Monthly Archiv: May, 2014

Seven and counting






Friends of ours keep a chalkboard at the end of the driveway each spring for cars to see. It’s a tally of how many lambs have been born so far. Unlike us, they are actual farmers, so their tally goes on for a few weeks and reaches 600 plus sometimes. We like our lamb count around  9 or 10. That’s enough excitement for us.

This year, the skinniest ewe (who we suspected would be late – if she was even pregnant) was the first to deliver. She must have been keeping one in her leg, as she birthed not one but three healthy lambs. Saturday morning, her lambs will be a week old. They look great. Very spunky. Two boys and a girl. They’re the snowy white lambs in the pictures. Lambs are born with a yellow coating gooped all over them. Their cute because they’re little and new to the world, but they look very dirty. After a few days, the yellow is licked and rubbed off, and then they are downright gorgeous.

The mid sized ewe was second to deliver. She had four. This is one too many for perfection. Our sheep breed, the Rideau Arcott, was developed in the 1970’s in Canada (Animal Research Centre Ottawa . . . ARC OTT). They’re a great sheep for a couple of reasons; they tend to have multiple births for one. Many other breeds typically have one lamb per birth. Rideau Arcott typically have 2 or 3, and 4 is not uncommon. The problem is that for milk supply, a ewe can really only handle 3. The extra are usually separated and bottle fed. We did this for a few years. It works, but the bottle fed lambs never thrive the same as the lambs with the mother. Based on our friend’s experiments and some ideas of our own, we currently have all the lambs with the mom, but are also bottle feeding every few hours during the day to supplement. So far, everyone looks good.

Our large, bursting any minute ewe, Lily (our original ewe, and herself a bottle fed, “extra,” from a multiple birth) is still waddling around giving us fits wondering what exactly is going on inside her. Her biggest year she delivered a group of 5. Last year, she was bigger than ever before and we thought another basketball team was en route. Instead, she birthed two lambs bigger than the two week old lambs. We called them the football players.

This year’s group of four is interesting. They’re only three days old, so they’re still pretty yellow. Unlike most of our lambs, they have quite a few markings of black and brown patches. A few more pictures will come next week. Currently, the camera has no zoom, and lambs were not in the mood to sit still while I shoved a camera in their faces for a close up.



You can see the dirty coat as well as a little of the speckles, although it's hard to see which is which. This one is yelling for his mother to save him from all the scary other lambs out there and reminding her that she is not to go more than a few feet away. If anyone wanders it is supposed to be him, not her. (Amazing what they can communicate in one mad little bleat, yes?)

You can see the dirty coat as well as a little of the speckles, although it’s hard to see which is which. This one is yelling for his mother to save him from all the scary other lambs out there and reminding her that she is not to go more than a few feet away. If anyone wanders it is supposed to be him, not her. (Amazing what they can communicate in one mad little bleat, yes?)

Of Mice and Men


Life on a farm subjects me to weather in ways that my previous life did not. Weather changes, dictates, sustains, destroys, and nourishes without consultation or apology. I like to make plans. But rested and ready to go, all hands on deck, and the rain is torrential. Exhausted, ready to drop, out of gas for the tractor, and the sun blazes warm, a breeze comes up and a long day is required. One year is not like another. One spring the lambs thrive, another old farmers shake their heads at all the losses.

Weather is just the tip of the iceberg, one little facet of the great untameable Mother Nature. I like the beauty, I hate the not knowing. Then again, that’s why we chose to have a farm. Things die that aren’t supposed to and cantaloupes sprout unbidden on a manure pile in the field. Ewes bred at the same time give birth two weeks apart, and unidentified living things, bugs and microbes, arrive constantly to help and harm. Out of control is amplified here to a decibel we cannot miss.

It makes me crazy. It keeps me sane. My husband and I have been discussing solutions to the latest fencing problems for weeks. After waiting out the weather, we finally thought we had it. Satisfied with our new barriers, we went in for lunch. By the time we’d finished eating, all the animals we separated were back together again. In the, “who’s in charge of the farm,” game, we had once again, underestimated the wits of our opponents.

Any step in any direction here reveals things that need doing. No matter how long we worked, there would still be more. It’s so far from my control that trying seems almost pointless. I hate that part.

Except when I let it baptize me.

When I walk by choice down the banks of desperate pretending, into the river of big, impossible, unending, unpredictable, uncertainty. When I let go of dry and the worry of what I’m not.  There, water over my head, something true touches me. I am no match for the seeming chaos. As threatening as that is, it is also a relief.

I am one person in a vast universe. A tiny part of a big picture. I don’t know what’s coming next. I couldn’t change it if I did. All kinds of seasons, physical, emotional, and spiritual, will come and go. Grass will grow and grass will die. I will rise each day and go about my business. Some days things will go as planned and other days not so much.

Holding tight on the banks, the fear of my smallness imprisons me. Baptized, it’s different. I’m a little mouse in a very large field, but I’m friends with the guy who owns the hawks.

I’ll forget and run for the banks again. But I’ll get baptized again too. Dripping and free, I’ll pitter patter around the field, come rain or shine.

Mother’s Day


Boy two and the girls have a little advantage at Mother’s Day. They’re all still young enough that if teachers don’t organize crafts, they at least talk about it. Girl Two asked me every day for a week how much longer it was until the Mother’s Day Tea at their school. Boy Two started picking me flowers outside days in advance and Girl One was adamant about helping with the dishes when she didn’t have to. Throughout the week, notes of love and small gifts arrived. Dandelions and violets were picked and tied together in chains for a necklace and bracelet set, a painted flower pot, and a hot pad with hand print, a poem and a recipe, and many hugs came.

The quote of the day though goes to Boy One. He has no idea that he made me laugh. He might be a happy person, but he is not a purposely funny guy. He is the kind of person who analyzes the details of life for fun. On the way home from church, Boy one offered the following wisdom from the passenger’s seat:

“You know, Mom . . . it’s really too bad about Mother’s Day. I mean, it completely snuck up on me. I totally didn’t see it coming. And like, because I feel bad, the result is going to be that I’m going to like really focus hard now and make sure I don’t let it happen twice. I mean, I’m going to end up doing something extra nice for Father’s Day because of it. You know?”

It was ten in the morning. The day was yet young for ways to love mother, but I was having a low maintenance day.

“It’s ok, son.  We had a nice time working together outside yesterday. I count that as a great Mother’s Day present.”




Presumably, the relieved silence as he looked out the window as filled with thoughts of what to do for Father’s day. :)


On other fronts, the farm is spilling over with things to be done. To at least get a finger in the dam, I’m going to take a few days off from the blog. Expect me back on Thursday with a little sun, some tired muscles, and (one can only hope) a fresh head. By that time the broken camera situation will be addressed and you can see new lambs. Three were born Saturday morning. We’re expecting more soon. :)



My troubles started when I was six. Our family had spent the summer in Colorado that year. Before that, my mother said, I was happy go lucky and lighthearted. After that, things were not the same. It was a mystery to her the heavy quietness that was now me.

That fall, the bold and brave self that had eagerly trundled off to kindergarten, was afraid to leave my mother for too long. I would get to school and dissolve, unable to stop crying with how much I missed her. A few times I was sent home. Other times, I stayed, crying. I can remember the teacher shaking her head, while I buried my head on my desk and sobbed. I remember the desperate aching of needing my mother.

I banged my head and ran all the way across town from a birthday party to get home to my mother. I left a sleepover at a friend’s and refused to return. Nothing was wrong, except I missed my mother so desperately, I had to be home. My mother was embarrassed, but I was immovable. Calling the neighbors was one thing. Quitting school was another.

Out of the blue, I was picked up from school one day and taken on a date with my mother. Just us. To a real restaurant. I had a hamburger and a milkshake. My mother watched me eat. That’s all I remember. Eating my hamburger and sipping my milkshake, talking to my mother while she watched me.

Things improved. In grade two, I had an angel of a teacher. We moved the summer before grade three and I fell apart again. My mother walked me to the outside of my new school. We said goodbye, I walked into the school and down the hallway. A little later I ran out the door and all the way home. I couldn’t do it. I needed to be home. My mother decided it was date time again.

Maybe her dates with me didn’t fix the broken things, but those minutes of being all that mattered helped. (My mother was still swearing by them, recommending them to other bewildered parents when I was an adult.) I took Girl one out of school two weeks ago. Chicken fingers. Coconut Cream pie. Then back to school. I try to keep an eye on all of them, not for anything big, just to see who needs it. Eventually, I get them all whether they need it or not, then I start again. They love it, and I do too.

It was a good thing my mother taught me. I’ve decided it doesn’t apply to just kids or crisis. Everybody needs to feel seen and heard. Here’s my prayer for today:

Dear Lord, may I see my neighbor’s brokenness and be willing to watch and listen – with hamburgers and milkshakes of a sort. May I not turn away because I cannot fix it. May I whose tears were not forgotten, faithfully remember the tears of others.

For Sale

The One Man Crank

The One Man Crank


Bids for this One Man Crank can be sent to  An original invention and the brainchild of Boy two, this masterpiece underwent multiple adjustments and overhauls before completion. It is now in fine working order with all the kinks worked out.  Here’s a close up of the driver’s seat:

That would be dirt in the open trunk, helping the baling twine to keep the shaft in place.

Organic quality dirt in the open trunk helps shaft remain in place. (Keep wet.)  Orange fluffy stuff on handlebars is akin to a giant pipecleaner, providing both decorative color and structural reinforcement.


I’m sure his teachers would have stamped genius on his report card if they could have ever figured out what was going in his head. I empathize. This is the child who punched his fist through a glass window in short sleeves when he was eight. It was, he explained (as we waited in the emergency room for ten stitches across two inches), the only way to tag the girls because they were cheating hiding in the bus shelter and they wouldn’t unlock the door.

Here is why you should open the bidding for the One Man Crank now, and bid high. Tricycles are fun, for a while. The One Man Crank is fun for as long as you can fit on the broom, because that is where the driver’s bottom is intended to go. It’s nothing special until you start peddling. As you pedal, the baling twine apparatus works together with the weighted snow shovel in the back to pop you in the bottom at intervals, thereby changing a smooth potentially dull trike ride, into a bottom bumping mania of happiness.

The One Man Crank shown here is the original model and will obviously sell for the most money, however, I am completely prepared to take Boy two out of school in order to manufacture other models as demand requires. This was not an idea that I saw the vision for at first, but after Boy two brought in his testers and had them testify, I was convinced. Girl one and Girl two both swear it is an amazing invention. Even describing how fun it is makes them giggle. Do they think other kids would like it? Definitely, yes. It’s great! And it works, they add.

I’m not sure if Boy two will use the money for something clever or save it for a rainy day. His savings plans have run amok of late, so I am guessing he will spend it. I found him dreary, walking in from the old chicken coop the other day.  What’s wrong, I asked. The squirrels got it, he said. I tried to hide the rest of my Easter candy from you so you wouldn’t throw it away and the squirrels ate it all.

Good on ya, son. Have to say, I wouldn’t have checked the chicken coop.

Bidding for original closes at midnight. Orders for other models open indefinitely.



Bombeck and Bonhoeffer

Erma bombeck

When I was a teacher, a lot of my life was laid out for me. School starts here. Teach this. Report back. Go home. I struggle sometimes now from acute not-spelled-out-itis. (People who think this is not a real disease are suffering from a different one, but there isn’t space to get into that now.) To deal with my condition, I talk, think, pray, and yes, I read. Last summer I somehow ended up reading two biographies concurrently. Deitrich Bonhoeffer and Erma Bombeck. A single, male, German, Lutheran, theologian, killed by Nazis at age 39, and a married, female, American, Catholic, mother and humor columnist, who died from kidney disease and surgery at 69. Their stories have stuck with me this past year. They were very different people, but in my mind, they go together at least as well as the different parts of me do. Between them, they cover a lot of things I care about: love, justice, humor, faith, family, and how to handle perceived failure.

From Erma Bombeck:

*If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.

*Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.

*There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.

*My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.


And from Deitrich Bonhoeffer:

 *Absolute seriousness is never without a dash of humor.

*The ultimate test of  a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to it’s children.

*We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.

*Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.

*It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.

*God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.


I’m not saying they are the same. There’s a lot more meat to be had in a study of Bonhoeffer’s life and words, but I’m a simple person. There are days I can only admire Dietrich, I can’t relate to him. That’s where Erma comes in.

I like learning about other people. I find it inspiring and thought provoking to remember that other people struggled and failed and wanted to give up. Remembering other people’s mountains make my own seem more climbable. And I’m always a sucker for quotes. A few with particular meaning to me right now:

There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.  D.B.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. D.B.

 When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.  E.B

Drinking games


The word, chug, according to to drink alcohol really fast without breathing. People usually chant this at the person who is drinking.

We don’t get out much. We don’t do a lot of electronic media. So I was a little surprised to hear this particular word being chanted with great excitement, followed by giggles from the bathroom. Chug, chug, chug, chug, came the rhythmic unison.

I was hoping to bypass any public explanations of our bathroom setup right now, but the story is forcing my hand. I’m pretty sure this drives us off the road from quaint and quirky, right on over to tacky and classless. Alas. I apologize for all the mystic notions of country living that flee as I speak. For the last seven days, we have been sharing our bathroom with 19 chicks. They are divided into tubs, the largest of which is sitting in the bathtub. The smaller two are on a shoe rack on the floor. Together, they take up half the bathroom. Anyone sitting down need not read, the chicks are a mere twelve inches to the right for easy viewing pleasure. It isn’t exactly a rose blossom scent in there right now, but then again on cold mornings, the sauna temperatures make it not such a bad place to be.

Anyway, I heard the chug chanting and called out all parties involved. The answer to, “what’s going on,” was as follows:

Boy two had a worm, said Girl two, . . . children looked at each other and broke into giggles

And we put a chick on top of the toilet . . .children fell into each other laughing

And then we cheered while he ate, said Boy two. It was a really big worm.

Then we got another one and did it again, said Girl two.

One of them made a lot of footprints on your toilet, said Girl one, but don’t worry, we cleaned it up.

Grace. Latest Installment

Purple flowers

After a 4.5 hour drive home from my grandparents, the girls and I arrived home stiff, a little hungry, weary, and grumpy, to find that the apple trees I ordered had finally arrived. If I wanted help, it was time to pick up our order. After lunch and another hour in the car, we had nine trees.

Once upon a time, apple trees lived happily on bedrock in the middle of our pasture, but according to the internet, nowhere on our property met the many qualifications required for ideal planting of apple trees. Nervous, I’ve been waiting for the trees to arrive for weeks now. The weather was pleasant. I tried to be joyful, but voices were in my ears.

“Not enough drainage here.”

“Soil’s not good enough here.”

“Here’s too close to that tree.”

Were these sounds just my fear or were they the last ditch attempts of the robed wizards of appledom to save us from doom?

“We chose the best of what we had. We just want to try,” I squeaked back.

“That’s a lot of money gone when they all die,” came the reply. I pictured somber head shaking.

Planting was a team effort (minus Boy one who was away). I was tense, but my hands were full of life whispering maybe. The voices couldn’t ruin it all, it was fun. Still, they kept the joy of the trees from trumping the weariness of the morning. I headed into the house irritated that there was no way to have dinner made on time. The war of apple hope vs. no apple fear raged on.

The kids had taken off a little earlier. “She’s here! She’s here,” rang out, as I approached. I was escorted up to the girls’ room. A bedspread refashioned as tablecloth, covered the table (made of two stools with a large book bridging the middle gap) the tea kettle sat in the middle. Miniature teacups were all around, except my favorite mug sat at my place. Everyone sat on the floor except me, who was given a bean bag. A plate of crackers and raisins was on the table. “Surprise!” they said.

Girl one put a tiara designed for me on my head, Girl two handed me a bracelet made from all of the new beads they just received from their great grandmother. Boy two handed me a card, “Happy Early Mother’s Day,” it said (in beautiful cursive writing).

I could remember lots of clipped directions and signs that mother’s fuse was growing shorter through the day. I couldn’t remember very many reasons for a surprise, early Mother’s Day celebration.

My tea was served bag in. I smiled. They jumped up and down to give one last surprise. What delighted me most about it was how much I would have hated it, had I not known that they expected me to like it. With love, messy, incorrect, unstable and misdirected, they won me over.

In case you only see ripped up boxes, tape and mess, this is actually a newly designed kitten play maze, with love from the younger three. :)

In case you only see ripped up boxes, tape and mess, this is actually a kitten play maze, designed to be left in the middle of floors everywhere, with love from the younger three. :)

New arrivals

photo (3)

Nineteen chicks arrived this week and have the kids eager to get home from school. Boy two has already begun collecting bug and worm treats. Sadly, he also specializing in dewinging flies and thereby delivering catchable favorite treats.


This is what has my husband happy to drive in the driveway this week. I think he beamed the whole ten kilometers he drove it home.

This is what has my husband happy to drive in the driveway this week. I think he beamed the whole ten kilometers he drove it home.


Yet Love


When my mother got cancer, I was very matter of fact. All was well until the tests said otherwise. I listened to poor prognosis and small chances of treatment.  I was very careful with my hope then. I treated it like oil, where there’s a limited supply, everybody wants it, and the price keeps going up. I didn’t want to use too much.

My mother was the opposite. She worried most at the beginning. Once cancer paraded out of the closet with tests and labels, she was ferocious in hope. Doctors had no right to say she might die. She would not until she was good and ready. She painted her toenails red and wrote a poem about how if she died, she’d go out with ten little flags waving: this one did not go willingly. Don’t worry, she would tell me. I can feel it. I’m going to get better.

She didn’t. At least not how she was expecting.

I was told last week that I probably have Raynaud’s phenomenon. It is generally harmless, involves very cold feet, hands, and nose, and is caused by spastic contractions of blood vessels. When it does cause complications, it is treated with blood pressure medication.

Seems unlikely, I said when the doctor suggested it. No one in my family has it. I doubt I have it. (The apple did not fall far from my mother’s tree.) Then I went home and read about it. Honestly, the information is not that troubling. Except that I was troubled. This last year of fussing to get my iron and hemoglobin levels up, now a “phenomenon.” Really? Phenomenon sounds ridiculous. Can’t it just be a disease, a disorder, even an affliction? But no, I’ve got a phenomenon. And not just one of them.

The other phenomenon is what happens when you inherit, “damn the torpedo,” genes from your mother and paranoid, “don’t count on health or life,” genes from your paternal grandmother. She died at ninety, but even at fifty, it seemed as though the threat of the Lord’s call to home hung like a knife in the air above her head. Maybe I didn’t see it, but she sure could.

I used to laugh at her, but now I don’t. I get it. Paranoia feels logical and crazy both. Low iron, Raynaud’s phenomenon . . . they’re not fatal. But underneath it all, I’m afraid of dying. Since my mother died, part of me is looking over my shoulder trying to figure out when to duck. Healthy living and optimism do not save you or she’d be here painting toenails with my girls. But neither does anything else. Life and death arrive on their own terms with or without our permission.

I’d give up the ghost, but I see it as plain as writing on the wall right now: the details of unknown are messy, but the goodness of the plan is guaranteed. My fear vs. my lack of control unnerves me, but it’s ok. It really, really is. I fear. I doubt. Yet Love. Always and forever, abides.