Homesteading By The Numbers

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.5 acres of forest.

2 trips to home depot.

2 95-degree days.

21 fence posts.

18 bags of Quikrete.

4 5-gallon buckets of river water.

1 BLT and a beer with Annie.

4 mosquito bites.

1 full moon.

2 daybreak slumbers destroyed by the neighbor’s defiant rooster.

3 dunks in the Deschutes River.

1 chocolate coconut-icecream milkshake at a wooden table in the shade.

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Vacay Vibes

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This is what we’ve been waiting for. We were here all winter. The darkness and ice kept coming back. It was hard work. And now the sun and the heat and the motherfucking vacation days are here.

The trick to summer is finding the perfect balance of lazy days and crazy days. For 4th of July weekend, we split it half and half, which is a very nice and very exact interpretation of “balance.” Two days were spent sleeping in, skating, and watering the vegetable garden, with an emphasis on BBQs and cold beer. Two days were spent with our belongings on our back, walking up the side of an active volcano (google it—she’s supposed to blow sometime this century!).

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Here, you’ll find a lot of pictures of the hiking and tent camping we did. We put sunscreen on whatever we could and just walked and walked. The trail took us through a landscape that was equal parts Legend and The Sound Of Music. Wildflowers and secret babbling brooks shadowed by angular snowcapped peaks. A legendary landscape fit for fräuleins, fairies and unicorns.

With tired legs and campfire smoke in our clothes, we drove back into town on the afternoon of the Fourth. Just in time to do nothing. Just in time feel good. Just in time to relax in the backyard while the wind chime chimed. Just in time to ride lazy bikes to Jesse’s house and watch people skate a mini ramp and then ride lazily home to bed.

Fireworks? I care not.

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Go Skate Season

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Summer resolution: prioritize skateboarding. The less I do it, the less I feel like doing it. This is true of anything you love that takes effort but ultimately gives you a higher purpose. When I think about life, and especially life in the summertime, some of my best memories are of skating, sweating it out in the heat with my buds. Of course, these memories are all wrapped up in everything that makes skateboarding great. Hanging with friends and laughing. Being outside under the big, bright sky—sun showering down, a glimpse of cottonwood fluff on the breeze. Doing something active and fun, something that’s hard and you have to practice at, something that makes you fall down and get back up again in a way that lets you realize your own freedom and power.

Anyway, I leave you with some pics from the past week. Golden hour at the mini ramp. Burgers and buds at Canby. Go Skate Day hill bombs through the moments of daylight. This is the stuff that makes summer (and life) great.

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Crystal Crane Gang

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Welcome to another installment of “rainy Northwest weekend.” This time around, me and Katie and Danielle and Chelsea drove way out east to a magical mineral pool. With Portland’s frenzied state, I don’t typically like to call out my magical respites—’cause they’re a secret. But just this once, because I love you—the hot springs goes by the mystical name of Crystal Crane. If you have a spare 11 hours in which to do this drive roundtrip, then I salute you.

Anyway, here, out on the high desert with the mountains off in the distance, there was nothing to do but soak. And so we did. The pool was plenty big to swim around, and warm enough to turn your cheeks a sort of deep magenta after about 20 minutes. When an evening rainstorm blew through and pelted our skin with icy droplets, it felt good. Later, inside the cabin drinking wine from a can, I felt almost supernaturally relaxed. If only I could dip in a steamy mineral pool every night before bed.

The next morning, we got up early and, amidst the racket of golden-breasted birds, soaked again. The sun was rising, the steam was rising—it was a sweet, liminal moment at the beginning of summer.

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Sniffing sagebrush on the wind.

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Equal parts dogs and people. My kinda slumber party.

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Morning medicine.

3 Things

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A new home: Our search for a camper-trailer elicited this 1957 bauble. It’s not huge/gaudy like RVs can be. It’s small, light, and practical. It is, in fact, just right. There’s a shower and a marine-grade RV toilet, along with a couch that converts to a bed. And all the inside is finished with warm, beautiful wood (not a piece of formica or barf-print fabric in sight!). I can’t wait to recline in the nighttime cool beneath the moon shadow of ponderosa pines and peep out the firmament of summer meteor showers.

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Down the street: Two days after something awful happened down the street from my house, I walked by. The air was blue and heavy—still carrying all the sadness for what can’t be fixed. And yet. And yet! Look at all the love.

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Family visit: My family came and filled up my house for a week. Mornings, we ate peanut-butter toast and yelled at the dogs to quiet down. Afternoons, we sat out back drinking cold wine and laughing. I tossed the frisbee with nephew Pat while my puppy leapt back and forth ’tween us and never, ever caught on to the keep-away game. We ate so much good food, all fresh and full of living vegetables. Everyone was in good spirits and good health. On that note, how lucky am I?! I know it, and I whisper it inside every quiet moment.

(Un)Official Summer

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Summer is no luxury. It’s just the way things are, for a certain number of days per year. Still, it’s full of a lot of things that I like very much. Like, in zero particular order, these real-life happenings from my holiday weekend:

“Swimming” being a legitimate possibility on the day’s agenda.

Hard physical labor in the heat, followed by a super-cold milk shake.

BBQs with mini ramps. All the friends hanging out, all night, every night.

Something new blooming in the garden every day.

Wildfire smoke setting the evening skies ablaze.

A cool shower right before bed.

Backyard campfires, followed the smell of woodsmoke on your hoodie for days.

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48 Hours In New York

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I started this weekend by getting on an early flight to JFK. By noon (3 p.m. local time) I was riding through the hot city, all sticky like a glazed donut, on an A train express to the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn—where Matt and Mimi of Cape Cod wedding fame now live with their two dogs who both closely resemble stuffed baby seals.

We were back East for just over 48 hours. A quick trip to Get Out Of Town and help Matt celebrate his birthday. The goal was not tourism, but simply real life. As such, I did not see the Empire State Building or the Statue Of Liberty, just wandered around Brooklyn eating and drinking and skateboarding and soaking in all the general lawlessness and spontaneous joy of that great, old city on a summer weekend.

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Vegetable-arian food. From ramen to cornmeal french toast, I ate a lot of incendiary food while I was there. My favorite, I think, was the oyster mushroom banh mi from Toad Style. I’m always trying to eat those spicy, saucy sandwiches, but I’ve only ever seen them made with tofu, and I don’t really care about tofu—don’t hate it and don’t love it, but generally find it hard to digest. In other words, tofu doesn’t close the deal for me. Mushrooms though!

A shot and a beer. Nowhere else on the planet do I find myself ordering a shot and a beer when I walk into a bar. But in New York, that’s how they do it. Not only is it the cheapest way to consume alcohol in an expensive city, it’s a super easy way to get on a vacation tilt-awhirl. Weeeeeee!

Skatepark tourism. We did a wee skatepark tour through Brooklyn. There’s loads of new ones. I had fun at each one—if not skating, then people watching. From scene to style, New York is super different from Portland, almost the opposite, you could say. I dig watching and observing that stuff, from a sociological standpoint. Also, I dig fun. Coincidentally, that’s what skateboarding is.

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Dispatch From Camp

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The last time I spent the night outside, it was high on a mountain during a freak snowstorm. Mentally, I’m still recovering. So it felt good to pack up the ole backpack again the other day with all the windows open, the sun streaming in, the screen door screening the bugs of May, the birds birding around, the buds, budding. Everything’s just easier in the summer, isn’t it? Throw a few things on your back, walk down a trail until you come to a river. Spend the night there, relaxed.

By the way, did y’all notice the trend in canned wine, recently? How fortuitous for me, an appreciator of the grape and its juices, fermented or otherwise. Mostly fermented. Bottles, as you know, are heavy, unwieldy. You can fit them in your backpack, and I have, many times, but only at the expense of looking a little ridiculous. Those canned wines, though, they stash perfectly in a pocket meant for camp-stove fuel or some such. What did we ever, ever do without canned wine? Whiskey, I guess.

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I’m related to the best dadgam gift givers. Every time I swing through my parent’s house on holiday, I come away with a new fancy thing for being outdoors and adventuresome. The Big Agnes air mattress my dad gave me is one such item. It weighs next to nothing and takes around two wheezy minutes to inflate. Then all you have to do is throw it in your tent and have a lovely, comfortable night. I’m one of those featherweight sleepers. Typically, a night of camping would mean mostly lying there awake. With this mattress, you can get all cocooned up in the fetal position on your side and sleep like a lil baby, though. Sure, I still wake up sometimes, but only now and then. The other night I woke up because—I swear—the river had gotten incredibly loud. Do you think that happens, around 3 in the morning? Witching hour? The air thins out and the river rages? Maybe preambling a wild battle of the spirit world? I wouldn’t know. I never did leave the tent—just cozied back in, willed my brain into submission, and drifted off again until the sun woke up the birds and then they woke up me.

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P.S. Thanks to Dorian for the lovely pic above of me and Lunden wrangling the dogs.

 

Thinking, Reading, Watching

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The Girl With All The Gifts: We live in a Netflixian world. Books struggle, reading is second order. So the fact that I’m telling you to read this book—in the face of overwhelming odds against the practice of reading—well, that’s serious, and you should take it seriously. Although suspense is at a premium here, I don’t think I’m ruining anything by saying that this is a post-apocalyptic story of the zombie persuasion. And although the world does not lack for post-apocalyptic zombie stories, this one, I promise you, is different. Anthropologically speaking, it brings a fresh perspective. It’s exciting, and inarguably interesting. It will get your thinking juices flowing. Note: there is a Girl With All The Gifts movie—but read the book, do, because the movie isn’t nearly as rich, as fraught or as scary. Here’s to books!

Fortitude: A crazy television show on Amazon Prime. I say crazy, because after every episode, I find myself saying, “That was crazy!” The kind of bad-dreams crazy where you watch two episodes, and then you have to put on Planet Earth to give your brain a break before bed. Murder. Intrigue. Evil. Science. Death. Vodka. Ice. Polar bears … Just some of the ground covered here. It’s great. Give it a go.

The Red Turtle: An animated short film about a man shipwrecked on an island. It’s beautiful. I watched it once, but I’d like to see it again. I suspect there’s much more there than meets the eye here. Like, maybe, the secret of life?

Puppy 2.0

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By now you probably figure me insane. All I ever talk about is dogs and backyard mini ramps. And forest-bathing. (Ah, but aren’t those the good things in life?)

I thought I’d tell you the story of Piney. If you’re one of my people, then you already know Piney is my pup—Puppy 2.0, we call him. We adopted him from the Humane Society out in Hermiston. Roving farmland. Watermelon country. What happened was, I had a right-hand man named Lefty, and he died. I took some time, and then I got another puppy and called him Durango. He was a magical beast—part St. Bernard, part panda bear. I loved him impossibly much. And he died.

This is old news. The heartbreak that was Winter 2016.

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What you may not know is that, no joke, ten days after Durango died, we went and adopted Piney. In the hush that falls between Christmas and New Years, we kicked solitarily around the house, did chores, put dog toys away in closets. But try as I might, I could not forget what needs forgetting. And so in between snowstorms, I made Mark drive me out to Eastern Oregon to pick up another puppy.

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To his credit, Mark said he thought it was too early. I joke with him now—”At least I beg you for puppies, instead of begging you to have babies like a normal girlfriend!”

I believe there’s no such thing as “too early” when it comes to providing shelter and love for a critter in need. I also believe I could’ve waited a little longer. With that said, every creature, humans and dogs included, is so damn different. No matter how long you wait, you will not get your old pal back. So F it. Bring on the puppies—and all the joy that comes with them.

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Three months later, we’re just getting to know Piney still. He has a fierce streak about his food bowl. He pees with joy when he sees someone he truly loves. He sun bathes. He howls. He dawdles over dandelions. These are all revelations—Lefty did none of these things. What will Puppy 2.0 turn into?! Will he fetch? Will he swim? I can’t wait to see. Here’s to new friends (and never forgetting the old ones). Here to new adventures (and all those old, happy memories).

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