Come for the Chicken, Stay for a Swim.

Friday, August 19, 2016

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We have been gifted with two quite remarkable things this summer. We’ve had some pretty mild and pleasant weather and we’ve also had a fair amount of company. The first of these facts is remarkable because we live in Oregon and, in spite of that fact, these events somehow happened simultaneously. Dependably nice weather, aka not raining, is hard to come by in these parts. Knowing that we were going to have company, and knowing that our seating arrangements for a dinner-time experience are limited, I bought a couple of plastic folding tables, made a couple of tablecloths and some table runners, and waited for the guests to appear.

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My new tablecloth and runners!

It is a known fact that I like to cook. It is also quite true that I like to cook for the masses. With all of these things coming together at once, it has made for a lovely summer of eating on the patio with friends and family. It is also possible that these events allow the odds to be stacked a little more in my favor as to menu selection as the majority rules, with entrée selection. In other words, the pickiest eaters in my group are directed to eat around the objectionable items, such as kale salad or chocolate cake.

But all this joy is not meant to happen without a downside. Like many folks, our summers of blissful dining al fresco seemed to be plagued by the damnable yellow jackets. They infiltrate our somewhat peaceful existence and seem to cause a level of distress among diners that make for anything but a relaxed mealtime. And then there is the ever-present fly swatter that my dear Dad likes to use as the second line of defense against these beasts. His first option is the brown bag. He uses a small, sack lunch-sized bag, blows air into it so that it is full, uses a string or twist-tie on the end, and sets in the bushes somewhere near where we are eating.  This is supposed to mimic a wasp’s nest, which is supposed to frighten the yellow jackets away. If you ask me, there is NOTHING that frightens a yellow jacket.

In order to avoid Dad’s third choice in the eradication of the yellow jackets, which would be insecticide, I have my own plan. I have done this for years and I have pretty good luck. It does pair nicely with my own personal hospitality goals, even though it results in the untimely demise of our uninvited dinner guests.

I have a moderate selection of plastic containers that have been given a second life prior to their toss into the recycle bin.

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Yellow jacket traps in the clothesline.  Redneck, but effective.

If need be (in the case of the ketchup bottle) I cut the top off, so that I have access to the inside.  I poke a hole in each side close to the top of the container.

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Yellow jacket trap

 

I thread a bamboo skewer through this hole, and attach a raw or cooked (small) piece of meat to this skewer with a twist tie. I put a couple of inches of apple cider vinegar, and a drop or two of liquid dish soap (to break the surface tension) and set these around up high…..near where we are eating…..but not within reach of any kids or curious adults. (or possibly Stella, although she hasn’t seemed interested)  The yellow jackets arrive. They eat. This meal weighs them down. In their attempt to leave my little diner of sorts, the take-off maneuver begins (and ends) with a downward fall. They land in the water. Since they don’t swim, they don’t leave. Ever.

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Yellow jacket trap with “guests” taking an eternal swim.

And, there you have it. If, in fact, you wish to try my “kountry method” of pest control, I’ll pass on a couple of helpful hints:

  1. I have been known to stockpile fatty meat remnants for just such events.
  2. I have also used our apple cider in the traps when I have been desperate. (or, out of apple cider vinegar….or both)
  3. You do need to re-bait the traps every 24 hours. The vinegar continues to work, the meat seems to loose it’s “attractiveness.”
  4. Use plastic covered twist ties. It makes #3 much easier.
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It’s Summer (the livin’ is not always easy)

Friday, August 12, 2016

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So far, it’s been a fairly uneventful summer for us. This could change, a fact that we are all too familiar with. To date, we have dealt with the demons that have reared their ugly heads, worked through the annual tasks, and enjoyed the respite from the crises that lie on the horizon, hidden from our view.

We’ve done the standard things. We went to the Alien Festival parade in McMinnville.

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Locals

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Alien float

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More parade highlights

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“LoveBomb Gogo”  They make an annual appearance in the parade.  We love them.

It will come as no surprise that it’s an annual favorite with a majority of the Daisies. Personally, I have only missed one or two parades over the last 17+ years. Dad might not be a fan, so he and Stella stayed home and watched TV. This year it rained on our parade. A. Lot. Of. Rain. We bought plastic bag rain ponchos. This is Oregon, and these events realize the state of our weather and the vendors come prepared.

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Craig and I.  I’m wearing my rain poncho.  It was a typical Oregon day. (rainy)

We visited my dear Mother-In-Law over Memorial Day weekend. She was in the process of having a garage sale and purging her stash of wool fabric, and the stash of many of her friends. Dad and I shopped her sale, and we each came home with “a little something.” Actually, Dad came home with a large garbage bag FULL of wool.

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The garage sale!

This led into an extended session of rug braiding that began the second we arrived home and continues to this day.

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Step #1 – sorting

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Cut into strips

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More sorting

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Sewing the strips together

I suppose it goes without saying that we have been dealing with fruit. We had a nice (small) crop of strawberries, a larger spring crop of raspberries, and cherries. The raspberries are picked every three days, and to date we (actually, Dad) have picked 75 pints of berries.

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Dad, picking the pie cherries

We have six cherry trees, all of them a different variety. They ripen at different times, which means: picking for days. And in years where our luck is not so good, the rain pays us a visit. This issue of inclement weather causes a lot of worry in our house. There is concern that the rain will split the cherries and the crop will be no good. This does happen. We also have some “nervous nellies” who want things picked regardless of their degree of ripeness, just so the fruit is off the tree when the rain comes. I am not one of these people. I take issue with freezing cherries that are sour, but should be sweet. My people are aware of this philosophical difference of opinion that we seem to have. This year the Mount Morency, (pie cherries) and the Lamberts didn’t suffer this fate. The Bings were mostly eaten by the birds, as were the Vans and Lapins. Again, this is pretty much an annual occurrence and it does cause a lot of concern. The Rainiers, which are the last to ripen, succumbed to the rain this year, and split. They were picked anyway and given to me with the admonishment that they were split, but okay. The splits were not okay. They were beginning to mold. They were unfit for human consumption, and I brought up this little issue.   I had a better idea.

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Dealing with the cherries that were okay

Let’s just say that sometimes these things that are a problem for others, aren’t such a problem for everyone, or for me. I put the split cherries into a bucket and used them for a dye bath for a couple of my clothesline baskets. It appears that after years of fooling around with natural dyeing, I managed to make this dye almost “fast,” which means I don’t think they will bleed if they get wet. This is a BIG deal. (FYI Judy – I pre-washed with washing soda, used a salt water soak as a pre-mordant, and then dyed with the semi-strained liquid dye)   I’m pretty happy with the color, and am contemplating doing a little more dyeing later this summer. You know I can’t resist the Queen Anne’s Lace. Lovely fragrance. Lovely pale green color.

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Making the dye bath

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Cherry (with a little raspberry) dyed basket

Life would not be our version of “normal” without the usual repair work. The weather station ceased to give us the information we needed to know. This led to work that we would rather not see being tackled by people over a certain age. We are of an ilk that are absolutely aware that what goes up must come down, and a roof is one of those places where a rapid descent makes for a shortened lifespan. This task was completed without incident, and said weather station is now working properly.

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Up on the roof.  Weather station repair.

We dealt with trees who failed to produce, or continue to exist, for that matter. After succumbing to whatever malady that befell them and the previous two to three sets of trees who preceded them, we unceremoniously jerked them out of the ground with the merciful help of the tractor. We hope this is something the other trees who are standing nearby will take note of. On a more serious note, there is bad juju in the soil in that area. We have not had good luck with any of the trees planted there. Personally, I think it is time for the trees to go and garden beds to take their place. Not all the farm-based Daisies agree with this idea. I guess we’ll just have to see what the next season brings.

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And with that, the dead tree left the farm.

We live in an older house. This means there are occasional plumbing issues. And by occasional, I might mean they occur more frequently than some believe the word “occasional” refers to. We deal with some of these things, and others we pretend to ignore. As you might suspect, this only works for us on an “occasional” basis. One of the most common occurring situations would be the line that runs from the house to the septic tank. Continuous lengths of pipe apparently didn’t exist at the time this house was built. This is an uneducated guess on my part, and my second guess is that the way many small pieces of pipe were originally placed end to end, is the way it “was always done,” and so ended up being done here in the land where fate is not tempted by change.

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Dad surveying the plumbing situation.

All this aside, we have trees whose roots seem to be attempting to find nourishment in the small spaces between said pipes. The trees really have this battle all wrapped up, and some of us do know that. We have a plan for this situation. With many thanks to Rotor-Rooter, we are able to fight back with a vengeance and a giant 4 inch plumbing snake with a voracious Amazonian piranha-like attachment on the end, that makes history (at least for another 12-15 months) of this usurping of the soon to be “night-soil” in the making. And so, Roto-Rooter became one of our visitors to the farm, this summer. This young lad with the nastiest of jobs solved one of our two plumbing problems. As for the unsolved, it’s one of those things we’ll just pretend to ignore.

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The issue that refused to be “fixed.”

And jumping to a happier subject, this year brought more cakes into our lives. We have summer birthdays here at the farm. Dad turned 92 in June, and Craig had his big day in July.

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Dad’s 92nd Birthday Cake.  It’s an Angel Food cake with Seven Minute Frosting and gumdrop flowers.  It’s a tradition that I don’t change up. Ever.

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Craig’s cake.  Chocolate cake with raspberry filling and mocha frosting.

We visited friends who also celebrate a July birthday, and I took the opportunity to make another cake.

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John’s birthday celebration

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A close-up of the cake.  (It’s a fondant flower!)

But, the best of all was the wedding of my dear neighbor’s daughter who got married at their house on July 8. I was honored to be the cake baker.

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There was a lot of multi-tasking going on during the wedding cake decorating.

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These projects tend to overtake my limited amount of space.

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Making flowers.

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So. Many. Flowers.

It was a lovely evening with a small group of family and friends in attendance. I thought the cake turned out pretty well, and as it should be, the love and joy that surrounded that day, wrapped its magical embrace around each of us. The day was a highlight of the summer for me. I wish this lovely couple a lifetime of happiness together. Seeing the joy in their faces, I know in my heart, this is exactly what the future holds for the two of them.

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The wedding cake!

 

 

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Wild. Life. Or, Ode To The Other Residents Of The Farm (aka: “We are not alone”)

 

Monday, August 1, 2016

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Our friend, the scrub jay, surveying the neighborhood

We have long known that there are other folk who also call the farm, “home.” We think that most of those beings are creatures of a more nocturnal persuasion than we happen to be, at least at this point in our lives.  We know they are here because they have left their calling cards, which have provided Stella (and those dogs who came before her) countless hours of work as it relates to farm security, not to mention, intestinal distress. But, we’re not going to talk about that. And then there have been those unfortunate times when our animal frenemies have passed through the yard in the daytime, which never seems to end well for them, or for us.

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Dad, multi-tasking.  He would be eating a plum that he picked while mowing.

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A squirrel, living dangerously, by being inside the fence when dear Stella may or may not be on patrol

Because we are a naturally curious bunch not to mention cautious, (and also not to mention, thrifty) we have stationed game cameras around the property. We use these to keep track of the nighttime traffic, and I would possibly be talking about both the two and four-legged variety, but for reasons that I think are based solely on luck, (and, perhaps Stella) we haven’t seen much of the two-legged kind. One of these cameras is positioned at the front gate, which is one of the few places where the fence doesn’t actually touch the ground. This gap of about four inches seems to be a very hospitable sized opening. So, it shouldn’t have been such a surprise to us that the local wild life have taken great advantage of this breech in the perimeter. Our nightly visitors consist of raccoons, skunks, cats, deer and the occasional possum.

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A racoon taking a casual stroll.

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Mama racoon who’s back with the whole family.

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A skunk

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Kitty cat

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Another more cautious kitty

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That’s a deer

And then there was the mystery animal. This little fellow (or gal) didn’t look like anything else we had ever seen. With its pointed nose, thin tail, and squat body it looked to me like a javelina. (wild pig native to southern Arizona) I surmised that unbeknownst to us, it had stowed away on the Hag as we left the desert. Of course, that isn’t what happened, and it did take us a while to establish identity on this night visitor.

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I believe in giving credit where credit is due. So to our friends Dick, retired from ODF & W (Oregon Division of Fish and Wildlife) and Bill, his also retired boss, thank you for identifying our mystery animal. It is believed that said intruder was, in fact, a small grey fox. We have only seen it once, but we’ll be watching.

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Some visitors are in a hurry, like this possum.

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Some visitors come for dinner.  We like them.  Especially when it’s locally sourced.  This is Oregon, after all.

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Happiest of Birthdays Dear Stella

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A birthday collar for the birthday girl

 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It is said that for any great event to occur, many small but not so insignificant things must first happen in a specific order at a given time. We are witness to this. One year ago our dear Stella the Wonderful came into our lives under a fateful set of circumstances. We had lost our beloved Wiley, while at the same time things were coming unraveled in Stella’s life. While we mourned, this grand plan was put into place, putting her on a trajectory towards us and us towards her. I count this as a gift of the highest order. Truly, the universe unfolded to bear witness to the evidence that miracles do exist and one was coming our way.

Many folks would shudder at the premise of a “mere dog” being a gift or a miracle. To those people I would simply say, you obviously haven’t loved a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or anyone of a different species. An animal friend gives you insight into another world. Each of you learns something from the other. You forge a language together that only the two of you speak. You have a comrade in your daily doings, and at the very deepest level you are blessed with the understanding of what compassion truly is all about.

 

So on this day, the day our dear Stella rose from death’s doorstep and remained with the living, we celebrated her. Obviously, we don’t know when her actual birthday is. She’s not talking about the past, so we picked this day, May 1, a day with meaning for all of us. While we labored with yard work, she moved from tree to tree and watched over us.

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She visited with her neighbor dogs. She played Frisbee.

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She’s FAST!

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She likes to shake that frisbee like a…..skunk, I guess.  And then she likes to have a good chew.

She ran.

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Yes, it’s a rather formidable look, but she pulls it off pretty well.

She napped.

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We refer to this as “the dead dog in the gravel” look.

 

It seemed appropriate, on this special day, that our dining menu should feature the one food she will TAKE FROM THE TABLE. That would be hot dogs. Today I actually hand-fed her a hot dog, side-skirting the imprinting of theft. She’s a very polite little lady, so quite fortunately, this unbecoming thievery only occurs when this delicacy is in her presence. And I’m happy to say, that doesn’t happen very often. (RIP Jack, the thug who firmly believed that what was ours was his and what was his was his. He was known to create a diversion and seeing we had left our food unattended to deal with the ensuing crisis, would circle back and eat what was left unguarded.) I digress. Truly, I digress. We are well trained and are much the wiser for it.

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Mmmmmm…….hot dogs…..

We also had Raspberry Champagne cupcakes in all their pink splendor, and I made some to take to our angels at Aumsville Animal. Her life is a celebration for them, too.

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Ok.  Pink and Buttercup splendor.

The moral of this story:

I do believe if you are patient and alert, your reward will come in the form of miracles and life changing events. The message is pretty clear. Let your heart lead the way and good will follow you all the days of your life.

From all of the Daisies to all those who brought us this one-year anniversary of the day Stella lived,

Thank You

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The Simple Joys of Life

Sunday, April 24, 2016

 

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I like Earth Day. It is a day I look forward to, and try to approach with a reverent mindfulness. This year, the events before and after the event made it seem, at least to me, that we celebrated for a week. In addition to our blessed yard-work that occurs in an obvious celebration of Earth Day Everyday, we made a trip to Portland to see Justin and his shop and daughter Kailin and the little one she nanny’s. Perhaps the 60-mile plus drive isn’t an eco-conscience choice, but it was an outing. And Oregon, particularly Portland, is BEAUTIFUL in the spring.

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Petals on the ground from the Kwanzan Cherry trees

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Rhododendron ‘Elizabeth’

Our last trip up to the big city was to help with the moving of the bike shop. As we are always on a mission, this trip was no different. Justin had a task for each of us. Craig painted the bathroom, Dad restocked shelves and dusted, and I attempted to help with the organization of parts. My task was not as easy as one would think. I’m flattering myself to say that my knowledge of bike parts is limited. It is much more accurate to say that my knowledge of bike parts is non-existent.

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Crank……he’s got lots of bikes for your riding pleasure

Being a good mother and wanting to be more useful than I appeared, I located scratch paper and scotch tape, and dutifully wrote down the names of said important parts and taped these notes to their respective objects. Hopefully, my matching of like to like and labeling them as such, worked out well for them. I don’t know, and they haven’t said. I am just assuming that all is still well in the land of Crank, (bicycles) and that I didn’t loose things in some wayward bin in the hinterland of the bike shop never to be found again.

It is true that our presence at the shop can only be described as overwhelming. We come in force, do our thing, eat lunch, continue to do our thing, and leave. I’m sure we are a whirlwind, as some of us have larger personalities than others, but it is what it is, and dear son hasn’t objected, to date at least.

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Here we are, minus Kailin.  Stella is at my feet.

Kailin came by and brought her little charge. We sat on the floor, ate muffins, and enjoyed being together.

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Going for a bike ride in the shop.

We had the full contingent of the Daisies present, including Stella, who dear Son said was a sales advantage.

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Waiting at the door for a customer, who turned out to be Craig.

When she pranced up to prospective customers, gazed into their eyes, did the infamous “Doberman lean,” and snuggled in as they began to absent mindedly pet her silky soft fur, I was told that she was “doing her job.” I don’t know if she actually procured a sale on that day, but each time I asked her to come, her customer told me that “she was just fine” and “not bothering them.”   Stella would shoot me a look that said, “I’m busy. I’m making a sale here.” What more could a business ask for than a whole houseful of helpers?

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I would like to say that Stella was waiting for a customer, but I actually think she was ready to go home.  She had a hard day of bike shop work.  According to my Son, “shop dogs” are ready to be done with their work day around 2:00pm.

To really cap off the weekend of the Earth Day Celebration, Kailin came down to the farm for Saturday Market plant shopping, and a lesson in rug braiding from Dad.

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Yes, Kailin’s braid clamp has a BIRD in the middle.  The tail is the holder.

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The strong and nimble fingers of my Dad at 91-years of age.

She will be the one to preserve the braiding tradition in our family.

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Dad helps her get started.

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Kailin is braiding!

Dad gave her a good start and I understand she went home and braided until her hands hurt! This little hobby takes a great deal of hand and arm strength to make the braids tight, and to lace things together. As a little added bonus, Dad is an oval rug braider. Kailin, on the other hand, is anxious to experiment with other designs, like a heart shape. This is good to know for our thrift store shopping adventures. She’ll need reds and pinks, I think, to complete this piece.

So our Earth Day Week hit all the high points of life. We saw the kids, our personal contribution to the life and well being of the planet. Portland was in full bloom. Justin’s bike shop, Crank, promotes and maintains a reduced carbon footprint by keeping folks on their bicycles. Kailin became the link to keeping an age-old family craft alive. In my little world, all is good.

Happy Earth Week. May you celebrate the gifts and joys of Mother Nature every day of the year!

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Earth Day

Friday, April 22, 2016

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We planted a tree today because the planting of a tree shows faith in the future.
The faith that even though we may not be here,
this tree will stand as a living reminder that we once were.
Little tree, may you grow strong and tall and provide fruit, shade, and comfort
to all who share your presence at this farm, on this green Earth.

The blessing that has been offered over every tree that I have been a witness to planting.

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The little Blue Permine Apple that we blessed and planted on this day.  A gift from Celestial Farms.  This tree was lovingly grafted from a cutting taken from an heirloom tree growing at their farm in Jefferson, Oregon

Peace to you.

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Earth Day wouldn’t be complete without Rhubarb Custard pie from our own rhubarb, a gift given to Mom and Dad from their good friends, and planted here at the farm some 55 years ago.

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Don’t Stop the Rain…….Please!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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Yes, it’s me.  And yet another post about the blessed yard work.  Read on at your own risk.  You’ve been warned.

We have a penchant for working. It seems to be so deeply imprinted upon our very souls that there is no escape. Ninety minutes after landing back at the farm, the Daisie men were on their respective mowers terrorizing the grass. Dad cannot rest until the lawn is mowed; it is not possible for him, and so we oblige this fixation by joining in on the fun.   I liken it to the old adage of, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

If this were all that lie waiting to be done, we would be lucky, but that is not the way of our lives. Spring means pruning, weeding, shredding, mulching, planting, etc. And so, in homage to this season of spring, we have spent our waking moments doing those very things.

 

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The garden beds and Jonathan Apple before pruning and weeding.

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How things looked after a good day’s work.

And as we labor away, I (not so silently) wish for rain. Rain puts an end to the outside activities, and quite frankly, when the downpour stops, it makes the weeding that much easier. From time to time, since our arrival back here at the farm, I have been rewarded with glorious rain, which has given my aching muscles a respite from these outdoor activities.

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Adding a new box in the garden.  Ever the engineer, Dad makes sure things are on the level.

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Before.

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After a serious, and much needed pruning.

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Alas, the work is not yet over.  This is the pile that needs to be shredded.

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Shredding the prunings.

This situation does need to be put into perspective, as a lack of outdoor activities doesn’t mean idleness. It simply reflects a switch to things that can be accomplished in a drier environment. Sometimes this involves cleaning, repair work, laundry, or watching football, basketball, baseball, or tiddly-winks on TV. And know, that last event was mentioned in my dear departed Mother’s honor, as she often felt it would be something the opposite gender would be quite happy to watch. (My Mother was correct many more times than I gave her credit for.)

In the five years that we have been out here on “the farm” with Dad, these yearly tasks have become somewhat more manageable. It seems to us that it goes a little quicker, or maybe we have just succumbed to the lifestyle that is ours. There is something in the German psyche that loves to work, and even though my German heritage was supposedly watered down by my mothers’ small amount of English ancestry, apparently I still fall victim to this character attribute. Spring sees us toiling on with farm labor. What more can I say? We seem to enjoy hard work. I’ve mentioned this before. It is one of those things that dictates our daily lifestyle choices.

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Take a break and think of us…….

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