Here it is. Our very first Holiday Special.

Dianna hung one of her rag quilts on the wall and then made 25 little mittens for Orin. We filled a mitten every morning with a little toy or treat. It was good fun and Orin was a big fan.

We cut a tree from a nearby fir monoculture and carried it back. Popcorn was strung, ornaments were hung and home made apple cider (both virgin and hard) was tasted. We celebrated the solstice with friends (I dressed as Krampus – photographic evidence below) and gave Orin his Christmas presents from family on Christmas day. A most excellent holiday season was had on The Hill.


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Got too many brain cells crowding your noggin? Love apples and a jumbotron hangover? Then applejack is for you!

A relatively simple process.

1. Apples. Lots of apples.


2. Press those apples into cider. Teenage boys with excess energy are useful here.


3. Ferment cider to make hard cider. Recipes may vary. We chose to use wild yeast.

Hard cider.

4. Freeze hard cider.

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5. Separate ice from liquid (alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature than the water content). Discard ice.

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6. Drink remaining 80 proof liquid with friends.

7. Spend the following day listening to Red House Painters on repeat while nursing a soul crushing hangover.

8. Vow to never make Applejack again.

In a rare moment of thoughtfulness I photographed the future and the past.

This was the view from the driver’s seat of our moving truck as we drove our things to the top of the hill, marking the end of our old life and the beginning of our new life.

I discovered this pair of photos while randomly sifting through photos to show Orin.

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Manijeh began harvesting polypore mushrooms.

Polypores have anti-oxidant,  anti-cancer, ant-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and even anti-fungal properties. Some, such as Chaga, are adaptogenic, which means that it stimulates the immune system only specifically where this stimulation is needed, so doesn’t cause the strong reactions that other immune boosters can cause in some people. Pretty interesting.

It’s important to know that there are no known toxic polypore mushrooms that grow on trees, but it’s still very important to correctly identify your mushrooms.

Our first test subject is an Aspen Conk harvested in the aspen grove in the valley below (you’ve probably seen this grove in some of our photos). So Manijeh made a decoction from this little guy.

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When warm with nothing added, it’s bitter and wouldn’t appeal to many, though we don’t mind it.

When warm and mixed with a little honey, it’s bitter but pleasant.

When cold with nothing added, it tastes like Essence of Dog. Really. It tastes exactly how our dog, Kippen, smells. Manijeh disagrees, but in this case… I’m right.


Final thoughts on this Aspen Conk decoction:

Drink it warm with honey or other spices.


We’ll continue exploring and trying new recipes. It is a fascinating path to research.

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Snow has transformed the landscape. Every little familiar detail is infused with magic. The little nooks created by hawthorns, apple trees and roses as they reach over the creek look like something out of a fantasy movie. Orin loves these spots and it fills me to watch him play as I did when I was small enough for such spaces.

I recently came across an audiobook for an old DragonLance novel I read as a young teen – Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I’ve not read one of those books in near 20 years. I started listening as I tooled around the kitchen or early in the morning while getting ready for work. Sweet, sweet nostalgia. I wonder if Orin will love these books as much as I did in my younger days. Sometimes I wonder about how much different (read: less awesome) my life would be had I not discovered fantasy and sci-fi at such a young age. I have my brother to thank many times over.

We took a family walk after the first snow down to the creek and the aspen grove. The more we learn about the plants and animals, the more connected we feel to the land and to ourselves. Orin knows where the mint grows and where there are still rose hips left hanging, tipped with a powdering of snow.

In spite of recent setbacks (dead farm animals, cougars, and a whole new set of tires), our adventures in ReWilding are picking up steam and our excitement for the life we’ve chosen is as high as ever. Possibly a little higher.

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Orin’s Snack Shelf

Orin now has his own shelf filled with tasty homemade treats – dried beet chips, dried apples, roasted pumpkin seeds, raisins and popcorn. He’s quite proud of this new freedom and happily offers up his food to anyone at every opportunity. Orin’s snack shelf in action.


Food Secure

We’ve filled our freezer to bursting with a quarter of a grass fed cow raised a stone’s throw away by our neighbor, half a pig raised 30 minutes away, and a whole load of bones and leaf fat to render into stock and lard. Tasty, healthy free range meat with no synthetic chemicals added. Sweet.

Every Thursday we drive into town to pick up our grass fed raw milk share and our CSA box. This makes up most of what we eat. We’ve a wide assortment of herbal teas (some we’ve harvested, some we’ve bought) and a whole host of goodies we’ve made (mostly from the land here) elderberry juice, dried rose hips for tea, dried chanterelles and field mushrooms, fresh sauerkraut, fermented hot sauce, kefir, etc.

Most of our time spent not working is spent focusing on healthy food and exploring new ideas around rewilding and becoming happier and healthier. There’s something new to learn every day. I’ve been pretty swamped with work lately, so Manijeh gets to do most of the exploration while I push pixels around the screen. I enjoy what I do, but it’s sometimes difficult to look out the window and see Orin rolling around in the sunshine with his mom while I argue with clients about brand guideline adherence. Ha!


Bad Apples

Dianna recently explained apple doll carvings to me, so I gave it a shot (here’s mine below). What a great use for “bad” apples. I can’t wait to see what the final dried face will look like. Already I want to carve a dozen more and line them up in the dehydrator for Christmas ornaments!


Bad Apple

On Thursday, Manijeh and Orin stumbled across a cougar in the act of killing two chickens. It slunk away, leaving one dead bird, one wounded bird, and one very distressed wife.

Finding no sign of the cat, Dianna scooped up the dead bird while I tracked down the wounded one. She was pretty badly torn, so I wrung her neck a little more vigorously than necessary, popping the head off and sending the headless bird literally flying. Or at least flapping erratically as she careened through the air, sprinkling me liberally with bright red droplets .


We plucked and gutted the birds. One for the freezer and one for the cook pot. I like the thought that we’ll be eating meals prepared by a mountain lion. I’d like to see what that’d cost in a high end restaurant. “Locally grown, free range, organically fed, hens. Freshly killed by local cougar. $75 per plate.”

Orin excitedly retells his version of the encounter at every opportunity. What he lacks in accurate details he makes up for in enthusiasm and large hand gestures.

Don’t mistake amusement for lack of fear. There’s plenty of room for both.

We’ve been talking a lot about permaculture techniques and zoning. Here is a first scribbly sketch of our thoughts for the land.

Top left is the yurt.


Home in Washington. Seeing family and old friends is great, but it’s a relief to be back in the mountains.

First day back, one of the new chickens died. She lost all of her feathers molting and got lost on her way back to the coop. We buried her the following day. Orin and Atticus attended the funeral.


On the same day, both goats turned up at the doorstep with teal powder on their noses. Apparently there had been a bag of copper sulfate sitting in the back of the old water tower for a few decades. After a week of diarrhea and lethargy, we thought she would pull through, but on Friday, November 8th, Little Big One died my and Manijeh’s arms.


Banana is hanging on, but not looking great. We’re continuing to administer meds, but even if she survives, we’ll need to find her a new home with other goats. Goats shouldn’t be alone.
(Update: We found her a great new home thanks to the Oregon Homesteaders Facebook page)

Outside, a friendly local fellow named Mike works on widening the driveway (a county requirement), scooping up loads of Oregon Grape, mallow, yarrow and who knows what other native goodies with the topsoil. Orin enjoys playing King of the Hill on the giant mounds of soil.


We harvested enough Oregon Grape root to make a tincture. We’ll see how that turns out in 6 weeks.

And another chicken recently met her end thanks to Scribble. We plucked, gutted and cooked her. Poor, scrawny old girl.


So… rough times as the cold creeps in and the days get shorter.


From the window seat of a 737, I watched morning fog pooling in lakes and valleys as the sun rose against Mt. Hood. I love epic views, which I suppose explains why we chose to live where we do.

Manijeh and Orin dropped me off at the airport this morning at 5:30. This is the third time we’ll have been separated for more than a day or so. In a moment of face-melting sweetness, Orin requested goodbye kisses from me. What a fantastic little sleepy guy. There’s an ache in my chest already where their comfortable presence should be.

I loath the process of flying – getting to the plane and making connecting flights. Still, the prospect of seeing my family in Alabama makes the discomfort an acceptable price. This is one small part of the cost of living so far from family. Like … the sales tax part.

I know my mother will be smiling ear to ear and my dad will have a warm grin and a bear hug for me.

I wish that Orin and Manijeh could be there for that greeting as well. My folks do live for their grand babies. Therein lies the true cost which is shared between us.

Too much reflection on this leads nowhere healthy.

Time to sit back and watch the fractals and li pass below.