Saturday, March 21, 2009

Charlie Brown

We are in the middle of March Madness, and I don't mean basketball. A few days ago we had 50 degree temperatures, and today we have 2 inches of snow. While it is beautiful, it is beginning to wear on my nerves as there are so many things I just have an itch to do. However, I do digress, I want you to meet Charlie Brown. My daughter in law and the grandchildren wanted a pine tree just like Charlies Browns Christmas Tree, kinda scraggly, bare, looking like it needed a home somewhere. to plant in their front yard. This was when we still lived in the city and I was unaware of the powerful forces of nature. We used to come out to what would eventually be our homestead on a regular basis, just to see what was growing. One day on an excursion to escape the city, we saw Charlie Brown, on the steep hillside along the path that was one day to become our driveway. He was all by himself, struggling against the wind that is so prevalent here. There was huge rocks to his left, and brown prairies grasses to his right, and tall popples and birch trees kept the sun away from his branches, and so he was barely two feet tall, a perfect picture of what they wanted. Out came the shovels, burlap bag, and soon he was firmly tucked into his carrying case for the venture south.

Five hours later Charlie Brown arrived at his destination, on a corner lot in the city, ready to face the tide of cars, trucks, bikes, and people. Firmly implanted with the utmost care and love, he faced at least three winters of salt spraying, from the winter city trucks, fumes from the large trucks, traffic on busy street, and the hassles of sparrows and squirrels climbing his fragile tree trunk in hopes of finding a tidbit here and there to eat. The children mowed the lawn to perfection, manicuring every corner, planting strategically placed flower beds adding color to the city landscape for the summer and played hopscotch on the busy sidewalk. However, something had happened to Charlie, and he stopped growing, the pine needles didn't fall, he didn't wither away, he just stopped growing, something was very wrong in the heart of what should have been a very strong pine. So it was with much regret, out came the shovels, into the burlap bag he made his way back home.

By this time we had moved from the city, built our pole shed house and were on our way to becoming homesteaders in this lonely quiet country. We picked one corner of our lawn, overlooking our garden, to the right, and overseeing the goat yard to the left, and settled him in, not expecting much if at all to happen. By this time he was a little over three feet, still sparsely branched, looking almost as he did when he had made the journey south, not much had changed. It was spring time, the mud had settled, the garden was being tilled, so we didn't give him much thought till one fall day, I looked through the window, and there was Charlie Brown, he had grown a foot, sprouted some new branches, and standing tall. Charlie Brown was back home, where he had sprouted from a tiny seed, on the far hillside, done some traveling, and like most of us as we get older and have seen the world, came back home. He survived a goat mangling when one of the kids escaped the fenced yard, and decided one of his branches was pretty tasty, the use of my big whites, (German Shepard dogs) as a fire hydrant....hence the fence around the bottom, and is now well over 12 foot tall, heading for the sky. He sheds his needles in the fall, adds pine cones in the spring, and is companion to the many birds that head his way. Charlie Brown is home, and I wonder, maybe I am too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Magic in the air

The woodlands are beginning to tell a new story, for this proud year of 2009. Rivulets of water are dashing down the sides of the ravines, bringing news of warm weather to the ponds below. Tell tale signs of deer are showing now along their inner secret trails, used during the deep winter snow, pounding down the fallen leaves into deep tracks of sinking mud. The ponds still carry their blankets of ice, and the winds out of the north still carry a hint of winter not quite ready to give up its realm to the southern wind currents beating at their door. Over head the first sounds of geese coming back to wander about the tall dead grasses to find the perfect place to raise a family. Deep in the ravines come echoes of the calls of long legged emu like birds, the Sand Hill Cranes, which here in the north land signals the first real signs of spring. But the most enticing hint of spring, are the bluebirds, circling my cement bird bath, sitting on the meadow fences, trilling the sounds of mother nature, finally issuing the command of the warm spring spirits. Mother Nature has kissed the finches, turning their dull brown jackets into happy yellow formals touched by a bit of green. Let the celebration begin...the band is warming up for the spring and summer session, awakening the the leaves, and grasses, signaling the earths return to the lighter side.

Here on the homestead the pond has filled to its deepest depth due to the run off of snow, and the geese are happy little bobbles , washing off their winter grime, sailing to the corners of the water, diving to the bottom muddy reservoir, finding little gems of enjoyment. Our young neighbors on the East rim of our acreage brought out their Cat to clear away all the prickly wandering brush that is so prevalent here on the woodland border. We were chipping away at it with chainsaw and elbow grease, the last few years, not ever accomplishing what they managed to clear in just a few short hours. Now the proud 100 year old plus oaks stand tall among the fallen leaves, clear of the barrage of ugly prickly woody stems that harbored many alarms to anyone who dared cross their path. We found age old crab apple trees, that were lost in the shuffle, which we pruned for a new years growth to feed the deer in fall.
One of the joys we found was an old oak tree that may have been struck by the force of a strong lightening bolt, shearing away a major part of its branches, hollowing out the trunk to make a perfect den for any four legged creature in need of shelter. The Oak continues to live, spewing out more branches, defying the laws of nature, while sheltering any homeless creature that may happen along its destiny. With out the help of our young neighbors we may have never been able to peer into the magic of the woods, their thoughtfulness is a treasure that seems to be so scarce these days of pressure and doubt. Now we can take our almost ancient bodies up thru the paths they have carved out over the 80 acres for us and walk up and down the ravines to find more treasures hidden among the fallen giants of the woods, struggling at the top of the steep hills for breath, and sliding down the other side like gleeful children , on the slippery leaves, searching for magic that Mother Nature has left behind.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The diamonds of March

It is easy to compare March to the facets of a diamond, all distinctly separate, but yet all the same. Mother Nature stands in the middle of her galaxy trying to decide whether she should sweep her intricate fashioned snowflakes out the backdoor and usher in the warm sweet currents of spring in the front door. In her confusion, the children, Rain, Snow, and Sleet run in abandonment among the clouds, sometimes awaking the Thunder who loudly claps his disapproval, while the sun escapes their melee by hiding under a gray mass only to come out when they are asleep. It is a circus of events, awaiting the final approval to sound the trumpets of Spring, while the mortals kneel at her feet wringing their hands in consternation of her lack of clarity.

Meanwhile here at the homestead, it is the time of Taxes, and Seed ordering, setting up the nest boxes for the geese and ducks to establish their quarters, time for the chickens to go off strike and lay again, after taking a few weeks off to relax in the very cold weather. Its time for the alpacas and goats to travel out to the meadow to find what winter has left behind in the way of old grasses after a winter of dry hay. The pond fills up with the melting snow and the ducks enjoy the brief respit before the warm weather takes the water away. Thanks to Turbo Tax. the years taxes take about three hours of my time, and the computer whisks them away to be filed somewhere in syberland and then later deposited in my savings account.

The seed catalogs however present a different problem. I have been sinking in the mire of catalogs sent out starting last December,,,,every company still in operation has sent at least 2 of their brightly colored wish lists, describing every plant and seed one could hope for. I have read each one for hours on end, finally deciding on five of the worlds in which to favor my requests.Its been a long arduous task, and probably the only real reading I ever accomplish.

This spring I will finally order some components to make my life easier, such as the bean cutter from Vermont Bean Seed Catalog , rather than cutting each one by hand. This year I will also inoculate all my beans, peas as last year my peas has a poor showing. Johnny's seeds out of Main, , will get my sweet corn order as they now have specially treated corn for cold soils, last year my corn failed as many other farms did also...due to either poor seeds, or weather, plus will be ordering meadow grasses to reseed the meadow, which is sure to delight the alpacas.

Lehmans out of Ohio,, has a Pea sheller that is guaranteed to work with fresh peas along with a stainless steel vegetable slicer to take care of the rest of the products from the garden. I am still debating on the bean frencher cutter for french styled beans for the freezer. All these items will aid my hands from becoming stubs in the summer canning season.

On the sewing scene, I have actually completed my first daughters birthday gifts, ON TIME, yes, she was born in MARCH, by making her the 6 or more pillows she needs for her home....two have been made with the cathedral style quilting patterns, one sewn by hand, the other by machine, machine sewn is so much easier, and then one was appliqued with patterns from the FatCat Patterns, . I love her patterns and have copied each one down for future use. The others were simple quick easy shapes to add to the decor. I even made a few for myself,will wonders never cease. Now with spring almost around the corner, there will be less time for sewing so need to make use of all options now. All I have to add is a tiny kitten made out of scrap material from Wee Wonderfuls Pattern...., and I can package it all together for the trip by Post to Land O Lakes. Each birthday of my eldest reminds me of how fast the years are passing by, and what I have yet to accomplish. The faster I go, the slower I get.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


March brings on new trials to this homestead. These are the days when I think I will never make it as a farmer. My brother down the road has no problem "dispatching" his steers when they are ready, even tho he has raised them from birth....but for me it is a problem. In my working days, dispatching meant sending out the trucks to deliver our product to the five state area...but here on the hill it means an entirely different thing. It is time to cull out all the extra roosters from last years hatch, as they are now full grown, and feathered out like Indian headdresses, ready to catch every hen in sight, not once but many times. The poor hens are losing feathers from the spurs of the roosters, and are thoroughly hassled by the male population. Therefore, I must "dispatch" at least 8-10 of the beautiful proud strutting romantics to the end of their destiny. My mother never had a problem with her feathered flock, every Sunday or Saturday she would stride out with ax in hand, for Sunday dinner. We as children never had a problem with it, living on the farm, it meant food for the what happened as I grew older and retreated to the city? I became accustomed to just picking up table ready chicken out of the grocery freezers with nary a thought of where they came from. Now, raising them from fluffy little chicks, to full blown rainbow colored walking suitors, shielding them from the huge black turkey buzzards swooping down for a quick meal in the summer, or the quiet stealth of the red tailed hawk watching high in the trees calling out to their mates that there is dinner waiting down below. Months of careful feeding, watering, and making sure they were in their coop at night, makes this homesteader queasy at the thought taking them out of circulation. But, its part of the logic of the earth, so with heart in hand, into the coop I venture, handing them out to hubby, who has no problem with this fact of life, to do the dirty deed. These are times when I think its time to become a vegetarian, but as the days turn into weeks, the idea fades, and life returns to normal....which brings me to the fact...I wonder how the pioneers made it through the long winters, and cold, cold days, in tiny homes out on their own prairies. Our tiny house, seems to start to cave in at the walls about this time, cant start the plants in the green house yet, cant go walking out on the icy covered road, too cold to even hang the clothes out on the line....March is my nemesis, lets hope I make it thru with at least part of my sanity.