Monday, December 8, 2008

A light snow had fallen yesterday and last night, so despite shoveling and sweeping several times over the weekend, I was up early to allow time to shovel again before work. I dressed up in my warm layers, donned my old Steger Mukluks, and stepped out onto the front porch, inhaling the morning. It was about 15°, cloudy, still mostly dark, and calm. Perfect weather to be outside shoveling. Having watched my small bird feeder the last few mornings and noticing most of the birds did not arrive until 8am or later, I did not expect any birds to be out yet at this hour, and was taken by surprise when a chorus of birdsong filled the air above me. I searched in vain for the source, a flock of juncos, but could not make them out through the dusky light. I checked the amount of snowfall since we last shoveled – about ½”, and decided I could use a broom for most of the task, which suited me better anyway, since I am loathe to create loud noises so early in the morning. I grabbed my broom and began a rhythmic cadence: step right, sweep, step left, sweep. Step, sweep, step, sweep. I paused when I noticed fresh tracks in the snow crossing the driveway and pondered their source – was this the small dog that lived next door? And this – one of the many grey squirrels who scamper about outside my front window and entertain me so thoroughly? The tiny tracks in front of the garage door I assumed to be mouse tracks, and was glad to see they appeared to have checked out the length of the door and then wandered away when they could find no entrance. Cardinals now joined the morning dialogue, followed soon after by nuthatches, chickadees and even a few goldfinches. How does anyone living in the country ever feel alone with all of this life and activity fluttering about? I stopped my sweeping and refilled the small feeder to reward those who were already up and about, chattering around me, then continued on down the driveway – step, sweep, step, sweep. It is not surprising to me that many eastern traditions utilize sweeping as a form of meditation. My steps and sweeping and breathing all flowed outwards together until I lost track of time and place. Before I knew it, the task was done. I silently offered up a prayer of gratitude, for this beautiful place in the country, for powdery snow, fresh air, meditative exercise, and life stirring all around me. Blessed be!

Friday, December 5, 2008

I have discovered, to my delight, that by putting out a small bird feeder hung on a plant hook just into the edge of the woods, I can increase the level of wildlife activity in my front yard by about 1000%. my little copper roofed feederWhen I first tried putting up my little feeder, the chipmunks were still awake and busy collecting food for the long cold winter, and they quickly realized how to jump onto the feeders and carry all the seeds away in less than an hour. But now that the chipmunks have gone to their cozy hideouts for the winter, I once again tried putting up the feeder to see what it might attract. red-bellied woodpeckerI didn’t have to wait long. Within an hour, chickadees and nuthatches were frequent visitors. In less than an afternoon, the variety had grown to include downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, purple finches, goldfinches, juncos, blue jays, and, to my utter delight, a half-dozen pairs of cardinals! I still worry about the red and grey squirrels learning the chipmunks’ tricks, but so far they are minding their manners from the ground. I am scoping out some trees however as possible sites for stringing cables for hanging the feeder higher off the ground if necessary. Grey squirrelYesterday I watched all of this marvelous activity spell-bound, but sad that my little digital camera does not have the zoom capacity to get any good shots of the birds. So last night I asked my husband if I could borrow his digital Canon EOS with the BIG lense. With this baby mounted on my tripod, I could set it up and point it at the feeder and then wait for the birds to flock in. I set it all up by 8:00am this morning and waited. I even put some seeds on pavers on the ground, for those varieties that can’t or don’t like to cling to feeders. I was not disappointed! All of the activity of the day before ensued immediately. In the middle of the commotion of blue jays and chickadees, something larger caught the corner of my eye – a pileated woodpecker, which landed right on the tree by the feeder! Pileated woodpeckersI went crazy snapping photos. I finally shut off the camera and went back to work, but the next time I looked up, TWO pileateds were clinging to the same tree! Again I went crazy with the camera. The first woodpecker enlarged a hole in the tree and stared intently into the hole, sticking its beak and tongue into the crevice to lap up the bugs inside. Suddenly, it flared its wings and moved sideways. I wondered what was up, so I glanced down the tree and witnessed a red squirrel advancing towards the bird which was at least five times its own size. Taking offense to a squirrelThey maneuvered in this way for awhile, the squirrel advancing slowly, the pileated spreading its wings and moving away, until finally it tired of the game and flew off to another tree. Satisfied its territory was safe, the squirrel retreated back down the tree to its position under the feeder. But the pileated was not about to forget about its tasty treats – soon it was back again at the same hole, pecking, lapping and cautiously keeping an eye on the squirrel. Blue jayBy about 9:30am the activity had died down a bit. Chickadees still visited the feeder, but the frenzy of “first breakfast” seemed to have passed. Which reminded me that my stomach was growling, as I had skipped my own first breakfast for the chance to capture the activity in the yard. So now I will fly off to the kitchen to take a gander at what tasty treats I can find there. I won’t have to worry about “eating on the fly,” or protecting my morsels from a hungry squirrel. I can sit down and savor, eating slowing and enjoying both the food and the ever-changing view outside my front window.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Frost on the kayakAfter a week and a half straight of cloudy, dreary, rainy, sleety, snowy, freezing weather, the sun is shining today! Ten days of grey really starts to wear on a person. I think the critters outside even felt better today, despite our single digit temps this morning. From my office window view of the front yard I could see many squirrels, both red and grey, out and about today, scampering up and around in the empty tree branches. I did not see the pileated woodpecker today, although he has been a frequent visitor lately. But no matter, the exuberant squirrels made up for any lack. As I stepped out on the front porch to taste the morning air and send my husband off to work this morning, I was struck by how beautiful a morning really is when the sun shines. A crow sailed by above the trees, its tail feathers illuminated by the low sun barely peeking from beyond the trees across the road. Chickadees and nuthatches were actively warming themselves up by flitting from branch to branch. A small flock of robins even landed in the tree near the front door, inspecting the berries still clinging to the branches. Frost sparkled on every smooth surface. I grabbed my camera and headed back outside to snap a few shots, to see if I could figure out the Macro setting on my little digital. I snapped a few shots of the frost on my car, and the kayak, and scurried back inside to warm up. Where did this ice come from??At lunch time, while my slices of potato and onion, drizzled with olive oil and herbs baked in the oven, I went for a walk down to the lake. It had been 10 days since I had last been down to the shore, Nov. 11, the last time I had paddled, a clear, sunny, calm day, where I had braved temps of 32 to get on the water one more time. I had not counted on it being my last. My paddling journal states the latest I had ever paddled, and this was back when we lived in Duluth, was November 18, and it had been 50 ° that day. I certainly believed I could break that record this year, as I was not yet ready to put my boat away in the sling under the back deck. But my walk down to the lakeshore today cracked any hopes I still had of paddling. Even if the temperatures climbed back into the high 20’s or low 30’s, temps I could safely navigate with extra layers of clothing and safety gear, the water was not going to cooperate. A large sheet of ice already covered most of the bay including the shoreline where I put in. In fact, there was so little open water left anywhere that I almost couldn’t believe it, as the smaller lake on the way to town had absolutely no ice on it at all when I passed by it only yesterday! Frozen bubblesMy disappointment at realizing my paddling season was officially “over” was soon replaced by utter joy and amazement at the beauty before me. New ice is a wondrous thing, especially if it freezes during a calm night. When that happens, the ice freezes crystal clear, giving you an eerie view of the bottom of the lake. I played around with my digital macro again, trying to capture the magic of the new ice and the bubbles where ice met sand. But lunch hours do not last forever, and I still had food in the oven. The walk back home, despite being uphill and cold, passed in a flash, as my mind was still elsewhere, savoring the stillness of the frozen water and the metamorphosis my lake had undergone during my short absence. I quickly remembered my hunger as I came into the house, greeted by More bubbles!the aroma of baked potatoes and onions. I hurriedly removed layers of hats, gloves, boots, and jacket on my way to the kitchen, as eager to fill up my now growling stomach, as I had just been to fill up my heart with sunshine and ice. Blessings!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Must be the place!I am playing "catch up" with my postings about things that happened when we first moved here, before I started my blog. So this actually occurred in mid-September, not mid-November! One of the very fun things about moving to a small town has been perusing the local papers. I get three different papers delivered to my house, none of which I had to ask for, they just come. They are filled with local area events, small town festivals honoring place & community, places to shop and eat, local vendors peddling their services, and the best part, the classifieds. Having spent the last 20 or so odd years living in big cities, it is with a grin that I read through the local small-town classified ads. “Tractor for sale.” Now that’s not something I would have seen in my Burnsville classifieds! Hay. Horses. Goats. Sheep. Rabbits. Cattle. Even an alpaca or two. These “for sale” ads are all foreign to me, but so intriguing. And the business ads – my favorite is an ad that runs every week for “Porky’s Pooper Pumper” (no lie!). Also intriguing are all of the area auctions. Everything from campers to business equipment to farm equipment to estate items, auctions are a big thing in this area, and I can count on at least a half dozen or so ads enticing me out for a weekend of shopping and bidding. Horse Arena come Auction HouseSo last weekend, which dawned sunny and beautiful, I decided to do just that – visit my first auction. The one I picked happened to be an estate auction. It is easy to lure me with the possibility of antiques shopping. There was no address printed in the ad, just a description of which exit to take off of the freeway and which direction to head once on the exit (west). So I headed out somewhat blindly, counting on good signage to guide me there. I needn’t have worried. After a scenic two mile drive on a country road, a sign “Auction parking ahead” clued me that I was getting close, then a string of cars along both sides of the road indicated I had arrived. Since this auction was at a residence, not a warehouse, the only parking was along side the highway. But no mind, I maneuvered my Geo Prism in behind a white Ford pickup truck, put up my sunshade (my black car heats up like a kettle on a campfire) and got out of the car, checking first to make sure no one was roaring up behind me on the highway. What is this stuff?I walked a block or so past other parked vehicles and some beautiful horses in the pasture and then entered the driveway to the property. It was full of old equipment. I am not a farmer so I don’t pretend to know what any of it was. It was all intriguing though, some pieces looking like giant porcupines, and most with a coating of rust belying a lifetime of outdoor hard labor. There were vendors here, too, so we could all munch along on our hot dogs as we waved our numbers around. But the horse arena that housed the auction was an even more impressive sight – it was chock full of things old and interesting. Looms, antique cream separators, washing machines, horse equipment, cast iron. Just in time for ChristmasI wandered around for a long time, taking in the sights, smells and sounds. There was a lot to look at. I watched and listened to the cadence of the auctioneer - “Who’ll start the bidding at $20? How about five, who’s got five??” His assistance suddenly calls out “Yep” as she spies someone shaking their number. The bidding goes up, five (Yep!), six (Yep!), seven (Yep!) and so on, to ten… now it’s paused at ten as the auctioneer tries for 11. Nobody moves, and the item is sold for ten dollars. I learn real quick that items are grouped up in lots of similar items, so to get the piece you want, you have to be the first high bidder of the lot to get your pick and choice of items in the lot. If you get first pick, you can take as many items from the lot as you want for the price you won on it, so you could take the remaining items for $10/each. If you decline, then the same offer goes to the backup bidder (the one that made the last bid before you). They can then pick items out of the lot for the price you won. If they decline, the lot starts over for bidding. Welcome to my auction!There were a few items I was interested in possibly bidding on – quite a few old kerosene lamps in particular – but of course, they, too, were auctioned as a lot, and the high bid was $45, a price too steep for my blood, even for first pick. I watched the activity for another half an hour then decided it was time to head back home. I walked out to the car past the horses again, one of which wandered over to the fence for a photo op. He was stunningly beautiful. He seemed totally unconcerned about all of the activity in his driveway. But it was time to head out and on to our next big adventure – the Almelund Apple Festival. Stay tuned for that adventure, coming soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ready to go for a paddleI am the proud owner of a 16’, 38# cherry red Epic brand kayak. This beauty is light enough to car top all by myself, yet fast and sleek in the water, a dream to paddle. The small town where we live is surrounded by lakes, and there is a nice lake a half of a mile from our house. So despite the days getting shorter and colder seemingly overnight, I still try to slip in a paddle every chance I get, if I’m lucky, about twice a week. A few weeks ago I noted the following story in my paddling journal. The weather was chilly that day, in the 50’s (ok, so maybe that wasn’t really that chilly, because today as I write this it is in the low 20’s!), but the sun was still shining, although it was close to sunset by the time I pulled my boat off the car and set her by the water. It was the first time this season I would have to wear a jacket, hat and gloves to paddle. The dock had recently been pulled out of the lake, too, which meant a semi-wet-foot entry would be required (yes, I am able to do a dry entry & exit from docks, providing the water levels aren’t too far below the dock). This method minimizes the amount of water I get into the boat, and keeps my feet dry – important when the weather, and water, turn colder. With the dock out, I’d have to lay my boat parallel to the shoreline and as close as possible to the beach, lay my paddle down perpendicular to the boat, propped just behind the seat, and use that as a brace while I sat down on the back rim of the cockpit and gingerly picked one foot at a time off the beach and into the boat. Once settled into my seat, a few pushes with the paddle and my boat was free of the sand.

wet foot entryThere was very little wind as I set out, so I headed east across the lake towards the sunny side (my put in was on the west side, which would be in complete shadow soon). The sun was close to setting, and I felt an urgent need to get across the lake to those last sunbeams before they disappeared for the night. My boat cut sleekly through the water, and my arms, strong from paddling, made haste getting us across. I paused to watch the sun dipping behind a cloud, scattering its rays through the sky. I pressed on, up the north east side of the shoreline towards the little finger that ran out of the lake and inland. Once in this narrow channel of water, my rhythm slowed down and I began to take in more of my surroundings.

Water plants grow thick here, and water lilies mark the edge of the channel the boats use to get in and out of this waterway. Last month on a sunny day while paddling this stretch, turtles that had been basking in the warm surface water between the lilies would suddenly slip down into the water as I went by. One time I looked down just as my paddle entered the water and realized I was about to paddle into a turtle, a really big turtle – maybe 18” from nose to tail – and thus averted my stroke to avoid it. When it’s too cold for turtle watching, there are still plenty of fish to surprise among the water plants. But in actuality, they startle me probably even more than I startle them. When the water is green or brown or too dark to see through, they like to swirl quickly right beside my boat, leaving a tiny whirlpool in their wake. Sometimes I’ll be lucky enough to have a fish jump close to the boat. Also startling. One time I was able to stop my boat and watch two otters feeding near the edge of the shore. There were no turtles or jumping fish or otters on tonight’s paddle. I completed my exploration of the little northeast channel a wee bit disappointed and turned my boat around, sad to be heading home already, but watching as the sun slipped further down behind the west shoreline. As I existed from the channel, a white duck called loudly nearby, attracting my attention. I had seen this duck as I headed into the channel also, but this time it was standing on the shoreline, seeming to be leading a small group of mallard ducks behind it. They all slipped into the lake not far from my boat, and began paddling out the direction I was heading. I slowed down the pace of my paddling to watch, but even at my slowed pace I caught up quickly, and all of the mallards took off in flight. The white duck, however, remained in the water, quacking very loudly and paddling furiously as the mallards flew off. It continued to quack loudly as the ducks flew a short distance away and then landed on the water again. The white duck quickly paddled towards the group of mallards, still calling, and they in return paddled back in the white duck’s direction. Epic kayakBy this time they had moved out of the path I was heading, so I was able to paddle past them without disrupting them a second time. Once past, I turned in my seat to watch. The white duck continued towards the others and soon they were all reconnected in one group, heading in one direction, together. I pondered about what I had just seen. Were they somehow related? Or just random ducks that happened to have some kind of connection? Was the white duck a female that had helped raise these mallards? Her calling out to the mallards as they flew off certainly, to my untrained ear, sounding like a mother scolding her young for getting out of arm’s reach. Of course I will never know the answer to this mystery. But it left me with a warm feeling inside, despite the cold air seeping into the seams of my jacket and through the plastic seat beneath me. Whatever the reason, there seemed to be a connection between the large white duck and the mallards. A connection across color and size and species. A lesson and an example for me to take home. I looked for those ducks on my paddle again tonight. I did not see them. I hope that wherever they are, they are together, enjoying the bond of their unique connection.

Monday, October 27, 2008

oak leaves
Although I grew up in the country, I have never lived around oak trees. So when we moved into this house in August, I was surprised to learn that living near oaks is unlike living near any other kind of tree I’d ever been around. Let me go back in time a bit. It is the first morning after our first night stay in this house. After a very long day moving, we were extremely physically and mentally exhausted. I figured Kelly must be, too. So I was very surprised to realize he was already up and out of bed, though it was still pretty dark outside. I asked him what time it was – he answered, “5:30.” As in, AM. Ugh. I noticed through the dark room that Kelly was standing peering out of one of the large windows of the bedroom, toward the woods. Weird. “What are you looking at?” I queried. “There’s someone out there” he responded quietly. My sleep-induced fog lifted instantly. “Are you sure?” “Yeah, I can hear someone throwing rocks at our house. Listen!” I was quiet as I listened for any noise through the open windows. Sure enough, a few seconds later, the pitter patter of something falling through the leaf canopy could be heard, and a “thunk” was heard as it hit our roof and bounced off, landing on the deck. Shortly after that, I heard it again. Then another time after that. “I’m going down to the deck to see what it is” Kelly muttered as he headed out of the room. I stood still by the windows, looking and listening to the sound of the mystery objects still dropping through the canopy. First day back in the country after two decades of city living, and we end up neighbors to some nutty kid who thinks it’s funny to sling rocks at our house? It seemed way too early for any kid to be up, even a mischievous one. A short while later, Kelly returned, looking sheepish. “It’s an acorn” he stated simply.acorn The woods outside were gradually growing lighter. I could see squirrels chasing each other up and around and across tree limbs. “I suppose the squirrels could be biting them off and dropping them,” I mention. “It must be easier to pick them up off the ground than carry them all down.” And so the very first mystery of our very first night stay was solved. The “nutty kids” were squirrels, doing what squirrels do best. Gathering food. I guess I still had a lot to learn about country living. What I also didn’t realize when we first moved here was that not only do oak trees drop acorns incessantly, and lots of them, loudly and at all hours of the day and night, making us jump every time one of them dislodged and came bouncing off the car or deck or rooftop, they also drop lots of other things. Leaves. Branches. Sap. Our two cars, parked in the driveway, wore a constant sticky coat that bees just loved. Mostly hornets. Ug. Sometimes I swept the driveway clear of everything – the acorns, the branches, the leaves. But by the next day it was as if I had done nothing. And when summer turned into fall, well, forget it, it would be a full time job to keep it all clear. But we did discover something useful – the leaves that fell on the front porch and back deck could be easily swept up onto a tarp and dragged over to mulch the dirt area around the fire pit, an area we wished to keep clear of the weeds that we had so painstakingly cleared out upon our arrival. A nice big batch of leaves for the mulch, and only a few sweeps of a broom to collect them. I learned to appreciate piles of leaves on the decks. Easy mulch. collecting leavesI also started picking up acorns whenever I was outside, and placing them in a basket in the living room. They looked so earthy, and reminded me of my connection to the woods and my gratitude for this country home. The cat loves to fish them out from time to time and chase them around the living room. I was curious to see if there were any other cool ways to display oak tree gifts – leaves, acorns, branches, so I Googled acorns and came across an astonishing fact – native Americans considered acorns to be one of their most important food crops! In fact they referred to them as Grain of the Trees. I found recipes for creating acorn flour by drying them, cracking them out of their shells, then soaking them to leach out the tannins and then drying them again, finally grinding them into acorn flour. And people still do this! I had no idea. one of our many oak treesI can’t say that I have collected a crop of acorns to dry and process… yet. But the idea intrigues me. Here I am, in the woods, surrounded by food, falling abundantly from the trees around me. Another example of how we often miss the abundance of what is right at hand. But a little early-morning lesson from a nutty, furry neighbor reminds me to pay attention, and be aware of the blessings all around me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

sunrise on north center lake
This morning as I lay in bed halfway between awake and asleep, I heard my husband, who was already up and dressed and ready to head downtstairs for breakfast, say "there's a deer in the backyard." I work from home, which means normally I roll out of bed about 15 minutes before I flip on my computer for the day's work. It was still dark out. It was definitely not time to get up yet. But I wanted to see the deer. I had not seen a deer in our yard yet, although I knew they were plentiful around here. So I rolled out of bed and peered over his shoulder. He had turned on the outside light and between that and the pre-dawn grey, we could just make out the white fur along the underbelly and tail. We watched quietly until Kelly said it was time for him to head downstairs. I lay back down, pondering my choices. Since I was up earlier than normal, and since it appeared like it would be a clear morning, I considered trying to squeak in a quick paddle before work. But I wasn't sure what time sunrise was, and I wasn't sure I could get out and back before it was time to work. So I switched on my computer and waited for it to boot up. By the time it was powered up and ready to Google search the local sunrise time, it was 7:30am. Today's sunrise time: 7:31am. No time to paddle. I ran through the house grabbing camera and warm clothes and gloves and headed out into the chilly 34 degree pre-dawn morning. It was clear and frosty, and I wanted to get down to the lake, about half a mile down the road, just as the sun was peeking over the trees across the lake. still waterI crossed my arms and hugged my quilted shirt closer to my body as I hustled down the road. Birds were already stirring and a flock of juncoes startled out of the bushes as I scurried by. In no time I was down to the lake where I often put in for my paddle. The sun was just poking up over the trees. It was as if the whole world held her breath and waited and watched as the sun rose. I stood for a few minutes, then got "busy" taking pictures. The light was fantastic, and there was still frost on many of the little plants on the grassy hill. milkweed angelI had to stop many times from my photo op and stare at the breathtaking scene unfolding around me. Mist rose off the lake, the remaining leaves on the trees were brilliantly colored. The lake was flat calm. And the frost - every tiny detail was enhanced by the frost. A single milkweed seed lay on the beach resembling a tiny angel, the frost quickly turning to droplets of water along her downy dress, a reminder that God really is in the details. Every direction I looked I took in more beauty. It seemed my lungs would burst with the fresh air, and I was overwhelmed with the beauty and stillness. I did not want to head back up the hill and back into the house. It felt so peaceful here. So connected. I hoped I could bring those feelings back with me, back to the rhythm and routine of the day.
frosted lamb's earI grudgingly turned off my camera and took one last look at the sunrise, offering a small prayer of gratitude, before turning my back and heading back up to the road, and back up the road towards home. Along the way I noticed the frost still clinging to the plants that had not yet felt the reach of the morning sun, so I snapped a few more pictures - smartweed and lambsear and thistle, visual memories to take back with me to remind me that beauty and stillness and calmness are there for me, any time. All I need to do is roll out of bed and go for a walk.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Harley Today dawned a more subdued and darkened morning than most of the mornings since we’ve moved here. I began my day with my usual ritual – first, let out the dog. We both step outside the side door, which is positioned only a few feet from where the woods begin. As Harley stretches, I take deep breaths of the damp, clean air. I look upwards, through the leafy canopy, to see if I could discern any clues from the sky as to what the day holds. As always, the view is unfathomably beautiful. I continue to breathe in great breaths and watch as Harley picks a perfect spot to mark. I have trained him to stay off of all of Mary & Al’s hostas, which ring the yard and parts of the house. So he now faithfully goes over to the tree at the edge of the woods, or sometimes one or the other of the white posts (sewer?) where there is very little grass at all. When he is done, I take one last look skyward and breathe in one more gulp of fresh air before heading back inside. view through the canopy As much as I’d love to hang out on this stoop for awhile, the day marches on with its obligations and requirements. My computer is already powering up for the day’s work, and there is coffee to fix and Mojo our cat to feed. I make my way through these steps of my morning ritual still humming from my few sacred moments outside, and before long find myself perched on the top level of the house at my computer desk, gazing out the windows which overlook the woods and back yard. view from office window The rain has started to fall now, Harley and I both barely missed getting wet. The sound is wonderful through my open windows. There are many copper end caps on the deck posts which make a variety of drum-like sounds as the water strikes them. I am entranced. With great effort, I pull myself away from the view and begin to focus on the day’s work in front of me. Grounded in the sacred beauty of my morning ritual, it seems somehow easier to devote my attention now to the computer. After all, I have only to stop and listen to the drum beat of the rainfall, or gaze over the top of my laptop, to revisit the beauty and abundance surrounding this house and my little family. I offer up a prayer of gratitude, and begin my work day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Welcome to my blog. Pull up a chair, or a pillow, or a piece of log, and join me in this conversation about rural life and coming home again. This blog is a means for me to share the experiences of country life with others. Or maybe nobody. It doesn't really matter to me if anyone reads it or not, as the joy is in the writing. Since I am a "newbie" at this, I'm sure I'll make some mistakes while I figure out how to post, format, and edit, and hopefully add some pics. I hope you will all be patient with me and help me along, since I know many of you are old hats at this stuff. So where to begin? My girlfriend Julia (who has a delightful store and blog on Etsy, called Red Otter said to me recently, "You should write a blog." And I thought, Yeah, sure, but when would I have the time? I have a full-time job, a husband, a house, a dog, a cat (maybe two cats now, more on that later), an alpaca, and a teenager for crying out loud - seems I can't hardly even find the time to read or create or nap or play. But the remark stuck with me. I have already started on a book about my journey raising Ciara these last 18 years. I even have a little reminder that pops up in my Outlook calendar reminding me to set aside a few minutes to write every day. If I can't squeeze an entire book out just yet, I should certainly be able to post a few blog entries at the very least. Heck, I know people with more children than I have who post regularly! (For example, my friends the Stutemans blog and adorable kid pictures here). Once her idea started to gel in my brain, I started coming up with all kinds of blog entry ideas. For example, why the title of this blog? I tried writing it down in as short a piece as I could muster - it turned into 1400 words, two pages single spaced! Yikes, nobody will ever read that! So here it is in a very small nutshell (possibly an acorn shell, as we have thousands of them littering the grounds around this house): I was born and raised in the country, just outside of a small town, on the shore of Lake Superior. I moved into a city (Duluth) to attend college, where I ended up staying for 18 years. More on those adventures in my first book. Several years ago my husband was offered a job in an even bigger city, Minneapolis. We settled into southern suburb, Burnsville. Nice place, but definitely not the country. In January, I bought an alpaca (more on this later, too). She lives on a farm 75 minutes away from Bursnville. So when Ciara finished up high school, we all decided it was high time to move back to the country. Whew, aren't you glad you didn't get the 1400 word version of that? I grew up believing I would always live in the country. It was the only place I ever felt totally at ease, at home, at peace. It took a very long time, two decades in fact, but I am back now. I have come home. Blessings -

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