Monday, March 23, 2015

Country Bliss

Today was an idyllic day out on the farm.

It had the potential to be a heart-breaker when we first arrived home after a full day of enrichment classes in town.

I drove around our oval driveway to my spot in front of the house and did a double take when I realized that I was looking at goats feasting on weedy goodness in front of me.

Meaning...they weren't nestled safely away in their enclosure. Meaning, who knows when they got out, how they got out and how long they had been wandering.

While I was thankful that they were still alive and not goat roadkill (we have no fence around our property...yet), my first thought after was for our poor surviving seven chickens.

As I posted on Saturday, we are down by three after discovering that our youngest dog (a stray we brought back from a death by Parvo and adopted) was indeed getting into the enclosure and killing our chickens.

While we did our best to secure the area around the enclosure to keep him from being able to dig underneath the fence, it is still no help for gates left open.

Which is what I found when I did a perimeter check. Everyone swears they "didn't do it," and it's possible that it didn't get latched properly. But either way, the goats busted their way out of it and left it unlatched and fair game to young Brody.

I nervously started counting chickens and looking for feathers and carnage. Finding no piles of feathers or carcasses, I was relieved to count up seven chickens. Maybe a young dog can learn new tricks. I certainly hope so.

High off of all animals alive and counted for, I decided to re-park our newest piece of farm equipment.

A Chevy Silverado.

We are buying it from hubby's mom after she got a newer version. Having lived out in the country for eight months now, we are seeing the benefit of such a vehicle. is a bit embarrassing to pick up alfalfa bales in the back of the mini van and haul around livestock too. Yes, it is a bit annoying to try to borrow family member's trucks and trailers to haul out branches and debris and new-to-us refrigerators. But it didn't seem mission-critical.

And it probably isn't, but I cannot deny the little thrill I got from firing up that big ol' truck and ambling down our country road street to give the children a bit of an adventure as they laughed in the back bed. (No it wasn't legal. Yes, I didn't go too fast in case they fell out.)

The dogs ran alongside and I flashed back to happy days of my youth spent riding in the back of a truck on friend's farm.

Thus answering the question my dad asked me months ago as he toured our farmhouse, "how in the world did you become such a farm girl?"

Well, the short answer is that he (and my mom) did it by raising us in some pretty rural places in our formative years.

That flashback is firmly planted in my joy-memory and I believe it's one of the driving forces that have led us to where we are now.

Thriving and growing and laughing and hauling stuff on a farm of our own.

Whether or not my children flash back to this day some day in their future may not be guaranteed but is entirely possible.

However, as I currently work on making dinner while they are outside jumping into the pool during a school week and only days into Spring, I have a hard time believing they won't.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

On Being Full-Strength

Coffee is one of my best friends.

Being a homeschool mom of 4 and trying to keep up with them, their schoolwork and our new farmhouse keeps me on my toes.

And it keeps me coming back to the coffee pot.

Every morning, making some coffee is usually one of my first waking thoughts.

I must have been especially tired the other day.

I staggered into the kitchen and filled the carafe with water and cleaned up the sink area while it brewed. I added some cream and caramel-flavored syrup to my favorite yellow cup. I poured in some delicious brown elixir distractedly and then sipped.

Something was wrong.

It didn't taste right.

It tasted like milky caramelly water.

And then I realized I forgot one crucial and important step.

I forgot to change out the coffee grounds and I had brewed a "fresh pot" with yesterday's filter and grounds.

It was not what I had eagerly anticipated. It was a disappointment, frankly.

I poured the watery stuff down the sink and then started over -- this time with fresh grounds and filter. And then I waited....again.

And as I waited, I thought about how watered down things are such a waste in so many ways. They can often look just about right. They might even smell mostly the same.

But watered down things are too often a shadow of the original and also a huge letdown.

As I stood there anticipating a sip of the real, full-strength version, it was a good reminder for me to be true and authentic to who God has made me to be and not give into the temptation at times to water things down.

Because the problem with watering things down is that no one enjoys it. Not the originator and not the recipient.

And I'm not talking about being belligerent or forceful or hateful. I'm talking about just being true to my nature and the convictions that go along with it -- being exactly the strength and flavor that God designed me to be.

Both full-strength and stimulating...just like my morning coffee.

Great is His Faithfulness

The other day I was in the shower, where I do my best thinking, probably because it's kid-free and somewhat quiet, and the lyric from a beloved hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, came to mind.

"Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow...."

You see, I had been thinking a lot about fear and anxiety. I have had some hectic and crazy days and have spent my fair share worrying about how to get all that I need to do in the next several weeks.

I was not alone in my worrying...I had also spoken with two kindreds who were also walking through similar things. All of us super planners, the fear of the unknown and unplannable was almost paralyzing.

As I thought about that line, I realized that what I had been wanting was strength for tomorrow and next week and next month.

But as the song so eloquently says, the strength is not in tomorrow, it's in today.

Yes, there is bright hope for tomorrow because my faith is in my great and faithful God. But there is no strength in tomorrow.

Because I live in today.

Here and now. In this second. This is where the strength lies because He is giving it to me in real time. I can't have strength for something I don't have any concrete knowledge about and I never will.

But the reality of this crazy life proves yet another truth from this beautiful song,

"all I have needed, His hand has provided."

All I have it strength or be it hope. He's the only One I need.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What Lies Beneath

It's hard work owning a farm.

I knew this going into it, but I think I might have romanticized it a teensy bit when everything was well-tended and move-in ready.

The reality is that it takes a lot of work to keep everything looking as ideal as it first did.

Most weekends will find us outside doing all sorts of farm chores. We have whacked walnut shells out of a tree, pruned trees in the orchard, picked up massive amounts of citrus off the ground and off of trees, pruned grape vines, pulled tumbleweeds, converted an outbuilding to a chicken house, created an animal enclosure, repaired the animal enclosure, modified the animal enclosure, etc.

Today was like most weekends and as I was getting ready to shower off the grime, I thought about what we had spent our hours on outside and realized that to anyone else, it would like we hadn't done a thing.

Because all of the work we did was hidden.

Literally hidden.

We have had some losses recently. First it was our one lone white chicken. The kids found it inside the animal enclosure and our younger dog, Brody, was gnawing on it. This was not part of the romantic farm picture I had in my head. Gross.

However, since I had forgotten to lock one of the gates the night before, it was my fault. Also, it was hard to know how the chicken had died since the gate was open. The puppy could have just capitalized on our neighbor's dog bad behavior.

But then our rabbit was killed and again, and Brody was found in proximity.

And then we came home one day to another chicken alive, but unfortunately shouldn't have been. My poor husband still can't talk about the trauma of being the "farmer on duty." Again, we had no concrete proof, but I had my suspicions.

The last straw was this week when we drove home and I saw a dead chicken outside the enclosure on the lawn. It was missing a head. I also saw Brody wriggling under the gate of the enclosure to come and greet us. And he had feathers in his mouth. I knew he had done it.

This morning as I went to leave on an errand, I heard a ruckus from the animal enclosure and when I called for Brody, he came running...from the enclosure...with feathers in his mouth.

It was apparent something had to be done or the dog would have to go. Either that or we would suffer the loss of a chicken every time a kid forgot to close a gate, or Brody got bored and wriggled under the gate to have some fun.

We decided to give all of the animals one more shot. We got out the heavy-gauge fencing and cut lengths of it that we attached to the bottom of the enclosure fence and then bent and buried under dirt -- making it impossible for hungry juvenile puppies to dig under fences that he shouldn't.

Hours later, we were dirty and hot and tired and sore, but the enclosure was as secure as it could be and our remaining chickens now have a fighting chance.

Unfortunately there is no visible proof that we worked for hours in the warm Spring sun today. In fact, it looks pretty much exactly like it did this morning.

However, both my husband and I know the amount of work that we did today and the protection it will offer our flock.

And that made me think about how often God works in our lives and the lives of others and we never see a visible thing. It's easy to think that no change has been made. But we cannot see what lies beneath. We cannot see the progress made or protection given for our vulnerable heart.

And so often we make assumptions that nothing will change or that nothing can be done to save what needs saving. We only see the surface.

But God sees much more....thankfully so much more. He is doing things beneath the surface of our hearts that will make us stronger and freer.

And that's a joy that doesn't need romanticizing.