Wednesday, November 14, 2018

realigning the personal compass

How have we gotten to the middle of November???

It takes me a few weeks to adjust to the time change. When we fall back I have to apply discipline and daily effort to resist my mammalian instinct towards hibernation. Especially in the face of shorter daylight hours, even when or especially when the skies are grey. And when the sun does shine, have you also noticed how deep the shadows are now?

Our weather seems too cold for this time of year. The soft and brilliant days of autumn gone much too soon. Last week we seized an afternoon of temperatures just above freezing to dig the last of the leeks, plant the garlic, mulch the raised beds. The next morning the thermometer was close to single digits and the chickens refused to leave their house all day. They haven't given us an egg since last Wednesday! a whole week ago! Poor birds are in the middle of their annual molt just when they need their feathers most.
It feels as if winter is in a hurry, and by a trick of the calendar, this year Thanksgiving is the earliest it can be. (And don't get me started on how soon the Christmas season is thrust upon us.) The relentlessness of pressure from the outside creates anxiety, confusion, helplessness.

It's time to shake it up folks. Time to apply the brakes and purposefully choose. To take deep breaths, stretch, eat well, notice, plot a course and steady on.

Help can be as near as your keyboard. Though virtual, the internet allows the forging of connections as real as blood and bone. I find great comfort and much needed light on dark days reading your instagram and blog postings, dear friends. You inspire, instruct, illuminate. Move me to look within, see with more clarity, move me to be a truer version of myself. To realign my compass.
Karen, of Sew and Sow Life in Vermont, posted a quote that has been resonating with me daily since reading it. Perhaps it will help you shift your attitude as well. Karen, thank you for so often saying just what I need to hear.

Sharing grace and magnifying joy and gratitude the power grows.
Can you feel it? The corporal power of shared grace and gratitude? I believe even the earth takes notice.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

our treat

Our town has a tradition of trick-or-treating on Main Street Halloween afternoon from 3 to 5.
Businesses dispense treats and for a couple of hours families delight in slowly moving up one side of Main and down the other.

My amazing son-in-law, Matthias, has a shop in our downtown called Machelp. Since his opening nearly a year ago, the response to his services and to Matthias himself has been huge. Jerome and I volunteered to see to the trick or treaters so he wouldn't have to stop working.

Besides, Jerome has always loved seeing the kids in costume, and living out in farm country we don't get anyone at our door on Halloween. The past few years we've spent Halloween at Anne and Matthias' house in town so we could be part of the festivities.
Being new to this downtown event we had to estimate the numbers. We knew if the weather was pleasant there would be many. We estimated 5 to 6 hundred. We weren't far wrong.
The costumes were marvelous. Whole families were dressed and the handmade costumes incredible. I so enjoyed the little ones. One little girl made my day. Down the street from Machelp is an ice cream shop which was giving out ice cream bars. This tiny tot came to me with her ice cream in one hand and her jack o lantern for candy in the other. In the sweetest little voice she chirped "Trick or Treat!" Seeing the ice cream in her hand I said, "I know where you've been." And without skipping a beat she exclaimed "In Viroqua!" (And the name of our town is not easy to say!)
Seeing all of these wonderful families and kids was such a joy. And it helped to bring forward the memories of our own kids' many Halloween years.
I've been thinking about writing a blog post about how the young families I've gotten to know here bring me such hope. Here are links to two young women who have businesses in our town, are raising their children in ways I so admire, and who represent strength, respect, and creativity.
Rachel Wolf  and  Kathryn Ashley-Wright.
Viroqua is a magical place. And not just on Halloween.

oh, and that photo above? Matthias 2002! Couldn't find any other photo of him in what looked remotely like a costume in my iPhoto collection. love you, son-in-law!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

autumn bliss

When we moved to this ridge meadow property there was just one fruit tree, a mature Cortland.

Our first spring we planned and planted a small orchard.

Many of these tiny beginnings came to early ends. But not all. You can see the survivors in the photo below. Our version of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This season our mini orchard has gifted us with a generous harvest of Fuji, Idared, Northern Spy and Liberty apples.
We've lost track of just how many bushels of apples we've given to friends and family since August. We've frozen them and made apple sauce, eaten them out of hand and on Friday we joined with our neighbors to make some cider.

Improvising, we used an old corn grinder from Richard's barn, and a grape press that we borrowed from the county extension office. At the end of the morning we had collected 4 gallons of juice. The prettiest, loveliest tasting nectar you can imagine. Combining all the varieties created an exquisite flavor.

Next year we've promised ourselves to invest in a real apple press and make lots more cider together, though we'll all fondly recall our primitive but successful beginnings.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

the first day of the rest of my life

69 years ago today, Lolita and John welcomed a baby girl into their growing family. I like to say I was a Christmas joy baby, being born 9 months after the holiday. I only say this to tease my sisters, who were born on Sept. 22 and 24. And with brothers born on Sept. 4 and Oct. 4 I have to admit our parents enjoyed the winter holidays...
Seriously, though, this being my last year in my 60s I'm giving myself a promise: to prepare myself for the best possible physical and mental health for my 70s and beyond.
I have many bad habits that need adjustments. And my ADHD needs to be addressed to keep from losing focus. Insomnia tends to give opportunity for panic... I'll never live long enough to do all that I hope to. The light of day brings a better clarity. Choose and do.
Choose and do. My mantra for the year ahead.
Thank you all for your love and support, good wishes and kind words. For allowing me to know you when I've never met you. For keeping me company on the road to self. God bless.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

living with those who share your space

This summer a mama decided her twin babies would be safe sleeping the day away in our meadows or under any one of our trees.

But for many days now we haven't seen mama at all. Her fawns now consider our ridgemeadow a sort of safehouse, considering us curiosities not threats.  And Jerome and I do not threaten despite our history with the considerable damage of their ancestors.

Our property is obviously a very established pathway for the deer on Asbury Ridge, the evidence clear in prints and scat and well worn plant life all over our acreage. We don't interfere and since we aren't subsisting on what we grow,  we can share. But it's disheartening when rose buds disappear in the night, blushing red apples hang on the trees with a single bite removed, beets are torn up literally from the ground.
The photo at the top of this post is how our gardens appear today. The winter photo shows how it appeared before we removed the yews and dug out the old flower bed replacing it with roses and peonies and the liberty apple.

As I'm writing this post a crew from Sacred Ground Landscaping is removing our pond. The fellows working today told us from the signs they see it's the neighborhood raccoon watering hole. Many of our neighbors have been seriously troubled by raccoons and have lost chickens and much of their garden produce. It is one reason we are absolutely vigilant about closing up our flock at dusk. We are not removing the pond to eliminate the coons. It was a decision made based on or our changing physical capabilities. It is the one garden on our landscape that we are no longer able to manage on our own. The area will be redesigned into an evening resting place, a bit of a secret garden with a fire pit and perhaps a solar water feature. Once the new soil is in place tomorrow we'll have to give it time to settle before we move forward. This new garden won't be planted out til spring, giving me the winter to dream of its possibilities.
The pond has provided water for so much of the wildlife that shares this amazing place. My heart is heavy that we are removing what they've come to depend on throughout the seasons. The decision wasn't made lightly and I'm still bruised by it.
It's always a wrestling match, mostly with our own hearts and minds, making decisions that will ripple out from the centerpoint. We do the best we can and then let go.
Perhaps this reads like a tempest in a teapot. But it's where I am just now.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


We are making difficult decisions about our landscape that will be a better fit with our physical ability to care for our property as we continue to age. Changes are planned. Some have begun. But there will always be places for lilies in our gardens.
Reliable, undemanding, diverse, fragrant, beautiful. Bloom times extend throughout the season. All true.
Asiatics, turk's caps, orientals, trumpets, and the humble daylilies. I love them all.
I brought a few here from my garden in Illinois. Some were here when I arrived. Many I've added along the way. Here are a few:

stella d oro

big smile

happy returns

mary todd

casa blanca


what Jerome calls ditch lilies, yes, I even love them for their tenacity

red volunteer

Are there lilies smiling in your garden?

Yes, it's been far too long since I've done a blog post. In the spring I graduated to an iPhone and have been using it to take photos and putting them on instagram. Some of what's there will show up here in the weeks to come. Some may not. You're welcome to look for me there.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"twisted fruit"

Before moving to the farm I had a long history of growing African Violets. But not a single one would grow well for me here. I've tried and tried and not a one has survived. Very sad, I tell you.

Two years ago I came upon a lovely little flowering plant at an Amish greenhouse. Its name is streptocarpus. It's from the Greek via Latin meaning "twisted fruit." A relative of the African Violet it is often called a cape primrose. The Amish call it a lady slipper. 
First residing on the front porch, then inside at the upstairs sliders with the orchids, within a year it multiplied into a robust mound of half a dozen plants and remained in bloom without pausing even once. Despite a serious attack of mealy bug, it has lived to multiply again. You see it in the photo above.
Naturally, last summer I was on the lookout for another variety hoping to begin a collection. I found only one. This little charmer joined the family.

This spring, after a year, it too has multiplied into many individual plants and will be divided and shared before being brought in for the winter.
Of course, this spring again I looked and amazingly I found three more flower types! None of them were in robust health but that didn't deter this new addict.

Aren't they lovely? This fall they'll get a plant stand of their own and be watched very carefully for the insidious little fuzzy invaders.  
By the way, garden centers sometimes sell their little cousin, streptocarella. It's a cutie, too. Clusters of smaller violet hued flowers on dangling stems. Cheerful. Friendly. 
And the humming birds that visit the nectar feeder out the front porch love them too.