Tag Archives: outdoors


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.


Cabin Fever

I walk up behind the Bearded One and kiss his neck.  “I’m hitting on you,” I say.

“Ouch,” he says and grins.

I laugh but I get the message.  I’ve gotten a little mean this week.  I start out nice — asking him to make the oatmeal this morning please — and then the temperature rises and I am compelled to imply that this behavior is actually expected, once in a while.


There are excellent reasons for my bitchiness, of course.  Dream demons, twitchy legs, squeaky doors, football, the weather, hormones.  I’ve been cleaning and putting away holiday decorations, assessing my life and wondering about the New Year, and hauling around a pile of gardening books hoping to learn by osmosis.  All indoors.  The truth is that I can plan all sorts of projects for winter, but there’s nothing for the psyche like just being outside.

“I’m working outside today,” I announce, and the Bearded One nods.  He has seen cabin fever before.

January garden jobs in the Pacific Northwest are busy work, I think as I troll the wet grass and scan the bleakness.  It’s stopped raining and the wind is blowing.

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I see the wood smoke from our chimney heading straight east.  It flavors the balmy air with unmistakable cedar.  It’s a warm 40F degrees.

I brush Sage for a long time.  It’s been a year this week since these lovely goats came to our farmlet, and I can see huge progress.

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We could barely touch their noses while feeding them last year.  And now I’m the one who breaks off our session.  Time to move on.  I strap on my kneepads for the first time in weeks.  I have no real plan, just hoping they’ll lead me to another outdoor activity, and they do.


The wheelbarrow squeaks almost as badly as the front door.  I back in between the two firewood stacks.  A series of tarps cover the stacks, overlapping like shingles on a slope to shed the rain.

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I pull the tarps back.  Moss and fungi grow on every available surface.  The huge cedars overhead creak in the wind, and I begin loading the dried wood.  I can hear the Bearded One adjusting the metal extension ladder against the house.  He lives outdoors.

I’m trundling the load up to the house when the Bearded One appears on the roof with his broom and soap.  The laundry powder, which has no bleach, kills the moss and then washes off in the rain.  He does this once a year.

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Lunch is easy tuna casserole leftovers, and after we eat, the Bearded One suggests we fix the squeaky front door together.  There are 3 pins in the 3 hinges and the Bearded One explains the steps he envisions — even though I don’t envision, my style is to just do — knocking out the pins, setting the heavy door aside, and rubbing Gulf Wax on the inner hinge surfaces.  I make an inner vow to be extra sweet to him just for this chore.


I stand at attention as he studies the pins and talks to himself.  I tap my mental foot, waiting to get started, wondering exactly what my role is here.  What I’m supposed to DO.

Garfield watches from the couch.  He meows loudly for a treat.  “No,” I say to the cat.

The Bearded One and I maneuver the door out, and I hold it while he explains every step to me ahead of time again, every potential problem and snag, the future hell of putting the pins back in after he slowly doctors the hinges.  I pray to the rainbows and unicorns.

Garfield meows again.  “NO,” I say.  He shuts up, and I look over at my kitty and he then actually moves his mouth — Meeeee-owwwww — but makes no sound whatsoever.  Such a smart cat, I think as I take the lesson and listen and nod throughout the entire pin replacement procedure.

Finally the Bearded One swings the now-silent door back and forth.  “Done and done,” he says, and I move my mouth, but make no sound.  My cabin fever has been turned down.