Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Live Life

Hello, I'm hoping you are finding happiness in the Spring work that has involved us all.  I've basically sworn off other social media lately, because I've found it too politically oriented, and it leaves me exhausted. We have a sad situation on our hands here in Minnesota, but the path taken is a failure, and I'll have no part in it. So I'm just posting photos that I think might enlighten, and hope you are all doing well. I feel almost obligated to post this photo of one of my flowering crab trees, because it has always been an inspiration to me over the years. It isn't quite so spectacular this year due to the March thaw and re-freeze, but I still love it.

Awhile back this beautiful Lanium  ( Lamb's Ear) started blooming and I think it is really nice. Not everything has to be dramatic, and I would call this a subtle addition to my daily life. I'm thankful I planted it two or three years ago.

Ok, so now I will just say that without these glimpses of life and the other experiences that I have everyday on this desolate farm where I live, I don't know what I would do. I will never solve the world's problems. But the love of nature and friendliness with all people comes close to being the answer. I would advise you to stay off other social media for the coming month, as I have decided, post positively, love your family, and sleep well every night. Leave the negative aside, be kind. That's what  these cowslips mean to me...kindness.

My little Big Boy Byron wishes you the same. He's "tumble roasted, jumbo salted", just as the box says.

I hope you appreciate all the "beings" around you, whether they be spouses, children, parents, or even the little creatures that depend on you. You'll never regret it. Have a blessed and beautiful Summer.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Spring Greetings

Hello. Well, it's been a long time. I haven't posted in over 4 months, not for any particular reason, but maybe a feeling of just wanting to get out of the long winter and not having a lot of news. Although winter is my favorite season, it does seem long after February. I'm keeping this kind of short, mostly because I have quite a few different things going on without a lot of results to show for my work yet. The pandemic shutdown has not really had an impact at all on my life, because I live alone and have pretty much had this life since retiring in 2014, 5 years now. I don't mind the isolation, I live about 5 miles from the closest town, do my walk every day of about 3 miles, work at various projects, and keep busy with the house and now anticipating the garden and flower beds and all the maintenance to keep things nice.

The forsythia is really pretty this year. I took some inside today, as it is starting to form leaves, so the blooming will be over this week. I'm going to try rooting some from cuttings.

I like the exotic appearance of the horse chestnut in Spring

These daffodils just bloomed after two years.

There have been some really good sunsets this past week and the hour after the sunset often provides a lot of drama.

Like the horse chestnut, the maples really are interesting before the leaves come out completely. These red maple flowers are beautiful in my opinion.

I have always had a little trouble starting seeds in the house. They seem to dampen off for me, which is discouraging. Maybe it is just too early and I should sow directly in the garden. It would just be nice to get a head start. Here are the beginnings today for zinnias and pumpkins. It seems the season for growing pumpkins is a little short here.

Josey is resting now after folding some fresh Spring-cleaned blankets. 

Wishing you a good week.

"Spring is the time of plans and projects." -Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Sunday, December 22, 2019

From My House to Yours, A Very Merry Christmas

Here in west-central Minnesota, I'm planning on a quiet Christmas so far. Today I woke up to this beautiful sunrise, with a pink sky and snow. This was about 7:45.

I haven't baked much so far, but will be making more lefse tomorrow. Last week I had the first lutefisk of the season with lefse. I had only made a dozen, but it was good. I used Yukon gold potatoes this time for the dough. I'll be having lutefisk and lefse again on Christmas Eve, a Norwegian family tradition.

I've had quite a few birds at the feeders this winter. Here are a cardinal--a first for me-- and a pileated woodpecker.

Here is a December scene on the east side of the house.

Different birds seem to visit on different days, depending on the temperature, wind and who is already at the feeder. A bluejay and several pheasant hens appeared together one day.

After trimming all the nightshade and Virginia creeper vines from under the spruce trees this Fall, I saved some and made this crooked, rustic wreath for the back door. I just wound the vines up and tied them and used various pinecones. I have stopped buying all commercial type decorations, and have given away a lot, and am trying to have a more meaningful and minimal Christmas, but still have the place somewhat festive. 

I like the old nativity scene in the corner by the Christmas tree. I received this as a Christmas gift from my mom and dad. The candle behind it was mom's funeral candle. On it is inscribed the verse from Ecclesiastes made famous by the Byrds years ago, and I always liked the verse and the song. "To everything there is a season..."

Tonight I made some cherry and walnut fudge. It set up well. I like this version that always turns out well and is very firm.

Byron or "Baby Boy," as I call him, is sitting in his favorite place under the tree and wishes you a very Merry Christmas!

So do I. Peace be with you. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Geraniums at Thanksgiving

Geraniums in the winter have been growing in this same room since my grandparents moved on this farm in the late 1930's, my parents in the 1980's and now I've carried on the tradition. I can't really explain what meaning the atmosphere of it all brings to me.

I hope you have a very Blessed Thanksgiving, however you celebrate the day. Because of the snow, plans have changed here, but it will still be just as meaningful.

A couple pictures of Annie this time. She was finally in the posing mood.

And one of Josey getting ready for bed.

 Getting to my place at Thanksgiving isn't exactly "over the hills and through the woods." It's more like "down that straight gravel road and to the left at the dead end." But it is home just the same. 

Peace be with you at Thanksgiving. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Fruits of our Labor

We work so hard all summer and sometimes the enjoyment doesn't hit us until now. The advent of the slower, colder season seems to bring us to our senses. Finally! We can now see what we missed! We were so busy producing, creating, maintaining, and now we see the results! And even if the results aren't all that great, isn't it kind of a good feeling to know that we weren't just wasting our time? That we really did try our best? That we can be happy with bringing it to a close?

These yellow birch leaves make me happy when they fall on this purple mum. Yesterday there was a slight frost on the windshield when I drove away to some training for church. When I got home I decided to bring in what's left in the garden, except for some herbs that I want to dry later.

This was a good year for peppers. I have a lot of them. So this coming week, I'll make the usual chicken-stuffed peppers and then I'll cut up the smaller peppers and freeze them. I'll use the yellow summer squash and zucchini to make sweet pickles. My cucumbers were not successful this year, that was a big disappointment, but I did find a good recipe for these sweet pickles in one of my mom's old cookbooks, the "Nokay Lake Cookbook". I've used this book many times and have never regretted it. It's one of those collections of recipes that you might find wherever you live, whether it be a company, church or neighborhood group. This is from a lake association close to the Brainerd, Minnesota area where I grew up.

Since I don't think there is much difference between a summer squash and a zucchini, I'm going to make these pickles with mostly yellow summer squash.

I did have good luck with cherry jam. I can't grow cherries here, except for sour Nanking cherries, so I bought a bunch of dark cherries on sale, pitted and froze them. This past week I had time to can a few jars of jam.

A very good harvest of Yukon Gold potatoes. I'm letting them dry a little in the garage. I wish I could grow more, but I don't have a root cellar. I try to use them up before the Christmas season.

Things are moving along here. It is not a fast life, but a life I can handle and be happy. Here is the barn with the big ash tree.

The nice thing about the ash tree is it drops all its leaves in one fell swoop over a couple days, so that will be soon, and I can get most of it cleaned up and on to the compost pile. Sadly, the emerald ash disease is moving swiftly now in Minnesota, and I want to appreciate this beautiful tree as long as I can.

The Fall makes garden colors more intense. Here are a few shots of purple coneflower, black-eyed susan and the beloved dahlias:

The dahlias give so much for so little:

The other day, I was mowing under the horse chestnut and I saw this red squirrel guarding her harvest:

When I'm outside working I always enjoy the chattering and squabbling of the red squirrels, doing their work and having fun as we do also.

September is a month of work, preparing, planning and hoping for the future. It's also a month of remembrance. My Mom and Dad both left me in September, in 1999 and 2011. But it definitely is not a sad month. There is nothing to mourn. Their work was harder than mine, and their contribution to the world was greater than mine. So it is a happy time of remembrance. 

Byron would like to wish you a good night. He's getting pretty sleepy, but he sends these wishes from a warm spot in the kitchen.
Peace be with you all.


Friday, September 6, 2019

The time has gone too fast...

I'm just doing a short post tonight, with some of my favorite photos. I hope it's better than nothing. Summer has passed us by so quickly, it seems it goes faster every year. It seems that when we are planning in March, by the time we reach May and June, we are so far behind. That's the way I feel, always way behind. A symptom of trying to do too much, and maybe not enjoying the little accomplishments? How does one cure this problem of over-planning and under-appreciating? Can anyone shed some light on how they handle it? I sure would appreciate any input.

One of the things I DID appreciate this summer was enjoying some of my flowers and the garden. This very old unnamed day lily has been in my family for years and it never disappoints me. Such a delicious color combination; it reminds me of a nectarine.

Another favorite is the "Northfield" day lily that I found a couple years ago. It resembles a lot of yellow ones I have from my parents and grandparents but blooms much more abundantly Here is "Northfield":

My folks brought a lot of all kinds of flowers to this farm where I live. This one is also unnamed. They weren't concerned with names. They were happy to have whatever they could. When my grandmother died and my parents bought this place, it was pretty desolate. My mom brought flowers from our old house near Brainerd, MN and planted them here west of Eagle Bend, MN. 

While my dad was remodeling the old farmhouse, she kept working, and on her days off would bring a carload of flowers and trees, would plant them and then return to Brainerd to work. This place was transformed from a dry, windy, desolate dirt-farm to a beautiful, shady paradise. They planted hundreds of spruce and pine seedlings, anything they could get their hands on, even including lowly boxelders and green ash and it all paid off in my mind at least. It became a welcoming place and they made it a home. After them, I've done the same. I bought the place from my parents, and I now know after having lived in Florida for 17 years, until 1998, that this place is home, good and bad. 

I have some good places to sit and rest and think here on the farm. I like this place under a locust tree. The two buildings in the background are the old dairy barn built in 1958 and the little barn that was the backbone of  my grandparents farm until the bigger barn was built. It is from the 1930's.

The planters on each side of the bench are old tanks from hand-cranked cream separators. I remember, as a kid, I would spend summers up here with gram and gramp, and was so proud when I overheard gramp say, "that Philip, he sure can work, he separated all the cream himself, and he keeps going." For a really shy, book-wormish kind of kid, it is one of those things I remember and treasure as more important than just about anything. I hope all of you have a similar memory, and if you have grandchildren, you will think of what you say about them.
Here is another place to sit, especially in the morning with a cuppa. I finally have made progress painting the deck. I would have a few choice words for the guy who invented wooden decks in Minnesota. They are nothing but endless maintenance, and I'm looking forward to just having a concrete patio someday, but that will have to wait.

Here is a quiet place for a cup of coffee by the cedars.

I've had a "pretty good" garden this year, but the cool weather has not made for a super abundant harvest. I'm not going to even try to dig up the Yukon Gold potatoes until next week. Normally, since they are an early variety, I would have had them all dug up on Aug 24th, my birthday. That was always the milestone, but not this year, as it has been all cool days and even cooler nights. Well, no use complaining, right? Here is Byron looking over some peppers and zucchini brought in a few days ago. He only thinks of the happy side of the haul, not the work, and we should be more like him.

I've had a lot of tomatoes, but have been picking them green, because the deer have taken an interest in them.

I can't even feel angry at the deer, because I know how much fun they were having stopping by to nibble on their treats. Anyway, I have enough for myself and for what I'm going to preserve for the winter. A few tomatoes go a long way.

These photos remind me of the painting by English artist Sir Edwin Landseer, "The Monarch of the Glen."

It is soon time for coffee. I hope if you are ever in Eagle Bend you will call me. I'm in the book. I did have time to make a good apricot cheesecake recently, but i'm still trying to improve baking skills. 

I hope you have a good night. I'll leave it especially to Josey this time to wish you a happy transition from Summer to Fall.  Annie and Byron were sleeping, so they will appear in later posts.

Peace be with you all. Phil