Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our little house on the hill

This Buddha was a gift from Rob for Christmas and now is sitting in the river bed we made!

As I sit here, Christmas gift giving is finished and a two week vacation has begun. It seems that our small piece of the world is peaceful and grateful and relaxing in the gifts that we have been given. I am happy in this place, our little house on the hill is warm and dry as the wind and rain is beating against the windows. A fire is crackling in the wood stove and the coffee is hot, and the only thing waiting to be done is some time playing Skyrim.

Christmas is over and now begins one of my favorite times of year. Taking inventory of the previous year and looking forward to the new year, this time is always a time of reflection for me.

Looking back at the year, I can see so many small ways that life changed and together they have grown into a visible collection of changes before my eyes.

Our decisions to live simply and require less, and to find ways to grow our own food have led to installing a wood cook stove and preparing the garden beds for Spring, and canning our food. With 40-50 different types of seeds to grow, this year will be an experiment to see what grows best here, and fruit trees and vines to be installed in the Spring should provide what we need for jelly and jams.

I learned so much – like how you cannot depend on books for everything. In November there was still lettuce growing and it was delicious. An October snowstorm supplied at least ½ cord of wood for next Winter. Opportunities to observe nature around us and to see the world differently are abundant.

I also learned a few things about myself: that my need to be out in nature is crucial, I need to be creative, I must make music and be surrounded with positive people and ideas. There is so much to be grateful for and so much is changing, mostly I am changing. I see opportunity for growth and learning in everything that is happening.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
2012 promises to be a year of change…welcome, welcome change.

"Things do not change, we change." - Henry David Thoreau


Some different things I tried for the holidays:

Cookie Swap at Work - so fun!

Making Necklaces & Ornaments as gifts =)

And cooking Swedish pancakes for the first time on the wood stove...awesome.

The holidays have been full of visiting friends & family.
I am so grateful for all we have been given.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bread and Stew

Autumn, rise, Sunday.
Hearty food and harder work.
Simple perfection.

Grinding flour for bread.

Mixing in the other ingredients

Bread Rising

These Anchor Hocking jars are the best storage for everything!

Kneaded for 10 mins, shaped and placed in pie tin to rise.

A little oatmeal....

Finished loaf cooling.

Assembling the ingredients for the first time I have cooked beef stew on the wood stove.
I used veggies we canned and some of the ground flour to bread the beef.

Breaded and seasoned beef with garlic and onions.
(after melting bacon fat in the pan)

Simmering the stew.


And stew! What added so much to this was the smoky Paprika. Yum!

This day was so amazing for me. To take canning jars with food we prepared and stored, the process of building a fire and heating the stove and cooking, the time invested in this quality of day.

Before this meal, I cut back hostas and mulched the flower beds with them and built a pile of sticks and mulch into a bed for the squash, watermelon, pumpkins in the Spring.

Participating in this life - it's all any of us really can do, and it's miraculous. This is a dream and what I would do every day. Bake bread, brew coffee, plant my garden and create the conditions for the magic of life to happen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's This?

A little movie I made about the last 2 days.
Song is from "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

Flower Beds and October Snow

200 Flower bulbs arrived on Friday and with the news of the impending snowstorm on the way, I went out to plant the bulbs Saturday morning.

I took my trusty bulb planter, gloves, and the box of bulbs out to the front fence to figure out how I was going to design this garden. My goal for the front is to have perennial flowers that I would plant this one time and then they would come back every year. This is actually a goal of much of the planting we have done or will be doing - some long term perennials that we can use as a foundation, and then the annual crops that would need to be planted each year. With a mixture of plants for beauty, herbs, medicinal and food.

When I read the packages of each of the types of flowers, I realized that this wasn’t exactly an easy bed to plant. The depths ranged from 3 – 6 inches deep – depending on the bulb. So I took off the landscaping cloth and uncovered the bed, and bag by bag – laid out the bulbs in a pattern based on size and if they should be grouped together, etc.

It took about an hour to lay them out – and then a couple more hours to dig each individually. I wanted to be sure they were carefully and deliberately placed where they would look best. I also tried to visualize the heights of each of the flowers and the times they would be in bloom.

Many of them are early spring bloomers – so they will be the first color of the new season of growth. Some will not bloom until late Spring / early Summer.

The result? The bed doesn’t look any different at all from when I started. But, I know it’s different. We did put a nice fence along the bed to keep Pippin out and define the area for mowing, etc. in the Spring.

With that bed done – I was still looking at 50 blubs in a “Mountain Bells Mix”. I decided – with the size of the bulbs being fairly small, I would make a second bed on the other side of the front walk. This went quicker because I could dig down 3 inches, lay out the bulbs and then cover them with dirt.

(To the left is the Jerusalem Artichoke bed - to the right the Mountain Bell Mix.)

Lastly, I had a bag of 50 Golden Bell Daffodils. I planted 10 of them in the larger bed and decided to plant the rest around the Mums on each side of the front stairs and then along the bushes in front of the house.

I saved 10 to plant in a container next weekend.

So all in all – it’s a very strange feeling to know that 190 flowers are planted and waiting to grow in the Spring.

As I grabbed the shovel, gloves, etc . to bring into the shed, the snow started.

Close call. The snow didn’t stop until we had a foot! In October!

I am so happy to have finished this project and the Jerusalem Artichokes before this snow!!

A list of what I planted:

40 Golden Bell Daffodils

(late Spring to Early Summer)

Breck’s Dutch Treat Collection

10 Giant Crocus

12 Dutch Iris Mix

10 Tulips

20 hyacinth Blue Grape

10 Early Stardrift

8 Giant Daffodils

20 Alpine Rosy Bells

10 King Edward Tulip

50 Mountain Bells Mix

pink, gold, white mix

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Are there words for this?
I hold images in my mind of people, places, things that inspire me.
Drive me to continue connecting.
This connectedness is everything.
I know this is true - even though I don't understand it fully.
With each thing I throw away or give away.... I find space.
It is the same in the physical world as the mental and the emotional world.
Each thing I let go of opens a space for something special to be revealed.
I am constantly surprised by who and what has meaning.
This world is a beautiful, amazing place to live.
I am starting to see that my experiences are what matters.
Talking about doing something is not the same as doing.
I am seeing how important it is to keep things simple.
Simple doesn't mean easy. Dig a garden bed, plant bulbs.
Simple, direct, participating in the event I am involved in.
Not imagination, not daydreaming.
Earth, shovel, dig, plant.
In removing things physically and changing negative thoughts and ideas...
physically, mentally and emotionally, there is freedom.
And to the surface of my mind come the words, people, ideas,
that rally around me - in my heart - and give it strength.
This is not fortune or luck - it is only acknowledgement of what already is.
Beauty, peace, love, friendship...life.
This prayer of doing extends beyond me or my understanding.
And I am choosing not to miss it.
What a great adventure it is turning out to be!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jerusalem Artichokes

Not from Jerusalem - Not an artichoke

I ordered a bunch of bulbs from Johnny's Selected Seeds.
From what I have read, these flowers are about 4" across,
look like a small sunflower and smell like chocolate.
They are perfect for an area to screen between houses and
grow up to 10 feet tall - depending on the variety.
Most importantly, they create tubers for roots that are described
as a cross between a water chestnut and a potato.

You can slice them into salad, saute, pickle or leave them in the ground and harvest as needed.

The photos won't be complete until the Spring, but here are the beginning pictures...

After splitting, there were about 18 to plant.

My new favorite shoes/boots!

Pippin wants to help dig!

Bulbs planted...and now we wait....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Green Bean Experiment

The experiment?
To build beds, plant seeds (in August) and see what would happen.
The beds are for vegetables in the Spring. We didn't have any intention of planting this year, but decided on a small experiment in one of the beds of carrots, lettuce, green beans and peas.
The peas did not produce much, and we replanted the seeds we did get into the area around the riverbed today.

The lettuce has been delicious. Not a huge producer either, because of the end of the Summer start. But, the kind - Heirloom Oak Leaf - is going to be a main planting in the Spring.

The green beans, with only a few plants, have done well.

So, our little experiment went well.
We are still waiting to see how the carrots do!

Down by the river

We have been looking at this problem for quite awhile. The rain barrel fills up almost immediately in a storm, and then over flow, plus the rain from the sidewalk and the neighboring yards all flows down into our yard and floods the new blueberry plants.

So we stood in the rain one day and watched where the water flowed.

This space is not used for anything else, and seems to have clay only a few inches down, it looked like a good place to have a river bed.

We marked the river, and placed the logs of our "fallen tree". We wanted it to look and be natural.

We awoke the worms...

"We have worm sign the likes of which even God has never seen."

We dug out a couple of inches to sit the logs into the ground and filled in around them to create our river bank.

After a couple of test runs and adding some rocks, we have the problem solved and the beginning of a beautiful area of the yard. We will be adding more river rock and plants. Keeping this area as a natural area, we hope to attract predators for the garden pests that will show up in Spring when we plant our vegetable and flower gardens.

The ideas we used for creating this area are based on what we have been reading and watching about Permaculture.

The test! Rained like crazy for many hours today...
And we have water directed where we wanted it to go!
Success :)

In the beginning...

The yard was dark....

And the trees were overgrown...

So we took down the trees...

And today we started with this...

And added worms, straw, newspaper and cardboard....

And now the bed will be ready for Spring planting!