When The Holiday Season Is Hard

When The Holiday Season Is Hard

Yesterday, a dear friend told me about how hard it is to leave through this season of so much family stuff when her family of origin was the source of intense, prolonged abuse and a continued world of denial.

Someone else I love feels a profound level of anxiety associated with the travel that often comes this time of year.

Others of us – me included – miss people so intensely that even the best moments come with an ache of absence.

We miss people. We wish our families were different, more healthy, more complete, more like Hallmark.  We ache for partners or children. We want to slow down or speed up just to get past the first of January.

So if this is you this season, may I be a small voice of affirmation. May you find the space you need to grieve, to ache, to wish, to rest, to seek, to find, to hope, and even to fear. May you be surrounded by people who give you this space and who trust that your hurt doesn’t need to dampen their joy. May you see light in the tiniest of candles, and may the shadows grow smaller in that light.

Most of all, may you know you are loved, deeply and richly, for all of who you are in these hard days.


We are doing a little holiday giveaway on Instagram and Facebook. You can win a set of our farm mugs, a packet of seeds from our garden, an electronic copy of my book God’s Whisper Manifesto, and a code for a 30% discount at our Etsy shop.

A Giveaway from God's Whisper Farm
Meander, the reluctant model.

Just click these Instagram or Facebook links to get all the details. 

A Day on the Farm

A Day in the Life of the Farm
Our Great Pyrenees, Boone and Bella, have taken on these little buddies as their charges. Here, they greet Indiana with such gentle attention.

Sometimes, people ask us how we do all we do, and most days, I make light of the question, talk about how things just take a few minutes here and there, and say something about how “everyone is busy.”

And all of that is true.

But it is also true that the life we live here, particularly this time of year, takes a great deal of work and time, and since so many of you have asked what our days look like, I thought I’d share.

Our Daily Schedule

Every day, EVERY day, I wake up at or before first light. I start the coffee pot, pack Philip’s lunch if it’s a week day, put the eggs in the cooler for the farm stand, let Mosey and Meander out and then feed them. Then, depending on the time of year, I either read for a bit or I go out to do the morning feeding.

The morning feeding begins with letting the chickens out of the coop, filling all three of their feeders, and being sure they have water. Then, I cross the farm yard to the barn and feed the Great Pyreenes while also being sure they have water. Finally, I head into the barn and clean out the barn cats litter. (We keep praying they will learn how to use the cat door and take advantage of 15-acres of outdoor bathroom, but they have yet to do so. Sigh.)  I give them food and water before visiting with our new bunnies. I check their water bottles and fill their hay troughs before giving them what they really want – a small portion of pelletized food. It doesn’t look appetizing to me, but they climb the walls to get it.

In fact, if you ever need to feel wanted and loved, come do a feeding with me. The frenzy of enthusiasm for my mere presence is a good start to every day.

Most days, Philip and I then head to our respective day jobs with Philip opening the farm stand on his way out the lane. I do my day job at home, of course, so it’s sprinkled with farm chores – like opening the greenhouse and returning a stray chicken to the run – but mostly, we are working to make the incomes we need to support our lives.

But this time of year, the garden and the animals need a bit more tending. So today, for example, I will:

  • prep another bed in the greenhouse for planting.
  • plant Chinese cabbage and pak choi.
  • perhaps plant spinach, carrots, and kale in the outdoor garden beds, depending on the forecast for the next few days.
  • begin the very lengthy process of grooming the Great Pyrenees for warmer weather.
  • spend time pulling cashmere off of our goat Bliss since she is beginning her spring shed.
  • and weed the garlic bed and hunt for the hints of asparagus spears.

Fortunately, my day job is light today and tomorrow, so I should make good progress on these things. But if I had lots of editing or coaching to do, this would all need to be done in the brief evening hours before sunset.

At the end of every work day, Philip closes the farm stand on his way in, and he and I do the evening feeding. We feed all the critters and check their water levels. Plus, at this feeding, we get to gather eggs. (We’re averaging a dozen a day just now, so the Farm Stand is chock-full of eggy goodness. Come pick up a dozen or two.) And we get to take the rabbits out to their run for a bit of exercise and the joy of sprinting bunnies.

Then, we eat dinner before doing final chores – closing up the chickens at dusk, doing a final hay-fill for the rabbits before bed, performing maintenance on our vehicles and farm equipment, washing the day’s eggs in apple cider vinegar and packing them into crates, and crocheting projects for friends of the farm who support us by buying what I make.

Finally, at about 8:45 or 9pm, we settle in for an hour or so of television together before we send the hound dogs out for a last bathroom visit (we should probably have them train the barn cats) and settle ourselves into bed by about 10.

The Weekends

Like most other Americans, we spend the weekends doing the things around the house that we didn’t have time to do during the week.

  • We clean out the chicken coop and the goat room.
  • We make a run to the dump with our trash and recycling.
  • We spend a lot of hours in the garden – this weekend, I’m getting snow peas into the ground.
  • We work on fence repair.
  • We clean our house, which as you can imagine sees its fair amount of farm dirt.
  • I bake cookies for the week and try to prepare a good dinner.
  • We organize the books in the farm stand and give it a bit of cleaning, too.
  • Sometimes, we splurge and get a movie to watch from the Redbox for Saturday night.
  • And on good weekends, there’s a NASCAR race to watch on Sunday.

These are long days, yes, but they are good, rich ones. This lifestyle ties us to this place in a way that I appreciate more and more for its gentle, settled rhythm.  There is something to say for a home where this much life relies on us and where all the animals greet you with their voices and enthusiastic scampers every time you walk by. 

Come visit sometime. We’d love to show you around

The Ragged Beauty of Scars

The Ragged Beauty of ScarsIn the pile of clothing we just donated to Goodwill, there was a shirt I loved. It was white with little blue flowers, and it hung loose over my torso. It’s square neck framed my face, and I loved the little cap sleeves.

But I gave it away because it had a small, brown stain on it, and I couldn’t seem to get it out. When I wore that shirt I loved, I could only see the stain.

This is the truth, and it makes me sad.

But then there is the scar on Meander’s large, a back, gastly thing that she got in the scant weeks before I knew her, in the days she lived in a barn. Barbed wire? A jagged piece of metal? It’s a bit of mystery that reminds me why my girl may love the couch and a warm blanket more than most anything. It’s a part of her story.

This morning, with Esther Emery’s soul-shifting book What Falls from the Sky* just now sliding complete down the throat of my eyes and Seth Haine’s Coming Clean* barely crossing the tongue of my irises, I am pondering perfectionism – my own, which is largely relational, and that of people I love. I am thinking about how many times we throw things away because they have a tiny stain.

How many things do we claim are ruined when really what there is a tiny mark, a stain, a scratch, that might be repaired or where we might embrace the larger story of what is told?

It is worth it to go look for redemption. It can be found. Healing is possible. Things do grow again. We underestimate our own tremendous capacity for recovery, the capacity of the organism to heal itself. — Esther Emery

I wonder just how much we waste when we give up, or give in, because of one imperfection, one mark that is actually the scar of a life lived rather than a mortal wound.

I’m thinking 2017 will be the year when I shine the light of the ragged beauty of the scars. 

 

*These are affiliate links, which means if you follow them and then make a purchase, we get a small bit of income – at no extra cost to you – to help build our life here on the farm.  

 

The “Burden” of Keeping Everybody Warm

The "Burden" of Keeping Everybody WarmToday is the first really cold day we’ve had this winter, and so we’ve spent some time preparing everyone.  Last night, Philip prepped the heated chicken waterer, and this morning, I kicked off the thin layer of ice that had formed on the goat and Great Pyrs’ water tub and plugged in their water heater.

I made sure the cat door to my office swung wide so Jelly Roll could sneak in to sleep on the dog bed there, and I laid a brand new bed heater out on the couch in the barn for the three cats there.

The chickens will fluff themselves up and snuggle to stay warm, and the goats are wearing their finest winter coats.  Bella and Boone are frolicking in this Arctic blast. Tomorrow I expect I’ll find frost on their coats, and they will be giddy with it all.

Of course, Meander and Mosey have beds by the woodstove so they are MORE than fine.

In the house, we are trying our very best to keep our electric bill low as we work to save for fertility treatments again in January, so we are heating exclusively with the woodstove unless absolutely necessary. That means the back of the house is about 53 degrees most days, and tonight, we’ll have to cave and turn on the space heater in the laundry room to keep the pipes from freezing there.

I may also have mercy on Philip and turn on the heat pump in our bedroom. 🙂

It is a fair amount of work to keep farm animals safe and warm, but it is a work we are blessed to be able to do. We have the means and the time to tend these animals, and that is not a minor thing. Not at all.

Sometimes, doing the things we need to do can feel burdensome, so much weight in an already weighty world, but I am reminded today that there is great blessing in being able to bear that weight – maybe that is the lightness of it all.

Stay warm, friends.  Stay warm.

When Morning Gives Her Gifts

When Morning Gives Her Gifts - God's Whisper FarmThe past two mornings, Meander, Mosey, and I have risen before 5am. (It’s hard for a human to sleep when a certain basset hound is licking her calf.) I pass from the bedroom to the bathroom, where I don my glasses. Then I head through the kitchen to unlock the side door, turn on a tiny light over the stove, and move to the front door to let the hounds out.

There, I stand at the door and see what time of night we are now in.  This morning, we were in purple night, and a low-flying plane or helicopter disguised itself as a planet for just a moment.

Yesterday, this first glimpse of day brought me umber, with the hue of light coming. Each day, the night is fuller when I rise.

I suspect that as a child I noticed the way day changed her outfits every 24-hours, but through most of my adult years, I let human light dictate what I did. That’s not possible on the farm – or if it is, it comes with certain costs – the expense of buying electricity, fatigue chickens who are worn out of their eggs faster by lights in their coops, the loss of knowing how many shades of purple night has in her wardrobe.

Mornings, I’ve said it before and I’m sure I”ll say it again, are my greatest gift here on the farm. To sit in the quiet before birds sing, to know that autumn is striding over the Blue Ridge because these first breaths of day tingle the tongue with crisp, to begin again before the fatigue weighs me down in the evening light, these are the blessings of morning.

May I never take them for granted.  When Morning Gives Her Gifts - God's Whisper Farm

A GWF Animal Primer, Just in Time for our First Wedding

Our New Farm Sign
We got a new sign for the farm. Keep an eye out for it when you visit.

On Saturday, we’ll be hosting our first wedding here on the farm, and it’s a special one – my dad, Woody, is getting hitched to his beautiful bride, Adrienne.  We couldn’t be more happy for them, and if they give permission, we’ll be sure to share some photos from their special day.

We know some of you will be coming to the farm for the first time this weekend, so we wanted to give you a little primer to the critters here, just in case you are as big on names as we are.

The Chickens

Xander – Our Plymouth Rock rooster

Ruby, Vermilion, Magenta, Crimson, and Maroon – Our Campines

Turtle and Fern – Our Polishes

Curioser, Onyx, and Ebony – Our Andalusians

Hollyhock, Hyacinth, and Hibiscus – Our Cochins

Daffy, Lemon, and Gigantor – Our Easter Eggers

Dingbat – Our Plymouth Rock hen

Weirdo and Not Weirdo, Dean, and Genius – Our Hens whose breed I have not yet identified.

The Goats

Wilma and Carmen – Our Fainting Goats

Olive and Acorn – Our Nigerian Dwarf Goats

Bliss and Elvira – Our Cashmere Goats

Our Dogs

Bella and Boone – Our Great Pyrenees

Meander and Mosey – Our Spoiled-Rotten Hounds

Our Cats

Jelly Roll – Mouser Extraordinaire

Emily, Charlotte, and Oscar – Our Barn Cats

You can see pictures of most of these beauties over at our Facebook page or on Instagram.  We’d love to see you there, and stay tuned for details about how you can come spend some time in our new bunk room.  It’ll be ready for guests in June.

 

A Few Photos From Around The Farm

We’ve had a good, busy week here on the farm.  In addition to having a few hundred (no exaggeration) tiny brussels sprout plants, we’ve had a concert, transferred our indoor cats to the barn, held a barn concert, worked our full-time jobs, and managed to keep everyone fed.

And we wouldn’t change it for the world . . . although we will be taking a nap this afternoon. 🙂

Enjoy a few of the images from around these parts this week.

Pierce Pettis in Concert at God's Whisper Farm
Pierce Did a GREAT Show to an Enthusiastic if Small Crowd
Mosey, the Basset Hound of God's Whisper Farm
Mosey poses really well.
Carmen, one of the fainting goats at God's Whisper Farm
Even girl goats have beards . . . as Carmen models here.
Meander cuddles up at God's Whisper Farm.
Meander appreciates a warm bed and a blanket by the heater.
Boone and Elvira at God's Whisper Farm
Boone and Elvira in an early morning moment.
The lane into God's Whisper Farm
Come Visit Soon!

 

Choosing A Life

Once, I stood on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, NC – the town where I spent the years of my childhood  – and listened.  Snow and ice had shut down the Parkway itself, but we had driven up to the gate and gotten out, following my desire to be in the air that had so given me joy as a child. Solitude, Silence, Wintry day

On Sunday afternoons, my family often drove up to that parkway and had a picnic – sometimes with friends, sometimes just the four of us.  We’d walk the trails near the picnic areas, or my brother and I would tumble over the giant rocks there, never aware that we were doing something for which there was a term – “bouldering.”  Those afternoons still hold a glowing place in my memory – they were the days on which I had no responsibility, which was a gift for someone whose sense of responsibility came with her first breath of oxygen.

So here I was, a woman in her 20s, back on this road, trying to regain that joy . . . . I stood as still as possible and listened.  The crackle of trees swaying. The hum of crisp air against the inside of my lungs.  I could have stood there all day in the silence of nature.  But he was ready to go . . . as my first husband would always be, it turns out . . .

I was the one who could live longer with silence.

***

This morning, I woke at 4am, a puppy chewing on the hair at the nape of my neck, my hips achy from 8 already hours in bed.  I climbed up and carried Mosey to the front door and then penguinned my way across the porch to the steps so he could do his business.

The farmyard, the neighborhood, the whole space was silent with the snow and ice that claimed yesterday.  I filled myself up with it and stared at the streetlamp fuzzed in the distance . . . Narnia?

Now, 2 hours later, I am still awake, while Meander and Mosey have tucked themselves into the fleece blanket and the sleep beside me.  I could have returned to bed, too, pushed myself back to sleep again.  But something said that wakefulness in this silence was what I needed.  The something was right.  I feel rested, restored, filled. . .

It is easy to fill days with doing; it is not as easy to fill oneself that way.

Maybe it’s that I’m 40 now. Maybe it’s that I’ve finally found THE man who can abide this silence with me. Maybe it’s that I have heeded the tug at my soul that says I need open space and physical work and fewer people that makes my muscles take precedence of my mind.  Maybe it’s that I am now able to claim what I need first – the oxygen mask on my own face before I give it away.

But now, more than anytime in my life, I am willing to live into what I need, to grasp it, to seize it – even if it means taking the silence at 4am on an icy, late winter’s morning.

***

On Memorial Day a couple of years back, Philip, his parents, and I packed a lunch and climbed the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic.  It was cold – raining with the threat of sleet on that May day – and we shivered as we ate sandwiches and chips at a rustic picnic table at the edge of the woods. I was becoming part of their long-time family tradition of picnics on the Parkway now.

Later that afternoon, Philip drove us to the Pepsi parking lot in Charlottesville, where we climbed aboard a hot air balloon. I had always wanted to go up in one – ever since I had been too scared as a child to take the opportunity to go aloft in a tethered balloon with the local weatherman when I was about 6.  So here we were, floating above the reservoir, friends’ texting me from the Target parking lot below, when I got a new text – “Will you Marty” it read. . . and I looked up to see the beautiful sapphire ring I wear now.

“Don’t drop it,” I said before my yes.

And I meant the ring. But I also meant this life – our aloft life where I have the space to breath deep the silence with the most loving man I know beside me. I also meant this moment.  I also meant me.

***

It is easy to fill life up – to take just the next thing that comes, to go into day and then into night without really breathing.  I know – I did it for years.

But not anymore.  Now, I choose each day.  I choose this man who took me flying and proposed over a farm.  I choose our life here – full of ice and poop and the purple light of dawn. I choose dogs who wake me at 4am only to go right back to sleep.

I choose me.  And the silence I need.

We have lots of new things happening here on the farm in the coming months – including a NEW loom-knitting workshop in May.  Check out our Events page to get the details and plan to join us here soon. 

The First Dangles of Spring

I can taste spring with my back teeth – the scent of fresh earth, the grit of garden dirt, the onions fresh cut with the first mow.  I have never craved spring quite so much as I do this year.

Snow in Matsudo (Chiba, Japan) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 t-mizo, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I fairly ache with anticipation.

I’ve pulled out the garden catalogs and planned my seed order.  It’s ambitious – very ambitious – for our first year here.  But I am eager to try some new things – asparagus, ornamental corn.  Plus, my herb garden, oh, where will I put my herb garden.  I think I’ll spend some of today scouting.

The first dangles of spring life are tiny, subtle. The flower buds on the dogwoods and fruit trees swell like they’re taking a deep breath.  I noticed iris shoots just coming up beside the west side of the house, next to the frozen icicle that has appeared on our single, leaky outdoor faucet.  And when Mosey was doing his business yesterday, I swear the wild onions looked just a bit greener.

But first, we have February to abide in, what will Phil, the prognosticating critter say, tomorrow. Will I be gritting my teeth through March, too?

No matter. We have grow lights in the basement, so baby seeds can fill the air with fresh oxygen and I can feel dirt beneath my fingernails.  The goats will keep their extra fluff, and the chickens will continue to fill their single, communal nest with eggs as the days lengthen.

I will find more books and seize the daylit minutes to double-dig the garden patch and prep the strawberry hill.  We can dig holes for the tiny sugar maples that will soon line the driveway.  And we have my office to finish – we picked up the paint (a golden orange called “Mac N Cheese,” which fits so well since that’s Philip’s favorite food) and the wiring supplies.  I’ll be in there come spring, I hope.

Meanwhile, I revel in the glory of multi-colored eggs and the frisky hops of a puppy.  I sit quiet with a book and Meander by my side.  I watch the goats frolic on their houses as if they were climbing mountains while Bella and Boone snuggle up with the cat Sabeen. I take a few minutes to celebrate the sun while Jelly Roll takes her name to life on the front porch in the beams. And Philip and I sit on the couch, hands entwined, movies on the screen, and listen to the Kitten Derby upstairs.

It’s winter, and it’s lovely. And spring is coming with stories and blooms I have yet to know.

What are you looking forward to about spring? 

 

By the way, if you live in our area, we are beginning to sell of our fresh, free-range eggs.  They are $3 a dozen, so let us know if you’d like some.  Thanks.

Adding Mosey to the Menagerie

Yesterday, Philip and I moved through a local pet store, gathering things we needed for the new puppies – ours and our in-laws (Mosey and Dexter, respectively). A pair of Nylabones, tiny collars with tags that have their names and our phone numbers, piddle pads (with scented targets), a crate for Dexter, a couple of stuffing-less toys (Meander guts stuffed things in seconds), and lots and lots of puppy food.

Goat lifting. :)
Olive is not a lightweight girl.

Then, we got cat food for our five cats, compostable cat litter for the indoor kitties, and dog food for Bella and Boone. (Meander already has a stockpile.)  By the time we were done, we could barely turn the cart.

We had already loaded 50 pounds of chicken feed and 50 pounds of goat feed in the back of Trapper the Subaru, and we were definitely low-ridin’ as we headed off to get the food we needed for the two humans in this menagerie.

Come April, we’ll be adding 15 chickens to this mix and then – for now – we’re done.  In time, we hope to bring in a couple of alpacas and maybe a German Shepherd to the dog pack.  But now, our cart – and our lives – feel full.  It’s glorious.

It’s also a lot of food.  🙂

Come June, we’ll be putting up a barn to give the goats and dogs more places to get out of the weather, and Philip will have a workshop there so he can build the other things we need here. (This weekend, he whipped up a chicken feeding station from some scrap wood.)  We’ll have space to put in stainless steel tables for goat cheese (in the future), and I’m hoping to acquire an old spinning wheel so I can turn the cashmere gals’ fiber into yarn.  Really, it’s so exciting.  So very exciting.

But today, my excitement is going to wrap itself around a little round puppy belly when we pick up Mosey at 11am today.  For years, I’ve wanted a basset hound.  I can’t really say why beyond the fact they are absolutely goofy looking, laid-back, hound dogs.  At Christmas each year, Mom would buy me a basset hound calendar, and I’d stare at those droopy eyes and ears and dream.  Another of my life’s dreams come true.  

Plus, we get the added bonus of having his brother Dexter live with my in-laws.  Whew, that’ll be 7 dogs between us.  That’s a lot of pup.

So stay tuned to our Facebook page for puppy pics and day to day updates on things here on the Farm – a little bit of peaceful here in the Virginia foothills.

May your day be full of all the joy found in goat hooves, kitten paws, dog tongues, and chicken feathers. 

 

If you’re interested in supporting the work we do here, we’d love that.  Please check out our Farm Store, or visit our Etsy shop – if you need a custom order of crochet or cross-stitch, please let me know. I’m happy to see what I can do that matches my skills to your budget.

And local folks, we have fresh eggs – just $3 a dozen. 🙂