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"Energy and persistence conquer all things."
Benjamin Franklin



Seasons Bring Change

October 15th, 2010

Autumn changes are happening even faster now.   The beauty of the landscape always amazes me… I love watching the seasons change as a physical reminder of how we too change and grow.

Across the decades we can embrace that change and shape our lives.  With that change looking outward, there’s always change within too, and it’s time for me to ponder such things.  I’ve taken a break from writing and sharing my thoughts here at Fox Haven, but I hope to be back soon. In the weeks ahead I look forward to catching the leaves that have started falling, jumping in leaf piles and playing the kind of games that we often leave behind as the years pass… games inspired by the imagination of a child, and in this case, a young boy.  I trust you too will enjoy the fall season wherever you may live…



Captain Jack the Australorp Rooster

September 24th, 2010

Have you ever had a rooster?  They really have a certain charm and liveliness that gives character to their home environment.  Perhaps a little noisy at times.  Maybe really early times at that.   ‘Ole Captain Jack is quite the jaunty fellow…  as I write this he’s announcing the morning inside the coop.  When I open the door he’ll continue his pronouncements for a bit.  He even likes to crow when we come home…

He does his job well, looking out for the hens, and making sure they get the best treats first.  He looks at me funny now and then, but doesn’t seem to mind being picked up at times.  I’ve read that Australorp roosters can be fairly gentle compared to others.  I’m glad for that, and hope he stays this way.  It seems he grows a little more handsome every day :)

 

Crossing Decades with Health and Good Cheer

September 21st, 2010

I have always been amazed and heartened by longevity.  Not simply that things, or people, can be very old.   It’s something more about the fact that as we age, the history of the world goes with us.   That and the nature of how we age are simply interesting to me.

I was amazed to read today that the World’s oldest man has marked his 114th birthday in Great Falls, Montana.   How incredible!

Walter Breuning was born on Sept. 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota, and moved to Montana in 1918, where he worked as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway for 50 years.

His wife, Agnes, a railroad telegraph operator from Butte, died in 1957. The couple had no children.

Breuning inherited the distinction of being the world’s oldest man in July 2009 when Briton Henry Allingham died at age 113. Allingham had joked that the secret to long life was “Cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women — and a good sense of humor,” according to Guinness World Records.

Now there’s some advice I could never imagine that would help to foster longevity!  Mr. Allingham must have lived a charmed life.  And hey, who am I to argue with success and a 113 year old sense of humor?

The Guinness organization and the Gerontology Research Group each have verified [Walter] Breuning as the world’s oldest man and the fourth-oldest person. Three women were born earlier in the same year as Breuning.

“Walter wasn’t in last year’s edition,” Young joked. “He was too young.”

The Great Falls Tribune reported that Breuning gave a speech before about 100 people at an invitation-only birthday party at the Rainbow Retirement Community, with a guest list that included Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and representatives from Guinness World Records.

Breuning was helped up to a lectern from his motorized cart, appearing somewhat frail but speaking with a strong voice.

He recalled “the dark ages,” when his family moved to South Dakota in 1901 and lived for 11 years without electricity, water or plumbing.

“Carry the water in. Heat it on the stove. That’s what you took your bath with. Wake up in the dark. Go to bed in the dark. That’s not very pleasant,” he said.

How simple and abundant our lives have become.  I think of the water he mentions, and what we take for granted today.  We flush the toilet a half a dozen times each day, take showers whenever we feel like it, cook, wash and clean using a seemingly endless supply of fresh water, use the hose to water plants and gardens outside the house, and even fill up the chickens’ and pets water dishes…

He [Breuning] said men and women may be able to enjoy life, but they can’t be content without a belief or faith. His parting message to the crowd was one of tolerance.

“With all the hatred in this world, in this good world, let us be kind to one another,” Breuning said.

Breuning has celebrity status at the retirement home, with visitors waiting in line to see him, Ray Milversted, 92, told the Tribune.

Before his birthday party, Breuning declined to name a favorite among the 114 years he has seen.

“Every year is the same,” Breuning told the Great Falls newspaper.

But he criticized one modern invention — the computer.

“When the computer came out, that was one of the worst things,” Breuning said. “They laid off all the clerks on the railroad.”

But, he added, “Every change is good.”

My goodness, what a spirit this man has.  Some of the notes about his life were fascinating too:

  • Breuning is in excellent health, even after a lifelong habit of smoking cigars, completely quitting in 1999.
  • He is able to walk, and eats two meals a day. He still maintains a sharp mind and accurate memory.   For example, he can remember his grandfather talking about his experiences in the American Civil War when he was three years old, and remembers the day President William McKinley was shot as the day “I got my first haircut”.
  • He has no prescription medications. In November 2007, at the age of 111, Breuning was fitted with hearing aids.
  • On his 112th birthday, Breuning said the secret to long life is being active: “[if] you keep your mind busy and keep your body busy, you’re going to be around a long time.”
  • In a recent interview, Breuning said, “Every day I exercise. Every morning I do all my exercises.”

During his 113th birthday celebrations, Breuning said:

“Remember that life’s length is not measured by its hours and days, but by that which we have done therein. A useless life is short if it lasts a century. There are greater and better things in us all, if we would find them out. There will always be in this world – wrongs. No wrong is really successful. The day will come when light and truth and the just and the good shall be victorious and wrong as evil will be no more forever.”

I can hardly imagine the things this man has seen and experienced. But I also wonder about his feelings for not having had children.

Obviously we don’t really know how long we’ll live, and truthfully I don’t have a feeling about that, other than to say I’d like to live a happy, healthy life that is long enough… whatever that may be.

Maybe that’s a timely declaration as I have lately become more interested in my health, and working to live a more constructive life.   I’d like to share that with others, especially my son, in terms of helping him to achieve a baseline of character strength and well-being that will carry him through his own life in a positive fashion.  He’ll be ten years old soon… and as time passes so quickly, the mark of his life will be up to him.

Our lives are filled with change. There is no other way. Like Walter, I strongly believe that change is good, in that we can embrace uncertainty. We can indeed move forward with courage, faith and the conviction that better days will surely come as we face the inevitable challenges that the years bring to our lives.

Walter Breuning is 104 years older than my son… just think, many of our children could live out their years spanning two centuries from Walter’s birth.   We can only wonder what the world will look like one hundred years hence.

Walter,  may we all share in your wisdom and age as gracefully as you have… and Happy Birthday!

 

Update:  Walter passed away into the next life on April 14th, 2011. He lived a full life.  Thank you for sharing your life Walter! :)

September Joys… and Flowers!

September 18th, 2010

I have to ask.  Does September seem like a really busy month to everybody?  For some reason I seem to be running around in circles trying to catch up with myself.   Classes and elbows trying to get things done, if you know what I mean :)  I can hardly contain myself with all the things I’d like to do.   Ah, like writing a little more.  This has been a slow year for the written word, perhaps a year of change.  I’ll get there, and my friends I hope you’ll go with me…  this is the start of such a beautiful season!   

I see change all around, and feel the pace of insects and birds hurrying a bit more, gathering all they can before the fall begins.   Another season of color…

A few days ago I was enjoying watching a few of these Yellow-collared Scape Moths (Cisseps fulvicollis) flying around the goldenrod and this white flower in the Aster family.    The moths were very slow flying, almost like helicopters, and the wings opened up wide just before take-off.

I finally remembered the plant is called White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) and is tremendously abundant at this time of year, along with the goldenrod, which is great for the bees and other pollinators.  So far I’m excited about the season in terms of pollen and nectar for the bees.   We’ve had a few rains, but mostly warm sunny days for the bees to forage, which means a nice fall nectarflow so they can really work to strengthen their hives.  

Last year we had so much rain in autumn that I couldn’t feed the bees enough to carry them through winter.   But now, things are looking up! 

In the picture below a bee is carrying a white colored pollen into the hive (and another one along the bottom-left corner of the picture).  I thought it might have been from the snakeroot flower, but I didn’t see a single bee gathering pollen from that plant- it may only have been something from which they gathered nectar.

Later I realized with a Doh! that the bees were getting the white-colored pollen from our very white Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora), which is growing all over the shed next to the chicken coop.  

Sweet autumn clematis is very easy to grow and has an amazing fragrance with a profusion of white flowers.  I watched the bees fill their tiny pollen baskets with white pollen and fly right back to the hive a hundred yards away.     Each year when the clematis is finished flowering, I cut it back within just a few feet from the ground.  All that growth is just one season!   And I even cut it back a little in July to try and train it around the top of the shed… alas it has a vigorous, wild nature!   It’s covering one window and half the door…

This year I plan to cut it back a little earlier so that I can paint the older shed to match the chicken coop, and fix the rickety old door.   I need to repair and paint our brown garden fence as well.  Some of the cross bars have rotted where they join the posts.  Maybe I can salvage it for a few years more with a little stain/paint and not too much expense?

Sometimes it seems as if everything needs fixed!   Well a lot of them do… and it’s time to get that weedeater out again and really take some of the brush and weeds down, clean up the garden, work on the engines, clean up the barn and garage, organize the desk and downstairs, decorate a little, etc.  

And you know what?   I feel really lucky… really blessed, to be here…  to be able to be in good health, to have so many things to do that need done.   Simply to wake up and watch the sun rise.   Here’s wishing you a great week ahead!

“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.”

John Updike, September

 




Seasons and Years of Change

September 14th, 2010

Beautiful weather after last week’s rain, and everything is growing once again. With late summer I have the joy of allergies kicking in for a few weeks…  the last Hurrah! as the grasses and goldenrod bloom. Which is great for the bees at least :)   Some years I don’t notice my allergies at all, and others it seems crazy and I’m sneezing all the time- like this week.   I could use a few days at sea…

Sometime within a week after putting to sea, you suddenly realize that your nasal passages are totally clear… the air at sea is usually so clean and fresh. Well most places that is, unlike the Persian Gulf where the dust storms would roll off the desert and engulf everything in a near brownout of fine dust particles for a day or two at a time. But the South Pacific was a different story!  I’ve been thinking of sharing few more stories of my past life (seems like “lives”), but I mostly want to share the beauty and experience of nature and our day-to-day life as it is now.  We’ll see.

The sedum flowers are also blooming, and the butterflies are enjoying the tiny flowers. The bees will follow when the flowers open a bit more.  Sedum is such a great plant… drought tolerant and blooming at just the right time in late summer when the insects really need them.

I saw a hummingbird the other day, surprised they were still here- soon they will depart on their migration south. The bees are incredibly busy now, which is a good sign.  I’m hopeful that the hives will build enough stores to carry themselves solidly through winter.

It was amazing watching the bees this afternoon, dropping through the sunlit sky, diving down to the hive by the dozens like tiny fighter jets… and then I stepped close to the front of the busiest hive, smiling as I watched a host of bees taking their first orientation flights outside the hive.   This tends to happen on warm afternoons, and is a good sign of a strong hive.

Bees spend about the first 3 weeks of their lives inside the hive, growing, building comb, acting as nurse bees to the young larvae- feeding and capping their cells. They must fly during that time, if only to relieve themselves,  and somehow they heed the call and head outside the hive to fly, becoming workers, orienting themselves with the sunlight and shadows, somehow knowing with amazing accuracy the exact position of their hive on the earth.

Honeybee on Sweet Autumn Clematis

If you move the hive more than a yard or two from its position, the bees will not know where to go…  I’ve read an old expression if you need to move a beehive:  Stay within two feet, or move it two miles!   I’m not sure about that, but I know if you do want to move it, you wait until after sunset and seal up the hive.  Then you move it to its new location, releasing the bees the next morning.  If it’s too close to the old hive location, you risk the bees flying back to their original location and not having a home to go to.

In the distance, I hear Captain Jack crowing, also enjoying the afternoon sun.   I went to collect the eggs from the henhouse, and picked up six of them.  Later on we gathered two more…  one of the first days that I’m sure each of the eight hens laid an egg.  Hooray for the girls!

I let them out into the garden for a good bit of the day… they love it.  In fact, Jack has figured out how to fly out of the run, and then fly back in if he wants to.  But the hens wait patiently, and after they’ve laid their eggs they deserve an outing to feast on greens and tiny critters.  One of the Barred Rocks was just running from the coop to catch up when I took this picture.  By the way- I thought our white “Snowy” might have been a Leghorn, but she doesn’t lay white eggs-  I think she might be a Wyandotte hybrid of some sort?

In the morning as we get ready for the day, the animals are ready to go too… the little kitty is becoming a holy terror within the house.  The yellow lab doesn’t seem to mind- she grabs his tail and he can’t help but wag it all over the place.

The shiba waits at the door for leftovers.  Anything the boy doesn’t eat the shiba gets to try.  Sometimes the chickens too.  I’m finding out that chickens love to eat just about anything!  So far it has been fairly simple to incorporate them into our lives and that of the other animals.

Here’s a neat photo from our trip last month.  We had a chance to stop at the marvelous national historic site of Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois.   Perhaps I’ll write more about it later, but as we walked from the first floor to the upstairs, the historian told us that the stairway railing was completely original to the home, exactly as it was over 150 years ago.

The young boy’s hand is there, and I’m amazed to think that President Lincoln- and his family- used that railing when they went up and down the stairs.   They had four boys… Robert, Eddie, Willie and Tad (Thomas). Only Robert lived to adulthood, and died in 1926 at age 82, buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Eddie died young at 3 years, 10 months, and Willie at 11 years. Tad reached age 18 before he died. But the boys did spend their happy childhood years in that house, listening to stories, singing, playing games, and holding that same railing.  I could almost imagine hearing their voices…



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