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Archive for December, 2012

My mother is a quilter, as was her mother before her. Some time ago she showed me this book, The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird. The subtitle reads, “Letters from 1920s farm wives and the 111 blocks they inspired.” Hird shares the story of the contest offered in January 1922 by a women’s magazine of the day, The Farmer’s Wife. Apparently times haven’t changed much, as there was a perception in the city of the drudgery of farm life, especially for the women. Thus the magazine endeavored to dispel said perception by offering cash prizes for letters from readers answering the question: would you want your daughter to marry a farmer? The responses (over 7,000!) were overwhelmingly positive, with 94 percent answering yes. With these letters for inspiration Hird designed 111 blocks, 6 x 6 inches, representing various aspects of the life of a farmer’s wife. My mother is also a retired history teacher, so her interest in this project was no surprise to me. However, I am of a preoccupied nature and luckily missed a very obvious point, which I discovered Christmas eve at my parents’ house when we exchanged gifts. I am also a farmer’s wife, and that quilt was made for me.

Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt by Jennie Johnson

Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt by Jennie Johnson

Incidentally, those pillowcases were also made by my mother, gifts from a previous Christmas. Our bed is queen sized, so she added to the border to make it a bit wider; this is the first quilt we’ve had that truly fits the bed when turned the right way. She attached a handwritten tag naming the giver and receiver, the date, and the details of having 111 blocks and over 2500 pieces. The fabrics are all reproduction vintage patterns, such that a 1920s farm wife could have had access to similar fabric. I love the colors, the small blocks, and the symbolism of each one. She also gave me her marked-up copy of the book, knowing I would want to study it to memorize the meaning of each block. Some I find easier to visualize than others, with names like maple leaf and hovering hawks, corn and beans and kitchen firebox. Others are more abstract: friendship, four winds, homeward bound, silver lane. All are so beautiful, and I feel so blessed to sleep under this. Thanks, Mom. Merry Christmas.

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We welcome winter this morning after a night of blistering winds and a high for today of 44 degrees which has already passed. Outside the blindingly bright sun belies the frigid temperature as we begin our return toward longer days once again. As high cirrus clouds sail across an icy blue sky I find it hard to believe that today is this blog’s one year anniversary. Although life has had its twists and turns (as it always does), and I have not met my goal for the number of posts over the course of the year that I had hoped to achieve (as I never could), I did at least carry on. Sometimes that is the best we can do.

Last month we finally put Lumpy down, the mama with the swollen jaw who lost her calf last year. The swelling never responded to any treatments and had finally gotten so big that she could no longer eat. Still it was hard to accept; I suppose culls always are. You just can’t help wondering if you did everything you could. In better news, we bought two new bulls at the last sale to increase the genetic diversity of the herd. We have been feeding hay on a daily basis for some time now, the grass in the pastures dying off a little early from the dry fall it seemed. Winter wheat has been planted and now struggles to come up. All the mamas-to-be have been sorted into pastures near the house and barns for the upcoming birthing season. I hope to bring two donkeys onto the farm before birthing begins to help keep the coyotes at bay. Driving on nearby roads I see other herds with some new babies already, brown, white and black packages of bovine adorableness. Although I appreciate the black Angus breed for what it literally brings to the table, at times I wish we had a little more diversity in the field, if only for visual interest…

My middle child is pestering me for her garden gloves. Soon we’ll bundle up and head outside to set out a few pansies around the blueberry bushes. I am tempted to postpone this task because of the wind; our Christmas lights clattering wildly against our front windows scold and warn like crows taking flight. I know myself, however, and one postponement will lead to another and another. Eventually the pansies will not forgive me, and then I will not forgive myself for not just planting the stupid things. So, out into the ripping wind I go. It isn’t that many pansies.

pansies waiting

pansies waiting

Happy Solstice everyone!

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