Ice & Snow & Winter Blues

It is barely into January, just past Christmas, and already I am longing for spring and green things and eating fresh from the garden.

Fall 2013 001

Like much of North America, we had a very cold, snowy December. Much colder and snowier than the previous couple of winters. And ice. The big ice storm that crippled Toronto and other places. Today, a flash freeze warning because after the chinook-like above 0*C temperatures and high winds last night, we are headed back into a deep freeze tonight. The kids didn’t have to go to school, but I had to go to work. It was hard to get going in the dark morning.

At work, the roof is leaking and plaster is falling off the ceiling. Lots of excitement. Which I came home to as well. Water leaking in the kitchen because the ice dammed up under the shingles on our 100-year-old-plus saltbox addition. Thankfully, at work, there were a lot of capable volunteers around to work on a solution. And thankfully, at home, my husband is not afraid of hard work, and scooped off sheets of hard-packed snowice.

So what to do to chase the winter blues?

I tend to work on a lot of creative projects, full of colour.

I sew frilly aprons.

Frilly Apron

I make cards.

Card

I crochet. (See another post- Crocheting Dutch Doilies).

The pattern for this can be found at http://solgrim.blogspot.ca/2013/04/flowers-in-snow-pattern-in-english.html

Flowers in the Snow- I found the pattern for this Norwegian afghan online (http://solgrim.blogspot.ca/2013/04/flowers-in-snow-pattern-in-english.html).
I need 192 medallions before I can piece it all together. Right now, I have 102…

I also paint and renovate.

(You really don’t want to see photos of that— you know the saying–  sometimes things get worse before they get better…)

My teenagers are really into real fruit smoothies, and that’s all they want for breakfast lately, so I oblige. No mother ever said no to healthy eating (at least, I hope not!). Lots of colour & nutrients there. A great little pick-me-up during porridge season.

I also pore (pour, poor ?) over seed catalogues, carefully selecting this summer’s crops. (My favourite company is Vesey’s in Prince Edward Island). I love the colour of food I can grow in my own backyard!

And doing all this can help me forget a little the stress of winter, and maybe even make me look forward to winter come next fall. (Maybe).

What do you do to combat the winter blues?

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Filed under Crafts, Crocheting, Winter

John’s Positive Pipe Organ

My father grew up in the Netherlands, and as a young boy was impressed by the pipe organ he heard in church. That impression never left him. Organs became his hobby, and my childhood was full of organ music.

I remember Dad reading the Diapason magazine, studying it, really, as my brothers played with Lego around his feet.

He taught me to play chess, while pipe organs from Europe played from vinyl records. A lot of times, it was Johann Sebastian Bach.

Apparently, I was the referee before I even learned how to play the game. Dad is on the left. Sunday afternoon was the only time Dad had for chess games, and most likely there was organ music playing.

I would come home from a stressful day in high school, and Dad would be home from work, alone, eating his jam sandwich, with pipe organ music belting out of the stereo. I didn’t necessarily smile, but he sure did. I liked it. It was such a switch from the day-to-day grind of teenage hormones and insecurities. It meant home.

Often times, Dad would wake us up on weekends with his playing.

Along the way, I attended pipe organ concerts along the French  or the South Shores of Nova Scotia.

One of the most remarkable feats was when he acquired a complete pipe organ that was sitting abandoned in someone’s barn. It came to us in thousands of pieces, like a giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle. Dad patiently reconstructed it all, even making way for its soaring soft pipes by cutting into the empty barn loft of our century barn. He eventually sold it, and it is now in someone’s home.

He built a clavichord, a pretty little instrument. Again, a pretty neat accomplishment.

And his latest feat was the building of a small, living-room size pipe organ. It is entirely, painstakingly, built from wood, pipes and all. Some of it recycled wood, and all of it carefully chosen.

The organ is showcased here, in a 10 minute interview, via the link below. Take a look!

http://youtu.be/wZ7fx7zrj4g

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Filed under Church, Dutch, Family, Music

The Tree

This is a guest post that originally began as a Facebook post, by my husband, Winston Visser.

As 2013′s days are numbered, I reflect on a year of loss, transition and opening to other possibilities: My father died at 84, sadly, after several months of worsening health physically and mentally; the practice of my vocation ended, painfully; and my perspective on future possibilities improves, slowly.

During this season I remembered events past. Once upon a time, sometime between 8 and 11 years of age, I trudged through the snow with my father to the tree lot behind the back pasture. We were searching for the perfect Christmas tree in my mind’s eye. We inspected one sparsely branched spruce after another. None looked like the one in my imagination. Christmas Tree

Then, I saw it, in a small clearing, “The Tree” of my dreams! It was 30 feet up! From that perspective it looked perfect. Dad tried to argue me out of it. But I remained rooted in my choice.

So, with axe and saw, we hacked till, with a crack, it fell to be cradled by the snow. Six feet from the top, Dad cut then set it upright. It no longer looked perfect. It was more “Charlie Brown” than “Country Living”.

Disappointed, I wanted to look some more, but Dad said, “No. We’ve done all that work, plus wasted some 24 feet left to decay in the woods.”

So we dragged it home, set it up in a stand and spruced it up with lights, tinsel, bells and a star way on top. These filled it out a bit, bringing it closer to “The Tree” of my dreams.

Most years of my youth included such “uncouth trees”, natural, not nurtured on a lot, disappointing, yet with some decoration: acceptable.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

It could be seen as the story of your and my life: looking for perfection. Then disappointed because it’s not.

Or it could be that each of us is a Charlie Brown Tree, far from perfect.  But once decorated (“clothed” as the Apostle Paul writes) in Christ, perfect in God’s eyes as we’re ever going to be.

May we have eyes to see self and others as God does, throughout every season of loss, transition and possibility!

Enjoy these last days of 2013 living into the possibilities of 2014 including loss and newness.

Blessings to one and all!

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Filed under Christmas, Trees, Winter

Village in the Snow

It is quiet in our little village of 1000. A snowy Boxing Day after the rush of preparation seems fitting. A mid-afternoon walk and simple beauty made it rich. Enjoy!

Wagon Wheel

Fence

Gate

Frozen Crabapples

Church St.

Red Shed & Tree

snowmobiles

Streetscape

Yellow CAr

ADHS

Athens UCC

Nativity

Almost a Gingerbread

Library

Blue Birdhouse

Elgin Street 2013

yellow Shed

Red Barn

Judson's

Chris & Marie 2013

Our House 2013

 

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Filed under Christmas, Trees, Winter, Wordless

Knives, Nonsense, and New Life

It was a beautiful spring day in Nova Scotia. The grass was turning green, the sky was blue, and birds were singing everywhere.

We were in the picturesque province for a funeral, and a bit of a mini-vacation with family. Being on the go, one night we decided to order pizza from Luigi’s- the yummiest pizza around. We ordered, and my husband and I hopped in the car to pick up our boxes.

As we left the subdivision where my mother-in-law lives, we drove by a cute yellow colonial house that was in the process of being upgraded by her owners. Three mid-teens were outside, standing in a circle to the side of the house. We were almost past them, when a glittering object fell to the ground, not far from them.

It was a knife. A large butcher knife. That fell from the sky.

It took a moment for this to sink in.

These two boys and one girl, probably around 15 years old, appeared to be playing a “dare” game. A game where a dangerous activity is agreed upon by a few or a group, and the challenge is to not flinch or “chicken out” by saying “no” or “stop”. Examples of these types of activities are found all over the internet, and I find them disturbing, so will not elaborate on them here.

We arrived at the pizza parlour early, and while we waited for our order, we debated what we should do. Knock on the door and tell the parents? Call the police? Ignore the situation? We did not know if these kids had ill intent, if they were on drugs or alcohol, or what the state of their minds were.

We decided that if they were still out there when we went back, that we would simply ask them to stop. We hoped they weren’t an angry bunch who would  turn on us…

Sure enough, as we approached the yellow house, a knife catching light from the sun clattered to the sidewalk. A teen ran over and picked it up, pulling up his sleeves, sweating. They stood in a circle. He threw the knife. Up high. Very high. The knife came down. Landed with a thudding plunge into the grass. Inches from a bare foot.

We drove up with cautious urgence. Rolled down the window. The knife was in hand to be thrown again. All three looked at us silently.

“Could you please stop throwing that, please? It’s so dangerous!” I pleaded. My husband echoed those thoughts. “Please stop. You guys don’t need to be doing that!”

Then a surprising thing happened. I expected them to laugh, to be angry, to ignore us or swear. Instead, what we heard was the most meek thing ever.

“Okay,” they all said in unison. “Okay”. They looked down, and immediately started walking towards the house. They were quiet.

“You are all too valuable for games like that!” we said.

“Okay,” they said, completely submissive.

The transformation was astounding.

It was like these kids were waiting for someone to say something. Not one of them could bear to break the peer pressure and say no, but it appeared they all wanted to. They welcomed our words, received them in a way rarely seen in teenagers. (Believe me, I know. I have four teens in my house!) The relief was tangible and evident.

In Christianity, turning from your old ways to a new, God-inspired spirituality is considered to be a conversion. New life.

Now, I have no idea about the hearts of these kids or what drove them to engage in such a dangerous activity, but something profound and deep happened that day. I could feel it. I could see it. I could hear it.

It was a conversion, of sorts. A chance of new life, and a stepping away from something destructive.

I do not know how this has affected the kids involved, or if they even think of the incident anymore.

But I know it affected me:

Words are powerful.

They can build or break.

Choose them carefully-

See the difference you can make.

I am so glad I spoke up that day.

***Song lyrics from Colleen Reinders and Grace Moes, "Encourage One Another"

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Filed under People, Spring, Words

Tissues & Tears

My father-in-law is in the hospital. He has multiple medical concerns, perhaps the greatest being the state of his lungs after a lifetime of cigarettes. But the most disconcerting thing is his dementia and decay of mind.

A dedicated farmer, “Opa”  began his life in Friesland (northern Netherlands). He has always claimed that he started work at the age of three. I’m not quite sure what exactly that looked like, or how true it was, but it is true he did not live long before he was helping on the family farm.

He milked sheep outside and hated it. They were wet and smelly, and it seems he did the job alone. (Sheep milk is used to make cheeses such as ricotta or feta.  I am not sure if the Dutch made sheep-milk gouda. Can anyone tell me?) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheep_milk)

Sheep that may be similar to the ones milked by my father-in-law as a child.
Photo from: ( http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/friesianmilk/index.html)

The oldest of 11 children, he carried much responsibility, including when he immigrated to Canada as a young man, with other family members, taking over financial responsibilities and other things for his father.

When I entered the scene, years later, he and his brothers were living on successful, thriving farms, or operating other successful agricultural businesses like potatoes and apples. He himself had pigs, which he did not really enjoy, but which gave a steady income prior to the sharp decline in pork prices in the 1990s. He also had Holsteins, his true love.

The birthday parties when all the brothers and sisters were united were noisy, joyous occasions. The longer the celebration was, the louder it got- the stories became more boisterous, the tales of the past more adventurous. My husband and I would hear crazy stories of these Boys in Friesland with their wild horses. They were reckless, bold, and not afraid.

We heard stories of Opa being dragged down a cobblestone street full-speed by a runaway Dutch Warmblood horse. (For more about the Warmblood, go here: http://stabledays.typepad.com/stable_days/2009/01/five-fun-facts-of-my-favorite-horse-breeds-dutch-warmblood.html

We heard stories of him as a teenager, having to walk miles to deliver their best horses for World War II service, and how heartbreaking that was. To this day, he loves a fine horse, particularly Warmbloods or Friesians.

Friesian Horse

But as I mentioned earlier, his true love is Holstein cattle. He spent years milking them, studying and developing pedigrees and good genetic strains. His office is decorated with colourful ribbons won in many competitions and classes. He got out of bed every day, eager to spend time with his cows. In the evening, on his cot, he would fall asleep, Holstein Journal opened in front of him.

He was smart and shrewd, a sharp businessman, which did not always win him favour. But he knew his stuff and wasn’t afraid to dicker. I heard more than one business transaction get heated over the years that I was on the farm with my husband.

In 2012, one of his Holsteins, Friesia Goldwyn Lainey, won significant prizes in various prestigious competitions:

2nd five-year-old at Quebec Expo; 4th at International Holstein Show &Quebec International Fall Show; and 5th at Royal Winter Fair.

2nd five-year-old at Quebec Expo; 4th at International Holstein Show &
Quebec International Fall Show; and 5th at Royal Winter Fair.

(Friesia Goldwyn Lainey continues to win: http://www.belfontainegenetics.com/en/nouvelles.php?id=23)

Which brings me to the title of this post- Tissues & Tears.

Opa has dementia, the mysterious decay of the brain. It means he has days where he does not know where he is, what he is doing, or what he is saying. He wants to get out of bed, but is not really able to. He sees things that we don’t. Yesterday he kept saying there’s water coming in, mice and rats are running, the hay will get wet, there’s water coming in…

I wish I knew the story behind that.

He also spent time yesterday taking every Kleenex out of the box- swoosh, swoosh, swoosh- methodically, one by one. Then he tried stuffing them all back in. This story brings tears to my 18-year-old daughter’s eyes. It has always been a family joke that she did the same thing when she was 18-months-old and I was napping on the couch.

Kleenex

It is very hard to see someone you love become frail and helpless. To see the strong become weak. To hear the garbled words of someone who could earlier play with words. To feel strong and vibrant next to vulnerability.

Grief.

Tissues and tears.

We love you, Opa.

Update: Opa passed away on April 11, 2013, one day after his 84th birthday.

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Filed under Animals, Dutch, Family, Farm, Work, WWII

Fire!

I remember as a child watching a tall office building burn down. I remember the hook and ladder truck reaching for the top and looking so thin and flimsy next to the raging inferno. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

Another time in my childhood, the hay barn of a neighbour burned to the ground. It burned all day (and smoked for many after), and the firetrucks came from all around the county, zooming by our house, sirens screaming. It was a beautiful, east-coast-sky-blue summer day, and black, black smoke roiled furiously for hours. We stood in the backyard and watched it all.

In later years, my husband’s cousin lost his entire pig farm operation to an electrical fire. The historic barn, the newer addition, and hundreds of pigs were lost. It was a tragedy. Interestingly enough, his cousin now says that the fire was a good thing. Painful at the time, it also gave them a new start, a new opportunity. They now operate a beautiful boarding facility for horses, which had been part of their original dream at the beginning.

Friends of ours just lost their modern dairy barn, more than 100 milking cows, in a brilliant blaze that lit up the night. Again, my husband was there to help pick up the pieces and clean up debris. And he wasn’t the only one. Neighbours and friends from all around came to help. A community dinner and dance will be held in support of the four families who earn their living from milk. And meanwhile, they are beginning to speak of rebuilding.

And this is the amazing thing about disaster. When we are faced with it, we have a choice.

To give up or go on.

To sink or swim.

To die or rise again.

When you study the history of the old downtowns of cities or villages, it is common to learn of vicious fires that raged through a whole street of structures. Most often, today’s viewer cannot tell where the damage had been.

I love the poetry of Isaiah 61, where it says that God comes to

“Provide for those who grieve-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.”

No matter what difficult thing you may be facing, I hope that you will begin to be able to experience beauty instead of ashes.

Like sitting by a crackling fire on the hearth on a cold winter’s day…

This blog post inspired by a WordPress writing prompt:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/daily-prompt-ode/

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Filed under Farm, History, People

Originally posted on Literary.Land.of.Alysia:

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Anne Frank, and her Ongoing Legacy

I love this post from Harper Faulkner about what compels this writer to write- love the conviction, the passion, the modesty, and the gratitude. I hope you enjoyed  it too.  Maybe we should all have a little Anne Frank near our computers… 
 

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Filed under Death, Journaling, People, Writing, WWII

A Valentine’s Sonnet

I wrote this poem back in 1992, when I was dating my husband. It’s a little sentimental, and there are times it maybe didn’t ring true, but so far, our marriage is standing the test of time… I thought I’d share the poem with you today. Thanks to WordPress for the prompt (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/cupids-arrow/)!

FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE

When you came along, you made my days bright.

Gardens we saw, and the ocean so blue

We sat on benches to see sunset hues.

Our friendship grew stronger each happy night,

And the words that we spoke seldom were trite.

I thought right away that this I’d pursue-

A lifetime of smiles and tears spent with you.

With you by my side it always felt right.

My feelings for you are still much the same

Except stronger and deeper than ever before.

With our hands in God’s, our lives in His care,

Together we pray his promises to claim.

Your love shown to me makes me love you more-

Laughter and kisses we always shall share.

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