Hoeing Thistles

“Die when I may, I want it said by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”                               ~ Abraham Lincoln           

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Katherine with her granddaughter in the 1960’s

The Homesteading Act of 1862 is sometimes cited as the most important piece of legislation in the history of the United States of America. Under this act homesteaders could file an application and lay claim to a surveyed plot of government land. If the homesteaders were able to build a dwelling, make improvements to the land and produce crops for a five year period they could then file paperwork to have the land deeded to them free and clear. By 1934 over 1.6 million homestead applications had been processed and more than 270 million acres of land had passed into the hands of individuals.

Those Americans who were enticed west by the lure of free land faced a difficult journey across the plains and mountains to reach their destination. Those who made it all the way along the Oregon Trail to the fertile Willamette Valley found…my family already there. Yes, I am the daughter of pioneers who in the late 1840’s decided the East was growing too populated and struck out from Independence, Missouri in a covered wagon to a land where one could get some peace and quiet. Continue reading

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In the Bleak Midwinter

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The sound of steady dripping emanated from the bathroom where my sodden raincoat was hanging up in the shower to dry. The hollow drip, drip, drip as the water hit the tub below created a syncopated counter-beat to the drumming of the rain on the roof above my head. The world can be a dank, dark, dreary place in the depths of an English winter.

On days like this, when the rain falls relentlessly, a question asked by a visiting American friend comes to mind. It was the third day of her visit, and the third day of intermittent showers. She turned to me and asked, “Doesn’t the unrelenting gloom get depressing after a while?” Continue reading

In an English Bluebell Wood

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“No life is so charming as a country one in England, and no flowers are sweeter or more lovely than the primroses, cowslips, bluebells, and violets that grow in abundance all around me here.” ~ Marianne North

Like many of my fellow Americans I have long been a devotee of British period dramas, but while scores of women’s hearts raced at the sight of Colin Firth jumping into a murky pond and emerging with his white shirt plastered to his frame, my eyes were glued to the stunning scenery in which all the action was taking place. Others might swoon at Mr. Darcy in his tight breeches; I swooned at any sign of a bluebell wood. Continue reading

Introducing Jethro

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For a few months well-intentioned, kindly people have been asking me when they can expect to read my next blog. These people do wonders for my morale. They foster a naïve belief that somewhere out there a bevy of avid blog followers are pining to read my latest drivel, rather than just my family who have to read it or risk me telling all, like the time my brother…

But I digress.

There is a simple reason why I have not written for a few months. There is a simple reason for my messy house, my inability to have a normal conversation, my untrimmed hair, my aching back and my recently acquired stoop. That reason has a name, and his name is Jethro. Continue reading

Giving Thanks

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“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold rather a large amount of Gratitude.” ~ A.A. Milne

My favourite American holiday has always been Thanksgiving. When I was a child I looked forward to the dining table groaning with roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie, as well as the fact that my birthday sometimes coincided with the fourth Thursday of November. When I became an adult and entered the workforce the four day weekend shone as a beacon in the midst of the short, dreary days of driving to and from work in the darkness of late autumn. As time marched on and I experienced my share of the griefs and joys that make up a life, the actual meaning of the day began to take on greater significance. It may be hokey, but I actually do like to take time to think about all I have to be thankful for on this day. Continue reading

People Drink This Stuff?

The Education of a Reluctant Whisky Drinker

“The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.” ~ Winston Churchill

 

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Tasting room at Penderyn Distillery

In Latin it is aqua vitae. In Gaelic it is uisge beatha. Both have the same meaning: the water of life. Over the centuries the mispronunciation of uisge beatha  (oosh’-ge ba’) gradually morphed into the word now known the world over as whisky, specifically, Scotch whisky. Continue reading

So, We’ll No More Go a Roaming

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This morning I took myself off on one of our favourite walks in the neighbourhood, down the road through a nearby hamlet, then back around across the rolling farm fields. It is a walk we’ve done countless times since moving here, one we’ve enjoyed in all seasons except when the mud is at its worst. Today, for the first time, I had to take the walk on my own, without my faithful little companion at my side. Our sweet little corgi died on the 20th of April this year after a sudden, heart-breaking decline. A scan revealed a mass throughout his liver and we had to make the decision to give him a gentle, pain free end. Continue reading