Our Sunny Center

It has always been my opinion that Grandma Elma was the center of our family’s universe, though she would hate it if you pointed that out. She wouldn’t want anyone to make a fuss. Now, I am only one of her 15 grandchildren, not to mention the 15 great-grandchildren, 8 children and all their associated persons, so my views are not the definitive ones.  But I have watched our family swirl around her kitchen and her smiling face for my whole life.

Even past the time when Grandma would produce an endless stream of food for visiting family, the family centered their talks and conversations around her chair.  When Grandma passed last week she, of course, didn’t want a fuss made over her. No funeral, no service, no memorial… but she was our family’s center and so a few of us naughty grandchildren planned a little something anyway.

We filled a kitchen with people.We put knives in the hands of those who were capable of cutting and we put babies in the laps of great-uncles.Some of us started stirring up dough and rolling out pie crusts, while hunters came and went and told stories. I have wondered in the last week how our family will do with it’s sunny center gone, but I watched as we talked and laughed,told stories and cried,waved sticky, floury, messy hands about and demanded help from hunters who thought they were just passing through.

As the family worked together making a foolish amount of pasties and apple pies, I watched us all swirling around one another. And then, as we sent the food off to feed to hungry hunters and more home with families to be eaten later, I had hope that even with the center of our universe gone, she taught us well enough that we will still spin through life together.

Grandma would still probably scold us for making a fuss about her but, I think, if she had been there in that hot kitchen with all her family working together, she would have had a smile on her face while she did it.

Elma Eloranta





All photo credit belongs to my Aunt Helen. 

Stamp Collecting

My Granny has always saved stamps.

Not in a discerning collecting and meticulously organizing sort of way but more of a snipping out and stashing in an old cigar box way. And, as far as I know, no one in my family has been a stamp collector.

Until Clara.

Clara collects everything – including stamps.

Clara, being a rambunctious eight year old is also not a discerning collector or a meticulous organizer of her stamps. But she does like adding to her collection. Granny has three giant manila envelopes stuffed with stamps and she’s been slowly doling them out to Clara.

It’s a stamp saver and stamp collector’s dream come true.


Except this totally justifies the keeping of things for just in case.

Farming runs on both sides of my family and you don’t just get rid of things that might be useful again one day when you are running a farm.


This was a lesson that well and easily ingrained in me. I don’t really need the hey-look-I’m-so-glad-I-kept-these encouragement Granny and Clara’s stamp collecting has accidentally given me.

But now I’m doubly certain that I better keep saving those random springs I find, and of course the extra screws they send when you put something together, and flower pots, and fabric scraps, and keys, and jars…

Someday, someone (maybe even me), is going to be so glad I did!

Some Years Are Not For Gardening.

Some years are not for gardening.

This year my extended family needed me. My grandpa’s failing health has had me away from home all the days I can spare, and some that I probably could not. But given the choice of helping out family or digging in the dirt I turned my back on my gardens and left.

Not to say that I never touched a plant, I did pull a few weeds from the flower bed in front of the house every now and then.   I put six tomato plants in the ground, rather late, and ignored the rest of the perennial flower beds around the house.

The ignored beds did what patches of growing things do best. They grew. They grew many beautiful flowers, and at least two bouquets made it to our table. Had I taken the time to harvest them I would have had a bumper crop of weeds of all kinds. There are now even some small trees poking up between the lilies. The rose bed outside the backdoor was the most impressive of the ignored patches. A thick plot of extra prickly roses I’ve never really liked grew wild until, even when I had a chance, the thought of wading into the thorns was daunting enough I moved on to other jobs that clamored for attention and promised less blood loss. The bindweed covered those roses like a blanket and I gave it a secret wink, I really don’t like those roses… Then, late in the summer a vine started growing.. and growing… and only the lawnmower kept it confined to the “garden” it came from. The rosebushes now devoid of their sickly sweet scented flowers disappeared completely. For a while the vine produced unfamiliar white flowers that I admired and wondered at as I slammed in and out of the back door on my way to take care of the poultry in the orchard or let the never ending stream of dogs in and out.

These last weeks I’ve been away from the house every other day and I’ve given up on the gardens entirely. Spring will come again with it’s promise of new beginnings and fresh growth.  And I’ll wade through the mess of them then, happy to be outside. But now it’s fall and winter and freezing weather is fast approaching. Now I fly past the gardens to mow the orchard one last time, prepare the chicken house for winter and drain water lines.

Last night was the first frost of the year.

It was a light frost, many things were hardly touched, but the vine by the back door was blacked and withered by the end of the day. This evening, when letting the dogs out I glanced down in my neglected garden and saw it…

… I don’t know where the seeds came from, or what it’s supposed to be but this 15 pound gourd grew just 8 inches from the back door. Covered and hidden until now, it was a surprise that made us laugh out loud when we saw what we missed. And it was a reminder that life goes on even if we aren’t watching.  My gardens will still be there in the spring and maybe they’ll have more surprises in store for me once I take the time to look again.

This is a story of my garden, and the things seen and unseen. But while missing the growing life outside my backdoor I’ve been living it at my childhood home. Helping my parents run the property, laughing over crosswords with my Granny and telling Grandpa about it all. Life goes on, even if we aren’t watching. All we have to do is decide where to look.

Island Camping

It was my brothers idea and it wasn’t even a bad one. (As his sister I’m required to say stuff like that.)

As kids we had taken many summer trips island camping in the flowages of northern Wisconsin and now that our own kids were all out of the major diaper/nap/crying stages he suggested we do it again.

The weather was rather…

…uncooperative……but it didn’t matter.

There was still fishing…


…and canoeing…


… and kayaking..

… and games…

… and sand to play in…

…and boats to learn to drive…


…and general silliness with cousins…

… and one very happy, very tired, rather stinky dog.

As we packed up on Sunday that brother of mine had another idea.

He said we should do it again next year.

I agreed wholeheartedly.

Because sometimes that brother of mine has really good ideas.

For accuracy’s sake I feel compelled to note that while we started with seven people more family joined us throughout the trip until we numbered 12. I however took more pictures of kids, bumblebees and my dog than anything else and they are all highly underrepresented in photos. Sorry family!