Sunday, September 25, 2011

thanks, mom

Septembers must have been hard on my parents, with back to school expenses and tuitions and 5 of their 7 children having birthdays between Sept. 4 and Oct. 4, and annual life insurance premiums to pay for each of us! I like to think they found some joy among all the worry. In my child's mind I was aware only of feeling secure and surrounded by family. I was delighted to hear I'd have a new baby in the house near my birthday when I'd turn twelve and set to work asking for a sister as soon as I heard the news. Lucky me when Terri was born. Three years later the last baby was added to the mix. By then I had a  better idea of how hard my parents worked to keep us all going, how we each were required to do our share, but through it all with love.
Well, today is my special day. I'm at our city house and will spend part of today with Jerome, Phil, and his friend, Kelly. The weather doesn't look promising for Goebberts and pumpkin buying, but whatever we do I will find it lovely.
Since my birthday is 9/25,  I've always had a secret hope that I was conceived on Christmas Eve or day in a spirit of celebration. Though mom's been gone for 8 years now, I still sometimes begin to think of what thank you gift to give her as my birthday approaches, as was my habit in her lifetime. This year I'll just think thankful thoughts throughout the day and think on birthdays past.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Today is a big day for each of my sisters. Mary, the eldest of my siblings, is celebrating her birthday today. Happy, happy day, Mary!
Terri, our little sister, whose birthday was this past Thursday and who is a breast cancer survivor, is walking in Chicago's Susan Komen walk today. She has collected over $1,000 for this walk! Way to go Terri. But on top of that, she was nominated and selected to be one of the flag carriers today.
Since I'm at our city house this weekend and borrowing Jerome's computer, I don't have any photos at hand. My enthusiastic texts will have to convey just how glad I am to have each of them in my life.
Yahoo, sisters!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I taught myself to do what I liked to call quilting by reading books and watching videos from my local public library, chiefly the truly wonderful series by Jinny Beyer. What I was really doing was only the first step, piecing, as I never got far enough to actually quilt the pieced tops I was making. Quilting is the art of stitching the layers of pieced top, batting, and backing together with nice, even, tiny decorative running stitches. I made a couple of pillow tops, a doll quilt, a wall hanging, small things I could easily attempt to quilt with stitches embarrassingly wide apart.  These wide stitches have a name: they are called toenail grabbers! and for good reason.
My very first official quilt class was taken in March of 2008 at Quilters' Destination. My instructor was Faith Chaplick, who had been teaching for another quilt shop closer to my home that had recently closed. That class, though at a quilt shop, was actually not related to quilting at all, but the technique of flower pounding, a fun way to "paint" with flowers, which I will talk more about another day.
In this actual quilt class I would be learning how to make a bargello quilt top using a pattern called Mist in the Mountains (shown below)

designed by Ann Lauer.
Though I had brought many fabrics with me from my stash at home, Faith pushed me to go to the edge with my color choices to really make the pattern strong. She also encouraged me to use fabrics with a bit of surface texture. Her class sample was not quilted, just a finished pieced top and so I had no idea what quilting method I would use. The bargello quilt top I made in that class is still not quilted and hangs at this moment above my computer table. However, I had enough fabric to make 2 tops and the second set had been sitting in my "to do" pile all this long while. Until now...
My attraction to the bargello design came from my one and only purchased quilt, a real beauty I bought at a quilt auction the autumn before, in benefit of Heifer International. What an experience that day was. I arrived just early enough to look over some of the quilts before the auction began and fell in love with a green and brown queen sized quilt, hand pieced and hand quilted by Amish women in the Amana Colonies. All of the quilts being auctioned that day were donations, so the history, or provenance, of many was limited. There were about 125 quilts on the schedule and my beauty was number 114 on the agenda! After watching for hours I was ready and I bid and counter bid and won my quilt!!

Mya and Dovey love it too.
It is a bargello with a center medallion of log cabins turned on themselves. It is one of my most prized possessions, and the real beginning of Jerome's appreciation for quilts and quilting.
This spring my beautiful niece, Sarah, discovered she had a form of cancer called lymphoma. First she had surgery, and then she fiercely faced 8 rounds of chemo, each 3 weeks apart. On Friday September 9 she got the news she'd been waiting for, no sign of the cancer. During all this time she continued to practice and teach yoga, to hike the Rockies (she lives in Denver),  to go underground exploring caves, to attend concerts and hang out with the girls, in short to live every moment to the fullest. How could I not be totally in awe of this young woman?! She has faced and survived more in her 26 years than many of us do in a lifetime.
Sarah and I have been pen pals for a long while now. And since we each began to blog within the past year we've been able to get windows on each others lives through our photographs and writings.
It was time to get out the pieces of the second bargello quilt top and assemble them into a quilt for Sarah. This one I WOULD quilt, bind, and label. It would also need a sleeve should Sarah want to hang it.
I will now openly admit that I was terrified of quilting. I had practiced stitching by hand and by machine. My hands are not yet skilled enough and may never be. My sewing machine, though serviced less than a year ago, does not have good tension control. I did a first rate job of the piecing Sarah's quilt, much more successfully assembled than the one I made for class. But could I surmount my fear and just do it for Sarah?
I think one of the things that Anne finds difficult about me is my hesitancy about things. In fact, it's one of the things I dislike most about myself. However, I needed to do this and do it now. I decided to follow the lead of the Amish ladies who made my auction quilt and use the same design, only by machine. Though the stitches on the back are a bit uneven, those on top are just fine. Today I bound it, added the sleeve and attached the label, the provenance necessary for any quilt to be complete. It is now packaged and waiting to be mailed tomorrow.

Above is a photo of the label.
I'll post other photos of it once I know it's in Sarah's hands. For now, I'm happy for Sarah's facing her fears and triumphing and for my small conquest as well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

keeping busy

When life becomes complicated and uncertain, I find comfort and a measure of peace by filling my hours with physical tasks. All the more calming to the spirit if the results of these labors are useful, beautiful, and can be a source of gifts for those I love.
Yesterday I processed a box of the apples I'd gathered, all windfalls.
Twelve pints of applesauce which I decided not to put through the sieve, so the result is just a tad chunky. No salt, no sugar, my largest pot filled to the top with cored, pared, cut apples, just a cup of water in the bottom (to keep the apples from scorching.) Two large pots full of prepared apples yielded these 12 pints.
Then there was the large box of tomatoes gathered before the threatened frost. These became the most luscious sauce, yielding just over 5 pints.
My 2 largest pots overflowing with cored, peeled, cut tomatoes, simmered, put through the sieve and boiled down to this. After filling these jars there was a bit left over. Brainstorm! freeze it.
Not a new idea but I was glad I thought of it. Now I have a nice little ziploc bag of tomato sauce cubes for those recipes that require just a bit of tomato sauce.
I'm giving myself permission to stay out of the kitchen today. I finally got around to making a thank you card for Stephanie, my Do What You Love postcard partner.
It's chilly today, with no sun. Haven't had a sunless day in 2 weeks. Maybe the predicted rain will appear. Even if it does, tomorrow is the Driftless Area Art Festival in Soldiers Grove and I am really looking forward to it, rain or shine. Lovely to have something like that to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September days

We are expecting a frost tonight. It can't be possible, not so soon.  Just one night below 32 degrees for the foreseeable future. I am feeling an urgency to gather and preserve all the good things our small, new farm has produced this season despite the promise of many fair days to come. For the first time in many weeks the windows in the chicken house will be closed against the cold. The window coverings in the house will be open to the sun all day to capture the sunlight against tonight's chill.
I'll cover the tender plants with what I can: the left over moving blankets,  the row covers I purchased for the vegetable beds but have not as yet used. Houseplants still enjoying their summer holiday out of doors on the decks will need to be covered as well. But they, like me, are not ready for the REAL end of summer.
The threat of frost can upset the goal of living in the moment. Hurry, hurry. I refuse. I have tomatoes on the stove now simmering for another batch of sauce. I purposefully cored and skinned each one as the gift they truly are. No waste, either, as I'll give the chickens the skins, cores and pulp. I really love that.

I gathered two boxes of apples to process today too, but am impeded by lack of sufficient space and equipment. I think they'll keep nicely in the chill, on the porch just out of reach of Jack Frost. And some I can use with the dehydrator. I do enjoy dried apple rings.
No rain here in nearly 2 weeks. I'll need to water the orchard this afternoon. I had thought one of my neighbors was testing their wood stove or having a campfire, as there's been smoke in the air. Jerome tells me it is from the wildfires in Minnesota. How sad. Was it the drifting smoke that added to our sunset?


And why the harvest moon, though past her fulness, still rises with such color on her cheeks?
I am truly blessed to be here, now. And I am thankful. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

aloha inflatable

When Anne and Phil were about 5 and 3, Jerome's father, known as Pater, took all of us fishing for the first time. Thus began Phil's love affair with the sport. A few years back Phil bought himself his first boat, an inflatable, which he could pack easily into his car and take out on the lagoons near the high school where he was teaching on sweet days when he was not coaching after school. You could propel her by oar or trolling motor. He often brought her up to Ice Lake when we visited Uncle Dan in Iron River, Michigan  UP,  and we all enjoyed riding about the lake.
Here you see Anne, Phil and Matthias bringing her in after a fishing outing on Ice Lake.
Here is my favorite oarsman giving me a gentle ride around the lake while the kids fished nearby.
And here is my favorite photo of Jerome and me taking a ride. Of course you don't wear shoes in an inflatable, which adds to the feeling of being gently rocked. Those inflated bolsters made it all the more comfortable, and you could move them about to fit around and beneath you.
Phil sold her this weekend to a father with 2 kids eager to fish when they go camping together. I wish them many pleasant and safe outings. Float on sweet craft.
Phil, thanks for sharing the joy.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

and then there were two

It may seem foolish on this day of National Mourning to be posting about a duck. But I think if we can feel greatly about the loss of small beauties in our lives we are all the better for it.
Our 3 chocolate India Runner Ducks have always seemed to be joined at the shoulder. They are named for favorite chocolate candies, Snickers, Tootsie, and Pixie. Snickers seemed to be the dominant personality, and she was easy to spot with lighter legs and ankles than her sisters. Pixie the smallest of the 3. In the past several days Pixie and Tootsie both moved away from Snickers for short attempts to interact with me on their own. But Snickers would call them back and they'd retreat.
For the past couple days especially they have been very vocal, talking up a storm for long conversations. From the house it always sounds like they're having a good joke.
There's also been an increase in wild animal sounds around the farm in recent days. On Friday night I went out to the birds a bit later than usual because we'd been out to dinner. I found Polish and one of the Buff Orpingtons sitting shoulder to shoulder in the little door opening of their chicken house, facing out blocking the door. This has never happened before. The coyotes were out in the valley below calling as I shooed those two inside and shut their door. They had been on watch, those sweet brave birds.
Sometime yesterday little Snickers lost her head, literally. Beginning their first full day without her, Pixie and Tootsie seem at a loss and are quite subdued today, not sure how to go about without her. Jerome says I seem very calm about it. I am strangely calm, but of course feel deep sadness at the loss of her life. We've all heard the saying "sitting ducks" and maybe even use it without really thinking about it. I have taken them out of their natural element, deprived them of being raised by a knowing mother who could have taught them how to be more careful, and put them in an environment that is limited in its options for their survival. I am saddened by my own selfish desires which robbed them of their chance for a "natural" life. I did not think beyond the desire to possess them, bewitched by the "cute" pictures in the catalog. Ignorant, unprepared and inexperienced, I was unable to provide them with better living conditions and failed them. Yes, they would have been purchased by some other buyer reading Murray MacMurray's catalog if I had not, but I did order them and wasn't prepared to keep them properly.
I have been learning many lessons here on Asbury Ridge this first year. I am sorry that this great lesson has been learned at Snicker's expense.
On this tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, I pray that the world has learned a lesson, dearly paid for by much more than the life's blood of one small duck.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Though I had given Terri plenty of tomatoes for their home table and their restaurant, Cucina Bianchi, and sent home a good number with Jerome, and been eating them fresh here, and fed lots of cracked and chewed tomatoes to the chickens, there were still many left that Terri and I had gathered and that I had picked in the last day or so. Yesterday I decided to process them before my guests arrive today.
I started by coring and removing any wounds and then twice filled the big pot you see in the lower photo. They cooked down all day and I put them through my old fashioned conical shaped sieve using a wooden paddle made to fit the cone to squeeze the good juices from the pulp. (Here is Anne using this apparatus for applesauce last fall.)

The tomato juice filled this large pot and my next biggest pot. Then I cooked down that liquid until I could transfer what was in the smaller pot into the large one. Continuing to cook down the remainder I ended up with just enough juice/sauce for the scant 3 quarts pictured here in the pot that had been twice filled with the cut tomatoes earlier that day.

I heard the last satisfying ping just before heading to bed. Compared to the tomatoes, the pints of pickled beets I had done in the morning were a breeze. So far 12 quarts of tomato chunks and 3 quarts of sauce. How on earth did Lovina put up 100 quarts of tomatoes so far, along with all the other canning she's done? All with 6 children to mind?? Makes me feel like a bit of a whimp. But a very satisfied one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

turning the calendar on day 7

How sad to be so consumed by the day to day to have totally missed the turning of the calendar from August to September, one of my favorite months. I wrote a few cards today, all belated. In the first 6 days of this month there are 4 anniversaries of marriage, an anniversary of birth, an anniversary of death and 2 birthdays. I had company and was involved in visiting and working for long hours past my normal. Good, yes. But sad. I want so much to be in the moment and also be aware of the worlds around me, physical, emotional, communal. I need to learn how to do that and be busy at the same time if I have to be.
There was a storm her last Friday that produced only minor disruption at the farm, except for all the apples that blew down, but was devastating to trees and fields and power in the towns north of here. I had taken these photos of our apple tree just the day before.

My sister Terri, who was visiting at the time, helped me pick up the windfalls that afternoon. We stopped with these because we were both too hot and sweating from the roots of our hair.

These don't even take into account the 3 overflowing pots of apples we stacked outside the chicken yard that were too cracked or bruised for us, but good for them.
Fortunately, yesterday my friends Eli and Lovina arrived in their wagon pulled by two of their horses, and picked and picked up enough apples for Lovina to process 100 quarts of applesauce and all the apple butter she could make. She felt she could share some apples with her sister, Mary, but asked if they ran out if they could come back for more later. Looking at the tree, I'd say there would be plenty for us and them and then some.
In the later afternoon yesterday my herbalist friend Robin came to harvest goldenrod and she took 2 full boxes of apples as well! I am totally thrilled to have been able to share so many. There is a second apple tree on the edge of our property which is also loaded, with slightly smaller apples. Eli thought they'd be especially good for their cider and promised to take some a little later when they were riper.
All of the apple gathering by my friends went a long way to cheer this sad heart. Alas, yesterday Jerome had to leave for the city after being here since Saturday morning. We worked like the dickens getting projects done and yet our "to do" list didn't really get much shorter. It is so good to have him here and helps me to concentrate on how beautiful life will be here and how complete when he can finally join me.
Here he is getting ready to cut a board for more shelving and organization in the garage. We put up 3 new shelves and really organized things. After vacuuming and sweeping and sorting the work table is clear, the windows don't look half bad and you can find almost everything. We did lose 3 of the new shelf brackets, though. Darn.

Our weather couldn't have been nicer, only 60 degrees for a high on Sunday but into the high 60s low 70s Monday and Tuesday and blanket weather at night. Clear skies, lovely sunsets, and lots of stars.
I have so much to share, but will close this post by a quick word about the postcard I received through the Do What You Love postcard exchange. It is from Stephanie in Leeds UK. Isn't it perky and fun?

Thanks, Stephanie. I wish I had your email so I could write to thank you. I'll send a written note in the next day or two.
I do thank my 3 good blogger pals, Simone, Karen and Judy, for their comments to me. And after my last visitors tomorrow through Saturday morning,  my sister Mary and her husband Ed, I hope to have a long overdue visit with each of you. Ed has his doctorate and is the former head of the horticulture department at Harper College in Illinois. Mary worked for years at Amlings Flowerland (no longer in business) and more recently Platt Hill Nursery. She has labored successfully on every property she's owned, most recently her beautiful cliffside lot in LakeView Arkansas.  A few photos of their place:
                                             looking into their screen porch on the upper deck

                          looking out of their screen porch to the unscreened part of the upper deck

                                                    looking down to the lower gardens

                                                  their view off the back upper deck
By the way, Ed built all the decking himself.

I have lots of questions for both of them regarding my property and will pick their brains for ideas and suggestions. When we were kids Mary labored beside me weeding our father's vegetable garden and our mother's flower beds. 25 cents each for a full bushel of weeds! Ah, the good old days.