impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
It's going to be in the upper seventies today, but the end of last week was a chilly and wet one.  There was snow in the air on Friday and, sure enough, the high elevations (the highest in our state) were wearing their Winter coats of rime ice and snow once more.  Mike suggested we go to see them Saturday morning, before they began to thaw out.  There was a troop of Boy Scouts unloading at Elk Garden, and it was quite windy there, so we opted to drive on to White Top.

Icy Road

We went until the road was too slippery for my comfort.  The children had never seen the mountain in the snow.  I've only seen it a time or two.  The road is often impassable in the Winter and not worth the hazards.

Coltsfoot in the Snow

The coltsfoot was blooming through the snow, showing the perseverance of non-native invasives.  It will be another month before the natives will bloom.

Spring Snow

The spring was snowy in Spring.  Or something like that.  It was flowing very nicely, so we were thankful.  Most of Virginia is still low on rain, but we have been very blessed since the wildfires.

Snowy Stream

As the stream flowed away from the spring, it picked up quite a bit of water.  It was so nice to hear it flowing, and so pretty to see the snow drifted along it.

In the Woods

Mike and the Big Ones enjoyed playing in the snow in the woods above the road. Laurel and I got a little wet (or a lot wet) in the stream, but our clothes kept us sufficiently warm.  She was more than happy to go back to the car and shed her wet overalls, while I stayed with Willow and Roan.  We took turns throwing crusty snow into the stream, which was really pretty fun.

While some of the snow is probably gone, I bet there's still a good amount left.  We had weeks of warm weather back in the Winter and could still find little bits of snow hiding here and there.  I'm reading an interesting book these days, The Appalachians, that talks extensively about this unique landscape in which we live.  We truly get a taste of all kinds of weather here--both arctic and southern.  I'll have to give my thoughts on it when I finish it.
impossibleway: (Warning)
Just down the road from the Ice Rocks, is Alligator Back. Being so close, just 2/10 of a mile, the conditions could not have been more different! It was sunny and warm. We sat at the overlook drinking tea and watched heat waves rise up from the grass.  But, like where we are, the climate of the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of great variability.  The wind often blew in clouds and cool air.  It paid to keep a hat on or have the coats piled nearby.

Traveler at the Alligator Back

The Arkansas Traveler and I took in the sights while the children climbed rocks.  You can see them in the link above.  They joyfully climbed and hiked for about two hours.

The View

These are views I never tire of.  It is interesting to note that the Parkway itself is a fairly narrow strip of land.  It feels like another world when you are on it.

Above the Ice Rocks

This is the area just above the Ice Rocks.  You can see them pre-road here.

Walking

So, the weather. A warm rain fell on us while we ate our sandwiches, just feet from the Ice Rocks where it was so cold. Then, the sun came out. The wind blew in fits and threatened to carry our tea cups off. The air was still. It was warm again. One thing we didn't see was fog, for once. Down in West Jefferson, we went to the Ashe County Cheese Company for Mike. We came out to find it raining, and then it started to hail as we were leaving town! I had just remarked about how we hadn't experienced hail yet, in all the changing conditions of the day. Back home, it felt warm-ish and then it started to snow that night.  Honestly, we are somewhat used to this kind of fluctuation and I really enjoy wild weather, when we are prepared for it.  Goodness, we had such a good time.
impossibleway: (Feet at the Lump)
The "Ice Cliffs," Grandad called them.  He always wanted to go see the Ice Cliffs.  They were on the list that we intrepid sight-seers made in the last years of his life--Buffalo Mountain, the Brown Mountain Lights, Stone Mountain, Burke's Garden, Roan Mountain, Cumberland Gap.  He and Grandma Lois had been prolific travelers in his post-retirement years.  The Blue Ridge Parkway was one of their favorite destinations.  We'd always had in mind to go to the Ice Rocks, but we'd never made it there.  By their very nature, their presence results in road closures.  No one wants to slide off the mountain going to see them, after all.  After a mild Winter with one big blast of cold air at its end, we were inspired to seek them out after looking at the icy cliffs outside our little town.

Ice Rocks 1

Having driven by them many times on warmer days, it was a simple matter of looking in my Parkway guides.

Ice Rocks 2

In it, they were called the "Ice Rocks" and found to be in Doughton Park.

Ice Rocks 3

I think we got there just in time.  I bet the last of the ice will be gone this week.

Road Ice

While it was a small show, compared with other years or earlier in the Winter, it was no less impressive.
The ice that had fallen showed some serious water at work.

Ice Rocks 4

It was fifty-five when we arrived, but the wind sweeps ups these stone cliffs with some ferocity.
That quick trip I made back to the car for coats and hats--that was a wise one!

Ice Rocks 5

It was like being in a great freezer with big fans blowing on you.
The wind was so swift at one point, it was hard to walk.

Windy Face

I had given Mike my hat and put up my hood.
The wind was trying mightily to blow it off my head.
I thought this photo was too funny when I saw it.

Ice Rocks 6

You can see here the better part of the ice that was remaining at our visit.  The cliffs go on a bit more, with a little fringe of ice at the top.  You can see photos of them during a more typical year here.  While it wasn't much, comparatively, we all found it to be a powerful, magical place.  We have firm plans to come back next Winter to see them again.  Roan was thrilled at the idea that the ice would come back and probably be more next year.  He kept sharing the news with great excitement and really wanted to bring a big piece home.  That is what I find frightening about climate change--the security that we have known, both for food production and for simple seasonal joys from nature, is at risk.

This wonderful write-up gives a good history of the area.  It tells that the facilities in the Doughton Park area have been closed for some time.  Indeed, the coffee shop where we ate with Grandad in 2008 was not only closed, but appeared to have the glass out of the windows.  It's heartbreaking to me to see our public lands lose funding to keep things in operation.  The current political climate is even more depressing.  I've written here and there over the years about facilities and staffing falling by the wayside, and it seems things will only get worse.  It does, however, drive me to spend more time visiting these places.  We vote with our dollars, after all, and visitors to National Parks matter in a big way.

I don't mean to end on a sour or sad note.  Despite the complexity of the Parkway's beginnings and the uncertainty of its future, it holds a special place in my heart.  It calls to me in a very deep way, one of my great loves.  Now that the children are beyond the baby years and into the bouldering years, I think it's time we spent more time there again. 
impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
It's been snowing and blowing all day, but not doing very much in the way of sticking. The ground is just too warm down in our valley, I guess. We still have the same amount we had this morning!  That's okay.  We took advantage of the warmish roads and drove up to the Snail Place to see the snow and rime ice.  How pretty it was!  I can't help but put some snow photos in with the knitting, can I?  It's been very nearly a month since our last real taste of Winter.

Blueberries in Bed

Here are the blueberries, all tucked under some sheets.
Crafting covers that won't blow off certainly counts, right?
I think I finally got my technique figured out!

Snowy Trees

And King Winter showed off his handiwork to us, as you can see.
I just love it when the trees are all covered in whiteness, such a brief miracle.

Snail Place

And here's the road to our den, all cold and windy.  SO COLD!
It was foggy, too, and you couldn't see a thing down in the valley.

Rime Ice

I really love rime ice so much.  It always brings me such pure joy.

Water Bottle Carrier

Okay, now the knitting.

Here is Waldorf Mama's water bottle carrier.  I admired those years ago and finally made one.  This is Wool of the Andes, scraps from pilot caps I made Willow and Roan, and it felted very well.  You can find my notes here--I did knit it flat, instead of in the round.

Little Spare Time

And this is the Little Spare Time Sweater, that I am calling the "Greenwood Sweater."  It's certainly cheery for St. Patrick's Day, though I doubt I have enough "spare time" to finish it by then.  Then again, it's going to be even colder tomorrow. . .

For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.
impossibleway: (Picking Blueberries)
We're supposed to get three to five inches of snow tomorrow night!  Looking at these sunny photos from yesterday, it's a little hard to believe!  The winds blew in rain during the night and they'll blow again this afternoon to carry the cold this way.  Most of next week looks solidly like Winter and I am formulating how to protect the blueberries, whose little leaf buds are opening just a bit (and who could blame them!?).  Putting out a tarp in the wind--perfect!

Edge of the Wilderness

We visited the Raccoon Branch Wilderness yesterday day, just off the Appalachian Trail.  Really, just off of it.  Children will certainly show us how to appreciate a small patch of land!

On the Fallen Tree

This is the same wilderness area that joins up with the campground we visit so often.  It's the newest one in our area, as you can tell by that nice sign.  Just up the hill from where the children were enjoying this fallen tree, my dad and I picked dripping wet wild blueberries after a strong Summer storm fourteen years ago.  You can see it in my userpic.  Those were the days.  I suppose I ought to make plans for that this Summer.

In the Tree

Being mountain folks, with one leg longer than the other, we spent our time on a steep hillside enjoying this hollow tree.

Hollow Tree

The stump was pretty impressive and the children made a lovely fairy house in it.  That's one of their favorite activites these days.

Moss

I carefully picked my way back down the hill and enjoyed the sun sparkling through the trees.

White Pine

This morning feels cozy--oatmeal is in the plans, which always pleases me. I couldn't eat it for the longest time, so I am careful to make sure we have it every week, often with grated apple stirred in. I was looking over the Susan Branch newsletter from Winter and her journey to Vermont for Valentine's Day. Now, I'm properly ready for being just a little snowed in and in a Christmas-y mood. I have a feeling we'll roast hotdogs by the fire and enjoy some hot chocolate.

Happy Friday!
impossibleway: (Spring in the Stream)
It was seventy-nine degrees yesterday!  Seventy-nine!  That is just unheard of for this time of year, or it is one for the record books.  I'm sure we broke records yesterday.  Meanwhile, the wind came rushing in this morning, blowing the empty garbage cans around and making the tarp on our front porch look as if it were alive.  We're expecting a cooler rainy day with a frosty night and more reasonable weather in the coming couple weeks.  And that's your weather report from our neck of the woods.  Now, nature school.

Rich Valley

We drove through Rich Valley to the cabin yesterday.  The valley is full of rocky outcroppings.  Roan and I declared it would be perfect for sheep.  I think we saw a few there, in fact.

The Cabin

Climbing up the mountain to the cabin, it was sixty-four degrees.  My parents's cabin is on Flattop Mountain in the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area.  Though we haven't spent a night there in several years, I'd really like to.  It's such a special place.  This ridge, if you kept going, takes you over to Laurel Bed Lake.

Lots of Acorns

There are numerous cabins on this small strip of private land, so we puttered around on the road and in the yards.  It's still a pretty wild place--we've seen bears many times, along with other wildlife.  All the wildlife, in fact, is part of the reason my parents don't use their cabin much any more.

More Acorns

All the acorns covering the ground show that last year must have been a real bumper crop. Many were beginning to swell and sprout, and we brought a few home.  They were absolutely everywhere.  Well, it's time to get on with the usual Saturday chores here and then head over to the library to find some books for St. Patrick's Day.  We're getting excited!
impossibleway: (Winter)
A last little bit of Winter, I think.  The forecast for the next while shows lows being what the highs should be.  If ever there were a time to consider the very real possibility (or reality) of climate change, I think now is it.  And it's probably too late, in many ways.  I often wonder if my children will still see regular snow later in their lives.  This Winter has been the one that wasn't.  I've tried to seize every possible moment to enjoy the cold and snow, knowing it won't stick around long.

Flowercicle

For now, though, ice and snow on the Appalachian Trail.
Here's a frozen coneflower from the dripping eaves at the "Ranger House."

Partnership Shelter

And here's Partnership Shelter on the Appalachian Trail.
This one boasts a shower and a sink.  And a phone nearby to order pizza.
It was just right for a week when we all had sniffles.

On the Trail

Oddly, the trail was clear in the snowy woods.
Willow and Roan played in the woods, while we walked.
The snow was pitted from all the dripping and melting.

Needle Ice

There was considerable needle ice, too, which is nice to see.  The ground is still cold and there will likely be some snow in March, right?  I don't like feeling that the natural world is just as up in the air as this human one.  This is the most unsettled I've felt in some time.  Spring feels like it has sprung here in town, and I've taken down the insulated curtains.  I needed the sunshine, anyway.  If Winter won't stick around, it's time to embrace Spring.  I guess we get an early one this year.
impossibleway: (Winter)
My dad gave Laurel her own kite on Sunday, one that was in his collection that had never been flown (similar to this one).  We have plenty of wind around here, but it stops and starts in fits.  It gusts and howls, but it's not steady.  All the trees and variations in terrain baffle it.  We'd tried to fly it a couple times with very little luck, so I thought we'd use the good weather on Wednesday to our advantage.  Back up to the crest zone on Whitetop!  And look!  Snow!

SNOW!

The winds were gusty and about 20 mph.  I later learned that most folks don't fly in that kind of wing.  Oh, well!  Let the maiden voyage be a good one!  Laurel's kite pulls a lot more than Roan's, which was a real challenge that day.  Mostly, we were flying down in a little bowl-shaped cut in the mountainside.  This turned out to be a very good thing!  I let out all the string on both kites--500 feet--just to see how they would do.  I was marveling at them when I saw Laurel's flutter down.  She wasn't holding the winder any more and the kite was no longer in the air.

I spent a good amount of time winding up Roan's string and getting his kite down, while Willow and Roan went to look for the kite.  500 feet is a LOT to wind up!  Laurel and I moved the car up the road to where Willow had found the kite, quite close to the trees.  I started winding and Willow got it in the air again, which presented quite the challenge.  It pulled and fought nearly the whole time I was winding it.  It was hard to do and avoid cutting myself on the tight string.  I was also trying to keep it away from the trees you can see above.  There was one lone tree that looked like it would very much like to eat the kite!   Looking back, I think flying down in the bowl and all the thornless blackberry brambles save the kite from being going into the wild blue.

Flying Kites

Twenty minutes later, I had it all wound up and out of the air. It fell for the last bit of winding and that was so nice, so much better than having to fight to wind up 8 inches at a time! By this time, the children had drunk up all the tea and covered themselves and their parkas in hazelnut spread, so it was time to go home and wash up. On our way down, we witnessed a couple getting engaged on that blustery day. I wish them many happy years together. Being married is probably a little (or a lot) like flying a kite. ;-)
impossibleway: (Elsa Beskow Christmas)
Plein Air TreeI cannot bring myself to get rid of our tree.  Sure, I was fine with taking it out of the house to free up some space, but completely away?  Not yet.  It was such a dear tree, for some reason.  A little scraggly and assymetric, as if we had chosen it from the woods.  Around here, we have such a dearth of trees that many are overgrown.  The tops are cut out and the bottoms are left to be sold to wreath makers.  This tree was full size and just so sweet.  Hauling it out onto the front porch in the falling snow and taking down the lights on the house, well, I had to let it be here just a bit longer.  There are few things I like better than Christmas lights glowing in the snow.

All that sentimentality aside, January clicks!  It's been FOUR months since I shared any! As always, forgive me if I have shared any of these before.
And with that, it's time for me to get up and tidy up the scattered outerwear around the house.  Oh!  And chocolate shortbread!

Tree in the Morning
impossibleway: (Peace & Joy)
"To insure the fruit trees did produce a good crop, it was the custom to toast or bless them on Old Christmas, or Twelfth Night.  Armed with a jug or a pitcher of cider or some other drink, the men would visit each tree in the orchard and drink the following toast:

Here's to the fruit tree
May you grow and bear fruit.
A hat full, a bag full,
A basket full and some to spare.

If the orchard happened to be fairly large, the men often found it difficult to reach the house after such a blessing ceremony. . ."

~ Christmas in the Mountains: Southwest Virginia Christmas Customs and their Origins :: Hubert J. Davis

Wassailing 1

Wassailing 2

Wassailing 3

Wassailing 4

I have to chuckle at that description of wassailing. The book goes on to described the way people wassailed apple trees back home in Somserset and Devon in England, where these traditions began. Sometimes, bread was soaked in the wassail and hung on the trees.  Loud songs were sung and shouted and people danced around the trees.  Our celebration did involve some singing and little climbing in place of the dancing.  You can tell that most of the trees are quite old, and may not even make it beyond this year.  Laurel took care of the youngest trees, the ones in our yard.  We are hoping for a big harvest this year, since last year was not so big.  We mourned the loss of a couple trees, one that was particularly good at bearing consistently (and cut down for that reason!), and we planted an Early Transparent a few weeks ago with hope for the future.

Here's the verse we used, from Sparkle Stories, and here are some more.  There are many to choose from!

Old apple tree, old apple tree,
We've come to sing to thee!
To bear and to bow,
Apples now!

Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
Barn doors full,
And a little heap under the stairs.


And so it is that Christmas goes out.  Today, we take down the tree and welcome in King Winter.  There's awhile, I think, where having the tree up after Christmas feels silly, but we keep it for tradition.  Then, when it's time to take it down, it feels a little sad.  We're enjoying watching it twinkle one last dark Winter morning, before we send it back outside.  We've got a dusting of snow today and some in the forecast!

Twelfth Night
impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
Ed Davis on Skiprock Pond

Nine years later, I returned to a little Forest Service pond with my children and a dear college professor.  I was aiming to take Dr. Davis someplace he hadn't been in a long time, or ever before.  Travelling toward Crawfish Valley, the largest roadless area in the Jefferson National Forest, we turned onto Oriole Drive and found this small wildlife pond.  Walking around it, we came out onto a point of land covered by many flat stones.  Dr. Davis began skipping rocks with great skill, impressing us all, and we had such a good time.  I told him he made rocks walk on water--St. Edward!  Laurel loved him, Willow thought he was beyond funny, and Roan shared his cooking stories with him.  Some people are just so good at connection and it can be so encouraging to visit with them.  That's why I claimed him as my second dad, after all (plus, we had the same last name).  We have plans to go back at the end of the Summer and I know we're all looking forward to it.
impossibleway: (Advent Apple)
By the Shores of Silver LakeBack home from another trip to the big city down South, and it's the same as always.  I return to renewed appreciation for my own kitchen and my own bed and the simple everydayness of my own life.  I don't say that to sound high and mighty, just that I really treasure the routine and quiet life we have here.  Life in a place with endless strip malls is just not for me.  I travel often into the woods, but not down the interstate.  I see that a town not so far away, which fought it for so many years, now has a big super Voldemart and the earth is being moved for yet more development.  Willow's reaction to it all, though colored by the stress of travel, nearly brought me to tears.  Yes, why can't we just let the land be and enjoy that kind of beauty?

I've had such a hard time this year, despite trying to really focus on home and routine.  The news from the outside world is just awful.  I don't see our country becoming great again, not for little folks like us, not that it ever was.  It is so hard to know any more, and that is what is so unsettling.  Nothing feels safe any more.  After so many years of hard times, of scraping by, it's hard to keep your chin up all the time.  The weather is crazy, the news is crazy, the people in charge are extra crazy.  It's just too much.

And while it might not pay the bills, this is the year I've realized that it's perfectly acceptable to be the introverted person that I am.  It's probably my greatest strength right now.  Some people pressure us to do more, but we are not often around them, and we simply cannot afford to be dancing and scouting and fencing.  Unless that means putting a fence around the garden. ;-)  I feel glad to offer my children a picture of a slow life, maybe something they might come back to later on, when life feels too full.  I've already seen the Appalachia I knew as a child, with its shaped note singing and dinner on the grounds, change so much.  I am weary of the future, like the elders of my memory sitting on their front porch watching the cars speed by.

I spent the trip knitting and reading about Christmas traditions of a Southwest Virginia that has been gone for almost a hundred years.  We try to hold onto some of those traditions here, and to make our own, as I often share.  The world seeks to steal all meaning and add back materialism, expecting we won't notice the walls closing in on us.  It's up to us to be the filters.  I feel so glad my children are growing up in this little county with our little town.  We've got a bustling main street, a growing music scene, large natural places.  If it has to be a town in this part of the state, this one is it.  Roan wants to live in the country, and I really wish I could give him that, but it's not realistic right now.  I do think we will take to the wild places even more in the Spring and Summer, maybe nature school twice a week.

This is all pretty heavy stuff for the day before Christmas when we are all busy with preparing to make merry.  I really hated being away from home for the Solstice.  It felt almost as if it didn't happen at all.  All the wind went out of my sails.  I've got to gather things back together today and get the house in order.  We need to pick out a Yule log from under the back porch stairs.  It's raining, which is nice if it has to be in the fifties.  We've got some things stashed away for a simple celebration at home with just the five of us.

Don't you like my Christmas ornament I got?  I'll admit that I did some heavy hinting about the sweet Little House ornaments.  This one is so poignant to me.  I think, oddly, I might like parts of the Silver Lake story best of all.  That wild place they went to, that nice house full of good things to get them through the Winter (what a dream of mine!), it's just all so beautiful and bittersweet.
impossibleway: (God Jul)

Christmas Folk01.JPG


It's been said that introverts have a rich inner life. I very much agree.  A good book or a good song can almost put me into a trance.  Christmas Folk by Natalia Belting is such a book.  It's written in the same style as Summer's Coming In, and Barbara Cooney is also the illustrator.  Following the saints' days leading up to Christmas the the twelve days after, it creates a festival that makes me wish I could go back in time.  If you've seen Tudor Monastery Farm Christmas, then some of these customs are familiar.

Christmas Folk03.JPG

The hallow days of Yule are here.
The nights are long and dark.
A feeble sun scarce warms the day,
And cold congeals the stoutest heart.
The hallow days of Yule are come,
And now the Christmas folk bestir. . .


Christmas Folk02.JPG

The celebrations begin with St. Andrew's day, when it's time to make the Christmas pudding.

Christmas Folk04.JPG

St. Barbara's Day brings fireworks.

Christmas Folk05.JPG

And the boys lock out the teacher on St. Nicholas Day.

Christmas Folk06.JPG

There are mummers throughout the book: a string of costumed folks, Hobby the Horse, Snap the Dragon, and the Christmas Bull.

Christmas Folk07.JPG

Tulya's E'en brings all sorts of mischief and superstition.

Christmas Folk08.JPG

St. Thomas's Eve was the time to divine images of your true love. This practice came here, along with many others from far off times, and are discussed in Christmas in the Mountains: Southwest Christmas Customs and their Origins.

Christmas Folk09.JPG

Christmas Eve found the Christmas Folk all over town, bringing the news that Christmas was coming in.  In our area, many people stayed up most of the night on Christmas Eve, serenading their neighbors and trying to catch a glimpse of the animals speaking and kneeling.

Christmas Folk10.JPG

The Christmas Bull came in to wake people up, which sounds both terrifying and funny to me.  I don't know much about this tradition at all.

Christmas Folk11.JPG

Now the feasting began!  A Tudor Feast at Christmas details some of the dishes served to nobility at that time, including the peacock pie.

Christmas Folk12.JPG

St. George slayes the dragon in the traditional mummers' play.  John Langstaff wrote a book for making one's own play.  It certainly looks quite different from the Christmas plays we are accustomed to today.

Christmas Folk13.JPG

Twelfth Night was the time to wassail the apple trees and livestock.

Christmas Folk14.JPG

And there was the cake which helped pronounce the king and queen of the revels.

Christmas Folk15.JPG

Yule's come and Yule's gane
And all have feasted weel,
So Jock takes up his flail again,
And Jenny spins her wheel.
impossibleway: (Winter)
With the promise of freezing fog in the forecast, I thought it was worth a try to drive up to the Snail Place.  This is the closest high elevation spot to our house, about fifteen minutes away.  It feels otherworldly, like the perfect breath of fresh air in the midst of everyday life.  It was the perfect antidote to all the busy work of Christmas preparations and the generally grey mood things have been in lately.


Rime Ice 1

I felt a little worried we wouldn't see anything, but right neare the top, we did!

Rime Ice 3

This was an impromptu trip, just a jaunt, really.  I'm so glad we went.

Rime Ice 2

It was absolutely exhilerating.  I cannot explain how full of wonder I was.

Rime Ice 4

Every stem and leaf became a new treasure to discover and wonder over.

Rime Ice 5

The sun was touching the trees, as you can see, and the ground was already littered with the falling ice.

Rime Ice 6

Nothing gold can stay, after all, but I think this day will be like the day we flew the kites.

Rime Ice 7

The fog stretched across all of Rich Valley, miles wide.

Rime Ice 8

Willow said she wanted to go out in it and float away.  Me, too.

Rime Ice 9
impossibleway: (Tulip Tree in the Hemlock)
Mount Rogers and Briar Ridge


I went over the mountains and along the river for another Maya Arvigo massage session yesterday.  My back has started hurting again, holding more tension, while everything else seems good.  Having left the children with my parents, it was nice to take a long drive (made longer by a wrong turn) and see the countryside.  Mount Rogers and Whitetop were covered in rime ice and were a chilly thirty-four in the heat of the day.  Cold and windy is the norm for this time of year.  The creeks looked a little better from the rain, and I couldn't help but have my mind turn to the terrible wildfire in the Smokies.  There is more rain, and maybe a little snow, on the way and I know that we are all very thankful for that.

I feel heavy lately, burdened by life and its cares.  It seems like there is so much going on right now that just isn't right, and we can't get out of it.  I've found myself wishing for that proverbial rock to crawl underneath.  Of course, there is too much to do this time of year to really allow that: sewing, knitting, baking and so on.  I would really like to have one Christmas holed up in my parents' cabin.  I'm trying to draw as much as I can from nature right now, like the exhilarating drive through the woods and valleys yesterday, and our plans for nature school.  I really do live in a place that looks like it came from a Barbara Cooney illustration and what a blessing that is.
impossibleway: (Autumn Fern)
Leaf Peeping is my favorite pastime for mid-October.  Every tree feels like a masterpiece waiting to be appreciated.  I know that sounds trite, but really, it is.  "The world is full of color, 'tis Autumn once again."  I find myself having a need for pretty views as the weather, the news, and a mysterious backache are all weighing on me.  Say a prayer, if you would, that I'm fine.  I'm so used to being fine and fit as a fiddle that this has me a little worried.  Well, the house is waking up, so I'll leave you with these pictures from our Autumn jaunts.

Leaves on the Water

Atonement Lutheran

Pugh Mountain

Teas Valley

Rowland Creek
impossibleway: (Once)
We hadn't been to Whitetop since July, and how the landscape has changed!  The lush grasses have turned brown and there are very, very few flowers left.  Just some gentian and a lone daisy.  The most prominent things, other than all the brown, were the mountain ash berries.  We call these the Roan Trees, since his name means "dweller by the rowan tree."  There's a superstition that says that a heavy crop of berries is a sign that the Winter will not bring heavy snows.  Time will tell.  I could sure do with some good snow after this long, hot Summer.

Mountain Ash

Trees aside, there was also a healthy amount of fog.  You can see it in the background below where a certain little fellow was having his picture made.  Laurel has taken up with the Tomten, but Roan is friends with the Arkansas Traveler.  A big, happy family all the gnomes are.

Traveler on White Top

Laurel is also friends with hot chocolate.  She was gulping it down and making "mmm" sounds the whole time.  I tried to be overprepared this time, bringing hot drinks and big parkas and spare clothes.  It was chilly when we arrived, in the upper forties, but the clouds gave way to the sun as we were leaving.

Hot Chocolate

If you look closely, you can see Roan by the trees.  It's a funny thing to look at a big meadow and think it is easy to walk through.  All those little plants along the ground are blackberries and Laurel found them impassable.  Still, it is nice for the children to find a bit of solitude in nature.

Boy by the Tree

Here's a new dress for Willow.  I made it using a borrowed version of the Old Favorite pattern.  She is so happy to have this dress in her size again.  I hadn't made one in two years!  I have a feeling I'm going to have to whip one up for Virginia before church this morning!

The New Dress and Sweater

We took the long way there and a shorter way back.  The long, cloudier way was so pretty and I didn't take a single picture.  The way back was a bit washed out by the sun.  Oh, well, the best things can never be captured by a camera, only in our hearts.

By Grindstone
impossibleway: (Tulip Tree in the Hemlock)
It's cold here this morning, around thirty-two degrees and Roan is putting on his parka. I guess the weather has tipped now. It was a cool start to the Molasses Festival yesterday, being in the mid-forties when we arrived. Dressing in layers was the way to go, as the bright October sun soon warmed us.

Skimming

The wind was so strong, the fires were roaring and the heat was blowing away!

Warm Fire

It also made for some burnt chicken (glad I went with a slaw dog!), but the hobo pies were tempting.

Hobo Pies

We sat and watched the music for the longest time.
At the start, as you can see, the dance floor was pretty quiet.

The Band Plays

It picked up quite a bit by the time we left.
I really, really want the children to learn clog dancing.

Our Boy

I was thinking of Grandad and our last time with him, and how Roan was so little then.

Happy Girl

Laurel loved it all--she has a real zest for living.

Arkansas Dancer

The Arkansas Traveler had a pretty good time, too.
He made report to his other gnome friends upon his return.

Lewis Fork

Here's the color, so far.  Not too much.  Last year was pretty dull, and I hope this year is better.  I think this week and next will be the peak.

Laurel's calling.  I better go serve the rice pudding!
impossibleway: (Berries)

Come celebrate with joy and with spirit
Come celebrate this land
We have ploughed the fields and have planted grain, we’ll reap a mighty harvest
For the warmth of sunshine, for the summer rain
For the bounty of the earth, raise your voice and sing!

~Enki Festival Songs


Thanksgiving


We had a sort of family thanksgiving meal last night, made up of foods that we have put together over the Summer and Fall.  We had such a good year in the garden, and I spent a godo part of yesterday roasting and pureeing pumpkins for the freezer.

We all worked on our feast together, sort of like Little House Day from Martin and Sylvia.  We had the October beans that we grew in the garden annex, seasoned with bacon and onions.  I made biscuits with buttermilk I made and Carrie's lard she rendered.  Speaking of buttermilk--I made butter this week using local raw milk, two gallons.  If anyone ever tells you to churn raw milk without separating the cream first, run away.  Or say a prayer over your blender and set to work.  This was not a job for the beautiful Dazey hand cranked churn I got recently.  Anyway, I got the job done and we do have some nice butter.

There was raspberry and peach jam for the biscuits, with homegrown raspberries and peaches from the orchard.  I made blackberry cobbler from more of the buttermilk and the annex blackberries.  The cornbread was also made with the buttermilk.  You get the idea--buttermilk and quick breads and beans.  The food was largely free--the raw milk, the berries, the beans, the lard.  All that was paid was with our time and a few seeds.  It was the perfect meal for the big shift in weather that we seem to be having lately.  It was thirty-nine degrees this morning and I think our first frost is not far off.  We've got a wind advisory for today, just right for making the Molasses Festival a chilly affair.  Well, we won't be caught without hats, mittens, and coats today!

Biscuits and Jam

impossibleway: (Goldenrod Trailhead)
I know I like to overuse that term, but I will use it again.  That old hymn often runs through my mind and I think of my mother playing it on her old pump organ.  This is our new church.  We've driven by it for years--nap drives for Willow when she was the only one, trips to see the sights from the top of the mountain, Autumn drives out into the valley to enjoy the leaves.  This is my road, it seems.  And it has our church, Atonement Lutheran Church.

Atonement Lutheran ChurchThe children and I started attending back in August, largely out of a need I had to instill more discipline into our days.  I wanted my children to experience the regular weekly routine of church in an intimate, low-key setting.  There are no microphones or electronics--there are times that we do not have a pianist at all.  The congregation is small, around seven people on a peak week when the pastor is there.  I imagine it's a bit funny to them to have young children in their midst, but they have been very welcoming.  They offer a small children's story a couple Sundays a month.  I expect this is the only time my family will ever attend such a small church (in such a beautiful spot!).

There's a church in the valley by the wildwood
No lovelier spot in the dale
No place is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale. . .

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