Friday, March 20, 2015

New Home

MY BLOG has moved.  I will no longer post new entries here.  Please follow this link: The Singing FarmWife to read the blog.  Also, if you are a follower and you want to continue following you'll want to link to the above address.

Friday, March 6, 2015


     I have been a messy person almost all of my life.  My first college roommate can attest to that.  I still believe we parted ways because my clutter finally overcame her forgiving nature.  Then I married my husband. While he's not a neat freak, he is far better than I am at keeping things clean.  He started doing the laundry early in our marriage because he got tired of waiting for clean underwear.  He keeps his tools organized, his barn feedways neat and tidy, and his truck free from trash.
     Sometimes, he wakes up before I do and I can hear him puttering around downstairs.  First I hear the clink and scoop of coffee being made, then I hear the rattle of the dishwasher being loaded or unloaded. When I finally make it downstairs, the kitchen often looks better than I left it.
     In my defense, I have improved over time.  While it's always been important to me that the public areas of our house be presentable,  I have, in the last year, started making my bed every morning and, strangely, I now can't go downstairs until it's done.  I've learned to fold clothes as they come out of the dryer so they won't get wrinkled, and I'm much better at cleaning the kitchen before I go to bed.  But, there's one area of my life that I can't unclutter.
     It's my Hope Closet.  I believe every home should have a hope closet, a hope drawer, a hope bin or a hope chest.  In the old days, a hope chest was a place for a woman to collect things she planned to use in her married life.  That's not the kind of hope chest or closet I'm talking about.
    My Hope Closet is really a junk closet, but I call it a Hope Closet because if I need something, I can always hope it's in there.  Often it is.  My Hope Closet is full of many of the usual things you'd expect to find: batteries, light bulbs, tools, paint, screening supplies, jars of screws, nails and fasteners.  But, because it's the place I throw things when I'm not sure where to store them, it's a place full of surprises as well.  I often forget what I've put in there.
     When I have need of an item to finish a project, I go to my Hope Closet and dig, and sometimes I pray as I dig.  I don't know what's in there, and because I don't know, I pray that I'll find what I need.  Now, don't laugh, but I feel like God usually answers these silly prayers. Faith is about things unseen, and there are plenty of those in my Hope Closet.
      Here's a picture of it.

If you come to visit, I will not show it to you.  I'm not proud of the disarray, and if I were a complete convert to neatness, everything would be in neatly labeled boxes.   Neatly labeled boxes that completely took away my ability to hope and pray for something unseen.  In my life, hoping for things unseen is something I don't want to miss.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


     When I was 12, going on 13, I ended my nightly prayers with a request for snow on my birthday. I am a close-to Christmas baby and I planned to carol around the neighborhood with friends to celebrate becoming a teenager. I also secretly planned to get myself a boyfriend.  I had a big crush on Stewart and I was pretty sure he would offer to hold my hand if we were walking in swirls of snow beneath glowing streetlamps to the sound of happy carolers.
     I got my wish. There were swirls of snow beneath glowing streetlamps, and carolers singing, but Stewart held hands with my older sister.
     Snow just can't be trusted.
     I don't pray for snow anymore.  I know it is poor man's fertilizer, bringing nitrogen from the air down into the soil.  I know it refills our aquifers so that the spring behind my house will continue to provide clear water.  I know that to every thing there is a season and snow deserves its season.  I even know that we don't have as much snow as we did 40 years ago and that should be cause for alarm.  My husband still talks about snows that fell in November and melted in April.
     I am not alarmed.  I am relieved.  When your driveway is over a quarter mile long and the last part is a steep hill, snow means that getting to the road is an adventure.  For the first time since we've lived at the foot of this steep hill, I have a four wheel drive vehicle.  I can get out when it snows, but not if the snow has drifted into swales and swells that are two or three feet deep.
     So, I like snow as long as it is only two or three inches deep.  I like watching it fall, twirling to the ground in soft curtains of white, as long as it ends in a couple of hours.  I like my driveway, when it looks like this.

     How about you?  Do you still feel romantic when the snow starts swirling, or do you growl?

The weatherman is calling for 6-8 inches of snow tonight.  It might swirl romantically in the glow of the porch light outside my house, but I won't be watching.  I'll be curled up inside on the sofa with my true love.  It turns out it doesn't take snow to make romance after all.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Day on the Farm

Any snow over four inches deep means that the work on the farm is doubled. Today we have at least 14 inches and it's still snowing.

 First Joe opens the driveway so we can get out to feed the cows.

Halfway through, he must stop to repair the four-wheeler.

While he's working on that I carry corn out to the horses. They get extra rations in the winter weather to help them stay warm.  The ice all over them  is proof that their long winter coats are protecting them from heat loss. 

Then, Luke and I go down to the creek to knock open a water hole for thirsty
livestock (and dogs).

Joe has finished the driveway, so we hop in the truck and drive down to the barn where we must shovel open the gate.  This is where Gate Girl gets her exercise.

Then the barn doors are shoveled open so Joe can get the tractor out and give the calves and cows their hay.

While he's doing that, his wife entertains herself in the truck taking selfies...

Finally, we head back to the house.  I carry water to the chickens, gather eggs and carry in firewood, while Joe plows out the driveway again.

It's still snowing outside and our county has been declared a local disaster area, but we are tucked safe and warm in our house.  We'll worry about that tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2015




February flirts,
looks back coyly
blows warm kisses
melts hearts and streams
turns a cold shoulder to her promises
and chooses winter
as her partner

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rooster Love

     The chickens are always so much fun to watch, but I especially enjoy watching the roosters.   They know their job is to protect the girls, so they crow alarm when a hawk flies overhead and crow about supper when I take slop out to share with the hens.  But, they also love to crow for attention.  They crow in the morning, long before the sun comes up.  They crow in the hen house. They crow outside.  They crow just because they can.  They are cock-a-doodle Carusos, standing tiptoe, reaching deep into their diaphragms for air, and belting out melodic morning arias.

      But, they don't crow when they are trying to seduce the ladies.  Besides living to protect the hens, roosters also exist just so they can get them some chicken love.  When a rooster wants love, he is strangely silent.  He morphs from a sassy soloist to a shy salsa dancer.

The rooster struts
and scratches
and crows
He jumps to the left
and bounces on his toes.
He waggles his wattle
and he cocks his eye,
quicksteps to the right
when the hen passes by.

The hen scratches seeds
with her eyes on the ground
She never looks up, 'cause
she's always looking down.

The rooster on her right
isn't nearly as thrilling
as the bug in the ground
for which she is drilling.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Polished With Prayer

     February is a muddy month.  It's great weather for the maple sugar producers.  Cold nights and warmer days make the trees and the producers run.  But, it's not so great for those of us who gather eggs from free ranging chickens.  My hens are not confined to nests or even to the hen-house.  They run around outside all day parading through puddles, digging in dirt, and stomping out designs on the muddy paths.  After all that fun, the hens hurry back inside.  They do not stop to wipe their feet.  Instead, they hop on the nest, deposit an egg and wipe their feet on that.  February is egg cleaning month.
     Customers who buy eggs in grocery stores are buying eggs laid by hens in cages.  The eggs never have a chance to get dirty because the hens don't.  Customers who buy my eggs are also buying the time my hens spend outside and the time I spend hand polishing their eggs. My hens are laying about 45 eggs a day. That's a lot of mud and a lot of time with a rag, and I forgot to polish eggs yesterday.
     When I picked up my rag today and stared glumly at the 90 eggs waiting for a cleaning,  it occurred to me that, after they are polished, the eggs glow just like rosary beads.  That gave me an idea.  Today, instead of moaning about the job in front of me, I decided to treat each egg as an opportunity to pray for the people I love.
     Now, looking at the cartons full of glowing eggs, I am looking at cartons full of prayer. I suspect the praying polished me a little as well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gate Girl

This was published in my local paper, but never made it to the blog.  Thought those of you who hadn't seen it might relate.

     Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  With love is in the air, it’s no wonder that, when Joe asks me to go along with him to feed, I am lulled into believing he wants to spend a few romantic moments holding hands in the truck.  That notion only lasts until we reach the end of the driveway.  That’s when I realize that he wants me to go along because he needs the services of Gate Girl. 
     Being Gate Girl is one of my biggest responsibilities.  Tonight is a nine-gate evening.  Each gate is different and demands a different skill set.  
     Gate number one is brand new, but fell off of its hinges a week after we hung it. First I pry it open.  Then I move to the back side and drag it over the bumpy ground.  This is complicated by the sheep who are anxious for their evening grain.  I have to abandon my dragging to shoo them back into the field.  
     Gate number two has both hinges, but the latch has been replaced by a strand of barbed wire.  I prick my fingers as I untwist it. 
     Gate number three is made of wood.  Some nails are loose and the boards shift and creak as I push it around.  
      Gate number four is new.  I like gate number four.  
     Gate number five is lightweight, but must be lifted over a mound of dirt as I open it.  
     Gate number six has a sliding wooden latch that pinches my fingers.  
     Gate number seven must be propped open with an old fence post or it will swing shut on the truck as we pull through.  
     Gate number eight has one baler twine hinge and no latch.  It leans drunkenly against the posts and has to be bullied around.  I hate gate eight. 
     Gate number nine opens on the left instead of the right.  I always forget and try to open the wrong side.  Tonight is no exception.
     When we were first married I loved any excuse to ride along with Joe and help out on the farm. Being Gate Girl was something a city girl could do with no training. Now that I am older and more experienced, I can drive tractors, feed hay from the back of a moving pick-up truck, bottle feed calves and lambs, give shots and rake a pretty tidy windrow.  But, being Gate Girl is still my favorite farm chore.       
     Gate Girl will never make it to the super hero hall of fame.  I can’t leap buildings in a single bound or put out fires with my bare hands.  What I can do is open any gate on the farm and make my husband’s life just a little easier.  And when all the gates have been opened and closed, perhaps we’ll pull up to the top of a hill and watch the lambs play in the fields below.  

     Then, Joe will turn to me and whisper softly in my ear, “Can you help me again tomorrow?”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Raking Snow

     I have a new farm chore.  When it snows, my chickens refuse to step out of the hen house.  That's sixty chickens dropping their business on a floor that it's my job to keep clean. I want them outside, but when I open the door and they see this they don't think, "Oh what a spectacularly beautiful snowfall."  

They think, "Nope. Not. Going. Outside. Today."
     Sixty chickens hanging out all day in a hen house leads quickly to an excess of fertilizer  Luke thinks of the chickens as Pez dispensers.  He's delighted with every deposit they make.  More food for him. I'm not so happy.  Poo builds up quickly and sticks to my shoes when I gather eggs.  I must either clean the chicken house pronto, or throw another layer of hay on top.
     I am currently throwing another layer of hay on top, delaying the torture of cleaning until warmer weather or Scott comes home.  We are almost 8 inches deep in hay and compost now and I'm hoping it will start to heat as it decomposes. Then at least the chickens will stay warmer.

     But for now, I want the girls to go outside. That's where my rake comes in. I have discovered that if they can see just the tiniest bit of a path then they will step out.

     So I grab my rake and start making paths.  One path leads down to the creek so they'll go there for water.  That's a five gallon bucket less for me to tote.  Another path leads to the back side of the shed, which will often heat up enough to melt off a little bare spot.  I call it the Rooster Riviera.

The chickens like to sunbathe there, and the rooster struts about picking up chicks. Lacking a tiny bathing suit he substitutes a deft display of neck feathers.

The rest of the hens head over to the bare spot under the truck.  They can scratch a little, make dust baths and stay out of the view of the hawk who patrols the sky.

Satisfied that I've avoided adding another deposit of hay to the coop, I head back to my house. The hens hang outside for another fifteen minutes and then make their way back to the hen house.  It's warmer in there.Their deposits are decomposing.  Time to go make some more.

In spite of my efforts to avoid it, I guess I'll be making a fresh deposit of my own tomorrow. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Trip to the Woodshed

     My husband had a conversation with a newcomer to the mountains the other day.  The newcomer was commenting on the beauty of the place and how his wife loved her view.  Since they were looking at chainsaws, the talk soon turned to cutting wood for the winter.  The newcomer shared the enormous amount of wood he'd already cut and then said, "but my wife gave me specific directions about where the pile could be.  She didn't want it to block her view, so I've put it behind an outbuilding."  Joe then said to him, "Yes, my wife felt the same way when she first moved here.  Two winters of hauling wood cured her of that notion."  He's right.  Here's my woodshed.

It's pretty far from my house, but in good weather I don't mind rolling the wheelbarrow out there to bring in a load.  It's good exercise and the driveway makes it an easy trip.   But in snow, the wheelbarrow doesn't roll as well.  That's when I'm grateful for this stack.

As you can see, it's right beside the house; an easy distance to tote. 

I'm fairly certain the newcomer's wife will one day appreciate a stack by the door, too.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Neither Rain nor Sleet nor Misery....

     Farmers are superheros.  Illness doesn’t stop them.  There are no sick days when the cattle are standing out in the weather and the only thing that keeps them warm is a constant meal of hay.  There is no one to call when a farmer feels just like the piles of crap dotting the fields where he must, with a fever of a hundred and one, go out and throw hay off the truck in the cold rain.
     This is a short post because I just wanted to give a shout out to my husband and sons, who do what needs to be done even when the doing is pure misery.  I am proud to be a farmer’s wife and the mother of two more.  My men have the kind of grit it took to settle the wilds of America.  They have the kind of determination and stubbornness that gets the job done, personal discomfort be damned. 

I hope the animals appreciate them as much as I do. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Grass is Just as Brown...

      I wish that someone would tell those rascally calves.  I know that they are young, so they don’t have much experience to go on, but it’s winter.  The grass on the other side of the fence is just as brown as the grass on their side.  It doesn’t matter.  They keep busting out anyway. 
     My husband and I have chased these two calves down the edges of the road, to an open gate, at least ten times in the last four days.  In the pasture, where the rest of their friends seem content to hang out, they have access to fresh hay and to calf pellets, delivered daily.  There is a fine source of fresh water, so they are not thirsty.  But, still these two roam and we can’t figure out their escape route or their reasons for escape.
     It happened again this morning.  The phone rang just as the sun came up.  “Your two calves are in the road again,” a neighbor said.  We pulled on clothes, coats and boots and fired up the truck.  A mile away the calves trotted into a neighbor’s front yard and put down their heads to graze on dead grass.  It must taste better than the dead grass on their side of the fence.  It must.  Otherwise, why would they insist on escape?
     The calves have gotten used to our herding them back down the road.  They aren’t scared of us anymore.  They sashay, stopping to grab another bite of dead grass.  They halt and consider the clouds racing across the sky. They pause to ponder, they stop to stare.  Finally, they trot back through the gate and Joe and I walk the fence-line once again, looking for gaps.  He hammers in a few loose staples and we study the grass looking for signs of escape.  We should see footprints or bent grass, but we don’t so we go back to the house.
     I have just placed a couple of pieces of bacon in the pan and turned up the heat when the phone rings.  “Your calves are out in the road again,” the caller reports.
     I have come to the conclusion that these calves are going through puberty. They are seeking to assert their independence.  I’ve read that in Rio de Janeiro adolescent boys, and some girls, get their kicks by hopping on to the tops of speeding trains as they roll down the track.  These thrill seekers stand, with arms outstretched- surfing, as the trains rumble down the mountain.  Despite the fact that over 600 kids a year are killed or severely injured riding the rails this way, the young Brazilians continue to flirt with danger.
     When I chase the calves down the road, back to the safety of their paddock, they exhibit this same “devil-may-care” attitude.  They are not afraid of failure.  My only consolation as I once again corral my boisterous beeves is the fact that my four-legged adolescents aren’t surfing the tops of trains for thrills.  Maybe I can train them to hop on top of cattle trucks as they lumber by.  
     Then they could get their adrenaline fix and I wouldn’t have to pay to get them to market.