Monday, May 31, 2010


We are waiting on the rain to stop and the bottom of the garden to dry up so we can finish planting.

We are waiting on the rain to stop for a few days to figure out a solution to the flooding issues in the barn.

A friend of mine is waiting for her baby to be born.

Our family is waiting for my almost 99 year old grandpa to healed. One way or the other.

I listen to the thunder and the falling rain and wait for the washer to finish its load so I can put it into the dryer and start another one.

So much waiting in life and birth and work and death.

Some of it so ridiculously trivial, some waiting so hard it nearly crushes the spirit and body.

We don't have to wait much longer on the ripe cherries. I ate a bowlful, straight off the tree before the thunderstorm hit. Sweet black fruit, almost too good to be true. They are getting a bath right now in the downpour, but once it dries off, I will drive the suburban under the tree and we will collect them for pies and jam and black cherry jalapeno sauce.

I pray that our friends and family who are waiting the hard wait would have some moment of sweetness, like our black heart cherries, to surprise them in the meantime.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday Night on the Farm-living large

After eating getting home from the farmer's markets this afternoon we all shared lunch in the living room. At 3pm. Another farmer's market vendor gave us some of her delicious chicken pies. We were so grateful for the nice meal and some time to sit together in the cool shade. The day turned hot and steamy.

We did a few chores.

I took a short nap.

We did a few more chores then I took a walk.

Weeded the carrots. It is hard for me to walk through the garden without spending some time pulling weeds.

As I weeded, Patrick went for a cruise on his homemade raft. The pond has an infestation of snapping turtles.

They eat our ducks.

Patrick has been wishing to catch some for dinner.

When he found a nice sized turtle, he called out for assistance. I alerted the other children and all the siblings ran out to see what was going on.

Maggie grabbed the net.

Thomas went to assist.

Nora, Rose and I watched from a distance.

It made me happy to see all 5 children excited about their "caught" meal. Patrick made a call to his grandpa to ask for advice on how to harvest the meat. I am letting them work it out, promising to cook whatever meat is harvested. But not tonight.

Doesn't take much to entertain this family on the farm with no tv!

The air outside is moist. Warm. My bedroom temperature is over 80 degrees. How can I store up some of this warmth for the brutal winter months???

The sounds coming in through my window are entertaining. 5 kids, deep almost man voices, excited girl voices, lots of adrenaline. Glad it is them and not me. Think I will find a book to entertain me for the evening.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Deep Magic

Another day of baking done.

A friend came out to the farm today and helped work with the kids in the garden. I am amazed at the progress.

A year ago I had a vision for the garden. It involved a big expansion. The vision was way bigger than my resources.

I envisioned raised beds and mulch and pathways and compost. My reality was milking and dairying and baking, starting a small business and teaching with a little garden on the side.

Today I went out for a minute break to check on the guys.

I was amazed.

Today I got a glimmer of a vision being brought into reality.

This friend caught my vision without my even saying anything and is volunteering time and lots of labor to help make it happen. With help, the boys and girls are learning how to garden the way I want to, but haven't had the time to teach.

The job isn't finished, but I can see that with some continued work, we are going to have the garden I have been dreaming about. May take a year or two, but I can see it happening.

Another friend got our lawnmower running the other day and Thomas worked with a vengeance. Mown grass looks so nice and neat. Patrick planted more corn and cucumbers. The guys worked together to mulch pathways and beds. They brought manure-filled hay from the barn to put to work composting with the rotting dock and plantain from last week. Maggie transplanted lots of volunteer cosmos she hopes to sell and plant in other areas of the farm. Rose and Nora worked on harvesting mint for mint iced tea. The kids all washed lots of laundry and Maggie folded baskets of it.

I baked bread.

The day grew hotter and hotter. About the time I was ready to start wrapping bread the sky began to change color. Rumbling in the distance alerted us all to the oncoming storm. I ran out to the front porch and pulled up a chair. Decided that the bread wrapping could wait.

I remembered evenings in Oklahoma, sitting on the front lawn with Daddy, watching lightening storms. Mom would tell us to be careful and hurry up to come in the house. I loved being out in the middle of it, watching the fireworks. We weren't really in the middle of the storm, but to a little girl, sitting on the edge felt electrical.

First the wind blew in. Cool and fresh. Then I looked up over the hill and saw a flash, heard a crack.

The goats ran to the barn. The sheep, undeterred, continued their grazing in the paddock by the barn. The cows meandered to shelter. A sprinkle started to fall, then the cloud flew right over the farm. Heavy rain fell like bullets from a machine gun. Ferocious. Boom. Crack.

Then the rain ran off to the neighbors and I watched the clouds boil and bubble.

More flashes. More thunder.

My exhaustion went away for a few minutes and I felt good. Alive. Happy to live on our farm.

The rain ran back and hammered us for a few more minutes, then took off and the lightening concentrated right up on the upper hay field. The willow tree raised her silvery leaves up to her face. She shook out her hair and dug in her feet.

After the lightening and thunder moved down the road to Blacksburg, the rain and wind really set in. It chased me off the front porch. I looked through the windows and saw the willow tree dancing. Bending one way and then the next, it was so alive and mobile, it was frightening. Looked like something I have seen on tv during hurricane season. The cherry tree stood beside her and felt a bit more stiff. I hoped that the almost ripe cherries weren't being blown to kingdom come.

Rain fell in sheets. Then it moved on.

The farm looked scrubbed clean. Except for the pond, which had been growing dry. It is now muddy from the flow.

I got back to work, not sorry to have "wasted" a half an hour.

Nora joined me. She put the labels on the bread packages. We worked on her reading and decoding skills as she searched out labels designated for Milk and Honey bread, Baguette, Spelt Rye Almond Raisin, Spelt Milk and Honey Burger Buns, Seedy Loaf and Pizza Crusts. I decided to skip making spelt brownie mix and granola. We all ate smoked trout for supper, thanks to Jimbo.

I am thinking about vision.

Last year I wondered about having a vision for a farm that was bigger than what I could manage all by myself. I decided that it wouldn't hurt to dream, that maybe in time it would spring forth. When Philip died, I wondered how we would manage, but felt that the vision was put there for a reason. A friend from NJ called this evening to let me know that she and a friend were praying for God to send helpers to assist me in getting the work on the farm accomplished. That she was going to keep praying until we didn't need any help anymore.

I was able to laugh, and tell her thank you, and to let her know about all the help that has come our way. Lawn mowing, water line placing, new milking stanchion and concrete pad, barn cleaning, new yard hydrants, repaired barn windows, deck screen repair, garden weeding and planting, bakery equipment, farm vehicles, auto repair and new tires and inspection and oil changes, groceries, dinners, chicken fencing, farm babysitting when we needed it, child care, rides to and from the farmer's market for Patrick since I go the opposite direction. A dishwasher. Electricity for the new bakery equipment. Plumbing for the new water line. Electrical repairs out at the barn. Gasoline. Money.

I can't even begin to list all the help without crying.

I thank God for answering my dear friend's prayer. I thank God for all the people who have been willing to be an answer to that prayer.

It is humbling to dream a vision that is bigger than me. Because it is absolutely impossible for us to be able to do what we are doing alone. I wish we could take credit, but now I know that we never can be able to do that. We have had other folks plow our garden, help dig out our manure, pay for many many things with monetary gifts they have given. They have given us firewood.

I guess what I am trying to say is that having a dream opened the door for us to let others into our life to help. That by being involved in a community we are being opened up to a life that is way bigger than the 6 of us.

After Philip died a few people approached me to ask if we wanted to go on the Extreme Home Makeover show. Since we don't have tv, I have no idea what that show is, but the thought made me laugh. No way do I want a tv crew hanging around me on the farm. I would probably be sure and cuss and cry or do something really embarrassing that would be great for ratings, but bad for me. But you see, the people who came to me with this idea had the desire to see our community come around and help us make it because they have faith in our little bitty vision. What I think is amazingly cool is that with no tv show, we have had the most incredible boost a farm could have.

It still is pretty rough around the edges, but then, so are we.

So, I find it a beautiful and wondrous thing that as I baked bread, garden magic was happening.


Subtle and slow working, but deep and good.

It makes me think wondrous thoughts about thunderstorms and dreams and community and prayer.

Grateful, I go to bed, ready to awake bright and early before the dawn to prepare for another day of community.

I mean work.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Catawba Farmer's Market Launch

Today was the first day of the Catawba Farmer's Market.

Christy Gabbard initiated the big move and I am so glad she did.

I got up at 3am to bake. Baked more than I thought I should, hopeful.

A few friends must have been praying for me last night because my sleep was restful with interesting dreams instead of the dreams I had the night before of not being able to sleep.

Short, but restful.

I even got inspired to make granola.

We loaded up the goods, looking at the computer weather forecast which predicted rain by 4pm. The temperatures rose to the high 80's and the sweat rolled.

I wondered if it were a good idea to start a new market with such a busy schedule.

After setting up the tents and saying hey to other vendors, the hikers began to come through. We are right down the road from a major point on the Appalachian Trail. I met guys from Florida and Pennsylvania and Independence, MO. Wiry, lanky, and hungry for carbs. I was happy to have a big platter full of samples for those hungry fellows. They didn't buy bread, but they bought lots of granola. We dumped it into plastic bags so they didn't have to carry the "green" but heavy mason jars on the trail.

After the hikers made their way through, the local folks started to filter in.

I met neighbors I have waved at, but never knew their name for 5 years.

I realized why it was so important to sell bread and meat at this market.

I am tired and don't really like getting up at 3 am to bake bread. Well, maybe I kind of do like to do that. Because it is a means to an end. A part of our family and farm mission.

We desire to produce healthy foods for our family and to help educate and share the knowledge and good food with others. Organic living has a lot to do with community. Our food and soil and animals and spirit and bodies are all interconnected. God made me to like making bread and milking Coco. He gave me this crazy desire to make our food nutrient dense. He also gave me a desire to have a ministry that involves knowing our community.

Farmer's market takes up a lot of farm time. But it gives us a lot of face time with our community.

As I shook hands and shared names and passed out samples of bread and taught the value of milling the grains fresh, I felt whole. Tired, but whole.

I want to know the people who live in our valley. They have blessed us. Sharing recipes and jokes and talk about the weather is good. Getting to chat with sojourners and travelers is a bonus. Selling enough bread and meat to pay a couple of bills is an even nicer bonus.

After a hard day yesterday, I prayed, wondering if I could muster the energy to make it through the day.

Didn't have to muster. It flowed.

Hope it continues to flow tomorrow.

BTW, the rain held off. Where are those thunderstorms? It was nice not having to carry stuff out in the rain.

PS Thanks, faithful praying friends. And faithful non praying friends, all of you, whom I love. FYI, those of you worried I am not getting enough rest, I actually took a thirty minute nap in the middle of the chaos today. I am trying to rest!!! And appreciate your very good and wise advice.

PPS I know it takes effort and more money to go to your local farmer's market. Our stuff costs more than Wal Mart and the parking isn't that great, and we don't have tomatoes yet. But making the effort makes a huge difference. And you might just meet a few neighbors. And maybe make a friend. And make a huge difference in the your neighborhood economy that could very well trickle out into the great big world.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Maybe You Should Skip This Post

This morning I woke up early. Had my coffee. Listened to the Daily Office being read on an ITunes podcast. Ate my eggs and spent a good long time praying about different things. Several family members have significant needs and so I remembered them. Then I asked God to help me be able to grieve thoroughly.

I don't even know what it means to grieve thoroughly.

Don't know why I was prompted to pray that.

A pain came upon me that was almost beyond my ability to bear. Went through the motions of milking. Thank goodness for rote habits. Made my bed. Asked the kids to eat yogurt and toast and fruit for breakfast.

A friend came over to help me in the garden.

I felt so paralyzed I couldn't do a thing. So I tended to a few business matters, left him and Thomas doing this and that, and since we were out of animal feed anyway, I drove to Stewart's Draft. Couldn't be around people.

Grief is strange.

It really hurts more than I thought it would.

I couldn't figure out exactly what the pain was about. It wasn't that I was especially missing Philip, although I do. It just hurt.

My face felt hard and I couldn't smile. I felt like I would never smile again.

After picking up our nearly a ton of grain and mineral, I headed home.

Raymond had already headed back to town and kids were otherwise occupied. I tried to rest for a half hour but was miserable lying in bed, so I went to the garden to attack weeds.

Much of the time I enjoy gardening with the kids or with friends. Today I wanted to be left alone.

As I hoed violently down between the 6 big rows of potatoes a dam burst. I cried and cried. Stood there, lifted up my eyes to heaven and cried some more. Picked up the hoe again, whacked the weeds and cried some more.

Moved over to the corn and tried to hoe and cultivate. They were too little and delicate. We planted those rows last week and the shoots were only a few centimeters high. I got down on my knees and gently worked along rows. Slowly but surely I found most of the corn under the quickly sprouted weed cover. Can't mulch until the corn is up just a bit higher to make sure it won't be smothered.

Moving along the row I was made grateful for the quiet task that required absolutely no thought. No conversation needed. No need to smile and say I'm alright because it is too painful to say I feel terrible right now and don't feel like talking.

Perhaps tomorrow I will smile. We start a new farmer's market down the road tomorrow. I will begin baking for it at 3am, hopefully. I am not sure if this farmer mother can handle another bakery day or not. Guess we will find out. There are so many things to think about in regards to farm strategizing. I have been praying for God to order my days.

A friend reminded me that everything feels better after a good night's sleep, so I am hoping for a good night's sleep tonight and a clear head tomorrow.

A couple of sweet things in the middle of the grief: Rose taught Nora how to tie her shoelaces this week. They are growing very close in the middle of the difficulties. The other day the two of them had to be put in their separate rooms, since they were too "tired" to be together. They taped up envelopes and started the habit of writing each other sweet notes and drawing each other pictures so they would have "mail." Considering the very horrible winter they have gone through, they are doing so very well. I am very proud of all the children and how they are doing. They bring me joy.

So my springtime recipe for those who are sad and greatly burdened, go weed your garden. Alone. Make sure no one is around so you can cry as loudly as you need. And don't ask for God to help you grieve thoroughly unless you really mean it. Isn't that like asking for patience and then getting many opportunities to practice???

PS The evening sky here, at 8:30pm is the most lovely of baby blanket shades. Pink and blue and purple, like an afghan crocheted by some sweet grandma. The green of the trees on the ridge and the garden and yard is unusual. It almost glows. I think that we are close to a full moon, but alas I won't be up late enough to see, I hope.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Coco and I are friends again.

I decided this morning that a compromise was in order.

We did the milking under the Bradford pear in the middle of the driveway. She behaved perfectly.

This evening I took her up and she stood on the concrete pad in the milking area and I didn't try to put her in the stanchion.

No problem.

Since she behaves so well without the stanchion, it seems silly to force the issue. We will use the stanchion for Priscilla and the goats and that will be just fine. Maybe in a few weeks Coco will warm up, but if not, I won't complain since she is such a great milk cow and I do love her.

We had some more rain today. Things are quite green.

The rose bushes at the top of the driveway are starting to bloom. Their beautiful red blossoms are a welcome sight. Rose brought me a perfect little rose and a bunch of daisies. They are decorating my desk.

Speaking of roses, the goats trimmed up the new roses when they found a way to escape out of the barnyard, but the plants are already putting out nice new leaves. Maybe the pruning was good for them?

Tomorrow we plan to work on the garden again. More rows to be dug. Anyone out there need a workout? Come and join us!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Time is a Healer

I decided that since I already felt horrible today I would go ahead and visit the grief group in town.

Several friends who have gone through the loss of husband suggested it would be helpful

I didn't want to go.

Frankly I don't want to even categorize myself as a widow. A farmer, baker, teacher, mother, but not a widow.

I can't say that it was a pleasant experience. However, it was good to be reminded the steps of grief. Helpful to hear that anger and loneliness and fear and feelings of being overwhelmed are normal. They reminded the group that you don't get over the loss of a loved one, you adjust. They didn't even flinch when I told them I cussed the cow. The leader thought that the cow probably didn't mind at all. She doesn't know Coco. I think she minded, but I am hoping she will soften her heart.

By the way, on the drive into town I heard a love song that made me think of Coco. If I knew how to embed video, I would embed it for you, a great jazz song by Eva Cassidy, Time is a Healer. I belted it out for her as I drove down the highway. I oould picture her soulful eyes looking at me as she chewed her cud. Tomorrow we will try the stanchion again.

At least the girls had success with the goats during their milking time.

Nice rains should help garden to grow. Maybe midweek we will get the rest planted. Farming is hard work, but I can say without a doubt that grieving is much harder. I feel more worn out by today's work than days of digging dock.

True Confessions.

Okay, so yesterday during confession time I had to confess cussing and taking the Lord's name in vain.

I feel like Paul this morning, as in Romans 7, the things I want to do I don't do, and the things I don't want to do, I do.

Coco doesn't like the new milking stanchion.

We went round and round.

I tried gentle talking and persuasive reasoning.

I tried firm, calm voice and more assertive, but calm walking.

I tried yelling, cussing and finally told her to go to Hades cause I don't want to ever milk her again. Put her out to pasture and let the calves milk her.

Then cried for a half an hour with pure frustration.

It is raining off and on today.

I have a friend who occasionally reminds me to not sweat the small stuff. And that most everything is small stuff.

So I have given the kids their to do lists. Told them what I expect to see accomplished when I get home and I am going to run away.

Actually, I think I am going to go to the bank, pay bills and run to Tractor Supply to get electric fencing materials. Maybe a change of scenery will change my attitude. I had such a great early morning peaceful time, reading the Daily Office, especially appreciating Psalm 25 and Proverbs 10.

Too bad it all had to go to pot so quickly once I was tested.

Well, time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and see how the day will be redeemed. And I guess I have to apologize to Coco for my bad mouth. I wonder if she is going to apologize for her bad behavior?

Change stinks.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Drama

Today we celebrated Pentecost Sunday church here on the farm. We were thankful to be able to set the pews out on the lawn in the beautiful sunshine. Once again, the readings of the day were relevant to each of us. I do thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

After church, the men put tables under the willow tree for our potluck. It was very cute to see Boone in the middle of the willow tree eating his lunch.

More people gathered and we watched the thunderheads build. Right about the time we finished our meal the raindrops began to fall. A few of us snagged a cup of coffee as the kids changed into their costumes.

Once again we were pleased to be regaled with a performance by the Full Circle Players.

This afternoon the children in our home school drama class, led by Rachel, performed the monologues and poems they chose and memorized.

We sat on bales of hay in the loft and the gentle early afternoon sun shone through the windows. Thankfully the rain eased up and it was easy to hear the children speak.

We tried not to laugh too hard as Angel, one of the goats, made her way up the stairs to the loft and began to eat the bales of hay that were in the backdrop.

One of the kids recited the Gettysburg Address. Maggie recited a poem by Jacqueline Bouvier, Sea of Joy. Rose recited a Walt Whitman poem about the end of the day. Patrick dramatized a monologue out of Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day Speech. He wore a cape and brandished a sword given him by Max. I felt my blood stir and would have gone to battle immediately, had there been a battle to go join.

It was truly impressive. When I saw Patrick perform his speech it made me think of Philip and his years of performing Shakespeare. Oh, how proud he must be, if he had a glimpse of our afternoon activity today. I know I was proud.

The kids worked hard. They even recited some classic scripture verses. Maggie learned Psalm 91, Philip's favorite verses. It did bring tears to my eyes as her sweet voice intoned the words I had often heard from his lips.

After much applause, we left the loft and returned to the house for more coffee and plenty of homemade desserts, with talk of different grandparents and uncles and aunts volunteering their services to help with sets and costumes come fall production time.

When the realtor showed me the farm 5 years ago, I walked around the loft and dreamed of dramatic productions. This year the vision has become reality as Rachel leads our little homeschool group in their drama class.

It seemed like a stretch to think that our farm could produce the arts along with milk and meat and vegetables and bread. What a gift. It makes me happy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Be Still

Running a farm leads me into temptation.

Temptation to work all the time.

I rose this morning in the dark hours, preparing brownies and pancakes to offer as samples to our customers, readying our market stuff, milking the cow, driving to farmer's market to interface with our WONDERFUL customers and friends. We had a great day at market. All breads were sold, and most of the meats, with the exception of a couple or three loaves, saved to barter for locally roasted organic free trade coffee, salad greens, tatsoi and bok choy and turnip greens and swiss chard.

After wrapping up in Roanoke, I drove to pick up Patrick at the other farmer's market. He did great. We ran by the grocery store to pick up what I couldn't get at the market: a package of onions and some red wine. Got home and started to clean up the aftermath of baking day.

Several hours later, the floors were swept, bathrooms cleaned, dishes washed, bedroom dusted. While I worked inside, one of Nora's big church teachers and his dad were working on building us some milking stanchions out on the nice new area Jason and his dad prepared for us. (We are so very thrilled for that wonderful gift!)

It was a little rainy, so it was easy for me to take care of indoor work.

At around 7 I heated up some amazing homemade macaroni and cheese that a bread customer gave me at the farmer's market today. A customer giving us food!!! We gave thanks and enjoyed.

I wanted to get back to work, but the evening called me.

I think it might have been God calling me.

I got out the big and beautiful glass that Kathryn gave me on one visit, the only one left of the set that hadn't been broken, and took my wine and a couple of books out to the deck.

A mystery greeted me.

Perfumed air tickled my nose.

What was it?

So sweet, I sent the girls on a hunt to try to track down the elusive but permeating fragrance.

We have a big bush out front, is it a mock orange? White flowers, with four petals. Green leaves, oblong and pointed. Very fragrant, but it didn't seem to be the smell. Besides, the perfume was so strong and the bush was yards away from the deck.

The girls smelled the poker plants, the wild mint, the other plants growing hither and yon. They ran down around the pond. The honeysuckle is about to bloom, but not quite. Anyway, it wasn't anywhere near the house.

As they hunted, I inhaled the sweetness and paused.

The air was green and moist. Clouds were developing, but I was able to watch the waxing moon move from the east side of the ridge toward the west. I pondered the meaning of wax and determined to look it up in the dictionary tomorrow. I wonder if it has to do with making a candle and dipping it into wax, seeing the candle get bigger?

I thought about how nice it was to be still and quiet. So quiet, and yet a complete symphony was playing all around me. I counted at least 10 different bird calls, not including our own flocks of poultry. There were bug trills and chirrups and frog calls, muffled girl voices giggling, water gurgling and babbling as it spilled over the pond dam and flowed down the creek. Dog sighs, sheep baas, as mothers called the babies to the barn.

Be still.

I breathed and read a few pages of a book about prayer by Philip Yancey. I think I like this book. It is taking me months to get around to reading it. I love prayer. I was still and thought about the reasons I pray. The reasons I continue to pray.

Then I read a poem by Donald Hall out of my favorite collection of his works. (I found it under the bed when I swept.)

Nora came out sad because the big kids were watching a movie that she couldn't watch. Something to do with Terminators. Rose was taking a bath and Nora felt left out. I invited her to sit on my lap as I read in the waning light. Zaccheus, our dear kitty, jumped onto Nora's lap on my lap. We all cuddled in the growing chill. The clouds came over the moon and grayed the sky. The books were no longer important.

Just like the noisy birds, Nora settled down into peace.

I thought about how pleasant and good it is to be still. Even though I hadn't spoken many words to my God, I felt as though he had been speaking volumes to me. Nothing earth shattering.

Or was it?

Pleasant conversation at the end of the day. My creator gifting me with some of the very things I love the most: evening sounds, mysterious sweet smells, dear cozy cuddles.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Good night.

Friday, May 21, 2010

More Good Medicine

Yesterday morning Raymond came out to the farm. He helped the girls wrangle goats then joined us in the garden. He continued the hard work of making raised beds. Ken joined us not too long after and joined me in the mission to eradicate the healthy stand of dock and plantain. He even brought his own pitchforks.

The day was glorious. Sun shone brilliantly. The humidity was gone. The whole gang got to work, weeding, shoveling, even Nora worked by serving us mason jars of cool water.

We covered a great variety of topics. Movies, sci-fi, music, poetry, different cultures and their gardening practices. Ken taught us the name of many weeds and bugs and even helped us identify bird calls.

I have many favorite things.

Working in the garden with friends helping is one of my favorite things.

At first the task seemed insurmountable. After a flooded summer last year and a late start this year, the many varieties of dock and plantain had taken quite a hold on 3/4 of the garden. Those pests are truly amazing. We dug up roots that were over a foot long. Plantain has a mass of thin roots, like a wig. Each little root is thin like a thread, but the large mass works together quite efficiently, gripping the soil. No rain shower is going to wash away a plantain plant.

We think plantain is wonderful. It is the best remedy for bee sting we have ever used. If stung, one simply chews up a broad leaf of the plant and then applies the slobbery green mass to the bite. Kind of gross, but it works!

Plantain in the garden, however, is not quite so nice. When you see the root system, you can quickly understand why no other plants can compete.

Yellow dock, burdock, all the other varieties of dock offer wonderful herbal medicines as well. The root can be made into a tincture or tea that serves as a liver cleanser.

We have yet to find use for 6 or more wheelbarrow loads of the stuff. Dock roots are not a mass like plantain. They are long, like a skinny, knobby parsnip. A witch's hand, with pointy fingers, holding on to the soil for dear life. It is hard to pull up dock by hand. Inevitably the plant breaks off, leaving the root to send forth a new plant, which will then bear thousands upon thousands of tiny seeds that do their part to ensure the survival of this plant.

Ken and I worked like a machine with our pitchforks, loosening up the soil, yanking, tossing, digging up stubborn roots. I felt like Eowyn of Rohan, the warrior woman in Lord of the Rings, fighting the Witch King of Angmar. Insurmountable odds, but somehow destined for this battle against the evil invaders threatening to destroy the food source for my children.

Okay, okay, so I have a very vivid imagination.

It helps if you have to work for many hours out in a garden digging up difficult roots.

A break brought us into the cool house for a semi-quick lunch of frittata and eggplant. The eggplant wasn't very seasonal, but was requested as a treat by Thomas. Unfortunately for us, most of the kids like eggplant, especially if I roast it with garlic and olive oil. The frittata was made with our goat cheese and a handful of greens from the garden, sauteed first with onion and garlic.

Many more hours were spent in the garden after lunch. Felt like years. I dreamed of the wonderful rich soil we would have when those piles of dock and plantain were eventually composted.

We were rewarded with a delicious supper of rib eyes from Moose, last year's steer, and some broccoli and a salad. And Ken and Cynthia's delicious red wine. And doubly rewarded because Kevin came over and offered to mow the front lawn. And Jason came over with a load of wood to help us get ready for winter. It was fun to eat with friends and enjoy the satisfaction of tired muscles sitting down.

I don't know when I have felt so tired.

I couldn't read, write or think.

But I was certainly grateful.

As I baked today, the girls were able to plant our tomato plants, peppers and eggplant out in the lovely new rows.

This evening, after a big day of helping Larry clean out the barn and do several other farm chores, Patrick planted a couple of rows of green beans. Thomas eradicated a few more plantain plants. Kids had rehearsal in the barn for their drama class. Sunday is the big day for them to do their monologues and poetry readings. (Their home school drama group is called "The Full Circle Players" directed by Rachel.) Nora and Rose worked on their mud hole.

The battle is over for today. A new one awaits tomorrow. Bull frog croaks, calling out. Stream gurgles. Peepers peep. Fireflies flutter around the ridge. The breeze is gentle and cool. I thought we might get a shower today, but no rain. Children are settling in and so am I. The guineas are making their final squawks.

Time to go to bed. So glad that the three am start is ending at 9:30pm instead of midnight, like last season.

When we pulled up the weeds, I was thinking about how God has intertwined our lives with so many other dear friends, all meshed together, like those powerful root systems. That strong mesh is making it possible for us to remain upright during this stormy season. Not easily yanked out or blown away.

My prayer for the many people in our lives is that they would all have such a terrific root system of friends and neighbors. What a blessing.

I go to bed thankful. See you tomorrow at your local farmer's market!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Good Medicine

Work is great medicine.

Today we took care of chores and other household odds and ends then went to pick up our big order of grain from Dutch Valley. We meet a big truck in the General Store parking lot and load nearly a ton of people grains onto our pickup truck to take home and distribute to other customers and to stash in our bakery for milling.

After that job was completed we all went out to the garden to work for a few hours. We weeded the onions, found the carrots under all the weeds, and cultivated several rows. Thomas took down the old cucumber trellis and moved it for Patrick to set up in another bed.

Thomas and I set out on a mission to relocate dock and plantain plants. Dock and plantain are our friends. They have amazing root networks that mine minerals up to our topsoil. However, unlike our very good friends, they do not know any boundaries. They make themselves at home, stretching out, choking out everything in their path. So with pitchfork and spade in hands, Thomas and I dug up those terribly healthy plants by the root and relocated them to a pile along the fence line. Hopefully they will begin to compost soon and all those minerals they mined for us will be returned to the soil.

We have so much work to dig up those weeds and plant new rows that I was tempted to get discouraged. Looking at the big garden could be quite depressing. But bit by bit, we made our progress and I assured the kids that if we work hard together tomorrow we will be even farther along in our goal of beating the garden into submission. Oops, what I mean is bring gentle loving order to our garden world.

Patrick planted another row of Silver Queen corn and I planted two more. The potatoes and onions look healthy and fine. There are radishes about ready to pick to go with the lettuce that is about ripe. I could probably thin out some of the onions and that will make a great salad for Sunday dinner this weekend.

We were pretty pooped when Jason came by to pick up the truck. I asked him to give me some advice about a flooded out spot in the barn. We walked out to the barn to survey the lagoon and I felt overwhelmed and discouraged to see the mess.

He gave me some great ideas and we said goodbye. I grabbed a shovel and pitchfork and began to dig into the manure that had been accumulating. There was no way I could go back to the house to cook supper until I reached a certain point of sanitation.

I had on the wrong shoes, had the wrong tools, but couldn't walk away.

Moments later, I heard the truck park and saw Jason walking back into the barn. He grabbed a shovel and joined in, saying he wasn't going to leave until we got done what I needed to get done.

Of course I broke down into tears, telling him how frustrated I was at my inadequacy, how I felt like a failure and wondered why I was trying to fool myself that I could run a farm. How it was ridiculous to think that I could do this job and why didn't I just give up?

He gave me a hug, reminded me that we all have our piles of manure laying around sometime, and don't worry, it will get done in good time. Then the big kids all came and joined us and in short time we at least got the concrete uncovered and drained out at least half of the flooded area.

We then strategized hay making and managed intensive grazing, he had a beer and I began cooking our supper. At almost 9 pm.

When I was a little girl I dreamed of having a brother. My brother died before I was born. He only lived a few hours. I always felt like life would be better if I had a brother. I had no idea when Rachel came along that her husband would become my dear brother.

I needed a brother tonight and he was right there. So he got to go home and eat his supper late, and we got to our supper here late. Tired, but happy to get some important chores started. I still feel a bit concerned about some of the pressing matters on the farm. Must get the rest of the old waste hay and manure moved out and spread on the fields. We have rows more of dock and plantain that need to be dug up. I need to get some fencing materials to get a new paddock situated. The lawn mower won't start and the grass is growing.

But enough, already. We are not alone, and even if the task is bigger than me, little by little and step by step we will do our best to be good stewards of this wonderful farm we have been given.

Working on a farm is good medicine. I have no need for sleeping pills. The exercise keeps us strong and fit and we don't have to go to a gym. Taking care of business keeps me from being sad every moment of the day. It makes our brains work. It is hard to be depressed when you have to milk cows and listen to peepers and look at fireflies and smell sweet honeysuckle and feel rich dirt in your hands.

So off to bed, the morning comes early. I hope you all have some good work to do with your hands tomorrow. It might not fix all your problems, but it will help. I promise.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Amazing Grace

I didn't feel like writing yesterday because the pain was so intense.

I thought maybe I was done with sharing our grief story.

Three months and maybe people are tired of hearing about the different ways we are having to say goodbye. That it hurts.

I thought about it.

But then, I considered that someone out there might get the crazy idea that everything is supposed to feel all better by now and it doesn't.

Since it was raining I felt compelled to clean out Philip's dresser drawers and closet. I don't know why, but it seemed like the right time. A window.

Parts of the task were funny.

I found my missing pound cake recipe in his top drawer.


I have been looking for that scribbled out recipe for freshly milled spelt pound cake for a few months. It is so faded out, I can barely read it, the scrawled recipe dashed out on an old torn up cover of an old cookbook.

Why was that stuffed in Philip's drawer?

I don't know, but it made me smile.

I found many dollars worth of pennies.

A couple of old love letters he wrote to me before we were engaged.

A box with a pretty pair of earrings that I think he must have picked up for me, stashed and then forgot. I was happy to find them because they matched the dress I wore to Sean and Julie's wedding just perfectly.

Buttons. Old scout merit badges. Japanese money. Irish money. French money.

Lots and lots of pens that might work.

Cuff links never worn.

Saying good bye is hard.

The kids and I picked out some things that would make sweet mementos. We put most of the clothing into bags to give to Goodwill because that would please Philip.

The bulletin boards we made into collages with Philip's photos for the funeral were beginning to fall to pieces. I took the photos off and put them into a box, which we will later take and place into photo albums for the kids. That was intensely painful.

Saying goodbye is hard.

It rained some more today. I was happy to have the new shed for milking. Forcing myself to go out and move helped my painful soul stir a bit.

Coco has gotten over her disgruntlement with the change of milking site and now happily walks into the shed. She adapted to her change rather quickly.

We are trying to adapt as best as possible to our changes.

Tonight I didn't want to cook. Yesterday I made eggs three meals in a row.


Omelets for my breakfast.

Omelets for our lunch.

Omelets for the girls' supper.

At least the ones at lunch had some onions and greens from the garden and homemade goat cheese in the middle.

Tonight I forced myself to cook up some of our pork chops, some broccoli and leftover rice.

It was an act of discipline, since I was tired and sad and thick with grief.

We all sat around the table and enjoyed our food. We talked about Philip, and the changes and how weird it is to have him gone. We talked about the time of day we miss him most. We talked about how hard it is to have one of the grown ups missing with all the work that needs to be done. We laughed at some of the memories of his crazy antics. Rose remembered how he would take them swimming and do swim ballet with her, always ending the dance with a gigantic toss up into the air and a splash. I asked the kids if it would hurt them too much if I moved the furniture around in my room and changed the paint on the walls. They thought that was a good idea, as long as we didn't change any thing else much in the rest of the house. I assured them that I like the rest of the house just as it is.

I am glad that I didn't hibernate to my room and leave the kids to their own devices at suppertime. Grace flowed around the table, and Nora even ate a few bites of pork chop, and she NEVER eats much meat. They all practiced their lines they are working on for the dramatic monologues they will be presenting with the Full Circle Players next Sunday. I laughed as Rose recited her poetry along with Maggie's and part of Patrick's!

Tonight is still and dark. I hear the rain in the trees on the ridge. We hope to plant a few things tomorrow, but Thursday is supposed to be sunny so we are looking forward to putting in the rest of the garden then. The milking will be done and the chickens tended. At some point the sheep will be shorn.

I feel like everyday we walk through another stage of grief is making us stronger individuals. Just like the milking and gardening is strengthening our muscles. It isn't very fun. But it is rich.

I didn't understand in my younger days why it is so important to do things you don't want to do. Like get up and milk the cow and make the dinner and sit down to eat it with the kids. But as we communicated and shared around the table tonight, I got a glimpse. SO very grateful for the grace the gave me strength to fry up those pork chops.

Amazing grace.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Driving up to Ohio I thought of the times we shared with Sean.

Working on mending fences. Chasing errant goats and cows. Weeding garden, shoveling manure, mulching corn, milking goats who were flamenco experts. We would sit around the table with coffee in the morning, planning our our day. Lunch would roll around and we would eat and discuss philosophy, movies and books.

Sean and my sister Terri saved Maggie's life one afternoon a few years ago, the afternoon I was in Charlottesville with Philip in the hospital and Maggie ran her arm through the glass in the front door. He was drenched in her blood as Terri and he clamped the arm together, waiting for the helicopter which would airlift our dear one to the hospital where they would operate and manage to save the hands that milk our goats and play the piano so sweetly.

Sean plays with our children, allowing them to chase him, climb on him, laugh with them. He humors them with exhibitions of his gymnastics skills.

All this because Sean wanted to spend some time working on the farm.

When he brought Julie into our life, we began to pray for them.

Sharing in their vows was a gift to me. Being able to witness such a precious moment in their life was a gift.

They are proof to me that young people are doing very well in this world today. Hope. They and others in our world, give me hope.

The bridesmaids' dresses were hand made and bought on Etsy. So were the groomsmen's bow ties. The flowers were from friends' gardens. The food was real. The music was real. I actually had meaningful conversations. Several of them.


We love Sean and Julie. We bless them. We anticipate seeing their marriage flourish and bloom like a well-tended garden. I bet that garden will bear much fruit.

And speaking of gardens, I sure do hope our garden will bear fruit, but we certainly weren't able to plant anything today as it rained and rained and rained.

Not to worry. After the long drive, we were glad to have indoor chores to tend.

The drive was lovely. We took the long way home to enjoy driving along the Ohio River Valley scenic drive. It was worth the extra time. What a break after the interstate.

The green greeted our eyes this morning, green glowing through the rain. How could weeds grow so quickly in only two days??? At least all this rain will make the soil soft and it will be easier to tend to them in a couple of days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The kids and I went on a flying trip up to Ohio on Saturday and back today, to share in the vows of our dear friends, Sean and Julie.

Why in the world would we go all the way to Ohio for a wedding?

Well, since I am very tired, I will have to explain tomorrow. But suffice to say, this farm has been used by God to connect us to many very special people and I am amazed and humbled by the relationships that have sprung from the old clay soil of this spot on the globe.

Thankful for friends who would feed the chicks and check the other animals, and the friends who took our goods to the farmer's markets to sell for us so we could run away for a few hours.

Thankful to have a bed to crawl into, with familiar home sounds offering up their serenade.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Bread is baked and wrapped. I finished at around 5 this afternoon. Didn't make mixes or cakes because I ran out of grain, but still had a decent amount finished. Floors are swept. Counters wiped. Mother is wiped.

I thanked God for our shower as the cool water washed away the flour and sweat and grime of the day.

I even took a stroll around the yard and the garden and looked at the lettuce coming up and the corn and the potatoes and onions. Even the carrots are now coming up. I tried not to look too hard at the weeds. We have a big work day scheduled on Monday and I am optimistic.

The air cooled off and left a slightly hazy sky.

I wanted to post a poem tonight. I wished I could find a poem to post that would express the feeling I feel when when cool air blows gently on my face and the trees sway like in a dance. I wanted to capture the whispering of their branches and the smell of green and the feeling of longing that I have felt my whole life long that is even more pronounced since Philip is gone. I tried to find a poem that would interpret my hopes and my fears that would look like weeds in the garden and the little baby cherries that survived the frost and the wind.

I tried looking up a couple of poems, but was too tired to search. So I have all these thoughts banging around in my head, the peace of children happily occupied, the quiet of a house filled with completed labors, friends who walk alongside me, new beginnings, endings that aren't really endings, and the wind.

Where is my Donald Hall book of poetry? Usually in his collection I can find something. Alas, I laid it down somewhere and now can't remember where. I just turned in the Wendell Berry collection, overdue.

Well, the poetry is written all over this farm. I will hang my head out my window for a few minutes, feel the breeze and listen. Thankful for the poetry God has written all throughout this amazing world. Then I will lay my head down upon my pillow and rest, thankful to have survived another day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Eleven Weeks Tonight, or Thursdays are still hard days.

I was going to type out a really depressing Edna St Vincent Millay poem for your enjoyment, but it wouldn't have been very enjoyable, so I read it all by myself and will have to try to think of something positive to write about tonight.

Depressing days are great days for me to clean the stove and sweep and mop the floors. The floors have been mopped more since Philip died than in the last year.

I washed 6-8 loads of clothes and folded them and put blankets and flannel sheets in bags for the kids to cart up to the attic.

Milked Coco twice. She wasn't terribly happy about the new arrangement, but I hope she will get over her discombobulation with the new milking shed.

The phone is not working properly, seems to go out when it rains. That kept me from having long depressing phone calls that would keep me from working.

I worked on the Dutch Valley coop order.

It is foggy and misty in the valley and the peepers sing loudly tonight. The guineas are squawking as they settle down for the night. The brush fire the boys built is dying down. I think they had a great time with that chore.

I am thankful to be going to bed early so I can get up and bake in the morning, God willing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Love Roses.

Julie is here, so that means productivity on the farm.

Thomas and I ran into town to pick up some quickrete for a project. Kids and Julie stayed home and moved chicks to barn. Made butter. Folded clothes.

While we were at Lowes I decided to buy flowers. Coco is now being milked in the new milking shed, so I want to make the yard beautiful. Salvia, yarrow, and TWO rose bushes (thank you, Judith!). We also got some sweet potato plants.

This afternoon Thomas cut down some dead trees, he and Patrick mixed up the quickrete and took care of a job for me, and Julie and the girls and I planted flowers. We then got sucked into making raised beds for the sweet potatoes. I have never before in my life planted sweet potatoes, but we love to eat them. I was told that the Beauregard variety works well in our area. I seem to remember that sweet potatoes like sandy soil, so we added a little sand to the equation. We then sweet talked Thomas and Patrick into bringing us 8-10 bales of hay to mulch the regular potatoes which are coming up nicely. Maggie planted some more things in her garden bed and I was so proud to see her work to make raised beds so she can have a no-till garden next year. Rose worked on preparing her soil in her garden beds and planted radishes and beets. Nora helped plant some marigolds. Patrick prepared another raised row for the next row of corn he wants to plant. Thomas kept on bringing more and more hay for mulch.

Once I get started on the garden I hate to stop. But Julie reminded me that we had to eat, so I forced myself to quit. But we were all pleased with the new landscaping, especially the yellow climbing rose bush and the purple salvia and petunias. So pretty. My soul needed to see something pretty growing by the back door.

Speaking of pretty, I saw the first fireflies tonight. They must be the ones come early to the party. I welcome them.

Thunder rolls down the valley tonight. Lightening flashes join the fireflies, or lightening bugs, as we called them when I was a kid. I wouldn't mind if a shower came to give our plants another watering. As we planted I worried that they might die. I prayed to God that our flowers and sweet potatoes and other things would live and give us joy.

The cold weather has moved on and balmy spring is back. Bull frog sings the night through. I am glad for Julie and Allen's visit. Because of her motivation, I have roses planted. Now if we can only keep the gate to the yard closed so Coco doesn't eat them all up!

Good night.

Wednesday Morning

Yesterday was dark and gray. As Thomas and I drove to his appointment in town we decided that the woods looked mysterious. The hollow and the creek we drive through looked as if Frodo and Gandalf could be having a chat in there, cooking up some sausages and mushrooms, smoking on their pipes in those mysterious woods.

I do enjoy gray days. The colors are so beautiful. Rain came down hard in the morning yesterday so I availed myself and Coco of our new covered milking area. The guys did such a good job. Of course I prefer milking by the back door on the little concrete pad, but it won't work on a rainy day.

So the day was gray yesterday, but this morning the sun rises bright orange. The three wild geese are back at the pond and squawking. The rouen ducks are ignoring them and pretending that they can swim anywhere in the pond they want, and who cares about big old geese, three times their size. Lily and Daisy, our white geese, are hanging out in the chicken yard, I wonder why they don't go over to say hello?

I like to look around the farm in the morning. It is sweet to watch the goats stretch and slowly but surely stand up on their sleepy feet. The sheep are up a bit earlier. We know the roosters have been awake for ages. They occasionally crow at 3and 4 in the morning.

Julie and Allen came in for a visit yesterday evening, right as I was milking Coco. They came bearing gifts for Patrick, a box of week old chicks that hatched out in Emily's class at school, and another box of big guys several weeks old. Patrick has been hoping to expand the egg production on the farm and it looks like we are in business. The chicken flock decreased down to around 40 this winter, and at least 10 of those birds are old gals who don't lay eggs as often as they used to. Layers need to be around 6 months old before they start laying, so we will hope for a nice boost in egg production early fall and especially next spring.

So much of farming has to do with delayed gratification. The cows must be bred to have a calf to produce milk. Gestation is 9 months. So by the time you get a cow, get her bred, and wait for the baby to get the first milk, you can wait ONE year or more before you make your first pound of butter. If you want to raise your own meat off of beef born on the farm, especially if it is grass-finished and you hope to reach a nice size, that takes almost two years.

Goats and most sheep are seasonal breeders, breeding when the days shorten and temperatures drop. Five months gestation for those little babies. To get milk from the goats they must reach a certain age, usually two years old.

I haven't even begun to mention soil improvements or gardening.

Delayed gratification.

Philip would talk about delayed gratification with the kids. Talk about how it was a great way to build character. Of course we would all laugh a bit, as everyone knows that this principle didn't apply to chocolate left out in the open! Or even to chocolate not very smartly hidden!

Well, I hear the chirruping of little chicks in the dining room, now over 50 of them, and I think today we will move them out to the barn. They are getting big enough to hop onto the side of their trough home and before you know it, will be fluttering around the house, and I don't think I can deal with that. They still need to be protected from the temperature changes for another three weeks, then they will be released to the pasture with the electric net. Future Egg Layers of America. Teeny little fluffballs of destiny. Egg layers, fertilizer machines, and a few meals of chicken curry (destined for the extra stray roosters) all chirruping in our dining room right now.

I also hear Coco mooing at me by the backdoor. She says if I delay her gratification of receiving her morning meal much longer she will have something to say about that. Better go milk! Oh, yeay! Julie is here! She will help make butter today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Just thought I would let you know that today is already a better day.


We made it through another mile post on this very long cross-country hike.

I love hiking.

It is my very favorite sport. Really it is the only sport I enjoy.

I am remembering the 14 mile hike the kids and my sister took in December when we were in Texas. Maybe you long-term bloggers remember that post. The uphill was grueling. My muscles burned. But at some point in the middle of the pain, the endorphins kicked in, leaving me feeling more alive and more strong than ever.

Strange, but today I kind of feel that way. Stronger for having survived a hard day. More alive.

This is a much longer than fourteen mile hike we are on. The journey is rocky. Some of the stretches are steep and relentless. But along the way, even the painful stretches have their moments of beauty. And working our way through those difficulties makes me feel like we are gaining strength that we would never experience if we hid away from the pain.

I thank God for hearing my cry for help.

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:29-31

BTW, we are getting a much needed rain. The pastures have been drying up. This rain should really help. It is cold, was 40 when I got up, but better than 27 degrees. I am glad we were too busy to get tomatoes and peppers and okra planted. They will go in next week when the soil has warmed up.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Philip's birthday

Today was Philip's birthday.

Two hard days in a row.

I went to bed hurting and woke up hurting.

Don't read this post if you want happy thoughts.

When I got up in the wee hours, the temperature was down to 26 or 27 degrees. Brrr. After such a hard winter, I hate cold. Despise it. But I didn't have enough energy to go outside and gather wood to make a fire, so I got my lovely prayer shawl, and bundled up with hot coffee to finish my book and Bible reading. Many tears were shed as I cried out to God for comfort.

When I looked out the window I noticed that someone left a gate open and all the cattle and a ram were down in the hay field. The far end, on the edge of the woods. Patrick and I walked down to drive them back to the house. He took the woods side and I took the field. I thought that a walk would lighten my spirits.

It didn't.

A pain crushed into my chest like a weight. Like a falling tree. Like a heavy implement.

The steers and the bull crashed and lumbered through the timber alongside the creek. Patrick on his side, me, alone in the field.

I grabbed a low branch of locust blooms and plucked some. The smell was like candy.

But it brought no joy.

Just pain.

Everyone tells me that one has to wade through a lot of pain to get through the firsts.

I had no idea that his birthday would hit me so hard. Right next to Mother's Day. Why did Mother's Day hurt so badly?

We moved in tandem, Patrick and I and the cattle, and made our way back to the house. As we moved closer in, Patrick began to identify the different trees. I was surprised by his knowledge. White oak, red oak, birch, hickory, poplar, locust, walnut, beech, dogwood, red bud, more. When did he learn all those trees? The animals moved predictably as we directed them.

So, limping in pain (at least in my heart), we readied ourselves to go to the cemetery for a picnic with a couple of Philip and my friends. Philip's favorite food was a good cheeseburger, so we went to Sonic, bought a huge bag of cheeseburgers (I know, I know, it isn't organic, free-range, local or anything, but it was a great cheeseburger), and carried them to the graveside. We laid down our bouquet of home grown flowers, said a prayer and sat on the grass to eat and remember. I walked down to the office and finally ordered a marker for the grave. Did you know that the cheapest, simplest granite markers, not the standing stones, but the little rectangle stone that lies flat on the ground, costs over one thousand dollars? The bronze one is over two thousand dollars. Because I knew Philip well, I ordered the simple granite.

It wasn't a pleasant task.

The children ran up and down the hill and played mother may I and inspected flowers and dates and names on other sites. We grownups talked about Philip. We laughed a little and cried a little. On the drive home I felt drugged. Shell-shocked. I didn't think I would be able to function but I managed to throw in another load of laundry. Talked on the phone with a friend. The pain was so great I wanted to lie down and never get up. I don't do drugs or condone them, but in my pain I could understand why some people would want to anesthesize themselves. Wanted comfort. Relief.

When it grew near time to milk the cow, I told Rachel I hated milking. I never wanted to milk a cow again in my life. That I never wanted to bake another loaf of bread in my life. That I never wanted to home school again in my life.

Then I said goodbye, walked downstairs, got out the milking bowl and went outside to milk the cow.

As milk streamed into the bowl, I watched the sheep make their journey back to the barn. Listened to the chickens and the guineas and ducks and geese. The chicks in the house were making a racket because a couple had hopped out of their little trough and didn't know how to get back in. After I strained the milk, I helped them. The kids were hungry, so I had Maggie add some ramen noodles to homemade broth made with our non-GMO chicken bones. Seems like life is full of contrasts these days.

I can't explain how surreal it is to live with another person for eighteen years, to sleep together, to fight together, have babies together, work together, renovate together, pray together, learn together and then for that person to be gone.

If he hadn't been born 52 years ago, I wouldn't be here. My whole identity is wrapped up in our life together. I feel very alone today, even though I am not.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

This morning I woke up too early, made coffee and began to prepare for the morning's church service and sermon. I heard rustling downstairs, heard a pot rattling, and soon Rose came up the stairs with a fresh cup of coffee and a beautifully made omelet. She told me she knew that Dad usually made me a Mother's Day breakfast, so she wanted to do that this year.

We chatted for a few minutes, I ate my breakfast, then returned to the hymnal. More noises downstairs, Patrick's voice admonished me to stay upstairs. Well, since that was my plan anyway, it was easy to accommodate.

Next thing, I heard a car drive up.

The Thomas family entered the kitchen, Rachel joined me in my bedroom and Jason organized the troops to milk Coco, take care of other chores, and to work on my second breakfast! They cooked four pounds of bacon, stacks and stacks of waffles with blueberries, even brought maple syrup since we are out. They made more coffee. They set the table.

What a gift.

They blessed me and Rachel and loved on us and even got the table cleared and the dishes washed before church started.

We had an amazing service. The readings, as usual, were perfect. We spent time in Joel 2, reading about how the Lord is slow to anger and quick to offer compassion. How he will restore what the locusts have eaten. We spent some time talking about locusts. Did you know that there have been locusts 6 inches long? That they are voracious migratory grasshoppers? That they release seratonins and that is part of what draws them together into a swarm? That they eat their body's weight in one day? A small section of a swarm can consume the same amount of food as 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2500 humans. A swarm could be 10 miles long and 4 miles wide.

We discussed how devastating a swarm of locust could be. What would a people group do if their food supply was decimated for hundreds of miles? We then spoke of the different troubles we deal with today. Not too many of us have ever witnessed a plague of locusts. But there are other troubles equally violent. People who have lost a child. Others who have lost more than one child. Acquaintances in India who had their churches destroyed, their homes destroyed and pastors beheaded, children burned with gasoline. Strangers in Haiti who lost everything they own and family members as well. Friends who have lost jobs. Marriages that fell to pieces. Dreams that fizzled. Homes burned down. We lost Philip.


The end of Joel 2 comes with a promise that God will restore what the locusts have eaten. The big locusts. The small locusts. The great swarm of locusts. He will bring back green grass for the animals and grain and wine and oil.

We decided that we would pray for the many who have had lives decimated by the locusts to be able to see the powerful hand of God intervening in their lives. We talked about lots of other things too, and then shared bread and wine and remembered.

I love our little home church.

Then, church continued as we cleared away the hymnals, the Bibles and the Book of Common Prayer to make way for Sunday dinner. How could we eat after the two breakfasts? We managed! Roast chickens from the farm, barley, okra from the freezer (thank you Julie!) sauteed with onions, garlic, assorted curry powders and cream, salad from the Thomas' garden and our garden, and fresh bread of course. It was too cold and windy to have church and dinner outside so we piled around the table and set up an extra one for kids. Noisy and chaotic, we feasted.

When dishes were done, goodbyes were said, Nora and I took a walk up to the highest point of the farm. We sat, bundled up, and were still. We looked across the road to the Jefferson National Forest. We then moved down a bit, so we could look the other direction, down to our ridge and the creek bottom. The wind in the grass was an exercise in meditation. Nora remembered different things about Philip and chattered. She observed different wildflowers growing. I watched the trees and the skies and wished I could sprawl out in the field for hours.

But I didn't. I noticed that the upper hay field is in very poor condition. I won't make hay off it this year. That is disappointing, but it is time to do some intensive grazing up there to lay down some fertilizer and hopefully improve the soil. Then I need to overseed. I think the bottom field should make enough hay for our winter if the winter isn't quite so harsh as this past one. I looked at the manure pile by the barn door that needs to be spread on the fields. I looked at the fence that needs to be fixed. Then I remembered that is was Sunday and I cancelled shearing today for the simple reason that I need to take one day off a week to rest. So I returned to the house with Nora and the whole family gathered around my bed and we watched Babe together.

So thankful for my dear sweet children. And for Philip who married me and gave me the opportunity to be their mother. And for a day of rest.

Especially thankful for my mom and the many other moms in my life, who love me and encourage me and pray for me. You all know who you are and I love you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Wind

The North Wind blew haziness and dreariness right out of the sky. All humidity gone. This morning as we loaded up the truck for market the drops of rain began to fall but they were quickly blown away as well.

Gusts of delicious cool wind poured into our valley and made me want to gulp it down, except for when our table and signs were blowing away and then I had to hold on for what seemed like dear life.

Wind is a fearsome and wonderful thing to me.

When we moved here to Catawba Valley our neighbors warned us about the wind. I assured them that we had experienced wind before. Then we experienced our first Thanksgiving here. We were in the middle of kitchen renovation. The old fridge was on the deck. The wind blew it over in the middle of our meal. It blew chairs off the deck. Blew the top of the table off the deck.

I began to believe that the neighbors knew what they were talking about.

The wind here howls like a steam engine sometimes as it runs along the Appalachian Trail, then takes a detour around McAfee's Knob, and heads straight for our farm, crashing into trees and barns. At times it comes up from Blacksburg, zooms past The Homeplace, then, like some obnoxious teenager with a hot rod, roars down the road from the west until it slams into my bedroom window.

A couple of weeks ago the wind smelled like cold ocean air. This morning at the farmer's market in Roanoke (Grandin Village), the air felt like cold mountains, like broad expanses, like cool meadows. It was gentle and teasing one moment, begging me to leave all my customers and go play in the country. The next, it whacked me in the back of my head with our lovely "Taste and See" sign and threatened to smash everything we owned since I didn't listen.

We had a great time at the market today, despite the petulant wind. Sold every loaf of bread, every pizza crust and brownie mix and most all our meat. Drank great coffee and chatted. Hugged necks and made plans. Came home and did a super fast cleanup with the kids then went back to town to take the boys to a movie. (Aren't I a nice mother?) Then the girls and I went to a park so they could play.

The wind danced with the tall old trees then swished around my park bench so violently I couldn't even read one page of the last part of my book. It made me feel nervous and slightly agitated. Almost fearful, like I am of the ocean.

And with good reason because around here the wind topples trees and barns and home roofs. And electric lines and computer lines and phone lines. So I had better type quickly!

The grass is tall and very near haying time. As we drove home from town, Nora noticed that the fields looked like waves of water and the wind blew them around. I wish you could see them. I think that sometime in the next day or two I must go sit on the top of our hill amidst the waves of grass.

So this evening the wind is causing the cherry trees and the willows to be all in a flutter. They remind me of nervous little ladies shaking their hands, gossiping about gloom and doom. The big trees on the ridge, poplar and hickory, look like men and women in a town hall meeting, heads swaying, muttering back and forth, wondering what they can do to make sure that wind doesn't stay longer than absolutely necessary.

The wind howls through my open windows and breathes fresh air into my room, making me feel alive. Almost too alive. I think I will shut the window before I go to sleep. Enough, already!

By the way, I wanted to mention a good book Julie gave me. It is called TEAR SOUP, by Pat Schwiebert. Nora and I read it a couple of days ago. Great book. Illustrated in the manner of a children's book, but not limited to children. Actually, it seems to be written for adults. I have to wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who has experienced a loss.

Is there anyone out there who hasn't experienced a loss?

And for anyone else who is wishing a book to help them walk through their loss, I found Ann Hood's book, COMFORT to be incredible. It is a memoir covering the death of her daughter and her grief. Well written, poignant. I wailed a couple of times as I read through her experiences and remembered my own.

Yesterday I changed our voicemail greeting on the telephone answering service. For a couple of weeks, every time I would call home to the kids and get the leave a message notice, it would hurt me in my stomach. "Hello, you have reached the home of Philip and Ginger Hillery." So, in the middle of baking, I changed it. It felt like a door closed. I cried. Just for a moment. So now you have reached the Hillery family at Full Circle Farm.

Funny, the weird firsts.

What in the world does grief and literature have to do with the wind here in our valley? Hmmm. It comes and goes. Sometimes it is gentle and at times feels violent, like it will throw me to the ground. it blows on me and many many others, and isn't selective.

The good thing about the wind is that I think it blew the no-see-ums away for the evening. And I don't feel sticky in the slightest. Maybe I will leave the windows open and pull up the down comforter for one last weekend.

Thanks for being patient with my meandering walks through blogland.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Means Baking Day

Well, at least the house smells really good. Lots of bread made and ready for market. My feet hurt. I am sweaty and stinky and waiting for my turn in the shower. Didn't see much of the great outdoors except for when I was milking Coco.

I have found that I appreciate my job a lot more Saturday afternoons. Friday nights are just too tiring.

So if you want to be a farmer on your self-sustaining farm, be prepared for some long hours.

Very long hours.

Maybe most people don't want to be a farmer.

However, even on Friday nights, when I am hot and tired and sticky after a day that starts at 3am, I have to admit that I really do like my job. In the morning the sky is velvety black and sprinkled with diamond stars. At night I can hear the peepers singing by the pond and last night I even heard the bullfrog calling his girlfriend over for a visit. Wonder if they have a date tonight? Not to mention the health benefits of all the exercise I get from rolling out pizza crusts and lifting heavy tubs and trays of grain and dough. I also like the alchemy I get to witness, milling over 100 lbs of wheat, spelt and rye berries into flour, mixing just the right magic ingredients, over 4 gallons of milk from Coco, almost a gallon of honey from someone up the road, real salt, seeing it transformed from sticky glop to satiny dough to fragrant loaves of deliciousness.

Well, enough talk of bread making, better go see if I can grab my turn in the shower.

Market day starts bright and early.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cheep, Cheep, Cheep

Julie ordered Patrick 30 little Americauna chicks. We hope that most of them will laying hens. They are the breed that lays green and blue eggs.

This morning bright and early we got the call from the post office. Cheeping noises in the background. Day before these little fluff balls were hatched out, placed in a cardboard box and flown to Virginia, dropped off and delivered to our little post office in Troutville.

Within a couple of minutes of that phone call, a neighbor called and informed me that our shearer contacted him and that Sunday, Mother's Day, is the day we will shear the sheep and his alpacas.

I make many plans and agendas, but seems like the animals tend to direct me just as much as I aspire to direct them. Off we flew, the girls and I, to pick up that noisy package. On the way home Blue Collar Joe's sucked us into their parking lot. Philip used to buy the kids doughnuts from that great local joint quite often. Quite often. I used to love doughnuts, but these days I love fitting into my clothes, and rarely eat sugar. With Philip gone, I am trying to allow some flexibility and a few treats since he was the one to keep things balanced. I love to tell people that legalism is very unattractive, in religion and nutrition.

So we got sucked in, I got the treats and everyone enjoyed. If you are going to get a doughnut, I must recommend Blue Collar Joe's. Local treats are good for local economy and good for children's spirits. We then situated the little birdies into a trough place in the dining room, set up the heat lamp, gave them whey for their first drink, and gave them locally grown, non-genetically modified baby chicken food. They are happy and content. Our lovely dining room has been home to many baby animals, from calves to kids and lambs and many baby chicks.

The kids worked in the garden for a good long while. Dairy shareholders and meat customers came by. We took care of business. Ate a delicious meal prepared by a church friend. It was a relief to have food at the ready. It left me the energy to read the last chapter of The Last Battle by CS Lewis. Maybe tomorrow I will share with you some of our favorite quotes. It was fantastic. And offered us a wonderful launch for a lengthy family conversation about heaven and God and Philip. Rose thought that Dad would tell us that everything in heaven is way different that the book makes it sound, and way better. Thomas commented on all the conversations he imagined his dad was having. I asked him if he had any thoughts on who those conversations might involve. He stated that there would be too many to begin to name, but that he figured Dad was probably talking to Martin Luther King for a very long time. Patrick wondered about the state of a place that exists outside of time as we know it. Nora and Maggie and I smiled as we imagined Philip running with no pain. We had a very pleasant discussion about the thought of us living in the Shadowlands, and how heaven will be the place where all things are REAL. No brokenness, no sadness, no exhaustion or meanness. We miss him, but wouldn't wish for him to have to return to a worn out heart or aching joints.

The magic of the moment lasted for a few minutes, but then it ended. We aren't in heaven yet. Chores had to be done and tired people got a little fussy. Even so, I feel good having had a nice sit at the table with the kids. I like them. I love the way they think. And I still have the magic of the many moments of seeing them work diligently in their little garden plots.

Little baby chicks, little baby calf, little baby plants weave together our very own story that might be the best grief therapy possible.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

There is a Friend That Sticks Closer Than a Brother

The hot, steamy weather has past and we appear to be back to normal early May weather.

The cool air felt fresh tonight as I milked. It was nice to have Rachel's company. Tuesday is homeschool coop day. Rachel and kids plus some other homeschool friends come over on Tuesdays. She and I escaped the crazy kid chaos for lunch on the deck. Salad made with Amy's salad greens. They tasted so sweet and fresh. We talked girl's talk, or rather mother's talk, and talked Bible for a little. Sounds super religious, but it wasn't. What I like about Rachel is she is real. Any Bible conversation we share is bound to be very real.

Jason came over after work to do another couple of things with the concrete milking pad, so he joined Rachel and their kids to eat dinner with us. They are as close as family to me. I carmelized some onions, cooked up some of our grass-fed beef, sauteed some spinach and creamed it with our cream, their goat cheese and a splash of vermouth, and cooked up some asparagus. We crowded the table, and enjoyed sharing stories. It was a good dinner, and even though we missed Philip, we remembered him, and it wasn't quite so painful today. I have had a hard time cooking and enjoying food, but tonight I enjoyed. The beef was especially good with the very last bit of Brambleberry Farm's apricot jalapeno jelly.

Jason washed up the dishes and I milked Coco and Rachel kept me company. The stars were out and we appreciated them and the cooler air. The no-see-ums weren't quite as torturous tonight.

The kids had mud baths in the stream and played with crawdads this afternoon. I suggested that they catch a bunch for us to eat, but nobody seemed that interested but me.

So I guess we are in a period of not so bad days. What a relief. I even planted a couple more rows of beets, since last year I decided I was going to train myself to like them.

More gardening tomorrow? I hope so.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wish-full Thinking


Not my favorite day of the week.

However, I determined to start out the day and the week with a couple of cups of Jon's coffee, from Star City Coffee. He and his partner roast amazing free trade coffee. I barter pork, bread, milk, etc for the privilege of drinking great coffee everyday. If you know me really well at all, you know that that coffee is embraced by Coco's heavy cream, enough to make my mouth feel totally satisfied. None of that skim milk business. Why drink skim milk in coffee? I would rather have it black.

My children are not early risers, so that means I have some quiet time to putter around in the morning. This morning I was also determined to spend some time with the Book of Common Prayer and my Bible before things got crazy. I wish I could say that that happens every morning, but alas, it does not. I called a friend to remind me what year we were in, Year A or B, which lectionary to follow. Today's reading were so amazingly relevant.

One of the Psalms was Psalm 56. In verse 8 the writer recounts how God has taken note of his suffering and stored his tears in a bottle. I like to think that my creator takes note of my suffering and counts my tears as valuable.

Psalm 57 was one of the other readings. The very first verse mentions how King David takes refuge under the wings of the Almighty during a crisis. I thought of our broody Buff Orpington who hid out in an unused chicken house and hatched out some little babies this past weekend. Nora found those babies tucked under the protective mama's wings. We are feeling very protected in the middle of our crisis. Under the wings.

But here was one I thought was so apropos, with the wonderful rains we have had the last couple of days:

"You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themsleves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

Psalm 65:9-13

There were also scriptures about the resurrection and those who go before us in death. I love our Anglican tradition. That for generations others have shared these scriptures, and that they are all woven with threads that are greatly tied to the earth upon which we live, the seasons, our animals, even the weather.

The weather on the farm today was hot, sticky and a bit miserable as rain threatened. The children behaved as if Monday were not their favorite day of the week either. But forge ahead we did, and managed to cover some mathematics, literature and history, with a little phonics thrown in for Nora. I didn't even try to break up brawls. Just walked away and they somehow resolved them on their own. A little gardening was done. A lot of laundry. Some brainstorming and planning. After running to the bank, the little girls and I popped into the cemetery and had a chat with Philip. Nora and Rose run up and down the hill, inspecting the other flowers and grave markers. I pointed out to them Catawba Pass and if that we lived on the other side of that mountain over there.

After doing this and that this afternoon, we enjoyed watching the new baby calf integrate with the herd. The girls, Dulce and Carmelita, look like giants next to Tenderloin. At least that is what I named him. The kids call him Mocha, because he looks like coffee and dark chocolate. I say, call him what I hope he will be some day. The cows and steers and heifers licked him and loved on him. What a sweet happy family.

The mama hen with her seven chicks wandered all over the farm. All the baby chicks are about to get their first feathers. She takes such good care of them.

So Monday wasn't so bad after all. We survived. Nothing terribly special.

Unless you realize that waking up and living is quite special. With gentle spring rains and chicks and calves and cream in my good coffee, pink sunset skies and stories with my children. I want to be mindful of the gifts we have been given. That temper our loss with sweetness. Maybe someday I will research the meaning of "temper." In the meantime, everyone else has found their bed and so must I.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds. I come into the presence of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry, Collected Poems

A mysterious and pleasant smell greeted me as I made my way through the gate into the hayfield and journeyed to the stream. Sweet as a lady's perfume.

I wonder what it was? I couldn't find the source, but it gave me pleasure. The poplars are about the bloom. The dogwoods are almost finished, but a couple, tucked behind bigger trees along the stream were hanging on to their creamy white petals. A silvery-leafed tree/bush was blooming, teeny little white blossoms. Autumn olive?

Jonquils are but a memory. Dandelions are little old ladies with puffy white hair. I picked one. A perfect sphere. In the past, I would have immediately puffed to make my wish, but last night I observed.


The sphere was translucent. The silky little seeds appeared to be sewn together skillfully. I gazed through the sheer wall of the the sphere into the dark core. Amazing.

Then, in a puff, the silk threads unmade themselves and flew on the wind.

The sphere was completely gone. Only a dark center, no longer a center, remained.

It was beautiful in itself, that core, but not quite as amazing as it was when the sphere surrounded it.

I picked a teeny bouquet of one white violet, one purple violet, one other purple weed, a short scrubby one with purple flower that looks like a mini iris, or orchid or other fancy flower, I added a butter cup and another yellow flower picked from another beautiful weed.

The wildflowers are so tiny and lovely.

The stream gurgled. I walked and remembered how I had wanted to take more walks on the farm with Philip. We talked about it occasionally, but home was work, and the two of us would often divide to conquer; he would take on the firewood or home repairs, I would tackle the barn or the garden.

Not too long ago I told someone I didn't have any real regrets with my relationship with Philip.

That isn't true.

I regret that we neglected to take more walks by the stream.

I headed over to the pond. Even after all the rain we have had this past winter, it is starting to dry up around the edges, so it will be good if the storms come. I smelled moss and wet soil and it brought to mind the smell of our pond on the farm in my childhood. It took me back to swimming with my sisters and playing with the moss, making wigs, throwing it in moss fights, tossing it on the bank of the pond to dry out. It was a good smell.

The pasture is well-chomped down. Time to fix the fence and move the animals to give the field time to grow back. Pasture rotation and parasite management came to mind. I walked out to the barn and checked on the animals. Saw all the work that remains to be done and started to worry as soon as I headed back to the house.

I wish I could be like the wildflowers, or the blue heron who likes to hang out in the pond.

No stress.

Instead, I will remind myself that King Solomon, dressed in royal robes, was not as nicely dressed as the flowers of my field. That God has dressed them marvelously. I will try to remember that God has taken very good care of the little birds who hang out on our farm. I hear them singing his praises as I type right now. When I get worried about the monumental task of raising a family and running a farm on my own, I will try to remember that I am not alone. The last two months are proof of that.

This morning the dark grey clouds are lined with gold. Before the sun came up, the mist rolled into the valley. It was beautiful. Now it has completely burned off and the green of spring glows in the early sun. Time to do chores and get ready for church.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Market Season begins

Hot. Sticky.

Good grief, the animals are making a racket. I thought that I would go for a walk by the stream but it was too hot and sticky earlier this evening. Maybe in a few minutes it will cool off. I think the goats and sheep are annoyed by this hot weather as well. Babies and mamas are fussing, hollering, trying to get everyone settled in for the evening.

We survived first day of market.

It was hard. Seeing faces share our grief. Share our tears.

It was hard when old customers came up and asked how our winter went.

"Bad," I would answer. "My husband died."

It is good to know that others feel our pain and offer their comfort.

After we got over the firsts, shed a few tears, we got to work selling bread and pizza crusts and lamb and pork. We passed out lots of samples. Extolled the benefits of freshly milled whole wheat. By end of morning the mountain of bread and pizza crusts and brownie mixes and more were all gone. I was grateful for my dear friend, Lynne, who acted as my backup, making change, adding and subtracting, covering me when I needed to receive a hug. Really grateful for the great Indian food we shared for lunch.

As we worked, the girls were reunited with their pals who live in the market neighborhood. They roamed and played and thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the boys, with the help of Rachel, set up our wares at another local food event. They sold out as well.

Even though it was hard to go back to work, it seems like the right thing to do. It gives me a sense of security and relief to know that we have a way to generate income here on the farm. I sure wish I knew how to run all my new equipment, however. One customer (thank goodness) emailed me and told me that her loaf (of very expensive spelt milk and honey bread) had a big hole in the middle. I wonder how many other loaves were flawed. The new oven is convection and operated very differently that my regular one. I hate learning curves. Oh well. Thank goodness for grace and patient customers who are willing to let me replace their holey loaves with good ones. I will keep working out the kinks. Even if I would prefer to go to bed for about a month or two or three.

Going to market is such a great experience. We enjoy true community out there. Neighbors eager to eat healthy foods and support local farmers are very nice people and I enjoy the opportunity to get to know people whose paths would never cross mine in other circumstances. The variety is rich, diverse and just as good as the wonderful foods and arts that are for sale. Maybe I could get another job. A job that would provide steady income. A job that wouldn't put me in a vulnerable spot, where I would never make mistakes and give people holey bread. But, oh how sad to miss out on the richness that comes to me in this life. I love sharing recipes and tips on how to cook our yummy lamb. How nice it is to top our pizza crusts with so and so's goat cheese and the other guys' spinach. Talking with Lynne or Rachel afterwards about how dead this introvert feels after interfacing with so many people I love all in one morning!

I guess what I am rambling on about is that in the middle of the hard times, I do feel hopeful and encouraged. The vision Philip and I shared didn't die with him.

Well, maybe things have cooled off enough for a little walk through the pastures. A storm is moving this way. Maybe it will rain tomorrow. But now I have the desire to hear the stream and get away from built things for a few minutes. I read a poem by Wendell Berry that inspired me the other day. Maybe when I get back I will type it out for you.