Life is so interesting and full of unexpected twists and turns. It has been a busy 2 years. The spring after Doug died, I was a stem cell donor. An amazing experience. I was able to give another person the gift of life, a possible cure. My recipient survived for 60 days. She grafted my stem cells and began making her own bone marrow. I had a sister in this world whose name I never knew and whose face I never saw but she carried my stem cells. An amazing feeling of connection. Sadly, my recipient didn’t survive her marrow transplant and I never learned her name nor saw her face.
The day after finishing my stem cell donation, I found a lump in my right breast. After biopsies and scans, I had a port implanted and started my chemotherapy. Ironically my first chemotherapy treatment fell on May 18, 2011, the day that Doug died one year ago. It was also the day that little Scotty, a young classmate of Sarah’s, died in a terrible accident years before. A few weeks after starting chemotherapy, we finally got to the pet scan. Stage 4! Tumors on my spine and hips. Life has been interesting ever since. A terminal diagnosis puts a different spin on everything. Especially for and about my children.
Today the temperature soared and we began our spring cleanup. Winter left a large amount of twigs and sticks all over the yard. When I took a load of sticks out to the woods I spied a little brownish top peeking from beneath a leaf. MUSHROOMS! They are early this year. I had to take a walk to look for more. The Bloodroot is blooming along with the Spring Beauties and Rue-anemone. The Jack-in-the-pulpit are up, although the mandrake are just now poking through the soil. the cranesbill is up and the violets are beautiful under my apple trees. Today the weeping cherry burst into bloom and the peaches are full of red buds and the Redbuds are getting ready to bloom.
I haven’t written because I didn’t know what to say about Doug and I couldn’t write about anything else without writing about it. Life changes. One of those phone calls in the middle of the night. “don’t go to school tomorrow,” what does that mean? I’m confused. “There was an accident,” What? who? I’m still confused. “Doug had an accident, I’m worried about the children.”
I always thought the middle of the night phone call was a myth. What should I do? I called the hospital and they didn’t know anything. I called the sheriff and the dispatcher told me that she would transfer me to the highway patrol. When she wouldn’t answer me herself I knew. The highway patrol dispatcher wouldn’t say anything one way or another, she just asked if I wanted the officers to come to the house or just call. My heart beat so fast I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t breath and there was a roar in my ears. My poor children I thought, they will lose both parents in one night. Finally the roaring subsided and my breathe came back and I sat down to wait. After some time I heard cars in the driveway and I went outside to meet them so the children wouldn’t wake up. “Did he make it?” I asked although I knew the answer, they don’t send three cars when the person survives. Doug died at the scene. How do you tell your children something like this? How do you tell anyone?
The coroner’s assistant, Kenny stayed with me through the night. I made coffee while we waited for morning and the time when I would have to tell my children that their father was dead. Sarah woke first. She screamed and cried. Kenny talked with her some later and was a comfort. I had to wake John to tell him. I told him that his daddy had an accident, “did he die?” he asked. Yes he did.
I still can’t come to terms with this, it still takes my breath away when I think of it. When I picked mushrooms today it made me think of last spring when we found so many mushrooms that we almost got tired of them. We gave Doug a big bowl of mushrooms one night. He never could find them himself. He’d walk right on them and still wouldn’t see them.
Now that I have said it, maybe I can go back to writing.
My back yard... look at all of the ramps!
The ramps are up! Mushrooms aren’t far behind! I love to eat in spring and summer. Each couple of weeks brings a new treat.
Ramps for supper
My seeds have arrived! I ordered the an interesting looking broccoli, called Broccoli Romanesco. It is made up of green spiral spikes. I have no idea if it will do well here or if it even tastes good but it sure looks like fun. I also ordered Ruby Queen corn which is one of my favorites for my very poor soil. Ruby Queen is drought resistant and long standing in the field. And it has a really cool reddish purple color to boot. Great for rainbow dinners, served along side yellow, burgundy and green beans, yellow and red beets, and purple, yellow and red tomatoes. This year I saw an ad for a white tomato. It didn’t look very tasty to me. My peas have sprouted and I am thinking of putting out some early lettuce and spinach with row covers. It is so hard to wait on the fresh vegetable season.
Tomorrow my mother is coming up to help out and I am making onion soup for supper tomorrow. We usually have cheese fondue when mom comes. It is her favorite, and a favorite of the children too. But since I haven’t made any french bread recently I decided soup would be a nice change. We can use up the stale bread as floating croutons on the soup. We like it with swiss cheese melted in the broiler on top of the croutons with strands of melted cheese drifting through the soup.
French Onion Soup
8 to 10 yellow onions sliced on the thin side.
about 4 Tablespoons of butter
about 2 to 4 tablespoons of oil (I like grape seed or olive oil)
a splash (1/2 to 1 cup) of good red wine
2 quarts of chicken stock or chicken and beef mixed (all beef stock is too strong and overpowers the onions)
Melt butter in a soup or stock pot with the oil. Saute the onions slowly on medium to low heat until they begin to brown slightly. Add a pinch of sugar to help the onions caramelize. When you have a nice rich brown color to the onions add the red wine and deglaze the pot and cook off the alcohol. Add the stock and simmer gently. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with a slice of chewy or stale french bread floating on top. Sprinkle with a generous mound of swiss cheese. Put the bowl of soup with the floating bread and cheese under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling. Be careful of hot bowls. I always have extra bread for dipping and grapes or apples alongside for a nice contrast. My children love this dinner.
Brad Gray and I constructing trees at Highland Nature Sanctuary, Bill Brown worked with us also.
Chestnut tree. After a base coat of plaster, we rendered the bark with trowels.
The Tulip Poplar
The summer before last, Bill Brown, Brad Gray, and I made an old growth forest of plaster and wood frame trees. I think this was one of my favorite projects ever. The company was great. Bill and Brad are hysterically funny when they are together. And making trees out of plaster was a stretch for me artistically. I was skeptical about the feasibility of constructing realistic species specific bark with wet plaster and trowels on a vertical surface. It worked! And what fun we had doing it! I’m hoping to work there again this summer. In the mean time if anyone needs Faux Bois work in plaster just give me a call.
I dislike February. I love the first cold day, the first snowflake, the smell of woodsmoke, hot cocoa, and even a good brisk snowstorm, but by the middle of February I am finished with snow and cold. I am finished with mud and closed up houses and winter coats and winter vegetables. This week has been bliss. First the Mourning Dove and now the warmth. I can almost taste spring. I planted my peas on Saturday. I hanged the grow lights and filled the seedling trays. Tonight I ordered seeds: golden beets, colored carrots, lettuces, summer squash, Ruby Queen corn, and Black Krim tomatoes, my favorite! There is finally light at the end of the tunnel.
Last night I had to attend a meeting of the 4H Small Animal Committee. We are responsible for the poultry and rabbit barn at the county fair. We have a very old fashioned county fair. Everyone attends, quite a few people take the week off work so they can participate in the fair. My aunt Norma, the champion baker at the Mason County Fair and Ohio State Fair, shared her secrets for fair baking. Year before last, I won 1st place for my chocolate cake and my pecan pie and 3rd place for my carrot cake. In the evening all of the prize winning bake goods are auctioned off. Mrs. Ross bought my chocolate cake. Which was very special because she was one of the very best bakers in the county, the one who got the blue ribbon in every category that she entered. I was honored. I didn’t get to bake last year because we had to stay at the fairgrounds and give Sarah’s chickens a bath so they would be fresh and white for showing the next day. I never thought I would give a chicken a bath, its quite an experience.
I’ve been working on the next illustration for the moon book. I started with a pencil drawing, applied watercolor, and I am finishing with oil paint after applying a glaze barrier. The moon is listening to the bullfrogs and the whip-o-wills. I long for summer. I can almost smell it.
Moon illustration in progress