Fresh air, sunshine and SLEEP

Hi Everyone, 

I hope you are well and life is treating you good going into our 7th month of 2018! Last week I enjoyed several days visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grandpups. Other than an accident the pups got into that resulted in a tooth extraction this week for one of them, it was a relaxing visit and a nice break for me from full time parenting and feeding lots of hungry people and animals. 

Spring is my favorite season, but I think Summer is the best time of year for my body and soul. Yes, there is the heat and humidity, but I handle it much better than the cold plus I don’t spend the hottest part of the day outside anymore. I did that back in my much younger days working in fields for the farmers where I grew up. Now I start my day somewhere around 6:30 – 7:00 am outside feeding who ever D. didn’t get fed before he went to work, then the next hour is spent taking care of garden or yard. 

Everything is quiet and peaceful (as long as you appreciate the sounds of chickens, donkey and bees). I get a daily dose of nature. This week I have seen the tiniest praying mantis and watched my bees working away at the garden blooms. I had a long discussion with our new hens about improving their egg production. Our yard takes days to weed eat so I have had the satisfaction of weed whacking and getting a few long delayed projects done. I get a full dose of vitamin D and all that dripping sweat has to be removing toxins. The fresh air and exercise has brought back SLEEP! After months of stress induced insomnia, I am actually getting 7-8 hours of solid sleep again. I cannot tell you how awesome that feels! 


The rest of my day is work, parenting, cleaning and a return to being a taxi driver to family members. You know, that stuff that either never has an end or the end is far in the future.  My first hour of the day feels like there are some accomplishments anyway. 

Most of the time in this summer the last hour or so of daylight is pretty good too. D. and I go spend some quality time with Spark Plug the donkey. He has three more weeks of confinement until he can join the horses in the pasture. He’s very bored and we feel sorry for him.  D. also gets the trainee horse out for his evening lessons and normally Sweetie Pie the cat joins me in a chair on the front yard and we watch the progress. After his lesson, Walker, the trainee gets a reward of fresh grass (and cuts down on some of the yard mowing) while we hang out with him and wait for the chickens to go into their coop. Yeah, it sounds pretty boring to a lot of folks, but I have lived the rat race and do not miss it.  


I still don’t get as much painting and drawing time as I hoped to have by now, but it’s more than I’ve had since I was a teenager. Tuesday I pretty much finished one fairly large painting. My first ocean scene. Sometimes things show up that I haven’t planned and this is one of them. 


This has been a major taxi week and will be today and tomorrow as well.  This evening I’m picking my son up at the airport from his westward adventure. If climbing a 12,000 foot mountain is your idea of fun then I think he had a great trip. 

Next week Miss L. is gone on her last (as far as I know) week away and I plan to finish painting our kitchen (which has been partially primed for months now). This is my BIG project for this year so forgive me if I don’t post anything next week. 

Get out of the house this week, watch some bugs, pick some flowers and if you have the chance, hug a donkey. It’s good for you…avoid the backside of the donkey though. 

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Mother Nature always wins

Hi Everyone,

How is your week so far? I hope that wherever you are, you are safe, comfortable and dry. I don’t watch much in the way of news anymore, but what I have seen has been full of the power of Mother Nature!

Hurricane season has started with the first tropical storm coming up through the Gulf, other places have been flooded and then there is Hawaii. I have been strangely fascinated with the volcano eruption to the point I check on it daily. To paraphrase one local, it is both sad and beautiful at the same time. 

In our little corner of the world we have also been dealing with Mother Nature. Saturday morning was traumatic. D. went to feed the horses and chickens while I was walking the mutts. When he reached the chicken run he faced the horror of several dead chickens. Evidently raccoons found a weak spot in the chicken fortress. Somehow we had some survivors, but our favorite girls were gone. It was just awful. 

I spent the morning yanking weeds (my tried and true way of working out big, bad emotions) and sobbing over our girls. I cursed raccoons and everything else that constantly tries to eat our chickens. It’s a LONG list. Everything likes chicken. After three hours of this I had exhausted myself, gotten my herb bed in much better shape AND resigned myself that this is nature’s way. Everything has to eat. 

I sent D. a text to start looking for more chickens. He works part time at a livestock feed company. It’s not hard to find farm animals when you just ask every single customer buying chicken feed. He located someone by the time he got off work and we added 3 Rhode Island Reds to the flock.  Egg production is drastically down. Only two eggs in the past two days when we were getting about eight. Hopefully when our survivors recover and the new girls get settled we will see eggs again. If not, we may have to add more to the flock. We have a new arrangement with our neighbor that we will trade her fresh eggs for some fresh milk from her new cow.  I think I’m channeling Laura Ingalls Wilder again! 

Gertrude is traumatized
The new girls

So we now have upped the fortifications of the chicken coop and run. It has locks like a New York City apartment and everything except concertina wire around the top and bottom. The things we do for eggs around here!

In continuing our struggle to balance our lives with allowing the wildlife theirs, we finally got a permanent fence around our garden. It still needs a few posts and the gate, but it will slow down the annihilation of our veggies. Again, everything has to eat…including us.  Now we just need to get one more door on the feed and tack room to keep the critters out of the horse, chicken and cat food.  We have a big ol’ compost pile. Why can’t they just eat there. Free food, every day, no work (killing or destruction) involved!


You know that you are crazy country people when your Saturday evening fun consists of pulling up chairs to watch the hens work out their new pecking order. Luckily this time there was only some chest pounding, wild flapping and minor head pecking involved. Last time one girl needed some doctoring for a few days until it all settled down. I also had to don my chicken wrestling clothes just in case the new girls couldn’t figure out that the little red house was where they had to sleep…behind all those shiny new locks to frustrate any especially wiley raccoons.

On the art front, I am delivering portraits this evening. I have several works in progress including this sneak peak at something different. Hopefully next week there will be several “reveals”.  


Be safe out there. I don’t think Mother Nature is very happy with us right now.

Fixin’ it

Hi Everyone,

I hope life is grand in your world. Now that it’s Spring and the flowers are blooming and the bees are buzzing it’s pretty grand here. 

We have half of our garden planted and half of the garden fence that we have had plans to put up for three years finally underway. The rascally rabbits will have to find food elsewhere soon. I helped D. plant 56 tomato seeds a few weeks ago, then, unbeknownst to me, he planted another 50! We have 84 in the ground with the others on standby in case we lose some of the 84. Every year he is convinced that we are going to lose half of the tomato plants and we NEVER do. Brace yourself for lots of complaining from me in July and August when every waking moment is spent canning tomatoes. Oh, and the whole row of cucumbers that will have to be pickled if they all come up!

Since I can once again only show you a small detail of the two portraits I’m working on I thought I would talk about something I have decided to do and my guess is that I am probably not the only one who needs to do this. Can I get a show of hands from all of you who have items in your life that you love and/or use constantly but either need repairs or tweaking to make them better? I see you. It’s a life thang. 

Now that I have tweaked my work life a little more to have some more time and space, I have decided that at least once a month I am going to fix something that needs fixin’. I have jewelry that I love that needs repairing, my binder of “most used recipes” that needs to function better, a planner that I REALLY need to use but needs some tweaking of the pages to fit my life better, clothes that need mending, etc. 

I have been making do for years and it’s just pitiful. I’m surprised the recipe binder is even still holding together. You would think that I would fix something that I use several times a week! I decided to start with this necklace though instead of the binder first. Why? Because for about a year I have reached to wear it and realized I need to replace the wire that holds it to the leather, then I mentally fuss at myself.  I got this necklace on a trip to Charleston SC with my daughter when she had a job interview and didn’t want to make the long drive alone. On that trip I got to catch up with a friend from college and, along with her daughter we went to a craft fair where I got the necklace. Not only do I really like cool rocks, this one goes with almost everything in my wardrobe and I have good memories attached to it. To me (and I know my taste is a bit quirky) this is one of those William Morse things that is both beautiful and useful. 


Ideally I would like to fix about one item a week but some of them are going to take some time. Just for kicks and grins I will share the before and afters. I suspect this could easily be a year long project. I have been making do for a long time with many things and in the season of self-care that I have declared for 2018 this could cut down on my frustration level. 

Here is a detail (and boy, are these portraits detailed) from one of the portraits (it’s sideways, sorry) and the other is a sketch I did this morning. More self-care. I gave myself 45 glorious minutes out in my garden to just draw and enjoy the sights and sounds before I started my work day. 


 

Have a lovely week and give yourself the time to fix that one darn thing that is driving you nuts. 

Clearing

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are well and that you had a lovely Easter if you celebrate it. 

Last week was busy around here. Miss L was on Spring Break. With her growing fast and furiously we made two shopping trips to get a jump on replacing her summer clothes before it gets warm and she had nothing that fit her.  The shopping lead into the need to teach her how to go through her belongings and part with what she had outgrown, discuss not buying more than you need and how to take care of what you have so that it lasts and eventually someone else can use it. I was very proud of her for cleaning out a large stack of games and movies that she had outgrown. All that lead into Spring Cleaning mode for me.

Normally I do Fall Cleaning because I don’t like to be cooped up all winter with a bunch of stuff taking up valuable space and dust bunnies hiding in every corner, but this past Fall there was too much on my plate to tackle the cleaning out. As our life returns to normal now that the estate is settled and most of the piles of boxes stacked in our house have been removed I can focus on what needs clearing from our normal daily lives. This year it is not just STUFF that needs to go.

I have sorted through all our clothes and happily donated a huge bag of them along with household items and books yesterday. Throughout the winter D. and I found good homes for several pieces of furniture that belonged to us as well as some that belonged to his sister. It was nice to know that most of them went to young adults starting out on their life journey. 

Now we are looking at clearing less tangible things. As I finish up my last two months of a 30+ year career I have to part with several file cabinets full of business records, an email address with a few THOUSAND emails, digital files I will no longer need and deadline dependency. I know that deadline dependency sounds strange, but that is how I have functioned in this world for a long time. Deadlines are my motivation but I’m finding that at this point in my life I don’t handle the stress of a looming deadline as well as I used to. I need to reduce the deadlines and find a way to accomplish goals without wandering around like a lost puppy. 

We are also reducing digital usage. D. has been complaining of pain and numbness when he is using his tablet and a few years ago had the same problem when he had an iPhone. I thought it was probably caused by the way he was holding the device similar to a carpal tunnel issue. I think now that it is more serious than that. Several articles, YouTube videos, TED Talks, etc. have come to my attention recently that explain the effects of all the EMF (electronic magnetic fields) we are exposed to daily. Symptoms such as the ones D. is experiencing (prickling, burning sensations) to the ongoing insomnia and fatigue that both of us are having even though our stress levels are down and we are both in good health may be linked to the wifi and microwaves from the electronics. More frightening is the finding of DNA damage in children and the unknown health effects from long term use. 

As much as we would both like to go off the grid, it’s not feasible, but a reduction in exposure is. We are going to start with turning off the wifi at night and making a conscious effort to not have our phones and tablets next to us all the time. I have started charging mine in the living room at night instead of on my nightstand next to my overworked brain. D. is going looking for an old fashioned wind up alarm clock this weekend. We will probably start limiting Miss L.’s electronic time more as well. We are all avid readers and creative types so we are very capable of finding better uses for our time. It’s just a matter of adjusting our habits. I need to work on my Pinterest addiction anyway!

I would love to know if any of you have had similar findings, symptoms, or suggestions on less electronic device usage. I suspect this is going to become a much bigger conversation and problem as more and more of the world gets connected. 

Have an awesome week and clean out a drawer, closet or some emails! 

The Untangler

Hi Everyone,

Hope you are well and all is right in your world today.  I made the Executive Decision (I’m self-employed so I get to do that) on Thursday to take next week off to, well, get Christmas stuff done and take a little break. The week before and after Christmas are always my slowest of the year anyway. I did have to wrap up a couple of projects first thus the delay in this week’s post and the fact that the pictures I wanted to upload just won’t.

Today’s subject is something I have been pondering for about two and a half months now.  It started purcolating in my little brain while D. and I were at the beach in October.  He was wanting to go fishing, but had a big, tangled mess of fishing line. After a few minutes of watching his frustration in trying to untangle the mess, I took it, sent him off to make lunch and in about 15 minutes presented him with the separate pieces of line. It reminded me of my early years in retail where the jewelry department would bring me boxes of tangled up necklaces to sort out on slow nights back in my area of the home shop. I seemed to be the only one with the patience to work at the mess until each piece was free. Little did I know that this tiny talent would be tested time and time again.


If you have the blessing of several decades under your belt, I’m sure you have recognized patterns and recurring themes in your life. If you are early in your journey on this earth maybe not, but if you pay attention, you will too. One of mine is The Untangler evidently. Physically and metaphorically. 

In my recent middle-of-the-night knitting sessions I realized that as I made hundreds of little loops to create a garment, my brain was tediously un-looping one problem after another in this tangled up mess that is my late sister-in-law’s estate. I also realized that over the years I have been given the task OR had forced upon me the task of straightening out  messes of increasing complication and they were usually created by OTHER PEOPLE. I have made my share of messes all by myself but either they were not so bad or I’m more proficient at fixing my own messes. 
As I knitted I tried to think of the names I would give to the subtle talents of other people I know. These would be people I know very well because these are not obvious talents nor are they the professions of these folks though elements may be involved. The Healer would be one of the first. Not doctors or nurses, but those glorious people who, through the almost lost art of listening and attention, help you heal from life’s wounds. The Connector would be another. They know EVERYONE and make mental connections that bring different people together to accomplish goals, big and little. There is The Mediator that has probably been helping their people work out differences since the first playground incident. The Warrior comes in to decide and end a dispute The Mediator has given up on. I haven’t seen an abundance of The Warriors, which is good, not because they are bad people, but because to end a battle there is often a high personal and emotional price for The Warrior to pay just like in any war. 

This brings up another observation. These ingrained “gifts” are not chosen and are often a source of high stress. For me to untangle a big mess takes enormous energy, time and frustration. Time away from what I want and need to be doing and looking at the list above I think that would be true in each category. To live as a society and it could be argued, to even survive as humans we need each and every one of these abilities as well as any I have not mentioned.  I guess we should look at them as a part of our contribution for life on planet Earth. 

Have a wonderful week and bless you for THE GIFTS you bring to ease the difficulties of humankind. 

Photo credit…if one shows up its mine but there seems to be an uploading issue today. I gave up waiting on it to load.

Simple

Hi Everyone,

This is going to have to be short today.  There is a long list of To Do’s waiting on me.  The whole week has been that way.  Every single day has been full of different appointments to rush to and fro from.  We are worn out and still not done.  Monday is our last scheduled appointment…I think.  Somewhere soon I have a bone density test, but can’t find it on my calendar at the moment.  Not good.

I finally got a beginning sketch for the commissioned drawing done.  It will be after Christmas before I can show you the final piece because it is a present and I bet that someone will recognize the little guy, so I have to keep it under wraps.  I am very much looking forward to putting a pencil to paper again.  I now have two logos that need to get done as well and my usual work is pretty busy.  I was up at 4 am working Wednesday morning.  If you can’t sleep, work.

What is weighing on my mind this week is how to get back to simple.  I have been downsizing and cleaning out stuff for 5 years now.  Every time I think I am close to getting where I want to be someone else’s stuff moves in on me.  Yes, I still have some of my own to part with, but most of it has been in storage for a kid or two.  Now, I have 4 generations of stuff to work through.  We have formulated a plan.  Wish us luck.

For those of you who have not heard, my son is moving to Hawaii in December.  Yes, it is a real paying job he is going over there for.  People keep asking me if he is going to get a real job. Yes, it involves an ocean, kayak, whales and probably a surf board, but he is actually getting paid to do such things and even gets real work benefits.  Are you green with envy yet??

What I admire about my son is his ability to walk very lightly on this earth.  He will be moving to the other side of the country with only what he can carry in his camping backpack and his school backpack.  That’s it. Even as a small child he rarely had more than one item on his Christmas list.  He is not a collector of STUFF.  He collects experiences.

My daughter and son-in-law have been working to minimize their STUFF as well.  I think their generation has seen the error of our ways and do not want to burden themselves with the cost of STUFF in real money and in environmental impact.  Do some research on just how much clothing alone goes into our landfills here in the U.S.

D. and I are both people who crave a very simple lifestyle.  We admire the Shakers and Amish in their simplicity and the beauty of that simplicity.  Clean lines in furniture and have only what you need.  We are far from that right now, but as we go through this experience of distributing a bazillion things we are more sure than ever that we do not want our legacy to be STUFF.  We do not want to leave such a burden on our children.

I can tell you that I am now analyzing every single item that I own and will be letting go of things that I have held onto only because it is connected to a memory.  Things DO NOT hold memories.  PEOPLE hold memories.  I can look around me and see THINGS that I do not truly love for what they are but just because they are a connection to my past.  THINGS that if I were to see them in a store, I would walk right by them.  No more.  They have to go.  They are taking up valuable real estate in our home that could either be open, airy, peaceful space of its own or hold something that I truly do love for its beauty and/or usefulness.

I hope that in some way I have influenced my kids in their simplicity.  I don’t think their lives were filled with an overabundance of stuff growing up and I showed them how to regularly clear out their belongings.  Now I have a young lady that needs, more than most, to have this example and instruction given to her.  What happens in her future I have no way of knowing, but I do know that D. and I are committed to showing her a simpler, more peaceful and more financially sane way to live.  Sometimes life provides you with an unforeseen way to accomplish your goals!

Have a great week and keep it simple!

Photo credit

 

Rain and Roses

Spring is exploding all over the place and so is the To Do list here. It has been one big, busy week! We had a few days of good solid rain. Almost too much. Rivers were flooding. Luckily it stopped before things got bad. Now the grass needs mowing again. Why do we have grass?  There are better things to do with a piece of land than grow grass just to mow it down.

The bees are good so far. I am checking this weekend to see if I will need to add another box to their living space soon. 


Here is the state of my office/studio right now.  Soon to be the office/studio/guest room. I have five days to finish painting and rearranging this room. Wish me luck! 

I did finish the portraits of the grandpups and am pleased with how they turned out. It was only a few weeks ago that I was going to throw away my paint because I could not make them do what I wanted. Hopefully I have turned a corner on that.


It seems more people are trying to reduce the amount of plastic and trash in our world and we are on that journey as well as my daughter and son-in-law. She asked for some beeswax wraps so I figured out how to render some of the old beeswax and have this blob and some fabric to attempt making them. I will let you know how it goes.


And last but not least I will leave you with my roses that are starting to bloom. I LOVE SPRING!!


Next week my son graduates from college so we will be traveling and celebrating with him. I will try to get a post done, but if I don’t, you know why.

Go out and wallow in some fresh air and sunshine this week!

Signs of improvement

Hi Everyone,

Is it better that I am writing at 4:24 am this week than at 3:15 last week? Slightly.  I actually got a full 8 hours sleep night before last and felt great yesterday. The husband is slowly regaining energy zapped out of him by the flu. Yesterday we killed it in our attempt to catch up on the farm projects. 

I am almost finished with the dog portraits and will post them soon. Here is a sneak preview of their noses.


Along with the weed eating and cleaning, mowing and barn roofing yesterday, I got my new bees and installed them in the hives. 


Spring is full on and life is insanely busy for the next few weeks so my posts will be short for awhile. Thanks for hanging in here with me.  Today is major house cleaning day and we have friends coming this afternoon to pick up a load of horse manure for their garden. Guess I should try to get a little more sleep before the dog alarms go off.

Have a great week!

Current state of affairs

Hi Everyone,

It is 3:30 am and that should tell you something right there. I’m here laying in bed tapping away on my iPad with a dog draped across me. The hubby is in the living room trying to find a movie on Netflix.  Life is currently out of whack. Seriously out of whack. 

He has had a full blown case of the flu since Saturday evening. All weekend plans got skewed. Things haven’t been right really since the time change. Our schedules have been thrown off, I have had ongoing insomnia and our to do list is bearing down on us. 

My 100 day project is in jeopardy. I did ok during the week for the most part, but the weekend not so much. I may have to modify it some more and skip the weekends. There are too many things going on at the moment.  I may have to try this again in the winter when there are not so many farm demands. 

I am going to try and get back on schedule here this week. I cannot figure out why we seem to be having so much trouble with the time change this year. Personally, I wish they would stop with the whole daylight savings thing. It seems unnecessary and throws off human and animal schedules. 

I apologize for this crazy post but it is where we are at the moment.  Just in case you might be suffering from a shift in your universe, know that you are not alone. 

Hopefully by Thursday things will have stabilized.  

Wishing you a steady week! 

Reconnect

Hi Everyone!

I am writing in the early morning hours just as the sun is coming up and right after I read an article about a hate filled meeting held in a town that is dear to my heart.  What makes humans fear differences in others so accutely? Our alikeness is much more prevalent. 

Our lack of winter this year in North Carolina has brought on the beginnings of early Spring. While I love the warm weather and the blooms beginning to open, I know from experience that this could be a disaster rather than a blessing. We have notiously fickle and often severe March weather. What is blooming now could be frozen in a couple of weeks wreaking havoc with our crops and flowers. 

It’s funny how putting yourself in a new location changes your perception. I grew up in the country surrounded by nature but often took it for granted as a child. As I moved to more and more suburban/urban areas I took less notice of the ways of nature. Yes, I noticed the seasons change and knew not to plant my tomatoes until after the last frost date, but nature’s effect on my day to day life was limited by the conveniences of stores and the prevelance of cement over grass and crops.  Only when the big events of tornados, extreme temperatures and days of sloughing through rain hit did I really take notice.

Yesterday I noticed how nine months of rural living has heightened my awareness of nature. A couple of years ago we started planting our garden here according to the moon phases. We can discuss that in another post, but we noticed a significant improvement in our yields. This past year there was an unusual amount of rain in July than slid into a bad drought by September. By October you could FEEL the distress of the plants and even the creatures as I noticed with the demise of my bees.

A couple of weeks ago we brought chickens here to live with us. It is a stupid farmer that does not take the life of his livestock in the highest regard. I find myself watching over our chickens with the same angst as I did my kids and my bees. We have a resident hawk couple right behind our garden. I enjoy having them there and know they help keep the rodent population in check, but now I notice their every move when our chickens are free ranging. Too close of a hawk scream has me herding chickens back to the protection of their run and coop. In an amazingly short amount of time what I paid no attention to in the past now gets my attention in an instant. 

As I prepare to get more bees I realize that my time with them last year has ingrained in me the subtle weather changes and plant stages. I notice how hard or softly the wind blows, the barely noticeable difference between 45 degrees and 50 degrees both of which effect the activity of bees.  I notice the first barely visible blooms on the trees to judge when bees will have food available again. 

I have also noticed the calming effect nature has on me compared to the rushing around I did in town. I sit and observe. I don’t want to kill a hawk or a black snake just because it is a predator of my chickens, but I do stay watchful. I appreciate that they have a role in this amazing cycle of nature.  

Everything in nature has a purpose on this minuscule marble floating around inside of a vast universe. People are part of the cycle and have purpose. I wish there was less jumping to conclusions about what someone might think or do and more calm observation and knowledge gathering before humans decided to hate or harm each other.  

*Next week I should be back to posting artwork and such.  I needed to write out the disappointment I was experiencing.