Thursday, July 30, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

In My Daughter's Eyes

.....this post is dedicated to Ruth, whose daughter Lesley is getting married on August 1 at the farm. And to all mothers who are fortunate enough to have daughters....and sons.

(Please listen to the song first.)

The first time I heard this song by Martina McBride I was driving the car and had to pull to the side of the road because I was crying so hard I couldn't see. My daughter and I were going through a very rough patch in our relationship at that time, and I could not imagine her ever feeling that I was her "hero".

I didn't want to die someday knowing that I wasn't that person to her and I knew in my heart that I had to be the one to change. I had to change my attitude toward her and the way she wanted to live her life. I had to understand that though she came from me, she is not me. I had to stop wanting her to be "perfect", because she doesn't have to be perfect to be the perfect daughter. I had to stop trying to live my life through her. I had to learn to accept that we live separate and distinct lives even though our lives are so intertwined.

When I finally learned all those lessons, I became a better mother, and my daughter shows me every day how much she loves me. I now see in my daughter's eyes that she loves me in spite of all my faults and imperfections and I am her hero, as she is mine.

I don't think that Ruth had to learn as many difficult Mother lessons as I did. She and Lesley seem to have always had an excellent relationship. I'm so happy for her; and even though I've never met Lesley, I wish her all the joy and happiness in the world for her marriage and for her life. I know without knowing....that if you were to look in Lesley's eyes, a hero who looks a lot like Ruth will be shining there.
In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I want to be
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me
Gives me strength when I am weak
I find reasons to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hanging on when your heart has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes.

~James Slater~

I love you, Aimee Susanne.

The photo of Lesley was taken by Ruth.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Take a walk on the Bright Side

Two students from Purdue University, Cameron Brown of Sylvania, Ohio and his friend Brett Westcott of Chicago, believe in making people happy. Their way of doing that is to compliment individuals passing by the chemistry building on Purdue's West Lafayette, Indiana campus. It drew the attention of producers on ABC's Good Morning America who did a feature story on them. They also have a video on YouTube that has been viewed more than 40,000 times.

This summer Cameron and Brett are on a 10-city tour being sponsored by Kodak and being kicked off in New Orleans, a city that could use a few compliments and smiles. Kodak's Leslie Dance, vice-president of worldwide brand marketing and communications, said the summer partnership is a perfect fit. "We believe it's time to smile, and these guys are obviously out there to make people do that," she said.

Brett Westcott, who came up with the idea, said, "I am just ecstatic that this little idea I had, that this random act of kindness, has blown up into such a big thing. I'm having kids who are messaging me online asking me if they can start free compliments at their school."

You can follow their progress on their blog, BrightSideTour, as they continue their adventure through Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Md.; Philadelphia, Pa.; New York City; and the tour ends in Rochester, N.Y.

We could all take a lesson from Brett and Cameron, so if they're passing through your town, shout out something nice to them. Or you could leave them a nice compliment on their blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

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Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
She once was a true love of mine.

Simon and Garfunkel's song always reminds me of my very first car date. He was my first teenage crush...well, other than Mickey Dolenz, Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy. I actually got to go out with this one. It was a double date with his sister and her boyfriend. That being the only way my mom would let me go with him. It was the summer of '68, and it was hot, hot, hot. Sis' boyfriend had a convertible and didn't I feel like the coolest chick riding around with the top down in the backseat with an older boy. We went to see "The Graduate" at the historic Keith-Albee Theatre in Huntington, West Virginia. All of my companions had already seen the movie, but they wanted me to see it. I'm pretty sure they wanted to shock me as I definitely consider it an "adult" movie. I'm also sure that I had no understanding of the underlying themes set forth in the movie. Sis and my date sat on opposite sides of me and every time a risque scene was forthcoming, I would get jabbed in the ribs by both of them.

After the movie we went to a popular parking spot called Gobbler's Knob in Ritter Park. I was mighty uncomfortable watching Sis and beau making out in the front seat, while I tried carrying on a conversation with my date. Our relationship didn't last the summer, but I continued my crush on him throughout my high school years along with many others. Luckily I didn't marry him, because I'm pretty confident that I wouldn't be able to stand him now. Doesn't life work out just grand?

Daisy, one of my Buff Orpingtons, was trying to help me take photos. She suggested this spot, but there was too much green in the background. She's still learning.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Part two: Malabar Farm (okay, so tomorrow came early)

Here's a trivia question for you: where did Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall get married? The answer: Malabar Farm.


Malabar Farm is a working historic farm situated in the Pleasant Valley region of Richland County, Ohio, which is located about halfway between Columbus and Cleveland. The terrain is rolling hills dotted with farms. Mansfield is the county seat.

Louis Bromfield was a Pulitzer prize-winning novelist who grew up adoring his maternal grandfather's farm near Mansfield. He mourned the loss of that farm by what he felt was old-fashioned farming methods and lack of money. Though he began studying agriculture at Cornell University, his mother persuaded him to transfer to Columbia University to study journalism. That only lasted a year when he joined the Army to fight in World War I. He returned to New York City and began work as a reporter. His first novel was published in 1924 to instant acclaim. His third novel, Early Autumn, won the Pulitzer. All thirty of his novels were best-sellers. He was friends with the likes of Thomas Mann, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso.

In the late 1930's, Bromfield came home to Ohio and started buying land near Mansfield to start his own farm after living abroad for many years. He acquired close to a thousand acres. Louis became widely known as the father of modern American sustainable agriculture. After spending a decade living in France, he implemented the methods he had learned there; such as, crop rotation, contour farming, no-till planting and grass-fed and finished cattle. Instead of fighting water drainage in his fields, he worked with it by installing areas with French drains and planting cottonwood trees which like having wet roots. Not only did the trees take care of some of the excess water, they also provided a home for birds which killed the insects which, in return, reduced the need for chemicals.

The farmers in the area thought Louis was crazy and continued the old method of moldboard plowing which causes deep furrows. This type of plowing is fine on flat fields, but the land in that part of Ohio is rolling hills and moldboard plowing causes a lot of runoff during heavy rains and so a lot of topsoil is washed away. To add insult to injury, most of the farmers at that time plowed up and down the hills, causing even more runoff. Louis felt that this was the reason for the relatively small crop yields. By using contour farming, or following the contours of the hillside, and using the no-till method, Louis remedied this problem.

It wasn't an easy task. The land he bought was worn out by generations of farmers who, as Bromfield put it, "had been miners of the soil rather than its stewards". In time, he proved to the neighboring farmers that it worked.

Louis had a burning desire to return to the days of a "more civilized and democratic world in which a 'natural aristocracy' and independent farmers had shaped a vital rural society". He named his farm Malabar after the Malabar coast of India where he had spent some time in the '30s. He wanted the farm to be self-sufficient, except for sugar, coffee and spices. He and his farm manager developed "the Plan" which was a cooperative farm based loosely on the collective farms of the Soviet Union. Whomever worked there would receive food and shelter free until the farm started to realize a profit, and then Louis would collect a percentage off the top. The rest of the profits would be divided among the workers. His manager wasn't convinced that this method would be successful and he was later proved right.

Part of that idyllic setting included building a manor house, which was dubbed Big House (there were several farmhouses on the property). The house was built in the Western Reserve style with 32 rooms. Louis wanted the rambling farmhouse to look as if it had been added onto over many years rather than being built all at once.

Now, this is where Bogey and Bacall come into the picture. Louis had a lot of high-society friends that he had made in New York from being a successful novelist and screenwriter, and through his wife, Mary, who was a person of high society in her own right. He invited all his show business friends and society friends to the farm for visits. The catch being while they were there they had to work for their supper. Yes, indeedy. Shoveling stalls, driving the tractors, harvesting crops, and no one was spared. Not even Bogey and Bacall. They chose to be married there for the privacy and its idyllic setting.

In due time, Louis realized that by trying to raise everything on the farm, he wasn't able to bring any one crop to perfection, so eventually he concentrated on raising the best cattle he could with rich grasses and legumes. The legumes (soybeans) were planted to release nitrogen into the soil, thereby reducing the need for fertilizers. Legumes are deep-rooted plants that pull nutrients up from the subsoil and then release it back into the topsoil when the crop is harvested leaving the roots intact. They harrowed organic matter into the soil rather than turning it under with a moldboard plow. This protected the soil from erosion. The soil became more friable, making the soil spongelike to retain rainfall. Several long-dried-up springs became viable again and even new ones developed. It was a nice little circle of life when the cattle grazed on these rich grasses and dropped manure, further enriching the soil and eliminating the need for grain.

After many years of being a fiction writer, Louis then turned to writing about his farming methods and life on his beloved Malabar Farm. Pleasant Valley, Malabar Farm and Out of the Earth are three of his well-known books. He died in 1956 from bone cancer which he hid from almost everyone. He was known as a sad and lonely man, having driven away his daughters because he wouldn't share control of the farm with them. In the end, he had to abandon a tenet of his philosophy to pay his hospital bill: he sold his watershed timber rights. His friend Doris Duke repurchased them after his death and donated them back to the farm.

Two years after his death, his daughters had to sell the farm. Friends of the Land, which Lewis helped found, bought it and maintained it until 1972. While under their care, a private educational center named Louis Bromfield Ecological Center was opened. In 1976, the State of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources took over the farm and made it an Ohio state park. It is the Ohio park system's only working farm. People from all over the world who are interested in profitable, environmentally conscious, sustainable, grass-based farming come to Malabar Farm, especially from Eastern Europe. Louis would have been proud.

The front of the Big House.


The terraced gardens on one end of the house. Louis was influenced by French gardens in planning the landscaping.

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The rear view of the Big House.

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An AYH hostel is in one house on the farm that was built from a Sears & Roebuck package. You can book a room there.


The tractors and other farm equipment are powered by soy biodiesel.

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On the farm stands a 300-year oak. This is an oak tree that is said to take one hundred years to reach maturity, then it lives for a hundred years, and takes a hundred years to die. This particular tree was used in the filming of "The Shawshank Redemption". Most of the movie was filmed in nearby Mansfield State Prison. In the scene involving the tree, Morgan Freeman's character, "Red", sits under it looking at the money that "Andy" left buried there. The opening scene was filmed at one of the log cabins on the property.


E.B. White wrote this poem for The New Yorker in 1948. It was used as the introduction to Bromfield's book Malabar Farm. The poem is quite long, so forgive me, but I'm sure it took a lot longer for me to type than for you to read.

Malabar Farm is the farm for me,
It's got what it takes to a large degree;
Beauty, alfalfa, constant movement,
And a terrible rash of soil improvement.
Far from orthodox in its tillage,
Populous as many a village,
Stuff being planted and stuff being written,
Fields growing lush that were once unfitten,
Bromfield land, whether low or high land,
Has more going on that Coney Island.

Malabar Farm is the farm for me,
A place of unbridled activity.
A farm is always in some kind of tizzy
But Bromfield's farm is really busy.
Strangers arriving by every train,
Bromfield terracing against the rain,
Catamounts crying, mowers mowing,
Guest rooms full to overflowing.
Boxers in every room of the house,
Cows being milked to Brahms and Strauss.
Kids arriving by van and pung,
Bromfield up to his eyes in dung,
Sailors, trumpeters, mystics, actors,
All of them wanting to drive the tractors...
Play producers jousting the bards,
Boxers fighting with Saint Bernards...
Almost every Malabar day,
Sees birth and growth, sees death, decay;
Summer ending, leaves a-falling,
Lecture dates, long distance calling.

When Bromfield went to Pleasant Valley
The soil was as hard as a bowling alley;
He sprinkled lime and he seeded clover,
And when it came up he turned it over.
From far and wide folks came to view
The things that a writing man will do.
The more he'd fertilize the field
The more impressive were his yields,
And every time fields grew fitter
Bromfield would add another critter,
The critter would add manure despite 'im,
And so it went ad infinitum.
It proves that a novelist on his toes
Can make a valley bloom like a rose.

I think the world might well have a look
At Louis Bromfield's latest book;
A man doesn't have to be omniscient
To see that he's right--our soil's deficient.
We've robbed and despoiled this lovely earth
Of all that our children need from birth,
And it's true that the strength of the human race
Is drawn from the elements known as "trace,"
And though his husbandry's far from quiet
Bromfield had the guts to try it.
A book like his is a very great boon,
And what he's done, I'd like to doon.

All quotes were taken from a publication by The Ohio Historical Society.

Hiking in Mohican State Park

On Sunday, David and I finished up his vacation week (spent working at home) with a trip to Richland County, Ohio and Mohican State Park. The Clear Fork of the Mohican River joins up with the Black Fork to form the Mohican River which is dammed to form Mohican Lake. Below the spillway, the river cuts through a 300-foot-deep gorge which was formed 12,000 years ago by the melting glacial waters of the Ice Age, creating magnificent sandstone outcroppings and steep cliffs. The Clearfork Gorge has been designated a Registered National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service partly because of its towering hemlock trees and a stand of virgin white pines. The park was once the hunting grounds of the Delaware Indians.

There are 13 miles of hiking trails in the park and an additional 32 miles in the adjacent Mohican-Memorial State Forest. There are also 8.5 miles of mountain bike trails which can be used by hikers. Work continues to expand this to 24.5 miles. There are a number of bridle trails which was evident by the scores of horse trailers we saw parked in the designated areas.

We only managed to hike about 3.5 miles on this trip, but parts of it were very rigorous and, if it had rained recently, would have been nearly impassable. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, perfect for hiking.

We started our hike with food. We had brunch at the Mohican Lodge.


Where the dam forms the lake. We parked here to start our hike.


The down-river side of the dam.


An uprooted hemlock tree. Now, if I had been a smart photographer, I would have had David stand beside it to show how huge it was, but I'm not that smart. Yet. You'll have to trust me when I tell you that the root system was at least fifteen feet across and the tree itself was probably 75 feet tall. I'm just guessing here, so don't quote me.

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Big Lyons Falls which only had a trickle of water as it was fairly dry in the area. There is also a Little Lyons Falls, but I couldn't get a good picture because of the dense vegetation.


A sandstone rock carved by the waters coming from the waterfall and also some human carvings as well.


The Clear Fork draws a lot of fly fishermen. This young man wasn't having much luck. Fly fishing is a sport that David intends to explore when he retires.


The covered bridge where the trail loops back around. It seems to attract a lot of Harley riders.
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After finishing the loop trail, this is what we faced to get back to the parking lot at the top of the dam. Yikes!


This is the view from the top where I was resting, and by that I mean trying not to die from a heart attack. The little speck you see on the right is a nine-year-old girl running down the hill in flip-flops!! And, yes, it is just as steep as it looks!


I hope you enjoyed this part of our day. Tomorrow I will take you on a little tour of an historic farm in the same area.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

First birthdays happen once in a lifetime

Matthew Tyler's first birthday was on Thursday. I baked his cake (obviously I am not a professional cake decorator!) with a Sesame Street theme which totally didn't match the party theme of puppies, because I couldn't find any puppy cake decorations.


Let's get right to the gifts. Hmmm, wonder what's in this bag?


I can really throw this ball!


My sister and cousins were there.

Lauren, my big sis.


Kaitlyn and my Aunt Aimee helping free Curious George.

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Gaige and Nathan with their puppy ears.

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What did you say Mommy? It's time for cake now?


Happy Birthday, dear Matthew. Happy Birthday to you!



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A very tired and sleepy one-year-old boy.


He wore the hat the entire time!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oh, shut up, Bob

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Remember a few months ago when I was all atwitter about Facebook? I was dead set against having an account because I didn't want anything else in my life wasting my time.

Well, as Cindy admonished me, I caved! I am a regular Facebook contributor! Wasting time seems to be okay now. I've already caught up with a couple of old friends from high school and it is a lot easier to keep up with friends and family when you don't always have time for writing a long email or a phone call.

Okay, okay, I apologize to any of you lovely ladies whom I might have offended by denouncing Facebook in my previous post.

Oh, yeah, I'm even tweeting now, even though it's only about once a week. Nothing like staying true to my convictions, eh? Now you all see what a pushover I am!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Did I save her?

Or just prolong her eventual death? I found her on the basement stairs with the cats hovering over her. I don't know if her feathers were wet from the rain or a cat's mouth. Damn cats. They were put inside on house arrest and will remain there. I held the hummingbird in my hand for a long time to warm her. Her heart is beating strongly and I'm hoping that she is waiting for her feathers to dry enough to be able to fly. It's been about ninety minutes since I found her. She opens her eyes and flutters her wings as if to fly away when I touch her, but stays where I put her. Time will tell, I suppose. Damn cats.


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Update: She didn't make it.