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”

Books and Other Writing by Jeanine

Click on the links to order from Amazon.

Paper Dolls: Trust Your Instincts

You will not want to miss this story that highlights a very real epidemic right here, in the United States. Appropriate for ages 14 and up, Paper Dolls: Trust Your Instincts is a must-read. Your eyes will be open to the signs of human trafficking and your heart will be moved to get involved to help stop this evil that is rampant throughout the world.

Continue reading “Books and Other Writing by Jeanine”

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.

That We Might Find our Home in You

Root us in a place, Lord, that we might find our home in you.

The Book of Common Prayer

We are such a transient society. Me, this girl who lived in the same tiny town until I was twenty-three? Even I have moved more times that I would have thought. Three towns in Texas, one in Pennsylvania, then four different houses in Middle Tennessee over the past twenty-five years have given me a collection of memories and friends that I treasure. But all those moves have also given me a deep desire for roots that run deep.

Continue reading “That We Might Find our Home in You”