The Hard Days

On Sunday, Dad and I took a quick jaunt up to PA to manage some affairs for my grandmother.  We had a great trip – lots of talking and laughing together, and a trip around my grandmother’s old homeplaces. The business stuff went smoothly, too, so it was all good.

Snowman, our Polish hen who died.

Snowman as a baby.

Except that while I was gone Bella, our female Great Pyr, squeezed herself under two fences and killed two of our chickens – Violet and Snowman, one of my favorites.

I spent most of yesterday in that fog of shock and grief that comes when I lose a living creature that I love.

This morning, I was hung over with sadness, weary from the long days’ drive.  I got myself out, though, just after dawn to feed everyone.  The chickens didn’t charge the door like usual, so I guess they were a little weary, too.

Bella was subdued, aware – in the way only animals can be – that she had done wrong.

I carried our kitchen kettle of hot water to each set of animals, watching the steam pour as the ice gave way, and I cried.  Just a little.

Sometimes it takes tragedy to remind us of the crucial things:

  • Secure boundaries protect us all.
  • Tomorrow will come, and we’ll still need food and water.
  • There is always more love to be had.

Now, I’m going out to feed everyone again, another kettle full of hot water at hand and a fresh 50 lbs of sweet feed for the caprine gals.  I’ll pet Fern, who must be missing her buddy Snowman, and I’ll nuzzle Bella close.

Because if there’s one thing farm living teaches me it’s this – sometimes we do each other harm in powerful, unintentional ways . . . and the only way to live again is with a good snuggle and a great heap full of grace.

The Gift of a 40th Birthday Party

Last night, friends and family gathered at our new firepit at the edge of the pasture to celebrate my 40th birthday.  I sat on a bench left here by the previous owners and watched fire lick the stones that once formed the original chimney of this house. On my lap, the four-year-old son of my dear high school friend, bent and doubled with the joy of movement that only a child can remember, and behind me, my precious college friend laughed and smacked her teasing husband with her mittens.

my birthday serenade

I was serenaded as I stared at THREE birthday cakes!her mittens.

Jelly Roll the kitten gave us all a show – and me a skipped heartbeat since something about the firelight made me think she was a bobcat – and Meander spun herself in wide circles of joy around us.

It was perfect. The first fire, the first large gathering, the first party here on the new farm.

The other part of the evening – before the wind died down and the fire lit up – we wandered through the farmhouse, all 15 of us, scattering into rooms with beer and wine, talking . . . filing all the corners with the light of conversation.  It felt so lovely to be able to have people inside together.

So today, when we make a trip down to the old farmhouse to pick up something we forgot, I’m sure I’ll be a bit nostalgic, but really, I’ll be grateful for the lift that place gave and the way this one has made room for so much more in our lives.

Don’t forget to stop by on your way through Radiant.  We’re just across from the post office.  We need your voice to live in this space, too.

The Lessons of a Blustery Day

This morning, when I went out to feed the animals at first light (the end of Daylights Savings doesn’t mean an extra hour on a farm.), the wind was coming in billows from the field behind the farmhouse.  If an illustrator was drawing the scene, she would have sketched a woman in a Doctor Who bathrobe, goats bucking up on hind legs, white fluffy puppies spinning in circles, and chickens with fluffy feathers.  Two kittens would have been tucked on the porch with 3 feline heads in an upstairs window, and a red-headed dog would have peeked out from the inside of the dining room window.  The wind would have been spirals dancing with leaves.   Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day

Some days it really does feel like idyllic here.

***

This week, I joined our local Chamber of Commerce, and the staff person there – Tracey – and I are fast friends, swapping road names and the sad news of a terrible car wreck over by Oak Park.  At the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office, the clerk takes our agricultural land use documents and cautions me, “No copies when you turn them in for the future,” and smiles as she says it.

As I leave the county offices in my long skirt, hand-crocheted sweater, and yarn-covered Dankos, I walk by the cluster of old-timers who farm this land.  They nod  and ask where I live.  “The Old Tucker Place in Radiant.”  It’s like the small walls of difference disintegrate when they smile at me.  They know from where I hail.

I feel more at home in this community than I have in any I’ve lived in – except perhaps at home with my dad – for many, many years.  Here, I feel like I can be my own quirky, artistic, farmerly self and that my way of being in the world will not only be respected but also cherished.  Here, history speaks in the very home in which we sit and on the roads on which we drive.  The faces and names of this place are hundreds of years old, and because the families are long-lived on this land, their stories carry forward, too.

***

Yesterday, we began work on the space that will become my office and that was, I believe, the original kitchen of the house.  As I swept the wide pine boards of the floor, I thought of the enslaved women who cooked there, and I wondered if their descendants still live nearby.  As Dad tossed down antique shoe after antique shoe from the attic above, I tried to picture the cobbler – enslaved or free – who saved those shoes for future use.

We treasure those shoes, those memories, those imaginings here because they are – already – part of who we are.  We honor them even as we make our own stories in this place.

It’s a hard thing, sometimes, to live firmly in the 21st century with a wide heart and open mind, to honor the old ways without honoring the old prejudices, to embrace new technology (solar panels?) while also respecting a homesite that already speaks to security and the windbreaks of surrounding hills.

This morning, I was reminded of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and all that makes those stories so precious – personalities respected, homes carved into that which makes us most whole, and friendships deep and long despite differences.  If God’s Whisper can be a bit like Pooh Corner, we could do far worse.

 

House Becoming Home

I don’t know if you have these moments, but I get them from time to time – where everything seems just right in the world – even when so much isn’t right.  I had one of those moments last night as I rode Vulcan on his first turn to mow around the new farm.

Our Outdoor Cats on Our Indoor Bed

Jelly Roll and Sabeen are supposed to be outdoor cats. When they snuck in last night, they quietly settled on our bed. Not dumb kitties, these.

He and I were mowing in our orchard – oh, how I love that we have an orchard – and I thought how remarkable that I am now living in this place, calling it home.  How did I ever get so blessed?

***

Yesterday afternoon, friends came by.  People who were dear friends of my mom’s, people who I have known for many years. . . and as we told them about the sale of our old farm, about how it sold in 8 days for more than asking, about how it was bought by a farmer who would use all the work we had done. . . “it all works out.”  That’s what I said.  And it does. Every time.

***

Last night, Philip and I stayed up quite late, doing our best to put those most difficult of things away – pictures on the walls, memorious objects on the shelves. (I don’t really like to call them knick-knacks because they carry more memory than kitsch.)  I stood long and stared at walls, listening to what story of our lives we wanted to tell just here.  Over our coach, we hung a picture of two dogs in a canoe, a print of a mausoleum against paint-blue sky that I bought in New Orleans on a trip with Mom, and the printer’s box that I fill with tiny objects, each wrapped in memory.

On the mantel in the Reading Room, we have candlesticks that Philip’s grandfather made, a plaque that says “You are living your story” that my dear friend gave me, and two pieces of copper that I remind me of Mom (she loved copper) and Dad, who brought me one of them.  Between them all, a painting of an abandoned rowboat hangs – a painting by Philip’s grandmother.

It does not take a great deal of time to make a house a home it seems.

***

Just over a year ago, when Philip and I headed north for our honeymoon in Maine, we drove up through this part of the world, and the whole while I thought, “This might just be the most beautiful place on earth.” Farmsteads scattered over rolling hills that lead to the bluest of the Ridge.  Long quiet roads where you can see for miles but not around the next curve.  The way that roadlines trace stories and houses carry the families that have lived long before them.

Now, here we are – in a house we saw once and knew was ours, the house my father suggested we consider, the house where Berrys, Yowells, Tuckers, and Rudds before us have lived soft and steady.

It is amazing, really, how “it all works out.” But then, well, when you are loved who all of who you are by One who knows all the history behind and before, how could it not?

Come visit, all.  Be a part of this story in this place with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Photo Gallery

This morning, I tried to snap a few shots around the house for all of you. I hope you’ll excuse the poor lighting, clutter, and unpacked boxes.  But I wanted you to see the beautiful house we now call home.

God's Whisper Farm Living Room

The front of the living room with Mom’s chair

IMG_2148

The guest room. Mom made the quilt, and Sarah painted the walls.

Guest Room/Office at God's whisper Farm

My temporary office in the second guest room.

God's Whisper Farm Dining Room

Our Dining Room

God's Whisper Farm Kitchen

Our Kitchen

Reading Room at God's Whisper Farm

The reading room, looking toward the front of the house.

Reading Room/Library

Reading room, looking toward the kitchen and living room.

God's Whisper Farm Living Room

Our living room. You can’t really see it, but there’s a fireplace. ;)

First Days

To be honest, I’m not sure what to write here today.  There’s too much to share and too little I’ve processed fully, so I’ll just give you some highlights, if that’s okay.  Boone, the Great Pyrenees

1. All the animals and humans are here on the new farm.  It took a miraculous effort on Philip’s part, but by 1am on Thursday night, we were all tucked in, safe and sound.  Philip had to do his best Cirque du Soleil moves to get behind the water heater under our staircase at the old house to get Charlotte, who then promptly climbed into the wall by using her claws on a cinderblock chimney.  Eventually, we caught her, and Philip hand-carried all the chickens from the coop to the carriers and then the reverse so get everyone settled.  Add to that the need to lift a 100-lb Great Pyrenees into the Subaru and carry 6 goats to their house on the truck . . . Plus, he rode with a pooping and screaming Emily the cat for the full 90 minute drive.  We can safely say that Philip did more than his share of animal transport.

For the record, I did do a dive in mud and poop to catch Acorn and load her up.  That pretty much is all my part.

2. We have unpacked about 3/5 of our belongings, and we have the living room, bedroom, and half of the reading room set up.  It’s kind of amazing how much stuff we had crammed into a 757 square foot house, but now that we’re here – in almost 1900 square feet – we are S P R E A D I N G out.

I have especially reveled in the fact that I can put all the food in the pantry without having to stack it, but I will admit just a tad bit of stress at having to decide where things go.  I don’t own a lot of shoes because the choices stress me out, and apparently, the same can be said for cabinetry.

Also, we have a dishwasher. :)

3. We met the postmaster at our post office. Her name is Kay, and she’s adorable.  The post office is about the size of our master bathroom, so I’ve considered inviting her over to stretch at lunch. We’ve waved at the neighbor who has his cows on our land, and we hope to meet everyone in town sometime soon.  (Note – “town” consists of 183 people.)

At this exact moment, Philip is working on the reading room – moving crafting supplies up to my temporary office, which will become our craft/guest room in time.  Soon, we’ll get the bookshelves situated and begin unloading the bulk of our boxes – filled, of course, with my books.

And by Wednesday, when our first houseguest arrives – Sarah!!! – we’ll have the guest room ready with our new split boxspring – necessary because the regular one wouldn’t go up the 200-year-old stair case – and her very own, brand-new towels.

It’s coming together, and already, beyond anything we have done, it is home.

Do come visit soon.

 

 

Holy and Hard – The Moving Begins

This morning, we had our first near frost, and the Great Pyr puppies were frisky – as if the cold dances in their blood. . . I completely understand.  (Meander, however, is tucked under a blanket on the couch snoring.)

Packing Tape and Wine - Moving Tools

Moving Tools. (See the name on the bottle?)

In about an hour, dear friends will arrive to help us make the first of many trips from here to the new farm, and I am both eager and sad.  It will be as hard to leave this place as it will be joyous to move to the new one.

I have poured myself into this land – with raised garden beds and a chicken coop and a shop, with trails cleared and land brought back from wilderness.  I have healed here, and I have married here.  Forever, this place will be sacred to me.

Yet, I go to the new farm with deep eagerness – for it will be the place both Philip and I build.  Much of this farm was mine – my dreams, especially – but in this new place, we will dream together. And for that – more than anything – I am excited.

But I am also eager to take what we have learned here and use it there.  I want to spread the goat feeders out more so there’s less butting and be sure to get shelter over their mineral feeder.  I want to use wood chips from day one on our chicken poop boards, and be sure to get great straw for the laying boxes.  I want to get cover crop on the garden asap to help keep weeds down and feed the soil . . . and so much more.

In very real ways, this new place is a continuation of this old place.  Even as it is a new beginning . . . a new beginning that will have new adventures and maybe new animals. Mom’s dearest friend pointed out that we really need a pig since our town is called Radiant -  you know so that the pig can bear witness as Wilbur did for Charlotte’s web. And I still dream of alpacas and learning to spin.  (Maybe I’ll get a spinning wheel and start practicing.)  Plus, we want to grow sweet corn, something we haven’t tried here and get our asparagus hill in the ground.

Plus, there are new stories there. When we arrive at the farm on Monday night to check out the house before coming back here to care for the animals, I will talk to the hill and pour out a libation of memory for the people enslaved there – a way of honoring and telling them that I will know as much as I can about their lives in time.  It feels like a way to carry the sacred to this new place.

So today, I load wheelbarrows and post-hole diggers with a mix of joy and grief.  And I remember that this is life – holy and hard and beautiful beyond measure.