A Walk in the Woods

Spring has finally come to Northeast Missouri, and boy is it beautiful.  Excuse me if I once again wax poetic about plants, but the Redbud, Wild Plum, and the myriad forest wildflowers in bloom have me swooning on a daily basis.

The kids and I have taken to frequent forest explorations as a break from the full sun of the garden.  We bushwhack our way down steep hills with no real agenda – just discovery.  This ecosystem is so brand new to me that every day brings so many delightful surprises – just today I saw my first bluebird, and I still get all twitterpated over the bright red of the cardinal!  Our walk the other day led us into fantastic patches of bluebells and May apples…

LandWalk2LandWalk1  13-52

…Past vernal pools, and our sandy bottomed creek…


(Everett has been on a skirt-wearing kick lately!)

…and back again through the oak-hickory forest, past trout lilies, just starting to bloom.




Touring the Tri-Communities

After years of hearing about the “tri-communities” of Northern Missouri – Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, Red Earth Farms, and Sandhill Farm – we finally had the opportunity to visit the three communities yesterday.  To say that it was an inspiring day would be an understatement.  The three communities are vastly different, in size and in focus, but I came away from each of them feeling so invigorated and excited about the path that lies ahead as we seek to create our own homestead.

Our primary goal for this tour was to check out the basics of food, water, and shelter.  How are people building in Northeast Missouri, and what kinds of materials are they using?  What kinds of irrigation systems are in place for growing food?  How are communities meeting their drinking water needs?  What about electricity?  How can we adapt what we see for our own needs as a family of four?

What was truly exciting was to see a diversity of systems that worked well for each person or family.  For instance, the first small home we visited cost less than $3000 to build, had one single solar panel to power a light and radio, and the owner only built fires indoors when the temperature got below 40 degrees!  Contrast that with the exceptionally comfortable and spacious community building at Dancing Rabbit, in which there is internet, hot showers, composting toilets, refrigerators and washing machines.

Here are some of my favorite buildings:

A south facing sun room/greenhouse provides growing space and warmth.  In the winter, the residents open the door to their house, and let the warm air from the sun room enter.  In the summertime, they shade/screen the sun room.

A south facing sun room/greenhouse provides growing space and warmth at this Red Earth Farms home. In the winter, the residents open the door to their house, and let the warm air from the sun room enter. In the summertime, they shade/screen the sun room.

A composting toilet at Red Earth Farms.

A composting toilet at Red Earth Farms.

30 x 60 foot greenhouse.  My dream.

30 x 60 foot greenhouse at Red Earth Farms.  There were still greens and carrots growing, even after several 20 degree nights. 
An underground cistern collects rainwater from this house's roof.  Water is pumped through a filter before drinking.

An underground cistern collects rainwater from this house’s roof. I love that they used an antique hand powered pump to move the water from the cistern to the house. Water can be poured through a filter before drinking.

The community building at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

The community building at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

A temporary structure at DR.

A temporary structure at DR.

Many of the dwellings at DR had living roofs.

Many of the dwellings at DR had living roofs.

Mosaic in earthen plaster exterior.

Mosaic in earthen plaster exterior.

This house really captured my heart with its big windows and warm colors.

This house really captured my heart with its big windows and warm colors.

Another awesome building at DR.

Another awesome building at DR.

Timber-framed strawbale house in progress.

Timber-framed strawbale house in progress.

There was a very wide diversity of houses at Dancing Rabbit, including this old school bus!

There was a very wide diversity of houses at Dancing Rabbit, including this old school bus!

Check out these communities’ websites.  They have so much to offer and share!








Getting here

Our “Missouri Trail” adventure took us across eight states, three time zones, and into the homes of four friends.  To my delight, we followed much of the original Oregon Trail route, through the Columbia Gorge, across Goodale’s Cutoff, and along the Platte River.  The trip was fun, exhilarating, boring, desolate, terrifying, and wonderful.  Here are a few highlights:

One of the many potty breaks along the side of the road, with our modern covered wagon.

Lava beds, in Idaho.

The remote Centennial Valley in southwestern Montana, close to the headwaters of the Missouri River!

Yellowstone National Park.  This was one of the scenic highlights of the trip for me, and I cannot wait to go back some day and explore the backcountry!

Old Faithful!

Driving through a herd of bison in Yellowstone.  Bison and bison poop might have been the biggest hits for the kids.

At Firehole Falls. Happy to be out of the car!  I regret to say that I did not take a single photo of anything east of Yellowstone. It was SO windy.  Windy to the point of tipping over semi trucks on the interstate!

And then onward through Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, an itty bitty bit of Iowa, and into Missouri we went, where we are unpacking and settling in!


We spent a lovely Labor Day weekend in the wilderness with good friends and goats, complete with great weather, a pristine alpine lake all to ourselves, and lovely views.  We were in the Diamond Peak Wilderness, in Oregon, and only a few miles away from the spot where we backpacked with goats for the very first time.

It was 2006, just a few weeks after our wedding, and we decided it was time to take our goats into the backcountry.  Inspired by the book The Pack Goat, by John Mionczynski, we had been training our goats to follow us on hikes around the property.  Being herd animals, our dairy goats followed us quite readily, and we found it was quite fun and easy to go on walks with them in line behind us.

So, on a warm late summer day, we loaded up three goats – our Alpine goat Rose, her kid Lupine, and a Nubian named Hazelnut – in the back of our friend’s VW van and drove into the wilderness.  With makeshift packs on the goats backs, it was an exciting first outing.  Did the goats try to eat our dinner? Sure!  Did they engage in mischief on the trail? You bet!!  But the udder (pun intended) bliss of spending time with goats in the backcountry was an experience that was completely unforgettable. We were hooked.

Rose and Hazelnut on the Divide Lake trail, September 2006.

Lupine and Hazelnut join us for a mid-day sun break.  Near Divide Lake, 2006.

Fast forward six years and over a dozen goat packing trips later, and we still love it.  While our first trips were primarily for the fun of bringing our goats camping, and the enjoyment of fresh milk, bringing goats on later trips became something of a necessity.  As our family grew, we relied more heavily on our goats to carry the bulk of our gear, as we carried small children on our backs.  On this trip, I carried Everett and a small day pack, Brian carried Ella in a kid carrier with gear strapped on to the outside of the pack, and the goats carried the remainder of our gear, approximately 20-30 lbs each.

Our packing gear has become more sophisticated over the years, as has our herd management.  While we allow them to walk freely on the trail, we keep them tethered in the campsite, to keep them out of our food and away from small children.  We allow them to forage for fresh browse, but also carry grain as a supplement.  And each morning, we milk fresh, sweet milk for our morning tea.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Ella, with a fully loaded up Calyso behind.  Diamond Peak Wilderness, 2012.

Gilly takes the steep section slow and steady.

Me and Calypso at Marie Lake.

I always appreciate our farm animals, but I am especially grateful to our goats for making it possible for us to still enjoy the backcountry as a family.

Have a wonderful day!


Home again, home again

We’re home.  After three weeks of travel via planes, cars, subways, trains, and swan boats.  Home after visiting family, old friends, and new friends.  Home after swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, watching a thunderstorm roll in, sleeping on the Amtrak, witnessing a marriage ceremony.  Home to a garden that is about to burst, piles of “things to do” and the most gorgeous weather imaginable.

No trip to Boston is complete without a ride on the Swan Boats in the Public Garden!

Ev and Ella with Quack, Pack, Ouack, and Mack.

Four generations of women in my family. Grandma Barbara, Ella, my Nonni Antonetta, and me. This photo was taken on Nonni’s 92nd birthday!

Northeast Missouri has the most incredible skies and breezes that dry cloth diapers in mere hours!

Ella and Bella, a 25 year old Percheron, and the work horse of our dear friends in MO.

And this, my friends, is the site of our future shop/temporary home on our very own piece of land in Northeast Missouri.  Yes, we will soon be leaving our beloved home here in Oregon for new adventures in the Midwest.  I look forward to sharing these adventures with you in the very near future.

Wishing you a beautiful day!


River and ocean

Our pre-July 4th weekend was spent camping on the Russian River, in Sonoma County, CA.  Our friend’s birthday prompted about 40 of our closest friends to gather to camp, eat, and play together for 3 days.  This group of friends is magical.  We all met working together in the mid-90’s on Catalina Island.  Teaching children and living together, we formed incredible bonds that have only grown stronger as the years have gone by.  At least once a year we gather together to celebrate our friendship.  Our numbers have grown as partners, friends, and children have joined the group, and we’ve continued to make memories together.  I feel so fortunate to have this group of friends in my life.

The river was just perfect for playing and relaxing, trying out stand up paddle boards, kayaking, and playing with rocks.

Ella rocked the boogie board, and Everett splashed and poured water from one container to the next for a long, long time!

We stopped off in Northern California on the way home, to get one more day of fun with friends, and enjoyed some great beach time.

We left Oregon on a cloudy, overcast day last week, and returned to the beginning of the Oregon summer.  I’m so excited for the summer fun to begin.

Strawberry Days

Strawberry days have begun.  We hit the u-pick on Friday morning, the first day it was open.  We then spent the remainder of the day processing strawberries, and of course, enjoying strawberries!

Everett likes to pick his strawberries out of the bucket.  They’ve been pre-screened for quality, and that suits him just fine!

It’s always so hard to decide what to do with the strawberries.  I decided on freezing whole berries and freezer jam, while Brian went for a honey sweetened “sam” (not quite a jam, not quite a sauce).  We use Pomona’s Universal Pectin, so we can add any amount and kind of sweetener we wish.

Even better this time around.  Old fashioned strawberry shortcake recipe from In the Sweet Kitchen.

And my favorite yet: fresh strawberry ice cream made with goat milk.  I mashed up about 1/2 cup of fresh berries, added 3 1/2 cups of goat milk, 1 tsp of vanilla, and 3/4 cups of cane sugar.  SO GOOD.

What are you making with strawberries?


Sunday snow play

After a week of snow, and a promise of gorgeous weather, we headed up to the mountains to play in the snow.

Snowshoes on and ready to go!  Ella was beyond excited to try out her new snowshoes!

It was really quite warm!  When we made it up the hill and to the shelter, we had to peel off a few layers. Some of us peeled off more than others!

Lots of snow was eaten…

And enjoyed!

Snow mountains were climbed…

Puddles were explored…

And giggles were shared.  It was a good day.