Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Farm to Table

I live in the city; a growth hungry city that has gobbled up nearly all the farms, ranches, and horse pastures within its Urban Growth Boundary.  A short drive over that boundary and the farms reappear. The road rolls, my head clears, the land opens, the knots in my shoulders relax.

The owners of these farms both fear land-hungry city and leverage its proximity to their produce stands.

And we love to oblige.

Today we are visiting West Union Gardens, a berry and vegetable farm. The farm stand is staffed with ruddy, fresh faces that explain which rows are open for picking and the distinctions between Triple Crown blackberries and Chester blackberries. They enjoy my girls’ enthusiasm and complement their Easter Baskets as they weigh them for the tare metric.

Berzo and Boots dash down the rows, Boots shouts the names printed on the signs while looking for the third row of Triple Crowns that opened up today. They dive into the rows and start picking immediately. Boots drops her berries into her basket and Berzo drops hers into her mouth. I appreciate that the berries aren't sprayed.

I coached the girls on determining ripeness and in no time our rounded baskets and Berzo's rounded tummy signaled that it's time to go. We headed back to the stand and the farm-stand girl weighs our baskets. I attempt to transfer some of the berries that have already been weighed to Berzo's basket to account for those she’s eaten, as evidenced by her berry splashed mug, but the girl waves me off and says that it’s all part of the experience. She's eaten at least a half-pint, which would be about five dollars at the grocery store. . . but we’re not in a grocery store.

We browsed the stand and the girls each chose a small watermelon and I picked an aromatic garlic clove. We paid for our farm goodness and headed back to the pickup.

Everyone's smiling.

Next we headed to Schoch Dairy and dropped our four dollars in the soup-can and took a half-gallon jar of milk. The cows mooed their greetings as my girls negotiated who would get to hold the jar. Vince the horse nickered and mosied over to sniff us down for treats. We have none, but he tolerates our attention anyway. He snuffs Berzo's hair sending it in all directions and sending her backpedaling with a giggle. The girls pet him and he allows them. I pet him too and ask him about his day. He snorts and I snort back. I feel you, man.

We say our goodbyes to the cows and Vince and head towards our pick-up; Vince's perked ears tell me he's still hopeful a carrot or two might lie within.

Boots tells me, “Mama, it's so much cooler getting milk from the diary rather than the boring old grocery store. Who knows where that milk comes from.”

I agree.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Itching...

Our home is in a lovely, lively part of a gentile town. There are parks a-plenty, Max trains, Farmer's Markets, the library—all within walking distance. There are classes for the kids through Parks & Recreation. The neighborhoods are tidy. Our neighbors have become extended family. The schools are nice—it's all very nice. Right down to the baggies of dog poo and coffee cups in the park garbage cans.

I'm fed, sheltered, clothed, socialized, and entertained.

Yet I feel an itch. An itch behind my eyeballs and inside the ventricles of my heart. An itch that can only be poulticed by dripping mosses, old trees that make me feel young, round stones and dirt beneath my feet. An itch that requires a balm made from wild huckleberries and fresh caught trout and lake mud and a blanket of stars at night. STARS.

I feel as though I am a zoo animal. I jumped into a truck that smelled of delicious things to eat and woke up in a place that looked like my natural home but wasn't. There's too much plastic, my range is too small, there are people around—all the time, the artificial ambiance track plays in loops, the fences are too high, and I can't break through the plexi no matter how fast I run when I hit it.

Yet everyone is so nice here.

When I was eleven years old, my grandfather died.  My father, brother, and I, road-tripped all the way to Southern California to my relative's home for the funeral.  Their home was opulent, cavernous, easily a million dollar home (in the 80s) and I looked into the back yard and blurted out, "Your yard is so small! I'm sure glad I don't live here, I would feel so cooped up."  The adults looked at each other and laughed at my frankness and naivete.  I'm pretty sure one of them patted my head.  We lived in shitty duplex, with holes in the floor of the kitchen and no handles on the shower.  But, we had 200 acres of area to roam which was surrounded by Forest Service land on three sides and a golf course on the fourth. Deer wandered in our yard eating fallen apples, the acreage was home to two horses that I fantasized were mine, a mile trek through the forest land found me at a creek in which to catch crawdads as I kept a sharp lookout for bears.  I was feral and free and I wouldn't trade those moments for all the square-footage and granite countertops in the world.

I itch for home. Not home as a place, but as a habitat; one with fewer people, more trees, running water, wilderness to explore. A place that is wild enough to make me feel tame. A place where I fear animals as they fear me. A place where I feel a part of the ecosystem rather than apart from it. I itch to introduce the wonders of this life to my daughters and my husband.

But you must build your business before you build your home.

I have no business, I have nothing to contribute to a new home.

So I wait. I get creative with coat hangers and Q-tips in effort to reach those itches. Books are windows to the world to which I will return someday. FaceBook and coffee are distractions…I run on my wheel to stay in shape for the day I run free.

I will miss this zoo when we leave. We will miss the friends we have here—perhaps they will come too?

But the damned itching!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Didn't sleep much that night...

I didn't sleep much that night—maybe three hours. Why? Because I couldn't.

The weekend was fun-busy-exhausting, the day was full, and I got in back-to-back runs. I was ready for rest. Then our following weekend plans shuffled, one set of activities out, and another set in. The news came late, so I put off sending several messages to change declines into acceptances, put off sending invitations for Berzo's birthday on Sunday, and the logistics there unto until the morrow, or so I thought. My brain simply would not let the weekend wait. Also the puppy had an accident the previous night, so it was my turn to wait for a wimper and let her outside, to avoid another atomic poo mess.

The next morning I wished I'd stayed up to get the jobs done. I would have netted more sleep that way.

Having been through so many of those no-sleep nights when the girls were little, I knew I'd be fine. I wasn't running on deficit, and being semi-conscious can make the day go faster. So Berzo and I went about our normal day and chores, but early afternoon left me feeling woozy on sleep-deprivation.

Charley came home from work. Whew, I made it. Kids were still alive and reasonable happy, the house wasn't a pile of ashes...

So I went for a run.

Sometimes, a run recharges my brain with oxygen-saturated blood and revitalizes me, and sometimes it just zapps whatever I have left.

I was zapped.

I hosed myself off in the shower. Fell into some clean-ish clothes, and landed in bed. Oh, heaven.

Moments later, Berzo came in with Play-Doh Eggs. For those uninitiated to the splendors of YouTube Kids, Play-Doh Eggs are colorful egg shaped blobs of Play-Doh that serve as wrapping for a small toy. Berzo had made several and wanted me to take a video of her opening her eggs, like in the videos. I told her I would, but I needed to rest for a while.

She said she would wait.

I told her to go and make a few more eggs.

She said she would wait.

And she did, it was pretty amazing really, because I literally did nothing for about fifteen full minutes, and she waited…weird—I know.

Eventually, her staring at me while I zoned creeped me out enough for me to drag my carcass to the front room to shoot her video.

Charley, being the good man that he is, took pity on me and cooked dinner AND cleaned up the kitchen. Back off ladies, he's mine.

I slogged through the remainder of our evening routine, and Charley and I headed up stairs to continue watching The Walking Dead, Season Four. Boots and Berzo are learning to be autonomous during this time, and learning to help each other… ….OK fine, we just clock out and refuse to adult for an hour. It's AMAZING.

Tonight, Boots and Berzo immediately start fighting. Boots is indignant and demands I come back downstairs to resolve the issue of who gets to use the computer first, and for how long, set timers, and whatnot.

Downstairs. All. The. Way. Downstairs.

Conflict AND stairs?! I feel like crying a little.

Boots and I go back and forth a bit and I use my big voice, and state that there is no way I'm going downstairs, this is our (me and Charley's) time and this is their time too.

Boots gathers a mighty huff and stomps out.

I turn to Charley, "Sorry I was a jerk to her, I'm just so tired I feel sick. I take care of those two so much, and today I need them to take care of me."

We heard no further bickering from the girls that night.

Our episode ended and we looked at each other and telegraphed our usual, five-minutes-of-the-next? look, and Charley queued it up.

We called them upstairs to teeth brushing time, (after Berzo's eight cavities we now brush teeth as a family) and they groaned because they wanted to finish their pretend birthday party. They're playing together? Sweet! Charley and I watched another five minutes and he clicked the TV off.

The girls came bounding up the stairs, excitedly telling us about the birthday party pretend game they were playing.

We headed downstairs and the kitchen was clean. Everything was put away, the counters were washed and the sink was scrubbed. Boots had done it all. She had even sorted the laundry and picked up around the house. I oohed-aaahhhed and wowed about it all she did and offered to give her a couple dollars for all her help. She actually looked a little mad and said, "I didn’t do it for the money, mama, I just wanted to do something nice for you." (I didn’t tell her that the part I appreciated the most is when she engaged Berzo in a pretend game. An older sibling taking care of a littler one… as The Donald would say, "it’s HUUUUGE!")

She never said so, but I'm fairly certain she lingered outside the door and overheard what I said to Charley.

With a renewed respect for my Boots, I tucked her into bed, laid with her a while, closed my eyes and thanked God for the zillionth time that she was mine.