The Farm is really greening up. Plants are breaking into buds and flowers, under our ever watchful eye. Buffalo Gal, a rose we brought with us from North Dakota, is covered with buds and today she presented us with her 1st flower.
Irises began blooming yesterday. And we were not surprised that the 1st to flower were Irises from Melanie's 2 Grandmas (Ethel and Dorothy, who have both passed). I noted that the Yellow Columbine is also breaking into flower. And the Bleeding Heart just continues to throw out cascades of flowers.
We got 1 inch of rain last night. We did lose a few limbs, but otherwise, the countryside is in that luscious, after rain, spring-moving-into summer, green.
I do remember that my Dad, when he came to our Farm in 2007 just 2 months before he passed, said: "This is paradise. When I go to Heaven, I want to come here." It surely is beautiful here. The landscapes are radiant.
And the Hummingbirds, with all their energy, have just arrived. They buzz about. I don't know how they have all that energy. They wintered in the Yucatan, crossed the Gulf on those tiny wings, and now are setting up home here. I supposed you could say, they are setting up home just like us.
All this makes a perfect backdrop for wedding preparations and for the wedding itself. Is this for real?
About this Blog
Melanie, Glinda, and Richard Crawford share reflections on our journeys to walk paths where the future matters from our new home on Butterfly Hill Farm. That includes recognizing the sacredness of life, living sustainably and simply, reclaiming family history and traditions, growing our own food. We humbly offer this as our story seeking meaning and not as a cookie cutter for others lives. We invite the sharing of your journeys as well.
Except in very specific circumstances, all photos depicted here were taken on our Farm. Those circumstances off the Farm relate to the purposes of this Farm and this writing exploration. Almost all were taken by 1 of the 3 C's. If not, I try to make sure others are credited. I (Glinda) am usually the one carrying the camera, but not always.
I do my best to gain permissions of Folks whose pictures are shown on this Blog. If for any reason, you are pictured and would like your photo removed, just let me know. Thanks.
Visits to this Blog
...began her professional career as a Home Economist, later serving as a Home Economics Teacher Educator for 2 decades. In 1995, she moved into analyzing the Human Side of Environmental Issues. She went from studying Humans in their Little Homes to studying Humans in their Big Home, the Earth. Those 2 leggeds were, after all, creating a substantial problem for the Earth, which sustains them. After 30 years in higher education, she became Professor Emerita of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Ecological Studies at the University of North Dakota in 2005.
Glinda has a special interest in analyzing the split Humans have with Nature. Her focus is bringing Humans home to the Earth, opening at long last to the awe, magic, and love of this beautiful Earth whirling in the Great Cosmic Sea. She is a writer, teacher, poet, artist. She is the writer for this Blog, the substance of which will likely become a book she has known she would write.
...grew up on a 120 acre Farm about 5 miles west of here. Those humble beginnings have had a profound effect on his Life. He was trained as a Wildlife Biologist and later responsible for the Wildlife Management Program at the University of North Dakota for over 3 decades. Retiring in 2007, he is a UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology.
Richard brings to the Farm a lifelong interest in the Natural Sciences (Birds, Wildlife, Prairie Restoration, Ecosystems, Gardening) and the Humanities. As his wife (Glinda) says: "He is one of those few people in our Culture who can still read Nature's story and make it accessible to those around him."
...would list a bio a little shorter than her Mom and Dad. That's because she hasn't lived quite so long, which is the normal course of such things. But her bio would be no less interesting and perhaps even more so. She has come to this work and this walk far earlier than her Mom or Dad.
Melanie has an interest in healthy lifestyles. It's not something you read about; it's something you do. She brings her love of life, her travel near and far, her love of people known and unknown, her playful curiosity, and her knowing to Gardening, Raising Chickens, Herbal Healing, and the Culinary Arts. She makes a place for Kids of all Ages on this Little Farm.
This Blog includes my exploration (with others alongside) as we seek to gather Family Stories. I have long since known that I cannot completely know who I am or where I am until I reflect on where I came from and those who came before.
In May 2007, we 3 partners (Glinda, Richard, Melanie Crawford) moved to this little acreage in northeast Missouri. We believe life is a sacred gift and we intend to live that practice in this space. This is the story of our journey of exploration and discovery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
2 T. Sugar
(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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.