Mud season (preview)

Whenever I wax rhapsodic about beauty of the landscape I live in, those who have lived here a long time have a way of bringing up mud season: “Oh, wait till mud season comes around,” they say knowingly, “you won’t be singing praises then…”.  Well, temperatures have been unseasonably warm for February the last two days, and I am getting a feel for what they mean.

It is slushy and sloppy underfoot, with ankle deep mud in unexpected places.  What begins as trickles and rivulets of melting snow in the morning turns into fast running streams by afternoon.  Even the thickest slabs of ice are dwindling into manageable piles of slosh one can step through or about with ease.  And yes, it is not pretty…not in the least:

But, on day like these, why look down at all?  Why not open the moon roof and glory in skies like this:

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Poetry Friday:Blue by Barbara Crooker

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference 


Winter has settled in here in the North Country.  Some days are all brilliant sunshine, sparkling snow, and clear blue skies as far as the eye can see.  And some days (most days it seems, when I am feeling low) are dreary and grey, when the sun can manage nothing more than a reluctant presence here and there.

The pastures and barnyard and covered in thigh high drifts of ice hardened snow, and Sophie, who loved tunneling through snow in her suburban New Jersey life, now sticks to cleared paths.  No longer the companion eager to explore pastures and woods, she prefers to spend her winter days by the woodstove, gazing into the dancing flames or blissfully asleep.  Perhaps she, too, is dreaming of Spring.

The busiest spots around the farmhouse these days seem to be the bird feeders.  I love watching all varieties of songbirds flit to and fro, no matter how stormy or bleak the day.  Yes, it’s still Winter…but Spring, inevitably,  is also on its way…

Blue by Barbara Crooker

Dull morning, dove-colored sky, black trees.
Winter at its most monochrome. Months
until spring; don’t even think about it. Then
squawk, there’s a jay, a pure blue verb
landing on the feeder. And suddenly, you see
delphiniums, larkspur, hydrangeas.
And suddenly, even sorrow is bearable.

Winter musings: farm mornings

The sky is a changeable creature, no matter what the season.  Blazing sunshine at ten on a summer morning can just as easily turn into sunless stone grey by noon.  But, there is something about the changeability of winter sun that I’ve learned to pay attention to here at the farm.  Maybe this is because winter sunshine has been somewhat rare this season, maybe this is because I can see every sunrise from my bedroom window, or maybe this is because I am just now learning how to pay attention to such things.  Whatever the reason, contemplating the morning sky has become a daily ritual.

Today, for instance, began with a dull grey light creeping upward on the horizon.  The last thought I’d had before I’d fallen asleep was of the snow storm predicted for the next day, which was also the first thought I’d had upon waking up.  Sophie and I stood by the window, trying to muster the strength of character to face the icy snow and single digit temperatures that are the companions to our early morning walks.

And then, with the faintest hint of pink, clouds parted to this:

Right after taking that second photograph, we ran downstairs to throw on our winter gear (well, my winter gear) and get outdoors to experience the sky in person.  But, by the time I’d opened the back door, that sky was back to a dreary grey.   We walked in it, nevertheless, glad to have still-fresh memories of its earlier incarnation.


Poetry Friday: Somewhere in the World by Linda Pastan

Poetry Friday is here! Link up below to share your poetry fare…


The world seems a crazy place these days, with each day bringing  new tidings of mayhem and turmoil.  I’ve mostly stopped watching the news, and I’ve left FaceBook entirely because the current political news caught me in a vortex of panic, rage, and helplessness: what is to be done? can anything be done?  I still email and call my Congressmen and Senators every day, hoping that they will live up to the hopes I had when I cast my votes for them.   But I have my doubts…

This poem speaks to the mood I’m in…

Somewhere in the World

by Linda Pastan


Somewhere in the world
something is happening
which will make its slow way here.

A cold front will come to destroy
the camellias, or perhaps it will be
a heat wave to scorch them.

A virus will move without passport
or papers to find me as I shake
a hand or kiss a cheek.

Somewhere a small quarrel
has begun, a few overheated words
ignite a conflagration,

and the smell of smoke
is on its way;
the smell of war.

Wherever I go I knock on wood—
on tabletops or tree trunks.
I rinse my hands over and over again;

I scan the newspapers
and invent alarm codes which are not
my husband’s birthdate or my own.

But somewhere something is happening
against which there is no planning, only
those two aging conspirators, Hope and Luck.

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Birthday view


Clear blue skies and dazzling snow have given way to torrents of icy rain.  The town snow plow made its way gingerly up the mountain at morning’s first light and then back down again – adding salt and gravel for those venturing out.  The valley was almost entirely obliterated by mist when I first woke this birthday morning; I could not see past the carriage barn and its silvery slate roof.  The valley view, my glorious every day wake-to-love view, was just a matter of faith – there, though momentarily not there.

I am at that stage in life when I no longer greet each new birthday with a long list of goals to achieve in the year to come, new leaves to turn over, a “new me” to become.  I am what I am, what time and experience have made of me.

The solitude of the farm, and the gift of waking up each day to its beauty, have given me a kind of clarity.  In the months since moving here, I’ve been listening to Tara Brach’s guided meditations podcasts and coming to understand (and live by) the notion of radical acceptance.  In many ways, this idea connects to that of querencia, which Georgia Heard wrote about in her book, Writing Toward Home:

In Spanish, querencia describes a place where one feels safe, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn, a place where one feels at home. It coms from the word querer, which means to desire, to want.

Georgia’s words stayed with me for a long time, and I now see that they became a sort of personal quest for me, for I’d come to realize that I’d lived in many houses without ever feeling at home.  I’ve written before of the sureness with which I felt I had found my querencia in this most unlikely of places – an old farm off the beaten track.  Who would have thought that someone raised in the vibrant bustle and unending action of cities would feel the querer to be here?

But, moving here permanently opened another bend in the journey, a deeper insight into what querencia can mean.  Brach writes this

“In bullfighting there is an interesting parallel to the pause as a place of refuge and renewal. It is believed that in the midst of a fight, a bull can find his own particular area of safety in the arena. There he can reclaim his strength and power. This place and inner state are called his querencia. As long as the bull remains enraged and reactive, the matador is in charge. Yet when he finds his querencia, he gathers his strength and loses his fear. From the matador’s perspective, at this point the bull is truly dangerous, for he has tapped into his power.”
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

To gather strength and lose fear… that’s a worthy thought to pause at, to journey home towards this birthday day and beyond.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Learning about knitting and learning about learning

Slice of Life Tuesday

In an effort to be an educated fiber farmer, I thought it was high time to bite the bullet and learn the art of knitting. So, I bought some wool and knitting needles and did what so many of us do these days when we want to learn how to do something – I went to You Tube.

Many versions of “how to knit” later, I knew that I needed a different type of instruction  – the old fashioned, face to face kind.  So, I was thrilled when Carole Foster posted an invitation to a beginner’s knitting class at her wonderful shop:

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On Saturday morning, with a winter storm just hours away, I drove over the Hudson River to Schuylerville with my fully assembled, but heretofore useless, knitting bag.  A small group had already assembled (two teachers, a physical therapist, and an engineer) around the work table in Carole’s shop, everyone of us equally enthusiastic and nervous.

Something about being surrounded by the wool of many sheep, some dyed in lovely colors and some left natural, filled me with comfort and a hint of confidence.

Carole was her warm and welcoming self, and the group was upfront about our general lack of knowledge and/or frustration.  Something about the honesty and lack of having to pretend anything but a desire to learn boosted my confidence some more.

We had clear written instructions with lots of pictures, and Carole both demonstrated as well as circled around to guide each of us.   We talked through the problems we encountered, and watched as we problem solved.  After much trial and error, and to our great surprise, we found ourselves actually knitting…well, the casting on and knit stitch only kind of knitting – but, it’s a start!

Homework (we meet again on Saturday) is to knit 13 inches, which I have already, happily, completed:


I’ve moved on to repeat what I’ve done with a skein from one of Carole’s own sheep.  I love looking at the label and imagining Blyth roaming around Carole’s pastures, doing sheepy things and growing a new coat of lovely wool:


And, I look forward to the time when I will be knitting with the wool of my own sheep.

After the storm…


“Are you ready for the storm?” the nice lady at Hannafords asked me as she checked me through.  I had heard versions of this question being asked as I waited in line, and as the line was long I heard many versions of the same answer, which was also mine: “Ready or not, here it comes!”

The farm sits on a hill at one end of a valley, so we can usually see weather heading our way long before it actually arrives at our door.  Saturday’s snowstorm looked like a slow moving mist for quite some time as we waited inside listening to Vermont Public Radio’s ever-increasing prediction for how much snow fall  to expect.  Within an hour of its first sighting, snow arrived to stay for the night and long into the next day, making the farmhouse feel like the swirling center of a real- life snow globe for hours upon hours.

It was dark and late into the night by the time both snow and wind had passed over us and the sky was clear again.  A blood moon had been promised, and so we ventured out onto the front yard where the snow was too deep for our Sophie to maneuver her retriever self through.  The air was absolutely still, and though there were many clouds floating past, we could see the moon – not a blood moon, but a beautiful moon never the less.  We sat on the porch steps and took it all in, satisfied to have made it through winter’s first storm, and glad to be in this place.