Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today is the day ~

The day when our farm is reduced in size by half. When corn fields, and bean fields and hay field are no longer ours. A day as a farmer you know might one day come. But you don’t really acknowledge it in your heart of hearts until it’s there staring you in the face.

We’ve known of this for a month or better now, been planning for it, but I couldn’t find the words to speak about it. Or when I thought I did, emotion got the better of me and I couldn’t. In some ways we’re lucky – more so than many. We aren’t losing the land to foreclosure or fire, flood or drought, hurricane or tornado. It’s our own decision and one we are so grateful to God for being able to make. We are giving in to old(er) age and health. And a need to be debt free and a bit more secure than we are right now. We’re lucky that at least for the time being we will still have the Burnham Barn and Round House and Woods and some acres around our daughters house. We’ll only be selling farm ground. Only farm ground?!?

Only what we see when we stand in our daughters yard and look north, what the sale bill calls “Parcel One” ~

Or when you stand in the yard and look south, at “Parcel Two” ~

When you come out of the woods looking to the east and the Burnham Barn and you see all of this ~

From the Burnham Barn looking west and then north again, with daughter Patty's piece at the far end of the lower photo beyond the hay field ~

Only farm ground. I think not. It feels more like a death, it’s that profound of a loss. You feel like you have failed the land somehow, like you haven’t been able to keep it safe and part of the family. You grieve. You really and truly grieve.

Other farmers especially know how you feel. Its been evidenced by the phone calls and visits we've been receiving especially over the past few days as the sale looms closer. “Just wanted to see how you are doing” “Is there anything I can do to help?” “Do you need anything, just let me know. I can be there if you need me to” “How ‘ya doing, Doc?” “Do you need me to drop off a pie?” (Yes, as farmers we always associate food with comfort and rightly so!) You can tell by the hugs and the handshakes you get in the grocery store, coffee house and barber shop.  Farm friends, and farm family. If  you have ever had an attachment to five acres or fifty or five hundred, you understand it.

It has fed our livestock and it has fed us, both physically and spiritually for a long time. Now its time that it do so in a bigger way. And we’re thankful for the opportunity.

Like all grief and loss, time will help ease the painful sting. We’ll keep our eyes focused on God and the direction He continues to lead us in. We’ll work harder and hopefully smarter and more efficiently with what we have left to farm…our wee house and barn and pastures on the west side of the Burnham property. We’ll still enjoy the Round House and Woods and our children and grandchildren and beyond, God willing!

But for today – at least for today, if you are reading this, will you remember us in prayer as we say goodbye to this dear friend? Especially for my husband, who knows every single square inch of that dirt, where every stone in the stone pile came from. Especially for him.

And if you're reading this and have a similar story to tell, I would love to hear it if you would like to share.  Just drop us an email or leave a comment.  I'm not sharing this because I want anyone to feel sorry for us, not at all.  We are able to make this choice with a lot of thought, and planning and prayer.  And though it may not have been our first choice, if we had been able to do it otherwise, it is still the right one for us at this time of our lives.  So no, I don't share looking for sympathy but only to help ease the sadness and help us to look forward from here.

God Bless ~

Monday, September 26, 2011

Last Weeks Work

It was busy, it was frantic, it was fun and it was productive!  I can't say enough about our wonderful family and friends who joined in to help Bill and me with some fall farm projects...we really, really are blessed beyond measure.  We got to visit, we got to eat and we got to work and see some pretty great results (I get excited about a clean barn.  Wish I could say the same about a clean house!)

So, I'll just share some random photos from those lovely days.  They probably won't mean much to anyone but me, but it is another look at what happens around the small farm - at least around our farm ;)

A lot of thought went into making these old box stall areas more functional for sheep.  I couldn't be happier with the changes and I think it will be a lot easier to work with

The ducks were quite unsettled by all the activity and kept watch from a safe distance

Small trains, small tractors and small boys were everywhere!  Our fourth (and future) generation of farmers ;)

Emptied compost piles....
New manure piles (with grandsons shown for scale)....

All add up to a fresh clean barn for winter!
Of course all good work begins with planning and strategies, right?  And we had plenty of that going on...
Actually, I think this may have been football talk ;)

The "compost committee" (hmmm, might have been football talk as well! Go Steelers!)

My Dad and my Husband, working on making my barn work a lot easier!
Our thanks and love to everyone who helped out again....Dad, Michael, Devin, Mark, Nakia, Mason, Elliot, Eric, Wayne, Bryce, Austin, Laurie, Dakota and Jim.  Alex is usually here to be part of the "fun" but he is busy with college life now.  Also thanks to Randy for the use once more of the skid steer and Mary for the great barbecue meatballs that added to our lunch!  We just couldn't do it without you guys!!!

Sunday afternoon found us finishing up the weekend in a special way that served as another reminder of all we have to be thankful for.  Daughter Patty had asked Bill to be part of her 4-H group meeting, being held outdoors at the Burnham Farm near the Round House.  They will be doing a special project this year about "barns" and Bill was going to talk about the history of those two special buildings...

Grandson Dylan and several neighborhood children are part of this 4-H group!

The great orator sharing history and memories
It was beautiful and somewhat poignant to sit in the shadow of a great oak tree, the silhouette of the Round House and the shelter of the giant but tired old Burnham barn.  Our own farm days are changing and there is that sense of time rushing by, probably much faster than we want it to.  But at the same time as that change there are moments like these and many others we were able to share over the weekend that remind of how much in life is unchangeable - at least in our hearts and memories.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Barn Raising? Barn Cleaning! And Breakfast...

Most mornings for the past week, breakfast has been a succulent and delicious Brandywine tomato from the garden.  Sometimes I might slop up the juices with a hearty chunk of homemade bread, toasted.  Two nights of frost here in mid-Michigan have pretty much brought this to an end and Wednesday afternoon Elliot and I picked all of the tomatoes from the garden.  Yesterday morning I was up at 4 am, canning!

This weekend will be a wonderful, busy and tiring time of barn work!  Bill and I will have a houseful of grandkids, children, nephews, friends and even my Dad to help us get the barn ready for winter.  I will be running back and forth between the barn and the kitchen ;)

I will be back here (hopefully) on Monday to share some of the work and good times.  We hope you have a great weekend, too!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Late Summer Passing

The summer, once it finally arrived, seems to be passing by so quickly! A lot going on in our daily lives, so I haven't posted much. 

The giant phlox continues to amaze, blooming now into its third month!
I thought I would catch you up with some summer photos.  Remember in my last post I showed you a wagon load of straw?  Well, thanks to some fine help (ranging in age from 4 to 8 to 33 - grandsons, daughter and son-in-law!) we unloaded it all and got the wagon cleaned right up....

Next, the second cutting of hay.  I wanted twice as much in the barn this year as I had last year (I think hay could be a bit scarce this winter).  I was so relieved when this scene ~
My husband keeping watch on the progress
Turned into this scene ~

Before this scene rolled in!

I even got to do rake part of the field!  Raking is turning the swath of cut hay over - flipping it almost - to let the fresh air and sunshine dry or cure the grasses so it doesn't mold and spoil in the bale.  You do this after cutting but before baling.  I love raking hay, its one of my favorite jobs, with plenty of barn swallows alongside for companionship, gobbling up bugs...
This tractor belongs to our friend, the hay farmer.  You can see the sky getting darker back behind the Burnham barn!
Four year old Elliot is glad the hay is in the barn, too!  We now have hay (both first and second cuttings) and straw filling both mows of the barn as well as this last load on the barn floor.  You can see we go all the way to the beams and nearly to the lower roof line - woohoo!!!  There may a third cutting of hay yet, but we won't keep any of that. 

A 2011 lamb can't wait for me to spread this straw around!
Having the top of the barn full of hay and straw not only will feed the animals this winter but will provide much needed insulation to the lower part of the barn.  This will be especially important this year because we are planning to lamb much earlier than usual - February, if the rams do their job!  Brrrr....

Along with all of this, we have had a bit of a garden to keep up with and some other projects I want to share more about in another post.  Now, suddenly it's September.  My youngest grandson (above) started preschool  (how?  when?  the time goes faster and faster....)

This week the barn swallows lined up in rows on the wires.  And now they are gone....
They left early this year.