Love your neighbor as yourself

Here’s three short stories from my life this past week…

On the gardening front…

I texted my  neighbor Mark on Friday : “Next time you are hauling manure, would you mind dropping off one or two bucket loads? … whatever $25 would buy.”

(I’m planning ahead for next seasons garden and fall is the perfect time to apply manure.)

He wrote back, “OK  Yea, how about $0?”

I am still savoring Mark’s generosity.

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On the honeybee front…

My bee mentor has been managing bees for about 40 years.  His name is Curt.  When I checked on our two hives earlier in the week, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.  It looked like  capped brood (that’s up and coming new honey bees) above the queen excluder and a dark uncapped substance lower in the bowels of the hive.  I was concerned I may have some nasty  disease getting a foothold in the hive.  The excluder is a screen that (in theory) prevents the queen from  going where you don’t want her to go.  Normally, queens are slightly bigger than her smaller worker bees and she can’t squeeze through, although once in a while, it happens.  There is just so much I can learn via the internet or a phone call.  What I really needed was someone who knew what they were looking at to make a house call.  Texted Curt, Next day we set up a time for him to stop.  He manages a 120 hives of his own, and I didn’t feel right about having him stop without compensating him something, so I addressed it right up front.   All he asked for was a few yellow apples when I start picking.

I was SO appreciative of his generosity of time.  I’ve mentioned it before but Curt is the perfect mentor.  He doesn’t come across like a know it all. He asks great questions and doesn’t feel like he’s in a rush when he’s here.

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And finally on the construction job front.

I’ve been  framing walls on a commercial project the past month.  Couple of weeks ago, the electricians were “trying” to pull their main wires through some buried conduit.  There were two of them (Brian and Joe), and  Joe was having a heck of a time.  Joe didn’t ask, but  I stopped what I was doing and grabbed onto the pulley rope with him.  Couple of big tugs later and the first wire was through.   He really  appreciated it. He told me that final joint at the end is always a bugger.  He had one more wire to pull, and It turned out to be even tougher. The two of us, side by, side, both covered with sweat, pulling with everything we had.  I’m not an electrician, and it wasn’t my responsibility but  he needed a hand.  I didn’t do it for any other reason than that is how I was raised.

Met Fred (the owner) of the electrical company later in the week.  Introduced myself and told him how much I enjoyed working with his guys.  (There have been other random interactions throughout the week. besides me helping pull wire.)  On Thursday I asked Brian if need be, could I borrow one of their scissor lifts to install a handful of hangers?  (Ours was going back to the rental store the first of next week.) Absolutely he said.  He showed me where they hide the key in case their crew were not around.

On Friday Brian told me they had their weekly shop meeting  and was told not to hide the key on the lift.  Fred the owner told Brian to “give Doug the combination to the job trailer, s where I could find  the key for the lift.”

I was humbled by their trust.

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I had a great encounter @ the Lowes customer service desk this week as well.  This post is getting long enough, so I’ll save that story for another time.  How about you?  Any good encounters lately that left you encouraged?  I would love to hear about it, and I love details 🙂 DM

 

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Thoughts

My brain is a tangled up knot of thoughts this morning and has been for several weeks.  Ever cut open a golf ball?  A tight mass of rubber bands.  Yep, that’s my brain.

Job related thoughts.

Honey extracting thoughts.

Relationships thoughts.

Ordering Your Private World  thoughts.

Early morning thoughts when I hear  crows talking to each other in the distance.

Photography thoughts.

Fermentation thoughts.

Gardening thoughts.

Henry David Thoreau thoughts.

Louisa May Alcott thoughts.

Older parent thoughts.

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Think I’ll just post a quote call it good.

 

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”

― Henry David Thoreau

 

The Wedding Dance

One of our nephews got married this past weekend.

At the reception, the DJ announced a dance for “All the married couples.”  And then he said,  “You know how this works…keep dancing until your year is called, so we can find out who here has been married the longest…”Wife looks and me and says, “Let’s  do it!”  I’d already been out on the floor dancing with one of our granddaughters so I was OK with the idea.  I’m going to guess there were about 20 couples on the floor.

“5 years or less, please leave the floor…”  “Dang,” said a young couple off to my right.

“15 years or less…please leave the floor..”

“25 years or less…

35 years or less...(the parents of the bride and groom left at this point.)

40 years…. (It was at this point we made a bee line to the edge of the floor.)

I could hear the DJ saying something about that last couple, turned out it was us. We were that last couple.  Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, thought it was one of my brother-in-laws, for a second, then realized it was the DJ.

“Any words of advice?”

My mind went  blank.  Completely  blank.   And then, a thought began to take shape, but I wasn’t sure I should say it.

What the heck, he asked me again so I blurted it out: ,“It takes a lot of work” (not the most romantic words, but he’d asked, and as far as I was concerned, it was the truth. 🙂

He asked the question a third time? ” What words of advice would you give a younger couple after being married for 40 years?” 

Fortunately, my wife had her wits about her and she said,  “Well, coffee in bed…He brings me coffee in bed, and has done so for years..” (I could hear a collective awe) 🙂

“It’s the little things that matter.  Kindness..”

After we sat down and the microphone was no longer in my face, my wife added…“I wish I would have said a sense of humor…a sense of humor in marriage goes a long ways!”

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The year we marked our 25th anniversary,  I did  write down some thoughts on marriage.  They are as true today as 15 years go and if you’ve never read my list,  here is what I wrote:

#1. A marriage relationship is a living thing, very much like a plant.  There are things you can do to enhance it, make it flourish, and there are things you can do in terms of neglect.  It can go without water and sunlight for a spell, but make no mistake…the principle of sowing and reaping is just as relevant in marriage as in any area of life.

#2.  A “healthy” marriage takes work.  You don’t feel the “warm fuzzies” for each other all the time.  Don’t panic…that is normal. Wife and I like to spend time together, we enjoy each other’s company.  But, as Dr. Dobson puts it, “Emotions come and go.  Do the deeds and the feelings will follow.”

  Make the phone calls from work just to say, “Hi. I was thinking about you.” Bring her coffee in bed.  Get out one-on-one, just the two of you , even if it’s just for a cup of coffee. Help out around the home with the dirty dishes, dirty, diapers, and here is a big one…pick up after yourself!

#3, Take time to listen and stay “current” with each other.  Don’t pour all your energy into your job and have nothing left over for your family.  Don’t become “married singles.” (two people living in the same home who no longer have anything in common.)  If your job does take all of your energy, all of the time, then Buddy, you need to find a different job.  There is nothing more tragic in life than a man who makes it to the top of the company ladder and loses his family in the process.

#4. Use these words often (You will need them):

“I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong.”

“Please forgive me.”

“You are right.”

#5. Dance…have fun…keep doing the silly things you did when you were just dating or courting.

#6. When (not if) you find yourself having an unresolved conflict in some area (money, sex, parenting, work, church, etc.) work at it until you find an answer! (God has used everything from books to other couples, to paid counselors, to help keep our boat afloat over the years.)

#7 Get out (or stay out) of debt.  There are a lot of spin-off ramifications that come with financial pressure.    Just a side note on this one-  for the most part, we have been a one income family, and since I have chosen to make a living with my hands (I am in construction)  we have made financial choices including…renting instead of owning the first 15 years of our marriage,  driven an older dependable car, shopped @ garage sales, discount grocery stores, etc.

These are choices we all have to make, but as children enter the picture, Dad needs to have some time and energy left over at the end of the day or be willing to “pay the piper” later in life. (Remember the song, “Cat’s in the Cradle”???)

#8. Give each other some space and freedom.  Trust and respect are foundational issues.

#9. Pray and share with each other spiritually.

#10 Be a forgiving person.  Let’s face it, you are not perfect, your mate is not perfect, “stuff” happens.  Cut each other some slack….practice grace….be the first to initiate reconciliation.

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If you have any thoughts you would like to add to this list, absolutely feel free to do so.

I feel a nap coming on. 🙂 It’s raining here today.  I took off work early in order to take a couple of our chickens to do a program for group of Kindergardeners before I sat down here at the computer.

What a hoot.

Take care.  DM

 

Dancing with the granddaughters.

 

Did not see this coming

Did not see this coming.

Once a year, our 4 children agreed a couple of years ago, as it is hard to get everybody together at the same time, it would be great just to set aside a couple of days each year where we knew everyone would be able to be back.  (2 of our 4 kids  live out-of-state).

So everyone was back in town this week to celebrate their mama’s birthday.  5:15 we had planned to get together for a cookout @ one of the daughters homes.

Walked into the garage and I was confused.  Saw my brother, my mom and dad, heck, all of my siblings were there and their spouses….I thought..ah, neat..they’d been invited to help celebrate my wife’s birthday with us….but then  a cake caught my eye.  A Princess Bride themed cake… It was a good 45  to 60 seconds before I realized this was a surprise anniversary celebration, and I was one of the guests of honor.

I have never had a real surprise party in my life…never.

Two days later I am still in shock.

If it would have been possible,   I would love to have had each of you that read this blog, to have been invited.  I mean that.

The Princess Bride is one of those goofy movie’s from the 80’s that has taken on a life of it’s own in the fabric of our family’s life.

 

Princess Bride themed cake

Group photo

 

Ten Reasons Why You Need To Plant An Orchard

Few years ago, I got an e-mail from a college professor.  Seems some of his students at the time had stumbled across the following blog post on another blog of mine.  He wanted me to know  he’d heard them talking about my blog outside of class around the campfire on a class trip.  Talk about honored. Anyway, Spring is in the air.  If I want to do any pruning it needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.  So, to kick off the 2019 apple growing season, I  would like to repost the following musing.

Ten Reasons Why You May Want To Plant An Orchard.

(and if not a whole orchard, at least a couple of trees) 😉

 

Hanging scale in our sales area

1.  Photo opportunities.   Our apple orchard constantly changes with the seasons.   There is always something catching my eye and bringing me joy.

Apple blossoms

2.  It provides the perfect blend of solitude and social interaction.  I love my peace and quiet.  There is nothing more nurturing for me than spending a Saturday morning alone, picking apples.  At the same time, I do love meeting and bantering with the public on occasion, and when the mood strikes, I will load up the pick up and head to our local farmers market.

Hawking apples at the farmers market last season

3.  Supplemental income.   Sure there is some work involved in tending an orchard, but not nearly as much as you might suspect.  One Semi dwarf tree  will cost you  $20 to $25.00 and once it’s mature, it can produce between 2 to 4 bushel of apples a year. = 80 to 160 pounds of fruit @ $1.50 a pound that’s $120 to $240 gross, from one tree…per year..not bad for some additional pocket change if you ask me ;-)

4.  mental stimulation.    While the basics of tending an apple orchard are pretty easy to grasp, there is always something new to learn.   Did you know there are over 750 different varieties of apples in the United States alone, and over 2000 varieties world-wide?

5.  Keeps you physically active. Keep those muscles moving”  my grandpa used to say.  Between the pruning in the early spring, to the picking in the fall,  having an orchard provides me with lots of  opportunities  to be physically active outside, all the while,I’m getting paid  and enjoying some fresh air.  As I  get older  I will probably do more of that “you pick” marketing, but for now, I can still climb and honestly, I love picking apples.  Last Saturday, I picked about 1200 pounds of apples in about 6 hours.

6.  Provides me with lots of opportunities to bless others.  I’m not going to brag and tell you how this works itself out except to say, I try to sell mostly our #1 apples, which means, what to do with the seconds?    The opportunities  to give are all around.

7.  Get to enjoy some varieties of fruit that are hard to come by normally – plus if you can find them, you’ll pay through the nose.  Sure we have Honey crisp, was told last year they were charging up to $5.00 a pound for those little rascals.   So far this year, I’ve picked 11 crates of them and probably have at least another 8.  My personal favorite is called the Ginger Gold:

Ginger Gold.

It is every bit as crispy as the Honey crisp and sweet.   Last year we had 32 crates of these little jewels.

8.  Fresh apple cider.    You haven’t lived until you’ve had fresh apple cider pressed from your own apples.   It’s got a texture and taste you’ll never , ever find in a store -ever.  If you come to visit, and the apples are in season, you can help me press out a batch. ;-)

9.  You’ll  give the bees something to talk about.  Ever hear of the “waggle dance”?

10. Provides me with lots  of spiritual insight.

Life is full of mystery.    I believe God has hidden the answers to some of our questions about life in the apple orchard.

Pruning and suffering.  I hate it when people try to slap pat answers onto my life when I’m in the middle of something hard.  It makes me angry.  So I will not disrespect you and do that now.  Sometimes it feels like I’m getting “pruned”  and when it does, I barely have enough energy to survive, let alone  do more.

Fruitfulness (ever see an apple tree grunt?  :-)   Me neither.

Seasons.   Apple trees don’t produce fruit 12 months out of the year.  In fact, they need large blocks of “down time”  in the winter..to get ready for the next season.  They literally need that time, which is why apple trees don’t do well in warmer climates.

Variety.  Already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating.    Apple trees vary widely and differently in the type of fruit they produce.  I think people are created much more varied than culture tries to tell us.   I found an apple tree on an abandoned farmstead a few years ago like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Some heirloom variety I’m sure.  It looked and tasted just like it was designed to taste.  Definitely not some domesticated boring apple.  So why do you and I sometimes think we have to look like everybody else?   Nothing more beautiful than someone being 100% alive just the way they were designed:

As always, thanks for reading my stuff ;-) DM

Chicken Run

I have been wanting to get laying hens for a while.

Sent the last ones packing about a year ago because we were not getting any eggs.  It’s not that they were not laying, (they were).  But because I was letting them free range, they were hiding the eggs all over the property. Then, one of the little stinkers acquired a taste for farm fresh eggs.  It finally came to a head when they started venturing over to the neighbors every morning  and stealing the neighbor lady’s cat food.

Free ranging chicken sounds good in theory, but  a chicken has no concept of property lines, and when they can fly over a 6 ft fence, good luck telling them they have to stay home.

But in the back of my mind, Robert Fulguhm’s  essay “Not Even Chickens” continued to cast a long shadow over my life.

I really do feel like a rich man when  I have a few chickens.

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So, while the desire was there,  that didn’t mean I was just going to act on it.

Financially, I wanted having chickens fit into the big picture of our life and not be a slow bleed on our finances.

And then last week, I had enough discretionary  money saved up between my monthly stipend, some cash I got for Christmas, and then more cash for my birthday to buy some chickens.

I figured 6 or 7 chickens would be perfect.

Decided to put out some feelers on a local garage sale site on Face book.

30 minutes later I had a lead.  Lady had 13 pullets born in August, that had just started to lay.  She was looking to get a different breed.

The only catch, I had to take all 13.

Then we started to talk money.  I asked her what she wanted per bird?  She wasn’t sure.  How much would I pay her?

I hate dickering.  Told her that right up front.  Didn’t want to insult her, by being too low.  She would just need to set a price and I could say yes or no.

Having bought chickens before, a fair price for a young laying hen starts around $10 a bird, and could be as much as $12 to $15, especially if you’re only getting a few.

She said, “Well I raised them from babies …I would like maybe $3.00 a bird but if that is too much we can talk.”

Sold!

Told her I could pick them up  Saturday morning.

As we finished loading the birds,  She teared up as we put them in the back of my pick up.  I could tell the chickens were her pets….her babies as she called them.

“They need to ride in the cab if it will fit” (the cage). 

Temps that morning were single digit.  I had brought a tarp,  my intention was put them all in one cage together, throw a tarp over the cage for the ride home.  (They would have been fine).

Well, the cage fit into the cab, (barely).

The ride home was interesting.

13 chickens taking up 2/3’s of the front seat.  I managed to get the drop cloth under part of the cage.  Wasn’t long before they were crapping past the tarp.  I noticed my coffee mug was directly below an untarped portion of the cage.  ;-(

I was glad to get home.

I really didn’t want to keep all 13 of the birds, so I put an ad on Craigslist Sunday morning.

Pullets for sale – $10

6 pullets for sale. Born in August 2018, just starting to lay. (Brown eggs) $10 firm. I had to buy the whole lot when I picked up these birds…few more than I really need.

Had an offer in 2 hours.  Delivered those 6 hens  Monday morning.

Paid $40 for 13 hens.  Sold 6 for $60.

So there are now 7 happy healthy laying hens on the property and I’m $20 ahead.

Just got home after an hour cooped up with 13 nervous birds

Early morning view of the chicken house.

Life lesson in this for me again is this…

God knows the desires of my heart.  He is not some cosmic Genie, nor is he a killjoy. He is unpredictable.  And sometimes, in the most unexpected ways, he shows himself in my life.  DM

 

Winter Sketches

I have two stories that rumble around in my head  each winter, when the weather gets testy, this year I added a third.

First story

(And you may have heard this one before).

Growing up, my Grandpa would talk about a train  that derailed south of his farm in the dead of winter, January of 1929.   The train derailed and “turned turtle”  (went over on it’s back)  when it hit a hard snow drift.  One of the engineers (Roscoe Stevens) was trapped in the wreckage for over 3 hours.   Grandpa said, (and I have this on tape) ” I can still see that man…had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. then the doctor hollered,” Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on, get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” they poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering….It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things…”

Here are a couple of pictures of that train wreck:

 

Second story

You may have heard this one before too,  that can happen around here.  😉

Back in 2011 I  stumbled across the poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong on-line. She was a pioneer mother who lived from 1789 to 1891.  She wrote a series  poems called “Sketches Of My Life.”  One of the most powerful accounts happened in 1831.  They lose their provision of salt, which in that time apparently was a life and death situation. ( I know it had to do with food preservation for the coming year, but not sure how that all works…)

“Our salt was in a gum,

And was standing on the loft,

But met with a bad accident,

when the cover got shoved off.

I had some in a box,

That was standing down below,

Not enough to last till spring,

And we knew not where to go…

Elsie asks  a man who had been selling salt if he had more to sell?  He didn’t, and didn’t know when more would be in.  He said...”If I go for salt, I’ll freeze to death, and perish in the snow.” 

She goes home,  and tells her children the situation.

When I got home, I told my children

What the man had said,

Then William said, I’ll go myself,

And take that big old sled.

“Mother do not be uneasy,

None but lazy people freeze,

Because they will not exercise,

They are so fond of ease.

There is no fear for me Mother,

I will jump and kick the sled,

I will keep myself in exercise

Run, and kick the wagon bed….

Their team was good and active,

All four year olds and strong….

The account goes on…

Fifteen year old Will and his little brother take off on a 90 mile trek in the dead of winter with their team. They have to cross a frozen river, deal with winter storms, not get lost, be on guard for  roving Indians, (all while mom is at home second guessing herself, with the rest of her brood).

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This week, just to make sure I was on my game  because the weather man said we were in for it, we were going to get a “Polar vortex”,what ever the heck that was, I decided to add a third story to my winter attitude folder.

I decided to reread a portion of  novel The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

It was perfect!

It was just what the Dr ordered!

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Pause.

I am torn.

Torn because I love winter.

I love winter storms.

I love being snowed in.

I love busting through drifts with my 4 wheel drive pick up.

Last thing I want to do is mock someone to whom the winter storms are a heartache.  (My parents are in their 80’s and I know it can be hard on both of them).   The thing is, from my vantage point, all of the negative, naysayers are the only voices I hear.  Fellow lovers of winter weather  seem to be either a dying breed or keeping their thoughts to themselves.

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I grew up on a farm.

On the farm, when you have livestock, you don’t get to stay in the house when it gets cold.  Sometimes just the opposite.  Those are the times when stuff starts to break. Water lines to the cattle get frozen or the pilot light to the tank heater won’t stay lit, etc. etc. Christmas morning if you have milk cows (like we did)  the cows still need milking, haying,  might even have more manure to pitch than normal if you keep the cows in the barn overnight so they don’t freeze their utters off. 🙂

So here I am now in the year 2019.

All of our children are grown.  No longer have cows to milk, tank heaters to keep lit. none of it.

Predictions of winter storms stir up within me feelings of thankfulness.   I feel like some little creature tucked away deep in my burrow,  Cozy.  My larder is full.  The house is staying warm. Smell of freshly baking bread is in the air. Garden seeds have started coming in the mail.  The new little heating pad that goes under the seed starting tray is working like a charm.

I  feel better.   Now you know.

I got into a conversation yesterday with a young mom  about this past weeks weather.  She asked me what I thought about it.  I paused, looked her in the eyes and told her the same things I’ve just told you here.

She smiled and said, “I feel the same way.”

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Here’s a picture I took earlier in the week in front of our house:

Got to run.  Need  to go to the bank before they close.   Take care. DM