Into the “wild”

IMG_7755.jpegIt is Monday – the heat of summer is here with a thick layer of humidity. I have spent a good part of the weekend inside due to this high heat/humidity combination. It is driving me nuts and so today I decided I would venture into the great wilds of my weedy backyard early in the morning. I would get my “fresh” air and outdoor fix before the temperatures begin to rise.

I also knew to think small – you can’t weed the whole yard in this weather so I choose one bed that was really over run. There are Iris plants on one end hidden among a tall set of weeds, really tall to hide Iris plants. The other side was fenced with new strawberry plants developing. The problem there was the weeds were high, lush and fully developed, some ready to go to seed. The strawberry plants are small and just getting settled into a new location and a great deal more sun. They had been in a little circle around a neighbors plum tree. It was going to be a matter of careful pulling and watching to not pull up the strawberry plants that were well hidden.

I was ready. I had on long pants, a bright blue t-shirt with yellow print and bug spray. My hair was pulled back and up to so I could see and also be cooler. It was already 80 degrees, climbing, and it was not yet 9:00 am. I would not have much time before the sun and heat hit the area I was working on. So to work I went.

I know I said I was into the wild. Well, as it turned out my backyard that had been ignored for weeks had turned into a wild meadow. It was beautiful in one sense. It is green, lush and dense with plants. But..

The grass is a good six to eight inches high and wet from the humidity. The weeds have taken over which means it has left nice hiding places for wild critters to nest. The plants I want to grow are there but it takes a bit to find them. The insects are having a field day. Literally!

I began pulling to find the ground but under the Iris’ and along the strawberry fence there now was a rabbits nest with four baby bunnies. They are very cute but NOT wanted. I was not going to kill them but decided to chase them off and let them fend for themselves out in the neighborhood. Three took off like good bunnies should but one moved just a few feet along the fence line and the tall grass. I kept weeding his direction but he was not moving. I tap on his bottom to finally get him to move to the other end of the fence. (2 more feet)  I knew he was scared but I still did not want him in the garden eating all the plants.

I weeded some more aware that two bubble bees were now moving around the area as well. Fine – bees don’t scare me. I know to move carefully and not scare them. So on I weeded. I pushed our little bunny one more time and got him to move to the neighbors fence and continued working my way around the garden. I had found strawberry plants doing well under all the tree starts, purslane, and other weeds.

I was just finishing this bed and was thinking I might be able to weed the rhubarb and horseradish bed when the bees took over. I moved away but while gathering my tools and bucket of weeds one little critter decided he liked my brightIMG_7754.jpeg blue shirt or my sweaty head or both. He headed my way. I tried moving with care but the wet and wild yard got the best of me and so did the bee.

Circling my head and landing right behind my ear I felt that tell tale sting. I brushed him aside and headed quickly away from the bed. Knowing also I am an allergic kind of girl, I moved quickly to the house took my allergy meds, put Benadryl cream on the sting and found an ice pack. Two hours later with a sore spot on my neck (tender but not too swollen) I returned to clean up my tools, throw the weeds away and left the beds to the rabbits, the bees and the now 96 degree heat. (current afternoon temp. feels like 100 with the humidity)

So much for my day in the “wild” backyard!

NOTE: My research told me that bumble bees are attracted to blues, yellow and smells like sweat. I was a perfect target for our bees today!

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Familj Farm (Est. 2019)

This last Saturday myIMG_7050.jpg family gathered for a pesto party. It was not an eating pesto party although we did do that as well. We were making pesto to freeze for next winter when gardens are only a dream and a hope in our heads.

(Pesto a sauce originating in Genoa, which is located in the northern region of Italy. It originated around the 16th century and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with Parmesan cheese and olive oil.)

This whole thing started in late winter. My daughter and I have been starting seeds for gardens for a few years now. Well, really I start them because she is teaching and I am retired. Anyway, this year we decided to include her cousins who have recently moved into town. One, who has been gardening out in a suburb and one who has moved from San Fransisco and has never really garden but now owns a house and a wants to garden. This group gathered in early March to begin planning and putting seeds under grow lights.

IMG_7178We gathered again in April to transplant our little seedlings and with this gathering we began to call our collection of plants a little farm. Once weather warmed I moved all these plants out onto the deck to get acclimated to the brighter light and change of temperature. Our emails back and forth began to use the title Tiny Farm.

In late May plants were passed out and each of us went home to plant and grow for the summer. It is now July and a bit early for Minnesota but basil is growing and needs to be used or saved. So a pesto party was call.

Saturday afternoon we had 9 of us – two who were just there to observe, be taste testers and enjoy the craziness, one who was there to be watched, held and to sleep  (that would be Mason the 2 week old grandson) and the rest of us were in the kitchen washing basil, grating cheese, chopping garlic and blending it all into the wonder that we call pesto.

Here we are a small American family of Swedish background with a bit of Polish and German mixed in making pesto – a sauce that come from northern Italy.  Our little family (familj in Swedish) gathering like our farm ancestors did years ago on the  farm in Swedesburg, Iowa. They did not make pesto – they made rye bread, apple sauce and canned veggies from the garden but gather they did. (We may do some of that in the fall.)

We also gathered to talked, laughed, passed the new baby around and then around again. We eat snacks, tasted pesto and enjoyed a lovely summer afternoon as a family.

It was a wonderful day. For years we as a family have been a long distance away from each other. Some of us a long ways physically (like on the other side of the country), some of us have just been engaged in our own lives and did not find the time to gather. For whatever reason we have now found ourselves living a bit closers, finding time in our schedules and an activity that is bonding us.

I don’t know if it is the family history of farming, the interest in good healthy food, a new baby or the health issues that arose this year in a few member of the family but I don’t care. I care that we are now gathering, talking, sharing and connecting.

Carrie, one of the cousins, came with canvas bags for each of us. A large circle on the front of this bag stated Familj Farm ( est. 2019). It was a little thing that was really very big. A beautiful symbol of pulling us together, holding space in this bag for the products we grow and make from the garden and most importantly from our time together as famlj.

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New cousins just meeting!

A little family gathered: There was the oldsters- my brother, his wife, my sister, myself and my husband. Then the cousins – Missy, Carrie and Allison. Last but certainly not least the new cousins – Abby, 13, and Mason, 2 weeks.

(We did miss a few – Cousins in New York – Pete and Madison plus Ray and Matt in town but off getting other things done. We missed them but will get them included in our next adventure I am sure.) IMG_0224.jpeg

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Keeping journals

download.jpgWhen I was young diaries were a big deal, especially for girls. My older sister had one that was small with a key so you could lock away your secrets. All I wanted was a diary like hers. I never saw her write in it but I am sure she did. I did try to get into several times, I am sure.

When my birthday came and I was given a diary I was in heaven. So cool to have a little book you could write in and lock. I remember opening and closing the lock over and over. I hid the key in special places so no one would get into my secret book.

But there was a drawback. You are suppose to write in a diary. I was afraid of writing. I struggled with spelling and was corrected often. I was made fun of by my friends, siblings and cousins. The laughing at my silly mistakes is what I remember most.

It was not long before my diary and its key was well hidden so no one knew I was not writing in it. I would open it every so often and stare at the blank pages. I would dream about what people might write in their own little book but for me there were no words. You could call it extreme writers block. The fear of misspelling also stopped the flow of ideas and thoughts.

School did not provide writers workshops in those days nor do I remember really being taught about writing. We did handwriting exercises. We did grammar exercises to find nouns, verb, etc.  We were expected to write reports as we got older but I don’t recall writing instruction – like how to write a story or more. I am sure sometime in high school we were taught how to write a 5 paragraph essay. Some body must of taught us something about writing at some time. I just don’t remember.

Needless to say I did not grow up writing daily or keeping a journal of any kind. It was not until I was teaching that I began to develop my own writing skills. If I was expecting my students to write than I better be writing as well.

Now that I am retired I continue to work on keeping several journals. (I stay away from the word diary for it is still an emotional block for me.)  I use simple composition notebooks. They are cheap and easy to find and use. A traditional black one for my personal journal, a purple one with a plastic cover for my garden notebook (it helps when things are wet outside) and a red plastic cover one for my Nature journal (again the plastic helps when outside and things are dirty or damp. It is nature of coarse! )

I have a journal that is just a list of books. I keep track of all the books I am reading. I don’t actual think of that as part of my journaling activities. It is just a book of lists.

My purple garden journal helps me keep track of the plants, the weather and my reading about nature. It is the journal that I am most faithful of writing in. This one is easy for it is facts and information that can be clearly recorded – growth rates and planting dates, rainfall and what is working or not, what are tasks to be done in the garden. It is straight forward and most times non emotional. (Except when hail damages tomato plants!)

There is the personal journal which I have started on and off for years. This one is still hard for me. I can get writers block quickly so I work hard on starting with writing just one or two sentences about the day. It seems if I can get the pen moving I am ok from there. Although I have to admit I still write mainly about events and things happening. I find it hard to get below the surface to the more emotional topics of my life.

My third journal is a new one that I started this summer. It is dedicated to Mason, my new grandson. It is a Nature Journal. It is about seeing.  Yes – really seeing the world around us. While watching him the first days of his life I have been fascinated with his struggle to keep his eyes open. He is looking deeply trying to make sense of this new world he has found himself in. New borns can not focus more than about 12 to 16 inches from them and even that does not make sense to them. They are looking and building new neural pathways as theyIMG_7566.jpg grow. They will slowly begin to see and to connect to what they are seeing.

This process made me think of how much of the world we don’t see. The tiny details of life around us. So I am taking pictures of details in the garden and out in the woods. I then write a little about why I took the photo or what it is or interesting information I know about this item. I also am drawing what is in the photo. (building my drawing skills as well as writing). In each entry I have added a list of picture books, if I can find any about the topic, as well. My hope is that I will develop my nature journaling skill as Mason grows and that when he is older I can share this with him. I really want to be comfortable with journaling so I can show him how. I want it to be fun, and enjoyable for him, as well as myself. (To be honest I don’t care if he ever looks at the journal I am making – it will be my learning journal.)

I think the best way to teach a child is by modeling. So if Mason sees me exploring, drawing, writing and reading about the natural world he may find it interesting and want to join in. Who can resist a good blank book, colored pencils and the outdoors?

I am much better at keeping journals that have a purpose – tracking the garden or tracking the seasons for Mason than I am with my personal journal but I will keep at it. Who knows maybe by the time I am 80 I will have a daily habit of journaling.

Do you journal? What goes into your journal? Do you use a notebook or work on a computer?

(My writing is still all by hand. I like the feel of the book and pen or pencil in my hand.  Although I have to say that this blog has also turned into a bit of a journal as well. It is a weekly reflection on what I am doing or thinking each week. An interesting thought – I had not considered until now. )

Happy Journaling!

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Journeys

We are all on a journey. At times we think we are captain of the ship and we know where we are steering our vessel. Then the winds blow, there are dark clouds and debris clouds the air and we hold on knowing we are not in control. If we hang on most times the air clears, the water settles and we lift our heads to see we are in a new location heading down a slightly altered coarse. We surface and adjust our bearings. We begin again slowing, with caution but we move forward.

I have ridden a few rough rides in this life of mine. I know how to hold on. I know how to navigate those swelling waves of emotion that rock the boat. I have lost dear people, I have struggled with personal health issues and lost career placements that were dear to me. I have tumbled over the life struggles like many people. I know my life is not unusual for many people have suffered way more than I. It is what life is about in some ways.  It is about finding ways to right the boat and keep going.

This year I am not in the boat. I am on shore watching the struggles of my daughter and her partner. I see the storms rolling in and wish to right their boat. I want to do the hard work of life for them, knowing full well I can’t and shouldn’t. This hard work of fighting the storms is what makes them strong. What gives them bonds to hold onto and can create the lasting love and care that keeps a relationship going. I also know a storm like this can break the boat and send them all into the sea to struggle on their own.

Ok enough of the boat metaphor – the tale I tell is of my daughter and her partner. It is really their story to share so I will only say that after three long, a bit scary and very hard days mother to be had a C section late on the third day. (The side story is this mother to be is also going through chemo therapy for breast cancer. Their boat has been rocking for about three months already.)  At this point those of us waiting were holding our breath, time had slowed and we were wandering around not knowing what to do or how to keep ourselves distracted. It was around 8:30 pm or so we got the call that all was well. Baby was here, new Mother was sore and exhausted but in good shape and new Dad was overwhelmed with excitement and love. In other words, they weathered a large roaring storm!

This little family has returned home to chart a new direction. Things are still not going to be calm. There is surgery to recover from, and chemo to deal with later this week but we are all smiles for now.

IMG_5897.jpegMy story to this drama is wondering how do we handle watching/helping people we love struggle when life throws storm after storm at them. I know enough to provide help both physical – we brought a large, warm lunch over once they returned home. The emotional side, I know to listen and be there if a shoulder is needed or just to let them know we are here to listen. I know not to rush in with advise. We all need to find our footings and these two are very skilled adults.

It’s all good really! It is just today, the Monday after, I am a bit lost. We have surfaced. We have all made it through but the rocking boat was not ours so things have changed but not really at our house. We watched, supported and loved. Now we return to our daily routines but my soul still feels a bit shaky. My feet, which have been a solid ground the whole time, don’t know how to move forward. I am stuck for a moment. The urge to run over to be sure all is well surfaces every few hours. Well, really it surfaces every few minutes. I could text but have hidden my phone – they need their space and they will call if the need arises.

So I have started laundry, I am writing, I may go trim the bushes even through it is wet and getting ready to rain. I will go out into the world to see that life was/is moving along while we stopped and held our breath for a few days.

I read a bit of Mary Oliver to help me strengthen my soul and settle my feet deep into the soil – steadying myself after watching the wild ride last week.

Mary Oliver –

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,IMG_7528.jpg
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”IMG_7530.jpg

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Patiences – learning to be steady and use perseverance

Breathing in and out –

Relaxing muscles (including my brain)

Holding my body still but not tense just relaxed

Breath in and out –

 

Monday –

Building patiences in my life is interesting. It’s meaning can be expressed in different ways

  • an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay 
  • quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence

I know there are some who might say I have a lot of patiences they could see it in my teaching but internally I struggle with the quiet and steady perseverance. It shows up most when I am learning something new. I have lots of patiences for others not for myself.  I have written about it many times. The learning of new skills like drawing, or knitting. I want to be good at what I do now, not a year or a more from now.

At times I wonder if I am just lazy and don’t want to put in the hard work that it take images.pngto improve ones skills. I get frustrated with myself easily and want to walk away from the task at hand – yoga (those darn hard poses), the drawing of the coral bells still sitting on my desk, or the quilt started long ago staring at me from the corner of my office. All of it takes patiences and a willingness to stay with it.

If with a teacher or mentor I can control that impatiences a bit more. I can push myself to stay in that hard yoga pose or stay at my desk in art class and draw. (ok -well something I am the student getting to many drinks and going to the bathroom but hey I learned that skill from thousands of my past students – they taught me well.)

As of Sunday I am now _____ years old. I have a few years before I am seventy ( Oh, My Gosh – I need to hurry up and get busy with a few things time is passing!)

So now it is Monday – day one into my new birth year. I am setting a goal once again. The goal is to deal with this impatiences of mine. The goal is to act/do even if it feels uncomfortable. Instead of looking at the skill I want to learn I am looking at my behavior and how it might be slowing my down or even stopping me. My statement to myself is to begin and to stay with it even if I free frustrated or restless.

So today I have been on the yoga mat and did two of the poses I hate. I did not stay in them long but I did them. I figure it is a tiny step. I was on the mat and I pushed myself a little bit. Tiny Steps/ Tiny habits!

My next step is to face my drawing table – to stay with it even when it is taking a long time. Patiences is what I am posting on the wall where I work. I have a feeling that if I can over come my wanting to get up and walk away I might actually improve on the skills I am wanting to learn.

So today I am starting to learn to be steady – breath in and out – stay with a task just a little be longer!

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(I am also working today on patiences and distraction.  My daughter went into the hospital this morning to be induced. Our little Grandson is on his way. So I am learning to be steady and calm today while we wait for the phone call. It might not come until tomorrow so it is a wait. I will let you know how it goes – I am off draw  my clematis in the garden and be calm, steady, even tempered and diligent!)

Wish me luck!

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P.S. – Tuesday am    ——–  I am really working on the ability or willingness to suppress restlessness  – baby is oh so slowly making his way into the world!  So no baby yet!  

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Just a Normal Day

It is Tuesday at 9:00 pm in the mid west. I have been thinking about what I might post all day. I really have wanted to continue my posting. I wanted to be sure I posted at least every Tuesday but here I sit my mind blank. What is there to say that is important? What do I write about. It was just a normal day.

It is not like there wasn’t things going on today.  There was lots to do and think about yet I sit here with nothing to say. It was just a normal day –

  • I showed up at work to run reports on the last computer test the 1st and 2nd graders took this year.
  • I had lunch with my husband.
  • I spent a slow and lovely afternoon with my daughter (slow due to chemo and she is three weeks from delivering a baby boy. She is not moving fast.)
    • we planted tomatoes carefully
    • we sat and chatted in the sun
    • we talked in the living room and played with her cats
    • we walked slowly down to the lake and back
  • I walked with my husband, late in the day, and we enjoyed a drink and a bit to eat at a neighborhood bar

All these things are part of a normal day. Maybe it is just that – it was a normal day. Missy was feeling ok although slow. The sun was shining, the plants were growing and we had settled into a calm.

The winter was cold and wild. The spring tumbled along with snow, rain and cold. We had many weeks of news that left us spinning and with nights of worry. It has been a rough few months.

I guess I am just glad for a quiet day. One to enjoy with family. One that not much happened. It was just a normal day.

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Changing with Age

IMG_7266.jpgI am in my late 60’s and have spent a life time as a teacher. When young I babysat/nannied and it was my job to engage a group of 4 children in activities that helped them learn. Over time I taught swimming in high school and college, I worked in remedial reading clinics and then in preschools and daycares. Finally I was teaching in public schools for a good 40 years. As I said a life time of teaching.

So why on Friday night when a good friend ask me why I did not become a Master Gardener and help teach young children about plants did I internally bristle?

My mind was racing on why I did not want to do that. I think I listened politely. What she said was everything I have held dear all this years. She shared a lesson where students are assigned a small area to observe and count plants and/or insects. She had watch this lesson and was so excited. Her enthusiasm was wonderful. I nodded my head while I remembered when I did that same lesson and how I added another part to it with drawing. I remembered doing that lesson with teachers on a small island when we were teaching botany and observational drawing (science and art – you can’t get any better). All of this I love and loved teaching. So why now did I feel like running the other way?

I mumbled something about turning in a new direction now that I was retired. However, we were sitting in my living room full of plants pulled in off the deck for IMG_4557.JPGfear of frost and indoor plants I had been growing for some 40 years. I talked about teaching my nieces and my daughter about gardening and starting plants from seed. It did not look like I was going in a new direction.

What the H— was going on with me?

Very late that same night – well, actual in the wee hours of the morning I found myself still wrestling with this question. I felt selfish for not setting myself up to continue teaching. I had always thought and wanted to teach about botany, plants and wild things to young students. I was always frustrated in the classroom when I could not spend enough time outside with students. I know they need this experience and now I have the time to do this. I know of so many places I could volunteer and do this kind of teaching. So why don’t I?

IMG_7270.jpgIt is several days later and I don’t have a clear answer for this question. Maybe in the future I will decided to teach again but I know for now I am not interested. I have moved into a time where I want to be the learner again.

This learning time however looks different/ feels different. It is about learning on my own. It is about deep reading and sorting out skills that I have a beginning knowledge of but want to go deeper. This learning is about taking a new skill – drawing – and moving it from beginner to more experienced. I have always leaned towards being extroverted but now I seem to need a lot more quiet and time alone.

I suppose some of this need for quiet could be an emotional response to my daughters new baby coming plus her cancer all at the same time but I think it is IMG_5760bigger than that.

With age we change. Our interests change, our abilities change. Sometimes we find we can no longer do the things we did before and at times we find new skills we did not know we had. I am finding how I show up in the world is changing. People round me see me as teacher. I am working to be someone a bit different now. I can’t give it a name just yet but I know I am evolving into a new space. I feel so much better now that I see that I am just making steps in a new direction not running from an old skill as educator. Change is a good thing!

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