Dear Diary, Its’ Saturday . . .


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There is a heavy frost this morning.  The morning sunshine causes it it to sparkle and glisten, as if it were a field of crystals .  The frost was so heavy that I took a second look, to make sure it was frost . . and it was.  All of the rabbit patch was dusted til it looked like a fairy land.  There isn’t a single cloud in the sky and the lone old pine at the front of the yard is boasting heavily of its’ greenery.

A lot of people frown at pines, claiming they are  the most likely to topple in the midst of a storm.  I have found the pine is most likely to topple when someone that doesn’t like them, has a chain saw.  I suspect, that many folks have never heard a pine whisper. 

A few years, after I moved to the rabbitpatch,  we decided to have cable installed.  I watched the technicians  plant a receiver amongst the old trees and felt it could be a mistake, but was not confident enough to say so.  After all, I do not understand the concept of such things.  We had trouble with reception “right off the bat”.  I complained and so a man was sent to find the problem.  Within five minutes, he told me, it was the trees and that I ought to cut them down.  I evenly said “Get off my property.”  I do not know what welled up inside of me, I had never said such a thing –  but to me, it was as if he had spoken against something sacred.  He left immediately and the boys and I trimmed a few of the lower branches and all went well.  We still laugh about it, me especially, for the cable is just a memory now, but the oaks remain steadfast and the pine still whispers.

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With today being Saturday,  there is no dreaded rush, which satisfies me deeply.  There is housekeeping of course, but cobwebs stay put, til you are good and ready. I already have curtains in the laundry, soaking  in rose soap and  I did mix up a concoction, to try on the floor.  I had read the recipe and the pictures were quite convincing.  I did not measure exactly as I made the solutions, which was a mistake, as the thing foamed and ran out of the bottle.  It reminded me of the “volcanoes” we used to make in science class.  I sat the bottle of the frantic liquid on the floor and the stuff soon covered a square foot !  As I cleaned it up, I noticed that the floor was as clean as I have ever seen it, where the spill was made!  I will measure next time, for lemon juice and baking soda are apparently a “dynamic duo”.

As the last week of January, looms ahead, I must put the “farm” back on the market.  A part of me, is quite anxious to do so -a part of me dreads it.  I dread the documents, the appointments and regulations,  as I always dread anything “official”.   . .and the long state of chaos of the last ordeal, is still not forgotten.  This time I will have an agent, for they like such business. 

One thing that has happened, is that I no longer feel the least bit frantic or any degree of desperation about my plight in selling.  There is a peace that has somehow nestled deep inside of me.   This does not mean that I want to sell the place less-it means simply, I at last trust that all is as it should be and this will remain the case.  I still look forward to a snug little cottage as much as ever.  I want a smaller property.  I want the freedom, this will afford me to have even more time with children and grandchildren, for I can never have enough of that.  . .  and  I want my children to stop worrying  that the barn will fall down and other such catastrophes – that are all valid. None of that has changed.  . .and be aware, that  in the big picture, this is a lot more than just selling a house.  

We often say, that we have “given things to God”, but I  often reserve a small bit of it, to worry over.  To really give all of a thing “lock, stock and barrel ” over, is  no small feat.  . . at least for me.   It  really makes no sense to bear a burden, anyway and  oh the sweet liberty casting it off, yields. 

As I lament over this predicament, someone dear to me has a different battle going on-one that makes mine insignificant.  Miss Claudia, Wills’ mom and my friend, has been sick for about two years with that hateful disease, we call cancer.  Just recently, she has stopped treatments .  The doctors say, these are her final months, here on earth.  Of course we are all heart broken.  It is like a gloomy cloud hangs right over our heads, now.   Miss Claudia seems stronger, than any of the rest of us.  She just keeps gong about her business, encouraging others and reading to Lyla.  What a pillar of strength and how I admire her.  Heroes casts so many different shadows.  . .and to know even one, is a blessing beyond measure.    I am blessed beyond measure.

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The Difference of Winter- a poem


It was not winter til the north wind blew.

 unfastening leaves and branches too. 

Revealing the secrets of spring long passed-

Songbird dwellings now known at last.

The chill of winter does bruise the reed,

 yet tenderly scatters its’ tiny seed.                                                                                               

Blackbirds pepper up the sky

 for they know winter cold is nigh.

Gardens look like empty rooms                                                                                                     

when void of anything that blooms,                                                                                             

and  a pasture , like a vacant lot,                                                                                                   

without the colt to dance a trot. 

The old oak stands with barren bough                                                                                           

fields lie untended by man and plow-                                                                                         

Behold the frozen ponds and lakes-                                                                                               

Oh, what a difference, winter makes! 

Happy Winter, love Michele

Happy Birthday Jenny!


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On Friday, the wind changed and suddenly, the climate was remarkably warmer. Daddy had a doctors’ appointment.  Thankfully all went well with that , and  since it is a three day week end, I headed north . . .to Elizabeth City.  I had not seen the grandchildren, since Christmas night, and I think this may have been the longest stretch yet, since Lyla was born, to not have seen them.  On top of that,  Jenny has a birthday on Monday.   “Happy Birthday Jenny!”

The drive over the three bridges,  was lovely.  The sky was interesting enough to be a painting.  One day, I will paint, I thought.  Before, I joined the work force (or the rat race), I painted  and I have lofty notions of doing so again. Ironically, my first drawings were of rabbits!  

Lyla ran to me the minute I walked in the back door.  We hugged for a long while, for we had missed one another.   Brynn, now four months old, looked on with curiosity as  if she was trying to recall a familiar face.  Within a few  minutes, we were on the way to see Wills’ mom  and my friend, Miss Claudia.  We had a nice dinner and the visit was a nice conclusion to the day.

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Lyla woke up on Saturday morning, full of ideas about her moms’ birthday, which is on Sunday.  She talked about making a strawberry cake and taking Jenny to Disney World.  She was willing to give all of the money in her piggy bank to make sure that Jenny had a “fun and magical” birthday. We made a card, and Lyla dictated a long  and loving message that ended with how glad she was to have “a beautiful husband and a beautiful wife, for parents”.   . .I agree with all my heart. I could not have hoped for more, for my only grandchildren. “Happy Birthday, Jenny!”

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  Will and Jenny went out in the evening.  They met up with several couples that I have come to love, too.   They are  a close knit group and are so thoughtful of one another. Their children call me “Honeybee” . . .well,  they all call me “Honeybee”.  Brynn did a fair share of fussing, but when Jenny came in, both girls were sound asleep.

Now, Sunday morning came and with it rain.  Lyla got up extra early, for she was ready for our first celebration.  We had decided to fix “honey cakes” -fancy ones and topped with whipped cream.  We went about our work and soon the kitchen smelled wonderful with morning aromas .  The  smells of almond honey cakes and coffee  mingled   Lyla carried a bouquet of flowers to present  to her mom, when we were ready to serve.  Of course we had candles and sang the song.  Jenny made a big production about the affair, which delighted Lyla . . . and me too.

After breakfast, Lyla and  I went right back to the kitchen to make the strawberry cream cake.  We used two bowls for that and then a third one  for the icing.  While the cake cooled, we made a blueberry crumble for Miss Claudia.  We spent a good deal of the morning in the kitchen and neither of us were sorry for it. Of course, we listened to music.  Lyla says now, her favorite piece  is “The Swan”.

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In the afternoon, Will and Jenny worked on some household chores.  I told Lyla stories -stories about giants and fairies and magic shoes to fly with.  There were kittens and robins and peppermint flowers.  Lyla never turns down a chance to hear stores.  She cried when the talking kitten got lost and Lyla always wants a villain, usually a skeleton or a witch and she bravely speaks her truth, when they show up.  If they do not listen, she calls the police.

  I fixed Jennys’  supper , from her birthday menu, fried chicken, creamed potatoes and turnips and peas.  No one complained, but Will does not like peas.

 I saw the full moon with its’ titles and fanfare.   I only saw a tad of the eclipse though.  I had read enough to know that this was quite a historical event.  I pondered the science and considered the Divine order of such a wonder.  I have never had to perform but simple calculations, and do not pretend to comprehend the magnitude of things like “light years” and “black holes”-even gravity is a mystery to me.  I like every moon, even if it shows up without a fancy prelude.  No moon is ever ordinary to me.

Monday came and with it a chilling rain.  When the rain stopped, a cold wind blew, that seemed to bite!  The temperature plummeted to single digits.  Most southeners do not even have adequate coats  for such conditions and we must rummage for our gloves, for we have but a pair.  Snow and ice are so seldom here, but I always regret not having a warm coat and boots, when we do get it. The wind finally died down in the evening.  The sunset was stunning.  I love winter sunsets.  It is always a silent occasion and what beautiful hues cascade over the landscape.  A clear winter night is so very spectacular.

 After french toast for Jennys’ birthday farewell breakfast, Jenny and Will continued their mission to organise every closet.  Bags and boxes were sorted in stacks by the door for donations. At some point we would have to brave the cold and carry them out. Until then, we all worked and passed little Brynn  between us at frequent intervals.  Brynn is an especially beautiful baby-and I haven’t a bit of shame in saying so.

 Lyla and I made a big pot of soup and another pot of chicken and pastry.  I gave Lyla a piece of dough to work with.  She rolled it, patted it and kneaded more than any pastry dough deserved.  I made pimento cheese too, but Lyla wanted no part of that.  Wills’ dad was expected in the late afternoon, and so I felt the least I could do, was have Jennys’ kitchen stocked for her special guest.

Of course, parting is always such sorrow and there is nothing sweet about it.  Coming home to Christian, is my saving grace.  Cash, my boxer and Christopher Robin, my silver gray  cat  are also a “Godsend”.  I know I will fall back into my routine and tasks will present themselves til at last I know I will make it.  I have just never mastered the art of tending a mostly empty nest.  Now, the last post I made was a horrible mess.  Some contents were just missing altogether and the whole thing ended abruptly.  I was shocked when I saw it .  Attempts were made to fix it-and they every one failed.  I have mustered the courage to post this one with high hopes that it will at least make good sense.  Time will tell . . .  as it always does.

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All in a Week


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It was raining Sunday morning, when we woke.  I knew snow was a long shot, but I had hoped for it anyway.  As the silvery, cold droplets fell, I felt glad that I could linger under my favorite soft blanket, for a bit.  At least I did not have to spring up, as I do on a week day.  Cash, my dog, and my gray cat Christopher Robin, were snuggled together and what a sweet picture they made. I was happy, that it was Sunday.

I read, as I usually do on Sunday mornings, but not about “Van Gogh”.  I read enough yesterday to suit me for a while, on this tender artist.  My heart broke with every tragic detail -and there were so many, in his life.  I did gather that Van Gogh felt deeply for human suffering and went above and beyond what most of us do, to show it.  He believed  the purpose of his art was   to glorify God.  I admired his independent nature, but goodness, how sad he was!  I simply can not bear to know anything further, for just now.

 I read  the “Sermon on the Mount” which is a favorite of mine.  I made a pot of soup and since Christian had a friend stop by, who happens to be a chef, I made apple dumplings.  This time I made them in a pot, instead of a skillet.  I think I like them better, prepared in a pot.   “Jose” noted the recipe, as he was going to make it for the head chef.   

So the cold silvery rain fell all day and Sunday passed gently by. 

As I drove to work on Monday morning, I took notice of the day.  The countryside looked so very muted, in colors like gray, and shades of brown.  Even the sky was a dull pewter .  I thought, that some folks would call this a dismal scene. . . but I like most kinds of days.  I do understand how dreary weather can feel like an unfriendly guest, for it seems something tragic may happen, under such circumstances, that could not occur on a bright happy day in June.  This is hardly true, but it does feel like it could be .  I really miss the comfort of home on such days. 

I am quite sure, this all started in childhood, growing up on a farm.  When the weather was bad, we all stuck around the house.  We often made a cake and the adults had time to tell us stories.  If we needed rain, then everyone was in high spirits .  Weather was of huge consequence in those days.

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The wind was acting more sensible, but Monday was every bit as cold as Sunday.  Some people declared they had seen snow flurries, but I kept my eyes peeled to the sky and never saw anything but  some tiny ice pellets, for a brief spell.  I have seen stunning pictures from friends up north.  What a wonder snow is, covering  every sin, a landscape could have . . and what a hearty lot it takes to live where snow accumulation must be measured in feet.  I simply can not imagine shoveling a driveway on a regular basis before going to work.  Those folks are a hearty and gallant lot -and nothing less.

Snow may be scarce here, but frost is not.  Lately the countryside is sparkling in the early morning. “Brother Earl” , a neighbor has a fire going most every morning.  Smoke rises in curls and tinges the air with the familiar scent of burning wood.  The sun rises over the treeline transforming the bare branches to ebony lace and the frost becomes all sorts of shades of orange, pink, peach and apricot. This morning an icy luster even topped the trees and so the day started with quite a spectacular display of nature in winter.

I drive past the very quiet pastures and the resting fields to work and then back home.  Occasionally, I stop at the grocery.  Somehow my dog and cat, know exactly what time, I will arrive at the rabbitpatch, for they are always waiting by the door.  I usually start a load of laundry, then start supper and at the first chance, change into “house clothes”.  I prepare for the next day within an hour of walking in the door, for I can not think of such things as sweaters and earrings, in the morning.  

I read while supper cooks.  There is little variation in my routine.  One day turns in to another and in this way, the week passes.  Unless there is an emergency, I am home at night.  I am quite content to spend evenings at home. . . and it is not just because I am older.  I have never enjoyed a ruckus of any sort.    

 

 

 

When the Wind Blew


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A cold wind blew and now suddenly, it is winter.  I know winter arrived officially weeks ago, but it was the north wind that convinced me.  Until, a few short days ago, my heavy coat was in the back of the closet.  I had the window up for several days.  There was no need to warm the car up, in the mornings and some days, the mockingbird sang.

What a difference the north wind made, for now we burrow under soft blankets  and there is but one brave little rose, in the “Quiet Garden” and I suspect it is spent, after last night.  Winter may rob the rose of its’ bloom, but a winter morning has its’ own form of spectacular.  The countryside is silent and void of any motion, save folks bringing in more wood.  A few little wrens played just outside the window this morning .  What a happy  commotion ensued for a brief while.  For some reason, the birds left and took their merriment with them and again the world was quiet.  

I am not sure why, but the country birds rarely  frequent feeders, at the rabbitpatch.  The only exception, is the event of snow, which is rare in itself.  I think it may be the fact, that the woods are so plentiful here, and so the wild birds may prefer the natural diet, the woodlands offer.  You would think an apple core would entice them  or the wild birdseed, but that isn’t the case.  Maybe they joyfully, scavenge for the last of the wild mulberries.  I do not know what the mockingbird does after he sings, but sightings of him are scarce too.  

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I suppose, I have something in common with the birds, for winter makes me grow quiet and still too.  No other season affords this as winter, for each one presents its’ own tasks, that must be tended too . . .at once.   In the winter, I study whatever subjects pop in my head.  This year, so far I  have studied “Secretariat” which led to horses, in general.  I am far from finishing my study, but I have also studied the quotes of “Bruce Lee”  after reading about his life.  Some of his quotes are as deep as the ocean and require  much thought.  Now today, I have begun studying “Van Gogh”.  Already, he has tendered my heart.

The thorough, studies in winter are an old habit, of mine.  I have an odd collection of subjects by now, but they have sparked my curiosity to learn more and it as least one practice, that has never caused me a bit of harm.

I also continue to dabble in concoctions of various sorts.  I have had great success, so far with a few cleaning agents and cream  for dry skin -(and old)  .  Since Christian injured his hand, I  have studied more about the  natural  healing  properties of things like honey  -and it is good to report that the awful wound is healthy and on the mend.  If there is even a scar, it will be slight.

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A lot of folks are decluttering now.  Mama , my sister Delores and Jenny are all on the same mission.   I did this now almost two years ago.  Of course my project was very necessary as I was downsizing to a much smaller home.  I am still in the same big farmhouse, and I still have plans to downsize, but in the meanwhile, I have maintained my diligence in the matter.  Of course, the method all started with a book.   The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”  by Marie Kondo.  Now there is a show as well.  Though I have  been preaching about it, for several years, it was the show  that struck a chord with Jenny.   According to Kondo, we are to ask ourselves,  which possessions “spark our joy”.  We are to discard, those that do not.  Apparently, Jenny did this as she was cleaning out, for three year old, Lyla, told her last night, that she wanted to get rid of the dress she was wearing as “it did not spark joy . . and it itched!”

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The light never changed all day on this Saturday.  It could have been anytime, all day long.  It also stayed cold.  Folks a few hours north of us are getting snow.  I hope Lyla gets snow, for she has been looking for it since Christmas.  Jenny does have a birthday  next week end – and it has snowed on her birthday, several times.  There is also the “super moon”, (which I plan to wish on) arriving as well.   

Twilight fell all of a sudden, I noticed.  I went out, but the stars were like well kept secrets tonight.  Oddly, I felt lonely for them.  The veil of darkness felt thick and  the night was so very still.  Only in months like January, can a night seem so deep and absolute. 

The darkness, seemed to separate me from  everything and everyone familiar.  Without Cash, who was sleeping inside,  and without a light, I did not venture far,  for the farmhouse looked extra cozy, on this night.  . . .and the lamp shone through the window, by the beloved “morning table”, beckoning to me , like an old friend. and besides – the cold darkness  did seem “full of lies”  and it did not “spark my joy” . . after all. 

Old Christmas and the Woods in Winter


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The first Sunday of the New Year dawned bright and clear.  I love Sunday mornings-I am never as inspired or as reflective on any other day.   Maybe, “There is something about a Sunday”, after all. 

Christian and I had coffee together . . .and a heart warming conversation.  Christian has never been one to chatter, even in his childhood.  In a crowd, he mostly listens.  No one has ever accused him of being loud or overbearing.  It is not his nature.  He has never been impulsive, but instead seem to digest information.  He is fiercely independent and anything shallow and worldly, is uninteresting to him.  Under such circumstances, Christian is one of my favorite people to converse with. 

After the “grand finale” of last year, with Daddys’ health scare and losing the much awaited sell of the rabbitpatch, car repairs at Christmas ( which seems a trend for us) . . .well, against the odds, I told Christian that I felt very optimistic about our future.  Christian said he too, had been feeling the same way.  Then we had a deep conversation about the last few years and how every part of the past, which seemed to halt our progress, was actually pushing us on in our pursuits.  I realised that , little by little, my heart had changed, and it seemed to happen while I was unaware!  Christian believes that each act was needed for us and was never against us, as it really seemed some times.  How beautiful and moving, I thought.   I asked Christian, when did he know for sure, that we ought to sell the rabbitpatch for sure . . .He said “the day, that I walked in the sunroom and water was pouring in.”  I laughed til I cried.  Christian is funny, too.

5c7f2fbd360172b03ae1fc469c535e71It is the time of “Old Christmas”, now.   It is hardly celebrated, at all these days and what a shame, I think.  I always think I will pick up, where Miss Sylvia left off, but  haven’t yet.  Miss Sylvia was a dear friend and neighbor, who hosted an “Old Christmas” party every year.  We all left our decorations up, until after the party. Now,  without Miss Sylvia, Farm Life was quiet on the night of “Old Christmas” –  and it made me miss her all over again.

I vaguely remember this holiday, as a child.  “Old Christmas ” parties have dainty foods and children receive small tokens to commemorate when the wise men visited the Christ child.  Next year, I hope to “practice what I preach” and host a small gathering. I will use fancy dishes and serve tiny pimento cheese sandwiches , and Martha Washington candy and all the other “old fashioned” delicacies, that I grew up with . . .and  in this way, I will tell the story of “Old Christmas” .

 

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Monday came along and that changed everything. I did see the sun rise and it bathed the quiet pastures and fields in glory.  When I behold such remarkable beauty, I feel like I have been gifted.   My perspective shifts and worldly cares are “put in their place” .  The handiwork of the “Master” has always done so, for me.  Even as a very small child, I had a young walnut tree that I would confide in, on a regular basis.  No one taught me such a practice and I didn’t know of anyone else, who did such a thing.  

In my teenage years, I took to long ramblings in the woods.  It was not always because I was feeling sullen or rebellious for I rarely was.  The woods that had been my playground, still comforted me and inspired me.  It was like “going home” when I walked ,where I used to run.  Life was changing, as it does on the eve of adulthood and though I was having a fabulous time,  I longed for things that remained as they were.  Unlike people, trees are constant and not given to whims, nor guided by moods.   

In my childhood, my cousins and I would spend many winter days in the woods, disturbing the peace of the pines. Often we had several ponies with us and a dog or two.  We stumbled on an old steel once, another time a school bus and old houses.  To say  we were a bit uncivilized, would not be  a far stretch . . .but we were happy and though we were scratched by briers and wore our clothes out, we thrived in the freedom.  We knew when we smelled supper cooking, that the shadows would soon fall and we knew exactly where, too.

I did not stop my ramblings upon adulthood, but instead took my children to the woods regularly.  We walked most winter days and spent many happy hours together.  Winter is the best time to “stop by the woods” for poison vines, snakes and biting insects have abandoned their warm weather posts.  We walked for miles and for a little while, we were the only ones in the world.  

The children, hardly remember the many vacations we took,  . . . but they all remember  walking back to the house, from the woods, by the light of the moon. . . .  . . . .and I remember, too.

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Rabbitpatch Apple Dumpling Recipe


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I am not sure whether it was “Beginners’ Luck” or what . . . but I made apple dumplings that are good enough to brag about.  I had never even eaten apple dumplings, let alone made them, but I am not a bit sorry, that I tried.  I can hardly wait for my son Brant to visit, for I know this dish will give him  one more reason to come home when he can.  Brant loves apples.

Now the good folks in Pennsylvania, may not consider this dish, true apple dumplings, and it seems they are the experts, but this recipe was everything I hoped it would be.  This is as good of a reason as I know of to cook apples.

 

Recipe

1 and 1/2 cups of water                                                                                                                      

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 tbl spoons of butter

a dash of salt

Mix all ingredients and slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  As you do so, for you do not want to leave the stove-  (Butter and sugar will burn if neglected.) -mix the following:

2 cups of self rising flour

1/4 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of milk

2 tbl spoons of melted butter

1 tsp  vanilla extract   ( I tend to “spill”  more, anytime, a recipe calls for vanilla.)

1 cup diced apples

Combine ingredients, saving the apples for last.  Now, drop by spoonfuls in to the sauce.  I turned the heat down a bit, so the boil was slow.  Cover the pot and turn the dumplings after about five minutes.  Cook about five more minutes and remove from heat.  When they are cool enough to eat, do so -and be extra patient so you won’t burn your tongue.  

 

I used a large skillet, to get the dumplings to cook evenly.  All is not lost, if the dumplings, break as you turn them.  Nobody will care, once they have tasted them.

I took some to Mama and Daddy, while my sweet cousin Sheila was there and a dear friend, Miss Edie.  Nobody complained about anything after we ate  . . .and besides, all dishes are really better, when shared with others.

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