Thursday, April 28, 2011

Penn State: Not just blue and white!

Today was a beautiful day for a noontime run and although the sky over Penn State was indeed blue and white, the University boasted a veritable rainbow of colors.

Yellow forsythia;

Not necessarily colorful but I thought it interesting that birds had built a nest in the wheelwell of this SUV parked in the Penn Stater parking lot;

The myriad of color in this planter in front of the Technology Center nearly took my breath away;

Trees in bloom near the farmhouse;

Apple blossoms in the cow pastures;

One of my favorite plants from my childhood, Creeping Myrtle - also called the Flower of Death or vinca minor. I remember this growing on the banks of the front driveway - the beautiful scent is unmistakable;

The happy face of a pansy planted behind the Penn Stater Conference Center;

Another glimpse of the cheery Viola tricolor hortensis;

Can't think of the name of this flower also growing behind the conference center but it made a nice companion with the Pansy;
Springtime even makes a weed struggling to survive in the seal of a manhole look festive!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kids these days

I had the opportunity last night to attend the Annual High School Jazz Festival. Nothing brings me to tears like experiencing the passion someone has for something s/he does. 
Last night I had the opportunity to hear passion in the form of music.  Listening to the music through the ears of a parent, I heard perfection.  It never ceases to astound me that these kids can produce such music. 

I know many of the musicians in the band and I know that their abilities run the gamut and it is amazing to me that these kids who, bobbing their heads deep in concentration so to be able to jump into the tune at just the right time, are the same kids that 6 or 7 years ago I watched at soccer practice trying to figure out just which way to kick the ball.

Their talents are endless!  They are well-rounded in such a way that I would never have considered when I was their age.  It is true that a good number of the Penns Valley Jazz band know how to wrangle a calf and have done it and received awards for doing so.  I’ve witnessed the shooting prowess of at least one trumpeter and saxophone player at a recent shooting competition. I know that a certain member (someone very near and dear to me) recently received the eighth grade award for excellence in math.  One of the kids in the band is someone to whom I’ve listened since he was about kneehigh and played his guitar and sang for the residents of a local nursing facility.  I’ve seen these kids on the soccer field, at elementary school concerts, at Boy Scouts, in Church, all over the place.  These kids seem to excel at everything they do and they want to do so much!  I know there is a lot to be said about letting kids have time to be kids.  And I think I’ve been successful at that with my own kids.  But I also know that they are building some very strong skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. 

Music will help them deal with stress, show leadership, demonstrate initiative but most importantly, music will give them a path – has given them the path – to touch other humans at a level that other modes of communication cannot possibly replicate.  They’ve crossed that safe line and made the choice to not simply enjoy music passively.   They are grabbing life and with these skills, will change the world.   If this is what the world is coming to, I hope to remain a part of it for a very long time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I've got to put a plug in for the place to shop.  Seriously.

Goodwill - the ultimate consignment shop!  It benefits you and me and a whole slew of other people who, otherwise, would not have a chance at learning necessary skills for employment.   It is the only place to go for those fashion-unconscious types like me! From a consumer approach, it just makes sense.  I am so not a trendy dresser - give me the 70s and 80s styles - and you can certainly find it at any Goodwill.  Retro prom dresses?  Goodwill has them!   Clothes for work! Go to Goodwill!

I'm cheap.  I'll admit it.  So Goodwill works for me when clothes have worn out or I need something special for church.  Even my 13 year old twin daughters and many of their friends look forward to our treks to Goodwill.  My one daughter almost completely refuses to purchase new clothing because she sees the value of recycling the material things we use.  Even my mother who is shopping's grand dame has seen the light of Goodwill!  Just tonight she was talking about the beautiful blazer she found at her local Goodwill.

From the perspective a former VR counselor, I see value in the employment arena that Goodwill has to offer.  Goodwill is wellknown for giving people with different disabilities the opportunity to learn basic work skills such as stocking, operating the cash register, and general customer service.  Goodwill gives people the chance that many business do not.

The phenomenon known as Goodwill is catching on!  BonTon department stores in northwestern PA have given out coupons to use when donating clothing or other goods to Goodwill.  I have never gone to our local Goodwill when there has not been a line at the checkout.

I am totally against materialistic society but I say if you are hellbent on spending all of your hard-earned cash on stuff you don't really need, do it at Goodwill where you (and many other humans) get the biggest bang for your buck!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mud and wind

Spring is here.  It is apparent by the amount of mud and wind we have.  One would think that with the wind that blows through here every day, the mud would dry up.  Not so.  Because along with all of the wind, we have had a ton of rain.  Every day.  Every single day. I'm sure that at some point during the summer (when I am complaining about the heat and humidity), I will think back fondly on all of this rain.  But now?  Not so much.

The first of the asparagus
My hops that I planted last spring
                                 Of course without the rain, I wouldn't be able to experience the excitement of the first glimpse of asparagus poking up through the ground.      

Or my hops energetically reaching for the sky. Or the beautiful forsythia that I believe has been on the property forever. Or at least more than 15 years. Or my tulips on the verge of blooming.

But seriously, the wind?  What does it contribute?  But to dry my clothes and initiate the proliferation of seeds around and knock the gutters off the house.  I am so thankful though, to only have to complain about the minor inconvenience of the wind that blows winter into the valley in October and back out again in April.

 God bless all of those who are experiencing the after effects of the recent storms in South and Southeast.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Sometimes we need a rope thrown to us when we need to pull ourselves out of a hole.  My preferred rope is a silk rope with loop holes making it a bit easier to hang on to.  Sometimes the rope can do double duty and be used to hang ourselves.  But I am only speaking metaphorically. Perhaps.

My rope - these days - is made out of warm soil and tomato seedlings.  It is made out of chocolate chip cookies and homemade patchouli soap and even homemade crackers.  My rope is made out of friends - many of whom I've never met - who are there to comfort or for comfort; to bounce ideas off or to make laugh or make me laugh.

Being a mother is the toughest job there is.  I know that there are lots of rewards in being a mother - but the rewards are not the things that hurt, break my heart, or make me cry right now.  It doesn't matter if your daughter is 2 or 12 or 13! or 28 - she still has the ability to say just the thing to crush you.  And I would be willing to bet that there is at least one person reading this who says that raising 48 year old daughters can be just as brutal.

So for today I am grabbing ropes in any form that I can.  And hoping that tomorrow I can tie this rope up into a pretty bow and forget about today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I am hoping that this is the bee balm poking up through the dirt;
Today, life is grand.  It didn't snow today - didn't rain either.  Nothing fell from the sky.  I spent the day in the throes of garden preparation.  There is so much to do and so little time - especially for someone like me who is inattentive and incredibly prone to being sidetracked by trivial things.  Such as figuring out how to start my son's 4-wheeler which I don't need, have never really needed, to ride.
Potatoes nestled in a nice mixture of seasoned straw and horse manure;

Peas planted;
 I have so many hopes and dreams for my garden this year.  For the fourth (or is it the fifth) year running, I will try to grow an overabundance of potatoes. So many that I can possibly sell them - definitely enough to get us through the winter.  I want a bumper crop of tomatoes - all the colorful, tasteful heirloom varieties that I love to grow.  I want peppers - lots and lots of green and red peppers to make my hot pepper tomato sauce that no one but me loves.  But fortunately I love hot pepper tomato sauce enough to make up for that. 

I want peas - so many peas that my kids' fingers turn green from snapping them.  Or is it beans they snap?  Whatever, I want enough to be able to can so many jars that they last us throughout winter.

the soft, loamy earth;

The visit from spring today was just what I needed.  I think it is what a lot of people needed.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a bit sore and stiff tomorrow when I wake up but it will be that kind of stiffness that comes from a full days work.

a quick dash inside to nuzzle the most beautiful little dog in the world because the most beautiful big dog in the world was spending the afternoon outside with me;

Dolly Llama - a little miffed at all the attention the other animals receive; and
 This year when my grandson comes to visit, we will grow a 3-sisters garden: corn, beans, and squash - the perfect mesh of inter-reliance.  The corn shades the squash and provides a climbing area for the beans, the beans climbs through the squash and up the corn and provides nutrients, the squash shades the soil and keeps in cool and moist.

It is easy to dream in the spring when everything is new and fresh.  Happy, happy Spring!
One of the hens who are currently giving me nearly 2 dozen eggs a day.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Girls n' Guns

This weekend marked the state competition in BB gun shooting. I am amazingly proud of my two kids who were part of the competition that encompassed an activity that although protected by the Bill of Rights, is largely shunned by a population of a different mindset.
Sure. Guns are scary. When people use guns for the wrong reasons or use them incorrectly they are tools that can be used for very deadly purposes. Kind of like the alcohol we are forbidden to drink until we are the legal age of 21. Equally deadly but controlled until a certain age. And no classes or clubs that teach the responsible use of alcohol.
And then there are the two ton (more or less) weapons of mass destruction that nearly anyone can receive a license to use on their 16th birthday. . .  cars. 

My kids know how to use guns. They've learned from their father, from the coach at their BB Gun competitions (trust me, they've done more paperwork for this BB gun season that I had in some of my graduate courses), and through absorption from the culture of their lives. Like cars, catapults (which they've made for science projects), bicycles, skateboards, etc, etc, etc, guns can be deadly. You will never see one of my kids grab a gun by its barrel or point a gun irresponsibly. They know better. They know a gun is not something to be played with.

And the success!  I can't ignore their successes in their mastery of the sport.  My daughter seems to be a bit more passionate about shooting than my son.  At least for now.  For my daughter, it has been 7 months of practice and studying to be at the same starting level as others in the club.  She and her brother practice shooting most every day.  In the hallway outside their bedroom (the setup and the use of special indoor targets makes this area a safe and appropriate practice zone). One of the interesting side effects of spending so much time with the sport is that when they choose to play video games, they have no interest in any gun related games.  Having been a part of the bb gun team, they understand the very real consequences of the misuse of guns whether unintentional or intentional.

I'm always proud of all of my kids.  But this weekend I was especially proud of my gun-toting, redneck daughter and son.  And proud to be a redneck myself.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Having it all.

I suppose I should be devastated but I am not.  I feel surprisingly free.  Losing everything is amazingly freeing.  Liberating.  I suspect that I will continue to feel this way-even after the shock has worn off.

I've always thought - from back when I truly did have an excess of money - that money was a surefire way to happiness.  Since then, I learned that the opposite is true.  For me.

I know that for some folks, money is really important.  Some people really find joy in new clothes, nicely decorated homes, big cars, and all of that.  That is fine and there is nothing wrong with that.  It is just our differences as humans.  Some of us funny humans find surviving without money to be a challenge.  With a goal to conquer.

For me, total self-sufficiency is a blessing and for what I strive.  I have my family, I have my animals, and I have my home.  And I would die to save any of them.  I said I've lost everything and that is so not true.  I've only lost money.  But there will be money again, I am sure.  A pity, I guess.  I think that I could pull off the total self-sufficiency thing.  From my eggs (not mine, the chickens'),my garden, potential profits from my cheese and soapmaking - I think I could feed my family and bring in enough money for taxes.

In two years, if we have no more setbacks and quite frankly, I don't think we could stand many more winters such as this, we should have everything paid off.  Totally debt-free. Obligations to no one.  And then, the next goal is to be off-grid.  Invisible to all.  Although at that point, the concern is whether or not I am perceived as that crazy old lady without any electricity.  And all the cats. And dogs. And goats. And horses. And the llama.

Sometimes catastrophe is not a bad thing - it is just the impetus that pushes us to the things we've always wanted but maybe were too afraid to pursue.  This is the case for me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shenanigans in Sprucetown

 I've long suspected that there are carryings-on at Sprucetown once everyone has left the Church.

Pictures prove it:
Caught in action;

But trying to get away!

The proposal;

She accepts!

And off they hop, happily ever after!

Spring again at One Old Goat farm

The chickens spent the day digging through the straw,
There was a lot of activity at One Old Goat Farm.  Humans and animals alike were thoroughly enjoying the warmer weather and the sunshine.
Snowball and his master spent some quality time together,

BFFs Dolly Llama and Clover shared secrets,

Big Red Rooster shouted to the world "Spring is here",

and then promptly stalked off to find a worm,

Sebastien strolled the grounds looking for anything new that may have popped up since last year,

Not every creature on One Old Goat farm was feeling the love today,

Ugly chicken is actually quite beautiful. In her ugliness.

It was a day well spent cleaning, scratching, raking, and


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...