Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Country Roads and Camping

This weekend we headed out for a bit of solitude up in the Cascades. Typically the sounds of the city don’t bother me too much, in fact I mostly enjoy the excitement they seem to represent.

But last week I started to itch. Which manifested in a strong urge to kick a bus that honked too loudly(not that hard, but still), and the thought that maybe I should hurl an egg at the dumb motorcyclists who vroom their engines while passing by my house. Why do they have to do that?  We don’t think they are cooler or tougher, and in the words of Stephanie Tanner (yes Stefanie Tanner) “How Rude!”

About every six months country road fever sets in. Making me want to drive down windy country roads with a bit of good music, windows rolled down, and arm out the window making wave motions. (A trick I learned from my high school boyfriend driving down Highway 69 in his red Cavalier convertible. If you stick your arm out the window while driving at a mild pace of 55 or so and make the motion of a wave/snake with your arm slowly you feel as if you are actually flying. It feels so free to be on a country road with a good tune, sunshine, and your arm “flying” out the window.)

00328 dollars in camp ground fees, a tank of gas, and a bag of marshmallows/ dark chocolate bars and voila peace, quiet, and freedom the perfect two day summer vacation.  Picture taken at the top of a hike ending with an amazing Alpine Lake. Swimming was cold, yes, but certainly was wonderful.


We found a few deals along Highway 2 as well.  Although small town thrifting was not quite to my taste, (i.e. 1990’s flower shams and faux country home sweet home coat racks) as Seattle, I still found a few fun items.

Above is a photo book of Seattle from the mid nineteen-eighties. Looking through it, I fell back in love with my city and no longer was fighting urges to kick busses and egg Harley’s.


Normally I don’t buy things for the unborn children I may have in 4 or 5 years, but I totally loved these books when I was little, and have a feeling my brother, who’s five years older, is going to become a dad before I become a mom, and inherit all things saved for grandkids.

He also had a great affinity for these little books. Although there is a story that’s been circulating at family holidays for most of his life about him telling a stranger he looked just like Mr. Grumpy which he doesn’t seem to appreciate, I know he will snap them up once a little one arrives.

047 Finally I found my very own cow creamers at a decent price, FREE! The nice older lady hosting the sale insisted that I take them at no cost, as she just wanted to get rid of things and it was the end of her day, and at eleven dollars Alex and I had the made the highest amount of purchases she’d had all day with our other loot.

Initially I only wanted the lovely cow but the nice woman insisted I take the bull as well, and I am glad she did as they do make a handsome couple.


After mowing his mom’s lawn upon our return Sunday night, Alex brought me a gorgeous rose from his mom’s Garden. It looked just beautiful in the 16 cent glass jar I leave on my window sill for cups of midnight water.

Great cheap summer weekend. Life does not get better! How are you all enjoying your summer days and nights? What are your favorite free/ cheap summer past times?

Enjoy and drink in these juicy bits of summer!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Homestead Seattle

Last year I took Alex on a road trip to Iowa in an effort to show him my farmin’ roots, and how Iowans live off the land, to let him see self sustaining do it yourself kind of folk. Like my tomato farmin friend Jennie Smith.


Ok, so actually I didn’t grow up on a farm.  However, for at least four years of my childhood my backyard consisted of a large cornfield. This was until the mid 1990’s when the real estate boom hit and my small town turned into a large suburb, and my backyard turned into big two story homes.

Despite the growth in my town, I grew up driving on gravel roads, seeing livestock, and the only traffic jams I experienced were due to John Deer Tractors driving down the highway very slowly.

This particular picture is one of my favorite farms in Upper Iowa called Seed Savers which supplies many home gardeners with the seeds for their gardens and also contains the largest non-governmental seed bank in United States. It was created to “honor the tradition of preserving and sharing.” I love that, I also would like to preserve and share.

It seemed like most of the adults I knew growing up did things like can, garden, raise chickens and cross stitch. I must confess, I did not always find these things to be “cool” hobbies. My grandpa George had a huge garden, and all I thought about it, until a few years ago, was how I wished he would stop trying to force his bounty of bitter radishes on me, and also that my grandmother would stop trying to make me eat her homemade sweet pickles, and that my parents would stop bringing me so many darned tomatoes in the middle of August. Why would anyone put the work into this stuff when you could just buy it at the store?

The satisfaction one gets from tending to a plot of  veggies,  cooking, and consuming them in a meal was lost on me. I was such a moron. It took moving to Seattle and quitting my hectic job as a restaurant manager to really develop an appreciation for the slow homesteading arts and skills. It has proved to be one of the greatest and most rewarding pleasures in my life to have my own garden, and now I want to learn more.


Last weekend while thrifting, it felt like I was being sent a message from the homesteading goddesses. First I found The Simple Living Guide at a yard sale for one dollar.

Next, Alex and I happened upon a 40 percent off all used book sale at our favorite bookstore Third Place Books, which has a small homesteading section, and as luck would have it the three books that I thought looked interesting were all used!

I picked up Made from Scratch, Simple Living, and Ready Made’s: How to Make Almost Everything, all for 15 dollars, and all hardbacks in mint condition! (Probably not for long, but still)

I am simultaneously reading Made from Scratch and The Simple Living Guide, and am very much enjoying/getting a lot out of both.


The girl in  Made from Scratch marvels at the wonders and work of growing your own food in her second chapter, where she attempts her first garden. I felt so connected to everything she was saying having started my own first garden this year. We made many of the same mistakes, lamented in the same way over the deep 20 year old roots of our grass and how hard they were to dislodge, and enjoyed many of the same splendors of seeing our first leafs, buds, and fruits.

Just before reading this,I'd spent two hours dividing and replanting onions. Then however, I was able to cook and eat some of the bigger ones with our plump sugar snap peas in an amazing stir fry. After all the toil, I was able to enjoy and share the fruits of the labor, and it was well worth it.

The meal tasted 100 times  better,and weather or not that was all in my head, it was extremely satisfying.


Next up on the homesteading efforts, canning. Another sign from the homestead goddesses, this weekend at The Goodwill there was a brand new case of mason jars for 4 dollars and 99 cents, and with the 20 percent off coupon I had to made it even less.  Also, I picked up a bunch of old jars for 16 cents each, and will just have to buy fresh lids.

I’m looking forward to canning something, not sure what yet, or if it will come from my garden, or someone else's, but that’s next in the quest at self sustainment doing a few more things for myself.


Perhaps next year we will build an Urban Chicken coop. I was going through our pictures from this past year, and found a disproportionate amount of chicken photos in the collection. Mostly taken by Alex in hopes of having his own chickens to dote over.

He almost has me convinced, and the homesteading goddesses which seem to be taking hold of my existence are gently pushing me in the direction of these little rascals. Still not sure about butchering, but fresh eggs would sure be nice in our Sunday French toast.

Sewing, embroidery, soap making, and honey bees are also very intriguing. What are your experiences with these lost arts? Are you too  enjoying their resurgence? What do you do to keep your life simple? How do you take part in the moments of your life instead of letting them pass by?