I almost feel silly posting here. It's been so long, and who reads this thing anyway who doesn't already know everything I'm going to say? Oh, well. I'm feeling a little melancholy and self-conscious. Maybe it's the rain.
Where I've Been
Let's see, since I posted in May we had a busy summer. 1) I flew to LA with my step-sister for her surgery. We got to hang out for a week, got manicures, massages, and tattoos together, and explored Cedars-Sinai medical center. 2) We had Arizona family in town for two weeks, which was so fun, especially now that we have a house to accommodate guests. We played at being tourists in our own city, hitting Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and the Underground Tour in one day. We spent a day up in Victoria, B.C. and had high tea at the Empress Hotel and visited Butchart Gardens, where I drooled over the tuberous begonias and Himalayan poppies. And we celebrated John's second birthday along with my cousin Jack and my stepdad. 3) Our family traveled to Long Beach for our annual trip with some friends. I'm the newbie in that group since they've all known each other since college or before, but I never feel it. It's like we're all old chums, and all the kids get along. We played at the beach and the girls went antiquing in town. 4) I did an overnight trip to the peninsula with my Kindreds, which was soul satisfying, beautiful, and memorable. We visited the lavender fields in Sequim, watched the sunset at Second Beach at LaPush, and spent the night in a cabin in Forks. The next day we spent several hours soaking up the magic of Lake Crescent's cerulean waters, surrounded by mountains and the charm of the lodge, then had dinner in Port Townsend. Every meal the whole weekend was amazing. 5) We did the annual Gough family trip, this year to Camp Casey, which was the best! Casey is one of my favorite places in the world, and it was so fun to stay in the big old Victorian house overlooking fields and sea and watch all eleven kids play together and sit with the sisters-in-law talking. We also had a family friend who is a photographer take some photos, which turned out so well. 6) And, oh yes, Bryan and I went to Paris for nine days to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary and my birthday. I cried at the Louvre and during a boat tour on the Seine when I saw Notre Dame for the first time. I drank champagne with every meal. We saw the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, Musee d'Orsay, the Tuileries and Luxembourg gardens, the Montmartre cemetery, (which is on Avenue Rachel!), the Champs d'Elysees and the Arch d'Triomphe, Versailles, and more charming buildings and cafes than I can remember. And just this past weekend we went up to Chinook pass with my Dad and stepmom to close up their cabin for the winter. It was so beautiful—the mountains, the yellow trees. It was such a refreshing weekend.
What I've Been Doing
We had our backyard filled in all summer, thanks to our neighbor who runs dump trucks and has access to free dirt. Have I mentioned how we hit the jackpot with our neighbors? They are so awesome, and have helped us out a ton. The yard is level now, the grass is sprouting, and we have to decide where to put the fence, how to accommodate the dog, the chickens, and the future goats, pigs, sheep, and cow we're going to raise. We have no idea what we're doing, so it's difficult to make decisions without the benefit of experience. But Bryan has a beautiful plan for turning our nondescript shop into an attractive barn, and we'll be moving the garden to the backyard and building raised beds and a fence to keep the critters and weeds out. I'm excited about that. The garden did so well this year considering it was my first try. I'm so thankful for that. I've discovered that gardening is the only area in my life where I don't tend toward a debilitating perfectionism. I have surrendered to the process of trial and error, of accumulating wisdom through experience, and not expecting to be able to survive on the fruits of my labor right away. It will take years to get this place to homestead status, but we will be learning and tweaking along the way. Besides what we grow and raise, Bryan has been hunting this year. He's brought home quail, pheasant, and turkeys. He's hoping for a deer next month. Our freezer is half full with the birds and with the pork and lamb raised by our friends. I haven't done any canning yet this year, but I'm hosting a pickling class in November that I'm excited about. A local woman is coming to teach it. I want to learn fermenting, too, as I've been reading about the significant benefits of probiotics. As soon as my pumpkins are ready I want to make pumpkin butter. It is my favorite fall breakfast on top of sourdough toast. We've enjoyed homegrown kale, broccoli, beets, lettuce, carrots, chard, tomatoes, beans, peas, yellow squash, cucumbers, potatoes, rhubarb, and a slew of herbs, as well as wild huckleberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries, and blackberries. I planted my blueberries and raspberries in the wrong place, and my onions and strawberries never thrived, so I'll have to make some changes to those. The Brussels sprouts are still growing, and should be ready after the first frost. There are mushrooms everywhere right now, but I'm not brave or knowledgable enough to forage for those yet. We're still getting a handful of fresh eggs every day, and I need to decide if we're going to install a light on a timer to increase winter production, or just let nature take its course. I bought spring bulbs to plant, but I'm not sure where to put them yet. I might put a flower garden where the vegetable garden is now. Come spring, I will have crocuses, giant allium, narcissus, tulips, anemones, bearded irises, snowdrops, ranunculus, and grape hyacinth making appearances. Most of them are good naturalizers, so I'm hoping they'll just spread throughout the garden over the years and make it look wild and lovely.
What I've Been Thinking About
This fall, when everyone was posting pictures of their kids in their back-to-school outfits, I nearly had a panic attack. We've decided not to do preschool again this year for Amelia, and I've been looking into homeschooling and unschooling, but by no means have I made up my mind. I laid awake almost all night thinking about education and what the best path would be for our kids and for me. I think our kids would do well no matter which path we choose, but I want to give them the freedom to explore their interests and become lovers of learning, which I think can be more difficult if they're confined in a classroom for seven or eight hours a day. I have almost no confidence in my abilities to be a homeschool parent, but I like the idea of learning along with my kids and letting them play and explore and participate in the daily life of our little burgeoning farm. (Caveat: Putting my thoughts here runs the risk of offending someone who has chosen a different educational path, but I have no judgment for anyone else's decision. These are just the things that have been rattling around in my brain, and we may well completely change our minds.) This fall we planned out a bit of structure to our week to get a taste of what home-based education might be like. It's very loose, but it's been so good for us. We go to swim lessons at the Y on Tuesday mornings, have a play date on Thursday mornings, go to the Farmer's Market Thursday afternoons, and we're working on reading with Amelia. Our themes for the year are reading, swimming, and gardening, and I plan to give the kids their own patch of earth once we move the garden. We have a great local homeschool resource center through the public schools that our neighbors utilized for all four of their kids. And we have a local branch of Classical Conversations that I'm going to check out. Bryan and I are also going to an advanced screening of Class Dismissed in Monroe next week. It's a feature-length documentary about homeschooling, and the filmmakers will be there. I'm looking forward to it.
What I'm Reading & Writing
I've been reading the Anne of Green Gables books again. I just started Anne of the Island yesterday and I'm just immersed in that world right now. I love it so much. It's so fresh and wholesome, but also deals with difficult things. I'm also reading Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt. I've just acquired The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns. And for my birthday I received a wish list book, E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. In November I'll be hosting a small gathering of women for a Bible study on hospitality written and designed by a lovely company called She Reads Truth that Joey got me turned onto. I'm excited about it. My writing group has just celebrated four years of meeting together weekly. I can't believe it. I don't have a novel finished, but my life has been enriched beyond recognition by the friendship of these kindred spirits. I am so grateful for them and for their faithfulness. Speaking of having a novel finished, my sister's YA paranormal romance, Velvet, will be published by Macmillan this spring under the author name Temple West. It's available for preorder on Amazon. It's been so fun seeing her go through this process. I'm quite proud. My brother, too, has written two science fiction epics, and is working with an agent to begin pitching to publishers. I'm the oldest, and the farthest from having a published novel, but I suppose we're just going in reverse order, so it will be my turn next. My mom sweetly reminded me that I was published long before my siblings, just in newspapers and magazines. It was a comfort to me. And speaking of that, I've met with the editor of our little local newspaper and she wants me to write for her. There's not much money in it, nor fame, but I think it will be fun.
Well, this is quite long, and I haven't said half of what I could have said, and I've said more than half of what I should have. I may try to post here a little more often, if anyone cares. Is anyone out there? Don't be shy about leaving a comment. What are you doing, thinking about, reading and writing these days?