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An Introspection of the Value of Farming

Do you ever find yourself taking pause in the beauty or the goodness around you? This morning I was struck with breathtaking gratitude for the good life in front of me.

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Eight chickens peck and scratch while four lambs peak up in between mouthfuls of fresh grass. Invisible to the eye, hundreds of seeds are germinating beneath the soil. Beets, turnips, carrots, radishes, onions, potatoes, spinach, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, horseradish and cilantro will awaken soon.

Time and value. Of course we value the meaningfulness of growing our own and becoming more self sustaining, but wow the effort it takes to prepare the soil, tend to it, feed the animals, amongst the other duties of life. It’s easy to lose the excitement and question “is it worth it?”

There is something intrinsically rewarding of being more in tune with the cycle of life rather than standing on the sidelines.

As I overlook my meadow, starkly contrasted against the ridge, I don’t see food; I see life. The animals and plants have already begun a nurturing process in me that is far deeper than the nutrition that we will receive from their production. It isn’t the product we value. It is the life itself.

That, you cannot find in the warehouses. Fluorescent lights or natural sun? Crowded aisles or pastures and rows? Freezers stocked with meat or lambs frolicking in the meadow? Money or time?

How do I even question the worth of the good life? Take off the blinders of society and live it with me.

Time is a gift, spend it wisely. “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field.  The grass withers and the flower fades.  But the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter 1:24-25

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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Sunrise Service on Mt. St. Helens

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Easter is a special day.  Christ conquered death to ensure freedom for each of us to be able to live a full, abundant life of peace, love, and joy.  Most believers share the day together with a church service, but this year Jordan and I wanted to break out of tradition and enter into a place of worship where we feel most alive–the mountains.  This isn’t to say that what we needed is better or less than the traditional church experience.  That’s the beauty of following the spirit.  The spirit leads each of us in our own directions; as Christians we should respect and rejoice with each other without passing judgment, and without making standards for each other based on our own desires and promptings.

In the mountains, I am stirred physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  The brisk air ignites movement, pushing me beyond comfort; the culmination of physical strain and unknown conditions heightens my mental awareness; my fatiguing body craves food and rest, wearing down my emotional fortitude; despite the grueling push to the summit, I relish in the suffering because it deepens the meditations, ultimately deepening my faith.

We wake in darkness, fumbling around the back of the Tundra where we crashed the night before.  It’s 4:30 a.m., go time.  Sleepiness hangs in the air, but the 5 miles to the summit motivate us to movement.  Jordan unpacks gear as I boil water for a quick cup of joe and ramen.  Somehow an hour has evaporated as we hit the trailhead, faint light shining from above.  The first two miles of trail is melted out, so we hike comfortably in our regular shoes, carrying everything on our backs.

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Once we hit the ridge line above Chocolate Falls, the snow deepens and we switch to ski boots while still carrying our skis.  The movement is quick and efficient up the rocky rib.

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Finally, we are able to drop our skis and skin to the top.

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The view from above the clouds is inspiring; a mushroom cloud hovers neighboring Mt. Adams.

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Five and a half hours from the trailhead, we reach the crater rim.

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The cold wind doesn’t stop Jordan from insisting that we follow the map to the actual summit, a 15-minute traverse around the rim.  We did not set a trend.  All the other parties following our lead, called the rim (at a mere 50 feet below the actual summit) the destination.

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And the first shall be last?  Ha.  The traverse was worth it, as we could see into the crater from the dip in the Dryer glacier.  From here, we traversed back toward the Worm Flows route, ripped skins and found a place to park it out of the wind.  Lunch time!

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The ski down was glamorous!  In my first two turns, I had a powder shot in the face.  The rain from the day before had deposited a couple inches, perfect for low angle turns in shallow fresh snow–a perfect combo of carving and gliding straight down the mountain!  Back to the car by mid-afternoon, the day was everything we could have hoped for: inspiring, thought provoking, meaningful, and fulfilling.  We packed up and headed to our next destination, the Tieton River basin for a couple days of climbing.  On the way, we found a perfect picnic destination to cook dinner.

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Summit accompanied us to important things like picnics and climbing, but slept in the truck for the high adventures.

The Tieton Range is a series of Basalt columns located along the Tieton River outside of Yakima, home to rattlesnakes and elk.  We saw plenty of each and not much else.  The climbing was solid.  The first day we checked out Royal Columns: X-factor (5.7), Cross-eyed and painless (5.9), Thriller Pillar (5.9), Orange Sunshine (5.10b), and Inca Roads (5.9).  The next day we went to the Bend, aka the Crackhouse and climbed Introductory Crack (5.9), Cruel Harvest (5.9), and Salmon Song (10.a with fun thin roof!).

 

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The pleasantries of home were welcomed after 4 days on the road, but the implanting of adventure is unquenchable.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Orcas Island, 5th Anniversary Celebration

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Five years. Wow. Time has passed quickly, yet somehow I feel like I have an eternal knowledge of Jordan. It’s a weird mix where the universe stands still; you cannot feel the spin on the axis yet the rotations have passed. I am blessed to fall deeper in love with my spouse each passing year, learning how to laugh at the annoyances and fuse our passions of adventuring and life.  God has continued to lavish us with exceptional gifts. From exposing us to His provisions while we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, His handiwork and blessings have been made known concretely in our lives.

Small gifts teach gratitude, seeing the deeper connections under the surface. When our friends offered us their sailboat to spend the weekend on Orcas Island, this small gift brought a highlighted sense of God’s continued presence in our lives. The rays of sunshine echoed the love that He has for us (although we still know He loves us IF it had rained…but it didn’t!)

Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands, located off the NW coast of our beautiful state. On Thursday, we loaded the good ol’ 4runner (13 years and still running!) with kayaks and bikes, and took the hour-long ferry from the Anacortes terminal. Around five hours later, we had arrived at our destination for the weekend—Deer Harbor Marina aboard the Singing Hallelujah (the name of our friend’s boat). The ship contained 2 bedrooms (in case marriage therapy was needed), 2 bathrooms, a sitting room with entertainment system, and a kitchen equipped with an oven, stove, refrigerator, microwave, and counter space—luxury camping!

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After settling in, we launched our kayaks from the marina and paddled over to Jones Island where we hiked around and soaked in views from the sound.

On Friday, the big celebratory day, we stuffed a light lunch in our jersey pockets and peddled toward the summit of Mount Constitution, 21 miles from the harbor. The ride was grueling and exhilarating. The first ten miles to East Sound rolled through sheep farms off the beaten path.

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From the center of the island we continued up to Lake Moran State Park. Here is where the fun began. Three miles and almost two thousand feet of elevation gain to the little summit, then two more miles to the top. Sheer pain and extreme determination pushed me forward.

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The view from the top was clouded over, but the exhilaration comes from the accomplishment not the view.   Then, we had to descend. I may need to replace my brake pads, and visit the chiropractor from the death grip on my handles. On our way back to the marina, we stopped at the New Leaf Café to make reservations for dinner.

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Then we returned to gussy up for our fancy evening out.  Not too shabby, eh?
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The sunset over the harbor created natural ambiance as we sipped our fancy Viognier, waiting for our dinner of fresh scallops and clams. Five stars.

The next morning we woke to clouds, so hung out lazily around the boat deciding where to paddle on our last day. Yellow Island, which is part of the Wasp Islands, is part of the Nature Conservancy Preserves because of all the diversity of native wildflowers. The island was aflame with wildflowers: lilies, Indian paintbrush, woodland star, Western saxifrage, stonecrop, and camas to name a few. The island is inhabited by a lone worker of the Nature Conservancy, Phil (the Edward Abbey of the San Juans). Phil informed us of all the rules, the most disheartening of: there is no eating on the island. But this had been our picnic destination! We kindly obliged to the rules, and wondered around the island in total bliss, fed by the beauty of the contrast of the colors against the deep blue of the ocean.

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Lunch was not skipped, just postponed to another gorgeous spot on a spit, a mere 10-minute paddle from Yellow Island. The sun lulled us into an afternoon nap as our minds roamed freely over the course of the weekend events, dreaming up adventures for the next 5 years.

 

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Cancun!

Typically tourist cities are as uncomfortable to us as climbing mountains are for most people, but traveling to Cancun was a remarkable time away!  Ten days of sunshine, ocean waves, snorkeling, visiting Mayan pyramids, making memories with friends, and eating delicious food is never a hardship.

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Footloose and fancy free, we had to find ways to create stressful situations to drum up the adrenaline.  Different adventures that we had throughout the week include: body surfing enormo waves, snorkeling at two different coral reefs, and an unexpected visit to Mother Teresa!  Teresa worked for my family for several years, and it has been a long while since we have seen each other.  We met her in El Centro (downtown) and took a cab back to her place for the long afternoon where we cook quesadillas and eat decadent homemade mole salsa and fresh tortillas cooked down the street.

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Teresa’s grandson, Alan, sent on the errand to buy fresh tortillas.

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Chichen Itza, one of the seven wonders of the world is located about 2 hours from Cancun in Mexican state of Yucatan.  Here is the famous Mayan pyramid.  On summer solstice, the shadow of their god “KulKulCan,” the feathered serpent, slides down the sides of the pyramid as the sun sets.

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Cassie and I about to sacrifice Zachary, only he doesn’t know it!! muhaha. Image

 

My favorite day of the trip was our tour of Isla Mujeres, an island just a few miles from the coast of Cancun.  We boarded the express ferry, the Ultra Mar, early in the morning and landed in the northern port of the island.  Swayed by the coolness of having our own transportation around the 8-km island, we splurged for this fancy ride!

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We cruised on the East side of the island down to the Mayan ruins of Ixcaret:

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The journey continued to Parque Garrofon where we snorkled with Parrot Fish, starfish, sting rays and sea urchins.  Note–do NOT step on sea urchins!Image Ouch!

Poor Zachary! Nothing can be done, except for waiting for the calcium of the “stingers” to dissolve into his foot.

The day ended majestically with dinner at Los Lancheros Restaurant where the four of us shared the house special white fish, tixinchic.  The fish, filling an entire sheet pan, is covered in a bittersweet orange sauce topped with tomatoes, peppers, and onions, then wrapped in banana leaves to be cooked in an adobe clay outdoor oven.  Awaiting the arrival of our authentic Isla Mujeres meal, we lose ourselves into the beauty of the sunset.

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and Now…back to being buried in 72 inches of snow…haunted by Caribbean dreams

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Celebrating the Season of the Cascade Harvest

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More than the crispness of the air, the sense of relaxation, or even the colorful cloaks worn by the trees, Fall is the season of apple harvest in the Cascades.  Thousands of crisp red, green, and yellow apples droop from ripened trees in local orchards, begging to be stripped of their flavorful treasures.  Jonagold, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Gravenstein, Ambrosia, Braeburn, Cameo, Fuji, and MacIntosh are just a few of the types of apples grown in our region.  The hot days and cool nights paired with low summer rainfall, good irrigation, and fertile volcanic soil generate these delicious varieties.

Our community, Plain, is anything but that.  The people are unique, creative, and interesting.  Inspired by the harvest season as well as the fellowship of gathering together, Jordan and I hosted the 3rd Cider Pressing.  This has become quite the event, growing by 15-20 people each year.  What can I say, who can resist the fresh nectar of squeezed apples?  In addition to the pressing, we also made apple butter on the side.  Just a Little Fruit Stand in Peshastin has graciously provided us with an ever-growing supply of apples.  We started with one 900-lb crate in 2011, and have now set the record for demolishing 2700 pounds of apples in one afternoon!  The total yield was approximately 145 gallons of cider and 80 pints of apple butter.

The method begins by sorting and rinsing mixed apples from the crates.  The rinsed apples are loaded into the electric cider press, built by Andrew Campbell.  Jordan builds cabinets with Andrew/Beaver Hill Woodcrafters in Plain.  He is the chap in the colorful hat helping me strain the fresh-squeezed juice in the second photo.  A wooden block presses the apples against the grinder, forcing the pulp and juice into wooden barrels below.  When full, the juice is extracted by cranking the lid tightly downward where it is gathered into pitchers.  The final step is to strain the particles and fill the long line of empty jugs and carboys.  The cider can be frozen in plastic jugs, but the carboys are used for the delight of making hard cider.

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_MG_3350IMG_0643Hard cider begins as fresh pressed juice poured into a 5 (or 6) gallon glass container called a carboy.  The liquid sets in the carboy for a couple of days until champagne or cider brewer’s yeast is added.  The air-lock cap lets gas escape from the inside but prevents air and negative bacteria from penetrating.  You are trying to isolate the strand of bacteria activated by the added yeast packet.  The mixture will gurgle and gasp until the yeast eats the sugar from the juice and has converted it to alcohol, a process that generally takes about a month.  We usually leave our cider in the utility room with a little heat on (trying to keep around 72 degrees F) and let it settle for an additional month.  When the lee, or thick mixture, settles to the bottom, the cider is ready to be racked into another carboy.  Using a racking cane, we are careful to not siphon the lee into the new container.  The cider rests again, for days or months, until we are ready to bottle.  The bottles are treated with sani-cleanse to kill any potential bacteria, and bottling sugar is added to the cider to help form higher effervescence.  The cider is then carefully racked into each bottle and sealed off.  After one month of rest, we can enjoy our Cider home brew.  Each year is different, as is each batch, due to the diversity of apple mixtures.

One hundred pounds of the apples went toward the apple butter batch.  Fortunately, five other families invested in the hard work of peeling, stirring, and processing the amount.  Twice around the left, once through the middle; twice around the right, once through the middle.  That is the rhythm of stirring for cooking in the copper kettle.  It is an old-fashioned technique that connects us to all the people that stirred before us, a sort of thin space where the past and present intersect.

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The Adirondack ski chairs were crafted by Jordan!  Every snowy cabin in WA should have a set.  The festivities ended with a barbecue pork potluck to celebrate a long afternoon of labor, laugher, and love, made complete with a Harry pie!

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We are tremendously blessed with our community, and ability to live simply and freely.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

May-August in a flash

Here is a quick update of May-August!

May

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Maiden voyage of the dingy!  Katy & I laughed hysterically as the sail snapped loose and the boys hung on the edge of capsizing.

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Jordan’s craftsmanship on display.

June

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Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, WA.  Snuggling up with little bunny furball.  The expo was incredible!  I learned how to make cheese and yogurt from whole milk, ferment kraut, felt wool, and watched a live demonstration on processing poultry (See Below).  Joel Salatin, one of the many keynote speakers, spoke passionately about the sacred act of processing your own meat.  Check out the documentary Food Inc, to see more on food sources and processing.

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July

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Sun setting on Lake Wenatchee during Jordan’s Adventure Sampler Caravan.

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Dramatic sunrise on the Mt. Rainier Caravan.

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Climbing in TN with the good ol’ boys.

August

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Adventures with the Whites–more on this later!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

A New Season for Adventure

The forecast in the mountains looked grim for the weekend–rain, sleet, snow.  The weather on the coast was a little more promising with scattered showers and chances of sun.  At this point in the Spring, I’ll take my chances with the sun rather than the snow.

I secured Saturday off to celebrate our 4th anniversary, not knowing which activity we would end up doing.  Spring brings a myriad of weather and opportunities–skiing, climbing, biking, or hiking.  Intrigued by the coastal area of the state, we decided to head west for a new adventure.  I called up a friend, and here we find ourselves on the coast of Mukilteo on a dismal Saturday morning, exploring new territory.  The Hemans loan us their fiberglass touring sea kayaks.  The adventure begins at Mulkiteo Lighthouse park.  The goal is to fight through the wind and rain three miles down the coast to picnic point, have lunch (as the name suggests) and return.

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And we’re off.  I’m feeling slightly uncomfortable sealed into my kayak with the spray skirt, but the water is a frigid 50 degrees.  Just don’t tip!

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We paddled as close to the coast as the tide allowed.  We encountered 10-15 knot wind (not too bad), that created fun 3-foot swells.  Right about the time the coldness and fatigue was setting in, there appeared a shiny bald head and whiskers that kept popping up all around us. The curious seals playfully danced around our boats.  The day ended successfully, without either of us taking an unintended swim.

So, what I failed to tell you in the beginning…our friends lent us the boats to test them out to see if we would be interested in buying them….Isn’t that a sexy look for my car? :-)

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Yeah, we bought them.  The smile on my face expresses my excitement of the possibilities of paddling in much nicer weather!!!  We paddled a second afternoon around Wildcat Bay along the Chuckanut Coast near Bellingham.  Even Summit is on board (ha-).  We hope to tour around the San Juan islands, and in and around the other coastal areas of this beautifully diverse state.  I can’t wait to camp out on the beach and forage for clams, mussels, and crabs for dinner!

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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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