Saturday, April 14, 2012

How to make yucca cordage

I have a yucca plant in my yard.  I first learned about yucca in high school when I was reading a play in which a character was named Yucca.  I learned that it's a plant that generally grows in the western U.S., and that its leaves can be used as fiber for cordage.   Ever since then, I've wanted to make yucca cordage.  When I moved to Washington state and found I could have a yucca plant in my garden, I planted one.

Enter my friend Julie.  We met at a local community fair last summer, and became good friends very quickly.  She's a basket weaver and lover all things botanical, so we naturally had lots of interesting things to talk about.

A few days ago, she said she was going to show me how to use my yucca plant!  She cut a leaf off at the base with a pocket knife.  They are very hard to tear off.  The root of the plant is very slimy, and she told me that her grandma used to use the shredded root as soap when she washed clothes by hand on a washboard.  It can also be used to wash hair.  This variety may not be as sudsy as the kind her grandma used, but even the leaves made bubbles in the water!

Place the leaf face down on a smooth rock with the concave part of the leaf touching the rock.  
Here's my leaf

Get a rock that fits well in your hand.  (you don't have to have blue fingernails unless your six year old likes to paint your nails, like mine does)  Use the tip of it to lightly tap on your leaf, slowly breaking loose the fibers of the leaf from one another.  
Pound the entire length of the leaf

This is about what it should look like when held up to light.  I could have probably pounded even more.
These are the fibers you are loosening.  

Close up of the separating fibers.  

Roll the leaf in your hand, as if you are rolling a snake from a ball of dough

Look at all the chlorophyll you're releasing!  The water really does turn that green!  See how the fibers are separating?

Saraiah had to join in!

Saraiah is splitting the fibers apart, now that we have loosened them.  

Fold a piece of fiber in half, pinching.  

Twist the piece farthest from you away from you.  

Then bring the far piece toward you, going over the other piece,  and begin twisting the piece that is now in the back away from you.  
Keep going, twisting the back one away from you, bringing it over the front piece, then twisting the back piece again.  
When you are ready to add on another piece, fold it in half, then twist it with the two loose ends of the cordage you've already been working with, continuing until you have the length you want.  Tie a knot in the end.   
Levi made some raffia cordage because he had so much fun making the yucca cordage.

I made mine into a bracelet.  I'm wearing it right now!

All in a day's work

The work of a child is to play, and to play very hard.  My little Maia was very sleepy tonight after a long day of play in the sun.  I ran outside while she was eating her dinner to get some eggs for the dessert I was making.  When I came back, I found her sound asleep at the dining room counter.

Later, I made our latest batch of sourdough.  Look how puffy it is!  It's like little pufferfish sourdough!

I like it when I can look back on a day and see things like good homemade bread and playing children in it.  They remind me that things are getting accomplished and life is being lived well.

Hillary's Lemon Rhubarb Squares

My friend Hillary is amazing.  She composts everything, cans, gardens, and has the best recipes!  She's the one who gave me the recipe for snow granitas, which we made during our week of being snowed in.  

We had a game night at my friend Josie's house, and Hillary's lemon rhubarb squares were a hit.  We all had to have the recipe.  It's spring, and we have lots and lots of rhubarb out there, even after giving away a big hunk of the plant early this spring and letting it go to seed last year.  These are WONDERFUL!  They were so good, my husband got thirds.  This is my favorite rhubarb recipe yet, though I have yet to try my friend Monika's rhubarb cake.  
Lemon Rhubarb Squares

1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
mix and press into a 9x12 in. pan.
bake @350 for 15 minutes
While that is baking, mix the filling.


4 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
1 c. coconut (optional and it wasn't in hers or mine)
2 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
mix together (the original recipe calls for the rhubarb to be mixed with the filling ingredients, but she likes to put the rhubarb on the cooked crust and then pour the filling over that. She says it is a more even application of rhubarb that way. )
2 1/2 c. diced rhubarb
Bake for 35-40 minutes.
When cool, dust with powdered sugar.

Sooooooo YUMMY!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finishing the race

Saraiah's car before the race 

I do not enjoy competition. Tonight's Awana grand prix was difficult for me and my kids. I really could care less about being involved in things that involve competition, and avoid them generally, but you can't avoid it sometimes. It's hard because I like to let my kids do all the work on their cars, helping them with just a few small things, just like with their posters for the 4H fairs. Kids that do all the work themselves are not celebrated, noticed or honored. It is the kids whose parents do most of the work that usually get noticed. 

This is not how I am raising my children to be. I want them to be willing and excited to do difficult tasks, and not feel overshadowed by competition that's just not quite fair. I told my friend today that there should be a special "kids only division" where kids do all the work themselves, just as they have "parent only" divisions. That's when I think my kids would shine. They would see the care it took for levi to take the ends off of two pencils, find glue and glue them to his car as jets, then paint them. Instead, a kid came up to him and said, "Levi, why did your car keep crashing and crashing?" And he broke the pencils off, saying they slowed down the car.

Levi's car on the left 

If people had looked carefully at Saraiah's car, they would have seen the many layers of paint, from her painting it several times and not quite getting the color she wanted, so then doing it again. Her car was the slowest every time, and she ended up crying for a half hour afterwards. (to be fair, she was already very overtired from 3 days at a french immersion day camp with our school)

Saraiah's car is on the right. The car next door was of the same kid-made caliber. 

I'm concerned for the 4H fairs coming up this summer. My children have already done their display boards, and Saraiah hand-wrote hers completely, because she doesn't know how to use a computer. I know the other posters will have computer typed words that are more legible, and my heart hurts a bit to know that the competition will be tough.

But I have to stand by what I believe, and I believe it's not about the trophy or the accolades, but about what you learn leading up to the race, and even being in the race. If you happen to win, it's a great reward for all that work. But isn't the struggle of finding the right tools, solving problems and learning new things really where the triumph is? If only I could take a hold of their little hearts, protect them, and help them understand.

Paul spoke about this in 2 Timothy 4:7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." He didn't talk about winning the race. He talked about completing it. When we press on, do our best with God's help, and finish what it is He has given us to do, that is when we find true success. That's better than any rosette ribbon I've ever seen.

These cars belong to the kids' cousins. Sienna didn't expect to win anything because her car lost every race, and her mom was just talking with her about how much fun it is when our friends win, because we are happy for them. Her name was called up for most creative car. She is a little artist and painted and designed the car, asking her dad to cut out the mouth for her creature. He also cut a hole for her driver in the top. I like this kind of parental involvement...totally kid led.

getting her much unexpected trophy 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter!


On Easter, I always think I should take adorable and amazing pictures of the beauty of springtime and all those reminders of the redemption that Christ's resurrection brings.  Instead, I usually end up enjoying the day and the cuteness of the kids rushing around searching for eggs, then go home.  So these are the few glimpses I managed to grab of the day.

Sun on Easter!  Wow!

kids, not happy with me taking a quick picture before church

 Maia was very distressed at the height of the location of her bag of easter eggs she was to find.

Eating the candy during church.  Nothing like an Easter morning candy breakfast.  Oh...hey, I think that's actually a strawberry.

Brandon checking his phone during church

sweet girls on the way home from church

Egg dyeing with cousins the day before