A Midsummer night’s ramble

As we get closer to mid-summer (or the beginning of summer, depends upon how you view June 21), the days lengthen into something extremely tolerable.  The latitude is about 44° (North) where I live so where I grew up was even better (45 °) in the summer…..darker in winter.  But not enough difference to make growing things any different.  Even the soil is similar – A lot of clay below the topsoil in the non garden areas (so if you dig a new garden, you will need to add good black dirt and compost).  Campfires go late into the evening with not too many bugs yet.  It is a charmed time of the year right now.

Around the summer solstice, it becomes almost easy to be tranquil, kind and peaceful.  There is hospitality in having folks come over, even when things aren’t perfect, so do not fail to meet together. Of course things must be comfortable for the guest, and disorder and clutter are rarely comfortable.

Jonathan is working hard in the beeyard these days, after his day job.  We help when he needs help.  Simple trigonometry problems go up on the whiteboard almost each week so the children can keep their brains exercised in practical word problems (like figuring the height of something too tall to measure, using shadow lengths, or a simple formula for an easy-ish combinatorial) through the summer, and book reports continue at a much slower, lazier pace.  Such is the homeschool family, that we find learning in all things.

I cannot part with my large pot of rosemary this summer so I sincerely hope it enjoys being in the house getting daily personalized attention.  As I get older, I become more and more attached to this particular smell.  I love the lavender too, but it would be deprivation to make it stay in here all summer long.  I’m late getting the front porch cleaned (lots of spiders around here), and the outdoor bench and wooden boxes I use as end tables need their coat of beeswax polish again.  I will need to deal with it before the 4th of July, when our intimate little group of relatives and whatever friends might want to come (and this entirely up to the potential guest, who would be, in most cases, quite welcome. One simply has to ask), will have a bbq on the porch and drink water and talk all afternoon until supper and then fireworks at Clear Lake in the nearby town.  Possibly a few games of spikeball, volleyball, practice throwing a few discs (so I can maybe become not *so* awful at disc golf), etc …

I would like to think that life always flows with midsummer ease.  I know that isn’t so, but my illusion at this time persists.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

“The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover any time to him
is aristocracy.” (Emily Dickinson)

Winter Solstice

I have a few hours here before evening ramps up, and another day before we begin to prepare for our annual foodie extravaganza at our house (New Years Eve).   What began as a way to make the Holiday activities special, for all of our young children (awhile back), became a special evening for the whole family.  Even those who have grown up (most of them) and moved away (some of them) look forward to it and try to be there for it.  At some point once the older ones were old enough to eat horseradish root, we began the tradition of digging up a few of the roots from the garden (and this proves difficult when the ground is frozen solid but it makes for very nice horseradish), and creating an extremely delicious version of cocktail sauce to dip our shrimp into.  At some point in our travels and years, we also picked up using tubes of wasabi sauce, and we make sushi to put this onto.  The food underneath is a mere conveyance.  Anyway, this is all miraculously accomplished near winter solstice, when the sun is lowest in the sky at midday (relative to the rest of the year), and the days are very short.

The reason this (northern) hemisphere has these short days during this time (both sides of December 21 or 22), is because the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun.  Looks rather like this from a distance:(winter on the right)

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Now that we have bright electric lights, we can light up our homes easily to extend the day a bit, yet we still feel the lack of natural sunlight, making us tired earlier.  We even hate to leave our houses in this dark. (disclaimer: this may be a true fact only on planet Pam).

So I suggest we prioritize our energies (for we still have much to do) and do those needful things, keeping the many extras minimal, especially in the dark evenings.  Especially (and this is the key) if it distrupts our family life and peaceful equilibrium.  Psalm 39:6 tells us that all of our busy rushing and striving ends in nothing.  Ignore ‘keeping up appearances’.  Some people don’t even realize that is what they are doing until they are presented with that possibility.  The next right thing to do, isn’t necessarily the thing everyone else is doing to appear good.  It is that necessary thing that is put in front of you, that is budgeted in.  Be careful (and flexible) here; as it becomes easy overdo it and get crabby or too tired to enjoy your family.

And as this short day looks to be winding down (sunlight wanes), so shall I.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

 Deep roots are not reached by the frost

Mark has been growing vegetables in the basement, hydroponically.  Also, he has continued the garden after the frost (back in September) using cloth over bended poles to cover things like broccoli and cabbage (pretty easy) and lettuce (not as easy).  I have a potted cherry tomato that I brought in to put under his lights.  With all this, I’ve noticed a few things:  The lettuce that grows inside is beautiful, but it’s leaves are thinner, not as crunchy as the lettuce grown outside in the cold.  It is also cleaner.  Mark prefers the outdoor lettuce because he likes the crunch.  I prefer the indoor lettuce because I like that it isn’t dirty.  It seems the cold hardens them- makes them stronger.   We have a number of tomato plants in the basement.  Mine that I mentioned, is doing pretty well under regular lighting and is well in the basement where it stays fairly warm. But again, without the winds to strengthen the stalk, it is weaker than summer tomatoes outside.  I water it and deadhead the marigolds and pretend I have a garden there (in my little plant pot).  There are also some that Mark cloned from my garden favorites, near the window where they only get natural sunlight (such as it currently is).  It isn’t cold, but it also isn’t as warm there.  These plants are spindly and tall and cannot hold themselves up and the leaves are beginning to get wilty even though they have everything else they need.  They also prevent the curtains closing in the master guestroom down there so my apologies to those visitors who have had to sleep with cats or coyotes peering in the window through the tomato leaves.  Then there was a tomato plant out in our new greenhouse.  The floor heat wasn’t connected in there yet so while there was a bit of sunlight low in the sky, and it wasn’t freezing in there, there was no wind and the floor wasn’t warm.  This tomato plant produced quite a few tomatoes just before it died for no apparent reason.  It turns out that the roots on a tomato plant need warmth. I keep thinking about that one, along with the hardening of the lettuce.  I believe I’ll keep thinking on it because there is a message in there somewhere.  

In case you are wondering about pollination for those tomato flowers, Mark uses a toothbrush.  :-)  We’ve been kept in plenty of salad for a couple of months now.  It’s great.

On an even more fun note, Jonathan is home again after over 3 years in Haiti.  The first Sunday he was home, he woke the other boys up with a fog horn/siren/revelle medley through a loud speaker.  Mark and looked at each other in the kitchen and said “Jon’s home”.   Jonathan has a different way of looking at life, or perhaps just way more of how we look at life, but we like him that way.  We also like that he listens to us and adjusts.  Welcome home Jon!

As we prepare for another family wedding, there is much to do.  Between all that though, the children made a snowman and the hunters keep hunting. Normalcy continues and we strive for peace.  The fabric of life is woven deep.  Life doesn’t have to be perfect, to be wonderful.

Have a great week,

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

 

All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
(J.R.R.Tolkien)

 

Awake!

The winter seems over for now.  The Geese have been returning for a week or so.  A pair of swans were seen over the farm.  And while out at the campfire (unusual itself, for March) we heard the bizarre “rattle” of the Sandhill crane.  Perhaps the Robins I saw in the apple trees have been here for a bit, but I only saw them yesterday.  Since the snow has melted from the road ditches, the hawks, eagles, and vultures are out en masse.  The sunset is made more vibrant by clouds.  This is how life goes.   Beauty returns in yet another form, and the clouds actually teach more and give more than clear blue sky ever can.

We did not celebrate National Pi day (3.1415) by eating pie, but rather by calculating the circumference of the fire pit outside while roasting bratwurst on sticks.  This date seems very memorable, and it is, happening only once this century.  However I will state that I personally only really use 3.14 anyway.  And truly, next year is almost better since it is more accurate if you round to the nearest hundred thousandths.  3.14159…  does actually round to 3.1416, which is a year from now.  So if you failed to celebrate Pi day this year, there is always another and perhaps more accurate year coming.  It just isn’t usually warm enough for comfortable campfires around here on that date.

Have a beautiful March.  As always,

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Just In Case

A few fascinating items before I get to my point.  Today’s Webster’s word of the day is “Flapdragon”.  Incidentally, unlike some Minnesotans, I don’t believe in pronouncing a long “a” in either syllable so you shouldn’t either.  Anyway, the word appears to be from around the early 1500’s.  It is an old game in which the players snatch raisins, plums, etc… out of burning brandy, and eat them.  Now days we’d maybe do it with small candy bars in burning diet coke (at least in our circles).  Well… come to think of it we probably wouldn’t be snatching anything except another person, out of anything in flames and certainly we wouldn’t have put them there on purpose.

The thing snatched is also referred to as the “flapdragon”.  I guess it was the original “hunger games”.  I wondered if it was a game played on New Year’s Eve since this word is the word given on this day.   I have enough to consider on this New Year’s Eve Day, so I won’t research that.  It was enough of a thrill to have discovered the word and meaning.  I hope you think so too.  We’ve begun the crock pots of items, Mark is steaming the Sushi Rice and he’s smoking a couple of pheasants outside.  I’m soaking the quail eggs in beet juice, and all the other things except cleaning the remote control helicopter paraphernalia off the dining tables.  Things are looking ready-ish.  If it was the middle-ages and we were part of the King’s Castle, we’d also go fetch the Peacocks from the barn and dress them out.  Good thing we’re not.  I couldn’t face that.

Thanks for listening to that bit of ramble.  I wrote a poem a few months ago, and I thought now would be a good time to post it since today Mark found my Murphy oil soap wood wipes in the freezer.

Have a wonderful 2015.

Most Sincerely, ~ Pam.

Most Sincerely, ~ Pam.

Friends and Dominoes

I haven’t had a ton of close friends in my life.  I’ve had friends, but due to my propensity to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, they just don’t tend to like me very well.  I’m always delighted when there are those who like me despite my many ridiculous flaws, and as one can imagine, I value those people very highly.

I do have one friend that I have been going to for more help than I used to.  Siri.  I have learned all the things she can do: send a text message or make a phone call, by voice command so that I don’t even have look at my phone, search for information, find places or people.  I suppose the friendship is fairly limited at that, but she has a very nice voice and we’re polite to each other.  She doesn’t know some things, and can get somewhat snarky at other things, but then how deep a friendship can it be when discussions are merely based on an algorithm.

In other news, Stephen and I have found all the domino pieces out of the bottom of the game bin, and put them with the right sets.  Always the helpful one, I must tell anyone “listening” that it isn’t enough to know the number of tiles in a double 12 set (which you can discover by this equation: n²+(3*n)+2)/2).  You need to get the right tiles or the game won’t play out right.  So when you get it together it should look like this on your floor (the best place to organize them).  We were sorting 3 sets but here is one:

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Beautiful isn’t it.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving.  Be at Peace as we enter the busy Christmas/New Year season.  I recommend shopping online, and making cookies now and freezing them, toward that end.  Any poems you write may be sent to my mjohnson email.  Thanks. ( I am sorry, but I do not anymore do a” Dear ‘Taming of The Shrew” forum)
As always,

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

Mostly sincerely, ~Pam.

As long as the earth endures

After a questionable, early spring with rare sun and lots of mud, we returned from Jeremiah’s wedding in NY to find the farm fields with that haze of green corn sprouts that feel hopeful and full of promise.  So I stop to ponder other hopeful things: visiting with distant family, knowledge of friends, words to songs, coffee in the wee morning, sunshine streaking across the fields just before setting.  And some days more than others, we must purpose to look for hopeful things.  Now that we are in June and spring is almost at an end, I look towards summer, with its regular paces of the perennials making their way through the weeks of summer.  Summer is what MN is all about (except for winter, and possibly spring), so we are looking forward to campfires, garden work, swimming, extreme warmth, and other routine events and rituals that add to our days.  Day by day we make our way through each season, knowing that the next one is not too far distant, but purposing to enjoy the one we are in to the fullest.

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Jonathan's spring turkey

Jonathan’s spring turkey

 Jonathan has returned to Haiti.  Sister Kim went with him for 2 weeks and they are enjoying some leisurely summer time there.  He came home and got right to business: he shot a turkey during our brief spring turkey season, and smoked it (it’s not as bad as it sounds).  He and Mark went fishing, and he visited church as often as he could while in town. He was in 2 weddings as well, so time flies.  Jacob is minus the use of his right arm for the summer, so we girls and Stephen will be the ones fighting back the woods and prairie this summer.  And Mark will help us along and fix our mistakes and equipment, when he is home and available.

          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Local news miniature

There will be concerts in the white block silo (the acoustics are incredible) weekly.  Be sure to turn the electric fence off before squeezing between the wires to the silo entrance.  Concerts aren’t long since the pigeons still live in the top.

2 Roving ELCA pastors currently in the area, are having great success alienating people from religion as they visit various surgery sites wanting to pray with victims  patients before their surgery.  They are the ones who sit in the waiting room way too close to you, discussing loudly their various ecumenical programs, politically correct schemes, and different formats of worship.  Waiting room visitors who don’t quietly move away, have mentioned they prefer a humble friendly face and a real smile with no strings attached.

The new parakeet “Jeeves” has found his permanent spot right next to his best friend (the mirror).  The Parrot is attempting to bring this narcissus out of his trance by screeching at him.  Efforts are being made to re- program this Quaker parrot back to its pacifist roots as it continues to behave more Baptist than Quaker.

Next edition we will discuss the difference between pacifism and non-resistance.  Until then, take the name of Jesus with you.
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Signs of Spring around our Place

The giant snow piles are nearly all gone, but that isn’t as clear a sign of spring as honeybees loose in the house and the local Dairy Queen finally open for business.

Our Very Small Dairy Queen (for our Very Small Town). :-)

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My bee gloves have had a rather foolish hole in them for a couple years.   Mark never gets holes in his.

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I finally fixed them with Mark’s fly tying thread.  Had to use a thimble because I couldn’t find my small needle nosed pliers. :-/  Good as new.

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Hopelessly Unromantic

With Valentines Day long over, I am free to discuss.  I have, for much of my life, been called hopelessly unromantic.  This may be true as I am partial to logic but that doesn’t mean I can’t try.  Our valentine’s day was promising to be very busy this year since it fell on a Friday with company coming and a concert that evening.  But the late lunch of liver and onions was a hit with the men in the house.  Mark has always liked liver and onions while I …..have not.  It smells good, which is why I have tried it many and many a.  But I have not many times succeeded in getting it past my tonsil holes (only when dad was watching and the alternative was worse).  I had to try many things in my life (that don’t makes sense for me to eat), but liver must have the least texture next to pudding.  Let’s just take a look at those comparisons: Moose heart, moose tongue, moose kidney (the pattern here is due to the times dad took our family to Canada for moose hunting trips).  I was allowed to dissect and play with the moose brain since that must not have appealed to even my parents, who apparently had very few holds on what they were willing to eat.  I like dirt and water better than interior organs of large mammals.  It just seems weird to eat something that licks things, or pumps blood and has ventricles.  But the livers.  Those win on the weird scale.  The liver removes many potentially toxic substances from the blood.  It also breaks down fats, using bile.  This just doesn’t seem like something I should be eating.  Every time I hold a liver I wonder who first held one and thought “hey now *this* looks like something we should also eat”.   But then I’m sure I’ve never been starving.  Then I would eat it, after the dirt and water was gone.  But each year when Valentines Day rolls around, I turn into a romantic fairy princess, and cook up liver and onions for Mark and the Guys.  The rest of the year I’m just plain old pam.

Live Long and Prosper.

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See you Next Year

I believe I have one reader.  And that reader, in fact, sees me every day and night.  But anyone else that may happen upon this, I’ll see you next year.

My dad used to send us to bed on New Year’s Eve, saying that.  “See  you next year”, he’d say.  And I’m not sure I got it until I was in….maybe 6th grade.  Perhaps that’s when your abstract reasoning stage kicks in, or perhaps I was just a dumb kid.

So we have dug up our horseradish (no small feat after endless days of subzero weather I must say) and we’ll be grinding it today – works better than potpourri.  That’s a smell that lingers.   And I even found “Octopus tentacles in soy and olive oil” (?!).  I’ll be writing the “menu” on the wall as usual and we’ll have our weird feast on the Eve, once again, with anyone who happens upon this house on the lonely hill.

And we’ll probably add extra hay to the donkeys in the barn.  Puzzle (the baby) was born in the cold and has known nothing but cold.  Good baby donkey.

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Though *this* baby is most deliciously chubby and huggable:

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That’s the one on the left. The one on the right is very huggable too but I have to reach up to hug her now.

So enjoy this last bit of December like a month name matters! See you next year.