In Focus #5-Tiny Winter

Winds are blowing winter back. Their howling around the house are foretelling it’s coming. So are the fluffy clouds briskly floating by, while swaying trees seem to be waving good-bye to the extra-mild weather we have been having here in the Valley.

For the most part of last week, doors and windows have been open to let the mid-60^ temperatures fill the house. Since early this morning though, a tiny crack in the front door would allow the gusty wind to rudely force the door open and gain entry.

Spreading mulch over the flower beds will be a futile job these next few days. Which means some moments to head outside with the camera. This is one reason this PFO (Primary Farm Operator) likes winter so well. It is time to look at the tiny side of life through the zoom lens of the camera. Winter is especially nice because it is still, and mostly quiet in every way. All of life and nature is taking a bit of rest.

It’s a great excuse to look ‘scruffy’ and not get in trouble for it. Gardens are covered with chopped leaves and dead plant debris. Fields and yards are a dull brown. The animals are furry and way dusty with dried patches of mud all over their bodies. No sleek, shiny coats in the wintertime.

Snow drapes a beautiful blanket over it all. Ice brings crystals. Every season has its’ own beauties to be sure. But somehow the mystery of winter calls this PFO outside all the more. Perhaps because it is fun to be “all wrapped up” out in the cold elements working to stay warm. Whatever the reason, outside it is with the camera tucked warmly under the arm wrapped in a heavy coat. It is the tiny things that grab attention. Please enjoy the following ‘tiny winter’ photos. Add your own in the comments if you like. They would be a pleasure to look at.

White Pine

Redbud
Hemlock

Hen and chick plant
An icy home (bird nest)
Flower cage in garden
Nap-time
Black-capped Chickadee
Cedar
Tiny pieces of ice falling from the wind blowing the trees.

Tina

Tina is the last one.

She is the only girl, and the last child of Snoot and Shirley’s. Clyde, Ot, Bubba and Tanner were thrilled when they had their sisters’ dolls they could shoot, hang and give a general hard time to. It was quite an effort civilizing those boys. After all these years Shirley would say she and Tina did a right fine job of it. .

It would get Shirley all riled up though to hear folks telling her how she just had to keep on a tryin’ for a baby girl till she got one. Oh that would get to her. She’d tell them to mind their own business then they wouldn’t be minding hers. Did they have any idea the economic cost of having a girl after all those boys? There was not one pink thing in that household. In fact, what Shirley really wanted to tell them cannot be printed here, dear reader.

It isn’t like she had anything against girls. It truly was a matter of economics. Snoot made a fine income, still money was tight and had to be carefully managed. How was this little girl to look like all those adorable little girls Shirley knew? All she had was a batch of dirty, worn out boy cloths and toys. She used to say that when those boys were done with something it was only fit for the dump, certainly not for give-away or passing down.

Then Shirley’s own momma came to mind. Her momma never did have a ton of cloths in her closet. What she did have though was real pretty, and classic in style. She would tell Shirley that one nice, pretty dress went a lot longer and farther than a bunch of cheap ones. That must’ve been so, ‘cuz Shirley’s momma always looked pretty and very stylish.

After all that thinking Shirley realized the importance of liking oneself better than what is hanging in the closet. Most especially for girls. It seems girls have a harder time with this than boys. Anyways, boys have their own set of worries. Girls are the topic today. Shirley’s momma had a real good opinion of herself. That kind of opinion that helps one along throughout their life. Does that make sense, dear reader? Her momma was confident in herself and her abilities. She was what country people call ‘gamey’. This means she was always wanting to try new things, and was not scared one bit of failing. She just knew she would not fail. In her young days it was not fitting for girls to play baseball, wear jeans, get all suntanned from hours outside, play with dogs, or ride horses like a wild little Indian. It seemed she knew her worth was who she was, not what she wore. Do you think it might do girls a lot of good to start looking at their own selves in a similar sort of light?

All that thinking lead Shirley to the idea that she would teach Tina the same notions about herself that her momma had. She stopped fretting about how her baby girl was going to look and hauled her outside instead of the clothing stores. They spent time walking in the woods, through the tall grasses in fields, and got wet looking for fish in lakes and ponds. They visited farms where, surrounded by sheep, lambs, cattle and calves, Tina learned not to be afraid. She learned how to “read” the animals, and how to handle herself safely around them. She has always been around horses, longer than she can remember.

Four older brothers have a big way of helping teach a little sister also. They took her everywhere with them. They taught her how to fish, shoot guns, ride a motorcycle , work on cars, and how to gut a deer. About the only thing Shirley had to intervene in on was caring for her dolls. Those rotten boys would carry them by their feet! Golly, is there any hope for civilizing boys? This is how you carry your baby dolls, Tina, real sweet and gentle like, Shirley would show her. Do you have any idea, dear reader, how hard it is to teach a little girl proper ways with four older brothers?

Those brothers were such good teachers. They made her strong, brave, and ‘gamey’. Shirley used to tell folks, “Having one man is going to be easy for Tina when she grows up and marries. Shoot, she has managed four of them all her life!” It makes her laugh too when she remembers how those sons just knew how awfully spoiled Tina would get being the only girl. They gave her her first cell phone, and her first pink shotgun!

As for all those cloths Shirley worried herself over, it came to naught. Time and tide came and went. Tina grew up in spite of not having loads of pink frillies in her closet. She grew up well too. She can do all those things her brothers taught her, and more. She is an accomplished pianist, and vocalist. She knows and loves The Lord. She is a fine young woman.

Shirley did do just as her momma too. Every season of the year she went to a nice dress shop in town and purchase one real pretty dress for Tina. It cost more in the beginning, but paid out big in the end. The styles were classic, the colors rich. She may not have a lot, but what she has is good.

It seems Shirley did alright following her mommas’ advice. For one, she had less laundry. Best though was, she had more time. Time to spend with her boys and her one wonderful little girl. That alone makes Shirley…

Tickled Pink.

Sugar Plums in Virginia?

“While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.” So reads a happy line from the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas. Written in 1822 for his children. Published anonymously in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel. It was thought to have been given to the paper by a family friend.

It has been illustrated many times over the years. During the 1860’s it received its’ best known illustrations. Done by Thomas Nast for the Harpers Weekly. Nast, a political cartoonist best known for his Republican elephant and Democratic donkey, dressed Santa in the recognizable red fur trimmed in white and black belt today.

Diospyros virginiana is our sugar plum here in Virginia and thankfully is on our farm. Best known as the Persimmon tree. It is also called American persimmon, possum apples, or sugar plum to name a few. Wildlife enjoy them every fall, and so do our horses. So do we! We have had them on every farm here in the Appalachian Highlands.

Diospros virginiana, aka Persimmon, possum apples, or sugar plum.

Old timers used to tell us they were not good for eating until after the first hard frost. And if one wants a good laugh at the expense of another, give them an unripe persimmon to eat. They are so bitter, and makes one pucker! Truth is after a spell of good cool nights and days, they can be eaten. Just be sure to know the difference between the ripe and unripe. The ripe is soft to touch, and has a pretty deeper color then unripe one. In above photo, the ripe fruit is in the center of the frame. Do you see the difference in colors? They grow deeper in that pretty orange-like color as they ripen even more. In the photo below the beginning-to-ripe persimmon displays both yellow and reddish colors. And like most ripe fruit, they are plucked easily from their branches.

These are only beginning to get ripe.
They look like little Christmas ball hanging on the trees all late fall and winter.

Many folks do not know they even have these sweet trees on their property. The native ones do not get very large. It is rather like a treasure hunt finding them. In springtime they have the most lovely little white blossoms. The petals curl back on the flower. But for sure your horses know where they are. They will quickly clean up the fallen ones as will all the wildlife. They are a sweet treat.

Image result for photo of persimmon flowers
Internet photo

Ours grow on the western boundary line of our farm behind the barn. This area is not fenced so none of our animals can get to the trees, though the wildlife can. I pick them up and give them as treats to the horses in the evening. So far I have not found any in the woods.

If they see me going out behind the barn, they know something good is coming.
I try to be sneaky about it. They do not get them everyday.
The pretty orange-red color of ripe persimmons.

If the horses could get to them they would eat up every single one. Much of the fruit clings to the trees. A steady wind will bring them down though.

They are sure enjoying their treats!
See how rather little they are? The pine tree is much larger.
Yummy little sugar plums. Enjoyed by man and beast.

On your next walk about outside, look and see if you can find this sweet treat tree. You will have found a friend!

An interesting fact—A friend told me years ago Persimmon wood is the preferred wood for golf club heads.

Dot

Dot is an artist. Photography is her medium.

She was also the very first Daughter-in-law for Snoot and Shirley. When she and Clyde (their oldest boy) first met she was active in theatre. She was just the cutest little thing dancing and singing around on that big ‘ole stage. She enjoyed the theatre all during her teenage years, and into her twenties. Snoot and Shirley saw her perform the leading role in Guys and Dolls. They couldn’t stop smiling.

All that was a few years back. Dot and Clyde have been married now for fifteen years. Wow! Shirley says time flies when folks are having fun. Dot has sure brought a lot of fun into the family during all the time they have been hitched. And even before getting hitched.

Shirley tells the funniest stories about those boys of hers and how they would take full advantage of the “Helping Others” chart that used to be taped on their kitchen wall. Shirley worked hard trying to get those rowdy, wild boys to think of others on occasion. So, as they did nice things for others, they would list them on the chart. Once the chart was full Shirley and Snoot treated those ‘good’ boys to pizza. Right or wrong, it seemed like a good way to get those boys thinking of others. Their sister, Tina, did not need near as much bribery.

It worked for a good while. That is until Dot came along. Then they just downright took advantage of it. Shirley says those smarty boys would write things like:

~Washed car windows on Dot’s car.

~Helped Dot carry in a box .

~Took Dot on a bike ride.

~Talked to Dot ’til Clyde got home.

~Dot, Dot, Dot, the whole list had her name on it.

The sun didn’t rise on Shirley just yesterday, dear reader. She was onto those fellas. She put a stop to those shenanigans in short order. They had to do real things for folks besides just Dot. They got by with it once and got their pizza. Shirley says, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Dot and Clyde are the oldest child in each of the big families they grew up in. Like a good herding dog, they know how to get themselves in order, and how to corral the rest as well. Shirley used to tell Clyde he was a ‘good dog’ because he was so thoughtful about keeping an eye on everyone and everything. She has noticed Dot is a ‘good dog’ too! This is a term of endearment, dear reader, kindly take no offense.

Because all these boys have the same last name, Shirley calls each family by the first name of her boy. Such as; the Clydes include his whole family; the Ot’s, his whole family, and the Tanners are his. Does that make sense? Well, the Clydes live the farthest away from Snoot and Shirley. They see them the least. The best part though is those two adorable children visit and stay a good bit with Snoot and Shirley. And even better? Shirley says the parents do not come!

She has good reason for that too. Before their first grandbaby was ever born, Shirley told all her boys and girl that when she became a granny, she was going to be a ‘Yes’ granny. She said she had spent twenty years saying ‘No!”, and now she intended to spent the next twenty with her grandbabies saying nothing but ‘YES!’. That is why it is far more fun when the parents are not around, as there is no contention with all those yeses! Not to worry, Shirley keeps it all within reason. They do not get too spoiled.

Anyway, back to Dot. It is a wonderful thing that she lets those babies stay with Snoot and Shirley. It is just such fun for them all. They laugh, play outside, ride bikes, walk dogs, play in the pond, shoot the bb gun and simply enjoy each others company. Mostly they all get tired, hungry, and have to use the bathroom at the same time too. This makes for easy planning.

Dot is in demand with those fine photography skills of hers. She travels a good bit. She has been in many fine magazines on account of her artistic ability. She has even taught classes. This keeps her right busy in addition to being a momma. Clyde runs his own business. So when life gets a little tight for them those grandbabies get lots fresh air and fresh thoughts with Snoot and Shirley.

Being the oldest in a family must be a tough job Shirley thinks often to herself. She would not know as she was the youngest in her childhood home. Ask her older siblings though and they would say she was spoiled rotten and did not ever have to do one thing. Shirley would not agree, of course, but she does recognize the heavier responsibilities that are often laid upon the oldest child in a family. She knows she did with Clyde, and her dear Dot has mentioned on occasion the load she carried with all her younger siblings.

Seems to Shirley in many ways they have already been parents of sorts. They have a fine family with one boy and one girl, and it is wonderful. Not everyone is meant to have a passel of kids. There is no need for apologies either. If we were all the exact same way, why, one of us wouldn’t be needed.

Socrates got it right way back in 400 BC when he said “Know Thyself.” Shirley believes a thoughtful person spends time figuring out just who they are, and how they are to conduct their own lives. She has heard it described as living in their ‘zone.’ That sounds a little hippie to her, but it is ok. After all, she is a product of the 60’s. She also believes Dot (and Clyde) have a good notion of just who they are. They are thriving. So are those two delightful grandbabies. The only worry Shirley has is that she does not look fat when her talented DIL

Dot takes a beautiful family photo.