Monday Journal Entry

March 15, 2018

Winter and Spring seem to be contenders in a game similar to the one we played as kids called “King of the Mountain”.  We know that eventually Spring will kick Winter’s butt and take over the Appalachians but Winter isn’t going away without a fight.  A lot of times, we will get snow in Laurel Fork when there is none in Staunton, but this past week, snow arrived in both places covering the green grass that had emerged after the warmer weather we had experienced.  Last night when we arrived in Laurel Fork, the wind was bitter and the house was cold.  We keep the temp cut back to around 50 in the house when we are away and the temperature had dropped to 59 inside which really wasn’t too terrible considering the outside temps had dropped to the upper 20’s at night and not above the mid-forties during the day.  Our first priority was to get a fire going to help heat the house.  I cleaned out the cold ashes and laid a fire.  We had forgotten that a man was to come by to give us an estimate on some fence work.  Mike was tied up with him for a good while, but he seemed like a really nice man and gave Mike a lot of good information.  Before leaving Verona/Staunton, we had to go by the bank because my statement showed a deposit of 1500 dollar from the IRS that did not belong to me.  I was agitated thinking it might be a difficult process to get corrected and not feeling comfortable about having someone else’s money put in my account by the IRS.  Fortunately, the IRS had realized their mistake and had already removed the money with a note saying they had inadvertently put it in the wrong account.  I think I was more irked by the fact I had to get out of the car and go inside to address the problem.  I typically use the drive through window option.  A couple years ago, Dupont remodeled and changed the inside of the bank.  They have stations where the tellers stand and everything is open with television and big screen computer monitors behind them on the wall.  All the business on the wall with the large, moving screens and the way the stations are located in the middle of the room makes me feel anxiety the minute I walk in the door.  I feel exposed and vulnerable.  Their new floor plan and customer approach caused me to want to move to another bank. I really must be getting old and set in my ways. We also had to make a stop to pay a bill and a stop at Factory Antique Mall to pick up paperwork and a check.  For the first half of the trip I was busy with paperwork and hardly looked up from the computer until we got to Dublin.  Going to Dublin makes our trip a bit longer but there is a restaurant we like there so we go that way on occasion.  We got into Laurel Fork a little earlier than we sometimes do and it was nice to have time to get some things done before settling in for the night.  I love to let the quiet soak into my soul and feel the stress melt away when we are in the mountains.  We have been here a year this month and the place hasn’t lost one bit of its charm for me.  I breathe deeper when I am here. 

March 16, 2018

Another fence builder came yesterday to give us estimates.  We are delayed once again by several factors.  We have to make a decision if Mike is going to build part or all of the fence.  If Mike does it all, then it will take a good bit of time to get it accomplished.  Even if we get the fence builders to do the job, we are looking at several months out due to the contractor’s schedules.  We also have come to a delay because we are considering working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to try to come up with a plan for some major erosion, some wild life areas, and possibly fencing the cattle out of the streams.  If we do that, then it is going to take some additional time for planning before we can get the fences put up.  The delays are somewhat frustrating and the process of making the decision that will affect the future of the farm bring a certain amount of consternation but we want to do this right and to the best of our abilities with the resources we have available.  The delays could mean that I don’t get the Jerseys to Laurel Fork until later than expected, which means milking them is going to be an issue for a while until their calves are old enough and big enough to consume enough milk that I don’t have to milk them daily.  It will work out, it just means that I may be spending more time in Staunton than I had planned when the cows calve since we might not be able to move them until mid to late summer.  Still, even with the possible delays and the decisions to be made, I am excited to have dreams that include more than just our instant gratification as we try to find ways to protect the land for future generations.  Our children may never live here but I hope that someday there will be someone who loves this place as much as we do when we are no longer living. 

March 19, 2018

This past week has been a whirlwind of activity.  I feel like every week I write something similar about being so busy and time getting away from me.  It seems like time just moves faster and faster.  That is why taking the time to do things intentionally are so important.  It is so easy to get caught up in “doing things” and miss the real opportunities that life has to offer us to slow down and absorb the lessons that bring peace and greater understanding in the world around us.  I do intentionally set aside time now to do certain things that help me slow down and breathe deeper and as a result, maybe I don’t get some of the” things” done that I use to accomplish, or at least not as thoroughly.  More and more I let the housework go.  I like things to be in order but where I use to clean until I drove myself crazy, I have learned that a little dust and dirt are not going to kill us.  This is a conscious effort for me because I have been somewhat OCD in the past about cleaning and I can let it control and concern me very easily.  This week, instead of taking the time I probably should have taken to clean the house, I spent a whole day sewing.  I didn’t do anything difficult, simply making various sized pillows out of vintage grain and flower sacks.  However, it was so relaxing and I had so much fun doing it.  I have my sewing machine set up in the guest cabin at Laurel Fork.  (It is not actually a cabin and is above the detached garage, but it is set up with a retro hunting/fishing cabin theme.)  Currently, the cabin has no heat, so I have to use electric heaters in there and it has been too cold most of the winter to spend any real time there.  It was great to be able to get in there and do some sewing.  It was still pretty cold even with the heaters blowing right on me, but I love being in that room.  It’s so peaceful.  I also took the time to walk several times throughout the week.  Those intentional down times are so important.  One thing I did not do this past week was write a lot and I do regret that.  It seems like it is so hard for me to write in the evenings.  I’m tired by then and not quick with my words.  My best time to write is in the morning and that just didn’t work out well for me this past week. 

Last Monday I had Alissa’s girls but Alissa was home during the day as well because the snow caused Blue Ridge College to be cancelled.  Alissa had a lot of work to do for her Master’s classes, so I tended to the girls while she worked at home.  It did make for an easier day for me because Rory was able to nurse whenever she wanted and she was more content with her momma here.  Alissa did have her regular evening classes.  Mike drove her to James Madison in Harrisonburg as she was afraid to drive with the weather.  It turns out, Harrisonburg didn’t have hardly any snow at all and we had probably five inches at our place.  Tuesday, we had a get together with the Twins as well as Alissa’s girls.  I had set up a St. Patrick’s Day “party” and we had “green food”, played games, and made a shamrock card.  The kids had a lot of fun and it was so good to have them all together.  I don’t write as much about the twins and about what is going on in their parents lives because they are much more reserved and private about their lives.  Our daughter Kristin and her husband Nate don’t participate in Social Media other than a picture of the kids a few times a year.  Out of respect for them and their privacy, I try not get carried away with what I write concerning their lives and I try not to share too much personal information.  Now that I don’t watch the twins on a regular basis, we don’t get to see them weekly but we try to see them every other week and get together to do fun things as a family.  This ended up being a two-party week but unfortunately, Hudson and Ella became sick between parties and were not able to be here for Rory’s birthday celebration on Sunday.  We missed them so much and I know they were so disappointed to not be able to come.  We had a nice, low key birthday party for Aurora Geneva (Rory) who will turn one year old this week.  Alissa’s grandma and two cousins came from Lynchburg, Alissa’s step sisters from a previous marriage of Alissa’s biological father were here, Gabino’s two brothers, a friend of Alissa’s from her Master’s class, a dear high school girl who watches Analia and Rory for us a good bit and her little brother made up a wonderful, diverse group of people who love Rory dearly.  I loved seeing the mix of ethnic, social and economic background as well as a conglomeration of folks from various points in our lives all represented in our home gathering around little Rory to celebrate her day.  Together we are Rory’s family and I can’t help but be thankful that my grandkids have such a rich and diverse support system as they grow up.  I am thankful that even though there were some hurtful and ugly things in our past, we have been able to keep close the people we love so much who were a part of our lives during that time.  I love my ex mother in law and Alissa’s step sisters and step mom (who couldn’t be with us on Sunday).  I’m thankful to be able to have such a great relationship with these folks after so many years and after so much of life has tried to beat us down. 

I got up at 4 am to be ready to leave Laurel Fork and get back to Staunton for Rory’s birthday party at 1 pm.  I wanted to be a little early so that I could help Alissa get set up.  She had things in order and all I did was help with the girls a little and help put some food out and do some dishes.  It was a great, low key party.  Rory was not impressed much and kept looking at all of us like she was saying “Why are there so many people here?”.  She wasn’t herself until everyone left and then she played music on her new toys and danced around the room entertaining herself.  After the party, Mike and I went to both of the antique malls and worked on our booths.  I took a lot of smaller items out of the booth at Verona Antiques and moved them to Factory Antique Mall.  The booth at Verona Antiques needed a good cleaning up.  Mike and I have a difference of opinion on what we present for sale.  Mike figures there is nothing worth throwing out and someone, somewhere will pay something for most any item.  I am more particular about what goes into the booths and want to weed things out that have been there for a while or that I consider junky.  It’s hard to find a balance sometimes.  Many times, items I don’t think will sell actually do sell, proving Mike right.  However, Mike’s habits of keeping everything and placing value on everything tend to sometimes create clutter that needs to be cleaned out so that we can have a cleaner looking area. And, the items can become so eclectic that it is hard to have a display and things end up looking more like a warehouse for second hand items.   There is no question that moving merchandise is good for business, so occasionally, Mike will give his blessing to my decluttering. (He tends primarily to Verona Antiques and I tend to Factory Antiques giving us each our own space but on occasion, he likes for me to come and try to put things together for him at Verona Antiques.)

 I had left the pillows unfinished that I made earlier in the week so that I could sew up the seams where I had stuffed them as we travelled.  I thought I could get more pillows made if I just kept to the machine work and then did the hand work in the car.  I started sewing when we left Laurel Fork and finished them up about ten minutes from the mall in Verona.  I put my makeup on in the car and we dropped the pillows off on the way to Rory’s party and then came back after the party to work on the booths.  By the time I got home from the antique malls after 6 pm and had been on a dead run since 4 am, I was exhausted.  Analia met me at the door and wanted to know if I would read to her, so we took time for that, and then I took a 20-minute power nap before getting up to help with the girls until bedtime.  Alissa was babysitting a little two-year-old who took to me after initially sizing me up to see if I was trustworthy.  By the time her momma picked her up around 9:30, she was calling me Tita, sitting on my lap, and seemed to have accepted me as her honorary grandma.  (She is here often and calls Alissa mom and Gabino daddy just like our girls do.)

It is now Monday morning and I am writing quickly to try to finish this up because the Little Girls will be awake and our day will begin in earnest.  I struggle with not wanting to come back to Staunton simply because I love our life in Laurel Fork and because being on the road so much makes it difficult to get things done in either place.  However, once I am back in Staunton, I am always happy to have time with the family, be able to invest in the lives of the grandchildren, spend time with my animals and absorb the wide-open views from the valley.  For years, I gazed across the valley at the Blue Ridge Mountains on one said and the Allegheny Mountain Range on the other side and fed my soul with the beauty.  Now I am blessed to be able to escape to those mountains I love so much.  While I love being in the mountains, for I been aware all my life that I a mountain girl at heart, one needs to step back and be able to view things from a wider perspective from time to time.  Being in the valley gives me that wide open space with bigger skies for viewing the sunrises and sunsets and it gives me time to pour myself into my family who mean more to me than anything in the world.   


Soul Full Sunday

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”  ― Emily Dickinson


Making "Great" Coffee in a Percolator ~ Focus on Vintage and Antiques

Photo courtesy of Pixaby

I remember the smell of coffee and the sounds of it being percolated on the stove each day.  Week days around 3:30 am, my dad was fueling up on caffeine as he prepared for his long commute to St. Louis where he worked on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company.  On the weekends, he might make his coffee just a little later in the morning, although he was till an early riser even on his days off.  The smells, sounds and taste of that coffee carried with me into my adult years as they remind me of Daddy's love and care.  My daddy tells me every time he talks to me that he loves me, but when I was a kid, I don't remember him saying it very much at all.  I always knew how much he loved me though, because he showed his love by how hard he worked to take care of his family.  He left his home in the North Georgia Mountains not because he wanted to, but because he had to find a way to support his wife and baby girl.  He continued to stay close enough to commute to "the big city" as his family grew so that he could continue to meet our needs and to provide us with opportunities that he did not have when he was growing up.  Isn't funny how a particular smell, sound or sight can evoke feelings of peace, contentment and love?

When we bought our home in Laurel Fork, I decided I wanted to start percolating my coffee on the stove.  I just did it the way I remembered my daddy doing it and it turned out ok but not as good as it could have been.  Now, here's a disclaimer about my daddy's coffee.  He liked it dark and strong and he wasn't opposed to having grounds in his coffee cup.  In fact, I have seen him make "cowboy coffee" on a regular basis as well.  Cowboy coffee is made without a percolator by just boiling the grounds, let them settle to the bottom of the pot, and then pouring off the liquid into one's cup.  I'm pretty hard core, but not quite as tough as my daddy, so I prefer my coffee dark and robust, but not bitter and not too many grounds, please!

About the time we bought our home in Laurel Fork I also found a booklet printed and distributed by Maxwell House Coffee in 1931 entitled "How to make Good Coffee".  It is actually filled with interesting information and includes instructions on making coffee by various methods including percolated, steeped, dripped and boiled.  With automatic coffee makers, Keurig,  dozens of fast food restaurants that will hand you a fast cup of coffee through the drive through window, as well as specialty coffee shops, we rarely stop to think about the art of making good coffee but it was once an important skill to master.

I don't claim to be an expert, but with the help of my vintage book and some practice, I have learned to make a decent pot of coffee and prefer "perked" coffee over automatic drip.  Perhaps it is more the nostalgia associated with percolating coffee or it could be the fact that it gives me cause to slow down, enjoy the process and relish the cup of coffee I have "created".  The idea for this post has actually been "brewing" since my good friend asked me to explain the process of making coffee in a percolator.

1.  First, you want to start with a clean coffee pot, fresh water, and good coffee beans.

A "dirty" pot will affect the delicate flavor of your finished product.  I am using an enamel coffee pot and one does not want to scratch the enamel, so I look for other ways to clean my pot.  If you are not opposed to using bleach on occasion, one can simply fill the coffee pot up with water, add a little bleach and let soak.  Vinegar and Lemon are natural alternatives to help to remove the stains and old coffee residue.

2.  Fill your coffee pot with fresh water.  Your percolator may have a nicely defined fill line for your convenience.  If it does not, then you may have to experiment with how much water to use in your pot.  One can't fill the pot completely up to the pour spout or when the water gets hot, it will bubble up out of the spout and make a mess.  However, the water must come to just below the spout or it will not percolate properly.  I estimate that I leave about 1/4 to 1/2 inch space between the water level and the hole for the spout.

3.  Measure your coffee and pour into the basket.  One does not typically use a filter with a percolator.  A finely ground coffee will cause more grains to end up in the final product, so I have found that grinding my own coffee (which I prefer anyway) is the best method.  A coarser grind keeps the coffee in the strainer basket and out of the liquid.  A general rule of thumb is 1 Tablespoon of coffee per half pint of water.  (1 pint equals 16 fluid ounces)  This measurement can be adjusted to individual taste.  Like my daddy, I like a strong cup of coffee, no sugar and a lot of real cream. After filling the strainer basket, place the lid on the basket and place basket and lid on the stem.  Put the stem with basket and lid down into your coffee pot filled with water.

Photo Courtesy of Pixaby

4.  The next step is to heat your water.  Contrary to what one might think, you are not boiling your water (unless of course you are making "cowboy coffee" which is a term used for boiled coffee grounds).  Really, the secret to a good cup of percolated coffee is in finding that sweet spot where your percolator perks nice and easy without boiling.  This creates the best tasting coffee.  If you are making coffee over a campfire, you will want to put your percolator to the side of the flame and not directly on it.  If you are using an electric stove you will need to find the setting on your stove that heats the water without bringing it to a rolling boil.  A gas flame is the easiest to control.  Just pay attention, and experiment until you have found the right setting on your stove.  It may require some experimentation to begin with, but finding the proper percolating temperature is critical to a great cup of coffee.

From "How To Make Good Coffee" distributed by Maxwell House in 1931:

"Slow and gentle percolation over a period of about 10 to 15 minutes, gives a beautiful, clear, amber colored coffee of mild flavor and delicate aroma.  Slow percolation may be described as percolation in which the coffee bubbles up through the tube with such gentleness that the rays rarely strike the glass. In rapid percolation the coffee comes up through the tube in fast, vigorous succession of sprays, most of which burst as they strike the glass.  Coffee may be percolated rapidly for a shorter period of time (8 to 10 minutes) but is apt to be slightly cloudy, with less body, and with less pleasing flavor than when percolated slowly.  Rapid, vigorous percolation brings out the bitter qualities of coffee."

The vintage, Maxwell House pamphlet also goes on to explain:

"Do not allow the coffee to boil, as actual boiling develops bitterness and destroys both flavor and aroma.  The volatile oils, which give the coffee its delicate fragrance and flavor, escape as coffee boils, and changes take place which brings out a bitter and sour taste.  The best temperatures at which to make coffee are below boiling.  (185 to 203 degrees F)  Coffee boiled for so short a time as one minute is more bitter than coffee made at 203 degrees F, just nine degrees below boiling.

If you are making more than a quart of coffee, you will have to increase your percolating time.

Here's a tip to keep those grounds out of your cup:  After your coffee has finished percolating, turn the heat back to simmer or off and allow the coffee grounds to settle a few minutes before pouring your first cup of coffee.

Making good coffee in a percolator is somewhat of a lost art, but taking the time to slow down and brew a fresh cup of coffee in my vintage, enamel coffee pot, for me, is the perfect start to any day and I have learned to prefer the taste of percolated coffee better than any other.


Sourdough Bread from Century Old Starter

Life doesn't get much better than being able to combine friendship with good food and that's exactly what my friend and I were able to do last week.  We live over 2500 miles apart, have never met in person (having met online through The Family Cow Forum around a decade ago), but share a love of so many things that our friendship has grown and I can't imagine my life without her in it.  One of the things for which we both have a passion is preparing homemade meals in our farm kitchens.  Last week, my friend Dianne sent me a really special gift of sourdough starter (and polish or "old dough") that has been in her family for  near 50 years or more! The sourdough originally travelled by covered wagon to Washington State with a family most likely a lot like' Dianne's. (Dianne just published a book about her Grandmother, Bessie Knapp,  which I had the privilege of reading before it went to the publisher. Dianne's family homesteaded  land which was part of the Colville Indian Reservation. I can't recommend the book enough.  It is called TO THE RESERVATION AND BACK.  I will include my book review and contact information for Dianne at the end of this blog post.)   I can't tell you how much it meant to me to receive this special gift of sourdough from my friend and I could hardly wait to get started using it.  

Dianne sent me the starter and poolish in a double layer of Ziploc bags that were put inside several plastic grocery bags and then in a priority box and mailed USPS.  The weather was cold both in Washington State and in Virginia and the starter travelled well.  

From Wikipedia:  
A pre-ferment (also known as bread starter) is a fermentation starter used in indirect[1][2] methods of bread making. It may also be called mother dough.
A pre-ferment and a longer fermentation in the bread-making process have several benefits: there is more time for yeast, enzyme and, if sourdough, bacterial actions on the starch and proteins in the dough; this in turn improves the keeping time of the baked bread, and it creates greater complexities of flavor. Though pre-ferments have declined in popularity as direct additions of yeast in bread recipes have streamlined the process on a commercial level, pre-ferments of various forms are widely used in artisanal bread recipes and formulas.
In general, there are two pre-ferment varieties: sponges, based on baker's yeast, and the starters of sourdough, based on wild yeasts and lactic-acid bacteria.[note 1] There are several kinds of pre-ferment commonly named and used in bread baking. They all fall on a varying process and time spectrum, from a mature mother dough of many generations of age to a first-generation sponge based on a fresh batch of baker's yeast:
  • Biga and poolish or pouliche are terms used in Italian and French baking, respectively, for sponges made with domestic baker's yeast. Poolish is a fairly wet sponge (typically one-to-one, this is, made with a one-part-flour-to-one-part-water ratio by weight), whereas biga is usually drier.[3] Bigas can be held longer at their peak than wetter sponges,[4] while a poolish is one known technique to increase a dough's extensibility.[5]
  • Old dough (pâte fermentée) may be made with yeast or sourdough cultures, and in essence consists of a piece of dough reserved from a previous batch, with more flour and water added to feed the remaining flora. Because this is a piece of old dough, it has the typical ingredient of salt to distinguish it from other pre-ferments.[6][note 2] Once old dough had rested for an additional 10 hours of age, the French named it Levain de Chef

I fed the poolish/old dough for three days before making bread.  My house was a little on the cool side, so I learned to set the poolish in our bedroom on the mantle so the heat from the fireplace would give the starter the right atmosphere for the yeast to work.  That was the perfect arrangement and the poolish thrived in that environment.  

On the third day, I made my bread dough using my friend's recipe.  There are posts online that give mathematical formula's for adapting recipes so that one can produce a quality loaf without a lot of guesswork.  I simply followed a recipe that my friend had posted on her Facebook page for making bread with poolish/old dough.

Again, I found that the cool draft in our house didn't allow the bread to rise like I wanted, so I moved the dough to the mantle in our bedroom where we keep a fire going when it is cold outdoors.  It might seem a little strange to have dough rising in the bedroom until one considers that our early American history includes many one room cabins and dwellings where it would not have been unusual to have bread rising in close proximity to where the family might sleep.  I love any connection with the past and having this century old starter growing in the bread on my mantel was such a treat.

I allowed the bread to rise three times before shaping it into loaves and baking.  

I divided my dough and baked a rustic loaf in two iron skillets.  If I had a dutch oven without legs (which I don't) I could have baked the bread in that. 
I can't tell you how pleased I was with the results!  The bread had a wonderful flavor and texture with a chewy crust just as I like it!  The house was filled with the aroma of fresh baked bread and I felt a connection to my friend even though we were so many miles apart.

Dianne's recipe (in her own words)  for sourdough bread using poolish:

"I take out 1/2 cup sour dough from my bread making...leave it on the counter. I add 1/2 flour & 1/4 cup warm water to this everyday for 3 or so days. Then the morning I am going to make sourdough. I add 4 1/2 cups flour, 2 cups water, 1 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs salt, 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 tsp yeast. I mix this together in the sourdough...adding enough flour to make a good dough. I let it rest for 20 min covered. I knead for 15 min or so & let rise for one hour. I then knead & save out a hunk of dough for the next poolish & shape the rest of the dough. I put on a stone with cornmeal. I let rise 40 min & turn on my oven to 425 deg. At one hour or when double I slice the top & spritz with water. I put in the oven & spritz the oven with water often in the next 5 min. I bake for 40 min or till browned. When it comes out of the oven I sprinkle with flour to give it that rustic look. YUM!!!!!!! They say the longer you can let it rise the yummer the flavor will be. I feel like it takes several times doing this & saving the poolish to make a wonderful out of this world taste!

Then I also have my sour dough that I keep always in the fridge. I feed it 1 cup of milk, 1 cup flour, 1 heaping tsp sugar. Feed it every several days if you use it & leave it out on the counter...If you leave it in the fridge feed it once a week if you want it more sour leave it out on the counter covered. If it comes inactive from little use, add 1/8 tsp yeast to 2 tbs warm water & stir that into your sourdough & it will make it smell better, taster better & give it pizzazz.

I always wondered why sourdough did not go bad...it is because it is preserved...The liquid at the top of sourdough when left undisturbed for a time is called HOOCH this is slightly less volatile than high test aviation gasoline & will give someone a hangover of gigantic proportions! HA!"
I highly recommend Dianne's Book TO THE RESERVATION AND BACK  The following is the review I wrote for her book after reading it before she sent it to the publisher.  The story and history in the book alone are a treasure and the historic photos are an added bonus.
TO THE RESERVATION AND BACK is one of those rare books where the reader feels as if they have been pulled into the story and are somehow a part of it.  The author and her family share the life of Bessie Knapp, the author’s grandmother, who followed her own grandparents to the Colville Indian Reservation to homestead.  As one reads these accounts, written in first person narrative, one feels as if they have been invited to be an honorary member of the family.  The reader will laugh at the humorous anecdotes, as well as marvel at this family’s strong survival instincts and the ingenuity that helped them find ways to exist and endure within a land that sometimes seemed intent on destroying their efforts.  When reading TO THE RESERVATION AND BACK the reader will feel as if they are a part of the struggles and walk away with admiration for this family whose hearts were captured by a remote piece of property in Washington State that continues to call them back to the land.    
I strongly urge the reader to grab a cup of coffee or hot tea and find a comfortable spot to settle in when you begin this book, because you will not want to put it down until you have finished it to the end.  Upon reading the last sentence, I felt the sadness one feels after having satisfying conversation with good friends and not wanting the visit to end.  
Warm, intimate, moving, inspiring and with nuggets of first hand history of the area, TO THE RESERVATION AND BACK is a book you will want to read more than once. 

Please contact me via email tcuppminiatures@yahoo.com and I will give out the contact information to order a copy of Dianne's book.  


Monday Journal Entry

March 9, 2018

As much as we would like to remain in one spot for more than a few days at a time, our responsibilities to those we love won’t allow it at this point in time.  When I get a break from watching the grandchildren, we always take the opportunity to travel in the opposite direction, further south, to spend time caring for my grandmother.  We are so fortunate that my paternal cousin is there with here looking after her needs, but there are things that need my attention as well as the fact that grandma just needs me close as often as possible.  We average every 10 weeks making a trip to Georgia and I will always be thankful for these times we have been able to spend with my Nan.  I do admit that I am weary of travel and ready to have more than four days in a single location before getting back in the car again.  This schedule of running up and down the roads has been a routine for a year now. 

Monday morning Mike and I worked around the house in Laurel Fork, having the week off from watching the Little Girls with Alissa being on Spring Break.  Around 1 pm we had the car packed and were on the road.  We stopped for gas and to eat but made good time arriving at Grandma’s house around 7:30.  I called her when we were a few minutes from the house as she had no idea we were coming to see her.  We like to surprise her because we don’t want to add to her anxiety and the anticipation of our coming causes her to fret.  She began telling me that she had put a letter in the mailbox for me but the postal carrier did not pick it up.  I then asked her if she would like for me to get it out of the mailbox.  She said, “Yes, but how are you going to do that?”  I then proceeded to tell her I was about five minutes away and would be there soon to see her.  She was extremely happy and it was very sweet to see her face when we walked through the door. 

Tuesday and Wednesday were incredibly busy days for me as I tried to get all the business done that needed to be addressed.  I manage all of my grandma’s financial affairs now as well as try to keep her on track with doctors’ appointments.  Again, we are so blessed that my cousin can be there to facilitate and that most of what needs to be done, thanks to the internet, I can manage from Virginia but occasionally it is just better for everyone if I am there in person to facilitate.  Our seniors face so much more than we realize sometimes, including people who will take advantage of them if they do not see a strong presence in the life of the senior.  As I went through my grandma’s financial records since my grandmother’s death, I was very aware of a certain self-proclaimed “handyman” that has lived down the road from her in the past who took advantage of her naivety, inexperience, and trusting nature and took large sums of money from her over the years as well as talking her into giving him her nice, riding lawn mower.  In the beginning there was nothing I could do about it as there was no case for memory loss or other issues that would warrant my taking over her finances for her.  It was simply a matter of her childlike trust in humanity and her inexperience in dealing first hand with a cruel world as she had always been protected by my grandfather.  At that time, I would make her angry as I would try to tell her to steer clear of this man and his thieving ways, because she thought she knew what she was doing.  Later, as her mental state became more fragile and we were unaware of just how bad things were getting, she just hid things from us.  This is not an uncommon response from the elderly as they begin to feel like they are losing control but don’t want their family to step in and take over.  Sometimes this is because they want to remain independent and other times it is because they don’t want to be a burden to their family.  Often, it is both.  I have walked to where the “handyman” is staying, confronted him and taken back tools that belong to my grandmother.  I have made my presence known and made the legal and political authorities in the city aware of what is going on as well. However, it is difficult because Grandma invites him back again and again.  I have found that our seniors need an advocate in so many areas of life as they try to manage in a complex and often cruel world. 

We seem to have entered into a slightly different aspect of this roller coaster ride of caring for and loving an elderly family member.  Grandma was in denial to herself and to us for quite a while.  I am so glad that she has always been resilient and stubborn.  We women need those traits to help us navigate life.  I am always happy that my daughter and granddaughters exhibit those same strengths.  That strong desire to be independent, while I respected it and understood, often made it difficult for me to help grandma when she needed it the last couple of years.  Now grandma is recognizing and admitting that her memory doesn’t always respond as she needs it to and that she needs others to fill in the gaps.  As she has begun to relax into this acceptance of this phase of her life, she has become softer, like the grandma I know best.  It is bittersweet because it makes it easier for me to do what I need to do to care for her but it also breaks my heart.  I see her reliance on me and on my cousin, who is there with her, and her acceptance of it now and I just want to weep for all the days gone by when it was my grandmother taking care of me rather than me taking care of my grandmother.  How quickly time goes by and things come full circle. 

During our time in Georgia, I went with Grandma to church on Wednesday night.  I knew when I went down this time that I would go with her.  It means so much to her and it is not something that I typically do.  But, I wanted to make Grandma happy and I did.  She was so proud of our being there and introduced us to all her friends.  She would forget that she had just introduced us to someone and would introduce us again.  Her friends were kind and didn’t correct her when she repeatedly introduced us.  It doesn’t matter if one is 5 or 50, grandmothers have the same pride in their grandkids that they always did.  I was actually pretty comfortable there only because I knew I was there for the right reason and that was to honor my grandmother by being by her side.  As we sat there during the service, grandma also struggled to find the passages of Scripture that were being read.  Growing up in a Baptist church, I am very familiar with the way the pastor will often jump from one place in the Bible to another and expect those in the congregation to “follow along” by turning in their Bibles to those passages.  Baptist children are taught early on the books of the Bible and participate in “Sword Drills” that rewards children for finding a passage in the Bible quicker than the other children after it is called out by the class leader or teacher.  Grandma wanted so badly to follow along but would be looking in the New Testament for Old Testament passages and vice versa.  The pages in her Bible would make soft noises as she kept flipping through them.  Sometimes she would look at me and say, “I can’t remember where it is” and I would gently take her Bible and find the passage for her handing it back to her.  Grandma gave up the choir a while back.  She told me that she couldn’t follow along anymore and she couldn’t learn the parts.  Nan has always sang harmony and has a beautiful voice.  She sang all the time………at church, at home, driving in the car, outside…………she was always singing.  She stopped singing.  She said she forgot how.  However, Wednesday night as I sat beside her every word of the old hymns came effortlessly from her mouth as she sang in harmony and with strength of voice.  As I stood beside her, it was all I could do to keep the tears in my eyes from spilling down my cheeks.  Those few moments of being able to hear her voice in song once again were my gift for putting aside my own feelings and going to church to honor my grandmother.  I will forever be thankful for those moments. 

I was also able to sit down with Nan and get her to tell me some of her memories.  It didn’t flow as freely for her as it has at other times but still, the stories were sweet and helped me to remember times in my life as well as learn more about those days before I was born.  I noticed that the stories of her childhood are stronger in her memory and contain more detail than the stories from my childhood.  More and more she likes to go back to those stories of when she was a little girl.  I asked her to tell me stories about when she and my grandpa went to the first church he ever pastored.  It was in DeSoto, Missouri.  My grandpa must have been in his early 40’s at the time, my grandmother being four years younger in her late 30’s.  My grandpa went to college at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga as a middle-aged man who had never finished high school.  It took him seven years to finish a four-year degree but he was determined.  When he finished his degree, a friend of his, Jim Waymire, told him about this little Southern Baptist Church in Missouri that needed a pastor.  He and my grandma left their home in Georgia and moved to Missouri.  It wasn’t too long after that I was born and my parents also moved from Georgia to Missouri.  I was around six months old when they moved.  I asked my grandmother if my parents lived with them or elsewhere when they first arrived and she told me that they lived in a tiny trailer owned by the Northcutt family.

Your mom and dad lived in a tiny little trailer.  I mean it was really small.  It belonged to the Northcutts.  You would not remember them because you were too little but they came to our church.  Your dad went to work at a place where they made tin cans and later he went to Ford Motor Company.  He worked at the tin can place first.”

I went on to ask her about the trailer where she and my grandpa lived behind the church.  I was really young but I can still remember some about the trailer, about some of the things we did there with my grandparents, and about the trees and flowers outside of their home where I loved to play.  My grandmother had a bed of flowers that was nothing but various colors of Iris in front of the trailer that was about half as wide as the trailer itself and very near as long as the trailer.  Those flowers were absolutely gorgeous in bloom and even as a child I thought they were beautiful.  The smell of those flowers permeated the air. 

We lived in a trailer behind the church.  I had a lot of Irises.  A lady gave me some special Irises.  She said they would be mine.  They were a dark blue, almost black flower.  They also kept us supplied with strawberries.  I would pick the strawberries.”

Remembering how I wanted a baby brother, Nan relayed the following:

  You use to say, ‘I want a baby brother’.  Your mom said, ‘If you want a baby brother, you have to pray for one.’   So, you bowed your head, folded your hands and said, ‘God I want a baby brother.’

At this point my grandma laughed at the sweetness of the memory.

When I told my grandma that I remembered things from when she lived at Emmanuel Baptist in the little trailer, she relayed this story:

“I remember the first time you spent all night.  You stood up in bed and said, ‘I want my momma.’  I don’t think your mom was too happy you came home.  She thought she was going to get a break.  You did good for a while but you stood up in bed and said, ‘I want my momma.’

I have memories of that time as well, even though I was probably only four years old.  My brother was an infant and I remember walking through the front door and seeing my mother holding and rocking him.  I was so happy to see them both. 

Grandma remembered the Persimmon trees growing along the edge of the church property and how she taught me to look for a “knife, fork or spoon” when we cut them open. The old timers used to predict the severity of the coming winter by the shape of the seed.  To this day, I rush to pick the persimmons from the ground after a hard frost and taste their sweetness that fills me with memories.

“I remember that there were persimmon trees growing at the edge of our yard.  There were two old ladies that lived at the property edge adjoining ours.  One time a fire got out someplace.  It burned a lot of property there.  I cut open the persimmons and showed you a knife, a spoon, and a fork.  If you picked them and ate them too green, they would pucker your mouth but they were sure good when they got ripe.” 

Grandma jumped back to talking about the church at this point.

“Do you remember Pollite’s store at the end of the road?  There was a tavern across the road.  We could always hear the music at our house, the boom, boom, boom.”

I assured her that I did remember the little convenience store because she often bought me Push-Ups, that orange sherbet like treat in a cardboard cylinder that was pushed up from the bottom by a stick.

She continued:

“The Womacks lived right across the street from us.  They had a little girl.  One time on Easter she came over and drew on our windows.  Her momma made her come over and clean them up.  Of course, that was just a kid thing and she was as innocent as can be.  She didn’t know she would have to work after she did the dirty work.”

She smiled as she remembered and then proceeded to talk about the Day Care she started at the church.  This memory actually was from a later time in her life when she and my grandpa came back from Alaska and he pastored Emmanuel a second time.  They had gone to Alaska to work with a friend at a church in North Pole and lived there for a while before my mother passed away.  When my mother died, they came back to Missouri to help with my brother and I.  It was at this time my grandpa began his second tenure at Emmanuel and my grandmother started the day care.

“I had the day care there the second time we came back to Emmanuel.  I had a lot of kids.  They caught the school bus to go to school.  I would go out with them to catch the bus.  Some of them, the kindergarten kids came back for lunch.  We had pizza once a week.  Pizza wasn’t made like it is now.  I bought it in a box and mixed it up.  They were always thrilled to have pizza.  I guess the Trent kids were the first kids that started to the day care.  We got big enough to have three teachers plus myself.  Bobby Davis, Dianne Bell and then there was another lady.  I used to hear from her every once in a while.  She lived on a back road.  She was a teacher in the bed babies up to two years of age.  One time I was counting for a little girl and the little girl clapped her hands and said, “That’s very good Mrs. Starnes.”  Her grandma was crippled.  Her mom worked on the highway installing guard rails.” 

Here her memory went back to church services during their first tenure as she remembered who kept the babies during that time:

“When we first went to that church Mrs Bell (Shirly Waymire’s mom) was keeping the nursery.  She just had a room back in the office.” 

Nan then remembered a visit from her mother and her mom’s cousin during the time of their first pastorate in Missouri.  I have my own memories of that visit with my “Little Grandma” as I called her and our vivacious cousin Rosie who was then in her eighties.  “Aunt Rosie” as we called her and “Little Grandma” looked as if they had stepped out of the Victorian Era in their dresses and with their hairstyles.  I remember Rosie sitting on the edge of my bed with me, listening to a record and singing along to “Do You Know The Muffin Man”, dancing as she did so until she literally fell off the bed.  Fortunately for me and for her, she wasn’t hurt. 

My grandmother shared this memory of that same time period:

“While we were there we took mom and Rose to see mom’s sister in Colorado.  Her name was Pearl.  She had nine sons and they all went to the service and they all came back.  She was the gold star mother of Pueblo, Colorado.  In the War days, they recognized the person who had so many children serving in the service and called them a gold star mother.  One son had lost an arm.  One of her boys had triplets.  In those days it was kind of like having a litter of kids.  It wasn’t too exciting for them because of the stigma that was with having three at a time.  She and my uncle always traveled a lot even though they had so many kids.  I remember her visiting in Lebanon.  Someone would come and get us and tell us Aunt Pearl was there. 

Gladys and Ines were dad’s sisters.  Ines was a school teacher at Dry Knob School.  Marlin’s grandmother knew who I was because I looked so much like my Aunt Inez.  Aunt Inez had boarded with them.  Pa’s grandmother was still living when Nan and Pa started dating.  She was feeble and had palsy.  She lived with Aunt Nelly.  This was his dad’s mom.” 

I had been directing Nan to tell me stories about her early years at Emmanuel and living in DeSoto, Missouri.  She had struggled a bit keeping those stories going but soon turned back to her early years and was happy telling stories of her childhood.

“I’ve got to tell you about grandpa.  He had really white hair.  He was Norwegian.  He was blind but he would try to farm.  Our place was 40 or more acres and we could hear him at night yelling at the cows.  He always said, “I’ll knock your head off and throw it in your face” and “I wish lightening would strike you.”  He called my grandma Pokey.  He always made cough syrup and his cough syrup was mostly whisky.  He had a box that fit against the wall and they would drop pill boxes in there.  When I went to see them, those were my toys.  Grandpa was a veterinarian.  He even wrote an article for the Vet’s magazine onetime telling about how good onions were and that they would make you sleep.  He and Pokey had an apple tree.  It was just right to play on.  I would spin on the limbs and go round and round holding my leg.  I asked my grandma one time if she could do that.  Grandpa always ate beans almost every meal.  He liked them baked with fat back.  It was just as fat as fat could be.  Grandpa and Grandma lived with us for a long time and then they wanted to move out to that little shed.  We put a door on that shed.  It had a cement floor in it.  They lived out there until they went to live with Paul and Eleanor.  They gave Paul and Eleanor their farm.  The house we lived in was a square yellow house.  It had two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs.  The room off the kitchen was where we entertained people when they came to visit.  It was a bedroom and a little bit of everything.   We had a big orchard at that place.  We had all kinds of fruit trees.  We probably had 75 peach trees and 15 apple trees.  People would come and buy fruit from us.  I never have liked fruit because we had it all the time.  There was a cherry tree that grew over the toilet.  Mom always said, “Don’t eat the cherries from that tree’ but I liked the cherries because they were different.”

We both laughed and I winked and replied, “You liked the cherries because they were the forbidden fruit.”  This made grandma really laugh.

At this point, Nan was pretty tired and I knew it was time to let her rest.  I know that no matter how much time we have left, there’s not enough time to get down all the stories but I am thankful for the ones that she is able to relay to me.  Our time together was really sweet.  Grandma seemed less anxious for the most part perhaps giving in to resignation in some ways over this season of her life or perhaps the anxiety medicine the doctor gave her is taking the edge off.  We only had one night that was uncomfortable for all of us when she didn’t sleep and walked the halls from 1 am until 5 pm.  She would randomly open our door and stare into the room until finally at 5 am she beat on the door and wanted to know why we were not out of bed yet.  At that point, I just gave up and got up.  All in all, it was a good trip and I accomplished even more than I had set out to do.

On the trip home, I made calls to take care of personal business, texted folks who had been waiting for days on a reply and worked on a book review for a friend whose book will soon be released.  I was thrilled when she asked me to read her book before it was published and honored that she allowed me to share how much I enjoyed the book.  I had been thinking about the sentiments behind what I wanted to say about the book for several weeks but just hadn’t been able to settle down enough to put my heart into words.  This was more than just a book review for me.  This was me wrapping my arms around my friend and sharing with the world how important the work is that she has done to preserve the stories of her grandmother’s life and the history of the land they homesteaded.  It had to be done to the best of my ability.  I was thankful when I had clarity of thought and could put what was in my heart into words and share that with my friend.  We both cried.  I’m just so happy for her joy and this great accomplishment in her life. 

We stopped for lunch on the way home and then when we went back to the car, Mike asked me to drive.  This was a momentous occasion.  I can only think of one other time, when he wasn’t feeling well, that he has asked me to drive.  I am a very good driver with a good driving record and it is not that he doesn’t trust me to drive, it is just that he would rather be in charge and he is a lot more aggressive of a driver than I am.  I don’t mind at all because I would rather be writing which is what I do typically after all the business is done as we travel.  This momentous occasion in our life came to be this time not because Mike was sick but because his favorite college basketball team is in the championships and they were playing in the middle of the day.  Other than playing volley ball in high school (well playing in practice but mostly sitting on the bench during games) and following the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball team as a teenager and in my 20’s I don’t pay much attention to sports.  However, this year I have made an effort to learn more about Mike’s favorite basketball team and watch the games with him.  We were both excited when UVA pulled off another win.  I drove until we got to Wytheville and it snowed but didn’t stick for most of the trip.  In Wytheville, we stopped at Rural King, a new farm store.  We bought some Kentucky 31 grass seed and a few other things.  Then, we had to stop by Southwest Virginia Farm supply and pick up the orchard grass that Mike had bought there.  We finally arrived home, unloaded the car, started a fire and I got supper, called grandma and we settled in for the night.  This past week has flown by. 

March 10, 2018

Mike worked hard yesterday wanting to make up for the days we were away at Grandma’s.  Our time this past week instead of being divided up between Laurel Fork and Staunton was divided up between Laurel Fork and Georgia.  It is so difficult to get anything done in the short amount of time that we are in one place or another.  I am truly counting the weeks until we can stop running up and down the road.  Of course, then we will be getting into hay season, and Mike will have to be in Staunton off and on this summer.  At any rate, Mike kicked butt and accomplished a lot.  He cleared a lot of brush beside the house.  Adjacent to our back yard is a post and woven wire fence that is topped with barbed wire.  I am sure it was probably put there to discourage deer from coming through the yard and to keep livestock out that might have gotten into the woods.  I’m sure it was also there just to give a division and definition to the back yard.  From the first time I saw the back yard I wanted to take down that fence because just beyond it is a grove of mature pines, tall and beautiful on the edge of a steep bank.  (Our back yard is quite steep as well.)  I imagined how wonderful it would be to be able to walk right up to those old trees and be able to touch them.  Just below them and at the edge of the existing yard, just on the other side of the unsightly fence is a spot that is semi level where we could put a picnic table.  From there we can see beyond our house and across the meadow where the mules and draft horses graze as well as have a view up into our pasture behind our house where the Jerseys will graze.  I was thrilled when Mike began working to take down the fence and clear the brush.  He cleared a good portion of it and it looks fantastic but as he got closer to the house it became so steep that he was barely able to get back out and had to quit in that location.  I am just thrilled with the progress.  Clearing the fence and underbrush also did wonders to make it feel like we are getting more sunshine down in our little “holler”. 

I have been trying to get back to walking at least four or five days a week.  For so many years, I would become obsessed about the distance I walked and I would compete with myself to push myself further.  For a period of time right after my divorce, I walked ten miles a day.  In more recent years, I pushed myself to walk 5 miles a day.  There would be periods of time when I was not able to do the five miles due to my hectic schedule but I would come back to it when I was able.  I determined a while back that I was going to try to throw out the idea of keeping track of how far I walked and just walk for the joy of it.  Being so goal oriented, I really have resist the urge to keep track but walking without pushing myself is so much more pleasurable and helps me to slow down and live intentionally.  Yesterday I walked up by the springs and then circled around and started to walk the perimeter fence when again, I walked up on the flock of turkeys.  The group was a little smaller this time but I am guessing there were probably 9 or 10 turkeys who immediately began walking away and into the woods.  I was able to slowly follow them and get a couple of photos before they decided they had enough of my presence and first flew up into the tall trees and then on away from me where I could no longer see them.  As I continued my walk towards the back of our property, I startled three more turkeys who quickly disappeared into the woods before I could get close enough to take pictures. 

We are having a cold snap and Mike and I worked to get more wood into the house to keep the fireplace going.  We also picked up a lot of unseasoned wood that Mike had cut up and stacked it in a building to have for later.  Little by little the place is beginning to look better. 

March 11, 2018

The vintage, Kelvinator refrigerator groaned loudly last night as it labored to continue its work of keeping food cold.  Manufactured around seventy years ago, the refrigerator serves us well, albeit it is quite small.  It amazes me that it just keeps on running and so far, has only required a short rest from time to time.  After it runs for a couple of months, the ice builds up in the freezer compartment and then the machine begins the groaning sounds like we heard last night.  The first time it happened, I was certain that the refrigerator had seen its last day in good working order.  However, I found out that once it had rested for a few hours and was given a chance to thaw completely, it ran as good as ever.  I didn’t really want to clean out the refrigerator late on Saturday night or have to finish the job early Sunday morning but I was afraid if I left it, it would freeze up completely as it has done in the past.  With our leaving to go back to Staunton today, I couldn’t take that chance.  Without a backup frig, I simply sat all the food on the back porch where the temps had dropped down below forty degrees and were supposed bottom out around freezing.  Anytime I use my back porch as a refrigerator, I am reminded of my days in a little cabin in Alaska and one time in particular when I made various types of candy for Christmas on my wood stove and then put the candy on the back porch to chill.  It was so cold there and the temperatures remained well below freezing for most of the winter, so we would leave our frozen food in freezers on the back porch and unplug them during the winter time.  The candy I made, I lined up on top of the freezers on trays until it hardened, which didn’t take long.  Of course, we had to be careful not to attract bears with the smell of food.  The Athabascan Natives who lived in the villages had their own methods of keeping food in the winter and keeping it safe from the bears.  I remember seeing their food cache structures when I was a small girl and visited Alaska for the first time.  The structures were build high above the ground, like miniature cabins, with secure doors and long ladders to reach them.  Putting food on my unheated, enclosed, back porch in Laurel Fork, Virginia is a far cry from the primitive cache of an arctic village, but it’s funny what triggers memories in one’s brain.  I wonder how many of our memories that are triggered by our senses are lost to us as we immerse ourselves in the high-tech world in which we live.  Our constant attention to computers, cell phones and the noise of electronics keeps us from living intentionally and allow ourselves to really experience our memories and whatever is present in the moment as well.  Mike and I talked about it yesterday and even my limited use of Facebook in the past few weeks, after an eight-month hiatus, has brought with it a change that is mostly distracting and burdensome.  My soul is just quieter and more receptive to intentional living and the immersion of myself into the present moment when not connected.  There is good, of course, in being connected with friends and family but I still wonder if we are sacrificing what is sacred in order to have those instant and constant connections.  Life is good when we learn to be still and while we were not intended to live life alone and cut off from the world, we miss out when we are not content to be alone with ourselves. 

We did attend our regular Saturday auction yesterday but I was pretty bored with it as they mostly sold signs that brought large sums of money.  It is hard to be interested when the items being sold are out of one’s price range.  Of course, some of the things were interesting and I always learn something when I go to an auction or estate sale but mostly I just worked on my computer and fidgeted in my seat.  We often run errands after auction but came straight home and I started making bread from the starter that I had been feeding for three days.  My dear friend sent me starter and poolish from her sourdough that dates back one hundred and twenty-five years and that was brought to Washington State via covered wagon.  The starter and poolish meant to me a combination of friendship and history, alive and handed over to my care to nourish and keep.  It was a little piece of my friend’s life that she entrusted to me, just as she trusts that I will continue to nourish our relationship.  I enjoyed so much thinking of my friend while I kneaded the dough, felt its warmth on my hands, watched it rising, then shaped it into loaves and let the aroma of that fresh bread fill our home.  Even though it was late by the time I finished, we sliced big pieces and slathered them with butter not waiting on the proper cooling time to taste it. 

Mike worked outside when we got home. He took down a huge section of perimeter fence at the front of our property.  We hope to replace that woven wire and barbed wire fence with a nice board fence.  He worked until almost dark. 

We went to church this morning.  I think there ended up being maybe 19 of us there after those who were running late made it.  That’s a decent crowd for our little church.  The minute I walk in the door, Mrs. C’s eyes light up when she recognizes me.  She’s just the sweetest thing and at 96 is absolutely amazing.  Every week she tells me how pretty I look and how much she likes what I am wearing.  I can tell she genuinely means it.  When I told her that all my clothes come from the thrift store, she looked so surprised.  We didn’t tarry long after service today.  We had too much to do and even then, didn’t leave the house to head back to Staunton until after 4 pm.  I fixed our lunch and when I sat it on the table, Mike said, that looks like an amazing plate of food.  At almost the same time we both said, “That’s a $20 plate a restaurant” and then we both laughed.  It wasn’t anything fancy but it was good food.  We had grass finished beef burgers on homemade sourdough bread with bacon and gouda cheese and homemade, sweet relish.  I took the leftover hand mashed red potatoes and made potato patties that I fried and we had broccoli with melted cheese.  Afterwards, we spent a good bit of time trying to get some items priced for the antique booths.  Last summer we had taken a good bit of merchandise we had gathered up that wasn’t top quality and had a few yard sales at a friend’s building right off the highway in Laurel Fork.  We had just left the items in the building as it wasn’t being used but someone has since leased it and will be moving in around the first of April.  We needed to get our things out of there to free it up for the new tenant.  Most of the items we will donate to Goodwill but we pulled a few things out to price and take with us back to Staunton.  Mike packed, repacked, and repacked again until he finally got everything in the car.  In addition to our clothes and personal belongings, he packed 400 pounds of orchard grass seed (in big, fluffy bags) and the merchandise we are taking to Verona.  The car smells like grass seed and burlap bags.  It was really hard to leave.  It is always hard to leave but this time was even harder I think.  We didn’t get nearly as much accomplished as we would have liked.  The trip to Georgia, while necessary and a sweet time with Grandma, really cut into our work week.  I know the next 8-9 weeks are going to be insanely busy as we work on things at the farm(s) in Staunton, keep the grandkids, and then go up and down the road to Laurel Fork and try to work there as well.  We have Easter,  garden to plant, the Jerseys will start calving in probably another month, we have birthday parties for three out of the four grandkids, ballet recital, Alissa’s graduation, and so many other things that will keep us hopping.  I get a little panicked just thinking about it and have to make myself stop and breath. 

March 12, 2018

As I sit with coffee in hand waiting for the Little Girls to wake up so we can begin another busy Monday, I am reflecting on life.  I do a lot of reflecting and always have.  I suppose it goes hand in hand with being an introvert but I think it is more than that for me.  I guess some people just have a predisposition to be more sensitive and have the need to internalize things.  Even as a very young child, I would steal away to my favorite tree to sit in its branches or lie on the ground underneath, as a pre-teen I would hike to the secret places at the farthest corners of the farm with a book or a pen and paper.  As an older teen, I would lock the door to my room and spend hours in there alone studying, reading and writing.  Out with friends with whom I felt comfortable, I was usually wide open, witty, sarcastic in a fun way, in the middle of things but ready to get away when the time came and back to my comfort zone.  I’m the same as I have always been.  If I am comfortable among friends, I can skillfully tell stories that will leave one in tears, laughter or at least keep the attention of the audience.  I love to have fun and make people smile.  I like to give hugs and look deep into the eyes of the people I love, or the people that I want to love.  I am watchful, always watchful, even when others think I am not paying attention and being extremely sensitive to others, I absorb what is going on around me.  I think in stories.  I describe people to myself in my head as if they were characters in a novel.  I see the natural world around me and long to be able to express that beauty with words.  Everything I feel inside begs to find form by way of sentences and paragraphs.  Phrases fly through my brain, descriptions keep coming to the forefront of my thoughts, and if I seem sometimes lost in my own little world, it is just me processing all the things inside my head and trying to put them into words.