Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mother Natures Winter Ball

Before the storm
Mother Nature's children threw a winter celebration yesterday.  Like rebellious teenagers the party they held lasted  20 hours, and nothing could sooth their frenzied nerves. The Snow Sisters danced to the beat of their  Wind Brother's band, sliding sideways to the earth or filing single file into tall six foot snowbanks.  They stopped only for a moment to pick up speed and continue on into another snow slide to sway with the long brown flower stalks as partners. Like ballerinas they swirled and pirouetted in to a mix of crescents and rifts, leaving the imprints of wind skis through out the yard.  When the crescendo of the wind fluttered to a quick stop, the ground was left bare as they gathered again  like a skateboarder to leave silent arks between the tall oaks and and the fences corralling them into silent surrender.

Brother wind sang with the howls of the wolves, speeding around corners of the house with the flash of a falling star, catching the snow gusts swinging them in to the air only to crash against the window in a merciless abandonment.  He was so powerful in his glorious sweep of the land that there were no bounds to hold in the snowflakes caught on his breath.  Like ocean waves crashing against the shores,  they frolicked riding against the shrubs and tall oaks, daring them to stop their wild and wonderful dance.  It was a nite of wonder  and bewilderment, as the curtains of snow rose a hundred of times to reveal the wood line and the grey clouds that attended the merriment yet could not bring themselves to the final curtain call.  They sang, and danced for close to a day, until falling into heaps on the ground to rest till another day.

Today the sun came in to view the spectacle left by the party goers and shook his head, young folks he said, as he tried to straighten the melee left behind....but the third sibling the cold had not yet begun his tribute and the temperatures dipped to 20 below, leaving the sun to simply add his light and repaint the pictures that were left behind.   The wind now tired by his last escapade flowed softly thru the shrubs and tall grasses, looking for any bit of the snowflakes that were dancing before, but all had fallen now , exhausted into mountains of fluff, silent, and could not be awakened with the gentlest of of his breaths.  Chickadees  replaced his merciless howling, with calls of glad tidings that the storm was over.  The Blue Jays scratched at the feeders of corn and sunflower seeds, scraping away the awry snowflakes that took comfort there.   The great red headed woodpecker now hung from the suet feeder, no longer having to hang on for dear life when the wind laughed and lounged at his favorite dish.  The black and white Downy's are skittering up and down the tree trunks, looking for tasty bits that have survived this last wintry blast.  Its morning, and the merriment has subsided, leaving in its aftermath, huge mounds of whipped snow to be explored with a shovel or snow blower, and sliced through  like an ice cream pie, for paths to the paddock, and dogs furry footprints.

Twenty-one inches or more fell throughout yesterday 's hours of frolicking. The dogs toys are now hidden away beneath the mounds, to be found in spring when the air turns warm. My big whites tunnel thru the piles, with their noises throwing up sprays of dusty snow.  Rolling, and sliding they are light enough to walk top of the mountains, with out sinking up to knees like their owners are about to do. My husky dances for joy and runs through the garden oblivious to cold, windy bursts, searching for the moles that just might come up for air thru the marshmallow hills.  After three hours of snow blowing, we finally made our way to the pens, where, the fierce winds had swept snow in through every open nook and cranny, leaving small piles of crusted snow covering the alpacas feeders and inside the chicken coop where it had forced it way in thru the door and any crack not filled with straw. The sparrows that took shelter with the chickens are now anxious to be released into the the new world of snow and ice after I lift the trap door. The pair of geese saunter off to bath in the snow dust and preen their feathers oblivious of the cold northern wind blowing around the corners of the fences. Sadly, in the corner of the coop, lies a victim of the fierce cold storm, my old  Royal Palm turkey, has succumbed to old age and the cold.  He was one of the first to occupy the pen, and I knew he wouldn't make the winter. But this Homestead is all the occupants "Forever Place" to live out their lives with fervor and grace.

Its a beautiful day out however, the sun is shinning, a cold wind still blowing, leaving the sharp clear picture of winter only the North lands can offer.  The fields are glazed over by the frozen top layers of snow now, and sparkle like diamonds in the rays of the sun. There is not a print to be seen, cept for along the wood line where deer tracks can be seen leaping over the drifts of snow piled up in front of all the brush and tree lines.  Every so often the wind gathers up enough strength to blow up a cloud of snow to vanish into the clear blue sky.  It is worth the fortune that we will pay for the snowplowing today, as black and white colors of an old time photograph are now here in front of the homestead in contrast to the colorful colors of the summer.  There is nothing so refreshing as the aftermath of a huge snowstorm, to bring one's reality into focus.  The cool, crisp taste of winter flowing into the clear blue sky , brushed by the now gentle wind reminds us that Mother Nature is still in charge, regardless of how powerful we humans think we may be.  And this homesteader stands in awe of her powers, and beauty so often taken for granted.  Its going to be a wonderful winter, this year...the beginning of a season of worship, knowledge, and serenity of the powers greater than man, and as fine as a wisp of snow. The sorrows of the past year will be put away,buried under the cover of the cool white snow, stored in memory for future reference , many miles on down the road.
 I will not look back and try to figure out the mysteries of the moments, or the whys and wherefores of the questions,  leaving them to scatter like the stubborn leaves left on the oaks before the storm, and quietly disappear with the passing of time.

And the sun shines again

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Giving up the helm

November, the trees have given up their leaves to nurture the seeds that have fallen on the ground over summer, and now stand naked, impervious to the cold northern winds, and stand alone against the gray winter skies.  They no longer can hide the brown and black squirrels that scamper up and down their trunks, or the woodpeckers knocking soundly against the bark for insects now deep in their winter sleep. The huge black turkeys roost in the top most branches, leaving the ground open to the coyotes who look up into the night air hoping one may just be close enough to lunge at and pick up an easy meal.  Huge eagles now fly low, with the crows hassling them at every air current, along with the beautiful white breasted hawk that sits alone watching these events with curious eyes.  So begins my nemesis.....enclosed by four walls, watching, waiting, for the first snowflake to make its appearance, and cover the brown bare grounds with a white quilt that will erase the summers escapades and quell the thunderbolts chased by lightening rods across the darkened skies.

Its the season of the great bucks, now turned the color of the tree barks, so as not to be seen by the hunters.  This year there seems to be a surplus of deer, which is quite unusual as it has been quiet the past 4 or 5 seasons.  I watch as the sun lays low in the west, and a 8 pointer  slowly marches over the hill and takes a look at the bounty before him.  My alpacas are watching from the far side of the pasture with quizzical looks to ascertain just what this marvelous creature has in mind for the evening.    He holds his head proudly as he walks to the fence, and sniffs the cool evening air for that ever evasive doe.  He stands at the fence for a minute or two, looks at the alpacas, while my lone goat prances around excitedly and the alpacas lower there heads and continue to graze on what green forage that has been left by the frosts of past weeks. The pasture does not hold the prize he is looking for, so he continues back to wood line, stretches up on his back legs, and leaves his scent on the tall oak, paws the ground a bit, and take on another oak further down the way...and then finally disappears into the woods.  A few minutes later, a another nervous shadow appears, three does sprint across the field headed for the other side of the ravines, not ready yet for the marvelous buck that has been searching for them earlier.   His time will come, but not tonight, and the owls will hoot the story to the moon as darkness settles over the homestead.

I have been keeping a wary eye on the hawks and eagles  this fall.  There seem to be many more than usual, and tell tale signs of feathers shows that my chickens are now on their menu as well.  I have watched them swoop in and fly off before any one of us can get outside with their prize caught up in the sharp talons to a destination deep into the woods.  Angel, one of my big whites, barks to no avail, as they know that there is no harm so high in the sky. I can hear them laughing as they circle, chattering their plan of attack, waiting for the prime opportunity, and sailing down with out hesitation, afraid of no one.  It is their land now, nothing can find cover to hide from the wide wings of destruction.

Thanksgiving will soon be here, and I am giving up the helm.  Ever since the children were little, Thanksgiving was held at our place, my former husband was gone for the week deer hunting, and this was our celebration of the fact.
Now we will go to Michigan, and Lisa and Larry will be hosting the event, and though this may be a little sad, to give up this task, it is to my benefit.  Our house is way to small with the dogs, and all my "Stuff" anymore, and I don't have to clean and put away all the things that do not surface again till I tear everything apart looking for them.  Sometimes that may take months.....and the turkey will not have to be cooked squeezed in between all the other things that the oven must prepare.  Plus there will be no leftovers in the refrigerator that last for weeks, if not frozen immediately after everyone leaves.  This will be a first, we will leave early, providing Tim is home, on Thursday morn, and return that evening, free from all the cooking, cleaning, baking and all that stuff....the queen has left the building.  The only problem will be Tim's schedule...will he be home, or on the road...there is no rhyme or rhythm anymore to his job, and we must fly by the seat of our pants instead of making plans.   But we will know the weekend before, and plan accordingly as Lisa says it could be on the weekend....or Friday....or ...sometime in that week.....only the future knows.

The weather has turned now to cold, very cold, like 14 above this morning, the first day of deer hunting, the shots ring out like crackling icicles across the moody sky.  This is the weather that finally rinses clean all my ambitions of garden work, and turn to the fine art of window watching as I turn scraps of material into pieces of quilts, or crochet long pieces of wool into rugs.  My little corner of the world now consists of yarn strings that have caught on my boots and make cobwebs across the entire house, material scraps that look like confetti strewed on the floor changing the direction of the tile.  Bolts of material stacked precariously on chairs waiting for the magical cut of the scissors to proclaim their fame.  In the middle of all this I sit, like a child among mountains of toys, just not quite sure which one I will play with on this cold, quiet, awesome day.

The gourds are gathered in the garage, and new ones drying in the greenhouse, ready to become spectacles of wisdom this coming new year. I just have to gather a few more tools to begin crossing the road into a new vision of  colorful scenes to tell the story of winter dreams. It is always good to have new anticipations for the coming year so as not to become lost in the heavy winter clouds that fall to the ground.

This is the time to wish all a wonderful holiday blessing, of Thanksgiving and all the holidays that come to the many days of this ending year.  In giving up the end of this old year, and entering into the depths of the new year, we each give up the helm and become captains of new dreams, talents, and begin afresh. So much to look forward to, so much to wonder about, entering the new realm of the unknown is no longer a worry, but just another road to travel.  Taking the curves slowly, forever going forward.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Train leaving ...all aboard

Have you ever felt that a train wreck was ahead, but you just weren't quite sure where or when it would happen.  Well this homesteader has almost hit the end of the tracks. Our Life Trains carry a combination of passenger cars and freight cars across the countries of our life, dropping a few here, and picking up a few there.  Sometimes it is up hill, sometimes downhill, sometimes the whistle blows,  and sometimes the engine comes to a dead stop,..... could be a bear on the track, boulders from the top of the mountain, or the bridge is out.  We pick up passengers on the way, and drop them off some where in the years ahead, always picking up new ones, and sometimes they stay awhile, leaving their baggage with you, or maybe they carry your baggage for awhile. But the passenger cars always have room, and the freight cars keep filling up.

Take this last year for instance.... the mountains were getting steeper, as the severe illnesses in our the family are quietly filling one of the freight cars....consquently this old steam engine was puffing along, slower then usual, pulling more as the weight from the cars were added on.  First came the layoff, a car or two flew off the track...adjustments were made, rail spikes straightened and on over the hill we went.  Then the old truck finally became to expensive to repair, and went the way of the junk yard heaven....that sadly took one car to fill, but could be emptied if we found a new truck.....soon. The railroad bridge trestle became fragile when the generator went down, and it took $700 for someone to say, "Ah, yep, the motor must be rebuilt to the tune of $2500, or we could buy a new generator for $3500 or more. Into the freight car went the generator next to the truck that hadn't yet been replaced....since there just wasn't enough coal in the coal car.  But that wasn't the end , I looked back and saw there were still more empty cars waiting ...... the Pellet stove that we heat the house with, and have a garage full of pellets stored for the winter, became the next casualty... as there is no one within a thousand miles that can figure out why the pellet rotor will not drop its pellets  including the conductor we bought the stove from... However that freight car is still running empty, because finally, some one from the state of Washington is going to trouble shoot on the phone with hubby to see what the problem is...but only after we had already paid out $250.00 for a new circuit board that someone thought for sure was the problem....toss that into the box car...also.....on its way back to manufacturer (who by the way normally does not take merchandise such as this back) as it was not the quick fix we had hoped for.   OK, so now the temps are down to the low 20's and 30's, snow is on the ground, and I have to turn on the super expensive electric heat to take the ice off the coffee and pile on the sweatshirts..find the feather quilt........another box car starting to fill.    If you think things came three at time ....right???....wrong...little did we know.....Box car number 4 was being added to the train and was rounding the bend......this time however the new occupants were boarding at the station to help our carry luggage..big time.

Last week in the mail came a small bright orange colored postcard, ....flashing red lights....do not cross.....signal gates are coming down.....it seems as though our one and only working vehicle had been recalled to the Barron Ford dealer for a defect that could be lurking in the undersides.....when it was built.  I almost threw it in the garbage, but since those signal gates were still down and caution lights flashing , decided to call and make an appointment to get the car checked out.  Now to those who know me, the gas pedal in my car seems to have this penchant for peddle to the metal,.... now I say ....its because of my heavy boots, yet that doesnt cut it with the conductor, ....most people call it speeding,.... but in this county with all the PUTZERS who the hell would know. So if you can see your way through all the steam rolling up from the engine wheels, this could have ended in a run-a-way not to pretty situation.  While sitting in the showroom, with a beautiful new Ford car taking the place of the steam engine in my imagination at my feet, out came two very serious looking gentlemen from the garage area....and very gravely sat down in the chairs next to  me....and proceeded to explain that the Ford Company will not let me drive my van home.  IT seems as though there is a crack in the rear axle of my car, due to the defect when it was made....eleven years ago.   HUGE boulders have fallen on the track, and theres no one to push them away .....the train has stopped.  Tim is in Kentucky, on 18 wheels, dealing with his own miseries, and the steam engine here is stalled and quickly running out of coal.  Ford company will give me a check for $3400.00 for the car, which is very generous, since it is 11 years old, and has made contact with about three deer in the last year, (the deer won). And  so maybe..the salesmen who have been listening to this scenario ask.......would I like to look at the cars on the lot, while they call Enterprise and rent another car for my pleasure at their expense. AHAH! These were the new passengers aboard that would carry my luggage for a change....I looked, at the used vans, saw a beautiful red truck with a snow plow but at a price that couldn't move those huge boulders off of the track.  It seems as though they have already checked 100 cars or more, and mine was the first one to have the defect the salesmen tell me, and the cars on this lot go very quickly...I wonder did they have this defect also and should I settle fast in case they get on the cattle car at the back of the train..
 Enterprise was out of rental cars, so they loaned me one of the vans that was offered for sale on the car lot.  Small boulders moved...... I loaded up a few things from my now defunct car and headed into our little town to talk to my favorite Mechanic, at Skyway..."Take the deal" he smiling said as he headed for his own computer....and quickly found another Van that was only a couple of hundred dollars more than that check will be.  And he will even go into Chippewa to check it out, if it is measures up to his standards, he will bring it home, and we wait for the check in the mail, and I keep the rental car until all the boulders have been removed from the track.  The last passengers have come aboard and repaired the tracks, cleared out these particular boulders and I can start climbing that mountain one more time.  However, I am running out of allotted coal for steam power for this year, and we still have a month and a half of travel.

So tell me.....passengers with me on this great escapade of life,..... am I the "Engine that could" ...and can I  make to the other side of the Pass, with time to spare, or will the tracks be buried in a land slide of snow and ice, and the fire go out?......................Oh by the way...did I tell you that I carry a snowmobile in the Caboose?.........Just in case.....................this is the north country ya know!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shiney floors

Beautiful Fall Mushrooms in Denny's yard
Fall has arrived at the homestead....later than normal, we had snow this time last year.  One can always tell when its fall here, and no, its not the beautiful red oak leaves that have fallen from my beloved oaks onto the woodland floor.  Nor is it the arrival of the Blue Jays,  crows, ravens, and eagles that sail in the wind, composing a rap songs of the coming snow clouds. A momentous occasion occurs..... I finally wash the floors, where all the scraps of the previous canning, freezing, drying fervor made the floor look like a crazy quilt with out the stitches, are scraped free. The canners are put away in the garden shed, along with all the extra jars that may have taken their place on the counters, chairs, table, and any other space available.  Jars of dried herbs, are actually neatly placed on the shelves, and the smell of baked bread is now wafting thru the house, rather than the smell of drying onions that can be sniffed all the way down to the mail box. The windows are full of plants that have been brought in, secure from the frosts that are sure to put the blooming flowers in my garden to sleep.  The winds are singing lullaby's to last hardy roses, and  Mother Nature is filling her cupboards with the heavy snow clouds soon to be distributed with abandonment through out the grasses, and corn stubble, and old Jack Frost has been painting the ponds with his magical wand, and ice filled paintbrushes. The pure blue skies will soon become heavy pillows of gray fluff, with the winter winds blowing boldly singing the last hurrahs of fall.

Fall in the North country brings on harvest festivals, and finally after many years of procrastinating, we attended the Cranberry Fest in Eagle River a few weeks ago.  Traveling down the Highway 70, embraced by the colorful leaves swirling around the roadside, we reached our destination to be greeted by hundreds of cars, lined up like the Chicago rush hour, trying to find that ever elusive parking place.  We however, traveled on a few miles across the line to Michigan to meet the kids, and and swap cars to travel back and park in that special place that only residents of the area know how to find. 

The entire small city of Eagle River was carpeted with white Tents holding the most coveted arts and crafts, and goodies that had been put together with love and devotion,  and now displayed proudly on racks, shelves or ground with care.  Main street held  smells of old, new, and not so new thrift sections, while the cafes were busy selling brats, hot dogs, hamburgers, and cranberry beer, along with cranberry chocolate, and just plain ole cranberries by the pound.  There is something to be said for the North country people, they are jovial, considerate, fun loving and very talented.  Well  ya have to do something during those long winter nights, and Eagle River Cranberry Fest displays it all.

Mother Nature tried her best to discourage us with onsets of showers mixed with the sun...and yes snowflakes, but no one minded her, even tho she sent her best cold winds to shoo us quickly on our way.  We just ducked into one of the hundred of tents which covered the fairgrounds and checked the treasures that they held, trying to resist the temptations that awaited with beckoning smiles.

But the temptation became too great however when we walked into one of the barns, and there before our eyes, hanging from clothes racks were long skeins of wonderful  hand spun Alpaca and llama yarn,  dyed the soft colors of fall leaves, and tantalizing baskets overflowing with multi-colors of Fiber just waiting to be touched , hand dyed to perfection, with sweaters, mittens, scarfs lining the edge of the cubicle, each one a deity of patience and wonder.   Each skein was dyed to the imagination of the young lady who created these small miracles, and as she said "once a particular dye solution was gone, the recipe was never kept, so each selection of colored skeins were never repeated".  Well, thank goodness she took debit cards, because, after the second visit, and my husband saying..."you will regret it if you don't go back and get what you want"..... was enough...to mentally check our bank account..since normally I do not carry that much cash, so as not to be tempted.  An hour later I was the proud owner of cuddly, warm, hand spun alpaca fiber, that could be crocheted into the objects of my imagination. My husband sat in the chair provided for husbands for the moment, and would say," better get that color if you like it", and the ladies there, along with some customers helped match the various colors, making the collaboration complete.  So on this particular day one of my dreams had become reality, going to a Cranberry Fest in Eagle River, and acquiring ounces and ounces of alpaca fiber, and meeting new friends in the process.   Shady Haven's Fiber Designs and Llama Adventures will be holding a fiber boutique between Spring Green and Arena outside of Madison,  in November and hubby says yes, we can go....hang on bank account...this may be a disaster.

Our ride home was guided home by the bright setting sun, amid the showers, and  flocks of  dining turkeys gathered along the roadside eating gravel, about every five miles of the route. Highway 70 has always been a favorite of mine, setting adventures to the high side, with never a repeat scene regardless of the season. Even Tim, who travels thousands of miles a year agrees, that this movie never repeats itself.

Speaking of Tim, we finally have his sleeper berth decorated to his advantage, with a small table for his computer, and all the necessities needed for traveling comfort.  Since he spends anywhere from 3-5 nights in his rolling hotel room, its nice to have some comfortable commodities. One night when he was high in the Appalachian mountains, he was unable to get phone service to call at his usual time, and as the hours went by, this homesteader became worried, wondering if anything was wrong.  However, his computer, which has a different phone service was able to finally get thru. He was parked in a tiny 6 truck parking ,  truck stop, and tho the service kept being interrupted, at least I knew he was down safe for the night. While I will never stop worrying, as its my nature, I know that he  is comfortable in his job, and loves the road,  and doing what he loves to do.....cept when he graduates and gets out of the rig, and goes to his second love which is computers.   By the way he passed his college algebra with a C.....will wonders never cease. The third semester is on now, which Computer repairs, and College Comp....I will be studying the English Composition with him and so far, find it a wee bit boring...but oh well, like algebra, I am bound to learn something.

Along with fall arriving, and my kitchen clean, comes the the disrobing of my sewing area.  This is the area I hardly visit during the spring and summer, and stays kinda neat.  The next 6 months however will be disarray of everything from material, thread, scraps,...and now the addition of yarn....Lisa and Allona found an old knitting machine that had been lovingly used by someones aunt for a pittance, at a rummage sale and now it is sitting here by my shelves.  I have always wanted to learn how to use one, and  here in perfect shape is the chance......this will be my new opportunity for January, to learn something new as has been my custom now for years.  But now it is more important than ever, to look forward to a new challenge.

The clouds are rolling in now, rain is forecast in a couple of days, the cool wind is settling the rest of the leaves off the trees, tucking in the last of the seeds of summer, preparing for the season not far off.  The deer have changed their coats to dark brown, and rummage among the fallen acorns of the oaks, and the coyotes have divided into two packs now, I imagine due to the good supply of pups this year and sing on both sides of the ravines.  The other day coming up the driveway, I saw a beautiful black mink rushing across down to the other side of the slope.  The spry little chipmunks are carring every sunflower seed that falls from the feeders, to their winter habitat in the green house, unaware that I know where they are stashing their winter supplies. Every critter is preparing for the onset of Mother Natures cloak of snow,.... along with me, ....are cleaning their dens, making room for the long hibernation from the sun, settling down to wait for the transformation of the seasons.
Tim, Somewhere in Kentucky

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mad Hatter Effect

These days this homesteader is feeling more and more like the Mad Hatter....I'm late, I'm late for a very important date....but I can't remember which date that is and why I am late, or how I even got to this part of the date.......happens every late summer....and I can't seem to get a handle on why.

It all started with a day in very early July, when on checking my bank account I found that someone, somewhere, had stolen my  debit card number, (we will never know how, since it was still in my possession), and was charging BIG dollars to Home Depot, pharmacies, and book stores in Illinois, one of the suburbs of Chicago in fact,  and was just having a great time.  We were able to stop the card in time so as not to lose the hundreds of dollars this woeful person had charged, but about a thousand did go thru, however due to the wonderful response from our credit union bank, and the fast response from the  credit card company, it was all returned, but..., we had to change accounts, cards, shift balances...I was up....then down......then sideways.... Mad Hatter effect...that experience was definitely  an eye opener.

Then my wonderful, loving daughters decided to change my appearance and I became a blond for a couple of months....it was fun, but now am back to my uneventful  brown hair with out the dark roots that came on so fast....now why can't I lose weight as fast as my dark roots grow back in....its the mad hatter effect, I am telling you now.

In Mid July, Frightful sounds were emitting from the bedroom, which has been transformed into my husbands study room , somewhere between..."this is a page of crap" ...to..."none of this makes any sense  (Mad Hatter Effect)....to "what the hell am I ever going to use this for"...came over and over like a broken record from the depths of the room.  It was his Algebra class....moaning, and sniffling, and cussing and just plain aggravating complaints never ceased, and he decided he would drop the class.....BUT, he couldn't, ...they wouldn't allow it,  not with out consequences....so what does a good wife do....give up the quiet life, and take out the books, and study 24/7 for two weeks with him to catch up on three weeks of lessons he hadn't completed.  I ran thru the Internet, looking for all the lessons on beginning algebra, took a bottle of aspirins, and wore my best dress of patience, and worked slowly with all the problems, and we made it, this is the last week of homework, Finals are next week, he may not pass the class, but at least he has gotten all his homework in, and lab work, and by golly I know a little bit of algebra....don't know where its going to get me with all the garden work....lets see...a= a+ b (cd^2) over N...........salad equals tomatoes, cucumbers times the dressing over lettuce.....yes I can see where Algebra may be a big help next year.   Mad Hatter Effect.

We have had rain, and rain, as much as 6 inches or more a week, and lo and behold in marched the slugs, like an army exploring the rain forest, invading every nook and corner and eating every thing in sight.  Nothing has been left untouched,.....Step, squish (rain water) step,...Smash...(slugs) goo everywhere. Blight swept over the garden like the cloak of Haides, leaving the tomatoes leafless, naked, sunburning the fruit itself.  In spite of all this, there was an abundance of produce, and in between the hours of studying, the pantry shelves got filled, and the freezers got full, jam jars of plums, grapes, strawberry,  pickled peppers, cukes,and spaghetti sauces, along with tomato juices  made their way to the pantry.

The farmer cut the hay, best crop ever, Sean said, and later I sat and watched the coyote catching the mice in the newly mown grasses.....it was raining as usual and I didn't think to get the young chicks ...which I let scratch for bugs along the wood line in back of the house.....back into the greenhouse before the dog like creature in the field decided to search for better pickings.  Sure enough that evening I was 5 chicks short, supper for the beautiful reddish brown four legged creature and maybe his family that was so playfully catching mice in the field.  A few days later I spotted the creature inside the pasture, loping along till he/she came to the corner where the fence didn't quite meet the ground, and underneath he went, then as if to make his domain very clear, sat down on the path and glared back at the dogs as they barked through the fence at the intruder.....lifted his head in disdain, turned up his nose, and trotted on down toward the wood line, turned around one more time as if to say......I was here first, I belong here.....you came last....so get used to it.....and disappeared into the trees.  And he sings every nite, proclaiming his love for this land and my chickens.

Another note to turn this homesteader upside down again...MAD HATTER EFFECT......Tim found a job, at 5R Processing in Ladysmith, about 25 miles down the road.  They recycle computers, digital equipment, etc... and he bugged them for about two months.  AH!...at last he was among the minority, he has a job....what we didn't know was, that this is their corporate office, and they have plants in Georgia, and Tennessee, and he was hired on as a long haul driver.  So now after being home for 7 months, he would be gone 4-5 days at a time, home on weekends. In fact he now travels from Ohio, to Virginia, to Georgia and so on.  He has the  computer in his truck, and printer, does his homework on the road...cept for ALGEBRA , waits for the weekend for that......and skypes me every evening.  Now to those of you who think this is a really sweet thing that the husband in no longer underfoot,...(I did once).. that is good in theory, but gets old fast.  When in the city, there was always something moving, people scurrying....but out here in the country it's a different story.   Being a trucker is hard, but being the wife of a trucker living in the boondocks is harder. While he is off fighting the four wheelers, I am trying to figure out why the generator is spewing oil all over, the lawn tractor is digging holes in the lawn while mowing, how water got in the gas tank of the roto tiller, and where the hell did he put that wrench.  Now I am good at a lot of things, but really bad at mechanical things...a hammer is an alien being that does not like me at all.  AND its quiet.....when Sean and his son were cutting the hay, I actually loved the sound of the machines, because that meant there were humans within sight, ......silence can be so deafening when it is 24/7....especially at night...when this homesteader who is afraid of the dark,,... not bears, coyotes, or four legged sprites...the "dark"...must go out to figure out if the varmints are in the pasture, or out of the pasture...are the animals safe...or in danger.....oh yes....I also do not like guns.....so here I am..slowly, ...bravely, ....creeping out with the dogs at my side, and huge flashlight , walking stick in hand to brave the elements and fight the battles. Truckers' wives, are widows for days, or weeks, smiling when their guy comes home, and when they leave...then sinking into this oblivion of work and silence, conquering the unknown, trying to be strong while all the while shivering inside, knowing that out on that long road, an 80,000 pound,  18 wheeler is battling the odds with the four wheelers, trying to make it safely to their destination, and get back home again.  OK, now after all that whining I have to go figure out why the pellet stove won't stay lit...Mad Hatter..........

Prairie Sunflowers
So now I think I know what date I am late for....I missed August, and  the end of summer, between studying, and gardening, and mowing, and canning and freezing, there just hasn't been time to smell the roses.  Oh well, now with fall knocking at the gate, there will be blankets of snow...great...better get the snow blower out to be checked, and find the doggone snow shovel, and figure out where he put the ice chisel....how the Hellllllll does he find anything in this cluttered garage.....and oh great, the  UPS man just delivered the next semester college school books.......he has to take Comp (English)....and hates it...here we go again.......MAD HATTER EFFECT.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mysteries at the Homestead

So far its been Sherlock Holmes mystery month here at the homestead.  July came in rainy, and humid, making the garden grow in leaps and bounds, the sunflowers standing tall, guarding the youngsters at their feet, including the unwanted visitors that were not invited.    These tall guardians of the garden were not planted by human hand, but came up from the seeds of their ancestors of last year.  Each year, I routinely plant sunflowers in rows, only to have them wither and die, while the wild ones come up to taunt me in the rows, outside the rows, daring to be pulled. Some lose their bet, others I leave in the rows to reach out to the sky, and play with the clouds.

Tomatoes are ripening faster than I can count, earlier then ever before, corn has tasseled, peppers have peppered, and the vines of squash, pumpkin, gourds have hidden the fence on the pasture lane, mixing in abandonment with each other, leaving the bees to wonder whose flowers belong to whom.  The potato beetles have given up the battle, and herbs have been drying.  First mystery, everything is so early, weeks early, my farmer neighbor down the road can't keep up with the ripening oats, multitude of hay, and the corn 6 foot high by the 4th of July. Everything has become almost too fertile for the fields, including this homestead.

Lynn down at the other end of Scotts Lane always comes every year for a few dozen eggs to set for new laying hens.  This year however , she came early, as a family of raccoons went out on the town and stopped by her chicken pen and dined on her hens.   So I gave her three dozen, usually out of this about a dozen chicks or less hatch out.......THIS TIME...32 hatched out..SURPRISE...And back here on our homestead....a biddy hen walked out from somewhere with one chick.....never missed her while she was sitting for a few weeks. Meanwhile Avi, our bloodhound husky, kept trying to dig under the old shed, even tho I kept putting pallets on the ground to discourage her.  Upon listening carefully, I heard peeping coming from inside the shed......low and behold there was another chick, sitting inside a barrel of alpaca fiber all by it self....chirping for someone, anyone, to come and rescue him.  Now how he got in that barrel at two days old is mystery number two .  Picking him up and placing him with the "one chick" hen mom, they all went happily about their business of pecking the ground for food.  But the story doesn't end there,....email message came thru......".do  you want some of the chicks?, we have way too many for us here".....Lynn  asked.  This was to be the year, I wasn't going to raise any little ones......so down we went and came back with 15 cheeping, noisy black little dots, depositing them into the greenhouse, went back into our own pen, located now "2 Chick" Mama hen, put her with the 15 new arrivals, providing her with a proper and full family of 17 black dots, running around pecking at everything she shows them.  They are happy, quiet, and content even tho they can not all fit under her wing at night and must take turns riding on her back,  learning the trade of the chicken world. They will stay there, exploring the lawn around the greenhouse, the wild flower garden, and the wood line, till they have feathered completely out, and no longer need the older hen to show them the way....and then all will be moved into the fenced alpaca yard, along with the older generations of hens and roosters that was the start of it all.  Circle will be complete.

Earlier in the month, while out separating the weeds from the earth in the garden, a loud, humming, buzzing  noise got my attention fast. Looking out across the yard in one of the tall oaks there was a spiral commotion of  activity flying fast and free, and with one intent.......to find the queen.  It was a sight to behold, a swarm of bees, hanging from one of the trees, at least two feet or more in length, swirling, circling, black cloud, finally settling slowly on each other in the quest for ....the queen mother.  We thought that maybe one of our hives had swarmed, but they were fine, cept for the few drones that were now leaving to join the party.  Mystery No. 3...and 4.....as a few days later, I heard the same music coming from the woods in back of the garden, tho could see nothing.   Within a couple of hours another swarm flew in and took their place in one of the apple trees in the yard.  This one much smaller, but just as noisy, and dramatic, even the dogs kept their distance.  By the morning all were gone...as before......where they  came from, what their destination was, we will never know......but it was definitely a first for this homestead.  Meanwhile , our own hives are doing a good business as more rooms were added to both hives, and the honey is rolling in....minus a few drones.

The wood line across the hay field has become a stage for the proud peacock strut of a huge buck, still in velvet, as he prances across the field in search of a tidbit of clover growing again after the first cut.  Behind him two more bucks come into my line of vision, smaller, more timid, but holding their heads high, cautious, frantically trying to keep up with the leader, all the while snipping a leaf or two here and there.  This is the first time in five years we have seen any bucks come across the treeline into the fields, usually its the does and their fawns playing in the sunlight, but they have been absent this summer or the hay had grown too tall for them to be seen.  The Sandhill cranes couple, have emulated into three couples this year, as they come back to the same nesting place along the tree line between the two fields.  These  majestic birds take their time looking for food in the cut hayfield, gracefully placing one long foot in front of the other,  marching in tune to the rustling oak leaves, lead by the swallows gliding on the sails of the wind, and the hummers swinging from one flower to another, while the loons call from the lake across the ravine.  Its cool early in the morning, the only time to search for food or garden before the sun sends its hot rays to chase in all but the most brave by noon.

Well, the rhubarb/strawberry and raspberry jam has been made, ready for gift giving in December, the peas, and cauliflower have taken their place in the freezer, along with the broccoli and kale.  Potatoes must be dug, and onions will be ready in a couple of weeks to pull and dry. This doesn't usually happen till mid August. The pole beans have hidden their supports, and the honey bees have taken permanent residence on all the flowers now in full bloom.  The rain clouds keep a comin, and the moist heat hastens the delivery of produce beyond my control. Tomatoes will be canned, cucumbers pickled, all in July, along with the corn, beans, and herbs.  The Organic Gardner says that by the end of this century, New Hampshire is predicted to have summers similar to what we currently see in Virginia or North Carolina.

 Mystery No. 5....so what happens to the summers in the southern states....will they have hot sandy deserts, or will they have fallen into the oceans?  We of course will never know....but it definitely leaves much to the imagination of this homesteader.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The sad days of July

As I sit here, listening to the first throes of a thunderstorm, and watch the rolling clouds over head, the cries of the  Sand hill cranes woeful calls match the mood of this homesteader. Its been a raw month, the end of June and the beginning of July.  The heat has been excessive, and the rain a plenty...draining the mind of logical thought, and the senses become dull.... reality blurred. News spread quickly that day.... as down the road a bit, there was a horrible accident killing three area people, and injuring three more.  A mother and her son, plus a young girl in the other car took their eternal flight.  The driver of the other car was a visitor from Australia,.... we may never know what happened....but the sight of the Mayo clinic helicopter flying very low over our field, left an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach... churning... as I knew there must have been a severe accident somewhere, and it was...just 1/2 mile down the road. The  rare, angry sounds of  ambulances wailing in all directions sent shivers down the spine... they came from the three small towns around, along with country sheriff's squads hoping not to find what came across on the radios.  One more helicopter slices the sky, and then silence.  Later the late evening news told the grim tale that cemented it firmly in my mind. Now a wreath marks the spot so all will slow down at the corner of death.

Little did I know that there would be more sorrowful news in the future, with a text message early Tuesday morning, stating that my Mother in Law,( from a previous marriage had died).....she was in her late 80's and in poor health, but somehow I thought she would make another summer. She lived in the town a few miles down the road, and tho I rarely made it down to see her, I made a point to call her at least once a week.....and we would kibitz on what kind of summer it would be and how much rain, or snow we would get. Our birthdays were 2 days apart in the same month and we would congratulate each other for making it another year.  Life becomes so fragile, when we are made to stop and listen to the tears. To make things even more delicate, she donated her body to Science, therefore there will be no funeral, no closure to celebrate her life here in the heartland.  It is a new reality to life that I must sift thru and set right in my mind.

Turning to a softer side of life, on the way to town a few weeks back, we saw a huddled dark spot on the side of the road......turtle, duck?...we didn't stop to find out, as we needed to take our weekly 10 dozen eggs to the food pantry, before it opened, and as usual we were late.   On the way back that dark spot was still there so we stopped to investigate, as curiosity took over the best of us.   Tim bent over and picked up this little black spot, and it quickly picked and pecked at him as he returned to the car.   Feisty,  soft black down became a ball of jostling energy, as Tim cradled it in his big hands......It was a baby Loon,  perched on the side of a busy country road, to fend for its own..on a busy day.  We surmised that he had somehow been left behind by his parents, a long way from the water, well for him anyway....and had gotten lost and finally grew tired and just stopped on the side of the road.  Now the dilemma was what to do with him...since he is a protected species, and we didn't have a pond to put him in.  Finally , with much heavy thought , we took him down to the neighbors, whose land bordered the lake he must have come from, and made him  promise to take the little one to the lake shore.  It was fine with Jeff, as he said he knew that there were a couple of pairs of loons on the lake, and he would walk down thru the woods and set him in a safe place, where hopefully the furried friends would not see him, and he would have a chance to get back in the water.  We had a severe thunderstorm and rain that night, so I don't know what became of the little one, but in my imagination,  he lost his down and grew feathers and is echoing the calls of his parents, on the lake where I know he came from.  No closure here either, except the imagination of the  mind taking over the sensible, practical , logical ways of this homesteader. The ways of the land are cruel, and  hard sometimes, and ones... I have not managed to overcome in the seven years here in the woods, yet everything seems to balance out somehow, sometimes in a few hours, or days...making life more masterful, and powerful then before. Understanding may never become a project fulfilled, but one that will keep my imagination rolling on like the hills never ending, never stopping.
Balance here on the homestead, means getting away for a couple of days.  We traveled for a family gathering along the boundaries of Wisconsin and Michigan. Seventy was a warm friendly highway, gently curving into the Chequamegon National Forest, where the landscape begins to take on new direction.  The swamps are filled with sentinels of the peaked, pointed spirals of pine trees,  watching over the waving tall grass, hiding the forest creatures that are going about their various duties. The highway was dressed for the holiday, wearing miles of yellow BirdsFoot trefoil flowers, with fringes of black eyed Susan's, and white daisies gathered in ruffles along the wood lines. She is proud, beautiful in the early morning dew, quiet, empty, with the sun rays fondly kissing the tips of the trees with silent adoration.  By the time we reach Minoqua, the traffic has picked up, and we become aware of the holiday celebration enthusiasts, with bicyclists on the path, ATVS, roaring down the side roads, and runners on a jaunt to nowhere.  For a brief two days, with three dogs in tow, we enjoyed walking barefoot on the piney crusted ground, the towering majestic pines, and the laughing of family members playing games on the lawn. We were entertained that evening by my son-law's, Blues band, and people dancing on the wooden floors at Goouches bar and restaurant in Boulder Junction.  Brian plays the guitar and sings the songs with an abandonment only a dedicated, artist can , making the night more precious in memories. We drove back the next day, in the rain, ready to get back into the harness of everyday work here on the homestead, renewed, looking forward to the mondain energies of everyday life.

So maybe there is not to be closures  or endings, we must flow with the streams, rushing down the mountain into a continual force of energy, dancing like the raindrops into new realms of dreams, never to be forgotten.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rainy Days are for Housecleaning?

"I thought you always said that rainy days are given by God to you, so you could clean house"....this remark came thundering across the garden along with the thunder god above, from a scowling, brow curling, husband, carrying a shovel and a rake.  Slowly standing up, so my back would uncurl to a pain free, up rite position, my mud covered hands grasping an unforgiving piece of sod....I had to laugh.  Your the one who brought me to this chapter of our life, so deal with it, was my sarcastic reply, while trying to get the wet hair out of my eyes, and focus on the job at hand.   

Actually he was right, if anyone should enter into this domain, during a dry spell, you toss in your coin and take your chances, housework was never on my menu, ever....My mother tried to teach me, the good sisters at the convent tried to amend my ways, but to no avail....it is simply not to do, unless you have known company coming...like my kids, or the tax inspector is coming, or some appliance breaks down, I see no reason for not living with all the white dust balls of fur from the dogs, muddy foot prints, dust on the ceiling fans if.... there is something of more importance to accomplish.  But I digress from the story at hand.

Actually it was all my Brother Den's fault, as he called me up late Friday and said...."I have all these extra raspberry plants growing around the edge of my raspberry rows, and you can have them, rather than me mowing them down. Wheeee....my eyes light up, the adrenaline flows, the mind starts moving...."Be there in the morning" I reply while hubby yells out...not before 10 AM, I'm not getting out of bed early for!@@#$$%%^....unprintable!

  EARLY, Saturday morning we speed into town to collect the prizes of a lifetime.  Dennie's garden is small, pristine, and he is a master at raspberry growing...as we dig out the little foot tall specimens he proceeds to tell me how far to plant, what kind of mulch to put on, when to prune, when to pick, the life history of his precious plants.  I have learned to listen to the masters when they have done things I have not yet accomplished, as there is yet so much to learn.  Hubby has this resigned look on his face, but dutifully helps lift the tote full of plants into the car knowing full well what may lay ahead.
We walk across his manicured lawn, now that Den has retired he has plenty of time to take care of his own little piece of heaven.  He has this really neat bird feeder, that raises up and down, and do I think I could use it out at the homestead...as the squirrels just jump down from the trees, and eat the precious seed, or knock it on the ground.  Tim sighs, and manages to fit it in the van....another project to finish.

Back home now, the puzzle deepens as I try to figure out where in this absolutely crowded garden, will these gems retire to...only one thing to do, tear out the sod along the garden fence, shovel out the pile of compost sitting there, and level out the garden path. Digging out a 20 foot ravine of quack grass and sod is no easy feat, Hubby would rather climb MT. Everest....carrying out the rocks hiding in the mud... and ....what? ...filling it back in with compost....my husband by this time is hoping the sky would just open up and lightening fill the air....but it only mist slightly, as I finally put the plants in their final resting place.....hubby delightfully heads for the house...when....wait a minute, we have to mulch this entire new plot.....sinking to the ground, head in hands, I am sure now that he is sending up prayers to the rain gods.....why have they forsaken him........????
The dogs eagerly hop into the van after he hooks up the trailer, and we head down to the neighbors to load another 40 bales of wet moldy hay, but this time Dave helps with the heavy wet bales.  "Yep", he says," made one round of raking up the cut hay, and she (the sky) just opens up...had to come in and get a dry shirt, didn't think you would make it back here for another load today".  Its been a hard month on the farmers, the hay must be cut, but there hasn't been enough sun to dry the furrows, ..".probably be a long dry July n' August after this month" he says, with a slight drawl of words, those of a seasoned,..long hardened worker of the earth.
Heading back up the road, pick up the mail, and the rain comes down.....good thing, because by now hubby has had it with the Honey DO's and its time to just pick up the remote.  The wagon is sitting in the yard next to the garden, covered with a white tarp so as not to soak up the rest of the days rain, but ready to mulch tomorrow, or the next day, which is today......Yes I finally took a mop to the floor, only because the tractor soles of my high topped boots tracked in more mud than the dogs wet footprints, and my aching muscles need a rest.

Phone rings...its Denny again....."You know those white lilacs in the middle of the lawn.....I am going to cut them down...but I got to thinking...they sure would look nice on the hillside down your driveway...you know on top of the hill where you want to put that bench...." .........  OK, be down next week, ...have to wait a bit before I tell hubby.....you know ....prime the water....break it to him gently.................!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Road trip

A road trip here on the homestead means going a little farther than normal, to get something specialized done that could  have been mailed, but we need the  respite from some of the routine chores of the land.  We needed to have the blades sharpened on the clippers to shear the alpacas, and the only place that does that kind of work is in Hayward. Only a couple of hours away, so good for a rainy Friday morning, to take a jaunt off the beaten path and see how the rest of the world looks like and is fairing. It has been  a long time since I have visited the old stomping ground, going way back as a teenager, searching.but.never..finding her nitch in the world.  The familiar road seemed to say welcome back, while new places have been built where before there were woods, or trails startled us back into reality. 

Turning off Hwy 70 at Couderay, toward the Indian Reservation brought back memories of fishing, wild parties, and happy times.  As a teen, one never, ever thinks that they will reach the ripe old age of 60+., being indestructible, infallible, and knowing all.  The tall 100 year old pines formed a canopy over the wet, slinky, winding road, while the lakes peeped thru the undergrowth beckoning the passerby with the deep blue mirror reflections of the dark rain clouds. The Chippewa Flowage was quiet, deep and mysterious, nary a ripple on the water, its beauty concealed by the gray storm clouds, all the while hurrying down to the hidden creeks beds, to destinations unknown.The deep dark greens of the tall grasses sparkled with diamonds of white daisies, and blue cups of the wildflowers as the highway formed a ribbon along the landscape, and the deer bounded out without a thought to the danger that could await them from a speeding car. The tranquil setting of the north woods was a positive thought on a thundering, raindrop falling atmosphere, signaling a time for reflection and peace. We reached our destination, dropped off the blades and decided to take a different route back among the many resorts, lakes, restaurants, that paved the way to untold delights, endearing many a tourists into their open arms.
Traveling back we stopped in Radisson to see Uncle Ray and the boys.  His sign business is doing better, now that they got refinanced by the local bank, and have expanded with a new truck, and hired one new employee, a local veteran back from Afghanistan, who needed work.  In this  tiny, sleepy town, this is a good sign.  Uncle Ray stands away from the crowd with his out of the box thinking, and blames the the oil spill on the enviromentalists who did not want drilling on land or Alaska, therefore we were forced to go a mile under water, creating the scenario we face today.  Not in the mood for a political debate this "tree hugger" let him spew on with his thoughts, some good, some not sensible...but then what do I know, he has 10 years more under his belt...maybe he knows something I haven't yet learned.  Its always good to go and see what the other side of the world is thinking, and maybe readjust ones thoughts to a keener view of the landscape.

Crossing the bridge out of town, the Couderay River spun around the huge rocks with glee, playing with the tall reeds on the sides of the banks, happy with the excess water, making it easier to speed on down the paths to the Chippewa, and onwards, maybe dreaming one day to enter the sea.

We stopped at the cemetery, to see our ancients graves, so quietly waiting for the sun to reappear.  Mary Lou's stone was decorated with a blue bird, flowers,  and things that only grandchildren would place with tender care.  It stood apart from the others with colors, and love radianting out into air for all to see. Behind bare and lonely, stood Mom's and Francis's graves,so distant, unadorned as the life that they once lived.  I am thinking will buy some solar lights to put on Moms grave.....(saw one on some of the other graves that were there,) and thought that would be an easy, unobtrusive way to light up her piece of ground with out causing concern for the cemetery lawnmowers.

Back home again, the sun appeared to taunt us with its rays for a brief few minutes, and then gave way to the stubborn clouds that have been dominating our world for days now.  Like spoiled children, they play tag with the winds, and rain, not willing to give up their time to let the sun kiss the grasses that are cradleing the songbirds, or the clover blossoms  that send out their seeds for the future summers. It is a test of wills, with Mother Nature letting each of her children test the system to see how far she will be content in their mischievous games.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wow, where have I been

Time really does fly...its been over a year...so many things have happened, passed into the wind, fell into a sink hole, never to be recognized again. With health issues, family problems, the homestead itself, the time to write here was not the top issue. Now however, I think I can try again.....and write in my blog rather than play computer games.

So lets bring you up to speed, in September of 09, after many months of testing, running to Eau Claire to the heart specialist, I received a pacemaker.. the electrical system in my heart went haywire...and went down to 36 beats per minute, leaving me with nothing to go on.... now the rest of the heart is fine, infact after having a heart catherization this past spring there is normal plac in the veins, with nothing of concern....wheee....so this year I have more energy...and finally can walk across the lawn. Then the last day of December of 09, my husband joined the ranks of the unemployed...which was a shock to the our systems....and after three fruitless months of searching..decided to go back to school for IT, Globe university, on line courses. Now we owe our souls to the School loan systems, and in 15 more months he can pursue another career, other than truck driving, meanwhile studying, and looking for a driving job ....which in this local is like trying to find a needle in a haystack....but life goes on.

Spring has set her foundations firmly in our life now, the garden is fully planted almost three weeks earlier than previous years. This year I raised enough plants in our greenhouse to supply 8 families, plus yours truely. In return,among some of the things I received maple syrup, tincture of elderberry for the winter colds, and most important at this time 30 + bales of old moldy hay from the neighbor to mulch my garden with. My brother Den, gave me at least 40 bags of last fall's leaves, which already has been used in the garden mulching the potatoes and onions.

Spring came early, in fact by March my greenhouse had been started, it was very warm, and April proved to be dry, warm so by May, the potatoes, onions, and all cold plants like lettuce, peas, kale, cilantro, were planted and peaking thru the ground. In the green house were peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, and flowers, almost bursting the seams of the little sun home, enough to supply plants for 8 families. I mean, you can buy a packet of seeds for little, and there are enough seeds for the world, and since I hate saving and planting last years seed, I contacted a few people who were more than happy to let me do the things I love to do best...and had the time for. All the fruit trees were in bloom, in Mid April, it seemed like spring was here to stay.

However, there was a little burst to this fine growing bubble, we had snow in May 7th, like 4 inches, and a heavy frost. That took us back to reality, in a fast way, my root crops were in the ground, so it passed them over, but the apple trees which were in blossom were bit, and some of the plum trees in the garden became tainted with brown blossoms. The flowering plants in the rock garden hung down to the ground, under the heavy wet snow. It was both a sad scenario, yet beautiful, almost refreshing after the very warm weeks before. As it turned out, the snow melted the next day, and we were still left with a very early spring. By June 1, my potatoes were more than a foot high, and I was battling the potato beetles, weeds were growing faster than I could mulch, and it rained, and rained. All through the earlier months, it had been horribly dry, in fact April and a part of May, there was no moisture to speak of.....we started worring about the dry cold soil, with the warm spring winds.....what kind of summer was in store for the homestead this year.

It never pays to worry about Mother Nature, she does what she pleases, and we must bow in humble vintage to what she orders. Now I sneak in between the rain showers, to mulch, weed, and check the bugs. It is so refeshing however to go out and pick the spinach and kale along some beet tops to make my green smoothies, challenging the taste buds after buying southern winter crops in the stores thru the winter.

I have dried the first crop of parsley, cut the rhubarb and made 25 pints of rhubard/strawberry jam, and now drying the mint for teas this coming winter. A new thing I am learning now from a dear friend, Joyce Arndt, is making elixers from rose petals, and later from the elderberries, and some other tantalizing things from herbs. She is a trained herbalist, with so many things to share, and I have so much to learn. Its a whole new field that I hope to have the time to learn about.

Meanwhile, along with the gardening, shearing the alpacas, gathering eggs, mowing the lawn, and checking on the couple hundred pines we planted earlier, I am trying to finish sewing the summer dresses that my 14 year old granddaughter actually asked me to make.....what a surprise most teens prefer to buy the tantalizing fashions in the top fashion stores. Tim is glued to the computer, studying for upcoming exams...while trying to keep up with the honey do's issued from above. The grass is growing faster than the weeds, the soaker system has been laid down on the tomatoe bed, the frames have been built for the pole beans, (I can no longer bend over to pick beans, back complains way too much), new horseraddish roots have been sunk in the earth, and the rain continues.

A typical, but as unusual year has begun, the learning process is in session, and I am keenly attune to lifes cycles beginning anew. This year we have a quiet barnyard, the tom turkey died in very early spring, so now I have three hens, with no mate. However, along the fence line struts a newcomer to the homestead...a lone, wild, Tom, that has been trying to entice my gray hen with his romantic calls, and majestic struts. Finally one day she could not longer resist his heart, and proceeded to fly over the fence....which is a feat in itself, as the fence is 8 foot high, and she is no spring chicken... ah, turkey....she had been pacing the fence for days, and finally decided he was worth it. The love sick hen was gone for the day, but finally I spotted her up behind the beehives, clucking contentedly, eating the bugs and grass from the woodland floor. In a harried chase , she was finally back over the fence, away from from the clutches of the coyotes which sing every night....and home again. The spirited Tom was no where to be seen, though he would be hard to spot in the tall uncut hay, where he usually crosses each morning, after flying down from his favorite roost. Obviously, he is off to other pursuits, trying to find another lonely hen, as most of his own kind have already hatched out their family, and hiding deep in the woods, away from the coyotes, wolves, racoons, and what not, that roam when the moon is high in the sky, and the owls are hooting their stories to the clouds.

So goes the spring time at the homestead, rain is on the way again tonight, but at least I have most of the garden mulched, cultivated, and ready for another sunny day. I leave you with some pictures of the visitors that have paid their respect to the flowering buds of spring.