Iowa Blessings

Today was the day we finally got ourselves dug out from the last round of snowstorms. It would have been yesterday but the tractor did not wish to cooperate at all.

After a summer of very little rain, it seems we can once again get some form of precipitation. The schools in the area are hoping to get back to classes tomorrow after having a longer than expected Christmas break. I suspect the kids and teachers are ready to be back…maybe not quite as ready as the parents?

Snow is a lot of work, but there is a unique beauty about the pristine whiteness of a new snowfall. It is kind of fun to see the yard before anyone has disturbed that beautiful blanket of white. The muffled quiet and the muted stillness of a world that has had to slow down to the pace of nature is a wonder to be enjoyed.

Life slows down after a snowfall. Things don’t seem as urgent…projects that have been put aside, once again get taken out to be worked on. It is the best time to work on craft projects that have gotten shoved aside for the holidays.

It is a forced slowdown when you live on a gravel road. You really can’t get anywhere until the county has come down your road to give you access to the main roads and sometimes that is kind of a blessing. Appointments get rescheduled and suddenly your day is open to catch up on all the things you always wanted to have time to do.

I do have to admit….I don’t get to those things as fast as I maybe should…I, perhaps, spend to much time enjoying the beauty of the snow before it gets disturbed by the road crew and the tractor that clears the yard. And I am okay with that….sometimes it is good to just be still and take it all in. It is good to enjoy the gift of the day that God has given.

My prayer is that you too get a “slow” day. A day that you are able to sit and enjoy…a day to watch the birds, to see the sun glitter off the new fallen snow and a day to just “be still and know” Psalm 46:10.

To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake
it is necessary to stand out in the cold
~anonymous

Pretty as a Postcard

We woke up, this morning, to a world encased in white. The trees hung heavy with the snow that had fallen during the night and a beautiful layer of glistening white coated everything in sight.

I went to let the chickens out of their coop, but soon realized I would have to shovel some trails this morning so they would not have to walk through snow that was too deep for them.

They cheered me on in the shoveling process….at least I choose to take their chatter as cheering and not complaining that I was taking to long!

It took a bit of doing to shovel, as the snow was a heavy snow. I told my husband that it was great snow for making snowmen and it was too bad the grandkids were not around. Maybe we should have just gone ahead and made one ourselves.

I am not totally sure how much snow we received, but it was very welcome this year. After the dry spring, summer and fall that we had, any moisture is great to see.

After letting the girls out, I spent some time just standing out in the cold, marveling at the beauty that came from that layer of snow. The sky was still gray and hazy….a wintry gray that is pretty in it’s own way.

I love the fact that each season has it’s own beauty…it’s own stamp on our world. There is a child like wonder that comes with a snowfall. The brown grass of fall and the leafless trees are decked in an entire new wardrobe. Buildings take on a magical look….like something out of a snow globe.

The first snowfall is a gentle reminder that slowing down to just stand and marvel is a wonderful thing to do. It is a reminder that the simple things in life are truly a gift. It reminds me to look around and remember what is truly important in this life….faith, family, friends….relationships.

May you be blessed with a “snowfall” that lets you slow down in the busyness of this season!

“When I no longer thrill
to the first snowfall of the season,
I’ll know I am growing old.”
Lady Bird Johnson

That Time of Year

We have had good weather for getting into the fields and the sound of tractors come from all directions. This is a really good time of year….new expectations, new hopes for the coming season, renewal and sunshine, mixed with a bit of rain, make for a lot of hope for the future.

I probably love this time of year, because it is a time of new beginnings. That seems kind of an odd thing to say when the same stuff gets done year after year. Fields get prepared, seed gets purchased and equipment is whipped into shape for the planting season. Things we do every spring. And yet, it is new beginnings; as it is new seed, a new year of planting and the smell of fresh earth that never grows old.

My farmer husband is pretty old school compared to most in our area. He uses old tractors, an old planter (by today’s standards) and if his rows are straight it is totally his driving skills and not due to GPS technology. Personally, I think he kind of enjoys the thought that it is him and the field and not the field and a computer screen.

In our area we were blessed with some rain. We did not get as much as some miles away, but any amount is totally appreciated and raises expectations for a good year. That might just be the thing that keeps a farmer going…..the hopes and expectations that life will work out, no matter what it looks like right now.

I have learned a lot from farmers….I have learned that you do not give up, I have learned that, while you have no control over so many things in farming, you still prepare and put that seed in the ground and then you stand back and watch what will be.

So much of life is like that…you have no control over so many situations….but you still prepare…you still hope…there is still the expectations and the wonder of standing back and seeing what God will do with whatever is happening right now. The good, the bad, the uncertainty, the things that do not work out and the things that do….all remind me that God has it in hand..and I do not. There is a huge comfort in that thought for me.

May this week find you planning, hoping, expecting and knowing with great assurance that the plan is being worked out (even if we cannot see it) and life is good and living is not just surviving. Plant those seeds and see what God will do.

“Don’t judge each day
by the harvest you reap,
but by the seeds that you plant.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Outfox the Fox

Mom Fox

My girls are not happy with me. I don’t blame them for feeling that way as I am never happy when I am cooped up either.

A little back history as to why they are stuck in the chicken coop/run these last days…..

A while back we noticed a fox hanging around our place. My husband was pretty excited as the last years fox have been very scarce in our area. Coyotes had moved in and the fox population had moved out.

This particular fox seemed to have taken a fancy to the old schoolhouse that is on our acreage. We would see her darting under the building at random times of the day. Last week my husband came to the house to let me know he had seen her with fox pups.

To be honest I was not sure how I felt about a den of foxes right on our yard. My thoughts were that my chicken flock was going to be rapidly disappearing. For a bit, Mom Fox seemed to ignore the girls. In fact the girls would fearlessly run as a group toward the fox! (There has got to be a lesson in stupidity in there somewhere!) Mom Fox would look startled and head under the schoolhouse.

This past week the dynamic changed….Mom Fox found out that a chicken is a very tasty meal. My husband thought I would want the fox family cleared out;…..but I am torn. I want my girls safe….but I also really enjoy watching this fox family. (That is when I can catch a glimpse of them).

At this point in time the girls are stuck in their chicken coop/run area while we try figure out how to keep them safe, let them roam a bit and still have the fun of watching the family of foxes grow up.

My hope is that when we get busy mowing lawn and doing the busy outdoor work of summer, that the Mom Fox will decide it is no longer safe and move her family elsewhere…like far enough away that she won’t come back hunting a chicken dinner.

I am not sure how this will all turn out…..but I have always been an optomist and really don’t feel like changing that veiwpoint any time soon. I have a feeling there are lessons to be learned, while we wait for the fox family to move on. Lessons in patience, lessons in enjoying what is put before us even though it comes at a price.

I am not sure if we will be outfoxing the fox or just out-lasting the fox…..either way…it should prove interesting.

“With foxes we must play the fox.” 
– Thomas Fuller

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