a trip to the fair, and other signs that summer is ending

I have always loved the Blue Hill Fair. It’s a small-ish country fair that’s managed to hold to its agricultural roots in today’s crazy-busy, buy-it-break-it-buy-another culture of acquisition. They had a dollar-day this year – whether they always do and I only noticed this year, or whether this year was the start of something new, it was yet another indication that belts continue to tighten but not to the point where we are without our little luxuries. An afternoon and evening of wild abandon for a family of six was seen to for a hundred dollars plus gasoline. Memories were made that will be treasured for decades, whispered into the ears of a new generation. That’s enough for me. That’s more than enough, really, feeling like a small but vital link in the chain the connects my grandparents to my grandchildren. How much more could a person ask, than that? 

BlueHIllAgricultural Collage

Blue Hill Fair Collage

CIMG0582

midway rides Collage

fries 2

Looking over the pictures, I’m struck by the frantic need for amusement, the aggression, even, in ensuring that a good time is had. We were able to naively float over the top of any darkness, foam on the waves over a deep, dark sea of yearning that the children are too young for and that Niek and I have made our own peace with. I wanted to find a poem that would speak to that jangled fairground feeling but found instead an excerpt from a Louise Gluck poem that speaks to that time between abandoning those feelings and making peace with them. This is from her poem Midsummer, published in the volume A Village Life in 2009. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

The Summer night glowed; in the field, fireflies were glinting. 
And for those who understood such things, the stars were sending
     messages:
You will leave the village where you were born
and in another country you’ll become very rich, very powerful,
but always you will mourn something that you left behind, even though you
     can’t say what it was,
and eventually you will return to seek it. 

Another indication that summer is ending is that my dad is preparing for his return to Florida, where he seems to spend just a little bit more time each year. Florida is lucky to have him and while I wouldn’t wish to keep him here in Maine through hard winter snows, I can’t help but wish the United States were just a little smaller, that Florida was a little more within reach. <3

me and daddy

And of course, there is the madness of back-to-school. With four kids, this can get out of control pretty rapidly and we are ever seeking ways to normalize the transition. Max is off for his second year of high school, Nick moves into middle school (but which, due to our rural setting and low population, is still part of elementary school) while Rowen impatiently awaits her turn to move up and beyond, and Arden cheerfully prepares for the adventure of first grade. I’m in the second year of my graduate program, and find myself a little more comfortable at being part of the back-to-school group, LOL. 

Rowen's first selfie

Rowen’s first selfie

The farm animals also serve to keep us in sync with the passing seasons and the shorter days. The baby hogs are still adorable and small, but they have grown and we need to pasture them away from their parents, who need in turn to put their minds to the next generation of happy hogs on the farm. The goat herd has been thinned from well over 20 members to four does and three kids, with the understanding that the kids will not be wintering over with us. Baby ducklings are now adolescent ducks, unable to be cuddled and coddled but not ready to take their places beside their adult counterparts. The spring’s chicks are now the egg-suppliers of late summer – and how happy we are to have our own chicken eggs again! Baby bunnies need to be removed from one tired mama rabbit, and unbred rabbits need their turn before autumn is too far progressed. Only the guinea keets remain immature and I hope they will size out considerably before the cold weather hits. Measuring the earth’s rotation by the growth of animals has been one of the most magical elements of farming. 

CIMG0454

I’m not sure how you interpret the signs of summer giving way to autumn, but I hope the change brings you a sense of happiness and of fresh beginnings as well as some possible regret that another season is ending. Thank you for spending some time with me here, and wishing you well in whatever you are doing as one day leads to the next. 


home again, home again

Alewife sculpture in Lubec, ME

Alewife sculpture in Lubec, ME

I’m just home from a four day writing extravaganza on Campobello Island. Long-time readers will know that I’ve always loved to write and you may have read my articles in The Gift of Stitching Monthly, or maybe you have had the amazing good fortune to encounter some of my excellent online documentation if you happen to have purchased software from Exact, Descartes, Baan Company, or Net Economy. That second suggestion was just a joke, by the way. ;) Anyway, writing is how I’ve put bread on the table for almost my entire adult life … but it hasn’t been the kind of writing that makes me feel in sync with the world. Picture Julie Andrews singing from the mountaintops, you know? That’s the kind of writing this workshop has been about. The setting was Maritime-glamorous with ocean views, wild beach roses, long expanses of lush green grass. New friends were made, a few old friends were enthusiastically greeted, and my courage has been increased exponentially. Many thanks to Niek for encouraging (very persistently encouraging) me and to the kids for gracefully (well, mostly gracefully) excusing my participation in their lives for a few days. I’m really grateful to the Iota team, who provided me with a scholarship that covered my expenses and gave me the self-permission I needed to go.  

I guess it’s kind of obvious I didn’t do much in the way of stitching, although I did take a kitted-up project with me. I put in a few hours on a little something I’m making for Arden before I left: 

1st gr WIP

And I cleaned my living room before heading out, LOL. Of course, when I got home it looked as though the kids had pillow bombed the entire room, grrrr. 

living room w new chair

While I was away, I ate dinner with this handsome fella – a bald eagle just beyond my camera’s reasonable zoom range. 

bald eagle

And I bought a new hat. ;) I think Flip likes it. 

me and Flip


old mcdonald had a farm

its a beautiful life

I’m not sure who Old McDonald was, but here at Chateau Chaos it has been all about the farm life these past few days. This afternoon, Thing One and Thing Two took all eleven piglets out for a stroll around the backyard. You can see Arden keeping an eye on things in the far background. ;)

pinto with two of her babies

After the piglets and mama hogs were rounded up for an early dinner time, it seemed only right to let Pinto and her three babies (as well as the indulgent auntie goats) out until sundown.

triple cuteness

triple cuteness

the goat whisperer

the goat whisperer

Rowen is very good with the goats and she’s trying to make sure these last 2014 kids grow up socialized. :) I think she’s doing a great job.

future farmer Ro

As the sunlight left us, the view was too gorgeous not to snap a last picture or two. It’s ‘just’ the view from the living room, but even after a year here, it never fails to stir my soul.

backyard Collage

Not all the attention can go to the four legged farm family – there are big happenings with the poultry, too! We’ve begun getting our first pullet eggs from the young hens, including some amazing double-yolkers!

Yolky Bounty

The appearance of eggs means that it is high time these girls (and a couple of boys) get into a proper coop. With two dozen hens and almost as many young guinea fowl, our original ‘barn’ was far too small (and it had issues anyway, LOL), so we are busy preparing a new haven for the birds. Having learned a lot from last year’s losses, we’re being extra cautious. Hopefully by the next time I post, this will be fenced in and fully of happy birds:

chicken coop to be

Hmmm, birds and goats and bunnies seem to be popping up everywhere. ;) Here’s my scanty progress on my ‘tea towel of life’. I can see I need to add a few hogs to the design before I run out of space!

dishtowel wip

We do get away from the house from time to time, I promise! Our latest summertime adventure was a trip down the coast to the state park at Fort Knox. We took a trip up the observatory – the elevator ride up 400+ feet was more exciting for the kids than the view was, naturally! And at the fort itself, everyone wanted to get as close to the cannons as possible, LOL.

Fort Knox kids Collage

Fort Knox Cannon Collage

I really appreciate everyone’s kind comments and am relieved to find out that I’m not the only one who finds FB a little too superficial and yearns for the ‘old days’ when we were all a little cozier and took a little more time. I’ve been visiting blogs and leaving comments (at least, I hope the comments have been showing up!).  I’m looking forward to getting on here every week or thereabouts to spend some pleasant time together. Statistics interfered in my schedule this week – pesky exam on Monday that had my head in the books. :P Wishing one and all a wonderful week – preferably free of statistics exams!

In the dog days of summer as muslin curls on its own heat
And crickets cry in the black walnut tree

The wind lifts up my life
And sets it some distance from where it was.

(excerpt from Dog Days of Summer by Meena Alexander)

 

 


years run too short and the days too fast

Surfing through FB posts last night, I found myself once again reminiscing for the slower pace and more personal contact of blog entries. Back when I first came online, a decade or so ago, it seemed like we all knew each other – it really was an online community; since joining FB, though, it feels like a suburb where we might wave to each other but everyone’s really just too busy to stop and pass the time. So here I am, making another attempt to get back to a medium that I much prefer.

What’s up with you and yours? It seems like stitching has fallen by the wayside for many of us (that time thing again?), but I’m trying to eke out time for it. Like blogging, it’s something that slows me down, gives me an opportunity to reflect on what’s going on inside as well as outside.  And as busy as we all are, there is a lot going on in- and outside all the time!

I’ve been working and going to school, neither of which make for particularly interesting stories or pictures. ;) The farm has had a blockbuster season in many regards. Our two American Guinea Hog females had their first farrowing (on my birthday!) and we now have eleven bustling, busy piglets to amuse and entertain us.

piglets Collage

Our goats had babies and babies and then when we were all done, some more babies. LOL. Pinto Bean had a liason with one of our bucks after the season was over and gifted us with three baby bucklings one week ago today. We started with Bella’s unexpected twins back in February and ended with her mother’s (Pinto Bean) delivery of triplets in July, LOL. In total, I think we had a dozen baby goats born on the farm.

brand new baby kid

Pinto4thfresheningtripletbucks

 

There were also sheep. The sheep were not a good experiment and I think we’ll forego sheep for a few years. We do have this one fine fellow left.

Santiago

There are baby ducks, chickens, and Guinea fowl all over the place. These babies are having their first day outside.

ducklings1

The young chickens are just about to start laying. Any day now. And I do miss fresh chicken eggs!

pullets in the sun

There seem to always be adorable bunnies.

CIMG0053

My dear friend –  a constant on the compass of my life – Sara spent several days with us. We explored and adventured and I had the opportunity to view this magical part of the world through fresh eyes again.

Sara and Ken, Arden and Nick at Petit Manan Nat'l Wildlife Refuge

Sara and Ken, Arden and Nick at Petit Manan Nat’l Wildlife Refuge

 

PetitManan beach

coop jonesport

Nick Arden LooksWharfJonesport

wharf jonesport

Truly, this is one of the most breathtaking parts of mother Earth I’ve had the pleasure to walk on.

bold maine coast petitmanan

The thing about nature is, it doesn’t care if you’re there to appreciate it or not. It simply is.

RoqueBluffs sunset freshwaterside

Some friends and family have had ill health and losses lately, and it just makes me so much more aware of how delicate our hold on this reality is. We welcomed these lovely finches to our family when a good friend became too ill to keep up with all of her brood. (And I am thankful to say that she’s doing much better now!) Other friends and family continue to work through issues and I’m sending lots of love, now & always. Get out there and hug those loved ones, you guys!! <3

zebrafinches1

Oh, I did mention stitching at the beginning. I have found a little bit of time here and there to continue working on La D Da’s Noah’s Ark sampler (so far the kids *all* want it!) and I started a little tea towel the other day just to get some color out. ;)

teatowelWIP

LaDDa NoahsArkWIP

The rhythm of exits and entrances into our lives continues. Our happiest, and most unexpected, recent entrance was when we found an abandoned kitten in the forest across the road from our house. Coming home from work, I heard a strange sound that Rowen thought might be a bird. Investigation turned up a frightened but friendly calico kitten. She’s had her first vet visit and we have named her Synnøve (Norwegian for ‘sun gift’).

synnova

Though I probably should be studying my statistics (shudder!), I’ve enjoyed taking some pictures for you and spending this time together this morning. Thank you for making me part of your day. :) In closing, here’s a view of our homestead. Wishing you well!

front lawn

side lawn


they don’t slow it down

untitled (6)
Everyone knows that life doesn’t slow down “just” because we’ve had a loss, even if it seems like everything should rightfully come to a respectful stop, and that’s no different here at Chateau Chaos. There’s a big void in our lives that we’re all figuring out how to address and some days go better than others. In the meanwhile, life continues its course and leads us to new adventures, whether we feel ready for them or not.

Our first big surprise was Bella delivering twins – I didn’t think she had bred, and was frankly speechless when I found her with two kids. Rowen promptly named them Hansel and Gretel. Gretel is considerably larger than her teensy, doll-like brother and Bella is taking excellent care of both of them.

bellas babies

Almost immediately after this big event, Max and I had to go to Boston to renew his Dutch passport at the Consulate. You may know how much I hate to leave Maine, and how difficult I find city driving … it took me the whole winter to figure out that I could overnight in Portland and take an early bus or train into Boston, accomplish our goals, and return via public transport. Some times I think it’s true that we lose 10 IQ points per child. Anyway, Max and I enjoyed our stay at the Inn at Saint John, an old favorite that I’d recommend to anyone, and although the bus ride was less than joyous, I did get some excellent reading time in and didn’t get lost. ;) Here’s Max at dinner in Portland on Monday night:

at flatbread restaurant portland

It was cold in Boston Tuesday morning! Max stopped his teeth from chattering just long enough for me to snap a touristy photo. We didn’t walk around too much because I’d developed some nasty blisters the day before (walking around Portland) and because we’d neglected to bring our Arctic gear (I’m not kidding about that cold!!).
Max in Boston

We saw a lot of lovely things and people-watched till my eyes were sticking out on stalks like a snail, LOL. My two favorite window displays were, unsurprisingly, on Newbury Street.

sewing machine window Newbury St

Rowens Unicorn

While we were gone, Eve and Annabelle figured that Bella was getting too much attention, so they further filled up the nursery with triplet bucklings (Eve) and a doe/buckling twin set (Annabelle). Here’s the bundle of babies (less Annabelle’s daughter, who was busy nursing) as of bedtime tonight:

bundle of babies

Here’s a closeup of Annabelle’s son, from Spartacus – our big, gorgeous buck that we lost this past November. He looks so much like his sire. And yes, we are keeping him!

Son of Spartacus

While I was admiring the nursery and loving up those good mama goats, the sheep decided to come see what was going on. They’ll soon be lambing, too – hopefully the fences will be functional again by then!!

sheep train

After everyone was settled in their rightful places. I watched the kids find new ways to enjoy this hard, icy snow we currently have. Ro and Arden set up an obstacle course. :)

snow trek

Rowen and Arden

sno ro

Back inside, Nicky is pretty well over the head cold that plagued him for much of the school vacation (he actually gave it to me, but I’m being the most inhospitable host possible).

nick

As each day spins its story and wends its course, I try to make the time to look around and really see how utterly amazing it all is. Painful, yes, but no less the beautiful because of it. Wishing you well. Thanks for visiting.


thank you

Doris Davis (5/27/48 - 2/9/14)

Doris Davis (5/27/48 – 2/9/14)

Dear friends, thank you for sending cards, photos, and tokens to my mom. They brightened her final weeks greatly. Each time I’d visit, she’d pull out the latest ones to show me and have me re-read to her.

Sadly – or perhaps fortunately – her final illness was much shorter than anyone could have guessed. Instead of the several months that the doctor had predicted, she left us yesterday.

It’s all I have to bring today (26)
by Emily Dickinson
It’s all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

checking in

Hey everyone, thanks for your kind remarks on my last post, and thank you hugely to those who sent my mom a card – she was so excited! It was great to see her so animated. She had a good couple of weeks between the unexpected (to her) cards from you and a visit from my brother and nephew who flew up from Arizona. :)

We hadn’t seen my nephew since he and Nicky, who are the same age, were tiny toddlers staggering around on pudgy baby legs. A lot has changed since then! We were pretty relieved that he’s as much an animal lover as the rest of us and appears not to have inherited his dad’s severe cat allergy.

Cameron and the cats

crazy cat kids

Uncle Rich came bearing gifts for the kids – real scorpion lollipops from Arizona! They were thrilled and grossed out in equal measures:

scorpion pops

In an attempt to get a picture of Rowen’s – the only one of the kids to actually eat the enclosed scorpion, and she assured us it was all delightfully crunchy – wound up being a funny photobomb of my brother at the breakfast table.

CIMG9107

And for those wanting a really detailed view of the wriggly creature at the center of this Tootsie Pop:

CIMG9108

Hopefully Rich and Cameron went home without the bug that laid the other kids low. Arden missed over a week of school and though he was feeling almost normal today, he still managed to fall asleep during tonight’s bedtime story:

CIMG9113

Rowen stayed home from school today, with Nicky asserting that he is fine (because tomorrow is his birthday party). Sick or not, they’re a pair of goofballs!

CIMG9115

Wishing you a wonderful weekend! Thanks for visiting. :)


trying to live in the present moment

Hey friends. Life here at Château Chaos has taken its own direction … as it always does, really – we just like fooling ourselves by thinking we can plan and prepare. Recently I saw this sign and thought, “Yeah, that’s the sum of it.”

untitled (2)

And I’m trying to make my peace with that, to be all Zen with the universe. But it’s difficult. I am a person who will take the hardest route through anything, and always have been. I want to let go and let the universe unfold, but it is seriously hard for me. Well, Life has reminded me once again that neither I, nor anyone else, is in charge of anything. And I’m trying to be grateful for that reminder, because seriously, who am I to think I’m in charge of anything, really?

Last week, my mom’s doctor called me at home – and after nearly 6 weeks of leaving messages asking him to call me, the call alone was perplexing and slightly alarming. The purpose of the call, once I was able to verify that I was understanding him correctly, has been life-changing. My mom has a rare disease called progressive supranuclear palsy, which has been misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease for a number of years. It is incurable and her case is very advanced. After talking with my aunt and brother, our goal at this point is to make mom’s time with us as full and positive as possible … which is where you come in, friends. My mom used to be a very social, outgoing person who traveled quite a lot. I think it would cheer her a great deal if she could receive cards from new-to-her friends that would brighten her room and give her contact with the outside world. If you had a card that had a picture of your area, or even pasted a picture postcard on a blank card (so it could stand on a dresser), and could maybe send your good wishes and a word or two about happenings in your neck of the woods, that would be extra wonderful. My mom’s mailing address is:

Sonogee Estates
Doris Davis
Room 101
Bar Harbor, ME 04609-1137

I’ll close with a collage of photos I took on my way to visit her on Sunday. We were having a snowstorm.

snowydrive Collage


sometimes it’s a zoo around here!

Patrick and Milo

It has been an interesting week. Interesting as in weird, LOL. We have a pet house goat at the moment – although that’s short-lived. Rowen was determined to house train him, but after the better part of a week, she’s willing to concede defeat. LOL. He is a super sweetie and – other than the pooping-and-peeing-everywhere issue – an ideal little buddy.

Patrick the house goat

A little domestication has also occurred this week. I re-potted all the plants and put them throughout the house. They had all been in the kitchen (where I spend most of my time), where they looked like a jungle, but now that they’re dispersed, it looks like I don’t have any plants. I guess I need more. ;)

plants Collage

There hasn’t been any stitching or suchlike done, although I’ve wanted to. Hopefully soon! Wishing everyone a happy & healthy upcoming week.


between storms, new crises crop up

Whew, it has been quite a ride these past few weeks! Mother Nature is definitely in charge as far as I’m concerned. The weather here in Downeast Maine has been something else … each storm on its own hasn’t necessarily been that bad (except the ice storm) but the rapid-fire delivery is wearing a lot of people down.

Yesterday we woke to find no power and our generator failed to kick in. We turn the heat down to 52 at night, so it was cold in the house, but my big concern was how to water the farm family. The power flickered in and out and every time it resumed, we were filling buckets as fast as possible – but we don’t have 70 gallons worth of buckets and even if we did, the water would freeze if left outside. It was also Niek’s departure for the Netherlands, but our plan of driving him to the airport had to be abandoned and, adding an extra element of anxiety, the car battery was dead. Max also had an away swim competition and needed to be driven to his school to take the team bus. You can imagine the pandemonium of trying to accomplish all these daunting tasks at the same time … and the entire morning was that way – I’d just get something cobbled together to fix one crisis and something else would go wrong. Thankfully, the power came back on and eventually stayed on, the car battery was recharged, Max’s swim meet was cancelled, and Niek made it safely to the airport. A friend came out and put our generator through its paces at the end of the afternoon and assures us that it will be fine, as well as showing me a few basics should anything go awry. (I am hopeless with anything that has moving parts, however.)

After everything was set right and we could stop to breathe, I ordered pizza for dinner and we ate in front of the TV while watching a family movie together – the kids were in bed by 7 and I was not far behind, LOL. Today, I am actually looking forward to doing simple, mindless housework. Yes, you read that right! I have some laundry:

mt washmore

And the dishes are being tended to while I type this. Oh no, that’s not very hygienic is it? Jim, look away! I promise I took the kittens down immediately after taking the pictures and I will wash the dishes twice, LOL.

milo prewash

orca prewash

With all these adorable, wonderful kitties, I feel a bit like Captain Kirk in The Trouble with Tribbles!

TroubleWithTribbles

While the cats and I tackle the chores, the kids have revamped the living room into something unrecognizable. Everyone else has been talking about how they cleaned their living room after moving the tree out … well, this is what happened to ours. It’s like a condo-fortress kind of thing. You can see Ro and Arden poking out from the ends and those are Nicky’s stripy feet at the bottom.

kid fortresses

And after all is folded, dried, dismantled, and put away, I may pick up a stitching project so it looks like I’m being productive when in fact I’m examining the inside of my eyelids while cozied up in my stitching chair. As crazy as it gets, I know how fortunate I am and I am thankful … though it may take me a few hours or the better part of the day to remember that. ;)

Wishing you calmer days in this young New Year, as well as plenty of fun and togetherness.


Nina Gaby

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