July 30, 2009

The Warmest Room in the House

Hmmm, what's the warmest room in the house today? If I fired up the cookstove the kitchen would be ... and it is tempting. Geologists are up in Monte's office again today and I've just learned I need to have another lunch for them today too. They were here yesterday, six (more drifting in later) for a gourmet lunch with my stuffed, grilled poblanos they love and white chili chicken soup. I've been experimenting with making sourdough bread, so buttered, garlic salted some slices under the broiler yesterday too, to go with the soup.

A cold front blew in with rain Monday night, so since Tuesday it's been 20 degrees cooler, and when the sun's not shining here, it's cool. I'm feeling a bit chilled right now. I'm going to reheat yesterday's soup with some from the freezer and look for a possible appetizer to go with it. Since it's not raining right now I just checked my high-low thermometer and the night's low was 38. Heard it's snowing further into the mountains right now. And it's currently 48 here. See why I might fire up the cookstove?

I'm reading a book from the library called The Warmest Room in the House by Steven Gdula. I think I need to own the book. A Trivial Pursuit game could be created from the book, focused on food history. It's got a lot of American history - through the kitchen door. Like did you know it was Napoleon Bonaparte's quest for a food that traveled and stored well that led to the invention of canning in 1809? And following the Oregon-California Trail Donnar party fiasco canned evaporated milk was invented? I knew of the Donnar cannibal story but didn't know the 'rest of the story': that a Gail Borden was trying to create a dried meat concoction sounding something like Pemmican, but eventually led to milk in a can.

It shows how much American history can be gotten from back issues of Good Housekeeping magazine going back to the beginnings of 1900! Like all the war efforts of saving food at home so more food for the troops - lots of green going on then - encouraging gardening. Because the Germans said they'd figured out how to pack food for a month of survival in an 8x6 box, America took up the challenge.

I have some of the early cookbooks mentioned: like The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book from 1897, which became the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. And my study of nutrition was called Household Chemistry back at the end of the 1800s at MIT. A goal was to understand the structure of food and understanding food safety and working towards the labeling of ingredients in foods. I thought of an old book we have on microscope experiments that started with learning what water molecules look like, and salt, and sugar. When you start from there and look at say butter, you might see the difference in cheap vs more expensive butter.

Another thing happening back at that turn of the century was with Industrialization, the kitchen was returning to the massing of homes and needing to be analyzed for efficiency now that slaves and servants were no longer doing the kitchen work. That reminded me of another fun book to read: Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B Gilbreth Jr (NOT the recent movie! The movie is it's own story borrowing only the book title. The book is hilarious! and the dad was a hoot and involved in this movement of efficiency. And while you're at it, go on and read Belles on Their Toes, written by one of the 12 kids, and then there's a book the mom wrote too, I forget the name.)

Anyway, I need to get busy. And I am freezing now, tho I have on a long sleeve, pants and hand-knit socks. I think I am going to start a fire in the cookstove!

July 27, 2009

Thanksgiving in July!

I wasn't going to post right now, but am going to try and see if linking to Dawson's and other photos taken at our house yesterday will work from Facebook postings. A cold front is moving in today for the next few days so there's some plant thinnings I want to try and move right now hoping they'll take hold with the coolness and moisture. (I just checked the above links and I don't think you can view the pictures unless you sign into Facebook so eventually I'll post them to my photoblog.)

I'm calling it Thanksgiving in July because all the same people here yesterday have been here for several Thanksgivings together and friendships have grown and conversations are so lively!!!! Sarah's parents, John and Kerry are in town right now, so they drove up along with Travis and Sarah. Dawson's girlfriend Splarah came (she has to remain her nicknamed "Splarah" with all the Sarahs around, but then there's Karey me and the other mother Kerry - gets confusing!). And then our good friends from way back - the Johnsons came too. I grilled what we call "Dancing Chickens" (recipe)(picture) and made scalloped potatoes. The Johnson's brought a wonderful almond, orange, with greens salad. And the Swan-VanDusen group brought veggie dip makings and other appetizers. We ate, yakked, hiked, yakked and yakked, and ate, and laughed and laughed ...

I picked up baby Will and after everyone left, we just sat in the rocking chair in the stillness for a long time while Heather filled the dishwasher. Will was laughing and talking to the lamp above us.

July 26, 2009

The Meadow's Alive!

I love this time of summer, anticipating it each year and wondering what either lots of rain or not will look like. This year it's exploded more. The purple flowers are bee balm (monarda) and I didn't plant them. It's one reason I never wanted to own horses or anything that would ruin the meadows surrounding us.

A rarer wildflower, my favorite, is the sego lily or mariposa lily. It's the delicate white flower. I first learned about them in the Arizona desert when some areas explode around February with california poppies and some of these wild flowers and others scattered in the midst.

There's also some blue and red flax along with yellow salsify

July 24, 2009

Lone Ranger

I just read a quote by Dan Rather and thought of this picture of young Dawson. I often played classical music for home background 'noise' to mellow harsh noises of telephone or whatever that might disturb a nap, and it is nourishing to my being.

I remember Dawson bouncing up a storm on this horse - even to this music ... did he think he was a Lone Ranger cowboy? Don't even know how much he'd seen of cowboy movies then. But it was one way to release his much excess energy!

"An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger."

July 21, 2009

Velveteen House Again

Once again our Velveteen House ... As I write, young people are outside around the campfire cooking their breakfast.

Dawson went camping this weekend at the annual Bow Jamboree. We used to always go to this since 1982, camping with hundreds of other archery hunting families - lots of courses of targets to shoot at and fun activities. Monte hasn't been archery hunting for several years - until more testing is done on whether wasting disease in elk and deer, like mad cow disease, can transfer to humans. For probably more than twenty years our main meat we ate was elk, with some deer, and an occasional antelope, moose and bear (and I've eaten rattlesnake, mormon crickets, and I can't remember if I've shared lion, raccoon, and coyote with friends who've eaten them).

The kids here are from our church youth group who were camping all weekend. The graduating seniors finished the trip here last night and will leave today. Camping? I guess they all slept in the bunk house last night. It didn't rain here (it sounds like west Denver got zapped last night with horrid hail, wind and rain that broke tons of trees, windows, roofs, and windsheilds - and snowplows for some hail removal). Lots of cloud and lightening movement that Dawson captured with his camera on a tripod. And I'm posting their campfire pic at one point when they said they were creating a volcano.

Lots of activity around here these summer days. Always friends of Dawson's around working (whom I cook for and pay). Like yesterday, I was weed-eating the lower fruit and asparagus garden (because of excess rain this year the grass and weeds are as tall as me!) and I'd like to finish today, unless it rains soon - it looks like it and is cool. Gary has been coming and cutting down giant dead trees with Dawson and fixing the campfire amphitheater since the old log seating was rotting. Aaron and Connor cleaned out the old ferret house (putting the large fish tanks in the bunk house) and they all had fun figuring out how to get it down to the old chicken coop. It's now attached to the front of the coop and the coop cleaned out and painted and shelves are being built. Gary and Dawson moved the fish tanks and stuff down there yesterday, so the bunk house got cleaned out (Dawson saw and caught a rat - I didn't think we have rats in the mountains). Dawson's welded some frisbee catchers for his frisbee golf course. Connor helps Dawson finish the rock work with his artistic ability (he's the one who's always playing the piano, as he did again this morning). Nick is occasionally here, as he is now, working on more meticulous carpentry jobs. Girls have come and gone too, eating here and playing games and watching movies. The woods junk has been cleaned up with loads taken to the dump and the old dog kennel torn down. Once the playhouse/Dawson's museum of Natural History is cleaned out - Monte's rocks and Dawson's bone, nest ... collections - I'll go through organizing all the yard tools in there. Monte's been slowly going through all his geology stuff in the garage and throwing a ton of stuff away. Then it'll feel like most everything is done around here - ready for the next season of life with Monte and me as empty-nesters. But then grandchildren - and we'll need to rebuild a swing/play area again and get another dump-truck load of sand.

Bill is back in Iraq. We were laughing about them both blowing on their soup together, so I took a picture. The picture of Will was taken at the airport as they hung out together till Bill boarded the plane. Baby Will is getting so vocal and rolling over. As I cleaned the ashes from the cookstove and swept the great room floor this morning I was thinking of us probably needing to redo the wood floor for the grandkids. Like when Heather and Will return for the holidays, he's going to be crawling, and our floor is splintering! All the years of raising kids and Dawson having a sand-table in the greenhouse and tracking dirt all over has worn the floor out. People love it, but little hands and knees crawling about will not, and I rarely walk barefoot.

"What is REAL?" asks the Velveteen Rabbit of the Skin Horse.
"Real isn't how you are made" (they were looking at all the fancy toys surrounding them in the nursery). "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?"
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful, "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?"
"...You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

We sure do have tons of great memories bouncing off our very loved worn Real Velveteen House walls!

July 14, 2009

Cooking - a Spiritual Practice

I read this, by a pastor John O'Hara, and wanted to capture it for me to ponder more and not lose it in cyberspace.
It might just be the last honest place left. A sanctuary built into our living spaces that frees us to roll up our sleeves and creatively interact with the yield from God’s good creation, the kitchen calls us to a universal vocation and a spiritual exercise.

We cook for a variety of reasons, both noble and ignoble, sacred and common. It’s a practice that cuts across the boundaries of culture, class, religion, ethnicity and gender. It is a uniquely human pursuit and a universal experience that creates for us a bond which transcends all artificial lines of division. To cook is an exercise that teaches us to live with creation – and to live in sync with the rhythms of the Creator, if we are patient enough to wait for that goodness to flow our way. Often the temptation comes to circumvent this rhythm and flow; and it usually manifests in the towering backlit signs of fast-food drive through windows piercing the darkness of our hungry and hurried world, or in the form of fruits and vegetables shipped halfway across the earth to fulfill our dietary whims and industrial carbon quotas. How we eat what we eat and why we eat it are, beneath the surface and beyond the glittering reverberations of advertisers, spiritual questions that deserve the kind of wrestling and soul-searching normally reserved for prayer meetings and seminary classrooms. We have an existential relationship with other living things: we grow, we live, we die, we feed others from the stuff of our existence. Our relationship to food is a touchpoint for that world to which we mystically and metaphysically belong.

When I am in the kitchen, I am aware that I am preparing something real and visceral, something to be broken and consumed, enjoyed and shared. More than a mere illustration of something spiritual, it is spiritual in its’ very essence. When the Church of Jesus was in its’ infancy, the Acts narrative points to people making a daily discipline of worship and meals shared. Somehow I feel that we have lost our way in the fog of our industrialized efficiencies. Quick trips to the super warehouse mega store to pick up a slab of this and a pound of that – or more threateningly, something food-ish that has already been prepared, packaged and preheated and frozen in a factory before it reaches us – reduces us to a kind of two-dimensionality, to the vocation of a consumer; when instead we are so much more complex and beautiful creatures who were designed to participate in the food chain, not just feed off the top of it like some glorified trough. What we gain in convenience through supermarkets and fast food, we lose in the quality and tenor of that relationship to what we consume. In the preparation of food, in choosing foods that are local and in season, we are fractionally returning to a more vibrant stewardship over creation. One cannot help but imagine that doing so enhances our worship relationship with the Creator.

July 13, 2009


Since it's raining I decided to look at photos from the 4th of July. I downloaded lots of pictures on my photoblog for you to peruse. So click and see.

Travis took the silly picture of me. I have another similar one Dawson took of me too. We used to throw these pictures away, but now I think they're fun. With the digital era it's more fun to take pictures without people having to 'pose' and be perfect (or somber as days of old pics).

Bear Sagas

I'm reminiscing about bears since my last post. Last night, going down to the kitchen for something, I did look out the window wondering whether I'd see a bear again. But I did remind myself, and Monte, that bears seem to cycle through every two or three days ... That is if it feels there's something to return for.

I'm a city born and raised girl. My favorite books were those about country living. Am I living in the country now? Am I truly living in the mountains? Living at 8000 feet may seem like mountains to many. I do remember drawing a picture for the kids when we were traveling around Washington with Monte as he'd do geology things.

The first third of our marriage we traveled with Monte (that's about twelve years). We'd be gone about a week and home for a couple then gone again. Homeschooling flowed into that lifestyle since we wanted to continue being with Monte. When Monte was looking for old prospects in brambly Washington and visiting geologic companies we were there for six weeks. My journal says I only saw the sun for 15 minutes here and there and luckily the sky was clear when we were in Seattle and could get a view of the mountains.

Most of the coast's mountains are 8000 feet tall - that's where I live! occasionally you'd see a 14er, like Mt Hood or Baker and St Helen's before it blew. What I drew for the kids was those mountains in comparison to sea level. Denver is a mile high, so we're hardly 2500 feet over that with 14ers behind us. So I live in the foothills. I can be to the edge of Denver in half-an-hour and most people who live around us commute to Denver for work and play daily. So am I in the country? Since we've had chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and bees, I think that's 'country'. Since we have deer, elk, coyotes, fox, mountain lions, and bear ... that's country. (Dawson took the photo of the elk in our neighbor's trailer with straw.)

When walking in the country around Vancouver and Washington I'd heard to make noise so you don't startle a bear. When one summer we were having many bear sitings, especially a mother with cubs, I remembered about making noise. My lower garden and chicken coop are on the edge of the woods. So what noise did I make one day? Don't ask me why, cuz there was no pre-meditated thought behind it ... but I just started singing - "Bears eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy/ A kid'll eat ivy too, wouldn't you" (or is it 'mares'?).

Bears put a damper on the kids sleeping out in a tent all summer that year. I was hanging clothes out to dry that summer (tho it's the 'green' thing to do, did you know neighborhoods are fighting the issue do to covenants against clotheslines?). As i was carrying the laundry basket a bear was startled and stood up. Now THAT'S Big, and scary, and I was startled! So for the rest of this summer I'm going to probably be doing more looking over my shoulder and looking for bears everywhere.

In an August 2007 post, I told of finishing off the garage and the garage doors were open. All the bear got into that time was the dog food. We now always look each evening to make sure the garage doors are closed. I have marked on my calendar in August about a bear in the garage in 2001 (I like to remember things). Monte and me were awakened in the night by a plasticy sound against the driveway gravel. It was a bear licking clean an ice cream tub. That bear had eaten a VERY well-rounded meal! It had eaten a ham, peaches, bread, spinach, and then ice cream for dessert.

Bears are DIRTY! That bear had opened the chest freezer and left dirty, greasy smudges all along the edge of the freezer. We had an old carpet in the garage at the time with exercise equipment on it. Over time dirt started building up in areas, showing forth bear footprints. Bear footprints ... that reminds me - we do have some plaster casts still of bear footprints the kids and me made from prints left on the dirt road.

Monte wants Dawson to add fencing wire over the screen windows in the bunk house. We built a 'bunk house' in the mid 90's for kids to sleep in. Since I'm in the story-telling mood, I'll tell "the rest of the story" ... The bunk house was originally built right behind our house, close to it. We didn't want to keep it there. Well, what often happens around here is we sit around talking for long spells, and action often follows. It was winter. "How's about pulling the bunk house around the house over the snow like a sled?" ... "I'll wager it'll fall apart." ... "Naw it won't." As you can see, it's sitting quite nicely, intact, and it's even shingled. The number 4 you see on the door in the lower picture? is for Dawson's frisbee golf course.

One summer Monte and me slept in the bunkhouse until it got so rainy and felt musty damp all the time. Two sides are window screen (we don't even cover the open windows in the winter - snow doesn't get in). Company overflow sleep there. It has built in plywood sleeping areas, a couch with lamp table and a desk. Monte plastered copied photos all over one wall (reminds me of a place we rented that had Norman Rockwell pics all over the outhouse walls. I wish I'd saved them before the old place collapsed under snow!). Dawson is sleeping in the bunkhouse this summer, along with his friends when they are staying over (partly in consideration of Heather and baby Will). If they leave any food scraps of any kind a bear could easily get in!

July 12, 2009


I had to open up August 2007 to see what I posted. I began this blog almost two years ago and I remembered a lot of initial posts about a bear. That's when we FINALLY after years of frustration got an electric fence! Now we can sleep in peace and Monte doesn't have to sleep out in a tent with his gun. :-D

Yes, there is a story of Monte sleeping out there. An old friend used to make up songs about some of our sagas and a naked Monte sneaking about our neck of the woods was put to music. One of the naked Monte stories involved a skunk ... are you curious? I might tell you.

Monte heard a bear last night. I heard his footsteps upstairs running, not meandering. I was knitting. I finally took the time to undo part of a monkey I'm knitting and figuring it out so I can continue.

It was a good day yesterday. I had bought more perennial plants last week. I read in the 2007 August postings that I strive to fill in spots in my perennial beds for blooming throughout the seasons ... which reminds me of an old book by Gene Stratton-Porter called The Harvester in which the main character prepared his home setting for a woman in need of healing. He took care in planning the gardens thinking through the season's visual interests. And I'm still filling in spots, both with new purchases, starting my own plants, dividing my old plants and moving things around.

Ahhh ... Gene Stratton-Porter ... if you've not read her books ... We visited her historic place in Indiana on a road trip. At that time they were excited because something like a time-capsule was found in Alaska containing old movies. They were hoping some of Gene's old movies would be in there since some of them are long gone. For years we've collected and read all her books, written in the early 1900's.

Most people are familiar with Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost. Gene was a lady ahead of her times and yet so much a part of her times in a way that helped me see my grandmother Nellie Herder's world. Characters in her books were herbalists collecting plants and insects and such from the woods for that day's medicines. My grandmother was a homeopathic nurse and she understood these medicines and would grumble about the new medicines the medical world was moving into. Gene's characters were photographers, moth collectors (there are moth's more beautiful than butterflies - I know, cuz Dawson has some in his collection - and that's got its own stories I could tell) and bird watchers and keepers of the woods so lumber companies couldn't cut down heirloom trees. Gene herself made her bathroom into a darkroom for developing her own photos (I did that in high school - fun).

Anyway, I'm still gardening. I woke this morning with thoughts of moving some plants, like a grapevine, to Dawson's newest bed he just finished. This is the last bed to be made. I didn't want to make him do anymore rock work, which meant collecting truckloads of rock from excavating a neighbor did as well as truckloads of topsoil. BUT, when I said I'd be content to leave the area the already flat level it was, he said, "But I want to make a spiral bed!" Wasn't he joking? No! "Okay, go ahead and do what you want." Monte finished posts that extend our pergola out into the new deck to the hot tub. (Remember the old posts about the oozing hot tub plant bed that collapsed? It's just finished now too. And it's still oozing/draining from the gravel and pipe the boys put in.)(See the blue wheel-barrow in the above picture? All this labor over the years ruined it. Dawson forged and welded the metal anew and Monte sanded and refurbished the wood handles. I painted it. It's like new!)

Once all the rocks are moved, finishing off some areas left in limbo, we'll get the last bit of area ready to put down some sod. Beyond his spiral bed is an area Monte will finish. He's already dumped large lichen covered rocks and will arrange it along with the knight he brought up from the lower garden and he wants to move some natural plants from the surrounding meadows, like Colorado wild irises and kinnikinnik bushes (notice it spells backwards the same?)(and there's a kinnikinnik story I could tell of Travis). Monte still has to get some picket fencing - he wants French Gothic - to do some finishing garden visual touches and make gates for the split-rail fence.

Gates ... lack of ... that's where the bear came through last night. Originally it was in our trash trailer - that's when Monte heard it. We went up to his office for a better view. I couldn't get a picture of it. The motion-sensor light on the tree went on backlighting the bear standing in the trailer rummaging for anything edible. The only smelly thing in there would be diapers (Heather's switched to cloth diapers now when not on the road). But not diapers ... he found some of Dawson's vehicle trash and licked clean some Starbucks cups. With composting and recycling there's nothing worth raiding the trailer for anymore.

We thought he'd go get into the compost bins, which Monte thought "okay - he'd stir it up" :) - but he didn't. He/she/it just rambled toward the house. We had to run down from the office to head him off. That's when Monte saw him come under the electric fence at a spot Dawson's finishing rock stairs up from the driveway parking area to our backyard. He could have then ruined the birdfeeders, like the bear did over and over again two years ago. Monte yelled him away and proceeded, in his socks and underwear, to put a board in front of the future gate opening and put the rails back into the split-rail where the truck has been driving through. He said, "It's an adolescent bear"... "How can you tell?!" ... "It's not big". I thought it big enough ... big enough to do damage ... control of my domain has be shattered.

It was a nice day ... I finished planting, putting my watering wand on mist to keep me cool while planting and weeding, cleaned everything up before it rained, knit listening to "Prairie Home Companion" and went to church. Went to church last night cuz Monte left early to go fishing. Dawson and friends are up Mt Evans backpacking. They left Friday morning and will come home Monday night. Monte's meeting them on top at Lincoln Lake and will come home later today with fish. Yes he will ... he always comes home from that lake with fish. It's a snowmelt sink hole near the top of the 14,000 foot mountain top. He has to hike down about 1000 feet. Dawson hiked up.

Me? I didn't go. "Enjoy your day!" Monte said as he kissed me goodbye as I lay in bed. I've now taken time to write! Hi. Bye. Tata for now.

July 8, 2009


I just can't seem to write blogs these days. I am still gardening and enjoying the out-of-doors. Our summer is finally here - it sure was a cool soggy June. I've been sitting out at my table under the umbrella reading and enjoying the fruits of my efforts, still dreaming more (since some areas are still being finished - like the collapsed side of the hot tub, tho finished with drainage pipe and rock and beds finished, is not yet planted and still oozing out the drainage pipe), and I'm enjoying my bird sanctuary - keeping my eyes posted for a western tanager siting - rare.

Reading? Have had some library books on gardening, and the one's I'm actually reading are in connection with art and artists. Like many artists created gardens, like Monet for one. Understanding the color wheel and showing garden examples of it has been thought provoking for me. Another library book I'm reading is Why Faith Matters by David J Wolpe.

Here's a quote from it, quoting Einstein:
"Science without religion is lame,
religion without science is blind."

And another from Kierkegard:
"Life is lived forward
but can only be understood backward."

We did go spend 4th of July weekend at Travis and Sarah's and need to sort through all the pictures taken that day. Heather is still in California with Bill's family and his brother's funeral is this Friday. They're in a furnished house on a military base there rather than a hotel - cheaper and nicer. I haven't heard from her lately so will need to call.

Hope y'all are enjoying your summer.
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