milk bath morning

It’s dark each morning when we leave to feed calves. Even the songbirds have sense enough to sleep in a bit. I hear the soft call of a turkey and the deep bellow of a bullfrog on the riverbank. Otherwise, not a sound. The only thing getting me out of bed at this insane hour is knowing the Hubs was able to sleep in some himself. That’s something, anyway.

After ten days, the Hubs and I have synced pretty well on a calf feeding system. I know my job and can do it without too much trouble, freeing him up to do other stuff. Usually this means he wrestles the smallest calves through bottle feeding.  This morning he switched it up a bit.
Continue reading milk bath morning

she farms

#SheFarms Series
she farms | refining firemilk bath morning | silos away!
second sleep | big cows|


One of my greatest joys as “GiGi” has been helping our grandchildren learn to appreciate the farm. Even as preschoolers, they are eager to help out when given a chance. One by one, they’ve found their way to the calf barn in the last few weeks to lend a hand.

Henry and Sadie proudly show the others what is what in calf feeding protocol. Rosie and Oliver join in the action. Anna “Beasy” uses the same voice as with her baby sister, “Hello, baby moo-cow!” She crinkles her nose and meets them eye-to-eye with her beguiling smile. They are so adorable; it’s almost too much cuteness to contain. Their great-grandparents and dairy farm founders, Lloyd and Betty, would be proud.

Continue reading she farms

refining fire

The past few weeks I’ve often found myself contemplating the refiner’s fire.  That’s no surprise, given the extent of upheaval in our lives. We have been feeling the heat of late! I can almost hear my Aunt Bea proclaiming, “We’re really in it!”  Well, yes; it’s become quite toasty.

Among a series of unfortunate events the most dramatic, by far, was a barn fire in mid-April. It was devastating, leveling an entire barn and milking facility, damaging two silos beyond use, disrupting operations for months to come and creating an immense mess on the property. Oy.

Yet it could have been so much worse! We are grateful for tremendous community support in fighting the fire and recovery thereafter. We’re especially thankful for no loss of life. Even so, dealing with the aftermath has been overwhelming.

For the first few days, farmers moved in a sleep-deprived daze of disbelief, the smell of fire acrid in the lingering haze. A smoldering pile of debris reignited periodically, requiring continual observation and occasional attention. Hundreds of cows had to be relocated immediately, some to another property we own and others to neighboring farms. It will be very late in the fall before all the cows come home.

Meanwhile, everything the Hubs and our boys thought they knew and were on the verge of implementing in strategic innovation (a.k.a. Plan A) had to be reconsidered. They scrambled to realign plans and goals, to reconsider their aspirations as farm owners and operators. After multiple facility tours and extensive consultation they solidified a new business plan (a.k.a. Plan B).

This then required weeks of testing to confirm feasibility, detail components, and secure support. Unfortunately, as the U.S. dairy industry slump continues, each decision point and delay are extra weighty. In all of this, there has been no respite from the stress. Insurance claims are slow to resolve. Financing is complicated. All-consuming planting and harvesting seasons progress and overlap with urgency. Open questions and unknowns loom like dark clouds overhead. Numerous loose ends taunt us, wagging wildly in summer’s hot winds. We pray for wisdom and favor. And for expediency.

Our bodies and spirits sag under oppressive heat and humidity.  We pray for a reprieve. Dirt turns to dust. The corn begins to shrivel and brown. We pray for rain and more rain. We pray for livestock and crops and farmers to endure; sometimes the strain seems almost unbearable in our little corner of the world.

Global and national news stories lend some perspective. There are so many “hot spots” that it can be overwhelming. We empathize with west coasters living under the threat of wildfires burning wildly out of control. We pray for those in the path of fierce, fiery destruction of all types. We pray for fire-fighter safety. With all of this heat — both literal and figurative — it’s no wonder the refiner’s fire has been on my mind.

Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel. Proverbs 25:4

This is not the first time I’ve experienced an extended period of “heat” from exceedingly difficult circumstances and concluded the master refiner was at work in my life. To me, that is a hopeful thought: I am clearly not able to control this mess! Experience tells me that I can trust him in this.

A refiner has selected raw material and uses a carefully controlled flame for precise purpose. A refiner’s fire doesn’t destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire or barn fire. It does not burn out of control, consuming everything within reach. The refiner’s fire consumes the extraneous, removing impurities. A refiner clarifies and purifies until all that remains is beautiful and pleasing.

Most importantly, the refiner is always near. In the midst of turmoil, in the heat of the flame, the refiner is attentively present. He manages the process with care and confidence that the end product will be worth the effort.

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9

As much as God wants to reveal us as his own — the refiner’s fire is nothing if not such a process — he also wants us to acknowledge and call on him. I’ve no hesitation to do so but in the midst of the heat I call more frequently. I need to know he’s near. I want to feel his presence. I long to hear him say, “I’ve got this.”

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

It’s been three months since the barn fire and there is hope on our horizon. New facilities are rising. Many questions have resolved as solutions have surfaced. Searing temperatures have lessened. Thunderstorms brought much needed relief last weekend. There’s more rain in the forecast. May it be so!

IMG_1606

I awoke today with the song, Still, sing-ringing in my brain. I received it gladly, as a gift and affirmation that God is near. He has been here all along, just as he promised. I was encouraged. I hope you will be, too.

~ Sondra

#SheFarms Series
she farms | refining fire | milk bath morning | silos away!
second sleep | big cows | dill pickle proud

stepping stones

IMG_1545This summer I resolved to take advantage of newfound flexibility and spare time to Get. Stuff. Done. What a list of projects! I’ve been putting most off since we moved into our new home two years ago. I wasn’t looking forward to the work. Ugh. Staining treated lumber is my least favorite chore. But one project I was enthused about: mosaic stepping stones.

Even so, I procrastinated, not sure how to accomplish my vision. There are at least dozen different ways you might create stepping stones, as a bit of research will reveal. I’m not going to try to fool you. I didn’t know what I was doing. Inching along, step by step and hardware store by store, I figured it out.

Continue reading stepping stones

rv newbies

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 7.24.56 AMWe know lots of folks who travel by RV, quite happily long-hauling a house on their journey. The Hubs and I have struggled to envision ourselves in this scenario. We’re not well suited. I look for pull-through parking spots and have difficulty backing our car out of the driveway. (Don’t judge. It’s a long driveway.) He maneuvers heavy farm equipment without a second thought but is easily irritated by typical traffic in a regular sized vehicle. (Meanwhile, I’m on high alert: brake-lights!) The mere thought of taking to the highway behind the wheel of a rig sized for intergalactic travel induces stress.
Continue reading rv newbies

aunt rita’s baked beans

 

I read recently about “Blue Zones” — places of the world where people live remarkably longer and better. It’s all quite fascinating.  The highlands of Sardinia, Italy; a Greek island, Ikaria; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California, all boast healthy elderly populations that stand out among all others in the world.

I’m intrigued by distinctions among the Blue Zones. For example, Sardinia harbors the most long-lived male population on the planet and Okinawa the oldest females. Elders in Ikaria not only live longer but suffer dramatically less with Alzheimer’s disease. Costa Rica spends a small fraction on health care by comparison to U.S. yet Nicoya residents are 2.5 times more likely to reach a healthy age 90. Loma Linda boasts the most highly concentrated population of Seventh Day Adventists in the world, known for keeping a strict Sabbath and biblical diet.
Continue reading aunt rita’s baked beans

lilacs of late

Observant North Country folk will notice an abundance of blossoms appearing on woody clumps of bushes this time of year.  I’ve seen light and dark purple, pink and white blooms in this area. Most, and especially those in the wild, are light purple. The lilac’s scent is unmistakeable; it hangs heavy and sweet and travels on the breeze. Delightful.

Lilacs are zone three hardy. They can take anything the No Co dishes out, including weeks of subzero winter temps if necessary. (That degree of cold seems increasingly rare these days; no complaints.) Some lilacs, like ours, hedge the property line. Others appear randomly, spreading along roadside or far back in fields. Lilacs return like tried and true friends.

Continue reading lilacs of late