Meet the Chickens!

For several weeks, our dream chicken coop has been under construction on the edge of the Shadow Wood.

As I watched from my vantage point at the kitchen window, I imagined the happiness of looking out and seeing our fluffy girls pecking around against the green backdrop of a Tennessee Spring.

As their cozy coop and run took shape, a friend called to tell me her neighbor needed to give away six one-year-old hens who were great layers. It was an easy yes.

So, once the coop was almost complete and ready for occupancy, we picked up our hens!

Ashton, our gray tomcat, is fascinated and little bothered. He just lays there in the straw, watching and waiting. But their coop is predator proof. He doesn’t have a chance.

In keeping with our tradition, the hens were given names. My daughter can tell them apart. Me? Not so much. But the names are fabulous and worthy of their surroundings!

Have you ever seen a chicken chapel? Is it not the cutest thing? We are waiting for the steeple (YES it has a steeple!) to be installed after which I will reveal the name and more details of how it was designed.

So without further adieu, I give you the names of the chickens of Arundelle Green:

Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy (any Hamilton fans out there?)

Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor (of Sense and Sensibility fame!)

Two Plymouth Rocks, two Rhode Island Reds, and two Buff Orpingtons.

And they are lovely.

Lovely chickens with tiny little brains whose sounds and habits make us chuckle.

Plus eggs.

The golf ball is a trick I learned from my sister-in-law. It tells them where to lay the eggs.

From the very first day, they have laid eggs for us, 4-5 per day. Delicious, farm fresh eggs gracing our breakfast, and sometimes dinner!

Happy hens. Happy family. Happy farmlife.

And there is more to come. I really can’t believe I get to do this.

Y’all come visit and I dare you not to want to start your own little farm!

It’s a beautiful life here, at Arundelle Green.

Creating Space

As I stepped outside this morning to gauge the temperature my senses were assaulted by the sounds of hundreds of birds singing joy from the Shadow Wood. One perched nearby seemed to be proclaiming, “hello, hellooooo!” as the geese glided gracefully across the pond. A chilly early spring breeze blew strong, threatening to topple the potted plants I had just placed on the side porch to reintroduce them to the outdoors once again after spending winter inside.

Sometimes I pinch myself. I can’t believe I live here.

It’s been eight months since we moved to Arundelle Green, so this is our first experience with Spring on these eight acres. I was working in the goat pens just yesterday, preparing shelters for our doelings and buckling who will come home soon, and noticed the tree that was lucky enough to be enclosed within the fencing is loaded with buds.

From what I can see, it looks like the flowers will be white.

I have been consumed with preparations for the mini-farm we are building. It has been a true source of joy to wield power tools as I built a simple three-sided shelter and converted a dog kennel into a safe nighttime haven to protect our kids from coyotes. We are also on the hunt for a Great Pyrenees mix to grow up alongside the goats as their friend and protector, and plans for the chicken coop are coming along.

With the completion of the Library my attention has turned to organizing my office. It is kind of a mess right now! There are so many random things in baskets that I don’t even know half of what is in there. I’ll probably be tossing a lot of unused and unneeded items, which will leave some shelves empty. And that’s ok. White space is healthy.

Speaking of white space…

Life at home has been incredibly busy and my days are full, which made me realize I need to simplify. Pull back. Focus on what is at my fingertips and do that well. So I did and I am. I had spent the past few months overcommitted and stretched thin. I struggled to sleep and struggled even more to focus and enjoy something as routine as a movie night with my family because the lists running through my mind were relentless. So I tore up some lists, quit a few things that were good but not best for me in this season, and intentionally created margin where I had none, space for quiet because I need to hear the whisper of God and snuggle my teenagers.

Just in time, too, for all around us Creation is putting on a spectacular show. The daffodils are in full bloom and I have been picking up potted flowers here and there to fill my side porch with color.

A mama goose is heavy with eggs and her mate stays faithfully with her, awaiting their tiny arrivals even when the rest of the flock is soaring high above. Sunsets have been spectacular, creating a golden hour that is magical.

See Ashton in the corner? He is always on the hunt 🙂

The Shadow Wood, bare from winter, is beginning to come alive with green.

Soon, the roses will be blooming and vegetables will fill my gardens. In all these things, God speaks to me. He reminds me of the patterns of life that have been in place long before I was even born. The repetition of the seasons, the predictability of a dogwood blooming, seedlings emerging from prepared soil, echo His faithfulness and care.

I don’t want to miss any of this, and in my busyness I was becoming fearful that I would. I needed to take time to slow down and see what is right in front of me, the beauty of Creation coming alive to declare the glory of the Creator. Busyness makes me blind. Lack of margin leaves me exhausted. He says to be still, and if we are wise we will heed those words.

For in the stillness there is a breeze blowing, cattle lowing in the distance and the sound of water bubbling along the creek as the farmer down the road drops a fresh bale of hay among his flock of hungry goats. The cardinals are visiting the feeders once again and the blue heron just landed silently along the waters edge.

Beauty abounds if only we will stop and allow our senses to take it in. Spring is arriving in all it’s glory here, at Arundelle Green.

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?

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”

Walk With Me

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com
Sunlight found no place to break.
Clear, cloudless sky gave the straight rays 
room to run
to the pond.
Across the bridge, glass below reflects and
lessons the ache
for a moment.
Walking, wandering,
ears in tune to breathing 
grown breathless 
as all the world weeps.
As all retreat into fear
and I cry for a new story.
That it will be well 
for I don't feel well.

Along the pebbled path 
beside the creek as darkness crept in
we turned.
Returning, 
and sunset presented gently tonight.
Slowly meandering,
tears dammed tight
in refusal
to break.

And there she stares 
emerging from woods
across the speckled water.
A statue breathing
frozen in time.

We gaze, 
one upon the other
and even my dog lies prone.
Unmoving.

The sound of applause
erupts
from left and right.
In rhythm yet disconnected
as if nature cries,
yes.
Stand.
Look.
Watch how we slow and observe
in unhurried movements.
Watch how she steps in time to her reflection
perfectly framed.

I dare to move
just a little. 
We stare again,
transfixed
as I will myself to breathe.
She goes,
farther,
in the tall grass 
disappearing
and I turn.

The applause ceases and we step more slowly
deliberately
as waters deepen to
reflect the last rays
of sunset's glow
while
out of sight
I hear the applause begin again.

Let’s Build a Garden, Part 2

After the construction of our big, beautiful raised beds, I called around to find out who would deliver dirt. After a bit of research I found a company whose dump truck wasn’t broken (that is apparently a common issue around here) and they delivered a big, beautiful pile of soil just a few hours later.

Continue reading “Let’s Build a Garden, Part 2”

Let’s Build a Garden (Part 1)

I have missed growing vegetables. Our previous home was located within the domain of an HOA that forbade such “unattractive” landscaping so, aside from the pitiful potted tomato plant on my pack patio, I had to go to the local Farmers’ Market to find fresh veggies.

Now we have eight beautiful acres. I have thought and a re-thought about where to put a garden and finally decided to build it in the backyard proper, within the fence, where Bambi and Thumper, as cute as they are, are less likely to devour our harvest. Then I had to decide what materials to use. I have visited Lowes and Home Depot many times, perusing the stone piles and wood options. I found out you never, ever use landscape timbers or railroad ties because they can be laced with chemicals such as asbestos. Not good. I seriously considered stone but it would require a lot of ground prep and, well, I am impatient.

Continue reading “Let’s Build a Garden (Part 1)”