Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Goodnight Winter

I could write a long post about all the little things that went wrong today. It was just "one of those days." From the Internet being down at the college when I went to take a proctored exam that requires the Internet, to my "low fuel" indicator light coming on, to breaking a handle on a coffee mug while doing dishes... just one of those days. On the other hand, the Internet finally came up while I was still at the college, I made it to the gas station before running completely out of fuel, and it was mug with no sentimental value attached to it at all.
Near the end of the day, things went more smoothly. I gathered my first herb harvest of 2008, on the last day of winter, and we enjoyed fresh thyme on our roasted sweet potatoes. After I got bread rising in two loaf pans, I ran outside to take photos of deer down in the field at the neighbor's farm. For the past several days, I have seen these deer each evening at twilight and each morning at dawn. Often there are 12 of them, and many times they are enjoying the remains of last autumn's sunflowers. You can barely see three of them in the farther field on this "fuzzy photo."
A pretty moon is rising, almost full, and I was able to get a picture showing a tiny white moon against the clear sweet blue of the sky. I have been waiting for weeks on end to see a sky without heavy gray clouds, and the late afternoon hours brought that blue to me. So, it was one of those days... one of those days filled with the blessings of life in a quiet country house on a windy hill.

photos by Aisling, March 19, 2008, last day of winter

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Winter, One Last Thyme

By early afternoon, the snows of early morning had turned to light rain. I put on my big boots and headed out to look for signs of spring. I had to look closely, but tender green shoots are pushing up out of bare earth, and from beneath the snow and ice that lingers here still. This will probably be the last time I photograph my gardens this winter. When I do my "Sunday Stroll" on Easter, it will be spring.

photos by Aisling, March 18, 2008 1) English Thyme in the icy herb garden 2) Impression Tulips in the warmest spot in the front garden 3) Crocus emerging in the butterfly garden near the heuchera (coral bells) 4) Salad Burnett 5) The Chinese Elm in the butterfly garden

Monday, March 17, 2008


La-tea-dah of Gracious Hospitality is having a blogging event revolving around tea. Once upon a teapot, I had afternoon tea several times a week, in our "homeschooling days" when my daughters were at home with me. Now they are both in high school, and though my little boys love a "cuppa" tea once in a while, it doesn't have the same feeling of girly elegance that it once had! This week, participants of the Gracious Hospital-i-tea Blog-a-thon are asked to share the story of a favorite tea cup.
When I was a young woman, my maternal grandmother let me know that one day I would inherit her china set. The pieces were lovely: white with a ring of gold and black at the edge. At first, when I received them, I kept them in boxes on a storage shelf. I wanted to display them, but I didn't have a china hutch. On a couple of occasions per year, I would pull them out, wash them and serve a holiday meal... and then, sadly, back into the boxes they would go.

For several summers in a row, I babysat a sweet friend's little daughter. We had the most fun with her: making hollyhock dolls, picnicking in the yard, and playing dress-up. At the end of one summer, because I had not accepted payment for watching our little friend, her mother paid me by giving me the empty china hutch sitting in her basement. It was quite lovely, but she couldn't fit it into her dining room because of windows, doors and an open floor plan.
Finally, I could display my Grandmother's china! I washed it all and placed it in the hutch gently. I burned the ugly cardboard boxes in the yard. Some time later, we discovered that two of the tea cups were still in one of the cardboard boxes at the time they were burned. We found the two cups amid the ashes.

At first, I was devastated. I stood at the sink scrubbing them furiously. Despite my best efforts, each formerly lovely white cup was mottled with brown and black scorch marks. As I stood, blinking back tears, I could almost hear my grandmother chuckle. With a sigh, I decided to keep them. As I set them into the china hutch amid the elegant white china, I thought, "Now they have a story."
"There are so many different ways lives work out, so many stories, and every one of them is precious: full of joy and heartbreak, and a fair amount of situation comedy." ~ Sean Steward, Perfect Circle, 2004

photos by Aisling, March 17, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Gardener's Dreams

I've had seed catalogs stacking up on the shelf of my coffee table for months now. Finally, it is nearing mid-March and I'm ready to order seeds. So far, my order is going to be through Seed Savers, a favorite heirloom seed source that I've ordered from in the past - always with nice results.

Limerick wants to make pickles this summer, so we're ordering A&C Pickling Cucumbers. Dill self seeds here virgorously, so I haven't had to order that in years! *grin* I am planning to order the Seed Savers Lettuce Mixture which includes Amish Deer Tongue, Austrailian Yellowleaf, Bronze Arrowhead, Forellenschuss, Lollo Rossa, Pablo, Red Velvet and Reine des Glace. It sounds delicious and colorful. I can hardly wait for a summer salad!

I am going to try growing soybeans as an experiment. They are grown commercially in my state, so I am imagine they will grow well here. The variety I'm going to try is called "Envy." This is the year I'm going to try growing Potimarron, an aromatic chestnut-like winter squash from France. It has intrigued me for several years, but I always turn it down in favor of the tried and true. And, I'm going to grow a bit of the herb Stevia here to add to some herbal tissanes. It is nice to have natural sweetness, so that my children aren't tempted to add a lot of processed sugar!

This photo taken in the early hours of the morning shows part of the garden area as it appears at this time of year. This part of the yard will be verdant and lush by mid-summer, filled with beds of herbs and vegetables, fruit trees and berry bushes, roses amid the tea garden, and hollyhocks by the playhouse. In these days of middle-March, the garden sleeps, but the gardener's dreams are green and growing.

photos by Aisling, March 2008 1) seed catalogs 2) dill seed head 3) overlooking the vegetable garden area

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A little something fun!

I have had a little crafting blog, Inside a Black Apple, on my blogroll since I started The Quiet Country House a year and half ago. I don't have much time for crafting myself these days, and don't have a lot of extra income for buying arts and crafts, but I just love the personal style of this 20-something "indie" crafter, so I check in with her quite often just for fun. Today, Emily of Inside a Black Apple will be on the Martha Stewart show! Check her out, if Martha hasn't already aired in your locale.

image by Haiku, 2007, made on MS Paint

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March Forth

Even at nearly 13 year old, very old for a German Wire Haired Pointer, when Miss Maudie sees a new trail, she wants to follow it just to see where it leads. Surging forward, leaping into fresh streams, trying something new.... it seems to me what the month of March is all about. A year or two ago, I heard that this date, March 4th, is the only day of the year whose name (when spoken) is a directive: March Forth, the calendar tells. Eagerly, knowing spring is just ahead, I comply. Of course Maudie's gift for rushing ahead without over-thinking things, puts my own to shame! *grin*

Happy March, dear readers!

photos by Haiku,from her Sunday walk in the woods with Maudie, March 2008, 1) Maudie entering the trial ahead 2) Maudie racing ahead, ears flying!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday Stroll - Beneath the Snow

It is nearly 40 degrees Farenheit here today. A quick erratic breeze is teasing the stalks of last year's growth. The snow still covers our fields, but little patches of earth are showing now. New growth is beginning... bits of tender color peek out of the snow. For the first time in weeks, I grabbed my camera and took my Sunday Stroll.

Here is a link to a page which shows all of my Sunday Stroll posts from 2007:
Aisling's Sunday Stroll
photos byAisling, March 2, 2008 1) Flower pots I forgot to bring in for the winter. 2) Moss at the base of the Chinese Elm in the Butterfly Garden 3) Cone on a White Pine 4) Heuchera, or Coral Bells, cultivar Stormy Seas (I think) 5) Old Garden Bench & Honey Crisp Apple Tree

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Moving Slowly and Breathing Deeply

This morning I woke up, and sat in my pajamas for a couple of hours, sipping coffee and studying for a midterm in my history course. I made smoothies and tidied the house a bit. All in all, it was a typical quiet morning here on the hill.

Two weeks ago, I woke up to a very different day. I woke up that Saturday morning very, very early in a hotel room in Manhattan. One of the things that kept me busy during the month of February was a quick trip to New York City as a chaperon for our high school's music department trip. 25 years ago, during my senior year in high school, I went to NYC with about 10 girls from my class and our English teacher. So, when this trip opportunity came up, with both of my daughters eligible to go (and the oldest in her senior year of high school) how could I pass up the opportunity to chaperon?

Aside from the long, long bus ride, this trip was fascinating. We saw Hairspray on Broadway, and saw the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. We visited the Statue of Liberty and toured midtown on a bus, with a friendly, funny tour guide. We stopped along the curb at the World Trade Center Site for quiet moment, looking tearfully at the colorful tiles made by children that line the fence. We shopped in China Town in the afternoon, and along Broadway in the evenings. We spent a couple of hours at the Museum of Modern Art one afternoon, and an entire day at the American Museum of Natural History the next.

If you read this blog, you know how much I love my quiet, country life. Still, the vibrant life that surges all around a visitor to New York is incredible and enervating. One daughter would like to live and work in NYC one day, which is exactly how I felt when I visited at 18 years old. At the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) I purchased a book about a day in the life of Monet (more about that in another post.) The clerk at the counter asked if I was a member at MOMA. "No, I'm not," I told him, "Apparently I only get back to the city about once every 25 years." We laughed about that together. In the midst of a cosmopolitan museum, at the heart of a huge bustling city, people pause in their busyness and connect. For me, it was a "quiet country house" moment, despite my geographic location. It isn't really about the little house on the windy hill. It is about moving slowly and breathing deeply, and recognizing the rich sensation...the quiet joy... that comes from appreciating life.
photos from NYC by Haiku, February 2008 1) Seagull on the waterfront 2) Statue of Liberty
photo from NYC by Aisling, February 2008 3) the garden courtyard at the MOMA