Friday, June 08, 2018

How a city girl, gone country grieves (and raises cows): Porch Time

 How a city girl, gone country grieves 
(and raises cows)

I met Kimberly through farming. She, like me, has been dropped into this life and is learning to love it just like me. She is a Christian, however, our pasts are nothing alike. I've asked her to share her story on my Blog over the next weeks or months or however long it takes. It is filled with much grief and loss but will hopefully make you laugh and smile and grow and grieve along with her.

I’m baaack! My apologies for such a long delay between posts, but as Wendi can attest, spring brings all kinds of new and more challenging chores in livestock.   I’m not sure where I want to begin again, as per usual a whole lotta cover and a whole lotta ground. Today, though I had a little revelation we’ll start there.
This afternoon, I was enjoying a little late lunch break on our porch. The air is dry and warm and the breeze carries with it the smells and sounds of June life on the farm. The sky is a crystalline blue, with seriously not cloud to be had and the mountain is in full emerald glory. I love June. It’s probably my most favorite month, especially since January this year lasted three months.  I finished my lunch (all sourced locally I might add with produce from local farmers and our own eggs harvested from our noisy hens) and was chatting with Kaity, our farm girl who lives here with us. It dawned on me that just five measly years ago (and an entire lifetime of experiences) I was enjoying our porch view with literally NOTHING to do. I wasn’t working, I wasn’t farming, I wasn’t tied up on social media, I wasn’t doing much of anything more than full time wife and mother. I look back on that life now and wonder how I got through the days with literally NOTHING to look forward to but my husband returning home from work. I cannot recall all the specifics (lifetime of experiences since then muddle my memories), but today I had an opportunity to live like that for just a short time. I do recall thinking then that my life was a perpetual vacation; with occasional family visits, occasional trips to the lake, occasional day-trips to sight see near the Smokies. Occasional then, non-existent today. Oh my, how things have changed indeed.
Farm life brings a host of ‘new, exciting’ adventures and responsibilities that oftentimes have us second-guessing our choices here. In the long run, and I mean LONG, the benefits far outweigh the struggles. It is often near impossible to see it that way when your day begins with ‘the sheep are out of their electric paddock’ and ends with a stillborn calf, an injured pup or even the water-pump going kaput. I could go on and on with one after another of the trials, most of which we look back on with a little giggle, some of which we just don’t look back because of the painful lesson. Some of our more noteworthy experiences are discovering that tree frogs conduct electricity for only a ‘short’ bit (poor fella was charcoal by the time we found that he was the short in the electric wire); our firstborn calf hit the ground to our very first longhorn mama, who happened to be particularly protective (my husband Allen finally understood it when she nearly charged him through the fence); we definitely learned that weaning a calf means moving the calf not the mama, as we discovered two cows out in the middle of the night literally leaving "no hide nor hair" behind and causing us a three-day hunt for them; we’ve been chased up corral panels, charged, kicked, stepped on and goosed. We have gone after fencing from a calf breaking out, a cow breaking in, a bull tearing it down by throwing a corral panel over it (that bull left his mark on many a corral panel, doubling them the Tonto Gates). 
Yet we have also been shown the mercy of God on too many levels to count. And if you notice, this is the just tip of the proverbial iceberg; we have also had meat chickens, layers (we got smart and started buying them as pullets!), pheasants (which got loose and never seen again because the dogs ate well for a few days) a pig (a one-time, never to repeat experience) a roaming yard goat (see pig), a horse (see goat), guineas (we bought 9 and only 3 have stuck around), Soay sheep (Allen’s brilliant 36-hour decision) and so many head of longhorn cattle I can barely recall! This list of course does not include the "locals" who also dwell here seasonally, like the black snake, the rats, the field mice and bunnies. The latter three have had their numbers controlled by the exceptionally fertile barn cat population (it’s hard to believe three years ago we could BUY a barn cat to control the rats in the chicken house!). Also included, a host of various canine companions, with our numbers reaching 7 at one time. We gotta lotta life out here! And death, we finish out the longhorn skulls. I won’t go into gory details, let’s just say we’re getting a better handle on the head garden these days. Talk about morbid humor. You really need a strong stomach just for the jokes surrounding that aspect of our business. But I digress….
Speaking of gardens, I had someone ask me just this week if we were putting out a garden. I laughed. Like HARD. Last year, we couldn’t even keep 4 little tomato plants alive, how in God’s creation were we going to put out a whole garden? I’d love to say that’s part of our immediate future for regenerative ag and self-sustainability, but that’s a lie. It is part of our future, which looks more like 5 years from now when the beef end of our business stabilizes more. In the meantime we support our local growers and participate in a CSA so we’ll have freshies all summer long.
Now you’re saying to yourself, okay where are you going with all this? I want to go back to the porch! So, let’s return to the porch!
We are fortunate to have a true wrap-around porch. We have views from all four corners, hence the name of our ranch. We have been so busy hitting the ground running to catch up with ourselves, there were at least two whole summers we cannot recall sitting on the porch during daylight hours. That’s too busy. Even our pastor said to us one time, “be sure to take 5 minutes and appreciate your porch. You need that. “ His is one of the most understated pieces of advice we have ever gotten since this whole roller coaster ride began.
So, this afternoon I relished in my porch time. I closed my eyes and just breathed the fresh country air (the cows are downwind today!), listened the cacophony of cackling hens, calling guineas and nature’s own songbirds amidst the early melodies of insects. Even the dogs and cats were on the porch today, soaking up the warm sun and cool breeze. It is the kind of time we need to re-charge our batteries and get re-motivated.
Everyone has a porch; whether yours is a front stoop, a step, a folding chair under the shade tree or a borrowed bench at the closest park. Take porch time. It will impact you to decide the difference between a challenge or a chore, an adventure or a task, an experience or an event.  And if you’re ever in Grainger Co, drop on by. Our porches are always open.

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