the thirty four things...

it has become a yearly ritual, a tradition, for me to scrap together a list of things I'm grateful for each year on my birthday.  things I love, things that bring a smile, things I say a definitive yes to.  things large and small.  things significant and not-so-much.  so here I am just greeting thirty four and you know what?  something about it just feels different.  good different.  significant, fresh.....  I don't know.  maybe it's got to do with the way much of this year felt like an awful murky blur.  specifically spring (in it's entirety, amazingly) and early summer, when my mama was so ill.  and here we are now, and oh how I learned from and grew through all of that.

I decided I wanted to wake up in the forest on my birthday.  to start off my thirty-fifth year simply, humbly, in the woods.  so we camped nearby last night.  near a creek, the three of us.  rice pasta with bolognese for dinner.  a fire.  s'mores.  papa and I sat up late around the fire, and it was good.  we all got less-than-great sleep and woke with chilly noses, snuggled close.  he delivered the little one to ballet this morning and I sat by the fire wrapped in layers and sipping hot chai, happy for the autumnally brisk morning that left me with reason to don a hat.  journal in hand, though I didn't write much.  I took my yoga mat down by the creek for 20 minutes or so and then back up to the fire for a second cup of chai.   it's Heather's rooibos masala chai (just substitute 2 tsp rooibos for the black tea, if you like, though it's great either way) I'm loving these days, by the way.  shortly thereafter my people returned with more firewood and a cinnamon bun from the bakery.  bacon and eggs in the cast iron pan.  it was a good morning.  a near perfect morning, I dare say.  and I'm not one to pretend perfection.  I'm more than aware that blogs often cast a glow of always-sunny-around-here! and while I try not to fall into that much, well, if you're plugging along and trying to focus on the positive to help keep your chin up and your perspective shifted just the way you hope to, it can come across that way at times.  which is all to say no, it isn't always-sunny-around-here!, but that this morning was truly, blissfully, pretty dang sunshiny.  there may have even been unicorns prancing around.

we stayed home for the rest of the day, putzing around and unpacking an amazing amount of stuff from an approximately 17 hour long camping trip.  my dad came for a visit, brought me an orchid and Claire a kite.  we actually managed to get it up and (sort of) flying a few times.  I can't say I remember the last time I flew a kite.  perhaps tomorrow we'll take it to the park.  calls from loved ones, a visit from a dear friend, and then my favorite for dinner.  scallops with bacon and broccoli raab over linguine.  a homemade cheesecake (his first) with some cherries on top.  yum, yum, yum.

I think it's going to be a good year.

and so, without further ado (because there's been a lot of ado already in this post), the thirty-four things, in no particular order:

* being able to hear the train from home.  there's just something about those mournful, knowing whistles that helps me feel grounded

* with every bit of my being, I am so forever grateful that she made it through.  love, love, love you, mama~ you're the strongest person I know.

* the honey and maple syrup lining the pantry shelves

* and the other jars beside them, in pretty reds and greens and blues

* the garden, for the goods and for all of that free therapy

* for Claire, of course.  as she gets older and we somehow get both more and less entwined, I see different parts of her emerging and am continually blown away and more in love with her and made more vulnerable by it.  but it's a good vulnerable.  yes it's the kind that leaves your heart open in a scary way, but I figure I've just gotta trust it's better to have it open and receptive than closed up, afraid.

* the new sushi place in town

* hot chai in the morning.  or whenever.

* for the occasional (quarterly?) dates papa and sneak away for.  here's to more of those in the coming year, I hope.

* acorns.  this is a big mast year for the oaks around here and there is the steady sound of acorns crashing onto rooftops, cars, the road... I like it.  a lot.

* in two weeks I'm going to the Southeast Women's Herb Conference for the first time since I was pregnant with Claire.  I went the first five or six years and I cannot wait to get back.

* that twenty minutes creekside this morning on my yoga mat did me good

* ever grateful for my dear friends and family

* our upcoming beach camping trip.  can't wait to breathe in that salty ocean air.

* the hard pear cider with dinner tonight was delightful

* my slippers

* for our health

* for her wonderful farm school, because I'm so glad to have a place like that nearby to help her spread her little wings bit by bit

*while we're on topic, her ballet class is pretty sweet, too

* for good neighbors

* clothing swaps.  hello free and new (to me) yoga pants and pajama tops.

* living in an area where it is easy to source and support local farms and farmers, from cheese to meat to produce and everything in between

* we've got great breweries, too

* and the mountains and rivers aren't too bad

* and did I mention the awesome campground a couple miles up the road that we stayed at last night?  lovely.  we will be going back, no doubt.

* I am so very grateful for my job~ for being fortunate enough to be able to make a living doing something fun, where I can bring my daughter along and watch her thrive there as well.

* of course, for my main squeeze (you know these aren't in order of importance, right? because do know I rank you above clothing swaps and cheesecake.) for all that you do for me, for us, for all of it.  for the gentle and full-on way you father our daughter.  you drive me insane sometimes, babe, but that's all part of the ride and I'd rather be riding beside you than anyone else.  big fat kisses to you.

* for good books

* freshly sharpened (like straight-from-the-factory sharp) pencils

* the way late afternoon light dances on the walls

* our big new adventure, renting out the place next door.  so far, so good.

* for the big old frog who has taken up residence in our itty bitty little pond.  it makes me very happy to see him hanging around on the rocks.  I'm just sorry I suggested she name him Kermit, because he's much more a Horace or Harold and Howard or some other such old man name, I think.  unless of course he's a she, and then who knows.

* for this odd and lovely online community with fellow bloggers.  what I thought would simply be no more than a way for me to chronicle our days has become quite a bit more for me, and I'm thankful for the many true and meaningful connections I've made because of it.  even though communication in the real world is still often lacking, and even though I make an effort to curb my own screen time (currently taking an extended facebook break), there's something about checking in with a handful of folks and reading about your own mundane days, your own breakfasts, your own struggles and challenges and triumphs.  it makes the world seem smaller, and more friendly.  more like something I can take on and explore, when the mood strikes.

* for the woodstove, which will soon be cranking again

thanks for reading~
should you be interested, here are the lists for 30 (one of my very first posts ever!), 31, 32, and 33.



into fall

welcoming the shift over into my favorite season of all, there are whispers of autumn everywhere.  in the woodshed, where the stack keeps growing, growing.  on the porch steps where our two homegrown pumpkins sit crooked and warty and just right.  in the smattering of already-turned leaves, mostly red maples, that have been gracing our driveway and yard for a couple weeks.

in the growing (and may I admit rather ambitious) book pile, in the first batch of elderberry syrup made and already being sipped in hopes of warding off the funk and also because it just tastes so good.  in baking (grain-free dark chocolate, almond butter & coconut cookies, yum).

canning the last tomatoes also always seems an official farewell to the long and languid summer days.

there is the return of hot chai and lots of hot tea, and the stirring of a pot of soup.

we'll keep the windows open as long as we can, enjoying the way the cool and fresh turning-towards-wintry air kisses all the corners of the house, and before long the woodstove will be cranking out its steady purring heat and we'll be turning inwards as the days grow shorter.

but for now, and until then, I'm hoping to squeeze in a quick overnight camping trip, at least one trip to the apple orchard and perhaps a farm or two for all those great fall festivities like the mazes and the huge slides and the pumpkin patches and the cider doughnuts.  we've got a camping trip to the beach planned for the end of October, and fall weekends are filling up with fun outdoor plans.  which I hope to balance out very well with copious amounts of time spent snuggled up at home with tea and books.  because while I do love fall and fall outings something fierce, I'm also pretty into the ways of the homebody~



Saturday morning ballet~
I sat outside on the balcony with a cup of tea and a book while she hopped and skipped

a stop by the market afterwards~
she ran around with some buddies, squealing and playing like puppies
as little ones do
I bought a pastry (as usual)
and some dark chocolate (as usual)

tea and apples, the pastry
at the home of dear friends
where it was decided we should take the girls to Asheville
for a ride on the trolley

and so we did
we learned a lot about the town and afterwards
the girls rode the turkey statues and, apparently,
milked the mama pig

Sunday was some garden and yard work
aside from the peppers and okra and tomatillos,
some greens, the raspberries, and fall lettuces and baby root crops,
things are winding down for the season

and while it's sad in a way to be saying farewell to
much of the garden until spring,
there is something tidy about it as well
tidy and comfortable and timely

I'm ready for the crisp, cool air
the briskness of fall
for cider and hot tea and all things
pumpkin and apple

in another month maybe the woodstove will see some use


farm school

Wednesday mornings (9am-1pm) are now farm school mornings.  we enrolled Claire in a weekly Animal Science class for K-3 (or, almost K in her case) at the nearby Adelbert Farm.  so far, so great.  she LOVES it.  loves the pigs and piglets, the chickens, the ducks and turkeys, the baby chicks... the games, the creek, the friends.  on the first day she gave us a total stink-eye when we showed up to get her, and then she started crying.  she did not want to leave farm school.  yesterday they learned all about animal bones and she came home with a backbone made out of noodles and cotton.  very cute.

she takes her backpack and all its contents quite seriously, and I'm not allowed to forget to pack her awesome purple sunglasses.  just in case, mama.


she and him

even though sometimes it's hard having him gone for 24 hours at a time, the silver lining of his schedule is that he is also home for 24 hours at a time.  sometimes 48 hours, sometimes 96.  really, once we settled into the rhythm of the fire department shift schedule, it became clear that it is mostly wonderful.  the trickiest part is probably getting home from work with her right around dinner time on the days he is gone and I've got no dinner plans.  though in times like those there are always options like popcorn and kale chips, bean/cheese/veggie nachos, cereal..... and is that really a hardship?  nah.

probably my favorite part is how much time it gives the two of them together.  good, long chunks of time.  time in which to do things like go climb up onto the roof, stack firewood, and go for a nice long swing under the big white oaks.

all done under the caring and very watchful eye of her main man.



the tomatoes were coming on strong through last week
the melons, while pretty, didn't taste like much

fig split three ways
because sharing with your people is nice

salsa, two ways
Heather's delicious red salsa, and a tomatillo and roasted pepper salsa verde

the tomatoes starting to slow down
no longer did I need the giant wooden bowl while picking

our raspberries are back at it
not such a big problem with the spotted wing drosophila flies this fall.  yet.
or maybe I'm not looking too closely
because, you know, if I don't see them then maybe
I can just enjoy the berries and pretend they aren't there
gross, maybe.  but gosh berries are good

the last hurrah for the tomatoes
a week of cooler, rainy weather (along with late blight no doubt)
has pretty much done them in as of this weekend
a wee little cabbage, the last one
okra, still
tomatillos, still
the peppers are doing very well
beans are about done

elderberry syrup making time
(I was reminded to do so by a persistent scratchy throat since last night- boo)
a double batch, should yield a quart or so of finished syrup

next year I'd like to try my hand at growing ginger
I hear it isn't hard

the pantry is getting pretty
especially when the light hits it just right and the jewel-toned jars
sparkle and shine

it's not like it's gonna get us through the year (except for the syrup and honey, that is)
but it's something
maple syrup, honey, three kinds of jam
pickled beets, tomato jam
salsa verde, red salsa
dilly beans, curried zucchini pickles

there's pesto in the freezer,
two pints of vinegar-cured garlic in the fridge (that's working out very nicely)
more garlic on the counter

we are eating through the onions quickly
have been since July, really
next year we'll plant way more

we've got a stinky half gallon of sauerkraut brewing on the top shelf of the pantry
fingers crossed it comes out well
it's our first time
well, second, but the first was a flop...

all in all, a good year in the garden
not that it's over

there are still the peppers, more fall greens and root crops,
sweet potatoes, herbs, leeks

sometimes I daydream about what we could do with more land
more than our little quarter acre (more than half of which is the house and outbuildings
and driveway and front yard)
but honestly, this feels good for now

we play like we're farmers and yet we live in town (well, a mile away, but that's close enough)
if we keep watering the grass here, so to speak,
it'll stay green

even in the winter