Thursday, August 27, 2009
I do love this time of year but right about now I start having thoughts about the islands and far away places that beckon my heart strings, "Come sit here in the sun, relax, breathe, swim, eat, drink, rest, read, sleep, anything but WORK!!!" This month always requires just a little bit more effort than any other months and a whole lot more time in the kitchen. Laced with the island fantasy somewhere behind my eyelids, I headed out to the reality of a garden in August, which has continued to explode in the last couple of weeks. My last post showcased the beans and sauces. I went a little wild with strawberry jalapeno jam (to die for!) and this picture shows what I started with on Wednesday. I am now on my second batch of soup, waiting for jar lids to be delivered; We'll put up a few pickles today too. None of my cucumbers were worthy but friends delivered ones that are the perfect size so in the jars they go. Friday brings in some fun with a trip to my former stomping grounds for Old Settlers Reunion. So one more day of slinging 'maters. The islands will have to wait......I can feel the sea breezes though........."I'm french kissin' life square on the mouth and sailin' out into the sea"~Kenny Chesney. (Music is a must when canning! If you'd like my playlist, I'd be happy to post it!)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Weekends are starting to look a bit more precious now with the advent of school days upon us. We all seem to live for and look for Saturdays and Sundays. There seems to still be plenty to do around here, more than plenty some days.
We still have a few tomatoes popping on and ripening but with such cool weather it will be interesting to see how long they last. I’ve managed to can only about 8 quarts of beans; I was hoping for 20-40. no luck.
The tomato harvest wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’ve been dealing with blight and so many of my plants look like death, especially on the lower branches. This does not make me a happy cowgirl. I am grateful for what I have been able to harvest so far 52pints of tomato produce ranging for mild salsa, medium salsa, pasta sauce, pizza sauce and chili sauce. Not bad. I want to make tomato soup, my latest obsession, thanks to my friend Teri. I never even knew I liked it and now I can’t get enough.
My chicken coop may be on its way. Chad is now home much more with the end of rodeo season winding down. He knows that I really want chickens and the fresh, delicious eggs that they deliver. He is going to look at plans/costs for building a little coop. I have big plans for this place come next spring. The chickens are going to be my bug controllers. We’ll be doing an entirely different garden design with raised beds so I can plant a fall crop. I also would like to have a milk goat by then so I can make homemade cheese. (He’s so less than thrilled about that idea! We’ll keep working on him though!) I’d also like to get some fruit trees planted and see if we can’t get something creative done with the backyard. And I haven’t even started on the inside projects yet. Still have a bathroom to tile and finish, a craft room to slap floor down in and a storage unit to clear out so I can see into the canyon again, (right now it is parked in front of the basement). Oh well. I guess I can NEVER complain about being bored.
My creative juices are still running high. I am happy to report that I am picking up the violin, not fast mind you, but I am still with it and learning more every day. I had been secretly checking out knitting supplies and looking for a teacher. Funny how things appear when one is ready; on my way to violin lessons the other day I happened to glance across the street and saw a sign in a window that said knitting. BINGO. I walked in, introduced myself and signed up for knitting class. Fate! I can’t wait to learn. (I think Grandma Ruth may have something to do with all this creative stirring going on within me.) Her sewing machine is fixed and ready to go in my craft room. I hope to crank out some amazing and fun Christmas presents.
For now though, my house is in dire need of attention. A week of canning and working on the computer has left my usually picked up place in a state of utter chaos. I must go tend to it.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
This time of year is always a little hard for me. Though I love and appreciate each season and fully enjoy the excitement and beauty of the transition from one to the next, I am a summer girl at heart. I LOVE green, living, growing things. I think that is why winter is so hard on me, life appears dormant. I know it is not, but the dead grass and barren trees just don’t do it for me.
I think this summer is especially difficult to leave behind. I have such delicious memories here. I’ve stayed home more this summer than I ever have~ it gets expensive to travel every weekend and for my own personal sanity I needed (and wanted) to be a bit more grounded. I simply don’t do well driving all night. I realized that fact this summer on our way home from Yellowstone. Later that weekend, as Chad was driving from Minnesota back to Valentine, NE in the wee hours of the am, you can’t believe how grateful I was for a comfortable, cozy bed that was going to be in the same place when I woke up!
I am starting to enjoy mornings or at least appreciate them more than I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I will still burrow down in the covers if I think I can get away with it, but there is an excitement now that hasn’t been there before. The best days are the ones where I know that I am going to be here all day and I have no place that I have to be. It doesn’t make me more productive or efficient, but it is deeply relaxing.
What I will miss about summer is sitting on the deck in the mornings drinking my coffee and hanging out with my girl and the dogs. I love looking out seeing the trees, the grass and the luscious green fields. I get the same treat at night watching the sun go down. There are a lot of other places that I would like to experience living in someday. I think someplace with mountains would be great, I long for the beach and I am curious to experince Alaska. (extremes I know but hey, I like adventure!)
For right now though I am content to welcome in a new season while I fully savor the taste of summer, just a bit longer. I will hold on as long as I can, even if it is just a memory. I am funny in that way. I attach easily. I follow my heart. I never ever thought I would say I was content to be “just at home” and this summer has helped me recognized that “just being at home” has been a beautiful blessing.
I will miss going out to the garden and seeing my plants every day. I will miss the freshly mowed lawn and the kids and dogs running through the sprinkler. I will miss the hot days and starry nights that look so different during summer. (yes I am a star gazer, so even in winter, I wrap up in blankets, look up and dream.) There's a lot of simple, silly things I will miss, but I have found a piece of my soul and that will always be with me now. I guess I just had to stop long enough for it to for it to find me!
I'm sure that no matter where I am living, this part of my soul will guide, support, love and protect me. For this I am blessed, and I can now head into the less-than-green season because I know the grass will return. The sunshine won't leave and new adventures await, just under the cold and snow!
Friday, August 14, 2009
Finally a chance to do what I love to do, write! I last written about the first day of our trip. By now many of you know the details of our “whip n ride” vacation! (For those of you who don’t know Chad personally, we’ll just say that he is not one to sit around and lounge! If I want to take a leisurely holiday, it is going to be by myself or with my girlfriends; he wants nothing to do with sand, sun and just hanging out.
Though the trip was fun, a great change of pace, and a chance to see beautiful country, it was NOT relaxing in any way. It was eventful. The precursor of running out of gas on day one should have been an ominous sign of what we’d experience on the way home. We were blissfully distracted by the amazing views and mountains.
Day Two: Geyser Day. It’s been a while since I’ve visited the park so I had forgotten how many of them there are! Of coarse Old Faithful is still the “Mac Daddy” of the geysers and we stayed to watch him (or her) blow out twice. We enjoyed the many trails that lead us around geyser valley, each with names and descriptions. One could easily spend an entire day at this site. Once could, we didn’t, not with Chad at the wheel. On we went.
There were three highlights of this day. The first was touring the geyser basins. The grand prismatic geyser was breathtaking. It looks like a rainbow from a bird’s eye view. From the ground it was pretty cool, though the aerial photos really give a better view. The turquoise pool was another favorite and the kids loved the paint pots, (boiling, and stinky mud.) Parker was wondering how he could concoct something like this at home. (Could this be the making of a scientist or just a new phase of bigger messes to clean up?!)
The second highlight was when Parker hollered, “It’s a moose!” Of coarse Chad slammed on breaks to take a second look. The other tourists in the park hadn’t discovered the pair of cow elk lying in the grass on the side of the mountain. It was nearly dusk so we were quite amazed with “ol eagle eyes”! He was very proud. It was a picture of peace watching these two just sitting there, chewing their cuds, totally oblivious to the traffic that continually threatened to disturb their tranquil domain.
The next highlight was one of sheer luck. What we didn’t know is where we were going to sleep that night. The park’s campsites, we were told, had filled up at 9 am that day. Availability was as rare as a snowflake in July. (Remember this is Yellowstone so that snowflake is possible!) Had I been alone, I would have moseyed on and looked for a campsite outside of the park, probably somewhere in Montana. Not Chad. He pulled in and kindly asked if there was anything available. At first the answer was no but then when they saw we had only a small camper one of the rangers said, “Well, you are in luck, “We just had someone pull out at five. Follow me.” Sweet. Sometimes it just isn’t about talent if you have luck! By 7 the next morning we had people inquiring about the site and if we were going to spend another night. If you are planning a YNP vacation, DO call ahead and reserve a sight. This is something that we will do next time.
We happily hung our hats in the camper that night. An almost full moon welcomed us to the park and I am pretty sure it was winking at us when we finally went to sleep.
Day Three: Big Scenery Day. It had gotten pretty chilly the night before so I was glad that I’d thrown in extra blankets. This was another long day and we covered as much ground as possible. We drove north to Mammoth Hot Springs, and then back south towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Another FYI: bring a poncho to the park! I had these packed, in the camper and in the suburban and not in my day pack where they needed to be. We only got soaked once and it wasn’t all that cold but it would have been better for the camera had I remembered a poncho.
The first highlight of this day was seeing a grizzly. It was ½ mile away so again, FYI, bring your field glasses! I have a pretty good zoom on my camera but it wasn’t clear. We could see the hump on its back though. Everyone got quite a thrill when it ran out of the timber chasing something. (Which was way more thrilling than seeing/hearing the door of a new jeep compass get ripped off by a van as it was passing by! That was a little too close to our vision!)
Seeing the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was another highlight. There are three water falls that lie along YS River and each is fantastic. The tallest one is truly thrilling! I have a hard time with heights so this one made me dizzy. One of my sons kept trying to get a closer look! YIKES. The pictures sure don’t do it justice. None of the pictures that I took do. Seeing it in true living color is astounding. To think that this location has been here for eons is really mind blowing. These rocks have a lot of stories to tell, they were certainly talking during our visit. We ended the day at the cafeteria. We bought marshmallows but were to spent to roast ‘em.
Day Four: Departure Day. We hit Canyon Village to snag a few souvenirs, check out the visitor’s center and then bust it for Cody. It was hard to leave; this is a place I could hang out in for a long time. The trails were calling my name………….
We didn’t make it out of the park quickly; we are a family of procrastinators! The mud volcano and the bison herds were just too cool to pass by quickly. Thank Goodness for the mountains, they helped ease our transition out of the park and gave us something to look at and dream about. The highlight of this day was Cody Museum. The boys and Pryce (who goes wherever her dad does) went to check out the gun collection. I headed for the Plains Indians display. Amazing. I am a huge fan of beadwork and a great many of those exhibits are exquisite works of art. If you’ve never been there, Cody is a fun town with great little shops. We got our exercise this night and were happy to find a friendly family diner to end our day with.
Day Four, Disaster Day! Had we known what the day was going to deliver we would have probably voted to stay in Cody! I won’t go into all the details, I will just say that I am thankful that our time in the park was smooth, not relaxing nor was there much downtime but it was smooth. Key word there folks. By the time we hit Thermopolis, we recognized that our vehicle was not working so great. Luckily we made it to Riverton, a bit out of our way but the only place for miles (this is Wyoming!) that had a fuel pump, which we were severely in need of. Though being stuck at a dealership is not my favorite way of spending the day, this was a true blessing; this is the hometown of my sweet cousin Patty and her family! I haven’t gotten to see Patty for a long time so this was a treat. We were able to spend a little time chatting with her, her beautiful daughter Carrie and adorable grandson, Cale. Detours aren’t all bad!
We would have been only a bit behind schedule had we not blown a tire. Guys reading this, “LISTEN TO YOUR WIVES”. If they tell you to go BACK for gas, DO IT! If they say, “I think you better slow down, that shake could be due to a tire on the camper.” DO IT! Long story short, we spent a great deal of time that night in Douglas, changing a tire!
All ended up fine. Chad’s mom met us and took him on down the road to get to another rodeo and the kids and I happily headed home. Yes, there was nothing relaxing about this vacation. Many highlights, truly fun, saw beautiful country and made it back home to tell the story!
I celebrated my return by cleaning peanut butter out of the cupboard; the impact of blowing the tire actually blew the latch off of my cupboard and exploded the jar of peanut butter stored there. I am still trying to get it out of the toaster.
And meanwhile, our garden exploded while we were gone. The kids picked enough beans I canned 8 quarts on Saturday. It’s good to be home! The fun never ends!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
We set sail for the open road at 5 am this morning. I've felt the pull to go to Yellowstone since 2006 and am delighted to finally be on my way to visit this amazing land. We told the kids we'd be in the car all day but it would be worth it when we get to our destination. Luckily the mountains have provided great distraction. It worked too; we've ran out of gas, broken a window on the camp trailer and have the the service engine soon light to drive with. No worries, we are finally on vacation man and it feels GREAT. Chad is driving now and since I can't see the amazing view, thought I would post a blog diary of our trip.