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Sunday, May 31, 2009

'My Mother's Mother'

When ever I am feeling that life is too hard I think of this story! It was written by my Grandmother about her grandmother. It puts life in perspective for me. I am thankful for those who have come before me.

This is a tribute to my grandmother and to all pioneer women.
They are seldom remembered except by those of us who love them.
Amie Johnson 1975

My Mother’s Mother

They came to Wisconsin in 1877.
My mother’s mother and her strong sailor husband-
Came to find a new home and good new land
From a valley in Norway where their fathers worked land
Poor land that belonged to rich land owners.
So they could be free.
Here in Wisconsin they would be free
To go to sea no more, to wait no more.
How could they know?
She was only eighteen—plucked from her home,
A delicate mountain flower, slim and strong as a willow
Sensitive face and laughing eyes.
“I can see her now,” Grandpa used to say,
“Waiting on the cliff above the sea, watching for my ship to come in;
Prettiest thing you ever saw,
Her long skirt swirling in the sea wind
Silver blonde hair pinned back from the face, hanging long and free.
How quick and sure her feet, as she came running to meet me
Blue eyes laughing.”
“I have tickets to go to America.” Brown eye serious
Watching her. “Good new land in Wisconsin”
“In two months—in July.”
“But our baby! He is only six months old!”
“We can’t wait longer the land may be gone. Friends will meet
Us in Manitowoc. Our baby is strong—it will be his land too.
He will grow up an American!”
The seagulls screamed goodbye.
The weeks on the boat, the memory of it:
Crowded humanity, the sounds of strange languages
And crying children. Stench, sickness, squalor.
But hope was there. Soon, America. Wisconsin.
Blue skies shining!
On the swaying train from New York
In the darkness and quiet the husband asked, “How is Baby?
He is so quiet.” Two heads together looking down at him.
Dark hair next to silver-blonde. So young.
She whispered a sob, “He is dead.”
Blue eyes shimmering through tears!
No sound but the clicked-clack and the steam of the train.
Wrapped in her shawl she held her son
Close to her heart.
The conductor came, “How good your baby is.” A kind voice in English
But the young mother understood.
She tried to smile, rocking her baby gently.
The train clattered on.
She gave him up at last—to friends and a small pine box.
He was buried in Manitowoc on American soil.
With nights of tears and heartache.
What price freedom?
“Oh, she was strong, that girl.” Grandpa said, remembering,
“She worked like a man in the tobacco fields near Stoughton.
They were the ones, you see, who gave the tickets free
If we would work for a year.”
Then the happy day came—a homestead at last!
A stage coach going north, then a trail through the woods,
He carrying the trunk on one shoulder leading the horse
She with her bag of homespun tapestry filled with clothes and linens,
Sometimes riding, sometimes walking
Holding on to her black cast-iron kettle.
Forget the thistles, briars and mosquitoes
The bluebirds were singing!
After days on the trail they reached it at last:
Their own new land! Hands together they stood on the spot
Where their log home would be built.
Laughing aloud she looked at him, and then at her skirt
Muddy, frayed, and wet from crossing the stream.
Laughter ringing through the wilderness!
“Yes, this is the place where she washed the clothes
Right on that flat boulder there.
And bathed the children too—in summer, that is.
She broke the ice in winter
And carried water from this creek
To the house and to the animals in the barn.” Grandpa looked at me.
On that sunny afternoon, so long ago, he was nearing eighty
And I a skinny girl of fourteen years.
(I’m a grandmother, now, myself) He looked at me
Faded brown eyes kind. “Why do you ask?
Why do you want to know all these things about your grandmother?”
It was quiet. A mourning dove cooed softly.
‘I want to know.” I said.
I saw the barn, sagging now, where they lived the first two years.
“We were upstairs and the animals downstairs.”
I climbed the ladder she has climbed. A haymow for a home!
“Anna, your mother, was born up here.
She was our first, you know, after Nels.” The ladder cracked.
I started here, I thought.
“Here, all these fields we cleared—for grain and corn.
I used the axe and your grandmother carried the stones away,
She made that stone fence there beside the woods.
She was a worker, that one.”
I rested my hand on the top stone
And saw her hands, slender, calloused—
She had placed this rock and this, four feet high—
All along the wood’s edge.
Babies waiting to be fed,
Norwegian lullabies to be sung.
“Was there any fun? Grandpa, did she like it here?”
He stroked his beard. It was so long ago.
“Oh, she was lonesome at first you know
For the sea, I think, and her people at home.”
Light footsteps on the cliffs!
“She walked with her children along the creek
And taught them how to fish. She always watched
For the bluebird in the spring, and listened to the bird’s songs.
And, see the apple trees there, and the pear?
She planted then the year we built the cabin.
Planting things was happiness for her.”
I wish I had known her!
Women friends were few—though new settlers came every year
Only a few could understand Norwegian, the language in her home.
The log cabin till stands—I saw it with new eyes:
The biggest room—the kitchen, pine boards worn
As a path was made
To the washstand, to the pantry, to the stove
Around the benches at the table
Serving a family of ten.
Weary footsteps slower now.
There, on the floor along the wall,
Six Indian braves sat one day devouring the evening meal
Emptying the black iron kettle.
She sat there on a stool by the fire—pale and still
Frightened for her children hidden in the cellar,
Praying her husband would soon be home.
The trip to New London was a two-day journey. He came
And all was well, for now.
Is freedom another crisis?
The small bedroom to the right and the big double bed
Where seven babies were born and nursed,
And where grandmother had died.
A window, curtain less, and a wooden table beneath it,
Bare, except for a kerosene lamp and a Bible—frayed and worn
Brought from Norway in the seaman’s chest. Their only book.
Close the door softly.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I can...but should I?

I have been thinking about my job lot lately. Thinking about how our business is growing in one direction and personally I am growing in another direction. All the messages I receive are to practice the best medicine possible. This comes from continuing education, journals, personal communications, etc. We all strive to do our personal best and I am no exception. But more and more 'best medicine' seems to be synonymous with 'spend big money'. I do tend to watch out for my clients pocketbooks above my own, so perhaps this is just my own hang-up about money rearing its ugly head.
More and more people (especially in the more urban of the two clinics) see their pets as little people. I might be better off working with livestock, fewer messy emotions. No internal deliberations on my part...she just lost her job, can't afford to pay rent and here I am telling her her cat NEEDS a dental -its the best medicine I can provide. I don't like laying guilt trips on people, hmmm maybe another hang-up of my own as i am exquisitely sensitive to guilt trips.
I think it was easier (on me) when I could say -your cat is yellow and has lost 1/2 its body weight-you need to put her to sleep. Now I am legally obligated to say I MIGHT be able to save her with xyz diagnostics and hospitalization and it will cost about $1000. If this was a nice heifer and it made financial sense to try to save her -great. But this is a cat -how do you measure up the benefits of companionship and the affection you feel for her? The human-pet bond is an amazing thing but when it goes bad it just tears me up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What A Weekend!

Thank God for Memorial Day Weekend. We spent three days and two nights in sunny Hamburg, WI. First class accommodations (camper), 4 star restaurants (campfire food) and lots of recreation (walks in the woods, catch with the girls, reading and star gazing). As a family (that was the best part!) we planted most of the garden and formed a bucket brigade to water it (do do list: buy a longer hose!).
Erin built her first fire and cooked foil potatoes by herself, Tom and I were chased by an angry mama turkey, and 6 year old Lizzy -well she was just Lizzy! Happy, funny, hiding in the long grass-and the winner of the most ticks contest!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Hard To Say Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to something which is a powerful symbol. To something which used to make me feel so good but now only stirs up feelings of guilt. But I did give it all away to a comlete stranger. I am of course talking about my treadmill, dumbells, bench and all that other stuff collecting dust in my basement.

Tom and I have hauled that stuff around through college and new jobs and young children and boy we used to be in great shape. No longer though. I kept beating myself up mentally-'shoulding' all over myself. We are getting the house ready to put on the market and it had to go. I was not going to move it again!

I also truly believe that you need to make room in your life to let something else in. So goodbye weights, hello farm (I hope). I am making room for a different kind of fitness.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Erin and Beljit

Erin has been taking saddle seat lessons off and on for 12 months. This weekend was her first show. It is so great to see this shy quiet kid get all excited about performing in front of an audience!
Beljit is a Fresian, he is huge but such a gentle giant! The only sudden moves he makes are toward the feed bucket! He is the lesson horse owned by the trainer. Erin is completely in love with him (and so am I!)

The cedar stumps in front of our house have officially kicked our butts! I voted to just buy more wood chips and pile them above the stumps-but Tom will rent a stump grinder this week. Sigh, i'm the 'duct tape and binder twine' girl while Tom does things the right way or not at all! I have started cleaning out our closets and getting rid of unwanted stuff. Lots of Goodwill donations over the next few weeks!!!


Friday, May 15, 2009

For Your Viewing Pleasure

View of barn from ArkWorks Farm, the farm needs lots of TLC. Lots of junk laying around and outbuildings (like that corn crib) which are dilapidated. The barn is still in good shape-structurally.

My garden-raised beds approx 2 1/2 feet wide x 15 ft long with lots of lawn clippings in the walkways the rest of this fenced area will be sown in cover crops-the soil is very clay-like.

The laying flock temporarily housed in apple orchard. Banties and leghorns. Any idea what the big black rooster is? He is very mild tempered toward people, and has this beautiful green sheen. He was included as a free 'rare' breed with last years cornish cross meat birds.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Big Rocks and Small Potatoes

I've been pretty quiet for a few weeks. I have not been very good company for my family, my co-workers, my clients or my blogger friends. I had withdrawn into my protective shell and am now just starting to peek out. In the last 4 weeks I have re-read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and finished the entire Twilight series-that is what I do to escape and I have had it BAD lately. I look back and think -what a waste of time! But it was what I needed.

I've been thinking about big rocks. I have been scattered and not focused on the important things in my life. Tom and i attended a time management class a few years ago sponsered by Franklin Covey. The take home message was this: your time is finite, fill it with the most important things first, the not so important things can fit around the so called 'big rocks' like river sand. My big rocks are my children, my husband, my health. I realized my business is not even close to a big rock-so why am I filling my life with it? Now I need a job to make money just like anyone else, but this business takes up a disproportionate amount of my life. When I am not at work I am thinking about it (and resenting it). I plan to sell my portion of the clinic within the year. But first the exciting news...

After much soul searching, Tom and I have decided to place our house on the market. I hope to have it ready to show by June 1st. It looks like we will be able to buy the farm adjacent to my fathers place. It is a 100 yr old farmhouse which is partially remodeled, a nice barn (which will need some new roofing) and a bunch of out buildings which probably just need to be knocked down! She would like to sell 20 of her 40 acres (we want first dibs of the other 20). I am calm and happy about moving our family out there but a mess when considering getting our house ready to be looked at by strangers. I am paralyzed right now...where to start. It doesn't matter I just need to start!

My (very first) garden is going well, no great! Not that anything is really up, but it is so much fun! The girls and I planted potatoes last weekend (10 lbs of seed potatoes--caribe, rose gold, yukon gold and i think pink cloud), onion sets, spinach, beets, swiss chard and kolrabi and some peas are in. Today I am headed out with more lwn clippings for the walkways and to finish the garden gate. I will also finish the chicken tractor. This time I will remember to bring the camera so I can post some pictures.

Erin (the 11 yr old) will be in her first horse show this weekend. She rides saddle seat on one of the lesson horses both sat and sun. I am so proud of her! I was a horse crazy kid too, so I love being able to give her this experience.

Thanks for listening my heat feels lighter already!

(Christy -thanks for the great book review on 'One Second After'- scarey and totally plausable. It has me revisiting food storage and self reliancy in a less abstract way.)