As a little girl, I wore my hair in long pigtails, loved dogs and dreamed of living in the mountains. To me, that imagine represents a childhood filled with adventure, love, and family.
Our favorite family times were spent camping, mostly in Colorado, dog in tow, in our little blue Shasta camper. On those trips, we would make special projects together like acorn dolls, walnut shell baskets, grass-woven mats and milkweed pod canoes.
We would build our own “log cabins” from long, dead branches and learned history while sitting inside listening to stories of pioneer times. Hours spent hiking through the forest developed a deep appreciation of nature and taught me about its beauty, mysteries and our responsibilities of preservation and respect.
I learned how to take my first photographs on a little Brownie Instamatic camera while on those family trips. We learned about geography while playing “License Plate Bingo,” and an infatuation with reading while playing the card game “Famous Authors.” We had a contest of who could be first to see across the vast prairie to the majestic Rocky Mountains upon the far distant horizon.
“Biscuits on a stick,” fresh rainbow trout, potato slices in aluminum foil, and fresh-picked, wild blueberry or raspberry cobbler was a common camping supper. It was a simpler time where doing things together as a family was a priority.
Those times instilled an intense affection for dogs, a deep abiding appreciation for nature, an obsession to lifelong-learning and teaching, a profound love of family, and a creative and artistic passion which turned me into the person I am today.
Although I still dream of living on the side of a snow-capped mountain, thirteen acres backed with a babbling stream and a forest of towering bur oaks and walnut trees in the midst of Iowa, is where we call home. We live in a one and a half story cottage encircled with beautiful trees of blue spruce, Norwegian spruce and white pine. (Maybe you can tell that evergreens are my favorite tree!) Over the years, we’ve added on to and torn apart almost every inch of our house and it seems to always be in a state of “evolving.” We’ll never be done!
Each spring we make a valiant attempt to grow all the produce we’d need for the year with images of a “Victory Garden” planted firmly in our mind. Although we never have quite made those images worthy of a TV show, we do manage to always partially reach that goal. The yard is trimmed with large perennial flower gardens to the delight of the birds and bees that drink the nectar or feast on seeds.
We have a small orchard of apple, cherry, pear and plum trees with the deer and miniature horses especially enjoying the apples in the fall. At different times, we have raised chickens, milking goats, sheep, pigs, hedgehogs, and miniature horses. Although we had intentions of butchering some of the animals for meat, by the time we raised them from infants to the apropriate age, they had become family pets and became a permanent part of our “animal family.” Now the only fur family we have left are four aging miniature horses, a geriatric barn cat, a special needs middle-aged house cat and three dogs who are our constant companions. Traveling back and forth several times a year to visit family on the West Coast puts any thoughts of expanding our animal herd back to it’s former glory, on the back burner.
Although I’m newly retired (part time), I was able to follow my passion of lifelong learning and taught for 30 years. I can honestly say, I always looked forward to each day teaching. I started out teaching Title One Reading. Then I started teaching kindergarten and fell in love with about 20 new 5 year olds every year. Over the years I earned my Reading Endorsement, Early Childhood Certification, a masters degree in Effective Teaching and became Nationally Board Certified as an Early Childhood Generalist. I’d found my “calling” in teaching young children. Now I’m enjoying substitute teaching in the elementary and working with Iowa State University by supervising student teachers. I have the best of all worlds with a somewhat flexible schedule, training aspiring teachers, and still getting to teach in various elementary classrooms.
I love to cook, and now that it is just my husband and I living at home, my cooking has scaled down to “cooking for two.” Sometimes, it is just cooking for one. I have a severe allergy to shellfish and have become gluten intolerant. I still make homemade bread from fresh ground whole wheat for my husband, who loves all things “carb!”
While I crave salads and vegetables with occassional chicken, tuna or salmon, my husband grew up on his mother’s scrumtious “meat and potatoes” meals polished with a yummy dessert, and still loves those kinds of dinners. We compromise and sometimes cook together in the kitchen with each of us making our own meal.
With a very artistic mother and a dad who liked to work with wood, I grew up with a real appreciation for homemade projects. I have so many projects that if I lived to be 150, I could never get them all done! I’m always taking notes, making lists and drawing sketches of new projects that come to mind. It’s never ending!!!
Each day, weather permitting I take at least one of the dogs, and sometimes all three, for a walk down our country road or back in our timber. When the days of summer get too warm, we wade in our creek or head to our favorite little lake about 6 miles away to play in the water.
To me, there is nothing more relaxing than hiking or kayaking with my dogs while soaking in all the beauty and grandeur that nature has to offer. I often take my camera with me to “capture” some of the outdoors.
Now, come enjoy my nature walks with my dogs and me. Then we can work on a new project or making something scrumptious to eat!