Saturday, January 31, 2009

Attempting to Go Home Again

Last summer Alex and I spent some time travelling in the midwest and included a stop at my childhood home. Since our last visit eight years ago, someone has repaired at least part of the damage to the attic that occured during a tornado, although the repair was not done well. When I was growing up, the house was just a lovely four-square with porches on four sides. My mother thought it was a huge house, but I believe that was because she grew up with so many siblings (13) in tenant farmhouses in Kansas. The walls of the home are lathe and plaster, and all the floors and woodwork are oak. When I was growing up the house was surrounded by tall elms, maples, and pine trees, multiple gardens, and a huge apple tree. The fencing is gone, the gardens and antique roses are gone, most of the trees are gone. When we stopped there a few years ago, the renter invited us into the house, and we noted the poor remodeling jobs that had been done in the kitchen and bathroom. I'd love to have the cast iron bathtub and sinks they removed. The original kitchen cabinets and cupboards they removed are exactly what people want for restoration of older homes.
Here's the corn crib as it looked last summer--actually it was storage for both corn and oats. During the years I lived there, it was painted iron oxide red and then white. I had forgotten all about the green shingled cupola on top--years before I was born the outbuildings had been painted green. The cupola was used when an elevator from the outside carried corn still on the cobs up to storage.
For our cat Fuzz, the crib was a very happy hunting ground, until at the age of 13 he lost a battle with a rat.

This photo shows the footprint I squeamishly placed in the concrete foundation for an additional wire storage area poured when I was a small child. I hated the feel of the wet cement, hating getting it off my foot, and never dreamed the print would still be there decades later.

These two pictures are heartbreaking. This is the original barn, built sometime between 1915 and 1920. The lower portion to the left was added in the 1950's.
The barn was built on a cement foundation. Over the years I've often wished I could have wood of that quality to build a new home. The floors in the hayloft were buffed and polished by decades of moving bales of hay and straw across them. As the straw and hay were used and space became available in the hayloft each year, we children would go up there and engage in all sorts of imaginative play--homesteading, building homes, putting on plays and having songfests.

Here on the east face of the barn is evidence of even more tornado damage. Typical of tornadoes, this one took much of the end of the barn but left the pulley used to raise and lower the bales of hay.
My grandfather bred and raised Belgian draft horses which he used for farming until Post-Word War II prosperity led my father to purchase gasoline driven farm equipment. Grandpa sold his last draft horse in the early 1950's, although he continued to take horses to the Illinois State Fair for several years for Ray Schlagel, who had purchased the last of his Belgians.
The barn was also used for milking cows and for birthing Black Angus as well as for fattening the steer being readied for slaughter for meat for our family.

Here's Alexandra, standing on the foundation of a 60' x 100' laminated rafter building my father had erected for equipment storage and a workshop, using money my mother had inherited.
The only remaining outbuildings are the barn, crib, and a stone silo. Other outbuildings included a chicken house, hen house, feed storage building, a hog house, another large equipment building, and a portable feed storage building as well as a cobhouse and a two bay garage and workshop. All are gone. I'm sure the current owner collected insurance money for the damage to the existing outbuildings and the home. I'm grateful to see that the home was repaired, however, shoddily, but it's sad that the owner didn't let someone salvage the wood in the other buildings that he clearly will never again be using. Maybe the difficult economic times ahead will encourage him to let someone have the wood that still remains usable. While there are still lightening rods on those buildings, I don't know how long they can be expected to work when those buildings just seem to arise out of the prairie with nothing else around them.
This area was a five-acre orchard filled with apple, cherry, pear, peach, and crabapple trees, grape arbors, and strawberries.
Alexandra said that when she's an attorney, she'll buy the farm back for me. As sad as it was to see the deterioration, I had to explain to her that that's just not one of my dreams. When we were growing up, we went without a lot because the needs/wants of the farm and my father came ahead of family needs. I don't know if there ever has been a time when I wanted to live there again, or to own the property, although occasionally I'll still have dreams like I had when I was a child that I'm frantically trying to phone for emergency help and the little local phone company has been sold and all the phone numbers changed and the freight train has leaped the tracks 3/4 mile south of us and is barrelling north on a path of destruction. Not sure where that dream comes from, but the noise of a tornado is often similar to that of a train.
I do miss the culture in which I grew up, but I'm sure that's significantly different now too, although I do hope that it's still safe enough for kids to walk around town like we did.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Blogging the Inconsequential

One of my friends said she doesn't think she can start a blog because there's nothing exciting going on in her life. That's interesting, because one of the reasons I've been able to start a blog is because right now there is absolutely nothing in my life that can be called exciting, anxiety-provoking (well, maybe a few little things), or even interesting to anyone but me and, just maybe, to a few of the people I love. I don't want anything exciting to happen. I am so intensely grateful that my life is quiet, fairly uneventful, and in no way exciting--and I hope this lasts for a long, long time! We lived with anxiety, chaos, illness, and dysfunction for too many years. I have longed for simplicity and harmony and enjoy every delicious moment that contains them!

For what it's worth, my friend has a lot of interesting things in her life--just not the sort of thing someone might use to make a blockbuster film. However, I do think the sweet things in our lives could be used by a gifted composer to write a beautiful piece of music or by a poet to write the kind of poem that carries people away to a more pleasant place or time. I'm not a poet and not up to composing music right now, but I do love living the quiet, relatively peaceful harmonies.

Below is the pictorial record of my visit to Vitamin Cottage today between work and Alexandra's flute lesson. These purchases were the result of reading their February "Hotline" in yesterday's paper. (The same articles will probably be in their online newsletter, if they aren't already.) These things were recommended in a section on boosting energy. It will be interesting to see if they work--and how soon they make a noticeable difference. I do recognize that since I've been getting a more sane amount of sleep I do a lot better--although there have been Thursdays or Fridays when I've been ready for bed by 7:00 p.m. and asleep by 7:05. The banana bread was something my daughter just had to have because she was starving--she ate one or two bites. Of course, Vitamin Cottage is 40+ miles from home, and as we were making the return journey Alexandra said something that makes me think I should also have looked for some ferrous gluconate for her. Sometimes it is just amazing that my little girl is a teenager.

Yesterday my teenager was putting post-its on the heartshaped boxes of chocolate she's giving a few friends. Each box has a word and a cartoon such as "social" + pix of butterfly. She was trying to decide who to give each to, and I hinted that she might not want to give a boy the one that says "drama queen." Her retort was, "Mother, at my school everyone is a drama queen--even the boys!!!"


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Baking for Princesses

As we arrived home yesterday, Alexandra asked if I would make more sweet rolls.
Because it is winter, I did put them in a warm oven to rise. Since she is obsessed with television (videos only, in our household) and I was occupied elsewhere, I asked her to listen for the oven timer and take them out when they were done rising and then turn on the oven. Of course, she followed through with only the first part of that request, so I got to stay up a little later than planned while they baked.
I realized a few years ago that I do like to bake and cook, although it's not something I like for it's own sake, but rather something I like to do for people I love. I also realized that one of the things keeping me from doing more was the clean up. I'm a lot more spontaneous in my cooking now because of my DeMarle cookware--not that there aren't a lot more pieces I'd like to acquire.
I did use my daisy pan because it's just perfect for sweet rolls because they fit into the petals around the edges. I usually manage to fit the extras into the "hat." Once the contents are unmolded onto serving pieces, it takes less than a minute to have a sparkling clean baking pan. (And, if there does happen to be some food residue that doesn't just glide off in the soapy water, the pan can be turned inside out to get the last little bit.) So clean-up is a breeze.
However, sometimes I do worry about the sense of entitlement this princess sometimes displays. I tell her that if she wants to be the princess, she needs to remember to treat me like a queen. However, from my point of view, that strategy seems to be working quite imperfectly. This morning she came to me with a turned up nose and whined, "What did you put on top of the rolls?!" Reply: "Vanilla icing." "Oh," she said as she walked away.

The Dish Gene

As I was rushing out the door to work yesterday, I realized my coffee mug was still sitting on the stove and rushed back into the kitchen to get it. The tote on my shoulder knocked a plate off the table and broke it. This was an antique saucer and I still have two more like it, and I realize I should have gotten all three on a wall last summer, but I never got around to it. The broken one will go to my friend Cathy who is collecting everyone's broken blue and white dishes for a mosaic for the wall in her kitchen eating area, so at least there will be a use for the pieces.

The thing is every time I see those dishes, they make me smile. I'd been using that saucer as a landing place for my morning vitamins, and I don't know if I want to do that with either of the remaining saucers because, apparently, I'm not very good at restraining undisciplined tote bags early in the morning.

When my sister and I were in our twenties and thirties, we expressed amazement at our mother and aunt's collections of dishes. It seemed they saved every dish they encountered. They admired them. They practically petted them! We said we just couldn't understand what that was about and that we would never do it. I don't know about my sister, but I definitely have a dish thing now. I wonder if it's genetic. I wonder if there's something about our family's inherited brain structures or wiring that compels us to collect dishes since my grandmothers collected them too. In all honesty, I don't so much collect as just encounter various orphaned dishes, and if they make my heart sing, I "rescue" them. It's also true that yesterday I did stop at an antique store in Albuquerque and donate a small box of cups and saucers that I had rescued somewhere years ago--I told them if no dealer could use them, they could do whatever they wanted with them, but those dishes needed to bless someone besides me. The box included some fine porcelain cups that I've rarely used and that didn't make me smile every time I saw them.

That said, I do have a strong suspicion that there is, indeed, a dish gene. I wonder what my sister's dish collection is like!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Long-Awaited Sock Photos

These are a few of the socks I made last year. My two favorite pairs are not shown--at least they used to be my favorite pairs. For the two "missing" pairs, I used a sock yarn that was alpaca, wool, and nylon. I love knitting with alpaca--it's like caressing a baby's cheek.

The pictured socks were made from various types of wool with nylon or polyamide to help them hold their shape. The last two pairs on the right in the lower picture are made from a yarn that contains "chitra", a fiber made from shrimp shells. It is supposed to be antibacterial. Where you see stripes, those were self striping yarns.

Like all the yarn I buy for socks, the yarn in the missing socks was purported to be machine washable in cold water. Unfortunately, about the tenth time I washed them, they must have felt the cold water was too warm, because they felted. I'm gifting them to my friend Lori for her little girl. They will be blissfully warm for her--and they're as soft as a bunny! I'm finishing a third pair in the same kind of yarn, but this time I'll stick with hand washing.

Most of the socks I've made are also supposed to be machine dryable. There is no way I'm going to risk that now; I dry them on a sweater drying rack.

Recently a research study was published indicating knitting is as effective as antidepressants. I'm sure the pharmaceutical companies will be less than pleased if that becomes common knowledge. I heard someone suggest that the reason knitting is so calming is that it engages both hemispheres of the brain. I think there's more to it that than, but I do concur that knitting has many positives. I love making socks because not only does winter always seem too long and too cold, even here in New Mexico where we do get some sun almost every day, but also sock yarn and six-inch double pointed needles are small and convenient to carry with me for when I get caught waiting or when I just want something soothing to do.

I didn't even try knitting socks for years because I thought they would just be too hard. I didn't understand that like sewing clothing or quilts, knitting socks is more about process than patterns. I also thought it would take forever with thin yarn and tiny needles. I use size two needles but with only 60 stitches around most of the socks I make, we're not talking exhorbitant amounts of time--although I don't think I'd like it if I had to make a pair every week. I love the way bamboo needles glide against the yarn and each other.
I am getting closer and closer to finishing my current sock projects, and I'm so excited about choosing which yarn I'll use for the next pair! It's nice how little things can make me so happy!

Tumbleweed Heaven

This is what greeted us when we got home today. Well, it's part of what greeted us. There are countless little bundles all over the place. I remember running into a small weed as I rushed to the car this morning. Obviously, a lot of its friends joined later today! Apparently the wind conditions were just perfect for forming a congregation of tumbleweeds near my door.
I do console myself with the fact that if we had had snow instead of tumbleweeds, we might be facing another week of isolation as we did a couple of Januaries ago. Compared to snowdrifts equally as high, I think piles of tumbleweeds three+ feet high might not be so bad as they at first seemed.
Do you suppose there is anything I can afford that might entice my daughter to drag them into the empty field on the other side of the street tomorrow? Nah, probably not!

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Home

Harriet asked to see pictures of my home. Therefore, I decided to get back to long-fizzled blog. Then several other people asked for pictures too. So here they are.

This is a picture of the fireplace at Christmas. The poinsettias were a wonderful golden color--much better than the white ones I had ordered. Unfortunately, they were not very hearty. We ordered them to display at church until Christmas, and most of the white ones were already looking the worse for wear. They're already frozen outside, unlike in past years when we've managed to keep them for at least several months. I hope those who purchased red ones found theirs fared better.

The color of my walls isn't very clear in the picture. They are a very pale violet that's trying to be orchid, or else an orchid that's trying to be violet. I love the color!
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I'm going to give this blogging thing another try--I found so little time over the last year to do it. I think it was the "posting pictures" thing that slowed me down.

The exterior of my house on a snowy day last weekend. One of the reasons I like this picture is because the snow obscures the pesky tumbleweeds that blew in over several days before the snow. Because we were not home until long after dark those days, they just accumulatted. I've decided not to take an "after the snow" pictures because then we had even more days of 30-60 mph winds and there are even more tumbleweeds out there. I wish my daughter would decide she needs to be outside and would drag them over to the field across the street--probably not too likely. If I put them in the garbage can, there would be no more room for garbage!
Here are more pictures of the interior:
Above is a little sitting area at one end of living room. The plan was to put handmade ornaments on the Scandinavian "stick tree." Never happened! Now I'm thinking I really should dig through my embroidered and paper heart ornaments for Valentine's day because it's pretty obvious that I'm not going to get the January snowmen on the thing!
The wall in the above picture shows some of the antique plates I've collected over the years. The exception is the center bottom plate, which was passed on to me by my mother years ago and has probably been in the Scheer family for about a century.
Above is a photo of the "stuff" on and above the piano--an oil painting my mother did, stitchery I did, the first cross-stitch I designed, and various antique plates, cups, etc. that I've collected. I love the way dust does not show in these photos! In the winter I usually turn the bookcase on the left toward the entryway into the living room. I've been stalling on getting that done--because I hate to unload all those books and then reload them--and am fortunate that we have not had the days upon days of below zero night-time temperatures that have been common in many other years.
And in the kitchen, these are the dishes that I found a few years ago at a thrift shop. Very lucky timing, very good price, and a very "partial" set--I treasure them and admit to using them only for special occasions; we used them at Christmas and New Year's day.

Lastly, the following picture shows a quilt I made years ago and planned to put on the wall as soon as I moved into this house. It took over six years to actually get it on the wall, but now it's there for me to look at whenever I sit down to knit or watch television.
I am such very, very imperfect housekeeper!!!
More soon,
Dora, the Quilter
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