Gee, That’s Huge

Picture this covered by fruit-bearing vines.

The man I love has an odd fondness for doing things in a big way. Not big as in loud or ostentatious. He’s simply a fan of what’s sturdy, made to last, and sized to handle whatever might happen. He’s had plenty of opportunity while fixing up our no longer falling down house. The back porch is now built on 6 x 6 rather than more standard 4 x 4. It has heavy beams and railings, plus a lovely blue metal ceiling. Chances are it’ll outlast the house.

Bit of Earth Farm porch

No photo does this sturdy porch justice.

Years ago I made fun of him for buying several giant stockpots (the largest holds 8 gallons). Turns out they’re essential for autumn canning days when we transform two bushels of apples into applesauce, a few gallons of grape juice into jelly, and the fruits of 30 or so tomato plants into marinara, stewed tomatoes, and salsa. The pot also holds enough chili or mulled cider for giant gatherings we love to host here, holidays as well as Odd Second Saturday Suppers.

One of our smaller stockpots on the right.

Yes, I made fun of the giant masher he bought too. But then, I cook at least 5 pounds of potatoes every time I make mashed potatoes, so it’s entirely useful.

masher

Potato masher that dwarfs a spoon.

And then there’s this mallet. A few more and we could play a Paul Bunyan-sized game of croquet.

mallet

A mallet taller than our fire place.

So when we talked about a structure for hardy kiwi plants known for their vigorous climbing vines, I shouldn’t have been surprised at what he built.

arbor

Drilling post holes.

Putting sides together.

Putting sides together.

Making it level before putting cement around posts.

Soon, hardy kiwi fruits will be ripening!

It’s adorable in a huge way. It’s 24 feet, rising to a 12 foot, 9 inch peak. We call it an arbor, our daughter calls it Kiwihenge,  archaeologists may some day call it “what the heck?”

 

 

 

 

Posted in gardening, home repair | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Perfect Winter Day

Trumpet guy (sculpted by Kirby) still wearing a Santa hat.

Trumpet guy (sculpted by Kirby) still wearing a Santa hat.

I love winter. I’ll take wind and snow over any steamy summer day. I know I’m in the minority here. And I know extreme cold isn’t kind to people and creatures without adequate shelter. Still, I adore the invigorating effect of cold and the way snow enhances the beauty around me.

I also adore how much less work there is in winter. Nothing to plant, weed, harvest, or put up. Just the occasional pleasure of digging up a few rutabagas and sunchokes from crumbly frozen soil when I’m ready to roast them into warm dinner offerings.

Here’s what it looks like on our little farm.

My husband is committed to feeding the birds. He makes his own suet mixture from peanut butter, lard, seed, and dry fruit. In this weather he fills the feeders more than once a day. This time lapse taken by Sam shows bird visits in 45 minutes.

Fence post shadows look blue against the snow.

Fence post shadows look blue against the snow.

Wind has shaken snow’s coating off tree branches.

Our Christmas tree, now designated as wildlife habitat.

The kids made me contemplation stools, the better to enjoy chicken watching.

Years ago the kids made me a contemplation stool, to better enjoy chicken watching. Not using it at these temps.

Chickens emerge from the coop to investigate some kitchen scraps.

 

Isabelle and Clovis chomp on carrots and cabbage.

Yes, Isabelle is still patiently nursing her giant calf.

My attempt at a snow angel. It looks like a snow moth or maybe a snow frog.

My attempt at a snow angel. It looks like a snow moth or maybe a snow frog.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.  ~Andrew Wyeth

In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold. ~Ben Aaronovitch

It is a spur that one feels at this season more than at any other. How nimbly you step forth! The woods roar, the waters shine, and the hills look invitingly near. You do not miss the flowers and the songsters, or wish the trees or fields any different, or heavens any nearer. Every object pleases…. the straight light-gray trunks of the trees… how curious they look, and as if surprised in undress. ~John Burroughs

Posted in gratitude, optimism, winter | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Politeness Recovery

good girl behavior, too polite, politeness recovery, growing assertiveness,

Politeness is the dodo bird of our times. No one is quite sure what killed off civility but it’s obvious that two-year-olds aren’t growing out of tantrums or a sense of entitlement. Instead they just get bigger, becoming toddler adults. They drive like idiots, foster workplace stress, simultaneously overindulge and ignore their own kids, feed on the negative energy of angry pundits, and blame everyone else for their own problems. They need to learn a little empathy, or at least the rudiments of feigned empathy we call politeness.

But some of us are way on the other side of the spectrum. We’re so empathetic that we tremble with concern for the feelings of other people. And animals. And plants. I even tremble with empathy for spiders. It wouldn’t occur to us to put ourselves first or to act rudely (although I can be really annoying despite my best intentions ).

Some may have been born this way. The rest of us were raised to be too polite for our own good. Right around the time we started crawling we were taught to be respectful and considerate at all times. No exceptions. If asked how we are, we learned the answer should always be affirmative followed by a kindly inquiry about the other person. Never mention any peril you may be in, the object is to focus on others. This means if you’re bleeding, you deny there’s any real problem (oh it’s nothing), don’t bleed conspicuously, and God forbid, don’t complain about whatever caused you to bleed. If you are offered a favor, graciously decline. Even if it’s chocolate. If someone is actively causing you difficulty, either put up with it without complaint or extricate yourself in a way that doesn’t embarrass the other person.

Maintaining this level of politeness rarely permits the most authentically lived life. It’s more like an affliction. We do our best to avoid winning games, getting the best grades, pushing ahead at work, sticking up for ourselves, saying what we mean unless it’s “nice.”  Being too polite actually put me in dangerous situations more than once. Nice at all costs, gotta go. Kind, yes. Honest, yes.

Politeness recovery is a slow process and often difficult. It’s complicated because I’m naturally opinionated, sardonic, and forthright. And sometimes silly. Suppressing that side of myself has never been easy. But I’m not giving up my polite side by any means. Politeness is essential if we’re to live together in any kind of harmony. I’ve found genuine politeness has a surprising way of bringing out the best in other people. It presumes they are basically good (a core principle of non-violence) and many times, that’s all that required. (Now, if only that principle were applied on talk radio and in snarky web threads.)

More importantly, I want to be authentic. Treating people with respect and understanding simply feels right. It comes from true compassion, far richer than any thin soup of poor self-worth. The generosity and love of kindness stimulates more of the same.

I aim to give up only the parts of my Good Girl upbringing that hold me back from my eventual goal of becoming a rowdy old lady. My politeness recovery is still ongoing but my friends are amazing role models. They’re well ahead, evolving before my eyes. Some days I’m swimming in the muck, other days I join them on land. I’m often awkward, occasionally splattering mud as I go, but I’m a creature in progress trying to be polite as well as real, empathetic as well as centered, serious but silly too. Like a dodo bird who hasn’t given up on her wings.

This article is re-posted from Farm Wench’s main site

Posted in honesty, humor, non-violence, optimism, self-reliance | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My New Book Is Out!

Tending rises from my life on Bit of Earth Farm. Informed by quietly ordinary days, these poems look into the nature of things with questions that circle the stars. I’m thrilled that the cover photo is by talented artist (and my sister) Cynthia Piper.

 

“Laura Grace Weldon employs radical empathy to enter into the hidden lives of rutabaga, cows, the neighborhood bully, and the beating heart of life itself.  Playful, curious, sensual, she aims to open the reader’s eyes and heart.”

Alison Luterman, author of See How We Almost Fly  and The Largest Possible Life.

 

“Laura Grace Weldon’s poems remind us that our world’s necessary brushes between nature and technology, human and animal, are not necessarily ones of friction. Instead, Weldon sees these moments as truly wondrous ones, available to us not only on the farm, but also in the back pocket of a window washer, swinging among the skyscrapers.”

Brad Ricca, author of American Mastodon and Super Boys.

 

“Memory, faith, and the natural world as both witness to the cycle of human life and healer to a questioning heart are at the core of this lovely and lyrical collection of poems. The weather changes, people come and go from cities and towns, babies are born, grow up and depart from their parents’ arms, but still, the countryside and its rituals sustain the people and creatures who know how to read the signs of the seasons. In these pages, Laura Grace Weldon shares those signs with us; her poems are the fruit of a wonderful harvest.”

Eleanor Lerman, author of The Sensual World Re-emerges: Poems and Mystery of Meteors.

 

“Laura Grace Weldon’s poems are concrete, allusive, and rich.”

 Diane Kendig, author of The Places We Find Ourselves.

 

“These are calming poems, set deep in the specifics of this life.”

David Budbill, author of Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse
and Happy Life.

Published by Aldrich Press. Order HERE.

peace in tragedy, energy fingerprint, what we leave behind, act in crisis,

Image:andrewpoison.deviantart.com

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Turning Pumpkins Into Milk & Eggs

why leaves change color,

Chlorophyll normally masks yellow, orange, and red pigments. Until autumn, when true leaf color is apparent.

We’re exulting in a glorious autumn. Week after week we are blessed by bright leaves against deep blue skies. As they lose their chlorophyll they teach us about the beauty of endings.

Al the duck.

Al the duck.

Al the duck floats serenely on the pond. He has an active social schedule. About a dozen mallards visit every morning. They swim together, preen together, and waddle out to nosh on cracked corn together. Once they leave Al flaps back to the pond to swim the day away.

A lone strawberry, veteran of several frosts.

A lone strawberry, veteran of several frosts.

We’re still harvesting in the first week of November. Beets, butternut squash, Jerusalem artichokes, Brussels sprouts, tomatillos, and one brave strawberry that somehow soldiered on through several frosts to ripen. And roses, lots of roses!

November roses.

November roses.

Pumpkins that already served as Halloween decorations now find another use.

Jack-o-lantern fate.

Jack-o-lantern fate.

They feed chickens,

Fowl interaction over some pumpkin flesh.

Fowl interaction over some pumpkin flesh.

amuse cows,

Why is there a pumpkin in our pasture?

Why is there a pumpkin in our pasture?

and inspire bovine/cat curiosity.

20131104_135831

Clearly the wheelbarrow is more interesting to cows

20131104_140048

and feline

Master of Wheelbarrow.

Master of Wheelbarrow.

than squash with a face. No matter, those pumpkins come back to us as milk and eggs.

Maple glories.

Maple glories.

All the while I feast my senses on golden fields ready for harvest, bright green grass, gardens clattering with dry weeds, brisk winds, and the incomparable scent of this season. It’ll nourish me through the long winter. Ahhh, autumn.

20131007_185926

Posted in animal relations, autumn, farming, photos | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Goose Gone

goose honda love story,

If you’ve been following the saga of Louise the goose in love with a Honda, you know it’s a story of the heart.

I learned recently about a sorrow in her past. Louise was dumped in a nature area by someone who didn’t want to keep her any longer. Because she’s a domestic breed she couldn’t stay there, hence her arrival here. But I hadn’t heard that she was dumped along with a mate. They were seen together constantly, until one day he was gone. Perhaps killed by an animal or vehicle. That’s when she started following park employees around and was caught. This may explain why she honks so much, calling to a lost partner, because these geese mate for life.

It also may explain why she she’s attracted to the Honda. We’re guessing she sees a faint reflection of her lovely orange beak in the car’s paint, a beak that surely reminds her of her mate.

We’ve worried about her. She spends at least 16 hours a day in the driveway with her 4,000 pound Honda partner. She’s barely interested in food or water. Because she won’t voluntarily leave the side of the car we have to herd her into an enclosure at nightfall to keep her safe (waterfowl are best protected from predators when they’re on the water).

A few more geese companions might be a remedy, but we don’t think our neighbors could tolerate an increase in the honk-related noise from our property. And we know Louise can’t spend the upcoming winter in the driveway.

So we’ve been looking for a new home for her, one that has potential goose pals. We got a call a few days ago from people who live the next township over. Their property includes five acres of fenced area for ducks and geese to wander, swim, and otherwise cavort in a fowl way. They offered Louise a home. I put off accepting that kind offer for several days, sad to think of Louise leaving us and her Honda.

Finally I reluctantly agreed. Louse spent one more night in her enclosure, complaining righteously when let out.

She rushed headlong to the front yard to reunite with her Honda for the last time.

And then she was transported to her new home. She has new relationship possibilities with creatures whose orange beaks might just remind her of her mate. Or at least remind her of a partner that honked but never waddled, flew, or flapped its wings.

I miss her already.

Posted in animal relations, geese | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments