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Archive for the farm

sojourn . Best of Busy Bee Summer 2017

As I posted last week, summertime for my crew has meant indulging in the season’s “lazy, hazy” reputation and taking advantage of some unscheduled down time. We started our summer vacation with a week at our farm house in Noxubee County, Mississippi. We spend a few weeks there each year, and one of them usually serves as our summer kick-off.

I love that when we visit the farm, we each have favorite places and experiences we want to enjoy. Whether it’s walking dirt roads, exploring pastures, climbing favorite trees or making a bonfire, I’m so happy that my children are learning this place in the same way I did as a child. Even though I’ve been to the farm countless times, it seems like every visit I see something new. This trip, it was a white wild rose that has popped up around some of the fence rows. (I brought some cuttings back to see if I can get it to grow in my backyard.) Because we’ve had kind of a wet start to the summer, the greens of the trees and the pastures seemed unusually green, and tons of wild blackberries were already starting to ripen. This trip, we took the time to clean up around some of our favorite “climbing trees” and we added some wood footholds to one of them with the help of our longtime family friend, Mr. Clarence. Of course, I brought along my camera. I’ve already posted about my search for toadstools, but I wanted to share a few more of my favorite photo captures…

 

found . Toad Stools and Fairy Baths

We spent last week at Busy Bee, enjoying farm wanderings. It was very rainy, which kept us inside much of the time, but we had a few opportunities to explore pastures and shady roads. With all the water, mushrooms were growing everywhere! Searches under the overgrown trees brought all kinds of glistening shapes and colors popping out from the leftover leaves from last winter. Many were still holding water from the rains, and I couldn’t help but imagine fairy baths and frog tea parties going on in these magical shapes. Here’s a collection of some of our finds. I need to look them up to see the official names, but for now, I’m too busy thinking of fairies and toads.

sojourn . Starting Spring at Busy Bee

March is coming to a close with all its fickle Southern tendencies! For a month that always ushers in the Spring season, this year’s has sure given us the full spectrum of Mississippi seasons from winter freezes to summer heat. My children were out of school for Spring Break a few weeks ago, and we were able to spend the week at Busy Bee, our family farmhouse in Noxubee County. I always enjoy taking time there to unwind, enjoy unstructured family time, and get my fix of pasture walking and breathing in country air. This year, our Spring Break weather included some cold and rainy days, but we made the most of it, squeezing in at least a few of our favorite farm adventures.

I don’t know if it’s because of the burst of warmer weather we had early in 2017, but I can hardly remember a time at Busy Bee when the pre-Spring days were SO green! Although we had some freezing temperatures, the pasture carpet was full of new life. In these early Spring days, the green seems the most lush before summer’s heat has the chance to tire it out. Of course, I always have my camera with me, and it was fun to capture a few glimpses of how Spring on the farm cracks through the more stark color and contrast of winter. For us, it was a week of seeing two seasons at once, sometimes in the same frame. I came home with renewed energy and excitement for the ideas I’ve wanted to tackle this year.

sojourn . Summer Days at the Farm

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[so many greens]

My oldest has been talking about memories a lot lately – not necessarily specific ones, but more the concept of having them. And how they’re associated with places. Busy Bee, as we call our family farm land, is one of those places that has instilled memories for me, and it’s always been my goal for my children to have them there as well. We’ve set aside weeks to spend at the farmhouse each year to help build those memories, and it was neat for me to realize again this summer that the memories are taking hold.

We usually take a week of farm fun around Memorial Day to kick off our summer vacation. This year, as we were driving on the gravel road leading to our property, Travis noticed the typical cows in the fields. They are almost always black ones like the ones my dad used to keep. Now my uncle keeps a similar breed on our property. I think what caught Travis’ attention was the unusual red cow in the field. After pointing it out, he commented that it wasn’t like the ones on “our farm.” And then, “See Mommy, we have memories here.” It was a small and unselfconscious declaration taking ownership of one of our places and experiences. And it brought a smile to my face. What joy to have my children enjoy some of the same experiences and build some of the same memories I had as a child!

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[fairy stages?]

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[growing wild all over, but not quite ripe]

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[trumpet vine, somehow this has made it to my yard over the last year]

We spent the week enjoying more of our favorite farm adventures… walking the gravel roads, throwing rocks in the creek, noticing a thousand greens, digging through fallen trees, exploring the woods, finding old animal bones, the tree bench, gathering sticks for a bonfire, s’mores, driving to the “back back” and checking out fences, rocking on the deck, picnics by the barn, discovering blackberries, cooling off with a dvd marathon, sleeping late, and lots of conversations. I try to document our journey with photos and sometimes paintings. This trip, I painted most days on the deck each day, and the kids joined me a couple of times. Maybe that will become another tradition.

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[found cow bones now repurposed to dig in a tree stump]

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[does anyone else see a fish?]

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[my grandmother’s fig tree still producing]

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[old milk barn window with vines]

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[Elisha’s tiger]

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[Maggie’s sun]

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farmpainting6 [Memorial Day 2016]

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sojourn . Glimpses of Fall Break at Busy Bee

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We were very excited to spend part of last week at our family’s farm land for the children’s Fall Break. We enjoyed many of our usual farm activities, and I thought I would share a few inspiring thoughts and views discovered there. We aren’t usually at the farm until later in the fall, so this time we had the chance to see a nice mix of summer and autumn as well as a few wild flowers and plants we don’t often get to see.

We call the farm “Busy Bee” after an old African American church that was once located in the area. It may be just a name our family uses, but it’s stuck since I was a child. For this trip — and for the first time in a long time — I left my laptop at home and had a welcomed break from work activities. I didn’t even take my paints or sketch book, and I didn’t miss them! A true sign I was due for a mental break from creative activities.

We filled our days with down time, conversations, and walking in the pastures. We found a couple of new trees to climb, checked out the hay yard, walked the Southwest end of the property, and explored the Dry Creek bed (which was actually dry this time of year). It was a much needed change of scenery for me and for the kids, and in that void of deadlines and creative pursuits, I had the chance to let the whirling of thoughts and ideas in my mind settle. I came home with this small reminder written in my journal…

It’s hard to take the right steps forward if I am not disciplined to spend time listening to my own inner voice.

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fallbreak15g [pasture wildflowers we haven’t seen before]

fallbreak15f [sometime rust can be very colorful]

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fallbreak15d [lilypads forming on the back pond]

fallbreak15c [the remaining two walls of an old hay shed – before my time]

fallbreak15a [an honest to goodness tree bench discovered in the woods at the Southwest corner]

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grow . For the Love of Daffodils

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It’s daffodil season, the sure sign of spring, and I cut these from the backyard last week for my desk. I was particularly excited to see these this year because a few of them came from plants my great grandmother grew!

Our farm house has a collection of daffodil bulbs that bloom each year along the fencerow. It’s behind the house and separates the “yard” from the front pasture, and my grandmother planted them sometime when my mom was a child. There are also a row of them that usually sprout up in a line out in the side pasture marking the place where an old fence once stood. And then, randomly with almost inexplicable origins, there are some that tend to crop up across the road, next to ditches, and various other odd places around the yard. I’m not convinced on whether my grandmother planted those, or if they arrived by pure magic! These daffodils are ones we look forward to seeing when we make what’s become the annual spring break trek to the farm in search of carefree days (and muddy play, like this year).

One of the places where we play at the farm is the “hay yard” just down the road from our farmhouse, and its actually a cleared plot where my great-grandmother’s house once stood. I can vaguely remember the house, although it was long abandoned by the time I probably saw it. The house was the last home of my grandfather’s parents, and my mom remembers walking there to visit her grandmother and get orange slices. I guess that’s why more daffodils were there.

For the last year or two, we’ve noticed a huge number of daffodil bulbs blooming in the pasture on the south side of the hay yard, and I like to imagine my grandmother and great-grandmother planting a few that then started multiplying over the years. I suppose they’ve been there for much longer that we can remember seeing them, but our more recent pasture adventures brought us into close contact.

I’ve long wanted to dig up a collection of those daffodils to bring home and enjoy another piece of the farm in our own little garden spaces. Last year when we visited for spring break, we took the opportunity. We loaded up a pick-up truck bed practically full of daffodil bulbs with their blooms still in place and brought them back to Starkville to plant. You can see a few bonus shots of baby Sally “helping” with the planting in the photo evidence below!

This year, Sally is much bigger, and the daffodils have sprouted! Most of them have only put out greenery this year, which is common since we transplanted them while the blooms were still on. However, a few, like the ones above, have graced us with their yellow springtime goodness. I’ll be excited to see their progress next year when they are more accustomed to their new digs!

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poetry . Back From The Fields

A journey through a pasture is always an adventure. I have some experience in this. The wide open space with grasses of every flavor blowing becomes ripe for imagination regardless of the direction you’re traveling. In Spring and Summer, when the grasses are sharing their wealth and putting out seeds, you can’t help but walk carrying reminders of where you just stepped–little pieces of tomorrow’s blades and stalks stuck to your socks and shoes and pant-legs. You don’t really notice them while you’re in the pasture. The imaginative potential of each step is too overwhelming. The wealth of sensory intake from earth and sky and plants and wind is too distracting. It’s when you get home, that you see what you’ve brought back from the fields. This poem from the American Life in Poetry series talks about that moment. I wanted to share it because I’ve been thinking about journeys lately. In the winding paths of the lives we build, whether grassy fields or arduous hills, we bring the seeds from every step along with us–seeds just waiting to fall off in new places and sprout anew. Seeds waiting to be planted with intention in whatever fertile ground we cultivate. It’s so easy sometimes to overlook the potential of even the winding path, the hopelessly meandering journey or the seemingly wrong turn. But, seeds stick. With seeds, there is always potential.

American Life in Poetry: Column 313
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

Go for a walk and part of whatever you walk through rides back on your socks. Here Peter Everwine, a California poet, tells us about the seeds that stick to us, in all their beauty and variety.

Back from the Fields

Until nightfall my son ran in the fields,
looking for God knows what.
Flowers, perhaps. Odd birds on the wing.
Something to fill an empty spot.
Maybe a luminous angel
or a country girl with a secret dark.
He came back empty-handed,
or so I thought.

Now I find them:
thistles, goatheads,
the barbed weeds
all those with hooks or horns
the snaggle-toothed, the grinning ones
those wearing lantern jaws,
old ones in beards, leapers
in silk leggings, the multiple
pocked moons and spiny satellites, all those
with juices and saps
like the fingers of thieves
nation after nation of grasses
that dig in, that burrow, that hug winds
and grab handholds
in whatever lean place.

It’s been a good day.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Peter Everwine, whose most recent book of poetry is From the Meadow: Selected and New Poems, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Poem reprinted from The Place That Inhabits Us, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010, by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

 

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