all the little secrets of the prairie

One of my favorite things about the prairie is all of its little secrets. You can look out at its panorama and fail to really see it. At first glance, it can seem kind of boring and not as lush as other places. But if you look closely, and even get down on the ground on your hands and knees and really look, it is amazing to realize the prairie is teeming with life.

Tiny wildflowers and succulents, a myriad of birds calling and singing and flying from tree to tree, trees slowly coming into bloom, rabbits and coyotes and beetles and worms. There is so much happening here, and so many lessons to learn about life, seasons, diversity, and the interconnectedness of everything. There is so much beauty here, some of it huge, much of it tiny.

My life is like that too. Sometimes I can look at a season or relationship and see with eyes of not enough. I can rush through the day without stopping to cultivate gratitude, hope, wisdom, or joy. It’s when I slow down and actually savor the moments and notice the details that I find a symphony of loveliness everywhere I look.

This weekend we planted raspberry canes, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, onions, cosmos and globe flowers. I still have so much to plant. We will be out in the garden working all week, every spare minute that we can. We started tearing the privacy fence down, and clearing out the overgrown raised beds.

The apple trees are blossoming. I have been watering them, and I top-dressed both with a bag of compost each, for a slow nitrogen drip all season. I noticed some big, fat bumblebees buzzing around today when I was out for a walk. Maybe they will come and visit my apple trees soon, and pollinate their blossoms.

The hens are laying daily now, and they love foraging for bugs in the afternoons. We have a couple of retaining walls on the property, built of big stones. I walked outside yesterday just in time to see a hen jump off of the wall onto the ground several feet below. She sort of flapped her wings, gave a panicked squawk mid-fall, and landed in a flurry of feathers, almost tipping over as she fought for balance. Then she stood up very tall, looked around to see if any of the other girls had noticed, flapped her wings a few times, and marched off into a tall shrub to scratch and hunt for bugs.

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a season of homestead projects

I found that sign in the barn, face down and caked with mud. I decided to hang it in the laundry room. Isn’t it great?

Speaking of which, we stacked the washer and dryer, and it is so much better. There was even room for a tall shelf to store our shoes and extra household supplies. It is such a tiny room that I was racking my brain. Problem solved.

I sat in my living room last night and watched the sun go down behind the Rockies, outside the windows, in a gentle fading of light. Blue to lavender to pink to orange to dusk to night. It was better entertainment than most of the things we call entertainment these days. Truly refreshing and contemplative. I started out on the front porch. It was peaceful and cold and quiet, save for a little breeze blowing through the still-bare branches of the birch tree. The dogs were running around, occasionally barking at various things, and I was wrapped up in a thick ratty old cardigan that I can’t seem to get rid of, but I still got too cold and had to go in to watch the show from the window. It is important to watch the sunset from time to time, the whole process of it’s setting, and allow our hearts to steep a while in the evening’s lessons.

It has still been cold off and on, though the days are warming up. I am so antsy to get out there in the garden and dig in the dirt. Not yet.

We got our fence! It is exactly the thing. Now the whole perimeter is fenced securely and the dogs cannot get out. Also, all the cross fencing is gone and it feels more unified out there. A whole piece of land, reconnected. We had the fence guys take the corral down too. Our next project will be to take down the rickety old privacy fence in the back that fences off part of the yard right outside the back door, and fence the vegetable garden in properly. We plan to do that ourselves, though I am still thinking the various budget-friendly fencing options through. We have bunnies and deer to think about, and I’d like to incorporate a garden shed and chicken run into my plan somehow, which may or may not work. It just seems like it would be good to keep the chickens fairly close to the garden for manure access and insect control.

I am working on a baby cardigan right now from the book 60 Quick Baby Knits. I am knitting it in lavender Cascade 220 Superwash. This is my first time using that yarn. Usually I use just regular old 220 which cannot be machine washed or it will felt, but as this is babywear, it only seemed right to give my friends at church a washable gift, especially since this is their first child. They are very young. I remember when I was their age and already had two babies and another on the way. Now my three are teenagers and I will be celebrating the big 4-0 next year, yikes. I don’t mind getting older though. I enjoy the wisdom that comes with the years, and every year I appreciate more my husband and children, my memories, my time and abilities, the love and mercy of God, my dear kindred spirit friends who I seem to collect slowly in life, like pearls, and my many, beautiful, ordinary, extraordinary blessings. I even appreciate the hard seasons I have been through. I know that life can be painful and lean and tragic and frustrating. But it is also very beautiful. Even the hard stuff can be lovely, when you look at it differently, or after some time has passed and your heart has healed a little.

I kept seeing those birds everywhere, on walks and even hikes up in the mountains. Black-billed magpies. They’re big, over a foot and a half tall, and very striking with the black and white and blue. Finally I looked them up. They can mimic dogs and cats and even people. They are smart. Reminds me of that genetically engineered bird in the Hunger Games books. Mockingjay?

Now we just need to go on a bird hike soon to try to spot and sketch one. I love the bright, dark blue on their black and white wings. Gives me good ideas for quilt designs 🙂

To homestead is to embrace stewardship of the land, and to really see a house for all it can become, a home, and to tend and build and hope and pray. To acknowledge that a home can have a soul, a story, a voice.

We women give it that soul and voice, and take seriously that story. It is an honor to fill a house with its truest sense of home. To love and warm and care for it as an expression of our hearts. One could even say that it is a calling.

In my next post I am going to give you a healthy and yummy stew recipe I have made several times this winter and spring.

I hope you are having a lovely spring, or “sprinter” as my friend Stefanie calls it. When winter ever so slowly becomes spring.

spring is (slowly) creeping in

The weather this week was indecisive. It started out warm and friendly, with the strong hint of spring in the air, and then twice, unexpectedly, and on days that started bright and sunny and replete with birdsong, it suddenly snowed!

I can’t say it wasn’t beautiful, seeing the whole world again frosted over with a thick layer of crystals. Perhaps it was more beautiful because of impending spring – it is only a matter of days now.

The fence company came and dropped off the materials. Because of the snow they cannot start the work until early next week. I am quite excited to have the whole 6 acres fenced, a vast playground for our children and dogs, and, well, us too. I am especially looking forward to the sprouting of the pastures, because I have spotted a dozen or so wildflowers and grasses, dried and brown from last summer. I have my flower field guide standing at the ready, to identify and learn them all. I have given strict instructions to all males living in our house not to mow until I give the green light. A girl needs to know the plants she’s living with.

I already have a fondness for my land. We have been here less than 2 months, but oh how it fits already. When I drive up to the house after a long day out and about, it is as though my soul finally exhales. Ah. I am home. A refuge for my soul and a place to recharge and process the stirrings of my heart. Home should be a refuge. I am so grateful…I pray that you too have this blessing of home. If not now, then may it unfold at the perfect time, in a way that is so right and true, there is no doubt in your soul that God was orchestrating the details of your story.

I told you I would tell what yarn I used for that hat, only now I cannot find my label. It was a wool blend, very soft, that I picked up at a local yarn shop. The pattern is One-Night Hat by Stitchnerd Designs. I found it on Ravelry. I made this for a friend. I kept thinking I might keep it, but it kept telling me it was destined for another head. Haha. Yes, the yarn speaks at times 🙂 Finally, I finished it, blocked it, and tried it on and that’s when I knew for sure that it would be a gift. I shall make another for myself when the weather becomes cold again later this year. I love the pattern of little triangular knobs. It is thin and lightweight, while being quite warm and cozy at the same time. A great hiking hat.

Yesterday the fog came rolling in, thick and oppressive, but still eerily beautiful at the same time. Hubby went down to the barn to check the chickens. I stood and watched him walk down the hill, and suddenly he was swallowed up by it. Everything was still and quiet. I could not see far. All the air was cold and gray. It was like another world, mysterious and creepy.

This week I have a list of projects I would like to accomplish. One of them is to stack the dryer on top of the washer. Our laundry room is teeny tiny, and serves as a mud room too. One has very little room to take shoes off or put them on or even turn around. In order to put a shelf for shoes, and hopefully a hamper for random articles of dirty clothing that seem to get tossed on the floor and then walked on, and a drying rack, I am going to have to make use of vertical space. We will see if that makes a difference in the flow of the room.

I saw a bright blue bird this week while I was out for a walk. I haven’t figure out yet what it was, but I have narrowed it down to either a tree swallow or a mountain bluebird. Stay tuned for more on that.