Help Me, Rhonda!

OK, so I went a little bonkers in the garden and am sure I overplanted it. If half of what I planted actually grows, it will be a jungle out there.

If anyone out there has a tip for how to just frickin' chill when you're deciding what to plant, I'd love to hear it. It doesn't help that I love vegetables and fresh foods and it's spring! Spring time makes me hungry for bright, fresh foods, green things, sunshine, tank tops and long, quiet evenings outdoors.

I look forward to the waxing warmth and coming summer every year. And every year, I look forward to the cool, crisp autumn with its beautiful change of color and light. Then I look forward to the first snowfall. This past winter, I sure was looking forward to the LAST snowfall!

The change of seasons, the seasons of life, growing babies, new adventures... each thing is a wonder to behold and I love seeing it all unfold.

Last night, Sweet Hubs and I were sitting on the porch looking down at the lake and I saw something I couldn't identify swimming out there. So I got the binoculars and had a look: it was a pair of Canada geese with their gosling. To quote my friend Alita, Oh My Giddy Aunt! That little fuzzball was swimming around with all the joy and abandon of childhood, mumsy and pops keeping a close eye for predators, and I was charmed right down to the marrow. Then Sweet Hubs pointed out another family of geese, and this one had five goslings paddling their little flat feet around that bay, little dabs of fuzzy yellow on the green-blue water. Naturally, I just melted into a puddle of goo at that point. Is there something out there that is cuter than a fluffy gosling or duckling?

It's easy to see that some of the deer are pregnant, the way their midsections are bulging unevenly, one side pushed out forward, the other side back and that sort of thing. Even after their fawns are born, we won't see them for a while. Mommas keep them carefully hidden for a good while. If you happen to stumble upon one, curled into a dappled red ball, the adorableness of it is almost painful.

I'm sitting here, drinking sweet, creamy coffee and watching the day wake up. My house is a mess, thanks to time spent in the garden instead of doing my indoor chores, and I have a long list of to-dos. That's a good feeling, because at the end of the day I know I'll be able to stand back and see what I accomplished. The pleasure of a visible result for your labors is one of my favorites.

But it's spring, and I really want to be outside.


Foraging and Other Dirty Stories

It's morel season in this part of the world and this was my first year scrounging around for the little yummy mushrooms. 

A nice, quiet walk on my own property, Sweet Hubs watching our four-legged furry babies, since the dogs kinda take all the peace out of it for me, and looking around for fungus. Aren't they a beautiful thing? I've found enough to have them with dinner several nights now. Morels are very expensive to buy. Finding some on my own patch of ground relieves me of the desire to buy some, just so I can experiment with how to cook them. Foraging is the most frugal kind of living of all, right? Oh, and just to be clear: yes we are hunters, and apparently gatherers, but I didn't collect the snail there to eat that, too. 

My darling Sweet Hubs has been working on a garden patch for me. He built the fence, put together the raised beds, and now all he needs to do is finish a gate since a fence is pointless with a giant hole in it, right?

Is there a more beautiful place in the world to garden than this? Wild berry bushes on the right side there, a view of the lake beyond and a screen of trees around me make this a favorite place. I will probably want to put a little bench near there so I can just sit and look. Happy, happy sigh.

I planted the seeds yesterday and my nails are stained that happy garden-dirt kind of stain. There is a bit of a mud hole right at my feet when I stand at this vantage point and our clay soil sticks to my shoes like crazy. It's dirty work, but that's a big part of the fun. 

Kudos to my Sweet Hubs, too, for his tact. He is a far more experienced gardener than I, but he is letting me try this on my own. He is sweetly answering my questions and giving advice when I ask for it, but he is letting my do it myself. I know that is difficult to watch a greenhorn try something and you see them making mistakes (which I am sure I am!), and letting them learn for themselves. How I love that man!

So my boots are all muddy and my nails are stained. I have sticks and things in my hair from pushing through trees to get at the mushrooms. Sweet Hubs pulled a tick from my hair before the little monster bored into my skin. It's a dirty, sweet life.



She doesn't know that it's Mother's Day. She still remembers that she has children, but doesn't always remember how many. She never remembers how old we are.

She loved the yellow roses, but she doesn't recall that she got them. Even when she sees them there in their vase, they mean nothing. When I call her, she won't be able to carry on a sensible conversation, but I'll call anyway. It doesn't mean anything to her, so I'll call for me. And I'll hang up feeling worse, but I'll call anyway.

There are thousands upon thousands of people like me in the country: people whose mother is still living, but who no longer have the mother they once had.

Who was the mother I once had?

She was complicated. She was strong willed, stubborn, creative and intelligent. She kept her feelings closely guarded and didn't generally allow people to get too close. She had her sister and her mother, all of them having gone through the war together, and so she never felt the need for any friends. She was both thrifty and extravagant. She was both selfish and generous. She was honest, and yet she was manipulative. In other words, she was just like all people: full of contradictions.

Mom taught me how to cook, sew, can and bake. She taught her children to not be wasteful, to try new foods with an open mind and be grateful for all that we had. And yet, she is one of the pickiest eaters I've ever met. We were allowed to walk in after school and tell Mom we were hungry, but say "I'm starving" and you'd get a lecture about what real starving was.

She left religion up to Dad. She also left breakfast up to Dad. She could pull off a Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people and no one brought anything, but she made the worst cookies. She was the tenderest nurse if one of us were sick, but I can not recall my Mom ever telling me "good job" or "I'm proud of you". Mom taught me how to look for the intent behind the actions, rather than having to hear the words. She taught me to do things for my own sense of accomplishment, rather than for the praise of others.

She was a formidable woman, who kept a sense of balance in her life that was worthy of a high-wire act. She was the strong one, the wise one, the one who wasn't nervous or full of anxiety. She was the best cook, the best seamstress, funny, witty, wise and bratty, too. She was an indoor girl of the first order. Going for a walk or tending a garden held no interest for her at all. But she loved to dance. She still loves to dance, come to think of it.

She insisted on excellent table manners, but she would sometimes tell a dirty joke. She never wore makeup but dressed to the nines for a dinner date. She had amazing legs (still does for an 87 year old woman) and exquisite nails, and hated the cowlicks in her hair.

In these late years, she focuses a lot on saying that she was a good mother. She has also said that her children think she was not a good mother. Is that dementia talking, or does she question her own parenting so much that it even affects her dementia? None of her children, to my knowledge, has ever said she was not a good mother. She was a good mother! She was not like any of my friends' mothers, that's for sure. Even with all the many years of hindsight, I still don't know if Mom intended to teach the lessons we learned, or if she was working out her own demons. She was complicated. She was profoundly affected by the traumas of her life, but buried those things and got her balance back. Somehow.

My Mom.


This and That

Have you ever noticed that, no matter how long the coffee has been done perking, when you pull the pot out to pour a cup, more coffee is going to drip onto the burner?

I bought a trio of these big beach-ball looking things that look like they have eyes, to hang on the porch. They were supposed to deter the deranged robin who was repeatedly attacking our windows until he was bleeding and puking all over the glass. The robin didn't mind the eyes one little bit. This morning, a hummingbird was sitting ON the ball. Bird deterrent, my ass. The only solution we found was to roll down the security shutters until this crazed bird got over his insanity. You would not believe the mess he made, though. Bird pooh all over the railings, the porches, the furniture out there.... sheesh.

The grocery store in Sandpoint, Idaho where I frequently shop has a lovely produce department with lots of organic and standard fruits and veggies to choose from. Last night, I opened up the fridge to decide what to make for dinner and was reminded again of how blessed I am. We have an array of good food options in this country, affordable and readily available. I bought broccoli, a beautiful eggplant, Belgian endive, carrots, apples, pears, mushrooms, onions, shallots, limes, tomatoes, kale and chard. I meant to pick up some beets, but forgot those. Between their produce department and my freezer full of game meat, I can come up with something good for dinner pretty much every night. Last night, it was eggplant parmigiana by a fire outside and a nice glass of Riesling to go with it. Life is good.

Why is it that the more revolting a dog food smells to me, the better the dogs like it?

My last post was about the wonderful miracle that kefir has worked in my life. I did want to mention that it appears to be something that I will need to continue to do as a regular part of my diet. I don't think it works to just drink some kefir, add those good microorganisms to your gut and be done. If I skip kefir for several days, I can tell that I have done that and my tummy starts bothering me again.

Sweet Hubs and I went to a local greenhouse/nursery and I fell headfirst into my spring fever. Flowers! Herbs! Veggies!!! This is especially silly because the garden patch isn't ready for planting yet, and it's still too early for a lot of things here. That didn't stop me, though. The nice folks who own the nursery were there and we had a brief chat. How fun would it be to have a job in a greenhouse? Except for the rogue mice who break in and nibble off the sprouting seedlings. I am excited for planting time; packets of seed are waiting for their new homes. Beets! Beans! Lettuce! Chard! Kale!And so much more. It's going to be a fun summer. I love being able to eat as seasonally as possible and you sure don't get any more local.

Rooster Cogburn has learned to love chasing a ball almost as much as Chloe loves it. He has a wonderful habit of bringing the tennis ball to the water trough, dropping it in there while he gets a drink, and then bringing this sopping wet, slobbery, slimy, filthy tennis ball to me. From behind. And pushing it on my butt to get my attention.

Which it does.


Happy Happy Pee Pee Dance

I mentioned in a previous post about my gratitude to my sweet friend Michelle for encouraging me to try kefir for my digestive issues. She had mentioned it a few times over the years, but being a doubting Thomasina like I am, I didn't really give it a lot of thought. Then Michelle twisted my arm up behind my back (a move she learned from her law-enforcement hubs) and told me to stop resisting.

OK, she didn't. But no one can resist Michelle for very long and I was getting desperate, so I tried it.

I ordered milk kefir grains from Amazon. There are a bunch of places to buy them.

The grains arrived in a little foil pouch, very quickly and with a complete instruction sheet. "OK," I tell myself, "Here goes nothing."

It took a couple of weeks for my kefir grains to revitalize, partly due to the fact that it was February and colder than a well-digger's patootie here, but I did finally get the thick, tangy, cultured milk product I was supposed to.

I've mixed it with strawberries and honey and vanilla. I've done a secondary culture on it with citrus peel. I've turned it into ranch dressing, kefir cheese and a coffee slush. No matter what I do to it, my taste buds don't appreciate kefir one bit. But my guts LOVE this stuff. As in L. O. V. E. it. Kefir still makes my tummy a little gurgly, but it isn't the oh-no-where-is-the-bathroom kind of gurgly. I honestly have not felt so good in my belly in twenty years.

So I called my brother. Mom is in a care home with dementia, and she has had IBS issues for as long as I can remember. You can imagine that this is an unfortunate combination for her and her caregivers. Brother started Mom on kefir (she probably makes the same face drinking it that I do). He called me the other day to tell me that the improvement in Mom's ... uh.... "bathroom habits" has been dramatic. No more accidents!!! I almost cried. No, really. I almost cried. Of course, I texted sweet Michelle and told her about it.

I told my friend Holly. I told my sister. I told the lady at the grocery store and I've talked to the dogs about it. I might get a kefir tattoo and change my name to "I ate a salad and lived". Holly said she is trying cultured foods and her tummy is happier. Sister is planning to tell some friends of hers who have issues with such things. The lady at the store got a worried look on her face and backed away rather quickly, but the dogs wagged their tails.

To my friend, The Patron Saint of Happy Tummies, I send effusive thanks and all my love. To the kind folks who mailed me this magical little lump of probiotics, I hope you are blessed for all time with good health and enormous wealth at selling this product. To everyone else in the world, even if you don't have any gut issues at all, please do add cultured foods to your diet today. Read about the microbiome of your gut and how it affects your overall health. I'm adding kombucha to my diet now and I hope to try my hand at lacto-fermenting some veggies, if I ever get my garden going.

It took some heavy-duty convincing to get me to try it. Now I can't stop slapping my head for not trying it sooner. Go kefir!

What I See--Alita

Oh, Alita! What can I say? We've known eachother for so many years! Alita and I became acquainted first because our husbands worked to...