Walking on a Chilly Evening

Fiesty Autumn nipped at my heels
on my early evening stride,
but I simply brushed her off
and skipped along in pride.

I wrapped my sweater tighter,
stuffed my hands in my jeans.
Fifty degrees ain’t enough
to matter a hill o’ beans!

It takes no fortitude
to walk this chilly day.
Courage is not needed;
It’s really all child’s play

Oh, wait until December;
Now that’s a different story.
Frigid temps are enough
to keep me non-ambulatory!

I’ll keep walking ’til that day
when the weatherman expounds,
“Freezing temps are expected.”
And I declare, “I’m housebound!”

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Nutting

This morning one lone, black squirrel is attempting to eat and store all the hickory nuts from the tree in our backyard…all by himself. He’s a hard worker and a fast eater.

Seeing all the empty husks on the ground, I am taken back to when I was a child. Our family foraged hickory nuts and black walnuts from a friend’s grove. Closing my eyes, I can still smell the bold, pungent aroma of black walnuts and the evocative, earthy leaves as we kicked them up from the ground with our feet. I hear the laughter and raucous shouts as we kids jumped the small stream that ran through the tree-dotted hills. Sometimes, we didn’t quite make it, and our shoes and socks soaked up the cold water. I feel the sun breaking through the clouds, temporarily warming our chilly arms and legs.

Tired and damp from the wet leaves, we head home to store our bounty in the basement. Later, we would spend hours down there cracking them open and meticulously picking out the coveted nuts while tossing out the squiggly worms with disgust.

These precious nut “jewels” later found their way into cookies and fudge for the holiday season. Black walnuts do not compare with English walnuts in depth of flavor! As a child, I had no idea that black walnuts contain tannins, a class of substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Little would I have cared then, but now, I love to hear of their health benefits.

Foraging is an art that is naturally shared with children. I believe it is making a comeback as families are looking for ways to save on soaring food prices and increase the quality of their time spent together. Nutting is a great way to start this practice of foraging.

Families who forage together fill storage together!

Haymaker

Here we are at the end of summer and haymaking season, but I wanted to share this part of my mother’s memoirs about haymaking on the ranch in the sandhills of Nebraska. My mother had such a beautiful relationship with her dad, and it shows in this part of her story. ~ Janet

Hot days now remind me of haymaking time on the ranches. There was always too much to do regardless of the early rising and working into the night by the light of the moon or smoky lantern. The chore of milking the cows after supper was the most dreaded—after a long day in the fields stacking hay. Supper would have been a short, leftover type of meal. A large dinner was carried at noon to the fields—mom driving the car. The dinner would be fresh fried chicken, potato salad, green beans or corn, apple or cherry pie, and lemonade.

One of my happiest of childhood memories is riding on the hay sled on weekend winter mornings with my dad. During the winter months, the cattle had to be fed the hay we had cut and stacked during the summer. I was a working part of the haymaking from the summer I was nine years old until I left home at 19. At nine years old, I drove the “stacker team,” which pulled the cable that hoisted a large load of hay up on a stack. Of course, I was given the oldest, most well-behaved team of horses to drive on this job. They had to be trusted to obey my not-so- threatening, little girl voice, when I yelled, “Git up!” and “Whoa!”

I never had a team run away with me on the stacker job, but in later years, some time after I was 14, when I was driving a team hitched to a mowing machine, a team did run away with the mower. I think it’s strange that I can’t remember if I stayed on the seat or fell off. Of all things I have written about, this seems the most drastic of happenings, and I can’t remember much about it. I must have been in shock!

We would move the equipment from field to field or in this case (in the sandhills) from hill to valley and valley to hill. The grass was cut with two horse-drawn mowing machines, swept into windrows to dry, and depending upon the weather—when Dad decided it was dry enough—it was then stacking day. The stacks would be huge—as much as 20 tons in one stack. They stood like sentinels in the hayfields until a winter day when Dad would pull up beside one with the hay sled. The sled was a large flatbed of boards built close to the ground and on four wheels.

Each winter morning, Dad would harness a team and hitch them to the hay sled. Again, the gentlest team of horses was used for this job. Often, he would be driving this team in a snowstorm. If a blizzard was too bad, skipping a day of feeding the cattle would be necessary. When he reached a stack, he would pull a steel cable around the bottom of the stack, a few feet above ground level. The end of the cable was securely fastened to a part of the sled, and the team was hitched to the other end. With the team pulling, this slid a large section of the stack onto the sled, leaving the rest for another day.

Then began the fun part for me. Dad would drive the team slowly through the herd of cattle, who were bawling anxiously for their day’s feeding. As the sled moved, Dad would pitch large forksful of hay to the ground where the cattle would “chow down.” While he was forking the hay, he would let me hold the reins and guide the team. Of course, for the most part, they knew what to do, but I felt I was being a great help.

I had a special relationship with my dad. I always felt he accepted me as I was without any attempt to change me. But his own way of relating to people affected me more than any efforts he could have made to form my outlook on life. He seemed able to cross the boundaries of socioeconomic divisions that are set up by our culture. He was equally at ease visiting with the town banker or an itinerant cowboy. In visiting with any individual, he accepted them as they were, enjoying what he could find in the conversation. He was not a person who talked about others’ faults or shortcomings. I remember Dad for his good humor, honesty, and his love of good conversation and storytelling.

~ Wilma Carpenter Yohnke

Green Carpet

Spread out like the sea,
A carpet of green,
Velvet soft and so fresh!
What delights await me?

My motor is running;
My eyes are so keen.
My nose is sniffing
At things yet unseen.

What rodent is hiding?
What bird is on wing?
Is that a field mouse
That I’m a-smelling?

My spine is tingling;
My ears perked up high.
Surely something soon
My blue eyes will spy.

A drop here and there.
Oh, no! Is that rain
Ending my adventure?
Back to the house again!

Uncle Bob

With the passing of my mom’s brother, Robert (Bob) Carpenter (May 1, 1935 – July 29, 2022), I wanted to share this little piece from my mother’s memoirs entitled, Twins Advent. Bob was twin brother to Uncle Bill (who passed away in 2018). What fun uncles they were! He was the last living link to my mom, and I am sad to hear he has gone. My mom, as well as our whole family, was very fond of them both.

It’s so strange as, out of the blue, I had been thinking of Uncle Bob all last week although I haven’t seen him in years. I talked to my husband about wanting to fly out to Seattle to see him and Aunt Jean while they were still living. I texted my sister-in-law a little video of Uncle Bob playing clarinet and told her how much he looked like my brother, Dave. I guess those were Holy Spirit nudges that Bob wasn’t going to be here long.

As I was looking into my Grandfather Carpenter’s lineage, I discovered that our great-grandfather, Warren W. Carpenter, was formerly from LaGrange County, Indiana. This is the county just north of where we live now in Noble County. We drive through the town of LaGrange all the time on our way up to Michigan. No wonder I like that little town so much!

Warren and Addie Carpenter, my great-grandparents, heard the call of the west and decided to follow others who made the journey to claim land in the far west of the state of Oklahoma. Thus, my mother’s father, Alvin Earnest Carpenter, was raised in Oklahoma. However, as an adult, he decided to go to Nebraska and file on land there. After the required length of time, he received a certificate of ownership from the government and became a “homesteader.” And that is how my mother and her twin brothers were born Nebraskans.

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Twins Advent by Wilma Faye Carpenter Yohnke

We were living 25 miles south of Bassett, Nebraska; I was in the 6th grade and boarding in town with a family we knew. That was the year my mother became pregnant, and well into the nine months, it was known by them that she was probably carrying twins. On May 2nd Dad picked me up from my boarding house and took me to the town of Long Pine, where Mom had been living in a nursing type private home the last few weeks of her pregnancy. When we got to the home, we saw two wicker baskets sitting on the dining room table—each holding a new infant. Dad asked me which one I would choose and I said, “Well, the one that is ours.” He laughed and said, “They are both ours!” I think they had not told me about the possibility of twins.

As soon as school was out for the summer, it was clear to me that the advent of twins in the family was going to make a big difference in my life. There was much more work for Mom, and she needed a lot of help. I think I still worked in the hay field when haying season began, but the mornings and evenings were filled with many other chores—chicken feeding, ironing clothes, formula mixing, bottle washing, etc. The clearest memory I have of that first summer with twins is lying on Mom and Dad’s bed, propping up a bottle to feed Billie or Bobbie, and with the other hand holding a book for my reading pleasure. I read Gone with the Wind for the first time that summer. Without electricity or plumbing, caring for babies was not as easy as it is today and, of course, no disposable diapers or bottles.

On very hot, dry days Mom would hang wet sheets in the doorway as a kind of relief from the heat—primitive evaporative cooling! The twin’s formula had to be placed in half gallon or quart glass jars and hung in a barrel of water under the water spout of the windmill, which pumped very cold water into the barrel. This was our refrigerator, where we kept cold tea and cocoa and maybe leftover potato salad. Here we had no ‘spring house’ — not an ice house either. We were a long way from a lake in this county.

Recently, Bill has told me the one thing that stands out in his memory in regard to the time when they were little and roaming around the ranch yard. He says that Mom would send me to chase after one or both of them when she wanted to catch them so she could administer some fitting punishment for their misdemeanors. I have no recollection of doing this, but I’m sure they remember it!

Probably, I was glad when it was time to go back to school in Bassett, and I would be in town all week. But I don’t remember how I felt. It was just a necessary thing. As I said elsewhere in this story, the hardships and effort my parents went through to educate me seem beyond belief.

When Bill and Bob were ready for the 4th grade, our parents moved to a little ranch acreage very close to the town of Bassett so they would not have more of that long distance driving to put the twins through school. For me, they had seven years of this carpooling with other ranchers’ kids, and hauling us 25 miles (for some it was further.) They came to get us on Friday evening whenever the roads were driveable, and took us back Sunday evening. These were the same neighbors who came to the Saturday night barn dances that Elvin and Dad played for during the fall and winter months—and the same people who attended the little country church where we went and the community Sunday dinners during the summer—one Sunday a month.

These dinners were a highlight in our lives. Most of our neighbors who lived within a 15-mile radius would take turns hosting a community dinner. The hosts furnished the coffee, iced tea, and cold cocoa drink—no pop except perhaps on the Fourth of July celebrations. Pop was not an everyday treat as it is now. The kinds I remember are root beer and grape. If there were others, I didn’t choose or remember them. The ladies brought any kind of meat, casseroles, or dessert. Most of them were remembered for some specialty dish they would always bring—one might be “famous” for her especially good fried chicken—always country fried, of course. There was no other variety. Another might always be counted on to bring a large pot of baked beans.

Some ranch houses had a summer kitchen—a small two-room building apart from the main house. We did not have one. A summer kitchen had one room for storage and chopped wood. The second room held the wood burning cook stove and a long table. Cooking in the summer kitchen kept the main house from heating up in the hot months. If you didn’t have a summer kitchen, you would not be the lady who brought slow baked beans to the dinners! These buildings always had several large windows with screens and were supplied with fly swatters and hanging fly stickers to catch the insects. They were invariably attracted by the delicious aromas drifting out the windows and soon appeared looking for some sweet, sticky treat.

My mother could always be depended on to bring two or three red cherry pies and fried chicken. We had about 10 cherry trees on this ranch place. Some enterprising former owner had planted a small orchard of cherry, plum, and crab apple trees. I had to spend many summer hours climbing the cherry trees, perched in the branches with a gallon syrup pail strapped into my jeans’ belt. As soon as the pail was filled, I would have to climb down and empty it into a larger container and then make the climb over and over again until all of the cherries that were ripe that day had been picked. None of the other ranches in our area had a fruit orchard so my mother’s fresh cherry pies were a treat for everyone to enjoy and looked forward to at each community dinner.

I have memories of spending long summer evenings helping to pit the cherries, a slow and tedious chore. We would hold a dishpan of water-covered cherries on our lap, and one by one squeeze out the resistant pits. When the water became saturated with pits and cherry juice, we had to empty it into the backyard. This was not a lawn. The only green grass we had was native grass out in the sandhills hay land. It was our livelihood and watered only by summer rains.

After cherry pie so many years of my young life, it has never been my favorite choice today—I would rather have apple. In addition to the fresh cherry pies Mom made for us, she would can 80 or 90 quarts to be made into pies before the next season of cherry pickin’.

Within the last five years, Bill, Bob, and I have visited this old ranch site where we lived while they were little. It is now abandoned. I think memories are better left undisturbed by not visiting old sites. For me, at least, this is the way it is.

~ Wilma Faye Carpenter Yohnke

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Growing up, I loved hearing stories like this from mom. I think that is one of the reasons I had such a fondness for my twin uncles. ~ Janet Faye Yohnke Mueller

It Takes Time to Grow

Wrestling Word

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:2 

Sometimes it feels like it takes forever to heal, to change, to mature, to overcome. Sometimes I feel like I will never grow up out of my trauma. I struggle with the same dark thoughts, negative self-talk, unbelief for years. I cry out with David, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” The following verses and quotes have encouraged me in the past weeks. If you are struggling and feel like it is taking way too long, may they bless you too.

Believe Him in the darkest hours. See His faithfulness emerge rock solid. Now we see His truer essence. Now we know faith in our Savior – from faith to faith…

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April

cold rain soaked
and Jack Frost poked
at the playful trill
of forsythia
and daffodil

icy pebbles pummeled
and thunder rumbled
‘gainst robin’s breast
in pine tree haven
upon her nest

rays of sun burst
trying to be first
to wake up the bloom
of white hyacinth
releasing perfume

on tip-toes I spy
hidden up so high
jewels in the crown
robin’s azure eggs
are finally found!

~ Janet F. Mueller, writer and photographer

To Think a Scent

I am thinking of a scent…
It permeates so sweetly.
I am fooled so I cannot
Help but breathe in so deeply.

Now I am fully awake;
I am shaking off the chills.
I am walking off the ache;
I am heading for the hills.

I see the deep, rich color
That becomes an avatar.
And I throw off all dolor
In the fields of lavender!

~ Janet F. Mueller, writer
~ Deana Harvey, artist, Tree of Life Gallery, Roanke, IN

Wisdom and Innocence

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

I once came across a recipe for Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake and said to myself, “That can’t be right!” The recipe claimed it was an “adventurous” cake — moist, containing the texture of coconut but without the flavor of sauerkraut. “How is that possible?” I thought.

That’s how I felt when I first read about Jesus sending His disciples out with the counsel to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” How is that possible? Can snakes and doves get along? Can wisdom and innocence reside in the same person at the same time? If wisdom is primarily obtained through life’s hard-knock experiences, then one would think innocence would be lost in the process. If a parent wanted to maintain a child’s innocence throughout his or her life, that parent would need to shelter the child from any harsh experiences but thereby, inadvertently, inhibit any growth in wisdom. Yet, Jesus was clear in his admonition, “Go. Be wise. And be innocent at the same time.” I was intrigued and wanted to seek this matter out.

I started my research by looking into the definitions of wise and innocent. “Wise” in this Scripture is the Greek word φρόνιμοι (phronimoi) which means prudent, sensible, or practically wise in relationships with others. It’s how we size things up. In place of “wise,” other translations use the words shrewd, cunning, prudent, sagacious, or wary. That is why He compared this kind of wisdom to being snakelike. “Be shrewd. Be discerning,” Jesus warned. After all, He was sending His disciples out as “sheep among wolves.”

How are serpents wise? They are pros at escaping. Their most common form of self-protection isn’t biting but avoidance. A snake’s first line of defense is to escape to safety among rocks or vegetation. Most snakes are not aggressive; they bite humans only in self-defense. They would rather not confront us. Snakes detect and avoid danger, while giving no provocation or offense.

Therefore, it seems to me that Jesus was saying we can be wise as serpents by perceiving and avoiding danger and escaping from it. That doesn’t sound very bold, does it? But it is wise. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent (shrewd, sensible) see danger and take refuge, but the simple (naive, foolish) keep going and suffer for it.” How often have we sensed God’s voice saying, “Don’t go any further,” but we keep going and suffer for it? Especially, in our interactions with others in these volatile times, we must be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19b)

Now let’s add the doves into our recipe for wisdom and innocence. What does it mean to be as innocent as doves? The Greek word for innocent is ἀκέραιοι (akeraioi). It literally means unmixed. It’s interpreted as simple, unsophisticated, sincere, and blameless. Used of wine without water and of metal without alloy, it means without any mixture of deceit. Other translations use the words pure, simple, and harmless. To be harmless is to lack the capacity to injure or hurt.

But how are doves innocent? The innocence of the dove is seen in two ways.

Doves have no gallbladder. As the dove is without a gallbladder, so we are to be without any place to store gall, which represents bitterness. That said, the dove’s liver still produces bile or gall, but it is diverted into sinuses, and then passed directly into the gut, skipping the storage step for which we use our gallbladders. Isn’t it interesting that humans store their bile (gall) while doves quickly process it and do not store it? How often do we “store up” our bile of bitterness and our gall of deceit, fraud, and desire to hurt?

Doves are harmless. In contrast with powerful birds of prey, doves have a meek and gentle quality. They are beautiful, swift-flying birds that are entirely nonthreatening.

Romans 16:19 ISV instructs us to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”

Philippines 2:15 NASB says, “so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

“Being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove means that you know how the enemy is operating, and you are choosing not to operate in that way.” ~ Lance Wallnau

Summary: As Jesus sends us out to be messengers to this generation, He does not want our wisdom to be malicious nor our simplicity to be taken advantage of. Rather, He would have us be an exquisite, lovely union of the shrewdness of a snake with the purity of a dove as demonstrated in Christ. The end result will be like the Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake – an adventurous mixture where one ingredient doesn’t contradict the other but enhances and elevates it. We can be both savvy and simple, insightful and innocent!