food, farming, friends and family: a meditation on chosen simplicity and (in)voluntary complications – life.

Archive for April, 2010

Blogging Binge

Okay interweb, that’s enough of you.  Tomorrow night I head back to the great state of Michigan for a week with the fam.  Despite my every attempt to get her to drop out of school and join a farm that existed in my mind only, Caitlin Dronen is graduating from college.  And it’s time to celebrate!  

As for the women in the knitting circle who my mom overheard planning to bring their “Bomb Obama” signs to the stadium on Saturday (Obama will be the main speaker at the ceremony) … knitting: good   protesting: great   violent, not even clever, signage: do us all a favor and stay home.  
Mixed feelings for Obama though I do have, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince me that he is not an upgrade from the speaker at my college graduation: the inventor of spellcheck.
Back to the mitten!

Hello Saturn!

A quick post to celebrate the 27th candle on the cake of Mr. Neil Vargas.   Lasagna, German chocolate cake,  vanilla ice cream, all made from scratch – more eggs, butter, and cheese than have passed through this kitchen in some time.  Aldona provided the roasted leeks and sauteed morel mushrooms; Tyler poured wine and won Settlers of Catan.  In the process, Bellingham felt a little more like home.   

The several-thousand-dollar bicycle I bought for Neil got lost in the mail, but I think reminders of the loves in our lives are a serious upgrade:
Happy 27th love!  May Saturn be good to you!

bees in the bathtub

earthday souljoy continued

Trees and shrubs seem to be the long-term relationship to the quick and steamy affairs of annual vegetables.  Tart little tomatoes and plump eggplants come and go several times over before the proud Douglas Fir has time to enter its infancy.  As a planter and a grower, I’ve been a swinger in the plant world, preferring the quick cycles (and overt edibility) of the veggies to those plants that return year after year, growing slowly, signaling the seasons, persevering.  Or at least I’ve felt more comfortable in my (admittedly small) knowledge base of the vegetable world.

But I’m starting to get excited about getting to know and love new plants, creating guilds of plant communities, becoming both a farmer and a steward.  And a designer!  With the help of several native plant landscaping books and the unending inspiration of my favorite plant-o-phile,  Rosemary, I recently completed my first landscaping design project.  I used most all native plants.  Not that I’m a purist necessarily – After all, I’m a member of perhaps the most invasive species … ever, and I myself have certainly uprooted myself from my native soils and managed to thrive.  But 1) once established, natives should be able to take care of themselves with little maintenance 2) they’re what I know  and 3) how do you say no to a deer fern?

I’m happy with how the project turned out, though already growing impatient waiting for the plants to sprawl out and fill in the gaps (How many successions of radishes could I have had in this time? my antsy farmer mind thinks to itself).
Some before and afters: 

What I’ve enjoyed most about this project is knowing who it’s for: John and Lee, the sweet couple who have made this garden I’ve planted their gift to one another for their 40th anniversary.  
Happy Anniversary you two!  If that’s not cause for souljoy, I don’t know what is. 

earthday souljoy

Much to my delight and not at all to my surprise, I found myself with my hands in the soil on Earth Day.  A day that started in leaden clouds slowly broke to a clear sky, sun beaming, by the afternoon.  And I was beaming too.  I’ve just started doing some gardening work for an elderly couple – Tom and Dorothy – who are both sweet and fiery.  With slight figures and small hunches to their backs, they refuse to stop for age, and spent most of the day outside with me gardening.  And I’m not talking watering-plants-with-a-miniature-watering-can-gardening.  No, I mean shoveling huge scoops of compost and soil into a raised veggie bed area they’ve created.  The best part of it all was that they weren’t alone; as I wrangled day lilies out of the ground for transplanting, I watched as Tom and Dorothy and their neighbor Greg worked on the plot together.  Apparently these neighbors have shared this garden spot for years, sharing in the abundance it has put forth as well.  Beautiful. 

Dorothy sent me home with a bouquet of tulips from her garden and inspiration to do some gardening work back at home. 
I’ve spent a lot of time as of late wishing that my dream of becoming a farmer on a communal farm would just realize itself already!  But yesterday served as another reminder that it’s happening – right before my eyes.  And as I helped Beau and his friend Chris (who came with his sweet daughter Ela) put the finishing touches on one of our hoop houses, I let that realization sweep over me and felt a great deal of gratitude.  
The day ended in homemade Irish soda bread, the last of our tomato soup (the best canned soup I’ve ever tasted – botulism-free, too!), and a sunset walk with Neil to get gelato in Fairhaven.   
Happy Earth Day!


A quick post to spread the word on a few of the people, farms and projects I’ve been lucky enough to work with in different areas around Washington. Two of them are just establishing their presence on the interweb; all of them are amazing. Check em out!

April Pictorial

Neil and I took a long weekend in early April to see his family down in Oregon. I haven’t been great as of late with taking pictures – If I had, I would have actually taken some with his family! While the highlight was certainly catching up with those familiar faces, there are some other aspects of the trip that made it onto the camera and are definitely worth noting.

These, for example, taken at the 22nd Street Station – a sweet cafe in Forest Grove.

This breakfast is endorsed by Mexico (and Bob Ross).
America’s no slouch! The glob of butter and jar of maple syrup probably aren’t necessary on this already decadent Bavarian French Toast. Incredible! But do not plan on thinking, moving, or operating any heavy machinery after consumption.

Spring blooms at the Fernhill Wetlands – my first time seeing the deep red trillium.

Meanwhile, back in Bellingham…
Scenes from our Douglas Avenue homestead:

New Arrivals!

Chicken and Vegetable babies absorbing heat.
An afternoon of cribbage on the yurt porch with our friend and neighbor Baker.