Category: Tradition

Syrup, garlic, and a goodbye

Syrup, garlic, and a goodbye

In late February, the sap started running which means: syrup time! Our friends Dan and Margaret are conducting an experiment tapping black walnut trees on the Huss Project property that we all help tend. Most folks tap sugar maples for their high sugar content, but we recently learned that black walnuts make excellent syrup as well. It’s been nice to spend time around the fire with friends watching the sap boil and thicken while there’s still a bit of a chill in the air.

Swinging with Henry

We’ve continued to stay close to home during the pandemic, but we did venture out this month for a lovely outdoor, socially-distanced visit with Kirstin’s family. Her sister Alyssa came out with the kids all the way from Idaho to spend time with our grandpa as he gets up in years, and Kirstin enjoyed hanging out with nieces and nephews on a sunny afternoon.

Garlic at Huss
Garlic at Huss

More sun and warmer temps have meant that things are starting to get busier on the farm for Rob. The garlic we planted last fall is starting to pop up, and we’ll harvest the scapes (a sort of mini-garlic that grows out the top of the plant) in late spring, and the full bulbs mid-summer.

Hand salad
Hand salad!

One of Kirstin’s favorite spring rituals is the first “hand salad,” which is a bite-sized collection of some of the first tasty greens to come from the soil. This one contains lemony sorrel, oniony chives, and savory parsley—hum!

Minna at GilChrist

While so many things are coming back to life, we also experienced a very sad loss when the pony where Kirstin works died unexpectedly. Minna was a sweet old gal generally in very good health until one evening when her heart started shutting down. We’ll really miss her a lot, though no one will miss more than her goat pal, Puck.

Big tree!
Big tree

In happier news, we enjoyed the annual pancake breakfast at a local alternative high school that makes maple syrup from the trees in the forest next door to the school. We’ve lost count of how many years we’ve gone to this breakfast—it’s a lot!—but this year was the first time we visited the nearby county park, which has many HUGE old growth beech and tulip trees. A hike in the park will definitely become part of our annual pancake pilgrimage!

Advent, Christmas, 20th Anniversary

Advent, Christmas, 20th Anniversary

As 2020 comes to a close, a lot of folks are talking about what a disaster this year has been. We’re keenly aware of how many families around the world are grieving the loss of loved ones due to COVID, still suffering under the weight of systemic racism, and wondering how to pay the bills, much less find a little money to celebrate the holidays. As members of the human family, we hold these sorrows and so many more in our hearts with hope for healing.

At the same time, we’re aware that 2020, like any year, has been a mixture of grief and gratitude, and we’re grateful for the many gifts in our lives as well. Just this month alone has brought great joy…

Advent candle
Advent candle

Along with many others around the world, we observed the season of Advent—anticipating the birth of Jesus—with self-reflection, reading, and candle-lighting.

Zuzu by the wood stove
Zuzu by the wood stove

The main event this month was realizing a long-time dream of installing a wood stove in our home. As we try to do our part to protect the earth, we’re trying to move to renewable energy as much as possible. Our cat Zuzu may be enjoying it even more than we are!

Arms outstretched
Holding hands with those we can!

Because of COVID, we weren’t able to gather with our families for Christmas this year, but we did set out on a one-day driving tour on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts outdoors to seven family households. Even with the zero-degree wind chill, it was so wonderful to see our loved ones in person! This silly pic taken by Rob’s mom was for a family photo project.

Christmas gifts
Sharing gifts during COVID

Our family gift-giving traditions are simple and thoughtful, which we love. Kirstin’s brother and sister-in-law gave us a gift card to use at a local coffee shop or restaurant—they know us so well!

Reading at home
Reading by the wood stove

With a week and a half off work, we enjoyed reading by the warm wood stove, watching movies, taking walks, and working on special projects around the house.

Singing at our wedding
Singing at our wedding, 20 years ago

Twenty years ago, we held an epic New Year’s Eve party: our wedding! In more recent years, we’d typically host a big group of folks at our home on New Year’s Eve for games, food, drinks, and midnight toasts, but: COVID. While we missed hanging out with some of the friends who join us every year, we did enjoy a creative substitute: a progressive outdoor New Year’s Eve party at three different houses with walks in between to warm up. Happy New Year! We wish you all you need to find joy, clarity, and stability in 2021.

Campfires and altered traditions

Campfires and altered traditions

The first week of November was our second week on retreat. It was nice to be in a quiet place away from the Internet during a contentious election week, but also a bit hard to be disconnected from the news. We enjoyed many early evening campfires and sunsets out by the pond. The weather ended up being so warm the last weekend of our retreat that Rob’s parents drove two hours to visit with us outdoors.

GilChrist campfire
Campfire by the pond

“Campfires” definitely seems to be a theme for the year: the last Poetry Open Mic of the year took place at the Huss Project, with multiple fires to keep people warm while social distancing. The featured storyteller was amazing, and even showed us how he can eat fire! Definitely an unexpected, crowd-pleasing ending to his performance, and to the series for the year.

Open Mic at Huss
Open Mic at the Huss Project

Though this year has been different in so many ways, we still helped get World Fare ready for the holidays, hoping for good sales to support our mission. The pandemic has impacted everyone in the world, including the artisans and farmers we partner with through the store, making it even more meaningful and important to encourage folks to shop locally for holiday gifts.

Christmas at World Fare
Christmas at World Fare

In this midst of readying the store, we celebrated Thanksgiving, but it looked very different this year. Instead of driving to the Chicago area to visit our families, we “gathered” with everyone on Zoom. It was actually a nice way to celebrate with Kirstin’s sister and her family, who live in Idaho and tend not to travel for Thanksgiving. Everyone adapted with smaller, but still special meals, including our household. With careful safety considerations, our good friend Emily came to visit us for a week and we enjoyed a simple Thanksgiving meal of locally-harvested foods by candlelight. Among the many lessons we’re learning (again) in this year: the value of family and friends, the abundance we can find in simplicity, and the beauty of the outdoors in all seasons!

Holidays with friends and family

Holidays with friends and family

We started out the month with a trip to Grand Rapids that we’d been planning for a while, to attend a concert with the band Over the Rhine and celebrate our friend Ken’s last show as the director of the Student Activities office at Calvin University. We worked with Ken for five years in the SAO and, like many others, were deeply impacted by his intelligent faith and his passion for popular culture and social justice. It was a joy to be able to spend time friends from around the country and even the UK who came in for the celebration.

Finally finishing the new bathroom at the Imaginarium!

Work projects this month included finishing the second bathroom in the new Imaginarium at the Huss Project, which is one more step toward getting our official occupancy permit to be able to host events and programs there. We also hosted our annual Christmas potluck at our house, with a wacky gift exchange and, even though we still debate whether it’s actually a Christmas movie, a viewing of the beloved action film, Die Hard.

A Very *cino Christmas

In mid-December, we received some unexpected news that Rob’s aunt (his mom’s younger sister) had passed away. She was in a lot of pain so there was some relief, but it was still very difficult for her daughters, who are about our age, to find themselves without a mother or father anymore. Their whole family had been a huge help when we started World Fare in 2003. It was good to be together as a family, sharing memories, food, and the rituals of grief.

Shortly after the funeral, we made the trip back to northwest Indiana again for family Christmas celebrations. Because things were a bit spread out this year, we had time to visit with friends (former high school teachers of ours) and also to get into downtown Chicago with Rob’s parents. We wandered around the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza for a while, and then headed over to the Chicago Architecture Center to view exhibits about the history of Chicago and skyscrapers around the world. Buildings and urban design are some of Rob’s great passions and it was fun to be able to share those passions with his parents in a new way.

Visiting the Chicago Architecture Center with Rob’s parents

We returned home on Christmas Day and after a few days of relaxing at home, we closed out the year with our annual New Year’s Eve party at our apartment, which doubles as an anniversary party. It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for 19 years! We don’t know what 2020 has in store for us, but we do hope that our path to parenthood becomes clear in the coming year. It’s been a long wait and we’re anxious to share our lives with a kiddo.

Community celebrations

Community celebrations

Our summer busy season continued into August, with further Imaginarium work in preparation for the wedding of our friends Alek and Deborah, which was be the first major event there besides Future Fest. These two dreamed up a beautiful wedding and had perfect weather. At Deborah’s request, we performed a sweet little song during the ceremony with Rob and I on vocals, Rob on guitar, and our friend Elisabeth on violin. It was fun to reconnect with many friends at the ceremony and reception, several of whom came to Three Rivers, like Deborah did, through our summer internship program.

2019 *cino community

August is often a month of saying goodbye and this year was no exception. We transitioned this year from a less formal program to an AmeriCorps summer associates program and were grateful to work with Sugan, Anna, and Jacob for ten weeks. Our good friend Emily also came to join us for the summer between semesters of grad school and she helped out immensely with special events, including a thank you dinner and house blessing for all those who helped with the community house renovation in the spring. Even though it’s always hard to say goodbye, we’re so very thankful for all of the friends who have brought a fresh perspective to our work in Three Rivers and thrown in their energy alongside ours to lift up the gifts of our community!

Thank you dinner for 208 volunteers
Concerning resurrection

Concerning resurrection

April has been a big month for working on the new community house as we anticipate moving day in May. Thankfully, a whole crew of people from our church have volunteered to pitch in, including skilled trades people. The house was converted to a bed and breakfast at some point, so most of the bedrooms have a bathroom attached, but only one bathroom was in working order. We actually ended up demolishing that bathroom to combine it with another one and create a wheelchair-accessible bathroom on the main floor. Besides that one, we got three other bathrooms up and running as well. Removing old wallpaper and putting a fresh coat of paint on most of the main floor has made a huge difference. This house is going to make a wonderful space for overnight hospitality and group gatherings.

Painting at 208, the *cino community house

We also celebrated Easter this month, which is an important holiday for us. Nearly every year, we attend the Easter vigil at St. Gregory’s Abbey, which is a Benedictine monastery just west of Three Rivers. The service starts at 11pm with readings of Bible stories leading up to the life of Jesus. At midnight, the bells ring, the lights come up, and we celebrate the first communion of Easter together, followed by a delightfully subdued party (remember, this is hosted by monks who are usually in bed by 8:30pm every night!). Then we head home around 2:00 a.m. to catch some sleep before driving to northwest Indiana to spend time with both sides of our family.