The year of faith

January 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Posted in country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, snow, travel | 5 Comments
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Recently I was out and about the farm watching The Duke (my son’s English Bull Dog) frolicking in the snow.  I thought back to January 2006–I was single, living in the foothills just north of Los Angeles in a 15 x 15 square foot room I was renting from a very nice Australian lady.  My children, who I had raised as a single parent, were all grown up and living on their own.

Everything about my life had been turned upside down and inside out.  Making things worse,  it was over 90 degrees … it was January and over 90 degrees.  That was something I just could not abide.

I was sweltering in my little room, taking walks when I could on Hansen Dam, sometimes along a little trickle (barely discernible) of water known as “The LA River” that crawled along a through a little ravine near the place where I was living.  Weekends I lugged my painting supplies, easel, and a canvas from storage to a nearby park so I could paint … in the heat.

Now it is 2011 and here I am … married, living on a 50-acre farm in upstate New York with a 3,000 square foot farm house, a barn, a garage, woods, a wonderfully flowing river full of real water, and thick white snow as far as the eye can see.

It is January, and today we started our day at about -5 degrees with a fresh blanket of snow.

Fluffy, white, beautiful snow.  And I have a wonderful, loving husband who I love so very much.

Finally I am home.

Five years ago today I woke up not knowing this man or this place existed. Actually, that is not entirely true.

The truth is, a powerful spiritual event occurred in 1987 foretelling this entire scene. That spiritual event involved snow, in Los Angeles, on a day of miracles. From that point forward I knew that my husband did exist and that if I just lived my life and kept the faith the time would come when our paths would converge and we would know instinctively who we are to each other and we would join our lives together.

I knew he existed, but I didn’t have his exact coordinates and could not have described his face or told you his name.

It was five years ago today when I first received an email from him, introducing himself. I have told that part of the story here on my blog before.

He told me he was looking for his best friend, someone who complements him and vice versa … that the two would be greater together than they could have possibly been individually.

Though our story is one of great love and happiness, you might be surprised if you knew some of the trials and jarring realities we have been tested by in our few short years together. This has been, and is, quite a large experience.

We came into this marriage relying completely on a deep and abiding faith that we knew what we were doing and that what we were doing was blessed by God.

We met online somewhat by chance at the social networking site, FarmersOnly.com. He introduced himself by email on January 29, 2006. By late February we were seriously exploring all of the “what if’s” of a possible marriage. My early March we openly acknowledged the fact that were were, indeed, going to be married before the end of spring. On March 29 he flew me out to New York and we met face to face for the first time, already knowing we were going to marry. That evening he proposed to me and broke my rib in a big bear hug. A couple of nights later we had our first date.

On April 29, 2006 he was in Los Angeles, we got in my Ford Explorer, drove to Las Vegas and got married for $25 at a drive through window. Nine days later we arrived home at our beautiful farm.

Now, five years later, we are living a life we love. We have pulled through whatever has come our way, each time with a stronger bond than we had before, reassured that our faith in 2006 was not misguided. My daughter and our grand-daughter live with us, as do three dogs — a Weimaraner, an English Mastiff, and an English Bull Dog plus five barn cats. My son has a room here and visits when he can.

Much about our life has not turned out as we thought it would, but isn’t that the stuff of life anyway?

What we have done with it, now that is where our marriage really glistens. We are best friends, and we are much greater together than we ever would have been individually. What we have found and what we have made of what we were given, I wish on many others. I would love to know that many, many others have found and will find something of what we have.

The cool thing is, we’re just getting started …

~ firefly

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I Love New York

May 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, dating, family, flowers, free knitting patterns, gardening, knitting, Life, love, marriage, Mother's Day, photography, relationships, romance, socks, travel, yarn | 22 Comments
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Wouldn’t it be nice to sit down together, have a cup o’ joe, iced perhaps, and chat about a thing or two. Shall we sit out on the porch, or would you like to come inside?

From inside we can look out across the road at the trees growing along the bank of the river. They, like everything else around here right now, are alive with the early yellow-green of spring leafing nearly fully engulfing their swaying branches. The lawn is also vibrant with that yellow-green of spring grass, decorated with perfectly shaped healthy dandelions scattered throughout it. The willow, our grand willow as I like to call her, is plump with new leaves as she sways gently in rhythm with the breeze.

Come, sit with me on the porch to enjoy not only your cup o’, but the sounds of spring as well. As we sit and sip together, you will hear the wonderful voices of many different song birds and flights of Canadian geese coursing by at times. At times you will hear the river flowing softly down below and at other times you will hear the gentle rustling of millions of leaves as the inevitable spring breezes and winds ebb and flow. Isn’t it all so lovely.

The flowering trees here at our place and all over the area where we live were loaded down with an ample supply of blossoms this year, indicating it seems that they all enjoyed the early spring weather. Our crab apple tree was glorious with her heavy load of crimson blossoms that faded to a lovely, deep pink before falling to the ground in a colorful springtime carpet.

Our lilac tree is in full bloom today with purple blossoms reaching high into the sky, some dipping lower to the ground. The fragrance is so intense you can smell it even if standing twenty five feet or more away in the open lawn.

There is a deep sense of peace and satisfaction I get when strolling about the yard this time of year. Although I love the cold of winter and the beauty of snow, there is a precious feeling of comfort that arrives with the warmth and colors of spring. This is the changing of the seasons I so longed for when I was living in Los Angeles; the marking of time through distinct and delicious changes in season is ingrained somewhere deep inside me and I could never feel at home living without it.

I have to say this– though I never would have thought I would–I love New York.

It is such a surprise to find that New York was the home I yearned for, not NYC, but New York the state. I longed to live in the country, in a rural setting, with the changing of the seasons, a brief and tolerable summer, lots of snow, barns a plenty, and good down-to-earth people to live in harmony with. New York is all those things and more.  I know that now after living here for four years.

My husband and I just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary, and Sunday will mark my fourth anniversary of living on the farm. Four years ago when we arrived “home” from our honeymoon, I sat out there on the back stoop watching my new husband mow the lawn on his tractor and waved to him as he passed in front of the barn. It was a strange little moment back then, to sit there a little bit stunned by my change in circumstances and really having the first opportunity to sit and think about what I had just done.

I had married a man I met online only three months earlier, I left behind almost everything I owned and drove across the country from Los Angeles to rural upstate western New York and landed on a farm … with a husband … on a tractor … and a barn. Up until that moment when I was sitting there on the stoop everything had been such a whirlwind that none of it had really sunk in. That was the first quiet moment by myself, and it just started dawning on me and I said the words in my head, “I live on a farm. I live on a farm and my husband drives a tractor.”

Now, four years later, it is still remarkable to think about. We are so very fortunate that it all has worked out, and that we are even better for each other than we thought we would be. I know things don’t always work out that way for people, but it did for us and we both continue to be grateful on a daily basis that we were touched by the grace of God and found each other and had the courage to make the decisions we made, seemingly in haste, that brought our lives together.

It is strange also how this blog has become such an integral part our story, our lives. I started writing it just about three months after I arrived at the farm and it quickly became a part of my work-a-day life. There is always this on-going dialogue with my readers even when I am not actually writing. Whenever I see beautiful, interesting, intriguing, and new things in my life, I think of how I would write about it so as to share it all with you, dear reader. You are my friend, and I always want to share whatever is happening in my life with you and the many others who open up my blog for a read and a chat.

And speaking of you, I have something exciting for you if you are into knitting, which many of my readers are. I have been working in consultation with Kimber Baldwin (Kimber Baldwin Designs, maker of Fiber Optic sock and lace yarns) on a very special project.

What I love about Kimber’s yarns is that she make low-contrast sock yarns. I have to be honest with you, I am not a fan of high contrast colorways in yarn. I do not care for striped or blotchy looking knitting items. All of my designs are based on solid colors with accents, but no variegated colorways. The exception to that is the Little Violet Who Christmas Stocking, which I designed using two of Kimber’s low-contrast colorways. The low contrast technique she has developed results in a nice subtle variegation in the yarn so that you have the benefit of an interesting texture to the color without the jarring contrast of high-contrast alternatives.

Kimber and I have been searching for synergistic ways to work together, partnering up my knitting pattern designs with her beautiful low-contrast colorways. Earlier this year however, we had a new idea that sprang up a bit ahead of spring itself. Kimber is designing a series of twenty four (two per month) of her low-contrast, scrumptious colorways inspired by my blog, my farm and farming community, my photography, and my works of fine art.

The series begins with May flowers from my farm, the two colorways for May will be Lilacs and Rhoda — Rhoda, if you remember, is what I named the gorgeous antique giant tree peony I found blooming in our yard shortly after I moved here back in 2006.  I fell in love with her graceful twelve inch blossoms and have continued to photograph her each year as her buds evolve and her blossoms open just before Memorial Day weekend.  I have featured her in paintings, and this year have created a 48″ x 24″ oil painting of a portion of one of her elegant blossoms as the centerpiece of my upcoming art show.

As Kimber releases her new colorways, I will design patterns using her yarns and I can hardly wait to design and knit a beautiful pair of socks for myself using the Rhoda colorway.

The winner of May’s Fiber Optic Yarn Give Away will get to choose between which of the two colorways to receive … so get ready!  To enter in the give away you will need to sign up here.  We want you to help us get the word out about this exciting new yarn series, so by sending other knitters to the giveaway you will be entered in the drawing multiple times, increasing your chances to win.  Just have your friend(s) mention your email address in the “Friend” field on the signup form.

Soon I will be able to announce the details of my summer art show.  I will have at least ten brand new pieces on display that I have been working on over the past several months.  The show will run from June 18th through July 28th, so if you are interested in visiting a truly beautiful country byway sometime this summer come to my neck of the woods and enjoy the land, the people … and my show!

Meanwhile, step outside and find something lovely to look at this fine, mid-spring day in May!

~firefly

Copyright © 2010 J. L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Isn’t that something …

August 19, 2009 at 10:39 am | Posted in art, blogging, country life, dating, dogs, faith, family, gardening, health, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, pumpkin recipes, relationships, romance, summer | 25 Comments
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fieldofdreamsI started writing this blog on August 6, 2006. That was just a little over three years ago and I had just recently married my husband, driven across the country with him from Los Angeles to upstate western New York and joined him to live on the farm. It was all so fresh and new to me then, and still is in so many ways. But man, how things have changed and evolved in just three short years.

Moving from Los Angeles to a farm in New York was, needless to say, a mind-boggling change in life. Getting married after almost twenty years of being a very self-sufficient, independent single/divorced woman was an enormous change. I remember so crisply the moment when I was sitting out back on the stoop the day after we arrived “home” following our cross-country honeymoon drive and watched as my new husband circled the barn on his tractor and saying in somewhat stupefied* wonder, “I live on a farm. I live on a farm, and my husband drives a tractor.”

*stupefy: verb: “2. to stun, as with a narcotic, a shock, or a strong emotion., 3. to overwhelm with amazement; astound; astonish.” (Dictionary.com)

haybales2When I started writing my blog, I had no idea where it would lead me much less where it would lead you as a reader. I just intended to write a blog about whatever knitting projects I was working on and participate in that online community a bit. It was an experiment to find out what blogging was about and to learn what I could about the process. I chose knitting as my subject because knitting is something I know a thing or two about and so felt I could say something sensible on the subject.

What happened though, is that the blog became an outlet for the process of discovery that I was involved in. As I got to know my new environment here I shared my discoveries in my blog and my readers enjoyed coming along with me on that journey. So, off I went discovering more and more about where I am now and what my new life is all about.

oldcornYou know how it is when you are watching a movie or you see something in life that is amazing or amusing and you want to have someone right there who you can say, “Wow, wasn’t that something?!” to. It is more satisfying and electrifying if you have someone to share that moment with. I think you get more out of the moment or the joke or whatever if you have someone to share it with. Well, so it is with what has happened in my life. This blog, and you the reader, have worked together to expand and enrich the experiences I am having here. It is as if all of you readers as a whole are this great big combined person I have to share a beautiful childlike sense of wonder with as I go about exploring and discovering my new life.

Whenever I am out and about in the yard, or at the river, on a nearby farm, etc. I see interesting or beautiful things and I think of you and I want to say, “Hey take a look at this … isn’t that something!” The funny thing is, I feel you right there beside me in this universe. I grab the camera and shoot a photo to capture whatever it is, and I have you my reader in my mind as I do it and I can feel the moment in the future when I share that photo with you and you get it. You are my companion and my friend, and I know you are there.

Now, isn’t that something.

I know my posts have become fewer and farther between lately, but that is because there is a baby in the house and I have this momentary opportunity to experience first-hand my granddaughter’s development and growth as she begins her journey into a new life with all of the discoveries that go along with it. My blogging will return to a weekly routine before too long, and I will have even more to share with my readers. I promise I am not giving up on this adventure.

cinderellaMeanwhile, what a summer we are having. Three years ago I was a woman freshly arrived from Los Angeles who had tried to grow a garden in the desert and only created more tumbleweeds. Now I am partly responsible for a thriving pumpkin patch on a piece of earth measuring 36′ x 36′ … a trinket sized garden on a fifty-acre farm in Western New York. Not only do we have many pumpkins growing out there, we have big pumpkins growing out there. For me, this is a huge and happy win because I have not had success before this growing plants in or out of the home. Now I can go out back and pick my way among huge happy pumpkin vines with big ol’ cheerful leaves and find white, green, yellow, and orange pumpkins in various sizes, shapes, and stages of development. None of those pumpkins would be there if I hadn’t dreamed up this Sincere Pumpkin Patch, ordered seeds, helped get them started indoors, organized a work party to plant them outdoors, and participated in the activity of planting and christening them.

Of course, there has been some prayer involved and I know it has helped our pumpkins along. If you have prayed for our pumpkins, thank you so much for lending your support as well.

Three years ago I was also a woman who had made one small batch of somewhat runny strawberry preserves in Los Angeles. Now I regularly make preserves that set up right properly to a fine, even perfect consistency. Last year I made more than 100 jars of various preserves including sour cherry, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and peach. This year I have made wild raspberry preserves, rhubarb, rhubarb-cranberry, and ginger-peach so far. The rhubarb-cranberry and the ginger-peach are special recipes I have developed and they are quite tasty, I must say. I will be making even more peach preserves, and this fall I will make some more of the apple preserves I started developing that first year I came to the farm. I am producing so many jars of preserves that I actually am in need of a jelly cabinet.

cottoncandyNow, isn’t that something.

Last year I even canned four jars of sour cherries, and four jars of peaches. That might not sound like much, but for a first-time canner it was a pretty big deal to me. This year, I have signed up for two canning classes at the local 4-H club, one for peaches and one for apples. Next summer I intend to can more cherries and peaches, and I also want to do something with some tomatoes (which my husband seems to be good at growing).

Another recent development is that we are attending obedience classes with Blu. Blu is a dear dog, and we love him almost desparately. However, he has tended to be an unstable dog who is capable of misbehaving, stealing (and eating) entire bricks of butter, barking inappropriately, and running away in the opposite direction when I say, “Come.”

Last night we attended our third class and he is doing great. I can tell he appreciates the training, because he has become even more affectionate and has become more relaxed as well. I enjoy the one-on-one time we spend together out in the yard each day reviewing his lessons. It is great to be able to walk with him now without having him constantly going in circles around me. He actually walks by my side and trucks along with me. If all we accomplished from the class was just that one thing, that would be plenty right there. Blu, you old silly dog. I do love you so much.

webeelittleBlogging, knitting, and painting have all slipped a bit by the wayside over the past few months because life has been demanding my time and attention in other areas. Now I am gearing up again for quite a bit of painting production for two reasons. One is that five of the paintings I hanging at Zambistro Restaurant have sold over the past year and their walls are begging me for more. On top of that, a lady phoned me recently who is opening an art gallery across the street from the restaurant and she wants to put on a show of my work this coming January, shortly after she opens. I am also supposed to display again at the Cobblestone Society Museum for their Olde Tyme Days event on September 12, coming up here shortly.

I have hardboard panels laying all over the place now being prepped for many paintings to come and I’ve been pouring over photographs choosing my subjects and getting my thoughts all organized. I am up for the challenge and life seems to be arranging itself more harmoniously for the kind of production I need to get into. Somehow I will make it all go right and get everything back on track.

Life, as it turns out, is a great big glorious moving river. Sometimes it slows down a bit, sometimes it gets all muddy and roars right past as it hurries you along. Sometimes it absolutely sparkles with jewels on a perfect summer day, inviting you to jump in and have a swim. Other times it glows under the sublime light of a full golden moon, giving you a few minutes to contemplate the joys and loves and smiles you have been blessed with in life.

sincereAs always, I am grateful for it all. Even the muddy waters that move too quickly and leave me feeling temporarily dazed. They too serve a purpose and I embrace them fully, now that I understand the way life works. It is all good. There are jewels hidden in any and every experience, and it is up to me whether I discover those jewels or not. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t … but I am certain they are always there somewhere.

~firefly

P.S. Today my mother begins chemotherapy. Please pray for her, and for my father. My father is on his fourth round of chemotherapy. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for them to be going through this at the same time. They are the kindest, most loving and gentle people you could ever hope to know and quite strong. I know they will get through this, but I also know that extra love, thoughts, and prayers headed their way will help. Thank you.

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