Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quote

Not only is another world possible,
she is on her way.
On a quiet day,
I can hear her breathing.
~~~~
Arundhati Roy

Monday, December 29, 2008

Simple Gifts

I shall jot down notes on simple gifts of the Season. We learned some things this Holiday Season which should be keepers, or at least nourishment for seeds in Seasons to come.

Gift giving can be hard. Families are pretty dispersed these days. Sometimes we know little about lifestyles and things that make our families and friends cook. They often know the same about us. Since we know little of these things, we sometimes yield to marketer's blaring and fickle suggestions of what the other needs for a fast fix. Those suggestions are fickle, because marketers never seem to make up their minds, except that trends should change and, whatever they are, we need them. In other cases, life styles are not even on the same page. Getting and giving gifts represents a clash of values. Those seasons are hard, provoking more tension than the precious season is intended bring.

One should ponder the reason why we give gifts. I think we give gifts to show we love the other. Does the material really do that? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

I think the most wonderful of Gifts is "time". Time seems in precious short supply these days. Is that a Human construction? Is that the "real" of the world in which we were created to live? We all have 24 hours in our days and can only live in that present moment. We all have competing demands for our time and those demands only seem to be escalating. We all have choices we make. Spending time for or with the other seems the essence of love. When we give time which is a precious resource, we show them that they matter to us.

It seems to me that the major "unit of exchange" of our "advanced society" has become money. That is the world we humans have created. Yet, no amount of money can be spent to truly show another that they matter. For years, I have been caught up in the cycle of "giving gifts" and "heading to the mall or mail order at the last minute". I felt like I had to get something for the other. And I had to pay money for it. It took me many years to really consider how impossible and ridiculous this orientation was. These days, I choose to try a different way.

This year, we focused more on giving time. And these are some of the things we did:

Melanie and I made the basket for Mother/Grandmother. This was my 3rd basket in 60 years. I had not made a basket since the 5th grade. That basket was my 2nd; my 1st was made of popsicle sticks. Melanie had taken a basketmaking class this fall. She suggested that together we make a basket for Grandmother/Mother and she would teach me. She found me a willing student. It has been a while since she and I had engaged in a craft project together. So we gave a gift of time and talent for Mother/Grandmother which was also a gift of spending time with each other. Mother/Grandmother was thrilled. The Mother/Daughter duo was excited too. And I learned a new skill.

I pondered meaningful gifts for my family (including my brother, his family and Mother). What is it that we uniquely could give that would nourish our common ties to each other? What could we do that would take money off center stage? What is something that we and only we could give that would have value to the other?

I wanted to do something simple. After considerable thought, I concluded, once again that the best gift I could give was "time". This time, we gave a gift of the Croatian Bread "Povitica" which has meaning to all of us. This bread ties us to our shared Croatian heritage: to Dad, Aunt Anna, Aunt Mary, and Grandma Dora who are all our ancestors now. Until this Christmas, I was the only one in the family who knew how to make this bread; Melanie knows now but of course, it would take some practice. Along with gifts of those little plates of that beautiful bread, I also wrote the recipe and story of Povitica in our family. I invited others to share their stories too.

We also gave frozen fruit pies in the recipient's choice from those available (Blackberry, Cherry, Black Raspberry, and Peach). Word has it that my 17 year old nephew's family headed home that Christmas night to bake a Blackberry Pie after a stop for ice cream. I really want to give more frozen pies in the future. This is something a lot of folks do not have time or perhaps skill to make. I will need to do some follow-up to make sure that the Pies, when served, are at the standard this Master Pie-Maker requires.

We also gave Eggs under their own special Holiday label. The Hennies did their best to accommodate this one. We gave pints of Molasses to some folks who had a tradition of this in their families, albeit long ago. I had made Spiced Peaches for family members last summer from our little tree in the backyard. The recipe was one we reclaimed a few years back. I mailed a jar to Aunt Ruthie and Mother's Cousin Eileen, both of whom would have had such delights many years ago in their families. There were a couple of glitches in this one; I had intended for other family members to have a jar, but forgot in the busy-ness of the season or got sidetracked with the ice and storms.

Melanie sent handmade gifts from the farm to friend Angela in Poland. We shall not say much because these little gifts of love were tucked into the mail today.

We set aside 25% of our Christmas spending for Hope's Kitchen, the local soup kitchen. Writing out that check felt very good. In the face of another's hunger in our community, we should give more. I wonder if they could use some fresh garden veggies this summer?

Mother and I made little plates of little Christmas treats that we had made (with some support from Melanie). I wanted to reduce the sugar. We made the plates smaller, focusing on favorites which were lower in sugar content. We added pecans and "Clementines", both of which I love. These plates were especially intended for folks who do not often have time for such things and others who might be having a more difficult time this season. "Spending time" was the sweetness that we shared.

By the end, things were getting hectic, eroding the joyous spirit of the season. "Grrr..." "Now wait a minute." We did not get all of the gifts to people in a timely way. Plus, we did not have gifts made for everyone intended. We did our best to accept our limits in a peaceful and gentle way. That joyous spirit we intended to share with others should be 1st shared with us. Otherwise, what is the point? Those little gifts would somehow be hollow inside.

After these little adventures, I would conclude that simple gifts can be of the essence of what giving is supposed to be: "Love". They nourish that love that goes both ways.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflections

December 28:

The last 2 weeks have brought Ice, bitter Cold, Snow, heavy Rain, Thaw, Thunderstorms, dark and heavily laden Skies, light Snow. We've even had a Flood Watch in some parts of the County. You name it. We had it. I wonder how Santa Claus made it through, but he did.

For a while, we were pretty much locked in on the Farm. Roads were icy. School was closed. Roads were passable, so we were told. But why would you even want to go there? We stayed home, expressed gratitude for heat, fed Chickens and Wild Things, watched the Wild Doin's about through binocs and scope.

We are not sure what normal for these parts is. Those with a longer recent history here are not so sure either.

Today is beautiful. The Sky is blue. Sun is shining. Air is cool but comfortable. Things are in that dynamic between frozen and melting. It just depends on where you are.

We go for a walk and ponder reflections. We agree: we are not ready for Spring.

Nurturing Settledness

December 23:

In the mid 1980s, I began a Victorian Christmas Tree Skirt. In those years, I had developed a fascination for this old style, the luscious fabrics, and the embellishment of embroider floss. I designed the Skirt as I went. The Skirt has 6 panels, 4 of which are complete. I embroidered on those panels images which were important to us over those years. Looking back, those images reflect our family's story.

Three images are present here, with 2 from the Skirt. The Fireplace is based on the one my Father built in our previous home; the 3 Stockings represent the 3 of us. The panel to the right shows our 2 pets at the time: Wicket (the Shetland Sheep Dog) and Gizmo (the Cat). They are looking out the back window into the Snow Globe of the yard that we all loved. You will see above an ornament from the previous owners of our new Home who greeted us in 2006, welcoming us to a new place and a new chapter in our lives.

Although incomplete, this Little Christmas Tree Skirt is a special part of our Christmas Tradition. The Little Skirt graces our Christmas Branch, which integrates key themes of our past and our present. Such tender touches and familiar rituals of the season help in making this house our Home and nurturing our settledness here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cycles

After the busy-ness
of the last growing season's
planting, harvesting, preserving, storing,
we relish Winter's slower pace.
We get
much needed rest.
We move slowly
in this Inner Nourishing Season.
Seed Catalogs stuff Mailbox.
Thoughts and plans
of another Growing Season
begin.
We will order
Seeds at the New Year,
then return
to relishing
naps, reading, inner adventures,
quiet and stillness.
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Povitica

Memories of Povitica
(by Glinda Crawford, revised January 23, 2009)


From the time I was a baby until I was in the 5th Grade, my family would make trips to Des Moines, Iowa, to visit my Grandma Dragica (Dora Caroline) Budiselich Bloskovich and my 2 Aunts (Mary and Anna Bloskovich). Dragica was Grandmother's Croatian name. I remember those imbedded in the old ways of her community calling her Dragica (pronounced: DRAH geet sa) or Draga (DRAH ga). My Croatian dictionary says "Draga" means "beloved" or "sweetheart".

Grandma Dora lived with Aunt Anna at 1111 East 9th Street. Their house was just down the street from the Iowa State Capitol which had a gleaming golden dome. From my child’s eye view, I thought that my Grandma, their house and its proximity to that golden dome made it even more special. Grandma's sister Sadi and her husband Matt Rupe lived next door.

Grandmother Dora and her husband Kazimir Bloskovich were Croatian in ethnicity. Grandpa was from Sunger and Grandma was from Vrbosko. At the time of their immigration in 1908, their villages were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In our times, their homeland bears the name Croatia.

While they did live in other places (Novinger, Missouri, and Albia, Iowa) they made their home in Kirksville, Missouri, with their growing family of 4 living children. Aunt Mary was born in 1910 in Novinger, Aunt Ann in 1913 in Albia, Uncle Joe in 1915, and Dad in 1918. Two babies died in infancy, the last of which was in 1922.

Kirksville was a community where other Croatian immigrants made their homes. This was very important to Dora and Kazimir. Many of the immigrants were from the same villages, had immigrated during those same years, and were raising families at the same stage as Dora and Kazimir.

As was the custom in those times, men and children were active outside the home in work and school. Outside the home, they spoke English which was essential. Grandmother stayed home, speaking very little English. When Kazimir and children returned, Croatian was the language they spoke.

In her own way, Grandma Dora was the nucleus of the culture they left behind, a culture that was a vital part of her family's life, a vital part of their identity. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to have moved so far away from home and family and then to drop most of what you know and what has meaning to you (language, culture, customs, traditions).

I still remember Grandma Dora reading her Croatian newspaper which was published out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was a small woman. The Ship's Manifest lists her as 5'1" tall. I was small because I was a little girl, but I remember her being more my size than the other adults in my life. I remember that she would pour over that newspaper which seemed almost bigger than she was. I do not know what was in that newspaper, but she would pretty much drop everything once it arrived. I wonder if it included news of other immigrants and news of home. I do know that Grandfather Kazimir’s obituary was published there when he died in 1946.

I shall always remember the excitement and flurry of our reception at Grandma's house when we arrived in Des Moines. She and the 2 Aunts would have fixed a Feast. The house was full of wonderful and unique smells. The table was laden would foods, many of which were foods of their culture which my Father would not have had for some time. And of course, no one could have fixed them like his Mother.

The house was filled with their excited voices in their first language which was Croatian. That presented difficulty for my Mother, my little brother and me, as we spoke only a few isolated Croatian words. We felt welcome but it was awkward. We just didn't always understand what was being spoken. They would do their best to try to teach me a few words and I did my best to learn them.

When I think back on those times, I ponder what it must have been like for my Grandmother to have not been able to speak the language of her Grandchildren. I think that should surely be against the rules. I can imagine that would have caused considerable angst. It surely did affect my ability to have a relationship with her.

However, I remember one endearing means of communication. Grandma Dora was a bread maker of great accomplishment. While we were there, she would be making those large batches of dough, which seemed almost as big as she, and certainly way bigger than me. The 2 of us would knead the dough together. I can still remember her smiling down at me as she showed me with her hands what to do. I can imagine that is one of the reasons why I have dearly loved to make bread over the course of my life.

One recipe (Povitica) has emerged from that time period as a sacred connection with my Croatian family. The Bread which was usually made with Walnuts went by 3 names: Povitica (poh VEE tee sah), (pock a TEET sah), and Potica (poh TEET sah). My family used the 1st two names. I do not know the spelling of the 2nd name.

Povitica was a celebration bread. Grandma Dora, her daughters, or the ladies in the community were most likely to make it at Christmas, reunions or special family gathering times. They always had it for my Father.

When Grandma died, Aunt Mary or Aunt Ann would occasionally make it for Papa, their brother. Aunt Ann was likely to be the one to make the bread in its greatest authenticity as she lived with Grandma. Aunt Mary was always seeking recipes for Povitica. I remember she cut at least 2 from the Kansas City Star. She was always checking to make sure the finished product was just right. As my Aunt Mary aged, she found a commercial source for Povitica at Bernice's Bakery in the Kansas City area. It was good but not the same as I remembered. Others would occasionally fix the bread for Papa. His eyes would sparkle, he would laugh, and he would dig right in.

Children study their parents, knowing what delights them and what doesn't. I was no exception. Somehow, even when I was little, I could see my Father's delight with Povitica. It was a whisper of a memory of culture and family from times long gone by. I knew that I wanted to make Povitica in the tradition of my Grandmother.

When I was a new wife and Mother, Aunt Mary shared her recipe with me. Over the years, she, Aunt Ann, and Dad would tell me the specifics of technique or characteristics of the end product. The layers of bread and filling are supposed to be very thin. I tried and tried again. Dad would always test it. I finally came out with an end product that Dad said would make Grandma proud.

Richard, Melanie and I had lived in North Dakota for many years. In the latter years, I would make the recipe and overnight it to Dad for the holiday. That felt really good.

Since 2004 until he died in 2007, I made Povitica with Dad 3 times. I believe that he had been present when Povitica was made and he certainly knew the end product. But I do not believe that he had ever made it himself. While we were making Povitica, the stories would flow. It was treasured time and space to share with him.

He made it with me when he and Mother came to North Dakota in 2004. Since then, Papa and I had made it with his grandchildren Brennen and Melanie. He became quite magical.

Papa passed July 8, 2007. I had not made Povitica since he passed. I just couldn't. I knew I had to make Povitica for this Christmas celebration. Melanie and I are making it to share with Mother, my brother Brian, his sons Bransen and Brennen, Dad's 1st Great Grandchild Berkley Kate, and their families. This slender thread is a vital connection with our Croatian heritage and who we are. It is one I do not plan to drop.

While I have been going about my holiday preparations, a little Junco has joined me often on the railing outside the dining room window. For whatever reason, I think of my Father, my 2 Aunts, and my Grandma Dora. I think they are pleased. In fact, they would say a resounding “Dobro!” which in Croatian means good.
~~~~
Photo above: Aunt Mary Bloskovich (later Bryson) and Aunt Anna Bloskovich pose proudly with their new niece, Glinda Carol Bloskovich, on Grandma's porch in Des Moines, Iowa. That new niece is me. The date is 1949.

Note: I would call this writing a draft. There are likely to be more memories and photos of other family members (including Mother, Brian, and Dad’s Grandchildren) which will be added over time.

Recipe: Povitica

Glinda's Notes: Povitica (pronounced: PO VEE tee sah) is a filled Croatian Yeast Bread in the tradition of my Grandmother. Grandma's names included: Dragica Budiselic' Blaskovic' (as she was known in her homeland) and Dora Caroline Budiselich Bloskovich (which was her name in her new home).

I suspect the Bread varied by Family Tradition and Preference. I have had a number of varieties which others loved, but they were not like my Grandma's. It is likely that the tradition of my family came out of the early 1900s when my Grandmother and Grandfather immigrated to the United States.

My Grandmother made this yeast bread as did her daughters, Mary and Anna. This Recipe is from my Aunt Mary and is dated December 23, 1976, when we visited Aunt Mary, Uncle Wayne and Aunt Anna at the holiday season. That is 32 years ago today.

Povitica is a highly sophisticated craft which takes a long time to make. It would surely help if the Maker had skill in making Sweet Yeast Breads. If you are trying it out, I would suggest making a half or even a quarter batch, which is what I did until I got it just the way I wanted (which meant in the traditon of my Croatian relatives). Otherwise, you have a whole lot of something which isn't quite the way you'd like.

Traditional filling in my family was Walnut. However, my Father said my Grandmother also made varieties of Apricot, Cheese, Apple, Raisins with Apples. I do remember the other varieties too.

Bread:

1/2 Cup Milk, scalded and cooled
1 1/2 Cups warm Water
2 Tablespoons Dry Yeast
2 Eggs, beaten 5 Tablespoons Oil (I use Butter)
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
4-6 Cups of Flour

Filling: Fillings can be made with Walnuts, Apricots-soaked and ground, Apples-sliced, Raisins with Apples, Cheese. Walnut is the basic recipe. (Note Nov. 4, 2011: I have not fully tested the fruit and cheese fillings.  I have made them but am still experimenting.  On the next tries, I would dramatically reduce the liquid for the fruit and cheese fillings.  The amount described below works fine for the Walnut Filling.)

Right now I am making Povitica with 3 fillings: Walnut, Apricot, and Apple/Raisin. I simply cut the basic recipe below into 3rds and substituted the other fillings. The Apple/Raisin definitely does not need all the liquid.

7 Cups Ground Walnuts
1 Cup Milk, scalded and cooled
2 Eggs, beaten
1 T. Vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 Cups Sugar
Pinch Salt

Toppings:

Cold Coffee
2 T. Sugar
Melted Butter

Directions:

(1) Mix bread in usual way. Let rise 1 1/2 hours until double.
(2) Mix filling to spreading consistency. You may want to add more (or less) Butter or Milk.
(3) On a large flat surface, roll dough from middle to edge. When complete, it should measure 4 feet across. Stretch until it falls off the table. [Dad said that my Grandma would cut this part off and any other thickened edges. Save. Roll up and bake as a treat for Children.) The real trick of making Povitica is to roll it thin. And when you think it is thin enough, you should probably make it thinner. The dough should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the surface underneath. Be careful not to tear. (4) Evenly distribute Filling.
(5) Roll dough up. Coil into pan (14x16x2). (I use my big granite roasting pan.)
(6) Let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
(7) With pastry brush, coat bread with half cup of cold Strong Coffee and 2 T. Sugar.
(8) Bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees; then 300 for 45 minutes or until done.
(9) Remove from oven. Brush with melted Butter. Let cool completely before eating, if you can.
~~~~
by Glinda Crawford, last edited December 21, 2009

The Santa's Workshop

We are busy here today in the Santa's workshop. The Elves have much to do completing preparations for our Christmas Celebration. They are making steady progress to the sounds of their favorite Christmas music. They even found the Chipmunk tape, which is usually played once.

The Holiday Letters are almost complete. The rest will wait until some restful and reflective time after Christmas.

We have some gifts that are in stages of completion. The above picture shows an Elf finishing the Basket we are making for Mother. Mother doesn't have internet access so she is unlikely to see this. If there are other Elves out on the Internet today who know her and see this, we would kindly say: "Shhhh..."

Meanwhile, Ms. Santa's will soon be making some special treats of the Season in the Kitchen, after one of these Santa's completes clattering away at these keys. We look forward to some cherished aromas of the season emanating from the Kitchen.

The Mr. Santa has headed downstairs from a plumbing project. He notes that plumbing is not his first skill so he has left the tools upstairs for now. Everyone is hopeful.

I can imagine that in many other homes of families who celebrate the Christian Tradition, Elves are also busy about their preparations. Or they will be busy when they return home from work. The quiet and lovely white of the snow all around provides a beautiful nest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Here Comes the Sun!

Yesterday was Winter Solstice, the Longest Night and the Shortest Day of the Year. In the Northern Hemisphere, this day marks the Sun's rising on the Southernmost point of the Horizon. This Day also marks the heart of the Winter Season. With each passing day, the Sun will rise further to the North until the Summer Solstice.

We will not see much change for a few weeks. Then that change will be marked, in the Sun's placement on the Horizon, the warmth and light of the Sun, and the awakening of all of Nature in preparation for Spring.

Human experiences of untold Generations and systematic observations of Modern Western Science have told us these things. Our Society, which tragically is split from Nature, is complacent about such workings. Worse yet, we expect these Wonders of Creation as Givens in a World of Machines.

Traditional Earth-centered Peoples had and have a different relationship with Nature. We were all Earth-centered Peoples at one time. Certain of their stories still resonate in our consciousness. Certain of our stories are returning in the times that we live.

Earth-centered Peoples see themselves as intimately bound into the cycles of Nature. They know Humans influence Nature, potentially in good ways or not so good ways particularly if Humans forget their place. At this season, they are not sure Sun will return. They watch with fear, awe, splendor, humility and grace of knowing their Place in Creation. They tell stories that mark and call upon the Sun's return. With the Sun's return, they celebrate the continuing cycles of Nature which support their being. They give thanks for the Sun's return.

This morning, Richard and I did early morning chores with ever watchful eyes toward the Eastern Horizon. Somehow, Richard knew the precise moment when the Sun would rise. Here comes the Sun! Such moments of Divine Grace inspire prayer:

We give thanks to the Creator for this Creation of which we are a Tiny Part. We give thanks for the Cycles of Nature that support our Being. May our Walk as Humans be ever supportive of these Divine Ways.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Minority

December 17:

We awoke to 4 inches of fluffy white Snow, with Frost and a dusting of bigger Flakes on top. With Sunlight and Blue Sky overhead and reflecting throughout, the whole place just shimmered. Every Sparkle of Light reflected and was magnified by every other Sparkle of Light.

I try to walk every day, regardless of the Weather. I want to be open to the Gifts and Teachings of Nature. I find adventures in Nature grounding and peaceful, which are sensations I put front and center in my Life.

I note tracks of Critters everywhere, coming and going, digging for treasure, sometimes slow and other times in a hurry. With the fresh Snow Cover, their Homes and Highways are more visible. I surely had not noted these things before. In fact, I did not suspect that they might be there, except for the flurry of excitement Ladd, our Dog, shows with abandon when he joins me on these Walks.

We 3 Humans are in the Minority here. I wonder what Discoveries these Animal Friends have made of their Human Companions.

Gratitude

The Winter Season is shaping up to be a challenging one if the last few days are any indication of what is to come. We had Rain, Thunder and Lightning on Thursday evening. Yes, Thunder and Lightning in mid-December are unheard of in these parts.

The Rain poured down from the East, coating anything and everything on that side. Freezing temperatures turned Rain to Ice. Weather Underground showed we missed the brunt of the Storm which carved its path toward the North and East.

We awoke to 1/2 inch of ice on Friday which topped 4 inches of Snow already on the ground. The Ice pretty much shut the place down. Area Schools closed. Out here in the Country, the ribbony, narrow, hilly blacktop with sharp drop-offs was passable but not a good idea. Some Folks, including those who had never missed a day of work, called in that they could not get there. Others described getting there, but weren't sure how.

Our Gravel Road was sheer Ice. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be a Rural Letter Carrier. But Tom made it through.

Around here, Walking was difficult. Chickens needed to be tended and Wild Birds (including Quail) and Deer appreciated Richard's regular offerings since everything was frozen solid.

The best Walking was solid Footsteps sharply pushed down through the ice shelf over Snow with immediate contact on the Ground. The loud noises of Feet pushing through Ice sounded like Giants were moving about. But it was just the 3 of us. Richard helped me put on my cleats and I used a walking stick. I didn't walk outside much but they helped.

On Saturday evening, Winds came up and Temperature plummeted. While watching the movie Narnia, we heard loud popping cracks, like someone hitting the East face of the House. Richard went outside to check things out. It must have been the Ice. I cannot even imagine the stress it (and our House) must have been under.

Today, high is expected at 4 above with Wind Chills 25 Below. Mom wonders "Why do they tell us that? We never needed to know that before." I wonder if People these days just routinely travel more and without consideration for Nature's Power.

I wonder why I left my heavy winter coat with Karen in North Dakota. I could use it today.

Nature is so powerful and we Hairless Humans are so small. These days, we are grateful for Heat, Lights, Water, Food, Companions, Comforts. Nature blesses us with these things daily. We try to be thankful every day. Today our gratitude and our humility are more apparent.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Branch

For most of the years we lived in North Dakota, we had a cut Christmas Tree purchased at a nursery in Grand Forks. During that time period, our favorites were the lush Frazer Firs with their perfect shapes and their ability to stay Green longer.

In those times, we had a myriad of Ornaments, adding new ones every year. The Christmas Tree was 6-7 feet tall, as tall as would reasonably fit under our 8 foot ceiling with a Fancy Schmancy Angel on Top.

Something happened in the mid to late 90's, as our practice began to change. We began to see Christmas as a Material Celebration in our Culture and we found that distasteful.

As we began to change, most of the Ornaments lost their luster. Our obsession to buy new Ornaments every year faded. Those Materialistic Ornaments took on less and less meaning than the old Ornaments which had Story. Seeing Country of Origin and knowing those Country's Records of Human Rights and Environmental Violations left a distaste that would not go away.

We packed up most of our Ornaments and took them to the Thrift Store for others to enjoy. Some were pretty spendy. We kept those that were intimately bound into our Family Story and History. They were the ones that gave us the most heartfelt smiles.

While the Ornaments were taking on a different meaning, so too were the Trees. We found it reprehensible to kill a Living Tree just to put in our living room from Thanksgiving Weekend until December 26th.

For 2 years, we went to the Rydell National Wildlife Refuge where Christmas Trees were offered for a nominal price and as a means of service toward returning the Land to Natural Habitat. The whole process was like an old fashioned Christmas Tree cutting. The People there (ourselves included) were in family groupings. Along with saws and axes, they brought broad smiles and gentle laughter. The Cider offered in the Visitors' Center and the experience of Winter in Nature made the whole day a very special one to remember.

A funny thing happened while we were there. We couldn't bring ourselves to cut a Tree, so would take a Sturdy Branch instead. As the years went on, we began to cut a small Branch or two from our Blue Spruce in the front yard. We could just imagine that our Tree out front would like that.

This is our second Christmas in our new home on the Farm in Missouri. Our tradition of keeping Christmas simpler is firmly in place.

This year, we headed out into the beautiful White Pines that Brett and Wendy, the previous owners, had planted. We picked out 2 Branches and thanked the Trees for their gifts for our Christmas. Richard tied the Branches together and placed them in a bucket full of rocks and water.

Our "Christmas Tree" or rather "Christmas Branch" at 3 feet tall is small, spindly, and imperfect. It is imperfect like we are. The Ornaments are limited to those few which tell the Story of who we are. For most of the year, they nestle snuggly into a container a little bigger than a Shoe Box.

Our Humble Christmas Branch and lovely Ornaments suit us to a "T". The whole process takes far less money ($0) and far less time than that big, growing tub of Ornaments we used to use. Plus, we are doing far less damage to the Earth.

Living lightly on the Earth is about changing simple daily practices which are more in line with our values and lessen our footprint upon this Earth. It's what we hope to do in simple steps along the path.

Courage

We just got our Seed Savers Harvest 2008 Edition in the mail. Seed Savers Exchange is a non profit, publicly supported organization founded in 1975 specializing in saving and sharing Heirloom Seeds.

The article Farmer in Chief by Michael Pollan immediately drew my attention. Originally appearing in the New York Times Magazine October 9, 2008, this open letter is directed toward the U.S. President-Elect. Pollan begins: "It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food."

This article is a serious read analyzing Food and Agricultural Issues to which most in so-called modern society are oblivious. But Food is no small item on scales of Health, Sustainability, Survival, National Security, and Celebration of Life. I would only have to ask my Croatian Grandparents who came to the United States 100 years ago in 1908 "because there was no food." That quote was the explanation given to us when Melanie and I visited the villages of our Grandparents in Croatia in 2002. Parents sent their children away.

In our "modern", high technology, and business-oriented times, we have created massive Food Systems based upon Self Interest, Greed, and Now rather than Sustainability and Responsibility toward Present and Future Generations. When we as a culture walked away from Gardening and Tending the Soil to produce our own Food, we left behind elemental experiences essential to the fullness of the Human Experience: Connection to the Soil which Sustains Us and "Do It Yourself" Skills to Survive and Thrive.

Further, we left the "Fox to guard the Chicken House" while we headed into the busy-ness and self absorption of our days. That Fox was a system whose 1st goal was protection of its own self interest with little interest in analyzing consequences.

Pollan's article is a serious read for serious times. It underscores our attention to growing our own Food on this Little Farm. This is an article with which I will need to "sit" for some time. It is probably best read 1 paragraph at a time with adequate time for thought and reflection.

Somehow, we will find our way through these things and these times. We should take along a Long Time Friend of the Human Species: Courage. That Friend had almost been forgotten but is one with whom we shall be privileged to reacquaint. As I look into the eyes of Little Ones accompanying Holiday Greetings in picture form, I know that we as a Society can ill afford to do less.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Letters Are In Process

December 18:

These days, we are in process of sending our Annual Holiday Letter to Family and Friends. This is the 10th in 11 years. While the Letter is surely written as a means of catching up, it is also a marker for us to reflect on our growing journeys over a given period of time. We "write to learn".

For many, this is the one time of the year we connect with Precious Folks who have been and always will be interwoven into our lives in cherished ways. Up until this time, I had been the principal writer, fusing our ideas into one cohesive piece. We always considered the Happenings in the World around us, sharing our Discoveries and our Hopefully Humble Steps along the Path.

This letter was tough to write because of the turmoil in the World, changes and hardships People are experiencing, changes we Humans must surely make, Enormity of Unknowns, and Diversity of Views. Where to begin?

I started the process but just couldn't get it launched. In fact the spirit of my preliminary draft was quite dreadful, which surely was not our intent. We set that draft and "stuckness" aside. Someone else needed to write it.

Oh, Ye Wise and Energetic One: Melanie took the lead this year. At her suggestion with which we heartily agreed, the 2008 Letter should focus on the Hope we see in our daily lives. This had, after all, been the focus of our Letters over the years and the focus of our lives. Regardless of the time, Hope is there for all of us. We just need to open our eyes.

Cutting back on cost was an issue, but not on quality. We eliminated Color in the Printing and went to Black and White. We considered reducing the list because, at over 300, it is voluminous. We concluded that of all the years, it was more important to keep in touch this year. A silver lining of such times is Community and Caring which are basics of Hope.

We also wanted a softer and gentler touch. The letter should have a handwritten feel when held in the hands of the Receiver, something rarely experienced in these times. Rather than a mechanical letter in "Georgia" font with 12 point type which is my favorite, Melanie wrote the letter in her own hand which is beautiful. I added playful pen and ink embellishments which I love to do.

We also did not want the letter to be written in a mass produced way but rather touched personally and uniquely to those we love. When each letter was prepared for the Receiver, we held them in our Hearts, as if they were sitting right there. I added "coloring" with my cherished Colored Pencils. Rachel and Maria joined me on that playful adventure. I think that in one of the renditions, Rachel gave us blue hair. I can assure you that has not happened yet and not expected soon. But anything is possible.

You could consider the letter a "Coloring Book". I would surely encourage any Receiver to add their own touches. We Adult Humans have forgotten to play. We need to color more and we need to color Outside the Lines.

So the sending process began. Richard took the lead on addressing envelopes. That's a very big job considering the creativity found in my Address Book. We are addressing each letter to the Receiver, writing brief notes and signing them.

Alongside, we have cups of Tea. Chili is waiting in the wings. Outside, we have beautiful snowy days. We seem to be living in a Snow Globe. Cardinals, Juncos, Blue Jays, Quail are munching on food Richard set out for them. White Tailed Deer emerge from the Trees to feed on the Corn and Sunflower Seeds too. It seems a perfect setting to be spending time with Friends.

We have made our way down to the G's. Life is good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Hearty Goal

December 13:

Richard is making "Crusty Soup Bread" from Scheele's Old World Breads (1997, page 17). He is working his way through this lovely cookbook, page by page, recipe by recipe. This is Bread Recipe Number #3, the 3rd he has tried.

I am not sure how long his intention of working through the cookbook recipe by recipe will last. That's quite an effort. Melanie and I support.

Bean Soup would be nice.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Inward

Days are shorter and Nights longer as we ahead toward the Winter Solstice, December 21. This marker is just 8 days away.

Daylight strength and length are less. Cloudy days bring even lower light. Plants have gone underground. A lot of last year's Plant growth lies on the ground, composting and fertilizing those next cycles of Growing. Most of Nature seems to be sleeping or at rest.

Winter marks days of rest, slumber, going inward, rejuvenation for Humans too. For me, these are days to relax and unwind.

These are also days to read and retell stories. They are days to dig a little deeper in areas which strike my fancy and on questions arising this last growing season. I found a Great Read by George Washington Carver (1937) on "How the Farmer Can Save His Sweet Potatoes and Ways of Preparing Them for the Table". GWC was quite an inspiration to me when I was a child. That information will feed right into my cultivation of such marvels next year and our preparation of the stash of Sweet Potatoes from this year.

Going inward, I need to examine those outdated treasures in my backpack which need healing and release. Otherwise I carry them another season and they impede my growing and becoming all I am meant to be. I am resting more. The Sleeps are deeper. I think my Breath is too.

Nature reminds me that as much as we Humans think of ourselves as separate from Nature, I too experience Cycles and Seasons in my life, which are a Mirror or are tied to Her Own.

Sunrise

December 7:

Modern Society bowing toward a Material God has trampled over the elemental connection of Humans to Nature. We Humans are Creatures of Nature. We are part of Creation, the Great Masterpiece of the Divine.

Moments which inspire Awe reconnect us with Nature. We stop in our Frenzied Tracks. In that moment, we see the Work of the Divine. We glimpse at a deep cellular level our own tiny part within that Great Masterpiece. We touch what it means to be truly Alive. In those moments, the artificiality of the World we have created fades away.

Sunrises and Sunsets touch that place of Awe. No two are alike. Missing them is like missing Life. I choose not.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finding Home

I am more at home here now. With heightened Senses, I ponder the delicate nature of what it means to create Home and Community. It took 32 years to weave that lovely fabric on the Northern Plains, a distance of 800 miles from this place, sometimes a Foreign Land compared to these parts. We wove that fabric with each action at the Loom of Life.

I watch with interest the creation of Home and Community here, like: finding familiarity among the New, establishing routines for my Day, establishing basic services, making Paths, knowing who to call and when, knowing the Earth that lies beneath my feet.

We moved here a short and fast 19 months ago. I laugh when I think we are at the Toddler Stage. We are moving about with greater ease but we still find awkwardness to our steps. Weaving a Home and Community takes Intention, Time and Energy, while being open to the flow of Energy in the New Place.

Upon our arrival, those things that gave me comfort in my former Home were tossed into the Air on their way to a new Settling. I do not expect to find that Former Home here, yet there are aspects of it which are essential for my Groundedness.

The enormity of transition defies description or understanding. I seem to be experiencing a re-orienting of Compass Points, Senses, Cells. The order of things has shifted in more ways than I can know.

I have a heightened awareness of the New. It is perhaps most noticeable in my relationship to the Earth. My Flatland orientation has been reconfigured into Rolling Hills. My comfort of Straight Roads with Wide Shoulders has been rearranged along Narrow Ribbony Roads which drop into Steep Ditches and Ravines.

My open and expansive view of the Earth now includes the lush growth of Forests which reach out to embrace me. The Soft Browns have changed into a myriad of shades of Green.

The Sun Rises and Sets in new ways. I watch His Progression along the Horizon. At Sunrise, He moves from far to the Northeast at the Height of Summer to far to the Southeast on that Day of the Darkest Night of Winter which is coming soon. I watch the new patterns of light and shadow across the Seasons outside and within my Little Home. They are not new to my Little Home, but they are new to me.

My Seasons now include 2-3 months more spread across Spring, Summer, and Fall. My increase in Gardening Season is also shown in my shift from Gardening Zone 4 to Zone 5. That means I can grow more things: Sweet Potatoes, Peanuts, Peaches, Apricots, Roses, Peonies. That also means more things grow here of which I have no clue.

Winters are shorter, warmer and decidedly less severe. When Winters have settled in, I (with my North Dakota Brain) automatically shift into serious Winter Wear and Alertness. Such things were essential for survival upon the Northern Plains. I did leave my Winter Coat in North Dakota, as my Puffy Coat which I wore in the Spring and Fall more than suffices here. Those 2 Heavy Wool Sweaters are lovely but may be overkill.

The Winters ebb and flow with teasers from Fall and Spring. The Locals say the Winter was severe last year. I found it decidedly balmy and had no complaints. But underneath and through it all, I wondered where on Earth I was.

I ponder the lovely interweaving of my Human Community that is unfolding. Our Families reached out with loving arms to support us upon our arrival and in our transition. It had been many years since we were interwoven into their Daily Lives. We are finding a new and comforting pattern.

I know where to go when I need routine services. Those paths are more familiar to me.

Two themes resound in the creation of Community here. One is reclaiming heritage and honoring traditions of the past essential to our transitional times. I smile when I think of the abundance of such things here in a County where our families have roots back to 1843 and 1851. Secondly, we were interwoven into a community in the Northland where we could interact with many who had a similar Ethic of Earth Care. In our new Home, we are finding those Folks all around. An Earth Friendly Orientation is a Luxury for some in our time but a Necessity in the Creation of a Foundation Here. The Cornerstones are now in place.

I smile when I think about the surprises here. Like many young people making their way in the world, we had moved to North Dakota, a place where we had no family ties at the time. In Adair County which is our new and returning home, we are finding Faces and Stories deeply familiar to us. We have reconnected with Folks whom we knew in those growing up years. Fast forward 4 decades: they are older and so are we. Reconnection brings a kind of comfort not unlike a favored blanket or pair of worn shoes.

We still maintain connection with our Family on the Northern Plains. Those Folks and that Lovely Place upon this Earth will always be a home for us. It will always be a part of the Weaving of who we are.

The Fabric here is strengthening now. All these things provide a Gentle Flowing Hammock of Support for these next stages of our Being.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gift of Love

Richard made Homemade Vienna-Style Bread yesterday. The recipe was from Charel Scheele's Old World Breads (1997, page 15). The aroma of the Bread filled our Little Home, and the Bread was absolutely delicious. The 3 of us sat down and inhaled 1 whole Loaf.

What is it about preparing Food for those you love that is an act of Love itself? The longer the Food takes to prepare and the greater the Skill required, the more Love that goes into it. We could consider these Loaves of Bread one big yummy Hug.

Memory

My, oh my,
look far to the Southwest.
It's 4:21p.m.
December's Sun is dipping, dipping,
almost out of sight.
Every Afternoon,
Sun heads to bed Earlier and Earlier.
Night is Longer, Longer.
What if Sun forgets Return?
Early Peoples watched Sun's Travels closely.
Their Prayers and Stories would honor His Journey,
Interconnectedness of Life.
They would humbly ask for Sun's Return.
Modern Peoples,
oblivious to Nature's Cycles,
view Nature as Machine.
They forget
Wonder of Such Things,
Life's Dependence upon Cycles.
Memory of Early Peoples returns.
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Melanie's Basket Is Complete

November 28:

Melanie took a Basket Weaving Class at the Kirksville Arts Center with Linda Colton in early November. The full day class meant that Melanie came home with a completed Basket and a Big Smile.

For the finish, Melanie did not want to spray her Basket with "Stinky Stuff". Translation for "Stinky Stuff" is "Toxic Stuff". We try to use the least Toxic alternatives here on the Farm, which means "non-Toxic" as much as possible. So she explored options with her Instructor and came up with the following Black Walnut Natural Dye.

She made the Dye from Black Walnuts with Husks. She removed the Husks using Grandma Crawford's old Corn Sheller. She could have used the Whole Black Walnuts. However, we plan to eat the Nut Meats so she used only the Husks. She tied up the Husks in a thin towel and let them soak in Water for 3 days. On the 4th Day, she boiled the Concoction for an hour or 2. She let the Mixture sit for a day or 2.

And then, the Brew was ready to use. She added White Vinegar to help inhibit Mold Growth and to serve as a Fixative.Today, she painted the Dye onto the Basket and is now letting it dry.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving: Another Look

Sometimes Holidays or Historical Anniversaries are washed in gentle shades of Nostalgia. We get warm inside thinking about such times. It matters not that those celebrated days far pre-date our Births.

Others in our Human Family do not have such feelings. In fact, the Views of the Latter, which hold essential parts of our shared History, are often filled with Cultural Pain not known, felt or acknowledged by the Other.

To me, the conventional Thanksgiving Celebration in the United States is one of those days with marked Contrast in Views. While Thanksgiving is much more broadly celebrated as Gratitude for Harvest both historically and worldwide, Thanksgiving in my Country is often linked to Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock.

I am reminded of the routine and often whimsical exercises of my Childhood as Thanksgiving Day approached. When I was a young Girl growing up in the 1950s, my Classmates and I would draw pictures or cast plays of Pilgrims and Indians under the guiding hands of our teachers.

I was especially enchanted by the Pilgrims' Broad White Collars which never seemed to show Wrinkle or Soil on their Stark Black Backgrounds. Turkeys were prominent visual images. We made them out of all kinds of media, including Construction Paper, Apples and Pine Cones. I carefully carried them home and those little awkward childhood sculptures made their way onto the center of our dining room table.

As an Adult now at 60, I have had the Privilege over my Life of looking at this Holiday in different ways. That Privilege comes from sitting with and exploring Views with Another, Views that caused me Discomfort in the place where I used to sit complacently. That Privilege of Being with Another and Exploring Difference marks a Freedom which allows me to live and be present in the World in a Different Way.

In December 1620, 102 Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. They were a poor and hungry lot after Weeks at Sea. Their Winter Arrival placed them in an alien land of which they had no knowledge and were at considerable disadvantage. Half died within a few months due to Disease and Hunger. More would surely have died except that the Native People, whose customs centered on Peace and Giving, fed the Weary Travelers through the Winter.

Enter Squanto, an Indian name familiar to us from Thanksgiving lore. Squanto, with others, had been kidnapped by Europeans some 15 years before the arrival of the Pilgrims and taken to Europe for display, Christianization, and whatever practical uses his Captors would design. When Squanto returned to his Homeland which was the place the Pilgrims would settle, his entire Tribe (the Patuxet) had died from disease.

As the Pilgrims moved from traumas of settlement and Winter into Spring, the Native People taught them vital agricultural methods. The English Speaking Squanto held critical roles in their settling into their new Homeland, including: communication with area Tribes, crafting Agreements, and learning agricultural specifics in their new home. Growing food did not come easy to them.

While freely offering food and skill essential to the newcomers, the Native People looked at the Pilgrims with suspicion due to previous contact experiences of Indian Tribes with European. Their offering of these critical supports was simply the way they were.

However, the Pilgrims looked at the Indian People differently. The Native Peoples were viewed as less than Human, Savages requiring Christian conversion, and objects or impediments to meet the desires of those newly arrived upon their Shores.

The arrival of the Pilgrims is only one episode marking the 1st footsteps of Europeans upon this Continent. Many other arrival points could be noted, perhaps most notably Columbus "discovering" the Americas on his way to India in 1492. He accidentally found a Continent which had been home to Native Peoples for Millennia.

European Peoples arrival brought great pain to the Indian People over the centuries following contact. It is more pain than I can completely know. That pain came from: taking Land that was their Home, rampant diseases introduced accidentally or on purpose for which Native People had no resistance, forced displacement or removal of Indians to lands farther West, Treaties subject to change, massacres called victories, forced location onto reservations, view that Indians were wards of the State, slaughter of Buffalo to eradicate Native Peoples, violation of Indians' sacred beliefs and burial sites, white washing History reducing Native presence and contributions to our shared story.

Thanksgiving and Columbus Day hold fond memories for European Peoples that at last we have found a home. These same days hold memories for many Native Peoples that are of marked contrast and for good reason. And on these special commemorative days, we sit side by side in the place that each of us call home.

Pondering these things this Thanksgiving gives me pause. According to Family Story, my husband Richard and daughter Melanie are descendants of those travelers who placed their dreams upon the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. At the same time, they are also descendants of Native Peoples of this Continent.

When we sit at our Thanksgiving Table, we have representatives of those peoples who had made their homes on this continent. I wonder if the Pilgrims had any idea that at some future point their lines would merge with Native People and we too would sit together at the Thanksgiving Table. I wonder if their approach and treatment of Native People would have been different.

I do not sit on the sidelines of this story. Along with Richard, my early relatives were Homesteaders of this County. In the practices of their times, conflict was dealt with by force; this Land was supposedly wiped clean of Native People so that those early Settlers might feel “safe”. My Great Aunt Lula Myers Hart will always be a great influence upon my life; she was born in 1883, the year when the Buffaloes who had numbered 40-60 million pre-contact were reduced to 1,000.

So what does this mean for my family and me on Butterfly Hill Farm? While my interest in my European ancestry is intense, I ponder other questions with equal intensity: What are the Stories of this Place? Whose Footsteps walked here? What are the Stories of Native Peoples who lived upon this Land? How can I honor that Presence in the Land I now call my Home? While my European ancestry brought views of Nature as object and use, what would Native People want me to know and be to be a Benign Presence here? What are the Lessons of the Past that give us all Foundation for walking into a New Day?

I am open and eager to learn.
~~~~~
Selected references:

The Meaning of Columbus Day (www.worldwatch.org/node/5902, October 21, 2008)

National Heritage Day Honors American Indians (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081128/ap_on_re_us/american_indian_day, November 28, 2008)

Thanksgiving: A Native American View
(http://www.alternet.org/story/4391/, November 27, 2008)

Happy Thanksgiving! The Native American Perspective: First Thanksgiving? NOT!
(http://www.genealogyforum.rootsweb.com/gfaol/Thanksgiving/NAPerspective.htm, November 28, 2008)

Thanksgiving: A Loaded Holiday for Many Native-Americans
(http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/11/27-1, November 28, 2008)

Squanto
(http://www.nativeamericans.com/Squanto.htm, November 25, 2008)

The Pilgrims' 1621 Thanksgiving
(http://www.nativeamericans.com/Thanksgiving.htm, November 25, 2008)

This list would be woefully incomplete without noting the Native American People and others Exploring their History who have been Great Teachers along my Path. Most of my associations have come through my journey, query and work on the Northern Plains of this Continent. These Teachers have helped me open the door to what for me is no longer a Cell.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chicken Spotlight: TaLula

November 23:

TaLula, a Buff Orpington Hennie, came to us May 2nd of this year. This Hennie was shy as a youngster. She would jump up on either Melanie's or my lap and tuck her head under that 1st available arm. She is still shy around the other Hennies.

Richard, our Resident Ornithologist, tells us that Chickens cannot move their Eyeballs because they have no Eye Muscles. That means they have to turn their Heads to see. Chickens also have a Blind Spot in front of their Beaks. They do have Binocular Vision out front but you have to get out a ways for them to see you. (TaLula reminds us that Humans have Blind Spots too.)

TaLula would just smile with her Chicken Beak at our musings on her sight. That explains why she holds her head just so to see Curious Humans who might be visiting or taking pictures. Looking sidewise is perfectly normal. I can imagine that she might think we Humans look strange when we look from only one side, the front side, of our Heads.

As with all the Chickens, TaLula is curious. Should you arrive, she would come running from wherever she is as if you are the Most Important Person in the Universe.

You could also consider that TaLula surely must be saying at the Top of the Banner of this Blog and at the Top of Your Computer Screen: "What Ya Doin'? Why are you stuck inside that Biggest Coop I have ever seen? Why are you staring at that bunch of colors on that little wall? Ya got anything to eat? Howsabout coming outside to play with me? We'd find all kinds of stuff out there, places to explore and hide, seeds and bugs to munch on. Come on... Come on."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving

In my Culture,
we set aside 1 Day and more specifically 1 Big Meal
for Thanksgiving.
On our Little Farm,
the Fall Harvest is now complete,
with the exception
of some Apple Pies I plan to freeze.
The Apples are long harvested,
I just have yet to make the Pies.
The Freezers, Pantry, and Cupboards
are full to overflowing.
Even the Garage has tucked inside
Winter Delights for Chickens.
Abundance is before us, around us.
Abundance nourishes us, gives us Life.
The Garden, Earth and Creator bless us with
Food and Fellow Companions.
From All These Things,
we Learn and Grow.
I shall tweak my Thanksgiving Day Celebration.
I shall practice Gratitude
with each Step along the Path,
with each Breath,
with each Day I am given this Earthly Life.
How could I consider anything less?
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Purpose

I came with a Purpose
to this Earthly Walk.
I seek to live that Purpose
My Creator intended.
I encounter Smooth Sailing,
Glorious Views,
other times
Rough Spots and Bogs,
on Life's Path.
They all have their Purpose
as my Creator intended.
Rather than pray any of them away,
I yield to Creator's Purpose in my Life.
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2008

Rock

I pick up Rock.
With Face toward Sun,
Surface is Light, Bright, Warm.
I turn Rock over.
Underside is Dark, Cool, Moist.
Underside is Home
to a Community of Beings,
many I cannot see.
Underside has Story
I had not known to explore.
Rock knows all.
I seek to know
and be all I am.
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Native Peoples in Northeast Missouri

I am drawn to learning about the Early History of Northeast Missouri and in particular Adair County. I am especially interested in the History of Native Peoples in this Region.

I came across a web reference from the 1901 Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri: Marion County. Marion County is home to both Palmyra and Hannibal which are towns not so far away. The County is about 35 miles from here "as the Crow flies" or so I would conclude from my Map and my Ruler. Two snippets from this reference pique my interest on my beginning journey into this story:

"The original inhabitants of Missouri were imbued with a gentleness of trait, spirit and disposition conforming to the mildness of climate and tenderness of landscapes." (Page 3 of 14; Author: Thomas H. Bacon)

"The aboriginal Indians, in many respects, were the best citizens this country ever had, ... They reverently accepted the bounty of nature. They dismantled nothing; they destroyed nothing. They handed down to their successors the same world they had received." (Page 12 of 14; Author: Thomas H. Bacon)

Reference: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~momarion/1901hist.htm (11/24/08)

Winterizing for Chickens

November 23:

Melanie and Richard finalized Winter Preparations for the Chickens today. That included:
  • Caulking East Window of their New Addition to their House which had leaked with Easterly Rains.
  • Adding to the Patio on the North Side of their House, doubling the Patio in size since we doubled our Flock.
  • Building Perching Ladder for their Patio from Willow from the Lagoon (which needed to be cut back).
  • Stapling Chicken Wire at the base of their House to deter Predators (possible Predators would include Raccoons, Rats, Mink, Weasel; none have been issues to the present and we like it that way).
  • Collecting dry Soil for their Winter Dust Baths which they relish with Glee (Chickens dust bathe to control Parasites).
  • Making Chicken Saddles (or Capes or Jackets) for the 2 Hennies who had featherless "Bare Backs" (Penny and Blackberry). Can you even imagine how awful it would be to have no Feathers on Bare Backs during the midst of Winter? Melanie found references and instructions for "Chicken Saddles" in several texts. She took the lead on this one and came up with the details of her own design. The last picture shows Penny as a Runway Model with her new Cape. If you can imagine the Commentator's Voice as Penny strolls down the Grassy Runway: "Penny's Chicken Cape is made of light Blue Denim, with Zigzag Stitching and Elastic Wing Pieces for a nicely Tailored Fit. This particular design is especially suited for Winter Wear and for an Active Lifestyle in the Coop or hunting for Seeds in the Garden."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sheet Mulching

Soil is everything. It is the very basis for our efforts to live sustainably right here on Butterfly Hill Farm. It is the basis for that which we choose to pass on to Future Generations who would also bring their Dreams to this Land. Soil gives Roots to the Knowing of we 3 C's that No Civilization can endure, survive and thrive without Healthy Soil.

We have known that our Soils on Butterfly Hill Farm are centered in Northeast Missouri, an area of the world which has been in cultivation since the 1840s. After being in use by Humans bent on production and less on replenishment, the Soils are tired. We 3 C's are not experts here, but we are committed to learn.

The Soil situation varies on our Little Farm. We do have Topsoil which varies in depth over Heavy Clays. The area immediately around the House was stripped of Topsoil, or perhaps the Topsoil was turned upside down.

Where the Grass is mowed all the way from the Lane back to the Garden Beds, we have noted that the Vegetation varies. I am sure that is a sign of the Soils that are present there. I would like to learn how to "read" this.

With Rains, the Soil often becomes hard and difficult to turn. In some areas, you can watch the Plants struggle to move their Roots into the Hard Soils. All that said, we went to Columbia earlier in the week; upon hearing where we were from, 2 People said: "You have really good Soils up there."

We have been excited to try "Sheet Mulching", using the process described by Toby Hemenway in Gaia's Garden (2000) with some modifications of course. (By the way, this is a great book for the Libraries of Folks interested in similar Ventures and Permaculture.) Sheet Mulching brings Nutrients and Tilth back into Soil. It builds a new Raised Garden Bed without disturbing the Community of Microorganisms underneath. Its focus is on building a Community of Microorganisms essential for Healthy Soils and Food Stuffs.

We picked Wednesday, November 19, as the Day for Sheet Mulching, since the Temperatures were in the 50s in between days that were quite cold. By 10ish, we were out and moving with our Goal in sight. We completed the task as the Sun was going down about 5pm.

Our targets were 3 Garden Beds. I have been designing an Herb Bed just off the Dining Room and Kitchen Door. Melanie wanted 2 Beds in an area which has been lower than desired in her Garden space.

Check out the Pictures in an earlier Blog (Sheet Mulch Album). You could call the whole thing a recipe. The Chickens had a huge role in this. They stood off to the side in their Pen gleefully noting that without them, this whole process was not going to work. This is what we did which is our own version of what we read in the book. Hemenway gives a lot more detail on How and Why.

(1) Stake off the perimeter of the site. Go small. This is going to take some work.
(2) Scatter Chicken House poop lightly over site.
(3) Use Broad Fork to open Soil and integrate that which will be laid over the top.
(4) Lay down Cardboard or Newsprint (without ink) over top. We had all kinds of Packing Material from our move last year. We just needed to remove the Tape that we and others (Sarah, Dave, Cec) had so vigorously placed there. Transparent Tape was not a part of the Sheet Mulch Recipe nor was it something we wanted to dig up over time. Water.
(5) Scatter "Green" over the top. In this case, Richard mowed the Lawn, including our wonderful patches of intentionally planted Clover to place on top. Water some more.
(6) Scatter Straw and Poop from the Chicken Coop. In fact, get so excited about this that you clean out the Chicken House. The Chickens were quite thrilled with the doin's. They were going to get a Clean House and Clean Straw out of the deal. Water some more.
(7) Put down a layer of Compost. In our case, we used the last of the Huge Load of Aged Cow Manure which Rolf brought earlier this Summer. Water some more. Don't get skimpy on the Water.
(8) Put down a fluffy layer of Oak Leaves on top. Water some more.
(9) Surround the area with Chicken Wire to keep the Chickens out and to keep the Good Stuff together over the Winter Months.
(10) Stand back, wait and watch for Nature to do the work. In the Spring we will have 3 Garden Beds all set to receive our Plants and Grow.

The Day was long. We worked together as a team. And voila! There you have it.

~~~~
Note: In doing a Spell Check on this Blog entry, I discovered that this Blog System does not recognize "tilth" (suggestions: tilt, filth, Duluth, tithe, til) or Permaculture (no suggestions). I know that we name what we love. Are we that disconnected from matters of the Soil that we have no words for it? We have some work to do.

Making History Real

These days, I am drawn toward Making History Real. For whatever reason, my Culture has taught us to erase those stories of our Ancestors, of our Past. In some Naive Way, we expect the Past is somehow cut away as an unnecessary appendage by some magical Surgeon's knife and therefore not exactly part of Me in the Present or in the Future.

Yes, we are taught an edited form of History. But it seems a sort of Pablum. The Stories of Men, of Conquerors and Conquest, have erased all other who might have been present. We hear not the Stories of Women, Children, Elders, those who are Different, the Poor, those Disadvantaged from Power, those who lost in front of the Steamroller of our Culture. We hear nothing of Nature, except as Natural Resource subdued under the triumphant feet of Men.

Somehow, in that form of History, we snuff out the stories of our Ancestors. Yet they were there and they were bound up in the triumphs and suffering of their times. Their stories are our stories. They have shaped who and what we are.

And so I wonder on this Winter's Night: What are the stories of my Ancestors? What enduring teachings would they have for us that would be essential in our times? What are aspects of their thinking and our own that have not worked in our Collective Story that now should be set aside? What are the Stories of the Invisible Other whose stories have been blocked from view? What of their stories is essential for us to hear now?

Years ago, one of my Students dug up this morsel as Grist for our Fodder: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana, 1863-1952)

Now why would we want to do that?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obligatory Gift Giving

My Husband Richard is often way ahead of me on certain practices. In the late 1960s after we were 1st married, he said he was not into Obligatory Gift Giving. He would give Gifts when he felt it was right. And it might not be on the expected Day.

And yes, he did continue to give Gifts, sometimes on that Special Day, and other times when I least expected it. In his profound and heartfelt statement, he opened a window to an automatic practice I had not thought much about before.

I had never heard of such an approach. I came from a Tradition where you gave and got Gifts on such special Days as your Birthday and Christmas. At the time, I could not even imagine not giving Gifts or getting Gifts at those special times. After all, how would the Other know that you loved them? And yes, it was better to give than to receive. Of course, I did have a special feeling when I got a Gift from another, most of the time and at least for a while. Writing these words makes these feelings seem so trite.

Many times I have gotten a Gift that had a very special ring to it. In fact, I would describe all Gifts that I have received in recent years of that regard. The Gift was unexpected because I do not expect such things. Sometimes, it was Handmade just for me. Cost was not the issue; rather the Gift fit me to a "T". The place it touched in my Heart was very rich. Those are not the Gifts I am talking about here.

After Richard's little statement 4 decades ago, the years passed. The Parade of Gifts went on and on. Sometimes, I just did not know the perfect gift to give the other. Sometimes, I hit "the mark". Other times, I didn't. It became increasingly difficult for the Ones with whom my Life's Path was increasingly removed.

I began to see that many Gifts, especially those of a Store-Bought variety, had a hollow ring to them. You could feel the energy of an Obligatory Gift, and it just didn't sit right. Sometimes I would get something that I had no use for. It was not me and it made me sad. That special Other didn't seem to know me at all.

Plus, I began to see that many people got themselves into a heap of financial trouble with their extravagant Gift Giving. It takes them a long time to pay off those Gifts. For us during those years, we would often be paying for Gifts early into the New Year. I don't think that is the proper message for Gifts. Perhaps those are "Gifts that keep on Giving".

I began to see that those Store-Bought Gifts are often Trendy and Fashionable, only for that moment in time. The Gift and its Container were set aside in far too short a time.

Over time, I watched the Gifts add up. Our house was full, stuffed. I had them everywhere, along with our own purchases. Of course you would want to display them. I rotated them. Over time, many were tucked away in cupboards and boxes. I had no space for them all. Sometimes they headed out the door to the Thrift Store. I hoped someone would enjoy them and the person who gave them to me would not see me headed there. I began to be a little kinder to myself: "Perhaps I just held them for someone else."

I began to see that Obligatory Gift Giving becomes a primary means to support the Economy, rather than to support precious relationships. In most cases, saying "I love you" is done in far more meaningful ways.

Looking even more closely at what matters to me, I began to see that a lot of people (and other Beings on this life's journey) are denied the most basic of needs. Now those are Gifts I choose to give and would offer to get if someone is looking for something special for me. I really have more than Plenty.

The Economic Roller Coaster of recent weeks has presented hard times for more than we can know. Some folks were in difficult straits before.

We are surely making our own cuts. Somehow things look different. What has meaning is even more clear and we want to live our lives based on that meaning.

For this year's Holiday Season, we do have a limit on Holiday Spending between the 3 of us, the lowest it has been. We will likely buy or make Gifts of Use or Need for the Other rather than Want. They may make our presence on this Farm in its fullest functioning.

For this year, we are going to set aside 25% for the Local Soup Kitchen. That seems like a really small amount. A lot of Folks are struggling in these tender times.

We will be thinking more and more on this one. You could call this little Entry, as all the Others, Subject to Refinement and Change.

Note to Self

When I sweep,
I should not take the Dustpan
to the Door
where I will launch it
into the Wind.
~~~~
Glinda Crawford

Sheet Mulch Album

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Popcorn

We 3 C's ponder the Question:

"How much Popcorn would we need to grow for a year's supply?"

This year we grew Purdue 410 Hybrid from Shumways and we are happy to report that this stuff is yummy. The Popped Popcorn is very tender and light. It has few un-popped Kernels, plus the Hulls don't seem to get stuck in your teeth.

Richard says it takes about 2 Ears per Batch of Popped Popcorn. While we do not eat a lot of Popcorn, we surely do enjoy it. It is a favorite Fall and Winter Treat. I wonder how many Batches of Popcorn we enjoy a year. If we eat 1 Batch per Week, that is 100 Ears of Popcorn needed. And Popcorn on those Cute Little Ears would make great gifts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Richard's Birthday

November 16:

Today was Richard's 61st Birthday. We made Homemade Pizza and Pear Upside Down Spice Cake with Molasses Cream. The Pizza recipe is our own. We had 3 different varieties on Homemade Pizza Dough.

The Pear Cake Recipe had been calling to Melanie for some time. The Cake and Molasses Cream recipes are from Deborah Madison's cookbook Local Flavors. Yes, indeed, the Cake and Cream (Pizza too) were loaded with Local Flavors. For the Pear Cake and Molasses Cream: The Pears were from our Neighbors' Pear Tree; we made the Molasses this fall from Sorghum Cane we had grown right here on the Farm; the Eggs came from our Hennies; Melanie churned the Butter from Cream from a Local Dairy; the Buttermilk which came off the freshly churned Butter was used too.

Rachel and Mother joined us for this special celebration on the Farm. The Day was beautiful, on the cool side with a lovely Blue Sky and a hint of Wind.

On Butterfly Hill Farm, we believe Birthdays are to be celebrated for the whole month. In fact, we have plans for 1 more Birthday Meal, something we refer to as a "Grandma Meal". Those Grandma Meals are reminiscent of the special Meals that Richard's Mother (Ethel May Kirkpatrick Crawford) would have lovingly prepared when we returned: Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Green Beans and Cherry Pie. Just thinking about those meals makes us smile.

Happy Birthday, Richard!

Hunting

Hunting is an important Meat Source for our Family. Or rather, I should say, the Animal that has given its Life is an important Meat Source for our Family.

Our views of Hunting have changed over time. Over the Years, we have been strongly influenced by the views of Traditional (Indigenous) Peoples. We were all Traditional Peoples at one time. We 3 C's find their views the proper mix of Sacredness, Respect, Humility and Grace.

We believe such views are missing and needed in Modern Times. We do not take on another's views because we hold them in higher thought, but rather because their Views resonate with our deepest Being.

In our Household, Richard is the Hunter. Melanie and I do not hunt at this time. We 3 C's have talked many times about Hunting and our ideas feed directly back into him. We do not hunt on our Little Farm, at least for now.

We 3 C's believe a Sacred Relationship exists between the Hunter and Hunted. The Hunted gives up his or her Life so that we 3 C's may eat, so that we may continue to experience Life.

The Hunted will often give up that Life with Intention. The Hunter knows that from a Glance of the Animal toward the Hunter where their Gazes meet. The Animal may even present a strong and vigorous broadside view.

The Killing of an Animal and the Taking of a Life for Life is not something that should be taken lightly. It must be done with considerable Thought and Prayer. No part of the Animal should be wasted or treated with disrespect.

When one takes the Life of an Animal, one should offer Thanks to the Animal and to the Creator. One should also consider what we as Humans should do in return. We 3 C's try to be advocates and providers of Wild Places where Wildlife can continue to abound.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Teachers

November 13:

After mailing a letter to Patrick Anderson in North Dakota, I head to the Woods for a Morning Walk. Freeing my head from Human Distraction, I try to be open to all in Nature that I might see.

Watching Nature fills me with awe. After the hard freeze, the Leaves gently cascaded from the Trees blanketing the Forest Floor. Then the Rains began. It has been cool and moist since. The moisture has intensified the subtle Colors and Drama of the Early Winter Season.

If I were sitting in my House or passing this Humble Countryside in a Speeding Vehicle on my way about an all important Human Schedule, I would miss Nature's Gifts to me. The Fog this morning and Moisture of the last few days highlighted the Towering Strength and Ruggedness Yet Softness of the Trees. The Moist Bark was highlighted by splotches of Radiant Green. I just cannot even imagine the Paintbrush that must Create All of This.

In the mid 1970s, I was traveling in eastern North Dakota with a Teacher Friend on our way to an all important Human Meeting at just about this time. I was lamenting to myself how very drab the Landscape looked beyond the Windows of our Speeding Car. I longed for Color.

Simultaneously, Ruth began to talk about how November was among her favorite seasons in North Dakota: "The colors are rich and subtle." Taking another glance, I noted they were indeed. Looking closely at this Magical Countryside of our New Home in Missouri, I note Ruth's words again ring true.

I have been blessed by many Teachers that have opened my Eyes and Heart to the Rich Tapestry of which I am a part. Some are Human and some are otherwise. I am deeply grateful.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter's Comin'


We continue to work on putting the Garden to bed. Our pace has been slower, with occasional Bursts of Speed. We are ever watchful of Winter's Entrance and expected Stay. The Weather Forecast shows we have a 100% chance of Rain and may even have Flurries tonight. Expected lows are in the low 20s early in the week. "Winter's Comin'."

We knew today would be one of the last good days for Garden work. So once again, we experienced a burst of activity. Melanie's activity was sustained but Richard and I were somewhat irregular. As the Day went on, the Wind became more pronounced. Always watchful over our shoulders, we could see dark gray Clouds coming in from the Northwest.

So what did we do? We have been gathering structures from the Garden and preparing them for another Season's use. We placed the tall branches and wire cages at the back of the Shed. They look pretty neat and tidy there. I wonder if they feel a bit of contentment with the Work of the Garden Season. We 3 C's do.

We continue to remove Debris and there is an order to it. We place the Debris that holds potential for Disease or Bugs in a separate pile in back. We will burn that Pile so as not to reintroduce something that doesn't need to be there. We place other Debris in the Compost Piles to biodegrade and become Soil once again.

We are not cleaning off the Garden as most Folks do in these parts. We would like to do No-Till, but are unsure about how to do that. You could call it another place of learning to which we are directed. Seeing the Debris on the Garden means the Soil is covered and the Birds will have cover and Food to eat. The Chickens love it. The Songbirds flit about. Often we see Bobwhite Quail, at times as many as 30. Now who would not want to provide place for them?

Melanie planted Cold Season Veggie Seeds in our new Cold Frame: Kale, Mustard Greens, Beets, Chard, Arugula, plus she transplanted 2 Parsley Plants there too. You could call it an Experiment. We aren't sure if we will get anything. But we wouldn't get anything if we didn't try it either. Perhaps the Seeds will come up in the Spring.

Sarah Hughes, our Neighbor about 3 miles South of here, offered some Lettuce Plants for the Cold Frame. We may take her up on that. We will miss the Fresh Greens from the Garden over the coming Winter Season.
We still have some work to do closing off this Growing Season and getting ready for the next Gardening Season. We want to build some raised Garden Beds near the Garage. We plan to do "Sheet Mulching". My Gladiola Bulbs are still in the Ground. It is simply too wet to dig them. We are getting there. The last little task will be taking inventory of our Seed Stash and filing them away. I can imagine we will do that on one of those days when there is no denyin' Winter.

Stay tuned. Life is sure fun here on the Farm. No 2 days are ever the same.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Custom

The Custom in this Time
is to follow Trends,
to create Pretty.
We chase
"New", "New", "New"
which is just beyond our reach.
Our Transient Trends
become Trash.
Landfills become Land-fulls.
No one wants our Trash.
Recycling is big.
Waste now comes back on us.
Righteously, we bring
Glass to Recycling.
Where should Glass go?
It is crushed.
Light's Refraction
makes it Pretty,
our next Adornment.
Trendy Gardeners now use
trendy Broken Glass
as trendy Mulch.
We think we are so smart.
We Humans are
Custodians of Soil.
We do not own Land
but borrow it
from our Children.
Why would we sow
broken Glass
where our Grandchildren
will play Childhood Games,
make Homes,
grow Food?
Whose Half-Baked Idea was this?
What were we thinking?
Or rather,
are we thinking with our
Supposedly Superior Brains?
We need a New Custom.
~~~~
Glinda Crawford, 2008