Returning to the blog

I have not had the desire to write for a very long time.  Life on the farm continues in its peaceful way: we’ve moved from the greys and browns of early Spring, to the green lushness of present day Summer.  We’ve had scorchingly hot days, cool and mellow days, and days of torrential rain and lashing wind.  No matter what the weather is, the farm retains its transcendent  beauty.
Likewise, farm work also continues.  We added two Angora goats, and lost all our chickens, had the sheep sheared, and continued attempting to train Bowie. Cat came down with a virus and we almost lost him; Cat rebounded and returned to his nighttime adventures out in the woods and pastures.  The new barn cats settled in, and we are still working on evicting the pigeons in the hayloft.  Raised beds were built, seeds were planted and tended to, and now comes the glorious harvest and celebration of past work done.
All of the above percolated away; I was busy, busy, busy.  But, I was also sinking into a period of blackness.  I wasn’t entirely sure why I felt this way, day after day, but that’s what I felt.  And, just as depression tends to build slowly, the blackness descending bit by bit, extinguishing light or any sense of  light, so it lifts bit by bit.  Small moments of doing and grace, dropping here and there without any prompting, slowly brought me back from the gloom.
This poem has been tucked into my poetry folder for the longest time, and I found it again while searching for another poem, but I thought it expressed the journey I’d been on perfectly:
Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale by Dan Albergotti


Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

Poetry Friday: It’s May by Barbara Crooker

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Elizabeth Steinglass 


April was a month for waiting…waiting for more two or more days of successive sunshine, waiting for news of a visit from my children, waiting for the vet and the sheep shearer, waiting for new medication to kick in, waiting for the rain to cease, waiting for the lilacs to bloom.  Waiting, in short, for today – the first of May.

Often, in April, I read the poem below; on dreary days punctuated by rain, fog, and copious amounts of mud, this poem gave me particular comfort.  Of course, the last lines of the first stanza have added meaning these Covid days, but I’ve preferred to dwell in all the other lines that speak of nature’s gifts and call upon us to cherish them.


A different kind of Easter Sunday


We had a beautiful sunrise, this Easter Sunday.  I tarried a bit longer with my first before-morning-chores cup of coffee just to give this first gift of the morning its due.  I could have tarried longer, the sheep wouldn’t have much minded waiting for their pasture time.  On other Easters, I reflected, there would have been no time to tarry: getting the children ready for church, setting the table for Easter company, trying to fit in sous chef duties, running the vacuum over wherever the dog last chose to sleep…to tarry was verboten.  This is a very different Easter, though – no children, no company, no church.   This is our COVID19 Easter.

I mind most that the children are not home, even though they have chosen wisely to remain in self isolation in their own Brooklyn apartments.   The irony is that I came to know and live the Easter season because of the children.   We were an atheistic family when I was growing up, my father was especially anti-religion, organized or otherwise, and the rest of us fell into line.  I married a man of faith, however, and we agreed to raise our children in the Presbyterian Church.  I did not know the first thing about Presbyterianism and there was much in Christianity that I struggled to understand, let alone accept.  But, I thought it important that the children have the structure and ritual of a religion while growing up.  Rationalism and unbelief offer small comfort in times of greatest need, I had come to learn in the course of my own life.

And so I did my best to get our kids to church, and Sunday school.  All three children had their father’s gift for music, and all three sang in the children’s choirs as they grew up, so there was the driving to and from that, too.   Our church was blessed to have a rigorous and inspiring program, and they learned to recognize and love the beauty of sacred music, as did I.  I believe that I came closest to belief in those moments of hearing such music.  Faith was still out of my reach, but the power of story through music spoke to me, comforted me.  And, it was especially meaningful to look out at the choir and see my family, all contributing their voices to the story telling.

This Easter, I will not hear their voices singing out.  There are no Easter baskets to prepare or egg hunts to organize.  We will be sitting to dinner just the two of us, and the house looks tidy enough as it is – no need to vacuum, dust,  set the best dishes on the table, or fuss over which flowers from the garden to cut for our centerpiece.   But, I am filled with wonderful memories of Easters past nevertheless, and I can still hear the voices of my children exclaiming over finding chocolate eggs and jelly beans hidden in unusual places all over the house.  And, if I listen closely, I can hear them singing…

Poetry Friday: Eating Fried Eggs at Gail’s by Barbara Crooker

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm.

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When my children were young, eggs made sunny side up and arranged on toast was considered an awesome weekend breakfast.  I can’t remember now who in our family came up with this moniker, but we called eggs made this way “golden sunshine”.  Three pairs of bright eyes would follow my every move as I cracked each egg as carefully as I could so as not to mess with the central point of this entire endeavor: those perfect, golden, delicious yolks.  Each child had their own way approaching the finished product: Elizabeth cut her toast into perfect strips so as to dip each into the yolks, Ben went to work with his knife and fork immediately to create a plateful of yolky bites of toast, and Olivia carefully saved the yolk for the very end.

These days, my kiddos have more elaborate choices for weekend breakfasts when they come home to visit or take us out for brunch: shakshuka, omelettes stuffed with fancy fillings, creamy frittatas with unusual veggies.  Their “golden sunshine” days are long ago in the past, but I remembered them so very fondly when I read this poem in Barbara Crooker’s Some Glad Morning:

Eating Fried Eggs at Gail’s by Barbara Crooker

Still warm, slipped from under the feathers
of Brownie, Silver, Little Red,
brought inside to be cracked and flipped
in the hiss of hot bacon fat, cooked fast
until the whites harden, grow lacy
around the edges, then slid onto a plate,
yolks intact, until we break them intentionally,
spearing them with our forks, spreading
sunshine all over our plates.

National Poetry Month: The Progressive Poem

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Welcome to day 8 of the Progressive Poem, started by Irene Latham,

the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem began in 2012 as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month (April) as a community of writers.

Margaret Simon  kindly  volunteered to organize the poem roster for 2020.  And Donna Smith made the whole exercise  a bit more challenging by providing two lines for Irene to choose from for the first line of this year’s poem. So, we have a  “choose your own adventure” progressive poem!

Yesterday, Catherine Flynn offered these two lines for me to consider:

A whispering breeze joins in our song (Option A)


I step onto warm sand, strumming my tune (Option B)

We’ve had two blissful days of Spring with lovely breezes here in upstate New York, after a very long Winter, so that’s where my heart took me.  Here’s the poem so far:

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake.
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes
and a banjo passed down from my gram.

I follow the tracks of deer and raccoon
and echo the call of a wandering loon.
A whispering breeze joins in our song

Here are are my two choices for Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link: 

Adding a melody to follow along .(Option A)

And night melts into a rose gold dawn. (Option B)




Poetry Friday: Early Spring in the Field by Tom Hennen

Heidi Mordhorst hosts today’s Poetry Friday roundup at My Juicy Little Universe.


It’s a moody day here, this Poetry Friday: fog, rain, wind…we have it all, all day. Not surprisingly, the sheep were reluctant to leave the comfort of the barn this morning, and have chosen to protest in groups of two and three all morning when they see me pass within view.

Bowie, our guardian dog, seems utterly uninterested in her job today. Not even the enormous truck carrying sap collected from the woods around us to the maple sugar house up our hill, normally a source of much barking and racing around, can get her to move from her dry spot under the barn eaves.

In the midst of this soggy gloom, I notice that the daffodils are coming up nicely, as are a few crocuses here and there. The pastures are greening, too, and the tiniest of buds have begun to appear on our apple trees. I no longer need my heaviest winter jacket, and even gloves and hat can be dispensed with for most of the day.

The world may be crashing and burning, but Nature remains constant in her promise that after Winter comes Spring.

Early Spring in the Field by Tom Hennen

The crow’s voice filtered through the walls of the farmhouse
makes sounds of a rusty car engine turning over. Clouds on a
north wind that whistles softly and cold. Spruce trees planted
in a line on the south side of the house weave and scrape at the
air. I’ve walked to a far field to a fence line of rocks where I am
surprised to see soft mud this raw day. No new tracks in the
mud, only desiccated grass among the rocks, a bare grove of
trees in the distance, a blue sky thin as an eggshell with a crack
of dark geese running through it, their voices faint and almost
troubled as they disappear in a wedge that has opened at last
the cold heart of winter.

The family call


We talked to the kids last night, all three of them patched into one conference call to the farm.  Each of them were in their separate Brooklyn apartments, cooking dinner or doing laundry or stretched out on a sofa, but or the next hour it felt as though they were by the  wood stove with us.

The original plan had been for them to self isolate for fifteen days and then drive up to the farm for the next few weeks.  They are at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and it gave us some comfort to think that they could ride out this epidemic in a pace just a bit more safe because we are, literally, in the middle of nowhere.

But the kids have chosen to stay on where they are, mostly because they are afraid of bringing the virus to us. “I wish I could be with my parents when the world is falling apart,” said Olivia, “but I’m just doing what I can to protect myself and my parents.”  We are grateful for their concern and admire their determined resiliency, still…we wish they were here.

The family call will have to do for now, a new tradition to bring our family some comfort and companionship no matter how far away from each other we are.

Poetry Friday:Waiting for the Present by Al Zolynas

Tabatha Yeatts hosts today’s Poetry Friday round up @ The Opposite of Indifference


The sky this morning looked dark and moody, not even the glimmer of sun lurked behind the hills of our valley.  By the time I had my first cup of coffee and started out for morning chores, that dreariness had shifted into delight.  Clouds were lifting at last, and it looked as though we were to be gifted with a fine day.  Or so I told myself, and continue to tell myself, each new day in the shadow of this pandemic.

A few days ago, a beloved friend, the mother of two teenage children home for perhaps the rest of the school year,  wrote to me.  She said: “I’m grieving this morning for teenagers who should be social and developing their separated identities right now.  I’m working towards understanding that I can no longer let school create our household schedule.  It’s always been the center that other activities revolve around.  Each day when I wake, I feel a deep sadness that requires strong coffee and the building of fortitude so I can do the work that needs to be done.  We aren’t on a ship alone, but lately it can feel a lot like that, can’t it?”

Today I overheard one of my children talking to her father, describing what it feels like to live and work in Brooklyn right now – where  the streets are eerily quiet, with stores and restaurants shuttered, and “normal” life seeming to be a thing of the past.  It is hard to breathe sometimes, she said, I feel such a knot of anxiety.  Implicit in all she said was a sense of dread about the future: what would it hold? how will it have changed?

There is nothing I could say of solace to either my friend or my daughter; we know that things will get worse before they get better, and things seem already so bad, so hopeless.  My friend knits, my daughter does yoga and meditates, and these acts bring momentary peace.  I guess that’s what I do every morning, too, when I wait on the path to the barn for the sun to rise in whatever fashion it chooses to rise.  In that moment, I feel absolutely still and living in the moment.  And, no matter what else happens as the day unfolds, I can always go back to the solace of that moment.

Waiting for the Present by Al Zolynas

I would sit in the dimness
of my father’s wooden toolshed
waiting for the mice
to come out and feed
on the wheat we kept
in a hundred-pound sack for the chickens.

I kept silence, refusing
even to swallow, hoping the thud
of my heart wouldn’t betray me.
The only way to the sack
was over my still body.

Outside, it was Australia,
Christmas, summer holidays—
the heat unbearable to all but reptiles
and schoolboys, and the mice
who lived their small, secret lives.

When the first mouse
nosed up the unfamiliar landscape
of my body, motes of dust
floating in the beams of light
that streamed in from the cracks in the wall
exploded minutely.

After hours of sitting
through the long summer, motionless,
alert, though my limbs were asleep,
the mice accepted me.
I simply became the way to their food.
Once, as many as a dozen were on me,
each carrying a single, precious grain.

Now, years later, I find myself still
sitting in the dim light,
legs locked in meditation, monkey-mind
swinging between imagined past and imagined future,
waiting for that most obvious of hiddens,
the ungraspable present.

Grocery shopping in these times

Shopping for groceries is an entirely different, and somewhat weird, experience these days. I still have a list of things I need for this meal or that household chore, but these days I have to also be on the lookout for things that are vanishing from the shelves at an alarming rate and never (or so it seems) replenished.

Because the stores around us were slow to place limits on how much any one person could buy at one time, we have a permanent toilet paper crisis here in upstate New York.  Just a week ago, I walked by fully stacked shelves of flour, and now they are gone baby, GONE!  Pasta, butter, frozen vegetables…same story.

So, these days, I shop with an eye for what seems to be vanishing, rather than what I just need at the moment.  Case in point, mayonnaise.  There were two solitary jars left yesterday, sitting unhappily on opposite ends of an otherwise empty shelf.  Back in my short lived Martha Stewart phase, I used to make my own mayo, and perhaps some day soon I shall have to do that again.  Yesterday, both jars made it into my cart, just in case mayo would go the way of toilet paper and flour.

The silver lining here, is that grocery shopping has become a community affair these days.  A group of us text each other if we happen to be heading out to the store, and so we are able to help each other out even as we try to maintain social distancing in the time of COVID19.  So, I was able to get Ann the parsnips and onions she needed for her stew, and Socrates (yes, that really is his name) the egg whites he’d requested.  I returned home having dropped these items off on front porches, to find the two leaves of bread I’d asked Kelly to pick up on her run to the bakery in Vermont.   Something about this circle of being connected and collaborating over the  mundane but necessary task of keeping ourselves supplied, feels good…feels right.

The trouble with Roscoe…

When the six chickens first arrived to the farm last summer and took up residence in their coop, I thought that was that.  And, for a few weeks, it was.  They settled in, ate their way through buckets of crumble and compost, and soon began laying eggs in lovely shades of brown, blue, and green.

Then, an acquaintance suggested that my chickens would be happier if there was a rooster present; apparently this would increase their productivity, which would make me happier, too.  While I was trying to work out the logic of all of this, he showed me a picture of the rooster he had in mind, which he would be more than pleased to drop off at the farm, free of charge.   The rooster was handsome, and the word “free” had such a pleasant sound.  Plus, wouldn’t our idyllic farm be all the more idyllic if it had a handsome rooster greeting each sunrise with his melodious crowing?

And so, Roscoe came to the farm the very next day.

The thing about Roscoe is that he begins his crowing at three in the morning – a non-stop crowing that is anything  but melodious.  As an insomniac, I usually begin to fall into a deep sleep just as Roscoe gets going.  Which brings me to the other thing about Roscoe, which is that I think he does this deliberately.  There is a certain gleam in his eyes when he sees me, a look of evil intent.  I don’t know why I sense this, but I think Roscoe lurks around the farm plotting ways to do me in.

So, I thought I’d make the first move by asking around if anyone was interested in a handsome rooster of their own, an early riser who would keep any honest farmer to an honest early-to-rise schedule.  Not having heard back from anyone after weeks of asking (some might have interpreted this as pleading, even whining), I placed an ad in Craigs List (under FREE stuff).  No takers thus far, sadly, but I still have hope…especially at three in the morning.