Friday, October 24, 2014

Birthday Boys

  Today is my son Able's birthday. His cousin, Rachel, gave birth to a brand spanking new baby boy this morning so he now has a birthday buddy in the family, always a fun thing.  When I was carrying Able, I really wanted him to be born on my dad's birthday but that day passed and he chose the 24th, his own day…well, now it is his and baby Joseph's.
      The picture below is of Dad and me on Dad's birthday a couple of days ago. A couple of my brothers drove down and we celebrated with Scott's smoked ribs, Ringwood corn and an Italian Cream Cake made by a friend. We didn't do anything earth shattering…sat on the porch and watched the day go by, told some stories, watched a little baseball.  Mostly we simply enjoyed each other's company and were happy to be together, sharing a glass of wine and a joke and some homemade Dilly Bread made by the birthday boy himself.  We did have candles (3) and there was singing, by those present and by all the grand and great-grand kids who called throughout the day. If mom had been there it would have been perfect.
      If you were to ask me to describe my dad to you, these are the words I would use: wise and compassionate, strong and smart and generous. He loves to read and learn new things. He is a problem solver with a long view of things and a discerning eye. He's a great listener…even when you think you aren't saying anything.
       He will tell you he practiced medicine in the golden era of medicine, when you could still have actual relationships with your patients and their families and make your own decisions about what treatments they required. Before the red tape gummed up the works and docs started spending more time looking at a computer screen than at the patient in front of them.  I'm glad he did. I'm also glad he had a brother who was a physician so they could bounce things off each other, making the solving of mysteries that much more interesting. What could be better!
       I do wish his father had lived to see the two of them at the top of their game. That would have been good. Heck, I would have liked to have known that guy myself. I hear he was fifty kinds of wonderful.
Ah well, I think I can see him, parts of him, in Dad and his brothers. We tend to mimic the best parts of those we love and admire, if we can pull it off.  I often find myself thinking….'what would Dad do in this situation?'. I hope some of his good characteristics rubbed off on me, heaven knows I've been watching.
      Dad has a phenomenal memory, still, and I find myself letting him remember things for me too much of the time. I have a good memory too but I like to watch him remember things, listen to those memories pull the thread of a story out of his past. Stories about what it was like living in the Panhandle during the Dust Bowl, or fighting on Okinawa, or hunting quail with his brothers and sons, or working in the cafe alongside his mom and dad, or riding in a rumble-seat with a pretty girl, eating cherries out of her bathing cap.
     It's good to have a storyteller and those who will take the time to listen.  It takes quite a bit of being still before a story begins to blossom; being still and willing to wait for the magic.  But it is always worth the wait because those stories, about uncles and grandparents, old friends and happenings from days long past are our story, our history. It's where and who we came from and eventually we are in the tale too. It is good to remember; it ties us together.
     Every family is different. Who are the storytellers in yours?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Farm Camp Day 2

      There are days, many days in fact, in which I am at the farm alone, working on things, catching mice in the pantry, coaxing the gardens to stay alive, mowing, repairing, you know, life stuff.  I wake up on those mornings at whatever time I wake up, usually when the first bird sings. But when there are little people staying over, I almost always wake up to the pitter-patter of little feet and a sweet, sleepy face peering around the doorjamb.
      Day 2 of Fall Camp started with Maggie snuggling into bed with grandma and visiting awhile. We sneaked out the front door to enjoy the morning together and the boys continued to snooze.
     Soon the boys woke up and the phone rang, announcing that Able and the Korenak boys were nearly there and bringing donuts. Hooray! What could possibly be better? Able promptly got a little fire going and I brought out some scrambled eggs and little smokies which we all ate out of plastic cups, while sitting on the ground.

 It was quite pleasantly reminiscent of camping, but without a tent.
       Sometimes these cousins have some trouble getting their songs to match up at the beginning of a visit.  I don't know why, but it is a pattern. I'm sure they will figure it out soon enough.  Let's just say it takes awhile to iron the wrinkles out of their relationships but it happens, eventually.
     After the fire, some of us headed for the swings, the younger boys and B, and Maggie and Zane began to construct a space ship on the south side of the barn while Able cleaned up my garage for me.  It took quite awhile to get everything loaded on the ship, tools, food, a flag, various types of weapons, the usually things you need for space exploration.  They happened onto some alien babies out there somewhere and took them onboard to raise. Oh no, Zane told me alien babies don't grow up, so….they are now living in the garage under the supervision of the cats. That can not be good.
       Brendan gave the littlest boys a wagon ride…. everyone had hats at one time or another that morning although in this picture they are holding them, for some reason. Zane's is the orange OSU knit pullover that was Danny's. The one Z wore all last winter when he and his family lived at the farm. He has claimed it as his own. Good. It needed a home now that the only person who really likes that bright orange color isn't around here anymore. Go Pokes!
     Brendan is seven and more than a half and is getting much stronger lately.  He is tall and thin without any of those bunchy Blakley muscles but he can do heavy work for me and does, any time I ask him to.  It is so nice to have a strong helper with that sort of thing. I remember when B was the baby in this wagon and then when he was lifting Maggie into and out it. Now he is the official wagon puller and is very careful with the littles.
      About the middle of the morning Uncle David came by and deposited a pile of dirt in front of the house. We are in the process of berming up the west side and adding some new steps out front.  Kids may have all kinds of wonderful toys and games to play with but there is nothing in the world more fun than pile of dirt.  These guys did not disappoint in that regard and ran to find small shovels and a bucket and then dug right in, literally.

         There was some amateur archeology which involved the excavation of large treasure rocks and the gentle brushing off of loose dirt to determine their value. Wonderful. And later much of this dirt was hauled around in a small red wheelbarrow that has been in our family for years and years but which actually belongs to the Spencers, friends of mine from before I even met Danny.
       And there was lunch and there were naps, the second day.  This bunch was worn to a frazzle by then and slept for three hours, throwing us a tiny bit behind schedule for the next big event: Daze In A Maze, which is right down the road but on the way home.

    This is a great maze…well, really there are four mazes of different types as well as lots of farm animals to see and pet and/or ride. Some of the kids rode the pony, and everyone except Rowan ran wildly through the big feed maze with Uncle Able (thank you so much, Able).  Rowan and I looked at cattle and horses and were finally joined by Everett at the slides and the sand pit.
    One of the best things about this maze place is that it is operated by people I have known for years.  I taught all their kids at Chisholm, and they were all in my honor choir. Their mother is also a music teacher, instrumental instead of vocal, and used to come and demonstrate the different instruments for my classes at school. We're good friends. I hear she is helping with the band at Pioneer now.  The family is beyond wonderful and it is always a treat for me to catch up on all that is happening with them.
      The one thing we forgot to plan for was how hungry everyone would be when we got done with this event.  Their mothers would have thought about that, but their mothers were not there. We all had chips and water and headed down the road toward home and food.
       This Daze In A Maze would be a fun destination place for families or groups. In the evening they light campfires here and there and you can bring your own food and eat outside. There are picnic tables, a basketball goal, a big climbing playground and, of course, a wagon ride around the entire property.  Fall fun for everyone.
    Here is Rowan climbing the corral fence to see the horses and cows. Below is a shot of Everett on the slides. No Grandma, thank you very much, he does not need any help with climbing those bale steps because he is a big kid, whether he looks like it or not. Just ask him.

 This might be the biggest sandbox I have ever seen.

Fall Farm Camp Day 1

     During the years Danny and I were teaching school, the Fall Carnival always fell on the week of my Birthday, smack dab in the middle of October.  My birthday cake was one some one of us had won in the infamous cake-walk and I loved it. Always a surprise, almost always homemade, and I didn't have to bake it myself.  
        Nowadays Fall Break means Abbey is on the Big Bird headed for D. C. and, if I'm very lucky, her kids gets to come spend a couple days with Grandma at the farm, a reprise of Summer Farm Camp, if you will.  I like this one even better than actual F.C. because the weather is cooler and we can make it to the creek or up and down the hay bales without dying of a heat stroke (always a plus…surviving).
      The first day we hit the pumpkin patch in Hennessey, sponsored by the public library (Yea!) and loaded up on pumpkins for everyone, even the littlest boys. They got to choose the ones they liked the best and, last night at the All-October-Birthdays party we set to and carved most of them, so we're ready for Halloween. It's good to plan ahead. That's Miss MJ in the cutout to the left (a commissioned photo especially for her mama who was away. :)

        After a brief stopover for donuts and juice, we headed to the farm. There were a few jobs waiting, as there always are on a farm, that needed our attention. Brendan helped me fix the pump and filter on the big pond and Maggie donned her 'working hat' and did some rake work on the edges of the patio, which she noticed were becoming very 'leafy'.

 The mini pumpkins set off such a racket in the trunk of the car that we were obliged to break out the paints and get creative.

 Little E was forced to abandon his artistic endeavors however, after the cat, who is well aware of how much E dislikes him, jumped up on the bench and sat himself down, actually touching the poor little guy. Enough! E moved on to observation of the gold fish and this lily pad. Do you see it, the one covered in too much fish food? That's the one. E sat here and gently pushed that lily pad down under water, with the flat of his hand, over and over again, watching as it popped back up to the surface each time.

      We moved on to the hay bale event, always a crowd favorite. This year the bales are stacked closer to the old chicken house and sit much tighter together so there are rows and rows of them without any of those scary gaps in-between.  B and M both raced around up and down the rows, across the valleys every which way. Even Everett agreed to try his hand up top, but only after B assured him it was okay and showed him how to walk.  The cat followed us there as well, wouldn't you know it. 
     After the earlier encounter with the cat I had armed E with a small wooden sword and a whistle prior to 'hay-baling' and told him to use them both on the cat if he felt threatened. He did, with great success.  Face your fears and all that. 

       After lunch, naps, a movie with pop-corn and more playing around the garden with their jeweler's loops, looking at things, feeding the chickens,  finally it was time for the much anticipated campfire.    Since it had rained, not too long before, I felt good about burning some stuff. 
      We had hot dogs, B and I doing the cooking honors, and then everybody's favorite, S'mores and roasted marshmallows.  Yep, just as messy as always.  
         Since it gets dark so much earlier now, we were even able to see the stars before time to go inside for baths, books and bedtime, a great first day at the farm. We went to sleep looking forward to the arrival of Uncle Able and the Korenak boys the next morning.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Bird News

     I have surely expressed to you over and over again how October literally SINGS in my blood, threads joy through my whirling spirit and sparks with light every time I turn around. Yes? I thought so.  Maybe it's the sudden lifting of the heavy burden of heat; I know that's part of it.  There is also this part of it: the migratory traffic of birds, the changing of the guard, so to speak.  The summer birds have left us now and those who choose this place over, say Canada, have come back for a time.
       There has been quite a lot of twittering among the sparrows of late, they're a huge family with lots of cousins coming in from everywhere.  Sparrows are talkers, I know you know that, always mixing round with other types of sparrows and welcoming in the Juncos as well.  My pair of bluebirds has returned and brought along another couple. I don't know if they'll stay, we have houses up here and there in that hope, but it is exhilarating to even have them here for a few days. I'll not hope for the whole winter.
       Day before yesterday my dad came over to spend the afternoon on the porch, doing nothing but watching the birds and having a chat and a cup of tea now and then.  Lovely.  We had the bird book out and the binoculars.  Along with the Bluebirds we spotted a Yellow Rumped Warbler, cute as a button and a Northern Flicker.  I had never seen either one before and was beyond delighted to welcome them to the yard.

      The Flicker is a type of woodpecker, but larger than our Red-Bellied Woodpecker and twice the size of the little Downey, at least.  This one was the Red-Shafted Northern Flicker. He was extravagantly speckled, matching the litter on there ground, with the rusty underwings flashing surprisingly when he came soaring past us, as we sat still on the porch, watching. I feel sure that sudden flash of bright colors is a defense mechanism, the surprise of it buying him some time when under attack.
      Unlike the other woodpeckers, this guy eats ants and bugs out of the debris on the ground, digging around with a very long black beak instead of tapping on the tree branches and trunks.
I didn't see a second one but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a buddy hanging around somewhere.

    When I wandered into the garage later in the day, I happened upon a pair of petite brown House Wrens having a happy conversation in the rafters. I assured them they did not want to hang around in there since that is where the cats sleep when it is cold.  They skeedaddled out the door very quickly after the word CAT.
      The Cardinals are here and the Mockingbirds, of course, and lots of other, smaller songbirds but I haven't spent a lot of time sitting long enough for them to let down their guard. Now's the time, I guess.  I'm going to try doing the Bird Count again this year. Every year I swear I'm going to really be faithful to it, and every year I don't really do it justice.

Letting Go and Being Still


"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes
This is a lesson I am in the slow process of learning, although it is wisdom from long ago.
     The time that I am in the city is full of family doings and working at the spice shop.  My days are start early there and are always very full. By evening my feet hurt and I usually realize I have been so busy I have forgotten to drink anything for most of the day. Not good. I like this kind of busy life because much of it is spent sharing the day with some one or more of my children and theirs.  I love it.
I love being with all of them, watching my children as adults and watching their sweet children as they grow.
      The reason for my time at the farm is supposed to be to rest and reflect. I take care of things here, I read and contemplate, I blog and read the blogs of others, I visit with friends in town and try to spend some time with my Dad, but I find myself restless in the stillness of the 'rest and reflect' time that I spend alone here.  What I am trying to fully accept is that stillness, openness of spirit and mind is the actual (and extremely important) purpose of these days here. It is not laziness, it is necessary spiritual work.
      This is a place of retreat for me now and I have to let myself be willing to rest and to listen during my time here, not just DO things.  If I do not rest and listen to whatever it is that speaks to the depths of me, I will have nothing of value to give to my family when I return to the city.  I am not doing a great job of the stillness/listening part yet, but I'm pressing on. I'll get the hang of it yet.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Recalibration: done

Sometimes I have sense enough to stop my 'doing', leave the phone on the table, put on my hiking boots and 'go to church' down in the woods beside the creek where light dapples the forest floor and the choir giggles its way toward the sea, somewhere out of sight.

 A hawk shrieks and circles above the tree tops as I wander through the silence, reaching out to rest my fragile human hand upon the deeply grooved bark of a hundred year old tree, mostly dead now. I am humbled by the age of these trees that tower above me, they are older than my father, maybe were seedlings when his father was a boy.  They stand, rooted deeply into the earth, enduring sun, wind, rain and storm, offering shelter to all things smaller than themselves.
      Something scurries off into the underbrush, a small brown bird hops from branch to branch, watching. He is the sentry, watching, ready to report, to give warning.
       It appears I am alone in this space, except for him, but I know I am surrounded by millions of tiny, silent creatures all going about the business of staying alive, getting food, finding a mate, keeping the wheels spinning, doing what they were born to do, every day.
    What was I born to do?  I listen for an answer until I have forgotten the question, as I watch and marvel at the miracles all around me.
      Perhaps the little things are enough, since life is so short and uncertain. Perhaps it is enough simply to….



 know simple joys...


                                                                       share adventures…..

and keep the hug sacks full to brimming over.