joy full

I stood in my plot last night, the sun down but the sky still bright with lavender and honey. A doe walked by with her two freckled fawns. We saw her pregnant and then saw the babies brand new. We see them every day, marking the passing of summer with the fading of those white dots.

GIRLS. I whisper yelled to my daughters and they took giant tip toe steps to my side. The fawns nursed, violently pulling and biting at the doe. She steadied herself against the feast, swaying between her two babies, just on the other side of the garden fence. She then jumped straight up and over the fawns. They stumbled and followed after her. She kicked at them. They stopped and waited. She locked eyes with the fawns. She said something with her eyes. She walked, they followed, right at her side up the hill into the night. Good night.

I run in the mornings, usually pushing Ruby while Margot bikes by my side. Sometimes they don’t want to go. Usually, they really don’t want to go. They protest and hold grumpy stares as I tie my shoes and begin. I tell them I need this and we are in it together. I tell myself that they will remember riding creekside as the sun greets the day, they will remember our conversations about the difference between diamonds and crystals, they will remember a strong mama who gives all day and asks for this from them. I hold my tongue when the run is over. I want to say See! Look how awesome we all feel! Look how fun that was! Look at your smiles! I don’t. They know. I believe joy eclipses annoyance, especially when we make it so.

Ruby: Margot, is the end of the world coming?
Margot: No, Ruby. We don’t have the end of the world here. We are just alive.
Ruby, pressing her forehead together into a deep vertical crease: Hey look Margot! I made a vagina on my forehead!

The snow dumped heavy and steady for months. It melted into rivers under the bluest skies for months. Our spring was blooms upon blooms up hillsides, spilling into raging creeks. Everything slowed when the heat sauntered in, except the gardens. Roots snaking deep into the earth, greens sun saluting the warmth, fruit gaining circumference by the hour.

We haven’t had time or space to camp yet this summer and I am itching to get out there. And so we leave tomorrow, just my daughters and me. Not sure where yet; we will pack up and land where we will.

Comments (16)

strawberry jammin’

Last week, my daughters and I spent a morning knee-deep in strawberry plants, the air thick with heat and sweetness. The night before we realized Ruby’s vision and slept in the tent on the trampoline. MAMA, she said, so stunned by her own brilliance she was barely able to speak the words. I have THE BEST idea.

I had my usual foraging tunnel vision: my body bent over, my arms sweeping green leaves from side to side, my eyes earnestly in search of the shiny red prize. Despite the fields being somewhat picked over, we managed to gather up 16 pounds.

Margot and Ruby ran the rows and sat in the shade with friends. In between bites of peanut butter sandwiches and games of tag, they joined the mamas in picking.

I remembered last year in this field. I held Ruby much of the time. Margot tired of the experience after about an hour. This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave. I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting. And just a little bit missing the last.

Like this year, last year I stayed up into the dark, quiet hours past midnight making strawberry jam. Listening to music, my hair stuck to my humid neck as I stirred the sticky, jammy mess. Unlike this year, last year I fell into bed before the jam was canned. I planned to can the following morning and I made a big, fat, disappointing mistake: I left the jam in my cast iron pot overnight. The jam darkened and absorbed a metallic taste.

I canned it anyway, certain the sweetness would override the iron aroma. It didn’t. I couldn’t bare to throw away all that food, all that work so I instead left the jars on the shelf all year. Every once in a while I’d open a jar thinking it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It was.

This year’s berries gave me permission to pitch pints and pints (and pints!) of jam into the chicken run. At least that jam would yield eggs, I encouraged myself as I shook the contents free.

^ last year’s berries on the July calendar page in my kitchen ^

And, this year’s berries were jammed and canned within 12 hours of picking. I used my new pot – a Christmas gift from my mama. I stayed up until 2am, alone in the steamy kitchen while my family slept just around the corner.

I was tempted to use a tried and true sugary recipe — one of those in the canning books that call for 6 cups of sugar to 8 cups of berries. Because I didn’t want yet another botched batch. But in a fit of confidence and bravery, I made up my own recipe! And it is the best strawberry jam I’ve ever made. True.

A few years ago I would have been afraid to make up my own recipe. I was afraid I’d make something unsafe. I now know when I can deviate from a recipe and when I cannot. A few things about fruit preservation:

* The trick to successfully creating jam is getting it to gel or thicken. Otherwise we have a syrup. Acid, sugar and pectin contribute to gelling.
> Fruits high in pectin gel more easily than fruits low in pectin.
> Fruits high in acid gel more easily than fruits low in acid.
> Jam with more sugar added gel more easily than jam with less sugar added.

* Sugar is a powerful preservative and gelling agent. If we use less sugar, the jam is not less safe. It simply goes bad faster once opened.

* With fruit, as long as we process long enough in a boiling water bath, we can wing the sugar to fruit ratios. Recipes can be tweaked. When I alter a jam recipe, I process as if it is puréed fruit. Ball Blue Book of Preserving recommends processing fruit purées for 15 minutes (click here for altitude adjustments in processing time). 

* Honey can be used instead of sugar but it doesn’t gel as well as sugar. Recipes that call for honey, usually also call for pectin and/or acid.

* Acid can be easily increased with the addition of bottled lemon juice.

So all resources say not to make big batches of jam because it can result in a poor gel. But, this recipe works for me and it is a big batch. To play it safe (what fun is that?!), one could be make this in small batches as well.

The result is a bright berry explosion. We have already gone through two jars.

DIG THIS STRAWBERRY JAM :: yields 14 pints

16 pounds strawberries
1.5 cups honey
3.5 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice
8 tablespoons pectin

Wash strawberries. Remove stems. Chop berries and toss in big saucepot, a few handfuls at a time. Use a pastry cutter to smoosh berries. Add honey, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pectin. Place a small plate in the freezer. Reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes or so (to evaporate some water – my jam reduced by more than an inch in the pot), stirring often. Optional: partially purée with an immersion blender (I did).

To test for the jam doneness, place a dollop onto the cold plate and chill it in the freezer for a minute. If the jam is the texture you want for your batch of jam, voila. Remove from heat. Skim foam. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. (click here for altitude adjustments in processing time).

^ hull and chop ^

^ mash up ^

^ mash more ^

^ add honey and sugar ^

^ cook ^

^ eat ^

Resources:

* my favorite ladle for canning by Earlywood: the Medium Classic Ladle
* my new favorite canning book: Preserving by the Pint
Substituting Honey for Sugar in Home Canning, Cooking, Making Jams, Jellies and Baking
Making Jams and Jellies, National Center for Home Food Preservation

:: :: ::

ps I wrote a bit for eHow: 6 Tips for Hiking with Kids (Get Them to Love the Great Outdoors!)

Comments (12)

dig this summer sale

We are having a super spectacular summer sale over at GEO right now!

July 7-13 >>> 25% off everything (including sale section)

USE COUPON CODE DIGSUMMER*

We have some new items in the shop and we have new things coming later this summer, such as our own textile designs, back-to-school accessories and more! As always, you pick the geographical appliqué — any state, country, continent, province, lake, island etc. For the love of place.

* please use coupon code at checkout; we are unable to credit customers after purchase

New:

:: For the happy couple.

A great wedding or anniversary gift! We designed this fabric that reads MR and MRS and had it printed on organic cotton knit. You pick any two items in the shop and for $10 we will add two titles to two different items, artfully placed with the with the GEO shape. MR + MR or MRS + MRS or MR + MRS. Totally custom, totally awesome.

:: Baby blankets.

We teamed up with Under the Nile to produce these organic cotton crib blankets. Topped with a quilted heat and double-stitched GEO silhouette of your choosing, these luxurious blankets are an instant heirloom.

My kids’ new favorite tank. Available online only, for a limited time.

And a few words about GEO.

Here at Dig World Heardquarters, we’ve grown a bit since it all started in 2007 when I was newly pregnant and stitching fabric patches on thrifted onesies to hide stains. One thing led to another and here we are now, an official gig with staff and vision.

Thank YOU, always, for your support and loyalty. So much of our business comes from word of mouth and I value this greatly. I am proud that we create high-quality, sustainably-sourced goods. I am proud to employ local mamas. And I am proud that we make stuff worth sharing and hanging on to.

Our mighty team makes it happen. I adore and appreciate these women and their families. Kathie Pomeroy (first pic, with Margot), Amanda Turpen (bottom left) and Lexie Hickey (bottom right).

Now get to shopping and we’ll get to the making. Use coupon code DIGSUMMER.

xo
Nici

Comments Off

summer’s pace

I visited northern California last month for a refueling four days with my two best friends. I met Lindsay when we were 11. We were barefoot in bikinis and our dads’ jobs had brought both of us to suburban Atlanta. Neither of us liked it there and we liked each other a whole lot. She stepped on a giant frog moments after our introduction and we squealed and laughed and that pretty much set the tone for the next 25 years.

I met Paige in my college dorm bathroom when I dyed my hair red. We held hands through our freshman year, drinking too much beer, thinking too much about boys and not enough about school. In a tower of young women vying for sorority placement, we connected over environmental activism, a love of art and desire to travel. Turns out two fish out of water learn to breathe together.

Some of my daughters’ friends will be lifelong friends. They will remember things shared and lost. They will remember firsts and finals. They will grow up and move away. They will save airline miles to travel to their childhood friends’ homes.

But, first, now, they are small and mighty children whose only thoughts on the future involve dangly earrings and ability to bike to the creek without grown ups.

Margot finished kindergarten a few weeks ago. It feels altogether soft and right that we will have a first grader. And it feels altogether impossible. Wasn’t my girl with four giant teeth, a gusto for monkey bars and a constellation of nose freckles learning to sign for milk just a bit ago?

Yes, she was. And now she is this person who walks in her own direction with sparkly band aids on both knees, my blood traveling her veins.

Ruby is done with her first year of preschool. I want to chew on the last bits of her mispronounced words. I say yes to uppey! even when I don’t want to carry my non-baby baby.

Do you still a’member when I was in your belly mama? she asks with her palm flat on my sternum.

Yes.

And I kicked a lot? And when I was born you didn’t know my name for a long time? And Margot called me sister born? A’member that?

Yes.

If I could preserve one thing from their childhood forever it would be how they frog their legs up and around my middle. Margot promised me she will do it until she is 19.

We are in the thick of summer hosting around here, our seventh houseguest in three weeks arriving tonight. We love company and feel lucky to live in a place our beloveds visit and pass through on their way to elsewhere. And somewhere in between and around changing sheets and making large dinners and squeezing my work into small corners of the day, I am leaning into summer with my daughters. The freedom of nothing and everything to do. 

Comments (15)

affirmations on a hike

After swim lessons this morning, I suggested a walk. Without plan or expectation our saunter turned into a hike.

My daughters motored up the switchbacks and I was reminded of how grown and capable they are. Ruby whined only once that she was exhausted and, as always, it was about 12 steps into our walk. And, as always, her recovery came as quickly as her agony had set in.

At the fourth switchback, Margot announced the people below us were surely evil pirates trying to get our treasure and that we best hurry to the M. The hike turned into a game and they ran the rest of the way, pausing to cast spells and take nibbles of a snack. Sticks were wands, rocks were hot lava, grass seeds were fairy dust.

On yesterday’s walk I was a witch. On today’s I was simply a grownup who wasn’t allowed to pass children and had to carry the water and croissant.

We made it to the top ahead of the evil pirates, just in time to claim our treasure: two shooting star wands.

Thoughts:

1. Spontaneous adventure is a luxury. When we free ourselves from forecasting what comes next, all weather is perfect.

2. Hike in whatever shoes you’ve got. Our journey does not depend on gear.

3. Eagerly suggest to take a picture of strangers. The offer will warm their hearts and the documentation will be greatly appreciated.

4. Imagination is a powerful tool. We can flip our perspective from tired to energized, from anxious to empowered, from sad to hopeful – simply by imagining how we want to feel and creating a scenario that supports it.

5. Begin. Rest. Keep Going.

Comments (28)