I fell asleep with a splitting headache last night — slathered in lavender oil with an icepack on my neck.  I woke up free of pain this morning.  It was a transformation.  I was healed in the quiet of the night.  I hopped out of bed, threw on jeans and a sweatshirt, let the dogs outside, played with the kittens for a moment, stepped back in the house, fired up the studio, put the kettle on the stove and turned on Rose Cousins’s “Let the Light Come In” — a song I play when I want to be cracked open.

I stood in the kitchen, my bare feet pressed tight against cool hardwood, the grey light of morning streaming in the windows.  I reached my arms out, feeling the slow pull of my chest muscles reaching deep into my biceps, down to the bones of my wrists, into the buzzing tips of my fingers.  I raised my hands above my head, pushing at invisible things, sinews heaving and hauling.  I burst into tears right when Rose sang the word “forgiveness”.  I stayed there in the kitchen, swaying and moving to the music, folding and unfolding, paying attention while shifting and sifting through my body, from top to bottom, isolating and caring for specific muscles and joints, stretching them and rotating them until everything felt loosened and lubricated.

I thought a thousand different thoughts while I was moving to that song.

I heard the kettle heating up.

Penelope barked.

I saw water turn on in the side hayfield and I watched farm boy head down the driveway, his morning irrigation duties attended to.

I recalled my time with my grandmother in Saskatoon, how I took coffee over to her place and as I sat down in her living room I remember distinctly thinking, “I will sit on the loveseat because the sofa is Grandpa’s spot.”  Even though he is gone, I wanted to leave space for him in the room.  The whole time I talked with grandma, I was aware of his absence.  If he had been there with his twinkling blue eyes and his funny laugh I’d have asked for a couple of good stories about the olden days and draft horses and thunderstorms and heavy machinery accidents…like I always used to.

Where did he go, anyway?  Where does everything go?  What were these aching cells of mine before they became me?

The sun suddenly hit the canyon wall and the world turned gold and the palest blue, like faded robin eggshells.  Rose sang out, “Let the light come in…embrace it…” and I reached out wide once more, opening to the morning, to the new day, to a blank page, to possibility, to daydreams.

The kettle whistled.

I began again.


Meanwhile, at the farm…

…everything is growing beautifully, I am at war with a skunk, the kittens are hunting, I’ve started my 2017 canning/preserving as well as infused oil and tincture crafting (wildcrafted and homegrown), we took our second cut of hay, the orchard is about to be ready for the first harvest of plums.

If you can’t be with the one you love, love the ones you’re with.


Farm Catch Up

The hens and turkeys have been moved out to the coop!  Hooray!  We were only able to leave for 48 hour increments for a few months while they were in the brooder so this feels like freedom to me.  Our flock is tremendously beautiful and diverse.  Our turkeys, too, are beautiful birds.  I never thought I would say this, but I really love those turks.  I’m a turkey girl!  They’re kinda chill but also sort of zealous.  It’s the strangest thing and difficult to describe.  If you’ve raised turkeys you know just what I mean.  We bought three meat birds from our local ranch supply because we didn’t want to order 15 birds from afar, 15 seemed like too many but what we were really after was a mixed bag of heritage turkeys.  Did you know that white and bronze turkeys (your run of the mill meat birds) have been so selectively bred that they cannot reproduce without the aid of artificial insemination and at about a year old, their legs actually give out?  They are not physically equipped to hold themselves aloft!  It’s just the saddest thing.  They have been so tampered with they’re ill equipped for life.  Anyway, Robbie found a local heritage turkey breeder in the Boise area and we managed to score 7 more turkeys for our flock and they are all hybrid heritage breeds.  YES!  I can’t wait to see their adult plumage.  We’ll hold our heritage turks over so they can lay, hatch and rear their own broods in the spring.  All of this is to say, I think it’s great to buy (if you can) a locally raised, organic, heritage, free range turkey for your holiday  meals, additionally, those birds are most likely raised by your local ranchers and famers and since we’re on our way to being a small, niche market farm, I will say thank you in advance for knowing your farmers and supporting your farmers.

Check with your local butcher shop and order up a beautiful turkey when the holiday seasons roll around.  I think they taste better, too.  Whether it’s my soul telling me so or my tastebuds…I’ll never know.

Our place continues to be an amazing oasis for every living critter you can imagine.  But the bird variety, well it takes the cake!  I suspended a pair of hummingbird feeders in front of the studio windows and I feel my friends keep me company all day long while I work or tinker.  You can’t even imagine what I see on a daily basis.  I love to work and create at my benches but more often than not, I feel mildly tortured by the view of the outside world.  I want to be out there all the time, walking, running, hiking, rafting, fishing, exploring.  I want to be nestled by the river edge with the wind in my hair and the scent of wild rose all around me.  But while I work, if I look up and catch a glimpse of a oriole or hummingbird or hear the doves sighing from the pine trees or the yellow-winged blackbirds in the weeping willow at the trout pond…I know I can make one more solder, one more hammer strike.  These small sensory things sustain me as I work and what a gift it is to be able to explore and find treasures in my own yard, or out in the hayfields.  I love it here.  This land of ours gives me so much, every single day.

On a side note, last night while I was running, Tater Tot was sprayed a few times by a skunk.  I could smell him downwind by a quarter mile.  I recalled him to my side and we kept moving together across the landscape.  I suddenly saw the skunk that sprayed him in the distance.  As we gained on her, I noticed her gait looked a little strange.  She was loping down the path ahead of us and suddenly she turned to the side and I could see that she was carrying her skunk-pup in her mouth as she ran.  She was ferocious.  When she saw us at her six, she wheeled around and galloped at us with hellfire in her eyes!  I screamed and hollered at Tater Tot to heel and we booked it out of there.  She chased us for twenty feet before she dove with her baby into a thick clump of sagebrush.  It was magical and darnit that baby stinker was cute!  From now on, when ladies talk about how they are a mama bear regarding the safety of their children, I am going to correct them and let them know they are more like mama skunks.

The kittens continue to be my everliving joy.  I love them so.  I am currently transitioning them into the outdoors.  They are nine weeks old and they lived those first nine weeks of their lives in my studio which is where they were born!  They’re my sweeties.  But the time has come for them to sow their oats and learn to hunt and be in the bigger world.  I’ve shifted them out of the studio and into the garage.  From there, a few days hence, they’ll be moved outdoors full time.  One kitten (the one with the tail) is headed to a fire family in the McCall area and I will keep the two manx kittens — Sausage Patti and Pilgrim.  They’re something else!

Sugar Baby has started bringing home vole kills and mouse kills for the kittens to check out.  She plays with her kills so they can see how to bat, snatch, catch and dispatch a critter and she also teaches them some etiquette…she growls if they come to close to her while she is handling a kill though it’s all for show.  The lesson she is trying to teach is that they can’t approach and take another cat’s kill.  Her teachings are obvious to me and I continue to be fascinated with her mothering skills.  She’s been entirely remarkable.  I’m thankful these kittens have been living so close to us, it’s been tremendous to watch our critters do their thing.

Robbie was home for the weekend and he took an extra two days off because he is headed for the smokejumper satellite base in Silver City, New Mexico!  YEE HAW!  We’ve wanted this detail for years and I’m thrilled he is headed there this year.  He’ll be in that great state we love so well until the monsoons come (probably the end of July) and I hope to travel down and stay with him for a while.  This is all to say we had to do some serious mega work at the farm this week — I’m talking sun up to sun down sweaty, grubby hard work.  We took our first cut of hay on Sunday and the swaths look gorgeous.  In some parts of the fields the hay was as tall as my chin.  It’s glorious to see it all down, smelling sweetly and drying in the sunshine.  We also hired a local boy to be our farm boy — this is answer to prayer for me.  He’ll help us with all the irrigation and cutting schedule this summer as well as checking on livestock when I am away.  I cannot even begin to tell you what a relief it is for me to have his help in Robbie’s absence.  Every time I think about it I feel a tsunami of peace.  We also finally planted the garden over the weekend and we put in a beautiful, classy irrigation system, like we always do…well, like Robert always does.  He’s an irrigation genius.

We were talking last night about how we’ve been married for 13 years and no matter where we have lived — Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Washington — we have never missed a single summer season of gardening.  We’re passionate about it and we’re good at it.  When we lived in the low desert of Arizona, we had two gardens a year, a winter garden and a summer garden.  It’s one of the things that makes a place feel like home to us.  At any rate, the garden space we are using is a total reclamation project.  It hasn’t been tended to for years.  It had a mature elm tree growing in the middle of it (Robbie cut it down).  It also had a gorgeous lasagna of straw, sheep poop, chicken crap, grass clippings and compost so it’s pretty beautiful, rich soil.  Black gold, as some say.  That said, getting that space planted was a full on war with rogue root systems, crab grasses, wavering pitchforks and generally low electrolytes for the human consortium but we got the darn thing planted.  Alleluia.

I always feel lucky that I grew up under the wing of a mom who is a gardener.  She always planted and tended a garden wherever we lived and I know that part of why I grow things is because she led me in this direction by example, as her mom (my grandmother) led her.  Growing things connects me to all my mothers who came before me.  When my mom puts a plant in the ground, she pats the dirt around it and says, “God bless it.”  I think there’s some kind of honest, beautiful magic in that so I do it too.

God bless it all.  And may every root travel deep.

The Birds and the Bees

Our bees arrived!  Robert has been an apiary enthusiast since seventh grade so he is beyond thrilled to finally have a hive going.  We checked on them yesterday and it’s amazing how much work they’ve been able to do in a span of a few short days.  We had to tear out their honeycomb because they were building it perpendicular to the frames — we hoped they would free build their honeycomb (to make for easier harvesting) but they might need a little direction from us with regards to how they hang their sweets.  Hosting them here on our little farm is a dream come true.  And since some of you demanded baby critter photographs, here are a few of those, to boot!  Though, as you can see, everything is growing up pretty quickly around here.

I thought I would include a picture of Tater Tot with the turkey-lurkeys for you.  This is the first time I let them out in the yard to free range and so it was Tater’s first encounter with them.  Some of you have asked about how we deal with bird dogs who come from really strong hunting bloodlines (which is to say they have an immense predator prey drive) and free ranging birds in the yard.  I do have a couple of thoughts to share on the topic.

Tater Tot is now 5 years old. If I didn’t have complete control of him in situations like this it would be a total failure on my part with regards to basic obedience training and establishing general pack order with my dogs.  If you don’t want your dogs to kill your yard birds, if you want them to come when you call, if you want them to abide by the rules you have set for them, you need to have some basic obedience training in place, but to be honest, the more obedience work you are able to do on a regular basis, the better.  Dogs come from wolves!  They thrive on a sense of place within their pack.  Obedience training is one of the best ways to build bonds with your pup as well as give them that sense of place that will help them to feel and behave like secure individuals.

I always say, if you have a dog that is acting up you can almost always solve the issues by exercising it more (go beyond the off-leash, downtown dog park) and working with it more (obedience training).  These things benefit you, too.  My dogs get me outside every single day and engaging with them, asking them to work for me and along side me has made our relationships rich and sacred.

As I said, we’ve had Tater Tot for 5 years but I do yard training with him on a regular basis because he needs it.  He has a very strong and stubborn personality paired with completely insane hunting drive.  He needs a tune up every single day.  To give him a tune up I simply dedicate time every day wherein we get to focus on each other.  If I am running, I heel him while I run (though we run on single track or two track on public lands where he can run free and wild).  While we travel together like that, I practice casting him off, recalling him, woahing him and running past him a full 1/4 mile before releasing him from his woah command, etc.  If he is being rotten to the cats or to the other dogs, instead of trying to reason with him like some folks do with their dogs (???), I take him straight outside and I challenge his mind with some obedience training.  I can turn his attitude around in a couple of minutes by simply refreshing his sense of pack order and pushing his mind a little.

I can’t yet trust him with the turkeys, but soon he’ll ignore them when he’s sharing the yard with them.  In the meanwhile, I sit with him while the turkeys range within his reach, I speak to him and let him know I am watching him.  I request a little self-control from him and he does a great job.  He completely ignores the ducks unless he is with me while I am herding them into their pen in the evening.  Then he’ll actually help me herd them a little bit, with the aid of voice commands from me.  He’s such a smart little pup.

Farley ignores all the new critters while Penelope is curious about them and wants to give them all the flea nibbles…which looks a little like she is tasting them so I have to tell her to be gentle.

As you can see, the duckos have grown amazingly quickly.  They have many of their adult feathers and they discovered the trout pond yesterday and to say they are thrilled with their swimming space would be a total understatement.  They add so much to the immediate yard here.  I am glad for their company.

This week, I’ll be busting my own chops trying to get the gardens in.  Wish me luck!  I’d like to have all my seeds in the ground by the weekend and since it’s still very cool at night, tomatoes, et al, can wait another week…and they have to wait another week, anyway, as I’ll be off on another shoot shortly!  I’m doing my best to roll out of bed at 6AM here, every morning, there’s so much to do.  And when I lay down to sleep at night, I sleep like a rock.  It’s delicious.  And simple.  And I like it.