Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bloomers for Your Gray January Day

As usual, I haven't posted for aaaaages, and this isn't going to be very long itself, but here are a couple of my most favorite recent bloomers from the (very, very high) stack of student papers I've been burrowing through. (The rather odd topics reflect the fact that we've just done an applied argument paper regarding violence, etc., on TV, and the dear souls were trying valiantly to summarize episode plots.):

[In regards to a character associating with women of dubious character]: "He left the house with a prostate." (I don't even know what to say about this one. My dad pointed out that it might be instructive for the student to learn the different between a prostate and a loose woman HIMSELF before doing any "associating" of his own -- as, frankly, it would be much more expensive to go through prostate treatment unnecessarily than to simply, say, take the lady to dinner.)
“They are a close nit group of doctors.” (Apparently, even doctors have [very cozy] vermin infestation sometimes.)
“They have to walk for miles in the dessert to get to a gas station where they can call for help.” (  A) I would consider it a privilege to walk  miles in a dessert, and B) I hate it when I come across gas stations in the pudding.)
I'm so glad I don't teach in the math department (and so are they, believe me). Besides the fact that I would cause my colleagues serious pain and agony, I can't imagine incorrect maths answers would be this funny. Scott says I just haven't ever really understand maths enough to realize how excruciatingly funny some of the wrong answers actually are. This is a good possibility. 
love, kristin 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cider Making ... and Serious Philosophical Thinking

No, we did not do cider pressing over Thanksgiving. We actually did it in late October, but I am typically slow at doing a blog post about it! The press actually belongs to Scott and his aunt and cousins (technically, also to his brother, his sister, and his mother -- but they don't live close enough to be involved most years). We call it the Big Green Machine, and you'll never see another one just like it. That's because it was basically built from scratch by Scott's paternal grandfather and his friend. It has a hydraulic press, and although I have never used a manual cider press, I understand that it is approximately 67,000 times easier to use a hydraulic one.

Here is the gorgeous thing. The chute is where you dump in the apples; the two barrel-looking things collect the cut-up apples from the chute. The hydraulic press is the silver pole you can see in the mid-left of the picture.
The above-mentioned Big Green Machine, as staffed by Scott and our friend Jeff Adams, without whom we could not possibly do the small farming we do. He's a Real Farmer, you see--as in, he knows how to do EVERYTHING.

In order to make cider, we go buy about a million pounds of apples, and (because we are cowards) wash them. Then we stand around in a bitingly cold wind and cut them into quarters (so they are small enough that the cider press can chop them up for better juice extraction). Above you see my mother, Jeff, and Andrea Adams (his wife, you know) doing the cutting. Their hands will freeze into solid chunks of ice shortly. What I find extremely amusing about the picture is that, although we definitely did not buy our apples from Iran, the box seems to be from there. It had some writing on it about "Persian apples." And a boy in a cute little hat. Rather odd, as we knew the farmer we bought them from, and he is not: a) growing his apples in Iran, or b) Iranian. Or shipping them to Iran, although I can't say I know that for sure, now that I think about it!

Then, if the machine doesn't jam (which happens at least four times), you have this divine liquid pouring out of the press (it's being strained through cheesecloth into the bucket). You can't imagine how good it is. And, oddly, it's never better than when you shove a communal cup under the stream coming off the press and drink it right there, sharing swigs with all the other people you're working with. It's so good. 

We freeze ours in gallon milk containers. Scott's family used to can it, as they didn't have the freezer space. The word is that unpasteurized and uncanned apple cider is not even from the same planet as the other stuff.

I'm in the midst of reading Shannon Hayes' book Radical Homemakers. It's entirely different than anything I've ever read before -- a defense of/exhortation for both women and men to spend more time at home. A discussion of the benefits of producing as much of your own product as possible -- for the sake of your own creativity and satisfaction, for the increased quality, and for the ability it gives you to circumvent at least part of an economy that really only benefits the most wealthy and elite in our society. She urges readers to see even "small" changes and products made this way as really not small at all. Every thing one does that is not that of the "typical consumer" -- every sweater I knit instead of buy. Every time I knit it with yarn the local mechanic's wife spins, for that matter. Every time I make something for dinner instead of giving in to take-out. Every time I can or freeze local produce so we eat "our own" spaghetti sauce, applesauce, peaches, pears. Every new skill I learn, like making my own butter, or sauerkraut. Every time we raise our own meat chickens. Every time we eat the eggs from our own laying hens. Every time I make my own bread. They are important steps in restoring health, dignity, and satisfaction to our lives.

This cider making seems to me to be a perfect example of that sort of action. Instead of buying cider from, say, two states away at the store (which I wouldn't, because it's too expensive), we made it ourselves, surrounded by friends and family. When we divied up the cost, it worked out to $2.50/gallon. We laughed and visited while we worked. When we were done, we went inside and had a potluck lunch and then divided the spoils. The food miles for the cider were ... uh, let's see ... three. Every time we drink the cider during the fall and winter, I remember the fun we had and the way the sun shone. In the past, I always enjoyed cider making, but I would never have thought of it as a significant step in changing a lifestyle and moving toward a world I like even better than this one.

love, kristin

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Know, I Know

Good thing I'm not a professional blogger ... I would starve to death from lack of payment for posts. That would be because I HAVE no posts! I am sorry. Life just gets in the way so often! But I had to give you something interesting to read--it's interesting AND highly alarming all at once. If you have time, do also click on the link within the post where he mentions a "previous essay," because that one is also excellent (although, as a caveat, I'm not big on "self-directed schooling." I am big on the idea that we've made receiving an "A" into something it was never intended to be). This gentleman is addressing some of the same concerns friends and I have discussed about how children are learning to view the world (or not learning, as the case may be. Good stuff! Here it is:

All I can say is, I'm certainly glad I can hear Emily in the kitchen making a "food experiment" (meaning she's trying to invent her own recipe for something-or-other), Steven putting together a new Lego set, and Mara teaching Sugar-the-cat how to count. Whew! We might be avoiding the Apocalypse here!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Still Alive ... and With Bonus Drafts!

Oh my goodness. Part of the problem of having me write a blog is that I get distracted and two-months-plus goes by without me saying a word. I would like to make myself feel better, however, by pointing out that during that two months, I managed the following:

* Had an end-of-the-year week-long camping trip to the Oregon Coast (with side jaunt to Seattle).
* Had a REALLY end-of-the-year weekend-long trip to the St. Helens area for my usual Huckleberry Pick family reunion.
* Had a No-Really-Seriously-end-of-the-year weekend camping trip to the Tucannon River with our friends Sarah and Brian.
* Pulled off the following amounts of canning/preserving:
    13 1/2 pints of raspberry jam
    4 pints of blackberry jelly (jelly is the smallest-ever yield stuff -- I started with MOUNDS of berries)
    10 qts. dill pickles
    11 qts. diced tomatoes
    10 pts. tomato sauce
    1 1/2 gallons soup base (tomatoes, corn, onions, herbs cooked down to be added to in the winter)
    Approx. 20 qts. spaghetti sauce

Now I only have to can the 40 lbs of peaches and 40 lbs of pears that are sitting there looking at me! Oh, and we'll need about 50 qts. of applesauce and to do apple cider later in October. Well. I feel better now! I do find preserving your own stuff to be the most satisfying thing on earth, with a couple exceptions. One of them is making your own bread. Another is realizing your meal is almost entirely either grown or preserved by you. And the third is working with these guys:

Yours truly with Belgian geldings Tom and Jerry.

Scott with the same gentlemen. Boy, I didn't realize Scott was THAT MUCH taller than me!

My favorite horse to work with: Belgian/Percheron cross Nugget. I want you to know I got that harness up on his back all by myself. I think it weighs about 50 lbs altogether, and I can't even see the top of Nugget's back unless I'm on tiptoe. Hoo-rah!

Yes indeed, Scott took me to a two-day working class on using draft horses for farming. I've always dreamed of working a farm that way. We took the class from Walt Bernard at he and his wife Kris's farm in central southern Oregon. He is the BEST teacher -- extremely thorough, very safety conscious, and even willing to let amateurs work with his horses, who are unbelievably well-trained. My favorite work with the horses is hand-plowing:

Walt helping me plow a (semi--allow for operator error) straight furrow.

You can't imagine how incredibly satisfying it is to watch the dirt fold over on itself like soft butter. We've lost something seriously important by distancing ourselves from small-scale agriculture. It feeds your soul. The above pictures shows Walt driving Nugget. If I was a skilled teamster, I could wrap the lines around my shoulder and drive the horse that way while I plowed. I *ahem* need a bit more practice for that. Here's Scott driving and me walking the plow (Walt stands behind to make sure no one large and equine decides his novice operators are unbearably irritating and decides to run off. If you're hanging on to 1500 lbs of sold muscle and it takes off, you are going with it. Period.):

Halfway through my furrow, Walt slapped me on the shoulder with the end of the line and said, "Well, sh**! You're a better plower than your husband!" Was he lying? Very probably. But my personal self-esteem ended up seriously bettered! One of the other things that amazed me was that I could do it at all. I had this secret fear that I couldn't keep up with it -- that I wouldn't be strong enough, or that I just wasn't in good enough shape. But I hung in there every day, and never quit early. It IS a lot of work. You know why those farmers of yore were never overweight -- you're outside, all day, never off your feet but at lunch. And I'll also hereby mention that, if I were teamstering full time, I would quit being vegetarian. You can't get through that kind of work without meat protein. I know some of you will disagree, but there it is. I've done it and I can tell you. You gotta have some serious stamina!

Anyway, there is the run-down on the last little bit. Kudos to my ever-patient and kind husband, who dislikes horses and signed up for this class anyway because he knew I would like it. (He, of course, was almost immediately excellent at the job -- darn him anyway!) My goal is for us to be out on our farming property, with a pair of drafts (and using them!) within two years. I'll need more practice, and we will definitely take some more workshops (on plowing, etc.) from Walt. But I think we're ready to hit this small farming/better self-sufficiency pretty hard.

Off to can!

love, kristin

Friday, July 6, 2012

Like Ten Minutes ... Under Water

When Scott was in med school, one of the attending docs in the ER used to say, when asked how long he had been married, "It feels like it's only been ten minutes ... under water!" It was really rather funny, and he and his wife were actually very devoted.

So this June was 16 years that Scott and I have been married. It's somewhat shocking to think that in 6 more years, I will have been married longer than single. When I consider the fact that I was 21 when we got married, it also makes me feel slightly weak in the knees. I considered myself quite grown-up and sophisticated at that age, but when I look at 21-year-olds now, I think they are practically children, and certainly not qualified to do anything binding like getting married!

As you see, I've grown my hair out. Hah!

In typical fancy fashion, we spent our anniversary hiking and then driving to Tri-Cities so we could eat at an Olive Garden! My marriage advice is always (I only give it when I'm asked for it, of course -- ahem) that you have to marry someone you really LIKE, not just someone you love. The two things are not the same, and I think there are lots of people who love their spouse, but don't like them. The point is, 98% of the time you spend together is ordinary time, not sweepingly romantic. You're running errands, working in the yard, parenting, cleaning up, watching TV. If you don't just like BEING with each other, you'll be miserable. The nurse practitioner who works for Scott told him that she likes to be with us because we are so comfortable together. I'm still happy to just drive around with him and run errands, because he makes me laugh hysterically, and he's fun to talk to. I also think he's rather good looking, but that's gravy.

See? Good looking, no?
Rose Marie loaned me a book (I think I still have it, actually ...) called And Ladies of the Club. She told me I'd enjoy it, and it was a good thing to have handy to read while I was laying about recovering from my c-section with Mara. She was right -- I devoured it. One of the main characters is a doctor's wife, and one of the most memorable parts of the book for me was where the author mentioned that this woman never slept soundly when her husband was out on a call at night -- she was always half-listening for him to come home. It's the same thing for me, and I always look for his truck to turn into the driveway at night after work; I have never once (no matter what fight we might have had) been sorry to see it. It's a good sign.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Snorting With Laughter

Okay friends -- I am supposed to be taking a shower and getting ready to take my progeny to swimming lessons (at which they are, of course, shining stars), but I just have to share this link to one of my favorite blogs to read, Inner Pickle. The author and her husband live on a farm in Australia. The photography is wonderful, and the writing ... oh, Fiona is so amazingly hilarious and honest and down-to-earth, and if this post doesn't make you laugh so hard you snort, you haven't read it properly! Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


This Binki-Sucking Babe is almost 12. Hoo, boy. And yes, that's me -- from an odd angle and with surprisingly long hair.
I think that I've now pondered and sort of sifted through the following topic now -- but it's taken a few days! And, as it fits (you'll see), I'm including some really, really old pictures of the children so we can all take a small Trip Down Memory Lane.

Recently, Scott and I (am I the only one who wants to scream when women refer to their husbands as "hubby"? Anyone less fitting for that sort of name than Scott, I cannot imagine -- unless it's Sven Wilson, for those of you who know who that is ... somehow, it's just a really cringe-inducing term. Does it really take too long to write "husband"? Don't get me started on things like "hubster"!) were at a friend's wedding. During the reception we sat at a table with a couple of Scott's nurses and office staff, and one medical assistant who no longer works at his office -- she began staying home with her two children (about 3, and 2 1/2 months) a few months ago. One of the other gals asked her how she was liking being home full time. "Well..." she said, "it's okay. But I'm really bored out of my skull! I mean, it just doesn't take any brains to be a stay-at-home mother! I've had a job since I was 16, and I used my brain every day, and now I just don't have to! It doesn't take any brain-work at all to stay home with two kids."

Those of you who know my usual inability to keep my mouth shut, and also my feelings about at-home motherhood will now be waiting with some anxiety to learn what smart-ass thing I said back, which made the whole table uncomfortable. Amazingly, I managed to stay quiet. The first thing that popped into my head was, "Boy, are your kids going to turn out badly." Scott later told me that he was looking for the blood running out the side of my lip from my lacerated, bitten tongue. HOWEVER, I contained myself, feeling that I should keep things light and friendly at a happy occasion. But it bothered me -- it's not the first time I've heard that sentiment. And I don't understand it AT ALL.

One of the only pictures I have of Steven at this age -- he was SO colicky and unhappy that I was almost always trying to comfort him, and hardly ever thought to take any pictures! Isn't that awful??

I can tell you at first-hand that sometimes being at home with my kids full time felt exhausting, lonely, frustrating, demanding, isolating, and like way more work than I could possibly do. But never did I EVER feel that I wasn't using my brain. If it doesn't use your brain to figure out how to keep three young children happy, learning and occupied (while not setting them in front of TV or computer for hours a day), and then work in meal preparation (making sure it's healthy), laundry, housekeeping, any outside activities, time for your own self on occasion, and still being at least somewhat responsive when your spouse arrives home, I don't know what it does take. Any meal-preparing, recipe-reading mother (or father, or aunt, or grandparent ...) who has ever answered yes to "can I help?" from a 4 and 7 year old, and then managed not to burn down the house and still serve a meal which does not involve accidentally-added eggshells in the casserole has had an extremely active session of brain-work.

And then there's the question of the best way to relate to and discipline each child. If you sent Emily to her room when she was little, it was the most fearful punishment ever imposed. Sending Steven to his room was something of a treat -- telling him he had to miss his afternoon computer time, however, was slightly worse than bamboo under the fingernails. I am trying to resist adding here ... okay, can't resist it after all ... that the above-mentioned mother, who by her own report never uses her brain, told her three-year-old (as we were setting up for the wedding) to go to the car with his father. His response? "No." "That's not the word I want to hear," was all she said. A few minutes later, she asked again. "No." Finally, his father just picked him up and took him. I can only think of one time (each) that each of my children has said "No" to me -- the resulting firestorm, I hope, was enough to clearly express my dislike of that response (and, I'm sorry, but no 3-year-old actually grasps the irony of "That's not the word I want to hear." He just thinks, "Oh, sorry about that. It's the word I'm using, so why do you care?").

If you hold the baby right (it's Mara), you can get their hands in the right position, and they hold their OWN binki in .... (yes, I know "baby" is singular, and "their" is plural. I'm making an informed use decision).

I'm not really trying to rant here, just trying to understand what seems to be so inherently stupid in so many people's minds about women who are home with their kids. Why do we feel like we have to respond, "Oh, I'm just home with the kids," when others ask what we do? (I *still* do that! I hate it when that comes out of my mouth!) I know that many of the maternal Victorian platitudes were a disguised way of expressing men's desire to keep women out of the public sphere, but there's a certain wisdom in that old one, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." Why is it more intellectually stimulating to run, say, an office than run a household? Having been a secretary for an academic office at Loma Linda, I submit that the facts show that handling people of any age is similar! Surely, to be in charge of training characters and raising healthy bodies from the home must be significant. I can tell you it beats the holy hell out of any other job I've ever done in terms of sheer difficulty and scope, and the amount of self-discipline involved.

Thank you to those of you who are still reading after this lengthy exposition. I feel better now, and hope you do, too. This afternoon, I'm making raspberry jam with the kids. I'll be trying to quadruple the recipe on the pectin box, and considering my math skills and the amount of chaos likely involved (despite the advanced age of some of the participants), I can tell you I sure as heck will be using my brain.

Neurologically yours,