Friday, April 1, 2022


Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.

God is in the quiet places and I have a hard time slowing down enough to spend time there.

Yesterday, it was my job to fill the four gigantic water troughs for the sheep. This is a task that takes about ten minutes. Ten minutes of  watching water surge into plastic ponds. Ten minutes of  fidgeting, standing on one leg and then the other and thinking about all there is yet to be done.

It is so hard for me to reach the state of quiet that allows me to hear anything other than the clamor of my life. But, as I stood at those four troughs, I thought about my husband, whose job it usually is to fill them. About how he leans on the fence as he holds the hose just so. About how he gazes at the fields in front of him, the mountains piled up beyond them and the sky arching over all of it. I asked him once what he thought about while standing at that fence staring out at the world and he said, "Nothing. I don't think about anything."

So, as I stood at the fence, I practiced quieting my mind. I let the sound of sheep slurping be the only background noise. I let the mountains and fields, quiet before the great spring unfolding, send their silence into my soul. I gave myself permission to just be. 

And God stepped in and said, "I am enough. I AM."

May you find a quiet spot for your soul today.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Sticky Hands and Stinky Knees


It's lambing season. Our farm has 170 ewes. A  birthing  average worth bragging about would be two lambs per ewe, but nature has a way of skewing the odds a little lower.

For instance, last week we had a snowstorm. The thirty sheep on pasture in front of our house are due to lamb in March. But somehow a roaming Romeo found at least one of them, and she gave birth to twins in whiteout conditions. One of the twins made it. The other stepped into a deep cow track and couldn’t get out.

We weren’t even aware that they were out there until a neighbor called. Other than feeding them once a day, these sheep don’t get much of our attention,. Their sisters in the maternity barn need us more. So, by the time we retrieved the one live lamb, it was cold and hungry.

Mama and baby were herded to our woodshed. The ewe was interested in her lamb, which isn’t always the case. She nosed him, nickered and pranced whenever we got near. And, baby was hungry. He bawled and sucked our fingers. But, he couldn’t seem to make sense of his mama’s udder. Cold had dulled his instincts.

Joe grabbed the ewe by the neck and manhandled her into a corner. He pushed his knee into her side to hold her there while I dropped to my knees in the hay.With my head pressed against her hip, I stuffed the baby’s head under his mama’s belly. He rooted around, grabbed a hunk of wool and started sucking. Right idea, wrong location.

So, I pushed his mouth right next to a teat,  pried his mouth open with my thumb and pointer finger and then jammed the teat into his mouth. He slurped, spit it out, and grabbed wool again.

We repeated this process until my back was in knots and my neck was cracking. Mama Ewe was pretty patient, but eventually she began kicking at her baby every time I pushed the teat in his mouth. 

After about fifteen minutes, the hungry lamb butted his mama’s udder, wiggle-waggled his tail, and started sucking in earnest. When I let go of him, he bawled, lost the teat and sucked wool again.

I stayed beside him as long as my achy back would let me, then stood up and stretched. Baby backed away, too, but he shook his whole body: a good sign that a lamb has eaten his fill.

I studied the knees of my coveralls. They were covered in shit, and my hands were covered with sticky colustrum  and bits of hay.

By the next morning, the lamb was making it on his own and we turned his momma and him out two days later.

Every lambing season is like this. There are always lambs to help. It is a frustrating, stinky, back-cramping job. But the reward is the field full of lambs I watched running in the sun, yesterday.  They played follow the leader, pounding across the lot, skidding around a tree, and then galloping pell-mell back to their mamas who were chewing their cuds and gossiping by the fence. The lambs blew steam in the cold air, panted, and then took off again.

Sticky hands and stinky knees always remind me that there is always some good that comes with the bad. That hard things just need to be done. That we aren’t really in control of anything. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022



See the driveway in the picture above? That’s my driveway. You can only see about a fourth of it from the picture and it looks pretty drive-able, doesn’t it?  Most of the snow appears to have melted so it seems like any driver with four-wheel drive should be able to navigate their way out to the road with ease.

I’m not just any driver. I am a lily-livered, ice-phobic, scaredy cat. Plus, the first section of this driveway faces south. It melts off quickly making it incredibly deceptive. At the top of that hill, there is a slight turn to the left. You must make that turn while your  back wheels are desperately trying to gain traction on the last fragment of still-ice covered slope. And you are turning on to an extremely slick  section that has definite opinions about your right to stay on the road at all.

Further down, there is a sneaky straight stretch with lots of ice lining the three inch deep tire tracks. That ice is just the right height to push your tender sidewalls around, jouncing the car from one side of the track to the other.

Below that? Another icy turn that never receives sun. It is tilted the wrong way and wants nothing more than to throw your car over the very steep embankment to the left. I once left a vehicle seesawing on the ledge: two wheels spinning in open air.

Finally, the last  downhill slope, the one that leads to the hardtop road, could qualify as a luge run in the Olympic Games. It’s straight, so you’re okay if you don’t use your brakes. Just better hope there are no cars barreling towards you as you reach the finish line. You won’t be able to stop.

Okay, okay! My husband would tell you that my description of this driveway is exaggerated. Supreme hyperbole! But, he’s not me. He grew up driving in snow and ice on curvy, treacherous roads. I did not. I learned in driver’s school how to turn my car into the slide if ice took over, but that doesn’t work on my driveway. Turning into the slide just insults the ice walls lining the track and they push back, forcing your back end even further towards that precipitous drop.

So, today, I had driving school with my snow and ice certified driving husband. He made me drive in and out of the driveway four times in a row. By the second time, my palms were so slick that they were sliding around on the steering wheel and my knees were like noodles in a pot of boiling water.

With instructions as vague as “Stay in the track!” which I thought I was trying to do, he coaxed me up, over and through.  Now, I am safely home, in my office, staring at my nemesis out the window. After four trips out to the mailbox and back, you would think I would be brimming with the confidence to tackle that driveway and get to work tomorrow. But, I am not.

When I ride with my hubby, in and out, I close my eyes and say a little prayer until we roll to a stop at the end. I can’t do that when I am behind the wheel, although perhaps the result would be better and my wheels would just follow the track on their own accord.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow. You say a prayer for me, and I'll wear a seatbelt. And, if it’s too bad, I will abandon it all and walk back in.

Thursday, October 29, 2020


I have written two Halloween rhymes for your amusement. I am rising to a challenge posted on Susanna Leonard Hill's website  (Halloweensie Contest) to write a story for children that is under a 100 words. It must include some form of the words "skeleton", "mask" and "creep". I wrote two. Hope you enjoy.


by Ginny Neil

Grab your mask. Let’s trick-or-treat,
down this creepy, spooky street.
We’ll ask for something good to eat,
at the witch’s door.
She’ll open it and offer things,
like crispy, crunchy bug wing-dings,   
or battered deep-fried fruit-bat wings.
We’ll smile and ask for more.
We’ll sample sun-dried bison chips,
or maybe chewy hippo lips
dipped in pureed python hips,
or snack on slug fillet.
We’ll be polite, won’t eat and run.
She’ll serve dessert when we are done.
Some crunchy, sugared skeleton,
or toad with warts flambé.
Then, we’ll decide.
What did we eat?
A gory trick
or gourmet treat?


by Ginny Neil

A skeleton’s job on Halloween night

is making kids scream with terrible fright.

But this Halloween, poor skeleton stumbled, 

as he crept down the hill, getting totally jumbled.

Now, eletonks’ bones are all out of place.

A mask full of tarsals makes up his face.

His femurs are feet. His skull’s near his knee.

His spine’s tangled up where his left arm should be.

His fidgety fingers hang down from his thighs,

and two broken ribs poke out of his eyes.

So, giggle at eletonks. Trust me you’d tremble

if skeleton’s bones could just


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Riding in Trucks

This is a re-write of an oldie but goodie. It's still true.

     My boys started making engine sounds as soon as they could talk. Their forks were bulldozers at the supper table, their hands were boats in the bathtub, and their bodies were race-cars in the supermarket aisles.
     I have never understood this fascination with all things motor. I prefer to ride something that breathes, so I bought a couple of  horses in hopes that I could bond with my two motor-heads, After a season or two of trotting and cantering they abandoned me for the four- wheeler. My oldest explained it this way. “Horses buck, engines don't."
      I beg to differ. A horse wants to stay upright as much as I do, but a lawn mower doesn’t care if it lives or dies. That’s why I never drive one on the side of a slope. A lawn mower can definitely buck you off, and then cut your foot off for spite.
      I once dated a fellow who loved bucking souped-up trucks across impossible slopes covered in rocks and mud. I rode with him, once. He yee-ha’d as we skidded sideways down a 90 degree incline and climbed cow-sized rocks while I pressed my knees against the dashboard, clenched the door handle and prepared to dismount as soon as the wheels stopped spinning.
     When I married My Own Farmer, I never guessed he came complete with a variety of motor-induced hazards. We’d be skidding along a comfortable, horizontal track in knee-deep snow as we carried hay out to the cows, when suddenly he would point the nose of the truck uphill and start digging a path to the top through the ten foot drifts.  The whine of the engine was always drowned out by the whine of his wife as we topped the rise.
     On another occasion, My Own Farmer offered me the chance to go along with him and spread some lime. His poetic descriptions of the vistas I would see, outweighed my common sense and I probably would have enjoyed the scenery if I had ever opened my eyes.
     Dangers lurk right outside my door, as well. Just yesterday, after mucking out the chicken house, I asked my husband to help me spread some of the litter and manure. When we got halfway down the driveway, he dropped the truck into low range. I looked at him suspiciously. “I thought we were going to spread this on that nice flat meadow in front of the house.” In answer, he turned the truck straight up the tallest hill.  “It will do the most good here,” he replied. 
     It’s been raining a lot lately so of course we hung up in thick mud creeping down the side of the ridge. “Now, we’ll see what this baby can do,” my motor-head hubby laughed. 
      “This baby is going to hit you if you don’t let me out,” I replied, but by that time, we had managed to spin our way through the muck to solid ground.
     We rode up the hill the rest of the way in silence. My eyes were closed and I was too busy praying to engage in frivolous conversation. When we finished forking the last bit of manure off, I walked down. 
     After years of riding along with him, I knew my husband would bring the truck off of the hill safely. But, he could concentrate better if I wasn’t screaming all the way down.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Perfect Afternoon

     The weather today was just right for burning the last of the garden debris. Temperature in the upper thirties with a light wind blowing south so the smoke and sparks would flow out over the garden and not toward the house.
     After I raked the dry zinnia stalks into a pile and then pulled up the soggy cardboard mulch, I twisted a piece of newspaper and shoved it in the driest part. One match later, smoke curled up from the edges of the haphazard pile and then twisted as the wind picked up. That wind was important for getting the wet cardboard to burn, and soon I had a roaring fire.
     I could see vehicles pausing as they raced down the road a quarter mile across the field in front of my house. Wet debris burns with a great deal of smoke, and I'm sure the drivers were wondering what was on fire. I considered trying to send some smoke signals to let them know everything was under control, but had to be content with the fact that I was wearing a blaze orange hoodie, and they could probably see me moving around from the road.
     In an hour, the pile was reduced to fine ash, a perfect supplement for spreading out on the garden to add minerals to the soil.

As I sat there, with the last of the heat warming my face, I heard a small whistle and then a fluttery beating of wings. A gray-backed, butternut-chested, tufted titmouse landed on one of the sunflower plants drooping on the edge of the garden and studied me. I think he was hoping I'd leave. My bright orange coat must have puzzled him.

     I did leave, but returned a minute later with camera in hand. It took the curious little bird and his twitter-pated cousins about fifteen minutes to decide that the big orange blob sitting under the stalks was harmless.
      Soon, the air was full of fluttering and singing as the little birds gathered enough courage to land on the burgeoning heads and dig for seeds.
     I think that there can't be anything more perfect than sitting in the golden light of a fading fall afternoon and watching nuthatches dig into sunflower heads, tossing debris left and right as they pry out their supper.  As soon as a seed was firmly pinched between upper and lower bill, the little birds leaped into the air and in their peculiar up-down, up-down manner of flight made their way to the wooden slats of the grape vine where they, tap, tap, tapped until they broke open their particular seed.

As more birds discovered the bounty, some jostling and flapping helped establish the pecking order.

I watched the show for as long as my rear end could handle the cold ground. Before leaving, I took a look at the bird's handiwork. There were still enough seeds left for another day or two of fun.

I gathered a few for myself and then slipped inside to warm up by the woodstove. Even five hours later, my shirt still carries the sweet scent of smoke. Today, I stored up a treasure of memories against the day in the future when I can no longer sit on cold ground and watch earnest little birds making a living in the remnants of my summer garden.

Monday, September 16, 2019

When Out on the Hills There Arose Such a Clatter

     At four o'clock in the morning, Joe and I both sat bolt upright in our bed. He scrambled for slippers, taking time to also pull on pants and a shirt, while I, in only my flimsy nightgown, bounded down the steps, stepped into my boots and ran outside.
     When I stepped out with my oversize flashlight, the cacophony of snarling and howling stopped. Coyotes.
     This is the second time in two weeks we've been awakened this way, but this time was worse. We had heard both of our dogs hunting rabbits near the house when we first jumped up. Now, there was nothing but silence.
    Just last week, our neighbor, Mike, lost a beloved old dog to a pack of coyotes. He told me that he, too, awakened to clamor and went outside. Unlike us, he spotted the three coyotes circling one of his dogs. Mike called the dog to the house and then went inside for a gun. When he returned, the coyotes had vanished. The next morning he found his beloved older dog dead right where the coyotes had been. He'd forgotten she was outside.
     The eerie silence following such intense pack-noise put my hackles up as I thought about Mike's dog. Luke, one of my beagles, came running, but the other was absent and silent. We searched for forty-five minutes, our flashlights stabbing deep into the shadowed woods but no dog answered our call.
     The story has a happy ending. Rex, the other dog, was curled up in the flowerbed next to the house when we returned.
     But, three nights ago, a lamb didn't have such a happy ending. When I hear eagles crying and see vultures circle, it usually means that there's been an animal death somewhere on the farm, so when we heard eagles that afternoon, we jumped in the truck and went for a look-see.
     There were four or five vultures riding the currents above the hill across the road and when we crested it and then pulled partially down the other side, the whoosh and flap of eagles rising up through the trees drew us to the site.
    One of our lambs lay, ribs exposed, in a ditch next to a culvert. The flies were making a meal, but I have a fairly good tolerance for stink, so I walked over and prodded the carcass with a stick. When the lambs eyeless head rolled back, I spotted the tell-tale toothmarks. She'd been bitten and strangled by a coyote.
     This is not the first time I've written about coyotes.( The Coyote Tree) While I am such a big fan of nature and all things outside, coyotes are not on my favorites list.  I've told this story in graphic detail because that's the way it happened and it explains why I'm frustrated by those who have lobbied to no longer allow us to set poisonous traps for the coyotes because someone's dog found one and died when he bit into it.
     We lose an average of 15 to 25 lambs a year to coyotes and as I said in my previous post, the lambs are not eaten, just slaughtered and nibbled on. Senseless waste.
     We've noticed that the coyotes around here are getting bolder. Neighbor Dennis shot at some in his front yard the other night. He thought maybe they had come looking for his cats. I told my husband that when I moved to the mountains I never envisioned the bear and coyotes being such cozy neighbors. I am frightened to go out at night without a dog and a flashlight.
     It seems to me that more and more people have become "Bambi-ized." All furry critters are cute and the humans trying to make a living in spite of them are the enemy. Tell that to my farmer friends who've lost acres of corn to raccoons and bears that they can't get permits to shoot. 
     When a predator, in the wild kills another animal, it's considered an act of nature. When a human kills an animal it's considered a crime. My daughter-in-law has a student who is serving jail time for killing a dog he knows was killing his sheep. After asking neighbors to please keep the dog away, the student took matters into his own hands the next time he saw the dog on his property. Now, he's in jail for a considerable amount of time.
     A child's life was worth less than the dog's.
     You, who've read other essays on my blog, know that I walk a line between absolute adoration of all things wild and a growing awareness that the world is not as pretty as I thought it was when my closest neighbors were all human.
     Right or wrong, I've changed. Last night proved it to me, again.