Thursday, June 18, 2020

My Tribe

There's a whole lots of animals here. I try to spend time with all of them. Some of them aren't eager to have any sort of relationship with me, while other are quite eager for my time and attention. They want to be with me, want my attention, want to be touched, and want to play.  Those relationships with my animals brings me great joy.

It is my practice to take a nap in the afternoon. As soon as I begin to get in position on the couch and unfurl the quilt that will cover me -- the dogs are jockeying for positions. Now Truffle, my miniature schnauzer, is the oldest and my favorite animals on the farm. She gets the prime position closest to my head. That position is non negotiable. The other two settle in to spots further down with some negotiating. I love that they want to be with me.

Putting my seven chickens to bed at night, give me a great sense of contentment. I count them, finding  six in a row, with Saffron on her usual post far away from the rest. Each night I thank them and tell them good night. I delight in their contented chirping and noises made by happy chickens.

My goats each deserve a greeting and a touch. I know that Morning Glory will want her belly rubbed.  I know that Petunia will walk on my feet and push everyone away until I acknowledge her. Butterscotch will require a moment alone to crawl into my lap. Over with the bucks, they'll rub their heads on me to mark me as their own. Phin will snuffle in ear and touch his face gently to mine. Once they have greeted me, welcomed me into their space -- we can be content in spending time together. I love it when they treat me just like another one of the goats. I think that is a huge honor. I want to be one with them.

Then there are the birds that we feed, the barn cat that brings us gifts from hunting.

Then there is the house that is only ours, the property -- the land that I feel that I am now part of. There is a sacredness of place that I require. I don't want to be temporary, but I want to know this land, be part of it.

I share this home with my husband, Dave of 19 years. He is a driving force in gathering all that is on this spot we call home. We each have two grown children who come and are immediately part of this place when they visit. All of this -- the sum total of all these relationships -- is my tribe. 

Home, where my tribe lives
Playing with the goats

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Stop. Savor. Repeat.

Life is to be savored.
 I have always worked towards that and have tried to remind myself of that ideal in times of stress and uncertainty. Or when there's more things on my list of things to do than I can possibly accomplish in my lifetime.

   Stop. Savor. Repeat.

In the midst of Covid 19 running rampant around our world, this is more important than ever. It's a scary uncertain time. Most of us have never been through something like this before. The enemy can't be seen and it's difficult to do battle. We are over reacting because we feel really helpless.

I had to chuckle as folks were having fits about not being able to go to church last Sunday. Now, I don't attend a church very often any more, but after years of doing so, I think folks should be able to stave off the panic. Why should it be so difficult to figure our how to worship on your own? If you normally go to church on Sunday, then it would seem you'd know God well enough, to know how to spend time celebrating, praising and being still with God. That time is to be savored.

The opportunity to stay at home and savor this place that is my safe sanctuary is an amazing opportunity. Not to lesson the seriousness for the reason we are called to self isolate, but it's a good thing. Maybe if you feel trapped, this is a sign that you need to change your life. I want to escape to my home -- not from it.

I am savoring not having to rush to things or to places or accomplish more than I feel like doing in a day. The stress of getting things done in a hurry has been removed. In the past few days, I've actually given myself permission to do the very things that I love the most.

Stop. Savor. Repeat.

I'm savoring time to just sit with my goats, snuggling with my miniature schnauzer longer than I normally allow myself, lingering over my morning coffee, crocheting to my hearts content. I'm taking  care of things on my endless list that have been on there for a ridiculous amount of time. And just savoring the home I love, without just worrying about what needs to be taken care. What an amazing gift.

Yes, the reality is scary serious. Yes, I'm being responsible. And a resounding yes, I'm enjoying where I am at this moment

Stop. Savor. Repeat.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Glorious Tree

This is a beautiful old oak tree that I met recently on a trip to Petaluma, California. It is lovingly regarded at a retreat center there. At some point it had fallen over in a storm and yet it continues to grow. It's beautiful and I found myself drawn to it.  If I'd been there alone, I would have been tempted to climb on one of the lower branches with a book and a soda and luxuriate through the day. How wonderful it would have been to have a tree like that as a child and spending the day with it as one would a precious friend.

It wasn't just the size of the tree, or it's imaginary play potential that I found irresistible. I felt a connection to its message of thriving and overcoming.  I mean, that tree was growing as magnificently as can be prior to the storm that caused it horizontal direction of growth. It was doing what every tree is made to do -- grow tall and full and glorious. I just bet that everyone expected that tree to give up and die.

Instead it gracefully took it's change in direction in stride and continued being glorious. That tree isn't just a survivor, it's a glorious conquerer of with winds of chain, the storms that life eventually brings. The older I get the worse I am about change, but this bold and beautiful tree gives me courage to continue to fully live.  Those lessons of encouragement are all around us if we just pay attention.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

One Sweet Cat or "And They Called it Kitty Love"

Marie on the left and Donny hogging the plush bed.
Donny and Marie have been our fearless barn cats for at least seven years. They were free from a sweet family I met because there was a cardboard sign advertising the kittens at the side of the road.  I was delighted to be so resourceful as I brought them home to rid us of all manner of vermin,.

Marie turned out to be the more serious hunter of the two, but they both brought us hunting trophies from their adventures.  The first time I looked curiously down on the welcome mat and saw just the face of a vole -- well, I felt that was a rite of passage into farmer-hood. I have become quite accustomed to rodent body parts left at my back door.

Donny has been the big snuggler of the two.  Marie is quite temperamental and not one to allow you to touch her. He tended to greet everyone who came by and lavish them with attention. Of course, he expected that same lavish attention in return. The less attention you paid, the more his front claws came into play. If allowed, he would climb right up the front of you to get your full participation in this exchange of affection.

One day, in the center of the intensity of goats being born, he planted himself in the midst of the messy chaos so he wouldn't miss out on anything.

Occasionally Donny would try to take a field trip in someone's car.  I had to rescue him from a contractors truck once. And one visitor had to return to the house once she was a mile or so away to return our travel wanting cat. 

It's been a couple of weeks since we've seen Donny.  My guess is that a predator larger than he did his job in the circle of species. I try not to think about it. I ache if I think about it.

We've got a lot of animals on the property. There's 25 goats, 3 dogs, 7 chickens, 3 turtles and one cat. The are born, they live the best life we can give them and eventually they die. Just like us.

I have a whole bunch of houseplants. I'm not particularly gifted in growing but I do love having them around. The heat went  out in the house a while back and the cold Michigan winter weather caused a few unexpected deaths.

If you love having life around you -- as I do, then it stands to reason that you are going to have to experience the sorrow of death, too. You certainly can't have one without the other.

For today, I'm just grateful for the many loving years a sweet cat gave us. And, shall redouble my effort to appreciate all of life each day.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Good, The Bad and the Better -- A Lesson From Making Soap

It's a simple chemical formula combining different types of oils, water, lye and sometimes scent. If you want to impress someone, you can tell them that the chemical process of making soap is called saponification. That just sounds more impressive.

People have been making soap for a very long time. My grandma would talk about the lye soap her grandmother made that burned her skin. It probably burned because back in the olden days, they didn't have computer generated formulas that analyzed just how much lye was necessary to cause the transformation process to begin.

Lye is caustic. Gloves and eye protection are recommended when using it. It is in fact, the typical main component in products that aid in unclogging sinks. Picture a white powder than can eat its way through compacted hair and other disgusting oddities in your drain. Yuck.. Lye is that powerful.

Each ingredient carefully weighed in the exacting process of making goat milk soap
The formula generates its own heat as it is mixed
in the pot.

I continue to be amazed knowing lye is at the heart of the equation that produces such a gentle, nourishing soap I safely use all over my body.  If I were to apply lye directly to my skin, I would be burned and in pain. It would be an awful experience. It took me forever to actually make my own soap because I was so intimated by  the caustic lye.

Lye + oils =soap
Something harmful/bad + something else = good

We can't get through life without sad things happening to us and those we love. We fail, we're disappointed, relationships end. people die --- and on and on the litany of negatives  goes on. But the positive spin, is all the rest of the good things in life that are mixed in.  When it's all blended together, and if we are intentional about looking for it -- we can just about always find amazing things resulting from negative experiences.

Beautiful goat milk soap curing in the molds they were poured in.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Back to Nature

 People talk about getting back to nature. I always want to ask them when we got separated from it. Because, even through we live and work inside four walls -- we're still part of nature, we are in fact, a product of nature.

It snows in Michigan. I grew up here, so I am fully aware of the weather in this beautiful state. And for the most part, I deal with it in a positive manner. I can safely drive in it and make my peace with large measures of it. Snow can mean fun and snow days. Even though I'm not a winter sportsperson of any flavor, I fully embrace snow angels and snowman making. I survived the massive snows of the late 60's providing volumes of memories of pioneer-like over-embellished stories of snow survival. 

Final analysis-- snow is just not a big deal if you treat it with the respect it requires.

Having provided that qualifier, I must confess that at this arthritic stage of very late middle age, the required lower temperatures that go along with the frozen precipitation cause me a great deal of pain.  The arthritis part isn't as bad as what the temperature and barometric pressure does to my head. Oh the pain.
So follow me here--the natural occurring phenomenon of snow and freezing temperatures results in human pain. They are connected. Even if I'm inside the house, and most of the winter I am, the correlation is unchallenged.  When I've been in pain for a long time, I can get snippy.  I'm crabby. My spouse might suggest another word for it, but I'm not asking him.

The other night I was in one of those snippy/crabby moods. I was ranting and banging kitchen cupboards because I couldn't find something.  That brings me to the next part of nature that we're not separated . . .

My miniature schnauzer Truffle, is my emotional barometer if you will.  I looked at her shivering in my husband's lap.  She wasn't cold, she was upset because of my outburst. Feeling like a heel, I went to directly to her and we lavishly demonstrated our love and care for each other. She was quite relieved to know I was okay.

Truffle is like that. She responds to and attempts to counteract my negative emotions. I think that's amazing. It is miraculous, but not that uncommon.

Truffle ready to be with me, whatever we go.

If you consider these things, there really is no "getting back to nature." We're just part of it, integrally part of it. But not in charge of it. I hope to go forward with a greater appreciation of how all things are so amazingly connected. Our actions, words and decisions have repercussions every where. I am both awed and intimidated by our responsibility to each other.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Sparkle At Every Opportunity!

A typed letter came to me the other day. The return address was familiar but not the name. I just knew it wouldn't be good news. The spouse of one of my pen pals was kindly letting me know of the recent death of his wife. I've lost a precious friend.

Would you believe that I've never met my pen pal, Billie from Reno? We've been corresponding for ten years or so. We've shared all sorts of events, holidays, and everyday happenings over the years. Getting a letter from Billie, was like a special celebration from a close friend that left you feeling the warmth of companionship.

Each letter that came -- usually once a month or so. The letter itself was handwritten on two or three pages of pretty stationery, often with a card. But that was NEVER EVER all of it. Billie included articles, pictures and stories out of magazines and the local paper. She often included the forecast for Reno's weather --quite a bit nicer that Michigan's in the winter. Occasionally she'd add a pretty slip of paper with glitter on it. I still have a particularly pretty yellow piece that I use for a bookmark. It makes me feel like sunshine just to look at it. Then there's a smattering of stickers and always a quote that she's written out. I think Billie would then add a spritz of perfume as her final touch.  All of that and more was the cheerful visit she packed in an envelope.

Her husband told me that Billie had over 50 pen pals. Can you imagine how much time it took her to do all those special touches for everyone? And the effort it took to remember all our stories and information? I currently have 13 pen pals and it's hard to keep track of everyone!

Last year she sent me a package,  for my birthday in February. Inside was a beautiful pair of grey gloves with gemstones sprinkled on the back. I got to laughing, because I would have know they were from Billie even if there wasn't something written to tell me so. Billie was synonymous with  glitter and sparkle. And it suited her. In fact, she told me her family called her Aunt Sparkle.

She taught me a lot about being a good pen pal. Billie taught me that small efforts make a BIG IMPACT. You can tell when someone takes time for you, and that feels so good. Grand gestures are nice, but little day to day acts of kindness are so meaningful.  It isn't very difficult to better someone's day. She was a professional!  She taught me that if you can sparkle and glitter, please do! And she showed me investing in people is a worthwhile endeavor.

Billie was a grand pen pal, a good friend and an amazing person.

My sparkly gloves from Billie. What a wonderful gift to treasure.