Sunday, November 19, 2006

Our Magic Carpet

Can a magic carpet be made of steel? Sure it can! Here's our dream vehicle, finally found and home. We've been looking for just this camper van for quite a while, planning on retirement travel. We just brought it home this weekend, and we're still so excited. Jim's got the maps out, and I'm planning on just what goes in each cubbyhole.

It won't be long now until we're on the road for far travels.

We'll be sure to post pictures here so you, our reader can follow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Who could have more fun than a two year old playing in the leaves with her silly Grandpa?

Unless it would be the lucky Grandma with a camera?

This was a great day under the big maple in the middle of the back yard.
Anna even got to climb her first tree all by herself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There're Fish in There!

What a beautiful spot! Any time of year, but this time of the year, the color of the trees reflected in the water makes a special magic, and knowing that the fish are traveling upstream, makes it even more magical.

Here, we're about 6 miles from the Great Lake Michigan. This time of year, giant salmon slide silently under this bronze looking water. Even though the stream is only a few inches deep in most of this area, these huge fish glide from deep spot to deep spot, making their way upstream to take part in their age old destiny, to spawn, fertilize those precious eggs, then die.

It takes a patient eye to spot them, laying in the shadows readying themselves for another run upstream. Sometimes you'll see them in the middle of a rush, plowing through the shallows and pushing a wall of water in front of them as they slip along the water's course.

Some lurk along the banks at this time of year and try to snag these giants to eat. I prefer to just watch, and celebrate the season's passing.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A little Blue Magic

Childhood memories reach the deepest into our being and sometimes come out with surprises in our adult lives. One of my oldest memories is watching my Mother and her sister visiting. They'd often sit at a kitchen table laughing and sharing pictures of their lives.

Among the reunion pictures of people taking pictures of each other and all the baby pictures, Aunt Elsie had pictures they called, "bluebell island" of the women and children in their family dressed in casual clothes and holding huge armloads of tiny blue flowers. The pictures were rare, and started in black and white with ruffley edges, and later were in bright color.

They were farmers, and worked hard every day of their lives, but once a year, they'd take the day off and go to bluebell island with a picnic and a play day. I always looked at these relaxed smiling pictures and felt envy that they found such joy is this event that I was never included in.
Over and over, through the years, I tried to start bluebells growing on my little place here in Northern Indiana, but with no luck.

Then, a few years ago on a visit to my cousin who still lives near the old home place in Southern Illinois, I mentioned bluebell island to him. He replied, "you never saw that place?" "I think it's time now, let's go!" We drove for a while, then parked and walked across plowed fields, gently rolling, and rutted from the plow, about a quarter mile, then through a stand of huge, old trees, growing densly together and mossy with age. Finally, we came out onto a bluff, looking down into a misty little valley. A small stream ran through it, (they call it a creek in that part of the country), and had carved out this isolated valley, and in the middle, an island, just covered with bluebells. It looked like a magic place, something that must exist on Never-Never Land. Just amazing, quiet and beautiful. I don't believe I picked a single flower, just wandered around in a daze. No wonder all those pictures looked so happy!

It's such a nice place to think about, and one of those special memories I keep tucked away to return to now and then for peace and joy, to refresh myself.

So, this spring, I was roaming in our own little woods and was so surprised to find this one little bluebell plant, quietly blooming there and waiting to be seen. One of the many I planted, and gave up on when they seemed to die and dissapear. Someday I may have my own little bluebell island, if I'm lucky. In the meantime, I'm so very happy to have found this little spot of blue magic, growing in my very own woods. What a lucky person I am.

Monday, April 10, 2006

We're Home!

We're home! We just got back today from a wonderful 10 day vacation that started with a slow ramble of Indiana, from this spot on Sugar Creek's Turkey Run State Park, south through beautiful parts of the state we hadn't seen before.

How wonderful to have time to just ramble around and see parts of this beautiful state of Indiana. We plopped a futon and sleeping bags in the back of the van for comfy sleeping and spent the days traveling slowly and the nights studying the map to decide tomorrow's directions.

We visited Lincoln's Boyhood home and the inspiring sights there. The rebuilt farm where he grew up was really something to see, and the hills around just beginning to wake with spring's joy.

What an amazing place we live in, and we felt so lucky to have this fime to just roam. Once we crossed the Ohio, we eased into and through Kentucky, with the great crafts at Berea, and great lunch at the historic Boone Tavern, on South through Tennessee, a little touch of Virginia, and Georgia, where we visited Dalonega where America's first Gold Rush occured. Who knew?

We stopped at Cumberland Gap, where so many Easterners started their travels west through those mountains. We camped at national and state parks and had some almost to ourselves. No one else was around when we visitd Wyandotte Caverns and we had a private tour, accompanied only by the friendly guide and the little bats, slumbering upside down in the ceilings.

We ended up at the Brasstown Folk school in North Carolina for a weekend's study for me in Silk painting, while Jim rested up for the long drive home. This next picture shows the view that greeted us each morning as we watched the sun come up over the mountains and drank our first cup of coffee. I'll post a picture tomorrow of the silk scarves we made there. Very pretty.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Must be Spring

I'm so confused! At 6:30 this morning, it was sleeting, then the sun came out, and blessed us all for a while.

Then, it rained, slushed, and snowed, in turn, all within 10 minutes on the way back from town.

Now it's just dreary and cold--but I found this one, tiny, blooming crocus!

It must be Spring, for sure.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A walk on the path

Here's a walk Grandpa's been waiting for since she was first born! A chance to show this very special bit of our life, some of the world that waits for her.

You can see on either side of the path, the maple trees that are tapped, and our favorite walking path curving ahead.

Watching a small patch of woods grow and change character is like watching a beloved child come into amazing potential, only slower!

Spring is coming. Just not fast enough.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It's a start!

The thing I miss most in the winter months, is fresh greens from the garden. There's just nothing like exploring the green growing things, just before a meal, and bringing them in to make a meal. Everything tastes just so delicious and healthy. Jim had already built me a raised bed in the garden to try something new this year, when I read in a gardening magazine about a man in Maine who grew his own salad greens all winter long!

Well, I had to try that! So we put a winter cap on the bed, propped sheets of glass at the ends and planted a variety of lettuces, spinach and peas inside. They just laid there dormant until the longer days of coming spring and now they're coming up. Not a lot yet, but if you look close in the second picture, you can see my almost a garden, coming along, in spite of the mid 20's temperatures outside.

The row to the side of the raised bed is the garlic he planted this fall. It's up an average of 5 inches already and should provide 65 heads of glorious garlic to make our meals savory all summer long. Good things coming soon!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Trembling on the edge!

There's tension in the air, this time of year. You see a cluster of daffodils like these, and they seem to be trembling on the edge of just bursting into glorious, sunny bloom. They're ready, almost there, any minute now.

I sure love this time of year, and keep watch daily for all the small changes. as we move, inch by inch, into the green and growing part of the year.

Happy First Day of Spring!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

There's a sure sign of Spring! Two of them, in fact! This fat robin cruised around the yard scooping up worms and bugs for hours in the sunshine today, in spite of the below freezing temperatures.

If you look really close, you can see the bees too. they were venturing out cautiously in hopes of finding something blooming to back up their scant store of honey this late in the season. The pie plate on top of the hive contains a little sugar water to help them out until things really start blooming and the bees can shop for their own dinner.

Spring's coming! Hooray!

Tapping the maples

This is working a little backwards, to show how we tap the tree, after we show how we cook they syrup down, but that's just the way things so together sometimes.

There are may ways to draw the maple sap out of the tree, and our way is determined by our frugal approach to everything. Traditionally, a hole is drilled in the trunk of a large tree. When you get to that time of year when it freezes at night, and gets above freezing during the day, the sap moves up and down the tree through the layers just below the bark.

A hole is usually drilled about 3 inches into the tree and a metal spile tapped into the hole. Then a metal bucket is hung on the spile, and it catches the sap as it drips out. The flow can vary from an almost steady trickle, to a slow drip, to nothing. Then the workers trudge through the mud or snow from tree to tree to collect the many gallons of sap. It takes 37 to 50 gallons of sap to cook down into one gallon of delicious, sweet syrup, and it's heavy.

Modern large scale operations use plastic taps, connected by tubing that flows many feet to central catch basins-sometimes connecting whole mountainsides. We've adapted the techniques for our own frugal lifestyle, and don't make a lot. We only cook a small amount for our own use and don't sell any, so we can just work by hand. Jim carves his own spiles out of sumac branches, and we use short hoses to direct the sap into rinsed, recycled plastic jugs.

The sap rests in the jugs until we can get time to cook it down. The pictures shows Jim telling our granddaughter about the process. Doesn't she look like she understands the whole thing?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Owl's Haven Country Life

We have just a little spot of country, only 3 acres of trees in Northern Indiana, but we take such joy in it each day. Through some benign neglect, and lots more sweat and hard work, we've created a space with lots of trees, paths for exploring, an organic garden and lots of good times.

We sat out in the twilight a few nights ago, sharing a glass of wine and listening to the barred owls' mating calls, while watching our maple sap slowly evaporate into delicious golden syrup, and realized how much others would like to share our special life.

So here's the first posting. The picture is of my husband Jim, checking the sap on top of our unique home made stove. The top is a barrel, of course, with a hole cut in the top for the cast iron dutch oven to sit down in close to the fire. The door is a no parking sign on bolts, and the base is an old claw footed bathtub, that's served as inside reading nook and outside ice chest for years. Not very portable, but certainly strong and useful.

I'll try to post often, about the unique ways we work our way through our country year.