"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

April 10, 2013

Signs of Spring –



Spring has been stealthy and late this year on Hickory Nut Ridge. March was cold—record cold apparently for Kentucky—and a complete reversal from last year’s record high warmth in the 70s and 80s (which also brings many storms––something we've not had yet this year). So the Bradford pears, always the first to bloom, did not come out until early April and the forests remain brown and bleak, while the wild red buds and dogwood have yet to emerge.

It has been a busy winter. In addition to working on several books, which I will soon be pitching, I have applied for a few jobs in public relations and, my first love, historic preservation—both professions where I was once gainfully employed. I remain hopeful about one job in particular but my “Plan B” of staying a full time farmwife, mother and writer is fine, too: even though it does not help pay most of the bills on a growing cattle farm. The reality is, when you’ve left the work force to be a mother, even though you may remain as a published writer, there isn’t a huge amount of interest in your return [I wonder what Facebook’s Sheryl Stanberg, author of Lean In, would say about this reality.] Not only are you competing with others your age in a diminished job market, there are 15-20 years of people younger than you who are eager and, well, younger. This is the reality of middle age—at a time when many of my peers are at the height of their professions, I am willing to enter back in for less pay or prestige. 

Fortunately, published writing seems to remain an ageless profession—all it demands is talent and/or marketability and a persistently annoying modern term called “platform.” [Which is why, in the past decade or so, many popular bloggers have become published writers—I started blogging after publishing articles and while writing my first contracted book—a bit of a departure, but there you are. I blog because I enjoy it, if for no other reason—and am delighted when people read them.] And, let’s not forget the biggest asset to a writer or to any pursuit: perseverance, which really, much of the time, would seem to trump talent.

Cows grazing on new pastures that we are leasing down the road for our growing herd.

I have not blogged much in the past eight months because we are still without DSL on our ridge and my PowerBook is hopelessly slow so it is difficult to blog on my slow server––it takes a long time to post a blog with photos! [I cannot even upload Firefox because my laptop, at the ripe age of seven, is considered a relic—the guys at the Mac Store in Lexington laughed when I brought it in for advice. It was likely made before they were out of diapers.] My entire laptop experience has been symbolic of my life right now: a bit slow, creaky and, apparently, very much out-of-date. Emailing on iCloud is even a challenge—again, laborious to upload emails or to send them—so I read my emails, respond briefly if I have to, and then usually type or pen longer missives via Snail Mail. How very retro! But delightful—it has been great to be away from the noise, chatter, and occasionally obnoxious clamor that is the Internet and Facebook (or Twitter, for which I refuse to sign up—mainly for the same reasons I refuse to get anything other than a track phone for travel emergencies: I’m just not that important.).

My chickens are laying again but some are getting older and in perimenopause, no doubt.

I recommend an Internet and/or social network sabbatical for the purposes of actually living or savoring your life or for creating something within it. And what is it in this virtual realm that compels us to crow about everything all of the time (but I should mention that my hens are laying again after a long hiatus and that my roosters are finally crowing)? I am also proud to say that the oft used “I’ll Google that” is no longer in my daily dialogue and that I can now better appreciate my husband’s resolve to remain a Luddite. It’s just easier to stick with what we know and to eschew the rapid-fire fervor of the latest, always evolving technology. I believe we will experience an “Arts and Crafts” revival in the decades to come—the current artisan and “slow food” movement is testament to this. All of that said my laptop, while not so good for the Internet these days, still makes an excellent portable word-processing device, so I shall keep it.

One can never have enough gnomes around!
I have missed blogging for the connective fiber of it as well as the occasional virtual scrapbooking of my life (as “scrapbook crafty” I am not—and I haven’t even been on Pinterest in months, either). My camera has also not been cooperating, so I’m going to have to send it somewhere and will likely be reliant upon my extensive photo archive for future blogging in the meantime. The photos in this blog entry are the last gasp from my faulty lens that works when it wants to in fits and starts (ok, I admit—it got dropped a while ago, so I can’t blame Canon).

Anna, right, and her daughter Norma amidst the tea spread at our Chick-a-Biddy Cottage at Valley View Farm.

A chance to use my lemon fork!
On April 7th I hosted a 60th surprise birthday tea party for my Old Order Mennonite friend Anna. It was a great reason to get the cottage in order and to do some cooking and entertaining, which I do enjoy, forgetting the fact that I was more or less comatose for two days afterwards (and that I was reliant upon Trader Joe’s for some of my savory items). This will likely be a long aside (see, I still am not a brief blogger after seven years!) but people who cater, bake or cook professionally—from scratch—have my complete respect. 

I am reminded of the forty-year plus dedication of my baker friend (and part-time boss for ten years) Robert Koerber who, five days a week, without fail, got up at 2am to prepare his homemade dough, breads, donuts and pastries for his 7am opening. For over three decades his admirers came from near and far to his Kernel Bakery in Peterborough, New Hampshire and, during the 1970s, at his Cyrnel Bakery in Forest Row, England. I enjoyed Robert’s discussions on Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophical beliefs as much as I did his ricotta cheese Danish, fat chocolate croissants, and tasty fig bars—to name but a few delights—outdone only by his seasonal chocolate éclairs, on Saturdays in the colder months, with their sublime vanilla custard filling.

AFTER THE PARTY: Cleaning up is half the fun! Here is some of my favorite
"Mythologique" silver set that once belonged to my great-grandmother Manton.
(one of my brothers has the other half of the set of twelve).
AFTER THE PARTY: I used my great-grandmother Manton's pink for-12 dessert set for the tea,
complete with small demitasse cups and saucers–the set in the foreground was her
breakfast-in-bed set. [It is often used on Mother's Day, thanks to my husband.]

An angel on an early headstone at
the Abbey of Gethsemani.
During Holy Week I treated myself to a five-day silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky—a belated 50th birthday present to myself. This is the subject of a future article and book chapter so I don’t want to blog too much about it but I highly recommend the experience. The day before Easter I was delighted to be a participant in my friend Jamie Aramini’s first “Kentucky Green Living Fair” in nearby Somerset [see her fabulous blog, Sustainable Kentucky]—now to be an annual event. There I signed and sold The Pantry, met many interesting people and some familiar faces, and reacquainted myself with some other Kentucky writer friends. It was a great contrast to having been more or less silent the week before.

Every year I welcome the Earth’s renewal and spring’s return with the open arms of Persephone’s mother, Demeter (and how I miss my daughter who often returns to the farm for a visit at this time of year after a long winter working in the ski industry—not this year, sadly, I don’t believe, as she is recovering from a wrist break in Colorado and is working so hard, right into the summer season—she is almost 25 and I am so very proud of her!). The world is warming and things are beginning to grow. I become more sociable, less introspective, and ready to be in the dirt. Every day now, after school and on their Easter break, our boys, 15 and almost 13, help their Dad with farm chores––we are so proud of their responsible and hard-working natures.

Five healthy kittens, here at seven weeks: two look like Mama and are female (black & whites), two are male and female tigers with white markings, and one is an all tiger taupe & gray male. Some have names, some not yet! All will be well-loved barn cats–but will be spayed and neutered, including Mama Mittens.
Boris and Natasha, to whom I am quite partial, at seven weeks.

Boris, Natasha & Chumley.
Mama Mittens–aka "BooBoo Kitty"
so named by my husband!
We have five, now eight-week old, kittens ready to roam our barns with their Mama (who, after she wandered up our driveway last October, has used up two of her nine lives in the past few months—I am in awe of both her will to survive and her natural mothering instincts after her unplanned pregnancy—but aren’t they all in the animal kingdom?). Calves are being born daily. Our chortling mockingbird and bluebirds have returned to join the chorus of spring and I’ve even heard the barn swallows as they swoop about looking to nest in our now-empty hay shed. [The fields are greening up just in time for hungry cattle.] 

The recent comet at sunset soars into the depths.
It is that reaffirming time of year that whispers life is good, that there is profound beauty—and immense order—in the natural realm, and for no other reason except to proclaim that **God is great, Sabu.

You come back when you're ready! 

Catherine

**A favorite line from a favorite film—and a favorite book, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen—although I don’t recall the actual line in the book.

4 comments:

  1. I know it's a lot of work for you to blog, Catherine, but I enjoy it so much when you do.

    I sure do miss the Kernal Bakery. (It was seven minutes from my front door to theirs, when we lived in NH.)Everyone in my circle would laugh because I often, and always at the holidays, tried to pass off their goodies as my own. Trust me when I say no one ever believed me... Destiny

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  2. It was so nice to meet you at the Green Living Fair and thanks again for giving the Ky Food Bloggers a signed copy of your book. Glad to see you blogging again as well!

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  3. Absolutely love this Mom! Adorable kitten pictures xox

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  4. here is an idea some bloggers do; virtual "postcards" as a picture and short message...
    Also thank you so much for the great pictures, I really enjoyed them- it seemed each picture told a story- also they make the most beautiful wallpaper for my computer, brightening my day! You are the best, thanks again!

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