It Must Be the British In Me

Today we have seen the last hurrah of Tropical Storm Nate pass through our area.  It has been breezy, overcast, and rainy.  It has been a sullen kind of day.  And I love it.

The sky has been changing all day – from the heavy black clouds that greeted me during chores this morning to a glimpse of sunshine and back to a steel gray, ominous sky this afternoon.  While many folks will just look out the window and see an overcast view, I see changing patterns of white and gray.  I see hundreds of varied shades of steely blue-gray piling up, stretching out, and moving away.  I see intricate cloud patterns that change within moments, never to be repeated again.  I see brilliant leaves, wet with rain, splash their colors against the sodden backdrop – and it is beautiful.

I love being outdoors when the mist begins to fall.  The clouds seem to envelope our farm and wash away the dust and pollen making the fading colors pop.  The mist is gentle and refreshing, not yet heavy enough to chase the chickens and pigs into their shelters and under trees and shrubs.  The breeze whispers of brisk, cold days to come as it caresses my damp arms and face – and it is refreshing.

I love being indoors as the rain begins falling heavily and the wind tosses falling leaves into every corner of our property.  Today was a productive day of baking and canning – warming the house and penetrating the air with the smells of freshly baked bread, currant pound cake, and the spicy smell of applesauce cooking on the stove.  I love these smells that speak of home and comfort, safety and plenty.

This is my favorite time of year.  Darkness comes earlier and the coziness of that early darkness ignites a warmth and joy deep within me.  The glow of lights, the spicy warmth of mulling cider, the savory aroma of roasting meat, the pungent smell of wood smoke mixed with dying leaves all combine into a glorious patchwork of fragrance that is only surpassed by the fresh, piney smell of Christmas.

Dark, damp, cold days are some of my favorite days.  It must be the British me.

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Make the Days Count

As winter is marching closer, the speed of work around the farm increases tenfold.  Suddenly, all the projects that were on the list for summer have reared their ugly heads, taunting us as we scurry like mice trying to check each item off.

Our list, while partially completed, seems to never get shorter.  It does, of course, but as typical humans, we see and save the largest projects until we are down to the wire for time, money, and ability.  The two largest projects are our winter supply of firewood and pouring concrete in the barn.  I know, we saved the best for last.

You may be aghast that it is now October and we are just getting around to cutting and splitting firewood.  Doesn’t it need to season and dry for a year before being used?  Not for us, we have an outdoor wood furnace.  Aren’t you afraid of not having enough?  Not really, we always manage to have enough, even if we are cutting, splitting, and stacking into December.  What on earth were you thinking to wait so long before doing firewood???  Well, in our defense, we did cut and drag several trees up to our processing area – and they have sat there for a month now – and I really hate splitting firewood in the heat of summer.  Farms are busy places and there is always something to do that seems more pressing at the moment.  So, now that we are down to the wire, we are processing wood after work and before dinner, utilizing every last bit of daylight – which is quickly fading faster than we can split wood.

The framing for pouring concrete in the barn is in place and ready for concrete – finally.  A barn, even an unfinished one, fills up fast with equipment, hay, and in the winter – animals.  We decided we had to stop using the barn if we were ever going to get it finished!

So, our two final big projects are underway and we are making the shortened days of autumn count – not just in accomplishing a list of tasks, but in spending time as a family.  We are building memories  while we work together to accomplish shared goals.  We are building the future of our farm – laying foundations for what is to come.  We are savoring beautiful sunny afternoons that show no hint of the cold to come.  We are living a dream that is taking shape into reality – day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year.

We are reveling in the fellowship of our family being together, working together, and playing together for you never know how quickly life can change.  How are you making the days count?

*The photo used was dated September 2nd – when we cut down the trees to be used for firewood. 

 

Sweat

Yes, you read that correctly.  Sweat.  The stuff that drips from your forehead, dribbles down your back, and coats your body as you work on a sultry summer day.  And all of that before 9 a.m.  Today began as one of those suffocating days – yet didn’t pan out and the windows could stay open and the fan cooled the house enough to be comfortable.

I always seem to pick the muggiest and hottest mornings to tackle the job of cleaning out the chicken coops.  It must be a subconscious need to torment myself that manifests itself in the desire for a poop-free coop.  This morning seemed pleasant enough as I fed and watered my flock of eager hens and roosters.  The sun was shining and it still felt cool as I collected the wheelbarrow, shovel, and bag of pine shavings.

I started with the nursery coop which was beginning to stink from my sweet young chicks.  They are about two months old and somehow chick poop seems to smell worse to me than adult chicken poop – probably it’s all in my mind, but I digress.  Their coop is small, so I made quick work of scraping, shoveling, and removing the soiled shavings.  Fresh shavings fill the floor and that little job was done.  And then I decided that I might as well do the big coop, too – since it was a pleasant morning.

I realized too late that the humidity level had apparently risen along with the sun’s heat.  As I shoveled the poop and shavings out of the big coop, I began to glisten – that is the polite term for sweating.  The glisten soon became dribbles that trickled down my back making my light cotton shirt stick uncomfortably to my wet (glistening) skin.  Pine shaving dust stuck to my damp skin and began to itch.  My upper lip was leaking profusely and I knew instinctively that my face had become as blushed as the tomatoes on my windowsill.  My socks were wet inside my barn boots as I plodded to the compost pile with the last load of poopy shavings.  I quickly spread fresh pine shavings around the coop and nesting boxes, put my implements of destruction away, and retreated to the coolness of the house.

As disgusting as sweating profusely is on a hot summer morning, there is a certain satisfaction that comes from working up a good sweat.  It is the feeling of accomplishment, a job well-done, another item to check of the never-ending list of things to do around the farm.  It is the feeling of hard work – of working toward a goal of sustaining one’s family and livestock.  I worked up a few more good sweats throughout the day – and they were all just as satisfying as the early morning sweat that began my day.

“A dream doesn’t become a reality through magic.  It takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  -Colin Powell

 

Beauty in the Little Things

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

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.

Rain on a Tin Roof

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….

The Sweet Smell of May

I think May must be at the top of my list of favorite months.  Bulbs are bursting forth in a glorious array of color, fruit trees and ornamental flowering trees are in full bloom, and lilacs are heavy with their gorgeous, fragrant flowers.  The hillsides have become a lush patchwork of varying shades of green as new leaves mature into their warm-weather adulthood.

The smells of May just might surpass the visual beauty that surrounds our farm this time of year.  As I meander through my morning chores, the air is heavy with sweet fragrances.  The unique and heady scent of lilacs is my all-time favorite.  The gentle morning breezes carry sweetness to every corner of the farm.

There is a giant lilac inside the chicken run that put on a dazzling display this year – in fact, thanks to cool weather, the blossoms are still intact and giving beauty and sweet aroma to an otherwise plain green area.  The chickens love the giant lilac bush.  It offers them shade from the hot sun in summer, perches in winter, and plenty of amusement in the spring as they jump straight up to grab the lowest lilac blossoms.

Another favorite smell of spring is freshly cut grass.  It is a fresh and earthy smell – hard to describe, but pleasing to the senses.  Somehow, the first grass clippings of the year smell the sweetest.  There is probably some scientific reason, but I think it is because our senses are re-awakening from a long winter’s nap.

Soon the smells of summer will be upon us – different but just as pleasing.  That will have to wait for another day of inspiration.