The First Warm Day in the Garden (onions, garlic, rhubarb, and the elusive robin)

It was over sixty degrees for a pocket of time yesterday without its normal accompanying arctic wind to ruin all of the fun.  I sat in a lawn chair, my face to the sun intermittently reading and sipping a glass of wine until my face felt warm from those glorious rays.

“There are no robins,” I told my husband.  Perhaps I was getting ahead of myself.  If the robins were not even here yet, then spring is not arriving early.

Little flitters of tiny, iridescent wings wafted past me.  I hope they are beneficial as opposed to a nemesis in my gardens.  They landed here and there.  I stood up and stretched and walked around my garden paths.  In the beds were rogue, forgotten splays of green- dark and alive.  Onions and garlic.  A tiny bit of spinach appeared in the pathway.  Funny place to grow.

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I let me plants go to seed in the fall because I am more interested in permaculture and sustained food than I am in neat rows.  (Which I seem to be rather bad at anyway!  The rows look like when I write on unlined paper.)  So the spinach decided to grow there, huh?  Well, so be it.  Bits of Swiss chard grow under a tree.

I am still getting used to the climate where we have moved.  It is warmer here but it is certainly not temperate.  But the growing season is quite different from our old town.  Here, I usually would plant onions and garlic (if I forgot to do so last fall…which I did) when I do the potatoes, right around St. Patrick’s Day.  One doesn’t want the beds to be waterlogged with snow for the next few months because the bulbs will decompose but a nice, damp, rich, fragrant, earthy, heady, malleable bed does call for something to be planted, don’t you think?  So, I took a cue from the garlic and onions that were already growing and planted my bulbs.  It was therapeutic in a way that only gardeners can understand.

I loosened the first four inches of soil.  Along somewhat crooked rows, three inches apart in all directions, I carefully placed their bottoms down and the papery points up, gently pressing them into the ground.  Eighty bulbs of red onions.  Three large heads of garlic separated into cloves.

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And four roots of rhubarb.  Every spring my Great Aunt Donna would call me and say, “Time to get the rhubarb!”  We would drive to Denver and head into her large back yard with her.  She taught me to place my thumb at the base of a stalk and lightly pull just so.  The foot and a half long stalk would easily come loose.  We both had a paring knife and would quickly remove the large leaf at the top and place it in a pile of ever growing foliage.  She would predict what her old apple tree was going to do this year.  Her beds were clean.  The compost was moving along nicely.  She would have me throw the leaves in the bin.  Into plastic newspaper sacks, the rhubarb stalks would go.  She would save a few for herself and send us home with pounds of them.  This will be the first season without Aunt Donna.  What will happen to her rhubarb?  I hope mine gets as full and healthy as hers.

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“Guess who’s here?” I shrieked into the phone.

“Who?” my husband answered, nearly alarmed.  The shrill chirping voice was almost a shock.  I recognized it before I saw them.  A pair of them hopping through the garden beds.  “The robins are back!”

 

Farewell Nancy Mae

I know she can hear me…

Her eyes closed, pressed into drug induced coma.  The air from the oxygen clashing with the rattling rasp coming from her throat.         The death rattle.  I recognize it.

So much I want to say but as I go to speak my words catch and my eyes well and the words cannot tumble out without the crashing of tears inhibiting my sentiments.

So I stay silent.

She taught me to be a woman.  A good woman.

A good wife, calming and agreeable.  No matter what grandpa says, even if it is terribly obvious that she knows that bit of information, she looks grateful and sweet and nods.  Everything he says is fascinating.  Ever caring, every meal made with love, every thing taken care of for him.  The looks they share.  A love affair of seventy-something years.  To be a wife like that.

A good mother, adoring and loving.  Her children make up the fiber of her essence and she would have done-or did do- anything to help them.  Across the miles or next door, her love for them never failed.

A good grandmother, ever supportive and beloved.  Beloved.  Cookies in the cookie jar and hot coffee at the ready.  Even if we were six years old.  Always there for us.  Always cheering us on.  Like we were the most important people in the world.  Grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great grandmother.  She has lived a life of loving.  I think she waited until my second granddaughter, Ayla Mae, was born a few months ago, on their 70th wedding anniversary.

Every piece in me she filled, that of mother, grandmother, friend.

There was room in her house for anyone who needed a place to stay.  Always ready with a handout or a smile.  Her generosity extended endlessly.

She taught me to sew, to crochet, to cook eggs.  Every Tuesday for years as an adult I would pick her up and we would go to IHOP or a new restaurant (usually IHOP though, she loved the pancakes) and then shopping.  We talked about anything and everything.

She grew up on a farm.  She married a dashing cowboy at the age of sixteen.  Grandpa.  She was a waitress for many years because, in her words, she had nice legs.  Oh my goodness, I will miss that woman.

I know she can hear me.

Goodbye Grandma.

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Grandma and Grandpa used to take me and my cousin, Helen on many fun adventures.

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My first crocheted blanket that Grandma taught me to make.
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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for. A life well lived.

Nancy Mae Horner

May 26, 1932-February 18, 2009

The Enchanted Friendship and Birthday Wish

Did we all have that friend when we were kids?  The one that was intertwined with our very self evolution?  The memory we keep with us forever?  I have written about mine a few times over the years.  Her name was Susan.  I watched her through the windows of my classroom that looked out on to the courtyard of my old Catholic school.  She walked in with her mother to the office to register.  I just knew she would be my friend.  I prayed that she would be my friend.

She had mousy brown hair, and big glasses.  She was very short and was athletically built, even at twelve years old, because she was a competitive figure skater.  And sure enough we were fast friends.  Her mother said to me one day that she always knew when I was on the telephone because Susan didn’t hang around and chat but would respond quickly, “Meet you in ten minutes!” and would dart out the door.  We would meet at the park, ride our bikes, take buses downtown, or just hang out at her house before her parents got home from work.  We would watch foreign films and drink too much coffee.  We would dance around the living room and stay up late to gaze at the moon.  She loved classical music and was intelligent and so, so confident for a teenager.  She inspired me to be better.  And we made some really great memories.

Then we go through those decades of marriage and raising children and working to make ends meet and before we know it we are middle aged.  Oh, we had the kids’ friends’ parents, we have friends we met at work, or we have the couple’s friends.  We have old friends and we have family but I always longed for another friend like I had when I was young.  I sent up a prayer about it.  You can do that.

Well, for the first eight months of our friendship when I would describe her to my kids or tell them what we were up to, I would say, “Oh, she’s like Susan.”  My children do not remember Susan- she was their godmother but our fallout was when they were far too young to remember- but they know what I mean because of all the stories I have told to them over the years.  Not that she is like Susan, but that our friendship reminded me of the carefree relationships of youth.

Tina took my herb class and that is how we first met.  I don’t really open up to many people.  So many times I am not what people expect.  I must have decided a long time ago that I really didn’t want to be hurt.  I started a women’s group at my husband’s recommendation to get me out of the house and meet new people in our new town.  One month five of us went to a nearby small town and shopped in the old main street shops.  We stopped and had coffee on a patio, our faces to the sun.  Tina had offered to carpool with me and as we drove down the mountain she asked me if I wanted to see the house she was building.  I was surprised but delighted.  I loved the second floor loft of her new home that looked down upon the river and the wildlife.  “It’s an Anne of Green Gables room!” I exclaimed.  And she knew what I meant.

“Meet you in ten minutes,” one of us will say.  To the coffee shop or to the mall or the Riverwalk or to each other’s house.

I was first astounded by her generosity.  I have met few people with such a big heart.  She and her fiancé (now husband) brought us over a whole truckload of chopped wood, barely knowing us.  She is the only one I know who owns all of my books, though I am certain she has little use for them!  I officiated their wedding.  As we walked down the path along the river talking about this and that and everything, a large owl swooped down in front of us.  The trees were filled with leaves and the water from the river was cool.  And all was enchanted.  Just like when I was young.

Tina is lovely and petite and gracious and funny.  Intelligent and kind and heartfelt and authentic.  She listens.  She talks.  She is wonderful to be around, whether in silence or in rapid conversation.  I can be myself.  She is herself.  We are at a stage of life where we can meet in ten minutes.  Being older, I appreciate her friendship so much more.  I am so lucky that she was sent to be my friend.  That she wants to be my friend.

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It is her 50th birthday today.  I hope you will join me in wishing Tina a very happy birthday.  Those friendships that define us and help inspire and build us get better over time and it is never too late to wish for a new best friend.

The Spirit of Yuletide Décor

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends.  Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us.  We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families.  For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.

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Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun!  Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.

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We have collected cute stockings for a long time.  The children took some of their stockings to their own homes.  We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her.  Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve!  (To my great delight!)  I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.

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This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home.  I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones.  Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store.  They have them without the pictures on them.  They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.

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Incorporating things you love is easy.  This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together.  Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.

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The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new.  Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood.  Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.

Yuletide décor is in the details.  Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch!  Put oil lamps in each room.  Light plenty of candles.  Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)

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These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures.  Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.

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We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer.  I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch.  Always add pieces of yourself in the décor.  A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.

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Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk.  Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors.  Make handmade gifts this year.  Spend time enjoying the season.  And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.

The Storytelling Tree

Ornaments are special.  They tell stories and relive memories on the glistening tree.

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This year when we went on our family vacation and visited the North Pole I picked up an ornament that held nine names.  It helped seal the moment.  We will look back at that ornament and relive the fun we had riding the train and petting the reindeer.

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A glass doll named Sarah that my grandmother gave me when I was very young.  Ornaments from my other grandmother’s tree.  Doug’s first ornament (he grew up Jewish) and our granddaughter’s first ornament mingle on evergreen limbs.  Decades of tales whisper among branches.

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From our trip to Las Vegas with the children in 2004.
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Ornaments that were given to me by my students in the dance company I had brighten my day. That was a special time.
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A gift from Rodney and Pat some years back. We all dream of getting our own adobes.

The tree is filled with memories of our trip to Las Vegas.  Of our honeymoon cruise.  It tells of Bronco fever and the children in elementary school.  Ornaments that were given as gifts.  Quite a few from New Mexico.  Next weekend we will pick up another.  Everywhere we go, we get an ornament.

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My Andrew at seven years old.
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Shyanne at seven years old and Maryjane’s hand print Santa.
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A very sweet five year old Emily.

When we look at our tree, it clears its throat and begins its sweet reminisce and dreams up ideas for the future.  Future names written on the tree, travels yet to be, but the comfort of home and hearth will always be the theme of our humble Yule tree.

What are your favorite ornaments?

For the Love of Farmgirl School (your one stop resource for everything homesteading DIY)

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Even when I wasn’t actively writing this blog for the short time that we weren’t homesteading (I was pouting), I kept pulling up Farmgirl School on my computer.  I used it to find recipes.  How do I make eggnog again?  I need a good recipe for dinner.  How do I make…

IMG_0741I love my blog.  I always have.  I am so happy to be actively writing again here.  Want to make something new for dinner?  How about Margarita Chicken?  Want to crochet some fingerless gloves for someone for Christmas?  Do you want to make soap?  How about cheese?  Interested in getting farm animals?  Maybe you just want to can some broth.  Maybe you want to read some funny, heartwarming stories about a real family and their life.  You are in the right place.  This is your blog too.

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If you love this blog as much as I do, perhaps you will consider sharing it on social media.  Or email it to a friend.  Or share a post on your own blog.  We sure have done a lot and been through a lot in those five years!  And now settled into our forever home, a small homestead in the city with chickens, a root cellar, and the love and experience to enjoy every second of it, I would like to invite you to come around more often, too.  Let’s celebrate all the great things about homesteading and the joys of a simple life.

A Trip to the North Pole

When my son, Andy, was very little he wanted a wolf from Santa.  He wrote him a letter and sent it to the North Pole.  There was a very convincing (and very likely the real) Santa at the mall.  I was able to whisper a few things in that old Santa’s ear before Andy climbed on the jolly man’s lap.  Andy’s little eyes grew big and he was filled with wonder as Santa told him that he had received his letter and would get him a wolf if he was a very good boy.  Christmas morning came and the howling stuffed animal wolf sat next to the Christmas tree.  The next summer as we perused the shops at Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole, we saw the very same wolf!  It made my little boy a believer.  Our family believes in Santa.

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Maryjane and I waiting to go inside Santa’s Village!

Seven of us traversed the hilly paths of Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, Colorado.  My granddaughter, Maryjane sat on Santa’s lap and relayed her greatest wish, that the elves would make her a penguin.

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I wanted a visit with Santa too!

Santa’s Workshop opened in 1956 in the mountains of Colorado just west of Colorado Springs.  They started their herd of reindeers and dozens greeted us and nibbled feed from our hands.

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My daughter, Shyanne, and her boyfriend, Jacob enjoying the baby reindeer.

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Rides, large and small, dotted the village.  Maryjane was very brave and rode just about all of them.  We adults had a plenty good time on the kid’s roller coaster and teacups and many other rides!  My Andy and his girlfriend, Bree, had to work but we recalled the story of Andy’s wolf while waiting in line to see Santa.

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The carousel is a must ride!

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Me and Pa riding the zipline sleigh!

If you have a chance to go to Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, don’t miss it!  You can whisper in Santa’s ear what you want for Christmas.

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Ready for Santa’s train to depart!

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Maryjane and Emily catching a ride up a hill with her boyfriend, Reed.

It might be time for Halloween, but Christmas and making family memories, is always in our hearts.

http://northpolecolorado.com

Happy Birthday HotRod!

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For those that are long time readers, the people that are mentioned in my blog are almost characters in a book.  It’s fun to see folks that read the blog meet my friends for the first time.  It’s almost as if they know them!  Rodney is one of those characters.  He and his wife, Pat, have been our best friends for twelve years now.  I have never had friends for that long.  We have traveled together, celebrated together, watched our kids grow up, mourned together (especially when Rodney’s mom, Kat, died last July.  I called her my mom too), and laughed together.  When we were losing everything and about to lose our minds, they threw us in their backseat and took us to Utah for four days to play.  We go to New Mexico together and plan our respective homesteads.  They are moving to Pueblo this year along with Rodney’s dad, Rod.  These are my people.

Today Rodney turns fifty.  I think that is a monumental success and reason to celebrate.  We have all lost friends that did not make it to fifty.  This is a gift, a blessing, and I am blessed to still call this man my friend.  We have a lot in common spiritually, and our families have really melded into one.  My granddaughter, Maryjane, calls them Aunt and Uncle, and their son is her best friend (he is 16…that is the sweetest kid) and cousin.  We are their grandchildren’s godparents.

So today I just wanted to share this celebration with all of you out there.  Happy Birthday to my best friend, travel partner, confidant, and trouble maker.  May you get every wish come true!  Wishing you health, happiness, love, and peace.  And a home by us!

Here’s to friends (clink!) and here’s to Rodney (double clink!)….Raise your coffee cups!  Cheers.  Happy Birthday, HotRod!

Geraniums on the Porch (memoirs and present)

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We sit on the balcony each evening watching the clouds.  The Creator paints and creates as we watch and laugh and point out different animals and characters.  We see the same things in the clouds, and the illustrations dancing across the sky above the mountains from this third floor view helps us wind down.

The balcony is my respite.  No doubt done with the city and missing my feet on the earth but this little abode in the sky makes a lovely garden and peaceful place of thought and memory and gift.  The bare root roses bought for dollars create a lovely garden in their brightly colored pots.  The lavender flows over its spot and the Christmas poinsettia happily flaunts green.  The transplanted comfrey and horseradish root strongly and the gooseberry, mini roses from the grocery store, the rosemary that barely made it though the homeless trek, the mint, curry, catnip, Jerusalem artichokes, and chives all spread out, face the sun, and thrive.  The gay petunias beckon the hummingbird.

And the ones that have been with me the longest, the geraniums.  They are large and lush and have survived everything along side us, from house to house, and shop to balcony, their colors rich in the summer heat.  My great grandma would be impressed.  She always had geraniums on the porch.  I would pass them as I walked up the steps and to the door where I never knocked.  And there she would be in her chair in the corner.  Smiling, excited to see me, always wanting a kiss, her love for me so evident, her small frame hugging mine.

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We would walk along her row of roses, always taller than me, their fragrance rich with summer and future memories of past.  Her yard seemed so big.  Her house quaint and tidy filled with relics and memory and life.

I went to a friend’s house for dinner last week.  She lives in Washington park, one of the places I grew up.  I rode my bike past her house a million times with my best friend, Susan, I bet.  The beautiful old cottages and bungalows all similar in their individual layouts.  I walked up the steps and noted the imaginary porch swing, knocked.  And through the door I entered and did face the fireplace and mantle, the two small windows above it with beveled glass, the couch, the corner where Great grandma’s chair stood.  The same floor plan as hers, situated just blocks away, and my breath was taken as my eyes moistened and there I stood eleven years old, gangly and tall in my all encompassing grandma’s house.  I saw her stand and squeal that I was there.  I saw us at the dining room table, plants behind us lining the south window, drinking sweet iced tea and enjoying hours of rummy, where I obtained my title of rummy queen.

How she would be thrilled with my roses and geraniums.  Now we sit watching a bear emerge from the depths of the sky and an old eagle flying by, our sights set on getting to a homestead respite of our own.  Soon.  Our feet firmly on the soil of earth and our spirits restored to freedom and homestead.  We breathe in the fumes of the city streets and post rain scent.  And look upon the roses and geraniums and flowers that Mother Earth has lent.

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Memory Seeds and Morning Glories

I was so moved when I read an article in Martha Stewart Living this month about her planting seeds that had been in a desk drawer for some fifty years that belonged to her father.  When she planted the lavender seeds and they flourished she created her own memory garden by seeing that same lavender that scented her childhood yard in her own present yard.  Her remembering her father so proud of that lavender in their sweet home, the scents and colors taking her to home.  How plants can become a part of our very being.

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I was overjoyed while digging through a box that we had been toting with us from place to place this last year.  A box of seeds.  Some no longer good, some gnawed by mice, some spilt, many, many ready to be planted.  I held up a small sandwich bag with little black diamond shaped seeds and knew instantly what they were.  The first seeds that I saved back before I had a green thumb were morning glories.  They grow easily and then offer up the gardener a well packaged bundle of crepe paper surrounding seeds to take on one’s journey. I planted them in my community garden plot.  I cannot wait to see their smiling faces again.