Trading & Bartering

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We have a community within Sonoma, called Sonoma Hitch & Barter. It’s organized through Facebook and the premise behind it is that you post a picture of something you own, but don’t want anymore. You ask for some things you’d like to trade it for and people chime in with offers. It’s a pretty excellent little community. For instance a few weeks ago, we had to empty out our garage and we took a picture of a window air conditioner unit that we don’t need anymore. It was 10 years old and though it worked fine, it seemed like something that would never sell on craigslist. So we offered it up. I said we’d trade it for wine or beer. A couple chimed up, who had a very hot apartment in summer. They had a small wine collection, but really weren’t wine drinkers when it came down to it. So they brought us their wine and we gave them our air conditioner. We both parted ways very happy.

In the past I’ve traded various house decorating knick knacks for homemade muffins and cookies, a box of baby toys for 4 bottles of Pliny the Elder, and an old dresser for more wine.

The other weekend this arbor came up on the Facebook site and I jumped on it immediately. He wanted succulent clippings. Oh, I’ve got those in spades! So I gathered a big box full, plus a little mint and lemon balm and headed over to his house. He loaded this into my van and I gave him the plants and we both agreed it was an excellent trade. No money was exchanged. I had what he wanted, he had what I wanted.

For this trade, I had to bring all my kids along with me and there were lots of questions. Do you know this guy? Is he your friend? Why is he giving this to you? Why does he want those plants? It was a learning opportunity for sure about how money isn’t always the way you can obtain something. Later that night, my oldest commented on how he really liked the whole trading scheme. It’s a good system when everything works smoothly. And now I have this beautiful arbor that needs a few more plants around it, doesn’t it?
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In other news, do you see that barn in the bottom corner with the heart shaped group of trees? Isn’t it pretty? We’re having a french door added to our house so we can look out on that view. Construction starts this week. I can’t wait!!!
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After posting about the weedy asparagus patch, I went out just days later and weeded it. Nothing holds you more accountable than publicly posting about your downfalls! I also just planted our onions at the end of March. It seems late for this area, but we found a few years ago, as a fluke, that when we plant our onions late, they don’t bolt before they’re ready to harvest…a problem we’ve always had in years past. They were our most successful onion crop. With fingers crossed, we’ll have the same results this year.

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When Life Gives You Dead Trees….

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We’ve had a lot of trees die on us this winter. A lot. We’ve had to hire tree guys to take down three trees and we’ll have to take down a number of dead fruit trees ourselves. We were starting to take it personally, but the tree guys said they’ve been very busy this spring. This winter was just too hard on the trees. Too cold and too dry.
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One tree that we had to have take down was a redwood. Most of the other trees we had cut into firewood length pieces because we installed a wood burning fireplace insert this winter. Redwoods don’t make for good firewood, so Scott had them take it down in four, ten foot sections. He had some sort of plan up his sleeve, but I didn’t know what.
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One day he headed outside with his chainsaw and started cutting. Then he got the boys involved and they started ripping off bark. And then the sanding commenced. And he sanded and he sanded and he sanded.
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And now we have this beautiful new bench. He did good, didn’t he?

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Relax & Knitting Roadkill

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I finished Relax the other week. You may have remembered that I have been working on this knitting project since early November. The stockinette knitting seamed to go on and on without end. This winter I was able to take a great chunk of time to sit and devote to knitting and through that I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now that it’s finished, I’m so happy with it. It’s a boxy fit, which it totally freeing as a knitter, because one main worry I always have when making a sweater is, ‘is this thing going to actually fit me?’ I didn’t have this worry this time. I love the drapey, loose fit. Totally worth all those months of stockinette. I might even make another….just maybe. If you are a beginning knitter or someone who loves a mindless knit (or mindful knit, depending on your mindset), you should certainly make this. It’s my favorite sweater at the moment.

(My apologies for the oh so serious self portrait in the mirror. I am absolutely am the worst at taking photos of sweaters I knit, most end up as badly cropped mirror shots.)
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In other knitting news my son was playing out in the front yard by where we park our car last fall and found this in the bushes. Oh the horror! This is one of my fingerless gloves that like the above sweater I labored over for months upon months. A number of years ago my girlfriend and I took our kids up to Glen Ellen to Brookfarm Alpaca and I came home with this insanely soft alpaca yarn. And then I found this fingerless glove pattern that was insanely intricate. And knit on insanely small #1 needles. Should I ever go blind, all my blame will be placed on this knitting project! It’s no fault of the amazing yarn nor of the beautiful pattern. It was purely my fault for mixing fluffy charcoal colored yarn with an intricate pattern on a teeny tiny needle. The end result, much like the sweater above was divine. Alpaca might even be more luxurious that cashmere, those gloves were so soft. They were what I wore every cold morning. But now the left one was left as roadkill, probably fell out the car door one day last winter.

A new pair of fingerless gloves will go on the To-Knit list, but maybe I’ll either pick a smoother, light colored yarn for that pattern, or a simple pattern for that alpaca this time around.

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Spring in the Asparagus Patch

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For the first day of Spring, I thought it only appropriate that I show you pictures of asparagus. It has been coming up for a few weeks and the wee one and I go check on it every couple of days. For the record, this is not how you should be keeping your asparagus patch. I know that. Though the asparagus spears may look pretty emerging out of weeds and we may feel like wild foragers searching for it, asparagus likes a nice weed free, well composted and mulched growing bed. Do as we say, not as we do, friends. This winter we got too caught up in tasks that weren’t related to asparagus patch weeding. Sorry asparagus, next year we’ll do better for you.

The kids aren’t so hot on eating asparagus, which is surprising, because they aren’t picky. You can sneak a lot over on my kids, though, by pickling whatever their vegetable foe is. So I did a quick pickle by heating up 1/3c. water + 1/3c. white vinegar and a dash of salt. Into the half pint jar I put asparagus tips, one peeled clove of garlic, some fresh tarragon, and a few red pepper flakes. I poured the hot vinegar mixture over it and when it cooled I put it in the fridge. In previous years I’ve canned them in a hot water bath, but since we only had enough for one jar that day, we’re keeping it for immediate eating. Yum.

Happy Spring!

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Weekend Life

Oh wow, thank you all so much for your comments! They give me inspiration. Again endless thank yous!

Well, this past weekend the weather in Sonoma was glorious. Mid 70′s and not a cloud in sight. I heard someone say that for every Californian who didn’t go outside that weekend, an angel lost their wings. Goodness, I’d hate for that to happen so we all spent as much of our time soaking in as much Vitamin D as we could.
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The children split their time between little league games and playing in the creek. Our middle child could easily spend every last waking moment searching for tadpoles, frogs, crawdads, snakes, and rocks. In fact most days he does that indeed. He caught a frog and put it in the little pond we built by our front door. Much to his older brother chagrin (his bedroom window is right next to the pond), the frog likes it there very much and croaks as loud as anything you’ve heard. We’ve also now got tadpoles in that little pond for daily observation. And don’t get me started on the piles and piles of rocks we have stashed in assorted piles and jean pockets in our house!

So while they were busy getting as wet and muddy as possible, I weeded. And I’m proud to say that Scott and I calculated and I accomplished clearing out one half of one percent of all the weeding we have before us. Oh, it’s a tough challenge, keeping up with the weeds. It’s like an epic battle, Humans against Weeds. Until we get a great barrier wall erected around our garden, we have no choice but to take up garden glove and trowel and fight the mighty fight.
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As with starting over from a blog break, I headed outside and wondered where in the sam hill to begin. This was the spot I tackled this weekend, a shady spot by a pathway we’re redoing. With my head down and my hands busy, it’s easy to get lost in a little micro world.
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Then I sat back and stretched my eyes out, oh what a view.

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The Sprouting of Spring

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My goodness, how does one start after such a long break? It’s been a dry winter. So dry that the hills and fields remained with the dry, brown look of summer well into February. Which is when we got 15″ of rain in one weekend. Then a few more storms followed and now, finally, at long last we have mud puddles and brilliant green growing at such an astounding rate, it’s almost audible. Before, going outside, would often make me feel more down and out than when I was inside. Seeing all the brown, dead, middle of winter landscape. Now, now I feel renewed hope in it all. Maybe even though we don’t have as much rain as we need, there will still be growth and flowers and greenery.

At first I took a blog break just for the holidays, but then the new year came around with a whole new set of projects and trips and other seemingly monumental hurdles for our family. So I kept silent, which makes it even harder to come back to writing. Where do you start? What should I say? Who’s even reading this? Who am I to share about my life? Am I sharing too much? Am I sharing too little? What is the idea of sharing to people you don’t know anyway? Are we as a society sharing too much? Oh, you see what a mess can be made from too much thinking. I tend to stall a lot of projects by getting too caught up in the thinking end of it.

I’ve missed this creative outlet for myself, so I stopped thinking and I’m back to doing. It’s spring, time to put on the mud boots, get outside and start weeding & planting.

I hope you’ve been well. You’ll be hearing more from me again soon.

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Knitting and Reading

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I’m not quite ready. Each year I envision that I’ll have all my Christmas busy work mostly done in November, so that all of December I can easily move through the month, baking and decorating and listening to good holiday music. Every single year for about 7 years I’ve had that grand plan in place from January to October. Then November rushes by as fast as any month can with hardly a moment to prepare. This year I did pretty good. I didn’t fuss much over what to get anyone, I bought quickly and with firm decision. But there are always so many loose ends to finish up! Oy!
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The kids opened their advent calendar the other morning and declared (that day) that there were only 8 more days until Christmas Eve, which is when my entire back seized up and the countless loose ends went spinning through my head. Yesterday I woke up with excruciating pain bolting through my back thanks to the bolt of reality I was shocked with the day before. Nothing on my to-do list involved not moving, so I went about my day, but boy when those kids got in bed, I sat right down in that couch with a heating pad on my back and my knitting in hand. I’m still working on Relax, which is still a fitting name for a garment. The knitting work isn’t all that relaxing as you work back and forth working front and back separately. There’s a lot of purling involved, as much purling as knitting…and as I’ve said before, Elizabeth Zimmerman was right, no one wants to purl if they don’t have to. The Madeline Tosh yarn is incredible. Rain Water it’s called.
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Yes, I’m reading Taproot, but I’m also reading Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison. Though it’s the base of the movie by the same name, this book is actually a collection of three short stories, all which I’ve sunk right into. He’s certainly become on of my favorite story tellers. It’s amazing to me how good writers can combine words so beautifully.

We had a long series of freezing weather last week, which took a hard toll on our citrus. We must have had a hard freeze three years ago, right before we moved here, because the three citrus trees that were here looked dead when we moved in. Two came right back to life. The lemon tree especially. We babied that thing and this year it finally seemed to be thriving with hundreds of lemons all over it. And then the freeze hit this year. The poor thing. We wrapped with with both christmas lights and sheets. It will make it, but it sure does look pathetic now. The second unknown citrus was about to reveal it’s character to us as it had finally set fruit, but it took the brunt of the freeze and looks as dead as can be. The lime tree looks bedraggled and the kafir looks kaput. A tough winter for our citrus.

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