Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rainy Day

Rainy days bring a certain quiet.  Strangely, is seems that fewer vehicles drive by, and everything seems more somber.  I rather like it.  If you would replace the cows with sheep and the barns with cottages or castle ruins, it would look very much like parts of Ireland.  Or the south of England.

Speaking of England and somber moods, I am feeling a bit sad, having found out yesterday that a friend I'd made in Bristol, England way back in 1984 when I was 20 and she was 34, passed away rather suddenly a few years ago.  Mary was an amazing woman, and I was thrilled to know her.  She cooked the most amazing vegetarian food, knit gloves, sewed her boys' clothes, was a picture framer and herbalist.  She was also one of the most unpretentious, genuine, human beings I'd ever met.

 I lived with her family in their Victorian townhouse for a few months, which was undergoing renovations.  First I was in the attic, tucked in a tiny room beneath a sloping ceiling.  In the evening I would watch the sun set over the Downs, sitting in the window with my feet on the cold slate tiles.  Later, when that room was being redone, I was moved to the basement.  I had an outhouse for a toilet and shared the room with the water-heater.

We drank tea all day, but she liked coffee in the morning, and I would drink mine with her, sitting in her large kitchen with its enormous, cobalt-blue Aga stove.  On Sundays she and I would have sauteed onions and mushrooms on her homemade wholewheat toast for breakfast.  I was invited to hang out in the enormous bed with the whole family to watch Robin Hood with them, and it was cozy and fun.  Their boys took a liking to me, and I to them, right off the bat.  Sometimes she and I would watch Blackadder together, and nearly split our sides laughing, and she sometimes sucked her thumb, and I would scowl at her, and she'd say, "I never outgrew it, I'm afraid."  Occasionally we would get a little drunk on Taunton Blackthorn hard cider ("Scrumpy" as hard cider is called there), and suddenly even something as mundane as doing the shopping with her became an adventure.

Mary's feelings ran deep.  When she would speak of something she felt strongly about, you could see the depth of emotion in her face.  She seemed decades older than her 34 years.

I did not stay in touch for very long after leaving Bristol.  I had made another friend over there, my friend Tom, who was 63 at the time.  He and I continued to write one another for the next 20 years until his death.  He occasionally would go by Mary's and have a tea with her, then report his visit in a letter to me.  I called him 'Bwana Tom' (he'd spent most of his adult life in Africa, living the life he'd dreamed of having as a boy), and he called me 'Jackson', although I can no longer remember why. is a good one to make a pot of Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea and pull out my old journals and reminisce while listening to the rain fall.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Catching Up Post #1: July

I never made a conscious decision to abandon my blog; life and new priorities got in the way. I don't want to leave this space altogether, as I do enjoy coming here to look back over the years.  But as time has passed, I no longer write with a mind to "followers." I'm writing for me, so I'm glad if you're here, but you may find it a bit dull.  I refer you to more interesting blogs, say Small Things, or Wooly Moss Roots.

Really there is little to report.  The activity that keeps me so busy is not very interesting.  Math with almost all the kids.  Making butter, yogurt, granola, kombucha, wine, dinner, ice cream.  Writing (not blogging).  Laundry.  Laundry.  Laundry.

I can't possibly chronicle the past couple of months in a few words (I'm far too loquacious for that), so I'll just post some pictures, adding that I haven't even been very good about doing that these days.  I really need a lens with a wide-angle-to-zoom capability, as my 50mm is great for portraits, but a bit lacking when I want an indoor wide angle.  I have to back up practically out of the county to get everyone into the shot.

Without further ado, I give you bits of July:

Among the things of July that are not noted in the photos above, our heifer turned one on the fifth of July.  Lola is absolutely lovely and we hope to have her bred this fall or early winter.  Her mama, Fiona, is milked twice daily, which--since we have no hog to raise right now--provides us with superabundant milk.  We go though about a gallon a day in milk and yogurt, but I've had the kids skim the cream from gallons and pour it out on the grass, which is criminal in my eyes.  I need to start making cheese, but I don't know how I'll find the time!

Ironically, this is Una's first week going dairy-free.  A recent spell of near-constant head and stomach pain, plus a cough, had me suspecting a dairy allergy.  Since Sunday we've eliminated all dairy, and not only are the headache and stomach pain gone, she seems to be sleeping better and have less anxiety during the day.  I don't know if we'll try dairy again in a week or so to see if her problems are in fact due to an allergy, but it looks pretty hopeful.  I'm beginning to wonder now if all her fibromyalgia pain was actually an undiagnosed allergy.

As you can see in the last photo, my baby had a birthday and turned six!  Since I began this blog when Dominic was a toddler, she is the only one who's life is chronicled here from conception to now.  She's a bright little spitfire who will no doubt cause me a lot of gray hair due to her willfulness!  I'm tempted to refer to her as "sir".  But she's also a very loving kid with a healthy conscience, and she's usually eager to please.

Status on the new house?  Well, we're still not in it.  The wood flooring is down (still needs staining and finishing) and the stairs are in, as you can see.  But with Bret doing the work himself, it's not happening fast...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Gabriel and Fiona

Not much to say that the photos don't.  Gabriel has taken over the morning milking, to the great relief of Sebastian, who is not a morning person.  It takes a little time for a milk cow to get used to the voice and hands of her new milker, but it looks like Fiona has made the adjustment and thinks Gabe is just fine...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hello, Old Friends

Alright, so I had no real intention of coming back here.  Life is kind of crazy these days, and blogging was beginning to feel like just one more thing I had to do.  In an attempt to streamline my life as much as possible, I let go of the blog.  I don't even read blogs anymore.  I check in on my Facebook perhaps once a week, just to check in on a few people I'm close to who don't use email much.

But I have this blog to thank for a special friendship.  Six years or so ago there was a follower of mine who became a frequent commenter.  Over the years we exchanged emails as well, sharing our small triumphs and commiserating over our struggles.  It is ironic that she lives not many miles from where I used to live in Charlotte, NC.  Annita and I hoped to meet one day, but we couldn't imagine how or when that would ever take place.

Enter Rachel, her nutty, energetic, 21 year-old daughter.  She emailed me to tell me that she had a plan to get us together.  She wanted to drive out here (8 hour trip), pick me and Una up, drive back to North Carolina, take us to a Scythian show (if you don't know about this band, get to know it.  Seriously. You won't regret it), and then drive us back the next day.  She planned to do two 16-hour round trips in 3 days.  No way.  I couldn't let her do it no matter how good the intention.

Then my husband suggested I call on a young pilot friend of ours and find out what it would cost to fly there.  Our friend, R.B. said it would be a 2 hour flight, and the price he gave me was affordable.  I contacted Rachel and told her we could pull it off, weather permitting.  She managed to keep it a secret from her mother almost to the last day.

Sooo...last Saturday morning, Bret and the kids took me to the little airport in Portland, TN, and Una and I flew in a small plane to Matthews, NC to meet my friend Annita and her family for the first time.  It was thrilling.  I really loved it, right up until landing, as there was quite a bit of cloud cover and it caused significant turbulence.  My stomach felt a bit off for a while afterward.

Rachel picked us up and we were taken to Annita's home and introduced to the whole family. I finally had faces for all the names in the emails!  There was no discomfort in our meeting, maybe a little initial nervousness, but more like a meeting of old friends.

After a rest at the hotel where Rachel put us up for the night, since they were doing home renovations and worried that we'd not be comfortable there, we went to a vigil Mass, and then we drove into Charlotte for the Scythian show at the Double Door Inn.  I'd introduced Annita to their music when they played in Charlotte last year ("You MUST go and see them," I told her), so it was great to be going to their show with her.  Rachel, Una and Annita's 13 year-old daughter, Hope, came with us.  It was a blast.  They sold out and the place was packed to capacity.  Una had a bit of a hard time with it, as crowds make her want to curl up into a tiny ball and disappear.  Luckily, I brought some Valerian tablets, and she began to enjoy herself once she was able to relax a little.

We didn't get back to the hotel until 1 a.m. (that's 2 a.m. Central Time!) and had to leave for the long drive home with Rachel at 9:30, so the drive home was pretty quiet.

The kids gave us a lovely homecoming, and Rachel spent the evening and night with us. The kids wouldn't leave her alone!  They were pretty unhappy about her having to leave so soon.  But leave she did at 7:30 the next morning.

It took two days before I felt myself again...I'm too old for this!

Okay, now for a lot of photos:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'll slow down after the new year...

...but until then, I'm keeping a pretty frantic pace.

I finally printed out a few planner pages (thank you,, for all the printable calender and planner pages I could ever use) today because the jumble of things I need to do in the next two months was causing some severe sleep deprivation.  Putting the mess on paper got it out of my head so that I can sleep at night.  Yesterday afternoon, as I began to fade out after only 3 hours of sleep the night before, I decided to make coffee.  Generally I drink one mug of half-caff in the morning and that's it.  Well, I brewed up half a pot of very strong Ethiopian coffee and drank three mugs the size of a soup bowl (thanks, Annita, for the new mug--it'll be handy for morning coffee or soaking my tired feet in).  I got pretty wired; Una said I was vibrating...

Much of what's on my mind is related to Christmas.  Making things for the shop and for the kids.  I finally finished these little pocket gnome-babies and got them listed in the shop, with a couple put aside for Gemma and my niece.  I think they turned out well, the proof being that my boys, right up to my soon-to-be 12 year old, all love them and ask, "Can you make one for me?")

I'm sharing this on Keep Calm, Craft On {Crafting On}, on Frontier Dreams and Creative Friday on Natural Suburbia.  So...what are you working on for Christmas?