Forty years ago today was a big day in our lives…
(We were both 14)
This will be short.
I told Kristina earlier this week, I think the creative muse that lives in my head has started to dry up.
In the grip of Old Man Winter
Eight weeks ago while we were still in the grip of Old Man Winter, I picked up The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I wanted to get my bearings and re-calibrate my winter “can do” attitude. Figured that was as good a place to start as any.
Anyway, at one point in the story, Laura’s family had just run out of kerosene (for lighting), the wheat was running out, potatoes were running out, and it was still another two months until the supply train would be able to get to town….
“If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of light,” Ma considered. “We didn’t lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of.”
“That’s so, said Pa. “These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraphs and kerosene and coal stoves- they’re good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”
Pa said those words 140 years ago and they are still relevant.
My problem (it’s not really a problem) is I am also a student of history.
In my mind’s eye, I filter current events through a 200 year lens.
(We just watched a couple of documentaries on the Irish potato famine for example…..wow, if that didn’t stir up a feeling of thankfulness.)
I am living in a time of unparalleled prosperity, the current political climate not withstanding. There are kind, selfless people all over the place.
(Make sure you click that link)
Would love to hear your thoughts…
Tell me about this past winter and how you fared.
If you know me, you know I love detail.
Take care. DM
Few years ago, I got an e-mail from a college professor. Seems some of his students at the time had stumbled across the following blog post on another blog of mine. He wanted me to know he’d heard them talking about my blog outside of class around the campfire on a class trip. Talk about honored. Anyway, Spring is in the air. If I want to do any pruning it needs to happen in the next couple of weeks. So, to kick off the 2019 apple growing season, I would like to repost the following musing.
Ten Reasons Why You May Want To Plant An Orchard.
(and if not a whole orchard, at least a couple of trees) 😉
Hanging scale in our sales area
1. Photo opportunities. Our apple orchard constantly changes with the seasons. There is always something catching my eye and bringing me joy.
2. It provides the perfect blend of solitude and social interaction. I love my peace and quiet. There is nothing more nurturing for me than spending a Saturday morning alone, picking apples. At the same time, I do love meeting and bantering with the public on occasion, and when the mood strikes, I will load up the pick up and head to our local farmers market.
Hawking apples at the farmers market last season
3. Supplemental income. Sure there is some work involved in tending an orchard, but not nearly as much as you might suspect. One Semi dwarf tree will cost you $20 to $25.00 and once it’s mature, it can produce between 2 to 4 bushel of apples a year. = 80 to 160 pounds of fruit @ $1.50 a pound that’s $120 to $240 gross, from one tree…per year..not bad for some additional pocket change if you ask me
4. mental stimulation. While the basics of tending an apple orchard are pretty easy to grasp, there is always something new to learn. Did you know there are over 750 different varieties of apples in the United States alone, and over 2000 varieties world-wide?
5. Keeps you physically active. “ Keep those muscles moving” my grandpa used to say. Between the pruning in the early spring, to the picking in the fall, having an orchard provides me with lots of opportunities to be physically active outside, all the while,I’m getting paid and enjoying some fresh air. As I get older I will probably do more of that “you pick” marketing, but for now, I can still climb and honestly, I love picking apples. Last Saturday, I picked about 1200 pounds of apples in about 6 hours.
6. Provides me with lots of opportunities to bless others. I’m not going to brag and tell you how this works itself out except to say, I try to sell mostly our #1 apples, which means, what to do with the seconds? The opportunities to give are all around.
7. Get to enjoy some varieties of fruit that are hard to come by normally – plus if you can find them, you’ll pay through the nose. Sure we have Honey crisp, was told last year they were charging up to $5.00 a pound for those little rascals. So far this year, I’ve picked 11 crates of them and probably have at least another 8. My personal favorite is called the Ginger Gold:
It is every bit as crispy as the Honey crisp and sweet. Last year we had 32 crates of these little jewels.
8. Fresh apple cider. You haven’t lived until you’ve had fresh apple cider pressed from your own apples. It’s got a texture and taste you’ll never , ever find in a store -ever. If you come to visit, and the apples are in season, you can help me press out a batch.
9. You’ll give the bees something to talk about. Ever hear of the “waggle dance”?
10. Provides me with lots of spiritual insight.
Life is full of mystery. I believe God has hidden the answers to some of our questions about life in the apple orchard.
Pruning and suffering. I hate it when people try to slap pat answers onto my life when I’m in the middle of something hard. It makes me angry. So I will not disrespect you and do that now. Sometimes it feels like I’m getting “pruned” and when it does, I barely have enough energy to survive, let alone do more.
Fruitfulness (ever see an apple tree grunt? Me neither.
Seasons. Apple trees don’t produce fruit 12 months out of the year. In fact, they need large blocks of “down time” in the winter..to get ready for the next season. They literally need that time, which is why apple trees don’t do well in warmer climates.
Variety. Already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating. Apple trees vary widely and differently in the type of fruit they produce. I think people are created much more varied than culture tries to tell us. I found an apple tree on an abandoned farmstead a few years ago like nothing I’d ever seen before. Some heirloom variety I’m sure. It looked and tasted just like it was designed to taste. Definitely not some domesticated boring apple. So why do you and I sometimes think we have to look like everybody else? Nothing more beautiful than someone being 100% alive just the way they were designed:
As always, thanks for reading my stuff DM
I have been wanting to get laying hens for a while.
Sent the last ones packing about a year ago because we were not getting any eggs. It’s not that they were not laying, (they were). But because I was letting them free range, they were hiding the eggs all over the property. Then, one of the little stinkers acquired a taste for farm fresh eggs. It finally came to a head when they started venturing over to the neighbors every morning and stealing the neighbor lady’s cat food.
Free ranging chicken sounds good in theory, but a chicken has no concept of property lines, and when they can fly over a 6 ft fence, good luck telling them they have to stay home.
But in the back of my mind, Robert Fulguhm’s essay “Not Even Chickens” continued to cast a long shadow over my life.
I really do feel like a rich man when I have a few chickens.
So, while the desire was there, that didn’t mean I was just going to act on it.
Financially, I wanted having chickens fit into the big picture of our life and not be a slow bleed on our finances.
And then last week, I had enough discretionary money saved up between my monthly stipend, some cash I got for Christmas, and then more cash for my birthday to buy some chickens.
I figured 6 or 7 chickens would be perfect.
Decided to put out some feelers on a local garage sale site on Face book.
30 minutes later I had a lead. Lady had 13 pullets born in August, that had just started to lay. She was looking to get a different breed.
The only catch, I had to take all 13.
Then we started to talk money. I asked her what she wanted per bird? She wasn’t sure. How much would I pay her?
I hate dickering. Told her that right up front. Didn’t want to insult her, by being too low. She would just need to set a price and I could say yes or no.
Having bought chickens before, a fair price for a young laying hen starts around $10 a bird, and could be as much as $12 to $15, especially if you’re only getting a few.
She said, “Well I raised them from babies …I would like maybe $3.00 a bird but if that is too much we can talk.”
Told her I could pick them up Saturday morning.
As we finished loading the birds, She teared up as we put them in the back of my pick up. I could tell the chickens were her pets….her babies as she called them.
“They need to ride in the cab if it will fit” (the cage).
Temps that morning were single digit. I had brought a tarp, my intention was put them all in one cage together, throw a tarp over the cage for the ride home. (They would have been fine).
Well, the cage fit into the cab, (barely).
The ride home was interesting.
13 chickens taking up 2/3’s of the front seat. I managed to get the drop cloth under part of the cage. Wasn’t long before they were crapping past the tarp. I noticed my coffee mug was directly below an untarped portion of the cage. ;-(
I was glad to get home.
I really didn’t want to keep all 13 of the birds, so I put an ad on Craigslist Sunday morning.
Had an offer in 2 hours. Delivered those 6 hens Monday morning.
Paid $40 for 13 hens. Sold 6 for $60.
So there are now 7 happy healthy laying hens on the property and I’m $20 ahead.
Just got home after an hour cooped up with 13 nervous birds
Early morning view of the chicken house.
Life lesson in this for me again is this…
God knows the desires of my heart. He is not some cosmic Genie, nor is he a killjoy. He is unpredictable. And sometimes, in the most unexpected ways, he shows himself in my life. DM
I have two stories that rumble around in my head each winter, when the weather gets testy, this year I added a third.
(And you may have heard this one before).
Growing up, my Grandpa would talk about a train that derailed south of his farm in the dead of winter, January of 1929. The train derailed and “turned turtle” (went over on it’s back) when it hit a hard snow drift. One of the engineers (Roscoe Stevens) was trapped in the wreckage for over 3 hours. Grandpa said, (and I have this on tape) ” I can still see that man…had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. then the doctor hollered,” Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on, get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” they poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering….It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things…”
Here are a couple of pictures of that train wreck:
You may have heard this one before too, that can happen around here. 😉
Back in 2011 I stumbled across the poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong on-line. She was a pioneer mother who lived from 1789 to 1891. She wrote a series poems called “Sketches Of My Life.” One of the most powerful accounts happened in 1831. They lose their provision of salt, which in that time apparently was a life and death situation. ( I know it had to do with food preservation for the coming year, but not sure how that all works…)
“Our salt was in a gum,
And was standing on the loft,
But met with a bad accident,
when the cover got shoved off.
I had some in a box,
That was standing down below,
Not enough to last till spring,
And we knew not where to go…
Elsie asks a man who had been selling salt if he had more to sell? He didn’t, and didn’t know when more would be in. He said...”If I go for salt, I’ll freeze to death, and perish in the snow.”
She goes home, and tells her children the situation.
When I got home, I told my children
What the man had said,
Then William said, I’ll go myself,
And take that big old sled.
“Mother do not be uneasy,
None but lazy people freeze,
Because they will not exercise,
They are so fond of ease.
There is no fear for me Mother,
I will jump and kick the sled,
I will keep myself in exercise
Run, and kick the wagon bed….
Their team was good and active,
All four year olds and strong….
The account goes on…
Fifteen year old Will and his little brother take off on a 90 mile trek in the dead of winter with their team. They have to cross a frozen river, deal with winter storms, not get lost, be on guard for roving Indians, (all while mom is at home second guessing herself, with the rest of her brood).
This week, just to make sure I was on my game because the weather man said we were in for it, we were going to get a “Polar vortex”,what ever the heck that was, I decided to add a third story to my winter attitude folder.
I decided to reread a portion of novel The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
It was perfect!
It was just what the Dr ordered!
I am torn.
Torn because I love winter.
I love winter storms.
I love being snowed in.
I love busting through drifts with my 4 wheel drive pick up.
Last thing I want to do is mock someone to whom the winter storms are a heartache. (My parents are in their 80’s and I know it can be hard on both of them). The thing is, from my vantage point, all of the negative, naysayers are the only voices I hear. Fellow lovers of winter weather seem to be either a dying breed or keeping their thoughts to themselves.
I grew up on a farm.
On the farm, when you have livestock, you don’t get to stay in the house when it gets cold. Sometimes just the opposite. Those are the times when stuff starts to break. Water lines to the cattle get frozen or the pilot light to the tank heater won’t stay lit, etc. etc. Christmas morning if you have milk cows (like we did) the cows still need milking, haying, might even have more manure to pitch than normal if you keep the cows in the barn overnight so they don’t freeze their utters off. 🙂
So here I am now in the year 2019.
All of our children are grown. No longer have cows to milk, tank heaters to keep lit. none of it.
Predictions of winter storms stir up within me feelings of thankfulness. I feel like some little creature tucked away deep in my burrow, Cozy. My larder is full. The house is staying warm. Smell of freshly baking bread is in the air. Garden seeds have started coming in the mail. The new little heating pad that goes under the seed starting tray is working like a charm.
I feel better. Now you know.
I got into a conversation yesterday with a young mom about this past weeks weather. She asked me what I thought about it. I paused, looked her in the eyes and told her the same things I’ve just told you here.
She smiled and said, “I feel the same way.”
Here’s a picture I took earlier in the week in front of our house:
Got to run. Need to go to the bank before they close. Take care. DM
My mom turns 85 this month.
I wasn’t sure what to get her.
What do you get for someone who doesn’t want or need more stuff?
Decided to take her out on a date.
A coffee date.
I am scheduled to pick her up tomorrow morning at 9.
Just the two of us.
I’m her first-born.
If you were to ask me to summarize my relationship with my mom in a word, I would say Confidant. (And it goes both ways.)
Confidant: One to whom secret or private matters are disclosed. A person with whom you confide things.
Mom lost her father when she was three. Raised by a single mother. Grew up during the Depression. Told me once, “She never realized she was poor, because everybody was poor in those days. Her grandmother helped to raise her while her mom worked. There was no social security in those days. Your family was your safety net. They ate pigeon pie. Fish her grandpa would catch. Her grandma has a big garden. Took turns sharing the bath water with half a dozen other kids on the back porch every Friday night. ”
Here’s where you (my blog readers) come in… 🙂
Mom and I will have no trouble carrying on a conversation when we are together. It never is.
BUT, I wouldn’t mind taking the opportunity to ask her a question or two about something of substance.
Early picture of my mom and three of us.
24 hours later….
Coffee date with her eldest
As it turned out, it was the perfect outing. We did talk family history, but it wasn’t forced. Found out mom initially went to college to become a teacher. (I never knew that.) Two different local businessmen offered to help her out with her tuition. (Never knew that either) 🙂
I just ordered 2000 Red Burgundy Organic Onion seeds this morning.
When they arrive, I’m going to fill a flat with them and watch them grow.
CS Lewis wrote a little fictional book called The Screwtape Letters. It is my personal favorite of all his writings. He was a master story-teller. He talks in there about worry, fear of the future, fears of the unknown. If you struggle with fear, and love a good allegory, I can’t recommend it enough.
I think it has shaped my thoughts on this topic as much as anything I have ever read.
Well, I feel a nap coming on.