Thursday, February 21, 2013

Can a few dozen eggs repair a hole in your heart?  Yes!

In Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" she describes the Balinese practice of deliberate acts of generosity as a way to supplement a person's "karmic bank account." 

Whatever the person gives away to others will be returned to the person tenfold in ways they could never imagine or predict.

The best time to give something was when you have nothing to give.

I used to think this concept was crazy - how can you give money for example when you are already short on paying your bills?

Or give your time when you're already strapped by your calendar?

But I'm starting to agree with the Balinese.

Let me tell you a couple of stories about why.

Papa Bear and I moved to our 40-acre farm in southwestern Wis in June a year ago. He was still on LOA after our winter in Hawaii, with no "return to work" date in sight yet. 

In July I was laid off from my job of 7 years.

Not even two months after signing our new mortgage, we had no income.

The first thing I did after I stopped crying and panicking was find a charity to donate to.  Two weeks later, I had a new job; a week after that, PB was called back to work as well. 

"OK," you're thinking, "Coincidence."

My new work, although a blessing, and the farm chores, often kept me at home while PB's work often kept him on the road. 

Midwest winters tend to be long, cold and dark, a triple whammy with the isolation of working at home. 

I probably could have made it through the rest of the winter OK, slowly upping my doses of Vitamin D to counteract the effects of loneliness and SAD, but then the unimaginable happened.

I reached out to one of my few and closest friends in the area in hopes of striking up some after-work-hours social activities to fill up some of my alone time.

To my shock and disbelief, I was curtly rebuffed. My "friend"  it turns out was only interested in time spent directly or indirectly benefiting their farm business.

I was welcome to go over and help do their chores, or they could make time to come over if we had cheap hay for sale or to talk about our collaborative farm enterprises, but anything else was beyond the scope of their interest.

In other words,we were just another farm contact on their business Rolodex.

My spirits, already faltering in the late of winter, were now completely crushed.

I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity and anger and grief for a couple of weeks (OK maybe 4 or 5) and then I decided I had to do something about it. I couldn't just go on being disappointed and sad and lonely forever.

But what could I do? I knew nobody in the closest town, a small village with a population of only 471.

My closest friends were over an hour away - not easy to slip into an after-work evening.

And so I thought about the Balinese and the karma of generosity. 

And I thought about eggs.

We have a flock of a couple dozen laying hens who pump out a dozen or more eggs a day. PB sells a few and we eat a lot,  but there are always extras.

I decided to take a week's worth of extras - 6dz - and give them away, in hopes of sparking something new and positive in my life. I would meet my neighbors in the process.

So I headed out in the direction of a few of my neighbors. Nobody was home on that weekday mid-afternoon.

I stopped by the little white Lutheran church on the ridge - everyone in the building was in a meeting behind closed doors.

My spirits fell even further. 

One more neighbor - not home. 

"I can't even successfully give something away!" I chided myself.

I thought about heading home full-handed and my heart sank.

In a moment of whim (or divine inspiration?) I decided to stop at the tiny local library and look for a good book to raise my spirits.

As soon as I stepped inside I was warmly greeted by the head librarian. She got me a new library card then told me I also needed to meet the group of knitters gathered in one corner.

After introductions I agreed to come back the following week with my needles and yarn. On my way out the door I asked, "Anybody need some eggs?"  I saw a few nods so I ran out to the car and came back with my hands full, gleefully leaving them all stacked on a shelf near the group.

I did go back the next week, and have returned nearly every week thereafter.

The rewards I have reaped in return have been far beyond my imagination.

I now have a new circle of wise and funny women friends, all of whom are deeply tapped into the local community (need a piano tuner or electrician or farm sitter? Just ask the knitters!) and eager to lend a word of advice or recommend someone for a particular job.

My weekly date with the knitters allows me to spend time with my knitting - something I never make time for when home alone.  A few of the women are also spinners - and after 6 years of owning fleece animals, I am now learning to spin.

Through connections in my knitting group I have also gathered some new younger friends whose many acts of generosity often leave me speechless.

Upon hearing my husband no longer owns a bow but loves to hunt, they immediately gifted him one of theirs - not only a bow but a left-handed one at that (PB is right handed but left eye dominant so only shoots left-handed).

And then there was the 4th of July, a sweltering holiday when these friends spent their entire day off helping us  move over 300 hay bales into the haymow. Then 3 days later showed up again, unasked, to help us finish the job. 

"That's what friends are for!" Came their cheerful reply to my choked "I can't believe you're here again!"

All of these friends - young and old - have made room for us not only on their farms but also in their hearts and lives and families.

I am still sad that I lost some good friends this winter.

But my heart rejoices in all that I have gained. 

Have you ever given something when you feel empty, only to have something better come back to you tenfold again? 

I'd love to hear about it.

Blessings - 

Allspice in charge of the barn floor
Allspice is our bantam Americauna rooster. He was the first of our 4 bantam roosters to start crowing last fall. 

Allspice was also the first of our bantam roosters to start, ahem, "dating."

We have a full-sized rooster named Vigor.  He's bold and beautiful and everything you'd want in a full-sized rooster.

Vigor rules the roost... but not the barn floor.

He rules our flock of 38 birds (a mixture of full-sized and bantam chickens, Guinea fowl and turkeys).

But... he doesn't rule the barn floor.

Allspice learned pretty early on that he couldn't out-run, out-muscle or out-compete with Vigor.  If Vigor caught him sidling up to one of his full-sized ladies, he quickly got yanked off his feet by the scruff of his neck and tossed to the barn floor.

{The lady in question might also get a peck on the neck for her transgression.}

It seemed like it would be a long, lonely life for Allspice, hiding in Vigor's shadow.

What should I do about Vigor?

But that is not the end of Allspice's story.

I noticed pretty soon after Allspice starting having "dates" with the bantam girls that he was also dating the full-sized hens.

Behind Vigor's back.

He'd wait until Vigor was outside the barn chasing ladies around the pasture, then he'd grab all the remaining hens in the barn and "date" them all.

When Vigor takes his ladies to the roost at night (which he does pretty early in the evening), Allspice stays on the barn floor "dating" every last hen who comes by for a late night snack before bedtime.

Allspice is out-sized and out-classed in every way. 

But it doesn't matter to him.

She looks cute...

He makes up for in courage what he lacks in size. 

And at the end of the day (or night), guess what?  Allspice gets more dates than Vigor does, a hundred times over.

What's my point in all of this?

All of our lives we are absorbing messages.  First from our parents, then our classmates and teachers, friends, neighbors, coworkers, bosses, significant others.

Sometimes the messages are positive and encouraging: "You sing great!  You should try out for choir!"

And sometimes, despite perhaps the best of intentions, those messages are less than supportive: "You really should pick some other type of career - I don't think History Professor / Actor / Singer / Dancer / Artist is going to put food on the table."

You mean I can't be a Rock Star?
 Over time, these messages change us.

The child who doodles in her notebook during Math is scolded and told to pay attention in class. Eventually she stops drawing and becomes a librarian instead of an artist.

The boy who animatedly engages the class with his comedic gestures is told to be quiet and sit down. Eventually he becomes an accountant instead of an actor and playwright.

The teenager who dyes his hair pink, gets a nose ring and tattoo and plays loud music in the garage is told to get serious, he'll never be a rock star. He takes the first paying job that can take him out of Smallville and is now is stuck in middle management, paying the second mortgage and the second vehicle loan and wondering what happened to his dreams.

That unbridled passionate joy that we expressed in so many unique ways as children gets smothered by a thousand expectations of how we should be/act/work/live/love. 

Why yes, I AM a Rock Star!

As the spark inside of us grows dimmer, we turn to distractions like work, TV, social media, our kids' schedules, food and addictions to numb the pain.

Where did our uniqueness go?  What happened to that child so full of life and hope and tenacity, with the world at her fingertips?

She or he is still there.  Bruised perhaps, dormant most likely, but still there. 

Like Allspice tossed to the barn floor.  Bruised & dusty & humiliated.

But resilient.

Allspice doesn't have an education.  He doesn't have a flock.  He doesn't have big spurs to fight with or a big car to impress the ladies, or any other external advantage.

The only thing he has is a big belief in his own worth as a rooster, the cajones to take risks and chances where he knows he could fail (and often does), and the ability to, when tossed to the ground, pick himself up off the barn floor, shake the dust off of his feathers, sing his little heart out, and keep chasing after the ladies.

We could all learn something from a pint-sized rooster.  What are your dreams, and what's stopping you from chasing them?

Cheers -

P.S. - Most of the pics in this post were shot with an iPhone and shared in Instagram. Have an IG account? Let me know so I can follow you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cleaning the fridge ain't so bad

  1. Unload the contents of your cooler onto your ginormous chest freezer
  2. Wipe out inside of cooler with hot soapy water and sponge
  3. Replace items into cooler

What's in YOUR refrigerator?

The farm kitchen didn't come with a fridge. And we haven't felt like we really need one, what with our ability to make ice in the chest freezer and our collection of Coleman coolers.

When we have company and need to stock up on dairy supplies and leftovers we just dig out another cooler and jug of ice and we're good to go.

And when the leftovers are gone, the extra cooler goes back into storage.

As a bonus, the $25/month we save on our electric bill allows me to use my electric space heater in the office more often and not feel guilty about it.

Easy peasy local cheesy!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jenny from the box

How I spent this eve: 

Put on 20# of insulated Carhartts and trek to barn through fresh snow to shut the poultry door. 

Notice turkey acting strangely. Intuit she is going to lay an egg. 

Wait 45mn for her to lay egg so it won't freeze over night. 

Watch turkey climb into a chicken-sized nest box. Wait for turkey to lay egg. 

Watch turkey get stuck in chicken nest box. 

Take down entire next box unit (10-box unit) and remove turkey. 

Go inside to find something turkey can use as nest box. 

Remove 20# Carhartts. 

Find cardboard box. 

Reapply 20# Carhartts. 

Take cardboard box to haymow and fill with hay. Bring box to barn. 

Find turkey egg in the middle of barn floor (still warm). 

Leave cardboard nest box in barn. Return to house. 

Remove 20# Carhartts. Place egg safely on table with other eggs. 

The End.
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