Sunday, September 25, 2022

Let There Always Be Light

I absolutely love the autumnal season where everything still is so green and bright here in the lush Willamette Valley of Oregon.

In spite of climate change issues with temperature changes already altering weather records, and higher prices than most areas of the U.S. it continues to be a lovely place to live. 

Yes, Alaska will always have my heart but marrying an Oregonian 50 years ago and choosing Salem, the City of Peace, was a very wise choice!

Forty-three years ago we built our home with a lot of sweat equity and a $37,000 and a 30 year mortgage saved up with nickels and dimes and lots of hard work! I still love it aging issues and all.

After all we have aged right alongside the house we built, the fruit trees we planted and hundreds and hundreds of trees and shrubs and perennials. And now we constantly reap the rewards of those efforts by being the best stewards of this piece of land that we still can.

My wisteria vines are a delight in the summer and early fall. Here they are so full they are in need of another pruning to allow the centerpieces plant and decor to even show! 
This is a favorite decorating opportunity for the 5 and 6 year
old grandchildren to scout out my hodge podge deck decor and make little scenes everywhere.

Here a real birds nest recently discovered having fallen from a tall tree is joined by 2 chickens, one wooden and one metal but still getting along famously without disagreements at all!  

Look closely above, and you'll see that a 2nd birds next joined the decor! No wonder Jasper was staring at it!

In the wee hours from 3 to 6 a.m. when I am already up and about, their tiny Christmas lights (purchased every winter and twined anew onto bare vines before leafing in the Spring) cheer up my always awake and sleepless nights. 

And unfortunately with cloudy skies at night I am happily bringing in my own lights. 

There was a spectacular harvest moon weeks back,  but now I must be content with my 3 a.m. walkabout to see a delightful crescent moon and some tiny but lovely stars. Photos even "night" selected were just a blur but I can picture them in my mind. Meanwhile I know they, the moon, and the sun still shine!!! 

The rest of my very long busy days and restful but awake hours, Jasper keeps me entertained under artificial lighting. Here, he appears to be making his shopping list from a Wilco Farm Store flyer.

And yes, I still sew and quilt. When the mood strikes I tiptoe upstairs by flashlight, and carefully select my 5 a.m. lighting and create and sew, sew, sew!  I can't say what yet.  But were getting a something or other, don't know which, in November. So this crazy lady is having even more crazy fun in the magical design loft and little sewing nook day and night right now! 

And then, there's the bounty and abundance of the fruits of our land and our labors. And when I say our, I usually mean Larry. He picked, washed, sliced, and pureed or stewed or canned or froze. Day after day while still working outside of the home for our home building business of 35 years of hard, hard, work in multiple towns with hours of driving every which way. 

Did I mention we work for free?  So of course others love our work ethics and Larry is of course helping our son keep our small but amazing home based business going. Larry says our son Blake is both the brains and the brawn of the business. That he's just along for the ride! 

And on the homefront, our ongoing celebration of harvest and harvesting. The apple varieties continue to be picked from our original batches of Gravenstein apples to Golden Delicious to Melrose and others, picking and canning golden jars of applesauce both with and without sugar and some with added cinnamon.

Last photo above-two more batches of applesauce on top of all of my other harvest posts' jars of applesauce!

Want a giggle and a big old "WHAT?" Double press the photo to read my spice jar labels. The state of the labels tell you how long these have been there. Normally the labels are rotated to the back sides.  

I misplaced my cauldron so I haven't been creating exotic potions for decades but I love all of these extra dried up or not exotics! Gifts from my oldest daughter, Terin  when one of us was considerably younger and both of us knew what all these were and what for. Now, one of us (sigh) doesn't any more. My beautiful and amazing daughter took classes and was certified as a Medical Herbalist along with her other talents and gifts. Used to helping friends battle cancer and stepping in for them when others stepped out, but now having learned first hand how how challenging it truly can be she has survived 65 chemo treatments, surgery and in depth radiation  We have all learned so much from her. Cider making, beekeeping,  gardening all part of our family fun and activities we share. Family for us is what it's all about!

We'd have no need to make a kazillion packets of dried prunes, endless jars of jam and applesauce etc. if we didn't have a helping family who loves it as much as we do!

It's family--kids and grandkids that light up our life, expand our hearts, and inspire us to be more and do more. Love them all so much!!

Then after all the family fun. It's back to just us at work! The prunes are still being picked, eaten fresh of course but also dried in our homemade food dehydrator from the 70s/80s. Batch after batch of cleaned over and over fresh from the pitted and the resulting halves layer upon the grated shelves to dry from the simple heat of a light bulb! Takes 48+ each batch to dry. They are a great treat for our 4 grandchildren, ages 2 through 7 and one we all love! 

And yes, my posts are always typed on my beloved Galaxy Note 9 cell phone. Hours and hours and hours per blog post and only an iffy, whiffs mobile signal on clear days.  

I like to believe it's keeping me sharper than I might otherwise be considering my family history and certainly teaches me a lot about psycho typos and glitches in the air waves and to be an even more patient and steadfast woman!

And now snippets of poetry as I am prone to share, always using my 1972 back pocket English degree around this site!

From Rebecca Elson, poet/astronomer 
(January 2, 1960–May 19, 1999)

"For this we go out dark nights, searching For the dimmest stars, For signs of unseen things To weigh us down. 

To stop the universe From rushing on and on Into its own beyond Till it exhausts itself and lies down cold, Its last star going."

And another:

"Whatever they turn out to be, Let there be swarms of them, Enough for immortality, Always a star where we can warm ourselves.

Let there be enough to bring it back From its own edges, To bring us all so close we ignite The bright spark of resurrection."

"The astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson (January 2, 1960–May 19, 1999) was twenty-nine when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma — a blood cancer that typically invades people in their sixties and seventies. Throughout the bodily brutality of the treatment, throughout the haunting uncertainty of life in remission, she met reality on its own terms — reality creaturely and cosmic, terms chance-dealt by impartial laws — and made of that terrifying meeting something uncommonly beautiful."

Maria Popova

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as I/she/we share an imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon.
 Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, from my heart and with my hands.

Monday, September 05, 2022

After Apple Picking: Apple Cider

After Apple-Picking
By Robert Frost 

"My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,

And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three

Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.

Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass

I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.

It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell

What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.

My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin

The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all

That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap

As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.

Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Phew!  Eight adults. Four grandkids ages 2 to 7 and several granddogs all helping with our continued apple harvesting!

We picked many wheelbarrows of apples from our orchard. Washed them, chunk sliced with knives and cutting boards to make the pieces small enough to fit through the apple grinder one chunk at a time, then pressed them through an apple press to get the juice forced out and reject the mash below.

The juice was funneled into two giant carboys (bottles) with thermal canisters besides for each family to enjoy at home fresh squeezed now. The giant carboy bottles are off with family members to undergo the process of fermentation that will result in home made hard apple cider. 

What a lot of work each year but great, great fun to work together with our 3 grown kids and their partners, 4 little grandkids and all of our apple antics and laughter! 

Another "Autumnal Harvest" family gathering of nature's continuing bounty!

Happy September!
Did you know that September 1st is the official start of our

"Meteorological Autumn"? 

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, from my heart and with my hands

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Bread and Jam: The Last Days of August


"When the blackberries hang

swollen in the woods, in the brambles

nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high

branches, reaching

my ripped arms, thinkinof nothing, cramming

the black honey of summer

into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark

creeks that run by there is

this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is

this happy tongue."

By Mary Oliver

“August,” another wonderful poem from the collection American Primitive (1983), is about a speaker savoring the rich taste of blackberries, in the brambles not owned by anyone.

We love our wild blackberries creeping over the old field fences and even over our own boundaries and into my outdoor laundry drying areas!

"I wish I was a poet like the men that write in books
The poems that we have to learn on valleys, hills an' brooks;

I'd write of things that children like an' know an' understand,
An' when the kids recited them the folks would call them grand.

If I'd been born a Whittier, instead of what I am,
I'd write a poem now about a piece of bread an' jam.

I'd tell how hungry children get all afternoon in school,
An' sittin' at attention just because it is the rule,

An' lookin' every now an' then up to the clock to see
If that big hand an' little hand would ever get to three.

I'd tell how children hurry home an' give the door a slam
An' ask their mothers can they have a piece of bread an' jam.

Some poets write of things to eat an' sing of dinners fine,
An' praise the dishes they enjoy, an' some folks sing of wine,

But they've forgotten, I suppose, the days when they were small
An' hurried home from school to get the finest food of all;

They don't remember any more how good it was to cram
Inside their hungry little selves a piece of bread an' jam.

I wish I was a Whittier, a Stevenson or Burns,
I wouldn't write of hills an' brooks, or mossy banks or ferns,

I wouldn't write of rolling seas or mountains towering high,
But I would sing of chocolate cake an' good old apple pie,

An' best of all the food there is, beyond the slightest doubt,
Is bread an' jam we always get as soon as school is out."

(C) Edgar Albert Guest


Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, from my heart and with my hands

Friday, August 19, 2022

Always Jammin'

My husband is a jam making machine. Bowl after bowl of berries are picked off cane berry vines or blueberry bushes from our garden and back shrub row!

 And oh how we love and appreciate it. A batch is usually about four pint jars. If we have enough, he makes 2 batches after work or on a weekend day. After decades of making regular jam we switched to freezer jam.

We gave up most canning long ago except for making and canning applesauce and that is a chore and a half. But our young grandchildren love it so much and frankly the grown-ups too!

Alaskan company came for a visit this August, all four of my grandchildren came to pick berries and apples and now peaches are ripening as well.

Then there's so much berry picking! We grow strawberries, raspberries, logan berries, Marion berries (kind of an Oregon blackberry mix) and blueberries plus lots of wild blackberries!

Batch after batch after batch of jam! Our little grandchildren eat them off the bush faster than we can pick! 

Endless batches of homemade jam by my husband who somehow still works non-stop outside at our home building business,  inside with preserving our fruit from shrubs, trees, and vines!

And now, it's apple picking and apple sauce making and preserving time.

Hard, endless spring spring, summer and fall work but oh how delicious it all is!

2 batches preserved by hot water bath canning and 3 jars left out for fresh eating and sharing! 
And we've yet to pick our Gravensteins to make apple cider!

Endless mowing of fields and yards to keep our 2 5 acres habitable. It takes a full day in daytime hours to mow with lawnmowers and tractor! And that's from once a week to once over 2 weeks depending on weather and available chore time.

Summer is such a lovely time but far too busy, as well! Time to enjoy the fruits of our labors!

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, from my heart and with my hands