Freezer camp

I took these photos last Sunday morning, when we got more early snow. Shortly after I returned from my morning walk, I tried to post them here and discovered our internet was out. The snow lingered for a few days but was still gone before our internet service returned.

Tomorrow we send the pigs off to freezer camp. Never easy, and I’m afraid I’m more attached to this batch than any we’ve had. I’ve been feeding twice a day for the last couple months, fretting over their rations and measuring their growth. Scratching around ears, patting backs, and ok, using a few well-placed knees to encourage a hungry pig that outweighs me to move aside. A few days of frozen hoses and troughs were a good extra reminder that it is time.

So tomorrow we’ll wake up with pigs, feel the complicated feelings that go along with raising animals for meat, and end the day with pork to process. It’s never easy, and I hope it never is; but in the end it’s mostly gratitude that I’m left with, and that’s a pretty good place to end up.

Early snow

I decided at 5p Thursday that Friday would be a mental health day, a bit of compensation for all the extra hours at my desk over the last month. Without too much more thought, I determined that a day for myself meant going for a hike first thing, enough of an effort to come home tired and really enjoy settling into my couch nest for an afternoon knitting session.

I wasn’t expecting to wake up to a dusting of snow. But it was just that, a dusting on the roofs and cars. According to the Gaelic view of the seasons, winter began three whole days earlier, with Samhain. It felt like summer lasted right through September this year, so I guess I missed autumn while tethered to my desk.

I considered changing plans, but it looked like it was clearing. Maybe I’d have an extra-special view of a snowy morning from the top. Or maybe not, as it turned out. The dusting at home was a couple inches at the trailhead and gradually grew to about four up the trail. Clouds wrapped tightly around the mountain. The forest was almost utterly quiet, my breath competing with my footsteps for the loudest disturbance. At some point, the snow filling the air was coming from the tree branches above instead of the clouds. Periodically, some branch would get just heavy enough to dump it’s load with a satisfying “woosh”. Beautiful and disorienting.

And best of all, I returned home the perfect level tired where I couldn’t manage anything more than knitting and old episodes of Victorian Farm all afternoon.

29 Oct 2017

Hello out there. I’m so glad you’re still there. By which I mean, I’m so happy that I can remember that the world outside my little bubble exists today. There have been lots of days when that wasn’t the case of late.

So I’m a little bit delighted and a little bit chagrined to realize that I popped in here with a little something to share and it’s exactly the same topic as the last time I was here. My worn clothing. (Because that’s fascinating enough to warrant multiple posts?)

When I turned my closet over a few weeks ago, I pulled out a bag of socks that needed mending and was surprised to discover it had somehow grown to eight pairs of hand-knit socks that were out of circulation. A week later, a deep dive into my knitting basket (for unrelated reasons) turned up a further three pair that I had completely forgotten existed. Eleven pair! That is either a testament to my powers of procrastination for letting so many pile up, or to the excess of my sock supply that I was still getting by with that many out of commission. Maybe both.

I finally sat down with the monster pile this weekend to see what I could do. Two pair were deemed beyond repair and retired. One pair that was little-worn but riddled with tiny holes from a wool moth attack several years ago was unravelled to salvage the yarn. Most needed a darned patch or a few areas of duplicate stitch reinforcement. And then there was this pair (in sorry enough shape my camera didn’t even want to focus on them):

One of the first pair of socks I ever knit, and the blue merino really wasn’t durable enough for socks. As I was debating whether I could justify another layer of patches or not, I realized that this sock construction, one I never repeated, lent itself to heal replacement. A couple careful snips and a bit of unraveling later, they were back on needles…

And some leftover sock yarn filled in the gap nicely.

So satisfying.

I actually have a few new knitting projects to share if I ever get pictures taken. Soon, I hope. And in homestead news, the pigs will be off to freezer camp in less than two weeks but in the meantime, they are making adorable afternoon nap pig-piles.

It was a good shirt

I turned my closet over today, a little semi-annual task that I enjoy enough it feels more like a seasonal ritual than a chore. I pulled my linen, along with my summer skirts and most of my short-sleeved shirts, and packed them away in the off-season side of my closet. At the same time, I revisited the stash of long johns, long-sleeved t-shirts, and wool sweaters that had been tucked out of the way since spring. As I sorted, I did a quick cull. There are always a couple things for the thrift store, items I thought I might wear six months ago but I haven’t even considered doing so since. And this time, there were a few old gems that I couldn’t put away for next year, it was just time to bid farewell.


First up, the best flannel shirt I have ever owned, purchased circa 2008 at the Senior Citizens’ thrift store in Beulah, ND for $1. It was perfectly soft and worn when it came to me, all brown plaid and pearl snaps. I never “wore” this shirt, I just threw it on over whatever I was wearing when there was any bit of chill – pretty much every morning and evening of every summer day for the last decade.

I patched the elbows last summer, but it was obvious then the situation was less a hole than the generally disintegrating state of the fabric. I managed to squeeze another year out it, but I’m afraid it’s time to love this one fondly from the rag pile.

Next up is a very close relative of the house flannel, the brown house sweater. This one came to me as a hand-me-down from my brother-in-law in roughly the same timeframe, maybe 2010.

It, too, has seen it’s fair share of shoddy mending jobs over the years. The left elbow went first, of course. (It’s a bad habit of leaning my left arm on my desk while the right operates a mouse for endless work hours.) But I needle-felted an orange elbow patch and liked it better for the character. Then the seams started to give in the armpit, but that’s easy to hide so it got a quick stitch back together. By the end, the left elbow was two patches deep, the right had a matching one, the armpits were hopelessly ripped out, and I loved it.

There simply isn’t enough fabric that isn’t falling apart to hold any more mending, so it will get felted and recycled into some future sewing project. Maybe my next hot water bottle cozy.

And finally, an unlikely addition, a pair of gray hiking shorts. A pair of shorts I bought just before leaving for New Zealand in December 2005. I wore them every day for more than four months on that trip; they were the only option I had except for a questionable skirt I wore while doing laundry. And for most of the years since, they have been the only pair of shorts I own. A bit like magic, the nylon seemed impervious to wear and they fit perfectly regardless if I gained fifteen pounds or lost it.

The thread was always the weak spot, I made the first hem repairs in a backcountry hut on that initial trip. There have been many more, and these days it all seems to be breaking and falling out. And it turns out that even nylon does wear, and these days it’s a bit… translucent. So another relic of another life, made by a company that no longer exists, is retired.

In summary, it was a good shirt (and sweater and pair of shorts).

If you’ve actually read this far, you deserve some sort of prize. Unfortunately, all I’ve got for you today is the satisfaction that there are people in the world who are moved to eulogize ordinary articles of clothing, but you’re not one of them.

Unscheduled

The first weekend of October. Two whole unscheduled days, my first since August. I have been hanging on, waiting for the chance to take this deep breath for the last few weeks. I need a few deep breaths of the sort that you just quietly watch come and go.

I spent some hours in my couch-nest, newly feathered for fall weather, while I knit and listened to rain on the roof. Yesterday I ventured as far as the garden and today I made it a few whole miles away for a long walk in the woods with a couple of friends. In between, there were plenty of visits to the pigs and hours in the kitchen, processing fruit, cleaning a carrot harvest, and general puttering. The kind of simple days that just feel spacious the whole way through, and I feel so grateful for that. I needed that.

Spaciousness as a state of mind has been in short supply of late. Instead, my mind has mostly felt busy and tight, ceaselessly trying to figure its way through the puzzle of things. The usual puzzles of balancing too many interests with all the requirements on my time, of tending the homestead and adventuring in the world, of spending and saving. And the less usual puzzle of making all the required arrangements for an entire season of unscheduled time.

It’s been nearly a decade since Dean and I returned from our last extended trip and started building a cabin, and I think that means we’re due. But gah, we’ve complicated our lives in ten short years.

The plan is that we’ll take a break for half a year, and spend most of that time hiking the Appalachian Trail. I can only vaguely remember how much space to breathe there is during a trip like that, but I can’t wait to be reminded. In the half a year between now and then, though, we’ll be trying to get everything in order and stay sane, which might be a far less glamorous but equally daunting challenge.

The other side of September

Hello from the other side of September. I’m bleary with tired, but somehow this little patch of sunshine on some very old marble tiles is making me feel a bit more hopeful.

September was absurdly full here, every weekend day booked from start to finish with off-homestead activity, every weekday seemingly overflowing with two extra things on the schedule. I decided at the start that my best strategy for coping was to just keep moving, and aim to be as present as I could with the constant motion. It mostly worked, I think, but I have some serious plans for sustained sitting in October.

Clearly I’m in no state to write coherently today, but perhaps we can start with a few postcards from the last month…

Greetings from the northwesterly most point of the lower 48! For our anniversary, we spent a day exploring the Makah Reservation, which has a fabulous museum and this gem of a little hike. 

The University of Washington, with the quad as quiet as an actual postcard. I attended a conference that happened to take place at the UW in Seattle. Due to the quirks of ferry schedules, I had some time to kill and I discovered that a Saturday morning between terms may be the quietest time on campus. I hardly saw another soul while I wandered around, and it was seriously good soul medicine to just take in the quad, the big old trees, the beautiful buildings, the library filled with stained glass, the gardens, the whole pedestrian scale of the place. Just to remember that such places exist and they have existed for a very long time.

Everyone loves pigs! At least everyone in our neighborhood, which is a relief. Our go-to pig-sitter moved away last month, so we had to figure out new arrangements in advance of a ten-day trip to the east coast. In the end, three separate neighbors pitched in to share the load, we have a stronger web of connections, and the pigs are still happy and growing.

And… it turns out I took surprisingly few photos this months, so that’s all I have for postcards. More words soon.

Blackberries

As I sit down to type, I see my purple-stained fingers and imagine that there’s some evidence of berries on my face as well. It’s sort of a constant right now, when the blackberries are ripe.

The Himalayan blackberries, to be more specific. The ones that crop up in the untended verges, all the compacted, abused, spent… humanly impacted places. And not just grow, their thick vines grow impossibly long, arching up and out and forming a tangled mass that quickly overwhelms fences and given the chance, swallows small buildings.

Which is precisely why, for 50 weeks out of the year, I curse the blackberries and cringe at their sight. But then there is that window in late summer when the berries are ripe, and our relationship becomes so much more complicated.

For those few weeks, the overgrown corners and unkept edges hold the abundant, sweet taste of late summer. We have plenty around the homestead but I always smile to see people picking along roads and around town, braving a tangle with the vines to fill a bucket or a bag. The berries are free, but not without cost. Payment will come by way of shredded shirtsleeves, time with tweezers spent extracting festering thorns from tender fingers, and the tell-tale marks of forearms criss-crossed with bramble scratches.

I love wild berries for the ways they taste wild – their tang, tartness, complexity mixed with the sweet. But there is none of that in these blackberries, they are just big and sweet and juicy. The sort that will drip down your chin if you’re not careful.

I baked a peach-blackberry crisp last week. When we finished it off on day three, I washed the pan and made another without bothering to put it away empty. As we were finishing off the second one, Dean subtly mentioned that there were just enough peaches left for a third. If you find yourself in possession of peaches and blackberries, I highly recommend you make one for yourself. (My only modifications were to cut the brown sugar to 1/3 cup and use AP wheat flour.)

In summation: Himalayan blackberries, love and hate. Which seems alright, I should undoubtably spend more time considering how nothing is as simple as my judgments of it.

Extra slow home furnishing

There is probably no more thoroughly documented rug out there, but here for it’s final celebratory appearance, is the braided wool rug project.

I love everything about the completed rug. I love how it’s thick and squishy underfoot, how it entices me down to sit on the floor, something I didn’t realize I didn’t do in our house until I suddenly started. I love that it’s sort of wonky but perfectly functional. I love the balance of tones and patterns. Most of all, I love the story of this rug.

I fell in love with the idea of making braided rugs years ago… probably 2009. Sometime after that, I started working on the shirt cotton rug, as a “practice” for the wool one I really wanted to make. And then my sister came across one of the all-time best thrift store finds, a giant appliance box full of wool, most of it cut into strips and sewn together and wound into wheels, all ready to be braided into rugs. So many hours invested in rugs that someone never got to make. She paid $5 for the whole box. We were still in the cabin, and storage space was in very short supply. So I jammed as much as I could into one Rubbermaid bin (a fraction of the box) and tucked it away in a back corner of our shed. After I finally finished the cotton rug, that bin found it’s way to the house just over three years ago. I braided the first few feet of it on the living room floor before we had any furniture in that room. I quickly realized wool was a different animal than cotton, and the glory of the internet introduced me to Braid-Aid folders and the braider’s table clamp. I made slow progress that first winter, but then it fell into hibernation. Last fall, I convinced Dean to make it a joint project. We rarely worked on it for more than an hour at a time, or more than a couple hours a week. But all winter and through the spring, one of us would ask “are you up for sewing this evening?” and we’d make a little more progress. Dean started out sewing strips into workable lengths from a few wheels that had no seams, then switched to lacing. I braided and braided and braided. And together, we made a rug.

It’s just a rug, but it’s a rug that is a story, and I am most at home when I’m surrounded by stories.

An ordinary backpack

Another backpacking trip in the books. It feels too ordinary to write about – a few days of cruising on fine trail into the high Olympics, a day spent doing nothing more than watching marmots and clouds and exploring a creek, and then back out. Sunny summer days, shady old forest, huckleberries that Dean declared the best he had ever tasted, and the simple joys of having an alpine meadow all to yourself for a day. Well, except for the marmots.

There’s nothing ordinary about it at all, I suppose, but it speaks to the richness of this life that I can find it so. It’s a mark of a good trip when we spend the drive home daydreaming all the possible itineraries for our return. It was a short hour-long drive, but long enough to know that we found another backyard gem.

Just like that

August arrived with a heat wave and skies filled with smoke from distant wildfires. It felt like I would be admiring the flowering herbs and watering the garden every other day forever. Because August is time, suspended.

Until it’s not. I can’t help but notice that after these several long months of waking up and falling asleep in the light, or at least semi-light, darkness is once again encroaching on both ends of my days. After finally stripping down the bedding to it’s lightest summer configuration, the cooler nights this week required I add a layer back. We got rain overnight Saturday after almost 60 days of none. And today, as I was casually walking the perimeter of the pig enclosure, I noticed this:

Looks at all those leaves. The ground nearly carpeted with them, and more fluttering down in the sunshine while I stood there dumbfounded. That is not a scene out of high summer.

I know that it’s the drought. But I also get the distinct sense that this summer may end as abruptly as it began, that it may be time to brace for impact. Bam, autumn. Just like that.

I’m not ready. But tomorrow, we’ll hike into the mountains for one more stretch of days sleeping on the ground in the high country, the closest thing I know to slowing time.

Done over perfect

I finished a sweater! It’s a pretty fabulous shade of green!

This sweater had a completed body with one and a quarter sleeves when I set it aside during the Olympics (yes, the summer 2016 games). I let it sit for months, before I was finally prepared to face it again. And after a nice smooth start, it fought me every step of the way from that point. I ripped out both sleeves and started over on those. The button bands and collar required similar trial and error. It felt like a lot of one-step-forward-two-steps-back. It ended with a cliffhanger where I wondered if I was going to run out of yarn.

Through most of that, I was still pretty excited about the kelly green sweater I would have in the end. But in the middle of summer, even that wasn’t motivation enough to weave in ends and sew on buttons for the last month. I’m relieved to finally call it done.

The fit isn’t what I was aiming for, somehow my gauge swatch was pretty impressively off so it is a size or two wider than I planned. I think it’s still totally wearable, especially on the homemade sweater scale, but short of the ideal I imagined when I set out. But I’ll take done over perfect.

Details on Ravelry.

Mount Hood Timberline Trail

Dean and I backpacked around Mount Hood last weekend. We planned the trip as another in the series of the “loop trails around a Cascade volcano” we seem drawn to, but it ended up being a surprisingly nostalgic trip for me. Which really shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was.

Mount Hood is Portland’s backyard mountain, and Portland was the first place I lived out west. Mount Hood is where I learned to ski and snowshoe. It’s where I took my first real backpacking overnight. I volunteered for the Forest Service there, and came to appreciate what capital-W Wilderness means in modern public land management. We also walked about 15 miles of PCT tread, which is pretty much memory lane.

In the end, it wasn’t our favorite trail. It was dusty and busy. But we saw all the faces of Wy’East (the traditional name for the mountain), under cloudless blue skies, and he was looking good in his summer finery.

A bench, part 2

The bench that I built last summer, only to finish it just when summer ended, finally found a home. It is tucked up above the orchard under a big leaf maple. A spot to watch the sun rise over the far-off mountains or to enjoy the cool shade on a sunny afternoon. I finally moved it up there a couple weeks ago, and then properly leveled it a week later.

It’s a simple thing and it is giving me so much joy. Another perspective on this homestead, another excuse to just be outside, another reminder of how powerfully our environment influences our days.

I used to think that I excelled at efficiency, that I got things done. But I think I mistook what I thought I should be for what I was. I meander, I get distracted, I come back. Usually. It’s only about a year after I thought I would have that bench, but there it is, giving me joy. I’ll take it.

Slip

Permission to wander.
Permission to go outside.
Permission to be gentle.
Permission to rest.
Permission to feel.
Permission to feel sad when you “should” be happy.
Permission to feel joy, even when you are sad.
Permission to be confused or scared or both.
Permission to ask for help.
Permission to tell the stories.
Permission to be quiet.
Permission to evolve.
Permission to not know the answer, and to live in the not-knowing space.
Permission to be messy, inside and out.
Permission to be.

Homestead report: July 15

The homestead report feels… quiet for mid-July. Which probably tells you more about where I am than where the homestead is, but you knew that.

The pigs seem to be doing well. To my continuing consternation, they still shun pretty much all vegetable scraps. But they have caught up to where I expected on the grain feed schedule, so most of my anxiety about their eating has eased. Those two above are pretending not to like getting wet while standing directly in the hose spray, an activity that is good for some solid entertainment on any warm afternoon.

The herb harden is yielding a pretty constant trickle of small delights, like this trug of lavender. (And can we all take a moment to appreciate the beauty of that trug? A recent gift that I adore…) I’ve also been keeping the dryer running and stocking the pantry with lots of lemon balm and mint, chamomile, a bit of arnica and calendula, and the like. Nothing big or exciting, but plenty of goodness.

The vegetable garden is a very mixed bag. We’ve had some bad luck, and I haven’t had the energy to keep up with it. I think it’s time to re-evaluate our vegetable gardening enterprise, but I’m just at the point of recognizing that I don’t love it enough right now to pour in the hours of labor our current garden requires. While that sounds simple, it feels like a big messy tangle of ideas and expectations to unravel. So in the meantime, I’ve given myself permission to neglect the parts of the garden that just feel like a drag and spend what energy I have on the parts that I’m still enjoying. I brought in our first three zucchini this morning, along with a big haul of lettuce. The late-summer crops like squash and tomatoes are looking a lot more promising than the early summer ones (broccoli, peas, etc), so I’m holding out some hope yet.

It wasn’t a great wild berry season, especially compared to the bounty of last summer, but the trailing native blackberries, always a bit of a hunt and peck for a few jewels, are surprisingly abundant. Dean and I picked a few spots around the edges of our clearings this afternoon and ended up with maybe a pint to top our ice cream for a treat.

I think that’s about it for a homestead report. Nothing exciting, we have slipped into summer and while it feels a little quiet, there are all sorts of sweet bits.

Opening the mountains

It is a special gift to take a hike with a friend who walks the same pace and loves the mountains like you and is comfortable sharing a 24 square foot tent. Even if you only get to hike together once a decade. Maybe especially if that trip only comes around once a decade.

My friend Aaren flew across the country to venture up into the Olympics with me, our first joint trip since we met on the Continental Divide Trail in 2007. We were a bit early for the high country, but it felt less like we were forcing an itinerary and more like we were just stepping over the edge and watching summer emerge.

Within a few weeks of both our fortieth birthdays, it felt fabulous to mark a new decade by walking 40-odd miles and fording a creek raging with the spring melt that challenged us to be both strong and smart. To spend a day and a half without seeing another soul. And to take a whole day to just soak in the mountain air, swimming, knitting, exploring, napping.

It was powerful to take a little time to reflect on growing older in the midst of an activity that makes me feel so alive and so capable. I hope that I mark several more decades by carrying a backpack into the mountains and staying a spell.

Pilgrimage

I was in the garden early this morning, weeding before the heat of the day set in, and thinking about how much I’m looking forward to backpacking with a dear girlfriend next week. Our trip to the mountains feels a bit like a pilgrimage, a journey not to a place on the map, but to a place inside us and between us, one we can’t locate before we set out. Not a “major life event” pilgrimage, but the sort where the experience is the intersection of place and meaning and the next footstep.

The idea of pilgrimage seems to be rather a theme these days.

Years ago, I referred to my regular trips back to North Dakota as “the annual pilgrimage”. It was mostly a flippant turn of phrase that I liked the sound of, but there was a kernel of truth as well, and it came back to me on this last trip.

I’ve made that trip so many times, and I will so many more,  each one a different journey over the same ground. The ground, of course, just a container for the real journey. Each repeat demanding something different of me, and offering something else as well.

In recent years, I’ve started to understand the ways that the landscape of that place feels important and yes, sacred to me. It’s not any specific patch of ground so much as certain elements of the landscape. I’ve learned to make time to drive quiet highways and wander the backroads that call to me, to breathe it in through all my senses. This trip, I watched a pile of storm clouds roll by miles to the north, and realized I had forgotten what it was to see weather across the open plains. And everywhere I went, the smell of dust and lilacs heavy in the air. Because the parts of me that sing in those places are quiet so often, I can’t help but give them rapt attention when the conditions are right and the songs emerge.

I also spent a day exploring some of the physical landscape of my family history with an aunt and my grandparents on this trip. We drove up and down each street of the tiny town they grew up in, past farmhouses still standing and farmyards that have been completely erased save for the approach off the road. Each little landmark a portal to connect the past and the present, the physical memories held by the land igniting snippets of old stories. A pilgrimage, to be sure. A journey to the timeless space that holds the past, memory, the present, and dreams for the future.

It was one of the best days I can remember. I want to write so much more, but I can’t translate the experience to words just yet. A perfect example of how “the stories that seem most worth telling are the ones that feel impossible to actually tell.” I started writing this post weeks ago, and it has stubbornly resisted my attempts to fit it into a neat container.  But today, it feels worth sharing the messy version.

And worth continuing to explore this idea of pilgrimage, this sense of honoring the journey and the places we find ourselves in, in all the forms that can take.

Forty

I turned 40 yesterday. Predictably, I seem to have done most of my angsting about the change in decade in advance, but it still prompted some reflection on decades and the ways they do seem to delineate our years.

From this vantage, the central theme of my twenties was figuring out who I was, or more often, who I wasn’t. I went down so many paths trying to satisfy the expectations of others, only to find myself at a breaking point where the only options were to let my self be swallowed by those expectations or to jump ship in some dramatic fashion. I bailed from student teaching, a first marriage, and a “good” job (several times on the job one). I escaped to live abroad, to climb mountains, to hike thousands of miles… all of which turned out not to be the point, but provided clues about who I was along the way. I’m grateful that I mustered the courage to bail each time I needed it, and I’m even more grateful that I (eventually) figured out how to avoid getting myself into circumstances that required courageous exits.

It’s surprising to me now how thirty really was an inflection point. Between my 30th and 31st birthdays, Dean and I took our first trip together (to Alaska), I started telecommuting, and we bought the land that has become the homestead. The last decade feels like it has been all about staying – the slow and hard work of building a home, a community, a relationship, a life. Figuring out how to accept this person who it turns out I am, this person who doesn’t tidily satisfy expectations, be they others’ or my own. It’s all so much less dramatic than my twenties, but it feels much more radical.

So here I am at 40. I celebrated by biking out to a local state park for a quick overnight camp, and as I struggled up the umpteenth little hill with my gear-laden bike, I thought about how grateful I am for this body at age 40, for how alive I continue to feel when I run and bike and backpack and dig and all the other ways I inhabit this physical body. I can’t really imagine what the next decade will bring, but it feels filled with possibility. However it unfolds, gratitude and possibility feels like a pretty good place to start from.

Homestead update: 06.10.2017

It’s June, also known as “peak jungle” around here. Any novelty of spring and all its new forms of life is gone, but we haven’t yet reached a point of getting anything in return for our labors.

Chickenfest is only a week away, so I find myself mentally plucking them and trying to assess how they will compare to the gallon ziploc standard. I thought I had given up trying to guess chicken weights after the year when I was sure we had a batch of giants and they turned out to be pint-sized, but I can’t seem to stop myself. For the record, they look small to me, but I’m sure I’m biased by the fact that our hatchery order got messed up, so we ended up with all females a week later than I planned. All will be revealed in a week.

At least the chickens seem to be doing their part by eating every speck of food we give them, which is more than I can say for the pigs. We somehow ended up with a batch of pigs who are picky eaters. They have shunned pretty much all the vegetable scraps we have tried to give them, and are eating less grain than I expect. They are just as social as our past pigs, though, which means that they will eat more if one of us is standing next to their trough. Which has left me in the unfortunate role of a caricature of an Italian grandmother, hovering over the food telling them how if they really cared about me, they’d show it by eating more barley. And then nagging them to share nicely.

I don’t even want to mention the garden, but I will briefly. About ten days ago, some local ravens discovered our garden. For several days, they visited to pull plants out of the ground. They didn’t seem to eat anything, just pulled the plants up, roots and all if they could, or cut them off at ground level if they couldn’t. The first morning it was kale and lettuce, then the cabbage and chard, maybe half of our 150 or so onions, all the cucumbers… They seem to have moved on so I think we can salvage parts of the garden, but I haven’t recovered from the heartbreak of it enough to take stock of just what.

The herb garden, on the other hand, is full of all sorts of joy. From the mutant valerian (over 7′ last time I checked) to my first-ever arnica blossoms to the near-constant parade of bumble bees on the chives… Basically, I could list every single thing growing there and tell you how it makes me happy to watch it grow. So I rescind that comment about getting nothing back yet – the herb garden is giving out delights, which explains exactly why it’s my favorite these days.