Tuesday, November 30, 2010

so much to be thankful for

Why is it that the time you spend with the people you love the most passes so quickly?
I am now returned to the farm after a week's Thanksgiving visit to our city house. Dovey and Mya got along tremendously and I know each is missing the other today. Cats have great depth of feeling after all.

On Sunday November 21 a daughter was born to a teenager in Phoenix, Arizona. This little girl was to be adopted by my godchild/niece Elaine. Elaine and her husband Ryan flew to Arizona to meet their new daughter and we were able to see them all via Skype on Thanksgiving day. We learned that my new grand niece was to be called Zuzu Lolita. Elaine had always said if she had a daughter she would name her Zuzu. So that wasn't a surprise. What was the surprise was her choice of middle name, Lolita.
Lolita was my mother's name. Mom was named for Lolita Armour Mitchell, grand-daughter of the famous founder of the Chicago Armour meat company. As a child Lolita Armour was confined to a wheelchair due to double hip displacement. My great grandmother was a marvelous seamstress and was employed by the Armours to sew for the family and to design clothing for Lolita that would be easy for her to get into and out of. Little else is remembered by our family regarding great-grandma's relationship with the Armours. There must have been something meaningful there for my mother to be named for this famous lady. Actually, my grandmother Emma would have been Lolita Armour's peer, so perhaps there was a relationship there also. Doing some research into the Armours today has been interesting. If only more were known.
Abig, warm welcome to the newest member of our family and congratulations to Elaine and Ryan and the big brothers Luke and Zeke. I'll post a photo when I have a good one.
During my Thanksgiving holiday I also was able to work in my city garden, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden and see their amazing Christmas train exhibit, walk around Long Grove, Illinois (sadly not what it once was) have dinner with my father-in-law's wife Stephanie, talk with my sister-in-law in Surprise Arizona and hear all about their new twin grandsons, have brunch with my garden-shopping buddy Barb, feast on Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings with "my side of the family" at my sister Terri's home, visit a little with our son, Phillip, decorate our city house enough to bring on some  holiday cheer, and pack up another car full of things to bring out to the farm, including a few of the old Christmas decorations.
Since being back I've been putting away the autumn things, sorting and cleaning and decorating. It snowed lightly today after some freezing rain last night. There was just enough snow to put me in the holiday mood. That and copying CDs to my computer including some of my favorite Mannheim Steamroller recordings. I refilled the nearly empty bird feeders and had to bring two of them inside to unfreeze so I could open them! Poor little birds have to hold on to those cold, cold feeders with their tiny feet!  I tried to keep myself upbeat, but it's always sad to be newly away from Jerome again. Bless that sweetheart-o-mine, he surprised me and made my day by sending me a seasonal arrangement from a local florist, the Flower Basket.

While typing this last bit, Dovey cornered her first mouse. She had it a few times but, alas, being a city raised cat didn't quite know that playing with it wasn't enough. It managed to get away from her by jumping down through the grate in the living room floor which serves as the cold air return. Tomorrow is another day for man and beast. I hope now that she's had her first encounter she'll be able to sleep tonight and that the one that got away will go and tell all its friends that leaving the basement is not a good idea.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Not the best day for hunting today. Though it's actually at least 15 degrees warmer than yesterday, it is wet and so foggy! I took a ride into town to get a few last minute things before my trip back to Illinois tomorrow and couldn't see any of the buildings on either side of the road while driving on Rt. 14. Coming back to the farm I couldn't even see the grain elevator at the intersection of Railroad and Cherry Grove. Spooky and beautiful. Here is a shot I took earlier today before the fog became really dense.
You can see one of the yellow mums that I put in the ground today. The 4 front mums went nicely into the spots vacated by the dahlia bulbs. I didn't want to dig any new spots in case there are bulbs lurking there. Now I have 4 empty stone urns which I will fill with holiday "greens" when I come back next week. Terri brought me osage oranges and there are red twig dogwood branches and several kinds of pine here to add. I'll bring my gorgeous pine cones from Illinois too. Should be pretty and fun to do.
I put together my corn tassel wreath this morning. It turned out just fine. I also added the last of the tassels I had displayed in vases in the house to the grapevine frame so there wouldn't be any around to tempt  either Dovey or the mice. If I had known how well they would work, I would have cut a couple more boxes of tassels before the harvesters got to them. Tassel wreaths would have made great gifts.

Well I hope I've learned my lesson about putting things off. For days I had been telling myself it was time to  disconnect the hose and turn off the outside tap. That new hose is very stiff and hard to manage even on a warm sunny day. Well finally yesterday I attempted to drain the hose and found it frozen. What had I expected with such cold grey days? Well let me tell you what a pain it was just to drag onto the back porch to try and straighten it out yesterday afternoon. I ended up bringing it into the bathroom to warm up so I could drain and wrap it in a warm place. It laid on the bathroom floor all night with the ends in the tub and this morning I wrestled it into a decent coil, emptying it into the tub as I struggled with it. From now on my mantra about getting jobs done when they should be done will be something like "Don't let the hose get into the tub!"

Too bad I won't be able to see the full moon tonight. It's pitch dark out right now and I can't even see any lights from across the fields. In the last couple of hours no cars have driven past on the road either. Just too foggy to be out. Feels cozy inside though. Candles lit, Dovey near. And tomorrow I'll see Jerome and Mya. Ahhhhh.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mother Nature's finishing touches

Literally within moments of my touching the Publish Post icon, the sky exploded. From a totally leaden sky came this scene...


Something woke me at 4 am this morning. After a quick trip to the first floor I snuggled back under my covers thinking I'd be asleep again in moments. Very soon a car came driving past the house moving in the direction of the dead ends off our road. And another drove by. Surely there can't be too many residents partying on a Friday night til 4 in the morning. Within half an hour it seemed as if a parade of cars was moving by. Well that was the end of my sleep as I realized today is opening day of deer hunting season. Apparently you find a spot while it's still dark and then when the sun comes up you try to do the deed.
And today we were able to see the sun come up. And it was cold! The water in the birds' water cooler was frozen.
Soon after this lovely sunrise I began to hear the sounds of gunshot. There are some majestically beautiful places along the dead end road that must be deer havens. If I've seen deer in the open on my meadow and along my driveway, I have to wonder just how many are living in the woods. The season lasts 9 days but 80% of the deer harvest happens the first 2 days. Last year the corn harvest was late and the deer were able to hide in the cornfields. The year before the opening day was hindered by heavy fog. Today was probably the answer to a hunter's prayer for good weather.
I needed to stop in the post office and have my mail held for my trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving. And I also wanted to return a book to the Viroqua library this morning. While there I found 3  books of local interest that I can't wait to begin.  Then I stopped at the Viroqua Public Market and enjoyed chatting with some of my new friends there. I met another woman who stopped at Robin's table. Her name is Sherry (sp?) and has been in Viroqua just over a year. She's from Geneva, Illinois. In fact, her husband and 2 older sons still live there. She and her 2 younger boys are here. She really knows her stuff about herbs! And she introduced me to both a source for seeds and an herbalist I should get to know online. (I'll share them with you when Robin emails the contacts to me.) Sherry was also lovely, and friendly, and easy to talk to. I'm convinced this area attracts this kind of woman and once again I have to think I was led to
this beautiful place.
The forecast for the next week shows some really chilly weather on the way. I checked the garage for anything that might freeze, undid the hose from the outside tap, and since the water in the hose was already frozen, dragged it to the back porch for the sunshine to warm it up. While outside I decided to hang another seed cake holder. This time I used a peanut cake which brought the nuthatch almost in moments. Since you've always seen my feeders from inside I thought I'd share a shot of them from the
outside for a change.

At the bottom of the photo are Anne's cement mushrooms and the plaster casting my sister Mary made for me of a rhubarb leaf. I absolutely love that leaf and hope to learn to make castings of my own next year. And the red French doors will soon be history. We are having those drafty, leaky doors replaced after Thanksgiving. In fact all of our doors are going to be changed. I am eager for that to be done and will share it also in the days ahead.
And then there's my good pal Dovey. She simply is a sweet companion here at the farm. She is bold and curious and loving. Here she is posing this morning while I was working at the dining room table doing more tear sheets from old magazines.

I began the deep gold crocheted afghan for the guest room last night. I decided since the yarn is thick a simple single crochet pattern would be best. I'll add a decorative border perhaps a shell edge when the body is done. For now it'll give me an easy project to work on while I'm back in Illinois for the holiday. Jerome tells me he's been gathering videos from the Niles library for us to watch after dinner like old times.
Well, the sun is gone now, behind a thickening sky with freezing rain predicted overnight. It's time to turn on the lamps and pull down the living room shades, light a few candles. Another sweet day drawing to a close.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Here it is, my newest crochet work. It measures just over 19 inches across and is done with Red Heart Classic Crochet Thread size 10, Frosty Green color # 0661. I used a size 7 crochet hook. Here's a full shot and  a closeup of the book and tools...

I started it this past Sunday, working only in the evenings while watching all the old Harry Potter films in honor of the release of part one of book 7 today. But yesterday I did a marathon to finish it and worked beyond my comfort level and ended up with a mistake which took me nearly 2 hours to remedy. Not smart.
Earlier this month I had made another doily with the same cotton thread and size 7 hook called Woodland Lace. It is just under 12 inches across and was a bit trickier to crochet as I had never done it before and had to interpret the instructions carefully, beginning and undoing rounds until I could do them correctly. I like how it turned out in the end. It's pictured here with the two watercolor instruction books I pulled from my library to share with Anne when she returns.

I used this same cotton on one other crochet project. Mary Janes Farm magazine published a pattern for a hexagon design which I really like. You can put them together in so many different ways. I chose for myself a simple hexagon for my oak lamp stand.
A bit reminiscent of snowflakes.
Well, I decided to put away the tiny crochet work for a while. Since I bought some deep gold yarn to make a throw to use in the guest room, my fingers will enjoy the change of tension.
I think I'll also resume work on my cross stitch 4 seasons wreaths during evening movie time. And considering the vast inventory on Anne and Matthias' entertainment computer drive there's lots of good evenings of hand work and movies ahead this winter. Yahoo. Just add hot cocoa and look out!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

surrounded and uplifted in my loneliness

Some days are quiet, slow, calm days. Today was such a day. I mostly spent my day working to finish my crocheted heart doily. Still the last few outer rounds to go, but really getting near to finishing now.
The sun stayed hidden til mid to late afternoon and the sunset, too, was quiet compared to the many "full orchestra finales" we've had this fall. I did go out to catch the bit of color and the woodpecker who has been a frequent visitor didn't budge as I stood near on the deck. I was able to take photos of both.
All the bird photos I've posted before this have been taken from inside my sewing room through the glass of the French doors. Today I was standing not 8 feet from the feeder able to hear the sounds of his pecking and some sweet chirps between.
Not really moved to work on outside projects I ventured out only to collect the mail. Fortunately there was some today. I love days when the mailbox has mail, real mail. A magazine, a bank statement. A good mail day for a relative newcomer.
Wandering in a bit of a loneliness fog I took a few photos of things around the house...
Yesterday I had a brainstorm regarding the paper I need to do some iris folding. I came upon a collection intended for origami, lovely printed tissue-thin sheets. And wouldn't some nice solid tissue papers work in concert with them?
I also bought some printed card stock and picked up more paint sample cards for my paper quilts.
I had been collecting brightly colored samples at paint departments for a while when I borrowed a Jinny Beyer video from my library about the use of color in quilts. She had a color swatch stack organized by the spectrum attached with a pivoting pin so you can fan out the colors. I used something nearly exactly like it in college during one of my art courses. In fact I still have it there snuggled up against the paint samples. She recommended buying her color "chart" but suggested collecting color samples from the paint store if you preferred. Wow.
To help me focus on the blessings that surround me I took pictures of other things too. I needed a reminder to  really look at and appreciate the little things my eyes glance at but I don't fully see, such as my new lamp and the small gathering of lovely things on top of my oak card catalog that holds my rubber stamp collection.
And the art glass window that I bought to remind me that though I am often alone here at the farm, I am never alone, as I am in God's mind at least as much as the lilies of the field.
And I have to stop and admire the brief explosion of bloom on the Thanksgiving cactus plants.
I had been watching the buds form for a few weeks now, and so am not surprised to see the flowers open. But what I hadn't been watching and was surprised to find today, a flower spike on my one, sorry neglected moth orchid.
Grace, healing energy, chi, surrounds us. All we need to do is breathe it in.

getting to know you

Determined to learn the names of the plants and animals I have come to live among, I am happy to report that I have been able to identify the newcomer at my seed cake feeder this morning. Thanks to the All About Birds website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I have learned that this sweet fellow is a White Breasted Nuthatch.
And I learned that I've been misspelling Junco. Sorry little birds.
Dovey just can't stay away from her post at the French doors, whining softly and incessantly while watching the feeders. She particularly did not like the brief visit of a Bluejay. I have to say the smaller birds didn't like it either.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A little night magic

While visiting Viva Gallery with my sister Terri last week we met and spoke at length with one of the members of the Gallery  Monica Jagel. We discovered that she is a botanical drawing instructor at Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, a place I've visited often. It was her day to work the gallery and she was working on a drawing between visitors which she shared with us, a pencil drawing of a poppy seed head covered in what looked like spun sugar. She told us the driftless area often experiences what is called frozen fog and it creates magical scenes. During the night, though looking directly up to the stars the sky seemed clear, gazing across the fields in the dark the light from neighboring farms came to me as if through  gauze. This morning, past sunrise, the fog was so dense I could hardly see my potting shed. A magical frost was on everything not near the warmth of the farmhouse.
Then I got dressed and took a few photos of the plants near the house.

Had I gotten up earlier, walked down the road away from the relative protection of the house and trees, I can only imagine what I would have seen.
Just now there is something moving in the fog which looks as if it is laying a minute layer of white onto the arborvitae out the french doors here near my desk. It looks like a superfine snow but perhaps is moving frozen fog. The temperature reads  a hair above freezing on the thermometer, but if it were a tad colder, imagine the result.Though it is nearly 9:00 the fog has gotten denser. A truly magical morning up here on Asbury Ridge.

Monday, November 15, 2010

clean out your refrigerator day

This morning dawned with a promise of sun, though the fields around the farm were shrouded in frozen mist.

I was glad I woke up early enough to catch the first snow on the upstairs deck before the sun had a chance to melt it away.

OK, the beginning of a new week and a fresh opportunity to get to all those things I've been putting off. First, the frig. According to Susan Wittig Albert, author of All About Time: a Weekly Calendar of Times and Seasonings, it's clean out your refrigerator day. (You can subscribe by writing to:  webmistress@abouthyme.com.)  My refrigerator tends to hold lots more than yours since I've been determined there not be a crumb nor a hint of a temptation to lure those field mice hiding in the basement to make themselves comfortable in my kitchen. And I want the bird food handy for refilling the feeders so the seed cakes are in there too, though I should find some sort of metal container to store them in like I'm using for the thistle seed. There are Junkos here now bottom feeding beneath the chickadees, gold finches and woodpeckers.
And Susan's calendar says it's America Recycles day. So I thought it would be good to finally do something with the dried corn tassels I gathered a few weeks ago before the corn was harvested. I tried one method of making a wreath and it was a disaster, so not to be put off my goal I decided to use the grapevine wreath I had fashioned in October when we were cleaning up the overgrowth at the koi pond. Here is the result. And Anne, thanks for the dried Queen Anne's Lace I added at the last minute. Not the best photo, but you get the idea.
I did go through all the tear sheets I had gathered from the last batch of magazines and catalogs. I needed to do it before I was buried and good things would be lost forever. Did all the desk work too and rearranged my sewing table to make room to play with some colored papers while my sewing machine is away. I've been gathering a box full of paint color samples from various paint departments and want to try using their deep bright colors in mini paper quilts. I have some nice paper punches that should work to give the impression of applique. Should be fun. I'll include some photos of that work another day.
Dovey continues to keep me constant company as I move from one job to another. She especially enjoyed the sun today, taking her version of a sunbath.

Many thanks to my daughter and son-in-law for absolutely making my day. Until now my husband and I have been chatting on Skype without my being able to see him, as his computer did not have a camera. Well today he called me and there he was!! See for yourself...
I am over the moon with delight. Thank you, thank you Anne and Matthias.
As if seeing his handsome face wasn't enough, Mother Nature gave me a gift as well.
Time to close. Enjoy this mid November evening, curled up with a good video, wrapped in an afghan or quilt, hands busy with crochet, or cross stitch, or quilting, or other pleasant activity. A lovely way to finish the day's business before a cozy read in bed before lights out.
Good night all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

rainy saturday and another goodbye

It's late afternoon on a grey, chilly, rainy Saturday. We must have gotten a good amount of rain in the night as there are puddles standing all around and there's a small trickle on the basement floor. Last night's steady, high wind from the north has slowed, but still managed to sneak beneath our coats and down our necks to bring on the shivers.
Terri, my baby sister, arrived here about 3:30 on Thursday and left just about 48 hours later. I haven't stayed up quite that late for a long time. She even read after we retired each night til 1:00 on Thursday night and 2:00 last night. I was lucky to get both feet into bed before I fell asleep.
Thursday we mostly walked the property, checked out all the rooms in the house, and got caught up on what's been going on in each other's lives. Friday we began with her Pilates routine. Ugh, I have not been a good girl regarding my stretching so that was tough. Good, but tough. We did some country drives and explored shops in Westby and Viroqua. I found something just about everywhere we went. Lunch was at the Driftless Cafe.
She had brought lots of food with her and of course I had stuff here, so between us we put together  baked stuffed potatoes and spinach salad for dinner. Seems like the evening disappeared. But we were making crepes at 11:00 at night slathered with Nutella and sprinkled with walnuts,  splitting one as a late night snack. I could get used to that!
This morning we were at our mats and Pilates again,  breakfast, then a trip into town to the indoor farners' market. There we met two women who quickly became new friends. The first is Robin who lives in town and makes herbal body care products. I discovered she has a friend in Bill Brooke's development right around the corner of my ridge where she harvests goldenrod for some of her products. I then began asking if she teaches her art and she said she was planning an herbal class in January. I quickly signed up! In speaking with her I found out about a woman who raises goats not far from here who I could visit for goat info. Her name is Denise. I took Robin's card and said I'd be in touch.
Then I met Kathy who lives in Bill's community and owns the house with the wind generator! A new friend who is a neighbor. She was delighted to meet me. She and her husband are retired professors from UIC. They've been here 3 years. What a marvelous visit to the farmers' market that turned out to be.
Our last stop was the antique store just north of us on 14. I found a lovely red glass pitcher to add to my red glass collection.
After a lunch of beef barley soup Terri packed her car and had to be on her way, determined not to be on the twisty roads in the rain and the dark.
It was a VERY good visit and I hope the first of many. And now once again, I am alone. But I have my sweet sweet buddy Dovey here with me and that makes all the difference.
I did manage to find a Scrabble game at one of the antique stores in Westby.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November days continue

Over all too soon, our few days together. Jerome has come and gone again. Full days but fleeting.
Sunday's concert at the LaCrosse cathedral by Olivier Latry from Notre Dame in Paris on the new Noack organ was very fine. The first half of the program included Bach, Alain, and Durufle. Alas, the second half was too contemporary for me to enjoy completely, but we did meet Latry after and chatted with a few folks we knew who were also there. And during our entire drive back to Viroqua the sun was extraordinary. But then, the sun is never ordinary on  Asbury Ridge.. Just look at this morning's sky...
and this evening's...
Monday we bought a snowblower and learned how to operate it. We repaired the fence pieces that had blown down in the last fierce winds, enough to get us through to spring, we hope. That took some thinking and doing, believe me.
We wrapped the water heater in an insulating blanket and bought the lumber we needed to build a work table and shelf in the garage. Measuring the space, making a plan, buying and carting home and cutting all of the pieces. Several saws, drills and bits, screws and screwdrivers, bending and lifting and leveling! Whew, good job, well done. The garage is nearly organized.  Of course we had to move piles of stacked "stuff" left in there by the former owner just to be able to get to the back wall of the garage. The work bench and one shelf are now complete.
We also met with the fellow who is replacing our French doors and both front and back entry doors. I was very glad Jerome was here to choose with me and to meet Steve too.
It has been lovely weather for November, but tonight the wind is howling once again and the temperature is dropping. Rain is predicted for tomorrow and the next day with high temps in the 30s by week's end. Perhaps our first snow as well. Terri is coming tomorrow for a few days visit. I am glad, for it is not easy being alone here even with my sweet Dovey near. I know so many women who live alone  and wonder if they enjoy it. It's the dark time that is the most difficult.
Jerome took my sewing machine with him and dropped it off today for a tuneup at Linda Z's. He told me they are moving to a new location with a large classroom and a bigger parking lot. I wonder if this means they will expand their fabric collection? He'll bring it home when it's ready and I'll pick it up when I go to Illinois for Thanksgiving. Funny how often I wished it were here today. Last night I unwrapped a delivery from Connecting Threads. Here is a photo of the contents, 18 pieces of fabric, 3 spools of thread and 2 books. I washed and ironed the fabrics today. They are all near solids in beautiful rich tones. Should be good blenders for my quilting projects. Nice.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dovey's explorathon

I don't think Dovey got much rest last night. I found an old bottle cap and a large piece from a long forgotten broken glass on the kitchen floor this morning which she must have pulled out from under the oven trying to reach something of interest under there during the night.
Already this morning I've had to clear all the windows so she can sit in each in turn. Right now she's basking in the sunlight coming through the French doors in my sewing room, draped across the extension of my sewing table. She's just noticed two gold finches at the feeder right outside the doors. I think she also likes having carpet on the stairway up to the second floor as it provides good footing for charging up the stairs or down full speed. She slips on the newly refinished oak stairway in her city house with some frequency.
She fills this house with her presence and I am in love with her all over again.
She always has liked participating in computer work. Here she is patiently waiting as I type, and then insisting on getting my attention while I'm doing so. Dovey, I have missed you!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

perfect ending to a long day

Look how Mother Nature rolled out the red carpet for Jerome and Dovey's arrival today. I took the first photo about half an hour before they came.
Then Jerome arrived and the sky began changing minute by minute. I sneaked a shot of Jerome from inside my sewing room while he took the following sky shots.
And finally, Dovey is nonstop exploring every inch of her new country home. Isn't she just the sweetest?
Welcome home Dovey. Watch out you mouselings!!