Apron Stringz is Moving!

If you are an email subscriber, please check your inbox for an email titled “Latest from Apron Stringz” to confirm that you have been successfully moved to the new mailing list. The message was meant to have a post attached, but I must have done something wrong. Look for another email with the same title soon! With a post this time, I hope ;)

I know there has been a lot of changes lately. Thank you for your patience. This one is all good, and all for you dear reader. I have moved to my very own domain. Now apronstringz.org is all mine! Bwah, hahahahaha! The best part is that all of my content will now be 100% ad free.

I had been feeling like the ole blog needed an update. Mainly, I wanted things to look less cluttery. Because even if clutter more accurately represents my life, it is not the most pleasant of reading environments. More importantly, I visited one of my posts from a “private window” recently and was reminded that you all have to endure the punctuation of an advertisment at the end of every post. Blech.

Ok, I guess I didn’t really do it for you. I did it out of pure vanity. These words are important to me, this space is so personal and even raw. Seeing an ad at the end of my hard-won words made me want to be sick.

So for my own vain sake, to more properly imagine myself as a “writer,” I have moved Apron Stringz to a cleaner, ad-free space. All the archival content is there, in fact I even took the opportunity to organize a selection of my best posts into one place, easy to find. (And furthering my vanity…)

I moved my mailing list over as well, so if you subscribe by email, you should continue to receive email updates whenever I post. Please let me know if you do not receive these emails! I can be reached at calamityjane@homegrownhome.org

Psyche, The Universe, and Everything

Hello again beloved readers. 

Don’t worry, this post is not a thinly disguised sales pitch. I deeply appreciate you lending your ear to my budding business idea for this last few weeks, but I think I have gotten myself situated now. So, here’s the plan, including backstory. 

I started Apron Stringz with the idea of being focused on practical, DIY home and garden projects, but that stuff quickly took a backseat to the emotional journey of motherhood, and much more personal, introspective writing than I had originally intended. I loved finding my voice, and finding a loyal group of people who appreciated my voice. I also love that you gorgeous people have the mental bandwidth to read my longwinded explorations of pschye, the universe and everything— in a world otherwise governed by Instagram, Twitter and fucking TikTok.

Now that I am most definitely rejoined to the great mind-meld of the internet, I am fairly confident that I will find need to share again in that way. And this here Apron Stringz blog will continue to be the space for that deeply personal writing you all know and love. 


Although my life is still an emotional rollercoaster (and how!) I do finally feel like I have the space to expand back into My Work and put more focus on “subsistence,” those pursuits which sustain our family in a direct, practical and mostly edible way. I also know that many people around the world are craving to learn these practical skills right now, and I believe I am highly qualified to teach them! This is exciting for me. I feel like I have graduated from full-time mama, and can rejoin my previously chosen career path.

So, that is where Homegrown Home comes in. HGH will be the place for all the practical sides of me. It will be where I talk shop, and share tips about how to be the “punk housewife” I championed here. It will also, hopefully, be a way that I can contribute a little side cash to our family income by sharing things that I know and love, with people who want to learn them.

You may have noticed that Homegrown Home has co-opted the Apron Stringz Facebook page! Don’t worry, any heart-pourings that I post here on Apron Stringz will still show up on the Facebook page, but honestly these are likely to be much fewer than the daily details of keeping a homestead. So I decided let things evolve. If you don’t really want to wade through weeks of home and garden dross to find the occassional psyche-delving CJ you know and love, feel free to “unlike” the Facebook page and subscribe to Apron Stringz by email. I won’t be even the tiniest bit offended. 

So, that’s that. Now you know the scoop. 

Next time I come back to this space, I’m pretty sure it will be with a big, long pontification on The End of the World as we are beginning to know it, the writing of which has been itching my belly for months.

You’re My Favorite

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about you, in fact I’ve been thinking a lot about you. Truth be told, I have been busy over this last few months laying the groundwork on a secret project. And I need your help.

You may remember that I taught a gardening class online a few months ago. It went well, and our small class became surprisingly friendly over the eight live Zoom sessions. I didn’t know what to expect from online teaching, and was pleased with how it came out. 

But as much as I enjoyed our live sessions, the standard “online learning” formula does not float my boat. It’s all based on stock curriculum and pre-recorded videos. I wanted to be able to provide more support, in more ways and through more avenues. I wanted context. One of the students said, “I feel like the best part of any class is hearing the experience of the instructor, and the other students, and being able to ask questions.” Those real, human interactions were exactly what I wanted to offer.

So, I am launching a membership website! Homegrown Home will be a place to learn skills, ask questions, share your journey, and find the support you need to turn your home into a homestead. I am very excited, and can’t wait to hear what you think. Because, oh, did I forget to tell you? I need to do some Beta testing before I open this sucker up to the real world. I need some friendly faces to help me work out the kinks and make sure that Homegrown Home is 100% awesome. I need a small batch of loyal souls who can be kind and patient, but also brutally honest. 

Hello you. 

Naturally, I created a special membership level just for you. As a “Founding Member,” your first month will be free of charge. If you like it and want to stick around, you’ll get half off the membership fee, forever.

But, what is a membership website you ask? I guess you’ll just have to head over and find out. See you there!

***Please note that this offer is open to you few and proud, loyal Apron Stringz readers who are still around so many years later. If you have friends who you think would love to join, I would love for you to share! But not till next month. I want to keep our Beta group small. Thank you for understanding.


My first-post-back the other day was actually not my first first-post-back. Below is the post I broke the silence open with, to myself. I had to sit on it for awhile, not sure I was ready to share. Because as usual, it came out quite a bit more personal than I meant for it to be. In fact, I started writing this to let everybody know about the online gardening course I am offering, but my apparent need to bare my soul quickly took over. In the end it seemed way to close to the bone to be an advertisement for an online course. So I offer it to you now, Calamity Jane’s patent soul baring word-work, for old time’s sake.


These are strange times. So very strange, that I am still trying to understand just how strange they really are, or will be. I myself do not do at all well with uncertainty. When question marks crop up in my own life, I clamor to answer them with a period. As I have gotten older I have realized just how very anxious uncertainty makes me, and how intensely I crave predictability. 

Let’s just say, this year promises to be challenging for me.

However, in the midst of all the anxiousness, between the moments of cold, sick dread, I am struggling to come to terms with a very different and certainly less popular set of emotions. Excitement, expectancy, even joy. 

I’ve been practicing for this! All of my life, in a sense, has been building towards this moment, my time has come to shine.

Before you judge me, let me back up. I need to fill you in on the last several years. 

Writing this blog was a rewarding experience, on many levels. I loved connecting to all of you, and feeling the support of community. I loved the writing process, trying to tease out my deepest thoughts, and then the gratification of finding solidarity with you all. But I’m not sure that I ever truly convinced myself of this ‘revolutionary housewife’ line. In fact, this blog represents me trying really hard to believe it, and succeeding for a few years. But during the 8 years that followed my exodus, I slowly and steadily lost that conviction. 

Much of the fall came as my kids aged-out of the stay at home category. With my kids in school, it was hard not to feel like I was supposed to fill that time with a job, especially since our family was operating on a thin line between the red and the black. But as soon as I started looking to see what the hell kind of job I was qualified to do, I got deeply depressed. I have so much worldly experience, and know how to do so many useful things, but none of it fits on a resume. On paper, I am practically worthless.

Things really hit a low for me when we moved from our tiny town in Alaska to Eugene, Oregon. Back home in Alaska at least all of my non-professional pursuits made sense. I had built up a solid reputation in our little community. I had one of the best gardens in town, I led wild plant walks and taught classes on cooking with wild edibles, I could butcher a whole moose myself. Even if having a wafer-thin resume was a practical difficulty and a bit of an ego blow, it didn’t matter on a deeper level. In Alaska the skills of self-sufficiency are more respected than a comprehensive resume.

But in Eugene, nobody knew me from Adam. I was just another marginally employable person with no degree and precious little job experience. Looking for work here was humiliating. Furthermore, the skills I had spent my life accumulating were more or less irrelevant here, even to my own home economy. There is a whole different set of wild plants, which I am still learning; Hunting seems theoretically possible but with no social context, hard to get into; Gardening was the only thing I knew how to do that fit here, but I was doing it on a brand new piece of land, in a brand new climate, with a brand new set of crops. 

I felt like a chalkboard that had been wiped clean. All the skills, knowledge and connections I had built in Alaska leveled to nothing. I was 40 years old and starting over. 

Over the last three and a half years since our move, I have been slowly, painstakingly rebuilding. Learning the plants around me, learning how to garden in my new world, finding small, humble ways to fit into the job market. But I have not recovered from that knocked down feeling. I was visiting a writer friend recently who suggested we do a creative project together. “I don’t know…” I said, resignedly. “I don’t really feel like I have anything to share anymore.”

All this to explain the mental state I have been in. I am perfectly happy day to day, living my life with my wonderful family, learning my new place. But somewhere deep inside I have been shadowed by a sad feeling that the light I used to think I had was just an illusion. 

Enter the end of the world.

I don’t really believe that this is going to be some cataclysmic, distopian crashing down of civilization. But it is looking like it might be the end of the American dream, the end of an era of thoughtless plenty and the end of the inflated living standards which we were reared on. Although I try to remain hopeful, it’s hard for me to see how this will not lead us into the next Great Depression, and it’s also hard for me to see America emerging whole from another one of those. 

Certainly, already, many people are suddenly out of work, suddenly attempting to adjust to a very different life than the one they have known. Home all the time, trying to make ends meet with a lot less, learning to buy in bulk and cook from scratch, digging up a patch of lawn to start a garden, all the while taking care of kids full-time. Suddenly, everybody is trying to build a resilient home economy, and become revolutionary housewives.

And now you see. Now you understand my embarrasing excitement. Now I can go back and say those terrible words again, and hope that they make more sense. Maybe you will even join me.

We’ve been practicing for this. Our time has come to shine.

Remember Me?

Dear beloved readership of long ago,

The world has turned upside down, and my life is circling back on itself. Here I am again, turning my full attention back to the limited scale of my own household economy. Home with my kids all day, and struggling to get shit done.

A lot has happened since I quit this gig, even before the world turned upside down a month and a half ago, and I guess I’d better give you a quick review before I explain why I’m here.

Most relevantly, I moved on from the days of full-time revolutionary housewife awhile back. As many mamas have before me, once my kids started school, I got a job. Just a part-time job mind you, but it shifted my focus somewhat away from home pursuits. As you all know, being home full time with my kids was always a mixed bag for me and I won’t lie, I enjoyed the opportunity to grow as an adult independent of motherhood. (I discovered that I am an educator! I’m sure that you insightful folk already knew that, but it took me till the age of 39 to figure it out.)

In 2016 we moved to Eugene, Oregon. The reasons are too many and too personal, but I will say that we all miss Alaska, and the transition has had some bumps. I have been able to build the garden of my dreams here, and although it is a work in progress, I love it. Last year I grew 30 lbs of sweet potatoes!

The kids are now 10 and 12, and although parenting still takes time, it doesn’t take as much time and nothing like as much energy as the years I wrote this blog from. I have loved being with my kids through all of their ages, but I have to say, I am much better suited to older kids.

This is all to explain the irony. Because after all these changes, now here I am again, back at home, mothering and housewifing all day, trying to squeeze an hour of garden work in between homeschool and house cleaning. 

(Who am I kidding, I haven’t been cleaning the house!)

So it’s no real surprise that all my creative, intellectual and social energy is once more looking for an outlet. As much as I love project-ing around my homestead and focusing on the tangible world around me, I also have a deep need to connect and feel like I am making some kind of impact on the world outside. 

I don’t know that I will be blogging again, exactly. Maybe… we’ll see. Blogging was a bit close to the bone for me, I apparently have a hard time keeping my real self and my blog self untangled. But I do have a big virtual project that I am excited to announce. Starting next week, I will be teaching online classes! The first one will be Beginners’ Gardening (about that in a minute) but I hope to expand my offerings in the future to other backyard homesteading skills– advanced gardening, cooking from scratch, preserving, animal husbandry and permaculture. 

The world is hungry for these skills right now. People have a visceral need to feel more self-reliant, to do something hopeful and joyful which connects them to the Earth, and to take part in building a positive future. Growing a garden and cooking from scratch may be key to that future, but these skills also ground us in our past and the resiliency of our species. These are essential pursuits for this uncertain time.

And I have those skills to share, I even have the skill of sharing. It sounds embarrassingly self-important, but I can’t help feeling that my whole life has been leading up to this moment. I grew up in Alaska learning how to make do and get by; I spent the last 20 years learning how to grow, store and cook food and generally create a home economy; and now, for the last 8 years, I’ve been growing as an educator, learning to communicate ideas, simplify complex subjects and lead people through the challenges of acquiring new skills. My role seems to have been written in, and I will admit to a quiet thrill.

I was telling My Man the other day how awkward it feels to be excited about this right now, at a time when so many people are suffering, and that part of me wants to just let the moment pass me by. “How selfish,” he said admonishingly. “You have something to share that people need, don’t keep it to yourself.”

So, here’s the deal. My course is called Breaking Ground. It will run for 8 weeks and be as much like a real live gardening class as possible. Over the 8 weeks, I will walk you through the steps of setting up a new garden. There will be some reading, but not a lot. There will be plenty of Q&A and a weekly “live” check-in session on Zoom. The class size is limited to 12, which means that we will actually have the opportunity to get to know one another and function like a real class community. 

I have designed this course for absolute beginners, and pared the information down to make it simple and accessible. If you have really wanted to get into gardening but feel overwhelmed by how much there is to learn, and just really want a wise and practical friend to talk you through it, this course is for you.

It’s $40 for the 8 week course. However, I am offering a full scholarship to anyone who needs it, no questions asked. You will see more details about that on the course page.

It starts next Monday, April 20th, and class size is very limited, so sign up soon!

Online classes are never ideal, I much prefer meeting people face to face. But this is what we’ve got right now, and there is much work to be done. Let’s get started together.

Dja Miss Me?

Friends, I am actually in the middle of a real post! An interesting, contemplative, reliving the good ole’ Calamity days post. Though it could take me another month or two to finish.

But in the meantime, two things.

1. Check me out, I made another website. Don’t worry, not a real blog, if I ever come back, it will be here to you. This one is just a virtual ego stroke in which I name my whole homesteading-project-extravaganza and thereby give it identity and recognition. I am now master of Feral Edge Rainfarm. Ha! Take that!

2. We are planning a short vacation to central California– from San Francisco to Carmel (family reunion)– and I have a nagging feeling that one or another of you live in that neck of the woods. Is it true? And if so, can we crash at yer place for a night or two? Extra credit if you live on a farm, or downtown SF.

Email me! I’m scarletfevir (at) yahoo (dot) com

Also just email me if you missed me and you want to tell me all about everything, and how you can’t live without my posts every week.

PS. I missed you.

When, What, Why, How

It’s been awhile.

I am well and happy, my family is all good, we are settled firmly back home in Cordova and beginning spring work on our tiny yard-sized homestead. I have lots and lots of things I could write about, many cool projects underway and, as always, deep thoughts aplenty.

But the truth is, I waited and waited for it and the urge to blog just never really came back to me. Since I left you all waiting as well, I thought I’d better at least come back and say it– farewell for now, it’s been a good run.

I do feel the need to explain a bit. Because it’s not completely without reason that I have abandoned writing here. I wish I could say it’s because I’m not using the computer much, but that’s not the case– I have been researching permaculture all winter, and now I’m on to botanical medicine, both involving lots of computer time.

Honestly, it’s more about the particular perspective blogging gives you on your world. Have you ever been into photography? Carry your camera around long enough and you get ‘photo-eye,’ everything is seen through it’s possible worth as an aesthetic composition. You don’t see life as it is so much as you see potential photographs.

Blogging is like that. When I’m deep in it, I see life through the post I will write about it.

Interestingly, this downside is all wrapped around the upside, the thing I loved best about blogging– the way it gave me an outlet to process my thoughts, a way to make sense of the world and my life. Blogging was immensely useful and enjoyable for me, during a very hard time.

But the long enforced break of our move home shook off the ‘blogger-eye.’ Eventually I remembered what it was like to just be me, living my life with my family, instead of Calamity Jane: Punk Housewife Extraordinaire. And, I liked it. I like being plain old me.

I do miss the glamour, the acclaim and the page hits. I miss the way I felt important, big.

Some would say I need to find ‘big-ness’ in myself, not in others’ perception of me. I don’t know. It’s complicated. I think we as humans want to feel useful to the world at large. We crave purpose beyond self. Doing anything very useful in the world is all tangled up with the self-satisfaction of having done it. What are we to do?

So many of what I consider my important writings on this blog were about learning to find value in the eminently humble work of motherhood and housewifery. Don’t you think it’s ironic that in writing about it, I created for myself a more auspicious and vainglorious work? I made myself a “writer,” with loyal readers around the world. Although I tried so hard not to, I inevitably framed my homemaking as punkier than it really was. There is really no way to convey truth in this media. Without intention I painted a very cool picture of myself. Hardly a way to actually submit to the humility of motherhood.

I don’t mean to devalue my writings in any way, or their worth to you or myself. They were genuine expressions of my humanity. They were good and true and useful to so many of you, and I feel blessed to have been able to give in that way. I loved being Calamity Jane, and I reserve my right to reclaim her at any time.

But for now, I’m enjoying being just plain old me. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for existing as a community, however virtual. That’s the part I miss most. I don’t forget friends, even ones I’ve never met.

Here’s to life, in real life.


Continuing Education

That DIY permaculture “class” I posted about a few weeks back took off over at Homegrown. There are about 12 participants reading The Manual, as well as an offspring ‘beginners’ group reading Gaia’s Garden. It’s great.

I have been devouring Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, the 560 page textbook/bible. It is essentially earth science as it relates to ecological food production, coupled with a very methodical approach to the design process. I love it. Bill Mollison is the scientific counterpart to Wendell Berry’s decidedly literary work, and you know how I feel about Wendell. They are both extremely thorough and concise, dense enough to be academic but with heart and pulse (and a healthy cynicism about academics). Putting them together fulfills all my fantasies of intellectual stimulation.

And, guess what? I had fantasies. They were unspoken, nearly unconscious. I was jealous of My Man when he was in school. Not because I wanted to be in law school, hell no! But because the idea of taking one’s knowledge to the next level, of devoting oneself to studies and furthering oneself intellectually, was delicious.

But, I gave up on the idea of finding the things I wanted to learn in a school setting long ago. I love to use my brain, to challenge my brain, but the things I like to use my brain on are the domestic issues never ever discussed in universities. Everything else just seems mundanely boring. I have always been mildly interested in ecology, but never interested enough to put any time into it. Ecology as I’ve read about it before seems so unrelated to me. It was not until now–reading about it in the context of learning to grow food based on natural ecological processes– that it became fascinating.

At first I thought it was because permaculture relates everything back to food and/or design (my two top favorite subjects, hands down!) but there are plenty of food history books that I find boring. After some thought I realized that it’s the fact of being related to something I can do, and furthermore want to do! It’s the possibility of involvement and participation that compels me.

That’s all good, but what I really wanted to share with you today is just how much blissed-out fun I am having learning something big! Considering that the manual is 560 pages of dense, sometimes technical reading, coupled with the self-made ‘final project’ of creating a genuine permaculture design for our property, I have given myself and the Homegrown group 5 months to get through it. It’s like a real college course! And since it builds on what I already know, it is quite literally ‘continuing education.’

I think my ecstatic joy at the learning process might be particularly based on where I’m at right now, mama-wise. I was at a kind of a shifting point, well primed for a learning phase; and having just moved back to our own place, I am ready to re-immerse myself in the project of living sustainably in this environment.

Whatever the reason, my oh my, does it feels wonderful. If anyone else is feeling the need for some continuing education, I highly recommend taking a good book on the subject and turning it into a DIY class. I did this once before, years ago (Tom Brown’s Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, doesn’t that explain in 8 words the shifts my life has made?) and also really loved it. The right book is important, but I think equally important is treating it like a real class. Which means setting aside consistent and adequate time. That’s the hardest part. After that, if the subject is of interest and the book is good, the rest unfolds itself.


She was trying to explain something to me, just exactly how she wanted me to open the cheese so that the wax held together, and I wasn’t getting it. She was getting increasingly frustrated, her voice rising. I was getting increasingly agitated, my voice rising and hardening. Eventually she was yelling at me and I was yelling right back at her not to yell at me, which always feels so stupid. So I changed tact. I summoned all kindness and patience and carefully evened my voice out. “I can’t just let you yell at me anymore. I’m going to stop listening until you stop yelling.” A threat obviously, in retrospect, though it didn’t seem so at the time. I don’t believe in threats, partly because we are incapable of upholding most of them. But there I was.

She immediately broke out into tortured sobs and I felt the regret flood in for a move I could no longer take back. She crawled under the table and wailed for several minutes before the words finally came. A pivotal moment in any mama’s life.

“You don’t love me! You don’t love me!”

There was some mad in her voice, and certainly a little drama, but so much raw emotional devastation that I wanted to cry. I came over and crouched beside the table, explaining as I have before that no matter how mad I get, or how much I don’t like the things she is doing at the time, I always, always love her. “The love is the part that doesn’t go away, ever.” I say.

But she’s too wild to hear me. If you don’t have a child like mine, you might not understand what I’m talking about. You might make the mistake of thinking I am describing a fit. It is not a fit, she has those too sometimes. These are different. I understand them because she is my daughter and the fruit did not fall far from the tree. We are sensitive. Not that we are easily thrown into oblivion– in fact we are both, in a sense, fairly stable. But that oblivion, when we do hit it, is exceptionally engulfing and terrifying. The difference is that I have always been stoic and private. I experience life and emotions on an extreme level, but I do no share that level with the world or almost anybody at all. I keep it all locked up healthily inside. My Girl on the other hand, is expressive.

At any rate, she screams at me to talk to her, then when I do, screams at me to stop talking. There is a lot of screaming, while I go back and forth between trying to calmly and undramatically reach out to her, and tending the soup on the stove (see this old post about her 2yo fits for the story of how I arrived at this “technique”). Eventually she starts to calm down and, still teary, asks to watch a movie. “Sure,” I say. “Will you come out and sit with me for a minute first?”

She hesitates, but climbs out onto my lap. “Mama,” she says, still upset but quickly deflating, “You never say ‘please’ when you’re mad!” She says this to me often. I don’t think it’s really about the please, I think it’s about the way that I get mad and then stop being kind and caring, the way she thinks a mama should be. I think that she feels upset that I am not consistently nice, not realizing that she is asking me to be inhumanly perfect.

“You’re right.” I say, “You know I honestly just forget. When we’re mad, we kind of forget how to be nice.” Which is certainly true. Ideally, as perfect people, we would hold it together even when we were mad, and all of our actions would be intentional. We would be like practice scenarios at the counselor’s office. But in real life we get mad and lose it. We are all of us imperfect, by a long shot.

I try to explain all of this to her, and suddenly I realize that the solution to human imperfection is forgiveness, and that I have to explain forgiveness to her. That the concept is essential to her right now. She needs to be able to forgive me, and to understand that I forgive her. She needs a way to deal with the budding knowledge that I am not perfect and that that’s okay, she is not perfect and that’s okay. That we get mad, and we get over it, and we have a special way out of it, a special human way that we move forward with love.

I stumble around, trying to figure out how to define forgiveness to a 5 year old. I tell her that when someone does something you don’t like and it makes you mad, forgiveness is “accepting that they aren’t perfect and loving them anyway.” To which she says, predictably, “What’s ‘accepting?'”

….Shit. Then I have a little brilliance. “When you were under the table, you were still really mad at me. And when I asked you to come out and sit with me, you kind of didn’t want to, right? ‘Cause you still felt mad? But you did anyway, you came out and let me put some love on you. That’s what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is when you came out from under the table.”

I don’t know if it worked. It’s a big concept, and probably takes time. I had honestly never even thought about it before. Like so many milestones my kids have hit that I had never thought about. And maybe she’s not even really ready yet, but it’s a start.


Solo Parenting

Straight from working full-time away from my kids, to 24/7 solo parenting for three weeks. Geesh, we are writing a case study for crazy-making this year.

The good news, the great, fantastic, thank dog news, is that My Man passed the Bar. Although I have no doubt that the next year of setting up his practice and finding work will be very hard, at least we know (more or less) what lies ahead. We can make plans now, stability of a sort has been found. Waiting the three months for his test results, and not knowing what the future held, were absolutely excruciating.

This also means I am back to full-time mama, pretty much indefinitely. And I am glad. It was really excellent to have a break, and do some other work. I felt almost guilty with the enjoyment of it. But to work away from home year round would get wearying for me, in a different way. Overall, if given the choice, I still choose the mothering and revolutionary housewifing. I made my first batch of granola since the move this week, and I feel ridiculously satisfied.

It also means all this is once again my responsibility.
I swear this floor was pristine less than 48 hours ago. I have a witness.

But, not unrelated to the mess, I have time to do projects with my kids! I didn’t miss playing, and I certainly didn’t miss the endless hours of fight-breaking-up, but I did miss projects. Currently underway is a T Rex costume–

She’s painting the teeth gnarly and bloody. That’s my girl. While she was painting she said, “Mama, when something is really fun, I like when it takes a long time.” My sentiments exactly.

All this glowing pontification on motherhood is quite sweet and absolutely true, but I didn’t plug my kids into netfl*x so that I could write because I was so overjoyed. Nope. I did really good for the first 5 days of solo-parenthood, but about day 6 I started to crack. Last night I let a really shrieky-mean yell loose on them right at bedtime. They were caught off guard and looked genuinely scared. I realized that with these few months of doing other work, of getting my own separate physical and mental space for 8 hours/day, I had not had many attacks of mama-rage.

Solo parenting is hard. Three weeks will definitely be my longest stint yet, though My Man’s finals while in law school probably compared in hard-ness. These next two weeks will be pretty rough. But, good news for you, you’re likely to see more of me here! Desperation makes for the best blogging.

Do It Ourselves Education: Permaculture Study Group

I’ve just finished my second reading of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and have been obsessively listening to a set of free online permaculture lectures given by Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. The world outside my window has been recently blanketed by snow, and temperatures have fallen to 20 degrees F. The long winter is here, and I am feeling the need for some juicy brain-work.

Although I had dabbled in it before, I have only recently started serious exploration into permaculture. I am attracted by it’s depth. I’ve been doing and thinking ‘sustainably’ for long enough that I have fully exhausted all the classic beginner books. Permaculture seems to me to take things to the next level.

For those many of you who have only the vaguest idea what permaculture is, let me take a moment to explain. Permaculture (permanent agriculture) was coined by an Australian named Bill Mollison back in the 70s. It’s about conscious design of functional landscapes; it’s about following absolute ecological principles, but keeping human needs as the end goal.

It’s also a lot about thinking outside the box, creatively turning ‘problems’ into ‘solutions.’ (Your garden doesn’t have a slug problem, instead you have a lot of duck food in need of ducks.) Sadly permaculture has grown to a full on religion, complete with a living prophet and an actual bible, the $85 Permaculture Design Manual. It’s ironic that something intended to push us past our mental boundaries has created new mental boundaries, but– that’s humanity for you. We love a dogma.

Anyway, I’ve gotten better about looking past the dogma for the pearls. All widespread religions are based on something really good, that’s why they take off. And I just can’t resist permaculture anymore. Permaculture is all about design, and I am a designer, above all else. I am designed to design. I love to garden, and I love to read about gardening, but designing my garden has always been my favorite part of the process by a factor of 12. I have reams of designs for gardens I never even planted, I once designed a homestead for a piece of property I coveted but knew for a fact I would never own. Just for the shear joy of the brain-work.

I can’t help myself, sometimes it’s actually a problem. Because although I love the work, I love thinking about the work even more, and doesn’t that make me one of those dreaded ‘dreamers?’ But permaculture tells me it’s not so. Permaculture instructs me to spend 100 hours observing and thinking for every one hour of doing, thereby insuring my actions will be appropriate. Whether or not this is a truth for the world, it sure sounds attractive to my brain!

So, winter is coming on. The perfect time to do a lot of thinkering, and I am primed. With limited free time, you all might be thinking, ‘Damn her! She should spend those free moments writing posts for us!’ And I do hope to do a little of that as well. But there are times in one’s life for sharing, and times for learning. After several years of mama-induced intellectual stagnation, I think I am ready for some serious learning.

For the uninitiated, permaculture is an international phenomenon with accredited Permaculture Design Courses offered all over the world. There was even one in Anchorage last summer! They are a minimum of 72 hours, sometimes spread over a full year, other times done all at once as an intensive. They’re a big damn deal, and priced accordingly– starting at $1,500 and going up considerably from there! Even the online courses range from $800-$1,600.

I would LOVE to take a course, but 1. I’m poor, and 2. I live in the middle of nowhere. I started thinking about it, and realized this must be a boringly commonplace problem! Surely there are other perma-curious folks out there willing to spend the time, but not the money….

Reading books is all well and good. I read a lot. Drawing up my own plans at home over and over is great fun. A teacher would be fabulous, and I do not mean to diminish the value of a qualified mentor. But I think what I would value most out of an actual course is the commraderie and idea sharing of a group.

So, here’s my idea. We make our own online class! If we are so keen on doing everything ourselves, why not education as well? So, I’ve put together a permaculture study group prospectus, over at Homegrown. I hope to find at least two or three other folks interested in committing to 6 months of serious independent study, I’m thinking 3-4 hours/week. If that sounds like a good time to you, come on over, join up and introduce yourself!

Why, Hello There


Yes, I am still here. I’ve been deep in my studio for weeks, cranking out pots in a mad dash. My Man leaves in a few days for three weeks, and I needed to get all my throwing done. Next week, after this three month hiatus, I will just be mama again.

It has been quite a whirlwind. For those of you who’ve not done it, the working mama business is hard in it’s own way. Not harder, but different hard. Life in general is harder when you work 40 hours a weeks and play mama in your off hours– cleaning the house and getting supper on become nearly impossible, let alone finding a moment for anything extra like time to write. But, for me at least, in the context of our family, my psychological/emotional life as a mama is easier. Working away from home gave me the personal space that I have so missed and needed as a full time mama, the previously coveted opportunity to simply complete tasks, to go about my job without anyone hanging on my leg or yelling at me.

The work itself….? You know, it was a taco bus. But oh, these past few weeks in my studio– joy! I get to do quiet, contemplative, creative, satisfying and productive work! I feel blessed. And yet, at the same time, getting in a full 40 hours a week at home is a unique challenge. Which resulted in no days off, furthering that stretched tight feeling even more.

So, even though I know I am a fool, I am looking forward to next week when I’ll just be able to ‘relax with the kids’ and get my house in order, no other job tugging at me.

Important things have happened during my absence here. My mind is full of big posts. My boy turned three, started (finally!) sleeping through the night on a regular if not reliable basis, and weaned. Not in that order. My girl started kindergarten. My Man still doesn’t know if he passed the Bar (10 more days…) We secured ourselves the title of ‘real Alaskans’ by acquiring a chest freezer, another load of ten fish, a $350 pick-up truck, and consequently 4 cords of firewood. It snowed. Followed by frenzied attempts to get all the outdoor shit done that we still hadn’t finished. I began seriously investigating permaculture in the wee hours of morning.

Of course, mothers of toddlers will know that the rest of that paragraph hardly matters after the first pivotal point. Sleep! Has finally come to me. There was an adjustment period, after he started sleeping through the night, in which I suffered from some infuriating insomnia, but all appears to be smoothed out now. Which is why I can manage to rouse myself at 7 am, in the pitch black still-night of an Alaskan October, to read about permaculture.

And why there is some hope that I will soon take back up with regular writing. I do miss it.

Where to Next

It’s not that I’m not thinking about writing. I’m thinking plenty, and even writing some. I have three unfinished posts in my inbox. But, aside from the fact that I have no time whatsoever to put toward this blog right now, I’m also having some pretty serious identity issues.

To be honest, I am having something of an identity crisis. A murky kind I have never before experienced. I am accustomed to understanding my own self. I almost always can find words for my various emotional malaise; they might not come easy, but if I sit down earnestly, I can pick them out. This time around I am at a loss. People ask, ‘Are you glad to be home? Do you miss New Orleans? Do you feel torn?’ The truth is all of the above, and none of it, at the same time. It’s the none of it that troubles me.

It seems that the more I try to put words to my cloudy emotion, the more I undo the truth of it. Like explaining a dream. I am glad to be home. But is it still home when I am not the same person who left? I don’t feel out of place, it doesn’t feel wrong, or disappointing. I could say any of those things and they would be almost right, but completely wrong.

And thus, I am at an impasse. Both personally and writing-wise. Being the honest-to-death type, I cannot seem to just carry on as if everything is usual. Though a part of me would like to, I can’t just write about laundry and jam making and the disappointments of plugging my kids into the iPad so I can fillet 20 salmon.

Coupling with, not coincidentally, the identity confusion is a kind of ‘place disorientation.’ I am so incredibly tied psychologically to where I live that, even though I was coming home, this move has entirely thrown me. I don’t know where to stand, or who to be.

I just recently realized that this accounts for at least some of my absence here. I don’t know what to write. I feel like I have to reconstruct myself first, reconstruct this space and then begin anew. I might even have to re-open somewhere else. Start fresh.

This probably seems drastic to you. A good more than half the posts will still be the same– making bread, keeping house, growing a garden, raising ruffians, psychoanalyzing myself. But it’s all about context for me. I really cannot explain the profound difference in physical and psychological environment here. Or maybe what I cannot explain adequately is the profound effect that change has on me.

Either way, I love words because they help me to make sense of things, to unravel a few syllables at a time the tangly confusions that clog my mind. Apron Stringz gave me a place and a way to make sense of a few years of my life. This new phase might just take different words.

The idea of starting up a whole new blog is incredibly daunting to me right now. I don’t know when I might get the time for that sort of endeavor. Let alone that I need to sort myself out a bit more first. Our life is in all kinds of upheaval, not just the move, and I feel like it has to settle out some before I can hope to make any sense.

Will you wait for me?

Uncharted Territory

Friends. I’ve wanted to tell you this, but the time just wasn’t right. Err, the time just wasn’t there. Like, I had none. Anyway now it’s upon us.


Tomorrow, after five years of nearly continuous stay-at-home mothering,  I start full time work. Away from the home. Shlepping tacos out of a bus for $13/hour, plus tips.

My Man will be home with the kiddos. Full time.

This will go on for two months, wherein I will get to retire from taco-shlepping to do pottery in my home studio.

(What? I never told you I was a potter?

I see there are quite a few topics left uncovered.)

Many forces have converged to create this upcoming change. One is my constant bitching about how hard it is to be a full time parent and how desperately I need a break to do anything at all that involves grown-ups, as well as the overdosed state of My Man’s brain after three years of such intensive study and his great desire to stay home and “just play with the kids” for awhile; the most obvious and logical reason however is the excruciating three month gap between taking the Bar and finding out if you have passed the Bar and are therefore allowed to begin attempting to work as a lawyer and even dream of paying off your loans.

We need dough, and taco shlepping is a quick and straightforward way to get it.

After the summer season winds down, and the bus closes, I’ll switch to the slower income of my pottery business. I actually make more per hour at that, but it’s all investment at first, followed two months later by a big pay off. I make functional kitchen and tableware, by the way. In case you couldn’t have guessed. And I have a real, grown-up studio, not big or fancy but serviceable for a small scale home business.

At any rate. Working mum. That’s me as of tomorrow. Will you still respect me? Will I find any time at all to write the many posts that have been swirling in my brain? Most importantly, do you have any advice? I’ve never done this before.

Don’t tell me to cook ahead. And don’t tell me to make a little time for myself every day. C’mon. Give me a little credit. Any other less obvious ideas though?

Today, after I was bemoaning all the house projects, and when we will find the time to do them, My Man said something about how he would be able to rebuild the broken woodshed roof while he was home with the kids. I snapped back,

“Yeah, If you are a better person than me, you might be able to manage it.”

As my shithead comment sat with me I realized that, given the fact that I do many things while I am mothering that My Man won’t do (like grow a garden, cook everything under the sun homemade, etc) it is only logical that he will manage to do things that I didn’t get done.

I had already accepted that the kids would not eat as healthily under his watch, that our food bill would be higher, that the house probably would not be as clean, our home generally not as efficient by my standards. But I had (predictably) failed to turn the equation around and realize that he would excel at other things, surpass me. And that’s okay. Or at least it had better be.

We are approaching the big blank hole on the map. Yonder lie dragons.




Not Lost, Just Fell Behind the Couch

After thinking it over for some time, I’m certain that I will come back to writing here, someday soon. I miss it too much, enjoy it too much to stop. I have posts composing in my head every day. But as always happens when I take a break from blogging, I seriously cannot figure out where I found the time. An extra hour or two a day? Nrrr…?

Granted, life has been on high around here. Studying for the Bar is like finals x 100. And occurred directly following finals. Oh yeah, except for the part where we moved our family of four across the continent right in between.

So I have been doing time-and-a-half parenting for some four straight months. Refer to the early January posts to see how I feel about parenting without a break.

Nevertheless, when I stop to tally it, I realize how much else I have managed to do in this time period. Day by day it feels like I barely manage to keep the house from inexcusable filth and my children from clawing each other’s eyes out, but looking back I have lots of good stuff to report– garden work, canning projects, a re-entry to knitting, and lots of afternoons wandering around in the rainy woods with my kiddos, contemplating life, the universe and everything. I guess that’s what I get for my extra non-blogging 1-2 hours/day.

My most recent activity was 20 fat sockeye salmon bought from a friend who commercial fishes. I got them at a great price straight off her boat, which meant days of processing to follow. Gutting, filleting, vacuum packing for the freezer, smoking and canning, and because I’m a fucking freak, don’t forget making fish stock out of those precious carcasses even though all this was done while My Man was out of town and I was/am solo parenting.

Because you have all (whoever of you are left, keeping my stats at over 100 a day, even though I personally haven’t written a damn thing for months!) been so patient, I took pictures of the fish project to share.

I wish we could have a big badass-mama potluck, and I could share some of this red gold goodness with you, and tell you my months’ worth of stories. In leui of that, here’s some pretty pictures…

And yes, that is flagrant tattoo narcissism.





Yum! Dinner!

More Link Love

Is this fair? Maybe it’s because I took a break from reading blogs, as well as writing, and now that I am going back to just a few of my favorites I’m finding some goodies.

This one is called Love and Lunchboxes, by Mama Mogantosh– a fellow erratic blogger and probably my favorite writer on the polarities of motherhood. She can crack me up hard, but this post is bit soft and cuddly.

Nudists Unite

I am coming back to you. Someday soon. I feel the stir in my brain. The desire, nay need, for an outlet.

In the meantime, Shannon Hayes latest hilarious and true post on motherhood Naked Rules. I hear you sister. My greatest daily angst is wrestling clothes, of any kind or shape, onto my two naked revellers so we can leave the house.

Weather Report

We have been home almost two weeks now, and I think we are just beginning to feel the delayed adjustment pains. Both kids have been challenging, the 2yo fussy like he’s sick but he doesn’t appear to be actually sick. The 4yo sensitive like only a daughter of mine could be, and reverting to 2yo style screaming fits– except so much more sad and personal. She needles me and needles me and needles me until I finally get mad and blow my top, and then she wails with wounded fury. She said the other day, “When you talk so mean to me, I think you don’t love me.” And although the whole of it is obviously a composed plea for my attention, focus and care, that end point of rejection is painfully uninvented.

For my own part, the back pain that started a few months ago has reared it’s ugly head again. It’s hard to patiently lift up your 4yo who wants to be carried to quell her Lost Home anxiety when your back is already screaming it’s own song. My Man keeps saying, “Just rest it” and I give him a big ole middle finger.

I have started working already, earlier than we’d planned, but only one day/week. We are strapped for cash in this after law school, before taking the Bar limbo. I was filling out the paperwork for Medicaid yesterday and it asked for level of schooling completed for both adults. Mine was 12th grade, which looked about right on a form for government assistance, but when I wrote out “law degree” for My Man, it seemed a bit silly. But how is anyone supposed to make this gap between school loans and steady income when graduation culminates in two months of intensive study for The Biggest Test of All? At any rate, my job here is the most basic sort, working the till and milkshake machine at our local taco joint. I realized the first day that the work was strangely similar to what I am used to– cleaning and service. But, the ability to carry through with each task is a pleasure. None of the customers (so far) hang on my leg and cry.

My emotional homecoming has been unexpectedly complicated. I’m not sure I can even suss it out yet. It feels good to be back, but I feel I am a bit ruined for the weather here. Talking about weather sounds like a joke, but it’s in fact most definitely not. This place is incredible– beautiful mountains, thriving wilderness, old fashioned small town community, the best salmon in the world. But it all comes at a very direct price. 100-160 inches of rain per year. That’s an average of more than ten feet. And cold rain, an average June temperature of 50 degrees. Farenheit.


The bad weather largely accounts for those good things I mentioned though. The mountains are so striking because they are young and raw, so recently exposed by glaciers that are still only ten miles away. It’s that same enormous pack of ice that makes the river so cold, which in turn makes the salmon so extra-ly luscious with fat. The wilderness is intact because the town is small, and the town is small because the weather is so shit. Between the weather and the remoteness, you have to be devoted to this place to live here, which makes for a very special community.

Every place has trade offs. New Orleans was balmy and lovely for many months of the year, but I had a friend who’s neighbor was shot in his own front yard while his kids watched because he was trying to help someone who’s car was being stolen. I feel like I could take any number of cold rainy days to avoid that creeping fear in the back of my throat.

I am having an awkward time synthesizing these two realities. New Orleans felt real and normal (by the end anyway) and I worried that it had changed me, changed my expectations for normal, that I would feel lost and adrift after the move. Of course the minute we got back to Cordova, the town we had lived in for seven years, the house we had lived in for almost five, it also felt absolutely real and normal. Everything was just the same and I fit right back in as if I had never left. But my brain is simply not big enough to synthesize those two disparate realities. Only one of them can be right, making the other a ghostly dream.

It’s going to take some time to pick it all apart.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures of my new old Homeplace.

the view out our window, where I drink my morning coffee

rediscovered treasures

a few of my overgrown garden beds. that’s creeping buttercup. the wickedest weed this side of the state line. still, nothing compared to three years growth in New Orleans.

i hope to recover and plant two of my beds this year, although it’s already quite late for planting here. just carrots, kale and peas, and the carrots are a gamble.

our second day home, a friend brought over a freshly caught copper river salmon fillet. with potatoes and fiddleheads, a meal of the goddesses.

Home At Last

We made it in on Friday night, just got the internet connection yesterday. As is usual when I take a break from the computer, I’ve not been missing at all. I don’t feel any big urges to get back at blogging. But fear not, there are still several guest posts lined up for your reading pleasure. Thank you so much to everyone who wrote for me! Reading your posts has been a wonderful introduction to my readership. What marvelous scope and variety!

I don’t miss the computer, but I must miss the strange pleasure of internet community at least a little, since I’m using my early morning time to write here, instead of pecking away at the vast amount of work still to be done. It always comes down to escape of one form or another, doesn’t it.

We are all well, and happy to be home. We loved our time in New Orleans, but small town Alaska life really is made for children. Especially when then sun is shining– thank you weather gods and goddesses.

This photo was taken moments before the little guy stepped in too deep, lost his footing and got swept several several yards down the creek. Hello Alaska.