Friday, August 26, 2011


Anna, our youngest, started college this week. I’ve been trying to downplay her leaving, and it worked for the most part. No long drawn-out tearful goodbyes, just a good positive send off. I think she needed that as much as I did. 

So I'm moping around a bit, trying to pamper myself as I get used to the idea of her being gone. I got groceries this week and what a weird feeling that was. Just the two of us to shop for now.

Change is hard. I don’t like change, never have. Part of the reason I write and take photos is to stop time. I can’t imagine raising a family without a journal and camera in tow. Someone once said that we lose our children, finally, to the adults they become. And though I wouldn’t trade this age, this season, for anything in the past, it is still hard.

I guess Mark and I will see how couple-living works. Thank goodness we like each other. Mark is a great father, but today is not much different than yesterday for him. He isn’t defined by his role as a father, like I am defined by my role as a mother. 

I’ll be okay in a bit. I have other passions and work to do, but I’m taking some time to just . . . mourn, embrace . . . maybe the word is “experience,” this feeling of loss.

I wrote an essay once about a robin that was building a nest out my office window, fussing and fretting as she prepared for the momentous task of mothering. I felt her pain. One line of my essay read: motherhood fills you up to overflowing, until you spill over and stain the floor with love, and hope, and worry.  Seems I’ve been wiping up for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to move on and I’m not liking it. 

Finding beauty

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bringing the Boys Home

August marches on. There's a snap in the morning air that says Fall is coming.

This month’s full moon is called the sturgeon moon; seems the large bottom-dwelling fish were traditionally caught in August. It has also been called the red moon, as August skies are often hazy, causing a change in hue. Last night there was smoke in the air, and the moon, a day past full, was a hauntingly rose color. 

All the plant life is taking in the sun’s energy with a vengeance, in anticipation of shorter days and long cold nights. The race is on to set seed and lay down roots. Zinnias troop across the garden. The kingbirds have quieted just a little from their summer racket-making at 4:30 a.m. The currants and chokecherries are bending branches in the mountains. Those in our yard are waning fast from the robins and a few cedar waxwings. 

Mid-August also means pulling the bulls from the herd. They only work about three months a year and just get into trouble if left with the cows. We had a good day sorting them out and hauling them home. Putting them in a bunch again reminded them how much they dislike each other. I’m always warning my kids and any extra help to stay clear of their head-butting, as their mass and speed can overwhelm a horse and rider in a flash. It’s an exciting event to get them separated, usually needing a little more aggression than normal cow work. It was good practice for the young horses, Jane and Gent, that Mark and Seth rode.

Since they got home and away from the girls, the bulls have settled down. Gary usually says at this time of year, “now if we could just let the air out of them and put them on a shelf til spring!” That comment always inspires a vision in my mind, of popping a button just behind their shoulder, watching them shrivel, then piling them in the back of the barn. But no, they need to eat and drink everyday - and will be, for the most part, docile and congenial to their mates once again. 

All photos by Anita Pratt

stalling by the Sno Riders cabin 

Mater and Sly at work

not convinced

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Berries etc.

It’s berry season. I helped my uncle Doug pick from his raspberry patch this week. He stayed on the perimeter, but I waded into the jungle of canes, over my head, to pull in cluster after cluster of huge, ripe berries.  Much to our chagrin, they were so ripe that a few fell to the ground when we disturbed their perch.

Doug’s garden is large, unruly, unkempt, disorderly, chaotic . . . and wonderful. He recently cut down the huge cottonwoods that dwarfed the humble home at the back of the city lot. I was sad about that, but now sunshine fills the space and the banana-yellow evening primroses love it. Their blooms shriveled and fell as we worked, after their one-night-stand in the moonlight.

Nearby is a stand of quakies that Doug has allowed to sucker outward until it resembles a natural grove. Hollyhocks bloom in chorus. And everywhere, gloriosa daisies, tall and gangly, held upright by their neighbors, beam with nary a care to be goggled at by human eyes. Doug carefully cut a huge bouquet of sweet peas for me - pink, purple, blue, and candy-cane striped red and white – oh their heavenly scent!

He can’t bend his knees very good, or stoop for that matter, but he manages to wrangle his garden into a wonderland each year. His long gray hair wisps across his face as he works.

He sent me home with nearly all the berries we picked that morning. Mark and the kids gorged on them; I froze two plump bags and made jam with the rest.  

The plants that live in Doug’s yard seem to grow bigger and bolder than the same species in other yards. Maybe all the flora over the years, left to express themselves with little interference from human hands, has lead to more fertile soil. Maybe the lack of definition creates living things that live more abundantly.

I’m always finding lessons from the natural world. Today it is to back off and let some things figure themselves out. Back off – and watch my children, my endeavors, my relationships flourish. 

quakies galore

good for picking

daisies and primroses in shades of yellow

the sitting room

sweet peas - plenty for a bouquet!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Taking the Carbon Challenge

I was tickled to find two monarch butterfly caterpillars this week while walking one of our pastures. They were very common when I was a kid, but I haven't seen one for years. 

I celebrated my birthday by helping set up a carbon monitoring plot on our land. Well, actually, I just watched and asked questions. We met Peter Donovan some years ago when we were both interested in animal handling to achieve time-controlled grazing. He's taking his "carbon challenge" on the road in a refurbished school bus to test soils and talk with landowners/managers about managing for increased carbon uptake. 

We took Peter by the same pasture where I spotted the caterpillars. We walked through the standing biomass and decided this pasture was "harvesting" carbon at a good rate.

We went on to a pasture that wasn't in such good shape, one we can hopefully, through improved management, show increased carbon in the soil when Peter returns in three years.

Photosynthesis takes carbon from the air and transfers it to plants, and from there into the soil. When a stand of grass is not allowed to express itself because of over-grazing, or conversely when plants are over mature from a lack of grazing and are no longer in a green and growing state, the sequestration of carbon into the soil is hindered. This promotion of photosynthesis not only addresses heavy carbon dioxide loads in the atmosphere, but means vital soils as well.

No matter where you stand on climate change - the seriousness of, the cause of, the cure for - I think we can all agree that healthy stabile soils are essential for the planet.

Happy trails, Peter. 

soil samples to test carbon