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Something is happening out there on these two acres of ours. It looks simple enough, those patches of deep green beans, tomatoes and strawberries that are happily, slowly giving of their fruit day-by-day, Kazakh melons spreading their flowering tendrils, sweet potatoes and squash standing resolute on the 95 degree days, and cowpeas shooting towards the searing July sun as they prepare to flower.

Yes, it looks simple enough, but, as usual, the journey to that something has been complicated.

Part of it is the rain we’ve had this spring, part of it is the catching of the rain via passive irrigation techniques. Part of it is the woodchip mulch we’ve been using, part of it is the fertigating with manure and urine that we learned about from Gardening When It Counts.

Part of it seems to be the type of crops that are growing (calorie crops via The Resilient Gardener) and part of it seems to be the varieties of those crops we are trying (shorter season via Growing Food In a Hotter Drier Land). Part of it is crop spacing (Gardening When It Counts) and part of it is always increasing diversity that thrives in your specific geography (Sowing Seeds in the Desert).

It’s cumulative, you see.

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Stewart goes out one morning to build a pallet trellis for boysenberries or climbing beans. I start sweet potato slips after I’ve got my dishes done; a month later we’ve got 1-2 dozen slips for planting. He picks up a few more perennial herbs when he’s in town and I take the boys out to plant beans when it looks like rain is coming. The boys operate as perennial weeders. He’s out making a nettles fertilizer when I announce breakfast, so I thin the okra while we chat.

I think it was Elliot Coleman in The New Organic Grower who talked about these “one percenters”. A little tending here, a few changes in methods there, and suddenly things are moving in the right direction. All of these little bits of shading and soil improvement and just old fashioned paying attention – the ones that take just an hour or two of your time every day – have become a part of everyday life around here. And they are adding up.

To be clear, we’re not exactly starting a farmer’s market here, or even eating much more than bits and bobs from the garden these days for that matter. But we are encouraged… and grateful.

Remember that year we completely failed at homesteading? I had such high hopes then… hopes of big gardens and living off the land and seeing all of these seeds become the fabric for which we build our meals, our days, and our children’s memories. But I wonder now… what was that hope in?

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Then, we were homesteaders. Now, we are tenders.

Tending not because you deserve a crop for all of your hard work, but because it is your job is an incredibly freeing paradigm shift. I no longer think in terms of we need x, so we must perform y. Instead, there is an increasing fluidity about this process of homesteading. Just keep planting. Just keep amending. Just keep working. Just keep tending.

Whatever comes of it, it’s all His anyway. We just happen to be benefiting greatly from the process.

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Today is our ninth wedding anniversary. Remembering the times we’ve moved (4), the children we’ve had (also 4), and the years we’ve shared is always a blessing. This past year has been the hardest year for either of us – both as individuals and as a couple – but it has been rich in blessings and mercies and the Lord has, once again, brought us through.

I wrote this post – one that I wrote as an open letter to my newly wed self – two years ago. I thought I’d share it again today.

Dear New Bride,

Today you are getting married. You have met the man you will spend the rest of your life with and today is the day you seal the deal. Never mind the fact that your Dad offered you a Greyhound ticket out of here last night and at least half of the forty-five people waiting to witness this grand occasion are livid at your audacity to get married in a way that they don’t approve of.

But you will make it through this day and look back on it fondly as “One of the worst days of my life.” Thankfully your marriage, which is the thing that really matters here, isn’t nearly as bleak.

Oh young girl, you are as naive as your twenty two years show. You will profess love today without even knowing what it truly means. You see roses and love letters and endless affection in your future, but that is not love. You will have all of those things and more, but they do not make a marriage and could never compare to what a loving union really is.

You are marrying an imperfect man today, but that man will change your life in ways you can’t even imagine. Over the next seven years you will go through the growing pains of learning how to be a husband and wife while on the job. Whatever you think a marriage should look like throw it out the window because you are wrong.

Love is not him making you happy or comfortable for the rest of your life.

Love is not lying to you about who you are or allowing you to deceive yourself.

Love is not a public declaration of affection or a meaningless gift on Valentine’s day.

No, my dear, love is none of these things. This man who loves you will tell you when you are wrong, will tell you when you are selfish, will tell you when you are disrespectful, and will tell you when you need to change. He will do all of this with a look on his face that lets you know that he doesn’t want to be the one to tell you, but he’ll tell you anyway.

Because he loves you.

This man will grow in ways you can’t imagine. He will exemplify Christ’s love for the church, drawing you closer to Him.

He will quit his job and throw away his all important “security” so that he can live out the life God has commanded him to live.

He will build a home for you when you need one and  will dance with you within the walls of its 150 square feet.

He will teach your sons to be men by being one himself.

He will hold your hand as you bring life into this world, he will chase your sons around with roaring giggles, and he will love your daughter as only a father can.

He will put up with your ridiculousness and learn to kind of sort of appreciate your sarcastic sense of humor.

He will pray with you, he will laugh with you, and he will teach you things you never knew about yourself.

He will build you a table, plant you a vegetable garden, and empty your composting toilet.

All of this may not sound romantic, young bride, but what it is is love. If only you could really appreciate all that he means when he says “I do.”

She woke up to find a bunny staying with us for the day.
She woke up to find a bunny staying with us for the day.

She woke up to find a bunny staying with us for the day.

Moly mokes is what Annabelle says when something shocking or exciting or scary happens. “Moly mokes, mommy.” The disdain that rolls off that girl’s tongue along with the word “mommy” is a little shocking in its own right, and so I reply “Moly mokes, Frasser.”

Moly mokes, of course, being holy smokes.

And so, if you came here today and found something completely different I understand if a hearty “Moly mokes!” was in order. Stewart redesigned the site for me, wrangling ideas and aesthetics and other crazy nonsense into one cohesive look. I’ll probably be changing and adding a few things in the coming days or weeks, because I’m nothing if not indecisive. Or is it wishy-washy?

You can find more of Stewart’s work at his Nourishing Days Design site.

Onto the Food!

I shared a broccoli salad recipe at Food Renegade:

It’s sweet and tangy and rich and crunchy, but it’s also made more simply, with ingredients that won’t necessarily offend the delicate sensibility of that green vegetable called broccoli.

Have you ever had a black Spanish radish? These things are black and get big and round like a beet. They’re also nice and zippy and we’ve been known to take the stuff as a supplement for infections. Well, we grew a patch of them this spring and I wrote up a little bit about them in Garden to Table: Black Spanish Radish.

And for the least exciting, but totally necessary for your sanity part of cooking, I talked about the cleanup aspect of feeding the growing family.

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The camera situation is still being worked out, but I figured a gratuitous baby shot was in order, even if it is a month old. Now I’d best be getting on with the rye and barley pancakes, fried eggs, and raw milk of breakfast before the hungry masses descend upon me.