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I set the kitchen clock on the porch counter to get a good picture of what the temperature was yesterday. The numbers on the bottom right corner show the outside temp. It went up a few more degrees a little bit later. I’ve not heard if we broke a local record for highest temperature in February, but if not, we had to be close.

With the sudden increase in temps I encountered wasps in the enclosed porch. That ‘gun’ in the image is actually a bug vacuum I found for my grandson when he was a small boy. He no longer uses it to capture and examine bugs and so it now has a second life as what I use to capture bugs and release them outdoors.

The weather yesterday was a delight for those longing for warmer, sunny days. While walking down a road towards the monastery chapel I noted caterpillars and other wildlife I don’t remember ever seeing in February. I passed a guest sitting in the sunshine and he mentioned how wonderful it was to have this spring weather.

Not wanting to spoil his visit and his enjoyment of the warm weather, I continued on my way thinking … it would be nice to have this weather, if only it was spring. We are however in the middle of winter when freezing weather is the norm and in the season of rest and growth that isn’t visible to the eye. If we stay in warm weather too many days, fruit trees and many more things will suffer when things freeze up again. My thoughts as I walked were… for everything there is a season.

I was reminded of the book I read this fall, along with a group that meets weekly. The book is by Joan Chittister and it covers the topics below..

A time…

to be born

to lose

to love

to laugh

for war

to heal

to sow

to die

to kill

to build up

to embrace

to reap

to weep

to refrain from embracing

to gain

for peace

for every purpose under the heaven.

So much of what was going on in the fall and winter, the elections, the media, and constant noise seemed to be things reflected upon in this book. If you have not read it, I recommend it.

Noisy times require times of silence as a balance, I welcomed the colder weather when the hard to travel roads or freezing temps felt like a good reason to stay in and get some projects done. I’m pleased with how many things I’ve ticked off my list. Some are art and textile projects, others retreat planning, and writing projects.

One of the projects is a blog for those of us who are oblates of Mount Saviour Monastery. I have the pages set up, am working on the introduction and then hopefully it will be ready to launch in a week or so. What is taking me so long is that I’ve been reading everything I could about the founding of Mount Saviour and some of the first oblates. There is a lot I didn’t know and I’m enjoying exploring it all.

As for the weather, today it has been raining hard on and off. I went to chapel, then to practice tai chi and then enjoyed a chair massage before having to prepare the main guest meal at noon. At mid afternoon it was 43F outside, getting closer to where it should be. While yesterday’s walk in warm weather was enjoyable, the rain today is comforting. We’ve not had enough precipitation this winter and the sound of the rain against the windows nearby makes it easy to concentrate on reading and writing, and when that is done, a nap while listening to raindrops may be a good thing.

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Often during Lent I will participate in a group study or group retreat. This year, being already quite busy with organizing several groups, I decided to take a step back and do a personal retreat, setting aside a time every morning and evening to explore a topic and reflection for the week guided by the ‘Called To Be Saints’ Lent retreat on the Pray As You Go website.

Meanwhile, last week my niece visited and gifted me with a pendant that is a crystal. It is roughly egg shaped and I like that it reminds me of ‘birth’.

Then 3 days later we had a mild day and I decided to do a little garden work on the flower bed at the monastery where my Stepping Stones group meets weekly. I packed some tools to take with me, unsure of what I would need. Since there was no noon prayers that day I decided to pull a few weeds from the garden before my group met. While doing so I noticed something sparkle in the soil. I dug out a small crystal, receiving it as a gift. Later I returned and finished trimming most of the winter debris from the garden.

Arriving at home I found a very heavy box from my son in Florida. In it I found 4 large crystals! I show my 12 drum in the photo as a size comparison. My son asked that I pick one for myself and then give one to my daughter, my sister, my niece. For myself I chose the one at the top, clear in color with little bits of sand or soil in the crevices. This reminds me that I sometimes feel God’s love and light the most when I’m in the garden digging in the soil. But the color of this ‘soil’ in the crystals has a gold tone to it and it reminds me of things that don’t tarnish, that even when they get dirty, they can be cleansed.

The next morning I listened to the next segment of the Pray As You Go Lent Retreat. The focus this 5th week of Lent was our role in a wider community of faith. For part of the prayer you are asked to choose an object and then examine how it is unique, focus on its qualities and on the words from Romans 12:3 – 13.

Listening to the prayer I am reminded that I am as unique as the object that I began my prayer with, the crystal from the monastery garden. That we each have our strengths and weaknesses, talents. And I’m invited to examine my relationship in community, how I care for and support them and how they care for and support me.

The retreat link is included for those who would like to explore the Lent prayers or visit the main page for daily prayers, music and reflection.

http://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/lent-retreat/

I’ve been seeing and hearing many comments about people being exhausted and stressed along with discussions about goals and resolutions for the New Year.

Reading yet another comment this morning on all that needs to be done before Christmas … here is my personal refection.

I am a gardener and so I tend to think in gardening terms and I have learned ….
for everything there is a season …. does this sound familiar?

Every year I put my garden to bed for winter. As I do I reflect on what flourished and what withered away or simply didn’t take hold. What did I learn from it? What can I do differently to get a different outcome? What do I need to be patient with? What do I need to let go? I make notes of these things so I can come back and review them when I need direction. Then I let it go, enjoy the snow on the bare branches and in January sit down again and set some intentions for the garden, knowing that my plan is only a temporary guideline that may change throughout the coming year.

Many other gardeners do the same. We know there is a time for everything. That no matter how much we plan and do, we can’t control the outcome of some things or what sometimes blows our way and we learn the rhythm of the seaons.

Moving into the New Year works the same way. We can’t move on till we have put the ‘old’ year to bed. Before we make resolutions, set our intentions, pick a word to walk with, set goals or whatever it is that we do each year, we need to sit with the old year a bit. What were the joys and sorrows? What did we learn from them? Where did we grow, where did we plant seeds and help others thrive?

But for right now …. stop for a moment… BREATHE! … and think about the season we are in. What does it mean to you? What would you like it to be? Don’t do what everyone else is doing just because it is expected of you. If you don’t enjoy shopping, crowds or long lines.. like me… don’t do it! If you are exhausted from going to concerts, celebrations, too much preparation, don’t do it! Give yourself the gift of rest, time for walking, eating well, time with those you care about. And remember the best gift you can give someone is the give of yourself, your time, your attention.

The New Year will come soon enough …

It’s been a foggy day, raining off and on. Before I was a serious gardener I didn’t care for rainy days for many reasons. My hair would frizz, I didn’t like to walk in it, I didn’t like to have to carry an umbrella or wear a raincoat…. my list was long.

When gardening became a passion I learned to enjoy what the rain had to offer. It makes me want to stay indoors, enjoy the sound of the rain, read, work on quiet projects, enjoy comfort food and sit by the fire with a glass of wine at the end of the day.

Today a friend stopped by and brought lunch to share. We ate it while watching the eagle that was watching the geese involved in a very loud discussion, much honking and fighting and finally they settled down.

Because it feels like early April even though it is only February, lunch conversation turned to garden plans. We both like to use plants for a variety of uses, food, medicine, dyes. I remembered I had some avocado pits that needed chopping and when I checked them later I found that one had hardened too much to dice for better drying. But it shows the color I’m going for rather nicely… shades of red.

My friend stayed an extra hour before going back to work keeping eye on the eagle to see if it would fly away. After she left it put on quite a show of fishing. I watched as I sat at my work table, trying to get some work done.

Finally getting around to the pits, chopped what I could and took a photo. In the lower right hand corner are the freshly diced pieces. Lower left some dried pieces. At the top a fresh pit for chopping. In the center the dried pit showing color. The process of using natural dyestuff can involve several days of simmering or soaking and the odor can be a bit much. So I do this kind of thing outdoors when the weather allows. If this weather keeps up I won’t have to wait much longer before I start outdoor fleece washing and dye projects.

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Call them what you may….   the photo is of ripening black caps otherwise known as black raspberries.  And yes, it is too early for berries… but since it is planting season.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people find my blog while searching for info on growing berries, but also looking for info on why their berries have changed in color or taste resulting in something different than the original plants. I’ve discussed berries in posts for several years now but don’t know if I’ve tagged the post with a category so here goes some new tips.

Before moving to the area we live in now we cared for hundreds of berry bushes, sold them via a stand at the end of the driveway and to local markets.  One of the things we quickly learned is that if you have different types of berries you do not want to plan them near each other.   If you do you may end up with some hybrids that may be delightful but also some that may be not so delightful.

We’ve had berries that didn’t quite taste like blackberries nor raspberries,  some that were a mix of black and red caps, occasionally with the best qualities of the two.. and some that tasted so bad only a few critters would touch them.

How far apart to plant them?  I’ve read somewhere 100 ft.  But, I don’t know for sure.  My advice is to do a bit of research and plant in different areas.  If you have a small yard as I do now, choose just one and stick with it.  I have a few black caps here, seedless and I’ll be encouraging those to spread.  If  bear, birds or deer don’t get to them first I hope to have some to enjoy for 4th of July.

More than 25 years ago we bought a house in the country. Having grown up as city kids with limited gardening knowledge, we were dismayed to find that with the house came several hundred raspberry bushes at the back of the property. We’d always eaten strawberries, but not raspberries and at first thought them too tart. We quickly came to love the taste of the red caps and black caps and happily shared them with family, friends and customers for almost 10 years.

When we relocated, a handful of the plants came with us. More than 15 years later we are still enjoying our berries and we look forward to having plenty of them for our own use starting just before the 4th of July and continuing for a month or longer, sometimes with a repeat crop early fall.

Right on time the berries started to ripen earlier this week… today I made a berry fields iced green tea and for lunch fresh lettuce from the garden, sprinkled with berries and cheese crumbles with a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette. Yum!

Interestingly, after we moved to our current home we discovered that a neighbor’s very large mulberry tree drops mulberries into our yard. For years I’ve just swept up what the birds don’t eat, happy that the mulberries start to ripen at the same time as my berries and thus the birds leave ours alone.. Last year the birds pretty much picked that tree clean and I had little to sweep up… This year what a mess… Hmm… maybe I’ll have to find some way to use the berries, use them instead of tossing them…. so far haven’t found anything made from them that I like…

One of the photos shows the raspberries starting to ripen… Another shows my salad….another shows the mulberry tree to the right of my garden sthop/studio. Another shows the mulberry covered garden path to my potting storage area… not pretty at all. Too bad I can’t get them to fall in containers I put out… Hmmmmm….

May was a busy month for us, but somehow we managed to get most of our garden work done by the end of the month. Now we mainly have to keep things watered, weeded and occasionally divide plants and transplant or give away our extras.

Shown are some of the things thriving in the garden..

While sitting at the table in the new garden shop/shed/whatever,  I looked up to see what at first appeared to be a blizzard.  With unusually warm temps, in the 80’s, snow wasn’t possible.

Knowing  what it was, I went out to be closer to the cherry trees so I could experience the showers of blossoms with every gust of wind.  Some friends and family will sometimes comment that I see things as a child would see them.  When the cherry trees are in bloom, is one of those times when I feel like a child who is seeing this for the first time.  I am in awe of the beauty, will sit or stand under them to gaze up at the blossoms and love to experience the blossom showers. I noticed neighbors will also stop to enjoy the trees.  In fact some have told me that they look for to the trees blooming each spring and if they happen to be walking or driving by when they are raining blossoms, they will stop and experience the showers.

Photos taken yesterday…

The first is of the small Weeping Cherry tree.  It is still relatively young and so not yet very big nor dense, but it has the most beautiful pink blossoms.  I’ll be picking, pressing, and drying some of the blooms today.

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Under the Yoshino Cherry trees. These are the types of trees you see in D.C.  The blossoms are a little paler than those of the weeping cherry, but just as pretty and the trees themselves are beautiful with that layered branch way of growing.   I’ll be cutting some small branches and taking them to a friend in the infirmary.  Last year she came over often to sit on the bench near the trees to enjoy them.  If she can’t come to enjoy the blossoms, I can take the blossoms to her and maybe make her day a little brighter.

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And speaking of children…  last week granddaughter Jess was trying on hats from our collection of vintage hats, to see which one she wanted to wear to Hat Day at school.  Grandson Connor had been dropped off very early as his daddy was having hip replacement surgery.   Connor was upset at not being able to find a boy hat to wear, something other than everyday hats.  I remembered I’d pulled out a chullo hat from a trip to Bolivia so that I could copy some of the stitch designs and use them in a chullo hat I’ll be starting soon.  Connor tried it, and it was perfect!

 

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Looking at that smile you can easilly see why it is that children can smile that way. There is a lot of passion in everything they do… they way they experience a shower of blossoms, they way they smile. We can learn a lot from children. 

I mentioned Connor’s daddy having surgery.   Our son-in-law could use prayers and healing thoughts as he recovers from this surgery and faces the next one.  Hip replacements at his age are not common, but we are hoping that once healed he will be able to do all the things he has not been able to do for quite some time, important things like teaching a son about camping and the great outdoors. 

I also mentioned the garden house…  if you’d like to see photos of it so far visit my studio blog, link in the sidebar.

My simple woman’s update is posted on a separate page…  you can find it in the link above..

and a teaser….

While I have posted very few things on my studio blog lately,  it is mainly because I’ve had little time for photos and descriptions.    And with Christmas and Rock Day so close I still don’t have a lot of time for getting photo colors just right… I may just wait till after Rock Day to work on it… 

I did take a quick photo this morning of just a few of my many batches of silk top available, some dyed using natural dyes this summer.  Here are  4 different batches of silk top that can be used for spinning, blending or other silk work.   One of the solid colors was done with a walnut dye, it is absolutely yummy! The sage green ( color is off in the photo) was done with my purple and black daylilies.   The other two were done with commercial dyes.    Using my plants for the natural colors was a lot of fun…

Simply Divine Silk Top

Simply Divine Silk Top

I saw this on another blog and thought that someone read my mind. The things we love were so similar that I could have just posted what she wrote without changing a thing, but I didn’t.

7  Things I love:

* My family… 2 legged and 4 legged… who know me well … and love me … quirks and all.  And the grandchildren who let me see things through a child’s eyes.

*My home… where friends and family gather comfortably. No matter where it is, big or small, it is unique and much more than just a home.

* Quiet time in the morning with a cup of coffee or tea, watching the sunrise, reading or strolling through the garden while the dew is still on the flowers… with Him who loves me most.

* Curling up in a comfortable chair … with a good book … no where I need to be.

* A winter day with big fat snowflakes slowly falling gently ….  snowman making weather …

* Being creative …. trying something  new… a recipe … a new craft … new flowers in the garden … and sharing with others.

* Living simply … doing more with less … finding the little treasures in life.

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