Haus Meister reminded me the other day that the latest blog post still began with “April” in the Middle English, thus galvanizing me into action! Especially as August with all its busy-ness is hard upon my heels—it’s time to catch up on the doings around here!
Farewell to “Brockhall”
Just about this time of year in 2020, this lovely chestnut oak, a full and rich green in its day, suddenly decided to go dry brittle brown on us and it wasn’t a drought. No signs of life from it in 2021, we were at the mercy of the local tree men who were themselves overbooked after several Spring and Summer storms, not to mention the resurgence of Covid. Finally, at the start of this summer, a crew came out and took down the tree the kids had named “Brockhall,” after a giant tree in the Redwall book series. Gone but not forgotten, it lives on in the five deep stacks of logs waiting for the autumn splitting, and two huge stacks of milled wood in our workshop waiting to become furniture as the need arises.
Meanwhile, back on the Farm
The barnyard has been in a state of flux lately. In June, Rascal sold his entire stock of rabbits to a family who were interested in homesteading. That officially ended the rabbit chapter here, unless one of the little girls wheedles for one—and only ONE—rabbit in the future. ;). We all learned a lot about the furry beasties, and which of them were good mothers, and which were not. Also which little blighters managed to exploit unexpected exits in the rabbit hutch.
I just realized this picture had been taken before the Rouens and Khaki Campbells had grown out their adult feathers. They really are a striking set, except it turns out there are five males and two females in that set.
The Pekins and the two roosters hatched last November became meat birds as we began a “farm to table” aspect of the farm life. However, on the very day those seven birds went to processing, an Orpington hatched seven chicks in our hayloft! Fortunately, we were on to her before any chicks made a leap out of said hayloft, and they had a happy start on terra firma. Only three survived the first week, and they are already running all over the barnyard and add a good deal of entertainment. Amusingly? Mama Chicken decided as her chicks grew that their ideal roost would be in the rafters next to the hayloft ladder. She wins in the end!
As in workshop news, that is. Haus Meister and Rascal spent a week at a Blacksmithing Institute building a Tire Power Hammer to complement our home smithy. It was a fun week for the two of them! Rascal is definitely meant for that kind of work and we’re intrigued to see where his discernment path leads as he progresses through high school.
“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in switch licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (So Priketh hem Nature in hir corages), Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages”
So did Geoffrey Chaucer begin his “Canterbury Tales.” And so did a few of us learn to memorize this passage some two decades ago in my Anglo-Saxon Lit class. Was it for extra credit or just credit? Blast. But hey, Dr. Rice, I still remembered part of it before googling it!
Anyway, one of April’s shoures, I mean, showers are falling outside tonight as I type and while we aren’t exactly going on pilgrimage this year, we have been full of wonderful events at church. Likely before I post again, the class I’ve had the honor to help teach this past academic year at our parish Faith Formation will celebrate their First Holy Communion, and our Li’l Bit will be among them. Meanwhile, in the same weekend, Docena received her Baptism (wearing the family heirloom gown). And the Rascal had his Confirmation, taking as his patron the rather unknown St. Dunstan, patron of blacksmiths. I should say St Dunstan isn’t as well known on this side of the Atlantic, for the gift we gave him of a replica medieval badge of the saint came from the UK.
Around the Haus…
Pipkka is 1! And no sooner did she turn one than she decided that she’d take it to the max. Climbing stairs? Check. Speech? Her vocabulary increases weekly. Walking? Coming soon. I should have been more nervous about that bottom right picture in this birthday montage (newborn + two of her first birthday) because this girl is plowing onward and not looking back!
After all the sacramental festivities, my mom went back home again in Indiana (those who know can’t say that without hearing Jim Nabors), and we thought we were going to settle in to a “new normal,” as it were, but lo and behold a new seasonal cold descended upon us. Haus Meister had it the worst with a diagnosis of bronchitis and a trip to get x-rays and make sure it wasn’t worse (it wasn’t). Fortunately, we were still able to celebrate Posey Pie’s 9th Birthday and our own familial 4th house-aversary on the same annual day last month.
It is hard to imagine that four years before, we were gathering in the same kitchen with the food that our lovely realtor had bought for us and left as a homecoming gift. Never had a tray of cookies from Sam’s Club tasted so sweet! Everything was so different and foreign four years ago. Now it’s delightfully familiar, and we still rejoice.
Around the Farm….
The sheep have been sheared! While I was posting my previous blogpost, we had been researching the best way to do this, and as we debated this set of shears over that, Haus Meister found a man who travels around shearing small flocks like ours. He literally goes up and down the region and had already sheared 400+ sheep before he came to our house, set up his rig where we requested and within the briefest time, divested our ewes of a year’s wool growth! Haus Meister and the kids learned how to wash and “skirt” the wool (removing any dirt and hay left behind) and soon we shall take our four bags full to a fiber mill north of here where it will be spun into yarn!
And in other farm news, the population of ducks increased by four with the addition of four Khaki Campbell ducklings to the three Rouen ones mentioned in the previous post.
The Khaki Campbells are the solid ducklings while the Rouen are striped.
By now we are all either intent on keeping track of, immune, or dismissive of the news coming from Ukraine. I’d argue we better darn well pay attention, because in this small world nothing can really happen anymore without affecting all of us (pandemic, anyone?).
Or perhaps I’m biased in a sense because on the ‘net page of this blog for several years has been the widget featuring a toddler picture of a little boy with red hair. We have been the prayer warriors for him for quite a while. His name on the Reece’s Rainbow website is “Clark” and he lives in Ukraine, if he’s there at all right now. And who can guess? Who can guess if a ten year old boy with cerebral palsy made it out to a refugee site? I pray he did. He’s the same age as our Miss M after all. Same sort of red hair, same sort of brown eyes (I saw him on another website with recent pictures, that’s how I know he has brown eyes). And CP, well, we know a bit about that, also. Small wonder I signed on to pray for him. May God in His mercy grant that boy a good place tonight.
We at Misselthwaite stand and pray for Ukraine. 🇺🇦
Welcoming “Docena,” our petite princess, who arrived a little more than two weeks ago into our home and hearts. Unlike Pipkka, she didn’t have to stay any extra time in the hospital. The whole experience was marvelously uneventful and we’ve just been enjoying our littlest (and trying to sleep when she sleeps, but really, how often does that work after the first baby?!).
Around the Haus…
March is promising to be very event-full, with two birthdays and two sacraments in one week! Not to mention Lent, school, springtime farm chores, figuring out sheep-shearing…. wow! Fortunately, my mother has been visiting for three weeks now to help us with our transitions so far. We’re going to miss her even more than usual when she heads back to her home! 🙂
Pipkka is really easing into her big sister role rather well. It helps that as I type, she’s a week out from her first birthday and learning so many new skills that she really doesn’t mind if I’m holding Docena unless it’s while the latter is having a bottle. Pipkka, like Dibbun before her, sees all bottles as her personal property and will even valiantly attempt to sneak sips from the tiny size 1 bottle while she, of course, is used to things rated 9mos+. This too, shall pass…
On the Farm…
While we figure out a routine here in our new “new normal,” things have not been idle on the Farm. Rascal’s rabbit had a new litter the week before Docena arrived. Right now, we call them The Tribbles because they are cute, small, furry, and show up in the unlikeliest places.
I warned my family not to allow me to walk into Tractor Supply or Ace Hardware unattended until further notice as Chick Days are back. I simply cannot be trusted while my two springtime addictions are out on sale (peeping poultry and garden plants). The fact that the sheep ate two of my apple saplings last Spring gave me pause and prevented me from grabbing a Honeycrisp one outside Tractor Supply. And luckily when I did happen to make a late evening run to TSC for barnyard needs, there was a sign saying the chicks wouldn’t go up for sale until the next morning at 10. Saved!
We did have a few small indoor projects to fix up before Docena arrived, and I will get to them in later posts. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a lot of nostalgic reflecting as we approach the fourth anniversary of our leap of Faith relocation to this beautiful corner of the Blue Ridge. Old “photo memories” on my phone have been showing pictures of much smaller girls running in the yard of a house that is no longer ours, holding armloads of daffodils that I hope still come up to cheer the current owners. Out here, my bulbs have just come up and the daffodils have not bloomed yet, but they are coming! I cannot wait to start my cool weather garden in a few weeks. Winter still comes to us here, and lasts just a little longer than we were used to back there. And I still love getting pictures like these (taken in January):
Tonight the wind was out of the west-nor’west and gusted down our driveway, past the front of our house, into and over the barn and through the woods beyond. If it were stronger, it ought to wail a bit and at least one little girl would need reminding that it’s just the Fall winds coming in. High time, too! We’ve had cooler days, and honestly, my Southern-born children sometimes still think they need winter parkas when the weather is in the mid-to-upper 60s. However, tonight the wind brings a cold front that means some modicum of business, and justifies the start of the colors in the leaves and the (7) pumpkins on my porch steps.
Pippka at 5, 6, and 7 months. (No sticker for 7 months because I temporarily misplaced it)
Around the Haus…
Little Pippka continues to grow like crazy and tick off all her milestones right and left. Since turning 7 months old, she has decided to begin the “army crawl” stage and gain a second tooth. She delights her siblings by reaching for them when she wants to be held, especially if I’m the one holding her. She is sitting well in her little chair and is starting solid food. It’s funny how the regimen of baby foods have changed since Trooper was the red-headed baby of the Haus. With him it was strictly rice cereal first (thickened in his case, but still!), and now it’s “whatever you’re having, just mashed.” I first realized this at a friend’s house where I was visiting while expecting Pippka, and I was surprised to see her little girl playing with spaghetti and soft carrots at 7 months! Suddenly, even though it’s been about four years since last putting a baby through solids, I felt like I was a generation behind in my parenting methods! Is this how our grandmothers felt when they were told it wasn’t allowed to feed infants orange juice until a certain age? (All in good fun, folks!) Now Pippka is exploring pancakes (without syrup) and other things while we keep an eye on her. I can’t say that she’s eating much of it, but she’s entertained.
Back when we were beginning to pack for our move here, I ordered several camping friendly wildlife and nature cards for our new home state, as the kids had been enjoying the nature cards I had given them long before for our then home state. The day the cards arrived in the mail happened to be one where they were feeling blue about leaving everything familiar for the unknown, and I hoped that they would be cheered up by what they saw. The results surprised me. The kids took the cards and dutifully took a gander, and then sat up in amazement. “Mama, Mama, there’s dolphins in this wildlife card!” “Seashells! Seashells! How come this state has seashells?!” I hadn’t thought at the time that they were moving from a landlocked state to one with a coastline, and informed them. Immediately, the kids were excited about this move and new plans were set. “How far to the beach?” We have yet to see a dolphin, but we do have a favorite seaside location that we visited in 2019 and again this summer (skipping 2018 due to moving and settling in, and last summer due to lockdown). It is just far enough to make an epic day trip event of it, where the entire family can get away for a few hours and listen to the ocean, gather the seashells, play in the surf, and get toasted, and still make it home in time to shut the barn doors for the evening.
Top left: Haus Meister and Trooper establish Base Camp. Lower Left: assorted children enjoying the seaside. Right: Bright Eyes after having her hair styled by Madame de la Mer (in other words, Bright Eyes came ashore with a wave that swirled her hair a bit).
The Cats of Misselthwaite…
“What?” You ask, “She has 24 chickens, 8 rabbits, 6 ducks, 4 sheep, and that ridiculous dog, and she’s talking about the cats again?!” If I were to ever go back onto social media, I am tempted to begin an Instagram thread with the above title and find my posts going viral because everyone likes cats on the internet, right? Well, I will be discussing the farm animals as we go, but since our last post the cat population increased by one. This one was a true rescue! Meet Ruby, pictured the day she turned up on our back porch, and then a month later! She has now been with us three months and is quite a fixture. Her name was the result of a misunderstanding. As “Tabitha Twitchett” had been taken by our (by now likely departed) feral stray friend from our first year here, I combed through my Beatrix Potter and decided on “Cousin Ribby” for our newcomer since she was really very emaciated when we met her. However, at adoption the vet tech heard “Ruby” instead of “Ribby” and it stuck. She is a spitfire of a feline gem, after all.
So, how did we end up accidentally rescuing a kitten? On a Sunday in July, I let Sam (aforementioned ridiculous dog) out for his morning constitutional. Moments later, I heard him barking up a storm on the porch, and looking, saw him under the patio table aiming his snout–and barks–at the chair facing the door. Assuming he was giving Bilbo or Oscar a hard time, I went out to chide him (silly dog, those cats don’t care one way or the next what he thinks). There on the porch chair was a small kitten I had seen two days prior, running across our woods. I knew she had a collar but here she was again, on our back porch, all skin and bones and giving Sam a piece of HER mind (and it appeared calculated to be able to make a sailor blush, as the saying goes). I got Sam back inside and then went to meet the newcomer (pleasantly impressed already by the sheer audacity coming from such a small critter). Alas, her collar that I had spied from a distance was actually wrapped around her foreleg, cutting into her skin! There was no telling where she had come from or how long she’d been from home, and no identification on the collar, but I couldn’t just let her sit on our porch and stew like that! So we brought her in, and fortunately there was time before Mass to go out and get kitten food and a basic litter box. Over the next week we haunted the lost pet ads and played phone tag with the vet. The vet clinic five minutes from our house wouldn’t see her at first since she wasn’t ours, and suggested the Humane Society. The Humane Society wouldn’t see her because we were one mile outside city limits (and their jurisdiction), so we’d have to go to the county shelter forty minutes away. I somehow didn’t picture anyone going to look for her there, and so I called our vet again and asked if we could at least get her scanned for a chip. Meanwhile, I searched every lost pet forum and no one seemed to be searching for her. Obviously since we still have her, she wasn’t chipped, no one knew where she had come from, and no one really expected much from taking her nearly an hour away. So we adopted her then and there in the vet clinic and proceeded to take over her full care. She resides in the boys’ room, of all places, and likes holding sway over her domain. She tolerates Oscar alone of all the animals (I am not letting her run around outside yet, so I don’t know how she’d deal with the barnyard). Sam continues to get an explosion out of her, and she seems to have a perpetual enmity with Bilbo. Perhaps it is because they share a similar profile and build, the kind that suggests that their species were once regarded as gods by the Pharaohs, and they have not forgotten.
Now that it is Autumn, the pool is closed and so is “Celtic Music, Cookouts, and Chlorine,” which is our usual theme for summer evenings poolside. We generally don’t mind shutting down the pool on Labor Day evening because the days are shorter anyway, the evenings almost too cool to enjoy the pool, and the trees nearest the pool decide, rather obnoxiously, to begin shedding in advance. Really, by September it becomes more of a chore than a pleasure to keep the pool running any longer. Once the pool craze is over, it’s safe to turn our attention to other tasks that the summer heat, and the clamor of children for swim time, helped put off until now.
In July, Rascal helped me do a project that had been percolating in my mind almost since we arrived. Our upper floor bathroom looked fabulous in the realty pictures, as is the norm for everything in realty pictures, and it might have stayed semi-fabulous except it was the bathroom designed for the three bedrooms allotted to children in the house. The previous owners seemed to have given it better attention than they did the master bathroom (for which I could be thankful, actually). However, the large cabinetry made it hard to sweep beneath, the scrollwork caught any accidental toothpaste drips from those of preschool age, and the doors suffered a quick loss thanks to little girls using them as props to stand up on that interior ledge as a quasi step-stool (step-stools having no real room for maneuverability in here at the time). Plus, any splash from the bathtub whatsoever invariably made its way beneath the sink, and it was, in a nutshell, unpleasant. I finally decided that this summer we would tackle this bathroom before school began (other projects having precedent before now).
In the end, my involvement was the inspiration and materials gathering, while Rascal did the hard work (I did get a fiendish satisfaction of personally hauling away the old sink parts to the local dump. As it turns out, it was rotting beneath the marble facade anyway). Rascal repainted the walls with some white paint we had left over from other rooms (we call it Northern Michigan White, in homage to a favorite extended family vacation cottage). The new sink and cabinetry are a basic model from Home Depot (and yes, one can put a step stool in front of this sink). The mirror is from Wal-Mart, but Rascal spray painted the frame and the light fixtures a nice bronze to update them. The signs next to the tub (first picture) came from Amazon, and the shelf in the middle picture is from IKEA (towels from Target). Originally, I hadn’t planned on removing the old mirror, but once the new sink/vanity was in place, we saw it just didn’t work. Amusingly, as we removed the mirror, a thin piece of folded paper fluttered out. It was an unsatisfactory report card belonging to the son of the second owner of the house (we’re the fourth or fifth owners), dated 1991. I have kept some things that were left behind around here (a cabinet here a side table there), but this wasn’t one of them.
Rascal did earn some goodly reward for his hard work, including a trip to the homemade cookie-ice-cream-sandwich place in town. I think he deserved it.
We are working on other projects that must wait for other posts, but here’s a sneak preview.
I do realize, as I close this post, that contrary to the title, it was more of a summer re-cap than about anything autumnal. No mention until now of sweaters or pumpkin spice lattes, and nary a picture of the maple leaves turning from green to red! However, the breeze outside my window as I type reminds me that autumn is, at last, once again with us. The Cosy Season is back, and while the summer was more hectic than not (the week that Ruby came also saw Bright Eyes having surgery on her finger after accidentally slamming it in a door, Haus Meister’s first overnight business trip since the lockdowns, and Vacation Bible School for more than half the family), it’s good to be here and resting with a hot cuppa tea at the end of the day.
Welcome to the Cat Days of Summer. As opposed to the Dog Days, although in looking up what the Dog Days meant, I realized they technically began on Saturday. The hottest, most lethargic days of summer. Indeed, the summer haze is out in full force and I was rather regretting that my morning run began at 9 this morning instead of 6:30. Whew! But while our cats enjoy a good coze, they also seem to have their moments of frenetic activity, and that seems to sum up the summer so far. On the other hand, you’d think there would be a break from winding up an academic year, but in between lazy afternoons or evenings at the pool, we’ve been catching up on all the routine appointments we don’t usually do during the school year (hello, well-child checkups and the mid-year dental appointments!). We’ve already hosted two cookouts and have one more on the schedule, plus much-anticipated extended family visits, Vacation Bible School is back, and this means July is already crowded on the calendar. It is a welcome change from last year!
But it doesn’t feel like the Dog Days. So, it’s the Cat Days. Plus, it was fun to use those photos, taken on the same day within ten minutes of each other. Oscar was on one of the boys’ beds and Bilbo was curled up in the laundry room, inside the basket of (clean, matched) socks.
Pippka is now four months old and received her sacrament of Baptism in April. She received it the day before Posey Pie’s First Communion, just as eight years before, Posey Pie herself was baptized the day before Rascal’s First Holy Communion. We like to do sacraments in bulk around here. Pippka was the perfect baby throughout the ceremony, wearing the traditional gown that has now seen about 21 christenings, and Posey was a beautiful First Communicant in the dress her paternal grandmother made for Princess’ First Communion five years before.
We’ve had two birthdays since the last post, both with their own personal flair. I was able to make Li’l Bit’s birthday dress (“Sintra,” from Little Lizard King) in my new sewing room (more on that later), and while I still need to sit down and get a few more dresses made for the little girls, Dibbun definitely preferred the ornate princess dress I found from the Little Adventures princess costume line. Li’l Bit also received her first official pair of cowgirl boots (not pictured) and she wears them everywhere, to church and store and home again. Rascal made her sawhorse horse that she named “Yankee Doodle.” Dibbun paraded everyone in the house with her light-up bubble wand and reigned regally over her day. No two birthdays in this house are alike but they sure are a delight.
Around the Farm:
Harriet, Matilda, Charlotte, and Louisa arrived on May 15. They are Finnrace sheep from a farm in Northern Virginia, and they handled the long trip here just fine. For short, they are “Hattie, Mattie, Lottie, and Lou.” I got “Hattie, Mattie, and Lou” from the sheep in “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” Charlotte was tacked on because I just assumed it fit. When Haus Meister informed me that sheep can live as long as 18 years, I declared at that moment that *I* would be in charge of naming these new pets because I was NOT going to live 18 years with a sheep named “Sparklepoof,” (“Or Flufflebutt,” a son chimes in), and if you don’t think my girls would try that, just consider the names given to the chickens over the years. “Polka Dot Sunshine Sleeping Beauty Princess” takes the cake, but this year’s batch of 11 already includes “Mithrandella,” “Obsidian Falcon,” and “Caramel Latte.” I admit I did name one of the new Ameraucanas “Calico,” because like the cat of the same name, she’s all the colors, but I digress.
Lou is everyone’s favorite sheep. She is the absolute friendliest and will greet me even if she sees me puttering about my container garden on the deck (part of which looks down into the barnyard). She is Lottie’s twin sister. Lottie is also friendly–they all are–but Lou wins the prize for friendliest. Lou is also the mischief maker. We had to upgrade our feed bins because she found out how to kick the buckets open. Hattie and Mattie are half-siblings, as they have the same sire. Hattie is the dark one and Mattie is the one shown in the teaser photo in the previous blogpost. She has polka dots on her ears and legs and also those interesting rings around her eyes. The fiber artist in me cannot wait for shearing next Spring. Their wool is so interesting and variegated!
I’m also glad to report that the sheep (now that Lou can’t kick the chicken scratch bucket open) are finally getting the point that they are here to eat the kudzu and creeper vines, and they are beginning to make a start on the ever present threat of invasion. It may take a while, but it is still a start! 😉
As also stated, 11 out of 12 chicks are reaching adulthood. They still sleep in a separate area from the big chickens but during the day they can roam about freely in the barnyard with the whole menagerie. We lost one chick and one duck, and are not sure why about the chick but the duck became lame. I suppose we didn’t quite realize how top heavy Pekins are compared to the magpies we used to own, and the barnyard is hilly. One duck must have stumbled wrong or fallen off the ramp into the yard or something but no matter, it was sadly never able to walk again. Two others also had leg issues at first. One made a complete recovery and the other manages to almost literally hop on one foot but still gets around. We call that one “Hoppy Duck,” but no other duck has been named because we really can barely tell them apart.
It began with a new bed. One new bed moved into one room meant an old bed became repurposed in another room. Fabric that had been stored in drawers beneath the old bed needed a new place to exist until sewing days could take place. Enter what I used to think of as “The Ugly Duckling Room.” Honestly, it’s an odd room in an odd shape in the middle of the basement with three less windows than the boiler/electric/air conditioner room behind it, and until April it was really a dump station for things unless we had enough company to fill two bedrooms. As we didn’t have company that often in 2020, it exacerbated the problem. Somehow as we moved beds around, and sisters played “musical rooms,” and closets were aired and the rooms began to take on a whole new look than they had three years ago when we arrived and first arranged furniture, the thought came to me “Sewing Room!” And after all, why not?! I took a gloomy afternoon and rearranged things in that Ugly Duckling room. I dusted and vacuumed, hung pictures and placed books. The next week, I gave it a trial run and made a dress for Lil Bit’s 7th Birthday. It was so ideal! Three weeks later, I found a quilt cover for the bed that I liked better than the old set, and now there’s a pleasant spot for me to sew as well as a quiet room appointed for guests when needed. No more dump station! My cup overflows.
Greetings, dear reader! For the record, this is the fourth attempt I have made to summarize our family’s doings in the last four months, so hopefully in this case, fourth time’s the charm!
At the end of May, we celebrated our 16th Wedding Anniversary.
Happy 3rd Birthday, Rosebud (back in June)! You keep things happily hopping!
We have not been idle at Misselthwaite! Well, there have been many days of poolside enjoyment once Haus Meister found out the botheration that plagued us with this pool last summer. I could definitely sum up our fine summer weekends as “Chlorine, Celtic Music, and Cookouts” as we enjoyed the two great things a previous owner left us: a poolside charcoal grill and speakers installed on the workshop adjacent the pool. Haus Meister could stream his favorite Celtic Music podcast (Thistle Radio on Soma FM, for the curious) while the kids swam and we supervised both the kids and the cookout. So many fun summer Sundays this year!
Meanwhile, our farm bustles with activity. The chicks we ordered in April arrived and were duly added to the Home Science/Economics course we joke that we run on the side. Sadly, one chick, very likely a Sicilian Buttercup rooster, passed within three days of arrival. However, his loss was accidentally supplemented by the hatchery, who seems to have inadvertently added a male to our “straight run female” order. Enter “Brewster: The Accidental Rooster” to our poultry flock.
Oh, and magpie ducks. They just seemed like a good idea.
We worked on fixing up our automobiles, since last summer was spent fixing up our house. Here and there, we tried to do improvements on the property. One thing I love is the Mary Garden we dug into the hillside in front of the house, which I do not have an adequate picture of at present but for which someone made a significant sacrifice:
My parents, my husband, myself, and the Rascal were the main movers behind this project. Haus Meister had parked our old pickup truck between the house and barn with the plants and everything else we would need to accomplish said task in the truck bed. However, he had to work on the day we were clearing the area and missed the action. Around the time we were discussing lining the grotto area around the yard statue of Our Lady with stone from our property, Rascal recalls a certain huge quartz rock in our woods that would be “just the thing.” After hauling it over via wheelbarrow, the barrow tipped and the rock began hurtling toward aforesaid pickup truck (that he and his dad spent the winter with initial restoration and repainting), and he tried to catch it with his arm. That’s when things went wrong for him, and a month out of the pool!
Not all bad for the Rascal, who turns 14 next week. He thought a puppy might round out the farm well enough, and exactly a month to the day before his birthday, he got to bring home Samwise Gamgee, a hound mix from a local shelter. Sam has been a fun and interesting addition to the farm. At heart, though, I am a dog person, so I’m automatically biased.
Rascal’s ambition to raise and breed rabbits for his own entrepreneurial purpose has resulted in the addition of “Giles” to the farm crew. Giles is much younger than either ‘Dottie” or “Mumsy” but he is a likable rabbit buck. The rabbits have been enjoying the summer in a rabbit tractor framed by Haus Meister and finished by Rascal.
Another interesting happening was that a wandering PEACOCK visited our house in May for a few days and gave us the air of a British Estate before moving on. I wonder where he is now. He was a beauty. Have you read Patricia Polacco’s “Just Plain Fancy”? It was one of our favorites before his arrival and has been immortalized since.
A highlight of the summer was our trip to the seaside. Back in the winter of 2018, when we first knew our relocation destination, I bought laminated field guides of the state’s wildlife and nature for the kids. They were amazed to see ocean life on those guides, after living their whole lives in a landlocked state. Everyone from Miss M up had seen the ocean in Maine in 2012, but Miss M didn’t remember, and there had been four girls since, so this past May we made a day trip to the seaside in our new home state.
But now it’s the middle of August. We have hosted many fun guests this summer. My parents have been in and out. Local friends dropped in for our cookouts. One of my college roommates visited with her family. The next weekend, Haus Meister’s college roommate visited with his family. Rounding it out, our parish priest, and old friend, from our old hometown came up for a few days to hike and canoe with our crew. Just before he left, he offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our family room. It was less than 24 hours before our new school year began, and if any greater event could end our summer, well, there could not have been. Not ever.
Is it harder to recover from an illness or to recover from recovering from an illness? That’s the question that has been occupying me this week.
Ironically, I’m not the one who was very sick. In fact, few of us were, but when a viral cold hits a family hard, all of us are affected in some small way. Monday morning I looked down from the “gallery” or “top deck” or “open foyer” and wondered when the last time that was cleaned. Or that. Or that, that, THAT. Ack!!! Time to get down to brass tacks.
We had an excellent March, dear reader, mostly because the month gave us Spring Break in the form of two extended visits from both sets of grandparents. My parents came first, bringing as a surprise for the cousins, my sister and her children (we hope Uncle Dan can come out soon as well, but as a tax accountant he was much needed at work)! It was the first time we had all been together since Bright Eyes’ Baptism in Sept., 2017. Fortunately, everyone got along as if no time had ever separated us. The teenage/preteen boys tried to pull pranks on their Grandpa Mark, but they soon found that you can’t kid the champion kidder. Mwa-ha-ha-HA.
Haus Meister’s parents came to visit at the end of the month and we had a jolly time with them as well. Hikes, sewing for Princess & Grandma, teepee building, and board/card games filled our extended weekend and we were, as always, so sorry to see them go.
Fortunately for them, however, they left just in time as Viral Cold 2.3 hit the children. Bright Eyes and Rosebud tested our new pediatrician office’s ability to handle dual sick kid visits on a Monday (they pass!). One by one, everyone fell prey to it in varying levels. I was probably the last man standing through most, through a mix of sheer stubbornness, turmeric, bone broth, and the grace of God. Not to mention the fact that Rascal and I were registered to run a 5k race last Saturday, and neither of us wished to miss it. We probably could have done better had both of us admitted to our condition, but neither of us did, and despite that I’ll have nightmares about the second hill until I run it again, he scored second best in age group, and I even managed a personal best, so what’s to lose?
But as I said, Monday arrived, and I saw all that had been undone in a week of sick-care, and as we were all well enough to go back to school and chores, so we did. Our life may be chaotic, but though it may sound silly, one of my life’s goals is to provide coziness to a home, and too much gone awry shakes even my incredibly complacent self. Suffice to say, Monday shook it. Now, on Wednesday night, as I type, we are as relatively close to normal as we can get. HA.
That being said, the notice arrived from the hatchery that our postal label has been created. Our new chicks will arrive soon! Our littlest one can barely stay inside and hangs around the barn like a child in a Tasha Tudor painting. We scramble to finish assignments and tests. Our back porch container garden is slowly coming to form. The kids are planning for summer break, and I am looking over enrollment forms and marvel that, come August, I will have both a high-schooler and a kindergartener in our 21st century “1 room Schoolhouse.”
“Normal,” for us, is certainly a lot different from what is “normal” for everyone else. And as I try to ignore the chaos in my laundry room, I lift my glass and declare that it’s all just fine.
Come to think on it, that blog title sounds like it should be some sort of “Secret Garden” fanfic piece, but no, it’s just yours truly blowing the dust off the blogosphere and settling in for a bit.
A long bit, I hope. I have missed writing here.
We are ten days out from our move-aversary. A year from the date that we pulled away from our second house in the sunrise of a lovely Tennessee Spring day. One 12-passenger van stuffed to the gills with children and miscellany, a row boat strapped to the top, and pulling a Uhaul trailer stuffed with mattresses and lamps for our bivouac in the big empty new house until the movers would follow with our main furniture. One Audi wagon stuffed with our duffles and spare things, and houseplants. I was determined we needed to bring those ourselves. Just like I was determined not to leave behind our outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother, and the rocks we had brought home from our family vacation to Haus Meister’s late grandparents’ house on Burt Lake, Michigan, the previous summer. Yes, I insisted on rocks. They had been brought back from the kids’ new favorite vacation spot and we still had talked about where we had found them. Little gestures of the familiar.
Rascal and I were in charge of the Audi. We listened to “Ember Falls” on Audible. We passed through Knoxville and I spoke to him of his late great-grandparents’ house. There would have been daffodils in the woods around their home by this time. The first time I visited Haus Meister’s grandparents’ house, before we were even engaged, I loved it. I loved the welcoming house, the congenial hosts, the large yard with gently rolling slope down to a babbling creek, and the woods in the back. I always thought it would have been ideal for children to grow up in that place.
Our move was a leap of faith. We were going to a city with some familiarity only to Haus Meister, who had visited it on business for some time now. Only he had seen our house in person. We had each seen it online, and I had dismissed it at first. The house looked too large, too pretentious. I had been looking for a modest Cape Cod. But then I looked past the original photo of the house’s exterior, and fell in love. I texted Haus Meister who was at work at the time and said, in effect, “even if this is an impossibility, I have to see what this stairwell looks like.” It was an open stairwell to a second floor gallery open to the living spaces below. Honestly, I envisioned my children running around it just like Sr. Mary Benedict imagined her school children running in Mr. Bogartus’ building (“Bells of St. Mary’s.” You should see it some time).
The stairwell sold me.
That gray January day he navigated a route now familiar and investigated the house for me. Just a look at the land and the house sold him. He knew it would be a home place, like his grandparents’ had been for his family. We still looked around, but as we did, every potential house was snapped up in the kind of market we would have loved at the time we were trying to sell the Old Haus (family annals 2011-2015).
(Incidentally, I did drive past the Old Haus once before the move. I had to say goodbye. They had my curtains still hanging in the kitchen window.)
So while we tried to make the Tennessee house look like something that hadn’t been toddler-scarred for the past six years, we were in contact with lovely realtor who worked hard to find us a spot. And God closed doors and opened windows until it came down to the moment that it would be this house.
Sometimes I still can’t believe it.
I just know I drove up to it that afternoon in March and said aloud, “Oh good, it looks cosier than the pictures!”
It was Posey’s 5th birthday and for months after she would brag, “I got the Big Blue House on my birthday.” We would occasionally remind her that she wouldn’t get that big a gift next year (although she has a house-sized gift list, and all pink.) I fretted that we didn’t have a cake. I spent no little time wondering how to acquire a cake for her. In the end, we found our realtor had been to Sams and left some food in the home for us. She included a massive tray of cookies that became Posey’s birthday treat, but in the euphoria of seeing her new home she didn’t mind at all.
For two weeks, the island pictured above was our kitchen table, precisely because our tables were being packed in Tennessee. Even now, we gravitate toward the island at mealtimes. At one point, the island was the only thing that worked perfectly in that kitchen–and even then, we had to replace the garbage disposal in that sink now that I recall.) We were soon to replace every major appliance. The wall oven we have eeked along on a wing, prayer, and online manual. It is dark in the areas behind because the kitchen had the only working lights in the house. Everywhere else there were burned-out bulbs from a house too long empty. The lamps we had brought went into the living room and bedrooms. Even now, this past winter has definitely taught us which parts of the house needs the most hygge.
It’s still hard to put into words all the emotions of moving day. Perhaps that is why it has taken me over eleven months to attempt to try. For the record, we feel entirely at home here, and love our new home. And do you know? The moment we walked through the front doors (which may be replaced this year with something that insulates), the kids rushed up the stairs and began to run around the gallery, just as I imagined they would.
(Posey Pie and Miss M were both unsure of the carpenter bee that was buzzing ominously around. Little Bit on the corner there was simply contemplating mischief, I’m sure. Rosebud, standing with Rascal, gave me a big smile right after the picture took, of course.)
I’ve got a chance to sit back and put my feet up and reflect on the great joy that the Church grants us 50 days of Alleluias and Easter celebration, but that the candy in the house already will not last even ten more days. I honestly had no idea how Easter Sunday would play out this year. Crazy family schedules had me praying that Haus Meister would be back from an emergency business trip in time for us to get to Mass on Sunday (he did!) but this year just to make sure dinner happened, I actually ordered a meal from the Publix deli than try and make something from scratch. But things worked out, we did make it to Easter Mass as a family, and we did have a pretty joyous day. 🙂
Lamb Cake 2017! It survived! And no, I didn’t intend to miss frosting that ear. I had helpers this year. Sunshine and Miss M both wanted a go with the frosting tool, and there wasn’t much left by the time I noticed the omission. Besides, it was still STANDING. I wanted this to be a year of Lamb Cake success. It was. I suppose this means that Pillsbury Gluten-free baking mix and a tub of frosting is the key, rather than homemade. Hmm.
Someone enjoyed her first Easter with us. And her siblings enjoyed accessorizing her. Win-win!
It was a long Lent, but a “good” one for Haus Meister and I, at least. We decided on a penance to do together for the entire Lenten season–including Sundays, and although I flubbed on some other personal resolutions, we managed to carry our joint one through. We gave up eating meat. Suffice to say, I feasted on ham today like there would be no ham tomorrow.
I don’t want to think about ham right now. Maybe a salad.
Which is funny because last night at this time I was thinking a lot about ham and not at all about a salad, unless it’s one of those with peas and lettuce and bacon bits.
Which is related to ham.
So I’m moving on.
Here’s Little Bit playing with some Peter Rabbit “skittles” I came across (cheaper on Zulily) but which will and have become a set of peg dolls. I think that is Benjamin Bunny in the red with the tie still disturbingly around his neck at time of picture (gone now). Peter Rabbit is in her hand and Jemima Puddleduck is being whisked out of the picture by Miss M, who was actually trying to get her front and center.
I confess I didn’t take many pictures. After our ham fest, and a pleasant visit from Haus Meister’s youngest sister, the day was pretty much relegated to “hide the remaining candy as fast as you can.” My parents texted this afternoon and asked if I wanted to Skype. I listened to the din around me for a second and responded: “We are tired, sugar-high, and grumpy.” That about summed it up. Haus Meister took some of the bigger kids to enjoy the neighborhood tennis courts and the playground, which is a pretty good consolation, and I kept Posey Pie and Little Bit out of the rest of the jellybeans, which didn’t console them at all. But peace was restored to the family!
Just before she went to bed, Sunshine hugged her Daddy and said, “Thank you for the tennis!” Our hearts were warmed.
That’s good because twenty minutes earlier, Miss M told me that they had all gone to “played at the park, and playeded some baseball.”
“Tennis?” I suggested.
“Yeah that,” she replied calmly.
Proving that even with my sister’s husband patiently reminding us of the Twins baseball season over the last decade, there’s still some of us who need to work on our sports knowledge.
Happy Easter, all. 🙂 I’ll be back with another update later this week.