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.