a peek into our autumn

Finally, a day at home with nothing on the calendar! Of course, the kids and I have a million things we want to do in what will prove to be too few hours. But we are still lounging in our p.j.’s, bellies full of homemade cinnamon rolls, so content to each be pursuing our own interests in each others’ company.

Jack Frost visited last night, so this was what I saw when I visited our backyard this morning:

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I was able to pick a handful of what may be our last green beans of the season, along with a few hardy raspberries. I’ll return later for a handful of parsley to add to roasted cauliflower soup. A few Brussels sprouts, a bunch of salad greens, and some cherry tomatoes ripening on the kitchen counter compose the end of harvest from our garden this year. 

While our too-full calendar has kept us away from my parents’ farm to enjoy harvest time, Molly and I were able to visit a small Urbana farm last weekend for a botanical illustration workshop led by local artist Cara Cummings. It was delightful! I am not confident at all in my artistic skills; I’m much more comfortable following patterns than being creative. Molly, however, can both follow instructions and act on inspiration, so I thought she’d especially like this experience of being guided by an accomplished artist and choosing her own subject, colors, etc. Of course, sharing an experience together was also sweet. Many more (professional) photos from the workshop can be found here.

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Wes Jarrell, co-owner of Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery, provided a tour for all the workshop participants. He and fellow owner Leslie Cooperband, along with a small staff, grow organic produce and flowers, and they also raise goats, whose milk they turn into many different and delicious cheeses and gelato.
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Within the farm’s large shed, a classroom-type workroom space was made cozy with a wood-burning stove in one corner and heavy wooden beams overhead. Each participant had a large table to use, and task lights were set up to help us detect the interplay of lights and shadows on our subjects — flowers or foliage that we each chose upon our walk throughout the farm grounds. Mid-day, sack lunches were set out: sandwiches of turkey, greens, and goat cheese with homemade mustard or mayo; lentil and pear salad; oatmeal raisin cookies; craft sodas or lemongrass ginger iced tea. Whenever we needed a break from painting, we could wander out to visit the goats or chickens, page through an assortment of botanical illustration books, or scoot a couple of chairs close to the fire to warm our hands and feet. Such a great day with my gal!
At left are my drawing and corresponding painting; at right are Molly’s.
October 2014
A great deal of rain has marked the change of seasons here this year. I’ve been caught unprepared — without umbrella, raincoat, and boots — on campus way too many times now. If I had enough clothes to spread around, I’d be smart to keep an extra outfit at work and another in the van, so that I wouldn’t have to suffer in chilly, wet gear for hours before I can get home and change clothes. (Read this as too much time away from home and too much time in the van! Or maybe I need to more closely examine the hourly forecast every morning?)

These aren’t great photos, but maybe they’ll serve to remind us of just one of these frequent storms of late. This approaching storm, caught from our back patio, featured about a half-hour of lightning before raindrops began falling.
All that rain means our grass remains green and lush. Finn, our summer mowing student, is very happy to have a chance to begin earning some money occasionally!
He and Molly have also been seizing any opportunity to snag their dad’s hammock and swing between two trees for a while. I like to envision all of us in our own hanging loungers perched in our backyard corner of trees. We’ll see if we can make that happen eventually.

So, what’s been keeping us so busy away from home? (And, as you can see from the set-up below, we “don’t travel lightly,” as Shane likes to say, as he helps us transport folding chairs, blankets, backpacks, water bottles, and more.)IMG_6606

Molly’s playing soccer … although she’s missed at least half the games this fall due to conflicting cross country meets.IMG_6638 IMG_6601

The cross country season has been extended since both the boys’ team and the girls’ performed exceptionally well, winning sectionals in class 1A and proceeding to state competition this weekend with our girls taking 7th place overall, and the boys claiming 4th. Molly participated in sectional competition but was an alternate at state, where she supported her running teammates with her trademark grace and enthusiasm.

(I wanted to share the photo above partly because Finn happens to have a team- and classmate who looks like he could be his brother. The boy, at left above, is wearing a funny expression here — maybe because the kids were having to dodge cow patties on this course at Chrisman! —  but I bet you can still see the likeness. The pair ran near neck-and-neck throughout the season. We’ll soon get to see them both on the basketball court.)

StM Girls XC Sectionals Team 2014
Autumn is also my busiest time of year at work. The returning members of the student group I advise, LAS Leaders, and I recruit, select, and train new members, resume our regular general and executive board meetings, and support numerous events for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois. It’s one of the two times of year that I work as a freelance writer/editor to put together a newsletter for a department at the U of I. I’m into my second course of a copyediting certificate program through the University of California at San Diego. And, finally (well, really, there’s more), I also recently took on the role of treasurer for our homeowners association.

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Every once in a while, a milestone appears, and it feels like both a feat and a melancholy reminder that one can’t stop time from passing. Even when — maybe especially when — life is so full, it’s crucial to stay calm, breathe deeply, and savor each experience. Being out and about with my kids means we’re not always at home to cook and eat great food, work on craft projects, and record our memories (here!), but we are fully participating in our community and learning much from being part of a bigger picture than we would experience if we were always at home (in our p.j.’s, amid piles of books, natch!).


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