Some kind of ‘ectomy or other

June 5, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Posted in baby, country life, dating, faith, family, flowers, gardening, gifts, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, pumpkin recipes, summer, travel | 20 Comments
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pumpkinpatch1Life is an interesting pursuit. It can be engrossing, it can be dull at times, sometimes filled with love and laughter, sometimes lonely and empty.

I look at this little pumpkin vine. He is living in a little pot on our warm sun porch waiting to be transplanted into the ground. He might not know it yet, but is a part of a fun game we are playing and a big event that is about to happen. Hello little pumpkin, hold on because the ride ride of your life is just getting started.

These photos show the little pumpkin plant just a few days after we started the seeds indoors. By now the young vines are much larger and growing vigorously even though they are still living indoors on the porch.

Of the six varieties we planted, all have sprouted at least three healthy looking vines (we planted four seeds of each variety). It was a thrill when we saw that first little green sprout. I told Sweet Pea, “Your pumpkin patch is coming along now!” and she gave me a big, happy smile.

Here is a photo of Rhoda (next photo below), the giant tree peony; notice it is the peonies that are giant, not the tree. If you look just beyond Rhoda to that interesting looking tree, that is a very old basket willow (at least that is what we think it is). If you look way back through the yard, beyond the trees and into the sunlit part of the grounds back there, that is where Sweet Pea’s Sincere Pumpkin Patch 2009 will be situation. The sprouts you see above will soon be long, healthy vines creeping along the ground reaching down into the Earth with roots and growing luscious, fat pumpkins up above.

pumpkinpatch3In two weeks, on Father’s Day weekend that piece of Earth you see back there in the sunlight will be center stage of a wonderful family event we have planned. My parents, my son, and an dear friend we have known since I was a teenager are all coming here to spend several days on the farm with us and to meet Sweet Pea for the first time.

While they are all here, we will all work together to create the Sincere Pumpkin Patch (“Sincere” for short). As a part of the project, we will build an entryway to Sincere that will consist of a garden trellis and a hand painted sign.

The reunion will be a perfect opportunity for a group of old friends and family, plus a few newbies (my husband, my son-in-law and dear little Sweet Pea) to work together to create something for the future and to celebrate Sweet Pea’s new life as it spreads out in front of her.

It will also be wonderful for my son and my parents to see the farm and surrounding area during the abundant green growth, farm production, and flowing water of summer–up to now they have only been here at Christmas.

rhodayardblog2This will be a time of creativity, planning, smiles, and love and we are all looking forward to embracing the time and each other very much. I have not seen my parents (in person) since Christmas 2006, and we have not seen our family friend since sometime prior to 2001 when he moved to Florida from California to be closer to is children and grandchildren. Seeing him again will be a treat for us all, and most especially for my father.

About my father … I have a favor to ask of my readers.

Actually, I will ask you for a favor for both my father and my mother; Dad first.

He is a great guy, and I love him dearly. We have been best friends for a very long time, a very long time indeed. He is generous and loving to all he meets, always has a kind word for strangers, and is first in line when anyone in the family needs help of any kind. You can see what is important to him and to my mother by walking into their home. Everywhere you look there are photos of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each time any one of us has a birthday, my parent phone the birthday man/woman/boy/girl and sing “Happy Birthday” in harmony. It is so sweet and so innocent.

This week was my father’s birthday. He is not so very old, but he has a situation and I would like to ask for your prayers for him and for my mother.

He has cancer of a certain kind and has just started chemo therapy. He did not know of the state of his cancer or the needed chemotherapy until very recently and by the time he found out we had all of the Sincere planning going on, everyone had airline tickets and the big event was in full swing.

rhodablog3The cancer was moving quickly enough that his doctor wanted him to go ahead and get started on chemotherapy prior to the trip, and my father is very determined to come out to New York regardless of chemo therapy. He is being very positive about his situation and very strong willed about doing what he wants to do regardless of whatever is going on with his body. Mom is giving him great back up and we are all giving him lots of love.

The great thing is that he is keeping his sense of humor as well, and we have had some very fun and silly conversations on the phone making jokes that help keep the spirit light and all of our attitudes very spunky and positive. I am certain, and have a very strong intuition, that he is going to come through chemotherapy just fine … nonetheless, chemotherapy is not fun. Originally the doctor wanted to give him another treatment just three days before their flight, but now it looks like they will be able to postpone that treatment until just after they return from NY.

Meanwhile, there was more news. This time it was my mother. A spot was found during a recent mammogram. That spot was biopsied and found to be cancerous. The other day I was speaking with them on the phone and offered to post a prayer request for my father on my blog. My father said, “How about Mom too?”, to which I responded that maybe she wanted to wait to find out more about what the spot was all about (this was before she knew all that she knows now about it).

My mother’s response was direct and simple, “I know what it is: I have cancer and they’re going to do some kind of ‘ectomy or other to get rid of it.” Well, there just isn’t any beating around the bush with my mother. She calls a spade a spade, and she was not afraid to say the “c” word. The “some kind of ‘ectomy” statement gave me a good laugh … what a great way to put it, and a great way to put cancer in its place.

rhodayardblog1My request to my readers is for prayers for these dear, sweet parents of mine. They are two of the dearest people you could ever hope to know or know about and it gave them comfort to know I would ask my dear readers to send out a prayer or two their way.

While you are at it, you might include a little something for the Sincere Pumpkin Patch and all of those hearty little vines we will be planting soon. May that little patch of Earth and the pumpkins that grow on it be especially blessed.

Just so you know, I have some knitting news related to my popular Biscuit Blanket pattern, well I just released a kit with the pattern (as a download), the yarn, a gift bag, a note card, and two very handsome bookmarks with my Blue Ribbon Biscuit recipe. What I wanted to do with this kit is give a person everything they need to make a scrumptious hand knit Biscuit Blanket and to pass it along as a gift to someone else. The kits include enough yarn to make one Biscuit Blanket and a small amount of hand wound yarn in an accent color so that your Biscuit Blanket will come out especially beautiful.

I put a lot of care into selecting colors and color combinations that I felt would make the most scrumptious Biscuit Blankets. Check out the listing at my Etsy store to see the colors I have for you. I am hoping this kit will help those of you living in cities to experience and share a bit of the feeling and aesthetics of our life on the farm with someone you love. In addition to the standard kit, I have some jars of preserves on hand which I will share with a few of my readers, on a first come, first served basis to add to the Biscuit Blanket ensemble for a little extra money. If interested, leave me a comment or send me an email and I will contact you with more details.

By the way, if you already have the Biscuit Blanket pattern, you may choose a substitute pattern from my complete catalog.

Life is calling me, and I have to be getting along. Early next week I’ll post updated knitting content at the Knitting Blog as well. Meanwhile, I hope you have enjoyed seeing these final photos of this year’s Rhoda festival. Keep this in mind, the completely opened flowers are 9″ to 11″ in diameter.

Is that not something very, very special?

Have a beautiful weekend, and may a dream or two come true.



All Photographs and other content on this blog are Copyright © 2009 J. L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Pumpkin seeds and tea cups

May 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, flowers, gardening, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, travel | 5 Comments
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21apr09_teacakeWhen my children were babies my parents tried to tell me how very different it is to be grandparents as opposed to being parents. I did my best to understand what they meant, but I realize now that I needed to be a grandparent myself to actually get it. So, Dad and Mom … I get it now.

[FYI: New knitting content was posted at The Knitting Blog 20 May 09.]

My daughter and I lived with my parents when she was born, and we lived with them for her first two years. Today my daughter and her daughter live with my husband and I and they will continue to do so for a few months still.

She and I take turns at night, being the one on call to listen out for little Sweet Pea, change her diaper when needed, rock her back to sleep. Of course, she takes care of all the feeding and I am on call as her back up doing what I can to help make sure this new mother gets some much needed sleep.

I alternate back and forth between some sort of super-human adrenalin-induced state that precludes my normal need for sleep and the sudden, instant onset of a “must sleep now” command that only hits at a time when I am not on call. Some parts of my body are feeling older than I thought I could feel, while emotionally and mentally I still feel complete odd calling myself “grandma” … it sounds so much older than I ever think of myself as being.

21apr_crocusMy mother was several years younger than I am now when I was the first of her five children to make her a grandmother. She didn’t look like any grandmother I had ever seen, and I suppose I don’t look like that mental image picture I have in my mind of what a grandmother is. My mental image is based on my own grandmothers, who seemed quite old to me when I was a child.

Oh well, what does it all mean anyway. Age is both relative and inevitable. There is a certain unavoidable math involved in parenthood and grandparenting. I believe you would need to be at least approximately 25 years old to become a grandmother, and as some of we women have proved, you can be two times that or older to be the mother of a newborn child.

I wonder, as I write this, what image might be in the reader’s mind of what I might look like now that you know me to be a grandmother. Picture me as a tiny little round orb of green-blue light orbiting round your garden on a hot summer night … remember, I am a firefly not a human being. What does that make Sweet Pea?

21apr09_7We have already begun making progress on Sweet Pea’s Sincere Pumpkin Patch project. A while back I ordered seeds for several varieties of pumpkins:

  • Big Moon Gigantic Pumpkins
  • Wee Be Little Pumpkins
  • Howden’s Field Pumpkins
  • Rouge d’Etampes Pumpkins
  • Cotton Candy Pumpkins
  • Long Island Cheese Pumpkins

We are going to try to make one or two vines of each variety grow and see what kind of pumpkins we can make appear by the end of summer. Pray for us, because we are not farmers even though we live on a farm. Well, pray for the vines and the pumpkins that God and the powers that be might be merciful with them and grant us (me in particular) a super-firefly ability to make this garden grow. [As I type this we are already behind schedule on starting our seeds indoors. Hopefully this is not a fatal error. It is, we will learn from our mistake.]

21apr09_5We will requisition a piece of our arable land back from the real farmer who rents from us and make that our experimental pumpkin patch. The idea, if you don’t recall, is that my husband and I will experiment with growing pumpkins and see what we can learn and accomplish within the next three or four years. If we can figure anything worthwhile out about it and produce some viable pumpkins, we will then pass on our knowledge and experience to Sweet Pea to help her grow her own pumpkin patch each year — that is, if Sweet Pea has any interest in this project.

Hopefully we will all become proficient enough that we will be able to have an annual “let’s go pick out our own jack-o-lantern” pumpkin picking day and Sweet Pea–if she is so inclined–can have a roadside pumpkin stand to earn a bit of her own pocket money and learn something about being an entrepreneur.

21apr09_1Spring in our area came early this year and is especially sweet and beautiful. The photos I am sharing on today’s blog are a bit outdated, because we are beyond this point by now. The fruit trees are all loaded down with blossoms, the lilac tree out by the back of the barn is plump with an abundance of lilac buds, some of the heirloom/antique vines and shrubs growing around the farm are alive with color, Rhoda (my heirloom tree peony) has so many buds this year I haven’t even counted them all.

Last week one morning I stepped out to take my daughter’s dog out for a stroll and it was beautiful outside I literally caught my breath. It was one of those perfect moments of spring beauty when the light is still golden after a morning shower that has just barely cleared out.

There are three swans hanging out on the piece of river we see from our kitchen and living room. I love the very fact of being able to walk through my house, look out the window and see a river and get the bonus of three swans lingering and feeding our side of the bend.

21apr09_4Saturday my husband was out restaking the white flags of the electronic fence for the dogs when I had a powerful urge to go out and tell him I love him and give him a hug for all the work he does around here. So I took off out through the yard and the field of dandelions, amongst the apples trees along our drive, past the willow and her little “gum drop” evergreen buddy. The sky was dark and stormy but in a soft, sweet spring sort of way. There was something so powerful about the scene with the dark clouds in the distance, the muted lighting in the immediate area, and all of the space surrounding us. Meeting up with him out there and sharing that instance of time and nature was one of those perfect little moments you come across that burns itself into your mind and heart forever.

Speaking of perfection … I asked an artist friend of mine to create a pencil portrait of sweet Blu as a birthday gift for my husband. His birthday isn’t until the end of May, but I received the portrait in April so I gave it to him as an anniversary gift instead. He loved it, and I am certain you will see why if you follow the link I provded. Christine Sargent is the artist; she draws and paints children and pets primarily, but also landscapes. She is a dear, dear friend of mine for many years from the L.A. area and a very talented professional artist. She was thoughtful enough to include a free print of the portrait as well as the original. So, we have one here at the farm to hang on the wall and he was able to frame one to hang in his office at work. Quite a treat, quite a treat indeed.

And yes, it was our anniversary just recently … April 29th. We have been married three years and are now grandparents together. In just three short years we have already faced some tough situations together and experienced much joy. After three years we have decided that this little Internet experiment of ours is working out just fine; for us the whirlwind romance of meeting online and getting married three months later worked out better than we even thought it would.

It’s a good life, and I am joyful and grateful to have found someone to help me make it so and that I can do the same for. Here’s to us, honey! May others find something like what we have found.

A few of my favorite things

August 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, fingerless gloves, gifts, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, pets, romance, scarf patterns | 9 Comments
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When I was a little girl in school I joined the Glee Club and one fall season we learned some of the songs from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. One of my favorites was the “My Favorite Things” song, which we performed during the Christmas show when I was in sixth grade, before my family moved from North Carolina to Los Angeles. Today that song, those lyrics, are on my mind …

Last Friday my husband and I drove down to Bath, New York for the annual pig roast at his nephew’s place. His nephew bought a 100 acre farm property ten years ago or so in a beautiful setting in the hills, surrounded by hilly farmlands, woods, mountains, and plenty of beauty. The nephew is not a farmer, but his wife keeps a small garden and he plants a field of corn every year to attract deer and geese. They hunt, and some of their friends hunt, so you can imagine why they would want to attract game.

I am a vegetarian. I understand some people like to hunt, and I do my best to accept that fact graciously, without judgment. I go to the pig roast because I love my husband and want to be supportive of his desire to spend some quality time with his family (he is not a hunter either, just so ya know). The setting is gorgeous, and the camping is fun. I try to tune out the parts that are just so completely 180 degrees away from who and what I am and focus instead on the positive.

We take a tent, as do several other families, and camp out for a couple of days there on his lawn. This time we also took Blu with us, which was a wonderful experience for all three of us.

My husband borrows a big party tent from our church along with some tables and chairs and we go the day before the “event” to set up the tent and help out with whatever else might need to be done. My sister-in-law and her husband also go the day before, and we enjoy that first quiet evening camping out with just them.

On the big day there are plenty of other things that have to be done to prepare for the feast and party, so we stay busy most of the day. My husband cooks his famous salt potatoes — fifty pounds of them. This year his salt potatoes were the best I have had so far, and there were plenty of left overs so we could bring some home. They make the best home fries, yum yum yum. A favorite thing.

It was an interesting experience for Blu because he has never spent a night away from home since we first brought him to live with us. He got to camp out in a real tent with his two favorite humans and he got to socialize with half a dozen other dogs of varying personalities and ages over the course of the weekend. My husband pointed out that by Sunday Blu had noticeably matured; I agree with that assessment.

One of Blu’s new experiences was getting bit by another dog. That was not fun. Evidently this particular dog bites pretty much every dog she meets and it seems to be a somewhat accepted reality. I did not accept it however, so I spent a good deal of time observing the dogs and how they were responding to each other. I struck up an agreement with that one dog: she would not bite Blu any more, and I would maintain better control of his nervous energy. We both held up our end of the bargain and there was no more biting, lucky for Blu. Blu did have a great time all in all.

On the drive down along an old country road we saw the amazing carriage house you see in the photos. It is aged with a lovely patina just like a beautiful old barn, yet the design and details are incredibly lovely. Neither of us had ever seen a building like this before.

As pretty as the setting was, as much as we enjoyed getting out on a mini-vacation, there isn’t quite anything like arriving back home, putting everything away, and going on with our kind of normal. You know I love and appreciate my home, this farm, the river … all of it. Coming back after being away for a little bit I want to run all over the yard hugging the barn, the willow, the cats, the hostas, the porch, the river. Hug it all close to me, hold on tight, take a deep deep breath.

Two nights ago we had a windy rain storm that came through here, and the rain must have come in horizontally because our air conditioner filled up with water and we had to turn it off. Yesterday when my husband came home from work he asked me if I had noticed we lost some limbs on the willow tree. I was so busy inside yesterday I had not seen any downed limbs. We took a walk out there together to get a better view, and it was so sad. Three of the largest limbs had broken off, and one good sized but smaller limb. Four limbs in all, on the side of the willow that faces the house.

It looks like one very heavy limb fell and when it did it brought down the other three limbs with it. By the time my husband gets it all cleared away, I fear the silhouette of our lovely willow will be greatly changed. So sad. I suppose I need to be grateful that I have been able to enjoy the grace of that gentle giant for three summers now and focus on that gratitude rather than the sad loss of the mighty limbs.

I plan to gather as many of the whips as I can and get them wound and woven into wreathes and other pretty shapes so that at least there are tangible pieces of our lovely, grand willow gracing the world in spite of death of some of her best limbs.

You know what I just heard? Canadian geese flying over head. It is mid-August and we already have signs of autumn. Leaves are already changing on maples trees throughout the area, geese are already beginning to arrive. The breezes, winds and weather have changed to very cool for the most part (although we still have an occasional warm and humid day).

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The feeling of change from summer to autumn is most poignant of all season changes, for me. Perhaps it is all tied up in childhood memories of school starting (which I loved), the weather cooling down and refreshing my soul, the raking and piling of leaves to be jumped into, tasty persimmons ripening, pumpkins, hay rides, the march of holidays, closeness of family and friends.

These are a few of my favorite things …

Here it comes again, and those wonderful feelings of excitement and wonder get all stirred up inside of me again.

In preparation for cool and cold mornings ahead, I designed and knit myself a scarflette I am calling “Cuppa Joe”. The yarn I used is a dainty, soft wool blend that is the color of a cuppa black coffee — one of my favorite things. I am designing a pair of fingerless gloves to match and I will use this set to keep my neck and hands warm as I sip my morning cuppa Joe this autumn. I used a lightweight yarn in a loose knit because I want a bit of warmth, not confining heat because these items are for indoor use. Soon as I finish the fingerless gloves I will put together a pattern for the set so others may follow suit if they so choose.

I am knitting up a baby blanket using that same quilt stitch pattern I used for my Biscuit Blanket. This is going to be a cuddly, scrumptious baby blanket keeping someone much more precious than a biscuit warm. Babies … another of my favorite things. A pattern for this baby blanket will be available soon.

I do have another Christmas Stocking pattern available. I shared a photo of this one a couple of weeks ago, but this is a much better photo so here it is again. The printed version and the online download are both available in my Etsy store if you are interested.

You know what else is on my list of “a few of my favorite things”? You. The comments readers leave on my blog, the emails I receive, the customers I have the pleasure of serving … you are all so warm and wonderful. I am so completely grateful for you, for the friends I have gotten to know a bit about, the other blogs and creative things I have been exposed to because of this connection. It is all so beautiful and rich.

(Psst: Where would we all be if AlGore had not invented the Internet?)

This week I want to share a connection with you that I have found to be very dear. There is a lady who reads my blog — one of many very special readers. I am singling her out today because autumn is on the way and autumn represents all things beautiful to me. This lady’s name is Beverly, her blog is Tea Time and Roses. I love her sense of aesthetics and her ladylike view of life. She even has an Etsy Shop of her own where she sells paper products (cards, tags, etc.) reflecting that pretty sense of aesthetics and style that is all her own. Beverly lost her beloved mother this year, and it broke my heart to read about her loss and grief, but life does go on and Beverly demonstrates that in the continued loveliness of her own creativity and spirit.

As time goes on, I plan on giving shout outs to other bloggers and online shop owners whose words and creativity I admire … a few of my favorite things.

Oh, and another favorite of mine is that client I have been doing surveys for over the course of the summer. He is in the Bay Area in California, and tells me that when he and his wife were walking around their yard last weekend he also noticed some leaves already beginning to turn. So, I suppose autumn is coming early in California as well.

He, by the way, is a very good and interesting man. I love working with him because he is smart and decent, and truly cares about helping people. If you haven’t already participated in the survey, I invite you to give it a go if you would. And, please see if you can get the man/men in your life to participate as well — we need more male voices involved in the subject. This month one lucky participant will get to choose between a $50 gift card to Home Depot or Lowe’s, or $50 worth of patterns in my Etsy Store, or a signed and numbered print of my “Bosc Pears From Local Farm Market” oil painting. So, if you already participated but your husband, father, brother, male-friend, etc. hasn’t, ask him to and maybe if he wins he’ll share the prize with you. (You do have to be a U.S. resident to participate in the drawing-sorry.)

And of course, my husband is one of my very most favorite things. No matter where we are or what is happening around us, we are most happy when we are together. It is phenomenal to find that, even (or especially) a little bit later in life. 🙂

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel, so bad.

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