Notes from the Prairie Blog
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Notes from the prairie

Notes from the Prairie Blog

Foggy Mornings

by Cathy Grafton on 02/03/12

This morning I sat in my kitchen sipping a cup of coffee watching the foggy morning come to life.  They gray swirls of fog became more distinct as the sun rose somewhere lessening the darkness but not yet able to wash through the fog.  I had some time to think about foggy mornings and how they soften our world.  The bare tree branches became a bit more distinct as I watched.

I was taking time to commune with the fog - because I am on the mend from a bad fall on the ice and a broken ankle.  So the most I can do early in the morning is hobble into the kitchen and push the button on the coffeemaker.  Then I stay close because moving a cup of coffee to an easy chair right now is just beyond my ability.  Waiting for a friend to come by and help me with breakfast gave me a few moments to savor both the coffee and the fog.

We get so many lessons in life - and mine is now to slow down, accept help and take time to watch the fog in the early morning.

Yost House Sale & Pontiac Art Center

by Cathy Grafton on 12/02/11

Been busy getting ready for the Holiday sale at the historic Yost House in Pontiac, it will be from 10-3 Saturday, December 3rd and 12-3 Sunday December 4th.  The house is decorated for Christmas and I will be stitching away in the kitchen, enjoying the days.

Also Pontiac now has an art center.  12 of us artists have come together and opened a center on the square, partnering with the City of Pontiac.  It has been a whirlwind of preparation and now staffing the center for the holidays.  Last night I had a small silk ribbon class and we hope to do more classes after the holidays.  This has long been a dream of my friend JoanE and it will be interesting to watch it evolve over time.  A lot of talented people have lovely things for sale and viewing right now.

For me, it is back to work, in preparation for tomorrow.

Gravity Hill adventures

by Cathy Grafton on 11/04/11

Last week some members of my yoga group and I traveled to Mineral Point, WI for a few days of fun and adventure.  Along the way we stopped in Shullsberg to visit the cheese factory and buy some cheese (the first of many cheese adventures).  There we found info. on a "Gravity Hill" just outside of town.  Of course we had to visit it.  You literally drive down a hill along a country road -- then stop the car -- put it in neutral and roll back up the hill.  I've always wanted to visit one, and this was an amazing experience.  We are told it is an optical illusion, but all your senses tell you otherwise.  Good for the soul to have reality questioned in such a fashion.

After this adventure, we headed up the road to Mineral Point, had a lovely couple of days visiting shops, galleries, historic sites, Cornish cottages and eating lots of good food.  Time to relax together in a restored brick home built into the hill side.

For me it was an annual dose of "rocky outcroppings" and hills that helps me to remember that the world is indeed not flat.

Junior Bird Patrol

by Cathy Grafton on 10/17/11

While driving along the roadways lately the old song - "up in the air junior bird patrol" pops into my head.  The birds are gathering - lining the phone wires everywhere and practicing dare devil mid-flight turns inches above the cars speeding by.  They are practicing for the journeys south.  In the harvested fields you can see hordes of geese gleaning corn.  They don't seem to head all the way south these days, but I have seen several v's of geese all heading south.

We've had lovely fall weather the past few weeks, glorious warm afternoons, the leaves are showing down now and I came home to a huge drift of windblown leaves in my driveway.  Now there is a chill in the air, and not only the birds are preparing.  Squirrels are excitedly gathering acorns and scampering everywhere it seems.   We are all more watchful for deer when driving now as they are active and pumpkins and mums grace yards all over town.  The weekly farmer's market is full of gourds, root vegetables and fewer tomatoes.  Cunningham's incredible taffy apples are a special fall treat in our market - and I get one almost each time I head to the store.  I am lucky enough to have some bittersweet for my front porch - that in turn is inspiring the colors I am using now in my embroidery and quilting work.  Those fall browns, oranges, dark reds and yellows blend together in a bright ribbon of color.

I have a dark red pumpkin on my porch, gift of friends which adds a touch of whimsey to my minimal Halloween decor.  Hope you are enjoying fall as much as I do and that you get to see some birds - dancing in the sky before they head south. 

The "Hunter's Moon"

by Cathy Grafton on 10/12/11

Wow, last night was a lovely hazy full moon, rising over the trees.  When I woke up this morning, there it was, getting all orangish again as it went down.  The full moon is always a treat to see and in the fall with all the leaves changing color, it is even more dramatic.  My first historic festival, was and still it called "the Feast of the Hunter's Moon" however, this year it was several weeks ago - these days the reality of Purdue Home football games, trumps having the Feast on a weekend when there is a home game, so we pretend the Moon is full - even when it isn't.

Still in October each year the Hunter's Moon comes along, great and golden filling the sky on a crisp fall night - and I love watching it come up.

A Dutch breakfast

by Cathy Grafton on 10/10/11

This morning I treated myself to a Dutch breakfast.  My daughter was an exchange student in Holland and while visiting her there, this was my favorite breakfast.  I begin with a slice of whole wheat toast - I had a bit of Poilane country bread from France (but that is a story for another day) which makes great toast then lightly butter the toast, add thin slices of gouda cheese, and slice a (just barely) hardboiled egg onto the cheese, top with salt and pepper.  If only I had a "sweetie" to go with it, that is sort of a sweet grapefruit that we also enjoyed on the trip.  

This open face breakfast treat is just delightful and drew my thoughts back to The Netherlands and I could imagine the tulip fields and lovely countryside that I so enjoyed on my visit there.

Dancing with the Moon.....

by Cathy Grafton on 10/02/11

Last night I sat with friends around a blazing fire at the Lincoln Log Cabin site near Lerna, IL.  We were there for the weekend to demonstrate our crafts at the Harvest Festival.  At nght the starry sky and crescent moon filled the sky.  It was going to be a chilly night, and before heading off to my tent, blankets and buffalo robe, I was soaking up as much heat from the fire as possible.  The coals were glowing, we searched out the big dipper for the children who were sitting with us and listening to the farm animals moving about as they settled down for the night.  

As I looked up at the moon above, it seemed to be dancing.  This was because I was seeing it though the shimmering heat from the fire.  We talked about how the moon was dancing and that thought stayed with me as I walked across the grounds to my sleeping place with the moon still dancing in my thoughts.

The Lincoln Log Cabin and Sargent Farm historic site is so worth a visit.  It truly feels like a step back in time.  Mr. Thomas Lincoln lived out the end of his days here on this land, and it carries the imprint of the mid 1800's and rural farm life at every turn.  The pace of this little festival is slow and relaxed and mostly about being outside on a lovely fall day.  Craftsmen line the walkways to both the farm and the cabin-- showing a variety of skills to visitors.  The volunteers and site staff demonstrate their dutch oven cooking and ask visitors about their views on slavery - a hot issue in 1845.  They feed us well with biscuits and sausage gravy to start the day followed by burgoo for lunch and molasses cake and dutch oven apple pie.

The strong sense of place on the farm and at the cabin permeate the day.  Most of the visitors gather for the ladies skillet toss, the three legged race and the two man saw contest while Hezekiah, the calf, looks on.  But my favorite time is later in the evening, when the visitors leave and those of us spending the night, sit before the fire - to watch the moon dance.

"Start Seeing Farmers"

by Cathy Grafton on 09/29/11

Well all the signs are here, rainy days alternating with sunshine - when the sun comes out so do the combines, they are lumbering along our rural highways, anxious to get in the fields.  Grain trucks wait patiently on the edge of the fields and those piled high with a yellow haze of corn beeline for the nearest grain storage facility.  Yes - the harvest is underway here in central Illinois.

Signs have popped up along the roads saying "start seeing farmers" to warn us town folk to be aware that farm machinery and trucks will be out on the roads taking up more than their fair share of highway.  All seem amazingly courteous though, moving over to the edge of the road or even pulling off on the shoulder so the line of cars backed up behind them can zoom on past.  I love this time of year, the corn is disappearing and once again we can see across the fields.  As you drive down the road on a breezy afternoon, corn husks float in the air.  Soon the dried soybeans will be harvested, turning the air to dust as they crumble under the combines, giving up only their small round beans.

I write some of this especially for my friend Becky, who lives on a farm in Illinois, but who has been in California for a few years now and who I know misses the farmland and bits of prairies that I get to see each day.  It is all still here Becky, and we are once again busy seeing farmers.

The Glories of the "Grand Prairie"

by Cathy Grafton on 09/18/11

This weekend, I traveled some of what was known as the "Grant Prairie" which is an area from eastern Illinois stretching into western Indiana and ending just outside Lafayette.  At the Purdue Agricultural Center, there is a stone marking this edge, from here east was forest, mostly anyway, heading east.  From this point west was - a large unbroken area of especially flat prairie, only minimally crossed by rivers, streams and creeks.  It was known as the Grant Prairie - I always though it sounded so romantic, but it is just flatter than many other places in Illinois.

However, it is very romantic and quite lovely this time of year, because the roadways I traveled were lines with wildflowers and bits of prairie here and there.  The colors right now are heading deep into fall - the sumac is turning red, the prairie sunflowers are standing tall and yellow, there are shades of purple, dark red, golden brown and the thistles have turned dusty and prickly looking as they dry out.  Big blue stem and Indian grass wave in the wind and give a feathery look to the roadways.  Milk weed pods are releasing their seeds to float in the air, and very soon as harvest gets truly under way, there will be floating corn husks drifting out of the fields.  The corn and soybean fields are looking dry and rustle with every breeze - yes, fall is here.  

One of the best things about the Grand Prairie - is how it shows off the sky, clouds float as in a glass done when I left.  I drove home tonight under heavy grey clouds and rain much of the way, but this morning we had a glorious sunrise just under some light rain clouds, followed by an early morning rainbow - a great way to start the day.

I spent the weekend in the mid- 1700's at the Koh Koh Mah festival, but that is a story for another day.

Murphy Roche Irish Music Club

by Cathy Grafton on 09/13/11

One of the joys of my life is being a part of a great group of musicians who share their love of Irish music in a weekly session or two.   When I can on Tuesday nights I drive 83 miles up to the Chicago area to join them as we play a "session" at the Irish Legends in Willow Springs, IL.  Tonight as players trickled in we began with an energetic round of reels.  I play the bodhran (Irish drum) and really love being part of the music.  Tonight we had musicians playing fiddle, guitar, accordian, flute, concertina, a banjo and moi on bodhran.  At a session the musicians mostly play for each other usually sitting in a circle.  We play traditional Irish tunes, with a song or two as well.  We love to have an audience and we had a very enthusiastic one tonight.

On the long drive home I was accompanied by a, barely past full, moon in a clear starry sky.  There was also an acrid haze much of the way from, of all things, a wildfire in Minnesota - winds have brought it down to the Chicago area, amazing.

I hope you have music in your life, it is so full of energy and gives a respite from all the daily cares and worries.  Even though the drive is a long one for me, it is worth it because I get to connect with good friends and share an evening of music with them.

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