Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dazzling Day

Looking up

Today dazzled my senses and nourished my soul. I walked around Lily Lake and the delicate, almost cinnamon scent of fragrant pinxter filled the air. I had never seen so many bushes in full bloom, and closer to the ground, wild blueberry blossoms beaded the low growing bushes. Blue skies stretched as far above as I could see, and not a cloud marred the scene. The new spring canopy of leaves overhead softened the sun's brilliance into countless shards of shadow and light.Bumble bees bumbled, chipmunks and squirrels played tree tag, red winged blackbirds chirped, butterflies flitted, frogs croaked, and I even noticed a large, crusty snapping turtle slide into the depths of the pond as I passed by. Countless wildflowers dotted the woodland's floor and the sight of a few pink Lady's Slippers thrilled me. Today, the woods seem teeming with new life and nuances of nature, and I loved being outside to share in the wonder of it all.

Portrait of a Lady

Pinxters everywhere

Pinxter cluster

Blueberry blossoms decorating the bushes like beautiful beads

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Mom and Dad decorated the graves at the cemetery this morning then waited at the park for the speeches at the gazebo. I could hear the band marching up Main Street and we all watched as they paused on the bridge before marching down to the water's edge to play "Near My God to Thee" and another patriotic song before the honor guard fired their guns downriver.The mayor welcomed the community to the park and introduced the Catholic Father who said a brief prayer and blessing before the Gettysburg Address, the honoring of local war dead by the scouts and the poem Flanders Field were presented. The honored speaker, an Air Force reservist who has been called several times to active duty, gave a heartfelt speech emphasizing the many sacrifices of community as well as friends and families when any military personnel are performing their duty. Then we picnicked on the porch and spent the afternoon lounging, enjoying the splendid summer like weather, ever mindful of how privileged we are to live here.

Flags on bridge

Memorial Day '08 in Afton,NY

Flanders field

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

It's the weekend that unofficially starts the summer season. I'm sure we'll be going to the cemetery soon to decorate the graves of my brother and grandparents as well as attend the local parade on Monday, the military ceremony at the bridge followed by the honoring of war dead by the scout groups, and speeches delivered from the gazebo. It's a lovely day to be outside, so I'll post a few pictures and go back out and enjoy!

Porch Flag

Dandelion fuzz

Abstract rock art

cool, green and shady

poppies waiting for warmer weather

Grandpa's watering can

Mama Robin

Feed me! I'm starving!

johnny jump ups


Friday, May 23, 2008

Got Worm?

Got Worm?

The robin family is quickly outgrowing its nest in the holly bush between our front porch and the driveway. A robin always seems to be standing off to the side of our driveway with a worm hanging out of its mouth, waiting for me to go so she can get back to the business off feeding her brood.

This morning another pair of impatient birds dive bombed me repeatedly when I paused in my garden plot outside the rabbit hutch looking for signs of sprouting hollyhocks or recently planted morning glories (nothing yet, but the yellow flowers that John gave me several years ago are filling the space nicely, and I do have some strawberries in blossom). I felt a rush of air inches from the top of my head, and heard a loud flap of wings, followed by raucous warning caws. Two Blue Jays took turns scaring the heck out of me, so I didn't bother to weed anything there.

Jay dive-bombing me

Spring is in full swing in upstate New York. We go outside into a sea of green. Seems like we can't stay ahead of mowing the grass or pulling new weeds. It's a wonderful predicament!

Horses' portrait progress

I've started drawing my twelth illustration for next year's farmhouse calendar. I asked a friendly clerk at the local hardware store if she had any good snapshots of her horses that I could use for reference to draw from and she provided a couple great photos. I'd love to finish my 2009 calendar in time to give a few as gifts to some of R's graduating friends. Speaking of friends, B called to tell me she received her summer issue of GreenPrints yesterday, which means my free copies should be arriving in a couple weeks, followed by a check for two illustrations and eventually a new assignment or two for the Fall issue!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Glimpsing Scarlet Tanagers,Making rhubarb pie, Planting potatoes & Making room for sunflowers


I made J a rhubarb pie for his birthday at his request.  I followed a suggestion found on an Internet recipe site, that suggested dividing the flour and sugar into two layers, one covering the bottom of the crust, and the other sprinkled on top of the cut up rhubarb, that said the mix would filter down through the fruit during baking.Ha! The pie looked pretty, and tasted fine, except for huge lumps of solid, pink, hard sugar candy which R and young J relished but were shoved politely to plate's edge by the rest of us.  Next time, I'll follow the tried and true method of coating the cut rhubarb with the sugar mixture! Anyway, we were congregated on the porch after we all got home from school and town, and noticed the flash of brilliant,red feathers of a pair of scarlet tanagers high overhead in the side yard maples.  What a nice way to celebrate J's birthday!  D and I noticed scarlet tanagers for the first time in the week following J's birth 25 years ago, when we were exultant in the thrill of being part of the creation of new life, and attune to every little nuance of beauty nature offered to share with us- it's out there at all times just like the stars and moon overhead, but often taken for granted when the grind and monotony of day to day living takes precedence.

Picking rhubarb for pie


Last week, I helped my Dad plant 5 pounds of red norland potatoes in a small patch of ground D opened up behind the barn.. I felt like I was at the feet of a master gardener as dad instructed me in his quiet, methodical, matter-of-fact way how to hoe open three rows, scatter fertilizer, place the potatoes (GIVE THEM ENOUGH SPACE TO GROW!), cover them and hope for good growing conditions.  Years ago when Dad had a much bigger plot between Route 7 and the RR tracks, I helped him weed and hill potatoes, and later hand pick pale, plump, potato bugs off the leaves into a tin can.  Anyway,I can still remember my awe when he leaned over and plucked an arrowhead from the damp soil  and handed it to me.  I carried it in my pocket, fingering it at random during the next year or so until I realized too late that it must've fallen onto the floor of a dressing room of a one- price clothing shop in Northgate Plaza, a lucky find for someone!

Dad's potato patch

Saturday, I planted some sunflower seeds between rows of sweet corn I planted a couple weeks ago. I still have a half pound of sunflowers to plant somewhere, but have run out of open room, so started expanding the borders of my backyard poppy, hyacinth, gladiolas, bee balm garden. So(w) many seeds, so(w) little room!

Extending borders

Poppy bud
Behold, blueberry blossoms, beaded by the rain.

Blueberry blossoms

My porch garden grows as I pot more pansies and pretty plants to the steps. 

Happiness is...

Last week, I drove to Norwich to pick up my new pair of glasses and stopped along the way to capture these cows enjoying a mild afternoon, pondside.  Another group of frisky heifers looked like they were having a grand time outdoors running pell mell down a slope, maybe a bovine version of tag or follow the leader? By the way, my new glasses seem miraculous; looking through the scratched old ones was like trying to see through waxed paper. 

Cow pond

And look at these tulips glowing like ruby embers in late afternoon sunshine!


I enjoyed attending the last bluegrass concert of this season at the Bainbridge Town Hall, the Bristol Mountain Bluegrass Band. Wonderful!

Bristol Mountain Band

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fox kit video clip

Fox kit video clip
Originally uploaded by Farmhouse Greetings

Foxes, frogs and fulfillment

My kids let me snap several pictures of them yesterday since my Mother's Day wish was to get a current picture of them without one of them making a face, or clowning for the camera.  Thanks, guys! 


D and I finally saw the fox kits across the river. I hope Mama Fox teaches them to stay clear of the busy roadway as they get older and more adventurous. Since she has her paws full, we snapped a couple Mother's day pictures for her, too.

Fox kit


Tonight, I cut up some red norland seed potatoes for my dad and I to plant on Thursday.  I walked along our creek bank, casing a place to slip in a few packets of sunflower seeds and discovered a lovely spotted frog snoozing under a rock when I pulled some dandelions.  I carried it to the front porch, laughing and squealing as it wriggled, trying to escape. I showed it to J when he returned from baseball practice, and returned it to its creekside habitat.  It promptly jumped across the creek beyond my reach, but I managed to get a quick snapshot of it. 

Freed frog

Earlier, when I dropped J off at practice, captured (with camera) a small rabbit sampling Spring greens along the roadside.

Baseball Rabbit

Spotted an oriole high overhead this weekend, and D spotted an oriole's nest under construction, also.

Baltimore Oriole

Oriole nest in progress

Apple Blossoms

Thursday, May 8, 2008

View from the Front Porch

Morning rain veils the landscape in mist this morning. Dan spotted a flash of red off the porch, possibly a scarlet tanager? He also spied a clutch of bright blue eggs in the holly bush's robin's nest visible from the porch. I know I'm pushing the season due to possibility of more frosts, but I've planted my porch railing boxes and purchased a few hanging plants.

Hanging plant from Walmart

Porch plantings

Robin's nest in holly bush near porch

Misty morning

Pansies' page

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pansies in Progress

I'm trying to draw a page of pansies for my 2009 calendar, illustrating a poem that Dan wrote about 30 years ago, but progress is sloow because it's planting season, weeding season, track season, baseball season, etc., etc.! Yesterday, I took an impromptu excursion to a couple greenhouses and bought two hanging plants for the porch and stuff for new windowboxes.

Pansies' portrait

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Incidental Garden Tasks

The ground is wet with newfallen rain, so each time I'm outside It's hard not to pass by any border or garden plot without pausing to pull out a few dandelions, ground ivy or tufts of wayward grass. I guess some would call it weeding and that sounds like work. I call it making room for more flowers!

Old plant tags

Garden view

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Snow peas

My peas are growing!

Snow peas by bunny hutch

Friday, May 2, 2008

May already!

The sight of an Indigo Bunting feeding at my friend, Audrey's feeder, will help me remember this special day, my daughter's 18th birthday! She is with her classmates on their senior trip to VA this weekend, so I will celebrate her birth with a few memories...I can clearly remember walking around the yard, the evening she was born, and marvelling at how soft her newborn skin felt as she lay on my tummy for the first time. Images of her birthdays blend together in memory, the cute blue dress she wore when a toddler,her hair tousled and curly, the sunflower dress at her pinata party with school friends (her hair in long braids down her back), a gang of preteen girls romping up the hill behind us like wild horses, picking daffodil bouquets to take home, and her 16th birthday picnic at State park when she drove for the first time in the parking lot...

Indigo bunting

Gifts for R

Wildflowers are in bloom and I'll have to identify them with an old guidebook It's been awhile since I matched names to specific blooms; sometimes it's enough to admire them just for the sake of their natural beauty of just being there on the woodland floor, and sometimes it's nice to call them by name. The shadbush in the lower field is in full bloom. Mom always liked to have a few branches for a Spring bouquet when she hosted bridge club parties.

Wakerobin or red trillium?


Wild bleeding heart

Dad just celebrated his 90th birthday on April 29th. He's often told us the story that the creek near their home was flooding around the time his Mom gave birth. We've also heard the story of his most memorable 4th birthday when he and his older sister, Clarice, walked two miles home from church and when he got home happily discovered that his mom had baked a yellow cake with chocolate frosting to honor his special day. He was the middle child of eleven kids, and he is the last surviving brother of nine boys. His youngest sister, (Edna) Ruth, whom we all called Aunt John, because she was a certified tomboy with so many older brothers, helped him celebrate this year at a family gathering at my cousin' (Sherry's) home in PA. Earlier this week, I made Dad a double-sized lemon merangue pie and my brother, Gary, came down from Camillus to help us celebrate. This is our birthday season- my best friend's birthday is also today, and soon we'l celebrate Gary's 62nd birthday and my oldest son's 25th one!


Mom. Dad. and Guy

Some cousins and aunts and Dad

Ruth & Dad (Aunt John & Al)