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Showing posts from December, 2014

In which there is another story of disaster and redemption

In the time immediately following the Oso Landslide this year, there was a flurry of folks preaching disaster preparedness...none of which would have helped anybody affected by the slide.  
I could only think of this story, and so I'm including it this year, so that we don't forget that sometimes we can't prepare...but we can still help.
Burning the Rice (Japan)
Long ago in Japan there lived an old man.
His farmhouse sat high up on a plateau with a lofty wooded mountain behind it. His rice fields grew on terraced fields above the house.  Below him, far down below, a little village of about a hundred thatched houses and a temple stood on the shoreline.
One afternoon the old man sat with his young grandson on the balcony of his house, watching the people in the village below. The rice crop had been good; the villagers were holding their harvest festival. Shops were closed; streets were gaily decorated; villagers were about to join in the harvest dance.
From the hilltop, the o…

In which holidays in the Swamp mean food, and friends, and even more food

This traditional story is a good one to share this time of year, and I always try to make at least one batch of Stone Soup to warm up the crowd on cold evenings.
Stone Soup (France and Portugal)
Many years ago, a soldier, recently discharged from the army and returning home after many years of service, came upon a small village.
The villagers, suffering a meager harvest and the many years of war, quickly hid what little they had to eat and met the man at the village square, wringing their hands and bemoaning the lack of anything to eat.
The soldier thought to himself, and then spoke to the crowd. "Your tired fields have left you nothing to share, so we will share what little we have: the secret of how to make soup from stones."
Naturally the villagers were intrigued and soon a fire was built, and water brought added to the town's greatest caldron.  With all the village watching closely, the soldier dropped in a large, smooth stone.
The water soon boiled, and the soldie…

In which there's a story to share while you're sitting warm around the fire

I'm a big fan of the woodstove in the living room at Haiku Farm, and I'm not a big fan of Yellow Jackets.  So here's a story about both of those things.
Stealing the Fire (Karuk Tribe, North America) In the beginning time, the only people who had fire were the three Yellow Jacket sisters.
Those three sisters guarded their fire, because they wanted to keep it all for themselves. They were a little selfish. That's a true thing.
So, even though every other animal around got cold when winter came the three sisters didn't care. Even though some animals almost froze that didn't bother those Yellow Jacket girls either. Not a bit. They kept the fire locked up and far away from everyone else.
The animals got tired of being cold. They watched those Yellow Jacket sisters. Those sisters were warm. Their house was warm. They never seemed tired or out of sorts because the winter was too long. They had fire.
The animals were determined to get a piece of that fire for themsel…

In which there's some tricking as well as tea and cookies in this story

Back in 2010, I shared a bunch of stories about tomtens and trolls and nisse--that was kind of the theme of the holiday story booklet that year.  
This story wasn't in that collection because I hadn't written it yet.  I combined a few English traditional stories and came up with this brand-new one, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
The Boggart’s Bargain (England) There was once a farmer who bought a plot of land patch of land that was inhabited by a boggart, a wicked fairy creature with bad thoughts, bad breath, and bad habits. 
His wife soon discovered the mistake, but there was no going back on the deal.  They would have to trick the boggart, or live with the mischief forever.
The wife took herself to tea with the neighbor ladies, and over cookies and cups the women made a plan.
The following day, the farmer went to the boggart’s hole and knocked politely at the door there.
“I’ve come to suggest a deal,” he said to the creature.  “I propose that we wor…

In which tall folks didn't always have an advantage over small fry.

I think I've always known this story--it's a traditional tale often shared with children here in the Swampland.  As a little kid, I always thought that I'd have done just fine with the sky the way it used to be...but I also always figured that when I got big enough, it would have been a problem.  
Alas, I never did get that tall.
This version is most like the one I've always heard, and was collected from the Snohomish Tribe.
Pushing Up the Sky – (Snohomish Tribe, North America)
Creator and Changer made the world.  Creator started in the East, and travelled to the West, making new lands and new people as he came.  To each group of people, Creator gave a new language.  When he got to the Puget Sound, Creator stopped making more land, but he still had a lot of languages left over so he scattered those up and down the coast.  That’s why there are so many languages there.
The people there did not like the way Creator made the world.  The sky was too close to the ground.  Tall …

In which there's a story about an unusual prosperity

I'm absurdly fond of root vegetables.  Not just potatoes and sweet potatoes, but also rutabagas and parsnips and TURNIPS!  So, here's a story about that.
The Enormous Turnip (Russia)
The grandfather had had been looking after animals and growing vegetables for his whole life - but he had never known a harvest as bad as this one.
'Our cabbages, potatoes and turnips - they've all been ruined by weeks of rain,' he sighed. 'We'll have nothing to eat during the harsh winter.'
But the grandmother knew something that the grandfather did not.  She took him through the mud to the furthest corner of the turnip field. 
Under a tree in a corner, a bunch of green leaves were sprouting tall and proud from the top of a giant root.
“See that?” said the grandmother.  “It’s the answer to our problems.  This turnip is big enough to feed us through the winter, all by itself.  We need only pull it up.”
The grandfather took hold of the greens, and he pulled.  
He pulled and …

In which this year's season of stories begins with a very large Frog

This story happens in the before-the-beginning days that the Aboriginal people of Australia call the Dreamtime. Things were still getting invented and changed and fixed in the Dreamtime.  Stuff that was small then is big now, and things that were big then are small now.  
It's a good place (and time) to start off a series of stories, I think.  Enjoy!
Tiddalik the Frog (Australia)
Long ago in the Dreamtime there was an enormous frog known as Tiddalik.
Tiddalik awoke one morning with an overwhelming thirst.
At first, Tiddalik started drinking the water from a mud puddle.  But he was still thirsty.
Next, Tiddalik drank all the water from a nearby creek.  But he was still thirsty.
Then, Tiddalik drank all the water from the lake.  But he was still thirsty.
Finally, Tiddalik drank all the water in all of the world.  And then he was not thirsty any more.
But then there was no more water for everyone else.  Soon, the animals and plants were sick and thirsty because there was no water.
The…

In which this story isn't really finished, but it will have to do

I didn't have a "homemade" Skookum story written for the holidays this year.  
I wanted to have one, but none of my story ideas would cooperate...until this one showed up, unbidden, at bedtime last night.  
And, not unlike the stray dog in the story, it needed help. My help. My immediate help.
Normally, I would write a few drafts of a story like this and then put it away, preferably for a few months to mellow and mature.  
But (again, not unlike the dog in the story), this one set a rather prompt release date for itself.
It's likely that I will write a few more drafts of this story and then put it away for a while.  Maybe I'll polish it up and post it again next year, when it works better.
But for now, it will do.
Happy Merry, all y'all.
--Aarene
O Little Town
A big old cottonwood tree, weary from years of rainfall and wet roots, fell over onto the town’s main electricity transformer at 6 pm on Christmas Eve.
Jo Carpenter gazed down at the little town of Skookum in th…

In which I tell a story that is mostly true, and partly not true

I tell the story every year, about how, long ago, I hated Christmas.

Not just Christmas, either:  I hated the stupid music, the annoying lights, the fattening food, and more than anything, the expectations.

I tried to bail out of the holidays entirely that year, but my mother is wiser than me.  "Don't worry about the presents and all the other stuff," she told me over the phone.  "Come and have soup with the family on Christmas Eve."

I love my family.  And I love soup.  Especially my mom's Carrot-Cauliflower Soup  (the recipe is at the bottom of this post).  

So I agreed.  

I wrapped up the only present I had gotten that year--a cookie jar for my brother with the Starship Enterprise on the outside.  It made the transporter sound when the lid lifted--awesome, right?  I'd found it at a garage sale back in July, before I hated Christmas.

For the rest of the family, I had nothing.  And that kind of made me sad.  Because I love my family. And I like giving my fami…

In which I participate in a meme, and invite you to join me

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I borrowed questions from this "year end meme" from Dom over at Madcap Escapades (I skipped a bunch of questions that weren't relevent, though).
If you'd like to play along, answer the questions on your own blog or in the comments!
What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before? 
Had surgery, my first ever.  I still have my wisdom teeth, my tonsils, and my appendix.  
My left hip: not so much.
Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 
I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but my ongoing goal is to have more fun.  In 2014, I started out not having much fun because of the pain thing.  Later in the year, yes, fun, yes yes yes.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Still waiting patiently (!) for Funder's blessed event.

What countries did you visit?  What states?
Canada!  Oregon!

What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? 
A little more cash would be handy.  Maybe I could finish editing the…

In which it's as dark as it's gonna get...more light from now on, hooray!

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Sunrise today:  7:55 am Sunset today:  4:20 pm


8 hours, 25 minutes, total.

It ain't much.  But it's all we get.

Tomorrow we get less than half-a-minute more.  By the 21st of January, we'll add another half hour.



At the summer solstice, we get about 16 hours of daylight.

At least for now, for the next six months, we're heading in the right direction.



Sing Hallelujah, all y'all.

In which dressage lessons (aka "couples therapy") continue

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Flower is inexplicably lame* which means two things: 1.  Patty can't ride in lessons with us right now 2.  Patty is available to take pictures and video!

*Flower will probably survive, given the video (below)




For the rest of us enrolled in lessons, a.k.a. "couples therapy," this means that there is a photographic and video record of our successes and failings.


Patty isn't shy with my camera--she shot more than 200 images and 7 videos at the lesson yesterday!


The camera is set on "rapid fire," so we often end up with batches of 5 to 10 photos taken in quick succession.  That's how the numbers add up so fast.  In this case, "many" is "good" because it means I can hunt through each series to find a good, representative image for the group.


Our friend Sally joined the Suspects for the lesson, and that is good.  One more friend to cheer for.  We like cheering for our friends.

Most of the victories are minor, of course.  But there's the b…

In which Santa brings us some December Sunshine for our photo shoot

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This is the third year in a row we've taken shots at Santa Jim.

In 2012, we needed pictures of Santa to promote the newly-published Endurance 101 book for holiday sales.

We didn't even have a real copy of the book yet, so Santa and Jingles had to read a mockup of the book for the pictures...but we did get a completely unexpected sunny day for the shoot.


In 2013, the Antler Humiliation Festival started to attract more people who wanted some pretty photos with Santa.  And again, against all predictions, blue skies in December.  Amazing.


This year we had a BIG crowd gathered in the empty pasture next to the stallion pen, dressed in finery and smiling at the camera under -- you guessed it -- sunshine and blue sky. 
I think Santa has some weather magic.  Hmmm.


This year we also had an extra-special prop for Santa:

The Model T was restored by Fish Creek Farm owner Dick Borton, who carefully eased his pretty red prize out of the "T-House" and up onto the knoll to take advan…