Wednesday, November 21, 2012

From a Glass of Milk

Community. We had friends over for dinner last night. They have six girls close in age to our six youngest. Our active, noisy kids, who seem to fuss a good bit with each other played amazingly well together. Most of mine are boys and we loved how the girls and boys all ran around the farm, petting animals and not having issues with "they only have girl toys" or "they only have boy toys." Thirteen children ran around and parents shared great conversation and a thrown-together meal for all.

Our friends are so connected in our community. Veritably everyone I talked about the husband piped up, "Oh, he's my cousin," or some relation. We laughed but it's something that makes our community special. Sure, some relationships may erode or fade over time and people may act like strangers, but on the positive side, there is an accountability factor. Would that we felt that with all of our neighbors. A connectedness even deeper than blood. Something more spiritual. As Christians might call it, "being part of a body."

We laughed some more, we shared fresh milk from my cow Betsy and talked about earlier times. About a connection with the land and soil. We talked about how Betsy's milk changes flavor slightly, depending on what she has eaten. A Jersey, she has a rich, creamy milk (the cream is amazing, really) with a yellowish color you don't see in the supermarket from the beta-carotenes and vitamins she consumes in our pasture grass and her alfalfa. There are probiotics in her milk that are so healthy for our immune systems. And it all comes from the soil we live on, the rain that falls on us and the sun that shines down over us.

We can live on sterilized, fortified products--and antibiotics and lists of medications. Those can be life-saving and good. But in an unbalanced relationship, they can be unhealthy for the body. Somehow, drinking this natural milk, eating local organic beef and vegetables and even local honey feels healthy. It feels like living in relationship with the land I'm living on. In a similar way, living connected to the people around me--not stuck in front of the television or gaming device or computer--working with them, volunteering, truly caring for them, living in community with them is lifeblood to the body. One gives and thereby receives.

Man was not created to be alone, but to live in community. There is a place for solitude, retreat, and cloistered communities. There are certainly different gifts and temperaments. But we were made for each other. We are healthiest when in communion with each other. I pray that you are able to find your place in the body that comprises all of us, locally and globally. Start right where you are. Prayer is the most powerful connection and effective means.Give thanks for what you do have, not lament what is missing.  Find God right where you are and share His love.

A Happy Thanksgiving to you!

The Abbey Farm

Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Old Dog

     In December of 2011 I decided that it was time to transfer my RN (Registered Nurse license) from Maryland to Kansas. Since I have not been employed as a nurse for a decade (other than in my own family!), I was required to take a Nurse Refresher course. I searched for an approved University and got underway.

     For RNs thinking about a refresher course, I highly recommend it. Yes, it's a bother, but for good reason. The toughest part is the required number of clinical hours. For Maryland it's 80, but for Kansas it's 180. That's a significant amount of time away from family--without pay! But it must be done and so I am in the middle of it.

     The course is self-pacing and I took my time over about 5 months to finish the didactic--or, online written--component. During that time I contacted local hospitals, nursing homes and school systems to create my clinical plan. One must design their own, securing permissions from the clinical sites and lining up precepters. The summer was busier than I expected and I didn't get started until August, but I am plugging away at it.

     Patient care has not really changed. Equipment has changed somewhat, as to be expected. Computer technology has changed the most. In my hospital, one unit still has handwritten charting identical to what I remember, but the rest incorporate 75-90% computerized charting. Pros and cons are probably obvious; it is what it is, and learning. The patients are the best part. They are why I remained an RN for now 27 years.

     I am trying to make the best of every hour. In the last few weeks, besides all of the skills performed, I've been blessed to help on a delivery, instruct a new Mom how to nurse her baby, watch a little brother see his baby sister for the first time, help older patients ambulate, and simply encourage people. The bonds with new co-workers are forming swiftly and I am happy to be doing this again. Bruce is  managing the home very well while I'm away and the welcome home I get after each shift is priceless. "Why are you in that costume, Mom?" I tell them I am a nurse and they smile proudly and run and tell their siblings.

     It is all working out. I am still Mom and I love that the most. At a time such as ours with the economy shaky, it is the right time to reclaim my hard-earned RN. Mary Pat's LPN's have been my inspiration. They are some of the hardest working and loving individuals I have known. There are two local schools of nursing and I would like one day to help to educate future nurses like them.

     So this "old dog" is indeed learning new tricks, as well as re-learning some old ones. There is a Chinese proverb that says that you should "take your dragons to tea." I am. This is a little scary, but it is very, very rewarding.

All is well on the farm.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ebbs and Flows and the Farmer's Spirit

    It amazes me that a year ago I shared pictures of the flooding Missouri River. Farms were ruined, families moved because of it. Those who stayed planted crops that, up until May, were doing great. Then the drought hit. Luckily, most harvested an early hay crop. But the corn that started off so energetically, a foot high by June, barely produced any ears and was dry by early August. God bless those farmers who persevered after the flood only to be hit by a drought the next season.

     Hay has doubled in price. There is less of it. I believe hopes of a second cutting were unfulfilled. It's a vicious cycle because the cattle still need to be fed. We normally don't start feeding hay until November. We have begun already.  Food prices will soar because of the limited hay and corn crops. If you didn't know it, corn products and by-products are in many, many foods.

     It is good if you can put in a garden for your family or be a member of a local community supported agriculture group. We have the latter here in town and we're members. I'm glad to support the local farmers. I keep thinking I'll get a garden in "this year," but it always seems to turn into "next year." It will happen one day. Mary Pat's school-bus driver tells me about her prolific garden. She crochets a blanket for her grandchild while Mary Pat is being strapped in, and she tells me all about it. Each year she puts up hundreds of quarts of vegetables. Her hard work and self-sufficiency inspire me.

     The farmers do, too. Our neighbors have been farming for generations. Vince helps us set round bales (giant five and a half foot diameter hay bales) with his big tractor. One day the front axle broke as he was lifting the bale high. Vince, almost 70,  popped down, rubbed his chin and just stared. I was impressed with his calm. I told him I'd probably be react by whining and fussing. He just looked at me with wise, clear eyes and said, "But that wouldn't change things." He turned back to the tractor and continued thinking out loud, "I have a brother with a welder, and I'll just get this off and have him help..." Later on I told his wife how thankful I was that it had happened at such a slow speed and not as he was driving over here. She said, "Well, we would've dealt with that, too."  I pushed, "But Vince could have been hurt!" She answered with the same calm as her husband. "We're farmers--that's part of farming life and we deal with what comes."

     Deal with what comes. A farmer I'd mentioned last fall during the floods was one who had to move. He's moved yet again to another farm on higher ground. He and his wife are happy. It could have been so much worse. They have each other and their family. And this new farm is actually closer to her parents and her church. It is probable that his crops have not done well this year. But I bet he'd be thankful that they weren't wiped out like last year.

     A verse in the Bible has been lived out by the farmers I know: "Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication make your requests known to God. And the Peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Phillippians 4:6-7)

     I'd do well to remember that.

God bless you,


The Abbey Farm

There are ways to support our country's farmers both locally and on a larger scale...check out Farm Aid. And don't forget to keep them in your prayers.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Rolling Stone...

     And another school year has begun! One homeschooling highschool senior, a junior who switched from public to parochial, four in elementary school and two in preschool! Our oldest is approaching her first wedding anniversary and lives in Alabama, our second oldest is now an Engineer working for a firm in the big city! There is no moss gathered.

     Bobby is back in Thailand and Alberto is in Mexico. I miss them terribly, my Thai and Mexican sons.  It is hard when foreign exchange students leave. They will forever be a part of our family. Bobby is working on a chance to study in Japan to learn yet a fourth language, and Alberto is finishing his senior year, happily surrounded by his family and friends.

     The livestock count has grown by a couple more dogs, five goat kids, five rescue kittens and a milk cow. I finally got my milk cow! Annabell is a Jersey due to deliver her calf and produce milk in the Spring. I am busily reading all about small cattle operations, both beef and dairy.

     Annabell was purchased from a lovely family with eleven children. They own and operate the Covenant Ranch. She is quickly winning our hearts--Marie's especially, which is funny because she was against a milk cow all this time. Annabell is just so sweet. There is something so wonderful about the sounds on the farm, especially in the morning. Now we even hear moo-ing.

     For two months we heard donkey-braying while we hosted "Jack." He was lovely. We're hoping to have two mules sometime next year (by my mare Abby and Providence Hill Farm 's mare Cheyenne)!

Life has been busily lived with so many lessons learned.

Work is in progress--both on the farm and in our souls.

God bless you,

The Abbey Farm

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seasons of Life

     My friend, Christy (, shared a soothing piece of wisdom. We were discussing all of the things we've accomplished or attempted, and how puzzling that each of those experiences was not active in some way in our present lives. For example, in the past I've baked cakes for weddings and for a restaurant. She's crafted and sold handmade dolls. We've each tried various diets (macrobiotic, low-protein, low-carb) but have not settled on "the one way of eating." I've actively foxhunted, ridden competitively and run races, but am not now. Of course, we agreed, you can't do everything. But I have felt that I should be incorporating most things, especially if they were healthy, helpful, or fun. If I'm not doing "it all," shouldn't there at least be some evidence of having done or learned these things?

     I have wondered that at my age, shouldn't I be a lot further along in peaceful, organized self-actualization? Will I finally feel I'm "there" when I'm 80? The last two months have been busy on The Abbey Farm. Christmas, illnesses, two new ponies, a new goat, two new puppies, a teen with a lead part in a play, new renters, and tragically, the death of a precious friend.

     Writing, usually a joy to me, fell by the wayside.

     The comforting piece of wisdom from Christy was this: It is natural that we go through "seasons" in our lives. The phases and experiences are like individual puzzle pieces. They may fit together well at one time or another, but the reality is that at times a piece is dropped off the table. For each season, the puzzle of our life looks a little different. The pieces on the floor are not reminders of failure, but of richness of experience.

     Once upon a time I dreamed with my Mom of owning a Bed and Breakfast together. We took a Mother-Daughter trip to New England in autumn and stayed at a beautiful B&B. We had a memorable time laughing and planning.  Life, however, went in a different direction. Mom passed away a decade later and our plans never materialized.

     I may not be doing everything the way I thought I would at this point, but who is? Life is good. It is busy, it is challenging, and though I may not do it all well, humility and thankfulness are the greatest lessons learned.

     What season are you in? Is it challenging?  I pray that God gives you the grace to trust Him; that however your path goes, it ultimately brings Him great glory, and you salvation. We are all works in progress.

God Bless you,

The Abbey Farm

When we bought this farm, it had most recently been used as a Bed and Breakfast. I am now entertaining and working and cooking every day for the people I adore most--my family. I do make plenty of breakfasts. Perhaps I got my B+B afterall. And Mom's looking down from heaven smiling!