High Hopes

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First of all…. How has it been two months since I have written a blog post? I literally gasped when I saw that my last post was June 25th. I remember that day clearly, I was so excited that I had finally figured out how to upload my children’s book and with sincere expectation believed that it would be a couple short weeks before I would get my proof in the mail and approve it for print. Oh, I have always been the optimist but my estimate of two weeks would actually be more like two months.

I didn’t take in to consideration that I would make mistakes, I learned that we are often blind to our own errors. I ended up going through the process four more times before getting it right. It has been a good thing for me in so many ways, I am learning to take things in stride and embrace the realization that taking the time to do things well is important. As much as I wanted to get my book finished by a certain date, I wanted it to be done excellent, even more. So, I learned to swallow my pride and embrace my mistakes as an opportunity to grow and move forward.

I also didn’t factor in just how exciting, emotional and exhausting July and August would be. Farm life has been so full of new births, building projects, blackberry bush removal and visitors. We started farm to table dinners and finished the second phase of our goat barn. Amid all the gains we have had loss too, we lost our first baby goat in August. The little doeling had a cleft pallette. It was heartbreaking. Even though we have her sister Millie, I often think of her tiny twin that slept in my lap and died in my arms. Even in sadness there is so much to be gained. Love and loss often come hand in hand, I am learning not to allow grief to keep me from moving forward and embracing the love and joy in front of me. Somedays that means bringing home free kittens when you have tears streaming down your face and you need to smile so your heart doesn’t break. It’s ok, it really is.

I have high hopes for the future, not because I expect that everything is always going to be rosy. I am optimistic because I know that I can find value in every circumstance. I can climb higher than life’s problems and find new perspective gained from all my past experiences. I have gained so much from pushing through and finishing my book, it was so much harder than I expected and even more rewarding when I finally approved it for print.

When life is hard, or you keep making mistakes, don’t let it break you. Use these opportunities to make you stronger, better equipped and just grow with it.

P.S. My book will be available on Amazon in about 3-5 working days from today…                  I am so excited to share it with you all, let me know what you think of it,if you choose to purchase it!!!

 

Hay Hooks and Happiness

IMG_3880Last week I was in a rush to get my farm in order so I could travel to Southern California for four days. Spring is an insanely busy season with a myriad of tasks to do but my daughter-n-law was presenting her dissertation to receive a hard earned doctorate at USC. We were adamant that we were going to be there so; there was nothing else to do but get things in the best order we could before we left.

It isn’t easy to leave 28 ducks, 24 chickens, 8 goats, a rabbit, a cat and a farm dog in someone else’s care. No matter how much you plan, organize and prepare it isn’t enough. You can make lists and try to imagine every scenario but eventually you have to set those work gloves down and go. Leaving really isn’t the hardest part for me, it is setting aside the cares to really be present and enjoy the moment. It has been my goal to slow down, be aware and conscience of the lessons to be found in my daily tasks and endeavors.

The day before we left I still had a long list of to do’s, which in the past might have been the cause of an emotional breakdown. Since I didn’t have the luxury of a good cry I chose to put on a smile, pull on my boots and set out to overcome my mountain of chores. It was when I was unloading hay bales from the back of my pick-up truck, the realization of being a legitimate farmer hit me. Hay hooks in hand I lifted each bale out and placed it in a nice stack with the same simple joy my children had with their building blocks when they were young. I was a enveloped in a moment of complete happiness.

We live in a world obsessed with labels, brands and titles that define and give us value.  We can allow others to choose what we are called and how we should feel about ourselves. At least that is what I used to do when I stumbled along in search of a validated identity.  I know now I am a farmer, I always have been in my heart. I am a planter of seeds and a guardian of the herd. It no longer matters to me if anyone agrees with me or the fact there are others who have done it longer and have more experience, for that is not the point. I am a farmer, I am also a wife, mother, friend, artist and so much more. We do not need to define ourselves, we are, who we are. I do what I do because I love it and sharing it with others is fulfilling.

I left for my trip with a new found assurance and a peace which enabled me to relax and enjoy my time away. I think farmers understand that there are too many factors out of one’s control to ever fully prepare for. You should work hard to do what you are able to and then take the time to enjoy what and who you love. Life is an adventure to embrace and experience fully without being afraid of what could happen or the opinions of others.

While we were away we did lose a chicken and a goat got her head stuck in a feeder but  I gained so much more by learning to give each moment the full attention it deserves.

 

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!

 

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.

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.

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.