I have been awake since 5. The alarm clock roused me from a sound sleep. I always sleep better on cold nights. Maybe it’s the feeling of security I get from a pile of blankets pressing down on me.
By 5:45 I have finally gotten myself dressed, got the coffee brewing and have prodded myself to go outside. I beat the sun today. Point for me.
The moon provides the majority of the illumination as I begin my work. I have a busy morning so I moved the chicken house last night. This morning I just need to stand up their fence and fill their drinker.
The white fence posts are barely visible in the dim light. As I pick up each one I am increasingly covered in cold dew. My long sleeved t-shirt and hoodie are not quite enough. But it has to be done. A little after 6 Julie joins me and we finish up just before the sun rises.
We had a rough week on the farm. It seems so much of what we do is just a struggle to keep things alive. I often write about my struggle to express my love to Julie instead of just nagging her to death. When your crying wife says to you, “Nothing is ever good enough for you!”….well, those are the moments you should just shut your mouth and become a little more introspective.
When things go wrong I spend a lot of time reviewing what happened. What went wrong? How can I avoid it going forward? I really want to explore it from all angles, find a solution and bring it to fruition. You might say I dwell on things.
I kicked myself for days when a goat named Shivers died. our nanny goat gave birth to quadruplets including Shivers. We were new at goats and livestock and were just glad to have 16 hooves on the ground, not knowing we needed to wait to see if all 4 could latch on. Not even imaging that we might be better off raising them on a bottle. Never suspecting a massive storm was going to kick up in the night. In the morning there were two baby goats latched on, one laying dead at the edge of the shelter and poor Shivers…shivering…cold, wet and alone. From that moment we were bottle-feeding goats. It wasn’t easy. At all. But with some help from some experienced friends (who must have thought we were idiots (we were (are))) we got them drinking from bottles. But Shivers never ate much. I made her a little sweater from the sleeve of a sweatshirt and we fought with her for a week trying to keep her alive. We even tried tube feeding her. But we failed. She missed the colostrum, got off to a bad start and that was that. Wasted effort.
Oh, the things I would do differently today! Geez. But I didn’t know.
There is an endless supply of things I don’t know. Things I can’t know…but maybe should. Do you know what this is?
It is White Snakeroot. It is death incarnate and this week it killed a bull calf. I had no idea it was even out there. Acres and acres of it. Anywhere the canopy covers and mowers can’t mow. Steep hill sides and creek banks are covered with it. And I had no idea. The kids and Julie and I now spend our evenings pulling it up by the root and making piles for burning. Bushels and bushels of this stuff. You just would not believe. But it gets worse.
The cows rarely eat it. If they do it’s just a nibble here or there. How do I know? Because I went through the paddocks they have grazed over the last 10 days or so. The grazing pattern is clear. Except for one day. One paddock. One place I left the herd a little too long.
This morning, instead of dwelling on my many failings as a husband and father I was thinking about my calf Curly. I didn’t know I had snakeroot. I didn’t mean to leave them so long, I just gauged the forage incorrectly. And I found Curly laying on his side in a ravine. My mistake. My fault. My responsibility. My loss.
We do everything we can to protect out livestock but it doesn’t always work out. And it isn’t always our fault. But it is always our loss.
This farming stuff can be hard. But I can’t dwell on the bad things.
This morning my fourth child will be baptized at our church and I get to baptize her. She need no longer to fear death. No rainstorm, no random weed, no enemy has a hold on her eternal life. She is free. Born twice to die once. It’s not just another day of working to hold death at bay for a little while longer. This is a day of celebration.
We live in a fallen world, besieged by an enemy who seeks to kill, steal and destroy. It is unfortunate that we lost a calf this week but we will work through it. I can’t dwell on that small loss…letting the enemy steal my joy. I live a blessed life. I get to live on a farm with hills and trees and grass and ponds and streams and chickens and pigs and cows and milk and honey. My children are strong and happy and we have planted the Word of God in their hearts. I have every reason to rejoice!
So I stand. Watching the light grow in the sky and wrestling with my thoughts. Why am I in such a funk? David must have felt this way when he wrote “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” That’s a strange way to talk to oneself. He must have been in a funk too…giving himself a pep talk. “All that is within me bless His holy name!” He has to be rooting for himself.
This morning I spent time reflecting on where I spend my reflection time. My hands were busy and my mind was active. But neither were always productive.
What are you dwelling on? It is easy to focus on your faults…to blame and berate yourself endlessly. Isn’t it better to remember that the sun is rising? That today is a new day? That THIS is the day the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it. Even if we’re just trying to talk ourselves into it, isn’t it better to talk yourself into life? The sun is rising. My daughter is being baptized today. Death has no hold on her. I will rejoice.
But I will also stay busy pulling white snakeroot in the evenings.