Sunday, August 30, 2009


One of my favorite parts of summer is going fruit picking, though it has been more in theory than in practice lately, as I am usually off having adventures during the summer, and miss all the homey, low-key fun that you get from being home. Not today though! Today I got to go pick peaches and various berries with my mother, sisters, and aunt. The day got off to a slow start, with waffles and the Sunday Times (and buyer's remorse at yesterday's haircut that has left me looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy, or someone equally horrifying. I originally thought I looked like Lord Byron, but a quick Google Images revealed he had short hair, so that's out. Maybe Oscar Wilde?), but we eventually got our acts together and piled into the car for a nice drive out to the sticks. We've been going to the same farm for years, and while we strolled around the orchard I reminisced about a failed attempt to steal a kitten there when I was younger. (My mother somehow failed to notice the kitten-shaped bulge in my fleece, but I shot myself in the foot by crowing over my supposed victory as soon as I got in the car, rather than waiting until we had actually driven away.) The actual peach picking was fine, but rather short lived, as it started to rain almost immediately. Mum and Aunt Grace went to pay, and the sisters and I wandered over to the animal pens. I have a very large, very soft spot in my heart for cows, and there were two early adolescent calves in a pen. I spent the summer petting the Forest Service mules, but cows have much much softer noses than mules. They only submit to so much petting, but $.50 worth of animal feed does wonders for their patience. EGA was worried about being bitten, but I really liked the feel of their long, pale, rough tongues. They aren't very good about feeding from hand, their tongues are somewhat over-zealous, and they ended up with more food on the ground than in their mouths, but I like to think we all had fun trying. I would have liked to feed the pig as well, but I suspect he would have bitten the living hell out of my fingers, and unlike cows, pigs like meat, so it wouldn't have even been sorry.
After peaches we went and picked blueberries and blackberries at another farm. This was more of a whim; we had set out to pick peaches, but berries are so tempting, and I've been going through them like it's my job since I've been home. What I especially liked was that they had someone firing a gun to keep the birds away. I always like to pretend when I'm picking fruit, and the sound of gunshots made it that much more exciting. I was gathering the crops before the invading army came and stole everything, leaving us to starve this winter. Except you shouldn't be eating berries in that situation, and I view it as my duty to eat as many berries as possible when we go to a U-Pick place, since fruit is expensive and that way you get more of your money's worth.
It was a really nice outing, and now we have enough fruit to feed an army. (But not my imaginary invading army-they don't get any fruit, it's all hardtack and salt pork for them.) We're doing a peach barbecue sauce tonight with dinner to celebrate...something. A day that ends in "Y". My safe return from the Wild West. Summer. Fall. Life. The fact that since people need to eat to live, we might as well eat delicious peach barbecue.

My In-tents Summer

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bon Appetit

Sometimes, when I'm watching a movie, or reading a book, or trying to fall asleep, I find myself wondering "I wonder what X is doing.". (X being a person, obviously.) It isn't even that I really wonder, or especially care, but it's like getting a song stuck in your head- you can't help it. X has achieved almost imaginary friend status, my image of him has so little to do with the reality, but it is still slightly tiresome to have him pop into my mind at random intervals.
We went to see the movie "Julie & Julia" tonight, together as a family getting lost in space. I haven't read the book, and while My Life in France has been in my room for years, I haven't read that either. Nevertheless, I like Julia Child, and I certainly like that she went to Smith. She was such a larger than life character, while still remaining down-to-Earth, it's hard not to like her. Then again, I've made the same argument for Dolly Parton, and that hasn't buttered any parsnips with anyone, so what do I know? I would like to have a beautiful, happy, delicious, buttery life like Julia Child. Really though, I think I might be. I have the buttery part at least, and I can't help thinking Julia would have approved of our dinner that one night in the backcountry when we used an entire stick of butter in our mac to compensate for our lack of milk. She would have at least applauded the effort, and appreciated our understanding of what makes things taste good.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Being home is weird. I very nearly lost my temper and had a big screaming fit when I first got home from Utah and needed to pack for my next trip, only to find my room had been vandalized and all of my clothes were missing (Note: When I say vandalized, I mean by my loving family, and not actual vandals.). I didn't, mainly because it wouldn't have been helpful at all, and I eventually found my clothes anyway. Life at home used to always be the same- I don't have any memories of specific holidays (with the exception of the year that I invited That Guy to Christmas) because life falls into patterns and it doesn't matter if I'm 20 or 7, my home life is constant. Things are starting to change now though, and it's very strange and off-putting, like hearing a cover version of a familiar song.
I can't really draw any attention to myself these days, and while that's something I'm totally ok with, my inner Middle Child is having a hard time coping. It's slightly awkward to write about, but I went to the gynecologist today and she yelled at me for not getting a mammogram after Emily was diagnosed. And then she told me that I need to go Right Away because she could feel something during my exam, even though she is pretty sure it's nothing. I would really like to freak out about this, but I don't think I can, and I know I can't freak out to my family because Emily for sure has cancer and so needs to be the focus of their attention. I wouldn't be worried if she didn't have cancer though, and so I wouldn't need to be reassured, but since she does, I am worried and I do need reassurance. And if it is something it'll seem like less of a big deal because everyone was already shocked by a young, healthy Altreuter girl having cancer, and so now they're used to the idea. And I'm not sure I could be as brave about it as Emily, so I'll look like I'm stealing her thunder and then being a big baby about it. And even if I am a good soldier it won't matter because Emily did it first.
I have plans. Big life plans, and I don't want them to be threatened, but everything is always so uncertain. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow and never go to Africa or become a midwife, or even graduate college, and I hate that. I feel like the universe should really respect my careful planning and just let me be. I have things mapped out, and I don't need any curve balls right now, thank you very much.
I'm terrified to go back to school, but I think I need to leave home now. My optimistic outlook that I gained from spending my summer in the inspirational West is draining away, and I need to get back to the ambitious optimism of Smith to recharge. Really though, I want to just go back to the beginning of this summer, or even farther back, before Emily got sick, or even farther back, before I was lonely and miserable at a new school, or even farther, before I was lonely and miserable at my old school, or even FARTHER, when my sisters and I didn't all take up so much emotional room that our house wasn't big enough for the three of us. I usually live in the future, but now it's too scary, and I just want to crawl back into the comfortable familiarity of the past and be back at Olmsted. Because right now, that's the most recent time in my life when things made sense and felt safe.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

End of Summer

I actually didn't realize that my first Utah post went up, so I'm sorry I haven't updated since. Too much has happened since that post for me to write it all out now. My friend Carolyn tried to make a list of all the problems we've had this summer and it ran three pages long. Interpersonal drama, Life Flights in Wilderness areas, boy scout rescues, and mass sicknesses aside though, I've had a great summer. Life-changing in fact. Everything changes your life, but this summer has been Big. Being out West has made me think a lot about my life, and I think I have a better idea of what I need to do in order to feel happy and fulfilled. I need to stop saying I'm not an outdoorsy person for one thing, and I need to develop some skills that will help me survive my outdoorsiness. This isn't going to be my last Big Outdoors Summer. I don't want it to be. I want to be an SCA high school crew leader the summer after next, before I go into the Peace Corps., and I want to get my red card (Somehow. I'm not sure how to get it, or where they offer certification in Western New York or Western Mass for that matter. I'm also not sure where I'm going to get the money for the course, but I'll work that out. It'll more than pay for itself if I get to work on a fire crew for a summer, especially if I'm stationed somewhere sweet.) and work a fire crew. (I don't want to be a fire jumper though, Mum, so you should stop telling people that I do.)
Anyway, since I've come to this conclusion, that I am going to have an outdoorsy life, I'm going to have to make one obvious change, and probably others later on. Rugby isn't going to be the center of my life anymore. I love rugby, and I'm going to keep playing, but it's so consuming. I'm going to have to make room for other things. It's a good thing really, going on the Smith Outdoors backpacking trips and whatnot will introduce me to a new set of people.
A few years ago when I first got a decent backpack and sleepingbag, EGA commented on how now I was committed to living an outdoorsy life, since I had put so much money into it. That isn't going to change I guess. The boys on my crew are sometimes delightful, (sometimes felons too, but that's another story) but their major downfall is that they would rather talk about gear than anything. They LOVE gear talk, even though it is cruelly boring. Now I wish I had been listening though, because I'm going to need at least some gear, now that I've made this decision. I'm going to become one of those people that spends hours and hours at REI- my crewmates have corrupted me. I laughed, earlier this summer when everyone was talking about their boots (my entire crew, minus me, and the ever-sensible Ellen, has the same boots. Beautiful boots. These boots.) and how they spent three hundred dollars on them. That would pay for my books for a semester! And yet here I am. It's sad in a way. It's like running though, it should be the cheapest hobby out there- going into the wilderness! You shouldn't need to spend anything!- but it's actually pretty expensive. I need a new sleepingbag too, all the loft has gone out of mine. That can wait awhile, but I'm still browsing jobs as I think about this.
Financial woes aside, I hope I've learned some good sense this summer too. I tend to not regret mistakes once the initial sting has gone, and view them as Learning Experiences, but I need to not forget why it was a mistake. I think I've done it this time though, because I'm not sure that I haven't left a huge permanent scar that'll serve as a reminder. Without going into details, I seem to have developed an unfortunate taste for redneck. It's going to make dating in Massachusetts really unfortunate if it proves to be a lingering thing, but I'm not viewing myself as single right now, in the sense that you're only unemployed if you're seeking employment. So I'm going to focus on other things until I'm positive I can handle...I don't even know, the complications that come with trying to get close to someone. Maybe I'll be ready in a year or five.
I can't imagine going back to Smith, but I'm really excited too. I ended a chapter last night, and even though it was an interesting one, I'm excited for what's next.