Keep Your Eye on the Bird

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This morning was a beautiful morning to sit outside and enjoy the cooler weather. I was having my morning cup of tea when I heard a cardinal singing in the tree. I saw it fly from one place to another branch and tried to keep my eye on it.

As I was trying to watch and listen, our cat decided to join me. To be honest she distracted me and I lost track of that flash of red that was the cardinal. I searched and searched but failed to find it back.

I sat for a bit pondering how easily I was distracted from the task I had set for myself. It wasn’t a task of much importance, but I came to realize that there are many large tasks that I also get distracted from.

A thought came to my mind that there are many times I should be keeping my eyes on God and what He would have me do….but I get distracted by crazy things that send my thought in other directions.

I kind of wondered if that is happening in our world today….are we distracted by media news stories that showcase issues and problems that seem to big for us to solve? Are we distracted by social media full of hashtags and trendy sayings that really fix nothing but sound like we are caring? Do we get sidetracked from keeping our eye on the One that has ALL the answers?

The problems are many and they are huge. They seem overwhelming when looked at through the lens of the world. Perhaps we/I should be looking at them through the God’s lens?

As I sat there, sipping on my tea this quiet morning I heard the cardinal sing again. I peered to my left and there the cardinal sat…..a brilliant flash of red, serenading me with a concert that was only enjoyed by the cat and me.

It seemed like a promise…..that even though I might be distracted by the world around me….God is still faithful. He puts me back on track.  I realized that I cannot change the world and fix all the injustices and hurts…..but I can do the task I am given in this small piece of world that is home.

I realized I am only one person….but I can live in such a way that influences those around me. I can be faithful….I can fix my eyes on Him and share His love and the hope that is promised.

May this weekend find you sharing that promise. May this weekend find you doing the task that is yours to do and may you keep your eyes fixed firmly on the  bird.

“The main thing
is to keep the main thing
a main thing.”
Stephen R. Covey

If you chase two rabbits…
both will escape.
verybestquotes.com

New Skills

 

IMG_7629Today I learned a new skill.  I use the term skill very,  very loosely. I think my husband was much more skilled than me. (I know he is much more skilled at this than me!) Today, we butchered a hog…yep…start to finish.

We have butchered deer and chickens in the past….and we actually slaughtered a hog years ago, but then paid someone else to cut it into chops, bacon, hams etc. This time we tried it all on our own.

We were fortunate to get a hog from a farmer who had one that could not be sold, due to a bad leg. Rather than let an entire hog go to waste, we ended up with it and were so grateful.

I found a YouTube video on how to butcher in a Facebook group called IA Farm 2 Table. The video on learning this skill is put on by a couple guys called The Bearded Butchers.

I will have to say those two guys made it look like a walk in the park.  I am here to tell you, our hog did not turn out quite the same as theirs. In fact…I think my husband and I just may have invented a few new “cuts” of meat.

Our excuse for slightly different looking cuts of meat was lack of equipment used by those two bearded butchers. (I am pretty sure our knives would have made them laugh.) I am totally sticking to that excuse!

We did invite our daughter in law to come help, but for some reason she respectfully declined. I am not sure why….I thought it was not too bad cutting up a hog, on a hayrack, under a tree. The breeze was very nice and cool.

As we were cutting it apart I would comment that our cuts did not quite look the same as the video. My husband would respond….”it will still taste like pork. Make it into a roast type hunk and you can do anything with it.” Then we would both start laughing.

We did not do bacon or hams, as that may have really taxed our skills AND we did not have a smoker.  We did attempt roasts, pork chops, and ribs. Tomorrow I hope to can the meat that we cubed. It should be interesting as I have not canned meat in years. I guess that means it is time to give it a whirl again?

We were tired this evening,  so we bagged and froze the fat so it can be rendered into lard later. We also froze the trimmings so we can grind them at a later date.  I will say once all the packages were wrapped; they looked really good!  Almost professional.

I will also say it was an adventure. When I woke up this morning I really was not too excited by the prospect of dealing with the hog. Now that it is packaged and in my freezer I am much more excited about it.

My word of advice for the week—You can teach old dogs new tricks. You can learn new skills. A YouTube video and some makeshift equipment and you are good to go.

What have you learned this week?  I would love to know! Oh……and one more thing…..we still have all our fingers intact.

“Do what you can,
with what you have,
where you are.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

 

Small Beginnings

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Last fall we planted a quaking aspen tree in the back yard. I wanted an aspen tree because I love the sound of those leaves dancing in the wind in the summertime. My nephew found a tree for me that was less than perfect so it was a bargain.

We did not care about perfection when it came to a tree as I think there is a lot of beauty in imperfect things. For me that tree was perfect!  When we planted the tree, we saw there were a lot of little shoots coming from the root ball. Lots of “baby” quaking aspens.

I carefully untangled a couple of those tiny trees from the main root ball and planted them also. I put flags by them so I would not lose them come this spring.

Once the snow had melted and the regular sized quaking aspen started budding out I carefully started to monitor those very tiny twigs. At first I was sure those sticks were dead and had not made it through the winter. (It was a good thing there were flags by them or I would never have found them back!)

Then came the day that they both had very small shoots coming out of them. I still wasn’t sure if these were actually the twigs I had planted….so I watched and waited some more.

Finally there were the tiniest little leaves and I made my husband come take a look. He assured me they were aspens….it was a good day!

Waiting for those little twigs to show signs of life took patience. They were not going to be hurried just to satisfy me and my curiosity. It was a good reminder that all things happen in their appointed time.

I wondered if that is how God feels about me. Does He keep peering at me and marvel that it takes me so long to show any growth? I have a feeling that His patience far exceeds mine when it comes to waiting for results.

It is perhaps a good reminder to show grace and patience to ourselves and to those around us. It is good to remember that we are not all at the same place in our growth and we are all growing at the rate He has planned for us.

We are not perfect but, like my tree, there can be a beauty in that imperfection. We just need the grace to realize we are not the same….and don’t need to be.

May your weekend be filled with grace. May you find contentment in the small things like leaves that rustle and dance in the breeze. And I hope we give ourselves time to bloom when we are supposed to.

 

“Patience
is the calm acceptance
that things can happen
in a different order
than the one you have in your mind.”
David G. Allen

 

 

Wrong Side Of the Fence

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Today was finally the day…we finally got around to getting the chicken coop ready for the winter. That pretty much involves cleaning out the nesting boxes, removing the roost, cleaning up the floor and putting down plenty of new wonderful smelling pine shavings.

Needless to say, the girls did not seem to appreciate the effort. My best guess is they just got so used to the coop gradually getting dirtier that they did not notice that a clean up was overdue.

For some reason the cleaning seemed to confuse the girls. When it was time to go in for the night; one of them ended up on the wrong side of the fence. Instead of retracing her steps to get back to the right side, she just kept running back and forth in front of the chicken run. I am not sure if she thought a door would magically appear or what.

It took a bit of urging and herding to get her where she needed to be. It was rather funny to see her run as fast as she could to get in the coop when she finally figured out where she was. It is really too bad that chickens don’t have faces that show much expression…..perhaps that is why they can be so vocal?

I am kind of thinking that I am a bit (okay…maybe a lot) like those chickens. I resist change…even if it is for my own good.  When I am not where I am supposed to be it sometimes takes a lot of urging to convince me I need to turn around and head the other way.

The only difference…. my face probably shows my dismay and alarm as I am being urged the right direction. I know I tend to question out loud if I am not comfortable with the situation.

I am fortunate that I have friends and family who make sure I know where I am supposed to be, at pretty much any given time. It is a blessing to have those people in my life. They keep me from running back and forth looking for that magical door.

May this weekend find you with people close by that keep you on the right side of the fence. May you and I be blessed and be a blessing to others as we live life. And may we all be willing to follow the gentle urging needed to keep us going in the right direction.

May we all, end up exactly where we are supposed to be.

“Are you where you are supposed to be?”
Jenn J.

 

Points of View

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Steam rising from the river

Yesterday did not go quite as planned….at least as I had planned. I had planned to rake leaves. And I had planned to do some more last minute Fall outdoor things.

When I woke up yesterday I noticed the gleaming sheen of ice on our porch. There were a few flakes drifting around and I still thought I would be able to rake the thick coating of leaves off the grass in our front yard…..later in the day.

As the morning wore on, the wind started to howl, the snow came down thicker and I realized that lawn raking was not going to be happening. My husband informed me that I could still rake if I wanted to. I assured him that raking a leaf/snow mix was a bad idea.

I had let the girls out in the morning and saw that they were safely tucked into the small shed where they love to dust bath. I vaguely wondered if they would figure out to go in once night came around or if they would not want to walk on fresh fallen snow.

Come about 5:00 in the afternoon I had the answer to my wonderings. When it came time to lock the girls in for the night I was missing five Rhode Island Reds. I went to the house and got a flashlight and trudged back.

Under the non-working pickup in the shed, there were the five birds. Back to the house I went and grabbed a broom. Using the broom I started tapping on the pickup….loudly…and then swinging it around underneath to encourage those girls to make the journey to the coop.  It worked for two of them.

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Enjoying the day after the snow

The last three decided to make life difficult. I would go one way around that vehicle and they would run the other. It didn’t take long and they had wedged themselves behind a large panel of wood.

I would say I was exasperated, but it was way beyond that.  I was to the stage of muttering under my breath about chicken soup tasting good….drumsticks and name-calling. For a space of time, I was starting to think I should be riding that broom instead of using it to try herd chickens.

Fortunately my husband came home and with the aid of a fishing net; the three birds were nabbed and safely installed in the coop for the night. It was too late for me to make it to my Bible Study group…which was a sad thing because I really really needed to go to Bible Study after the chicken chasing event.

I have a feeling those last three girls were scared of something they did not know. The first snow of the season left them feeling uneasy and out of their comfort zone. They did not want to walk on something that was not familiar.

I get that feeling….I don’t like being out of my comfort zone either!  I also do not like taking a path that feels different. It is too scary and you never know what you will encounter when you are asked to go through things that are not the same as before.

It would probably do me good to remember that, when I am asked by my Creator to do something different; it is for my own good when I am herded to the coop…it might be for my safety that I am asked to walk unfamiliar paths. I wonder how many times I am the one upside down in a fish net, squawking up a storm?

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Beauty in the Morning

I also have the feeling those chickens have no idea how beautiful the morning after a snowfall can be.

The fog rising off the river….the trees decked in sparkling ice….and the hush that comes with a small layer of snow.

They cannot appreciate the crunch of icy pellets underfoot and the cold air as it makes your fingers tingle.

This morning was a good morning. I made no plans dependent on weather. The girls were once again enjoying being outdoors. The trees were beautiful. The leaves just might stay where they are, till they disintegrate next spring, and it is all good.

I will try not to squawk to much when guided down unfamiliar paths. I will, instead, try enjoy the view set before me….even though it may be different than I had planned.

 

“There is a sense of danger in leaving what you know,
even if what you know isn’t much.
― John William Tuohy

Summer’s End

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In the past few days there have been several indicators that Fall is fast closing in. Canning season has come to an end. The garden is no longer beautiful and lush.  (It was looking bedraggled and spent so we cleared the debris and my husband pulled a disc through it.) The tall grasses that line the river bank are turning brown and the trees are fast losing their leaves.

The sound of the mornings are even different than a month ago. There is no longer a choir of birds singing at high volume in the gully to the south of us. Wind does not blow softly through the leaves on the trees. It seems to be gaining that winter howl…though I am glad it is not accompanied by snow…….yet!

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An End to Summer Fun

I took the pool down a few weeks back because we were having high winds and they said cooler weather was coming. I figured I should take it down while the weather was nice enough to deal with gallons of water that would probably be landing on me.

It was my concession to the fact that the seasons were indeed changing and I had best be prepared. I had been dragging my feet on that task as I do like the warmer weather, better than snow and cold and ice. It does feel kind of like giving up when I take it down.

I had not really planned on taking a few weeks break from blogging, but it just seemed that every time I was going to sit down and work on a post, another job seemed more pressing. Between the canning, prepping the garden for winter and preparing for the harvesting of our soybean field….time just slipped away.

The neighbor came over and combined the soybeans for us this past week. It is a good job to have finished for the season. There is a comfort in having those bushels safely tucked away at the local elevator.

There is something satisfying about the look of a harvested field. At first glance it looks like an ending. When you take a second glance you see that it is the first step in the preparations for planting next year. It is a beginning.

I love the fact that farming is like a dance. There is an ageless rhythm to the passing of seasons. There is a harmony to the preparing, planting, maintaining and harvesting those fields.

There is a beauty to the golden ripe crops and there is a beauty to the stubble left behind after the combine has done it’s work. There is a rightness to the cycles of the passing seasons and it is so evident as I watch the fields change.

Those fields are so like life….there is beauty in all seasons of life. Sometimes it may seem like giving up as you enter that next season. In all reality it is just a preparation for the next steps of the dance.

Let’s enjoy that change…let’s embrace the ageless rhythm that is life. Let’s open our eyes to the beauty of each step we take. Those endings just might be beginnings…..much like taking in the harvest in order to prepare for planting.

 

“Live each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Someday Just Might Be Today

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There is an old song by CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival) titled “Someday Never Comes”.  It might be true for the lyrics in that song but I have found that Someday is Today!

I am going to back up a bit….well a long bit. When we first moved here about 15 years ago we had sheep in our back yard. Yes, you read that right…sheep. It was hard packed dirt and when you slept with the windows open at night the sheep were right by the window.

We decided we should probably have a back yard, so the sheep got penned in somewhere else and my husband chewed up that hard earth and we planted grass seed. That first crop of grass was promptly eaten by a small flock of chickens.

We went back to the farm store and purchased some more grass seed. The seed was planted and it did not take long and those same chickens had once again cleared it off as it came up.

At that point my husband decided we would seed it one more time and if they ate it again he was done….no grass….no backyard.  I petitioned for a fence to keep the girls out.

We put up a fence quickly, as we figured, someday we would do it right. Someday we would make it nice and straight and put a gate in that actually swung easily and wasn’t just wired to the fence.

This time the grass grew as it was protected by our temporary fence. The years kind of slid past, as they tend to do, and temporary was starting to look kind of permanent.

This past spring my husband purchased a very nice garden gate at a farm consignment auction with the intention that someday we would put that in when we redid that piece of backyard fence.

The somedays seemed to go past and this week my husband decided that someday had arrived! Yesterday the gate was put in with cement around the poles to make it sturdy. Today we redid the piece of fence that attaches to the garden gate and goes to the chicken coop.

To say I am excited about it is a bit of an understatement. I am excited to have a fence that is straight and stands firm. I am excited to have a gate that will latch and swings easily in both directions. (It is amazing what using the correct hardware will do for a garden gate!)

I love the look of the old gate and the old fence. The fence was some that used to go around the front yard when we bought this place many years ago. I have a feeling that piece of fence could tell a lot of stories about the children it kept in and the critters it kept out. (Probably chickens!)

There is probably a lesson in here somewhere. It probably has to do with being patient and how that is a virtue or something like that. I must confess I did not feel virtuous. I just kind of got used to the wobbly fence and less than stellar gate set up.

There is probably a lesson in that somewhere too!  It probably is a lesson that we should not get so complacent when things are not as they should be. Maybe we should work a bit harder to make them right. This is true with fences as well as things like relationships and other things needing to be straightened out.

Whatever the lesson. I am just happy that someday did come to our farm! May your someday show up soon and may it leave you as excited as my someday did for me.

One day,
you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday.
And then quietly,
without you ever really noticing,
someday is today.
And then someday is yesterday.
And this is your life.

John Green

 

Holding Fast

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The days may be hot, but my husband and I are preparing for the cold days to come. We have been spending our mornings splitting the wood that he cut late last fall.

My job in this endeavor is not too tough. I get to just sit on my chair; and push and pull the lever that runs the wood splitter. My husband has the much harder job of lifting each log and placing it in the “cradle” to be split.

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Some of those logs are not too big but others are pretty large, heavy and cumbersome. It does not help that the weather has been pretty toasty and very humid. I have discovered that each one of those logs is different.

Some are nice and round and split like a dream. Others are kind of gnarly. Some look fine on the outside; but once the maul starts splitting through them, you discover the remains of a branch that the tree had at one time. The maul kind of has to groan it’s way through those logs.

The fact that I get to sit and push/pull that lever gives me ample time to think about things and life in general. I kind of pondered on the fact of how tightly those branches were fixed in that log. They do not let go of their hold on the log without a fight.

My mind wandered over to what it means to be firmly rooted and I am pretty sure I was given a visual image of that with those logs. I was also amazed how deep inside the tree those branches start. They were right at the heart of the tree. There is something profound about that fact.

I kind of wonder if we all need to be like those branches…. firmly rooted to something solid…something that does not shift with the whims of political climate or opinions.

May we be branches that start near the heart of the Creator and let us hold fast to that place. Let us put up a fight when something tries to tear us from that Tree. The world may shift and the world may change, but the heart of the Creator remains the same…..and I am eternally grateful.


Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Two Sides to Freedom

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Tonight as I went out to lock the girls in for the night I was not prepared for the beautiful orange of the western sky as it peeked between the evergreen boughs. The night was quiet with a light breeze gently moving the leaves of the flowering crab tree. It was the perfect ending to some very busy days.

The last weeks have been very busy. I have a feeling we are trying to catch up and stay ahead of things between the heavy rainstorms that we have been given. The lawn seems to be growing faster than we can get it mowed. And the weeds in the fields and garden have been doing the same.

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Arnold’s Park

In between all the day to day house/farm stuff, we had the 4th of July holiday thrown in. I really love that holiday because we spend it at my sister’s place at the lake. Family and friends gather for a day of fun, food, boat rides and game playing. Stories are traded, babies are held, recipes are traded and the day ends with the traditional firework display.

As I sat there and watched those fireworks I noticed the flag flying proudly at Arnold’s Park. It did make me pause and realize what this celebration was really all about…the birth of our nation and the sacrifice it took to make it through all the labor pains of that birth.

It made me think of the blood that was shed and is still being shed so that freedoms can be protected. I am so grateful for those that are willing to make that sacrifice for us. I am grateful for those who leave their families for months at a time so I can spend a holiday with mine.

20190705_0852451736528332.jpgWe were concerned about the weather as storms were predicted to roll in during the day….fortunately they were wrong this time. We were able to take a walk along the lake the next morning and enjoy the quiet of the lake after the very people-filled day before.

 

It was kind of amazing how quiet the water was that morning. The day before it was choppy due to all the boats and jet skis that were zipping around. It was a great reminder that there are usually two sides to most things in life…you just have to open your eyes to both of them.

In the space of 24 hours we saw both sides of the lake…the busy and the quiet. We were able to see a dazzling fireworks display and enjoy the freedom of that while reflecting on the sacrifice it takes to keep those freedoms.

I will always be grateful for those freedoms and that sacrifice. When I am privileged to stand in my backyard, inhaling the fragrance of blooming lilies, feeling the light breeze whisper past my cheek and see the sky on fire with brilliant shades of orange; I will give thanks to those who have paid the ultimate price. I will remember the two sides that are freedom.

 

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must,
like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

Thomas Paine

 

Lessons from Caterpillars and Geese

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A Butterfly in the Making

The other day my husband asked if I was busy. I was, but when he has something he wants to show me it is usually pretty good. I put my boots on, as I was not sure where we would be heading.

We headed for the river, which is not that far from our house. He had spotted some milkweeds that morning and discovered there were three monarch caterpillars on them.

That might not seem like a big deal to some people; but for us it was. We have noticed there are not as many monarch butterflies around as there used to be and spotting those caterpillars just made our day.

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A family of Canadian geese

As we were standing there watching them hungrily devour the milkweed leaves I glanced at the opposite shore of the river. There was an entire family of Canadian Geese quietly floating along the bank.

We were not sure if it was mom or dad at the front but they were at each end of their brood of goslings. I headed back to the house to grab the camera so I could snap some pictures of both wonderful things.

It was so much fun to stand and watch the display of wildlife in that small area. It was a marvel to know those caterpillars would end up as a chrysalis and be beautiful butterflies this summer.

It was something to see the care that the parents of those gosling were taking with their young. They were so graceful as they glided along the riverbank to hide under an overhanging tree.

I often wonder if God knew we would need these things in nature to ground us and leave us standing in wonder at how it all works. It takes us back to the basic things…the wonder of being a child and seeing new life around us.

The metamorphisis of catepillars into butterflies let’s us know that just because we are in a certain spot in this life….it might not always be this way. Things that seem ordinary can turn into something beautiful.

Seeing that family of geese reminds me how much we are cared for by the Creator of this world. If He cares enough to give such good parents to those goslings…how much more He cares for us!

I love finding the lesson that is waiting for us just outside our doors and windows. I love seeing how our life seems to reflect what is happening in creation. Let’s spend the rest of this week opening our eyes and our hearts to the lessons around us.

In every walk with nature
one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_muir_108391