Tuesday, August 30, 2011


A few days ago we ate Chinese food for lunch, followed - of course - with fortune cookies.  

Matty's said something vague about hard work and opportunity.  Emerson's was: "People are saying good things about you" - which of course is true, and turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy as she asked us to repeat it over and over again.  Ophelia's fortune - which she immediately folded up as small as she could and put in her pocket for a later date - was: "It's better to have a hen tomorrow than an egg today."

Mine read: "It's wise to be prepared for the unexpected."  After much debate about the paradoxical nature of the statement - how can one prepare for something they don't expect? - I decided it was a bad omen, placed it on the table with the uneaten cookie, and left with dark clouds forming in my brain. 

I've had enough "unexpected" for this summer.

But then we arrived home (we had been camping in the woods -sans wifi) to the news of a hurricane the size of Texas sweeping up the east coast.  Unexpected?  Yes!  This I could handle.

So we prepared.  The girls and I picked peaches before the fruit was blown off the trees.  (Or before the trees became so water-logged they fell over).  

We bought water (our well pump runs off of electricity, so when the power goes out we have no running water), pulled everything in from outside, picked all the ripe fruit from our garden, parked our cars under the car-port, set out flashlights, and looked at our woodpile and said, "that's going to blow over."  

Oh yeah, and we went to the fair.

As I kissed the girls at bedtime last night we all felt a safe excitement of what was to come, although I couldn't shake the damn fortune, it's foreboding nature, and the coinciding thought that I was being too blase about it all.  Did it mean a tree would come crashing through the roof and onto one of my children as they slept?  Had I "prepared" enough?  Could I ever prepare for that?

As it turns out, there were both expected and unexpected parts of today and the fortune cookie was (fingers crossed) not so ominous after all.


There would be no serious flooding at our house - True!  We live on a hill nowhere near water (except for our stream, which swelled tremendously but still never came close our house) and therefore weren't concerned about flooding.

Our woodpile would be blown over - True!  Quickly!

 Tons of branches, large and small, would fall into our yard - True!  It looks like we just held a javelin competition in our yard - branches are sticking straight out of the ground left and right!  Nature's tree service...and fuel for brush-fires this fall.

Trees might fall and do damage to our house - False! (Although we did hear some pretty big snaps other places in our yard... we'll explore tomorrow)

Our sump-pump might fail, and we might end up with a wet basement - False! Yeay!

And finally, no matter what, we will Definitely. Lose. Electricity.  We live in the woods.  We always do.


Yet here I sit, writing this blog, on my computer that is by no means wireless.  Aside from a few flickers, we have been going strong all day.

And after all is said and done, I was prepared for the unexpected, because despite the fact that I knew we would lose electricity today, my plan was to can peaches (which calls for a hell of a lot more water than I bought at the store, and also for my stove - which is gas, but has an electric starter - to be on all day)  Loosing electricity could have left me seriously stranded in the middle of this process....but let's not forget the unexpected.

 As I worked harmoniously beside Matty - sometimes quietly, sometimes jokingly, often interrupted by little girls showing us a painting or a "book decoration" or needing help in the bathroom, I took note at how peaceful the day was; a tranquil day in the eye of the storm we call our life.

The reality is, that our everyday life is a hurricane - moving swiftly and apt to change direction at any moment, and though we try our best to prepare for it, we always fall short.  This is true all through the year, but especially poignant in the summer, as we try to balance a need to live it up and get away with the need to be home for and do all the work that comes a long with the harvest time.  Although I dream of having vast stores of food we have grown and processed in our own kitchen (someday!) what our summer usually boils down to is us trying to schedule our picking in between the fun - vacations, parties, weekend get-aways, swimming - and the not-so-fun - work, sickness, yard projects, house projects, my father dying...


The photos seem idyllic, but what it is - really - is me and the girls picking blueberries from not such a good crop (making it harder and much more time consuming to pick) on a hot day, for hours, after a long drive, a week after my father died.  Days like this (and there are many) we just have to throw in the towel, take some goofy photos, and come home with much less than we had anticipated.

And then there is the processing... which usually happens into the wee hours of the night because we haven't planned well and the fruits of mother nature can't wait...

Isn't this what your kitchen looks like the night before you go on a two-week camping trip with young children?

(Matt pickled forty pounds of cucumbers and an undisclosed number of green beans while I made blueberry jam -with the measly amount of blueberries I was able to get this year- and made batch after batch after batch of pesto to freeze so that all that fresh basil wouldn't go to waste)

Our life is full of rushing here and rushing there, trying to fit too much into the hours we are offered in a day, having to let things go more often than we'd like...but in the middle of it all, there was the gift of this exceptional day.  In the middle of roaring winds, high waters, branches blowing here and there, our family enjoyed a moment of repose; a time when we all worked together at a slower pace; a time when our hands moved with purpose and joy; a time to be thankful for what we have and for being together; a time to relish in the unexpected.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another Year at the Fair

Nothing on earth compares to the Fair.

...Yes there's Disney World and Six Flags, Cedar Point and all the rest, but there is nothing like driving up to a field that you look at every day of your life and seeing it suddenly transformed; seeing the Ferris wheel in the distance and thinking this is what summer is all about.  It's not about mass consumerism, long lines, or miles and miles of concrete. (nor is it about the sun shining all year round...)  It's about being alive!, grass and animals, the smell of manure, running, laughing, screaming, homegrown food, and homegrown fun.  It's a celebration of our harvest, our people, and our land.  And finally, it's a celebration of our seasons - one of which is coming to an end... 

But we still have these few wonderful days to squeeze everything we can get out of summer; to go berserk, hoot and holler, shake our booties, and gorge!

That said, this year's fair was not the gluttonous extravaganza it was last year.  Mainly because we now have two children above the height limit for the kiddie-rides, the cost of which adds up quickly when we're on our "after vacation budget."

 Emerson was even tall enough (and brave enough) to go on some of the big-kid rides.  She renamed this one the "crazy broccoli chicken."  It moved so fast, this was the best picture I got.
 Matty did a better job...

Emerson loved it...but she knows her limits as well.  She declined the offer of some other rides with "nah...not this year..."  (Already I am marking the passage of time in my mind - soon they will be going on all the rides, then on all the rides by themselves, then to the fair without us...at night...  Sigh.  But wait a minute, then Matty and I will go to the fair by ourselves as well...on a different night...)

But oh this year!

After we spent nearly all of our money on rides, we took a picnic intermission at our car...

saving enough money for each of us to have one treat...that's right, one.

Not so piggish, I realize.  So not in the spirit of the fair... but when you factor in that the girls' one treat was a heaping bag of cotton candy each, somehow it seems like enough.  (Matty and I each chose sno-cones, and half way through mine I wish I'd opted for the fried dough.  Next year...)

Fortunately, there is a lot of free stuff to do at the fair as well, and we spent the rest of the day taking the full tour.  (And keeping our kids from discovering the pony rides)

My favorite part this year was the agricultural barn (the home of farmers, knitters, and canners).  Where else can you see an ear of corn like this?

Or prize-winning vegetable people?

Milk bottles dating back to antiquity?

Ophelia was impressed beyond belief.

Reservedness aside, at the end of the day we still fell prey to the elements of irresponsibility and frenzy that the air inspires.  During the last hours of the fair - as winds from hurricane Irene began to arrive and rain clouds gave late afternoon the premature feeling of night - I found myself with three dollars in my hand, knowing I should probably give the bathroom attendant a really big tip and get the hell out of there.  Instead, I ended up running willy-nilly to the fudge booth, asking what I could get for three bills.

Goodbye for this year, Fair.  We'll be back.  You can count on us...

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Family That Plays Together Stays Together

So beautiful.  So contagious. So fun!  We must say goodbye to you Lake Placid, but we'll be back.  Again, and again, and again...