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.

Empty Nest, Full Cup

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It feels incredibly daunting and a bit terrifying to finally begin something I have been planning for so long. I have wanted to write my entire adult life but busyness and lack of confidence has kept me from stepping out in a public way. I have written and journaled over the years but seldom if ever have I truly allowed myself to express my inner thoughts and opinions in a tangible way. Today, I am keeping a promise to myself to open up, expose my fears to the light and allow my personal failures and victories to possibly encourage others. On the cusp of turning 49, I can say my greatest achievement thus far  are, the last 30 years of marriage to my husband Brandon and our whole-hearted investment  in raising three wonderful, now grown and married children. We have poured out everything we could of ourselves to love and nurture these three complex, diverse and deeply loving human beings ,who in turn have each found their perfect spouse to share their lives with.

I will never regret the sacrifices we made so our children would be equipped to pursue their dreams; it has been my heart’s joy to see them stretch their wings and fly high in their own unique endeavors. Their needs required me to suppress the deep desire of living the farm life and keep that dream safely nestled deep in my heart for a very long season. In the last year that chapter of my life came to a wonderful close when we purchased 5 acres in rural western Washington and my baby girl walked down the aisle to marry her love. I may have an empty nest but it is on a farm! It is a new place  so full of potential and promise that it makes my lonely mother’s heart overflow with gratitude and hopefulness.

So,  I  begin this literary adventure with an experiment: What happens when you finally begin to live out what you have only dreamed of for years? My hypothesis is that I will find something new to discover each day and I will learn to live a deeper, fuller and more abundant life because I do. Today, October 1, 2017, Day 1 of the “Smith Farmhouse Experiment”, I am sharing this specifically poignant new find of an empty bird’s nest. I found it in a young Alder tree as I was pulling down the overgrown blackberries vines from it’s branches. As I sit here with my full cup of coffee and the beauty of fall settling in, this empty nest compels me to consider this truth: in life we often experience the highs, lows, the beautiful and the ugly at the same time and that contrast is so richly poetic. Nature is an artistic grace, an ever alluring promise of hope which inspires my determination to find something new tomorrow and we all need something to look forward to, don’t we?