Firsts, Christmas, and Joy

Firsts and Joy

This morning, as Milo was cuddling very close with me in our pre-nap time with a book, he put my finger in his mouth, and I felt a ridge of bumps, just ever so slightly above his gum line. Tears sprang to my eyes – his first tooth!

This thing has arisen like a mountain range, working its way up through the tectonic shifts of months to emerge, here, in these days just before Christmas.  Oh, the joy . . . and also the fussiness.

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Milo in his high chair with a purple bow on his head.
Milo is ready for Santa

Milo’s first Christmas. Goodness. I can’t even believe it. Last year, I felt tenderness in new ways for Mother Mary as a pregnant woman. This year, I marvel at what she managed as a mother to this tiny baby in a time when men were not expected to help much at all. I imagine Joseph was a good father for his time, but did he ever take the night shift (as Philip does every other night) or bring Mary soup when she got a cold during those first months (as Philip did this past weekend)?

I want to be doing all the things for Christmas time with this little, no-longer-toothless wonder, but most days, we do well to keep us all in clean clothes, food, and a bit of laughter.  Next year, maybe, I’ll have the capacity to add in advent traditions. . . and he’ll appreciate them more then, I expect. Right now, a recycled Christmas bow is his favorite toy, so I’m celebrating that as festive.

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This week, I watched my dear friend Kelly preach an Advent sermon at her church. It was called Signs of Joy, and her wisdom about how joy and grief are often intertwined was rich for me as was her exhortation to look for joy. So today, in my sleep-deprived state – because after Philip cared for me, both he and Milo got my cold, so I’ve been on duty for a few days now – I’m finding joy in the gentle click of the wood stove, in hound dogs asleep in their corners of our couch, and in a first tooth, barely pushed into light in the body of a human being we ached for years to hold.

Joy and sorrow. Light and dark. There is a reason we celebrate Christmas at the Winter Solstice – a reminder of both.

This holiday season, may the joy outshine the sorrow in your days.  Happy Holidays, Dear Ones! Happy, Happy Holidays!


Starting in January, I will be sending a monthly newsletter (much as I did before pregnancy and Milo’s exuberance took my attention). That newsletter will include an update about what’s happening on the farm that month, some photos of the critters, farmhouse, and landscape here, a recipe that I tried, and regular discounts about upcoming farm events. If you are already subscribed to our list, you will get that newsletter automatically. But if you aren’t subscribed but would like to be, you can join in here.

(Note, if you’d prefer to get less emails or more emails, every email from us provides you the opportunity to adjust your email settings or unsubscribe.)

The Barn Site, Destruction, and Community

Be joyful because it is humanly possible. – Wendell Berry

As I write, Dad is on the skid steer that we were graciously allowed to borrow. He’s putting the final touches on the site for the barn – a 40x60x12-foot structure.  The farmyard looks a bit destroyed right now.  As Philip said, “It looks like there was a major tractor trailer accident in the front yard.” Yet, sometimes, progress requires a bit of tearing open first.

Goat Feeding Stanchion
Philip made this stanchion for the goats. It allows us to trim their hooves and feel them, and come spring, we’ll shear the cashmere girls here, too.

I’m loving it.  Every time we take a few steps closer to the dream, I get giddy. 

Later today, Dad will double-dig our garden patch, too, saving us hours of work as he preps the asparagus and strawberry beds and does the final touch on the main garden patch.

Yesterday, he moved two quince bushes over by the garden edge, and today, we’ll prep the space, too, for the place that our rows of sugar maple will line the driveway.

This morning, when Mosey woke me at 5:40 and Dad woke early, too, he and I sat in the reading room and talked – racism, his childhood, farming.  We chatted about how we’ll open the farm store and how he might make some furniture to sell there, and his support has sparked me again.  From the moment I had this dream, he has not only gotten behind me, but he’s jumped into big machines and prepared the way.  I could not be more grateful for him.

And Philip, well, the man worked himself to achyness yesterday – disassembling the fence so Dad could get to the barnyard, taking down the old swing set the previous owners left because it was unstable, and gathering then splitting firewood.  Today, he’s sore, but he’s already headed out to get diesel for the equipment.  A remarkably good man there, the best one, I know.

Bella and Boone, our Great Pyrenees
Bella always reclines to eat. Boone is a little too anxious for that option.

Some farmers build their places without parents and partners, but no farmer I know does this work alone.  We NEED other people to support us, to help us, to speak words of support and enthusiasm into what we do.  I am so thankful for all of you, the Whisperers, who have dreamed this place with us, who have sent gifts and bought plaques for the goat fence, who recommend our Etsy shopWe would not be able to build this place without you. 

In a bit, Heather and Henry will come to have brunch with us, and Philip’s parents may stop by with Dexter (Mosey’s littermate) later today.  Our community of presence sharing our space.  We hope you’ll join that part of the community, too.  Stop by, sometime.  I’ll make you tea.

 

On February 21 from 1-4pm, I am teaching a crochet class here on the farm.  If you’ve always wanted to crochet or just want to join us for a bit of conversation while we stitch, you are most welcome.  I’ll provide the lessons and the materials.  You provide the fingers and the presence.  $15.  Comment below to reserve your space.  More information is available here.

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.

 

 

The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Farming . . . So Far

Sometimes I want to downplay what we’re doing here on the farm as “lesser,” to diminish our dreams and hard work because we aren’t moving hundreds of free range animals to new pasture each day or because we aren’t planting crops and harvesting them with draft horses.  Those are the ideas of farming that come to mind for me, no doubt shaped by trips through Lancaster County, PA and my father’s own appreciation for the beauty of farmland.

Andi on Lean-To
My Sidekick and I Survey Our Domain

But mostly, I know that what we are doing is just right, hard work, and lots of beauty.

So here are the 10 things I’ve learned about farming so far:

1. It is futile to get yourself or your farmhouse floor clean if your expectation is for it to stay that way.  I have never vacuumed so much or showered so little. 🙂

2. A proper order of activities is imperative.  Clean coop, feed puppies, clean out litter boxes, pet goats, weed garden first.  Shower second, if showering seems important.  (See #1)

3. Have a pair of farm shoes at every door.  I now leave my shoes off most of the time when inside (See #1), but I need shoes close by in case I hear the guineas sound their alert or if Boone lets out his raspy bellow of a bark when he seems something amiss.

4. Own waterproof shoes. I have these great rubber shoes that I use in the mornings because the grass is always wet with dew and because, well, poop.  (See #1)

5. A routine is beautiful. I get up each morning between 6 and 6:30, 7 days a week, and head out to feed the crew.  Sometimes, the chickens are sleepy, so I just open doors and plan to return. Then, I feed the dogs, then the goats, then the kittens, and then Meander.  (The indoor cats eat at night).  This routine pushes me into the day at just the right speed and with the burst of joy that comes when animals who love you see you coming.

6. Physical tiredness is a gift. I spend most of my days at this computer – 10, maybe 12 hours.  So my mind is exhausted, but my body often isn’t.  But with animals, a garden, and still much work to do on the land, my body is often worked, too, if for only a bit in the evenings.  This feels healthy – all round – to have my mental energy and my physical energy meet.

7. Rest is important. Philip and I can push pretty hard from first light to last light. (He is especially hard-working. I like So You Think You Can Dance.)  But we are learning that we can’t go that hard all the time, that we need rest, and resting time together.

8. Watching Brings Joy. I can honestly stand in the chicken run and watch those birds peck for hours.  They’re quirky movements, their social hierarchy – it’s all amazing to me.  And then when the goats and puppies run,  I’m watching something so naturally beautiful and powerful that it almost steals my breath.

9. Quiet is never overrated.  Our farm sits just up the mountain from a rural highway, so the noise of traffic is fairly constant at the farmhouse. But if you walk up the hill into the woods just a few feet, that noise drops away, the temperature falls, and it’s like gift has descended from the trees.

10. Farming is for everyone. While not everyone is called to do what we do, or to have a full farm, it is possible for many people to grow their own food, to support a local farmer with their purchases, to visit farms and learn about the work required to produce food, to spend time with animals on farm to appreciate the way animals bring us joy.  Not everyone may like to deal with chicken poop (okay, I don’t really know anyone who LIKES that), but the beauty of the farm is available to anyone – here, and I expect at many healthy farms around the world.  We just have to want to see it.

So farmers, what have you learned in your experience? Potential farmers or farm lovers, any questions I can try to answer in upcoming posts? 

Don’t forget to check out our farm store for ways you can support our work here and to get tickets for upcoming concerts.

Stunned At Beauty

And I taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere. – from “cutting greens” by Lucille Clifton

I don’t know what this place feels like to you. . . but for me, this place – where things seem to be coming together just as they should, where opportunities fall like petals from a brown-eyed susan in my hair, where it seems that being with realness and honesty and truth sparked kindly on my lips – feels like sunshine streaming down my arms to my fingers and the breath of mist in the fog settled on my head.

Bella, the Great Pyr, thinks she's a goat.
Photo by our dear friend, Sarah Hamblin

A few minutes ago, two puppies and four goats tumbled together down into the pasture, all legs and the laughter of movement.  Upstairs, a man I adore sleeps in while I visit his new workshop and see how he has pegged his love to the wall in Jeeps and the organizational strength I just do not have.

The notebook beside me is full of the names of women writers who – by way of my simple invitation – will fill

The past weeks have been full of friends – happy to get muddy and let goats nibble their pants, to bear up under the pricks of tiny kitten claws, to watch chickens continue to grow into their bodies.  Visitors, members of this place with us.

Sometimes, this kind of contentedness draws up my tears.

This kind of happiness – no, joy, joy is a better word – can bowl me over, leave me stunned at beauty.

But I have a garden to hoe and a house to tidy.  I have tiny x’s of color to stitch onto fabric that friends have gifted me over years.  And maybe, I will spend some time on Vulcan taming our grass.

Farm life comes simple and steady . . . a long rain, a slow, quiet hike, a friendship built on years.

We do hope you’ll come join us in this place and build it – and our friendship – over the years.  We’re always open for a stop – bathroom, tea, a little stretching of your legs on a roadtrip – or an overnight – camping is open anytime you’d like to come.  Or join us for the upcoming concerts and Writer’s Retreat.