Thursday, July 28, 2016

Out of Kansas

      Today it is a sunny 102 degrees here in Africa, . . . I mean Kansas.  I just finished reading a great book about a young British girl growing up in colonial Kenya in the 1920's, so I have Africa on my mind.
                                                                                                                 
            If you liked the movie "Out of Africa," you will enjoy reading Circling the Sun, by Paula Mclain. She has a smooth flowing style of writing that is like enjoying an ice cream cone on a hot day in the shade. The book is based on the life of Beryl Markham and is connected to the characters in the movie "Out of Africa," (but I won't give it away just encase you decide to read it).    Beryl was  a unique woman for her time and her courage and determination to keep going no matter how many times life knocked her down is truly inspiring. 

       Recently a friend visit our farmhouse and described our place as “romantic.” Really?  Romantic?   The words that came to my mind were . . . messy, hard, dirty, expensive, hot, and exhausting.  But after I read this book and thought about the movie "Out of Africa,"  I understood what she meant. I loved "Out of Africa" and Circling the Sun and admire these women for trying to do what was extremely challenging when they could have chosen to stay in comfortable England. Their stories inspire me to keep going when I want to quit.

       While we push back our wild, untended ground here in Kansas, I am reminded that others have done this before us.  We find small evidences of their lives here, like antique tools in the barn or fields, or old receipts that had been packed into walls or the ceiling to serve as insulation.

Ernest S. Hull
        As I looked through these receipts from 1944,  I discover that Ernest S. Hull once owned this farm and sold chickens for 30 cents a dozen and took cattle to the market. At the local Walworth's store, he could buy a loaf of bread for 30 cents and a cake for 40 cents.

         Through internet research, I discovered at age 27 he married Blanche and had 3, maybe 4 children.   He was listed as a farmer in the 1930 census who could read and write and owned a radio.  Their oldest son Hobert was drafted during World War II and was serving in the Pacific in 1944.   The Hull's youngest son, Arlo enlisted in 1944 and was also sent to the Pacific. 

       
       In my garage, as I  work on restoring the large pocket doors for the farmhouse living room,  I came across a small BB gun pellet stuck in the  door.  
BB in top right corner

       Hobart and Arlo Hull ran through this house.   Did they shoot this pellet in the door and get scolded by Blanche? Would it be a constant reminder of that day? Would a tear fall down a mother's face as she rolls her hand over this pellet, remembering  a son that never came back from the war?  


        I don't know how many other families lived in this old farmhouse or their stories, but I know there was joy, love, hard work and sadness that occurred here.   I am reminded that  someday our story will be over too and someone else will live in this house and work the land. But as we rebuild the house  and cultivate the land, it works and cultivates our hearts and minds too.   It makes us tougher, stronger, braver and more humble. 

       Several years ago I was reading a devotional and the author wrote this question as if God had spoken it.  He simply wrote . . .

             "Have you enjoyed the day I've given you?"

       I have never forgotten these words and sometimes when I get so caught up in all I have to do, I hear them in my mind and I take a breath and slow down.  I hope these words remind you today to live your story, to work hard, but enjoy your day too.    

Reflections from the farm     




Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Practice Garden

        Today I am thankful for farmers because I am realizing how hard it is to produce the goodness of food we all enjoy from the ground.  The saying "If you ate today, thank a farmer," is so true.  When you realize how much work  is put into producing a zucchini,  green beans, or potatoes, you become a little more grateful for each bite. Even if you have no interest in gardening, you might want to read this so your next bite of food is just a little more meaningful.
         
      We have had small backyard gardens at our city house, but never anything as grand as the garden we put in this year at our farm house.  My husband calls it our "practice garden."   

        We chose an area that had formerly been a horse pasture thinking we might have some good seasoning already in the soil.  It also had some shade which might help in our extremely hot Kansas summers.

         The before picture, and yes our dog does have a tee-shirt on him.  I think we were trying to do something silly like keep him clean.  We have given up on that!  

         
 

         The pasture is plowed in April and we start putting up fencing to keep the deer and bunnies out and gates to get the truck and tractor in. 



       This picture was taken on May 1st as little sprouts begin to emerge.  


        This picture was taken a week later and the garden still looks manageable.   Corn, beans, pumpkin, watermelon, and cucumbers  are popping up  slowly.  Tomatoes, peppers and onions are planted.  We're feeling pretty good.  This big organic garden was our eldest son's idea and here he is fighting weeds  with us on a Saturday in May.

         But then the rains came and lots of sunshine and before we know it our garden looks like this.






       By June 25th our garden is looking more like a pasture again and it is hard to keep up with the weeding.
      
         When we got to the garden on July 9th the weeds were so high we lost our yellow lab in them when he laid down.  It was beyond pulling time. It was weed whacking time.  It was discouraging, hot and miserable. 

        After a few morning hours of work, we sat in the shade along the fence line to rest and as we looked across the garden, we saw a blue bird on the opposite fence.  And then we saw another one.  I didn't have my camera with me to capture the moment, but it meant so much to me.  God knew we were tired, hot and overwhelmed and so he sent two small birds to cheer us up.

       Here is what the garden looks like currently.  Our sweet potatoes and corn are doing great, but . . .

    . . .   to date we have lost half our potato plants, all our beans, and most of the red beets.   The deer and bunny problems we anticipated have not happened perhaps due to the abundance of corn fields around us and natural predators.   We have harvested three zucchinis, a small basket of golf ball size potatoes,  and a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes. We have also lost one bee-hive. 

       Good thing we have hard-working farmers and grocery stores.