Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year’s A-Comin’ ….

the goose is getting fat!  Oops, that’s a Christmas song!


Well, Happy New Year to all of you!


It feels like yesterday since the year 2000!  It feels like just the other day since my first New Year’s as a bride!  It feels like last week since the first New Year’s I went to a “grown-up” teenage party!  And I can remember my first New Year’s that I was allowed to stay up until midnight!


But there are two New Year’s that stand out in my mind, through all the many, many ones I have been privileged to celebrate.


The first one was when I was in High School in my mother’s hometown of McClusky, North Dakota.  We had a party at a friend’s house; the family had made a nice skating rink in their front yard and had put Christmas lights around it for lighting, as well as the porch light that shown on the rink.  The “young-uns” had been skating off and on during that cold, sharp night.


I was determined to be on the ice at midnight, so I missed the toasts and hugs and kisses but was skating, all by my lonesome (and loving it) at midnight.  I lasted about half an hour and then went back in for the rest of the party.  The others thought I was crazy but I was content.


The second New Year’s was when Norm and I were in Australia.  We were invited to a friend’s station (what they call ranches in Australia) for the party.  They had a swimming pool in their yard that I had enjoyed often.  So I decided that I would do the opposite of what I had done, years ago, on the ice rink.  I would swim my way into the New Year (remember, Australia’s summer is at that time)!  This time my friends didn’t think I was crazy!  I swam through the New Year and then joined the others in the sheep shed for champagne and dancing.


In my lifetime, I have seen many New Years but these two stand out, probably because they were total opposites in temperature but still the same in doing something by myself at midnight, then joining friends.


It is a beautiful day today, for the last day of 2009.  We have sun, again, which makes a total of 2 days in about 10 days!  We gave up counting the snow depth at 26” but it’s not much more than that, I don’t think.  The wind has been causing havoc on our roads but there isn’t a breath of wind right now and it’s a brisk +4º out.  You have a beautiful day and a beautiful, blessed New Year!


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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Today is Boxing Day!

In Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (and in some other countries, as well), the 26th of December is “Boxing Day.” This started many years ago when the wealthier would give gifts to the working class and the poor. Tradition says that gifts were given in boxes, hence the name.


Now it is a bank holiday and businesses and families will give to charity on this day or find an individual family to help.


It is also St. Stephen’s Day in the Catholic (and other) religion. It is a tradition, especially in Ireland, to catch a wren – somehow a wren is connected with Stephen, the first Christian martyr. In the past, children would catch a wren, put it in a cage and take it around to houses, begging for food. They would threaten to kill the wren if they didn’t get food. They would then release the wren at the end of the day, as no one would NOT give in to the “threat.”


No matter what day it is called, it is considered a special day after Christmas. People will use that day to continue the celebration of Christmas by visiting friends and having parties.


In my opinion, it is NOT a day to go shopping. Been there, done that! I was convinced (when I was young and foolish) to go shopping and return a movie that was defective. Never again! It’s a day that lives in my nightmares! I would rather go shopping on “Black Thursday” than on Boxing Day! And I will never again (another foolish day) go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving!!!


Norm and I spent a very quiet Christmas here. It’s the first time in our married lives that we have been totally alone for Christmas and it was pretty neat.


We’ve gotten that snowstorm that I’m sure nearly everyone has heard of. The “Storm of Record” …. The “Storm of a Quarter Century.” Well, we didn’t get the wind that South Dakota has had thank goodness. Our wind was blustery and we did get drifts, but not the 25-foot drifts that were forecast (and I’m sure some places have them). We started getting snow on Tuesday morning with a break, then until Wednesday night. I THINK it’s stopped snowing now, but we do get a few flakes once in a while. Our total here at Ash Lane Farm is about 22 inches.


Norm used the snow blower and cut paths to the barn and to the shed and kept the driveway clear (well, sort of). He cut paths every day and every day they were blown in. Yesterday he got the “new” 4-wheel drive pickup out for it’s first run, put chains on it and today he cut / busted his way out of the driveway into the lane then busted his way from the connection from the lane to the county road. He’s now at the Farm – having to bust his way into there. He now has the tractor there running and is cleaning up some, then will drive the tractor home to clean up here. Our tractor is kaplooie again … and Norm has gotten so frustrated with it that he finally has said “new tractor!” Well, new used, to be factual.

So now I’m alone – sort of! With 4 dogs, you are never alone. We are caring for Candy and Wayne’s dogs while they are in South Dakota for Christmas with the folks. They hopefully will be home on Monday, if the storms and wind are over and the roads are open. We will go over to their place this afternoon to check on the cats; we couldn’t go over because not only were we stuck here but their lane was filled with snow, too. We called their neighbor and asked him to plow the road so we could get in. Hopefully the cats will be fine, as we went over and gave them extra water and extra extra food. They have a nice garage with heated beds for sleeping and keeping warm (not that it was that cold this week).


So now, at noon, it’s almost 20º out, the sky is getting brighter and the wind is totally still. It is a beautiful day – I hope you survived your part of the storm (if you got one) and are having a beautiful day as well.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

May you and your loved ones have a blessed, merry Christmas and a wonderfully full New Year!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Tonight is Solstice

Tonight is the shortest, darkest night of the year. No one really knows how long ago that people recognized this fact and marked it as the turning point – the return of the sun. One book, “Four Thousand Years of Christmas,” claims that the Mesopotamians were first to celebrate a festival of renewal to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for another year.

Many cultures feared that the failing light would never return unless humans intervened with anxious vigil or a celebration.

Scholars haven't found proof that the Neolithic people had the skill to pinpoint a celestial event like solstice. Earliest markers of time that we've found from these ancient peoples are notches carved into bone that appear to count the cycles of the moon. But perhaps they watched the movement of the sun as well as the moon, and perhaps they celebrated it -- with fertility rites, with fire festivals, with offerings and prayers to their gods and goddesses.



Many cultures built their greatest architectures -- tombs, temples, cairns and sacred observatories -- so that they aligned with the solstices and equinoxes. Many of us know that Stonehenge is a perfect marker of both solstices. 

 

But not so many people are familiar with Newgrange, a beautiful megalithic site in Ireland. This huge circular stone structure is estimated to be 5,000 years old, older by centuries than Stonehenge, older than the Egyptian pyramids! It was built to receive a shaft of sunlight deep into its central chamber at dawn on winter solstice.




Christmas was transplanted onto winter solstice some 1,600 years ago, centuries before the English language emerged from its Germanic roots. “The rebirth of the sun.” was changed into “The birth of the Son” at this time.


Native Americans had winter solstice rites. These sun images are from rock paintings of the Chumash, who occupied coastal California for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. Solstices were tremendously important to them, and the winter solstice celebration lasted several days. 





The word solstice is derived from sol, meaning sun, and sistere, to make stand still. Winter Solstice is also known as Midwinter, the marking of the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.


Winter Solstice marks the time of the year when the light returns as the sun shifts and starts to move northward again. In Europe, the tradition of the yule log is celebrated on Winter Solstice. A special log is brought in and placed on the hearth where it glows for the twelve nights of the holiday season. After that, it is kept in the house all year to protect the home and its inhabitants from illness and any adverse condition. The yule log is the counterpart of the midsummer bonfires, which are held outdoors on Summer Solstice to celebrate the shortest night of the year. It is also customary to place mistletoe around the fire, which is the plant that grew on the oak tree, sacred to the Druids, the priests of the old Celts. Among other uses, mistletoe is thought to help women conceive. The Christmas tree also dates from old European or pagan rituals. It was the time to celebrate the renewal of the earth, and greens were used as the symbol. Branches of pine, cedar, and juniper were commonly used to bring wonderful fragrance into the home. Red candles were used to symbolize the fire and heat of the returning sun as the days begin to lengthen.


It does not matter if you are of the old religion or the new (Pagan or Christianity) …. tonight is a night to acknowledge as the beginning of the light coming back into the world. Light a bonfire, light a candle, have a fire in your fireplace. Have some kind of light or fire to represent this light.


So, Blessed Solstice, Blessed Yule or Blessed Christmas, whatever your faith may be.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sharing the past

We are here in the Cities to spend time with Joy and family for the weekend. We will have our Christmas gift-giving tonight and the girls have their Christmas program tomorrow.

Today I taught the girls how to make lefsa. My grandmother, Nana, was 100% Norwegian, born in Norway and transported here as a child. She lived with a Norwegian foster mother, so she learned to cook in the Norwegian style and flavor. I am not at home and don’t have a picture of her, but I will post one when I get home.
I am not very skilled in rolling out lefsa and so have not made it often, but I do have Nana’s recipe, Joy has Nana’s electric lefsa griddle and I have a pastry board that helps with the rolling out.
Joy saved some mashed potatoes (you can used plain cooked potatoes or mashed ones) so we started mixing the lefsa dough and started heating up the griddle.

Both girls are pretty good at rolling out dough so there wasn’t much I needed to do to teach them the rolling, although there is a little bit of difference in the technique.

After we got the lefsa done, we tested it. Most here say it is wonderful. The girls claim it’s better than the commercial lefsa you get in the store. I wouldn’t go that far, but I am pleased.
And the girls are pleased to learn a new skill, especially one that is a favorite food.

And now, when my life is done, I will go happily, knowing that some of Nana’s skills have been passed on and will not be lost.
It’s a beautiful day here … overcast but mild and no wind. You have a beautiful day.


 Flour on the rolling pin is essential


 Serious work
 
Make sure that the lefsa is thin enough

 
 Not all seriousness, though!
 
Nana's lefsa griddle

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Goodbye, Anna

Ruth and Jerry came down from their place today to collect Anna. She has been a good wheel for me and I have been promised that I can use her next year if (when) we go back up there for the Threshing Bee.


They got here in time for lunch; Candy and Wayne came over to visit and stayed for lunch (chicken & dumplings, one of my favorite meals).


Then they saw the studio, my looms and wheels and the picker (Norm has that ready to go, now, and I was able to demonstrate it).


I gave Ruth a scarf; it was yarn spun on Anna, then knit by Joy as a thank you for allowing me the pleasure of spinning on that lovely little wheel.


Ruth’s daughter-in-law wants to learn to spin so she is going to work on Anna. I hope that she calls me if she needs help in the spinning field.


Jerry and Ruth headed back home about 2:30 – it was a short trip but nice. They are talking about coming back down in the summer when it’s nicer and they can see more around here.


Thank you, Ruth, for loaning Anna to me this summer / fall. I enjoyed having her immensely! 

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The day after

After blustery, cold, snowy weather yesterday, we have a bright, crisp day today, with gifts from Old Man Winter and Jack Frost.


The temperature went down to about -9º this morning but got up to about 11º this afternoon with the bright sunshine. There was a little wind but not much. Norm said that working outside was hard because of the bitter cold but he kept going inside to warm up so had no real discomfort.


I went out to take pictures and spent about 5 minutes outside. Peanut went out with me and when I was ready to call her in, she was stuck. She had such cold feet that she was moving in slow motion, afraid to put any foot down but needed to take the other feet up. I went over and picked her up and carried her in, then put her on her little pad next to the electric heater in the kitchen. She sat and soaked up warmth for a very long time. Poor baby.


When I went out to collect eggs, she refused to even step outside!


I have these pictures, now, to share with you. I hope you enjoy my beautiful day with me. You have a beautiful day.

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View from window with a screen

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The pantry has a single pane in the window, much like the old windows I grew up with


I got brave enough to go outside and snapped these following pictures

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blizzard!

Well, the first blizzard of the year has hit with full force! They “promised” it and it came.


We started out with a little bit of snow, but had gotten about 6 inches last night before the wind really hit. Now the wind has “slowed down” to about 26 MPH. The actual temperature is about –2º, the wind chill is about –25º.


I am NOT going outside – I can’t get to the barn because of the drifts. Norm, with his longer, stronger legs can walk over and through drifts, so he’s outside “playing.” He’s knocked the snow off the bedroom window screens so we can see out there, now. He’s dug out the doorway so that Peanut can go outside and I can too, if I need to.


I don’t know if we will get more snow – doesn’t sound like it, but the wind is the monster here. With our open country, the roads are not only treacherous and impassible they are impossible!


So I will treat you to a little picture show of our snow here.


It’s a beautiful day today, from the inside. Norm says, “she’s a little bit mean out there – you can’t hardly walk into the wind!” You have a beautiful day!



Monday, December 07, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day



No, I don’t remember it … I wasn’t even born yet, but my parents remember it and many people still can say, “I was ***** when I heard the news.”



I was raised in the military so I have heard from my parents the stories that they tell about this day and others. My dad flew bombers in World War Two, which was a direct outcome of this day.


I have been to Hawaii and have seen the memorial that has been put there so that no one will forget.



Times have changed – we have many (too many) events to remember “I was ***** when it happened,” but we must never forget any of them.


Pearl Harbor’s tragedy is one to remember – to stop and memorialize, even if it is just once a year. Many fine young men (and women) died either on this day or days following to keep the world free. Let us pray that their sacrifices, as well as the sacrifices of the men and women who followed, have not been in vain.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Hello, Joe, what do you know?

Our little sheep flock has multiplied (well, maybe just added to). We are renting a ram, “Joe,” from my friend Betty, who has joined Candy and I at our monthly Stitches in Time meetings.


Joe is a Polypay / Finn cross, which will hopefully give Soot’s baby a nice fleece for spinning. I am hoping that she will pass on her lovely color, but the chances of that are pretty slight, as Joe is white and Soot’s momma and papa are white, as well.

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Joe and Soot


I am surprised that Norm is allowing me to breed Soot, as he fusses about the size (2) of my flock. But it was his idea to start with and he was the one who encouraged me to talk to Betty about getting the ram.


When we put Joe in, I was worried about Arthur being nasty to Joe, as Arthur is getting rather “pushy” in his attitudes. Usually a bottle lamb grows up unafraid of humans so will push around rather than back away like most sheep. This is with Arthur. He has gotten so pushy that Candy won’t go in with him in the pasture or barn and I won’t let the girls go in, either. Last time I was in the barn that he was, as well, I had to hit him with the water bucket to leave me alone. This is a situation that we are discussing … what to do with Arthur.


When Arthur was born, if you remember, his momma stepped on his leg and broke it. The Farm gave him to me permanently, then I gave him to Jody, who splinted his leg; now you can’t tell it was ever broken! Jody was unable to keep him at her place so he moved, with Soot, over to ours; the Farm, in payment for the fostering I had done that year, gave Soot to me. Now we have the 2, plus Joe (temporarily). Jody is talking about finding another home for him, as he is becoming a problem here. We’ll see in the future what is to become of Arthur. 

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Arthur


Until then, I am enjoying looking out my kitchen window and watching my humungous flock of sheep grazing in the south pasture.


On another note, it’s gotten snowy and cold here now. October was miserable, November was wonderful and December has jumped into frigid! We got snow on Thursday and Friday morning it was +2º out! Too sudden for me, too sudden for Peanut! When (if) she goes out, she dances on three legs because her poor little toesie-wosies are freezing! I put her coat on her and she made it through the snow to the barn but almost couldn’t make it back to the house. I had to pick her up and carry her because she couldn’t walk!!! Poor baby.


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Looking west from the door

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Spook objects to the heavy snow
 

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Peanut huddles close to the electric "booster" heaters!


But today is going to be sunny and possibly get up to 25º!!! You have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What a wonderful weekend!

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner at Candy’s with niece Cookie and grandniece Binni.  None of my direct family was with us, just Norm and I. 

Cookie is choking her daughter!

However, on Saturday, Jill and Eric joined us for a few days.  They had flown in from Seattle to Fargo and then went up to the cabin for Thanksgiving.  On Friday, they took Eric’s grandma back home to her place and grabbed Christmas decorations for the cabin.


Saturday morning, they headed down to see us.  We had Cookie, Binni, Candy and Wayne join us for an after-Thanksgiving meal with no turkey (I would have loved it but know that others would be tired of it).  So we had pork loin and all IT’S fixin’s. 


Joy and family could not come – they had prior obligations, so it was sad but I was really glad to spend so much time with Jill and Eric.  I don’t get enough time with them!


I don’t talk much about Jill and Eric – mostly because they are in Seattle and I don’t see them often or even talk to them often.  Jill is busy (and stressed) with work.  She works for a payroll company and this is the busy time for them.  Plus they are trying to “convert” their clients to a new system and it’s not working.  Although Jill has no control over the conversion, she takes responsibility for any mistakes that are made on her side.  I wish I could figure out a way to lessen the stress for her!




Working on computers and game machines - and Eric is trying to download ringtones on my phone.
 

Eric has finished school as a computer graphic artist (or something – I never get his title right) and is still looking for a job.  I’m sure a lot of you know that feeling.  Fortunately, Jill is working and her job is secure (well, as secure as you can imagine in this day and age), so there is no worry for me, there, about them struggling to exist!


They have a dog, Remy (Beagle cross) that is a delight, but didn’t bring him this trip.  Remy doesn’t like to travel much so they left him with a friend.  When Jill called to see how he was doing, the friend told her he was “delicious!”  So we didn’t get to see Remy – and he loves to attempt to play with Peanut (Peanut doesn’t play with many dogs but she tolerates them).


I will be honest – I sometimes worry about what I can talk to them about when they are here.  With Joy, it’s easy – grandchildren or fiber.  I don’t have that in common with Jill but when she is here, I forget about that because we have so much else in common that there is no struggle to figure out what to talk about.


We talked about books, music, dogs, her work, my animals and Joy and her family.  I caught her up with all that the girls are doing that she misses because she is so far away.  We also talked about electronics (Eric’s favorite subject) and sports.  Nothing to worry about – we had PLENTY to talk about.


And we ATE!!!  It seemed like all I did was cook and clean up the whole weekend.  Like I said, the others came on Saturday night, then it was just the four of us for the rest of the time.


Jill and Eric left on Monday morning – they were going to stop and have lunch with Cookie on their way back up north.  Then they were going to head home today (Tuesday) for Washington.  I started missing Jill as soon as she got into the car!


The only thing that blighted the weekend was that Ken and Joy and girls couldn’t be here – perhaps next time!  Well, not the only thing – the other blight was that Jill and Eric had to leave (too soon for me!).


Christmas will be separated, too.  Jill and Eric will be in Washington, as Jill doesn’t have enough time off to come back over (sigh).  At least they have a tree and I sent home Jill’s annual decoration to put on the tree.


I thank Jill and Eric for making the effort to come down – it’s about five hours from the cabin down here so that’s a very long ways to come.  I hope they will be back here sometime soon – maybe mid-winter and we can see them then?


It is a beautiful day again today – sort-of sunny and rather warm.  You have a beautiful day.