Kneading and rising

Some of my earliest memories are sitting around a big wooden table with my Mom, sisters, Aunts, Grandma and Great Grandma, kneading dough.

Aprons with flour down the front, heavy rolling pins, floral cheesecloths, and always that gentle rhythm of kneading the dough…

I was 6 when I won my first county fair ribbon.
The local newspaper did an article about it.
4th place for ‘Rachel’s quick french bread’.
I was so proud.
Standing around that table with all of those strong women.
And I was becoming one of them.
I beamed.

Even now the smell of bread in the oven catapults me to that farmhouse kitchen in Rock Creek, Oregon.
My Grandma’s house that her husband and sons built for her.
It was always full of music and stories and something in the oven.
Stories of my Grandma and Grandpa having dances in their old barn.
Of my Great Grandma traveling west in a covered wagon to teach in one room schoolhouse.
Of my Dad and his brothers and sisters working the farm, getting into mischief, growing up.

Stories of baking.
Always the baking.

Grandma would tell us how before electricity, she used to put her hand in the wood stove to know if it was the right temperature.
How making 8 loaves in the morning was how she started each day.
Standing in her Nike sneakers, I would watch her veiny hands expertly work each loaf and let me know when to add more flour.
“Just keep kneading.” She would tell me. “You’ll know when it is ready.”

“Like this?” I would say. Pushing my whole body into it, over and over, my forearms burning.

“Yes. Just like that. Now, we let it rise.”

The loaves were put into pans and covered with a musty smelling dish towel.
Then my sister and I were free to go swing on Grandma’s porch, or pick strawberries in her garden, walk down to the creek to look for frogs or twirl in her living room while her fingers bounced around on her accordion.

It’s the rising that is the most important step.
It’s where the magic happens.
If you fail to let it rise long enough, the bread will probably result in a hefty dental bill should you try to bite through it.
“Let it be.” My Grandma would say.
A couple hours would pass and we would marvel at the puffed up loaves that had doubled in size.
She would pop into her oven and shoo us back outside.

When our cheeks were flushed and our hair tangled, the smell of bread baking would find us.
We would migrate back, led by our noses and sit eagerly on the barstools waiting for a slice.
We would eat an entire loaf together.

My Grandma was pure sunshine.
Everyone’s favorite person.
You would feel like she was hugging you, even if she was across the room.
In her 86 years she would climb Mountain peaks, ski backcountry, run marathons, and raise 4 kids.
She was Captain of a dragon boat team, organized a senior walking group that met every morning, rain or shine.
Was a member of the Mazamas.
Met the love of her life in her 80’s, when she joined a bowling league.
She clogged at Nordic festivals, biked from Portland to the coast 4 times, and enjoyed her cold beer at the local pub.
And she was FAMOUS for her homemade bread.

The years went by.
My Dad got a new job and we moved away.
I got older.
I became busy, as 16 year olds do.
Pretty soon I only went to Grandma’s kitchen to bake on holidays, and family trips.
And sometimes I wouldn’t even go then.
I had a tournament I couldn’t miss.
A sleepover that was too important.
Homework, friends, plans.
Such important plans at the time.
I want to go back and sit next to that 16 year old.
I want to tell her to get in her red Pontiac…
Put $20 in the gas tank…
Pop in Alanis Morisette…
And take a drive down to Portland to visit your Grandma.
There is another tournament next weekend.
Another date with a guy that ends up being not worth it.
There’s actually a lot of those coming.
All of the plans can wait.

I miss her.
I want to go back and sit on that stool in her kitchen.
Bake with her.
Ask her what my Dad was like when he was 4.
What her favorite perfume is.
Did she do everything she wanted in life?

I wonder if she knows that I have her rolling pin.
That Dan kept his promise to her.
That we have our own little boys and they gather around our own wooden table now.

I sprinkle the flour and give them their own little loaves to knead.
They poke their pudgy fingers in the dough, and push it out, roll it around, bring it all together.
I watch them.
“Like this Mommy?”

I understand now.

This is my time I get to shape them.
Get my hands on them.
Knead all of the love and traditions and life into them.

They want to be with me now.
They want to be with me all of the time.
They are looking to me to show them the world.
Baking in our kitchen, there is nowhere they would rather be.

They will get older.
Busy.
They will make plans and have their own lives.

And as much as my hands will ache to be holding on to them….
just as I am sure my Grandmothers were for me.
I will have to let them be.
Let them rise.

They will find their way back.
Back to a wooden table.
With flour smudged on their own kids cheeks and an old marble rolling pin.
There will be stories and laughter and of course…….
Fresh baked bread.

next up….. things that grow….

Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start…..

If only I could send you a curtain adorned Julie Andrews, to strum her guitar and sing for us.
“When you read you begin with A-B-C… when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi Pro-per-ty.”

It has a nice ring to it, right? Property. A piece of land all your own. A blank canvas. We began this journey with an old farmhouse filter on. All I wanted to see were old farms that had stories and creaky wood floors. I wanted a house that needed to be loved again and land that begged to be tilled.

My husband was on board with the old farmhouse idea… barely… he was on the edge of the board. The edge that knows how happy it would make his wife, but also has a very sweaty upper lip when agents start talking about rewiring the whole house, rebuilding entire barns, and oh by the way, it won’t pass an inspection, so do you have $500,000 cash? But he was on. Golly, I love that man.
I would walk him across falling down porches squeezing his hand and saying “oh, honey can’t you see it? You and me out here sipping our wine and watching the sunset…” and he would just squeeze my hand back as his leg fell through a board and say “I can see it. I also see other things…. but I can see it.” Did I mention we were also each carrying a baby?

We wanted a home, but more than that. We wanted a homestead where we could raise our boys. We wanted to teach them that food doesn’t come from a store and eggs aren’t made in a factory, and oh boy, just wait until you see where milk comes from, kids. We wanted to dig in a garden that was ours and paint our own walls. We wanted a way of life.

We just couldn’t find THE ONE. Months turned to years, the search continued as housing prices kept going up. The picture in our head of what we wanted became more and more clear, thus becoming more and more picky and frankly, there just wasn’t much out there to even look at. Gradually the thought of “maybe we should build?” would creep into conversations.
Build?
Yes, build!
Build our own house. Build our own dream. Write our own story. You want a playroom as big as Timbuktu? Done. You want your man room in the basement and I want a tub that is deep enough to submerge my entire body? Coming right up. Once the building seed was planted, I became obsessed. Taking pictures of other people’s houses, spending evenings on Pinterest just pinning ‘brick accents’…

“It can’t be just any piece of property.” we would say. Feeling the daggers being shot from the real estate agents eyes. “It has to be special.” I even put out an ad on our local facebook community page. New Years Eve 2018 came and we toasted “This is the year!”

And then we found it.

Four years of searching and dreaming and talking and wondering, and on a random sunny January day, we drove out to a piece of property a friend of mine had told me about. And there it was. The mountains, the open space, the trees… Everything we had been imagining. I later told Dan that I knew it was the one when I heard him do his ’emotional sigh’, which meant he was picturing himself there. We wrote the offer, didn’t sleep for a week straight, and then…’accepted. It was ours.

And I know what you’re thinking. But what about my original glass doorknobs and cupboards that great great grandmothers had opened??? What about my 100 year old apple orchard and root cellar? I hear you. The stories will be there. The old, the cozy, the worn will all be there. We will find the stories, they will find us, we will bring them into our home and make them part of it. But…. we will also have a working washing machine and energy efficient heating. It’s all about balance folks, thats what all of the cool kids are saying!

So welcome! Welcome to our new chapter. Welcome to our 20 acres of beginnings. Welcome to Marigold Farm.

next up…. part two

Let’s start at the very beginning…. part two

Screeeeeeeeeeech.

Wasn’t that a lovely story? Did it give you all the feels?

well let me bring you up to speed….

A week after mutual acceptance I was sitting on a deck in Leavenworth with my father in law designing our dream house.

Two weeks after that I was texting our plans to my girlfriends and gushing over brick archways and outdoor fireplaces.

A week after that we were giving tours and toasting beers in the snow and looking over ‘our’ vast land and declaring it just the perttiest piece of heaven this side of the Saratoga passage.

A week after that we were supposed to close.

The day of closing we found out that there was a ‘change’ on our contract.

The change was a height restriction that was added when the property next to ours was bought by the heiress of a company that makes green tractors.

The height restriction was 17 feet.

17 feet for ANY building or TREE on our ENTIRE 20 acres.

17 feet, people.

So my Victorian picket fence hob nob castle would either need to be quickly redesigned to something Bilbo Baggins would live in….

…..or….

We battle the tractor goddess (who, by the way, has no intention on building, living or doing anything with her property…its just an ‘investment’) for another excruciating 3 months.

The owner of ‘our’ property (also an heir…to a puffy vest and recreational clothing store) offers to pay for a lawyer, even offers the tractor goddess cold hard cash, offers us other properties…. but nope… when all was said and done…

Tractor goddess- 1
Puffy Vest man-0
Dan and Rachel- negative 678

Done. Over. Never getting back together.
We are the Taylor Swift of real estate buyers.

Ok so here is where things get interesting.

Are we sad? yes.
Disappointed? yes.
Wind out of our sails? yes.
Defeated? Good golly, NO.

No, we are not defeated.

I mean yes, I thought I was giving you Julie Andrews singing from a mountain top and that you all could follow along the yellow brick road of dreams…..

I thought I would start this blog, and by now I would be posting pictures of my vegetable garden or handprints in cement.

But I guess instead you’re getting Pollyanna… playing the glad game in a red hot Seattle housing market of ridiculousness.

I remember sitting on my best friends bed in jr. high talking about our future husbands and saying “I mean… our husbands are out there…right now…doing something… right this minute!!!”

I feel the same about our property.

Its out there. right now. We just haven’t found it yet.

This next chapter will be like the second place Bachelor gal getting to come back next season as the Bachelorette…. all those new Zillow listings may as well be chiseled 20 somethings who are secure with their emotions and ready to start breeding.

And what do they always say? “I am SO ready for love…” something like that. Im with ya sister. I am so ready.

So there it is.

Turns out you shouldn’t count your chickens before they hatch…
and you REALLY shouldn’t design your chicken coop before you close on your property. 🙂

The hunt continues…

next up…. mom musings….