Wednesday, March 29, 2017

life is what happens when you've planned something else

On Monday after I finished posting to this blog (was I bragging too much???) I went out to check on the chickens. Minerva, who I noticed had waste stuck to her rear when she jumped out of the house earlier in the morning, was standing very still in the chicken yard. Not a good sign. I set up a spa in the garage and proceeded to bathe her back quarters. Sometimes the hens lay what I call a wet egg and their rears get sticky, bedding and waste can stick to the raw egg matter and they need a good wash and blow dry. But what I found was that she had prolapsed laying her last egg. This may have been the result of her being an excellent layer who now as a senior bird had lost the muscle tone necessary for laying safely. Our cats' vet referred us to a woman she called a farm vet who works out of her Jeep, going to the "patient."  What an amazing woman. Bringing her into our lives was Minerva's final gift to us.

We get up in the morning and don't know what the day will bring. We face whatever comes with the best that's within us. Some decisions are difficult, stretch your courage and cause you to look deeper within yourself. In comparison to human life this may seem small. But all life is precious, especially those lives over which you have control. This new vet showed such respect for us, and for Minerva. She used all of her skills to give Minerva every chance to indicate that she may be able to recover from this. Clearly, interventions were not the answer. We had been treating her inside of the garage away from the flock and in a place with good lighting, but Dr. Jean said, "Let's bring her outside. Minerva would prefer to be out of doors." She breathed her last in my arms, baptized both by a light mist falling all around us and by tears. Dr. Jean continued to lightly massage Minerva's breast as I stroked Minerva's face and head. And then she slipped away.

Minerva was one of my first flock. She put up with my huge learning curve. She would have been 6 in May. She was an excellent layer, though she tended to go broody in the summer. I would describe her as the top of the pecking order and a close friend of the last 2 remaining original females. A beautiful bird and a sweet soul. She's now buried next to her good friend Phoebie under a stone cairn in the middle of the main chicken yard.

I will miss you dear one.

Monday, March 27, 2017

march madness?

Well golly!
Has it really been 4 weeks since my last posting?
Bet you thought I was on a cruise or mountaintop retreat. Nope, not a chance.
March has been full!
I've been a journaling book buddy with two local 6th grade girls. We read As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds. Gosh, participating reminded me just how much I've missed sharing good books with kids, and how really good literature for kids and young adults can be. Our wrap-up breakfast meeting is this Thursday morning. Sixth graders are such a delight!

Last Tuesday evening I taught a quilt-as-you-go technique at my monthly guild meeting.

Putting aside my round robin quilts temporarily, I took time to make a baby quilt for Phil's friend Mallory to wrap around her new niece, Penelope, when she's born in April.

This was the first time I've sewn both flannel and Cuddle. I learned a lot from this combination and have recorded the process in my new quilting notebook/journal.

I created and mailed away my bit for Anne's Handmade Joy Exchange.

I chose three of my loves: quilting, cross stitch, and card making. According to USPS tracking, the package was delivered today! Kels, I do hope it brings you joy!

I gave blood. Always satisfying to know someone, or two, or three will be healthier because I gave.

I visited my Amish friends for the first time since Christmas and got to meet their new infant daughter, Fannie. I chose a Friday afternoon because on Fridays the children are let out of school early and I can visit with the whole family. While I was there other Amish neighbors arrived to see the baby too and so I was finally able to meet some folks my English friend Mary has mentioned often. Amanda, Mary's good friend, is an accomplished quilter who was delighted to meet me as well, since Mary has mentioned me to her often. Amanda's son in law was also there, visiting with his wife and their 3 little girls. He works in a large greenhouse in Ohio and had much to share about his work there and how things work in a commercial greenhouse.

Our local True Value, Nelson Agri-center, had its annual spring sale event which is a real carnival. It's always fun to go, for the food, the music, and the bargains. This year's event was in support of our emergency teams, fire, police, medical. So many bargains! And you get to reconnect with lots of neighbors you may not have seen all winter.

I've been tending my cold crop seedlings. They're growing so rapidly I had to pot each of them up to bigger pots. This week I'll sow the tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers.

Just this past Saturday we did a presentation on backyard chickens at our local public library. It was a task to dust off the little grey cells and produce a Powerpoint of photos and text, handouts of fascinating facts and resources, contact and receive catalogs from mail-order chicken resources for distribution to the attendees, collect brochures from local businesses that can provide chickens and all the "stuff" you need for their care to hand out as well.
For luck I wore my chicken bracelet, a gift from Anne's good friend Danielle, who visited the farm a few summers back. Thanks, Danielle. It's fun to wear and it did the trick for me! And thank you for giving me permission to use the photo you took of me when you visited and we had Peep Fest at the campfire. See it on my header today.

Thanks to Jerome my right hand man, Anne my connection in the library, and Matthias, my tech man extraordinaire. Afterward, Jerome treated the four of us to a leisurely lunch. Matthias and I brazenly ate CHICKEN!
That afternoon our mailman brought MY handmade joy exchange package to the door. From France!

Thank you Sarah for the pressed flowers from your garden, the stunning photo and message, the block prints and watercolor piece. I love them all. And Anne, thanks again for organizing this event.
Forty people are now percolating with their joy.

Speaking of Anne, we celebrated her birthday on the 22nd by going to LaCrosse for lunch at a marvelous restaurant (of her choice) that we will most definitely visit again. The Waterfront Restaurant is located on the Mississippi with amazing views, an impeccable interior, marvelous food and a remarkable wait staff. After eating we stopped for a garden fix at the tiny but mighty LaCrosse Riverfront International Friendship Gardens. Though the gardens were mostly still slumbering, we did spot fish in the pond and got a preview of the newest garden rooms. I learned that right at the edge of the garden three rivers join, the LaCrosse, the Black, and the Mississippi.

After our outing we returned for dessert and presents. Fun.

Despite how bleak it can be, March miraculously brought flowers of all sorts indoors. The orchids are opening, the begonias are cheerfully sending up flower stems, the streptocarpus hasn't stopped blooming since I brought it home last May from an Amish greenhouse, amaryllis sent up their trumpets, and the geraniums are gigantic. Here is a sample of their color...

In the midst of all this March madness I came down with a spectacular case of the stomach flu which knocked me off my feet for several days. All is well now, but I've gained a clarity of vision regarding my daily health.
Yes, all this and yesterday our son Phil arrived for a few days of his spring break. He'll be taking his boat out of hibernation and installing his new tracking software. It's always fun having him here and we're so grateful he so generously shares his precious free time with us.
Well, during the few days remaining in the month, I will be having lunch with a neighbor tomorrow, attending Matthias' computer workshop on Wednesday, and going to the book buddy wrap up on Thursday.
And one never knows what surprises arrive in between.
So, how have you spent the last days of winter and the first of spring???

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

turning the calendar on March

Always a bit nostalgic... the beginning of March.
Some years ago when I turned the calendar from February to March I thought "Before I turn the calendar again I will be a mother." Yes, March is Anne's birthday month. That morning I could not have predicted the bountiful blessings she'd bring to my life.
My birthday month is half a year from now. And though I admit that autumn is my favorite season, I am more than glad that we're in Anne's birthday month and not mine. There is much to love about spring. The shelves under the grow lights in the basement are full of sprouting seedlings: leeks, kales, onions, spinach, lettuces. Soon there will be perennial seedlings joining them.
The chickens are laying very nicely now. They've come through the winter in fine form but this morning are a bit annoyed by the new layer of white outside their door.
This morning March is holding onto winter. An absolutely beautiful, and perfect snow, is falling.

There's an older gentleman who works at our local Walmart who is a real life cowboy...he rides in the Wild West Days parade every summer and gives stage coach rides at the annual event. He told Jerome the other day that he has a 40 year old horse who correctly predicts the arrival of spring every year by when it begins to shed its shaggy winter coat. Thirty days later spring will arrive to stay. The claim is it's never been wrong. This year's beginning of spring? March 10. I love stories like that. We'll have to wait and see, but the red wing blackbirds have arrived, and some have heard robins as well. Maples are swelling, daffs are popping up along with the eager tips of resurrection lilies. Lots of green near the ground around perennials and buds swelling on my favorite clematis behind the potting shed. Gotta love it all.
Last year there was a late freeze that hit the grapes and apples especially hard. Every year I hope that spring will move slowly, steadily in a forward direction. In March of Anne's birth year, we had just that. A perfect spring. I was out taking her for walks in the old hand me down buggy every day after bringing her home. Stopping in the local park, sitting in the shade, feeling so very blessed.
And by turning the calendar it all comes back to me. Vivid. Real. Beautiful.
Welcome, March.