Monday, February 3, 2020

borrowing an idea

My daughter Anne, always a joy and an inspiration, has long offered her readers healing grace by boldly stating and thereby focusing on the joys of her life, and encouraging us to do the same.

and so, my first and long overdue Joy list Monday!
sunny winter days
Sunday lunch with some of my favorite people and pups
seeds arriving in the post

reading great books from our fantastic public library
geraniums blooming under the grow lights in the basement
my sweetheart getting up before 6 and getting my car washed for me
preparing for a four day quilt retreat later this week.

Now, that felt good.

Sunday, February 2, 2020


Sooner or later there comes a stretch of time when there is nothing to say and altogether too much to say. And so silence.

After five months of what feels like holding my breath, I am fighting my way to the surface. Funny, from the depths of my mind an imprinted opening suggests itself: "bless me... it has been 5 months since my last..."
During these months I've been wrestling with "truths". Trying to come to terms with who I am today and what I believe. Working to balance the light and the dark of this age. With the ever more obvious limitations of my lifetime, struggling to choose how to spend my time and energy and not feel guilty for spending so much of it on myself.

What you see in this photo is a corner of a shelf in my studio. A return to my word for 2019  in the company of two amazing gifts from my niece, Sarah. The old mill photo is from her camera. The mini cairn is of 5 stones collected during her battle with cancer as she climbed and hiked her beloved Rockies. The courage, strength of spirit, and creative soul of this beautiful young woman both fills me with pride and with purpose. Her love for me and our correspondences across time a deep joy.

I thank each of you for not being silent in the previous months, as your photos and words have been balm. Blessings on each of you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

turn, turn, turn

Hello October. Where has September gone?
It was a wonderfully full month here in the driftless region. Friends and family celebrated 2 anniversaries and at least 14 birthdays in addition to mine, a milestone. Funny, the view from inside doesn't seem to match the number....

My local quilt guild and the Quarter Back Club I attend in Decorah (my favorite Iowa quilt shop!) began their seasons.
Wisconsin held its annual Quilt Expo in Madison.

I took many pictures while viewing the exhibit. This one is a Snail's Trail, a block I have on my to do list.

And our county held its annual county fair.

best cheese curds on the planet

our neighbor and beekeeper Dan at the tractor pull

my American Pineapple quilt! oh my!

Our son spent a few days with us preparing for and fishing his last Mississippi River tournament of the season.

We goat and cat sat for our neighbors for a long weekend.

some of this year's babes

Bock, the papa

We cat sat for Anne and Matthias while they took a much needed getaway.

We celebrated the autumnal equinox with our ritual of standing on the road watching the sun set south of it for the first time since March.

We took a day trip (on my birthday) to see the H2OH! exhibit at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, MN

and included a stop in Wabasha to visit the National Eagle Center.

While in Wabasha we discovered the cutest java/quilt shop you could imagine. Jan, the owner, was a delight to talk with and I found the exact quilting ruler I was planning to add to my collection.

We made a couple of pumpkin runs and have a nice collection on our front porch steps which were pretty bare. The houseplants that were vacationing on the front porch had their necessary end of summer spa treatments and had been moved indoors with much cooler night temperatures on the way.
After harvesting and preserving from the gardens,  winter prep weeding, mulching, edging work were the focus of the month. Not an entirely successful growing season. Happy for the successes and already planning for next season. Did manage to stop at Seed Savers while in Decorah and brought back some favorite seeds plus garlic!
I read two new novels, A Better Man, the newest Louise Penny book (I actually read this twice...once very fast and the second time very slowly to savor her craftsmanship) and Fiddling With Fate, the newest Kathleen Ernst book.
In between I found a little time to listen to the siren call of creating. My sewing space enjoyed a thorough reorganizing and I filled a basket with cross stitch projects I hope to tackle this fall.

I like to keep my fingers busy while we're watching videos from the library or something on Netflix or Amazon in the evenings. Sometimes that gets a little tricky when cats demand a lap. Jerome is frequently called upon to rewind for me when I miss some important scene. Patient man.

And now it's October. Sweater weather. Soup weather. Candles burning. Longer hours in the sewing room. Amazing night skies. Stunning sunsets. Blankets on the bed. Halloween.
2018 brought our first snow cover on Oct 16, followed by sunny warmer days. Mercurial. Chameleon. October.
Looking forward to experiencing it with each of you.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

I'm back

If you are reading this, hello, and thank you. Yes, I've had a long absence from this page. I'm both surprised and embarrassed by it. Surprised by how quickly time passes and more than a bit chagrined that I haven't shared the ups and downs of summer here in the driftless region. I do so love it here.

I've said it before, summer is my least favorite season for so many reasons. As I get older my body strength declines with the 1-2 punches of heat and humidity. Bugs have always sought me out but my physical response to their saliva and stings has become more intense as I've aged. Though I love growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, at times the struggle against the uninvited plant guests seems to overwhelm. If it weren't for my lovely hens some days I'd be content not to go outside at all.
Thankfully the earth turns.
My happy season is slipping into summer's place. Next week I reach a milestone birthday. The number doesn't quite match how I see myself from the inside. In the weeks and months ahead I hope to find ways to celebrate my new decade and hope you'll stop back and cheer me on.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Big Guy

May 23, 2011 we received a phone call from our post office that our chicks had arrived. We had ordered 25 females and 1 Rhode Island Red male from Murray McMurray in Iowa. Not knowing how large the package would be, I suggested to Anne we use the RAV 4  to pick them up. Ha ha, the box containing the peepers was little bigger than a shoe box! Excitement mounted as we gently carried them home.
We found 28 birds in the box. We had received two extras, one an exotic breed freebie, the other an additional bird to help raise the temperature in the box to assure safe arrival.

We were total beginners at this chicken keeping practice but had purchased Ashley English's book Keeping Chickens and read many others.

We had purchased a galvanized water tank to use as a baby house, set it up in the basement on a raised platform, carefully hung a heat lamp on an adjustable chain above with thermometers to check the temperature which needed to be kept at specific readings each week. We placed flake, feed, and water. We lifted each chick out one by one and gently placed each little beak into the water to teach it to drink. We monitored their baby bottoms for any dangerous pasty buildup. We kept their water clean.
Then we stepped back and watched those sweet babies go about the business of living.

We had hired an Amish man to build the chicken house and put up a fence around the new chicken yard. When the chicks were three weeks old we moved them in. Three weeks later they were allowed out into their yard for the first time. When checking that they had all hopped back in for the night we quickly discovered that the exotic breed chick was not in the house with the others.

Being so different this little one was easy to identify as missing. Anne and I searched their yard as long as there was daylight to see. Hearts heavy, we had to give up and hope for the best. In the morning redwing blackbirds were complaining about something they felt was threatening their nest. Searching just outside the fence I found this little one trying to find a way back into the chicken yard. It had survived all night without protection.
As the weeks progressed we realized that there were two male Rhode Island Reds among our birds and that the 25 requested hens were indeed hens. How they can sex day old chicks so reliably I cannot say. The exotic breed bird was still a question mark until one day we heard an adolescent crowing and realized it had come from this little one! We had ourselves a Silver Polish rooster!
Eventually, John Wayne and Number One, the other roosters, went to our Amish friends along with 20 of our hens to be "processed" for us and for them. Since Jerome was still living in Illinois, and Anne was going back to Ohio and I was traveling back to Illinois regularly, we boarded the remaining 5 hens and Big Guy, as he came to be known, with our Amish friends for their first winter.
It was really an experience to see how they became attached to our birds. I visited them every couple weeks bringing feed and letting them hear my voice. Any eggs they kept and the blue/green eggs were an especial delight to the children. When I picked my little flock up the following April to bring them back to the farm, the mother, Lovina, leaned into the car and said goodbye to each of them, using their names. She was especially fond of Big Guy.

Truth be told, everyone loved Big Guy.

He was especially good with his girls. Protecting, breaking up squabbles, announcing whenever he heard a door open or a car approach. During the spring and summer you needed to keep an eye on him when in his yard as his wings and especially his spurs could be dangerous. And he was truly handsome.

This week he began to slip away from us. Recognizing that he was now vulnerable to attack from within his flock, we sequestered him in the annex and the senior bungalow next to the main chicken yard. He made his way back to the chicken house for two nights, but was unable to hop up to the roost. He slept in the bungalow, unable to walk for his last two days. He was 8 years old, the last of our original flock.

He's buried near Phoebie, Minerva, Rosie and LadyHawk under a cairn in the chicken yard. It is quiet now out here on the farm. We miss him. We thank him.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

ahh, april

Like a little kid on her tricycle the first balmy day of spring, I've been pedaling as fast as I can. Still, I feel as if I need to catch up.
Catch up to what, I ask myself.....
Life has been full. Life has been good.
Hours (and hours) in the garden on cleanup.
Two days on a bus quilt shop hopping in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. (oh the laughter!)
Chicken doctoring.
Fencing repair.
Seedling tending and repotting. Planting more seeds.
Setting the sewing room to rights and working on my Clue Game challenge quilt. (more on that  in days to come.)
Journaling with my 6th grade reading buddies. 8:30 this morning was our wrap-up breakfast meeting. Unlucky weather day for such a big event. In the teeth of an ice storm with gale winds and power outages, we unhooked the pole barn door from its useless power lifter and headed out into the gale. My sweetheart Jerome insisted on driving me and delivering me to the school's front door.  Despite the weather, nearly everyone attended.

The pyramid of reading for this year's event:
29 titles, 165 readers (55 groups of two 6th grade students plus an adult volunteer), 43, 481 pages, and, drum roll please, 8,110,392 words. Mary, did you really count them???? Always fun to ask the kids to guess how many words. I'll miss internet journaling with these two vibrant, articulate, and friendly kids.
Power's back on now, so I best go fix a hot dinner while I can.
High praise for our power line defenders.
Now if Mother Nature would just adjust her wind speed down a notch or two and up the temp a degree or two.

Did I mention we'd been cleaning up the grounds?? Goodness, gracious me, what a mess out there all over again. Thankfully, no actual harm done. Sigh. We hoped the new shovel just outside the back door and still eating off our snowman plates, snowblower front and center in the garage despite getting the mowers prepped would help ward off any spring storms. The laugh's on us.

Friday, March 22, 2019

life changing day

You brought spring with you then as you always do...

Happy Birthday, Sweet Anne.

Love you more than I can say.