Summertime

Summer is not my favorite season by any stretch, yet in spite of unprecedented weeks of heat here in the Pacific Northwest, this summer has been filled with charm and simple luxuries.

The creek is at what neighbors say is a record low for this time of year, and I believe it. But it still offers burbling pools for swimming, and a multitude of wonders such as impromptu crawdad boils and a reprieve from the scorching afternoons.

The wild berries are bountiful, and my daughter and I spend much of each day picking– and she eating. The variety is astounding here. The common blackberries are just beginning to reach ripeness in greater quantity than could ever be picked, and the cooking and canning finally shall begin.

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We’ve dug the first row of potatoes– 17 pounds– and the garlic and shallots, which were small due to late planting and infrequent watering. Fortunately they yielded a good handful of delicious scapes, or as I always knew them, whistles.

Our great friend made an impulse purchase of two Muscovy ducks and brought two for us in exchange for keeping them here. My husband was quick to day “I told you so” when I conceded that they’re great– adorable, easy-for-now to care for, and will eventually be a good meal that led a happy life in the grass and water. Long-term, we intend to dig a pond in the pasture area, partially for run-off management, and then raise more ducks.

Our rabbits were successfully bred, and delivered ten of the most adorable babies: tortoiseshell, black-and-white, and all-white rex-New Zealand crosses. I’m pleased and relieved that all have survived and thrived, whereas in the past these mothers have struggled.

We took in our male rabbit, who I believe is a black-and-brown rex, several months ago after losing our buck. I hoped to have colorful pelts for a variety of uses. However, my plan backfired: these bunnies are way too cute for food, my husband insists. Some will therefore be sold, some will be eaten, and we will be purchasing an additional New Zealand buck.

The garden is filling out, which feels slow but good. I’ll be prepping fall beds this coming week and planting brassicas, as well as more beans on the pea trellis after we harvest the stunted shoots for salad tonight. This incredibly hot summer has had no sympathy for our late plantings.

This is the first year in many that I’ve been filled with visceral euphoria in anticipation of fall. I suppose it’s because I’m back home. And here, I think we will enjoy the most sumptuous fall of any, and I can enjoy these sweltering summer days for their promise of eventual cool and falling leaves and rain.

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Up Close

Forest land brims with energetic life, beckoning us to be still and let the sounds and creatures and flora creep slowly into our awareness. One of the most magical aspects of our new home is its likeness to our most beloved place on Earth, the family cabin. To have woods and a chortling creek in our own front yard is an immeasurable blessing.

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Our Corner of the Earth

This was the first time since beginning this transition that returning to California felt like leaving home. Maybe it’s because this time we moved all of our treasured and most frequently used books: cookbooks, field guides, reference books on animal husbandry and gardening. Maybe it’s because the crisp, piney mountain air had begun to do its work on our lungs. Or perhaps the work we did at the property this trip began to truly make it our own.

The little house is arranged with enough furniture to fulfill most of our basic needs; enough so that we are questioning what we may simply leave behind. I still need my desk. We have yet to convert the range to propane, so we were still cooking on the induction burner and smoker. But the essentials, we found, more than supported us. The bare property, I think, with its spectacular scenery and rich potential, could keep us happy with little else.

The weather was temperate all week, with a few downpours of quenching rain. With my daughter on my back or playing in the grass, my husband and I raked more than a dozen trailer-loads of leaf mulch from under the white oak, Norway maple and sycamore trees and hauled the piles to the area we selected for our garden: a spread of field between the sheep pasture, the cluster of outbuildings, and where the house will be built.

As we sweated in the chilly air, we both felt incredulous that this is where we would toil and grow. The beauty was overwhelming.

My husband used the chainsaw to cut a fallen tree into five-foot lengths and hauled them down the mountain while I dragged and rolled down what I could. The work was hard, and only a glimpse at what we can anticipate. We left the property feeling satisfied that we’d accomplished much from our list, but we have a long, challenging journey ahead of us. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Eating Mustard Flowers

Across the West Coast, mustard flowers are budding and beginning to turn the hills and fields brilliant yellow. At this stage, just before the blossoms open, the flower heads resemble broccoli florets and taste even better.

Mustard, like broccoli, is a a brassica, and the flavors are similar. Mustard packs a bit more punch, but the tender buds are sweet and milder than the leaves and open flowers. They are gorgeous additions to salads and irresistible eaten fresh from the plant.