Slipping past the Summer Solstice . . . What’s Going On At Our Place, part 1

sunset on plains

Sunsets can be spectacular here in Nebraska.

Gentle Readers, it has been a good long time since I’ve connected with you. The gardens are growing very quickly; the weeds are amazingly lush; AND (I’m not making this up) those rascally Russian hackers actually got into the warp and woof of my blog and installed a virus, which sent my innocent gentle readers other (bad) places (sorry!) and also red-flagged my web address as be a MAJOR TROUBLEMAKER, which (frankly) I consider not at all fair. To me. Boo.

A word to you ne’er-do-well hackers, something my Dad might have said to me when I was a little girl and got into trouble for doing something (that my sister did and I got blamed for probably, ha!):

If you’d put all those smarts and energy to doing something constructive instead of destructive, you might actually accomplish something!

Shoot. And by the way, my smarty-pants IT guy found the little message you wrote into the virus; it was in Russian (of course), and he translated it, so there. We know your secrets. Go away and don’t come back.

Anyway! I’m going to try to reclaim this space from the scurrilous forces out there in the interweb hinterlands, with a two-part What’s Going On at Our Place post. Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, my friend. Grab yourself a nice muffin or a piece of chocolate, too. Put your feet up for a few minutes; you probably don’t do that often enough. πŸ™‚

Aaaand let’s begin.

May and June are not generally the months during which we worry about drought, overweening heat and strange horticultural phenom (like all my tender crops bolting as if it were late July). Until this year, that is. But, oh well. What can one do? One can pull up the sprangly kale and the bolting lettuces and the flowering mizuna and toss it all to the chickens and replant; one can soldier on and look forward to rain and cooler temps, which will come eventually. One hopes. With all ones heart.

We just passed the summer solstice, and my heart is racing at that. Summer is going too quickly! Have we taken enough bike rides, enough trips to the pool, had enough picnics to make a proper summer? (Answer: not yet!)

Have you heard about this trend: to pick a word to focus on for the year or the season? I actually thought about this for a few moments on New Year’s Eve and chose the word “peace.” Of course when the world (or most of it) is frozen outside, I can contemplate a concept like peace. I tend to stress about things during the growing season (if Mack were in the room with me and if I were reading this aloud–which I would not–he would be nodding his head vigorously in agreement. Mack’s word (actually, phrase) has got to be “Don’t worry about it, Mom.”

As per: Me: “The kids are coming over for supper, honey, I need you to help me clean–”

Him: .“Don’t worry about it, Mom. Nobody cares what the house looks like.”

Me:I care. Now c’mon, let’s do a quick–”

Him: “Mom. If I call Andrew and Sonia and Timothy and Catie and Bethie and Saia and Grandpa and Grandma and ask them if they care if the house is clean or not and they all say


which they will–can we skip the Home Blessing?”



Nevertheless, I contemplated peace. For one day. Or two. It’s a whole lot easier for me to contemplate the word chaos. I just have more experience with it, being a mother of six, ya know, not to mention having a predilection for accumulating little critters, which rob one of peace in every conceivable way. How many hours per day should I work to tame the chaos around here, anyway? How behind can I get before I lose all self-respect? Isn’t a little bit of chaos (or–a–lot–??) the marker of a busy and creative life??!

And finally: do they make blinders in my size? *pulling up* The answer:


But. Hey. They do make blinders for chickens. I’m not making this up. They are supposed to discourage rambunctious chickens from picking at each other. (Image from Wikipedia) Interesting . . . eh?

Okay, ’nuff about words and weather and chicken blinders. Let’s get on to the raison d’etre of this post, that is to say, to catch all you lovely gentle readers up on the goings-on of our life and times.

Let’s start with chickens, okay, since they’ve been mentioned?

Meat chooks and a few pullets in the chicken tractor

My cute daughter, with an armful of rhubarb.

I’m got a passel of meat chooks, a few pullets, and a few bitty Icelandic chicks all hanging out together in the chicken tractor, aka The Summer House.Β 

It won’t be long before the meat chooks meander down to Freezer Camp, and at that time the cute little pullets and Icies will be established into the main coop. Then . . . (I haven’t told Bryan this yet, bless him) I’ll probably raise another batch of Icies, just because. (Unless my persistent broody, Morwenna, accomplishes her task and hatches out a family herself, which would be even better).

You’ll remember that last year we had a baffling rout of the contents of the chicken coop. We think it was a weasel. A weasel with a mean streak. An evil weasel. Or a passel of weasels.

And that, my friends, would be a great title for a children’s picture book. πŸ™‚ A Passel of Weasels, by Amy Young Miller. (What do you think?)

My hoophouse is o’erfull (big surprise)

I’m going to tease you a little with this photo. Yes, that’s a chef from the city checking out my edible flowers in my weedy hoop house. You’re going to have to come back to get the entire story, though! You can get a little hint about it on my Facebook page, though, it you hurry over there! (photo credit to Craig Zimmerman)

Bryan, Timothy and I pulled the shade cloth over my hoop house right before the first ridiculously hot weekend in May. Glory, glory. That shade cloth is worth its weight in gold. It makes it much more pleasant to work in there. (Thanks again, Gene!)

I’m in the process of switching up the beds in this wondrous space, from winter crops to summertime ones. So I am pulling out spent lettuces and kale and other cool season crops and am planting heirloom tomatoes πŸ™‚ and nasturtiums and gladiolas and a few summertime lettuces and a lots of edible flowers. And I’m tucking in a lot of potted-up edible flowers, too. IT IS VERY CROWDED but I haven’t been able to talk poor Bryan into helping me build a second hoophouse.

Let’s see . . what did my poor longsuffering hubby say to that idea? “We’d never see you,” I think that was it. Also “Over my poor dead tired body.” and also “Just shoot me instead.”

‘Pone is all grown up now and goofy as all get-out

brown dog sitting in the grass


Take a gander. I call him Goofus from the Roofus because, well, obviously. He’s a great big sweetheart, much more mellow than his “I must chase and bark and wag my tail all the day” mama, Scout. She’s pretty terrific, too, and keeps me in shape(ish) by requiring several daily walks.

Quick notes on the kiddos

two old high chairs, wooden floor, sunshine

It is a happy thing at our house that these precious highchairs stay out all the time now because we use them so often!

It has been a good long time since I wrote an update on our kiddos. Whom I love so thoroughly. SO MUCH I love these smart alecks of ours. This is a baffling fact, also, that I can love something that causes me SO MUCH TROUBLE (she says, with fondness).

Matthew and Rachel, Emmett and Wesley: are moving this summer, and expecting a new baby as well. (I know–miserable timing, but when you get a good offer and you’re ready to change jobs, you grab it.) Dr. Matthew (!!) is going to be a Professor at a small Midwestern college this fall. Rachel will still be working on her ceramics business (you can take a looksee here.) We spent a weekend with them earlier this summer, helping with some moving tasks. It was a joy to reacquaint myself with my grandsons Emmett and Wesley. These boys are a delight. Right now they are into heavy construction equipment, books on trees, bugs, and heavy construction equipment, and helping Mom pack boxes. πŸ™‚

(As I wrote the subtitle, it occurred to me that I just about could start writing updates on my grandies at this time: After months of struggle, Gideon started popping teeth in, one right after another, and is also army-crawling everywhere, and has a very strong musical streak. Anya Genese is a bookworm of the highest order and also delights in settling down and watching a movie with Amma and/or Auntie Amalia as often as possible! Eleanor was at my house yesterday and quietly, so quietly and with the sweetest secret smile on her face, went from one room to the next, emptying out shelves, unpacking board games and spreading them about, etc., just exactly like her papa did at her age!Β Tempus fugit, tempus fugit, and then history repeats itself in a poignantly sweet way.

Isn’t it marvelous?)

Bethie and Saia and Gideon: Recently Saia quit his day job to go full time into his new stone masonry business, Maui Masonry (take a looksee here for photos of his latest projects!). He is passionate about this business of building beautiful walls and mailboxes and firepits and all kinds of things out of native Nebraska stones, where once there were none. He is an artist with rocks, to be sure, and this is something I didn’t even know about him, which is a dandy thing to discover about your new son. Bethie stays busy at home with Gideon, the Cutest Baby on the Planet, bar none, and also with her virtual assistant work and blogging.

Timothy and Catie: Caitie is working as a labor and delivery nurse in the city, and Timothy also recently put out his shingle as a web designer and coder and IT all-around fix-it guy. He’s my IT guy whom I mentioned above and is clever as all-get-out. These two are showing the world how lovely marriage can be. I love to just sit and watch them. *siigh* They have a garden in the community garden in the city, and I get a tour of it quite often, when I’m delivering produce to restaurants. πŸ™‚

Amalia: Despite her persistent health problems, Amalia took off with a college group to participate in a study abroad semester. I’m so glad that she did. The week before she left, she was broadsided in a traffic accident, and was shook up a bit but not hurt badly. But her cute little red car was totaled. “We’ll have to share a car (mine!) when I get back from Europe, Mom,” she said, breezily, as she took off for the airport. Which got me to searching for another little car for her. Immediately. We haven’t found anything yet, at least not anything half as cute as her previous little red one (“Georgie Girl”). She is having a lovely time in Europe. Her head and heart are expanding, which is exactly what international travel should do for one. She’ll never be quite the same.

And she sure is eating a lot of gelato, if the photos are accurate. Lucky girl!

Little Mack: My little man works hard to keep up with me during the daytime, as we try to tame and keep our little farm running with a limited staff. He is growing very quickly now–he’s 12 now, ya know!–and I figure he’ll be taller than his mama by the end of the summer. (Update: he’s nearly there! I WILL post a picture when he passes me by, which shouldn’t be very long. He just finished a run of a goofy miner in a melodrama with a wonderful community theatre group in a nearby town. He is involved with helping me train our dogs, feeding and identifying wild birds, and keeping an eye on the wildlife and everything else around here. Daily he laments that his mama is not afraid of toads, or snakes, or other creepy crawlies that he loves to shove into her face.

Andrew and Sonia, Anya and Eleanor: earlier this summer helped Sonia’s sister Samantha get married. What this meant for us: Sonia was in charge of making the wedding cakes (I lost track of how many types there were) so . . . several times we received a plateful of excellent cake, out of the blue, to taste-test. THE SACRIFICES WE MUST MAKE. They were all superb, but I think my favorite was the lemon cake with the butter cream frosting. Oh, Sonia! So delicious. SO YUMMY. (Thank you, Sonia, I think I gained five pounds that week.) Sonia is working in the city, and Andrew is working on game design and development and a hundred other creative interesting projects, as he has been since he was about two. Eleanor of the sweetest secret smile I mentioned above, and Anya is wearing the cutest little glasses now, and is losing her front teeth, and her legs suddenly seem quite long and nobbly, which means, of course, that she couldn’t be any cuter. She is a voracious reader and loves to do sleepovers at either of her Grandma’s houses.

We have had a bit of a heartbreak with Sonia’s health just recently. She battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma after being diagnosed about ten years ago, and was successfully treated for it and has been cancer-free since. Well, to make a long hard story short, it has come back, stage 4, with involvement in the spine. You’d never guess it when you talk with these kids; they are brave and optimistic and sunny and hopeful.

And we all are hopeful that the rigorous chemotherapy and then stem cell therapy later this fall will be 200% successful, and this is one challenge that this sweet family won’t ever have to face again.

Those of you who have beloved family members, especially children, know what we are going through with this. It’s difficult to even share. It’s painful to watch somebody you love battle something like this, and it deeply affects every person involved. But many of you know this on a personal level.

Sometimes life is just not fair.

A really awesome thing has happened through the past few weeks, however, and that has been that friends, family, and even total strangers have come out of the woodwork to reach out and offer to pray for Sonia’s treatment and the well-being of the family during this time. I am incredibly thankful for this, since I wasn’t able to coax the kids to just move back in to our house and let me watch over them every moment of every day, to make sure that they are okay.

I’d love it, dear gentle reader, if you’d add Andrew and Sonia, Anya and Eleanor to your prayer list. The treatment that Sonia will be receiving will be long, challenging, and will necessitate many hospital stays.

In fact, a Facebook group has been set up here with prayer prompts and updates, and Andrew’s siblings are running this gofundmeΒ Β account which will hopefully help support the kids during Sonia’s lengthy hospitalizations and treatments. She is the primary breadwinner in the family right now, and she actually doesn’t qualify for disability benefits in her current job, since she hasn’t been there very long.

In fact, you can read the entire story of her battle with cancer by clicking the gofundme link above, and see how you can help, if you feel led to do so.

Before I close, I’d like to share with you a story my son Matthew wrote about his little brother. It made me laugh and it made me cry at the same time. I remember this day so well.

Here’s a story about my brother Andrew. I was about 10 years old, making him 8. We were in our bedroom on the second story of our the tiny old house our family inhabited in Story City, Iowa, and we were engaged (as we often were) in a wrestling context.

The bedroom being small, the inevitable occurred and I hit my head on my bed frame – badly enough to stop the wrestling, if not to create any real damage.

As best as I can recall, this wasn’t Andrew’s fault. (My memory is not always entirely reliable, but I also have to think it wouldn’t needlessly cast Andrew in a positive light here.) Nonetheless, as I sat there moaning and writhing he felt a need to demonstrate his contrition.

The best way to show me how sorry he was, he felt with impeccable eight-year-old’s logic, would be to partake in my suffering (so to speak), and thus he looked around for something to strike his own head against, that he too might moan and writhe.

The window pane was the wrong choice.

Andrew’s compassion and gentleness have not changed in the intervening years, though his reasoning skills and impulse control have. In Sonia, he married someone who equals him in good humor, empathy, and patience.

My brother and sister-in-law are facing a huge struggle against the powers of destruction, not for the first time. I would be deeply grateful if you would read their story at the link below and, above all for those who pray, keep them in prayer. Should you also feel moved to give, we’ll be very grateful for that as well.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Cor. 1:3

Image may contain: 4 people, including Andrew Miller and Sonia Miller, people smiling, people standing

Do you know how long I’ve been working on this post? Ever since asparagus was just peeping up out of the earth, and Mack and I were on the hunt for morel mushrooms (we didn’t find any this year). That was a couple, er a few weeks ago.

I broached an asparagus-related question for a friend (*cough*) a few days ago, on my Facebook page and came up with some lively discussion and lots of great ideas . . . my friend was elated! If you are on Facebook, you may want to like my page to stay in the loop. It is a positive, cheerful place on social media. It’s an ABSOLUTELY NO RANCOR zone! Also I’d like to invite you to follow my farm page on Instagram here if you wanna see lots of pictures of what I’m raising right now!

One more last invite: I’d love to hear from you all, just a sentence or two, in the comments below. Tell me what you are busy with this season. And if you have a few seconds to share this post with your friends who might enjoy it, humble thanks for that, too. πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing. You all are so good to me!


Oh! Come back next time, and I’ll catch you up on what’s growing best in my garden, what the restaurants that I sell to like the best, new insights in planting heirloom tomatoes (you’re never too old, ya know, to learn something new!), and what’s going on in my orchard, too. SO MUCH.

(I think that’s what my word/phrase is for this season in my life: SO MUCH.)



29 thoughts on “Slipping past the Summer Solstice . . . What’s Going On At Our Place, part 1

  1. Pete Kowpak

    So sorry to hear about Sonia, terrible disease, my mother and father both passed away from it. My mother died 18 days before my first birthday and my oldest sister helped raise me, when she passed I was devastated. I will keep ALL of your family in my prayers as this disease affects the WHOLE family! As a side note have you seen what they are treating cancer with on Mexico with good results? It may be something to look into to spare her body from the poison they use now! May God bless all of you!

  2. Mari

    I am so sorry to hear about Sonia’s battle. I pray for her healing.
    I have missed so much of your posts in the last couple years since my mother and sister came to stay with us. Now that I have reconnected with you, I will be anxious to hear all that you are doing. Thanks for the update on your family. I feel that, in a way, I know them. You are very blessed!

  3. Pat

    Yes, I have been praying for Andrew and Sonya and their girls also since I read about them on FB……….such a long hard road they will have to travel….but when so many others walk it with you it doesn’t seem quite so long… nice to hear about the rest of your family Amy as I wondered what had happened to you…..those darn hackers love to cause trouble don’t they? May we all find peace as this world surely could use a lot more of it…….peace be with you all…..

  4. Machelle

    It was so nice to hear an update from you! But so sorry to hear about Sonia. Will be keeping your whole family in my thoughts and prayers.

    My garden, too, has been flourishing with weeds this year. But I suppose I have an excuse this summer, as I am restoring a 90 year old grain mill! Check it out on facebook at The Old Cozad Mill.

  5. Jan Kyle

    Adding Sonia and family to my prayer list. So thankful that they are blessed with a many precious family members, community and friends to lean on during this difficult time.

    I recently sold my Icelandics and bought a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte breeding trio out of the Foley line. Quite pleased with this beautiful, docile breed. Last week, I acquired 1 gander and 2 Sebastopol geese. They are so friendly and love to follow me all around the yard and gardens, chatting away. I’m quite taken with them.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I love to hear about your flock, Jan. I love my geese, too. I have two American Buff females, and they are very friendly and talkative, too.

  6. Diane Young Decker

    If you ever need a respite, for just a few hours away from everything and everyone, you are welcome at our house. Only a half hour away and not one responsibility for just a little while. Asking nothing but good company.

  7. Chef William

    Whats with the coffee or the ice tea, an article this long calls for a glass (or maybe a half bottle) of red wine. You have been busy and here we were making up the guest room with the idea that you might stop by for a little R & R. At the moment, Maria is in the states visiting all the grandkids so I am left with all the chickens, dogs, cats and a few birds to feed every day. When she gets back next week I think I will just go to the beach every day for a week and hang out with the tourists. Keep us up to date on the gardening. Sadly, I missed the planting season so I am doing the farmers market thing a little more that before.

  8. Kay

    Hey Friend,
    Could you pass on to your IT son that the company I work for needs a website person to make it better, update it, etc…. If he could email a proposal of what he can do and prices to me at sewardplumbinghvac dot com I’d really appreciate it.
    As for what I’m doing… working, watching my garden suffer & die, sniff my herbs, decluttering my house and we are looking forward to the Ohio bunch’s visit end of July. Then relaxing somewhat, maybe a weekend trip or two before harvest.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Hey Kay! I’ll send Timothy a note with YOUR note, okay? I’m not sure how busy he is right now. I know he has been working full-time ever since he hung out his IT GUY shingle. πŸ™‚ Weekend trips? Where to?

  9. Sharon H

    oh so nice to hear from you again, even though I’m a tad late in getting around to reading this! So very sorry about Sonia. Prayers for her and all of you. My humongous garden this year is burgeoning in spite of the horrible heat we’ve been suffering with for what feels like months now. I learned you can make really tasty bread and butter pickles from summer squash….I’ve been doing this for over 60 years and this squash-pickle-thing was surprising. Quick question about rhubarb: I have 4 plants, and the past few years they’ve been going to seed even before erupting through the ground. I’m serious. How and why does that happen? I’ve been meaning to google it, but haven’t had time. Are you familiar with this crazy thing?

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sharon, You got me on this one! I’ve never heard of that before. Very strange! Even my Mom (a rhubarb expert) hadn’t ever heard of this strange phenom. Say . . . would you consider sharing your summer squash pickle recipe?? I LOVE bread and butter pickles and have lots of summer squash this year, with less than excited summer squash eaters at our house. πŸ™ I’m working on a post right now about veggie lasagna that “hides” summer squash in it. It’s very good and you can hardly tell that the filling is mostly summer squash!

      1. Sharon H

        Hi Amy, don’t mind sharing that recipe at all since it isn’t actually MINE… LOL, it’s on page 78 of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, published in 2014. If you don’t have it or have access to it, I can type it up and email it to you.
        About the rhubarb, thanks for checking with your mom. I can’t seem to find anything on that situation either. I’m thinking I just need to dig them out and get some new plants. I hate having to do that, although in all honesty they’re not in the best place in my garden area anyway, plus I’m not getting any rhubarb! And…..I can’t expand on that side because of them, and I can’t till a 5 foot wide barrier swath. Consequently, the Bermuda grass constantly is fighting for control on that side. Grrr. Sounds like digging them up and finding another area with new plants is the only solution. Thanks again Amy.

        1. Sharon H

          Oh, I forgot to say that I just substituted young, smaller squash for the cucumber. If the slices were a little too large, I just cut them in half. Worked for me.

  10. Sharon H

    Amy, I wanted to revisit this post and tell you that I used one humongous squash with peppers and onions in the food processor and made some of the best “sweet cucumber relish”! I got 5 1/2 pints from that one squash. Again the recipe is in the Ball Blue Book.

  11. Helen

    I think “peace” is a wonderful word choice. It was mine a too.
    Yes, yes, you must write “A Passel of Weasels” in all your… ummm… free time…
    Although I’m still reading in the past, Sonia’s news feels like it is in the now. You’ve created a space where we, the gentle readers, have grown to love and care about each that you call yours.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I love my gentle readers, too, Helen. I love the way my blog has expanded my world in such a delightful way!

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