Sunday, December 27, 2009


Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Blog (
When I saw the rhododendron leaves tightly curled up in elongated rolls, I knew they were preparing to cuddle up for warmth. They do that, you know. My dad used to tell me the rhododendrons will let you know when the cold's on the way, and this Christmas eve, the clusters of those beautiful slender leaves rolled in as tightly and closely to each other as they could announced the arrival of a thick coating of ice long before it arrived.
By Christmas morning, I awoke to what sounded like transformer explosions, only to find out that the noise was the deafening snaps of large - really large - tree branches all through the woods. The red-lit numbers on the clock radio beside the bed were non-existent, and although I could hear my mom up and about in the kitchen, I didn't sense the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting down the hall. Within minutes, the phone began to ring--calls from family members and friends to inquire if we had "lost power" as well. Yep, before daylight, it was obvious this Christmas Day would be one for the memory keepers.
Stories of everyone's situations began to circulate. Miss Hal and family were bringing in snow to melt by the fireside to use to flush the toilets...Mrs. Bessie Mae Hicks called to let us know she was OK...Worried about the spike in Uncle Frank's blood pressure, Aunt Lera called to see if they could come over to the Shook Shelter...Aunt Audrey's phone was out, so we just had to assume Bill and Sylvia had taken care of her...Aunt Mildred (only about 4'10" and less than 100 lbs.) called to say she went out in the snow and ice to clean off her car and couldn't move once her feet sunk down in the snow, which was above her knees. Fortunately, her feisty nature surfaced and she lumbered slowly back to her house...Uncle Bradley and Aunt Mabel were stuck at home and couldn't begin to get out until someone broke open the road to their infinitum...Over the course of the last two days, some 30,000 people in Watauga County have been left in the dark.
Fortunately here on Russell Drive, the power came on later in the morning long enough to fix a pot of coffee. People became a bit more verbal and less moody as a result. When the electricity went off for the second time, we waited about 5 hours until it returned. We definitely were some of the lucky ones.
During the outage, Petie and I summoned Papa's spirit to build a fire in the fireplace, and before long, the den was hotter than my Grandpa Hoyle's living room in the middle of winter. We warmed up some leftovers and a pot of frozen soup Petie had in the freezer. Actually the soup came to a boil as fast on the hearth as it would have on the stove! I took a walk to make sure there were no branches compromising the roof / gutters / cars and did the best I could at shoveling ice off the walkway.
Two days later, the area does look like a war zone. The pine trees suffered the greatest hit and brought down many power lines. Their branches become really heavy with ice, and their root systems are shallow; hence, if it were prior to decorating season, everyone in this part of the country would have had greenery to spare for his/her houses. Higher up in the mountains, there didn't appear to be such extensive damage. At least over toward Pigeon Roost, the breakage seemed less stark.
It's been about 24 hours since I've heard branches snap around our house. Hopefully the 3-day inconvenience of an 8-hour storm will be soon behind us all. Tomorrow I hope to get out and take a few photos of my own.

Friday, December 25, 2009


The ASU Mountaineer mascot, Yosef, woke up this morning to find his beard frozen to his face and icicles hanging from his hat, fists, and armpits. Icicles in the armpits could be quite uncomfortable, but Yosef seems to be saying, "Bring it on!!"

Over the course of 8 hours last night, ice coated the entire area, making it such that for Christmas dinner here at the Shook house on Russell Drive we dined on PB&J sandwiches and Petie's frozen packages of homemade soup which we literally heated on the hearth. Couldn't have been better!

The temps rose during the daylight hours, creating a lot of slush and yuk. One could hear branches breaking and falling all day, and when we ventured out to see an afternoon matinee, the debris covering the highways was pretty intense. Thankfully nothing fell on my new car (new to me at least), and Mom's house escaped getting bashed by lots of limbs. Tomorrow we'll have a better sense of what there is to clean up.

Actually, it's been a great day...If we couldn't get out to go to Grandma's house, the next best thing was to stay here all day, and that's exactly what we did. Lots of nice gifts, too much stuff to nibble on, and a really, really toasty fire in the fireplace created a good space to relax, knit, and read. For me, having the day with Samuel and Eliza and seeing them enjoy each other after five long months was my greatest gift.

It's barely 9:00 PM, and I'm off to bed...Hope everyone had a great day...May 2010 bring us all peace, lots of joy (and money) and fewer losses and problems.....

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I posted a shot of the irises in bloom outside a while back, but when the cold weather blew through last week, I went out and clipped the remaining buds from the plants out by the garage. Sure enough, one of them opened up. Irises in the house in December doesn't make the spring seem so far away.

A friend, Whitney Huck, brought this orchid to me when Molly shed her earthly coil and headed toward the light. It's been gloriously in bloom since early November.

FINALLY, I have a brugmansia in bloom! I've spoiled this plant, given to me by Sherm Koons, for two years, and when I brought it in in the fall, I thought I saw the beginning of a bud. Sure enough, the gargantuan plant that fills a good portion of my bedroom has successfully produced this amazing bloom. The photos doesn't do it justice. I'd estimate it to be at least a foot long, and it has a sweet, intoxicating, exotic aroma that fills my room.

Posted by PicasaAnother view of the brugmansia...I tried to get better shots, but this plant is surrounded by all the others I have in my bedroom, and I just can't get situated for the perfect angle without rearranging 15 other plants. So for now, these record the images of the short-lived, but amazing blossom of this December flower.

Friday, December 11, 2009


The holidays are upon us, and I'm counting the days until The Farm family comes home to spend precious time together in celebration of another year of love and blessings. Each year as I reflect on the gratitude I feel to be alive and thriving, I am reminded of the joy and laughter we experience here at The Farm, as well as the passages of those whose lives have been so much a part of ours. Life's perplexities keep me a ponderin' from time to time, but many, many more moments of unadulterated joy and laughter resonate in my heart as I look back on 2009.

Samuel will be home for a much needed week of farm R&R in a couple of weeks...Eliza returns to The Farm from her dad's house in just a few days...Joe's here and keeps the fire roarin'...Lori's counting the days until she flies in from Maui...I'm nudging Bobbi and Isabella to come this way to celebrate the New Year...keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Brett and Betsy will visit via Skype from Bulgaria (or from whatever exotic place they're choosing to visit for holiday break), and hopefully, we'll get some news from Dana, James and Wendy. Meera'll be in our hearts from the West Coast, and hopefully,we'll see Tom and Chintu, Norm, Diane and Andrew multiple times as the celebrations continue.

I'll default to my list making for an account of Farm happening for 2009....Here we go...


1. Joe's return to The Farm in July with his beloved bassett hound, Rufus Thomas.
2. Samuel's acceptance into the MFA program in Creative Writing at American University.

3. Eliza's selection as section leader of the Warren High School Marching Warriors Color Guard.

4. Petie's visit to The Farm in November and our subsequent trip to Indianapolis to see Eliza perform at the Grand Nationals band competition.

5. Seeing family at the huge Shook / Michael family reunion in July at the
MatneyCommunity Center.
6. Laida's visit with my family in Boone during Thanksgiving

7. Reconnection with many folks from my past and former students via Facebook..

8. Celebrating my mom's 91st birthday on December 10th.


1. The passages of Pepín Carro (March), Grandma Ruth (June), Sally Johnson (September), Molly, the corgi and sweet, little Rufus (November)

2. The passage of Diane's Grandma Gracie, also in June.

3. Tumultuous, dysfunctional, vicious happenings at my workplace.


1. Good health, lots of laughter, and fun.

2. The barn's still standing.

3. The bounty of the land...early veggies in the garden this past spring, lots of glorious flowers during the absolutely beautiful fall...

4. The love of family and friends.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


When we take to the fields here at The Farm, we grab whatever garment is near and available to keep us warm on our spur of the moment walks. Last Sunday's journey into the back pasture provides a clear picture of what the world of "haute couture" refers to as "FARM CHIC."

As she sets the trend in Farm Chic, the Farm Mom always follows Grandma Ruth's advice and wisdom - "Keep your head covered, your hands, neck and feet dry, and you won't get sick." Worthwhile advice to consider since in her 107 years on Earth, Grandma never had a cold.

Farm Wannabes should take note of Farm Mom's ensemble - seasoned clothes she slept in, accentuated with old farm jacket from days gone by, the double scarf look, woolen gloves, thick socks (white is always preferable), and handy garden shoes. Her accessories include The Farm's retro WalMart canvas beach bag and spunky hat (see close-up below), a loaner from José's MFA thesis show, "Cossett Canoodle."

Close-up: Cossett Canoodle hat with knotted scarves. (On colder winter days, Farm Mom would probably wrap her head in a wool scarf and top it off with one of her hand-knitted Farm Toboggans.)

José's head cover of choice is the bright orange ear-flapped flannel hat that's been sitting around at The Farm, waiting for someone with the right sized head to wear it. It's a flexible piece of headwear and can be sported backwards, as José models here. Joe's neck stays very warm as he wears Cato as his scarf.
Please feel free to call upon any current or former Farm resident for advice regarding staying warm, Farm fashion, or where to purchase Farm garments. Stay warm...Stay healthy...And have a good chuckle along the way!


The holidays are upon us, and here at The Farm, we seek to manifest total joy and peace as we move toward Solstice, Christmas, and the New Year. The greening of the house is in progress, our Christmas tree is soaking up some preservative in the garage before we put it up, and as always, I'm contemplating when I'll get shopping done....a last minute thing for me always...

Today's list.....

1. Joy at the thought Samuel will be home for Christmas...the first time in a year....I can't wait!

2. Joy at the thought Eliza will return to The Farm in a few days to spend Christmas. When she's at her dad's, I miss her immensely.

3. Joy at the thought Joe is a permanent fixture at The Farm.

4. Joy at the thought Samuel, Eliza, Mom, Myra, and I will be in Boone together for Christmas Day.

5. Joy at the thought of sitting by the fire with the Christmas tree lights aglow.

6. Joy at the thought of New Year's Eve again here at The Farm.

7. Joy, great joy, in feeling the love all around.