Gathering up the wild things

October 17, 2007 at 3:19 pm | Posted in art, baby, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, free knitting patterns, gardening, gifts, Halloween, Holidays, knitting, knitting for babies, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, yarn | 22 Comments

Wild berries growing at Fireflys placeI love the sound of the large trucks going by down the road. I don’t have to see them to know they are carrying full loads of corn, apples, squash … what-have-you.

Fall harvest is in full swing and all around, people are enjoying the bounty.

It is thrilling to be able to go to one of our favorite local farm markets to load up on fresh, ripe produce. We bring home a couple of bags full of squash, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet corn, etc. for about $10. We go to another local farm stand and buy a bushel of apples for $15.

This is a deliciously healthy time of year and we enjoy it thoroughly, knowing it won’t last very long. This year, my second year on our farm in Western New York, I am much more in tune with the harvest activities; the more I see this time around, the more I realize I missed during my first year … which leads me to believe I was much more dazed by the drastic changes in my life last year than I realized at the time.

A collection of Fireflys Wild ThingsI have my own harvest activities, however they are abbey normal, as am I. My husband and I have been going out and harvesting the wild things I will need in order to make more of my Critters (aka “Thistleonians”) and wreaths for this year’s holiday season.

We have primarily been gathering teasels, the main ingredient I use in the Thistleonians. I decided this year to gather way more than I personally need, in case any of my readers would like to have a go at making critters of their own. I’m offering a small USPS priority mail box full of them for $10.00.

Teasels Firefly and Her Husband Gathered This YearEach box will include an instruction sheet for cleaning and cutting the teasels, as well as basic instructions for cutting and connecting them for the bodies. There will be a variety of small and large teasels in each box (you need two sizes, one for the body and one for the head); about twenty teasels total. The teasels will be sterilized (I heat them in my oven for an hour at a low temperature to sterlize them), but you will need to clean them (an easy operation) following the included instructions. There will be a limited number of boxes of teasels available for shipping, so they will go on a first come, first served basis and will be available for shipment beginning November 1st.

If you are interested, go to my I Live on a Farm website to learn more or to place an order.

Fireflys Horse Chestnut and PodI have also been taking whips from our grand willow tree for use in making miniature wreaths to hang on our Christmas tree, and to make some larger grapevine and willow wreaths for decorations and gifts. I enjoy working with the willow whips, and hope sometime to try my hand at making some rustic willow baskets.

I have found some beautiful chestnuts and their pods under our horse chestnut tree across the road, and I have found plenty of acorns on the ground over by our cottage. Often I go all around in our yard hunting for pieces of bark from various trees that I can use as “logs” with my Thistleonians. One of my readers was generous enough to send me a box full of gum balls, which I can hardly wait to use for a variety of Thistleonians, wreaths, and ornaments.

Milkweed Pods Firefly Gathered and DriedOh, and quite lovely indeed are the milkweed pods I have harvested this year. I had no idea what they would look like, when to gather them, or what they would turn into when dried. We had three stalks of milkweed growing wild out by our barn, and all summer I monitored the development of their pods. I knew I was supposed to gather them just before they burst open, but I had no idea when that would happen so I just kept watching them whenever I was out back with Blu. Finally, about mid-September, I noticed when the first one burst and immediately brought in all the rest of them. I gently pried them open to remove the fluff and seeds inside, then I baked them in a slow oven for quite a long time. In the end, they opened up most beautifully into large, graceful halves with pale yellow inside and pale green outside. I believe I have about thirty halves in all; it will be fun to see how I am inspired to use them.

Fireflys Osage Orange for Fall and Christmas ArrangementsThis past weekend my sister-in-law were up here to go on the annual Breast Cancer Awareness walk with us at a local apple farm. After the walk, we went on a two-hour fall foliage train ride, and in between my sister-in-law stopped off somewhere and gathered wild osage oranges. She shared a few with me, and gave me some ideas of how they might be used in a center piece, wreath, or holiday door decoration.

Speaking of wild things, all over Western New York there are round hay bales in fields. Before I move here, I was only familiar with square hay bales or European hay stacks. My husband told me, last summer, that every once in a while he catches sight of a field of the round bales late in the day when the moisture is high, causing a steamy mist to rise all around them. He said that when he sees that particular sight he thinks to himself, “Elephants on the Serengeti.”

Ever since he told me that, we have tried to catch a field of hay bales at just such a time so I can photograph it. I have only caught sight of them with a rising steamy mist once, and did not have the camera with me at that time. However, I have seen many a field of round bales at all times of morning, day, and dusk. When we were on our trip to the Thousand Islands, through the Adirondacks, and back home, we saw many “elephants” as we have come to call them. It is an enjoyable road game, seeing the hay bales and calling them different types of elephants:

  • All lined up in a row, they are trained elephants
  • Wrapped in white plastic (as they sometimes are), they are arctic elephants
  • Older bales that have turned dark and scruffy are pre-historic elephants

Hay Bale 1 an oil painting by J L Fleckensteinand so on. Up near Clayton, NY we saw a large field set among gently rolling hills dotted with “elephants”. They were so pretty I shot some photographs for reference material for some paintings. Last week I made my first hay bale painting. I used a very impressionistic style for this painting, and thoroughly enjoyed creating it (of course). There will be others coming off the easel soon, as hay bales … er, elephants … are my new favorite subject to paint. This first painting is up for auction, if you are interested.

Also of note, I have posted the pattern for that cute hand knit little girl’s sweater. I set it up so that, if you want to knit one, you can order the yarn directly from the online pattern. I got together with the lady at the yarn shop, and we put togehter a few different color schemes to choose from. I do need to correct one thing from the original piece I wrote about that pattern: I mentioned the materials come to less than $20, and I was wrong. When I added up the cost of the yarns, the total comes to $24 because it requires two skiens of the main color, and two skiens of one of the accent colors (the mohair). The pattern is free, regardless of whether you need or want to purchase the yarn, as are all the knitting patterns I offer.

I am going to try to make time to post a pattern for a totally cute scarf later this week, but I cannot promise that I will be able to.

One other thing you might be interested in … I just finished developing a website for one of the professional farms in Western New York, Partyka Farms in Kendall. Working with them was a wonderful experience; they are such good, down-to-earth and professional folks (a husband and wife team). The wife (Lora Partyka) has organized the Country Barn Quilt Trail, which we plan to participate in. The trail features about thirty barns and other structures (so far) with eight foot by eight foot quilt squares mounted on them. The quilt trail has been written up in several newspapers, and was just featured in the travel section of The Buffalo News this past Sunday. The lady who wrote the article was out at The Winery at Marjim Manor the same weekend I was there (Art Weekend back in August) and in a conversation we had, I told her about Partyka Farms and the Country Barn Quilt Trail. I was very happy to see her lovely article, because Lora has worked so hard on the Quilt Trail and now more people will be able to enjoy it.

That’s about it for me for today. My sister-in-law gave us a huge plastic bag full of fresh basil from her garden a couple of days ago and I need to get started putting up a bunch of pesto sauce while it is still fresh.

Have a great day, week, and weekend coming up!


Copyright © 2007 J.L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


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  1. Well busy lady it is such a joy to read the posts of your latest projects. I hope the Gracious Parcels is progressing well. I have been busy with suppling the Ghana Project. Have a great Halloween.

  2. What a wonderful blog you write! Thanks for the loveliness and inspiration.

  3. My, my~ you have been quite busy! I love the idea of the round hay bales as “Elephants of the Farmland” & look forward to seeing your creations.
    BTW- what are those berry-looking things in the first photo?

  4. I love your blog it always lifts my spirits and inspires me. Your talent and creativity is boundless. Thanks for sharing your world 🙂
    Your painting of the hay, made me smile. when I moved to Missouri from California, round bales were the first things I noticed. I fell in love with them, I thought they looked like Shredded wheat that giants had spilled :). I love to see them, as I was used to small square bales too. Never even knew any other kind existed. I hope your days continue to be filled with beautiful things. I wish I was talented enough for the little girls sweater, but alas not yet.

  5. No elephants around here, we call them tractoreggs…and they are scattered all around the village in nearly every field.
    I so much enjoy your writing! Thank you for sharing.

  6. They have triangular hay bales here in South Africa, which I had never seen, they also do the round ones. Love the nature stuff you’ve collected – I’m looking forward to seeing your new creatures.


  7. Hi there Busy Lady,
    Thanks for sharing such beautiful pictures and adventures you are having.
    Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the look of the sky and the way the mood is.
    Have you ever noticed that the closer you get to something in creation, the more perfect it is? You just don’t see that in manmade things.
    Also, thank you for sharing the little baby girl pattern and the offer to get them as kits.
    Nice work, and always an enjoyable visit to your blog.

  8. So nice to get caught-up with you, and good to know that good things are keeping you busy. Be well.

  9. I always enjoy your photographs, it makes it seem like you are there. Fall is my fav time of the year. Beautiful painting

  10. Great blog. I love and admire your creativity with the things of nature. I’m looking forward to more.

    Best to you! Butterfly

  11. I am so curious about the berries in the picture on today’s farm entry… the purple berries grow on large “stalks” around an old well that is in my backyard (in Rhinebeck NY) and I am going crazy trying to find out what they are … the birds don’t eat them so I’m wondering if they are deadly or if they simply have so much else to eat that they are leaving them for “dessert”…

  12. It is a beautiful time of year for you right now. We are at the transitional stage. Not harvest time anymore not yet winter.

    It can be hard to see all the tiny pretty things around you when you are so busy looking at all the new things that are grabbing your city worn eyes. I am not surprised at all that this year everything still seems so new to you. I’ve noticed that when in the city it is difficult to see anything small when everything is so big, full and in a hurry. When out of the city into small towns or open spaces, the small becomes more noticeable because it’s easier to bend and look.

  13. Thanks again for your beautiful photos and paintings…you inspire me! Please help me figure out your NY scarf pattern,I tried it but it does not look like yours,please clarify it! Gracias!

  14. Utterly gorgeous pictures and all of these things are from near where you live, beautiful!

  15. What a wonderful website. Thank you for all of the nice patterns – I definately need to make the bisquit wrap and the hat! Thanks also for sharing your roll recipe.

  16. I have loved reading about your journey; what a wonderful reminder that our attitudes and gratitudes can change our lives.
    I will soon be ordering yarn from your online shop to use with some of the patterns you have so generously shared.
    In your last entry you referred us to the article about the Country Barn Quilt Trail which told how Lora was inspired by the same sort of project in an Iowa county. Just this summer, friends and I drove to that nearby county and enjoyed as many of those barn quilts as we could see in an afternoon.
    I’m looking forward to your next entry.

  17. Hello firefly… Everything looks just beautiful, Autumn is in full swing and it is mighty beautiful with all its breathtaking colors… Your photos are just beautiful, and as you know, it is a real treat for me when I visit here and I look forward to each post with much anticipation… Lovely thoughts to you…



  18. You know I haven’t been back here since October and I’ve receive a PRESENT today – I learned that my berries are Pokeberries – will research them “up one side and down the other” so that I’ll know what to do with them this summer – that is should I cut them down or leave the tall, tall stalks to the birds until spring – I did that this year and they are used as perches when the winds blow them over – its beautiful in mid-winter to see those brown stalks bent and filled with birds of one type or another simply sitting and waiting their turn at one of the birdfeeders in the “wild piece” of my backyard… Thanks all for my present of knowledge!!!

  19. what is the name of the purple berried plant at the top of your blog today? I had one in my yard two years ago, two last year and suddenly this year I have a “gaggle” of them – huge, tall, stately purple berried towers… but I can’t find them in my book of trees or bushes.


  20. I would like to know how difficult it would be to make a knit NY Giants Christmas stocking… I would rather buy one because Im not that good, but would be willing to make it because it is for someone special. I would just need to make it quickly ( i could do it if its pretty basic) Ive knit in the past but nothing fancy. Scarves & hats.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciate.
    thank you
    Happy Holidays

  21. oops, thought i was in the knitting section…

  22. Yes, they are Pokeberries or Pokeweed. They are beautiful, but don’t eat them; you can make a nice purple dye from the juice though.

    Speaking of hay bales, here is a link to one of my photos (a black and white infrared) of hay bales in a field. I hope you enjoy it:

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