Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Wedding Day

Photo credit to Boe.
After more than eight happy years of adventure together Matt and I got hitched this past Saturday, the summer solstice.  It was a glorious day.  Absolutely glorious.  Looking back on it now the whole thing seems kind of like a sort of wonderful dream.
Photo credit to Alli Nelson.
Photo credit to Boe.
Photo credit to Matt's mom, Sharon.
We had sunshine overhead and green grass underfoot as we took our vows in grove a trees with our friends and family watching on.  We were so touched by how many people were there to celebrate with us.  Looking in their faces as I walked down the isle on my dad's arm filled me with overwhelming happiness and love.  It was a feeling like none other.  Our countless blessings in life were abundantly clear.  The whole day was certainly a memory and milestone that will stay with us forever.
Photo credit to Alli Nelson.
Photo credit to Boe.
Photo credit to Boe.
Photo credit to Boe.
And now we're off on a new chapter in the adventure novel of our life--as husband and wife.  I look forward to every minute.
Photo credit to Boe.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mark Twain - Inspiration Thursday

Matt on the shore of frozen Lake Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park, May 2013
I read a book of Mark Twain quotations earlier this year. I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer last year and Matt read Huck Finn. I've been thinking I'd needed to revisit Twain. It had been a while. When we went to a music festival at the Calvaras County Fair Grounds back in 2010 I had to pick up The Celebrated Jumping From of Clavaras County. That was probably the last time I'd picked up any Twain. Every time I have read his works I have enjoyed them very much. He has a lot of wisdom and wit wrapped up in whimsy. I like it.   I jotted down a number of lines in my diary as I read Man is the Only Animal That Blushes...or Needs To and just came across them again today. In a lot of respects he reminds me of a Kurt Vonnegeut (my favorite author) from a previous era.
Matt and me in front of steamy, erupting Grotto Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, May 2013
"The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds." 

 "Training is everything.  The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." 

"The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up."

"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can read." 

"Always do right.  This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest." 
-Mark Twain
Matt on the Ptarmigan Trail in Glacier National Park, August 2013

Monday, June 23, 2014

Avocets at Spidel

I can distinctly remember the first time Matt and I identified an American Avocet.  It was at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge outside of Missoula, MT.  Matt took a liking to them immediately because they are partially orange and that is his favorite color.  We don't have many orange birds up here.  Brown birds galore, but limited brightly colored ones.  The avocets are also quite lithe and smooth-looking.  Quite striking with their black, white, and orange contrast.
I can also remember the first time we saw the avocet without their breeding plumage.  We thought the pale creature must be a different bird for several minutes as we paged through our field guide.  Its a pretty incredible bird.  Well, frankly, they all are, if you ask me.
A couple months ago we went off to explore a new-to-us birding location called the Spidel Waterfowl Production Area.  Its a seasonal wetland area that is used by migrating and breeding birds during the spring and early summer when the area is flooded.  Its also just a hop, skip, and a jump from home so we went to check it out on a morning excursion.  We'd never heard of it before this year though.  I cannot even recall where I first read about it now...  Oh well, that is not important.
Making our way through the WPA we didn't see an incredible diversity of birds, but we sure did see an impressive quantity of them.  There were red-winged black birdscoots, and shovelers each by the hundreds.  Red-winged Black Birds have a fabulous way of puffing themselves up as they release their ruckus call.  Coots have awesome feet.  Shovlers, as the name implies, have broad bills perfectly suited to digging around in the muck.  We also saw some western meadowlarks and ring-billed gulls.
As we continued on the dirt track nestled between two large ponds Matt and I simultaneously spotted something down the road a ways.  As we looked through our binoculars we realized that it was a flock of avocets.  Most had their heads tucked under their wings, resting, it appears.   When we see avocets they are usually in a group and this was certainly the case at Spidel.  There were easily two dozen of them standing along the roadside.  One alone would be interesting enough, but all the better by the dozen, I say.
They ultimately took flight as we watched and made a swirling flight over the pond all the while making an incredible mass peeping noise that neither Matt nor I had ever heard before (There is a recording on the avocet link above under "excited group calling," in case you're interested).  
It was pretty breathtaking to behold.  I wish I could fly like that.
So Spidel proved to be a fun place to while away the morning. I wouldn't describe it as a real birding hot spot or anything, but it did give us a morning of watching avocets.  That is always a winner in my book.  We will go back again next spring.
(By the way, spell check is pretty sure that "avocet" should really be "avocado."  It makes me smile when that happens.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Place That Sustains You - Inspiration Thursday

"So how is happiness and joy found in the normal course of the everyday? Shhhh, it's a secret, but I'll let you in on it. It's found by slowing down, focusing on what you're doing, taking pride in a job well done, and repeating that on a daily basis."
"Making your home a place that sustains you and your family is one of the most important jobs you can do. Times are tough, there are all sorts of things going on in the world that are difficult to understand, but if you make your home a place that comforts, a place where you can relax and be your true self, a place where your children feel safe and warm, a place where you show your family the joy of living simply, then you are doing a really significant and essential job that takes the hard edge off the outside world." - Rhonda Hetzel, from Down To Earth
When I started reading blogs back in 2010 one of the very first that I encountered was Down to Earth.  It was just what I needed to find, too.  Rhonda has a gentle way of encouraging her readers to grow in simplicity in their own way, at their own pace, according to their own needs.  She encourages a gentle, slow life with an emphasis on the homemaker, the local economy, and general self-reliance.  She teaches people all around the world how worthwhile it can be to raise vegetables, make soap, conserve energy, keep chickens, knit on the back porch, bake bread, catch rainwater, shop locally, preserve fruits and veg, and on and on and on.   She made me see that we should speak with pride of the work we do at home--that canning, sewing, gardening, knitting and the like have a real value and that they provide a non-monetary income for our household.  
Each step I take towards the simple life is one step closer to freedom.  I don't need to buy chapstick.  I can make my own for pennies on the dollar.  I don't need to buy bread or breadcrumbs.  I can bake my bread with Montana-grown wheat and have it be tastier and cheaper, too, not to mention more rewarding.  I don't have to buy endless plastic bottles of chemically-laden hair conditioner.  I can use dilute apple cider vinegar from my bulk jug.  Every time I patch Matt's work pants it is money in the bank since we didn't have to go buy a new pair. Every batch of beer Matt brews saves us four to six dollars per six-pack and then we can reuse bottles over and over, too.  
This is our dream.  Not to make a million dollars working our way up some business ladder or to have big, new house full of shiny, new furnishings with two cars in the garage and the latest gadgets.  We aspire to work in and around our simple, little home actively engaged in the joyful acts of living a closer and richer life with the land and the people and animals that we share it with--a place which sustains us in every meaning of the word.  We want a small house and large veg garden with fruit trees and sprawling strawberry patches that fill our pantry and cold storage the year round.  We want to learn the skills necessary to work less and less outside of our home--and we already are, by Matt's shift to part-time in 2012.  We're working towards needing less money by working within our home rather than making more money working outside of it.  We want a home that is unit of production rather than a unit of consumption.  We realize this isn't the norm any more, but it is what feels right and makes sense to us.
We both get so much joy, pride, pleasure from the fruits of our labor at home.  They're so obvious, personal, transformative, and experiential.  Its the satisfaction of a dinner of homegrown veg with cloth napkins and a vase of bright flowers.  Its the rich brown compost that was formerly scraps and grass clippings. Its the heart-soaring joy on the face of my niece as Matt helps her to transplant seedlings.  Its the astonishing pleasure at that first taste of a seasonal vegetable that hasn't graced our plates in months. Its witnessing the mating song and flight of the merlins nesting two doors down while puttering about the yard.  Its the ability to give quality, homemade gifts which were crafted with love, not by machines or sweatshops.  Its watching a glorious sunset after a day of hard work with a happy satisfaction running through my entire body from a day well spent.  The simple life is the good life, if you ask me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Simple Bride's Day Book for June 17, 2014

A Simple Bride's Day Book for June 17, 2014

Outside my window... it is rain and grey.  Again.  It was a pretty sunny and blue afternoon despite an overcast sky drizzling rain when I first woke up.  Its been such a rainy June.  But, oh my is everything green and lovely as a result.  Matt and I are getting married in the trees.  It will be beautiful.  And we have a Plan B in case of rain....but we're just banking on sunshine for the Solstice.

I am truly blessed I am to have most of my family so close by.  I have a huge Catholic family.  But, they almost all live in Montana.  I grew up spending weeks with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We have a family reunion  almost every year.  Its amazing that we've kept so close in proximity which allows us to stay closer in each others hearts, too, I think. 

I am thankful family.  The one I was born to and the one I'm marrying into.  They're both awesome.  I am super excited for so many of them to be together in one place this weekend.  

From the kitchen... the food processor is whizzing up batch after batch of yummy nut cheese for the reception.  We sampled a bit last night.  It was superb.

I am mom's wedding dress from when she married my dad in 1977.  It was sewn by grandmother.  I am a highly sentimental type so that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Plus, it fits kind of like it was made for me.  We did alter it slightly as that big ol' 70's collar had to go and the sleeves were a little too short so we made them 3/4 length sleeves instead.  

I am creating... a new signature.  Its harder than I expected.  My current last name is so short and easy to write in cursive.  My new last name is longer and requires a cursive Z in the middle which I do not excel at.  I keep being told to just go the squiggle route--you know, write in the first letter or two and finish it off with a squiggle.  But, I just don't like that.  So, I am practicing.

I am going... to the southwest for the first time on our honeymoon.  We're going to see at least three new national parks.  Well, Matt saw them as a youth, but doesn't have the clearest of recollections about them all.  And they will be totally new to me.  But, we're not going for a few months.  Who wants to go to the desert in June or July?  Not me or Matt, that is for sure.

I am reading... nothing.  Whoa....that felt weird to even type.  I finished the Harry Potter series last night and doubt I'll get seriously into a book until after the festivities of the weekend and all my friends and family have migrated back home again.  Harry Potter was good, just like everyone always said it was.  I'm glad to have read it and also glad to be able to read something new again.  Those books are pretty long even if they do read fast!

On my mind...
about the wedding.  It sure has been in my thoughts a lot in these final weeks before the Big Day.  I'm not really nervous, well just a teensy bit.  Neither of us are usually the type to make ourselves the center of attention like this.  Plus, it IS the biggest social gathering we've ever attempted to organize.  We're more comfortable with the dinner party or BBQ for a dozen.   I am really excited though.  And ready.  Ready to enjoy the day that has been so long in the planning.  Its going to be great.  I am not worried about that at all.

Around the house... things are looking spiffy in preparation of company.  Well, except that tower of wedding stuff that has accumulated in the craft room.  I don't think that looks too spiffy, but it will be carted off to the reception hall soon enough.  And I will be glad to have my table back!  And time to sew!

One of my favorite things... that Matt did all the research into recyclable/compostable plates, glasses, napkins, etc. for the reception   And that he has a plan for composting and recycling nearly all the wedding day waste--without making our guest have to sort anything.  I'd been worrying about compromised values in this regard when it comes to cooking and serving food and drink on such a large scale, but he just took care of it all.  Its important to him, too, and he knew I'd been worrying about it because its so important to me.  He didn't want it to be even a tiny source of displeasure on our big day.

A few plans for the rest of the week... time with Adam who flies in late tonight and then with aunts, parents, sisters, cousins, and friends who start trickling in through Saturday.  Plus, food shopping and prep work, hall set up, and undoubtedly a number of other odds and ends.  But, with the helpful hands of that super awesome family I mentioned I think it will be pretty simple.

A small window into my life...
The beaming bride-to-be at the bridal shower thrown by my great-aunt and cousin.  Photo credit to Kris Prinzing.
 This format come from the Simple Woman blog.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Plant Varietals Matter

We grew three types of spinach this year--Space, Tyee, and Raccoon.  The first two we've grown in previous years and quite enjoy.  They are cold hardy yet also don't bolt as early in the warmer weather as other varieties that we've tried.  Matt first heard about Space in one of Eliot Coleman's books.  It really is a good varietal.  We've been impressed with it.

But, one of the things Matt loves about the garden is the endless varieties to choose from.  So, he tried one new kind this year as well--the raccoon.  We've been harvesting the spinach steadily over the last month to make way for the summer crops of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, squash, etc.  When we pulled back the row cover  on the spinach bed it was such a stark contrast between the raccoon spinach and the space.  It was remarkable.

One half of the bed (the left side in the photos) was sown with space spinach.  They were all lovely and contentedly growing.  The other half of the bed was planted with raccoon spinach and every single plant was bolting and going to flower already.  They were also considerably more tall, lanky plants with a higher stem-to-leaf ratio than the compact little space plants right next door.  They were almost twice as tall, but the space had much broader, densely clustered leaves.

I don't know that we've ever had a side-by-side comparison that was  more illustrative as to the differences between varietals of the same crop.  It was very interesting.  But, I doubt that we'll grow raccoon spinach again next year.

We're pushing 10 pounds of greens (bok choy, swiss chard, and spinach) harvested already this year.

Friday, June 13, 2014

What You Might Find Under Stones

Matt found a tiger salamander in the garden.  Apparently they are common in our area, but neither of us had ever seen one before.  As such, it was pretty darn exciting.  As I said recently, we see lots of mammals and birds, but almost never see reptiles and amphibians--possibly because I am not out flipping over rocks all that often.
See, Matt was moving stones that had been piled up in a previously unused corner of the garden as he intended to start using it this year.  We're short on growing space at the moment in that overlap period where the spring garden is not quite yet finished, but the summer garden is ready to be put in.  So, the rocks had to go.

Matt lifted one up and said he had to do a double take.  He also momentarily thought it must be a toy, but oh no, with a second look he could see the salamander breathing!  It was the real deal.

Since the stone heap seemed to be inhabited Matt left a section of the bed covered in stones for our little amphibious neighbor, though we've not seen sight of the salamander in the last couple weeks.  Still, even a chance encounter was pretty remarkable.  Oh, those eyes!  And those fabulous markings!
 Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.  Never.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In Ancient Footsteps

Through my involvement with the Montana Wilderness Association I recently got to visit a wonder of history and nature, hidden out in the open in our eastern wildlands.
A short climb up to a butte which offers sweeping panoramic views of the prairie all around.  Endless blue skies and expanses of grasses, sage, wildflowers, and cactus rolling away as far as the eye can see.
But, that's not all.  There  are also dozens of well preserved petroglyphs etched into the stone walls of the butte.  I'm told it was a favored site by a number of different native tribes because of the advantage of such a expansive view of the surrounding area, especially for hunting and defense.
Horse and rider with rifle and second human figure with spear.
The BLM ranger I was hiking with said most "aren't that old," probably mid-1700's at the earliest.  Some show the natives with rifles which helps to date the carvings.  That seems plenty old to me, but I know what he means.  In the scale of my lifetime they are old.  In the scale of the plains it is still quite new.
Horse and rider with spear and shield.
Same three figures as above, but show in a group as they were carved.
Horse and rider with spear and probable bison.
Closer view of same horse and rider.

Same horse and rider with bison (left) within the larger panel of carvings including a teepee (center bottom) and coup stick (right).
Even still, the whole place gave me the feeling of walking in the footsteps of the ancients.  The stone is weathered smooth in many places by the winds and rains.  The water run off from the walls of the bluff results in fascinating little divots at the base of the wall--each perfectly cone-shaped.  The stone also offers fabulous peeks into the geologic actions of long gone seas and violent uplifts that have shaped the place into what I found in this present day.  Particularly when one of your hiking companions is a geology buff, as was the case when I went.
It was truly extraordinary.  I felt so honored to be there.  To see it.  To be a part of it, in my own small way. I was quite awestruck by the experience.

What Will Matter - Inspiration Thursday

"When you are in the final days of your life what will you want?  Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame?  Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car?  Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement?  Of course not.  What will matter then will be people.  If relationships will matter most then shouldn't they matter most now?" - Max Lucado
Catching up with my sweet friend, Autumn, whom I'd not seen in over four years.  4/17/2014 
Ryan and Matt helped Roger put up a shed in the back yard. 4/6/2014
Sean and Josh being silly at the Solstice Party.  6/21/2013
Keleigh has so much fun helping her Uncle Matt in the garden. 4/19/2014
Going out for Halloween with our friends, Casey and Kelly.  10/31/2014
Keleigh dressed in my clothes after playing in the sprinkler...or watering the garden that got a little wild, whatever.  4/19/2014
Playing silly--and hilarious--board games at Jen K's house.  5/1/2014
My uncle Steve photobombing us at my cousin Patrick's wedding7/20/2013
Spending time on the farm with Jesscy.  5/4/2014
A happy family photo from my cousin Leah's graduation party.  Photo credit to Megan Cozza. 5/3/2014
Hanging with my friends, including the lovely Hannah and Chelsey, after a Fruition show.  4/8/2014