Friday, September 29, 2017

lavender

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



progress



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.






...my go to beverage these coming holidays as we lift our glasses to toast, celebrate and give thanks.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

tomatoes


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.
Stop!
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.


video

(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.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

wet and wetter




The first round moved out just after dinner.


The first of several more arrived just after lights out.


Many of our neighbors and surrounding towns are suffering so. Please think good thoughts that tomorrow's forecast does not come to be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

half past july

Don't know about you, but I've had very few lazy days of summer. I feel quite like a little kid on a tricycle, peddling as fast as she can, and the world just spinning a bit faster so there's little forward motion for the effort. But what a ride!
Since my last post there's been three rounds of houseguests, long discussions with waterproofing companies each telling us how they'll put an end to our wet basement (and have confirmed for us that from late summer 2016 to the present has been the wettest period on record), nightly raids by deer who are getting bolder, and recently a localized hail storm that has shredded our gardens.
I've finished the two baby quilts that will be heading to Africa in September. I began them at quilt retreat in June.



Jerome and I shared the morning shift of watering and feeding Sadie and Willow just up the road.



We witnessed a play house raising after which several families of neighbors shared a celebratory brunch. The silo this adorable play house now rests upon has the most beautifully built wooden spiral staircase leading up to the house. This family moved into an old and needy property about a quarter mile east of us and in three years have transformed it.


Later that same day Jerome and I attended some of our town's annual music festival. The opening act this year was a string quartet from Minnesota which we totally enjoyed. The weather was absolutely perfect as you can see by the blues skies in the photo above.

Yesterday was the blood drive I'm committed to 3 times a year. The Red Cross worker who drew my blood looked to be about 20 years old but I found out she was the mother of eight children, aged 13-1. And though she has worked for the Red Cross for years, she only recently was able to give herself, having always been too light weight to qualify. I am happy to say my iron levels are good and my blood pressure is still wonderful.
Our son arrives tomorrow for pre-fishing before his tournament on Saturday. The weather forecast is for nothing but rain from later today through the weekend. He hasn't had a dry tournament day all season. Though it's been wet here, it's nothing compared to the recent flooding back in our old neighborhoods in Illinois. Yesterday we were sent a photo of our favorite hot dog spot very near the DesPlaines river.


When I feel sorry for myself because of last week's hail damage, I think of this single example that  thousands of people are coping with so much worse. And the opposite of too much rain, too little. Wildfires, I can't even imagine the horror.
And so I breathe and breathe again and gather around me the beauty of gifts that strengthen the spirit.


I put them in places where I'm sure to notice them, like this little bouquet on my bathroom mirror. And I look to your blogs for the beauty of your lives and words you share that fill me with hope.
Thank you.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

happy birthday america

celebrating being together, summer, and our many blessings...
steaks cooked to perfection (thanks, Phil) over our first campfire of the season,


 the moon and jupiter silently giving witness to our pre-4th merriment,



Jerome and I, Phil, Mallory, and this most lovable little lady, Layla




Wishing each of you moments of sure and certain grace on this our nation's birthday.

Friday, June 30, 2017

reflections on my June



The gardens top the list. Weather... mostly wet, mostly moderate temperatures. Conditions favoring weeds and grasses. Mowing, weeding, mulching. Mother Nature moves us along at her pace.
There are surprises daily. . . not all good.
It's been a tough year for our chickens. When putting them to bed last evening there was one missing from the count. I found her lying stiff and cold just beneath the hen house. We buried her in the deepening twilight. She was the third we lost this year. Until 2017 we had only lost two hens in 5 years time. Have I been too confident, too comfortable? Dare I say cocky? Recently our good neighbors lost all of their chickens over two nights. They suspect coons. We can only identify the cause of one of our losses, which makes the losses so much harder to understand and prevent.
And gardening, it is never a sure thing. Some of what we tend is doing spectacularly. But there are losses there, too, other things are struggling. I have no explanations for healthy, growing plants to suddenly take a down turn. Is it the excessive rainfall this year? The negative impact of an overpopulation of moles? Years of stress I hadn't observed and intervened in time?
Walking the meadow the other evening we noticed the pines on our western border were in a strangle hold of grapevine, virginia creeper, nightshade. Since then, together, Jerome and I have rescued them and carted away 5 trailers of cuttings to the burn pile. Walking the meadow path last evening I felt so smug about how well we had done, not knowing that a short while later I would discover my dead hen. I'm not such a fool as to think I could have the upper hand here. But...

There has been much to savor in June.
We put down a truckload of mulch on our rose/peony bed, under the grapevines, on the blueberry bed.
We helped our next door neighbors, who have been here part time since we arrived, to move into their new house permanently. A recent storm added its benediction to their arrival.


Bounty aplenty, despite my gloomy opening to this posting...







a quilt retreat held here










where I worked on two quilts to be sent to Africa via Nancy Zeiman at Quilt Expo this September.


Here is a preview of one of the pieced tops. My goal, to use only fabrics from my stash, or as I've been coached to say, inventory.
Successfully visiting all nine quilt shops in my section of Wisconsin statewide shop hop, including this one which is the farthest from home...



It's located in Darlington, Wisconsin. We stopped in on our wedding anniversary getaway, also taking in Mineral Point, New Glaris, and Spring Green. It was our 45th by the way.
Celebrating with Anne and Matthias their 16th, and the first anniversary of Matthias' surgery at Mayo. One of the biggest causes for celebration, his radiant good health and their brilliant happiness.
This week I spent a day with a good friend Elin who has 16 sheep, spins and weaves her own hand dyed wool and who invited me to come and meet a woman, who like my friend and I, will be relocating to Viroqua, looking forward to meeting like minded women where she hopes to spend the remainder of her life. And like my friend and I, is here without her husband in the early stages of her journey. Joan, my new acquaintance, is learning eco-dyeing from Elin, to produce her own colored fabrics for art quilts. The day flew past as we discovered so many commonalities and shared passions.
On the final day of June, I've stepped back and recognized the blessings abundant in life here on our ridge top meadow.
Hope you are able to look back at your June and say the same.