Life Mucks

IMG_3039     It’s the end of January and it is still raining which is to be expected when you live on the edge of the Olympic Rainforest in Washington State. After my last post I committed myself to choosing a different attitude when facing the trials excessive mud brings to the farm yard. An animal’s health is dependent on dry, warm, and clean places for sleep and feeding. Our goat’s hooves and digestive tracts can especially be adversly affected by the lack of these conditions so, I pulled on my muck boots, grabbed a wheelbarrow full of hay and with pitchfork in hand set out to battle.

Before we get to that though, I first have to say, my first year in this farming adventure I quickly realized that what you put on your feet is incredibly important. I wore my cheap $12 pair of rubber boots non-stop, the first summer to help protect from the berry bushes and then throughout the fall and winter to slush through the mud. Not only did I quickly wear through them I developed some pretty calloused and painful toes. I chose more wisely the next time and bought myself a pair of heavy duty Muck Boots. I was a little hesitant to shell out the $100 but, the comfort and support through this Fall/Winter season has been pain free and greatly appreciated.  They say that Muck Boots go with everything especially pajama pants and I will admit I have confirmed that a few times myself, so no judgment here.

With my feet properly shod to attack the four inches of muck at the gate entrance to the goat pasture in my sights, I set off with sheer determination. I began grabbing heavy loads of wet straw from the compost pile to fill in the deeper holes, swinging back and forth until the area was covered. I then moved fir branches from one area to another to form a base for the goats to stand on while they wait by the gate for me to come feed them. If only they would choose to wait a little further back in the pasture we would not have the mud problem we do. They must believe that crowding the gate is what makes the food lady come faster, so there they wait, creating a deeper, messier area of muck. I trudged back to the house feeling somewhat satisfied at my temporary solution, at least until I could get a truckload of wood chips from a local tree cutting service.

I woke up that night in the worst pain I can ever remember having, just short of childbirth. I seriously thought I might be having a heart attack, a panic attack or a combination of both. Seeing that I have not experienced either of these I couldn’t rule them out so, I broke down and  woke my husband up. We decided that I had caused a pretty hefty strain on my core muscles from my excessive pitchfork work. I will be turning 50 this October and this is the first time I felt old. You just get to the point in life that you have overcome personal struggles and gained a bit of wisdom and maturity from your life experiences just to face the fact your body might not be able to keep up with your ambitions.

I suppose this is one of those occasions where one might be tempted to say “It sucks”, although I wasn’t allowed to use that expression as a kid. I was told that “only vacuums suck” and my all-time favorite mom response, “Where there is a will there is a way”. Life is filled with many difficult circumstances and trying situations, it begins at birth and will continue to our last breath. The attitude we choose and the truth we embrace is the key to enjoying fully the life we have. On the farm you know each day you are going to deal with refuse and some days disease or death.  It is a difficult yet inevitable part of the process; a beautiful cycle that brings the joy of growth, discovery and new birth.

Farm life has taught me to face each day with expectation instead of dread and to be grateful of even the smallest victories. Most importantly, I have learned the importance of choosing quality work clothes , the most valuable article being a positive attitude.    Put on those “Life Mucks” and tackle what is in front of you today, it may cost more than you think you have but in the end you will have a great reward.

Rocks in the Road

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I sincerely intended to write on a regular basis and post on this blog in a consistent manner; however November came and with it the rain. I remind you that I am a California native born and raised, transplanted into this fertile and damp Pacific Northwest. I am not complaining mind you, I absolutely love the rain. What I dislike is the mud, the slimy, slippery, suck you down type of mud. I am pretty confident most people would share my reticence for donning the raincoat and muck boots to trudge through an ankle deep mixture of manure , straw and mud to complete the daily chores. Even so, I do it because diligence and the love of what I do compels me to.

It is through these daily struggles I find inspiration and gain strength to persevere. These difficulties or proverbial “rocks in the road” have in the past, been a source of frustration and distraction in my life. I have wasted too much time and attention wishing they weren’t there or planning my way around them. The crazy thing is; it is often these very obstacles which can keep us focused. These daily trials or “rocks” can actually provide the traction we need to maneuver through the mud in our lives.

Mud and I haven’t always been at odds, there was a time in my childhood it inspired me to create the most glorious mud cakes with a dark mud frosting. I spent hours squeezing my hands through it’s squishy consistency and daydreaming of the endless possibilities that could be created from it. Maybe it even inspired my brief business interlude as a cake decorator. As an adult I have even enjoyed an occasional relaxing mud mask. Mud is not my enemy but I have allowed it to be an excuse from moving forward.

It is January and it’s still raining, the mud is magnificently disgusting. I can stand still and let it suck my creativity down into its depths or I can grab the rocks around me and arrange them into a mosaic of sorts. It is my decision, I know it’s often a difficult choice to see things with a positive perspective, but I am giving it my best effort. I want to stomp confidently down onto each rock along this muddy path in a victorious procession forward.

Perhaps, I will even stop along the way and make a mud pie.

Birthdays, Ducks, and Rabbits.

I turned 49 ten days ago, and it is weird. I really don’t feel much different on the inside as when I was younger. Obviously, I know more know then at say, 10 years old, and I have a greater ability to reason and make better decisions but I am still the same “me” I have always been. I don’t “feel” old, growing up I thought 50 was old, and as I quickly approach this milestone I don’t have that same opinion. I have been thinking quite a bit about how much I have changed and then again, just how much I am still the same.

I don’t have the best memory but I know I have always loved animals. I can still remember getting to bring home the class rabbit from my kindergarten for the summer, it made a lasting impression on me; animals were a responsibility and a thing to be cared for. I have carried this lesson with me as I cared for baby birds fallen from a nest or bottle-fed abandoned kittens. Somehow I think I was innately designed for farm life, and it is a very sweet thing to be able to finally step into this endeavor after so many years dreaming about it.

Even though my  birthdays in the past weren’t always the best memories for me, they are now the best excuse to add new animals to the farm. Last year my daughter gave me farm dog and this year, Mr. Carson the holland lop rabbit. We were on our way to get birthday facials and pedicures, (you know after a summer on the farm this is as much necessary as it is extravagant) and we stopped into the local tractor store for some duck food. This was also a necessity since my husband had gifted me with three new Call Ducks the day before and of course we are never quite prepared for new arrivals.

IMG_2692I had been rabbit sitting the week before for my daughter and was explaining to her how much I was missing having Mr. Pancakes, (who is seriously the cutest mini lop) at our house, when lo and behold in the middle of the store were two young people selling their rabbits.

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I bet you already guessed that one of those rabbits went home with me huh? It was perfect, my daughter had just said how she couldn’t find the right gift, and voila! Thankfully we had enough time to take him to her house and put him in an empty hutch and still make it to our appointment on time. His name is Mr. Carson, inspired by his tuxedo look and my love for Downton Abbey. Maybe someday he will get his own Mrs. Hughes, I can’t say for sure but I am pretty confidant he will.

So as much as things change as I get older, they also stay the same. I still experience the  excitement of adding a new pet, maybe even more so than when I was younger. It is still a blissful thing for me to find an egg in the nesting box or to feel the soft little nose of a baby goat as it nibbles the grain from my hand. Aging is a funny thing, you can let it take hold of you and use it to disqualify you from many of the best things in life or it can set you free to embrace its experiences with a new understanding and exuberance. I don’t believe that youth is wasted on the young, I think perhaps maturity may corrupt the mature person from seeing life as they should: through a child-like perspective.

Sticking To It

It is always easy for me to get something started, it’s the follow through that often trips me up. My mind is usually racing through a multitude of projects, ideas and daily to do’s so, I can get easily distracted or worse, bored. I do persevere in my commitments to others, as in my marriage or promises I make to other people but for some reason I have struggled with sticking to my personal goals. I am learning to pace my stride better so I don’t burn out due to getting overwhelmed. What I have learned from my past failures: expecting too much progress in the beginning can result in discouragement or burnout.

After we moved into our home last year the first fruit tree we planted was a Granny Smith Apple tree to celebrate our 30th year anniversary. A year later we had a harvest of one apple, only one. If I had expected a much larger bounty or a full size tree to hang a tire swing in I would have been gravely dissapointed or possibly angry. Thankfully I had a practical idea of the outcome this little tree would produce. I have to remind myself of this fact as I am at the starting line of this new endeavor of blogging. Initially I imagined I would write on here everyday about my daily project on Instagram,”the Smith Farmhouse Experiment” in which I highlight something new on our farm, but I quickly realized I would be making a huge mistake . I fear my writing would be hurried and lacking real thoughtfulness or I would have to ignore some important priorities on the farm if I forced myself to such a quick pace.

My goal is to take the time to recognize the new and beautiful things happening all around me, to learn from them and allow these blessings to help me grow in godly character. I have a deep desire to encourage others and to share my personal experiences to give God glory for all that He has accomplished in my life. I know this is a  a task which will require patience on my part because it requires me to change my mindset from sprinting to taking a slow contemplative stroll. I am so thankful to be at this place in life where I can see the beauty of the moment where once I would have rushed past and missed it. I will choose to persevere in writing and honor a commitment I made to myself so I can learn to enjoy my life to the fullest.  I am sticking to it, my mind is set and I am prepared to endure until the end, with joy.

New You, New Do

I am probably quite similar to a most women in the way I have not made taking care of myself a priority. I suppose we convince ourselves of our need to be somewhere else or to do something perceived more important; these ideas often takes precedence over caring for our physical and mental needs. I have been married for 31 years, raised three children, homeschooled, worked in a busy church office and participated in ministry most my adult life; I have been running at full speed for as long as I can remember. A person can only neglect themselves for so long before it takes a heavy toll. I made excuses for myself and allowed myself to believe I would get all those bad habits under control “someday” when life slowed down.

Five years ago we left California and moved to a rural county in Western Washington; my life seemed to go from 100 miles per hour to 10. It took a couple years to find the right property to build our future on, but we finally found the right place. I was in the place I had dreamed of for years surrounded by so much blessing; however I felt hopeless inside. I had no solid reason to feel this way so, I reasoned my emotions on hormones or pre-menopause symptoms. I was doing active hard physical work on the farm but I kept gaining more and more weight. I was exhausted , and depressed. I would look in the mirror and not recognize myself, I felt lost and trapped in a foreign body and mind. It is a frightening feeling to be so disconnected with your own self, but I worked really hard to portray my old self.

Fortunately, I asked my husband to make me an appointment with a new naturopathic Dr. in our area. Dr. Taylor found me to be low in vitamin D, a low thyroid production and obese. I faced the facts head on and embraced a new diet, began taking a thyroid replacement and vitamin D supplements. Within two weeks I began to feel hopeful again, as if someone opened the window of my mind and let the sunshine in. I share my personal story to encourage anyone who may be struggling with symptoms like mine to not put off taking care of yourself. I am so thankful to look to the future with a healthy mind and body so I can enjoy living on my little farm with  hope and joy. I even decided to ditch the muck boots and work clothes for the day to get a a new hair style. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our families and our farm is to do the best thing for ourselves.

A Great Perspective

A year ago I had never experienced the deep love and friendship a dog can bring into your life. Sure, I’ve heard a dog is man’s best friend and I had seen numerous movies highlighting the bond between a pooch and their person. I am not an insensitive person by any means, I even teared up at the end of the movie “Homeward Bound” when Shadow limped down the hill to reunite with his boy, more than once I might add. Despite all this, the dog /human relationship had eluded me. If I am honest I will say there were even occasions I rolled my eyes towards those who willingly endured the hair, slobber, barking, and destruction in their lives without even the sense of annoyance on their part. I quickly learned that you have to be careful with holding onto your opinions to tightly.

Last October my daughter gifted me with a Great Pyrenees puppy for my birthday, and that not so tiny ball of white fur has grown and grown, not just in physical size but in the affect he has in my daily life. I have learned to move much slower and to contemplate my surrounding as I go. As a California native I was used to doing everything fast and getting things almost immediately. I grew up living in the fast lane, literally; I like constant motion but I don’t enjoy life moving so fast you don’t have time to enjoy the scenery. There is so much to be missed in a culture of immediate gratification, patience isn’t seen as a virtue, it is a means to cause frustration to those who want their answer or response, right now thank you! Raising a puppy requires patience, and a lot of it. For me, it also meant standing in the rain and cold while he learned to go to the bathroom outside and the diligent repetitive training it takes to have an obedient and responsive companion instead of an unruly terrifying beast.

This past year my patience has grown immensely and the bond I share with my dog has altered the perspective on more than a few of my former opinions;  more importantly it has realigned my overall way of approaching life. Farmdog and I take a walk around our property daily, we don’t hurry, we stop and smell the flowers and he thinks it is important to smell everything else as well.  We notice our surroundings and investigate the little changes that happen daily. Tonight as we sat at the top of the hill overlooking our little blue farmhouse and the valley beyond, I was overcome with the simple, gratifying contentment of being quiet and with doing nothing but enjoying the company of my furry friend. I am pretty positive we won’t be the subject of a heart warming book or movie but learning to slow down and enjoy the simple joys of life has impacted me deeply. I encourage anyone out there who is caught up in the busyness of life and needs to slow down; take a walk with a dog. It might not change anything but then again, it might change everything.

 

Seasons and Seasonings

Autumn is not the easiest season to discover new things on my daily walks around the property, I could have chosen springtime and there would have been an abundance of subjects. I chose fall simply because it is my favorite time of year, I was born in October and I love the colors, pumpkins, crisp air and the smoke from fire places that hangs low to the ground. As I walk around the property I have to look a bit closer to see the changes but they are there. There are little decorations of the seasons that nature displays for those who care enough to look a little closer.

At this time of the year the tall grass gets weighed down by the rains and heavy fog; the leaves begin to fall from the trees revealing sights that had been hidden just a few days before. Our property was heavily overgrown when we bought it a year ago and we have worked to clear areas for future grazing; as we do, we uncover little hints of the past and those who were here before. One of my favorite discoveries is a set of two old -growth Spruce stumps with the marks of turn of the century logging. When you investigate closer, you notice a number of younger trees of different varieties growing in and on these stumps. The circle of seasons have no start and finish, they continue to come and go bringing with them death and life, new growth and rotting leaves and it all has purpose and value. The seasons of our lives affect us in much the same way, they add the depth and enhancement much the same way herbs and spices do for our recipes.

Living with a Chef, we have a very large spice cabinet and an herb garden filled with a sweet smelling variety to garnish and enhance our meals. The smell of sage recently filled my home as the dehydrator dried out a bunch to save for winter. This process got me thinking, “Are the seasons of my life seasoning me for the better?”.  I honestly haven’t enjoyed some of the “dry” times in my life, sometimes I allowed them to make me bitter. There were other times I thought I would drown in a flood of tears during a particular hard season, it weighed me down so I struggled to pull myself up. Separately they often didn’t make sense but as I evaluate them as a whole, with the perspective of age and experience, I can appreciate the complex combination of seasoning that has brought the  unique flavor of my life. I have decided to appreciate the complexities of each season and be like the Spruce stump that allows the dead and rotten things to bring new growth and life.

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