Thursday, December 28, 2017

savoring the quiet spot

Our Christmas was all it should be, a couple of days of family time and festive feasting.
Now it is the quiet time between the old year and the new. It is very, very cold and a light snow is falling. The cats have each found a cozy spot and Jerome is practicing for a church service this Sunday. I have a batch of granola in the oven and the laundry is humming away. I'm closing the books on 2017 and preparing pages for the coming year. The little pine we cut and decorated is sending its merry rainbow out into the whiteness beyond the window. There is a teakettle humming on the stove. All is calm.
I wish similar good things for you, dear friends, as the old year passes into the new. Thank you for keeping me company here on sallymomsprouts. I look forward to your peeking through my window often in 2018.
Be well and prosper.

Friday, December 15, 2017

half gone December

We took a long meadow walk yesterday before lunch. The snow enormously embossed by the wheels of Jerome's tractor from the day before, daintily embellished by footsteps of the many critters who find our trimmed trails as delightful to stroll as we do.
We spotted rabbit prints inside of the chicken enclosure though we couldn't find any obvious entry through their fencing.  A conundrum! All around the outside of the fence there were tracks of cats. After a few tentative days, the chickens are exploring their snow covered space probably wondering at it all. Why they heavily molt in November when they most need a full feather coat  against the growing cold is beyond me. We've been feeding them a supplement for feather growth and they all look well dressed now. Yesterday for the first time in weeks our egg count went up. The deepening cold requires more frequent checks to keep their water liquid and to check for any eggs before they freeze. Coats, scarves, mittens, hats, boots.
December has brought the most amazing sunsets. The best, of course, require lots of cloud cover.

With the Geminid meteor shower to arrive the 13th-14th, it didn't seem likely the clouds would depart overnight. But at 2 am I was amazed to find, not only was the sky clear, but brilliant! More lovely than I had seen in a very long time. With Orion and Beetlejuice caroling their alleluias, trails of light, mini and majestic, like the clearest of descants, added their grace notes. Instead of feeling small in the face of the universe I was drawn into the very heart of it.
Winter's night sky provides a link to what is at the heart of the Christmas season. When courage falters, look up dear friends.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

with gratitude

Love and thanks to each of you.
(and thanks to you, A A Milne)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

November benediction

Jolie works her way deeper into our hearts each day. The "big girls" are learning that there's enough love for all of them.

almost missed this one hunting for my camera...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

the sun shines for Rosie

For the first time in many days the sun overcame the dense cloud cover. The temperature is struggling to rise above freezing, but there is little wind.
Holding Rosie in my arms, her face in the sunlight, Jerome and I said goodbye this morning to our delightful hen. Dr. Jean, the vet who makes farm calls, helped her to slip away.
Yesterday, shortly after I called Dr. Jean to ask her to come out and see to Rosie, Jerome received a photo from a posting of his on Facebook page 5 years ago.

The photo is of Rosie, Phoebie, and Minerva. Such a coincidence that it should arrive to remind us of these 3 wonderful hens just as we had reconciled ourselves to letting Rosie go. They're now resting together beneath a stone cairn in the chicken yard.
Rest well together, my sweet girls.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

finding color in the grey month

Living up to its reputation, November in SW Wisconsin has been grey and unpleasantly damp. Too cloudy to witness full moon rise, I did catch the sky just after sunset. Ah November, only you can produce what I've come to think of as the lowering of Mother Nature's stage curtain. Be watchful, it descends even as you draw breath.
And so it's time to reintroduce myself to one of my two round robin challenges. I first spoke of them here.
I've reached the 5th and final border with the red, tan, black quilt top : ribbon. So far it's been checkerboard, sawtooth, piano keys and square in a square.

Not only is this the most difficult round , as the rounds have moved out from the center block each has needed to be larger and has demanded deeper focus on careful piecing.

Thus said, I've fully enjoyed the process of drafting the pattern I've chosen and auditioning just the right color way. It's the actual construction that tests me on every level. The scope of the job is daunting.

Here are the first 3 border units assembled, 6 half square triangles to each unit.  There are 44 units plus 4 corners of 9 half square triangles each. I used triangle exchange papers from Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts to create the half square triangle units that would become the ribbon border. (It was Edyta who taught me how to accurately construct the 8 point star I used as the center of my second round robin. More on that later.)
While I piece I give thought to the quilting to come. I've done mostly quilting in the ditch and other straight line stitching using the built in dual feed. In my mind I'm thinking of naming the quilt something like walking around the block. But doesn't a ribbon border just beg for curves?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Last day of October

We've seen them, the first flakes of the season. And the first really cold nights. It is officially the end of the growing season here. In the sturdy raised beds spinach and kale handle the cold and snow easily, a few carrots still nestle below ground, and next year's garlic is safely tucked in for the winter. For now there are a couple of short rows of lettuces under fleece blankets. The winds have brought down this autumn's pine needle shedding and when it's a bit less windy we'll collect what we can and tuck it in around the blueberries.
The fields surrounding us have been harvested, also disced and rolled for the first time since we've been here. The new owner seems a serious steward.
The senses take in the fragrance of wood smoke, the steady hum of a neighbor's corn drier, the softening hues of the landscape, the jagged calls of jays, crows, hawks. Driving requires more attention to the unexpected  movements of wildlife that have avoided the roads all summer but suddenly find reasons to cross without warning.
Indoors life is more than a bit challenging. First, Jolie, the young feline we rescued this summer, is keeping all of us on our toes.

Jerome is utterly in love with her.
Dovey just can't help her curiosity.  She's learned to stand her ground, most of the time. She'll even share her sofa.

Mya deals with her by hiding out of sight, in a closet, under our bed's quilt, up on a high shelf.
I am finding her presence a happy distraction from autumn melancholy.
None of us are used to the energy and enthusiasm of a young cat. The "big" girls have learned if they jump up onto high surfaces Jolie can't follow. Jolie had sustained an injury to her right hind leg before we met her. It had healed after a fashion and was not obvious to us until after her spay surgery when she returned from the vet with an obvious weakness and limp. Followup X-rays revealed the old injury, healed but aggravated by her being tied for surgery. Unfortunately, she may always have a limp now, and the weakness there keeps her from having the strength to propel herself up off the ground more than a few feet.  It does NOT in any way keep her from sprinting up and down stairs, doing battle with all her toys, or chasing her big sisters if they should mistakenly run from her invitations to play.
Until today we've kept Jolie sequestered in a room of her own over night. Tonight we are going to try letting her choose where she'll spend the dark hours. It's Halloween so we should expect bumps in the night, right??
All this has been complicated by the house job we recently "endured." After several years of record breaking floods we looked into having our basement waterproofed. This summer we interviewed 4 companies, chose the one we felt most comfortable dealing with, and were put on their schedule. The team arrived last Monday. Before their coming nearly everything in the basement was moved to the garage, to other rooms of the house, or carefully stacked and packed and wrapped in plastic out of the way in the basement.
Other preparations for this enormous event meant getting our electrician to put in dedicated outlets for the pumps and new dehumidifier, having our plumber temporarily move our old water heater, and getting a carpenter to dismantle part of the decking in order to uncover the old cellar stairs to facilitate moving tons of concrete in and out of the house.

Here is Dustin working on liberating the old cellar stairs from under the deck just outside the back door.
Our older cats do not like change although they are curious about it all. Their litter boxes have been in the basement but have had to be moved into our living space for the time being. All three of the girls have been marvelous about this part of the upheaval.
How do you remove concrete? the short answer, jackhammers, shovels, pails. Dovey, whose hearing is especially acute, suffered most, I think.

The cats have proven to be resilient and trusting through it all. But for them the disruption continues. Though the mess is done, our work continues.  We want to take advantage of the space being mostly empty to clean, paint and install more shelving. Now that we will be able to store things without worry of mold or mildew, we can rethink what we'll be able to store down there.
It's seems an agonizingly slow process. First, the new cement has to cure. We've been advised to mist the concrete daily for two weeks to slow the curing process. The furnace needs a complete cleaning, the new water heater needs to be installed. I'd like to add a sink down there as well. The deck needs to be put back for the winter. Dustin should be here today to do that.
It's a good opportunity for purging. Though I delivered several boxes to GoodWill last week, I know there's more here we can let go.
I try to remind myself how being retired and having Jerome here with me allows us to deal with these activities in our own good time, lifting each others' spirits when they flag. It's been good practice for the days ahead when we have work done on the main areas of the house. But that's for another day.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Growing lavender here in SW Wisconsin can be challenging. Getting it to winter over more challenging still. Whatever else is on my garden center shopping list each spring, lavender is always near the top of the list.
It's the essential oil, you see.
I am an insect magnet. And it is impossible to spend time in my gardens or even just relaxing on the porch without presenting myself to every thirsty flying critter. Even just walking to and from the chicken house can be enough to catch their attention. And so, right near the back door I always keep a can of home made insect repellent. I actually keep a second that I take along in my purse when I'm out for the day.

This is my recipe card that is free for the taking at our local co-op's essential oils display. The fragrance is refreshing and cooling as well. I do use Vodka which keeps the oils suspended in the water, but there is no residual vodka smell.

Another must have is my My*Grastick, which is a small roll on combination of peppermint and lavender that not only helps with headaches, but is another deterrent for those pesky bugs. And boy is this refreshing!
A third way I use lavender is to harvest and dry the flower buds and use them in my "body buddy." I make a cylinder of fabric, fill it about 2/3 with organic flax seed and several tablespoons of dried lavender buds. This can be warmed in the microwave and used to wrap a neck, or shoulder, or other hurting body part, giving off the fragrance of lavender in the process. They make wonder gifts, too.

Anne passed along a piece of flower print fabric that I used to cover a deep cigar box. I keep my essential oils and my recipe cards in it and store it on a shelf in my bathroom. It's pretty and practical and a reminder of ways in which Mother Nature offers us her bounty.

I've tried to remember to check my lavender this summer and harvest the precious buds as they've presented themselves. As I clipped a few earlier this week I recalled how my friend Karen often reminds us to breathe. This is such good advice. Thank you, Karen.
My addition to this would be: lavender on an inhalation definitely deepens the healing for both body and soul.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

a story in photos

July 2014

autumn 2014


annual spring pruning

and desired results of cutting back hard

this summer, despite floods, hail, deer, moles, and losses over time,  we rejoiced in enough concords from one vine to put up 8 pints of juice. go to beverage these coming holidays as we lift our glasses to toast, celebrate and give thanks.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


We're processing tomatoes today.
I grew a total of 16 plants of 9 varieties this season. There are grape, cherry, paste and slicing tomatoes and I like to mix them all together in my sauce to give it the deepest flavor.

The pots you see above are on the stove as I write this.  I core and cut up all the tomatoes I have that are ripe and put them into large pots. I heat the tomatoes until they are soft enough to put through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. Jerome is excellent at taking over the last of this task, getting the very last bit of tomato essence possible.
The liquid that strains through is cooked down until I think it's thick enough. This is ladled into jars and put into a water bath canner to seal.

Warm tomatoes, eaten in the sunshine freshly tugged from pungent vines are pure summer. Eating your own tomato sauce in deepest winter is pure heaven.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I'm here

As the summer spun to its end I felt like the skater on the outside edge of a whip line, hanging on for dear life and hurtling at a pace that was not my own. Confusing, fatiguing, dangerous.
This past weekend I reconnected with the young woman I once was... I attended my 50th high school reunion. It was held at my school, Resurrection High School in Chicago. Just under 60 of the 260 in my graduating class attended. What a hoot! I stayed with my best friend, Joy, and that in itself was a gift beyond measure.
But looking back at who I was, 17 and the big wide world open before me, reminded me that very much of that young woman is here within today. I am determined to keep in touch with her.

Yesterday was my 68th birthday. Now, one day into my new year, I'm taking the time, slow, quiet time, for clarity of thought and a renewal of purpose. To give thanks for the copious blessings of my life. For the dear people who are such a part of me. Each of you.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

half past August

I readily admit that I'm an August gardening wimp. I am a definite insect magnet and the combination of full sun and humidity are a one-two punch right to my core. Besides, there are summer events and road trips that beckon, and I want to go!
Examples: Phil's tournament weigh-ins.

Local events such as the fly in, drive in at our nearby airport.

(Steven Spielberg I am not! maybe I can put learning how to edit my videos on my winter to do list.)

And being chauffeured! to Ikea in the twin cities by Anne and Matthias and stopping at Trader Joe's in Rochester on the way home.

And there are those things on the "to do" list that have been calling, and calling.....
such as interviewing 4 entirely different basement waterproofing companies to eliminate the problems in our leaky, damp basement. Good news, we have contracted for the job. With all the flooding in our area we couldn't get on the calendar until the fourth week of October. The first of many major improvements we hope will bring back this old farmhouse.

And there are those totally unanticipated tests and decisions that life brings.
This little girl spent nearly two weeks hanging around our place. After calls to all the shelters and vets in the area, and an attempt to give her to a neighbor who takes in stray cats, (she walked all the way back here) she was determined to make us her family. It became apparent we had to act to save her life. She's been to our vet, is being housed in our garage as she heals and grows, and she will be introduced indoors to our girls in September when she's well and strong. It'll take lots of good vibes from all my cat loving friends for that to go well! Stay tuned.

Still working on a name, but this little feline has nestled deeply into Jerome's heart, and mine as well.

Well yes, I do spend time in the garden, despite my weaknesses, especially now that the "crops" are in and the weather has moderated a bit. The fruit and vegetable gardens are well weeded and mulched. It's the flower beds that need more attention.

Last Saturday I spent most of the day working in the front garden and noticed this little fellow. Had never spotted one before and was thrilled to see it. A hummingbird moth. Though I'm not overly fond of these lilies, I was delighted that I'd left them in the garden for this critter's benefit. And it was not easy catching it with my camera, I can tell you.

Above is a shot of that garden earlier. I'm happy to say, I've spotted many butterflies this year, mostly swallowtails and monarchs. The western meadow has more milkweed since Jerome has brush hogged it the past two springs.
Life is good here.
Though I don't post as often as I'd wish, I do check on you via your instagram and blog postings. I have to say once again, you feed my soul. Thank you, thank you.