30 agosto 2014

What's in a name?

So... I love names.

It makes me quite happy to answer to Dunham, Amichka, Deppy-san, Punky, AlyOnooshka, Tía Sofía María, Tofi, Ames and Amster Frackle.

Had I chosen to re-name my children completely, we would have Henry, Charlie, or Oskar and Rivkah, Zoya, Beatrice (said the Italian way) or Thessaly.

The hens have given me a new reason to name, for which I am thankful: Ymo, Dotte, Aster, Ali, Orp, Orpa, Rhoda, Golda, Ilka and Henya and Henya.  Our coop is called The Poule House.  And I've already been thinking of names for our next batch: Athena, Meghen, Henrietta... Get it?

I, with so much gusto, happily learned hundreds of plants' botanical names once upon a time.  Each of my kids has five names.  I have even named a few houseplants, my favorite being Gilbert.  

But, I am currently name-blocked.  

This is the thing: As I homeschool our kids, they haven't learned the common lingo.  We haven't labeled what we do as "school."  It's just "time to read," or "calendar time," etc.  So many people lately have been asking G if he is in Kindergarten or what grade he is in and he just looks at me like, "What?"  Finally I decided that I needed to explain everything and so now he says, "Oh, we do homeschool."  

This is putting the pressure on me to come up with a name for our school.  It would be so much easier for them to say, "Yes.  I go to..."  We would be spared the looks, questions and smiles that don't hide the fact that you think that I'm crazy.  But, what do I name it?  I feel like I want something in Latin, but...???  Has anyone a suggestion?  Jenks, I feel like you would have something witty.  

To be continued...

25 agosto 2014

This week's harvest

Now, this is better!
So, I can't grow onions.  These puny little things are the best that I've ever done.  What am I doing wrong?  Maybe they were too shaded by the enormous wall of Brussels Sprouts.  These little ones are enough encouragement for me to try one more time, next year, God willing.  Now, that sunflower... I know that the kernels aren't dry enough yet, but I figured that I'd try to let it dry indoors before the creatures eat them all.  I have one more enormous head yet to harvest, but the multi-branched, smaller flowered specimens are my offering to the animals.
My first spaghetti squash of the year... it seems a bit early, but it was the right color and had a nice thump, so I picked it.  There are so many more to come!  Then the potatoes!  These are the last from the dacha.  Such nice specimens.   I am keeping a few of the nicest of each kind to use for seed next year, if I can keep them well through the winter.  There is more squash every time I turn around, but our friends downstairs are helping me use them up: zucchini chocolate bread, zucchini blueberry birthday cake, zucchini pumpkin bread, ratatouille (minus the eggplant), zucchini smashed potatoes, zucchini tacos, zucchini latkes, zucchini hash... The tomatoes are trickling in, thankfully.  Oo!  There is just nothing like a perfectly ripe tomato, still warm from the sun.  And the eggs: I believe that the puffball, Ilka, is done being broody, thankfully, although I still haven't seen an egg from her yet; but at least the others are able to get to the nesting boxes without being pecked.
We had this kale in a delicious millet salad.
Peppers!  Corn!  Basil!  Tomatoes!  I love summer!
Bring on the tomatoes!
Check out others' harvests at Daphne's Dandelions.

In other garden news... on Sunday, while working at the dacha, Rob took the kids for a walk.  Once I finished my work, I started looking, looking, looking for them.  I even yelled their names, disturbing the much-needed peace.  Finally, a fellow gardener, whom I had already asked if she had seen my oh-so-conspicuous family, spotted them and called to me.  There was Rob, laden with produce, a Coke and some Sunkist packets.  "Where have you been?" asked I.

Years ago, we rented a plot in a different area of the same garden where we are now.  Across the road from us were some... well, at the time I guessed that they were Albanians, because I was consumed with Albania at the time.  For sure, I knew that they were eastern Europeans.  Well, I was close.  Today, Aïda, a sweet little Bosnian-American, saw our children walking by and came up to them, asking if they would play with her.  And before Rob knew what had happened, the children were playing hide-and-seek and he was the happy recipient of some serious eastern European hospitality and offers of more... if you know what I mean.

This all made me so happy and so sad at the same time.  The smell of the peppers we were given sent me back to Baba Lida's Crimean kitchen, where I was once put to serious work, chopping peppers, eggplant and onions for a delicious mix that was then canned up for winter.  I am happy remembering those times, but I am sad too.  I should have been in Baba Lida's Crimean kitchen every weekend helping her, learning from her.

-a sigh-

Maybe I'll get invited to Baba Aïsha's Bosnian kitchen...

As Rob came out of Dyed Fahat's garden, this is what he found: All the kids were relaxing on the swing, Mita was quickly sipping a Coke and G was slamming the Sunkist.  I am sure that they knew their secret pleasures were soon to end, thus the rapid consumption.  Ty's treat was foiled by that tricky straw.  

21 agosto 2014

Wildlife Sanctuary or Garden of Horrors?

The birds chirp, praising God.
The chipmunks and squirrels are a great example, industrious, yet playful.
The soft bunnies hop to and fro.
And the Templetons of the world find rest and sustenance, a break from the struggles of the city.


Flocks of cacophony pilfer seeds, uproot plantlings and tear up worms.
Chipmunks tunnel under great patches of earth, drilling holes here and there and everywhere.
Squirrels steal grapes and topple sunflowers.
Ravenous rabbits raze entire crops.
The Templetons (I shudder at their common name!) mangle melons and half-gnaw tomatoes.
And now, mapaches murder hens!

Ah, Rhoda-hen,
Once robust,
Reduced to a pile of bones.

1.  We have bought two replacement pullets.  Their names are Henya and Henya.  (I love that name!)
2.  After putting the hens in a seriously reinforced lock-down last night, Rob came in and said, "Well, the good news is that nothing is getting in that coop.  ... ... The bad news is that there are four raccoons on the sidewalk in front of our house!"

Accordingly, we were distracted for a good portion of the night.  I served as Second-story Look-out, telling Rob when and where to go and flush out the mapaches.  Oy!  However, no hens died.

18 agosto 2014

This week's harvest

The last of the poppy seeds and more zucchini
My bean situation is so sad.  And now even the hens are pecking at the remains of the rabbit's current destruction, my cannellini beans.  I did, however, sow two long rows of Dragon's Tongue beans over at the dacha, and carefully protected them, so hopefully the situation will ameliorate in a few weeks.
Mmmm, basil!  I made my version of Noodles' old Pasta Fresca: "zucchini pasta," sauteed/steamed broccoli with garlic and red pepper flakes, those raw tomatoes, and tasty pesto.  I even had enough pesto to freeze... to remind me of Pleasant Summer in Dreadful Winter.
I have decided to pickle the okra pods as I harvest them as it seems as though I'll never have very many at a time.  For this, I picked that dill-plosion for flavor.  The ground cherries were happily snacked up by my children.  And there is one Sunshine pepper.  There are so many more on the plant, just needing to size up.  And soon I'll have quite a few Macaroni Peppers.  It looks like this will be my best pepper year ever.  I give credit to the heating mat and lights.

In related news, Mr. Chip and Mr. Templeton have both "graduated" and then Mr. Chip and Mr. Templeton Juniors have taken part in a privately funded relocation program.  So, hopefully, the rest of my vegetables will make it to be harvested.

Check out others' harvests at Daphne's Dandelions!

11 agosto 2014

This week's harvest

kale, another till-now-hidden garlic, zucchini, cucumbers, one okra pod (What do I do with that?), our first aronia berries and that ground cherry, which is a representative of the handfuls that we've eaten straight out of the yard
more zucchini, a bit of broccoli, a sad tomato that had fallen off of the vine unripened, a few yellow pear tomatoes, more cucumbers (whose plants have just caught the mildew), enough mint to keep a large gathering of Moroccans happily in tea and a few onions (Although they are so small, these are the largest onions that I have ever grown.  To next year!)
Couch potatoes!  Ha!  That was Berto's idea.  I think that even Papa (No, I did not forget the accent.) Moerkerke would be proud!  These are the German Butterball and I am so thrilled.  I have only ever grown la Ratte before, so to pull such large tubers out of the ground was such fun!  (Ah, the simple pleasures.)  Now I need to figure out how best to keep them, considering that there are still more yet to pick.
The rest of la Ratte
Ho-hum.  We've been snacking on the cucumbers, so they disappear quite quickly, and the zucchini has been going into delicious zucchini-chocolate bread.
My harvests have been rather boring lately.  In hopes of more diversity in Autumn, I have recently (re)planted: carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, mibuna, mizuna, dill, parsley, kale, beans, and cucumbers.  Soon to be sown are mache (Excuse the missing circonflexe.), beets, Belle Isle cress and probably some more buckwheat for green manure.

Check out others' harvests at Daphne's Dandelions!

10 agosto 2014


Oh dear.

So, I don't know where my children learned the following prayer, "Dear God, thank you for this day.  Thank you for our blessings.  Thank you for this food.  In Jesus' name, Amen;" however, they have, and they use it several times daily.

The other day after one of them had recited those words, I asked them what "blessings" were.  And of course they had no clue what the word meant.  So, I explained it and then asked them to tell me what some of our blessings are.

They came up with the following:
pelo (I hear that!)
our car
the earth
nuestra finca
our house
vegetables on Thursdays
our friends downstairs

I think that we're going to continue this breakfast-time listing of our blessings together.  I need it.

So, the last on the list, our friends downstairs... some old acquaintances-now-new friends moved in just over a week ago.  And whoa!  Within a few days, Mr. Downstairs had taken his kids and my Girumy to shoot archery.  Girumy did... well... he didn't come home hurt, so that's good.

And then, a couple of days ago, Mr. Downstairs, his son, Roberto and our sons went canoeing on the river!  In a boat made by our neighbor below!  And to top it off, they all decided to believe that they were actually dragon hunting (AKA duck watching), decked out in masks, helmets and special suits!
Note the dragon-hunting masks.

Yes, what blessings we are given!  Seeing them as such is the difficult part.

07 agosto 2014

Anti-odes to Destructive Thieves

The Squirrels
Sneaking 'round the borders
Scrambling up the fences
Twitching, twitching
To my offering to them, the sunflower towers.
But this is only a distraction.

Its calmer kin are break, break, breaking
snap, snap, snapping
thieving kale, grapes and squash,
as might we to survive.

The Rabbits
Apricot the First, down.
Pear the First, down.
Pear the Second, down.
And now Apricot the Second, down,
Slowly parched.
O!  The torment has been long!
Speckled Lettuce, down.
Dragon Tongue, down.
Oh so close!  But you always hippity-hop into ?

The Worst
Nibbled tomatoes.
Gnawed squash.
Mangled melons.
-a fright!-
And Long and Thin slides so easily beneath the fence.

Out of the mouths of my babes

Yoda, I mean... Mita, has been consistently speaking like the following for a while now:
"Beautiful, that is."
"Delicious, this is."
"Pretty, you are."

Ay!  And it's rubbing off on me!  Last week at Market I heard myself saying, several times:
"Delicious, that is."
"Beautiful, they are, no?"
"8 dollars, that comes to."

Girumy has taken to saying, after doing something very well or being very helpful:
"MamA, I am not going to ask for anything special, but if you want to give me something, well, that's fine."

And Ty has gotten very long-winded lately, telling unending stories, filled with, "y defUes... y defUes... y defUes... y defUes..."  (He can't pronounce despUes.)

Israel, my son

     I had long wanted to name my son Israel, for a few reasons.

     The first was/is because "Israel" is God's chosen people and we were choosing our son through adoption.
     Two weeks before we went to Ethiopia to meet our Israel, I was at the last minute asked to go to Mexico, to Esperanza Viva.  There, a day after telling one of the women about our soon-to-be-ours son, she said, "I've been thinking: You chose his name because you are choosing him, right?"  "Yes."  And then she told me that she couldn't sleep the previous night because she couldn't stop thinking that really it's because he is God's chosen son.  "YES!"
     I have thought about that a lot over the past two and a half difficult years.  Israel was chosen by God to be our son.  He is a precious gift from God, which I have intensely experienced.  The child is, as his Ethiopian name means, amazing.  I am so grateful that God made him a part of our family.  Israel has been and continues to be the hugging arms and encouraging words of Jesus.  The body of Christ.
The other day, as there wasn't enough of whatever I had made for lunch for me, Israel, on his own, got out the trusty stool and started rummaging through the fridge and pantry.  Once he had all of his ingredients ready, he asked me to tie on an apron.  And the child prepared me lunch: yogurt, a cut up banana (an excuse to use a knife), blueberries and a sprinkling of hemp hearts.
     Another of the reasons why I chose the name Israel was to remind him and us of God's faithfulness in spite of our faithlessness.  I just read again this morning, in Numbers 14, "The Lord said... 'How long will these people treat me with contempt?  How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of the miraculous signs I have performed among them?'"  This is me.  This is most of us.  And we need to remember that though we are so faithless, God is just and faithful.

     Why am I going on so?  Well, it is exactly five years ago that we brought Baby Israel home, so I've been reminiscing.  And I also want Israel to be able to read this someday and understand.

04 agosto 2014

This week's harvest... ... wait for it... ...

So, I haven't been as diligent in photo-documenting our harvests this week.  We have eaten several cucumbers straight out of the yard and given away as much.  I smashed up so many zucchini with potatoes and garlic before it occurred to me to snap them into posterity.  And, the saddest reason is that I feel defeated and therefore am a bit sulky about the garden.  After all of the work we've done to rout out the ravenous rabbits, one little, but oh-so-destructive, Nibbler somehow found a way in and decimated my patch of Dragon's Tongue beans.  Ugh.  Accordingly, I have put a $10 bounty on its head.  I have told the children that if they can catch it with their net, I will pay up and they may buy whatever they want.  Yes, I am that desperate.  I really do think that Ty will be able to do it.  The children have spent good chunks of time already at this task and if they can just work together, I believe they will be successful.  In the mean time, I am considering how I might protect the newest beans that I've planted.  I don't want to turn our beautiful yarden into a fenced in jungle, but I might.

Here is what I did manage to capture:
Delicious cucumbers; kale; a mixture of Dragon's Tongue (pre-decimation), Purple Podded Pole and some green beans; zucchini, basil; and the first ground cherries
More poppy seeds and some lovely carrots
More super-tasty cucumbers, the last of the first batch of carrots, some beets (How tiny they are compared to those from our CSA!) and two garlic bulbs that had been hiding
Enough said.

I also harvested another half of a large bucket of la Ratte potatoes, four cucumbers and more zucchini from the dacha.  And finally, the eggs haven't been as plentiful, maybe because of Ilka's broodiness and the heat: There have maybe been 14 this week.

A lovely salad: kale, oregano, borage flowers, onion, mint, beans, cucumbers, mizuna, chrysanthemum greens, chard, rat-tail radishes, some random red lettuce that I found hiding, broccoli side-shoots, marjoram, parsley, basil and... THAT ENORMOUS, AWESOME, DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS TOMATO!!!!!!!  AH!!!!!!!  THANK YOU, GOD!!!!!!
Check out others' harvests at Daphne's Dandelions.

03 agosto 2014

Around here

The garden is paradisiacal!
The boys are really enjoying that I've been watering with the sprinkler lately.  Mita?  She won't go near it!
Sunshine Tower
Ty could barely wield these beets from our CSA.  Come on Amichka!  You can figure out what to do with so many beets!
Mita's turn for her sleepover.  She was by far the most relaxed about it.  She didn't harass me all day about when she would be picked up or what she was going to eat there.  She didn't even care to pack her bag.  I calmly did it.  She calmly went with Tita and Tito.  And I believe that she had a nice, calm time.
And G has been spending a lot of time "talking" on the phone.  He is usually calling PapA and Tita, asking them to send him texts when they are on their way home.  Ay!