Thursday, December 24, 2009

God Bless Us Everyone!

Our image this year has the first snow angel of the year in the center, surrounded by a bountiful beautiful wreath. At this special time of year, Jim and I want to wish all of you the healthiest and happiest of holiday seasons. We feel so very blessed to be in our comfortable home and have wonderful family and friends nearby to share love with.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Virtual Winter Walk

I've mentioned before that we live in an especially beautiful place, and sometimes it just outdoes itself. We have a family tradition of taking a walk after any big family dinner, to the local stream just down the road.

We gather everyone up, young and old, and straggle along laughing and talking the 1/3 mile country road to the bridge. There are certain traditions that have to be honored during that walk.

The state line is on the way, so we each have to take a big step when crossing that line and say, "Now! We're in Michigan."

Then when we get to the stream, we each pick up a small stick, throw it into the water on the upstream side of the bridge, carefully check for traffic, then all rush over to the other side of the bridge to watch for our sticks to come drifting out. This part sometimes has to be done 8 or 9 times until all the little ones are content to move on.

In warm weather, we have to walk down the path to the swamp and look for the toads in the shallow water and on the logs. We toss little pebbles nearby to see if we can scare them into hopping away. Normally they just watch us with their buggly eyes.

This morning the 4" of clean white snow was so beautiful and my daughter in South Carolina was homesick for the beauty, so asked for a picture of the stream. Jim took a walk and came back with a whole virtual winter walk. I hope you enjoy it too.

The road from right in front of the house.
A little further on.
There! That's the state line! Big step now!
Getting close! Watch for a stick to throw!
There's the bridge, almost there.
The swamp, no toads to be seen today.
Downstream. The water's very dark and quiet today. In the summer it's clear and fast. You can see the bottom rocks and sometimes the big salmon who venture this far from the big lake.
The new path into the woods by the swamp. Nobody walking there this cold day.
.....and back home again. Don't you feel refreshed?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Now that I’m OLD!

I recently turned 65, and officially old. Over the past year or so, I’ve been receiving mailings to sell me stuff leading up to that special day. I’ve also gotten about 40 pounds-(how many dead trees is that?)-of advertising material just on the subject of medicare supplement plans, and that doesn’t include ads for burial policies, reverse mortgages, and nursing home insurance plans. Sheesh!

So, even if I were inclined to just let this birthday slide by like most others, there have been constant reminders to make me think about how important it must be.

I hadn’t really thought a lot about it, other than a random thought recognizing that fact that these years are rushing by very fast, and the old body just doesn’t work as well or quickly as it used to. I’ve tried to just realize that I can’t move as fast as I used to-but luckily since I’m retired, I don’t have to move as fast anymore. Nice how that works out. Maybe this is a good time to stop and take stock of what this milestone means-and sort out what I believe. This is the result of that sorting out.

I do know these things:

I believe in Family-whether by birth, marriage, adoption or just great affection. The family bond is our best hope for health, sanity and happiness.

Here are some things I was once dumb enough to buy into and will never do again. Pretending to be something I’m not, and trying to buy, bully or brag my way into some kind of status I haven’t earned-or buying into that kind of action from others.

I truly don’t understand- how most of us sit night after night watching others murdered, raped, beaten and abused. Most entertainment now is about seeing others hurt in some way. The police true crime dramas that show real people who’ve committed crimes sniveling and excusing themselves feel like slimy voyeurism. I feel like we are desensitizing ourselves to the sight of hurt in others and it makes abuse a normal part of life. We should wince seeing someone else hurt and be bothered by it. How can this be our entertainment?

I’ve been so very lucky. I’ve watched my own children and many others who have been part of my life grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults with families of their own, and I’m lucky enough to have an ongoing loving relationship with them. Wonderful, wonderful.

I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the last wild places in America, and helped in a small way to make sure those places will be left for others to see too. Those feelings, and those places are so very important for our mind freedom. Even if we don’t go to them, it’s important to have them held safe and available.

It’s the small things that are so very important too. I used to hike with a partner who loved the mountaintop vistas. She’d be looking at the far away view, while I was crouched on the side of the trail looking at the tiny flowers on the moss. I love the accessable magic and believe that being able to see those tiny things and treasure them weaves the fabric of a happy life. The soft coo of a baby just learning to relate to others, and the joy of a child touching an earthworm for the first time-those moments are treasures, so be kept close to the heart and looked at in memory, again and again.

I’ve been very lucky to find a real partner in my life to share these years with-an unusual man who's strong enough to be gentle and who shares my views on almost everything to an extent I never believed possible. I don’t know how many years we will have left together, but I intend to make them as good and strong as I can, because this we have now, is very good.

For the future—I want to know everything, to learn more, experience more, and see more. It’s been a great ride for these past 65 years, and I hope for more, more, more-there’s a lot to see and do yet.

And lastly, here’s my current favorite poem that expresses a lot of my feeling for the way we treat each other, and our place in the natural world.

Catechism for a Witch’s Child

When they ask to see your gods

your book of prayers

show them lines

drawn delicately with veins

on the underside of a bird's wing

tell them you believe

in giant sycamores mottled

and stark against a winter sky

and in nights so frozen

stars crack open spilling

streams of molten ice to earth

and tell them how you drink

a holy wine of honeysuckle

on a warm spring day

and of the softness

of your mother who never taught you

death was life's reward

but who believed in the earth

and the sun

and a million, million light years

of being

© 1986 J.L.Stanley

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Passed! I Passed! Hooray for Me!

So much has happened lately, and I'm way behind on my postings, so I'll start with this one first and try to catch up over the next few days.

Recently I've been taking a class in gardening. It's offered in each county and comes out from Purdue University through the local County Extension office. What a wonderful group of people, from the County Extension Agent who was kind and patient, and so very knowledgable, to all the terrific people taking the class. It was great fun just to be in a room full of other people who loved gardening, and all of us so intent on learning more about our particular interest within the gardening world.

All of us had a slightly different take on the whole thing, from those who lived in town and mostly container gardened, to a market seller sharpening her considerable skills, to flower fanatics, at least one lawn nut and several like me, who wanted to just grow better veggies.

I learned so much during that time, but at the end of the classes, we had to gear up for a test, and pass it. Now, it's been over 20 years since I've taken anything more taxing than a blood test, so I was a bit nervous about the whole prospect, then got a cold and spent most of the week leading up to that big moment sniffling over the book, reading and rereading the pages, then just hugging it and hoping to soak up the answers by osmosis.

There was a lot of very basic science information that's heavy stuff, like the 16 essential nutrients that a plant needs to grow that there was no way my brain was ever going to memorize. Lots more that's just common sense once you understand the processes, and lots of complex structures that are hard to remember. There were 70 questions, and many had multiple parts, but in the end, I passed! What a relief!

So I'm now officially a Master Gardening Trainee. Over the next year, I need to put in 35 hours volunteering to help other gardeners, and spend some time learning more, then I'll be a full fledged Master Gardener. I'm really looking forward to the experience. It'll be fun.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Life, Interrupted

Whew! It's good to have my life back again! I got called in for jury duty. It was an unsavory case involving child molestation. I guess all court cases involve wrongdoing, but this one was particularly ugly and we sat through days long recitals of lies, accusations and hurt feelings.

The jury group was a real cross section of ages and types of people, but all of us had this in common. We had lives that we missed and we resented the time gone, but were sincerely dedicated to trying to do the best job we could in finding justice.

It was tough, trying to wade through all the information we'd been given, but we spent hours carefully sifting through the notes we all took and settling all of our questions. We even drew up a time line to try to figure out when things happened.

In the end, the defendant pled guilty in hopes of a light sentence, and we didn't have to deliver a judgement. It was quite a learning experience, and all of us reported nights of tossing and turning, worrying about the child in the case, and frustration at the lack of information we were provided.

We were very impressed with the Judge, bailiff and court workers, not so much about the organization of the lawyers involved, and grateful that we could go home and get our lives back.

My lasting impressions from the experience are these. Stupidity is not criminal, but may look like it. Be careful how you handle the precious children in your lives. And if you see something that makes you wonder about how a child is being related to--step up, don't let it continue.

I also was left with a serious admiration for my fellow jurists, who all, without exception, tried so hard to fulfill our civic duty and find the right and true and just answer in this case.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More Work to Ready for Winter.

Now that the root cellar cans are almost full, and the firewood stacked, we still have more to do before winter. Jim's working on the greenhouse and it's almost ready for us to move into it. He's got the polycarbonate on the slanted wall, and is working on tightening up all the air leaks around the sides.I've already put the fragile house plants along the back wall, in case of a nighttime frost. We planted some small food plants in pots to try to grow for winter eating too and they're coming along. The next task is to paint the buckets we've gathered with black spray paint so we can stack them in the greenhouse to absorb and radiate heat.

The trees are changing colors fast and dropping their leaves. I'm raking them up, piling them on a small tarp and dragging them out to the garden to feed next year's plants. One big pile is waiting for Anna to arrive so she can jump on them with joy.It's coming together, pretty soon we'll be ready for that snug time of year, when we can stay warm and comfy inside, sipping a glass of wine by the stove, while snow blows and winds rage outside. Not quite yet though!

Getting Ready for Winter

This time of year, we're scrambling to get ready for winter around here. Something about the nip of coming frost in the air just sends us into a frenzy of putting by, cleaning up, putting away and stocking up. Jim gathered plump walnuts to work up into delicious baked goods this winter.We've bought firewood, stacked and covered it.Cleaned up the garden, pulled the old plants, and tossed the dead stuff onto the compost pile. Coiled all the hoses and carefully put them away for spring use.Anna found a toad in the garden vegetation. Planted some cold hardy things for late season growth-the peas and collards are doing well, not much else is.Now it's time to store away food for winter. We took Anna with us to pick apples. Fugi for long keeping, Golden Delicious for immediate delicious eating, and Jonathans for Jim's wonderful apple pie. Each apple is wrapped in paper, sorted into labeled bags and lowered carefully into our buried root cellar cans out back in the woods.Another can holds knobby red potatoes that will stay fresh and crisp for meals all the way into April. We still need onions and carrots, but we're getting there!

Monday, October 05, 2009

The New Asparagus Bed-or Karren Goes Looking for HorseS**t

We decided that we really want a bed of our own asparagus, but didn't want to devote any existing garden space to the plants. So I started looking for the best place outside the garden fence to tuck in a bed dedicated to these delicious green spears.I found the solution in Lasagna Gardening, a book about a way to set up a new gardening bed without all that digging, weeding and back-breaking work. In short, you set aside a space, define it somehow and pile on layers of stuff, cover it and let it work, then uncover it in the spring to find healthy black soil. Here's my step by step preparation of my new asparagus bed.

First, pick the area-this is at the east end of the garden with sun most of the day, and if I put it right outside the fence and keep it mulched, it'll keep down those weeds that keep moving into the garden on that end. I started by making a sort of enclosure with some old aluminum soffett pieces that we don't need. I nailed them to the fence posts, tin-snipped the corners, and pounded in small stakes and nailed the metal to the top.Next, laid down thick layers of newspapers-Followed by lots of maple leaves, raked and watered down thoroughly.Then the woody plants from fall garden cleaning, ashes from the wood stove, and some dirt from leveling the greenhouse floor.

Yesterday I put three big tubs in the back of the truck and drove to the neighboring horse farms to find some fresh manure to pile on. They all have these big piles right next to the barn, and usually are fine with you just loading up with you need. The first place had access to the pile blocked by a truck. Second one, nobody was home. At the third place, she dropped what she was doing and invited me back to the barn. Said the stall needed cleaning anyway and she'd just pile it right into my bins-and she did! What a terrific person. I promised her some asparagus someday, but cautioned her that it'd be a while. It was just scraped right out of a horse stall and still wet, so it should be quite active and heat the pile up well.Picked up some cardboard I'd put down in the garden paths to add to the stack, and found all kinds of critters living in there, worms, slugs, and this little salamander.One more thick layer of maple leaves-wet from recent rains that saved me the task of hosing it all down.Then finish with black plastic with pieces of wood to hold it down. As it settles in, hopefully I'll be able to tuck it in more securely to let it rest until spring. What happens next is that all that stuff is to work in there along with worms and compost action and when I pull off the plastic in spring it'll be a whole bed of weed free, soft, crumbly healthy black dirt to plant our asparagus roots into. I can almost taste those delicious green crunchy spears now.

This bed is about 2' wide, by 25' long, and should hold plenty of asparagus rootstock in the spring to satisfy our needs. I sure do love asparagus.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh Boy! It's a Boy!

We have a new Grandson! And he just may probably be the most beautiful boy ever born, ever!
What an exciting time! It’s been Grandma and Grandpa week here. My son and his wife brought their little boy into the world on Friday and we got to share in the process in a supportive role. What a wonderful thing to be able to share that birth. Things are so very different now when babies come into the world. Mom was past her due date, so they told her on Thursday that they’d induce her the next day. That gave them the time to set everything up and make all their plans and preparations. Babies by appointment! Can you believe it? Big Sister went to the hospital with them for the start of the whole process, so she got to feel involved, checking out the equipment, playing with Dad, sitting on the bed with Mom.

Grandpa came in to pick her up and take her to preschool, then picked her up after school and home for a rest. I stayed to hang around the hospital and provide whatever support I could. It was so heartwarming to watch my son and his wife working together to bring their son into the world. Theirs is such a strong, cooperative marriage, and their mutual caring really shows. After only 6 hours of labor, this magical child was born, 7 pounds, 6 ½ ounces, and 19 ½” of pink anger. He cried immediately and within about 15 minutes, calmed down to look around. So far, he seems pretty mellow, and calmly just opens his dark eyes a little slit and peaks out at the world, then settles in to rest a little more. The fact that she managed the whole process without any drugs except for a little bit at the very end must have had something to do with his alertness.

As soon as they got Mom and baby cleaned up and settled in, we made the call for Grandpa and Big Sister to come meet the baby and they were there in a very short time. It was just beautiful to see her get acquainted with her little brother. It sure is different from the days when they whisked the baby away and the Moms were all dopey from lots of drugs. Being able to have that family time seems to help everyone bond much more quickly. I took a few pictures, of course.

While they were in the hospital, we had our granddaughter with us, and it was fun watching her accept her new role. She’s very proud to be the Big Sister, but occasionally relapses a bit into babyish behavior as she needed just a little bit of reassurance. We went back in to visit the morning after and she was so worn out afterward that she napped almost 3 hours, but woke up much more her usual sunny self. The next day we took her to the hospital so they could go home as a family all together. After buckling both children securely in the back seat, they headed off home, Grandpa in the following car with flowers, balloons peeking out the open sunroof, gifts and bags.

It was nice to see the family in the door as Big Sister carefully helped Mom up the stairs. What a wonderful family, now complete.

Jim and are feeling very lucky to be part of this whole process and look forward to so many years ahead of watching this little guy grow up into a whole person. I can't wait to see who he'll turn out to be.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Family and Holiday=Priceless!

We had a great holiday. Not only was it our 5th anniversary of our wedding, but Jim's family gathered from North Carolina, Missouri and South Bend for a small sized family reunion. We had a great time playing tourist to local sights with Tom and Sue, starting with the Lake Michigan beach, then the guys teamed up to cook a big fresh ham for the gathering on Saturday.
While they smoked the ham in the barrel smoker, then browned it over an open fire, we women went to the South Bend Chocolate factory and took the tour. There were 5 little boys on the tour with it and they freaked out-just a little-over the hair nets we were required to wear. We all loved the free tastes at the end of the tour though!
On Sunday we went to Millennium Park in Chicago-and the Bean is just the greatest! We finished up at Miller's for their great ribs. What a neat time.