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Homestead happenings: the festival of summer

2011 June 14

We’ve arrived at the festival: summer. Are you here too?

The days are long and lovely and the Animas River is carrying loads of snowmelt downstream like some living metaphor.

We’re outside all day, dusted in dirt like little powdered donuts. Last night Dan said, peering at Rose’s gorgeous dirt-smeared face, “do we wash it, or just chalk it up to good immunity through dirt?” And the other day, when I told the kids it was time to leave the river, Col said “just a minute, Mama,” and then dropped down to roll in the dirt. “Okay,” he said, standing up, a raised-bed of soil slipping off him, “I’m ready to go now.”

The kids haven’t been in bed before 9 pm since we flipped the calendar to June. Sometimes I linger in bed with Col for an extra minute or two because I’ve heard from other Mamas that this is the time their children open up, thoughts and emotions flowing from their uncorked minds. And bless his uncomplicated heart, the other night Col said, as I was doing my lingering thing, “Mama, can you just sing my lullaby now?”

Rose, on the other hand, is like a police officer sniffing around for a late night rager. She knows there’s people still up, possibly having fun. Last night she appeared in our room in her little pink-hippo pajamas announcing, “this is my really last question. Do roly poly’s have butts and vaginas? Or just penises?”

Everyday our festival passes take us right to our own backyard. I can spend hours puttering around the garden, weeding this, planting that, while the kids’ minds bloom like exotic flowers. I’ve totally resigned as entertainment coordinator, besides I’d have to pry my mind open with metal tools or psychedelics to match what Col and Rose come up with.

Col discovered a cache of coal buried in the back of our property under a shady old juniper, which he’s been passionately digging up.

antlers make good digging tools

Rose can be found shuttling egg shells out of our compost to feed the chickens, sitting in the shade singing sweetly to her polar bear, or recently, wrapping dandelion flowers in string and tossing them like petaled anchors into the chicken coop.

Last week I ran inside to get a plate of snacks and when I came out Col was wearing adult safety goggles and cruising belly down on a skateboard (both of which he found in our shed), while Rose was building a ramp for him out of firewood. I’m thinking these kids should start their own blog, called: How to Have Oodles of Fun in Your Own Backyard! It would be sponsored by “Backyard Sheds – don’t clean ’em out yet” and “The Dirt Society.” Your kids could write some guest posts.

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We’re going nutso for these green drinks around here. I feel like they absolve me of anything sketchy I’ve ever put into my body.

this one had apple mint, comfrey leaves, rhubarb stalks, alfalfa, and chard, oh and nettles, and possibly some lamb's quarters...and maybe dandelion leaves too.

Dan's brave hands in the nettles patch.

I am also completely in love with arugula. It’s so spicy and refreshing, I like to munch on leaves as I’m tending the garden, it’s like the zingy thrill of your first kiss, spritzing your whole body with aliveness.

My parents were recently visiting, and having grandparents around is just such a win-win-win for everyone. Col and Baba spent some time discussing Newton’s 3rd law of motion.

We took some fun walks in the mountains.

Posed to the hilt, but I'm pretty in love with Rose's new haircut, which has suddenly and strangely reduced her hair-tangles to zero.

We also had a great campfire at Haviland Lake. Dan’s the kind of guy who quietly starts a fire, waits until the wood turns to coals, cooks perfect elk burgers and hot dogs for 6 people, while I’m still unloading the car, looking for sunscreen.

Baba did a few interference experiments: throwing 2 rocks into the lake to see how the they’d interact with each other. It was quite beautiful – you should try it next time you’re at a lake.

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We’re also at the festival of spinach. Our spinach crop is insane this year, owing to the fact that I planted two beds of spinach back when summer was still a twinkle in our eye.

I’m really fond of spinach, partially because it plays hard to get around the sun-drenched Southwest. This is a spinach pie made with about 5 or so eggs. And last year’s roasted tomatoes on top. Swoon to the max.

And rhubarb. I’m positively insane for the puckery-sweetness of rhubarb right now.

My rhubarb recipes are simple. Chop rhubarb with apples, add honey and butter. Put mixture into a pie crust, *or* sprinkle overtop with an oat-butter-honey batter and call it a crisp.

Dan’s been working on tanning his elk hide, which means that when I went to make a green drink today I smelled a faint aroma of elk brains in the blender. That’s all I’m saying. I love that man.

Sewing up the holes in the hide - next week is the softening phase, I'll keep you posted..

Are you festivating at your summer festival? Tell all.



18 Responses leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    June 15, 2011

    Wow, what a rich existence.

  2. Christy permalink
    June 15, 2011

    Oh my yes. Monday’s dinner was new potatoes, cabbage, onions, and zucchini all drizzled with olive oil and stir fried. All from the garden. Through out dinner, I kept commenting “And we grew all of this ourselves! I mean this is just the begining!” My uncle great uncle had given me seeds for hyacinth beans that I planted in April. He loves them for the purple flowers and seed pods. I started researching and it seems the whole plant is edible! (Except the dried beans. they apparently turn poisionous.) I planted them on our fence and have been tending to them like crazy, dragging my husband out for every little change. (Which he oohs and aahs over like a good partner) That’s not counting the river fishing time. Last week my grandma commented on thursday, “too bad we only made it fishing once this week…” And if not on the riverbanks in the evening, you can find me watching my birdhouse. aaahhhh….
    Also, I am so glad the haircut has helped the tangle battle. Growing up, my sister had super fine tangly hair AND was very tender headed. Often bath time ended in tears for her (and Mom) One day Mom had it cut short, and presto tears were dried. (My sister actually still wears her hair short growing it out only once in college.) Plus Rosie looks so darn cute with that cut. Like a little forest (or perhaps river or backyard) pixie.

  3. Ania permalink
    June 15, 2011

    I love that post!
    Here (FL) summer is the more difficult season of the year and we are spending it figuring out how to escape the heat and sun – mud bath would be perfect I guess.
    Or going North… from 96 to 86F:


  4. June 15, 2011

    Ahhh Rachel! It’s this time of year my envy springs forth lady-claws and scrapes at the doorway to get in to your life! Summer on the northcoast is still just a tease. I’ve heard rumors that 30 miles inland, there is some dry warmth to be had, and I’m planning on searching it out this weekend on a camping trip, but in the meantime, I was wearing a long sleeve shirt with a sweater on top and wool socks yesterday… However, in the garden, which I’m officially letting slack this year, I found a few gigantic broccoli plants, planted in the fall last year, ready to yield their goodness. The festival of summer right now, is a party I go to every Tuesday, when I pick up my farm share from the CSA. Our farmer is a miracle worker, producing a plethora, even in our climate, and I love his arugula (a shared passion, I see)! The arugula he grows are BIG – not the tiny, skinny stuff you find in the Co-op. My fave arugula recipe, is a summer salad, with the chopped leaves, and sliced strawberries. I make a balsamic-honey dressing and it’s heavenly – a total party in your mouth!

  5. June 15, 2011

    Looks marvelous!

  6. June 15, 2011

    Ok, when are you going to write a book? Or are you writing it already? Because you cannot have chops like this and just give us bits and pieces via the glowing rectangle. I want a whole, hearty, chunky BOOK. You can fit that in between bedtime stories and weeding, right?

    It’s June Gloom season in Southern California. Did that happen up north when you lived here? Anyhoo, it’s cool like spring, which is kind of pissing me off, because I want some tomatoes of the heat-loving variety. Ha! Such a spoiled brat. Complaining about glorious weather. Oy.

    • 6512 and growing permalink
      June 16, 2011

      Okay. What would this book be about? And Aldra, thank you for being such an enthusiastic cheerleader of my writing. I really do appreciate it.

      Love, Rachel

      • June 16, 2011

        Um…stuff? :)

      • June 18, 2011

        i’ve been longing for a book from Rachel for what feels like an eternity! I’m pretty sure it could be about something hopelessly boring and still be a magnificent piece of work.

  7. June 15, 2011

    Reading your posts is like an adult version of a Disney Princess movie. Pure fantasy to me, except for the elk brains. We’re muddling slowly into summer, getting little glimpses here and there, but today is rainy and cold.

    I might try to convince my husband to move to Colorado. The memories of my childhood days in Evergreen are priceless.

  8. June 15, 2011

    Rose you sweet girl…. you made me laugh out loud. Summer is turning into a sweltering sauna…. but we’re still soaking in the sun…. however by next month I’ll be sounding like the witch from wizard of oz as i screech….
    “I’m melting, I’m melting…….”

  9. Anonymous permalink
    June 15, 2011

    Summer in Durango is delicious, reminds of my youth in NYC-the long warm nights part in particular.
    Seems like it will go on forever. What a great place for kids and adults too

  10. June 15, 2011

    It’s not summer here, weather-wise, but we are done with most of our formal homeschooling for the season, so I guess that counts. We’ve been for a few hikes, and have been out in the yard, and the kids both learned to ride bikes. We’ve already been camping once (it got down below freezing a couple of nights!) but all the plants are about a month late, and the heat is still on in the house. I’m not complaining, but it’s nice to see others enjoying the sunshine!

  11. June 16, 2011

    Thank you for stopping into my blog! Yours is just lovely. Your herbs are killer! And that view out your window- breathtaking…

  12. June 16, 2011

    yes, it definitely feels like summer here now. and we’re doing a lot of staying home in the yard, too, enjoying the festival. it feels good! why did i think comfrey leaves were for external use only? lol. always something new to learn. i just scored a bomb proof juicer that predates the programmed obsolescence era, and have been throwing beets and anything green that will stand still in it. also continuing to do this with the blender, but the juicer is truly a treat. quinn would definitely guest post on your kids’ blog, and he is adamantly opposed to washing the immunity-enhancing dirt off his face.

    • 6512 and growing permalink
      June 16, 2011


      comfrey leaves can be toxic in HUGE quantities, but certainly not a few leaves in the blender every few days. Okay, Quinn is 1st guest poster. topic: crab-catching! XO

  13. June 16, 2011

    Summer? We’re getting the cool, drizzly crap that everyone who lives north and west of you is complaining about. I’m okay with it: takes me back to my northwestern roots.

    Elk brains in the blender, yum!

  14. June 16, 2011

    Though it’s certainly summery over here, it doesn’t look like our festival has started.

    Do I even know how to festivate? Dunno.

    What I love about your garden is that it is really, truly, GINORMOUS. What don’t your little ones find there?

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