Ranch Wife Musings | Tend Your Own Garden

As spring has emerged, it has been a delight to watch leaf after leaf poke up from the ground and begin to grow. Day by day, I can see changes as my perennials have doubled in size, and it is sheer joy to see plants that I tended faithfully last summer grow with even greater vigor this year, spreading out and sending up new shoots! My one lupine seedling that survived the summer heat is now a huge plant, and I can’t wait to see what the flowers are like when it blooms this year!


But what would happen if, instead of delighting in my own garden, I compare what I have to my neighbor’s? What if, instead of seeing the beauty in what I’ve successfully grown, I resent what my neighbor can grow that I cannot, or what she has spent years cultivating that I only planted last year? Do this for long enough or with great enough intensity, and your own garden with all its beauty and its potential, will wilt and die. 

Isn’t life like that? What we have at any given time is usually what we’ve cultivated over the last months or years of our lives. Sometimes what we try to cultivate just doesn’t grow, or it doesn’t flourish and we finally realize it’s time to uproot that thing and put our efforts elsewhere. Then, sometimes, we look at our neighbor and the life she is living and we imagine that our life should look just like that. We’re angry that it doesn’t and we begin to resent her. But the crazy thing is, so often what she has that we are resenting isn’t even what we tried to grow, if we’re honest with ourselves! I’m sure all of us have been there. 

Jealousy kills. It’s like spraying herbicide onto your neighbor’s garden out of spite, and killing your own garden with the drift instead. We need to learn to rejoice in the life that we’ve been given, the garden that God is allowing us to cultivate. Quit staring at your neighbor’s garden, quit envying what she has that you don’t have. Quit comparing, and quit telling yourself that you deserve her life. God has given you a beautiful life!

Tend your own garden. And find joy in the beauty that’s there.

The Making of a Faithful Friend

The pups recently had their four month birthday and are suddenly little dogs, not little puppies! That time went so fast. They’ve chunked up then stretched out, going from roly-poly babies to slender adolescents. They’ve bit by bit traded puppy energy for dog energy, uncontrolled impulses to attentive action. It’s somewhat bittersweet. Okay, very bittersweet.

The puppy stage is adorable, and it has been worth all the work and the messes, the endless sweeping, mopping, and shampooing the carpet, but honestly it has been neat to see their individual personalities emerge and develop as their puppy craziness has subsided a little. Bess has turned into a great pup for Brad, loving her job of riding with him to check cows and tag calves in the morning and has great cowy instincts.

Josie, meanwhile, has become the best little buddy, helping me with chicken chores and attempting to herd them around, riding on the fourwheeler and loving when she gets to chase cows, going on long walks and hikes, but is even content to run errands with me in town or hang out in the house when I have housework or writing to do. She has such a strong desire to learn and to be doing, so I started training with her on a little agility work when I have a few minutes here and there, and she absolutely loves it. She follows me around like a little shadow, coming to find me occasionally in the middle of the night or if she loses sight of me on our walks. Where I am, generally she is.

And when you’re talking about working dogs, that companionship is extremely important, where trust, mutual trust, is grown and cultivated. These dogs are so intelligent and intuitive, and they have such a strong desire to please. Friendship, or companionship, is an important facet of the dog-human relationship to nurture, feeding into their desire to work and their instinct to do so, and using that innate desire to please to curb their not-always-correct impulses, rather than fear.

How fast these little creatures become faithful little friends!

Good for the Soul

What a world of difference a week makes! Barely more than a week ago, we were contending with perhaps the parting onslaught of winter, snow amounts we haven’t seen in a long time; we were cold and wet and muddy, feeding animals that were less than comfortable and covered in a glaze of ice and glistening icicles. We were bracing for the aftermath, hoping and praying the toll on the little calves wouldn’t be too high. The wind howled, snow fell from a heavy sky and swept skyward again in the gusts. Eyes were blinded by the unbroken sheen of windswept white. We staggered around, floundering through drifts to do chores and feed animals, then tumbling inside to warm up chilled hands and toes and face.

This week, it is a whole different world. A hopeful one. Almost overnight, the first frost of green touched the hills, the first green we have seen in months and months of staring at dismally dry pastures in a parched part of the country. Every day the green is deeper, richer, and more. Calves sprawl in the sunlight on warm ground, no longer fighting mud and snow, or race wildly around in a frenzy of fun. Their mamas graze contentedly on the fresh grass, no longer clamoring for hay to fill hungry bellies.

Dams that were dry now have water in them, and the sky is the blue that only comes in the springtime. The wind is gentle, the bite of winter a thing of the past. The bluebirds are back, and the clear, sweet voice of the meadowlark soars high above the rest of spring’s many songs. While we were checking cows, I heard a familiar and strange call, one of those sounds that goes straight to my heart, and searched the sky – Sandhill cranes were making their way north from the sandy dunes of Nebraska, in a shifting V of flight. And yesterday the killdeer were pantamiming along the driveway. Spring is here at last.

My garden is beginning to awaken, with the promise of color and delight and beauty. Lupine and catmint and lavender and chives, verbena and painted daisies and hollyhocks, yarrow and purple coneflowers, all are emerging eagerly from the warming earth and spreading joyful leaves. The green shoots are so good to see, and the thriving of things that survived the winter!

The line between inside and out is deliciously blurred, with windows thrown open, beckoning the spring into the house, sleeping with the wind stirring the curtain by my pillow. Evening jaunts down to lock up the chickens can be done without piling on coveralls and heavy coat, and the first sunburns of the year have marked the welcome change of the seasons. What a glorious free feeling, to have set aside heavy muckboots and heavy coats in favor of lighter, to be unencumbered, moving easily and unhindered!

What a difference from last week, or the week before. What a wonderful difference. It is a spring that is good for the soul.

Weekly Photo Roundup | April 2 – 8

It was a week of extremes. Snow and blizzard conditions, every task a struggle against the weather, followed by the bluest of blue skies and temperatures in the 40s, then the 50s, and continuing to climb. Cribbage during the storm. The crunch of snow underfoot and the wonderfully welcome sound of running water as snow melted. Stumbling through huge drifts into the cozy warmth of the calving shed, filled to way more than capacity to keep cows from calving in a snowbank. Two days later everything is outside and sacked out in the sun. Calves are happy little sleep monsters, the cats are soaking up the sun on the deck, and the chickens find a bare spot to dust bathe. Puddles and clear skies on a 5 mile walk up to my in-laws’ house followed by a leisurely coffee. A successful grafting of a calf. Everything breathes a sigh of relief as the temps warm and the water runs and living is a little more comfortable.

Ranch Wife Musings | Mud

It is everywhere! Mud, absolutely everywhere, on everything, tracked into the house and well beyond the mud room, caked on boots, worked into the denim of jeans and crumbling from the legs of the pants. I’m scrubbing it from the floor, washing away those telltale paw prints from one of the pups who busted through the mud room gate or got overzealous when we headed inside.

I’m sweeping up piles and piles of it, combing it from puppy fur, and washing it from my face, from that one cow who turned suddenly and splashed me – twice – in the corrals, flinging it on me head to toe. And that’s special mud, corral mud. It flings up from the tires of the four wheeler, snow and mud spraying up and all over everyone. Coveralls are stiff with it. Floorboards are caked with it. It’s everywhere. Eventually you just have to accept it.

And it’s glorious.

Mud is a promise.

A promise that springtime is coming, the thaw really is happening. Winter is coming to an end.

A promise of moisture. Life-giving. Sustaining.

It’s hope.

Hope for a good year.

Hope for grass, for healthy livestock.

It is an answer to prayer.

Oh, how we have prayed for relief to this parched land. How we’ve prayed for water to fill the dams. For respite from the drought. Without water, there is no mud. And there is mud. Plenty of it. So there is water.

It’s a reminder.

God’s answers to prayers don’t always come all nice and tidy and recognizable. In fact, usually they don’t. Sometimes they’re mud-caked and messy. Sometimes answers to prayer come paired with reminders of our own fickleness, wanting something but grudgingly trying to tell God that the manner of gifting was wrong. “Sure, that’s what I prayed for, but what I meant was….”

So I’m thankful for the mud. For warmth and thaw. For wet and running water trickling down all the trails, pooling in the most inconvenient places. I’m thankful for springtime. For life. For mud-covered blessings.

Weekly Photo Roundup | March 26 – April 1

Oh my goodness, it’s April. And oh, what a week. Funny how I don’t even remember most of it. I remember a lot of mud. The bluebirds came back, and a funny little flock of seagulls was haunting me. I know we had some beautiful weather, and then some really crummy weather that brought some wonderful moisture. I know I took some good walks with the dogs, especially with Josie. And I know I gathered eggs every day. Beyond that, I’d have to go back and look at my notes.