Our four-year-old grandson does his part to herd the cattle down the road by waving his cap in order to encourage them along. His dad takes a bit more active approach as he runs along behind the critters!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bloom and Bloom Again

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future' (Jeremiah 29:11).  
This is a Bloomerang lilac. The ad said, "Bloom and Bloom Again!" The lilac bush by my porch is not quite this far along, but is definitely going to bloom early this year if we don't get a much dreaded frost.
This blog has been an attempt to count my blessings, and as such has been effective. I have begun to feel thankful for where I am in life. 

However, in the past few years my father died of cancer, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I gave up my teaching job when the special reading program I'd run for eleven years was discontinued because of budget cuts. During this same time period both my children grew up, left home, and then married. Seeing my children happily married has brought much  joy, but the end result is that here Farmer John and I sit in our empty nest.

Well, wait; I can hear Annie barking "What about me?"  And I mustn't forget my 87 year old mother, who lives with us...not such an empty nest after all...

At any rate here I am, spending my mornings back on the farm, my afternoons working on my first novel in the pretty little brown room I call my office; and most of the time in between is spent caring for my mother. I'm counting my blessings, but I'm aware I have some unfinished grief work to do before I can fully enter into the "new song" of this next phase of my life. Unreconciled grief and loss cripple because of the introspection they cause, while wounds healed by the Lord's light can in turn minister to and support others; we comfort with the comfort we have received. My assignment for this time has been to bring my hurting heart into the Lord's light.

 I remember when I was I child I dreaded my mother's ministrations after I'd scraped my knee. I would claim it didn't hurt and I didn't want a band-aid after all, but she would always insist. "We don't want that to get infected," she'd say as she scrubbed the dirt away and applied ointment, often to the accompaniment of my howling protests. 

And so I've tried hard to open my heart to the Lord and to sit still (without too much howling) while He gently exposes all my sorrows and then applies his healing balm.This has been such a quiet time, a winter time of silent sadness and unexpected beauty. I am grateful for this time back on the farm. 

Spring is here, a time of new life and stepping out, time to let go of winter's chill and move forward. I'm surprised at the amount of courage it takes for me to hold to the hope of Jeremiah 29:11 (above).  Disappointments and hurts make it seem more prudent not to venture out. Challenges so seemingly innocuous as the prospect of volunteering to help with a preschool Sunday School class cause my heart to pound with fear. Yes, because I was not appreciated or valued for the work I did as a teacher of children who could not read, I fear being unappreciated and undervalued at any new job I undertake; I'm really not quite all right yet. What a sad confession. But you know it would be sadder yet if past wounds kept me from future service. Healed wounds lose the power to cripple.  My heart is healing.

I confess I wish winter had lasted awhile longer. Winter was cozy and safe. This audacious spring invites participation and activity that I don't feel ready to join.  But spring is upon me, whether I would have it or not...and so...

I'll dare to hope. If I place my hope in the Lord I won't be disappointed. 

 The following lines are from
 George Herbert's Poem, "The Flower"

Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shriveled heart
could have recovered greenness? It was gone
quite underground, as flowers depart...
..And now in age I bud again;
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing. O my only Light,

It cannot be
That I am he
On whom Thy tempests fell all night.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Outdoor Cats

This little girl is half Siamese and SO pretty--but she won't stay out of my artfully arranged bouquets! 

Here is Lady Gray.  When we discovered she was a he, we changed his name to Earl. (Earl Grey, get it?). However, we've now started calling him "Mr. Fluffy."
It is not politically correct, but we provide shelter and food to an assortment of outdoor cats.  I've read recently that the responsible thing to do is to capture them all, spay and neuter them; and then make them into indoor pets.

I'm pretty sure the people who have decided this don't live on a farm, and I'd like to see them capture the half dozen or so cats that live in Farmer John's workshop.  Catch them? Ha! Make them into indoor pets?  It'd be about as doable as taming a full grown bobcat. We buy cat food in 50 pound sacks and in return for a reliable source of food and water, these cats keep the barn and surrounding buildings free of pack rats and mice. It is a good trade. They are healthy, good mousers; and not the least bit tame. 

A few of them have migrated down the road a quarter mile to live around our house. I welcomed them because I hate mice, and it is difficult to seal every point of entry in our 100 year old house. We haven't had a mouse in the house or pack rats in the garage or surrounding buildings since these cats arrived. They have become somewhat more domesticated than the barn cats, and will allow us to stroke them if they are in the mood.  Our dog, Annie, has never completely resigned herself to their presence but the barn cats have taught her it is best to leave felines alone. 

I understand that city cats are definitely better off indoors, but  our cats have a good life. Yes, they sometimes beat one another up, but the pecking order is mostly established now and currently not one of the several cats who live around our house has battered ears or a scratched nose.  They perform a valuable service for us in helping with rodent control which is a real problem around our grain bins and out buildings. And when they laze in the sun on the porch glider they add such an ambiance to our rural home! 

I think a few well cared for feral cats are a good idea back on the farm.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Change is Good!

In case this blurry phone photo doesn't reveal detail, this my a western cut, pearl snap shirt draped over my farm boots. Who would've thought it? 
Last evening my daughter, grandson, and I were coming back from a run to Subway for sandwiches when I saw a calf standing in the middle of the road. I thought he'd probably escaped through the bars that run atop the concrete feed bunks; sometimes a smaller critter can squeeze through this space that is designed to accommodate heads only for the larger animals. My daughter was driving and, having followed my former non-farm-participation example while she was growing up, didn't have much inclination to take action. She looked somewhat alarmed as I confidently leapt from the car and chased the animal on foot.  He instantly ran the wrong direction and took refuge behind the oil tanks across the road, but I've had some experience now and knew what to do. I opened the gate to the feedlot and then took off through the ditch and across the bumpy pasture to flush him out.  He was just a young calf--about 450 pounds--and was feeling his oats (or  rather, corn chop). He kicked his heels in the air and again took off the opposite direction.  

My daughter was sipping her coke and staring into space when four year old Daniel, who had been watching his grandmother's antics, shouted, "Quick, Mommy, here comes the cow!"  I ran to the driver's side, hollered to Dear Daughter to scoot over, and the chase was on.  

"Ummm...you might want to fasten your seatbelt," I said.  

It was fun. I looked over at my daughter and saw the alarm on her face as she fumbled for her seatbelt. I  could empathize;  many times over the years I have been in her position. But, unbeknownst to her, I had no intention of indulging in the driving heroics of which Farmer John is capable. It was a fairly sedate ride. 

The calf ran into the lot, I got out and shut the gate, and we went home to supper.  

I was hot and tired and showered before bed.  As I left the room I looked back at the boots and shirt I'd left lying on the floor and laughed aloud. I've traded my teacher cardigans and slacks for jeans, a down vest, and yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I actually own and wear a western cut pearl snap shirt. I never would've anticipated making such a radical life change at age 58.

Who would've thought it?  God is good, very good, and I am so blessed.