Friday, February 18, 2011

Rosy Update and a Rerun

It was quite warm here for the last few days, up into the 40's, but the weather has taken a turn for colder and windy overnight.  We have brilliant sunshine this morning and tremendous wind gusts pummeling the house.  And mud everywhere, which will hopefully freeze or dry up a little so everyone quits bringing it into the house.

I hung my laundry out on the line on Monday and it actually dried in less than two hours.  I was amazed, considering it was dangling over 3' deep snowbanks.  I should have shoveled out the wash-lines, but I'm lazy and my boots are tall.  I have stained glass on the brain right now.

Things around here are all centering on the Rosebush lamp lately.  I'm about 3/4's the first half with a little more background added than the last picture I posted:

The background has some streaking and mottles, it just doesn't show up too well in photos.
I am done with the flowers (will the colors of the blooms be balanced enough as they go around the shade?  I can mix and match with the next repeat, hopefully)  and leaves for the second repeat but am still having problems with deciding on the background glass.  The background is just as important (and sometimes more so) than the foreground; it's supposed to enhance and offset the blooms and foliage.  Remember I said stained glass scares me sometimes?  This would be one of the times.  There's been a quite a bit of second-guessing going on (I'm the one with the problem--just can't commit) and heated discussions and recutting and so forth and so on.

So while Carl, Joel and I endlessly debate the final outcome of this lamp, here's a rerun from February of 2010. I thought I'd post this one again because nothing funny has been happening around here lately.  At the time this entry was written, I was obsessing over the Poinsettia lamp---see, nothing changes much around here.

February 2010

After Mom left this afternoon, I went back to foiling the poinsettia.  Around 5PM I noticed it was still light out and since the dogs and I had not taken our 'morning constitutional' walkies, I told Carl I was going out to get some exercise before sunset.

I took both Pudding and Teddy dogs with me and we set out walking west until we got to the snowmobile trail on the other side of my mother's house.  The last few days I've been  walking down the trail with the dogs off-leash because they love to run free and it's a delight to see them tear off like two puppies instead of the ten year old dogs they are.  (Remember, that's 70 in people years)  I always keep an eye out for snowmobilers and the dogs come running back to me so I can scoop them up when one approaches.  The trail was deserted tonight, though.

One thing I didn't reckon on was the fact that it had been rather warm today and the trail had deteriorated quite a bit with open field ( aka mud) everywhere.  The snow that was still there was crunchy underfoot.  Teddy gave up walking after the first 1 1/2 mile due to the snow hurting his paws, so I picked him up and carried him the next half mile.  Pudding was having a good time running in circles, but I did reapply her leash when we got within a quarter mile of the highway.  I called Joel and asked him to pick us up where the trail crosses the road and he obliged.

The last 50 feet to the highway was almost impassable on foot due to the mud (so squishy) and also due to the fact that I wear sandals to walk in, yes, even in winter.  Sandals with holes in them, to be more specific, the truly nerdy kind with the Swiss Cheese holes in them.  I know, I live in Wisconsin, but these shoes are SO light and comfy and as long as I stay out of deep snow, they work great (except in mud over my ankles).

I managed to get to Joel's car and sat with both rather wet doggies on my lap.  Carl instructed Joel to go to the grocery store for milk, so off we went.  Since I was rather disheveled, I asked Joel if he'd mind going in to the store without me and I'd stay with Teddy and Pudding in the parking lot.

Joel left us and I was thinking it was a shame we weren't parked in sight of the street as the dogs and I love to watch the traffic and people come and go, but I knew he wouldn't be gone long.  Joel cracked the driver's window an inch because the dogs love to sniff out the window.

A few people came out of the store and got into their cars and left and the dogs (and ok, me, too)  watched with great interest. There were two cars parked facing Joel's car in the parking lot and a few trucks.  After a few minutes, Teddy and I noticed a thirty-something man leaving the store at a smart pace with a bag of groceries in one arm and his car keys in the other.  Reaching a car parked two stalls away from us, he got in, set his groceries on the front seat next to him and appeared to put the keys in the ignition. 

Suddenly, with a ghastly roar just like in a horror movie, a very large black dog lunged out of the back seat and his jaws shut within mere fractions of an inch of the man's head.

I have NEVER seen a man get out of a car faster than he did.  It was truly gold medal Olympic-worthy speed.  He vaulted out of the car, slammed the door shut, fell down and was back up and running before both of his feet were on the ground.  He disappeared from our view for a time (my dogs were just as fascinated as I was with this show) and then cautiously returned holding one shoulder and pacing back and forth.  I was afraid he was having a heart attack.  I asked him through the crack in the window if he needed help, but he didn't hear me.  He kept pacing and looking at the car and shaking his head.

I was stumped at this point.  There were a few possibilities that came to mind right away...maybe he forgot he brought the dog along and his dog scared him (or hated him?) or maybe someone (a vengeful ex-wife) was stalking him and using the dog as ammo or to send a message (sort of like waking up with a horse's head in bed with you mafia-style); or maybe there was a crazed animal rights activist roaming the parking lot randomly dispensing stray dogs into any unlocked car in the hope they'd find a good home.

I was trying to figure out a way to ask the victim which of the above fit his predicament, but didn't want to frighten him with two more unfriendly, albeit, tiny dogs.  I figured he'd had enough canine interaction for one night.   Joel came out of the store and got into his car at just this moment, and had to move Teddy over so he could sit down.  I told him to ask the guy if he needed help.

"Sir, are you alright?" Joel asked.

Our distraught acquaintance said, "Oh, man, my car is parked right there". ( Two car spaces away sat the exact same make, model and color of car.)

He nervously continued, "I got into this car by mistake.  I went to start the car and that dog scared the S..T out of me!!!  I got outta there as fast as I could, but now my keys and my groceries are in there.  I'll have to wait until the owner comes out, I guess."

I told him I'd seen what happened and he had a shaky laugh about it, but was still clearly agitated.  I was glad he didn't need an EMT and told him so and we bid him a good night.  (Of course, I talked Joel into moving a bit in the parking lot so we could see the 'rest of the story'.) 

Ten minutes passed and many shoppers came and went and our poor hero was still standing awkwardly outside the wrong car waiting in vain for the owner to appear.  Finally, he got into his own car to warm up until a lady came out of the store with her purchases and stopped just short of the passenger side of the car with the big black dog.

The poor guy approached her from her driver's side and apologetically told her what happened.

She said she was wondering how the groceries got into her car.

We couldn't hear the entire conversation due to traffic noise and being 'staked out' too far away, but we did hear her laugh and say, "Oh, ok, here, I'll get your stuff."

When she opened her car door to give him his groceries, he came a little closer to reach for his packages and her dog flew into a rage once again, causing him to take several hasty steps back. 

He must have apologized again, because she said, "That's alright.  I got into the wrong car once, too."

He said, "But was there a dog?!"

(Just when I think sitting in the grocery store parking lot is boring!)

Friday, February 11, 2011

When It's Cold Out, Build Some Roses

It has been very, very cold outside this past week, down to -14 below zero on Thursday.  That's not a record-breaking low for Wisconsin, obviously, but it's a bit chilly.  I stayed indoors most of the week except for my jaunts out to do the chores of feeding the chickens and walking the dogs and some snow removal.  I did get some skiing in though, despite the cold, gotta love the Back Eight and the White Forest for the windbreak making skiing enjoyable. 

Since there's nothing much else I could be doing (besides cleaning, ick) I decided to finally get to work on the new lamp, a Tiffany reproduction Rosebush.  I figure if I can't have roses growing in the garden, I'll just make my own, and with Valentine's Day rapidly approaching and the cost of roses from a florist, hey, these are the next best thing.

I started out with the original pattern, colored one copy for ideas on shading, had some more Mylar copies made to cut apart for glass layout and then stuck the little pieces back on a paper holding copy:
Rosebush Pattern
Next, it's off to select glass:
Green is for Leaves roses have that many spots in their leaves?  Well, don't tell anyone, but mine do!  (I'm not the best rose gardener.)  All I have to do is find a bunch of leaves in this piece of glass.
There we go, half of the leaves for the lamp are laid out using my 'window' patterns with the interior of the leaf shapes removed.
Decisions, I want a pale blue background with some pink in it, or a more blue-green background?  I like the pink, but I like the blue, too.  Have to make a decision.
Darker blue won out, at least for now.

 Ready for cutting...
Hours of cutting and grinding later, and all washed and waiting for........

their numbers to be written on them so I know where the heck they go on the pattern.

And finally, here are a few of the roses I've been able to 'build' so far.  Right now, they are all stuck on an old window frame and sitting in the living room window in natural light where I can obsess over what is and isn't working. 

I have a whole lot more to make yet and they all have to be put on a form and soldered together, but here's some preliminary ones:
 They'll look better when the numbers are removed, too.  (I hope)
So, that's what's been going on around here this week.  I'm joining up with Tootsie over at Fertilizer Friday this week with my fake roses.  I hope no one minds.
Like Lynn Anderson's song says, "I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden."
(and this isn't one, either--but it's as close as I can get in February in Wisconsin!)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dark and Snowy Days

  I have always rather enjoyed cloudy days.   I figure since most people prefer sunshine, someone has to like the Un-Sun, so it may as well be me. Whenever the sky is overcast, we have slightly warmer temperatures.   Besides, as Mark Twain (I think it was him, anyway) said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." 
The snow is really piling up out in the gardens, which is a good thing, for the most part.  I'm very happy with my Snowblower Trails yet; the dogs and Screech Kitty and I walk them every day.  I had to go back out with the blower twice in the past week to clear some drifting and ended up battling with the machine because all it wanted to do was climb the drift--the front end went up the snowbank and the handlebars would be on the ground if I let the machine have it's way, but never fear, I was able to wrestle it back down and keep going. 
Granite and Grasses
I think next year we'll invest in some tire chains for the beast, that way maybe it will have more bite in the snow.  Still, it's a win-win situation for me because I'm getting a great upper body workout fighting with the snow blower.  I know I could join a gym, and probably should, but it seems like there's so much work to do  that I should be able to get a bit more fit accomplishing stuff around here. 
The backyard
Another friend with a snowmobile, Eric, stopped in this weekend and went out in the Back Eight for me again.  Cody's trails had all just about been covered up by the fresh snow and subsequent drifting.  I've been going cross-country skiing at least four times a week on the snowmobile trails. 
Part of Snowblower Trail
On Sunday, I went out cross-country skiing in the afternoon, but I didn't have a good time.  It was too warm, and the snow stuck to the bottom of my el-cheapo waxless skis.  Instead of 'step-glide-step-glide' the rhythm was 'step-glide-STICK-stumble, step-STICK-glide-fall down'.   I went out about a half mile before deciding to turn back for home. 
The hill behind the Quarry...wish it looked this good in the summertime.  I love snow; it covers up all the work for six months.
I repeated the 'Step-Stick-Stumble' routine until I finally lost my balance and over I went.  Where I fell down, the snow was around 4' deep in drifts. When I put my ski pole out to push myself up it plunged through the snow and I ended up with my face planted in the snowbank. Flailing around like a carp out of water, I finally managed to regain my feet without taking my skis off and headed for home.  But then the sticky snow started building up under my heels and caused the boots to slip sideways on the skis which turned my ankles out to the side.  (It's a good thing I have strong ankles.)   There I stood with the outside of my ankles resting on the snow and my skis standing on edge; I hastily looked around to make sure Joel's game camera (or Sneaky Carl)  wasn't recording this auspicious event.  Just call me grace.  I'll never make the Winter Olympics this way.

I finally managed to get closer to home and was glad to see the barn coming back into view.  I took off my skis and walked the rest of the trail.
Bristlecone pine
Since I have Snowblower Trail now, I can go much nearer to the gardens without needing to use snowshoes or x-country skis.  This has truly been liberating for me; I know it sounds odd, but  I missed the garden walks in the winter time; I so missed the garden.  I really look forward to my little quarter mile trail every day.  Feel the burn....ok, there's no burn, it's just fun.
No sitting on this bench, too much fresh snow.

The only visitors to the Formal Garden have been bunnies, as I can't get the Snowblower down into the lower level.  I stood there and stared at this bed; it's up for renovations soon, but exactly when, I don't know.  We want to take out all the stones and start over with different stones.  Yes, the Semi-Annual Procrastinatoe Garden Rock Rotation.  (I guess I won't be needing a gym this summer, anyway!)               

I bought this tree last year at a Big Box Store, and all the tag attached to it said was 'Specialty Tree'--which could mean just about anything, right?  For ten bucks, I took my chances  and brought it home.  The evergreen has a strong weeping habit but doesn't seem to require much staking---time will tell what it turns out to be.               
Here we are on the other side of the Escarpment Bed.  When we put these rocks in place, I thought we were nuts, but now I think this is one of my favorite spots in the garden.  If we'd had the equipment, we would have gone much higher than 6' but that's all we could lift with the wrecker.

There, clinging to the side of the Quarry waterfall, is rhus typhina, 'Tiger Eye' which ran away from it's mother plant up much higher on the hill.  Yes, 'Tiger Eye' sumac runs...but not so fast to become a true nuisance.  But I like the naturalized effect on the rocks.
Here's another part of the garden that will need some looking into before the trees get too old, there are three 'Fat Albert' spruce trees here, all bought for a song and planted much too closely.  We still have some time to move them but best not wait too long, as I've been pruning them.  Their height might be lower, but their trunks will be much bigger with more established root systems since they are older than they look.  We'll have to root prune them before we move them. 

As I made mental notes about all the work that needs doing, I started to get stressed out, but then I stepped off Snowblower Trail and went over my knees in snow.  Ahhhhh.....Thank Goodness!

I headed into the house with a smile on my face.  Although I'd just looked at enough work to keep us busy for half the summer, I had no regrets about not being able to 'do' something. 

Thank God for Winter and the chance to rest up.  It'll all be there when the snow melts.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where Has All the Winter Gone?

I realize this is going to sound very odd coming from me, a person living in the Great White North, but Winter is going by much too quickly.  I can't believe the first week of February is almost over already.  Winter is the time we put the garden to bed under six feet of snow and hibernate indoors and work on our stained glass projects.  When it's 90 degrees out in the summertime and I'm sweating and swatting mosquitoes, I dream of winter and working on our stained glass projects.  I'm running out of winter.

I have a confession to make again...(no it's not about football) I have had a lifelong struggle with depression and stained glass is such an uplifting thing for me, I can have flowers all year long to look at, even if they're glass.  Stained glass is a hobby and a passion of mine that I'll never fully master, and it scares me at times.  Not in a creepy way, like the too-long-winter-and-cabin-fever-gone-wrong horror flick 'The Shining', remember Jack Nicholson in that movie??  "Here's Johnny!"  

My fears are more like the movie 'Borat'-like, "You will never get this!" type of taunt.  (Speaking of Borat, I went to see the movie with a good friend (who is very proper) when it came out; we originally thought it was a legitimate documentary about a reporter from Kazakhstan coming to America to learn about our culture, only to find out it, ah, wasn't about that at all, ahem....and please don't judge me harshly, but I laughed as much as I squirmed in my theater seat.  Parts of that movie were hilarious and the other parts, were, well, best covered up with a whole lot more clothing!)

Ok, you had to see the two movies to know what I'm talking about...but sometimes I feel like I'll never truly 'get' the art of stained glass.  Being a procrastinator by nature, it's easy to let indecision take over and render me nearly useless when it comes to progress on a project.  It's hard to decide if the flower I've cut out is the 'right' shade, or should it be darker or lighter?  Impressionistic or realistic?   That's why deadlines are so important for me to have.  When I have a deadline facing me, by golly, I can usually get a job done with at least fifteen minutes to spare.

We had a deadline last weekend and we got everything done in time, but just barely.  We belong to a group called the 'Association of Stained Glass Lamp Artists' (aka as ASGLA) and every year they publish a calendar. Members are encouraged to submit any photos of lamps they have created for voting and possible inclusion in the coming year's calendar by February 1st.  All you have to do is build a stained glass lamp, take a good picture of it and email the picture to ASGLA.  They put all the pictures they receive (usually well over 150) on their website and then for a week or two the entire membership has the opportunity to vote on what lamps they think should be in the calendar. It's not a competition, it's an exhibition, and to quote David Letterman, "Please, no wagering."  

The first year we joined ASGLA was 2008, and we submitted our first lamp picture with trepidation.  You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you do something a little out of your comfort zone for the first time?   I have heard hopeful authors say the same thing about the books they have written and how it was almost like sending a child out into the big, bad world all alone when they sent their manuscript to be read by professional publishers.  Rejection letters are painful.

The first  picture we sent out was the first lamp we ever made, the 18" Peony. 

 And, beginner's luck, the lamp was picked for a spot in the 2009 calendar.  It was so exciting when that letter came, I felt like I'd done something right for once.  'You like me, you really like me!'  (Who said that, was it Sally Field?)  Well, whoever said it, I felt the same way.  Giddy.  It wasn't a big spot, to be sure, just a small picture in the beginning pages of the calendar, but, hey, we were in there. 

Then doubt crept in.  What about the next year?  We sent in the 20" Waterlily next, and waited.  Once again, we made it into the 2010 calendar with this, our second lamp:

 Ok, we made it twice.  Would our luck hold out for a third time?  Last year we submitted the 28" Flowering Bouquet and sigh, it didn't get selected.  (I couldn't find a full picture of the lamp, this is just a section of it:
Epic Fail: The Flowering Bouquet, shot down in a blaze of glory.
  We had such a hard time photographing that lamp; you would think taking a picture of an inanimate object wouldn't be so tough, but it is an awful chore to get the lighting right and the borders lit up and no flowers overexposed or no glare on the glass, on and on.  I know we took more than 300 pictures of the Flowering Bouquet before we had one we thought was good enough to submit.  We tried again this year and sent in yet another picture of this lamp lit a little bit better than last year.  Try, try again, right?

Along with the Flowering Bouquet lamp, in 2010 we also sent in a picture of our Iris shade as an afterthought.  We were surprised when the letter came letting us know it was selected for the 2011 calendar.  

Iris shade
The February 1st deadline is the same every year and every year we scramble to have our pictures ready for submission.  Along with the lamp pictures, ASGLA also offers a chance for members to craft a small 6" x 6" panel of a pre-chosen design for their annual stained glass Quilt Project.  A pattern is sent out in the newsletter and if you want, you can make a quilt panel and send it to ASGLA and they will include it in their Stained Glass Quilt.  Members typically make dozens of little quilt squares and they are all put together into one big quilt which is framed beautifully and displayed at various public locations and exhibitions.  We have made three quilt panels so far, and have enjoyed contributing to this fun project.

In 2010, the Parrot Quilt:
And in 2011, the Lunette Quilt:

My rendition of the 'Lunette'

And Carl's take on the color scheme (anything goes,  you're only asked to use your imagination:

This year, for some reason, we didn't get started on the 2012 Quilt Square until the last week in January.  Of course. Why start any earlier?  In my defense though, being a newly-inducted Sleep Apnea Hosehead has taken up a whole bunch of my time this winter.  It ain't easy to sleep anymore and I had to do a lot of research online to find some help.  (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

Here's the process of making a quilt square---ASGLA's 2012 quilt  theme is a section of Louis Comfort Tiffany's Grape Lamp:

First, take the pattern and make one Mylar copy (a heavy, waterproof plastic) and cut out each individual pattern  piece carefully with a scissors, leaving just a touch of the black border on each one.  Place the Mylar pieces back on the original pattern.

Make three paper copies of the original pattern:
On one copy, cut out all the sections that represent leaves, on the next one, all the sections that represent grapes and on the last, the background, like this copy, below, with the background cut out: 
I now have a set of 'windows' I can use to place on top of my glass choices on my homemade light table to aid in glass selection.  Without the window technique (thank you to Carol Conti, the founder of ASGLA for the tutorial!) selecting glass would be much more difficult.  This is an ingenious way to 'find' flowers and leaves in a sheet of glass.

Here are the Mylar pattern pieces glued to the glass being used for the background before cutting.  We use Mylar because it is tough and waterproof, standing up to the water from the glass grinding process.
Carl, grinding glass

I didn't take any pictures of the cutting process, maybe next time..but here's what it looked like in natural light after it was all cut out:

And here it is, lit from behind on the light table:

The next job is to wrap copper foil around each piece (approximately 70 pieces) and then solder it and clean up the panel and wrap it carefully, put it in a box and send it on it's merry way to Washington State and the home of ASGLA where the next time we see it will be in the 2012 quilt with all the other member's submissions!  (We are given a complimentary copy of the 'Lamps for All Seasons' calendar for each quilt square sent in, too, isn't that nice?)

The background turned out a bit darker than I thought it would, I hope it's ok.  We managed to get the quilt square in the mail last week Saturday (Jan. 30) and it made it to Washington by February 1st...phew....cutting it close.

As soon as the square was in the mail, we turned our next attention to the dreaded photography session and our hopeful 2012 lamp submissions.  I should have taken pictures of what we go through to photograph these lamps, it's a circus.  We push the dining room table over to the window and hang up a big hunk of gray fabric (gray is a neutral color) and then bring out every light we own and hang them from precarious perches trying to get the lamp to show it's true colors.  We're up on dining room chairs and down on the floor, holding lightbulbs underneath the lamp and trying not to have our arms show, and after about 500 pictures a piece (thank goodness for digital photography!) we argue incessantly over which one is the 'best' one and finally settle on THE one and email the resulting photo in to ASGLA and sit back and wait for a month or two to hear if any of our efforts were successful.  Phew.  It sounds easier than it is; I'd rather place another coupla tons of rock than photograph the lamps, it's nerve-wracking.

The process of photographing a lamp, not very glamorous.
As I said earlier, we retook the picture of the Flowering Bouquet and also sent in the Poinsettia lamp we made last winter. 
Second time around...Flowering Bouquet...but now the picture looks too dark, funny, it didn't look like that when we picked it out.......oh, well...
and here's our submission for the Poinsettia:
This one's dark, too.....!  Oh, well, again.

Oh, well, for the third time......we tried.  I managed to send the pictures on January 31 just before midnight.  We made the deadline.  Barely.

  Our lampmaking is a hobby that Carl, Joel and I really enjoy.  Carl and Joel are instrumental in cutting and grinding and fitting and soldering....and I do work on those chores, too, but when it comes to color selection, if it's good or bad, that's my department and mine alone.  If it doesn't work, I'm to blame.  Carl is color-blind and Joel leaves it up to me and that's where I have so much to learn about shadows and light and art.  With each new lamp I start, I think, 'This time I'll get it right."

I'm not a true perfectionist (obviously, ha) which is a good thing, because along with procrastination, if I was, I'd never get any lamps built at all.

Perfectionism can be paralyzing.

Procrastination is annoying.

Winter is flying by.....good news, though, I'm hard at work on a 20" Rosebush shade.  Hopefully I'll have it done before the roses bloom.

Hey, a new deadline! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Go, Pack, Go...........

Did you hear the Top Story?  The Green Bay Packers are going to the Super Bowl!  It's all over the news, the radio, the newspaper, the internet.  It's all the local media talks about here, there's absolutely nothing else of importance going on, even the blizzard didn't elicit much response really, except to say how it may affect the Pack and their travel plans to Texas.   You see banners plastered on store signs, marquees, people's yards:

Go, Pack, GO!  

Yes.  Please do.  And keep right on going. 

I have to make a confession:

I don't like football.

We live less than twenty miles from Lambeau Field and the Packer Hall of Fame in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
I have never watched a football game for more than five minutes.  In 52 years. 

And I don't like the Green Bay Packers.  

At all.  Not even one little bit.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero. 

That's a dangerous statement to make here in Packer Country.  In fact, I think I can hear the angry cheese-headed villagers approaching right now with their flaming torches and pitchforks, ready to do me great bodily harm for even typing such a sacrilegious statement.  It's a good thing I didn't say it out loud.   Shhhhhhhhhh............don't tell anyone.

But it's true.  I dislike football with a Passion (yes, with a capital P).   Super Bowl Sunday (the Stupid Bowl) is coming up quickly, but not fast enough for me.   I am so sick of hearing about it, can we just get it over with already?   This makes pre-Christmas hype look like Flag Day. Even Jimmy The Groundhog (the Wisconsin Version of Punxatawney Pete) was 'heard' to say we'd have an early spring AND the Packers are going to win on Sunday.  Oh, brother. 

 I know what my deep-seated problem with the Packers is.   I don't need a shrink to put me on the couch and ask me to look at ink blots.  This goes way back to a galaxy far, far, childhood---

When I was a kid on the farm, Sunday was a Special Day.  I wrote a post last year, entitled "My Mother's Sunday, A Day of Rest" which lightly outlined my mother's daily life at the time, so this is a bit of a rerun, but here goes.  In a nutshell, Mom's routine was to get up at 5AM, climb up the 40' tall silo and throw down a day's worth of silage (and in the winter, she had to use a lantern to see and a pickax to chop the frozen feed) load up the wheelbarrow with the silage, feed the cows, scrape the alley and each cow's stall, haul two pails of steaming hot water from the basement of the house to the barn, rinse the milking machines, set up the milk cans and milk strainer, fire up the milker pump, wipe down and wash each cow's udder and teats and put the milkers on.

When the first cow was done milking, it was time to move to the next one.  While the second cow was being milked by the milking machine, she and my father sat down with their little wooden stools and a pail and hand-stripped each cow out to make sure they were really dry.  This was something my father insisted on as he had grown up milking cows by hand as a kid and though the automatic milking machine was a great invention, he didn't trust any machine to know when a cow was really milked out.  So, each cow (around 30 at our highest head count) was 'stripped' out by hand twice a day.  Mom's cows were on the south side of the barn and Dad's cows were on the north side.

Milking took a good hour if everything went well, and that's not counting the other morning chores of feeding the calves or the cows or cleaning up; just the milking.  And things didn't always go well, either.  Cows are unpredictable and have good days and bad days just like people; sometimes they get sick of being milked and kick the milker off or step on the air hoses or refuse to let their milk down.  All sorts of things can go wrong.  Mom had church to attend on Sunday morning, so she tried extra-hard to get the chores done as quickly as possible so she and I could make late church.

She'd hustle to the house by 7:30AM and make a big breakfast; eggs and bacon, toast, grapefruit, cheese and Corn Flakes with a banana.  After eating breakfast, she'd stack the breakfast dishes and go out to the milk house with yet another two pails of hot water from the basement and wash the milking machines and pails, which was a big job.  As soon as she was done with washing up, she'd come in the house and freshen up for church and we'd get the old 1964 Buick Special out of the garage and head for church.  

While we were gone to church, Dad would be cleaning the barn by hand.  I usually got home from church in time to get out of my Sunday best and help him finish up by putting down fresh bedding.  If it was winter, I would have thrown down the hay for the weekend on Saturday morning and had it stacked in front of the cows for easy access.  We had a set routine we followed depending on the season.  While I was helping Dad finish barn cleaning, Mom was in the house making a big Sunday dinner; either roast beef, chicken or pork, with mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, and a homemade dessert and fresh-baked loaf of bread. 

I also have to admit that I was spoiled and not expected to milk cows in the morning.  My brother, who was thirteen years older than me, did milk cows before going to school, but this was before my time. Probably because of the big age gap between us and the fact that there was six years at least after I was born before I was of any use on the farm at all, Mom and Dad got used to milking alone in the mornings after my brother went into the Army.  When I was old enough to go to school, Dad decreed that I should stay in the house and not come out to the barn in the morning, I think because he didn't want me to 'smell like a farmer' in school and get picked on.  Back in the day, we only took a bath on Saturday night, and looking back, I am amazed now.  I did go through a painstaking ritual of washing up in the sink every day that probably took as much time as a full bath, but to take a bath in mid-week was unheard of in our house.  Bath night was Saturday.  And don't run too much water or you'll run the well dry.  The cows need to drink!

Sunday was my Mother's day of rest, so to speak, because we didn't do any work on the farm on Sunday that wasn't absolutely necessary.  Feeding, cleaning up after and milking cows was an absolute necessity, and non-negotiable, but what I'm talking about is the other farm maintenance and field work, baling hay, chopping corn, etc. dependent on the season.....we didn't work on Sunday unless the weather was so bad that the only day we could get the hay baled or other crops harvested was on Sunday.   For the most part, Sunday afternoon was free time.  

My dad would read the Sunday paper after our big Sunday dinner and Mom and I would start in on the stack of breakfast and dinner dishes.  As soon as the dishes were done, Mom and I had another arrangement ( and remember this is her only afternoon of free time) as soon as we were done in the kitchen, my mom would play with me.  By the time the dishes were done, it was usually around 2PM, but that's ok, because we didn't have to eat supper until 5PM and we didn't need to be back out to the barn until 5:30....and on Sunday supper was usually rather light, so Mom didn't have a THING to do between 2PM and 4:30PM except play games with me. 

And play we did.  Hide and seek.  Wading in the creek.  Baseball (I stood on the barn hill, and Mom threw the baseball.  If I missed the ball, it rolled back down the hill to my mother; if I hit the ball, I would run and get it and give it back to her so she could pitch for me again.  Croquet.  Sometimes Dad joined in with croquet, but not very often.  He wasn't too fond of us playing on Sunday, he'd rather not sit in the house alone, but he did sometimes nap during the day.   (Mom was 38 when I was born, and by the time I was 9 she was 47.  Looking back, I just don't know how she did it.  Where did she find the energy?  And no wonder Dad didn't want to play hide and seek on his one afternoon of rest, he was 54 years old when I was 9!)  In the wintertime, we'd play cards (as long as we weren't too loud and didn't annoy Dad) or Mom would come out and go sledding down the barn hill with me.  

I loved our Sundays together, they were my favorite time.  Even if my friend who lived up the road wanted me to come over or me to visit her, it was never on Sunday.  That day was set aside for me and Mom.  

However, though I wished for it fervently, not every Sunday worked out that way.  There were the Sundays when Mom and Dad visited their good friends, Bert & Bea, either at our house or at their house.   Bert & Bea lived in far away, exotic Denmark.  (Not the country of Denmark, the city in Wisconsin, but it seemed like it was a world away from our farm at forty miles!  For us, back in the day, that was a long drive.  If we left at 1PM we would get to Bert & Bea's house by 2PM.  They would play Sheepshead (me too, I had to learn to play at a very early age, and I wasn't fond of playing cards with the grownups but they needed a fifth person to play five-handed partners) until 4PM and we'd have to get going for home and chores once again.

Usually Bert & Bea took up maybe six Sundays a year of precious Mom & Me time.  I used to grumble when I heard we were going to visit them or they were going to visit us, but I got over it.  I knew Mom enjoyed those days very much.  And I knew we had to work on Sunday if it was a wet harvest season, that's a given. 

But there was one season I loathed beyond any other:

Football Season.  

The Green Bay Packers interrupted Mom & Me Time.  

I hated them.

My mom is a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan.  She loved to watch the game and (rightly so) set aside her Sunday afternoons to watch when they played.  My father was not a fan at all, and used to grouse about her watching it, but tolerated the TV being on.  He watched most of the games with his eyes shut, snoozing in his recliner.  

I whined and wheedled, cajoled and pestered, "Please come and play with me, Mom...puhleeeeeeezzzz.........?" and she'd always say, "I will, just as soon as the game is over."

"How long is the game going to go on?" I'd ask.

"They only have five minutes to play in the quarter, so go outside and get started, and I'll be right out."

So, dummy me, I'd go outside and get the sleds out or the ice skates (Mom used to go with me to the creek and stand around holding a broom and watch me skate) or start building a snowman or whatever nonsense I was interested in at the time (Gee, I wonder why she wasn't in a big hurry to see the football game end?)  and five, ten, twenty minutes would go by and no Mom.  

Back to the house I'd traipse, and the game would still be blaring on the TV.  "Mom, I've got everything set up, are you coming outside?"

"Oh, go, go, go......RUN........oh, TOUCHDOWN!  Yippeee!!!  Oh, good for them!!!  What's that?  Oh, yes, Karen, the game is almost over, just go and  play and I'll be there real soon.  They only have three minutes to play."  

I'd sit down at the kitchen table with all my winter garb on, and start to sweat.  I never knew three minutes could take SO long!  All those stupid time-outs.  And say what??  This is only the THIRD quarter?  And there's FOUR of them??

I'd grouse and then Dad would wake up and yell at me, "You're really annoying, anybody ever tell you that?  If your ma wants to watch the game, then leave her alone and get outside.  What do you need her for anyway?  Go play!"

I got SO mad at the Packers.   I used to go outside and kick the snow around in a snit because they were keeping my mom from playing with me.   I was so jealous, truly green-eyed over the Green & Gold.   And what a stupid game....chasing a pigskin around in circles and jumping on each other and high-fiving and spiking the ball after a touch down, acting like they were Big Heroes and just won a World War or saved a ship from sinking or a family from a burning house or something.  Grown men wearing tights.  And slapping each other on the behinds.  And getting paid ridiculous salaries, money my folks would never earn in a hundred lifetimes of milking cows.  For chasing a ball around? 

I knew it meant a lot to my Mom to watch the Packer game, so as I grew up, I learned to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes if the game got over with before 4PM,  she'd get outside long enough to sled down the barn hill once or twice but most Game Sundays, she didn't.  By the time the game was over, it was time to make supper and get ready to go back out to milk cows.  Mom & Me Sunday was preempted for Green Bay Packer Football. 

Looking back on it, yup, I was spoiled.  I know it.  I was lucky she played with me at all...nobody else's mothers set aside two hours on Sunday to play exclusively with their kids.  Now I wish I could give Mom every one of those games back without nagging interruption from juvenile me, but I can't.  (Sorry, Mom.  She still watches them at every opportunity, at age 90, she's a true fan!)

Carl and I met when we were fourteen years old and that put an end to Mom & Me Sundays.  I spent all my Sundays with Carl, who, by the way, is NOT a Packer/Sports fan at all, either.  Just another big ol' reason I love my dear husband so very much.  Arggghhh, if he sat in front of the tube and watched football/baseball/golf/tennis/what-have-you non-stop, I'd go stark raving mad.  Of our two sons, Joel used to go to my mom's to watch the game, but he never became a huge fan of it, and Dave isn't either.   (We always said we won't allow the game to be viewed in our home which earns us plenty of looks of derision from fans and is only partially true, a guest can watch the game if they want to, but they'll be alone in our living room.) Joel might watch snippets of it here and there, but it doesn't consume him.

 I guess I never will get over my grudge.  Even going into stores on Sundays and having the dumb game piped in over the intercom so all of us lucky shoppers can hear what's going on makes my blood pressure go up.  I want to yell, "Who cares?  It's a game, people; a game, not life and death.  Please, more elevator music."
Only photo ever taken of the cows in the barn and Mom & I, circa approx. 1967.  We found this picture on a roll of film in an old Brownie camera in 1999 and took a chance and had the film developed.  This was the only photo to turn out.    I was SO glad we took the film in, this picture is priceless to me!  This would have been a Mom & Me Sunday....because Mom is wearing a dress, and that only happened on Sunday.
Maybe I do need to see a shrink.  I'm probably suffering from APMS (Anti-Packer Mania Syndrome) and now, being menopausal, the syndrome is worsening. And, if the Pack wins on Sunday, we will be certain to steer clear of Green Bay, for there will be many inebriated fans (Wisconsin leads the Nation in Binge Drinking, YEAH!!)  running hog wild in the streets wearing little more than their cheeseheads.  Everybody loves a Winner.  Except me.  The Ogre. 

So, there............... I said it.   

 Go, Pack, Go.  

I better beef up the security around here....I wonder how many villagers I can expect?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sparkly Snow

The Giant Blizzard (I think our local meteorologists named this one Connor) passed us by with comparatively little damage.  Looks like we picked up about another four inches of snow.  Last night the wind was howling and carrying on something fierce, but this morning the driveway was looking good.  I didn't have to go out and snow blow again this morning, but I think I will later on this afternoon as my trails are all drifted shut again.

Our good friend, Cody, came over on Monday night with his snowmobile and refreshed my trails out in the Back Eight, but I'm hoping he'll be back to run over them one more time as they've almost all drifted over, too.  So, not much else is new outside with all the snow.  Oh, I did want to share some pictures I took Sunday morning of hoar frost, though. ( I should have used a tripod but the snow was too deep.)

The snow was so sparkly, it's too bad it doesn't show up as well in the pictures. 
In the front garden

Out in the Back Eight, I love all the shades of blue in the winter.
Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' takes on such a different look bejeweled:
 Even weeds in the field are 'fancified'....

Winter may be long around here, but it is beautiful.

Rocks Ala Mode, anyone?

Pudding dog needs a walkies that doesn't involve swimming through snow, so I'm off to start up the trusty snowblower again and fix the drift damage. 

Off to see what I can do.  Stay Warm!