Today we took our bikes out and rode in the Mt. Haggen Wildlife Management Area in SW Montana. It was a great way to spend a summer day for Mr. RangerSir and I. We climbed too many hills but the vistas were wonderful. They reminded us of some of the many joys that we have without spending lots of dough or really leaving home. The temps were perfect. The Indian Paintbrush was blooming. The sunscreen worked. No mechanical problems. Mr. RangerSir had control of the camera and went crazy capturing the day. We enjoyed the day and each other.
Fourty-five years ago today was the historic moment when man first stepped on the moon. I was a young girl and not in to all that space stuff, like my husband was, yet I can remember that day. It was a defining moment in history of what we could do if we set our minds to it.
I was at the cabin on Pike Bay in northern Minnesota. It was a cabin like so many at that time, without running water or telephone. I had been there many times and would be there many more, yet this was the only time that we ever had a TV at the cabin. The portable television with tinfoil on the rabbit ears sat next to the Victrola. Granny, Uncle Phil and I sat on three hardback kitchen chairs around the snow screen watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon as a Super8 movie camera on a tripod captured it all.
Space travel was real and walking on the moon seemed possible, but until it happened it was just a wee be incredulous. Suddenly it was real, it had happened and I had seen it. We, the US of A, had done it. As a family full of military men it was a moment of great pride because we had done it first. We had won the space race ahead of the Russian, in the midst of the Cold War.
It was an amazing time and I got to experience it.
Making homemade yogurt for me has never been easy. Actually it has been quite hard. I have given more yogurt to the chickens that I care to admit because my yogurt has never set up. I am once again trying a foray into yogurt making because I found a yogurt maker in the clearance corner at the local department store for less than $10, and my grocery store yogurt has gone up to over $8 container. I have become convinced that my problem is the long-term holding temp that I don’t think I am achieving. I am an experienced home cook who has no problems with yeast breads and complicated candies so it seemed that this holding temperature was my problem. I read and “chatted” with internet folks about their yogurt making and no matter what people suggested I could not get a yogurt out of my efforts.
I have never been much of yogurt person until I found a commercial yogurt that had two ingredients milk and cultures, nothing else. On top of that most commercial yogurt had not only milk and cultures but also thickeners, stabilizers and shelf-life extenders which I am not in favor of. It was revolutionary for me when I found this two-ingredient yogurt because I liked it plain, no sweetener or fruit necessary. I had tried every brand, every style under the sun over the years without success of turning me into a yogurt eater. Yogurt was a necessary evil, not a good food I liked. It was sort of like a milk version of Jello, with a spoonful of crappy jam in the bottom. Yuck!
My first batch of yogurt came out just perfect. I have been eating it all week on my homemade granola. It was nice and thick, and I ate it before we had a chance to strain some of it to make Greek style.
Now I have my second batch in the maker again. I am also checking out the internet learning about the different cultures out there I may wish to try in the future. Cultures affect the thickening and the taste of your yogurt (tart vs. naturally sweet and things in between). I am setting the timer for a little longer this time as well to see how that impacts the tartness of it as I am thinking of straining some of this week’s yogurt that we will use in lieu of sour cream.
A couple of things that about the electric yogurt machine in case you come across a deal like mine and decide to give yogurt making a whirl. The little glass jars do have the little line in the bottom where the sides and bottom meet and they are as hard to clean as anyone who has written any review you might see has suggested. I already had a bottle brush and use it immediately upon emptying the jar. Long-term you will probably need a second set of jars, since you need to make your next batch within seven days, and I had one more left in the refrigerator when I started this batch that I need to transfer it out of to use again. A second set of jars is more twice what I paid for the maker so am going to look at some of the glass containers I have around the house and see what I might come up with as I am only short a bottle or two.
Since my last vacation I have been embracing the hippy dippy earth mama side of myself (HDEM). It has allowed me to continue to vacation even though I am back on the job. I am a lot more relaxed and a little less obsessed about what must be done at the end of each day. I am embracing a more holistic view of life, with much more balance than I have had in years.
My closest friends know that I have always been a HDEM. Circumstances, mostly my job, have meant I needed to keep it in check in order to conform enough to be successful. After all we all like to eat and shelter. It is even nicer when we are successful enough in our jobs that we have enough money for a little nest egg and don’t have to worry that we are one or two paychecks from financial disaster or maybe be extravagant and take a vacation.
For years I work as a manager in the systems and information technology field for Fortune 100 companies. It was lots of old school in those days. I was younger than most of my co-workers and female in a male dominated field. I remember working across the street from an IBM office and it was there I learned about the uniform that was expected after coming from a blue-collar family in rural Illinois. White oxford shirt, dark tie, coat and no facial hair was the standard dress expected for successful men. No Exceptions! There were few women role models, but those few women did the best version of the IBM look they could muster in a skirt. Sounds sort of strange in today’s world of so much more casual, but indeed it was the way it was. At one company I was the first and only woman manager of a department of mostly men, many 20 years older than me. Talk about needing to look the part and walk the talk, I was that person. My co-workers had no idea about my secret life as HDEM, though I had a unstructured, orange sherbert blazer that I loved and wore once in awhile just to throw them a curve ball occasionally. I was following all the rules of John Malloy’s Dress for Success by day and buying my off hours clothes a Minneapolis Ragstock. I was an IBM’er by day and a Bohemian Art Fart by night. Few knew the real me.
I have been back to work now almost a month since vacation. I am once again wearing my hat as the queen of all that is technical at work. It is comfortable place to be at work. I am working with codes, numbers bits and bytes, dollars and cents, and weighing it all out pros/cons, budget and mission and putting forth ideas and methods. Once conditioned after so many years or wearing the right persona I find it near impossible to let loose during the work hours and maybe I am not supposed to. My job is different now I work from home. I no longer manage a staff. I no longer work a Fortune 100, not even a 500 company. Yet I still seek to be a good worker be and seeking to ensure that employer gets that 110% contribution from me. Before vacation it meant working long hours because I was never sure when I reached that 110%. Now the HDEM is hard at work in me. My day planner is a wild collection creativity full of quotes, pictures, doodles, ideas and thoughts, sorta of a reminder of who I AM steadily throughout the day. Reminding me of when it is time to let go of my work life. It is full of things there were no provisions made for when a Day-Timer was designed. I am letting my creative muse run wild at 4pm instead of hoping for a little time, maybe sort of, when I find some extra time when the end of the day comes at 6 or 7. I love cook and making yogurt and granola from scratch again. I am taking more solitary walks. Our TV reception disappeared and we have not fixed it, no loss there. I am doing yoga and walking instead of just walking. I am volunteering again. I am seeking out those things I want to try to see if I might enjoy something I don’t know about yet. Yep the hippy dippy earth mama is a live and well and not so sure she wants to go back to part-time.
As a kid I traveled with my grandparents for vacation. My family did not vacation, maybe a family picnic, but destination vacations were NOT in our family’s schedule. On the other hand my grandparents were always on the move and included me in their travels. Granny kept track of it and by the first grade I had visited all of the lower 48 but Florida.
I am not exactly sure why my grandparents thought traveling with a small child was a good idea, but the did and made lots of memories for me. My grandmother would put together a travel kit for each vacation. I can still see the tartan plaid tote all the goodies went into. It was all planned to keep me engaged, entertained and maybe learn something along the way. Things that went into this magical bag were only used on vacations so it was that excitement of see special things and new things each trip.
Each year there was a game card for license plates. Like almost all the games it was on the cards that hose were wrapped around in the box they were sold in. Some years it was a list of all the states and Canadian provinces, that could be in alphabetical order, or admission to the union order. Once in awhile it was even a map with no state names. It was before photocopy so it would mean Granny would draw the US with all the states on the card.
I had a magic whiteboard about the size of a piece of legal paper. It was drawn on with special crayons, that I would be able to rub off. There are two memories that stick out in my mind about that whiteboard because I used it to communicate with other drivers. I would often write honk your horn and hold it up in the window to other drivers. We must have been tooted at more than any other car. Once a group of nuns were following us. The nuns and I carried on a conversation for miles using my magic whiteboard and paper they had in their car. Don’t think about safe driving distance or the fact there were no seat belts in the car as I was doing all of this.
My bag was full of maps. My Gomper (Grandpa to the rest of you) had studied them before he left and Granny was the designated navigator. Yet I too was expected to follow us along on the map. Gomper would ask me what’s the the next town? How many towns till we get there? We turn of on route 78, what is the town just before our next turn? It is still the way I navigate, by towns.
There was a little notebook that I was to write in each day. I would give a small mint to read about the world from the perspective of a child and what I recorded in those books. When I was very small I would dictate my daily notes to Granny, who I assumed was faithfully writing it all down and not actually jotting grocery lists.
There was a collection of hose cards with the alphabet faithfully printed on them. These were for all sorts of games involving the the alphabet, some of them competitive between my Granny, Gomper and me. It was the days before Lady Bird Johnson cleaned up the highways from signs and we would see who could first find all the letters of the alphabet in roadside signs, motor court motel names, or anything else she came up with as possible.
There were travel bingo cars. They were a collection of commercially made cards with themes of what you were looking for. I think we had three of the sets. One with signs, one with numbers that you found on license plate, one with vehicles of all sorts , and one with objects like windmills, pigs, barbershops and the like. This last card would likely be pointless on today’s modern interstate system. Each of us had a card and Granny ran Gomper’s card as he was the driver.
Then there were the memory games that we played and went on forever. They were of the nature of my father owned a grocery store and in it he owned….. You worked your way through the alphabet and each person had to repeat all the previous items. We would do all sorts of things hardware store, farm, church and we did not let you have bananas in church so you needed to be listening and thinking about what you might have for that letter. I wonder if that is where I get my good memory from.
All of you know that I could not carry a tune to save my soul if you had a gun to my head. My grandparents on the other hand could sing wonderfully. We would sign songs in the car; the only time in my life that I have ever been encouraged to sing out loud. I think most of our songs were somewhat religious in nature (I suppose that was the minister who was driving that made that happen). I remember this little light of mine, found a peanut, and of course Jesus loves me. We would also sing in round which I only remember a few of those row row row your boat, three blind mice, allouette, and Frère Jacques. That was the only French I ever spoke or sang.
Lastly there was a new collection of activity books. They were full of dot to dot, mazes, find differences and color pages. Most of this went unused as I was a car sick girl who never got better with time. There were hundreds of “Gomper Stop the Car!” moments in my life. I have barfed along more roads than any little girl should have. I traveled most of the time hanging over the seat between Gomper and Granny looking forward. If this did not do the trick I stood in the on the floor in the front with my face in the AC vent right where the front window met the side window with Granny gently stroking my hair, looking forward breathing slow and deep. (Another of those OMG moments when I think about what if he had had to stop suddenly).
When we traveled recently for vacation these memories all flooded back. It took Granny lots of time to plan to to not have a bored child in a car for often over ten hours a day. That planning gave us all time together in ways the regular life did not allow. It made for special bonds and special memories of places and people. I was one lucky little girl growing up. Today when folks travel with children it is with portable video, iPods, iPads and when kid travel with their heads down. They have no idea where they have been or the changes that have passed them by. To me, who has no children, it seems sad that they have done exactly the same kind of thing they could have done for the travel time as though they had never left home. In fact at home you would not have likely let them watch videos nonstop for eight hours. Maybe Granny and Gomper’s travel method would not work for hours on end with today’s children, but a few hours of it might be nice on your next vacation. You might be making memories you will never know about until years later.
We just returned from a week vacation. (Now you regular followers know what happened when I was MIA.) We traveled thousands of miles in the SUV. We saw family and friends, hiked, rafted, to tons of photos, stopped at unexpected places and saw tons of landscape. It was wonderfully perfect. We had no expectations and so there were no disappointments so it met all our dreams.
Now we are back home and back to work and it has been interesting. Most of the time when you return from vacation it is with much dread of going back to the grindstone. You are refreshed but things have piled up on your desk and inbox in your absence. Work has gone on, decisions were made that impacted you and now is the time for catch up. The hiatus from work was good but reality of life was back slapping your face with both hands. That did not happen to me this time.
For some reason this vacation happened to mesh with my reading of Life Simplified: The Minimalist’s Guide to Cutting Back and Simplifying Your Life, an Amazon kindle freebie one day I down loaded. This book was not full of rocket science or life relevations I had not heard before. It is a super easy read, with small sections that made good reading at night, the gas station or times I found myself waiting on something. Reading just happened to mesh with a time I was open to being reminded of some of these principles that were tucked back in my mind not doing much good. I think that bringing these principles back in to conscious thought is why the refresh of vacation did not immediately evaporate when I returned. My vacation bonus, it lasted longer than one week, seven days.
I hope to share some this with you as I blog on.
One of the ongoing struggles that I encounter is soil quality. Mine is crush granite. An absolutely terrible soil for growing things.
All the experts talk about soil amendments and improvements. I am annually working organic materials into my garden beds. My first choice is composted chicken manure and coop cleanings. It is something that I have plenty of. When I lived in the Midwest I could flip a couple fully worked compost piles a year. Here even with diligent work the high altitude makes it much harder with less oxygen, drier environment, cold nights, and short season it really does take nearly two years to get a batch ready for use. These are the only compost piles that the worms never move in to, and I think it is because no worms reside in the soil around my house. Then once I add it to any garden bed or dress any tree in only a couple years any thing that I add is fully absorbed and my soil is back to the state it was before.
This weekend I put three tomato plants in a flower pots on the deck and am getting the new raised beds ready.I am moving to raised beds. I am enriching each of these with my wonderful compost. Raised beds allow me to extend the period that the new improved soil lasts, but even then experience has shown that it quickly is absorbed in to my soils looking for a better lot in life. Lets see how this all plays out when I plant my cold weather veggies later.