Monday, July 29, 2013

Connections

In the Garden

It was a blogger's dream come true . . . when I saw on Christine's blog that she was vacationing with family in Northern Michigan, I sent her a message, hoping maybe (just maybe) we could connect in real life.

I've been reading the blog of this lovely Mama from Providence, Rhode Island for the past couple of years, admiring her writing and photography, as we bloggers and blog readers do.  I've read her articles in Taproot and admired her book.  But all this time I'd been getting to know her from afar, never expecting to actually meet Christine.

So when she got back in touch with me, and we made plans to connect, I was thrilled.  It was surreal and serendipitous to meet a "friend" for the first time and already know we had much in common.  I was so grateful that Christine and her kind Mother came over for a little visit when they were in Leelanau County.  We talked children, writing, gardens, chickens—and even discovered that we attended the same elementary and middle schools in southern Michigan years ago!

Today, Christine posted a beautiful collection of her photos from Northern Michigan on her blog.  I encourage you to take a look at this little corner of the world through her eyes and heart!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fishing Together

Getting Ready

On Friday, we followed Chris, Lara, and Julien down a long, winding two-track through the National Lakeshore, to a hidden gem of a lake where Chris took the girls on a long-awaited fishing trip.

The First Catch

E & Chris

I had never been to this peaceful place before, but Chris knows this lake well.  Actually I think he knows the best spots to fish in every little lake within 10 miles of Gousty.  He has been fishing regularly since he was ten years old, but to watch his enthusiasm with the children, you'd never think he's caught thousands of bass, bluegill, perch, sunfish (and many others, I am sure).  His love for fishing is contagious.  As he handed over the rods to the girls, I watched Amabel and Ellen immediately gaining confidence as they became absorbed in watching for their bobbers to "dance" on the surface of the beautiful, silent lake (no motors allowed).

Amie

The Crew

And Julien?  Well, he is already a little expert himself!  Within just a few minutes, he showed Amabel and Ellen how to reel in a shiny Bluegill.

Buds

Fish On!

Bluegill

After a successful round of fishing, we paused for a picnic lunch; Chris donned his fly gear; and the children went exploring in the reeds.

Fly Fishing

Exploring

Swamp Flower

On the Log

A Frog!

June's Frog

As we were catching frogs, the wind changed direction and the cloud cover started to darken.  But the girls didn't want to stop fishing.  And it's a good thing we stayed a bit longer, because as a light sprinkle fell upon the lake, the fish really started to bite.  Amabel caught a lovely Bass, a Pumpkinseed Sunfish, and then a nice size Perch.  Chris showed us how to carefully extract the hooks and release all the fish back into their shimmering home.

Sun Fish

Little E

Perch

Just as we ran out of night crawlers, I could feel a definite shift in the air.  We quickly packed up and said our goodbyes.  As soon as our cars were out of the woods and we had turned on M-22, the sky opened up.  We drove home in a deluge—the rush of water around us nearly downing out Ellen's happy songs about the rain and the fish and the lake.

The Lake

Friday, July 26, 2013

Chicken Update

Getting More Seeds

Thanks to all your helpful suggestions, kind emails, phone calls, and well wishes—our "basement bird" has rejoined her sisters.  I think it was the goldenseal powder that really helped speed up her healing process (thank you, Samantha!).  And I have Jeffrey to thank for making the chickens a safe, movable place to forage.

Chicken Tractor

_7266571

The whole flock celebrated this morning with a feast of sunflower seeds!

The Sunflower!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Birthday Making

Little Dude

One of our favorite children's books is Phewtus the Squirrel by V. H. Drummond, the story of a little boy named Julian and his beloved knitted squirrel.  Inspired by cousin Julien's recent birthday and his delight in this book, we made a doll and squirrel set for him last week. 

The doll pattern is from Hillary Lang's Wee Wonderfuls (Again, yes.  I have not tired of using her lovely patterns!).  We have made three or four versions of this particular doll (his name is Eddie in the book).  The doll comes together so quickly, and I think it is genius to transform an outgrown child's knit shirt into a doll shirt!  This little striped shirt was "upcycled" from Amabel's very favorite jammie shirt that completely wore out in the elbows.  She was so happy to see it brought to life again!  

The squirrel is based loosely on this bunny knitting pattern.  We just eliminated the ears and added an i-cord tail.

Phewtus

The girls and I throughly enjoyed making Julien's birthday gifts and we were very excited to take them to his party at Gousty.

Arrival

Opening

Cousin Play

But I must admit that once the doll was opened, all the cousins much preferred a bunch of balloons, a tub of good old playdoh, and a romp around Grandmommy and Grandfather's beautiful Gousty gardens!

Play Dogh

Play Dough Boys

Up to the Swing

Dill

Buds

Hollyhocks

Veronica

Hammock Girls

Plume Poppies

Run!

Harry & E

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Spoke Too Soon

Injured Bird
Photo by Amabel 
Harry looked so lovely in the hen house on Friday.  But I spoke too soon.  Sunday was a sad day around these parts.  The terrier duo killed one chicken and injured another.  We are now nursing a Buff Orpington hen.  I am not sure if she'll make it (her bandage is hiding a deep cut), but I feel a little more hopeful after talking with a local chicken expert today.  For those of you who are tired of reading about chickens, I apologize. 

We had a group of family over on Sunday.  After lunch everyone went swimming, and the dogs were with us.  Eventually we all got out of the pool and went out of the gate, leaving Harry and Nancy still enclosed in the fence.  I went inside with my sister-in-law Lara to get dry clothes for the kids and then we started cleaning up the kitchen.  Suddenly (was it five minutes later, ten minutes later?) I heard Amabel yelling that cousin Philena saw the dogs attacking the chickens (did she actually see them or just hear them?).  I went flying down the path towards the coop, wondering how the dogs got out of the pool fence (we often leave them "safely" confined in there when we are around outside).  Near the coop, I found Harry and Nancy on either side of a very frightened chicken.  Philena had already grabbed Harry (how long had she been holding him?).  My brother Chris grabbed Nancy (or did I grab Nancy?).  I rushed the dogs back up to the house before I went back down to survey the scene.  

It was brutal.  At first I could only see two Barred Rock hens (the girls very favorite pair of speckled "giraffes"), huddled in a corner of the coop.  But then I spotted what was once a gorgeous black Australorp, in a heap on the ground, feathers scattered everywhere.  After looking around a bit, I discovered a shy little Buff Orpington with a huge chunk of feathers missing from her neck, hiding out under a bush (that would be the chicken in the photo above).  None of the other chickens were around and I thought for a few minutes that we only had the two giraffes left.  I started sobbing and went up towards the house.  The girls started sobbing.  The boys continued looking for the rest of the chickens.  

Fortunately, cousin Julien soon found a group of birds under a mulberry tree and eventually the last missing chicken (the twin Australorp) found her way back into the coop.  Jeffrey helped me bandage the injured bird and set up a recovery dog crate in the basement.  Chris and I buried the black beauty while Lara did some art therapy with the children.  It helped to have so many hands around to manage the crisis, but I still felt exhausted for the rest of the day.  Exhausted and embarrassed.

Embarrassed because I've been trying to teach Harry not to eat the birds.  And I was so proud of him.  But who am I kidding?  He is a terrier.  And when he and Nancy get together, they are a whole pack of terriers.  And they have instincts.  Instincts and no shame.  I spent a whole day being mad at them, but what's the use?  Oh, furry murderers!  You drive me crazy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Guess Who . . .

Harry in the Chicken Coop

. . . found his way up the chicken ramp and into the coop this morning?  Don't worry, no one was hurt: Harry was just keeping close tabs on his birds.  Babysitting, as Amabel said.

Instead of scolding and immediately removing him (as I probably should have done), I left Harry there with Amabel on watch, ran up to the house, and returned with the camera.  It was so hilarious.  I just couldn't resist capturing his triumphant expression.  But then there was a little bit too much excitement (see below), so I had to intervene . . . Harry likes to keep everyone on their toes!

My Bird!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Intentions

Misty Morning

It is morning.  Before I even open my eyes I have the very best of intentions: Amabel and I will do a language lesson and walk the dogs before Ellen wakes; then we'll make breakfast, start laundry, and tidy up; the girls and I will read together; and then maybe I'll sneak into my office for a bit of work.  

Girls

But then I see the day.  The hills are covered in a delightful mist that is sure to lift before noon, and so I revise my plan.  We'll go outside first.  We'll go out to feed the chickens and then take a little walk.  A short walk.

Knapweed

But our short walk turns into a long meander, because the girls want to go pick cherries and it is just so lovely outside.  Last week, when we were looking for mulberries, Amabel discovered a sort of miniature cherry tree, standing alone in a quiet meadow.  To the south, our neighbor farmer owns hundreds of acres of orchards that stretch out over the hills.  But this lonely tree stands apart, looking as if it was left behind long ago. . .

Amie Spots the Tree

Or perhaps it was not left behind.  Maybe it has simply been waiting for someone to discover it.  Maybe it has been waiting for two little people . . . because it is, after all, just their size!

There it is.

Shades of Red

Their little hands are soon busy, picking.  Their little mouths are busy, chattering.  Tasting.  Comparing notes.  Are they ripe?  A little sweet.  A little sour.  Yes, they are ripe.

Within Reach

Fill it Up

Children's Cherry Tree

By now I have lost all track of time, and my morning intentions have floated far out of my consciousness.  I am in the meadow with girls, dogs, and tall, waving grasses.  I am surrounded by bird song, moist air, and happy, chirping voices.

I can reach!

Jar Full

The language lesson, the cleaning, the work: it can all wait.  And now there are cherries for breakfast.

Can I eat all these?