October 11, 2017

Fall apples and sheep.

Even sick, coughing and sneezing, rushing against a too long To-Do list, I am so grateful to be living on my farm at last. My heart lifts.

As it did last night. I was at school until 9:15 PM, showing my 8th grade history students an edited version of the film Twelve Years A Slave.

I show big-screen movies at night a dozen times a year, baking loaves of chocolate chip bread and spreading pillows on the carpeted floor of my classroom. It’s a lot of extra work every few weeks — baking, moving all the desks and chairs, showing the 2-3 hour film with pauses for explanations, then cleaning and restoring the room for another half hour — but I love to see the children make emotional connections to the material we’ve learned in class.

Last night as the students filed out after the film, they stepped over a piece of paper on the hall floor outside the doorway. I leaned down to pick it up.

I smiled. It clearly had been placed there by a ninth grader leaving his evening study hall. A 9th grader who was one of my heedless 8th grade history kids last year.

I love my job.

Who cares about coughing and to-do lists?  I am so lucky.


Radio Silence

October 8, 2017

I apologize for the dearth of posts. A lot is going on and some progress is being made on the house and on the farm, but mostly I am aware of the horrible cold that has my head stuffed and my nose raw as I go through the days coughing and sneezing. And not sleeping.

More anon.

Auld Lang Syne

September 24, 2017

Yesterday was a hot, sunny, sweaty, tiring, wonderful day. Allen’s son Damon operated a bulldozer for me for five hours.

Since losing part of his foot and then his lower right leg, Damon has not been able to hold a job. Sometimes he has not been able to get out of bed. Yesterday he was in constant pain; he was quickly exhausted; but he was determined to work off his end of a trade we’d made last year for beef. Though I repeatedly asked if he wanted to quit, he refused. So we had our day.

Remember all the fill I was blessed with this summer?

Damon came to spread it.

The area below the south field, north of the pond, has been a wasteland for years. Back in 2005, Allen and Damon had excavated an enormous pond site, using the gravel to build the driveway and then underlay the barn and garage. However the giant pond — having a gravel base — did not hold water. Thus in later years Allen and I had decided to fill it with the stumps (illegal to burn) and boulders from clearing the back field, digging a smaller pond off to the side. The original site was covered with a skim of dirt but was far too rough to mow. More than an acre had grown up as a useless jungle of briars and weeds over broken logs. Now Damon was going to spread the summer fill.

“You’re creating new land!” I shouted happily over the roar of the bulldozer.

Damon made a face. “They brung you nothin’ but rocks!”

There were two or three… thousand. The job seemed enormous and the bulldozer very small.

After watching him get started, I had to spend an hour moving the sheep. From the east end of the property I could hear the warning beep! of the bulldozer as it was backing. The sound filled me with happiness. I was wearing my baseball cap and lightweight blue summer Dickies. If I closed my eyes I could imagine it was ten years ago, Allen and Damon were working at the bottom of the farm, we’d soon have lunch when they would joke and tease, and Allen’s eyes would twinkle at me over his thermos cup of coffee.

It wasn’t ten years ago and Allen is gone, but the echoes were still happy. Even Damon’s needling felt heartwarming.

When I came back, I brought him a diet soda and a sandwich. He had already accomplished a tremendous amount.

He had dropped the blade as close to the pasture fenceline as he dared.


I ran to get my weedwhacker while he went back to work.

From a short level stretch, the ground still slopes steadily down to a hole. Damon says that to level it completely we could use almost as much fill all over again.

But as he back-bladed the new clean surface, I wanted to tap dance.

Damon also spread a load of fill the men had dropped in the back field, near the remains of a gully where he himself had trucked loads of fill four or five years ago. While there he also pushed some boulders into a pile. My goal, as always, is to make the entire farm mow-able.

I’d been feeling rather stuck and discouraged but this giant burst of progress has filled me with joy.



September 12, 2017

Yesterday morning I was back to feeling 90% and had to move the sheep early before leaving for Vermont. It was a beautiful blue day, a colder version of that morning sixteen years ago.

Though the lawn near the house was wet, there was heavy frost at the bottom of the field. As I gathered the frozen fence my gloveless hands quickly went numb. My old boots leak, so soon my feet, too, were aching lumps. Well, this is miserable, I thought as I trudged in increasingly wet jeans through the frosted grass.

Just then a crow and a broadwinged hawk flew overhead in a tangled barrel roll. It wasn’t clear who was harassing whom, as both were screeching as they winged past through the pale blue sky.

To me it was if God tapped me on the shoulder. Pay attention to all this beauty around you! The world is alive and full of wonder!

I can’t ever forget how lucky I am.


September 11, 2017

Yesterday cleared to our first bright morning in ten days of dreary clouds and rain. I had a two-column to-do list. Unfortunately I woke up sick.

I staggered out to walk the dogs a bit before six. Then I read an email from Lucy, broke out in a cold sweat, and was so lightheaded I had to lie down on the dining room floor for fifteen minutes to recover. My hair was wet and my nightgown soaked. Then I got up and read an email from Jon, and ditto. I had felt peculiar the previous night — like a dog sensing an approaching storm — and had slept in Jon and Amanda’s room just in case. It turned out to be an intestinal flu.

I tend to feel outraged when I am sick. What? I don’t have time for this! Especially for something so debilitating, with chills making my head swim and my hands shake. I often think I really wouldn’t mind a sick day — if I could lie in my comfy sheets in bed, be lazy, and read. In other words, not be too sick. But I am realizing that I never have these delicious, cozy sick days because if I’m only slightly sick, I get out of bed and work.

Even yesterday afternoon, though still weak and trembly and somewhat nauseous, I got up and worked in the basement unpacking boxes and then switched to carpentry, reinforcing my grandmother’s bookcase. My pace was slow and my brain was foggy, except for the one thought: I have to push on. The list, the list!

Today I’m at 90% and on the road to Vermont for a medical appointment. Tomorrow our boarding school students return.

Grading Done

September 2, 2017

The grading around the house is finished. Using the fill brought in this summer, Ben was able to bring up the future front lawn to a gentle slope. I had hoped to bring it up even more, to make backing out of the garage not a downhill proposition on ice, but the cost would have been astronomical. Regretfully, I put the idea aside.

I’m already scrambling to figure out how to budget for the equally astronomical cost of building a driveway.

We are due to have another pounding rainstorm tomorrow and today I need to get all the new grading covered with hay in hopes of preventing massive ruts and wash-out. Naturally, Rick my hay man has never returned since leaving in April promising to be back in a week, so I am nearly out of hay. I will do my best.

Ben left a half-dozen boulders that were too big for his excavator to move. They join a larger boulder Allen left back in 2009. I know Allen would have moved the small ones away for me, but he had a bigger machine and more time. I tell myself they will become a yard feature and my grandchildren can play on them.

Before he left yesterday, Ben also kindly moved my manure pile.

In recent years Damon has done this for me every spring, but after losing his leg he sold his dump truck. The pile had grown to giant proportions, about 10 feet high by 30 feet long, smack in the center of the view from the house. One morning DH had asked tentatively over tea, “I would never criticize, but is that the best place for the manure pile?”

I am going to think about the possibilities for relocating where I dump manure. But for now, I am very grateful to Ben for trucking it to the south pasture, where it is out of sight below the brow of the hill.  I hope to have time and the working machinery to spread it this fall. Touch wood!


August 31, 2017

Last fall two of my geese, a young goose and gander, went down the road to a neighboring farm. I would see them from time to time patrolling the lawns and driveway.

The goose sat on eggs and hatched eight goslings this spring.

Last week I heard that the gander had broken his wing and been put down. This made me sad, but I tried to be philosophical.

“I know real farmers generally can’t take the time that I do, to go the extra mile,” I said to DH.

“Or the extra ultra-marathon,” he agreed.

On Tuesday when I passed by in my truck, the little family was down to the mama and three adult-sized goslings.

Yesterday morning the mama was all alone, sitting beside the chicken enclosure for company. I assumed the worst. The coyote pack in the surrounding forest has been very vocal recently.

After work I drove home and picked up a dog crate and a tarp, then drove back. An intern helped me corner the mama. I caught her and carried her home in my truck, promising to return her if indeed I were wrong and the rest of the flock miraculously emerged from the woods. For now, however, a single goose was a lonely one and a sitting duck.

The young goose obviously knew where she was. She marched into the barn without hesitation and immediately took a bath in the water trough.

I named her Persephone.  (In the photo above, front to back: Persephone, Stuart, Kay, and Serena.)

I don’t need or really want four geese, but for now I’ll simply let the flock settle down to a routine. Already Stuart, with his bevy of girls, is becoming more confident.