Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Week in Pictures

A few of our highlights.....

An old pair of rubber boots that I used as planters outside the butcher shop door
(and rendered on a canvas by Maid Elizabeth in the top photo)

Our newly minted Wildland Fire Fighter enjoying a cuppa

After an exhausting week at school....

No longer able to hold herself together!

Freshly un-molded lotion bars...

And Soap

As Dragon Snack gets ready to launch her "Highland Naturals"

And that is our week so far.....but I'm sure there will be more to come!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Of Gardens and Life....

Last summer I did very little gardening - just picking from my mother's bountiful harvest when she had extra.  We were so busy remodeling our shop and trying to build a business that we barely had time to sleep, let alone garden.  For the first part of the summer I felt guilty that I wasn't helping in the garden, however, I finally realized that there is a season for everything under the sun and that was a season for building, not for gardening.

This year is different.  We are no longer building a business, but running one and although my days are still full to overflowing, I have the ability to carve out a few hours to dedicate to the garden.  And oh, the joy I feel running my fingers through the soil and breathing in the heady scent of freshly turned earth.

Long before the snow gave way to grass, I began pouring through catalogs and planning my summer garden.  I bought heirloom seeds and started them inside so they would have a good start before hardening them off for the garden beds.  With more rain than sun, my poor little plants have grown a bit yellow and a few have curled their leaves in protest, but most of them have soldiered on and hold the promise of life.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been working the soil, pulling the weeds and building beds, trusting our work will bring sweet rewards.  Today, Sir Knight tilled the big garden (or what he could reach of it with the tractor) and we planted a few more rows.  Potatoes, carrots and lettuce were sown, leaving room for more bush beans and peppers and cabbage.

Freshly tilled

As I was preparing the garden to be tilled, I dug up even more strawberry plants.  We have been giving them away as fast as we can dig them and I'm sure the freshly dug plants will be no different!! It is so much fun to share in our bounty of plants!

More strawberry plants to give away!
Our morning spent in the garden was remarkably timely.  Almost as soon as the tractor was stabled in the equipment shed rain drops began to fall.  We hustled inside and I began an afternoon of cooking and baking.  Miss Serenity leaves tomorrow after church for a 5 month stint as a wildland firefighter and I wanted to send her off with some of her favorite goodies from home.   Oat rolls and Filled Oatmeal cookies are two of Serenity's favorites and they are both full of energy to keep her going through fire school.  While the rolls raised and the cookies baked, I made a big pot of Leek and Potato soup - perfect for a rainy spring day - and even more perfect with fresh-from-the-oven oat dinner rolls!  It was so satisfying to watch the rain water the freshly planted garden while the scent of leeks, potatoes and bread permeated the air.

Potatoes and Leeks ready to go into a soup

Sautéing leeks

Fresh Oat dinner rolls

Filled Oatmeal cookies (AKA Survival Cookies)

Rolls and Cookies packaged and ready for Serenity to take to fire training

Miss Serenity
And today was a red-letter day in another respect.  Maid Elizabeth closed on the sale of her old home - finally!!  Elizabeth was originally supposed to close on her house on May 3rd - one day before her birthday.  Our entire family traveled to her home to move her (including my parents and our pastor).  When we arrived, we learned that the house sale had not closed.  Maid Elizabeth had already quit her job and packed her home, and now, everything was up in the air.  We went ahead and moved her in spite of the complications, and she has spent the last month praying and hoping and praying some more.  After a number of upgrades to her old home, the loan finally went through and her home was sold.  We are rejoicing!!!!  Now, while still in her 20's, Maid Elizabeth owns her home free and clear.  Only God can do that!!!

After a year of upheaval, our entire family are settled here, in the Highlands.  We are together.  We are home.  We are ready to see what God has for us next.  And we are grateful.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


I thought I'd take a few minutes to try to answer a few of the questions that were asked after my last post.  I'd like to keep my anonymity as much as possible, but I'll answer your questions to the best of my ability!

Our "new" property is actually the homestead where I spent my childhood.  I grew up here!  When I was 8, my parents moved us from Vashon, Island to the outbacks of the American Redoubt.  We are about 2 hours from the nearest population center (a small city of about 30,000 people).  Although our business is in town (population 411), we live about 15 miles out of town.  One morning on our way to the butcher shop Miss Serenity and I had to slow down for turkeys, Sand Hill Cranes, deer, a Bald eagle and a small herd of elk.  In the last week we've seen moose, bear and a mountain lion.  Every morning I wake to the cacophony of birds, rushing creeks and swaying fir trees.  I am home.

We no longer live off-grid.  For the first time in nearly 20 years we have light switches and flushing toilets.  We have doors and walls and kitchen cupboards.  We have a washer and a dryer and instant-on hot water!  But, we haven't forgotten our past.  I still cook on a wood cookstove in the winter and use propane to cook in the summer.  I still have oil lamps filled and at the ready and have contingency plans for non-electric refrigeration.  We have an outhouse and alternative water sources.  And, when we have the time and money, we are going to install solar panels, re-establish the spring and install a hydro-electric turbine.

I have a dining room!!!

We're going to put a door where the window is

And my tablecloth....
And the garden.....I have a garden - a real garden with topsoil!!!  The gardens are actually my mothers, I'm just care-taking them for her.  She and my dad have cultivated the gardens for about 7 years, amending the soil and adding organic material.  The berries that I have been transplanting and pulling out are raspberries and strawberries.  The berry patches have exploded and taken over both the veg garden and the orchard.  My mom and I have been working to tame the vines and make room for the rest of the garden vegetables.  I've taken over the orchard (I can see it from my kitchen window) and that is where I have been installing my Huglekultur beds.  I've pulled all of the strawberries from the orchard and contained some of them in one of the new beds and put the rest in boxes, toted them into the butcher shop and have given them away.  Between the raspberries and the strawberries, we given about 12 huge boxes of berry plants away this spring!

Looking out my kitchen window to the orchard - where the Huglekulture beds are

The big garden where we've been trying to get the strawberries and raspberries in order
Owning a business is a whole new way of life!  Our family has always worked closely together, but we've always had very different jobs.  We've had to learn how to not just live together, but to work together as well.  Our son has had to learn to be a boss and we've had to learn how to run a business and how to take direction from our son!  We've been blessed to be able to have our younger children working by our side (after they're done with school for the day).  They scrape steaks and wrap meat, they label packages and scrub counters.  They taste test sausage and carry crates of meat to customers vehicles.  Sometimes Sir Knight and I are overwhelmed by the blessing of seeing our entire family busy with the family business.

Our back door

The view from our outdoor kitchen area
When we moved here, we left part of our heart in the town we used to call home.  Maid Elizabeth and Miss Serenity had stayed behind. They both had jobs and Maid Elizabeth owned a home.  Neither daughter had plans to move - but both struggled with missing their family.  After Serenity's job ended last fall, she realized that nothing was anchoring her where she was and she came home to us.  She bought a tiny house and moved it behind the butcher shop.  She joined the family business and became half of our slaughter team.  And now she is days away from moving again - 20 miles away.  She has taken a job as a woodland fire-fighter and will be heading off to fire school next week.  And then, there is Maid Elizabeth.  She came to visit and accompanied me to a yard sale.  While there, we overheard that the house was for sale.  The home, built in 1900, was darling.  It was set on 3 acres, with a barn, outbuildings and garage and was bordered by a creek.  In fact, the creek was what separated the property from our butcher shop.  By the Grace of God, Maid Elizabeth bought that house, sold her other home and moved here about a month ago.  And as she was helping at the butcher shop one afternoon, someone drove up and offered her a job.  Only God can do that.

And so, exactly one year after we moved (today is our 1 year anniversary), our whole family is here and settled and still pinching ourselves to see if it is all real.  It has been an adventure - and adventure wrought with storms and filled with grace.  And now we stand on the mountain and proclaim God's goodness and marvel at His providence.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A New Normal - Huglekulture and Soap

A still life taken in our living room - transformed to a canvas by Maid Elizabeth
It's been almost a year since we changed our life completely and are just now finding a new normal.  Our days have been drastically different from our old, off-grid life, but just as challenging....and rewarding.

Finding my new normal is still a work in progress.  I'm learning how to juggle being a wife and mother while homeschooling, working in the butcher shop and attempting to maintain a gracious, life-giving home.  There are days I'm pretty sure I'm failing at all of those things, and other days that I think I almost have everything together.  Today was a typical combination of both.

Every morning the children and I have been heading to the gardens to get them ready for a productive growing season.  We have spent days weeding the big garden and pulling out piles of raspberry plants.  I couldn't bear to throw the plants away so we took them to the butcher shop and gave them to anyone who wanted them....they were all claimed within an hour.  We still have raspberries to pull out of the strawberry patch and strawberries to tidy up, but the rest of the garden is almost ready to plant.

I started bush beans, pole beans, tomatoes and leeks weeks ago in the house and have planted most of those in the garden and will plant a second planting of seeds this weekend.  I haven't forgotten the lessons I've learned about permaculture and am in the process of creating two new Huglekulture beds in the orchard.  Master Hand Grenade built two 10 x 3 foot boxes out of old Forest Service beams and we hauled them to the garden.  After positioning the first one where I wanted it,  Miss Serenity dug the ground out beneath it (about 1 1/2 feet), and we began to fill it - first with large organic material, followed by old raspberry canes and other smaller debris.  We then dug sod and put that on the pile upside-down.  Then came a layer of manure and ash and finally the top soil.  We put strawberries in that Huglekulture bed (we're trying to contain the unruly things) - and in the next bed we'll put tomatoes, peppers and leeks.

Raised bed with topsoil taken out

Filled with bulky organic material

Piles of raspberry canes on top

And small organic material

Digging sod

Transporting the sod in the 4-wheeler trailer

Flipped upside down over the raspberry canes

A layer of manure and ash

And the topsoil returned

Miss Serenity transplanting strawberries

Piles of strawberries to give away
After our gardening adventures we also set to work on Princess Dragon Snack's new business - Highland Naturals.  She is making lip balm, lotion bars, bar soap and other hand crafted items to sell at our local Farmer's Market this summer.  Today's job was soap making.  She and Serenity each made a batch.  Snack made Cinnamon/Clove and Serenity made Lavender.  The soap takes 3 weeks to cure and we wanted to get a start on it so that it would be ready to go for the first Market day.  Dragon Snack has been busy already with lip balm and has perfected her recipe.  She's going to continue making soap, lotion and balm now so that she has a large stock going into the summer.

Dragon Snack making soap

Two batches of soap hardening in the dining room

And so, we are finding our new normal.....one day at a time.