Porch Conversations

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It has been a bit since I posted. For some reason life just got in the way of writing anything. Somewhere between gardening, canning, sitting with a family member in the hospital, birthday parties, baking cakes for birthday parties, family reunions, picking beans, canning again, splitting wood and pressing apples for cider…..a post just never got written.

The other morning my husband and I had a chance to sit a bit and reflect on the busyness of the past weeks. We were starting our day, sitting on the porch, having our first of the morning cups of coffee and tea.

It was beautiful…a bit chilly for this time of year. It was quiet with only the migrating blackbirds to disturb the peace. It was the kind of morning where porch conversations take place….those conversations where everything gets discussed.

The past weeks were rehashed and relived. Some we laughed about and thought we should do again. Some we decided we really didn’t want to repeat. Porch conversation meander (at least ours seem to). They seem to take their sweet time and sometimes end up in places you had no idea they would go.

We pondered on contentment. We wondered why it seems some people never are content; and how those people always seem to want more. For the life of us, we cannot understand that thought.  I am kind of grateful we don’t understand that concept.

It was decided that, perhaps, we viewed life more as a cross country race than a sprint. When our sons were in cross country we noticed that winning was important…but even more important was beating your own time….running your own race…but running it better than the race before.

We kind of liked that thought. The thought of living life; to live it better than the day before was kind of good. It seems to be a way to live without competing against everyone else and without comparing yourself to others.

Living life by just trying to do your own stuff better, really frees a person up from wanting what everyone else has or wanting more than everyone else has. Maybe time on a porch just makes for being content. Maybe it is the slower pace that sitting on a porch seems to bring.

There is just something about sitting on a porch, starting your day with a good cup of tea/coffee and connecting with someone you love; that lends itself to a very content state of mind. Whatever it is….I am all for it.

May you have time to sit with a loved one this weekend. May your conversations meander and bring a smile to your face…..and if you can do this on a porch….may it bring a sense of contentment and a feeling that all is right with your world.

 

 “Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want
but the realization of how much you already have.”
Anonymous

 

 

 

 

 

Spring?????

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I looked out my window this morning and once again stood in amazement. My mind just cannot believe it is really spring; because what I keep seeing is winter just laying around….all over the ground.

This past Monday night we, once again, had a snowstorm…..a blizzard actually. It snowed so much, they did not have classes at the local schools on Tuesday.  Once again, the weatherman predicted an inch. As the storm came closer the only thing “inch” about this storm was that they kept on “inching” up on the snow amount predictions.

Once the storm had blown through and was done, the yard was white, the deck had over a foot of snow on it and my husband had to get out the loader tractor for us to even think about getting out of the garage and off the yard.

By the time I took the photo (above) it was afternoon today and it had started melting….a lot! One of my friends made the comment that this season feels rather like the movie Ground Hog Day…we just keep repeating the same weekend snowstorms over and over. Each weekend is starting to be identical to the once before.  Sadly, they are also predicting another snowstorm this coming weekend. So far they are not giving any snowfall amounts…probably a wise choice on their part!

I have to keep reminding myself that I should be looking for the good in this.  My good friend Mrs. Cobs over at Cobweboriumemporium mentioned the book Pollyanna in one of her recent posts. So like Pollyanna I will intentionally look for silver linings to this snow.

We can use the moisture in our area…the last years have had us in a drought zone so all this heavy wet snow melting into the ground and making mud is actually a wonderful thing. Once we get into our gardens and fields it will be a blessing to have had this snow.

I do feel kind of bad about not having my potatoes planted on Good Friday this year.  My husband and I have always had them in the ground by Easter. Some years they did get snowed on but they always did well. This year I guess it is good it snowed because we did not even have the seed potatoes in the house to plant.

The snow also does cover up the mud for a time….a very short space of time before it makes more mud…..which I guess will be good once those barn swallows return as they will need that mud for repairing and making new nests.

Speaking of birds…I do feel a bit sorry for those summer birds that have returned and now have to deal with the snowfall. The robins, killdeer and meadowlark seem to just be hunkering down and waiting it out.

Perhaps that is the lesson I also need to learn from these repeat storms. I need to be patient, just hunker down and wait it out. Maybe it is a good lesson to slow down, enjoy what the day brings and always find something good in that day. Yes…there is definitely a lesson in contentment to be found on a Spring day that is filled with snow.

 

 

On a positive note….
I haven’t seen any mosquitoes in weeks!
Unknown

 

Thanksgiving Contenment

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Today was a day that seemed like I was attached to my oven by an invisible rope. It seems that this time of year it is always that way. There are multiple things to be prepared and baked for the holiday tomorrow.

I will have to say that the house smelled wonderful. The scent of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pumpkin wafted through the house today.  For some reason I didn’t seem to be hungry much of the day. I have a feeling it is because I was taste testing things as I went!

While baking pies, bars, and cupcakes I was gifted time to think and reflect on the many things for which I have to be thankful. The things like family who remain close even though we don’t live near each other. Things like friends that we do life with… health, a safe harvest, etc. all came to mind…..they are all wonderful things and I am grateful for all of them.

I am also grateful for that feeling of contentment that takes hold of me when I am putzing about my kitchen, stirring, mixing and baking things. I have no idea why…it isn’t anything in particular….but time in my kitchen just makes happy. Maybe it is because I have time, while mixing, to reflect? Maybe I am like my chickens and am happy with a place to nest?

I tried to pinpoint the reasons for this feeling but really could not. Maybe it is the feeling of being useful and being enough. With all the struggles going on in this world I was grateful for the contentment of my kitchen.  My kitchen may look like a small tornado went through it…..but my heart is content.

For those who are facing this holiday as the first without a loved one….my heart grieves with you. For those who struggle with health, finances and family issues…please know that you are not alone…others have been where you are and understand. It will not stay this way forever. (Psalm 30:5)

For those facing hard things during what should be a wonderful time….there are no easy or pat answers. May you find peace in this season. May you find one thing to be grateful for each day. May you see those waiting to bless you and may you have a place where you can be content….even if it is as simple as standing by your oven; with smells of cinnamon and cloves drifting through your home.

A blessed day of Thanksgiving and gratitude to you all….no matter what country you are from!

 

Dear Lord; we beg but one boon more:
Peace in the hearts of all men living,
peace in the whole world this Thanksgiving.
Joseph Auslander

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Harvest….Looking Through The Window

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Combining Beans~Looking Through The Window

The weather has been beautiful these last couple of days. Instead of rain and gloom we have been blessed with sun and warmer temperatures. It is perfect weather for looking through the window and watching the harvest come in.

We have a neighbor who does our combining for us and so we have to wait our turn. It is not always easy to do…the being patient thing….when the fields are ready and waiting. My husband tends to spend time preparing for the combine to make it’s way to our fields.

The gravity flow wagons need to come out of the shed, have their tires checked, get lined up two by two (kind of like going into the ark), and the tractor fueled up.

IMG_4819 Waiting to be Filled

Waiting To Be Filled~The Girls Enjoying The Shade

It is an exciting time…..the harvest time. It is a time you get to reap the benefits of the hard work put in during the spring and summer. It is a time to see the profits from the risk that was taken when purchasing seed, planting seed and waiting for the weather to do; what it needs to do, so those seeds will grow and produce.

Harvest is a time of long days, late nights and prayers for the safety of those gathering that harvest and bringing it to the elevator in town and for those that they will meet on the road. It is a time of crisp nights, sun-warmed days and the smell of falling leaves.

For some reason, harvest season brings beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The colors are vibrant and glorious. Perhaps it is an added bonus for the hard work of the past season and the long hours still to come.

I am wondering if, perhaps, those sunrises and sunsets are a promise? Perhaps it is the promise of “enough”. Could it be a promise that “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion…” (2 Corinthians 9:11a) I really like that promise….that we are blessed so we can give and be a blessing in return!

Maybe those sunrises are intended to draw us out of our comfortable homes, to quit just looking through the window and to get out and experience harvest time. It is good to look out the window and enjoy the scenery…but it is oh, so much better to get out there and really experience the season.

It is good to feel the warmth of the sun. It is wonderful to smell the dust that swirls as the combine passes through the fields. There is a contentment in hearing the drone of tractors in distant fields and there is a satisfaction in seeing stubble where beans once stood waving in the breeze.

Maybe that is the lesson for all of life….maybe it is time to quit looking through the window and get out there and live. Maybe we need to smell, feel, see, and hear life to really appreciate how wonderful it is. Maybe in the wonder of life, we can be a blessing to those around us.

Take the time this season to live life to the full….to see the beauty that is autumn….and to enjoy your time in that beautiful season.

 

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting 
and autumn a mosaic of them all.”
–   Stanley Horowitz

 

Warmed Twice

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We seem to be running behind this season. The harvest is running late due to rain….the grandson came two weeks after his due date and we are cutting wood for the winter season way later than is normal for us.

Usually we try to have wood cutting done in the spring so we can just check that off our list of things to do. This year, due to surgeries, that did not happen. By the time we had both recovered from those surgeries we were full tilt into summer stuff to do.

Things like lawn mowing, gardening, weeding, lawn mowing, walking beans, lawn mowing etc. just seemed to need doing more than wood needed cutting. We are now at that point in time where we can no longer put it off.

We are in that season where the weather can change from one day to the next….sunny one day and snowing the next. We have had our first hard freeze so we know it will really not be long before we do hit the winter season.

We have also had several cold rainy days where we were scrounging around for wood to put in the wood stove to take the chill out of the house. The last couple days we have had a break in the rain so it became time to go cut wood.

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Wood cutting was chilly and wet this morning and I was feeling a little cold and miserable. My husband had to remind me that heating your house with wood warms you twice. I think he is right because as you are cutting and hauling wood it warms you and once you put it in the wood stove and light it up, you are warmed once again.

I must say that there is something wonderful about seeing that fire in the stove and feeling the warmth it produces. I am quite sure, by the end of the heating season, I will not feel quite the same way. I will be sick of sweeping up bits of twigs, bark and ashes. I will be ready for the warmth of spring and summer.

After re-reading that last paragraph I am beginning to see why time goes faster the older I get. It seems I am wishing my seasons away. That might be a lesson for me to slow down and just enjoy the season I am presently in.

Even though there are uncomfortable parts of those seasons, I guess I should really relish the good parts. There are exceptional parts to each season and I may have to stop and look for those parts.

Changing seasons are so much like life. Good and bad all rolled into one.  The choice is to decide what we are going to focus on…the good or the bad.

I think I will choose to enjoy the damp mornings that smell of fallen leaves melting into the grass….mornings cloaked in that peculiar stillness that is the season of autumn.

My choice will be to stand, at night, on my porch and listen to the sound of the combines in the fields and dryers running to dry corn in the bins.

It will be a good thing to see the fog roll up from the river on a frosty morning and hear the lonesome sound of geese as they fly….following instincts that take them to warmer places for the winter.

I will choose to delight in the cool nights where I can sit by the warm wood stove and drink my tea. I will try to remember the joy of being “warmed twice”……and I will close my eyes, sip my tea, and be grateful.

“One can enjoy a wood fire worthily
only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet.”
Odell Shepherd

 

The Right Nesting Box

Screech Owl

My husband and I have been watching this nesting box the last while. We have watched the wood ducks pass it by in favor of an old tree with a hole in it. We have watched robins sit on top of it, but not go in. We have watched  flickers head on inside and check it out, only to fly right back out and not return.

Just the other day I thought I saw something in the opening. Whenever my husband looked there was nothing there. I think, he thought I was imagining things or hallucinating or something.

My husband looked over in that direction,  a few days ago, and ran for the binoculars. This time there was definitely a bird sitting in the opening! When we looked closer we discovered a screech owl sitting there, looking our way. My husband was really happy as he loves owls.

I quickly got my camera and tried to sneak in close to get a good picture of him or her (Who really knows?). It was kind of funny….the closer I got, I realized that the bird was watching me; watch him! When I got a little too close he hunkered down a little lower in the opening of the nesting box.

We were hoping the little owl would choose to use the box to raise a family. For two days, the screech owl used the box as a temporary home.  The third day he or she never showed up again. We were pretty disappointed to realize that the owl had not chosen to make the nesting box it’s final nesting choice for this season.

It does make me wonder what they do not like about that particular location. Isn’t it roomy enough? Is it too rustic? Do they want more than one bedroom? I guess I won’t ever know as they have never stopped to leave a note or tell me!

I wonder if we are like those birds? Are there places where God intends us to be but we just aren’t seeing the plan He has put before us? I have a feeling there are a lot of times my eyes are shut tightly to the place He has put before me.

What are our reasons? The place isn’t what we were searching for? We don’t think the time is right for that particular move? It could be any number of reasons or excuses to not make the step.

Or maybe, we are where He put us and we aren’t sure we really like this place. We find it hard to be content with the circumstances that make up our lives. I know I can fuss and fume when my plan seems to not be working according to the way I thought it should.

If I really stop and open my heart and eyes in those instances I realize I had made my plan and then asked God to bless it. And yes…..that is totally backwards!

Here’s to a new plan….ask God for His plan first! Who knows…..we just might find that the “nesting box” He places before us; is really a great fit. We might find that we really are content being where we are supposed to be, instead of always wishing to be somewhere else.

May you find contentment and have no qualms about enjoying the path you find yourself traveling. May you feel blessed to be wherever you are at his moment. May you be placed in the perfect “nesting box”….the one made just for you.

He is a wise man who does not grieve
for the things which he has not,
but rejoices for those which he has.
– Epictetus 

Spring Contentment

First Violets of the SeasonWe may pass violets looking for roses.
We may pass contentment looking for victory.
– Bern Williams

The recent rains and warm sunny days have contributed to our lawn growing into a shaggy green carpet these last days. I am an avid supporter of keeping the lawn mowed and looking somewhat groomed.

I must admit to being a little obsessed when it comes to my mowing technique.  I tend to do the thing where I mow in a different direction each time I mow. This offers me four directions to choose from. I also like a rotation for those four choices.

My husband, on the other hand, is of the thought process…..just zip it off and you’re good. (This should not surprise me as he has the same idea when it comes to haircuts.)  He doesn’t bag the grass or rotate directions. I am grateful he does mow though!  We have a large farmyard and have not owned a riding lawn mower for the last 20 years or so.

We decided years ago that instead of a walking exercise program in the summer we would have a “push the lawn mower” exercise program. It is definitely a workout as our push mower is also NOT self-propelled.

The first of the season mowing always seems to take the longest. There are sticks to be picked up, rabbit holes to be checked for baby bunnies, and it takes so much longer avoiding plants that are just beginning to peep through the soil. It could be that my eyes are just getting older and it is harder to see all those things…..it could be that….but then again….it could just be the time of year.

I was so glad to see the little patches of wild violets were starting to bloom. I was also glad to see that they were so short the lawn mower just skimmed over them. They might be a weed in my lawn; but they are so bright and cheerful as they peep up at me as they nestle in their leaves.

It was exciting to see the hostas are beginning to push up through the soil, the peonies have sent up tall burgundy colored shoots and the bleeding heart I planted last year, survived and even has a few blooms on it already!

 

I started writing this post about our first lawn mowing of this season. As I started wandering around taking pictures today….my focus kind of changed and evolved into more than lawn mowing. Have you ever had that? You start out in one direction and you kind of make this detour……maybe several detours…… all over the place?

I went outside to get those pictures for this post and saw my husband disking up last year’s corn stalks in the bottom field. We have rain in the forecast for the next few days so it is time to get going on things like lawn mowing and field work.

I love the view that we have of the field with the river in the background. I have a feeling I had time to enjoy that more today than my husband did. I am pretty sure he was focusing on his work, while I was focusing on watching him work!

I also noticed that the tree that refuses to die has once again sent out new leaves from some of it’s branches. I used to give my husband grief about how ugly the tree was and how it should be taken down……but I have since changed my opinion.

The Tree Still Lives.....Sort Of

I have come to the conclusion that any tree that works that hard at keeping somewhat alive should be allowed to fall over in it’s own time. The tree also serves as a roost for owls, hawks, wood ducks, eagles, geese (I have no idea why a goose would sit in a tree … but they do),  and it also serves as a home for our squirrels.  I guess it earns it’s way, not by how beautiful it is, but by how functional it still is.

There is something to be learned from that tree. Never give up. No matter what you look like…..God can use you. No matter how battered, there is still a beauty if you are willing to see. I have come to appreciate that tree as much as the flowers and plants that come back each spring…..maybe more as the lessons it teaches me are so timeless.

There is a certain harmony, a certain rightness to the tree coming back to life each spring. Just as the violets and grass returning each spring; the tree stands as a witness to faithfulness and new beginnings.

 

“There is something very special about Spring.
Almost Spiritual.
Not a surprise that Easter coincides with the season……”
George
https://theoffkeyoflife.com/about/

 

 

 

 

 

Contentment

April Moon

Last night on my way home from Bible Study the moon was as pretty as I have ever seen it. It was big and orange and just seemed to hang in the air. My husband and I spent some time sitting in the cold night air just looking and enjoying the beauty of it.

Relaxing and sitting on the porch last night was a great introduction into the type of day we would have today. Calm, quiet and a rare Iowa day where the wind doesn’t try pick you up and blow you away. The weatherman told us last night that we were supposed to be drizzly and rainy today.

When I woke up this morning I believed him as our world was bathed in a soft haze that seemed to promise that drizzly weather. I decided to take my walk early today due to that forecast. (I don’t have a great fondness for walking in the rain on a gravel road…the gravel tends to stick to your shoes, kick back up on your pants and invite itself into my house.)

As I walked it was wonderfully quiet out this morning. In the background there were distant sounds of truck and cars on the highway a couple miles away. The soft haze that bathed the landscape seemed to muffle most of the man made sounds. It pleased me no end, the way it wrapped itself around me as I walked.

There is a spot, a ways down the road where you can stand and look for miles in any direction. It was beautiful this morning in the way an old photo is beautiful with those warm sepia tones. The world rather resembled those old photographs this morning. I didn’t have my camera along, but I doubt I would have been able to capture the feeling the view gave.

The fields are still shades of brown, beige, and tan. Here and there are fields, green with a winter cover crop, but those are few and far between. I strolled past a neighbor’s field that he had seeded to oats this past week. It was wonderful to smell the freshly turned earth. I also smelled the whiff of hog buildings…but yes, this is Iowa.  Fortunately that smell was also faint this morning!

The haze softened all the edges of the landscape. The farm places that dot our landscape were softened and muted by the mist that hung heavy over the fields and farms. It seemed to take away all the sharp edges.

It even took away the sharp edges of life. The world seemed a softer, kinder place. The pace seemed slower in the hazy mist and gave off a feeling of contentment. It was a great time to just stand, look around and reflect on the beauty that was there…..if you only opened your eyes to it.

I slowed my pace on my way back home so I could revel in that feeling of contentment. It was such a gift, a blessing that seemed to be made just for me. In a world that sometimes seems to unravel, there is beauty wherever you look for it.

Sometimes it is good to slow down and find the beauty in an orange moon on a chilly night. It is good to find the beauty in a hazy day where the world seems smaller and the mist seems to wrap itself around you like a warm blanket. It is good to see the gift and the blessing that is ours……if we open our eyes.

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
Lao Tzu

 

 

You Can Go Anywhere From Here……

The Road South

My thoughts seemed a little scattered today so I decided I should take a short walk, up the road, to the blacktop that runs past our farm. Once you reach the black top it rather feels like being  atop of the world…..at least for Iowa. You can see for miles in all directions except one.

As I stood there this morning, in the warm sunshine, I kind of felt like Tom Hanks at the end of the movie “Castaway”. You know ….. the scene at the end where he stands in the middle of the road and wonders which one to take.

I stood in the middle of the blacktop road…..I even stood on the yellow line. For those of you who worry about traffic flattening me out…..not to worry….this is a rural blacktop and you can see a vehicle come quite a ways off.  You can also hear them coming a ways off as this is fairly quiet country…..so it was quite safe.

 

As I stood there, soaking up the sun like a cat, that is sitting in an open barn door, I realized what a beautiful view I had in every direction.  I thought about all the places you could get to from this one starting point and decided you could pretty much go anywhere from here.

Even if you don’t physically go those places it is fun to dream about going to those places. No passport is needed to dream about going somewhere……a fortune is not necessary to just close your eyes and picture far off places…..all you need is a little imagination and a desire to roll with that thought.

For me those roads signify the places I have on my bucket list to go and see. They signify the people I love, who live at the end of those roads. Those roads speak of dreams.

Then, I turn to face the road that brings me back home…..

The Road Home

I realize that though my road home has a few muddy spots, is filled with small rocks…..it is still my path to the place I call home……and it brings a huge smile to my face. It is my safe haven, it is the home where my husband is, it is the place my kids come home to visit, it is the place my “girls” peck about the yard, it is the place where I can sit on my porch on a sunny Spring type day and I can dream of taking all those roads someday.

It is good to realize that home is a great place to be. It is good to be content with where you have been placed. It is also a good thing to be able to dream and dream about wandering to all the places you would someday like to see.

When I was a kid in grade school my report cards used to have comments that told my folks that I did to much daydreaming. I think I still do a lot of daydreaming and I don’t think it is a problem at all. In fact……I think it might be a gift.

May you have the time to travel new roads this weekend. May you have the time to daydream about those places that are on your bucket list. And may you find contentment in the place you that you call home.

 

Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
Always remember, you have within you
the strength, the patience, and the passion
to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

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“Not all those who wander are lost.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

Solitude

solitude

Today we had one of those wonderful winter days that don’t resemble winter at all. It was a day that gave a glimpse into the possibility and the eventual coming of spring. Our temps were in the upper forties.

It was a beautiful day for a walk down the gravel road. The weather was so mild, I even took off my coat! Yes, for those of you that live in areas that do not experience winter and it’s subzero temperatures…..this was a balmy day.  It was a day to walk, ponder and enjoy the solitude that is a warm winter day in Iowa.

The ditches were running with small streams of water, fed by melting snow from the fields. The fields look barren and brown at this point; but are ripe with the promise of lush green crops that will be growing in them in a few short months. So much of life is like that. There is always the promise of something better even when things look dead and lifeless.

The girls enjoyed wandering about, picking at seedsforaging
that have been uncovered as the snowbanks have been disappearing. They are ever hopeful in their search for any leftover treats from this past summer.
They are usually rewarded for their diligence in the search for those bits of grass and seeds. They somehow know that I also will give in and toss them some slices of bread just to make them happy.

This beautiful day ended the way it began…..quiet, hushed and with a time of solitude. To stand outside; in the waning daylight is nothing short of magical. The stars start coming out to grace the night sky. There is always the sound of the last quiet rustlings of birds settling in for the night.

The girls in their coop, fuss as they jockey for positions on the roost. Distant sounds filter in on the wind of a train whistling as it makes it’s way through the dimming light. It is a lonely sound and makes me wonder where it is going and what kind of load it has.

I loved standing on my porch tonight. I loved enjoying watching as the day came to a close and night closed in. The moon shone brightly over those brown fields. Fields that are ripe with the promise of the coming Spring…… and life was filled with contentment.

There’s a difference between solitude and loneliness.
Maggie Smith

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True silence is the rest of the mind,
and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body,
nourishment and refreshment.
-William Penn