Friday, March 27, 2015


     This evening, as I went about my dusk-time chores, I locked things in and out.  I locked the chickens in. They need protection from coons and possums and foxes and coyotes.  When we built their coop, we designed it to be predator proof.  That means that there are absolutely no small openings anywhere that aren't covered by tightly attached chicken wire.  Nowhere for snakes to slither in, nowhere for rats to reconnoiter, nowhere for predators of any kind to eat, maim or steal eggs from my girls.
     After the chicken house, I locked the horses into the small lot in front of the house.  I let them out during the day to graze on the green blush of grass just beginning to color the fields, but I coax them back into the small lot at night so that they won't pester my dogs and steal their dog food.  I also want them in the small lot at least half of the time because both of my horses will eat fresh green grass until they founder which leads to sore feet and possible downing.  The small lot is a place where the grass truly is greener on the other side of the fence.
     Next, I lock the lambs into the woodshed.  Two lambs live there because their mamas in the big fields won't claim them.  One doesn't have enough milk for two lambs; the other is just plain mean. Who knows why she rejected this lamb and loved the other?  Both lambs enjoy the open doorway, protected by a pallet gate during the day, but during the night I'm sure Mr. Coyote would welcome an easy meal.  So, I slide the door closed and lock it for the evening.
    Spring means we are also constantly locking animals back into their proper fields.  At this time of year, drunk on that first taste of spring, the sheep and cows covet all the grass that is not theirs.  They are masters at creating openings in a fence: first finding a weak spot, then poking a head through, then pushing until the opening is big enough for escape.  Our sheep have been chased out of three yards this week and we have corralled a group of calves who were roaming the roads.  Once the escapees are returned, then the fence pliers, staples and wire come out and the animals are re-contained until the grass is growing evenly all around or they find another weak spot in the fence.
     What I got to thinking about last night, as I did all the latching and bolting and closing, was that I never worry out here about latching and bolting against human predators.  My worries are all centered on animal enemies.  When I take a walk in the early morning, before the sun brings the day to full shine, I worry about running into a skunk, not a human.  I know almost everyone who lives in my county.  I trust them. I don't trust the mama bears with babies or the raccoons roaming around in the middle of the day.  
     When one of my sons turned eleven, he asked if he could have a sleepover.  I agreed and three other boys descended on my house and immediately began lobbying to camp out.  I gave permission, thinking that they meant in our yard.  It wasn’t until they headed across the creek and into the woods beyond, that I realized that they had other ideas. 
      I stayed up all night, glancing out the window, worried, but not wanting to go spoil their fun.  I wasn’t worried that they would be abducted.  I was worried that a stray cow might stumble through their tents, or a raccoon might slip in to sleep with them.  I couldn’t believe that they would make it through the night.  The next morning, they all climbed back over the fence, waded the creek and demanded pancakes and bacon.  They’d had a blast. 
     So, locking and bolting have a different meaning here in the mountains.  Locking and bolting mean that I keep my animals safe and don’t worry so much about myself.

 I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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.