Archive for March 8th, 2012



I take a vacation every morning when I go out to do chores. Chores at Sassafras Farm still feel like a vacation, and I am reminded daily of how easy it is here. Easy when I just, pow, flip the switch on the water faucet. Easy when I just, pow, toss a bale of hay out of the window of the hayloft. Easy when I sashay across the flat ground of the barnyard, faced with no greater obstacle than half a dozen chickens trying to trip me because they think I might have something in my pocket. Chores at Stringtown Rising Farm invariably meant getting something from one inconvenient location to another inconvenient location, slugging through mud, maybe climbing over a gate, hauling a bucket of water, and so on. I advise everyone to start with the most difficult farm you can find. Then after you are really, really tired, move to a properly laid out farm. Then you will never complain about chores for the rest of your life because a little hardship goes a long way, makes a really long-lasting mental picture, and you can spend the rest of your days in gratitude.

Chloe is still coming back to the house in the evenings.

Right at dusk, I go out to feed the chickens in the barnyard, at the same time enticing any that flew out of the barnyard during the day back in there. I’ve been pretty successful at keeping most of the chickens in the barnyard and around the barn most of the time now, and the chicken poop on the back porch has decreased accordingly. After I give the chickens their dinner, I let Chloe out of the goat yard and bring her back up to the house. I feed her dinner, let her sit at my feet in the house for an hour or two, take her out to potty, then she goes into a very large crate on the back porch for the night.

I bring her up to the house because she would never get any dinner if I fed her in the goat yard. The goats would steal it. In the morning, I give her breakfast then back she goes to the goat yard for the day. She was scared of the goats at first, but now she tries to be like them.

For some reason, they like that dry hay stuff! She nuzzles around at it to imitate them.

Sometimes she jumps in it, right in the middle of them, and that’s just one of a number of reasons they find a puppy so annoying. They question why I torture them so.

Sometimes I see that particular look on her face, the early, yet unformed visage of the livestock guardian.

But it’s too exhausting to maintain for long because, after all, she’s only a puppy.

About once a week, I take her on a car ride to pick up Morgan from track practice. I want to keep her accustomed to getting in and out of a vehicle voluntarily.

I’ve had the donkeys in with the sheep for a few weeks now. I moved them even before the cows moved.

The rear barnyard is on bedrest for now.

I’m hoping to get most of my fencing repairs and other new fencing done by the end of March. Grass is growing and we have warm temperatures in the forecast for the next week, too. I don’t expect we’ve seen all of the last of winter, but I believe the cold snaps left to go will be brief. We are having an early spring, and I am glad to see grass! I have just enough hay left to make it.

And, I have a sneak tidbit for you today: Remember my promise to Morgan when I brought her to see the farm for the first time? This weekend, we are going to look at a couple of rescue horses. I won’t bring one home until the fencing repairs are finished and there is grass in the fields, but we are going to start exploring while I’m making the preparations at the farm. We stopped by the little store last night on the way home from track practice and Morgan fondled the bridles, halters, and saddles. I told her it was too soon to think about any of that. She wanted to get something for her horse. I let her buy an 89 cent hoof pick. She was happy!

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Three Minutes


This post is sponsored by Clorox. That means Clorox is paying me some money to write this post. I’m pretty excited about that, so go buy some Clorox products today! I think I’m going to use the money Clorox is paying me to build a chicken house, and I can tell you for sure that if that chicken house gets dirty, I’m gonna tell those hens to go get them some Clorox, because, like, I’m not cleaning it! I’m gonna call it the Clorox Chicken Coop! With that name, it might even be self-cleaning. Do you think?

Okay, back to Clorox. Actually, back to the topic Clorox asked me to write about. Because I don’t actually have to write about Clorox. I don’t even have to say Clorox ten times, like I am, but I’m pretty happy with Clorox at the moment, so I’m giving them a bonus.

Clorox asked me to write a post for moms (which I think could include you dads! not to mention pet-parents! I’m all about being all-inclusive!) about how you spend your precious few “free” minutes. Say three. Three minutes. What can you do for yourself in three minutes? (After you disinfect something with Clorox, of course. Because that only takes three seconds. Then you’re ready to move on.)

You can take over the world.

Really! Or at least, the part of the world over which you want to take. I’ve never had huge stretches of uninterrupted time in which to pursue my dreams. I started writing when Ross was a baby. Remember that I had two more babies after Ross was born. Books aren’t written in giant leaps. They’re written one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time–and that is the same way any goal is accomplished. I could hold a baby with one hand and make plot notes with the other. I’d write down snatches of dialogue, descriptions, whatever. If I needed two hands, I could still think my notes. By the time I had a few minutes free to sit down at the computer, I could write the next scene of the book pretty quickly–then jump up and go find whoever was crying.

Some people might say that if you’re home alone with three babies all day, there’s no way you can write a book–but of course you can. If you can dream it, you can do it. You aren’t going to dream about something that isn’t, in some form, realistic for you. Nature takes care of that for us–we dream of things for which we have natural inclinations, talents, or drives. This gives us a great boost in our chances of success in our goals. We are guided in our dreams by our inner instincts. Sometimes it’s simply our outer expectations we have to shape. I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. I may never be an NYT bestseller, but I’m still a writer. You may never be a movie star, but if you dream of being involved with the stage, you can do it–in local plays, community shows, teaching theater, or throwing your church holiday production. You may never plow 500 acres, but if you dream of being a farmer, you can plant a backyard garden, put up preserves in your suburban kitchen, grow starts in your basement under lights and sell them at the farmers market, or set up a vertical garden on your apartment patio. You can pursue whatever you dream a little at a time, in just a few minutes stolen from your other daily obligations to plan, practice, and prepare. Time isn’t an excuse, it’s just part of the challenge. There are other challenges beyond time for any dream, of course, but they can be confronted the same way–with persistence. Pursue your dream whenever you can, and however you can, in whatever venue or level is open to you–or that you can pry open. The greatest challenge of all, for many people, is owning their achievements, holding themselves to an impossible bar of perfection or pinnacle. Pursuing a dream is about the journey. Own every success, however seemingly small. Own every three minutes.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

I believe that with all my heart, and I also believe that believing is the first step. Decide today that you believe it, too–and take three minutes to pursue your dream.

If you feel comfortable sharing, tell me what you can do in three minutes to take a step toward your dream! (Me, I can carry another box out of the studio to get ready for my health department-approved kitchen remodel!)

This post is sponsored by Clorox. Help stop the spread of germs with Clorox® disinfecting products.

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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