I love to follow many different blogs through Feedly. It's a great way for me to pretend to stay on top of the websites I mean to visit but don't really have the time to. One of the sites I follow is called Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives. It is a great place for me to go and spend 15 minutes when I start to feel overwhelmed with life and all of my commitments. Simple comics such as this one make me laugh and remind me not to take life so seriously:
Recently, an advertisment on Tiny Buddha struck my fancy so I clicked and ended up at Happify, a site that utilized activites to “build your happiness skills”. I signed up for a free trial just to see what is was all about, because all of us want to be happier, right? From my initial first clicks, the site seems to employ a lot of the same techniques that cognitive behavioral therapy uses to change someone’s thought processes through exercises and building new habits. Has anyone used Happify or something similar? I’d be curious to hear about your experiences.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon (and well into the evening) with my neighbor CL making apple cider. We visited another neighbor that had two apple trees teaming with tiny little apples. The trees had been planted sometime between 1900-1953 when her family settled in this little part of the range. The trees are gnarled and beautiful with scars of old fires and lightening strikes and no formalized pruning regiment, just the yearly winds knocking down broken and dead limbs.
We gathered as many minimally bruised tiny apples from the ground below the trees and then filled the rest of our bags with the green and yellow ones from the branches above, sending down rains of apples every time we picked a tree-apple. How many did we gather? Something like this: a cooler full + three 3-gallon buckets worth (and a bag of more rotten ones for CL’s goats). One bucket went to the lady of the house who tells us a bucket full makes exactly 17 pints of apple butter.
But apple butter wasn’t what we wanted. Former northern east-coast transplants CL and I share a not so secret longing, especially during harvest season. Fall is apple picking and cider making season in New England and Upstate New York. Glorious memories of afternoons spent picking bushels macouns and macintoshes (among many other varieties) with the reward of a glass of unpasteurized apple cider and a cider donut. My family never made their own, but there were plenty places around to get a gallon, starting in September through Thanksgiving. Cider meant fall and apples and abundance. It meant leaves turning red and orange and yellow; and the seasons changing and getting out those wool sweaters. It meant sharing and spending time with family and friends.
So we went to work de-stemming and pulverizing tiny little apples in the vitamix and blender to a sauce-like consistency. Failing to locate a cider or wine press, we struggled with how to press out the juice. After a couple failed attempts of trying to push the entire pulverized contents of a 5 gallon bucket through an old pillow case, we ended up settling in to wring it by hand through some cheesecloth. So a couple cups at a time we wrung and squeezed until the juice was extracted and we were left with dry, tasteless solids and the cloudy dark liquid cider.
It was 8:30 before we siphoned off the 4 ½ gallons into containers.
We took a few moments to savor the sweet-tart spicy taste of joy. We quietly reminisced and spoke of the hard work to obtain this precious liquid. When I took my leave, both of us agreed that this would be a tradition worth building and sharing in our adopted community. Perhaps between the end of haying and the beginning of shipping season, a cider pressing potluck could be a way to celebrate the harvest and reflect on the coming season.
This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Even after a breakfast of eggs and tea, crankyness and an overactive brain threatened the rest of the day. So, Neko and I decided to walk up Indian Creek to where D was baling up hay.
I hadn’t been up Indian Creek for a couple months and what a change the summer makes. The grasses, clover, and flowers were all starting to dry up, but it was still a beautiful scene, especially in the Cormack place:
It was hitting the high 90s, even at 10 am. I had my trusty water bottle, and Neko took advantage of the shade of cattails and muck ponds along the way. Unfortunately, Indian Creek is lacking in good human sized swimming holes, but it was fun to watch her dive in and flop down in the mud and goop.
We made it to the Reanus place a couple miles later and checked out the old combine (and a few more muck holes). This piece was abandoned years ago after an attempted seed-harvesting operation. I don’t think the ranch has harvested seed since.
D finished baling for the day soon after Neko and I decided to settle into a nap under the shade of one of the bales. So, instead of walking the 4-5 miles home, we crowded onto the 4-wheeler and rode home. A mason jar of cold lemonade later and I realized my mind and mood had gone back to its optimistic self. Yea for beautiful landscapes!
A couple weeks ago, we headed west to visit some friends in western Oregon. This impromptu trip had us packing at the last minute, stuffing the Subaru full of camping gear, and confusing poor Neko with our frantic behaviors. We chose to drive the I-90 to Missoula and then hoped to camp the first night near Lolo Springs on US 12. Unfortunately by the time we hit Missoula, the skies had opened and camping was a decidedly poor idea. So we found a little Mom and Pop motel, ate some bad thai/chinese, and took Neko on walks through Missoula’s deserted downtown.
Then next morning we resumed our trip on US 12. What an AMAZING highway. The rain had made an area that is probably normally beautifully green even more beautiful. We stopped about 50 miles outside of Missoula to stretch our legs and decided to go for a hike at the Jerry Johnson Day Use area. Rumor said there was a hot spring in the area, about 2 miles up the trail. Who can pass up a hot spring?
The hike was gorgeous. Neko chased sticks and couldn’t believe her luck of being let off leash for a couple hours of running around. Ferns, mushrooms, lichens, and mosses were everywhere; crayola never had greens like these:
Much of the trail followed the river winding up and down through the forest. We found the small hot springs spilling into the main river channel where I took off my shoes and waded in for a couple minutes before heading back to the Subaru and onwards to Oregon.
- Artist: Hardy Tate, 1999
What: Dustin and Cindy are getting married so come and celebrate with us!
When: July 7, 2012 (but come and camp for up to a week before and stay for a week after)
Where: At Horse Creek Ranch, Otter, Montana: our home in southeastern Montana. And yes, we live 70 miles from the nearest movie theater, library, and decent motel. You are welcome to bring a tent or RV and camp in our fields. We can also make motel suggestions in Sheridan, Wyoming (about an 1 1/2 drive).
More Specifics coming soon….