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.

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.

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Mutual Admiration Society

I’ve been a self proclaimed daddy’s girl my whole life, just ask my momma.  Whether we were riding bikes all over town, building science projects in the garage, or dancing in the living room, we were pals, friends, and playmates.

My Farmtastice Life Photo - Dancing with dad
Dad is a fantastic dancer – the one thing I didn’t inherit was his rhythm. But he humors me and last year we went to a ’50s dance and laughed all the way through.

In fact, my dad has called me his buddy all of my life, and to this day, he’ll throw his arm around my neck and whisper in my ear, “You’re still my buddy, aren’t you?”  Yes, a thousand times yes.

This week Dad turned 78 years old – it just doesn’t hardly seem possible.  I’m so grateful that he is still healthy, mischievous, and full of life.  In lots of ways, I’m his mini me.  From the awkward gate of my flat-footed walk to my wacky offbeat sense of humor.  Truth is,  there is nothing I love to do more than get him belly laughing and crying over the silliest of sillies.

Even growing up, I could wiggle myself out of trouble with the slightest of smiles.  More than once I got Dad to crack up, only to say, “Hey Dad, you can’t punish me if you’re laughing at me.”  We’d crumble into a heap of giggles.  Bless my poor mother, as this is not when she found either of us amusing, trust me.  Dad’s soft spot meant mom had to be the disciplinarian, and I’m so grateful she was.

Dad had to travel a lot for work, but when he was home he was a one-man jungle gym and entertainment center. I rode on his back to bed while he whinnied and neighed, most of the time busting up into giggles before we could make it down the hall.

He’d take me to his work as a mechanics training instructor on the weekends, where I’d set up his classroom, draw love notes on the board, and wheel around the shop on the creeper.  To this day the smell of grease and old books is a smell uniquely dad.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Dad and horses
Dad dreamed of being a cowboy from the time he was a child. He loves nothing more than being around horses – and they love him.

Probably the greatest legacy he has given me is my love of all things four-legged. I swear that man would live in a barn and sleep on a bale of hay to be near a horse.  He loves to blow in their noses and soak up their scent.  He’s got a calm around the critters that I appreciate.

He’s our resident ranch hand around the farm when we need a watchful eye over the critters.  On those rare instances when Cowboy has not been here, I’ve called Dad to help me put medicine in a horse’s eye, de-skunk a dog (seriously not fun AT ALL), and even kill a snake or two.

Truth is that Cowboy and I took the risk to buy the farm because of stories Dad told about how he wanted to live in the country, but never quite got all the way there.  How in life sometimes you have to take a risk, so you don’t look back and wish you had.  We’ve had the land 10 years this summer and lived here for 7, and I really can’t imagine it any other way.  Another one of dad’s telltale fingerprints on my life.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - old family photo
Our little family – we were and continue to be a close little bunch. I can almost promise you that dad was making me laugh in this pic. Mom insisted he come to all picture sessions – she said it was the only way to guarantee I’d smile.

There are moments when I become fully aware of just how precious life is, and overwhelmed with gratitude for the rock my parents have always been.  Don’t get me wrong, life is not perfect.  We’ve had our arguments, hurt feelings, and frustrations, but above all I have always known how much I am loved.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

So as my dear dad starts his 79th trip around the sun this year, I watch in awe and wander at his kindness, his humor, and his love.   There is none other quite like him, and I’m so blessed that he is my dad. Momma has often called us the mutual admiration society, proclaiming that to be a member you must think the other walks on water.  And I guess that is true.  I love you, buddy!

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Valentines Schmalentines

I got a text from Cowboy last week that said, “Happy National Spouses Day!” To which, I replied, “Who knew!” And my quick-witted better half quickly typed back, “Evidently I did.”

This is just one of the many exchanges we have that just makes me laugh and love him all the more.  As I’m sure I’ve covered in past posts, Cowboy is not much of a holiday guy. He’s more of a live-love-laugh-every-day guy.

To be fair, I can pretty well guarantee you that he was not waiting on pins and needles for this day.  He simply saw a post about it online and beat me to the punch.  He’s also one to poke you in the ribs at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning to wish you Merry Christmas and chuckle that he told you first.

It’s always been this way with us.  Laughter is a big part of what makes us tick.  And as you can probably tell by the way I write, I think humor is a darned important part of life.  I mean seriously, when you live with 16 critters it’s a requirement, not an option.

Which brings me to the fact that we are on the cusp of February – the month of love. You know the holiday I mean – the annual chocolate-rose-love fest known as Valentine’s Day.  Let’s face it, this day just requires a little humor.

Back in the early days (I mean like when my age started with the number two early days), I used to have silly expectations about the importance of this occasion.  As if a gift or a dinner or moment would feel extra special on this day.

My Farmtastic Life - Cowboy on a Tractor
Cowboy just doing what he does – taking care of us. Love!

Looking back this just flat out perplexes me, and these times were certainly not my finest hour.  The truth is that Cowboy loves me, and has always loved me, every single day.  He’s a man of actions, and not so much of words.  To prove my point even further, the song that always makes me think of him is the classic country tune, When You Say Nothing at All.

It’s the little everyday things that mean the most.  Like when he cares for the horses or washes the car or just knows when I need a hug.  He’s truly my better half.

While I’m sure he’ll be oh so delighted to make this appearance on the blog (he may be funny, but he’s also pretty private), I write this to all the gals and fellas out there that are setting themselves up with great expectations during this season of candy hearts and pink balloons.  Give your other half a break.

Look for the little things – like the special language only the two of you share.  Be grateful for each moment – even if it’s a 5-minute chat as you fold the laundry.  Most of all – laugh together.  Especially on Valentine’s Day, because seriously it’s a day whose mascot is a chubby baby with a bow and arrow.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter under the title of Laugh, Love, and Laugh Some More.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

No Need for Kennels

First things first, I don’t write about politics.  I was recently told I could/should, and let the record show, that’s not my cup of tea.  I don’t talk about which side I am on, because I’m not much for taking sides.  End of story.  But I do love to write about the critters, and I’m always amazed at what we can learn from our critter friends.  And in this week of political crazy, it’s no different.  I don’t know about y’all, but I’m ready for my Facebook feed to go back to puppies, horses, and friends’ great family pics.  I’m also ready for the news to find something else to talk about.  Period.

Unless we are darn near besties, I’m not one to talk about politics.  As my momma taught me, discussing religion and/or politics in most situations is just not the most polite thing to do.  And while I truly love the Internet – it lets me share stories, keep up with friends, and have a livelihood – I do think we have forgotten how to be polite to each other when we are on it.  (Yes, I’m not the first one to make this revelation.  But I do think it’s worth noting again, given our short attention span these days.)

All of my life, I’ve had friends from all walks of life, who hold all manner of views – some far left, some far right, some sitting in the middle, and some clear off the reservation in their own little world.  But the fact is that I love them all – as my fellow human beings.  (It’s also a reason I don’t often fit into groups, but have friends across groups.  As I’ve been told in the past, I’m not a joiner.  But I digress … .)

Folks have a right to their views, and I respect that.  As long as you don’t force your views on me, I’m even willing to have a nice discussion.  I’ve always loved to learn what makes people tick.  (And yes, some of us are down right cuckoo clocks, but still, I find it interesting nonetheless.)

Which brings me back to the critters.  You see, the critters at the farm all have to learn to live together.  We’ve got cats and dogs, and we don’t separate them or kennel them for everyday living.  We’ve got mares and geldings (that’s girls and boys for my city friends), and we don’t tell them who’s boss or how to share or which one is better at running or opening gates or listening.  We let them figure it out.  And, miracle of miracles, they do so just fine.   Now don’t get me wrong, every once in a while someone hisses or kicks or bites, but it’s temporary.  They made their point, and they move on.

So I come full circle to social media, news, and all of our various ways to scream our point of view from the mountaintops.  Let’s all try to be a little more polite, a little gentler, and remember that all of our friends don’t always see things the way we do.  And honestly, isn’t that a blessing? I mean how boring would my life be if all my friends were just like me. Lord knows, one of me is enough.

So while it’s probably not realistic to ask everyone to keep their commentary to themselves, I would ask us all to find a little bit of politeness and  ask ourselves, “Is this really necessary? Is it kind? Does this help my friends truly see my point of view, and am I open to hearing theirs?  Does this alienate people I care about?”

We can all be true to ourselves and also be kind. I’ve never once in my life found that browbeating someone who does not think like I do to be a successful method to share my point of view.  In fact, it does just the opposite. (And trust me, I’ve been on the wrong end of some serious browbeating, and it did nothing more than make me dig my heals in, and I still carry the scars.)

So as we all go into this new era, for better or worse, no matter your side, let’s keep it civil. Now, I know every once in while there will be some kicking, hissing, and biting, but let’s keep it to a minimum.  Because, at the end of the day, we all have to live and work together, and no one wants to be put in a kennel.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Maybelle and Willie
One of my favorite pics of an unlikely pair of friends – Maybelle as a crazy playful pup and Willie as a wise old crotchety kitty, rest her sweet soul. Maybelle made Willie a little more spry, and Willie taught Maybelle a few more manners. Sharing our life lessons – isn’t that what we want from each other?

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