Old Barns and Grace

 

IMG_3967 Old Barn

The other Sunday afternoon my husband and I went for a little motorcycle ride through the countryside. We love to take the back roads and just see what there is to look at.

This particular Sunday afternoon found us on a gravel road, which I am pretty sure I would not be able to find again! We happened upon a barn in the middle of a growing field of corn and bordered with soybeans.

Against the odds this barn remains standing. I have no idea when this barn was built but I have a feeling it has survived and withstood years of storms, high winds, burning sun, gnawing animals and anything else that time has thrown it’s way.

IMG_3955 The Vulture Leaves

As we looked at the front of the barn we noticed a vulture roosting in the open door of the haymow. As we ventured closer the vulture decided we were just too scary and decided to fly away.

IMG_3963 Barn Doors

The open door just seemed to beckon us to come in…..so we did. Inside it looked as if time had stood still.  The wood stanchions were still in place as if they were patiently waiting for those cows to come home for milking time. It looked as if this barn was in use when cows were milked by hand.

IMG_3964 Still Waiting for the Cows to Come Home

There was still some type of gear hanging by a window in the barn. The animals that it was needed for are long gone and the gear itself probably long forgotten by it’s owners.

IMG_3960 Old Gear

For some reason there was a tea cup standing on a shelf. It made me wonder if the farmer brought his tea or coffee out to the barn with him on those cold mornings. It would have been a great way to warm his hands before picking up cold galvanized pails and milking stools.IMG_3965 Cups from the Past

There was still hay up in the haymow. If you shut your eyes you could almost hear the excitement of children as they crawled through that hay in search of a batch of newborn kittens. The faint sound of laughter echoed through the years as those same kids must have swung from the haymow rope, let go and landed in the mounds of new straw.

That barn brought back memories for my husband of growing up and making tunnels with the bales of hay and straw. As an adult the thought of that, kind of makes me cringe and worry about those tunnels collapsing. Children definitely don’t let fear rule their fun!

The barn stood like a testament to perseverance. A silent witness to the changing landscape of farming. I was glad to see it standing as so many barns are being burned, leveled and disappearing from our countryside.

The barn was beautiful in it’s disrepair. It was beautiful with it’s siding turned to gray. It was beautiful just because it was there.  The old barn was a good reminder of grace.

It was good to be reminded that we are beautiful with our imperfections. We are beautiful even though we no longer feel useful. When it comes to grace…….. just being is enough.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

 

Drumstick

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Every so often you end up with a chicken who can be defined by the word ….. moxie.  I don’t typically name my girls but I may have to name this one. A couple weeks ago (the night of July 4th to be exact) this Rhode Island Red came close to being a late evening snack for a raccoon.

We had spent the day with family at Lake Okoboji and by the time we got home, after the fireworks display, the evening had cooled off nicely. We opened the windows to let some of the cool air in and headed for bed.

We woke, from a deep sleep, to the sound of a chicken squawking in terror. My husband grabbed a flashlight and saw the glowing eyes of a raccoon, who had decided our chicken was extremely edible. He (my husband….not the raccoon) grabbed the gun and headed outdoors.

It didn’t take long and I heard a lot more squawking. My husband came back in the house and told me that, that chicken was one lucky bird. He had found her and put her in the coop with the rest of the girls.  He also told me he wasn’t sure what shape she was in, as it was dark and he could see, by the flashlight, there were lots of feathers in the back yard.

When morning came and I went to let the girls out of their coop, I could see red feathers strewn across the yard. I reluctantly opened the door of the coop, dreading what I would see. I was sure I was going to find a dead or half-dead, bloody chicken.

When I did open the door, the flock of hens blew past me like nothing had happened during the night. I peered in the coop and the only girls still in it were the broody ones that will not leave the nesting boxes.

I started hunting my chicken down, as I was curious to see where all those feathers had actually come from.  I discovered that she had been plucked on her back and on one of her legs. Amazingly, there wasn’t any broken skin!

IMG_3913

My husband has actually started calling this girl, “Drumstick” and I have to agree she kind of looks like a walking drumstick!

I cannot believe she escaped from a raccoon with only losing feathers! I also cannot believe that it has not seemed to slow her down at all. She doesn’t seem in the least traumatized by the whole event. She is living life, like any normal chicken and has her feathers have even started growing back in.

The only difference in her behavior is that she no longer hides outside at night anymore. She now makes it a point to be one of the first girls in the coop when evening comes. Somewhere in her little brain she has figured out that following the rules equals safety.

I have a feeling that we, as people, are often like Drumstick.  We like to live on the edge….go where it isn’t safe….and hope for the best. We tend to think that bad stuff will only happen to someone else and we will be okay.  Every so often, that bubble is shattered and if we are fortunate, we will make it safely back in the coop.

I am thinking Drumstick, might end up being an awesome object lesson for my grandkids (and for me!). A lesson that there are rules for a reason. A lesson that when bad things happen to you….don’t let it take over your life. Drumstick is a good reminder that one should live, really live, as long as you are alive.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
– Henry Ellis

 

 

Not So Lazy Days of Summer

IMG_3921 Soybeans and Fireflies

I am quickly discovering that summer is a hard time to keep current with a blog. For some reason the days are spent outdoors trying to maintain the lawn, garden, soybean fields and a bunch of other important things.  So I will apologize, up front, for not keeping up with your blogs!

It makes me wonder about that saying….the lazy days of summer.  I keep waiting for those to show up. I have discovered things during these not so lazy days. I discovered it is really hard to try photograph lightening bugs over the bean field….so all you really are getting with this post’s photo is soybeans!  Those little flying lights are there…you just can’t see them! Though I do think all those little white dots are actually the bugs…..

I am also discovering that heat and humidity will sap any creative writing thoughts that one might have. (I would hate to admit it might be age and just being really tired at the end of the day!) I headed over to the daily prompt site for some words that might generate an idea for a riveting post……(I am still wondering and searching for a marvelous idea.)

My husband and I were sitting in the house after another morning spent walking the beans. (See prior post for what that is …. in case you are wondering.) He made the comment that it is “hotter than a banshee outside”.

Once he made that comment, we both wondered what that really meant! How hot is a banshee? And what is a banshee? Perhaps my friends from over the pond have that answer?

It also caused me to wonder about other “hotter than” statements……”hotter than Dutch love.” (Hmmmm, I am mainly dutch ancestry and think I will just let that one totally alone!)  “hotter than a pistol” (?????)…….. “hotter than a cat on a hot tin roof”(why is that cat on a tin roof anyway?) ……”hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk” (pretty sure I will stick to using my fry pan.)…..  Any other “hotter than” comments out there?

It is one of those “hotter than” days where there will be no scampering about.  It would get entirely too hot and sweaty. It is hard enough to kind of slog through a day like this; without trying to look perky and alert! One weatherman said it exactly right…..”the next few days will have air you can wear.”

The only thing that seems to be full of life is the bugs.  The monarchs float effortlessly on the breeze. I always wonder if they are drawn by the delightful scent the milkweed blooms send out. Bumble bees and honey bees are busy gathering pollen from my flowers and typically leave us alone….as long as we leave them alone. The fireflies are like twinkling little stars stretched out over the bean field at night.

It is good to see that this type of weather is at least good for all of them. It has been so droughty here that we don’t seem to have nearly the mosquito population that we usually do….that is one upside to our lack or rain.

Maybe this weather is really given to us so that we can truly appreciate when a cool front comes through? Maybe it teaches us perseverance? Maybe, just maybe, we can be grateful it is this humid in our area. If it wasn’t so muggy, our corn fields would begin to shrivel and burn up, rather than flourish as well as they do, even without rainfall.

I guess this is when I must learn to be “content in all things” (Philippians 4:12-13)  and not just when life is exactly as I would like it to be. Maybe it is time to be happy to just enjoy the butterflies and lightening bugs.

It is good to acknowledge that God is God and I am not. He knows what I need, when I need it. His timing for my life and for the world I live in; is perfect. And for that…..I am indeed grateful!

I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times,
what is still to come.
I say,
‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
Isaiah 46:10
New International Version

 

Surviving the Heat and Humidity

IMG_3907 One of My Favorite Corners.JPG

My Favorite Corner

We are now officially in the weather pattern in Iowa that has two temperature settings…..hot and muggy or hotter and muggier. When we walked out our door this morning it didn’t feel too bad as it had cooled off slightly during the night.

We decided we had better walk some beans (also known as swinging a hoe in the soybean field and whacking weeds) before it became too hot and unbearable. We were fortunate in the fact that until 10:30 it was overcast and we had a breeze. You learn very quickly to ignore the heat, humidity and grit that sifts into your shoes.

By afternoon, that overcast sky had left and the sun beamed bright and hot in it’s place. I found this out when I ventured out again to weed in the vegetable garden. This has been a prolific season for weeds around here! As I was plucking out weeds and finding the carrots back; it quickly felt like I was cooking in the sun.

By evening, my husband even had to admit that it was indeed humid. He usually seems to be immune to the mugginess. When he mentioned how bad it was…..I knew it was indeed like swimming through the air when we walked outside.

I will have to admit that this weather is excellent for growing things.  The melons in the garden are vining out and I noticed some of the watermelons had marble sized melons on them. I have lettuce, that for some reason, seems to want to hang out in the carrots….and I am good with that as long as they all keep growing and get along!

My peas are spotty, but the ones that are there, are blooming. They had to be planted twice due to rabbits eating them the first time. I think they munched them to the ground as fast as they came up.

I have a feeling that is why the second group I planted came up pretty thin also. I did have one plant with a few pods on it and those pods were an excellent snack while working in the garden.

Once I had done enough weeding, I wandered around to see how the flowers were faring in this heat. It turns out they are doing wonderfully!

The elecampane is hugely tall and I think I will have to move it this fall as it is really too large for the space where it is now growing. I was given the seeds from my friend Sara; and had no idea what this plant would look like….now I know and it needs a little more room than I have given it.

IMG_3887 Elecampane

Elecampane

I had to stand on our porch to get a picture of the flower of the elecampane…..it was that tall!  If I remember right Sara told me they are of some medicinal value but, for the life of me I cannot remember for what….I may have to turn to my other buddy – Google.

My lilies are also doing wonderfully this year and have lots of buds, promising lots of blooms.

IMG_3886 Lilies

Lilies

The phlox are also in full bloom at this time. Every time I see those beautiful blooms I think of my friend, Darlene, who sent them along with my daughter-in-law (her daughter) for me to add to my shady area. It just makes me smile.

IMG_3903 Phlox

Phlox

The flowers and growing vegetables make all the heat and humidity worthwhile. I know they would not flourish like they do without the sticky weather. It is kind of a trade off but a lot of things in life are like that……two sides of the same coin.

It is good to remind myself that, if not for the sticky weather, our crops wouldn’t grow like they do…….nor would my flowers be as beautiful and scent the air with that wonderful sweetness that I get to enjoy.

It makes the heat of the day more bearable when there is beauty to be found. It helps through the uncomfortable seasons when you get to enjoy something as simple as flowers in bloom.

We all have obstacles.
The feeling of satisfaction comes by overcoming something.
Marta

The Wonder of Birds

IMG_3722 (2) Kestrel

Baby Kestrel

 

This morning brought a rare treat for me. For some reason, unknown even to me, I really like kestrels. I have no idea why I find these little hawks fascinating but I do.

My husband was outside for a bit, this morning, and suddenly came back to the house. He told me to follow him and bring my camera. He would not tell me why, he only assured me that I would not be sorry.

I found my shoes, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door after him. After being married to this man for nearly 37 years I have learned to trust him when he tells me to follow.

We went down to what used to be the hog house/lambing shed. Once we got there my husband looked really disappointed. He showed me a cinder block that a baby kestrel had been perched on just a few minutes before.

We stood there a bit and started to look around to see if the little bird had hopped somewhere else. (We weren’t sure if he even knew how to fly.) We found the little kestrel hiding under a roll of woven wire that stood next to the building.

I moved in to take a few pictures, which did not make the little kestrel happy at all!  It was pretty sunny and that also made it hard to get a good photo.

We disturbed him enough that he did fly to another outbuilding, which answered the question of his flying ability.  We stood and watched a bit, and heard him calling to his parents who were flying overhead.

I went back to work in the house and it didn’t take long before my husband came to the door again with the same request…..follow him and bring the camera. This time he had spotted a pair of Baltimore Orioles bringing food to their babies in the nest.

IMG_3735 (2) Papa Oriole

Baltimore Orioles

 

It is always amazing to me how they build those sac-like nests. It is also amazing to me that those baby birds don’t get motion sickness when those branches are swinging during the windstorms that we have.

Those nests are so hard to see when the leaves are full on the trees. My husband said the only way he spotted it was by watching to see where mom and dad Oriole landed each time. (If you look closely the nest is the brownish blob beneath the male Oriole.) You could also plainly hear the baby birds begging for food every time a parent landed with lunch.

It was an amazing way to break up the chores of the morning. To stand in the sun and watch the birds. It really was a treat to be so close to a small kestrel. I loved knowing that the kestrel pair had successfully hatched and raised at least this one baby.

I am so blessed to be married to a man who loves the outdoors and loves to share it with me. I have seen so many beautiful things because of him. It is a wonderful thing to be able to stand with him and just watch the birds…..and the next time he comes to the door and tells me to bring the camera and follow him….I will!

“Everywhere we look….
the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.”
Van Gogh

Friday Blessings

IMG_3711 Red Headed Woodpecker

Red Headed Woodpecker

 

Today was a marvel, weather wise. The last while, we have been sweltering and today, the day just kept getting cooler and cooler. One weatherman thought we should tell people we are in the month of Junuary. I think he might be right!

As I sat on my porch enjoying my cup of tea and breakfast this morning; I even had to wear a coat….that is really unusual for this time of year. I will say it does smell nice and fresh when it is cooler out in the morning.

My husband and I really do enjoy the quiet start to the day. We get to share the outdoors with lots of wildlife. It is so interesting that these animals don’t even seem to pay attention to us as they go about their morning rituals.

We had a wonderful time watching the Red headed woodpecker clinging to the tree in the front yard. I hope he is eating a lot of bugs and ants…..it makes for less bugs and ants that get into my house!

This morning we had a very enterprising little squirrel join us. He was so busy digging up previously buried corn kernels that he did not even care that we were sitting so close and taking pictures of him. I think he felt very sure that we would not meddle in his affairs.

It didn’t take long and a rabbit decided to make his appearance. This was really no surprise as we seem to be overrun with rabbits of every size. The rabbit population is a running argument conversation between me and my husband.

IMG_3707 Cottontail

Cottontail/Bean Eater

 

He thinks we can’t have too many rabbits around…….I think we have waaaay to many to be compatible with my flowers and vegetables.  So far, the rabbits and my husband are winning. (Can you hear the big sigh from where you are?)

I must confess the baby bunnies are cute….but eventually they turn into bean eaters and that is not cute whatsoever! I am hoping my husband commits to doing something this fall about the rabbit population. (He does like rabbit soup, so there is hope.)

Watching these animals this morning was a great reminder of trust and faith. None of these animals worried where their next meal was coming from. They just figured that it would be provided when they went looking.

They do have predators to think about, but it doesn’t seem like they live their lives in fear of what is coming. I sometimes wonder if we spend so much time and energy in fear of what the future will bring, that we find it hard to live in the present.  I think if we could live the way these small critters do……..full of trust and faith; life would be so much easier.

I am sure they have hard times……times where food is scarce, times when they are cold and uncomfortable, and times when they have to run or fly for their lives. And yet, they live and enjoy the moment for what it is. They bask in the sun when it is shining to warm them. They eat their fill when food is present. They live fully in the time they are given.

May your weekend be full of life lived fully. May your life be lived in the present and may you enjoy the small things that can be hard to see. Have a blessed weekend!

Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6:26-27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busyness and Bonfires

IMG_3542 Mallows.JPG

I have to confess.  I started today’s post at least three different times. Each time I ran stuck and my brain headed down a different track. I started out with the fact I was privileged to go to an amazing concert the other night, detoured into weeding my garden, headed down the path of the hot muggy weather and ended up at the end of the day by the firepit.  Okay….maybe I had four topics!

For some reason, focusing was not my strong suit today when it came to writing and I still feel a bit scattered.  I think I will stick with the fire pit topic and work my way backwards on those other topics over the next couple posts.

This week started out in a busy fashion that is typical of the late spring season that is Iowa and farming.  We started out the week with grass hay down in the ditches and in the waterway. Once we heard the forecast for possible rain we decided we needed to give out attention to getting it baled up before it got rained on. By Tuesday night we were so glad we had baled as we actually had 1.2 inches of rain.

For us, lately that is a pretty good amount as rain has been kind of hard to come by around here.  It is amazing what a nice rain can do to refresh the earth and your spirits!  The rain also gave me a break from weeding in the garden and let me catch up on other jobs I had been putting off.

When I look back at today I have to really think to figure out what I spent my day doing. There were so many little odd things like cleaning out a couple drawers and getting ruthless with the stuff that was in the back of those drawers. It was a day spent doing things that no one else will notice…..but I will!

By the time it was evening the wind had died down and I talked my husband into building a fire in the fire pit. I have had a stash of tree branches mounded up in the back yard since last fall. They have been waiting a long time to be burned…and tonite was the night.

I love that the bonfire served a two-fold purpose – time to sit and relax and also a great way to finally get rid of those branches.

There is something so very relaxing about just sitting in the darkening evening and watching the flames dance skyward. It was especially sweet after the busy start to the week. It was a good way to taper off the busyness of the day.

Sitting there, listening to the frogs singing and watching the fireflies dance through the night was one of those Aaaahhhhhh moments. We watched the chickens head in for the nights. We listened to the snort of a deer as it bedded down in the grass behind the grove. We got to enjoy the first stars as they came out for the night.

Life is indeed good when you take the time to slow down and enjoy the small things.

Some of the best conversations I’ve had
are sitting around a camp fire.
Robyn Davidson

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