Tag Archives: hoophouse photo


Batman rushes over to my kitchen counter with his two older homeschooled siblings, Hansel and Gretel, but his 5-year-old heart is not into looking at the grossness of the kefir grain globs, or even smelling the luscious cream cheese I made from it (He will melt later, though, when I give him some fresh kefir bread).  He twitches and dances in place, his mind outside on the trampoline, on the joy of jumping.


“This is Science,” says their mom happily.  They are here for a total of just twenty minutes — a blissful break from their routine — and then the piano teacher, a high school senior who comes to their house and charges $5 a lesson, will arrive at 3:30.

After about five minutes, I pronounce the kefir lesson officially over and the kids bolt for the door as if they were going to Disneyland itself.  Their mom and I slowly follow them out and stand together on the deck in the sun, and I try to take in the scene through their eyes.


The chickens and all three goats are down in the lower pasture enjoying the piles of flick weed we’ve thrown over the fence for them.  I’m brushing out Sage’s fleece in great gobs now, and saving it in a bag, but you couldn’t tell it from how fluffy he still is.

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A mourning dove coos in the forest.  At first I think it’s an owl, but the sound is softer and less punctuated.  The Bearded One hears it now, too, from where he sits watching the kids jump.


All three kids jump at the same time, a first for Batman.  He’s always just been too small.  He is elated.  Empowered.  He whoops and hollers.  He just got the training wheels off his bike two weeks ago.


“MOM!”  Hansel sees us standing on the deck and runs over.  “You have GOT to come with us!  PLEASE!”  He’s headed toward the hoophouse.

The thermometer on the hoophouse reads an incredible 80F degrees on this 50F degree day.  The kids want to escort their teacher into a humid jungle she will never forget.  The heat will bake you! they say.  You can’t breathe!

Any sunshine at all magnifies the heat through the plastic.  I just watered this morning, so the humidity is intense.  Water drips like after a rainstorm.

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“PLEASE!” the students beg, but their mom says she has to stay up on the deck and watch for the piano person.

The kids are entering the hoophouse now.  Hansel and Gretel run the length of it, but Batman stops at the door and dramatically clutches a hand to his mouth, indicating that the sheer intensity of the heat has fried his lungs.  He backs out, then steps back and waits a second to cool off.  He can’t wait to be overwhelmed again.


And then the young piano teacher drives by on her way up to their house.

Hansel’s lesson is first, but Gretel wants to go with him.  The two siblings race across the yard to the back gate and the secret forest trail to their house.

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Batman instantly realizes that all the trampoline competition has just run off.  This has never happened before.  He swings into action.  “Can I jump ALONE?” he asks.


“Yes,” his mother says, “for a couple of minutes,” but he hears no time restraint.  He beelines for the trampoline and sings out, “Doink,” on each of the seven log steps.

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And then he begins to jump.  Higher and higher.  He stops and skips around the perimeter, feels his weight in his legs.  He shouts Hee-Haw and shakes his booty and yells for us to watch this and watch this.  Finally he lays down flat on his back in the middle of the trampoline universe, looks up into the cedars, and sings out again, “I can do it.  I can do it.”

His mother smiles and wonders out loud if there is actual piano playing going on over at her house.  “Time to go!” she says and takes her kefir grains and the jar of cream cheese and her littlest student home through the front gate as he says he wants to stay for ten hours.

A good day at school.


Time to Come In

It’s 7:45pm and very dusky and the Bearded One went for a walk an hour ago, seems like.  We work later and later these spring days, but he’s usually in by now.

Our dinner, fish and rice, is out of the oven and I just put a kefir cheesecake in fifteen minutes ago.  The house is beginning to smell sweet and custardy. I fed Ruby a couple of hours ago.  She hardly goes on the evening walk with him anymore, staying put and pretending to sleep.  She’s 12.


I’m not a worrier, really.  The Bearded One is very careful.  He has survived in the Alaska bush.  We have safety protocols for our toothbrushes.  He can imagine the most outlandish possible catastrophes as only an experienced lawyer can.  So I’m not really worried, more just curious what has delayed him.

I step out onto the deck.  It takes a minute for my newly-bifocaled eyes to adjust to the dark as well as to the distance in the backyard.  It’s extra dark because of the new moon this week.  Venus is out, and I can’t read the temperature in the hoophouse any more.  I whistle.  Our standard “Where are you?” whistle.


It is immediately returned, and I turn to locate the Bearded One clear in the back corner of the yard by the apple tree.  His hands have been in his pockets, and he’s been looking up, studying, but now he steps back and waves.

“Comin’!” he shouts, shoves his hands back into his pockets and starts the trek in.  Past all the tender young vulnerable baby plants in the gardens.

Past the new no-dig potato garden — layers of newspaper, compost, minerals and straw — we put together late last week, and I’m hoping is free of last year’s scab.

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Past the onion and garlic garden I planted just this afternoon, all just watered.  The ink is barely dry on the stakes identifying their date of birth.

When I was planting the little round onion sets, the Bearded One worked on the lower pasture goat toy, and we both listened from our side of the forest to the sheer intensity of the distant neighbor children — 5 years, 7 years, or 9 years of concentrated life — and their visiting friends whoop and scream.  An indignant 5-year-old voice, clearly reporting to an adult, rang out, “HE TRIED TO CUT OFF MY HEAD!”  The Bearded One and I looked at each other and both laughed.  We lost our heads years ago.


Now the Bearded One opens the hoophouse, which is full of inch-tall, cool weather seedlings — radishes, broccoli, turnips, cabbage, kale and fava beans.  Every day and evening he patrols for slugs.  This morning he removed one trailblazing slug on the inside, halfway up the plastic.  I lined the beds with Diatomaceous Earth, the fossil flour that theoretically they can’t cross without dying later on.

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There’s a dark truth to spring, I think.  Young things everywhere are in jeopardy.  We try to protect them, but slugs get in.  And so do chickens.

The sweet pea teepee is still surrounded by a chicken wire fence initially installed to keep a temporary backyard chicken out of the slender, infant peas.  We adopted the young Amerucana Sweet Tart and for a month, while she healed from a dog wound, she roosted at one end of the hoophouse and had the run of the backyard.  It was quite idyllic.

Until she got through the hoophouse partition — I left it ajar — and scratched around in the seed beds, wiping out a section of turnips and broccoli.


That night we put her up in the coop with the nine other hens and she has integrated beautifully.

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Now the sweet pea teepee chicken wire keeps Garfield out.

The Bearded One closes the hoophouse door and crosses the small lawn, which needs mowing again, but it rained all weekend.  It’s full-fledged dark when I open the deck gate and meet him.

“The apple tree,” I say, and smile.

“Every branch is in a different stage,” he says, serious and enchanted as a toddler.  “Some just barely budding, others goin’ gangbusters, leafin’ out.”

“Yep.”  I hug him, and hustle him safely inside.


Jam On

My ankle is still fragile, so I’m wearing my hiking boots in the kitchen.  I’m wearing my brown pioneer skirt, too, so I look like Granny Clampett.


The Bearded One is out in the shed working on the spoon he had just started when he succumbed to the flu two weeks ago.  We are both so happy in our little lives we can hardly stand it.


I’ve got six months to make 220 little jars of jam, one for each guest at our oldest daughter’s wedding on August 24.  Can I do it?  I’ve got to get my jam on.


This wonderful wedding jam job has given my garden a focus, too.  I’m filling the Circle Garden with strawberries and blueberries and rhubarb.  I’ll transplant the strawberries from the hoophouse this week, making room to seed it with spring radishes, lettuces, broccoli and cabbage.

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Right now, though, I’m warming up my jamming chops, making a few pints with frozen berries, and reflecting.  Spinning, really, with the speed and intensity of our grown children’s lives, and our role in them.

First there’s our youngest daughter bursting into hysterical tears in our driveway on Thursday morning.  I see her anguish, her night nurse fatigue after four 12-hour shifts.  “It’s the first rule we learned in nursing school!” she wails as I hug her thin chest.  “Don’t trust anyone!”

She’s no longer 26-years-old, she’s my little girl and I listen to her story of work frustration and get her to the hot tub and cheer her up by modeling a few of the many silky tops available to her from the huge bag of Goodwill clothes our lovely neighbor Edeltraut gave us.


She scowls and shakes her head over and over, but then I hold up the cutest one yet.  “That’s so 2002,” she says sourly, and then begins to smile and adds, “This is fun.”

Then I answer the phone on Sunday morning when our 21-year-old son calls.  His voice is so pained, my breath catches when I hear it.  “We were robbed,” he says.  “My bass and amp and guitar and effects pedals, the ones I got for Christmas, all stolen.”

I cry out and the Bearded One rushes to the phone.  No one was hurt.  Our son was jamming with his roommates and a few other friends late Saturday night.  He had gone to bed at 1:30am and left the instruments in the rec room, and when he got up, they were gone.  He feels like puking.  He slept right through it.  The thief was probably someone at the party.  The Bearded One counsels him out of the chaos and shock toward all the responsible citizen stuff he’ll need to address quickly.

Just a month ago, our son was playing that bass right here in front of the woodstove.

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Since then, his cover band booked its first gig, a sorority event on March 14.  And now this.

Our oldest daughter is here when our son calls with the news.  She watches the Bearded One handle the crisis after I go off to weep.  Later, at dinner, she says to the Bearded One, “So, there’s this friend who’s getting a divorce, and he says that I should marry someone I have a lot in common with.”

The Bearded One says, “I know you’re not asking for advice, but that’s horsesh*t.  Just plain dumb.”

Our daughter laughs and says that’s exactly what her fiance says, too.  She and her dearest are wildly different people, as are the Bearded One and I.  Matchmakers wouldn’t give us very good odds, but life isn’t a smooth race and our differences have helped us more than hurt.

When the Bearded One comes in for a late burrito lunch, I’m just taking the second and last batch of jars out of the canner.  He says he’s been sanding for hours.


The spoon is indeed much smaller than the baseball bat he started with.  It’s lovely.

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He tells me that it is made completely with hand tools, and that the madrona wood is harder than he expected.  He carefully places the unfinished spoon on the kitchen table next to his plate.


We’re eating and talking about spoon craft when our son calls and tells us about what the police said — that they’re checking videos at key intersections close to the house, finding and questioning the one unknown visitor to the party, and sending the bass serial number out to pawn shops in the area.


“Are you okay?” I ask.

“There’s lots of guitars in the world, Mom,” he says.  “We’re still practicing tonight.”

“All right,” I say.  “Jam on.”