1000 Days to Acceptance, Day 122

John when he went to hike Mt. Hood

John, on the West coast.

Today, July 9th, it has been 4 months since we lost our son. I have been told by my grief counselor that certain cultures recognize the passing of certain days after the death of someone as being milestones. The Japanese majority of Indonesia hold a small remembrance ceremony on the following days after the death: the fourth, the fortieth, the one hundred days, the anniversary of, and one-thousandth (1000 days after death), followed by an optional annual remembrance. We have past the fourth, and the fortieth and this is the 122nd day of my son’s untimely death on March 9, 2014. It is my understanding that by 1000 days, I should be able to accept this tragic loss. As a parent, I don’t think I will ever be able to accept this fate we have been dealt. You are not suppose to outlive your children.

In all the books that I have read in the past 4 months, and they are many, trying to cope with the loss, I have all the classic symptoms. Right now the anger comes and goes daily. The feeling of meaninglessness, sadness, irritability in everything, anxiousness, panic attacks, PTSD, helplessness and the list goes on and on. I wonder what is left for me. How will I continue? When is someone going to come and tell me that this horrible thing isn’t true. John was quiet and yet, I desperately want an apology and that wasn’t who he was anyway. Each day is very difficult. Nothing seems to distract my thoughts from it. It is always there. My son is gone. Where is my son? He isn’t coming back. How can this be? I worry about Herb. I worry about everything. Nothing helps. When will I feel normal again? I am lost….

John was 30 years old in January. He had married the love of his life and had a new job, his dream job, in a new state and had everything going his way. To watch your child grow into a responsible young man and embrace life to the fullest is every parents dream. He had finished his master’s degree in Forestry and we helped him move to Oregon with his dog, Jake. Erin, his wife, would soon follow, herself, starting a new job and a new life with my son. Things were perfect for them.

John was strong. He was athletic. He was handsome. He loved his kayak and to kayak in big water. It was incredibly dangerous, but he felt confident that he could stay safe. He was wrong. As a parent, you also watch your children do things that you wish they wouldn’t do and you have fears that they are taking risks. You encourage them to take on the world, even with the risks that are there. But, you hope they will see that their actions are within a safety net that you will not lose them to the forces of nature. Mother Nature swallowed up my son that day. He wasn’t that strong. He didn’t think it would happen. He didn’t mean to hurt us by dying on that cold spring day. But he did.

Now, we are hurting more than we ever have in our lives. Hoping to continue to live, but we wonder, some days, why. Why, are we left to continue and wonder why.  Not believing in a higher power, I think my son is now star dust and is just not here anymore. He is not here to laugh with, to watch him mellow as he ages, in a great marriage, to possibly have a child of his own. And, with a watchful eye, try to expose his own child to the world and the great wonders in it while protecting that child from harm.  We won’t see this happen.

What we did get to experience in the thirty years of his life, was his dry wit, his fun and playful ways, his love of the woods and the earth. He had a laid back style and very frugal ways, understanding that the important things are living a meaningful life and having experiences instead of things. He had a bit of me and a bit of his dad in him but, he was his own man and had a great pride in being a genuinely kind individual to all that knew him. In his short time in Oregon, he managed to plant 70 acres of trees. That is the ultimate in being a steward of the earth. What a legacy and a way to add meaning to the life he had.

I don’t see John living anywhere now but in our hearts. His widow is spreading his ashes in places that he loved the most. High mountains, rivers and trails all across the country.  I am sure John would want that and I think we can all use his example to live life to the maximum and to not take a minute of time for granted. We can try our best to add meaning to the world in ways that are helpful to the planet and to others. We are here for a short time and the impact that we leave on the planet and others lives is all we get. To me there is nothing after this. Nothing to look forward to but the memories we leave in the hearts and minds of others,  giving others an example of a life well lived so that we will be remembered for a while.  We need to be kind to others and have patience. John did this.

I miss him terribly. I can’t bring him back and I will never see or hear him again. I can hear his voice in my head, I can see his smile and I can love him, as best I can, but I can never sit beside him again or feel his presence here with me. It really makes me sad. I can only hope that in 1000 days I can accept that he is gone forever, except in my heart.

I love you, John Duncan Wilburn  

Polyface Farm, a quick tour

Claudia and myself at Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley, VA

Claudia and myself at Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley, VA

 

Claudia came to visit me this week from New Hampshire and recently, she had read a book by Joel Salatin called, “Folks, This Ain’t Normal”. I remember reading about Polyface Farm in Michael Pollan’s book Omnivores Dilemma. So, when Claudia wanted to try and go and visit this farm, I was excited to take her there. We got up early and headed south on I 81 to Staunton and followed the directions that took us way out into beautiful valley farmland. It was incredibly picturesque and the farms were large and connected by beautiful fields of green, some of them dotted with hay rolls, some of them clearly growing corn, probably for Monsanto and some of them had housing that was probably full of hens and chickens that would be trucked to a processing plant nearby. When we arrived at Polyface, however, you quickly got a very different picture as to how farming is all about a balance of lots of processes and not just one specific crop.

On some days, Joel or his son are available to talk about how they run their farm and you can have some personal time with him to ask questions. But the farm is open every day and that if they aren’t available,  you are welcome to come and walk around the property and see everything they are doing on your own. When we drove up, as luck would have it, Joel was giving an interview on the picnic table with a film crew in the front of the house and he motioned us to come on around. We found a place to park and walked around the property and didn’t want to interrupt their interview.

As we traveled down I-81, I told Claudia that I hoped that we wouldn’t get there and it be the day that they are slaughtering the chickens because I wasn’t sure I could watch them do that. I truly believe that if more of us were to SEE how our food is processed, we would all change our minds about some of the items that we eat. Also, as luck would have it, they WERE slaughtering chickens and that is the first thing we saw and heard when we got out of the car. I did manage to get my nerve up and take some photos so beware when you look, you may want to skip over those in the photo album that I am attaching.

greenhouse with tomatoes

greenhouse with tomatoes

Beside the place we parked the car were some greenhouses full of lettuces and tomato plants. The first thing that struck me was the fact that there were rabbit hutches in the greenhouse lining one of the walls. Clearly, the rabbits were adding the fertilizer to the greenhouse floor and this could easily be racked from underneath over to the plants so they could benefit from this nutrient. The second thing that I noticed was the fact that they were heating this greenhouse with a wood heater. I’m not sure how this actually worked but it was situated in the corner and had a chimney coming out the front of the greenhouse. The tomatoes were tied to the ceiling of the greenhouse and were just beautiful!

wood heater in the greenhouse

wood heater in the greenhouse

The second greenhouse was full of lettuces and greens. Again, it had the empty rabbit hutches lining one of the walls for fertilizer. This one wasn’t heated and I’m sure that, just like my cold frames, these lettuces did fine for them in the cold. The lettuces were close to bolting but were still very much edible.

Next, we walked to a chicken house that had some baby chickens that were about 2-3 weeks old. The chickens on the farm are clearly at different stages of development and, if you have read Omnivores Delimma, then you are aware of Joel’s technique of moving the animals around on the farm so as to get the full use of the animal while it is in connection with the land. These chicks were big enough to be graduating to the next stage and we were able to see them load them up into crates so that they could be taken up onto another part of the farm where they would live for another phase of their lives, fertilizing the land underneath their feet and getting fattened up on the natural elements that are inside their cages.

2-3 week old chickens

2-3 week old chickens

2013-06-25 10.08.28

Claudia in front of the chicken coups

As we walked up the hill we encountered that next phase with larger chickens out in a field. The coups were scattered about on the hillside and as you walk you can see the squares where, clearly, the coups had been in the previous days. In addition to seeing the vegetation that had been fertilized with the chicken manure, you can see that recently there had been cattle in the same area because there was the occasional dried cow pattie that the chickens had been eating the grubs out of, essentially eating what, if left alone, would hatch out as large black flies that would be a serious nuisance. The chickens love the grubs and at the same time they are eliminating something that would make the cows very unhappy and possibly sick.

chickens in the coup on the hill

chickens in the coup on the hill

 

So, we continued our walk on up the hill and found the turkeys. They had their own pen and had a turkey tractor so they could also be moved after they had done their bit in making that section of the farm fertile. They also have a roosting shelter.  This pen also has an electric fence to protect them at night so that foxes or other predators don’t come in and get them.

turkeys

turkeys

 

Back down at the farm, we looked in the barn that the laying hens were in and that is where the rabbits are housed in the summer months. The hens were busy in the roosting boxes laying their eggs. The rabbits were in the hutches above the hens

rabbits and hens

rabbits and hens

and according to Claudia, in Joel’s new book, he says he hasn’t really figured out how to add the rabbits into the field scenario but they do have them for their meat.

So before we left, we went in to the shop that they have on the property, where you can purchase the meats that are grown on the farm and Claudia bought us one of the hens from the freezer case and some of the sausages. She bought a souvenir shirt for her hubby and while we were in the shop, Joel came in and she was able to meet him, ask him a few questions and tell him that she had read his latest book. While she was checking out, I managed to get my courage up and go around the side of the building where they were still slaughtering the hens and take a few photos.

I think we had a great day at the farm and got to see some of the techniques that I’m sure, as Joel leaves his farm and drives out to civilization, he wishes he could stop along the way and teach the farmers that he passes, how to better care for the land that they are tending and to better care for our planet as a whole.

 

 

BFF(Baby’s First Frog) Bowls

Last year, Herb had me make some of his teacher friends, who were expecting, a baby’s first bowl as a special gift for their new baby. I had a lot of fun with them and sold all of them as they were a huge hit. So, I decided to have a few of them on hand for the Holiday Open House on Sunday and so I am sharing those with you today. They are really small but really sweet and as the child grows, they can begin as a bowl for cereal and applesauce and evolve into a snack bowl for cheerios or m&ms and raisins or peanuts. I have six of them. We will see how they are received.

Garden Bottle Stakes

Last weekend I went to meet John’s fiance’, Erin’s parents in Mt. Airy, NC. Yes, that is the town that makes it’s claim to Mayberry and Andy Griffith. In fact, when you go into the town proper the theme music to the show can be heard as you walk the streets. It is really a fun place to visit. But my visit was focused on meeting the family, which I absolutely loved, and talk about where to put things at the wedding.

Erin has always wanted to get married in her parents yard and, after the visit, I certainly see why. The landscaping and the yard and setting will be perfect for a small wedding and a fun party afterwards. There won’t be much need to do a lot of decorating because the yard is just so pretty but, there is a simple path that Erin will walk with her dad to get to the front yard. Alison, Erin’s mom, showed me a photo of an idea that she had seen in a catalog that she thought would dress up the path and add some color to the backdrop of greenery. So this post is to show you what I have come up with and to show you how that you can make your own wine bottle flower vases for a party or just to add some interest to a part of your yard that you want to add some color.

at west end bottle vase @ $40 each, YIKES

The photo here shows the vases from the catalog that Alison showed me. And at $40 a piece for 6 of these it would be really silly to spend that much money on such a simple idea. By the time you add shipping and tax to this you are looking at about $300. YIKES! I just can’t imagine spending this for these.

Last year we had some really strong winds and when that happens there is usually trees and branches that get broken or dislodged from the area. Our neighbors below us had a crepe myrtle bush that was almost destroyed and the branches from that enormous bush have been in the alley way between the houses since then. I simply put some of those branches to use. This project cost a total of $12.75 and will make use of old bottles and will keep some brush out of the landfill. Every little bit helps, right?

What you will need...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this project you will need:

  • old branches or twigs, you could use bamboo, I suppose if you have access to some of that. I used old crepe myrtle branches that were fairly dried out and brittle but were of good size and were strong.
  • a saw for cutting your branches to length
  • some stainless steel rods. I bought 6- 36″ rods and cut them in half to 18″ with a hack saw for 12 finished pieces. ( I only made 8 though)
  • some twine or sisal
  • some cable ties
  • a utility knife to cut the twine
  • and some old bottles, I used beer, root beer and wine

stack of branches

 

The first thing I did was to go through the stack of brush and discard the really badly crooked ones and look for straight ones or ones with character. Then I cut them to about a 4 foot length. They are all a bit different but that adds to the overall look.

Then I cut the bottom of the branches so that they were flat to the ground. I cut the rods in half and took the cable ties and attached the rod to the bottom of the branch leaving about 9 inches below the bottom of the branch and attaching about 9 inches to the bottom of the branch. The cable tie will help to stabilize the bottom so that you can tie the upper part of the rod with the twine. You will have a cable tie at the bottom of the branch, but it will be in the grass and closer to the top of the rod you will have the twine. The branch can slide up and down on the rod but you want it to be fairly tight.

To attach the bottle. I used two pieces of twine that were about 36″ in length and wrapped one around the bottom perimeter of the bottle and one around the top perimeter of the bottle. Tying the twine as tight as you possibly can the bottle will be sturdy against the branch.

bottom with rod attached

Stand your bottle stake upright and take it out into the yard and, with a hammer, tap the rod into the ground. Make sure that everything is upright and sturdy, fill your bottle with water and add the flowers of your choice. I used the flowers that were blooming in my yard.

I think these will work nicely against the shrubbery at Alison’s house and will add some color to the path as folks take their seats and give some floral decoration to the walkway that Erin and her dad walk in on.

Another option would be to paint the branches white… I might end up doing that, but for now I think the natural look works well, given the setting.

root beer bottle with flowers

 

 

three bottles with flowers

 

group of bottle stakes

A few of the squares…

Now that the wedding is over and we are adjusting to the idea of Thomas and Belle moving to Seattle, I thought I would use my evenings to start assembling the “Wish Them Well” quilt that I put out for the party here at the house in September and also at the picnic the day after the wedding in Arlington, VA. This way I could envision, while working on it, them seeing the messages that their friends and family wrote for them in their new apartment in Seattle. Their new apartment is all white, as most apartments are and I see this bringing some color into that space and helping them settle in. I envision them either hanging the quilt on the wall to look at or using it on the sofa to snuggle under while they watch movies or TV.

“Wish them Well” table

Today, I thought I would share my progress on the quilt and let you in on the fun. To start, this is an old idea. Quilters call this type of quilt a “signature” quilt and they have traditionally been made to commemorate a special occasion. I thought of doing this for my own wedding but didn’t. My idea at that time was to use it as a guest book instead of an actual book. To have guests sign a square as a way to know who shared our day with us. I have now seen, on the web where folks have done this idea to send off a co-worker, to welcome home a soldier or to share memories of grandparents. So it was only fitting that being a quilter, I wanted to do one for my son and his new bride to begin their life together.

Four inch white cotton was cut with the seam allowance drawn onto the square. Markers were put out in a basket and the sign to write them a message and we collected about 25 squares for the finished quilt. They are wonderful with some of them actually taking the time to color a drawing for the couple.

photoshop map of layout

I use photoshop instead of any fancy quilt software to layout anything that I want to work on and I put together a quick layout of how I want the squares to be placed. A twin sized quilt is about 96″ x 72″ so I used that size to scale the pattern for the squares. I am not sure if the quilt will end up a twin size or a lap quilt when it is finished because there is some white space that I need to design for and I don’t know yet what to put in there. I can be a “quilt as I go” kind of quilter sometimes. So, the wishes will be the whites squares and each of the green squares will be a traditional quilt square to add interest.

I am looking for traditional squares that might have some meaning to beginning a new life together. There are some really adorable cat and dog squares in the book that I am using and some on the web that I also want to add for their pets and a house square for their new place in Seattle. I have favorite patterns that I have enjoyed making through the years and I will probably add some of those. I have about 34 squares to play with so I am sure I can find lots of interesting options. I will get all those squares done and lay out the quilt on the floor before assembling all the squares together. This way I can make sure that there is a balance of color throughout and not have a concentration of too much of one color in any area of the overall design.

I’ve attached a gallery of the squares that I have so far and I am using my evenings to do a square a day. Not sure if the quilt will be done to ship to them for Christmas but I can certainly try. Over the years I have hand quilted all of my quilts but I may take this one to the quilt shop and see if I can have them quilt it for me. My hands are needed for other projects these days and the love that will go into the squares will show through without the added ache of putting all the stitches into the finished piece.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if there is a favorite square that you would like to see in the sample of squares surrounding all the wishes for a happy life in Seattle, WA.

Wishing Them Well…