A Farmer of Dreams

Each day I go into the fields 
to see what is growing
and what remains to be done.
It is always the same thing: nothing
is growing, everything needs to be done.

A farmer of dreams
knows how to pretend.

A farmer of dreams
knows what it means to be patient.
Each day I go into the fields.

~W. D. Ehrhart, from “The Farmer” in Unaccustomed Mercy: Soldier-Poets of the Vietnam War

This time of year our farm is brilliant, verdant and delicious to behold.  The cherry orchard blossoms have yielded fruit and the pastures are knee high with grass.  By mid-June, the daylight starts creeping over the eastern foothills at 4 AM and the last glimpse of sun disappears at nearly 10 PM.   So many hours of light to work with! 

Yet today I yearn for a dark rainy day to hide inside with a book even when the lawnmower and weed whacker call my name, and the fish pond needs cleaning and the garden must be weeded.  It’s not that things don’t happen on the farm during months like this.  It’s just that nothing we do is enough.  Blackberry brambles take over everything, grass grows faster than we can keep it mowed down, the manure piles grow exponentially. 

The fences always need fixing.  The old hay barn is falling down and needing to be resurrected.  The weather is becoming iffy with rain in the forecast so we may not have anything but junk hay in the barn this winter in a year when hay will cost a premium.  For a decade now we have stopped breeding our Haflinger horses as even the demand for well bred horses is not robust enough to justify bringing more into the world.

Suddenly our farm dream seems not nearly so compelling.

We spent many years dreaming about our farm as we hoped it would be.  We imagined the pastures managed perfectly with fencing that was both functional and beautiful.  Our barns and buildings would be tidy and leak-proof, and the stalls secure and safe.  We’d have a really nice pick up truck with low miles on it, not a 30 year old hand me down truck with almost 250,000 miles. We would have trees pruned expertly and we’d have flower beds blooming and a vegetable garden yielding 9 months of the year.  Our hay would never be rained on. We would have dogs that wouldn’t run off and cats that would take care of all the rodents.  We wouldn’t have any moles, thistles, dandelions or buttercup.  The pheasant, deer, coyotes, raccoons, and wild rabbits (even the occasional cougar, lynx and bear!) would only stroll through the yard for our amusement and not disturb anything.  We’d have livestock with the best bloodlines we could afford and a steady demand from customers to purchase their offspring at reasonable prices so that not a dime of our off-farm income would be necessary to pay farm expenses.   Our animals (and we) would never get sick or injured.

And our house would always stay clean.

Dream on.  Farms are often back-breaking, morale-eroding, expensive sinkholes.   I know ours is.  Yet here we be and here we stay.

It’s home.  We raised three wonderful children here.  We’ve bred and grown good beef and horses and great garden and orchard crops and tons of hay from our own fields.  We breathe clean air and enjoy hearing dozens of different bird songs and look out at some of the best scenery this side of heaven.  Eagles land in the trees in our front yard.

It’s all enough for us even if we are not enough for the farm.  I know there will come a time when the farm will need to be a fond memory and not a daily reality.  Until then we will keep pursuing our dream as we and the farm grow older.   Dreams age and mature and I know now what I dreamed of when I was younger was not the important stuff.

We are blessed with one another, with the continuing sunrises and the sunsets and everything in between.  This is the stuff of which the best dreams are made.

Epithalamion–The Pasture Gate Opens

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For Jim and Breanna on their wedding day

Today is the day the pasture gate opens
after a long winter; you are let out on grass
to a world vast and green and lush
beyond your wildest imaginings.

You run leaping and bounding,
hair flying in the wind, heels kicked up
in the freedom to form together
a binding trust of covenant love.

You share with us your rich feast today,
as grace grows like grass
that stretches to eternity yet bound safely
within the fence rows of your vows.

When rains come, as hard times always do,
and this spring day feels far removed,
when covered in the mud or frost or drought of life,
know your promises were made to withstand any storm.

Even though leaning and breaking, as fences tend to do,
they remind you to whom you belong and where home is,
anchoring you if you lose your way,
pointing you back to the gate you once entered.

Once there you will remember the gift of today:
a community of faith and our God blessed
this opened gate, these fences, and most of all your love
as you feast with joy on the richness of His spring pasture.

It’s a Jungle Out There

jungle

We’re drowning in grass. Only 6 weeks ago, it lay gray, still frost-laden and dead, but now, in a burst of green enthusiasm and fueled by a short cluster of warm days and nights of heavy rain, it is knee high most places, and waist high in others. If I listen hard enough, I swear I can hear it growing, just like the squeaks that corn makes as it grows. It is not just a carpet, it is a jungle now and just as I did as a child, it is pure pleasure to sit down in the middle of it, tamping down a nest of sorts, with the grassy walls and a blue sky ceiling.

Instead of snow drifts, we have grass drifts and we trail blaze through the grass in the same way we did the snow in January, leaving our foot prints behind.

The Haflingers are being eased out into this bounty a few hours each day, a slow transition from last year’s bailed grass crop which now seems quite tasteless in comparison. All that can lure the horses back to the barn after a little grazing time is the shake of the grain bucket–the grass is an incredible powerful magnet.

I understand the pull the Haflingers feel. They are centuries-bred on forage sparse mountain pasture and what they consumed during the growing season would supply the fat needed for the long winters. Some inner drive tells them “eat now! eat fast! store up!” and they are most efficient eating machines. Trouble is, in this part of the world, where forage is plentiful and high in protein this time of year, they’ll eat themselves sick if given the opportunity. Their internal survival drive paradoxically could destroy them and destroy the pasture needed to sustain them year round.

We humans need that same control over our desire to consume everything around us, in our fear that it might not always be there. Eating without real hunger, drinking without real thirst, wanting without real need. Without boundaries around us, we plunge into life greedy and selfish, not unlike our Haflingers. Our boundaries may not be visible like the fences that surround the Haflingers, but they have been set there, nevertheless, to remind us of our crucial inner need for limits.

I know I push against my boundaries just as the Haflingers push down fences that bar them from what they think they want on the other side.

May they always be strong enough to hold me in, or keep me out.   I need to stay where I belong.