When I got home from up north, I pulled the pop-up into the back yard and opened it up, intending to clean and unpack. My three kids flagged me down one afternoon with a proposal: they wanted to sleep out there.

So for the last three nights, 8:30 arrived and the three of them, without reminders, brushed teeth, kissed us goodnight, gathered their books and journals, and left the house until morning.

Leaving Jeff and I all alone, in the peace and quiet, with the house to ourselves. Heh-heh. Not bad.

The first night, Tyler had finished Harry Potter by the wee hours. When I went out in the morning to knock and wake them for breakfast, the door was locked.

“Who are you locking out?” I asked. “The raccoons?”

“Voldemort”, came Tyler’s reply.

Speaking of ‘coons — Jeff had turned on the deck light the other night to see what our cat was growling at, and found her surrounded by 5 raccoons! All the same size, like siblings… maybe the siblings who grew up in our attic. They scattered when the light came on. The cat swaggered in as if she’d scared them off herself, and I laid in bed reassuring myself that the breached attic vent was now inaccessible to creatures without a makita and a crowbar.

Monday, I was fired up by the stats saying that our generation’s kids have a SHORTER life expectancy than ours, due almost entirely to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and other dietary disasters. (Apparently in the age of high fructose corn syrup, which no human had ever tasted before 1980, they have had to rename “adult onset diabetes” because it’s now happening so frequently to kids.) So my family sat down to a meal of marinated tofu on a nest of my own rainbow chard, sauteed in garlic and olive oil. They were good sports about the mountain of chard; Molly liked the stems best and Tyler liked the greens best. Connor just made a face but he ate it all.

Tuesday I made mozzerella cheese with the kids. It was a lot of fun, not especially hard, and took half an hour. (look for the recipe at http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com ) I had brought a fat Amish tomato home from up north –a big one, the size of my head — and chunked it up on plate with strips of fresh basil leaves from the herb garden outside the kitchen door. Once we had stretched the motz (like taffy!) — dipping it back in the hot whey when it cooled too much to stretch — we made it into a thick shiny log and then cut off chunks to arrange on the tomato plate. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil were in two of my ewers on the side. It wasn’t all we had for dinner but it’s all anybody remembers. They all helped, and had never been so excited about a hunk of organic cheese before. We plan to make it weekly, now, just before homemade pizza night.

Wednesday I dug out the seeds for my cold weather crops, and turned over a small patch of sod between my mini tomato beds out back. I planted mache (also called corn salad or rapunzel, the green the Grimm Rapunzel’s pregnant mom craved and stole from the witch next door). I planted wild Italian arugula, though in retrospect so much of it has gone wild in the lawn that was my last garden spot, every time Tyler mows, the whole neighborhood smells skunky.

I still intend to plant peppergrass, spinach, lettuces and curly kale, but I have to build the framework of a groundhog-proof shelter that will become a hoop house over cold frames in winter. There is very little an Ohioan can grow in November, but my old hoop house kept us in salad greens until new years.

I found grass fed local eggs, and local milk from Calder Dairy in glass deposit bottles. I discovered that Dei Fratelli tomato and pizza sauces are grown in Ohio and canned in Toledo.

I made goat cheese this week, and a half gallon of Kefir is now ripening in my oven with just the heat of the oven light bulb. Today we made two quiches with orange-yolked local eggs, back yard chives, Michigan Amish swiss cheese and a whole wheat crust. The bacon was just the regular old evil kind, and the walla walla sweet came with a helping of fossil-fuel guilt. But we had one for dinner and the other is in the freezer.

Connor and I made five trays of fruit leather, with blendered canned peaches I put up two years ago in apple juice, and applesauce with cherry juice concentrate. They shoud be ready in the morning, along with the refrigerated dough we made for home baked soda crackers and plan to roll through my pasta machine. Tomorrow I’m grinding wheat to make graham crackers as well, and pizza crusts and flat breads for the wood oven. (One pizza will be roast garlic, tomato, fresh basil and homemade goat cheese.)

Meanwhile to counteract all the good eating, we have each made our own exercise charts with daily check-boxes for sit ups and biking, bench presses and workouts, and have hung them over the treadmill and weight bench in our den. (I bought the weight bench for $35 at a yard sale, and it has leg and arm machine thingies like a nautilus machine. This, I hope, will be my antidote to what one of the sculpture students referred to as “floppy bus driver arms”. )

Connor got a chinchilla this week to replace his late friend Rattus. It’s a cute little thing, with so much wrinkled fur on its forehead and between its big yoda-ears that it looks like a grumpy little gnome. It moves like a forest creature, whiskery and squirrelish.

Tyler’s not feeling well, today… headachey all afternoon, and he had a small fever this evening. I hope he’ll feel better in the morning. We are generally so disgustingly healthy that I hardly remember the last time somebody was sick.

I raced a thunderstorm home tonight, coming from teaching my guild class on the bike in the dark… thunder booming and lightning flashing. I made it into the garage, trailer and all, before the rain started. We so need rain. The grass is brown and crunchy underfoot.

Tomorrow is friday already. Saturday is the farmer’s market, and then to Michigan to Kapnick Orchard, where we can pick buckets of blueberries for half the price of the u-pick nearer by. We make a pie or two but freeze most, becuase the kids love a bowl of frozen blueberries with milk. We’ll stew some for adding to yogurt and kefir, and the kids plan to make blueberry ice cream this weekend with our local pasture fed milk.

It’s been all about food, this week. My kids, who love nature and have always been good about saving water and electricity for the environment, have accepted my answer to “why do we care if it’s local?” It was interesting to walk through the supermarket’s produce department reading where things came from. The kids were so into it they went form place to place announcing, “These grapes are from Chile! These strawberries came all the way from California!”

An older man came up to me and asked, “What’s bad about fruit from California?”

I didn’t want to get on a soapbox right there in the store, so I shrugged and said we’d rather support local growers, and that it seems like a waste of energy to buy strawberries shipped from California when Michigan blueberries are ripe right now.

He didn’t roll his eyes, anyway.

Did I mention I am building a little hen-cottage in my yard?