Never Leaving the Land

My grandparents owned the land,
worked the land, bound
to the earth by seasons of planting
and harvest.

They watched the sky, the habits
of birds, hues of sunset,
the moods of moon and clouds,
the disposition of air.
They inhaled the coming season,
let it brighten their blood
for the work ahead.

Soil sifted through their fingers
imbedded beneath their nails
and this is what they knew;
this rhythm circling the years.
They never left their land;
each in their own time
settled deeper.
~Lois Parker Edstrom “Almanac” from Night Beyond Black. © MoonPath Press, 2016

My husband and I met in the late 70’s while we were both in graduate school in Seattle, living over 100 miles away from our grandparents’ farms farther north in Washington. We lived farther still from my grandparents’ wheat farm in Eastern Washington and his grandparents’ hog farm in Minnesota. One of our first conversations together, the one that told me I needed to get to know this man better, was about wanting to move back to work on the land. We were both descended from peasant immigrants from the British Isles, Holland and Germany – farming was in our DNA, the land remained under our fingernails even as we sat for endless hours studying in law school and medical school classes.

When we married and moved north after buying a small farm, we continued to work full time at desks in town. We’ve never had to depend on this farm for our livelihood, but we have fed our family from the land, bred and raised livestock, and harvested and preserved from a large garden and orchard. It has been a good balance thanks to career opportunities made possible by our education, something our grandparents would have marveled was even possible.

Like our grandparents, we watch in wonder at what the Creator brings to the rhythm of the land each day – the light of the dawn over the fields, the activity of the wild birds and animals in the woods, the life cycles of the farm critters we care for, the glow of the evening sun as night enfolds us. We are blessed by the land’s generosity when it is well cared for.

Now forty years after that first conversation together about returning to farming, my husband and I hope to never leave the land. It brought us together, fed our family, remains imbedded under our fingernails and in our DNA. Each in our own time, we will settle even deeper.

Thank you to retired RN and poet Lois Parker Edstrom for this exquisite poem about living and dying on the land. It has been my privilege to meet her and her husband and welcome them to our farm.
Your words have brought me many blessings!

Going to Pieces

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Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
~Martin Luther
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 …as the land around turns rocky and hollow…
I’d never suspected: every day,
Although the nation is done for,
I find new flowers.
~Donald Revell from “Election Year”
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…the heart of this country does not beat in Washington, DC, nor does its soul lie in a seat of power, nor does its destiny lie in which party occupies which section of government.

No, those things all lie with… people like you and me, people who get up and go to work and love their tiny plot of Earth and whose hands are rough and hardened by loving and giving.
~Billy Coffey from “The Heart of this Land”

 

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Moving to Higher Ground

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…the freshly plowed fields
steam in the night like lakes.
The smell of the earth floods over the roads.
The field mice are moving their nests
to the higher ground of fence rows,
the old among them crying out to the owls
to take them all. The paths in the grass
are loud with the squeak of their carts.
They keep their lanterns covered.
~Ted Kooser “Spring Plowing”

 

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The Earth Bestows

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

In spite of all the farmer’s work and worry, he can’t reach down to where the seed is slowly transmuted into summer. The earth bestows.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Indeed, we can only plant the seed.

The rest is up to soil, sun and rain.  Weeding and worrying may give us something to do while we wait, but summer and harvest depends on grace, not on us.

Next week, all three of our adult children will be together again for a short summer stay at home, along with an anticipated visit of two women very special in our sons’ lives.   The seeds we planted over two decades ago, nurtured by light and living water and the Word,  are slowly transmuting to summer, to be savored rich and sweet in a blessing of abundance.

The Creator bestows and we are so very grateful.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

An Old Farmer Dies

For Harry

He knows all about the cycle of the seasons
When to plow, when to disc, when to harrow,
When to plant, when to fertilize,
When to irrigate, when to weed,
When to harvest, when to leave stubble and
When to lie fallow.

He knows to read the sky and feel the wind
When the forecast is right,
When it is just plain off,
When to quit early for the day,
When to keep going beyond dark and
When to give up and go to bed.

He knows his animals and what they need
When to bring them in, when to turn them out,
When to doctor them himself,
When to call the vet,
When to use heroics and
When to let go.

He knows his family and friends
When to tease his wife, when to hug her,
When to be tough on the kids, when to love them
When to give all he’s got, when to withhold
When to bid at the sale barn, when to just smile and
When to go home empty handed but full of stories.

He knows his Bible and his faith
When to pray aloud, when to be silent,
When to trust through hard times,
When to share abundance,
When to believe with burning heart and
When to forgive and be forgiven.

He knows his time is coming
When his worn and tired body slows down,
When he drives his pickup and takes a wrong turn,
When he shows up for chores breathing hard,
When he bids at auction just because and
When he lies down for a nap and doesn’t get up.

He lies fallow, sleeping,
Having given up and let go
To head home, without getting lost,
Stubbled, forgiven and loved,
Storing the rest of his harvest
For a new and glorious day.

Great Grandpa Harry holding baby Emerson, photo by mama Abby Mobley