Category Archives: Pictures
I go into the woods as myself. Grateful, uncertain, and whatever else I am that day. I am adept and used to ignoring questions from people who don’t want to know the answer anyway. But given a chance, the trees whisper strange things. I’m never quite ready. Always a little caught off guard by their boldness.
Why are you afraid to rest? Trees have a documented habit of never going anywhere. It’s hard to pretend they don’t have time to wait while I think their questions over.
Why are you afraid to need something? Why are people so afraid to not be okay? Their communication system is nothing if not sophisticated. When I don’t stop to consider and walk on ignoring them, their thirtieth cousin fourteen times removed takes up the conversation. An oak tree on the edge of a field asks me why I feel embarrassed at the idea of taking care of myself. I roll my eyes irritated with the stupidity of trees. I do not allow my steps to betray an interest in the question through slight pause or increased pace.
Three hundred yards later, a white pine asks why I think weakness is shameful. And what’s so noble about strength? asks the next tree beside it. A snot nosed little punk of a half dead wanna be excuse for a tree tries to tease out the subtle lines between strength and pretending.
A solemn clearly a woman tree, says something I’ve heard before. Not with emotion, but like a well known fact: true and bound to stay that way. My strength is made perfect in weakness. I hear it like a whisper on the wind but I don’t know what to do with it. It’s not one of the facts I completely understand. Every time the leaves rustle she says it again. If I’d been asked to play with the words a bit before they went to the publisher, I would have suggested some changes. Strength doesn’t mind weakness? Something like that, but it’s a little late now.
I don’t answer the trees that day. I go on a hike for Thanksgiving and take pictures. Afterwards I look at them. Broken trees, dead trees, falling down trees, crooked trees, mixed up together trees. I can’t find one that doesn’t seem beautiful. Or any that I wished hadn’t been there. Not a single one I thought should have looked like something other than what it was that day.
And there are supposed to be two or three more pictures here but for reasons unknown to me the program refused to allow this last night or this morning. Please thou therefore use thy imagination to flesh out the particulars and I’ll comfort myself with the fact that imagination trumps electronic representations of reality.
Some of the fruits of our labors came together this weekend . . .
Finally a honey harvest!!!
Some lovely comb to use for our bottles of chunk honey.
About 4:30, I sent two kids to the pasture on bikes to look for our cow, Anabelle. We were in up to our eyeballs in stacks of unextracted honey, newly extracted honey, pots, pans, machines, and instructions, but no one had seen the cow all day. Her son, Buster, left the farm a week ago and I worried she might have gone off in search of him. The kids returned without success so my husband headed out. Meanwhile, Boy one and I soldiered on in the honey business. We had gone for a lesson on honey extraction the week before, but we still had to keep stopping to look things up.
After a good long search, the cow tracker returned with a grin. Honey had to wait while we went off to see for ourselves what Anabelle had been up to out there in the bush.
Anabelle had been busy getting out someone new for us to meet. Since she did all the work, the first picture features her! (Placenta was still hanging so birth was quite recent.)
Our new calf is a girl! We’re loving the look of the Hereford in her.
Naming the calf took a few days . . . but Almond Joy she is, with promises to Girl two that she will be called Almond Joy as one name, not just Almond, with Joy as a middle name – for reasons unknown, this mattered. The birth of Almond Joy means we’ll have a second cow to breed (very good news, we think).
Presenting her beautifulness. . . Almond Joy
And more beautifulness!
The honey operation that we guessed would be the work of a few hours that night took us almost eight . . . but even morning people need to stay up until midnight once in a while. A few weeks ago, we found the bee mentor I’ve been dreaming of. She is a goddess of reasonable, effective, low key beekeeping. Looking at our hives, goddess says the only thing we’ve really done wrong was use a cheaper kind of frame that the bees don’t like, otherwise things look good. (I held back just barely from throwing my arms around her neck. It helped that we were both dripping sweat like a faucet out there in the bee yard.) Thanks to goddess, Boy one and I are sticking with bees for another season at least.
Sweet to the last drop . . . 70 lbs of top quality honey plus a few lbs of home honey mightily helped to ease the frustrations of a difficult year with the bees. (Knowing we finally have our very own bee goddess in driving distance, who owns a phone, doesn’t hurt either.)
Picture is upside down but candles are arranged to spell, “old.”
The holiday was national as applied to the nation of County Road 21, where my husband and I were again celebrating our shared birthday. The kids made the cake, to which the poor lighting does not do justice. My contribution to the cake was in the form of empathy band aids for all the emotionally disenfranchised during it’s making. Knowing only who hurt whose feelings, whose ideas got TOTALLY ignored, and that they didn’t like any of the frosting recipes so they made up their own, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cake.
It was delicious, including the frosting. I should say that outright. Their joy in presenting was helpfully contagious. Unfortunately, I have a few issues with germs and food cleanliness. The decision to decorate the cake with fragments of potentially poisonous bits of chopped up rubber snake, cars, and other well used toys was a stretch for me. We didn’t have to guess the theme (which is good because I wouldn’t have figured it out). The birthday man and I were treated to a verbal tour of the cake with great pride and enthusiasm.
Look at the cake. Do you get it? We’ve got everything.
Look. See that brown thing? It’s actually a hat from one of our toys, but here it’s the poop. Get it? It’s a farm!
Don’t forget to show them the pee.
Yeah, see that? There was a trailing blob of yellow food coloring in one corner. That’s the pee. It is definitely not a farm without pee.
There was a car, people, fields. The cake was chocolate. Brown was the color chosen for the icing. Earthy tones all around. Coconut and walnuts for texture.
Doesn’t it look like the snake is actually crawling through the cake?
And did you see the sheep guts? That’s what the red is with all the lumps. Blood and guts.
Isn’t it great? We knew you’d like it.
It really was delicious. I removed the germ infested toys and poisonous rubber snake bits as soon as possible and shook my head at the comradery and pleasure they never tire of finding in all things uncouth. It reminded me of Father’s Day. After all the cards and sweet things, one child ran for his gift. He returned with a blindfold, a nasty concoction he’d made, and the sincere belief that would be fun for his father to drink his recipe and guess the ingredients. Behold the man.
I need you to do the bees by yourself today, I told Boy one. My list is already longer than I can manage and besides I’m grumpy. You’ll be happier out there without me.
Famous last words.
Boy one was back in a few minutes. An entire hive had been ripped apart. The bees were still hanging around but the top honey super (almost ready for human consumption and looking like our best producing hive) was ruined. What wasn’t scraped and eaten was filled with bugs.
There was a third toppled section not pictured here.
The amazing part was that inside the toppled mess, the bees were still at it. Despite a night of pounding rain, two boxes of bees were hard at work. We were back and forth as to what had happened. We looked for breaks in the fence, called around for advice, read our book, and eventually confirmed that our situation met all the criteria for a bear. We also learned that there have been sightings of a bear in our area.
The girls hanging in there with us until we could get them upright in familiar hive space.
It took us a while to carefully put everybody back together and clean up the mess. We were finished with the work and standing to catch our breath (and talk about electric fence devoted to the hives) when we looked over at another hive.
Wow! I said. That was the hive we were worried about. Look at all those bees. That’s incredible.
So incredible that I took a picture.
Look at the sky! we all said. The picture doesn’t do it justice but hundreds of feet high and wide looked like fireworks of bees, everywhere around us, then above us.
We realized it wasn’t the kind of incredible we were aiming for (the bees were swarming) but it was such an incredible view of nature’s genius that it felt like a privilege to see it. Four of us were there at that point. Girl two left shortly after the fireworks. She was unimpressed by what we’d read about bees being gentle when they swarm. They were thick in the air, and she was out of there, thanks.
After a few minutes, they began to gather on a cedar try about twenty feet away. It took them a good five minutes to conglomerate themselves. Being there meant we could recapture the swarm. Boy one was the man of the hour and directed the recovery of our bees. (Since we spend one to two hours at the hive per week, the fact that they swarmed when we were there is especially fortunate.)
With the branch cut, Boy one carried the swarm to an open box. Luckily, we had an extra hive in the garage. We set it up, quickly read up on how to and watched the next unbelievable thing.
Just like the book said they would, a few of them figured out where the hive was and let everybody know about it. Then it was a river of bees marching across the sheet and into the hive for at least ten or fifteen minutes.
Hopes and prayers for bee mentor to materialize continue. So far, so good on no return from the bear.
Boy two’s love affair with the bike continues. “You don’t really see anything from a car,” he says. “On your bike you see everything. All kinds of stuff you never noticed before.” The family was headed to a country park about ten minutes away by car. Boy two invited me to bike there with him instead. He chattered while we biked. Pointed out things here and there, or told me things he’d seen other times on his bike, most of it followed by further praise of the glory of bikes. The chatter alone was worth the price of admission, but here are some of the things we would have missed from the car.
I wish I knew what these flowers were called, I said.
Baby shoes, he said. They should be called baby shoes. Don’t you just think of baby shoes when you look at them? I’m calling them baby shoes. That’s exactly what they look like.
And then later . . .
Look, Mom! More baby shoes.
Like every boy worth his salt, Boy two gazed into the water convinced he saw signs of living things. Big, unknown, and wild things in shadows and ripples. If we hadn’t been on a mission to show a sibling his increased manly biking speed, I might have lost him here gazing at the creek for the afternoon. (Gazing would have been ten minutes. After that he would have started getting wet.)
We really could not believe it when we came upon this baby skunk. The mother was nowhere in sight, so we felt free to put our bikes down and watch for a little while. He/she was exploring a ditch along a well cared for lawn. After a bit little one ambled back into the metal drainage pipe we assumed was also home.
Trillium (the white flowers in the back ground and the provincial flower of Ontario) are in bloom.
Trillium are very brief spring visitors.
Not as common as the white trillium but found in our very own woods. Unlike the white trillium (which has no other interesting names) the red ones are also called: American True-Love, Birthroot, Bumblebee Root, Ill-scented Wake-robin, Indian Shamrock, Purple Trillium, Stinking Benjamin, Stinking Willie, Threeleaf Nightshade, and Wake-robin. How could I not feel lucky to have these on our property?
Since we got the bees, I have a whole new love for dandelions.
The only thing missing here is the music. That grand cacophony of song the birds do to say the whole world is rejoicing that it’s spring.
I got a picture of this one, turned around and . . .
there was this guy, just landing on the pond.
The human aversion to forced labor is alive and well here. Boy two is extremely tired of bringing in wood for the stove and has been since somewhere between the first and third loads in the fall. I assigned him a partner mid-winter to try and inspire his efforts. I looked out the window the other day to discover that the reason he had not yet returned with a load of wood was that an archery lesson was in session. He was immensely proud of himself for occupying his (and Girl two’s) time so well.
Having a partner has not increased the dedication to the task. However, it has made the task diversions much more pleasing. On his cheerful days, he lets Girl two ride on top of the wood stack and is setting all kinds of records as to how much time one can take to fill a wheelbarrow with wood, run it across the path to the house and unload it. The girl on moving wood stack method makes me nervous but months in, so far so good. I tell myself the snow would prevent a concussion should there be a toppling.
It was only after I snapped this picture that I saw the egg container perched up on top of the wood. I made them both promise to never balance eggs with the wood and they swore it was only for when the wheelbarrow was standing still and they were doing a lesson.
A picture’s worth a thousand words . . .
A lot of hay gets wasted (according to us) but the animals are quite happy with the edible bedding in the middle of the field. The white stripes on the barn are feed bags hung and weighted to keep the wind out at night.
Unlike the rest of us, Buster is still unphased by winter.
Game of tag to celebrate some warm days!
Boy two making Anabelle happy by letting her lick his face. We don’t know why she likes it or why he lets her.
I’ve never written about the property adjacent to ours. It fails the “simple, true, beautiful,” criteria and then some. There is a red house, but no one lives there. The owner keeps the six feet of driveway between the gate and the road plowed. Every so often he stops by with another load of garbage, puts it on his property and leaves. Microwaves, laundry baskets, plastic buckets, green tubs, garbage bags, and various other pieces of junk cover what was at some point, someone’s lawn and driveway. Stray cats go there and in the spring crocuses dare to peek around the edges, but it is as ugly as a lifetime of holding on to worthless things.
The fact that I have to pass it in order to arrive at my preferred walk past the cemetery and into the woods irritates me. I look straight ahead or imagine the red house as it might have been when it was a home. I push down the need to sigh and mutter to myself about townships and taxes and dump trucks. Returning from my walk yesterday I had my eye on a squirrel. Last year there was a really strange one that would run the fence six feet away from me, then leap from tree to tree. One day in particular he must have gone on fifty feet or so until if felt like we were walking together. I wondered if among his fellow squirrels he was viewed as uncannily bright or mentally ill. Yesterday’s squirrel stayed with me for a while and I found myself wondering if it was the same squirrel. I lost him just before I got to the garbage gateway. I could still hear him talking and strained to find him with my eyes.
Which is when I saw this.
I’ve seen porcupines up in trees chewing leaves in the spring, but not in the winter until now. I’m not sure where I think they should be, but I took it as a gift and went to get my camera. By the time I got back, the closer one was almost to the ground. I stood there staring and he began his sloth like ascent up again.
I was quite taken with his tail.
But his face was even better.
I took at least ten pictures which mostly look the same but I couldn’t help myself. I stood at garbage gate delighted – with the wonder of porcupines and redemption and doing what you do without worrying about where you do it.
Imagine beauty, hunkered down in trees above a sea of refuse, mounds upon mounds of it . . . yet there it was. Wild and free, sitting above me, ambling through the branches. Even in junkyards, life comes, rises above, and is.
Misty with Goodwin’s wives
Sheep husbands are bought once a year and stay for a month. We buy them young so they look exactly like the ewes (I guess unless we cared to view them lying on the ground). Next year’s flock father didn’t look too impressive jumping off the pick-up truck he came in. I reminded myself that with three kids in the family on the smaller end of things, it would be best to keep quiet about the notion that a small ram was somehow less than. Silently, I grumbled that there’s a difference between what you look for in a person and a sheep.
I went outside last week to take some pictures of the winter. Misty looked good with the wind blowing her hair so I snapped that. The sheep always look good to me, but I stopped myself from twenty pictures that all look the same. After fences and clouds my battery died. Although I wasn’t searching for one, it was then that I found my mascot, Goodwin Cedric. (Having previously lived as a number, he deserved a good name.)
Goodwin Cedric (aka Sheep Husband 2015) was facing off with Buster, the steer. As usual, Buster looked bored. All sheep, but male sheep most especially, love butting heads. A good head butt alternately says, “hey,” “want to play?” and “die moron, I hate your guts.”
After Buster, Goodwin Cederic went at Anabelle. Misty is a crankier creature, but for sheer size and strength, cow, Anabelle is the Queen Mama. Three or four times he came at her to smash her head. The approximate translation was along the lines of, “Hey, I might not hate you, but what if I did? Would you want to play?” Large cow largely ignored the little ram bouncing off her nose. Goodwin Cedric then started at Misty. That would have been extremely interesting to watch but at the last second he seemed to realize that taking on an emotionally unstable, easily threatened older woman with big hooves and no sense of humor might not be such a good idea. Goodwin Cedric was heading back to talk to Buster about the theory of head butting when I went in for some tea, happy and with new notions about facing obstacles.
The stuff of my dreams eludes my grasp. Stone-hearted giants hold the keys to unlock the doors, and the fight to hold high the standard and carry on can be hard. I think of giving up. Little voices in the dark spring up here and there like tiny lights along the path and so I don’t. It isn’t much, but it’s enough. Friday it was Goodwin Cedric. Goodwin, meaning God’s friend. Cedric, meaning valiant warrior. The picture’s in my head and not my camera, him determined, oblivious to his size, butting heads with creatures at least ten times his weight. I see him pawing the ground with his hoof, backing up to take another run at it. My spirit’s lifted, I prepare to go and do likewise.