Saturday, January 14, 2017

delights of january

Have you noticed that dusk is falling a wee bit later each day?
Has your mailbox become a treasure chest of seed catalogs? Are you "plant dreaming deep" ?

Are your beloved orchids and cactus, geraniums and amaryllis, begonias and african violets smiling on you with buds and blossoms?

As you close the books on 2016 have you found joyful ways of using last year's calendars?

Are hearty soups and from scratch breads and biscuits your go to dinner fare?
Do the snow-covered fields and a full moon help you see forever across the landscape in the middle of the night?
Always wonderful but ever more precious in deep winter.
Rejoice and be glad with me, my friends.

Monday, January 2, 2017

be not afraid

And so I find myself on the other side of the holidays. So many good moments with family and friends. So much to be grateful for.

Between Christmas and the new year I visited my siblings in Illinois. Five of the 7 of us were sitting around the dinner table. Nineteen years separates the eldest from the youngest. I am third in the birth order and my two older siblings were there, as well as the two youngest.
We had been given a box of old photographs by a cousin who was thinning out her mother's collection. There were many photos of the three of us oldest when we were very young and many of the cousins too. We enjoyed trying to identify who and where and when. Nearly all of the photos had never been seen by my younger brother or sister. People they didn't recognize and places they hadn't been or were too young to remember.
Naturally our conversations included memories only the eldest of us shared. One such memory caused me to say that I was always so easily scared as a child, quickly brought to tears. And that I still felt some of that fear much of the time today. Almost as one those around the table responded in disbelief. Then someone asked how a scaredy cat could live alone on a farm for nearly three years.
I brought these thoughts back with me and have been turning them over and over in my mind.
And so,
for 2017 my polestar will be "Be not afraid."
Fear is a thief. Fear is a disabler. Fear cripples creativity. Fear causes dis-ease and therefore impacts every breath you take. Fear causes you to wear a mask of pretense.
Fear is a choice.
And I refuse to choose it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

love an joy come to you

Pausing to send a note to each of you.
We share so much that is precious. And sharing it guarantees it will be there for all of us.
Poised as we are before the new year, nearing the end of the old, our attention is tempted by demands and distractions.
I plan to pause often for cleansing breaths, deep stretches, and gathering of gratitude.
Each of you are a good bit of what I am grateful for.
love to each of you, this day, and each new day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

the visitor

I am slowly coming to the realization that my insomnia may not be so much a burden as an opportunity. When awake in the deep of night there are so many sights and sounds that pass unnoticed during slumber.
One such sound has been the frequent calls of owls in the trees on this side of our road and in the woods across it. Unless they are just outside the window owl calls are quiet enough not to disturb sleep. Being awake they are unmistakeable. The wonderful website of Cornell University has helped me to identify my night callers as Great Horned Owls. This autumn there have been frequent duets which caused me to hope there might soon be a family, and then perhaps a community of owls right here on my ridge.
Friday late morning, as the approaching storm was beginning to blow new snow across the gardens, I was called to the first floor porch by an agitated group of chickadees, flying in under the upper deck, hovering near the windows of the kitchen, dining room, and back door. Clearly behavior out of the ordinary.
A few feet from the back door we have a mobile of buffalo hanging. This is a favorite perch of barn swallows in the early summer as they search under the upstairs decking for a possible nesting site. From time to time other birds will perch there, but not often. Hmmm, something was going on. Then I noticed this little fellow ....

Each of these photos was taken through the kitchen window so not always very sharp. And as I didn't want to cause the little one any anxiety, I was trying to be stealthy with my camera.

After a time the chickadees gave up their warning tactics and moved on. And the little one remained.

Puffed up against the deepening cold, he was in no hurry to move along himself.

Since this is the most direct route out of the house to the chicken yard, we needed to go through it, but didn't want to disturb our guest. Very slowly, quietly, we slipped out and back in again and though he turned his head a bit, he did not move away.

By late afternoon he stretched and readjusted his hold on the lantern.

Here he is stretched to the max as I'm on the porch looking up to him.

And then, about 4:00, while moving out of the house with water for the chicks, he disappeared before either of us was able to see him take flight. He sat there about 5 hours. During that time I alternately looked for information about owls online and watched in awe from the window. I worried he may not be able to find his way back to his nest if this was one of his early sojourns on his own. I am not sure what type of owl this is, how old, how unusual such behavior might be. If you know, I'd appreciate your telling me.
Since then I've  looked to the lantern several times a day, missing our little visitor and hoping for his safety.
This morning I heard the owls calling as I moved restlessly about the house hours before dawn. A deep warmth began to spread within. After climbing the stairs back to bed I stopped at the upstairs sliders and looked out at the night, stars brilliant, snow intensifying the brightness allowing me to see clearly across the landscape. I had received a benediction. And a reminder to accept the gifts as they present themselves.

Friday, December 16, 2016

week of Advent III and "the weather outside is frightful..."

Well, as of this post, it's not so bad. 10 degrees, almost no wind, about a half foot of snow on the ground, soft flurries falling. Predictions have cancelled Jerome's weekend trip for some father son time with Phil in IL, my monthly meeting in Decorah at Red Roxy, and even our dinner in town tonight with Anne and Matthias. Yesterday coming home from town Jerome's car slid off the road into deep snow and though before we knew it a kindly (anonymous) passerby pulled us out, it reminded us how easily things can go wrong. With the possibility of 10 new inches of blowing snow and temps dropping to 18 below Saturday night, we're nesting in.
Speaking of nesting... I do worry about the chickens in such deep cold, but our senior birds have handled it well in the past and those that are just a year and a half should be able to, especially now that their feathers are almost all regrown. We bundle up and go out to check on them several times a day, getting brief exercise for ourselves and bringing them extra rations that can help them raise their body heat.


There aren't many eggs right now but we need to check for them before they freeze. Sometimes the girls will sit on their eggs for a while after laying them, or others will hop up to take a turn contemplating whether to lay one too. But we can't always rely on that. And of course their water will freeze so we need to replace that regularly.
Jerome did take his tractors out a bit earlier this week. A chilly ride.

Our indoor garden brings much joy. 8 lovely geranium plants, heavily pruned and tucked into new pots in October, have leafed out well and are in bud and bloom. They reside on a baker's rack in the sunroom that is Jerome's office. So cheerful, especially as seen against the view right outside the sliders.

When I sent my amaryllis bulbs into hibernation in September, they had a few babies attached. I knocked them out of their old pots, pulled off the baby bulbs, and replanted each in clean pots and new soil. They got their first watering recently to nudge them into new growth and the miracle of new life has touched each of them.
Dovey and Mya know just how to handle these winter days. If there's no sun to absorb, a cozy rocking chair or blanket covered love seat will do.

My Bernina and I have just a few little things to finish. I enjoyed making cardinal placemats for Mary, my sister who collects all things cardinal.

Before Christmas gifts became the priority, I had been working on barn quilt placemats for our antique library farm table. This is the first. The panel contained a dozen various barns. I've chosen a half dozen barns and fabrics and quilt blocks to go with each. After piecing they'll each be quilted.

I've also been happily working on my quilt guild's project for this year, personal round robins. We were instructed to begin with a center block any size or shape. Then at 5 of our monthly meetings this year 2 border techniques will be drawn from a hat. We can choose one or the other or both to add each month. We receive instructions for making the blocks chosen and these too can be done in any way we choose. I want to learn all the techniques so I am doing two quilt tops. Here are my beginnings.

Above is a paper pieced pineapple block with a 9 patch checkerboard border. The plain thin borders between help with the math needed to fit things as they develop.

This second is an 8 point star. My very first. I made it following the instructions given by Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts. Here is a YouTube of her tutorial. My star's not perfect, but I'm very happy with it. So far no outer pieced border, just this black coping border that I will cut down to help me fit the chevron border that will go next. I had such good momentum going before I had to pause for Christmas gifts. Can't wait to get back to them again in the new year.
The public library in Coon Valley has a remarkable librarian who hosts evening events of all sorts. Recently I attended a needle felting class where I learned to make a nisse, a mischievous domestic sprite. I love how he turned out, though I would make his cap a bit shorter next time!  As is, he looks a bit like a Christmas tree. He's made out of wool rovings and a few whisps of an old Santa beard. I am particularly fond of his nose.

I really enjoy decorating this old farmhouse for Christmas. Each day I add a bit more. Jerome took me out for lunch and some antique shop hopping where we found a few treasures. This little beanie baby reminds me so much of Winnie. He just had to come home with me.

How could he spend Christmas without a family?
Hope each of you will find some measure of quiet and peace in these hectic final days of 2016. Blessings on your endeavors. Be safe. Be of good cheer.

Monday, November 28, 2016

prepare ye

At this time of year it is so easy to be caught up into the rush. Especially this morning, cyber Monday. My mailbox is blasting me with lures to shop and save, save, save.
Do you feel up to your neck yet?

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent and this season of preparation offers a remedy.
Reflect. Anticipate. Prepare.
"There is more to life than increasing its speed." If ever there was a time to slow down it's now.

A part of every day there should be time to breathe, stretch, meditate. And every day find gratitude and joy to keep your inner flame aglow.
If you are reading this you should know that I am grateful for your stopping here and send my thanks.
In the days ahead, take good care of yourself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

clarity in the fog

I'd lost track of a practice that I've recently learned to embrace once again.
Breath work and meditation. 

I know it looks as if I'm napping, and I think perhaps Jerome thought I was as he snuck around taking snaps of his girls snuggled together in the sunlight. In truth I was doing my controlled breathing followed by a meditation that moves chi through your chakras. It is both energizing and cleansing and the movement of the energy nearly always attracts the cats. 
It's all too easy to pass through a day and not make time for the most important bits. To love your neighbor as yourself implies that you love yourself first. I think this means you must be in touch with yourself to really be able to connect to those around you. 
A remarkable example of this can be found on Anne's blog today. Despite the challenges in her personal life since the opening of 2016, she has courageously and steadfastly sought her inner journey and by doing so has been able to give so much to so many. Please take time to read her post soon. You've so much to gain by it. 
Love you, Anne.