First Snow

A wintry mix started blowing in yesterday, with freezing fog, beautiful frost, and the winter weather we’ve been anticipating for a month and a half. When I locked the chickens up last night, they had all put themselves to roost with their feather puffed out, covered with a sparkling crust of frost. They were entirely unbothered by the cold.

This morning, a beautiful dusting of snow had transformed our frosty landscape. We’ve had snowfall, but nothing that stuck. I bundled up and lugged my jugs of hot water down to the chickens. When I opened their door to the run, they eagerly piled out, but stopped short in a pileup on the ladder, starting disgustedly at the white stuff on the ground.

Not everyone is excited for that first snow!

November Graces

Birthdays for me used to come and go with something of a sense of regret. Not that I wasn’t thankful for yet another year, or for the people around me, or for the life God has given me. But birthdays were a bittersweet affair, usually a little more bitter than sweet, with a sense of regret at having not accomplished more in the past year. A sense of loneliness, I’m sure. A sense of uncertainty looking into the next year, and the vulnerability that came with being a single woman in my late twenties and then early thirties. A sense of there being something missing, but not really sure what it was.

A year ago today, I would have headed to work around 6 am, stopped for coffee with Brad at the end of his driveway, and spent the day in the thick of fire academy, doing burpees and running miles and dragging hose and bailing out of windows. I would have joined Brad for supper at the end of a very long day, exhausted in more ways than one. He surprised me with our first candle light meal and a space heater for my bedroom. That might not seem like a very romantic gift, but I can’t tell you the difference it made in my sleep! It was a delightful evening, and when I looked at the man sitting next to me, I knew exactly who I wanted to be. I knew I had found my missing puzzle piece, in the form of a good man to love and by whom to be loved. I just didn’t know when, and the job that had provided a level of satisfaction, the challenge that I desired, and the camaraderie of the fire service was becoming a lead weight in my heart.

This year, this day, couldn’t be any more different than last year. It really seems that all the years of waiting, of growing in my trust of God and my contentment in life, all have culminated in the blessings that God has just showered on me in this last year, and which are just flooding to mind today. What a year it has been! The uncertainty I felt a year ago, the sense of being misplaced every time I went to work, the anxiousness I fought, all have melted away as God has answered prayer after prayer over this last year. I told Brad yesterday that I’ve never felt so at peace or such a sense of belonging. I firmly believe this is exactly where God wants me to be. What a joy!

And what a picture perfect day. Waking up to my best friend is one of life’s simplest, sweetest joys, and then he brought me breakfast in bed and we spent the morning gathering cows in some beautiful country. I enjoyed my cats and my chickens, a long walk in one of the last of our 70-something degree days, birthday wishes from so many people God has blessed me with, and a steak supper. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

So as I embark on my 33rd year, I’m just so thankful for God’s faithfulness, and the ways it has been demonstrated so incredibly over the last year. What a beautiful, wonderful year. What a beautiful day.

Those Things That Last

Out in the middle of our yard is a beautiful, enormous lilac bush. In the spring, it is laden with the most fragrant, plentiful blossoms ever seen. Out in the middle of the ranch on top of a hill, a tad scraggly but still blooming vigorously after decades and maybe a century, is another couple of lilac bushes, the parent bushes of the one in our yard. There is nothing left of the homestead on the hill, just those few ancient lilacs and a patch of irises.

There is just something about old things that tugs at my heart, any old things, but especially those things that connect me to my family’s past and to my heritage (or to my husband’s family and his heritage). Heirlooms, some people might call them, although that might be too lofty a word. Old books. Worn-out hymnals. Old Mason jars. A box of my Grandma’s recipe cards with her scrawling cursive. My Grandpa’s old Merck veterinary manuals and his rifle that he brought back from World War II. Saddles and spurs with a story attached to them. Quilts pieced by hand. Even stretches of fence, miles long, mended dozens and hundreds of times over the decades.

We live in a day and age of the new, where the old isn’t really even talked of. Long-term has been replaced by short-term, both in our looking back and looking ahead. People are so set on living in the moment and sowing their wild oats that they aren’t tending the gardens of their future.

Quality has been replaced by mediocrity and cheap affluence. How many oil lamps and old vases and clocks and well-made furniture survive from previous generations because of the quality of the craftsmanship? But now we live in a day and age of cheap plenty and instant gratification, stuff designed to satisfy for a week and break in a year. People prefer multiple mediocre things to one quality thing that will last for years or decades. People prefer a closet full of cheap clothing to a small handful of well-made clothes. But it isn’t just in the physical realm that this invades, but the relational as well…People seem to prefer their five hundred Facebook friends to having five solid and real relationships that will last.

Tangible has been replaced by digital. The lastingness of hardcover books has been replaced by digital books. The tangibleness of written cards and letters has been replaced by text messages and emails. Physical photographs have been replaced by digital images stored on a phone or computer. Boxes of loved recipe cards with the handwriting of a dozen different women, or cookbooks with worn covers and pages littered with notes and smudges from batter and butter have all been replaced by Pinterest boards of recipes, or a hasty Google search for ideas. Personal Bibles with fingerprints, underlining, and highlighting have been replaced by Bible apps on phones.

What a loss. Truly, what a loss.

I don’t think people now experience the joy of thinking about what sort of “paper trail” they’ll leave behind for the next generation, or if they will even leave one. If your whole life is digital, will you even leave a paper trail? If you indulge in cheap affluence now, will your children or grandchildren have any relics to treasure? I don’t want to be trapped in a lifestyle of convenient plenty, of cheap bounty, of frivolous multiples. I don’t want to see actions today as having no connection to the future, or the past.

I want to do things with a sense of permanence, a sense of joy that washes into the future. It takes intentionality.

Instead of cut flowers that fade in a week, gift someone a potted plant that could flourish for years with the proper care. Instead of annuals, plant perennials. Instead of a Kindle book, go to a used bookstore and find a loved hardcover book and grow your own collection of heirloom literature. Read and old book and savor the smell of it. Write a letter and send it by mail. Dig in the dirt. Plant trees. Cook a real meal. Write down your recipes, and share them with people. Take pictures and print them. Go on a long walk with a friend and just talk, no agenda. Set aside the digital world and live in the real one, the one we can taste and feel and smell and hear.

Take joy in those things that last.

Little Calf Faces

There is something so winsome in the faces of young animals that haven’t yet learned fear, and will stare boldly back, a little timidly, but overcome by their innocent curiosity.

As much as I love the Angus mamas and babies, I love the sweet little Char faces with their light lashes and dark eyes and noses. I could look at them for hours.

Spreading Little Wings

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know by now how much I love my critters. My teenage chicks got to taste their freedom for the first time a few evenings ago with some supervised time outside their run. It was so fun to watch them come bursting through their run door into the big wide world, and their explorations began. Curious little things.

I had been intending to start integrating them into the big girl flock for awhile, but this was prompted in particular by my rooster, Bernard, who is honestly just a jerk to all of his flock mates. He may end up in the soup pot if he isn’t careful. I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the big girls putting him in his place on a number of occasions…They came to inspect the proceedings and definitely aren’t impressed with Bernard.

The last few nights, they’ve gone out with the big girls, interacted pretty seamlessly with the hens, and managed to put themselves away successfully at sundown. How easy is that?

Blue-Eyed Banshees

A tragic incident on Friday bereft me of my favorite hen, and has rendered Pearl unfit for and relieved of chicken duty. My very kind husband never once laughed at my copious tears for poor Amelia who got her little head ripped clean off and the next day he brought home three cats. Three beautiful, white critters, with toffee-colored point markings and the bluest eyes. And they are wild as little banshees. Considering that, and they fact that they will never lay blue eggs, I’m not sure it quite replaces my poor beheaded chicken, but I’m willing to be open minded.

They were born to a neighbor’s barn cat and haven’t really ever been handled. As long as I keep both my eyes and all my digits, the two girls will be mine, and the male, provided he’ll let me shape and mold his disagreeable disposition, will be sent up north to my mother-in-law who lost one of her mousers (supposedly a mouser; I’ve only ever seen them snoozing) about a month ago.

Amelia (in honor of the deceased chicken, may we always fondly remember the dead) and Madeline are capable of the most withering looks of disdain, with their slightly crossed and very blue eyes, and such scornful looks they don’t hesitate to cast in my general direction if I offend them. As long as I mind my manners and don’t talk too loud, they’ll deign to emerge from their little corners and frisk about at a royal distance. Occasionally one might sneak closer, but stop far enough away to remind me of proper etiquette and the fact that they don’t appreciate having been cat-napped.

I rather have my doubts that they understand yet that all parties on this ranch will eventually be expected to fulfill certain obligations, but I’ll let these blue-eyed banshees bask in the warmth of their deity and their self righteous indignation for a little longer.