Solstice

“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive.

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – listen!

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,

This Shortest Day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And now so do we, here, now.

This year and every year.”

 

Susan Cooper

 

It’s the Winter Solstice, once again. Slowly but surely the light will come back now, as we round the year and tilt toward summer again.  But first, winter is upon us (though it remains relatively warm here, and aggravatingly snow-free). It felt fitting to spend the day baking cookies and enjoying each other’s company. In the late afternoon I took my usual walk around the pastures and found my center among the natural world.  This is my favorite time of year for walking in the woods and bringing treats to the sheep. Though low, the stream is full of tiny minnows. The dried-up weeds and vines and fallen trees become like hedgerows, teeming with birds. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a huge animal crashing about out there, the birds are so plentiful and noisy. It’s hard to get pictures of them; I haven’t got a zoom lens and they fly off in huge clouds of winds and chirping if I get too close.

I can see now that the small, wild holly trees are thriving, and I’m hoping I can transplant them at some point to a better location. I also found the remains of a skunk in the back pasture, who I assume was killed by one of the many hawks we see out there every day. We’d been smelling the pervasive scent rather strongly back in October, but never found the source.

After dinner the girls and I bundled into the car and we set off for our yearly viewing of Christmas lights. It seemed fitting on the night of the Solstice to celebrate the colorful lights people have on their homes.

Happy Solstice, all. May your days be long and bright, and your nights warm and cheerful.

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Gearing Up For Christmas

We are finally starting to really feel some of the holiday spirit we’ve been needing. I won’t give all the credit to gluhwein and egg nog, but it certainly hasn’t hurt!

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Everyone loves the tree!  It feels magical at night with the tree lights and the heady scent of fresh pine. If only we’d get some snow, to complete the effect.

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We’ve only just begun our cookie baking in earnest, and I’m definitely feeling the crunch. We’ve managed to get some pfeffernusse done today and I’m working on linzer cookies next. Tomorrow I’ll put the kids to work making the iced cookies.

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Oona’s been working on her Christmas gift knitting in between devouring chapters of Harry Potter.  She’s completely obsessed right now, and I couldn’t be happier. I told Paul that since she was too young to really appreciate Harry Potter World when we went to Universal Studios that we’ll have to taker her again!

Tonight we are watching It’s A Wonderful Life while I frantically work on more cookies, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Not Feeling Forty

It happened. I turned 40. I don’t know how; I certainly don’t feel 40! There are many days still when I wonder how it is that I’m the adult around here. Now, if you must turn 40, it’s best to do it in the company of some of the best people you know. Which is, luckily, and 100% thanks to my best friend Jessie, what I did.

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Though there are a couple of people missing, I was surprised by all the people I love most. I don’t know how I got so lucky.

Now that my birthday has come and gone, we are well and truly on our way to fall. Hooray!!! The light quality has already changed quite a bit – though the temperature is still disappointingly hot – and the fall flowers and colors are starting to show.

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These flowers started popping up in late August and are now exploding everywhere, especially along the stream.

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There are persimmons on the tree again. It would be nice if we could harvest them before the squirrels eat them all. Not that I am super crazy about persimmons…..but still!

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While I was out and about looking at the persimmons and admiring the flowers, I decided to check closer to the stream, and ran into this guy:

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I noticed him and froze. He noticed me and froze. I remained perfectly still, and he continued on rooting around in the grass for whatever it was he was on the lookout for. After a few moments he began waddling off on his merry way, and I was happy to watch him disappear off into the distance. I wasn’t out to get skunked, for sure! I’ve warned the kids to be more aware outside now; this happened right in the middle of the day!

He WAS pretty cute, I have to admit. And, as long as he steers clear of the chickens, he’s welcome to hang out on the periphery of the farm. Any closer and the dogs would be happy to make his acquaintance.

The End Of August

This is it, folks. The last day of August. Summer is coming fast to a close. Tomorrow is the start of my most favorite time of year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  The kids are enjoying their last full week off before school starts. The animals certainly look ready for cooler weather, hiding out in the shade all day being lethargic.  Even inside,the cats have been favoring darker, cooler spots under beds during the day.

Unfortunately my battery charger for my camera has died, so the pictures in this post are all from my phone.

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Little Poppet, who is almost a year old now and still impossibly tiny.

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I started working on my sweater again for the first time in a few months. I realized that Rhinebeck is not actually that far away now, so I’d better get it done!

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A portion of the garden’s output this year. I may have been robbed of my tomatoes (stupid deer), but boy my pumpkins have come through!

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Asters and mums!!!!

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There’s still plenty of goldenrod all around as well.

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Flapjack and Charlie have become something of an item. He follows Charlie wherever he goes, and Charlie shares his food with him. Normally, Charlie will snap at anyone who gets in on his food (the chickens, the goats, the dogs, Churchill), but for some reason he doesn’t mind Flapjack. Must be love!

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While Flapjack is following Charlie, Charlie is generally following me. He loves having his ears scratched!

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Of course, I think he also is always hoping I’ll have a treat for him.

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Morning glories! You know what that means………my birthday is just around the corner!

Sun – Drenched Solstice

Happy (officially) summer!

We celebrated with fresh-picked peaches, berries, our first pesto of the year, and s’mores.

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Aren’t they just little globes of sunshine?

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Speaking of sunshine…..my sunflowers are starting to bloom!

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The berries are really starting to come in now. I’ve been putting at least as many directly into my mouth as into the basket as I pick them!

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Maddie brought Twyla along to pick peaches; she had a blast meeting new people and smelling new smells. The poor little thing completely passed out from all the excitement in the car and slept for a few good hours afterwards!

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Peach slushies are a must!

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We brought home 25 pounds of peaches, and I went to work to preserve those that weren’t going to be eaten right away.  I couldn’t wait to put up a batch of this peach salsa from Marisa McClellan’s  Food In Jars, which is among my favorite cookbooks ever. While cooking, it made the house smell heavenly!

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Post-dinner wine for me, s’mores for the kids.

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We stayed out and played Mad Libs while waiting for the full moon to rise. The temperature was perfect and for once it wasn’t too buggy. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the longest day of the year!

Lighting the Solstice

I have to admit: I kind of love the winter solstice. Not because it’s the shortest day, or even because it means the days will begin to grow longer. I love it because I see so many of my friends rejoicing it. So many of us lighting candles and trying themselves to be a light in the dark. It’s also a day that’s been recognized and celebrated for a millennia; it’s kind of profound to feel that sort of connection with so many of those that have come before us.

We missed the summer solstice at Stonehenge by a matter of weeks, and though it’s become a bit of a carnival atmosphere, it’s something I truly wish to do one year.

Last night we lit all of our candles, turned the tree lights on, and ate cookies to celebrate. Now that I think of it, I should have had some bourbon and egg nog. (Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon and Homestead Creamery natural eggnog is a killer combo!)

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All of my favorite things at this time of year are those that sparkle and glow.

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Now THESE. These you have to make. Meringue cookies that melt in your mouth and are dead easy to make.  I made the espresso ones and cocoa ones (I added red food color because I was planning on adding peppermint with the cocoa and then forgot. Tonight I’ll make another batch and won’t forget – though I’ll make them green).

The recipe is simple and straightforward. Last year I just used a spoon and plopped small rounds onto baking sheets. This year I used a pastry bag and star tip. I do like to make them a bit small so they are bite-sized.

There’s just a few days left until Christmas. I haven’t quite finished my baking, but I got all of my boxes that I am sending out packed today (they’ll likely be late, but……better than never, right?).