Every week should begin this way: watching the sun rise over the Cascades from a warm bed next to an enormous window, the wind whistling outside, a flock of tiny birds circling and swooping above the spruce. This is a bluegrass song.
Late Sunday morning took us down idyllic two-lane roads, past pastures full of cows and trees shaking with turning leaves, to Nicho’s family’s farm in Sultan. Along the road, the dahlias stood out bright under a sky blanketed with clouds, ripped and streaked with blue. A slow fog rolled between two hills, and in the distance, the Cascades foretold winter with their jagged white caps.
We arrived just before noon with empty stomachs, and Nicho threw together a delicious omelette-scramble of sorts—sautéed onions and garlic with fresh chard from the garden, a splash of his “secret sauce,” fork-scrambled eggs, slivers of tomato, and generous slices of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Nicho’s mother Martha joined us, and we sat and ate and talked. Then, while Nicho sunk into a food coma on the couch, his very gracious mother showed me how to bake her sweet, dense, and addictive wheat bread.
She, remarkable woman that she is, grinds her own red winter wheat and makes the nutty dough from memory and with a minimum of measuring, adding shakes of triticale, wheat germ, wheat bran, and oats entirely by eye and by feel. We tasted the raw dough and nodded our appreciation, kneaded and folded and pinched and tucked it into pans.
While the loaves rose, we roused Nicho, pulled on big rubber boots, and went outside to trim hooves. Not being a strapping man with a helmet, I stood back and watched as Nicho and his father Hans wrestled the quarrelsome sheep (whose names include Kerry and Dubya; I adore these people) and quieted the skittish llamas.
Late afternoon brought thick slices of fresh, steaming bread; a bit of kitchen-dancing with Nicho in his work overalls (who kindly put up with my bumbling and giggling); a walk down to the river and stick-throwing for Index; the piercing brightness of a receding sun; and a red nose for me. Returning to the house, we found Martha preparing a warming dinner of lentil soup with shavings of white cheddar, roasted acorn squash with sliced apples, and aforementioned bread. Nicho and I collaborated on some sautéed rainbow chard and broccoli with onion, garlic, and a squeeze of lemon. Dark had come early, as is fitting of this late-October date, and I realized happily that I’d hardly looked at my watch all day, content to let the hours come and go as they pleased.
This morning’s sunrise was slow and tentative, as was I. Nicho half-jokingly read to me from a book on the last ice age as rust-colored leaves swirled past outside. We learned the difference between mastodons and mammoths and admired their sturdy columnar legs, but given our languor, we resembled nothing so much as the giant sloth. It was delicious. Around midday, loaf of bread under my arm, I climbed reluctantly into my car and pointed it southwest, back to Seattle and concrete and anthropology and e-mail and Monday.