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Archive for the ‘Winter in Wisconsin’ Category

winter spinning wheel yes

Lest yesterday’s poignant piece leads you to believe that we harbor sadness around here, please think again.  I experience the poignancy of change, but always with gladness and appreciation of the moment and season at hand.  Each has its beauty and meaning.  Each is accessible when we have layers of wool, and I do.  Each has its unique message, new every year.  And due to God’s faithfulness, each season will return.  So I will take you on a photo tour throughout our home, which we dearly love indoors and out.  Indoors is especially cozy and inviting.

Above you will see one of my two highly efficient fine spinning wheels on which I produce beautiful yarn for knitting.  For 18 years I raised my own spinners’ flock of quality wool sheep:  Border Leicester, Cotswold, Romney, Targhee, Corriedale, and Shetland—plus Angora goats for mohair.  I still have some of my Shetlands’ gorgeous brown wool.  But being a color freak, now I purchase dyed fleece and roving from suppliers of which their are loads—readily accessible online.  The green wool in the baskets pictured here is Merino—the world’s softest fiber with the exception of silk which I also order and spin.

In this spinning wheel scene you can see some of our eastern exposure winter garden.  Here the fussy, shade lovers reside.  When we moved to Nashotah in 2009, it didn’t take long for us to realize that our violets did not enjoy our new home as much we did.  Here we have natural gas heat, and alas there is a heat duct blowing down over both of our winter gardens.

The succulents featured in the next photo do not mind hot dry air a bit.  But African violets are really jungle plants.  They thrive on the moist ground in the humid section filled with tropical trees and lush undergrowth in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes.  Now, after 5 years of prematurely loosing violets, I have installed them in Wardian cases (one of which is visible behind the wheel)—attractive little greenhouses patterned after an invention by a 19th century English doctor (Dr. Ward) who built the house-like glassed in shelters to protect his plants in his London home.

 

winter garden again yes

Above is a glimpse of our southern facing indoor garden replete with succulents.  These plants, along with my Louis L’Amour novels provide a western fix for the Colorado and New Mexico aspect of my life.

Winter shawls yes

Back to the fiber thread (pardon the pun), here are some recent renderings from my yarn baskets and knitting needles.  (Unlike many folks, I knit all through the summer, even outside on the warmest days.  That is called “being a knit wit”.)

On the left is a shrug in process, knitted with my handspun yarn.  Next is a finished fringed shawl, also in handspun.  The almost center garment is a cape.  I make loads of these, because they are so much fun!  As well as adding buttons for decoration, I include buttons and button holes so that the garment will stay on the shoulders with comfort.  On the right is a HUGE poncho, probably good down to 20 degrees above zero over a big wool sweater.  The cape and poncho are made from commercial woolen yarns with a few funky synthetics thrown in for fun.

winter soap yes

And saponifying—that is, soap making—another year round delight.  These bars, made just yesterday, look good enough to eat. But I wouldn’t advise that!

winter painting yes

And art making, also enjoyed year around but really beefed up on winter nights!

winter tea yes

And winter tea parties.  Of course I continue my beloved iced tea all year (I didn’t think I had any Southern blood in me, but that’s what friends below the Mason Dixon line do).  However, when company comes, it’s hot tea and a chance to show off my English tea pots.  Guests may pick their pot, and cup and saucer of which there are MANY.

Winter Patio

Finally, here is a shot from last year.  It’s coming!  I’m thankful for all of the above, especially for my family and corgi, and of course for books bending multi shelves and stacked like leaning towers all over the home!

When the sun shines again (and it will) I’ll try to get some shots of glorious color.  That’s coming too—hopefully before the above pristine stuff!

©Margaret L. Been, October 2014

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Valentine bears etc.

1)  Bears:  In recent years I’ve received a Valentine Bear most every Valentine’s Day.  This year I decided to move the Valentine Bears from our bedroom settee to a living room sofa, to celebrate their day.  Well, you should have heard the hullaballoo coming from the Other Occasion Bears who were left in the bedroom.  “Unfair!  Discriminatory!  We are Entitled!”

So I promptly moved the Others to the sofa to join their Valentine friends, thinking they could all spend the day there and I’d move them back to the bedroom at bedtime.  Then Joe and I went out for a Valentine dinner.  When we returned home, we were greeted with a petition.  It seems the bears had a secret meeting while we were gone.  They unanimously decided to Occupy Sofa through next Thursday when a young man named Lucas is coming for wiener roll-ups, pop, and an afternoon of art.  Wisely, the bear contingent choose Senior Paddington Bear to present the request to me, as they know I love British accents.  And of course I caved in.  After all, that sofa is an extra.  We have plenty of additional places for people to sit.  And Lucas will definitely enjoy the bears.

Now, Dear Readers I know exactly what you are thinking:  “This woman is eighty years old, and the February Blaaaas have pushed her over the edge.”  Sorry, but I have news for you.  I’ve always been this way.

Shawls Galore

2)  A GOOD YARN:  My fellow Knitwits will love this one.  The stats always soar when I post a yarn and needles bit.  Above you will find a just off the needles shawl.  Who says old dogs (or people) can’t learn new tricks?  Up until a year ago I had Circular Needle Phobia.  But I have overcome, and now I can’t quit making shawls.  This one will go to our local Vince Lombardi Cancer Center, as my family members and friends are by now completely shawled, scarfed, and hatted out.  Note the colors.  They give you a clue as to what is frequently on my mind as I gaze out on our garden buried in snow.

Southwest

3)  FRESH DECOR:  It’s fun to greet a new season with a few changes.  For years we went to Colorado and New Mexico—often at this time of the year.  We love our old comfy couch (not the bears’ sofa, but the one Joe and I normally hang out on).  New fabric on the couch brings the Southwest right into our living room.

Taking a step

4)  THE BEST BLAAA CHASER OF ALL—A CHILD:  This is our littlest sweetheart.  A week ago last Thursday, Tuks came for an entire day.  She is eight months old, and has begun stepping between close furniture rather than dropping to her knees.  We had so much fun with Tuks.  She took good naps for us, and maintained her sunny personality throughout the eight hours.  She loves to eat, loves people, loves dogs, loves life!  Who can ever have the blaaaas with someone like that around?!!!

And here’s a parting thought to cheer you on:  In three weeks, DAYLIGHT SAVING!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

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First snow 11-13 again

Many of us carry an eternal kid around with us, deep inside.  I know I do.  That’s the only possible explanation for my sense of euphoria today, when I saw what was drifting down out of the sky and landing in my precious little patio garden.

Come January, I begin to dislike the stuff.  By February it gets really old, and being a Wisconsin native I know that it may not end soon.  By March?  Well March is rectified by the returning sun—so glorious as it pours into our east facing patio door.  But the snow may seem interminable by then, and sometimes in March I want to scream!

So why the excitement every year, my 80th being no exception?  Today I walked out to take photos, and the brisk, damp air instantly took me back to 1943 when I couldn’t get enough of snowy days and those waning daylight hours after school when we kids stayed outdoors building forts and snow creatures.

No matter how tedious the early weeks of each new year may seem, no matter how my heart yearns (sometimes cries) for warm sunlight and green shoots popping up in the garden, no difference how challenged my body may actually be—sometimes to the extent where the days are radically altered, and I all but grind to a proverbial halt.

Despite all of that, I will forever go into an ecstatic spin over early snowfalls at the end of each year.  An Eternal Kid!

Having little people in one’s life provides ongoing nourishment for an Eternal Kid.  My pleasant, secure childhood lives on through a plethora of young people who get excited to see what falls out of the sky.  Being surrounded by rambunctious, smiling children is my best insurance against growing old.  I refuse to grow old!  I praise God for the gift of being an Eternal Kid!

(Even if the snow gets a little old come January!)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  Here is one more (new-this-year) reason for being excited about the snow.  Our youngest grandchild, Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, is experiencing her very first snow today!

DSC01732

Since our little one has a very long name, we call her “Tuks” (rhymes with “Books”).  That’s a short form of her Nigerian name, Adetokunba.  And as you can see, Tuks is currently into blowing bubbles.

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Hill House

Years ago, for a class at the University of Wisconsin, I read a poignant novel titled YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, by Thomas Wolfe.  Employing a cliché, “I beg to differ” with that deceased American author.  Yes, you can go home again; I know because my husband and I have done exactly that.

Due to health issues, Joe and I had not made the road trip to our homes 280 miles North since Memorial Day weekend of 2010.  A friend has been taking care of the yards—mowing and snow blowing, cleaning up fallen branches, etc. so the area around the two houses has been well tended.  The remaining 14 acres are wild woods—to be left the way we have always loved them, in God’s hands through the venue of nature.

A daughter visited the homes several times, when vacationing North.  She reported that things were compromised there.  The downstairs at the lake home smelled musty and the sweet house pictured above—a factory home built for our guests when we lived up there full time—had gone to the mice, mothballs notwithstanding.

Two garages at the lake home were packed full of Joe’s tools, half finished carpentry projects, years of nuts and bolts, life jackets, random bicycles culled from rummages, junked furniture, shovels, rakes, an outboard motor, canoe paddles, paint cans, oil cans, batteries—just for starters.  The houses contained dishes, bedding, decorative items, pictures, and enough kitchen utensils in each house to accommodate the vacations we had thought we’d spend there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin in September of 2009.

The above-pictured house has provided a charming site for some of my mother’s favorite furniture pieces:  a cherry wood dining room table, a mahogany secretary with a glass cabinet, Mom’s cedar hope chest, and a highboy in some elegant unknown-to-me wood.  Both houses groaned with books leftover from the many boxes of volumes we moved with us 4 years ago.

What to do with all of this?  I think Joe and I simply stuffed all issues surrounding these homes due to larger and more crucial concerns—namely multiple surgeries and other medical procedures spanning many months.  Occasionally our beloved North, where we’d naively thought we’d live “forever”, surfaced in my mind.  Whenever this happened, I prayed:  “Lord, these are Your houses.  They are in Your hands.”

(Have you ever yielded something you dearly loved to the Lord, with no bitterness and no sorrowful misgivings?  Have you ever relaxed and said, “Lord, this belongs to You?” only to have God graciously hand that something back to you—with a minimum of stress and effort on your part, while taking care of every minute detail along the way?  Well, this is what has happened to us.)

Since 2009 we went right on paying the utilities and telephone bills, and annual taxes on our property North.  Would we ever return?  We really didn’t think so, as we arranged to put business matters in our son, Eric’s hands.  We were happy here in the South.  I think we didn’t want to grieve, so we were refusing to acknowledge the fact that these homes were still ours even though we couldn’t go up there.  Someone else could eventually sell them for us, and we’d pay a commission and just bank or invest the results—all in God’s time of course.

Then about a month ago a man called from Green Bay.  He had been on our road North, and he’d read “For Sale By Owner” on our mailbox up there—with our Southern Wisconsin phone number.  He drove in, walked around the yards, probably peeked in windows, and then called.  He sounded very interested in possibly buying both homes, and he wanted to meet us up there.

We scrambled, quite against our will.  After all, life was so easy here in the South and we were super contented.  We didn’t want to go up there (we thought!) and we certainly did not feel up to the gargantuan task of cleaning those houses and emptying the 2 garages.  But circumstances were kicking us in the head.  Something had to be done and we could not in good conscience dump the burden on our 6 beautiful children.

God was in charge!  We were given the name of a wonderfully efficient and energetic woman, Marilyn, whom we hired to clean the interiors of the houses and wash the windows.  She had completed the above-pictured house when we arrived on the scene nearly 2 weeks ago.  We decided to stay there, on the hill, since Marilyn would be doing the lake house next—approximately a 3 day job.  When we stepped into our house on the hill, originally installed as a guest house, Joe and I had the same sudden and drastic response.  We fell in love all over again irrevocably with this colorful, sparkling, easy-to-manage home high on a hill with maples and birches around the edge of the yard.  Instantly I prayed in my mind, “Oh Lord, if it be Your will, PLEASE don’t let that man from Green Bay want this house!!!”

For the next 3 days, prior to our appointment with the Green Bay fellow, Joe and I planned, sorted, discarded, etc.  Our grounds helper, Allen took loads of burnable trash to dispose of at his home where he has a permit for burning.  Some of the equipment also went home with Allen.  Marilyn and her husband were wonderful as well.  They carried many pick-up truckloads away with things they could use on their property at another lake nearby.  I sold some furniture to Marilyn, and gave her many household items we just didn’t need.  Our friends, Betty and Joe, took many more items—and so did friends, Dee and Jim.  And my Joe took 2 van loads, packed to the ceiling, to our town dump.  The houses are in beautiful condition now, and the 2 garages are miraculously (almost!) empty!

For 10 nights, we slept in the commodious bedroom on the hill—the sleep of contented, well fed and amply exercised children.  For 9 days we happily did projects, and spent quality time with the above mentioned friends.  We went to town (10 miles from home) several times.  In every store and restaurant, we were greeted as good old friends.  “Where have you been?”  “I’ve thought of you so often!” were familiar refrains.

However for several days prior to the man allegedly coming from Green Bay, I carried an ache in my heart.  We had advertised 2 houses.  What if he wanted both?  We were settling into the hill house, bringing in more “treasures” from the lake house, making the hill house ours for future vacations now that we realized we were healthy enough to make the trip and enjoy the North once again!

Then one night we picked up a message from our phone answering machine in the South.  The man from Green Bay reneged and would not be meeting us.  He would not be thinking of buying anything until maybe spring of 2014, and then he might see if a house was still available.  Joe and I were in bed at our hill house, when we got this news.  We shouted for joy, and I wept!  We were enjoying our vacation home, and God-willing we will enjoy more.

Even if this was to be our last vacation North, it would be a priceless gift.  But we anticipate more.  In fact we hope to go up for a couple of weeks in January when, although much colder than South (like minus 25 degrees F) the air is always fresher without that damp, penetrating (and I think, miserable!) Lake Michigan chill we have South.  The only problem with winters in the North is that (I think) they last just a bit too long.  When I was itching to dig in a garden, we were still blowing snow.

Judging from his melancholy novel, Thomas Wolfe had a disillusioned slant on life—sadly lacking in any vision beyond the material and temporal.  So the character in his literary work could not go home again.  Things were never the same at home, in that book, and all was lost.

Praise God that doesn’t have to be so!  Joe and I have “gone home again”—home where there are more Virginia whitetails than people, home abounding in howling timber wolves and ever-ravenous-until-hibernation-time black bears.  Things are the same.  No, I rescind that statement!  Things are even better!  We willingly yielded the North to the Lord, and God has graciously handed it back to us—for whatever amount of time He’s ordained in Eternity Past!  What a PRAISE!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  We plan to list the lake house with a realtor, by spring of 2014.  Again, it’s all in God’s hands!  What a GOOD LIFE!  (Our Lord must have a sense of humor to put up with us, if we sometimes lapse into thinking we are in charge!)

ANOTHER NOTE:  Sunshine, are you online?  I’ll see you on a 4th Monday sometime in 2014!

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Assuming there is some wisdom in the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, today I’m offering extra pictures.  Some of you have seen the above shots of our Sunday afternoon visitor a few years back, at our home up North.  I’m posting them again because:  1) they are fun, and 2) a new online friend, a retired gentlemen and photographer who lives in Finland, had expressed an interest in another photo of a black bear which I posted awhile ago.

For a wonderful tour of Finland, try http://sartenada.wordpress.com/  .  You’ll be glad you did!  I’m amazed at how Finland and Northern Wisconsin are so similar.  (We have the immense Lake Superior for our Big Water.)  The entire earth fascinates me, but I love the far Northern reaches of the world most of all!  They are “home” to me.

Here ↑ is a glimpse of one of our winter gardens.  Indoor plants help to keep us Northerners contented during the long, cold months—and they satisfy our craving for earth and greenery.  The structure which houses some of my African violets is a Wardian Case (a replica of course) named after a 19th century English physician.  Information on Dr. Ward is available online:

“Dr. Ward was a physician with a passion for botany.  His personally collected herbarium amounted to 25,000 specimens.  The ferns in his London garden in Wellclose Square, however, were being poisoned by London’s air pollution which consisted heavily of coal smoke and sulphuric acid.

“Dr. Ward also kept cocoons of moths and the like in sealed glass bottles, and in one, he found that a fern spore and a species of grass had germinated and were growing in a bit of soil.  Interested but not yet seeing the opportunities, he left the seal intact for about four years, noting that the grass actually bloomed once.  After that time however, the seal had rusted, and the plants soon died from the bad air.  Understanding the possibilities, he had a carpenter build him a closely fitted glazed wooden case and found that ferns grown in it thrived.  Dr. Ward published his experiment and followed it up with a book in 1842, On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases.”  Wikipedia

I have at present six African violet plants.  I rotate them, three at a time, in and out of the Wardian case as the closed container helps to keep them hydrated without over-watering.  Fortunately we don’t have any coal or sulphur pollution here—just a gas furnace which tends to dry out our indoor air.

In Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes, African violets grow close to the ground in the shade of huge plants in the tropical dome which is kept moist at a constant temperature in the low 70s, Farenheit.  This is where I got the idea of a little extra hydration for my beauties.  They don’t like to be over-watered (and must be watered from the bottom) but they love moist air.

Our East facing living room and patio door make a perfect environment for the above plants which don’t need (or can’t tolerate) huge blasts of winter sunlight.  But our Christmas cactus, blooming instead for Lent, and a few other succulents (some jades, orchid cacti, candleabra, and an aloe plant) happily thrive in the Eastern exposure—with the morning sun.

Our other winter garden sits in our bedroom, facing South ↑.  This is a glorious spot for succulents—including large and small leaf jades, and a crown of thorns.  The succulents remind me of another beloved place on earth—New Mexico, especially Taos and Santa Fe.  The curly creature in the above foreground is a Hoya, commonly called Turkish Rope.  I have a couple of these, and delight in them.  Maybe that’s why I love my Potato Chip scarves.  They look like the Hoya.  🙂

The toothbrush in the Hoya plant belonged to a precious Pembroke Welsh corgi, Meeghan.  On the sad day that she died, I put her toothbrush in a plant pot and it has been in one pot or another ever since.  Meeghan hated to have her teeth brushed. That’s why the brush is in such good condition.  I could almost use it, but I probably won’t!  Meeghan also refused to floss.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

 

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I don’t draw or paint animals very well.  They always seem to look like people, especially in the area of the eyes and facial expressions.  Now it may be argued that dogs are practically people—at least that goes for Collies and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.  But Ground Hogs are definitely not people and I won’t try to paint them.

Meanwhile, I’ve always LOVED Ground Hog Day.  In Wisconsin, the traditional “take” on the day is confusing.  Whereas in some quarters 6 more weeks of winter may be considered “bad news” (for those who don’t ski), in our proverbial neck of the woods ONLY 6 more weeks is cause for a big HOORAH (provided you don’t ski).  Whatever . . . .

Here is a painting of what the Ground Hog may see, not in 6 weeks but perhaps in a few months—when he does come out to inspect my garden.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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An unseasonably warm spell with lots of sunshine inspires visions of spring.  Certainly we will have more winter.  We could have the blizzard of the century anytime in the next two months, and perhaps even in April.  But today we have 56 minutes more daylight than we had at the December solstice.  The sun is pounding into our sheltered garage opening.  Joe and I sat there this morning, basking in the ultra violet.  Regardless of whatever lies ahead, today we are celebrating our official Opening Day of Sun Bathing, 2012—although only our faces were exposed to the welcome warmth.

I love this season, when each week brings a fresh reminder that winter will give way to spring:  extra daylight, the chick-a-dee’s melodious “chick-a-dee-dee-dee”, a fresh earth fragrance emerging from melting snow.  Every year about this time I recall childhood seasons, and the late winter/early spring tonic administered by my mom.

Born twelve years before the widespread civilian use of penicillin, I grew up on remedies bequeathed by my two grandmothers who were gatherers of herbs and proponents of natural potions.  We had one tonic which was very sound, medically speaking, but not much fun to imbibe—cod liver oil.  I always felt like hiding out somewhere at cod liver oil time. 

But the late winter/early spring tonic!  That was a treat!  Whatever herbs went into the concoction are lost to my memory, but they must have been bitter to begin with because what I do recall is molasses—lots of molasses resulting in a spoonful of something incredibly delicious and sweet. 

Undoubtedly the tonic contained a source of vitamin C, much needed for the immune system as late winter/early spring always set the stage for potentially tragic dramas:  measles, mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox, diptheria, and scarlet fever—spelled out in capital-lettered warning signs on the front doors of homes where disease lurked within. 

I thought of Seasons Past today, as I mixed a beverage with the above-pictured ingredients.  All the good stuff is there—fruit juice with nutrients and sugar, a package of Emergen-C powder, ice cubes, and Sierra Mist® for more sugar and a bit of fizz.  Rather than just a spoonful, I get to enjoy a tumbler of tonic for the Season Present!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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