Tuesday, February 19, 2019

In the Deep Midwinter

Some winters are long. The measurement of the days extend beyond solstice to equinox. The season is marked on the calendar at "first snow" and ends with" road graded". In between these two points I walk about a quarter mile from where my car is parked in the winter to my front door. This year winter began in November.  First snow was enough to make the probability of driving out without being stuck in the drive low. Thus, exposing my son to a list of expletives I would rather he did not learn from his mother.

And the snow just kept coming...

I would not say that we have had any extreme blow outs of snow. There has yet to be a storm that has dumped more than about a foot and half of snow. It is more the frequency of snow, at least once a week we have had measurable snow, that has gummed up the morning commute or canceled the day of school. It has been just enough snow to make the walk out in the morning feel more like a trudge, a well worn path challenged to remain defined. Sorta like life, I guess.

Winter becomes a time of  hibernation. I go to work, I come home. I read. I knit. I load up the wood box. I enjoy a little James Bond in Monaco. Who doesn't dream of playing the Roulette Wheel with Sean Connery? Shaken not stirred. Do these diamonds go with these mittens? Just give me a fancy evening gown to go along with my muck boots. Just don't ask me to leave the house.

There is this persistent thought that runs through my head this time of year. Will I be able to live here when I am eighty? I am 52. I look at the life I live here as contributing to my over all health. Pulling my groceries in on a sled, breaking trail in my snow shoes, are all resistant training to prevent osteoporosis. When the divorced occurred I was grateful for the house because it was going to feed us and the mortgage was cheaper than any rent I could afford in a neighborhood with sidewalks. This is still the case.

But this is another truth of living on the little plot of land, a full moon, big and bright and silent stretches the shadows of the trees across untrodden stretches of fresh snow and it is beautiful.

Saturday, February 16, 2019


According to the date of my last post it has been a few years since I have checked in here. Life has moved forward, as it does.

I have decided to revive this dusty record of this quiet life because I have exciting news to share. I have been accecpted into Goddard College in Vermont to finish my bachelors degree in creative writing.

But let's catch up...

The last time this blog was active I was recently divorced and struggling to balance enough work with enough money, with enough time to grow my garden.  I wanted to be true to the ideal of living close to the land even if I wasn't sure I could.  Divorce stinks but the lessons gleaned from one, the chance to know oneself better is a reward, even if I did not know it at the time.

I am still living on my seven acres at the end of a two mile dirt road in Central Maine. I still live in the little berm house with the field stone hearth, leaky roof, and ramshackle out buildings. I work now as the assistant manager of a local indie bookstore. I side gig as a farm sitter and take care of all sorts of farm animals. I can milk a cow. Always a valuable skill.  I live with my 12 year old son who is successful at school, loves acting in local theater, plays the stand up bass by sitting on a stool. I am just a little (okay, hugely) proud of him.

I still grow my food. This is always an important activity for me, partly for the resilience it provides for my life and partly for the peace of the work itself. I still knit. I read a lot and I write a lot.

So I have decided to revive this blog to serve as a record of my journey through school as a working single mom who homesteads. My program at school is a low residency program that begins the last week of March into April. In the time in between now and then I hope to start the gardening year with a seed order. I'd like to tap some trees to boil some sap. I am finishing a sweater to bring to residency with me. I am ordering chicks. And I am doing some work on the house. I am reading some great books.

Thanks for joining me on this jouney.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


So the sporadic and sometimes rather long absences of this blog does not mean that I am not writing. Life has become so busy. Work, children and my somewhat vain attempts at putting in a garden do not mean that I have abandoned all writing hope.

To the contrary.... I am blogging at the Huffington Post!

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Eating on the Fly: Recipes for Survival!

Harrumph! This is what you think you  hear as you watch me collapse into the chair at the end of a hectic day.  If perchance you were an outside observer of my days.

I am still trying to find healthy wholesome meals to put on the table without too much effort. I remember ( now ashamedly) trying to dispense advice on this blog about wholesome cooking on a budget when I was a stay at home mom. It is dang difficult.

First, one must have a plan. I write my grocery list out with a planned menu for the week.  I combine a few easily prepared meals with a few more involved meals for those time when I have time. I plan meals that I can save for leftovers. But even then there are just some days when I get home that I can't muster the energy to cook the meal; never mind cleaning up after it!

With all this in mind I have learned a few things. The crockpot is the best invention since sliced bread. Oh, wait, scratch that! I bake my own bread and slicing it is not that difficult. The crockpot is the best thing since the internal combustion engine! Oh, wait, that contributes to climate change. The crockpot is the best invention since..since..THE WHEEL!

The crockpot is the wife I never had. She takes a mix of vegetables and protein, a dash of finesse  ( or tamari, curry or  pesto) and voila...I walk through the door and the house smells like someone has been cooking all day!

Many things I used to make from scratch are now purchased. But then I was a little crazy about making everything from scratch at one point. So I no longer make tortilla from scratch. I no longer make mayonnaise. I still make salad dressings ( okay, really, all I do is put the oil and vinegar on the table and tell the boys," have at it!").

Risotto. I have learned that one must learn to make risotto. A little wine, a quart of chicken stock...cheese. Simple. It is the perfect food to prepare when you need to downshift from a busy day as you stir in one cup of stock at a time.it is the perfect quick meal And you can add all sorts of things to it. It is yummy as a whole meal, a side or or a cold lunch a day later. It has an essence of magic and elegance. Below I have a basic risotto recipe using some things found in the garden this time of year

Karin's Hectic Risotto
1 Cup wine ( for the risotto, not you!)
2 leeks chopped
1 table spoon butter
1 quart boiling chicken stock
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
salt and pepper to taste
optional steamed brussel sprouts quartered, panchetta or chopped turkey

Saute leeks and rice in butter. When leeks soften add wine. When rice has absorbed the wine start adding chicken stock, one cup at a time as stock gets absorbed. After adding last cup of stock add cheese to melt. You can add anything else at this point. Risotto is done when it is creamy but not soupy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Kale provides life lessons. Before it has sprouted it is just a pretty picture in the Johnny's seed cataglog. So much promise and youthful adventure in such names as Toscano, Russian Red. First romance comes to mind in the Sunrise variety. All those glossy photos show what kale can be; unblemished, blight free.

This year I planted too much kale. This happens in spring we make promises that we can  only mostly keep. There is energy to keep kale under floating row cover. Swattled against flea beetle. Powdered with diatomaceous earth to deter slug and cabbage worm. So much care given to tender micro greens with the hope of growing a robust provider.

However, by summer kale turns bitter with heat while my attentions turns to more fleeting vegetables like sweet peas and cherry tomatoes. It can't be helped.  There is so many diversions. But by autumn time is measured by chores  completed: the wood is stacked, the apples sauced, the socks are darned.

The garden is emptied, brown and rotted. Withered by a few frosts and the neglect that comes with too many green tomatoes and not enough time. There are a few cabbages left to pick and brussel sprouts have yet to have their day. Pumpkins are still be to pied and carved. And when it is all has been canned,  frozen or put by for the shorter days, Kale will still be standing like green sentinels in the garden. Mature in its flavor after a touch of frost when so much else succumbs to the season.

Kale persists. Thank goodness for that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Handling Abundance

The kettle is on. First thing in the morning, it heats the water for my one cupper coffee filter. The fuel that gets this mama moving. This mama is always moving these days. Work is busy with college students buying books, planning author events, front list (new books) being released in greater numbers as the calendar creeps towards Christmas.

Home is busy. The school schedule has taken full hold of our time now. Homework has started. Cub scouts and Piano have started. Finding time to just let Evan play becomes a religious pilgrimage. It is sacred time I feel uncompomising about. It is also scheduled time but I make sure it happens.

Home is busy for me too. I did plant a garden this year. It is a vital part of our overall welfare. It defrays costs at the grocery store. It eases the loads we have to carry in in the winter. This time of year it feels like a race against frost. Can I get one more batch of pesto? How many green tomatoes are left? Do I have time to get to the farm for pick-your-own tomatoes ( 1.25 a pound!). More importantly, do I have time to put them up?

Ah there's the rub. I confess to spending a few hours, after a long day, hanging over the canner. I have not put by as much as I used to in the past. I just don't need rennet anymore. I'm not making cheese these days. I like making wine but I really shouldn't drink the wine I make.

And there are some things that I really should give more attention to; like the crazy amount of apples in my orchard.

Here's this crazy thing I am just realizing. We are only given what we can handle. Well, yes and no, while we are in what ever craziness life is throwing at us it can feel like more than we can handle. I would not presume to diminish the pain and strife of anyone. What I mean by given more than we can handle comes down to this..

Last year in all the turmoil my dehydator broke. Not a big deal normally. Had I the resources it would have been a tool I would have replaced. But I didn't. There were few jars filled...maybe some jam, a couple of jars of tomatoes, saurkraut and whatever could get into the freezer did. But there was no money for the big bag of corn, there was no money for blueberry picking. Oh and there were no apples in the orchard; early bloom and a frost took care of that.

I don't like waste; especially food waste. I would have made an effort to put by what I could but many would have just fed the deer.

So, I guess you could say that I was not given any more apples than I could handle last year.

This year; however, I am blessed with abundance. Nature seems to be in sync with me as long as I can keep up. There are piles of food still to be processed: tomatoes, zuchinni and lots and lots of apples.

I can handle it.

                                                                    My Midsummer Garden

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I paint my door red

My new door. That something like a new door should carry such weight in my world may seem a silly thing to some folks but it signifies a lot to me. Last winter was brutal. I have objective proof of this all around my home. The roof caved in on the wood shed. Snow fell off the roof and blocked our windows. Tristan was outside three times in one day just trying to keep the snow that slid off the roof  from blocking the windows. ( Such a good kid!) A window broke when a chunk of ice went through it at 6 am one cold February morning. 

I tell folks that you could blame me for last winter's brutality. Last October,I stood in my woodshed and bragged that I had the same amount of wood put up as the year before, only I  had it all under cover and stacked long before my ex ever did. 

And then I ran out of wood.

 This does not even tell the whole story. My kind neighbor plowed us out last year. Normally, I just park the car up on the town maintained part of the road and we trek out in snowshoes. Being plowed out felt like a luxury. 

Alas, this becomes the story of the three trucks. The first truck got stuck in the drive way when my battery died on a bitter cold morning. AAA ( a kind gift from my aunt) came down the drive to give me a jump. However a flat bed tow truck is no match for the like of the narrow driveway. We had to push the car to the tow truck for the jump and then we had to wait for the truck to get out. The second truck was delivering firewood. This truck did have the foresight to back down. But I did warn him that he might get stuck so we would not mind if the wood got dumped at the top of our portion of the road and we would haul it down.. Yep he backed it down and got stuck and we still had to haul the wood in. The third truck was a AAA truck again; only this time he was pulling me out of the mud. But he got stuck in the mud himself, then broke a hydraulic line. 

At this point you are probably asking yourself, " What does this have to do with a door?"


That new door  was installed at the same time the two new windows in my kitchen were replaced. I got some help from the Mission of the Eastward with the labor. The old door was so old that, no matter how much weather stripping we put around the door, we could still see daylight. My broken window is replaced. There is nearly 3 cord of wood in the driveway and I am saving money for snow tires and a portable battery chargers.  I bartered a four wheeler for a snow blower so we can keep the snow away from the front of the house and make some easier trails for walking. I will not park down at the house this winter. No matter what!

Some people buy boats, I buy doors.

I live at the very end of a two mile dirt road. I can afford the mortgage on my house a lot better than the rent for an apartment. However, when we moved here there was another person whose skills offset the ones I did not have. I am figuring out how to do this on my own. One door at a time.