Saturday, December 24, 2016

In which the Gift of Stories continues: Spider, fly, rat, anteater

Kanu Above and Kanu Below (Limba, West Africa)
Kanu Above and Kanu Below were both great chiefs.

Kanu Above was known to be cruel and harsh and lived in the skies.

Kanu Below was known to be fair and good. He lived on the Earth with his beautiful daughter. He loved her very much.

But one day Kanu Above said, “I want her to come and live with me.”

So Kanu Above took her up to Sky Country, while Kanu Below sat alone. He wept for his missing daughter and began to neglect his duties.

One day his under-chief came to Kanu Below and said, “Someone  has come into our village who is making trouble. His name is Spider, and he weaves sticky webs over the doorways. People trip and hurt themselves. What shall we do?”

Kanu Below said, “Send Spider to me.”

Spider came and listened as Kanu Below explained why he should not spin webs across the doorways.

Then Kanu Below went back to his people and said, “Spider will stay with us. He has caused some difficulties, but he also has much good in him.” And it was so.

Two days later, another under-chief spoke up, saying, “Oh, Kanu Below, now another stranger has entered our village. His name is Rat, and he is sneaking into our people’s houses and stealing rice and nuts and meat.”

 Again Kanu Below asked that the stranger be brought to him.

“Rat, you cannot go into people’s houses and take things that are not yours.”

And again, Kanu Below spoke to his people, explaining that Rat had good in him and they would keep him in their village.

And it was so.

One day another under-chief spoke to Kanu Below.  “Kanu Below, we have a third stranger who has entered our village. This time his name is Anteater, and he is digging holes. People are falling into the holes and breaking their legs. This must not go on!”

“Tell Anteater to come to see me.”

Kanu explained to Anteater that he must not dig holes, because people would fall into them.

Then he spoke to his people saying, “I think we should keep Anteater in our village.”  And it was so.

One day the under-chief said to Kanu Below, “Kanu Below, another stranger has entered our village. His name is Fly, and he is biting and stinging people on their necks and on their behinds.  What shall we do?”

“Tell Fly to come to see me.”

Kanu Below explained how his people must not be bitten. Then he said to his chiefs, “I think he should stay in our village.”

And it was so.

Time passed, and Kanu Below was still very sad and spent most of the day weeping for his missing daughter.

One day he called his people together and said, “If only someone could climb up into the sky and convince Kanu Above to return my daughter.”

Most people were afraid of Kanu Above because he was so powerful.

Then Spider said, “Kanu Below, I will go for you. I will spin a web up, up into the sky.”

Then other three voices joined Spider’s and said, “You have treated us well. We would like to help, too.”

So it was that Spider spun his web and fastened it onto a cloud.

Spider, Rat, Anteater, and Fly climbed it and began walking around Sky Country, calling for Kanu Above. “We come from Kanu Below who misses his daughter very much. Can you please return her to him?”

Kanu Above heard them and approached, glaring at them. “Very well, come and sit down and we shall have some food.” He whispered to one of the women, and Fly decided to follow her to the kitchen.

When the food was served, Fly buzzed to his friends, “Do not eat the meat! It has been poisoned.”
So Rat, Anteater, and Spider said, “Thank you, Sir. But we do not eat meat in our country.”  Instead they politely nibbled from their bowls of rice and palm oil sauce.

Soon it was time to go to bed. They had no sooner entered their sleeping quarters when they heard doors and windows being locked from the outside.

Days went by, and they had nothing to eat or drink. Finally, Rat said, “Here is a job for me,” and began gnawing through  the wood. Then he stole rice and nuts and meat and fed his friends.

Kanu’s men saw that they were still alive. They set fire to the house.

Anteater said, “Here is a job for me.” Anteater began to dig. Faster and faster he dug. Finally he dug a hole right under the wall. The four friends escaped.

Kanu Above thought to himself, “These creatures are very clever!”

He said to them: “I will return the child if you can pick her out from all the other children here.”

Fly buzzed into the dressing room and noticed one girl who received no help from the others. She had to braid her own hair and put on her own beads, bracelets, and ankle jewelry.

Fly flew back to his friends and cautioned them, “The girls will all be dressed alike, but watch which one jumps. That is our friend’s daughter.”

Fly buzzed over all the girls and, spotting the one he knew to be the outsider, he bit her. Whoop! She immediately jumped.

The four friends grabbed her and said, “This is the one! We choose her!”

Kanu Above said, “You are very clever, indeed. Take the girl, and here are four kola nuts for her father, to show my admiration for the four of you.”

So the four friends climbed back down with their precious cargo and presented the happy girl to her father, along with the four kola nuts.

 “See this,” Kanu Below said to his people. “You wanted to banish these four from our village, but it is they who have returned my daughter to me. I am so grateful to them that I have decided they will be my under-chiefs from now on.”

And it was so.

Friday, December 23, 2016

In which we interrupt the Gifts of Stories for a sn*w day video

lytha in Germany likes the Yule Log video, and last Spring she made a quiet, meditative video of her horse peacefully eating as a nod to the Yule log.  

In response, I made a quiet meditative video of Fiddle and the goats grazing in the rain, and then later I did a video of Fiddle's ears walking down a summer trail.

Today, lacking both rain and summer, I made a new video.  It's not completely quiet.  I'm not sure why people think the country is a quiet place to live.  The sn*w shushes sounds down a bit, but a dog barking, a rooster crowing, and a neighbor talking still make noise.

Even the Dragon is not silent in the sn*w, although she's a lot quieter than the neighbors most of the time.

I thought y'all might like to see what it's like here in the Swamp with the whole scene painted white.

Of course, videography is never without out-takes.  Here's the best one:

(skip ahead to :46 right after the dog barks)

Happy Solstice, everyone.  From here it just gets lighter and lighter!

In which the gift of stories continues with a vegetable story

The Great Big Enormous Turnip (Russia)

Every spring, the dedka (grandfather) planted a big garden.  He planted kartofel, (potatoes).  He planted kapoosta, (cabbage).  He planted markov, (carrots). 

But most of all, he planted repka (turnips).  He planted the seeds, he pulled the weeds.  He watched and he watered, and he cared for the garden.

All of the vegetables grew big and strong and sweet.  But the repka grew biggest of all.

“Time to harvest the turnips!” said the babka (grandmother).

And he did.  All but one.  He let one little repka keep growing.  And growing.  And growing.

Until it was a great big enormous turnip.  “Time to harvest that one, too!” said the babka.

So the dedka took hold of the turnip leaves.  He tugged and he pulled, he pulled and he tugged.  But that great big enormous would not come up.

He called for the babka to come and help. 

The babka pulled the dedka.  The dedka pulled the repka.   They tugged and they pulled, they pulled and they tugged.  But that great big enormous turnip would not come up.

They called for the vnuchca (granddaughter) to come and help. 

The vnuchca pulled the babka. The babka pulled the dedka.  The dedka pulled the repka.   They tugged and they pulled, they pulled and they tugged.  But that great big enormous turnip would not come up.

They called for the zhuchka (dog) to come and help.

The zhuchka pulled the vnuchca. The vnuchca pulled the babka. The babka pulled the dedka.  The dedka pulled the repka.   They tugged and they pulled, they pulled and they tugged.  But that great big enormous turnip would not come up.

They called for the koshka (cat) to come and help.

The koshka pulled the zhuchka.  The zhuchka pulled the vnuchca. The vnuchca pulled the babka. The babka pulled the dedka.  The dedka pulled the repka.   They tugged and they pulled, they pulled and they tugged.  But that great big enormous turnip would not come up.

There was nobody else to call for help, only the tiny myshka (mouse).  So they called for the myshka.

The myshka pulled the koshka. The koshka pulled the zhuchka.  The zhuchka pulled the vnuchca. The vnuchca pulled the babka. The babka pulled the dedka.  The dedka pulled the repka.   They tugged and they pulled, they pulled and they tugged. 

And finally, with everyone helping, that great big enormous turnip came up!  And everyone had turnip for dinner that night. 

Everyone, even the myshka!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

In which the gift of stories begins for this year: one about mittens

The Mitten  (Ukraine)
It’s been many years since an old grandmother knitted mittens for a little boy. Beautiful mittens they were, made of thick wool, and they kept the boy’s hands very warm when he went out into the forest to gather wood for their fire.

Now, how a boy can lose a mitten in the snow on the coldest day of the year and not notice, I cannot say, but that is how the story is told. And when the boy was gone, who should find that warm woolen mitten but a little mouse, running over the top of the snow and shivering with the cold.

“That mitten is the perfect place for me to sleep through this cold winter day,” said the mouse to herself, and she crawled inside and soon was very snug and warm.

She hadn’t been there very long when a sparrow fluttered down to the ground beside the mitten and poked her head in. “It’s very cold out here,” said the sparrow. “May I come inside your mitten and get warm?”

The mitten was a little crowded with a mouse and a sparrow inside it, but it was cozy for all of that.

They were just starting to drift off to sleep when a rabbit ran up to the mitten and called to the mouse and the sparrow, “Oh help me, oh hide me! A fox is chasing and I fear he will catch me!”

There was nothing for it but to make room for the rabbit inside the mitten. The wool stretched and strained, but it held for it had been well-knitted. When the fox ran by, he saw the bulgy woolen mitten but he never suspected that the rabbit was hidden inside it.

With a rabbit, a sparrow and a mouse inside the mitten, everyone was feeling a little squashed, but at least they were warm. They were unprepared for the surprise of an owl, who stuck his beak into the opening of the mitten and asked for shelter from the cold. Usually an owl will eat mice and sparrows and rabbits, but the day was so cold, and his promise to behave so sincere that they all agreed to make room, and the owl squeezed inside the mitten until everyone was warm, if slightly squashed. 

The mitten was absolutely as full of animals as it could possibly be, when the bear lumbered into the clearing and saw the mitten. A bear usually sleeps in the cold of winter, and this bear was tired and looking for a place to hunker down.

He didn’t even ask permission to move into the mitten—just started shoving and poking and pushing and jostling and crowding with his nose and then a paw and then a shoulder and another paw until, at last, the whole bear was jammed inside the mitten with all those other animals. 

Nobody dared to move, lest the mitten burst, but they were all inside—and best of all, they were all very, very warm.

They rested there for some time, when they heard the voice of a little, tiny, old cricket out in the snow, asking for respite from the cold. Might she come inside the mitten to get warm with everyone else?

Well, if a mouse and a sparrow and a rabbit and an owl and a bear could all fit inside the mitten, surely there was room for a little cricket too?

The cricket crawled into the mitten, and stood shivering on the nose of the bear.

It was all fine for a minute or two…until the sensation of a shivering cricket made the bear feel itchy. 

And scritchy. 

And sneezy! 

The bear breathed in, trying not to sneeze, but it was no use: he gave a gigantic AHHH-CHOOOOOOOO, and at last the stitching on that mitten burst, and all of those animals tumbled out onto the snow, laughing and shouting.

They scattered away, those animals, looking for another place to get warm. The story says that they each found a good, snug place, even the cricket. 

But as for the little boy, he never did find out what happened to his mitten.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In which I share the Gift of Stories to drive the cold winter away

Who needs Rudolph?

I have told the origin of my "gift of stories" tradition many times on this blog.  HERE is a link, if you want to read that.  

If you live locally and you see me this week, ask for a copy of the story booklet.

But if you don't live nearby, fear not!  As I always do in December, I will post stories to the blog for the next week. And of course, you can always visit stories from earlier Decembers.

2009 stories begin HERE
2010 stories begin HERE <<--this starts with a poem 
2011 stories begin HERE  <<-- this starts with a Skookum story
2012 stories begin HERE <<-- a better Skookum story (one of my faves)
2013 stories begin HERE
2014 stories begin HERE <<this starts with the "why I give stories" story, and includes the soup recipe
2015 stories begin HERE

And the 2016 stories begin...tomorrow!

Please share these stories.  Tell them to your friend, forward the page to your parents or your children, print them out for your colleagues.

"With mirth and good cheer
to end the whole year,
And drive the cold winter away!"

Sunday, December 18, 2016

In which there is sn*w, and I offer a little coping strategy

A year ago today, I posted this status on Facebook:
Last night I dreamed I was rehearsing a language learning dialogue with a complete stranger, in English.
Person 1 - Hello.
Person 2 - Hello, how are you?
Person 1 - I am well.  It is sn*wing!  Let's go into the garden!
Person 2 - It is sn*wing?  Zut! I parked on a hill!  (grabs chapeau and leaves)

This morning, the yard was full of sn*w.

Zut, indeed.

baking gingerbread ponies is an excellent way of heating up the house.  

I made cookies.  That took an hour.  

Looked outside.  Still sn*wing.  


I started thinking about Xmas.  The story booklets are ready at the printer (pick up tomorrow, come find me if you're local and want a copy!).  I loaded the stories onto the blog, time delayed to begin on Solstice so you will all have stories to share for the holidays.

Looked outside.  Still sn*wing.


Went down to the barn and broke up the ice in the pasture water tank, then swapped the extension cord from the paddock water tank to the pasture tank.   That took another hour.

Still sn*wing.

I threw a roast in the crock pot with parsnips, yams, carrots, and celery.  Filled the wood box (again).  Brushed Luna.


Finally, I fired up the computer and made some stuff.  My family will be getting Haiku Farm coloring books when we gather after the holiday, so I figured I could share the pages here.  

Because, hey, maybe it's sn*wing where y'all are, too?

I think you should be able to copy and print the photos directly from here, but I can send .pdf files to your email if that's better.  Leave me a note in the comment box!

Sunflower from the garden


Foxie Loxie and a Giant Punk

Dobbie Goat Gruff and Lupin Goat Gruff



Will and Lisa, with Foxie, Roo and Luna

Me and Santa

Monica and Danny


If you end up coloring any of the pictures, send me a picture?

When I color stuff, the people always turn into zombies or dragons or something, but if you are a more conventional color-er, that's good too.

Meanwhile, we can hope for rain, right?