Category Archives: Family

2013 Family and Farm Round-up!

I haven’t carved out the time for a blog update in forever and ever, so here’s a slapdash tour of the whole darn year to make up for some lost time. If you’re not my mother, you might just want to skim the pics. It got a bit looooong. Here goes:

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I got suuuuuper duper pregnant! If I had a nickel for every person who asked if I was having twins… I would tie them up in a small sack to tote in my purse and use to whack those people upside the head. Most especially those who followed with “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”

It was not a delightful 9 months. I will absolutely miss some things- the feeling of having a mysterious, kicking creature inside me and all the wonder and joy it inspired, but mostly the rest of it was rough. I had amazing, intense nausea and please-let-me-lie-down-on-the-floor-right now-to-sleep fatigue for the first 17 weeks, followed by some absolutely crazy making insomnia and pelvic discomfort for the remainder. I was so darn happy to have that baby for all the usual reasons, but also to end that pregnancy!

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But who wouldn’t go through that if it meant you got to have this guy in the end??! Baby R- way beyond worth it.

He’s in that exponential growth period of life these days, so looking at pictures like this one is a trip. Moments ago he was a grub and today he was ransacking our cabinets and burning holes through the knees of his tiny track pants in an all out crawl-sprint for Bonnie’s dog food bowl. Nuts!

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Yep, here comes trouble!

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O has proven to be a superb older brother. There have been some minor recent frustrations as R has gone from a largely sedentary guy that a big brother can interact with or ignore ad lib in the course of an afternoon’s play to a roving Lego hoover that must be constantly monitored to keep from destroying and/or being destroyed by a person’s favorite toys, but overall it has been quite a smooth transition. O is enjoying R so much he’s even had moments of lobbying for another baby (gasp)! R is one lucky guy.

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For the chickens it has been a year of declining productivity and tree roosting naughtiness. We got our newest round of chicks in the Fall to get a jump on Spring laying and all was going great until one of our young ladies started crowing yesterday. Another rooster! Sigh. The four standard size hens we had ranged in age from about 4-7, so it was time to also retire them to the big hen house in the sky (a.k.a. my friend Catherine’s freezer). I was more hands on in the slaughtering and dressing this time around, so I think in the future we’ll be keeping our old birds on site for our own stew pot. I’m also thinking of a more rapid turn-over plan in the future so that we have more consistent laying through the winter months. Catherine and I tried a couple of new techniques in processing the hens this time- using garden shears for the beheading and skinning rather than plucking the birds (Catherine doesn’t like the skin), both of which I highly recommend.

The chicken above, Amelia, will certainly be remembered. She was constantly in search of a better place to hide her eggs, a trait which led to many misadventures. The first time she went missing I just assumed the worst after a few days, but B, in a rather surprising moment of chicken tenderness, flyered the neighborhood with “Lost Chicken!” signs. Turns out she had just been on a walkabout and taken to roosting in a tree outside our neighbor’s bedroom window. The second time she was lost B found her splayed out in such an awkward pose in one of our compost bins that he was sure she was dead. A loud screech and panicked flapping set him right on that account when he went to pick her up, uncovering the 17 eggs she had been secretly laying and attempting to hatch. Often, though, it would be Bonny the Bloodthirsty who would find her after she had flown from the safety of the fenced chicken paddock. Three separate times the chase ended badly, but each time Amelia managed to escape death’s fluffy blond jaws. Some chicken!

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Here we find Bonny terrorizing other small animals across the West.

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Ferocious!

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As mentioned before, my fabulous dressage trainer Sue and Sebastian The Wonder Mustang absolutely kicked butt this year while I was busy being hugely pregnant and then hugely tired postpartum. I couldn’t be more pleased with Sebastian’s progress! Certainly some credit goes to him being a really wonderful guy, but the layering of well done dressage training over natural horsemanship foundation training is just dreamy. He is a pleasure to be around and he’s really learning to use his body correctly. He and I are even moving up to First Level this year! I took him to a show and rode him at Training Level in October. He was a total champ (as expected) and I managed to mostly keep my wits about me and steer the proper course, so onward and upward we go!

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That one is me! In full dressage show gear- Hah! I thought showing hunter/jumpers was silly with my wool coat in the heat of the Summer, but check me out now- white pants and gloves for riding horses. Who thinks that’s a good idea?? After finding that the dressage coat that fit me well was 480 bucks (AK! I could adopt 3.84 more BLM Mustangs for that price!), I dyed my old hunt coat black and put on silver buttons to emulate dressage fashion. Totally passable, I think. I had a lot of fun at this show. I can’t wait for our next one in February.

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B did manage to go skiing in the back country- once, last April. As a guy who grew up in the mountains, skiing all through the winters, B really recharges on these kind of trips.  Once is not nearly enough! Jeez. This life balance thing is tough.

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The bees! Oh, the bees. This first year as a beekeeper has been, well, very mixed. I have loved everything I have learned and the hands on care has been amazing, BUT I think most all of my bees are dead. I found that sad, sad fist-sized clump of dead bees surrounding the dead queen of the far hive after the cold snap in the late fall. I imagine they were just too small and weak to stay warm. At last check a couple of weeks ago the near hive had a smattering of brood on two medium frames and not a lot of bees. A few days ago I watched a sort of sputtering bee topple off the landing board and found that she had the shriveled little nubby wings that come from deformed wing virus- a sure sign that the mite levels in the hive are overwhelmingly high. The virus enters the bees through openings made when mites feed on their bodies.

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I guess it’s possible that they will come back, but I can’t help but think they’re pretty much done for. They have all the leftover stores of honey and nectar from the far hive and in theory there should be Eucalyptus to forage now, so we’ll see.

It’s hard to know what did almost everybody in, possibly a combination of robbing wasps (there were soooo many this year!), mites, and stress from me checking in on them as an eager first year beekeeper trying to learn the ropes. Next year I’m going to get packages of bees from a new source and be more vigilant in some ways (robbing screens on earlier, more intensive mite control) while less invasive in terms of hive inspections. I definitely love the practice of beekeeping, so I’m going to keep at it. The dry, dry California weather (it’s eerie, I can barely remember the last rain) will present a new problem in the coming year, however, with much less forage available. Please wish us luck, it seems we will need it!

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Of course the year involved a good deal of crafting. Between O and I there are always a project or two and various supplies littering the house. O is particularly fond of anything involving tape or string, but my only-for-work pens and any strap-like horse tack also do quite nicely when constructing elaborate art installations in the house. I got really into making paper flowers. This is my New Year’s wreath:

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So there it was, a loooong glimpse at Full Hearts Farm 2013. We send our best, best wishes and lots of love to all for the coming year!

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We went to Idaho! And It Rained.

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Yep. Went all the way to Idaho so our little family plus my sister could look out windows at the downpour. Fortunately, not all fun is outdoors.

Momma's camera is fun!

Mama’s camera is fun!

Dominoes, magnetic blocks, motorcycle guy, hanging out in undies all day- fun stuff.

Dominoes, magnetic blocks, motorcycle guy, hanging out in your undies all day- fun stuff.

There was big person fun as well.

There was big person fun as well. I know, we’re so wild and crazy!

Fortunately our rental car had this inexplicable feature. When I texted B this pic, he said he saw it but felt too old to press it. Sigh.

Fortunately our rental car had this inexplicable feature. B felt too old to press it. I pressed it and nothing really happened. Sigh.

There was rejuvenation. Extra special Idahoian mineral bath.

There was extra special rejuvenation. As my sister wrote, “MIneral bath. Idaho style.”

This was my kind of fun: wildflower seeds!

This was my kind of fun: wildflower seeds!

B had planned to spend the whole week up there, working and mountain biking, but cut the trip short and retreated to sunny Lake Tahoe, California. The afternoon before he left he waged one last, wet battle on the thistle scourge that has become his newest nemesis. In California we have ivy and morning glory to test his mettle as a groundskeeper, in Idaho we have thistles. Before he left he scattered most of these seeds. They will have no care and nor irrigation, so it may be a total fail, but when did the large chance of failure ever stop me when the possibility of rampant flowers exists? I’ll report back come Spring.

A Butterfly Release

As parents B and I perpetually struggle between what will delight O right this minute and what we think is actually good for him in the long run. Screens are especially perilous territory. After some harrowing battles over the parameters of limited screen time, we are now an only-on-special-occasions screen time family. Not having a TV helps this cause.  Who would have thought that I would come to value the 45 minutes that the boys spend zoning out with nothing to do while driving to and fro from visiting family each week? Between our iPhones, the iPad and other assorted electronic items it would be theoretically possible for the Big Bro to have almost no down time. What would it be like to never daydream?

So we were especially delighted by the gift Big Bro’s Nana got him for his 5th birthday. Good, old fashioned fun: caterpillars that turned to Painted Lady Butterflies right there in our kitchen!

Here is the subsequent release:

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Big Bro holds a butterfly! Magical!

The Bees Are In!

Three generations of our family helped get the homestead ready for our newest arrivals. Here they are completing one of the hive stands.

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This is what a box of 10,000 bees looks like! Within that mass lies the queen, protected by a small cage until the new colony becomes familiar with her. The silver disk is the top of a can of sugar syrup that sustains the bees until they are able to forage again.

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Here is one of our hives just before the bee release. I am primarily using starter strips, small straight strips attached to the top of each frame to get the bees started building combs in the right place and orientation, but have included one full frame of foundation in order to have an easy place to attach the queen initially. Once you remove the queen from the package you use a rubber band to hold her cage onto the foundation and frame. Most methods of installing packages of bees involve dumping the bees out of the box after the queen is removed and placed in the hive. Yes, the first act of many a new beekeeper is shaking a roiling mass of stinging insects out of a box! Sorta nuts. After viewing many a YouTube video of this procedure and feeling less and less brave all the time, I was happy to find the technique taught by the brilliant folks at Beekind up in Sebastopol, California. You install the queen and then simply place the box of bees in the hive and let them crawl out to be with her in their own. At least it looked simple when I watched it done by the guy who had done thousands of package installations before. My own reenactment of the deed was far less graceful. Fortunately, it did get the job done.

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That’s me in a beesuit! I think I look super cool, very beekeeperly. If I was a real beekeeper, however, it seems I would do this procedure in something that displayed an aggressive level of nonchalance- perhaps cutoff jean shorts and a bikini top. This is what I have gleaned from my months of internet research on the art of beekeeping. These boxes of bees are without a home to defend and therefore very docile, I know. Knowing this is great, but I also needed to keep my hand shaking to a level where I still had some semblance of fine motor skills. The bee handler that drops the queen cage into the box of bees while attempting to remove the cage from the package must then insert her hand into the mass of bees to retrieve it. No thank you!

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When I went to remove the package boxes and reconfigure the hives after 3 days I felt a little more sure of myself. After opening the first hive and pulling out my first frame of bees most of the nerves dissolved into absolute wonder. The bees were busily engaged in the festooning (how fantastic is that word??) behavior that helps them to make honeycomb. The comb itself was barely visible beneath the moving surface of bees linked together by their tiny bee claws, but the glimpses I got were breathtaking. The comb was pure white and perfectly formed. Such a miraculous design!

Two weeks after installation I will check again to see if my queens are settled in and getting down to the business of building colonies. Knowing how easy it is to fail completely at this hobby, I am trying not to get too attached to the outcome of this first attempt. It’s tough, though. I am already so smitten.

The Ultimate DIY Project: We Made A New Person!

In the last weeks we’ve bustled around trying to get ready for the busy, sleep deprived time to come.

We also found ways to amuse ourselves.

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And then he came! Baby R!

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With the tremendous support of my family and my friend/midwife Laura there to expertly guide the labor process and catch him at the end, baby R arrived on the evening of the 24th.

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Apparently he had been waiting to share his birthday with his Papa, my dad.

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O has been taking to his big brother role very well. His only complaint thus far has been about seeing the end of baby R’s umbilical cord, which he declared “disgrusting” and described as looking like “dried out onion and beans.”

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Bonny isn’t sure what to make of the squeaky new human, but she sure likes having everyone home all the time.

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I’m still pretty exhausted but we’re all settling in well, hearts a little fuller still.

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Best Family Tradition Ever

My mother is an excellent seamstress! This gets her in to all sorts of trouble. Like the down jacket she hand stuffed for my sister as she headed off to college in frigid New Hampshire, or the time she agreed to make my wedding dress.

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Just a simple little thing to whip up in the midst of throwing a wedding in one’s garden!

But no project can match the hours my mom has spent over the years upholding the best family tradition ever- the quilts! It goes like this: pregnant moms pick a theme for their quilt and make a list of all the most important women in their lives in the months before the birth. Each important woman is sent a square of fabric and batting to embroider for the quilt. The assignment is welcomed by some and dreaded by others, I’m pretty sure. It seems not everyone is drawn to spend hours upon hours coaxing needle and floss into quilt square perfection, but most do it anyhow. Occasionally we find some serious talent hidden among us, but even the simplest squares carry lots of good love and support for the moms to gaze upon with bleary eyes during the inhumane hours newborns like to keep.  Inevitably there is a rush in the final days before the quilt shower to present the quilt- reminders are made, overnight mail packages arrive (or not! panic!). Finally a complete number of squares is pulled together and the arranging begins, weighing all the possible combinations.

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There is a lot of careful ironing…

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and straight sewing…

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… and far fewer exclamations of fury than my sewing machine is used to.

Common themes include children’s songs or nursery rhymes. I, of course, was drawn to more homestead related themes. O’s quilt theme was “Farm Animals and Their Products,” and this babe is to receive a “Beneficial Insects” quilt. Creative license was encouraged! My sister-in-law made a square of grasshoppers on a skewer- not an insect you would necessarily like in your garden, but an excellent protein source. My friend Kate made a City Bug in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, complete with rainbow flag flying in the distance. I made a square of the end-of-summer spiders whose webs booby trap our entire property August through October. They enjoy open spots at just about face level for web-making. Years ago, after a long commute by foot, BART train and Muni from Oakland to San Francisco, I told my nursing school friends about the particularly large specimen I came eyeball to eyeball with just before taking down her extensive web with my face that morning. Halfway through my recounting, one of my ladies began staring intently at my hair and uttered a most ominous “HOLD STILL” as she lunged in to sweep that very creature from my brow. Yeesh. The quilt also included many other beautiful and helpful bugs, each bringing with it a piece of its maker. Makes my mother’s, and gardener’s, heart swell.

In the end, thanks to all my favorite women,  we had this:

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Which later proved surprisingly hard to capture well on film. Trust me, this quilt is gorgeous in person. But here’s the idea:

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I’m scheduling this post to go out on this baby’s due date. Could be he has already arrived!

Or maybe I’m still waddling about.

Wish us luck!