Gift #827: Pioneer Village in Spring

Today I thought I’d share some pictures of Spring Mill’s Pioneer Village in all its springtime glory.  This was my first time to see it all green and leafy and the weathered wood was striking against the bright foliage of the trees.  The most iconic building is the grist mill.  This is the back side, which I like because of the tree that grows right up next to the building.

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Here’s the front side, with the imposing large water wheel, which powers the corn mill inside.  If you’ve happened to stop by at the top of the hour during peak visitor season, you can watch them start the wheel and grind corn, which is available for purchase at the mercantile.  The upper levels of the mill have been converted to a museum.

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The water that powers the mill originates from a natural spring in the caves above.  A quick jaunt up a steep trail will take you to Hammer cave.  On this trip, the trail was fair dripping with moss and ferns and was very beautiful.  They’ve dammed up the spring and the water travels to the mill via a wood flume across the cave and down to the water wheel.   The rest of the water travels through the park as a meandering river.  On this visit dogs and kids were having fun playing in the cool water.

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And here are two of my favorite buildings – the Mercantile and the Apothecary.  I like the Apothecary because they have dried herbs in a wonderful collection of glass jars behind the counter.

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At the Mercantile you can buy knick-knack souvenirs which were made by craftsmen at the park, period reproductions, and old-fashioned candy.  It was here that I bought a special reminder of the park.  Can you guess??

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Yep… yarn!!  100% wool handspun on location at the village.  I bought one hank of a nutty brown with gray overtones – about 200 yards – enough for a textured cowl.  There was also a deep green, brown, burgundy yarn; the color fluctuated depending on the light.  It looked like the forest spun into wool.  So two skeins of that now reside in my stash with dreams of a shawl that perhaps will be worn on my next visit when the air turns chill.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #826: Dusting Candles

I’m reading a book for my quiet evening time with God entitled God Never Blinks by Regina Brett.  I found it a few years ago at the library and loved it.  I received my own copy as a gift and decided that now would be a good time to revisit it (I think I’m on my third reading).  The book developed from a list of 50 life lessons the authoress had compiled in celebration of her 50th birthday.  They are inspirational, thoughtful essays designed to open your eyes to grace and live a full life.

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Today’s reading was called “Don’t Dust your Candles.”  Huh?  Does anyone dust?  Are we supposed to do that?  She says for years and years she received scented candles that she loved but never burned, because once they were burned, they were gone.  So she carefully dusted them until they grew so old they lost their scent or melted away in the heat of the sun or were otherwise wasted.  This essay hit a little too close to home – I’m one to save (perhaps even hoard) but not experience.  I don’t want to knit with my favorite skein because once I use it, it’s gone.. and what if I don’t like the finished object or I mess it up?  Same with the really pretty beads or scrapbooking papers.  I’ll spare you the long list of examples, but let’s just say that I tend to prolong the anticipated pleasure of something without ever experiencing the actual thing.  I have my own collection of “candles, lotions, or whatever” that has been wasted instead of enjoyed.

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This is something that God has been convicting me about – clutching and saving what gifts are brought to my life instead of enjoying and sharing them.  But that is where joy is found – not in simply having something, but enjoying and using it.  Do I really believe that the only blessings God has for me are the ones I have right now?  Most of the time I act like that even though His word promises His presence and joy for all eternity.

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So today I’m challenged, and I’ll challenge you too, to experience life and enjoy it.  Don’t wait for tomorrow.  Take a long walk, plant flowers wear the nice dress, light the candles, stare at the moon, tell your family that they are loved, read that book, watch your favorite movie, give thanks, laugh out loud.

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And remember that life is meant to be savored, not saved.

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PS.  I used the scented lotion tonight!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #825: Wild Columbines

A couple of late nights about town is all it takes to get thrown off the blog bandwagon it would seem.  Hopefully we’ll get back on track here as there are always gifts to be thankful for.  Today we had lots of rain and it made me so grateful that the weather was good last weekend when there was hiking and exploring to do at Spring Mill.  One of the late afternoon romps was a brief 1-mile walk about the lake.  It’s a pleasant jaunt through mostly forested areas with a nice view over the water and often you can find cranes, geese, and ducks getting a quick snack.  On the far north side of the lake the trail starts to border some of the more dramatic hills and dense forest areas.  There are large limestone outcroppings that look like they are the remains of a rock fight among giants, and the trees spring up all around them.  Little plants and mosses grow in all the cracks and crevices of these large boulders.  The landscape reminded me very much of mountain hikes in Colorado where granite outcroppings are scattered everywhere among the pines.

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And just when my subconscious started to wonder if I was really in Indiana anymore, I saw them…  wild columbines!  Our state flower of Colorado was out here growing in the forests of Indiana!!

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What an unexpected gift to see their happy faces and be reminded of my beloved home state.  It is a wonderful comfort to know the same plants bridge my heart between my two homes.  I’d not ever seen them outside of gardens here.   There’s not much suitable habitat for them where I live – but down south they were flourishing in the rocky soil and limestone boulders.  And they are quite remarkable flowers for they can grow right out of the rocks!!

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Stems so tender they can be plucked with ease, flowers like tissue; but their roots taste the lifeblood of rocks and pry pure stone apart to absorb the mineral nutrients.  The very picture of fragile strength in action.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #824: Wilson’s Monument

This was my first visit to Spring Mill State Park in the springtime and it was magnificent!  I took so many pictures of the beautiful forest and wildflowers that I’m having a hard time deciding how to organize them for blog posts.  But for today I’ll show my favorite place in the park.  It is the monument to Alexander Wilson, the famous ornithologist, erected by George Donaldson, who owned the land in the early 1800s.

imageI had no idea that the monument was surrounded by wildflowers inside the wrought iron fence.  On all my other visits the ground has been bare, with just ghosts of vines curling around decaying leaves.  In my mind, I call this “the sacred grove where things fall from the sky year-round”.   In the fall, as when I saw it the very first time, golden leaves slowly flutter down from the trees and land lightly all round.  If you’re lucky, some leaves will land on your hair.  It was here in autumn several years ago that I fell in love with Indiana.  It was a bright autumn day and I’ll never forget the music the leaves whispered in my heart as the wind danced them down from their branches.  During my trip in February I stood here and watched snowfall blanket the ground.  And this past weekend, pollen and little tree bits rained a light patter as we stopped here.  Besides the personal reasons that make this spot so beloved, it’s also a remarkably beautiful grove.

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The light sets a beautiful stage among the trees.  I like to walk the path in late afternoon when the sun is beginning to set.  If you time it right, you’ll catch the rays of the sun as they slant through the forest and magic is born.

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Depending on the season, the light makes the forest look like it’s on fire, or covered in diamond dust or wrapped in verdant velvet.

In every season it is lovely.  But to see it for the first time in spring took my breath away.

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If you are interested in the history of the monument, I wrote a blog post about Wilson and Donaldson which you can find here

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #823: Spring Forest

When I visited Spring Mill in February, everything looked like this.

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Less than three months later…

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Everything is draped in a carpet of emerald.  Never doubt for one moment that we live in a world of miracles.  Every seasonal transition is a glorious magical miracle – and we get to watch as nature transforms right before our very eyes!  We never wake up in the same world, it’s always being reformed; creation always recreated.

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From the very great…

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To the miniscule

image Every leaf, every tree, every flower, every blade of grass throbs with the vibrancy of life.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #822: Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and grandmothers today!  I hope that you were all surrounded by love and joy of family, and that your memories were sweet of those who could not be physically with you.

My mom request for Mother’s Day was to spend the weekend at our special place, Spring Mill State Park.  So my parents and I went down for a long weekend to enjoy the park in the height of spring.  We had a great time and my mom and I were able to enjoy several long hikes together.

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I’m so glad she is my hiking buddy and friend.  We had good conversations, periods of silent companionship, lots of stops to take pictures of wildflowers.  And then we had a few hours of knitting together in the evenings.  I’m so grateful for my mother and for the time we’ve had to walk through life together.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #821: Surprise on a walk

Last week while taking a walk in the neighborhood, my attention was drawn to a wad of dried weeds laying dejected at the base of a tree.  I stopped to examine it, thinking it might be something exciting.  As I got closer it did just look like weeds and I was a little disappointed.  But I turned it over and was delighted to find it was indeed a bird nest!   We had a lot of wind storms during that week and it seemed likely that the nest had been blown from its hiding place up in the trees.  It was an old nest, and likely not in use, so I didn’t feel too bad about it and promptly picked up my new-found treasure.  It did feel a little odd to walk around the rest of the neighborhood holding a mass of mud and weeds.  I tried to act like it was completely normal when I met others walking.  I was self-conscious but I was also concerned that someone would make me return it.  Fortunately no one questioned my roaming about the neighborhood with an old nest.  The beautiful thing is now at home tucked up into a corner of the bench on the deck.

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The little ferny leaf was also picked from the walk.  There’s a bit of wildness in the middle of the neighborhood and there are lots of little ferns and green things creeping up to delight the eyes.  The frond is being pressed in a book right now.  And I’ve started finding feathers at work this week.  It was one of the happiest moments of yesterday when I walked through the courtyard and spied a gray feather at my feet.  I found another today.  It seems like the birds have started nesting now in the trees.  I look forward to finding their little gifts so much and I keep each of them in my collection at home.

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Hope you all are enjoying a lovely week appreciating the miracles of spring.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #820: Garden Trip

Know you what today is?  (That’s in my best Yoda impersonation).  Yep, today is Star Wars day.  To be truthful I didn’t even know we had a Star Wars day.  Why is today the given day of celebration?  After a bit of thinking I arrived at the answer..  “May the 4th”… it’s with us.  Someone was quite clever.  Although the date was rather asking for it.  To commemorate the day, I’m watching Return of the Jedi right now.  I’d been aware of Sherlock day (2/21), Harry Potter’s b-day (7/31), and Mad Hatter Day (10/6 –  my favorite of the non Halmark-sanctioned cultural holidays) and now There’s another to add to the list!  So to all the sci-fi and fantasy gurus, Happy Star Wars Day.

But that’s not what today’s post is about.  This past weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to Walmart (that’s right, I go 1 time a year) because it’s finally time to plant flowers!  We typically wait till about Mother’s Day time to plant anything because our Midwest region is notoriously fond of practical jokes on gardeners, like late-freezes for instance.  It’s rather hard to wait after several tantalizingly warm days in the 60-70s, but then there’s that random cold snap that drops you back 15 degrees and you wake up with frost on the ground.  Despite Walmart’s reputation, they do have very hardy plants so I like to stock up on annuals and some veggies.  My herbs I’ll get later, but since they had cilantro this weekend, I picked that up too.  For some reason that’s a hard one to find.  (And I have to grow enough for myself and the squirrels, who fancy a taste of cilantro to spice up their walnuts).

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It was wonderful to see tables and tables full of happy, bright flowers.  They have a great selection of superbells (Calibrachoa) which are used to fill up the deck planters.  These are great flowers – they bloom all summer long, are low maintenance, and attract tons of butterflies, bees, and hummingbird moths.

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They come in lots of great colors too and you can also get candy-striped ones.  This year they had yellow and white striped superbells.  One might have jumped in the basket to come home.  I can’t confirm or deny such rumors.  There will be several other upcoming trips to other nurseries in the area to purchase herbs, some additional flowers for extra pots, and a couple tomatoes.  Lots of happy times to come!

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So maybe it would be more appropriate to say “May the flowers be with you” today.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #819: Lilacs

“Still grows the vivacious lilac a generation after the door and lintel and the sill are gone, unfolding its sweet-scented flowers each spring”  – Henry David Thoreau

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This quote reminded me of a unique experience I had in one of my favorite Colorado mountain parks.  In spring my family would often picnic there and enjoy the lilac bushes in bloom as their flowers wafted their fragrance across the meadow.  It seemed a little out of place – lilac bushes aren’t part of the normal mountain flora of Colorado.  But a quick read on a sign nearby informs you of the history of the land and that it was a homestead for a family in the 1860s.  Like so many migrating west, this family brought plants as reminders of the home they left behind.  The house itself is long gone, just shadows and crumbles of the foundation remain… and the lilacs that they planted round the doorway.

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It’s a special place – it makes me feel sad and comforted all at the same time.  And I always tend to think of it when I see lilacs.  And there’s a lot of them to see now that it’s warm and they are blooming.

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I took these pictures a week or so ago and already the lilacs have fully opened their buds and I’ll need to take more pictures of them in all their glory.  The bees are enjoying them as well.   It’s such an adventure living in spring!  Every day the landscape is different – more green, more vibrant, more colorful, more alive.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #818: May Flowers

I guess the old adage is true – May does bring flowers.  We’ve had a lovely parade of trees blooming – it is now the crabapples’ turn to shine.   Many perennials are putting out shoots and blooms and garden centers have gotten in flowers and veggies!  Yay!

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You could tell a distinct difference in the feel of life today.  Everything felt greener, more vibrant, more spring than it has been.  I’m convinced that many of the trees that had been dawdling about producing leaves this year suddenly decided to go for it and popped out a green canopy overnight.  One of the blessings about living near a forest is that you can see distinct changes from day-to-day in the trees.  It’s been fun to watch green creep back into the forest, but now it’s more a more aggressive timeline and it’s starting to thicken up.

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The crabapples are really doing a number this year.  Their branches are just covered in blossoms!  I was afraid that some freezing temps over the past few weeks might have damaged them, but they look great.  All over town, trees are covered in snow white and bright pink flowers, just like living fountains.  There are a couple in the courtyard at work that I get to admire every morning on the way in.

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These pictures are our resident weeping crabapple.  I feel a close kinship with her because she always starts to bloom around the time of my birthday.  The flowers are beginning to fade to pale pink, but they are still a beautiful sight for the eyes.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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