It’s cool being a bug

August 28, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Posted in art, blogging, charity knitting, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, summer, volunteerism | 13 Comments

28-aug-07_b.jpgI have been a bug now for a little over one year, and I have to say … it is cool being a bug. Bugs used to creep me out. Okay, bugs still creep me out to a large degree. However, when I became a bug I was fortunate enough to become one that has never creeped me out in the least and one which, in fact, only conjurs up magic in my heart and imagination. Therefore, I do not creep myself out and I have made some very good friends, friends who rather seem to enjoy addressing me by my bug name every bit as much as I enjoy being so called … firefly.

Little did I know when I started my blog last year in early August that it would become anything what it has become by now. I am grateful beyond expression for the warmth of the many comments and emails left by you folks out there. It has been and continues to be an inspirational journey and one that is very cool to take together. You have been with me as I have discovered and become some sort of a part of the landscape that is my new home in rural, Western New York. As I have explored and photographed this endearing place, I have fallen in love with it more and more and you have been a part of that process. I don’t want to over-acknowledge it, because I in no way intend to end this experience. Instead, I would like to do all I can to increase its value and meaning in my life as well as yours.

The evening light shows become more and more spectacular as the year grows older. Saturday evening we were snuggled up on the sofa watching something on television when a very late evening amber-rose light cut shone through the room with gently shifting dappled shadow lights across the television and on over to my oil painting studio across the room. It would be impossible to witness such light without a sense of lively magic permeating the environment. Just as the twinkling light of little fireflys in mid-summer bestow a sense of magic to brighten the soul, so does this rich late-summer, late-evening light brighten and soothe. It reminds us that magic does indeed exist … tangible. Reach out, touch it, taste it … for it is there.

28-aug-07_d.jpgA few minutes later we looked outside, catching sight of the magic light cutting through the trees here and there, high and low. The world was ablaze with magic light. I whispered, “Let’s go outside!” and away we went in a hurry before the magic could fade away. The sky was gray and pink in muted contrast to the bits and pieces of tree foilage, green by day, lit up in tones of deep amber rose. It was breathtaking and made me feel library-quiet because I so did not want to disturb it.

Later that night, as we were beginning to go to sleep, my husband said, “Is that a firefly?” I looked toward our north-facing window (the one that overlooks our barn) and saw one lone firefly blinking on and off right at our window. It was strange, a bit ethereal, to see that single firefly hanging around our bedroom window–this late in the summer. We usually only see them out amongst the trees and shrubs, by the barn and the willow, earlier in the summer. I stayed awake as long as I could watching the one firefly but I fell asleep before its light went out or away. What future magic did the firefly portend? What was the meaning of the little creatures’ visit at our bedroom window? I wonder …

Sunday seemed a perfect day to me. We enjoyed fellowship with our friends at church in the morning, and went teasel testing on the way home. (Teasels, if you recall, are the main ingredient of my Thistleonian Critters. We have been tracking their development this year to try to determine the ideal time to harvest them.) Back at home I had some experimentation to conduct on watercolor paper I wanted to adhere to wood panels for the barn paintings I am longing to get started on. We also watched the Turkish Grand Prix Formula One race which my husband had TIVO’d that morning. After the race, the watercolor paper tests, and a few other home-bound tasks, we set out to harvest a bucketful of teasels and shoot some photographs of apple orchards being prepped for picking, followed by a trip to a local farm market for a couple of scoops of our favorite ice cream.

28-aug-07_horsec.jpgWhile we were out on the photography run, my husband spotted a group of dappled horses enjoying their lazy Sunday afternoon. Three were laying down having a rest, one of those was rolling around like a happy dog …

Side Bar: I have to remember to tell you sometime about my observations regarding the behavior of New York cows versus California cows.

Be sure to check out my One Painting a Day blog to see the latest paintings I have posted there from my “Beginning with Barnum” art show at The Winery at Marjim Manor. Plus, I have found an artist-friendly auction site where I will be posting any of my auctions from now on. Of note, I will be donating 10% of my auction proceeds from the Beginning with Barnum paintings to our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. You can check out a gallery of current auctions here.

Back to the Blog … It was a wonderful summer scene, that group of happy horses lounging, rolling, napping, slowly chomping on hay. We pulled over so I could shoot some photos from the car, and as I shot my photos I was viciously attacked by–I don’t know what. At first all I felt was a bit of a stinging sensation on my forearm, but being the dedicated photographer that I am I bravely continued going for the shot I wanted … one, two, three, and four shots I clicked before pausing to see what was causing the increasingly strong feeling of pain on my arm. At first all I saw was a dark crimson circle of blood standing out in stark contrast to the snowy white of my ultra-soft long sleeved tissue tee. Blood! A stain the size of a nickle, a nickle I tell you! Eee-gaads! What was going on? Quickly my eyes caught sight of some dark, evil creature perched in the middle of the bloody spot. With no time to think, I swept at the monstrous beast with my hand while calling out to my husband that we must flee before it returned. For the first time in my life, I had been bloodied in the line of photographic duty.

28-aug-07_horseb.jpgI barely escaped with my life and I’m not entirely sure that even the mighty power of my economy size Stain-Stik is going to remove that blood stain from my pretty little tee. But, I do this dangerous photography work for you, dear reader. For you. No, no … now don’t try to dissuade me from continuing onward. If bloodied I must be in order to chronicle and bring to you the beauty of this world, then bloodied I shall be and without so much as a wince or a tear, no not I.

Don’t the horses look sweet though. I love the way one of the younger horses lifted its head, roused from a little nap to see what was going on over by the road.

28-aug-07_e.jpgSunday evening, as a mostly perfect day came to a close, I went out to our willow tree and captured some of the magic light of evening dancing through the cascading canopy above. Lovely, just lovely.

This morning, mid-blog, the doorbell rang and when Blu and I answered it, we found a group of four young men who had taken a dunk in the river when their canoe capsized. Their cell phone was drenched in water and so wasn’t working, and they needed to borrow our phone. I handed them a cordless phone while Blu barked to make sure they knew just whose home they were at. I invited them to stay on the porch to wait for their ride, so for about thirty minutes or so we had strangers out on the porch and in the yard enjoying a bit of rest just as the Wheelmen did in years gone by. I enjoyed hearing their voices as they stretched out on the hill at the corner of our yard and imagined what it must have been like when the Wheelmen would stop by on their way to Lake Ontario, stretching out in the shade of the trees and gulping down cold water from the well out back. We have a good life here at our place, and I am happy for any opportunity to share it just as it has been shared so generously with me.

Yes, I am a bug and life continues to unfold and open up, displaying more and more grace and beauty, filling my heart with a sense of gratitude overflowing and dancing along like the water in the river across the road.

It’s cool, being a bug.

Wishing you a lovely day,

The Pike’s Peak Promise

June 5, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Posted in 4th of July, blogging, charity knitting, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, flowers, free knitting patterns, gardening, Habitat for Humanity, health, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, volunteerism | 45 Comments

Fireflys Geraniums planted in Farmhouse CrocksWe have had a busy couple of weeks here, beginning with Memorial Day weekend. The lawns have needed mowing two or three times, my husband designed and engineered a pergola for some gourds my sister-in-law and her husband wanted to grow up at our place, we had that to build, the gourds to plant, and some geraniums to put out in pots around the place as well. Then, of course, we have quite a few other routine responsibilities to take care of: earning a living, Blu to love and care for, duties at Church, chipping in at Habitat for Humanity, Gracious Parcels blankets to piece together, paintings to create, knitting projects to work on, a house to keep somewhat straightened and organized … well, you know the story. You have a similar story of your own.

An interesting thing about getting out on the tractor and mowing the lawn is that while it is a considerable, time-consuming chore, it is also a relaxing bit of time alone to contemplate life, love, the sky, whatever comes to mind. There you are, out in the wide open world with birds and insects dashing here and there right in front of your face, flowers peaking out above grasses and chopped off corn stalks, blue skies stretching out in a great big dome above you, and clean clear air sometimes hot, sometimes cold, most times moist pressing against your face and filling your lungs.

Firefly Drives a Tractor AgainOh beautiful, for spacious skies …

I can’t help but think of the “America the Beautiful” lyrics when I am out on the tractor.

For amber waves of grain …

The waves of grain and grasses surrounding us this time of year are sweet and wild, whispering of many things yet to grow.

For purple mountain magesty …

We don’t have mountains around here, but I have crisp memories of Rocky Mountains from the times I’ve spent in Denver with my family there and the beautiful mountains of Southern California which I will be seeing again in a few days (I am going to LA to dispose of some of my belongings and retrieve the rest).

Fireflys Point of View from the TractorFrom sea to shining sea …

And that’s where you come in.

One month from now it will be July 4th, and we will be celebrating our Independence here in America. America the Beautiful, from sea to shining sea.

If you recall, a while back I wrote about my oldest brother (He Wanted a Nose Warmer posted August 15, 2006) who passed away a couple of years ago. If you recall from that post, “America the Beautiful” was his favorite song and we sang it along with him in the hospital on a day when it seemed he was hours away from passing. Dan loved America, he loved the sights and the nature and the geology and the people and the concept of what America is. He lived in Denver for about fourteen years before he died, and had been to the top of Pike’s Peak.

If you don’t know the history of “America the Beautiful”, the original lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1893 following a pilgrimage she made with other women to the top of Pike’s Peak.

“One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.” ~ Katharine Lee Bates

Another Point of View Shot from Fireflys TractorFor Dan, the words to America the Beautiful expressed fully his own emotions of both the view from Pike’s Peak and the country he loved deep within his heart.

Dan was a very good man, with a sweet nature he tried to disguise at times behind a seemingly gruff exterior. He was beloved by a large circle of family, friends, neighbors, store personnel, doctors, nurses, and business associates.

I spent the last two weeks of his life with him much of the time in his hospital room and then at the hospice where he died. The last time I was with him and the last time we spoke, was less than a day before he passed. We spoke of Pike’s Peak. I told him I intended to make my way to the top of the Peak someday so that I could see what he saw when he was there. It was a promise I made to him as well as to myself.

The day after he died, my parents and I took off in my Explorer and drove down to Colorado Springs to at least have a view of the Peak from a not-too-great distance. That was a beautiful day; clear and crisp blue skies, sunshine, big fluffy clouds above. A day Dan would have cherished. We also stopped for coffee along the way, because he loved coffee. And on the way home we called my second oldest brother and asked him and his family to join us at an IHOP to have pancakes for dinner, just for the fun of it. We wanted to be out in the world he loved so much, tasting a bit of life rather than sitting sadly inside all day in mourning.

That’s what Dan wanted. He said many times in the last days he lived that life was for living and that’s what he expected all of us to do … live. He said very sternly that no one was to get mired down in sadness over him.

I made that promise to him as well, and I have lived up to my promise.

Fireflys Geraniums on the porch at the farmThe other day, as I was driving the tractor I thought about Dan and Pike’s Peak and how I still need to make it there sometime. I also want to make an oil painting of it, and I will. While I was thinking of these things, I had an idea of a project that I would like to ask you to participate in. I am calling it the Pike’s Peak “From Sea to Shining Sea” Project.

My idea is that at least one blogger from each of the 50 states would write an essay about what it is that makes their little place on Earth and in America beautiful. Of course, I would love it if far more than 50 bloggers would participate.

We can form a blogging chain all around the country and share the beauty of this land with photographs or words or a mixture of both … on the 4th of July.

Each blogger would post a bit of code along with their essay that would give links to four other bloggers who are participating — one north, one south, one east, and one west. Participating bloggers can inform me they will do so, I will publish a master list by state of any blogs participating.

Anyone who is participating will be able to grab whichever links they want to post with their essay, and I will provide the code and instructions on how to insert the links you choose into the code and put it in your blog (for anyone who needs that help).

I will also screen the participating blogs to make sure none are purely advertising sites. If you have advertising on your site, that’s okay but the focus of your blog must be an actual blog that communicates to others rather than just words posted to give an excuse for advertising.

The deadline for participating link submissions will be Wednesday June 27th (you don’t have to have your essay written by then, just tell me your intention of post and provide me with the link to your site). I will post the page of participants’ links by Saturday June 30th.

Your essay should be posted and published by the end of the day on July 3rd, so that it will be available first thing on the 4th for viewing and reading. Your post title should be “From Sea to Shining Sea: [fill in your state name here]” so visitors will know you are participating in the Pike’s Peak Project.

This could be very cool, fun, and informative. With the North, South, East and West navigation links from essay to essay, we will each able to quickly “travel” all around the country and “see” from sea to shining sea. We can simulate through our connected blogs the view from Pike’s Peak and the vision it inspires.

No corporate money is involved, no media, no commercial gain, no politics or politicians, no hitches, fixes, or self-serving interests. Just every day Joe’s and everyday Jane’s coming together to celebrate the beauty we have to be grateful for on a day with special meaning to us all.

Sweet Bird at Fireflys FarmI’m doing this for my brother, in his memory. He was a great guy and worthy of a beautiful project like this.

Even if you have never written a blog before, maybe you would consider writing one just that one day. You can get a free blog account at or at,, etc. There are many free blogging services around and some are even user friendly.

This will also give you an opportunity to take a good look in your own backyard, so to speak, and contemplate what is fine and beautiful from your particular vantage point.

Would you like to play this game with me? If so, please email me at editor101 [insert at sign here] or leave a comment to this post. And, spread the word if you would. I’d like to get as many bloggers participating as possible.

Meanwhile, enjoy your beautiful day. I am enjoying mine.


Copyright © 2007 J.L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Buttoned up

May 21, 2007 at 2:33 pm | Posted in biscuit recipes, charity knitting, Christmas, country living, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, gifts, Habitat for Humanity, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, volunteerism, yarn | 16 Comments

Fireflys Vintage Button ShopI enjoy shopping for buttons, picking out special buttons for a particular project.

I especially enjoy shopping for buttons now because it consists of grabbing a cup of tea and heading to the comfy sofa in our sitting room to sort through my treasure bowls and tins of vintage buttons (graciously gifted to me by Dorothy and Winnie, friends of ours at church).

There is a small oil painting I recently created of one of the vintage buttons in the photo above up for auction at eBay. Take a look, if only to see the painting and see if you can find the button from the painting in the photo above … that could be fun.

Fireflys Hand Knit Teddy Bear Sweater with Vintage ButtonsThis morning’s task was to find buttons to put on the teddy bear sweater of my own design I just finished knitting. The sweater isn’t anything particularly fancy. It was more of an exercise in getting into the swing of designing and knitting sweaters; a precursor to designing and knitting a sweater for myself.

Blu watched and followed my every move, giving me his opinion here and there. My teddy bears were on the fireplace mantle watching the process as well, wondering which bear would get the sweater. I could almost hear them saying, “Ooh, ooh … pick me, pick me!”

I decided to use three mix-matched buttons on the front button band, but I also decided to use two round leather-covered buttons to secure the collar, hopefully making the sweater look a little more masculine. That was necessary because I decided to give the sweater to D. L. Merrill, one of the larger Boyd’s Bears added to my collection by my children one Christmas.

FIreflys Teddy Bear Models his Hand Knit SweaterHe liked the sweater and was more than willing to sit for a photo shoot, joined by a number of little buddies. Blu was an excellent consultant on the shoot, but that almost goes without saying. (See photos of Blu helping with photo shoots at the I Live on a Farm website.)

The pattern for this teddy bear sweater will be available a little later in the week.

Yesterday was a cool, rainy day. We spent the entire afternoon cuddling, napping, and watching a bit of television. I also took the opportunity to work on one of the Gracious Parcels blankets. I’ve got six out of seven strips of seven 7″ squares sewn together. Tonight I will finish the last strip and over the next couple of days I’ll sew the strips together and one blanket will be ready. If I could set aside most of one day for hand sewing I could complete one blanket in a day, but I don’t ever have an entire day I can set aside for anything so I make time where I can.

Close up of Vintage Button PlacementFortunately, the Habitat for Humanity house we are building isn’t quite ready for the family to move in, so the blankets will be completed in time to be given as a house warming gift, in spite of my limited sewing time.

Knitting and sewing–even writing for that matter–are slower going these days because I now have a fifty-pound (and growing) puppy who prefers to be on my lap whenever I am sitting anywhere. He is soft, and warm, and full of love…very difficult to say no to. When I knit, he gets up on the sofa and lays right up against me with his head, and as many other parts of him as he can fit, on my lap. As I sewed squares together yesterday, he kept changing his position in an attempt to get himself onto the squares. He loves blankets and he must have known those squares were destined to be a blanket of some kind. It was an amusing challenge to work around him.

Gracious Parcels Spring 07 Blanket Number One in ProgressYesterday I also made a strawberry shortcake from a recipe of my Grandma Johnson’s which I have adapted to my way of baking. The problem with this “short” cake is that it tends to come out large. The shortcake itself is about fourteen inches in diameter after baking. By the time it is cut in half and layered with strawberries and whipped cream, it is a very magnificent looking dessert. I will post a recipe for my version of the shortcake later this week.

Other farm news is that the grasses and dandelions are growing so rapidly on the three acres of lawn around the farm house and barn that we have no choice but to get the tractor out and mow more than once a week. My husband also has to get over to our cottage, a few miles down the road, to mow that lawn as well. I help him with the mowing at the farm; I take care of the area back behind the willow tree in front of the corn field north of the barn, from the road over to the other corn field to the east of the house. I also take care of the large area of lawn all along the eastern corn field, between there and the trees by our driveway.

Being out on the tractor for a while a couple of times a week is a wonderful experience. I appreciate the fact that my husband accepts my help with the chore, and that he lets me use his favorite toy: the tractor. Seeing deep blue skies above our corn fields, the woods, the neighbor’s fields, and our farm is beautiful and serene. The warmth of the sun mixed with the inevitable cool spring breezes in the air feels good inside and out. I feel myself expanding and filling up the largeness of open space before me. Ahh, the calm happiness of open farmland.

Fireflys Strawberry ShortcakeBirds fly here and there, landing on tree stumps, limbs, chopped off cornstalks, and what-have-you watching me do my work. I can even hear some of their voices calling out as I pass by the trees out behind our barn. They seem very interested in the work I am doing and have quite a lot to say to each other–or perhaps to me–as I go.

On that note, I suppose I will end off for the morning. Hope you have a wonderful day, getting going on a wonderful week.

Thanks for stopping by.


Copyright © 2007 J.L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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