Thursday, May 18, 2017

restless spring

What a difference a month makes in the landscape here in the driftless region. It's time to add a second walk about to my daily routine, as so much changes in the gardens from morning to evening.
Last weekend the weather was perfection and Jerome and I spent every moment we could outside. Since then we've had turbulent weather, lots of rain, heavy winds, but looking at the landscape one is overwhelmed by green!
They say timing is everything, and it's certainly true in what happened Monday night. There was a slight break in the clouds in time for the top curve of the sun to shine just as she was dropping down the horizon. With rain pouring down over the farmhouse and brilliant light moving through it from the sunset, a complete rainbow with a faint repeated arc formed southeast of the farm. The colors took our breath away.

I opened the upstairs sliders to take this photo...note the raindrop on the camera lens.

And took this photo of the setting sun through the window beside my computer desk.
The lightning from this storm struck the home of one of Jerome's antique tractor club buddies in a town north of us. Some of the thunder from that storm sent Dovey diving for cover.
Last night's winds sent two of my solar powered lanterns flying across the back yard but fortunately I was able to retrieve them. Lights flickered but power did stay on.
I'd been pretty smug about getting such a jump on the garden work, spending time every day on the tasks at hand, but now that it's warmer and Mother Nature has been watering everything so diligently, I realize she's had the upper hand all along. Oh well, there are still two weeks left in May and all of the summer ahead.
You've got to love this time of year. Such potential. Such evidence of life's ability for regeneration. So many reasons for hope.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

is any other month quite as delicious as May?

Slow down, May.
So much to savor.
Days that allow going back out to the garden after dinner.
Sun setting after 8pm resulting in a few of the chickens lingering in their yard until nearly 8:30. (Remember  December when they're all tucked in just past 4?)

Took a 2 day bus quilt shop hop last Friday and Saturday. I haven't laughed so much in months. 16 women, 7 shops, 3 states. Total in $$ for all of us over 2 days nearly $7,000. I did not match the average spent, but did bring back many treasures that I'm certain will bring hours and hours of delightful projects which I promise to share.

Took a day out with Anne at the Amish greenhouses yesterday and between us we packed my car.

Will head out again on Thursday when my sister Terri is here. There will be less room in the car with 3 of us, but we'll just drive home, unpack, and head out again if need be. We've done that before...

The forecast shows no nights below 40 in the days ahead so the tomatoes have gone out onto the back deck into the mini greenhouse to begin hardening off. We've been cleaning beds, fertilizing, weeding, and mulching. We've begun eating from the garden.
In May everything seems possible. It's all good.

Rain and chilly today and tomorrow. Grocery shopping and getting the house ready for Terri's arrival.  No time for playing with my new fabrics just yet. Doesn't stop me from going into the sewing room and stroking them, though.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

life is struggle

Changeable April.

One week ago:  incessant rain

3 days ago:  high winds

This morning: good grief!

Our chickens were NOT happy with what greeted them as their door was opened this morning. Little Punkin, our tiniest hen, always pushing to be the first out the door, stopped inches from the opening but had the momentum of all her flock pushing behind.

Tuesday's dinner included our first spears of the season. Are the few brave shoots that were just piercing the soil yesterday lost this morning in the cold?
As I finish my morning coffee and put this post out into the stratosphere, I'm thinking that later this morning I'll do my daily walk about and get the garden blankets ready to be set out against tonight's predicted hard frost. But though I may have thoughts of woman against nature, I realize it's never really up to me. I can help, interfere, foolishly ignore, but I cannot control. As I age I'm realizing more every day that sense of relief knowing I don't have the responsibility of being in charge. I can "mother" my gardens but they are, as they've always been, in God's capable hands.
And rightly so.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


It has been raining. And raining. There are puddles here where I've never seen puddles form. The chicken yard would be dangerous for us if we hadn't spread several bales of hay over the bare ground, now mud city. The chickens are loving it.
There have been tiny glimmers of sun in the past hour, fleeting.
My goal of working outside an hour each day has been thwarted by this rain. However, there has been some progress. The grapevines have been pruned for the season. I kept a few pieces of the concord to propagate new plants. I did find a young plant at Home Depot my last trip into Onalaska, but it's not a bad idea to have a backup plan. In this very poor photo you can just spot the buds beginning to swell. I learned to cut pieces from last year's growth, a flat cut at what will become the bottom of the cutting and a slant cut at its top. That way I won't try to start them upside down. A good tip.

Most of the limbs that came down during the winter have been removed to the chip pile or the burn pile. We have begun the ambitious project of removing the thousands of pinecones that are littering the property, blown amazingly far from the pines that dropped them in the gales we've had on the ridge. I've begun to rake the chicken bedding into the raised beds, Rosie keeping watch at her fence line for any worms I should toss her way. Jerome has been working hard on maintenance of the riding mower, but steadfastly refuses to put the snow blower away for the season. Can't blame him for that as the locals predict the robins need one more snow on their backs before spring will arrive for real.

Trees and shrubs up on our ridge have been slow to swell, though the maple at the pond is bursting with red and one of our two amazing oaks has dropped all of last year's leaves in preparation for new. I took just two small branches of forsythia inside on Saturday and they are rewarding me now.

Last Monday at bedtime I heard the unmistakeable chorus of frogs in the pond for the first time this year. It was a much needed benediction at the close of a very difficult day. I keep the window next to the bed cracked at night to better hear them as I slumber. That is joy.
I can't be sorry that spring is slow. Last year a late hard frost devastated the grapes and fruit trees all over the state. Let's take it slow and steady, Mother Nature.
I moved some of the seedlings to a new mini greenhouse that I assembled on the porch so they can get ready to go in the ground. Here they are outside the dining room window on the south facing lower deck.

Seeing them there brings hope. On Sunday I planted the tomato and eggplant seeds and they're settled in under the basement grow lights. I brought the potted miniature roses out from the garage and gave them a trim and a spring tonic. They're on the deck across from the greenhouse donning their tiny red new growth. The potted  pussy willow starts and the male and female seaberries are out of the potting shed, also on the deck waiting for the ground to be dry enough for their planting. Could it be there were no winter losses among them? We hiked the acreage across the road scouting for little pines to bring over to this side as the ground allows. So many and so easy to spot before they are lost among the wild growth that will soon begin.

Rainy days aren't a total disappointment as they allow indoor pursuits without the guilty feeling of indulging in pleasure when there's work to be done. I recently received my first copy of a new periodical which I am so delighted with I have to share with you. It is called Quiltfolk. It is published quarterly, is ad free, and in hand is more amazing than anticipated. Issue one is dedicated to Oregon. It was a premium for my subscription which began with issue 2, Iowa.  

These are keepers. It's difficult not to swallow them whole!
Oh, and what is that photo at the top of the page?? It is a shot of the confluence of the three rivers at the new part of the gardens I mentioned in my post of March 27 as it appears in summer. Until I'm able to stand there, breathing in the bounteous beauty that is my part of this spinning sphere, this photo will whisper spring and summer are indeed on the way.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

life is what happens when you've planned something else

On Monday after I finished posting to this blog (was I bragging too much???) I went out to check on the chickens. Minerva, who I noticed had waste stuck to her rear when she jumped out of the house earlier in the morning, was standing very still in the chicken yard. Not a good sign. I set up a spa in the garage and proceeded to bathe her back quarters. Sometimes the hens lay what I call a wet egg and their rears get sticky, bedding and waste can stick to the raw egg matter and they need a good wash and blow dry. But what I found was that she had prolapsed laying her last egg. This may have been the result of her being an excellent layer who now as a senior bird had lost the muscle tone necessary for laying safely. Our cats' vet referred us to a woman she called a farm vet who works out of her Jeep, going to the "patient."  What an amazing woman. Bringing her into our lives was Minerva's final gift to us.

We get up in the morning and don't know what the day will bring. We face whatever comes with the best that's within us. Some decisions are difficult, stretch your courage and cause you to look deeper within yourself. In comparison to human life this may seem small. But all life is precious, especially those lives over which you have control. This new vet showed such respect for us, and for Minerva. She used all of her skills to give Minerva every chance to indicate that she may be able to recover from this. Clearly, interventions were not the answer. We had been treating her inside of the garage away from the flock and in a place with good lighting, but Dr. Jean said, "Let's bring her outside. Minerva would prefer to be out of doors." She breathed her last in my arms, baptized both by a light mist falling all around us and by tears. Dr. Jean continued to lightly massage Minerva's breast as I stroked Minerva's face and head. And then she slipped away.

Minerva was one of my first flock. She put up with my huge learning curve. She would have been 6 in May. She was an excellent layer, though she tended to go broody in the summer. I would describe her as the top of the pecking order and a close friend of the last 2 remaining original females. A beautiful bird and a sweet soul. She's now buried next to her good friend Phoebie under a stone cairn in the middle of the main chicken yard.

I will miss you dear one.

Monday, March 27, 2017

march madness?

Well golly!
Has it really been 4 weeks since my last posting?
Bet you thought I was on a cruise or mountaintop retreat. Nope, not a chance.
March has been full!
I've been a journaling book buddy with two local 6th grade girls. We read As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds. Gosh, participating reminded me just how much I've missed sharing good books with kids, and how really good literature for kids and young adults can be. Our wrap-up breakfast meeting is this Thursday morning. Sixth graders are such a delight!

Last Tuesday evening I taught a quilt-as-you-go technique at my monthly guild meeting.

Putting aside my round robin quilts temporarily, I took time to make a baby quilt for Phil's friend Mallory to wrap around her new niece, Penelope, when she's born in April.

This was the first time I've sewn both flannel and Cuddle. I learned a lot from this combination and have recorded the process in my new quilting notebook/journal.

I created and mailed away my bit for Anne's Handmade Joy Exchange.

I chose three of my loves: quilting, cross stitch, and card making. According to USPS tracking, the package was delivered today! Kels, I do hope it brings you joy!

I gave blood. Always satisfying to know someone, or two, or three will be healthier because I gave.

I visited my Amish friends for the first time since Christmas and got to meet their new infant daughter, Fannie. I chose a Friday afternoon because on Fridays the children are let out of school early and I can visit with the whole family. While I was there other Amish neighbors arrived to see the baby too and so I was finally able to meet some folks my English friend Mary has mentioned often. Amanda, Mary's good friend, is an accomplished quilter who was delighted to meet me as well, since Mary has mentioned me to her often. Amanda's son in law was also there, visiting with his wife and their 3 little girls. He works in a large greenhouse in Ohio and had much to share about his work there and how things work in a commercial greenhouse.

Our local True Value, Nelson Agri-center, had its annual spring sale event which is a real carnival. It's always fun to go, for the food, the music, and the bargains. This year's event was in support of our emergency teams, fire, police, medical. So many bargains! And you get to reconnect with lots of neighbors you may not have seen all winter.

I've been tending my cold crop seedlings. They're growing so rapidly I had to pot each of them up to bigger pots. This week I'll sow the tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Just this past Saturday we did a presentation on backyard chickens at our local public library. It was a task to dust off the little grey cells and produce a Powerpoint of photos and text, handouts of fascinating facts and resources, contact and receive catalogs from mail-order chicken resources for distribution to the attendees, collect brochures from local businesses that can provide chickens and all the "stuff" you need for their care to hand out as well.
For luck I wore my chicken bracelet, a gift from Anne's good friend Danielle, who visited the farm a few summers back. Thanks, Danielle. It's fun to wear and it did the trick for me! And thank you for giving me permission to use the photo you took of me when you visited and we had Peep Fest at the campfire. See it on my header today.

Thanks to Jerome my right hand man, Anne my connection in the library, and Matthias, my tech man extraordinaire. Afterward, Jerome treated the four of us to a leisurely lunch. Matthias and I brazenly ate CHICKEN!
That afternoon our mailman brought MY handmade joy exchange package to the door. From France!

Thank you Sarah for the pressed flowers from your garden, the stunning photo and message, the block prints and watercolor piece. I love them all. And Anne, thanks again for organizing this event.
Forty people are now percolating with their joy.

Speaking of Anne, we celebrated her birthday on the 22nd by going to LaCrosse for lunch at a marvelous restaurant (of her choice) that we will most definitely visit again. The Waterfront Restaurant is located on the Mississippi with amazing views, an impeccable interior, marvelous food and a remarkable wait staff. After eating we stopped for a garden fix at the tiny but mighty LaCrosse Riverfront International Friendship Gardens. Though the gardens were mostly still slumbering, we did spot fish in the pond and got a preview of the newest garden rooms. I learned that right at the edge of the garden three rivers join, the LaCrosse, the Black, and the Mississippi.

After our outing we returned for dessert and presents. Fun.

Despite how bleak it can be, March miraculously brought flowers of all sorts indoors. The orchids are opening, the begonias are cheerfully sending up flower stems, the streptocarpus hasn't stopped blooming since I brought it home last May from an Amish greenhouse, amaryllis sent up their trumpets, and the geraniums are gigantic. Here is a sample of their color...

In the midst of all this March madness I came down with a spectacular case of the stomach flu which knocked me off my feet for several days. All is well now, but I've gained a clarity of vision regarding my daily health.
Yes, all this and yesterday our son Phil arrived for a few days of his spring break. He'll be taking his boat out of hibernation and installing his new tracking software. It's always fun having him here and we're so grateful he so generously shares his precious free time with us.
Well, during the few days remaining in the month, I will be having lunch with a neighbor tomorrow, attending Matthias' computer workshop on Wednesday, and going to the book buddy wrap up on Thursday.
And one never knows what surprises arrive in between.
So, how have you spent the last days of winter and the first of spring???

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

turning the calendar on March

Always a bit nostalgic... the beginning of March.
Some years ago when I turned the calendar from February to March I thought "Before I turn the calendar again I will be a mother." Yes, March is Anne's birthday month. That morning I could not have predicted the bountiful blessings she'd bring to my life.
My birthday month is half a year from now. And though I admit that autumn is my favorite season, I am more than glad that we're in Anne's birthday month and not mine. There is much to love about spring. The shelves under the grow lights in the basement are full of sprouting seedlings: leeks, kales, onions, spinach, lettuces. Soon there will be perennial seedlings joining them.
The chickens are laying very nicely now. They've come through the winter in fine form but this morning are a bit annoyed by the new layer of white outside their door.
This morning March is holding onto winter. An absolutely beautiful, and perfect snow, is falling.

There's an older gentleman who works at our local Walmart who is a real life cowboy...he rides in the Wild West Days parade every summer and gives stage coach rides at the annual event. He told Jerome the other day that he has a 40 year old horse who correctly predicts the arrival of spring every year by when it begins to shed its shaggy winter coat. Thirty days later spring will arrive to stay. The claim is it's never been wrong. This year's beginning of spring? March 10. I love stories like that. We'll have to wait and see, but the red wing blackbirds have arrived, and some have heard robins as well. Maples are swelling, daffs are popping up along with the eager tips of resurrection lilies. Lots of green near the ground around perennials and buds swelling on my favorite clematis behind the potting shed. Gotta love it all.
Last year there was a late freeze that hit the grapes and apples especially hard. Every year I hope that spring will move slowly, steadily in a forward direction. In March of Anne's birth year, we had just that. A perfect spring. I was out taking her for walks in the old hand me down buggy every day after bringing her home. Stopping in the local park, sitting in the shade, feeling so very blessed.
And by turning the calendar it all comes back to me. Vivid. Real. Beautiful.
Welcome, March.