Archive for October, 2008

A Rash of Halloween-Related Crimes…

Our Halloween festivities this year have been dampened a bit by a rash of horrific crimes. Here’s hoping that sharing them with you will lessen the likelihood that you will also find yourselves victimized.

First, there was this:

We made a Halloween tree this year. A fun, easy project with lots of appeal for little hands; I planned on dedicating a post to it, complete with a how-to tutorial. Then, tragically, it was vandalized.

Someone, or something ate most of the candy corn pieces from the handmade garland that adorned this tree. There was likely a large amount of hot glue consumed at the same time. We were shaken, to be sure, and didn’t want to risk a second attack by rebuilding the garland, so it stands today as a reminder of our misfortune.

And last night, while happily carving our pumpkins, we were hit again by what we can only believe was the same culprit. Amidst the giggling, singing, and jubilant carving, the top of Isadora’s wee little pumpkin went missing. Under our very noses, no less. A thorough search of the premises confirmed that it wasn’t merely misplaced; we had been the target of a burglary. Right under our noses.

The always-resourceful Daddio was able to fashion a makeshift headpiece for the maimed jack o’ lantern, and we continued our ceremonial lighting of the pumpkins despite the attack.

Evidence gathered by eyewitnesses has led us to narrow the list of suspects to one main culprit. She’s got a rap sheet a mile long, ranging from petty larceny to gross misconduct. We’re pretty confident we’ve identified the perpetrator of these Halloween crimes, and have issued a warrant for her arrest.

She goes by the name Lucy, but we’ve identified these aliases also associated with her: Snora Bones, Bones Malone, Bones-a-Roni, and most recently, Bones Baloney. She’s notorious in the criminal underground for her mesmerizing “puppy dog eyes,” a tactic she uses to temporarily hypnotize her victims while subconsciously convincing them to offer her their food. If you see her, please DO NOT (DO NOT!) feed her, no matter how small the bite, and report her to the authorities immediately.

It’s a shame that a festive celebration like Halloween should be marred with such disregard for personal property. A sorry shame.

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Fall is a cushion.

This weekend was pure magic. With Daddio stalking the wild muskies with his male compatriots, us girls were given the opportunity to command our own destiny for a few days and celebrated a first for us: Girls Weekend.

I’ll admit that, in the past, a weekend of bearing the responsibilities of parenting, entertaining, and choreography solely on my shoulders, without reprieve, had been daunting. I’m a stay-at-home-mom, after all, and spend almost all of my waking hours with her, but so look forward to that moment when Daddy arrives home from work to shift some of the immense responsibility off of my plate. A security blanket, of sorts, and the thought of a whole weekend without it had always seemed too exhausting to comprehend. So in the past, we’d usually flee to the open arms of family who were only too glad to see us and soak up the brilliant rays of their granddaughter.

This time though, I sensed the need to stay put. To embrace the time together, and try to mindfully soak up every minute, without any elaborate choreography of events. To begin, it seemed important to distinguish the time from every other day we spend together, so we granted it the mystique and pomp that accompanies a Special Occasion, by dubbing it “Girls Weekend”.

We let our hair down, armed ourselves with books, movies, and popcorn and set about on three days of adventure. (a weekend of stalking the wild muskies begins on Thursday afternoon, of course)

We had some special events planned, like a visit to the pumpkin patch with a friend, and the promise of staying up late to watch Halloween movies with popcorn, but the real magic came in the smaller moments, where we bonded in ways we hadn’t yet experienced. There was no disciplining required on my part, perhaps because she had my undivided attention, and my Authority Figure hat stayed in the closet the whole time. Instead, I wore the Listen, Be Spontaneous and Joyful hat, one that often gets buried in the clutter of everyday demands.

Together, we got to experience the pure joy of fall – playing in the leaves, staring up at the technicolor trees, inhaling the marvelous, earthy smell of the leaves as they become part of the fertile soil. We spent almost all of our time outside, immersing ourselves in the unseasonably-warm fresh air.

At night, we snuggled together under the flannel sheets, as she giggled about stealing Daddy’s pillow, whispering our thoughts until the rhythm of our breathing changed to that of sleep.

It was pure magic.

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Fare-thee-well, Dapper Dan.

It is with a heavy heart that I report the loss of our valiant rooster, Dapper Dan. Our handsome guy, with his melodic crow, had fallen ill in recent times and this weekend succumbed to the promise of a peaceful sleep.

It is yet another farm-sponsored reminder that we are firmly entrenched within the dancing rhythms of the circle of life, a fact we’ve faced many times now, but that fact has not made the passing of Dapper Dan any easier to digest.

I had campaigned vigorously for a rooster amongst the flock, for a number of reasons. There are the practical ones that buffer the threat of predators, which we’ve seen plenty of. A rooster, being stronger and more aggressive, will sacrifice himself for his ladies if necessary to keep them from the jaws of harm. True chivalry. Roosters are also reputed to be quite capable of keeping the flock from straying too far, corralling everyone in before dusk, and lending a general order and authority to the organization that gives everyone within it, feathered or not, a sense of peace. While it bristles a bit with my feminist tendencies, I recognize that nature has not yet embraced these ideals, not by a long shot. I trust there’s a wisdom in this far greater than what I can fathom or pass judgment on, so I tell that She Voice to sit down and shut up.

Security and protection of the flock are valid, practical reasons for keeping a rooster, it’s true. But for me, they were secondary. Really, for me, it was the romance of a rooster that sucked me in. The crowing (yes!) and the stately carriage, all puffed out and self-confident, are emblematic of these beautiful birds, icons of the farm and the pastoral idyll. It went without saying, really. We’re going back to the land, to establish some roots and connect deeper with nature? Then we’re gonna need a rooster. And Dapper Dan was our guy.

He brought with him, like all the poultry we’ve struggled to nurture this year, a whole bag full of lessons for us.

First off, there really can be only one boss. Even with a flock of our size, more than one rooster in our henhouse meant lots of competition and aggressive behavior. If you’ve been journeying with us for a while now, you may remember another rooster that joined us for a bit: Gordon Lightfoot. He was my little grey guy as a chick, and spared from the chopping block as a cockerel (immature rooster) because we were soft-hearted. He was sent to join the ranks of Dapper Dan and His Harem, with implicit instructions to act as second-in-command. (his smaller size and crooked toes made him a less-desirable contender for the #1 position) Time and less competition for food certainly worked in his favor, however, and he soon grew strong and confident, and perhaps a bit restless as Assistant to the Manager. We soon learned he wasn’t alone: a Cuckoo Maran, masquerading as a hen at butchering time, soon revealed his true nature, and some spurs as well. And there was one more, a multi-colored who-knows-what-breed-this-is, much less what sex, bird that we had put on probation at butchering time, lest it had ovaries and potential for delicious eggs. It didn’t. He was referred to as The Clown. Suddenly we found ourselves with FOUR roosters (Dan, Gordon, The Cuckoo, and The Clown) and so much testosterone in the air, you could almost cut it with a knife. There were crowing competitions, games of strength and cunning, games of prowess with the ladies (poor ladies) and all sorts of wanna-be-alpha-male foolishness. The three posers, including Gordon Lightfoot, were swiftly dispatched, or, if you’re Isadora, sent to live on another farm.

Lesson Two: How to Deal with Bullies. This is a post I’ve had rolling around the inside of my head for awhile now, and I’m so saddened that it is now coming out in this context. Of a dead rooster.

Perhaps due to some leftover angst from the days of Rooster Competitions, Dapper Dan had just a little bit of those aggressive tendencies left over and opted to take them out on Isadora. Nothing too serious or threatening, of course, or he’d have been removed in a heartbeat, pastoral idyll or not. No, they were more like scare tactics, running towards her and scaring the bejeezes out of her, sending her running to me in tears. The poor girl would be happily playing in her sandbox (read: pile of dirt under a tree) and he’d come running toward her with a gleeful glint in his eye. Sensing a Life Lesson here, we sat down and had the important, inevitable talk about Bullies. And I’m something of an expert, I’d guess, having faced more than my share (it seems to me) as a little girl.

We walked through Stage One of the Bully Abatement procedures: Turn around, run TOWARD HIM, while hollering in a very firm, authoritative voice, “Don’t you bully ME, Dapper Dan!!!” That’s pretty hard to do, if you’re almost-three and pretty scared of this guy, so I accompanied her the first few times. It didn’t take long, though, for her to get over her fear, and soon she was referring to him disdainfully as The Bully and the tide had clearly turned. Perhaps a bit too much.

On to Stage Two of the Bully Abatement procedures: (you can follow along in your handbook) Take the high road, offer the olive branch, and see if there’s a friendship to be made from all this. Again, we sat down and I explained that she had done a great job sticking up for herself and standing her ground with The Bully, but that it’s not ok for her to become one herself. Now, she was to approach him with kindness, while saying, “I hope we can be friends, Dapper Dan.” Again, it took a few reminders, but soon she had dropped the Bully title, and was proclaiming Dapper Dan as her friend.

With a smile, I hung my hat and cape up with great satisfaction, until the next Life Lesson, when they’d be needed again.

And then the air around here grew painfully silent, except for the ever-obnoxious vocalizations of The Louds. (the guineas, as they’re affectionately called)

Dapper Dan had fallen ill, and had lost his crow.

I raced to my meager poultry library, and pulled out The Chicken Health Handbook, which details a myriad of poultry afflictions and symptoms, but is painfully devoid of treatments. So what do you do once you identify an illness? Call in the vet? Not financially feasible. Go pick up meds? Where, and what kind? Cross your fingers and hope for the best? That’s always an option, of course, but sometimes limited in its potency. I did have one tidbit of hope, some instructions a friend had passed on about mixing apple cider vinegar infused with garlic into their drinking water. Now this was right up my alley. So I tried it, and it worked! Within a few days, we again heard the throaty, albeit weakened, crow of Dapper Dan. Weeks passed, maybe longer, and again he fell ill. The meager plastic waterer I used for his past treatment was not practical for the size of the flock, as it needed to be refilled too frequently, and the galvanized waterer that was in use prohibited the use of the apple cider vinegar, as this would leach out undesirable toxins from the metal. So I set about a better solution, and placed my order from an online poultry supply company. I wasn’t too worried about Dapper Dan yet – he was still active, foraging with the others and getting plenty of fresh air; he was merely silent. This Saturday, however, he took a turn for the worst. His comb started drooping, and he maintained a position on the roost, while the others explored the bug-filled grounds. And Sunday we found that he’d had enough. Monday, of course, the new waterer arrived, filled to the brim with sorrowful irony.

It’s a long post today – part obituary, part What Do We Take From This, for posterity’s sake. I thank you for sticking it out. There are a lot of other posts you could be reading, with flashy or heart-wrenching or inspiring photos, which I too, like to pepper my own writing with. But not today.

Today, we honor Dapper Dan.

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The colors of twilight

There are many things we didn’t glean from the garden this year. I’ve lamented those in posts past, and am mentally correcting the errors for next year. But that is only half the story.

This year, our oversize, overambitious garden has yielded perhaps not the whole spectrum of a rainbow’s colors, but chose instead to highlight only the most vivid and beautiful. We were witness to golds so pure and bright, they leave little doubt that the sun herself delivered them. At this moment, a head of broccoli is transforming the sun’s rays into the most beautiful shade of frosty green I’ve ever seen. It is, indeed, the first head of broccoli I’ve grown. And the handfuls of hard, green tomatoes, plucked from the vines before the imminent frost – will these be able to make the long journey across the color wheel from green to red? I’ve nestled them among a ripe red tomato in the safety and warmth of the kitchen, to give them inspiration and a sense of direction.

These colors we’ve waited for, hoped for, even arrogantly anticipated.

But these colors came as a complete and wonderful surprise.

Shell beans, capturing all the colors of twilight and wistful memories of summer evenings that stretched on for hours. And hours. It’s fitting to have this juxtaposition now, as we’re reveling in the magic of Autumn, enjoying the crispness that brings us relief from the heat and an explosion of fiery color. This reminder of summer evenings crackling with heat and electricity help us to further ground ourselves in the magic of now, the magic of fall. Not because we long for those endless hours or the heat of that season, but because our journey through that time has led us to here, a brief but full-fledged celebration, a last hurrah, before the long winter’s nap.

We’ve committed fully to Fall now, and wholeheartedly. Windows are sealed, forgotten long-sleeves and corduroy pants are slowly making their way into our drawers. A bounty of locally-grown vegetables are finding their way into our freezer, our cellar, and into the ever-growing shelves of the pantry; canning season is in full force. The clothespins have migrated from the line to their protective bag indoors, though a bit prematurely, it seems, as we welcome temps in the high seventies this weekend. I’d be surprised if they didn’t start parading back out for just a bit longer.

And Halloween! We’ve embraced the Halloween spirit with an enthusiasm even greater than that of years past. With a tear in our eye, we’ve revisited our favorite Halloween books that first became part of our routine last year, committed to memory by our then-2yr-old and now again this year.

This year, we celebrate skeletons! Oh, how we love skeletons! And pirates. Perhaps inspired by Pirate Daddy, who is often channeled to read bedtime stories, Isadora has gleefully decided to be a pirate for Halloween. Which means Pirate Momma has some sewing work ahead of her, and this she greatly relishes.

Yes, we honor the memory of the Summer season now past, but with no longing or remorse. We are far too busy celebrating the wild ruckus that is The Fall.

I will leave this post on one very important footnote.

The project of shelling beans is a supremely terrific activity for two little hands, especially these little ones, known in our house for their superior skill in peeling garlic. You can bet that I will be squirreling away bunches of bean pods in the pockets of my apron to pull out in emergency situations, like End-of-my-Rope or Gotta-Make-Supper-Now or even Really-Have-to-Blog-Today.

Hot tip for anyone out there for anyone with similar little hands and access to beans.

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Enough Red, already.

I’ve realized that I can no longer be a monogamous knitter.

I’ve tried almost everything, I think – sensual fibers, vibrant, juicy colors, the promise of a fulfilling future together, even a support group. But, damn. My other relationship, with sewing, is so Instant Gratification. At least by comparison. The above photo (lovely, no?) is the FIRST of what will be a SET of FOUR place mats. Really, what was I thinking here? Oh yes, here it is: Easy, quick pattern. Should fly by. Can knit one, move to another project, come back to remaining THREE.

Right. Let’s edit this for reality.

I really want to be a better knitter. I want to get into the groove of the motion, the cadence, the sweet spot; that place that knitting mystics speak of when they use lofty (ridiculous, I think now) words like meditative and relaxing and soothing. But I’m so not there yet. I’m still rather bumbly with my needles all askew and the yarn not cooperating. The technique is there, but not yet flowing. Which is hard to stomach when the competence level on the sewing machine is light years ahead. Yes, I know how to resolve this – ractice, practice, practice! Lately, though, all I’ve been able to stomach is one boring row at a time. The fault lies with me, of course, and my circus-monkey-sized attention span.

So I’ve decided to court multiple projects at once, like many of my knitting mentors. Earth-shattering, right? For some reason, it has been. I remember almost precisely when I realized that I could handle reading more than one book at a time and the inkling that it might even enrich my reading, which it of course did. Call it a one-track-mind, call it loyalty. Either way, it’s stifling me, and I’m now expanding my love life. Of fibers.

Which of course necessitates a new bag to hold, tote, and otherwise protect the project. What a delicious by-product of a problem, right?

This is the “before” shot. The colored horizontal strips (flat here) are at this very moment fraying nicely in my washer and dryer to create a chenille affect. It’s a pattern or concept based loosely on a kit I coerced my Mom into buying – she makes the bag as prepared in the kit, I borrow the dimensions and concept and supply my own fabrics and chenille tape, in the colors of my choice. We worked on them together this past weekend, in a crafty retreat up north. A fun project, and fun idea – to make the same thing together.

As I was choreographing the fabric layout, I was struck with a nagging sense of deja vu. I must have used the red/yellow combo somewhere recently, but where? Scanning, scanning……here it is.

Same yellow fabric, even. I am clearly a very gifted mystic to have made this subtle connection.

Cameras will be standing by the dryer as the “after” bag comes out, all frizzed and soft and ready to take the knitting world by storm. Stay tuned.

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