Friday, July 22, 2011

a (children's) book I love

Here's a book full of whimsy, truth and charm...

I'll Be You and You Be Me written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak - Harper, 1954.

Ruth Krauss speaks the language of childhood fluently. Her playful way with words delivers a punch disguised as a dreaming pony, or a dancing rabbit. Krauss' partnership with Sendak is creative chemistry on paper. Delicate words and delicate drawings containing a force below their surface.

Sendak once explained, "I said anything I wanted because I don't believe in children I don't believe in childhood. I don't believe that there's a demarcation. 'Oh you mustn't tell them that. You mustn't tell them that.' You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it's true. If it's true you tell them."

I can see that Krauss must have felt the same way; together they tell the truth, but they tell it in a language that belongs to everyone.

The book is a delight and joins my list of essential children's books.

I think that I'll grow
up to be a bunny
before I grow up
to be a lady.

When I read that I knew our home couldn't be without it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

heartily lusting

for some of this fabric

It's our first year here on the little farm and I've been spending a lot of time outdoors creating garden beds, planting, weeding, and caring for the animals; I have'nt been spending as much time on the interior. I love to design interiors, so when I took a moment to look around I realized we needed to give things a lift. One of the major projects on my list is reupholstering a love-seat that I've been holding onto for a while because of its exquisite shape. Until I have the funds to purchase the fabric I really want, we'll continue to live with its shabby charm.

I'm looking to do something similar to this:

The designs above (which are out of my price range) are by Josef Frank, an Austrian-born architect, artist, and designer who later adopted Swedish citizenship. Together with Oskar Strnad, he created the Vienna School of Architecture, and its concept of Modern houses, housing and interiors.

Here are some quotes to give you a feel for his aesthetic:

"Every human needs a certain degree of sentimentality to feel free," Frank said... "Away with the universal styles, away with the equalization of industry and art."

“The living room, where one can live and think freely, is neither beautifully harmonious nor homogeneous. It has come about through coincidence, will never be complete and can within itself absorb whatever the residents’ varying needs may require.”

To get the full scoop on Josef Frank you might want to look here

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the witches were here

Today we found witches' handles in the horse's mane.

As a child my riding teacher told me that when you found these woven into the mane, it meant that witches had ridden the horse at night. What's strange about a witch's handle is that it is always woven the same way to make a loop - it's not just a knot in the hair.

I retold the story to my youngest daughter and she suggested we wait in the back yard tonight to catch the witch in the act. It would be okay, she said, because this was obviously a good witch...seeing as our little horse was returned unharmed. When we went inside I searched to see if I could find any other stories about the witches' handles. Here's one from Western Folklore, vol xxiii, April 1964, no 2.

In South rather than North America, a smaller creature has been credited with mane-braiding. In 1925, an English schoolteacher called Aime F Tschiffely (I’m saying nothing), was travelling on horseback from Buenos Aires to North America. One morning in the Columbian (sic) Andes he noticed that one of his two horses had its mane plaited. “I tried to undo it,” he wrote in Tschiffely’s Ride, “but found it tightly knotted. I asked the boy, Victor” – this was his Ecuadorian mozo (“boy” or servant) – “if he knew anything about this or if he had done it, and he immed­iately told me ‘El Duende’ had been with the horses during the night… It appears that El Duende… is a dwarf who lives in deep canyons and desolate valleys, where he can often be heard crying like a baby or, when he is in boister­ous mood, making noises rivalling thunder. Natives firmly believe that he is very fond of horseback riding; but being so small, is unable to sit on the horses’ back, so he sits on the animal’s neck, making stirrups by plaiting the mane in such a way as to be able to put his feet in it.” [1]  Duende is a complex and untranslatable word, but one of its meanings is what we would call ‘fairy’.

Interesting, I had always heard a European version of the story, but it seems that all over the world people are creating stories to explain the tying of the mane. Shakespeare mentions the handles in  Romeo and Juliet:
… that very Mab That plaits the manes of horses in the night

Have any of you heard of the Witches' handles? I'm thinking some of my British friends might be familiar with the superstition.

Do you know any other fun folktales that alert us to when the witches and fairy folk have made a visit?

This story inspired the girls to make some drawings after breakfast.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

removing the tag

A few of you asked how I was going to remove the tag from Vera's ear. I wasn't sure because I'd never bought a tagged animal from an auction. Like so many other questions this first year on the homestead, I thought I could probably find the answer at Tractor Supply Company or Southern States.

Me: "My goat has a tag I need to remove; do you have something I can use to do it myself?"

(doing it ourselves is what keeps this whole thing going)

Tractor Supply Guy: "Yes m'am, right over here"

I know, I got m'amed, but in the context of buying a livestock ear tag remover at Tractor Supply it felt quite right. $4.99 later I was headed home to free her from her big plastic earring.

In case you were wondering, this is how it works:

The tag reads, unlawful to remove, so the first step is to ignore that.

Take the knife and slide it between the tag and the ear. You will be cutting the post that goes through the ear. Get a firm grip and gently pull on the hook while moving in a twisting motion.  Do not tug too hard or you could do more damage to the ear - especially long ones like this Nubian cross has.

Next apply antiseptic to the hole in the ear to clean it and prevent infection.

It does leave quite a hole

This is what Vera thinks of ear tags

Sunday, July 10, 2011

art, sex, and growing things - I want to learn more about Wanda

Wanda Gag is the writer and illustrator of one of my favorite childhood books, Millions of Cats.

I've always been drawn to her work. Gag's lithographs, book illustrations, and drawings use dramatic lights and darks that bring you to a place where the sun is low and the day borders on night - a magical time when evening pulls itself around you - where everything is a little more wild. The landscapes are sinuous and coax the natural world into pattern.


During our last trip to the library my daughter and I found this book to take home and enjoy

In the back there was a picture of Wanda Gag

That's Wanda? I got the feeling there was probably more I wanted to know. I went home and did some quick research. Did you know that this beautiful Bohemian was truly ahead of her time? Her freethinking politics predated the feminist, sexual liberation, and back-to-nature movements by almost fifty years. She designed her own clothing and once she was financially able, she moved to her own rural farmstead in New Jersey, which she called "All Creation."

Art, sex, and growing things - that's how Wanda described her three passions, in order of their importance. At the same time that her mind was free, she was also very disciplined. As a young teenager she was left to support her six younger siblings after her parents' death. As I learn more about her life, I'm beginning to appreciate her work in a new way.

This is on the reading list - should be good

Saturday, July 9, 2011

deliciously naturalized

The wineberry plant is a bramble with red, bristly stems that grows up to 8 feet tall. The berry is bright red when ripe and I would describe it as a raspberry with a twist of cranberry - slightly tart. It can be found along roadsides and the edges of meadows.

The wineberry is an Asian species which was introduced to produce hybrid raspberries. The plant escaped from cultivation and became naturalized and in many cases invasive. Right now we're calling ours "deliciously naturalized" but as soon as we have to clear out the back field we'll be using the term invasive....and possibly some others.

Wineberries ripen about the same time as blackberries and raspberries; here they came in full force as the blackberries faded away. We can collect buckets full, so I'm trying them out in place of other berries in some classic recipes. Last night I made cobbler; here's a link to the recipe I used.

The kids and I experimented with juicing them and made wineberry spritzers

Since this idea is still in development, I'll spare you the recipe...let's just say it needs some tweaking.

Tomorrow I may try jelly if I feel brave.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

just take a look (LIFE magazine archives)

A friend(henkeepingstylestarartistmotherofthree)sent me a link last night that deserves its own post this morning. These photographs are by Nina Leen from the life magazine archives and were featured on Miss Moss (AKA "Diana who shares rad things")

Here's a teaser:

My people! These remind me of the later I Love Lucy episodes I enjoyed as a child - when she moved out to the country and started raising chickens, but never stopped wearing lipstick.
For the whole post look here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

what we brought back from the auction

We've been dreaming of goats for a while; this year we decided to start with one or two and begin the learning process with the hopes of eventually have a small herd sometime down the road. We visited farms and made a few trips to the livestock auction. Let me tell you, the livestock auction is something else. Although I feel at home moving through the animals and spotting what I want from up on the rickety catwalks suspended above the pens, I am at a complete loss deciphering the Auctioneer's chant once we're in the ring (Listen here for a sample) At first I didn't understand that there are filler words that keep the rhythm rolling along, now I know to concentrate on the numbers and let the rest roll away. You can use those filler seconds to do math because you are often bidding on price per pound. 

On the last visit we tucked ourselves into the crowded, dusty goat and sheep room just in time. I popped up on my toes to see over the shoulder of an overall clad giant and wiggled back and forth as children weaved their way around our legs looking for a post to climb up for a better view. I held on to the chant for a few minutes, but soon felt like I was listening to bubbles being blown in a glass of milk. Like a game of Whack-a-mole I repeatedly brought our daughter's hands back down as she waved them around whispering full force, "Oooo... that one!" We watched a few nice goats walk by with no idea what the bid was at. Oh well. Big A and I looked at each other and shrugged, then laughed at our complete incompetence.

I took the kids to the car and big A said he was going over to talk to someone and would catch-up. As we piled in and let the heat escape the van I noticed a figure walking across the parking lot with a baby goat in their arms - my husband. "Can you do something with her?" he said. All our talk of conformation and dairy lines obviously went out the window when he saw her squeezed into a pick-up truck on her way to slaughter, the smallest of a group of unlucky goats. We named her Vera after a the town of Veracruz, Nicaragua where big A enjoyed having a baby goat tag along with him and his friends one summer as a boy.

She was scared, underweight, and dehydrated. After antibiotics, worming, and eye care she's beginning to act like a goat - climbing on the rocks, head butting the dogs, and eating poison ivy.

Look at that crooked little ear - I'm in love.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

the verdict is in

For those of you who weighed in on the rooster post I'm back with the verdict - it looks like #3 is a rooster. For a while I was convinced #2 was a rooster too, but those with more experience say no.

Now to break the tie I'll have a chicken draw the name. Penny, the hen in charge, will draw a piece of monogrammed kale...

That's a K for Karen! Please send me your address and expect a Papier-mâché hen in about 2 weeks.

In other news, baby praying mantises have invaded

We're happy to escort them to the garden.


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