Rainy fall Saturdays put me in the mood to bake. It’s the rest year for our apple orchard but hidden among the Wolf River and Cortland branches I managed to find a five-gallon pail full. Enough for a batch or two of applesauce and a family favorite, Apple Cinnamon Cake. I don’t know of anyone whose dull spirit isn’t polished to a shine when the scent of apple and cinnamon greets them at the door of home. Perfect choice for the mood my relative, Weather, is in.
While the apple cake was baking, I decided to string up the onions I had laid out on the dining room table to dry for a few days now. I hang the onion string in my kitchen. Easy access and I think they are pretty.
I struggled with tying them at first. But then I began to tie them like my prayer ties. A loop knot slipped over each dried tip. Each onion is now a prayer for our family; good health and well-being, peace, joy, laughter, abundance, good relationships. I’ll probably wonder which prayer the onion I’m using is and cry while I’m wondering. The purest form of prayer is crying.
As I stood back to admire the onion prayer tie’s prettiness a teaching came. I’m going to have to use whatever onion is at the end of the string. No picking through them. Just like life you have to take it as it comes. One onion at a time. Layer by layer.
I woke before the sun kissed the sky good morning. Picked the blueberry patch at first light. Deep blue bodies shrouded in a soft silvery veil covered the bushes. Raspberries ready to burst dangled on tall stems in wide rows barely hanging on. I willed them to wait until I finished the blueberry patch. Here and there an impatient branch bowed over the guide wire as if to say, “Pick me first, pick me now!” Dew drops heavy with wetness washed me with cool refreshment. Every other day for the last 8 weeks I’ve began my day in this patch to ponder thoughts. Any thought about anything that was ripe and ready to be picked.
This year’s berry harvest looks to be a bucket buster. Easy pick’n. As I gently fingered and freed the soft blue beads hiding among their Mother’s maze of twigs and leaves, gratitude ripened in me. Like the plump berries, gratitude has to be harvested, picked and plucked in an untroubled manner from our day to nourish our Spirit. It feeds our heart sweet juicy joy — a heart harvest.
My heart harvest is for…
my horses for feeding the earth what they could no longer use
a strong back bone to pile up what my horses piled up over the winter
the creepy crawlies that feasted on the compost transforming it into rich ground
all the natural elements for breaking down to build up
a strong backbone to haul the rich ground to the bushes
the magic of bees to turn blooms into berries
water living its life through all of us
hours of conversation shared between a Mother, the bushes and her almost 20 year old daughter—pure delight
the time spent with the Mother bushes to pick patches of thought to ponder
that Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake on the countertop
that taste of summer frozen in the basement freezer
Don’t let a patch of gratitude go to waste. Make your heart harvest a bucket buster.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”~ Robert Louis Stevenson
The woods are slow to fill up with snow and cold this winter. I have yet to wear more than one layer of wool when walking Wally. Old man winter’s unpredictable emotions keep me wary. The snow shovel and extra woollies will be kept within reach. Unable to enjoy the usual playful snow activities has left a void in this winter. Then with impeccable timing they came! Slow at first. Soon opening the mailbox needed to be done with great care. Or an avalanche of shiny slippery catalogs would land on the ground.
One staple of the dark white season I can always count on is currently piling up on my kitchen counter. I save them for those especially long dreary days—seed catalogs! They come at a time when forgiveness for last year’s garden disappointments is easy to offer up. I’m ready for another go at the garden’s blank canvas.
I have my favorites, the tried and true. Oh, but on the next catalog page I’m tempted to believe the “too good to be true”. The colorful photos and persuasively written descriptions fill me with anticipation. Small seeds of optimism take hold with a promise to grow.
Life is like a mailbox full of seed catalogs. You never know what opportunities optimism will grow.
Wishing you and yours the best from life in 2019.
Spring seed catalogs
loyal as my old dog
piled up on the table
a late winter mailbox staple.
Slippery glossy pages for some
no frills no fancy for others
black ink on plain paper
for this one.
New and improved promises to create
bountiful blooms on the garden’s clean slate
last year’s disappointments easily forgiven
with one glance to the next page
I escape from winter’s white prison.
Favorite varieties come first
the tried and true-blue
but then there are the new
that make you utter, “Oooo”!
Could they be too good to be true?
Colorful descriptions shout
no pest no drought will kill you out
this one will grow anywhere
without a doubt!
In deep winter optimism can be hard to muster
these light moments keep their luster
dog-eared pages mark the best
scorn the limits on the sum to invest!
I wasn’t sure if the cheeks facing me were on the smile end or the seat end of this caterpillar but it didn’t matter. Either way, she made me crack a smile. What a delight to see this amazing cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillar in our apple orchard on this dewy fresh morning. She was nearly as big as my thumb!
With a wingspan of 5-6 inches, the cecropia moth is the largest North American moth. All winter will be spent in a 4-5 inch cocoon. In late May, the cercropia moths emerge from their cocoons. The female only lives about two weeks, just long enough to mate and lay eggs.
Because their skin doesn’t grow the cercropia caterpillar goes through several molting phases, each time attaching itself to a silken pad it has spun. When the new skin is fully developed it will literally walk out of its old skin. This cercropia caterpillar is in the fifth instar larvae stage.
If you have the good fortune to see an adult cercropia moth, I promise you will not be disappointed. Their spectacular color and size is something you will not soon forget. The cercropia moth is another example of nature’s marvelous metamorphosis; ever thing in sacred motion.
Moth medicine is that of inner knowing, determination, vulnerability and movement. I wish her well on her magnificent journey of transformation and hope we meet again in the May night, both of us with our wings.
Summer’s youth wanes,
each day riper with fullness,
Phlox’s bright eyes open wide.
A delightfully lovely fragrance,
once cradled in her bosomy blooms,
now billows gently in the breeze.
Hot pink petals aflame,
devour the green scenery,
burning off the heat’s heaviness.
A Sphinx Moth visits,
humming above nectar filled flowers,
long tongues dip into wells of sweetness.
The cool of the evening,
invites me back for a visit.
I sit enchanted by the tall aristocratic beauty.
Phlox, you are the queen of my garden empire.
I bow to you.
My summer dream is here! The air is heavy with heat, the sun high and still. Endless ribbons of golden light flow through the cloudless sky. In the garden, the green promise of this season’s abundance dangles from every vine and stem. An early morning surprise greeted me in the blueberry patch. I popped the plumb blue nuggets in my mouth, bursting the sweet pleasure between my tongue and cheek. Maybe tomorrow a few will make it beyond the patch boundaries to the house—maybe.
Having the first crop of hay tucked away in a quiet corner of the shed is the crowning achievement of my hot weather farm duties. Summer’s green fills the pockets of my heart with gratitude and contentment. It’s a priceless feeling of freedom, knowing you have enough.
This time of sun feeds more than the body. I’ll stow away the memories of these soft days to warm my spirit when the landscape turns hard and cold. Summer unfolds life before us, constantly and gracefully, each day a birth of possibility. The dream she has for us is to release our unlimited potential and prosper. May summer’s dream awaken and grow within you.
Caring for farm animals means you are stuck in a perpetual poop cycle. For the most part, what goes in one end comes out the other. I’ve done my share of pitching and piling in this life. The tedious task effortlessly takes my quieted mind into a manure meditation.
We don’t give a second thought to the negative connotations we associate with various expressions for crap but I hope I can make you question that perception. After much poop pondering, I now look at the mound of manure accumulated over the long winter and see it as a pile of potential. Once composted, the nutrient rich organic matter will be worth more to me than money in the bank.
In nature there is no want beyond what is needed. Nothing is wasted. In one way or another, the sustenance taken from the earth is eventually returned to her. Single stream recycling at it’s finest. I doubt Creator wants us to feel or think any part of our life is wasted either. Those crappy (less than desirable experiences) have value. If we do the dirty work of decomposing the drama, we enrich our understanding on how to transform the trauma. It’s a way to build long term emotional resiliency. To understand those deep-rooted feelings that no longer serve our highest good. We want next seasons seeds to fall on good ground.
Through the process of integration (composting) we gain a wealth of meaning from the negativity coming into our life. It’s how we grow our soul; not away, but from those experiences that have depleted us. Rich fertile soul soil to cultivate a positive perspective.
In a manner of speaking, it matters how you look at sh*t.
There is a Divine power
in the early hours.
The morning star a tiny twinkle,
yet bright enough to make your eyes crinkle.
The hoe’s sharp blade breaks the soil’s crust
and pulls back a dark moist mound before another thrust.
Pungent earthy smells blow past my nose.
Here is a good home for pea roots to grow.
Sacred seeds of possibility
planted by hands soiled with humility.
Tenderly placed within the prayer of earth’s fertile womb
asking for each to bud and bloom.
Oh the ambitious garden projects spring pushes us to complete!
The sky’s daylight is beginning to retreat.
The gardener’s body is stiff and bones ache.
Just one more row for goodness’ sake!
I rise with Divine power
of the birth hour.
can’t be begged, bought or borrowed.
The hum of my early morning barn chores is temporarily paused to listen to the prayerful song of returning migratory birds. With each passing day a growing variety has been calling our home theirs. From the woods, I hear the unmistakable throaty flute-like song of the Wood Thrush. Not to be out sung an Eastern Phoebe, perched on its favorite Maple tree, joins in with a two-parted song that it is named for; “fee-bee, fee-bee”. The Phoebe family has been returning to the mud and grass nest they constructed under our eave for the past ten or so years. It’s the warbling, musical whistle coming from the direction of our prairie that turns my ear away from all the other melodies. The expressive song is soft and gentle. As I make my way to a good viewing position of the nest box mounted in the prairie, I see a glint of azure blue flicker on the ground. The most heavenly blue I know. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, the bluebirds are back!
In the mid-20th century, the Eastern Bluebird numbers plummeted, mostly due to the depletion of nesting habitat. Due to the efforts of many organizations and nature loving people, the Bluebird population has rebounded. Gardeners are richly repaid for attracting Bluebirds to their yards as their diet consists almost entirely of insects. Long before backyard gardeners, farmers cultivated this beneficial friendship. In the beginning of the conservation work, farmers lead the way by creating “Bluebird Trails” on their land. Open fields near wooded areas are a favorite habitat. People once understood the importance of these interspecies relationships. Unfortunately, it seems to be something we have to relearn. My experience with the Bluebirds gives me hope.
Thanks to an environmentally conscious Uncle and his gift of a bluebird nest box, I became part of the efforts to bring their population back from the brink of extinction in the 1980’s. We banded fledglings, counted pairs and kept records on brood batches. I am eternally grateful for my early introduction to “Blue Birding”. I still have the gifted nest box. It’s nearly 30 years old and usually one of the first nest boxes of the dozen or more around our property to be claimed by a mated pair.
The delightful gentle greeting of the Bluebird’s song each spring reminds me of the worthiness in friendships. Relationships forged and fortified over time. How together, each one saves the other. We must be vigilant of the fragile friendships we have with the natural world. I believe in the undeniable strength of our interrelatedness. It’s much better to think of ourselves as a part of the whole together than it is a piece apart. We are all living one life.
All I can say about my prayers for the Bluebird is that sometimes they are sturdy, built of wood and mounted on a high post with a predator guard.
Note: As the feature image above shows it’s always a good idea to attach entrance predator guards to help limit predation of the nest box. Sassy kitty’s can put their paws in but they can’t reach down and get at the young birds. Remember to clean out the box after each brood has fledged. The bluebirds will build a new nest on top of the old nest material with each hatching (1-4 each season), raising the nest dangerously close to the entrance hole.
On the cusp of this new season, Mother Earth’s breath smells of tender grass, sunlight and infinite possibility. Oh, the ambitious garden projects spring pushes us to complete in the light of one day! I’ve learned much about gardening over the years. All that collective wisdom can be summed up in one sentence. Garden chores may stiffen my bones but they soften the soreness in the world.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~ Margaret Atwood