I’ve always made resolutions — love the start of a new year, a new beginning, and a new mindset. When my boys were little, I remember all of us sitting at the kitchen table writing our lists of resolutions. What counts is not whether you stick to the resolutions or not, but that you took the time to set your intention for the coming year.
This year, I will focus on being thankful. I dug in the cupboard found a gallon jar, a blank label, and taaa daaa:
Here is my Thankfulness Jar for 2013!
My intention is to jot a note every single day for the things that make me thankful. Then we can spend a wonderful New Year’s Eve (12/31/13) opening the notes and reflecting on the year!
I’m not officially starting today, but here’s is the idea of thankfulness that sparked my making the jar. Recently our washing machine decided it had washed it’s last load, ate it’s last sock, and spun right off it’s axis. We hauled it in to be fixed, but alas, it would cost $400 to rebuild whatever was broken. I told my husband, “No, let’s just skip fixing it and go to the laundromat. I haven’t done that in YEARS! It will be fun.”
My husband and I usually compete to see who is the most efficient laundress. Who uses the least amount of washers, who uses the least amount of money, and who finishes first. Ya got to do something to make it fun. The visits to this little microcosm of our community are a good lesson in humility. Airing one’s dirty laundry in public is indeed a humbling experience. I am amazed at the amount of dog hair, I pack into that place. At home, my clothes don’t seem totally engulfed with dog hair. I do use a lint brush before leaving the house. Once inside the laundromat though, next to the white washers and under the bright lights, it’s enough hair to make a good sized ball of yarn!
After this morning’s visit to the laundromat, I am thankful that my dirty clothes were the ones covered in dog hair and not the ones that were hauled in that smelled like cat pee! Yikes ~ I really felt for that family. I am also VERY thankful for the wonderful lady who cleans the laundromat. It is always sparkly, clean. She works hard and always seems cheerful.
Here’s to a 2013 filled with good intentions!
when the leaves drift silently from the trees? It was cold this morning and frosty. The perfect day for cleaning closets. But. . . if you have extreme ADD like me, then you find yourself caressing an unfinished quilt and wondering if just maybe today is the day that it becomes a FINISHED quilt.
It’s a quilt that you started at least five years ago. At the VERY least five years ago. The quilt was constructed with fabric that reminded you of your very brattiest Cairn Terrier, Pixie. Pixie is now nine years old, and she gets more bratty every day. The fabric is bright white and yellow daisies on a green splashed background. It’s happy, it’s sunny, and the whole entire quilt screams, “Pixie Dust!”
Pixie came to us in November 2006 from a breeding facility. She was only three years old then. She was scared, shy, and not potty trained. I drove to Portland one very rainy fall night to meet her foster mom who was coming from Spokane, WA. I had planned to foster two sister Cairn Terriers. One was pregnant. The plan was to whelp the puppies, and then find homes for the puppies and the adult dogs. Originally, I thought that I would keep one of the puppies, but that was before I met the tiny little sister dog. She was tiny, black and cute as could be. The pregnant dog was very outgoing and loving. She quickly curled into my lap and let me rub her tummy. I named her Hayden for her home town in Idaho. The little one sidled away, and curled herself into a ball on the dirty jeans that were crumpled on the floor. I looked at that little black face — a shy face, but her eyes held the impish grin of a Pixie. She became Pixie Dust — my very happy thought.
As the days of fostering unfolded into weeks and months, we whelped the puppies, fed Hayden, wormed puppies, wiped up pee, and cleaned up mounds of poop. Two foster sisters and five puppies later, my son told me the puppy room reminded him of something on “Hoarders.” It was hard, hard work. But when the puppies were weaned and 4 months old, we found homes for Hayden and ALL of her babies.
But. . . . that little, shy sister dog? She stayed. She had quietly, yet consistently dug her way into my heart. Pixie is all things dirt! She loves the woods, the sticks, the mud, the smells of the earth. She lives to play ball, dig huge excavation tunnels, and chase birds and squirrels. She is truly everything Cairn. She has a huge prey drive, and plucked one of my beloved Chickens in 10 minutes flat. Luckily then hen survived because Pixie doesn’t have many teeth nowadays, but Pixie is full of game and ferocious as any 11 pounder could be.
She is also gentle and kind. Pixie volunteers as a pet therapist. Although, I’m officially the volunteer, I do nothing. It’s all Pixie. She settles silently on the sick bed and snuggles into the one who needs her most. She lays perfectly still for minutes or hours whatever is needed. When I see her still and quiet like that, I wonder is this really the same grubby little dirt devil who keeps our yard vermin free?
Pixie makes me laugh –
What inspires your creative side?
On a warm summer afternoon, I met a Do-On Zen Priest. He talked to me about a man who sat in the woods and listened to animals speak. This imagery opened my heart. If listening to the animals was the answer to my enlightenment, I could achieve that. I was curious to learn more. In my overenthusiastic fashion, I gathered armloads of books about Zen Buddhism and meditation. The simplistic ideas in those books intrigued me, but the tangled words remained fathomless to my wee brain. Recently, while corresponding via post with my father, he asked me if I knew what Zen practice means, and I began to turn the question upside down in my mind. I can most assuredly say that I don’t know what Zen means. Perhaps, if you feel that you know what it means, you have missed the mark. Although, when I knit, a piece of me is spurred to imagine this as the essence of Zen practice.
I knit for hours on end until my hands and neck are tense. I stretch out my fingers and flex my hands, shift in my seat, pick up the needles, and knit some more. I am shocked when I look at the clock and see that hours have slowly ticked past. I stretch out my legs, walk to the bathroom, and then return to knit some more. My shoulders ache and my eyes get bleary, but the practice of knitting calls me to its side. The wool and the needles make me sit, and they force my mind to be attentive to the practice.
The things I knit are simply garments. They will not change the world, and while some of them are quite pretty, they will never be works of art admired through the ages. Last year, I made a sweater that won a best in show placement at the local county fair. Many people admired it, and I received a few compliments. Several people asked, “How long does it take you to make a sweater like that?” I said, “I don’t know. I could never count the hours that I sit and knit. All I know is that I waste too much time doing it.” One lady responded and said, “You can never spend too much time doing what you love.” That comment spoke to my heart, and I believe it may be at the crux of Zen and the focus of non-attachment.
Although, I knit for hours at a time, I am not concerned with the outcome of my knitting. I don’t care if I am able to someday knit faster or if the garments become more lovely. I care only that the wool is moving through my fingers. I prefer to do Fair Isle knitting with a color held in the right and left hands. A student asked me once, “How do you knit with a color in each hand?” I said, “Practice. It’s only practice.” She frowned and seemed disappointed that I wasn’t able to share a more enlightened tidbit.
One should ask how the Olympic swimmer was able to win so many gold medals? Through practice. How did the concert pianist arrive in Carnegie Hall? Through practice. How did that artist’s paintings come to hang in the Louvre? Through practice. Although they produced astounding results, I believe that the athlete, musician, and artist would all reflect that their work could be a little better with even more practice. I believe too that the Zen priest may reflect that his power of attention and observation may become a little more refined through additional practice of listening to the Universe.
Although I devote hours to my practice of knitting, I’m grounded in non-attachment to the knitting. I could be concerned with getting faster, with churning out more garments, or with finding the perfect colorway. Attachment to outcomes such as those will lead to frustration. Instead, I am concerned with the time that knitting allows me to spend in my own head. It’s not a time to daydream or to imagine a different lifetime. Knitting is about counting stitches, concentrating on a pattern, repetition, and sometimes it’s about re-knitting certain sections. Most importantly, the time I spend in my head with my knitting is time spent in the present moment. If I focus on the future and the finished garment, the stitches will drop and the colors will fade. If I spend time in the past, my knitting will once again become the fleece of a certain generous sheep.
Through my knitting I am able to relate to Zen practice. Zen meditation is a time that must be spent in my head in the present moment, with no attachment to the outcome. There have been times when I cut several inches of a certain color combination off my needles. I didn’t even bother to try to rip it out because the yarn was useless after I had messed with it for so long. I cut it off and threw it away. I had spent hours with those colors that simply didn’t work. Some may say that was time wasted. Perhaps, I should have ripped it out carefully and tried again. Instead, I believe it was time well spent understanding that those colors didn’t work on my needles in that time and in that space. Perhaps the colors may work for someone else’s needles at another moment in time.
The same is true for meditation. Sometimes, the practice is too tiresome. My legs ache too much, my body is too fidgety, my dogs are too persistent in unhinging my focus. Although, I fidget through as long as I possibly can, I may become frustrated; or I could instead, realize that mediation practice looked more fretful in my body on this day. It’s not a measure of getting “better” at sitting quietly, it’s instead a reminder to continue sitting, continue reflecting, and continue practicing patience with my human nature. Zen is a practice that will not survive in the past or the future. Zen will only manifest in the present moment of the sound of the clock, the sway of my breath filling my lungs, and the aching in my legs and shoulders. That aching reminds me that I am human and in my human existence, I find solace in the art of sitting and the practice of emptying my mind.
Let’s see one blackberry pie, one peach pie, and one blackberry cobbler later, I’m still working on processing my fresh blackberries and peaches.
Here’s another recipe to die for! It’s absolutely delicious, and I can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I think it would be really good with real maple syrup, but I didn’t try that this time.)
I love spring time — with its promise of new growth and new life — but this year, more than ever before, I am LOVING the harvest season. Every time I come home from my plot at the community garden, laden down with cucumbers and kale, I feel as if I hit a jackpot in Vegas with all my free food. Yesterday, my husband and I picked blackberries. We spent almost one hour and came home with three gallons. This morning, two friends and I went to Southern Oregon, and visited Sugar Plum Acres Orchard. We picked peaches for 45 minutes and drove off with over 50 pounds each! They are not quite ripe yet, but will be ready for a cobbler in a couple of days.
Here are the blackberries:
Every time I pick blackberries, it takes me back to when we were kids. My mom would strap Folger’s Coffee cans around our necks, line us up seven deep around the blackberry bushes, and we would pick and eat all morning. By noon we were all purple from head to toe. On the way home, Mom would swing by the river, and shoo us out of the truck to swim (bathe). I am guessing that must have been the easiest way for her to clean up seven purple kids.
My Favorite Blackberry Pie:
Blackberry pie is my all-time favorite pie, but it can’t be just any blackberry pie. I’m very picky about the taste. It has to be just a little sweet and mostly tart. Here is my mom’s recipe (this IS my all-time favorite one):
4 cups blackberries
One to one & a half cups of sugar. TASTE your berries first. If they are sweet, add only one cup. If they are sour add a little bit more.
1/2 – 1 tsp Cinnamon – I always add 1 tsp because I like it cinnamony.
1/3 cup flour
1 & 1/2 tbs butter
Mix flour, sugar and cinnamon with a fork. Then mix that gently into the berries. Don’t crush them or make them too runny.
Pour into an uncooked pie shell in a pie pan. Dot with butter, and cover with another pastry crust.
Cook for 35-45 minutes at 425 degrees. ENJOY!
You may have noticed that I didn’t go into a lot of detail about the crust. That’s because crust frustrates me to no end. I can knit this:
But I have absolutely no patience for CRUST! It just plain and simply ticks me off. The secret for me is to attempt crust early in the day before I get too tired. Then I place it in the fridge wrapped in plastic to cool it down. Then I smash it between wax paper to roll it out. Then I carefully slide it off the wax paper into the pie plate, and I hope that there are no little people around to hear the slew of cussing that comes out of my mouth during that process.
Here’s the pie:
The County Fair came and went with more activity than I had anticipated. Since this was my “Year of Chickens,” of course the girls were bathed, blow dried, and bundled up to be on exhibit. They were thoroughly disgusted with the whole ordeal. It was not their idea of fun to hang out in an air-conditioned building with a bunch of other fowl for five days in a wire cage while strange two-legged creatures “Bawked,” at them.
Purl, my fat-butted, big-chested, large-fowl cochin, was front and center right inside the door. She clucked, panted and sighed through the five days and endured the humiliation as best she could. The babies (who are fondly referred to as the Chicken Strips), were horrified to be smack-dab beside a large white rooster who kept staring at them. I’m not sure if he was more enamored with their delicious quinoa salads or their juicy young thighs.
Knitting — UG! There were not many entries this year in the home arts exhibit. Maybe everyone had a year of chickens instead of knitting. My entries were not that exciting. They did not reflect my skill, but instead my silliness — and lo and behold the Hedgehog Habitat actually came home with a second place ribbon.
My son entered a beautiful fair-isle hat. His second hat, but his first entry to a judged event, and he came home with a BLUE ribbon!
I’m not quite sure what the year ahead of me holds for knitting. I’ve been a little foggy in regard to my knitting goals. I’m finishing up two baby sweaters for a friend who was recently blessed with twin grandchildren. Maybe the completion of those little sweaters will inspire something bigger and better on the horizon.
I’ve been wanting to write about chickens, but it’s such a long, drawn-out story. It’s hard to even remember where to begin. Ahh, yes . . . . .back in April 2011, a small group of ladies from the community garden approached the city council with a proposal to allow chicken keeping in our little town. One of the ladies belongs to my knitting group. She arrived late and breathless to knitting that April evening because she had been at a city council meeting presenting the Chicken Proposal.
My ears perked up . . . . chickens in MY very own backyard? What fun! Let’s see, since I’ve lived in town with neighbors (it’s only been about 13 years of my life) I had a back yard turtle, some very obnoxious screaming parrots, two illegal quacking ducks, some very noisy terriers, and two wild boy children. Have I mentioned that my neighbors don’t exactly love me? But. . . I had never tried chickens in town. I GREW up with chickens on the farm (along with goats, horses, pigs, dogs, cats, etc.) One of my very favorite childhood pets was a sweet Guinea Fowl named, Kelsey, who followed me everywhere.
Yes, I was intrigued with the idea of chicken keeping within city limits, so I joined the Great Chicken Crusade of 2012. The debate with the city council went on for months. They sloughed us chicken lovers off to the planning commission. The planning commission soon tired of our proposal and sent us back to the City Council. I finally said, “Buuuuullll . . . shit! I’m getting my own damn hens.”
I started researching breeds . . . . because that’s what I do. I research and read until my mind is completely full about what kind of animal will fit with my needs. I needed something that wasn’t flighty because I didn’t want the dogs to scare them. I wanted a hen that was relatively personable and that I could handle easily. I wanted something pretty — because I love beautiful animals. I called the feed store and ordered Large Fowl Asiatic Cochin Chicks, I joined the Cochins International Group, and continued to read about chicken keeping. Finally, the darling little fat, fuzzy-legged chicks arrived. I named them Knit and Purl, and as I watched them in the brooder box under the heat lamp, my love affair with my own little backyard hens began. They ate, and grew, and ate some more, and grew some more. We built a coop that was just too cute for words. I tromped off to the lumber yard with my husband, and before you knew it, we sunk about $1000 into a spacious, grass-covered chicken yard, with edible berry bushes, an outside nest box, a dirt bath area, and lawn chairs so I could hang out with the hens. The wild birds, thought we had built the structure entirely for them. The house wrens are ecstatic, and we now have wild doves visiting every morning for breakfast.
Back to the City Council . . . .in the summer of 2011, they voted “No on Chicken Keeping.” What? As I sat in the meeting, I could barely believe my ears. What was I going to do with my Illegal Hens? I couldn’t (WOULDN’T) give them away. I was attached to them, I loved them, and they didn’t even lay eggs yet. Well . . . . . again, I said a few more expletives and decided this was just a bunch of chicken shit. If people could grow Marijuana in their backyards, then why the heck couldn’t I keep my little, fat hens? So we wintered through with our illegal girls.
In early 2012, the Chicken Coalition asked the city council to reconsider and put the issue on the June 2012 ballot so that the voters could decide the issue. Now, have I mentioned that we live in a very rural California County. Throughout the State in bigger cities, Chickens are hanging out in backyards. Hens are even legal in the State Capitol City of Sacramento. I dared to hope.
In February, Knit and Purl surprised me with two perfectly-formed brown eggs. We had an egg about every other day. Although, I had completely researched the Large Fowl Asiatic Cochin Breed, I failed to notice that they aren’t that great about egg production, they don’t like to get their beautifully feathered feet wet, AND they like to eat and are prone to heart disease and laziness. As my oldest son observed, “Why is it Mom that you always get special-needs animals?” Hmmm… . . .that is something to ponder.
As the June election loomed on the horizon, I became political — posted signs in my yard, pasted bumper stickers to my vehicles, and placed stuffed hens on my desk at work. I started bribing my neighbors. I took the scarce cochin eggs door to door and shared my fat little hens’ good work. My neighbors were receptive. They were also NOT surprised because they could hear chicken sounds coming from my back yard. I thought I was being so sly with my little illegal flock. The Chicken Coalition of 2012 finally won the vote, but only by 40. A win is a win though, and I couldn’t have been happier. My little hens, didn’t care at all whether they were legal or illegal, they continued to eat, cluck and spit out an egg every few days. I bought two more large fowl Asiatic Cochin chicks, Lace and Stitch. All was well in my backyard.
Last weekend, my husband and I went on a camping trip to the Coast. I hired a nice young lady to chicken sit. Together, we reviewed the feeding instructions (quinoa/rice and fruit in the morning, greens and mixed veggies in the evening), instructions on locking them up in their little coop at night, putting the babies out in the morning. . . . . not on wet grass, not if it’s windy, make sure they have shade if its sunny, etc. etc. Have I mentioned that my pets are a tiny bit pampered?
But . . . no matter the amount of pampering and the amount of care, sometimes hens just die. Knit was found dead in the chicken yard Saturday afternoon – no blood, no pulled feathers, just laying their peacefully “asleep.” Knit was the dominant hen — always bossing Purl around, always coming to the door and clucking for me to come out and play, always the first to scurry over when I was planting shrubs to find the best worms. She was funny and quite personable. Just like being with your very best girlfriend, Knit and I could chat up a storm but never say anything at all.
When I got home, the sweet little chicken sitter was devastated and I tried to comfort her and explain that animals die. It’s always sad for me, but when you love to be with animals and have them in your life, part of that love is accepting death. We (Purl and I) planted Knit in the chicken yard, under a blueberry bush. I cried, Purl clucked at my feet, and we will carry on the best we can without Big Beautiful Knit.
Now that we are LEGAL, expect more chicken stories . . . . .