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Fairy Finder

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A Bernadette Smart Adventure


They call her Beena the Fairy Finder.  She wears overalls and a straw hat, but keeps her feet bare.  “If a fairy sees giant shoes coming, she hides more than ever,” Beena said once in an interview.  “Fairies are terrified of shoes, for some reason. Maybe it’s because they don’t wear any.”

Today, Beena’s search takes her to a strawberry patch.  She is especially fond of Fruit Fairies – those who live amongst strawberry plants, blueberry bushes, and orchards.  When the fruit ripens, Beena has found, a careful hunter is more likely to find the fairies. “They assume you are looking just for the fruit,” she explains.  “So they are less afraid and more bold.”

Beena carries an aluminum sieve with her to gather the strawberries.  She has rolled up her pant legs to avoid brushing against the plants and startling the fairies.  Quietly, quietly, she enters the strawberry patch. It’s the end of May, and the ripe strawberries are abundant, their fresh aroma on the breeze.  Beena begins to pick the bright red fruit, keeping a sharp eye out for those for whom she is really looking.

It takes a while before she sees one.  Even on their most careless days, Fruit Fairies are secretive and difficult to spot.  Finally, Beena sees a shimmer in the corner of her eye. “Ah ha!” she thinks, but makes no sudden moves.  She continues with her task, but half her attention is now directed toward the place where she saw the movement.  Now, a slight flutter beneath a leaf. Beena works her way toward the tiny creature. “Tika tika tika too,” she sings softly.  Another movement. “Nikatee pop!” she says.

No one knows how Beena learned to communicate with the fairies, and she says the language is impossible to translate to English, but somehow she makes the fairies understand she is no threat.  “Teedle-dee nick-swop!”

A rustle of leaves.  A flitter of wings. Two eyes peer out and blink.  Beena smiles, moving slowly toward the fairy. A young one, she observes, with wispy red hair and light, green, chiffon-like clothing, and a wee green cap on her head.  For a moment, the fairy hides again behind the jagged strawberry leaf. Beena reassures her again with another “Tika tika tika too,” and the minuscule creature, brave but cautious, inches out.  “Beena neewalla,” Beena the Fairy Finder says.

Perhaps because she is young, or perhaps because she is unusually courageous, the fairy unexpectedly comes out from under the plant.  “Berrah neewalla,” a tiny voice replies. Tiny, but rich and sweet like honey, not a bit tinny for all its smallness.

“Ah, Berrah!” Beena breathes.  It is incredibly rare for a fairy to introduce herself to anyone, and Beena relishes the moment.  She begins to reach out, ever so slowly, to Berrah, when something suddenly startles the fairy, sending her flying across the strawberry patch.  Beena turns to see a sleek black cat trotting toward her.

“Oh, Mr. Wiggles,” she sighs.  “You scared her away.”

“Mrow,” Mr. Wiggles apologizes.

“Oh well.”  She scratches Mr. Wiggles under the chin.  “Maybe I’ll see her again. For now, I’ll finish picking the berries.”  Bernadette smiles, knowing there will be strawberries and cream for dessert tonight.


A Season of Waiting


A February sunrise at our place.

It isn’t quite spring, but perhaps the coldest weather is over.  Still, it’s too early to plant herbs or tomatoes or peppers or squashes.  It’s too early to plant berry bushes or fruit trees.  The seed catalogs have come in the mail, and they tempt me with their colors and their promises of fresh, juicy flavors.  The trees are still bare and the grass is still brown, but the birds have started chirping more, knowing that the days are getting longer, and there is just a little time before spring breaks out.

The busiest season of ice carving is coming to an end.  After two months of extensive travel, late nights of barely sleeping, and carving so much his hands swell, Husband sees the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s nice to have the income.  But it will be nice for him to be able to relax, as well.  And after some rest, the work on the house will resume – the milling, the shaping, the fitting together of beams.  But this week, there will be the catching up on sleep, the organization of paperwork that was neglected during the crazy months, and the preparation for a different kind of work.

One of the busiest seasons of teaching is ahead.  We’ll do state testing this week, and then we’ll have just one more week until spring break.  Then March, April, and May will be filled with students’ research projects, field trips, another round of testing, choosing materials for next year, and all the other craziness that accompanies the end of school. I try to work ahead and get things ready, knowing that no matter what I do, I’m never truly prepared when the cyclone hits.  For now, for just a little longer, I enjoy the calm before the storm.

For now, we wait.

School’s Out!

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The weather’s hot, the grass is growing, and teachers around the city are beginning to relax.

Yesterday was my last day of school for the year.  Hooray!  I have approximately 10 weeks to sleep late, go to the bathroom any time I want/need (without waiting for passing periods), eat when I’m hungry (rather than only at 12 noon), and do those things I’ve been putting off.

So maybe you’ll see more blog posts from me.  Things have been happening on the homestead — animals born, others butchered, progress on the house-building, fruit ripening.  But I also have a lot to do this summer.  I agreed to develop an orientation program for new teachers at our school, and I need to write curriculum for the second year of my two-year honors class.  There are home chores — cleaning the chicken coop and the rabbit barn, putting a cover on the pool and taking down the fence, reorganizing the guest room closet.  I picked the first strawberries today, and there will be raspberries and blackberries ripening soon.  There are little green cherries and little green peaches on our trees.  Then the rest of the garden will start to be ready to harvest.

I want to write, knit, and draw up plans for a tree house / writing studio.

There is a lot of stuff to cram into 10 weeks.

I hope to make the most of the time.

The Progress of the First-Year Garden

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Today, I put up two quarts of squash and two quarts of beans.

The corn has little bitty ears on it.

There are tiny cucumbers and teeny watermelons and itty bitty cantaloupes. Even a couple of decent sized pumpkins that we didn’t plant. (The pumpkins we did plant aren’t doing as well.)

But next year, we’ll mark things better. ‘Cause this year, we didn’t mark them and we keep saying to each other, “Do you think this is kohlrabi? Is this kale? Did the beets not come up at all?” And we’ll need to be diligent about weeding next year, too. It’s sometimes hard to find the beans growing in the midst of all the grass.

Still, considering it’s a first-year garden, four quarts of vegetables (plus all those we’ve already eaten) isn’t too bad for the first of August. (Not to mention the seven quarts of black raspberries I put up earlier this summer.)

But next year, I hope it will be better.

Garden Harvest, July 20

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We dug a lot of potatoes, but not as many as Husband had expected.  We think maybe it was too wet this year.  And when we dug them up, we found that quite a few of them had already rotted.  I accused Husband of planting mashed potatoes in the hopes of harvesting mashed potatoes.  Instead, they were just mushy, stinky potatoes.  Still, we got a lot of good ones.


We’ve had a few tomatoes over the last month or so, but not a ton.  The little yellow sunsugars have been coming at the rate of a couple a week for a while.  This is the first red one we’ve gotten, but it was small.  Still, it was enough to add to our lunch today which was…

rabbit tacosRABBIT TACOS!

That is a new one.  We’ve never had rabbit tacos before.  They were darn good.

Anyhoo, back to the garden.


We got a couple of squash, too.  There are a lot more yellow squash growing out there.  The zucchini are not growing as fast, it seems (this one being an exception.)  And we had a volunteer squash plant come up and it’s been terribly exciting to try to figure out what kind it is.  We think maybe acorn.  I was hoping for butternut, but I’m okay with acorn.  Or whatever it is.

Oh, and we got a handful of green beans today, too, after I took the photos.

One of the cherry trees is not looking good; its leaves turned yellow.  So that’s sad.  And I accidentally mowed down a blueberry bush, and that’s sad, too.  And the pumpkins don’t seem to be doing much.

But the corn looks okay.  Maybe we’ll have ears in August.

And it is, after all, just a first year garden, planted in newly tilled sod.  Even Pa Ingalls said a first year garden in tough sod can’t be expected to do much.  At least we’ll have enough food to get us through the winter and it’s very unlikely we’ll have to live on potatoes and brown bread and convince Almanzo Wilder to give us a milk pail full of his seed wheat so we can live until the train comes through in the spring!  (Can you tell I’m reading The Long Winter right now?)

And this fall, Husband will till up the ground again, plus maybe a bit more for next year.  And next summer’s garden will be even better.

Out to the Garden

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I step outside and the humidity seems to hinder my progress. Instead of simply walking to my destination, I must push through the thick air, wading through an invisible barrier that collects in moisture on my skin. The warm breeze does nothing to ease the situation.

In the distance, dark clouds gather and thunder rumbles.

I make my way to the strawberry patch to check the progress of the new plantings. Though it seems sad to do so, I pick off this year’s blossoms so that the plants’ energies go to the roots to make sturdy plants for next year. If all goes well, I’ll have strawberries galore next year. And perhaps peaches and cherries, too, if the trees are mature enough.

I mosey past the spot where I hope to put the rhubarb patch this fall, and down the rows of potatoes. They look bushy and healthy. No flowers yet, but they’ll come. The vine patch shows evidence of cantaloupes, watermelons, pumpkins, and squash, but while most of the hills have plants in them, some of them are bare and I wonder if we had some bad seed that will not germinate. In the next section of the garden is the corn, which is small but growing. I wonder if it will be “knee-high by the Fourth of July.”

One little cherry tomato is turning yellow, and another plant is getting so big I had to put a cage around it to support it. Beans are coming up and looking good. Since we did not mark things well when we planted, it is hard to know what each little seedling is, and since some of the seeds were old, it is hard to know whether they will come up.

It’s enjoyable to have the garden just outside my front door. For thirteen years, we had such a small, shady yard that gardening was difficult at home. We tried a community garden and then had a plot at a friend’s house. That was nice, but it’s much handier not to have to drive or bike a mile to check on the plants.

The wind picks up and contains the faint scent of rain. Time to head inside.  I don’t need to be watered like my little seedlings do.

Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day weekend was busy with get-togethers with both our families. In the time I had at home, I wanted to get some things accomplished in the yard and in the house. There is so much still to do, and Saturday morning I kind of wandered around, feeling unable to keep my attention on any one thing. Nonetheless, I managed to get a lot done around the place. I mowed, helped Husband plant all the garden seeds we have (we still want to get carrot seeds and tomato plants), moved all the stuff that we’d stacked on the outside of the pool fence (I mostly just tossed it over the fence – the pool area is a wreck anyway, and at least the fence hides it), cleared out some weeds and small scraggly trees from a couple of places (and got some crazy poison ivy in the process for which I since have been prescribed Prednizone), moved a bunch of river rock and landscape timbers, did several loads of laundry, and cleaned the house.

I foresee a busy summer, but I also think this place is going to really shape up in the next couple of months!