Monday, June 1, 2015

Dream Saga Series: Enjoying the Bounty

It's June on the farm, and it's been amazing to live here during the slide from spring into summer and enjoy some literal fruits of the season.

Last year at this time, we had just closed on the sale of our former home and were starting a rent-back period of one month. On June 1st of last year, we had been out to this lovely farmhouse, but had not decided to make the leap. That would come a few days later.

When we did make the offer and were in escrow and came out for inspections and visits, we enjoyed some of the fruit off the trees. However, by the time we moved into the house in late July, we had lost much of the grape and stone fruit harvest to the birds.

Baby birds nesting in one of our citrus trees

But not this year! This year we pruned trees and hung CDs from branches and watered and watered and the other night I had my very first apricot from our trees. And it was pure heaven! I hope I never lose the joy and wonder about being able to step out my front door and pick fruit right off the tree and eat it.

I have been busy in other ways as well. We have had citrus coming out of our ears for the last few months. I have made lemon curd, juiced and frozen lemons for lemonade in the summer. I've made lemon sorbet, lemon cupcakes, lemon chicken and lemoncello. My first batch is currently soaking in the rindy goodness in a dark cabinet.

I have made orange juice a plenty, eaten a ton of oranges and made orange sherbet (oh good!)

I have been able to walk around and see the buds, flowers and beginnings of the fall fruits. It's amazing to see the green pods of the walnut tree that will eventually shrivel and reveal the nut inside. The blooms on the persimmon trees are spectacular too.

And a first all around for this property are the tiny olives on the olive tree. We have been diligently watering the tree to coax it to produce its fruit. We plan to process the olives (and maybe oil) in the fall.

And in my forty plus years, I have never seen the flower of pomegranate tree that will eventually turn into the delicious fruit. 

We have welcomed more animals to the farm as well. We decided to let every female animal get pregnant and have at least one litter/baby and then assess things. (Disclaimer: No humans getting pregnant over here!)

Our only female cat, Ashley, had four kittens several weeks ago and they are at that adorable frolicking stage.

We've been telling the kids all along that we are not going to be able to keep all four kittens -- since we already have three cats on the farm. But I am finding that I am having a hard time thinking about separating the kittens from their momma who is still nursing them so patiently. It's hard to not get attached.

Speaking of babies, we had a tough time finding chicks this spring to replenish our flock that fell prey to our dog(s). We went from ten chickens to six and we missed our egg production as well as the ones that got chomped. 

We decided to turn it into a homeschooling science project and borrowed a homeschool friend's incubator. We incubated a dozen Araucana eggs that we got from another homeschool family -- mostly because of their unusual green color.

We put the eggs in, plugged in the incubator and let it do the work. All we did was add water -- literally. Twenty-one days later, the first chick started pipping his shell. It was pretty amazing to see the process and literal struggle for life. Happily, ten out of twelve chicks hatched. One we helped along too early and it didn't make it, and one never matured.

We kept them in a dog crate inside for several weeks and the kids and cats were mesmerized.

Eventually, I got tired of the smell and the pine shavings everywhere, so we put them outside in a separate enclosure that we built and they are happily enjoying more space, while letting our other chickens get used to them.

We are not sure about the gender yet and we haven't decided on whether we will keep any roosters, but for now, everyone is happy, healthy and warm. We are looking forward to their eggs in another five months or so!

We also attempted to breed our female goats last month with a billy goat. They stayed at his place for three weeks and while we are not 100% certain, I think that at least one of them is pregnant. It takes three months and one week for gestation, so I suppose we will see in mid-August.

Of course, there is a never-ending amount of farm chores to do. We have been swimming in weeds and wild grass for the last few months and have been trying to get that under control. We also need to disk part of our property to cut down on any fire hazards. We are trying to figure out if hiring someone to do it makes more sense than getting our own equipment -- since we will be doing this every year (and maybe twice a year).

We also have a list (or accurately, *I* have a list of improvements that I would like to do around the farm to make it even more usable and fun for entertaining.

Since we really need to burn up some of the tree branches and growth we have been cutting and pruning back, I decided we need a fire pit that can do that, be a gathering place for s'mores and campfire songs and also give us some ashes for the chickens to take their dust baths in (it's good for them).

So, after buying the wrong kind of brick, the hubs helped me figure out what I did wrong and ordered the right kind of pavers so we could build this little beauty that we ended up putting to use that very night for our daughter's birthday slumber party s'more fest.

I am looking forward to more peaches (the birds got some of the first harvest) and apricots. The plums and grapes should be ready in another few weeks.

And by then, we will be at about the same point as we were when we moved out here last summer. However, this year we won't have floors to sand and refinish. We won't be packing up stuff and moving it and unpacking it.

We are going to have a lazy summer of swimming, eating fruit, building tree swings and a fort. I will get around to organizing some of the places where stuff got crammed last year and I will enjoy each day without getting crazy stressed out.

We will read books in the hammock and take cool drinks of water out of our outdoor water fountain.

But most of all, we will be together on our farm and continue making memories that will endure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Outing Victims Is Just Victimizing Them All Over Again

I have thought about sitting down several time and putting my thoughts to keys here on the recent talk about the son of a well-known TLC show family who has been accused of molesting underage girls when he was a teenager.

This is not an easy topic to write about.

Honestly, no sin should be easy or cavalier to share feelings or write about. However, I think it's safe to say that most people consider sexual sin to have greater weight to it than your garden variety of gossip, adultery or lying.

As a Christ-follower, I know that in His eyes, sin is sin. There is no quantification or degree involved. 

That is both humbling for those who have blown it big, and disturbing for those who have not. The idea that my ugly words could be seen as "murdering" someone's character is a hard pill to swallow. But this non-distinction keeps us from becoming proud and uttering the obvious, "well, I would NEVER ....", because honestly, in God's eyes, it's all the same.

That being said, I do believe that the fall-out, damage and consequences of some sins is greater than others. A child who loses their father to a violent murder has to grow up and spend a life with a father-shaped-hole in his or her heart. That's a tremendous amount of pain for a long span of time.

Likewise, victims of sexual abuse are not only traumatized, used and abused in that very moment (or sadly moments), but they continue to be haunted by that event over and over. It effects every aspect of their life and spills over into their relationships, their self-confidence and trust in humanity.

Suffice it to say, they have a very long road ahead of them. The healing takes place in tiny micro steps and it's multi-layered. They are faced daily with the choice of whether to forgive and move forward. It burns and stings and cuts.

But eventually, life comes back into focus. Years pass and it doesn't hurt as much. Progress is made and the world feels less menacing.

Unless something happens to put you right back there in that place and time.

And this is what is breaking my heart about this ongoing "scandal" that the media, social media and bloggers are so aggressively trying to "crack wide open."

The victims. These young women who are now being victimized all over again. 

Except now they are being victimized on a public platform and their faces and names are being published with the labels, "victim," "incest," "sexual abuse," and more. These words will be forever cached on the world wide web for their children and grandchildren to find on Google.

What ever happened to protecting the identity of the victim? 

Or did that pass out of fashion along with good manners and finding out the entire story before publishing it?

Believe me, I am not condoning sexual abuse in any form --whether it be rape by a stranger or fondling by a sibling. It's wrong and harmful either way.

However, I do know that there can be healing and restoration after experiencing a hurt like this. It is possible. It's not easy. It's something that has to be fought for and cried over. But it is possible.

What this young man did was wrong. I'm sure he is grieved even now to see his sin splashed out for the world to see. I know he is now a father of daughters and I am sure he feels the weight of what he did when he looks at their sweet faces.

What would I do if my worst sin was published on Facebook for all to see? What kind of integrity and strength of character would I have then?

I hope I never have to find out.

I also don't profess to know the situation and whether or not anything was covered up or swept under the rug. I don't know if lines were crossed with the police and if records were in fact shredded.

However, I do know that sometimes victims of sexual abuse do not wish to proclaim it to the world. They would rather not go to the authorities or turn someone in because they do not want to expose the incident to public scrutiny. They do not want to live with the label: victim.

Or it could simply be that even though they have been hurt by their abuser, they still love him. And not in a sick twisted way, but in this difficult ugly-beautiful life where we are all sinners and guilty of something.

Because you can love someone and still hurt them. And you can also love someone and still be hurt by them.

And then what?

Some may choose to cut off all communication and contact for awhile...or forever.

Some may choose to bury it deep and never speak of it again and go on as if nothing happened.

Some may choose to forgive and try to restore a broken relationship because of love and grace and all the things that Christ asks of us to do that are really, really hard to do when we are in pain and have been hurt.

I don't know the situation.

But I would guess that it is the latter that these young women have chosen. It's maybe the hardest and bravest thing they have ever done, but for the sake of love and family, I suspect they have chosen this difficult road.

And if that is true. And if it is true that somehow by the grace of God this family has walked through this pain together and wrongs have been acknowledged and pain has been acknowledged and tears have been shed and relationships have started to be mended...if all of this is true, then this must truly be a nightmare for all involved.

Maybe the way I hope it happened isn't the way it actually happened. It could be pure conjecture on my part.

However, regardless, I do emphatically believe that no matter your feelings on whether or not this young man "got away with it," or the young women "need justice," or the authorities "participated in a cover up scheme," matter your feelings on the matter, I hope we can all agree that these young women deserve their privacy.

These young women deserve to live their lives without fear of being forever labeled or forced to re-live their deepest pain.

No journalist or blogger should think they are simply "fighting for the victims" and are not contributing to the hurt when they publish these young women's photos with labels that they have continuously fought against in their own heart and soul.

In my opinion, this is sensationalist and only serves to highlight the author's profile or bump their page views.

We have a great responsibility to give these young women and all victims privacy and respect and stay out of their business. Because ultimately, it is their business. Although they have opened up their lives on television, and it makes us feel like we know them and can therefore weigh in. 

We don't know. 

We can't know it all.

But we can know and do know what it is like to be human. And to be hurt and be hurting. To feel exposed and a little raw.

And although these young women may not have been safe or protected in that singular moment, we can offer them safety and protection now by keeping their names and faces out of the news and news feeds.

It's the very least we can do....