Thursday, November 9, 2017

November benediction

Jolie works her way deeper into our hearts each day. The "big girls" are learning that there's enough love for all of them.



almost missed this one hunting for my camera...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

the sun shines for Rosie

For the first time in many days the sun overcame the dense cloud cover. The temperature is struggling to rise above freezing, but there is little wind.
Holding Rosie in my arms, her face in the sunlight, Jerome and I said goodbye this morning to our delightful hen. Dr. Jean, the vet who makes farm calls, helped her to slip away.
Yesterday, shortly after I called Dr. Jean to ask her to come out and see to Rosie, Jerome received a photo from a posting of his on Facebook page 5 years ago.



The photo is of Rosie, Phoebie, and Minerva. Such a coincidence that it should arrive to remind us of these 3 wonderful hens just as we had reconciled ourselves to letting Rosie go. They're now resting together beneath a stone cairn in the chicken yard.
Rest well together, my sweet girls.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

finding color in the grey month

Living up to its reputation, November in SW Wisconsin has been grey and unpleasantly damp. Too cloudy to witness full moon rise, I did catch the sky just after sunset. Ah November, only you can produce what I've come to think of as the lowering of Mother Nature's stage curtain. Be watchful, it descends even as you draw breath.
And so it's time to reintroduce myself to one of my two round robin challenges. I first spoke of them here.
I've reached the 5th and final border with the red, tan, black quilt top : ribbon. So far it's been checkerboard, sawtooth, piano keys and square in a square.


Not only is this the most difficult round , as the rounds have moved out from the center block each has needed to be larger and has demanded deeper focus on careful piecing.



Thus said, I've fully enjoyed the process of drafting the pattern I've chosen and auditioning just the right color way. It's the actual construction that tests me on every level. The scope of the job is daunting.








Here are the first 3 border units assembled, 6 half square triangles to each unit.  There are 44 units plus 4 corners of 9 half square triangles each. I used triangle exchange papers from Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts to create the half square triangle units that would become the ribbon border. (It was Edyta who taught me how to accurately construct the 8 point star I used as the center of my second round robin. More on that later.)
While I piece I give thought to the quilting to come. I've done mostly quilting in the ditch and other straight line stitching using the built in dual feed. In my mind I'm thinking of naming the quilt something like walking around the block. But doesn't a ribbon border just beg for curves?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Last day of October

We've seen them, the first flakes of the season. And the first really cold nights. It is officially the end of the growing season here. In the sturdy raised beds spinach and kale handle the cold and snow easily, a few carrots still nestle below ground, and next year's garlic is safely tucked in for the winter. For now there are a couple of short rows of lettuces under fleece blankets. The winds have brought down this autumn's pine needle shedding and when it's a bit less windy we'll collect what we can and tuck it in around the blueberries.
The fields surrounding us have been harvested, also disced and rolled for the first time since we've been here. The new owner seems a serious steward.
The senses take in the fragrance of wood smoke, the steady hum of a neighbor's corn drier, the softening hues of the landscape, the jagged calls of jays, crows, hawks. Driving requires more attention to the unexpected  movements of wildlife that have avoided the roads all summer but suddenly find reasons to cross without warning.
Indoors life is more than a bit challenging. First, Jolie, the young feline we rescued this summer, is keeping all of us on our toes.


Jerome is utterly in love with her.
Dovey just can't help her curiosity.  She's learned to stand her ground, most of the time. She'll even share her sofa.




Mya deals with her by hiding out of sight, in a closet, under our bed's quilt, up on a high shelf.
I am finding her presence a happy distraction from autumn melancholy.
None of us are used to the energy and enthusiasm of a young cat. The "big" girls have learned if they jump up onto high surfaces Jolie can't follow. Jolie had sustained an injury to her right hind leg before we met her. It had healed after a fashion and was not obvious to us until after her spay surgery when she returned from the vet with an obvious weakness and limp. Followup X-rays revealed the old injury, healed but aggravated by her being tied for surgery. Unfortunately, she may always have a limp now, and the weakness there keeps her from having the strength to propel herself up off the ground more than a few feet.  It does NOT in any way keep her from sprinting up and down stairs, doing battle with all her toys, or chasing her big sisters if they should mistakenly run from her invitations to play.
Until today we've kept Jolie sequestered in a room of her own over night. Tonight we are going to try letting her choose where she'll spend the dark hours. It's Halloween so we should expect bumps in the night, right??
All this has been complicated by the house job we recently "endured." After several years of record breaking floods we looked into having our basement waterproofed. This summer we interviewed 4 companies, chose the one we felt most comfortable dealing with, and were put on their schedule. The team arrived last Monday. Before their coming nearly everything in the basement was moved to the garage, to other rooms of the house, or carefully stacked and packed and wrapped in plastic out of the way in the basement.
Other preparations for this enormous event meant getting our electrician to put in dedicated outlets for the pumps and new dehumidifier, having our plumber temporarily move our old water heater, and getting a carpenter to dismantle part of the decking in order to uncover the old cellar stairs to facilitate moving tons of concrete in and out of the house.


Here is Dustin working on liberating the old cellar stairs from under the deck just outside the back door.
Our older cats do not like change although they are curious about it all. Their litter boxes have been in the basement but have had to be moved into our living space for the time being. All three of the girls have been marvelous about this part of the upheaval.
How do you remove concrete? the short answer, jackhammers, shovels, pails. Dovey, whose hearing is especially acute, suffered most, I think.




The cats have proven to be resilient and trusting through it all. But for them the disruption continues. Though the mess is done, our work continues.  We want to take advantage of the space being mostly empty to clean, paint and install more shelving. Now that we will be able to store things without worry of mold or mildew, we can rethink what we'll be able to store down there.
It's seems an agonizingly slow process. First, the new cement has to cure. We've been advised to mist the concrete daily for two weeks to slow the curing process. The furnace needs a complete cleaning, the new water heater needs to be installed. I'd like to add a sink down there as well. The deck needs to be put back for the winter. Dustin should be here today to do that.
It's a good opportunity for purging. Though I delivered several boxes to GoodWill last week, I know there's more here we can let go.
I try to remind myself how being retired and having Jerome here with me allows us to deal with these activities in our own good time, lifting each others' spirits when they flag. It's been good practice for the days ahead when we have work done on the main areas of the house. But that's for another day.






Friday, September 29, 2017

lavender

Growing lavender here in SW Wisconsin can be challenging. Getting it to winter over more challenging still. Whatever else is on my garden center shopping list each spring, lavender is always near the top of the list.
It's the essential oil, you see.
I am an insect magnet. And it is impossible to spend time in my gardens or even just relaxing on the porch without presenting myself to every thirsty flying critter. Even just walking to and from the chicken house can be enough to catch their attention. And so, right near the back door I always keep a can of home made insect repellent. I actually keep a second that I take along in my purse when I'm out for the day.



This is my recipe card that is free for the taking at our local co-op's essential oils display. The fragrance is refreshing and cooling as well. I do use Vodka which keeps the oils suspended in the water, but there is no residual vodka smell.



Another must have is my My*Grastick, which is a small roll on combination of peppermint and lavender that not only helps with headaches, but is another deterrent for those pesky bugs. And boy is this refreshing!
A third way I use lavender is to harvest and dry the flower buds and use them in my "body buddy." I make a cylinder of fabric, fill it about 2/3 with organic flax seed and several tablespoons of dried lavender buds. This can be warmed in the microwave and used to wrap a neck, or shoulder, or other hurting body part, giving off the fragrance of lavender in the process. They make wonder gifts, too.


Anne passed along a piece of flower print fabric that I used to cover a deep cigar box. I keep my essential oils and my recipe cards in it and store it on a shelf in my bathroom. It's pretty and practical and a reminder of ways in which Mother Nature offers us her bounty.





I've tried to remember to check my lavender this summer and harvest the precious buds as they've presented themselves. As I clipped a few earlier this week I recalled how my friend Karen often reminds us to breathe. This is such good advice. Thank you, Karen.
My addition to this would be: lavender on an inhalation definitely deepens the healing for both body and soul.



Thursday, September 28, 2017

a story in photos

July 2014






autumn 2014



progress



annual spring pruning



and desired results of cutting back hard




this summer, despite floods, hail, deer, moles, and losses over time,  we rejoiced in enough concords from one vine to put up 8 pints of juice.






...my go to beverage these coming holidays as we lift our glasses to toast, celebrate and give thanks.