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?

 

Critter Stories · Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

10 Critters, the Bible, and a Bra

Cowboy and I live at the edge of tornado alley, and after a particularly close call in 2014, decided a storm shelter would be a good idea.  Of course, we pray that we will never actually need it, but it’s a comfort to have that steel box bolted deep into the foundation.  (Yes, we have an above ground job – I’m not looking to crawl into one those tomb like things people put in their garage floors.  No thank you!)

Which leads me to one of the first nights of the new year.  We’ve been waffling between hot and cold weather, as if mother nature is in the middle of a hot flash, a hottie, her own personal summer, or whatever granny calls it.  This also means severe weather is always a possibility.

We’d been watching the weather that day, which had been glorious, but knew storms were coming in from the west.  As the evening progressed, warnings started coming about potential straight line winds – up to 70 miles per hour.  We did our usual battening down of the hatches, which these days means making sure the pool side lounge chairs don’t become kites, and horse gates are latched open so the equines can move around at will.  (Goodness knows I’d love to have a storm shelter big enough for our horses, but honestly I’m not sure I’d want to be locked in there with them as a storm blew over.  That might be a storm all on its own.)

Well, at 3 a.m., the time of all good storms, I woke up with my heart pounding as I heard a giant bang. Thunder! The wind chimes were blowing furiously, and I looked out the window just in time to see of one of our rocking chairs go flying off the porch. (Dang it, we clearly needed to do more battening.)  I heard the sounds of small hail starting to pelt our metal roof.  Hemming and hawing for all of about two minutes,  I decided it was time to put ourselves in the shelter.  (You do remember, we have 4 dogs and 6 cats, and you can bet your bottom dollar, if we’re going in the shelter they are, too!)

Let me paint you a picture.  It’s  3 a.m., I’m clad in pink heart pajamas, and we are about to start an indoor rodeo roundup.  First up – cats! I bound up the stairs to grab Nightmare, where I know his favorite hiding spot is.  Into the first cat kennel.  Door locked. Next! Moving on to the big boy, Rhinoceros.  Oh man, I haven’t had him in a kennel for a little while; that took some shoving.  (Note to self, he might need to graduate to the big boy kennel.) Then it was time for Shadow and her crew of boys.  As Cowboy says, thank goodness God gave cats tails for handles.  One, two, three, four – all shoved into one giant kennel. Now they normally lay together all day, but like most children, force them to play nice and there is hissing, swatting, and growling.

Finally, it’s time to add the pooches.  On Dixie, on Goober, on Maybelle, and Max –  yes it feels like you are calling Santa’s reindeer there are so flipping many of them.  Herding them all into the shelter with the promise of treats, the last one entered just in time for us to shut the door and lock our little family in place. (Oh gosh, this is also when I remember that Nightmare likes to hide presents in the storm shelter. Please Lord, let there be not one little half eaten mouse in here with us.)

My Farmtastic Life - Dogs and cats in storm shelter
All tucked into the storm shelter – there were 3 cat kennels stacked on top of each other – effectively creating a tower of cat. We were standing up against the wall – wouldn’t want to crowd the critters. (And yes, Goober is in there, too. See the tip of his tail on the bottom right.)

And then you hear it. The panting, the whining, the banging of tails, as you realize you are in a 12-by-4-foot  steel box with 10 critters!  Are we sure this was really a great idea? Dogs are sniffing cats, cats are doing that dreadful cry they do when you drive them to the vet, and everyone is just confused.  Of course Max, the golden retriever, just lays down and takes a nap in the middle of it all, because seriously, in case you missed, it is 3 a.m.

But then I looked around at all of those noses, paws, and ears, and I was grateful.  We were all safe in our box.  And I was praying the horses would use all of their God-given instincts to stay safe.

Adjusting to the dim light, I smiled at what else I saw.  Before bed, I had the presence of mind to put our Bible in the shelter, because nothing comforts better than that. Oh, but I did mention a bra in the title, right?  Why, pray tell, am I talking about unmentionables?

All of us good southerners know that we are dreadfully misrepresented on the news when there is a natural disaster.  For whatever reason, the news can spot a shirtless, toothless, shoeless fella a mile away.  Well, this southern farmgirl was not going to have it. If, heaven forbid, we lost it all, I was at least going to emerge from the shelter dressed in something other than jammies.  So yes, before we went to bed, when forecasters were warning of storms, and winds, and danger, I was busy tossing the necessities into the shelter, which any lady will tell you, definitely includes a bra.  Which also guarantees, we would not be on the news.  Amen-glory-hallelujah for that!

After 10 minutes of howling winds, the edge of the front moved on and we were left with simple rain and no real damage. Thank you, Lord!  But I realized something in that box.  When it comes right down to grabbing the things you absolutely must have in this life, the list is preciously small.  (And yes, there is always room for a bra.)

 

Farmtastic Crafting · Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Cultivate a Vision

I’m a consummate list maker.  Heck, even my lists have lists.  To be fair, I come by this trait honestly, as my momma is probably one of the most organized people I know.  When Cowboy and I got married, A LONG TIME AGO, you should have seen the lists my momma carried around, and it worked.  It was a perfect day for us.

So as we go into 2017, you might imagine that I’m in full on list mode.  But the truth is, a list of New Year’s resolutions always baffles me.  Of course, I could, like most folks, add the usual suspects – eat less, exercise more.  But that also brings out my recovering perfectionist side.  The moment I miss a workout or a piece of chocolate just throws itself into my mouth, my brain screams epic fail.  One of my dearest pals subscribes to the notion of a theme.  He picks a theme for the year, like adventure, and focuses his efforts on making progress against the theme.  I’ve always admired that, and even tried it, but once I get past January and a couple of journal entries, it’s c’est la vie to the theme.

My Farmtastic Life - Vision Board in Progress
Clipping away – I ended up with more words than room, which forced me to get down to my faves. Also, you will make a mess. It’s okay – just enjoy the process!

Which brings me to Cowboy.  (Good gravy how I love that man!)  Cowboy is not big on the holidays of any kind, never has been.  And while at first that might make you go, “Awe, shucks.  Really?”  I’ve come to love this about him. He’s been known to say, “Why focus on <fill in the holiday of your choice>, when you can experience love/gifts/joy all year round.  What would you rather?”

So that got me thinking about New Year’s and a way to do a little something to mark the occasion that would work for me and alleviate my need to check things off and truly just live – live in the moment. Enter the vision board. While I had never done one before, I had heard about them from friends and usually equated them to grand things you’d like to accomplish like buying a new home or getting that next promotion at work.

I didn’t read up on how to do them or take a class, which is monumental for this girl who loves to know how first – think of me as that lovable 4-year-old asking why and how.  Instead I just bought a frame, some scrapbook paper, some stickers, and picked through my magazine stash and starting clipping out words, phrases, and pictures that meant something to me.  And what I found was that it wasn’t really the big things.  In fact, it’s the little things, and a lot of them I already do.  What I was thinking about as I snipped, arranged, and glued was cultivating the vision for the life I wanted to live this year.  Loving Cowboy and this farmgirl life I get to live.  Writing more stories, crafting, cooking, digging in the dirt.  Sharing moments and treasuring those special friends that I hold close in my heart.  Giving back, paying it forward, and being a woman of faith and grace.

Sometimes the new year does not need to bring monumental change, but rather a reminder to live the lives we were meant to live each day.  As Cowboy would say, happy new day.

My Farmtastic Life - 2017 Vision Board
The finished product – so many words that just speak to my soul. Wishing you all a blessed 2017!

P.S. – If you’d like to make a vision board, here are a couple of tips if you also have an inner 4-year-old.

A few things you’ll need:

My Farmtastic Live - Vision Board Supplies
Some of my favorite vision board supplies – really you can use anything you’d like.
  • A frame – I chose 11″x14″ but any size will work
  • Magazines or books you are willing to cut up with abandon
  • Scissors – the ones that make decorative edges are my favorites
  • Glue stick
  • Scrapbook or craft paper to be your base
  • Stickers, stamps, markers

To get started:

  1. Cut your paper to the size of your frame.  I had to tape two pieces together.  Don’t worry, if you’re like me you’ll have so much on your board the seam will never show.
  2. Cut out words, photos, images that make you smile and speak to your heart.
  3. Arrange and glue.
  4. Frame and place in a spot where you’ll be sure to appreciate it.

If you decide to make a vision board, we’d love to see it, so please share away.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter under the title of Happy New Day.  It’s the first in a monthly column I’ll be doing for the paper as a community columnist.  A dream come true for this farmgirl!

Adventures Away From the Farm · Farmtastic Stories

A Tourist In My Own Town

I’ve had a love affair with adorable town squares for as long as I can remember.  Cowboy has often said the unicorn I am hunting in life is a grand old farmhouse on a hundred acres in the middle of a town square.  (Yes, most definitely a unicorn!)

Glen Rose dinosaur bench
Sit a spell in Glen Rose.

But I have to say that where we live now, just outside our quaint little town at the tippy top of the Texas hill country, is just about perfect. We’re just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Glen Rose town square – filled with delightful shops, good eats, and quirky findings that make it special.

Track in Time Too
Tracks in Time Too is one of my favorites – filled with industrial, farmhouse, and just plain fun finds.

Whenever Cowboy and I have guests, we often take them into town and show them all that is Glen Rose. Heck, we used to be those tourists dreaming of finding our own spot. So on this gloriously sunny, albeit slightly windy day, with a little time off, I decided to be a tourist in my own town. Just me, myself, and I.

I drove on down to the square, promptly parked the Jeep, and hopped out with a spring in my step.  No time clock. No agenda.  Just me and the town I’ve come to love.  I wandered from shop to shop – trying on clothes, laughing at funny signs, looking through stacks of old books and farmhouse antiques.

Paisley Reese
New to the square – cowgirl chic Paisley Reese was filled with unique and fun clothes.

The shop keepers were all gracious as they asked if I needed help, shared their post Christmas sales, and wished me Happy New Year.  There were quaint little parks and tucked in between buildings and historic old structures still decked out with holiday flair. And when you really looked, you could see that our little treasured square holds genealogy secrets, dinosaur footprints at the museum (yes, we are the dinosaur capital of Texas), and art galleries.  How perfectly farmtastic! There is just something about a square that makes this farmgirl’s heart sing.

River House Grill
One of my favorite good eats – The River House Grill. The Harvest Flatbread is DIVINE!

Sometimes it’s easy to miss what’s right in front of us with all the glory of the Internet and ease of Amazon.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit that Amazon Prime can change a farmgirl’s life. You can even order a muck rake online; trust me, I’ve done it).  But today was not about the pure task of shopping, it was about the act of experiencing where I live.  Talking to people, supporting the town, and basking in gratefulness.  Because I am exactly where I am meant to be.

As you get ready to jump into 2017, I encourage you to take a look around at where you are and become a tourist in your own town.  Maybe you live in a big city and have amazing museums or restaurants.  Maybe you live in the suburbs with walking and biking trails that just spur the imagination.  Wherever you are, find the beauty.

And if you ever find yourself in Glen Rose, stop by the square and do a little strolling.  It’s good for the soul.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Christmas Cards, O Christmas Cards

2016 My Farmtastic Life Merry Christmas card
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from two- and four-leggeds on the farm!

I read a blog post today by a dear soul who was lamenting the guilt heaped upon her when she receives Christmas cards, and it got me to thinking.  At the farm, we’ve been hit or miss with the sending of cards.  Some years I stock up on boxes of them only to pack them up with the Christmas decorations, unsent. And sometimes I’ve unpacked them the following year only to pack them up again. (Please tell me that I am not alone here!)  Other years we’ve designed them online and sent them out.  Woohoo!  Right now we are batting two years in a row of getting them out – and that feels like some sort of record.

But what really made me lose a little of my holly jolly was thinking that this fellow human felt guilty for not keeping up.  I get it. In the age of Facebook, Instagram, and heaven help us Pinterest, it’s easy to go down a spiral of feeling less than – less crafty, less joyful, less, less, less.  Let’s face it, we could all give ourselves a little break.

So why do we send out cards from the farm?  Mainly, because we want those near and far who have touched our lives in some way to know that during this time of year we are thinking about them.  It’s really just that simple.  There are folks on our list who I worked with in my 20s (not yesterday folks), and others who I knew as a child, and still others who help us with this crazy farm life.

Our lives our not perfect by any stretch. Holy cats just read our blog to find out what crazy antics these critters keep us busy with.  If we’re not scooping poop, we’re stepping in it.  But the truth is, in this big crazy world, we are blessed.  Blessed because there folks who care about us.

So when you open your mailbox and find a Christmas card, or (gasp) a Christmas letter, know that the sender just wants you to know they are thinking about you.  That you are not alone. You are not forgotten.

Listen, I’m not saying that Great Aunt Sally isn’t bragging like a maniac or waxing poetic in her Christmas letter about her kid’s promotion to head fry cook, or her granddaughter’s successful run for band president, or sharing how her cheeseball took first place at the county fair, or heaven forbid sharing her third husband Larry’s latest ailments. But let out a big guffawing laugh, be grateful for your less eventful 2016, and find comfort that she thought about you – in her own crazy way!

So if sending Christmas cards is something you find joy in, then get out the stamps and the glitter stickers. And if not, that’s okay too.  From all of us at the farm, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! Cards or no cards.

 

 

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Tug Of Donkey

We love our donkey girls here at the farm. They have big personalities, make crazy braying noises when it’s time to eat, and they are great at keeping an eye on things. (Our city friends like to call them guard donkeys.)

And while they are oodles of fun 99 percent of the time, sometimes they are … well, um … donkeys!  Sweetie pie is about 7 years old, and from time to time gets a little limpy, which means we need to bring her up into a stall and let her get some rest and TLC.  (Cowboy is convinced that Sweetie Pie plays up the limping when she wants a little extra attention. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past her; she’s one smart chica.)

Well we’ve had some rain, which means we have mud, which is when she usually gets a little sensitive. So out in the mud we tromped to get her a little R&R, farm style.  While with our horses you can whip on a halter and have the job done in two seconds flat, with the donkeys, not so much.

Now don’t get me wrong, Miss Pie is better than her dear sweet Mama Rose (that’s a whole other kind of rodeo), but she is still a donkey.  It’s a lovely rhythm of 2 steps, tug, release, 2 steps, tug, no thank you.  So we work our way up from the pasture to the stalls doing our delicate dance while all the other equines watch on in amusement.  (Yes, I do think they are laughing at us humans sometimes.)

Farm Photo - Sweetie Pie the Donkey
Sweetie Pie being a smidge stubborn. She is a donkey, after all.

And then the final show down – the big bad scary stall gate.  Now little miss knows good and well the gate is not a bad thing, but it’s her last stand.  So she has to make a show of things.  Who can blame a girl for trying. (Notice the taught rope in the photo and those ears and eyes.  She is saying, “No ma’am, no ma’am, mo ma’am.”)

Ultimately, she trots into the stall for some extra special care, at which point I do a little jig of victory.  She gets a good rub down, some fresh hay, and while I think I have won the grear tug of donkey event, I think our girl knows she is the real winner, but she is at least gracious enough to let me bask for just a moment.  Even donkeys have manners on the farm.

 

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

When You Wish Upon a Frog

Farm Photo - Digging of the pool
I just had to climb in at my first chance.

I’ve wanted a swimming pool since I was a little girl. Growing up, it was always my favorite summer activity.  I remember fondly the summer my mom took me to a huge pool club and I would spend hours upon hours dreaming in the pool.  My raft became a dolphin and I an amazing dolphin trainer.  Or sometimes I’d press my feet together and try to swim like a mermaid.  I felt graceful in the pool – something I rarely feel on dry land.

So last fall when I confided my dream to Cowboy of getting a pool, he found a way to make it happen. (Yes, I just love that man.)  I watched from the front porch for 12 weeks while machines and craftsmen dug, rocked, and tiled the pool.  Finally finished, I donned my bathing suit and watched eagerly as it began to fill with water (just a measly 27 hours).

And then the splashing began.  We had my niece down from the big city (Chicago) to splish and splash.  We bought pool toys, floated, and for the first time in my life, someone even told me I looked tan this summer.  That’s because every chance I got, I was by the pool – swimming, reading, and enjoying the view of the horses.  Blessed, simply blessed.

And then the ecosystem started.  First, we had one or two frogs. Kind of cute.  They were especially fond of the rock fountains.  Then there were a dozen.  Each night as Cowboy and I went to take a dip, we’d count frogs.  I’m not sure when it happened, but all of a sudden we were up to over 40 frogs, then 50, then 60.  Until one day, we counted nearly 100 frogs!

I googled to see how to make them move on, but no luck. Any solution would hurt or kill them, so not an option.  And ultimately, it turns out they are great bug control.  Let me be clear, we have no pond or other nearby water source, so how these crazy Kermits found us, I’m not quite sure.  (Other than, obviously the animal kingdom has a network equivalent to Facebook, and I think we must be posted, shared, liked, and loved all over it.)

Back to our ecosystem … so one lovely evening during a warm swim, I was doing my nightly frog count, and a little face poked out of the rocks at me that I had not seen before.  It took my brain a moment to register this creature, which was a mere 10 inches or so from my face.

My first thought was, “Oh, how cute.  Wait, it doesn’t look like a frog.  It has a tongue sticking out at me.”  My second thought was “S-N-A-K-E!”  Quickly followed by a panicked, “Out of the pool. Out of the pool. Out of the pool!”

Holy hades where did he come from?  Well, you guessed it, we were serving up a lovely buffet of a snake’s favorite dish – Kermit a la poolside.  He was more scared of me that I was of him, although I’m not sure that is entirely possible or true.  And over the next week we had two of his associates show up as well.  Fun science fact I somehow missed in biology, ALL snakes swim. (Once again, thank you Google.  And yes, you heard me.  A-L-L.)

Well Cowboy and my dad came to the rescue, and the snakes met their fate.  Sorry fellas, swimming with snakes is not on my list of things to do.  The Kermits are croaking and singing nightly, and we have purchased a snake grabber on Amazon. (Who knew … Amazon really does have everything.)

So yes, I’ve got my dream pool and we are loving every minute.  But let me say, I am thanking my lucky stars for beautiful clear water that you can see what you are getting into, literally.  Last night, as Cowboy and I stood on the porch, we listened as a giant hoot howl sounded very close.  We hadn’t heard that before.  So with my handy dandy phone I looked up their food source – furry creatures and (yep, you guessed it) frogs.  Ribbit!

Farm Critter Pic - Frogs in the Pool
A sampling of our friendly frogs.

P.S. – I never liked swimming in lakes, but with my new all-snakes-swim revelation, I’m sticking to clear water from now on. No exceptions.