Monday, December 30, 2013

people look east...

This morning's sunrise, 14 degrees below zero. 

on the edge of this year's closing I will look back in wonder and gratitude.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

4th day of Christmas

Mild air, exquisitely warm sunshine. The chickens delight in the out of doors.

Big Guy's tail feathers are beginning to return!

Thanks to Jerome for clearing the deep snow from their chicken yard.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

on the second day of Christmas...

Christmas is not a day, but a season. For me it has just begun and I refuse to let go of it so soon. Sweet memories of preparations...

and of days with loved ones, of good food and sharing gifts that came in packages and in hugs, smiles, laughter. Don't be in too much of a rush to move on. I, too, look forward to the blessings of 2014, but will savor the few days remaining til then.

Wishing you simple gifts: love, joy, peace.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

mid December

With a trace, a dusting, nearly an inch of snow every day, it's looking wintry here. Some high winds earlier in the week and very cold temperatures had me worrying after the chickens. They seem to have taken it in stride, safely tucked away from the winds inside their unheated but well insulated house. They aren't tempted to wander about outside these days, and so we keep their doors firmly closed against the ridge top gales.
After tomorrow,  a bit of a warm up and some sun! are predicted before the next chance of snow by week's end. Wintry weather this December! And very little sun. Sometimes the only sun we see is at its rising (here amid flurries)

 or setting.

Yesterday, braving the cold and wind and with no sun to warm us, Anne, Jerome and I trekked across our road to our "other" property and cut a little red wagon load of greens, sumac heads, milkweed pods, and this and that to fill the urns at the front porch and for Anne to build a swag for her little house. While hiking in the snowy wildness there we kept an eye out for baby pines. And we spied lots! We'll have to go back and tie some bright red ribbons on them so they can be found come spring.  They'll be hard to spot once the vegetation begins to grow again and we would dearly love to bring them to the new bit of land we added to the farm last May so they'll have room to grow and grow.

Always have to stop in the middle of things and look at the camera while Jerome is taking photos.  I have to say this is one time I was happy to oblige.

Can you see the joy in our faces for sharing such a day??

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

advent day 3

Heavy, wet snow gave way to dense fog.
Couldn't be a better day to stay indoors and organize. Time to pack up the autumn decorations. 
With courage and strong will I now have just 2 totes instead of 3. Stopping at GoodWill tomorrow, sharing the bounty.

Now for the real challenge: thinning out 42 years of collecting for Christmas. Little house, little needs, right? I WILL do this. You bet.
But not today. 
Right now it's time for a sip of Tazo mint with lemongrass and a bit of QI Gong before I prepare dinner.

Monday, December 2, 2013

advent day two

This is the house gift I bought for myself soon after I moved to the farm.

It was to be a reminder of New Testament advice not to worry (Matt: 6). When all the city house "stuff" got here,  I  moved it to a room where I rarely spend time. Today it has been shifted again and its light fills me with both comfort and joy.
I wish these for each of you as you move through your own days of advent.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

december first

Advent: capital "A"
usually thought of as the days leading to the coming of the babe to the manger.
Today, the first of four Sundays before Dec. 25, the first day of the Advent season. Over the years I've participated in many discussions about Christ's birth. Not an easy concept to get your mind around. Did Mary really have a choice? Was it "natural"? Was it painful? Did she look forward to the ways her life would forever change? Did Joseph ever understand or trust her, I mean, really??

lower case "a": advent: a coming into being.

A metamorphosis of some magnitude has been turning in my soul these past several weeks. One that has been by turns frustrating, uncomfortable, frightening. Suddenly I'm an insomniac. I'm crabby or moody, or just plain lethargic too much of the time. Why does my very skin feel alien?
My faith encourages that this is exactly as it should be at this precise period of my life. I choose to believe.

Monday, November 11, 2013

nearly mid November

11/11, Yowzers! how did that happen??

It's been too long since my last entry and now so much has happened it's hard to begin.
You, my handful of readers, know that Anne of MyGiantStrawberry is my daughter. If you've been following her the past few weeks you've learned that she and her husband, two greyhounds, senior citizen Siamese, and 60 plus houseplants have made the overland trek from urban Cleveland Heights, Ohio to the organic heartland of the driftless region of Wisconsin... our own backyard. Since mid September when they decided to jump into the deep end of their dreams, Jerome and I have been lending what support we could, and to bring a bit of light when clouds threaten. It has been delightful to witness the transition of a CapeCod we found, from an empty shell to a home and studios uniquely their own. A very good fit.
Being Veteran's Day today my thoughts turn to my dad and Jerome's who each faced the devil on behalf of the world and by the grace of God returned. Thank you, Dad, Pater.
And a very happy birthday to our dear Stephanie. She brought spring back to my father-in-law after Mater passed on. Stephanie, you are always the sun on a rainy day. God bless you on your birthday and every day.
Finally, this morning we had our first measurable snow of the season.

Silly chickens refused to step out. Minerva, always the first to explode from the door, put on the brakes and clucked in disgust "What the heck is this???"

Now, at 3 in the afternoon, the clouds are beginning to break enough for shafts of sunlight to pour onto the snowy fields across our meadow. Temperature in the teens tonight and tomorrow night. Anne and Matthias and the greyhounds are on their way. Hot cocoa, internet access, romps in the snow, lemon chicken dinner and an episode or two on the DVD player. Cozy night ahead.
As Tiny Tim so aptly stated, "God bless us, every one."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

farewell to the barn

Pulling up the driveway for the first time on a sunny June afternoon in 2010, we couldn't help but notice this tired but none the less lovely old building. We weren't to learn until this spring that the tiniest southwest corner of her was on our property. The farmer who rented the land she sat on merely planted around her and Mother Nature did the rest.

Within two months of our buying our property, a couple of fellows who knew one of the land owners came to remove the interior beams with the intention of using them to construct a winery. One old barn on acres and acres of land meant next to nothing to the owners so they had no objection. The dismantling crew thought she'd be easy to strip, but after wrestling for hours only managed to remove a relatively small amount of lumber, destroying her in the process. (We recently learned that the wood they removed is still sitting in a pile unused.) And so the weeds and volunteer trees and wild grape vine and Virginia creeper grew around and inside of her.

When the land owners did nothing to remove the wreck despite its dangerous condition and attraction to critters I didn't want to interact with living here on my own, we began the process of buying the property so we could remove it ourselves. In May of this year we became the owners of nearly one more acre of land and a pile of splintered wood, shattered windows, with a cracked and broken stone and cement foundation which had once been a functioning dairy barn.
First I asked my good friend Eli if he would like to look over what was left and for his labor take whatever he could use. He came with a couple of his sons, his horses and wagon and removed 3 wagonloads of scrap metal which he exchanged for cash. He also took a load of various other things he could put to use on his farm by either rebuilding them or trading them. (While Eli worked inside the dangerous barn, I "hired" his two oldest sons to move rocks for me. There were so many lying about and I thought they'd be perfect to rebuild the fire pit near the pond. The boys eagerly moved a few dozen and earned themselves a bit of cash. Their mother later related the joy with which the boys showed her their earnings that morning.)
Then we tried to find anyone with an interest in old barn wood that might be able to salvage a bit more. No one was interested in the work involved. We took a few pieces of barn board for ourselves and then decided it was time to lay her to rest.
We began by using a brush hog to clear the field in front of the barn, and then by hand Jerome and I removed trees and shrubs on the north and west sides. This allowed better access for the work to come.
Last weekend the heavy machinery arrived. First a handful of broken and tightly clustered box elders were pushed to the back corner of the lot to be cut for firewood next spring. Then the enormous hole was dug. This took a great deal of skill as our lot line was very near the edge of the hole and we desired the silo to be protected in the process.

Once everything was underground, Steve moved in with the dozer. I do believe he had a great time with that part of the job.

Sunday morning dawned crisp and clear and our eastern border had been transformed.

Jerome wanted to stand on the dozer and pose for me, so early on Monday we went out for a few photos.

Just in time! a few minutes later the trailer came to collect the machinery.

Our lovely autumn has shifted and suddenly there's not only a chill in the air, but rain and ice, cloudy days and frosty nights. Putting the garden to bed has been our most recent priority. But when wee can, we're working to remove debris and rocks in preparation for the delivery of additional topsoil and a sowing of a winter cover crop.
And then this bit of earth will rest.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

we finally made our bed

My bare root strawberries had arrived in May of 2012 and went into pots, and there they stayed. Each time Jerome visited these past two summers building the strawberry bed was on the "to do" list. It never made it to the top. I was determined to get those plants in the ground and not put them potbound back into the garage for another winter.
Ok, we were ready. But just how would be do this?? And where would we get the additional soil we would need for the raised bed?
One answer came from our getting the grounds around the barn prepared for the demolition. We discovered we had several old railroad ties partly buried along the old property line. Getting them liberated enough to determine which were best took some time and much labor. Moving them to their destination took ingenuity. Using the riding mower as a tow, we fashioned a system to drag them over, at times with me driving and Jerome pushing from behind. We did have to replace one or two when we saw how the original few didn't quite fit together. But we had this hauling maneuver down pat by then and it was actually kind of fun.

Jerome had to saw one of those giants in half by hand. What a guy!
We had done a preliminary job of removing the weeds and grasses in the area, but now had to really clean it out well.

Then for the soil...
We purchased what we hoped would be a good mix of bagged soil, peat, and compost but found that this late in the season the bags had grown some moss and in a few, some non desirable greens. But with a bit of trouble we cleaned that up and put the soil mix into the bottom of the bed. Then I emptied several very large tubs of a good quality potting mix that I had brought from a favorite garden center in Illinois and had used this season to carry over plants I brought from the city garden until I was able to settle them into the beds here. With the addition of this beautiful soil, our bed was nearly bursting. Plus, all of the strawberries were already rooted in the soils they had clinging to them in their pots.

On the weekend following, Mother Nature watered them in well with 3 inches of rain. And then she smiled to let us know we'd done a good job.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Yesterday, a perfect fall day, we dispatched the piles of brush and dead trees we'd been collecting all year.

Jerome outfitted his "new" car with the necessary hardware and for the first time in years and years pulled a trailer.

A surprisingly short while later, our many large messy piles became one very useful mound of fresh mulch.

The ice storms last spring brought down several long heavy limbs from our beloved pine.

With Dick's able assistance and his trusty chain saw these are now a neat stack of logs, standing at the ready near the firepit.
A very satisfying day.

Monday, September 30, 2013

an amazing month

Saturday, Sept. 28, 6:30 pm:
The retreating storm set against the late season fields called me out for a closer look. One moment later soft rain brought this:

a total double rainbow.

It's been an incredible month, full of bounty in every way. I am feeling blessed and grateful.
And life feels as if it's just begun.
May each of you be feeling the same graces as this last day of the month slips by.

Friday, August 30, 2013

a rural alphabet

Last evening Jerome and I attended a book signing in our town's lovely book store, Bramble Books. The featured title: A Rural Alphabet, the result of collaboration between two local artists and friends, colored pencil artist Monica Jagel and poet Joanne Adragna Shird.

Before the presentation we ate dinner in our favorite local restaurant, The Driftless Cafe, now under new management. (the link shows last night's menu. We had the special salad. Absolutely divine.) And who was seated at the table next to us?? Monica and Joanne!
The small gathering at the bookstore event allowed for lots of conversation with the artists and some surprising links among us. All too soon we noticed the darkening sky and remembered our chickens needed their house secured for the night and so we made our apologies for needing to leave. But not before purchasing a copy for ourselves and one to be given as a gift.  Once again, our small town demonstrated its large heart and soul. And the magic of interacting with two gifted and passionate artists  has stirred my own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


There are so many things to love about life here on our ridge meadow farm in our new life together. We're finding our rhythm and working at the fine art of living in the moment. A favorite time of day is just after dinner. After putting the chickens to bed we've begun a routine of walking the grounds and taking note of those small beauties that can be so easily overlooked. We can feel summer's desperation in the final days of August and a hint of that melancholy that can ride on the winds as a prelude to autumn. Most notable is the sunlight shifting and shortening at day's end, across the fields, down the road.

Looking back at the house from the road last evening just before 8 pm, the sun already below the horizon and the approaching night very still, we saw the full moon, the Grain Moon or Green Corn Moon, rising over the house. And felt a benediction.

If you follow Anne on her instagram site or MyGiantStrawberry, you know what I've been up to recently. Such a wonderful visit. And all too short. If there is a down side to living out here on the farm it is that we have put an additional 240 miles between ourselves and our children. When this thought threatens to overpower, I consider that despite the miles, we have never felt closer to our children in every other way.

Monday, August 12, 2013

a quick hello to any who stop by...

Spending most of our hours out of doors, filling our selves with summer. We feel as if we've lost many days and sometimes the urgency overpowers. Then we remind ourselves we have the rest of our lives.
am I really the only woman in the county who washes her chicken house windows???

is he really having the time of his life?

lots of time yet to grow a delicious garden despite the late start
We try to remember to enjoy the journey, and so

the pond garden is taking shape
there are evening fires at the pit beside our pond garden.
Yesterday together we put up our first pickles of the season.

Not our own cucumbers, as they are just learning to climb their fence. (Thank you Mary for giving me your extras.)
spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale, beet greens, basil, chives, parsley and radishes just gathered 

We try to notice those creatures who share this incredible ridge meadow farm.

As I type this Jerome is playing the organ and not on his knees pulling out weeds and invasive grasses. I feel the radiant buoyancy of grace.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

cool, clear Saturday morning

                 "There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want."
                                     Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes