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Life is for living

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Firefly sees her first rainbow of the yearThe world changes swiftly from the gray-brown of a lifeless, after-snow-melt winter to the earliest burst of green liveliness that comes in spring. Golden light filled mornings and evenings cast long streaks of brilliant, reviving light cutting through tree limbs and shrub branches, glowing with fresh little pale green leaves. Dandelions are already blooming in the yard, the flowering crab apple tree out near our barn is covered in deep, dusty red leaves and tiny buds. Rhoda (my heirloom tree peony) is crowded with more than thirty buds amid abundant new growth. And I saw my first rainbow of the year this morning, just as I stepped outside into early morning light with Blu. Ahh ... the changing of the seasons, the rebirth of life, the beginnings of a new year. Why is it that New Year's Day is in the middle of winter rather than the middle of spring? Yesterday felt like the beginning of a new year to me; perhaps I'll readjust my thoughts regarding the timing of that particular celebration. Fireflys Magic Cat Gives Birth to two heatlhy kittens on the farmPrecious gift of all, two healthy baby kittens were born on our front porch yesterday afternoon. Cat-Cat, the magic cat that adopted us last October, turned out to be a girl and showed up pregnant this winter. She had a litter of three, sadly one was still born. The other two, however, are lively and healthy and strong. Cat-Cat is one of the sweetest tempered little cats I have ever been introduced to, and she has been a welcome member of the farm family and now we will have the joy of two little kittens tumbling around and entertaining us over the next couple of months. This winter we had several cats living in our barn, but now they all seem to have disappeared. Cat-Cat, however, had a special little hut on our front porch and was allowed to come in the house often. She is a very well mannered, petite tuxedo cat with a perfect moustache marking on her face. She is here to stay, and we are very happy about the arrangement. Of course, we will have her spayed now we know she is a girl and we will find good homes for her little ones if we don't end up keeping them here as well. Well mannered cats are a perfect addition to an old farm house and barn for many reasons. Fireflys hand painted Double Wedding Ring quilt block for the barn quilt trailSpeaking of barns, we have been working on a fun new project related to our barn. My good friend, Lora Partyka (Partyka Farms in Kendall, NY) started the Country Barn Quilt Trail of Western New York a couple of years ago ... I don't recall if I have mentioned that before. We wanted very much to join the quilt trail this year and now we officially have. Last weekend my husband, daughter, and I prepped and painted our quilt block and yesterday my husband and I mounted the quilt block on our barn. If you are unfamiliar with quilt trails, they started in Ohio and have spread to other states. Very simply put, the idea is for people with barns to put up hand painted quilt blocks on their barns and then other people pick up maps showing where all the barns are and drive around looking at them. The quilt blocks are usually 8' x 8' so they will show up well from the road. Quilt trails are a great way to encourage tourists to visit an area and also to raise awareness of the beauty of America's barns and their preservation. Fireflys quilt block after she and her daughter applied aging techniquesSince Lora began the Western New York Quilt Trail more than forty squares have gone up all around the county we live in. We chose the Double Wedding Ring pattern for our block, because of our recent marriage and also because the "ring" or circle of the design relates to the name of our farm and the history of this place. Our barn is 200 years old, and in designing our quilt block I wanted to embody the beauty of the fabrics I remember from quilts my Grandma Johnson made in North Carolina, using feed sack cloth. Many other people who put up quilt blocks paint them in solid primary colors, but I wanted very much to use historic colors and to paint fabric designs rather than having solid colors. I knew that even if the details of the designs can not be seen from the road, the fact that details are there will give the impression of feed sack cloth. We also wanted the quilt block to have an aged appearance so that it would look as if it belongs on our old, historic barn. My daughter has quite a bit of experience with painting and finishing techniques that give an appearance of age to a piece, so with her advice and guidance we were able to make our quilt block look beautifully aged. Fireflys barn with the quilt block installedOnce the block was in place on the barn, we were all extremely pleased with the look and feel we had accomplished. It was a very enjoyable group activity ... and now other people living closer to us want blocks on their barns so we will be working with them to create blocks that have a similar look and feel to ours (I think it would be very cool if all of the quilt blocks in our part of the county had this similar look and feel). This is an exciting project because the quilt trail is expected to bring quite a lot of tourism to Western New York, which will be very good for the economy. The New York Department of Tourism has become very interested and will be doing quite a lot to promote the trail, journalists have written a number of articles about it, and the enthusiasm of farmers and others in the county is wonderful to behold. Hats off to Lora for dreaming this dream and making it a reality. I am thrilled and honored to have an opportunity to lend my talents and some volunteer hours to help keep the dream growing and blossoming, just like the daffodils growing on lawns, roadsides, and riverbanks all around us this spring. I am very, very close to completing two large paintings to add to those on display at Zambistro Restaurant; they just need to dry a bit longer so I can put some final touches on and then we will hang them (next week sometime) and I will photograph them to share with my readers here. A pretty dandelion in Fireflys yard on the farmDue to the hours I have needed to put in on helping out with the quilt trail (I designed a rack card to promote it and designed and built the website for the trail), and some extra things I have needed to do to help my daughter over the past month, I am behind schedule with the Christmas Stocking designs for the book. Unfortunately, it means I will not be able to publish my book by the end of August. That is okay, because the quilt trail helps many people and the County at large, so my time was well spent there. And, helping my daughter get through her situation takes precedent over publishing as well. However, what I have decided to do is I will go ahead and publish a few of the Christmas Stocking patterns over the course of the next two or three months as individual patterns. That way anyone who was looking forward to the book will be able to at least get patterns now and make some stockings this year. There will be plenty more designs and other supportive information for the book, and I don't want you to have to wait for patterns if I had gotten you interested in making stockings this year. I have a baby sweater for our pastor's baby girl which is nearly complete ... photos will be on my blog next week of the completed sweater and shortly after that I will publish the pattern (there will be a matching hat). It is looking oh so sweet and soft. Three years ago, my oldest brother passed away. He was only 52 years old at the time, it was early April 2005. When he knew he was sick and that there was a strong possibility he would not live much longer he said me, "Life is for living, and that's what I want you to do." After he died I started reaching further out into life, being even more adventurous than I used to be and making sure to fully embrace with gratitude all that life has to offer. In a few days my husband and I will celebrate our second wedding anniversary. The marriage is even more fun and more rewarding and full of even more love than I first imagined ... and I have a pretty good imagination, so you know I imagined it being great. We are both amazed that it has already been two years, can you believe it? Firefly in her barn before the quilt block was installedYesterday was a fine day, a day of life and living. It was a simple and straight forward day, marked by a pretty rainbow, the start of new game in the life of our barn, a day for dandelions, and the birth of two kittens. No fireworks, just life beautiful, clear, and simple. Here I am Dan: I live on a farm. I live on a farm in New York and my husband drives a tractor. You helped me get here. I know you would love it here too, you would love my husband, and love to see me living this, my brand new life. To my readers, I hope you have been having a great week, and wish you and yours blessings for the coming weekend. ~firefly

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