Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice.

You can buy these beautiful candle holders at Day Dreem Designs on Etsy

I'm not sure what we are. My son says he's agnostic. Russ calls himself Discordian. Me... is there a word for it? I feel closest to the divine when I am deepest in nature. There is a tree in my house and I do love the music of the season. And I think I love the questions more than having the answers.

Tonight, the night of the winter solstice, Brandon and I watched the sun die in the trees as we headed to feed the horses. Then we came home and lit candles. Russ came home from work. We ate dinner together, lit a tray of tea lights (three lights each), opened one gift each, and settled down to a mug of hot buttered cider with rum.

Whatever I choose to believe, what I believe in most is tolerance. So whatever speaks to you this winter holiday season, embrace it. If carols make your heart sing, sing. If family cheers you, savor your time with them. If the bite in the air and the quiet and the stark branches of denuded trees against a steel grey sky remind you how small you are and at the same time how good life is... live the moment and the season fully and be thankful. As for us, tonight was a treasure, and so will Christmas be with Russ's family.

Have a happy one!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Cavalia. We just got back from seeing it in Atlanta and frankly, it's a difficult thing to put into words. It's a blend of Cirque du Soleil style acrobatics and amazing horsemanship. There are horses at liberty with a single trainer, trick riders, trapeze artists, some masterful dressage team riding, even rodeo type rope tricks. My favorite was the floating women (on lines above) in gossamer costumes who looked like faeries, doing a routine with male riders on white horses where they would float away and then come back and join hands with the riders. It was so surreal and fairy-like. My second favorite was probably the first in this video, a routine called The Mirror.

I will tell you, it's expensive to see it. I will also tell you, if you like horses, or just an amazing good show, it's worth it. There is so much going on and so much to see, I'd like to see it again to catch what I missed - I found I had a hard time focusing on the acrobats if there were also horses in the ring (and it surprised me that non-horsey Russ said the same thing). If you can't fork over the money to see the real thing, you can get the DVD at Which I will definitely do!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Garden Heritage

So, I grew several herbs in pots this past year, most of which did VERY well (my basil was prettier than Cleveland Botanical Gardens, methinks!), and three tomato plants, which did not do all that great - I found it hard to maintain the moisture balance for a tomato in a pot. Still, I had some tomatoes, even if they weren't pretty.

Now we own the house, and next year there will be a bona fide garden. We've plotted the space, planned the raised beds, and the vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit trees and vines we'd like to grow. We went cruising an awesome place, Johnson Nursery & Garden Center, in Algood TN. (wow do they have nice trees, and beautiful herbs in November!) The goal is to grow as much of our plant food as we can in our small space, and get as much as we can from local farmers next year. More on being "locavores" later. Right now I want to talk tomato.

First, I want to introduce you to the concept of an heirloom plant. Heirlooms are plants that were grown during earlier periods in human history and are not used in large-scale agriculture. Unless you have an awesome grocery store, you will probably not find them there. You won't even find them in your typical seed catalog, though that is changing. They are not hybrids made for chemical resistance by chemical companies (yeah, even those seeds you're buying are bred by big business, in a lot of cases... I don't want to go that route). You can find a rainbow (literally - want purple carrots?) of varieties of tomatoes, squash, carrots, chard - you name it.

So, as much as possible, I'd like the vegetables and herbs in my garden to be heirloom. But I have special claim to one of them - the Soldacki tomato (picture above). My grandfather's family brought the seeds for these tomatoes from Krakow, Poland early last century, and since then they, and he, have been cultivating them and saving the seeds to propagate the next year's crop of these tomatoes. They are beefier than your Beefsteaks, reaching 1 lb. And they're very pink. These are the tomatoes I grew up on, and I had no idea they were special. A few years ago grandpa was showing a fellow gardener around his garden (which is maybe 1000 square feet, a tiny backyard in a suburb of Cleveland, OH) and introduced him to his "Polish tomatoes" - the man knew something about heirloom varieties, asked grandpa for some seeds, and now you can find the Soldacki tomato in most places that sell heirloom varieties.

Grandpa is convalescing from a hip fracture in a rehab center now... he fell this spring trying to weed his tomatoes at 86 years young. Mom grows some of them, but I'll need to keep them in the family. You can bet the Soldacki tomato will find a place in my Tennessee garden next year beside the squash someone's grandfather brought over from Europe and anything else I can find that carries on a tradition and has a story... and I'm spending the winter educating myself on the plants I want to grow and how to keep these stories alive for the next year. No hothouse tomatoes in this back yard!

If you'd like to order some seeds for these big pinkish tomatoes (they are amazing on a hamburger) you can find them at Reimer Seeds or Seed Savers Exchange.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Atta girl...

Been a while since I checked in. I've been doing Level 1 On Line Parelli groundwork (not in the halter in the picture, FYI) with Ab. We've got our Friendly, Porcupine, and Yo Yo Games mastered. Driving game is a little more of a challenge, and Circle game confuses the heck out of her (why aren't you turning to follow me? and she breaks gait behind me). But we've made a lot of progress. In the last two weeks we've:

1) Learned how to back up. She did not seem to have this concept from any point in her past.
2) Walked across a tarp.
3) Learned signals for moving her feet in four directions, but not towards me yet.
4) Messed around with some Liberty, as well, in her vast pasture, and being the Right Brain Introvert that she is, she has no problem sticking with me. Liberty is almost more exhilarating than riding.
5) Made some progress with the mounting block. I think I could've gotten on her the other day but she got anxious so we went for a walk until she got out of Right Brain Extrovert mode. I think she is going to be mostly RBE under saddle, which might not be a bad thing, considering the stuff I want to do with her.
6) We're currently playing with the plastic bag on the carrot stick, which she's pretty wary of and other than letting her nose it I haven't touched her with it yet.
7) No idea how we're going to do sideways and squeeze games. There's not a fence on the place that is straight with no ditch in front of it and no barbed wire. I might have to improvise with poles and barrels or something.

I really can't wait to ride her...

In other good news, Russ has sort of decided he's interested in riding... not so much for its own sake but for things like mounted medieval games, mounted archery and such. I'd love to have a second horse that I can put just about anybody on and take them riding. And a horse trailer. Maybe by spring.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Into The Dark and Scary Woods

Miss Abbey has been chasing the cows out of their corn and as a result she is getting FAT. She's going to be moved to a different, cattle-free pasture but in the meantime we thought we'd go for a little walk today, in hand.

My normally Right Brain Introvert mare decided that evil things were lurking in the woods (hey, she lived in the wild for a year) and was suddenly quite eager to go, go, go. Someone had a campfire so I'm not sure if that was what was spooking her so much, but she was very Extroverted, pushing me, trying to decide where we were going to go... we had to do a few reminder moves along the way (hey, I'm the lead mare and I will protect you from the monsters).

Since I intend to ride her on trails I find this verrrrry interesting.

(By the way, are you not just so excited about the new Where The Wild Things Are movie coming out? I LOVED that book!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kids and Horses

Pony rides at WCMS Renaissance Faire

If you rode as a kid, do you remember how magical horses were? How amazing it was when they responded to you? Have you forgotten how that was, and have horses become work for you?

This week I got the opportunity to work with two things I love - kids and horses . For the first time in 20-some years :) I'm teaching three kids how to ride: Jade, 8; Kyle, 6; and Daryl, 13. They're great kids! They ride Buckwheat, Rocket and Apache, respectively.

Learning Parelli, it was really neat to have a new perspective on the way the kids' personalities meshed with their horsenalities. Jade's a natural born rider and Buckwheat was all try for her. I put him on the lunge for a while so Jade could focus on her seat at the trot. Kyle and Rocket have matching attention spans! We spent most of the time learning and keeping "go" for them. Rocket has a lot of anxiety when Buckwheat's not with him and spent part of the time whinnying piteously. Apache (the only horse of the three, the other 2 are ponies) was a little jumpy at first but I had Daryl do some circles on him and he started to settle down and listen to his rider (once the hands came down).

I'm really excited about this opportunity to work with these kids and their ponies/horse. The greatest thing about it is remembering the process and how it was for myself as akid.. the magic of just being around them at the beginning (I'd not wash my hands all the rest of the day so I could go to bed and still smell horse on my hands!), the frustration when what I envisioned didn't quite happen with the horse I was riding, and the sense of accomplishment when I figured out how to ask correctly, and the horse gave.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Carrot, Stick, or Carrot Stick?

Miss Abbey likes to back up when she doesn't like something (RBI behavior or LBI). For a while I tied her while grooming, then I thought, I don't want to have to tie her, so I just held the lead rope while grooming, which she mostly enjoys. Sometimes I hit a sensitive spot. She backs. Today, I thought, the heck with that, I'm not moving around you for grooming, you're going to move around ME. So we practiced "back" "step up" and a send-away turn so I could get her exactly where I needed her to reach the spot I needed (I gave her some leeway for the back-end zone). This worked pretty well since she likes grooming and I'm learning her itchy spots, so I reward her with good curry on those when she moves where I want her.

Afterwards, since grooming seemed like the lesson today, I just took her and did some mirroring. I got a big sigh that seemed to say, "Oh, I like you so much better when you're not making me do stuff. By the way, got any horsey treats?"

Just got to know what motivates a horsey partner, as the above video demonstrates!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cow Horse & Family Stuff

Here's Abbey the day she moved in to her new home. That was two weeks ago. Yesterday I got a call from Mike saying she's gonna have to be moved to another field... she's chasing the cows out of their feed trough. If they even get close to her she turns toward them and flattens her ears and they GET OUT OF HER WAY. RAWR!!

We're starting Parelli natural horsemanship soon, but the work I've done with her so far seems to be progressing well... I can "pretend" to get on and she stands now (she used to back up). Next step: pretend w/ saddle. Besides the mounting issue and the occasional balk in hand, I can't find much I don't love about her.

We went to visit my family the first part of this month. My grandfather isn't doing well (he fell and broke his hip 6 weeks ago) and my mom is really having a hard time with it. I really, really wish I could be there to help her with the rough stuff and help her take care of the stuff she shouldn't have to worry about, like dinner and housework.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I'm two weeks away from being a horse owner. This is Abbey, an eight-year-old BLM Mustang. Isn't she freckly? Our first meeting was a hit; we kind of "joined up" (a la Monty Roberts) right off, and her owner said she was amazed at how quickly I was able to get on her (she has back sensitivity issues). I just took my time with her, leaned on her a bit first, and then got on, and she stood like a rock, which apparently she has not done for everyone.

She's coming home with me (not my home, but not far either) on August 10. I've wanted a horse since I was five! So she's a dream come true. We're going to start out slowly but we'll do some dressage, some trail riding, and dabble in whatever else seems like it might be fun for both of us.

Oh, the funky markings on her neck are a freeze brand (I said it looks like it's written in Klingon). Each mark represents a number and by looking it up you can find out about where she was caught (she was 2 when caught wild, apparently in California) and more. I can't read it from the pictures but I'll definitely be looking it up.

Dontcha just want to hug her neck? :) Better pictures later.

Friday, July 3, 2009

First Tomato

Disclaimer: this is not my tomato. I'm not sure I'm prepared to photograph mine. :)

I wish to become an organic gardener. This year, I planted three tomato plants in containers, which were too small, had problems with the bottom parts of the plants turning yellow and looking awful, and they're all pretty stunted. I broke down and sprayed them with Sevin because I don't know what I'm doing.

My herbs, by the way, look great. Although the basil had some creepy critters in it and I had to spray it too. The lemon verbena choked for a while because my pot wasn't draining properly, but it's coming back nicely. The mint looks fantastic.

My first tomato of the season is black on the bottom and pretty small, but it's a tomato! I've got quite a few that look like they might be better.

The plan is to educate myself on organic gardening, and next year I will have the space (and own the house) to make some raised beds and plant all the pretty/useful/delicious stuff I want. Organically. Responsibly. I want to make pickles. And salsa. And can stuff. Like a real country girl.

It's a disappointing start, but it's a start.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Maybe Homeowners

I really need to get a better picture of the house, but here's Russ in one of his Renaissance costumes standing on the porch. Behind him you can see one of my pretty plum trees, which has decided to become one with a cherry tree.

We're currently living in this little brick/sided ranch, two very large bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, which we're renting from Russ's mom. Well, I think we're going to buy it from her. We've done a bunch of work on the deck, which will now be quite nice to sit/grill/eat on, and we've cleared the back half acre, which might house some critters for me some day. I've got plans for a nice garden, too. Best of all, it'll help us a bunch with our debt since we're consolidating.

And Russ will be working full time by the end of the summer, yay! He's been a substitute rural carrier for USPS for the past seven years and is finally about to get his own route. I think better times are on the horizon financially :)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scenic Sunday 46

Scenic Sunday

A perfect place for two to sit and watch the world go by. University of Tennessee Gardens.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Skywatch Friday #46

As I passed under this stone bridge on one of Knoxville, TN's greenways, I didn't give much thought as to what sort of bridge it was. On the return trip, though, a blaring shook the springtime calm and this train steamed right through the park, waving at walkers on the way through. I stood practically right underneath it and shot these pictures toward a beautiful April sky.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Under Water

You might think I was scuba diving, but no - Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga has massive habitats that you can walk above, next to, and UNDER, which is amazing and makes for some very nice captures.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Skywatch Friday #44

A peek through the wisteria at a glorious April sky at UT Gardens.

Have had a few busy weekends... more about that as I get pictures organized :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Today's Flowers #39

Click me for more beautiful flowers from around te world!

They look like silk. Tulips at UT Gardens.

In case you're wondering, I got no flowers for Mother's Day. At least, I wasn't going to. I handed Russ a flyer from Spring Hill Nursery with a deal on gorgeous everblooming lilacs and said, "I want these for Mother's Day." So next year... I should have lilacs. I'm on my way to the garden in the next post, woohoo!

I also got French Toast breakfast from my son. :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Scenic Sunday #43

Scenic Sunday
click me for more scenic views around the world!

Another gorgeous spot at University of Tennessee Gardens. So now I need:

1) Wood for a trellis
2) Someone who can make a trellis
3) A swing to hang from the trellis
4) Definitely Japanese maples
5) Lilacs (not pictured)
6) A pot. A really big pot. And I know just the guy who hand throws them.
7) A personal gardener.
8) Um... money.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

WCMS Renaissance Faire

Not often you get to see Queen Elizabeth's knickers!

Each year the good lady who plays Elizabeth at many Renaissance faires visits our middle school Renaissance Faire and explains to the kids how she makes her own FANTASTIC costumes. This pic is from a few years ago but since the faire is Friday I should have some new ones soon!

If you're local, stop by and see the shows the kids have worked so hard on. More info HERE

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Watery Wednesday #34

Tennessee Aquarium
in Chattanooga is the most amazing place. Not only the exhibits inside the buildings, but the amazing fountains that are just gorgeous (this one less gorgeous), and SO perfect to play and wade in. Last year we took my niece Allison there, and I had a grand time playing Auntie (she lives in Ohio so I don't get to play often enough!). I'm not sure mom was keen on me getting her wet, but I know she had fun :)

Don't you miss the time of life when a little line of water bubbling up from a grate (or a lawn sprinkler!) could hold so much wonder?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My World: Artists' Co-Op

This storefront (the brick one) has been purchased by The Fragrant Mushroom here in Sparta and I'm very excited to be a part of the Artists' Co-op Gallery that will be going in here, right on main street in "downtown" Sparta, across from the courthouse.

An artist's co-op is a visual arts association jointly owned and democratically controlled by its members. A monthly membership fee buys space in the gallery, and there will also be available classroom space and studio space. Thor and Cheri, who own The Fragrant Mushroom (Thor makes wheel thrown pottery), have a vision for Sparta: to make it an artist-friendly town that draws tourism. They plan to hold classes to show other people how to do what they have done, so that all these other little buildings (many of which are vacant and getting somewhat run-down, but are quite old and charming) will eventually be galleries, making this a haven for Appalachian artists.

I hope it happens. My and Russ's daydream is to run a little bed and breakfast in this area ; I'd love to have it be one that focuses on creativity in some way, be it a gallery or workshops or both. That's a long way down the road, but one has to start somewhere.

So! At some point in June (date to be determined) my work will be exhibited here and I will do my part to bring art to my little town, hopefully teaching classes on wire wrapping jewelry and chainmaille to young and old.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Today's Flowers #38 & Lack Spring Almanac

A little dogwood at University of Tennessee Gardens.

We've had days of rain and the promise of more days of rain. My outside-loving dog, Dink, is relaxing in the yard in a respite (it's still really wet out there) from it, listening to the birds singing. When it lets up a bit I hope to go for a walk and catch some of the beautiful Tennessee Spring flowers. The neighbor across the road has some gorgeous purple and yellow orchids. And the maples in the front yard are fully leaved. How is it that they're barren, you notice one day that they've got little baby leaves on them, and it seems like the next day they're fully dressed?

I adore spring. Dink does too. Need to get my herbs planted this week too.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Scenic Sunday

Scenic Sunday

To me, this looks like somewhere tropical with the deep blue-green color of the lake and the treed mountains on the other side. Nope. It's right here in Tennessee. Watauga Lake is reported to be one of the cleanest lakes in the nation, and based on the gorgeous color, I believe it. I'm not a big fan of lake swimming, but I'd jump in here. This North Coast (Cleveland) girl misses the water.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dragon Days Renaissance Festival

Russ borrowed the nice camera from my father-in-law and took almost no pictures with it! So I have no chess match pictures, one not very good pic of my booth... blah. I think I made him take this one, and most of the others he took! Not a single one of any of the three of us.

These are friends of ours who are also involved in Renaissance club. Kris suggested the entire family enter the pageant for king, queen, prince and princess of the festival. Her hubby, son and daughter won king, prince and princess, and she didn't get to be queen! I think they're never going to hear the end of it :) (Love the hmphh! look on her face in this pic). She made these costumes, by the way.

We're doing Robin Hood for the Human Chess Match this year. For those who aren't geeks like we are, a HCM is like a regular chess match with human players, but like Battle Chess too. When a piece would take another, the players have a "battle" for the space (staged, obviously). In our case, the players range from age 10 to... not telling. I'm calling the moves for the Nottingham side and Brandon's the Sheriff. Robin shoots him with an arrow at the end. Someone (obviously not MY husband) got a GREAT picture of his look of disbelief at the arrow sticking out of him, which I will definitely attempt to get my hands on, and share later. For the record, we're using wooden weapons, not live steel with little kids, and we tested the arrow thing thoruoughly so he wouldn't get injured. The kids are amazing, they really get into the choreography. I will definitely do better this coming Friday when we have our middle school faire, and make sure someone takes some great pics.

In Russ's defense, he was hanging out at the booth in which I sell chainmaille and wire jewelry, and selling things for me. Considering the poor attendance this week, I did well. I suggested that Bran make chainmaille hackey sacks. Even though he only had time to make two, he got custom orders all day and made as much money as I did!

Friday, May 1, 2009


I had the impression people posted pictures from today on Skywatch, but reading the instructions, I'm not sure. What's the general policy on that?

Today's pretty gray and boring, but a few weeks ago the sky was BRILLIANT against the plum tree blossoms. Since I wasn't happy with this photo of the flowers and it looks like I MEANT to take a picture of the sky... I'll pretend I did. The color was just amazing.

Maybe I'll get a good sunset tonight and do a today photo.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


It's Watery Wednesday again!

This time, I give you local color. This is taken from an old railroad bridge that is now a walking bridge (and in some disrepair, sadly) at the little town park in Sparta. I'm just so wowed by the gorgeous blue-green color of this little river!

The name of this little gem is the Calfkiller River, just another colorful Tennessee name. Apparently a Cherokee tribe that once lived here had a chief whose name translated "Calf Killer" (what an odd Indian name). The river bisects Sparta before it meets with the much more impressive Caney Fork.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

UT Gardens

While Brandon was interviewing for Tennessee Governor's Academy I spent a few hours browsing University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville. The tulips in particular were glorious. It made me long for a better camera, and a little patch of bliss at home. I particularly adored the trellised flowers, although I didn't get a picture that did the wisteria justice. The weather was glorious.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tennessee Governor's Academy

The smirk that says "I think I did okay."

This weekend my son Brandon and I went to Knoxville, where he interviewed for Tennessee Governor's Academy of Math and Science. From the entire state only 24 students get to attend each year. The program is amazing; a student-led learning environment. They go to University of Tennessee for physics lab and work with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on a mentoring basis.

More on the trip in future posts.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Skywatch Friday

It's been a bad tornado season here in Tennessee; two were killed in not so far Murfreesboro yesterday and a whole lot more injured.

It wasn't bad here, really. Russ, Bran and I went to have sushi when the angry gloom was starting, then ran for the car pelted by rain and got ourselves good and soaked. Wish I'd taken pictures of the flood swirling into the storm drain in Cookeville. We took refuge in Books a Million till the tornado warning passed. When I got home I took this picture of a still-angry sky.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Watery Wednesday

What's a meme? Well, it's a blog theme. Watery Wednesday is meant to gather pictures of water. Since I went to Burgess Falls this weekend I thought I'd participate. Here's your water picture of the week. Go HERE to see other people's prettiful water pictures of the week.

You see what I mean about the water level being really high this week. Imagine the rushing noise. Gotta pee yet?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Burgess Falls

The first falls... they get progressively bigger

Workers at the electric plant had to cross this bridge on foot daily to get to work! I assume it had planks then :)

There are little waterfalls with foot bridges over them all along the walk. You can tell I made Bran & Russ pose.

This is the falls behind them. The water was really high this weekend - usually this is barely a trickle.

My favorite color - baby leaf green. The color of new life.

I'd have to say the most frequent park we visit is Burgess Falls State Park. It's a gorgeous walk along a wild river with three big drops in it. This area of Tennessee is well known for its numerous waterfalls (and caves). The falls once housed a power plant, the remnants of which are obvious all over the walk.

Saturday Russ, Brandon and I ventured there for a short walk (we didn't do the full loop because we had a hypoglycemic friend with us). I was surprised more wasn't blooming so I'll have to come back to take more pictures -- although the snow that's on the ground this morning may have killed off everything in bloom!

There were intermittent clouds so the pictures aren't the best. I was happiest with the baby leaf picture :) I'm a macro person.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring is in the Air

Spring is only a few days away. Back in Ohio we'd laugh when the calendar said it was spring, we figured we had another several weeks before it really seemed like it.

Not so here in Tennessee. Spring springs right about when it's supposed to. The spring peepers (frogs) are singing in the woods, the flash of bluebirds is scattered in the sky, the forsythia and pear trees and plum trees are illuminated by the springtime sunshine, smiling daffodils litter the fields, and the sky is gorgeously, brilliantly blue.

I took this picture of the plum tree in our back yard today. It's about 70 degrees. I guess a trip into my back yard is not that much of an adventure but it sure carries promise of lots of them in the days to come (besides, I'm really, really happy with the photograph... most of the others I took were disappointing because of focus not being where I wanted it). I have spring fever pretty badly, can you tell?

I'll be back with more pictures of pretty flowers, since the dogwoods aren't blooming yet.