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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hand painted mandelas

Coyote Mandela
Often my husband will place an item on the table in front of me, ‘just for a few minutes’ while he does something… Usually several hours later some new creation rests on the table in place of the original item. I often wonder if he does it on purpose to sidetrack my day or if he just knows that I need some quiet time. Painting is and has always been an outlet for expression of my feelings or a quiet time of self-reflection for me. I lose myself in the landscape, in the world of the animal or object I am painting. Anytime I try to force creativity out of my mind or hands, the result is disastrous. If it just comes to me one day, the result is usually beautiful.

One day a friend of mine asked me if I could paint a picture of her dog for her on a mandela. Mandela’s are decorative shields; symbols of protection. I did not realize how important this was to her until the day that I was inspired to paint him sitting at the kitchen table with some crafting materials on the table in front of me. The leather thong (lace) was resting in a pile next to some beads, a box of feathers and some sticks which my husband was using to craft some drumbeaters. I asked him what he had done with the tops of the branches he had cut off. He told me that they were out on the side of the garage. I grabbed a scrap piece of leather and proceeded outdoors. Two hours later, I had a great sense of calm and achievement as the mandela hung completed from the china cabinet.

Two weeks later I saw my friend and she stopped dead in her tracks as she walked past the china cabinet and broke down into tears. I have since made 10 more to give to her family and friends in remembrance of ‘Axl.’ It is not only a great feeling to make someone so happy, although I didn’t want to make her cry; but also to be able to enjoy the process of creating the craft or painting in the first place.

I realized earlier tonight as I was getting really grouchy that it might be time for me to take out the paints again!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning something new each day

September is looming just around the corner and another summer is coming to an end. My garden has been extremely generous considering the amount of neglect that it has received. The flowers are still blooming in between the weeds. The fruit trees are still yielding a bumper crop of apples even after being assaulted by Japanese beetles. Even the Christmas trees are still growing under the mountains of hay that is growing between them. The saying that you learn something new everyday is no where more true then on a small farm. Some of the more important things that have been learned this year include:

Double rainbow from front deck
MULCH, MULCH AND MORE MULCH – The poor tomatoes are only just now turning red as they were buried under weeds for far too long. Next season, each transplant will receive a good helping of mulch in order to keep them moist and in an effort to better control the weeds.

IF IT ISN’T PLANTED IT WILL NOT GROW – May is planting time in Northern Vermont, it was also an exceptionally busy month here both on and off the farm. Lots of seeds never made it into the starter pots, let alone into the ground. Next year we will be looking at adding some supplemental heat to the little greenhouse we built out of scrap wood and windows. More seeds should be able to be started in the greenhouse and we will both be sure not to pick up any off farm projects or overtime so that the garden can be more successful.

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE – If one does not give old equipment some TLC throughout the year, when one goes to use that equipment, it will show you how much it feels neglected. You have an hour to get a quick project done before you run out of daylight, you run out to mow at least the front two lawns; the lawn mower will not start because it is out of oil. You note the oil on the list of things to pick up on your way home from work in the morning and go to grab the tractor to run through the upper field between the Christmas trees with the brush hog; the PTO will not turn nor will the bucket lift off the ground because the little leak in the hydraulic system got bigger. You note filters and more hydraulic fluid on your list of things to pick up and warn your husband that he will need to pick up some kind of seal on his way home from work in the afternoon once you have had a chance to figure out which one is leaking. Defeated by outdoor chores, you go inside to run a quick vacuum through your car and put air in the tires and check to see if you need oil or power steering fluid (since you will already be going to the store); the breaker in the garage trips and will not re-set because the mice have decided to build a nest in the breaker box. You add a new breaker to the list of things to pick up tomorrow along with plans to clean out the mouse house. Quick projects end up taking far longer if you do not take the time to take care of your equipment, remember to put mouse traps/poison in the garage, or remember to do the simplest things like check your oil.
Chicken prints on the trunk of the car
CHICKENS – If you don’t want your chickens to get into it, it must be fenced, protected or closed. They are more curious then cats, they will get into your garage, your gardens, your raised beds, your car, your tractor, your house… I have never been so angry or laughed so much as I have with my chickens.

SCHEDULING TIME FOR RELAXATION – No matter how much is on the to-do list, we need to remember to find some time to relax, cool down, and recuperate. While trying to make the farm successful, you can get so mired down in your to-do list that you forget to find time to enjoy the little things that we should be thankful for. No matter how much there is to do; it will all still be there tomorrow.

We are enjoying the fruits of our labor from the garden and hope to be able to squeeze in a trip to Maine to visit friends soon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Best laid plans...

When we are young, we each make plans for the rest of our lives… At 22, I will get married. I will have three kids by the time I am 30. My husband will stay at home and work and I will be the head of a major corporation by the time I am 35. We will have a home in the northern United States, and two vacation homes, one on the coast of Florida and one in a foreign country if possible. I will retire early and be able to travel with my children on their summer vacations. My husband and I will be walking hand-in-hand on the beach in Florida when we are in our eighties. Oh how our plans do change!

Five years ago I found myself in my early 30’s and recently laid off from a really good paying job in Connecticut. The job market wasn’t looking that promising and my only dependents were furry and four-legged, so I made the decision to move back to Vermont. Four years ago I moved back to the farm with four additional four-legged creatures and a fiancĂ©.

This past week, the smell of homemade bread, freshly baked pies and radish relish filled the farmhouse kitchen as I prepared for farmers market. I paused after preparing the labels for the items headed to market and watched the chickens, ducks and geese lounging in various states of repose in the backyard. They had full tummies after getting left over pie crust scraps. My laundry was drying naturally on the line. The berries which went into the pies came from the farm or from our neighbor’s farm down the road. Radishes, all from our garden, went into making the radish relish. My refrigerator handle was covered with flour as I obviously had not wiped my hands between rolling pie crusts and placing them in the fridge to cool. I though back to five years ago, living in the city, looking out my window to see my neighbors’ houses and cars whizzing by 6.75 feet from my living room window, wondering if I would ever find my place in life.

Tonight as I was getting ready for work, my to-do list running through my mind, my grocery list being jotted on an index card, my coffee spilling on the counter, the cats and my husband protesting my departure, and my cheese slicer missing from it’s rightful place; I paused to looked out the window at the moon and the lake and listened to the geese squawk in protest of being penned up for the night (for their own protection from predators) and I thought to myself, I have found my place.