Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Black Forest fire

My parents bought this land in Black Forest Colorado in 1974, in part to appease a teenage girl who was bereft at having to leave the Colorado she loved for the unknowns of life in Korea. In part, this land brought me back to Colorado in 1979, giving up a full scholarship to Auburn to go to Colorado State University.
Land in Colorado heals slowly. The trees in this forest will not return in my lifetime.

509 people homes burned, and countless other buildings. But some of the animals survived. There is a little bunny now living under the rubble of the garage doors. My family puts food and water down for him.
The Colorado of the 1970's is hard to find today. I left in 2006. Water is in increasingly, severely limited supply; housing developments and highways blanket the front range from Cheyenne to Pueblo. Traffic sounds have replaced the sound of wind through the tall grass prairie.

Since leaving Colorado, I have come back for family and friends, but I no longer feel any connection to the land. My heart is now in the Ozarks, with our forested plateaus and deep, rugged valleys. I love the Ozark rivers and lakes and people and life.

I'm headed home to the Ozarks today, still worried about my parents and brother and sister-in-law. They are in safe places and sorting through. There is still so much work to be done on the property, hard, physical work. And then, it's going to take a good bit of time to deal with the insurance, and the sifiting and the minutiae of life that has to be put back together now. Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers. And thanks to everybody who has helped so far.

Words just don't express...
Iris coming back up through the cracked and melted glass that was my parent's bedroom window.

Monday, June 24, 2013


What's your favorite possession in the whole world? Do you know where it is?

If you know what it is, but not where it is, I suggest you find it and get a safe deposit box to store it in. It's obviously something that you love, but don't need to touch every day.

If you don't know what it is, take some time to figure it out. Then you can decide whether to put it somewhere safe - or to leave it out or put it out in display, so that if you have 10 minutes to leave your life as you know it, you at least have a chance of grabbing your favorite thing.

Free advice, take it for what it's worth.

It was a brass tea pot. The stucco beam behind was a porch support. Stucco is supposed to be fire-retardant. The insurance adjuster said it took a fire of at least 7,000 degrees to melt the I-beam in the background.

Leaded glass that used to be a bowl and green marble counter tops, now white crumbly chunks. The trees were that far from the house.

Burned pine trees.

My dad and my brother consider a portion of the basement, and what might have been on the floors above the hole. How did things shift as the house came down?

Sifting in hopes of finding... something.

Carrying rubble out of the cleared areas of the basement in hope.

 Fire mitigation was done, see how far apart those trees are. In this firestorm, it didn't help. Structure survival was all luck of the draw. 509 homes lost, and countless garges, barns and other structures. Yes, we are thankful to the firefighters, or far more would have been lost.

A Hummel, a David Winter Cottage and a leaded glass crystal collection after a 7,000 degree plus fire.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Paradigms shift after disaster

So many little impressions flitter through this week after the fire that took my parents and brother and sister-in-law's house, as well as 508 other houses and uncounted outbuildings, barns and garages in the Colorado town of Black Forest.
My folks are holding up well, and so many people have been incredibly generous.
It is a huge, shocking total life change and that is showing in little and big ways.
I grew up in a family that loved to collect things. Beautiful, fascinating things from around the world.

A fascinating collection of meters at my brother Russ' house.
 My brother Russ (the one who still has his house) has several delightful collections displayed around his living room. Interesting things that are curiosities in themselves, but as a collection they draw interest. He inherited the collecting gene and the ability to do cool displays gene. That's a good combination.

My parents house was like that, with fascinating little collections in every corner. They were artfully displayed and kept clean and dusted. (There are some genes I failed to inherit). Now they are all gone. My dad says he doesn't want a lot of stuff to have to deal with anymore. Understandable.

The Quilt Room was the center of their house, and Quilt Guilds and Quilting Bees were the center of their social life. The loss there is too painful to even list. My dad says he's not sure if he wants to do fiber arts any longer.

Yesterday when we went clothes shopping for my folks, my dad bought a pair of sandals. He's never worn sandals before. He says they feel ok.

My mother has done laundry on Monday all her life. Her mother did laundry on Monday. That is the day you wash clothes. Today, I convinced her that it really was possible to do laundry on Sunday. And we did, though there weren't many clothes to wash.

As my dad said today, the memories didn't burn. The collections and pictures and other memory anchors did go up in the fire., but the memories and treasured relationships are still here.

Quiet day of thankfulness

Yesterday was a day of grocery and clothes and shoe shopping for my folks - and finding the important stores in Lakewood, Colorado. My i-phone was a great help in locating routes and the stores that my mom had coupons for. My dad said he'd miss me when I go home, but he'll miss my "silly little box", too. Over the last two years I've really come to appreciate my hand computer/i-phone.

My dad cooking breakfast in the kitchen in Hildy's house. The windows look out on the sun room.
Today is a day to rest and regroup before we go back to the property to sift ashes tomorrow. There are things we still hold out hope of finding...

This house that my friend Julia and her family (their mother Hildly's house) have loaned my folks is a treasure in itself. Surrounded by trees and gardens, it is full of books and comfy chairs. It has big windows and lots of light. It comes equipped with two cats, bird feeders and plants to water. It is a wonderful place for them to begin to recover.
The green house in Hildy''s house
I'm going to try to catch up on a little of the work I brought with me, while my dad tries to put together their list of  doctor's phone numbers, other business information and all the minutia of life that we tend to store in our house and not think about. My folks were just discussing whether or not they had cancelled their milk delivery. How wonderful it had been to live in a place where they still had milk delivered. I said it would be pretty obvious to the milk man if he tried to deliver milk that there wasn't a house there any more. Most conversations end up being bittersweet like that.

Thanks again to everyone.

Looking out the sun room windows in Hildy's house at the bird feeders.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Emotional exhaustion

Long day. Emotionally exhausting. Everybody is ok, but tired.
My mom Judy, brother Russ, dad Dick, me, and brother Scott after dinner last night. Can you believe I am the short one in the family? Can you believe we all smiled for this picture? Conditioning.
We went out to their property again today. Hard to call it anything else at this point. We put a few things in the big shop... a chain saw that might work again and the handle is only a little melted; sheets of copper that used to be planters; the tools we had just picked up. My parents had a beautiful tile mosaic in their entry hall. I went up to the pillars to see if maybe the tiles could be salvaged. Behind the pillars is a huge pit.
Porch pillars. Stucco houses are supposed to be fire resistant.

As I came by the garage space, I saw rivulets of shiny aluminum. I'm sure it used to be their canoe.
We found some saw horses, blackened through, but still standing. Some heavy guttering was near the scoched hulk of the tractor. On our way out, we used these to make a bit of a barricade across the driveway. Black Forest roads re-open to the public tomorrow. Sadly, looters are an issue.

Next we went to the Post Office to try to pick up their mail. I held my mom's place in line, while she found a bench to sit on. For about an hour, I listened to a line of folks who had all lost their homes, lost everything. A women just a bit of me in line talked of how her parents had built their home in Black Forest 64 years ago. She herself raised her daughter in a cabin down the road from their house. Her brothers lived along the road in houses they had built. All the houses are gone. She's not sure what she's going to do. As she and my mother exchanged news of mutual friends, they discussed where they might go from here. My mom mentioned that they were considering moving to Arkansas. Her friend was very intrigued. Perhaps she will come visit us in Mountain View.

It took two hours to get from the Post Office in Colorado Springs to my dear friend Julia's mom's house in Denver. My dad drove through horrendous traffic. The house is wonderful, comfortable and she has it all set up for my folks. After quick hugs and inadequate thank yous, as well as a quick lesson on how to give the resident cats their medicine, collapsed into the living room chairs.

Julia's mom's house. Thank you so much for loaning this wonderful place to my parents while they rest and regroup.

My parents are eating well. They've been having breakfast at the hotel. Today we stopped at R&R Cafe for lunch after picking up shovels and more gloves, air masks, water, a shovel and a rake at the disaster relief center. Some wonderful anonymous person bought our lunch. My dad and I had whole wheat, grilled vegi sandwiches and my mom had a quesadilla. All great food. Tonight we dug through what they had in the bags and cooler. My dad and I made salmon tomato sandwiches. Weird, but good. We are all tired.

Smoke from the Wolf Creek Pass and other fires shroud the mountains and turn the sun bright red.
As my dad was headed to bed, he put his hand on the fireplace mantle in Julia's mom's sun room. "I had one like this," he said, looking so tired. "It was a little wider and a bit longer. Solid black walnut. It was in the basment."

Good night.


My brother and I had a wonderful long talk tonight and he expressed what he is feeling wonderfully. We grew up in a military family.
Other people have PLACES where their memories are.
I can't answer the question, "Where are you from?" I usually just say, "I'm an Army brat."
Other people grew up some place, in a community or two and they can go back to those places and see those people.  We grew up around the world, the people we can go back to see are my parents, my brothers and me - and all our memories of childhood and the wonderful exotic lands we lived in were in the wonderful things that were in this house.
The people all survived - and that is what's important, and for that I am so thankful - but it doesn't mean there's not a lot to grieve.
The pillars of the front porch on the right, the railing that went up the back porch steps on the bottom left. What is left of a beautiful three story, high ceiling house full of light and beauty.

My dad, greenhouse and garden

It was a stump of a pine tree

The front of the car shop

Where the fire almost came through

The Triumph, and other less famous cars.

The 'Vette

The reverse 911 call came at 4:00 p.m. - the electric clock on the wall of the shop stopped at of the scariest things I saw all afternoon. I'm pretty sure that's when the fire hit the power pole behind this building. And I am more thankful than ever that my family got out.

The fire almost came through the fire-proof isulation

the outside of the car shop

Looking through the "forest" to the front porch pillars
Thanks to everybody who has chipped in so that I can be here with my family. It is good to be here, not that there is much I can do, I still think I am helping just by being here. Thanks for all your prayers and well wishes, they really help, too. Keep them coming. I'll write more better words later, for now, goodnight all.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Leaving, on a jet plane

I'm headed out this morning, first to Little Rock to catch a flight to Denver and from there, to where ever I'm needed. I wish the situation was different. Oh, how I wish that. But I am thankful I can go.
I so love my daylilies, Thanks Charles and Linda!

I am so incredibly thankful to everyone who came together to help so that I could go be there for my family in the aftermath of the Black Forest Fire. I promised I would blog to let everyone who has put their hearts out there for my family know what was happening. It's the least I can do for all of you who care so deeply and have shared so much.

The last few days have been busy with preparation to go to Colorado. That included a lot of paperwork at work and delegating a lot of tasks to a lot of already busy people. The Ozark Folk Center is such an incredible place to call home!

I had a commitment this past weekend with Tina Marie and Tango to demonstrate at the 40th Anniversary Celebration at Blanchard Springs Caverns. Of course, the donkey stole the whole show. He was a gentleman throughout the afternoon, even when you couldn't see the donkey through all the children.
Helping Tina and Tango promote the Ozark Folk Center.

Part of the prep for being away included giving Pequena her summertime saddle haircut
And then there were farm chores to catch up on. Even in times of disaster and heartache, life continues. I got the last of the garden planted. Okra now rounds out the year's plantings. It's a funny mix this year, should make for some interesting meals this fall and winter.

I gave Pequena her summertime saddle haircut. She orgled and gurgled and spit the whole time, but stood still so we made it a short ordeal. She's 8-years-old now, she ought to be getting used to this process. She so loves to be able to really scratch her back now.

Of course, Lena and Shawn will take great care of everything on the farm while I'm gone. Everybody at work will make sure all the details are taken care of there. It's all covered, so I can go try to help my family. Thank you all so much.

Packing this morning has been a challenge. I want to take what I'll need, so I am not a burden on an over-burdened system. Boots, jeans, heavy gloves... I want to take things for my parents. My Aunt Jeannie and I keep talking on the phone about things we see in our house that we want to send to them. When I washed the fry pan last night, I wanted to take them my extra set of cast iron pans. Jeannie keeps finding family treasures that she wants to send - and blankets and towels. All silly things to think of at this stage. What good is a cast iron pan to someone who no longer has a stove. The thoughts are all so confusing. I'm hoping it will be easier when I am out there. Then I can see what we really can do to help.

Nilly is positively fat in the new cut hay field. I think she's looking so good because of all the hugs Bettie sends her from North Dakota! Energy from afar really does help.
Those of you at OFC who read this, please share it with everyone who doesn't. I know so many of you wish you could be going to physically help all the folks in Colorado. Keep sending your thoughts, energy and prayers. It all helps. And I promise I will let you know if there is anything else you can do.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My family is safe and that's what matters

It's official, My parents and brother and sister-in-law's home is totally gone. But they are all safe. That is what is important. Treasures can be re-hunted,  new works of art can be quilted, carved, stitched, woven and painted; necessities can be bought. Houses can be built or bought and with time, turned into homes. People are unique, precious and irreplaceable.

My family is safe and I am so thankful.
Family is what's important. And they are all safe. Picture taken this past Christmas at my folks house. 

I am very thankful to the El Paso County sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement folks who braved the fire to assess the damaged areas. There is a relief in knowing. Now those who know can move on to the details of insurance, new housing, clothing and transportation.

 Many of our dear friends and family-of-the-heart have offered help from transportation to fully furnished house complete with kitty cats. Thank you all for taking care of my folks (and me!).

I am flying out there next week. By then, maybe I can help in some way. This morning they announced that under current conditions, they think they'll have the fire under control by June 20.

My dad said, "A hug would be nice, but there's nothing you can do. Don't come out."

Sorry Daddy, I need a hug. See you Wednesday.

My parents got the trailer and Suburban out. The corner of their house shows on the right of the photo. This picture was taken before they went to Alaska in 2007. 

My brothers and me in front of Scott's "car house." While the status of an outbuildings is still unknown, there is little hope for this structure and the 12 cars inside.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer arrives

First off, thanks to everyone for their thoughts and energy and hugs and prayers. My folks, friends and brothers still don't know anything about their homes in the Black Forest fire. The fire  is still not contained and is spreading fast. I'll be headed out there, as soon as there is something I can do to help. Right now, part of the problem is that there are too many people in the way of moving equipment and fighting the fire.

The sheep flock getting ready to bed down in the shade
of the cedars during the heat of the day.

Here in the Ozarks, summer arrived this week. We've had an absolutely perfect spring and the hay fields are high, the flowers are beautiful and the trees are soaking up the frequent rains. This week, the switch flipped from moderate spring temperatures in the 70's during the day and 50's at night to 90's in the day and 70's at might. It's summer. Perfect hay drying and fruit ripening weather.

All the animals spend the middle of the day in the woods,
including the chickens. I wonder if it's even cooler up there?
The critters are adjusting to the summer temps. Havencroft Farm is on the side of a ridge. Our front pasture/yard is flat. It stairsteps a bit up to the house, then up to the animal paddocks. At the top of all their little pastures is what we call the "berm". It's a treed area about 20 feet higher than the front of the paddocks.   It is consistently 20 degrees cooler on the berm than it is in the front pasture.

So, after everybody eats their breakfast in the early morning, they retire to the berm to nap during the heat of the day. This is the time of year that the sheep switch to doing most of their grazing from evening through morning. Then they rest in the trees during the heat of the day. All of the animals gather up there on the berm. The horse stands and the sheep, goats and llama lay down. The chickens gather in the trees.

Sometime after about 3:00 in the afternoon, they all head out to pasture again, to get a drink and go back to the important business of grazing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Take time to enjoy the people in your life, too

I know this blog is about sheep and gardens and the sunny side of life. That really is how I view life. But today, I just have to be a little more serious. I was at a goodbye potluck for our park superintendent when I got a call from my brother. I have two brothers. I love them both dearly and ever time we get together, we are amazed at how much we enjoy each other's company. But we only get together about once every two years, and we don't talk on the phone too much more often.
The kitchen is the heart of their home.

I could tell from his voice something was wrong and so I stepped outside to talk. He told me about the fire that had started a few hours before near my parents house in Black Forest, Colorado. This is my parents dream house. They bought the land in 1974 and had saved and planned and worked on it for years. Finally, in 2001, they began building. Eventually what they built was big and tall, full of light from the windows that bracketed a glorious view of Pikes Peak. The light natural wood interior showcased their collections of treasures and memories from a lifetime of travel around the world. The house is really huge and as they developed it, it became a home for both my parents and my brother and sister-in-law.
My youngest brother had not been able to reach my parents. While he and I spoke, he got a call from my other brother. He and my sister-in-law had gotten out, with their cats and were at my brother's office. They were going to go stay with friends. They said mother and daddy had gotten out too, and were headed to the evacuation center.
Just two days ago, in our usual Sunday phone conversation, my mom had told me about further fire mitigation that my dad was doing. Every year, they've cut down pine trees and cleared the property. They've hauled probably hundreds of pines off the property, some of them beetle killed and some of them to thin it out for the health of the trees. The whole property still is beautifully wooded pine forest. My dad had cut down all the smaller pine trees within 30 feet of the house and loaded them on the trailer. He was waiting for my brother's help to take down the larger trees inside that 30-foot recommended perimeter.
Shawn and I came home and went right to our computers. What we found on the Black Forest fire was terrifying. The video in that link made me realize that my dear friends Kris and Val had likely lost the Table Rock Llamas store, one of the most wonderful fibery places on the planet. Their store is less than 500 yards from where the video shows and about a mile from my parents house. 
The whole scenario was somewhat deja vu. About this time last year, we had fretted while Shawn's daughter and her family were evacuated during the Waldo Canyon fire. This branch of our family just moved to Greensboro, NC, last week.
Shawn finally got through to my parents on their cell phone. They were at the evacuation center.
Sit and visit - and laugh
My dad said everyone there was being very helpful, making sure they had their medicines and any food they needed. I was very relieved to hear they were being taken care of. I called my brother back and told him in the course of our conversation that I wished they would all leave fire-ravaged Colorado. Having to go through the stress of worrying about family every fire season was getting tiring. He retorted with a very valid comment about watching the weather radar every time there are tornadoes reported in Arkansas and wondering if my family and I were under the dark purple areas, or just in the bright orangy red areas. And then for good measure, he reminded me that Shawn's daughter and her family had just gone through their first hurricane warning in their new home. Life is not safe, we agreed.
Life is not safe. Your family and friends are more valuable than any treasures. Take the time to spend time with them. Nourish those relationships and maintain those connections. Life is not safe no matter where you are.
Please send prayers, thoughts and energy to all the folks in Colorado right now dealing with the devastating wildfires.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

I am a Sunday gardener

My favorite garden companion, Kitty. My second favorite
garden tool, a mattock.
I am a Sunday gardener. Because of my work schedule, I do very little in the garden on weekdays. Caring for the critters bookends my everyday, with milking and feeding every morning and evening. Sunday is the day that I water and mulch and weed and plant. I do find some time to do some harvesting in the garden in the evenings. Fresh vegis and goat cheese make an incredible dinner.

Sunday is a good day to spend focusing on the divine aspects of this world, too. And what better place to do that than in the garden. I noticed this afternoon that my brain plays songs like "Angel Band" and "I went down to the river to pray" and "Dancing on the Sacred Path" as I dig and pull and make order among the weeds.
Three sisters - corn, beans, pumpkins

Today,with Kitty's help, I made and planted a Three Sisters garden. Corn and pole beans and pumpkins are supposed to grow well together, support each other and it is an interesting story. We'll see how it works out. I planted three rows,about 20 feet each. It's a little late, but I'm a Sunday gardener.

One of the messages for the day seemed to be that we didn't need to be using power equipment. I got my tiller fixed earlier this year, with Josh's help, and Shawn fixed my mower for me for my birthday. It really was what I wanted. So, this morning Lena was out cutting hay in the front yard/pasture and I was running the tiller in the Three Sisters garden when the tiller threw a belt and the mower threw a rod.

After running into our little town and discovering that several people could order the belt for me, I decided to come back home and dig the garden by hand. With our turf, that takes a mattock, (my second favorite gardening tool after a dibbler.)
Had the Three Sister's garden planted
but not quite mulched when the rain came.

I staked out the rows and chopped sod, throwing the root clods on the hugelkultur pile (yep, it's still a work in process). Then I smoothed the dirt, used the dibbler to poke my holes at precise depth and distance and planted the corn, pole beans and pumpkins using the mantra "One for the coon, one for the crow, one for the worms and one to grow." I may have planted a little too light...

It was clouding up as I started mulching the rows with fresh straw. I had just put down about half a bale when the sky opened up and blessed my little Three Sisters garden with a wonderful soaking rain.

I love being a Sunday gardener.

My Three Sisters garden was blessed by a
beautiful afternoon rain.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Meet the flock - Greta the Hover-Mommy

Greta is a hover-mommy. She had her first lamb this year as a first time two year old ewe. We named him Ivan. He's a big, strong dark spotted 4-horned boy. A really nice ram lamb by Canoe Lake Sonic Boom.

For the first month of his life, Greta would not allow Ivan to play with the other lambs. She would run over an put herself between him and the lamb flock. She'd gently nudge him back towards the shelter with little bumps of her nose. She'd snuffle him all over to make sure the lambs hadn't hurt him.
If they got separated at feeding time, the two times of the day when most lambs have to fend for themselves from day one, Greta would leave her feed pan, hollering, until she found Ivan.

Is Ivan ok?
When we started turning the sheep out to pasture, Greta used her strident voice to keep Ivan at her side. She eventually allowed him to participate in lamb-pedes in the evening, but she watched them carefully. Now that he's almost four months old, and almost as big as his mom, Ivan does play with the other lambs, but he never will have the "devil-may-care" attitude that Cowslip's twin boys have, or Inky or many of the others who are truly convinced the world revolves around them.

Greta is the daughter of one of our herd matriarchs, Basil, who is Thyme's daughter. Greta is mostly a sweet and quiet Jacob Sheep ewe. Her fleece is soft, mostly white, with small black spots. She's very pretty and gentle and kind, sort of just a sheep, a really nice sheep, but just a sheep, until she had her son. Now she's a Hover- Mommy to the max. She'll come swooping in all battle and fury to protect her Ivan from any imagined threat.

Last weekend, we wethered all the little boy sheep and goats. We are not keeping any ram lambs or buck goats this year. Ivan has a future as a fiber wether, he's already promised to a new flock after I get his lamb's wool fleece next spring. Greta didn't really worry about what we were doing to her boy, she trusts her humans, and none of the ram lambs hollered or fussed. Greta did worry that he didn't want to walk around much, and she kept pawing him to get up and move. He would, reluctantly. Part of the healing process is for the wethers to exercise regularly, so that was good. They all seem to be healing fine.

Ivan's fine
Yesterday as I was running out the door to work, late, I heard a squalling and hollering ewe in the sheep pen. I went running out there in my full long skirts and petticoats and apron. My shiny boots squelched in the mud as I ran toward the fence, flipping my long skirts over the low spot.

Greta was standing in the middle of the pen, bawling. I climbed the hill to where the sheep like to take their morning nap in the trees. Ivan was relaxing with his little band of brothers, chewing his cud and ignoring his mother. I made him get up and go down to her. Teenaged lambs still need to listen to their mommies. It helps with the shepherd's sanity.

Even in sheep, mother's come in all types. Relaxed moms, non-maternal moms, self-centered moms. Greta is a hover-mommy.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Garden ties - more of 52 things to do with an old tshirt

And then there are the little bits left over
As I was mulching the baby blueberries and giving them some more of the wonderful used coffee grounds that they love, I could see that a few of them could us some help staying inside their supports. But they are delicate little baby blueberries. Baling twine would be too rough, ziplock ties too hard, cotton string too cutting fine.
Then I thought about the tshirt scraps left on my cutting table from the bag I'd just made. The perfect wide, soft, gentle blueberry ties.
The berries are hitting pink blush stage right now. Just another week... or two. I'll have a hard time sharing this year. After all, a plant that thrives on coffee grounds has got to be MY plant. And since I only buy fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee, I am very happy to share the grounds with my blueberry plants.

The strawberries have been giving me about one ripe berry an evening. Makes for a sweet reason to check the garden when I get home from work. Leesa's blackberries are getting huge. They'll be about the size of plums! But they are still green.
The black raspberries are ripening a few a day... and I have shared some of them with Shawn and Lena. They are delicious.
Tshirt soft - the best garden ties for baby plants.
I can't decide whether or not to let this year's little elderberries make berries. They have flower clusters, but I want them to establish roots, so I think I'll trim them back this year.
Maybe now that June is here and work is less frenetic, I'll have time to keep ya'll updated with things here on Havencroft Farm.