Isn’t rainbow chard lovely? This photo doesn’t really do justice, as the sun was setting and it looks best in the warm light.  The cold frame on the right has lettuces and arugula, the one on the left is mache/rapunzel (which we love) and spinach. Elsewhere is kale and snow peas.

I like the hoop house because in the cold of winter I can go out there and it still smells like dirt. I even like to weed in the small space. I left a grassy spot where I can sit, and where I can pick green grass for the guinea pig and the hens when the world is under snow. I moved all my hardy herbs out there before the freeze.

It’s not heated, but the combination of solar from the hoop house and retained heat from the cold frames means I have had salad from my back yard on new years day — in Ohio! For now the days are still warm so the vents are unzipped and the side flaps are still raised at the bottom.

This was a late purchase, so it isn’t as loaded with plants as I wish it was. Next year I will make a larger late summer planting, and have more kale, collards and chard, and maybe some hanging plants. I wish I knew where I could dig up some farmer’s doomed greens right now. It has frosted hard enough that the kids and I pulled all my limp, blackened basil plants today, and the eggplants, and some of the tomatoes. We still have leaves on the trees but enough have fallen that we can see our neighbors’ houses again. Oh, well.

We rented a haul-off dumpster today, tore down the old play house, pitched some rotted picket fence, put up the bird feeders, and organized our garage workshop/kiln room. We’ll be looking through attic, basement, loft and every room in the house for things we need to pitch, this week. It’s a good feeling to lighten the load and let go of the detritus of the past.  More is going to goodwill, and we plan to sell a few of the kids’ very nice but outgrown bikes on the curb.  Winter means we’re confined in a smallish house, so the “stuff” has to go.

Meanwhile I am healing. My elbow only aches now if it is all the way extended or all the way bent, and it works pretty well at the angles in between. When I overwork it with lifting or pushing (like I did today) I pay the price in that shoulder, though — it’s where most of the impact seems to have been when I fell and landed on the elbow. I don’t bounce back from stuff as quickly as I once did.  Motrin is my friend.

I was supposed to be in Cleveland today.  I had signed up for a charter bus trip with the Art Masters Association from EMU. I was supposed to get up at 5:30 to head for Ypsi by 6 to catch the bus at 7… I was just tired, though. I slept in, on my fat pillow, with Jeff and a purring cat, and it felt like bliss. Mostly I’m tired of being on the road, of eating dinner out of a little plastic storage container,  and not having any down time. Last weekend I was in Detroit for Michigan Mud. Next weekend we’re firing the wood kiln.  The next weekend Jeff will go deer hunting back east.  So this weekend I slept late, and did some projects around the house.

I see a lot of my kids. All my classes are afternoon and evening. I am here every day until just before their dad gets home, except for the two times a month when they go to grandma’s and I sleep over at EMU and do a studio marathon. I am working in my own studio (my “homework”) a lot of the time, but I work with them on their homeschooling, listen to music practices, and we eat breakfast and lunch together.  I would not have gone to school if it meant I would miss out on days with my kids. Two years without mom around is too long when you’re 9.  And two years without being up to my elbows in kids would be too long for me.

Jeff sees a lot of the kids, too. He goes to work early so he’s home early in the day, and he’s now the one who takes them to scout meetings, tae kwon do, community band, and miscellaneous activities, and feeds them dinner without me most weeknights. Thursdays we bolt down dinner as a family before I fly out the door to teach at the Potter’s Guild and they all watch “Survivor” together.

Jeff’s the one I don’t get to see enough. We’re on the cell phone all day long from wherever we are, but it’s not the same as cooking together, doing projects together, or just stretching out on the couch with my feet in his lap while I read my book and he watches a movie. We really appreciate our weekends, now.

 My son Tyler enrolled this year in an on-line charter, and his schedule is no longer up to him. He says, “I get up every morning with plans for my day, but by the time I am finished with school work and chores, the day is over. I feel like I never get any time to do the fun stuff anymore, except for the weekends. “

I feel for him, I really do. I point out to him that his dad’s life — in fact, most adult lives — are like that. It’s why people love the weekend, and hate mondays. 

I guess he’s joining the adult world, except he has summers off, and has apparently not inherited his mother’s compulsion to work on the weekends, too.   He and I both remember a time before I went back to school when I could call an impromptu vacation from schoolwork and we’d go hike the trails, or make applesauce, or paint the treehouse. There just isn’t that kind of flexibility anymore.

But I don’t remember ever being so grateful, before, for simple things like a meal of bratwurst, cottage cheese, homemade pickles and grapes on paper plates with my family, after a day of appetite-inspiring work in the crisp, fresh fall air.  Any food tastes good when you are hungry, and relaxing is wonderful when you’re bone-tired and have a sense of accomplishment.  Time with loved ones is easy to take for granted when you are always together. Now, though, Jeff’s voice on the phone just makes me wish I were home, and when I am,  I’m glad of it.