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homestead happenings: “a lot of fun things”

2013 June 21
by Rachel Turiel



Rose: What does S P I W K spell?

Me: Nothing. That’s not a word. (Because I’m the President of the Accuracy at All Costs Club)

Rose: But it has a vowel in it.

Col: Not everything with vowels in them are words, Rosie. Like whore.

Me: *spitting out coffee*

Col: Right Mom? That’s not a word.

Me: Whore?

Col: Right. H O R.

Me: Right. That’s right, darling.


Oh you know, just a little morning correspondence while a hen snuggles in Col’s sweatshirt.

Summer is here like a relative for whom we’ve been anxiously awaiting, but also shyly getting to know all over again. Mornings, while the sun is still a benevolent little orb ticking up the eastern horizon, we file outside like we’ve been hypnotized. Must smell fresh air…must snuggle a chicken…must check on spinach/squash/tomato plants…must snatch a few roly polies away from the chickens to Sacrifice to the Rain Gods. 

Apparently Col has been slightly affected by the book we just read about the Mayan Indians, who seemed to call “Sacrifice!” at the drop of a hat. Not that I’m in favor of sacrificing animals, but that very same afternoon 53 raindrops fell. Just saying.

Mornings, Dan’s lured outside to stink up the yard with the latest elk hide tanning project. They don’t call it brain-tanning for nothing.


And Col can be found in his office:


Summer has been so good in that way you absolutely know it’ll be. Its tagline is freedom and everyone feels it. I like watching the kids mill around the yard, circling their own lives the way dogs circle the ground before dropping into a nap. Sometimes the day yawns scarily ahead of us like this chasm of sticky boredom that you could fall into and become too hotly apathetic to ever climb out of. But really, it’s never like that. There’s grasshoppers to catch, civil engineering projects in the sand pile, and the magic that springs forth from imaginations unshackled. The unschooling credo, “the whole world is our classroom” suddenly feels less like a shaky cardboard sign I’m trying to hold up, and more like what happens everyday when I open the front door.

On the homestead:

:: Dan read the book Project Based Homeschooling and got inspired to give the kids a work space within our living room. (Because, inexplicably, the kids don’t actually hang out in their shared room). I’m not sure what Dan had in mind, but the kids immediately created “shops.” Col’s is called: ArT STOR! Rose’s is called THE CHOCOLATE CARROT. Col has been taking his own art off our walls and trying to sell it back to us. And Rose’s store offers a plethora of items, and when you enter she’s usually on the lego cell phone she made, saying “Someone’s here, gotta go, Cindy.”


On the chair is a sign that says “open” and on the other side “closed.” Sneaking that chair to the dinner table when we have guests is a tricky business.



:: A couple nights ago, we had a pizza party with our downstairs neighbor-tenants who built a clay oven on our property. For Col and Rose, pizza parties are the pinnacle of party. It’s like they’ve been invited to eat candy with Roald Dahl and Colin Meloy. Maybe it’s that our tenants are like heroes, kid-free and car-free and always coming or going from some adventure. Or maybe it’s that you get to build your own pizza all by yourself while the grownups drink beer outside.

hh - 7


Rolling out dough for the pizzas, not a grown-up in sight!




:: I am very pleased with the garden so far. Because of our early salad bar planting, everyone has a large salad quota for the day. The peas and strawberries are coming on and grazing in the garden has officially become an activity.


This is a show-off salad, the kind you will be served if you come to our house for dinner. 



We just celebrated the 15-year anniversary of our urban homestead. The crazy thing is that when we bought this property there was not a single tree, not a single food-producing item. Just a humongous lawn and one row of purple irises. The other crazy thing is that even at year 15, we’re constantly adding, changing, removing, refining. Each spring, I think to myself, it’s really coming together now. Which is just to say, the best time to begin creating your dream homestead is now, and there is always more space than you think.

The story of our urban homestead. (Fun Before and After photos)

This spring we (Dan) transferred the sand in the kids’ sand box to a shady spot, and the sand box got filled with horse manure and compost.


And planted with tomatoes!

There is always a hollyhock lurking.

:: So, the deal with Bridge to Terabithia is that it is super sad, and that my kids might be a little tough-hearted, but I think the 6 and up crowd can handle it. Now we’re on Book 2 of Lemony Snicket, which is so suspensefully sinister that when I read a chapter at night, I have to follow it with a Beatrix Potter book so the kids don’t have nightmares! After we’re done with…um, the next 10 books in the series, it’s Winnie the Pooh for the rest of the summer.

:: Our summer lifestyle is so rich and affirming, it feels like a whole stack of doubts has fallen off a wobbly shelf in my mind. What are we doing with our lives? Living.

At the pizza party, slicing up a gorgeous pizza wth creek water still drying in her hair, Rose looked up at me and said, with awe in her voice, “There’s a lot of fun things in my life. Just one after another.”

And then I melted with gratitude.



* Also, I feel compelled to say that despite Dan’s proclivity to dish it up straight, he’s also got a soft yielding heart. Last night Rose came into our room, told us she had a bad dream and she couldn’t go back to sleep unless a parent came and slept with her. “Ask Daddy,” I suggested, like the jerk I am at 3:00 am. And without hesitation, Dan climbed up her bunk bed ladder and slept in her top bunk with her for the rest of the night.

* Also, #2. Dan is on a self-led, 4-night, solo, fasting, vision-quest in the mountains. The partner/lover/friend in me is like, “Honey, that is so great. How can I support you?” The Jewish Mother in me is like, “Honey, if you don’t eat for four days, you will die!” We dropped him off this morning and Rose, who will likely someday be a Jewish mother herself, said, “Daddy, couldn’t you just eat a few juniper berries?” Dan smiled, and walked up the trail, his sage smudgestick leaving a line of sweet earthy smoke behind him.

21 Responses leave one →
  1. Sara Parks permalink
    June 21, 2013

    I so appreciate your posts….. They inspire me to keep doing what I do! THank you…

  2. June 21, 2013

    I love everything about this post. Your life sounds amazing!

  3. Andrea permalink
    June 21, 2013

    thank you. thank you.

  4. June 21, 2013

    Great post! Thanks for the updates, oh and that salad looks WONDERFUL!

  5. June 21, 2013

    I love the delicious details you report, sister. I come here for the goods and you always inspire. xoxoxo

  6. June 21, 2013

    Simply beautiful.

  7. June 21, 2013

    Thanks for the laugh this morning about the spelling. Too danged funny. And SO jealous of the pizza oven. I have the book. I had made plans to build it in Colorado, but never found the time. Here, the soil has almost no clay (I know, right!?). So will do a more traditional oven/grill/smoker ala plans in Mother Earth News (which I’ve also been carting around for about 5 years – but did just find a source for fire brick, so things are looking up). We have 6 new baby ducks here, hatched under a Mama duck. They need some snuggling. Your clan is invited any time. Happy happy summer.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 21, 2013

      Jennifer, six baby ducks hatched on your very own farm? How exciting! Also, maybe your pizza oven would have gotten built if you had several 20-something boys living on your property.

  8. Baba permalink
    June 21, 2013

    Beautiful post. Love all those greens in garden even though I do not eat them all. Wishing safe travels to Dan and all that he trusts might happen for him.

  9. June 21, 2013

    Thanks for that line Rose. It’s been my mantra.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 23, 2013

      Mine too. Thank goodness for the 6-year olds and their fresh minds.

  10. June 21, 2013

    Everything looks perfect over there! Happy first day of summer!

  11. Melissa permalink
    June 21, 2013

    Vision quest! I love it. xo

  12. Nancy permalink
    June 21, 2013

    Thank you for your blog! I love reading it!

  13. Karen in Missouri permalink
    June 21, 2013

    Oh, Rachel, the WORDS! I come back again and again to soak up the lyrics of your lives.

  14. June 21, 2013

    So funny! And inspiring. Thank you for the soul food.

  15. Laura Matthews permalink
    June 21, 2013

    Yes, I want your life.

  16. Jaime Becktel permalink
    June 22, 2013

    Tears. Happy tears for all of you and all of it.

  17. Rachel Turiel permalink*
    June 23, 2013

    Hello nicest people and your nicest comments. Thank you, as always, for being here.

  18. Emmanuelle permalink
    June 23, 2013

    While reading this post I felt grateful and giddy like Rose: one fun thing after another! From the irresistible dialogue to Dan’s vision quest, not to mention the pizza, the pictures and your words: everything is good and true. You are my summer priestess Rachel :o)

  19. June 24, 2013

    “There’s grasshoppers to catch, civil engineering projects in the sand pile, and the magic that springs forth from imaginations unshackled. The unschooling credo, “the whole world is our classroom” suddenly feels less like a shaky cardboard sign I’m trying to hold up, and more like what happens everyday when I open the front door.”

    you said it, sister.

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