Sunday, December 25, 2011

Gingerbread army

My kitchen has been taken over by these fresh little men!

(OK, maybe I feel just a little Christmas spirit coming on.  We'll see what happens!  Merry Christmas to you!)

Friday, December 23, 2011


Long ago and far away, I believed in Santa Claus.  My mother, who also made those kicky curtains you can see behind her left shoulder, told me all about him.  To be fair, she also told me about Jesus, who slept perpetually in the tiny manger of the creche you see over my right shoulder.  

Come to think of it, none of what my mother told me about Christmas turned out to be true.  But that's another story.

When my older sister and I were wee ones, my parents longed for an opportunity to sleep in on a Sunday.  So my mother would set out craft projects on the coffee table before she went to bed on Saturday, and then we would keep ourselves busy creating until Mom and Dad got up on Sunday.

The project I remember better than any was the clothespin angels.  It was so simple:  glue together a red triangle for the dress, a pink circle on the front of one point as the face, a half paper doily on the back for wings, and a silver or gold circle behind the pink circle for the halo.  I don't remember what we did for hair, but we always had yarn and pipe cleaners around.  

The magic of the craft came in the decorating.  Glitter.  Sequins.  Crayons, colored pencils, markers.  Our house was craft supply heaven, and our imaginations knew no limits.  Mom had assembled one sample.  The rest was up to us.

Do angels have buttons?  Ours did.  Or do they wear stripes or plaid?  Maybe one angel's dress had a scalloped hem, accentuated with a piece of rick-rack.  Our angels smiled.  Or had round, singing mouths.  Some sported rouge.

Once the glue dried, each angel was stuck to a clothespin and attached to the tree.  As the days of Christmas wore on in the dry heat of the early '60s, the glue would crack and pieces of the angels fell to the floor.  Only a few angels endured the season to be packed up with the heartier ornaments and brought out again the next year.

But we remembered how to make them, year after year.  Later, in my adult life, I took Polaroid photos of all of my colleagues, cut their heads out and created clothespin angels with their faces.  It was a spectacular tree.  Even Oskar was on that tree.

But my best clothespin angel memories come from that first year, working quietly next to my sister while Mom and Dad slept in.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

And now the days begin to become longer and brighter.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday spirit

I haven't had much Christmas spirit this season.  Probably not having had much snow at all is part of it.  Another part is the hens haven't been laying, so I didn't plan an eggnog party.

I did manage to put some lights on the front fence, along with a wreath.

When you look over the gate, you can see my beautiful front door wreath, too.

That's all nice, but I was still lagging on spirit.  So I told Ulani "let's get in the car and see what other people are doing for Christmas lights!"  Always game for a road trip, Ulani jumped right in and off we went.

Down one country road I saw a light high above a big working farm.  What would that be?

A simple star mounted on the top of the tallest grain building.  Such a simple representation of the season, shining bright on a clear night.  I admire these tasteful displays.

We drove on.  My friend Charley had featured a different sort of display on his blog, Vector Charley, and I wanted to see it myself.

Coming around a bend in a dark country road, I saw tail lights ahead.  A number of them, actually, and I knew I'd found it.

It has wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy new year from the family.

It has a choir and a church.

Of course the reindeer were there...

...and a gingerbread house.  In fact, it has everything

except maybe the kitchen sink.  But I couldn't swear to that!

There are about two acres of lights.  Honestly.  I don't know if this family puts on such a show every year, or if this is something new.  Maybe a reader can shed some light on that?  (Ugh, sorry for the pun!)

Seeing this display took me back to my childhood, when our family would pile into the station wagon after dinner and drive around to see the lights.  Dad would have scouted out some major set-ups on his way home from work, so we often went beyond our own neighborhood to see the latest and greatest.  For years my favorite lights were on a huge pine tree.  The family had it covered in lights, and the lights would change colors, slowly blending from green to blue to red to gold.  

After driving around for an hour or so, we'd get back home and have hot chocolate with marshmallows floating in it, then go to bed and dream of all the wonders of Christmas.

Well, my spirit's not back to 100%, but I'd say it's rising!  And we have something else to celebrate now -- this is the 300th post on Life at Busy Solitude Farm!  300 posts in three years!  I'd never have anticipated reaching this milestone!

I hope that your Christmas spirit (no matter what your religion, you're allowed to have some) is warm and cheery this year.  And my wish for all of us this holiday season is for...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

This was the view out my bedroom window at 6:00 am today.  The sun wouldn't rise for another ninety minutes or so, but the shadows on the snow were intense!

The window facing the west showed the moon as bright as a sun.  Can you believe how bright it is?  No wonder I woke at 5:30 on a Saturday morning!

Around 7:15, the moon sank to the tree line here.  But I didn't want to let it get away quite yet, because today was a big day -- a full lunar eclipse! 

 Ulani and I got in the car and headed out to where we'd have a better view.

 We drove a few places to find the best vista.

 Just as the moon's disk began to show the Earth's shadow.

And finally, just before the moon set at 8:00 am, it glowed the beautiful red associated with an eclipse, then dove behind the trees and set.

What fun it was to drive through the countryside before sunrise chasing the eclipse!  I only wish we were a bit further west today, so that we could have seen the full eclipse.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Busy Solitude Barn -- 2012 Calendar

The 2012 Busy Solitude Farm calendar -- "Busy Solitude Barn" -- has gone to print!

Last year a number of people asked if they could buy a copy of my calendar, so this year I have ordered a limited number of extras, now available for $20 (which includes postage).

The cover is a bit misleading as it's the only black and white photo in the calendar!  Here are a few samples of the inside.

January includes my famous snow path to the barn.  I'd like to think that this was a once-in-a-lifetime shot, but I rather expect that I'll be looking down that path again, and soon!

 July's clouds juxtaposed against the mowing grid on the grass.

A late afternoon in September features the dried grasses near my back door.

Each month has a different view of the Busy Solitude Barn.  In deference to my aging eyes, I made the dates super large this year -- you can look up from your desk and actually see what the date is without squinting!

If you enjoy the rural life, I think you would enjoy having one of these calendars on your wall.

If you would like one, you can use the button to order via PayPal (you can use a PayPal account OR a credit card) or e-mail me at and I'll send you the details.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Faith at two weeks

 Super Mama is very protective of Faith.  It's been a bit tricky to get photos!

But you can see she's got lots of feathers now.  They're really more black than brown -- it's the effect of the flash.  Her beak is also mostly black.  It appears that Eartha Chick might be her bio-mom!

Eartha has the softest black feathers ever!  She's a Black Australorp.  Don't they look similar?

I am really hoping that since the appearance genetics seem to be coming from the mother (the only roosters right now are white) perhaps her sex will, too!

Have Faith!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oh ye of little faith

This hen began setting a nest in mid-October.  The other hens all went into their moult, so there was only one egg under her.  Doubting anything could come of it with temperatures rapidly cooling down, I let her follow her hormones.

You've already guessed the end of the story!

Just this morning I was thinking "I should check my photos and see how long she's been setting."  Turns out there was no need for that.  This afternoon I brought the chickens all the goop from the squash I was baking.  When I peeked in at Super Mama I heard some faint peeping.  Honestly!

So I hurriedly got the isolation pen enclosed (I'd taken some of the wire down so that all the birds had free range through that space.  I really did not expect a chick!).  Brought water and a separate feeder.  Added fresh straw to the box.

And then caused the hen one final injustice, when I reached under her and grabbed out her baby.  Oh the uproar!  The violation!  The alarm!  As soon as I could get a word in, I said "for goodness sake, you're going too!" and I grabbed the hen and raced her and her baby into their new suite.

Her first response was to poop and enormous, broody hen poop (they only leave the nest every couple of days, so it gets stored up).

Then in true motherly fashion, she exclaimed "well, we can dress this up in a minute and it will be a fine home.  This way, baby!"

And they settled right in.

If this chick breaks my bad luck chain and turns out to be a girl, I think I'll call her Faith!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Orion Over the Barn

Just before 7 this morning, Orion in all his glory over the barn.  See the three little stars lined up?  That's his belt.  The bright star below the belt is one corner of his, uh, skirt.  The bright star above the belt is one of his shoulders.  Here's a map:

You can't see all the stars that make up Orion.  The camera didn't capture them all, though the sky was so clear and crisp this morning that I could see them!

I hope this means that the stars are aligned for us!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nekkid girl!

It's been drawn to my attention that there's been a rather big change here at Busy Solitude Farm and I failed to explain it.  So here goes.

My princess, Ulani, had to be boarded for two nights a few weeks ago when I went to a conference out of town.  I decided to have them groom her and give her a bath.  Such luxury!  Since Ulani is 8 years old and has never been professionally groomed, I told the groomer that it was not necessary for anyone to get stressed, and if it was easier, she could cut Ulani's coat.  But I specifically asked her NOT to cut her "fall" (aka "bangs").  Specifically.

This was Ulani a week before boarding:

And this was the evening she came home:

Look how long her legs are!  But she's "butt nekkid", as they say.  And in case you can't see it here...

...they cut her bangs straight across her nose.  Aargh!

I don't despair.
I've not a care. 
It's just hair. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The End of the Staycation

A beautiful, chilly morning here at Busy Solitude Farm.  It's the final day of my weeklong staycation.  Too short, no surprise.  I accomplished some things on my list but the rest will just have to wait for another day.

A light frost covered this morning's yard.  Can't complain when I hear about eleven inches of wet snow covering friends' trees out east.  Rain is due here, but Ulani and I did get a nice walk in this morning.

And then I began creating two "pumpkin" pies for my book group meeting this evening.  My favorite is made from roast butternut squash, which I did yesterday.  This morning I baked crusts, adding a half cup of toasted, crushed pecans to the dough.  Then I mixed up the custard and now they're baking away.

The crusts browned too quickly, so there's some foil covering parts I don't want to blacken.  And the extra crust dough?

I made pie crust cookies to enjoy with a strong coffee, topped with whipped heavy cream.

That's what staycation is all about!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Autumn color

 The sun rose below a heavy bank of clouds.

 I thought the slight pink highlights on the grain storage across the street had an interesting softening effect.

 Then I experimented shooting through different trees.  Which sunrise gets the nicest frame?

 Evergreens make a lovely frame this time of year.

 Especially when they go all black silhouette with nice color behind them.

Later in the day, coming home up my road.  I love the soft, golden fields after the beans have been taken in.

 Almost home.

 There's the barn.  And what's that?

Barnard greeting me!  Welcome home!