Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Morning

Cool morning.

Warm cup.

Tousled locks.

Bright eyes.

Dew on leaves.

Flower on stem.

Light on wing.

Pause from flight.




Silver strand shimmers illuminating sight.

New morning reveals new mercies.

The creator's hand displays the wonders of His majesty.

Eyes to see.


Moths drawn to barn light in evening provide study, wonder, and opportunity to capture image.
Can read more about Hyalophora cecropia here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Libby gets a Face Lift

Weekend Farmer Husband's MO is quick start, fast work, and super sized objectives.  You can imagine we have several projects in process at one time.  And, you'd be right to harbor a slight suspicion that it's difficult for us to truly complete a number of these projects because - well, because.

One of the gaps in this method is I rarely get opportunity to take "before" photographs.  I'm inside.  He's outside.I walk outside to invite him in for supper and - wow! there's piles of dirt, tarps, tools, wires, whatever - and a happy guy staying busy.  So, I remember to offer a quick meal, fill up the water bottles, and try and grab a few photographs of our Work In Progress, whatever it may be this time.  (That's what WIP stands for mom- {{smile}} )

The WIP I'm sharing today started differently.  Our farm energies have been spent for the last two years on outbuildings, livestock, vegetable gardening, minor home renovations, home education, and Weekend Farmer Husband's profession.  We've done zero landscaping.  It hasn't impacted the quality of our life in any negative way.  But it is certainly one of those things that once you make a commitment to you wonder what took so long?

Given the "extra" time afforded by ongoing unemployment W.F.H., (You know who that is right?  That handy and handsome guy I call my husband - ) suggested that we could do the inexpensive but time consuming prep work and that he'd make limited funds available to get started with planting.  And, hadn't I talked to a friend about helping me with some of the design elements?

A few quick emails later, my friend reveals that she has just begun an epic landscape project of her own and would gladly bless our family by sharing a number of shade perennials with us.  We have a nice visit, she has me make a list of what I'd like, and less than 48 hours later I've received a surplus of mature plants that she releases to either flourish, or in her words, "die on my watch!"

It's been the better part of a week now and sometimes we're still outside at 10:30pm raking, planting, digging by the final streaks of light just to our west.  We sure do love living on the Western edge of the Eastern time zone.

And, finally, the beds are planted.  We have plenty of finish work to do including mulch,step and porch repair, and long over due new paint.  Our soil quality is unknown, but we have plenty of organic and nutrient rich matter mixed in.  Transplanting is stressful for the plants and you can see from the pics some of the plants are suffering.  We'll give them plenty of water and hope for the best.

A water feature is planned for this big patch of bare dirt - won't that be nice when we sit on the porch to enjoy our morning coffee and the sunrise?

Who's Libby anyway and how did she make it into the title of this post? W.F.H. gave me a short list of criteria for finding our new property when this adventure began.  I saw this place first and called him from under the shade of the amazingly large Catalpa Tree and suggested I'd found the one, would he like to come see, and if we buy it it will be called Liberty Farm.  We named the house Libby for short.

And, should you wonder what the little kids do while mom and dad labor, I've got great news.  Twice a week they're allowed to stay up late and enjoy summer bliss.  In recent weeks the heat has been oppressive and we've been blessed by a backyard swimming pool.  Can you think of anything more fun than swimming for hours after supper - even past sunset?  The pictures are fuzzy, grainy, and poor - but the joyful smiles are worth breaking "blog rules" for photos, don't ya think?

Monday, June 11, 2012


Close friends recently described their plans for their upcoming weekend away and I confess I struggled with the tiniest bit of envy. Words like "sit around" and "lots of sleeping" and "just doing nothing" hold a powerful attraction.

You see, one of the reasons (I think) we've been able to accomplish as much as we have in two short years on the farm is because of our love affair with work.  Both Weekend Farmer Husband and I get all happy dancin' when there's a project, or two, or ten.  And, thankfully, we feel confirmed time and time again through the counsel of the Holy Spirit that some of our best worship is through work.

There's a downside.  You knew that, right?  Seems like once we get started we can't stop.  And, in gospel terms, we can easily get ourselves in circumstances in which our ox is constantly in the well. (Luke 14:5) There it is in black and white, the ones responsible - "we".  Any good thing in excess easily becomes negative.

Self awareness is helpful in the lifelong pursuit of a proper ratio, Industry : Rest.  By now I suspect it evident to you that our ratio is skewed and our equation looks more like Industry > Rest.

A brief weekend spike in temperature is what got our attention.  Our day fell to ruin on Saturday, and we were forced to at least admit that when it is hot we must adjust our expectations and our pace.

Fortunately, we had already made plans for Sunday, The Lord's Day, to set the AC to arctic zone range, cook early in the morning to keep heat out of the house, nap after church, and then travel the short 1/2 hour to the glimmering shores of Lake Michigan for an evening picnic and break in the routine.

Pulling into our long gravel driveway by the light of the night sky and barn bulb glow,  sleepy kids rinsed sand and sunscreen from skin and slipped into soothing cool sheets.  Moments later sleep crept in and peace was upon the house.

-Weekend Farmer Husband continues to process, plan, grieve, and debrief following his job loss.  We are grateful for so much space in outbuildings so we don't step all over each other and can be sensitive to emotional and practical needs.
-The countdown is on.  Firstborn Son is coming home soon and although there's not long term clarity on career and future there is confidence that law school is not in the immediate future.
-Graduation open houses for so many home educated seniors connect us in community and we encourage one another in the journey
-Lake Michigan so close
-Watermelon, Pasta Salad, Sandwiches- abundant food
-Energy to keep pace
-Constant talk from the little girls, generously peppered with "mom (or dad), I love you"
-Weeks of happy play for friends and our kiddos in the pop up camper
-Good news for my father at his recent evaluation at Dana Farber Cancer Institute - his blood counts indicate (at least clinically) that he will be cured from cancer.  This is the Lord's doing.
-Multiple job interviews for Weekend Farmer Husband.  We wait in expectation for the Lord's leading.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Savoring - Little Things 2012

Patience, my friends, patience.

While these docile creatures sniff the breeze and feast on long grass, Part II is in it's final stages of development.

Edited to add: And please forgive the random advertising pop up hyper links.  They're all underlined.  I don't know where they came from or how to get rid of them? Obviously I will be learning something new in order to resolve this intrusion.

Meanwhile, we're drinking deep of sweet sweet summer and savor its gifts from sun up to sun down.

Is there anything more divine than a perfectly sun ripened strawberry?

We have the tiniest most succulent strawberry patch in two raised beds that yield ruby red jewels.  Weekend Farmer Husband and I often stroll the property in the evenings with fists full of berries, slipping each berry into our mouths and wondering if we can even comprehend how blessed we are.

To fill the pantry with summer's stores we buy multiple flats from local growers.  And then we commence to make a steamy, sticky, syrupy, sensational mess of the kitchen for a couple days:

Mmmmmmm - Strawberry jam in shiny glass jars and freezer bags full for pies, smoothies, and baking later in the season.

When the kitchen has cooled, is cleaned and reclaimed, we start all over again after supper.

Mountains spill over the counters:

The sharp contrast of steamy bright asparagus plunged into icy water while evening breeze ruffles through the kitchen windows brings a settled deep satisfaction to the night.  Bags ready with spring green wait in the freezer to accompany hearty roasts, potatoes from our garden, and lingering Sunday dinner. The sting of January seems less concerning.

Seeds are sown in long rows and the sprinkler makes it's regular hum through the day, coaxing optimism from the soil.  Sprouts are pushing through and there's less anxiety that we got our gardens in "late" as we see the earth yield.  Our soil will require years of amending so we're avid composters.

Good thing I'm finding these all over the yard and porches!

Home days have been very restorative for Weekend Farmer Husband, and there's been a chance to grieve, reflect, pray, and rest.  Faithful prayers of family and friends have upheld us and we are encouraged and made hopeful by a flurry of interviews and possibilities for the near future.  We are settling into a more mature understanding that the LORD is our provider and He may require us to wait rather than have work (income), and if that is so, we will yield to Him and His blessings rather than our own comfort or plans. (Did I really just type that...*gulp*)  Well, at least that's how we in humility hope to respond.

Projects abound.  We wonder how we ever maintained/sustained all the operations of our mini farm before Weekend Farmer Husband was devoting most of his days to fixing, building, tinkering, and overall giving his focus to Liberty Farm.  It's a little frightening how much we fly by the seat of our pants...but, it points to God's faithful confirmation of this venture.

And as I suspected in writing earlier this year about how I hope to focus and respond to what the Holy Spirit equips us for in our kingdom work, the little things have continued to hold my attention and teach big lessons.

Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; 
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Mooooo-ving Weekend Away- Part I

I suggested it in the post just before this know, the "would you like to hear more about that?" question I shamelessly inserted.  And with the general lack of response to that portion of the post, (y'all were gracious, encouraging, and faith building to the most important news and thoughts - so you shouldn't hear me complaining, ok?), I decided whether or not you want to hear the story, I need to capture it to try and cement it in a more factual rather than "you should see the size of the fish I caught" manner.

So, all the information included in this little story of mine is true - although I might venture to use some hyperbolic adjectives, ok?

Lest I shock my face to face friends and family by departing from my usual verboseness, I do manage to use an abundance of words.  So, this is for fun, for learning, and for preserving the story of Liberty Farm.  You might want to grab a mug of steaming coffee or tea (if you're in the chilly midwest), or a tall iced tea and settle in for a bit - ready?

It started like any other day, early.  Which if you know me at all already puts my ability to have clear thoughts or make good judgements in jeopardy.  But, as I stretched and snuggled up to the midnight sneak who had found her way into my bed sometime in the wee morning hours, I felt compelled to get out of bed and rejoice in the glorious morning we'd been given.

Our house is very tall and we have lots of windows, so I have a habit of walking round from view to view to drink in the new light of the day, look for birds, check if Weekend Farmer Husband has already let the chickens out, and if they are mooooving about for the morning, I do an automatic head count and check on the cows - from the second story that is.

Having been interrupted from sleeping well, I didn't trust my perception when I noticed four cows happily munching on the green grass of the horizon.  Are they a little far?  Huh- I wonder if my depth of field is skewed without my glasses - which by the way I need for reading and seeing up close, but without my morning addiction delight of murky, dark, smoky coffee I didn't really think about that.

I did notice my heartbeat quicken though, something certainly didn't seem right.  So, I lurch back into my room to clutch for my glasses and the phone rings.  This part confuses me, but I ignored it.  I figured that whoever was calling me well before 7am could just call back, after all, I needed to see what my lady friends were up to. Should it have occurred to me that a phone call unusually early might have been to alert me that like Miss Clavel encountering distress in the Madeline books, "All is not well" ? Nope, can't say I'm smart like that.

Glasses on, I reappear at the window, and wow, those girls are messing with my depth of field.  They're right along the back fence line.  So, I figure if I see the fence post disappear as the lovelies walk past they're inside the fence, but if not...

Cardiac Arrest.  And, the phone rings again.

This time I'm pretty sure I know who's calling -
 "Laura, did you know your cows are eating my garden? You better do something about that..."

Long frizzy hair flying out behind me, boots barely on my feet, granny jammies hitched up, I catapult out the door to alert Weekend Farmer Husband.

"Get the kids.  I'll need their help."
 Well now, that's a sensible suggestion.

Hollering, I rush into the house, haul the kids outdoors and tell them game on, the cows are loose.

Poor things don't even get to use the bathroom, have a drink of water, or get dressed.  Good thing a couple of them practically sleep with their boots on, and they consider PJ's an unnecessary piece of laundry since they're gonna wash their clothes anyway why would you introduce a new outfit?

A small diversion here - for those of you (us) old enough to remember a popular TV sitcom Newhart this next little bit will make sense.  For the rest of you, allow us older folks a chuckle, ok?  Our cows have an established and evident social order.  One cow is the leader, two follow closely, and the last is rather independent.  We don't really name our cows per se, but it's helpful to have a means of identifying who's who.  So, the lead cow is Larry...ah ha, you're catching on.  I know, I know they're girls, but just for fun-
"Hi. I'm Larry.  This is my brother Daryl, and this is my other brother Daryl."

This is Larry:

Behind her is Daryl.

And here's her other brother, (sister) Daryl:

And, if you think we cannot give names that are a better fit, here's "Black Cow".

Seems like now is the right time to introduce you to the other main characters in this epic.

(I tremble ever so slightly in the telling of their names as I'm aware of a currently influential woman, home educating mom to six kids, farming, blogging, best selling gal, and she speaks so highly of her husband who bears one of these names.  No, silly, not black cow.  No association, ok?)

Back to my gripping tail tale - These girlz are skittish to the max.  So anything that's ever worked before in getting the cows to where we want/need them to go isn't working.  We encircle them and try to use their natural instincts to turn them towards home.  Treats come out far earlier in the day than they are accustomed to, and let me tell ya', we'll fill their buckets to overflowing trying to lure them into the pasture we've just opened up.

And then, the neighbors dogs start barking like crazy, and those cows turn tail and bust into the woods just behind our property line.

Weekend Farmer Husband and three kids follow them into the woods.  We've never gone in there before and remember,we're relocated suburbanites who are learning this country life as we go.  So, off into the woods with no idea of why or what now.  But, there are school buses whizzing up and down the street, farm equipment lumbering by on the way to fields, commuters pulling out of driveways - and have I mentioned we live on a fairly busy road and our cows are loose?

It's been an hour, a few of the kids have had the sense to come back and get a couple of radios, cell phones, and a bicycle since we're suddenly trying to cover better than 100 acres on foot.  None of them have seen their dad or the cows.  And I don't know what to do.  So I make a really rookie decision.

I decide to alert "the authorities".  My stress level is though the roof, not so much for the cows, but for all the traffic, and those are big animals, and what if they get on the road, and what if... And, we live in a rural agricultural county so animal control must have had a call like this before, right?  Oh- they're not open.  So, I feel like it's in the public's best interest to alert another layer of authority and after some time a serious looking public servant pulls up in a pretty impressive vehicle.

 And he's not pleased that I called because they don't deal with this sort of thing, and he needs to know why I alerted them, and could he please have my name and birth date (exit to fancy vehicle to run background check...), and my simple answer of trying to exhibit diligence in alerting the community at large of the beasts careening in the woods was insufficient.

Thankfully, an interested, pleasant, and kind county deputy with Animal Control had made himself present and was willing to relieve the other stern public servant of this distasteful responsibility of dealing with a caffeine deprived, granny jammied, rookie country girl. For several hours he helped, was unceasingly courteous, and continuously encouraging.

The deputy suggested I call some friends for help, and do we know anybody who knows anything about cows?  Huh.  We figured we'd learn on the job so we clearly didn't know enough about cows, and being still pretty new to the area sure didn't know folks who know about cows.

But, one dear friend took my call, heard the desperation in my voice, and shortly thereafter her husband and son arrived to help.