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Archive for the ‘Waldorf’ Category

I love looking at a fresh head of cabbage: the pale underground quality of the spring green, the slight waxy sheen of the surface, the sturdy leaf spines ending in curling ripples, like a gentle ocean wavelet, sucking back down a steep, sandy beach. I love the crunch of my heavy 10″ chopping knife as it reveals the secretes within that dense head.

Good thing, because I had nine of them to chop which meant a lot of cabbage brains spilling over my counter top. But that was where friend Marian came in… with her superior Japanese cutlery and sexy bamboo cutting board. Whew! Off the hook.

Here's Marian hard at work.

Here’s Marian hard at work.

And so my morning began, with “Mare” on washing and chopping detail and Isla and I on the food processor, sea salt, caraway and whey song and dance (maybe I’ll include a video of the literal song and dance when we jar the kraut in another 2 weeks, for there actually IS one! Hasn’t everyone made up a kraut song with their 3 year old?). We alternated purple heads with green, grinding in a large carrot with each. Then 1 tbsp of coarse celtic sea salt, 3/4ish tbsp caraway seeds and 4-ish to 5 tbsp of whey left over from my last batch of goat chevre. Isla and I filled the hopper, I ground while she covered her sensitive, wee ears, I dumped the pile in the massive metal bowl, I measured and Isla dumped in the condiments. Then together, with very well washed hands, we stirred it all in , inquisitive fingertips tickling one another inside of the grated mass. Most of it stayed in the bowl. The vegetables dwindled as our multi-colored mound grew, and pretty soon it was time for clean up and hugging Mare goodbye. And here is where I let the salt and whey do their jobs. There is very little kraut bashing with this method. I just leave it to rest on a counter top with a clean towel draped over it, and get to work on something else.

Grating with the life saving food processor.

Grating with the life saving food processor.

Add the sea salt, caraway and cheese whey....

Add the sea salt, caraway and cheese whey….

...mix, cover, and wait!

…mix, cover, and wait!

The next something else was re-rendering our recently rendered goat tallow. I had noticed at the end of the first rendering, that there were a few bits of meat on the bottom of the last batch of tallow muffins. Read this post for more info on that first rendering job. I was not interested in goat meat showing up in future soaps, lotion bars and pastry crusts, so I set a massive pot on the stove top with about 4″ of water in the bottom.

While that got to boiling, I moved onto the third something else – boiling up a whole chicken for bone broth, gelatin, and meat. As I rinsed the expensive, organic chicken carcass, I vowed that we would buy straight runs of chicks this spring. I wanted my fall freezer filled with mean roosters from my back yard. No more $12 chickens from the store!!! I plopped the gold gilt bird into our crock pot with water and reached for one of our onions. This was when I received a horrible shock! No, not an electrical shock, a “we’re almost out of onions” shock! In fact, after this one, there was only one left!!! Our harvest had lasted until Feb 6th. Honestly, I was quite proud, but still weepy, as I sliced through the brittle, brown skin and into the white, seeping flesh. Oh. Well of course I was weeping – it was a yellow onion.

We try to boil up a whole chicken about once every 2 weeks. The meat and broth get used slowly over that period and much of the broth is frozen.

We try to boil up a whole chicken once every 2 or so weeks. The meat and broth get used slowly over that period and much of the broth is frozen.

Crock pot loaded and topped, I checked the pot on the stove. Boiling – good. Outside to the deep freeze on the porch. Molly, our Pyrenees leapt repeatedly into the air, channeling her border collie alter ego, hoping to catch a falling goat roast as I juggled the bags of tallow muffins. I dumped them ALL in, undeniable proof of my characteristic impatience.

Tallow muffins re-melting for a cleaner render.

Tallow muffins re-melting for a cleaner render.

Now what? I put away some dishes, blended up some kefir mango lassies, sliced some pears, spread chevre on the slices, and called back in my daughter for her elevensies (oh woops – at 12:30pm. Dear me. Don’t think I would impress any parenting specialists today.). And then, thankfully, it was quiet time. Isla read “quietly” on her bed (which means in a loud whisper to her doll Sarah) while I read a parenting book on mine, in hopes of getting a higher rating from said specialists. And as an aside, this is one of my two most favorite parenting books and I am reading it for the second time. How to Talk So Kids Will listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. (And here is the second of my 2 favorite parenting books, “Simplicity Parenting”.)

Setting up to blend our homemade kefir.

Setting up to blend our homemade kefir mango lassies.

First, we strain the grains of kefir out of the kefir cultured goat milk.

First, we strain the grains of kefir out of the kefir cultured goat milk.

The grains are left behind and look like this.

The grains are left behind and look like this.

I just dump these grains right into a fresh jar of goat milk.

I just dump these grains right into a fresh jar of goat milk.

Then I use one of my nifty, homemade, magnetic jar lid labels to let me know it is kefir, and the day I put it in my cabinet to culture.

Then I use one of my nifty, homemade, magnetic jar lid labels to let me know it is kefir, and the day I put it in my cabinet to culture. It should be ready to consume in about 2 full days.

Chopped mangos, cinnamon, and maple syrup from my friend's farm in VT is added, and blended with a stick blender.

Chopped mangos, cinnamon, and maple syrup from my friend’s farm in VT is added, and blended with a stick blender. If we feel the need for more sweetener in the cup, we add a couple of drops of stevia.

Voila! Kefir mango lassies! One of our favorite treats.

Voila! Kefir mango lassies! One of our favorite treats.

Rest “hour” always feels like it is only 10 minutes, but the clock argued with my opinion loudly. Back in the kitchen I checked the tallow. It was melting nicely but there were still plenty of chunks. The “golden chicken” in the crock pot was simmering cooperatively, and it was not yet animal chore time. So back to the kraut went I.

I washed and rinsed well the 5 gal crock. I say this in such an off hand manner, but this is probably the hardest part of the the entire job. Have you ever tried to lift a 5 gallon, stoneware crock? No? Well start preparing the discs in your spine for some serious air time because they are about to be blown from your back in all directions. And then once in your sink – your teeny, miniscule, stainless steel sink (where you realize with terror that you have swiveled the spigot to the wrong side of the barely movable crock-a-saurus) – you have your eye balls shaken and teeth set on edge by the barest of movements of this mountain of ceramic against that teeny sink. Think fingernails on chalk boards. After this heavy weight wrestling match you still need to dry the leviathan and beach it onto the seat of a chair. Let’s hope the legs of that chair don’t promptly retaliate against the whale you dropped in their lap.

Next, with carefully wash hands, the kraut is transfered lovingly from the bowl to the crock, by double handfuls. (Make sure the crock is on a chair and not the floor as with all those missing discs, you will no longer be able to bend over.) At this time, if I were adding fresh dill instead of caraway, I would layer in a dill sprig after each couple of double handfuls. If you feel the need for some anger management, you are welcome to bring out a kraut bat at this time and pummel the kraut into submission. But it really is not necessary as the resting with the salt should have pulled the juices out of the grated vegetables by now. The addition of the whey will have given you plenty of juice. Give it a check by pushing your open hand down on the surface of the kraut. See all that juice rise up between your fingers? If you are answering “no”, then you probably weigh under 100 lbs and need to eat a lot more kraut. LEAN into it you light weight! THERE is that juice! I have to admit I like to abuse my kraut just a wee bit before I shut it up in the dark for 2 weeks. I have tried stomping in the crock with meticulously cleaned bare feet, but with size ten battleships, it was not terribly comfortable. So I usually just use my balled fists and puuuush in, alternating hands. I have not yet identified this gene – the one that entices me to do more work than I need to – the same gene that convinces me to knead my no-knead bread dough. But there it is.

Transferring the kraut from bowl to the crock.

Transferring the kraut from the bowl to the crock.

Punch it out baby!

Punch it out baby!

There's that magic juice!

There’s that magic juice!

Now I slip in an upside down dinner plate, well washed and rinsed first, of just the right size to cover as much of the surface as possible with out getting hung up on the sides of the crock (because ceramic grating on ceramic is only second in line behind ceramic on steel). Then I burp out the trapped air by pushing hard on one edge of the plate until all the bubbles release from under the concave surface of the plate. (You are welcome to use a truck with a cherry picker to lift the crock to your shoulder if you would like to attempt the burping in a more motherly fashion.) Then I fill a half gallon, or 2 qt jars (meticulously washed and rinse before hand, inside and out) with water, screw the lids on tightly, and place these weights on the protruding rump of the plate. This is merely to hold the plate down and keep the kraut under the juice. Lastly, cover the crock with a clean towel (I use a thick bath towel doubled over), and hire your neighbor and his back hoe to move it to a quiet spot in your house where it can remain undisturbed for at least 2 weeks. Join me in said time to see what our cheese whey and nifty, household microbes have created by clicking this link here.

Plate in and weighted with a half gallon jar filled with water.

Plate in and weighted down with a half gallon jar filled with water.

The back hoe has moved the crock to it's final resting place to do it's thang. I always add a label with the date, 2 weeks out, when I can jar the batch.

The back hoe has moved the crock to it’s final resting place to do it’s thang. I always add a label with the date, 2 weeks out, when I can jar the batch.

OK. The tallow. It had melted and was at a rolling bowl with the water, hopefully as clean as a whistle. Then I simply repeated the previous rendering steps of ladling out the clear, liquid fat, straining it through a butter muslin-lined strainer, into a 4 cup measure, then pouring from the measuring cup into the muffin tins. Soon after, I discovered the process was not proceeding as planned (or previously experienced). It seems my impatient personality (that other unwanted gene) was not allowing the muffin tins enough time to chill in the freezer. So learn from my T’s and T’s (trials and tribulations) – let the tallow chill until some surface cracks show on the muffin tops. Do not try to extricate the muffins before this time (unless you want to bring in your neighbor’s heavy equipment again). Once the surface cracks are visible, run hot water over the bottom of the tins (quickly as they will want to leap from your overturned tin and break themselves in the depths of that teeny, weeny stainless steel sink with the ceramic scrapes on the edges), and pop the remaining muffins out onto a sheet of wax paper by inverting the tin again and pressing the center of each muffin cup. Slip the muffins into a gallon zip lock, suck out the air with your mouth, and store in the freezer.

The tallow is all melted and ready to portion out into the muffin tins.

The tallow is all melted and ready to portion out into the muffin tins.

But I did not finish muffinizing all the tallow as animal chore time, laundry folding, hot bath, speedy dinner, and a movie with Marian preempted the rest of my greasy project (and I highly recommend seeing “Silver Linings Playbook”, by the ah, “whey”). So today I have a cool pot of water (I presume) with a thick circular block of solidified tallow on the surface (guessing at being 5″ thick without taking a core sample to verify). As I have been writing, I have not had a chance to tackle it’s removal. And I am about to make the drive to pick Isla up from pre-school now. (But you can see what it looked like at the end of this later post.)

I think I’ll just call my neighbor on the way and hire his power auger. I’m sure that will do the trick!

Randy sadly holding the very last onion before he adds it to the dinner.

Randy sadly holding the very last onion before he adds it to the dinner that evening.

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She did it! My wee Nugget, my Isla Elizabeth, the light of my heart and life, my sweet pea of 3yrs and 8 months, made it through a full 6 hr day at our local Waldorf school, without any tears and no calls to Mama from the teacher!

Heading to the car for her first day at school!

Heading to the car for her first day at school!

I can not, however, say the same for Mommy. Yes, I shed quite a few tears, and thought of her constantly, and had butterflies in my stomach as I sped north to pick her up at 2:45….. but at least I did not call the teacher. I almost did. I reached for the phone several times. But each time I breathed deeply and set it back down… and distracted myself – just like I told her to do if she missed me.

We tried the last school year – 8 consecutive tries which stretched into Oct of ’11. But she just could not stay alone, and I could no longer spend the days with her at school. If she wasn’t ready, then she wasn’t ready. There was no need to force it. We said we would talk about it again after Christmas… but she wasn’t ready then either. We said we would talk about it this past August… but she still wasn’t ready. But after 4 weeks in Reno, NV in November, spending every day with Papa riding bikes and playing with other children at the nearby playground, she was READY. She REALLY wanted time with other kids. And most of her friends were in school, which meant they had no time for playdates.

We were in Reno for my Lyme treatment. I thought I could get through this latest relapse on my own, without the help of my usual, trusted clinic. But I just could not get back on my feet at any level of functionality that would work for me. 50% of the norm is not acceptable, especially when you consider what the “norm” looks like for someone with Chronic Lyme. So we packed up the family and left the farm for an entire 5  1/2 weeks. We split up the drive west with a stop in Zion National Park, and the drive back east with a visit with the Grands. And while I read in a reclining chair with an IV dripping salvation slowly into my veins, received multiple daily injections, colonics, lymphatic drainage treatments, chiropractic appointments, and a series of tests that seemed to have no end, Randy became Mr. Mom – full time. Because I was not even available at night, due to the reaction to the treatment. I’ll spare you the treatment details as they were not fun, but the result was Isla and Randy developed a strong father-daughter bond and she became a pro on her balance bike! Nothing like a bit of pavement and bike paths to really open up the world to a kid and her dad.

One afternoon when I returned from the clinic, Isla rushed into my arms. “Mama! I played with a great big black girl today on the slides!” I chuckled and said, “Do you mean the girl was bigger than you and had dark skin?” This translation was confirmed and I was entertained for some time with each and every detail of their time together. Living in a town where there are few Afro-Americans, I was tickled at her excitement and experience. And each day there was a new story of her adventures with new kids – different ages, different genders and different ethnic backgrounds – many not even sharing a common language with my daughter.

One evening I was sitting in bed with a book, feeling like I had been run over by a mack truck, when she quietly walked in and climbed into bed with me. “I wish I could make your Lyme go away Mama,” she said softly. “Can I read next to you?” I nodded with a smile and brushed away my tears. She pulled out her book and started to look through the pages next to me. The uncharacteristic stillness caused me to glance down at my little clone, and I noticed she was staring into space, deep in thought over some dilemma, the same scowl of concentration on her face I so often wear on my own. “Mama?” she said. “I think I need a bruthah. Could you find a little boy without any parents to be my bruthah?”

This request is a bit more poignant than it might seem as she had had a brother who had died at birth. And it wasn’t the first time she has requested a sibling. With me at 50 and Randy… ah, snipped, we won’t be producing any siblings the “natural” way. But what it made me realize, was that she was lonely. As an only child, staying at home with mommy most days, she was craving playmates.

As we drove homeward across the hundreds of miles of basin and range, Randy and I had a lot of time to talk (when we weren’t listening to Charlotte’s Wed or Little House on the Prairie). We discussed getting back into foster care again – Isla was old enough now. And we discussed updating our homestudy for adoption – because you never know when a baby might miraculously fall from the sky into your waiting arms, right? We could never afford the normal adoption-through-an-agency route. We have learned over the years between the loss of Isla’s older brother and her own arrival, adoption is for rich folk… which we are not. But a private adoption….. we might be able to handle. Or an adoption through foster care.

It’s much more complicated than I make it sound, but the bottom line was… it was time. Time to try school again. And I had decided a year and a half ago that there was only one school I felt I could trust with the care of my darling child – Waldorf. We first discovered the Taos Waldorf School when we cared for a 10 yr old foster child who was in 3rd grade there. I fell in love with the school immediately. And over 4 yrs later, I still cry when I go there. I don’t know what it is – the safety? The nurturing environment? The animals, gardens, greenhouse, apiary and orchards? The teachers exuding love? The simple environment based in Nature? The smell of fresh baked bread and simmering soup? I want to regress and become a child and feed “Cookies and Cream”, the enormous angora rabbit, or milk the nubian goats, or pet the ducks and chickens, or walk to the “magic grove” and climb into the massive arms of the old cottonwood tree, like climbing back into my mother’s lap.

But there were two obstacles: money, and an available spot. I waited patiently until school was back in session from the holidays before calling to inquire. And I was greatly relieved to learn that there WAS a space available for the Tues/Thurs attendance I hoped for. Wew! One down….

Next was money – being a private school with no funding to speak of, the only way we could afford it was if I could find work. Ah, that would be… PAYING work. And that is no easy task when you have a VERY limited number of specific hours in which you are available to work. Thankfully, the Universe seemed determined to support this monumental change in our family’s lives. A dear friend was loosing her nanny, right at the same time Isla was beginning school. She needed someone to care for her 1 yr old so she could continue her own career, telecommuting from home. And her hours were flexible, and enough. Good thing I adore her wee lassie as I have not been paid that little is a very, very long time. Even my own 17 yr old babysitter chastised me and said I should not take less than $15/hr. “But dear, I pay YOU 10 an hour.” “Yes, but I am 17 and you are 50, MacLaren – with a child!” But this is all a mute point as I am not interested in starting up my old business designing houses (for $45/hr), nor would I be able to with so few hours available. The important thing is when all is said and done, I come out about $2 ahead per month. Or something like that. It sits uncomfortably in my gut, but I can deal.

And so, Isla had her first day at school last week, with mama of course – a re-introductory visit day. But yesterday, she stayed the full day, WITHOUT me! I was beaming with pride from ear to ear! I played with her after school in the frigid playground, and treated her to a decaf chai at her favorite cafe. She spewed a non-stop string of stories from her day, stopping only to guzzle her well earned beverage. Her whole demeanor seemed to have shifted. She was cooperative and polite with me, thanking me over and over for taking her to school. I could not stop smiling. She seemed so different – so grown up.

And Randy brought her home a beautiful pink rose and big hugs of congratulations. It is so hard to believe that she really did it! And tomorrow is day 2 and she can barely wait. Sigh…

I can’t deny it anymore. It’s true! Our bonnie wee lassie is growing up!

Isla's congratulatory tostada dinner complete with a pink rose from Papa!

Isla’s congratulatory tostada dinner complete with a pink rose from Papa!

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The winter sun cracked a beam over the top of our eastern hills as I squeaked down the trail through the new fallen snow. Molly, our 80 lb Pyrenees, did her best to pull my arm out of it’s socket. She may be small for a Pyr, but she still does an impressive impersonation of a sled dog, with me as her sled. It was 9 degrees and still, the NM sky a pale, early-dawn blue, the color of Easter baskets. I took in a deep, lung searing breath of crisp, desert morning. Then my mind turned back to it’s mastications….

Randy will go to the mill and get the siding… 1×8’s and 1×4’s….what lengths? I think 8′ and 10’ers…. I need to pick the meat off the rooster for the stew…. chop the veggies and get things simmering…. hope we have enough avocado… will anyone even show up on such a cold morning? Could my friends love me THIS much? I bet no one shows…. I’ll just freeze the rest of the tortilla soup….

Well, apparently they DID love me, evidenced by cars pulling into our muddy cul-de-sac just after 10. RG and Donna arrived first, hefting tools and tool belts out of the hatch. Randy returning next with the lumber, then Jim and Ray, then Jeremy…. I was a bit overwhelmed by this incredible display of support! It had been years since I had thrown a work party. While building our straw bale home, there had been several BIG work parties: the slab pouring, the wall raising (stacking of the in-fill bales), and 2 exterior mudding parties. The loft pony walls still show the slight wobble of a keg tapped a few hours too early. Damn those days were fun! But this time our dear friends were not arriving to help build OUR home, they were here to build a home for our goats.

My other friend was late to pick up Isla and I was trying to figure out what to do with her while the assembled crew told bad jokes and floated their teeth with hot coffee. The ironic thing was Kiersten, who would be taking my 2 yr old to support the work party efforts, was late because she was at the farm where our goats were! Why? She was midwifing out the last of the herd’s kids, along with the farm owners and their 3 collective teenage girls. Kiersten had also caught OUR two babies (the human ones), as midwifery is her full time job! So as I had a quick goat check-in with the Pieper’s to see how our goats, and the laboring mama, were doing this morning, they filled me in that Kiersten was there assisting. And when Kiersten arrived at our farm, covered in goat poop and afterbirth, she filled me in on our goats and the final kidding of the spring at the Pieper’s farm. Sadly, one of the triplets was stillborn. She had even tried to resuscitate the little buckling but he had remained slimy and still.

I felt bumbling and odd clipping on my old, stiff tool belt. It had been a while – full time mommys don’t get much time to hammer nails. Then Donna, designer/builder extraordinaire, my mentor and clone, said the dreaded words…. “Hey Mac! Where are the plans?” Plans? Ha! PLANS? Hee! What was wrong? Couldn’t she see them all neatly there in my mind? I had been planning and redesigning this barn, in my mind, for a couple of years! “Well, uh, ya see, Ranger D…. I was stressing out about that just the other night I was! Where are those plans? And, ya know, after YOU (I turned an accusatory eye at innocent RG) wiped our laptop for us and loaded those recovery disks, well, I just haven’t gotten around to reloading ACAD. And then I had an epiphany, in those wee hours of the night. And a voice said to me….. it said… ‘IT’S AN F’ING GOAT SHED FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! STOP DESIGNING AND START BUILDING!’ And so… we are!” I turned away from 6 blank faces, cleared my throat, and bent to pick up some 1×4’s, groaning as I stood back up. Fortunately, I heard a few chuckles in my wake, and the design challenges were successfully worked out in the field. As I had planned, all along… in my head.

I felt guilty as I tiptoed off through the sage brush to the back porch and scraped the 5 lbs of adobe mud from my rubber boots. I should be out there with everyone screwing, hammering and sawing…. laughing and joking…. telling stories while passing a handful of fence staples to a good friend. But then who would make lunch? Back to the kitchen with you wench! Well OK. I’ll chop these veggies and stir this soup and set this table, but don’t forget I built my own house! (Many, many, many aches and pains and years ago) Well, I did build the chicken coop two years ago! (Please don’t look too closely though.) I think one of the sweetest things I heard all day (other than car tires crunching up the driveway), was Randy, at the end of the long successful day, who lovingly said, “Honey, I know you wanted to be out there with us, but what you did – preparing the meal, getting Isla out the door, getting her down for nap when she returned, and washing dishes while she slept, was equally as important. This day would not have happened without your efforts either.” That man is a keeper. I brushed away a little tear and kissed him on his stubbly cheek (his beard always grows super fast when he uses a chainsaw… which he had).

And by the end of the day the house was an impressive disaster, with an inch of mud on the saltillo tiles and a leaning tower of bowls on the soup smeared counter. But outside, oh my! It was beautiful! About a 1/3 of the stock panel fence was attached to deeply sunk cedar posts, pole barn roof structure was in place, rafters on the south roof, and board and batten siding on 1/4 of the walls. The freshly milled, green wood shone in the setting sun. It had been a very good weekend.

One more weekend like this and I think Hazelnut, Fiona and her cousin or 2 can come home for good. I can almost taste the goat cheese!

After setting 4 posts by hand the previous weekend with RG, THIS weekend Randy rented a working auger! Here are the 6 poles for the first module of the barn.

Digging bars are essential once the layer of caliche is hit. Fortunately the auger sliced through it with ease, although adjusting the location of the hole was often done by hand.

This digging auger was a life and back saver! Here Randy and RG dig their umpteenth pole hole (I think there were 19 posts total for barn and pen, but they actually DUG about 25 holes due to misunderstandings and changed minds).

Here I am giving the auger a try. Niiiice!

Randy and Ray help plumb the post for Jim.

I am trying hard to ignore the mud and debris on Isla's hand wash only wool mittens....I succeeded.

Day 2 of the 3-day project weekend. Beautiful but frustrating. Randy took advantage of the down day by hauling home more lumber, hardware and stock panels in preparation for the following day of clear weather.

Donna, Jeremy and I discuss the lack of lag screws. Fortunately the can of old pole barn nails from our strawbale house building days sufficed.

Randy lops off the post tops with the chain saw. The round of wood he is standing on is part of the goat playground. They also work great as step ladders.

Donna and Jeremy rockin' on the siding. They made a great team! And just to prevent any gossip - they met that morning, Donna is happily married to another lucky fella, and is actually old enough to be Jeremy's mother!

Here is the floor BEFORE lunch... thanks to an escape Pyrenees I know....

Randy gives Jim and Ray a hand on the facia board while Donna steadies the ladder.

Whether goats or humans, I am a mama first.

Love these guys! Jeremy and Donna...

Randy and RG working on the pen fence. For goats, you need nothing short of a fortress. This 16'x50" stock panel is 6 gauge. We will also dig down 12 or more inches to bury more fencing (I haven't yet decided what kind), wire 36" of 18 gauge stucco netting to the bottom of the panels, and string several runs of plain wire above the panels. In my opinion I should not have goats unless I can keep them in their enclosure and keep predators out.

The goat gang, mid afternoon on the second work day. From left to right: Ray Baker, Jim Watson, Randy Roch, Jeremy Jette, Randy Grubiss (RG), Donna Lefurgey, Isla Roch, MacLaren Scott.

The morning after at quiet sunrise..... the first of the 5 modules, so near to completion. The clerestory will bring light and solar gain into the double 6'x8' stall at the back of the barn. The front 6'x8' "lounging porch" will have double barn doors in case of bad weather and space for the milking stand. It might be small, but by god, it IS a barn!

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Fortunately, I am no stranger to power tools. After designing and building most of my first house, an off-grid strawbale, I have been pretty comfortable with all but finish carpentry. But there are 2 obstacles that stand in the way of my construction prowess these days: 1) Our pathetic lack of tool organization which has been cause to invent many a new 4-letter word, and 2)…. oh…. what was the other thing? Oh right! My TWO YEAR OLD. Sigh.

Our day began fairly normal – cooked farm breakfast of turkey sausage, yellow zucchini and baby turnips sauteed in local raw butter, all thrown over fresh salad greens with the required side of sauerkraut. As usual, Isla resisted my attempts to dress her and brush her teeth, which resulted in me making good my threat of going outside without her. I could hear her crying through the bathroom window as I measured the length and width of the tomato bed, carefully avoiding the groping, fruit-covered branches that stretched into the pathway threatening to trip me. Our tomato plants have become frightening – a surprising occurrence in the high desert of New Mexico. And our pole beans have wound dense, twisting ropes with their searching vines. It’s time to get serious.

After settling the little one and wiping her tears we loaded into the 4-Runner bound for the hardware store. Isla navigated the tight aisles with expert ease, maneuvering her little cart around the corners and displays. “Here’s the Neem oil Honey.” “Neem oil.” she repeated as she settled her cargo with a look of great responsibility. “Hide-a-key…. so we won’t lock ourselves out of the car anymore, huh?” I smiled sideways. “Mama got in trouble when we went to the river and Uncle Tim had to go and meet Papa to get the other key and….” “Yes dear, come along.” “Mineral oil.” I passed her the bottle. “For mama’s orange hair?” asked Isla, referring to my recent henna disaster. “Mmmm.” “Come. Help me count out these rafter ties. We need 9.” Etc. We strapped the 2x4x8s and bamboo poles onto our cargo cage and drove slowly home. Now it was 10:45.

Snack time. Toasted homemade bread and cold plums sounds like a quick affair, but… It was 11:15 before we gained the back porch. Finding tools around here is a graying experience. Of my hair that is… explaining the henna disaster… and… never mind. I scratched my (orange) head trying to remember the last place I saw the things I would need, while Molly, our Pyrenees, plastered me against the wall with her love and bulk. I had so nicely filed the paint can for the bee boxes, and hammer, etc. on our livingroom rug – perfectly organized. But then Isla’s teacher came for a home visit and we… cleaned up. I tried the tool shed first seeing as the name fit the item. Ducking under the hornets’ 3rd successful attempt at homemaking, I began the treasure hunt. But I won’t bore you with the details. By 12 noon I had invented 3 new curse words and left Randy (my husband) 2 phone messages. But I also had 2 saw horses situated beside the garden fence laden with 16 2x4x8s and a dishwashing tub teetering to the brim with lagscrews, 8 penny nails, hammer, Dewalt cordless screw gun and circular saw, rafter ties, speed square, sharpened pencil…

“Mama. I need to go pee pee.” Breathe. I slowly put down the speed square and pencil, whipped down Isla’s pants and undies, lifted her with her back against my thighs and my hands under her knees, and waited for her to water a dessicated tumbleweed. “Not here, THERE!” “Here?” “No, THERE!” After countless minute adjustments of position, she finally relieved her bladder. I began marking cut lines to bevel the top edges of the upright supports for the tomato trellis. Six uprights were marked and I had my finger on the safety button of the saw…

“Mama. I need to poop.” “You DID poo or you need to poop?” Once inside I discovered it was a bit of a combination. We cleaned up the butt, changed the undies, emptied and cleaned the little potty, washed hands, re attached the sun bonnets, and I recommenced with sawing corners. But it was 12:30 and time for lunch or nap, whichever came first. Isla swore she was tired so we brushed off our work clothes, lay down to read Pipi Longstocking, and I tried to convince my stubborn, yawning Taurus to sleep.

2 hours later, at about 3:00, we awoke groggy and hungry and set about making lunch. I checked a few emails, and now Isla is in the bath. Papa will be home soon from work, and the day is almost done. I made a total of 12 corner cuts on 6 boards. At this rate I should certainly get the trellis finished by January.

This constant struggle of trying to “get something done” is a hair-pulling but important reminder to me. It’s not about what gets done (I remind myself), it’s about HOW it gets done – or not. It’s about giving Isla the license and my confidence to scrape her way around the hardware store feeling helpful and independent. It’s about taking time to let her count slowly to 9 as she places each individual rafter tie carefully in her cart. It’s about showing her the marks on the board and how a speed square works. Or letting her pick ripe strawberries on one side of the fence while I cut wood on the other. And demonstrating by example that building projects are not gender specific.

I strive constantly to live a simple, grounded life and teach my child the same values. We have no TV and Isla does not watch videos. Her “video game” is sitting quietly on the back porch watching our resident rufous dive bomb a gentle black chin, or walking our dog in the early morning. She revels in feeding our pond fish, and eating her way down our long row of sweet peas. Her toys are mostly made from natural materials and they number few. Her play room is simple. She spends long periods “cooking” elaborate dishes for me in her little wooden kitchen with her pots, pans, and wooden fruit and veggies. I’m not saying I don’t battle with extreme frustration at times, for I most certainly do. When I feel a need to accomplish a project, I am overcome with a sort of fervor which transmogrifies into anger when I must contend with obstacles in my path… 2 yr old obstacles. The world we live in is hardly supportive. Parents chauffeur their kids from activity to activity at a frenzied rate, picking up greasy fast food along the way. The media leaves us wallowing in keep-up-with-the-Jones’ anxiety attacks. Raising a child in a quiet, simple way is like waging a full scaled war.

Recently I’ve been making an effort to express my anger in a more productive, appropriate way. I am a passionate, fiery Scot-Irish woman and am disposed to “Mommy rage”. The worst part is Isla has been parroting my own displays of anger – a shameful mirror shoved in my face. So we talked, and discussed (she is quite good at discussing things at her young age), and agreed to do the following: Stomp each foot hard on the floor with legs about shoulder width and take a deep breath. Then imagine pushing roots out of the bottoms of our feet, deep down into the soil, past the worms and the rocks, embraced by Mother Earth’s body. Then we ask Mother Earth to take our anger and frustration and slurp it out through our roots, and push in peace and joy in it’s place. I was proud I remembered to try it today at the umpteenth interruption, and by god, it worked! Mother Earth granted me my request.

So today I am grateful for my daily obstacle course on my path of accomplishing. I am grateful for my 2 year old mirror into the dark crevices of my soul. I am grateful for a garden that needs a trellis. I am grateful I know how to build. I am grateful for the many reminders of what is TRULY important. Today….. I choose to be grateful for my REAL life.

Our tomatoes need some serious assistance

As do our pole beans....

Try to "get something done"

Our lucious strawberry patch has done well this summer.

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This past week was an emotional roller coaster: “Do we? Don’t we?” “Can I? Can’t I?” Like a dog in front of 2 hydrants, I deliberated my 2 choices – and both great choices to be sure! Do we send our daughter to the Waldorf school (which will mean I go back to work to afford the tuition) or do I commit to a new Waldorf-inspired homeschooling coop with a handful of other interested moms. My husband finally gave me the slam I needed: “Sweetie, I KNOW you. You will take on the homeschooling cooperative like it was your newest cross to bear. You will lose sleep thinking up craft projects and over-organize every class. The other moms will feel the pressure your out-of-proportion enthusiasm will surely exude, and you will feel like it is your sole responsibility and the other mom’s have deserted you. And of course, THEY are the ones who will be trying to do it at a reasonable level. YOU will treat it like it was a med school university! You will over-do it and get sick. Believe me.”

It it sometimes a curse and sometimes a blessing when some one knows you so well. Sigh, well, the simple fact is – he is right. This aspect of my personality is also a curse and a blessing. I have big dreams and high hopes and when I make up my mind to DO something, I am pretty obsessive/compulsive about it! The up side is… things get DONE! My partner may kick and scream as I crack the whip over his sweating back, but after the toil is done, and we sit on our cool, shady back porch, sipping iced mint tea and watching the hummers fight for the feeder, he feels content and satisfied at his accomplishment – as do I. The environmentally unethical sod, our expanded veggie garden, the raised beds, the drip irrigation, the extended range area for our flock of 12 hens and 7 chicks, the additional saplings to our 18 tree orchard…. hard work. But my god, it’s DONE! And we are reaping the benefits now: more eggs, more veggies, less labor to irrigate, soft sod for our sweet pea to run barefoot in.

But the down side is how my project fever effects my heath. After 22 years of living with Chronic Lyme Disease, one might think I would have learned. But NOOOOOOO! After all, that is how I contracted the Lyme to begin with! Sure it took that one little unseen, unnoticed tick bite to inject the spirochete into my blood stream, but it also took my over-training as a bike racer to leave me with a overtaxed immune system, susceptible and vulnerable, quick to lose the battle against this tricky invader. Since that fateful moment in 1989, I have had the initial infection who’s symptoms showed up too late for antibiotic therapy, and laid me out in bed, an invalid for 6 months, and 5 subsequent lesser relapses. It wasn’t until 2000 that I finally found an alternative clinic who properly diagnosed me with my first partner for life. And my second partner for life is right – I always over do it.

So, with a sense of great relief, we chose to become a family of our local Waldorf community. We are extremely blessed to have this little school with it’s biodaynamic farm and gentle, holistic approach to teaching children. We are excited to meet other Waldorf families and learn from this rich resource. Isla, our wee 2 year and 3 month bairn, will begin school in a couple of weeks. Although she has never left my arms for the surrogacy of day-care, she already knows the school well and is VERY excited. I came home from the information meeting last evening feeling finally at peace. Papa said Isla stood on the dogfood bin (her step stool to the the south side of our world) in front of the window and announced I was driving up the road to the house. “I love Mama so much and I’m ready to go to Taos Waldorf School!” she exclaimed!

And so we step into the next phase of our lives.

A few pictures of the 2 yr manifestation from 2 acres of sage brush to the beginnings of an urban homestead farm:

Hard at work tilling up the existing "Razor Grass"

The rolls wait for no one... especially when it's in the 90's.

Isla and One-eyed Murphy enjoy the new sod with a long draught at the watering hole.

A few of the girls...

Our borrowed broody hen, Dani, set on 16 of our eggs and hatched out 5 little chicks.

Raised bed construction in progress.

3 little tree hole fairies (Isla, Vera and Avery) help prepare for the planting of another apple tree.

The raised beds in action.

When I walk through our garden gate I can't help but think of Little Shop of Horrors.

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