Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Droopy Things

While doing my morning walk in our Boise yard today, I noticed the number of plants abloom with hanging flowers. They are quite pretty. Their languid posture belies the fervor of spring.

These are currant flowers. Our two bushes are loaded with flowers this year, along with our gooseberry (we planted last spring). I had to move to Idaho so I could grow these -- they are outlawed in North Carolina because they are a possible vector for some pine tree disease.

This is our Harry Lauder's Walking Stick tree, also know as curly filbert.

We have lovely, massive bleeding hearts in our front yard.

Not a plant, but just as pretty. A Buddhist prayer flag that hangs in our backyard.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Break Retrospective: Fire and Ice

Turns out that the woodpile we stacked (I use the term "stacked" loosely) last summer became a hovel for mice. All of the dogs were extremely interested in the mice, but only our blind dog Cash pursued the mice with the intensity and focus of a Buddhist monk. He barely left that woodpile during the entire trip which was good because we needed someone to, er, watch the fire. Winds can pick up in an instant out at the ranch.

We choose carefully when to have fires and we watch carefully for flying embers and increasing wind speeds when the fire is burning.

Not only can winds pick up faster than you can say snap, severe weather changes are to be expected in the west. This same night it started snowing on our way into a movie in Red Lodge. When we got home, we lit the fire again to have a beer before going to bed. It was so cold outside that our beers were turning to slush in the bottles. The next morning we woke to this scene:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Break Retrospective: Wood you?

If there is one thing I have learned about farms and ranches, it is that there is an unending supply of firewood and only a limited time of the year when you can burn it. For us, this fact is compounded because the people who rented the ranch for the past 20 years that we had to evict through a year-long battle in the Carbon County Court system didn't, um, clean up after themselves. Or their cows. Cows are rough on everything--they lean against and scratch themselves on trees, fences, and buildings. The result of slobs + cows = wood scraps scattered everywhere. It sometimes feels like all we do is move wood from pile to pile.

There are piles of lumber scraps.

There are piles of lumber.

There are piles of brush and branches.

Mixed piles of fencing, tree stump, branches, and an unidentifiable metal and concrete object.

And then there are the gigantic tree stumps that are too big to move.

That's when I call for reinforcements.

Here come the reinforcements.

I feel safer already.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spring Break Retrospective: Prelude

We got a little distracted over here when a gigantic tree fell on our trucks on the day we arrived home from Spring Break 2009. (Spring Break means nothing unless you or yours are in school. Since Jon is still enrolled in Boise State's nursing program, school breaks are our only opportunity to take a lengthy vacation together.)

To back up even further, I was in California the week before Spring Break with these juice box junkies while their dad was cavorting working in Germany. The best and worst part was that my company's headquarters is nearby so I was able to work during the week while in California. I didn't have to use my vacation time, but I got a good taste of what it is like to be a working parent in the San Francisco Bay area: stressful. Commuting sucks.

I played Mr. Mom, a.k.a. Dad, a.k.a. Auntie, helping my sister-in-law out so she wouldn't have to be a single parent for the week. We split up the drop-off and pick-up duties (two different schools), meal preparations, discipline, and bedtime stories. I wiped noses, wiped butts, wiped floors, and wiped out. It was all together one of the most exhausting and gratifying experiences I've ever had.

I also got immense satisfaction from turning the tables on my brother: telling him all the insanely cute things his kids were doing instead of the usual other way around. I can understand now why people like to talk so much about their kids! It was so fun and I miss them so much now!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

April is Autism Awareness Month

I never thought about autism until a few years ago when a dear friend's child was diagnosed with it. As is often the case, I didn't know what autism or autism-spectrum disorders were until someone close to me was affected by it. Since then, I have become quietly passionate about the topic: reading books, articles, websites, and shushing anyone around when the subject comes up the radio.

I won't go into the debate about the causes of autism here but I will say that my friend and her family have seen a remarkable improvement in her child's symptoms as a result of diet and supplement intervention. It is remarkable, too, that when my friend's child gets a fever, the autism literally goes away. And so it is also immensely frustrating that although these things actually repeat themselves over and over amongst autistic children, many in the medical and research communities dismiss them as anecdotal.

I found Paul Collins' book Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism to be a joyful, well, adventure. In it, he talks about both the diagnosis of his son with autism and his research into the history of autism and historical autists. He doesn't rail against the medical community or his son's diagnosis but approaches it with a sense of wonder about what it is instead of what it isn't:

"Autists are described by others--and by themselves--as aliens among humans. But there's an irony to this, for precisely the opposite is true. They are us, and to understand them is to begin to understand what it means to be human. Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing. A child tugs at his or her parents and whispers, 'Where's that man's arm?' But autism is an ability and a disability: it is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an over expression of the very traits that make our species unique. Other animals are social, but only humans are capable of abstract logic. The autistic outhumans the humans, and we can scarcely recognize the result."

As an avid cook and foodie, I am always on the lookout for recipes that fit my friend's child's diet: gluten, dairy, and soy products exacerbate the autism. Today, so many people are either vegan, intolerant of gluten, or have soy allergies that entire cookbooks exist on the subjects. My search, though, is for recipes that don't require special ingredients or techniques; recipes that fit the lifestyle of a very busy, two working parent, three child household.

I came across this recipe that fit the bill. Click the link for a devastating picture.

Sensational Peanut Butter Cookies

18 cookies
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
additional sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees°F. Mix all the ingredients up in a bowl. Roll walnut-sized pieces into balls and roll balls in the additional sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with a fork in a crisscross pattern. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool before removing from baking sheet.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Spring: In Like a Lion

Jon and I raced home from Montana on Saturday to beat the impending winter storm. We were worried that it would compromise the roads and that we would get stuck or worse. We arrived in Boise on Saturday around 5 p.m. and after unloading the Suburban, we hopped into my truck and headed to the Tavern for dinner.

In the still-dark Sunday morning, I awoke to what sounded like a train whooshing by. I got up, looked out the window into the backyard, and listened as hail began to fall, eventually falling back to sleep. The next morning we rolled out of bed and headed out the front door to get coffee and a bagel (we really don’t eat every meal out, it’s just that we had no groceries in the house yet after being gone for over a week).

Turns out the winds I heard ripped this 50 foot beautiful blue spruce tree out of the ground and tipped it over onto our vehicles.

The trunk fell squarely on the hood of my truck, the branches of one side rested on the hood of Jon's Suburban.

Closeup of my truck.

Closeup of Jon's Suburban.

Our house and the bluebird house were spared.