How to Live a Life of No Regrets

How to Live a Life of No Regrets

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

 

xOnly one way to take Beatrice’s picture: catch her when she’s sleeping…

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“There is only one thing about which I shall have no regrets when my life ends.  I have savored to the full all the small, daily joys.  The bright sunshine on the breakfast table; the smell of the air at dusk; the sound of the clock ticking; the light rains that start gently after midnight; the hour when the family come home; Sunday-evening tea before the fire!  I have never missed one moment of beauty, not ever taken it for granted.  Spring, summer, autumn, or winter.  I wish I had failed as little in other ways.”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Play, eat, sleep, repeat. These kids definitely savor to the full all the small, daily joys.

Babies like to nap together on a big pile of hay. Bovine daycare for frazzled Moms.

Fritz & Google rise & shine

Suzette is a perfect lady, always polite and demure

Max says a good power nap and a few big stretches works wonders

Why do we call him Google? No idea except he’s kind of funny. Check out those teeth!

Bess says just because she’s a year old now doesn’t mean she isn’t funny anymore…

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Well Bess, I can’t deny the truth in that. You ARE a funny girl.  OK people, you have your mission. What small, daily joys have you appreciated?

in which we give thanks for everyday riches

in which we give thanks for everyday riches

A while ago I stumbled across this Estonian proverb.  It struck me as oh-so-true and I have thought about it often since:

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.

 

This morning, I am satisfied. I have everything I need if just for today.

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My pre-dawn breakfast: Farm fresh eggs, carefully basted, served on top of toasted, hearty homemade bread spread with rich, yellow butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows.  The thick-shelled brown eggs were laid a couple of days ago by the neighbor’s chickens, yolks bright and firm.

Sprinkled on top, a tiny bit of Parmesan Reggiano. The cheese mixed with the runny yolks is a thick, delicious sauce with the perfect amount of rich saltiness.

Full, satisfied and ever so grateful. How much richer can I be?  What little pleasures made your day a little bit nicer?

 

in which we chop water, carry wood

in which we chop water, carry wood

Oh, all you internet mistake police thinking I got my quotations mixed up, relax.  At Auburn Meadow Farm, water gets chopped. At least in the winter if you want your cows to drink…

The water troughs every single frigid morning and evening. The cows wait for me to chop it open for them – could you let them down?

Life is far from glamorous around here.  If there’s ever been a profession where you can’t hide from yourself, it would be farming.

Because I wasn’t raised on a farm or in a manly home, I didn’t learn much that’s turned out to be useful in my actual workday. Growing up in a small all female household, I learned about fashion, food and trying to being pleasing and respectful.  Our tool box had a tiny hammer, one pair of cheap pliers, a screwdriver or two and some masking tape & glue. Maybe some hangers for pictures and decorating stuff.

Today, I struggle with not knowing how engines and electricity work. One day, after installing our first electric fence, I remember standing frozen for an embarassingly long time because I needed to disable the battery and I was afraid to touch the wrong wire. Silly girl.

And I never appreciated what an admirable skill it is to be able to drive a nail properly and from all angles.

Getting un-stuck (better yet not getting stuck in the first place), jump starting engines, driving tractors, installing fence, digging fence posts, changing tires – all foreign territory.  But amazingly, today, all things I can do by myself. Most of the time….

Today, my manicures are much more likely to include gasoline or GOJO than OPI.  And my shoe fetish, well, let’s say it’s changed. I’m a girl fond of her high heels, a lover of ankle straps and bows.  Today my shoes are most often muck boots ornamented with bows of manure and ankle-deep mud.

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Old shoes, new shoes and another very important accessory – good work gloves that fit. Who cares if they match?

Once, people gave me gifts like watches, perfume, fancy sweaters and books. Things I loved and appreciated. Today, people give me things like axes, home raised eggs, power drills, gates and headlamps. Again, things I love and appreciate.

Kristin Kimball says it best in her book The Dirty Life:

“I had never in my life been so dirty.  The work was always dirty, beyond what I’d previously defined as dirty, and it took too much energy to keep oneself out of it.”

“My new life was marking me. It was happening so quickly. There were intermittent spells of resistance, during which I’d pluck and moisturize and exfoliate, and then there was a period of grieving for my old self, who seemed to be disappearing toward the horizon, and then I relaxed into it.”

But my new life has marked me on the inside too.  It’s not easy being a somewhat successful and competent adult struggling to be as useful as a 12-year-old farm boy. I have a new-found context to define just how capable and important I really am.  And I can’t use office busyness to hide from myself or the chatter in my head.

Spending hours by myself walking, shoveling manure, mending fence and riding a tractor,  I’ve made friends with silence and now prefer to be without TV, radio or iPod noise most of the time. That doesn’t mean the crazy lady in my head doesn’t chatter away– I’m still trying to find the “off” button for her.

Old Blue does her share….

I’m also spending plenty of time on my back or belly in the dirt trying to replace blades on the mower, attaching the plow or repairing something that I broke.  Thank goodness for my farmer friends who have taken me under their wing and so generously help and take time to explain so I will learn.

Of course it takes a willingness to be humble.  I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve had to go back to the dealer when my weed wacker wouldn’t start. Actually, that’s a lie. Not the part about the weed wacker not starting; the part where I said I was embarrassed. I’m no longer that easily embarrassed.

And did you know weed wacking was such an important job on an organic livestock farm? I didn’t really plan for that…   And the chainsaw?  Let’s just say I haven’t quite mastered that one yet, though I will.  The chainsaw scares me a little more than the other equipment… my fingers may have dirt under their nails, but they’re still all right where they belong.

Farming’s been humbling. And frustrating. Irritating, challenging, uncomfortable and empowering too. I have a fresh appreciation for just about everything.  And, as long as I farm, I can only make one guarantee: I will never know it all or lose the pleasure of wearing egg on my face.

in which it’s not life without death

in which it’s not life without death

Christmas Day was a sunny, spring-like day here at the farm. I treated myself to a solitary hike around parts of the property I don’t visit much and indulged myself in a few dreams.

Standing in the warm, safe sunshine,  it’s easy to feel lulled into a sense that all is right with the world.  But then I turn the corner and find myself face to face with this poor unfortunate soul.

Clearly death did not come gently this time.

I can’t tell about the turkey by the bend in the creek – all that was left of that poor bird is a pile of spiky feathers. I hope her death was sudden and swift.

And the fawn’s leg, hair and hoof intact that showed up last summer sharing no clues about the life or death of the living baby deer once attached. A random reminder left anonymously in a peaceful, lovely meadow.

There’s a dark current that runs beneath our sunny, peaceful moments.

Without the shadows, the light would not be nearly so bright.

In which we are still under the spell

In which we are still under the spell

A door to another world....

I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. As a kid, our library trip was the highlight each and every week. I would take out as many books as I was allowed, I think 12, and couldn’t wait to get home to review, stack and prioritize. Which should I read first? Such abundance and possibilities….

Once I tore into the stack, I was relentless until I had finished them all. I was a re-reader too and some would be read again and again. Today, years and years later, I can still get lost in favorites like Charlotte’s Web, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harriet the Spy.

It’s sad that as grown-ups we have to leave behind that kid-on-summer-break abundance of time.  As kids, we struggled to fill that time up, staving off what was, after all, boredom really. But just on the other side of that boredom lies magic if we can just stick with it a bit longer. True creativity takes plenty of aimless meandering through tedium, boredom and solitude before it decides to kick in. I wish I could have a do-over so I can appreciate the lazy slowness of it more this time around.

Don’t you hate it when you’re wrapped up in a good book and see the pages coming to an end?  I know I’m about to be ejected back into my real world where the light is too bright, the noise is super loud and I have a clock to race. But it is nice to savor the feeling of being lost in the world of my book as I go about my day; a kind of country cousin to that delicious tweener place between being awake and asleep.

Anyway, I wander. This summer, I made it a point to read more. Not cookbooks or raising cows books or improving the pasture books but fiction. Or, if not fiction, at least books with a little enchantment and expanding vistas.

The Seasons on Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman

This week, I read a book that at first glance would seem to belong in the doesn’t-count category (it’s about organic farming) but in reality belongs in the counts-for-sure pile. I finished it day before yesterday and it’s with me still.

I learned plenty about the typical workday on an organic vegetable farm. Somehow, even without any farming experience, everyone knows it’s hard work; multiply that by ten and you’re getting warmer. Honestly, I don’t know if I could do it. Loading up that truck so many days each week with freshly picked and washed veggies of an impressive array feels overwhelming from the comfort of my living room. Could I manage to pull it off for real? Do I have the right stuff?

But that’s really just one element of the book. I never knew it before, but burdock roots are enthralling; I have a new crush on apples and a bruise on a peach is an incredible badge of honor. After reading this, who would want a whiny perfect one? Truly.

There’s magic in these pages – the kind of magic known by ancient Druids and fairies that’s only understood while lying on one’s back alone in the middle of a wintry field looking up at the nighttime sky. There’s also lots and lots of love. Love for the land, love of literature, the love of family, the love of good food and simple pleasures; it’s all there. A rich and rewarding read indeed. I recommend it highly.

As we find ourselves pinching pennies as individuals, families and a nation, it is so important to remember how important things like public libraries are. Many of us are a little spoiled by the ease of Amazon(dot)com – please take a moment to remember your local library. You may not be a user yourself, but the programs and access to hope, tools and possibility for those who can’t afford a bookstore habit is invaluable. Many people will never have the freedom to see places like Henry’s farm in person, but if they have a library, they too can know more about the choices and possibilities this great world has to offer.

Libraries are in need of your attention, time and donations; it’s one of the best ways we have to help others help themselves.

What are you reading these days?

Show some love for your local library!

In which we are enchanted

In which we are enchanted

How much more mysterious and magical the world looks in black & white!

We’re moving. Again. Packing up all our worldly junk and putting it in storage.

You see, while we now have a home for the Ladies, it doesn’t include a house for us, so we’re off to transitional housing to plan our next move. Hopefully the final one….

If you’ve ever packed up everything you own, you know the best part is that all sorts of forgotten treasures are found. Which is exactly how I re-discovered my enchantment with Thomas Moore.

Thomas Moore is a contemporary writer and lecturer whose life follows a route like my own; filled with seemingly random twists and turns. Beginning his journey as a monk in a Catholic religious order, then becoming a student obtaining degrees in theology, musicology and philosophy, working as a therapist and finally an author, Thomas Moore is a man who is willing to live the questions without needing to know the answers first.

His most famous books are Care of the Soul and Soul Mates, but the two that most feed my soul are the The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life and The Education of the Heart. I found The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life first and of course had to plop down in the middle of the action for a quick skim. Here I found interesting observations about that uneasy tension between dreams and practicality so especially polarized in our American culture.

Most of us struggle to balance these equally important needs. For some, the standoff is more difficult than for others. A rare few are so blessed they are completely certain of which road they must travel and set right off on their journey. Along the way, they find doors that open just when they are needed, but even for these lucky ones, the door opens not one second before the darkest hour has been endured. Give up too soon and live with regret forevermore.

Including enchantment in our lives requires a willingness to embrace solitude and quiet and forces us to relinquish the need to know everything that’s going to happen next and why. Enchantment is a place where everything is gray and to appreciate it you must have faith that you will understand when it’s time.

People must have excursions into enchantment to survive:

“The soul has an absolute, unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. It requires them like the body needs food and the mind needs thought. Yet our culture often takes pride in disproving and exploding the sources of enchantment, explaining away one mystery after another and overturning precious shrines, dissolving the family farm that has housed spirits of civility for eons, or desecrating for material profit a mountain or stream sacred to native residents. We have yet to learn that we can’t survive without enchantment and that the loss of it is killing us.”

Most people dismiss the need for enchantment as irresponsible, childish or silly; yet why?  Practicality and Enchantment are not opposing forces; in fact they serve one another:

“It isn’t easy to discuss enchantment in a disenchanted society, one that suffers the lack of a deep, solid, communal fantasy life, because enchantment stands our usual values on their head. What is central in the hardcore, hardware, hardworking world of the disenchanted has little or no place in a soft life of enchantment, and what is important to the charm of daily life may appear as a distraction to those who are dedicated to the kind of seriousness that excludes enchantment. Yet there is no essential conflict between enchanted living and practical, productive activity; they can serve each other: one delighting the spirit of ambition, the other comforting the heart.”

Food is a source of enchantment. For example:

“As a therapist, I’ve worked with people who feel their lives are meaningless, aimless, and generally depressed. In a number of instances, after discussions of family and tradition, these people have brought soul into their lives simply by phoning a mother, father, or grandparent and asking for some old family recipes. The familiar but forgotten smells and tastes restore (the meaning of the word ‘restaurant’) a long-dormant element in the soul – a comforted childhood, a feeling of belonging, the support of religious and cultural traditions, and family stories and personalities.

Is superficial and simple less important than complicated and academic? What feeds the soul is always simple; it’s buzzing human minds that love complexity.

 “Over the years, when I’ve lectured on food, cynical listeners have complained that I’m reducing psychology to the themes of modern living and gourmet magazines. When I first heard such objections I felt defensive and concerned. Was I not being clear about the depth of these issues? Then I realized that magazines about food and home may be more important, even if they are intellectually light, than thick tomes of research and philosophy. Now I don’t mind being associated with books of recipes and advice about furnishings and entertainment. Of course, they can be superficial and middle-class, but their simplicity is not a sign of their insignificance.”

And, how true is this?  The extra time real food demands of us is not wasted but serves the soul.

“It’s no accident that in our disenchanted times we have found hundreds of ways to short-circuit the production, preparation and eating of food, and so it makes sense that to re-enchant our ordinary lives we could approach the supermarket, the kitchen, and the dining room differently, realizing that the extra time real food demands of us is not wasted but serves the soul.”

Evening is a social time for the cows. The little ones scamper and play, tails flagging, wild eyed and silly or sometimes they are lazy and nap flopped together in a big, congenial heap. The Ladies are busy munching, grabbing their evening meal, especially when the weather is as stiflingly hot as it has been recently. To avoid the heat, they do most of their work in the cooler air of early morning and twilight, spending their afternoons napping in the  groves of shady trees.

And so this evening, we ponder the importance of two words rarely used anymore – enchantment and delight. Yet that’s exactly what I feel every day as I stand in the special glow unique to summer evenings, pumping water into the trough and watching the cows graze their favorite evening pasture. My chattering mind cannot overcome the magic and finally gives up. We are completely content, the dueling parts of my brain and I, if just for a little while. And, that enchanted moment is what gives me the desire to get up early and do all the scary, mundane, dirty, repetitive and/or unpleasant things I have to do.

Delighted.

The little ones scamper and play, tails flagging, wild eyed and silly