Sunday, December 27, 2015

love and joy come to you

May the final days of 2015 allow for restorative reflection.

And may the new year be all you can imagine it to be.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

with gratitude

It's been quiet here at sallymomsprouts, though much is stirring in my soul of late.

On the eve of Thanksgiving I am thinking of all of you. My self-tapestry has fibers of you woven among my own and a tug in your lives results in a tug in mine. No way can I begin a list of all that I am thankful for, though I am certain that each of you is near the top.
Recently a character in a program I was watching said, "Love is an itch you cannot scratch with your own hand."
I am extending my hands to each of you, in benediction, in love.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Be well.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

a few pleasures of November's company

Winter birds discovering the newly filled feeders,
leaves mulched and collected with the last of the mown grass gently tucked in around sleeping garden beds, 
blueberries cloaked with the gathered bounty of our pines' annual needle shedding,

bulbs planted in the rose bed, 
chicken house readied for winter, clean windows and all,
sunny, soft days to ease the outdoor businesses of each day.
Oh, and sunsets unlike any other time of year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

of roosters and chickens

Sigh, chickens may be the earliest domestic animal but man has not bred the wild out of the bird entirely. Even raised from newly hatched with love and care and more love, these birds have eons of instinctual behavior in every gene. Just think of all the sayings we all use that refer to chickens (think pecking order, rules the roost, etc.) It is our first morning without Cinnabon. I will leave you to imagine how that weighs on my heart.

I almost expect to see him walking up the road, coming home to roost once again. He now resides with a neighbor whose property is just visible across the fields from our own. Jake found himself without a rooster but with many fully mature hens. Without describing Cinnabon's confused but tireless journey from innocence to dominance, I will just say his masculine behavior was a bit too savage for the young hens and from Big Guy's point of view, entirely out of line for the mature girls. Cinnabon had to go. And yesterday Jerome delivered him to Jake's hens. If the wind is right and the harvesting machinery is quiet, we will be able to hear Cinnabon's calls. And I suspect he will be able to hear Big Guy as well. I'll miss Cinnabon's beautifully formed cock-a-doodle-doo and the duets between the two of them.  But not the screams of the inexperienced hens or the terror and stress that charged through both flocks. With stress seriously limiting egg production and our juniors ready to lay their first eggs any day now, something had to change. Cinnabon was never aggressive toward people. A bit wary but never a threat. Jake has a middle school son who often is given the job of caring for their chickens. I don't worry in the slightest that Cinnabon will cause him any harm. Some day soon I'll find the courage to walk over to Jake's and see if I can spy Cinnabon among his new harem.
Cinnabon, live long and prosper.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

harvest celebration

Yesterday the soybeans surrounding our meadow were harvested. Still in a minor drought, you can see just how dusty this job was on a windy day.

Amazing just how many beans can be gathered from a few acres…

The semis couldn't keep up with the two enormous combine harvesters that were working those fields. Jerome investigated the cost of the equipment… staggering. These fields unfortunately are handled commercially, i.e., GMO seed, Monsanto sprays, hurry it up, take what you can and run.
In contrast, Jerome has been helping our neighbor, a young family farmer, to work multiple smaller fields of our neighbors with a goal of best practice, caring for our lands with a reverence for now and for the future.

We take our stewardship very seriously. And we are in good company…
Our first autumn on the ridge, a small group of young families organized what was to be the first of a now annual and growing event. The second Saturday of October, we celebrate the harvest, the good life it allows and focus on our responsibility to give Mother Nature a hand. In an interesting contrast to the commercial harvesting adjacent to our property, our town's 6th annual parade and celebration occurred the same day.

(A quote from the website:
Larger than life puppets, stilt walkers, musicians, and harvest-themed costumed performers of all ages take over Main Street during this annual parade celebrating the harvest. Parade begins at 2pm from the Ark, heads north along Main Street all the way to Eckhardt Park where a family celebration takes place including music, food, and fire dancing at dusk.)
Large puppets, human powered floats, songs celebrating the earth and her gifts, families, families, families. Have you ever seen violins marching in a parade??? And Main Street, the ONLY main route through town is closed for the event. Yesterday's weather couldn't have been better.
Thank you to the organizers, the participants, the hundreds of us gathered to cheer from the curbsides, and to a community that cares.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Time was I would nestle my head in my pillows and wake with dawn. Not so now. Sleeplessness and its comrades fatigue and restlessness, moroseness and despair wear heavy on both body and spirit. At times the pattern is spiraling and like the forces of gravity on objects within a spinning bowl, may be difficult to interrupt and overcome.
My antidote to all of this is to simply stand at the upstairs sliders and slowly gaze at what's visible in the darkness. Cloudless nights such as last night offer release and clarity, and all I have to do to receive the benediction is to be aware.
Remembering that the waning crescent moon was due to rise above the horizon just before dawn and that Venus and Jupiter would be in its company I used my wakefulness to advantage, moved from the view of Orion to the south and sought a window on the east where I spotted this brilliant combination.

It's been said
you are not a drop in the ocean but the entire ocean in a single drop.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

deepening autumn

Having just a touch of rain this morning on the way to a warmup. Nice to have a little time to work indoors.
Been trying to soak up as much of this movement of Mother Nature's seasonal symphony as possible:
mulching the rose bed and grape arbor,

freezing, canning, baking, eating out of hand, and giving away as many apples as possible (each chicken gets an average of an apple per day from the many windfalls). Though the Cortland has less apples than some seasons, the apples this year are the most beautiful and some quite large.

discovering blossoms among the reblooming irises my Arkansas sister sent me two years ago which are settled into the driveway bed happy enough to rebloom this year for the first time (not what you'd expect in an October garden!)

repotting and reclaiming the outdoor vacationing houseplants, evicting any insects they might be harboring before bringing them inside, planning their indoor spaces carefully,

spending time with the new flock in preparation for blending the seniors and juniors (yesterday we had our neighbor assist in the removal of the spurs on our old rooster ) Been allowing them a bit of time with the connecting gate open each day supervising the interactions. You can see Cinnabon is growing up to be a mighty fine rooster and though an adolescent, already seems to know his responsibilities…

sitting on an upturned bucket spending time with the newbies, keeping an eye on the seniors. Punkin, our tiniest new hen, loves to hop onto my knee and talk with me a bit each day. Yesterday Cinnabon circled us slowly, once, twice, very close, his eyes on us, his head tilted, wondering just what I had planned for his little hen, but not objecting to our relationship. No spurs showing on him so far.

17 1/2 weeks old and getting ready for the first eggs, we've uncovered the nest boxes in the chicken house. There was some confusion early on as to where the newbies wanted to roost at night, so we covered the boxes and removed the temptation of sleeping in the boxes or on the perches in front of them. Chickens are creatures of habit but also curious and copy cats.
Harvested the last of the tomatoes and made the last batch of sauce. Planted a bit more spinach and lettuce to get us through the fall. Collecting spring bulbs for planting in the days ahead.
Just love this time of year.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

taking time for play

There's always a to do list but once in a while it's good to remember that play is an essential part of living. Even more so for us senior kids. Recently Jerome and I have taken a few lovely opportunities to spend our days out of our boots.
To celebrate my 66th we took a day trip stopping at a couple of my favorite quilt shops, Mill House Quilts in Waunekee and JJ Stitches in Sun Prairie. We ate a quite good lunch at Market Street Diner and were surprised to note a little lending library inside their foyer. 

From here we made our way to Madison's Olbrich Gardens and enjoyed for the first time an autumn stroll on their grounds.
Working our way back home we stopped in at Trader Joe's to pick up a few of our favorite yummys and then at Jo-Ann Fabrics to take advantage of my birthday discount and the 40% off batting sale.
Phil's final Mississippi River tournament for the season ended in LaCrosse and we spent part of a beautiful Saturday at his weigh in.

His season finished him in the top 1/3 and allowed him a place in the regionals, but his new teaching position and coaching responsibilities will keep him off the water for now.
There are 20 birthdays and a half dozen anniversaries among our family and friends between Sept. 4 and Oct. 4. This makes for a very busy but happy time for correspondences. I did manage a couple of hand made cards and gifts like this little felt pin keep.

We had the pleasure of hosting several guests in the past couple of weeks. Most recently Jerome's brother and sister-in-law spent a few days. It is a real boost to share this magic place and watch first timers react with such appreciation and joy.
Autumn is serious business now on the ridge and we feel the urgency of preparing for what lies ahead. Play has given us enthusiasm for each new day and a renewed appreciation for each other.
Try it, you'll like it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

welcome October

Just waved goodbye to Jerome's brother and sister-in-law who have been staying with us the past couple of days. It is a genuine treat to have people who have never been here fall in love with our ridge top landscape. To catch up on all the family news and share our new or renewed passions. To  sit at table together sharing simple fare slowly, conversation flowing, laughter at times bringing us to tears. Gone are the days of frequent get-togethers for holidays, birthdays, bar-b-ques of our early parenting years, all of us living only minutes from one another. Now Jerome and his brothers each live in different states and being together is rare and precious. And what fun to watch as they taste eggs that have been gathered perhaps only moments before, to send them on their way with baskets of produce from the garden or jars of newly canned bounty. To watch as they drive a tractor for the first time, or interact with real live chickens, maybe holding an egg still warm from a nest box. They think we are giving them a gift by hosting them, and yes, I suppose we are. But in return we see reflected back to us our own joy and gratitude for this existence that now is our daily life. And we're reminded again of our blessings.

Friday, September 11, 2015

autumn in the air

Crisp fall day. Blue, blue skies. Fruit trees grinning with their offerings.

Don't you just love September?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

catching up

Been absent from my own blog for a bit, though I have been faithfully following yours. I do so enjoy sharing in what each of you has been up to.
Days are full here and since the calendar has turned to September, Mother Nature has been up to her old trick of bringing on the heat once school is back in session. I admit, I do NOT enjoy the heat, humidity and bugginess of summer. Outside I prefer layers and long pants, and sturdy shoes with sox inside of them. I've been wearing a tank top at night because our second floor bedroom in this century plus old house is pretty warm for sleeping and wearing it I got a good look at my "farmer's tan." Face, neck, hands and lower arms brown as one of Minerva's eggs, with all the rest of me pale as a moonbeam. Laughable.
Managed some canning and freezing this week and have taken to working in the gardens only before 9:30 in the mornings and after 4:30 in the afternoons. Dinners have been later than I like because we try to take advantage of the early evenings outside. Once dishes are finished it's time to put the chickens to bed. The babes are nearly 13 weeks old now. Of the 16 chicks, only one has grown up to be a cock and happily it's one of the Arauconas. I've named him Cinnabon and he is becoming a very handsome rooster.

always in motion, already watching after the safety of all "his" hens
Lately he's working on perfecting his quintessential cock-a-doodle-doo. Each morning this week he and Big Guy have called back and forth to each other before any hint of dawn, still inside their respective houses. I can only hope since they're still inside their volume isn't enough to reach any near neighbors at that hour. Sound tends to travel very far in the still air on the ridge. I say it's lucky he's an Araucana because next year I'd like to try letting one of our hens hatch out a clutch of eggs and it will be easy to choose only the blue/green eggs no matter which hen is willing to do the job. Not all breeds will be broody.
Once the chicks are tucked in and we have closed up the pole barn for the day, it's nearly dark and the clocks amaze us that it's before 8pm. We are definitely getting close to the equinox now.
We're in a moderate drought here in SW Wisconsin. The meadow is dying back in places though the goldenrod is ablaze and wild asters are surprising us here and there. There are many apples on the lawn beneath the mature Cortland in the mornings and our first cookie sheet loaded with sliced apples is in the kitchen freezer getting ready to be packed into ziploc bags for the deep freeze. There are already 20 quart bags of sweet corn kernels in the basement freezer along with the blueberries, strawberries and raspberries I set aside to enjoy in the heart of winter. Hard not to eat all that beautiful fruit while it's fresh, but will certainly be a delight when the thermometer struggles to rise above freezing.

Lots of events this month to look forward to. Anne and Matthias lent me their old iPhone and for the past couple of days I've been trying to join the rest of you in the 21st century. It has all the capabilities of any iPhone except for the phone part which I don't really need. I love having a tiny camera and connectivity to the internet right in my pocket. Since I'm learning by trial and error it's slow going, but I'm too stubborn to give up. The little grey cells need the challenge. It'll be a big asset when I'm out at Quilt Expo next week or at any of several art shows and the county fair this fall. One thing is for sure, that tiny little keyboard is not easy in my hands. How do you all manage it???

Speaking of challenges, my new Bernina (already one year old) went to the Bernina doctor last week and is now home and better than new as she also got an update. Our quilt guild season begins in just over a week and the annual quilt show and silent auction is just around the corner. Each of us has been asked to make and donate a table topper this year and determined not to be working on finishing my offering the night before the event, I put together this little piece making use of my paper piecing practice blocks. I'm doing a paper piecing demo for the guild in January and promised myself I would work hard at it before the deep distractions of autumn and their holidays. I did make a mistake in assembling the finished blocks, but too late to do anything about it. There is something about the dyes in these fabrics that make the colors change radically in differing light. Under fluorescent light especially.

I'm getting back to doing hand work in the evenings when we turn on" the tube." Sometimes I forget just how much I enjoy cross stitch and crocheting. It's getting harder to see with artificial light and harder to keep even  tension with arthritic hands but those are annoyances and not deterrents.

waiting for its final border of chicken fencing fabric

little cardigan dress jacket waiting for the buttons to be added

Well, best be about the business of the day. It's been good to catch up a bit. Hope you each find something to enjoy this Labor Day weekend.

Monday, August 24, 2015

joy list monday

Such full days here in the waning month of August. So much reason for gratitude.
Simple joys...
Garden bounty to enjoy today and enough to put by for later.

Taking time for a day's outing: acres and acres of antique machinery of all sorts.

Being able to step outside the door and snip tiny bouquets any time the spirit moves.

Tucking all the chicks in for the night knowing they'll sleep safely.
Here's Rosie, mama hen, about to step into the senior bungalow, always the last to bed.

Calling on neighbors in time of need and being there for them when they need you.

A clean, comfortable bed at the end of a long day, shared with the partner of a lifetime.
Enjoy the week ahead. Be well.

Monday, August 10, 2015

joy list monday

much needed rain during the wee hours
goldenrod opening in the meadow
butterflies everywhere

early attempts at crowing coming from the newbies just about dawn
summer escape: rereading a well loved mystery series, now in book 20
campfire at the pond as the sun sets

Happy new week to each of you.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday photo

Many years ago I saw this flower for the first time in a display garden at Old World Wisconsin. For me it was love at first sight. I asked the staff member working in that garden if she could identify it for me. She could not. Fortunately, on that same visit to Wisconsin we spent time walking at Boerner Botanical Gardens   and it was growing there with a lovely identification tag.

Since then I have always had it in my garden. Asclepias tuberosa or butterfly weed is a North American native. Once established it is late in breaking ground in the spring. It does not like to be transplanted. But it grows easily from seed and the second year and each year after it becomes more vigorous, though not invasive. It lives up to its name, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds as well and even stands up well in a vase.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

the sun sets for Phoebie

Drawn together from the earliest days

this sweet soul passed all too quickly through my life.

thank you, dear one. Rest easy now.

Monday, July 27, 2015

listing joys the last Monday of July

a rooster crowing to begin the day
just picked blueberries, dew still clinging, in pancakes for breakfast
lilies sending their heady perfume through the wide open windows
a rare night of uninterrupted sleep
a goldfinch at the window thanking me for water at the feeder

sending each of you a wish for a good week.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday photos

It's raining, a soft, steady, soaking rain. A good day to look over the iPhoto library. To sit down and remind myself of all the marvelous moments that make up my life here. To remind myself of the ways we are influencing the land here and the influence these few acres have on me.

Not yet part of our property, this narrow strip of land along our eastern border looked like this when we closed here on August 13th, 2010.  The old dairy barn, its silo, and all of the scrap lying in the weeds were just outside of our property line.
Before the corn was harvested at the end of that summer, a friend of the land owner had been given permission to go into the old barn and remove beams for a building project he had in mind.  He left that old dairy barn in ruins and Mother Nature's flora and fauna moved in.

Because it was a tiny piece of many many acres of land rented out, the ruin and its dangers meant nothing to anyone but us. I was here alone most of the time often worried what would come out of the wreck in the evenings to threaten me or my chickens.
With the help of our realtor we explained our reasons for wanting to buy this nearly one acre, which was all they'd consider "letting" us purchase. We also agreed to take on all the expenses in removing the wreckage. And in having a survey done to determine exactly where our lot lines ran. In May of 2013 we became the new owners.
First, all salvageable metals were removed and carted to the scrap yard. We offered the proceeds from the scrap metal to our Amish friends if they would be willing to clear it out and haul it.
Jerome rescued some ancient railroad ties that were buried along the edge of the property and spent hours removing shrubs, tall weeds, bits of metal and wire. whatever would make the barn's removal difficult or dangerous. Hours and hours he labored.
Next, the waist high weeds, grape vine, grasses etc. in front of the barn and to the road were brush hogged by our good friend and neighbor. During this process, to my delight, a lovely cranberry viburnum was freed from a stranglehold of wild grapevine.
An enormous hole was dug and everything went into the hole except for the silo.

We had truckloads of topsoil delivered and it was spread about.

We let the land settle over that winter and in spring of 2014 put up the pole barn and added yet more top soil. It was seeded then. This spring we added more soil, adjusted it for run off, and reseeded once more.
In April we put in the row of 30 baby pines. Later we planted the crab apple and Autumn Blaze maple. The Indian Summer rudbeckias were left from last season and Jerome has worked hard to allow them to shine on the slope behind his pole barn.
This is how it looks here this morning.

I do get impatient. I do feel blue sometimes. But the truth is,  we are making progress, and every day is precious and full of grace.