The Early Hunt


The sun is beginning its decent on this very warm fall evening. I’m in a camo hunting tent in the woods with my husband and eight year old son waiting for a deer to happen across the well traveled ridge in front of us. The undergrowth is still thick making it difficult to see anything moving. We will try our best.

Its peaceful here. Spring was just breaking forth on my last visit. Now instead of peeper frogs I hear only the calls of winter birds, a few tree frogs, and the never-ending noise of squirrels. Wild blossoms have left only their thorny vines to snag us as we tramped through laden with gear. 

The leaves can’t fall fast enough for the guys in this hunting family. Once on the ground there’s actually a good view of the hillside, and anything on it. Plus should they be fortunate to make contact with their target a decent blood trail is easier to see. So tonight may be more of a preseason nature outing.

Killing time with a burger…

Its nice that the state of Michigan gives our youth an early weekend to hone in their skills and possibly get “the big one” before mom or dad gets the chance in a couple weeks. Since dad has to help this young hunter he ultimately gets to choose any shot that is taken…thus probably reserving the big one for himself for a later date. But mom came along tonight. With any luck it will walk through while I’m here to fight for little guys chances at a trophy. In the meantime I’m sitting here reminding the boy to be quiet and sit still. Daddy’s asleep. He took this morning’s early hunting shift without me. I will let him rest. Apparently now I am the only one looking through the screen for movement. Boy is playing in the dirt…he’s young. Let him play for a bit.

As the days get progressively cooler my hunting opportunities become fewer. Even if I can’t take the shot today as an adult I’ll stay on the lookout. Truth is I enjoy it. I would like nothing more than to see their smile of accomplishment should one of my boys bag a deer this weekend. I know they aren’t simply out to harm an animal…both of them have made comments on how nice it would be to put some venison in the freezer. That’s what it’s about. They are working on their God given instincts to provide.

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Waiting on Tomatoes

Vacation is most certainly over. School is back in session. Everything ‘summer’ is being stored away; including tomatoes. I didn’t get my plants into the garden as early as I could have so since the last month has been quite cool I’m paying the price. I have at least a bushel of beautiful GREEN tomatoes still on their vines. One picking has ripened and after being given some of my dad’s extra I just finished canning some stewed tomatoes and a batch of pizza sauce today….the first I’ve done this season. While I don’t mind the pause between pickings, part of me just wants to be done now. Plow it all under. The corn, beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, and even the squash and pumpkins have all been harvested. Just waiting on those tomatoes.

A large pan of sauce ready to be sieved

We have a few warmer days coming this weekend (that’s what they’re saying anyway) so I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll all ripen in one fell swoop. It would mean a lot of work all at once but it would also mean I could close the book on the garden for this year. 

Ill still have apples to do…but I like to make applesauce. It makes me happy to place jar after jar down in the basement for future enjoyment. When I make a batch the whole house smells of cinnamon and nutmeg in combination of fallish yumminess. Tomato sauce stinks. In my opinion. On Saturday, when I began cooking them down, the aroma of onions and garlic mixed with basil and oregano was amazing, initially. After about ten hours, not so much. My senses had had enough. I was pretty happy to have every jar sealed to put away today.

Happiness=several jars ready to make their home in the basement

So why do I do this year after year? I’ve asked myself every year. Despite the effort, it’s worth it. I’ve always had home canned jars in the basement: at my grandmas houses when growing up, at my childhood home, and now in our home. From jams and jellies to juices and sauces, veggies, fruits, and meats- there’s always a supply on hand. Sure, it helps with the budget. Since I know every ingredient from start to finish I’m certain my canned goods are healthier for us too. Truth is, the real reason I have a garden and can all that comes out of it is because it’s just in me to do so. We can’t eat everything that’s harvested right away, so I save it. Blame it on my genetics? I’m old school.

Genetics…why else wouldn’t I just go pay $1.50 for the jar of pizza sauce?

When my husband and I moved into grandpa and grandmas rental home on the farm years ago it was actually included in the official agreement that I had to have a garden. That’s how deeply rooted (no pun intended) this way if life is. Its just what you do.

I’m not sure my kids, or their future spouses, will be interested in keeping the old traditions. Until the day I die I plan on keeping them well stocked with canned goods ‘just in case.’ Who knows, maybe someday my aging hands working over the stove will spark the interest of our next generation as another set of hands did mine. Ill pass on about 1000 canning jars along with equipment and recipes….just like my predecessors have to me.

Nothing beats my old All American

Back to the Books

“Come on! Lets go guys!” is how we began our school year yesterday morning. I have visions of neatly stacked books and an official start for each year…but this year was an exception by far. Labor Day (a.k.a. summer’s official end) fell on the heels of an emotional goodbye to our Marine son. He’d been here on leave for an activity filled week and a half. Recovery hasn’t even been an option so lets just say its going to take a few days to get into the swing of things. Its a good thing I’ve got this homeschooling thing down.

I am thankful that in the state of Michigan homeschooling our children has been a viable option for education. Without stating all of the reasons why, 13 years ago we made the decision to pull our two elementary students out of the public system. I was scared about my ability to teach them..would what I knew be enough? Could we produce intelligent young adults able to enter the ever advancing world?

The fact that in our state we have the freedom to choose our own teaching style and curriculums left the options wide open, and daunting. Finding what would work for them, and myself, felt overwhelming. After a summer of research we made our selections, ordered them, and dug in that fall.

I remember feeling excited. New crayons, supplies, and books were all laid out on the table that September morning. Deep down I questioned if they’d miss their classrooms…and time away from me. Could I fill the social void?

Years have passed-those two initial students grew to four. Since the two children I still have in school right now were born after we made this learning transition they’ve never known anything else. We’ve had our first two successful graduations. I’ve asked them if they regretted our decision. Both have answered no. At one point in high school I tried sending them back to a private school setting because I felt I was failing them…it lasted two years. Socially it was okay, academically it was not. Both wanted to come home.

In our home, school is school. We don’t lounge around in pjs. Each day has a start time and breaks throughout. The day goes as long as necessary, until work is finished; which is before noon on some days, but not until later afternoon on others. I love that their education is tailored to them individually. I hate that sometimes I transform from a loving mom into that one mean old teacher every student has had.

Teaching children at home isn’t for the faint of heart. Looking back I can say its been worth it, but it’s not for everyone. Seriously. For all of the rewards there are many sacrifices. To be a successful parent/teacher I don’t have a degree, teachers union, or even a paycheck…but I’ve had a growing level of patience, discipline, dedication, and can now juggle housework with multiple questions simultaneously.

We have our Marine, a college student, a high school junior, and a third grader. Two down, two to go. As I’ve graded their papers I’ve graded myself. I ask God daily for wisdom. For strength. For myself and for them. The lessons they learn inside these walls are more than just graded papers to reach some state standard. They learn life lessons: how to respond under pressure, how to treat others, how to apply the knowledge we’ve tried so hard to convey.  Have we taught them through all these years how to serve the Lord? It’s a heavy task we’re responsible for no matter where our children attend school.

As I sit here enjoying a 15 minute break basking in the fall sun I once again thank God for the opportunity I have been given. Next week, when the newness of the school year has already worn off, I will push through a third grade meltdown and remind myself how blessed I am.

Some days I’m just MEANT to stay Inside

Here I sit at my kitchen table with a big black cup of coffee. I’m on the heels of our family vacation and am in recovery mode. A couple weeks ago when it was perpetually sunny and dry I asked for a day like this: chilly, damp, and darkened. SLOW. My physical body tends to dislike these weather conditions but the lessened pace does my head and heart some good. If there’s no pressure to do a thousand things “while the sun shines” I feel like I have a pass to stay inside.

I slept in. Well, I attempted to sleep in. At 7:30 my eight year old toted his bag of stuffed animals into the room wanting to play. We haven’t been able to in about a week so I hadn’t the heart to send him away. I wanted the fog to lift from my eyes, but it was as heavy over them as it was over the ground outside this morning. I enjoy his desire to still play with ‘mom’ so I muddled through an hour of animals pretending to camp and hunt. Unfortunately, I dozed off a couple of times waking to big brown eyes staring at me.

I finally made it downstairs sometime around 9:30 facing the inevitable…I had to go outside to feed the chickens. No sooner had I gotten all but one of the dogs back in the house I noticed a truck slow and turn into the neighbors drive. Phew. …But then it backed up and turned into mine. An unfamiliar man drove up in a silver dodge and parked as I waved him off to show I had an attack Blue Heeler still on the loose. He would have to wait for me. My yet uncombed hair fell into my face as I chased the dog to the porch-where the door had somehow gotten locked. No kidding. Banging loudly enough to wake the dead my sons surely could hear over their Star Wars x-box mission. Right? A long minute passed. I’d only add to this already sad photo by yelling, so impatiently wait I did. Finally- as I shoved the dog through the door and slowly turned around to face the truck the thought of disappearing inside with the dog crossed my mind. Wreck that I was I tucked a frizzy blonde stray behind my ear and walked boldly forward. All pride lost. I saw a bit of amusement flash across his face and then an apology.  The scene must’ve been as bad as I imagined. With a southern edge to his voice he asked if we wanted rotomillings for our driveway. “Oh, you noticed the condition of our drive as well?” He would just leave his card in the mailbox. Fabulous. If he hadn’t seemed like such a nice southern guy I might’ve asked why he didn’t do that in the first place. Oh wait…its because I was outside. I won’t be making that mistake again today. Unless I choose to emerge from the rear entrance of our home into the awaiting beds of flowers I will probably stare into several times today. 

Since I won’t be venturing out again today I’m thankful I took a minute to grab a handful while out at the barn.

 In replaying these images in my head while writing I have to laugh. Maybe he will remember the tired disheveled lady chasing her dog and have pity…maybe give me a discount on said rotomillings? One can hope. Ill see if he bothers to leave his card.

Almost There…

…and the moment we’ve been waiting for all summer is about to arrive. Back in June, in the early stages of planning, this next week seemed so far away. We had the whole summer in front of us. As we all know, the time has flown.

Reservations have been made, food bought, and now all that’s left is the packing – except for the arrival of our special guest.

It has been eight months since I’ve seen my son. We text, we Skype, but a real family vacation with all of us is in the works. When I say ‘all of us’, I really mean all of us. Well, most of us. Both sets of his grandparents, his uncle, siblings, and his dad and I are all anticipating this vacation with him. The only two missing this outing are my sister and niece who are about eighteen hours away. This trip will only last a few days, but days spent along the shores of Michigan’s northern lakes can be so refreshing. 

For us to arrange a vacation of any kind is an undertaking. Its not like you can just pick up and go many places for any length of time when you’re self-employed ( no paid vacation time) and have a mini farm. Asking someone to come feed cattle, horses, chickens, cats, and dogs is an undertaking in and of itself. We’ve convinced a young man to take on the task. He’s coming tomorrow night to check out all it entails. I’m feeding him a good dinner ahead of time in efforts to keep him from running away. Bribery? 

This camping trip kicks off a week and a half of leave for our Marine. He needs a break and so do we. When we went to this same campground last year without him I could hear a twinge of sadness in his voice. The crystal clear water, cool lake breezes, and hours spent along the beach combing the shore for pudding stones, (glacial conglomerate rock), made for a trip to remember. It was almost perfect as vacations go. 

This year we’ll have six sets of feet😁

He said he wanted to go with us again sometime. Sometime is almost here. I only hope the memories created on this trip rival the ones from last. It’ll be hard for me to separate them…when the bar of a first experience is set high I silently brace for a let down the second time around. That’s the pessimist trying to come out in me. It will be entirely different this time and I know that going into it. We have a shutterfly album commemorating the adventures from last year. This year we will create a whole new one. Only a few more days…

Now to get someone’s leave fully approved. Seriously. Uncle Sam is a bit of a procrastinator.

When Dreams Don’t Come True

This last week was full of little frustrations, which when focused upon, drove me to tears several times. Then guilt would settle in. Knowing what a beautiful life I’ve been given I felt I really had no right to cry at all. Herein lies the rub. We’ve been given emotions but have to wield them with wisdom. 

After yet another tiring day yesterday I found myself longing for the comfort of sleep. The hands ticked toward 11pm and my body sent messages confirming the fact. As much as my head longed to hit the pillow I knew the night was crisp and clear. The promise of a meteor shower drew me out into the quiet of a darkened back yard instead. I lie in the cool grass and stared up into the layers of stars overhead. I find it easy to get lost in them. There was a calm that rested my body and soul. My mind however, thats another story. Its always running. At least in that setting it was running on a more meaningful level.

Not everyone is like me, but I thrive in moments of solitude. I feel alone with the Creator of all that is staring down from heaven at me. When all I hear is the music of crickets, frogs, and a distant coyote the rest of the world-it’s troubles- is far away. As I watched a streak of light zip across the sky I was reminded of a man named Abraham. God drew him out to view the stars one night in the book of Genesis. Chapter 15 begins the story of God’s promise to him…he dreamed of children that he hadn’t had. He was told to count the stars… An impossible task, yet their number would match the number of his descendants. He believed but NOTHING happened. I imagine myself in his shoes; so happy to have heard from God and full of dreams and promises. But when days lead on to months, then years, still waiting, the dreams begin to fade. The promise never changed. Just his perception of it did. Like him, I get tired of waiting for all that I feel God has in store. I grow weary, tired, insecure, disappointed. He took matters into his own hands, as I do, and tried to make his dream come true in his own manipulative way. 

As I lay under those same stars I knew God saw me. My heart heavy with the sadness of all that I want to see but haven’t. I am included in that number of Abrahams descendants…a result of that promise all those years ago. It did come to pass despite sin and delay. Joseph, Moses, and even Jesus were included in the lineage Psalms 105 speaks of. Each had promises, and obstacles, before reaching them. These verses recount the lasting covenant God has kept through each generation to Abraham. We are told to give thanks and remember all of His marvelous works and wonders. I imagine the depth of the night sky as nothing in comparison with all that He has done- yet He knows me, sees me, in all of its vastness.

Despite the love He has for me I forget that my dreams, His plans for me, take time. I mope wondering if He’s forgotten while I spin my wheels. Why is He taking so long? Why does everything work out for others, but not me?…and I’m trying so hard to do it right. 

As I sat in the church service this morning any guesses what the message was about? Bingo. A knot rose in my chest as as I sat exposed before God…and anyone who saw my eyes swell, then leak. He knew my thoughts and confirmed them almost word for word right there. Yes, God reads your mail. 

The same examples, the same scriptures, and further explanation of what God wanted my heart to know poured out. I’m not forgotten. His plans haven’t changed. He saw me last night. He’s seen me from the beginning of time. What He speaks in the silence, in the darkness of the night under the stars, He has no problem voicing out loud: repeatedly if necessary.  

Though a life’s purpose can be given in a dream in a single moment of time, it takes a lifetime (or in Abrahams case, many lifetimes) to fulfill. Disappointments come daily. What may appear to be a set back may in truth be the avenue to a life’s greatest achievement. 

Mlive/NASA image of this year’s Perseid Meteor shower

A Treasured Find

For several years now the annual US 127 garage sales extend for hundreds of miles spanning the nation through strings of small towns and large as people set out their undesirables for others, like myself, to rummage through. It holds a reserved place on my calender in August. I’m a ‘picker’ of sorts. Finding that gem amidst piles of others’ cast offs is what I like best. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”: ya, I’m that person-the one who likes the junk. I don’t buy what I can’t find a use for though no matter how cool I may find it.

Just like my guys on opening day of hunting season I am geared up and ready to go. Snacks and water are packed, clothes and comfy shoes are laid out, and I have a stack of $1’s and $5’s stashed in my half empty backpack. Small bills are because ‘smalls’ are my favorites. The little leather copy of A Christmas Carol and an incomplete group of vintage advertising tags are amongst this year’s finds for less than a buck. My half empty backpack serves as a hands free way to stow my finds as I keep right on walking. I have a mission to accomplish.

I was initially a little disappointed in this year’s finds. The sales here locally were a little more sparse than in years past. God has a mission to accomplish as well..even when I don’t see it at first. This year the sales were about people, not things.

I had asked my mom to along with my daughter, son, and I. It was intentional. When she shops she takes her time. I knew that going into it. We are opposites in that way. I scan, and if I’m interested I do a more thorough search. If not, I walk on. There were a few times I caught myself taking deep breaths as I reminded myself why I had asked her to come in the first place….TO SPEND TIME WITH HER! 

When she found chairs for my aunt I had another little lesson. Mom’s usually on the look out for someone else. More time passed as we figured that all out: did she even want them?, how do we quickly get that much cash around?, and could dad come get the chairs with his truck? Precious moments tucked off my picker clock as I imagined little finds disappearing into someone else’s hands. Ah-but it wasn’t about me. Auntie now has chairs she’s been waiting over a year for at a fraction of the cost.

By this time it’s lunchtime and we head to the one fast food restaurant in town. Everyone else did too. There was no parking as dad drove circles round and round in his dually truck filled with chairs. More time. Gotta go. Still haven’t learned my lesson thoroughly.

Its now hot out, but we spy some necessary things like boys jeans. (Finally- like no one has nice used boys size 10 jeans…because every boy I know wears them out before they ever reach a sale). Then we happen upon a house which cemented the days’ purpose in heart and mind. An antique mantel piece drew us in. It was gorgeous. Though we weren’t in the market for it we had to admire it’s beauty up close. To be polite we began looking at her other items-most of which were clothing items which we already knew would be too small. Mom struck up a conversation. Of course. As the sweat began to bead on my head we learned she is from the same area in Colorado as my sister. “Here we go”, I thought. Next mom picked up a pretty little fabric case exclaiming none too quietly “wouldn’t this make a pretty Bible cover!”…sure. Now let’s go. But the mention of the Bible brought its owner over immediately to announce she just knew we were Christians. Well truth be told at this point she probably knew mom was, but I’m questioning of she would’ve picked up on my identity because I would’ve kept my mouth shut and walked. She tearfully poured out her testimony and was so happy to have met others of like faith. She has been diagnosed legally blind, has no transportation, and so now her world has become very small. But her love for Jesus is large. And my mom, in her ability to take her time, unearthed a treasure I would’ve walked right on by. The greatest find of the day. 

I have my own tears even now as I ponder how acquiring a $3 mirror could ever rival finding this sweet lady from Colorado. I felt like a selfish child slapped soundly on the hand. I sent the kids to the van with the keys so they could sit in air conditioning as our conversation continued. For quite awhile we stood there in the afternoon sun discussing her life, God, and where to go from here. Like 12:33(NLT) says, “sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” 

Lesson learned. Again. I keep having to retake this class in “peopling”…Gods value system vs. mine.

The $3 mirror that doesn’t even compare to the value of a human heart

Embracing a Season

Last Tuesday I was going about my own business prepping for the previously mentioned camping trip when my ears perked to the sound of cicadas. My husband and I had just questioned when they might be announcing their arrival a few days earlier. If you’re a believer in the old Farmers Almanac you may look at your calendar and wait for a frost around the end of August….because that’ll mark a six week span of time from cicadas to fall; which I’ve heard for years is a clear prognostication.

Maybe the frost will come around August 29th, or maybe it wont, but one thing is for certain- summer is flying by way too quickly. I feel an urgency when there’s far more left to do than I have time for. It happens every year. The black-eyed Susan’s bloom and then my Japanese anemones; crickets and grasshoppers return; the cicadas sing as I harvest one garden crop after another. Second cutting hay is waiting as well as a whole woods full of winter timber to heat our home. Next blink pumpkin spice everything will dominate the shelves as we dig in to another school year. WHAT!  I guess I’d better get that curriculum ordered.

Last night I sat at grandma’s table having a much needed visit. My dad’s hay was ready to go into the barn so as my crew worked I talked. I felt guilty about not helping at first but thinking about the passing season I pushed it aside. Some things are too precious to let go another day. Sometimes I feel that same urgency about a visit with grandma as I do trying to accomplish much before a winter chill sets in. How many stories can she tell me that I haven’t heard yet? How much more knowledge can I glean?

When my sweaty eight year old poked through her screen door he was smiling from ear to ear so happy he was big enough to help. Like a graduation this year he stepped from being “too little” to being able to push bales down from the wagon and also take them off the elevator in the loft. My mother’s mind tosses around fears of the worst. Farming accidents happen all the time. I remind myself that a couple generations ago my dad was younger than that driving a tractor. So I asked how she did it. How did she watch her little boys do grown up jobs without being terrified something would happen? She was scared. She was scared to watch them drive over the railroad tracks, pausing to look for a train, which would at times stall the tractor. Theyd be left trying to restart before an engine barreled down the tracks. She was terrified and would turn away from the window. 

A new story: on one occasion, when the boys were small, grandpa had gotten stuck out in the field. The recent rain had left a muddy area to swallow the tractors tires. He walked up to the house for help. With children in tow, grandma drove another tractor to pull him out. The safest place for two little boys was in the wagon with the corn. This was before combines with giant corn heads. She was successful in pulling grandpa through that hole, but they had to continue on hooked together for a bit. Envision two John Deere tractors clanking along pulling a picker and a wagon full of corn…and two boys as ears we’re tossed in at their heads. She was a nervous wreck while her boys were in the midst of a grand adventure. They did what they had to do and no doubt her twisted insides are partly to thank for boys who grew up to be men able to tackle a problem.

Now this isn’t a photo of my grandpa..but an image to portray the idea of what went on that day.

While the world has changed in drastic ways the seasons remain the same. Round and round we go doing what needs done- Sometimes turning our heads away from the fears of what could be and instead embracing the growth of little adults.

Another lesson learned in the waning light of a summer evening at a 150 year old kitchen table.

A Necessary Adventure

Today dawned early with the rustling of chipmunks outside of our two man tent. I could hear them scurry through last falls leaves, over the cooler, and up the neighboring tree. Not long after a ‘good morning’ text chimed from my North Carolina son (oops, I forgot to silence my phone.) Next thing I know foggy brown eyes are looking at me from across the tent. “Mom, let’s make breakfast so we can go fishing!” ….he is always on the go.

A little furry friend

Bringing a touch of wonder into our “Groundhog Day” summer, (1993 Bill Murray movie where he relives the same day over and over again), has become a must. Yesterday afternoon my daughter, youngest son, and I departed to a nearby state park to add a smidge. I haven’t tent camped in years; unless you count last summer’s overnight tree house adventure in the back yard. I’ve certainly not “roughed it” without a guy to split wood, start a fire, haul water, etc. I think I liked the idea of the challenge. Okay-so we’re not exactly back woods roughing it. There is a paved spot to park, a nice even place for the tent, electricity, and water across the drive….but I’m used to a trailer with running hot water, a shower, stove top, and a pillowtop mattress. 

Cooking over the fire in my cast iron pans has been a good challenge but I did precook our breakfast sausage at home, just in case. We wouldn’t starve if I couldn’t pull it off. So far we’ve achieved Mac-n-cheese in a Dutch oven to compliment last night’s brats, and eggs in a skillet to go with our warmed precooked sausage. Mission accomplished.

After a brief breakfast cleanup we were off to the fishing pier where I promptly lost a bobber and hook to a field of lily pads. Last night’s sleep had been interrupted by strange noises, which became quickly apparent as someone’s little temper reared its ugly head. My sarcasm returned with “like I did that on purpose”..and “As if you bought them in the first place. I’ll buy you another.” Oh I had to shut it down fast before the ‘wonder’ of camping became nothing but a bad memory. Four little fish were caught before we decided to head to the trails. A mile hike was rewarded with a close encounter with a deer and a new, better, view of the lake. Maybe we will try that lily pad free spot tomorrow morning.

Next we’ll head to the beach front where many heat tortured locals find solace. I’m currently avoiding that by sitting here writing in the shade of towering oaks. I’ve sent my tired dirty boy to the tent to read a book in front of a fan. 

Sure, we could’ve done this at home. We could’ve popped the tent in the yard, cooked from our fire pit, drove to a lake (swim and fished), and we see deer everyday from a distance. But it’s just not the same. Our swimsuits are haphazardly strung across a makeshift line. A calm lazy feeling hangs in the air. Food out of a cooler is just different; besides just tasting waterlogged and questionable.

Somewhere down the line, maybe in twenty years, my son will remember this outing while a campout at home would likely be forgotten. My daughter had to leave at dusk last night so she didn’t have our overnight experience, or today’s adventures. I think we will have plenty of stories to tell the rest of the family later.

Hard Work Pays Off

Whether we’ve had a mild start to summer, cool and rainy, or a hot blazing dry one, a certainty here in southern Michigan is that shortly after the 4th the wheat is going to be golden-ready to harvest. Simultaneously the blueberries will be turning from greenish purple to a lovely shade of dark blue.

There’s always been plenty of wheat fields around, but when I was a kid dad decided that we had too far of a drive for a good picking of blueberries. Obviously, we needed our own. As I picked, picked, and begged my husband and son to help me pick yesterday I couldn’t help but retrace the lives of those bushes.

I recall it being a chilly gray day when we went on a family outing somewhere to get 100 blueberry starts. I have no idea where it was or how long it took, but it seemed like a haul. And yes, you read that right…we got 100 of them. They looked like little more than sticks when we placed them in holes filled with peat tested for the correct soil PH. When one goes to the effort of digging a perfect patchwork of 100 holes in their front yard it’s worth the extra detail. One wheelbarrow load after another rolled out to the front as two little girls were encouraged to help…or get out of the way. I was old enough to lend a hand but young enough to be a nuisance. I remember it being fun at first. Like a grand experiment. It quickly became a tedious chore I wanted little to do with. As spring turned into that first summer they had to be watered. All of them. Individually. One at a time.     It. Took. Forever.  Guess what..those bushes are a couple hundred feet from the house so even dragging the hose that far took effort. By the end of the summer I hated them already. As it turns out snakes loved them.  The cold water filled the grass covered holes and out would slither a snake or two right at my feet. After not too many of those I received an education on how to use a garden hoe as an attack weapon. From then on I was armed when I watered the bushes.

As I got older ones of the jobs I grew into was lawn mowing. The riding lawn mower wasn’t generally hard to manuever, but weaving through the gridwork of growing bushes had its challenges. The first time I mowed one completely off I dreaded telling dad because I knew he wouldn’t be happy. Though I had been careful to take it extra slow, alas, we were down to 99. Over the course of time I had been the end of three of their lives..because of my lack of lawn mowing finesse they had been bitten by the blade. I had become the family joke. My way of ridding us of work, one bush at a time???

The bushes that remain…😉

Here we are years later. I don’t even know how many. At least thirty??? The painstaking care my dad took initially is still paying off today. Only halfway through yesterday’s picking I had over 24 cups worth of juicy deliciousness that could only come straight from the bush. No store could rival the taste of handfuls eaten on site. About 90 plants still remain, give or take. (I imagine those lived mostly because I quit mowing the lawn when I married and moved out…) They produce faithfully year after year allowing enough for fresh treats and and freezer bags to last the year.

I couldn’t resist whipping up a batch of grandma’s muffins last night. They taste so good made with fresh berries once a year. The rest of the time they’re made with the freezer stock, but these just taste better.

One of my favorite muffin recipes in grandma’s handwriting..

Hard, tedious work often pays off with big dividends to spare. That usually doesn’t come to mind when dragging a hose through the yard as sweat drips down your face. Or when snakes are chasing you down. ….but thank you dad for lessons learned that are being enjoyed today.