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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Frosty February 2017

Greetings from MouseHouse on this frosty February morning. The Village members are snuggled in their well-stocked, amply insulated homes these days, enjoying the rewards of careful autumn preparations. Of course, life goes on, and they too have to get to their various businesses and schools when possible.
So this latest round of snow has caused the DOT (Department of Tunneling) crew considerable overtime since the only way to Big Rock School or Underground Warehouse, and surrounding businesses is—yup, you guessed it—through under-snow tunnels.
Sir Fivel has slowed down considerably these days, being the elderly gentleman that he is now, so he mostly spends these wintry days close to Walnut Woodstove. Still, being the industrious gent that he is, his hands are never idle. He continues to work magic with his woodworking, albeit small projects now.
Fivelina is busier than ever—funny how that works! Just when her own nest empties and it would seem life would slow down a bit, the grandchildren arrive. So she stays busy being a doting Gramma to an ever enlarging family. Thankfully, most of them are nearby, so not a day goes by when she doesn’t see one or many of them. She keeps the cookie jar stocked, and the craft basket full of things for little mouselings to do when they come.
And in the evenings when all is quiet again, she is busy knitting sweaters and mittens, and sewing pinafores and bloomers for each of them.
Bret and Betina have six little ones now, the quads and then this past summer they welcomed twins.
Bic and Ben have joined the PSU (Protective Services Unit) and are busy practicing maneuvers and serving the village wherever needed. They assist the DOT in the tunneling projects by shoring up the finished areas with popsicle-stick beams. The LMG (Lantern Management Group) provides and services the tiny lanterns that light the tunnels—both snow and underground, and businesses too.
Little Bitsy, still her delicate diminutive self, is assisting at a dressmaking shop there in Underground Mall. She came with considerable experience, having trained with the best—Mama Fivelina, so her services are highly sought after at the shop. She lives with Tina at Miss Winklesnout’s cottage—the latter having had an addition put on for her beloved adopted daughter. It was her hope that if she made the accommodations spacious, Tina would want to stay on awhile.
Bitsy and Tina being closest of friends, spend considerable time together anyway, so it works out to both their advantages to live close to their work and still be there to help Miss Winklesnout.
The elderly school marm continues to teach at Big Rock School, but she too is feeling her years so she is happy to have the help of some young assistants who’ve been training at her side. Tatiana and Trieste, the last of Sir Fivel & Fivelina’s children, are among them.
On this post-Valentine’s Day, after their usual school party complete with scrumptious treats, several mouselings are absent from class this morning due to belly aches. Ah! Self-discipline is a difficult thing to learn, isn’t it? Especially in our youth, but, as with so many things, consequence is an effective teacher.
Then there’s cousin Olaf—you may remember he’s Fivelina’s nephew—the one with the speech impediment. He and his new bride, Edwina have settled in a lovely condo unit at Tall Oak Settlement just at the edge of Hare Hollow Woods.  It’s small just now, but being near Tap Root Footing, their unit has potential for ample expansion—should the need arise.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Rainy Mondays

Rainy Mondays. The recliner beckons more invitingly than usual on dark dreary mornings and the kettle's come-hither hum tempts me to pour fresh hot cuppa. This kind of morning begs for extra snuggle time with a warm bundle of fur purring contentedly on my lap, and maybe even some snooze-time while I'm there--one of the perks of retirement!

Now were it a sunny, brisk-breezy Monday, there'd be a line of fresh sheets snapping on the clothesline already with considerable sloshing and humming going on in the laundry room. Mount Laundry beckons regardless of the rain, and yes, I will have to find some get-up-and-go here and get-to-it! But not yet.  Meanwhile... I'm sure you're wondering what's cooking on Walnut Woodstove this morning, and I'd love to tell you the latest adventures from that part of Hare Hollow Woods. So draw up a chair, pour yourself a fresh cuppa too, and bend an ear.

As you may recall, Sir Fivel and sons, along with son-in-law, Bret have been busily expanding the Fivel abode to accommodate all the little grand-mice that come to visit after school each day.  That, and the family gatherings that take place frequently require serious expansion. There's just not enough room to seat everyone around the table, or anywhere for that matter.

Well, the construction is nearly done, all but a little touch up paint here and there. Bret found a nearly empty can of interior latex by the road last week, with enough puddled in the bottom to retrieve. (MouseHouse Village folks are never wasteful. They repurpose most anything!)

So, he rushed back to Underground Warehouse to pick up some containers and tools, then back to said-paint can where he scooped up every last drop from the bottom. Why, it was enough to not only fill several small old prescription bottles, and use for the new rooms at the Fivel House, but also enough to restock a small area in the Underground Warehouse paint department. He was thrilled! It's a lovely green shade, very restful for the two new bedrooms.

Fivelina has been busily going through the children's bureaus, weeding out things that no longer fit, adding some to the mending basket as she discovers a small tear in a sleeve, or some wee loose buttons. Again, nothing is wasted, so she will launder and repair everything, then bring the unused items to Underground Warehouse Children's Department for some other little mouseling to wear.

She and Fivel have moved into their new bedroom, the hand-carved four poster snugged into the corner is made up beautifully with one of her signature quilts. The heart-etched dresser stands beside the bed with a tiny lamp atop.  Fivel wired and repurposed it from a beautiful old hand-painted porcelain thimble sometime ago, and it is one of her prized possessions. He and Bret also fashioned a small closet, tucked into the other corner, for hanging clothes. Dresses, jackets and trousers are hung carefully on repurposed paper-clip hangers that Fivel reshapes into just-right sizes for mouseling apparel. As you can imagine, they are a popular item at UnderGround Warehouse, but for his lady-love he always curls the leftover wire end into a small heart-shape right there beneath the hanger hook.

Bret hung a dowel across the corner  so Fivelina could hang a curtain to protect the clothes from dust. Of course it had to match the colors in her quilt, so she pieced some of the leftover quilt fabric along with some newer pieces, and made a lovely ruffled curtain.

This morning, she is finishing up a project months in-the-making, a braided rug fashioned from bits and pieces of yard-goods that were too small for anything else. She spent many an evening cutting those pieces just so, sewing them end to end, folding them into long strips that she then braided and sewed into an ever-growing oval. There's just the trimming of little threads, adding a few more supporting stitches here and there to strengthen the braiding, then as soon as Fivel gets home from work, she will ask him to help her drag the rug into their new room, unroll it and settle it by their bed.

Bitsy and the twins, Tatiana and Trieste will be moving into the other new bedroom. It is larger than their current one and, where there's three of them, Bic and Ben will take the smaller room. Sir Fivel fashioned three new single beds (the existing bunk beds will be for the boys) and with the girl's  small bureaus, one between each bed, each will have their own space, yet they can still enjoy each others' company. The bureaus have already been moved, but the beds aren't quite ready, so that will have to wait. All are impatient for the upheaval to be settled, everyone back in their own space and the living room and kitchen free of bedroom contents waiting to be moved. 

Fivelina has a pot of sunflower and acorn squash seed stew bubbling on Walnut Woodstove. She made sesame breadsticks on Sunday, enough to last for a couple of meals, so that'll round out the supper meal tonight along with dried current tarts for dessert. Nobody goes hungry around Fivelina's table, that you can be sure.

Now I really must get up out of this cozy recliner and get moving here. Looks like a dryer-using day. Not much will dry outside on this rainy Monday. Wonder what Fivelina does? Oh, come to think of it, I know. When we went up in the attic to change a lightbulb a few weeks back, I saw the sweetest line of miniature bloomers and pinafores strung across the rafters! When you can't hang 'em outside, why, an inside line is perfect!

Okay, okay! I'm really getting up now.

Monday, April 4, 2016

April Fools?

So Winter 2016 had more characteristics of autumn than not, and now it’s April and it’s snowing! Go figure!  Could it be we’re now having the winter that wasn’t? Perish the thought! Nah… I’m going to keep a positive stance on the matter. The spring bulbs and flowering trees just needed an extra soft cuddly blanket to snuggle into for the frigid couple of nights ahead. Snow blankets them, I’ve read, though I have to say I’ve no desire to be blanketed in snow at any time, sleeping or not, thank you very much.

There’s been lots of activity in UpstairsAttic of late. I suspect we have new tenants, some of whom haven’t learned the local MouseHouse Code of Respect and Quiet yet. I’m certain Sir Fivel will clue them in. Meanwhile, the goings-on have entertained me during several weeks of near sleepless nights.

Recovering from a back injury has me snoozing in the recliner in the daytime, and sleepless under the covers at night. And as some might know, pain-induced sleep deprivation becomes a vicious cycle, one that’s difficult to break!  Meanwhile, I entertain my MouseHouse Ramblings… and with your kind indulgence, I’ll share some here with you.

Sir Fivel and his lady-love, Fivelina are renovating their cozy nest again. Not for the purpose of adding to their family, mind you, they are more concerned with accommodating their growing grandchild population. Bret and Betina’s family has grown yet again—they are the proud parents of twins this spring, two wee boys, Bots and Betwink.

Born a bit too early, there was some concern for their well-being at first, but all is well. Betina carries them close to her chest, swaddled tightly in a wrap-sling made just for that purpose. Her warmth, frequent feeding and constant presence has made the difference in their progress, I’m sure, and reports are they are thriving now.

Meanwhile, Gramma Fivelina has been busy entertaining the quads Bandy, Boswell, Bevvy and Bess. They are in primary school now, so she helps to rush them off in the morning along with Trieste and Tatiana. The older girls take responsibility helping the little ones navigate Downspout Stairway before scampering off to Underground Tunnel that leads, all but a short area of underbrush, leads to Big Rock School House.

After the children leave, she helps Betina tidy the breakfast leavings, make up the beds and start the never-ending laundry cycle, before she rushes off to her own place to do the same. After she mixes the dough for some cornbread for supper, cuts up some seeds and pods for the supper pot and sets them stewing atop Walnut Woodstove, she rushes back to hang scores of nappies out on Bittersweet VineLine. (I’m sure you can imagine how many nappies two wee mouselings need in a day! And just how wee-they-be to stay on two undersized pinklings at that!)

It’s a busy day with laundry and tidying, cooking and cleaning up, and before long, it’s time for the little ones to come home again. Gramma welcomes them at her house (thus the need for larger accommodations) for the afternoon so Betina and the babies can get some much needed rest.

Sir Fivel, Bic, Ben and frequently Bret as well, are all working hard to expand the living area into what used to be the two bedrooms just off the original one, and two new bedrooms are being cut into the attic space beyond. Everything is cut and framed, but there is much work to be done to finish it all. Meanwhile, the contents of the former bedrooms sit in the remains of the old living area, and everything is a bit out of order. A difficulty for everyone, but thankfully all are working hard to finish the job and get things back to rights again.

Bic and Ben are strapping young mouselings now, almost as big as their father. They are strong and capable, and both carry on many of their papa’s nobler characteristics. Oh, Bic is still a bit of a cut-up on occasion, and Ben is most definitely the quieter, more reserved of the two, but there’s no doubt about their heritage—they are Sir Fivel’s sons.

Fivelina hears the little ones tripping up the stairs just as she finishes putting raisin pieces on warm spice-bars fresh from the oven.  

“Meme… we’re home!” squeaks little Besse as she pushes through the doorway, tiny mittens hanging from the string pulled thru her coat-sleeves, a scarf trailing out behind her, dragging on the floor. “Did you miss us? Huh?” she twinkles looking longingly at the goodies cooling on the table.

“Hi Meme…” Bevvy greets quietly. “Something smells really yummy…”  She sheds her coat demurely, hanging it neatly on the lower hooks Grampa Fivel put behind the door just for them.

Suddenly two boisterous boy-mice scramble up the stairs, laughing and tagging one another all the way. They burst through the doorway, coats flying, school bags overflowing, lunch pails in a heap at the door.

“Excuse me sirs!” Gramma Fivelina speaks firmly. “Is this how we enter the house with all this noise and cluttering?”

Both stop in their tracks. “Sorry Meme… no, we weren’t thinking. We’ll pick up our things now.”

Fivelina cuffs their ears lovingly, “Indeed you will. Put your school bags and lunch pails neatly by the door, hang up your coats and go wash your hands. Snacks will be ready shortly.”

Tatiana and Trieste come in next. “Hi Mama… how was your day…?” Trieste asks quietly.

“Very busy, dear… and yours?”

“It was okay. I have a lot of homework to do though.”

“Me too…” Tatiana joins in.

“Well, help me get the little ones fed and settled, then you can go off and do your studies.”

Snack time comes alive with chatter, giggles and excited squeaks. The boys have all they can do to stay in their seats while they eat. Bandy is overflowing with all the adventures of the school day and has to be reminded several times, “Chew-swallow-then-speak please!”

A sheepish grin followed with humble compliance follows before he continues, “So then Miss Winklesnout said we should find some leaves to make fossils in the mud… but the mud and leaves are all buried under the snow, so how can we do that!?” Boswell reasoned worriedly. “How does she expect us to do that? Did through the snow?”

“I suspect the snow will be long gone in just a day or two…” Gramma Fivelina assured, “it is April after all, and you’ll find lots of leaves lying around when it melts, and mud too.”

Ravenous appetites soon put away the spice-bars and apple-juice and each carried their plate and cup over to the wash-pan in the sink where, one by one, they wash and rinse their dishes before setting them in the drainer on the side-board to dry.

“Thank you, my dears…” Fivelina praises. “I appreciate you doing your part to help. You can go over and help your Grampa now, boys… but be sure and do what he tells you and don’t get in the way of progress, understand?”

“What’s progress, Meme?” Bandy asks with mischief sparkling in his eyes.

“Go on with you now! I’ve work to do!” she fires back with a little tweak to his cheek.

Tatiana and Trieste have retired to the one area of the living room not currently torn up for reconstruction. They settle on the sofa to do their homework wit h Besse and Bevvy on the large, colorful rag-rug nearby. They play with their rag-mice dolls and Meme’s bag of scraps. They’re learning how to make simple draw-string clothes for their babies, with Gramma’s help, of course. They thread pieces of yarn thru the neck opening of a simple sack she helped them sew earlier. Slipping the gathered area over the rag-doll head, and tying the yarn in a bow, makes for pretty dresses or nightgowns for whatever occasion imagined today. The best part was it entertained them for hours while Fivelina saw to other chores.

The little ones go home to their own place for supper and bedtime, with either or both Tatiana and Trieste often going along to help their sister, Betina with the evening chores.

After the supper, Fivelina retires to her rocking chair and takes up her needlework for some much deserved quiet time. On more than one occasion, Sir Fivel has had to waken her when he is done with the evenings progress on the new room.

“Come, my dear. It’s off to bed with you. There’s not much being accomplished with that knitting in your lap, and you clearly need some rest.”

The snow continues to fall lazily on this April evening. MouseHouse Village is settling in after their busy day. All’s quiet in the attic just now. Wonder if Sir Fivel has put up any MouseHouse Rules of Etiquette postings yet. I must inquire about the new residents and make some introductions. So often a polite and respectful inquiry is the seed for more genteel behavior of all parties.

Excuse me while I go stir the soup-pot. I must start the cornbread too for its nearly time to settle close to the wood-fire, dip cornbread chunks in steaming bowls of thick soup on this snowy April night.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Heart and Flowers

Hearts, flowers, candy and yes, the enormous cash-flow that have merchants blinking dollar signs. It’s here again—Valentine’s Day!

Have you noticed some of said-merchants are reaching out to the singles population this year? As though buying the Singles Sundae special, or the Longing Lattes or long-stems, will help assure membership in the ranks of the Loved and Lavished. Somewhat pitiful, but hey… whatever will increase the bottom line. It’s a clever marketing ploy, I’ll give ‘em that.

Now in MouseHouse Village, they know nothing about this originally pagan festival, Lupercalia, nor its accompanying celebration of fertility (mice really don’t worry about such things!) Nor do they care that Pope Gelasius recast the pagan tradition as a Christian feast day sometime around 496, and proclaimed it St. Valentines Day. Nope. It’s all meaningless to them.

Now love on the other hand. That’s a different story. Sir Fivel, love hearts. As you know if you’ve been following the story line, he’s known for his heart-shaped etchings on furniture he designs, especially those made for his lady-love, Fivelina. They grace many little cradles and carriage beds he’s designed for the Village babies as well. So he knows about hearts, both the wooden ones and the one he has for his true love.

And flowers. It’s a commonality in the Fivel Home to see a wild-flower bouquet on the table, or tucked on the bureau next to their bed, complements of said romantic gentlemen most any time of year. Quite frequently, I’ve seen him trudging up Downspout Staircase, work satchel in one hand, and a pretty bouquet clutched in the other, held behind his back until she opens the door. He smiles mischievously, then bashfully holds it out to her. The delight on her face is a given, every time, and the kind of devotion they hold for each other, well, that is a joy to behold.

Candy. Well, there aren’t any heart-shaped cardboard boxes full of chemicals-shaped-like-chocolates at MouseHouse Village, but delicacies abound. Dew-kissed wild-berries, the choicest, plumpest acorn ever, or a piece of sun-dried sunflower ripe with fat black seeds, tucked into a grass-made basket with a little sprig of mint and a bow… now that’s a box of mouse-lady candy, let me tell you! And these gifts aren’t once-a-year occasions either. No, they are ongoing tokens of love and appreciation.

Yup. It’s a fact. We could all learn something from God’s humbler creatures.




Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Footprints in the Snow...

February 10, 2016

Did you hear that rumbling, snore-stopping, tell-tale roar approaching at dawn? Loud enough at first to disrupt a pleasant snooze, but as it looms closer the window rattling, bed-shaking vibration dissolves any thought of sleep. Eyes fly open in recognition. Snowplow! Snowing again? Really?

Good morning, February. For sure it’s a sugar-frosted one, and to say it’s a beautiful sight—well, no argument there. Guess we knew the balmy-autumn-spring days had to end sometime. Do I like the cold? Nope. Or the icy, rutted driveway that has me guessing every time I go out whether the car will do a one-eighty before I reach the road? Nope.

Do I like the crackling fire in the woodstove? Yup. And my cozy fleeces and floppy slippers? Yup. And of course a fresh hot cuppa with a good helping of raw honey stirred in. Double yup.

Still, a girl has to get out of the house now and then, so I bundle up to step out onto BackPorch. There in the snow (yes, there’s even snow on screened-in BackPorch) are tiny—and I mean tiny footprints in the snow. Hmmm. Wonder who’s been out and about from MouseHouse even in this stormy weather. I peer closer. Definitely tiny mouse feet, no doubt about it.

And they start near MouseHouse, so it would seem that someone ventured from there of late. Yet their size would indicate a wee mousling, not Sir Fivel himself, with his tell-tale, one-slightly-turned larger feet.

And speaking of the gentleman mouse, I hear a tiny squeak above my head, and look up to see him quietly exiting their cozy home, bundled up against the snow with his heavy wool cap, a warm jacket, and a scarf wrapped about his neck, fringed ends flying in the wind. He carries his cane this morning—indicative that his leg is bothering him today, and carrying a fair-sized satchel under his arm.

“Good day to you, Ma’am…” he greets politely, nodding slightly. “Sorry about that squeaky door. Must tend to that soon…” he apologizes. I smile in amusement. “No apologies needed, Fivel… I’m sure! What brings you out this cold, blustery morning?”

“Oh, just some finished orders to deliver. Mrs. Rue is expecting her babies soon and her hubby awaits these rocker frames…” his head tipped slightly to indicate the contents of the satchel, “… he’s waiting for them so he can finish the double cradle he’s making.  By the size of her… well…” he paused, blushing slightly, “er…well, they expect more than one or two mouselings you see.” 

“My! No, I hadn’t heard. Please wish them my congratulations. I would love to hear when the blessed event occurs.”  I tried to alleviate his embarrassment by changing the subject. “I saw little foot-prints in the snow this morning, here inside BackPorch. Wondered if everyone is well and accounted for up  at MouseHouse this morning. No missing mouselings or anything?” I pointed to the tell-tale prints.

“No, Ma’am… ours are all tucked snug in their beds this morning. I just peeked in on them before I left.”

He lumbered down to take a closer look. “My, my! I don’t know who that would be, but look… it leads over to your covered porch furniture.”

Sure enough. We stepped closer to investigate. I lifted the edge of the green plastic cover, pulling the elastic edge back enough to discover the tip of a tiny pink tail hanging out between two stacked chairs.

“Whose that hiding in there!” Sir Fivel demanded firmly.

The tail disappeared, but a tiny brown face appeared in its stead, large worried brown eyes stared out at us. “It’s me, Sir. Rufus Blackwell. I couldn’t find my way home, Sir, and I don’t know where my family is.” A little hiccupped sob punctuated the latter.

“Come out of there, young feller…” Sir Fivel held out a helping hand. “You come right upstairs to MouseHouse and Mama Fivelina will get you warmed up and fed. Then we’ll see what we can do about finding your folks.”

A shivering little mound of misery eased the rest of the way out from his hiding place, and as he did, a little stain of red oozed from his hind foot.

“Why, you’re injured, young man. How did that happen?” Sir Fivel inquired.

The little mouse stared up at me apprehensively. “I’m sorry, Ma’am… I think I tore your screen as tried to get in here…”

“No harm done, Rufus. We’ll repair it in the spring. But you need to get in where it’s warm and get that foot tended to before you get an infection in it.”

“What’s an infection, Ma’am?”

“Never you mind now…” Sir Fivel admonished. “Come… you are nearly frozen…” And with that they headed toward Downspout Staircase.

“Leave your satchel down here, Sir Fivel…” I suggested. “You can pick it up on your way back.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. I may just do that.” And with that, he dropped it right there, under Overhang Roof and the two of them limped back up the stairway.

I heard the little squeak of the door as they went inside, and Fivelina’s concerned lament as she greeted them.  “Whatever do we have here…??”

Glad to head back into the toasty kitchen, I shed the layers and warmed my hands around a freshly poured mug of tea, sweetened to my liking with—you guessed it, a generous helping of raw honey.

Oh the adventures of a snowy morning at Hare Hollow!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Here we are at the brink of 2016… how is it possible that 364 days have passed since the first of 2015? Well, I guess it was simply one day at a time. They sure do add up fast, don’t they?

We’ve enjoyed a wonderfully delayed autumn this year, at least here in Southern New England—warm sunny days and balmy one-blanket nights, but it seems Winter finally got the message. We’re into the two-blankets-and-a-heavy-quilt phase now. I’ve dusted off the mukluks, brought out the heavy coats, mittens and scarves, and I suspect we’ll be more than grateful for them in the near future.

Ah well, we’ve been ready for a while. With a good supply of wood—well-stacked and covered, on the front porch, the soup-makings well stocked, a cozy throw on each of our recliners, and a basket of knitting projects beside mine... yep! I say bring it on!

As you might imagine, MouseHouse Village has taken advantage of these bonus weeks of good weather too, both to continue stashing and storing for harsher days to come, as well as preparing for their celebrations. The Harvest Festival was a great success, and now they are readying for a grand New Year Celebration at Schoolhouse Hall.

That behind them, many will settle in for quieter indoor pursuits, safe and snug from the storms. Underground Tunnel provides mobility for those who need or want to keep their shops open through the winter months. And there are always some who need a few supplies or perhaps just some socializing—maybe a cuppa chicory or a game of sunflower-seed checkers with an old friend.

Miss Winklesnout holds classes for the children as long as they can travel safely from home to Big Rock School, but when the storms come, and the snow gets too deep, they too will huddle by the home-fires.

Fivelina looks forward to the quieter days, as do I. Her project list is far more pressing than mine, I suspect, with five children still at home. Keeping up with new overalls and shirts, pinafores and dresses as the mouselings grow must be nearly overwhelming, not to mention overcoats and mufflers! There are blankets to knit and coverlets to quilt, not to mention the ongoing mending. And I know there are finer things she wishes for too—table coverings, throw pillows and warm braided ruglets. Ah! She is an industrious lady! I don’t know how she keeps up, and all with the sunniest disposition. It’s positively inspiring, I tell you!

I don’t suppose she makes resolutions though. And when you think about it, they really are rather fruitless, maybe even self-defeating. At least that’s been my experience. Seems like it would be best, one day at a time, to just work on whatever it is I want to improve, and you know how that goes. One day at a time accumulates to one week at a time, that soon turns into a month at a time… and before we know it, it’ll be the brink of another year!

Meanwhile, that project list awaits.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

While these balmy days and nights feel like someone forgot to shut summer off—and I’m not complaining, mind you, it feels like there’s a bit of ominous-ity lurking in the shadows as well. (I know. That’s not really a word, but… you get my point.) Tell me you haven’t thought it too, that we’re being primed, maybe even appeased, before the real stuff hits in a few weeks. Hmm! Probably so, but we’ll take it.

We’ve been raking leaves, and blowing leaves, and yes—missing all the leaves that, until just a couple of weeks ago, shaded BackPorch like a lovely tree-house. It feels exposed out there now, nothing but bare branches and skeletal silhouettes. It even feels windier than usual with no leafy branches to protect us now.

Ah well, ‘tis the season—time for inside pursuits. Time to cozy the nest, break out the quilts and cozies, bring in a good supply of wood for the fire and well… make lists. And a list maker I am: To-do lists, to-make lists, restock pantry lists, holiday lists, winter-project lists and… the list goes on. At some point, I will need to get up and be a do-er, I know, of all that’s on these lists!

Lady Fivelina is a do-er. I’m not sure if she makes lists or not, but really, how else would she keep track of all her responsibilities? I’ll bet when the little ones are tucked away for the night, and Sir Fivel is whittling some wood creation by the fire, she sits in her rocker, sipping her tea, a pad of paper on her lap and a wee pencil stub ready in her hand, just jotting it all down in good order!

Of course MouseHouse Village is a busy place this time of year too. They are preparing for their Harvest Feast when friends and family will gather, each bringing an offering for the table. The children are already planning their day of games—indoor or out, weather permitting, and the ladies are thinking about which recipes to share and looking forward to catching-up with each other. A good time will be had by all before they settle in for the long winter ahead.

There’s been lovely aromas wafting from MouseHouse of late: dried berry tarts and corn bread loaves baking, pumpkin seeds roasting, and if I know Lady Fivelina, each item is then carefully wrapped and stored for the festivities ahead.

Bic and Ben, already becoming young men-mouselings, are helping their father in the woodshop after school these days, and just recently they’ve been working on another bench for the long tables at SchoolHouse, to use for the Harvest Feast. Bic still struggles to keep his mischief-mode in check, but little by little—and after not a few hard knocks—he’s learning. Ben, the soberer of the two, but also the most easily led by said-mischief maker, is learning self-discipline. As most will agree, that’s a life-time feat for most of us!

Bitsy is growing into a lovely young lady-mouseling, excelling in her needlework and baking skills as well. Fivelina appreciates her help these days, with all of the extra cooking and baking going on. Bitsy babysits for her sister, Betina’s quadruplets after school each day, and yes, she remains somewhat shy and demure much like her mama.

Miss Winklesnout and Tina are doing well after their adventuresome summer. They too are well prepared by now for the cold and winter-weather ahead, their little cottage well-plumped with pretty quilts and cushions, cozy braided-fiber rugs on the floors and their larder well-stocked. They are both changed-for-the-better after Tina’s runaway experience. It brought them closer and both now realize the importance of communicating their thoughts and concerns with each other.

Well now, speaking of lists, I’m realizing that I need to make a Thanksgiving Dinner grocery list, and then the prep-for-guests list, oh and the flower arrangements and decoration list. Goodness! I better get to it!  Let me just put the kettle on…

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thermal warming at it's best!

Thermal warming. Not to be confused with the fear-stirring buzzword—global warming. We’ve heard enough about that one to re-chill the icebergs! Or else make bigger holes in the ozone layers. Astounding, isn’t it? Does man really believe he can change the Creator’s plan, the planetary cycles and processes that have shaped and reshaped the earth from its birth? And this by more political rhetoric we hear only when the election cycle regurgitates yet another do-gooder that, if elected, will save the planet?  Sigh.
Oh yes—it was thermal warming I was aiming to chat about this morning. I’ve gained new appreciation for thermal things, a warm bed in particular. While we enjoyed six lovely days at camp, I slept on an air-mattress in an unheated cabin—at night anyway. The air in the mattress takes on the temperature of the room, and transfers that chill to the body resting on it. Need I say more? Brrrrr!
Layers didn’t seem to help much, on the bed or on me! And believe me, I had enough layers on me to scare the dust-bunnies as I passed by on my middle-of-the-night trek to an even colder spot—the necessary!
It was a lament among many of us—too cold, not enough warm clothes. Funny how you forget from year-to-year just how cold 50 degrees can be. Why, we think it’s a heat wave in April after a frigid NE winter!  Not so in October, when we’re still in July-mode.
So, when we got home, some of us fell ill to sore throats and sneezles, coughs and headaches. I—being one of them—came to appreciate my cozy bed, warm feet and hands, and a warm insulated house!
Turns out that Bic, Ben and Rodney learned a lesson in appreciation too at Pine Acres. You may recall they sneaked away from Miss Winklesnout during the Huckleberry Fair. Their plan was to mimic the Cricket-Clan’s trapeze act that they’d watched earlier, so conspiring together, they decided to hide at the edge of the woods where no one would see them and wait till the all fair-goers left. Then they would play on the ropes and poles to their hearts' content!
Sure enough, everyone left except the crew. The boys hadn’t counted on that! The men worked hard at closing down booths, turning over tables, storing valuables and perishables carefully against the rainy weather forecast. The boys didn’t count on the stage being dismantled and they watched in dismay as all the ropes and poles were taken down and tucked inside of an oak-tarp lean-to.
“Great! What’ll we do now?” Rodney whispered. “Do you know your way back to the cabin and Miss Winklesnout?”
“Psshaw! Of course. We’ll find our way back. I paid attention on the way over here…” Bic boasted confidently as they set out to find their way. Alas, they had come to Huckleberry Fair in the daylight. Things looked remarkably different in the dark and this was strange territory to them all. They set out, however, skirting the edge of the fair grounds, hoping to elude the crewmen still ambling about, before they too headed to their barracks for the night.
“Well now young fellas!” a booming voice startled all three. They jumped back, huddling against each other. “What brings you out here at this hour of the night. Where are your folks, might I ask?”
“Ah-h-h… ummm! That is, we’re staying with our teacher, Miss Winklesnout at the Pine Acres Resort, sir. She left already and we were just finding our way back too.” Ben spoke up.
“And would she have several other young students with her as well…?” the manager questioned further.
“Yes, sir. We are on a class-trip.” Rodney spoke with a tight, nervous voice, pushing his thick glasses up further on his snout.
“And how is it you are not with her now, young man?” Dark beady eyes bore down as he gripped Rodney’s shoulder firmly.
“Do you know what lurks out in that dark woods at night just waiting for luscious, chubby little mouselings like yourself?  Huh? Do you know?” he glared in turn at all three.
Bic looked down at himself. Chubby? Luscious? Harrumph!
“…And you, young man!” the manager let go of Rodney and turned to Bic. “Are you the instigator of this little adventure?”
Bic, straightening himself, clasped his hands tightly and braved the reply. “No sir. I mean, yes sir… that is, well, I guess I am. We thought it would be fun to play on the trapeze and be like the cricket-clan act. We didn’t know it would get dark so quickly…”
The manager stood silently, disapprovingly. All three boys stood waiting.
“Come with me.” The command was absolute and not one of them thought to disobey.
They were shown to a small bunk in the back of the crew’s barracks. “Set yourselves down right there and don’t move until I come back. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes sir…” they said, almost in unison.
They watched wide-eyed and silent as the other crew members lolled about the long table in the middle of the room. Rows of bunks lined the perimeter, and some of the men had already turned in for the night. Others ate at the table, some silently, a few regaling tales of the day. Some glanced now and then at the three boys hunched together in the corner bunk, but no one addressed them.
In a short while, the manager came back with three small bowls of stew and some crusts of bread.
“This is your supper… eat it and then go straight to bed. I will take you to your cabin in the morning when it’s light. No one should be out at this hour and most certainly not three little mouselings!”
So three little boy mouselings clung to each other, sleeping lightly, waiting worriedly for the morning.
True to his word, the manager brought them directly to Cabin 22 at Pine Acres. Tapping lightly on the shoebox door, he waited for the schoolmarm to answer.
“Oh sir! Oh thank you for bringing them back, sir!” she exclaimed tearfully as she spotted the three boys standing there.
“You’re welcome, ma’am. I think these boys have learned a valuable lesson on their field trip. You can take it from here.”  He bowed gallantly and turned to go.
Bic, Ben and Rodney spent the morning sweeping the porch of Cabin 22, taking turns with the tiny pine-needle broom Miss Winklesnout had made to keep their little cabin tidy. Whenever she saw them slacking, all she had to do was look sternly at them. They knew there was penance to be paid and they’d better be at it.
“We will talk about this later… and again with your parents…” she’d said when they first arrived."For now, you’ve work to do."
At suppertime, they all enjoyed acorn chowder and fresh biscuit crumbs from Mama Hare’s gracious hand-out. The boys were exhausted after their adventure, and a near-sleepless night. Not a squeak of protest was heard when Miss Winklesnout announced bedtime. All three boys were quickly in their jammies and tucked snuggly into their warm cotton-batting beds—thermal warming at it’s best!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Miss Winklesnout's Worries...

Autumnal Ickies. It’s a vague nothing-is-really-wrong but something-is-not-quite-right kind of thing. It  hovers daily about 4 o’clock and, interestingly, only this time of year. Energy lags, enthusiasm plummets, there’s a kind of pit-in-the-stomach feeling and anxiety increases. We call it the Fall Ickies here at Hare Hollow, and when one of us claims it, we both understand.
So what causes it, you ask? Falling leaves, dying landscapes, grey-cloudy skies, chill winds, evenings that arrive earlier and earlier as each day passes, and, at the forefront, the ever-present awareness that winter with all its isolation and difficulties looms dead-ahead!
SAD Syndrome, some folks diagnose knowingly. Yup. Makes me sad alright. And the lights that are supposed to remedy the malady give me a migraine!
Light is definitely helpful though. Sunlight, yes—every glean-able ray on these shortened-angle days, but when it slides behind the near-naked tree-tops and the shadows settle in the Hollow, and it's only mid-afternoon, well, the Ickies begin. It’s time then for lighted candles, something yummy and aromatic bubbling in the oven, shades drawn, and every lamp in the house lit (oh yes, and the power company cheers!)
There’s a little light in Miss Winklesnout’s cottage this dark cloudy afternoon. I suspect she is still recovering from her escapades at Pine Acres, and is more than grateful to be home where it’s peaceful and quiet.
She brought the mouselings—all eight of them—to the Huckleberry Fair, there in Pine Acres Woods the day after we arrived. Chipmunks and FieldMice of every size and temperament were in attendance. Tarts and puddings, even huckleberry griddle-cakes—one of Bic’s favorites—were offered on tiny tables, some wrapped to take home, others on wee acorn-caps to enjoy while walking through the displays.
Chippery Sliver, a slick fellow if ever you saw one, put his pet cricket-clan through a daring routine. They flipped and dangled through high vine-trapezes, flew through hoops and stood on one another’s shoulders to create stellar formations. And if that wasn’t awe-inspiring enough, they ended the production with ‘Oh Beautiful’ in 4-part cricket harmony!
Little Betina was positively enraptured, as were her four little-girl-mouseling friends. Bic and Ben, however, along with their studious and somewhat nerdy friend, Rodney, were also mightily intrigued, but as you might guess, being little boy-mouselings, it wasn’t enough. They needed more excitement. Surely they could do those things too!
Miss Winklesnout was gathering up her students when she realized the boys were missing.  Assuming they must’ve stepped away to visit the necessary, she directed the girls to stay put.
“We’ll wait right here till they come back…” she spoke confidently as the crowd of fair-goers dwindled. The crew began shutting down the rides: the Lazy Susan Merry-go-round, the Hamster-spin Ferris Wheel, and the Sit & Spin Spool rides.
Food stuffs were packed into Pringle-Can Trailers, the hinged plastic door latched tightly when it was sufficiently full. Tables were wiped clean and benches turned over in case of rain.
“We’re closing for the evening, Ma’am…” a portly chipmunk gentleman swaggered over to where they waited. “Is there something I can help you with? Are you waiting for someone?”
“Oh sir… my three boy-mouselings are missing. I thought they just went to the necessary, but they haven’t returned. We are just visiting the area. I don’t know what to do! They must be lost!”
She wrung her fingers worriedly around the straps of her little red drawstring purse. The girls sidled up close to her, somewhat afraid of the chipmunk gentleman and his booming voice.
“I’ll keep an eye out for them, Ma’am. I’m the manager here. If we see them, we’ll keep them here until morning if you want to go back to wherever you’re staying. There are bunks here for the crew, and we can put them up here for the night. You can check back in the morning…”
Not knowing what else to do, Miss Winklesnout thanked him and then ushered the five little girl-mouselings back to Cabin 22. Darkness was already falling, and she ordered the girls to ready themselves for bed and get right into their bunks while she went on an errand.
It was shortly after that I heard the tiny tapping at my cabin window. Curious, I raised the blind slightly and there, on the sill, stood a bereft Miss Winklesnout, visibly shaken. I opened the window to let her in.
“Miss Winklesnout…” I questioned. “What is it? You look very upset…”
She explained the situation, her voice quavering, tears threatening.
“Oh Ma’am. You were right! I had no idea the responsibility I was taking on. The boys are missing—Bic, Ben and Rodney. They were right there beside me when the Chippery Sliver Show was going on, and suddenly they were gone. The fair closed down, everyone left, and the boys didn’t come back. I don’t know what to do!”
“Oh dear! You poor thing. I can only imagine how worried you must be.”  Feeling as much at a loss as she, I considered for a few moments.  “Do you think they will find their way back to our cabin? Maybe they just went off on a little adventure and they’re on their way back as we speak!”
“Ohhh dear, dear!”  She wrung her hands worriedly. “Whatever will I do if something awful happens to them. There are so many bad-sorts out after dark, you know… how will I ever face their folks?”
“Yes, dear. I know what you mean. But maybe we’ll just have to trust. They are smart boys and surely, even if they can’t find their way back on their own, they can ask someone for directions. Why don’t you try to get some rest and we’ll just trust that all will work out well in the morning…”
“Thank you, Ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you…”
“No bother, Miss Winklesnout. It always helps to have someone to share our troubles with. I think it’ll all turn out fine. We’ll entrust the boys to the care of our loving Creator…”
She nodded tearfully, turning back to the window and hopping down to the towel-covered shoe-box.I watched as she slipped dejectedly inside, pulling the towel flap down over the doorway to keep out the cold.
A chilly blast of wind whistled through the open window as I pushed it closed, my heart going out to the worried schoolmarm and those mischievous little mouselings. Oh Bic and Ben… will you ever learn?
To be continued…

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Field Trips and Adventures...

October 7, 2015
Back from our annual trek to Pine Acres, I am bone-weary and heart-warmed all at the same time. The washer is sloshing, the dryer humming as load-after-load shuffles and tumbles, buttons and zippers clinking against the dryer drum. And as they finish, I am shuffling too, pile-after-pile of folded bedding, warm fluffy towels and freshly cleaned jammies and shirts, down the hallway to various closets and drawers. My-oh-my, there’s a lot to bring for six days at the cabin, and it feels like even more to bring home!
The bins and tote-bags are emptied, stored away until next year, and all the little what-knots too, tucked away in their places. Did I mention bone-weary?
Well, I should talk! Miss Winklesnout has had quite the adventure these past days, you see, deciding quite at the last minute to take a number of her school children with her on a field trip. Where? Well, to Pine Acres of course!
“Do you think we could ride along with you, Ma’am?” she inquired just a day before we left. “I’ll only bring the best-behaved in my class and only those that have permission from their parents. We can stay in our own accommodations, Ma’am, if you can just spare a small shoe-box for us. And we won’t bother you a bit.”
At a loss for words, I considered the possibilities, pros and cons.
“How will you keep track of all of them, Miss Winklesnout?” I asked politely. “That’s a huge responsibility for both of us, don’t you think?”
“Yes, Ma’am. You’re right, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about the bigger world beyond Hare Hollow Woods. As I said, I will only take the best behaved among them, those I know I can trust to listen and obey me.”
So with trepidation I agreed. Down in the cellar, I found an old shoe box, emptied it of its contents and cut a small flap for a doorway along with two small windows in the sides so they’d have air-flow. In the box-of-boxes I found several tiny gift boxes (brooch size) complete with the usual cotton batting liners. They’d make cozy beds for little mouselings camping away from home!
Sure enough on Thursday morning Miss Winklesnout had everyone at the ready, eight little mouselings including Bic and Ben. The thought crossed my mind—only the best behaved? But I didn’t go there.
Each carried a tiny satchel filled with their extra bloomers and fuzzies, and a blanket for nighttime folded neatly over their arm. They stood in line, quietly waiting to be told where to board Mama Hare’s Express-to-Pine-Acres-Mobile.
Miss Winklesnout also carried a small satchel, and behind her, she rolled a small re-purposed Altoids tin that had been outfitted with tiny wheels and a handle.
“Snacks for the children…” she explained when she saw me eyeing it.
I smiled knowingly. These little creatures think of everything!
“All aboard!” I spoke smartly, and eight little furry mouselings, along with their excited teacher, hopped into the car, then up into the back window where they snuggled close together between the bag of pillows and a tissue box.
“Hang on tight…!” I called as we set off down the lane to the highway. And they did.
An hour later, after only a little giggling and chattering from the rear, we arrived at our cabin. On the way I’d told Miss Winklesnout about the shoe-box camper with it's windows and flapping door. She was delighted to say the least.
“Thank you, Ma’am. How thoughtful of you!”
Turned out, that little shoe-box would be a much needed cozy shelter for the little travelers.
As the rest of my family arrived, we helped each other unload and unpack, setting up our kitchens and making up beds, finding storage places for our clothes and settling in. And Miss Winklesnout did the same. I placed the shoe-box on the screened porch so they could come and go as they needed to, but would have good protection from the elements and enemies as well.  It didn’t take her long to set up the little box-beds, side-by-side, with their colorful blankets spread out and tucked in, satchels beside each one. Then they were off to find food for their lunch and supper. They wouldn’t have to search for long. Acorns and other delicacies abound at Pine Acres.We knew because they pinged off the metal roof of the cabins day and night!
That evening the temps dipped down into the forties and I worried about the miniature campers out on the porch, so long about bed-time, I peeked out to check on them.
“Miss Winklesnout?” I inquired quietly in case some of the mouselings were already asleep.
“Yes, Ma’am…?” she poked her head out the doorway.
“Are you warm enough in there? It’s pretty chilly tonight. Would you like me to cover the box with a towel to hold in some heat?”
“Oh, don’t trouble yourself, Ma’am…” she replied with a little shiver in her voice. “I’m sure we’ll be fine, but if you have one handy I’m sure it would help.”  I did, and tucking it around the box, leaving an overhang by the doorway to stop the drafts, I went back inside, thankful for my own warm bed.
Next morning, I put out a bit of hot water in a metal measuring spoon so Miss Winklesnout could have her chicory. She looked a bit harried, I have to admit, but seemed most thankful for the courtesy. Little squeaks and titters were testament to a rowdy bunch of mouselings, ready for a day of adventure. She on the other hand looked like she needed a good hot cuppa. Perhaps you saw her picture on my FB page a few days ago, enjoying that cuppa along with a sugar donut?
To be continued…

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Greeting the Autumn...

     Autumnal Equinox. Say it fast, three times for a giggle. Well, maybe a chuckle? I guess it would depend on your sense of humor at this early hour.
     That said, its official—summer is over.
     The hummers left two days ago, near as I can tell. They spent Sunday afternoon hovering and twittering around the feeders, darting and dodging one another, giggling and spatting in their usual adorable way. Their little round bellies evidenced impending departure—I’ve seen it year after year, and sure enough, all was silent Monday morning. And afternoon. Even as the sun was setting—usually an active time at the feeders—still silence. Yesterday the same. I watched for them off-and-on through the day, but only silence.
I will keep the feeders fresh until the first hard frost, because there are always visitors on their way through. They spread the word, you know, reporting the best Hummer Inns along the route south. I like to think Hare Hollow is on their list.
     Most years, just as we think we’ve seen the last of them, along will come a feisty few, tweetling and darting again, perching on the clothesline, resting and preening awhile before gorging again. In a day or two, that group is also gone.
     BackPorch is looking rather bare as well—another sign the season has come to a close. All but three houseplants have been bathed, top-dressed, pruned and prettied before being settled into their indoor spots again. The last three will come in today—we’ve   seen our first nighttime temps dip into the forties.
     As usual, there will be pouting, BackPorch is their absolute favorite place, and they don’t come in without some protest. They drop leaves, lose their shiny outdoor greenness, and hold their stems in odd positions until they get accustomed to the change.
     Soon though, they’ll be twining down around a shelf,  reaching out to one another in companionship—and yes, it’s true, even plants don’t do well if they are isolated from others. Before long they’ll be chugging along, doing their daily chore of cleaning the indoor-air. Oh, it’ll be mid-February before we see any remarkable new growth, but they know. When the days lengthen, and the sun grows stronger, BackPorch calls again.
     Meanwhile, for Mama Hare, these dark early mornings call for lit candles on the stove, a steaming kettle, a pot of hot cereal rich with cinnamon, cloves and raisins bubbling happily on the back burner. Steaming mug and bowl are carried out to BackPorch where I’ll wrap myself mummy-style in a big fleece blanket, and settle in my chair to watch the sunrise over Hare Hollow.
     Not surprisingly, when I glance up at MouseHouse Veranda, who should I see also greeting the sunrise but Sir Fivel and his lady. They are sitting on the wee glider he built for her earlier in the season, sipping their tiny mugs of chicory. I wave in greeting. Sir Fivel nods and tips his cap. Lady Fivelina smiles demurely. We are silent though, there’s just something ethereal about this time of day, it’s a time for quiet introspection.

Happy Autumnal Equinox, my friends!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Stowaways in the Kettle...

     Monday at MouseHouse is laundry day just as it is here in the big house. Fivelina had theirs out on Bittersweet Vine-line bright and early, even before the sun was up. Little bloomers and over-alls dance merrily in the breeze along with her pretty dresses and aprons, and Sir Fivel’s knickers and vests.
     Now, mind you, it’ll be a day-long chore for her. Before long, she’ll be hauling them back in, off the line, folding and smoothing just so before bringing them in to tuck away in respective bureaus, or hang on hanging hooks.
     I saw her brushing one of Sir Fivel’s caps vigorously with a tiny bristled brush—apparently a repurposed make-up brush cut down to size. The dust flew and soon the cap was hanging out on the line too, to freshen in the sunshine.
     Me. I’m a little slower getting the laundry processed this morning—only one load so far dancing in the breeze on BackPorch lines. But I’ve been otherwise occupied, you see.
     Our annual family trek to the beautiful Pine Acres is coming up soon, and I’ve started gathering the many household things we’ll need. While it’s a cottage, and lovely as can be, all our bedding and linens, kitchen needs and cottage comforts come from home. So indeed, it’s an undertaking. The list-making began last year when we were wrapping up the last trip—things not to over-look next time and such.
     We’ve already noted that the weather forecast for that week calls for night-time temps in the low 40’s, daytime highs only in the 60’s. And seeing as we’ll be right by the water, I suspect there’ll be plenty of breezes. So the lists have altered a bit from summer gear to autumn snugglies. So while I’ve been busy gathering, stashing and checking off my lists, that’s not all. I’ve had some unsolicited help, you see.  
     I keep a special tea-kettle just for camping. It perches on the cellar-pantry top shelf all year until camping time, when I bring it upstairs, wash and dry it, and then fill it full of tea bags, the honey jar, and whatever else is small enough to fit inside—it pays to pack smartly and save all the room we can.
     So said tea-kettle was thoroughly packed and ready, sparkling in the morning sunshine there on my counter top. In passing, I caught that peripheral-something that just catches one’s eye somehow, that little oddity that can’t help but warrant a second glance. Nope. Just my imagination, I reasoned.
     Second trip past with my arms full of wet clothes to hang on the line, there—I saw it again. Only this time I was sure of it, and sure enough, on second look I spied two beady eyes sparkling in the sunlight, peeking out the spout of the kettle.
     “Okay, you!” I exclaimed. “Out with you! You’ll get packed into the trunk of the car and be stuck there for days. If you think your mama will like that—you  disappearing and worrying her to pieces, well, I think we better have a talk with her!”
     I opened the lid of the kettle and who scrambled out but—yep, you guessed it—our mischievous Bic. But wait! He wasn’t alone. As I set him free, he giggled and pointed to another roly-poly scoundrel peeking out the end of the aluminum foil tube in the pots-and-pans bag.  
     “Hey, you two! How come you’re not in school today?” I inquired.
     “Miss Winklesnout has a bad cold and Betina couldn’t teach us today. So we have the day off.” Ben offered reasonably, brushing some loose tea dust off his shirt. He sneezed then, looking up at me sheepishly. "Sorry Ma'am... I didn't mean to sneeze on your tea-bags."
     “You're excused. And tell me, does your mama knows you’re in here getting into the luggage this morning?” I hid a smile. How can you keep a straight face after witnessing a mouse-sneeze?!
      “No, Ma’am…” he hung his head sadly. “She sent us out to gather acorns for the larder…”
     “We meant no harm,” Bic added. “Please don’t be angry, Ma’am. We’ll get right to work now.”
     I held out my hand to each of them. Both hopped on for a ride to Downspout Staircase.
    “This’ll be our little secret, boys…" I whispered conspiratively as they hopped off, "...but yes, you need to gather up your baskets and go do as your mama told you. No more games!”
      "Yes Ma'am... thank you."
     Back in the kitchen I remind myself to check each bag and parcel carefully as I load the car over the next few days. Now that the secret is out—Pine Acres ahead—I’ll need to watch for little stowaways.
Now where did I put those clothespins?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

September Sunday Silence...

Soul-settling. Yes, it’s an early Sunday morning on BackPorch and I can’t help but note the sounds that are, or are not. Deep in the still dusky woods, a lonely crow calls from the tree tops. Faintly, distantly, I hear an answer.
The air is clear and cool this morning, a breeze rustles through the trees, fluffing up the light layer of leaves that have already fallen.The tree tops sway ever so gently as the morning light bathes them in highlight.
Sleepy crickets vibrate quietly—a background sound one barely notices, yet it’s there.
A tiny wisp of smoke curls lightly from MouseHouse chimney; no doubt Sir Fivel is tending the morning fire in Walnut Woodstove, setting the pot of chicory on to brew for his lady-love.
Traffic sounds on the lane are nearly absent this Sunday morning, but for an occasional rush as a car passes.
A jay calls, cutting the stillness with his alarm, but there are no birds to warn this morning. The feeders are silent. Most of the migrators have left already, and the year-rounders are still nestled quietly on this day of rest.
How I miss the early morning songs of joyful praise so characteristic of spring and early summer, but every season has its sounds, and autumn is the beginning of the impending silence. It is what it is.
Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Yes, my soul, be still.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Ten Day in September...

      A Ten Day. Surely you’ve heard of them. Not just a mediocre kind of day, or the same-ole-same-ole, not even just an okay day. Nope. It’s for sure a Ten Day.  Blue sky, bright sunshine, a little breeze now and then, with comfortable levels of humidity—now I’d say that’s pretty near perfect.
     Took a walk in the garden last night to pick some potatoes and greens for dinner. I have to say it’s looking pretty grim. The tomato vines are hanging like discarded dish-rags, brown and limp, and there are more green tomatoes (red ones too!) still clinging to them than I will ever be able to process this year!
     The potato vines are hanging over the wash tubs where they’re planted, the spuds pushing up from under their roots. The chard and beets are sprouting greens faster than I can pick them, and the freezer is chock-full already! And besides what has been preserved, let me tell you we are sufficiently beeted and charded ourselves! Cleansed livers and kidneys abound! Now didn’t you just want to know that?
     I’m not complaining mind you, except maybe for my inability to be the master-picker, slicer-dicer, blancher-stewer, canner-freezer that this end of the season requires. Nope. The garden is winding down and so is my energy!
     Then there are the flower gardens. Now that’s just sad. Despite the long stretches of no rain, the waning daylight and some crisp nights, there are a few blossoms peeking out here and there on tired plants. I can almost hear them groaning a little with the effort.  At first frost, I will cut them all back, tidy up their beds and tuck them in for the long winter ahead, but for now, on this perfect-ten day, I simply smile at their valiant efforts and appreciate their persistence. What wonderful lessons there are in the garden.
     MouseHouse Village is positively bustling these days. At any given moment, a person can stand still and gaze at the comings-and-goings from bush to briar. They never stop! You have to pay attention of course, but soon you’ll see a darting blur of tawny fur, cheeks full of bounty, flag-staff tails standing straight up, or maybe you don’t see even that much, but rather disturbance in the leaves under a bush, the ferns waving when there wasn’t a breeze. Like I said, you have to pay attention, but you can be sure great things are happening in the underbrush, and underground. More than we can imagine.  Pantries are being filled, new cubbies made for snoozing, tunneling and insulating continue and the purveyors of walnut-woodstoves are extremely busy these days!
     We commented—Papa Hare and I—at how still it was this morning on BackPorch as we sipped our morning cuppas. Then we listened a little harder. For sure, there’s not much singing going on right now, but lots of scurrying and bustling, scratching and rattling, collecting and stashing. Can’t afford to laze away even an afternoon, rather they keep focused on what must be done, and their purpose is firm.

     Good lessons for me at MouseHouse Village, even on Ten Days. Good to be focused, purposed and eagerly preparing for the winter ahead, and yes… beyond.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Even the Creatures Remember...

     Even the creatures remember. Although none of The Village members were there, many friends and distant relatives were, and the stories have passed through the miles, over and over, these many years.
     You see, along with the many human lives lost that horrible day, hundreds of birds, pets, and MouseHouse friends and relatives were as well.
    There is nothing more to add this morning other than a humble and heartfelt tribute to the many who suffered and died, and prayers of comfort for the many who continue to suffer and grieve the loss of loved ones.
     Miss Winklesnout ordered all the children outside the classroom this morning where they are lined up somberly, gazing at the tiny, tattered, reclaimed American flag that she raises and lowers each day.
     “We will all be silent in a moment of remembrance…” she spoke quietly.   And silent they are.
     Yes. We all remember.