Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Camping Zen

There were a lot of photos I thought to put here. A lot. You can see them by going here:

But the fire shot seems to capture something. The stillness and reflection that comes over you as you gaze silently into the dancing flames.

This past weekend we went camping. We took the boys with us and went for two nights. Sounds small when typed out, but anyone with kids knows just how long two days can be. Shoot, two hours can seem like eternity sometimes! This was our first two-nighter with the kids.
I'll admit, we arrived on grumbly notes. Busy from the days before, stressed out, ready to relax. Having to unload the car and remember how to set up a tent, while trying to keep two boys from fighting, stomping on the tent, and playing in the mess left by previous campers isn't exactly the mood setter.
But we cleaned up the site. We moved rebuilt the fire-pit in a safer spot. We set up our tent in a clearing along the creek. We let go and let the kids play in the creek. When you really are looking for zen, you won't find it. When you let go, it will come to you.
Being out in the woods fills you with peace and serenity down to your toes. As we would walk along the path back to the entrance, we could smell honeysuckle in the morning, though we couldn't immediately spot it. The sweetness filled the air. Leaves rustling in the breeze, babbling creek, poets and writers have said it all much better than I.
It was the letting go for me. Letting the kids run and play. The creek was shallow, so we let them play in it and build dams, through rocks, splash around. We brought stuff to help keep them busy: a frisbee, baseball and gloves, a couple toy nets with a ball, and glowsticks for the evening.
Justin and I were able to do our own things while the kids did theirs. He played guitar, I read and took photographs. We weren't ignoring each other (or the kids), we were all able to operate and function harmoniously at the same time.
We got to notice nature around us. Big spiders, baby birds in a nest in the shelter, butterflies galore, a brightly colored centipede, deer bounding through, and fish caught from the river. Most of these things we don't have in our own backyard. Even butterflies are something we miss here. We've been happy to note that each year we seem to get another butterfly, so progress is being made, but to see them fill the air around you is something else entirely.
Of course, we did have our grumbly and growly moments too, but that also is part of life. They were moments, but they weren't defining ones.
The defining memories will be: the boys watching Justin keep the centipede on a stick while I took pictures; sitting around the fire, the boys already in their pajamas, jamming with Daddy; laying in the tent, trying to get everyone to take a nap, feeling the breeze come through the screens as we lay in the shade of trees high above and listened to the stream; the satisfaction of catching your own dinner; the silliness of making faces for the camera; the tribal silliness of boys and glowsticks; the tree that arched over the trail; knowing that we didn't leave the spot as we had found it, we cleaned it up and restored some health to it; Tristan calling our camping site "the backyard"; Shannon declaring it the "best camping trip EVER" (even if he did that before we ever left the house!).
That is Zen for me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Drunken Frat Boy Idea - The Hay Bale

This has been a PAIN in the .. well, you know what to get to post correctly. Here is a description of the above slideshow!

So, as mentioned in my previous post, we started May off on the right foot with an official "Drunken Frat Boy Idea." You know those ideas. They're the ones that you just KNOW will work. They're the ones that HAVE to be fueled by a lot of alchohol, so it is lucky for us that we're homebrewers! Another rule for these ideas: you can't think on it too much - if you do, you're doomed to fail. You just need some booze-pumped testosterone flowing, sheer muscular strength, brute force, a general idea of what you want to accomplish, and some other idiots as silly (dumb?) as you to attempt it!
Our Dilemma: We got a large, round bale of hay delivered. It was put in the driveway, as you can't access the back yard by vehicle. The garden is in the BACK of the backyard.
The Idea: Since the hay bale was wrapped in netting, it seemed like it would be a fairly easy task to simply knock it on it's side (something I did by myself!), then roll the thing to the garden. Once in the garden we could "unwrap" it, and spread away! However, the fence was still an issue. We tried fitting it through the gate once, and realized it was a no-go. Surely if Egyptians could build pyramids, we could figure out a way to roll the hay bale OVER the fence. We gathered some materials: lots of beer,a long 12' board, and some friends willing enough/dumb enough to try and help us.

Friday, May 8, 2009

May gets underway ..

This is a photo of the guys beginning to clear out the potato garden area. We were really blessed to have friends who shared extra organic seed potatoes with us, enough to fill the area!! WOW!! We put in 5 "long" rows and 3 "short" ones. While we aren't tilling at all this year, this particular area hadn't been touched by anything other than a lawnmower in a couple years, so it did need clearing out. We dug small trenches for the potatoes, put in a layer of compost, set in the cut up seed potatoes and then topped them with a nice layer of straw.
Though I had been beginning to worry about them not coming up, I just looked out and saw one row sprouting up nicely with more sprouts starting to peek through in other rows. Once the sprouts start really coming in we'll add more straw as mulch.

The front gardens are starting to do well, especially the greens. For some reason, our carrot seeds aren't wanting to sprout. Late last week I resowed some as I thought perhaps we set them out to early. Nothing really coming up yet, but we'll give it a little longer before we toss in the towel. The beds really need weeding thanks to all the rain, but I'm surely not going to complain about the rain! I have noticed that we have one strawberry that has turned red, so that is really exciting!!! The cherry tree looks to be full of berries too, so that is another very big excitement.
The onions we planted in the bed under the boys window seem to be doing well. Though since this is our first year growing I have to admit to not really knowing what is proper growth for them. We'll see. The Blue Hubbard squash plant's leaves are turning yellow. That's a head-scratcher. There is only one plant in there, it has gotten plenty of rain, and is in a nice mixture of aged compost and dirt so I have no idea what's up. Gonna go with the theory, for now anyway, about plants just following their own rules and guidelines, not ours!

Yesterday we worked on the back garden, which still doesn't yet have plants actually planted in it! A friend delivered us some old pallets which we used to temporarily patch the holes in the fence. We're planning on putting a picket fence in, but funds are an issue, so we're making due with pallets (which can then be re-used again to build another compost bin!). While Justin messed with that, I worked on emptying out the old compost bin. I have to admit that it hadn't fully composted. I think we need to turn it more often. Anyway, it took 5 or 6 wheelbarrow-fulls, but all the compost is now spread around the garden. I was then able to get one wheelbarrow-full (VERY FULL!) of wet, spoiled hay into the garden before we had to call it an evening.
Things we have learned: 1) When planning compost piles, make sure to take into account how you plan to empty them. Currently ours our too close, making emptying out the old one a true pain. Luckily, it is getting tossed since it didn't keep dogs out. But lesson was still learned!
2) We were lucky to get a big, round bale of spoiled hay delivered to us. Unfortunately, there was no way to drop it off in or near the garden. It went in the driveway. We tried getting it up over the fence (a seperate blog that I promise I will post soon!), which ... well I don't want to ruin the suprise, but it didn't work. ---- LESSON LEARNED: We're planning on putting in a new fence and gate at the end of the driveway anyway, but now we know to plan to make sure that the entry there is at least 6' wide. This way we can at least roll a hay bale through the gates.
While we haven't finished spreading mulch or hay, the garden IS ready for plants to be put in it. We plan to get out there and do that as soon as we have a good evening (or weekend day) where the weather is good and we aren't swamped with other "must-do's".

ALSO ~ APRIL'S EGG TALLY: 119 Eggs -- Year to Date (as of April 31st) 379 Eggs ~ YAY!!

Finally, this morning I wondered down to our Farmer's Market. I've been really excited about it since they've begun allowing meat & dairy to be sold! WOO HOO!!! I picked up some plants for the garden, since we've had bum-luck with some of the seeds. Got some Black Beauty Zucchini, some straight yellow summer squash, and then 8 red bell pepper plants. Let's REALLY keep our fingers crossed that these babies transplant well into the garden and take off. It will be our first year really attempting zucchini and summer squash too, so lots of excitement there.

How's your garden growin'??