Saturday, December 17, 2011


It's a gray morning today, December 17, 2011, but the spirit of love and family radiates like a brilliant splash of sun in the heart here at The Farm. The Earth's taking on her muted palate for the upcoming months, only to make the reds, blues, and raspberry colors of the birds at our feeder look like the bare trees' holiday ornaments. Although there have been moments in 2011 that have brought up the antithesis of joy, we have grown in our understanding of them as part of life's cycle.  Ultimately, we sustain our life in peace, happiness, friendships, good health and laughter,and for that I'm thankful...very thankful indeed.  Love and joy define our world at The Farm.

After this school year, I'll have only three more to teach before I retire!  I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and fantasizing about all the possibilities that await when I don't have to define my life by the ever-changing demands of education. Watch out world...Señora Wilder's about to emerge as a feisty retiree!  :0)

I spend a lot of time alone at the farm with two corgis, Mac and MerryBelle, frequently acknowledging that my life is more like that of a member of a pack than a human being.  The dogs are work, both physically and emotionally; however, what I reap from life with them can't be quantified by words. If one were to be a fly on the wall on a daily basis here at The Farm, he/she would hear a lot of barking and laughing.  The pups remind me to play, and I participate in rambunctious games of tug-of-war with socks, fetch with Bessy The Cow, and chase more than once every day.  Mac's a total goofball, and MerryBelle's learning to let go and have fun.  (She is an adopted corgi mix and came to The Farm from a Corgi Rescue group.  It's obvious someone was unkind to her. Trust doesn't come to her easily.)

I'm still involved with advocating on behalf of human rights and the Cuba situation. Working with my twin sister of a different mother, Laida Carro, is quite an honor, for Laida tirelessly and selflessly defends those who suffer on the island.  Cuba's in a real mess, and not nice things happen to innocent people every day there. I've learned a great deal of patience from working in human rights, and Laida continues to inspire me to keep the plight of others at the forefront of my thoughts. I hope to go to Cuba some day to work with people who have no idea what the world's all about.

On any given day, one can find me working with my photographs, knitting, gardening, working crosswords, or doing a bit of writing. This year, I also became an "officiant" (I hestitate to use the term 'minister.') via the internet and was the celebrant at the marriage of Stepnahie Garoza and Ryan Brandt. (The photographer referred to me as "Pastor."  I had to giggle.) My life is full, certainly not dull, and as I approach my 60th birthday in 2012, I hope to share the thought that we need not take things too seriously....That approach really does take the pressure off, so I've found out along the way.

Samuel has one more semester to go in his MFA program at American University. Although I don't think he's in love with DC yet, I do believe he has had some amazing experiences there and has made lifelong connections, both professionally and personally.  Recently he's gotten some great feedback on his poetry, and he's translated poems by a Cuban writer, Manuel Vázquez Portal, that his profs encourage him to publish, along with his own orgininal work. He's moved from a basement apartment on the fringe of a questionable neighborhood to his current pad in Georgetown as he supports himself by bartending while going to school.  I'll hand it to him - he's busted his butt off for the last three years, dealt with a myriad of issues, and succeeded to carve out a place in his program for which I hope he will be rewarded.  I'll see him for the first time in a year in Boone next week....Can't wait to get a Sammy hug! I'm so proud of him!

Eliza successfully completed organic chemistry and physics this past quarter and seems to be quite happy picking up some shifts at Bob Evans over break.  This woman has spent hours and hours in classes, labs, recitations, help sessions, and her own study routine during Fall Quarater. Sometimes I look at her and am overwhelmed by her beauty, inside and out. Eliza's got spunk, and she's got ambition, and she's got a great sense of humor. Witnessing her define her goals and go for them is a great lesson for me, for she is graceful as well as determined in her process. I'm so proud of her!  Having her at home at the moment is the best !!

I don't hear a lot from Bobbi and Isabella, which indicates all's well and they're busy, busy, busy...Bobbi's business thrives, and Isabella's activities fill in her "spare" time. Isabella's attending a very demanding private school in Philly. A goal is to see them this's been way too long since we got silly together!

My mom turned 93 last week...a role model for us all! She's amazing in every way!.  Myra, my sister, has had a challenging year at her work, but she has weathered the office woes gracefully and powerfully.  I hold her in high regard. 

In other Farm news flashes of the year:

1.  The Farm Family welcomed Nathaniel Grayson Potash into our circle of love!. Brett and Betsy are parents! Little Nate decided to arrive on December 13th, a special day in the Shook family since he now shares a birthday with Samuel and my sister, Myra.  As Brett described his birth to me, it took me back to that (almost) same moment 26 years ago to Samuel's arrival - uncanny similarities in their birth process and quick arrivals. I simply can't wait to meet the little guy and hold him in my arms!  Joy, joy, joy....(see for photos.  The smile on Brett's face says it all!)

2.  In May, Meera got married to Eric Schell.  I've poured over the photos of their wedding time and time again because the beauty of the day, the ceremony, the happiness on Eric's and Meera's faces define the best in love and adoration.  Meera Chary is perhaps the most beautiful bride I've ever seen! You can see a photo of her if you go back a few months on my blog roll.

3.  Dana and James moved to Alaska where the temperature has already sunk to -40 degrees and sustained light is not happening at this time of the year. The distance seems insurmountable; however, the job opportunity for James was such that he couldn't pass it by.  Dana's recently gotten a job with the University of Alaska, as well. Little Wendy, now 3, sounds like a fascinating little girl - bright and independent. I love the videos of her telling jokes and singing her favorite songs.

4.  Joe moved to Oregon to assume a position in ceramics at Mount Hood Community College. His departure from The Farm was emotionally difficult on a lot of levels, and our plans for 37 tomato plants was quickly redefined once I began the process of trying to keep up with them. Anyway, José's now in Portland, where he's working to establish himself in his job and get his own work off the ground. Opportunities for Joe abound in Oregon; opportunities for Joe in the Mid-Ohio Valley were not abundant. Paco took the cross country trip in stride and is none the worse for having spent five days on the road.

5.  Lori and Chris hold down the fort on Maui. Lori continues to work for the Kroeger family and travels about with them throughout the world.  She and Chris have two dogs and cats that fill their space with love and energy. What I love about Lori is the beauty and grace, accompanied by humorous moments, with which she approaches life. Chris is a great guy with a beautiful smile and easy spirit. They'll be home for Christmas, and we'll see them after our trip to NC.  Can't wait to hug their necks!!

6.  When Christy, Sophie, and Oberon visit The Farm, we play and laugh. One of the things I look forward to in the coming year includes spending more time with those three. I so enjoy having them here, for we have fun, play games, and are constantly surrounded with lots of active, high-spirited dog energy.

7.  Tom and Chintu seem to be settled in to life in Cleveland. I miss having them close. Tom works for a legal firm in the city, and Chintu's doing research in a post-doc at Cleveland Clinic. One of my commitments to 2012 is to visit them in the city.  Those "fellers" define love, sincere and committed love.  It doesn't get any better.

8.  Andrew came home from Japan for a two week visit this summer, and boy, oh boy, is he having the time of his life!  Tall, slender, focused, totally absorbed by life in Japan, Andrew is living out an amazing adventure. His passion for clay has taken off, and he's taking in every opportunity possible to live his life in Japan to the fullest.  It was a complete JOY to have a couple of visits with him.  Norm and Diane are planning to visit him in the spring!!

Visits with Peg, my childhood friend and partner in crime, and her daughter, Alexa; with Betsy and Bill Schadel; with Caroline Koons and Joe Henderson; with my college roomate, Bink, and her husband, David, and an occasional dinner with Diane and Norm make for fond memories of 2011.  All in all, it's been a great year...jam-packed with connections and laughter...I couldn't ask for more....

This epistle is much more lengthy than I had anticipated, but it catches all up on life here.  As I continue to be amazed and in awe of life's gifts and curves,  I am humbled by the many blessings I enjoy on a daily basis, and I hope folks, wherever they are when they read this,  can catch a bit of the love and delight life brings our way....

Love, infinite love and and always..


PS:  Red Wolf sends his greetings..After 25 years of trying, he thinks he's hatched THE special plan for seeing Santa this year. He's one persistent dude!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've been to flea markets and thrift shops long enough now to know that on any random day I might see something that was made by someone I know. Over time, I've picked up wooden spoons by a carver who used to do Indian Summer Festival years ago here in Marietta, and my friend, Mary Ann, found a ceramic bowl made by Caroline Koons at Goodwill in Parkersburg,  I never, however, expected to see anything I had made anywhere....EVER...'s the story. 

Last weekend I went to Rinks to take photographs.  I really had no intention of poking around in the vendor area, but I wandered in that direction after I had taken a few photos of rusty old junk on the other side of the parking lot. At the third table I passed, I stopped - amazed and incredulous. Laying on the table in front of me was a beaded necklace with a deer hide pouch I had made years ago when I was making primitive-like jewelry. Before I thought I blurted out, " Wow! That's one of my necklaces! I made that!"  I felt like I had just run into an old friend, and I was delighted to see it and run the beads through my fingers.

The man at whose table I was standing stepped up to talk to me.  He said he had just gotten it from another vendor for $2.00; however, a weasly-type, Native American wannabe vendor who's a regular at Rink's was insisting to him when I arrived on the scene that it was an old Native American piece.  I noted that the "scheister" had a wad-full of cash in his hand, and as I continued to talk to the vendor, this other old codger kept leaning over to whisper in the vendor's ear. I got a strong sense the long-haired greaser, who was decked out in all sorts of necklaces and spirit pouches, was attempting to discredit me every time he could get the seller's attention.  Obviously he wanted to by the pouch, and quite honestly, he irked me a bit....more than a bit - a lot!

So I dug my heels in. Attempting to hide my intent, I started talking to Manuel, the vendor, about making the pouches, what I intended them to be on a spiritual level, and what the wrapped sticks in each one signified. The more I talked, the more I could see I was gaining credibility with the baffled seller who suddenly found himself sandwiched between a lady who claimed to be the item's maker and a guy who was hovering over him like a yellow jacket around leftover sweets.

Finally Manuel said he wanted to keep the necklace. I was totally fine with his decision since my intent was not to buy the necklace....Quite honestly, I was trying to stave off the sketchy old geezer who wanted it because I didn't want HIM to have it!!  The pouch wouldn't have been happy with the decrepit, emphysematic, self-proclaimed expert in indigenous art.

As I turned to walk away, Manuel said that if he decided to sell it, he'd call me first. Telling me he was an honest man, he promised to give me first chance at purchase if I wanted. That agreed, I left my name and phone number with Manuel and headed back home.

I thought off and on about the necklace all week...about the turbulent period in my life when I was engulfed in making the pouches...about the imbalance I felt in so many ways at that time...about how different my life is now compared to the time when I spent hours in confusion and sorrow as I made piece after piece.... about how totally sychronistic it was that I kept the necklace from falling into the wrong hands..

Yes, Manuel did seem to be honest, and yes, it was fine that he would be its new owner.

Fast forward to a week later.....

Last Saturday evening,  I picked up my cell phone to see I had a message.  Sure enough, Manuel had called to tell me he would be at Rink's the next day, and he told me that if I wanted to have the necklace, I could buy it for the $2.00 he paid for it. He wanted me to know he was an honest who kept his who felt stronglly the necklace should return to me. 

The next day, I found Manuel in the same spot as the week before. We said a brief hello, and he proceeded to tell me he had also contemplated the necklace, had held it in his hand, had put it around his neck. Yet, he couldn't let go of the thought that it should return to me. Manuel "got it." He listened to the energy of the piece...Indeed, he was a very, very special person.

I am very, very grateful to have this small reminder of my past with me here in the present....I'm sure it came back home to let me know my contemplations of over a decade ago didn't go unheard, for it's true that it has returned to a place that's evolved into the peace and sanity that was so sought after and needed at the time I made the pouch and strung the beads......

Here it The and sound.....

Friday, November 11, 2011


"Metal Caster #1"

I have an abstract mind, and my eyes are drawn to abstract images in most everything I study closely. There photos are just a few of the random shots I've taken recently.  I'm playing around with altering them a bit, saturating colors, cropping for the image that satisfies my mind, and trying to focus on composition and forms.
With no formal training in art or design, I approach my photography with a bit of innocence and a total lack of study...and I like it that way, for now at least.  I am, however, open to the ideas and thoughts of those who have a skillfully trained eye and know art.  I am even more open to the thoughts of others who have no background in art, for I love innocent assessments, as well....In short....all comments welcome.
Blue Lines

Rusted Coil

The Driver's Seat

Early Evening Moon on Eliza's Birthday - 11/08/2011

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Monday, October 17, 2011


About two weeks ago, I noticed that as most of the flowers around The Farm were beginning to "call it quits" for this year, there was a gladiola emerging and sending out a bloom spike amid a thick clump of irises. Very surprised to see it,  I remembered buying some end-of-the-year gladiola bulbs on sale and sticking them in the ground rather haphazardly - certainly not thinking I would see a bloom until next spring. Then, on Wednesday of this last week, I saw the bottom flowers on the stalk were beginning to open, and I told myself I'd wait to bring this unexpected "glad" in for the weekend to enjoy while I was at home for a couple of days. Friday afternoon I placed the beautiful magenta-centered, lilac-fringed flower on my dining room table, and a very special connection with the beauty and delicateness usually associated with spring adorned my home as the autumn leaves fell  and a brisk wind howled outside.

Still, I remained perplexed as to why this breath of spring had decided to open as the frost approaches.

The answer came a few hours later when I received a second phone call from Laida Carro, president of the Coalition of Cuban-American Women, just minutes after we had hung up after a lengthy conversation. Shocked and stunned, she informed me that Laura Pollán, a founder of the Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco) in Cuba had died. In our earlier conversation, I had told Laida I didn't feel good about Laura. We knew she was in the hospital in Havana, and there was something that haunted me about her condition...My hunch proved correct...Laura had died just minutes earlier....I was dumbfounded and so, so saddened.

Initially when Laura was admitted last week,  doctors had said she had pneumonia...then a viral infection....then a staph infection....then dengue fever....Ultimately, she suffered cardiac arrest, not long after a tracheotomy. To no one's surprise, her body was cremated within 12 hours of her passage. The Cuban government wanted little or no information of her death to filter to the public.  Best to get rid of her body avoid any possibility of an international call for an autopsy.

Even if people didn't know Laura Pollán by name, she was easily recognizable as the short, stout woman who led the Damas de Blanco on their weekly march of silence through the streets of Havana, gladiola in hand as if it were her blossoming sword of protection. Not only was it her symbol of protest, the flower she and all the Damas proudly display as they walk has become a symbol of their internationally recognized call for freedom for their loved ones who were suffering as political prisoners in Cuba's jails.  And, since the release of those arrested in the Black Spring of 2003, the Damas with their gladiolas now vow to continue to walk in peaceful silence as they demand respect for human rights on the island.

It was Laura Pollán, along with a few other courageous women, who founded the Damas de Blanco. It was Laura Pollán, who with other Damas by her side, suffered harassment and humiliation during those marches as thugs paid by the Cuban government cursed, beat, stoned, spat upon, and attempted to strip off her clothes and in some instances, injected them with some mysterious serum.  It was Laura Pollán, a former literature teacher and lover of gardening, who spearheaded a grassroots movement that has spread from one side of the island to the other and will not be silenced.

It was and remains this peaceful warrior and her gladiola who have become a powerful symbol for humanity, proving that strength, courage, and dignity, as well as commitment to a cause, can indeed, effectuate change. It IS Laura Pollán who will continue to be the inspiration for the Damas de Blanco to continue, despite their unfathomable loss.

I never met Laura Pollán, nor did I ever have the chance to speak directly with her.  But through the flower that so unexpectedly bloomed in my garden last week, I now feel an even deeper connection with her cause - the cause of freedom from a totalitarian government that's been in place now for over five decades. Just as she pierced the Cuban government's core with her dignity, fortitude and call for justice, this small-statured, humble yet so very powerful woman has ignited my heart with a greater passion to work for the noble ideals for which she died. She's a hero in my book.

Little did José Martí know when he wrote the following words that they would define women like Laura Pollán in the 21st century, but he couldn't have been more spot on:

"The campaigns of the people are weak only when the hearts of women are not recruited to carry them out. But when women step in and help, when the naturally shy and quiet woman stands up and applauds, when the cultured and virtuous woman annoints the task with the sweetness of her affection, the campaign becomes invincible."

En paz descanse, Laura, knowing that you leave an americana-cubana in Ohio who will continue to carry your legacy and hopes for a free Cuba in her heart with her gladiola in hand. And, as I plant hundreds more in my gardens, your spirit will guide my hands....and my heart. ¡¡Viva Cuba Libre!!

(Laura's gladiola, along with La Virgen de la Caridad, patroness of Cuba - The Farm, Marietta, OH)

Thursday, September 29, 2011


For the past 31 years, my closest neighbors have been cows.  Over the decades I've watched "the cows come home" every evening right before dusk as they head back toward their barn. Yes, their pastures have wafted "ripe" in the summer's heat, and yes, they do bring lots of flies to the neighborhood, and yes, they provide a lot of patties for rolly-poly, poop-loving corgis, but they're really peace-loving beings with which to share one's life.

White Face (above) loves to taunt Mac and MerryBelle.  She pretends not to notice them until they work up the courage to approach her.  At the moment she senses they've let down their guard, she gives a big snort that sends Mac running and MerryBelle screaming. And, then she saunters on off, content that she's gotten the best of them yet again.

Some people speculate cows don't have personalities-that they're fairly dumb and lazy.  I take issue with that notion. Mama Brahma (above) is a serious, stern mom.  When her calf ventures out of her safety zone, she wastes no time in calling him back.  The poor little fellow is NEVER out of her sight. If he runs off to play with the other little ones, he has not a moment of privacy for escapades or ornery-ness, for Mama Brahma stays right behind him.. Yet, she is the most patient mom I've ever seen when her baby comes back to her to nurse.  While all the other cow moms mozy on along, she stands patiently alone until he has emptied all four udders and has no more to suckle.

How Now Brown Cow seems a bit grumpy from time to time, but she has beautiful eyes that reflect the horizon as she stares into the sunset.  If you look closely, you can see the blue of the distant sky in them.  She's the only one of my bovine friends who likes to have her head and nuzzle patted.  The hair behind her ear is as soft as cotton, and her "cow lick" looks like she's just been to the bovine beauty parlor.

When I tell folks I live with the animals, I'm really not kidding.  Two dogs accompany me everywhere I go on the farm; seven cats greet me every afternoon on the back  porch for their daily feeding and fill me in on their escapades of the day, and soon thereafter, the dogs let me know the bovines are approaching for their our afternoon gossip session over the fence. 

At The Farm, mine is a truly wonderful life that doesn't require trivial interaction or mundane conversation, and I like that just fine. Shortly, I'm off to get some tea and go catch up on upper field gossip with my bovine friends.


I am amazed by the quantity of mushrooms emerging from the moist earth now. I can hardly take a step in the back woods without flattening one. A rainy spring, semi-rainy summer, and a moist fall have obviously produced perfect growing conditions for these interesting being to thrive.

I don't know a lot about fungi, but I think they're pretty amazing to observe and ponder. Hence, I share them with those who see "The Farm Gazette."

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Sunday, September 25, 2011


I can't explain my recent obsession with old trucks and farm /road machinery other than to say I've got a thing for them....
Can't say why....
Can't say what's brought about
the attraction to abandonment and deterioration...

If I had to justify the reasons these old fellers charm my camera
and catch my fancy,
I suppose I'd argue
there's something about rust that redefines beauty -
Adds wrinkles to a once-polished chassis
And humility to a once powerful engine.
There's something about them I equate with solitude..
Left alone to oxidize in front of everyone and no one.

There's something about wondering who or what occupies the driver's seat now..
Snakes? Raccoons?  Possums?  Bugs that multiply by the thousands in nests
protected by carburators and radiators.
I'm afraid to poke my head in to see who has staked claim.

All I know is that they speak to me in the moment,
and I find myself driving the back roads looking for them -
truck-spotting along the way while birdwatching
and vice versa.

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Friday, September 23, 2011


MerryBelle, Mac and I had a breathtaking walk this afternoon.  The sky was semi-overcast, with intermittent showers, complemented by bursts of sun through lofty clouds from time to afternoon that spoke of the onset of autumn, for sure, and one that was defined by colors of fall's palate.

**Before I go further, I need to back up just a bit. In the last two weeks, a series of life's reality checks have gripped my heart.. Two of my former students, ages 42 and 30, passed away, one from an advanced malignancy that was an unanticipated discovery and the other from a sudden heart attack; a colleague for whom I have a world of respect has entered the last phase of his life, and my mentor and friend, Brian Dendle, suffered a heart attack - his second. Subsequently, there have been moments in the last 14 days when I found it difficult to access sustained joy.  I suppose that's natural; I've been a bit stunned.

Until today, I hadn't allowed my saddness to work its way to the surface, but as I wept on my way home from the funeral home, my heart opened once again to acceptance of the current and impending loss I feel. I have to remind myself that I always feel better after a good cry, for once I let go the tears flow, I feel so, so much lighter, more guided by perspective, and hugely more grateful for so many blessings in my life.**

Now, back to the story at hand....As the two rambunctious canines and I  made our way back into the field, I was struck, as I am every year,  by the predominance of  "yellow" everywhere. Unmown fields produce scads of goldenrod. Yellow leaves are beginning to blanket the earth, and my yellow dahlias are spectacular. There's even a fairy ring of yellow-capped mushrooms underneath the pine tree in the side yard.

Here are a few of the pics that best convey the ochres, butterscothes, light pastels, and combinations of fall' s yellow mixed with other colors.

If I could paint, I'd give this image a shot at incarnating on my canvas.  The picture doesn't do it justice. As I looked to the other side of the back field from the lower path , I had to hold the camera up over the tallest of the goldenrod to take the shot. This was the result, and in its simplicity, there is something I love. The clouds took my breath. (Imagine the goldenrod ten times as bright as the photo conveys.)

This, and the dahlia below, have just come into their own.  For some reason, my dahlias always bloom later than most people's. I didn't realize I had set out two yellow ones side by side, but their hues are different, as is their blossom structure. The tighter dahlia above looks like it would taste like a mixture of butterscotch and cinnamon.  The one below displays a greater delicateness.

I'm sure the rain of the last two days inspired the ring of fungi to break through the ground. The tops look like a lemon cookie with crushed almonds, but I don't think I'll be tasting one, that's for sure.
Graceful and content, Kwan Yin loves to be surrounded by varigated coleus.. This afternoon's light cast the perfect shadow to coordinate with the plants and her orb.

Happy Equniox...Balance, equilibrium, and prosperity in body, mind and spirit...and the opportunity to get outside and enjoy this special time of year....My wishes for all.....

Monday, September 19, 2011


After two cups of coffee on Saturday morning, my ritual usually includes a leisurely trip to Rink's, the local flea market whose entrance is marked by a huge neon yellow sign that proclaims STOP ALL FOREIGN AID.  (This impossible-to-miss banner's strategic placement makes it difficult for anyone traveling south on Route 7 to overlook the foreign policy message of its owner.) Rinks is a gathering place for an eclectic mix of people who want to unload their clutter, make the next month's rent, strike up a conversation about politics, etc. or like me, search for a singular, unique find that costs under $20 but will land me a spot on The Antiques Roadshow where I'll learn my item is worth thousands....Dream on, right?

I enjoy the interesting folks I see there, and I've actually become Rink's "regular." I'm quite recognizeable by the wide-brimmed, bright pink hat I wear on sunny days.  More than one person's asked me where my hat is if I'm not wearing it, confirming that I've probably been the topic of conversation for more than just one or two vendors over the course of a slow sales morning.  (I've noticed Eliza declines all invitations to go on my weekly treasure hunt, probably out of fear that she'll be seen with the lady in the Pepto Bismol-colored beach hat. Or, perhaps, flea markets are just not her cup of tea.)

Anyway, in the field off the parking lot at Rink's sit several old rusty vehicles that have caught my eye for a while now. This particular red truck, whose purpose I've yet to discern, has been parked alone in the field for years now.  On several occasions, I've had it in my mind to take a closer look....For some reason, I want to hop in and pretend I'm cruising down the road behind the mammoth steering wheel. It has a Beverly Hillbillies-large-equipment-type feel.

The crusty vehicle is full character and personality. I'm drawn to its "face." When I first looked at it carefully, images of a huge, slowly crawling insect came to mind. And then there's the bear ornament on the passenger side of the hood, which convinced me that yes, this was a powerful beast back in the day. However, the huge hornet nest hanging just inside the driver's door dissuaded me from trying to pull the handle and take a peak inside. Come winter, I might just have to try to pry the door open and see if I can get in and drive down country roads in my mind....

Mostly, the truck piques my fascination with dilapidation.  Things that are rusted and abandoned, that sit stagnantly and lonesomely in an overgrown field, that have faded in color and are decomposing at a slow, but steady rate (like my barn) catch my eye and subsequently, my imagination.  In those things, I see beauty and  sense a sincere respect.  As they morf through the natural process of decay, they take on an artful soul, and I want to get to know them better.  It's like talking to an older person and hearing stories of his/her purposeful, unique memories of youth, I suppose. There's a story here that someone has to know, and I want to hear it.

When I think about what this old truck brought to mind last Saturday, I equate the feeling with those moments when Samuel was young and absorbed with the story of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.  In the end, Mike built his house around the hole in the earth that his big, steam shovle had dug, and the two of them co-existed quite cozily in the cold weather, the antequated backhoe serving as companion and furnace. The final illustration in the book shows Mike Mulligan reading a book in his overstuffed 50"s chair while the steam shovel gazes at Mike, smiling obvious understanding / bond between a young boy and his best, albeit inanimate, friend.

More than likely, if I had a huge home in which I could house pieces the size of this truck, one might just find them as an "objets d'art" in my den....I like that idea, minus the hornet's nest.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011


A very moist spring, a relatively moist summer, and a pretty moist fall (so far) have produced great fungi in the woods and around the farm.  Here are the pics of a few I found on my walk in the woods. 

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Friday, September 16, 2011


Wednesday afternon, I got home early enough to get outside with the dogs and spend some time in the back field.   We had a wonderful walk  on a glorious early fall afternoon.  I've kept the path around the field mowed, so we can walk surrounded by goldenrod and ironweed that's as tall as I am.  The guy who is supposed to bring his tractor hasn't made it to cut the field this summer (although he promises he will), but that's turning out to be just fine with me.  I am enamored by the color combination of the brilliant goldenrod
yellows, the magenta of the ironweed, the viney and delicate morning glories and the periwinkle of the field asters.  Today as we walked, I felt like I was in Avatar land --literally hundred of
irridescent dragonflies accompanied us as we walked the path while the-last-of- summer butterflies danced from blossom to blossom on the ironweed. Truly magical.

There are few things that give me more joy than watching the dogs play on our walks. Mac's such a goofball....he's still limping a bit from an old injury, and subsequently isn't nearly as fast as MerryBelle, but he plods along a huge smile on his face.  I love to watch him run to me from a distance.  His ears flop up and down, he sorta sidewinds like Paco used to, and his face is filled with delight.  He just can't get enough of "stickplay ," but I've reduced the amount we play recently to see if I can get his shoulder back to normal.....I'm so in love with him. There's no one I'd rather sleep with than my Mackers!  Note in one of the photos that he's wearing some dung make-up...He feels quite studly after he rolls in poop....

MerryBelle's dainty, agile, graceful and fast!!  I'm more and more convinced that she has some Jack Russell or another line of terrier in her. She'll be great with agility if I can get her past a little hesitance about new things.  She and Mackers tumble around like Mac and Paco used to do.  Thankfully, they haven't had a
spat in a couple of weeks.  I've found that keeping food in their bowls and not going through a feeding ritual has neutralized both of their aggression completely.  (Plus, Mac does NOT want to get hammered by MB again....that's pretty obvious.) They've really become good friends.  In the morning when Mac and I go to get MB out of her crate, he kisses her sweetly, and she loves it.  She's responding to the clicker well and sits 100% of the time....the real truth
is that she loves treats.

Both Mackers and Loonis taunt the cats, especially the orange ones, fairly ruthlessly.  They don't hurt them, but the cats have about had enough of their antics and chasing.  For the first time, I saw Crooked Tail take a healthy swat at MB, who responded with a girlish squeal that made me laugh.  Her best cat friend is Shitly, who plops down on the ground and entices her to come play.  She pulls his tail and nips at him until he gets up, and then he rubs on her and she licks him.  It's interesting to me how each of the dogs has seemed to have his/her special kitty....Rufus & Clouseau, Paco & Bud, Mackers & Cato, and now
MerryBelle and Shitly. Of even greater interest is each cat's interaction with his/her special dog. Grumpy, particular, and peculiar Loonis still maintains that "no dog is a good dog."

MerryBelle's smile radiates her newfound happiness and acceptance at the farm. I do believe she's beginning to learn about trust and likes life in our pack. Still a bit awkward socially, she hestitates to fully let go of herself when she plays, but she's beginning to initiate some tossles and tumbles rather than stand back and watch. She's also a great lap dog who loves to sleep in the recliner with me while I read, grade papers or just relax.  Her only downside is that she lets go of some really, really rank farts.
Take a look at Mac's jaw, and you'll see how he loves to have poop plastered on his face - his version of dowsing on some Old Spice or whatever scent it is that guys wear now.  He's so proud when he finds some poop to roll in.  Coupled with MerryBelle's flatulence, the house sometimes takes on interesting aromas that most folks would find unbearable.  I haven't gotten used to the stinks; however, I can deal with it long enough to get MB outside and wash Mac's face with wipes.
Suffice to say, there's lots of canine energy to share at The Farm. These two are my companions, my source of joy, and my soul friends as we begin time alone again this fall.  No dull moments, that's for sure.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011


We're now a two-corgi family once again here at The Farm. Yesterday I picked up a sweet 18-month old female from Tri-State Corgi Rescue in Fairmont, WV.  At her foster home, MerryBelle Wilder was known as Penny Lane, a name that suited her quite well; however, in honor of my mom, Mary MacIntosh Stevenson Shook, aka, MaryMac in some circles, we'll now have a Merry and a Mac(kers) at The Farm. Mom's pleased that she has two namesakes, even though they're canine ones.

MerryBelle has weathered the transition well in the short time she's been here.  Not only is she in unknown territory with unknown people, but she arrived on a night of intense thunder and lightning. And then, there's a rather annoying new brother who hovers over her and barks / chases her like he did with Paco.  (Quite obviously, he's establishing himself as alpha and doing things like making sure MerryBelle doesn't play with his sticks and favorite toys.  He need not worry at all, for she doesn't seem to understand play, bless her heart!)

There's a lot to teach sweet MerryBelle - how to trust, how to receive lots of love, how to let go of her fears, how to play.  I've seen glimpses of some playfulness when she inspects the cats, but she's obviously been treated meanly by some very not nice humans, and she seems pretty reticent to jump right in immediately.  Shitly, the old tom cat who adopted us (formerly Shyly until he started beating up on everyone around here), looks as if he'll become her friend, like Cato is to Mac and Bud was to Paco.

I'll start both Mac and her on Rescue Remedy, and we'll take long walks and spend a lot of time together.  I signed the three of us up for obedience training beginning September 6th, and next week, she and Mac will have my working days to get to know each other in the dog lot under the barn. 

(I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful foster people who cared for MerryBelle.  Debbie and Vernon Nosse of Tri-State Corgi Rescue take in and care for corgis and border collies who need to be fostered and given attention.  Debbie is an expert in rescue, obedience and agility training. Brightly colored ribbons, mostly blue, hang all around in her house.  I've learned a lot about the rescue process from Debbie, and I salute her and her husband for the attention she pays to every little detail about her foster animals and the adoption process. As we left yesterday, Debbie still had five corgis and a border collie in her care, along with her own five dogs.  She's a very, very special person!)

Happily, Miss MerryBelle's headed for new adventures, that's for sure.  My hope is for her to live a long, happy life with us here at The Farm or wherever we are.

Stay tuned.....

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I love flowers. Well, duh, you might say...Who doesn't like flowers? 
I can't name anyone at the moment, but I do believe there are people who could be happy without peering into a blossom on a daily basis.
I can't...Bottom line....I thrive in the presence of their color and sweet scents.. No matter the season, there's something in bloom at The Farm.

I've often thought about what my life would be like if I couldn't experience the color and symmetry of flowers.  How would one go about describing the pink of this morning glory to someone who was blind? 
Sadly, I don't think it's possible..
Zinnias in a plastic bucket radiate and look elegant anywhere. What a wide array of colors!
I love to put sweet pea blossoms on things I bake for decoraton.  I also like to put them in my hair, and I also
like to eat them.

This hydrangea bush is the last reminder of the Townsend's homeplacejust down the road from my grandmother's house in Pigeon Roost.  For more than my 59 years, it's stood there alongside the rail fence. Only its blossoms now hold the memories and stories of those who once lived there in the curve.  What grace!

As I've said many time, dahlias connect anyone who's a Shook to Grandma Ruth. Every summer, I plant a few bulbs in her honor and watch as the buds prepare to open up into regal blossoms.  Grandma always interspersed gladiolas into her dahlia rows.  The beds where she grew her dahlias out the driveway are still clearly discernible....One of these days, I'll sneak down in the early summer and dig in a few of my bulbs in her honor.

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