When we come back from our walks in the woods, Fate waits in the barnyard for me to tell her to “get the sheep”. And Zinnia waits for Fate to start running so she can chase her.
This time of year, I think of the birds as winter’s flowers.
They bring color and life to the often black-and-white landscape. And even if I don’t specifically sit and watch them at the feeder as I’m working in my studio, just knowing they are there, seeing movement out of the corner of my eye, makes these gray days sing.
Details, it’s what happens when I’m sewing my Painted Hankie Scarves, what I see that doesn’t show up in the photos I post of the scarves.
Part of what makes me want to keep making these scarves is that every two hankies I sew together are different from all the others. Because each hankie is different even before I paint on it.
And I have a thing about edges, (I used to go to museums and seek out Robert Ryman’s white-on-white painting just to see how the edges of paint butted up against each other) about how they come together, even the subtleties that a line of machine stitching makes.
I also like the mix of my painting with the detail of the hankies themselves like the embroidered flowers and lacy edges. Lynn left a comment on my blog saying she especially loved “the marriage of the vintage hankies and the contemporary designs.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way until she wrote me, but it’s just the kind of juxtaposition I’m always looking for when working with vintage fabrics.
So I took some pictures of some of the details that I like on the last six scarves I made. Here they are…
Liam follows me into the pole barn. He’s looking for grain even though there is the freshest, greenest second-cut hay in the feeders. There have been days when Liam skips a meal. I’m not sure why, but he is getting old and sometimes he separates himself from the rest of the flock.
Yesterday I made sure he and the older sheep got some grain. The younger sheep aren’t as interested in it. They’d just as quickly eat the hay.
This morning after I finished mucking out the pole barn Liam stayed behind. I filled up the water bucket, fed the hens, and filled up the bird feeder. When I came back, Liam was still in the barn.
He looks stiff like maybe his legs hurt. He’s a big wether. Most male sheep, if they’re not kept for breeding are sent to market as lambs. They don’t get to live as long as my wethers.
When Jon and I lambed about ten years ago, my plan was to send some of the lambs back with the farmer who lent us the breeding Ram (his name was Ted). But once the lambs were born I knew I was no farmer. I couldn’t imagine sending them away.
Liam is the last of the sheep born from that lambing. All the others have already died. So it may be that Liam will not be with us for much longer.
Before I left the barnyard this morning, I brought Liam some hay in the barn. I watched as he pushed it around with his nose, making a little round nest of it. Then he started to nibble, one strand at a time.
By the time I left, he was eating normally.
I sat in the chair waiting for Amy. The doctor’s office had one window, a Venetian blind covered it, the slats open enough to let light in. I could see a tree trunk, its bark familiar, between the slats.
As I searched my memory for where I had seen it before, I landed on the sidewalk in front of the house I grew up in. In the backyard were two giant Oak Trees. One had the date 1888 carved into it. They were the oldest, the rest of the trees were planted when my grandparents and father built the house.
Next to the oaks was a mulberry tree with white, berries. Small unruly evergreens lined one fence. And in front of the house, was a maple, a catalpa, and a Rose of Sharon. A wisteria vine grew on the roof and two sides of a covered patio. And a Rodadendron reached out from under its shade. A fig tree, which was wrapped in burlap every winter to keep it from freezing, taught me to love fresh figs.
I haven’t thought of all those childhood trees in years. Most of the houses in the post-WWII suburban neighborhood had a maple tree or two on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and street. But now that I think about it, our yard was like a little arboretum in comparison.
And even though no one ever talked about it, I’d guess it was my grandmother who planted them. Mostly because in my lifetime knowing her, she seemed to have the first and final say about most things.
Although my grandmother lived upstairs in our two-family house, I was not close to her. She had a hard life and was a difficult person, not the kindly grandmother of so many stories.
But, I realized today as I waited for my doctor, she must have loved trees.
So I wonder, is this where I got my love of trees from? From this woman who I saw every day but never talked to.
What would have happened if we did talk about the trees? Would she have told me stories, in broken English of how they reminded her of her home in Italy? How did this woman who sewed in a factory in NYC for most of her life, come to plant all these different kinds of trees?
There is no one to ask these questions anymore. But I do like the idea of having something in common with this person who I never loved or even liked.
It feels hopeful. Like maybe there was something we shared. It feels like a gift. The best one my grandmother could possibly give me.
I sew my scarves and the birds go to and from the feeder outside my window.
They roost all over the farm, the lilac bushes, the tree tops, the woodshed, the barn. Some come and go quickly grabbing seeds and others grip the feeder with their feet, pecking at the suet or craking the sunflower shells and eating the seeds while I watch.
Dark-eyed Juncos are shadows their white bellies reflecting the snow. The morning dove floats to the earth like angels from heaven, fan-tailed, their wings all outstretched feathers.
Busy, busy, back and forth. Then in a big Whoosh, they’re gone. As if someone called a warning invisible to my ears.
Not even a minute passes and they’re back as if nothing happened.
We’re expecting and mix of ice and snow today. So I may not make it to Bellydancing.
The hens haven’t come out of the roost for days, but they did lay another egg yesterday. I’m continuing to feed the sheep and donkeys second-cut hay. Maybe this afternoon I’ll give them some grain too. The older sheep especially appreciate it this time of year.
The small trees were bent so low with the snow they covered the path to the Gulley bridge. I shook them knocking the snow to the ground, and the skinny branches stood tall again.
The last time we were in the woods, it was just beginning to snow. Now the grasses and bushes were laid low enough for me to walk over, my snow shoes crushing them further into the ground.
Snow outlined every branch and stuck to the north side of the trees. My first stop was the pine cave. It was not the igloo I imagined, yet it held up well with little snow inside. But it was awkward to crawl into with my snowshoes on. When I go back to spend more time there, I will take my snowshoes off, as I would going into anyone’s home.
Fate and Zinnia and I wandered the woods, not the least bit cold. We only turned back when one of the bindings on my snowshoe broke. I flopped around for a while, trying to say on level ground. Then finally thought to use the shoelace from my boot to tie my boot to the webbing of my snowshoe. It worked so well I was tempted to stay out longer.
But I still had scarves to sew and wanted to get them done before it got too dark and cold.
My snowshoes are old, so I imagine all the straps will begin to break. I’ll figure out the best way to fix them and carry some extra string with me the next time I wear them into the woods.