Living in the country


Over the years, my husband and I have found that both of us and both of our children find great serenity while immersed in nature.  It is the thing that centers us and renews us.  And, to that end, we decided that it is of greatest importance that we spend some time in nature every weekend.  The daily stresses and sensory overload that we encounter during the school/work week dissolve as we step into nature.

Last weekend, we used our nature escape to say goodbye to summer and to welcome autumn. It was a very warm day for the end of September, but the breeze was delicious and the morning sun was beautiful filtering through the treetops.

 

Our plan was to hike all morning and stop at 10:49am to say goodbye to summer and to welcome autumn.  This wasn’t my idea.  This wasn’t my husband’s idea.  The two kids.  It was all them.

But as we hiked, we encountered some very cool wildlife and sights.  The first was an eastern box turtle, quickly identified by my fabulous husband.  He loves all things reptilian.

 

When we stopped hiking at 10:47am to say goodbye to summer, we were in a dried creek bed, exploring what might be found in such a spot.  Here we came upon a little frog.  If you look closely at the back end of the frog (is it a pickerel frog?), there is a small orange-red protrusion.  We assumed it was an egg sac, but as we were unsure, please feel free to comment the correct answer, if you know!  WE would love to know.  Another amazing hiking find.

At this moment, our children each took a turn saying a tearful goodbye to summer, one blowing a kiss and one giving an air-hug.  It’s always said that we can learn so much from our children.  Living in the moment is one of the greatest of these lessons.  And there it was again as they cheered a welcome to fall.

And we continued on our hike.  My favorite nature find that day, although kind of gross, was this owl pellet.  For anyone who doesn’t already know, when an owl eats, it digests what it can of the creature it has eaten and then throws up the bones, fur and whatever else it cannot digest.  These are known as owl pellets.  We had never discovered one on our own, so this was pretty exciting for us!

 

It was an amazing day.  One I won’t soon forget.  We hiked for TWO HOURS with a nine-year old and a six-year old!!  I witnessed my children’s intense sentimentality, and we all came away from it centered, contented and ready to face the week.  What an amazing escape.

 

I love wool.  There.  I said it.  It has such a primitive smell, look and feel to it.  Handling it is such a wonderful tactile experience, whether it’s uncarded, carded, spun, dyed, wet-felted, needle-felted or washing machine-felted.  My latest wool obsession using the washing machine to felt wool sweaters has taken me to multiple thrift stores and found me exploding with the desire to create, create, create.

A few weeks ago, I purchased several sweaters at my FAVORITE thrift store and proceeded to throw them into the washing machine on hot with detergent.  After a full cycle, each sweater was about 1/3 of its original size:

The shots of these sweaters are only after they’d been felted.  In my excitement to get them into the washing machine to felt them, I failed to take “before” pictures.  (I did, however, take pictures of my most recent purchases.)

I settled in to start creating.  I wanted some kind of banner to hang on the front door for Valentine’s Day.  Something very cozy-looking.  I chose to begin cutting hearts out of the felted sweaters and then stitched them one on top of another.

Cutting and stitching together hearts.

Ivory background for hearts banner...or another heart?

All hearts. A warm welcome for guests.

And my first recycled sweater project is complete!

Many years ago…maybe ten…I baked my first pie.  It was pumpkin and it was tasty, but it was not a crust made from scratch.  You see, I’d been told by many that making piecrust from scratch was too difficult and time-consuming.  And that Pillsbury  refrigerated crust IS awfully tasty.  I’d hear horror stories about others spending hours working on piecrust only to have it fall apart before they could get it in the pie plate.  And it didn’t taste so good.  That was really enough for me.

Until this weekend.

I had picked up a magazine at a Tractor Supply Co. a few months back called Mary Janes Farm.  What a great little magazine about country life and organic living!  Loved it.  Anyway, there was a recipe for a homemade piecrust that didn’t sound too difficult.  I set aside the issue for when I had a chunk of time to work on it.  That chunk of time came this past weekend.

I knew I had apples….yummy granny smiths and galas (my favorites!).  And I was fairly certain I had all of the ingredients.  So I set out to give it a try.

It was easy!  You wouldn’t believe how easy.  Flour, salt, butter, cream cheese…and that was it.  It rolled out easily, although I chose to make it a little thicker than Pillsbury would approve of.  And it was tasty, too.  I’m not trying to toot my own horn, this was my husband’s proclamation.  He LOVED it!  All I did was follow the recipe.  I certainly can’t take credit for how tasty it turned out to be.

 

My first homemade piecrust...unbaked.

 

 

And baked.

 

 

I like to think we live in “the country”.  We’re surrounded by farms and very gently rolling hills.  I really should post some photos of the bucolic countryside.  Living in the country provides us with the wonderful opportunity to truly “buy local”.

One of my favorite places to shop is Bolton’s Turkey Farm.  And we do go there on a fairly regular basis.  Oh, how good it smelled in there…just like Thanksgiving!  Mmmmmm.

Today I stopped for a roasting chicken.  Bolton’s roasting chickens are delicious.  I wish I could share with you virtually how wonderful it smelled in my oven.  The fresh garlic cloves I sliced and placed in its cavity permeated every inch of the chicken.  It was spectacularly delicious.  I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy one of their tasty turkeys!

And the idea that I find it appealing has me a bit disconcerted.

Manure.  Yes, I said “manure”.  As I picked my daughter up from school, I noticed the gamy odor of cow manure wafting across the school grounds.  It was so intense it elicited my gag-reflex from deep within.  But in a moment or two I found myself deeply inhaling the crisp air.

You see, as acrid as it was, I knew it was a decidedly auspicious sign of spring.  After the snowiest winter in the last decade, the John Deeres were hard at work in the fields behind the school, spreading a heavy layer of manure.  Manure isn’t spread unless fields are going to be planted.  Farmers don’t plant fields unless spring is truly here.

Inhale deeply.  Sigh.  There can’t be a more satisfying  sign of spring….except, maybe, for the heady scent of sweet lilacs.