up with a usable bow. What a transformation! Dan is getting really excited, explaining how he’ll have the participants pull tendons from deer legs (to be dried and pounded into sinew, applied with hide glue to strengthen the bow). Hopefully that’s a draw for the bowyerly type. Space is extremely limited and spots are already filling (some by women, just saying). Details here.
3) We are hoping to stage another interactive Halloween Play for the little people. Last year’s play edged out trick-or-treating in popularity. We need a few more parents, if you’re interested in joining in this year let me know.
was given gave myself the assignment for the fall issue of Edible Southwest Colorado to thoroughly investigate (wink wink) the recreational marijuana business in Telluride. Here’s what happens when a middle aged mother gets a hold of some ganja caramels.
5) If the writing industry ever tanks, my next career move (after professional dog-walker) will be opening a retirement center for senior chickens. There will be space for any hard-working girl who’s come to the end of her productive life, for whom the egg-laying lights have gone out, who’s reached, if you will, henopause. Read the rest of this story on what to do with chickens who’ve stopped laying, here, also for Edible Southwest Colorado
I wandered around the deflated garden yesterday, while Rose’s homeschool co-op buddies scripted their freeplay in real time. Okay, so say you’re a doctor and I broke my leg and you say: you’ll need a cast, and I say: I’ll take the purple kind, and then you say: we’re out of purple… (all of this interspersed with a tremendous amount of joyous screaming. Oy).
Meanwhile, Col’s homeschool co-op cronies, ten miles away, were conducting a coming-of-age ceremony for Seneca’s goat, Heidi, who just came into her womanhood, ovulatorily speaking. Heidi’s goat-puberty coincided serendipitously with the co-op’s current topic, Gender Studies, which includes sexual development as well as LBGT studies, sacred masculine/feminine, gender stereotypes in media…you know, typical 4th grade curriculum. Col’s co-op spent their freeplay writing a song to recite to Heidi the goat, who loved it so much she ate it. Perfect.
Rose’s co-op cohorts found 45 words to describe an antler for their studies on mindful seeing.
Col is currently immersed in practicing his BB gun skills. We’ve been bringing the gun on hikes, promising shooting time after just a little more walking; this works in exactly the same way a bag of bakery treats works for Rose (Speaking of gender studies. Oy #2). Raising a boy is a continuing education for me. I’m hugely invested in maintaining closeness with Col as he grows, though the intersection of our interests is a stark place with lots of open seats. He loves throwing the football, airplanes, drawing, target shooting, making fires, playing soccer, engineering and building, and legos. And I like, well, making sauerkraut and then maybe writing a little about it.
Rose’s world, to be honest, is also one I often peer into like a bewildered foreigner. Rose spends a lot of time brushing, braiding and coloring (with markers) various barbie, pony and doll hair. One blink later the hair is hacked—flaxen strands confettied across our floor—like barbie finally decided to kick the patriarchy’s beauty stereotypes to the curb. My role is clear here: hand Rose the broom.
When Col was a very small baby, the term preemie following his very person the way writer will always attach itself to Stephen King, I had just a few wishes for him. They were not that he and I share hobbies. No, they were on the order of: please let his brain work OK. Sometimes they were more specific, like: Please allow him to master sucking, swallowing and breathing simultaneously.
This is Mae, our new rat. As Rose said about Martha’s surprising death, “I just want to get a new white rat, name her Martha, and not have to feel sad.” I totally get this. However, we had a proper burial (in the compost pile), shed tears and offered gratitude. And then two days later went to the pet store and got Mae. She is lovely.
I won’t lie and say that watching Rose paw wild berries into her mouth on a plant walk I led this summer didn’t inflate me with happiness. She knows her wild plants! She learned that from me! It’s also true that I feel just the smallest bit of envy for the hours of fellowship Dan and Col share in BB gun shooting competitions (This just in: Col is in the lead. What?). I ask the kids, dangling snazzy seed packets in front of them: Who wants to help me plant the fall cold frames? And when they apologetically opt to jump on the neighbor’s trampoline, I feel the merest bit of disappointment. And yet, my truest wish for my children is that they wake up curious every day. That they find wholesome things to which they can joyfully devote their time. That they feel free to search and find their own meaning in life. The particulars are none of my business.
I think of my friend who gave birth to a boy, who at 4-years old made it very clear that inside where no one could see, he felt like a girl. He needed his family’s help to become a girl on the outside, too. His parents cried and researched and discussed, and then they did the next right and hard thing: they bought their daughter dresses and hair clips, switched pronouns, and observed her new, chosen name. Our children’s dreams may not be our own, but this family’s courage, acceptance and love will always light a spark of inspiration in my heart.
Col came into our room at a dark and early hour this morning. I lifted the covers on my right (saving room for Rose’s eventual arrival on my left) and he nestled down like the professional snuggler he is. We held each other and I breathed in his boy-scent and we talked about airplane design. He told me about ailerons and elevators, lift and drag. He was excited and I was excited for him, and I felt certain that all was absolutely right.
I wish I were more casual about tomatoes, more like, “Oh, tomatoes? Yeah, sometimes they all ripen, sometimes not, no biggie.” And then I’d skip off to do something fun and frivolous, something lost on people who stake their well being on several hundred red fruits ripening. Instead I’m pacing the garden, seeing each crimson orb as a future indispensable player on the field of roasted tomato sauce. I’d ripen them with the hot blaze of my attention if I could.
Last month our friend Maja and her three kids led us through the spruce trees on a mushroom-picking foray, followed by a fungal feast at their house (Chanterelles and spinach simmered in cream sauce. Just saying). Rose said to me afterwards, in whispery reverent tones, “Maja is so nice. She’s so willing.”
Being willing is one of the highest compliments Rose can bestow upon you. It means you say yes a lot, don’t have a lot of stuffy rules for the sake of cleanliness and order, and you live a full, celebratory life now, instead of say, roping off the tomatoes for some future dream of roasted tomato sauce.
Last weekend, I promised Rose that we could swim from the bridge behind the high school to Paradise Island (the length of a very long city block), having no idea how skin-tinglingly cold the water would be, being, well, formerly snow. I waded in tentatively, middle aged mother-style, legs going numb in sections, hoping Rose would see the craziness in the idea. But no, Rose was screeching and splashing in her bikini like some future version of her spring-break-in-Mexico self. “You’re doing great, Mama, keep coming!” she shouted. And I became willing. I became so willing that I dove in. I screeched and splashed with her. I floated on my back, dodged rocks, and slid through the aquatic plants which Rose greeted like a kingdom of leafy green babies.
Rose has a lot of wants. They start at approximately 6:30 am and don’t let up until I’m kissing her goodnight and she reminds me to come back and check on her in fifteen minutes. Fifteen, she calls from her top bunk as I’m walking out to my own version of freedom. Fifteen, I confirm. What I’m saying is there is a lot of opportunity to become willing.
I’m trying to seize willingness when I can. Sometimes being willing means saying yes to a tickle session with Rose when I’d rather impersonate a very sedentary person on the couch. Or saying yes to taking Col to the Animas Air Park to troll around the tiny private planes even though this pit of mother-fear burbles up at the thought of my son behind the controls of any plane.
The times I can overcome my own boring inertia become its own reward. Rose’s gappy-toothed howls from a tickle session reverberate in my body, inevitably loosening some of the stress lodged in my bones.
We recently had the opportunity to foster a Mama cat and her nine kittens. It sounded vaguely fun and sweet, though before Dan left on his last hunting trip he kissed me and whispered, “I don’t want to come home to find ten cats in our house.” Would a more willing mom have said yes? We’re currently fostering four kittens which is exactly like having babies and toddlers in the house again: excessive yowling and pooping interspersed with heart-melting cuteness. Clearly, willingness has its limits.
Frost is in the forecast, which means all our blankets and tarps are pressed into service nightly because I’m programmed to fill the pantry with tomato sauce and salsa. I’ve published this recipe for roasted tomato sauce various places, but have tweaked it somewhat. I don’t add sugar anymore, and I usually use coconut oil rather than olive oil because current word on the street is olive oil shouldn’t be heated to high temperatures.
Best Ever Roasted Tomato Sauce
(makes approx 1 quart; I recommend making double or quadruple batches)
Prep time: 20 minutes; Cooking time: 1 hour; Clean up time: you don’t want to know.
4-5 pounds tomatoes
½ onion, sliced
2-4 whole cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
4 tbsp fresh herbs or 1 tbsp dried herbs
¼ cup coconut oil, lard or high-quality olive oil.
Additional vegetables, as available
Adding roasted, pureed onions and chopped steamed broccoli to the sauce to freeze in jars.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side down on cookie sheet in a single layer. Toss onions, garlic, salt, and herbs on top of tomatoes and drizzle with oil. Or, if you have enough for multiple batches, roast tomatoes and onions in separate cookie sheets. Roast for one hour or until the tomatoes shrivel and collapse and their juices start pooling in the bottom of the baking dish. Process the mixture with a blender or food processor until smooth. If you want to remove the skins and seeds (which is unnecessary, though it makes for a prettier, smoother sauce), run the sauce through a food mill.
Addendum: Because my garden is full of veggies right now, I am making this sauce into a tomato veggie sauce. I usually roast 2 trays of tomatoes, 1 tray of onions, and then steam broccoli or kale to add in after everything else is cooked.
Kids at work: stripping kale off stems.
To Preserve: This recipe has too much oil to can in a water-bath. Must be pressure canned or frozen. I do both.
1. Wake up and discern via weak light spotlighting through windows that it’s appropriate waking time, rather than dark, lonely cursed hours of the sometimes-insomniac.
2. Reach for
3. Hear rat sounds outside the bedroom: chewing, scratching, scuttling. Wonder if Martha needs a friend. Wonder if Martha would eat her friend.
4. Pledge to meditate this morning. Just, later. Offer rewards: meditate for ten minutes, then check e-mail with…coffee!
5. Light full strength. Kids arrive, soft parts having shrunk in the night in relation to elbows and knees.
6. Rose demands, “Tell me the WHOLE day from the beginning. Are we doing anything fun?” Col rolls around, issuing strange noises approximating…bombs dropping?…intestines fermenting? Try to love every minute, remembering that soon kids will be device-coveting, parental bed-phobic teenagers.
7. Coffee. (cue triumphant music)
8. Hear Dan ask kids: “You want to clean up or live in squalor?” Radio silence. Next he wonders, “What is the life span of a fruit fly?”
9. Start chopping golden luminous planet of an onion* Scatter C-shaped slices on cookie sheet. Drip coconut oil over shiny white puzzle pieces. Shove in oven. Turn to 350F for 20 minutes. Broil for 10 minutes or until brownly crisped, stirring once. Pledge to meditate tomorrow.
Onion from Food For All Farms in Mancos. I’m up to 7/week. Attachment level = HIGH.
This is the start or end of any number of meals, so sweet and deeply delicious you may find yourself eating the caramelized squiggles by the handful, placing the empty cookie sheet in oven, uncleaned, for tomorrow’s onion.
Are you getting the notion that I snack all day long? Confirmed.
Roasted onions masquerading as bacon.
I had a meeting this morning with someone from the Small Business Administration. She was so knowledgable and helpful, except I couldn’t understand half of what she was talking about. Videos of me teaching fermentation classes? Pinterest and Instagram are the new Facebook? (I’m sticking with Facebook until it’s so retro it’s cool again). Google analytics to help me discern which posts get the most traffic? An e-mail program to track how many people actually open my e-mails about upcoming classes? I didn’t have the heart to tell her I write about fertilizing my garden with urine and serving roadkill deer to the family, and roasting onions as a morning practice. Plus, as Anne Lamott says, I’m not really well enough to track my popularity.
Which is to say, I am excited about dreaming up new classes for the community (fermentation class is FULL; Creative writing for middle schoolers in November has several spots still open. Talk to me soon). And I’m equally excited about, well, roasted onions, even if it’s not trending right now, nor capturing the zeitgeist of September 2014. I’m not sure where my career is going, but I’m trusting that the practice of falling in love with this world will lead to all the writing, classes, and fill-in-the-blank I could ever hope to initiate.
(And just maybe I’ll see if Mia can take a short video of me teaching fermentation next Tuesday…if she has one of those iphone-thingys).
With love and endless gratitude,
* thank you yoga/writing retreat students for onion descriptors!
I brought this dish to two parties last weekend, and it was such a hit that the friends who got to the table after it ran out at the first potluck were thrilled to see me bring it the following night. (In Durango, on the Venn Diagram of community, there is endless overlap. The categories are drawn less on political, religious or school affiliation and more like: Once went on a river trip together, or In a playgroup together since birth. Or, I can’t even remember how I met half these people, just, you know, living here. Oh, how I love this town).
If you grow zucchini and don’t spend all your free time sneaking quietly around, lifting enormous leaves, ready to catch a slender green fruit just as it begins to morph into something that could be marketed as “slugger,” you will find yourself with a few monsters on hand. In our unpredictable world, this is reassuringly inevitable.
Four year old Rose, the true delicacy.
Here’s a confession: I don’t really love zucchini. I mean, do you? There’s got to be a reason that 75% of zucchini recipes call for enormous amounts of sugar and butter—triple chocoalicious zucchini cheesecake!—the reason being something like distraction from the possibility that you’re actually eating a rubber sandal.
But the truth, which is so game-changing that it could go down in my personal cosmology as The Truth, is that if you marinate a vegetable in oil and salt, and grill, roast or broil it, it transforms into its sweetest, richest, caramelliest self, browning and crisping into something like the potato chip of the vegetal world: addictive and delicious. “What? (Crumbs spattering). That was for the potluck? Oops.”
For this recipe you actually want the overgrown zukes, especially before they get very seedy. They slice up into perfect rounds much like little melba toasts onto which you can pile delicious ingredients, bring it to a potluck and feel very fancy.
One very large zucchini, yellow squash works great too.
Feta cheese or goat cheese…maybe that soft mozzarella? If you’re dairy-free omit the cheese or substitute with…pesto?
A few large, ripe, flavorful tomatoes
Handful of basil leaves
For the marinade: oil is the most important (I like olive oil), followed by salt. Just enough to coat each slice. You can add anything else you like: balsamic vinegar, a spoonful of mustard, a dash of tamari, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, minced garlic.
Marinating in, confession #2: bacon grease, a splash of rice vinegar and salt.
Broiled, both sides. This is the point at which restraint is called for, to keep from eating the whole tray.
Slice the zucchini in approximately 1/8 – 1/4 inch rounds, coat with marinade. Let sit for anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days (if 2 days, keep in fridge), stirring the slices to evenly coat the zucchini. Place zucchini rounds on cookie sheet, sides can be touching, and place on upper middle rack in oven and turn to broil. Set your timer for 5 minutes at which time check the browning. In my oven, on the middle shelf it takes about 10 minutes on each side, but check every 5 minutes to prevent charring. When the tops are brown, turn once. It usually takes less time on the flip side.
Once cool, layer with a slice of tomato, a basil leaf and a dollop of feta cheese. You could get creative here with any number of ingredients: a slice of gouda, chopped green chiles, a dollop of hot sauce, chopped mint, a fried egg, a pile of sauteed mushrooms, cucumber slices, roasted peppers, whatever.
Option #2: broiled yellow squash “bread.” Inside: a fried egg, green chiles and tomato slices. Holy yes.
Everyone shows up for reading these days.
There is a very cagey, nervous (foster) kitten loose and hiding in my 800 sf house. And a caged rat cracking sunflower seeds, but rejecting the corn and “mystery pellets,” which Rose notices because she too is very allied to food preferences. And a batch of chokecherry mead audibly fermenting in my meditation corner. Yes, corner. (See: 800 sf house). And a husband gone for the third of many bow-hunting trips this month, trying to kill an 800-pound animal with a self-made, self-powered piece of wood (which, after spending another 5-day stretch alone with the kids, sounds like a freaking party. Drop me off in the woods with excessive bacon, please). And one child playing a jarring but charming self-invented song on guitar called “African Bees;” the other child 20 inches away on same couch perusing a book on airplane design, requesting, sighingly, that the musician play “just a little quieter.” See again: 800 sf house.
Which is to say, not much is new.
Except maybe grapes. The grape vines we planted four years ago are actually producing enough for us to wander outside for a daily grape snack.
I made a batch of chokecherry mead recently and when it was time to sterilize the “must” (must is simply the liquid: water, fruit, honey, which you sterilize to kill marauding wild yeasts and bacteria that can hijack your mead), I pondered the three sterilization options. Option #1: Sterilize via chemicals. Option #2: Sterilize via boiling (which kills all beneficial enzymes in the honey). Option #3. Trust in the Universe. (which involves doing nothing other than trusting that your chosen yeast will prevail).
I chose option #3. Not that I’m very good at Trusting in the Universe, which has a certain flimsy, slogany feel, and which probably requires a certain level of, well, patience and going with the flow, not my strong points. Also, the argumentative 5-year old in me has a lot of boringly practical questions, like hey, what about hard work and personal responsibility?
But, then I went to the Monday night dharma talk at the Durango Dharma Center, where Maureen spoke of all the ways we suffer because of desire, attachment, clinging, and our unwillingness to let go. In essence, our inability to trust in the natural way of things, in change, in the unknown, in our lack of control, in universal law, IN THE UNIVERSE.
Being a veteran clinger, I get nostalgic for moments that haven’t even happened. Right now I’m looking out the library window at the cottonwoods along the river, bits of yellow starting to flame. My mind goes instantly melancholic, fast-forwarding through every glorious color stroke of fall to the inevitable stark dormancy of winter. But guess what? It’s 75 degrees outside and spectacular. The garden is pumping out produce. It’s September. No matter what I cling to (a season, my children’s childhoods, my parents’ good health) the universe is primed to change, to subtly tick forward, to unfold in predictable and mysterious ways, none of which are within my control.
Our favorite hollyhocks this summer.
So, I’m Trusting in the Universe; trusting that we’ll get through Dan’s hunting absences as we always have (which may or may not include a slight uptick in beer); trusting that the bubbling 3 gallons of chokecherry must will become a delicious mead, complete sometime next spring; trusting that the foster kitty will reappear; trusting that summer will yield to fall, and fall to winter; and that a tuneless rendition of “African Bees” may be exactly what we need.
Rose, pitching the yeast into the must.
We’re returning from an afternoon at the river, and Col is struggling to carry out our deflated, unwieldy innertube, unfurling itself from his arms like an escaping octopus. Col exhales the sigh of the defeated; you can practically see his chest deflate.
“Hey honey, any ideas on how you can make that task easier for yourself?” I ask with false cheer.
Col grumbles, professes to be fine, and I swallow down the urge to fold up the raft as precise as Holiday Inn staff and return it to the shelf of his arms.
Later, we’re mounting our bikes and see a small pile of broken glass on a concrete wall. Col grabs the glass, arm cocked and aiming, about to launch it in the tall grass.
“Hey honey, do you think it’s safest to leave that broken glass where it can be seen or to throw it in the grass?”
Col winds his arm down and returns the glass to the concrete wall.
Who knew parenthood was like being a life coach to very small people? One thousand times a day it would be easier to take my mulitple decades of experience and simply announce the Right #&%$*! Thing to do, or for the sake of efficiency, motherfreaking do it for them. (Watching Rose wash dishes—unleashing a Niagra of water for each solitary plate—is like an advanced meditation. Just breathe, keep breathing. Breathe).
I have a (marvelously-talented) life coach, who puts a great deal of effort into gracefully helping me access my own wisdom while she likely grits her teeth waiting for me to simply get it. It’s just like parenting, how we casually ask those gentle, loaded questions, as if we’re not all that invested in the outcome. My life coach will say, without much emotion, “Rachel, do you want to examine if you have any other choices here?” This morning, while Col pushed himself around in Rose’s doll stroller, straining the fabric, enraging Rose, Dan said nonchalantly, “Hey Col, do you want to choose something that won’t annoy your sister so much?”
Daily, there’s unending amounts of information to disseminate, information that seems well, obvious. Sometimes I want to shout, “HANDS OFF THAT UNRIPE APPLE!” But instead, I opt for, “hey, you know if you pick unripe apples then we miss out on all that delicious ripe fruit.” I once told Col, “the window just can’t take the impact of a tennis ball. Can you throw somewhere else?” Cue falsely patient smile. And then I fell down in the grass to simply breathe because the restraint takes so much effort.
But it’s worth it, right? We all know kids who will take a parent’s advice, turn around and do the exact opposite. Because really, who wants unsolicited advice? (You can ask Dan how well it works in our marriage). Also, kids are already at the low end of the personal-power totem pole, looking for ways to exercise some authority over their lives. But the funny thing is that kids truly, mostly, want to do the right thing; they want to be helpful and to add positively to the family culture. As long as its their idea.
If kids get to make their own decisions, though with maybe a teensy bit of leading questions tossed into the mental arena for contemplation, or some general information about the way things work (see: unripe fruit), they’re more likely to make a decision that everyone can live with.
Rose, bagging up frozen peach slices. The kids have been 100% more helpful since Dan’s been away hunting. It’s weird. Rose took out our kitchen garbage without being asked this morning.
So, I’m starting a new program: life coaches can train for free with my family! Just shadow us through the day as I spin thousands of decisions into their own. Wink wink.
It’s getting to be that time of year when my focus becomes somewhat narrow, vascillating precisely between salsa and fermented pickles. It’s so familiar really, the way the season of food preservation marches in, elbowing out other events, like er, personal hygiene and floor-sweeping (the last time I swept I couldn’t discern between rat poop and chokecherry seeds, which goes to show how wild it’s gotten over here). And as my friend Mikel said recently—sweating through her own hatch of fuzzy-headed peaches, needy as newborns—this food preservation is a time-limited event. It’s what you do when the produce rolls in, ripe and plentiful. You transform the harvest with knives and stoves and jars and freezers. And in winter, you feast.
Those hard water spots! I’ve spent hours trying to polish them out. Just kidding, didn’t actually notice them until I took this picture.
Which is to say, I’m all in. We went on an epic mushroom foray recently with friends, three adults and seven kids fanned out through the spruce/fir, eyes to the ground, ready to rush over with baskets and knives at the first whoops (even if sometimes it was the 5-year old whooping over finding an ant hill or elk scapula). And it occurred to me that in the not so distant past, food procuring and preservation was our sole human work.
Proof that chokecherries can be used as lipstick!
Proof that children *can* get cuter as they age, toothily speaking.
Chokecherry-pear leather. Holy motherfreaking omg.
If you’re making chokecherry leather, to avoid adding sweetener, mix with a sweeter fruit like apples or pears. Because apples and pears aren’t generally ripe for another month, make your chokecherry puree and keep in freezer until other fruit are ready.
I’ve been making a fair amount of fruit leather, because:
1) The kids think it’s candy.
2) I picked the fruit and made the leather and it didn’t come from a wrapper and there’s no added sugar and the kids still think it’s candy.
Making fruit leather is easy, because you know, as someone who doesn’t peel fruit or deseed tomatoes, everything I make is fairly unfussy. One thing I must mention is that we live in an exceptionally dry and sunny environment. I’m not sure you could make this recipe in say, coastal Oregon without a dehydrator. But I think September and October are some of the sunnier months everywhere, so maybe?
*Bonus question: As longtime readers know, Dan likes to reinvent songs with his own lyrics. Heard him singing this recently while slicing peaches.”I’ve got a little peach and it won’t be bruised.” (hint: Led Zeppelin…but what song?)
Fruit, of any kind.
Cut and simmer fruit for approximately 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring frequently and evaporating off some of the water. Blend in food processor or blender. Spread about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick on parchment paper (not wax paper, to which it’ll stick) which is placed on cookie sheet or oven rack or window screen in the sun. You can protect from flies with some hardware screen, or just, you know, look the other way. Bring inside at night to protect from hungry night-prowlers. After 3-5 days, or when completely dry, peel off parchment (which you can reuse), roll up and impress your children.