Monday, August 07, 2017

Farm-Assist

Weldon has been farming his whole life. He's a farmer like his father and grandfather before him. I've been here for almost 13 years, but I'm not a farmer. When I helped with the milking chores, I liked to call myself a farm-assist. Sounds pretty important, doesn't it? I still assist when Weldon comes to the house and asks if I can help him for a few minutes. That happened a couple days ago, when he had to go up into the silo to make some adjustments.
This silo is 50 feet tall, not counting the rounded top. Weldon and a friend had cut and chopped the early corn and blown it up there. Well, they didn't blow it up there ... a machine did it. You can see a video of silage being blown into the silo here (scroll down almost to the end): http://farmmuse.blogspot.com/2012/10/chop-that-corn.html.

The cows were super excited to see what was going on.


Now, were was I? Ah, yes. Helping Weldon at the silo. This "crank thing" (below) raises and lowers the auger that's inside the silo. I don't have the strength to turn the crank, so the handle is replaced by a drill that can get the job done. Weldon is in the silo and I run the drill to raise or lower the auger per his directions. That's not a very good description, but if you want to understand it better, come for a visit and I'm sure Weldon will tell and show you all about it.
When I was done and Weldon was safely back on the ground, I decided to stroll toward the back of the barn and the pasture area. A calf had gotten out of the fence and was feeling footloose and fancy free - until he saw me. He scampered as fast as his little legs would carry him right back to his mama's side.
The early corn is in the silo, so I asked Weldon when the "later" corn would be ready. In September, of course. I should have remembered that, because on the morning of our wedding (September 25), Weldon was chopping corn! The late corn won't be late ... it will be right on time. And we're finally getting some rain to make it happy and healthy.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Pickles

Eleven years ago I wrote my first blog post on Farm Muse. It was about pickles. My second post was just a day later (on July 7, 2006) and it was also about pickles. So guess what I was doing today. Yup, making pickles!

It wasn't a great year for cucumbers on the farm, so I hoped maybe I wouldn't have to make any pickles. Silly me. With only two quarts of pickles left in the cupboard from last year, I knew I'd have to do something. Weldon can't live without his sweet pickles. Maybe Mom Edith still has some in her basement from previous years.

My younger daughter had been with us on the farm since late January, making a huge move from New York to France. We were busy. We had stuff to do. Pickles weren't on the to-do list. But, Mom and Pat to the rescue. (And I didn't even know I needed rescuing!) They started two gallon jars for me and passed them into my care on July 17. Truly, I was thankful. They're so thoughtful. And kind. And helpful.

These pickles don't happen overnight. First the cucumbers are picked and washed, then packed into gallon jars and covered with boiling water. Days 2 through 5 you drain off the water and then cover the cucumbers with fresh boiling water again. On Day 6 you pour off the water and this time add alum to the fresh boiled water. On Day 7 you drain the water from the jars and this time cover the cucumbers with vinegar and add a little bag of pickling spices. Now the jars sit for nine days and you don't have to do anything with them. Yay!

Today was Day 16. Pickle-making day. I took pictures. Because a blog is no fun without pictures. Some of you may have quit reading already. Such boring stuff. But, hang on. Pictures are here!
My first year (2006) I did SIX gallons. Impressive.
Today, Day 16. All cucumbers sliced thinly and covered in sugar. Lots of sugar.
The bowls of sugared "pickles" are covered and left to sit until the sugar dissolves.
When the sugar has dissolved (sometimes with the help of a little stirring) the pickles are packed into jars.

The jars are lowered into the hot water bath canner.
After 20 minutes, the jars are removed from the canner.
Tah Dah! 6 quarts of sweet pickles for the sweet farmer.
The way Weldon goes through these pickles, I'm thinking I'll still have to go check out Mom Edith's basement to see if she has some left from previous years. But this is definitely better than nothing.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

TORNADO 5/24/17

I smile and laugh a lot and probably use too many emojis but, other than that, I'm not a very emotional person. Yet I'm sitting here boohooing, scrolling through photo after photo of the aftermath of the tornado that swept across the farm on May 24.

As we walked around, while the tornado was twisting its way to other locations, I kept saying, "Unbelievable!" "Amazing!" "I can't believe it!" In those first moments, there was simply no way to process all we were seeing.

Without further ado, here are a few pics.

Left side of front yard.


This is the road to the neighbor's house. Yes, that's Weldon standing in the road!

The farm road heading to the main road.

The line of trees below the pond had their tops twisted off, but this photo doesn't show it very well.
After surveying the damage, it was time for supper. By lamplight, of course. No power.

Then, out for further investigation.

Back of the house.

Front yard.
That night (Wednesday), Weldon hooked up the generator so he could milk the cows and his mom and sister could have electricity. Electricity or no, work crews started showing up on Thursday morning.



Power lines along our road had to be replaced.
 


This old Rambler has sat amongst the trees for years, but now the trees are resting on it!
The root balls on these old trees were huge! I guess that makes sense, but still ....

Putting up a new electric pole at the house.

Patching the 4 holes in the roof.

Other than trees, no lives were lost. No farm buildings were seriously damaged. The house will need to be re-roofed, but that will wait for another day. Electricity was back on about 5pm Thursday.

Weldon needed a mental and physical break on Friday, so we drove around to see some other local damage. Again, Amazing! Unbelievable! Ice cream from the Dairi-O was good medicine.

On Saturday, May 27, with the help of 14 friends, neighbors, and family members, we worked our butts off and made some good progress on cleaning up the yard and fields. We cannot say "Thank you" enough for all the help. I was working too hard to get any pictures, but I had to take a selfie:
Enjoying some cold Cheerwine.
At 10:00 that very night there was a huge lightning strike. HUGE! BAM!! We kept electricity at our house, but no phone or wi-fi. Weldon's mom and sis and the milk parlor were without electricity and the generator wouldn't work on the pole like it used to. Weldon figured a way to connect the generator right into the milk parlor and, voila! he could milk cows on Sunday morning ... much later than usual, but they got milked. After lots of phone calls and offers, Mom Edith's house was set up with a big generator to keep the refrigerators and freezers running.

On Monday, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and some guys from church were here to clean up the downed trees along the fence lines and around the ponds. Electricians worked on the pole in Edith's yard. Men worked to get the milk parlor and milk tank up and running. Whew!

On Wednesday, May 31, the whole farm had electricity, phone, and internet. To celebrate the return to normal, I picked black raspberries and made the first pie of the season. Yay!
I'm hoping that experiencing a tornado (particularly its aftermath) has changed me. It touched some part of me that's hidden way inside. Feelings. Emotions. We lost nothing, but I realized all that could have been lost. I hope that now, when someone asks me to pray, I'll pray with more sympathy, more compassion, more heart. Stuff that people go through is real. May my prayers be just as real.

So, that's that. It's be a very farm muse kind of post, hasn't it? Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring.

Friday, April 07, 2017

I've Looked at Clouds

Clouds have captivated me in the last few years. I've always enjoyed them, of course, but it seems like I'm noticing and commenting on them all the time. "Look at those flufferty-bufferty clouds!" (Yes, I've actually said that.) "Did you see the spectacular clouds over the mountain earlier today?" "The sun is setting the clouds on fire. God is showing off tonight."

In 1967, Joni Mitchell wrote the song "Both Sides, Now". The lyrics speak of the illusions of clouds, of love, and of life. The world is full of illusions, but that doesn't make clouds or love or life any less amazing. It's all about our focus.

The last chapter in my book Crap Happens...Wallowing Is Optional begins with this quote from C.S. Lewis: "The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life—the life God is sending one day by day." Life wouldn't be life without interruptions and illusions. We might as well put a smile on it.

And now, without further interruption, enjoy a few photos of clouds. You're welcome. 😉





Monday, January 09, 2017

Run Your Race

I've never been good at running physically, but I know how to race when the clock is ticking and I'm behind schedule. For example, I spend the day goofing off with Pat and get home just before suppertime. You've never seen me throw a meal together so fast. Or, a friend calls to say she's coming for the weekend and, in short order, the catastrophe known as the guest room is fluffed and ready.

Have you ever run in a three-legged race? The upside is that if you lose, you can always blame it on your partner.

How about sack races? Now you're on your own, but the sack doesn't let you use your physical prowess to full advantage.

It's not that life is a race exactly, but there is a goal: finish well. How did the end of 2016 look compared to the lofty resolutions made at the beginning of that year? Were there things you wanted to do but were unable to accomplish? Did "life" get in the way of your dreams?

Regardless of how many times I set a goal and miss it by an inch or a mile, I always fall back on this beautiful promise of God: "I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

God has plans and goals for us—good plans, full of hope and peace. You might feel like someone is holding you back from your dreams. (Remember the 3-legged race?) Maybe it seems like your life is stuck in an old flour sack and you can't break free from its constraints. Maybe you've already broken your New Year's resolutions, or you didn't make any in the first place. "Why bother? I never keep them."

Let's be patient with ourselves. Let's be kind to ourselves. Let's remember that God has plans for us. We should probably take a little time to talk to him about those plans. "Is this the way, Lord? Am I on the right path? Show me where I'm messing up. Help me see what I should be doing." There's a song that says, "... have a little talk with Jesus." Yup, that's what we should do.

Monday, January 02, 2017

The First Second of the Rest of My Life

In last week's blog I wrote, "I'm determined to be the best farm muse ever. Wherever I am, whatever is going on around me, I'm going to look for the artistic, inspirational angle—and write about it! Or take a picture of it! Or sing about it! Or make some cookies to celebrate."

Last night, my daughter Katie reminded me that I wanted to start the 1 Second Everyday "project" on January 1. Drat! I had totally forgotten about it. The object is to take a short video, choose a one-second clip from that video, and repeat (every day for a year or for the rest of your life or whatever). All the one-second clips will be mashed together to make a movie. The day was almost over, no one was around, and absolutely nothing was going on. I downloaded the app, didn't know what I was doing—but, I did it! Here's the exciting video, before being trimmed to one itsy-bitsy second.
video
Things can only get better from here, right? But I loved the graphics on the Parade magazine cover for January 1. Plus, the idea of throwing around kindness went right along with my desire to look for the artistic and inspirational in the New Year, so it's a good, one-second start for 2017.

With the creativity of God all around, surely we can find a smile or a hint of beauty every day. Or at least a "Hunh? Whaaa?" moment. We don't have to make a video of it, but let's recognize it and give thanks for it.

Monday, December 26, 2016

New Year's Resolution

Since I retired from my farm chores, it's been hard to keep this blog going. The title, Farm Muse, keeps whispering, "Pssst. You should be writing about the farm, you know." Today I have new insight and, I hope, new freedom to write whatever I darn well please. First: the farm is my home, my address. That doesn't change, regardless of where I wander or what I'm doing. Second, muse is not only a verb; it's also a noun. According to vocabulary.com, "... it means a person — especially a woman — who is a source of artistic inspiration." Tah dah! I'm an artistic, inspiring woman who happens to live on a farm. Farm Muse is just another one of my many names or titles. I'm free to be me and to write about anything or nothing.

Last week, Pat took me to Reynolda House Museum of American Art (in Winston-Salem) to see the Grant Wood exhibit. Photos weren't allowed, but I'm sure you'll recognize his well-known painting below. You can learn more about the exhibit and see more of his work by clicking on this link.

As you know, I've done my share of whining about farm life. Certainly the paintings on display at Reynolda House depicted more of the idyllic than the crappy, but I was strangely moved by it all. Right then and there I determined to be more aware of the daily blessings all around me, even if it means looking under the piles of junk or getting out the magnifying glass. It has become somewhat like a New Year's resolution: I will look with new eyes to see the good, and if I don't see the blessing, I'll be the blessing!

I'm determined to be the best farm muse ever. Wherever I am, whatever is going on around me, I'm going to look for the artistic, inspirational angle—and write about it! Or take a picture of it! Or sing about it! Or make some cookies to celebrate.
Are you with me?