farming, Uncategorized

A Sight to See

I had some very dear friends of mine come visit the farm the other day- she was in town to visit her father and brought her daughter along. We walked all over our 18 acres, up and down the hills, across the creek and through the chicken coop. We saddled up Sadie’s mare and I led them down the road. We watched the sunset from the field with the red barn, talking the whole time. It was wonderful to see them. And I hope they understand why I left a perfectly good life in Savannah Georgia to live on a farm full of mud, animals, mud, poop, mud and hay.

It made me want to see the farm from their eyes, to try and picture experiencing it for the first time. I grew up visiting the farm, we would come up over Christmas or on Summer Break. It’s always been beautiful to me, it has always felt a bit like coming home.But I can tell you what I thought when I first moved here, when I knew it would really be my home. It was something along the lines of “I have a loootta work to do” – in a good way. Inside the house, we had some major bathroom and kitchen renovations ahead. There was wallpaper in the bathroom, dining room, and the living room.We had way too much furniture in the house (which is not a bad problem to have), and it just wasn’t working.

Outside the house, I wanted to be in 12 places at once. I would start sorting one thing, and halfway through get caught up with another. I would look around and make mental notes like “Okay we need to re-string that barbed wire fence, I need to take that old tiller for scrap, which reminds me of the trailer frame behind the coop that needs to go too. I’ll have to get the trailer lights fixed. I can get a new shovel while I’m at Lowe’s, Sadie can go with me and we can pick out paint for the dining room. That toilet next to the chicken coop needs to go to the dump, so does that old Jacuzzi my Uncle salvaged from cleaning out a house years ago. I should mow. I should weed-whack the front bank. I should clean fence-rows. I should gather fire wood. It’s past lunch, I need to eat something.”

You get the idea. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to do anything and everything all at once. The first few months I lived here, I had enough money saved and didn’t have to find a job immediately. Those June days were long and full and wonderful. I learned a lot. I learned to wear the right boots for whatever job I needed to accomplish. I learned to drink a lot of water, a lot of Gatorade. It didn’t wake me long to discover that no matter how efficient I was, I had to stop and eat at some point.

There wasn’t really a routine at first, it was just all-out cleaning, sorting, and trips to the county dump. Sadie didn’t have to be at work until 11, so we would make breakfast for Nana, eat together, and feed the animals. Once she left, I went out the back door and stayed busy until 9pm. When she got home, we would eat together and I would tell her and Nana what I got into that day. It usually involved a trip to the dump, scrap yard, or thrift store, cleaning the barn, mowing, burning brush,going to the feed store, getting gasoline for the ATV, stopping by Lowe’s, you name it. After we ate I would stretch out in Nana’s bed, bone tired, and head spinning with what I could do the next day. Nana would pat my leg, smile and nod. She was married to a farmer – she knew.

I don’t want it to seem like Sadie and Jack did not take care of the farm. Don’t read this and think I came to the farm and saved it. It saved me. Sadie an Jack farmed together longer than I have been alive. They put out huge gardens, canned it all, cut hay off the pasture, raised battle calves, had goats, chickens, and a team of Belgian horses. They cut and hauled wood, my Aunt cooked for every church pot-luck, and my Uncle was a master carpenter. They were a force to be reckoned with, and I would not be here without them.

After my Grandfather died, my Nana moved to the farm. Then my Uncle retired and his health began to fail. He had COPD, which is a horrible thing. Sadie worked full time, cooked and cleaned and took care of both of them, and still managed to raise chickens and keep horses. I don’t know how she did it – I certainly couldn’t. Then my Uncle James moved in to help care for the farm, and really started bringing the farm back to life.

We lost both of my Uncle’s within 3 months of each other. That’s when I knew, I knew that I needed to move here and help. And I haven’t regretted one minute of the crazy, sweaty, muddy, blistered and splintered thing. Sadie has taught me so much in these past 20-odd months. She is a rock, and this place would not still be here without her.

My friends visiting didn’t know much of this, they didn’t see the old tractor we sold, the old go-carts I scrapped for metal, the dog-lot fence I ripped down one Friday afternoon with a crow-bar. They didn’t see the hole in the shower wall, the floral wallpaper, or the old blue leather couch that we replaced with a beautiful antique one. The hours my mother spent hanging paintings and curtains, cleaning window sills with toothbrushes, or all the gallons of paint my family went through helping me paint over old paneling, yellow walls and patched drywall.

They didn’t see the old trees or stumps we cut down, hauled, and burned. A pasture full of sleek Quarter Horses that my Uncle left behind, the 14 horses we sold to other families, or his big green truck in the driveway. I hate that they didn’t get to meet my Nana, her beautiful blue eyes or her soft, wrinkled hands holding theirs.

But they got to see the young green grass coming up from the ground.They saw the trees in bloom, and a house that has become our new home. They saw my 40-some chickens, our happy cats and dogs, our 3 shedding horses and our fat donkey. They saw a full and rushing creek, the knockout roses we planted around the house, the shed stocked with wood for winter, and a pantry stocked with canned veggies from our garden.

I hope they saw the beauty that I see. I hope they understand why I moved here, why I could never imagine leaving, and what I mean when I saw this place saved me. There is still more to do, there always is, and that’s part of the reason I love it. I am needed, I am grounded, and I am responsible for this land and these animals. I want to build stalls in the barn, I want to build a new chicken coop, to re-side our house and plant more roses. There are more callouses and splinters to come, and I am looking forward to every single one of them.

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.