Monday, December 31, 2012

Little Things- Revisited

Do you remember way back when I decided to jump on the naming bandwagon and determined that 2012 was to be the year of The Little Things? Oh, if only I'd known then what I know now.  This has been a year of big things - gifts, changes, losses, growth - it all seems so much.

Of course, I'm aware just like you are, that fully present in the big things are myriad of little things.  And, I think that's part of why it's been a good exercise for me to adjust my focus from the wide take it all in angle and zoom in on detail.

We haven't changed that much.  We still struggle with bringing our projects totally to completion.
 What about you - do you agree that most of the time mostly done is done enough?  I mean, what's the line?  I finally (after three years of folks driving past our country home and having a peep show into every window), have drurtains- yes, you read that right - a hybrid of drapes and curtains on most of the windows in the house.  Sure, they're hung with plumbing hardware and I wouldn't try and fool 'ya into thinking they're a fancy job.  Made from drop cloths and table cloths they are.  And, they would rocket to the top of Nester's class from stray pins that remain after truly, intentionally, and with wild abandon having mistreated those windows to a "t"!

Taken to a point, are the window mistreaments done?  Technically, no.  Do they cover the windows, insulate, and look real purty?  Fer shure.

So, which way do you lean?  Are they done?  Can I cross them off the project list?  Or, should I yield to the more particular types who might push me a little further, to the point of actually threading up the sewing machine and dedicating space on my dining room table to finished seams?

Hmmm- this isn't exactly how I saw this post coming together in my head.  I'm highly distractable like that.  It grew dark while I typed, and I drew the drurtains across the windows, and there ya' go...I'm onto something unplanned.

If we haven't changed that much, it means we still live each day with optimism, enuthusiasm, and hope for a better future.  We still take on huge projects.  Like our pole barn.  I alluded to it in the 31 Days of Green Acres series.  Weekend Farmer Husband finished up in the garden, set up our final round of Freedom Ranger Chickens, and took on what felt like another whole house renovation.

In fact, our pole barn is just 200 sq. feet smaller than our home - for perspective, my living room is just a little over 200 square feet total, so it was like taking on the whole house except that one room.  It was just a shell, metal walls and roof covering a dismal dirt floor.  It now has a concrete floor, electricity, a ceiling, walls, high speed internet, insulation, lighting, a wood stove, doors, windows - phew!  Lots of ibuprofen and countless hours later he's not done, but the space is delightfully useful.  We can hardly believe how much it has positively impacted our life and our gratitude cup overflows.

Have we massaged the little things enough to be more timely on a consistent basis? Yes.
Have we sent out Christmas cards?  No.
Have we done a much better job at training ourselves to complete all the steps of cleaning up after a meal?  Yes.
Do we remember to take the compost and trash out every time?  No.
For those of you concerned about our habit of leaving doors open we're about 50/50 on that challenge.  Yup, still a growth area.

I don't want to miss it in all the prattle going on here - the little things really do morph into the big things don't they?  Or maybe it's the other way around.

Like, when Weekend Farmer Husband lost his job, that was big.  Really big.  But, God in his favor towards us, granted us months of little moments together.  Some of those moments were really awful - big arguments just boiling over and us behaving badly in light of grief, uncertainty, and turmoil.  But the little phrase, "Please forgive me" built bridges and restored hurts, and we found the time together grew more consistently pleasant, something to be savored and preserved as we continued to pursue eventual re-employment.

We raised lots of animals and found our way through big challenges produced by extreme weather.  Drought is a powerful master and although it is no little thing, it was in the end paying attention to details that allowed us to interpret how the animals were faring, respond to their needs, minimize suffering from soaring temperatures, and provide our customers with the best product we know how to produce.

I missed him in a million little ways, and when we released our firstborn son it was a big step.  Little by little we were able to change our perspective from how much we missed him to how much he was enlarging from his time away.  He returned to us, and lots of little changes add up to a big shift.  He came home a man.

It's no little thing that Weekend Farmer Husband is back to work. He has big challenges ahead and we have to relearn the myriad of little things we need to do in a day to serve him and encourage him in his role of faithfully providing for the life we lead.

So, for always gravitating toward the big picture, we slowly prove ourselves capable of sweating the small stuff when appropriate.

I don't plan to "name" 2013.
I plan to wait in expectation for and then participate in what comes.
And, I hope you'll come.  Back here, that is.
Because whatever it is, little or big, it is made so much more worthwhile when I know you're with me.
I write.
You read
If I've done it well, these symbols on a screen welcome you every time.
And so, together, we journey.

Blessing to you friend as we close 2012, and step with gratitude and boldness into 2013!

Psssst- If you send me a message AND your address, I'd be delighted to send you a Christmas card with the above photo...that is, when I get to them! xoxo

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

31 Days of Green Acres - Christmas Outtake

Many blessings to you friend on this Christmas Day.

One of my hopes as a writer is to present the Truth of Jesus Christ, a risen, loving, personal, and all powerful Savior,

 who as God incarnate came as a helpless babe to this broken world,

 lived a sinless life,

 poured himself out in ministry and service,

loved deeply,

 and then in supreme and voluntary obedience to God the Father,

stretched out and hung on a cross,

 and offered His life as a blood sacrifice for Adam's fallen race,

that His righteousness might be attributed to those dead in their sins,

 who by the great grace of God Almighty,

were made alive,

and the once dead hearts of those He foreknew were born again,

 that they may be called sons and daughters of God.

What mystery.

Each of those sweeping statements, clauses, Truths above has impacted and changed my life forever.

Good news.

And whatever story I'm here to tell - whether it's the completion of the long drawn out 31 Days of Green Acres, a new animal adventure, a family story - the Truest story I must tell is the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My words falter, my thoughts jumble, and my fingers pause when considering how to tell, what to tell, when to tell that I belong body and soul to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If you know me in "real life" the hesitations above are likely to surprise you.  In the context of face to face relationship I am much more confident, maybe even equipped, to tell this good news and to invite you to open the Holy Scriptures with me and drink deeply from the living water Jesus Christ offers.

I'd be quick to invite you in, and as we broke bread together, we'd talk about Jesus Christ, the bread of life.

As we celebrated life in the pure pleasure of being together, I'd pause and ask you to join me in joyful recognition that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the Life.

Broken and in need of redemption, I'd offer you my feeble strengths, beg your grace for my ongoing frailties, and humbly ask your companionable patience as I am refined and live in constant awe that my eternal salvation is complete because of what Christ has done.

Today, on this Christmas, I'd ask you to walk with me, and as we breathe deep the crisp winter air and glory in the dusting of snow on the ground, I'd share with you how Emmanuel, God with us, has changed everything.

Made all things new.

Filled a broken creation and a flawed human race with hope.

Renews, Redeems, and Restores because of His great love.

Love that came naked, helpless, subject to frail humanity.

Love that grew in wisdom and favor with God and man.

Love that fed the hungry, taught the masses, healed the sick, became obedient to death on a cross, and bore the sin of the world.

Love that is constant, eternal, boundless, and free.

So whatever picture you see here, whatever turn of phrase that catches your attention, whatever tip, trick, or homesteading "know- how" you might glean, above all may you come to know that Liberty Farm is place where we live this abundant life because of Jesus.

And that makes this much more than a Christmas outtake.

Jesus Christ - the reason we can, do, and often make merry.
Because from His fullness we have received grace upon grace.

Wishing you the most lovely of Christmases, filled to the full with grace upon grace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

31 Days to Green Acres - Day 26

Welcome! This post if part of a 31 Day Series. To read other entries, please click here. 

If I had a beard, I would have stroked it smooth in the wrestling, wrangling, and writing of this post.  Do you ever have something you want to say and because of an awareness of the possible sensitivity of the topic you tweak a script in your head?  So reader, take care, I'm going to try and carefully, respectfully, and diligently wrestle with one of the more difficult roles of raising animals.

You know, don't you, that I am selective about the images and ideas I post here.  You can come see how we really live anytime - the water is almost always ready to refresh your tea cup, or if a cuppa smoky Joe is for you, come on in.  Dive into our rich, messy, relational, adventuresome life and share it to the full.  But, I've spoken of this before.  Homesteading, farming, redeeming a lost house and property is hard core.  I try to not overwhelm with pictures of the mess, the lengthy weeks of unfinished projects cluttering up useful spaces, or the baser elements of working with animals.

 But, it must be done.  I cannot share this life, or your dream of country life, raising your own food, being more self sufficient, (if that is what you long for), and fail to include the eyes forced open, jaw set, heart racing moments when you look into the eyes of the animal, give thanks for its life and how it will sustain yours, and then pull the trigger or draw the knife.

I've recently shared with you the defining moment when in our down time, following one of our major projects, we responsively and somewhat impulsively decided to bring animals to the farm.  Our initial ambition  was to personally reject the feedlot model of bringing beef to our family table.  We were horrified and grossed out at our ignorant participation in what we have come to believe is an unsustainable and unsuitable industrial production paradigm.

(An important aside here...there is a lot of passion for a lot of folks surrounding these topics.  I hope I'm able to avoid a sanctimonious or righteous tone. I believe their, our, passion is appropriate   But sometimes, our passion acts as a roadblock to kindness, respect, and civil discourse.  My experience is that passionate people have much to agree on, but are strangely prone to focus on disagreements. Although that focus is not wrong, it can lead to wounding words and blind assumptions that do harm.  I pray we are spared.)

Mercifully, our first year was easy.  Grass grew abundantly.  We experienced zero predator problems.  Water flowed freely and it was neither too hot nor too cold.  And, our cows were particularly amenable, cute, and powerhouses of feed conversion.  A good season assisted us in our first slaughter since our yield had come easily.  That is, we worked hard, but were easily rewarded.  And, oh, there was a delightful increase of satisfaction, variety, and flavor at the family table.

You saw it, didn't you.  The word jumps out at me.  Slaughter.  It must be done to complete a season's cycle and to fulfill the purpose for which the animal was brought on the farm.  But no matter how many times I swallow hard, set my resolve, and do what must be done, I find that each time I grow more sensitive and appreciative of life's rythyms, rituals, and sacrifices.

On on small scale, we are accomplishing what we set out to do.  That is rewarding.  But it comes at a cost.  Yes, we make up front financial commitments each season hoping for a return, but that is only a part.  We invest time, sweat, hours, muscles, space, free time, and freedom to actively enact and advocate change in food supply practices.  We do it for ourselves.  We do it for our customers.  And we do it for our animals.

Humane practices have become so important to us.  And, we are such rookies.  With only two seasons under our farm belts we barely know what we're talking about.  But, the quality of the animal's life matters to us, and not just because of the product yielded, but because of a reverence and respect for the design and dignity of the animal.

This year was hard.  Extremes of weather and personal circumstances tested our limits.  In hindsight, we took on more than we should have, but who could know that so many variables would converge with such intensity?  The animals required much of us, and there were times when in exhaustion or defeat we would find ourselves guilty of the very practices we critique.  We'd fail to get fresh water in the most timely manner, or we wouldn't move animals to fresh pasture soon enough, and the balance would quickly tip into a redirect of energy and attention so that the animals were better served.  That all required more effort.  And with greater effort the yield is more hard fought, and in our case, emotions more fragile.  Near the surface.

Alternately, because of greater emotional exposure, we find ourselves more grateful and more broken at the end of the season.  Grateful that we were able to finish the animals and the butcher says the product looks great.  He says, "You guys nailed it."  That's no small praise and we trust our customers will concur.

Broken because when we bedded the cows down one last time in a confined pasture we knew we'd greet them at the fence in the morning with a rifle.  I can see the place they last lay from my bed.  Their imprint is still fresh in the grass, and even though our laying hens make short work of cleaning up the nasty business left behind, there are sections of green carpet that are still slick red.

Yesterday we killed our cows.  How else do you say it?  Quickly, steadily, without wavering the trigger pulled back and the barrel released it's bullets in quick succession, and cows bent low, yielding their lives to us.

Friend, come to your table with thanks for the life sacrifice an animal made to sustain you.  Remember the farmer who serves both you and the animal.  Join me in gratitude for eyes to see this beautiful broken life we share.  And, please, if you still long for a little piece of this grand journey, be resolved to do hard things.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Building a Bridge - can I even get from 25 to 26?

It's all good here on Liberty Farm.  The wheels of life have been spinning merrily along and I'm thwarted at every turn when it comes to finding my way to the keyboard.  I must have written at least 39 blog posts (in my imagination) today alone...and it seems like hundreds of ideas and words have knocked around in my grey matter for the month preceding, but alas, they may only remain sentence fragments in my head.

Unless...I resume the tap dance here.  The key stroking, story editing, picture taking, chronicling habit that brings me to the keys, and the heart skippity happy sound that comes from them pressed down, forming into words that fill the empty space and breathe life back into this routine.

Yes, I have some unfinished business here.  Y'all need to come set a spell while I wrap up 31 Days of Green Acres.  I owe you six. Phew-I can't even think that far ahead.  Getting from Day 25 to 26 is going to be quite enough of a stretch, not because of the content, but because of absence.  And, heavens to Betsy, I still haven't got those bovine beauties to wrap up their gripping tail ahem, tale, of their weekend away. Seems like that story might be a good fit in the series.

But first, an update.

It's a good one.

Weekend Farmer Husband is once again gainfully employed.  He'll be working in the same industry, doing the same thing, in the same/similar region, and, as before, will be able to spend most of his office time in his home office.  His "official" start date is likely to be next Monday and while I'm filled with profound gratitude for the return of income to our life, I'm kinda wiggy about the transition we'll undergo.  He's enjoyed every moment of Full Time Farmer, and there wasn't a day that he couldn't find something productive and enjoyable to do, so the return to corporate culture and its demands seems overwhelming.  He's ready though.  For that, I am thankful.

Lacking a graceful transition other than the photograph above I'll plunge right into one of the "things" that's kept me a little distracted from writing. I've been challenged, reawakened, engaged, and blessed to participate in an online book club hosted by the effervescent, brilliant, one and only Edie, from life{in}grace..  Y'all should pop on over and meet her.  You'll come away warmed, inspired, convicted, and probably wanting your very own pair of cowboy boots.  I also hope you'll be interested in reading along as a few of us nerds unite to page by page read through the classics of Western Literature.  The first two books we read, Homer's Odyssey, and Antigone by Sophocles, were (dare I say it...?) a breeze and blew through the cobwebs of my mind to clear out the accumulated clutter of an active but too often unintentional mind.

 Plato?  The Republic?  Kicking me in the backside it is.  I am so looking forward to the online discussion starting.  I think it'll be a little like a literature based 30 Day Shred!  What?  You aren't interested in that kind of pain?  Me neither.  That's why there's so many other books on the stack.  I can only keep my eyeballs on the pages of The Republic for a short time before I'm unable to keep my attention.  The seed catalogs, library books, and over all easier reading have kept my reading muskles, ( you should be hearing Popeye here folks...), from seizing up.

What's this about a bridge?  After all that's in the title. Well, nothing really.  It was just a way to step into this gap and with words build a metaphorical bridge of sorts to help close the space between where I left off and where I must continue to go.  So would you pretty please leave this poor beggar a comment and let me know you've come visiting?  Us country folk love a good chat.