What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Winter Barn

~Notes from an Aspiring Farmwife~

on The Winter Barn

journal entry~ February 2 2011

The idyllic life on a farm where children run barefoot in and among lilac blossoms and Mama gathers mint and wildflowers in her lovely wicker basket all the while being surrounded by sunbathing chickens and playful kittens and sunkissed laundry hanging on the line seems afar off in the winter.

In winter, farm life~ even hobby farm life (though I *loathe* that term) loses a bit of its romance.

In fact, its an awful lot like hard work. Especially when Matt is out of town and I am the woman of the house, the one on whom everyone/everyTHING depends.

And there is nothing idyllic about a woman in a carhartt, sans makeup and sporting tousled hair.

*trust me*

The hideous alarm clock rings into the pitchblack night and I stumble out of the nice warm flannel, my head cringing at the offensive beeps. For a slight moment, I consider snuggling down deep and forgetting about the dawning day.

But I don't.

I make my way down the darkened staircase and follow down another floor into the basement and get the fire going again. Most times, I have to pick through some slabwood so I can actually split it with an ax myself but today there is kindling leftover from when Matt split some up. There are usually *just* enough coals to set the kindling to flames.

As the chimney warms and the coals grow, I sit right beside the woodstove and read and pray and think. I read outloud so I don't fall asleep in my chair. I pray aloud for the same reason. Once the chimney is warmed, I load up the woodstove good and full and head upstairs to do a wee bit of exercising. The quiet kind~ situps, and wonder when/if they will even ever make a difference. If I am quiet, no one will stir upstairs and I can get out to do chores before the house begins to waken.

I put on my boots and Matt's carhartt coat. On the frigid mornings, I even don the thick warm coveralls. Sometimes it is handy to be the same height as your husband. As I pull on my chore gloves, I dread stepping out into the cold. But that I must. My own vanity hopes I don't meet our early-rising neighbors in the "chore getup", but one never knows...

I tuck a treat into my pocket for Ruby fill up 5 gallon buckets with water and head out. I'll have to come back for the kitchen scraps later. I always carry two filled water buckets at a time so they balance one another, but they are still crazy heavy, especially when you have several trips to make. And especially when you have to precariously carry them through the snow.

I always go to the same place first. The doghouse.
Ruby waits by her doghouse and stretches. Only her tail wags as she lies there still as stone until I unclip her collar and then she runs like mad and jumps and kisses and runs some more. Nearly every time, she trips and flips unpside down in the snow. (Maybe she does this on purpose?)

Ruby is my loyal chore partner and follows me as I work.

Next stop, chickens.

The ladies are thirsty~ so I break the ice in their dish and give them fresh. Sometimes, they peck my shoes so they can drink the snow gathered on them. Prince Caspian, the rooster, is a true gentlemen and lets his harem all go first. No eggs to gather until this evening, or this afternoon. The eggs must be gathered quickly on the very cold days so they don't freeze and pop open, but our chickens don't lay until much later, so I'll check again later.

Dudley bawls for his grain. He saw me coming long before I could even see his dark hide in the winter morning black. "Alright, Dudley. Patience." I call. I follow the paths in the snow that are all packed down from making these same trips twice a day. His water needs broken up too, and then I pour the rest of the bucket in. He doesn't care about water~ he is inhaling his grain. Snow isn't nearly as wonderful as grass to him, but I am very thankful for the snow. It keeps him from trying to escape the fences (and succeeding) to get to the other side. Snow all looks the same, and not nearly as delicious.

I don't like Dudley very much. Don't let the sweet face fool you, he is ornery.

Then it is to the barn. I trudge through mounds of white and race Ruby. She wins because I am still hauling water I can't spill.

Once you are actually OUTSIDE, it isn't nearly as dreadful as you think it will be while putting your boots on. It is actually quite pleasant. It doesn't take long before the blue of night has completely turned white but the roads are still quiet and the air is sweet.

The barn is friendly and warm and dark. The bunnies are sweet, some more friendly than others-but all soft and beautiful. Babies have grown and there won't be any more for a little while anyway. They huddle around the food and the drink greedily, but one particularly sweet bunny likes to get a few strokes from me. I like him best of all.

The pigs are sleeping together in their little snout-made nest and when they stand up, you can see billows of steam escape from under them. Of all the animals we are raising, I like the pigs the best. And I never in a million years thought I would. I find them terribly endearing; I love listening to their growls, grunts and squeals, I love watching them run, and I love how they come to me for their ears to be scratched.

I also love how nothing from the kitchen is ever wasted, of that I can be sure.

I make the corn slop for the pigs and pour some fresh water for them. Sometimes they get bread and scraps and they always show their admiration for a good meal.

Then there is hay to get for the cow. I must take care where I put my pitchfork, because little boys are up and at 'em by now and Little Boys of any color and dogs have a certain affinity for hay bales.

Then, Ruby is given her tucked away treat that she has come to expect and I make my way into the house to a brood of hungry, happy children. And the day begins.

Only 11 more hours until I do it all again, this time in the darkness of evening.


Bonnie said...

You still make it sound kinda glamorous. At least for those of us still pining for more land and critters.

Not a fan of the term "hobby farm" either, though the magazine is wonderful (so is Hobby Farm Home magazine, which B. surprised me with a subscription to! Yay! One of the few magazines I consistently get something out of every issue)
How about gentlemans farm? Or straight-up what it is a farm?

I'm going to go squelch my envy now in a cup of coffee, and pretend *I* have farm chores to tend.

I highly suggest publishing your farmwife journal someday. Highly.

ulli said...

You are a trooper. I envy your farm life--so wonderful. I agree with Bonnie. Your writing is beautiful and your journal should be published one day.

...they call me mommy... said...

Neat to see the outside part of your life, Rebecca! I used to help with our steer and chickens but we don't have them anymore.

Where's the next chapter to this lovely book? I wanna keep reading! :)

Jinger said...

The farmwife post are some of my FAVorite posts here. It also has encouraged me to GET out of bed a bit earlier... the semi-tropics are already trying to reach 80 degrees some days, so I don't have snow as an excuse. I appreciate getting to see what winter is like for others... and esp. farmers.
Also, wondering what is your issue with hobby farming?

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

You truly are superwoman. I do not live on a farm. Do not want to as I don't think I have the discipline and work it takes to have one. I bury my desires for land in suburbia and grow all the vegetables and flowers I can. I don't know why they call it 'hobby' farming. Hobbies are supposed to be frivolous and done for relaxation. Nothing about this sounds frivolous to me, it is plain, hard work. Thank you for this post. Makes me appreciate and support people like you, the small farmers who rise up in the morning, snow or rain, so folks like me can have milk, eggs and meat. Hope this so called 'hobby farm' of yours grows in leaps and bounds to be a 'real' farm someday.


jonas said...


please read my blog, ill be participating in the next foto friday!

Rebecca said...

Jinger~ no fair! DOn't rub it in.... :-( unless of course you are up for company.

As for the term Hobby Farm, one thing you must understand about me is that I overemphasis to make a point a lot. Sortof, to add humor to my soapboxes. No I don't really prefer using Hobby Farm myself, but I don't actually take issue with it. And when I say *loathe* I do so in great exaggeration.

I don't prefer the term hobby farm partly because of how in vogue it is presently and I tend to shy away from buzzwords for the sake of buzzwords and partly to do with ~A's comment. Hobby Farm implies wonderfully fun, relaxed fun but what we have requires an awful lot of work. Living SIMPLY isn't really all that simple. We live.......deliberate. We chose to do the things we do because of the *value* of those things in our lives and not particularly to make our lives more relaxed, or our free time more full of hobbies.

But again- a rose is still a rose.

That's all. Love, the Hobby Farmist ;-)

Jinger said...


Would love the company, but trust me, we barely get two seasons... it CAN get old.

Thanks for the clarification and this a good reminder that deliberate living, wherever you are living, is the *best* kind of living!

Missy said...

Thank you for sharing this. I love your writing style and your photos. I'm living in the "big city" right now, but I grew up on a farm similar to yours. Your post is very homey to me. There were a lot of days when I grumbled about doing the chores, but every now and then, I miss it.

Leah said...

I personally see a lot that's "idyllic" about that woman in the carhartt... her little button nose (you do have the cutest profile, you know!) peeking out from behind her sandy blonde hair, all under the shelter of the rough, gruff hood of her husband's work-clothes.
Okay, maybe not idyllic, just lovely. he,he ;)