“Time is a seamstress, specializing in alterations,” observed Faith Baldwin. We here at Cedar Hill have experienced death, loss and new beginnings all woven together. If you have not read my previous post, please do because I wrote about all the events of the first months of 2011. I will continue writing about our October vacation in Colorado near Mt Princeton and the Chalk Cliffs. The last quarter of 2011 brought many challenges.
Bev’s Stitchery, the local quilt shop was thriving. Jeanne took my picture with the decorative quilter posted outside the shop. I found fabric I likes and enjoyed my conversation with Bev–we talked knitting and quilting and visited about her long history as a quilt shop in Buena Vista. Next, Susan, Jeanne and I went exploring the ghost town of St. Elmo high in the mountains and found a happy colony of chipmunks usually fed by the summer tourists. We were feeding them in October and they scrambled and scavenged for the crumbs we offered. Some bold chipmunks scrambled up our hands and arms. Then the local big blue Steller’s Jays appeared on the scene to steal what they could. We watched the spectacle for at least an hour enjoying all the activity generated by our feedings. One of my favorite pictures from our trip, was one I worked really hard to frame. Finally, I caught an image of one of the striking dark jays against the patch of snow.
More of those unique scarecrow figures dotted the small town of Buena Vista, from the local newspaper office to the library and the knitting shop. I see them as examples of public art and humorous adventures into creativity. As you can see these figures added personality to a small community for both the locals and for the visitors like us. I persuaded both Susan and Jeanne to be part of this photo shoot too. Jeane is pictured outside of the newspaper office and Susan is associating with the library’s mascot who holds a stack of–what else–books.
Hiking and soaking in the hot springs pool and in Chalk creek happened every day, sometimes we visited the hot springs twice a day! Because it was October, we sometimes had the creek area to ourselves. One late afternoon, we three soaked in the hot water and looked across the creek to see deer browsing without regard for our presence. These mule deer act like our whitetail deer in Arkansas, but they have tall, mule-like ears. I wonder if they can hear any better than whitetail deer? Chalk creek, at Mt Princeton resort, is about thirty feet across and the cold water rushes across rocks and boulders with spots of very hot water along some edges. We visitors can rearrange the rocks to create sandy soaking pools. The mountain air is cool, but by laying back in the water one is delightfully submerged. Today the resort makes no claims that the water has healing properties, but one hundred years ago this area was advertised as having mineral springs with healing properties. Before the Europeans arrival, the Ute Indians sought out the springs when in the area. All I can say is that the water feels healing to me–both emotionally and physically.
The local landmark named the Chalk Cliffs rises to the north of Chalk Creek. The cabin we rented backed against the chalk-white cliffs rising straight up hundreds of feet. Susan and Jeanne did some difficult exploring of the shard-filled area below the cliffs, coming back more than ready for a long soak. We heard and saw deer there morning and evening. While hiking a different mountain, Susan took this photo of us and the rat terriers with the Chalk Cliffs in the background.
The Arkansas River is a predominate feature of this part of Colorado and we found Heckla Junction public access area and park to be our favorite part of the river. Two different days we explored this river park and reminisced about our dog, Annie, swimming across the river the first time we discovered Heckla Junction. Annie was a red heeler who we rescued as a puppy after she was hit by a car on AR highway 16, our notorious narrow and curvy local highway. She was headstrong and half wild, as well as a great swimmer. These pictures give you a sense of the beauty of this high desert area fed by the Arkansas River. The boulders are personalities that inhabit the landscape.
While in Colorado, we got a phone call from our realtor telling us she had an offer on the Kansas City House! We were hopeful that we could find an ideal buyer. Before our trip I had seen a doctor about a suspicious spot on the mammogram of my remaining breast, but I felt hopeful that it was benign. I had chosen to seek a second opinion and found a woman surgeon in KC. We had an appointment after our trip to Colorado. That small growth was not benign.
The first offer on the house fell through, but a second one appeared and looked promising. Adjusting to the shock of a cancer diagnosis is not easier the second time. Adjusting to this new reality and considering my options took time and energy. Time at home and time with Jeanne both helped. Along side of this bad news, came the good news that the sale of the house was proceeding. My surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, November 21 and the closing on the house was to happen November 30. We needed to have everything out of the house by Saturday five days after surgery! Jeanne’s cousins helped load the rental truck and we did leave KC on schedule.
Friends have been supportive. Returning to the routines and rhythms of living together on our homestead has sustained me. Yoga classes at the Arkansas Yoga Center (www.aryoga.com) have helped me regain my strength and full range of motion in my arm and shoulder. In fact, yesterday I moved three huge rocks with the help of a prized homestead tool. Over a decade ago a friend gave us this unique tool—it is six-foot long pry bar created from the axle of a Model T Ford! One end is modified to slip underneath the rock to initiate movement. Once I can get the rock (really a boulder) to wiggle, I know I can move it. And I did without hurting my back or shoulders.
After having our favorite carpenter, Kas, do some major renovation needed in our cottage/storage area, we are sorting and organizing and passing things along. We are rearranging all our indoor spaces, as well as trying to clear space in the cottage for me to have a three season quilting studio! This is a dream that pleases me and excites my creative self every day.
Kas will also be working with us next month as we add more insulation and our first ever ceiling to our house. We’ll be up on scaffolding and working over our heads for several weeks, but after that will enjoy our beadboard ceiling every day. In winter, the house will be warmer and in summer it should be cooler. Jeanne researched insulation to try and find something with relatively minimal environmental impact. She found this one with a R-14 value: 4’x 8’ sheets of 2” thick ThermaSheath (polyisocyanurate) from a company called R-Max (special order from Home Depot). Some companies make this with ozone-depleting processes. Others don’t, so check out your sources. We’d have preferred to use a more natural material, but this product is a panel that can be nailed to the bottom of the rafters, adding to our existing nontoxic insulation.
Here at Cedar Hill in the Boston Mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks, we have hundreds of daffodils popping up in sunny spots. The snowdrops are setting buds even without any snow. If you think we do not get snow here, you are wrong. Here’s a snowbound picture from last year. Climate change has brought us a mild winter. Today it was 65 degrees! On February 1 we planted the Amish Snap Peas we are fond of eating–often we eat them in the garden right off the vine because they are so fresh and crunchy! Our Virginia bluebells are waiting for their chance at center stage again this spring—that hasn’t changed. We are back online and hope 2012 will be a good year for all of us to reduce our carbon footprint by growing more of our own food and by staying home to enjoy all home has to offer.