farming, Uncategorized

A Time to be born, A Time to die.

Today marks the one year anniversary of my best friends bringing their daughter into the world, and the passing of my Uncle James. I have been thinking of the verses in Ecclesiastes that say “there is a time and a season for everything under the sun; a time to be born, a time to die, a time to rejoice and a time to mourn.”

My Mom called on my way home from work and told me about James passing, that he had a heart attack and the Doctor’s did everything they could. I was so shocked, I pulled into a metered parking spot on the road and turned off the car. She told me to call Sadie, I did, then I called his daughter, Austyn. I called Mom back and she had already made arrangements for us to go up that weekend. I had just started my new job, working for a cork company and helping project manage for a local carpenter.

I sat in my car for a long time. It was raining, I watched it run down my windshield. I listened to the drops falling from the big, beautiful oak trees above, on the roof of my car. I don’t know how long I sat there, but by the time I pulled into the garage, I knew with everything inside of me that I would move to the farm. To help Sadie, to learn how to make a living there, to pick up where Jack and James so suddenly left off.

It was not until later that evening that I found out my best friend had her daughter that same day. I was sitting on their living room floor when they told me they were expecting, I had just gotten back from a weekend in Tennessee and was telling them about the horses and everything. I asked how their weekend was, she looked at her husband, then looked at me and said “Well, we’re pregnant!” I jumped up and said “Why did you let me talk about horses so long?” We hugged and cried, happy tears, it was an answer to so many prayers.

I’m heading to Savannah tomorrow to see those friends again, to celebrate the one year their daughter has been with us, a sassy, charming grinning little girl. I am still amazed at how everything is so connected.

Sadie got my cousins today, James’ children, they are on Spring Break this week. We went over to Uncle Rick’s house for dinner and swapped stories about James. When he worked at Dixie Stampede, when he forgot to tighten his saddle before cutting cows, when he took me back to the Livestock Center to pick up Tug. I was so excited I was about to come out of my skin. He didn’t say anything, just smiled and slowly shook his head. He knew exactly how I felt, the situation didn’t need any words and he realized that.

There was a story I thought of at dinner that I didn’t want to share out loud, it’s still a little raw for me. It was 2 summers ago, I came up from Savannah on a weekend and we had a wonderful time riding, laughing, eating, and enjoying the farm. I had Tug out on a halter and rope, letting him pick the good grass under the pecan tree, by the old milk shed. He was sleek and glossy, his coat shiny from brushing. I was just sitting in the shade, watching him, trying to soak it all in and take back with me. James came outside and sat with me, faded jeans, old blue t-shirt, his grey hair in a low pony tail and his cowboy hat on his head.

We didn’t say anything for a while, just listened to Tug eat. I sighed, and he said “It’s hard having your heart in two places.” I wanted so badly to bring the farm to Savannah, or bring Savannah to the farm, to somehow bring my two worlds together so I could have both. I hadn’t realized that I would be living here, not until James was gone.

I miss him, every day. His voice, his hands that knew what to do for a jumpy horse. His big green truck and his Alabama CD pouring through the speakers above the sound of the wind. Whenever I see a hawk wheeling overhead, I think of him.

Tomorrow we drive to the mountains to visit his grave. He is surrounded by the most beautiful ranges of the Smoky Mountains, which may still have snow on the tops. His heeler, Abbie, will go with us. I will take a small jar of dirt from the barn to leave behind. Just so he can have a piece of us with him too.


farming, Uncategorized

7.2 Cubic Feet

I don’t think I’ve had too many rough nights here, other than the dogs barking at the occasional opossum, or that one time Casey didn’t come home until almost dawn. Sleep is good on a farm, it’s the reward for a job well done. It means you have a leg-up on tomorrow because whatever you accomplished today must have been significant for you to feel this tired. I’ve been in bed for almost 30 minutes, it feels good to be still. There are 3 cats on my bed, bathing, all is well.

My parents say I’ve always been a good sleeper (See my Baby Book, early years, my Dad wrote ‘she is very hard to wake up in the morning’), but I don’t know when I have ever slept as good as I do at the farm. Sadie got home a little while ago and I didn’t even get up – we had a big day yesterday.

Saturday morning I woke up when Lowe’s called and informed me that our new dryer was on the truck, we were on the schedule for delivery that afternoon. Our dryer died, I know I haven’t mentioned that, or much of anything, recently. Nana has been in and out of the hospital, my Mom came for a week to help and I started a new job. So anyway, our dryer died and Mom helped me decide on a new one. I got a new toilet too, Randy installed it yesterday, and left the old toilet outside the kitchen window. I actually considered planting something in it and leaving it there. I don’t know when I will have time for a trip to the dump!

Sadie and I had wheaties for breakfast, which I have spent my whole life hating until recently (along with sweet potatoes – go figure). She went to work and I went out to feed and water and make sure everyone was still standing. Uncle Rick stopped by and brought us a jar of local honey with the comb still in it. He stuck around until the dryer arrived, the delivery guys were cracking jokes about me making them a sandwich.

If my Mom was still in town, I’m positive she would have made them one. I laughed along, but I don’t think they got the hint: Muddy rubber boots, jeans with dirt on them, a shirt with pieces of hay on it, and a messy pony tail are not the best recipe for “making you a sandwich”. If I had cared to make them one, which I didn’t, it would have definitely contained mud, hay, or hair. Or maybe all three, we will never know.

Our new dryer is bee-utiful. It’s a Samsung, it matches the washer we bought last summer, and holds 7.2 cubic feet of damp towels, a few weeks worth of laundry, or even a horse blanket. And it’s quiet as a mouse – definitely worth all the sandwich talk.

Anyway so once that was sorted, I got Zoom out and let him graze in the bright green spring grass that sprung up behind the wood shed. It was cool and windy out, a grey sky, but still beautiful. The chickens pecked at the seeds the birds dropped from the feeder, the cats were lounging as they love to do, and I listened to Zoom munching.

Around 3 or so, Travis pulled up with his two kids, Sadie called him earlier this week and asked him to cut the grass and weed-eat the banks that drop down to the road. I love being outside, and I love working on the yard, but it was a relief to know he was going to tackle the big stuff. The kids and I picked up sticks, raked leaves – which they had to roll around in first – and I got to break in my new loppers.

I may have gotten carried away…Any sapling smaller than 3 inches around went down. Boxwood, as beautiful as they can be, spring up in the oddest places. They throw out runners and then before you know it, there’s a forest where a field should be. We were outside until dark, it was great.

I helped blow off the driveway, then we all went inside and had chicken and dumplings. You haven’t lived until you have eaten Sadie’s chicken and dumplings, I’m sorry. His daughter and I shared a big bowl, then they loaded up and went home. I checked the animals before I called it a night, throwing the horses a little extra hay because it was getting chilly, then the dogs, cats an I went inside.

You never know what a day may hold on the farm, but you are guaranteed lots of fresh air, a great meal, and an even better nights sleep. Goodnight all, hope your weekend was full of sunshine and working appliances.


Gloves and Pliers

A few weekends ago it was sunny, cool and breezy. A wonderful break from the sleet, rain and clouds. The birds were all singing and the cats were out chasing each other and climbing trees. Sadie was off work, we had a lovely slow morning then suited up in our most comfortable farm shirts and muddy boots and went outside.

Our house was built in the 40’s, I feel like I have mentioned that before. Uncle Jack made some editions in the late 70’s, building 2 bedrooms and a bathroom that connect to the main dining room by a long hallway. Our house is shaped like an L, in the elbow of that L we have the ‘dog lot’ which also holds Nana’s patio, the pump house, and the spigot where I water the chickens from. At the end of the lot is the shop, where we keep mismatched tool sets, old pictures, and furniture we don’t know what to do with.

The dog lot was hastily built by a neighbor who apparently had other things on his mind. One side is made of chain-link panels that used to be part of a kennel. The other side is a long roll of chain link that was wired to the existing T-post fence. The opposite side contains a gate and two, bent hog panels (made of 5 inch squares) and the front fence is more chain link that was cut at an angle, making one side taller than the other, then wired to a gate that was wired to a board that was nailed to the house.

Like I said, he must have had other things on his mind. The whole entire lot looked awful. Thursday evening, Sadie and I stayed up too late talking about fencing in the front yard, which is well over an acre, to put horses on in the summer when the grass is thick. If we put in a wooden split rail fence with a light wire backing, it could hold horses AND dogs. A friend once told us “you country girls sure get excited about the smallest things” – and he was absolutely right.

Friday after breakfast found Sadie and I at the front gate wearing gloves, wielding hammers, a tire iron, a chisel, wire cutters, a flat head screwdriver and a crowbar. Holding up the chain-link disaster were two telephone poles, cut in half, that our neighbor nailed the chain-link to with fence pins. The pins are about as long as your thumb, shaped in a U, with teeth on the outside so you can nail wire down or keep it from uncoiling. Extremely useful when building fences, absolutely awful when trying to remove them.

After several unsuccessful attempts, we got some kind of system going to leverage the pins out of the poles, freeing one end of the chain-link roll. Every few feet there was a T-post holding the chain-link up by 4 or 5 different strands of wire. Once we clipped those, the whole roll fell to the ground, it seemed almost relieved to be laying flat, out of sight.

Pulling the T-posts out of the ground was like something out of an I Love Lucy episode. Fortunately, it had been raining so much lately that the ground was fairly soft. We rocked the post back and forth, side to side, back and forth, enough to wiggle it free and pull it from the ground where it was placed years ago.

The only reason I am going into so much detail is to try and convey WHY I have been working on this fairly small dog lot, surrounded by the most ramshackle, redneck fencing system I have ever seen. I spent the entire weekend out there with gloves on and a pair of pliers in my pocket, twisting, cutting, pulling and yanking that horrible excuse for a fence out of the ground.

When the sun went down, I went out with the crowbar and a headlamp. I think I was afraid that if I didn’t get it completely gone, it would somehow grow back, or sneak up on me in the night. The last pole was damp from not getting much sunlight, so the fence came down somewhat easily. I think it knew I had conquered it. It knew the farm wasn’t big enough for the both of us.




Twenty-Five Cents

Well I turned 25. I realize I could have posted a thoughtful, sentimental something on my years that I spent, you know, alive so far. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about it. It does feel rather definite, more substantial than 19 or 23. But the 25 years are made up of so many moments where I forget to remember my age, or what time it is, or if my socks match. Yesterday, I woke up with hair in my mouth, sheet marks on my arm and a cat laying across my stomach. The sun was just beginning to creep up, the whole sky was a deep blue with pastel golds and pinks. It was stunning, it sort of shocked me awake. I didn’t remember that I was 25 that day, I did remember that I would need coffee to fully appreciate the sunrise, so I slid the limp cat over and went to the kitchen to pour myself a cup.

What I’m trying to say is this life, my life, is the best I could have ever imagined. Would I have changed a few things over my 25 years? Yes, but they would only be small things, like not locking my keys in the car or leaving my shoes at home by accident. Or a few nights in college where Becca had to reel me back in. I would not change my family, my life, or who I have become over all this time. Not for a moment.

It’s actually kind of amazing that it only took me 25 years to discover the things I love. To understand why I am good at mucking stalls, but not changing diapers, or why I love the country instead of the city. This crazy life, the farming and working and living to see the sunrise over our old tobacco barn, it’s more than I could have dreamed for.

Anyway, enough sentimentality. That’s my 2 cents worth. Or, 25 cents would be more appropriate I suppose. Here’s to many more.