Miracle on the Farm

After two days of freezing rain, we awakened to a beautiful snowfall. Hoping to break out the sled (for the first time in many years) I trekked out to explore and take some photos of ice-covered branches and the animals excitedly traipsing about, oblivious to the cold.

I walked near the pond, hoping to capture the beauty of Arundelle Green blanketed by six inches of snow. 

I looked off to the right, raising my phone to take a picture, when I heard a crumbling sound.

In slow-motion I turned to see my dog, Clara, in the water. She had stepped out onto the ice, having no idea that it couldn’t hold her weight. Clara’s eyes were huge with fear as she frantically paddled and tried unsuccessfully to get a grip on the ice and pull herself out.  I was alone and knew there was not time to run for help.  She would not survive.  I called her name, wishing she had fingers to grab a branch, and tentatively stepped into the water as I thanked God for Muck Boots. One, two, three steps and I could almost reach her. With my arm outstretched as I prepared to grab her, I focused on her face, willing it to stay above the surface. The frigid water was getting deeper and starting to pour into my boots. One more step and the pond-bottom dropped off, throwing me sideways and up to my waist in water.  I managed to get hold of one of her front legs as I fought for footing, and hoisted her with all my strength to solid ground. Somehow, I managed to climb out of the pond as my legs went numb and my daughter came running, having no idea what had just happened. I screamed for her to get her dad as I fell again.  My legs felt foreign and I realized I was dangerously cold.  My husband came out of the house, confused, and I told him what happened.  He had just donned winter clothes to come join in the fun. He grabbed my shoulders to help me walk as we turned to locate the cats who had come out to join us, expecting they were following closely behind.

Then, our beautiful black cat, Rosa, dove into the pond.

In what felt like a slow-motion nightmare, she dove in, pawed at the surface for a moment, and disappeared.

My mind went numb as my daughter screamed.  I cried out to Jesus, begging for mercy. I told her to go inside because I did not want her to see her cat die and watched my husband tread into that frozen water, desperately scooping at it as all hope vanished.  Minutes passed. I begged him to come out, afraid he would get frostbite or worse, knowing there was no way she was still alive.

I couldn’t even cry. I just kept whispering, Jesus, please.

Yet my husband persisted. He turned in circles, splashing everywhere, trying to find her. My son came out of the house and ran down to help. I went to try and comfort my devastated daughter, when my son came running up and said they had found her.

She was alive.

As my husband searched the pond she came traipsing across the bridge from the other side with a bird in her mouth. She was wet, but fine.

She was fine.

There was not a second set of paw prints to tell us where she got out.

We all saw her jump in, but no one saw her climb out.

And I am just going to say, right here, that I believe God heard our cries and miraculously transported that stupid cat to safety with a bird in her mouth, no less, because He knew the limits of trauma my daughter could bear and He knew we needed this.

He knew and I am so thankful for His mercy.

This photo was taken before all the drama. I can assure you I was not trying to take pictures with frozen fingers!

The cat is fine.  The dog is fine.  My husband and I spent the rest of the day shell-shocked and exhausted, but we are fine. 

God…He cares about the little things.

He was right there with us.

Everything was in place to allow the events to play out so God could remind us that there is a very real supernatural plane that we have yet to comprehend. He defies space and time and, today, we witnessed it.

I am in awe of the ramifications of this reality. Today, the veil was very thin. 

I am so grateful.

So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18 (HCSB)

Building Fences-because GOATS!

It’s a big day here at Arundelle Green. After months of dreaming and planning (and scheming…convincing my husband that goats = joy!) the truck arrived with wood and wire and four strong guys to make another permanent mark on the land:

fencing for the goats.

Over the weekend I hired a local handyman with a chainsaw to cut down a huge cedar stump that would have acted as a launchpad for the goats to escape over the fence. I had kicked around the idea of renting a chainsaw and doing it myself, but thought better of it after my kids’ eyes widened in horror at the thought! Good thing, too, because that stump was THICK and the cedar was so old it had hardened, making it difficult to cut.

At last the stump fell away, exposing hidden treasure. The wood was a beautiful red and the smell…heavenly. We are going to roll it into the middle of the pasture for the goats to climb on.

At three feet in diameter and about four feet long, this old stump will be a perfect climbing toy.

I put down a deposit yesterday for two beautiful doelings. One is a twin, just three weeks old. The other is a triplet who is just over a week old and almost didn’t make it because her mama’s milk was slow to come in.

But she did, and I asked my husband if it isn’t perfect that we would get the little bitty one who almost didn’t survive? Isn’t that what our place was destined for?

So, we are in major preparation mode. Besides the fence going up, I purchased the materials to build a simple run-in shelter and plan to build it next week. After that I will start gathering supplies…feed, emergency meds, etc. to ensure our doelings survive and thrive. I’m excited to have another excuse to play with wood and power tools and can’t wait to see our sweet goats grazing in their new pasture!

Right now the plan is to bring them to Arundelle Green on April 2. We will be freshly home from a trip to Dollywood (yay!) and ready to dive into life with our beautiful new girls! We even have names picked out…

but that’s another post. 🙂

Dreaming of Spring

We are well into January and blazing toward February as I write this. Here in Tennessee, Winter has really just begun. We’ve had a couple of pretty dustings of snow, just enough to make us wish for a “big one” so we can get some use out of our long-neglected sled, but my affections are quickly turning toward Spring.

I ordered a seed catalog that should arrive any day now, and found myself saving egg cartons and dreaming of seed packets this past week. It’s still a bit early to start seedlings but the itch has begun.

Ducks moved into our ponds the other day, gliding gracefully across the ripples water and bringing life to the dormant winter-scape. Flocks of birds have danced overhead, noisily visiting the Shadow Wood and congregating on the front field as they peck away among the brown grasses that stopped growing months ago. I realized I need to refill my bird feeders. I’ll do that tomorrow.

The kittens have become cats and claimed our back porch furniture as their napping spot. When it gets below freezing they retire to the pool house garage via the doggie door where a brooding lamp beams down on their bed for warmth. I’ve spent some time in the shop, learning a few things about power tools and what not to do when building simple furniture…

but that will be a discussion for another day.

I’m ready for Spring.

I’m ready for the dormant to burst open green and flowers to hang heavy on their stems. I long for crepe myrtles and hydrangeas in full bloom along with daffodils and hyacinths scenting the air with their magic. I yearn for a basket full of tomatoes and peppers, green beans creeping up their trellis and okra sliced ready for roasting.

We are in that long, dull stretch of Winter that can feel depressing, the season in which we find ourselves seeking sunlight and dreaming of a beach vacation because our bodies are craving Vitamin D. But it won’t be long. Just a few weeks from now we will see the beginnings of the change and find ourselves emerging from the hearth to greet the sunny mornings barefoot amidst the birdsong that will soon fill the air.

It won’t be long, now.

Into the Woods

On New Years Day I finally ventured into the woods to explore beyond the old farm fence and find the creek.

In our garage I found a huge, heavy set of wire cutters…

…and set out to clear a path.

It didn’t take long to trek through the trail my father had cleared back in October. Winter has effectively cleared a lot of the underbrush and the English Ivy lies dormant and easy to step through until Spring. Within a few minutes I reached the old farm fence. One area has been bent low by a fallen tree, so I decided that would be the path of least resistance and began to cut the old wire.

As I worked through the wire (which ended up being more difficult to clear than I thought due to years of entangled vines and sections buried under decades of leaves twigs) I realized it was deeply embedded in the tree to which it had been nailed. In fact, in the photo below it is almost indistinguishable from the vines that surround it, but if you look closely you can see where it disappears beneath the scrubby roots of one of the vines.

After much wrestling and bending of stubborn fence-wire I finally emerged on the other side, looking back on the fallen tree over the fence for the very fist time.

I stepped carefully, remembering I was treading on ground that was once occupied by the Cherokee, a space that had been barred by that wire fence from grazing farm animals and (apart from an occasional visitor from the creek side) rarely touched by modern human feet. I was glad I was alone. The moment felt sacred.

Along the way I was mesmerized by the beauty of the Shadow Wood. Fallen trees and branches lay in an almost artistic cross-hatch of rugged design, textures beckoning me to draw closer and run my fingers along the rippled and ruffled edges of moss and lichens.

I knew I was drawing close to the creek. Through the maze of trees and underbrush, beyond a flock of birds high in the woods, I heard the distinct sound of running water. Another step, breaking a dry stick beneath my feet, and the sound startled the birds who went suddenly silent and bolted in a panic above my head. In the resulting silence my ear tuned in even more closely to the babbling sound that lay beyond and I followed it.

At last, I found it. Opening wide before me the creek bubbled and flowed. High from the recent rains, the water danced through the meandering path it had cut through the woods many, many years ago. Today it appeared more river-like in it’s rushing.

I explored the water’s edge for a few minutes, even capturing video footage so I could remember the sound. I breathed deeply the fresh air and praised the Maker of it all. How many hidden gifts lie in these woods? Along this creek?

And what magic will happen when it snows?

Surprise, Surprise!

Last week our pool guy came for his weekly maintenance. He is a cat lover, so he always enjoys checking in on Ashton and Rosa, commenting on how they’ve “got it good” with a chuckle. He is generally full of friendly advice and very helpful.

On this day, the kittens were exploring the yard in the unusually warm December sun. Rosa (the black cat) slowly moved among the rosebushes while Ashton (the grey tabby) was on the hunt, stalking something hiding beyond the gate.

“That one’s a boy, right?” The pool guy watched Ashton closely.

“No, it’s a girl,” I said.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, well…yeah. The lady we got them from said they were both girls. I mean, she looked at them and said they were…girls, I mean.”

You know where this is going, right?

I went into the garage attached to Autumn House, where I had spent most of the day organizing all the junk we had thrown in there back in July. Ashton followed me and I decided to, you know, take a look.

Lo and behold, there was…something, some things there that were NOT there when we brought her…it…him home!

I carried her/him outside and showed “it” to the pool guy and he laughed.

“How could you tell?” I asked.

“I know my cats!” he laughed throwing his head back. “You got yourself a tomcat!”

I’ve got myself a tomcat.

So now we have had to adjust our pronouns! Poor Ashton, he gets called she/he often and we just grin because now that we know it seems so obvious! It’s a boy, and now we have to deal with the, um, issues that presents.

So, it looks like he will be visiting the local vet soon for a little snip-snip.

Ashton in front, Rosa in back. Notice how much bigger he is? It’s all making sense now.

Bless his heart.

Awaiting Arrival

I recently talked to a girl about some goats…

when I got off the phone I squealed in excitement. She has several females due in January and we are on the list for at least two!

It’s happening! At last!

Then I looked out the window toward the Shadow Wood and my heart raced fearfully just a little. After all, I have no idea what I am actually doing. What if I fail? I’ve only had dogs (and now cats) and, of course, have raised several children but ,lets be honest, nothing is as easy at it seems on YouTube or in those how-to books. (Again…I have children. I can assure you, after almost twenty-one years of motherhood, the parenting books LIE.)

So I did what any nervous wanna-be mini farmer would do. I made a cup of coffee and looked up cute videos of baby goats.

Because, y’all, baby goats.

My daughter with one of my brother’s babies back in July.

Before long I felt better. I remembered watching my nieces handle the animals on their farm. I reminded myself of how much laughter those sweet creatures induced. My youngest niece, at only six years old, is in her element among these gentle animals. I began to imagine goats grazing the land between Autumn House and the Shadow Wood and recalled another important fact–that five teenagers have survived my parenting. Five.

I’ve got this.

Then I thought, “Hmmm, maybe we should also get a miniature donkey.”

I might be crazy.

My Word for 2021

2020 was a year I’m certain none of us will ever forget. It was a rollercoaster of emotions: fear, dread, hope, joy, darkness, beauty and grief. As I reflect on the year I realize I learned a lot about myself.

For one thing, I discovered my problem wasn’t being too busy, though I always claimed it was.

Continue reading “My Word for 2021”

Making it Ours-The Grand Tour of Arundelle Green

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This house felt familiar from the day we moved in. It is a red brick, Colonial style, grand beauty with traditional details and just a touch of farmhouse charm to soften things a bit.

First, I set up the kitchen. (Of course.) Isn’t eating the first thing we all do in a new house? With lots of cabinets and even some stashed under the island, I have plenty of room to organize my dishes. There are also clear glass-front cabinets where I display my Mikasa English Countryside dinnerware (which was a wedding gift twenty-five years ago!) Pioneer Woman Heritage Floral dishes.

Sidenote: You will soon learn that I am a huge Pioneer Woman fan. HUGE. I love everything she produces and it takes amazing self control to not own it ALL.

It’s so pretty. And, just to keep it real, it is never ever this clean.

You’re welcome.

Cute teen photobomb.
The breakfast table overlooks the pool. A perfect spot for lingering.

The dining room is adjacent to the kitchen. It is definitely the most formal room of our house, but I livened it up by placing our bright blue piano along the wall! At first I was afraid the piano was too much for this space, but over time it has grown on me and I have decided I love it in here.

Here it is all decked out for Christmas. Note the blue piano. Happiness.

Upstairs we have an extra bedroom that we designated as a guest room. I repurposed old twin beds, built by my father-in-law, that once belonged to my boys. I found the quilts and sheer curtain panels on Amazon. I just love the “granny” feel of this room. Old-fashioned and sweet.

The dresser on the right was once a changing table for my babies. Sigh.
The lamp and figurine belonged to my husband’s grandmother.

One of our favorite features of this place is the pool house, which we quickly named “Autumn House.” In the past, we were privileged to have a garage apartment where we housed missionaries on furlough or students who needed a temporary place to stay. We are thrilled to be able to have a space for this type of ministry again.

We will also use it to host parties and events, such as outdoor concerts. It is perfect for a crowd. There have also been a few epic sleepovers!

The big porch of Autumn House overlooks the pool.
The main guest room at Autumn House
The second guest room at Autumn House. These beds, made by my father-in-law, once belonged to my little girls.
The living room at Autumn House. So cozy,
It even has a wood-burning fireplace.

Back to the main house…

I apparently never took a photo of our living room after the sectional arrived, so here it is dressed up for Christmas (because I can assure you, as I write this my living room is NOT photo-worthy!)

We purchased this huge sectional from Ashley Furniture and absolutely love it. We all fall into it together in the evenings to enjoy a family movie or football game.

The master bedroom (below) is a peaceful retreat for us. We decided not to have a TV in there this time around, and I’m glad we did. It just keeps the room more quiet. More calm.

There are so many more pictures I could share, but I think I’ll stop here. Over time, I will come back and show you changes we make to the rooms in our home and around the land, especially as seasons change and call for freshening up of spaces.

In fact, I will need another whole post just to walk you around the land! There is a lot of work still to be done, decisions to make, and spaces to carve out and make useful for the animals we hope to bring in after Winter is over. But we aren’t in a hurry. We are home at last and grateful to wake up every morning to the beauty that surrounds us here at Arundelle Green.

Welcome.

Oh Come, Oh Come

As a child, we never celebrated Christmas.

Well, let me clarify that. We had a Christmas tree and all kinds of tinsel. We also received Christmas gifts and sang about Santa Claus.

But we never celebrated Jesus.

It was a purely secular holiday for us. The church tradition in which I grew up believed celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday was a sin so, we didn’t. As a child, it was all I knew but there was something deep within me that struggled with leaving baby Jesus out. I could not have articulated that at the time, but looking back I can still feel the longing, the burning in my chest when I heard “O Holy Night” or “Away in a Manger.” I would watch the Vatican’s Christmas Eve Service on the tiny TV in my bedroom, staying up late into the night as the pageantry and grand life-sized Nativity captured my imagination and I wondered what could be so wrong about it?

What could be so wrong about celebrating the birth of the Son of God?

Continue reading “Oh Come, Oh Come”

Papa’s Path

On a warm Autumn day my father giddily wielded a pair of branch loppers and beat me to the Shadow Wood. Before I knew it, he had forged a path.

We had not yet been able to explore what lay beyond our back yard because the underbrush was so thick and foreboding. The decision had been made to wait until Fall for things to die back a bit so we could safely tread through the vines, seedlings and huge rocks without getting hurt.

Continue reading “Papa’s Path”