I think you've gotten a pretty comprehensive and overwhelming view into the total renovation of our farmhouse. One friend says I made him tired. We actually hear that quite a bit. When people visit and get "the tour" they are often astounded at the before and after. And, yes, you too will have a tour. We just have quite a bit of recovery to do after a week of illness (and did I mention a broken washing machine...?), before I'm willing to take pictures. I know it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful, but I always clean up before I invite guests in, be you friend or family!
I don't know how it happened. In the broadest sense I'd like to view it as God's gentle leading as He taught me a greater reverence for creation. That's sounds a little hooity tooity - what I'm trying to say is this.
I was, at best (before we moved to the farm), tolerant, bordering on indifferent, toward animals.
To meet me now, you'd think I'd been an animal lover for the whole of my life.
I never really "got it" - you know - animal people. In fact, I probably used that term in my high school english class as an example of an oxymoron. I was willing to accept that other's passion for all creatures usually defined by a kind was exactly that - a passion, and although I didn't understand it, I could see that it was real and ran deep.
Early in our family life,Weekend Farmer Husband and I brought home a really nice golden retriever, McKenzie. She was a beautiful dog with a very sweet temperament, and she added a lot to our family life. Until the very last months of her life however, I was only capable of measuring her contribution in terms of stink in the house, mud on the floor, and epic hairballs in every nook and cranny.
She moved to the farm with us and spent her last days in doggie utopia. I am pretty sure she smiled for 15 months straight. One day she stopped smiling and we knew it was the end. No one was surprised. But everyone was shocked when I cried.
Something in my heart had started to connect with her, with the chickens in the coop, the kittens in the barn, and the cows in the field, and even the skittish, yippy, goofy dog who was her companion in the last months.
If you noticed that this indifferent to animals person had a partial barn and property full of warm blooded creatures before she began to identify an affinity to them, you've caught on. It came late and caught me unawares.
The chickens came first. It just made sense that with all the space in the barn and the 4-6 dozen eggs our family eats in a week that we should have chickens. (This should settle it once and for all you folks who want to know what came first...it's always the chicken)
And then, we had lots of feed - and lots of mice. So we got cats.
I watched my children fall in love.
Even the big burly man boys were and are smitten.
I felt myself warm.
I was bowled over by my affection for the cows.
Their presence in our pasture was a source of joy for me.
They have distinct personalities and they're very social and mostly sweet.
(Disclaimer - we have a weird one this year. We'll be glad to see her go, but the other three are quite nice)
I search for them every day, feel deeply responsible for their well being even though I do none of the associated chores, and yup, I actually talk to them.
No time, no particular event, no revelation stands out as the clear moment when I began to "get" animals and animal people. All I know is that it's been delightful. The richness of experience and the sense of abundance that animals on the farm have produced is both real and perceived.
Real because as robust omnivores, we provide for our pantry, freezer, table, and our need for food by the work or our hands. The abundance is evident in our larder. (Does anyone even use that word anymore?).
Perceived because the ambiance, atmosphere, and level of relationship that the animals bring to family life, the land, and their role in this redemptive journey is difficult to capture in words or image. A producing farm yields and overflowing cup - at least for us.
Now, it's not always rosy. There's many a cold night that we're out in the barn keeping chicks from freezing when - it's no lie - we'd rather be under our cozy electric blanket.
And, yes, cows do run away and take years off of one's anticipated lifespan for the stress of it all.
It's true- some chickens aren't very smart, (but some are...), and the meat birds are particularly smelly.
Have I let you know how much work this all is? It's hard, and it's constant, and there's nobody else to do it but you.
But at the end of all the work and even in the middle of it, there's joy.
Getting a glimpse of what God might have been thinking when he fashioned a cow is such fun.
Learning to "think like a chicken" is funny and in the end proves to be effective!
Observing and participating in the complete life cycle of a meat bird helps you to see just how intricate life is, and that drumstick on your plate represents thousands of little life events to form the whole product you bring to the table.
We're almost to the end of our production cycle for this year.
I find myself lingering at the fence a little longer, gazing out the window to drink in the view of a full pasture more often than usual, and counting the days until it's done so that I don't fail to savor any that remain.
This is still so new.
I don't know when it'll feel normal - like it's "always" been that way.
But it is very welcome.