A Search for Autumn

Saturday, September 1, 2018

I went out looking for Autumn, on a cold and rainy day.
Summer had seemed to disappear and had taken the sun away.
I thought for sure I would find her, nestled in among some leaves,
So I went out from the house and yard and walked out to the trees.
I first looked at the flowers, their faces happy and bright.
But although I felt she'd been there, Autumn was not in sight.
So I went out to the garden, and the carrots seemed to tell
That Autumn had been there a day ago, but had left just for a spell.
I then went to the wood, but the trees their secret kept.
Autumn had been there, just before, but their silence I had to accept.
I made my way to the home of my furry brown bear friends,
But they seemed to be out for the afternoon at the stream around the bend.
I thought they would know Autumn, but they seemed too busy with lunch -
So I shrugged my shoulders and went on my way, now with another hunch.
Perhaps she was with the geese that flew high above my head,
Or with the little songbirds that make the willows their beds?
But although I tried to holler and call up to their nests
The birds seemed not to hear me to answer my request.
Autumn seemed to be a step or two ahead
of all the places I had gone and in my boots had tread.
Perhaps I wouldn't find her - but she seemed to be all around!
The leaves, the birds, the animals too all sung of her renown.
I gave up on my search that day for soon it will be time
To welcome Mr. Winter for blessed Christmastime!
I am so very excited that Autumn - my most favorite season - is finally here to stay! Of course Autumn in Juneau (the temperate rainforest that it is) is not always cool crisp air and crunchy leaves...it's normally rainy and soggy instead. But that wont stop my enthusiasm for decorating Blueberry Barn with all my most favorite Autumn things and bringing out my best fall-colored dresses!

I've already unpacked all my warm sweaters, and I look forward to wearing gloves and hats once again! After all, it's the perfect time of year to make some tea, eat a scone, and read a book under a blanket in front of a cozy fire (I just need a fireplace or a stove...hmmm.). 
I hope you enjoyed the little poem I wrote and I wish you a Happy Autumn. Do let me know down in the comments what Autumn things you are excited to do this year! Until next time, Dear Reader, I remain your faithful friend. 

A Busy Bee

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

 What a busy July it was for us here at Blueberry Barn! Our Russia trip, a big family reunion, two of my siblings staying with us for two whole weeks, and shows performed on cruise ships! I have been a busy little bee finding plenty of work to put my hands to - and lots of fun as well!

Not only had July been a busy month, but it was also the nicest on record in Juneau history. What an amazing blessing it was to be out in the sun so often, and the heat! - it certainly didn't feel like I was living in Alaska. I went swimming so many times I can't even remember them all - and I'm sure you can guess how cold the water is.

When its nice in Juneau, everyone goes a bit crazy and lets certain household chores slip by the way side...so instead of cleaning or tidying up the house one fine day, Quinn and I decided to go flower picking.

But this wasn't just for the beauty of the tall fireweed stalks, oh no! We were going to try our hands at making fireweed honey. You may remember two years ago when we made fireweed syrup - this turned out quite well (for you know I love floral tastes!) and I was excited to try something a little different.

The fireweed is the state flower of Alaska and is so named because it is the first plant to grow after a forest fire. It is also a telltale sign of the end of summer, as once it starts fluffing up with cotton you know autumn is coming along the bend. As I write this the warm sunny days seem to be behind us and have been replaced with colder, wet weather. I sure do hope there are a few sunny days left for us before autumn really sets in! But back to the flower picking...

The recipe we were following called for 50 fireweed flowers, 40 white clover, and 40 purple clover (along with five pounds of sugar - oh my!). With basket in hand we started picking, the wind blowing the tall stalks this way and that in the warm summer wind.

In most places the fireweed flowers are at the top of the stalk, signifying that summer is coming to an end, but there were still quite a few stalks with most of their flowers still blooming. I think they are the prettiest when the stalks are full of blooming pink flowers!

Even though its been sunny, I've tried to keep my skin from getting burnt and rosy (my sun hats have come in handy for this!). My poor fair skin can't take too much sun before I start looking almost as neon as the flowers! Haha!

Reaching towards the bluest sky
Watching ravens fly on by
Up we reach pink, purple, green
A sea of flowers to be seen.

Soon we'll be beat by winter snow
The rain that comes, the winds that blow
Or maybe fire burning bright
To burn the trees and split the night
Fear for us not, for after spring
We'll be here once more, our song to sing.

- Fireweed - 
{From my poetry journal}

Locals of Juneau seeing these photos will know exactly where Quinn and I went to pick our fireweed flowers (it's a favorite spot to photographers for obvious reasons). However, looking at these photos you may never know the truth about this spot - for Quinn is a good photographer. Would you ever guess that this lovely, tranquil spot is in fact not so tranquil? Because in fact, it is not in the middle of nowhere, it is in fact by a busy highway and the Juneau airport.
Even though this lovely field of flowers is sandwiched between the airport and the highway, it's still by far the prettiest fireweed field around so it was fun none the less (even if the honking cars and the loud sounds of planes taking off did take away from the overall mood...haha!). 

It was back to the Barn for us to find some clover and to start cooking!

It seems picking flowers on the side of the road is the theme for today, for we are lucky to have a big purple clover-patch right down the street from the Barn. I've asked Quinn several times if he feels at all embarrassed walking beside me when I'm wearing dresses or dirndls or anything considered peculiar. Thankfully, he's not! I certainly lucked out on marrying a man who likes to wear kilts and pink bunny costumes and therefore doesn't mind me dressing up like a Russian babushka! 

I was recently enchanted by a book of Melissa's called "Drawn From New England" which is about the life of Tasha Tudor (written by her daughter, Bethany Tudor). It had several pages detailing Tasha's early life along with pictures of her in her teens and twenties. I was quite struck by the fact that we had so much in common. In the photos Tasha wore dresses and outfits from centuries past - much as I enjoy doing! I think we would have been good friends. My favorite photo of Tasha showed her posing under a very large rhubarb leaf as a young girl. Our rhubarb has been moved to a new location, so it hasn't gotten quite this big yet, instead I chose a large skunk cabbage leaf so I could emulate the old photograph. What do you think? I think we make quite the pair.

With plenty of purple and white clover I think we were near to cooking up some honey! (I may have added in some rose petals as well, just for the fun of it...)
Cooking with flowers is such a joy - I really should do it more often! Do you, Dear Reader, have any favorite recipes that use edible flowers? Please share them with me below in the comment section - I would love to try them.

The fireweed looked so pretty mixed in with the clover and rose petals that I had Quinn take another picture. It reminds me of little kids making mud pies decorated with wild flowers and having tea parties under big spruce trees (did you ever do this? I know I did!).

My siblings Wesley and Valerie were visiting us and Wesley offered to help with the canning and the honey making. He sure looks fine in front of the stove, I'm sure he will make some lucky girl very happy someday.

And speaking of the honey making: five pounds of sugar doesn't look as scary when mixed with lots of flowers. Of course, you wouldn't want to eat all this honey at once, but a little drizzle on some toast? Why that sounds like heaven to me.
We added water and soon we had a bubbling pot of golden honey. After straining it we started the canning process - which is always a little stressful with so much boiling water in such a tiny kitchen.

Wesley got to take home the biggest jar of honey for all his help, and both he and Quinn got to lick the bowl after all the jars were filled. We'll keep a few jars for ourselves of course, but I think most will be given away as gifts this winter. Fireweed honey will certainly be a welcome memory of summer once the snow starts falling!

Thank you so much Dear Friend for reading along on our adventure. I hope you're having a wonderful week and I look forward to chatting with you again soon!

P.S. - Below you'll see just how big the fireweed stalks can get compared to my height!

A Doll Post Office

Monday, July 9, 2018

Quite awhile ago I showed you photos, Dear Reader, of a doll Post Office Quinn and I had made for my mother-in-law Melissa as a Valentine's Day present. I had planned to share with you all the particulars of making said Post Office but we were busy and I never got around to it. Until today that is!

Melissa has been enchanted by dolls since she was very young: She was gifted her first Madame Alexander doll as a Christmas present from the local drug store when her presents had not arrived in time by the post. Since then she has been collecting and putting together her own delightful doll house which now resides in a big wardrobe upstairs in her room.

She introduced me to Tasha Tudor and her amazing world of miniature shortly after we first met, and we have been fawning over her dolls ever since!

Tasha made what she called "Sparrow Post" with her young children, where they would send minuscule letters back and forth with the dolls that lived with them. In one of her books, "A Time To Keep" you can see a painting of what one such post office looked like:

The Tasha Tudor website has a tutorial for making a mini post box, but I wanted to make mom something on a bit of a grander scale, and something more similar to another Post Office pictured in a different book of Tasha's:
(Image taken from Tasha's website)

This Post Office was large enough to fit the dolls, which is exactly what I hoped to accomplish! With Quinn helping, we set about to make a pattern and a list of materials. I kidnapped one of the dolls from mom's wardrobe (for size reference) and started work!

I had scoured over Pinterest looking for easy and inexpensive ideas for the Post Office, and had come up with quite a few. I wanted the building to be light and easy to carry, but strong enough to stand the test of time and playing. We chose thick cardboard for the walls and floor and doubled it up with hot glue. I would wallpaper the inside with high-quality wrapping paper with a wainscoting of balsa wood painted white. The floor I was most proud of: large popsicle sticks with the rounded ends cut off stained to look like floor boards. They turned out perfectly!
I wanted the windows to look pretty so I drafted some designs and then went crazy and wanted to have one wall sort of stick out  like a gazebo style window. This was hard to figure out but I love how it turned out in the end! And doesn't the floor look marvelous?!

I made a tall cabinet for the back wall for the dolls to sort mail. I made this out of cardboard and masking tape and then covered it with spackle and paint to give it more wood-like texture. Quinn made the front desk for the Post Office out of extra balsa wood and a little bit of cardboard. Greta of course, was always a big help... 

The project took longer than we thought, and our hope of giving it as a Valentine's Day present turned to hoping to give it as an early Mother's Day present (which we did). 

Wallpapering the walls was rather difficult because the paper was so finicky, but patience prevailed! The last things to do were to spackle the outside of the cardboard walls, paint them, and then install some stonework along the bottom, thanks to Quinn! He likes to make miniature terrain for games he plays with his friends, so he was already an expert at carving rock walls out of foam, lucky me!

Decorating the Post Office was of course the most fun. I made lots of tiny packages and parcels, and found a template online for printing off tiny envelopes! This Post Office would need some mail after all...
By the time we gave mom her belated-Valentine's present, I think the cat had gotten out of the bag about what it was, but I think she was still thrilled. All in all it took us several weeks to finish, but we were by no means working on it every evening so I certainly think we could have made it sooner if we had been less busy. But tell me Dear Reader, what do you think of how it turned out?
To make the front edges look cleaner, I hot-glued some lace to the cardboard (as you could see the edges of the wood paneling and the floor boards and they weren't the prettiest). And let me show you a photo of the lovely rock wall Quinn carved!
He painted it and everything - didn't he do a marvelous job? The trellis idea I got off of Pinterest, and there's also a larger one on the opposite wall:
I think the dolls really love their new Post Office. It must be so nice for them to be able to send packages and presents to all their friends far away, wouldn't you agree?
The Post Master for Tasha's Office was named Augustus Sparrow, a very robust name indeed. In Juneau, ravens are more abundant than sparrows so Melissa has a Postmistress named Miss Minerva Raven. She does a very good job of helping customers and no letter is lost under her watchful eye. 

A large number of pretty stamps, as well as envelopes and greetings cards are available for purchase at the Post Office.  Mail delivery isn't yet available (Miss Raven is currently looking for a quick young robin to take the job, but as of yet none have applied), but the walk is quite short from the doll wardrobe to the Post Office. 

Quinn and I had a grand time making this present for mom, and I hope you are inspired to create something on a smaller scale as well today! I don't yet have a large doll collection of my own, as Melissa does, but I am lucky in the fact that she lets me play with hers whenever I like! 
May you have a wonderful day!
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs