Zinnias

Zinnias

Ginkgo leaves

Ginkgo leaves

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Words from today’s pages:  “The ‘contemplative habit of mind’, which makes the pursuit of such knowledge [valued for its own sake] possible, requires an idleness in which individuals become lighthearted, playful and able to engage in freely chosen activities, which are at the same time constructive and satisfying.”
— Howard Woodhouse, from the Introduction to In Praise of Idleness

Bird on zinnia

Bird on zinnia

Zinnias

Zinnias

The old red barn on the farm where I grew up

The old red barn on the farm where I grew up

As long as it stands, the old red barn will be the anchor on our Minnesota family farm.  My recent visit was the first time I had returned since my father died more than two years ago.  Now the land has been split into two parts, owned by my youngest and oldest brothers.  The old square farmhouse with peeling white paint has been torn down and in its place is a beautiful new home with lots of windows looking out on the land, spiffy modern appliances, and even air conditioning.

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I am not a sentimental person, so I had no qualms about seeing the new house, and I looked forward with eager anticipation to the changes and improvements that my brother and his wife made to my old childhood stomping grounds. I was not disappointed.  At first I was just a tiny bit disoriented because the new house — while sited in the same spot as our old one — has a larger footprint and extends farther to the west.  It took me a minute to figure out where the old smokehouse had stood, to identify the stump of what had been the tree with the tire swing,  and to recognize the trees still standing next to the garage.  (The old garage has also been replaced by a new, larger one.)  Other trees have grown even taller than my memory of them.  But once I was reoriented, everything felt familiar and comfortable and welcoming.  I realized that, for me, the farm was not the physical buildings, but rather the land, the landscape and its seasonal changes, family ties and memories, and the rhythm of daily farm life.  Those things endure and I love them just as much now.  My visit was a homecoming.

Old barn and new garage

Old barn and new garage

“The eye for beauty is the eye for love.”
— Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year

Once again I was struck by the beauty of my childhood home ground.

Fields and woods

Fields and woods

“The landscape seemed increasingly to be a succession of lines — the line of hills, the line of trees, the line of reeds, the line of cattails, the line of water  . . .”
— Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year

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One view to the east

 

One view to the south, with woods and wildflower patch

One view to the south, with woods and wildflower patch

“Our language does not distinguish green from green.  It is one of the ways in which we have declared ourselves to be apart from nature.  In nature, there is nothing so impoverished of distinction as simply the color green.  There are greens as there are grains of sand, an infinitude of shades and gradations of shades, of intensities and brilliancies.  Even one green is not the same green.  There is the green of dawn, of high noon, of dusk.  There is the green of young life, of maturity, of old age.  There is the green of new rain and of long drought.  There is the green of vigor, the green of sickness, the green of death.  One could devote one’s life to a study of the distinctions in the color green and not yet have learned all there is to know.  There is a language in it, a poetry, a music.  We have not stopped long enough to hear it.”
— Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year

Farm fresh eggs

Farm fresh eggs

My brother and his wife are bringing new life to the farm with animals — chickens, dogs, barn cats, pigs, and they rent the pasture to another farmer for grazing cows.  While the scale is more of a hobby farm, the animal husbandry and stewardship of the land is as hands on as the farming of years past.  Butchering six chickens brought back old memories.  I learned that a farm skill like butchering chickens is like riding a bike — you never forget how to do it!  Farm-to-table meals are not the rare thing they are in the city!

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My brother raises buff orpington chickens for meat, and the few hens lay eggs

My brother raises Buff Orpington chickens for meat, and the few hens lay eggs

 

Watercolor sketch of chickens

Watercolor sketch of chickens

 

Butchering chickens using a chicken plusher to remove the larger feathers.

Butchering chickens using a chicken plucker to remove the larger feathers.

 

Chicken on the spit

Chicken on the spit

 

Cow in the rented pasture. The red ear tags help to repel flies.

Cow in the rented pasture. The red ear tags help to repel flies.

 

Pigs raised for pork

Pigs raised for pork

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My sister-in-law titled this watercolor sketch "Bacon 2017"

My sister-in-law titled this watercolor sketch “Bacon 2017”

In my Dad’s final years, as he grew frailer, he resisted change.  Many things were falling into decrepitude, but changes were deferred for as long as possible so that my father could be in familiar surroundings.  Now that he is gone, it is rejuvenating to see my brother’s and his wife’s efforts to remake the farm into a dream home for their own lives.  It seems only right to me that they move the farm into modern times.  Time to create new memories in this deeply rooted place!

Watercolor sketch of one of the old oak trees on the farm

Watercolor sketch of one of the old oak trees on the farm

 

Watercolor sketch of zinnias in the from garden bed

Watercolor sketch of zinnias in the front garden bed

 

 

 

Intensely Ordinary

October 18, 2015

“Do not try to do extraordinary things but do ordinary things with intensity.”
— Emily Carr, from Hundreds and Thousands:The Journals of an Artist

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

 

Sparrow in the zinnia beds, Jello Mold Farm

Sparrow in the zinnia beds, Jello Mold Farm

“In any careless combination they delight.
Pure peach-cheek beside the red of boiled beet
by the perky scarlet of a cardinal by flamingo pink
by sunsink orange by yellow from a hundred buttercups
by bleached linen white.  Any random armful
of the world, one comes to feels, would fit together.”
— from “A Bouquet of Zinnias” by Mona Van Duyn

Zinnia field, Jello Mold Farm

Zinnia field, Jello Mold Farm

I love how Van Duyn’s poem celebrates the brilliant multi-colored pageantry of the zinnia flower.  As summer fades to fall, the tenacity of this flower means that we will enjoy their splashes of color when other summer blossoms are spent.  The poem is brought to life in the zinnia beds at Jello Mold Farm.

“How tough they are, how bent on holding their flagrant
freshness, how stubbornly in their last days instead
of fading they summon an even deeper hue
as if they intended to dry to everlasting,
and how suddenly, heavily, they hang their heads at the end.”
— from “A Bouquet of Zinnias” by Mona Van Duyn

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'Queen lime" zinnias

‘Queen lime” zinnias

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“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.”
— T. S. Eliot

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Jello Mold Farm in October

October 13, 2013

Sign on van, Jello Mold Farm

Sign on van, Jello Mold Farm

Harvesting some late dahlias, Jello Mold Farm

Harvesting some late dahlias, Jello Mold Farm

Dahlias, Jello Mold Farm

On my recent trip to the Skagit Valley, I stopped in at Jello Mold Farm to see what was happening in the flower beds. Not surprisingly, they were harvesting decorative pumpkins and gourds, but their dahlias were still blooming, too (in great numbers).

Pink dahlias

Pink dahlias

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I love the fall color palette with its golden yellows and rich, jewel-like purples and reds.

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Shoo Fly, a.k.a. Nicandra physalodes

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Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chim Chiminee’

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The ‘Queen Lime’ zinnias are still some of my favorites.

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Queen lime zinnias

And I like to see what other unusual floral fixings catch my eye.

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Monkshood, aconitum sp.

The compost heaps grow large at the end of the peak growing season, an emblem of these plants’ life cycles and regeneration.

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