Jake: A Dog’s Eulogy

Mom’s dog, Jake, died yesterday, and it occurred to me that when a good farm dog passes on, he ought to get the tribute he’s due. Here’s mine.

Jake has been on this farm since puppyhood, about eight or nine years—we’re not entirely sure of the date, but he lived here a good long while. The thing that stood out the most to me about him was his soulful eyes. Although quite large, even for a lab, he tended to be a gentle giant. He had quite an appetite and was not one to miss a meal, or a snack, or anything else you might want to give him, like a pat on the head. He was particularly sensitive to Mom crying, coming to her side to comfort her.

He had a deep bark for strangers when they approached, and he took his role as Mom and Dad’s protector seriously. And then just Mom’s. He’d felt Dad’s absence, too, since January, sleeping many nights beside her bed.

I remember taking care of Jake and his sister Honey about five years ago when Mom and Dad took a ten-day vacation to see my brother. I felt sorry for them because they didn’t understand where their masters had gone, and they were out of sorts. Jake took to spending his days outside my house, needing that connection. Days later, when Mom and Dad pulled into their driveway and Mom called him, he bounded over the field, finding the shortcut through the holes in the fence to get to her side. Pure joy. Made me smile.

Jake had many human friends. Brian the postman, various UPS drivers who tolerated Jake jumping on to their trucks in anticipation of a treat, family friend Bobby who has helped my parents immeasurably since Dad’s decline. Jake also never fussed when my nieces and nephews hopped on his back to ride him like a horse.

Admittedly, Jake had a habit I wasn’t so crazy about. In the summer time, he’d sort of sneak up on me and lick my toes whenever I wore my sandals. I’m going to miss that.

His absence is already felt, particularly when Honey stopped by today, alone, wandering but not staying. Something not quite right. She feels it, too.

Mom texted me last night, saying that Jake was up with Dad now. A picture came to me, then. Dad on a dirt road walking, Jake bounding toward him for that pat on the head. Dad bends over to oblige, saying, “What are you doing here, boy?”

Rest in peace, my canine friend. You were a good and faithful dog.

 

Gifts of an Introvert

Ever been told you needed to come out of your shell? Accused of being a hermit? Admonished for not having a good time? I feel your pain.

It’s not easy being an introvert in a noisy world, but we’ve got gifts. Dare I say superpowers? Okay, maybe it’s a little premature to get out the tights and cape, but there are advantages to being introverted. I recommend snagging a copy of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. While some of her heroes wouldn’t necessarily be mine, I found most of what she had to say on the topic of introverts enlightening as well as empowering.

Maybe you’ve compared yourself to extroverts so long you have a difficult time finding any of your characteristics as gifts. Let me help you out. Here is my short list:

Good listener. So maybe we don’t have bubbly personalities. (Who wants to be bubbly, anyway?) Those who like to talk a lot also like to be heard, which makes the one who corners you at the party happy. Introverts tend to remember the little things from a conversation, such as birthdays or the name of the boss’s grandson and how he spells it with a “k” instead of a “c.” These details make people feel heard and appreciated, especially when brought out in future conversations. It’s the introvert’s edge in human relations, which demonstrates a warm and caring nature.

Detailed thinker. It’s the little things I mentioned above. We see what others overlook in their haste to finish a task. Often we process slower, but much deeper, taking those details and giving fresh insight and a different perspective that others completely miss. The challenge for us, though, is to speak up and share these insights.

Independent worker. We’re self-starters, and we don’t require handholding to finish a project. As a matter of fact, looking over our shoulder is likely to annoy us. And, by all means, do not put us in group settings. We thrive best when we work alone.

Creative type. Artists, writers, inventors–creative types are often introverts. Maybe it’s that fresh, detailed perspective that makes us see the world differently and gives us an artistic bent. Whatever it is that causes introverts to be creative, we bring that trait to the table and value to our work.

Loyal friend. I have precisely a dozen contacts on my cell phone–eight family members, three friends, and one acquaintance. Not exactly what you’d call Miss Popularity, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We introverts are a selective bunch. We don’t give our hearts away to everyone, but when we do, the lucky recipient has a loyal friend.

While my list is certainly not exhaustive, I hope to inspire my fellow introverts to see their great potential and value.  Be who you are and be proud of it.

 

Hands: A Tribute

Calloused hands

built the fires—and kept them burning

steadied a shotgun

Smoothed curls and swung axes

Fashioned dresses from flour sacks

rocked cradles

sewed buttons

baked bread

Boiled laundry in hot tubs

and scrubbed

and scrubbed

Grew tomatoes and preserved them

Quilted

Played pat-a-cake

tied ribbons

wiped tears

embraced life

 

Beautiful hands

 

 

Life is Like a Garden

I’ve learned much about life with a shovel in my hand, dirt under my fingernails. Planting a seed is a miraculous thing, and I never tire of watching the miracle unfold. It’s a story in the making.

Setting: A garden somewhere in Missouri. Zoom in closer, a modest hole with soil off to one side.

Enter: A determined seed bravely consents to being covered with soil. (The best is yet to come.)

Time passes. The sower waters generously. Waits expectantly.

And waits and waits some more. More time passes until finally a mini explosion of dirt reveals the baby. It’s a seedling! Growth happens.

Winds come. The rains come–sometimes not so gentle. Storms overhead. Sun beats down. Yet the plant survives. Thrives under the care of the sower.

Flowers form. Fruit develops until one day the sower picks it for the dinner table. Then more and more fruit, some for neighbors, others for the canning jar to be given as gifts. An abundant harvest.

All because of one seed and the sower who planted it.

Now that’s my idea of a summer love story!

 

Faith, Farm, and Family

Nothing compares to growing up on a farm.

As a kid, I had the run of acres and acres of land, animals to cuddle and contend with, cousins to explore the woods with or make hay tunnels in the lofts. Mom and Dad were always nearby, as well as uncles if I needed anything. The farm was a playground paradise–with a little imagination. And there was no better place for a game of hide-and-seek.

As an adult, I thrive in the solitude, growing corn and tomatoes, zinnias and marigolds in my garden, taking walks through the fields, watching the seasons come and go in all their splendor.

Farm life has suited me well.

But without family, the farm wouldn’t be nearly as rich. People to share the good life with, to lean on, to love. This farm is full of memories–good times, hard times. Perseverance. Contentment. Togetherness.

Likewise, without faith, there would be no farm or family because the Giver has been good to us. These are His abundant, marvelous, and downright audacious gifts. He’s given us the good times, helped us through the hard times. With Him we’ve persevered, learned gratefulness and contentment. Together.

Faith, farm, and family–my three ingredients for a happy life on the good green Earth we share.

Eggs: A Dozen Ways to Use Them Up

posted in: Simple Living | 2

Or maybe I should have said “E is for Eggs” because my fridge is overrun with them these days. Mom got more chickens back in December, so between the two of us we share the duties of feeding and watering them, alternating days. The one feeding gets the spoils.

Out of necessity, my preoccupation with eggs has led me to finding creative uses for the chicken fruit. What follows is a list of a dozen ways, some fitting in the odd or strange category. Have fun!

1) Make Tempera Egg Paint. Who knew?

2) Whip up a batch of Curried Egg Salad. Simple. For every two eggs, add 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder to your favorite recipe. (I used red curry powder.) My quick recipe is: 2 hardboiled eggs chopped, 2 tablespoons of mayo, 1 teaspoon of sweet and spicy mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon of red curry powder. Yum!

3) Moisturize with an egg yolk facial. Mix a tablespoon of raw honey with an egg yolk and apply it to your face. Leave your egg mask on for 15 minutes.  (Avoid scaring small children.) Rinse with warm water.

4) Cleanse oily skin with an egg white facial. Whisk whites with a little lemon juice or water, apply it to face, and let it dry for 10 minutes. Then rinse.

5) Bake Cloud Bread. You’ll find many recipes online, but I tried this one from Sugar-free Mom and thought it pretty good. Admittedly, the bread can taste a little eggy, but as with so many low carb baked goods, it gets better with each passing day.

6) Deter pests in the garden by placing crushed egg shells around your plants to keep away snails, slugs, and cutworms. An added bonus is that the calcium in egg shells feeds the soil.

7) Lose weight by going on an egg fast. In a nutshell (or egg shell, as the case may be) for every egg eaten you eat one tablespoon of healthy fat and one ounce of cheese. I first heard about it from I Breathe I’m Hungry and have tried this several times. Every time I follow it, I lose weight. She also has some pretty good recipes with a lot of variety and makes it simple with menus and shopping lists. Worth checking out if you like eating eggs.

8) Treat your hair to an egg treatment. Beat an egg with a little olive oil, mix until frothy, and apply to hair. Add a few drops of a favorite essential oil to the mix for a nice scent. Leave on for 20 minutes and rinse with warm water.

9) Add a cooked egg or two to Rover’s weekly diet for a shiny coat. I haven’t tried this, but I’ve seen the tip around the Internet. Couldn’t hurt to try.

10) Make quiche. Real men do eat quiche, after all. At least Hubs does, anyway. For the low carb friendly crust-less version, a basic rule of thumb for the custard portion is 6 eggs + 1 cup of cream or half and half + seasonings mixed thoroughly. Layer 8 ounces of cheese, leftover meat, and veggies in the bottom of a greased 9-inch pie plate and pour the custard over it. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The great part about this recipe is that you not only use up eggs but also leftover meat, veggies, and that insignificant amount of shredded cheese that’s been sitting in the fridge. Often I will use several different kinds of cheese together with good results. Usually.

11) Borrow your neighbor’s children and color Easter eggs. Kits are easily found at the local grocery store, or, if you’re like my granny you’ll use food coloring and a little vinegar. (Don’t ask me the exact amount. It’s been too long.) Now, admittedly, I’ve never tried this with brown eggs, so I have no idea how they would turn out, but it would be fun to try! Send the children home with the colored eggs and the recipe for curried egg salad. Their mother will need it!

12) Give a dozen away. It’s a nice treat for most people. Even better, find some family in need and make up some good excuse about how you just can’t seem to get rid of all the eggs your hens are laying. Tell them they’d be doing you a favor to take some off your hands.

So there you have it. A dozen ways to use up eggs. If you give some of these a try, be sure and leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about it!

Dad

We lost Dad back in January, so he’s been fresh on my mind. The farm feels his absence as though something’s not quite right here. He lived his whole life on this land.

Truth be told, Dad wasn’t a business man, but he did his best to run the dairy. Carrying the weight of it left him weathered and worn. Seasoned. Yet he held a deep and abiding faith in God which saw him through the hard times. He spent his life helping people. Didn’t matter if the cows had to be milked, if a person needed a listening ear or someone to pray, he was there for them. Oftentimes he came home late from the barn, having gotten a late start because a friend of a friend called and asked for his help. Dad knew no strangers.

Now my family and I are left facing a year of firsts–first birthday without Dad, first Easter, first summer day, first Thanksgiving and Christmas. Father’s Day without my father. Things seemingly insignificant, like baking the Easter ham and not having him to share the leftovers with–I definitely inherited the baked ham gene from him!

It’s hard to sum up a life, and I won’t even try. No need to, really, because Dad’s wit, wisdom, and stories will continue to find a place in my posts from time to time. Until the next Dad-ism, I will leave you, dear folks, with something my daughter read at his memorial and is the perfect description of him and so many others: “God Made a Farmer” by Paul Harvey. (Note: The Dodge commercial, though an abbreviated version, is very much worth watching.)

 

Cat Mom

I love my two boys, cats Winston and Clarence. My friend Patty says they have old man names, but, really, that wasn’t the inspiration. Winston is named after Mr. Churchill, and Clarence is named after the angel on It’s a Wonderful Life. Hubs thought that one up, but it’s pretty apropos, since a couple of years ago Clarence kind of saved my life when I was going through a particularly rough patch. He came to me with a cold and his spine noticeably visible. We needed each other. Or, like Clarence from the movie who feigned drowning to save George Bailey, maybe Clarence pretended to be thin and needy with a bad sneeze.

Winston, a few years older than Clarence, joined our family as a kitten after we’d been “petless” for two days, having lost a dog and cat within the span of a month. He came to us when we needed some joy in our lives. Between the two of them, they have us trained pretty well. Winston knocks his metal bowls together to get me up from the couch, and Clarence waits by the faucet to drink until one of his tribe turns on the tap.

I used to shake my head at  those people who, upon becoming empty nesters, treated their pets like children–that is, until I became an empty nester and started referring to myself as their mommy. Go figure.

Clarence destroying the cat tree.
Winston pondering his next cat treat.

Way to Go, Birds!

“Apparently the birds need encouragement,” my brother told Mom and me over the phone a couple of weeks ago. He then explained that his youngest, Victoria, had walked outside with him and, upon hearing the birds singing, said, “Way to go, birds! Keep up the good work.”

I’d been thinking similar thoughts recently when a cold snap interrupted our early spring. The nightly temps dipped into the teens, ruining the annual show of white flowers and fruit tree blossoms. I’d been worried about the birds, wondering if the cold had been too much for them. But from inside my warm house, I could hear them singing even louder than usual. It was as though they said, “Oh yeah, winter? We’ll show you!”

While March turned out to be cooler than February and April has yet to prove itself, the birds remain obstinate in my little corner of the good green Earth.

My spring heroes.

About Amy

When tasked with the challenge of talking about myself, I hesitate, if I’m being honest. But one of the goals of this blog is connecting with like-minded folks, and in the spirit of making a proper introduction, here goes.

Hi, I’m Amy and I’m a farm girl at heart. Yes, I said girl, even though I turned fifty-one recently. I grew up on the same dairy farm that I live on today, minus the cows. Now it’s mostly crops with four horses, one shy of a dozen chickens, and one noisy rooster. I’m an introvert and don’t like crowds. I like books and reading, which makes sense as I write and edit for a living.

The Midwest is home, Missouri specifically. I love living in a rural area with small towns where people live and breathe and work and love and take care of each other. While I’ll visit my daughter in the big city, it’s always a relief to get home to the quiet. I like seeing an uncluttered horizon and breathing clean air, peppered mildly with the scent of large animals.

I love God, but this faith walk ain’t a piece of cake. Sometimes I wish it were. One of my most favorite things to be is simply Child of God.

So that’s me, but why this blog? On the practical side of things, I want to share recipes, my gardening experiments (I’m seasoned but still learning), and DIY projects. For the inspirational side, reflections on rural life.

When trying to sum up my thoughts for a tagline, a line from the song “Home on the Range” kept coming back to me—“where seldom is heard, a discouraging word.” I hope readers will come away feeling better about life. Feeling like they have renewed purpose. Feeling like there are still good people on this good green Earth we share.

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