The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour. The tell-tale sign of changing seasons. A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week. The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.
Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri. The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source. My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm. My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with. Thank goodness for gas heat.
And now I focus on my own heart matters for today. Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice. Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do. Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful. I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research for an enrichment class to teach at my work place. There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle. Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on. As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.” I like the change back to some old ways and traditions. What does simplicity mean to you? How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice? I would love to hear.
I love celebrating autumn! At Boone Hollow today Dean and I gave a helping hand to our farming neighbors with planting a field of garlic, over 2,000 cloves. Can you imagine 2,000 bulbs of garlic next June? With this extended autumn season, I picked an abundance of arugula, lettuce, and herbs to share as I am still using what I picked mid-week. We finished this lovely Halloween Eve with a wiener and marshmallow roast with our farming friends. Ghouls and goblins have
visited the house. Halloween is creepy, but the Presidential Election is scarier! Gratitude for the right to vote instead of dread is what I pray for. I am reminding myself this as I write, to practice thankfulness today and everyday… not just reserved for Thanksgiving Day.
As the summer solstice approaches we relish the vibrant blooms in the gardens and roadside, as well in our homes. Our dream is to bloom with our kin folk. Dean and I refurbished our living room, a blend of fresh and vintage. Midnight, our Labrador is ready for the companionship of kin, and is on the welcome committee at our home. In the meantime a few recent travels take us to our families in other Missouri towns. Dean is such a proud father and grandfather. He carries his digital camera to capture the moments and shares his finds with zeal.
Late April we were blessed with another grandchild. Elise is Dean’s first born grandchild. Beautiful baby. We took the occasion and traveled to meet her early May when she was less than a week old, and another one this past weekend. The last Saturday in April we honored my deceased father, aunt, and uncle with a Relay For Life team of kin at the cancer relay held downtown St. Louis. Mother’s Day was a visit to an old lookout point in St. Francois County with my daughters and their families. We had another May day trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with my brother and sister-in-law. And there is summer league baseball with our oldest grandson, Brendan. The first weekend in June we celebrated the 30-year birthday of Dean’s daughter, Liz as well as the birth of our youngest grandchild, Elise.
“Let us be grateful for the people that make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
The spirit of the season is seen with the vibrant autumn leaves, pumpkins, and gourds. As the day succumbs to the night sky, our solar mason jar lanterns along with our grandkids’ jack o lanterns give an amber glow near the front porch. With the soaking rains ceasing and fairly mild evening temperatures, we greet lots of trick-or-treaters while at the fire pit set up in the driveway. Dean and I kept warm while handing out sweet treats. We later retreated inside to excited grandkids with sacks full of candy.
This month is one devoted to thanksgiving. Gratitude fills my heart and tummy for food on our table. I am thankful for the ability to grow some of that food, as well as the ability to support the local farmer and grocer. I am thankful I have the ability to work and have a job to work at. I am thankful to God, my Creator for His Son, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that guides me
each day of my life. Without God the spirit of the season would not be here. He gives abundantly and much more than I deserve. That is called grace. Grace and gratitude does turn what we have into enough, enough so we can give to others in need of a warm bed to sleep in and provide nutritious food to eat. Listen to your neighbor, co-worker, and family member. One of them may be just the one who needs grace right now. And you and I are just ones to be God’s abundance to them.
I just told Father at church last week, I need to be more present moment. My job requires planning weeks and months ahead, and family life the same sometimes. I miss moments in the planning. Nothing like being present moment with a stomach bug. I came to a screeching stop. Not knowing which end to put on the toilet, and then sleeping most of the day and night the next 36 hours. Every waking moment is a “thank you” for life and sleep. I could hear and see the spring rains come down several times, raindrops rolling off the windowsill. The birds sang to their heart’s content. I went from eating nothing to sipping ginger ale to nippling a couple of saltine crackers, and finally today able to keep a piece of toast and a boiled egg down. I have always felt stock made from the bones can cure many ails, so a couple of chicken breasts went into the crockpot with Deanna Greens and Garden Art fresh herbs and Hannahway Farm’s homemade wine. I will be sipping a cup of homemade chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.
This afternoon I managed to put my jeans and a blouse on, and I believe I lost a couple of pounds. Not my idea of a weight loss program, but I will take the reduction any way. The trees and grass are greener. “You gotta take the thunder with the rain”, I tell our Midnight, our 85 lbs labrador/flat coat retriever mix. He is terrified of thunder, but loves the rain and sleet. He snuggled on the bed yesterday as a couple of thunder showers went through. More violent today, storms. This afternoon tornado watches and warnings have been issued. Midnight and I will keep a watch out. I find that relationships are a bit like storms, too. There is a time to play in the rain, and a time to find shelter from it. Gotta take the thunder with the rain.
The happenings of today and all the yesterdays of 2013 culminate this evening. My memory fails me with the many whirlwind days of 2013, but this Word Press blog helps me recall as I read the posts. By nature I am a planner, though my heart wants to live the present day and reflect on the goodness of yesterday. Gratitude overtakes me. I have slowed down this past week, taking time off my jobs. Dean and I spent time with family in quaint settings as well as bigger celebrations during the holidays which bring much joy to our hearts. We visited our greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance this sunny, yet crisp afternoon. Quiet reflection. The sounds of the countryside on New Year’s Eve Day. Song birds chatter while gathering field seeds, the owl hoots “hello” in hopes to bring the night sky sooner, and the livestock holler for their last feeding of 2013. What will 2014 bring?
Three weddings in 2014 promise to keep Dean and I busy with his three grown children and their fiancees. More visits with my grandchildren in 2014. Life is too short. In 2014 our greenhouse and screenhouse will house more organic vegetables and herbs for our personal health. We will plant a flower garden for our personal pleasure, and add gems and stones my father collected, and colorful wine bottles I collected as a border. Less farmer market dates, though autumn we hope to feature more Deanna Greens And Garden Art gourds. I will dabble with paints and carving tools to create works of art with our 2013 gourds. Most have weathered well. My full-time occupation in employee wellness will undergo some changes … New sights and sounds for Dean and I to explore together.
“Life begins each morning…Each morning is the open door to a new world – new vistas, new aims, new tryings.” ~ Leigh Hodges
I keep a Scrabble board set up in my office at St. Louis County, available at the front lobby area for co-workers, visitors, and employees alike to play at their leisure. I borrowed the board game from our neighbor colleagues one building over. One of my office break activities is to play Scrabble. It is a stress relief with the construction projects in my office building. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard some days. Spelling a word or two takes the edge off from the noise level of the drills and saws. I can concentrate better after forming words from the letters that pop in my head. I know it is strange, but it helps. Wellness in action versus taking a “smoke break”, a drag or two of a cigarette before hitting the reports and answering the 100 and 1 questions our employees and retirees have. A “game” is completed usually in 4 or 5 days, with myself the most active player. I experience this same release when I write this WordPress blog or in my journal.
My daughters call me the “Scrabble Queen”, because I love playing it and am very competitive. Though I am competitive in other games such as Monopoly, card games, softball, tether ball, etc. I can still smack that softball over the left field fence. Ask my elementary schoolmates about my tether ball game. I would beat the snot out of the boys at every tether ball game. Well, not the boys but the tether ball! There was a boy or two I may have swung at as well… So back to Scrabble, with my family I use to make nonsensical sentences with the words we formed on the board. My siblings or children and I would laugh for what seemed like hours making up sentences with the Scrabble words. The analyst in me wonders if the combination of words I form for any given Scrabble game have a subliminal significance? Yesterday’s Scrabble board has the words “dead”, “blind”, “fist”, “knot”, “whimp”, “weigh”, and “czar”. BTW: “Czar” scores big points for a short word if you put it on a triple letter or triple word score. So the above words are fairly strong, echoing my recent thoughts of this tough world. “I wish I were blind to the world, whimpy by character, or dead to my feelings, because I am weighed down with knots in my stomach from the tight-fisted czar called life.” Woo! Simply said, I am overdone and have a tude. Feeling ready for my vacation from the house, office, spice shoppe, and greenhouse, you think?! R & R is right around the corner, tomorrow a matter of fact. Thank God! Maybe my Scrabble game will have kinder words such as “zeal”, “calm”, “smile”, “peaceful”, “love”, and “gratitude” when I return from my northern destination? Good chance of it! I want to be a colorful light to this world!
What words does your life spell today? I pray God’s best in your life: color, music, adventure, health, love, and peace!
This print I found on Wikipedia depicts an Amish tradition, barn raising. So you think a country girl like me would be blogging about a barn raising, but it is a raise of a different kind I am writing about tonight. My full-time office job as the Employee Wellness Coordinator for St. Louis County, Missouri has become more demanding each year despite the salary freeze organization-wide for 4 years. We finally had a 2.5% raise in January, but I never saw it with the federal tax relief ending in the same month. So I have been making it a matter of prayer and continue my hard work with the county job, my stress-relief greenhouse hobby job, and more recently working at the Old Town Spice Shoppe on the weekends. Ten months ago the talk of reclassifying my position came up during my annual review. My supervisor and I felt I was severely underpaid for what my job responsibilities entail … the budgets I keep, wellness events designed and executed, as well as disability claims and the employee assistance program contract and training hours to oversee for 4,000+ employees. Well, after 10-months of research and several discussions with the executive board on my behalf, the compensation manager called me today with some terrific news. A raise of few thousand more a year than I had previously earned! Hallelujah, my prayers have been answered! I am not a rich lady, and don’t need to be. I just want to be compensated fairly, live comfortable, and save for the future (mine and the future generations). Thank you, God my Father!
Our dill is daintily charming, and so fragrant. Yesterday evening we harvest our 1st crop, and will put in a 2nd crop after the 4th of July holiday. Wild sunflowers and sprigs of dill fill a green vase today. Our chef son-in-law will use this 1st crop of dill to make pickles with his homegrown cucumbers. Maybe a jar or two of Hannahway Farm sun pickles are on our way?! The patriarch spice shoppe owner says in Europe dill is used in just about every dish. I love it with my baked fish and potato salad dishes. The 3rd crop of dill will go in early autumn, with plans to take as show-n-tell farm products to the City of St. Charles preschool classrooms Farmer Dean and I visit in November. Our 1st crop of basil screams pesto! Served with veggies, chicken, bread, and pasta, I cannot wait!
This week’s other farm chores include straightening and cleaning the screenhouse, putting extra pots and trays together in somewhat orderly fashion, and throwing broken items in the recycle pile. One recycled dresser is filled with “tea room” stuff, as well as a recycled tile-top table put aside for our meal and snack times. Another recycled dresser holds pots of blooming geraniums. We are making space in the screenhouse in case we need to move our plants to this cooler side of the greenhouse structure. Last year at this time the heat wave and drought was well underway in Missouri. The extreme heat required us to water two times a day, early morning and early evening. Our plants were housed under the shelter of shade trees in our yard while the greenhouse reconstruction plans were being modified until autumn when the heat subsided. The lack of rain has not been an issue this spring and early summer, thank you God! The growing gourd plants will go into the ground this weekend.
Growers, what are you harvesting now? What are you putting in for an autumn crop?