For the first time in about a month, I ran this morning. 7 am in late October looks very different than 7 am in high summer. Anyhow, the big difference I noticed after taking so much time off to have a horrible sore throat, was that my caboose had a bit more, er, cargo than I remembered. But I remembered that not too long ago, I couldn't run for 30 minutes without stopping, and that there really is no way through the out-of-shape patches than, well, through.
So I ran.
Not fast, don't let me sound impressive or anything. But I had thought I'd have to walk some, and I didn't. I just jogged along, looking around me and not thinking much of anything, which is the gift running brings to me. I did have a goal: Eric had asked for some throat spray, as he's now got the throat thing. So I knew roughly where I was going to end up, and the only question was how to get there. I meandered around, following traffic lights, just moving forward, and when I got to the drug store, I had only run about 18 minutes. I'm still very inexact at figuring how long distances will take.
So I turned left instead of right, and ran along the street under construction. Then it happened.
I don't get "runners' high." Maybe I don't run fast enough. I didn't get nursing highs, either, for what it's worth. Nursing my babies just made me want to fall asleep. Great when they were tiny, not so wonderful when I had Things To Do. Anyhow, right about the 20 minute mark, it happened.
I got into a groove. For just about five minutes, or a few hundred yards, or whatever, everything worked It felt, although it's difficult to put into words, as though my arms and legs were working in circles, smoothly. Not the spirals my mind gets into when I think and think and think and think, just smooth, almost machine-like motion. It's as though I'm not doing it at all, I'm just being running. And then it stops, and I'm back in my head and my body, just running along.
That's what it's about for me. My crazy running friend asks about race training, and that doesn't move me. But feeling this way more often is worth many many miles of training. Maybe I'll have to work up to longer times of running and see if the sweet spot can expand.
Of course, that also means I have to get through minutes 10-15, when I usually want to either quit or throw up. That seems like some kind of metaphor.
Just because I liked it, here's a picture of what we had for dinner over noodles last night. I thought it was definitely eating across the spectrum. My kids almost uniformly said, "Yuck," but I thought it was beautiful and tasted pretty nice, too:
No, I haven't seen the movie yet. I liked the book, and bee magazines are featuring the beekeeper who trained the actors on the set in interviews. Looks to me like this lady is taking something of a final bow. Yesterday I did my final hive inspection of all three hives, and I'm hoping to get out to one final top-bar hive at a friend's if it's sunny for the next couple of days. It's time and past time. Friends are finishing their harvests all over, but I didn't pull any honey from these hives this fall.
Two of the hives were moved, and by moved, I mean cut from top bars and tied into frames, in June and July. This set them back a bit, in terms of production. I took honey then, but anything they've managed to put up in the last two-three months is theirs to keep. They have to eat something in the winter, even if we don't get serious weather out here. The third hive, the one in the picture, in fact, is a tiny swarm I caught late in the summer. I'm not completely convinced that they're going to make it over the winter, even if I feed them in December/January, which I plan to do. They might not be able to keep themselves warm enough, and I don't want to fuss with stacking them on their screen bottom on top of another hive. Just more hassle than I'm willing to undertake (sorry, ladies!), so they're on a sink-or-swim kind of trajectory.
I saw the queen in the lavender hive in the background of that picture. She was just. . . well, queening along. Beautiful, but I couldn't tell if there were eggs in the comb she was walking on or if it was a spotty brood pattern. I may requeen all the hives in the fall next year, just to know where I am with them. Or not. It may work out well without the added expense and hassle.
The bees are active still, on the days when it's not so cloudy and cool, they get a few good hours in. This plant has them all excited -- I don't know if it's something special, or if it's just that there isn't much blooming lately. Just stick your tongue right in, apparently. Yum:
Other things are about to bloom, like the sidewalk pumpkins! Go figure.
A final bit of bee housekeeping (after I counted frames of brood and honey and made certain that there were stores right next to the brood nests) was to stop the ants from getting in. The hives that are more ant-ridden are grouchier. No one needs ants in their houses. So I use Tree Tanglefoot, and make sticky barriers to keep the ants out, and have to stir the bands up every once in a while because the chickens kick up dirt when they bathe and make it much less sticky. Just one more thing that I bet the bees appreciate (when they're not getting stuck there themselves) and it makes me feel as though I'm doing what I can for them. Since I'm not a Super Beekeeper, I do what I can.
I'm apparently not a great citrus grower either, because something is making the tangerines split. Too much bath water? Too little? Wrong timing? Maybe they won't all split. I'd love to have a few off of this tree. It's Thing 3's special tree.
And as always, I'm swamped with work. When I'm done transcribing the last 20 rows of the mittens, I may try to knit again. But possibly not. I'm just in deep. The shorter days make me grateful for any time I spend outdoors, but also make me want to get my needles going again. I'll have to schedule it for me, I think.
Not all of us find puttering in the garden equally compelling. Do you see the structures behind me, on the browning (some day to be a wheat-and-potato field) lawn? Do a youtube search for "parkour" and see what the middle Things have been designing out back --their own course!
A teensy patch of bush beans. These are still an experiment. In fact, a lot of this feels faintly experimental. I worry that the exposed soil really needs mulching, that the sand percolates water through it too quickly, that mulching is hard on tiny plantlets, that I will never figure out how to transplant tiny seedlings at a properly deep level, so they aren't flopping about like my children when asked to perform domestic labor, and that there's just too many things to keep straight for me to think I'm working the gardening thing the way I want to -- companion planting, soil amendments, whether or not to use preparation 500, planting by the phases of the moon, whether the otherworldly appearance of brussels sprouts justifies giving them any garden space if everyone here hates them (can you shred them for cole slaw?). . .
But it looks right pretty from the proper point of view.
Just when I think I've figured out this gardening thing (ha!) I get new surprises. Out among the apple trees out front, on which there are pinky-tipped sized apples, I noticed these while I was draining a bathtub. Yep, more pumpkins. Those seeds must really be out there biding their time. Add water, and poof! Even if it's not the season and it will be too cold for pumpkins to set, and who wants nearly-inedible pumpkins in Janurary, anyhow, up they come.
Not just among the apple trees, though, which was ground zero for the thrown pumpkin now almost a full year ago, I'm finding them still coming up among the mint. Remember, this is a strip along our sidewalk. It's not very big, and it's not very "gardeny." But that hasn't stopped the bigger baby pumpkins, nor, now that I looked today, more baby baby pumpkins! I have no idea what we'll do if they keep growing and growing and growing. I guess foot traffic on one side and parked cars on the other will keep them in check. Occasionally I imagine building an archway and training them up and over it, welcome to Bedlam Acres, or something. But really, it's just mostly interesting to watch.
In the "old dog/new tricks" category, I figured that I can't really knit from charts. Lace or colorwork. I apparently have to translate the chart into numbers in my head, and if I try to do it while looking at the chart, it adds a layer of complexity that messes up my knitting.
However, if I do that translation from the chart into a written list of numbers, I can knit like nobody's business. Okay, I can knit, period. So the chart for the second snail mitten in my-speak reads "Dk 3, 4, 1, 1, 1, 1, 7, 3, 7, 3. 1, 1, 1, 1, 4, 3" or something like that. I list the color of yarn first, in this case, dark, then just merrily go along from there. Weird to find out a little quirk-room in my head like that, but good since I think I can now take on more complicated patterns. Maybe I can finally finish Branching Out for Thing 1.
And finally, last night we went back to the Fillmore (without Thing 1) to see another show.
We're pretty sure we made the right call. The crowd was young and bizarrely (to me) tall. During the opening bands -- why oh why were there two? -- they weren't too riled up. It struck me while watching the first bands that it's kind of sweet that in a world with The Clash and The Rolling Stones and U2 and many other bands in it, boys (and it's almost always boys, another thought stream entirely) still want to pick up guitars and drum sticks and just shout out whatever's inside of them. Hit me like that quote from some writer about the nerve of writing poetry, that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Even though "Don't start a band" is fine advice, there are plenty of folks who just won't take it.
The speed Irish punky stuff brought out the mosh in many of the kids, though. Eric and an unidentified big guy, there with his 16 year old daughter, set up kind of a wall, so the surging, slamming boys were kept away from our bit of the front. Therefore, I got to leap up and down and wave my arms with the best of them, to the point that I was sweating in my boots, without actual injury. And that was a pretty big deal! Eric took well-deserved credit for introducing the band to me and Thing 1, and I'm so glad he did. They were a hoot. Big fun, and now that our Week o'Concerts is over, it's back to real life and maybe I'll get that mitten done.
A gift for a friend's birthday (I don't think she reads this), made from a free pattern and in my own handspun Finn. It didn't take long, even accounting for the mess-ups that seem inevitable when I knit lace, even the most brain-dead lace. Also it didn't help that the pattern had an error.
It was so nice and fast, though, that it's got me thinking about Christmas presents. Since this is the year that I swore I would make everything by hand that I gave out, I've got to either pare my list, send everyone jam, or find some other approach. One thing I've thought of is making these beautiful Polish paper stars known as porcupine balls, and I still may. But now there are bookmarks as possibilities. And I love me some possibilities.
This little project also showed me that my singles must be plied, or else made into lace that's blocked really hard (tempting but really, let's come back to reality. I have three new classes starting in a week). The tassel's twist is the overspun part of the single, so plying it would be necessary to counter that tendency.
At any rate, it's symbolic of a lot of love and I'm not out money, just time, and for my friends, I'll spend that with pleasure.
Thing 1 had her first concert and first club experience last night. She and I took public transit into the city -- which was a complete blast, so much nicer than trying to drive -- and met up with Eric, who drove in. Public transit, which is wonderful at 6:00 pm, is less fun really tired and still sick at 11:00! I actually fell asleep in the car, which almost never happens.
We went to see one of our favorite bands, Gaelic Storm. Lovely, happy, fast Irish speed music. I prefer a punkier edge to my Irish, which is why the grownups are heading right back out on Monday for Flogging Molly. But for my thirteen year old daughter's first time out, they were just right. The Fillmore is a lovely venue, although she admitted that a lot of the music history was lost on her, and the crowd was just about perfect.
I tried not to do a lot of thinking about the symbolism of the outing, and it really felt more like just another lovely activity that she can now participate in, like playing cribbage. Maybe because she was there with her parents, and we were glad for her company. She was so lovely there, leaning on the stage. Sometimes I think the pressures of growing up make her feel as though the upsides are thin on the ground. But this helped her see some of the privileges of aging, also. I'm sure I'll be less sanguine should she develop a hard-core taste in clubbing, but who knows? I didn't, her namesake aunt did, and we are all still around.
It was a long night, though.
I think the fact that she slept in her concert shirt is a good sign. As is this smile.
Meanwhile, to distract you from the utter lack of knitting content, pictures! The garden is actually growing. I look out at what looked like bare dirt not long ago and notice that the green haze is now obviously plants.
"Freckles" romaine. I love colored, ruffly, spotted lettuces and have seeds for about 15 varieties. My salads, while utter overkill, are pretty. Thinking about the painstaking transplanting I've been doing, I think about what kind of confidence and belief it would take to drive a tractor and plant seeds by the fieldful and just believe they'll make it.
Equally difficult to believe that teensy little ruffled leaves of kale will grow enough to feed us soon. But they will.
Here's last spring's kale still coming on strong. I think it's going to seed soon, so I'll try to eat a bit more this week.
Today has been the kind of day that I wished I had a big "undo" button for. Many of my actions and reactions have been ones that immediately I regretted. Unfortunately I can't even explain my motivations for some -- I'm just so reactive with the kids, with the world. I just do things and say things without thinking. I hate building up regrets like this.
I wish I had a big, flashing "undo" button that would really work. I'd use it. A lot.
And maybe I'd make smarter choices the second time around.
I'm going to go and kiss the kids goodnight again.
Thing 2 suggested that she needed a new sweater, despite inheriting the stripy hoody from her brother and wearing it. Fortunately I had a bag of Lion Brand big yarn that had been gifted to me at a knit day. I thought it might knit up into something fairly quickly, and it did.
This is an off-the-cuff top down raglan. I wish I'd made it smaller in diameter, but I was measuring the raglan seams off of another sweater. It's sort of a 1960's silhouette, and kind of a shrug. Anyhow, it keeps her warm around the house in the mornings.
And, of course, I have whatever is richocheting around the house. If my throat looked like it felt, I'd have a tennis ball-sized lump under there. Just sick. I know it will pass, but it's not a lot of fun to go through. And weirdly, about half of us have sick eyes -- red, swollen underneath, and goopy. Talk about fun times.
Thing 3 is walking normally, but really sick, Thing 4 is really sick but that isn't stopping her from waking me very early in the morning and crying because she's hungry. I think I like it when the fever makes them sleep all day!
Cat on my shins, laptop in my lap, feverish child moving from asleep against my hip to crying with sore ears. It's been a weird day and I can't do much to help the kids. Not being able to truly comfort someone I love when they're suffering is hard for me. I have to remember that there are limits to my powers.
So I dole out ibuprofen, read stories, relax standards, and wait. Time heals most things, even the most ludicrous. Not that I've told him how ludicrous he is, that would be too cruel.
I just hope I escape getting truly sick. As Thing 1 said, if I do, "The house will grind to a halt." So.
At about 9 am this morning, the count is one canceled science field trip (canoes and high winds don't mix, according to the organizers), one case of conjunctivitis with a roaring resurgence of the associated cold, one possible ear infection, and one child who is walking like a very old cowpuncher.
And I have about 25 papers still to grade, despite staying up half the night to finish.
By mom decree, it's a lie on the couch and read or go down and watch videos kind of day. Poor babies all.
My efforts to reduce our water use have continued. I didn't expect that the plants out front would put on a late-summer burst, but they really like this bath water allotment. I think there's even two more pumpkin plants sneaking in near the mints, in the sidewalk.
They probably won't have enough time to make new pumpkins. But they're a nice example of surprise outcomes of behaviors, in this case, pumpkin throwing last year. The apple blossoms are turning into baby apples, and who knows if they will ripen up?
I just keep siphoning and watering and trying not to wonder what I'll do when it's rainy and we still have bathwater to deal with.
But, and you knew there was a "but," it's not all beer and skittles. One day, I was getting ready to put the siphoning hose into the bathroom window, and decided that, given my family's history of graceful physical exploits, I could just throw the end of the hose through the open part of the window. It took quite a few tries, but I finally made contact. (Click for a nice closer view of the result.)
Since then, I've been meaning to fix it. It involves measuring the pane, getting frosted or colored glass, then sitting in a second-story window while scraping out glazing and paint, removing the remaining glass, and restoring it (or hauling out the ladder to do the same activities while standing), and I haven't done it. Nighttime visits to the bathroom have been livened up by the fresh air, and occasionally an insect flies through, but it hasn't been so bad. I even use the opening as a convenient place to pass the hose through when draining the tub.
Apparently, Thing 2 finds the crisp outdoor air pretty compelling also. She tells me that when she's atop the throne, she puts her hand out the window to "feel the air."
That works quite well most of the time. Yesterday, we were having a fine time making cookies (no-egg butter cookies with jam centers) to bring to our neighbors for the debate. I was grading papers, and other than prepping the flaxseed egg substitute and refereeing the occasional dispute, my job was pretty minimal. Then I heard it from the bathroom: "Waaaaaa! Mama!! I cut myself!"
Since I'm a veteran, I looked up from the computer and said, "Really? Can you bring it here?"
"Noooo! It's baaad!!!"
When this kid says it's bad, I go. So I walked into the bathroom to see her holding a bunch of tissue to the back of her left hand. Moving that aside, she showed me a laceration that gapped open if she moved her pinky finger. "Let's go," I said. But then, I looked at my watch. Ten of five -- maybe, maybe we could get to the doctor's office.
They just told me to go to the local emergency room. We've been there before. I don't know why they don't suture in-house, except maybe they wanted to go home. When I was 19, I got my stitches at my trusty pediatrician's office.
And how, how did this child open up the back of her hand? Well, as I said, she apparently enjoys putting her hand outside while she's in there. Most of the time, that works fine. Yesterday, however, unknown (or unnoticed) by her, the window was open a little bit. And while her hand was sticking through it, suddenly, as old Victorian double-hung windows are prone to do, it fell shut. We're fortunate that she didn't completely lose a finger, as I imagine the cut glass guillotining down on her tender flesh.
Two pleasant hours and two full vials of numbing medication later, she's three stitches enhanced.
She's also owed ice cream, because in our house, injections=ice cream. Not how we'd planned to spend our evening, but it's not what I had in mind when I started saving water, either.
P.S. In the "You will completely not believe this" category, Thing 3 just came screaming up from the basement. The kind of "Ow, ow, ow" yell that seems to bypass my ears and plug directly in to my brain stem. He was dancing and screaming, so I ruled out "perforated bare foot with nail" which is one of my worst fears, but he was grabbing at his pants. I got them off, and thought he was pointing at his thigh. Then he was able to speak, and said, "Something was crawling in my pants!" and I saw it -- a sting right on the family jewels. After I shook his pants out, she walked across the floor -- one of our bees. Why she was in his pants is a mystery. Poor boy. Never, ever dull at my house, I tell you.
I was reading something another blogger posted about her kids today, generally saying that they were in a pretty easy phase right now. At first I reacted with, "Lucky her!" My kids are generally not what I would consider easy, but I'm probably not an easy or mellow or calm and centered person in general either.
We have our really bad days, days where everyone is cranky, there's lots of tears (some even the kids') and I lose my temper in some spectacular way. Most days aren't that bad, but usually they're not spectacularly good either.
When I started this whole homeschooling trip, lo these many years ago, I had lots of reasons. You could have sat me down and I could have elucidated them all. I had read every book, kept up with every discussion forum (called chat boards, then), and had lots of theories. With one child, these theories worked pretty well. We played, we mixed colors, we interacted with the world around us, we practically lived at the library, and when we weren't there, we were volunteering at our food co-op.
Then I had another baby, then another, and finally one more. Somewhere along the way I left most of those theories and an awful lot of those behaviors behind. Our homeschooling wasn't working for me any more, and so I started moving towards something that looks a little more like what I thought I'd never do: the "sit down and do it" school of homeschooling.
Oh, we don't salute the flag, and I don't have the kids call me "Mrs. So and So," and sitting in rows would be just silly. But they are expected to do far more academic work than I had thought, and earlier. It's not much easier on me, but at least it's not the kind of life where I was providing wonder after wonder and also doing all the clean-up. Now I get to fuss at them to do the clean-up.
So every morning, they're supposed to do a list of behaviors and their schoolwork, leaving our afternoon free for my meltdown outside activities like hikes, museums, classes, practices, etc. But then there are days like today, where Things 2 and 3 start off playing dominoes, and teach Thing 4, and then somewhere along the way they wander outside and ride bikes, and we fix the flat tire again, and then all of them play dominoes, and then they eat something snacky, and then I do some work while listening to them talk, and mention that they might want to put the yogurt back in the refrigerator, and then I watch them doing something, and before you know it, it's time for piano lessons and off we go.
If we had a steady diet of days like this, it would, in fact, make me crazy(er). I don't deal well with lots of self-directed play, even spectacularly learning-filled play. And the only reason I can deal today is that the kitchen started out clean since last night and we'd worked hard together yesterday to clean off floors so we have open, inviting places to play today. Then I realize how well Thing 1 is doing in her high-pressure math course, and that while they're playing happily together they're also learning how to communicate positively with each other, and there is probably time enough for math and spelling, even later today. They may not be easy for days, but there are moments as golden as the light in autumn.
So when Thing 4 says, "Now can we make hot chocolate?" I think, well, yeah, we can. But I'm clever enough to list the pick-ups that lie between them and the cocoa.
We shopped for a new dishwasher this weekend. I don't know the precise reasons, but our dishwashers, bought at the scratch and dent store, keep dying. It's either the drain or us or the washers, but we decided to buy a better quality dishwasher and use a warranty this time. We'll see. I don't know if it's going to save water in the long run over hand washing, although it probably depends on who is hand washing, but it should save my sanity. There's a lot of dishes generated here.
While shopping, I had my usual shopping meltdown. I just hate shopping, unless it's grocery shopping. Love that; hate clothes or appliance or shoes or car or bicycle or building materials (although I enjoy noodling around Urban Ore) shopping. I'm like a toddler, needing to be jollied along and provided with snacks. So I hung out and talked through the first round of dishwasher comparison, and then sat down.
Eric asked about it, and I said, "Well, if I can't have what I want, it doesn't matter what I get." That sparked an interesting discussion.
And this morning, on my first run in a week, since I got the cold, I was thinking about it again. Is this really how I make decisions? What does this mean?
As far as the dishwasher goes, short of having Someone Else do the dishes, I'd rather have an industrial dishwasher. Seems appropriate for our house and the kind of cooking I do. Can't have that. Then there's really expensive dishwashers. Well, can't have that, or won't spend the money on that. So when it comes to the ones we can afford, the differences between them seem unimportant. I don't really care about rack layout or adjustability. Just buy one -- don't care about color, button placement, etc. Just want something to wash dishes.
But does this mean that I follow this "If I can't have what I want, I'm taking my marbles and going home" philosophy elsewhere? Well, since I was having this mental process while running only two and a half miles or so, I thought probably not. I want to be able to run and run and run without effort, but I also wanted to get over the nasty cold. So I didn't run. And as I dressed this morning, I realized that I wasn't going to get the run I wanted. But it would be too easy to just say, "Well, can't have what I want, so I won't run." And that leads to not needing to buy new Levis that fit, and maybe not having the kind of physical life I want in the long run.
One data point against.
And I want a lush garden, but I've neglected it for a couple of years. Dig, or pout? I'm choosing dig now. Okay, another data point. Generally I think of myself as somewhat impatient but in big things able to take a more geological time perspective. I can wait, and see what will be, while making tiny choices along the way.
But it's there, inside my head, and I'm looking for it now. Maybe it really was just low blood sugar shopping. And the run was doable, while not a thing of beauty, but a week off doesn't mean quitting, and not caring what dishwasher we get doesn't mean a complete character meltdown.
Nope, no spa treatments here. Just a day spent in the unbelievably gorgeous Capay Valley at a harvest festival. An organic farm located there has a big thank you day for their CSA subscribers, and it's open to everyone. I think it's possibly a fundraiser for them, too.
What it was for me was a chance to be surrounded by beauty, and I feel as though I've been breathing more oxygenated air or something.
The bigger kids got to run through the very well-appointed kids area without supervision for an hour or so, which had to be a kick for them. We kept running into old friends -- our midwife! My sister's midwife! Yet another one of the homeschoolers! Someone who looks familiar, but we can't place them! Thing 4 was all about the animals.
I would have preferred, in the main, a quiet day to just wander around the farm, but then I would have missed the contra dancing.
My fellow urban farmer, Esperanza, came over today to help me end the life of our second rooster.
He was gorgeous.
It wasnt a whole lot of fun, and I really appreciated her help. I don't feel badly, apologies to my old, years-of-vegetarianism self, but I suppose when I enjoy killing a chicken, that's the time to go back to not eating meat. We discovered, as we dressed his body, that he had an impressive pair of, well, balls. This was one serious rooster. I'm going to do a search for recipes for old roosters -- this isn't a bird to fry or roast. I'm thinking very assertive spices and lots of moist cooking.
It wasn't all slaughter here today. We talked about food, and growing gardens, and what kinds of things our families were eating and why, and the funny names that homebirthers in the area give their children (can you say "Pterodactyl" as a middle name? I kid you not), and how we dealt with insect pests and could you use a garden clipper to cut the head off of a turkey?
There's an apple tree living two blocks away from us. It's in a small yard, facing west, on the side of a little triplex apartment. There's a fig tree next to it, with few fruit because it's shaded by yet a third tree. Despite a total lack of any pruning or water or care, the apple tree throws out pounds and pounds of what seem to be Golden Delicious apples every year.
This year, I asked one of the people at the apartment if it would be okay if we picked up the falls to make applesauce. The response? "What apple tree?" Permission was granted. But as the kids and I gathered apples, another resident came out and fussed at us. It was "Okay this time," but no more, because this was their house.
Hmmmm, I thought. I knew the landlord wasn't in residence, but okay, I sort of get it. Except that the apples carpeting the ground suggested that no one was really all that interested in the tree or its gift of fruit. We took our picking home and resigned ourselves to leaving it alone. I hate to see that much fruit going to waste. And it made delicious crockpot apple sauce.
Yesterday, I noticed that the apartment facing the tree, the one the objecting residents had occupied, was empty. So I asked another tenant again. Permission granted. We went in the evening and picked twelve pounds of mostly-fallen fruit. The season, you see, is over for the year.
Last night I made half of them into apple sauce. I bet the kids are going to eat it this morning with cream for breakfast. I'd like to be on good terms with the residents next year, so I can once again receive these wonderful gifts from this tree. I imagine making apple sauce, giving apple tarts to the people who live there, eating fresh apples for months. Maybe I could even do some pruning.