Country Chronicles: On a Lighter Note

Snow arrived at the Ranch this week. Yup you heard me. Snow OCTOBER 23. This is the earliest that we have seen here by a full month. O has been thrilled and it has been near impossible to make him come in the house. The first night after dark, we finally convinced him to quit by promising him that we could go as soon as school was over the next day. When I arrived to pick him up he was somehow snow geared up from head to toe and shouted “LETS GO HOMEEEEEEE”. So we did (partly because he looked fairly absurd in snow pants when there was not a speck of snow in his school yard). We stayed on that hill, again for a solid 2.5 hours.

We’ve been creating a fair bit these days too. I’ve been preparing for their birthday party coming up on Sunday. We’ve been playing “Wild Things” watching the Maurice Sendak version non-stop we may even be able to recite near half of it. Of all the possible themes for a party at our house “wild things” seems the most appropriate of all. I’ve a bad habit of getting RIGHT carried away with party planning, and the fact that I can still get away with only one party a year means that I can completely justify it.

Some friends and I chatted recently of what our children will believe about us when they read our journals/blogs someday. I later thought about what YOU think about me. You who read here but who have never met me in person. You might get the wrong idea about me. You need to know a few things:

I’ve a habit of writing from my darker spaces when in actual fact 80% of myself is goofy, not quite serious enough, shockingly unprofessional.

I perpetually laugh much too loud and much too long at completely inappropriate times.

I spend too much money on strange t-shirts I find online.

I read graphic novels. Did you see this last season? It was BRILLIANT.


You get the idea. I just don’t want you to think I am all melancholy. So the blog is shifting a little. In some ways it will be more personal…I might tell you about how we actually spend our days, what our life looks like.

My VOICE is sometimes heavy, but my spirit is usually light. I process deep, I wrestle joy into submission with words…and then I live in it, uninhibited and free.


Country Chronicles: Story of Now

It is the feel of her beach hair, wind  blown and natty. It is his chocolate-brown eyes glowing with the passion of new discovery. It is the laughter that trails behind them as the grasp each moment. It is the songs lilting from outside where they list each and every good thing. It is missing my man and keeping journals so that we can fill him in on all of these gloriously ordinary moments.

It is my heart matching rhythm with maker and all of it making more sense. It is joy in doldrums and passion in dormancy. It is the smell of wild roses and the sun setting through the daisies.  It is tiger lilies at dusk, lupins near everywhere. It is doing battle with the weeds and baking cookies on the day the wind blows and thunder cracks. It is piles of books and to do lists and a marvelous list of 100 things to do this summer. It is finding our own quirky style and learning that all of us can handle near anything if we have long lazy mornings.

It is business meetings on my deck (through the computer) and it is water play. It is popcorn for dinner and breakfast for lunch. It is the thought process each night about how long in the sprinkler might equate to a bath. It is the first harvest from the garden and books on the deck at night.

It is good. We miss you J…but also? We are ok.

Tell me…what was your story today?


California Chronicles

The air is filled with the scent of the roses now and the grass is nearing one foot deep. The wildflowers have all crept out and all of it, this whole place, the deepest green. Words are growing up in me again too and it feels so good.

This last week we ‘road tripped’. Our little family held tight each moment, recognizing that these bliss filled days need to be cherished.

It has been a hard month, this June. None of the weight of it has been mine exactly, but somehow, I’ve managed to pick it up and carry it around. I am really good at that…I think it is the leading cause of my ‘introvertism’. Being with others means that I pack around their problems, strap them onto my shoulders, take them home with me, find a way to blame myself.

I know.

It is something I need to work on. My wise friend says the body of Christ must function like a mosh pit. We hold up the body surfers, the wounded. We share the load, but none of us can bear it alone, we will crumble under it. So, keep passing. Take back the weight when others start to slouch. Keep it evenly distributed.

But the weight, when it falls on us, doesn’t it remind us not to take a single thing about this life for granted? Doesn’t it make you think that nothing about that blessing you are living is guaranteed? Not even that breath you are breathing? None of it is permanent. We must hold it close enough to notice its beauty, loose enough to let it breath, let it grow.

I am feeling strong again…ready to step back into the pit. Summer…here we go again.

Thanking Him for our blessings, the rest, this past week…

698) Wild flowers on the I-5

699) Kids that didn’t fight, not once, all vacation. I know. I am counting it, many times, a blessing!!!

First night…Lake Chelan

700) Her face…meeting those princesses…

701) His face…in his version of the happiest place on earth

Shasta Lake

702) These three…this moment. No words.

703) Sunset dinners

704) Falling in love

705) Seeing new things

706) A pod of dolphins up for a visit

707) Dancing on the pier.

And many other moments to cherish.

Country Chronicles: My thumb might not be green

Lots of news at the ranch these days. Want an update?

Sprummer 2012 isn’t all I cracked it up to be. It has rained like crazy, it has been so wet. Like sometimes I think we should start building a boat of some sort.  And then June 9? Four days after I planted out all my garden seedlings the kids and I had started, it snowed. A fair bit. I nearly cried.

Some things survived I think. Red cabbage is hardy. Peas just don’t quit. Onions popped. Strawberries might bring a crop of 5-10 (individual berries not kilos).

I don’t know if I can take all the blame for all of our gorgeous seedlings meeting a fatal end. Who can expect snow on June 9? Certainly not me. In any event there was also a happy discovery. A gorgeous, huge rhubarb patch up in the woods. Looks like someone else tried to garden sometime in history? Perhaps I will start a rhubarb farm. It might be the only thing hardy enough to live here. We’ve been loving strawberry rhubarb pies, compote and Darlas delish muffins.

Today I replanted most everything. tomatoes, carrots, squash, eggplant, beans, peppers, zucchini, basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, cilantro, sunflowers. Here is hoping it doesn’t all rot or get washed away in the torrential rain fall. In other garden news, using hay in your lasagna garden when you are in the midst of a very damp spring might not be the best choice. It sort of looks like I might have an alfalfa crop to end all others. Boo…

In other ranch news: Ferogie moved out and Jordan moved in. We miss Fergs, but not as much as we would have before we realized he doesn’t finish book trilogies he starts (PS I took them back if you are looking ;-). The kids are still naming Jordan. We look forward to E’s nickname for him…though I doubt it will be as catchy as the others as she named them when she was just two. Now that she is nearly four she doesn’t say nearly as many hilarious things.

Yesterday we took a lion and a princess to the car show downtown. It was awesome and I will cry the day they are too cool to do what they think is fun and rad.

Today we had a family chocolate fondue after school. I think the kids may have liked that.

There is still an adorable constable about this week. Sam makes a fine companion.

I have no idea where they learned this behaviour from…

My husband is really good at gift giving. I turned old this weekend and he bought me this awesome and perfect for w-ring addition to the deck (and yes we know we can’t leave it this close to the roof). I bought him underwear and tshirts (gift giving is not my forte…or love language).

I won a CD this week. Thinking about this song from it for many hurting friends of mine…

Tomorrow is ONE THING TUESDAY! Think about something that makes you feel ALIVE, BLESSED, JOY Filled? Come back and tell me?

Country Chronicles: Lasagna Gardening (aka too lazy to double dig)

Feddersen Garden 2012

Oh what a magnificent ‘pause’ I am having. Naps. Baking. Gardening. This week wins (save a trip to the dentist for my very first filling of my life…worst).  All the fun projects we dreamed about all this long cold winter also got started over the last week. Joel flattened my garden area and I got to work digging the soil. I spent a solid 12 hours picking rocks and turning over the soil and do you know what I found? More hard soil, more massive rocks. So to honour the lazy gardener that I am I remembered what I heard on the radio about “lasagna gardening” or layer composting. Apparently you can start your garden anywhere,  while skipping the double dig. This method is thought to be better at reducing weeds and water use as well. It made sense to me (plus I could stop picking the ginormous rocks).

Newspaper layer

First you select where you want  your bed then just go ahead put on a three layers of soaked newspaper. This will apparently draw the needed earthworms to your patch. Next you toss on a layer of peat moss.

Peat Moss

Next a layer of hay. (Abin? I might need to steal your saw table…).

Hay layer

Next a layer of bark mulch.

Bark Mulch

Then repeat. If you are doing this in the fall (which is preferred) then you can just leave until planting. If you are doing now (like me) then you will need to also add a solid four inches of good soil on the top. I want to get this bed ready as soon as possible as I want to plant some early crops now (peas, lettuce, spinach). I think this method will be expensive this year as I am needing to buy most of the layers, in the future you can just use whatever you have around the house alternating between brown (shredded paper, fall leaves, hay) and green layers (raw compost, grass clippings, trimmings from plants). The top photo is the layout for our garden this year! Click the image if you want to create your own garden or want to read more about my planting plan. If you want to read more about this method you can read this or watch this. I will let you know how things grow! I have a feeling that the ‘above ground’ veggies will do great, while things like carrots won’t enjoy having to try to navigate down through my rocky ground.

Also at our house this week? BIG excavation! We’ve had a lot of work done on our switchbacks. While it wasn’t the miracle that Joel and I had sort of hopped for (you know, like suddenly our driveway was 10 feet long and flat?) I think it will help. The grade is reduced a little and now all of the corners are flat (you are not climbing steep grades whilst still turning a corner). We have gravel coming in too and hope things will be much better by next winter!


Hey gardeners out there…what do you think? Do you think I will get a crop with this method? Love to hear any tips you have!!!


Country Chronicles: Spr-ummer

Turns out that we don’t get spring here at Switchback Ranch. We get “w-ring” in which it is like spring: it warms up, the snow melts, everything gets sloppy. But unlike spring in town, it is still possible that we could get snow. It is sort of miserable. Two days ago, the fog rolled up and sent itself packing.

And then YESTERDAY? SPR-UMMER arrived. IT IS THE BEST. And it won’t really end now until September. You see it doesn’t get terribly hot up here, not like in town. We just get this glorious 25-28 degrees celsius. It is the season of having too much fun outside and loosing track of time, of eating on the deck, of long-awaited projects. It is wonderful.

We are back in the sandbox:

(O has his first short hair of his life…it is KILLING me. Why does he look 12? Mercy.)

The hose is out:

The scooters are scooting:

The chalk is arting:

The flowers are coming up (and it would appear that all my end-of-season-on-sale planting survived! Yay blueberries, grapes, rhubarb, lavender)

In other news: Sam is staying. He is such a sweet dog and we all love him. But. How scary are these photos? He loves to hunt sparks from the campfires. It is the only thing he seems to have any violent streak about. If this beast doesn’t look like the thing of nightmares though, I don’t know what does.

Usually he looks like this and thinks he is a lap dog. His other favorite things are chasing Joel on dirt bikes, going for hikes, shedding and making Abby growl. His tongue didn’t used to seem so huge before Sprummer arrived. He prefers Wring….easier on a Pesky Shepherd (I tried to teach O about dog breeds, he miss heard me and starting calling Sam the Pesky Shepherd…it seems appropriate).

AMAZING how a little bit of sun changes EVERYTHING. Over-spiritualize much Melissa Ann? That was just a raging case of cabin fever and nothing treats that faster than some sprummer sun, an impromptu road trip (to Coldplay with friends no less), and a lost day planner (which means I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing, so I’m just not doing it…it is very therapeutic).

Thanks friends! What fun! Going to miss you somethings fierce.

Country Chronicles: The Black Beasts of Switchback Ranch

There has been some excitement at the ranch over the last few days.

For one thing Joel came home. Hallelujah.

For another. We have a Nancy Drew-esque mystery on our hands. We have spotted a species of cat that even our Conservation Officer cannot identify.Image

He has sent these images to the Provincial Vet and some others. We are waiting to hear the results today. It is all very mysterious and exciting. I spotted him out my window at dusk. He was about the size of a coyote and that is what I thought it was. By the time I got my camera he had passed over onto our neighbors property. I took these photos from my deck with a 200 mm lens. He looked like a domestic cat (but much too big) with a tail like a cougar (but much too small)…and jet black.


Two days later we accepted voluntarily another black beast onto the ranch. Meet Samwise Gamgee (Sam for short).


He is a shepherd/husky mix. He is our neighbors dog and has sort of adopted us. They were two single brothers with busy lives and so Sam has found his way to our house quite frequently over the last few years. In fact he brought me a deers leg my very first morning here (that is Joe Rich style for a casserole). The brothers are now off up north etc and think Sam would be happiest with us. He is having a sleep over for a few nights to see how he fits in with our family. He is only two and bounces a lot. A MASSIVE bouncing dog can be quite a thing to have around a three year old.


But. He seems to have the most submissive temperament I’ve ever seen in any dog. Let alone one this big. Here Owen told him to sit. When Emily did the same he rolled over onto his back….that little girl knows well how to be the Alpha.


And it turns out, I may have accidentally attached to him. We are having a breeder over today to see what he thinks of him. I might take him to an obedience class to see if I can handle him. I like the fact that he has never been in a house. I like the idea of having a beast that I trust, especially whilst the mystery of the mutant cat persists.