Last Tuesday in June

Daria has been learning to ride her bike by riding around the block, up to the park, and back.

Daria biking on sidewalk near our house.

She’s gone from limping along, pushing with one foot and hobbling, stopping every few minutes to expound on the cracked pavement or the state of the shade to gliding like a pro in a matter of days. Her development is astounding. Every few days is a new miracle.

This afternoon, while eating lunch and perusing the next-to-latest Rolling Stone, I read an article about the Beach Boys getting back together and suddenly had a flashback to riding my bike as a little girl with my nephew in the basement of our house on Wooded Hills Road, where my sister and her family still live. The summers were scorchy-humid-blistering, but the basement garage was sweet cool and spidery. We rode our bikes in figure 8s while listening to “Barbara Ann” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Surfin’ Safari” and “Little Deuce Coupe.” A bit of California in sultry, land-locked, rock-infested and sun-bleached Northwest Arkansas.

Daria’s riding path is strikingly different from our basement. She rides on sidewalks past Norman Rockwellesque yards to a neighborhood park where she can look up and see the Blue Mountains. June is preternaturally cool, highs only kissing the low 80s.

The view from the edge of our neighborhood park.

Before we moved to Oregon, I lived in the midwest, or the “upper-South” most all my life–Minnesota, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri. Hot and humid summers with dazzling but short spring and fall surrounding icy, unholy winters. Moving to the Blue Mountains¬†shocked our systems. Dry. High. Surrounded by mountains not of the Ozark variety, which Wikipedia informs me are actually dissected plateau. But real mountains. We live at 2800 feet above sea-level, roughly and are in a valley surrounded by close mountains with peaks of 4800-8000 ft.

Our valley lacks fireflies and thunderstorms (sorry, natives…we have had one in the three years I have lived there…the rest are slightly noisy showers). But it has rich, dark soil (again, sorry natives, but the soil is not “full of clay”…for that, I would take you to Southwest Missouri/Northwest Arkansas where potters could literally make coffee mugs straight from the soil on my in-law’s land).

Moving across country from your home territory (securely in Zone 6 and 7, CST) into a completely foreign soil (in chilly Zone 5, PST) throws off your internal clock. My body still seems to function in Central Standard. By mid-May, I was itching to put a tomato plant in the ground, feeling like something was wrong with them still squatting in my windowsill (“Brave move!” said a Zone 5 lifer when he saw my mid-May garden, rife with spindly Oregon Spring and Cherry Tomato Plants).

When I was four, my family transplanted from Minnesota to Arizona to live near my aunt. In Arizona, I developed a strange allergy to the climate, and my family re-transplanted when I was six to Arkansas. I remember that my parents were really headed to Kentucky horse country, but Arkansas got in the way. A good chunk of my family still lives in the dissected Ozark Plateau, having planted roots for the last 31 years.

I wonder, when I look out over mountain peaks ringed with June snow if Daria’s roots will break this soil. I don’t know.

But for now, she is enjoying the climate.

In the Beginning

Welcome to the summer of the blog. If I can keep this up all summer, my reward it getting to go Pro in the fall.

This summer’s themes are Gardening, Living, Mothering. I added Teaching to the categories because I might find things I want to incorporate in that section, but I am hoping to stay at least a little clear of the teaching world…at least in July.

So to begin.

In February, my husband, 3-yr-old daughter, and I moved to a new house close to the campus where we teach. I had been jonesing for living in a house again after living in a tri-plex for nearly three years. I wanted a yard with space to garden. And this house has just that. So this summer is my first foray into gardening since, well…the last time we moved into a new house with space for a garden (2000).

I wasn’t going to jump head-long into veggie gardening again, but in mid-April a friend had a tiller that he volunteered to use on composty-patch in the back corner of our lot. I said “Ok…might as well do that and I will put in some plants that I won’t care about.” After all, I had no intention of actually “gardening” in the formal sense. but I could put in some plants and see what happened.

So Jason tilled a patch.

Not a bad start. We soon found out that the blue spigot to the right of the frame was hooked directly to our hot-water heater, so that was out as a source of water for the garden. But it did clean Jason’s tiller nicely.

After procuring romaine and butter crunch lettuce, spinach, radish and asparagus seeds, chard, and tomatoes, we planted.

After planting, late April 2012.

I am not a stellar gardener. I have tortured and killed many a plant, potted and otherwise. One friend of the family said that my indoor plants seemed to live just to spite me.

So far, the garden has flourished, or at least survived. Mid-May, Daria and I began harvesting spinach, lettuce, radishes and chard.

Our garden as of May 18.

Mid-June, I left town for 9 days. Jacob and Daria picked spinach and lettuce but didn’t weed.

I came back to…

Weeds everywhere.

Daria and I wrestled with weeds and replaced the radish patch with some new tomatoes given to us by friends.

Back to normal.

In addition to the fact that I still have a garden where things are still growing after two months is the fact that I moved into a house that has all of this…

The rosebush in our front yard.
The rosebush in our back yard.
How do you make opium from poppies?

And finally…two plants I have always, always wanted but never had…


So why blog now? Well, I want to start writing again, and journals worked well when I was trapped at home with Daria on maternity leave. I could journal while holding her and rocking. But now, I don’t journal, and I don’t want to lose this summer like so many others to the lazy hazy days that bleed one into another. I want her to have something that captures the rare moments and miracles that are everyday in our existence. We live in a beautiful place, here in the valley of the Blue Mountains. This summer, I want to work on making that beautiful place really our home.