Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best of 2009

Sometimes I feel that I spend too much time complaining: about not running, about the weather, family members, job, too little time on my hands, the work of a little farm, and so on. But as I look back on the year, I realize how very much I have to be thankful for. A glance to the right of my blogpage shows a handful of blogs that I visit everyday and which never fail to life my spirits and give me motivation.

My little dog Tipper (and the dog parade check it out here KatillacShack )

My grandson who is a constant source of joy and exercise!

Our nearly annual camping excursion to an island off the Maine coast. Real rustic living and the kids and I never want to come home!

Our surprise baby goat Cookie Dough. I remember us all running out to the goat pen that morning before school but most of all, I remember my 9 year old son looking at me with tears in his eyes telling me that he was so happy he couldn't help but cry. And then there was my trip to San Antonio. The dramatic plane ride from which I was sure I would never return! It is a beautiful, beautiful city!
And now, my new-to-me truck is fixed, and my family and I are going to visit family up North and ring in the new year!
Happy New Year to all of you my good friends! Thanks for taking the time to blog and to share your lives with us all!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside.....

I'm having a hard time keeping the fire blazing in the woodstove enough to keep us warm. It is a venture into the arctic to go to the bathroom. To help keep the kitchen warm, I've been baking: brownies and wheat bread. I have a pot of ham and bean soup on for supper tonight. The wind is howling outside even though the sun is shining brightly. The colors of the first of the Seven Mountains outside my door are spectacular! But oh, how the wind freezes my ears!

Monday, December 28, 2009


Look at these beautiful angels!
I need the protection of an angel today. I hope.

Friday, December 25, 2009

All is calm, all is really tired . . .

We've had a busy, wonderful Christmas Day: I've spent time with family (both humans and animals), spent last evening in the company of friends listening to some beautiful music, had plenty of good things to eat.
We are blessed, every one.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wintry Night 019

Wintry Night 019
Originally uploaded by wannaquilt1
What a great production it was! Although our country roads quickly turned into slippery sheets of ice, we still had enough of the congregation for our children to put on an outstanding production of the Christmas story!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Brrrrr it's cold out there!

Sebastian is keeping warm - he wants nothing to do with going outside.

Clover doesn't care - she's got her winter coat on and she is enjoying the wintery weather!
I knew it was suppose to flurry today but it did a bit more than that. We have about 4 inches of

snow! The kids were out sledding and playing around in the snow. I stayed inside with my grandson and made bread and spaghetti and oatmeal cookies.

I had planned to clean - thoroughly. I have many strengths - but neatness is not on the list. I used to beat myself up over it. I horrify my mother - who is extremely neat and clean. My oldest daughter is nothing like me in cleaniness. She is a very neat person - being in the military does that, I think.

The only area that I really work hard to keep clean is my kitchen. If I was overly focused on being neat, I would have missed out on so much. I wouldn't have time to hang out with the kids, wouldn't have time to play the piano or learn the dulcimer (which came in the mail the other day but I can't open it until Christmas.

If I spent my time cleaning, I wouldn't have time to spend with my animals or explore in the woods or go for walks. I wouldn't have time to try out new hobbies like basketmaking or cheesemaking. I wouldn't have time for a lot of things that I like to do including nothing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Peeps!

I'm hanging with this crew this weekend . . .



My grandson, and Max - the farm chihuahua!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

One of these things is not like the others

First of all.... I often take the area in which I live for granted. I am accustomed to driving rather slowly because of the buggies in the area. We have a large presence of Amish in this area. I love to see them and because I come from another area in Pennsylvania in which there are many

Amish, I don't often consider how lucky I am to have this diverse population in my midst. So the shot above is a local Kmart parking lot. There actually were a number of buggies in the lot but I thought this was a nice mix.

I have found myself over the years being thankful to have Amish people around me and also, on those days that I am in a 'hurry', lamenting the fact that the buggies share the road with me. On most days, thoughtful days, I am thankful that I have the buggies to remind me to not be in such a big hurry. What is scary is when cars are flying by and there are a number of Amish bikers on the road. That is scary.

We are lucky in that many of the local roads have berms wide enough for the horses and buggies and there is not such a risk. Occasionally there are reports of accidents with buggies and that is always heartbreaking. We are in a hurry. For what? Another meaningfull experience? An experience for which we are willing to risk the lives of our family?

I don't know - it can be aggravating to be stuck behind a buggy. But really, isn't it a reality check for me? Time to take reflecting on the meaning of life?

I don't know.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So back to the farm......

Ok. So this morning, I went out to feed and water my animals.

I am very very methodical in how I do the morning work. Since I am not quite awake and am apt to forget a step. I put the collar on Tipper, my chihuahua, who I don't trust and put him on a leash. I let Sebastian, my lab, and Bear, my chow run free. First stop. Chickens.

Now, I have about 5 chickens who flat-out refuse to stay in the chicken coop. They prefer to perch themselves on the goat fence. Even when it rains. Even when it is stinking cold - like it was last night.
They were still there. Four chickens on the fence. One standing in the goat pen.
I feed the chickens - the warm chickens - who sleep in the coop. I look, and the 5 brave chickens are still there. Still sitting. Still standing.
Next step is scooping carrots for the goats and the horses into 4 different buckets. This takes a while. In the meantime, the other chickens are out and about but the others are still standing, still sitting.
I feed the horses and the llama. Chickens: still sitting, still standing.
Now I am worried. Are the chickens frozen? Are they dead? My MO in life is avoidance but I can't avoid this. I must see if they are alive - because, in order to feed the goats, I need to move them.
They are alive. Apparently they weren't quite ready to get up.
Tonight I put them in the coop.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Just wonderin'

am I insensitive? callous? blasphemous?

On campus--on any given day--there are sidewalk gospels screaming in front of our student union building about various religious concerns. Those same people shoving religious propoganda in our hands (or trying to) as we walk by.

And I wonder......

Have they ever 'saved' anyone using these methods?

I find this to be incredibly annoying. If one follows their example, do we want to follow an example like that? I don't like to have religion screamed at me. I don't like to be threatened. I don't like to be told that my beliefs are wrong and that I will go to Hell if I don't redeem myself in the manner suggested.

Has anyone ever listened to these prophesies of gloom and doom shouted to them across campus and decided to make a switch? I wonder.

During my lunch hour, on my time - my hour of contemplation and reflection - I don't want to listen to this crap (as well intentioned as it may be). And I find it very hard to believe that God, in any form, would want his agenda shoved forcefully down people's throats.

I would love everyone to share my beliefs. But I realize that everyone has his/her own belief and their own way of worshipping (or not). I'm ok with my neighbor having a different idea of the God force that surrounds us, protects us, cares for us.

So I'll respect your beliefs. And hope that you respect mine. And in so doing, please let me enjoy my lunchtime walk in peace.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Where else I'm from

Just some pictures taken during a lunchtime walk on Friday. The students were gone for Thanksgiving break and I was enjoying taking a leisurely walk around campus.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Bean Soup

I had the best Black Bean Soup at Chilis last Friday. It was soooo good that I wanted to make it at home. I had tons of black beans and a cast iron pot so I was good to go.
I soaked the beans overnight. I followed the directions I found on the Internet. I soaked more beans.
And let the whole mess simmer for a day.
I served it up last night for the kids and me. Yuk!
I believe the words 'explosive diarhhea' were used. . . .The kids wouldn't eat it. I wouldn't eat it. The dogs didn't even try to clean off the plates!
It was a disgusting gray mass with black flecks floating around in it.
I need to find a new recipe or -- more likely, follow correctly the one I found -- or go back to Chilis.
This doesn't bode well for a good Thanksgiving dinner!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Secret of Life

As I've aged, some things have become clear to me.

Not to sweat the small stuff. Really. I can remember back in my 20's my dad would tell me, it's not worth crying over. I can see now that it really wasn't, but it was back then. All the little things I used to worry about. My mother-in-law not returning the curtains (my favorite - saved up for months for them) she took when I had to move back to the old house after her son divorced me. What I wouldn't give now for the opportunity to trade some of those minutes of anger for a few hugs. I divorced her son, not her.

I worried about my kids not looking cute and not having cute clothes. It is amazing what is important when you are 20. Instead of spending those hours sewing clothing to look storebought, I wish I had a few more days just to enjoy their 7 and 4 year old selves. I wish I could make my daughter believe that these days of having to fight with her almost-3 year old son to go to sleep without just one more story, to pick up, to quiet down, will pass so fast it will take her breath away.

All those times my mom drove me nuts asking questions about who I saw, what they said, what I did......I am so tremendously thankful that I still have her around and am so glad that I can still be interrogated by her.

I used to hate--hate!-piano lessons! I wish I had taken them a little more seriously. Who knows what I could have become! I wish I had listened more to Miss Shaw, my piano teacher. I never asked her about how she learned to play, about her life. I was too much in a hurry to make it through my half-hour lesson for which I hadn't practiced.

It has taken nearly 50 years of wishing my life away--waiting for tomorrow, for next week, for next year--to realize that what is important is today and what I am doing right now. For nearly 50 years I've struggled and agonized over my religious beliefs and honestly, I'm still not so sure about how to, or even if I should, categorize my beliefs into a religion. Because I don't fit. And I don't think that it is imperative that I do.

I believe in God. There is not a doubt about God. But I believe that God is everywhere and is a force found in every aspect of nature. I enjoy many of the services held at the Methodist Church in our valley but I don't necessarily think of myself as a Methodist. I like many of the Pagan notions but wouldn't classify myself as Pagan. And that is ok.

So the secret of life, the secret of my life, is that it is uncovered as I move along. At least that is how I feel about it today. The secret may very well be that there is no secret. The experiences of everyday help to prove or disprove things I thought to be true along the way.

My Goal . . .

So maybe I'm not the sharpest tack in the pack because I don't know how to respond to a comment other than to blog about it.

I received a nice comment from Bill (Thank you Bill!) about his experience with the Dulcimer and which sent me to a great website - And motivated me to take the next step and purchase a Dulcimer. I am sure that once I have mastered this skill and charmed my family, they will go together and insist that I quit my job and take up dulcimer playing, cheese making, and farm caretaking fulltime.

Just kidding.

I'm learning - at a rather late stage - what makes me happy. The message in church yesterday was about having enough. Just enough. That fits in with my philosophy of life. In feeding the soul, helping others find their place and their passion, harming no one or nothing, caring for the land that we were given so that others years down the road can enjoy it and receive just enough from it.

When I play the piano, it calms me. It seems to calm my animals and my children because they all gather around. It seems as if everyone stops when there is music in the house. Whether it is Jordan playing her trumpet or one of the kids or me playing the piano. I like to leave open the screen on the sliding glass doors so that my outside animals can hear it. This is not quite as corny as it seems - the horses and goats are only about 100 feet away from the house.

But as Bill indicated in his comment, he was so glad that he did take up the dulcimer. So this person, who doesn't know this old goat, took a minute to tell me something about himself which has now prompted to me to follow through on a dream. And who knows where that dream will lead? At the very least it will give me some joy, on a larger scale maybe someone will hear me play and be motivated to pursue their own dream. See how it works?

Thank you Bill.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

View from my yard

Just some pictures from my yard:

the church we attend right across the road,

chickens in the woodpile,

the creek behind our house,

the haywagons getting ready for the hayride.
Life is good.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Goal......

Is to learn how to play the dulcimer.......I've hinted around that I want a dulcimer. It is an expense that I can't justify to spend on myself. But I love the music. There is something happy about dulcimer music and Lord knows, I can use all the upbeat music I can get! But there is also something mournful about a dulcimer. It is as if it can speak to you.

I remember years ago when my then-husband and I made and sold funnel cakes at a country craft fair. Across the path from us was a group of musicians including one dulcimer-player. It was lovely and I was captivated. Dulcimer music reminds me of autumn and halloween, blowing breezes and Thanksgiving, leaves swirling in the backyard and sweatshirts and pumpkins and all of that.

Dulcimer music also reminds me of the start of summer. With kickin' dancing music and all the white skinned people anxiously celebrating the start of warm season.

I play the piano right now. My daughters play the clarinet and the trumpet. My son plays the drum. And they can all plunk their way through songs on the piano. My favorite music to play is Christmas carols - they are so rich and warm and comforting - and the book stays open! The fact that I play the piano and my kids play instruments make me feel that I'm not such a loser. That I'm a good parent. That we are not the hicks we appear to be.

Living frugally is the way I wish to live. I see no point in having more than enough. But sometimes I find myself feeling as if I need to defend my choice not to give the kids tons of gifts for Christmas or to drive a new car when my old car is enough.

Which brings me back to playing the dulcimer. It seems simply in design but I'm thinking it is not so simple to play. But I plan to learn. And after that, perhaps the violin!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A new member of the family

Meet Tucker

- my daughter's little wired-hair dachshund. Tucker is definitely in love with Jordan and the feeling is so mutual.
What is amazing is that Bear, our geriatric chow-mix, loves Tucker. And Bear hates all the other dogs. Well, I guess I wouldn't say hate - but barely tolerates them.
Tucker is about 5 inches tall and 15 inches long. And he has more energy that all my dogs put together! He won't even hold still enough for me to snap a good picture of him.
Tucker is a gift to Jordan - and Jordan is a gift to Tucker. Call it an early Christmas gift .....I have a real hard time with giving Christmas gifts. I don't like to give things unless they are useful. I like to give memories and often times that includes gifts of an experience: whether a trip somewhere or a new food or a photo.
I want to give something that will make someone else happy and maybe cause them to think of me with kind thoughts. I want to give smiles. I want--for whatever time involved--for the recipient to just be happy enjoying my gift.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I ain't what I ain't......

and I sure ain't a supervisor! I can be a leader but I can't, and don't want to be, a supervisor. Over the past several months, my faith in humankind has taken a nosedive. I've learned that there are people you cannot trust, I've done some things-been asked to do some things-that border on the side of morality. In the name of a job. I've learned over the past several months that are some people who delight in the pain and the misfortune of others. I've learned that my beliefs that humans are inherently good are totally wrong. I've gone from loving to work with people to trying to figure out ways to work with animals: at least animals are upfront and honest.

I've been dancing on the precipice of depression. No feeling. None. I'm stunned. Little things irritate me - and I've no interest in things like running and sewing and baking and laughing.
For years, my job of working with students has uplifted me. In times of personal turmoil, my job has kept me sane. There is nothing there for me anymore. In a desperate attempt to find 'me' again, I made myself run again despite an irritated heel--at least I can self-identify as a runner and find some semblance of who I've been.

I don't know where I am. I don't know where I fit. Holy shit.....isn't nearly 50 too old to be looking?

Friday, October 23, 2009

If I had to do it all again . . .

I think my work may not be with humans. I think that maybe I should have focused a bit more on mathematics and the sciences and studies veterinary medicine. But humans are still attached to animals.
I love my job working with students. I think alot of that has to do with my returning to college as an adult and having children in college. My theory is that I treat students with the same respect that I would want some to treat my child.

And for the adults, I just 'get' it . I know what it is like going to college as a single parent, no money, trying to juggle multiple jobs of parenthood and student. And thinking that obviously anyone would understand.....

I have been slapped in the face with the ugly side of humans. I try to treat other people fairly and honestly. I'm not so good at being secretive and deceptive. I've never had the opportunity - or misfortune- of being in an environment with someone who truly wanted to hurt me. And was smart enough to do so without being obvious.

It's amazing. I feel threatened. I feel frightened for my family - kids AND animals. Not by anything that was said to my face but by a feeling. There is just such a feeling of negativity. I just have a feeling that this person has the ability to make my life a living hell.

I hope I'm wrong. I know that throughout my life journey I've managed to hurt people, to piss people off, to do the wrong thing, to cause pain to others. I am the queen of avoidance and many times this has not been a benefit - to me or others. But one thing that has been consistent, one thing that I know about myself, is that I do have a fairly strong instinct of the auras of others. That sounds very otherworldly and I don't mean it to be so but I can't think of another word for it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A new chicken house

I thought if my chickens had a better place to hang-out, new nesting boxes, more spacious quarters, then they wouldn't make me play hide/see for their eggs. Not so.

Despite all the hard work which was inspected by the farm chihuahua . . . we are still playing and hide/see for the eggs.
A friend once told me that chickens were stupid. I don't believe it. Chickens are smart. If I gather their eggs from one hiding place, they won't lay there again. Soon (I hope) they will run out of places to hide them. Or they will take pity on the old goat who travels out rain or shine, to give them goodys.

Friday, October 2, 2009

We are different . . . we are the same

I thought before I arrived in San Antonio, that I would be entering into a whole new culture. I wasn't sure what to expect--sure as heck didn't figure I would have the flying experience I had.

I suppose, I was expecting to run into a different type of human. Something exotic, something vastly different than the humans running around central Pennsylvania. Hmmm......

Not so, this is now my third day in the little five block area of San Antonion of which I've become somewhat familiar. Sure, I'm hearing some language that is different than english--but not as quite a variety as what I hear at home. Working on a University campus, I hear several different languages during a typical walk across campus.

So they don't sound different.

I recognize the same outfits worn by our teenagers back home. The fashion uniform of jeans and T-shirt worn by virtually every boy and girl in our local high school.

So San Antonians don't look different.

Three days doesn't give me time to do an indepth analysis of their beliefs, morals, character.....not that I would want to do that anyway. But I suspect that there wouldn't be much difference there either.

The land is different. The humans are fundamentally the same - wherever you go. Or wherever I go. We have the same hopes for the future and dreams for our children. We feel dispair over the same types of failures and exhilaration over the same types of successes.

It is surprising and it is life affirming. Humans are the same. From wherever we come.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


When I wrote the post, Those I Leave Behind, the title felt a little creepy to me. I'm not a great traveler. I'm money poor and I don't like airplanes. But back in June, the associate Dean of the college for which I work, offered me the opportunity to attend a conference. I jumped on the opportunity to go to San Antonio TX for a conference related to my work. Didn't think too much about the method of transportation. I had to fly.

Now some background: my father was an Air Force pilot. My earliest memory was overhearing a phone conversation of my mother that 'a plane was down and they didn't know who it was'. For 3 days, we didn't know if my dad was dead or alive. He was alive. Ever since, I've been terrified of flying. He continues to laugh at my fear.

I did finally fly at the age of 43 to Las Vegas to a conference for work. It was fine. Went off without a hitch.

This past time, however, the flight from DC to San Antonio was cancelled due to a plane malfunction and we were required to take an alternative route to Denver. So off we went. And half way through the trip, the captain spoke on the intercom that we had lost our hydraulic system and needed to make an emergency landing. I cannot put into words the stark terror I felt. I was helpless. In a plane, you can't bailout. You can't pull over. You have to COME DOWN. So we made our emergency landing - again, without a hitch. And sat in Kansas City, and flew to Dallas, and then on to San Antonio.

There are no words to describe the quiet terror I felt/feel thinking about my impending trip back home. I have friends who fly back and forth across the world without a thought. It is as natural for them as it is for me to hop in my car and go. Is my experience normal? Is this commonplace to have a plane lose its hydraulic system? I mean, thank goodness, there are more systems to back them up.

I think that when I get home, I will be happy for my little spot on earth. For my kids. For my husband (who offered to drive 1358 miles to bring me home). For my animals.

There have been a number of things in the past few weeks that have caused me to reflect on my life and what things really mean to me.

And things mean nothing. And my family and friends mean everything. And I will be very glad to get home.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Those I leave behind . . . .

and who will anxiously await my return!
I'm excited to go to San Antonio but I belong here! That's what makes it all so special - the anticipation of a new experience in a new culture and the warm feeling of being back with those who love you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Silkies and llamas and goats, oh my!

A little cotton ball. A dandelion gone to seed. That's what these little chickens remind me of.
Over the past 15 months, I've done some things that I never thought I would do. Starting a farm is one of them. I even entered an essay contest to win a flock of Angora goats.
I know that it is unlikely that I will win them. But writing that essay did prompt me to exam exactly what my animals meant to me and what my goals were long-term.
That really sounds too much like my work! But honestly, it was fun and a lark to pick up these animals. And it does provide for much entertainment. But really, what do my goats, horses, llama, and chickens mean to me? For me?
I think for the first year, my animals (farm animals, that is) acted like knickknacks. They were a novelty and they are definitely cute. But now that we've gotten to know each other, it is clear to me that our relationship is far greater than that. As I wrote in my essay, my animals ask nothing from me other than the basics. Regardless of what type of day I had, or that they've had, they are always welcoming. Always running up to me to see what I'm doing. That's not quite the case with the humans in my life. Often times I feel that I'm just a piece of furniture albeit a piece of furniture that can cook.
My animals also trust me. They know that when they see me they can expect to be fed, or hugged, or talked to.
They also are fairly straight forward. Dolly llama for instance will spit at me if she is ticked off at me--usually for something like trying to brush her too hard. The animals either like you or they don't. They don't pretend.
The essay got me thinking about supporting myself after retirement or whenever I really get sick of the rat race. I grow lovely herbs. I could shear Dolly and use her hair for yarn. I would need to learn some things. To point that I could sense the right way of doing things.
So I guess the whole point of this posting is that I've learned so much just by simply writing the essay. I've learned not only what my farm animals mean to me, but what my human friends mean to me as well. I can't believe how many people were willing to vote for me. And the comments they made . . . nearly made me cry.
I may not have written the winning essay to get the flock of goats, but through everything else I've gained from this experience,
I think I won.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goodbye summer

Even the happy sunflowers hang their heads low as summer slips into fall.

Goodbye to the heat of the morning as I step out to say good morning to my farm friends. Goodbye to swimming in the cold water of the creek.
Goodbye to Hermit Island and to the gulls that laugh at us,

the crabs that run from us, and the deer who sleep in the brush next to our tent.
Goodbye to sitting on the deck with my mom and dad, enjoying a cold beer and good conversation. Goodbye to lunchtime walks with my favorite friends.
Goodbye summer--we've had enough and we're ready for the vibrant, crisp colors of another friend, Autumn.

A torrid love affair

 I've written about the ducks quite a bit. It's a little like Peyton Place around here I think. A couple of months ago, the male d...