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

Dandelion farming

May 7, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Posted in baby, charity knitting, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, hand knit dishcloths, knitted washrags, knitting, knitting for babies, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, volunteerism, yarn | 17 Comments

Fireflys Dandelion FarmWe live on a farm, but as I have said before … we are not farmers. We have (or had) corn out in our fields, but we didn’t put it there. We dream of a vineyard and fruit orchard on our acres one day, but there will be much to learn in order to get there.

When I lived in the high desert north of Los Angeles for a couple of years with my children, we tried planting some raised gardens. We enriched the soil, and put up wooden planks to build up areas to grow our vegetables and watermelons and flowers. We covered the planted area with plastic to help keep the ground warm inspite of plunging temperatures in the evenings. We watered, we waited, we watched.

When the time was right we removed the plastic covering and continued watering and watching and waiting.

Fireflys Borrowed Farmers Combine TractorThen one morning we pressed our noses against the window and to our delight saw rows and rows of green plants poking their little heads up in our gardens. The feeling of excitement was electric; we dressed quickly and rushed out to inspect our little green babies.

Arriving on the scene, we looked down with proud faces and saw … tumbleweeds. Rows and rows of the healthiest little baby tumbleweeds we had ever seen.

No carrots, no marigolds, no watermelon vines. Tumbleweeds.

We were tumbleweed farmers.

Cherry Blossoms at Fireflys CottageAt least they were healthy, sturdy, and vibrant. We had done well by our tumbleweeds.

I warned my husband before we married about my “farming” experience, but he wanted me anyway. So, here I am.

Friday evening at dinner I told my husband that it was becoming embarrassing that we still had much of last year’s corn standing in our fields. The farmer who rents our land and works it comes from a family of skilled, knowledgeable, and respectable farmers but he lacks the enthusiasm and love of the work to do it with the prudent order that I tend to associate with the concept of professional farming.

As I told my husband, I wondered what our Amish neighbors must think of us when they go by and see the dead corn stalks standing in the fields bearing cobs of corn never reaped. I wondered if we should put up a large sign on the side of our barn declaring to the world that we do not farm our own land.

Our borrowed farmer did show up late Saturday afternoon with a big ol’ combine. He was out there working in the fields with lights on the combine late into the evening. We heard the drone of his efforts as we drifted off to sleep.

More Cherry Blossoms at Fireflys CottageBy yesterday afternoon most of the corn was finally cut and I believe this morning it is all gone.

As for my husband and I, we actually are farmers–of a sort.

We are dandelion farmers.

The crop comes in strong; we cut it weekly and the next day it is back in full force.

This kind of farming suits us well and we find that we are quite adept at it. We plan to continue on with our dandelion fields for many years to come. Blu enjoys sampling them when he is out in the yard, and judging from his “business” report, he can’t get enough of them.

Side Bar: Blu is sleeping on a comforter beside my desk as I write. I enjoy hearing his breathing and looking over at his sweet face resting on one of his front paws. Interesting to note, Blu uses his front paws very much like hands. We haven’t ever seen another dog that uses its front paws quite so much like hands.

Back to the blog …

Frost in Early May on Fireflys FarmIn Southern California, dandelions were regarded only as lawn pests and “weeds”, but here in the countryside of Western New York they are lovely and loved.

I am amazed to see their fresh, bright faces the next morning after the lawn has been mowed. They are full-grown, sturdy, and have a look about them as if nothing has happened even though just the evening before a tractor rolled over the lawn whacking off everything in its path.

As we drove around this weekend on various errands, to church, to the cottage, etc. I saw dandelion carpets gracing apple orchards whose trees were in full pink and white bloom.

Yes, I have come to love dandelions and will never begrudge their return or their longevity again.

Fireflys Hand Knit Teddy Bear Cardigan ProjectI have a few projects I am working on in present time. First of all, I do still knit–just so you know.

I have enough green wool yarn to knit a cardigan for myself, and I want to design my own pattern for it. However, I was having some trouble deciding exactly what I wanted to do, so I thought it would be a good idea to start with a teddy bear cardigan of my own design.

The problem is that I don’t have much experience knitting adult sized sweaters. I’ve made many baby sweaters in my time, but only one adult sized one. My plan is to freshen up my hands-on experience with knitted sweaters by first designing and knitting a teddy bear cardigan, then I’ll design and knit one for a baby, and then I’ll move on to the cardigan I will design and knit for myself.

The teddy bear cardigan is coming along well, and I hope to finish it this week or by the weekend.

I haven’t started the second hand knit wash/dish cloth in lavender cotton yarn to match the green one, but I might be able to get to that next week sometime. However, I have the Gracious Parcels blankets to sew together, and that will take some doing plus, it takes priority over designing and knitting the second dish cloth.

Speaking of Gracious Parcels, I have started a community blog for Gracious Parcels. The idea with the Gracious Parcels blog is to create an open blogging community for anyone who has contributed at least one 7″ square to a Gracious Parcels blanket. Anyone can view and read the blog, but those who are contributing members may post blogs, photos, share patterns, etc.

Please check out the blog sometime, and if you would like to be a contributing member, leave a comment in any post there expressing your interest and I will contact you via email.

We have had frost twice within the past week, this morning included. After Blu’s morning business report, I walked around with my camera to capture some of the sights for you. I have a terrible problem though: there are so many interesting things I find that it is difficult to narrow down the selection of photos. I used to try to limit my photos to only three per blog, but sometimes three just isn’t enough. This is one of those days.

In closing, I will leave you with several photos from the morning’s walk about the farm, plus a few I shot over the weekend here on the farm and over at our cottage. The white blossoms you will see are wild cherry trees–so beautiful.

Please have a cup of tea, coffee, or what-have-you with me and enjoy the view.

Have a wonderful day, my friend.


While Cherries in Bloom at Fireflys Cottage

Wild Cherries in Bloom at Fireflys Cottage

Pretty Things at Fireflys Cottage

Pretty Flowers at Fireflys Cottage

A Bird in Fireflys Willow

A Pretty Branch at Fireflys Farm

A Chipmunk in Fireflys Willow

Fireflys River on a Frosty Morning

Even the Moon is Out on a Frosty Morning at Fireflys Farm

The Sweetest Thing on Frieflys Farm

A Wild Goose Goes Walking By


The finer points of fellowship

February 26, 2007 at 3:25 pm | Posted in biscuit recipes, charity knitting, country living, dating, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, volunteerism, yarn | 24 Comments

Fireflys Winter View of Lake OntarioYesterday my husband and I went out on a drive in the afternoon to visit with some friends, Andy and Mabel, an older couple from our church. They just adopted a thirteen year old dog named Jenny from a local non-profit group dedicated to finding homes for pets in need.

The non-profit was founded by a woman who won one million dollars in the New York lottery. She was a waitress at the time, driving a beat up old Chevy or something. To this day she is still a waitress driving that same old beat up car. She uses income derived from her lottery money to fund her non-profit organization. They take in pets in crises, in need, or abandoned and nurture them back to health physically as well as emotionally. Once the pet is ready for adoption, they match the pet with a family who will provide just the right home for that particular pet.

On Saturday we held the annual Chicken and Biscuit fundraising dinner at our church. It is one of four dinner related fundraisers the church holds each year. My husband has been one of the key players in developing and running these fund raisers for over twenty years. Now that I am here with him, I do what I can to help with purchasing supplies ahead of time, setting up the kitchen and dinning room the night before, and preparing the food the day of the event.

I enjoy sharing in the activity with him, and lightening the load on his shoulders. For him I think it is the sharing of the activity and not being alone that is the biggest change for him. Last year, the weekend of the Chicken and Biscuit dinner was the weekend when he and I truly became a couple, even though we had not met face-t0-face. It was a significant weekend then, and even more significant this year because I am actually here, by his side, and we worked together and enjoyed a fine day and a worthwhile event together.

Fireflys Winter View of Lake OntarioAnother man from the church spent the entire week baking large sheet cakes, brownies, and cookies in preparation for a dessert bar for the dinner. The day of the event he also made three large cobblers: two peach, and one blueberry.

Now that I am a part of the crew, I have taken on the responsibility of icing and cutting the cakes, as well as setting up the dessert bar. As I worked in the dinning room on the cakes and other desserts, the men (my husband, the baker man, and one other good friend who always shows up to help) worked together in the kitchen. The radio was playing a variety of 80’s songs, not because that music was anyone’s taste, but because that was the first station found when the radio was turned on.

I enjoyed listening to the sound of their voices as they told stories and jokes with one another, accompanied by the soft sounds of the songs playing on the radio.

Days and moments like that are precious.

Later in the afternoon more members of the church showed up to be on hand to help serve, bus tables, and handle cleanup in the kitchen. The fundraiser dinners do raise funds for the church, but real benefit is the opportunity for fellowship with one another and with members of the community.

Fireflys Winter View of Lake OntarioI love the experience of working side by side with other members of the church who I normally would only see on Sunday mornings. Standing in the food service line we get to know each other in new ways, and learn to appreciate each other as we interact not only with one another but also with the guests whose plates we fill with good old homecooked meals.

Andy and Mabel are two of the dependable volunteers who you know will be there, no matter what else is going on in their lives. Andy enjoys washing dishes, and though he is one of the oldest members of our church, he is always there washing the dishes after fundraisers and potlucks, staying as late as anyone, washing huge numbers of dishes and pots and pans with a smile on his dear, sweet face.

Saturday morning they brought Jenny home from the pet adoption service, so Mabel left early from the dinner to go be with the new family member at home. I noticed Andy got an early start on washing the dishes and seemed to working extra fast and hard, with quite a determined look on his face.

I joined him in the kitchen to lend a hand, and told me about Jenny the dog and that he hoped to be able to leave a little early because he was excited to go home and spend some time with her. It was beautiful to me that his excitement was just as sweet as a child going home to a new puppy. I asked if we could stop by on Sunday afternoon to meet her, and he was delighted at the prospect.

Another Barn Near Fireflys FarmHe finished what dishes were available for washing, and we all encouraged him to leave the rest to us so he could go home to be with Mabel and Jenny.

What a dear man. He and Mabel are both extraordinarily loving, beautiful people. One day at church Mabel gave me a hug and she pulled back, looked at me and said, “I just think I love you!” Then we hugged again and I told her I loved her as well. She smells of roses every time we hug.

They live about ten minutes north of us, up closer to Lake Ontario. After stopping by their house we drove closer to the lake to have a look at it in deep winter mode. I found it so interesting to see the band of chunky ice toward the shore, a band of churned up slate gray further out, and then the deep blue of the lake in the distance.

We also spotted a small, old barn along the way. It will be one I feature in a painting; something about it caught my eye in a very special way.

Fireflys Mystery ProjectFor some reason, being out on a drive in the cold winter environment makes me want to find someplace to have an ice cream cone with my husband. Oh well, I’ll have to wait until summer for that treat.

Progress continues on the mystery project … this photo gives you a glimpse.

As for fellowship, the fellowship experience at church on Saturday brought to mind the fellowship experience we are all having with my blog. You come here regularly and read, comment, have a cup of whatever. We participate in creating blankets for Habitat for Humanity together. This is a community. It has surprised me, because I couldn’t have known when I started my blog last August that such a wonderful group of friends would assemble here within my words, patterns, recipes, and photographs. But here we are.

And I appreciate your friendship, this opportunity for fellowship with you all, very much.

Have a wonderful day.


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