Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Living in the Moment

Have you ever ridden a cow?  I thought I might have been the only kid to give it a try until I saw a video of a girl riding a cow like I used to do when I was a kid. I watched the short Facebook video a time or two. This girl had perfected a childhood game of ours and it stirred up many memories of days gone by.

 I loved our new home on the farm and especially the animals and nature. I still do.     I remember I much more preferred the white-faced Hereford cows to the Holstein.  There’s something about those all white faces with big blue eyes and their remarkably, long eyelashes that I adore. Still do.  We visited our small herd daily. Often times we would greet each other by   touching noses and inhaling and exhaling, as they paused a moment from grazing or chewing their cud.  

 One day, seeking entertainment we found it in the cow pasture.   My older sister Debbie and I decided to try and ride a cow. We didn’t have a pony any more; she was too ornery, so why not ride a cow.    "You go first," I told her. "No you first," she insisted.   She was a bit scared to go first not knowing what might happen.  I could tell, so me being a tad more daring than her, decided to give it a go, after all, I fell off that trickster, Shetland pony of ours many times when she would run off with me then throw her head down and put on her brakes at Mom’s garbage burn pile (no Rumpke back then) and over the top I flew. So I said I’d do it.  

 Debbie helped me up by creating a stirrup with her hands. I don’t know how she knew all these cool tricks.  It was a whole lot higher up than on our pony. But the cows didn’t mind much at all once they knew what we were trying to do and that we weren’t giving up getting on top. They didn’t mind me kicking to go either, because they wouldn’t go.  We tried several others but they, like the first one, all just contentedly continued grazing.  A step here or there which was a little scary sine there wasn’t anything to hold on to like our pony’s mane. “Well, this is boring,” I told sister. We had one left to try, but she was huge with calf and being kids we felt that we shouldn’t try her.   

Then we talked it over and decided to try Big Red anyway since we were small little girls.   She moved more than the other as I struggled to get up that high.  Then she walked off without a nudge. Stopped to graze.   Then her steps became fast, and when she looked back at me, seeming a bit agitated with me for still being on her, she began trotting a little, I was all smiles, until her trot got faster and her head swung around in a mad circle.    I decided right then and there that I’d had enough fun for the afternoon and I slid off before I got bucked off like in the rodeo. “Wow, did you see that? She was about to buck me off,” I shared my wisdom of getting off before that happened. What would we tell Mom if I came in with a broken arm?   

As we tried to head for the house, more fun was created when the cows kept following us around like we were their leader.  When we would run ahead, they would run too. When we stopped, they would stop and graze some more. Our herd was very friendly and curious. It really was quite fun.  Who needed toys? In fact we had few toys. A bike and a baby doll. We didn’t need toys to entertain us.   We had the best fun that warm afternoon in the pasture field of our youth with a herd of cows. Only a few weeks later, sure enough, Big Red gave birth to a darling baby calf with a snow-white face and big blue eyes and long curly eyelashes.

In the girl’s video clip I mentioned, she actually used a saddle, a halter bridle and has a jump set up. Sure enough, she trotted that cow toward the jump and would you believe, it jumped it. Wow! Why didn’t we think of that?  Probably, because we didn’t have a saddle or a girth large enough to fasten to one of them, other wise, we probably would have.
Living in the moment, like a curious kid, and sucking up all the details with no distractions, are the best moments, equaling the best days of our lives.  Pause soon and suck up one of those "living in the moment, moments." If you decide your moment is to try and ride a cow, do share the moment with me.  Lol.  sherryphillipsmitchell@yahoo.com

Thanks Lisa Estep for the lovely photos of your grandparents cattle.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Dance With Nature on the Farm

What a wonderful week we’ve had at the farm. We invite  school kids  for field trips to the farm to experience nature. Yep, you heard me right “experience nature.” It never ceases to amaze me the excitement I witness through kids’ eyes that I hope as adults you have not lost your luster for.  And I revisit my youth in doing so.

For example, in the garden station that I teach, kids would most likely be content to stand at the chicken pen and watch them most all day. Even if they have chickens of their own, they love it.  They ask all kinds of questions and marvel at my birds and tell me about their birds at home or at Grandma’s house. “What color eggs do they lay,” one student asked. “Brown ones. The best kind.” He nodded.

Planting a flower seed. 

Nice Boots Teacher

A little drink for the seed. 

At my station, they like to march right up close and personal to the raspberry bushes I describe in detail and look deep into the small white flower that will become the red, plump raspberry we’ll plop in our mouth in July and they are excited and wish for some now.  Then when they detect the bloom has already turned into a green berry, they are even more excited to point it out to me.  And of recent, the bees are appearing doing the work of the bee on the raspberry plant and they see first hand what they do. “Look, lady, there’s a bee.”  They have read about it, seen a picture, but now they see.  I marvel at the parent or chaperone that walk up closely and see through their child’s eyes and be a  kid again and marvel at the well-orchestrated plan in place in the garden. 

We make our way around the garden, letting nature be our guide. No one knows who ate my cabbage plants or who Beatrix Potter or Mr. McGregor is until I mention Peter Rabbit. Then they remember and see first hand why Mr. McGregor was miffed of Peter’s visit to the garden.

Boots of all colors.

We move on to do a math problem using tomato plants. “ We have three rows with four tomato plants in each row, how many tomato plants in all?” Quickly my little mathematician shouts out before all others, “Twelve.”  And the smile on his face reaches from ear to ear.

 Next we feed from the marshmallow plant.  They are totally excited to see marshmallows hanging from the plants velvety branches.  “ Hey, I see your bag of marshmallows,” a student is quick to point out the bag I have stashed amongst the plants.  I’ve stuck marshmallows on with clothespins. They learn marshmallows are not picked but made from the plant’s pulverized root and added sugar then formed.   Of course we now provide marshmallow samples for the kids to eat and they like it better than the asparagus they’ve tried in the past.

A wonderful surprise to find. Kids loved it. 
And best of all, like I remember as a kid on the farm, we love it when Nature plants its wonderment in the garden unexpectedly.   A Robin flies from her nest amongst the blackberry bushes. A parent notices.  A child is held up high to peer inside to marvel at the find. It’s just a bird's nest you might be thinking. Yes, indeed it is, but not just any nest. Who taught her how and when?   Inside are four baby-blue eggs in the most perfectly formed comfy nest attached to the vine you could imagine. Of course I veer off course of my standard garden tour to incorporate our find in their learning and wonderment. The kids are so excited over bird eggs because they know  tucked inside is a life.    Aren’t we all fascinated with Nature as kids?  Do we get old because we stop playing or do we stop playing and get old?  
Oh, no. His mom's battery died. No worries. We got a good shot for her. 

 We’ve had some great finds this week.  You can bet, we’ll be keeping an eye on the Robin’s nest and share on Cherry Ridge Farm’s Facebook page when they hatch out. We’ve been posting pictures all week that you probably can relate the days of your youth to.    But for now, like Mr. McGregor I’ve got to find a way to put a stop to that darn Peter Rabbit  before he eats all my vegetable plants. By day’s end we have all done a dance with Nature amongst the great outdoors.  
The baby Robins hatched out the next week. 

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Take Joy! A Farmhouse Journal

Sherry Phillips Mitchell


Friday, January 8, 2016

Dust your self off. Get Going. Make your Dreams come True.

See that pencil behind my ear? Its not for show, its a builder's pencil.
 And I learned a whole lot more the week of the build.
 Learn from me.  As I learn not only how to take a selfie here but so much more. 

Well, here it is. Another year behind us and a brand spanking new one if front of us.
Sort of like a blank notebook page isn't it. It can be.  It's time to write out your dreams, your goals and your plans.What? You don't have any you said.  Why not? Here's one of mine completed that I think you can learn from.   And a whole lot of valuable stuff tucked inside of it that I learned during this build.

Recently, before 2015 was over, in December, I finally had a dream come true on the farm. But, really, in hind sight,  I got so much more. And maybe, just maybe,  this will be your year to be Sparked  like it was for me wrapping up 2015.

Well, here's how it played out for me.  For years I wanted a viewing room in our riding arena. A place where families could stay warm or cool and watch their kid take riding lessons. A place to have a chili supper or a board meeting or a pony party or maybe do some yoga if that be our future. The ideas were endless.

"I couldn't be the falling star." 

Something always got in the way,  the money, the time, and  so-on and so-on.   Money was spent elsewhere, like on a  failing tractor or roof repair and such. Know what I mean? Then magically, unexpectedly, the stars aligned one morning in December,  when I might add I least expected. I had put it out of my mind, mostly. But the timing was RIGHT.  I had the time, I had some cash and we had a greater need now more than ever to get it done. I declared, "Its now  or never." I called my carpenter son, "When can you come and help with the project." He said, I have a slow holiday week, next week. Get the lumber order together and I'll need a helper. That would be you right?" I choked on that a bit. I was rusty. Back in the days of my youth, there was no fear in any of that,  but we become complacent, or at least I had, especially with challenges. I wasn't as agile climbing a ladder these days either.  But now I was being challenged and I would either make or break this dream of mine. The stars have aligned don't  be the falling star. I gulped.  "Okay. I can do that." He laughed. "Yes you can. I have faith in you." 

How could I let him down?

So immediately, with pencil and paper, I pulled  the building from my mind's archives. I measured the placement area. A 12X24 would fit nicely.  I thought about many things and transferred my ideas onto paper. Then I calculated the lumber. This wasn't completely new to me. I had done this kind of thing before. Only thing was, 20 years had crept in between the "then and now." But, the stars were aligned and I couldn't let ME be the falling star I kept hearing in my minds ear.

"Never, never give up on your dream."

So I drew in  many deep breaths and  rethought the plan and presented my son with a materials list and a picture from the Internet.  " Here's a Western Theme front I want this to look like. Is it possible?" He looked at it and said he could do it. I nodded. Great! I did the happy dance.    I wasn't too far off in my lumber calculations either. That boosted my confidence that even though  I was older I could  still participate in the game. Not be a bench warmer.

We begin the build. 

The runners.

With his review and approval, the lumber material was ordered and set to be delivered the next day.  In the meantime, we leveled the gravel base the skid runners  would sit on and the building would  be built over. Over and over we leveled and taped the diagonals to make sure it was square. "It has to be or everything will be off," he said; smiling when it was right.

The day the lumber arrived  was magnificently wonderful. I love lumber and when I see it I immediately want to start building something from it. And when its a day your dream is coming to fruition, its even more wonderful.   Never give up on your dream. God's delays are not His denial it says somewhere.

My dream was hatching from my head like a baby chick.

We had no blueprints only a dream coming from inside  my head, scratched out on paper used as our blueprints.  That was cool. We owned this. Right or wrong.  One thing I have never been good at is one, measuring and cutting precisely and forget about cutting angles. But he is a trim carpenter and his cuts and angles have to be precise. When I agreed  to being his helper,  I was only expecting to be a gopher (Go-For).  Get this, hold this and so on. Which I did a lot of but he did most of the work. However,  I wasn't expecting to be cutting. But I had too he said.
This is our finished product

 At the saw, nervous as can be,   I cut one board too short (that's been my story most of my life measure twice cut short twice) has been true for me before. But during this build  I realized it wasn't the end of the world."That's why we order a few extra," I was reminded.  It cost me $2.54  for a one wrong cut on a wasted 2X4. NOT THE END OF THE WORLD.  And  it was used later in the build anyway.  But that is what I needed. The failure made me  put my mind to it and "get it right."  Others can do it and so can I,  I  reminded myself. (Remembering  the measurement called out was hard, so I just learned to help myself by writing it on the board immediately.) Whew!

With confidence,  I can now cut accurately!

 Here are the  pictures of the step by step process, but what I really want you to know, your take home,  is the lesson learned in the  final step. Well maybe a lesson learned before hand, I love nail guns! We'd still be nailing as we did back in the day with hammer and nails. The right tools make all the difference in the world. 

The floor joist.

The Floor Decking

The Walls and Siding 

Pausing for another selfie for the record. Baby its cold outside too. 

The final day came, four days in all from leveling the gravel to putting on the trim on the upper facade. I'm on the ground at the chop saw.

Another surprise he has in store for me. 

The final morning was to wrap up and  to complete the Western Themed facade. He was on the top deck measuring  and needed me to cut.  I took one look up there and I knew this was going to be precision cuts. "I don't think I can do this, Andrew," and I hung my head like you do in school when you hope the teacher will pick someone else." He thought, "Then can you come up here and call the measurements down  to me?" Oh my gosh. He had me. "No, I can't do that either." He stared at me. "Then you are going to have to run the saw. You can do this." I knew I had to try and give it my all. I took a deep breath, said a prayer and reached down for confidence and  called out, "What's the first one?" He smiled real big, just like my Dad did when I was a kid and accomplished something.

You know that saying about  the first step being  the most important? Well, it is indeed.  Look at the next  picture. I proudly tell you I cut every one of those angles and lengths. One cut I'll never forget:  A 26 degree angle. Done. Returned. Shave ever so slightly.  Oh my. I did it.   I couldn't be prouder.  As they say, "I was back." My long time coming   dream had come to fruition. And, I am so  thankful that I was literally a part of it. My hands,  guided by my son, my flesh and blood, did it.

I cut all these many angles and I surprised myself too. 

Now, I am challenging  myself for 2016 and I challenge you.  I now know I can build that little greenhouse I have wanted for such a long time, especially since my other one got torn to shreds in the winter winds a couple years ago.With paper and pencil and surfing Pinterest I have another build coming up and I couldn't be happier. And I bet you have things you want to do. Something you've been putting off. Not necessarily a building but something you've wished for a long time.  Roll up your sleeves and get started And for goodness sakes, don't be your "falling star." Be your  Super Star.

Best wishes for 2016.

SO HERE'S THE THING: What are your dreams? What goals have you made? What are your plans. If you can't answer these, then you have identified a problem. So what's holding you back? Take charge. Make a change. I'm over fifty. Things are NOT as easy as they once were but I'm making a come back. Dust yourself off, this is your year. Make it a good one. And by all means,  know that if I can make a come back and over come my fears so can you.

Happy New Year full  of Dreams Come True.

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