Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Woods Whisper Christmas

Who loves the wind on a stormy night, 
When curtains are drawn and fires are bright? 

~Sing Through the Day :: Plough

Yesterday was balmy, in the sixties with a cloudy sky.  I saw a mosquito come into my kitchen, flit around, and get scorched as I opened the oven.  Strong winds came in the night, ushering out the warmth, with us gladly snuggled into the feather bed.   

Today, the woods whisper Christmas.  You can hear it if you listen to the wind or look at the sunlight on the ferns.  I really love this time of year, when the cold and dark are still new.

I met the snow near Hurricane, and it was such a gentle sight.  I had to stop on the road and clear some big branches out of the way, with some help from others who saw me working.  The wind had littered every surface from town to country with tired leaves, twigs, and bigger branches.  Driving through Fairwood, after a stretch of green, the snow was back again.  

I continued my climb through Konnarock toward Elk Garden and met more snow, fog, and rime ice.  Snowy lichen--be still my heart.  It was another world of beauty, as Dick Proenekke would say.

Arriving at Elk Garden, the snow was beginning to drift across the road, making it just a bit slippery.  The wonderful thing about an early season snow is that the ground and roads are often warm enough to avoid any significant ice.

Here's my shivery photo of the blowing snow and fog.  It was time to hop back in the car and head back down.  Twenty-seven and 20 mph winds is pretty chilly (a mere 13° F!)  Yes, a warmer skirt is in order, though I think I prefer them to pants in the cold.  Brrrrr!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

November, Inside and Out

I've come to enjoy the waiting times almost as much (or maybe more?).  There is something about that pause before the big out-breath of color or celebration or flowers that is so special.  November is a time to keep, for sure.  I'm making lots of cranberry mors these days, several times a week, always eyeing my honey supply.  I've upped the water to eight cups, and I added in a few extras like orange zest or sliced apples that were not so great for eating fresh.  Star anise makes all the difference, but it's still very good with powdered ginger and spices. 

I made Susan Branch's star croutons (and discovered that I do like them, just not the rocks served on salads) and tomato bisque (that's your cheese, Kim!)  The croutons are from Christmas from the Heart of the Home and go like this: tiny cutouts (I used the end of a loaf of whole wheat), 2 parts butter, 1 part oil, healthy dose of garlic, toast in skillet.  I always use way more garlic than a recipe recommends.  Always.

We are horse sitters, again, as my parents have gone out to the original Old Davis Homeplace in Missouri.  The children love Golden Boy and he loves them, though he would love us more if we had grain for him or some of those long-gone September apples. . . I think Willow is mimicking his movable ears here.

I'm getting excited about Christmas and formulating some things to say about our plans this year, as always.  I like to keep a list of presents past for the children, as I forget so quickly.  I will say that my plans this year involve fewer baked, sweet things.  This is for health, in addition to easing my mind about the to-do list.  Oh, and look at this holly at my parents' house!  The trees near us in town are covered, too.  Holly in all the rooms!  I even have a wee green glass vase, just like my mother's big one she always fills with holly. 

Speaking of plants that are so beautiful right now, the blueberries are on fire with color.  Ours are a wonderful red-orange here in town, and my parents' are a purpley-pink as you can see.  The oaks are the last trees to come into their own with colorful leaves.  I love that the background of this photo has one of the children of the old-growth oaks.  Oh, to turn back time.  Roan would have loved those trees.

And some sheep for Willow, always sheep.  When I was little, there weren't many folks raising sheep, as best as I can recall.  Now, they are everywhere here.  Willow used to ask me to take alternate sheep-free routes if she had not brought her Lamby in the car, but now every road seems to have them.  Sheep and donkeys litter the landscape in the sweetest, softest way.  Maybe if my parents' field is still clear when the Old Davis Homeplace becomes mine. . .

Well, it's time to get up, I guess.  I think I hear someone stirring inside the house--the computer now lives on the enclosed back porch, which is also quickly becoming a library.

Happy final-weekend-before-the-speedy-slide-to-the-end-of-the-year!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nature School :: Places to Go at the End of the World

We had our quarterly (or so) outing with Dr. Davis this week.  Up to Elk Garden to see the sleeping forest.  Here, he and Laurel are on the boulder Mike and I were married on.  In stark contrast to last year, the woods feel moist and lush with moss and lichen.  There is no smoke to cloud the view and no crunchy grass to walk over.  Even so, I can tell that the slow desertification of the Appalachian rainforests is happening.  Streams that flowed when I was first married twelve years ago, one that iced over in the cold winters, are now dry.

Does it ever feel funny to be alive right now?  I suppose every generation must have said something similar.  There is always some looming threat, small or large, and ours is climate change.  It reminds me of the introduction from Michael Chabon in D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths:

We all grew up--all of us, from the beginning--in a time of violence and invention, absurdity and Armageddon. . . I took comfort, as a kid, in knowing that things had always been as awful and as wonderful as they were now, that the world was always on the edge of total destruction. . .

There are times that I just want to run away to these mountains and lose myself deep in a mist-shrouded valley or on a ridge covered in stunted trees, never to come out again.  I know that running away is a fantasy of children and adults, alike.  Too bad I don't seem to find it when I am asleep.  I think I need a real vacation, completely alone, to be in some wild place for a day or two. . .  The introverts dream.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Lantern Walk

A whole fleet, flock, herd of lanterns this year.  We were joined by our friends and their daughter for our Martinmas lantern walk.  It felt like such a crowd of us, meandering up the street at night.

We sang our usual songs and chatted a little, glad for the social time.  The little girls had battery-powered tea lights, which was just perfect.  I think we should do this at sunset next year, note to self.

We didn't stop in at any houses this time around, but we were passed by plenty of cars.  I have a feeling I'll have to take another walk this evening, and I wouldn't mind a bit.  Maybe I'll try for sunset.

We returned home to potato soup and some play time for the children.  They seemed to have more fun as the hour wore on, while we mothers were wilting at the end of the day.  Social naptime--that's something I never though I would want. ;-)

I set all the lanterns on our new piano (having folded down the music stand).  I couldn't get a clear shot, but that's how good memories are, soft around the edges.  I don't think we'd have it any other way.

Here are some links for this time of year--it's not too late to have your own lantern walk.

Lighting the Way with Martinmas
A Tired Mother's Impression of Martinmas
Lantern Walk Songs

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Martinmas Blessings

It completely escaped my mind to send out any Martinmas wishes yesterday.  I hope the day was magical for those who celebrate.  We've been quite busy this weekend with the new old piano and shifting lots of things around.  Our lantern walk is this evening, and that will be a quiet pause before beginning another week in this dark time of year.  I've got a few more lanterns to make, so I'm off to get busy.  Happy Sunday!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fog on the Mountain

 Fog is the theme lately, it seems.  The world is covered in icy crystals down here in the valley and I am betting there is rime ice up high, once more.  Rime ice is, of course, frozen fog that drifts by and catches on things.  Yesterday, though, fog and mud.  We'd had plans for Raccoon Branch, but opted to go up high, instead.  The rain overalls and boots were still a help, and the children enjoyed a different kind of romp in the woods.

I think I feel foggy, in general, lately.  We've been in the thick of birthdays and guests and school and leaf piles.  We're also getting a piano tomorrow morning.  Wish us luck on the move--it's only going one block, but it is the trip out of one house and into ours that will be the challenge.  It all feels so messy to me, and I am ready for a little quiet and order.  I've been looking around the house, trying out new furniture arrangements and taking out clutter, hoping everything will fit. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Rose hip November
Autumn I'll remember
Gold landing at our door;
Catch one leaf and fortune will surround you evermore

~Vashti Bunyan

The final blaze of color is over, I think.  Heavy rains this week, and the winds that brought them here, have taken care of that.  Laurel's birthday was the last day, I think.  The leaves were just barely hanging on.  We made the leaf crowns around lunch time and then the leaves showered down all afternoon.  I took these other photos over the weekend, on a little drive alone.  It feels like this Autumn, though late to come and spotty in appearance, has really been beautiful.

The time change, along with the damp weather has ushered in the time of year that I love so.  I am hopeful that this Winter will feel more like Winter than the last one did--one long, perpetual, fickle Spring.  It seems like the temperatures and moisture have been more of what we are used to in the few weeks.  There are no big swings up into the mid-seventies in the forecast.  Everyone feels more like hibernating, and more like having cabin fever, at the same time.

It's time for cranberry everything, like this cranberry mors, and tea every day, all the things that make a home and meal cozy.  I am trying to like tea again, as we somehow fell out of favor in the past couple years.  Chicken soup was met with rave reviews yesterday.  I'm now looking at my knitting plans and panicking, while Willow is making her list longer.  I'm glad she's taking off on knitting, as I think it is important to have such skills.

Nature school is going to be cold and wet today.  The rain overalls and coats are at the ready, along with parkas, so it's just a matter of getting us all dressed for it.  I am looking forward to a bit of a hike and maybe we'll see some rushing streams.  I would like a bit of sunshine, though.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Crafting On :: Birthday Things

We've been working on birthday gifts for Laurel as of late.  Willow made Lily the Lamb from Knitting for Children: A Second Book.  I helped with the assembly and embellishment, but Willow gained a lot of confidence with stockinette stitch and casting on.  She has plans for the Leaping Cat next.

Roan and I worked on the Fairy House kit from Sarah's Silks.  Making peg people with silk clothes is tricky, but they came out well.  I found myself digging for acorn caps, when I am usually covered up in them!  The little girl's hat was held on with a clamp until the glue dried, in the event you try this.  There were enough supplies to dress a number of peg people, so I am planning to make three for Christmas stockings.

Lastly, a fun, fast craft--leaf crowns from Earthways.  These were very simple to do with fresh leaves that were ready to fall.  Just clip off the stems with scissors and then use them to attach the leaves to each other. 

For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.

Monday, November 6, 2017


November is a spinner,
A spinning in the mist,
Oh such a lovely web she weaves
Of gold and amethyst.

In among the shadows
She spins till close of day
Then quietly she folds her hands
And puts her work away.

Margaret Rose, as taken from Enki Grade One Poetry

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Main Lessons with Moving Pictures

When we began using the Enki materials, there was the assertion that the school time would work from a three-fold process: open intake, artistic digestion, and mastery.  The intake is the easy part--the child simply listens to the story.  The artistic digestion and mastery leave lots of room for creativity.  One can simply draw pictures or paint, play games, work with manipulatives, model beeswax, work on building projects, perform puppet plays, or work on the plays using the scripts provided in the materials.

While Enki has/had schools, their main focus has been homeschooling.  The materials they set forth are generally for home use, though the games and some videos include a classroom element.  Some footage shows movable pictures, though these, as far as I know, were not given much mention in the homeschool materials.  That's where Making Picture Books with Movable Figures comes in.

This is wonderful fun for the children and another option that can be used for both digestion and mastery.  Roan is working on quality of numbers right now, so he has more picture work for the story above, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon."  I think it is interesting to see how light his drawing is, compared with Willow's.  She did "Owl and Rabbit" from Christopherus.  It reminded me of some of the trickster tales from last year.

The premise of this book is to use poetry to create picture books for children, often referring to Rudolf Steiner and his indications.  They provide numerous poems as suitable examples.  The point is that the text should have some kind of action in it that can be represented with a moving figure.  Since Willow is working on a poem a month and putting them into a poetry book, some of hers will include movable pictures.

The book gives clear instructions for creating the backgrounds and layering them to create different fields for the figures. It also tells how to make the figures and assemble the pages.  I'm sorry my photos are a little dark--it was getting dark outside!  I helped the children to decide how to put their pages together and left them to do the coloring and so on.  We used old watercolor pages for the stiff sticks to move the figures, which made it easier to choose the right length.  We used regular liquid glue, but I think a glue stick would work better on the lighter paper.

I'll continue to post our progress on our pictures here, since it cheers us so to make them.  I think it's also good, all-around practice in being thoughtful, instead of rushing through work.  There are so many opportunities for simple, subtle self-improvement through the arts.