Home-Grown, Hand-Made

by Kari on July 4, 2010

Not sure how this post will take form because I am so tired I cannot even form a coherent thought. Jeff’s so deliriously tired he inadvertently brought me a sippy cup of milk in bed.  I directed him down the hall to try the other little blond person in our house.

Why so tired? Because in the midst of church activities this weekend we embarked on a yard-work marathon.  Last weekend we built a 50-foot retaining wall in our yard.  We carried every last stone (4 1/2 TONS of them), leveled it all, wheelbarrow-ed all the gravel. Jeff spent hours installing a special drainage system because we live on a hill.  I had no idea the extent of this project. So. Much. Work.

This weekend we trenched our our sprinkler system (above), roto-tilled our entire back yard to grade it out for lawn, and then built a cedar deck onto the back of our house.  My dad tilled and hauled and drove nails until his back about gave out and his right palm was one big blister.  Dutch toted tools. Heidi ate dirt. We all enjoyed messy BBQ’d hamburgers and my first (and fabulously successful, I might add) attempt at homemade baked beans.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “If only we would’ve just hired someone to do this whole stupid yard.  I’m so tired I never want to lift another retaining wall stone or 2×6 or haul another load of gravel in my life.”  But, tonight as I sat on that freshly laid cedar decking, inhaling its amazing scent, and looked out over our project, I had to admit that there’s something special about doing it all ourselves.

I know we’ll look back on this summer with amazing memories. I can already imagine the conversations when we’re old and decrepit: “Remember when we were two young crazies that we built that cotton-pickin’ wall? Remember how the kids played in the dirt while we drove nails and shoveled dirt?” We’ll laugh.  We’ll reminisce.  And, at this rate, we’ll likely still be getting chiropractic work done on our backs. There really is something special about hand-made things.

And home-grown.  That might be my very favorite thing about summer.  I planted my very own garden this year.  First ever. Well, first since the ground has been mine–growing up mom always let my brother and I have our own little plot of land in her big garden.  I loved working in the dirt and still remember picking the fresh beans and carrots, the rhubarb and strawberries.  In my garden we’re just harvesting the delicious sugar-snap peas (left).  Dutch loves to stand out there and pick peas, popping them in his mouth like candy.  Today during our work party we had a huge salad with baby gourmet salad greens fresh from my  parents’ garden.  We had had homemade baked beans–real ones that you soak overnight and cook with bacon.  So good!

Earlier this week a dear woman from church dropped off 3 containers of fresh still-warm-from-the-sun,  hand-picked strawberries (right: aren’t they beautiful?!).  She and her kids had just picked them and she generous shared.  They were AMAZING! I’d forgotten what real strawberries tasted like.  I’ll admit I “picked” mine at Costco, but these were the real deal. Dutch and I polished of all three containers before the afternoon was over.  We sat on the counter, next to the sink, rinsing and popping them in our mouths, gobbling and savoring the sweet perfection.

One thing I noticed.  Hand-made and home-grown might not look as impressive.  Check out these strawberries.  One is from Costco. One is from some field out in rural Clackamas county.  These were the average size of their bunch.  Interesting. But, one was also infinitely tastier.  A lot more work, perhaps, but so tasty!

So I’m learning to appreciate homemade and homegrown. I suppose there’s no inherent virtue in doing things yourself, and I have done a fair share of homemade attempts that have convinced me that I have some significant skill-limitations, so some things are better simply bought at a store (knitting and sewing to name a few).  But I’m sure learning a lot through all of this, and I think Dutch might be too. He’s learning about gardening, building, working hard.  I suppose Heidi is learning about dirt.  We’re all learning the blessing of a couple advil, and when to sit down and take a rest.  We’re loving family bathtime every evening, and I’m learning to ignore the brown ring in the tub.  It’s a sign of a job well done.

So Happy 4th to all. This tired girl is off to bed.  What do you enjoy that is homemade or homegrown? I’d love to hear as we celebrate this glorious season called Summer.

*Here’s also to my dad, our hero, who has labored to no end to help us in this endeavor.  I started building decks with my dad when I was 15-years-old, and this is the first one we’ve done that I get to keep!  I love you, daddy–thanks for being the best dad a girl could ever imagine.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen Duncan July 6, 2010 at 11:24 am

First…I have to just say that when I see you in a sweatshirt on this last picture, I get MAD. Because I can’t even IMAGINE wearing a sweatshirt and SOO MISS OREGON! Can you please send some cool Oregon weather down here?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Second..I hear you on homemade and homegrown! This is our first year planting/harvesting tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and green peppers! Scott thinks that the tomatoes are SO much better just because we grew them but I’m thinkin’ a tomato is a tomato. But- to each his own. We’ve had some delicious chicken/tomato/basil/mozzarella pastas this summer!

Third: Have you read the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” yet? HIGHLY recommend. Although she favors evolution, she is very entertaining and provides wonderful encouragement for growing your own and supporting local farmers. Our whole attitude about food changed after reading her…even Scott enjoyed it. That and the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” It will possibly even make you want to move again just to own some chickens and cows! (And I DO know the sentiments of not wanting to move again!)

Anyways, love the pics and love keeping up with you! Hope that back settles down soon! Lots of love to you all….


Janae July 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm

well, I tried my hand at baked beans on the 4th…8 hours of soaking and 16 hours of cooking in the crockpot. And they were NASTY!!! Of course, I didn’t realize until after I’d served them to approx 50 people! The sauce was delicious prior to the 16 hours in the crockpot, but something happened in the final hours of cooking and it turned bitter and I can’t really claim that the beans were tender. You’ll have to share your recipe and tricks with me! :)

Your yard looks AMAZING!!! And yay for getting your deck done! It is beautiful!!! So is your dad helping with a pool next??? ;)

We’ve just completed shed #1 (no more strollers in my living room!!!)…next up…landscaping, stone path, and if time allows we’ll knock down our current garage and build the new one! Love do it yourself projects!!!

Way to go on helping out so much!!! I tried to help Matt put up some siding a few days ago and he teased that I wasn’t cut out for construction. Not to mention, I’m terrified of the nail gun (he did have a mis-fire last month and shot his hand with a nail so I think it is a legitimate fear). Anyway, proud of you for jumping in!!! I think that is also something good for the kids to see! :)


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