Friday, April 27, 2012

Homestead Anniversary

Thirty two years ago, I quit my job at City Hall in South Lake Tahoe and we moved to Northeastern Washington State.  My new husband was a city boy from Great Neck NY and I had never lived anywhere but in the mountains.  We had been married only 4 months.  We gave up playing music in a rock band on weekends and job security during the Regan recession and headed out with very little money, a contract on an 8 acre tract of forested land with no amenities and set out to build a homestead life.  A little over three weeks after we arrived, Mt. St.Helens erupted and we went from a world of green to living in what felt like a grade B black and white science fiction movie! 

A little help from friends and family
We began by cutting and peeling the logs to build our home.  Every time a tree hit the ground, ash would billow.  It was crazy.  We were living in a tiny 11 x 14 ft  log cabin that my Dad had built before my mom was able to retire and they got their home.  No indoor plumbing.  If you wanted hot water for a shower, you had to burn a fire in the wood cook stove that had pipes that ran through it to heat the hot water tank - even if it was 90 degrees outside.  I had an old six hole wood cook stove on blocks in the yard that had a water jacket and I did all my canning outside - fighting hordes of yellow jackets.

It took almost two years to get  the house to a point where it was able to move into.  By the time we moved in on Christmas Eve we had our first child just learning to walk.  The upstairs wasn't finished yet.  There were no cabinets in the kitchen - just an old metal sink unit and an even older electric stove.  Our only heat was an old Radium wood parlor stove.  Still had no indoor amenities.  It was heaven.  With our waterbed in the living room, our daughters crib and a couple of dressers we were finally able to unpack our stereo and have music again!  It was like waking up in a music store after two years of everything packed away.

We were the original recyclers.  The house was built with the logs we'd cut, peeled, dried, and turned to keep from warping and barn wood that we got from tearing a barn down that was going to be torched in a farmers field.  Now they would have made us tear it down due to restrictions on using used lumber.  I feel so fortunate that we built when we did.

What the house looks like today

What an adventure it's been!  We had a son and 3 years later,  Larry died in 1989 in a traffic accident.  Life moves on.... other relationships, more children, but the homestead lives on and continues to grow.  Gardens, livestock a couple more acres added to the original 8.  It's a grand life!  I couldn't let another April pass without honoring the spirit of this place and my journey here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ghosts of Summers Past

All of a sudden spring has sprung in spades!  Our temps have gone from chilly to nearly 80 and now we are heading back down into thunder storms and more normal temps.

For the past two days I have been taking care of all the lush plants that you can see in last years fall picture of my garden that I never got cleaned up last fall due to a very late canning season.  And of course I have to admit that by the end of the season I really don't care if it gets cleaned up or not!  Until...(you guessed it) Spring!!!

Then it's marathon sessions of pine cone picking, needle raking, and dead grass plucking all with the hope that the surprisingly warm temps don't jump start my perennials before I can get the afore mentioned debris off of them.

I think in retrospect, perhaps the fall clean-up is maybe the better idea in the face of all of this - however, we will talk about it again in November....In the meantime I am walking a little bent as doing "downward facing dog" for many hours at a time has taken it's toll on this not yet broken in body - it does take a few weeks until I work out all the kinks.  I think I'm glad it's going to rain and I have an excuse to sit and spin....Oh yeah - Happy Spring everyone!! (or Better late than never???)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sewing for Tradition

For the past three weeks or so, I have been working on a Christening gown for my niece's new little girl.  I so love doing traditional white work.  I think I must have been Edwardian in my last life as I have such a draw to that type of clothing.

This particular gown had it's issues in that my embroidery machine was having density issues with the designs.  My theory is that it was the solar flairs messing with the magnetics of the computer.  What ever the reason, I ended up having to totally change my original plan and completely embroider the skirt a second time.  Eventually I got all the issues worked out and the gown finally came together.  I also made a slip with lacy trim and ruffle and a bonnet with embroidery on the brim.  I was in such a hurry to get to the shower yesterday that I forgot to photograph either one of them!  There is nothing like sewing with a deadline...

Sleeve detail
The picture on the right shows the sleeve details before I put the sleeve into the dress. It's so difficult to photograph the white on white details.

Skirt lace detail

Rather than gather the sleeves into the lace beading sleeve band, I put in tiny tucks.  The beading lace with the ribbon allows the sleeve to be able to be adjusted to the size of the child.  I do not like elastic on wee ones.

This picture shows more of the detail in the embroidery and lace insertion in the skirt.  The tucks on the bodice are in groups of three signifying the holy trinity - very traditional in a Christening gown.

I have made the gowns for all the girls in the family and some for family friends as well - for all those I love who still honor those family traditions.  I like the idea that those gowns will be kept and passed on like the ceremony they represent.

I respect every persons path to God what ever it may be.  It doesn't matter to me whether I believe the same way or not.  To me, faith is sacred whatever path it chooses to take.  So on this Easter Sunday, I pass on the love of my hands, my time, and my energy and by doing so, honor the sacred in everyone and wish blessings on the new ones.  Those innocent ones that still remember what God looks like.  Happy Easter everyone.  May this springtime ritual enlighten your spirit as the world begins it's new growth of the season.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Baking Nut Bread

The wind has been howling and we have had a deluxe mixed bag of weather to greet us today.  Dark skies, rain, sleet, snow and now a peek of sunshine - the first we have had in a week or more.  I think today is the epitome of April fool's and the joke is definitely on us!  So in order to chase the cold away, I decided to bake a nice nut bread.  Let's face it - there is nothing like carbs to comfort and warm the spirit on such a blustery day. 

When the sun broke through I ran outside to capture the blue sky that lingered for only a few moments before being swallowed up again.  As I came in the front door -breathless from fighting the wind, the smell of the cooling bread assailed my nose and whisked me back to grade school.  Although I  Risk dating myself - when we were kids, the lunch ladies actually cooked us real food in the cafeteria for lunch.  The hallways would smell of baking cinnamon rolls, or pizza made from scratch or taco filling simmering.  Funny how smells can be the catalyst of time travel.  It wasn't the greatest cuisine in the world but it was real food unlike the swill they feed today's children.  I can hear the trays clacking, and the monitor checking the tray before you could dump it's remains and head out to recess.  The salad actually contained leaf lettuce and we used to surmise that some of that lettuce wasn't lettuce at all but aspen tree leaves that they'd somehow managed to sneak into the salad to stretch the budget!  Kids!  But at least we had imagination!  Including how to avoid said "aspen leaf salad" by covertly hiding it in the empty milk carton so we could get past the tray monitor and go outside.  So, despite the weather, it's been a nice trip to Tahoe Valley Elementary School circa 1967 or so.  Here is the recipe so you can do your own time travel.  I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did.

Nut Bread

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees
Prepare a 12 cup Bundt pan or 2, 9 inch loaf pans by spraying with non-stick cooking spray

1 cup sour milk (1 cup milk with 1 Tbsp vinegar)
4 eggs - slightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil                                       1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/2 cup oat flour (make your own by whirling rolled oats in a blender or food processor)
1/4 cup flax seed meal                               1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar                                   3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3 tsp. baking powder                                2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Combine all dry ingredients and nuts in large mixing bowl.  Add the milk, oil, and eggs.  Mix by hand until well blended making sure there are no dry spots.  Spoon into prepared pan.  Bake 50 - 55 min for tube pan and 40 - 50 min for loaf pans.  Bread is done when a wooden skewer comes out clean.  If top looks like it's getting too brown, you can cover with foil for last 10 min. of baking.  Cool in pan for 10 min.  Then remove from pan and cover with towel until cool.  Enjoy!