Red Pine Mountain

Mid-Winter In The Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

A Red Pine Mountain LogoLong winters are a fact of life in the Northeast Kingdom.  Usually, they don't bother me but reading about the rest of the country's unseasonably warm temperatures have left me longing for green grass and no snow.  And when the temperatures started dipping below zero, I knew we needed a lift; something to raise lagging spirits, ease aching old bones.  

I decided to search local websites until I found the perfect pick me up; a place called "Healing Hands Massage" which specializes in sports massages. If you don't know about sports massage, it's a wonderful art which helps improve muscle tone, aches and pains and last but not least helps to improve moods.  Just what we were looking for.

Beth, the owner, turned out to be a fantastic person with a kind and gentle manner and a wonderful, healingl touch.  It didn't take long before her magic started to work.  Ah, relaxation, easing muscle tension, moods improving.  Yes, it was amazing.

Oh, if only she worked on people!

There's been a lot going on at the farm.  Maybe so much I get distracted trying to keep up with everything so today, instead of trying to write, I decided to make a short video for you.  Without further ado:

Thanks for visiting us on Red Pine Mountain. We can always be found on our Facebook page.

If I Didn't Live On A Farm...

A Red Pine Mountain LogoIt's 15 below this morning here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. If I didn’t live on a farm, I’d stick my head back under the covers and wait until daylight. But I live on a farm and chores are waiting.

I drag on layer after layer of clothing. No time to look in the mirror. If I didn’t live on a farm, I’d find a fabulous outfit and spend an hour or so putting on makeup and creating perfect hair. But I live on a farm and bad hair days are part of my busy life.

I open the door. Oh, it is cold. If I didn’t live on a farm, I’d grab a latte and head to the fireplace to read the morning paper. But I live on a farm where roosters are crowing, geese honking. “Hurry up!” they say.

I did it. Made myself go out into the bitter cold. Vermont winter. If you haven’t experienced it, you don’t know what you’re missing. The cold is so intense the mountains actually shimmer. Just for a moment, I didn't want to go outside but I live on a farm and animals depend on my care.

If I didn’t live on a farm, I’d call some friends, suggest brunch and a visit to the museum but I live on a farm and there are stalls to muck, coops to clean, eggs to gather.

If I didn’t live on a farm, last week I would have been busy at work, stuck in an office, gazing out the window from time to time. But I live on a farm and my windows are made of pine trees framing mountain vistas.

 

If I didn't live on a farm, my back porch step would have a flower pot or two and a wonderful, clean welcome mat. But I live on a farm where free ranging would snack on my flowers and shred my mat.

 

If I didn’t live on a farm, I would be at the gym every day where the din from the after work crowd and all the machines humming would drown out my thoughts. But I live on a farm where I hike snow covered fields to the top of pastures and I reach out and touch the clouds and embrace silence.

 

 

If I didn’t live on a farm, I’d hang out with my girlfriends. We’d go shopping, share secrets, have a good laugh and disdain anyone who wears fur. Now that I live on a farm, I still have girlfriends. We still share secrets. Only difference is they all wear fur.

 

If I didn't live on a farm, I’d have that one best friend by my side who never worries about voicing her opinion loudly. But I live on a farm and I still have that opinionated best friend only now she has four legs.

 

If I didn't live on a farm, I’d be walking down city streets, intent upon the goal ahead, never stopping to look back and see who might be following. But I live on a farm and I've discovered the sweetest moments are when I stop and pause and turn around.

 

If I didn't live on a farm, I would still think donkeys are stubborn creatures. But I live on a farm and I’ve learned donkeys are loyal and smart and full of love.

 

If I didn't live on a farm, I’d still be happy. But I live on a farm and my life is complete.

Mountain Woman, Mountain Man and their 4 legged kids can always be found at Red Pine Mountain.

2011: A Red Pine Mountain Retrospective

A Red Pine Mountain LogoAre you thinking about the year past as we make our way into 2012?  If so, you are not alone as I think about all that transpired in 2011. It's been a year full of challenges as most of us grapple with a struggling economy and ever rising prices that make life increasingly difficult. 

Perhaps you've had personal challenges as well.  I know Mountain Man and I have.  This past year, I've grappled with some serious health issues affecting both my vision and my heart.  And while I've faced health challenges, Mountain Man and I have also struggled with the decision on whether or not to leave our beloved Vermont farm.  

But even though it's been a difficult year in many ways, it's also been an amazing year filled with the beauty of just being alive; of being able to step out into the world and see God's handiwork surrounding me. And if the ability to savor another day wasn't enough in itself,  I also have the incredible friendships I've made through my Grit blog; people I never would have met  otherwise who have taken the time to write to me and to leave me comments.  I'm so grateful for all of you and you have enriched my life in ways I can't adequately express.

I decided to create a video montage of some of my photos from the past year.  It's my gift to you who have become so incredibly special to me.  Thank you again for making 2011 a fantastic year for me and Mountain Man and the kids of Red Pine Mountain.

Needs? Wants? Or Enough? A Thanksgiving Reflection

A Red Pine Mountain LogoFirst, I'm pleased to announce the winner of the cookbook is Nadine Tindell. Please contact letters@grit.com to claim your prize.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, “To everything there is a season,” and as we head into this season of Thanksgiving and celebration, I’d like to share some thoughts with you.

I know you enjoy humorous posts and so do I but I’ve been in a somber mood. I sit down to write and nothing comes to mind. Nothing worthwhile to share, nothing to say so I don’t bother. Yes, I’m in a funk. That’s the truth. And if I’m honest with myself, it is because Mountain Man and I are entering our season of golden years where difficult decisions have to be made and all those aches and pains and medical problems start to clamor for more attention every day.

Our biggest challenge recently has been making the decision of whether we can afford to stay in Vermont for our retirement years. And the answer which we’ve discussed until we feel our heads are going to explode is “No, we’re not going to be able to afford to stay here.” We “want” to stay but it’s not realistic to think we’ll be able to stay. Mountain Man has dragged me kicking and screaming to this decision because I love this farm, but when he calculated how much it costs per hour just for the always increasing property taxes, I realize we are going to have to make some changes as we age.

What to do? We’ve grappled with this issue as well, and although we are still in the planning stages, we are most likely headed to the Ozarks next fall and will rent out our farm here.

This decision has left me downhearted and sad. I walk outside each morning, watch the sun rise over the mountains, see the horses grazing in the pasture, and ask myself, “How will I ever be able to leave?”

And while we have been making this life-changing decision, I’ve been coping with health issues; my eyes and most recently a cardiac problem brought about by having to stay inactive for so long. My doctor came right to the point and told me I have to find some new activity which I enjoy and get moving again. I started taking medicine which promptly made me sick causing me to fall into a deeper pit of despair. I don’t want to get moving again if I can’t do those activities which mean so much to me and which I enjoy. I want to do what I want.

It’s not me who has the answers. But the answers are always there; when I listen; when I engage in daily prayer. I’m never alone. Not really. So I say the words out loud over and over, a mantra: “Please Listen Lord God and answer my prayers. Make my eyes sparkle again.” Psalm 13:3.

And the answer was shown to me when Mountain Man returned from a trip to the Ozarks this week. He was out there building a barn for my horses, and while clearing brush, he managed to get covered in poison oak. It’s oozing, nasty, itchy. But it hasn’t stopped him. Oh, he’s fussed a little, he’s entitled, but he’s kept on working from dawn to dusk. He’s positive, moving forward, excited about new adventures ahead. And if he can be so positive, why shouldn’t I be as well?

I start walking again. And as I gasp for air as I walk up hills, I realize by focusing on my wants, I’ve been removing the joy from life. Kind of like a spoiled child, “If I can’t have what I want than I don’t want anything.” I’ve been hurting myself. No one else.

And I’ll leave you with this quote (author unknown):

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all (wo)men, most richly blessed.”

I know what I want, I understand what I need, but because of God’s ever abiding love, I have more than enough.

From our family to yours, Have a Joyful Thanksgiving!

A Very Special Cookbook From Ozark County

The holiday season is upon us. A time to reflect on the year past, to give thanks for our blessings and most of all to celebrate cherished family traditions.

We all have special memories of being in the kitchen with our family and we have treasured recipes that remind us of those who we dearly love. And aren’t cookbooks that celebrate family memories the best kind of cookbook? Recipes made by loving hands? That’s what I have to share with you today; a very special cookbook.

As many of you know, Mountain Man and I consider Ozark County, Missouri, our adopted home. I subscribe to the paper and try to keep up with the happenings in the community so when I saw The Ozark County Genealogical and Historical Society had published a cookbook as a fundraiser, I purchased a copy. And when I received my cookbook, I discovered this was no ordinary cookbook but instead a testament to love of family. I asked the editor for permission to share some of it with you and he kindly allowed me. I know you’ll love it also.

The book is called “Apron Strings: Recipes and Recollections.”

 

To quote from the introduction, “We asked folks to share not only a recipe but also a memory relating to cooking, special meals or food preparation…and as one of our contributors noted, the secret ingredient of love was the most prized seasoning used by Ozarks mothers and grandmothers as they cooked nutritious, satisfying food for their families, using just what they could grow or raise or trade eggs or cream for at the local general store…”

Each page contains a family recipe, photos and a cherished memory of a loved one.

Here’s just one example:

 

And another.

 

 

Page after page of beautiful memories, photographs and recipes always made with love. I have to tell you I was tearing up as I read this cookbook.

The best news is I have one cookbook to give away. If you’d like to be entered into the drawing, please leave a comment below sharing one of your memories of cooking with your family. The winner will be announced on November 21st.

As we move into the holiday season, let’s remember it’s the people in our lives, the memories we create for our children and our grandchildren and the traditions we pass on with love that are truly important.

“Apron Strings: Recipes and Recollections” can also be purchased for $15.00 + 3.00 shipping. Copies can be purchased from OCGHS, PO Box 4, Gainesville, MO 65655. What a great gift this cookbook would make and all proceeds benefit the Ozark Genealogical and Historical Society.

Here A Bird, There A Bird

I apologize for the delay in announcing the winner of the note cards. I've been having some issues with my eyes, but I'm happy to announce the winner is Cindy. Please contact letters@grit.com. to claim your prize.

Mountain Man and I were having a conversation the other evening.

"Seems like there are lots of birds around. Everywhere I walk, there's birds under foot." I was referring to our assorted poultry.

"I noticed." Leave it to Mountain Man to convey so much feeling in so few words.

It didn't seem as though we had that many birds this summer when they were locked up in their Poultry Palace (a half acre run Mountain Man built) due to a fox who decided to make her home on the edge of our pasture and conduct raids. But the fox moved on and now that the birds are once again out free ranging, it's hard not to notice them.

The other day I was sitting in our bedroom and I heard "knock, knock, knock." The dogs started raising a racket and I went to answer the door but no one was there. As soon as I sat down again, the knocking started. This time, I looked out the bathroom window and what did I find? Seven naughty Sebastopol geese pecking at the basement window. I do believe they were captivated by their reflection in the glass. Now, I can always find them around the back porch, eating the grass, admiring their reflections as they chomp away.

 

Walk a few steps from the house and instead of geese, I run into a group of chickens hanging out in one of Mountain Man's firewood crates.

2011nov5thbarn 016-1  

In the field by Mountain Man's log splitting station, turkeys and guineas roam. When I look at them I feel a sense of accomplishment knowing they are my very own hatchlings. I've learned so much this past spring about nesting hens, turkeys and guineas and the care of newborns.

 

But I don't think Mountain Man would be too thrilled to see my guineas taking over the wood splitting station he just built.

 

Lift the branches of any shrub and you'll find my Cochin chickens. These birds are HUGE. They actually come up to my knees. Another thing I've learned about Cochins is that they are a tight knit group. You'll always find them together and they wouldn't be caught dead with the other chickens.

 

There also like to lounge in the shade of the pines.

 

Some birds still like to stay in the Poultry Palace. Here's 2 Naked Neck chickens and a Speckled Sussex.

 

The hens are maturing and starting to lay eggs. We're definitely going to have a surplus of eggs to share.

 

One of my favorite birds is my peacock. Peacocks are incredibly friendly and inquisitive.

 

And when I rattle the treat jar (dried worms), he comes running.

 

I could go on showing you more pictures of birds all over the place and really, it's kind of incredible seeing these birds out enjoying life and interacting with them. All the breeds you see here were chosen for a specific reason; either their ability to withstand cold temperatures or their ability to thrive free ranging. And I consider the birds an integral part of our farm. They fertilize the soil, control weeds, eat grass, dine on bugs and provide us with delicious eggs.

And I've learned at dusk, no matter how far they have roamed, they all head to the barn.

Are you wondering what Mountain Man thinks about my feathered friends? When he takes Lilly, our German Shepherd, out with him to do farm chores, he always tells her "Don't bother the birds. They are your Mother's birds. They're part of the family now."

Thanks one and all for visiting us.

Mountain Man, Mountain Woman and the zoo can be found at Red Pine Mountain.

A Uniquely Vermont Artist: Red Horse Studio

A Red Pine Mountain LogoI've been sidelined by more eye problems lately forcing me to stay quiet so instead of sharing my adventures with you, I thought I'd instead I'd have a change of pace.

Close your eyes and think of Vermont.  What comes to mind?  The scenery?  Cows?  Mountains?  Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream?  Yes, Vermont is well known for many things but to to me the most exciting thing about Vermont is the people who live here.  Diverse in interests, rich in talents it is the people who make this state uniquely Vermont.  And today, I'd like to introduce to you a very talented artist from Burke, Vermont, Joan Harlow of Red Horse Studio.

I can never look at a work of art without wondering about the person who created it. I want to know about their life and their motivations; that which inspires them and in the case of Vermont artists, I always wonder why they chose to live in Vermont. If you’re as curious as I am, grab a cup of tea or a mug of coffee and discover more about the talented woman behind Red Horse Studio.

Joan and her husband, a retired English professor who taught at Lyndon State College, live on a small farm, with horses, dogs, cats and chickens. Because of her husband’s interest in goats, they recently acquired two Oberhasli female (Swiss dairy goats) aptly named Emily and Lavinia for Emily Dickinson and her sister.

Joan’s studio is named for her horse, Gaddy, a wonderful horse who really does look red in certain lights. (She’s a sorrel, to give her color the correct equine name.)

Joan met her husband, Brian, through horses. Here, in her words, is her story.

I rented two of Brian’s horses, one summer when my daughter was 10, and I remembered what wonderful animals these are. And in time, Brian and I married and I found, when I moved to Vermont, that I was meant to live in the country. The simple joys of birdsong, of toad song in the spring, the surprise of finding hepatica blooming on a steep slope in the woods, the night skies filled with stars – as you know, these are just a few of the delights we enjoy with no effort. Looking out a window at fields and mountains restores the soul, in a way that city life, with views of other buildings and cars, does not.

Besides painting, which I greatly enjoy, I am a justice of the peace and a member of the Burke Conservation Commission. As a JP, I have the pleasure of officiating at weddings (and the less enjoyable task of hearing tax grievances.) The conservation commission works with the Planning Board to try to keep the rural character of our town — the wildlife corridors, the woodlands and wetlands — thriving. Like everywhere, Burke feels the pressure of development.

I came to full-time painting late, but I have had the pleasure and benefit of three excellent teachers: Frank Webb, Charles Reid, and Barbara Nechis. From them I learned many valuable approaches and have incorporated the ones that fit into my own style. I aim to draw accurately, paint freely, and to bring energy ,light and rich color into my work. Although the paintings are of places and people, the real subjects are my responses to light and color.

Now that you have met Joan and learned about her inspirations, browse Red Horse Studio website and enjoy her work that so beautifully reflects Vermont.

And, as an added bonus, I'm going to be doing a giveaway of 6 of Joan’s lovely note cards.  If you'd like to enter, please leave your name in the comments. The lucky winner will be announced on October 26, 2011.

Vermont is an incredible place thanks to people like Joan Harlowe who gain their inspiration from the land and who work hard to preserve it as well.