pink peony

pink peony
old-fashioned peony

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


This shawl just came off my blocking board. The pattern is called Silk Moon Crescent because the designer envisioned it made up in wonderful Silk Moon yarn and because the way it is knit causes it to form a lovely crescent shape. Isn't it pretty? I didn't have any Silk Moon yarn so I used some from my stash (now I can't find the wrapper so I can't tell you what it was!) and it turned out to be a good choice. I keep seeing RAINBOWS! 
I've written about our Prayer Shawl Ministry before, about how meaningful it is to me and the others who participate. We always seem to receive the greatest blessing in the end. This one is going to someone who just happens to need a bit of prayer right now. It always works out that way -- when I start a project, I think, "I don't know anyone who needs a shawl right now but I'll just get started and see what happens." Sure enough, it always turns out that the need arises! A certain friend of mine has had a recurrence of cancer, and I think she is due a soft and cuddly, rainbow-colored, prayer-infused prayer shawl to help her along the path of treatment and recovery.
Just as soon as I unpinned Silk Moon Crescent from my blocking board (a very professional-looking folded-out cardboard box), I immediately pinned this blue one onto it. It's called Gill's Rock, named for a place on the northern tip of Door County, Wisconsin, looking out on beautiful Lake Michigan. We had a wonderful trip up there last fall, and when I found this pattern named for that place, I knew I had to make it. What better color than blue for a place known for its far-reaching blue views? The yarn was AWESOME! It's called Finch, made by Quince & Co., and it knit up into a springy, soft and touchable shawl that is fairly small -- what is called a shawlette.
Today I don't know who will receive by Michigan Blue Gill's Rock, but it won't be long.
I titled this post Consecration because it is a word I've been thinking about. Our Sunday School lesson last week was about consecrating our talents, time and tithes to God. I've always loved handwork of all kinds -- embroidery, needlepoint, cross-stitch, quilting, knitting -- all my life, I've wanted -- NEEDED -- to be working on something. But there are just so many samplers I can hang on the well-covered walls of my home, and there are only so many scarves I can give to my well-scarfed friends, and there are only so many quilts I can give to my well-blanketed grandchildren.
So when I learned, a couple of years ago, about the Prayer Shawl Ministry it immediately turned a huge lightbulb on in my head! What a perfect way to enjoy handwork while doing it for someone else, someone who really needs the prayers and the caring that goes into the making of each one. All I had to do was mention this idea to some loving, caring women in my church, and our very own Prayer Shawl Ministry was born.
The stitching we do -- whether it is knitted or crocheted or pieced and quilted -- is consecrated work. That means it is set aside or dedicated for a sacred purpose. When I look at the LONG list of people who've been our recipients in the two years we've been doing this, it is astounding to me. We live in a small, rural community -- who would have dreamed so many events would occur to create such a need for shawls and the prayers and the hugs they hold.
I'm not saying all this to brag on myself. I do so little compared to so many! But it is something I can do, and it is something I love to do. I write to ask if there is some work or gift you have that you should consecrate to God. I hope that by sharing what I'm doing someone else will be inspired. Be creative and think outside the usual box of possibilities -- one doesn't have to go dig a well in a third-world country or dish up bowls of soup in an inner-city soup kitchen to have a ministry.
What could you consecrate today?

Monday, July 22, 2013

A summer morning in the garden ...

Deep in July -- it's dry, almost a full-blown drought here on the farm -- typical and not at all surprising weather. This time of year we become weatherman groupies, hanging on his every pronouncement of the possibilities, cheering for our hero when he says something positive or groaning when he makes an unfavorable, inevitable prediction of "more hot and dry." And in the meantime I am Mother Nature's substitute, watering every morning. All the pot plants get a daily soaking, and every four days I give the vegetable garden and the beds with blooming flowers a good drink. When outlying shrubs begin to really look pathetic, I'll pull a long hose to a wilting lilac or forsythia, turning the water down to a trickle and letting it soak in gently for a long time. This summertime routine takes a lot of time and commitment, but it's the only way to keep the color (and a bit of produce) coming. The rewards are worth it.

Zinnias are my favorite cutting flower. The more you cut, the more they bloom. The colors are vivid and varied and so easy to arrange -- just cut, stick in a water-filled jar or pitcher, and you have an instant bouquet.
I plant them along the north side that faces the road, hoping they block the view of the messy, browning leaves of the squash plants that are looking sad by now.
It has been a good season for cucumbers. As long as they receive plenty (lots!) of water, they bear and bear. I've been making refrigerator pickles from the bounty.
Just behind the garden is the red barn, where old washtubs overflow with red and yellow lantana. These plants take the heat well, as long as they get plenty to drink.
Grandma's milk strainer is still used along with a milk can, but now it holds odds and ends of leftover bedding plants -- orange and yellow marigolds and blue and red salvia.
An old "shovel" was once hooked behind a mule to drag rocks out of a field. Now it holds perwinkle.
This shy little late-bloomer surprised me! All her sisters bloomed and withered long ago, while she was playing hide-and-seek under the Bee Balm.
Another milk strainer is home to two colors of Million Bells (callibrachia), one of my favorites.
I plant small starts of this favorite into hanging baskets, too -- they soon spill over the edges with an abundance of tiny petunia-like blossoms.
Every year I like to experiement with one new flower, just to see if it works for me. This time I tried a pink salvia, planted in the middle of a barrelful of impatiens. The hummingbirds and butterflies love it -- no surprise there! It probably would have more and bigger blooms if it had more sun, but I've heard no complaints as it sits in deep shade.
There ARE complaints, however, when the birdbath gets this low on water -- time to top it off!

We'll end our little garden ramble on the screened porch, with a glass of lemonade and a visit with Fern. Some of you will remember my friend, Fern? She's been with us many years now and is truly a fixture in our home. Fern spends the winter in my sewing room, leaning longingly toward the window, grasping for rays of sunshine. By the time I bring her outside in the late spring, she's really looking rough. But as the days warm up, she gets happier and happier, until by September she will be a beauty once again. Right now, Fern is at that in-between state: pretty on top but still a little ragged around the edges. She and I both need a haircut about now.
I wrote a poem about Fern in early May, when I brought her outside. It goes like this (ahem):
Fern and Me
I love Fern, and Fern loves me
But on one thing we disagree.
I love winter; Fern does not.
I like it cold; Fern likes it hot.
Humidity is what Fern loves --
While I like hats and coats and gloves.
So 'long about now Fern looks very sad,
From spending the winter inside my pad.
But once she moves out she'll perk right up --
Fronds will appear, frisky as a pup.
So bring on the spring, so Fern will shine;
Next winter when it snows,  I'll get mine.
(No applause necessary, really...)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

The sun is up on this Fourth of July, but here in the Almartha valley it hasn't quite made its appearance yet.
It's a work day on our farm, and this is the lane I drove along as I traveled to the pasture where the men are working. I stand near the gate to help turn the cattle into the pen. That, plus fixing my farmboy's lunch, is my contribution to his workday.
I got to cross this little creek, which is one of my favorite secret places. It's not really a secret, sitting right beside a county road, but it feels so secluded and private. I used to bring Chip here for his bath. I still call it Chip's bathtub. Our grandchildren love this place, too. The water is icy, but it's refreshing on a hot summer's day.
Last year on this holiday, all our creeks were dry, the pastures were brown and crisp and we were searching far and wide to buy hay, since there was none to put up. The temperature was in triple digits. It was not a day to celebrate.
This year, we are blessed beyond measure, with abundant grass and early mornings cool enough to almost need a jacket.
I'm filled with thankfulness this morning, for the difference a year can make, and for the privilege of living in this country. It's not perfect, but I wouldn't choose to live anywhere else.
Last week, I heard Garrison Keiller comment, " This is a great country, and it wasn't made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we're not getting any younger."
May it be a HAPPY day of celebration, whether you're working or playing, grounded in a deep appreciation for what it signifies for all Americans.