Monday, March 26, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012
I knew this would happen. This scenario is what I have been preparing for since the end of LAST season: the weather takes a turn for the better (okay, aMAZing!) and immediately there will be 101 things that need doing outside here on the property and landscaping jobs that are ready to roll! Rest assured, this is NOT a complaint. It is exactly how I imagined; however it is a little hectic, the white space in my calendar disappears rapidly, and the housework piles up. Somehow I can’t bring myself to be stressed about that housework though, because it is still March. There will be inside work days- like today. Still a pile of tasks to accomplish, but I have already accomplished so much. I am working with a clarity and focus that I haven’t really had for about four years. That is startling to me. It also makes me excited for the rest of the season. After all, this is what I have been working toward for three years, and where I believe God has led me.
It is going to be an adjustment for everybody: myself, the people who are here during the day, even the dogs. I have re-discovered joy in my home tasks; I still hate how much time cooking takes, but I love planning meals, prepping and cooking, and when Phil texts me “Is there food at home?” I can say “Yes! Yes there is food at home.” It will get squirrelly at dinner-time from here on out, and finding recipes for the slow-cooker that are also healthy is proving to be a bit of a challenge.
On a side-note, my coop is almost ready, albeit it in most basic form. It will be a few months before the chicks will be big enough to go outside on their own into a pen, so I have made my first-stage goal to build a door and enclose all openings in the stall with chicken wire. This is nearly accomplished! The door needs hardware, bracing and chicken wire, but fudging around with dimensions and figuring out the logistics of stringing the netting is finished. Next is cleaning out built up yuck from the previous owners, setting up perches and arranging nest boxes and feeders. It will be awhile before they will be ready for nest boxes and perches, but chickens are not super-smart, and the earlier they are accustomed to their new landscape the less they have to be freaked out by the addition of new “scenery.”
So, this afternoon I submit my first proposal of the season, and tomorrow I meet with a new client to discuss a BIG design job. The day after that I begin a new season at an old client’s house, and Thursday I join a friend in cleaning up her yard and establishing new veggie garden areas. Always a treat there, with the chickens and dogs and fish pond and snakes. The snakes make me squeal every time I see one, but only because I am easily surprised. I do love them, even if I don’t want them climbing up my pant leg!
Well, would you look at that! Time to go already….vroom vroom!!!
Saturday, March 17, 2012
I can’t think of anything more impossible than a human being trying to imagine what Heaven will be like. An awful lot of people think about it habitually, particularly true followers of Christ. I am sure our thoughts all run a whole spectrum of images and reflections, but how can an earthly mind even begin to comprehend the eternal and the perfect?
This is one of those fine Spring mornings when my heart is still, the sun is soft and the breeze delicious and fresh. In the wee hours of the morning a tremendous storm cell rolled through our area and surrounding counties, lashing rain upon earth that has been parched from a warm winter, and splitting the clouds with thunder that shook the foundations of our homes. Lightning lit the skies like daytime. As so often happens after just such a storm the day dawned bright and clear. It is the kind of day in which I could be still all day, just feeling the breeze and listening to the birdsong, not saying a word. The calm in my heart and mind is yet unaffected by the cares of the day or the world.
Additionally, some friends posted photos taken in Nepal, where they are doing language surveys in remote Himalayan villages. Ben and Holly are abundantly blessed with God-given talents, and Ben’s photos are National Geographic-worthy, to say the least. He is also somewhat of a purist, relying on the knowledge he has gained and his experience behind the camera to capture the pure heart of each scene. In this age of digital revolution when any person can manipulate an image into seeming perfection, Ben’s photos are beautiful and technically wondrous just as they are; the images are minimally manipulated if at all. This morning I came across this photo, and it was so overwhelmingly beautiful I didn’t even look at the rest; it is difficult to take in so much beauty all at once. (Please click on this photo to make is larger)
Now I think of the best this earth has to offer: I try to imagine standing on that mountain in Nepal, with the stunning beauty of the Kiev Chamber Choir singing ‘Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul’ (one of the few pieces of music on this earth that will move me to tears EVERY time. Sometimes even when I am only thinking about it…like now…) ringing in my ears, with this morning’s ambrosial breeze on my face, and my mind quiet and at peace. I can’t help but to think that Heaven has got to be like this. I let myself bask in that thought for about a minute before I venture forward in my thoughts a little more. I know, intellectually, that Heaven will be nothing like this. It is so far beyond the best of this imperfect world that I cannot even reckon it. Then there is that final thought, the subject of Jesus.
I am working my way through Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love,” and it is a wonderful book. Within the narrative he puts forth this challenge: If every one of our favorite and most amazing things will be waiting for us in Heaven, but there is no Jesus, will we still want to go? It is a perfectly legitimate question. We as Christians are called to be so in love with Jesus that NONE of the rest of this stuff, as amazing and visceral as it all is, matters. What only matters is to be with Him, the Author of our salvation. After all, this is why we were saved (if we are) in the first place, to gain access to the God of Heaven and of Earth. (Ephesians 2:5-7)
So we might think, when considering these awesome earthly wonders, that it does not get any better than this. Our mind cannot comprehend what it does not know.
‘But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"—‘ I Corinthians 2:9
So I soak in the light, and bask in the beauty of the day….and think about the time when it will be unimaginably better…even better than this.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
Another edition of The Prairie Homestead's barn Hop! Click the post title to get back there...
It has been six years since I gave up my rainbow-colored flock of 20 laying hens, the year we moved out of Hell House and into a house in town to recover financially and emotionally. It was strange to me that such a rural town, much of which was comprised of retired farmers, did not allow chickens in any way, shape or form, in town. I was fortunate enough to find someone local to take my whole flock, gently and gratefully.
I missed them a lot, maybe even more than the horse. (Is that possible?) While in town I dreamed again of having some space to raise chickens again, and here we are, six years later, ready to go once more! One 9x9 stall in the barn will have a coon-proof door built, will be completely enclosed with chicken wire, and will eventually have windows cut and an opening to an outdoor run.
But when the chicks arrive on March 21, they will be tiny and featherless. Keeping them warm, dry and well-fed will be top priority, so they will spend some time in a large plastic tote in my kitchen- in the basement, if need be, although that is less than ideal. It is surprising how noisy chicklets can be!
So my new starter flock will include:
· 2 Buff Orpingtons
· 4 Auracanas/Americaunas
· 2 Golden-Laced Wyandottes
· 2 New Hampshire Reds
· 2 Single Comb Brown Leghorns
It is not quite as “rainbow-y” as I would like, but I am pleased with the start! On my wishlist still are another pair of Salmon Faverolles, some Welsummers, Black Copper Marans and Barnvelders. There are actually quite a few left on the wish list, but those are my “priority favorites” for their tinted eggs and, in the case of the Faverolles, their beautiful, bearded faces.
Nothing beats farm fresh eggs, and the family all know that- except my daughter-in-law, that is! This will be her first experience with chickens and she is nearly as excited as I am!
So here we sit, with bated breath and drumming fingers, day-dreaming of the peep-peep-ing box that will signal that we are one step further our homesteading journey.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
It is only natural that when people hear the term “holistic” it conjures up notions of hippies and herbalists, tree-huggers and voo-doo. But consider these definitions:
1. Characterized by the comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole
2. Characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of disease
"Emphasizing the organic or functional relation between parts and the whole"
These are pretty accurate in describing the personal journey I have been on for several months now. It has nothing to do with herbs or sticks and twigs or hippies. Rather it is the examination of myself as a complete unit of body, mind and spirit. For a few years now, somewhere between two and three years, I have encountered stress upon stress, and it has taken its toll on me. (Reference “If You Really Want to Know” for an introduction to this.) Finally, at the end of 2011, it reached a peak from which I could not climb down on my own. A family trauma left me reeling and broken emotionally, and opened my eyes to years of manipulation, and finally led me to seek counseling for the second time in my life. Meeting with a counselor led me to getting a complete physical, which revealed exorbitant levels of cholesterol and blood sugar, and extreme deficiency in my Vitamin D level. (This is actually a pretty chronic thing among Americans, this D deficiency. I highly recommend people get their levels established and do the research as to why this is important.) Worst of all, depression had left my high and dry, physically and spiritually. I had no desire to do much of anything, let alone try to connect with the God of the universe and maintain a relationship with him. I was languishing in the desert.
When we moved onto this property at the end of 2010, we brought with us stuff we had collected over the years at the previous place, plus junk we had collected at the place before that (aka Hell House). From day one I said, “I will not move this crap anymore,” and started throwing things away, re-homing other things, and really examining why I was hanging on to belongings that only made more work for me and less time for things that were truly important. To say it was liberating to let go of stuff is a major understatement!
Once I started counseling, though, the analogies hit me like a ton of bricks. Okay, sure, I was hauling around with me a bunch of useless garbage that only weighed me down and robbed my joy. But boy oh boy, the emotional baggage I was hauling around!!! The trauma inflicted upon me by a close family member left me reeling in shock and absolutely heart-broken, but through the pain lucidity prevailed, and things I had chosen to ignore and allowed to happen were revealed in perfect clarity. It took me several weeks to process it all, and a patient and kind counselor, but I was finally, in the end, able to put down emotional baggage I had been carrying with me for decades. I only needed to open my eyes to the burden I had allowed to be placed upon me to finally realize that is was not even mine to be carrying. Talk about liberation!!!!
Though clarification was mine, years of stress and depression had left me depleted. I made the decision to begin anti-depressants for the first time in my life. I never wanted to before, and I have come through bouts of depression in the past with good counseling and spiritual renewal. I came to realize, though, that sometimes you can just get so low, biologically speaking, that recovery is doubtful without medical support. I take an antibiotic when I have an infection; I felt my mental state warranted some assistance.
The state of my body and my diet has been deplorable for several years. I don’t even understand how I got through the summers of landscaping work like I did. My diet was terrible, high in comfort foods and foods eaten to unwittingly boost my endorphins and adrenals. The result is being overweight, over-cholesterol, over-sugared. There was no way I was going to exercise the way I needed to if I didn’t feel like it. There was no way I was going to feel like it unless I felt better. Vicious cycle, right? You betcha. But test results don’t lie, and are a huge wake-up call. Reduce my sugar levels, lower my cholesterol, make my heart and body fit again or risk serious, life-long health debilitation.
Meds helped me feel better emotionally, and started bringing my mental state back to normal. Feeling better allowed me to set aside the foods that would comfort me, which, in turn, also made me feel better physically. Feeling better allowed me to WANT to be healthy, and inspired me to exercise and reduce my calorie and cholesterol intakes. Finally, feeling better helped me remember what I was missing in my walk with God, or LACK of walk. I craved Him, not food. I craved the spiritual peace that comes from fellowship with Him. The more time I now spend reconnecting with God the more my life-paradigm shifts back to proper balance. Mind:body:spirit.
So my journey to wellness again is circular in a way I can’t even fully understand, but I accept it at face value. I have a lot of work yet to do, but I also understand that the journey is about learning and growing and not about “getting there;” at least as long as I am a part of THIS realm. I have cleaned out so much physical junk from my basement and shed and drawers, but just when I think I am done I come across stashes of detritus. Literally and figuratively I will continue to seek those pockets of rot and get rid of them; for I am on a journey, a journey to wholeness.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
It feels ungrateful to even utter those words: “Will Spring ever get here?” After all, here in northern Illinois we have had a remarkable, tumultuous and…warm…winter. We have barely topped six inches of snow for the entire snow season, although we have had significant rainfalls. Many, many days in what used to the dead of January or February we were running around in short sleeves. My senior citizen mare has even gotten to go naked for days at a time! Now that is remarkable in the land where we hold the record for the number of freeze-thaw cycles every year.
Even, so, at the risk of being accused of not counting my blessings, I long for Spring. The dreariness takes its toll on me as it does many people, but even on the warmest of days my hands are still tied in regards to gardening. It might be 60 degrees in February but that certainly does not mean it’s time to work in the garden!
We are relatively new to this five-acre tract of heavenly-preview, but it certainly is not the first time we have lived a rural lifestyle. Even so, it has been a lot of work to get settled in here, learn the sun, water and wind of the land and make plans. Growing our own food is important to us, so we did get some fruit trees in right away; awaiting bud-break in Spring are whips of apple, pear, peach and cherry trees. The two raised beds I started my garden with are still sleeping soundly.
This week, however, I got a call from a friend, asking about some composted manure, and about getting together to plan her garden. I know I have way more seeds than I will use this year, so I busted them out to take inventory of what I had, and see which seeds could be shared or exchanged.
Seeing their tiny shells, pregnant with expectation was gratifying to see, and feel. The slick coats of the beans rattled in my hand, and the startling geometric shapes of the swiss chard were treat to behold. Even their names intrigue and stimulate: Rutger and Oxheart tomatoes, Italian Borlotti beans, Jarrahdale pumpkins. Speaking their names out loud sounds like poetry, and inspires images of a garden of color and sustenance.
It might be a warm winter, but it is still winter. Come on, Spring, arrive… we have the business of growing to get on with.
Friday, March 2, 2012
There comes a point in the life of anyone who owns an animal, whether it be pet or food or servant, that they face the end of that animal’s life. The circumstances are varied and reactions differ from person-to-person. Yesterday was just such a day for us.
The dogs had been pretty wound up after spotting deer in the yard tonight, and wanted to go back outside to get the wiggles out. Mere minutes later (ten? Fifteen?) I hear crazy yipping from the backyard, and my IMMEDIATE thought is of Roxie jumping the gate again like she had earlier today and two days ago, and the packs of coyotes that are frequent travelers through the yard and prairie. I flew to the door, threw it open and called them.
There is a panicked snarling and whining and yelping from the yard. No dogs. It is ten o’clock at night, and pitch black. I start shouting.
“HEY! Hey!! Hey!”
I am fairly certain that the coyotes will flee at the sound of my voice. Nothing changes, the yelping intensifies. Steve comes flying out the bedroom door and around the corner to the yard. Time condenses to a thick bubble around just my head. I flee back into the house for light. The flashlight batteries are dead. Matt miraculously produces a head lamp with bright lights, and I tear down the deck stairs into the yard, where Steve and two dogs struggle. Just two dogs. No coyotes. What the HELL is going on? Steve is in the mud in his bare feet and underwear, so it is serious, and I do not hesitate to run into the fray. What I see takes my breath away.
Griffin’s jaw is clamped around Roxie’s neck and his face is crazed.
What? This is not Griffin! What is he doing! I rush in and seize him; Roxie is limp and unresponsive, and I shout at him to “Drop!” Steve has his hands on both of them and he says, “She’s dead. He is caught on her collar by his tooth and I need a knife to cut the collar. Just a terrible accident.” Griffin is not crazed, he is panicked. And now I am panicking and cannot control it. Roxie’s dead!! No! She’s dead!! I race back up the stairs shouting for a knife, and my panic catches me. “Take the knife to dad,” I say to Matt. He is confused, unaware of what is happening, and Jeanette is in total distress. Matt runs away with the knife and I let it go. “Roxie’s dead!”
“NO!!!” I shriek. This is my husband’s beloved dog, and the feeling was mutual for her. Velcro-Nose would follow him with her nose practically velcroed to his calf, wherever he might go. As much as I have grown to love Roxie I could not even bear the thought of my husband losing his Baby.
“Oh God, no! Please! It can’t be true!” I am full-out melting down at this point. I plead, begged God to spare her life.
Steve walks in the door with her in his arms. Her eyes are open, but she is glazed over. I cannot even tell if she is breathing. I have never whipped out a phone so fast in my life, dialing the vet’s emergency number. While I am waiting for the call to go through I look at her, where she was laid in the middle of the living room floor. Her 85-pound puppy body looks so small and vulnerable in the vast ocean of carpet. She lay flat on the floor. Not moving, only gasping like these are the last breaths she will ever take. By the time the vet answers and I manage to get enough coherent words out to convey that my dog is in dire straits, Roxie is the tiniest bit responsive. Dr. Albano graciously agrees to meet us at the clinic, where I have told her that she will need to treat Roxie…or put her to sleep.
Little by little, life returns to Roxie’s body. I don’t want to believe it and be floored with grief and panic again, so I just drive; keep driving, mind the stop signs, set your cruise so you won’t speed. Steve keeps a hand on Roxie; he is sitting beside me in his jeans now, but in his stocking feet.
By the time we shut off the car at the clinic door, Dr. Albano is turning on the lights, rushing out a slipleash, and Roxie is…sitting up! Praise God!!! She is wobbly, her head is covered in saliva from Griffin’s panic, her body is filthy where he drug her unconscious body through the mud, and her hind end is covered in feces where her own body gave in to panic and released its stress in the last way it knew how. But she is ALIVE!
Watching her walk into the clinic under her own power, I broke down again, thanking God for hearing the pitiful cries of a human over a beloved pet. I could still hardly believe what I was seeing!
Roxie checked out remarkably well. Her heart rate was normal, her lungs sounded great, her capillary refill (used to measure blood pressure and oxygenation) is excellent. She is most certainly wiped out from her struggle to free herself from her critical entanglement, her journey to the brink of death and her subsequent resurrection.
She was not dead, she was unconscious. She was not dead, but she was within a hair’s breadth. Another minute, maybe two, and it would have been all over for her. As it is, it is a miracle she survived, that we even heard the distress calls through closed doors.
Griffin and Roxie are both young dogs, big dogs, and they play hard. In one of those freak accidents you believe only ever happens to other people, his tooth caught underneath her collar as they presumably wrestled or bear-hugged. His efforts to free himself choked her off, she passed out, he dragged her, panicking. I can’t help but understand that if this had happened in the daytime, when they were turned out together for a time we were not home, she would have died. No two ways about it. Mere seconds after cutting her collar and releasing Griffin, and at about the moment I am pleading to God for her life, she drew a deep, gasping breath. Steve shook her body, calling her name, and she breathed in what might still have been “agonal breaths,” or what are essentially death throes. He picked her up and cradled her against him and carried her into the house. You know the rest of the story.
It occurred to me how quickly our lives can change, in a split second and when we least expect it. I understand this was “only” a dog, but I can much more easily see how it could happen to lose a loved one in just the same way- quickly and without warning. A warm bath and some pain relievers will send Roxie into a deep, healing sleep, but there are families out there who do not have that same comfort. Their loved ones are gone, and there will be no bringing them back. I hope this incident with our Roxie will help me to be empathetic with those who grieve.
I know in the grand scheme of things it is just a little mercy, but it is a mercy nonetheless, and I give thanks to God for it.
Here are Griffin, aka "Reddog" and "Box o' " Roxie, our buppy dawgs:
Thursday, March 1, 2012
The giveaway begins today, March 1, and ends on March 14th. I do believe there are multiple chances to win, and additional opportunities on multiple days. The winner will receive a $50 Amazon.com gift card. Now who wouldn't want that?