Thursday, May 31, 2018

Outdoor Mom's Journal - May

During our outdoor time this month we went...camping at Forestville State Park in southern Minnesota. Olivia and I did this trip since she is interested in caves, and there are two caves in this area: Niagara Cave and Mystery Cave.

We visited both of the caves while we were camping.

We also went on three hikes - two were at Forestville State Park and one was at Lake Louise State Park.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was...seeing all the wildflowers blooming while we were staying in southern Minnesota.

I saw fields of bluebells which I've never seen before.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about) to prevent moles, voles, and other underground animals from eating the bulbs we plant in the Fall. 

We have planted so many bulbs and only a handful survive through the winter. However, perennial plants seem to do much better. As much as I enjoy seeing crocus and tulip, these are the bulbs that the underground animals devour. I can't keep feeding them. They'll have to find something else to eat.

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting....
a variety of things. We got a late start this year because of the fire. However, I transplanted tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, and many different types of herbs.

For seeds, I planted beans and carrots.

The apple, pear, and plum trees are all in full blossom.

I am planning to weed and plant perennials in the butterfly garden that's in the backyard. I am tired of looking at tall grass and weeds where a garden should be. I'm hoping this year, by purchasing larger plants, that I don't have to battle with as many weeds in the future.

I added nature journal pages about...nothing. I want to do a couple of pages about the trip to Forestville State Park and what I saw.

I am reading...
Never Cry Wolf. I'm enjoying this book and am happy I'm reading it.

I am dreaming about…
pizza made with fresh herbs, tomatoes, onions, and peppers from the garden.

A photo I would like to share...of bleeding hearts under the front pine trees.


Thank you to Barb the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the idea of doing an Outdoor Mom's Journal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

My Favorite Pictures of the Month - May 2018

By far, my favorite picture during May is the one of my father's grave with a flag in front of it on Memorial Day. (My mother side of the gravestone is on the reverse side - just as they do throughout the entire cemetery.)

There were 5,000 volunteers who placed flags in front of graves at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend. This is the first time in over 30 years that all the gravestones have had a flag in front of them. It was a moving sight.

Although I would much rather have my mom and dad living, it was nice to see them remembered and honored in this way.

I also have enjoyed seeing the flowers blooming at our farm. The picture below is a tulip.

These are bleeding hearts that are under the pine trees in the front yard.

One of the things that somehow survived the fire that happened at our farm on May 5th, was an "I Spy" book. I guess if things are tightly packed together, fire doesn't affect them as much.

Although we didn't keep the book (it smelled of soot and was water- and fire-damaged), I thought it was an interesting image considering that much of what I had to do during May was "spy" or discover things that were salvageable; and look for joy in the new growth that was happening around the farm.

There really wasn't anything that was salvageable that we will be keeping for the long-term, unfortunately. However, we were able to find the name of a Christmas china dish set that I was having trouble finding. The girls and I found enough of a broken section of a plate with the name of the pattern on it. With that, I was able to find the pattern online which made us happy.

When I was walking in the west pasture, I found an unusual yellow feather. Found out that it is from a Northern Flicker (Yellow Shafted). The yellow feathers are found on its tail.

Another image that I captured from the rubble of the fire was part of a newspaper. Interestingly, the word "learning" jumped out from the page. Indeed, there have many things I've been learning about during the past month.

Something that I've never seen before on the new growth of pinecones is a fuzzy top (pictured below). It's not typical of this type of tree...or at least what I've seen in the past. 

So, those were some of my favorite pictures from May. It's kind of a hodge-podge of photos, yet they depict the joys and challenges that we experienced during the first full month of Spring.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Something that Made Me Happy this Month - May 2018

For the "Something That Made Me Happy This Month - May" swap on Swap-Bot, the goal of the swap is to tell three partners something that made me happy this past month (e.g., an event I attended, a book I read, a movie I watched, a new person I met).

There were many things that happened during the past month that made me happy. On May 3rd, Sophia and I went to Cascade Falls in Osceola, Wisconsin, to see the waterfall. She was able to stand behind it which was refreshing.

On May 5th, we experienced a fire at our farm. We lost the two-story hobby shed, playhouse, and 15 trees. The siding on our home is warped and the front, half of our horse barn's siding and doors were burned; and the left side of our car is melted.

Many outdoor things - gardens, furniture, and deck - all had embers that landed on them and either burned it completely or left burn marks. Across the street, the embers landed and started a 14-acre fire in a cornfield.

Despite the fire, a positive thing - something that made me happy - was to see how many people came forth to make and bring us food (which was especially appreciated when our propane was turned off during and after the fire for two days); help with Spring chores; and fix our mower which had not been working.

On May 8th, Sophia and I enjoyed a delicious barbecue meatball sandwich and fresh salad that someone from church brought us.

On May 9th, I walked around our farm to assess what had burned and to see what new growth was coming up. A red-winged blackbird, who was sitting on one of the cattails in the pond, flew by. I love their song and it always makes me happy hearing them.

Although sad that a tree had burned in the pasture, I was intrigued to see a heart-shape when I looked through it. This brought both reassurance and joy.

The apple blossoms were beginning to emerge.

On another apple tree, the white blossoms were attracting bees and giving off a beautiful fragrance.

On Friday, May 11th, Sophia and I went to the humane society where she played for dogs waiting to be adopted. We were happy to see that within a couple days, several of the dogs we spent time with were adopted!

On Saturday, May 12th, Olivia and I took a Saori weaving class together which was fun. I always enjoy taking art classes; and this one is a favorite of mine.

Olivia, Sophia, and I spent time after the weaving class exploring the Shepherds Harvest festival and enjoying seeing the brightly-colored wool, fiber art products, and variety of looms.

On Mother's Day, May 13th, I had a relaxing day which was nice. I wasn't feeling well, but was still able to get a lot done with the contents loss statement (from the fire). In the evening, the girls made me a delicious dinner that we enjoyed together as a family.

What makes me especially happy is seeing their beautiful smiles and thinking back on the many wonderful memories we have made together throughout the years.

On May 14th and 16th, volunteers from the Lions Club came to help with clean-up from the fire and Spring chores. A huge project that was accomplished was clearing out the loft of the horse barn. There was water-saturated hay and straw in the loft (the firefighters had to wet everything down so that it wouldn't catch on fire since the barn was already burning).

One of the Lions and I worked on clearing the loft. He said it was good when we did it because the hay was already getting hot (wet hay can start a fire). We are so thankful - and happy - that we didn't lose the horse barn!

On Wednesday afternoon, May 16th, Sophia, Olivia, and I - along with two other teens and another parent - packaged 1,012 books in 16 boxes and shipped them to the African Library Project.

Because of all the books we collected and money raised, we are able to create the first-ever library in Malawi, Africa, for 465 orphans and vulnerable children.

From May 17th-19th, Olivia and I went camping at Forestville State Park in southern Minnesota. We stayed in camper cabins there (a different one each night) and visited two caves during the days. One we visited was Niagara Cave which had a lot of interesting fossils.

We visited many Amish farms and greenhouses; and bought some plants for the garden and patio.

We went on several hikes at Forestville State Park and Lake Louise State Park. We had never visited either park, so it made me happy to be able to explore different beautiful parts of the state; and be able to mark off our list two more state parks that we've seen.

The other cave that we saw while was Mystery Cave. There's a turquoise lake in the cave which was interesting to see.

Another thing that made me happy this month was seeing Sophia share her musical gifts at church. On May 13th (Mother's Day), she was the piano accompanist to the children's choir. They sang two songs and did a nice job.

On May 20th, she played the harp with other youth harpists and her teacher. They played the prelude, during the service, and postlude.

Sophia also played the harp and piano at the homeschool graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 22nd. She did a fantastic job - no errors - during the processional or recessional.

On Wednesday, May 23rd, one of the Lions came over with his Bobcat and moved the water-saturated hay and straw we got out of the barn into a compost pile; moved the horse bedding into another compost pile; and moved the fire pit where we used to burn brush into the haul-away pile (from the shed fire). Things look so much better now.

It also motivated me to clean the barn out completely on Sunday, May 27th. The horses now have fresh, new bedding which looks a lot better. It was a tremendous relief to get that done. Another thing that makes me happy: to have projects that I've wanted to get done finally accomplished!

On Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend, we had a meal together since Paige was leaving for a business trip the next day. For part of the meal, I made a couple recipes that reminded me of my parents and grandparents: potato salad that my mom used to make and banana bread that my grandma on my dad's side used to make.

On Memorial Day, Sophia and I enjoyed a lunch at El Burrito Mercado after she donated platelets. We split a lunch meal because the portions are so generous. We each got 2 spicy chicken tacos, refried beans, and Spanish rice.

So, despite the fire and loss early in the month, there were many positive things that happened during May. As I look back on the month, it makes me happy to see so many things that brought joy to my life as well as to those we helped through volunteering and service.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Spend the Day with Me + Reflections on the May 5th Fire

For the "Spend the Day with Me" swap on Swap-Bot, the challenge was to share my day with three partners by taking photos of where I went and what I did.

Pictures are shown in chronological order and a description of what is being shown. An approximate time of day each picture was taken is noted. In other words, this is a photo journal of "a day in the life of me."

5:00 a.m.

Woke up around 5:00 a.m. thinking about last Saturday (May 5th) and the fire that we had here. I thought about all the things in the hobby shed that were books that I used to read to the girls when they were little.

As I went through the rubble on Sunday, May 6th, I came across a lot of art projects that the girls did, journals I had written from high school to the early-2000s, and a lot of things that are irreplaceable.

I reflected on how truly fortunate we were that the fire wasn't worse than it was. We still have a home (even though the siding on the south side is warped from the heat) and the horse barn is standing (though in need of major repair). The animals and all of us are safe and not injured.

What we lost were the two-story hobby shed, playhouse, many trees, and lots of other items (outdoor furniture, garden supplies, power tools, art supplies, etc.). The farm field across the street also had 14.1 acres of it burned because of flying embers in the wind that day

5:10 a.m.

I went downstairs and let the dogs out to go to the bathroom. Put Danny in a coat because it was a bit chilly this morning. Walked him to the mailbox/paperbox and got the Saturday paper; and then walked back inside to have a cup of hot chocolate.

Read the paper in bed and worked more on the content loss list for the insurance company.

7:30 a.m.

Went downstairs about 7:30 a.m. to feed the dogs. Danny and Scooby eat in the kitchen; and Aspen and Cooper eat in the living room. Danny and Scooby have a maze feeder and tray since they eat their food too quickly.

7:40 a.m.

I let the dogs back outside. This was the view looking at the barn - kind of a view to the southeast.

This is a closer look at the horse barn.

This is the view looking west. Sophia and I put up the temporary fence with the woven wire and t-posts. We got some compliments on it from people who were here with various companies doing repair work and from the insurance adjusters. 

I plugged the air cleaners back in since I turned them off while I ate breakfast and fed the dogs.

They are very loud, yet they are cleaning the air since we have light smoke damage throughout the first level of the home because of the fire. 

8:00 a.m.

Sophia, Olivia, and I left to go the Shepherds Harvest Festival in Lake Elmo. We go there every Mother's Day weekend. We saw an eagle and egrets on the way there. 

8:45 a.m.

This year, Olivia and I took a Saori weaving class. We picked out which loom we wanted to work on.

Each one had different colors of yarn.

We did the weaving class last year and enjoyed it, and wanted to take it again. While we were doing that, Sophia walked around and looked at what the vendors were selling in three of the buildings and ended up reading for an hour.

9:00 a.m.

After a refresher about how to use the loom, we began weaving.

10:00 a.m.

I chose to use a combination of purple, green yellow, and orange yarn with my weaving. There was a variety of colors of sheep wool that I added in different spots.

11:00 a.m.

Olivia's style of weaving is much different than mine. She stuck with the same color (black) for her weaving. It highlighted the variety of the yarn that was used in the other direction.

12:00 noon

The Saori weaving class ended at noon. Olivia tied the end of her weaving at the class and finished her scarf. 

I tied one of the sides of my weaving and left the other to finish at home.

12:15 p.m.

We all had lunch together in the 4-H building. One of the clubs was making and serving food. From the look of the number of people eating there, they probably did very well with raising money for their club.

After lunch, we explored the festival together. 

There were brightly-colored skeins of yarn.

Other vendors sold colorful shades of roving.

We saw angora rabbits, and we pet them. They were very soft.

Sophia found some unusual products at the Festival. Since she had a lot of time on her hands while we were taking the class, she clearly looked closely at each booth to find these products.

The girls enjoyed looking at jewelry.

As a mother, what I liked seeing was the girls walking arm-in-arm with one another as they explored the Festival. They have a great relationship which I am thankful for.

We went to visit the young yaks.

We saw a llama who was very friendly.

There were lots of sheep. I especially enjoyed seeing the lambs.

We found a vendor who had a display about flax. I've never seen flax and what it looks like when it is spun and used for weaving into fabric.

Nearby, there was another vendor who had beautiful sheep wool that had been dyed in bright colors.

You could pick and choose what colors you wanted.

We watched someone demonstrate how to take different colors of wool and card them together to create roving/little batting of  a new blend of shades of wool.

2:15 p.m.

We came home after the Festival and everyone (except me) left to see a movie. I had some time to relax.

I put outside the two bins holding some charred papers that I was able to save from the fire last week, keeping the lids over them, but ajar. They are still damp from the water from the firemen's hoses, so I am keeping the lid open on the bin and the other one so the papers don't get moldy. I need to either photograph or type what I wrote soon...and then let go of these bins of paper.

My throat is still bothering me from the smoke from last Saturday. The doctor who I saw on Wednesday suggested doing an albuterol treatment on my nebulizer if I was still having trouble. (I have asthma.) Today, no matter how much water I was drinking and cough drops I took, my throat still hurt.

Of course, with my luck, the nebulizer didn't work. 

3:00 p.m.

To take my mind off my throat, I finished tying the ends of the weaving I made earlier today.

I continued to work on the contents loss list.

4:00 p.m.

The service man for the riding lawn mower came by to see if he was able to fix the mower. This was a new company and I was hoping it was an easy fix. Ended up, he was not able to work on this particular make and model of riding lawn mower. 

So, now I have to figure out what to do since there are no mower service people around our area...or at least anyone who works on the type of mower we have. It may be time to invest in another one that is serviced locally.

5:15 p.m.

I fed the dogs dinner and heated up some leftovers for my dinner.

I let them out again, keeping Cooper on a leash since Bailey and Hoss hadn't been fed yet. Bailey, the horse, would tap on the metal gate with her hoof which would get Cooper barking. It was easier to keep him on a leash.

So, we walked around the backyard. The tulips are starting to emerge.

The apple trees have blossoms that are starting to open.

The plum tree has bright, white flowers.

Some of the pine trees have tiny pinecones.

After our walk, we were back by the back door. The girls made stepping stones when they were young, and we have them where we can see them each time we go in and out of the backyard to the driveway and car.

6:00 p.m. 

I continued working on the content loss list. This is one of the most time-consuming projects I've had to do. This is just itemizing items lost in the shed, playhouse, barn, yard, and pastures. I can't imagine having to do a content loss list for a home.

8:30 p.m.

Still working on the content loss list. There's not much to look at, so I'll just put a photo here of the hobby shed smoldering last week. Sophia and I were gone at a class about 35 minutes from here. By the time we got back home, this is the view that we saw.

This is a slightly different angle taken during the winter, but the two-story shed and playhouse are to the right in the picture below. They are the buildings that burned in the photo above.

Within 15 minutes of coming home, an ember (or embers), set one of the trees on fire in the pasture.

It ended up re-igniting later in the evening on the 5th along with another fire. Had to call the fire department back to put out those fires.

8:45 p.m.

One of our neighbors called. He was one of our next door neighbors who called in the fire. He also used to be a firefighter and he came here to turn off the propane tank (about ten feet from the shed), get the horses secured in a pasture away from the fire, and moved the car (which was melting). He put out several smaller fires that threatened the house.

We talked tonight about the car. He said that car fires burn a lot hotter, and had the car not been moved, we most likely would have lost our house.

We talked about the weather - how it was nice and warm last Saturday and so much cooler today. Most likely, our neighbors would not have been outside like they were last week when they saw the hobby shed on fire. In fact, he said, they were in Madison yesterday and today. They just got back home.

So, had the fire happened this weekend...a week later...we could have lost the house, barn, and all of our animals.

Needless to say, we have much to be grateful for tonight.