Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mama Sales Mojo Cycle

A couple weeks back my business partner, Colin Hickey, and I were talking about our sales numbers. We own a couple local ventures here in Missoula: and Missoula Indoor Ads.  And a online, community events calendar software startup, GatherBoard.  Last year at this time we were celebrating the first birthdays of his son and my son and the official launch of

Last month we were not celebrating. We both noticed that local numbers were down a bit. The software sales were strong, but the local ventures have bootstrapped our entire project, and those numbers were not thriving.  It turns out we were both a bit nervous to approach the other about it.  I was really fretting it.  My second child, Will, was about 21-months old, and I was finally working a regular schedule with smarter and more efficient systems than the past year and a half since he'd been born.  What was wrong?
EB asleep on my desk at the Independent,
Winter 2012.

Colin was the one who reached out a called me about it.  I could tell from his greeting and tone of voice he was nervous about it.  I'm lucky to have him as a business partner - we've never had one of those crazy "blow up, rant in your face" type of an interaction. (Writing out loud here - thinking a future blog post on picking a great co-founder forthcoming.)  He said he'd noticed the coming month was low.  Not unbearably, but about the lowest in 18-24-months. I said that I knew it, too, and had been hemming and hawing on how to approach the subject with him, and thanks for reaching out.  

All of the sudden *CLICK*... that number range, 18-24 months, got me thinking - the lowest since before Will was born.  I flashed-back to my numbers and sales when I was an ad rep at the local alt-weekly, the Independent.  My first child, EB, was born while I was rounding my 7th year of sales there.  I had a great 2nd and 3rd trimester and was really oozing with mama-to-be Mojo.  My sales were up - way up.  By the time I was put on bed-rest 10-days before her due date I had pre-sold the following 3-6 months of contracts, through the holidays and well into the new year.  I had even collected ad ideas from most of my customers and had their ads designed and filed in folders, by issue, for the next 2-4 months.  And to top that off, while on maternity leave I had broken sales records for the highest grossing weeks in the history of the paper!

Will and Mama, changing out
Missoula Indoor Ads, Aug 2013.
When I started back to work with EB on my hip, on my desk or on my mind, I was often feeling foggy and groggy.  That "mama-to-be" Mojo was replaced by exhaustion and, more often than not, a feeling of barely getting by, nearly missing deadlines, always thinking I had allowed an ad to run without catching an error.  If the sleep-deprivation wasn't getting the best of me the near constant nervous fretting was.  

It took about 9-12-months for me to feel like that mojo was creeping back in.  By then we had many systems down - child care routines that felt good, normal-ish sleep, date night with my husband, time to myself.  As the nervous energy dissipated, there was room for positive, collaborative, high-energy needed for a positive sales environment to fill it's place.

I didn't notice any of this at that time.  I was definitely noticing it now, 8-years later, when my sales were down.  And it struck me, there is a Mama Sales Mojo Cycle. (For men, or women without kids, this is analogous to what I will now call the Vacation Mojo Cycle - but on longer time-frame - think about all the frantic prep before a trip, the bliss of being "free" on vacation, the crushing days/weeks when you first come back of catch up just to empty your inbox and "maintain", and then the time to get back to your groove and thrive.)


Mama Sales Mojo Cycle

First Phase - Months 1-4: This is pre-Mojo.  Even if you have a fairly easy pregnancy, the first three-months are hard.  You're tired, you may be sick, and you are quite likely vacillating between elation and shock about your news.  Your sales are status quo.  You're probably not crushing it right now, because instead you're rushing to the bathroom, sneaking cat-naps, or crushing ginger-candy wrappers, just to fend off the next wave of nausea.

Second Phase - Months 4-9: Mojo overflow. As you ease into the second trimester, the good hormones start flowing.  Sleep gets temporarily better before you're the size of a barn, eating habits normalize, you're telling everyone about the pregnancy and you finally start to show, instead of just looking fat. 

You know your due date - and this is the biggest, most motivating deadline you'll ever have. You get out there and sell like there is no tomorrow.  You are negotiating time-off or already know how much you have paid and un-paid, and how much you need to sell to cover that time off, and then some.

As you get closer and closer to your due date, you get larger and larger, and the sales are sometimes easier to close than ever... I mean really, who can say no to a huge pregnant lady with the line, "Let's get this deal closed and serviced before I explode"?

Third Phase - Months 9-14: Mojo free-ride. Some folks call this time the third trimester. If lucky enough, mama and babe have a few months of together time.  Sleep is sporadic, but a couple hours at 1pm is just as good as a few at 1am. No sales mojo is needed here. All that extra Mojo from Second Phase is paying off, and you don't have a care in the world beyond your little bundle.  You might take a few calls or answer a few emails toward the end of this phase as your start to prepare for work again, but not real selling is going on here.

Fourth Phase - Months 13-18: Where's the Mojo? You're back to work, perhaps part-time, likely 2/3 to full time.  Someone else is caring for your baby.  You're tired, you're forgetful, you're stressed, you have to pump at work, the Mojo from Second Phase is still there, but is really waning.  It's on the way out.  There is no new Mojo.  You have current customers to service, you have sales to renew, and you are supposed to cold call and generate leads.  Gotta fill that pipeline, right?  There just isn't a lot of time, energy or Mojo for pipe-filling right now.

Fifth Phase - Months 17-24: Mojo rising. By now your baby is nearly a year old.  You're getting back into the swing of things.  You can get your work done, you take showers more regularly, you get a good night sleep a few times a weeks, pumping at work is old hat, and you are actually making cold-calls in addition to keeping current business going.  But your numbers are stagnant.  It's been months since you were on that Second Phase high.  That wave has crested and you're in the well between the waves.  

Sixth Phase (Final Phase) - Months 23-27:  Got to keep on rising. (That was a little Door's tribute there - Mojo rising, got to keep on rising...) Ok, you're back!  Congrats, now it's time to get pregnant again - joking!  But in reality, things feel pretty great.  You have a new normal as a working mom and it's not so bad.  So why are your sales so shitty?  Well, Second Phase Mojo is long gone and Fifth Phase Mojo is just about to reach critical mass... so hang in there!  The sales are coming.


I realized that I was in this Final Phase when Colin called me.  (thank gawd!)  In this final phase I was also coaching two new independent sales associates for our local ventures.  All the good stuff I was giving them, I was also reminding myself.  Here we are, just a month later, and we've closed or renewed 10-deals!  This next month is set to be one of the highest on record.  And the month after that is looking pretty great, too.

Good luck with the Mojo,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blog Launch

I decided to pull the trigger on this blog today.

Last week I went to a great presentation by DK - a lovely British chap with a Welsh accent who currently hails from New Zealand.   The event was part of Mamalode's Learn As You Go series, and I try to attend all of them.  Not only because they are interesting, but because I love to support my dear friends in their startup endeavors at Mamalode - we entrepreneurs gotta stick together.

Back to DK - he opened with the premise that the best and cheapest thing you can do for yourself and your business, from a social media standpoint, it have a blog - at least one, at that.  And Elke, the founder of Mamalode, has told me over and over again to get a blog, and register my name as the domain, already".

So I did.  I sat there in that presentation, got on GoDaddy on my phone (easy mobile interface) and I bought a few URLs... this being one of them.

And then I'm thinking - Now what?

Today I had a great meeting with Amanda Larrinaga of Modern Entrepreneur.  We are so lucky to have her gracing the streets of Missoula right now.   She is young, smart and feisty.  To put up with my near panic attack and "analysis paralysis" over starting a blog and getting on with the social marketing campaign for my startup, GatherBoard - well, that's saying something.

I said something like "right now I need a barrista, a life coach, a mentor, a social marketing consultant, a babysitter, a cheerleader, a whip-cracker and a cocktail waitress in one - can you do that?"

Without so much as skipping a beat, and while making a joke about getting me a coffee and then a martini, she consistently, confidently and logically talked me through re-framing my views on the social media marketing space.  I don't want to be a part of the clutter, the noise and the annoyance.  If I am going to create and contribute, I'd like it to be meaningful and worthwhile. She explained that just by having those feelings, being mindful and wanting engaging contribution, I will not be just part of the noise - a "black hole" as I was so affectionately calling it.

And then we got here on Blogger, started my blog, then tied in the DNS to GoDaddy - and waited about 10-minutes - voila!

I'm not totally sure where this blog will take us.  Definitely work stuff, life stuff, work-life balance stuff, kid stuff, gardening/cooking/hunting/food stuff, books, art, mountain-life recreation stuff... it'll all be here.

I've taken the liberty of back posting a few pieces I've written the past few years... take a gander.  Cook up some Chard Pesto.  Weep with me on a hunting trip.  Join my apricot family.  Then come back for more.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spilling Milk

Last year I shot a doe on opening day.

My infant son was home crying, refusing a bottle and struggling with what would be his first of many bouts of croup, with his capable yet exhausted dad and bitter big sister reluctantly consoling at his side.  His text stated he’d been crying off and on, for hours; yet I was at a colleague’s farm with a dear friend, laying in a damp draw a few hundred feet apart, on the border between field and forest, at the cusp of sunset.  There were mere minutes left before shooting hours were over.

I knew, with detailed certainty, that there was a large herd of deer hanging out around here, with many doe and fawns and at least four trophy bucks that would likely reveal themselves at sunset.  I knew I was at least an hour from home, and my baby was refusing a bottle, and my pump was just sitting there in our truck a short distance away as my breasts engorged with his milk, and he was sad and sick and hungry.  And I knew that, should a clear shot present itself of an adult deer, I would take the shot.  If I could help it, I was not going home empty handed after all that.

So, I shot a doe on opening day.

She was the fourth or fifth animal to exit the forest for the fields.  The first few were smaller doe and fawns. They walked out over a sandy mound that I had walked over not 15-minutes prior.  I had observed fairly fresh piles of their tell-tale little round turds and extensive hoof prints, and had decided, in those moments of observation, that with 45-minutes til shooting hours ended, it was go time.

On each occasion directly before I harvest a deer there has transpired a short span of time when there is a noticeable pivot in the atmosphere.  This time was no different.  The trigger of that pivot varies – a loud and telling branch snap, a distinct musky odor on the air, the angle of the sun on hoof prints and scat piles – yet the sensation remains consistent: heightened hearing, smell and vision; a feeling of raised hair on any exposed part of my body, as if those hairs can also see and smell and hear; deep, measured, calming breaths; cold sweat with a warm body; rifle in my ready position; tight torso with a hint of butterflies queasy in my stomach – the hunt is officially on.

When the first animal became clearly visible to me I was sort of dazed and amazed.  Deer are sneaky; at times they seem to appear out of nowhere. Suddenly there were deer, right there where I had just walked and observed, I knew it, this is so on, oh my baby boy, oh f-it I'm not going home empty handed, inhale, exhale, holy shit there are so many of them coming, should I wait for a monster buck or just get a big doe, inhale, exhale, wow is it getting dark fast, yet  I can still see them so clearly through my scope, they are so close, inhale, exhale, this could be a dark gut and drag, inhale, exhale, there are many fawn with them, don’t shoot a fawn or a yearling, this doe looks larger, is it the mother, I have no idea, breathe damn it, they are pausing, breathe again, they sense me, breathe better, go fawn, run to the field, okay mama, come on out a little further, breathe smoothly, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, notice your cross-hairs gently bobbing up and down, steady now, lean into the bank for stability and composure, a little further mama, inhale, exhale, great shot, take the shot, safety off, inhale, exhale… I’ve shot her, she’s run a little way, deer scattering to forest and field, rest a moment, don’t chase, did I even hear my shot, I don’t remember, it was quiet and loud, did my rifle even kick, get up, find her, fast, it’s getting dark fast, man my boobs hurt, are they leaking, it’s time.

I shot that doe on opening day.

By all accounts it was a great shot.  The deer was not far from where I shot her.  The blood trail was easy to follow; she was a few yards into the woods, the bullet went in and out, and I’d find out later it took out part of her heart.  It was a great shot.  It was getting dark fast, this was no joke, and I had forgotten my head lamp.  I texted my husband first – shot a doe, home was fast as I can, will text as we leave the farm.  I texted my hunting partner – that shot was me, found deer, need help, just a few hundred feet past you.  Texted landowner’s wife – that shot was mine, nice doe, we’ll check in at the house on our way out.  And then I got to work.

The first time I gutted a deer was five years prior. I was out hunting with a buddy, and neither of us had ever killed a deer, nor gutted one.  I had witnessed it once prior, with the gal I was hunting with on this occasion.  And I had been talked through it at a cocktail party by a capable hunter, but that was it – no books, no videos.  On that first day five years prior I also shot a doe.  It was actually a lot easier to field dress than I had expected and the cocktail party talk-through had proven full of good tips.  About 20-mins later my hunting buddy shot another doe and we gutted his, too.  Since then I’ve shot two more bucks on solo hunts.  So this was to be my fourth personal field dressing and the sixth in total.  Not having a headlamp could be tricky, but I was prepared to be quick about it.

When I found her she was on her side in an awkward position, so after silent observation to ensure she was truly gone and a prayer of thanks to her for feeding my family, I gently moved her to a more normal side position, placed grass in her mouth for her journey, and quickly got to work.  I kept on my orange cap and vest, ensured my safety was back on and set my gun aside, laid down my orange pack, laid out my knife kit, bear spray, baggies for organs for my daughter (at age 6 she especially liked to dissect the heart), baby wipes, drag rope, phone and no headlamp.  With the doe flipped her on her back, I stood with a foot in either armpit and began an incision down the length of her torso, along the breast bone, down over the stomach area and toward her teats and sex.  Normally this is a fairly easy cut to make, the body is warm, the fat is still slippery and you just have to go for it.  Today was not normally.

I shot a still-nursing doe on opening day and spilled her milk over her body and my hands.


Here I stood, baby at home crying and sick with croup and refusing a bottle, my pump in the truck a short distance away, my engorged breast seeping milk through my camo, and I just took mama’s milk away from one of those fawns.  Really?  REALLY?!

Yes. Really. And it was getting dark quickly, and I didn’t have a head lamp, so I finished the job as efficiently and cleanly as I could.  My hunting partner helped out, she talked me down from what easily could have been a bad adrenaline trip. Working to clean out the insides, knowing I was leaving behind a meal or two for bear, wolf, coyote, eagle or fox helped me say focused.  We spread her chest with a large stick to help cool off the inner chest cavity, tied her front legs around her neck with the drag rope, and hoisted the loops around our shoulders for a drag to the truck.  It was not very far, yet it did seem longer than it should have.  I got chilled during the drag.  Although she weighed nearly 100-pounds cleaned out, that wasn’t much between the two of us, yet I was sleep-deprived, worried about my boy, and sad. It was a flat drag, but I kept stumbling and fretting about her fawn.  When we finally hoisted her in the bed of the truck and got in the warm cab, I sort of asked-told my friend, “Another doe will nurse her fawn, right!?”  “Right?!?” “RIGHT!!!?”  We both agreed yes, with absolute certainty and no good scientific reasoning to back it up.

It was pitch black by now. I drove quickly to drop my friend off.  When we got to her mother’s ranch on the river some other friends were there.  They had been fishing and floating a stretch nearby for the day.  There were high-fives, glasses raised, backs patted.  I told them the story with tears welling in my eyes as I hustled out the door.  They walked me to the truck and said not to worry.  Don’t let it get me down.  The fawn was certainly fine with the herd.  I left with nearly an hour of dark, solo driving ahead of me, still chilled, getting tired, wanting to nuzzle my baby boy up to my breast and fall asleep.

The next morning my daughter bounded out to see the doe.  She jumped right up in the back of the truck bed with her.  Then she spent some time in the kitchen playing with the heart before we sliced it up and made fritters.  Later that day we took the animal to a local butcher.  He is always very proud of his female customers.  This year he told me he was about to be interviewed about opening day, normally about how many folks were bringing in their animals to be processed.  He was especially excited that it was a female reporter as he liked to talk about how women are generally a better shot than men, and usually hunt without ego.  Although he is an odd, short, man who always smells a little off from handling wild game, he is a wise and sweet man.

I decided to tell him about the milk.  As I began, the butcher’s head processor came out from the back.  He is a thin, older hunchback with stained hands, a wrinkled hollow face and generally gruff manner.  I gave them an abbreviated version - told them about my sick son at home not taking the bottle, then seeing the fawns yet shooting the doe anyway.  And finally about slicing through her milk sac and spilling it on her body and my hands.  I started to choke up again.  I explained how I was concerned for the fawn.  And how it was so odd to be nursing and to kill a nursing doe. The hunchback leaned over toward me and put his arm on my shoulder.  He said to me, “It’s okay, mama.  You’ve done nothing wrong.  Hunting season is at this time because the fawns are ready to wean.  That baby is just fine and you’ve brought in a fine animal for your family.”  He turned and headed back to his work.  And with that, my suffering lifted.

I shot a doe on opening day last year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer Chard Deliciousness

One Summer we planted too much chard and kale. In addition to chard in salads, on pizza, in green smoothies, etc... I'm trying for some amazing chard recipes. 

What do you like to use it for?

Here are two of my latest concoctions:

Sauteed Rainbow Chard w/ Summer Veggies
1-2 Tbl butter
1 medium purple onion
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow summer squash
a lot of rainbow chard
assortment of garden herbs (I like dill, basil, cilantro combo)
(good) olive oil
(good) balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
Parmigiano reggiano (for rough grating)

melt butter in a cast iron (or other) skillet on mid heat until foaming subsides.
chop onion and add to butter. Saute on med to med-high heat until browned and nearly caramelized, about 10 mins.
adjust to med-high heat.
Chop red bell and saute with onion until nearly soft (about 3-5 mins)
Chop yellow squash and saute with onion and bells until nearly soft.
(by keeping the heat mid-high on the above, veggies get saute w/o getting mushy)
Wash and chop chard, including stalks. Add to skillet with minced garden herbs and fold/saute w/ rainbow veggies.
When Chard is wilted and tender, add in balsamic, a few swooshes around the pan (1/4 cup?). Let reduce slightly.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from head, drizzle w/ a couple Tbl of finishing olive oil and freshly shredded parm.
Let rest until parm is slightly softened.
Serve immediately, or eat all week.

I like to eat this with grilled meat or fish. I also like to do a few variations... first, cook up 3-5 strips of bacon and caramelize the onion in the grease. Then crumble the bacon over the top. And/OR, add in chopped hard boiled egg for the protein.

Chard Pesto
lots of chard (4 cups)
handful of cilantro and/or parsley or basil (or a mix)
Olive Oil
Shredded Parmesan
garlic, minced

lightly toast walnuts in a pan and set aside.
Add chard, herbs & garlic to Cuisinart or immersion blender.
While it's running, add in steady stream of olive oil until consistency of peanut butter is reached.
Rough chop cooled walnuts and add to mixture while running.
Add parm while running.
Add more oil until consistency of yogurt is reached.
While running add in a few teaspoons of salt, to taste.
To preserve, keep some in an old parm container in fridge. Freeze the rest in waxed paper in the bottom of a pie pan or bread pan so it's about 1-2" thick. When frozen, chop into 2"x2" squares. Put squares into a freezer bag and pull them out of the freezer as needed.

I like to make it a bit salty in this concentration, as that mellows out when the pesto is added to pasta, pasted on fish, or spread on pizza.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Aunt Nancy's Spinach Balls - a holiday MUST!

I am from Wisconsin.  I have a large large family.  I grew up with 29 of my 31 first-cousins within a 2-minute to 2-hour drive of my home and we spent the majority of holidays and birthdays together.  This means any one of my 9 Aunts would be making something very Midwest and very delicious, like 3-tier red, white and blue jello-mold (love you Aunt Jane, I'll be tapping you for this recipe really soon!), scalloped potatoes, mini meatballs and wieners, bugles with onion dip, green beans with funions, etc... but my most favorite of all was, and still is, Aunt Nancy's spinach balls.  (One year she even sent me all the dry ingredients to my dorm room so I could make them in college - love that!)

And so, I have made these EVERY THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS for the past 12-years in Missoula.  My friends now expect them.  This year I am making them with gluten free bread crumbs so a few folks that I am especially thankful for will be able to enjoy them.

Here's the basic recipe...

2-pkg chopped spinach, thawed and drained really well (buy frozen but have made w/ fresh, just rinse, pat dry and chop well)
3/4 C. salted butter, very soft (that's 1.5 sticks)
2 C. seasoned bread crumbs (I am going to crush gluten free crackers to make these)
1-medium onion minced, shredded, or finely chopped w/ food processor
1 C. grated parmesan (grated worked better than shredded for texture)
Poultry Seasoning  (I can't remember how much right now, like a 1 Tbl or so... )
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat over to 375.  Line cookie sheets w/ parchment.  Mix all the ingredients together like a meat loaf. It will be sticky.  Roll into 1" balls and place on parchment.  (I really pack 'em on here but not touching.)
Bake for 20-mins, or until fully cooked through and bottoms are golden brown.  ALTERNATELY, bake for 10 mins and then fridge or freeze until you want to finish then off, then bake for 10-20-more to finish.

Serve warm... even the kids will devour them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Apple Cider Sauerkraut and the Packers

You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but you can't take the Wisconsin out of the girl... add to that my German heritage and it's all about Kraut, Brats and the Pack this time of year... especially as our yard gives us apples, cabbage and onions for this lovely recipe.

Apple Cider Sauerkraut
6-medium onions (I use half yellow, half red)
2-small/med heads cabbage (I use one white and one red)
8-apples (I use a mix, but tart are really good here!)
2 T butter
1.5-T salt
1-T mustard seed (optional)
1/2-T ground pepper
2/3-C Apple Cider Vinegar
2-C Apple Cider

  • melt butter in large stock pot over medium-high heat, add thinly sliced onions when foaming subsides.  Cook, stirring regularly, until creamy and golden brown and well caramelized. (about 20-mins)
  • add apples, cabbage, salt, pepper, mustard seed, cider and vinegar, stir to mix well, cover and simmer over medium heat for 1-hour.
  • cabbage and apples should be soft at this point and onions nearly disintegrated.
  • keep simmering for another 20-30 mins if you want it softer OR just keep warm and ready to serve OR can it OR tuck your sausages of choice in for a simmer bath for about 20-mins, then pull the sausages out and finish on the grill.
  • serve kraut and brats w/ good, dark bread, great medley of mustards, and a potato of choice
When I am canning this for winter I usually double or triple the recipe to get about 12-pints for the cellar.

BOILING BRATS - there are folks that say grill first, boil second.  Boil first, grill second.  Etc...  I am a boil first girl.  If I am not worried about keeping my kraut vegetarian, I often braise my brats in the kraut above, then finish on the grill.  but, my favorite way is this:

  • Put brats in a big pasta pot (I did 24 in my larger pot the other night).  Add on top 1- to 2- sliced onions of choice.  Pour 1- to 2-beers over the top (anything from PBR to Highlife to a lighter microbrew).  Also add the same amount of water as beer to just over the brats and onions.  (For me I empty one can of beer into the pot then fill that can up w/ water and put it in.  If I need more liquid I do it again w/ a new can of beer, then water).
  • To kick it up a notch I took some of the cider from the recipe above and added about a 1/2C of cider in here.
  • Simmer over medium heat until just cooked through - about 20-mins of simmer.  Stirring occasionally.
  • Finish on a medium grill for good outer grill flavor but not to dry out.
  • Finally - strain the onions and serve on the side w/ the brats, kraut, bread, mustard, potatoes, etc...


We had this for Monday night football this week, but alas the Pack could not pull out a win against the Bears.  It won't stop me from making it again and again, though, as we have many of our friends hooked on the apple cider kraut!

I will be making a huge vat of it for canning soon and a few of you expressed interest in learning to make it with me.  Let me know so I can plan a kraut canning day.

Guten Appetit!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Apricot Family

Last year I wrote a note on Sept 1 about dilly beans.  It's Sept 4th and I'm putting up the dilly beans, rosemary-lemon beans and bread'n'butter relish... but that's not what this note is about.  This note is about our apricot tree.  That tree giveth and giveth no matter how much we shareth and taketh away.

This year we've had at least 15-groups pick (and we could have had 30 judging by the number of wheelbarrows of mashed ground fruit I put in my compost)!  We've had seasoned pickers, neighbors, co-workers, folks from our winter grubshed, winners of a few silent-auctions where we donate 5-pounds every year, and loads of friends.

[An aside - one auction winner was a local banker... he was up on my ladder in his leather loafers replete w/ tassels, pressed dress pants and a short-sleeved pink collared shirt and tie picking fruit on a 90+-degree day!  I loved this so much.]

But today was the best... a good neighbor friend and her three kids, one of my oldest and dearest Missoula friends and another old and now new again Missoula friend and her son all descended up on our tree within 5 minutest of one another... It was only sort of planned... very loose timing, a lot of maybes and delays earlier in the week, and then they were there.

And it was just what EB and I needed.  We'd been spiraling on totally clashing orbits all morning.  She suddenly had 4-friends over, I had a team of good women friends to clean up the warm mushy fruity ground, and then shake the bejeasus out of that tree with me.  And we all had laughs and sticky-sweet fingers and faces within the first few moments.

The apricot tree has balanced us these past few weeks more than a few times.  EB is a pro at gleaning the ground and has a discerning eye for the good vs. the bad fruit, which is a fine line.  We'll spend a half-hour picking the ground.  Then give the fruits a quick rinse and commence pitting.  This is the best part... juice is running down our arms.  You have to pop a few perfect fruits in your mouth.  And EB likes to take two handfuls and just squeeeeeeeeeeze the pits out and dump the rest in the freezer bag.  We're done picking and pitting enough for 2-gallons in less than an hour.  And she gets to press the "wet contents, vacuum and seal" button on the food-saver.

After our apricots friends left today, EB and I were back on the same planet.  We happily finished our day of chores and playing, talking about how special it is to share our fruit with friends so they can feed their families the taste of summer all through the winter.  During the afternoon I got a picture text of one friend pitting and storing w/ her toddler.  And another "thank you" text.  Just the other day I found a jar of chutney on the front steps and my co-worker gave me a jar of jam from their harvest.  The gifts of our tree pass both ways.

Our tree still has a few laden branches left.  All the fruit will be gone by the end of the week.  Tomorrow I'll likely pick my last gallon or two w/ another great friend before I teach her how to shoot a rifle (that's a post for another day).  While the bees and wasps and mashed fruit on soles and scattered lawn nag me more than a few times a week, I'll miss apricots when they are gone. They are so sweet and warmed by the sun.  They make me smile.  They bring over new friends and old friends.  And they'll feed my family - when we're in the throngs of winter, we'll enjoy a pop of hot-August and endearing friendships in our jam, chutney, fruit leather and crisps.

EB said to me the other night, as we were sealing up the last bag, "Mom, this is going to jam that we'll eat all winter, and it will taste great because we made it together."

She is right.