Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Easter Donkey – Take 2

Two years ago I wrote about our Easter Donkeys.  This year as Easter approaches, these sweet donkeys have even more meaning to me.  I’ve reworked the original story a bit an added in some thoughts on how this symbol of grace, compassion, and kindness touches me today.  Happy reading.

Easter is one of our favorite times on the farm.  The wildflowers are blooming, spring grasses are coming in, and all of the critters are feeling frisky.  In addition, it’s a time to reflect on our faith and God’s grace.

How do donkeys fit into that?

We’ve had our donkeys for nearly seven years. The first year we had them, a friend said to us, “Oh how exciting, you have Jesus donkeys!”  We were shocked and wondered what in the world were Jesus donkeys.  

A little Googling solves most mysteries these days, and it’s become one of our favorite stories to share at Easter.  The legend of the Easter donkey, as interpreted by this farmgirl, goes something like this …

A sweet donkey carried Jesus through town on Palm Sunday.  The donkey was in awe of Jesus, most especially his kindness and compassion.  One week later, that same little donkey was in the crowd as Jesus was crucified.  He couldn’t believe the cruelty and torture that had befallen his new friend.  

The donkey was broken hearted.  But he loved Jesus and to honor his friend he stayed until the end.  As Jesus took his last breath, tears fell from the donkey’s eyes.  The skies went dark, and the shadow of the cross fell across the donkey’s back.  

Forevermore the donkey would carry the cross as a symbol of his devotion to Jesus and as a message of God’s grace, compassion, and kindness.

Sure enough, our sweet donkeys have a dark brown stripe that goes down their spines and a matching horizontal stripe across their shoulders, forming a beautiful cross.

This cross reminds me of the crosses that we often wear as jewelry or on clothing as a symbol of our own faith.  I’m also reminded that in this time of immense turmoil and side taking that God doesn’t choose sides.  He loves us all.

Sometimes we’ve used the cross to send a message.  To shout our faith from the rooftops.  As the animals so often do around the farm, they’ve given me a different perspective.  The cross is truly a symbol of sacrifice, grace, and the ultimate compassion.

My Farmtastic Life - Sweetie Pie the donkey and her Easter Cross
Sweetie Pie shows off her Easter cross – a reminder of grace, compassion, and kindness.

Now when I wear a cross, I wear it not as a message to all that I am a Christian, but as a personal reminder that I owe my fellow man compassion and kindness, for the ultimate grace was shown to me.

As you celebrate this Easter and spring season, no matter your faith, we wish you comfort and peace.  As you think about the symbols that are important to you, may you see them not just for the story that they tell to others, but also for what they say to you.  
This Easter Sunday on the farm, we’ll be spending a little extra time with our donkeys. Remembering why our faith is important to us, how grateful we are for the grace we’ve received, and most importantly focusing on the kindness we owe our fellow man.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Grocery Story Grace

I’m a girl who absolutely loves Amazon.  I’ve ordered everything from muck rakes to rugs to soup mix.  Heck, we even know our UPS man by name.  

Don’t get me wrong, we also believe in shopping local.  Our town is filled with fabulous mom-and-pop shops and stores where you’ll find adorable gifts, great eats, and make friends with the shopkeepers.

But back to Amazon.  We’ve recently considered using Amazon Pantry for all the everyday things like trash bags and cleaning supplies and dry goods.   But then this weekend happened.  

Usually, Cowboy, my better half, and I grocery shop together, so we’re wrapped up in our own conversation, and I generally fail to observe all that is going on around me.  I mean, the man is distracting.

But this Saturday I was out and about running errands, so I stopped into the local grocery to do some shopping on my own.  Armed with my grocery list conveniently available on a phone app, I headed into the store to do business. I was on a mission.

I was immediately struck by how busy the store was.  I got behind two ladies at the cart corral who were clearly happy to see each other and chatting up a storm.  I squeaked by them to get my cart, slightly aggravated, and headed down a random aisle to try to get around them.

I have to be honest, I was annoyed.  I mean really, I didn’t have time for this. Or so I thought.

As I went about my business, I passed an elderly lady on her motorized scooter.  She was decked out in a beautiful green suit and sparkly clip-on earrings.  As I shimmied past her, I apologized for being in her way.

She smiled.  She was gracious. She spoke to me. She seemed happy to be at the grocery store, which was clearly not an easy task for her.

And then it hit me. Slow down.  There is something special about shopping at your local grocery store.  People know each other.  They greet each other, share stories, and tickle the chins and pinch the cheeks of each other’s grandkids.

Yes, Amazon is convenient, but when it comes to the simplest of simple, food and basic household goods, there is no better place than your friendly grocer.

It’s rare to pop into the grocery store and not see someone you know.  The produce lady knows my dad, and she is always asking about him and greets us with a big smile.  The store workers know where things are on the shelves and are happy to help.  Even my groceries are cheerfully toted out to the car for me.

So to those ladies who I felt supremely annoyed with this Saturday, please accept my sincere apology.  You taught me a valuable lesson.  Life is not always about convenience.  It’s about community.  And I’m grateful to be part of this one.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Farmtastic Recipes

Farmtastic Recipe – Loving Life Limeade

Spring is in the air at the farm and that means plenty of porch time.  And nothing goes better with porch time than the perfect cool drink to sip.  Cowboy is a fan of lemonade and limeade, and our local grocery had oodles of giant, fresh, juicy limes today so a fresh pitcher of limeade was on order. This recipe makes about a half gallon of deliciousness.

Give some limes a squeeze and let us know if this limeade hits the spot.

The Recipe: Loving Life Limeade

The Source: The original was a Southern Living recipe for lemonade, which we’ve adapted just slightly for limeade.

My Farmtastic Life Recipe - Limeade Ingredients
Limes, sugar, and the perfect pitcher. Loving Life Limeade here we come.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice, approximately 6 to 7 large limes
  • 5  1/2 cups cold water
  • crushed ice
  • lime slices for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a large pitcher, stir together sugar and half cup boiling water until sugar dissolves. Tip: If you have an electric kettle or any kettle, it’s the easiest way to get boiling water in the amount you need and makes it easy to pour without spilling.  (Yes, spilling is my middle name.)
  2. Squeeze limes and add in lime juice to the pitcher.  Tip:  To get the most juice out of your lime, press and roll under the palm of your hand before slicing.

    Put a little elbow into it and roll your limes. This will make sure they are good and juicy when you are ready to give them the squeeze.
  3. Add 5 1/2 cups cold water to the pitcher.

    My Farmtastic Life Recipe - Limeade in progress
    When you are up to your elbows in lime juice and sugar, you know you are in for a treat.
  4. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with a lime slice.  Tip: I like to fill the glasses with about half crushed ice, which makes it feel almost like a dessert drink to me.
My Farmtastic Life Recipe - Limeade in a vintage pitcher and glasses
This just makes me smile and my lips happy. Sit on your porch, by the pool, or in your favorite chair and enjoy the flavors of spring.

Farmtastic Notes:

  • Serving this is an antique glass pitcher and using fun vintage glasses makes this simple drink feel extra special.
  • Any you have left over, keep refrigerated.

We’d love to hear what you think of this recipe, so give it a try and share your thoughts or post pics directly to our Facebook page.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Country Living Is the Life For Us

My Farmtastic Life - Cowboy Mowing the Pasture
Farm life – Cowboy spending 7 hours bumping along mowing one field. That’s a lot of seat time. Love my man on a tractor (and a dog in the field).

Neither Cowboy or I grew up on a farm or in the country, so this great big, wonderful farmtastic adventure we’re on is just that – an adventure.  We were children of the ‘burbs with neatly mowed yards, cul-de-sacs, and sedans.

I’m not entirely sure why we were drawn to the country life, other than the peace and quiet and limitless critter possibilities. (Okay, that one is totally on me.)  Truth be told, Cowboy does have what he affectionately calls a people limit, i.e. he prefers to be around as few people as possible as a general rule. (I still often wonder how I got so lucky to be his person.  Regardless, I’m grateful.)  So I guess all of those things together, combined with the fact that I simply believe God knows where each of us belongs, landed us in the country.

If you knew me back in my high school days, I would have told you I was headed for big city living, a high-power fancy job, and maybe someday I’d get married in my thirties. Holy Batman was I a little wrong.  Just a little.  The truth is I could not be happier to be wrong.  I don’t think any of those things would have brought me the true joy that Cowboy and I now share.

I am one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason and that God has a grander plan.  Now don’t get me wrong, things aren’t always peachy and the reality doesn’t always match the lovely Facebook photos that everyone shares.  Heck, I even recently heard that no one shares the B side of their life.  (Remember records and tapes?)

We’re all busy posting and sharing and cultivating our images.  And honestly, I love seeing everyone’s happy moments and sharing ours, too.  But it’s important for us all to remember that real life is messy, sometimes wonderful, and always changing. And often times not what we expected.  And that is okay.  Truly, it is okay.

Seven years ago this summer we moved into our barndiminium with grand plans of building a house.  The house never came, and we still live in our barn apartment and have found real joy in pairing down, focusing on our hobbies, and filling it with critters. (Again, that last one is probably more me.)   When folks ask if we like country living, my standard response is, “We wouldn’t trade it.  But it is more expensive and more work than we ever imagined.”

My Farmtastic Life - Fixing the Fence w/Duct Tape
When you have to fix a busted board and don’t have an extra one lying around, fancy duct tape will have to do. (Not gonna lie, for half a second I thought about wrapping all the fence boards in this. Maybe just a tad over the top.)

What are some of the not so Instagram worthy things on a farm?

  • There is always, and I mean always, a long laundry list of things to fix – from horse water troughs to fences. Seriously, what’s with the fences?  Guessing 1,000-pound equines are a contributing factor.  Who knew?
  • You must have a tractor and all of its implements.  Cars, schmars.  Tractors are where it’s at.
  • Critters are crafty and sneaky and smart, which translates to more broken things and more money.
  • There is always something to scoop.  Cowboy says no more things that poop are allowed on the farm.  Guess we are now limited to pet rocks.
  • Travel is limited – someone has to watch the zoo.
  • Weather – hot, freezing, or monsoon season we are out in it slip sliding away.

Are these things terrible?  Absolutely not.  They are just part of farm living.  Am I complaining? No way.  We are grateful and we know lots of other folks who would like to have the chance to give farm life a try.  So why share this?  To simply say this is not where Cowboy or I thought we would be, but we are grateful it is where we are.  It’s not always simple or easy. There’s tons of moments that are not social media worthy or appropriate.  But it’s our wonderfully wacky life.

Thanks for letting us share our story with you and for continuing to read and follow along.  We hope that no matter where you are, you can find the beauty of the moment and see something you never quite expected.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Country Driving

Cowboy and I have always loved a good road trip, but since moving to the farm, it’s hard to get away for any length of time thanks to our lovable menagerie of critters.  Don’t get me wrong, the farm is where our hearts are, but sometimes a girl just needs to feel a little wind in her face.  So every once in a while, Cowboy and I will climb in one of the vehicles and go for a jaunt.

Today was one of those days when I just needed to clear my head and go for a spin.  And country driving is just the thing to put a smile in my soul.  Windows down and music turned up, we went cruising down the backroads.   And what I really love are all of the beautiful little moments that are happening in life right before your eyes if you will just look up (yes, from your phone) and notice, really notice.

My Farmtastic Life - A young farmgirl on her first roadtrip
That’s me at 4 years old on a cross-country road trip. Daddy thought it would be hilarious to stand me on the side of Route 66 and have me thumb it – with my purple suitcase and my baby doll. I guess my love of the road started early.

I saw an elderly lady wearing garden gloves and digging in her glorious bed of irises.  I saw a big sister pulling her little sister in a wagon, while little sister took in the view and enjoyed a sippy cup.  I saw cows napping, horses of every shade munching spring grasses, and a baby lamb leaping and tripping to keep up with its mama.

I saw sleepy towns waking up, and shopkeepers opening their stores, hopeful for good business.  I passed oodles of horse trailers hauling four-legged best friends for a day of adventures.  RVs and campers passed us in droves headed to campgrounds and far away places, as we’re just starting spring break here.  I even spotted a few Texas bluebonnets in bloom, a sign that spring is definitely sprung.

There truly were beautiful little moments all around.  Everyday moments that some might say are nothing special, but it’s those every day moments that can bring real deep down, feel it in your toes kind of joy.

I try to be a positive gal, and somedays I’m successful and somedays not so much.  But when I need to clear my head, there’s nothing better than a little four-wheel-perspective.

 

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

We Simply Love Them

I have a confession to make. I’m not one of those girls who can claim I’ve always loved horses. In fact, the truth is for most of my life, horses have downright scared me.  I much preferred it if there was a fence or two between me and them. (I know, hold your shock.)

Now don’t get me wrong, all you have to do is take one look at our Meet the Farm page to know that Cowboy and I are animal lovers of the highest magnitude.  But I also understand that horses are bigger and more powerful than me, and definitely have minds of their own.  Boy, do they have minds of their own.  In fact, they’ve often awakened the fight or flight in me, and the few times I’d been around them in my past they had me on the flight side of the fence.

For example, as a kid I had taken a ride at a stable with our youth group, which seems to be a harmless right of passage for lots of kids.  I was excited to try it out, but being vertically challenged, they couldn’t make my stirrups short enough. However,  with a mischievous smile they told me not to worry, I was on a gentle ride, and all I needed to do was loosely hang on.  Hmmm ….  should have been warning sign number one, don’t ya think?

Warning number two – the guides told us absolutely no screaming, as the horses were trained to run if you yelled, thinking you were in danger.  Fabulous,  simply fabulous. So there I sat, feet dangling in the top of the stirrups keeping quiet.  Not an easy task for a girl whose first grade teacher called her motor mouth and mouth of the south (but that’s another story).

Well you guessed it, my horse trotted, loped, and flat out ran for the barn.  Picture a puny 13-year-old whisper-yelling, “Help, help, help!” while trying desperately to keep her bum from bumping right off that horse.  Not surprisingly, the flight thing came naturally after that.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Smokey and Ranger, American Mustangts
Smoke in the Valley (a.k.a. Smokey) and Lone Star Ranger (a.k.a. Ranger) having a nice little munch. This is one of my absolute favorite pictures of them – and just looks like love to me!

Enter 2008.  Cowboy and I attended the Extreme Mustang Makeover, sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, in Fort Worth, Texas.  Holy cats (or should I say horses), what a show!  Patriotic, majestic, amazing.  We walked the barns looking at these mustang horses, and there was just something in their eyes. It went right down to my soul.  And a tiny voice whispered, “Could you possibly be a horse person?”

My Farmtastic Life - Ranger
Ranger as a yearling. You could already tell that fella was going to have great hair and a crazy fun personality.

Then came the yearlings’ stalls.  And one very special little guy trained by one special little girl did me in.  She had done a great job with her fella, but had other horses at home, and so this one needed a fur-ever home. You know what’s coming next, right?  One little mustang yearling was adopted that day and headed home with me and Cowboy.

Fast forward more than eight years later, and Lone Star Ranger has changed my life.  We’ve got two more mustangs, one aging quarter horse, and two charming donkeys. I’m a horse person now.  Who knew?

But what does that really mean anyway?  No, my house is not decked out in western regalia; I don’t run around in cowgirl boots most of the time; and I don’t have a desire to be the rodeo queen (trust me, this is a good thing for all involved).

But these horses have a story and that speaks to me in a million ways.  Most of the time when we meet other horse folks, the first thing they ask me is, “What do you do with them?” I’m not sure why this is, but Cowboy and I have experienced it over and over.   Everyone expects you to DO something to justify why you have them.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Mustang River
Mustang number three – A River Runs Wild, a.k.a. River. This guy had a rough start, but he’s probably the biggest lover we’ve got.

 I often feel sheepish as I know they are waiting for me to impress them with tales of riding or rodeo antics.  And the truth was I used to always feel guilty because I wasn’t a great rider, heck if I’m honest, riding still scares me.

And then one day, someone asked me once again, and the right answer finally came to me.  We love them. We simply love them.

Because that is the truth.  They got their second chance at life and love at the farm, and they are our family members.  We even moved to the farm so that they would have room to roam and play, and yes that is also why we ended up with more.  (Just a friendly warning, horses are like potato chips.  One is never enough.)

We’ve built stalls and runs. We brush them, share carrot snacks, and love on them.  Sometimes Cowboy even rides them. (I don’t call him Cowboy for nothing.)

Could this have happened with any horse?  Maybe, but I like to think it’s the magic of the mustang.  The deep connection they make with their humans.  They simply love us.

P.S. A version of this story was submitted to the America’s Mustang Essay Contest.  While I was not a winner, these great equines make me feel like a winner each day.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Spa Kitty

You’ve met Bear in past posts; he’s the quirky little cat who starred in Toilet Cat.  Well, never one to disappoint, he’s developed a new habit this winter season.  He’s expanded his repertoire in the powder room to perching up high on the cabinets and worshipping the  heating vents and shower steam.  We’ve now upgraded him to spa kitty. Quite the promotion, if you ask me.

It’s his own personal spa day – every day.  That’s just how he rolls.  When he hears Cowboy or I head to shower and the whirring sound of the bathroom heater and ventilator kick on, he just can’t help himself but mosey in and head to the highest spot.  I mean, what cat couldn’t use a steam.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Bear the Cat
Having his own personal spa day moment – Bear soaks up the shower steam.

If you peak around the shower curtain, you’ll see him sitting like an ancient Egyptian cat with his head turned just so, eyes closed, and tailed curled neatly around his feet. You can practically here him meditating.  Ohm. Meow. Ohm.  It never fails to to make me crack a smile and shake my head.    When I head to the door squeaky clean ready to exit my warm steamy bliss, he pops open an eye and gives me a look as if to say, “Seriously?  Just one more  minute.  Meowy-please?”

I reach up to scratch his ears, and assure him he’ll have another spa day soon.  Depending on how much dirt we kick up outside, it could be sooner than he thinks.  What a character.

On top of his excellent bathroom manners, Bear is a curious little fellow.  He’s a lanky thing, barely weighing in at seven pounds and has a leap like none I’ve ever seen.  He’s amazingly lovable, but only when he chooses to be.  (Hey, I said he was a cat.)  Born on the farm, to the once feral Shadow, I must admit he was the scrawniest of the kittens, and I originally thought that he lacked personality.  Boy, was I mistaken.

He meows when you call his name. Not the angry meow of what-do-you-want-with-me, but more the sweet answer of hey-what’s-up.  (Yes, I speak cat, and for that matter dog and horse and donkey.  I’ve tried to convince Cowboy that I also speak goat and chicken, but he says I speak enough languages for the moment.)  Back to Bear …

Bear talks A LOT, so on top of such nicknames as toilet cat and spa kitty, he’s also been called Beartholameow, also his hashtag on Instagram.  Such a modern cat.

So as this winter warms to spring, the bathroom heater will be taking a break, much to Bear’s chagrin.  Bless his little heart.