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Blog 11/28/2014

 

 

Once again, our blog and updates have fallen behind as funerals have continued their steady march this autumn season.  Our cousin in New Hampshire went home to God in September, followed by the parish custodian of many years last month and a special friend of ours this past week.  Her funeral will be Wednesday.  Bill and I thought we might fly to CA during my semester break to see our sister-in-law, who is also battling pancreatic cancer, but today received word that she suffered a stroke this morning and now can no longer talk nor recognize others.  There is so much sadness and loss all around us.  Yet Psalm 90 has been a comfort as we have waded through this valley of darkness, and have reflected on why we are here to begin with . . . 

The psalmist tells us:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.

 

You turn us back to dust, and say “Turn back, you mortals.”  For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.

 

You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

 

For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed.  You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

 

For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh.  The days of our lives are seventy years, or perhaps eighty if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away.

 

Who considers the power of your anger?  Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.  So teach us to count our days, that we may gain a wise heart.

 

Turn, O Lord!  How long?  Have compassion on your servants!  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

 

Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.

 

Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.

 

Let the favor of our Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands – O prosper the work of our hands!

 

 

Our years are like a dream – passing like the morning grass – 70 if we are fortunate, 80 if we are strong.  But our God is a God of steadfast love, and one who continually calls us home.  Being immersed in funerals, we begin to think of our own mortality and take stock of where we are on our own journey back to God. 

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and by our standards, it was a small dinner only seven of us, since many had traveled to Virginia to spend the holiday with other siblings for the first year without Pepere.  We chose to stay home.  We still need time and space to adjust to holidays without Bill’s Dad.  We gave thanks to God at Church, noting that God has no need whatsoever of our thanks, but we are the ones who need to do the thanking.  Thanking God creates grateful hearts.

This evening is the last day of Ordinary Time and the Church’s End of the Year.  Tomorrow, we will begin the wonderful season of anticipation called Advent.  It is a truly contemplative season, a wonderful period of stillness and quiet where we are invited to wait patiently, pray intensely and prepare eagerly for the arrival of the Light that shall shine on Christmas Day, according to Brother Victor-Antoine D’Avila Latourrette.  There is a beautiful Advent hymn made famous years ago by the Monks of the Western Priory in Vermont, entitled “Winter’s Coming Home”.  The lyrics tie together the seasonal changes and our longings for “our true home”:

Summer’s gone,

leaves are falling down and round

my window,

crystal clear and certain,

that winter’s coming home.

Ah, yes again,

The mellow sun is cooler,

days are short

and nights are longer by the fire

of brother’s love;

the ev’ning speaks of hearts together now

that harvest’s done

and gone to rest,

for winter’s coming home.

Gregory Norbert, OSB

 

It snowed lightly today.  It is a wonder to take in the beauty of the seasons as they change, and to reflect on the lives that have been fulfilled and have “gone home” to God.  As we embark on the wonderful season of Advent, may we take time to reflect on the beauty of our “coming home” to the One who loves us without measure!   

 

Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!!

 

Blog 9/19/2014

 


The website looks like it is a bit behind the times, or untended. Tis true, but this summer has turned some unexpected corners, and we are just now coming up for air. Far too many people have been sick, and we have attended far too many funerals in the last month and a half. In the last few years, too, Bill and I have sat at far too many bedsides of family members and friends and waited and wondered how many more weeks or days or hours or breaths will he or she have until he or she goes home to God. It is a vigil that becomes introspective as well as an accompaniment. And on the immediate horizon, at least three more friends and family members are preparing to do the same. It is a sobering thought when one loses so many folks so close together and one begins to consider one’s own mortality. I have been consistently comforted by a passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians though:

 

     We know that when the earthly tent in which we dwell is destroyed we have a dwelling provided for us by God, a dwelling in the heavens, not made by hands but to last forever.  We groan while we are here, even as we yearn to have our heavenly habitation envelop us.  This it will, provided we are found clothed and not naked.  While we live in our present tent, we groan; we are weighed down because we do not wish to be stripped naked, but rather to have the heavenly dwelling envelop us, so that what is mortal may be absorbed by life.  God has fashioned us for this very thing and given us the Spirit as a pledge of it.                     2 Cor. 5:1-5

 

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     On the garden front, everything is overgrown and in need of much care and pruning. Our compost piles have gotten quite rich this season, since so much food either found its way to the local food pantry or to the compost piles rather than the canning jars. I made a few batches of peach preserves before the funerals started, but much of the peach crop also enriched our composts this year. We had a few pears, and the apples will be ready to pick soon. We still have tomatoes coming in, and the beans and the squashes and horseradish are ready to be harvested. The elderberry bushes are loaded this year, but time will tell if I can get to making the jelly before the birds get to them, now that school is back in session.

 

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     The goats are doing fine. We sold a few to a large farm and then sold the two Nubian babies to a wonderful woman on the Cape who really just wanted them for pets. Little Joe and Lucky left about a month ago for very greener pastures. They will be spoiled with their new owner. Tomorrow another man is coming to look at three of the Saanen doelings, since he wants to increase his doe herd for more milkers next year. I am just as happy the babies are finding good homes. I may keep Sunny, the last doeling that was born, but we were getting too many to handle with the amount of time we have. A half dozen is a good number for us. In another month, we will try breeding Bernadette once more with Malachi (Cape woman may be interested in a few more next year) and if we can find a Saanen Buck, we may try to breed Sky Dancer again.

 

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Sky was such an abundant milker her first kidding, it would be great to have an abundance of fresh goat’s milk next spring. The laying hens are doing fine, and we picked up 15 meat birds about three weeks ago, and they are growing like crazy. These chickens are bred specifically to grow faster and larger, so in another couple months, certainly before the snow flies, they will be in our freezer for the winter months.
     

 

 

 

     Bill’s Dad was one of the funerals this past month and it will take us quite a while to adjust to life without him. He went home to God on August 23rd at age 95. He had lived either with us or next door to us almost our entire married lives, and we chalked up 44 of those years last month. For Bill, it will be even worse. Outside of college, dental school and the Army, he has lived with his Dad for his entire life. Bill’s Dad and Mom were depression era folks, so they saved absolutely everything . . . even the cardboard cartons from TV dinners he had been eating the past few months . . . “you never know if you could use them for something” was sort of the mantra for folks who lived through those very lean years in the 30s and 40s. He is with God now and united once more with his beloved Yvonne (they were married 69 years before she passed), and we will miss both of them. Their huge 5-bedroom home with 2-car garage, 2 sheds and 3 lofts have been jam packed with “stuff” they accumulated over the years, and which we are now trying to empty. It is going to take a while.

 

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     Autumn is usually my favorite season, but it seems it is just coming and we are barely prepared to notice or enjoy it. I hope as the season sets in and we continue to empty the house next door, we can empty some of our sadness as well, and begin to savor the canopy of color that is about to settle in above us, around us and through us. May we continue to give praise to him who is always our Alpha and our Omega, our beginning and our end, and the love of our lives. Praise God!

 

Blog 7/17/2014


Summer has finally arrived!  And while mucking out goat sheds when it is hot and humid is not pleasant, all the baby goats have now been born, and they are settling into their summer routines, including sitting under the huge pine tree in their yard and letting all that lovely pine pitch get all over their nice white fur before they rub it into the dust.  This has been a dry summer, with little rain even though we got one day of heavy rain last week.  Our last pregnant Saanen, Beatrice, finally kidded on a Wednesday, July 9th, and the grandchildren decided to call these two little doelings, Sunny and Scully, with Scully having something to do with “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”?   They are precious!

 

Sunny and Skully


We’ve had our first cook-out on the 4thof July, and the following day, got to see our very own fireworks from the comfort of our living room!  Our neighbor across the street put on this amazing show, and we had front row seats! 

 

fireworks

 

fireworks indoors

Last week, both Bill and I also went to visit friends who live on the water.  We each tried our hand at “jet-skiing” and then enjoyed some wonderful rowing and swimming and great company before a fabulous dinner of vino, stuffed clams, Asian noodles, homemade coleslaw and nectarine pie.  Yum-yum!  The garden is coming in one crop at a time now and we are savoring fresh blueberries every day now, and lots of fresh cabbage and sugar snap peas for those tasty coleslaws.  The turnips and broccoli are in and beets are now ready and I started harvesting some of those yesterday.  My sister-in-law, who hails from Russia, gave me a good recipe for those freshly shredded beats: just add one shredded Granny Smith apple and a little mayonnaise, and presto! You have a summer salad fit for a king!

 

One of our granddaughters from Virginia arrived yesterday (aged 7) and she will be with us for the next three weeks.  It is such a treat to have the time to spend with her as she grows up.  She loves the animals and is a big help feeding the goats and the dogs and collecting the eggs.  Next week, Stripes will be ready to wean, so we will be able to start milking Maggie, her mom, one of our Saanens, and start getting some of that fresh goat’s milk.  Bill is already thinking of what type of cheese to make.  We had a buyer looking at Lucky today, too.  Lucky is one of our baby Nubian goats who was born last March.  They are definitely interested and will probably take her mid-August , which may mean we can try milking her mom, Bernadette, too, who is also Nubian.  And by Labor Day, Beatrice should be ready to wean her babies, Sunny and Scully, so we may have three goats in milk come the fall.  I may finally get the chance to start soap making!

 

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School is out, but summer is usually a time for reading and reflecting and more research, and this year seems to be especially busy with some extra reading for a research project that is developing.   Our church choir is also in the final stretch of making a CD that should be ready by early fall, too, so there are lots of activities accompanying the usual summer harvest.  Within a few weeks, the orchard should start coming in with peaches and pears up first, and the tomatoes will soon be turning red.  After that, it is almost non-stop canning until school starts.  It will be extra fun this year with our Virginia granddaughter and our other two local granddaughters who are about the same age, helping with the cooking and canning.  They are a joy in the kitchen!  I rejoined the YMCA for more swimming this year, and I am thoroughly enjoying the special excursions to the lake or beach or the “Y” pool for swimming.

 

Everyone seems to be in their “summer mode” now, and visiting relatives and relaxing with cook-outs and fun on the water, riding bikes and savoring the long hours of outdoor sunlight.  Cool breezes every night have scared away most of the mosquitos, too, so evenings have been especially pleasant.  A favorite past-time of mine lately is one I used to do as a child: just lay back and watch the clouds!  Did you ever imagine different animal shapes of clouds when you were a kid? 

 

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It’s a great activity to do with one’s children or grandchildren, costly absolutely nothing, and feeds our imagination.  God has given us such a wonderful world to enjoy!  Happy cloud-gazing!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog 6/11/2014


Our website has been rather inactive the last month or two, since my computer crashed just before Palm Sunday and then our world got crazy busy with spring kiddings, Holy Week and Easter, final exams that were early this year, followed by Mother’s Day and birthdays, including a 95th birthday bash for Bill’s Dad during Memorial Day weekend and a parish festival at the same time. This year too, I have been venturing into something new with learning and planning Taize’ services for our parish.  Taize’ is a town in the Burgundy section of France, and shortly after world War II, a Protestant Christian brother, Brother Roger Schultz, decided to form a monastic group that would pray and sing simple chants to encourage contemplative prayer for peace all those who were war torn.   It rapidly became popular all across Europe, esp. for the 20-something group, and since then has become an international and ecumenical style of music and prayer.  We planned one on Palm Sunday and our second one this past Sunday on Pentecost.  Everyone who came seemed moved and appreciative of the quiet time for reflection.  Our frenzied world today does not often allow time for quiet and stillness and reflection.

 Taize.via.Joan.450

 

Kiddings have been a challenge this year.  We had a very long winter that just would not seem to let go.  This is the first year I can remember going to teach my last class the last day of April and still wearing my winter coat.  Gertrude kidded in early March, overnight, on one of those freezing cold nights.  We were not expecting her to kid until April, but three little Nubian goats were born on that frigid night in their goat shed.  When I found them the next morning, one lasted only a few hours, his body temp was so cold and a second doeling lasted only about 24 hours, even after tube feeding and applying warm towels every 15 minutes round the clock.  The third little doeling seemed to recover, and we decided to name her Taize’.  Since they were born in the middle of the night and we weren’t expecting them, Sophie, our Great White Pyrenees guard dog, jumped over one of the interior fences and did her best to help clean up the babies, but as a result Gertrude didn’t want anything to do with her babies with dog scent on them.   So, Bill started bottle feeding Taize’ and she soon followed him around everywhere thinking he was her mother.  Since it was also too cold to leave her in the goat shed if her mother was going to ignore her, she became part of our living room.  The following week, Bernadette kidded, one little buckling, who we named “Little Joe” (born on the feast of St. Joseph) and a little doeling that the grandchildren named “Lucky” since she was born close to St. Patrick’s Day.  Little Joe was and is feisty and pushy and quickly figured out how to nurse, but kept pushing Lucky away, so Lucky joined Taize in our living room and we were now feeding two baby goats several times a day!  Bill did most of the work, since I was still leaving early for school, but we both thought that 3 a.m. feedings were a thing of the past!

 

stars and stripes


Bill’s dad turned 95 on May 22nd, so we had a huge family gathering on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.  The following Monday, on Memorial Day itself, Maggie kidded, giving us two baby Saanen doelings.  We asked the grandchildren for names again and since these two were born on Memorial Day, they decided to call them Stars and Stripes!  Maggie, unlike her Nubian counterparts, is the perfect mama, and is diligently feeding and watching her babies and is very protective of them.  They are currently hopping and skipping all around their goat yard.  We also moved Little Joe in with the “boys,”  Malachi and Micah, since he was getting too frisky for his own good.  He seems to be adjusting quite well with his new buddies, though.  Beatrice is still waiting to kid, so we should have a few more before kidding ends this year.

 

The garden is going great now that spring has finally sprung, though some things are growing later than normal.  We harvested most of the rhubarb, but it seemed to be later and some stalks seemed thinner than normal this year.  We will have to split some of the roots in the fall and heavily compost the plants.  We’ve picked some lettuces and radishes thus far.  Bill grew these amazing red radishes that look like carrots!  They are huge and very tasty.  He has also been working on cycling the compost bins and built a new one at the bottom of the hill (our 4th).  Plants are looking healthy, so we are hoping for a good harvest as we begin to move through the summer.

 

The chickens are laying well and Bill just moved them into the smaller tractors, since their winter home is in sad need of repair.  When it is repaired, they will go down to their summer yard to free range.  We tried bringing a couple goats out today to help munch on some of the wild weeds that are popping up everywhere and while they liked the idea of exploring new territory, Sophie went ballistic that her “charges” were out of the yard and she couldn’t watch them.  She hopped over one interior fence, somehow managed to twist her electronic collar, and then hopped over the outer fence as well.  She is definitely their protector and likes to see all her little kids I a row!  We got everyone back to where they belong by lunch time.  

 

The new patio that went in last September is being thoroughly enjoyed this year.  During late afternoon, Bill and I and sometimes his Dad will come over for a drink of wine or Bill Sr.’s favorite, Apricot brandy.  It is a relaxing way to take in the beauty of nature as spring finally unfolds with the promise of summer on the horizon.  Praise our loving God, from whom all good thing flow!

 

 

 

Blog 4/25/2014

 

 
Spring finally arrived at Mystical Ventures just in time for Easter this year, though we still had snow and ice here on April 16th.  Holy Week has come and gone; we celebrated some breathtaking liturgies from Palm Sunday forward, including our new Taize’ service and the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral, and then multiple Easter liturgies with lots of folks attending in their Easter finery.  The day turned out to be beautiful when we had worried earlier that it would rain.  The grandchildren came and enjoyed looking for the Easter Eggs outside in our annual Easter Egg Hunt, and got to play with the baby goats at the same time.  Easter dinner was enjoyed by all, all 20 of us this year, and Easter grass and jelly beans were everywhere by the time all headed home.  Bill and I collapsed more or less in our recliners when the last ones left.  We had both been at every liturgy, with Bill serving as lector and my singing in the choir, so it was a very long week.
 
This week, however, is sweet.  We are back to attending daily Mass, but it is quieter and all the mysteries in this octave week after Easter are still sinking in.  
 
My computer crashed the Thursday before Palm Sunday, so we have not had a chance to update many of you until now, and out software for loading pictures seems to have disappeared, so we may not be able to share pictures until we get that straightened out.  We had two kiddings already this spring with baby goats.  Gertrude delivered three baby goats about a month early during one of those extremely cold nights.  When I found them the next day, one only lasted a few hours, one lasted 24 hours after we tubed him to get some milk into him and then we tried to keep the remaining two warm with warm towels every 15 minutes, and the last little doeling, which we named Taize’ seemed to recover.  The following week, Bernadette kidded giving us two more babies, a buckling we named “Little Joe,” since he was born on the feast of St. Joseph, and a doeling, “Lucky,” which we let the grandchildren name.  They chose the name, Lucky, since she was born so close to St. Patrick’s Day.  Very sadly, and for no apparent reason except we think she may have eaten something that was not good, Taize passed away on Easter Sunday morning.  So, we are left with two new babies, but two of our Saanens are also pregnant and due to kid sometime next month, so we may still have more baby goats and some fresh goat’s milk.  Gertrude, who was a first time mom, seemed confused by the whole thing and refused to feed her babies, so we were bottle feeding them, and Lucky seemed to need bottle feeding as well since Little Joe is a bit of a bully and pushes his little sister around.
 
Bill has been busy planting all the veggies he can, but we have had an unusually cold and late spring.  We kept getting snow and ice right through the middle of April, and only after that, did it seem to warm up a bit.    We will be getting new baby chicks for meat birds and perhaps some new ducklings again this year.  Our older chickens, now about a year old, started laying eggs once more as the daylight hours got longer.   This year, we even tried coloring our own brown and Aracana blue and aqua eggs for Easter.  In the past, I’ve often relented and bought white eggs, since they take the colors better, but we read a column that suggested we use regular food dye instead of those small little tablets the stores all sell around Easter.   They turned out beautiful with deep dark colors.
 
Since we put in a backyard patio and a new front walkway last September, a lot of digging took place, and with that a lot of disruption of bulbs.  We have daffodils popping up in various places on the lawn and along the patio perimeter that were not there before, but luckily our hyacinths all came back in a nice clump in the herb bed.  We had such a long winter, it seemed, that we were all looking for every little bit of color we could find, so we are very happy at the moment that Easter has brought lots of spring flowers and color.  I hope your Easter has been a blessed one and spring is looking warm wherever you are.  Alleluia!