Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Not so Merry Christmas

This holiday season has been a rough one for me. It started with my grandpa passing away after Thanksgiving. Then my daughter moving home because her roommate became violent. Then my grandma falling and breaking her hip. I have tried very hard to hold onto the holiday spirit, but when Christmas day finally arrived, I was not only homesick for Idaho friends and family, worried about my grandma, but incredibly sad. It was all I could do to keep my chin up, make Christmas magical for my sweet little family of 5, and push through the day. We were supposed to go have dessert with friends, but it rained and snowed, then froze solid. In Portland, no one knows how to drive in slick conditions and they don't have the resources to take care of the roads. It would have been a bad idea to trek out 45 minutes away just for a couple hours for dessert. So we stayed in. I think my children had a merry Christmas. I hope they did.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Here in Oregon, there is a thing called Friends of Family Farmers. Every year they do a "Fill Your Pantry" event in Portland. This event is for small farms to sell their wares. Much of it is organic. Much of it is family owned and operated. All of it is local. Last year we were living in a condo and I had no place to put anything, should I buy anything. So this year I was really looking forward to this event as a way to stock up my freezer and pantry. I bought meats, grains, apples and onions.

This weekend was all about the apples. I bought a 25 lbs box of mixed apples. I made 5 quarts of applesauce and 5 quarts of apple pie filling. Using the last 3 quarts of applesauce I canned a couple years ago, I made apple butter and canned those in smaller jars.

Lots of apple-y goodness!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Wise Advice

Wise Advice from a Farmer's Wife
(written by author, George Steffner)
Whenever you return a borrowed pie pan, make sure it's got a warm pie in it.
Invite lots of folks to supper. You can always add more water to the soup.
There's no such thing as woman's work on a farm. There's just work.
Make home a happy place for the children. Everybody returns to their happy place.
Always keep a small light on in the kitchen window at night.
If your man gets his truck stuck in the field, don't go in after him. Throw him a rope and pull him out with the tractor.
Keep the kerosene lamp away from the the milk cow's leg.
It's a whole lot easier to get breakfast from a chicken than a pig.
Always pat the chickens when you take their eggs.
It's easy to clean an empty house, but hard to live in one.
All children spill milk. Learn to smile and wipe it up.
Homemade's always better'n store bought.
A tongue's like a knife. The sharper it is the deeper it cuts.
A good neighbor always knows when to visit and when to leave.
A city dog wants to run out the door, but a country dog stays on the porch 'cause he's not fenced-in.
Always light birthday candles from the middle outward.
Nothin' gets the frustrations out better'n splittn' wood.
The longer dress hem, the more trusting the husband.
Enjoy doing your children's laundry. Some day they'll be gone.
You'll never catch a runnin' chicken but if you throw seed around the back door you'll have a skillet full by supper.
Biscuits brown better with a little butter brushed on 'em.
Check your shoelaces before runnin' to help somebody.
Visit old people who can't get out. Some day you'll be one.
The softer you talk, the closer folks'll listen.
The colder the outhouse, the warmer the bed.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hygge, Crafting, and Missing Old Friends

This weekend has been all about hygge (pronounced heu-guh), the Danish concept of coziness. I had plans of working on building my new composting system, but the rain interfered with that.

I have 3 hens who love scraps. This composting system, theoretically, allows the chickens to peck around and enjoy the bits they love (lowered section, on the left), scratch and poo around. When they are bored, it gets scooped into the middle section to begin breaking down further. The chickens can get in there if they want, but they usually aren't too interested in it once it starts to rot away. The 3rd bin, (far right) is going to be my experiment. The ladies won't have access to this section. This section will have vermiposting going on. Little red worms that break the compost down into black gold and leave casings that are rich in nutrients. This will be built inside my chicken yard with ease of access from inside and out.


It's pouring down rain. And my husband didn't really want to start another farmish project until we had another lease signed on this rental house. Which, is coming up at the end of this month. So instead, we've been relaxing. I've been crafting away. I have 2 crafts I've been working on. A rag and yarn rug:

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And of course, my holiday felt table runner. I'm almost done with it. We don't have a fireplace in this rental house, so last Xmas, my husband bought me an electric fireplace. So I worked on my felt right by the electric "flames".
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Last night we had beef stew bubbling away in the crockpot, electric fire going, music playing, crafting going on with little dogs in my lap...it was very cozy...very Hygge!

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about friendships from the past. The older I get, the harder it is to make good, long lasting friendships. I haven't really made any since we moved to Oregon...which has put old friendships and the losses of them in perspective. You don't truly realize how precious some friendships are until they are gone. It's amazing how, when I was younger, I would let little things cause me to let a friendship go. Well, they seem so little now...but at the time, they felt huge and hurtful. Rather than work through them, I would walk away. Now that friendships are so rare at my age, I wish I hadn't been so hasty. Maybe have worked through the issues. I'm just not a confrontational person and tend to let things fester, rather than confront and deal with things. Once the festering gets too much, I had a habit of walking away and letting the friendship go to the wayside. Now I miss those friends dearly....hindsight.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Life rolls along...

Ok, so it's been a while since I've blogged and honestly, no one notices because no one visits. And that's fine.

Life rolls along merrily and not so merrily. But I'm still here and I'm still getting up everyday and doing life.

We decided to take a chance and apply for a mortgage to buy a farm here in Oregon. Turns out, we have zero credit, so we were denied. I'm 50/50 about this. Part of me *loves* the idea of being invisible to the credit world. We owe nothing, we borrow nothing. When we sold our house a year and a half ago, we paid off all our debts and have lived debt free since. We didn't really think about the ramifications of this. Quite honestly, I ignorantly thought if you didn't use credit, your score just became a good one and you went on with your life. Not so. If you don't use it, you lose it. Which means no one will loan you money for anything. Which I have no problem with. I don't want to be a slave to debt ever again. But here's where the other 50 comes in.....we also don't have $250-400K to buy property either. So the rub is, without having any credit, we can't get a mortgage to buy a farm.

So thus, here we are, getting ready to sign a lease for another year in this rental. I don't love living here. I don't hate it. Our only source of heat in this house is electric cadet heaters. Last winter was terribly cold. Power goes out in Portland a lot. With no alternative heat source, we have to come up with one ourselves. My husband wants to put in a wood stove. Ha. I told him not to bother asking the landlord because he won't even let us have a garbage disposal. He's not gonna let him install a wood stove. LOL. We also live next door to a trailer park - which on the surface was quiet and clean - but as time has gone by, we've had issues with the one trailer next to our fence. Long story short: we think the woman might be a prostitute. Domestic fights. Police. Search dogs. On and on. Nothing that directly threatens us, but is super annoying.

So I got to thinking about my life here in this rental and how I've resisted making anything permanent. My garden is in boxes. My chicken yard is all movable. Everything can be packed up and moved if need be. But if we are going to stay here for a while, maybe I can do more to keep myself busy with farm things. I got a book from the library on keeping bees. So I thought I'd see if that's something I'd like to do. We have 2.5 acres of blackberries....kinda think bees would make the most amazing honey from that. However, I don't know much about beekeeping, so I'll read and learn what I can first for a while.

In the meantime, we've been instructed to get credit cards. Which I loathe. 2 credit cards - one each. Spend $30 a month, pay it off each month and build our credit back up. After a year, maybe we will have good enough credit to get a mortgage. And perhaps even have saved up more for a down payment.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Getting off the Path

I spent most of Sunday and Monday in a ball of tears. Just sadness overflowing all over my face. Then on Tuesday I had to suck it up and go to work. I don't share much of my personal life at work. A few things here and there. I work with 2 of the most obnoxious men on the planet in a cafe kitchen. The fact that I am weepy over my daughter moving out is not something they care about. And it's my personal stuff anyway. But, at the end of the day, I was texting with my daughter and she had the day off and wanted to come over in the evening to spend time with me. That literally made my day!! She and I have been working our way through "Sex and the City" together. It was wonderful to hang out with her and listen about her day and all the things going on during the 3 days I haven't seen her. It made my heart full and then I felt like I could take on the week. She came over last night for a bit and hugged me for a long time.

I wrote the following post in 2013 when our son, then 17, was starting to spread his wings. We had a rough few years after that post was written. His way of severing himself from the nest was full of heartache and frustration. He not only wanted to sever his dependency on his parents, he wanted to obliterate everything between us. As I look back on his adolescence, I see where my grip on him was perhaps too tight. Being the first child and all, you tend to over-parent, then look back and wonder why those things were so important to micromanage. He moved out and, really, never looked back for a year. We hardly saw him, hardly heard from him, and it broke me.

Right before my daughter moved out, she was being quite the little shit to me. Which made her moving out, when she did, super hard on me. She wasn't nearly as horrible as her brother had been, but it was hurtful. So I took a step back in order to not let things happen the way they did with her brother. I didn't want her to move out and never look back. So I took a lesson from my parenting arsenal and just stepped back and away and let her be. Reminding myself the whole time that this is what kids are supposed to do....break free and move into their own path. I have to get off the path.

So finding this post was really timely for me. Although I did step back, I didn't always follow my own advice and frequently got "on the path". Now that my son is living with us again for a few months, his perspective on his life before he moved has been interesting. We've had quite a few really meaningful talks. He told us that after he moved out on his own and had so many hardships he had to overcome himself, he realized how much we had done for him and how grateful he was for us as his parents. That meant the world to me.

This post was called "Un-parenting our 17 year old" and it's from 2/1/2013:

My son is 17. He's a really good kid. I am very proud of him. He's funny, sensitive, witty, kind, sincere, handsome, gentlemanly and smart. Of course, these are just a few of his qualities. I spend nearly every day, all day with him and have since I started homeschooling him in 7th grade. I enjoy having him home with me. He's fun.
Of course, he's a lot like other teens who are nearing adulthood. He desires his autonomy and to be treated like a grown-up. Lately I've wondered when parenting ends. Not motherhood, mind you....parenting. I know there are a lot of parents out there who continue to parent and micromanage their kids once they are adults. I also know a lot of parents who just quit parenting during the teen years because it became too hard to deal with. Both are extremes, of course. I fall somewhere in the middle and float between. There are days when it seems like everything we've taught him, he's forgotten. Ugh. Those days drive me nuts. And then there are days when all the stars and planets align and I think to myself, "Man! He's gonna be a tremendous man!"
Lately, though, my husband and I tried an experiment. We'd been having some really tough days with Scout pushing boundaries. It felt like he was really chopping away at the proverbial umbilical cord. I found myself feeling more like a nag than a mother. It wasn't that he was doing anything "bad", he was just testing and pushing. Normal stuff, but tiring nonetheless. My husband and I talked and came to several conclusions:
  1. He's really learned all he's going to from us. We've had him his whole life. He knows the rules. He knows the expectations. If he hasn't learned by now, well.......
  2. He's a really good kid. I mean, REALLY good kid. He's a rule follower, respectful, and has a good head on his shoulders. He's never in trouble and he always chooses really good friends.
  3. Perhaps it's time to test our parenting while he's still "in the nest". We need to be confident in how we've raised him and no better time to test that than the present when, should he falter, the consequences aren't a detrimental as they might be in the world.
So we began "un-parenting". I simply stopped parenting him. What I mean is, his behavior, words, and day to day choices became his own. Of course I still asked him to do his part around the house, but only asked him once. If there was an issue between his sisters and him, I let them deal with it. (Unless of course it got out of hand, then I did, but it rarely does.) His time management became his own regarding his college class he's taking. I didn't remind him to do his homework or to study for tests. If I needed things from him, I spoke to him as if he was another fellow adult. I asked him if he had the time, would he be able to _______________. He just became  a fellow adult in the house.
You know what happened? He rose to the occasion. All the things I used to nag at him to do or say or whatever, he just did on his own without my reminder. He became accountable for himself without me asking. He was more helpful and more respectful. He even.....are you sitting down?......defended me to his sisters one day. Told them they needed to obey. I know, right? It was very cool.
It's been fun to watch. Fun to see our young man be the person we've been training him to be. Of course, he's not perfect and I'm sure once he's out in the real world, he'll have his challenges just like everyone else. This time of un-parenting has really released me, in a way, to become a friend to my son and to see that what I've worked so hard for is coming to fruition. It makes me feel more confident about launching him into the world.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hindsight, Empty Nest, and Grief

Hindsight, as a mother, is something I struggle with now that my children are leaving the nest. I just don't know how we got here so fast. One day they were all little, running around barefoot in the backyard, playing with the dogs....the next day I am helping one of them move into their first apartment and saying good-bye to what was.

All I ever wanted to be when I was a child was a mother. I had dreams of having a large family. 8 kids was my magical number. :) Infertility took much of that dream away, but I was given 3 gifts...my son and my 2 daughters. I dove into motherhood with ferocity. I loved every moment. I cherished every hug and kiss and crayon colored love note. I made mistakes. I agonized over decisions. I cried. I hugged. I loved. I cheered and encouraged. I cooked and baked and sewed. I was there for every moment. And then one day led to the next and the next and now...they are all grown up and I am facing a deep abyss of loneliness.

I miss my children.

No, they are not far, no they are not lost. They are just not children. They are grown ups living their own lives in their own ways. I do not see them every day. I don't always hear from them every day. I'm very proud of who they have grown to be...but I miss them. I miss her laughter. I miss her playing the piano. I miss his quick wit and nutty sense of humor. I miss summers together and camping adventures. I miss the daily hugs and conversations while I make dinner. I miss helping them with schoolwork and showing them how to do things. I miss it all...every single moment I had when they were growing up. I miss it.

As I type these words, tears are streaming down my face and I'm blowing copious amounts of snot into Kleenex. For many of us, empty nest is a loss felt with enormous grief. I am grieving the loss of those precious years raising my beautiful children. I grieve the quick passage of time. It could have slowed down a bit. Then I begin to wonder if I cherished it enough....did I take the time I should have for each of them? Did I hug them enough? Did they get enough time with me one on one? Did I listen well enough? Did they get enough encouragement? Do they know, deeply enough inside of themselves, that their mother loves every last molecule of their being and thinks the universe revolves around them?

In hindsight, I know there are things I could have done differently. I see mistakes I made as flashing red lights of "oh shit, why did I do that?" Emotion kicks in and regret washes over me, then ration kicks in and reminds me that I'm only human and no parent is perfect. My husband keeps reminding me that no child could have asked for a better mother. I know in my heart that I loved each of my kids to the point of exhaustion sometimes. I wanted each moment of their lives to be wonderful. But why did it have to go by so quickly? I'm not ready! I'm not done! I was just getting started! I'm so wise and weathered! I could do it again and be even better at it!

All this to say, I am grieving. I cry a lot. I walk a fine line between letting her have her space and wanting to text her every moment of the day to see how she's doing on her own. I try very hard not to always wish him a "good day at work" too much. I try to take the moments I have with them and absorb it into my skin so it will last until they come by again. When they come over, I try very hard not to smother them with hugs that take just a few seconds too long. And at the very same time, I try not to smother the one remaining child in the nest. Clinging to her like a life vest. Grasping at time with her in a needy greedy way. I walk a fine line between crazy, clingy mom and healthy, easy-going, go-with-the-flow mom. It's a war inside my head as these 2 women duke it out for supremacy.

I don't really know where to go from here.