better than tv

IMG_8473Oh, my, the days have been gray around here lately. So gray. This morning, after chores and breakfast I sat down for a precious moment at my spinning wheel and I’m certain the already very gray light coming in the windows got even grayer. I mean, I am pretty aware of the fact that a visit to the eye-doctor is probably in my near future, but my eyesight isn’t that bad. I practically needed to turn on a light just to be able to see what I was doing at the wheel. It was probably ten in the morning… not typically the darkest hour of the day!

So, the days have been gray. And since we are drawing near the winter solstice, the nights have been long. If you read between the lines here, you might gather that sunshine is at a premium. Remember also that I live in a solar-powered house. When the sun doesn’t shine, there is no power. So our solar system is getting the double whammy of 1) no sunshine, and 2) more power usage because the daylight is less and we are therefore using lights for more hours each day.

Over the weekend, our solar system’s battery bank was about to crash. Knowing that precious little sunshine was expected in our forecast, Eric made the move of hauling our batteries over to our neighbor’s shop building where there is grid-tied electricity and where we happen to have a battery charger. (Let me just say that It is no small feat lugging the eight seventy-five pound batteries from their moorings in the bench on our front porch, down the steps, into the back of the mini-van, and out our very long and rough driveway, out of the mini-van and into the shop, and then to reverse these steps to get the batteries back home.) In order to get any charge on the batteries at all, they needed to stay on the charger for at least 24 hours. That left my family completely in the dark for one evening. Eric and I lived for years without any electricity at all, but now that we have it, we’ve gotten kind of used to it. We still don’t use very much power, but damn, an 8 watt light bulb is an amazing thing. And with three busy kids who all have their own agendas, an evening in the dark could easily turn nightmare-ish.IMG_8495

But the evening did not leave me cursing under my breath at the frustrating inconvenience of not having any lights. The evening was lovely. Memorably lovely. We lit candles and sat close to one another on the couches reading stories with our one functioning flashlight. We talked about things and ideas and plans and re-capped what the day held for each of us. Eric and I declared that we need to be without lights more often! Even when we do have adequate power, television is not an option for my family, as we don’t have one. Sure, sometimes we allow the kids to watch a movie on the tiny dvd player that we have, but overall our evenings are never spent in front of the tv. During this precious candlelit evening, I was reminded of why I have made the choices I have made for my family. I chose to exclude television from the scene of my household. I chose to not let the flow of my brain be determined by someone else. IMG_8498This evening, we turned our bull, Goldie, loose with five heifers. He’s an old feller. Never in any big hurry. Incredibly calm and gentle for a creature of his size. Before today, he has never even met the young ladies we put in his paddock, other than the subtle whiffs of their scent carried on the wind. We partially unrolled a round bale of hay for Goldie and his new girlfriends, and then just stood there, leaning comfortably on the bale, taking in the sights and sounds. It was fascinating to watch the body language of the cattle. The way they would lower their heads and turn their bodies slightly sideways to appear as large as possible. The smelling. The kicking up of heels as the excitement of the new situation set in. The munching sounds of hay being chewed. The loud bellowing. This was my deep breath. This was my evening entertainment.

I feel so thankful that my days hold so many of these beautiful, visually rich and stimulating, albeit very peaceful, moments. Real life in real time is way better than tv. IMG_8491

right now :: sparrow

IMG_8418Sparrow is my sweet little heifer calf that was born to my milk cow, Lilly, back in August. Every evening, she gets separated from her mama so that  when I go to milk in the mornings, there is some milk for me, too. Otherwise she runs with the herd all of the time, by Lilly’s side. And she is a spunky little thing that has required some patience when it comes to the “catching” each evening. But cows are creatures of serious rhythm and routine, and she is beginning to learn the ropes. She is almost (almost) to the point of walking herself to the stanchion in the evenings when she sees me coming to fetch her. We’re making real progress, anyhow. Well, a couple of nights ago when I tied her to the stanchion for the night, she walked herself right around and put her head through the head catch, just like she has seen her mama do so many times now. I spent some time rubbing her down, cooing to her a bit, and rubbing her tiny little udder. She seems to know what her future roll is going to be! I don’t think I ever realized just how special my little cow friend was going to be to me. My buddy, Sparrow…IMG_8411 IMG_8415 IMG_8419


IMG_7722This evening after supper, I went for a rare walk all by myself. I had been gone from the farm most of the day and I needed (wanted) to go up to the pasture to check on Lilly one last time before night fell. She is due to calve any moment now and I’m kind of obsessed with her progress. Once she calves, my daily routine is going to experience a major shift and I want to be as ready as I can be for that change. Experienced milk-maid I am not.

When I arrived at the animal’s paddock, the sun was heading quickly for the horizon. Soft pink wisps of clouds reached through the western sky like fingers. I think every single cow’s and sheep’s head was bent towards the ground, contentedly grazing. A few stray heads raised up at the sound of my approach, pausing momentarily from their supper to greet me with blank, unquestioning stares. There’s probably over 200 critters in that paddock right now, but the amount of noise coming from all of those animals was minimal. Just the sound of hooves gently moving about and grass being ripped, bite by bite. (It makes me wonder just how it is that my three small children are capable of such volume?!!!!) I noticed that Lilly had stopped her grazing and found a comfortable spot to lay down with a few other cows.IMG_7724

I’m not sure there is anything more peaceful than a cow laying in a high grassy pasture under a pink sky on a warm summer evening, ruminating. Heaven is right here on earth, indeed.

I stepped quickly over the hot fence to avoid getting shocked, and meandered through the sea of sheep to where Lilly was resting. I sat down beside her in the pasture and felt her peace. I thought my busy thoughts and wondered about why humans get swept up in such busyness. Too bad we weren’t designed to be ruminants… I think this world would be an entirely different place.

As I sat with Lilly, her peace radiated. I couldn’t help but sense that she might be in the early throes of labor, but maybe it was just my eager imagination. As much as I felt drawn to just lay down in the grass and sleep with the herd, my own precious little herd of noisy non-ruminants was pulling my strings homeward. So I left the pasture and walked the dusty dirt road back to the house; back to pajamas and bedtime kisses, teeth-brushing and drinks of water… and eventually a quiet, dark house and a little time for my own style of ruminating.