Notes from Windward: #57

The Green Moon

A cattle drive along the Klickitat
May is the green moon, the time when our whole world seems to turn green. It's a time that's vibrant with life on the land.

The hills start to green up as soon as the snow melts. In dry country, the winter's moisture is what drives the life cycle, and the plants take full advantage of the cool, moist growing conditions. "Winter wheat" is called that because it's planted in the fall and winters over under the snow. When the melt clears, the wheat is ready to make the most of the short time between the snow and summer.

After the stark white of winter, the greening hills are a strong and welcome promise of spring to come, but it's the leafing of the trees that really says that spring has truly arrived. The sight of the oaks leafing out is always a marvel to watch. It reminds me of the way an umbrella snaps out when it opens. The white oak leaves don't so much grow out as they unfurl. They seem to go from bare branches to fully deployed leaves in only a matter of a couple of days, a mere blink of the eye in terms of the yearly cycle.

Another sign of spring is the arrival of the range cattle. They're sheltered and fed through the winter and spring birthing season, but come the green moon, it's time for them to get to work. These mini-cattle drives often block the road, but this one was making use of the abandoned railroad track to move cattle to summer pasture.

Although you can't see them in the picture, the real work is being done by four cow dogs. They keep the cattle moving in the right direction, while the cowboy is really just along for the ride. The cow dogs really seem to love their work and manifest an attitude that the human is only there to admire the way they do their work.

Wild dill weed
One of the fun games of spring is "Name that weed!" As we go from place to place, we see all sorts of things growing wild, and while most people call wild plants "weeds," from another perspective, a weed is just a plant you don't know yet. These botanical "strangers" come in all sizes and shapes, and it's fun to learn more about our green neighbors. This spring we've been working with a wild dill that grows profusely in certain parts of the Klickitat canyon.

Unlike most wild plants, this one's a runaway. Dill seeds are scattered by the wind, so plants which once graced a homesteader's garden now line the steep banks of the gorge. Dill is subject to a root fungus that makes it difficult for dill to stay in any one place too long, so it gets around and likes to pioneer any spot that's newly exposed and clean. Dill's power to establish itself in what looks like bleak and unproductive soil is quite amazing.

This renegade dill is pungent and we've gathered a supply to compare with our garden grown dill. If it's as good as what we grow, there's not much sense in wasting garden space on an herb that we can gather in the wild.

Tamara tries to beat her
personal best of 21' 5"
With the end of basketball season, Tamara has taken up a strong interest in track. Her favorite events are long distance running and the shot-put. I did point out to her that tossing rocks from the garden into the backhoe bucket would be very good practice, but she didn't buy it.

At 13, she's growing rapidly and we're pleased to see and support her interest in physical activity. One great advantage of a school as small as Klickitat is that anyone who wants to play can find some activity to participate in. Instead of wondering whether the team will win, most of the time the only concern is whether they'll be able to field enough kids to be able to play.

Tiffanie's shows off her
Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Tiffanie is busy cooking up a storm. Having been a self-described "microwave queen" before coming to Windward, she's discoved that she likes to cook and that she's pretty good at it. We've currently got five kids on site, and they can go through a lot of after school snacks. Tiffanie makes sure there's always something fresh from the oven for them, and the big kids too.

As folk come and go, sometimes there's a bunch of kids at Windward, and sometimes there's only Tamara. As of the end of May, we've got five children on site; two 13 year-olds, two 8 year-olds and a 3 year-old. That's probably the best mix we've had in a long time, and the ability of the kids to keep each other entertained and active creates a real advantage for their mothers. By the end of the long summer day, they're ready to sleep!

Cindy's nutrition class
Cindy does volunteer work with the WSU Extention Office, primarily involves teaching various lifeskills classes. Here's a shot of a recent class she taught on nutrition for the Department of Social and Human Services. We feel it's important for Windward folk to do what we can to help spread the principles of self-reliance, and this sort of work is a good example of our community interaction. Those who wish to be free, must never cease to learn; and those who have been taught, have a duty to pass that knowledge on.

By the end of May, the kids and lambs are ready to wean, and it's almost time to start making cheese. A commercial dairy would ship newborn goats to the auction, and then sell the milk. Instead, we go ahead and share out the milk between the nursery and the kitchen. Once the kids are grazing, and the greening has progressed to where there's plenty out there for them to eat, the process of weaning them off begins. That leaves plenty of milk available for yogurt, ice cream and cheese. Because of our temporary barn situation, we're not doing as much with the milk as we usually do, but by next year, the dairy should be back in full swing.

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