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 is simply not to do, unless you have known company 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. 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 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 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 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 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 know 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 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 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.