Lucky Ducks

luckyducksThe last four weeks of my life has centered around ducks. I really didn’t mean to go from 7 ducks to 28 in less than a month but “hey, things happen right?”.  We were on nest watch 2018, (as our Call Ducks hens were sitting on their eggs) when the brilliant idea to take home 6 ducklings from our local Tractor Supply popped into my head. We were actually at the store to purchase an incubator for some of our fertile Pekin eggs but 28 days was just too long  for me to wait for ducklings to hatch. To be honest we weren’t even sure if the Call Ducks would be successful. So, little peeping box in hand I arrived home with my first batch of ducklings and set them up in our bathtub.

It was just a couple days later that I realized I needed some additional females for our  adult Pekin duck males. My poor girls were just overwhelmed with the overabundant ardor directed at them and needed some relief from those two Don Juans. We got up early last Saturday and took the hour drive to a poultry auction with the task of finding our guys some new ladies. There was only one cage of females and they were dirty and definitely needed some care. The compassionate and competitive part of my nature squashed any of the practical aspect in my decision making process, I knew without a doubt that lot #3134 would be coming home with me. With a steely no-nonsense expression I raised my wrinkled index card with number 143 written on it and battled another bidder until for $7 a piece those 4 scraggly ducks were mine. In addition, I also  took home 6 more ducklings and a Welsh Harlequin drake to solidify my status as a crazy duck lady.

In farming as in all endeavors it is best to be practical and think things through before acting. There are, as in all decisions made, the consequences of those actions. From the beginning of this Smith Farmhouse experiment I have brought home animals before we were fully prepared for them. These choices have contributed to some crazy, pull it together moments I won’t soon forget. I am learning to slow down and plan more thoughtfully through the details. It is best to do your homework before the you take the test if you know what I mean. Doing so makes the process less stressful for everyone. Farming has taught me to plan wisely with the future in mind and not entirely with my emotions in haste.

With that said, there are those special times where you have to listen to your heart and take a chance on a long shot. If you do, you might find yourself a lucky duck.. or four or  even more!

 

All My Ducks In A Row

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I recently pulled into my driveway to find my four Pekin ducks napping in a perfectly spaced out row. For a person such as myself who likes things orderly, I was first delighted and then equally dismayed. I had the realization I would definitely not get a close up without at least one duck head popping up and ruining my shot. Knowing time was of the essence, I quickly grabbed my phone (with the still shattered screen) and snapped two fast shots before the ducks became aware of my surveillance and decided to move on to their next activity.

Farmlife is amazing, so far it is all I ever dreamed it would be and more, it is also a constant battle to stay focused and organized. There is always a new problem to solve, a mess to clean and something that needs my attention. It is not much different from the days of homeschooling my three kids when they were children. I remember the feelings  of inadequacy and unpreparedness I had then. They often rose up within and had the capability of sending me into a spiral of excessive activity and frenzy in an attempt to overcome the fear of failure that always seemed to be chasing after me. I admit it…I struggle with wanting to be perfect, but I know I am not. I hate making mistakes… but I have made many and I still do… a lot. I wish I could tell my younger self to relax and breathe; to not worry so much about perfection but to embrace and enjoy the process.

The lessons I have learned from my many failures, mistakes and blunders have been so valuable in my journey to get to where I am today. I no longer allow fear to restrain me, I am taking risks and pursuing the endeavors I have put off for so long. I can’t take back the time wasted in mindless worry and regret but I can look forward to what is ahead : being a grandparent for the first time, finishing my first children’s book , growing our farm and whatever other new and exciting adventure comes our way.

I may have ducklings in my bathtub, a farm dog sleeping in my bed and straw showing up in the strangest places but; I finally got all my ducks in a row.

I got the picture to prove it!

 

Here Comes The Sun

DaisyDaisy  Sunshine, a delightful gift to the soul. After all the rain and mud throughout our Pacific Northwest winter, a beautiful spring-like day in mid March is like seeing a beloved friend return after a long trip away. We have had two such days and everyone on the farm has a dreamy, eyes half-closed expression on their face. The goats are standing in the field slowly chewing their cud, the ducks and chickens are dozing in sun lit patches of dry ground and we all seem to share a corporate gratefulness of the moment.

The rain will return and I am compelled by the thought that I should make the most of this opportunity to do something productive. Even though I love being responsible and getting things accomplished; I really just want to lay on a blanket and dream of the wild daisies that will be popping up shortly. Spring will be here in a couple weeks followed by the long days of summer. Projects and activities will fill morning till night and I will find myself once again dreaming of the those cozy winter evenings cuddled up with a good book.

The cycle of seasons can affect us like a merry-go-round or a ferris wheel; we can get caught in a whirling spin that makes us dizzy or we can permit them to lift us up and give us an elevated perspective. As much as I enjoy the crazy, knot in your stomach feeling from spinning; I think I am going to take a cue from the animals around me and enjoy the moment. It is a lovely day to sit in the warmth of the sun and reflect on the wonderful things I have absorbed from a variety of life’s experiences. I have learned, time taken for reflection and rest is not wasted time; It is a rewarding endeavor that can enable us to move forward with a new inspiration or renewed purpose.

Now, I think I will go find that old blanket.

 

Something Great

flowerfieldpage2Buttercup has to hurry up wherever she goes;

she misses the flowers right under her nose.

 I was recently asked a question regarding what kind of legacy I was leaving to the next generation. This simple inquiry of life’s purpose forced my mind into a hyperactive state of self-examination and evaluation, which honestly overwhelmed me. I can’t remember a time in my life I wasn’t pursuing a way to accomplish some type of great achievement.   I know now this compelling drive was fueled by a desire to feel valuable, which meant most of my life was engaged in an exhausting race to attain self-worth.

Moving to our little farmhouse has allowed me the opportunity to step out of the always discouraging pattern of striving to achieve “Something Great” in order to feel worthwhile. My pace of life is slower on the farm and I am able to see the beauty around me much more clearly. There are new discoveries daily which inspire a natural passion and creativity to flow from a place of authenticity. The quest for self-worth has been replaced with a journey of joy in expressing the awesome wonder that surrounds me.

I now have the time to write and illustrate my children’s books; I am able to pour myself out; and into a worthwhile expression of my heart. I enjoy being creative but I have been so often discouraged by feelings of inadequacy in the past. My current motivation is different than before I had my farm, I actively choose to participate in what is truly valuable instead of pursuing the feeling of importance. I once chased after ideas trying to grasp at doing “Something Great”; I am now choosing to live “Something Great” and just BE……………. Be grateful, be joyful, be loving and kind. I want to notice the flowers in front of me and magnify the wonder in that simple moment. It may seem a small thing but if it is my legacy to pass on, I will be greatly satisfied .

 

 

The Beauty of Perspective

A couple weeks ago I hurried inside to grab my iPhone so I could get a picture of one of the animals doing something funny or adorable, a normal thing I do quite often I confess. Unfortunately, right after taking the photo, I set said phone on top of a slanted rabbit cage and walked away. I am sure my thought was to complete whatever task I had been doing before I had been distracted by a silly farm animal a moment before and then come right back. I don’t know how long it took before it hit me, the stop dead in your tracks, gut clenching realization that I had done something really stupid. I ran back to where I had left my phone to see it lying screen down on the rocks where it had fallen.

For a just a split second I held on to the hope it could possibly be unscathed and reached down to retrieve it. Oh but there it was, the inevitable consequence of my lapse in good judgment: a spiderweb configuration of cracked glass across my screen. A deep sigh escaped from the pit of my being and then came the stages of grief in quick waves of anger, denial, and acceptance. It is an annoyance to be sure when something we use so often is lost or damaged but when it is the result of  carelessness there is a distinct saltiness added to the wound.

It has been my nature to steam roll through things in the past, to rush and get things done. In setting my mind towards being productive I have missed so much along the way. When I decided to document here the experiment of following my dream, I purposed to slow down and pay attention to the details. I don’t enjoy failure, but I am learning there is a beauty in the perspective you can gain from it. A few days after my phone incident as I was waiting (somewhat patiently) in our truck for the windows to defrost, the warmth of the sun created a familiar cracked pattern to cross my view. I captured this photo of the cracked ice window with my shattered phone to remind myself that the right perspective can reveal to us, the true beauty in our lives.

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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.