Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The whirligigs of the Milkweed

Remember as young children, walking to school in late fall.... the leaves were dancing to the rhythms of the north wind, geese were flying overhead in perfect V formations, sparkling Blue Jays called to the crows in the woodland..... and the Milkweed plants prepared to whirl.  We gathered up the grayish pods, and with great anticipation pulled the silken parachutes that were hanging tightly to the seeds....... blew them into the wind, like soap bubbles , watching them bounce and sway on the lite breezes, doing their swan dance as if to attract the the rays of sunlight and project them onto the tall grasses that opened up their arms to receive all the babies that were about to alite.  Each seed had a definite path way down to the dry earth, to await the cool fall rains that would eventually sink them into the soil to await the arrival of spring.  Mother Earth would soon pull the blankets of snow closely, to protect each young life and escort it into its own journey into the world.

As I walked the dogs down the quiet driveway, the milkweeds that had so boldly presented their pink blossoms not too long ago, and provided comfort to the Monarc Butterflies, now hung their heads down, heavy with burdens of coming year. I purposely do not allow cutting on the South Side of the drive, so the milkweeds  can grow and prosper in peace, with only the deer, or other wildlife mingle and tread paths between the wood lines and the fields.  Its fall..... and so much has been done this year,   The drifting oak leaves throw caution to the wind, and become friends with my shoes, as they too are finding their own place to mingle with the earth..... and protect all the fallen weed seeds the past summer from the heavy snows that are sure to come.  The dark shadows in the wood line, open up with the setting sun, all the hiding places of the squirrels are now in full view, and outlines of deer can be seen if one looks very closely.  They too have changed their colors, blending in with the warm browns, reds and gold of the frivolous grass heads that are daring anyone to defy them, like the cold winter breezes.

The long lonely farm  roads where the corn has matured, and now changed to a golden brown, has the huge reaper with shears not unlike the one we used to shear the Alpacas, travel the distance of the field, eating up each row, spitting out the stalks and keeping the corn cobs, which will later be loaded on trucks, shelled , dried and follow their destination to parts unknown.  Soy beans have been picked, weeks ago, along with the gigantic hay bales that sat unguarded, waiting for tractors and the wagons to carry them into barns for forage later in the year.

It is Fall in the Northland, and I too have planted, cultivated and prepared our harvest to rest in the jars in the pantry, and the freezers that await in the garage.  The horseradish has been dug, and made into sauce, the onions have been dried and spun into powder, along with the wild velvety, yet pungent smell of the hot peppers that did so well in the hot, dry summer we had this year.  The apples have been transformed into juice, along with the tomatoes, and sit with vibrant color on the shelves.  The garden has been washed of its weeds, and vegetation, only the Kale  and Parsley await their fate.  Corn stalks have been pulled and slowly thrown over the fence into the pasture to the alpacas and goats, who share their bounty with the chickens along with the expired broccoli and green plants who have fulfilled their misson.

  My shoes no longer stick to the sugary floors, as the jams and jellies have taken their respectful places on the shelves, and the residue has long been mopped up.....only the squash and pumpkins remain to be put away for the winter and set silently in the garage awaiting their turn....It is fall and a time to take a break from the dirt that has tarnished my nails, and constantly set my back on fire from the undimishable weeds that persisted and had to be pulled for days at a time.

The time has come to become acquainted with the skeins of yarns that have lain silent, and to sew the funny squares again on my sewing machines that have not been used in months.  My material stash calls to me in anguish, as I have not had the time to find the energy it requires...... to sew into practical articles the things that they too are destined for in the near future.  The stacks of copies of quilts I will never live long enough to make .......cover the open spaces that remain, as I have collected them all summer as if to remind myself that there are other things that remain to be accomplished besides the garden.  The cool rainy fall days remind me of the things to come, and all the time I will have while watching the snowflakes cover  and protect the ground from the cold wrath of winter.

However, I will miss  hearing the wind call to me from the wood lines, as the windows will now be closed, and the owls that talk and call in the depth of the ravines....all will be silent.  I have placed the bird feeders now on the outside of the window sill, so I can watch and hear the chattering of the now brown finches, and the harsh dismay of the Bluejays as they banter along the colorless trees, chasing the woodpeckers, and other tree ramblers from their perch.  The redheaded woodpecker delights in the newly made suet hanging above the sunflower seeds that sit in the feeder below, while the nuthatch's await their turn.

The snow fence is the last thing we must set up, as the chicken coop has been cleaned for the last time, and nests filled with hay, wood chips on the floor.  Straw in the goat shed, and all cracks and crannies filled........ so that the wind will not blow in the stray snow that manages to creep in.  The waterers are plugged in as there is already ice on the top in the cool morning, and soon I will have to be carrying water to sheds while managing the snowbanks that seem to want to make my life more of a challenge.

These are the lessons that the milkweed teaches me, it is soon to be a long cloudy winter,...... where the sun no longer warms the ground, and taunts me with the memories of what was and what will be.   I have tossed my memories of the long hearty summer into a book of the past, soon to begin another in the book of the future....so as the seeds of the milkweed will sleep thru the months and begin their own replenishment of the earth next year.  Meanwhile I will content myself with the tracks of the field mice in the  newly fallen snow,  the call of the northern lights in the deep of the night, and watch the mighty north wind wield his sword of cold,...... while keeping warm in front of the wood stove and dissolving the piles of material stash into articles of importance........well maybe......only the seeds of the milkweed knows.,

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Sentinal

Time has a way of curving gently over hills and dales, and before one knows it, the days have drifted away, leaving weeks, months behind with only the future to enjoy.   That's the way it seems here on the homestead these days, each curve has held new demands, each hill new challenges, with little time to contemplate what has occurred, or what the lies ahead behind or over the next hill.

Its June, at least that's what the calendar says, but its been cool, actually had to fire up the pellet stove last night, and today the sun shines amid the soft fluffy clouds while the wind whispers around each corner of the house and plays with the new bright green leaves of the trees, saying , catch me if you can.  The hay in the unmown field still sways like ocean breezes, waiting for the the swift sharp cut of the mower to open the thick grass protecting the baby rabbits in their soft warm nests, and the nestling of the new fawns awaiting their mother's return while warming their noses in the warm rays of the sun. Birds are everywhere, the dull colored calm females on their nest of eggs, while their mates judiciously  fly from branch to branch, making sure all is safe from marauders that are constantly on the prey of such things.   Down the way a bit is a dirt road that has became a haven for the great female snapper turtles who  have come up from the ponds below  to lay their eggs in the sandy edges of the road, but word has come down that those nests were opened up later by the bandits of the woods, who stole the eggs for a grand lunch in the dark of the night.  We can only hope that some of the eggs survived and will hatch to continue their life span for years to come. I watched as  one of  the slow moving rock colored mothers, made her way across the span of the road, and slowly carefully, dug out her nest, carefully, patiently making sure that it was just right. All the effort and struggle seem to be lost in the process of the night, as time sped on making her eggs a meal for another, be it raccoons, or coyotes and make short work of all commotion that went on in the silence of the daylight.

The arrival by post of a mothers day gift from my son and his wife, and their girls...... set things into motion here.  A beautiful Chalet type bird house, fit for any proud wren or chickadee was promptly set up, high on a white steel pole above my rock garden, to sway and taunt the winds that blow so proudly up here on the hill. And though a wren sang his heart out in the nearby tree, a flash of blue came dashing through the air and landed on the small porch of the house, and tried the door.  Alas, it was not made for the his broad shoulders, and when his mate tried, she also met with defeat.  Watching this from my window, as I sewed, for a day or two, I promptly ordered a matching blue bird house to appease the wants and needs of this couple. Later that week, in picking Tim up from Medford, we happened upon a Farmers Market...... and found another, not so fancy, old time blue bird house to add to the collection.  We nestled both houses on poles a decent distance from the other in the rock garden..... and in less than an hour, the male was inspecting each one to see if it met his standards.  Next he brought his mate, and together they tried to make a decison as to which house was best.....now that took some concentration, inspection,  and long discussions.  I think they settled on the old fashion one,....cant be sure...., but he has kept constant watch from the mast of the old boat, or the other bird houses, and swoops down to attack any one who may fly by and inspect the neighbor hood for themselves.  Mean while his mate has been carrying bits of material to set up her new home.....while he defends his property and keeps constant vigilance from near by....  This proud sentinel of the rock garden can be seen hiding in the near by tree ready to avenge any wing that comes near, including the swallows,( who by the way, to the dismay of my husband, have already taken over the rafters of our garage) but  my bluebird sentinel mainly rests atop the old boat mast, which gives a better perspective of his domain thru out the daylight hours, sometimes bringing a tidbit to his mate ....,or bathing in the stone birdbath basin while keeping a wary eye on passersby.  Meanwhile the wind plays merrily around the home, swaying it with its strong breath,  gently rocking it to the beat of  its own rhythm.  As I watch from my window, time seems to stop and watch also...this new vestibule of life that goes on forever.

Most things are planted in the garden, just tomatoes and peppers to set it, it has been so cold at night, that I hesitate to plant till this weekend, the ground was slow in warming up this year.  For Mothers Day, the girls and their partners came down,..... Larry cut down and apart the trees in the back wood line that had fallen during one of the rain storms....... while the others tilled, and carried the compost from the pile outside the garden fence and deposited on the plots inside the garden fence, lots of work, but it was a beautiful day, and that compost heap had been fermenting for a couple of years, so was in perfect shape to transpose my garden.  We dug out the extra strawberry plants for them to take back to their own homes, ...last year I had planted only 25 plants, and this year I had way over 100 or so....in full bloom, so needed to thin out a few.  The raspberry bushes are doing well, along with the cherry trees which evaded the hard frosts we encountered sporadically, and are full of cherries, along with the apple and plum trees, if all goes well, and we have enough rain there will be plenty to do in late summer.  And wonder of wonders......along our long driveway, dancing along the wood line are full white blossoms atop hundreds of strong wide bushes,......the black berries have migrated out of the thick prickly woods, onto the open grassy narrow field and again, with enough rain, I may have baskets full of black berries, if I can beat the birds and the bears to them that is.

Speaking of bears, the encounter this year, was far different from past years.  I had just come back from Medford, and sat down at the computer, when the dogs went wild....the alpacas were sounding their warning calls, and the Guinea hen was screaming from the top of the shed.   Someone had trespassed into their realm, and they were  not happy.  Quietly watching from the pasture fence, I finally spotted the culprit, a medium sized bear was sizing up the landscape and patrolling the fenced in pasture.....after yelling at him for a couple of times, he raced down the ravine.......only to reappear up by the bee hives (which are empty) and stood there, with the 8 foot fence between he and the dogs and I, and swung his massive head from side to side, while the dogs barked,the alpacas screamed and I yelled at him.  He was not afraid... as bears before him....who had ventured up were.....and stood there as if daring us to do something about his presence.  Finally after I banged on the steel fence posts with another post he took off down the ravine......and that I thought was it.....but instead , no more than 20 minutes later he was up behind the house, by the bird feeders, but that wasn't what he was after,.....he was coming to gate by the fence......he wanted to see what the garbage cans held for him.....unmindful of the dogs barking....he wanted in the fence......another series of banging ..yelling....he finally turned away, and lurked in the wood line, till I finally called the neighbor who came down and shot into the woods, only to scare him off, away from the house.     He stayed away till later in the evening around 11 or 12 but only stayed around the pasture for awhile.  He has made his appearance known now and visits every couple of nights, but doesn't come up to the house anymore, and as the vegetation grows thicker may not be seen again till fall.  There are always things that happen to make life different each spring, and I am never fully  prepared for them.

So now, just like my Blue sentinel in the rock garden, I must keep a vigil on the land, my animals, and my state of mind.  Not an easy task at this stage of the game, however, ......I think its going to be a fascinating year this time......waiting for that next curve, will it be uphill, or speeding down the slope......stay tuned.....cause who knows when I will write another episode again.

Yes, the bear came back last night, and left this mark of his presence.....for all his work, he found nothing, how disappointing that must have been.