Saturday, December 27, 2008

Weird Weather Photos and Thank You

Just after I posted my blog update this morning, I stepped to the back door to try to snap a few photos of how strange it looked outside - the fog was blowing around like sheets of rain and it looked like a giant spooky fog machine was at work. Here are the pictures, taken one right after the other...see how the fog closes in?

(The two bottom pictures are the exact same view and snapped just seconds apart!)
As I write this tonight, the temperature is 56 degrees and the fog is gone but it is raining again. I used several bales of straw throughout the barn's really wet. I also took delivery of 100 bales of hay this afternoon - lol - luckily, my nephew could back right up to the barn since the snow and ice had melted away!

I also wanted to say thank you to those of you who have left some very kind and encouraging comments on this blog the past few days. It's always nice to know that folks are reading and take the time the time to comment. I appreciate every one of those messages!

Presents or Presence?

Is it global warming? To date, here in Michigan, we have had record amounts of snowfall - one wintry mix after another. That's okay with me. I like snow. I love snow...and when its winter, I want there to be SNOW! And while we have had some days of wind chill in the frigid range, most have been pretty good days in the teens. A good winter, with good snow cover to insulate the ground and freezing temperatures to kill off yucky things that like to hibernate in mild winters. I am thankful we have not had to deal with the ice, and pray for friends and fellow farmers in the east who are coping with that situation.

This morning, as I write, the big picture window next to my computer desk is being pelted with rain...heavy, driving rain. I woke up this morning to flashes of lightning and claps of thunder. We are under a flood warning. It is so foggy I can barely see the barn. Every time the the sky is lit up by lightning, the mercury light that floods our yard goes dark and so for several seconds it is eerily dark outside the window. Rain. Thunderstorms actually, at the end of December. I like snow. I do not like rain in December.

Neither do the sheep. I think of my friend Lona and her family, who are scheduled to be shearing today.

We had a beautifully quiet Christmas,full of the joy and love of family. How about you? How did you celebrate? I know for some it can be a time of sadness. I thought a lot about the difference in what it means to have "presents" rather than the "presence" of our Lord at the Christmas celebration. He is always there, of course, but the difference is in whether we recognize it or not I suppose. This year, in a quiet and deeper way, I feel His presence. And I appreciate that so much more.

On the night before Christmas Eve, we were experiencing one of those beautiful snow falls, with fast flakes swirling all around. I was tired and went to bed early, only to wake up around 1 a.m. When I can't fall back to sleep, I always feel like it is such a waste of time to lay tossing and turning in the bed. I usually feel that this is a good time for prayer and I answered that call, getting up and putting on a small pot of French press coffee...yum! It is my habit, whenever I wake up and whatever time of year it is, to step out on the back porch to fill my lungs and clear my head with fresh air. When I did so this night, it was amazing. The snowfall was heavy and the world was silent. Well, silent from man-made noise. No car and truck noises from the nearby highway; no snowmobilers defiling the night with the whine of their irritating machines; no neighbors dogs barking...the noise was the silence of the snow fall and the swoosh of the wind stirring the large pine trees outside our bedroom window. As I stood breathing in this miracle and feeling the snowfall on my face, I heard another sound..."woooo...hoo-hoo, whoooo....hoo-hoo" I stood still and listened to the Great Horned Owl who lives in our woods!

The photo above is taken from this website:
If you click on the link, you can read more about these fascinating creatures. There is also a link called "listen" and if you follow that, you can hear a brief recording of the owl. It is a neat site, and the Tittabawassee River floodplain that it speaks of is quite close to where we live.

That was a beautiful experience, and I stood in the night listening until I got cold and had to come in. I woke Bill up to share with him. We used to love watching for and listening to, the owls that nest here. I wonder, when the snowmobile and off road enthusiasts go screaming down our road and pile through our woods and fields (illegally trespassing, by the way)...if they give a thought to the damage they do just with their intrusion? Everyone has a right to enjoy their personal favorite pastime...but do they really, when it negatively affects people and things around them? Anyway, I am wandering off subject....

The next night, Christmas Eve, and I linger in the barn just a while longer. Don't most stockmen and women? Especially shepherds? Don't we always feel that pull, that connection to something long ago and miraculous...the shepherds on the hill, who shared in the wonder? I feed everyone a little extra - the sheep, the horses, the barn cats, the chickens - and I pause with my ewes on one side of the barn and the old mares behind me in their stalls. My ears are filled with the sounds of contented munching and an occasional snort from Sammi as she buries her nose in the good hay. One of the barn cats purrs at my side and occasionally one of the ewes, usually one of my old favorites, stops in her pursuit of supper to give me a look or sniff my hair. I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience a stable on the eve of our Saviours is humbling.

The Shepherds and the Angels ~ Luke 2:8-20 (NIV version)...
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told..."

Dear Lord, I pray that I continue to seek your presence in my life rather than always looking for presents from you in the coming New Mary, I want to treasure and ponder your gifts in my heart.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

First Day of Winter

Here in mid-Michigan, we welcome the official first day of winter with an Alberta Clipper.

This on the heels of a massive storm that gave us over a foot of heavy snow two days ago. The bitter winds associated with today's storm is having a grand time blowing the earlier snow into monster drifts across the landscape. Its funny, Friday's storm blew in from the north east. Today it's coming straight out of the west. So the house and outbuildings are surrounded with the drifts and it is beautiful.

We are content, here at Serenity Farms, and thankful. We have food, hot coffee, warm woolen socks. I let the old mares inside to eat in comfort while above and around them (and the sheep and chickens and barn cats), the old barn groans and creaks but holds its own. Hmmm....much like my creaky bones! They protest, but thankfully they still manage to get me around ;D

I've got several little projects I have been anxious to share with you. First of all, my Bittersweet Serene Hands Mittens were sent and have been received my spoilee in the No More Hum Drum Mitten Swap 3. I love how these turned out! The pattern is my own entrelec mitten pattern but the color is what really made these, I think! Cascade 220 superwash wool is the main red, with some Orchard Hill Skinny Skeins as the contrasts.

(Sorry for the slightly fuzzy photo...but I kind of like the warm glow look of it) This is the third pair of mittens I have made from this (my own) pattern. It has also been knit by two other "test knitters" (Okay, they are friends from my knitting group, but they did knit and let me know of problems!) I am working on a pair now that I want to put a lining in, and am thinking I will add that feature to the pattern...what do you think? A bit more tweaking and then I will consider offering it to others. I have had requests, but hate to send it out into the world full of errors!

Now, here is another small finished object that has already been gifted and so can be shown...

This is a wonderful little project from a pattern I have completely fallen in love with! The Cabled Neck Warmer is available from my friend Joanne through her etsy store, Terrific Creations. I highly recommend this pattern, and Joanne offers wonderful customer service. It uses only 100 yards (or less in the case of my project) and has just enough to it to keep you interested, but easily enough memorized to work in busy situations. This was my second one, made over the course of two evenings but probably only a total of four hours. The first one I made was a bit to loose and floppy for my taste, so I went down a needle size for this rendition, using the same yarn (Serenity Farms blend of Corriedale wool and Alpaca from North Star Alpacas) and working one extra pattern repeat. It is perfect and the recipient of the gift seems to agree (it looks great on her, too, but I didn't get a photo of her modeling it) I am hoping to cast on another in a different yarn this afternoon. Or take a nap, I'm not sure....

The UPS man knocked on my door in the middle of Friday's storm. A small package was left behind. I quickly grabbed it up, thinking it might be MY mittens from the swap (which I still haven't received....nor have I heard from my spoiler....hmmmm) Anyway, the return address was California and I opened the box to reveal - not mittens - but YARN!!! Yummy, delicious, soft, lovely, beautifully spun yarn! Four skeins worth! A bit over six hundred yards worth! With a very sweet note from my across the country friend and "fiber partner", Tina at Take Heart Farm

This fiber is a blend we made from one of her angora goats, Jasper - his kid fleece. A beautiful strawberry blonde that blended so perfectly with our Violet's multicolored Corriedale fleece. I loved the results so much that it has never been offered for sale (keeping it all myself) and I even offered to buy Tina's portion from her. I understood why she declined, wanting to have some of Jasper's fiber for herself. Then, along comes the fiber back to me in this sweet gift of yarn! Could anything touch a fiber person's heart more than that?!? Thank you, thank you Tina!

In the note Tina included with the yarn surprise, she encouraged me to make something wonderful from it. Oh yes, surely I will!!! But what? I was thinking of more mittens (for myself this time) A scarf...but then I discovered just what it will be! I'm sure you are dieing to know what, aren't you? How about this:

"This" is the Trinity vest from the fabulous, fabulous, fabulous new book by Lisa Lloyd "A Fine Fleece". Do you have this book yet? Have you seen this book yet? Quick, put it on your last minute Christmas wish list! Or if you receive a gift certificate to a book supplier of any kind, treat yourself to it! I didn't take any chances, I got a copy for myself that arrived just a week or so ago. I can't put it down! I can't (or couldn't, till now) decide what I wanted to make first! I just keep drooling and dreaming (this is all fueled by the Ravelry group devoted to the projects in the book) Anyway, Trinity only requires 600 yards to make the smallest size of the vest and though I am definitely not the smallest size, my dear daughter is! So, the plan is for a lovely vest for her.

But not to be cast on for until the first of the year. I am still finishing a pair of special socks for a special friend (hope to deliver them in time for Christmas) and then I want to finish my Fiddlehead Mittens and my lined Entrelec Mittens. I would like to pick up my Wrap Me Up Shawl and get that finished (so close on that one, too!) And trying to find time for some spinning. I'm looking forward to Christmas, and am keeping myself immersed in God's Word as the winds of the world swirl around me, and finding Peace there. Peace and Joy ~ oh such Joy! How can so many Christians walk around with sour faces and sour attitudes, petulant and defeated? I'm not trying to be judgemental, I just don't understand how. We serve a living, loving, all-mighty triumphant Lord!!! What about that is there to be defeated about? And if you are feeling that way, turn to Him! Tell Him how you are feeling, draw near to Him, let the winds of His Mighty Spirit lift you!

My prayer for my Christian friends this year.

And if you don't know this wonderful living Saviour of mine, please offer Him a place in your heart this Christmas. Just offer Him the chance to show you what His love is all about! Even if you have tried before, and thought it not for you...give Him another chance. He has not turned His back on you...He is waiting. If you have been to a church, and didn't find Jesus there (only groups, and social networking and rules and disapproval) then try another church and another until you find Him! Or maybe, sit down in a quiet place all by yourself and speak to Him. He will be there. You will find Him. (Now, you won't usually find a call to salvation here on my blog, though I would never hide my Christian beliefs. But I just felt the joy in my heart to much not to share!)

Last of all, a final finished project to show, this one created by my daughter.

The wonderful Heartstrings pattern, Cascading Hearts Faroese Shawl. She made it for her grandmother, my mother, and many of you know that Mom has been ill this year. We have many afghans and quilts between us, gifts crafted from Mom's hands. Nakia wanted this one to be a gift back to her Grandma, a hug for those times when she couldn't be there to offer one in person.

From one heart to another, looking forward to Christmas!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How Does December Come In?

You know that saying about March, "In like a lamb, out like a lion"? Well, what do they say about December? Because ours certainly came in like a lion!

It started late Sunday afternoon, the last day of November. The first photo below was taken around four in the afternoon, when I could barely see the barn looking out the back door! The rest of the photos were taken on Monday, the first day of December, after we had received around 4-inches of the glorious white stuff!!!

The forecast this afternoon (and for the rest of the week) is a new storm system to hit, bringing those of us in mid-Michigan another 6-12 inches of the white stuff. The western tip of the mitten may be blessed with as much as 20 inches more!!! Me, I love snow and hope we get it.

The other possibility is for that snow to reach us as rain....No thank you ;( Not in winter time! Winter is all about the snow for me!!!

But wait....we still have eighteen more days till winter "officially" arrives - LOL!