May 27, 2017

She's Home...

Bad Weather On The Horizon

We slept well Thursday evening in Wapakoneta, and arrived in Jackson Center, Ohio early yesterday. Our Airstream, Aluminati, was waiting for us to hook up and leave. Handsome had new wheels installed before we arrived, having been told that there were two flats following our winter storage at the factory. We weren't surprised. The old set had served us well over the past six years, and it was time for a change.

Our trip was roughly 1,070 miles, roundtrip. Over six hundred miles were driven with Aluminati in tow, and in the rain. As we drove through northern Illinois, I photographed the squall line of a real gully-washer. Not long after I took this picture, we were being soaked.

Aluminati In Our Rear View Mirror

It was nice to look in our rear view mirror and see our Airstream behind us. With her new tires (and nearly empty interior), and the new tires recently installed on our tow vehicle, it was an easy - albeit long - trip.

Back To The Red Barns Of Wisconsin

Once we got into Wisconsin (in fact, almost as soon as we passed through the Illinois/Wisconsin toll stop) the rains subsided. We traveled up I-43 toward home, and we even saw the sun before it went down.

Back At Hickory Hill Farm
 
We arrived at the farm at almost exactly 8 pm...and we were glad to be back. We aired our two, furry road warriors and headed inside. We decided to deal with camper parking today, choosing last night to head into the house, feed Tag, Bella and ourselves instead. 
 
I always thank Handsome for getting us safely home. It was a long drive, but now this task is done and we can spend the rest of the summer enjoying our northern home. I may even change up the decor inside our camper before we take her south this fall! I'll think about that another day. I think today will be spent gardening. The weather is supposed to be perfect for it!
 
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May 26, 2017

There And Back...

Indiana Sheep Farm
 
Our Airstream has been at the Mother Ship (factory) in Ohio all winter for repairs to a soggy dinette floor. Once they affected the repairs (due to a manufacturing glitch, so "no charge"), they stored Aluminati until we could come to get her. Sweet, right? That's Airstream's stellar customer service for you.
 
Anyway, it's past time for us to pick her up, but they let us extend our stay because of the move. We decided on Monday that we'd head out yesterday for a quick "there and back" to get her and bring her home to the farm for the summer.
 
Ohio Barn

Rather than take our extended route to Madison, WI, down through central Illinois, we figured we'd just scoot through Chicago. Let's just say we won't come back that way. Too much traffic and construction south of the Windy City and into Indiana for our taste.

Although, once we got into the Fort Wayne, Indiana (and south, into Ohio), the countryside sure got pretty. Of course, I was enthralled with the barns. It seems they prefer white to red in Ohio.

Ohio Barns

We drove through some rain, but it was mostly overcast and cool. Just right for driving, and the dogs were content to sleep most of the trip.

Ohio Barn
 
We'll pick up our Flying Cloud this morning and get under way as soon as we can. We plan to sleep in our own bed tonight...with the moon shining on our Airstream safely tucked in our yard at the farm. It will be a perfect start to the holiday weekend.

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May 25, 2017

Sewing Studio - Getting Close...

The Space Between Studios

I'm so very close to being organized in the sewing studio that I had to share a few photos today. There would have been more, but the light wasn't cooperating yesterday. No matter which camera I used, there were flares in my images. Because of that, I'll wait until the light is better to give you full photographs.

This is the area between my sewing studio and my fabric studio. I decided to place my tribute to Fezzik here, where I'll see it whenever I turn the corner to enter one of these rooms.

The quilting frame is another gift from Shelley. I've placed it here to be out of the way, but this is only its temporary space. I'm planning to put it in my bedroom or in the sewing studio once the dust settles.

Treasures From Friends

I've placed the wall pocket organizer (my own design) on the wall opposite the entry door into this room. The drawings of the sweet squirrel, oak leaves and acorns were done by my dear friend, Michelle Palmer (as was the pincushion in the lower left pocket).  The teddy bear was created by the talented Margaret Bouwmeester of The French Bear in Canada. There are acorns, Corgis and other trinkets that I hold near to my heart, so I've placed them here where I can see them while I'm sewing. I'm grateful for every piece given to me.

My Sewing Room Cutting Table

This is my view from my sewing machine. I have Mom's pattern file already filled with the jelly rolls, fat quarters, patterns, and other pieces that were in it before our move. Above it are two shelves, laden with some of the items that will be available in my Etsy shop after this holiday weekend. My television (with an integrated dvd player) is there for playing movies, tutorial videos and listening to music.

Along the door jamb, I've hung pieces created by Mary Wadsworth, which I'll share again (close up) soon. They were pieces done for me to remember Kes, and one for Brynwood with acorns. I haven't placed anything on the wall yet, though. I'm still waiting to unpack everything before I make final decisions about that.

Rebecca Has Returned...With A Corgi!
 
As I said, the lighting was a bit uneven in the studio, so I won't show you my cupboard wall or computer table quite yet. I promise that will come soon. I'm happy to say that Rebecca is back in the studio, and now she has a Corgi to keep her company! 

Handsome and I are looking forward to the holiday weekend...the holiday that always signals the beginning of summer in Wisconsin. It's going to be especially fun this year...and I have a great surprise that I'll share with you about that, too. Just not today. hee hee I'm going to make you wait until next week to tell you more. We're really happy about it, so believe me, waiting to tell you bugs me as much as it does you. (wink)

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May 24, 2017

A Rainy Walk In The Woods...

Pheasant Back aka Dryad's Saddle Mushrooms

The best way for me to relax is to get out in nature. I love to take a walk in the woods. That's what I did yesterday...in the rain. I thought I'd try to find some morel mushrooms, and as with many morel hunters, my first outing for those succulent morsels was a bust. But it wasn't a complete loss!

Pheasant Back aka Dryad's Saddle Mushrooms

While taking a break from stooping, searching the ground for morels, I stopped and stood up straight. Tucked behind a branch was this glorious sight. I'm not very well-versed in edible mushrooms, but I do know from looking at the underside, this was not poisonous. However, I wasn't sure what it was, so I grabbed my iPhone and took a few photographs.

Then, I sent a message to my friend, Larry. He and I used to be councilors when I was also state secretary on the Wisconsin Conservation Congress in the 1990s. Now he's the chairman of the WCC, and we're still in touch. I know he was out last weekend, searching his own property for (and finding!) morels.

Pheasant Back aka Dryad's Saddle Mushrooms

He told me he thought it was a Pheasant Back mushroom (aka Dryad's Saddle), but I should check further. When I got back to the house, I went online and learned that, although the Pheasant Back is usually found on dead trees, they are occasionally found on live trees - as with the ones I found.

They're best harvested when they're small - and these are nearly as broad as my shoulders - so I likely won't take these this year. But you can bet, I know exactly where these were found, and I'll be back again next May for them when they're still small and tender.

Spring Sprouting Hickory Leaves

As I walked back toward the house, I stopped to check the hickory trees. The rain was falling harder, but all the plants on the farm are soaking up the water, and spreading their leaves. The hickories (I've found more!) were no exception. 

Hickory Leaves

Some were further along than others, but Hickory Hill Farm is definitely turning a lush and lovely green. We've mowed twice this week because the grass is growing by leaps and bounds - and the dandelions have gone to seed! We were glad they gave the bees a nice head start this year.

Unknown White Flowering Bush (Wisconsin)

I have yet to identify this tree, but I'll keep looking until I figure it out. So much I've forgotten over the past sixteen years. I'll learn all over again what I can't remember now. I want to know each and every plant on the farm; where it's located; and how it changes through the seasons. Whether it's raining or sunny, this land is now home to us. I'm getting to know every inch of it.

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May 23, 2017

Tuesdays With Tag - Good Mornin' Sunshine...

Bella and Tag

 Hi, Everybody!

This is Mom's view when she comes down the stairs every mornin'.
Bella and I always wait at the bottom for her to come join us and Dad.

Thing One and Thing Two

We're the early risers in the house. We wake up Dad, who takes us outside right away. He feeds us breakfast and gives us fresh water. Then, Dad makes a pot of coffee, and we wait a little while for Mom to come downstairs. We do this every day.

Usually, she'd get up at the same time, but she's been workin' hard and she's a little more tired than usual. Dad makes sure we don't wake her up by puttin' up this stoopid barrier. So, when we hear her movin' around upstairs, we wait at the bottom until she comes down.

Once we're all up and fed, who knows where our day will lead us? Wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, geese or squirrels might be close enough to chase. (Bella actually caught a squirrel about two weeks ago! Don't worry. She let it go and it ran up a tree.) We all might pile into the truck to see a cool trainin' ground (like yesterday - and we can't wait to get back there!). There's always somethin' cool to explore.

We love our life here at the farm...from our Good Mornin' Sunshine to Good Night Moon. This is a very great place.
 
I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".


May 22, 2017

Back In Touch With Wisconsin Nature...

Trilium

Yesterday, we took a drive to one of Handsome's old training grounds. He used to take our yellow Labrador, Morgan there to get in some water work. We hadn't been there in years, but he wanted to see if it was still available as a place to take Bella.

Dog Training Beach

As we drove back into the woods, the road got bumpier....and Bella got more agitated. She's very accustomed to the "off-road" feel of getting to her training grounds in Florida, so by the time we got to the lake, she was actually whining and bouncing around in the back seat area. Tag was popping up, too, just to find out why she was so nutty.

Dog Training Beach
 
It was delightful to find the training area as we'd remembered. It was a chilly and overcast day, so even though Bella would have taken off into the water without hesitation, we hadn't brought equipment for a training session. Bella would have to wait for another day.
All in all, it was a nice day for a drive in the country. We look forward to spending more time in this spot with both pups. It was also wonderful to drive through the rolling hills and farmlands of the Kettle Moraine...and revisiting the parts of Wisconsin we've always loved. There will definitely be more of that this summer.
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May 21, 2017

Sunday Scripture...

Brynwood Needleworks via Godswordimages.com
 
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May 20, 2017

A Day Of Abundance...

Amish Waste Container

Sis came out to the farmhouse yesterday. She had things she wanted to give me, and a request to deliver. It was also a chance to show off how much work I've done since her last visit when I first got back here.

When I celebrated Easter with her and her partner, Jim, I saw her gorgeous oak waste container. It has a tip out front that conceals and contains a waste basket for her kitchen. I told her how much I loved it and she told me it was a gift from Jim, handcrafted by the Amish, near where I used to live. She told me that he could pick one up for me next time he goes back to the area. (I told her that I would pay for it up front, or reimburse him when he brought it. Deal!)

Amish Waste Container In Our Farm Pantry

As luck would have it, he and his sister went back last weekend and picked up one of them for me. He and Sis delivered it to me yesterday. I knew exactly where I wanted it to go in the pantry, and I placed one of our cutting boards on top of it. It fits in perfectly, don't you think?

Chair Caned By Mom

This was a gift I knew was coming, but receiving it was an emotional event. This is likely one of the last chairs that Mom caned, and now it belongs to me. It's a gorgeous chair, and knowing that Mom's hands restored it to its original glory makes it more beautiful to me.

Chair Carving Detail

Even the little bit of carving is perfect. Nothing over the top. Just lovely, understated and quiet...just like Mom. I'll treasure it always.

Caned Footstool

As Mom got older, it was more difficult for her to comfortably cane chairs. Jim made these sweet little stools, and then she was able to cane them on her lap while sitting. This was also one of the last pieces she caned. I'll find just the perfect place for it, too, but for now, I'll keep it near the chair.

Handcrafted Bird Feeder

Jim has been busy since Easter, too. He pulled out this great bird feeder to give to us. He made this especially for us at the farm.

Handcrafted Bird Feeder
 
I knew Jim is a talented woodworker. I've seen projects he's created for Sis, including her garden shed and back porch, so I shouldn't have been surprised to see this whimsical, bearded gent who will reside in our garden. It's so much fun, and so well made!
 
It was so nice to have Sis and Jim here, and all these gifts were bonus. There was one more thing...a gift with my name on it in Mom's handwriting. I'll tell you about that another day. This is more than enough for today.
 
It's the weekend again (already). Make it a good one, my friend.
 
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May 19, 2017

My New Girlfriends...

Live Well Acres Chickens
 
I recently learned that we had a new source for local farm eggs right around our country block. I got spoiled by our Florida neighbors, Stacey and her daughter, Jenn's eggs, and needed to find a Wisconsin source. On Saturday, Handsome and I went to meet our neighbors and purchase some of their eggs.

Live Well Acres Chickens

When we arrived, we were impressed by the accommodations for their chickens...a repurposed trailer! We drove up the drive and introduced ourselves to Mike Sabel. His wife, Jenni, had just left to run errands, but Mike was happy to tell us about their operation and the chickens.

He told us he removed the floor from the trailer and put in a base that would allow their droppings to pass through onto the pasture. He said they move the trailer up to three times within the large enclosure, and then they move the whole enclosure up the hill for new pasture for them to explore and forage.

Live Well Acres Barred Red Chickens

As we chatted, the hens were happily pecking at seeds and insects. They made sweet clucking noises that made me smile. They are truly contented chickens.

Mike told me they're the Barred Red variety, and that there are two different age groups within the enclosure. They're about six months apart, and one group has leg bands so he can tell the age groups apart.

A Curious Hen

As I took photos, one of the hens came over to say hello. She was more curious than the others, who came over, but not as close. She talked as she stood there, too. I love those soft, quiet chicken vocalizations.

Eggs From Live Well Acres

We came home with two dozen eggs, in varying shades of brown. The girls are pretty consistent in egg size, and the eggs have slightly thicker shells than store-bought. I intend to hold the shells aside to add to our (near) future compost pile. 

I only have to decide where to place it, and the best way to accomplish it. Should I choose a commercially made compost bin that I can turn with a handle, or make one of those more rustic models from wood pallets? Then there's the matter of whether or not one version might invite "critters", which I definitely don't want. But I digress...

Eggs Comparison - L-R: Store vs Farm Fresh Egg Yolks

Back in 2016, I did a little "store vs home grown egg yolks" unofficial study, to show the difference. (I posted this image on my FaceBook page.) I placed the yolks side-by-side in one of my clear prep bowls. The egg I purchased at the store had a cloudy albumen while the home grown was clear. 

Also, the egg from the store was light yellow, while the home grown egg was a rich, golden color. Further research revealed that the darker the yolk, the more nutritious it is. I know they definitely taste richer. As far as we're concerned, the home grown varieties are definitely the winners, and worth buying at a slightly higher cost ($3.00 per dozen) from the farm. Support local, right?

Mike & Jenni Sabel's Business Card
 
This is Mike and Jenni's business card. I especially like the line at the bottom. "Everybody should know where their food comes from." As a hunter safety instructor, I taught this particular line to each of my students over ten years'-worth of classes. I think it's something everyone takes for granted.

We told Mike we'll definitely be repeat customers. I'm looking forward to seeing my new Barred Red girlfriends again. I'm also looking forward to creating delicious meals and pastries courtesy of his and Jenni's chickens. It's another way that our lives are enriched by living here at the farm.
 
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May 18, 2017

Putting Down Roots...

Bleeding Hearts

I think I told you last winter that I had a vision for the plantings at the farm...plants that I typically think of when I think of farmhouses and farmyards. Among the plants I mentioned were bleeding hearts.

Imagine my delight when I realized that one of the first flowers to pop out of the ground near our fence (which is well inside our property line) was a huge bleeding heart bush!

Two Ol' Girls

I asked Handsome to take a picture of me next to this huge plant to give you an idea of just how large the majestic ol' girl is. I imagine this plant is decades old, and her stately size makes her a well-established member of our yard. 

Newly Planted Rhubarb

I also mentioned that every farm should have rhubarb plants. Early Saturday morning, I received a text from Shelly's brother to let me know that a friend was thinning out his plants and giving them away. I contacted him within the hour. Soon after, Handsome and I were heading to St. Anna to pick up our rhubarb hills.

We stopped to pick up cypress mulch and a few other things and then headed home to plant. By noon, our two hills were planted and were being watered in.

Rhubarb For Freezing

We were also given all the cut rhubarb we wanted! I got those home and into a sink full of water to clean, cut and freeze. Of course, I held some back and made a crumble for dessert Saturday night. Now, our farm has rhubarb. I can cross that off my list.

Red Geraniums

When we stopped for mulch, I also chose a large cluster of red geraniums to plant into our half barrel. Shelley surprised me with a galvanized watering can when I arrived this spring, and I admit to copying her idea for displaying it. I found a small wrought iron hook tucked under the adjacent lilac bush, so I pulled it forward and hung the watering can from it. Isn't it a fun idea?

Front Porch Birdhouse

Yesterday, I decided to hang my Willodell birdhouse outside. We've had so many sweet, little birds and I wondered if one of them would move inside to start a family this spring.

Already Occupied!

Within an hour of us hanging up the birdhouse, a little wren had moved in. I had to smile when I heard it calling and singing as if to announce, "Look, guys! See what I've found!" It didn't take long for the wren to start the process of moving in.

Stormy Weather

The day ended with a turn in the weather. It was a breezy day all day, but the winds picked up late afternoon and we actually had tornado watches until 11:30 pm. We ended up with lots of wind, some lightning and rain.

Handsome, the pups and I were safely tucked inside our farmhouse, and I think those little birds had a wild ride in their houses. I'm pretty sure the plants loved the lightning and rain. The rhubarb is already sprouting again, and I won't cut that to give it a head start on the next growing season. I think we're all doing well, putting down new roots at Hickory Hill Farm.

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