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.

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.

~firefly

rhodablog2

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

Treasured visitors

January 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Posted in art, blogging, Christmas, cookie recipes, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, gifts, hat patterns, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, pumpkin recipes, recipes, relationships, romance, snow, socks, yarn | 17 Comments

Jack Frost left some magic on Fireflys windows this morningAnother holiday season has swept through, leaving in its wake warm and loving memories and a sweet lingering feeling of relaxation. Each year I learn new lessons in keeping the holidays in simpler and more humble manners. This is my personal effort to help keep the true spirit of the holidays alive for myself, my loved ones, and anyone whose life I might happen to touch in some way or other.

I find I succeed in some ways, and fail in others but always my quest is to get it better than I have before, learn from my mistakes, discard regrets, and move on toward a future of increased goodwill and peace to whatever degree I, one single individual spirit, can contribute to that motion.

The beauty and magic of snow on fireflys farm in Western New YorkMy beautiful, large family, which has gone through various stages of fragmentation since the death of my oldest brother two years ago, is finding and knitting its way back together. My son and daughter, my husband, and I spent Christmas alone here on our farm just the four of us … and of course our dear sweet Blu and a couple of magic cats that showed up lately on our porch.

We enjoyed a beautiful snow storm on Christmas eve, the day my son flew in from California. After that, for several days, the four of us stayed at home pretty much the entire time. My son and I enjoyed cooking together on Christmas eve and Christmas day … treasured memory. The four of us visited together peacefully, gently, with love and regard for one another. We enjoyed laughter, gifts, naps, the “Christmas Story” marathon on television, tasty baked goods, and pretty scenes outside our the many windows of our home.

Pretty touching snow outside of fireflys farm in Western New YorkI managed not to cry when we drove him to the airport and dropped him off for his flight home. The inevitable tears did not begin stinging their way into and out of my eyes until we pulled away from the curb and he and I shared a last wave of “goodbye, see you soon”.

I have promised myself he will never see me crying as he leaves, nor feel any sense of sadness coming from me. We are both doing quite well in life, and though our separate paths have dictated 3,000 miles between us we stay in such close contact via the many conveniences afforded by modern technology that I am able to keep my perspective which help keep feelings of sadness at bay.

Magic awaits us all in 2008This year we sent holiday care packages to each of the families within my family containing apple preserves I made this fall, ginger snap cookies my daughter and I made just in time for shipping, pumpkin bread from Grandma Johnson’s recipe, and other items or treats according to what I had on hand and who the recipient might be. The ginger snap cookies were the biggest hit of all … my goodness (I use the recipe straight out of The Joy of Cooking). They became our favorite Christmas cookie last year, my first Christmas on the farm, and now we have decided they will be our traditional Christmas cookie from here on out. So, family, get ready for more of that crispy goodness next year.

Meanwhile, we have a year of living to get on with and I am ready to begin.

I am well underway on the large painting I am making for our favorite local restaurant. In a few days I should have a photo ready to share.

A pretty view of snow outside at fireflys farm in Western New YorkMy daughter gave me beautiful yarns for three hand knit projects (a hat, a shawl, and a pair of warm and cozy house socks) for Christmas. I have completed the hat (will share a photo in the next posting) and am well on my way with the shawl. I plan to create printed versions of this year’s patterns which will be carried in my local yarn shop and on my website. If the patterns do well in sales in the yarn shop, I hope to start distributing them in other yarn shops around. Of course, I will still offer free patterns online … so don’t worry, I won’t be cutting you off. However, it is the prudent thing to do to make some of what I do here generate income and knitting patterns seems to be a good way to go.

Over the past months I have settled in more to my new life on a farm in Western New York, so this coming year will be simpler and less stressful than the last, and it will be more productive and satisfying … and even more magical. Ah, I breath a sigh of relief and restful anticipation just thinking of the days, weeks, and months to come.

Heres a toast to magic waiting around every cornerThis is the way to begin a new year: peaceful, relaxed, rested, happy. Jack Frost, a treasured visitor and friend, left a handful of beautiful drawings in ice crystal on the windows of our sun porch this morning. His little touch of magic drew me and the camera out of our restful dreams with a glimpse of a view of the year ahead.

Will you join me in heralding in a new a magical year with happinesses yet to discover, successes yet to unfold, and pleasant surprises glistening on our horizons?

Wonderful! Let’s get going …

~firefly

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