Friday, December 31, 2010

The Gate, the Door, the Year

by Minnie Louise Harkins

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied,
'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention."

With reflections of the year past and faith for the year forward....welcome 2011!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our Little Tree

It started with a trip up the hill, past the barn, towards the Round House and the Burnham Woods....

Two little boys and me, the oldest one seven years old, shy and serious, carrying his small saw proudly and carefully. The youngest, just turned four a few days before, chatting away and loving life. Me the grandma with the creaky bones ((grin)) Our mission was to harvest a little soft needle pine tree growing near the Round House as our Christmas Tree 2010. I haven't had a real tree in a good many years, but this year it just seemed right and this sparse little tree, growing up beneath the large trees needed to be thinned out and would be perfect. So away we went.

The oldest worked quickly and carefully, making sure his brother was not to close to the sharp saw:

Their Dad came along, tall and strong, to see if we needed any help but the job was done:

And so we decorated, the two little boys with Papa and I watching on. While we decorated we talked about why we have Christmas and who was born on that day. After the ornaments were all on the tree, we opened the Nativity set. Each one tries to unwrap the tissue that will find Baby Jesus. When we had each figure placed carefully we took a moment to enjoy:

The little brother asked "Grandma, is Jesus real?" And of course I said, "Yes, He is. Do you know where Jesus lives?" (thinking he would say in Heaven) but the wise little child said "He lives in our hearts. And if He doesn't, we get very cross" Oh, my! Such simple true words, from an innocent heart.

Papa noticed that all of the ornaments are at the bottom of the tree. I had thought to rearrange them after the boys left. But as I looked at those rows of ornaments that the little boys, four and seven, had placed on the tree's lowest branches where they could reach them, I thought about how it won't be long before they are tall and strong like their Daddy and will be able to reach the top branches.

I decided to leave the ornaments right where they are and I thought about how fast time goes by.

I thought about Baby Jesus who also grew to be a strong man but who was our Saviour right from the start, and how His heart was filled with love for each of us all along. And I prayed that He will always be real to our boys and alive in their hearts. This morning, while it was still dark with only the lights from the tree shining, Papa said "I like our little Christmas tree"

Merry Christmas to our friends and family, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lamplight really is cold outside today! Almost like the "brain-freeze" you get when eating ice cream, the wind hits you in the face when you step out the door no matter how bundled in layers of wool and carhartt's and boots you might be.

I am thankful that we didn't lose power in this storm. I suppose we still could, the wind is gusting. I have water drawn in the house and hot coffee in the thermos and laundry and dishes are all done up. The other thing I have is plenty of oil in the oil lamps and extra candles on hand if we should need them. A few weeks ago we lost power unexpectedly right before dark fell. Luckily I had finished chores and supper, so Bill and I settled in for a time of him reading and me knitting. Reading only requires light from the oil lamp and spinning and knitting don't really require light at all. It was peaceful and refreshing and quiet.

Since then, I have been reminded of how much less we really need to exist than what we have (and those of you who know us, know we live pretty simply!) I have even been enjoying some evenings with oil lamp light just because of the mood it puts me in. I have spent several lovely evenings reading or spinning or knitting or even doing some housework by this light. I was dusting the mantel a few nights ago and the soft light on these old books (some of our favorites) seemed beautiful to me:

(Okay, my family and friends who know me can stop laughing now and pick yourselves up off the floor at the thought of me doing any kind of housework, let alone dusting!)

When the electric bill comes in the mail or the propane truck delivers fuel for the furnace and hot water heater and leaves a bill that takes nearly one-quarter of our current monthly income, I get even more serious about wondering how much more we can live without!!! Now of course, we need heat and water...but what do we need beyond the basics we already have?

I am grateful for all that we have...all of the needs that God supplies. But I have been spending considerable time in thought and prayer about how we could live more frugally and self-sufficiently. Even in our already simple life here at Serenity Farms, we are wasteful. And that could change. It will change, in both big and small ways, over the coming year. Maybe you would like to follow along here at our blog to watch our changes, struggles and joys?

I have been inspired by a new friend and her family for most of this past year. If you have never visited the Maple Valley Farm blog, you really should! You don't have to aspire to be a farmer, or to live more simply, or go off grid as this family has to enjoy their love of God, family and farm. In our time, Bill and I have come across lots of folks striving to change their lives in a similar way. Sadly, sometimes it is as much a marketing plan as it is a life plan. Matt and Angie are not that way at all. They are honest, hard-working, humble, gracious and real in what they are doing! Most likely their successes are due to their love and faith in God and belief in their family. I am so blessed to have been able to spend some time with them and if you are ever able to, please do so. You won't be disappointed I'm sure! Stop by their blog or facebook and say hello. Angie had a funny post about losing power that actually inspired me to write this post.

Jesus said "I am the Light of the world"...John 8:12

Now we aren't planning to go as far off grid as the Maple Valley Farm family has, lol! But I really would like a working windmill (the old fashioned ones, not those airplane propeller looking modern ones!) to supply water. That part is probably a dream, but it does seem like this old farm could supply a lot of wood for a wood burning fireplace, and maybe even make use of the wood cook stove at the Round House? What about utilizing the gravity fed cistern and connected water lines at the barn? Hmmm...lots of ideas! Do you and your family have any ways you are changing or hoping to change to be more self-sufficient? I'd love to hear them!

It's Finally Here

The snow I wished for arrived over the weekend!

We didn't get walloped with the blizzards that hit all around us, but we got a few inches of the white stuff followed by howling winds and bitter wind chill temperatures. Still, the sun is shining this morning and the snow is fresh and bright. The house is warm and the coffee is hot ;)

Yesterday, in the midst of the storm hitting, I had help from the kids and grandkids putting the finishing touches on the winter barn preparations. LOL...Bill said we were about a week late getting it done, but we had to plan around work and school schedules. So with the teenager, the daughter and son-in-law and both little grandsons we got sheep moved (rams seperated from the breeding ewes and ewe lambs brought down to the big barn to join the ewe flock for winter); changed a few sheep coats that needed to be sized up; set up hay feeders for the winter months and put the windows in the barn to keep cold winds out. Oh, and Charlotte's foot is all healed up so she rejoined the flock after the ram was pulled out. The two rams are in tight quarters for a time so they can't injure or kill one another while they learn to deal with the fact that they are bachelors again for another year. Their winter living quarters are all ready for them, and I will run them outside in a few days.

The only thing left to do now is catch up some of the free ranging chickens and put them in their winter living quarters to keep them from pooping all over the sheep feeders and hiding their eggs where they will freeze before I can gather them.

After all the work outside, we came in and enjoyed a fine winter meal of roast pork and red skinned potatoes (thanks, Uncle Mike!) cooked up with onions and garlic, baked winter squash (oh my, this was as good as desert!), lima beans and then blueberry crisp for the actual dessert. What a joy and a priviledge to have family to share the work and the blessings! Bill and I truly are blessed.

I hope you all are tucked in snug and warm this December morning! I have water buckets to thaw out, but even in that I can be thankful. Thankful that I have water at hand...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Queen Charlotte the sheep

Charlotte, queen of our Corriedale flock, turned ten years old this week. She is our lead sheep in the flock, boss of the pack, and her bloodlines are in a good bit of our ewes. She has a finer than usual fleece, but thats okay with us! I took this picture in the barn, where she is having some R&R time. I noticed her limping the other day and when I checked her feet, found the outer pad on her left front was broken right off! Charlotte has shiny black hooves that are tough as nails and usually give her no problems but on the rough frozen ground she was having difficulty walking and is needing a little "coddling". She is not to happy about being away from the flock but she is in a pen where she can see them and some extra helpings of her favorite treats (think sheep cookies) help her accept the situation! In the photo below, she seems to be asking for more ;)

In an earlier post, I promised pictures of the Light Brahma chickens. I think they are even more beautiful than the Golden Lace Wyandottes. It doesn't really show here, but the black in their tail feathers shine green in the sunlight!

Isn't the rooster gorgeous? You might wonder why we would want to have so many roosters at Serenity Farms...we don't. We have a wonderful "senior" rooster, a Black Orpington that we are perfectly happy with. My laying hens were getting older and I wanted to replentish the flock with some younger girls so purchased the Golden Lace and Light Brahmas. Paid extra to get females...three of each breed. And got two hens and one rooster in each set! I understand that mistakes in sexing poultry can be made, but that seems like pretty high odds to me. So here we are with three distinct mini flocks. Anyway...

Oh and Amy asked about the ducks eggs, so I thought I would share this picture from a nest I found hidden last week. Along with being smart, the ducks seem really good at hiding their nest.

I hope you are enjoying seeing photos of some of our animals around the farm as much I am enjoying showing them to you!

The East and The West

Just a few days ago, I was able to capture these shots of the sun rising in the east over the pasture fields while looking to the west, over the big barn, the moon was setting. It was a beautiful testiment to God's majesty!

We remain basically "snowless" here in Michigan while all around us other northern states are up to their ears in the white stuff! These clouds produced a few flurries, but nothing lasting:

I know I'm different, but the lyrics of "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" keep running through my head!