Friday, November 13, 2015


a girl in her natural habitat

You might have noticed that our girl is home? Four weeks away from home, three from me and from was maybe a little too long, she says.  But what an adventure! She was invited to Seattle to visit friends she's had since she was born; Laney and I were in prenatal yoga together and often rode the same bus to work while we were huge and lumbering.  A few months later, she and her little family moved into our building, and we spent almost every day of that first year of our kids' lives walking, nursing, talking, and concocting amazing lunches for ourselves to eat on the floor and drip onto our babies' heads.

These people are some of Eliza's deep family, and I didn't give her trip a second thought, except to say that there was no way she was traveling across country by herself!! Through a combination of a second trip in one month to Wisconsin, a serendipitous midwest wedding, and a generous and willing Laney, who accompanied Eliza home, it happened.

We had one day with Laney before she turned around and went home, and when we could stop talking for two minutes, she found ways to connect with Ani, who doesn't know her well, as she was only one when we left Seattle. 

 I think they connected.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

autumn yarden

We don't have much of a garden, but there are a couple of things that flourish. One of them is our comfrey, dug up from our plot at the community garden, and unwittingly transplanted here when I read that the leaves make great compost. Yeah, great compost and tremendously deep tap roots that are impossible to dig back out!  It's not that I don't love the comfrey - I really love that it still has purple blooms, long after my friend Jen's comfrey plant on their hilltop farm has completely died back, because on really warm days like today there are still bees and monarchs out doing their thing, and our comfrey is their favorite spot.

We also have impressive "poop mushrooms" that flourish on the presents the neighborhood dogs leave in abundance in our yard.  They're like little condominiums of fungi, aren't they?

Ah, then there is the horseradish.  Our horseradish did so well that when I ripped up the pot to move it out of the way for the house-painters this summer, the plant in the pot died, but there were so many healthy roots left in the ground that a whole new village of horseradish popped up! My favorite part of the horseradish, of course, are its pests.  I know, it's not right, and I'm clearly not really a gardener, but you have to admit I have honed my ability to appreciate the littlest things.

My friend Molly, who has an admirable passion for healthy soil, has given me buckets of wealth from her compost pile, and along with the soil came a few volunteers. My favorite is a dark purple beauty from the mint family, called shiso.  Look who we found amongst its leaves:

Ani and I spent quite a bit of time this fall puttering in the yarden, taking photos and finding bugs. We harvested our abundant lemon balm and made a tincture for the first time...

end of summer toes

...and more than a few hours reading on our little stoop, enjoying our tiny kingdom.  I think that every year somehow our garden will transform into something respectable, but every year it does its own thing and the deer eat the morning glory leaves and the beans, or the hollyhocks just downright disappear and the milkweed I thought was definitely dead just shows up one day.  It's a ride, I tell ya. 

*I can't even pretend to understand what is happening with the formatting in this post! I've fixed it several times, but I SURRENDER! There is a husband, a cat, and netflix waiting for me and time's a-tickin!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I've written about pokeberry before, and received the only anonymous comment whose identity I did not actually know, telling me that I was irresponsible for using and writing about poke; didn't I realize it was toxic? Well, I did, which is why we were not dining on pokeberries, but using them as an ink for our drawings.  However, I have since heard of many and varied uses for poke, including ingesting it in small amounts.  I'd want more information before doing that myself, but the more I learn the more I want to learn about this plant.  (As a side note, many of the foods and medicine we consider safe are also toxic at high levels. It is helpful to understand what it is you are eating!)

M with her hands in the poke. Her headband is dyed with the berries.
Our friends have been dying wool with plants this fall and invited Ani and I over to dye with poke, which is plentiful in this area.  We picked as much as we could find in a morning, and headed over. Using vinegar as the mordant, and this book from the library, we dyed wool roving we'd brought over, and a couple of cotton items.

The wool turned out beautifully, the color so deep.  The cotton was much lighter, and from what I've read, the pokeberry dye is not light-fast, so I expect the color will change over time. When we made the pokeberry ink, the color started out a nice purple, and turned brown after a while.  Apparently, poke was a popular berry used for ink during the Civil War; any letters or writings from that time that appear to have been written with brown ink are written in poke.

drying in the driveway
Ani's tye-died shirt turned out a lovely light pink. We'll see how long it lasts!

parading the honey

The month-long project of helping make puppets, costumes, and major messes culminated in a beautiful madhouse of a parade this weekend! This year I was actually in the parade, which made me a little crazy, as I wasn't able to take any photos of the parade, and I cannot tell you with words how magical this experience is to behold. So you must either use your wildest imagination, or google it. 

photo by Patty Mitchell
My kids were incredibly involved and independent this year.  Eliza learned some new skills on the sewing machine, which she was thrilled about, Ani paper mached, painted, beaded, visited, danced, clowned, and helped Dan and I construct a cart that carried the two of us and six huge Indonesian gongs. Yes!! 
photo by Patty Mitchell

There were some incredible artists involved.  Scott from Montana and Adam from Vashon Island constructed a reed and tissue paper heart lantern (It's on the left in the photo above. It's huge.).  Have I mentioned that this is a community art project, open to the public for many hours a day for three weeks, and it's free?

working on the gong cart

There came a time this past week when things got intense. More intense. Projects were being worked on until the wee hours of the night, totally transforming by the time we would return the next day. Artists started losing themselves in the piles and piles of materials.  Can you see Scott below? Just barely?

Patty and Fawzia swallowed by fabric, fabric and more fabric!

Eliza fell in love with a mushroom baby. Girl after my own heart.

Ani assembling circles
Put down the mushroom baby, honey.
And then it was time!!! Yes, things were being constructed up until the very last moment, but it all happened!

Costumes were sorted and released to the crowds, huge puppets were assembled, everyone lined up and the fun began.
photo by Patty Mitchell

The girls were a part of a troupe of bees who had lost their way and were trying to find their home. It was such a delight to encounter them along the way - my sweet bees, looking for their honey! You'll have to imagine the rest - the resounding gongs, the dixie band drums and horns, the choir, the dancing water hags, the gentle swaying of puppet heads, high over the heads of the crowd, making their way through our little town.  Once again, we gave our hearts to this project and were rewarded with friendship, encouragement, beauty, community and accomplishment. So sweet...

photo by Patty Mitchell
 *my second post for November, about 16 minutes late, 'cause I'm still figuring out a new camera, and my photos are apparently ginormous and took about an hour to upload! Holy wah! Bear with me.  Also, a couple of these photos were taken with my camera by my friend Molly, but I couldn't tell you exactly which ones, so...thank you Molly!