State of the Garden, July 2017.

The fact that I hesitate to tell you about July in the PNW feels like evidence that maybe I have truly made it my home. I have adopted the protective nature of the locals — just hush about the summer weather. Allow the perception of the deep darkness, the depressing wetness to perpetuate in the mind of the rest of the world. When strangers wander in and marvel at the clear bright skies, let them think it’s a fluke, they caught us on a good day.

That seems a bit sinister. Maybe it’s that talking about it seems a bit too cruel? Beloved friends down in Texas are persevering through 100+ degree days, 90+ degree nights and we’re up here picking blueberries at 3 in the afternoon, never breaking a sweat, sleeping with windows open and waking up a little chilly.

My friends really don’t want to hear about it anymore, so it’s probably fine that I don’t have many pictures to share this month.

I was convinced that my June pneumonia had cost me the garden. After months of obsessive planning, prepping, and finally planting, I was taken down at the critical moment. Everything went in late, was neglected, left uncovered or unwatered or in various stages of UNGARDENED *horror movie scream*.

But it’s sort of like when you have your second baby and you realize that 85% of the skills you worked so hard to teach your first child are just things infant humans do.

So, yeah, the garden gardened.

When we go out to the garden to get food for dinner, our bellies are full before we come back inside. I had to let an entire row of the garden go, be swallowed up by the earth, because we have such an abundance we cannot keep up, more than I can even pack up to give away before it disappears into the soil (we are working on this). The kids are permanently stained with berry juice and never eat at the table.

The only pest in my garden is a barn cat.
The only seeds that didn’t come up are the ones I failed to plant.
The only problems are the ones I’ve invented for next year.

My lack of documentation is not due exclusively to the fullness of the outdoor garden. There’s been a lot going on inside, too. Coming from a climate where we were forced indoors by suffocating heat, we have always started our school year in July. And though I was hesitant to keep this tradition thinking I ought to give them the fullness of the 18 hour PNW summer days to just do whatever people do outside in July when the sun doesn’t kill you, my kids were insistent that 4th and 2nd grade start on time. So school and the garden are both in full swing and I am now very, very grateful for that month long nap I took in June.

State of the Garden, March and April 2017.

It’s been a cold, wet spring.  That’s what everyone tells me. I wouldn’t know. I’m still new. “It’s a wonder you’ve made it through this spring with such joy,” my priest said last week,”it’s really not like this. I promise.”  My neighbors have all been exasperated by the weather, coming by to see how we’re faring the “coldest, wettest, longest spring ever”.

The rain here is like the heat in Texas, it seems to bother the locals far more than the transplants. I’ve yet to meet someone from out of state who hasn’t said, “It’s really not that bad! Why does everyone say it’s so bad!?” or a local who hasn’t said, “Welcome to the Pacific NorthWET!”

If I weren’t a gardener, I honestly wouldn’t have noticed. The blessed otherness of the weather here has been so welcome to our family after a lifetime of oppressive central Texas heat.  My kids are thriving in the constant 50 degree days, running and climbing and swinging until they pass out at the end of the day, hair matted with moss and sticks, knees crusted with mud and slug effluence.

Dado built an epic swing that hasn’t killed anyone yet.

This is the whimsical before photo of the “fort tree”. I did not take an after photo because my children’s use of cardboard and blue tarp insulted my aesthetic sensitivities.


Harriet and the chickens finally made peace. Put the kid behind a fence, it all works out.

If I weren’t a gardener, all I would know is that the sun comes up at 4:00am, cheered on by a ridiculous chorus of birds, and stays that way well past my bed time, illuminating approximately 80,000 plants that I can’t identify (yet) but am tasked with caring for before they swallow up my house Planet of the Apes style.  Since I am a gardener, I am painfully aware of the weather, and the impending doom of being swallowed by plants, and the fact that if this were the real Oregon Trail we would totally die of starvation. Unless we figured out how to eat the beavers.

Behold, a 36 hour photo essay of that time I thought I could outsmart a beaver:

The garden would’ve been late this year anyway, since I did something stupid with a pitchfork in early March and wrenched my ribs out of place.  Only up side to that was the discovery of an 8 year old fractured vertebrae, the missing link in the long saga of my back woes. Story for another day, but the arthritis and general instability of my thoracic spine turned out to be somewhat incompatible with my ambitions as a first year homesteader (and 5th year homeschooler, and 30th year writer).

There have been many other things, a steady flow of house guests, a long trip to help my sister-in-law with her first baby, the uphill march of homeschool, the horror of delayed potty training, and a cluster of infuriating health problems that have made my deep desire to be an excellent farmer and mediocre writer impossible. So I’ve just been an okay farmer and a shitty writer. And that seems to be working out for me.

Dado and Beatrice bend hoops for the garden. She’s very strong.


Seedlings in my ultra hardcore grow room/laundry room. Because who wouldn’t want to fill a room designed to make things clean and fresh with lots of dirt and fish emulsion?

And finally, an adorable, free spirited kid with lots of beautiful and fascinating weeds. Otherwise known as everything that bites me in the ass with my parenting and gardening philosophies.


State of the Garden, February Redux 2017.

February was a trickster. I thought I had it all figured out. The grapevines and raspberries were pruned to perfection, the beds, all cozy in their horse manure blankets, got a fresh layer of leaf mulch (well, two of them, the others seemed just fine!). There were days that inched above 50 and the girls insisted it was officially springtime and, though my feet were still firmly planted in thick wool mountaineering socks, theirs were bare. To be fair, back in our homeland, this is when the bluebonnets would be making their appearance, so our internal clocks still chimed with all the alerts of impending flip flop weather. 

We graduated our “baby” chickens (which we’d raised in a horse trough in the garage over the winter, yeah…don’t do that) in with the big birds and felt like champion farmers when they didn’t kill each other.

We celebrated two birthdays, super-style, with a hybrid Wonder Woman/Little House theme in which no ultra-flammable costumes combusted while cooking exclusively on a wood stove.

And we welcomed our fourth wave of house guests in four months, while trying our damndest to maintain homeschooling and the appearance that we knew what the hell we were doing out here. It mostly worked.

Day 17 #powerrehab: Getting somewhere.

There is a hole in my closet wall, in the very back behind the clothes I do not wear, my wedding dress, and the stacks of baby girl hand-me-downs.  It is perfectly centered, perfectly round, the diameter of a certain very persistent woman’s finger.  Behind the wall is a room tacked on by the original owners back in the 70s to make room for their blended family.  You can get to it by spiral stair case next to the laundry room downstairs, or the stairs that climb up from the deck on the back of the house.

It is like a grand treehouse with plumbing and death traps for babies. Before I had so many children and my back exploded, this weird treehouse/attic wonderland was our school room.  When Leona was little, I partitioned off a space for her until she was big enough to avoid plummeting to her death down the open stairwell without constant redirection, but three girls in this space proved too many, too loud, and almost impossible to access.  In time, it has become something of a very high shelf from which we retrieve/hide things that cannot survive intact in the other spaces of our house.


Of course, school has marched along just fine without its precious room.  If anything, it’s better, blended into our real world, mixed up on the table with the Lincoln Log village and covered wagon made of paper towels, twist ties, and an easter basket.  Harriet toddles free, Leona runs in and out the back door, Beatrice breaks between math and history to check the flowers she planted in tiny pots along the edge of the deck.  As long as I keep good books and good food stocked, and keep pencils out of the baby’s eyes, our homeschool seems to run itself.  It is, shockingly, the easiest part of our day.

But we were talking about my closet. That hole in my closet will eventually be a door.  A door through which only I will ever go, and that weird, oddly inaccessible treehouse room will be my studio.  This is still in dream stage, if you don’t count the fact that a Phillips head screwdriver somehow managed to hammer its way through the drywall that one time.  But I have faith. I am that kid digging a hole to China in the back yard.  There is at least a tiny piece of him that knows this is not the way to get there, but he persists.  He feels great satisfaction in persisting, day after day, digging the hole.

Yesterday, I was a overcome by this spirit of persistence. I found a bunch of empty storage tubs and threw them up the spiral staircase, took a deep breath and started digging.  I sorted all our math materials, the sensory shelves, the language and phonics and handwriting…all of it.  Down to the tiniest block of the pink tower.  Sorted, labeled and ready for Leona’s kindergarten year in the fall and Harriet’s preschool years too far in the future for me to think about.  I took down all the maps and nature posters, rolled them up not too tight since they’ll be re-homed downstairs as we need them.  I rolled up the garish rug and leaned it in the corner.  I cleared my desk of the thousands of drawings and pipe cleaners and crumpled leaves and pressed flowers and stickers and stamps and assorted glitter related items it had collected over the last year.  Then I took another deep breath and tested my back.  I pushed the stacks of tubs into their closet.  I pushed an empty bookcase across the carpet.  I nudged a chair from one corner to the other.  And I was okay.

The room was empty, my back was fine, my heart was EXPLODING.

This is the second day in a row that I have noticed my body easing up, participating.

Part of this is a natural turning point in the healing process.

Part of this is me being less of a wuss.

Part of this is #powerrehab –pushing through my resistance and giving my body the things it needs to do its work.

I won’t drop the balloons and confetti just yet, but I woke up this morning thinking, “This is working.  Tell them this is working.”