Monday, May 26, 2014

welcome baby finn + peonies

Nephew #6 has arrived:). I am so excited to be the auntie to such a sweet little boy.   We haven't met yet, but I know I love him already. Being 2000 miles away from a newborn  niece or nephew is new & the mountains aren't quite enough of a trade in things like this. My arms are just itchy to squeeze little one, pet his silky hair, smooch his baby softness. But I am where I am supposed to be, & God is here when I get heartachy for my family, especially this newest addition. And the peonies (my favorite flower) are whispering in their blushing tones that somehow, all will be okay. I've got mounds of them around our apartment, cheering me up. And in a few weeks, I'll get to see the peonies again in Illinois, while squeezing my sweet Finn Avery:). And then, it'll be photos of him, not peonies, dominating this little blog. Whisper my name in his ear, Shara, & tell him I'm coming soon!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

best date ever

Dar surprised me for my birthday & took me on an excursion train ride up through the cherry orchard area of Hood River. This was, ahem, back in April, so the sunshine & blossoming trees were even more welcome then than now. Although we are still loving & enjoying the blooms & sweet sunshine:).
It was such a fun day: we got on the train at 11, clacked our way slowly through the mountains & orchards, past streams & sun-dappled meadows, to a little town perched in the shadow of Mt. Hood. Oh, Mt. Hood, how your locals love you! I am beginning to understand the allure: a day that you can see Mt. Hood means it is a clear, sunny day. And Mt. Hood is a mountain. It just reigns majestically over The Valley, set apart from the rest of the Cascades in such a nice triangular mountain-y shape. Listen to me! I was telling Dar the other day that I still don't quite feel like an Oregonian. I love it here: I am happy here. But I still see Oregonians as a people that are in a slightly different category than me. Not in a bad way. I wonder, do you ever feel like you are a native if you weren't born there?


Anyway, it was a lovely relaxing ride. We could both gawk out the window & enjoy the sites: that's one bummer about driving places. Although, Dar's assured me the reason Oregonians are the most courteous drivers (it's true! look here) is because they enjoy seeing the sites while driving & it's expected to drive at tortoise-like speeds when ogling the scenery. :). Maybe that's why, according to the same survey, we are also some of the nation's worst drivers?...Driving aside, we took a lunch break in the aforementioned little town in the shadow of Hood before turning around & heading back into Hood River.

On the return trip, there were western characters walking the train, entertaining us with songs, jokes, & card tricks. FYI, if you are ever in the area & have young children, I think this would be a really good outing.

We made it back to the station in the afternoon & enjoyed an ice cream cone in a park. Then we headed back down the Gorge to Bonneville Fish Hatchery.
I know, that's what I thought too, a fish hatchery? Oh well, we could stop by & look at some fish. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover a fish hatchery means pretty old buildings, lots of nice little landscaped ponds & a 12 foot sturgeon named Hermon. Also a great place to take kids.

After that, we stopped by Portland's Pearl District & walked the streets, bopping into a little grocery store we like to buy Rogue River Blue Cheese at, hitting up anthropologie:)), & admiring the architecture. I thoroughly enjoy our few & far between trips into Portland. I belong in the green valley, but venturing into the city now & then fulfills some need for concrete & culture that lives somewhere inside me.

We decided to go for sushi & waited in line for 45 minutes to get some. We are not sushi aficionados, but we do appreciate authentic, good food, & went for the "real" stuff. Sadly, sushi in it's pure form just didn't do it for us. What can we say? We love our sketchy taco vans. Now that's authentic!
It was a lovely day spent together: nearly a year into our marriage, I can honestly say it's only gotten better (and I thought we had a pretty awesome start!).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Alyssa: 2 years

I had the awesome privilege to capture this beyond adorable little girl. Is she not the sweetest little thing you've ever clapped eyes on?! Her name might be Alyssa, but everyone calls her "Peque", short for Pequena, or "little one" in Spanish. She was truly a joy to photograph, hamming it up, blowing kisses, twirling around in her cute lacy oxfords & tutu. I just dare you to try & scroll through the photos without wanting to just smother her in kisses.

 Playing peek-a-boo with her tutu:)

 Her mom's a pretty sweet girl herself. She has a wonderful infectious laugh & uses it often. I have a lot of admiration for her: her life hasn't been easy, but you won't meet a more easy-going, content woman. It's no surprise, really, that Peque is the way she is!

I might make them sign a contract that whenever they want photos, I will be the photographer! Mmm, just pure sweetness, they are. Thanks, Leidy & Alyssa, for being wonderful & photogenic:).

mother's day 2014

Thanks, Mom, for all you have done & all you will do for me. I know I haven't always been as grateful as I should've been for you, & I'm sure I could call you more often, but I do love you & appreciate you. Here's to you, my mother! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

farmlife issue no. 1

Life on the farm is busy, entertaining, & full of joie de vivre. If I'm ever bored or lonely, all I need do is head out to the farm where I'm sure to find Riley fishing in the pond, a garden being planted, scouting that needs to be done, or eggs that need to be gathered. I love being married to a berry farmer--even if it means we'll never get to go on a summer vacation again. There is so much energy & life poured into raising berries. And it's so much more involved than corn & beans, (sorry Midwest). The whole family participates in berry harvest & is interested in what's going on. I know all the varieties of berries Tom Sinn & Sons grow, & I know where in the field they're grown. I know which ones are early, which ones are good shippers, but not tasty, which ones are tasty, & which ones are prone to disease. These are things I was never interested in learning about corn & beans, mostly because my personal interest was nil, but also because it seemed so boring & removed from me, one puny little girl. Harvest was done by a big, noisy machine, not by scores of hand laborers who sing & crack jokes while picking. Vast acres & acres of the same plant, while beautiful in their own way, failed to catch my interest the way a little back 40 of bell-flowered blueberry bushes does. That, & an ear of field corn just isn't a handful of sweet, frosty blueberries:). And if I didn't personally enjoy the berry farming, Dar's love of what he does would make me. I'm convinced that any male that grew up on a berry farm secretly wishes that's all he'd ever do. He gets to work with his dad & nurture the farm he grew up on & has such fond childhood memories of. Every last one of his six brothers have dreams of farming someday, too. I feel very blessed that Dar's dad asked him to join him out of college. Hopefully, some of the other boys get the opportunity someday!
Anyway, enough idealistic farm prattle. Here's some photos of the coming to life of the farm for this year's crop. I'm going to attempt to do updates on the farm every month or so, at least til winter. But this is the first one. Farm issue no. 1. 
These are the blueberry bushes in late February, before their leaves came out.  I was so pleasantly surprised to discover that blueberry bushes turn red in the fall & stay red all winter! They added some color to the winter landscape.
 Dar checking their blackberries in late February for any damage from some cold weather we had in December. The plants themselves won't be harmed, just the fruit for this year. So far, it doesn't look like the damage has been too extensive.
Putting in irrigation in one of the new fields. I love seeing Dar & his dad working together. They aren't exactly the same, but they respect eachother a lot & get along very well. And I know Dar's parents have done a lot to help Dar get started on his own & will be forever grateful to them for that. 
The blackberries a few weeks later--look how much they've grown! We should have some berries by the end of June, Dar said. My goodness I can't wait!

And then there's Riley. He is such a little outdoorsman. What he doesn't know about fishing & their pond would fit in a thimble. Many afternoons find him racing off the bus to grab his pole. This particular afternoon in early April was NOT warm enough to go shirtless, but he did anyway. I spent this afternoon by the pond, intermittenly catching bluegill (yes! I caught fish) & chatting with my friend Adriana who saw us lounging & walked with her daughter down the road from where she lives to join us. It was like an afternoon out of some sweet bygone days before cellphones & busyness. Just pure loveliness.
Putting in more irrigation for Dar's first field of his own. If you look closely, you can see all the posts in the background that will be the supports for the blackberries when they are bigger. They planted the baby plants last fall, & pounded posts all winter. Next summer, they'll maybe have some fruit, & the next summer, we'll have a small harvest. 
These are what a blueberry bloom looks like. Each one of those dainty little bells will be a luscious, dusky berry come July. I'm salivating already! Also, despite my bragging of how much I know about berry farming earlier, I have no idea what variety these are:).
Now this is how they plant a garden in the Tom & Edie Sinn family. Which explains a lot. 

 This is the filbert orchard. (I feel so local calling them "filberts" as opposed to hazelnuts. Humor me.) They don't have a ton of filberts, just a little orchard on a hillside that was too steep for berries. Why is wasn't too steep for filberts, I don't know. Dar likes to get my heart racing by driving too fast (in my opinion) around the hills of the orchard. I don't know if my flatlands upbringing will ever overcome my fear of tipping over on the steep hills out here.
And this is what the blackberries look like now. See a few blooms? 
Another charming difference in farming out here: bees. They have bees brought in to pollinate all the plants & for weeks now, we've been serenaded by the thrum of bees. On a warm, sunny afternoon, you can lay in one of the berry roads (what they call the dirt lanes winding around the fields), & watch the bees zooming up & down the roads like they're their own little interstates. Fascinating creatures. I've only been stung once so far, & that was my own fault. I pinched a bee that was nestled in a flower I'd picked because I thought it was dead. It wasn't. 

 Studying for his pesticide applicator's license during his lunch break. It was 88 degrees that day.

I am in love with the flowering shrubs out here: azaleas, peonies, daphne, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, lilacs. Everywhere you look, things are blooming. I've got a fresh arrangement on my table daily.
We spent part of the afternoon on the dock yesterday, basking & sipping a cold beverage, watching the baby fish dart around. Riley & Buck went for a plunge. I love the pond. It has the loveliest way of reflecting the setting sun. And it's a little gathering spot for the family. Everyone just kind of wanders lazily down there to see what's going on. Grammy chats to us over the fence. It just feels removed from stress & worries. 

So there you have it: a small glimpse into the life of a berry farm. I wouldn't trade it for anything.