Archive for August, 2013

Discoveries and New Experiences, A Day in the Life of a Farmer’s Wife Day,…Lost Count

You know you’re a farmer’s wife when you dream about green bean varieties.

Never thought I’d experience that.

Up until last week, in all my 54 years, I’d never fed maggots to chickens. Now, I search for them in the compost pile so I can treat my “Little Ladies.”

Come to think of it, until a few weeks ago, I’d never even fed chickens or sang to them.

That’s on my to-do list everyday on the farm.

While listening to a young farmer talk about his equipment, I understood most of what he talked about.

I never knew I’d speak “farm.”

I’ve never harvested tomatoes, much less 20 pounds of heirlooms in one day.

After I separated the cherokee purples from the valencias from the brandywines, I packed them up, drove into town and sold them to an upscale restaurant.

That’s a new experience for me.

Last night, Tom and I drove to our homesite and we crossed the threshold of our almost-finished, 60-foot front porch and gazed out at a field spattered with a variety of greens with a little clay mixed in.

The bucking bulls in the field ignored us until I sang, “Hello cows, well hello, cows, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong,” as I moved gracefully across the stage. “You’re looking swell cows, I can tell cows, you’re still glowin’ you’re still crowin’ you’re still goin’ strong.”

Then I started swaying but no band played.

“We could make this a live theatre, Tom! It’s big enough!”

“We could.” Tom smiled.

I’m a little melancholy tonight. (Writer’s are required to be melancholy occasionally, it’s part of the job description. BTW, someone please help me with commas and parenthesis.)

I think I’m missing the familiar–although I love this unfamiliar farm life.

I just want to share with you two things that have really surprised me about farm life.

The first is I enjoy farming. Not just the idea of farming. It’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there is something very satisfying about putting a seed into the ground and watching it grow. It makes me smile just thinking of it.

The other surprise is how much I enjoy being with my husband. We got along before, but we definitely did better when he went off to business on a regular basis.

Now, we’re together almost all the time AND he’s my boss. He’s not perfect, but what I admire about him is when Tom does something, he gives 110 percent. It’s always his best.

He grew the tomatoes I harvested from seed and they’re the tastiest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten.

He built a chicken brooder by looking at a picture.

He figured out all the stuff we needed to farm and just keeps learning.

I admire him.

Usually, in the evening, we work until 9PM, take a shower to wash the bugs off and sit on the front porch.

Sometimes, we listen to a Rays game. Often, we talk about the gazillion things we still need to do.

Many times, we are just quiet, listening to crickets, amazed that we are living the hard, crazy, satisfying, dream.

Speaking of dreams, okra is on my list for tonight.







Faith With Dirt Under My Fingernails

I noticed my thumbnail as I handed pesto samples to customers. Embarrassed, I pulled away. No matter how many times I try, I can’t seem to keep the dirt out.

Like my spiritual life.

Take my walk of faith. There are times I can shout from the mountaintops about God’s faithfulness. I see Him working specifically, and I tell others about it.

Then there are times like Friday night. I’d planted vegetables for two long days, and before those days were other long days. Since Tom and I moved here, we’ve made about $70. We’ve spent, well we’ve spent almost enough to buy a small house in Kansas or a garage in Florida.

How in the world are we gonna survive, Lord? 

I knew God called us here. Supernatural circumstances brought us here. But could God keep us here?

My meltdown occurred as I prepared for the farmer’s market after a full day of planting. Exhausted, I whined.

Tom intervened. “Don’t go, Pauline! I don’t know why you’re trying to do all this anyway. Remember, this is a practice year.”

Yes, I remembered. But when I took my first squashes to a market and they paid me $5.84, I panicked. Months of hard work, along with oodles of money poured into the business and it didn’t even cover my gas.

What did I do? Rested.

I got a good nights’ sleep.

Then, I remembered my verse for this year. It’s found in Isaiah 30:15, “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.”

I felt like the father in the gospel who asked Jesus to heal his son. Jesus tells him that all things are possible if he believes. The father responded like I did, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

I need help to believe. I’m weak. God loves it when I am ’cause I know I have to depend on Him. Other times, I forge ahead in life, forgetting my weakness. Not realizing I control nothing.

Through His Word and His people and a few good nights of sleep, I’m trusting.

Today, we planted and then I walked through the woods to my house and sat in my unfinished living room. I opened the door and drank in God’s beauty. I read a Psalm and prayed.

And then got back to work.

But I had a little extra time. Tom and I sat on the floor of the back porch and took two chickens out of their brooder. We whispered to them and sat them on our laps while we stroked their backs.

It’s important to take time to pet a chicken.

We had breakfast in mugs filled with Greek yogurt while we sat on dirt clumps on row 17 of our field. We took time to toss Sam the ball, and unfortunately for him, there was time for his bath.

And tonight we invited a young farmer and his wife for dinner. We’re having a pork roast and eggplant and squash we grew on the grill. I’m looking forward to it.

I don’t know what the future holds, but neither do you.

But I’m quietly trusting God.

At least today.

Then I’ll have to take out the fingernail file.





It Takes a Village To Can a Quart

Most people have a bucket list. Challenging, fun things like repelling the Grand Canyon, Climbing Mt. Everest, hiking the Appalchian Trail, or canning a few quarts of tomatoes.

Today, for the first time in my 54 years, I chose the latter.

I should have attempted Everest.

Actually, “The Canning” was a group effort. My two canning friend experts supervised the event.

Since there was no dishwasher in the farmhouse, we hand washed several mason jars. Since there was no room on the counters, we spent approximately 57 minutes clearing them.

“Pauline, the jars are dirty,” my helpful husband stated after our dishwashing marathon. (By the way, he was not part of the canning committee. Just an opinionated onlooker.)

So we spent another 28 minutes rewashing the jars. While we washed, we heated approximately enough water on the stove to bathe the Dallas Cowboys.

“Canning’s not hard, Pauline. You just mix the tomatoes and run them through the food processor. Then you pour them into jars. You heat the jars on the stove in a water bath and you’re done,” my friend Sue said.

Easy for her to say. She left.

Then Sue’s husband, Bill, and I cut 20 pounds of tomatoes which took approximately 49 minutes.

I settled on a soup base with okra. We looked it up and Bill read the directions.

“It says we have to cook the tomatoes.”

Sue arrived home. “Why are you cooking the tomatoes?”

“The recipe says so.”

She read the recipe out loud. “I see you decided to change the recipe we agreed on.” Her eyebrow lifted as she spoke. Bill and I slinked away, pretending to wipe counters.

I answered. “I figured they’re all about the same. How long do we cook it?”

“About fifteen minutes’.

After we processed the tomatoes and rewashed the counters, we ladled the tomato mixture into a pan on the stove. “What are all these pans for?”

“One is for the bath, one for sanitizing the jars, and a smaller one for the lids.”

I wondered if they’d forgotten about the absence of the modern appliances.

“How much water do I need for the water bath?”

Bill answered. “A lot. But first you have to sanitize the jars.”

I started to add the squeaky-clean-jars to the bathtub water we’d been heating for over an hour. The kitchen temp topped 105. “Don’t put the jars in yet!” Bill shouted. “You have to heat them as you pour the tomato mixture!”

“How do you know that?”

Bill and Sue chimed in together, “We read the directions!”

“Wait a minute,” Sue said. “Did you say you added okra? If you did you up the time to 45 minutes.”

“Yeah, and what’s the altitude? That changes the time too.”

“How much headroom do we leave?” I wondered why they were talking about their car.

“The recipe says one inch,” Bill stated as he munched on an apple. It had been four long hours since lunch.

We used tongs to submerge the the jars in the Cowboys’ bath and a special tool to take the jars in and out of the bath. We bathed the jars for an additional 45 minutes. Finally, we poured the fragrant mixture into glass jars through a special canning funnel, placed the lids on and waited. They popped.

All six of them.

After about nine hours of manpower, $20 worth of tomatoes and and a hundred dollars worth of equpment, I figured we could have eaten at Carabba’s three times. The whole bucket-list-canning-adventure struck me as hilarious. No wonder pioneer people died young.

“It takes a village to can a quart of tomatoes!” I spouted as my belly shook. We all laughed.

After we gained our composure, Sue took out a Sharpie, “What are you going to call this?”

“Village soup, of course. And when I pull out my soup, I’ll call you at your place in New Jersey and you can eat yours, too.”

Some bucket list adventures are just about friends.

And it’s worth it.






Too Many Words

“So, I’ve made Isaiah 30:15 my verse for the year.” ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.’ I’m learning to be quiet and not offer my opinion when asked.” I looked at my adult son, Micah as he shoveled homemade salsa into his mouth.

“How long have you been doing that?”

“Eight months.”

He stopped mid-chip. “You’re kidding?”

So much for Scriptural application.

Just the day before, Mom’s caregiver was a no-show so I was caregiver of the day. I plastered a smile on my face and said cheerful words. By evening, I was worn out. I fell asleep before I administered Mom’s 10PM pills. Rousing, I took them in to her.

She wasn’t sure where she was and headed the wrong way to the bathroom. Again.

I turned her the correct way. “The bathroom is this way, Mom,” I said with teeth clenched.

She looked at me. “Hey, you’re kind of smart with me sometimes.”

So Sunday, when I heard a message about the words that we say, I was devastated.

I don’t know when I’ve ever been more convicted and sorrowful for my sin. My pastor taught on Matthew 12:33-37. The words Jesus spoke in verses 36-37 are the ones that sliced my soul:

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.”

David Brady went on to say some believe sound waves may never disappear. “Think about that. Your words and my words never going away. Be careful with your words. Especially you parents. A parent might say something to their child when they are six or seven years old. Maybe they were angry and said something like, ‘You’ll never amount to anything!’ They forget about it, but their child carries those words with them the rest of their lives. Your words are weighty.”

I couldn’t stop crying. All my careless words spoken out of irritability, pride, selfishness, exhaustion–all still floating around. More than that, all known by my Savior.

I left early and went to the car. I knew my words had to change. Less of them. More value to them.

I texted my son and daughter my apologies for hurtful words I’d said to them in the past. I couldn’t talk to them on the phone because I couldn’t talk.

I sat on the edge of Mom’s bed.

“Last night, I was tired and you said I was mean to you, Mom. I’m sorry.”

Her face softened. “You can’t help what you say when you’re tired, Pauline.”

“Yes I can, Mom. I don’t want to speak to you like that again. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

All is forgiven. Probably not forgotten.

But, it’s a start.


My Peeps

“Say hello to your sisters, Sam.”

My 60-plus-pound standard poodle placed his front paws gently on the brooder edge to peer in. Sam doesn’t like it when I baby-talk to the chicks. I guess he’s jealous. And intrigued.

They came USPS just over a week ago. The phone rang at 6:30 AM to announce their arrival. I felt like packing an overnight bag like I did when my kids were born. At that time, I came home with one new member of our family–when my peeps arrived, there were 75.

We were prepared. Tom built an 8′ by 4′ brooder with a center divider. He put in a sliding chick door.

“When they get older, they can go from one part to the other,” he said as a smile spread across his face. I think the door took the place of a mini swing-set.

I prepared, too. Kind of like a manger, I placed pine shavings on the floor and added water jugs made just for chickens. I filled up two bright red feeders with 24 little holes. When I purchased them at our local farm store I was unsure.

“How can they get their heads in for food?” I asked the clerk.

He looked surprised. “You’ll see them put their whole bodies in there.”

So on the day they arrived, we opened the box with four divisions. The cutest little birds I’d ever seen were placed gently into their new home.

For me, it was love at first peep. For Tom, too.

Often, I see him standing on the back porch gawking at the chicks. Just like the man said, they climb right into the feeder. Some perch on top of the feeder, stretching their necks and staring up at us.

When we sold everything and moved to Mayberry, I really didn’t know what to expect. But I knew I wanted chickens.

And a few months from now, my happy chicks should be laying eggs. by then, they won’t be as cute, but they’ll still be our little ladies.

And Sam’s little sisters.