Saturday, July 29, 2006

My Sweetest's Day

(Note: I wrote this on Thursday, July 27 - Bill's Birthday - but am just now able to post it. We were able to celebrate on the day!)

Today is my Sweetest's Birthday!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The photo above was taken, oh...a few years ago ;p That is a very young Bill behind the wheel of the fancy automobile and his father, Elmer, is beside him. Also in the picture are Bill's cousin Donny and a friend, Clare Green. The picture was taken at The Chicago International. Bill has aged a bit since then, putting years and experiences behind him...adding wisdom and creating a past...has beautiful children and grandchildren... and a life with me as his wife for the past several years.

He asked me once how it was that I came to fall in love with him, and I knew the answer without hesitation... because when I saw him, I felt like I was home. Not because of this place that we live, because my childhood home in Eaton County is the one that physically feels like home (where you can safely drink the well water and happily breath the clean night air, find shade from the hot sun and climb rolling hills...) But it is because of this person that I share a life with, he is the one who feels like home!

I still feel that way today, when I drive in the driveway and he is sitting on the porch waiting, or calls out from the other room when I walk in the door "Oh, good, you're home!" Or when, during his recent extended hospital stay, I over hear him asking the nurse "where is my wife?" Or the night nurse confides in me that he was asking for me, but worried about me driving alone...and my heart melts. He would never let me know those things face to face.

Bill is a big man with a voice that makes you stop and take notice...but in a good way. Like George Beverly Shea or James Earl Jones (you know, Darth Vadar's voice?) He is a very private man, who doesn't like many people around and yet, people are always drawn to him like the proverbial flies to honey. I know I was ;)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

He rarely gives speaking engagements any more, but when he does he draws a crowd. The photo above was taken at the 2006 Horse Progress Days. He spoke of conformation and soundness in horses and so much more. The seats were full and folks were standing around the arena. There were many questions from the audience that kept him there past his alloted time and then spilled over outside ring afterwards:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

When he was tired enough to finally draw away, he was treated to his favorite ride - behind a good team of grey horses, Percheron geldings belonging to dear friends Hubert and Martha Zuiderveen. That is Hubert leaning on the wagon and his son is driving. Hubert must have been telling something funny by the look on Alex's face

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I have lived with this man for over thirteen years...known him even longer. And it is still a thrill to hear him speak, whether in public or private, to share his life every day. His knowledge and goodness are beyond me so many of those days! I never get tired of coming home to him.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blueberry Skies

We finally feel like we are starting to catch up after the week without electricity...okay, it was only four days but it has taken me that long to feel like I am back on track. In truth, as long as I have some way to power the pump and water the livestock and get a trickle of warm water to wash with, I really enjoy the peace and solitude of those times. We go to bed when it gets dark, we wake up when it gets light, we play games or read as a family or share some knitting time. We cook outside on the charcoal grill and I drink percolated coffee (I LOVE percolated coffee!!

This year, for the first time in as long as I can remember - I don't have a vegetable garden. I have started my own seeds, planted in raised beds, grown my own special varieties since I was first on my own. For the past three years I have been a vendor at the local Farmers Market with my farm produced soaps, lotions, wool and yarn (see the link to our website in the side bar if you want to know more about our products) Our neighbors, the Shaver family, have an organic farm and raise the most incredible vegetables that they then sell for just pennies! Well, it seems like pennies to me since I am not the one doing the weeding and hand picking and hoeing. They also have eggs from their free range chickens (Did I mention that this is also my first year without chickens here on my farm?) So this year my produce and eggs come from the Farmers Market and not my own backyard.

These lovely peppers, 3 for $1:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

They didn't last long...they were piled high on a plate of nachos for my supper, along with the first ripe tomatoes of the Michigan summer; tender green onions and fresh baby lettuce and cilantro (the lettuce and cilantro are from another Market vendor, Edna)

And blueberries...oh my, the blueberries! I haven't had blueberries with so much flavor in ages, produced at a local farm just reopened after some years of neglect. There is a blend of three varieties here, each distinct but delicious together.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

There were peaches, too, but they didn't make it to the photo shoot - LOL! I have several pounds of the blueberries coming home with me this week...if you have a favorite blueberry recipe, I would love to hear it if you care to share. There is a link to email me in the side bar.

And finally, I couldn't resist this brilliant blue sky and fluffy clouds floating over the peak of our barn roof. A summer blueberry sky:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

P.S. Happy Birthday, Momma! I love you more than that entire sky XXOO (The picture below is of a painted canvas tote that I use as my knitting bag, sitting on a handstitched quilt that is covered with my favorite flowers - pansies. The tote was painted by my mom and the quilt was stitched by her. I don't know if you can see in the photo or not, but the little bears have a bucket full of blueberries and the bucket says Cary Ann - thats me!)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Party Is Over

At least my part of the party for this sock is over!

I have finished the sock for the Summer Sock Party '06 swap. Here is its picture:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

What? You can't see the sock? LOL...that is because I want it to be a surprise for my Sock Pal, so you only get to see a little bit of it, plus the remainder of the yarn that will be on its way to her in just a day or two. Along with the yarn will be the pattern for the socks and a few more summery things I want to tuck in to her party basket, then it will be ready to go. Isn't the colorful little vase I found just perfect with the yarn?

This was fun and I am already signed up for the Fall/Harvest swap. Thanks Tonia!

Other Knitting News...

Finished one pair of colorful socks for the Children In Common group and already cast on for the next pair with wool yarn from my stash. I hope - no, I plan - to finish the second pair and have them in the mail before the end of the month.

Still working on my Prayerfully Knit shawl from the Elegantly Simple Triangular Shawl KAL, with prayers in each row for our friend Dale Please click on the link over her name to see how you can help a wonderful woman and fellow knitter who has just undergone a bone marrow transplant. If you can't contribute financially, please contribute with a prayer for Dale and her family!

My Mystery Stole 2 is started but has been set aside until I can decide if Daughter really likes it or not...

That is the knitting news today from Serenity Farms ~ what have you been knitting? I'd love to know!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Summer Garden Stroll

And strolling is as fast as you would want to move in this heat! Its the middle of July and our temperatures have suddenly soared into the upper 90's with high humidity. I don't feel like working with wool, making soap, tending sheep, cleaning barns or pulling weeds when it is hot and hazy already at 5 o'clock in the morning (it was 71 degrees here this morning!)

Sorry for me, but these things do still have to be done!

But you don't want to hear about the unpleasant parts of farming, do you? Wouldn't you rather look at the lovelies that grace our gardens here at Serenity Farms?

Today I will highlight some of the lilies that grow in the Spinning Garden I touched on in Monday's post. So as not to overload with pictures, I will save my favorites from the Perennial Border for tomorrow.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'll start with the clusters of Asiatic lilies. No fragrance and difficult to put in cut flower arrangements because the flowers cover the stems, but they can't be beat for beauty in the garden!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm not sure if you can see the honey bee who was busy in the middle of this flower or not...the bees love these lilies! Below, I love the contrast of the allium flowers against the lilies. Drumstick Alliums are one of my favorite highlights of the garden and is truthfully the only one that thrives or survives for me! For several years I also planted Blue Drumstick (allium azureum) and Purple Sensation and would get one year of flower from them, then nothing. The Drumstick, however, multiplies and spreads its cheer all over the place

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is the stunning Oriental lily Mabel Violet:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

She is beautiful, fragrant, unusual and a long bloomer.

I'll close today with a picture from 2005, of another Oriental, this one called My Fair Lady:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Now here is a mystery for you...this year I have not one white Oriental lily! Anywhere! Where did she go? Did she become a feast for the moles that threaten constantly to overtake the garden? Succomb to frost and freezing? These are not things that usually happen to lily bulbs.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Weekly Sock Party Progress

The Party Continues ~
Its Wednesday, and time for an update on the progress of my Summer Sock Party 06 sock. The picture below was actually taken a few days ago and is of the bottom of the sock (obviously!) but I wanted to show how pretty the colors are going across the stockinette portion of the pattern.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I am near to finishing the sock, just about ready to start the ribbing but have very little time to knit this week. I really love working this yarn and it looks so nice with the lace pattern on top of the sock. Next update - the finished sock! Well, hopefully....

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Warning...Spinning Content Ahead

Spinning Time At Serenity Farms ~

It occured to me that recently, my posts have been devoted mostly to knitting projects, and its true that knitting is what I seem able to do the most of these days. Especially the smaller, portable projects

A few nights ago, we were enjoying lovely summer time weather with low humidity and soft sunshine. About 8 pm, chores, supper and supper dishes were behind me and Alex and Bill were watching something on television together - I just decided I needed some time of reflection. Some fiber and prayer time.

Spinning and praying is something I do. When I sit down at a wheel, with good fiber flowing through my fingers, my mind just goes to God. Sometimes it is prayers for some ONE or some THING but more often than not, it is just a time of conversation and worship and reflection. The other times I take advantage of this type of communion with my Lord is when I am doing dishes, or driving.

I won't share our conversation, except to say it was mostly one of love and thankfullness ;D I will share some of what is on my wheels and what an evening of spinning can be like for me.

First, on the Electric Spinner, borrowed from friend Cherie is a blend from Jehoval Jireh Farm, right here in Michigan. This contains Coopworth wool, black alpaca and either cashgora or pygora fibers, I can't remember which, and it is called either Blue Bird or Blue Jay:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Project in mind? Probably socks. This is not the softest of fibers, even with the luxury of alpaca and whichever 'gora' fiber it is. But it is very pretty.

Second, on my favorite wheel - my tiny little Louet S45 - is a blend of Gulf Coast Native, Silk and maybe something else, called Beach from my friend Eve at Simply Divine Fibers (yes, the same Eve who produced the lovely Bed and Breakfast yarn for my Summer Sock Party Sock!)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It may be kind of hard to see the beauty of the fiber as it is very understated, but it has just the right variety from the colors of the silk to make it interesting to spin. Project in mind? Trying my hand at a 3-ply for socks. I'm not sure I will have enough yardage, so I am thinking the Beach will be the foot, while a close enough in color Corriedale-Angora blend will give me softness on the ankle and top of the sock.

The third is what is on my handpainted S17 wheel and is what I finally settled on spinning this night. Some of my own fibers, processed at Zeilingers Wool Company (also here in Michigan!) This is some of the Lilac Skies roving that included what I called a lilac colored Jacob fleece, some of my medium wool Corriedale, some dyed silks and mohair. It creates a bit of a fuzzy, comforting yarn.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As I was spinning, I was treated to a view of the sky over the pasture fields that are the exact reason I named this roving as I did! I don't know if it shows very well in the photo, but the colors were mirror images:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is the other view I have while sitting on my back porch (its a deck really) and it is my Spinning Garden:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Not a close up view, but taken right from my chair so you have the same vantage point as I do! This garden is full of lilies, alliums, lavender and roses. What I can't share with you is the subtle but heady fragrance of those lilies! I am reminded of the scripture verse about the lilies of the field, Luke 12:27 ""Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."

Of course, this verse does tell us that the lilies didn't spin...hmmm.

I am joined silently in my evening by two special friends, Christy (short for Christy Columbus, because she is always exploring):

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And my sweet, precious Sporty who is really beginning to show her age. She likes to sit by me and clean her face. Dear little friend...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I spun maybe 3 ounces, almost a Louet bobbin full, before it started getting dark and the mosquitos moved in. As I look to my left, which happens to be west, I can't see the full sunset but I am hit by a laser point of light, tempered by the old barn

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I wish that I could have shared the peace of that evening with all who need some Serenity in their life. I feel like God gives me those moments of renewal and refreshment when I take the time for them...when I tell that nagging voice inside my head to just be still when it says "you need to do this, you need to do that, you need, need, need!"... UGH!

No, I NEED this more and will never get it unless I take it. And then I am rewarded.

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share, as we tarry there
None other, has ever known

From In The Garden by C. Austin Miles (A treasured hymn.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Summer Breeze Spins In From PA

My Summer Breeze fiber swap package arrived from fellow Spindler member, Linda of Bearlin Acres Farm in Pennsylvania. I tried to get a picture of the fiber while still in its package with Linda's neat label on the front, but I kept getting flash so here it is instead in all of its natural glory, seated on my back porch:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

For the Summer Breeze swap we were to send and in turn receive 6-8 ounces of ready-to-spin fiber suitable for lace spinning...well, Linda, I LOVE this fiber...I assume from some of your own animals? The roving on the left in the photo is a lovely swirly Alpaca roving and the fiber on the right is raw Huacaya alpaca from Robbie if I am reading the label correctly...Huacaya is my favorite alpaca and this has delicious crimp and is very, very clean. Need to decide whether it will be blended with something else or spun by plan for the roving is to spin it and knit the lace scarf that was featured on the cover of the Winter 2004 Spin-Off magazine.

This was fun, and easy! Thank you to Morgan for organizing, to Spindlers for hosting, to Linda for being such a generous and prompt Swap Pal ;) My exchange package is on its way to my Swap Pal in California and I hope she is as delighted with her fiber as I am with mine.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Back and Forth on Summer Socks

No picture this week of my Summer Sock Party will just have to take my word for it that it is progressing (grin) Besides, you can see a photo if you look back a few posts ago! But we did have some lost ground...I had turned the heel and was headed for home, as it were, when I saw it....the dreaded HOLE along the picked up stitches - UGH! And I was trying to be so careful! Well, I can't have that for my Sock Pal, so back I went, being careful not to lose my place in the pattern and now all is right again and I am on my way to the finish line, ummmm - top of the sock.

Can't wait to see everyone else's progress!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Farmers Life - Haying

I grew up on a farm, have lived most of my life on a farm, have worked for other farmers as my main source of employment and hope to live out the rest of my days on a farm. I cannot imagine ANY other way of life for me...the joys, the blessings, the harmony and first hand experience of God and His ways is sometimes more than I can fathom.

However, along with all of the joys come many heartaches, frustrations and problems.

Haying season is one example of this, one of the best - at least as far as frustration and lack of control!

Our farm is mainly hay ground and pasture. Many years, we get the hay put up in better shape than most and for that I am grateful. I guess 2006 is our year to be the not so fortunate ones.

Twenty five acres cut and raked, ready to bale and absolutely lovely first cutting hay...that soft green mix of timothy, orchard grass (tough to get cured sometimes) and brome with a wee little alfalfa. Sheep love it, horses love it and we were all set to put square bales in the top of the hip roof barn. This involves perfect timing of hay that is just right, dry but not TO dry...neighbor boys lined up to be in the field and load the wagons...tractor fueled up and equipment greased...hay wagons in the fields and barn floor cleared, waiting for those wagons full of hay to be brought in and mowed away.

Equipment and manpower are pulling into the field when - 1) a hydrolic hose bursts on the hay bine; 2) someone forgot to check the fuel in the diesel tractor and it runs out - this is a problem with a diesel and shuts that tractor down for the day; 3) the first round made with the square baler, with 40 bales on the wagon, and the baler shears a pin. John Deere dealership is understandably back logged and the baler can't be fixed for a day or two. That shuts things down for the night.

Next day, the hay is raked a second time and still not too tough at this point. Here is a picture at noon time of Alex taking Bill his lunch in the field so that he can keep working:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sun is shining and no prediction of rain, though it is hazy. Tractor and round baler are pulling into the field and the sun is still shining only now we hear thunder. He starts around the field and BAM!!! With the sun still shining in the west and the sky black as night in the east, we experience a summer downpour. Rain coming straight down in sheets, for all of five minutes - when it promptly quits raining and the sun comes out again.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm not sure if you can see the standing water in the barnyard here or not. Now the humidity is high, the sun is shining, the hay has been raked TWICE and it is cooking ;(

Now our beautiful soft, fragrant, green sheep and horse an ugly brown wad of hay that will be fed to somebodies beef cattle.


Did I mention that I love being a farmer?

The plus side to this is that with all of this rain plus heat, the pastures are growing tall and lush. Plenty for the livestock to eat this summer, so far. I'll think about winter feeding tomorrow....and pray for good second cutting.