Take a walk with me back to April. Yes, April. It’s taken me this long to be able to express in words what my mind and heart were feeling in April.
April in my area of the world is a time of renewed life – whispers of green are spreading across the landscape, daffodils and tulips are reaching through dead leaves and dirt to brighten the dull landscape. The farm animals are enjoying the spring sunshine warming their winter-weary bodies as they lounge in the tender green grass. April is a time of hope on the farm. This year it was a month of mixed emotions.
Decisions were made on our little farm that were difficult – heart wrenching decisions to downsize our pig operation temporarily. Decisions were also made on a friend’s farm that were far more painful and life-changing, but unavoidable in their finality. There is a saying that “One man’s loss is another man’s gain.” How true this has proved to be.
Our gain became the arrival of four beautiful Irish Dexter cows. We bought two four-year old bred cows and two yearling heifers that belonged to our friends. The mixed emotions emerge in this portion of the story. Our emotions of purchasing our friends’ cows at auction were that of joy, disbelief, and excitement that our dream of gentle, docile, well-mannered cows was coming to fruition. Our emotions of sadness and loss for our friends was overpowering. It was difficult to share our joy when we knew our friends were grieving the loss of more than half their herd of cows and an unplanned separation borne out of necessity.
As we moved forward on our little farm and a new normal settled in our friends’ lives, we were blessed with the arrival of the first Irish Dexter calf to be born on our farm. A beautiful bull calf born a month after his mother’s arrival on our farm. His curiosity, playfulness, and adorable face have moved our emotions firmly into joy category. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second calf – and our hope is for a little heifer calf to expand our breeding stock.
This, my friends, is a part of farming. Joy and sadness seem to walk hand-in-hand through each facet of life on the farm. It is a give and take – a never ending roller coaster of emotion. A roller coaster ride that we are blessed to be on.
I have had an evasive feeling of late – in a good and pleasing way. Evasive in the deep, shadowy depths of my inner being. Feelings of joy, contentment, and peace that I cannot put into words.
The feelings of joy hover and flit like butterflies in springtime. I cannot capture them, yet they are all around me as I move through my days. There is the joy of seeing piglets born. Joy in multi-colored chicken eggs filling a basket once again as spring inches closer each day. Joy in the purr of a cat curled at my side as I drift off to sleep. Joy in the prancing antics of a spoiled cow as he awaits his morning hay and grain. Joy while sitting in the hay with piglets who are intent on nibbling every last protruding object off your coat, boots, and jeans. Joy in the glow of the warm, crackling fire in the woodstove that pushes back against the cold and damp air that chills your bones. Joy in spending the days teaching our daughter life skills, history, math, science, animal care – knowing she is safe and happy. Joy in baking, cooking, and laundry that whispers, “You are blessed to have a family to care for.” Joy in visiting our neighbor’s baby goats and witnessing their immature antics. Joy in having family close by to love. Joy in living.
Contentment has settled deep within my heart of hearts. Contentment in a quiet life where nature surrounds me. Contentment in the daily routine of chores and school. Contentment with all the Lord has so graciously blessed me with. Contentment is not something I take for granted – it does not belong to those who rush through life. It belongs to those who are able to slow down and savor the beauty that God created on this earth. I am content with my place in this world.
Peace that passes all understanding. Peace that no matter what happens in this broken and hurting world, my God is on His throne and nothing can touch me without His permission. Peace that He is bigger than all the evil and corruption that has infiltrated our world, our country, and our communities. Peace that soothes and comforts every day as I walk this journey of life.
I doubt I have expressed this sometimes overwhelming feeling well. It grips my heart and dances away quickly before I can fully appreciate or express it. I do hope, however, that you have caught a glimpse of the inner workings of my heart – a heart that is on the farm with my family and bound to the land that we call home.
Today you will be reading my daughter’s description of her chore time. Today temperatures were below zero with dangerous wind chills. Some might think it cruel to have a 12 year old out in this kind of weather and having the responsibility of caring for livestock alongside her parents. Let me assure you, readers, that we were toasty warm in our winter gear! Enjoy this short guest post.
As I open the door, a big gush of cold air hits my face and I couldn’t breathe for a second. I slowly walked out to the barn and heard a pig oink. T-Bone, the cow, swings his large black head out from the corner of his barn stall. He sticks his gray-colored tongue out to say, “Hi.” When I get closer to his stall, he starts dancing and prancing around like a crazed buffalo. It’s quite funny if you ask me.
Soon after, with a scoop of grain in my hand, I pour his feed into his big blue container and he slurps it up like he hasn’t eaten in years. Next I give him a big pad of itchy hay. As he eats, I scoop his large piles of poop making sure he has a clean area to rest.
I break the ice in his water trough and refill it so that he has something to cleanse his palette. He finishes his grain and nudges my arm, licking my coat with his big sandpaper-like tongue.
I climb out of the stall to get some Wheat Thin crackers for him to munch on. He tries to grab them with his tongue as I put them in his mouth. I stay for a few minutes and scratch is big fuzzy body before I head inside to warm my toes and get ready for the day.
As optimistic humans, we look forward to the new year with great expectations. We are going to eat healthier, exercise more, be more available to friends and family, draw closer to the Lord through disciplined Bible study, stay organized – the list can go on for pages. In reality, what happens is that we enter the year charged up and our new, improved selves falter in the daily grind of life. So in my optimistic view on this New Year’s Day in 2018, I’d like to consider what this year may hold for our family and our farm.
I used to be a very organized person. Then I got married. Then a baby came along. Then the farm evolved from dream to reality. Then homeschooling began. Organization sadly fell to the bottom of the never-ending list of things to do. Little by little I have been clawing my way back to being an organized person. I can proudly say that as of this exact moment, I am organized for the year ahead. My menu for January is complete, the groceries for the first half of the month are bought, the year-end paperwork for the farm is complete, plans are made for spiritual growth, and our homeschool plan is in place. I have great expectations that this stellar accomplishment can continue at least into the first week of February.
Eating healthy – well, healthier food consumption is always at the top of the list. And I have a plan for that, too. Menu planning is helpful, portion control is vital, and having the ingredients on hand for healthy snacks and meals is key. I am pumped up and ready to tackle those junk food cravings and win the battle of the bulge. I hear the mega-box of mini York Peppermint Patties calling – be right back! My expectations for healthy eating are a little below the great rating.
The farm is organized chaos – there is no way to transfer the pretty visions of idyllic dreams into a concrete reality. There is always a plan in place for growing the farm, keeping it well-maintained and attractive, and running smoothly. It is with great frustration that the animals choose not to stick to the plan. Life happens on the farm – babies are born and some die. Hay needs to be cut and the weather wasn’t notified to cooperate. Equipment fails and puts everything else on hold while it is repaired. Plans have been made for improving the chicken coop and run. Plans to add a couple of small-breed cows in the spring are in the works. Plans are forming to improve our pastures and add fencing for rotational grazing. We have great expectations for the farm this year – I expect those plans will last until our first farrowing of the year on January 18th.
I could go on with listing all the plans that are swimming around in my head, all vying for a coveted spot in reality. Look forward to the year ahead and make those plans. Great expectations are just that. We are all optimists on January 1st.
It has been a very busy summer here on the farm. We’ve been adding critters left and right…or so it seems. Piglets born in February, April, and July. A calf born in April. New chicks arriving non-stop for two weeks in June. I do believe we are done for awhile. During these busy times it is sometimes hard to slow down and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us even in the busy times.
During this hectic time I have taken my camera along to capture some of these treasured moments and I have shared them with my Facebook friends and family. They are bombarded with pictures of glistening spider webs in the early morning sunshine, wildflowers swaying in the gentle breeze, new chick pictures almost daily filling their newsfeed. There are pictures of colorful bugs and slimy slugs. Images of pig snouts, mushroom sprouts, and wooded turn-outs. The list goes on of the natural beauty that I capture with my camera during the most mundane tasks of farming.
Why do I take the time to capture these images? Why do I continually post these images to Facebook? Why do people continue to look at such ordinary images? I’ll tell you what I think – I think that many people are not in a position to see the beauty in the ordinary. They live in cities devoid of endless variety of natural life. They are busy running from home to job to shuffling kids around to endless sports activities. They live lives that are removed from the rhythm of nature and the heartbeat of country life. I think in some small way I am bringing the beautiful into their lives – encouraging them to stop and see the intricacies of creation all around them.
I hope in some small way I am helping others to see a loving Creator that thoughtfully planned a beautiful world for His creatures to enjoy. Take a moment and look around you as you go out your door tomorrow. See what beauty is in your own backyard – and relish every moment.
Tranquility, by definition, is the quality of being tranquil; calmness; peacefulness; quiet; serenity. It is a quality that is sorely missing in today’s society of instant gratification, fast-paced living, and endless consumerism. It is a quality I find every day on our little slice of heaven on earth.
Tranquility for me comes in many different forms. There are times that calmness settles over me at a job that must be done – such as holding my old, dying hen while she breathes her last breath. There is sadness, of course. There is also a knowledge that she had a wonderful life on our farm. She was loved and cared for. She held a special place in my heart as one of my very first chickens – a chicken that always would stand behind me and peck at my boots, jeans, or shirt until I acknowledged her by reaching behind me to pet her. That same mantle of calmness wraps itself around me hours later when making the decision to euthanize two other old and not-so-healthy hens. A decision not taken lightly by any means – but a decision to sidestep a slow deterioration to death. A swift end to birds entrusted to my care and protection. Birds that had an amazing life and gave years of joy to our family.
Tranquility also comes in the form of quiet days lived without the constant noise and bustle of towns and cities. It is choosing to say no to endless activity outside of our farm. It is choosing to leave the radio and television off in order to communicate with each other as a family – to listen to the sounds of the farm and nature instead of the incessant noise of modern entertainment – and I use that term loosely.
Tranquility at is best is the peacefulness and serenity I find in the fields surrounding our house. It is the gentle grunts of momma pigs as they call the babies to the milk bar for dinner. It is the peeping and chirping of mother hens calling to the chicks to follow. It is the sound of momma cow chewing her cud as her calf eagerly suckles his dinner. It is the sound of crickets, bees, and all manner of insects busy among the flowers and grasses of our fields. It is the peepers that sing their evening song as the cooling breeze floats through the open windows of our home. It is the distant song of the birds in the woods bordering our fields that echo around me as I soak in the peace of nature.
If I could wish one thing for you, it would be that you take the time to stop, look, and listen to the beauty that surrounds you. Pursue tranquility in this bustling, noisy world – and when you find it, don’t let go of it. Return often to drink in the peacefulness that washes over your soul at the smallest delights that are all around us.
The skies were heavy this morning when I awoke from a good night’s sleep. I knew the forecast was for showers and thunderstorms, but I took a bit of time for tea and a bagel. Alas, by the time I had finished, the rain was beginning to fall.
As I made my way to the barn to fill up grain buckets, the sound of the rain pinging on the barn roof greeted me and the thunder rolled in the distance. There is something quite nostalgic and comforting about the sound of rain on a tin roof. It evokes images of simpler times from the past.
Rain on a tin roof brings forth images of cows and horses contentedly munching hay and grain in roomy stalls. It evokes the smells of dusty haylofts filled with freshly cut hay where children would play, cats would pounce on unsuspecting mice, and chickens would hide clutches of eggs to set and hatch. It recaptures a time when the family worked together, played together, and stayed together.
Our barn is a work in progress – it houses animals and hay in the winter, equipment in the spring, summer, and fall. Our barn will be ever evolving as our farm grows and changes – but it is my hope that our barn will evoke fond memories for our daughter someday when we are gone.
The sodden landscape is now obscured by thick fog and the thunder continues to echo around the farm. The rain is heavier now, creating a loud cacophony on the barn roof. The animals are all tucked in, dry and comfortable in their shelters and I have another blog post ruminating in the back of mind.
You see, my father-in-law has taught me that a barn is a living thing….