Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Meet the Bells.... Chapter 7 begins.

The next part of my story is actually based on an event that actually happend in the community where my mother grew up. I used her account of this event, as told to me several times growing up, and I expanded it to fit my story. Even so, just imagining what it would be like to experience such a thing, breaks my heart. So here is the beginning of Chapter 7, and the introduction of the Bell family into my story...

The next day Frederich returned with the precious treadle sewing machine, as promised. He had just carried it into the house and was returning to the barn to do the evening chores, when Emilie saw a team of horses pulling a large sleigh full of people, enter Karl’s snow-filled yard. The horse and sleigh stopped beside the barn where Fredrick stood waiting then the driver jumped down from the sleigh box and approached Frederich. The other occupants of the sleigh remained seated where they were and although Emilie could not tell how many, she could see that they were small, perhaps young children.
She watched as the two men conversed for a few minutes and then Frederich walked over to the sleigh and started lifting the people from the sleigh. They were children - four of them, and from a distance they all looked very young. The two men conversed briefly again, and then proceeded slowly to the house with the children walking tiredly at their side. The closer the group got to the house, the faster Emilie’s heart beat. Something was very wrong. The group from the sleigh walked slowly, almost as if to do so was a great chore. Frederich, who just a short time ago had been full of smiles, seemed subdued.
Emilie had the door flung open before they could knock and the minute she saw the expressions on their faces, she knew that her intuition had been right. The children’s faces were blackened with soot and wet with tears. One child sobbed uncontrollably while the others tried valiantly to submerge their emotions. The man who had been conversing with Frederich was covered in black soot as well but his face held no evidence of tears, instead he regarded Emilie with eyes that were devoid of any expression at all.
Emilie’s frantic gaze swept Frederich’s.
“Emilie, these folks are our neighbors from four miles north of here,” Frederich began in a somber tone. “This is Charles Bell,” he introduced Emilie to the adult in the group, “and these are some of his children. Charles has just lost his home and one member of his family to a chimney fire, and he was wondering if you could help him out by taking in a couple of his children.”
Emilie stepped back from the door and wordlessly beckoned the group into Karl’s home. Words failed her as she witnessed the devastated faces of the man and his small children; she dropped to her knees and scooped the child who was sobbing uncontrollably into her arms.
“Shhhh, dear one,” she crooned around the lump that had formed in her own throat, “Shhh, Lieber, Shhh . . .” She stood with the child still in her arms. “You are all welcome to stay for however long you need,” she said, without stopping to consider that she was offering Karl’s home to complete strangers.
“Charles has just come from our place where he left his other three children. Charles’ wife… she didn’t make it, Emilie,” Frederich’s voice softened as he imparted this last piece of news.
Emilie touched the man’s sleeve while still rocking the young child in her arms. “I am so sorry Charles. Please take your things off and come in, and I’ll make some dinner and we can get the children settled in for the night.”
Charles nodded his head in agreement, but his vacant look told Emilie that it would be mostly her efforts that would see to the needs of his family.
She lowered the child to the floor, and then beckoned the children one by one to come to her, so she could help them out of their winter things. The boy she had held just moments ago was Warren, he was only four years old. Behind him stood another boy, Richard, who was five years old - the same age as Raymond. Another boy, Joseph, was seven, and then a pretty little girl, ten years of age, whose name was Sue.
All the children had the identical stricken looks on their faces and none of them responded to Emilie’s attention with any real favor. Slowly she assisted each child out of their smoky clothing and ushered them over to the washbasin in the sink. One by one she helped them wipe the soot and dirt off of their faces and hands, all the while wishing that she could as easily wipe the horrible images that they must be remembering, from their minds.
Raymond and Anne-Marie, who had been standing quietly off to the side for the entire time since the family’s arrival, now came forward to greet the other children. Raymond knew the names of the children, so obviously they had been in contact with one another before, but Anne-Marie wanted only to stay close to Emilie. As much as it hurt her to turn away from the young child, Emilie did just that, knowing that this devastated family needed her much more at this moment than did Karl’s children.
As if he knew that Emilie needed his full co-operation, Raymond took his sister’s hand and led her to the kitchen; he struggled to lift Anne-Marie up into her high chair so that she was out of the way and then proceeded to set the large kitchen table with enough dishes and utensils to feed the whole family.
“Danke, Raymond,” Emilie acknowledged his actions with a smile and a loving pat on the head. “You are such a help to me,” she praised him lovingly.
She threw together a meal in such a short time, that she surprised even herself. When she called everyone to the table it was to a meal of fried pork, potatoes, heated canned vegetables homemade bread and butter, with cake and raspberry preserves for dessert. She had no trouble filling each child’s tall glass with fresh whole milk and she encouraged the family to eat up quickly and heartily.
The silent family ate hungrily and as they finished off their supper, Emilie went to the bedroom upstairs to prepare beds for the children. She would put one of the smaller children in Karl’s bed with Raymond and Anne-Marie, the two older children could sleep in Raymond and Anne-Marie’s beds upstairs; the father and the other child could use her bed upstairs. There would just be enough room for everyone, at least until Karl returned. What they would do when Karl returned was anyone’s guess, but right now that was not a concern of Emilie’s. She just wanted to fill their bellies with food, their hearts with love and get them settled comfortably for the night. Hopefully the rest would take care of itself with time.
When she had fixed all the beds with fresh linens and piled them high with quilts and blankets she set to the task of finding clean clothing for the four children and their father. For Charles, she rummaged through Karl’s dresser drawers and found a set of underwear, a checkered flannel shirt and a pair of trousers. Karl’s clothing would be too large for Charles, but they would have to do until Charles could get some new clothes of his own. She did not feel guilty for invading Karl’s private belongings; she merely did what she had to do in order to help the poor unfortunate family who had landed on her doorstep this night.
Richard and Warren would be able to wear some of Raymond’s clothes, and for the seven-year-old Joseph and ten year old Sue, she borrowed two of Karl’s cotton t-shirts that could be worn as nightshirts, until their own clothes could be laundered.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For those of you who are related to me, you will note the familiar names of a certain couple in our family. I have used these names for my characters, not because I want the characters to be those persons, but because I love to inject my personal life into my writing wherever I can. I had an Uncle Fred, and an Aunt Annie - and while they were not at all like the characters in my story - they were very much loved by myself and my siblings.

Winter Wheat Chapter 6 cont'd

As it turned out it was not Karl who first witnessed the laundry hanging indoors, but Annie. They were just clearing away Karl’s washing machine, when there was a ferocious pounding on the door followed by a sharp holler of a female voice.
“It’s me, Annie; just come to visit!”
Frederich had told his wife about his first encounter with Emilie; how he had scared the poor young woman half to death. After she had torn a strip off her husband for his carelessness she decided that it was time to pay a neighborly visit to her new friend. She packed a large assortment of canned fruits and vegetables, bread and pickles and with her husband firmly in tow, made her way to Karl’s home.
Emilie threw open the door, and greeted her newest friend. “Guten Tag, Annie, how nice to see you again. Come in - please!” She ushered her into the warm moist air of Karl’s home.
Annie had not even entered the house fully when she stopped dead in her tracks, threw back her head and with a loud cackle said, “Well don’t that beat anything I’ve ever seen before,” she hooted as she looked around at the clothing and bedding hanging all over the kitchen and the living room.
Raymond, who had raced to the door with his sister at the sound of Annie’s voice, couldn’t wait to say his piece. “I told her to hang them outside, Auntie, really I did!” He informed Annie, eager for her to know that he had nothing to do with the mess that greeted her eyes.
Annie could barley contain her laughter, “Emilie, what have you done? I wish Karl were here to see this!”
“Karl will no doubt see this many times before the winter is over, because this is the only place I will be hanging the clothes as long as there is snow on the ground!”
Annie turned to her husband who had come in the door behind her, but as yet had not said a word. Annie could tell by the look on his face that he was trying very hard not break out into fits of laughter, her glare warned him to contain himself. Apparently Emilie was not finding the situation quite as amusing as they, so instead of saying a word further about the laundry, Annie determinedly made her way around and through the hanging wash to the kitchen.
“I have come to give you a lesson on butter making,” she announced to Emilie as she hastily removed her winter coat and boots, “I have brought a few things that Karl and the children always enjoy eating, “ she said then beckoned Frederich to unload the wooden crate of foodstuffs that she had brought along with her.
Emilie was delighted that Annie had come to visit, but she really was not up to yet another lesson in farm life. The mornings wash lesson had been more than enough for one day. However, on second thought, if she did not learn from Annie today, she would just have to learn from Karl on another day. Knowing his impatience with her, she quickly changed her mind and decided that today would be a fine day to learn how to make butter.
Before Frederich was allowed to sit, Annie ordered him to the cellar to bring the crock of cream up to the kitchen so it could warm a little before they started to make the butter. She then turned to the children and gave them each a generous hug and kisses and then shooed them into the living room to stay under Frederich’s watchful eyes until the butter making was done.
Never again would Emilie waste a dollop of butter. In all her life she had never envisioned a pound of butter requiring so much work. Karl had all the tools needed to make butter; an old-fashioned butter churn, a four-gallon stoneware jar with a wide mouth, a wooden lid and a dasher.
Annie showed her how to assemble the equipment and then poured enough cream into the churn until it was a little over half full. She fastened the top and pulled the dasher up and pushed it all the way down at the same time gradually turning the dasher one revolution with each movement.
“This is all there is to it,” the little woman coached as her chubby arms worked the dasher up and down, up and down. “The colder the cream the longer it will take to form butter, but you don’t want it too warm either, or the butter will be too soft. Here you give it a try.”
Emilie took over and struggled to duplicate Annie’s actions. For what seemed like hours, Emilie churned the butter in a steady methodical motion, up with the plunger all the way to the top, and then down - all the way down, with a gradual turn of the plunger in one-second cycles. Separating the butter from the buttermilk was not a fast process, and Emilie longed to stop and rest her aching arms and back.
“Don’t stop!” Instructed Annie each time Emilie switched and re-switched her tired hands. “You will know when it is almost separated by the feel of it.”
“What kind of feel?” Emilie asked as drove the dasher up and down.
“Just different, that’s all - I don’t know how to describe it,” Annie answered testily, and then softened as she watched the tired young woman doing her best to please. “Here, let’s look inside the churn and see how it’s coming,” Annie suggested and removed the lid and peered inside the round cylinder. “There . . . see," she pointed to contents of the churn, “It’s getting thicker. We are making progress after all!”
After Annie replaced the cover she instructed Emilie to continue churning, and in a few minutes Emilie did indeed “feel the difference”.
“Annie!” Emilie announced, excitedly, “I feel a difference - we’re done!” Thank goodness, Emilie thought to herself, the ordeal of butter making was finally over.
Annie giggled, “We are nowhere near done, my dear. Now we have to remover the buttermilk from the butter.”
Emilie watched in despair as Annie removed the lid from the churn once again, and using a wooden ladle this time, carefully scooped the floating butter off the top of the buttermilk, which had formed below.
“There is still some buttermilk left in this butter. We must remove it all; otherwise the butter will go rancid.”
“What is rancid? Emilie felt as young as Raymond for having to ask.
“Bad, sour . . .” Annie pinched her nose and scrunched her chubby face distastefully.
“Der Gestank!”
“You got that right . . . stank for sure!”
Using a butter paddle Annie worked the butter back and forth on the sides of the bowl until there was no more liquid coming out of the butter.
“There, now we wash the butter,” Annie informed her student, as she poured a small amount of very cold water into the bowl and worked the butter in the same manner once more. As the water became discolored Annie poured it out of the bowl and added more fresh cold water. She continued this process until the water remained clear.
“Now the salt,” she looked up from her work and smiled at Emilie. “Now we get to actually taste the butter! My Frederich, he loves this part the most. I’ll bet Karl does too!” she said before returning her attention back to her work.
She sprinkled the salt over the butter and mixed it in. With her index finger, she made a swipe through the new butter until there was a good-sized blob of it on her finger.
“Here, taste it!” she held her finger in front of Emilie’s mouth to sample the butter.
Obediently, Emilie sampled the butter from the end of Annie’s finger. The rich salty taste of the new butter filled her mouth, and as she rolled the soft spread around inside her mouth she thought that she had never in her life tasted anything better.
“Oh . . . so gut,” Emilie smiled her pleasure and Annie eagerly nodded her head in agreement. “I can’t wait to try it on some fresh bread,” Emilie said as the vision of fresh butter on warm fresh bread filled her imagination.
“Karl should have some molds around here someplace, and maybe some butter paper too,” Annie said as she turned to search the cupboards for the supplies she needed to mold the butter. Finding what she needed, she packed the butter firmly into the pound molds making sure there were no air holes and then pushing on the false bottom of the molds, released the perfect pounds of butter out onto the butter paper. There was an intricate design imprinted on the top of the butter from the mold, and Emilie thought that nothing looked as pretty as the perfectly formed pound of butter. Annie let Emilie work on the other two pounds and while she did that, she carefully wrapped the three pounds of fresh butter individually the butter paper, then stretched her back and sighed.
“Now we are finished,” she smiled brightly to Emilie, who looked at amazement at their accomplishment. “You will want to make up the rest of that cream over there, but maybe you’ve had enough for today - it can wait for another day. You know, if you want to make butter all the time you could probably sell it around the area and in town at the general store. You’d get twenty cents for a pound - the store sells it for twenty-six cents.”
“Is that what Karl does . . . sell it in town?” They started to clean up the kitchen, and as they worked Emilie mulled over Annie’s suggestion.
“No he hasn’t for a long time but his wife used to a few years back. Karl hasn’t made butter for sale for a while, but you could do it. Maybe he would let you keep the money you make.”
Frederich, who appeared to be snoozing on the sofa, apparently heard his wife’s suggestion, “Annie I don’t think you should interfere in Karl’s business,” he warned his wife gently, “You know how he gets when he thinks someone is trying to tell him what to do!”
Annie and Emilie both chuckled at the same time and then looked at each other and burst out laughing. Both women had seen the surly side of Karl and knew that Frederich’s words held a ring of truth to them.
“It would be a good way to earn money to buy things for the children!” Emilie said, more serious now.
“My dear… that would only make it worse!” Frederich said from his place on the sofa, “He would think that you were under the impression that he could not provide for his children!”
Annie agreed. “Frederich’s right. Karl would never stand for you raising money for his children’s sake. You would have to buy things for them without his knowledge; otherwise his stubborn pride would get in the way!”
“Well, I still think it is a good idea, and I plan to talk to him about it when he gets home,” Emilie stated firmly. “The children could use some new clothes and the money would come in handy for that and much more.”
Emilie set the kettle on the stove to warm some water for tea, and proceeded to make a lunch for her guests. With Annie’s help they soon had a hearty dinner prepared and they all gathered around the table to enjoy their meal together.
Raymond was delighted to have a man in the house again and he entertained Frederich and Annie with tales of Emilie’s stove lighting experiences. Anne-Marie, who had so quickly transferred her love to Emilie; was never far from Emilie’s side, and Annie could see that Emilie’s presence was already having a positive effect on the child.
“I have a sewing machine that you might like to borrow, ” Annie informed Emilie, as she watched the children responding to Emilie’s loving attention. Had Raymond always been such a chatterbox, had Anne-Marie ever looked so happy and content? Annie was sure that both children were finally receiving the love and attention that they had surely missed from their own mother. “I don’t use the machine much, so you could keep it here for awhile until you are done with it.”
Emilie was delighted. With a sewing machine she would be able to make such nice things for the children from the material that Martha had sent along with her. Christmas was fast approaching and Emilie now had visions of the children actually having presents to unwrap Christmas morning.
“I would love to borrow your machine for awhile, Annie. Do you think I could have it before Weihnachten . . . Christmas?”
“Frederich can bring it tomorrow when he comes over to do chores,” Annie promised with a knowing smile on her face.
After the meal, the woman washed up the dishes while Frederich attended to the chores outside. He brought in more milk from the night’s milking and this time Emilie took an avid interest in the pail of fresh raw milk that she received. From now on she intended to be the keeper of the milk and cream, and she decided there and then that not a drop of the milk products would ever go to waste again.
Annie and Frederich made their way home much later than they had intended, but they left their neighbor’s small home with a promise from Annie to return sometime before Christmas to help Emilie with her Christmas baking. Frederich would return the next day, this time toting Annie’s precious treadle sewing machine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Winter Wheat Chapter 6 begins....

The best part of writing, is researching for your story. I spent hours and hours doing research for Winter Wheat. I not only learned a lot, but I enjoyed reading stories written by others about a time in our history, that was full of wonderful happy stories, interspersed now and again by real tragedy. Chapter Six was a researchers dream come true. I not only had to research a specific topic, but I had to make it "real and believable" to my reader. I hope I succeeded.

The mechanics of everyday life in the 1920's were painstaking in comparison to ours today. Women had skills for things we don't even think of. You will see what I mean as you read this chapter... Hope I got it right!

Winter Wheat Chapter 6, begins:

For three days Emilie stumbled her way through a normal farmwoman’s daily life. Each morning she fought to light the fire in the woodstove, and even though she had demonstrated her abilities to Karl, for some reason her first three attempts to light the stove each morning always failed. Priming the frozen water pump every morning was the second hurdle of her day. She would no sooner get the frost removed from the pump then it would freeze over again, and so she would start the whole process yet again, and again. She cursed her continued ignorance every morning but with each new day she attacked her inadequacy with renewed determination.
One morning she decided that it was time to tackle the laundry.
“Raymond, does your Papa have die waschmaschine?” She questioned him as soon as their breakfast was over and the dishes were all done and put away.
Raymond by now was becoming accustomed to Emilie’s mixture of German and broken English; he’d even begun to mimic her words on occasion.
“Ja, he does!” his cheeky grin erupted to a smile as he tore off at a run towards the small back porch. He returned with a wooden scrub board tucked securely under his right axilla, and his chubby small hands clamped onto the handle of the large round copper tub he was dragging into the room.
Emilie watched in horrified fascination as he maneuvered the cumbersome tub across the floor then abruptly dropped it to the floor at her feet.
“That’s it!” She couldn’t believe that the child was not playing some sort of prank on her.
“Yup, that’s it. Dada hates to use it too, that’s why our clothes are always so dirty!”
“Mein!” She bent forward, lifted the tub from the floor and placed it on the kitchen table.
“No, not there,” Raymond pulled two chairs close to the woodstove and butted them together so they formed a platform of sorts.
“Put it up there,” he pointed at his makeshift stand then watched as Emilie whipped the tub off the table and on to the chairs. He grabbed the scrub board and plopped it down into the middle of the tub and then stood back proudly with his hands on his hips. He regarded his housekeeper quizzically, and then shook his head as if coming to some sort of decision.
“Don’t you know how to wash clothes?” He stood his ground and waited for her answer.
Emilie sighed and sat down on one of the spare kitchen chairs. “Well of course I know how to wash clothes, but I’ve always used a waschmaschine!”
“This is a regular washing machine,” the boy insisted with spirit, and then sighed in exasperation. “Well I guess I’ll just have to show you then.”
He ran to the sink and pushed the material that covered the open cupboard beneath it, out of his way. When he returned to where she still sat, he had a large square brick of strong smelling soap tightly clutched in his small hand. He held it out to her. “Here’s the soap. You have to scrape it off with a knife until you have a pile and then you put it in the tub. Then you have to heat some water on the stove until it is boiling hot, and pour it over the soap. You throw the clothes in and get them wet and then rub them on the board.” Up and down his little arm went as he demonstrated the use of the scrub board.
“Then you wring the clothes out with your hands until they are almost dry and hang them outside on the line.” He crossed his arms over his chest and waited for her comments.
“I’ll not hang clothes outside, Raymond! It’s winter, all they will do is freeze on the line!”
“That’s okay; they’ll thaw when you bring them back in!”
“Nein!” She shook her head and sprang from the chair. There was no way she was going to hang clothes outside to freeze, no way at all. She picked up the brick of strong smelling soap and pulled a sharp knife from the dishwater in the sink. She attacked the soap with the knife until she had a heavy pile of soap shavings. There was already boiling water on the stove so she carefully poured some into the copper tub, threw a handful of the children’s clothes into the steaming brew and quickly rolled her sleeves up over her elbows.
“Watch – it’s heiB!” Raymond moved to stand at her side.
“I know its heiB!” She answered him testily, and reached for the pail of cold water by the sink and added it to the tub. She fixed him a stare and then dipped her hands into the water. Her mother had always told her she had more stubborn German blood in her than anyone she knew, well be that as it may – no one was going to tell her how to wash clothes – especially not a child as young Raymond!
She grabbed the first article of clothing and smashed it up to the board. Just like Raymond had demonstrated she rubbed the garment up and down, up and down over the rippled surface. When she was satisfied that she had scrubbed enough, she twisted the cloth around and around until it would twist no more then shook it out and inspected her work.
“Gut . . . clean,” she mumbled to no one in particular as she checked each item thoroughly.
Raymond stared at her as if she’d lost her mind. “What’s so good about clean clothes anyway?”
She ignored his question completely.
“They only get dirty again anyway.”
“Raymond, does your father have any twine?” She asked without looking up from her task.
“Yes, I think so. What do you want twine for?”
“I’m going to make a clothes line here in the house. The clothes will dry faster in the warm house. Bring nails and a hammer too.”
He hoped he’d never have to tell his Dada that he was the one who’d fetched the twine, he thought, as he watched her pound the heavy nails into the window casings on one side of the room and the side of the kitchen cupboard on the other. Standing on a kitchen chair she firmly attached one end of the string to the nail in the cupboard, then hopped down and ran with it across the small room. Back and forth she went – four times before she stopped and surveyed her handiwork. She slapped her hands together and headed into the living room.
She repeated her actions, once again using the window casings on one side of the room as the anchor and this time the fireplace mantel as the other. When she was done two lines ran the length of that room too, and Raymond hoped that his father never found out that he’d had any part of this madness.
It took her two hours, but she completed all the laundry and found room enough on her makeshift clotheslines for everything she washed. When she was finished she stood back and examined her mornings work. Her hair clung to her damp face and neck, and her arms and backed ached something fierce, but her pride of accomplishment knew no bounds as she watched the wet clothes dry.
“Dadda won’t like this,” Raymond repeatedly complained aloud, but Emilie was beyond caring what Karl Wright thought about anything. If he wanted her to perform these tasks for his family, then he would just have to put up with her methods.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Winter Wheat Chapter 5 ends

The relentless pounding on the door stopped their evening meal before it had really begun. Emilie’s heart took flight as her mind imagined any number of undesirable characters that could be waiting on the other side of the door. Fear struck her heart and panic overtook common sense as she urgently rushed the children into Karl’s bedroom and closed the door firmly behind her, effectively locking the children out of harm’s way.
The heavy pounding continued persistently as she wiped her hands across the front of her apron, and nervously approached the door. The minute she released the lock, the door flew open, accompanied by a giant of a man dressed like a grizzly bear.
“What took you so long?” A booming voice sounded from somewhere within the massive fur coat.
“Well . . . I . . .” Emilie began, only to be cut off mid-sentence.
“Where are the children then?” The mass of fur stepped into the room and swung from side to side as the man inside the coat moved around the room apparently searching for the two small children.
Emilie’s heart beat so fast she could scarcely breathe. Her first instinct was to protect the children, but she knew she would not be able to defend them or herself against a man this size!
“Bitte . . .Please . . .leave . . .” Emilie’s voice came out weak and frightened, “We have nothing!” She informed the massive man, as she fought the wave of dizzying fear that was overtaking her emotions.
The fur stopped moving and a massive arm swung forward. Emilie shrunk away from the blow that she was sure would connect with her face, but the arm continued upwards to the man’s head, and stopped as it reached and removed the hood attached to neck of the coat.
A pair of green eyes, now shadowed with genuine concern, gazed at Emilie for a moment before clearing in apparent understanding.
“Oh dear . . .you thought I was here to do you and the children harm!” the man whom Emilie now saw was much older than she had originally thought exclaimed incredibly. “I’m sorry I scared you …I’m Frederich, Annie’s husband, and I have come to do Karl’s chores for the night.”
Emilie’s knees threatened to buckle, so great was her relief that she and the children were not in any immediate danger, but her anger built quickly and erupted almost immediately.
“Did you not stop to think that I would be frightened for myself and the children?” She hollered at the older man at the top of her lungs, her broken English becoming more pronounced the angrier she became. “How dare you barge your way in here and not tell me who you are! Don’t you ever do anything like that, ever again! Do you hear me?” She approached him, her fury evident in her crimson cheeks and the protruding finger being jabbed into his cement-like chest.
“Yes Mamm,” Frederich mumbled in response. Wow - his little Annie was a firecracker, but this young woman could teach his Annie a thing or two about temper, he admitted with a chuckle.
“What is so funny” Emilie demanded, when she heard him laugh softly.
“Oh nothing, I can assure you,” he answered with a bright smile spreading across his face, which he did not even attempt to hide. “Let’s start over again, shall we,” he suggested as he shrugged out of his heavy winter garb. He threw the coat across a kitchen chair and then turned back to face her.
“Where are the children, anyhow?” He frowned and looked around the empty room.
“Oh, die Kinder!” Emilie rushed to the door of Karl’s room and released the latch. Almost immediately, two sets of arms and legs, spilled out of the room and into Frederich’s outstretched arms.
“Uncle Fred!” Raymond rejoiced, his smile a duplicate of his sister’s, as they both tried to snuggle into the big man's arms at once.
“There you two are,” Frederich smiled as he scooped both children up into a massive hug. I was wondering where you had gotten too.”
“Emilie put us in Dada’s room, because she was scared there was someone bad at the door,” Raymond informed him seriously.
Frederich glanced at Emilie, “Yes, I see that now. I am very sorry that I scared you all.”
Emilie relaxed at the sight of the big man so obviously enjoying the children in his arms. The children too were delighted to see their old friend and Emilie began to feel many kinds of fool for her misguided fear. She knew that she should probably apologize to Annie’s husband, but she was now so embarrassed that she had no idea how to go about it.
“I came in to find out what you want me to do with the milk from tonight’s milking?” Frederich asked as he lowered the squirming children to the floor.
“You can bring it in and I will let it sit for a few hours to get the cream, then I will add the cream to the crock in the downstairs cellar. Karl told me to do that while he is gone and then when he gets back, he will show me how to make butter.”
“You don’t know how to make butter?” Frederich asked incredulously, his tone implying that every woman should know how to make butter.
Emilie smiled sadly, “Nein . . .butter making is something I have not done before. I hope it is not too difficult. I don’t need to make anymore mistakes before Karl will get fed up and send me back to his sister, Martha.”
Frederich chuckled at her words; he couldn’t imagine Karl doing any such thing. Not only was this young woman very pretty to look at she also seemed very content to be mothering someone else’s children.
“Oh, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that. Karl needs you here much to much to ever think of sending you back.”
“Karl doesn’t need me - any woman would do for him; especially if she were better at dealing with farm life than I am,” Emilie said sadly, her insecurities coming to the surface with the realization that her words were more than true.
“You will learn about farm life just like we all had too, Emilie,” Frederich said softly. He might look big and hard and sometimes meaner than a rabid dog, but his heart was soft, especially when it came to the gentler sex. He had been raised in a home with six sisters, and he couldn’t help the protective feeling that most females released in him.
Emilie smiled, “Danke, Frederich.” She tilted her head so she could better see his face, “When you finish your chores, please come in and warm yourself before you leave for home. I will put on some tea and cakes for you before you go.”
Never one to pass up the opportunity for some warming food, Frederich nodded his head and reached for his heavy fur coat. “I’ll take you up on that offer of something warm to drink and especially the cake. You can ask my Annie how I like my cakes!”
He tickled both children under their chins, settled the massive coat on his large frame, tucked his balding head into a woolen cap and pulled the heavy hood up in place over the cap. With a backward wave, he made his way to the door, and disappeared out into the cold winter night.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A special man's birthday.

Today is my husband's birthday. I don't talk about him here much because I'm not sure if he'd like that or not, but today, being his birthday - well he's going to have to tough it out!

I met the love of my life in 1980 - and yes, as corny as it sounds it was love at first sight! He is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He's the kind of guy you can give your heart to, knowing that he will always keep it safe from harm... and today he turns 54. Oh boy - he's not going to like that I put the number in here....

Gary loves me, and he loves to play the organ. He was a church organist for many years, but due to failing eye sight has not been able to do that for quite some time. We have always had an organ in the house - first a Yamaha spinet, that actually was mine before we married - then a Hammond Spinet - which we bought off a co-worker of mine - and now, recently he has acquired a Conn electronic Pipe Organ, which has become his newest joy or pain in the butt - depending on which day you ask him.

You see even electronic organs go out of tune, especially if not played regularly or if stored in unfavorable conditions. The Conn is over 30 yrs old, so we have no idea of it's history - but the first time he turned it on and played it... well awful would not begin to describe the sound that came from it. So off came the back, and tuning began. Some days it sounded better - most days it sounded worse. And let me tell you there is not much that is as frustrating as hearing an organ being tuned...

I have to commend him on his patience - I would have given up long ago - but he works at this labour of love daily - and it is starting to come together.

So now I'm going to take you to my basement where the birthday boy is practicing. The first video is on the Hammond spinet - which we no longer have.

The second is on the Conn... it might be a little off still but check out the sound at the end.... amazing from such a small organ... and pretty powerful for such a little house....

Enjoy the concert - hope the links work!

And Happy Birthday my love...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sunshine and Vitamins - and Chapter 5 continues...

I have to admit I am in a bit of a slump. I haven't been feeling well the past couple of weeks but I won't bore you with that... but somehow it has affected my head, and you know the head really affects the rest of our bodies. I am not usually affected this way, but I find myself being negative, tired, grumpy, and all around dissatisfied with life in general. This is totally out of character for me. I don't usually fall into this pattern, but for some reason lately, I have not only fallen, but I have not even tried to get back up.

A physician friend of mine suggested I start taking Vitamin D supplements. We have had very little sun the past 6 weeks, and he suggests that even on a normal year we dont get enough sunlight in our corner of the world. According to him we who live in this area of the world should all be taking daily supplements of this vitamin. So starting today I will try more Vitamin D... if that's all I have to do to make me feel better... great - it's worth a try.

I wonder how women coped with all life threw their way years ago - they were made of much better stuff than we of today are...

On that note - here's some more of Chapter 5...

The day stretched exceedingly long for Emilie and the children after Karl left. There were many chores that she needed to tackle but the first and most important to her, was to move herself and the children down to Karl’s bedroom on the main floor, closer to their source of heat. Karl himself had suggested it, and Emilie was more than willing if not anxious to accomplish this task.
Emilie had not been inside Karl’s room before, so she made her way there now, eager to begin the chore of moving their sleeping quarters before the night was once again upon them. She gently pushed the heavy door to Karl’s room open, and was immediately surprised at the sight that greeted her.
It was a woman’s room - or it had been at one time, the evidence of that fact was everywhere. The heavy wooden bedstead was painted a stark white; there was a matching bureau, a dresser and two nightstands, one on each side of the bed that attested that the suite had been purchased as a complete ensemble. A brightly-colored bedspread with large yellow roses trailing across it adorned the flat surface of the bed while a matching crocheted blanket lay neatly folded and carefully placed across the end of the bed. Flowered curtains, the exact match to the bedspread although somewhat faded from the too much exposure to the sun, hung limply from the window. Emilie could tell that at one time they had been the prettiest curtains that money could buy.
There were several embroidered dresser scarves of various sizes lying on the top of each piece of furniture, none were overly clean and most were horribly wrinkled. A man’s hairbrush, a bottle of men’s cologne and a lone tie clip were the only other articles in the room.
Emilie searched the walls for a picture or any indication other than the obvious that a woman had ever occupied the room, but there were none. There were no pictures or personal mementos of a marriage, a wife, or children, anywhere in the room.
She ignored the impulse to strip the room bare and clean it from top to bottom; she did not ignore the realization that cold or not, she was intruding on Karl’s private space and so she would not be joining the children tonight in his bed. She would change the linens and mop the floor and for the time Karl was away she would put the children in their father’s bed; but she would sleep on the sofa in the living room. She would be more than comfortable and she’d still be close enough to hear the children if they should need her during the night.
She turned to find Raymond standing in the doorway to the room. She saw him swallow heavily and watched as a strange look passed across his small face.
“My Mamma used to sleep here,” he said in a whisper, as if to speak of his mother would bring him punishment.
Emilie’s heart gave a lurch as she knelt to the floor in front of the child and gently took his small hand in hers.
“I know this was your Mamma’s room, Raymond. Your Papa said we should move down here until he comes back home. Would that be okay with you?”
He appeared to mull the matter over in his mind for a time. “I guess so. My Mamma died, you know . . .”
“I know . . . Do you miss your Mamma an awful lot?”
“Sometimes I do…but she was sick . . .and she screamed all the time . . .”
“Sometimes when people are sick they do things that seem bad, but it’s because they feel so sick they can’t help it. Maybe that’s why your Mamma was like that.”
He shook his head defiantly. “No. She screamed even before she got sick . . .”
“Was she pretty?” Maybe the child just needed to be reminded of the good things about his mother.
He shrugged his little shoulders, “I guess – not as pretty as you – and she was mean to Dada.”
What did one say to a child who had such memories of his deceased mother? She longed to be able to tell the child good things about his mother, but she had not known her. The only things she knew were the things that Martha had told her during their long talks together, but those were not the remembrances this child so desperately needed.
“Does your Dada have pictures of your Mamma?”
“No . . . one night my Dada was crying, and he threw them all into the stove. I watched him do it, but he didn’t see me . . . I was hiding.”
Emilie reached for the child and pulled him gently into her arms. She rocked him back and forth, her voice crooning her sympathy and support.
“Oh Raymond, I’m so sorry,” she said to him, her voice thick with emotion as she felt his small body shudder, and heard the tiny whimper he made.
Two small feet appeared at the doorway to the room, and Anne - Marie approached quietly. Sensing that all was not right with her brother she started to cry, softly at first and then more boisterously as she witnessed the closeness of Emilie and the boy.
“Come Anne-Marie,” Emilie beckoned the child into a three-way embrace. The little girl wiggled her way onto Emilie’s lap beside her brother, and her small arms joined his around Emilie’s neck. Their small arms were uncomfortably tight around her neck but she had never felt more needed in all her life.
She cuddled them for several minutes, then kissed them individually and firmly set them away from her. “Now, Meine Kinder Liebechons,” she began and Raymond started to giggle.
“What’s mine kindor ribbons? He giggled at his clumsy pronunciation.
“Liebechons – loves – my little loves,” Emilie translated softly. “Do you want to learn to say the words?”
Raymond moved his head in an up and down motion.
“Meine . . .”
“Mine . . .”
“No… Mine –e . . .”
“Mine-e . . .”
“Kinder . . .”
“Mine-e Kinder . . .”
“Liebechon . . .”
“I can’t say that one, Emilie . . .”
“Sure you can . . .Liebechon . . .”
“Leave shone . . .”
“Liebechon . . .”
“Lee-b-shone . . .”
“Now say the whole sentence . . .Meine Kinder Liebechon “My little love”.”
Raymond took a deep breath and scrunched his forehead in concentration, “Mine-e Kinder Lee-b-shone!”
Emilie clapped her hands in excitement and both children started to dance around the room.
“Teach me more!” he shouted in his excitement.
“No, I think you have learned enough German for one day. You must practice those words over and over again, until they are easy for you to say. Right now we have to get to work. First we must strip this bed and then remake it with fresh sheets. Then after we are done here we will clean your beds upstairs as well, for the next time you sleep there. Do you think you can help me with that chore?” She asked them both.
Two small heads nodded their agreement.
“We are going to bring your pillows and blankets down from your beds, and you both will sleep in your Dada’s bed until he comes home from the mountains. How does that sound?”
Raymond’s face lit to a bright smile; Anne-Marie nodded in eagerness to mimic her brother; but neither child spoke a word.
Together they stripped Karl’s bed and then Emily remade it with clean sheets she had found in the hall linen closet. Next they climbed the stairs to the bedroom above and striped all the beds there.
Emilie made a pile of the soiled linens, and realized that soon she would have to do some laundry. She had already gathered quite a stack of the children’s clothing that in her estimation were much too soiled to be worn one more time. She made a mental note to remember to ask Raymond where his father kept the washing machine.
The children followed her everywhere she went, especially Anne-Marie who never let Emilie slip from view. When Emilie turned with a armload of soiled linens blocking her view, she stumbled into Anne-Marie who stood so quietly that Emilie had not know her presence.
“Oh Anne-Marie, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to step on you,” she crooned and then dropped the bundle she was carrying and lowered herself to sit on the floor in front of the silent child. She opened her arms wide and beckoned the child onto her lap.
“Anne-Marie, when are you going to say some words for Emilie? I know you can talk, and I’d love to hear that pretty voice of yours,” she whispered into the child’s ear. Anne-Marie’s eyes danced with merriment, but she said not a word. Emilie gently hugged the child and kissed her rosy cheek, then released her.
As she watched the child run away in search of her brother she wondered what it was that had silenced the young child. More than anything she wanted to be able to reach this young one, but she knew to push at this stage would not get her any further with the child.
Emilie thought of Raymond’s recent admission. “One night my Dada was crying”. The notion of Raymond witnessing his father’s private pain distressed her immensely. She could not relate the vision of a weeping Karl to the man she was coming to know, but then she had not known him at the time of his wife’s death. Surely he had felt devastated to be left with two small children; surely he had felt loneliness the likes of which he had never felt before, and surely he had felt despair of ever having a normal home and family ever again.
Emilie pictured a weeping Karl, and felt a sudden kinship with the bereaved vision she imagined. She knew that she could help him, if he let her, and she knew even more that she could help his children. Already they seemed happier, more secure; imagine how much happier they would be if their father was happy too.
She lifted herself off the floor, brushed off her skirts, and with a new firm resolve in her heart, went off to find the two sweet children that she was beginning to love as surely as if they were her very own.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winter Wheat Chapter 5 begins....

As winter wrapped its icy blanket around the little house secluded on the Manitoba prairie, Emilie learned more about life on a prairie farm than she had ever dreamed possible. The next few days found her adapting to a life so at odds with her origins that at times she feared she must be dreaming. The harsh reality was that she would spend the winter in a cold drafty little house, miles from the nearest neighbor, without benefit of most of the comforts she had become accustomed to while living with the Tobers.
After that first morning she began badgering Karl about the frigid condition of the upstairs bedroom. She was determined to find a way to heat the shared room for the children’s sake, if not for her own.
Emilie learned very quickly that everything revolved around the wood stove. Without an efficiently running stove there was no heat, no water, and no food. As the snow fell faster and heavier, she struggled to learn the art of rousing a blazing fire early in the morning, and banking that same fire to smoldering coals at night.
Karl swallowed his temper time and again as he instructed her in the art of fire making. In his estimation this was one common chore she should have known prior to her arrival in his home.
“You have to open the damper, a fire needs air to get it going,” he explained again and again as she tried unsuccessfully to light the stove each morning.
“Emilie remember, without air you just get smoke.” He swore under his breath when her failed attempts resulted in the kitchen being filled with dense black smoke.
He’d start from the beginning again, showing her how to make kindling from pieces of bark and strips of wood shaved from the sides of the split logs. He showed her how to pile the kindling in the belly of the stove like one would build a Tee Pee, even though she had no idea what a “Tee Pee” was. When she finally constructed a perfect Tee Pee, he moved on to the next step without comment.
“Once you have a small fire going then pile more kindling on top, but use larger pieces, not the fine shredded stuff like before.”
Finally he instructed her when to place the split logs from the woodpile outside the door onto the fire. He showed her which way they should lay, and which way they should not; how many logs were too much; and how many were too little. He made her feed the fire all during the day and bank it every night, until he was satisfied that she could operate the stove just as efficiently as he.
He led her to the root cellar below his house, and showed her his winter store of potatoes, carrots, and turnips. They toured the meat house where a completely frozen side of beef hung suspended from the rafters. Three sturdy shelves across the back of the shed held packages of meat wrapped in brown paper, labeled and ready for use. He pulled one package off a shelf and displayed it as if it were a prize, “Each package is labeled - see this one’s a hind roast,” he boasted and she did not bother to enlighten him that she could not read even one of his English labels.
By the end of each day, they were barely speaking to each other. Karl - exhausted from repeating and explaining each instruction over and over again, and Emilie - heart sore from each failed attempt to impress her new employer.
Her only joy came from her time spent with the children. Raymond was more helpful than she could ever have imagined a small child to be, and Anne-Marie demanded only love, which Emilie quickly discovered she had an abundance of.
Four days after Emilie’s arrival Karl announced that it was time for him to venture to the mountains fifty miles away. He needed to cut their winter’s supply of firewood, and he needed to do it before the winter roads became impassable. Emily met this announcement with trepidation.
“You cannot possibly think of leaving so soon! There is still so much I do not know, so much I cannot do!” She quailed, even though she now realized that firewood was critical to their livelihood and survival.
“I don’t have a choice, if I don’t go now it will be too late. As it is, I’m already going much later than I normally would. I have arranged for Annie’s husband Fredrich, to come once a day to tend to the animals and do the outside chores. You know how to light a fire, so I know you won’t freeze; you know how to cook so I know you won’t starve, so what else is there? I have to go and that all there is to it!”
And that had been all there was to it. No amount of discussion would change Karl’s mind.
The day he was to depart, Emilie watched as he hauled a large duffel bag from his room, placed it on the kitchen table and made several trips back and forth from his bedroom filling it with thick socks, sweaters, extra gloves and scarves. Her apprehension grew as he haphazardly threw blankets, matches, and candles on top of his clothes.
Emilie packed a large box of food for his journey, all the while silently cursing her stubborn employer, and dreaming of excuses to prolong his leaving even further. The contents of her box included several loaves of bread, a jar of honey, dried coffee, beef stew left over from yesterdays dinner; a slab of cured bacon, a small bag of potatoes and a variety of cakes and cookies that she had already discovered Karl enjoyed as much as his children.
Emilie and the children stayed well out of his way as he put together the supplies that he would need for his solitary journey through the early-winter cold to his destination in the mountains. He would harness his two horses to a stone-boat - a contraption that resembled a giant sleigh but was actually no more than a hayrack with runners. Atop the platform he had constructed a little shanty, no larger than an outhouse. He would drive his team from inside the little building in relative comfort without being unduly exposed to the outside elements. When he pulled away from his yard, he would be leaving Emilie and his children virtually stranded, without any means of transportation, as the only horses he owned would be going with him.
Now, as he was almost ready to leave, she and the children watched Karl fasten the buckles of the duffel bag tightly, then lift the heavy bag off the table and place it on the floor beside his winter boots near the door. He returned to the table to get the box of food that Emilie had packed and added it to the rest of his belongings.
“Thanks for all the food. I should have more than enough to get me there and back without any problems.”
She merely nodded her head, and hugged the children standing at her side closer to her body.
“I should get to the mountains sometime tomorrow afternoon. I will stop at friends I know overnight, so I will be warm and dry for the night,” he might have been talking to himself for all the response he got from the three silent people waiting for him to leave.
Emilie clasped her hands around a shoulder of each child and tried to imagine how cold and tired he would be, standing as he would be for the entire journey. There was no heat and no bench in his little shanty on the sleigh. She wondered how one found the stamina to ride mile after mile across the frozen prairie without the comforts that until this very moment she had taken completely for granted.
“You will be careful, Karl?” she finally spoke, her voice almost a whisper as her fear of being left entirely alone for more than a few days surfaced once more. She could not take one more tragedy in her life, and she knew she would be no comfort to his children if he did not return safely.
Karl stilled his actions and regarded his housekeeper seriously. When was the last time he’d felt that his presence actually mattered to another human being other than his two small children? Not for a very long time, his silent answer surprised even himself. More than anything he wanted to tell her that he would return without fail, but he knew that danger lurked around many corners. To completely reassure her of his return would be foolhardy at best. She needed to be prepared for any eventuality, and his false assurances would not benefit her in this harsh world he lived in.
“I’ll be careful,” he answered her simply and sincerely. “You will be fine here with the children, I don’t have any doubt of that,” his calm deep voice did little to reassure, but his next words eased the tension around her heart somewhat. “I would not be leaving you alone if I did not trust that you and the children would be safe here at home,” he added quietly.
Emilie smiled faintly, “I will take good care of your children, Karl, . . . I promise you that.”
“I know that too . . .” he smiled and all of a sudden he was loathe to leave this cozy little home; his children, her . . . this woman whom up until just a few short days ago had been a complete stranger to him.
Emilie really wasn’t a stranger any more. It was impossible to live in such close quarters with someone and fail to notice certain things about them. Things like her love for children – she should have had children of her own clinging to those long full skirts she always wore. Her abilities as a homemaker – already his small house was feeling more like a home than it had in a very long time. There were nutritious meals on the table, cakes and cookies for him and the children. She had cleaned every room in the house except for his bedroom and suddenly his little abode had taken on a well cared-for appearance. Everywhere he looked he saw evidence of a woman’s touch - a doily on the table where only bare wood had shown before; blankets folded, beds made, pillows fluffed. As he stood before her preparing to say goodbye, he realized that in just a few short days, this small woman had become an important part of his and his children’s life.
“Bring the children down and use my room while I am gone. When I return we will make some changes and try to get more heat up to your room upstairs.”
Emilie’s smile lit her face. “Thank you Karl, I’m sure we will be more comfortable down here while you are gone.”
“Well I’d better be off,” Karl lowered to one knee before her and the children and reached across and lifted Anne-Marie up onto his knee. He cuddled the child close and gently kissed her pink cheek. “You be a good girl for Emilie, Anne-Marie.” The child remained silent, as he knew she would. Her big blue eyes saddened when he hugged her tightly and then released her back to the floor at Emilie’s feet.
He beckoned his son and instead of lifting him on to his knee like he had his sister, he placed him squarely in front of him and clasped a big hand on each of the boy’s small shoulders. He looked deeply in his son’s eyes. “You’re the man of the house now, Raymond,” the big hands squeezed gently. “I’m counting on you to look after Emilie and your sister. Do you think you can manage that, son?”
“I will, Dada.”
“Good boy.”
Karl rose from his crouched position and gently ruffled both small heads before he addressed Emilie.
“I’ll be no longer than a week. If I’m not home after a week, Fredrich will know what to do. He is a good man; you can rely on his help.”
She nodded silently and he turned to pull his warm sheepskin coat from the peg on the wall. He slipped his large body into it, donned a heavy wool cap scarf and gloves, and reached for the first of his belongings. When he straightened he witnessed the fear in Emilie’s eyes, and in an effort to comfort, he touched her shoulder briefly and then let his hand slide away.
“Goodbye Emilie,”
“Auf Wiedersehen, Karl.”
He hoisted his heavy duffel bag over one shoulder, bent for the remaining of his belongings, then shouldering his way out of his front door left the warmth and security of his small prairie home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Winter Wheat Chpter 4 ending...

It's Friday and I for one am so happy to finally have reached the end of the week. I am posting the rest of Chapter 4 today, and will take a break over the weekend. Monday will start Chapter 5 - Emilie's life is about to change drastically once again.
Have a great weekend everyone, stay safe, whatever you do...

Chapter 4 - ends

As delicate and refined as the woman appeared, for the second time since meeting her Karl realized that there was nothing at all delicate in the way she consumed her food. She tucked into her food like one who had been hungry many times in her lifetime. She left nothing behind; not a spot, not a crumb. He had never seen a woman eat this way in all his life. She ate like a hungry thresher! He couldn’t help the smile that briefly flickered across his face as he watched her polish off the large bowl of porridge.
Emilie looked up and found her new employer smiling at her. The appearance of unexpected merriment transformed his face, making him seem much younger than before. She smiled back at him and felt the softening that relaxed his features as he continued to hold her gaze.
“Dada, I am Emilie’s teacher,” Raymond’s high-pitched voice shattered the moment.
Karl turned his attention to his son. “You are her teacher?”
“Yes. Annie said I should be Emilie’s teacher, because she talks funny!”
“Son, Emilie does not talk funny; she just talks with an accent, that’s all.”
“What’s that?” Raymond was determined to understand why Emilie talked the way she did.
“What’s what?” Karl’s forehead puckered in the frown that he so often wore.
“An accendent?
He is a good father, Emilie thought to herself as she watched the exchange between father and son. Emilie knew instinctively that Karl held an abundance of bitterness deep inside his heart, but watching him with his children, a very different man emerged. With them he was gentle, patient, kind. He might have had a horrible marriage, like Martha had implied; but he loved his children more than life itself, that much was plainly evident.
“It’s just a word for speech that sounds different to what we are used to, Ray.”
“Well it sounds funny to me.”
Karl apologized for his son’s ignorance with an expression that painted his face a deep crimson.
“Maybe Emilie can be your teacher too, Ray. Maybe she will teach you to speak German.”
“Will you Emilie? Raymond’s smile lit the cozy little kitchen. “Will you teach me German?”
“Yes Raymond, I’d be happy to be your teacher.” She smiled at his excitement and knew that she and Raymond would get along just fine.
Mamma!” Anne-Marie held her empty bowl and spoon for Emilie to take away. All conversation stalled as the impact of Anne-Marie’s one voiced word made its way around the table.
Each person seated at the table had their own reaction to that one innocently spoken word. For Emilie it was embarrassment that she could be so easily mistaken for the deceased mother of the young child. Karl, felt incredible shock; firstly because it was the first word his daughter had uttered since the death of her mother, and secondly; because the woman who Annie-Marie had just called “Mamma” was not in any way like the mother the young child remembered. Raymond’s face, registered confusion upon hearing a word that had not been spoken in his home for many months.
Emilie reached to remove the empty bowl from the child’s outstretched hands all the while trying to think of something to say in response to the child’s quietly spoken declaration. She glanced nervously at Karl, only to find the same look of confusion on his face that must have registered on hers. He shrugged his shoulders and rose from the table, taking his and Raymond’s dishes with him. He moved to the sink and carelessly tossed the dishes in the enamel wash pan waiting there, then returned and removed Anne-Marie’s bowl from Emilie’s hand.
“I’m sorry” he said so softly that Emilie could barely hear his words. “She’s so young…”
Emilie sprang into action. Jumping up from her chair she wiped Anne-Marie’s face and hands then released the little girl from her high chair. Anne- Marie ran from the room as fast as her chubby little legs could take her, her face aglow with happiness, totally unaware of the indecorum of her softly spoken word.
Raymond left the table as well and would have followed his sister into the small living room, but Emilie stopped him before he had a chance to leave the room.
“Raymond, I think maybe you forgot to wipe your hands. Come and let Emilie do it for you,” she gently scolded the child. His eyes swung to his father’s as if to say, “Can she do this?” and when his father made no comment he shrugged his shoulders and complied with Emilie’s request.
As they watched Raymond leave to finally join his sister, Emilie said softly, “I don’t think Anne-Marie meant anything by what she said.”
“I don’t think so either, but if she says it again, we’d better correct her.”
He sensed that his new housekeeper was not in agreement, but she surprised him by nodding her head. For one fleeting moment he wondered what kind of a mother this young German woman would make to his children. He was almost certain that she would never leave them as their own mother had, but he quickly pushed the notion firmly from his mind as his thoughts strayed to his deceased wife.
Death was unavoidable, but his children’s mother had left them long before she had left this earth. She had stopped caring, stopped loving, and stopped mothering those two long before she had had drawn her last breath, and because of that he could never again entrust the lives of his children to another woman they could call mother. No, it was better for them to have a housekeeper who could perform all the duties of a mother, someone’s love they would not come to depend upon. He would not see their small hearts broken ever again, this he vowed as he followed his children’s laughter that filled the small confines of his imperfect world.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

craftbuddy and Winter Wheat Chapt 4 begins

I love to surf the net looking for craft sites, free patterns, new ideas. A couple of years ago I stumbled on a site which encouraged one to build a profile, share your ideas, your thoughts... It also had a forum, and I remember thinking... gee I don't know if it's safe to be on a forum, maybe I shouldn't go on - and then there was hubby in the background adamantly discouraging me to participate in a forum discussion because... I can't remember the because. So like a kid, because everyone forbade it - I did it! LOL!

That one rebellious decision turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. On this site, and in particular in the forums, I found the kindest, honest, heart-felt people I have ever met... and I mean this with all sincerity. I don't care where you go online, and who you talk to online - you will never find a group like this anywhere, but at

Like all things on the web, Craftbuddy (the site) has gone through a tough spot of late, but the same dedicated people who have become my dearest friends have all rallied together to get it back on it's feet and restore it to the best craft site on the net... So if you have never been there, and are curious or if you have been there and have wanted to return... now is the time...

Sign in, build your profile and join us on this very special site, where crafters meet to share, talk, swap, challenge and do what we do best... craft. See you there.

Winter Wheat Chapter 4 begins

The gentle pop of the stovepipe expanding as it heated awakened Emilie from a deep sleep the next morning. She had no idea what time it was, but it was still dark, so it was early. She could hear someone moving about on the main floor below, and the clang of the stove reservoir cover being lowered in place alerted her that her first day on this prairie farm had begun.
She lifted her head from the pillow and peered through the darkness to the children’s side of the room. She had pined the curtain aside before retiring to bed the night before; now she had a clear view of the two small beds, they were both empty.
“Mein! Wieviel Uhr ist es?” She flung the heavy covers aside and hurriedly sprang from the bed, the moment her feet hit the cold floor and she yelped and jumped back onto the bed.
“Does the man have no rugs!” she muttered, her feet once more tucked beneath the covers as she leaned over the edge of the bed and reached for her overstuffed bag.
“No rugs! Kalt, kalt… cold!” she addressed the empty room as if there was a room full of people listening to her tirade.
Finding her knitted slippers, she quickly donned them on her frigid feet and rose from the bed. She shivered wildly. She had been warm enough under the heavy protection of the feather quilts and extra blankets that were piled high on the bed, but now out from under their warm protection, she was chilled to the bone. She threw the heavy chenille robe that Martha had given her over her shoulders, slipped her arms in the sleeves and tied the sash with a firm tug. Tucking her cold hands up the sleeves of her robe she made her way to the warmer rooms down the stairs.
The scene that greeted her as she stopped on the last stair before entering the kitchen brought a lump to her throat. Karl Wright sat at the kitchen table his hair a tussled mess sticking out at all angles from his head. He looked as if he’d dressed in a hurry as the top of his long underwear, worn instead of a shirt, was buttoned haphazardly revealing more than a glimpse of a muscular chest heavily covered with thick golden hair. The suspenders attached to his trousers dangled to the floor as if he had not yet had the opportunity to slip his arms through them. His feet were bare, and he was in dire need of a shave.
Directly in front of him on the table sat two bowls of steaming porridge, one filled to the top, the other barely half full. As she watched he took a tiny spoonful of the smaller portion, blew on it a moment and offered it to the female cherub sitting in the high chair in front of him. Tucked close to his other side sat Raymond, who fed himself from his own bowl, his eyes alternating from his bowl to his father’s hand, as it swung by him on the way to his sister’s lips.
At first no one noticed her standing on the bottom stair uncertainly, but then Raymond spied her. “Good morning, Emilie,” he said with his mouth full of his breakfast.
Karl spun around on his chair so quickly that he almost upended himself and his chair to the floor.
“Ray, don’t talk with your mouth full of food,” he admonished, as he took in the sight of Emilie standing on the bottom step, her slipper-covered toes curled around the edge of the stair board, as if that alone would hold her upright. To a man who had not been in the company of a woman for many months, she was a vision to behold. Her dazzling blue eyes danced enticingly as she regarded his children; all traces of her former tiredness were now gone. Her long honey-brown hair fell to her shoulder in a long thick braid, the end of which came to rest just above her right breast. The thick pink chenille robe she wore covered her completely from neck to ankle, but that didn’t stop the male in him from imagining what lay beneath it.
Karl swallowed hard and cleared his throat, but his voice still cracked when he spoke. “Good morning, Emilie, I hope you slept well,” he said inanely, before returning his attention to his daughter, who was now becoming impatient to finish her breakfast.
“Guten Morgen.”
“What’d she say?” Raymond addressed his father seriously.
“I think she said Good Morning in German.”
“What’s German?”
“German is the language that people living in Germany speak. That’s where Emilie comes from – a country called Germany.”
Emily smiled at their conversation and turned her full attention to the little girl in the high chair.
“Good morning, Lieben,” she crooned softly to the child. “Can I feed you while your Papa has his own breakfast?”
“That’s okay, I can finish feeding her,” Karl filled the spoon with more porridge and returned to his task. “There is hot cereal on the stove, help yourself to some breakfast. The bowls are in the cupboard above the sink.”
“Nonsense Karl, you finish your meal, I will eat later.” She approached Karl’s side and held out her hand ready to receive the spoon from him.
Karl shrugged his massive shoulders and handed the child’s spoon over to her. He picked up his own bowl of cereal and moved to sit on the other side of his son. He watched as Emilie sat in the chair he had just vacated, and proceeded to feed his daughter as if she had been doing it every morning since the child’s birth.
“Why does she not feed herself?”
“Oh she can, I just find it’s quicker for me to do it. When I am alone I am often in a rush so it has just become easier for me to feed her,” Karl answered around a mouthful of his own food, just as he’d cautioned his son not to do only moments before.
Emilie studied the small child before her, then smiled brightly, “Anne-Marie, I think starting today, you will feed yourself.”
She picked up the bowl and spoon and placed both on the little table attached to the highchair.
“Here you go Anne-Marie,” She watched as the young child took the spoon and began to feed herself.
As soon as Emilie had determined that Anne-Marie was capable of handling the job at hand she excused herself and went to the cupboard. She retrieved a bowl from the second shelf above the sink, spooned a generous portion of porridge into the bowl and resumed her seat at the table. She reached across the table for the jar of sugar, sprinkled a small amount on her cereal and accepting the jug of milk that Raymond slid across the table, lifted it and poured a generous amount over the contents in her bowl. She smiled brightly to all who shared the table with her, then proceeded to consume her morning meal in less time than it had taken Karl to prepare it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Winter Wheat - Chapter 3 ends today.

I have lived all my life with modern conveniences, so writing parts of a story set in the 1920's has been an interesting experience for me. Thankfully I grew up in an era where I was able to experience an out-house (at the farm when I was a child) and a chamber pot (at the lake at our trailer, also when I was a child).

Four years ago we travelled to Dawson City Yukon to visit my brother and his family. My brother is an out-doors kind of guy, loves nature, loves roughing it in the wild, and believe it or not still has an outdoor biffy. Apparently there is nothing as grand as sitting in the biffy with the door open and watching the Northern Lights... who knew! I thought it so humorous that I wrote this poem for his favorite little "outdoor room".

I have modified the title from the original so as not to offend anyone.... Sorry Wayne...


Now there are those who’d say, I guess,
That my subject matter stinks.
I’m not bothered by that in the least,
So I’ll tell you what I thinks.

Never a better invention was made,
Nor a better service to man;
Than the ordinary biffy, outhouse, or what,
Is more commonly known as the “can”.

Now time was back then, a peculiar thing;
It stretched mighty long indeed.
A fella’d have time to stroll to the bush
Whenever he’d feel the need.

The ladies it seemed, rejected the notion,
That traipsing the bush was a hoot.
They designed a shed, placed over a hole,
Then built the dam thing to boot!

Soon everyone had the contraption,
Set up in a private spot.
Where one could go to while away
Without being cursed, or caught.

As time went on they became fancy,
And grew from one hole to two.
You’d laugh if I told you that nowadays,
They have heat and electricity too!

There’s not but a few left around now,
And most in extreme disrepair;
If you find one still upright and waiting,
Plant your cheeks down, and say you were there!

Dale Graumann

And now the last part of Winter Wheat Chapter 3

Karl drew the horses up to the front of the house and stopped the wagon in front of the door. Emilie had no time to take in her surroundings because he jumped down from the wagon and reached over the seat and lifted his sleeping son high over his shoulder.
“You might as well come in so I can show you were this one sleeps,” he addressed Emilie who still sat on the wagon’s bench. “I’ll come back for Anne-Marie in a moment.”
Emilie lowered herself awkwardly to the ground and followed Karl into the dark house. He did not stop to light a lamp but continued through what looked like a living room into the kitchen and to a steep stairway leading to the bedroom upstairs. Taking two stars at a time he went up the staircase and entered the large room that ran the full width of the house. A long threadbare curtain hung down the middle of the room separating the room into two individual spaces.
Emilie followed him carefully up the dark staircase and when she entered the room he had disappeared into, Raymond was already lying across a small bed, and Karl was lighting a lamp at the bedside.
“If you will get him undressed and into bed, I will get Anne-Marie,” he said to her before, turning and hurrying down to the sleeping child still out in the cold night air.
Emilie gently removed the young boy’s boots and the cocoon of heavy wool clothes that encased his small body. The child mumbled something, but did not waken. A pair of boy’s pajamas lay under the pillow on the bed, but Emilie decided not to wake the child to change his clothes. She gently lifted his sleeping form and settled him into the bed, then covered him carefully with the thick feather comforter and gently brushed the hair on his forehead with her fingertips.
Guten Nacht, Raymond,” she whispered softly to the sleeping child. She turned to find Karl standing just behind her with his small daughter cradled securely in his arms. A deep perplexing frown suddenly appeared across his forehead.
“Anne-Marie sleeps in that other bed - there,” he pointed to the other small bed that was tucked tightly up against Raymond’s, forming an L shape in the center of the small space.
Without answering him, Emilie lifted the sleeping child from his arms, and walked toward Anne-Marie’s bed. She performed the same tasks on the sister as she had on the brother and within minutes the little girl was tucked safely and securely in her own bed.
Karl picked the lamp up from the table and waited by the curtain for Emilie to join him.
“Your room is through here,” he moved the curtain aside and entered the other side of the room. He placed the lamp on the bedside table. “I’ll get your things,” he said, before quickly disappearing down the staircase once again.
Emilie surveyed her side of the room and sighed deeply; her new bedroom lacked much in the way of decor, but the essentials were all there. The bedstead was wrought iron and at one time must have been quite handsome, but someone at some time had covered it with white paint, which now was peeling in many places. A washstand containing a pitcher and bowl stood by the wall at the foot of the bed, a cracked mirror hung crookedly on the wall above it. The small night table standing beside the bed was bare, except for the lamp that Karl had just placed there. The window on the far side of the room was frozen over with ice, and there was evidence of frost and ice in the cracks and crevices of the walls and ceiling. A thick black pipe arose from the floor and continued through to the ceiling above and out through the roof. Emilie presumed this was her only source of heat. By morning there would be little warmth offered from the big stovepipe.
She lowered herself to the edge of the bed and contemplated her surroundings. The only good thing about the space was that she was close to the children. If they were to awaken in the night she would be sure to hear them, but she worried about them sleeping in such a cold and drafty room, for their side of the curtain lacked the stovepipe and the minimal comfort it provided. She wondered where Karl slept, then realized that perhaps the bed she now sat on was actually his bed. Maybe he had moved somewhere else in the house in order for her to have a comfortable bed to sleep in.
Emilie heard Karl’s footsteps returning back up the stairs and before she could rise from the bed he was back in the room. He carried her trunk on his back and across his shoulders and as she watched he carefully lowered it to the floor a short distance from where she sat.
He straightened and turned to look at her. “You must be tired. I will get the rest of your things and then I think you should turn in for the night.” He noticed the droop of her shoulders and the faint tint of purple beneath her eyes. She would probably be out cold like his children, the moment her head hit the pillow he thought, as he watched her tiredly struggle to her feet.
“If you would just tell me where die Einrichtungen is?”
Karl frowned and scratched the wool cap on his head.
“Die Einrichtungenwaschen…” Emily pantomimed a person washing their hands, face and arms.
“The washroom!” Enlightenment cleared his brow from the frown that Emilie was beginning to think was his most common facial expression.
“Yes, the toilet, and waschen area!”
He chuckled softly, “The toilet is under your bed - there,” he pointed to the white enameled chamber pot that peeked out from under the bed, “unless of course you want to go outside to the outhouse, which I wouldn’t advise at this time of night. As far as the bathing area, I have a tub for bathing but we only use it once a week and then we all share the water for our baths. You’ll have to make do with the bowl there,” he nodded his head to the direction of the nightstand to the ceramic pitcher and bowl she had spotted earlier. “I don’t think there will be any hot water tonight as the fire has been out all day, so maybe you’d better put that off for the morning too.”
Emilie’s blue eyes widened reminding him of two large pools of spring fed water. A man could almost drown in those eyes, he thought to himself as he watched the color fade from her face at his words.
“You mean you don’t have an indoor room?”
“This isn’t the city, Miss Frieheit,” he answered her shortly. He was embarrassed that she would think his home inadequate. He had worked very hard for the conveniences he did have. “I have an indoor pump at the sink, but it will be frozen now. If you want, I can heat some snow and unfreeze the pump for you, but it will only be frozen again by morning. It will take an hour or so for the stove to heat the water hot enough for you be able to wash in, but if you have to have hot water tonight, I’ll be more than happy to get it for you!” His voice held a definite tone of impatience and an overabundance of sarcasm.
“That won’t be necessary, I can wait until morning. If you don’t mind, I will retire then,” she said quietly then added with emphasis, “As soon as you bring the rest of my things.
Karl turned away and hurried to get the rest of her belongings. The sooner she was out of his sight and mind, the sooner he would be able to relax for the night. For some reason he felt all keyed-up and he wanted more than anything to get this long, aggravating day over with. He was tired and needed a darn good rest, especially if he was supposed to behave as a gracious host, to his new housekeeper come morning!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Potato Soup for the soul, and Winter Wheat Chapter 3 cont'd/

When I was researching the Great Depression to write Winter Wheat, I came across many accounts of large families surviving the winter on simple fare made from a couple of potatoes or a couple of turnips. Sometimes when there was no meat, potatoes and turnips or any such root crop which could be wintered in a cellar were the main source of food for very large families. Even farm families went through this from time to time, especially during the "Dirty Thirties" when drought pretty much wiped out any hope of crops or gardens.

My Dad, who grew up during the Depression Years, was a terrific soup-maker - and his specialty was Potato soup. On the rare day when my mother could not cook a meal, we would get potato soup - made by Dad. To this day it is the only potato soup I'll eat.

Here's how he makes it.

Boil some potoatoes in water until just tender - not mushy. In the meantime gently heat whole milk (I'd use 2% or 1%) but then the flavor seems to be missing and about 1/2 c butter - more if you like a buttery flavor.

When the milk is just beginning to boil add the potatoes, some minced onion, lots of salt and pepper, and reduce heat, cover until onions are clear.

We always ate this soup with my Mom's homemade bread, and that was a Saturday meal.

As good as it was I can't imagine eating it day in and day out. Dad said as the days wore on the soupmaker got very inventive, adding ingredients that often would not normally be combined in one pot.

Now I have a taste for some of Dad's potato soup.. at the price of a bag of potatoes now a days, I don't think we can consider it a poor mans soup anymore.

Well Emilie's new neighbours Anna and Frederich don't have a shortage of food, so we rejoin our story now with the second part of Chapter 3 where Karl has just announced that he will be leaving Emilie alone with his children in a few days time.

Winter Wheat Chapter 3 - cont'd:

Annie rushed to the table and refilled their cups with warm tea. She could spot an argument a mile off, and this one was brewing much closer to home. “No need to fret, my dear. We all have been alone at one time or another, when our men have gone off for work - or to get wood, like my Fredrich is now. You get used to it. And anyway, you will have the children, so you will not be alone at all!” She said cheerfully as if Emilie would be luckier than most to have her small companions to keep her company.
“But I know little or nothing about farming!” Emilie insisted fervently, panic gripping her heart, squeezing it tightly.
“Well then you should have stayed in the city,” Karl’s low voice answered her. “People who don’t know about farm life have no business saying that they do!”
“I never said that I knew anything about farming!” Emilie’s hot retort pierced the room. How dare this man think he could treat her in this manner? Here she had come all these miles just to help him, and he was treating her like she had tricked him in some way.
“Now Karl, give the girl a chance.” Annie said softly as she placed a large slice of cake in front of him. “Emilie will do just fine, you’ll see.”
Annie put Emilie’s cake on the table in front of her and gently patted Emilie’s shoulder in passing. “Eat your cake Dear,” she whispered before moving to sit on one of the empty chairs beside Emilie.
Emilie’s appetite had vanished; in fact she was beginning to feel more than a little ill. What she really wanted to do was lay her head down on the table and have a good cry; but she wouldn’t dare let the man sitting across the table from her know that he had in any way upset her.
Instead, she raised her chin and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m sure if Karl gives me a few days to get acquainted with things before he leaves, I’ll be just fine.”
Karl made no response to her announcement but instead finished his cake, drained his cup, and pushed away from the table. He spoke to Annie, and deliberately ignored Emilie’s presence at the table.
“I think we should be going home now, Annie. I thank you kindly for the warm meal, and for keeping the children today. If you could get them ready, I will go see to the horses.” He glanced to where Emilie still sat stiffly in her chair, “I should be ready to leave in about ten minutes,” he informed her, before turning away from both women and heading for the hook on the wall that held his coat.
Annie and Emilie sat quietly while he dressed for the frigid weather, and watched as he let himself quietly out the door. With the soft thud of the heavy door closing behind him, both women sighed. Annie rose from her chair and placed her hands on Emilie’s shoulders.
“Come dear, we must wake the children and get them ready,” she said quietly to Emilie, who remained sitting at the table. “You must not mind Karl; he will come around in time. He is a good man, our Karl, it’s just that he has been through so much,” she sighed tiredly, her thoughts focused entirely on her young neighbor, and his two small children.
“Karl is not the only one who has seen loss, Annie,” Emilie answered her sadly. She pushed away from the table and rose to face the older woman. “Someday I will tell you another sad story, but not today. Let’s see to those two children now,” Emilie insisted, as she followed Annie to the bedroom at the back of the small house.
The children were sleeping soundly when the two women entered the bedroom. While Annie uncovered the boy, Raymond, Emilie reached for the little girl, Anne-Marie. Both children mumbled in their sleep, but only Raymond awoke fully. His large blue eyes opened slowly and pinned Emilie with a trance-like stare that was so much like his father’s that Emilie was momentarily stunned. The child then turned his attention to Annie. A bright smile lit his face, transforming his chubby face from solemn to pure mischief in seconds. Emilie wondered if that same transformation would be evident in the father, if he’d ever smile that way.
“Is my Dada home?” The young lad asked, as Annie started to dress him in a heavy gray woolen snowsuit. His eyes flitted from Annie to the strange woman who was dressing his sister on the bed beside him.
“Yes, he’s home, and this lady is your new housekeeper, Emilie,” Annie informed him softly, as she buttoned the snowsuit up to his neck. “Emilie is going to be living with you and your sister and your Dada from now on, so you must be good for her just like you are for old Annie, huh!”
Raymond eyed Emilie skeptically but did not say a word.
“I’m sure Raymond will be a very good boy for me,” Emilie said softly and smiled at the child.
“She talks funny,” Raymond whispered to Annie conspicuously.
“That’s because she comes from very far away - from a different country than here. You will have to help Emilie with her English, Raymond. You can be her teacher, how does that sound?” Annie smiled at the serious expression on the child’s face.
His expression brightened. “Okay! I will be your teacher, Emilie!” he announced proudly.
The children, wrapped in their winter outfits and ready for the outdoors were carried to the kitchen, where Emilie proceeded to bundle herself up for her return into the cold night air. As she struggled to pull on her tight boots the door flew open and Karl entered the room. His face lit with a gentle smile that completely transformed his looks, when he saw his young offspring dressed and waiting for his return.
He reached to take the still sleeping Anne-Marie from Annie’s arms. As he hugged her close to his heart, he turned to his small son. “Raymond, you take Miss Freiheit’s hand, so you don’t fall down in the snow.” Karl thanked Annie once again for her help, glanced at Emilie in passing, and then headed back out the door to where the team of horses waited patiently.
Emilie followed him out the door calling a hasty farewell to Annie on her way out as she and Raymond struggled to catch up to Karl’s long legged strides. She watched as Karl lowered the sleeping child into a small manger-like box in the back of the wagon and gently tucked a pile of blankets firmly around her sleeping form, face and all. He bent at the waist and lifted his son up onto the wagon seat then stood beside the wagon patiently while Emilie once again tried to climb up onto the seat. With a muttered curse he grabbed her around the waist and swung her easily up onto the wagon’s platform.
“I would have made it on my own,” Emilie protested at his high-handed manner.
“Yes, but we might have all frozen to death while we waited,” he quipped smugly, as he rounded the wagon and sprung up onto the seat.
Once again they set off along the deserted winter road. Emilie could immediately feel how much colder the night air had become. Raymond snuggled close to his father, and Emilie watched as the child’s head began to bob up and down as he nodded off to sleep.
“I think Raymond has fallen asleep,” Emilie said quietly to the large man at the other end of the seat. “Should I hold him so he doesn’t fall?”
“No, he’ll be fine where he is,” Karl answered just as quietly without glancing at either her or the child.
Emilie resumed her silence once more and with the gentle rocking of the wagon, the comforting effects of the heavy meal she had consumed and Annie’s warm hospitality still fresh in her mind, she began to nod off in sleep as well.
“Don’t fall off the bench.” Karl’s voice startled her out of her near-sleep state. “I wouldn’t want to have to pick you up off the ground or run over you,” he chuckled softly to himself.
“I have no intention falling off anything! “ Emilie bristled and quickly pulled herself upright on the hard wooden bench seat.
“One more nod and you would have been over the side,” he teased lightly, his attention now on her instead of the road ahead. “Maybe I should put you in the back with Anne-Marie.”
“I can assure you I will not fall off this wagon,” she shot back at him, irritated with the notion that he thought her child enough to have to ride in the back of the wagon.
The horses whinnied softly and Emilie realized that they were approaching a farmyard. As Karl slowed the team to make the turn into the drive, Emilie squinted to see if she could see her new home.
“Okay girls,” Karl’s baritone voice softly crooned to his team, “Soon you will be in your nice warm barn with some fresh hay.”
He talks to those two horses like he was speaking to his ladylove, Emilie thought, amazed at the warmth she heard in her employers’ voice. His voice, warm and low obviously comforted and seduced the beasts as they lumbered the last few steps into the farmyard.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I was thinking about Emilie's horse and wagon ride this weekend as I drove out to a small rural town about 2 hours from Winnipeg to attend a bridal shower.

About 3 yrs ago, a Amish settlement from Ontario moved into the Plumas area. They bought land as it became available and slowly moved families into an area which was dominated by large family farms, mostly still owned by current generations of immigrants from the late 1800's and early 1900's.

The Amish caused quite a stir initially, uproar might be more appropriate - but they have won over their neighbours and seem to have settled comfortably in their new environment. We passed farm after farm where children dressed in long dresses and bonnets, overalls and round black hats played. Some farms the children were working in gardens, on one farm two young lads were on the top of a shed, attaching a roof. Horses attaced to carrages, horse droppings on the highways... all made me think of life years ago.

Certainly we have progressed beyond the way of life of the Amish - but who is to say that our progression has been for the best. It certainly is wonderful to think that in this day and age, there are people who can live life simply in amongst the rest of us who tend to live in Chaos.
Next time I am out in this area of the country, I intend to pull in to one of these yards. I want to meet them, I want to be friends with them, and I want to learn from them. Hummmm..... much to ponder -

Winter Wheat Chapter 3 - beginning

The house they approached was small - smaller than any Emilie had ever seen before. In the dark it appeared more of a cabin than a house; but it seemed sturdy enough, as it stood surrounded by dense bush on one side, and empty space on the other. Emilie wondered if Karl’s home would be a replica of this one, and if it were; would she survive the confines of such a small abode?
While Karl tended to his horses and wagon, Emilie made her way to the tiny cabin-like house. The door flew open as she approached, spreading warmth from inside and lighting the plank stoop where she stood. A small, plump, gray-haired woman held the heavy door ajar, and beckoned with her free hand waving wildly in her excitement.
“Come in, please. Come in dear,” the words were accompanied by a generous smile and a not-so-gentle shove into the room. “You must be Emilie,” the tiny woman quipped brightly. “Welcome to my home. I am Karl’s closest neighbor, Annie. My husband is Fredrich, but he is up at the mountains at this moment, cutting our winter’s supply of firewood.” She said without stopping for a breath.
“I am Emilie Freiheilt, I am happy to meet you Annie.”
“Well Emilie,” the little woman beamed her joy at having another woman in her home, “Get out of those heavy clothes and come and warm yourself over here by the fire,” she pointed to the lively fire that heated the small combination kitchen- dining room.
Emilie removed her heavy coat and dainty boots and handed them to Annie.
“Oh my dear, your feet must be freezing!” Annie inspected Emilie’s inadequate footwear and shook her head. “These boots will have to go Dear, they are not suitable to wear out here on the prairie! Just stay right there, I’ll get you some warm socks for your feet.” Annie tore off into the adjacent room and returned with a pair of heavy gray wool socks large enough to fit a man. She thrust them at Emilie. “Here, put these on dear, they’ll warm your toes in no time!”
Emilie did as she was told and then followed her new neighbor to the low sofa that was placed before the fire. The room was so small that it held very little in the way of furnishings. A small wooden rocker, presumably Annie’s, sat beside a round table, which held only a glowing lamp and a bible. On the floor beside the rocker was a large basket full of colorful yarns with a pair of knitting needles protruding out of the middle of a project already in progress. A colorful rag rug, large enough to cover most of the wooden floor, added a nice homey touch to the room. Above the mantel of the fireplace hung several family pictures and a tin matchbox with peeling green paint.
The other end of the room obviously served as the kitchen and eating area, for there was a huge wood-stove, a cupboard with an attached sink, and several freestanding closets. A large wooden table dominated the space between the stove and where she now sat.
“I saved some supper for you and Karl,” Annie informed her, as she busily went about setting the table and dishing wonderful smelling food into the bowls and plates.
“Where are die Kinder?” Emilie asked, curious to see the young children who would be her responsibility from this day on.
“Oh the children are asleep already. They have been waiting for their Dada to get home and I think they just plumb got tired of waiting,” the little woman chuckled as she continued to set out the supper.
“You verstehe German?”
Annie smiled but shook her head. “No, but I think everyone knows a word or two of the language around here. We have quite a few German-speaking families in the area.”
“Oh . . .”
The heavy door opened and Karl stepped through bringing a cold blast of winter inside with him. He glanced Emilie’s way, and his eyes took in her slender feminine form that was more visible now that her heavy clothing had been removed.
She wore a heavy brown plaid wool dress with a deep pleated skirt that covered her legs to mid calf. The top of the dress was buttoned to the waist, a tiny collar barely covered the scooped neckline, and a matching belt was cinched tightly at her waist. His eyes traveled down her stocking clad legs to the huge gray work socks that obviously belonged to Fredrick and he stifled the chuckle that threatened within as he turned his attention to Annie.
“Greetings neighbor!” Annie rushed to take Karl’s heavy sheepskin coat. “It’s getting mighty cold out there, isn’t it?” She said to the silent man who appeared a giant in the small room. She noticed the long silent perusal her neighbor had made of his new housekeeper, and smiled to herself as she returned her attention to preparing the meal.
“It’s that all right, Annie,” Karl made his way to the sink and lifting the lid on the reservoir on the stove, ladled some boiling hot water into the basin. He added cold water from a pail on the floor and as he washed his hands asked, “Is Fredrich not home yet?”
“No. He must be going to stay longer than he intended.” She glanced at Emilie. “Come Emilie, dinner is set. Come have your meal; you too Karl; sit while it is hot!”
Karl took the nearest chair and lowered his large frame onto it. Emilie stood uncertainly not sure where she was to sit. When no one enlightened her, she took the seat directly opposite him across the table
The food smelled delicious and Emilie’s stomach growled loudly in anticipation.
Karl chuckled softly, “Her stomach has been doing that all the way from town,” he informed Annie, his slow smile spreading across his face with more animation than Emilie had seen from him thus far.
So, he can have fun when it’s at someone else’s expense, Emilie thought to herself. Well, at least now she knew the man was capable of smiling when the mood struck him.
“Go ahead and dig in girl,” Annie ordered happily, “It’s not fancy food, but it’s hot and it’s filling,” she said of her hearty supper of meat stew with potatoes, carrots, turnips, freshly baked bread, pickles and strong hot tea.
Emilie didn’t need to be told twice. She filled her plate and dug into her food like one who hadn’t eaten in days. She ate slowly, relishing each and every bite of the delicious, filling meal.
Karl did the same, and watched with disbelief as the small slip of a girl across the table from him, consumed almost the same portion as he did. “The children behaved for you, Annie?” He asked, while pretending not to watch his new housekeeper too closely.
“Oh they are dears, those two,” Annie brushed away his inquiry. “They are no trouble to me, I love them dearly,” she added, a bright smile lighting her small round face.
“Even so, they can still be a handful sometimes,” Karl insisted.
“No doubt for you they are, Karl; but that is because you have so many other things on your mind. Now that you have Emilie to help, things will be better, you’ll see,” she smiled at Emilie and watched her neighbor’s face form a frown.
“I am looking forward to meeting the Kinder . . . children,” Emilie said cheerfully. “I have heard so much about them from Martha, that I feel I already know them!”
“You will have no trouble with them,” Annie informed her from where she stood at the counter, busily cutting cake for their dessert.
Karl listened to the two women prattling on about the care of his children and wondered how he was going to fare with a complete stranger living under his roof. Lord knew it was hard enough dealing with a woman you knew, let alone having to deal with one you didn’t. His wife had been so moody and depressed for so much of their married life that he couldn’t even remember the happy days any more; if indeed there had been any. It had been so hard to know what her mood was from day to day and in the end he had just given up trying to figure it out. All he knew was that he couldn’t go through that again.
He realized that Annie had asked him a question when two pairs of eyes were trained upon his face, obviously waiting for a response to something that had been said.
“I’m sorry, Annie. What was that you said?” He asked, embarrassed to be caught daydreaming in front of his new employee.
“I was just telling Emilie, that soon you would be going to the mountains to cut your wood as well.”
He looked at Emilie and nodded his head in agreement. “That’s right. I need to be going just as soon as I can get away. Now that you are here, I can go any day soon.”
Emilie put her fork down slowly. “You mean you will be leaving me alone with the children?”
“Well yes! We will need wood for the winter as well!” His tone of voice implied that she should know this simple fact of life. He watched Emilie’s face pale and wondered just what about his proposed trip up to the mountains to cut his wood, shocked her so.