The 21st Century

In this 21st century now nearing its first quarter, we are reminded almost daily that the world around us is fraught with change. Drones, robots, rockets and satellites bespeak of almost unimaginable methods of communication, warfare and industry unheard of a century ago. Changes welcomed by some populations and decried by others now appear in the midst of daily living.

It seems perhaps a time to ponder the ramifications of the wide utilization of these man-made instruments of power. Has it brought sustainable progress that will assist our earth in the premise of life, of abundant life, of continuing advancements for the good of mankind even as we learn of problematic concerns over which there appears little ability to control? Can we find solutions to non-disposable waste, to disappearing glaciers, to smog-filled cities of mass populations? Can we comprehend the outcry of this generation as developed and under-developed nations, alike, are affected?

This globalization now seems to be touching and disturbing the status quo in each part of the universe and breaking into the integrity of daily expectations. Each of us as a member of this mass humanity called earthlings affect a space, a place, a day, an hour. We affect persons we touch, the care of our possessions. We are individually and corporately bound in the throes of life. We touch good or contribute to lesser. We give or take from the universe daily. No one escapes their moment in time. We share a planet.

Dear Readers

Hello Friends,
When I last wrote, I had just been invited to attend a writing workshop on Providence Organic Farm near Central Lake, Michigan. My book Ira’s Farm was to be used as a centering topic in a discussion of writing memoirs or other types of articles centered on Love For The Land. What a wonderful learning event that was. So many talented, dedicated and caring people, which included retired women, one gentleman, working women, an employee at Providence Farm and the co-owner of the farm. At the last session, as we walked into the barn where our meetings were held, we walked into a room full of onions drying on the floor and garlic roots hanging on the rafter boards above our heads. Now THAT was an atmosphere appropriate to the subject at hand! Real motivation.

My previous post “The Hills Are Alive” is an Introduction to the book I have just begun to put together. I’ll tell you more about it as it begins to take a more compact shape. In the meantime, I would love to hear from some of you with comments for what you would like to have in this blog. Stories from you of a friend or relative who is composting or involved in issues that will help protect and heal the land, clean the environment, new recycling opportunities, or any number of interesting items.

Ginny

The Hills Are Alive

The hills are alive with the sound of music in northern Michigan. Well, perhaps
not music, literally, but there is reason to sing and rejoice and celebrate. The
natural beauty of rivers and lakes and streams flowing throughout the region now also include fields of lush green row crops grown by organic farmers concerned about the environment. Organic farms are introducing to the area a natural form of raising crops—natural fertilizers, innovative soil preparation, weed control using natural means. This pioneering movement is bringing healing to the land. It produces nutrient-dense vegetables and organic apples and all manners of healthy local foods in addition to soil regeneration.

From the tip of lower Michigan’s mitten where Mackinac Bridge blends into
the north edge of the village of Mackinac City, the greening panorama unfolds
south to Kalkaska and west to Frankfort. Encompassed in this area are the
counties of Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Emmet. White
fenceposts often mark the borders of farms where front yard signs proclaim the
information that this is a Certified Organic Farm. Cattle grazing in grass-covered
pastures attest to the practice of raising free-range stock. Chickens thrive in
outdoor moveable pens covered for safety. Kiosks filled with just-picked
vegetables lure passing motorists along country roads. Summer outdoor markets
abound. Truly a lifestyle to sing about – this promise of a reverence for nature
and a vision for the future of northern Michigan.

Come join me now as I walk, in print, through a journey of change
blossoming among the hills of nearby villages such as Leland, Northport,
Interlochen, Traverse City and Petoskey. I write from a vantage point of
observation and interest because as a young girl in the 1930’s, I walked many a
time barefooted through fields of wheat and corn with my dad on his small, rural
farm. I am enthralled at the thought of small farms becoming a way of living in the world of today and especially in the area where I am spending my retirement
years. If you feel the urge to dig around in the dirt after you close the pages of
this book, do it. Let the sweet, rich soil slip through your fingers. Sense the need
to protect it. The greening of the earth lies therein.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

I am sitting in the spacious dining room of the Senior Independent facility where I have lived for the past five years. It is a beautiful sunny day. I’m looking out the window which faces our pond, a pond often teeming with nature’s activities. A mourning dove sits quietly perched on the patio railing, perhaps wanting to be sure he is mentioned in this review.  Redwing blackbirds nest in the high bushes there. If you are watching, you can catch glimpses of cardinals and goldfinch and robins and doves and chickadees flying around. Ducks come and go, landing at will on the pond for a swim. Frogs and snakes and butterflies live among the cattails and bushes. A Canadian geese ‘family’ strutted around the area in late May with five little goslings trailing along behind them – hatched in a nest well-hidden in the brushy areas around the pond. Occasionally a muskrat is sighted swimming there, and a skunk delivered her offspring among the cattails close to the walking path this spring, which caused a flurry of excitement for a few days! A red fox was sighted running across the lawn last fall. Black squirrels and gray squirrels fearlessly roam across the outdoor patio where coffee and local gossip are enjoyed around the wrought iron tables on many a summer morning.

In addition to the animal life, plants and trees of every sort abound in the pond area. There is a mature sugar maple tree across the way that resembles a large mushroom and its round sphere is a sight to behold in the fall when autumn colors appear. Vibrant green pines and flowering crimson ornamental trees, flowering shrubs and a few tulips planted in a small flower bed tended by a resident add to my window view with shades of colors as varied as crayons in a Crayola box… All is well with my soul.

Last week, an unusual incident happened near the patio, witnessed by the morning coffee hour regulars — usually ten to twelve of us. We had noticed a redwing blackbird laying very still on the patio and realized he must have hit the window so hard it caused his death. We became aware almost immediately of a number of blackbirds flying back and forth from nearby trees, flying directly over the bird on the patio in a distressed manner. They continued this commotion for an hour or more before leaving. They must have been aware that the bird on the cement patio was no longer alive. Could this have actually been happening? Have any of you witnessed a ritual of this sort with birds?

But I must move on… (My friendly mourning dove still sits atop the railing, as I turn my thoughts to other news.)

I recently visited the newly-opened Blue Vase book warehouse in Interlochen, about ten miles from Traverse City. And found a treasure! Have you ever looked at a book cover and known you had to get this book before you even opened its pages? Turn Here – Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works by Atina Diffley had me hooked. Published by University of Minnesota Press, Atina Diffley wrote a 335-page book in story form of her passion for the land, the soil we walk on and plant gardens in, the soil that constitutes acreage for farming and forests and beaches and gopher holes. Soil often pocked with stones and rooted perennial grass clumps. This woman loved soil. Loved it enough to endure drudgery, crop-destroying storms, fifteen-hour work days, years with no profit as she and her husband put all available resources back into healing the land on their farm. What a teaching, compelling page-turner Diffley created as she told of her honest endeavor to live the dream and, in reality, answer the urgent call of her heart and soul. I learned in the most elemental terms of the almost impossible demands of creating a certified organic farm. It is an incredible tale.

At approximately the same week that I ‘had my nose in that book until late in the night’, I received an invitation to a writing workshop June 27 at Providence Organic Farm in Eastport to speak about my efforts of writing, self-publishing and marketing the book Ira’s Farm: Growing up on a self-sustaining farm in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Have a good and productive summer, friends. Happy gardening. I’ll write more later.    Ginny

Photo by John Duncan on Unsplash

Whatever Happened to the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog?

Ah, how I miss that Sears & Roebuck Winter catalog when November rolls around! It was the one time of year if I just happened to show my mom a doll I really liked, or the black shiny shoes with the neat silver bow attached, then I might, just might, find it in one of the Christmas packages I opened. Wonderful toys and dresses filled page after page in that thick book. Each tissue-thin leaf jam-packed with photos of everything a family could want.

Well, almost everything…There was no book section. Oh, there were so many good books on shelves in book stores and libraries. Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, Girl of the Limberlost – the choices were endless. But none could I order from the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

And so, I am set to wondering if those really were the good ol’ days when we waited each day for the mailman to finally deliver our mail order ‘shopping cart’.  Have you ordered anything recently from a shopping cart? Of course you have if you own one of the sleek modern black catalogs called computers, or its miniature version known as an ipad or tablet. Or even more convenient, the smartphone that goes everywhere with you, has automatic wi-fi. A compact little device that stores more information, including choices of dolls and toys, AND books than the average person could explore in his or her lifetime.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between today’s mail-order shopping cart and the leafy Sears catalog would be the time element for delivery. Next-day delivery is almost the norm. It took days for the little brown envelope complete with check and the hand-written items to reach Sears in Chicago, more time to hand-sort and package the items and then for the parcel to reach the same mailbox where the little brown envelope began its journey.

And so it’s November once again. Shopping season for those special people, including the ‘one who has everything’. Well, if you have a senior citizen friend or relative who may have grown up on a farm, I’d like to suggest my recent book called Ira’s Farm. And I have a very real reason for suggesting it. Since I published it in April 2018, I have given a number of presentations to groups of retirees and groups living in senior independent villages. The responses I receive are so heartening to me. I hear comments like “the memories brought tears to my eyes”, “I had a good laugh as I remembered the same events happening on our farm”. I really believe that the joy many received as they relived good memories brought a kind of healing to them and lifted their spirits with joy amid the problems many were facing. Smiles and precious memories keep hearts young.

I will always write a personal note when I sign a book. I keep copies on hand to fill orders for autographed copies. In other sections of my blog page, there are descriptions about “Ira’s Farm” and I am always available to answer questions through email, blog or IM on facebook.

May your holidays be filled with joy and “laugh out loud” moments. Hold tight to the wonderful gift of family that you have been given.  Sincerely, Ginny

 

 

The Fodder’s in the Shock

James Whitcomb Riley wrapped up a busy summer season succinctly with his poem When the Frost is on the Punkin and the fodder’s in the shock. Yes, it is the time of year when the local farmers can draw a sigh of relief as their fifteen-hour days slow down to perhaps a mere ten-hour day and they can have a second cup of coffee in the morning before heading off to the barn. I’m not sure, though if today’s crop growers can relate to ‘the fodder’s in the shock’. But, my dad could, because he put that fodder into shocks and I knew what it was because I watched him grab those bundles and shock them. Dried stalks of corn bunched together, tied with binder twine, produced those Norman Rockwell scenes of snow on the ground and dried shocks standing as sentinels in many a field. They were, I must admit, quite picturesque, but the raw aching muscles at the end of harvest probably dimmed the thought of capturing it on film to many a farmer. Rather, his satisfaction most likely centered on the fodder (those corn ears and stalks) that would feed his animals through the long winter ahead in his section of the upper Midwest farming country. But poets are licensed to describe the beauty of the world around us. And thank goodness, they still do.

Of late, I find myself among those who are singing the praises for local farmers who work those same fifteen-hour days to produce organic vegetables and fruit, then bring it fresh from their land to local markets and roadside stands for the local population. Packed full of nutrition with every bite and devoid of chemical absorption. Perhaps there are some around who could give poetic justice to these dedicated farmers in James Whitcomb Riley fashion? When the frost is on the punkin.

 Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash