Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas poem

Flocks feed by darkness with a noise of whispers,
In the dry grass of pastures,
And lull the solemn night with their weak bells.

The little towns upon the rocky hills
Look down as meek as children:
Because they have seen come this holy time.

God's glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the refters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
And Wisdom's born in secret in a straw-roofed stable.

And O! Make holy music in the stars, you happy angels.
You shepherds, gather on the hill.
Look up, you timid flocks, where the three kings
Are coming through the wintry trees;

While we unnumbered children of the wicked centuries
Come after with our penances and prayers,
And lay them down in the sweet-smelling hay
Beside the wise men's golden jars.

Thomas Merton (1946)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas from the Goats!

This wonderful goat Christmas card got me smiling! Can you identify any of the breeds? The four "ladies" that first sing are LaManchas, the breed we are starting with.

Goat folks love their babies and go to great lengths for them. :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Well, cold for us. Down into the twenties over the next few days, with a twinkling of an idea of snow on Christmas. :-) Snow is just a twinkling of an idea here all the time, so for it to converge with Christmas... essentially impossible. Or???

I mean after all, it is impossible that we are here. Insane. Who'd have thought we seaside suburbs kids would end up tending livestock on a Texas farm?

I love it here. I really do. I have a very hard time getting my buns out the door to do morning chores (cold or not... I just am a slow mover in the morning). But once I get out I don't want to come back in. Cold or not.

Today I got quite a lot done in my three forays out into the bitterness. Wrapped outdoor pipes for the freeze, emptied hoses, moved chickens, put up heat lamps, insulated walls with hay, taped windows, cleaned up building scraps around the chicken shed, fed the cattle, tended a chicken with a cold in my tub hospital, did the usual outside chicken chores several times.

The horses are now supposed to be fed every day (we had been doing it three times a week), and are getting different rations, so I now have to corral them before feeding so they each eat the right things. I haven't actually had to do it yet; tomorrow their owners will be out and I will watch the process. I do pretty well handling the horses as long as I don't have children or dogs with me.

We are heading into the last days before Christmas. Tomorrow will be filled with baking and sheet washing as we anticipate the influx of beloved company.

I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude these days. On the verge of tears, even. I doubt I can convey what I feel... a sense of profound beauty, a tangible presence of God, a certainty that I am where I am meant to be right now. I don't know that I have ever felt this so deeply. The underpinning is the rock solid foundation that God is trustworthy. I of little faith did not ask for proof, per se, but it has been given to me over and over and over.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Dogs, dogs and more dogs... and goats!

If there were a Chickenholics Anonymous, our dog would stand up and say:

"My name is Molly, and I have a problem. I like to chase chickens and kill them. My owners abhor this. I know they do, and I hate to make them upset, but I just can't seem to help myself."

She has now killed three.

Stephen has killed two.

I have saved one.

We need the odds stacked better.

Oddly enough, it seems like we are stacking them against ourselves shortly, by accepting delivery of two more dogs who have never lived with chickens.

Elderly Fred, my parents' dog, is coming at Christmas to live out his golden years on the farm. He is a tremendously sweet, thoroughly daft, black lab and something, maybe chow. A mutt stray who showed up at their house 10 years ago and fell in love with my dog Lucy. The two of them lived together (they were miserable when apart), going back and forth between our house and my parents' until last December, when Lucy died at almost 14. Lucy is buried up in the big pines. It took Fred quite a while to get over her death. He wouldn't eat for days. He really never has gotten back to his old self, actually.

Luke will be coming after New Years. He is a beautiful Australian Shepherd whose family had to move to an apartment. He is miserable there and loves his visits here. He has a very strong natural herding instinct with the cattle, and is very responsive to commands. He has received extensive obedience training.

You may be thinking, "She says FRED is daft? They have a problem with the dog and chickens and they are getting MORE dogs?"

Well, it might not be the perfect timing, but I don't exactly control the universe. These two dogs need homes now, and we think this would be a good place for them. In addition, we ARE going to fence the dogs out of the chickens. Which really means fencing the chickens in, but we are working on ideas for doing that portably so that the chickens can continue to range in fresh grass daily.

Stephen and I are going to spend the week after Christmas fencing (hooray!), and renovating the area of the barn that will be for the goats.

Goats!! Yes, goats! The long awaited goats are hopefully coming to their new home in January. I've made arrangements to purchase two purebred LaMancha does. One cycled this month so their current owner brought them to breed at another farm with a LaMancha buck. Rosie did breed, but tragically, died suddenly the next day from unrelated problems. Her sister, Snowy, is staying there until she cycles in the hopes that she'll breed this year. If she gets pregnant, she will kid in May. So we will have milk in June!

Since Snowy will no longer have the companionship of her sister, I have decided to purchase the wether ("fixed" male) that Snowy and Rosie grew up with. Sylvester will obviously not give milk, but he will serve an important purpose... keeping Snowy happy. Goats are very social and are miserable when alone.

I actually think this is a big part of the problem for Molly. Imagine... you grow up on a farm with your best buddy. He gets you pregnant. You have a nice litter of puppies. They get big enough and one by one they get taken away from you. Then your owners move, taking your best buddy, and leave you with people you don't know and just one of your pups. Two weeks later your pup is hit by a car and dies.

I think Molly is lonely, and I think she is bored. She is still pretty young and very playful. I suspect she is herding the chickens when we are away, a natural instinct she has whenever she sees anything run. She nips at them, just as she would at a cow's leg to herd it, and actually breaks skin. Then she either eats it because it is too tasty to resist, or plays with it until it is dead. Two of the chickens she killed have been dismembered. The one I found today was whole, and had been dead for quite a while, so perhaps she did her best to restrain herself once the deed was done? I don't know. It really is an awful sight, these poor birds.

But I don't cry about it any more. My feelings like that have turned to people. I have been thinking so much about the huge number of people so much less fortunate than we are, in such dire circumstances. Well, that is food for another post, but it has been weighing heavily on my mind.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Our chicken babies aren't babies any more

The chickens are all growing, including Trill who has reintegrated with her playmates. She is afraid to come out of the chicken house/shed, due to the dog, but the other chickens seem to have accepted her. She is significantly smaller than the rest, and her hop makes her stand out, but so far it looks like she is going to be okay. Of course in the chicken world things can change very fast.

We had a crazy freeze. Dropped from the 50's or so to the teens, and back up to the low 40's in about a 15 hour period. I did my best to protect the chickens, and everyone survived. Thankfully they are all pretty big and well-feathered, and have the advantage of each other's body heat.

The most frustrating thing about the chickens these days is not the chickens, it's the horses. Since moving the trailer into the back, the horses have become much more interested in our comings and goings. It took several attempts before we found a horse-proof location for the fat-boys' feeder (under the axle of the trailer). We've kept the other chickens' food in the shed for just this reason.

Nevertheless, come sundown each day I was confronted with trying to catch 22 chickens assisted by Farmer Boy, while Molly randomly barked at 5 horses and a donkey whose noses were in my... well, they were VERY close. Add to that The Princess shouting at Molly to stop barking, and we had a recipe for disaster. A few of the horses are not very even tempered, and even the calm ones can get spooked. A horse is not light, exactly. They scare EACH OTHER when they kick, imagine how I feel with my precious children exposed!

One evening, the boy left the gate open and the horses got on the lawn. Stephen managed to lure most of them back with some horse feed, but it took so long the sun set. It wasn't until morning that he realized he hadn't closed the barn. 150 lbs of horse feed had been eaten and scattered throughout the barn.

The only thing we can absolutely count on is that one animal or another is going to be somewhere or eat something that he or she oughtn't. It's merely a matter of who and where. And when. Now is usually the most reliable choice.

So I moved the trailer back into the yard, but not really the part we use as a yard. It is within the same fenced apart area, but away from the house in some bushes... an area that may some day be a garden anyway. We no longer have to catch the birds because we can lure them with their food. With the horses around this was not an option. It is a much more civilized way to manage chickens! You'd be surprised how difficult it can be to catch a waddling obese chicken.

The smaller birds are now set up to have free access day and night to the outdoors. I love to look in the back yard as the sun rises on birds happily pecking in my grass. They are a beautiful sight. They almost all go in at night on their own. Managing them has become so easy.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Humane Slaughter and Factory Farming

We ate the chicken. It was delicious. Farmer Boy said it was the best chicken he's ever had. At which Stephen said, "So I take it you've changed your mind about becoming a vegetarian?" Apparently the sight of the chicken's death had temporarily had him considering becoming a vegetarian again (he was until he was almost four).

So, as promised, my thoughts on raising animals for slaughter...

Let me start by saying I haven't eaten lamb since I was seven. I stopped then because I couldn't bear the idea of such a sweet little creature being sacrificed for my dinner.

I became a vegetarian when I was 20 and remained one for 11 years. When I did start eating meat again it was for health reasons, and was a rather agonizing decision that involved a lot of prayer.

I have always loved animals, and I find myself talking at great length with our animals and calling them "honey" and "sweetie". Yes, even the chickens.

So killing them for dinner?

When I did start eating meat again, I made a promise to myself that I would never forget that it was a real animal that I was eating, and that I would remember to be thankful for the life of the animal. I bought whole chickens to help myself grasp this. Despite the fact that it is missing a significant number of parts that make it look like a live chicken, a whole chicken at the grocery store is a lot more obviously an animal than a styrofoam package of boneless breasts.

So number one: I do know I am eating an animal.

Number two: While it appears that animals were not eaten before Noah's time, after that they have been. I also know that my body (and mind) function so much better now that I have meat in my diet. I know that God provides for our physical needs, and I believe that animals are part of this. I suspect heaven will be like the Garden of Eden, no one eating each other. But what do I know? I am a romantic. I imagine all creatures living in harmony. Here, we simply aren't. And when all is said and done, I will choose to eat meat and be a more coherent mother to my children than abstain and be in a fog all day like I used to be.

And number three, to which I have only recently come: If you eat meat, you should not eat factory meat. From a human perspective it far less helathy for consumption (high rate of contamination, lots of medications given due to crowded unsanitary conditions causing unnatural rates of disease, etc). From a humane perspective, well it just isn't. Plain and simple, factory farming is cruel. There is a complete disregard for the welfare of the animals... the only value considered is the bottom line. If you don't believe me, google "factory farming" and prepare to be horrified. It just might turn you into a vegetarian.

You have probably seen The Meatrix. If not, take 10 minutes and learn some new things... it is well worth the time. It is pretty tame, no actual photos; it's a cartoon.

So my personal goals, as a farmer raising animals for slaughter, are:
1) to provide the healthiest and happiest life an animal could hope for, in a farm setting, which to me includes lots of sunshine, good food, safety, no junk, and us genuinely loving being with them and demonstrating that to them
2) to practice the most humane methods of slaughter we can find

Okay, so that's me. But I live on a farm, we do raise animals for our own meat. We know what they eat, where they live, if they've been sick, who's tops in the pecking order, etc. What about you? Do you eat meat? Live in the city? Want to eat humanely raised meat?

I have ideas for you! :-) For starters, you can buy from us! ;-) Well, eventually. But really, support your local farmer. This is far more important than I ever grasped, not just for farmers, but for the future of the world as we know it. Look for a farmer's market in your area, or a consumer supported agriculture (CSA) farm. If you have neither, ask at your local health food store about the farms that they buy from. Check out this website that has lots of links to help you find local food:

Sustainable Table's Shopping Guide

I challenge you: the next time you walk into a grocery store, look around and think about this: Someone, somewhere had to grow everything in front of you. Who did it, and where? Kinda freaky, eh?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The deed is done

And completely without my presence.

Stephen came in with a bird that looked like it was from the grocery store. Not that it WAS completely... he spent the next hour "eviscerating" it... gutting it, basically.

Farmer Boy said it was awful and he doesn't want to watch again.

The Princess said she would watch it again.


A friend of Stephen's showed up unexpectedly, which granted a stay of execution for the remaining three birds slated for the chopping block. So I have yet to see the deed done.

I have, however, cried a lot today. Working through this emotionally is a bit harder than intellectually, evidently. Thankfully, my family is wonderful and not expecting any more of me than I can handle.

Farmer Boy and I discussed it later. We both agreed that we are good at caring for the animals, but not so good at the killing part. After talking about how different people are made in different ways and able to do different things, he said, "I think I would be good at being a vet, but you're too tender."

I suppose the fact that I cried and cried when Trill was attacked was an indication to him. ;-) My natural ability for empathy is perhaps being pushed a little hard here in the life-and-death world of farm animals.

The dead bird is currently cooking in my oven for dinner. Maybe I am getting a harder heart.

The Moment of Truth

The moment of truth is at hand. Stephen is about to kill four of our chickens. I have spent the last week or so thinking it all through, and intellectually have come to resolution on it. Obviously emotionally I still have a steep mountain ahead of me, as I am sitting here crying.

My children on the other hand were both eager to go out and participate. Do I feel like a schmuck or what? When the Princess said she wanted to go, I wanted to make sure she understood what was happening.

"Do you know what Papa is going to do?", I asked.

"Yes, kill them, maybe with a hammer?", the Princess answered.

"Well, a knife," I said.

"And then we will eat them," Papa said.

"But not the feathers," she said.

She gets it.

Last night the boy and I had to pick out some for today. It was not hard picking the biggest and healthiest looking ones, but it was hard putting them in their separate housing for the night. I talked to one as I went, thanking it for helping sustain our lives, and wishing I had provided a better life for it here. When I told Stephen, he pointed out that our chickens *have* had a better life than most chickens, and that is true. But I want to make it better still.

My kids are definitely more cut out, naturally, for farm life than I am. I think I would be good at running some kind of small animal sanctuary. Taking care of Trill (yes, after everyone agreed our rescued bird is now my pet, I felt free to name her), I am reminded that I am good at these nurturing kinds of things. But the chaos of a farm and lots of big animals and predators and slaughtering... ugh. Once again, God is getting a chance to be glorified because the only way I am going to manage this is in His strength, not mine.

Farmer Boy told me last night:

"I think I will have to quit school soon."

"Why?" I aked.

"Because there is so much work to do on the farm."

Of course I negated that idea (quitting) post haste. But really, I don't know what I would do without him. He is a genuine help. He can control the horses better than I can, he is not afraid to catch a big rooster, he is strong and brave about slaughtering the chickens. He is seven.

I am a wuss.

I will post what I've written about the intellectual part later today... and let you know how we fared with the actual slaughter.

{{{deep breath}}}

Out I go.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Chickens, gardens and fences

The white hen that Stephen brought in on Saturday died Sunday morning. She was looking awful when I got up, and wouldn't take any water. I knew then that she would not make it. An hour or so later, as I was coming in from checking the outside chickens, I heard mad flapping... she was in the process of dying, poor thing. The final moments were mercifully short, then Stephen buried her, well away from the house and garden areas, with rocks on top to discourage any critters from digging her up. In the afternoon he burned a pile of brush and included the boxes she had been in. We used the opportunity to clear some land for the gardens.

In the late afternoon I decided some of the woody weeds looked just the right diameter for roosts, so I nailed together some makeshift roosts for the shed. It made me so happy to look in later and see hens up there!

Today I moved and cleaned out the trailer our lost hen and the other big birds have been in. They all seem so much happier to be able to be out all day. I don't blame them! Some of the roosters are getting quite the bright red combs. It makes me happy to see them pecking around in the grass. I want to make their lives with us enjoyable and fulfilling. For a chicken, that means food, clean water, a clean place to sleep, sunshine and protection from predators. As simple as that seems, it can be tough to provide all of those things. They sure poop a lot!

Amazingly enough, I can start planting in about a month, so I am feeling an increasing urgency to get the soil ready. I have picked where I will put in the cut flower garden and the vegetable garden. Now I need fencing. Our endless refrain.

I am hoping the big birds will help till up my vegetable garden, and the little birds my flower garden. I am dreaming up ways to move them slowly through the areas we need tilled. This will involve more fence. I want to do it for nothing (using what we have here), but moveable sturdy fencing is not simple. That's why it costs A LOT if you buy it.

Fencing, fencing, fencing. What would I do if I won the lottery? Pay someone to put in all the fences I want, and renovate the barns!

And get a sheep to mow the lawn; a goat (or 100) to eat the browse, milk and generally make me happy; and a pig to REALLY till the ground (that's what their snouts are made for! Honest!). Oh, and a "swift and strong pony" for Farmer Boy. :-) Never heard of a swift pony? That's okay. He wants one for his super hero deeds, so I am sure that all that superness will rub off on the pony and "swift-ify" it. :-) It's tops on his wish list today.

Our little injured RI Red hen is still alive, and very alert. Last night (Sun) she flew out of the box. It was very hard for her, and painful, I think. We got her a bigger box so she has more places to hop and fall (poor baby). I caught her looking intently at me during dinner. I think she is lonely. :-( It is supposed to be nice tomorrow so we may take her outside to sit in the grass and sunshine for a while. I'll confess I am feeling anxious about her. I have become quite attached, and I fear that her future is not bright. So much of the muscle on her leg is exposed. I fear that her whole leg is going to just die off. I am definitely in danger... I am thinking of naming her. We have a rule on the farm: no naming anything you might end up eating. I do not want to eat her. I just hope she is really a she, as all evidence suggests, and that she will be a happy little egg layer.

Stephen tells me I should not keep you (and him!) in suspense about my thoughts on slaughtering. I think he pesters because the time is at hand. Alas, you will have to remain in suspense, because this is already long and it is already late. :-)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Midnight chicken drama

Oy! I had barely had enough time to post that picture when the drama started up again. I heard a chicken distress call and thought it was one of our invalids, but realized it was coming from the back yard. Turned on the light and both Molly (dog) and Snugglebug (cat) were playing with another RI Red. He was not hurt thankfully (by the call, I'm pretty sure this one is a he).

With the dog and cat distracted by the door opening, he went under the back steps, under which grows poison ivy... one of only two spots I've found on the entire 40 acres. We put the dog and cat in the laundry room and I coaxed the bird out and put him back in the shed along with about 10 others who had decided to sleep outside. As I was out there it started to rain.

In case you are wondering, chickens have a brain the size of a pea, and it works about that well. Once it is dark, you can do just about anything to them. They peeped a bit at me and stretched when I picked them up, but no alarm calls. I had to force them to move inside the shed, because they would sit down right inside the opening, and wouldn't move in. It is actually a common problem for chickens to smother because they pile up on each other in the dark.

Of course I noticed my right hand brushing poison ivy while I was actually touching it. I have bathed my hand in diluted bleach (I know, I know, but for Pete's sake, my RIGHT hand... I do not have time for poison ivy!). Now I'll probably end up being pregnant... the last time I used bleach like this was 8 years ago and shortly thereafter found out I was pregnant with Farmer Boy. I do of course understand that it was not cause and effect! :-) But being a first time pregnant person I naturally freaked out about the fact that I had soaked my poison ivy exposed legs in bleach not knowing I was pregnant.

I suppose I ought to get some sleep. Chickens and dogs don't seem to have a sense of civilized hours for drama.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

New picture

In honor of the birds who are getting so much air time, I have changed the photo. You'll note that the fat boys (and girls) are doing what they love best... eating and drinking!

Chicken hospital

Seems I've taken up chicken nursing. Just walked out to the laundry room and saw that Stephen had brought another chicken in for care. She is a hen (one of the "fat boys") who is going to need some extra garlic and cayenne. She seems to have a cold. Chickens get respiratory illnesses easily in wet conditions, and we've had lots of "wet" here. Several of the Cornish Rocks are sneezing, but she seems weak as well as snuffly.

Today we are going to try to figure out different living quarters for them as the trailer has gotten too small to comfortable hold them, poor things. Hard to believe that 100 chicks had oodles of room in there, but 24 six week old birds are cramped.

The bird caught by the dog is improving. She is still having trouble with her leg, but is alert and eating and drinking very well. She has come to really trust me and lets me stroke her. I think she will have to be in for quite a while, at least until the ripped area is scabbed over. Even then, I worry that the other birds will peck at her, so we will have to play this by ear.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Update on injured chicken

Our hurt bird made it through the night. I got her (him?) to drink a bit of water last night, which definitely increased her alertness. She wouldn't eat. I tried to clean her up with mild soap and water, but the best time for doing that had long passed. I swabbed some homeopathic calendula on the wounds, because it was what I had. I really wish I had some comfrey leaves right now to make a poultice. I will definitely be growing comfrey; it is an amazing healer.

This morning she drank a LOT of water, but still refused food. I put a touch of blackstrap molasses in the water and she guzzled more, even peeped. Then she moved around the box a little, so I offered her some food and she ate it all! Hooray!

Her side is clearly bothering her. She has a hard time putting weight on the affected leg. I suspect she will never grow feathers on her left side because I think I am looking at muscle, not skin.

Saving her to what I end, I wonder. If she is a hen, she may be able to live a relatively normal life, although she will likely be at the bottom of the pecking order, and will have reduced ability to escape predators. I don't think she'll be able to fly. If she is a he... wow, I don't know. I think it might be hard to do all the things roosters do with the kind of restrictions this bird will likely have. Time will tell.

I have learned a great deal about alternative emergency animal care in the past 15 hours. I will do some things differently next time, like cleaning up the wound immediately. I also now have a better idea of what I'd like to have on hand for emergency first aid for our animals.

I have also begun to actively process, emotionally, the raising-animals-to-eat thing. I have a lot of thoughts on this, so I will save it for another post.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Drama with chickens

Molly, our dog, is a herding dog. Australian Shepherd, maybe with some Blue Heeler (also called Australian Cattle Dogs). Very intelligent breeds, very strong herding instinct. Molly, not so much instinct, but she's getting there. She is very protective of me, in particular, and is excellent at herding everything away from me. This is not necessarily the direction I am hoping for of course.

We have begun letting the chickens out to range around. They are old enough and sturdy enough now, and hopefully big enough that the chicken hawks will ignore them (wishful thinking). Their presence in the yard has been a source of endless temptation for Molly. In addition to the now easy access to warm bodies that she can chase, there is the lure of the chicken feed, which apparently is delicious... the dog, cat, horses and donkey, as well as the chickens, find it quite delectable.

So Hank the horse dumped the feeder when it was on the ground out of the chicken house. And Molly dumped it when it was in. Stephen rigged up a tiny door, big enough for chickens to come and go, and small enough for Molly to be prevented from going in. This works for keeping Molly out, but oddly, the chickens seem less interested in coming out (at least today).

About 20 of them were out this afternoon, however. We were getting ready to go into Austin for our monthly food coop pick-up and trip to Whole Foods and Costco. We had let "the fat boys" (the Cornish-Rock broilers) out in the front, so rounded them all back up by hand as their "house" does not have a door (it's a trailer).

We checked on the other birds back in the shed, filled water and feeder, and saw there were a few birds out, so I left the door open figuring they would go in when it got dark. We loaded up our coolers to go, but as I got in the truck to drive off, Farmer Boy shouted "Mama! Molly has a black bird!"

Sure enough, across the yard was Molly with a dark bird in her mouth. I shouted her name and started running toward her and she dropped it, then dropped on her back with that guilty look on her face. The poor bird (a RI Red it turns out) looked like someone had decided to get some boneless breast without killing her. I burst out crying.

What to do? I was just going to make my first appointment if I'd left when I was getting in the truck. The bird was alive, but should it be? Should I put it out of its misery? I really had no idea what to do, but I had to do something.

After conveying my displeasure to Molly (if anyone knows how to train a farm dog... HELP!) I ran into the house, crying, found a box, filled it with pine shavings, cried some more, got some gloves, said a bad word, cried and ran back to the bird. Farmer Boy had come out of the truck and was standing over the bird keeping Molly away from her.

I put her in the box and carried it into our bathroom, putting her in our chicken hospital (our non-functioning tub). I gave her a little food and water, and hoped for the best. Yes, I did say a prayer for her. She is one of God's creatures after all.

Then I cried some more.

But there was no time for being emotional, so I cried as I ran to the back yard to figure out what on earth to do with the other chickens. We gathered up the ones we saw and put them in the shed, and just as we were about to leave discovered a big lump of them all settled down for a nap in a toasty patch of sunshine, on the other side of the fence. There were too many of them to catch, so again, praying for the best, we left.

And when we returned 6 hours later, the injured bird was still alive, and there were only 5 birds still outside. No sign of carnage, so I am assuming the others did as I'd hoped and hopped up the ramp back into the shed at dusk. We popped the remaining birds in and closed them up for the night.

Now I am off to research healing this bird...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Storms and weeds

We have been having an ongoing battle with the weather here. We received so much rain last week that the Colorado River flooded. We are far enough away that the flooding did not affect us, but we had to miss our weekly homeschool park day as the town park was completely submerged. If we had been sitting where we parents usually do to chat, our heads would have been under water.

Around the farm the impact has been felt. I found myself out under the carport several days, building berms and digging ditches as the water rose. No water in the house, but a lot under the carport. We clearly have some landscaping to do to fix this issue. Gutters will help too.

The shed was not finished (still isn't). The tar paper tore off in places, and a lot of rain made it into the building. Amazingly, not one chicken has been lost since those first two chicks the first days. All the rain made it impossible for Stephen to finish when planned because it was either raining or everything was too wet to shingle. And just when it finally dried enough, he hurt his back.

Did I mention Snafu Farm as a name?

The wood all throughout the house swelled. Drawers stuck, doors stuck.

The cat was irritated by the rain, the dog didn't really care except when her dog house flooded and the little raised area in front of the house was soaked. We let her in, even though she doesn't really like to be in the house. The cattle didn't care either, because they had just gotten a nice big round bale of top quality hay. They just stood with their backs to the rain and ate.

At the tail end of the storms, as the cold front pushed it all out like a steam engine, we had vicious winds. Texas weather is rarely gentle. The winds brought down a good number of dead tree limbs, which turned out to be handy. With the cold weather we started using our fireplace regularly so had a great supply of firewood in the front yard. It's all gone now... we have to go back into the woods to get more.

I keep marvelling at how much abundance there is here already. We have our own cedar, which is a fabulous wood for pest repelling and an excellent choice to use instead of pressure treated lumber becuase it is slow to rot. We will use a lot of the downed cedar for fence posts since they'll be in direct contact with the ground. We'll also cut them for Christmas trees and wreaths. We have copious amounts of mesquite, good for smoking. Both mesquite and cedar are considered pest trees... weeds of sorts. Amazing what blessings weeds can bring.

When I was pregnant and almost due the second time, I kept a miserable rash at bay by daily eating dandelion leaves at lunch in my salad. They are a very effective liver detoxifier. Plantain, another common lawn weed, is a remarkable bug bite easer and has other healing properties. Jewelweed, which grows where poison ivy grows, is a natural antidote to poison ivy rashes.

As I write this, I am thinking about other storms and weeds in my life. The storms in the last weeks crashed through our lives, making us stop and settle in close to each other, they cleaned up the dead limbs and filled our ponds and soil with life giving water. The common weeds that so many consider a nuisance can bring healing and beauty (and tasty bacon!).

The emotional storms that crash through my life are inconvenient just as the weather we have had, but I do see that they clear out and make fresh, when I ride them out in my Father's hand. I pray that He will help me to see what I see as weeds, in a new light, and find their beauty and usefulness, even if it is to pluck them and use them to heal.