First Things of Spring

IMG_8733The drive to church on Sunday mornings is a joy, particularly on mornings like this morning, when the ponderosa pines are heavy with recent snow, the hillsides silver with it, and the birches and aspens grey in comparison with it. But this morning was even better, because it is Resurrection Day! What a glorious day to celebrate – We as Christians may have some pretty “radical” social ideas, as we are daily reminded. But, as our pastor reminded us this morning, the most radical belief of all is that Christ, God incarnate, perfect and sinless, came to this earth to die a horrendous death for the sins of the world so that sinful humanity would have a way to enjoy a right relationship with God Almighty. He was buried, and was raised from the dead three days later. And, if that wasn’t enough, He, in the sight of His disciples, was caught up into the sky and then disappeared from sight. And, if that isn’t enough to believe, we believe that He is reigning now, interceding for those who love and follow Him. Amazing? Yes. Beyond our comprehension? Yes. Wonderful? Yes! To be free from the enslaving nature of sin, to be made right before a just and holy God? What a reason to celebrate! IMG_8716And what more beautiful day could we have asked for? After a joy-filled Sunday message, spirited singing, and a feast of a potluck, the family and I, along with Roy and Isaak, headed down to the Pringle property for an afternoon of hiking and exploring. This whole last week was rather hit-and-miss as far as springtime weather was concerned. Snow on Wednesday, slush and snow on Friday, but today was a little piece of Heaven. We stomped along in the mud and the snow and the grassy stubble, but jackets quickly came off, shirt sleeves were rolled up, and the snow sank away. The juniper was fragrant in the warmth of the sun, the grasshoppers chirruped in the grass and flew about wildly, and the earliest prairie wildflowers peered up from the red dirt, low-growing and unobtrusive, almost invisible in the scrubby grasses.IMG_8775A few elusive pasque flowers we found tucked away on warm hillsides, growing lustily in the rocky soil – In a few days, they’ll be open and lovely. There is a story of hundreds of pasque flowers having been found down on the Pringle place, but we didn’t come across more than half a dozen today. Maybe another trip. The earliest messengers of springtime. Such a delicate little flower.

IMG_8728The sun was warm on our backs, warm on our faces, as we wandered this way and that. Deer in the distance fled, but a loner antelope watched curiously as we passed him by. The hundred-year-old rose hedge was beginning to leaf out near the old stage stop dugout. We have plans to bring back a clump of the yellow roses sometime this spring, to plant near the Miner’s Cabin.

IMG_8755There were no rattlesnakes in the dugout this time, like there were when we hiked around in August, so we poked around the area a little more thoroughly. Our rambling took us down into the Box Canyon – Moss grew greenly in the wet and cool of the canyon, and remains of cliff swallow nests clung tenaciously to the walls – The original cliff dwellings. No swallows nesting there yet, but I’ll bet they’ll be back.  We clambered up out the box end of the canyon. A great little scramble that was, with ice and mud underfoot and very little tread on some of our shoes, always in the process of nearly taking out whoever was unwise enough to be behind us, getting covered in sand burrs, and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.
IMG_8747It is a season of new life. Resurrection Day is a day to celebrate new spiritual life in Christ and His glorious resurrection. And what better way to spend a Resurrection Day than to be among family and friends and immersed in one of God’s greatest witnesses, His glorious Creation! The first days of springtime mark the beginning of the end of winter, the coming of that new life we all wait expectantly for, as soon as that first fleeting 50 degree day happens.  These first things of springtime, in the first days of springtime, are shy and aloof and evasive. But that won’t last forever – Before too long, the prairies will be covered with wildflowers, bursting at the seams with things alive and green and new. Springtime is here!

Laura Elizabeth


Garnets and Coral

We had another snow yesterday, which started as rain around noon, turned into falling slush, and finally became powder in the evening. It was a perfect day for staying inside, with an inviting wood fire chuckling and humming, and the roof dripping rain and snow melt from the eaves.

IMG_8626.1I’ve had this whole week off since Tuesday, and it has been a week of catching up on reading, sewing, writing, and other handicrafts, and spending time with family. With the rain and slush yesterday, it was so relaxing to be able to finish some jewelry and work on a denim skirt that has been sitting on the ironing board for a couple of weeks because I’ve been procrastinating. And of course, with the Generations with Vision podcast in the background, or history lectures, it was a well-spent day.

IMG_8624.1Mom and I ran into Keystone on Thursday so I could pick up some garnet beads – The girls and I have hunted garnets for years in dry creek beds, and panned for them some, and I’ve always thought they are some of the prettiest stones. So dark they are almost brown, but red-to-purple in the light. Pleasantly understated. Until the girls and I and some friends stopped at the Rock Shed a week ago after cleaning church, I’d never seen garnet beads before! They made a nice necklace-and-bracelet set.

IMG_8641.1And with my soft-spot for historical fashion, I strung a necklace of coral beads as well, and strung the matching bracelet just a few minutes ago. The beads were originally meant for some historical doll jewelry, but I guess I didn’t turn them into doll jewelry fast enough. Ever since I was probably 10 years old and read the American Girl Felicity books, I’ve thought coral necklaces were simply lovely.  They were common during the Regency era, and through the 1800s as well.

Strung-bead necklaces are probably not much in fashion these days – But, in my opinion, the simplicity of a strand of beads is not only versatile, but timeless.

Laura Elizabeth

Whimsical Windows

IMG_8609.1There’s a lot of fabric in an old bed sheet. And, depending on the sheet, good fabric, quality fabric. Perfect for curtains. Yesterday afternoon and evening, I sewed and hung curtains for the two living room windows in the homesteader cabin, from sheets we found while cleaning up the place. Until yesterday, we’d been using blankets (and these sheets actually), draped over the curtain rods to keep the warmth in and the dark out. But simple white curtains are so much homier and more beautiful, and are a lot better at diffusing the light.

IMG_8612.1I’ve always loved the look of glass sparkling in sunlight – Old jars and bottles and prisms, anything to add a little simplistic sparkle and shine. So, naturally, old insulators catch my attention. A little touch of rustic whimsy.

Laura Elizabeth

Findings | Elk on Hwy. 40

We were treated to the sight of a herd of elk grazing in a valley meadow along Hwy. 40 last night, a few miles from home. They come through there periodically, but it has been awhile since I saw them last!

Elk on Hwy. 40

What gorgeous, magnificent animals!

Laura Elizabeth

Snow and Springtime

IMG_8490Winter blew back in overnight a day and a half ago, and on the third day of spring we had four or so inches of snow, a wonderful, heavy, wet snow that cloaked every branch of every tree, every fence post, every roof and rock and hill, every little green and growing thing still clinging close to the ground. Hard to believe that four days ago we had temperatures in the 60s and 70s and were hiking to Hole-in-the-Wall without coats or mittens or snow boots!

Across the snow-covered pastures, on the sheltering hillsides, the Ponderosa pine trees were silver-blue in their wintry cloaks. Deer, startled up, fled silently through the silent trees. Wind had painted ripples into the blanketing white. But the recent spring-like temperatures had already warmed the ground, and our red-dirt driveway was muddy and mostly melted by noon, in spite of the chill day.

IMG_8558The little Kashka cat was moody and desperate, as soon as the snow began to melt. She didn’t seem to mind the dry snow, but she regarded the wet snow with unmasked disdain. She isn’t a particularly vocal cat – In fact, she seems somewhat limited in her vocal expression, sometimes opening her mouth but only producing a breathy squeak. But yesterday, she was whining and moaning and complaining and grumbling as she traipsed through the snow, and shook off her little paws in a futile effort to keep them dry. Her good-for-nothing, lazy brother was, of course, nowhere to be found. I’m sure he was holed up somewhere, dry and comfortable and warm.


I love how the snow completely transforms a landscape, insulates it, hushes it, and the whole world seems to glow with a gleaming, blinding brightness, even beneath a heavy-clouded sky. Simple things take on a new dimension. The same hillsides and meadows and roads shimmer with an ephemeral enchantment, an enchantment that can break within a matter of hours. 


Sarah and I took to the snow at 10:00 last night, to ramble in what was likely the last snowfall this season to be lit by a full moon. Never waste a moonlit snow! The sky was crystal clear, and there was the faintest nimbus around the orb of the moon. The brightest stars flickered in the inky blue sky. Orion and Cassiopeia, and a strange bright star we’ve identified before but whose name I can’t remember. Scrambling up deadfall-strewn hillsides to chase the moonlight, slipping and sliding into ravines, dropping flat to make a snow angel, eating snow off the needles of sapling pine trees, stopping every now and again to listen for coyotes, losing track of the time – I could have stayed out all night in that enchanted moonlit snow. 

IMG_8536In this shifting of seasons, in the sunshine and the snow, in the change and transformation from month to month, the summer birds begin to arrive with nesting on their minds, and the first insects start to hum and sing. The first of the green things shoot up from the warming earth, and rumors of pasque flowers are whispered. Snow may hide the signs for a day or two, but the seasons will fly on. Springtime is here! 

Laura Elizabeth

Homemaking in the Miner’s Cabin

IMG_8266.1It has been awhile since I last wrote about the Miner’s Cabin, and a lot has happened since we first started cleaning it out a year ago. Time for an update! Early this year, Dad got the electricity working again, and also got the stove cleaned out and in safe, operational order. Light and warmth are kind of important when it comes to being productive in the winter.

So, over the last couple of months, slowly and steadily, I got the bedroom closer to livable, and Sarah helped me get one of our bed frames set up. Mom and I brought a load of bookcases, a dresser, and my desk from our storage unit in Hermosa, which is helping with the organizing of books and boxes. IMG_8273.1Growing up, some of my favorite books were Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, two treasures of children’s literature written by Elizabeth Enright. The stories got into my imagination, and I pored over them, again and again. The story was pure joy to read, and I think as I was reading I was the little girl who visits her cousin, Julian, and the two of them on their explorations end up discovering a mysterious, abandoned set of lake houses on the shore of a swamp. As they explore the old lake houses, and Portia’s family ends up buying an old boarded-up mansion in the woods nearby, they rummage through boxes filled with ancient “treasures,” things that spark their imaginations, things from a bygone era. I’ve felt some of that same excitement as we’ve worked on the Miner’s Cabin, cleaning up and putting back to use things that had been all but forgotten. IMG_8279.1It is exciting to put the life back into a dusty old cabin, to feel it start to breathe again, with windows open and sunlight streaming in, or with a blazing fire crackling in the stove. It is deeply satisfying to see the hominess emerge, as order and beauty return to the Miner’s Cabin. It is rewarding to see the forgotten things adorn the dusted shelves, Sarah’s and my artwork and photography mingled with ancient family photos, along with the drawing that Dad had done as a Christmas gift for Grandpa and Grandma years and years ago.

IMG_8280.1Old blue Mason jars we found in the cabin loft, sparkling olive oil bottles which I’ve collected, my great-grandmother’s old pincushion, precious shelf nick-knacks I brought from Illinois, old fox furs that have been in the Miner’s Cabin for a couple of decades, family crests, a framed family tree, a chamber pot, shelves and shelves of my books, and a whole encyclopedia that Grandma and Grandpa put in the log cabin – A pleasant mingling of old and new and just plain interesting.

IMG_8286.1A home should reflect something of the people living inside of it – How enjoyable, then, to be setting up house both with things that Sarah and I brought with us from Illinois, as well as with those things that are tied somehow to our heritage.  Not only that, but the wood heat and lack of plumbing tickle my sense of adventure, to get a closer glimpse of the lives my great-great grandparents lived, as homesteaders in eastern South Dakota in the late 1800s. It will be a far cry from roughing it, but living in a 100-year-old cabin definitely has romance to it.

We enjoy repurposing and reusing, and on my agenda for this week is making brand-new curtains from some old white sheets I found while we were organizing and cleaning. Sarah and I have so many ideas for making this little place our home. Moving day can’t come soon enough! We can’t wait!

Laura Elizabeth