The Winter, It Will Pass

We’re only a calendar month into winter but already we’re enjoying hints of the coming spring. The first hint is that Runnings has their seed display up! There has been moisture in the air, bluebird skies, and the excitement of springtime approaching! It has been a whirlwind of sourdough baking and chickens, puppies and our first two calves, housework and laundry and getting ready to visit my sister in Illinois.

Calving has officially started for us with the excitement (and puzzlement) of our first two calves of the year, beautiful full-term babies in spite of being born a solid month sooner than expected. That’s called a bull with initiative. The first calf showed up on Sunday, and the second one was found Monday. Both pairs are safely settled into the nursery pen on our end of the ranch. What a beautiful sight! Gorgeous, lanky-legged, satin-sleek calves tripping along daintily behind their protective mamas.

Puppies are (literally) underfoot during most of chores and throughout the day, finding everything absolutely fascinating. They watch attentively while chickens get fed, torment the cats, and come running in a black and white wave when they’re called. It takes about ten times longer just to walk up the hill to the house, with half a dozen puppies chasing my feet and scheming to trip me. All our females are spoken for and we are looking for homes for our two boy pups, Max and Teddy. We’re excited to see how they all turn out. They are so smart, it’s a little scary!

The chickens are already going gangbusters (for a flock the size of mine), with fourteen eggs today and a dozen yesterday. They have come through their first cold snaps beautifully with only a couple mild incidents of frostbite on a couple larger-combed hens, have been healthy overall, and I’m excited to embark on my second year of chicken keeping. I have learned so much this year, dealing with coccidiosis in my chicks, bumblefoot in a few hens, a few unfortunate dog attacks and resulting chicken first aid, and dealing with a crossbeak chicken who, after today’s beak work, is able to eat again!I’m very thankful for the customers I have and am looking forward to being able to provide eggs for more people this year! It was satisfying to know that my family always had eggs, even when the stores didn’t! And they’re better eggs anyway.

I hauled a bunch of loose hay up from the stackyard this week to give the chickens something to scratch in when they’re locked up and to help with mud when we get snow. The run looks better and the chickens love it. I’m excited to work on making chicken farming more sustainable this year and to try growing some fodder crops specifically for feeding my flock.

So we are off to a running start this year, excited for calving, excited to get planning my garden, excited to grow my flock, excited for what this year will hold. Spring really is just around the corner. The winter, it will pass.

Seeing Black and White

When the puppies were first born, it was impossible to really distinguish one from the other, at least as far as four of them were concerned. Bessie was named pretty quickly, because of her milk cow markings, and there was an all black male that was quickly identifiable, but for some reason hadn’t earned a name.

They are now coming up on 7 weeks old and are a riot of activity, eager for attention, friendly, boisterous, and just a bundle of fun. We’ve got the sweet and sleepy one, the go-getter, the playful and clumsy one, the smart one, and a couple that haven’t really distinguished themselves but are plenty adorable with more energy than should fit in a body that size. It doesn’t get much more fun than going down to the barn and yelling, “Puppies!” and have six puppies and sometimes their mother come pouring out of the barn or out from under the trailers.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have let them start to explore outside and it is hilarious to watch the fat little pandas barreling full-tilt across the yard in protection of their pinecones, tumble down remnants of snow drifts, and learn the about the delicacy of horse manure.

They also enjoy terrorizing the cats, many of which actually invite the terrorizing and enjoy a playful romp with the pups. Polly in particular. It is only since the puppies have significantly outweighed her that the novelty of them is wearing a little thin. One pup is generally tolerable, but four or more is less so. But she still comes back and invites another mauling.

It doesn’t get much cuter.

Battened Down

All of South Dakota has been gearing up for a major snow event, since the meteorologists first started talking about the potential a week ago.

For ranchers in drought-stricken parts of the state, including here, predictions of moisture can be pretty disheartening, since the outcome seems to always be less than hoped. We watched as this storm seemed to drift further south and tried not to get our hopes up for any significant moisture, but we were still a little disappointed when at 3am there was little to no snow yet.

Well, it has blown in, and we are just trusting God for His provision of the needed moisture over this winter, and praying for safety as the temps plummet and the wind kicks up. There isn’t much snow yet and it seems to have let up, but this is supposed to be a multi day snowstorm, so it should keep coming.

We have plenty of water in case of power outages, have oil in the lanterns, and are thankful for a working generator. Brad brought the calves closer yesterday and into the timber, and now the order of the day is just keeping critters fed and watered.

My usual entourage of cats had no interest in chicken chores this morning, and stayed snug in their cat house, looking pretty miffed. Except for Polly. She darted inside and since she’s getting a little daily doctoring (and will keep me company while I work on some projects inside…) I didn’t feel like stripping down to go catch her. And she really is good company, even if rather obnoxious.

The chickens needed a fair amount of coaxing and a makeshift windbreak before they’d set foot outside. My footsteps had already drifted in when I trudged back up the hill to the house.

But those cold, blustery, blizzardy days make for the perfect opportunity for finishing some Christmas presents, doing some mending, photo editing, a couple online webinars tomorrow, and getting a start on my Christmas cookie baking.

There’s always something!

And so we’re battened down.

Cold Day Projects

The shorter the days get, the more I look forward to when the days start getting longer again. But considering how busy we’ve stayed this fall, Brad and I are both enjoying a slow down on the ranch! We’ve finally had time to catch up on some of those little projects we’ve had in our lists, I finally got my young chicken flock combined with my big girls, we’ve been able to do some more reading in our long evenings, and I’ve gotten my crafting and sewing back out, fixing and mending as well as artistic stuff.

The last few days, I’ve puttered away at dyeing some silk scarves and I’m tickled pink with how they turned out. It is fun to see how the colors actually rendered , after the fabric was heated, rinsed, and dried!

So many pretty colors, it is hard to pick a favorite!

Advent | The Hope Candle

Yesterday marked the first Sunday of the Advent season. Christians across the globe and through the years have observed this period of time leading up to Christmas, and I love joining together with them to prepare my heart for a proper celebration of the coming of the Baby Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in a little-known town called Bethlehem.

I love Advent. When I was a child and a teenager, my family enjoyed observing Advent with various family devotions, the lighting of the candles, Advent calendars, and a series of family devotional books by Arnold Ytreeide, beginning with Jotham’s Journey, and over the years reading Tabitha’s Travels, and Bartholomew’s Passage. Far from being meaningless, or silly, or frivolous, the yearly observance touched my heart and drew us closer as a family to each other and to our Savior.

Last Christmas, Brad and I read an Advent book together in December, and this year we are continuing our tradition as husband and wife. Brad made me a beautiful and simple – just what I love – candle holder out of a length of weathered lumber from when the power company replaced the power lines. It is a section of one of the square-cut cross pieces, and is the same wood my father-in-law used to build the cross that served as the backdrop for our wedding. Yesterday evening, we lit the first candle – the Hope Candle.

Hope.

What a misunderstood word.

What a beautiful word.

Hope is something everyone could use right now.

“I sure hope so.” We’ve all heard someone growl those words almost as a veiled sort of threat, or maybe we’ve uttered them that way ourselves. We’ve heard those words spoken wistfully, or with ironic hopelessness. Looking around at the culture, at so many people I know, at the job field I used to work in, I see a world rife with hopelessness.

People need hope. I need hope.

I look around and see war, death, pain, suffering. I see a culture that has turned its back on God and His Law, I see rampant immorality and acceptance of things that would have been considered wrong even just a few years ago. I see illnesses that even the most elite scientists can’t figure out how to cure. I see the butchering of children in the womb, the desecrating of the beauty of marriage, the destruction of countless innocent lives for the greedy schemes of the very people who should be the protectors, the guardians. People running to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, anything that can numb the pain of meaninglessness. Because without Biblical hope…life truly is meaningless.

Over the years, I’ve heard pastors talk about how Biblical hope is so contrary to how we so often use the word. Biblical hope is not an “I hope so” sort of hope. It is a confident expectation.

Which immediately begs the question…Where does our hope come from and for what are we hoping?

Hope without something or Someone to hope in is meaningless.

The Psalms are full to bursting with verses reminding us of where our hope is found, and in Whom we can have that confident expectation.

Lamentations 3: 24-25 reads:

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,     “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,     to the soul who seeks him.

And 1 Peter 1: 3-4 rejoices:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope though the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you.

We hope in God. We confidently look to Jesus’s perfect life and death as the means to being forgiven, justified before God. We look forward to an eternal easing of suffering, we confidently wait for the day when the difficulties of this life will be comforted. We hope in our Savior, the God-Man Christ Jesus. The Jews waited for His coming, hoped in the promises of a faithful Heavenly Father, fulfilled two thousand years ago, and we remember that coming and now we wait for His Second Coming, when “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

And it just gets better. Revelation 22 reads:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon.”

That, friends, is our hope. Jesus is coming soon. We enjoy this Advent seasons, reveling in God’s plan brought about in the person of Christ, born as a Baby in a manger in Bethlehem, but without the future hope, that living hope, that hope of something more, this season is meaningless. The Baby Jesus means nothing without the hope that comes from Jesus’s death and resurrection. And His death and resurrection mean nothing to us if there isn’t the hope of a future resurrection.

Hope. What a beautiful word.

The Banshees

When Brad brought me that crate full of feral cats in exchange for my beautiful Amelia who laid blue eggs and whom Pearl ruthlessly beheaded, inwardly I scoffed at what was so obviously not a fair trade. They were beautiful cats. Absolutely beautiful. But wild. Completely wild. And then I got to work taming them down. I definitely had my doubts a time or two, especially when those blue-eyed banshees still weren’t even letting me see, much less touch, them a week later, and then more than a week. If I happened to catch one, they trembled pitifully and got all small and pathetic.

But then, finally, after many cans of cat food, Amelia (so named in honor of the deceased) actually approached my hand, and then – wonder of wonders! – she actually let me pet her. And purred. Once a cat purrs, you have her hooked. It was all clear sailing from there, and yesterday Amelia and Madeline had their first little taste of freedom when I let them outside. Today, it was hilarious watching them flit through the snow like delicate white wraiths, pouncing one another, climbing trees, scattering the snow under their tiny paws. Their clear blue stare is mesmerizing, even though Amelia is a little cross-eyed and it is hard to take her completely seriously.

I really expected these girls to tame down to no more than a passively amiable barn cat, one that wouldn’t run away but that wouldn’t be truly friendly. Well, they are two of the sweetest cats, and maybe the prettiest I’ve ever seen. So no, they won’t ever lay blue eggs but I’d say it was a more than fair trade.