My Miss June

Dear Miss June Belle,

Soon you will be three years old…in just seven short weeks. How did that happen with such brevity? I swear it took three years to get through your pregnancy! You were a late baby, almost two weeks.

You are now most definitely a little spitfire with a huge personality.

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You call your older sister & brother “my friends” & tag along after them like you were a big kid, too.

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Being almost six years younger than your closest sibling, however, makes you mama’s little buddy. You wear everything I knit with little to no protest. I love hearing you ask, “Whatcha knittin’ mama?” as I stitch away at another item for {invariably} you, my biggest fan.

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“I made this fer ya!” is a common refrain as you tinker in your play kitchen, cooking atop a kid-sized hutch made by your great-grandfather for your dear aunt Denise, Daddy’s sister, who will never get to meet you in this space & time.

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You do NOT like your hair combed nor styled {but you’re a rockstar when you get your hair cut}.

You do NOT like your teeth brushed {but you’re perfect at the dentist}.

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You love to collect your blankies at the end of the day & always know when one is being washed missing.

You can recognize Blue Jays and Cardinals, you’re close on Downy woodpeckers.

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You LOVE your Papa Jerrys {they’re both named Jerry, isn’t that awesome?!} and always want to know when they’re coming “home” {you think everyone lives at our house & just goes away on vacation, destined to return soon}.

You know how to touch your forehead to mine & rock it back & forth whispering “buzza buzza” like my Dad & I used to do when I was little. It kills me every.time.

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“Moosgit” {music} is in your soul, you crave it. You would like to live at your Symphony School music class with your teacher Ms. Leah {who lives at Target because we saw her there once}.

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Everyone & everything has a mama in your world & needs to be with its mama–the laundry basket is the bathroom step stool’s mama, the large lotion bottle is the mama to all the smaller ones, every bird that visits our feeders needs to find its eggs. Such truth.

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You don’t acknowledge a single color or letter or word {you are, in your own words, a “stinker butt” in the academics department}, but your vast vocabulary tells me you’re just like your brother–it will all click in an instant as soon as you’re ready & you’ll zoom ahead to where you need to be {& then some if you’re truly your brother}.

Your favorite book is currently “Green Eggs & Ham,” the copy I had when I was your age, given to me by your namesake, my paternal grandmother, Mary Belle {Richeson McAllister} Ingram.

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Your favorite food is probably snow, followed by peas cooked in cream with salt & pepper. Chocolate is a close third.

Your eyes are BLUE. Your lips are RED.

Who would we all be without you? It took a lot to bring you here, Miss Junebug. Merritt told me the other day “we lost two babies to bring June here, so she’s actually really special, Mom.” So true. I forget that sometimes when you’re hitting your brother on the head or running around the house screaming bloody murder or demanding ANOTHER chocolate–”just one tiny one, Mama.”

The brevity of life takes & will take the breath from all of us. Incredible how quick it skips along.

I love you, June Belle. Stay two just a wee bit longer, ok?

Love, Mama

P.S. PLEASE learn to use the potty for both 1 & 2 before kindergarten. xoxo

Cap is June Belle raveled here. Dress is Bulle raveled here.

Make Ready

Purl

Purl running ahead as we ski. Always running.

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My sleeping flower beds.

Home

Wood Pile

Reflections of June

Reflections of sleeping June.

Coop

Coop closed for the night.

Feed

One last cup of seed before nightfall.

Archer

Snow begins to fall…it’s coming…

The cold descends tonight…zero-degree temperatures no longer harbor much of a bite this winter due to the polar air that keeps plunging so far south from the North. Brian & I decided to take a quick ski about our property this afternoon in the balmy 30-degree (F) temps before the winds pick up creating blizzard conditions. June took her nap on my back as we skied over several dormant fields surrounding our house. The dogs tagged along. I trekked about the yard afterwards so June could sleep a bit longer as Brian finished up his evening chores. Tomorrow will dawn bitter.  Cold.  We’re making a fire now, warm inside our home as the wind descends & snow kicks up tiny tornadoes across the empty fields beyond our windows. I feel the cold through the walls & electrical outlets. Incredible the changes that can take place in just an hour in Iowa.

Some Knitting, Birding, & Good Eats {makes for a delightful weekend}

Raw Honey fingerless mitts knit in Honey & Fairytale. This is truly my absolute favorite fingerless mitts pattern ever. The chevron stitch is made with purl-bumps and is just too cool. I knit the Honey pair for Coralee & the Fairytale for me. June is now asking for her own set…my munchkin has good taste!

Raw Honey in 'Fairytale'

Raw Honey in 'Honey' & 'Fairytale'

Raw Honey in 'Honey'

Stack of Woolly Goodness

Raw Honey in 'Fairytale'

Raw Honey in 'Honey'

Iowa Young Birders trip to the Mississippi River this past Saturday–first trip of 2014! COLD, WINDY, horrid travel conditions on I-80, but great birding. In addition to the large numbers of Bald Eagles (eagle photos below courtesy of Coralee, my 11-year old, through the scope with her iPod), we saw a lonely Horned Grebe (which we are told is quite rare for our area and time of year), bunches of American Black Ducks, Mallard Ducks, Canvasbacks, and Common Goldeneyes. There is a juvenile Herring Gull photobombing my fairly awful photo just below….I should really bring the good camera on birding trips.

Mississippi River, Davenport, IA

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

On our way home through the snow & wind, we stopped off at one of our favorite little bar & grills, the Sutliff Tavern. SUCH a hole-in-the-wall, but the food is incredibly scrumptious (the burgers absolutely melt in your mouth) & the view of the restored Sutliff Bridge is a feast for the eyes. We hadn’t planned to stop, but Merritt was (we thought) extremely carsick & needed a breather (turns out he has a viral infection). June fell asleep in the car during the last hour of the birding trip while the group was fruitlessly searching for a local pair of Peregrine Falcons on a city building. She was happy & rested a couple hours later & ready for her basket of fries (which she REFUSED to share, guess birding makes you hungry!).

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June_Sutliff

Sutliff Bridge

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Sutliff Bridge

I think braving the cold of winter on an adventure truly soothes the soul…but that could just be my Wisconsin-roots talking. :)

Weekend Wandering

Hickory Hills Park {Saturday} :: Winter Hiking

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Dudgeon Lake State Wildlife Management Area {Sunday} :: Cross-Country Skiing

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Snow Wigwam :: Our New Guest House

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We spent Saturday & Sunday close to home, wandering. Wandering quite literally, actually, something Coralee & Merritt apparently do not enjoy if it means breaking trails with their skis on through reeds taller than themselves–oops!

On Saturday we drove northwest into neighboring Tama County to visit Hickory Hills Park. I have never seen a Snow Bunting, a fact I am starting to think is odd considering how common these birds are during the winter months in Iowa, as well as in my home-state of Wisconsin. I had read on the American Birding Association’s Iowa Bird List that a flock of Snow Buntings had been observed just north of the park. The kids have been keen to add a Snow Bunting to their Life List, so we headed out. Ice was quite bad. The wind was horrible. The birding not good. We saw a hawk (probably a Red-tailed Hawk) & a small flock of Canada Geese on the drive. A couple Northern Flickers in the woods while hiking. We hiked to the top of the hill overlooking Casey’s Lake. Coralee & Merritt found two charmingly beautiful bird nests  in the crooks of thorny berry bushes on the hill. The nests were lined with rich moss & now dusted in snow. Berries & wayward leaves had fallen into the nests during this period of dormancy. Coralee desperately wanted to take one home, but we left both intact for what I am sure are enchanting little birds to use again next season. Brian packed a meal of homemade deer sausage, sharp cheddar & crackers. We ate it next to the lake out of the trunk of our car while Coralee & Merritt slid around on the ice near the shore. Deer sausage with a sharp cheddar tastes incredibly good next to a frozen lake I have discovered. I wore my Steger Mukluks on the hike (a gift from my dad at least fifteen years ago) & they are as perfectly-awesome as ever!

On Sunday around noon we tried to ski at Dudgeon on a small parcel of land disconnected from the main park by both road & water. We pass this normally boggy area everyday on our drive to school or to town. From the road it looks so quaint. Some trees, open grassy areas, lots of reeds pepper the parcel. There are trails which appear to skirt around the edges of the entire relatively-square area. We brought both dogs–mistake! Each dog tried to get itself run over at least once by running up along the highway ditch as we skied away from our parking spot.  Those two about gave me a heart-attack. The “trails” don’t connect to each other. Short, little jaunts of about an eighth of a mile each, at best. We finally ventured into the brush & weeds & small groves of saplings to cross to the far northern section which appeared to have a trail skirting the boundary line along a hill. The skiing was atrocious, the kids were off-their-rockers in the reeds which were snapping in their faces, the creek was not frozen completely, it got rather warm & we were all dressed for much colder conditions, I slipped in my skis & fell with June on my back (no harm done, she’s fine, so don’t worry!), my bum was soaked from falling, Merritt had a meltdown in the middle of a particularly reedy area and flung his skis and poles into the bush (that’s SO his mother twenty years ago!!!), our curly-haired “wolf” Archer (Brian could actually pass for this description lately, he needs a haircut!) somehow managed to pick up every burr in the place. We did see six turkeys & once we finally made it to the back boundary the skiing was enjoyable on the hill….all five minutes of it! Ninety minutes after embarking on this calamity, we were back at our car with June passed out on my back & the older two declaring they were NEVER going to this place AGAIN! I wouldn’t recommend it, either, at least not to ski or hike….maybe canoe or kayak in the spring/summer when it floods with over six feet of water or to turkey-hunt, we saw an incredible amount of turkey tracks as we skied.

Weekend wandering at its best, eh?!

Jakway Forest: Terrific Birding Conditions, Mediocre Skiing

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We drove up to Jakway Forest in Buchanan County (one county north of our own) on Saturday.  We hoped to get some skiing in before our “balmy” sub-zero temperatures get downright sinister as predicted for Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.  Ever had an urge to visit the Northwest Territories but couldn’t quite afford the trip?  You’re in luck!  Visit the Upper Midwest on Monday and experience the pure, heart-stopping cold only people such as Will Steger, Tenzing Norgay, and Edmund Hillary could love.  I, however, will be locking myself away indoors by my wood-burning stove (along with four children under the age of twelve–school’s been cancelled!), trying to knit (I’m sure), sipping tea, and remembering how delightful that 0′F felt last Saturday.

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The ski loop through oak and hickory forest at Jakway is very short and too narrow/steep in a few spots to actually ski.  The forest is said to be 200 acres but I’m guessing the loop only passes through about ten, unfortunately, because the landscape is beautiful.  An old, defunct quarry circa the 1940′s is contained within the forest.  A quarry pit now serves as a secluded forest pond for wildlife.  The ranger stocks several bird feeders next to the pond’s edge.  A large, well-constructed, picturesque bird blind sits just behind the feeders, overlooking the pond.  We did not expect to stumble upon this quaint birding spot, but were quite glad to do so as it made up for the mediocre (at best) skiing.  The kids have been in a bird blind before but none as well-constructed as Jakway’s.  We spotted the usual feeder visitors through the blind windows, including Black-capped Chickadees, Goldfinches, Slate-colored Juncos, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches.  We counted ourselves lucky to also spot two White-throated Sparrows–the tan-striped, vanilla-on-brown form–which we haven’t seen at our own feeders yet this year.  There is a campground at Jakway and several buildings on the Historic Register.  I think we’ll pay another visit in the late spring to camp and hike and bird.  I highly recommend a trip to this hidden Iowa gem if you’re ever in the area…but definitely wait until spring/summer/fall, anytime really after this coming Tuesday, unless you have a hankering to experience the Arctic Circle!  Happy {Ski} Trails!

A Happy, Glacial New Year!

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We spent New Year’s Day afternoon breaking a cross-country ski trail at Red Fox Wildlife Area, but it felt like we were hiking in the Yukon it was so very cold. The north wind made the ski in quite challenging as we were heading due north. Once we made it out of the prairie grass and into the woods hugging the Cedar River, our spirits improved, along with the blood flow to our extremities and cheeks! It was -2′F, probably a bit too chilly for skiing, but it appears Iowa {and the rest of the Upper Midwest} are stuck in the North Pole’s freezer for the foreseeable future, so make do as best you can will have to become our motto!

We spotted a Belted Kingfisher while skiing through the prairie. He was perched above an open spring in a birch tree. Absolutely took my breath away. His ruddy belly and dark slate blue coat framed against the sterile white snow made quite a feast for the eyes. I always thought kingfishers migrated out of Iowa in the winter? I hope this Top 5 bird of mine can survive the even colder air that is stewing on the horizon for us next week.

Following our ski, I finished up a knitted open-front vest for June by the fire. I love the Robin’s-egg color, but I do not love the pattern. I like how it fits close to the body with a pleat in the back for movement, but for such a small garment there were far too many seams and some strange techniques used. I prefer to knit simple (read: as few seams as possible), clever, elegant patterns of which this was decidedly not…I plan to use what I’ve learned from this pattern and create my own soon. The yarn is Chickadee (held doubled) from Quince & Co, one of my favorite yarn lines and companies.

One of my New Year’s goals is to knit one patten per month {for myself!} from The Purl Bee website. If you knit and haven’t perused the collection of incredible knitting patterns found for free on The Purl Bee, skedaddle yourself over soon! I chose the Fluted Cowl as my first project in Malabrigo Worsted, held doubled–this squishy soft yarn was a Christmas gift from my mother–thank you, Mom!

Here’s to a stellar 2014! Cheers!