"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, June 5, 2020

Just Cute Goat Pictures



Paloma and Flopsy’s baby boy. I can’t decide who is cuter. 



My goat-totin’ man, totin’ Bitsy and Bootsy, Christmas’ two doelings. 



Hope being tickled by goat kisses from Sweet Pea, Polly’s doeling. 


Me and Bitsy. I think I’m gonna keep this one. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

DQ- OH WAIT ITS OVER!!


On Friday, the governor announced that Washington state was ending the stay-home order as of Monday morning. All that really means is that we are now officially allowed to leave home for “non-essential” reasons. There are still no gatherings allowed and stores and restaurants have not reopened. Those activities can begin whenever we make it to “phase two,” which depends on a number of variables including number of new cases weekly, hospital capacity, and I did remember what else. Daily life has not really changed, but it’s still a big psychic relief not to be in actual quarantine anymore. 

Today our last baby goat was born. Lilac was the last to pop. She’s our first freshener, the one baby I chose to keep from last year because she was the biggest, healthiest, and cutest. 



Unfortunately, it wasn’t a super easy birth. She had a single big buckling, and one of his legs was back. The kids and I had put her in the mama barn when we went out for afternoon chores and saw she was straining, and then we went inside to eat dinner and watch an episode of cutthroat kitchen, our new favorite show. 

When I went back outside to check on her an hour later, she had a head protruding from her rear, and, after a closer examination, a single foot. Luckily she was quite calm and in no distress, and the baby was alive. I called the vet and asked what to do, since I have never corrected this presentation before. 

“Can you push the baby back in?” he asked. 

“No way.” There was no way in hell I was going to try to push the entire head back into poor Lilac. It was completely out, up to the base of the neck. 

“Ok,” he said, “sometimes you can pull them out with one leg back, if there’s enough room.” 

“How can I tell if there’s enough room?”

“Feel around the baby on all sides and see if you can slip your fingers in between the baby and the bone.” 

I could (Lilac was being extremely cooperative, just standing there eating grain while I felt around in her vagina), so the vet said I could wait for a contraction and just apply some gentle traction - “but stop if she starts to really cry out or struggle, and I’ll come out.” 

It worked. The baby came out a little more and more, until right at the widest part of the shoulders Lilac gave one big bleat - but the baby was on the straw five seconds later. 

What a good mama goat! After her rough delivery, she still took an interest in him right away, and vigorously cleaned him up, talking to him the whole time. The poor little guy took quite some time to stand up. Maybe he was just tired, but for a few minutes I was worried that the poor presentation had caused some nerve damage because he couldn’t seem to support his weight. Eventually I decided to hold him up by the teat and see if he would nurse. He did, and after he got a little milk into him, and rested for a while longer, he was able to stand up on his own. 

I think I made a good choice keeping Lilac. She was bred a little young, but she did great, and having been a bottle baby she’s very friendly and used to being petted and touched. Assuming she becomes a good milker - no reason she shouldn’t - I’ll be very happy with her. 

So that’s all the babies this year. Three does and three bucks. One of the does and one of the bucks are already spoken for; I may keep both of the other does and just sell the buckling. We’ll see. Now begins my favorite time of the year, early summer with baby goats gamboling about outside and lots of milk and cheese making in the kitchen. 

Hopefully it isn’t too late, if Whatcom country progresses through stage two and onto stage three fairly quickly, for a few summer activities that were previously cancelled to be revived. Paloma told me that her theater teacher said that if we reach phase three by the early part of July, they can go ahead with the summer play. Who knows, there might even be Fair in August. 







Saturday, May 30, 2020

DQ74 - Double Surprise


Yesterday Flopsy, our second oldest goat at thirteen, surprised the heck out of us by popping out a single baby buckling, quietly and with no fanfare. 



It’s been a couple of years since Flopsy had a baby. She’s elderly, arthritic, and not in the greatest of health, and I’ve tried to keep her separate from the buck so this wouldn’t happen. I don’t want to tax her system - she’s done yoeman service and doesn’t need to earn her keep any longer. 

Nonetheless, she got pregnant somehow and threw this adorable little buckling. Paloma discovered him yesterday morning when she was going out to bottle feed Polly’s babies. 

Oh yeah - Polly had a rough delivery and developed a fever and went downhill so quickly that I had to call the vet out. I was worried that I’d done her some harm by going in to help deliver the babies but the vet said no - more likely she’d been developing an infection since I noticed the premature string of goo four days before she delivered. Whenever membranes rupture prematurely you have a high risk of infection. Polly has been getting a twice daily regimen of antibiotics, vitamin B, and steroids for the past several days and is much better. However she lost most of her milk and her twins need supplemental feedings twice a day. The vet says she may never regain her milk this year. For a few days we were feeding the babies round the clock, but today whenever we tried to feed them they already had full tummies and were uninterested in the bottle, so it seems Polly has recuperes enough capacity to feed them herself. 

In other news, the governor has finally decided to lift the stay-at-home order as of this coming Monday morning. Yhe actual changes to daily life will be subtle - we are still prohibited to gather in groups larger than 5, and most businesses remain closed. Masks are also required in public indoor spaces, and outdoors where people cannot maintain 6 feet of distance. 

There has been a great deal of controversy on the subject of masks - violence has broken out in some places - but I haven’t seen open conflict here. In my small community, I’d say about half the people I see in public are wearing masks. I wear my mask assiduously, because I work in health care and am at high risk of contracting the virus. Wearing a mask protects me a little, but if I happen to be carrying the virus, it protects those around me a lot. Personally I have a hard time understanding the resistance to this innocuous act, but it seems to have become a political football. 

Now that there is a path forwards towards Opening back up, I have a little bit of hope that some events planned for later in the summer that were Called off - like the fair - might possibly be “called on” again. 

In the meantime, we just keep keeping on. 


Saturday, May 23, 2020

DQ67 am- More Baby Goats




Polly finally gave birth today. I’ve been expecting her to do so for about a week, ever since I saw her kneeling with a long string of amber colored goo depending from her vulva. That’s usually a sign babies will be born the same day. But for whatever reason, she didn’t give birth, and a full week went by. 

Last night I could tell it would be very soon, because her udder had gotten very tight and shiny. That’s really the best indicator. So we locked her up in the mama barn. I fully expected to find babies when we did morning chores, but still nothing. I kept checking every hour or so, and finally at around noon there was a bubble. 

I sat and waited, but nothing appeared; just the bubble of amniotic sack. After another hour or so, I could see two hooves, but no head. More worryingly, I could see flecks of blood and fecal matter in the amniotic fluid inside the sack. I don’t like to interfere if I don’t have to, but it was clearly time to see what the heck was going on.  

Homero helped me get Polly onto the milking stand, and I washed my hands, lubed up, and took a gentle feel inside.  I was worried I would find the head curled back; that’s a common malpresentation and is often hard to correct. But no - I could feel the head easily correctly positioned above the front legs. But it was very high - too high to slip under the  dorsal pelvic bone. I stuck a finger into the baby’s mouth (and promptly got bitten, proving baby was alive), and exerted downward pressure to lower the head enough to let it slip under the dorsal pelvis. After that it was easy. 

The baby was huge. A big, pretty spotted buckling. Another baby appeared quite quickly - another enormous baby, this time a doe. I decided to quickly go in again and check to make sure there wasn’t a third baby - nope, all empty. 

The babies had had a rough time, as had mama. They were stained with meconium (meaning they had pooped inside - not a normal thing to do and indicative of prolonged labor) and took their time standing up. I scrubbed them with a towel, and waited to see they both stood up, but resisted the urge to further interfere. I went inside and left mama and the babies alone. 

Checking back after a couple hours, both babies are dry and fluffy, and I could feel they had a little bit of milk in their tummies. They look like they are all going to be just fine. 

Now we only have Lilac still to go. She’s a first freshener, and so we don’t know yet how it will go with her or what kind of mama she will be. There’s always a risk with first time mamas that they might reject thier babies. But luckily, she’s the last to give birth this year and so has had the benefit of seeing her mother and auntie birth and nurse their babies. My guess is she will do just fine. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

State of the Farm - DQ66

Friday, May 15, 2020

DQ59 - Baby Goats!



Paloma holding Bootsy, one of Christmas’s twin doelings 




Christmas cleans up Bitsy, her other twin doeling.

Christmas was the first to pop, day before yesterday. She did super well, only needed the tiniest bit of help in the form of a little bit of traction on the first baby. She gave birth to two big healthy beautiful spotted doelings, and then, hours later, to a tiny dead one. 

I don’t know what happened to number three, but it had clearly been dead for a long time, and was only about half the size of the others. My best guess is she was killed when our big mean buck butted Christmas in the side. He butts all the ladies, and it’s a problem. A problem for another day, though. 

It looks like Polly is going to give birth today. When I did morning chores I saw the telltale string of goo. So I put her in the mama barn - which meant evicting Christmas and her babies - and I will check on her in an hour or so. Polly is a wonderful mama, and I’m not worried about her. Well - I’m a little worried she might give birth to quads again like she did last year. But if she does, Paloma is ready and waiting with bottles. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

DQ51 - State of the Farm



The pink dogwood in bloom. 

It’s an absolutely unbelievably gorgeous day. It just could not be more perfect. I think it’s about 72 degrees, the sky is a clear, glass-of-water blue, and the grass is finally long enough to ripple and glint in the gentle breeze. The mountains are out, still snow capped, decorating the horizon to the North and East. 

The girls and I spent an hour cleaning out the mama barn in preparation for the goats’ kidding, which ought to happen within a week to ten days. This year, we have three pregnant goats: Polly, Christmas, and Lilac, who is a first freshener this year. Polly and Christmas have both thrown quadruplets in the past. I hope they don’t do so again, but if they do, Paloma is eager to take over bottle-baby duty. Hopefully Lilac will just have one. It’s always a bit of a gamble with a first freshener, whether she will take to being a mama well or not. The truth his it usually works out better if I stay hands-off and let the mamas figure it out for themselves, but it’s always a challenge to do that. Watching baby goats try to stand up and nurse is probably the single most frustrating thing on the planet, and the urge to interfere is strong. 

The garden is going well. The first salad greens and radishes are just about ready to harvest. It’s almost time to move the chile plants out of the greenhouse, which will make room for tomatoes. Maybe even melons? My cucumber starts have not done well, though, and I don’t know why. I may have to buy a few starts, and if I want to do that, I’d better hurry up because vegetable start season is almost over. 

We are expecting the farm store to call us any day and tell us  the turkey poults we ordered are in. I ordered half a dozen “mixed rare breed” turkeys. I’ve never found raising meat chickens to be worth the expense and mess, but turkeys are both profitable and delicious, if we can keep them safe from coyotes. 

Life feels almost normal - to me, anyway. This is the best time of year on the farm, and the best time of year in the Pacific Northwest. May days like today - sunny, serene, flower-scented - are the reason we suffer through the long, dreary months of November through  February. More than usual, I feel the need to pause, recognize my blessings, and appreciate the ordinary beauty of my corner of the world. 

Hope and I were talking today about the state of the nation, about the disruption and the uncertainty, the fear and the despair for the future we are all feeling. She said “these are shitty times.” I agreed with her and said “yeah, compared with five years ago, these are shitty times indeed. But compared with almost every other time in all of human history, these are wonderful times. Look around you.” 

Look around you. 

Look. 


Friday, May 1, 2020

DQ45 - Beltane (May Day)


Being in lazy lockdown mode, I have not laid a Beltane altar.  But I can share a virtual altar - the one I laid two years ago. It was one of my favorites. 




Welcome to the divine bridegroom, who arrives today to wed the Goddess. Welcome the quickening fire. Welcome the bearer of the flowering rod, the staff that brings forth water in the dry places. Welcome the loving embrace of the divine masculine, of which this world is in dire need.

Celebrate as you see fit (winky face). 

My husband is celebrating May Day today too - a newer tradition but an important one is to celebrate International
Worker’s Day on this date. Most years we attend a march as a family, which calls for farmworker and immigrant justice. This year there was no local march, but there was a call for a caravan to Olympia and a drive-by protest to demand the state impose stricter workplace protections for farmworkers. Current standards for housing, transportation, and work in packaging plants does not follow CDC guidelines for social
distancing, nor do farmworkers get sick leave, or usually have access to healthcare. 

As most of you are no doubt aware, the pandemic has played havoc with our nations food supply chains. Farmers are rightly worried about this year’s planting and harvest seasons and they don’t want to lose crops or money. But just as other industries have adapted new rules to protect workers, so must the agricultural industry, even if it hurts the bottom line. They should appeal to the federal government for pandemic relief, and the government - state and federal - should step up with funds, FEMA housing, or whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of these essential workers. 

Rant over! Enjoy the beautiful Beltane evening and eat something sweet. 




Wednesday, April 29, 2020

DQ43 (???) Meat Math 2020





One day blends into another. I can’t believe it’s been over 40 days of quarantine. Insanity. Anyhoo. 

Tomorrow is Paloma’s birthday. She’s turning 15 and it was supposed to be her big fancy quinceañera party but of course that isn’t happening. She is having ONE friend over and we are eating cheeseburgers and carrot cake (her request) out on the lawn where we can socially distance. 

The pigs are meeting their maker tomorrow at 9 am. Since these pigs started out as Paloma’s FFA project, she gets a share of the profit. The catch is, she has to actually figure out the profit (if any) from the following facts:

- two piglets cost $100 each
- we bought 10 bags of pig food at $15 each (give or take)
- we are selling the bigger pig, in halves, and keeping the smaller pig for ourselves. The sale price is $3.50/lb hanging weight. We won’t actually know the exact hanging weight for a few days, but I guess the big pig will weigh in at about 200 lbs. 
- for one of the halves of the big pig, we are accepting in trade a butchered lamb worth $200. The value of the side over and above $200 will be paid in cash. 
- the other half of the big pig will be paid in cash. 
- we are not attempting to place a value on our labor (that’s a fool’s game). 

A little quick estimating tells me two things: a) this particular pork venture was more financially successful than past ventures have been. I feel that we came out ahead this time, very handsomely ahead. And b) Paloma is going to be disappointed in her share. 

I haven’t decided what value to let her put on the pig we are keeping - should it be the same $3.50/lb, even though we are not actually getting any money for it? Or should it be the cost of the same amount of pork if we bought it at the grocery store, even though we never actually would buy that much pork? Or should it be zero, because it just counts as free meat for us? What would an actual bookkeeper say? Any actual bookkeepers out there? 

Paloma wants to know. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

DQ39 - Today’s Art


Today’s page in my sketchbook. 

Passing the time today making rhubarb gummies (slice rhubarb thinly on the bias, macerate in sugar and vanilla, dehydrate until leathery) and canning tomato sauce. 



Friday, April 24, 2020

DQ38 - Time Flies


There’s not a lot to report. It’s friday, and I’ve been back at work all this week. There hasn’t been much work though. Clinics are empty, because all routine care has been postponed. The only appointments are prenatal appointments, well child appointments for children under two years old, and emergent illnesses and accidents. All the interpreters are competing for the same smaller pool of jobs, and I have to be checking the website every fifteen minutes if I want to get as many as I can.

I did hear on the radio today that Governor Inslee is considering the possibility of allowing elective surgeries to start again. “Elective” surgery is a slippery term; it covers a wide swath of procedures that I think most people would consider extremely important - for example, biopsies and lumpectomies for breast cancer diagnosis. Joint replacements. Today I had an OB client who had intended to have a tubal ligation (sterilization) when her child was born, and was told that she would not be able to have that procedure. They couldn’t say when it would be available again. I really felt for her - in addition to the stress of giving birth in the middle of a pandemic, with all the disruption and uncertainty that entails, she is now being told she can’t get the procedure that would afford her permanent birth control and permanent peace of mind. 

On the home front all is quiet. The pigs are awaiting the butcher this coming week. The goats will not give birth for another couple of weeks. My kids are plugging along valiantly, doing those homework and their chores. Homero
is working, but not getting paid much. Fixed cars are piling up, but not getting picked up, presumably because his clients don’t have the cash to pay him. He has offered all his established clients payment plans. 

The garden is growing. I’ve been sketching. Here’s today’s project - I made an outline and tomorrow I will color it. 








Monday, April 20, 2020

DQ34 - Food and Finances


It’s been two weeks since Paloma broke a fever, and she’s now been totally symptom free for ten days. Nobody else in the house so much as felt a little warm. Who knows what virus she had, but it’s gone now. 

I went back to work today. They are still doing temperature checks at the doors of the clinic, and I am required to wear my mask. Felt good to get out of the house, and to get back to being “useful.”  There are not very many appointments available - clinics are still only seeing acute illnesses, or well child checkups for kids under two years old, or OB appointments. My next check will be slim. Luckily Homero still has some clients, though his business has been down as well. 

Thank goodness for gleaner’s. There’s plenty of food coming in the front door. I even canned a few quarts of salsa last week and a few cups of lemon curd yesterday. This time of year we have an absurd surplus of eggs, and gleaners had provided a couple dozen lemons. Add sugar and butter and presto: lemon curd, one of the most delicious substances in the planet. 

The pigs are scheduled to be butchered sometime this week. We are keeping the smaller pig for ourselves, and I sold the larger one in halves. In exchange for one half we are getting a whole lamb (well, it’s cut and wrapped, but I mean an entire lamb), plus a little cash. The other half is a cash sale, and ought to fetch about $300. 

The goats will give birth in about three weeks, and two weeks after that I can start milking. Then it will be cheese season. 

There have been some ominous noises in the news about disruptions in the food supply chain - some of which are clearly visible through the lens of the gleaner’s pantry - and it would not surprise me one bit to see prices for some foods rise quickly. But here on the farm we are well insulated from worries about food supply. 


Saturday, April 18, 2020

DQ32 - Art in the Garden (R is for Rhubarb)


Trying to make drawing a habit. Pages from my sketchbook over the past two days 










I love rhubarb. I love its ruby buds that are the first bright color of spring. I love its fresh tartness and its celery crunch. It’s so beautiful, and so hardy. Rhubarb is a survivor. It thrives on neglect. It laughs at frost. It is almost absurdly abundant, producing food continuously from April straight through August. Its leaves are lavishly, unecessarily enormous. In the cool shade of those leaves, buried underground, beats a wanton scarlet heart, sending up stalk after crimson stalk like fireworks. Rhubarb is irrepressible. 
If I were to make a garden alphabet, the image for R would be rhubarb, and the text would say “Rhubarb for Resilience.”

Thursday, April 16, 2020

DQ30 - Getting Antsy


It’s day 30 of the stay at home order, and day 3 of organized school at home. Guess which one has been harder? My kids, who had been fine at home when they were totally in charge of their own time, are now unhappy, overwhelmed, and anxious. 

When they made their own schedules, they spent their time reading, writing, exercising, cooking, working in the garden, embroidering and sewing, and doing schoolwork whenever they felt like it. Now they are receiving daily assignments from 6 to 8 teachers a day, each of which is SUPPOSED to take no more than 30 minutes. In fact, though, they are spending five or six hours a day on schoolwork and not being able to complete the workload. I saw one emailed assignment from a teacher that involved reading twenty pages (of dense material), watching two videos, and taking a quiz. There’s no way that’s 30 minutes of work. 

Without access to, you know, actual teaching, they are having a difficult time with some of the material, and I cannot help them with a lot of it. My math skills only go up to 6th grade or so. I’m encouraging them to take lots of breaks, get outside, and don’t sweat it too much. I also emailed that one teacher and asked her if she really considered this assignment to be 30 minutes of work?

The enforced immobility is just getting to everybody. Paloma had a small breakdown over her birthday, which is coming up in a couple of weeks. She’s turning 15, and before all this started we were planning her quince, which, for the non-Latinos, is a huge fancy party that is second only to a wedding in a girl’s life. We’d rented the hall and bought the dress and bought plane tickets for her abuelita and tía to come from Oaxaca. Not only is none of that happening, but she can’t even have a few friends over for a regular birthday party. It’s just another day in quarantine. 

It’s a big deal to her, and I didn’t want to minimize it, but I did spend a little time talking about how many things we actually have to be grateful for right now. We are safe, healthy, together, and have no worries about getting enough to eat or paying the rent. It’s a beautiful spring and we have a beautiful farm to observe and enjoy it. The trees are in blossom and there will be baby goats soon. She has a sister that she actually likes and gets along with. Her papa and mama are both home and available. We got Disney Plus. 

It IS difficult. I’ve only been off work for five days and I’m already going a little stir crazy, and the girls have had a solid month pretty much without leaving the property. We got more bad news, which I haven’t even told Paloma yet. The county health department recommended that festivals and gatherings be cancelled right through the end of August. That would mean, among other things, no county fair. Fair is the apotheosis of teen summer social events, and the only time she gets to see her friends from all over the county. This year she asked if she was old enough to stay until closing and I’d said yes. She’s going to be so upset when she finds out there (most likely) won’t be a fair this year. 

Nothing makes me sadder than seeing my children sad. I’ve got to keep myself cheerful somehow, for their sake as much as my own. 


Monday, April 13, 2020

DQ27 - Starting Up Again



The rosemary in the greenhouse is absolutely stuffed with blossoms. Hummingbirds love it and while I’ve been in here potting up some pepper plants several have visited. I originally thought that the totally green ones and the red-headed ones were two fmdifferent species, but I have been corrected. They are just female and male Anna’s hummingbirds, respectively. 



 
Make Anna’s hummingbird (from google). If I could figure out I would post a lovely little video of two hummingbirds going at the rosemary blossoms. 



What we do with leftover Easter egg dye. Now we have lovely particolored hounds. In retrospect, perhaps red wasn’t the best choice for Haku. He looks like he just went berserk in a sheepfold. 

Paloma is pretty much all better. Second day without fever. Still no appetite, but apart from that she’s her usual self again. I will observe strict quarantine through the en s of the week, but I told my work I would go ahead and start accepting assignments again starting next week. 

School is back in session - remotely - and the girls were outraged that we decided to start imposing something like a schedule again. We said we would wake them up at 9:30 - four hours later than they get up during regular school -
And you should have heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth. 

This first day back has been frustrating, especially for Paloma who says her teacher’s instructions are unclear, but I told them to relax and take it slow. There will certainly be kinks to be worked out. There’s no giant rush. Grades will be pass/fail for this quarter, so no stress. 

Tonight we have a bucket of oysters and plan to make a fire. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

DQ25 - Setback

Paloma woke us up at 4 am sick again. The fever was back, and this time accompanied by stomach pain and diarrhea. All day today she’s pretty much been in bed, and hasn’t wanted to eat anything. Still has headache, too. Still no respiratory symptoms. She’s not horribly ill, not even as sick as a regular nasty cold, but she’s not happy either. I’m a bit worried now because apparently this back-and-forth fever thing is typical of Covid. Nothing we can do but wait and see. 


Just finished dying eggs and setting up the altar with Papa and the kids. It feels weird not to have Rowan with us. 








Friday, April 10, 2020

DQ25 - Reaching Out for Easter


First things first - Paloma is much better today. She awoke without a fever, and her headache has much improved. She’s still a bit lethargic and without appetite, but I’d say she’s most of the way back to normal. 

I’m relieved for her sake, of course, but we have to proceed on the assumption that she has Covid19. That’s not just the CDC guidelines, it’s also common sense. Flu season is over. What’s circulating now? Covid. We are in hard lockdown mode for the next 10 days.

Which means that Hope missed attending my sister’s Seder yesterday, and that Rowan will not be able to come share Easter morning with us on Sunday. There has not been a year since my first child was born, 26 years ago now, that I have not dyed eggs with my children. And it’s been many years since we havent  gone to gather for Easter brunch at my mlm’s  house. It will be a diminished Easter celebration this year, but I insist there will at least be colorful eggs and fresh flowers on the altar. Even if our eggs this year will be dyed with household spices (tumeric! Onion skins!) and the chocolate may be Hershey bars from the gas station. 

I am not the only person who will be experiencing a much altered Easter this year. My local church, Zion, has a congregation made up almost exclusively of elderly farmers who are now isolated in their homes. Like a lot of other churches, Zion has made pans for online services. I’m not paying a lot of attention to that because I am wholly computer illiterate - probably more so than most of the aforementioned elderly parishioners. 

So I was thinking about what I could do to participate in Easter celebrations. I decided to make cards, Easter cards, just like Christmas cards. A few weeks ago, before businesses closed, I had sent the girl a to a local craft store to stock up on craft supplies, so we had a set of blank cards and envelopes. I spent a happy couple of hours this morning drawing spring-themed scenes and addressing them to friends from  Zion. They went out in this morning’s mail. Hopefully they will arrive in time to brighten up a few people’s day. 








DQ24 - Fever


Yesterday Paloma woke up with a high fever - 102.4 - and a bad headache. She was hot and lethargic all day. Tylenol and ibuprofen brought the fever down to about 101, but no lower, and didn’t really touch the headache. 

We are being told to assume that any febrile illness might be Covid19 and to behave accordingly. The lack of respiratory symptoms doesn’t mean much in a kid her age - fever is often the only symptom, if indeed they show any symptoms at all. So I called my work and asked them to cancel all my appointments through the end of next week and we decided to step up the level of quarantine to “nobody leaves the house unless it’s absolutely essential.” 

I sent messages to the mothers of each of my daughter’s best friends to let them know. These two kids are the only people Hope or Paloma has had contact with in the past two weeks, and they were ostensibly practicing social distancing the whole time. 

The most likely scenario is that I brought the virus (whichever virus it is) home with me from work. You’d think, that if I had contact first I would show symptoms first, but not necessarily. The incubation period varies. So now we just wait and see if any more of us get sick. Paloma is already better. This morning she woke up without a fever and says her head hurts a lot less. 

Hope and I were supposed to be in Chicago right now, touring the University of Chicago campus. We had a three day weekend planned, which included staying with my cousins who I haven’t seen in many years, seeing the Chicago Field museum, and meeting up with my brother for a very fancy dinner at a very fancy famous restaurant. Instead we are staying home taking our temperatures. Oh well. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

DQ21- Sketches

Pretty ordinary day - two appointments, a little work in the garden, some cooking, and a bit of sketching:





Rosemary in the greenhouse 





Some Beautiful gladioli I got from gleaners 

Monday, April 6, 2020

DQ20 - Feelings About the News


This morning Homero and I were reading the news over our morning coffee, as we do every day, and the girls were just waking up and coming into the kitchen looking for breakfast. I happened to be reading a rather terrifying article about the lack of space in morgues in New York City and the plan to “temporarily” use city parks to bury bodies of Covid19 victims.

I said “Wow” and read part of  the article out loud to Homero. He reminded me of the video he showed me the other day of bodies piling up in the streets of Guayacil, Ecuador, because there was no functioning system to collect them. That made me think of the first time I had heard of something like this happening, about two or three weeks ago in Italy. A man had posted a video to Facebook saying his (mother? Sister?) had died at home two days previously and he couldn’t find anyone to come get her body. At the time, there had been fewer than 100 deaths from Covid19 in Italy, and I wondered how it could be that such a small number of excess deaths could cause a complete breakdown in the death-care industry. I asked my brother - a systems engineer- if he could explain it and he said No. 

Hope broke into this conversation and said in an angry voice that she didn’t believe it, she thought the media were whipping people into a frenzy for ratings and it wasn’t true that bodies were going unburied in New York City. To my shame, I didn’t immediately recognize this as an expression of anxiety, and instead started to argue with her about media literacy and to talk about reliable versus unreliable sources of news. She said  “I choose not to believe it” and I replied “then you choose to be misinformed” and she grabbed a muffin and stormed off to her room. 

I felt remorseful pretty much immediately. After all, I’m shocked by the news and I also struggle with the urge towards denial, and I’m middle aged. It must be absolutely terrifying to be a teenager and to be realizing that here’s a situation that your elders are totally unable to control, that many adults are running around with their hair on fire panic buying toilet paper because that’s all they can think of to do. It must be awful to experience your plans for your future - in Hope’s case, the SATs, college applications, a summer job -
dissolving into uncertainty. 

Speaking of which, we got another piece of bad news this afternoon. The Governor ordered schools to stay closed through the end of the year. Kids will not be going back to school this spring. There will be no commencement, nobody will walk down the aisle and get their diploma and shake the principal’s hand and hear the applause if their relatives and friends. No graduation parties. No prom. 

There’s nothing I can do about that. I AM helpless to change the situation. But at least I am not helpless to provide them with some consistency, some stability, and the going on of ordinary home life. Things really haven’t changed much on the farm. Today has been gorgeous and warmer, sunny and dry. We got a bunch of work done. Homero is shoveling out a winter’s worth of deep litter in the barn. I mowed the front lawn and the orchard. Then the girls and I moved some more dirt and planted some herbs and some carrots. 

Now I’m sitting out on the lawn in a lawn chair next to Homero; he is reading  and I am writing. the dogs are laying in the grass chewing on some bones they found in the back pasture. Paloma is doing cartwheels and Hope is playing with her ferret. Soon I will go inside and start dinner. 




Saturday, April 4, 2020

DQ18 - Accomplishments



The rosemary in full bloom inside the greenhouse. Greenhouse cleaned up and cardboard laid over the ground to stop weeds. 




We borrowed a rototiller from a neighbor, and Homero tilled the compost pile, at least enough of it so that the girls and I could bring over a few wheelbarrows full of dirt to fill some new garden beds. The bathtub in the foreground in a new bed - we discovered it upside down under the pear tree after the tree was pruned and the blackberries cut back two weeks ago. Haven’t decided what to plant in the new tub yet. Might wait until it’s time to plant warner weather crops like beans or tomatoes. 


There are two 4x4 beds in the background, near the lawn chair. They are almost entirely falling apart, but they still have enough cohesiveness to serve as garden beds, as long as we stay on top of the weeding. One is planted with radishes and one is planted with cylindrical beets. 

We also broke down a couple dozen cardboard boxes and laid them down as as a prophylactic against the weeds. It’s ugly, but it’s necessary. 




Harvested nettles yesterday and today made a nettle and Swiss cheese quiche. It looks good but I don’t know how it tastes because el sent it to our neighbor in exchange for the use of her rototiller. Hope they liked it. I have the other half of the nettles blanched as stored in  a ziploc in the fridge. 



Today’s page in my quarantine art diary. I’m going to try and set a good example for my kids - being creative and making art isn’t about the product, it’s about the process. It really doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things, if the art I make is “good” or “bad.” What matters is that I enjoyed the time I spent doing it, and that I’m creating a record. My mom managed to instill in me - accidentally, of course - the idea that a thing is only worth doing if one is “good at it,” and that if one isn’t, then any effort expended in the pursuit of a given activity is a waste of time and probably a sin. 

Thats not a message I want to pass on. 

Today was a good day. My shoulders and back ache gently from moving a ton of dirt. The girls helped a lot, they are each stronger than I am now. I’m grubby and tired, but happy. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

QD17- quarantine notes


Fairly ordinary day. Got up early and had two appointments. My job sent an email saying they will (finally) be providing us interpreters with N95 masks. They should arrive in the mail in a few days. That’s good because the CDC has revised their previous advice that asymptomatic people need not wear masks to say that everyone ought to wear a mask in public if possible. The clinics have been offering me a mask for the last couple of days, but I have been reluctant to accept since I know they are in short supply. Now I can wear a mask in good conscious. 

I was home by noon today. I took a nap, because I didn’t sleep well last night. Haku woke me up several times asking to go out. Probably his stitches hurt. Also my shoulders have been hurting me a great deal and they wake me up too. As does my bladder. Basically I’m a wreck of a human being. 

After my nap, I helped Hope and Paloma  make some challah bread to give to a group that is collecting home made goodies for hospital workers. We also made homemade Mac and cheese for lunch, and so between those two projects, homeschool today consisted of cooking lessons. The girls learned a little bit about French mother sauces  - the difference between a roux, a bechemel, and a sauce Mornay (all part of Mac and cheese). We also touched on how gluten works to help bread rise and the delicious Maillard reaction. 



Then I let the goats out to graze, but it’s so cold that I didn’t stay out for long. This has been a super cold spring - in the first three days of April it has snowed twice and hailed once. The pasture grass hasn’t started to grow much, and not even the dandelions are open yet. 

But the nettles are up. In fact, it’s about the end of the nettle harvest. I harvested once about a week ago and made avgolemeno soup, which is what I always do with the first nettles. Today after putting the goats away, I went I to the house for some gloves and a pair of scissors and harvested a full shopping bag. I think tomorrow I will make a quiche. We have so many eggs. 

Another project: I’m starting a quarantine art diary. With a pen. On paper. My last post here was my first entry in my new art diary. Today I made another, and my goal is to draw something every day. I’m calling it “the kitchen witch in quarantine.” 





Wednesday, April 1, 2020

DQ15 -Picking Up a Pen


 

Picked up a pen today and made an attempt at drawing. My first attempt in literally years. I’m not sure why it is so difficult, nor what the nature of the obstruction is, to just laying something that makes a mark onto a piece of paper and moving it around a little bit. 

As far back as I can remember I have been an artist. I used to make art as naturally as I read a book, or wrote a poem (another one of my lost arts). If I lacked paint, I used crayons. If I lacked paintbrushes, I used whatever laid to hand. I have painted with a kitchen sponge, with paper towels, with cotton balls, with tampons. I have painted on paper, canvass, wallboard, plywood, glass....

But I haven’t painted recently. For whatever reason, I got out of the habit. And as time passed the path back to art got steeper and steeper until it seemed insurmountable. It might be a form of writer’s block - the blank space of the canvass gets whiter and whiter, more stark and intimidating. How can I mar it with my clumsy brush? What if I fuck it up? What if I waste a bunch of expensive paint and make something not just ugly but embarrassing? 

Against these idiotic thoughts I try to erect a barricade of reason. So what if I fuck up a cheap pre-stretched canvass from Joann’s craft store? I can always paint over it. So what if I’m embarrassed by the result? Nobody is gong to break into my garage to look at it. Plus, you know, I can always paint over it. Besides, isn’t the process more important than the product? 

I am never going to make “great art.” If that were ever within my potential, which it probably wasn’t, it ain’t anymore. I wasn’t a child prodigy, and I probably won’t be an elderly prodigy like Grandma Moses either. I can’t make art for the ages. But here’s what I can do: get lost in ecstasy.

I can exercise my artist’s eye. I can cultivate my eye for beauty, and train myself to seek it out, to notice and appreciate it everywhere and at every moment. I can strive to imitate it, magnify it, reproduce it, spread it over more space and more time, with my own feeble gestures. I can practice art as a form of worship, as a form of praise, as a form of magick. 

Kurt Vonnegut said: 

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

So today, I picked up a pen. And I made my soul grow. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

DQ14 - Dog Update and Staying Busy



Here is what Haku looked like when he got home from the vet. It’s even worse than this, actually - this picture doesn’t show the third laceration further back on his flank. He has a drain and about fifty stitches, but as far as he is concerned the worst part is that he needs to take four pills twice a day. Haku would rather die a thousand deaths than take a pill. He doesn’t seem much bothered by the actual injuries. He’s supposed to stay inside, or be on a leash, for two weeks, and that’s going to be tough. Every time anyone goes anywhere near the door he jumps up and leaps about as usual. Someone standing on his left side wouldn’t know he’d ever hurt himself at all. 



Hope spent the day out in the shop with Homero. He is fixing her car. I don’t know what all is wrong with it but I know it’s a big job that will take a few days and I heard the word “valves.” Hope is his assistant, and is learning a lot about engines. I told her this totally counts as school and she can write it down in the STEM section of her school journal. 


 
Paloma spent most of the day working out. Here she is doing some floor work with Mercy.  She’s a fitness junkie, and she’s a beast. I did my thirty minute workout alongside her today - 20 minutes of jump rope that doesn’t involve any actual jumping, just stepping over the rope repeatedly - and then an upper body workout with dumbbells. That entire half  hour Paloma was just working on abs. She has an honest to god six pack. 

I also worked two jobs today, did a pickup for gleaners pantry, and made an eggplant Parmesan for dinner. If it ever warms up beyond 40 degrees, I’d like to get some more gardening done. But alas, it’s supposed to rain for the next four days. 



Sunday, March 29, 2020

DQ12 - Making Up


                           An attempt at caramels 



Yesterday was the  laziest day I remember in my adult life. I seriously laid in bed and perused Facebook and played candy crush all day long. I only roused myself to go to the bathroom and to cram food into my maw. I shudder to admit to my sloth and am loath to describe it any further.

Today, I resolved to... well, not to be exactly industrious, but at least not to repeat my day of shame. Here’s what my day looked like today, day 12 of quarantine:

9 am: awake
9-10: make and drink coffee, read news
10-11:30 make breakfast, do dishes, sweep, do minor housekeeping chores
11:30-12:30-  work in the garden

-disaster - around 12:30, Haku was running full speed ahead trying to chase Mercy and misjudged. Rounding the corner of the garden, he ripped his shoulder and flank open on the stiff wires sticking out from the cattle panels. He pulled up short and cried. When I got to him and inspected, I saw that he had two deep lacerations that would both require stitches. Son of a bitch, it’s Sunday. I had to take him to the emergency vet. The emergency vet was swamped, and it was almost two hours before they could even come get him out of the car and admit him (they are not allowing humans into the office; only animals). As of this moment, 8:15 pm, some 8 hours later, Haku has still not been stitched up. However, I returned home after they finally took him inside at about 3 pm.

3-5 pm: keep working in the garden. I managed to fill an entire 4x4 raised bed with dirt and plant a packet of radishes. 

5-6:30 pm: let the goats out to graze and read my excellent  book Lord of Light by Roger Zelazney. 

6:30-7:00: make dinner - pulled pork barbecue sandwiches and coleslaw.

7-8:00- attempt to make caramel candy. Gleaners pantry provided us with - among a lot of other things - a gallon  each of heavy whipping cream. I decided to try and make caramels. My neighbor and friend M. brought us over a few pounds of organic shelled pecans yesterday. in exchange for a couple dozen oysters, so I thought pecan caramels would be a treat. 

Candy making is a precise art. I’m not a precise person. I do have a candy thermometer and I used it. I followed the recipe to the best of my ability but either the recipe was wrong or I was wrong, but the stuff on the stove was not behaving the way the recipe said it ought to behave at the given temperatures. Soft ball. Hard ball. Soft crack. Hard crack. Candy making terminology reads like something out of either a sports manual or fifty shades of grey. I did the best I could. The caramel is sitting out on the porch to cool. 

In any case, whether the candy comes out or not, I still feel like at least I got a few things done today.

And it ain’t over. I still have to go pick up Haku. 

DQ11- Nothing At All.

Literally. Nothing. At. All. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

DQ10 - Shellfish and Salsa



                             Oysters 



I’ve been trying for the past twenty minutes to upload a short video of Homero and I dancing salsa in the kitchen. It seems that the new blogger platform does not support embedded video. More’s the pity - you all are missing out on watching my big bum sway to the salsa rhythm.   

Today was fun. I went to work in the morning - yes, I’m still working - and tried to go to Costco on my way home. The parking lot was less than half full, probably because they closed the border with Canada. Usually, about half the vehicles in the lot near Canadian plates. Nonetheless, there was a line about forty people long stretching out the front door, and this sign was prominently displayed:




I decided to try Fred Meyer instead. It was pretty well stocked, except for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, baking supplies and pet food. Those items were cleaned out. But the produce section looked entirely normal. There’s a rumor that Bellingham is going to temporarily ban all sales of alcohol and guns and ammo. We are fine on ammo, but I did pick up a few bottles of booze. 

Later in the afternoon, Homero got a call from a friend of his who harvests local oysters. He wanted to know did we want some? Homero never says no; he is a fool for fresh oysters. It was too cold out to build a fire and grill them as we usually do, so we simply broiled them in the oven until they cracked open and then ate them with lemon and Valentina sauce. 

Hope, who loves oysters and misses her ballroom dance class, blasted salsa on her speaker as we cracked and ate the oysters, and we all took turns dancing with Papa. Since I can’t seem to figure out how to upload the video, I’ll just give you this link to my favorite salsa song:

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

DQ8 - Hair Cuts and Hair Color


Rowan came over today. She brought hair dye. She is one of those lovely brave people who changes her hair all the time - once she even tried being bald - and I am one of those people who hasn’t changed their hair since high school. 

I let her give me a trim, though, just a badly-needed snip of the split ends. And then I let her color my hair with a color she chose for me. Red, but not too far off my own natural reddish-brown. I like it. Covers my grey streak and feels like the color my hair used to be in September, after a summer of sunshine. She dyed her own hair red too - but she opted for full-on fire engine engine, and henna freckles to match:



This past weekend, before the lockdown, we hired a guy to come prune our fruit trees. Most of them are the small trees we planted ourselves, and weren’t very difficult to do, but the hoary old Bartlett pear by the shed was long overdue. It took him entire day with an electric pruning saw, but he did an excellent job. The only trouble now is that the low hanging branches and all the blackberries are gone, you can see the mess that was previously hidden. 




Rowan also spent some time cleaning up the greenhouse for me, which was very kind of her. The rosemary bush had grown to fill about half the total greenhouse space, as it does every year. It’s in full flower and smells lovely. She cut it back enough so we have enough space for, you know, some actual greenhouse plants. I filled a brown paper shopping bag with branches to dry and reluctantly threw the rest on the compost. There was about a wheelbarrow full, more rosemary than anyone can really use, unless maybe you want to roast a baby goat on a bed of rosemary branches. Too bad I don’t have a baby goat to try it with. 



All in all, a really nice day. So far this quarantine thing is a cinch. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

DQ8 - Alone With the Chores

Since my last post, the governor has increased restrictions, banning all gatherings, public and private, including even weddings and funerals. He has told all non-essential businesses to close and all non-essential workers to stay home. 


The list of essential workers and businesses is long  - long enough to invite skepticism, as did his inclusion of retail marijuana shops and their workers. I don’t know if he included liquor stores. Both Homero and I are considered essential workers. Homero still had work, but all my appointments for the rest of the week have been cancelled. All routine visits and follow-ups have been suspended to save PPE and reduce strain on health care workers. I heard from a nurse at the clinic on my last day in that even cancer treatments have been suspended. I hope that’s not true. 

So I’m at home with no valid way to avoid chores. Today Paloma and I transplanted the snap peas and I tackled this mountain of laundry:






Sunday, March 22, 2020

DQ6 - Visit From Rowan


Our oldest daughter Rowan came by today. She’s been in isolation for ten days already, because she had a cough and a sore throat. No fever though. Chances are it’s her regular seasonal allergies and post-nasal drip, but nobody’s taking any chances these days. 

She and her roommates are also putting in a bigger garden this year, and she called to ask if we had any fencing lying around she could use to keep the dogs out of the garden beds. As does any good farmstead, we have a few rolls of chicken wire kicking around, and I said she was welcome to come get some. 

When she arrived, Hope and I were in the garden laying down cardboard and anchoring it with rocks that Hope and Papa gathered in the pig pasture. That’s where all the rocks are, but we were afraid of the pigs and thought they would bite us if we went in there to gather the rocks. Papa said “I’ll go” and it turned out the pigs weren’t interested in trying to bite anybody. Ten minutes yielded enough rocks to hold down all the cardboard I had brought home from gleaners. Gleaners is a basically unlimited source of cardboard, and I ought to bring home a lot more. 

Rowan looked at the old strawberry bed, which is pretty much just lawn at this point, and suggested we dig up any strawberries we could find and transplant them into the second of the old claw foot bathtubs. We have two, and the first one was planted with spicy salad mix yesterday by Paloma and me. 




Eight clumps of strawberries were rescued and transplanted. There is room in the bathtub for another four or so; I may pick some up at the farm store tomorrow. We also cleaned up another raised bed and prepared it for transplanting our snap peas in a few days. The snap peas are currently germinating on the kitchen table in five egg cartons. As soon as we can prepare enough space, I have radish seeds and beet seeds ready to go. 

Today I also sent out a message over Facebook that if anyone was in need of eggs - I hear they are scarce in the grocery stores - I have five dozen I am happy to donate to families in need. We have thirteen laying hens and this time of year we are drowning in eggs. Three people messaged me and we made arrangement to meet up. 

It’s very odd to go to the grocery store and see empty shelves. That’s never happened in my lifetime. I’m so used to abundance and variety that it seems almost to be a natural American right. Shortages? Long lines? That only happens 
in other places - poor places, “socialist” places - not here. 
Not in AMERICA.  I was at Fred Meyer yesterday. The produce section looked unchanged, thank God, but there were long stretches of bare shelving in the toilet paper aisle, the cleaning products aisle, the pet food aisle, and the liquor aisle. American priorities, amiright? 







Saturday, March 21, 2020

QD5 - Spring Sting (Nettle Soup)




Stayed at home today - as we are all supposed to do - and having not much to do, decided to harvest some nettles and make avgolemeno soup with the remains of the chicken I roasted yesterday. 

Note to self: nitrile gloves are not proof against nettle stings. Right now, six hours later, three fingers on my left hand are still bitching and complaining. Nonetheless, I did manage to harvest half a brown paper shopping bag full of nettle tips. 

Avgolemeno soup is one of my favorite things, and I only make it once a year, just about now, when the nettles are ready. Avgolemeno means “egg and lemon.” It’s Greek. It refers to a delicious, tangy sauce that can be poured over vegetables, or used to thicken and bind broth. 

SPRING AVGOLEMENO SOUP:

take one chicken - or the remains of a roast chicken you ate  the night before - and simmer in plenty of water with salt to make broth. Let cool, and remove bones, reserving flesh.

To the broth, add two stalks chopped celery, two chopped carrots, a teaspoon fennel seed, a tablespoon salt, a couple
Cloves garlic, and a cup of white rice. Simmer gently.

While soup is simmering, go gather your nettles. Use gloves (not nitrile!). Rinse nettles in a colander to clean and remove any grass or extraneous vegetable matter. Add nettles to broth. 

When veggies are tender, make avgolemeno sauce: 

Crack three eggs into a bowl. Squeeze three large lemons and add juice to eggs. Beat well, until smooth. Then use a ladle to slowly add a cup of hot broth to egg mixture, beating all the while. This is called “tempering” the eggs. If you were to add the egg mixture directly to the soup, you’d have scrambled egg soup and it would be gross. Tempering the eggs with the lemon makeS a smooth, beautiful yellow tangy sauce which you can then add in a thin stream to the soup, stirring at the same time. 

Hit the soup with a teaspoon or so of fresh ground black pepper, maybe a bit of cayenne, and serve with crusty bread. 

Other lovely additions to chicken avgolemeno soup might be asparagus, spinach or other tender greens, or cubed cooked potatoes. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

DQ4 - Garden Notes




I haven’t bothered with a garden in years - beyond my perennials; rhubarb, raspberries, fruit trees - because I can get unlimited free produce from the gleaner’s pantry. This year, however, things are so very uncertain that it seems like it can’t be a bad idea to try to plant a few things. So far, gleaner’s is carrying on, but if the governor issues a shelter in place order, as so many others have, then I assume it will have to come to a halt. 

Our old garden space is a mess. The beds are entirely gone - just grass. Homero took a weed eater to the canary grass and Paloma clipped the blackberries. I hauled a few buckets full of compost and topped up one of the bathtubs. Then we planted a couple packs of spicy salad mix. 

A few days ago Paloma and I planted five egg cartons worth of snap peas, and they are germinating in the kitchen table. I’ll have to prepare a bed for them soon. Also sorted through some drawers and found seed packets of years past - most of the seeds will still sprout. I have cylindrical beets, radishes, and green beans. Also nasturtiums. No place to plant those though, until we do a lot more work. 

We have the time. Nothing but time. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

DQ3 - Fire on the Hill




Life ain’t so bad. Geese are honking overhead. Coyotes are singing in the copse to the west. Venus is burning like a white hot torch in the western sky. Beers are cold and fire is hot. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

State of the Farm: Pandemic Edition



The girls amuse themselves at home with Henna freckles 


DQ2 - day two of “quarantine.” We aren’t officially quarantined, of course, and not even prohibited from going out and visiting. The official prohibitions in Washington are (as of right now) no gatherings of over 50 people (or has it been changed to 10?) and smaller gatherings must abide by strict “social distancing” rules that keep people 6 feet apart. 

Schools are closed at least through 4/27. I started the DQ count from the first day that schools were closed, which was yesterday, hence today is DQ2. Restaurants are closed, though takeout and delivery is allowed. Bars are closed, as are any place where people habitually gather, such as bowling alleys, churches, movie theaters, museums, libraries, barber shops, etc. Grocery stores and pharmacies are open. 

Everyone who can work from home is being told to work from home. I am still working, working more than usual in fact. As a medical interpreter, I spend my days going from one doctor’s office to another, which I suppose makes me high risk for infection. Today, for the first time, there were nurses with thermometers stationed at the entrances of the clinics, taking everyone’s temperature before they were allowed in. I don’t have a fever. 

Homero is still working as well, but he works from home all the time anyway. People still need their cars fixed, even if they are being told to stay home, I guess. I worry a bit about him because he has a few different underlying health conditions (as do I) that could make him a higher risk for complications. At least he wears gloves all the time. 

The girls were initially thrilled about the prospect of a six week spring break, until it was made clear to them that they would not being spending much time hanging out with friends, or indeed outside the house at all. I have let them see a couple friends, one or two at a time, and I’m thinking of getting in touch with the parents of a few of their “best friends” and asking about creating a closed circle of friends so they can all hang out with each other without becoming vectors of disease. 

Nobody knows yet when school will resume. Teachers have been told not to send homework for the time being, since not every child has internet access at home and it wouldn’t be equitable. The district is working on a solution, at least for high schoolers, and I expect sometime in the next week or two that they will probably send home some fat packets. In the meantime, I told the girls this isn’t a vacation, and that they needed to write up a schedule for themselves. It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule, or overly specific, but it has to exist. Here’s what they came up with:




I especially like Paloma’s first line item: “get up by eleven (don’t come for me).” 

Each schedule has to include a two hour block of time for school related work (their teachers can’t assign work that will be collected and graded, but they can post “suggestions” online) and a two hour block of “productive other” time. This second category can be anything from playing piano to drawing to exercising to working in the garden to reading a book. Other than those two categories, and one chore assigned by me or their papa each day, their time is their own. 

Some examples of the chores I intend to make them do, in no particular order:

- walk the pastures and pick up all the pieces of broken plastic, plastic baling twine, or plastic bags and assorted trash they can find. No matter how careful one is, small plastic detritus accumulates over the winter. 

- turn over some of the compost pile

- clean out a drawer or a cabinet 

- harvest nettles

- organize the canning jars (full ones by contents; empty ones by size)

- use the sewing machine to make patches for mending the quilts with holes in them (our dogs have a tendency to get overexcited and tug on the bedclothes)

- clean up the greenhouse 

Like everyone else, I am imagining all the great stuff we will all get done during this enforced down-time, and like everyone else I am probably fooling myself. It’s unlikely I will take up a musical instrument or learn a third language. A more realistic hope is that I will have time and energy to put in a small garden - something I haven’t done for a few years - and read a few extra books. Perhaps do some drawing. Within a month the goats will kid, and soon thereafter it will be cheese season again. 

A good chore for me would be to find, clean, and organize 
my cheese making equipment, and order new cultures and supplies. 

Another good chore for me would be to commit to keeping a blog diary of our lives during this time.  Nobody knows how this is going to play out. Things could stay bad for a long time. Many of my neighbors are elderly and frail and are really not supposed to go out at all. Tomorrow I will talk about local efforts to pull together and provide help and services for folks who are ACTUALLY quarantined, and for folks who have lost their jobs, and those negatively affected in all sorts of ways by this unprecedented situation. 

Stay healthy! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Dedicated Cheese



Today I opened up a cheese from last spring, that had been resting, vacuum sealed, in the dedicated fridge in the store room. The “dedicated fridge” is a half-sized refrigerator that I bought last year to store cheese, smoked salmon, and various fermented products such as sauerkraut, kim chee, and so forth.

As of today, there were only three packages of cheese in the dedicated fridge, totaling  perhaps  four pounds. Most of the cheese had been either eaten or traded away months ago. It’s always a gamble opening up a sealed cheese. 

This gamble paid off. The cheese is strong but delightfully rather than offensively so; goaty but pleasantly so; herbal with the scent of caraway seed, but not overpoweringly. A handful of almonds and a few dried figs made a beautiful accompaniment.

Other likely partners include fresh apple slices, sourdough bread, olives, maybe roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts... basically it would be an enhancement to any mezze plate or antipasto plate. 

I’m inordinately proud. I mean seriously. How many people are there, in this day and age, who make their own cheese? And cheese made from the milk of goats who they raised and milked themselves, at that? the cheese I enjoyed tonight is a true artisan farmstead product that few people have the chance to taste.

More’s the pity. if you ever make it out here, there’s cheese in the dedicated fridge. Dedicated for you.