Notes from the Prairie Blog
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Notes from the prairie

Notes from the Prairie Blog

Snow & Cold Temps

by Cathy Grafton on 01/05/14

We are in the middle of a huge snowstorm, not that unusual, but the cold to follow later today is more than we usually get here in central Illinois.  The temps are suppose to drop later this afternoon with below zero all day tomorrow.  So have been out shoveling snow this morning and will do it again later this afternoon before the cold hits.  It is just beautiful out there, the snow is clinging to branches and fences and the wind is blowing the snow into wonderful swirls.

I always want to bake when it is like this. So will be doing that this afternoon and also working on one of my big quilts.  Right now enjoying a cup of hot chocolate while I warm up.  Hope everyone stays safe.

The corn is "firing"

by Cathy Grafton on 09/23/13

I have lived in the central Illinois farmland for over 35 years now and listen to farm reports on the radio regularly - since they give great weather reports.  I just recently heard a new farm term that was new to me.  Someone said - the corn is firing - well I had to ask what that meant of course.  It is when the corn begins to dry up and turn that lovely shade of brown.  Well, the corn is firing for sure and the harvest is starting.  I have seen fields which are opened up a bit, a few rows on the edge of the field which have been gathered in by the corn pickers.  Beans are drying up also - they would have liked a lot more rain when they were green, but that didn't happen this year.  So I imagine it will be a bit more of a skimpy harvest.  

Watch out for farm equipment on the roads if you are traveling in rural areas, they will be out and about and busy with the harvest.  Myself - I am busy at fall festivals and loving the cooler weather.

Retrospective of my Prairie Quilts

by Cathy Grafton on 08/01/13

Today and for the rest of August, 10 of my Prairie Quilts will be on display at the Pontiac Art Center, on the square in Pontiac, IL.  These quilts are a selection of the Prairie Quilts I have been creating for over 20 years - all based in some way on the prairie and bits of Illinois farmland near my home.

I chose these quilts because they represent my development from using my own versions of traditional patterns and designs to the free-cut applique style that I developed to create the pictures of the prairie and landscapes.  During this time I began to add silk ribbon embroidery to the quilts and eventually silk ribbon became an equal partner to the applique work.  These quilts grew out of my love of the land and I am working on some smaller "portraits" of fence posts to add to this series.

The Pontiac Art Center is on the north side of the downtown square and  open from 10-5 Monday-Friday and 10-4 Saturday and Sunday.  Stop by and see the quilts if you are in the area.

Le volet qui penche - the shutter that hangs

by Cathy Grafton on 01/05/13

One of the fun places I visited in France was in Bayeux.  While I go there often mainly to visit the famous tapestry, I also enjoy the town itself.  From my hotel there is a winding stone walkway to the main downtown street - along it this year I came upon a new wine bar and bistro - called Le Volet Qui Penche.  It was a lovely, welcoming place with a cozy atmosphere.  I spent several late afternoons and evenings there enjoying a glass of good wine.  One evening a WWII veteran and his 4 sons were there all evening - his first visit back to the area since D-Day.  I wasn't able to visit any of the beaches again on this trip, but am always interested in learning more about the events surrounding D-Day.  We all spent a little time talking and I thought it quite wonderful that the father and sons came on such a pilgrimage together.

The owner, Pierre-Henri was friendly and talked about the wine and calvados of the region.  I certainly hope to visit this place again when in Bayeux.  I was so taken with the name and the actual "hanging shutter" on one of the windows - I made a small silk ribbon piece when I returned home and sent it on to Pierre-Henri.  I like to know that things I have made are staying somewhere in France.

I'll post a picture of this piece and maybe the shutter too on my website

France, again

by Cathy Grafton on 11/14/12

Bonjour.  I'm just a week back from lovely France again.  On my first vacation since starting at the library, I went back to France for two weeks -- spent time at my favorite places in Paris, gardens, passages, walking....walking.....walking and traveled to Bayeux to visit the tapestry and drink some very nice wine, on to Mont St. Michel for some of the fall high tides and finally to Dinan, that lovely medieval city with wonderful crepes and fish.  Then I returned to Paris for a few more days including a visit with my friend Estelle who took me to stitchery shops that I could never find on my own.  November is scallop season in France and I did my best to eat my share of them.  Also attended the Salon du Chocolat - an experience that deserves its own write up.

Will probably write about some of these adventures in future posts, but right now I am still basking in the warm glow of the trip.  Lost track of a good friend who use to work at Poilane, hope someday she will read one of my posts and get in touch with me.

Au revoir for now.

40 Years at the "Feast of the Hunter's Moon"

by Cathy Grafton on 09/25/12

Last weekend was a milestone for me.  I have been demonstrating and being part of the Feast of the Hunter's Moon in W. Lafayette, IN for 40 years now.  I first attended right after college and even as I came over the hill and saw the tents, the tipis and smelled the wood smoke - I knew I wanted to be a part of this event.

By the next year I was there, asking people to join me in a quilting bee, before long I was the quilter and over the years have added silk ribbon embroidery and processing flax to my booth.  The Feast portrays the 18th century celebration of the return of the French Voyagers to the area with their packs of furs.  They arrive in canoes, singing songs and hauling the canoes up the ramp, greeted by a fife and drum group.  Being a part of this event has been a family tradition - with all three of my children growing up as 18th century urchins, enjoying the story telling, music and wonderful foods.

I can't think of much else that I have done for 40 years in a row.  The years run together now, so many people have been a part of my life because of the Feast.  This year sadly we lost a long time friend, who was like a grandfather to my kids.  Art Willing was a master story teller and toy maker for many years - we all miss him.  

Setting up camp so I can be there for school days is a fun time, I make "my house" for the weekend - and this year went from my family sized Marquee tent down to a small wedge and fly which is my work area and booth.  It was nice to be able to downsize and bring less.  The chilly nights weren't a problem, wonderful wool blankets and an extra sheepskin kept me cozy.  Friends and I cook and have our kitchen out back where an evening of music and wine are common around the fire.   At the end of the weekend, we say our farewells to our small camp circle and head home with our memories.  Until next year.....  I am grateful for the chance to be a part of living history and though I participate in many other events, this one will always be special for me.

Pleasant Hill, KY - Shakertown Art Fest

by Cathy Grafton on 07/29/12

I've been stitching like crazy, getting ready to travel to Kentucky for the Shakertown Art Festival.  It is such a lovely setting AND only 10 miles away from my granddaughter and her Mom and Dad.  I'll be visiting with them before the show.

I've started a new bunch of small pieces - I'm calling them 'frugalities' because they are made with scraps and bits I've been saving from my larger pieces.  Each one has a small flower, spray or design - I think I may do some with words on them also, but haven't tried those.  I also have two new sheep landscapes which I am excited about.  Each one has a black sheep and a white sheep and a free form tree, all are surrounded by flowers and quilted.  I hope people enjoy them.

Pleasant Hill is a wonderful place to spend a few days, I will be able to stay over one night and look forward to that.  You actually get to stay in the original Shaker buildings and meals are served at the Trustees building - with the lovely twin spiral staircases.  So I look forward to seeing some old friends, meeting new people and spending several days walking among the lovely architecture of the Shakers.  Oh and first and foremost seeing my son and his family.

Spending time in the garden

by Cathy Grafton on 06/24/12

It has been an interesting spring in my garden.  As my ankle injury improved I have found that I can more easily get out and spend some nice garden time.  I was able to remove part of an old flagstone edge and build a stone cairn - always wanted one and it is a great way to store the stone until I can do more building.  I left some bits of the border here and there and have added space to my shade garden.

Then I made a new low wattle fence to help hold back plants along the sidewalk.  A wattle fence is made from flexible cuttings from my Devil's Walking Stick - a lovely corkscrew shrub that grows water shoots each year, which I can save and use.

Then there are the geraniums - so many new lovely colors, I have pots of them on the porch, along my steps, out in front and in the stone garden out back.  Makes for some daily watering, but a great way to get out in the garden.  Summer is sure here and I am enjoying it.  Hope if you have a garden you are enjoying yours.

Three Crows

by Cathy Grafton on 02/26/12

Since I am spending some time at my kitchen window while I sip coffee in the mornings, I have come to know the three crows in my neighborhood.  They usually show up one after another in a large tree across the street.  They pose gracefully for awhile and do a few caws, sometimes one takes off and the others stay.  I wonder how much they travel around in our neighborhood, but they certainly seem to be "regulars" on a daily basis.

Spending time sitting in the kitchen with my window on the world as I continue to recover, means I take much more time to look at what I can see out the window.  There certainly is a lot to see, besides the crows and other birds, the sky is an every changing palate of color and clouds.  Late in the day the shades of blue just inspire me to add those colors to my ribbon work.  The bones of the trees, now waiting for spring, are etched against the sky and their graceful movements when the wind blows are fun to watch.

Soon I will be able to move about a little more freely again, sure hope I still take time to notice the crows in the morning.


by Cathy Grafton on 02/13/12

From time to time we get a lesson in patience.  I have been getting one the past month as I sit at home recovering from a broken ankle.  Things I use to do without thinking, now take planning and much more effort.  I accept help daily and find myself feeling inept at things I use to do easily.  Waiting with "grace" for this healing process to happen, I find that small things make my day.

A few days ago after too many gloomy days, in mid-afternoon the sun burst out from behind the clouds and flooded my living room with a warm rich afternoon light.  It was just a joyous moment and I soaked it in, moving into the kitchen so the sunlight could shine on my grateful face for awhile.

I hope I am learning this lesson and know that I am very happy for friends and family who have done so much to help me through this time.

Click on photo to enlarge my bee landscape
Hezekiah, the calf, at Lincoln Log cabin
Cathy & friend at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI