A Serious Moment

Yesterday I read an article that was posted on my newsfeed in Facebook and it made me very, very angry.

It was THIS story in Rolling Stone Magazine. It didn’t make me angry because it shocked me; it made me angry because I was completely unsurprised.

You see, it’s about rape at UVa.  The sad fact is that young women are sexually assaulted at universities all over the country (and indeed, the world), and though UVa is just one among many, the administration has quite a long history of dismissing those claims and sweeping that information under the rug.  As an undergrad I was lucky; I was already married and a mother and so I never lived on grounds, and I never attended the large, sweaty frat parties that seem to pop up every weekend with a fierce regularity.  I did see them, though.  Being a transit driver for the university meant I worked a lot of late night runs, and many of those nights were spent gingerly navigating along Rugby Rd (fraternity row, in essence) where throngs of scantily dressed young girls stumbled around in the dark with frat boys, drunkenly hopping from party to party.   I heard the widely – believed story that Charlottesville police had no jurisdiction in those areas.  I heard that rape was not treated as a crime by the University.

After I graduated and became an employee working in the fundraising arm of the College I found more evidence of the pervasive sense of white male entitlement I had gotten a taste of as a student.  Board members were overwhelmingly wealthy, male and white, and completely uninterested in anyone who did not fit into that narrow category (unless of course they were trying to fill some sort of quota of diversity to keep up appearances).  I even met older alumni who were upset that so many “veiled women” were enrolled.  It gave me quite a distaste for my alma mater and fellow alumni. This wa s not a group I wished to belong to.  I still, in fact, have a hard time reconciling my time at Jefferson’s University. There were many wonderful friends I made and still keep up with, and I took classes with some incredible faculty. But there was and still is, for me, this shadow of “prestige” hanging over everything.  An unspoken but well-known and accepted idea that this prestige is all-important. That UVa is better than the rest of you.

And so when I read a story in the local paper describing how the University had essentially turned its back on a rape victim, I felt as though it was more of the same.  There later there was THIS story as well.  At this point most people think, Okay, the University is listening. The problems have been pointed out, surely they will change this.

And it seemed to those of us now on the outside that perhaps it was moving to a more progressive  stance.  Certainly there was much more dialogue being opened up.

Or was there? I know an instructor who was chided by the (at the time) President for discussing feminism in her writing class…because the son of very wealthy alum was in that class and found it offensive. (And I hope she’ll forgive me for relating that without asking).

Sadly, now that the Rolling Stone article has hit, it is even more clear that exactly nothing has changed. Sure there’s someone in charge of talking to victims who has been tasked with guiding them.  It seems that she is failing them, though. By not taking them to the authorities, she is tacitly agreeing that perpetrators may go unpunished, free to assault the next girl.  Many victims understand that going forward with charges means they will in effect be put on trial. They will be questioned in painful detail, forced to relive that painful moment over and over. Without a strong advocate most will shrink from that.

This is where my friend Lisa stepped up. You see, while I was sitting in front of my computer with a fire raging in me over how this, over how helpless I felt, she was on the other side of town feeling that same fire – and using it to make something happen.

Lisa (also a UVA alum)  created a fundraising campaign to establish a Legal Defense Fund for victims of sexual assault at UVa.  This would be separate from the University and provide free resources – a victim’s advocate, really – to get help.  It’s been less than 24 hours and she has raised nearly $10,000 toward the goal of $50,000.

The page can be found HERE.

If you are a fellow alum, a member of the UVa community or of the Charlottesville area, or you simply want to help,  I urge you to visit and donate.  Every small amount helps.  We can’t end rape, but we can make sure UVa victims have a place to go and get the appropriate help.


The Wintering

We are all holding our breath these days, just waiting for the inevitable return of winter.  We’ve had several recent days where the sky was grey, the temperature was frigid, and the air felt and smelled of snow.

Like every other year, this is where the last minute scramble to be prepared kicks in.  On one of the last warm days I tipped out the water tanks and hosed the hay and leaves and bits out of the bottom.  Of course it looks today as though I didn’t do anything at all, but at least I tried, right?

I’ll be freshening up the pigs’ barn with a layer of fresh hay to root through and burrow into on cold nights.  The bees have been supplied with sugar water as an extra help for the winter (though honestly they made plenty of honey for themselves over the spring and summer and I didn’t remove any from them).

There’s still plenty I’d like to accomplish (some fencing around the strawberry bed, for one) but as every other year, it’s a race against available time and impending cold.

We’ve also been doing our best to keep Cini in the house as much as possible.  His old bones get achey in the cold and he’s looking too skinny these days.


Keeping him in allows me to feed him extra treats throughout the day and know he’s snuggled up warm by the fire at night.  He’s not too crazy about the arrangement.  He still makes a mad dash for the door whenever it’s opened and will then take off after the first deer he sees. But happily, he has found a small friend in Piccadilly, who loves to rub her face on his snout and play with his giant paws.

Outside the leaves are nearly down from all the trees and it is looking very much Thanksgiving-y.


Except…..I was surprised to see this:


I can barely get this rose bush to bloom in the spring, and I have NEVER seen it bloom in the fall.

As lovely as it is, my favorite right now is the Beauty Bush:


I’m thinking I need to dye some yarn in these colors. I also should have bought about 30 more of these bushes when I planted this one, years ago.

Speaking of yarn…..I’m done with my secret baby knitting project!


It needs a blocking and to be sent off, so I will save the details and good photos until it has arrived in the hands of its recipient.  I will say that it was very enjoyable to knit and I used JMF Sabine.  It was knit in bits and spurts mostly during school mornings while the girls were working on reading, or their new project, art journals.


Neve enjoyed working on her title page, which was all about her and the things she enjoys.  However, when I gave them the task of dedicating a page to all things “November”, the results were less than enthusiastic from my middle child.  It was mostly just a statement written out.

“November is a pointless month holding up time between Halloween and Christmas”.

Well then.



Family Weekend

I have just realized, after sorting through my photos from the weekend, that I didn’t really take any.

What the heck, me?

We had my dad and new step-mom down from New York for a visit, and happily the weather couldn’t have been more beautiful.  I made pumpkin ravioli again; why did I wait so long this season?  We seriously should have  been eating it since September.  So very delicious.

Maddie drove up for the day Saturday, which we were thrilled about, since we don’t get to see her very often anymore.  Busy college student is busy!


She took time to visit with her silver fox, Roquefort.


Oona showed Julie around the pasture (when she wasn’t being feral and trying to bite me. Little heathen).


Bertie decided that this weekend was a good time to develop a limp.  Dad helped hold her for me while I cleaned her hooves up a bit.  Luckily I didn’t notice anything much wrong with her feet other than some packed-in mud and poop.  But I gave her a nice trim anyway since we had her there.


Oona particularly enjoyed being serenaded while we waited for dinner.  It was a lively, cozy evening with music and dancing (Oona, with her skeleton, Frank).

We ventured out Monday for lunch at The Whiskey Jar and a walk along the downtown mall.  Neve kept everyone entertained with her various character voices.

I took them all to UVa to see the section of The Berlin Wall that is on display there.  It’s great to have such an incredible, iconic piece of history so close to us. We spent some time talking to the kids about the significance of it before heading over to walk the lawn (actually, we spent our time sitting on the lawn while Oona raced around us in circles, due to the gelato we’d eaten before we left downtown).

The rest of the visit we spent catching up, remember good times from the past and family members who are gone now.  My dad and I are working on getting reacquainted, having lived so far apart for so many years and seeing very little of each other. His new wife is just lovely and I am glad to have had this time getting to know her. I’m happy to say that reconnecting with this part of my family has been more wonderful than I could have hoped for, and I am looking forward to seeing them all much more often in the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me once again….I have a sweet little cousin who was just born that I really need to finish knitting for.

Pumpkin Day

One of the most looked-forward to days of the school year is pumpkin carving day! We talk about various cultural traditions surrounding this time of year (Dia De Los Muertos is a favorite) and about how they used to carve turnips and gourds before pumpkins became the tradition.  Everyone gets to pick out their pattern and work on their own pumpkin.

This year, little Dilly “helped”.



I have to admit, it’s nice that my kids are old enough now that I don’t spend hours scraping out their pumpkins for them.


In the background we play Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and generally sing along with it.


Oona is finally getting the hang of tracing out the pattern, and carving out the bigger pieces (this year she chose the ghost dog Zero from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I only carved the ears and nose for her).


While they scraped, carved and cuddled the kitty, I made cinnamon bread in the Pullman Pan (I added a good 1/2 cup of pureed pumpkin to the cinnamon filling….yum!) and pumpkin-chip cookies (I found a bag of Nestle pumpkin chips at Target with the recipe on the bag).




The guts went into two big bowls which then went out to the pigs for their annual pumpkin day treat.




Neve chose the most difficult pattern of the three; “Scraps”, the skeletal dog from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.


It took her quite awhile.


Sorry, can’t help myself. She’s too adorable.


The hardest part was waiting for nighttime to light them and see everyone’s handiwork.


Oona’s “Zero”.


Emily’s Hanging Bat.


Neve’s patience and hard work paid off. Scraps came out great!

After dinner we all settled in to watch Hocus Pocus and get ready for the big day.

When the kids had gone up to bed I lingered for awhile over a hot cup of cinnamon tea by the woodstove and read a few chapters of this month’s bookclub selection that I am loving. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.  It’s delightfully creepy and Gothic, and perfect for this time of year!

Tonight we open a big bottle of Kraken Rum with friends and take the kids round the neighborhood to collect treats.

Happy Halloween, all.  I hope it’s the perfect blend of fun, fear, and festivity!


How To Spend A Perfect Fall Day

What do you to to enjoy the perfect combination of a Sunday afternoon, gorgeous weather, and beautiful leaves?

Hopefully your friends have their annul fall get-together/birthday party like ours do!


Lisa and Will’s farm is seriously scenic and the ideal setting for a fall party.  We sat under these picturesque trees by a fire and feasted on fresh oysters, apple cider, sausages with sauerkraut, and pumpkin muffins.



Our friend Tanya drove up as well, which made the day even more special.


Check out the log stools!  I’d really like to do this at our place; Paul’s not convinced (in other words, too much work for him right now).  They made fantastic seating for today, though!


Oona and Neve wore themselves out running around the farm with all of the other kids, playing on the hammock, and in that awesome hay fort.

Meanwhile, look at the leaves!!!!


Then there’s the pond…….I’m rather smitten with Lisa’s pond right now.


I mean, really.

I’m not sure it’s actually possible to get more “fall” than we did today.


Look at this lovely little road next to the gorgeous pond.  Now imagine walking down it, leaves crunching underfoot, the smell of a wood fire hanging in the air, while you sip your apple cider.




Today I am feeling so very fortunate for days like today.

Here’s so many, many more.



Odds & Bits

Wow! I feel like I turn away fro half a second and it’s been TEN DAYS since I’ve written a post!

The good news is I have finished dyeing the share yarn for Juniper Moon Farm.  Between working on that, homeschooling, and furiously trying to finish  a secret knitting project, I’ve been swamped.

There have been little tidbits I’ve wanted to share, I’ve just struggled to find the time to sit down at my desk and do it.  Not to mention the struggle that is Piccadilly.  Our adorable little trouble maker has entered full-on kitten mode, leaving a wake of destruction in her path daily.

Today she woke me up by knocking every single thing off the night stand, including a glass of water.  A few days ago, she greeted me with a ball of yarn dropped unceremoniously onto my sleeping face.  Yesterday we couldn’t get down the stairs because she had managed to blockade them with an impossible tangle of yarn hanging like a drunken spiderweb between the bannisters. Every day she steals something from the table while we are working on school. Is that your lunch? Not anymore!

Then there are days where she has the devil in her something fierce and jumping onto Oona’s head out of nowhere is par for the course.

But she is also the loviest of loves if you can catch her at the right moment, and it’s nearly impossible not to completely and utterly forgive her many transgressions against our property and persons.


I mean, really.

Aside from dodging naughty kitty activity, we’ve been enjoying the serious transition into fall weather. The leaves are glorious, and the persimmons are on the trees!


To be honest, we don’t actually like persimmons. We let the squirrels and chickens eat them, and we enjoy them as heralds of our favorite time of year. They look lovely covering the trees, and it means it’s nearly Halloween!


This little beauty has bloomed all by its lonesome in the back garden.  I planted about 6 of them in the spring, but sadly it appears this is the only one that took. Perfect color for this time of year, don’t you think?  I may have to do more soil amendment to coax more of them to grow.  It’s been rough overcoming our terribly unfit dirt here.  My neighbor Joanne seems to have made a good job of it, however, as she recently gifted us this giant beauty from her garden:


She explained that she put down cardboard over the winter to discourage weeds, and then had to keep adding good soil on top of the planted sweet potatoes because the soil was too hard for them to grow downwards. I say the proof is in the pudding, and I’ll be doing just that next year!

Lastly I wanted to share a snapshot from last week.  It’s not a great photo; the sun was far too bright and I couldn’t get close enough without frightening them off.  BUT, my butterfly bush was alive with Monarch butterflies.  They must have been migrating, and I was thrilled they stopped here.  I haven’t seen Monarchs in ages and ages.


I hope this becomes a yearly thing!

Well, there you have it. A small window into our lives for the last ten days.  Soon I will be busy dyeing sock yarn (hopefully after completing my knitting!!!) and we will be celebrating Halloween!

Slow down, fall!


Wet Weekend Inside

The leaves seemed to have gone wild and vibrant overnight, and I’d like nothing more than a weekend being productive outside in that beautiful blaze of color.  Alas, it’s super rainy and gross out, so we’ll be spending the weekend inside.

Which is soooo much more than okay, because I have a few new toys to play with. Chief among which, is this:


That, my friends, is a beautiful Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel. I am beyond lucky and spoiled to have some incredibly wonderful friends, because this was given to me by my friend Kris, who is downsizing in preparation for a move.   I’ve been spending a lot of time playing with my drop spindle, trying to get the hang of proper drafting.   It’s paid off in the sense that I knew the mechanics of working with a wheel and how twist works, etc.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m any good at it.  I’m still working on getting the knack of making yarn that is uniform and not too thin, too thick, or weirdly bumpy.  Fortunately there are many, many excellent tutorials on the internet and I have a whole rainy weekend in front of me to work on it.


Neve is trying to get the hang of the drop spindle now.


Of course we have plenty of “help” from the cutest kitten in the world.

I’ve got some yarn dyeing to finish up, but I am happy for it to rain, rain, and rain some more, because a lot of my weekend will hopefully look like this: