The Homestead Weekly

The Homestead Weekly, 31 May 2020

What a week.

Like much of the nation, I’ve found myself thinking deeply this week about what I believe, and about why I believe what I believe. I’ve found myself examining experiences I’ve had over my life and asking myself hard questions–were there times I should have spoken up but didn’t? (Yes.) Were there times I made concerted efforts to speak out against racism and injustice where I saw it? (Also yes.)

I don’t generally talk about politics, mostly just because my personality has always been such that I tend to avoid contention wherever I can. I can usually see both sides of an issue, which is often another reason I remain silent. I’m thankful for the protected right to peacefully protest those things that are unjust, to fight for change, and I pray that the protesting of last week will spark some much-needed policy changes and mental shifts from hereon out. There is no “side” where racism is justified or okay on any level, and enough is enough. I was anxious and upset, however, as I watched the protests both far away and close to here (in Salt Lake City) devolve into violence, vandalism, and looting, and I feared for my brother-in-law, who is a police officer. I was impressed by the way the police force of SLC handled the violent protesters: I was proud to have someone in my family who is an officer that can be respected. I also recognize, however, that not all officers bearing the badge are worthy of respect, and I’m tired of brutality where there doesn’t need to be brutality. To me, everyone deserves to feel safe, both innocent groups of marginalized populations AND police officers and those trying to uphold the laws protecting us.

The truth is, I just have the (perhaps naïve) wish that everyone could just get along—that we could all learn to respect each other, even if we are different and even if we disagree. In an ideal world, we would learn not only to tolerate difference but to celebrate it, and to keep our hearts and minds open that the current way (or the way it’s “always been done”) is perhaps not the best way, or that our way isn’t the only way. But lately, I think we’d all just be willing to settle for awhile for some civilized discourse that didn’t involve shaming, name-calling, and a refusal to hear other opinions.

I don’t like to feel helpless, so I try and make a difference where I can, especially in how I teach my children. I pull from things I learned from taking diversity education courses in college, from resources I’ve found from other bloggers and books, and from my own experiences, including living in El Salvador for a year and a half and teaching a culturally diverse class while I did my student teaching.

I’m not perfect. I know there are things I need to be better about—sitting with the feeling of being uncomfortable, for one. But I am trying.

It’s always going to seem silly to talk of such quotidian matters as what we ate for dinner and what projects we’ve been working on around the yard after a week filled with weightier things, but such is life—the complex mixed with the mundane, the uncharted territory amidst the daily routine.

So here goes.

In the Kitchen

I finally made myself dive into the fiddly recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for gluten-free sandwich bread, and we were not disappointed! The picture below may not look like much (kind of like a loaf of bread with headgear on, thanks to the foil collar meant to help it at least somewhat keep its shape), but it represented hope that there are indeed GF bread recipes that don’t taste like cardboard or have the consistency of wet clay bricks. This was an especially important discovery because now, Matt isn’t the only one in the family off of gluten–I went off it too, as my autoimmune disease started flaring up again (and cutting out gluten is the quickest way to send it back in remission without going on medication).

Because making the homemade GF bread takes 5 hours from start to ready-to-eat, I’ve been looking for other options for quick meals so that we don’t use it all up the same day it’s baked. This week we tried egg and sausage breakfast muffins, which were awesome—they gave a good hit of protein, could be zapped in the microwave for about 20 seconds whenever you had a hankering to eat something, and they were reasonably filling too (and also reasonably healthy). I plan to make them again this next week, but using this other recipe that calls for cottage cheese.

We successfully went another week without grocery shopping, and since we had quite a lot of apples left from the grocery trip at the first of the month, I made a delicious apple crumble with those for an-after dinner treat on Friday. One thing people wonder is how we can get by with only doing one major grocery trip per month, and the answer is to time your produce right. Bananas, peaches/nectarines/plums, lettuce/kale/salad, and berries need to be prioritized and eaten first. Apples, citrus fruits, potatoes, and carrots can be saved until the end of the month. And then, of course, there’s the frozen produce that can be used all the time.

This week we did run out of milk by the weekend, which meant we largely had to go without, although I did mix up a bit of our powdered milk to go with my oatmeal on Sunday. I haven’t had prepared powdered milk since I served my mission in El Salvador (where they don’t serve cow’s milk at all in the grocery stores), and although I’ll always prefer my usual cow’s milk, it was kind of oddly comforting to taste some of the powdered stuff and be transported right back to my mission, where I would pour the box of premixed milk over a bowl of Cheerios, which were $7 a box.

On the Menu Last Week: Pesto Ranch Chicken, Smoked Sausage/Sweet Potato/Apple Sheet Pan Bake, Instant Pot Butter Chicken + Chickpeas over Rice, breakfast for dinner (pancakes, German pancakes)

In the Yard

We direct sowed a lot of the flower and herb seeds we’d bought back in February and March, putting them into the raised beds literally wherever there was the smallest bit of space to spare. There will be a crazy mix of vegetables and blooms with very little order to speak of, but it will be fun (if we’re still in this house in a few months) to see it all grow together. All the flowers I bought were for the sole purpose of having a cutting garden I could bring blooms into the house from, so we sowed cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, African daisies, globe amaranths, and lavender. We didn’t expect anything to germinate so quickly, but many of the cosmos had already sprouted by the weekend (we planted Tuesday night), which was a welcome surprise.

Matt continued to remove the rocks from the front bed and fill in with a top layer of more dirt this weekend, as well as fix the leveling on the bottom of one of our gates, since it kept scraping against the concrete and sticking. Every time I went out to look at the state of the plants, I made sure to pull up at least 10 or 15 weeds (and sometimes a lot more), which should hopefully help to keep it at least a *little* bit under control. Since we’re likely going to be listing our house in the next month or so, we’ll have to do a whole lot more weeding than just that, but this is at least preventing a lot of the little ones from getting bigger.

Last week was mostly hot and even a bit muggy for here (we’re used to some seriously dry weather here in Utah), and most of our plants noticeably thrived under the conditions, especially since Matt was giving them all a nightly watering with the hose. About half of our tomato plants have blossoms on them, which gives me hope that we *might* be able to harvest at least a few things before we move.

I’ll admit, it’s been a hard thing to garden this year—we have SO much enthusiasm for it (which is why we’ve continued to do so much!), but the likelihood we’ll be around to see the fruits of most of our labors is slim to none right now. It’s still been giving us valuable experience though (which is mostly why we did it), and watching the miracle of small plants emerging from seeds you put in yourself is something that will never get old for me.

Blooming This Week: salvia, beardtongue (starting to), foxglove (starting to), bearded iris, Siberian iris, the rest of the lilacs in the front yard, the yellow and red columbines up front, some kind of phlox (at least that’s what I think it is?), hardy asters (though they’re not looking great), and some fuzzy-looking palest-of-pink flower up front (whose leaves look a lot like columbine leaves)

Meet Bingo, the biggest bird in our flock (but not the alpha)

In the Coop

After over a week of Matt having to physically pick up each pullet and/or herd it into the roost at night, the young chickens finally caught on and are mostly getting themselves into bed at night. (Of course, some of them started actually going in first and taking the old girls’ spots in the far east corner, so we’ll see how that goes down.)

Chipmunk (the alpha hen, seemingly) has taken to flying through the six pullets whenever they congregate together in one of the older girls’ favorite spots for too long. She doesn’t seem to be too physically aggressive in other ways, but we’ve noticed that they generally keep their distance from her. Matt put out an extra feeder and waterer by the bushes where the pullets spend the most time, and Chipmunk and the other laying hens seem to think that all food and water needs to be tried by themselves first and have subsequently seemed to claim it as their own. Buggers. The pullets have gotten noticeably bigger in the two weeks they’ve been outside (or maybe we’re just better able to see it), and a few are approaching the size of the smallest of the older hens. Should be interesting to see how the pecking order plays out over the next couple months.

In the Playroom

The children have been spending large chunks of each day outside in our backyard, which I just love. I’ve never taken for granted the fact that we moved to a house with a fenced-in backyard (esp because we lived in an apartment complex with no yard or playground or anything prior to living here), but man, am I consciously grateful on a daily basis for it even more now! I love that Raven is old enough and trustworthy enough to be in charge of both herself and Mathias out there, and they just will spend hours digging in the sandbox, playing under their willow “house,” riding bikes and pulling each other in the wagon, and enacting make believe of all kinds. They come in from their morning play stinky and worn out but flushed with the pleasure of independent outside play, and Mathias will just crash for his afternoon nap every day from it, while Raven retreats to the coolness of the basement to listen to her audiobooks and draw for hours.

Raven’s preschool had one last “graduation” day this last week—the only time she’s been to preschool since the end of March. She went for one last normal day with her classmates, and then parents and immediate families joined for the last half hour in the backyard as the children each received their diploma and had cookies. It was quick and simple, and honestly, kind of great to not have to sit through a huge, grand production in the heat.

Mathias has started trying to sing lately, and it’s just my favorite. We do this thing when we’re brushing the kids’ teeth where the one parent will sing “aaaaah” as they go in to brush, and the other parent will chime in with the harmony (on a 1-3-5-octave scale). Raven had started doing it (and she’s actually got a really good ear!), and now Mathias is starting to try and match pitch. It’s basically the cutest.

Hyrum finally rolled over from back to tummy for the first time on Sunday. He’s been awfully close for weeks, but just couldn’t figure out arm placement. He’s also working out how to reach for toys and grab them while he’s on his belly for tummy time, so he’ll probably start scooting around a bit soon, too. He still is basically the worst daytime napper in the world, but he does at least sleep through the majority of the night without needing to be fed anymore (though needing to be swaddled, well, that’s a different story).

We took the kids on a Sunday drive to the nearby poppy fields of Mantua on Sunday, thinking they would be awed and delighted by the vast swaths of orange blooms (and wanting to use the beautiful backdrop to attempt a more thought-out family picture to print out). Turns out they mostly just complained about how pokey it was, frowned or grimaced or outright screamed through many of the pics, and put up zero complaints once it was time to get back in the car. Oh well. We did get a few fun family pictures out of it, though no one whole family shot that made me go, “Wow!” Such is taking family pictures with young kids, though, and one reason I’m glad we take them every Sunday—makes them not seem so high-stake.

In the House

Um…pass? I feel like I’m getting nothing done around here lately, or at least nothing “extra” done besides just staying on top of the dishes, making the beds, and trying to not break a limb from the toys strewn everywhere. We definitely do have some better systems in place for keeping everything generally much tidier than before, but there are soooo many things I feel like we have to do before we’d be ready to list the house, almost none of which we’ve done. My mom’s coming up this weekend though to help me with a few of those, so that will mean that next week I’ll actually have something noteworthy to report.

In the Soul

It’s been a stressful year for everyone, and having the personal stressors of uncertainty with our plans and Matt’s work and where we’re going to live hasn’t made it any better.

But for the most part, we’re doing well. When I get too stressed or anxious, I simply go outside to work in the garden or feed the chickens, or I dive into a book or read my scriptures. For me, it’s about finding a balance between keeping up on what’s happening in the world and keeping myself mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy, and most days, I think I strike a pretty good balance. It helped that I finally went in to my chiropractor last week—my back had popped back out of alignment well over a month ago, and I’ve been dealing with the constant back pain ever since. Having everything back in alignment has helped me feel a lot better overall, and I hope to start doing some stretching and back strengthening exercises this week to help it STAY aligned, which seems to always be the problem ever since I injured it. It always amazes me how much more energized I feel when my back isn’t hurting—I’ll admit it makes me long for days past when I never had to think twice about pursuing any sort of physical activity. I’m trying to remain positive though and tell myself that surely it won’t always be like this. And if it is? Well, at least I know what brings some relief and that I’ll survive.

The last half of May was wearying, and even though June makes no promises that things will be markedly different, there is always the hope that it will be so. Plus, I love it when a new month starts on a Monday–it just screams fresh starts all around.

Happy June to you, and I hope that wherever you are, that you’re doing okay, staying safe, and finding moments of peace and calm.

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