Thursday, July 24, 2014

Balsam Poplar Infusion

Yesterday I strained my jars of balsam poplar infusion that had been sitting in the sun since early spring.
(though we didn't have much sun in May or June....)   This batch has a lovely fragrance, but it is a milder scent compared to the first batch I made which I let steep for over a year.  This infusion was put together in late March/early April.  

So the lesson I learned is to put this infusion together and forget about it like I did the last time.  
However, the strong infusion sometimes puts people off with its pungent scent.  (My kids can always tell the minute I open the jar of salve I made last year.)  My original batch was VERY concentrated.  I'm interested to see if family and friends react to this batch differently.  I tend to think medicine might as well be strong.  But a gentle approach also has its place.  If people are more willing to use the recipe because the scent is not so sharp, then that matters too.

I used organic olive oil for the infusion.  But I haven't decided if I will experiment with a new recipe this year.  Since there is more than 3 quarts to work with, I can play with the original recipe if I want to.  I call the original recipe, Healing Salve.  It is excellent for wounds, scrapes, sores, and bruises.  

"Native Americans used resin from buds to treat sore throats, coughs, lung pain, and rheumatism. An ointment, Balm of Gilead, was made from the winter buds to relieve congestion." 

One of my friends, a piano teacher, applies it to her hands as "good medicine" to ward off stiffness.

Me?  I just like the smell.  I think it smells like spring... and walking through the swampy section of our driveway to the school bus in the early spring mornings of my childhood.  I loved the smell of "bombagillian", the Northern Minnesota slang for Balm-of-Gilead.  I always knew that beautiful fragrance must be good for something.  So I was delighted when, as an adult, a friend shared with me how to infuse the buds and make a simple salve.
I like to use my salve on my hands and feet in winter time.  My skin is dry and cracks easily.  The salve is very healing and effective on broken skin.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Water From Rock Bible Craft

Here is another Sunday School craft that Clancy helped me design.  It relates to the story of water from the rock found in Exodus 17.  
Moses struck the rock with his staff.
For the craft I had the kids glue down flat wooden toothpicks as the staff.  Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph the toothpick...  Just remember to add a staff using a toothpick, a twig, paper or even just draw it in with a black marker.
The templates may be photocopied onto standard 8.5x11" white card stock.  
Use a crafting blade to remove the cut-out from the rock, and put tiny cross-cuts where the paper clip goes through the rock and the wheel.
Cut out Moses and the sun ahead of time.
It is easiest if the kids just color the picture and pieces, and do the assembly with glue and the paperclip.
I also had the kids glue Exodus 17 to the back of the craft.  I think it is good to have the story included somewhere on the craft because some homes are less familiar with Scripture than others.  This way the craft also provides the story.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Goodbye, Chloe Cat

I took Chloe to the vet yesterday and had her put down.
She was 19 years old.
This is a pic from her 14th summer...
These last few months she had a difficult time walking and eating.
But she definitely put in a long run as a good farm cat.  She was a great mouser, with a distinct personality...
She swiped every dog we ever owned across the nose if they got too rowdy in her presence.  Hence, all of our dogs had a deep respect for her.
When our youngest son was four months old we discovered he was severely allergic to Chloe and he could not breath.  It was a scary time for us as a family and, on doctor's orders, the cat was sent to live outdoors.  I was initially filled with guilt and worry for her.  Within a week Chloe had systematically destroyed every window screen on the house.  After that I think we both called it even.
She was relatively sweet with us at home, but the first time we took her to the vet's office there was an "incident."  I dropped her off for shots and a spay and when I picked her up the vet told me he didn't want to ever see her again.  Apparently she was not well-behaved.
A few years later we decided to have our horse vet give Chloe her vaccinations during a farm visit.  Chloe began growling when she saw the vet across the yard.  There was a great struggle, which resulted in two bent needles and Clancy laying his entire body across the vet's tailgate, thereby squishing the cat flat underneath him.  The injection was given and Chloe released.  I will never forget the image of her furry body springing up and flying through the air...dead set on clawing the vet's face off.  One would assume she'd be mad at Clancy for restraining her.  But she blamed the vet for the entire situation and tried her best to take revenge.  Clancy swatted the cat off the vet, who was busy trying to protect her face with her arms.  Chloe was pronounced "set for life" that day as far as vaccinations went.
 Despite her lack of veterinary attention, she was remarkably healthy throughout her life.

Chloe refused to share her territory with any other cat.  She regularly whooped on any stray that came along and disposed of the intruder, like clockwork, the very night after it was first spotted in the yard.  We only ever had ONE cat....Chloe.

She will be missed...
the way she would rub against our hands...but bite us if we petted her....
except Clancy....
she had a soft spot for Clancy.
And he certainly had a soft spot for her.

Bye, Chloe. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sunday School Crafts

I love teaching Sunday School at 
Here are a couple of crafts we did in class recently.  Many thanks to Clancy for sketching the people and the ark and the background for the Noah story.  Please note that this is not our best artistic work, as most of it was drawn and cut out late in the night before Sunday.  Mercifully, kids are less critical about these crafts than our inner critics.
Feel free to borrow the designs and make your own versions of these crafts.

Moveable Noah's Ark 
(Genesis 6-9)
Have kids color background card stock.  Glue down large blue wave (with cutout to fit around cardstock slit).  Put a line of glue ONLY on the straight edge of narrow wave.  Add narrow wave so it covers but does not block the slit in the card stock Color ark and add people/animal stickers (option).  Glue or tape ark to wooden stick and slide stick between waves and through the card stock slit.

Crossing the Red Sea 
(Exodus 14)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bonfire & Bears

One of three fires Clancy lit last night.
Six teenagers were on hand to make the most of it.
What a gorgeous night.
 Plus the plum blossoms are in full bloom. 
And I saw another black bear (this one a true shiny black rather than last week's Hershey brown color) grubbing for turtle eggs along Boston Lake Road yesterday.
(sorry-no time for a photo before he bounded into the watery cedar swamp)
 But thanks to our faithful Lleulu, no bears in the yard so far this year.
(I love love LOVE her!)
This has already been a lovely weekend...with one more day to go.  
Thanks to all the Veterans and their families out there.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book Bonding-Fully Funded!

I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to my friends from Bemidji High School Class of '91.  Many of them donated to this project and it was fully funded yesterday.
So happy!

Do you remember the first moment you fell in love with reading?
One of my earliest memories is of my Richard Scarry's Mother Goose book.  It was hardcover and I still have it.  I lived inside that book's world until I went to kindergarten.

As I progressed through school my teachers introduced me to other authors.
Beverly Cleary
Walter Farley
Roald Dahl

I loved reading.  I loved reading for reading's sake.  I loved all kinds of books:  love stories, murder mysteries, against all odds, historical, science fiction, fantasy...
I just loved reading.  And all those stories have played a part in molding my person.

I'm guessing that many of you reading this blog are also avid book readers.  
If you are, take just a moment to imagine your life if your connection to reading had never been established.  However you came to be a person that loved reading....just imagine that never happened....
Where would you be without those books that influenced your life?
Where would you be if you had never latched on to the joy of reading?

Without doubt or question, my life would have been bleak.  It is unfathomable how my spirit would have been sustained through my darkest hours without access to reading.

Now think of all the distractions that a modern-day teenager has.  So many young people enter their high school years without having fallen in love with reading yet.
Do you really want to live in a world governed by young people that never learned how to love reading?
I find it terrifying, myself.
And so deeply, painfully sad.

Here's where I'm going with this:
My dear friend from high school is now a high school teacher herself.  And she is trying to raise money to get high-interest reading materials in her classroom library.  She wants to put high-interest books in the hands of her students so they can fall in love with reading for the first time in their lives!  "High-interest" means the books kids are talking about NOW.  You aren't going to see Steinbeck on this list.  But a kid that doesn't like to read isn't going to pick up Steinbeck anyway.  A kid that loves to read will, quite possibly, eventually visit some of the classics.
So I'm asking you to PLEASE DONATE to my friend's classroom library by clicking on one of these links.  It only takes a minute to donate any amount you choose to give.
  Help Ms. Dittrich lead her students toward a lifetime of reading. 
If YOU recognize the value of reading in your life, this is a WORTHY cause.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I wanted a nice photo of Clancy and myself by the lake....

Yep, we are still wearing our parkas in Northern Minnesota, folks.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

2014 Prom

Leif is on his way to Prom.
Love my handsome boy!

A quick snapshot of Leif and his friend, Kenzie.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Such a variety of waterfowl on Boston Lake!  
The trumpeter swans are trying to drive away the Canada geese.  They've been successful in past years, so we shall see.  
Lots of ducks
Great blue heron
King fisher
Sandhill cranes
Bald eagle
Common loons
Love them all!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ice Out

The small bit of ice on Boston this morning was completely gone by late afternoon.
Clancy heard loons before dawn.
Leif went kayaking in the evening.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Thanks to the ice being almost out on Boston Lake, there are many wonderful dead things washed up on shore for Lleulu to roll in.
She is very pleased with her smears of stink.

It also appears as though a pair of Sandhill Cranes have taken a liking to our small sheep pasture that is currently void of sheep.  I thought the trumpeters were loud...these cranes produce a true cacophony of croaking!  They make quite a fuss when Lleulu makes her rounds in their area.

Clancy is busy cutting down more trees today....trees we've been meaning to cut for several years now.  It seems as though the spring cleaning is happening out in the yard this year.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Work

Clancy cut down several dead, dying, ugly, and inconveniently placed trees this past Saturday.  There are still so many more to deal with, but we wanted to make sure the mess got cleaned up before the grass started growing so we only cut a few at a time.  
Thanks to a chainsaw and use of my dad's Bobcat, we got all the firewood carried to the stove area and all the branches carried to a clear area near the pasture where a bonfire this fall will do no harm.  It is quite a mountain of brush, and I'm sure more will be added to it in the weekends to come.

A few of the trees that we took out were over-mature birch along the lake shore.  They have been there for as long as I can remember.  We will miss their shade and creamy white trunks...but not the enormous dead limbs they would randomly drop.  Thankfully, several young birch trees are already established in the vicinity.  The tradition continues...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Latest Projects-Photo Heavy!

It has been nearly 10 months since the last time I posted here!  Sorry about the lapse, folks.  Life has been busy.  Rather than play catch-up, I'm simply going to start from the now.
Here are a few projects I've been working on lately...

I recently started making all of my own lip balm and lotions.  My skin loves it and my complexion is finally improving.  Plus I LOVE the process of concocting new formulas!

I also made 21 little gift/candy boxes for my church's craft sale last week.  
Paper crafting is one of my first loves!

Then I decided to needle felt a small rabbit.
But it started to look like a dog's head.
So then I made a dog...
Because I wasn't using a wire armature with this sculpture, I decided to wet felt it before I added finishing touches to make sure it was strong and solid.
The soft toy I pulled out of the dryer looked more like a kitten than a dog.
So I began crafting a kitten.  This was truly an exercise in letting the wool become what it wanted to be.
After much work, I finally had the child's soft toy I was hoping for:
a cute, playful kitten.

In family news I have to relate a special event from November: my siblings and I joined forces with some childhood friends to throw our  fathers (who have been best friends since birth) a joint 70th birthday party.
It was truly a joyful day of visiting and celebration!
My dad, Don Wille (right), and his good friend, Ervin B.
My parents.
My sister, brother, and me.

And my own little family is managing to survive this bitter winter...
The boys are all doing well at their respective schools.  
I miss my college boys and I love it when they come home and we can all be together.  
To curb my empty nest symptoms, I've been spending extra time with my precious Lleulu.  What a gem she is!  Thank goodness for her unconditional love.  :)

Thinking SPRING!