Monday, April 30, 2018

Back Home Again

 We moved away from Mississippi in 1994. Yesterday was the first time since then that I truly enjoyed Mississippi again -- felt at home, felt I missed it.
Anna was given a bridal shower by some lovely friends of Gramm's mother.
 The shower was held in a lovely Southern home. The gifts were displayed for ladies to view, and there were delicious nibbles to eat, plus the most delectable coffee punch. 

On Friday, I drove to Chattanooga and picked up Kara. We then drove to Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Kara, Anna, MK
The shower was Sunday afternoon.
I loved meeting Anna's mother-in-law-to-be (Julie), and her sister, Claire.
Julie, Cyndi, Claire, Anna
 Here's the lovely dining table before we all partook.
 And here is the recipe for the coffee punch. Anna admitted that she does not like punch usually, and was not looking forward to serving punch at her wedding reception. But now! She adores this coffee punch and plans to serve it instead.
Here's the recipe:
 The gift table:
 This is the hand-painted Japanese platter that my mother sent to the shower as her gift to Anna. It's so lovely. It was given to my mother by an elderly friend years ago, whose parents were missionaries in Japan.
Rosalie Hassell's platter
 We had cheese straws, a traditional Southern snack. These were served at my wedding reception nearly 29 years ago.
 Anna chatted with all the ladies, including her new pastor's wife.
 Here's Anna with Gramm's mother and his grandmother, both dear, warm, welcoming ladies.
 Anna made little hostess gift bags for all the kind hostesses. Each one had a tea towel from Japan, and a bar of my lavender soap.
 Beautiful flowers -- it was warm in the day and truly spring, but quite chilly at night still.
 These two! They are marching bravely ahead into marriage. What a miracle that God brought them together from opposite sides of the globe, and has knit their lives together. 
It's no easy task to start a new life together after many hours of talking on the phone, but limited time being together. I'm so proud of them. Anna is coming back to North Carolina with me to finish planning the wedding, and we will see Gramm and his family again when they come for the big event in June.

When I walked around the house during her shower, I felt at home in a way that surprised me -- at home in the South again, at home in a deep, rich Southern culture that I didn't know I missed, didn't know was still so thoroughly a part of me. I hope Adam and I are able to return for a longer visit and enjoy again the sweet kindness and hospitality that are indicative of life here. I felt I was home again, and it took me unawares.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

No One Should Feel Small

I'd like to share a snippet of a song from Shakespeare's As You Like It, a song I sang in a choir years ago:
"Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind 
as man's ingratitude.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky.
Thy sting is not so sharp
as friend remembered not."

Is there anything more painful than to be treated as if you're insignificant, as if you don't matter, as if you're forgotten? A biting winter storm is better than that feeling.

Recently I had a small experience like this -- someone's action left me feeling "less than" -- not worthy of consideration, neglected, worthy only of indifference. Do you know what I mean? (This is not a request for sympathy -- it wasn't my husband who did this, and since he's my best friend, I'm fine.) But it was very hurtful and painful, as many of you know who've experienced such a thing too.

The experience left me thinking of all the people in the world who live a small life, with people who make them feel small and worthless, every day. How horrible! We have trite cultural sayings we banter around, sayings about smiling at strangers and being randomly kind, and how a kind word can make someone's day. These acts are more important than we realize. A friend recently shared on facebook about speaking kindly to a Red Cross volunteer who had, a few moments before, been raked over the coals by impatient blood donors. My friend tried to alleviate the damage they'd done to the volunteer, making her feel incompetent and worthless. They trashed her day (and her emotions), and left her in tatters on the floor as they stomped out.

We have four dogs. Two have been loved and coddled from puppyhood. A third one was loved, abandoned, but then adopted by us and he is a confident dog. But one -- Baby -- was in a horribly abusive home where she was tazed and kicked and beaten. She was essentially tortured after being adopted from the Pound. We received her (and I'm so thankful we did!) after the abuse. She's done so well, but the damage of those days is still there. I can tell by how she needs to be loved. Every time I go through the pasture gate she runs to greet me. She sits in front of me like a statue, looking up. Every time, she desperately longs for me to cradle her face in my hands, rub her ears, rub my cheek against her cheek, say sweet things to her gently about what a good girl she is. I could do that for an hour, and I don't think it would be enough -- she would never tire of it. She would always need more. The damage of her early days left a bottomless hole of need in her -- an eternal sense of worthlessness that all my love can't seem to fill. It breaks my heart. In the field with her buddy Ned, she's fine - she's a normal, confident farm dog. But with humans she is either defensive (with strangers) or in painful need of love.

Who are the humans around us who've been so damaged they need constant love, validation, nurture, tenderness, patience, and gentleness -- perhaps more than we can ever give? But they still need what we can give? What people have been shunned by society, told repeatedly, "You are worthless; we have forgotten you. We want to forget you"? We know them.

And what friends around us have inner damage as well? Sometimes we are brusque, terse, impatient, dismissive. We don't even think of these as serious offenses, do we? They're just part of functioning in today's rat-race, right? No ... they leave people feeling small and neglected. 

Thoughtlessness. What a grand word! It's a negative trait that results simply from not thinking of someone.  It's possible to train ourselves out of the habit of not thinking of others. We can train ourselves to observe others, to consider their needs, to ask ourselves, "How would I feel in their place?" and then act accordingly. If the person recently who hurt me had simply asked, "What would Mary Kathryn need, in this situation?" it would have made such a difference. But I was not thought of -- often, we simply don't think of people, and therefore we don't hold ourselves responsible for what we never even considered.

Each person we cross paths with, each day, all day, needs whatever kindness that social situation allows -- just a smile? Good. A greeting? Better. A conversation where we acknowledge their needs and express love? Best. I want to do more of this each day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

YooHoo!!! What's New?

Hi, friends. It's been a soggy, dreary, rainy, windy day at our house. Even the chickens have hardly been outside. Some alpaca fleece was spun, some naps were taken, some strawberry jam was made.
 That jam was about the extent of my productivity today.
My lovely yellow rose bush is blooming! (Actually, this was yesterday. Today they are drooping in the rain.) I enjoy these blooms each year.
 The massive, prickly rose bush is finally blooming too.
 Itty bitty blooms:
 I attacked the aphids on that bush quite fiercely with a spray bottle of dish soap. I mashed them into a green goo.
Want to see the treasure I found at the thrift store?
 Yes, a basket. I know ... I don't need another basket. But it's a nice basket with a fabric liner and a plastic liner too. And it was marked $1, but was half-off, so it only cost me 50 cents.
 And the best part?
 For reals! I was so excited!
Look what Adam found buried deep in one of our crepe myrtle trees:
 They're tiny. He said a little brown bird (maybe a wren?) was sitting on them later.

My broody silkie hen now has her sister silkie co-broodying with her, just like last time. This time they have seven eggs. They hiss at me every time I look at them. I'm not moving those eggs this week, and they're due to hatch next Monday. I will be out of town, so Adam will have to play OB/GYN to the baby chicks :)

I'm still painting my mice story.
Now I'm painting the double-page illustration of all the mice extended family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner on the kitchen floor. Nearly done with this book!

Last but not least, here's one more youtube video of me, warping my loom. It was hard to video well without a tripod, so please bear with me. And as usual, the camera cut off at the end when I wanted only to pause it. Oh well!

This weekend I drive all the way to Mississippi to be with Anna for her first ever bridal shower! (I'm so, so excited!!) I will stop in Chattanooga and pick up Kara. Oh how I wish I could dash to Boston and get Shani, and zip by West Virginia and Nebraska too and bring along my mother and Adam's mother. We all live just too far away from each other. But we will all be together for the wedding soon! Anyway, I'll take pictures (and maybe a video?) along the way, and share the fun with all of you.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Canal Speed

Canal speed in Britain, on a narrow boat, is 4 m.p.h.
Image result for britain narrow boat canal
Doesn't that look peaceful?
I'm watching a new Youtube show, "Great Canal Journeys." This elderly couple have been enjoying their narrow boat on England's canals for 40 years.
Image result for tim west prunella scales narrow boat
Here they are in younger days.
Image result for tim west prunella scales narrow boat
Prunella Scales and Timothy West
If they look familiar, it's because they're both actors. She was in "Fawlty Towers," and he was a Shakespearean actor.

What do I like about their show? A few things:
1. They emphasize the importance of a slow life -- 4 m.p.h. "You can't hurry on the canal," he says. They're in their mid 80's now, and they want to enjoy every moment they have left -- to stretch the days out.

2. The wife is in early stage Alzheimer's. She's still very functional, but forgetful, and she is not the same bright, quick-minded conversationalist she was. They are quite open about it on the show. They do canal trips to help her remember, and because the wildlife there relaxes her. But two elderly people, manning a 60-foot boat? It's challenging and funny!

3. They show everyone what it's like to do nearly more than you can, when you're 80-something. And they show everyone how ordinary those "famous people" actually are. Their son, Sam West, is more famous if you watch British period pieces.
Image result for sam west
A British actor, you may have seen him as Leonard Bast in the old version of "Howard's End." But with his mum and dad on the canal? He's just a boy helping them steer, moor, and get through those locks.

Canal speed. I want canal speed in my life. People talk about living simply, about down-sizing and getting rid of stuff, and that's a good goal. But slow living is perhaps the next step after simple living. People get rid of "stuff" but still live with too much busyness, too much stress. A slow life means stepping off the highway, off the road, off the beaten path, and into the meadow. 

On their 40 years of canal trips with their children, Tim and Prunella (the couple) wanted time together. No phones. No TVs. No work. No fans. No obligations to producers or directors for a few days. Their sons remember that time. It set the course for a successful family life and a successful 53-year marriage.

Anyway, I like the idea of a slow life, don't you? You might like "Great Canal Journeys." There are quite a few seasons on Youtube. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Good-bye to the Bees

Adam started beekeeping on a May day in 2010, nearly 8 years ago. An elderly friend offered us his dilapidated beehive at his lake home, if we were willing to go get it. We did.

Bee-keeping was a learning curve. We lost those bees. We bought more and lost them over the winter too. But the third time we bought bees, they survived for years. We got them from the "Fat Bee Man" in rural north Georgia.
We moved a few times, carting those bees along with us, finally lighting here in coastal North Carolina - a rural county with lots of farmland and water. Perfect for bees, right? When we moved to our house on Midyette Street in Oriental, we had lost a hive and had only 2 hives left.

They look lonesome, don't they? It may seem odd, but a small town like Oriental, with lots of flowers, yards, ditches, weeds, and a large variety of vegetation, is perfect for bees. The hives thrived. When we moved away from Midyette Street less than 2 years later, we had 8 hives! We did not buy new bees. Adam split the hives and collected our swarms. We were so happy!
If you click over to the link above this photo, it will explain all the numbers.
We moved to the farm in August of 2015. You'd think a lovely farm in a rural North Carolina county would be great for bees, right?

It's hard to look at.

The beekeeper is the same. Adam's good beekeeping practices didn't change. It's the same good small-cell Italian bee genetics. They were healthy when we moved to the farm ... so what happened?

Our neighbors happened.

We don't spray chemicals on our farm at all. The soil was used only for a small horse farm for years before we moved here, so the soil is good -- manure, no chemicals. But around us? We're surrounded by mono-culture, big farms. They spray pesticides on their thousands of acres of corn. The crop dusters fly overhead and the tank trucks and big sprayers ride over the acres.

You may ask, why does that make a difference? It doesn't kill off all the mosquitoes or all the flies. Why does it kill off hives of bees? Because bees gather their food (pollen, nectar) and bring it into their hives, which other insects don't do. Beehives are usually a richly condensed environment of extreme health, which is why products of beehives are used in medicine and cosmetics, and why beeswax is a natural preservative and honey lasts for thousands of years.

But the close, condensed nature of a beehive also works against it, when toxins are concentrated there. When bees gather toxic chemicals over and over (and over and over ... thousands of times each day), and all those bits of toxicity are gathered in a hive, it becomes a killing place. And the bees weaken and die.

We didn't realize it at first. We blamed it on lots of rain. We wondered by hive after hive died off over the two years we've lived here. Big hives slowly died in the course of the summertime, when beehives should be healthy and growing.

It's very sad. We have a lovely farm, contaminated by neighbor farms, and now we can't have bees. Not only have our many hives all died, but Adam will never be able to own bees again, as long as we live here. He wanted to be a beekeeper in retirement. Now that's not possible.

And the farm in question cannot be held responsible. But of course ... they are. There are nations where bees are safe, where the food supply is therefore safe, but not in the U.S. Here, big agri-business rules, and small farmers and beekeepers do not.

So, we have said good-bye to our bees. The last hive is full of wax moths and is being raided out as I type this. I think Adam will burn the boxes on the next burn pile day, and he will mow over the spot by the pine copse. It's a sad day.

Monday, April 16, 2018

At the Greenhouse

At the greenhouse, April's fierce wind stretches
plastic and wrenches the door out of square,
strewing empty black pots to who-knows-where,
tearing a row cover the pine tree catches.

I wedge the door shut. Warm, sacred silence
fills the low dome like incense. Muted light
eases my weariness. And though not quite
a chapel, I cannot tell the difference.

I rest my hands on soil, newly sifted,
loose, comforting. Worried whispers recede,
and the soil, crumbling softly, is a creed
of life, a magic mead I am gifted.

The fragile seedlings thus are holy fed,
While April tugs the plastic overhead.

Bayboro, NC
April 16, 2018
copyright by the author

Friday, April 13, 2018

I Feel Warm Breezes ~~

Perhaps I shouldn't say it, when some of you dear readers are still facing blizzards, but today is warm. The dogs are lying in the sun. The chickens are dust bathing. I'm hanging laundry out. I think ... dare I say it? ... it's spring?
Does anyone know what this is?
I have lots of them.
Candytuft, perhaps for wedding

Herb Bed #2 is coming along.

 Chickens free-range all day, every day now.
It's so pretty outside.
Here's Sylvie, the broody hen. She has 7 eggs now. I've marked them with blue pen (a color chickens don't see well, so she won't reject them) so I know to leave those 7 and remove any more than the hens lay for her, and bring the newer ones inside.
 Adam went to a Red Cross blood drive today. He is very involved with the Red Cross and is a local ambassador. He's been donating blood since he was a teenager.
 He made meringues last night, a trial run for part of Anna's wedding cake. These will go between the cake layers. We'll take this cake to church tomorrow night.
 I'm still knitting. I love this blue.
 I plied the handspun alpaca yarn. That's an avocado pit - it turns the yarn purple. 
 I'm trying to paint a little every day. Here are Mr. and Mrs. Mouse.
 And another shout-out for homemade salves. Below is a little tub of lip balm that's been in my car for about 2 years. It's made of only coconut oil, beeswax, and peppermint ess. oil. And it's as pure and wonderful as I day I made it. Preservatives are not needed in products like this.
 Buttercups are blooming now in the pasture.
 We planted strawberries in a small raised bed.


When Adam left for the blood drive, the puppies sat on the couch looking like this:
And how about some videos to watch? Would you like to hear "Punkin and the Littlest Mouse"? Read aloud? I made a youtube, complete with illustrations and a song at the end. Sit and share it with a child you know :)
If you'd prefer a yarny video, here's a short one of me plying the purple yarn today:
Stay warm and dry wherever you are. Thanks so much for dropping by! Blessings to all of you ~~

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Victorian Farm, and Herbs for Granny Marigold!

If you like tips about good TV shows to watch, here's one: BBC's "Victorian Farm." It's on Youtube (free!!), is interesting and educational and well-made. Imagine those old U.S. Frontier House or Pioneer House shows, except minus all the petty drama, with professionals who know what they're doing, and best of all ... British accents.

Two men and one woman, all experts on Victorian farm life, spend a year rebuilding a Victorian farm and all its work.

Today I've painted a little --

And I baked cookies. I've taken great liberties with my mother's Oatmeal Cookie recipe. I suppose I'd call mine Oatmeal-and-Friends Cookies.
Perhaps it's yummiest just like this.
 I prefer a chewy cookie with lots of texture, and as much as possible, a healthier cookie. I'm enjoying a couple with my late-morning tea.
Here's the recipe, with my changes:

2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup of golden raisins and dried cranberries in whatever proportions you like

Mix these ingredients in your stand mixer until the fruit is coated. Then add:
2 large eggs
2 Tbl. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup of butter/oil. (I prefer butter, so I use 1/3 cup of butter and 2 Tbl. veg. oil.)
1 cup of chocolate chips (or however much you like) -- I prefer a mix of milk chocolate and semi-sweet.

Mix well. Put on ungreased cookie sheets in rounds and flatten a little. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

I cut down the sugar in this recipe to the bare minimum, but sweetness is added from the honey, raisins, and chocolate chips. There's much complexity of flavor and texture in these cookies.

I did a little knitting this morning too. And in addition to binge watching "Victorian Farm," I made a little video for you all. Granny Marigold asked for a bit more info about drying herbs for tea, so here it is!

There's also info on the video about the scarf pattern I'm knitting and the homemade lotion I use. 

Thanks for visiting, friends. Our weather is improving today. Adam is whacking away outside. And guess what? I have a broody hen again! Yes, I do!! She drifted into that comatose state a couple of days ago and has spread herself out over some eggs in the nesting box, bless her heart. Her name's Sylvie, and she's half silkie.
Ta-Ta for now!