So God Made a Farmer

danbarn

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer.
~Paul Harvey (1978)

icyfarm

Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.
~Wendell Berry

Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children.
~Wendell Berry from Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

snowyfarming

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
~Masanobu Fukuoka 

fieldpanorama
photo by Nate Gibson

It is hard for my husband and I to ignore our genetic destiny to struggle as stewards of the land through the challenges of economics and weather. Our blood runs with DNA of dairy farmers, wheat and lentil growers, loggers, cattle ranchers, work horse teamsters, and flower and vegetable gardeners. A farm eventually called us from the city and our professional lives to come back home and care for a piece of ground and its animals. So we heeded and here we remain, some 32 years later, children raised and gone.

Perhaps the call of the farmer genes will bring one of them back to the land.  Because farmers are hand-picked for the job by God Himself.

amberhomer

icychainlink

The Uneventful Wonder

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rainykale8

It is not enough to offer a silent thank you,
looking down at dark mums and the garden’s final offerings
of autumn—late-planted greens, their small leaves
fragile and pale. And bright orange peppers,
the odd liveliness of their color signaling an end.
To see the dense clouds drop into its depths and know
who placed them there. It is not enough to welcome God
into every small fold of the day’s passing.
To call upon some unknown force
to let the meat be fresh, the house not burn,
the evening to find us all here again. Yet,
we are here again. And we have witnessed
the miracle of nothing. A slight turning of empty time,
bare of grief and illness and pain. We have lived
nondescript this season, this day, these sixty-minutes.
But it is not enough. To bow our heads in silence.
To close our eyes and see in each moment
of each second the uneventful wonder
of none.
~Pamela Steed Hill from “The Miracle of Nothing”

itsawrap

Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday.
It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain.
You can feel the silent and invisible life.
~Marilynne Robinson from Gilead

punkinhallow

I am covered with Sabbath rest
quiet and deep~
planted, grown, and harvested in soil
warmed from a too long winter,
now readying for sleep again.

I know there is nothing ordinary
in this uneventful wonder of none.

I am called by such Light
to push out against darkness,
to be witness to the miracle of nothing
and everything.

Can there be nothing more eventful
than the wonder of an ordinary Sunday?

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fallyard2

When to be Glad

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gardengrass

Well I know now the feel of dirt under the nails,
I know now the rhythm of furrowed ground under foot,
I have learned the sounds to listen for in the dusk,
the dawning and the noon.

I have held cornfields in the palm of my hand,
I have let the swaying wheat and rye run through my fingers,
I have learned when to be glad for sunlight and for sudden
thaw and for rain.

I know now what weariness is when the mind stops
and night is a dark blanket of peace and forgetting
and the morning breaks to the same ritual and the same
demands and the silence.
~Jane Tyson Clement from No One Can Stem the Tide

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Soon to arrive, a wave of 15,000 young people
with such potential to grow,
their health needs entrusted to us
as if we tend them as gardeners:
most thriving and flourishing,
yet some already withering,
their roots thirsting.

As the winds of time bring
new thousands to our care,
blown in from places unknown,
I weary weep for those who may not bloom,
wondering if I will fail to water or care enough~

or is it me with thirst unceasing,
my roots drying from each new morning’s
same ritual and same demands unceasing,
as if I’ve forgotten how to be glad for this work,
being met with the silence
of my own gardeners.

rainyleaf7

dillweb

 

A Zucchini Chronicle

zuke1

blossompunkin

It started innocently enough in April
with two-leaf seedlings labeled green and golden;
non-descript squash plants harboring
hidden potential.

By June the plants crept across the ground with vines
reaching past the beans to confront the cucumbers;
going where no vine has gone before
to divide and conquer, leaving no dust untouched.

July buds formed blossoms inviting bees deep
into yellow-throated pollen pools
thickening within days to elongated flesh:
fecundity in action before our eyes.

The finger-like projections at first harvested
too small, but temptation overwhelms patience;
sauted, grilled with garlic, superb in
supreme simplicity.

But come back a day later: hose-like vines
pumping into each squash, progressive inflation like
balloon-man creations to be twisted and transformed,
but too plump, too distended, too insatiable.

It’s a race to keep up with the pace of production
eat some, give them away, leave on doorsteps like abandoned kittens,
in boxes in church lobbies, lunch rooms at work,
food banks posting signs: “No more zucchini please!”

They march in formation in the garden path
as they are yanked swelling from their umbilical cords
and lined up, stacked, multiplying
like the broom fragments of the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.

Once tossed on to the compost pile,
they rest in intimate embrace through heated decomposition
in dead of winter, amid steam rising,
a seedling, innocent enough, pokes through exploding with potential~

Run for your lives!

zuke4

zuke3

Making Hay and Raising Tomatoes

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haymaking5

There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

I won’t have it.

The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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Other than a few exceptional circumstances in my life, I have always played it safe: a down-home, don’t rock the boat, work hard and live-a-quiet-life kind of person. My grandparents lived that way, my parents lived that way so I feel like it is bound in the twists and turns of my DNA.

Even so, I do know a thing or two about sulking on the edge of rage, lost in a morass of seething bitterness about the state of the world.  Yet if I were honest about it, my discontent is all about me, always about me. I fail to measure up.

But then that is the rub: I can never deserve unmerited grace.  It is pure Gift, borne out of radical sacrifice.

And because of that Gift, I can live a life of radical gratitude, even if a little quietly.

haybarnfull

tomatobug

A Slug Solace

sluggy

“Girls are like slugs—they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to imagine what.”
Bill Watterson, in Calvin and Hobbes

slugdandy

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Slugs appear out of the ground after a drizzle like seeds that plump and germinate miraculously overnight. The slug crop burgeons, and with it, oozy trails of glistening slug slime.

We live on a hill, which means I need to walk downhill to the barn for chores.  On one particular day, the path can include a slug (or three) under each foot. That produces a certain memorable squish factor.

I’ve learned to don my rubber boots and just squash and slide. There will undoubtedly be more slugs to replace the flattened lost, like watching freeze-dried shrinky dinks spontaneously rehydrate.

The trip to the barn for chores becomes a hazardous journey, slipping and sliding on hordes of slugs that have surfaced everywhere like pimples on a teenager’s back. They crawl out from under every leaf and every stray piece of wood to bask in the morning dew, replenishing the moisture lost over weeks of hot sun. Somehow I always suspected there was a secret world of organisms out there, oozing and creeping in the dark of the night, but preferred not to think about them if I didn’t have to. But they would confront me regularly to remind me of their existence and my own.

At dawn, the cat food bowl sometimes contained clues that parties were being thrown at midnight by the back porch, with glistening slime trails in and out of the bowl and in concentric circles all around. When I would grab a handful of green beans in the garden, some of them would be slippery with slug slime and neat little chunks would be missing. The tidiest stealth invasion was a tomato that looked invitingly red and plump from one side, but when picked, was completely cored, hanging in a dangling half shell from the vine with mucus strands still dripping. There was some serious eating going on right under our noses.

Actually the chewing is under the slug noses, all four noses to be precise. With that much sensory input, no wonder a slug knows about the transparent apple peelings lying on the bottom of my tall compost bucket outside the back door. I think they traveled for miles to find this particular stash, climbing up the bucket sides and slithering down into glorious apple orgy. The party lasted until morning when I discovered them still congregating and clinging, gorged and immobile in their satiety on the sides and bottom of the bucket. I had unwittingly provided the means of their intoxication, having now become an accessory to minors in possession.

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In my more tolerant older middle years, I now appreciate slugs for what they are. No longer do I run for the salt shaker as I did in my younger, more ruthless days. Instead I find it strangely reassuring that a land locked amorphous invertebrate can survive weeks of summer heat, weeks of no rain and still thrive to replenish its kind. If something so homely and seemingly inconsequential to the world can make it in spite of conditions that conspire to dry it to dust, then maybe I have a chance as well. I too may not be presentable at times, and sometimes leave behind evidence of where I’ve been and the havoc I’ve created. But then someone puts out a sweet meal for me to feast on, allowing me a celebration of life, and spares me when what I deserve is the salt shaker.

It is solace indeed: if the slugs are loved, than so am I.

slugfest

slugcanoodle

 

Turn the Earth Upside Down

dewyblue
dewyflowers
 There is a treasure in the earth
that is a food tasty and pleasing
to the Lord.
Be a gardener.
Dig and ditch,
toil and sweat,
and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness
and water the plants in time.
Continue this labor
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits
to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God
as your true worship.
~Julian of Norwich
radish
peasprout

In Summer, in a burst of summertime
Following falls and falls of rain,
When the air was sweet-and-sour of the flown fineflower of
Those goldnails and their gaylinks that hang along a lime;
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “Cheery Beggar”

Sweet and sour extends far beyond a Chinese menu; it is the daily air we breathe.  Dichotomy is so much of our life and times,  more distinct than the bittersweet of simple pleasures laced with twinges and tears.

We are but cheery beggars in this world, desiring to hang tight to the overwhelming sweetness of each glorious moment — the startling sunrise, the lush green and golden blooms following spring showers, the warm hug of a compassionate word, the house filled with love and laughter.  But as beggars aren’t choosers, we can’t only have sweet alone;  we must endure the sour that comes as part of the package — the deepening dark of a sleepless night, the muddy muck of endless rain, the sting of a biting critique, the loneliness of an home emptying and much too quiet.

So we slog through sour to revel some day, even more so, in sweet.  Months of manure-permeated air is overcome one miraculous morning by the unexpected and undeserved fragrance of apple and pear blossoms, so sweet, so pure, so full of promise of the fruit to come.  The manure makes the sweet sweeter and once again the earth turns upside down.

And we breathe in deeply, content and grateful for a moment of grace and bliss, wanting to hold it in the depths of our lungs forever.

wwupinks

herboctober
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