In Focus #8—Birds in the Hood

Catching photos of birds has always been a joy and pain at the same time. It seems my camera is always not on me when I see a great photo. Forget about running into the house to fetch it!

Bird watching has been a wonderful pastime for years, learned from my dear Aunt from many a walks in the woods. I started keeping a ‘life list’ of the species in my 30’s. I only have about 130 species checked off so far. The last, very exciting species I saw (and have only once) was the Bobolink!

Our feeder is filled daily with sunflower seeds. The bird bath is next to the feeder. Watching a bird take a bath will make one laugh! One day I’ll catch a photo of it. BTW, sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches as well (some folks insist thistle seed is the only feed to attract goldfinches). Truly, life is not the same without the beautiful, cheerful Goldfinch in it.

Another fun discovery for us with sunflower seed is how easily they grow all around the house and garden! We have beautiful sunflowers from the seeds the birds drop all around the house. We leave them on the stem and enjoy watching the birds, especially the Goldfinches, eat on them all through the fall and winter. Bonus! If your zinnias are left to dry out in your garden, you will see the birds eating them as well, plus they will re-seed themselves next spring. Double bonus!

There are many other birds around here on the farm than posted on this blog. These are the few that just happened to turn out rather nicely. Thought it would brighten the day to share a few of these lovely, happy neighbors that are all around us.

Thank God for birds. A friend of mine recently told me where she read “of another service rendered as the birds sing their praises in the morning…that somehow the vibrations of their voices actually affect and aid in the awakening of God’s creation for the day.”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought?

Now What do we Do?

That was the question Shirley asked Snoot when they got home from the hospital over thirty-nine years ago with their newborn baby.

She set that bundle of baby down on the couch, looked at Snoot and asked him, “Now what do we do?”

It seemed so odd having another human in their lives. Having been married a little over two years they had gotten used to just the two of them. To make it all the more confusing, this human could not do anything! Just lie there and make funny little noises. How was she supposed to manage that?

Shirley recalls that huge moment well in her life so long ago. She says Snoot held her closely while she cried a bit, she wiped her tears, picked up that bundle of baby, and life began in earnest for that little family. That little family that grew to become five wonderful children altogether over the next ten years.

The subsequent children were far easier for Shirley. She was in her groove. Life was truly in full swing for her busy family, and she was with it every step of the way. The house was full and very busy. “Is this house ever quiet?” someone once asked Shirley. It made her laugh. “Yes! At 2 a.m. in the morning it is nice and quiet!”, she would reply.

“Are all these yours?”

“Don’t you know what causes this?”

“You do not have TV?? No wonder you have so many!”

Shirley grew used to the unsolicited remarks she would get from folks. It did not matter to her. It was her’s and Snoot’s family, not theirs. Her momma used to tell her to not mind what folks say. “Opinions are like noses, everybody has one,” she would say.

Once a lady from another country told Shirley she was a “blessed woman to have five children.” Shirley smiled and thanked her.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and years into decades. This past August Shirley and Snoot gave hugs and good-byes to their just married daughter. Their last child, all grown up and now married to a fine young man.

Coming into their empty, quiet house recently, Shirley looked at Snoot. “We have come full circle. It is just you and me—

Now what do we do?”

Snoot held his teary-eyed Shirley a bit and said,”We will spend time together and have fun.”

Shirley is looking forward to that.

How to Love as Taught by Whoopie

I did not want this dog. I already had one, and we lived on a busy road. Busy to the point that over the past 15 years, we had lost two dogs to vehicles on it. The dog we now owned I had trained tirelessly over his puppy year to learn to stay away from it. He learned well. I was very pleased. This dog however was a couple years old. How would I ever teach her?

My sisters wanted me to take her though. Our dear mom had passed away and the dog I had picked out for her from the local pound a couple years prior to her death needed a new home. All my sisters wanted me to take her. The stack was clearly packed against me. It was pretty clear. The dog was going home with me, and becoming a part of my family.

Her name was Whoopie.

The gals at the shelter liked her so much she stayed out with them in the office area. I noticed her only after I had looked at 145 other homeless, big-eyed dogs. “What about this one?”, they sweetly asked after I had emerged from the kennels. “We call her Whoopie, she has just been spayed.”

She was blond with a sweet german-shepherd face. I told them I needed an old-lady dog. One that was not too young, needed too much exercise, or jumped up on people. Our mother was suffering from moderate dementia and not as strong as she used to be. She loved dogs, and we knew she needed another.

I looked at Whoopie, she looked at me with very sweet eyes. I told the gals I’d be back tomorrow for them to meet one another and see how it goes.

“I am NOT going inside that building and seeing all those sad dogs!”, Mom soundly declared upon arriving at the shelter.

“Ok. I’ll bring her out to you.”

Whoopie came out on her leash most politely, sat down at Mom’s feet and looked up at Mom.

“I do declare that dog just smiled at me,” Mom said as she bent down to pet her.

…and that is how Whoopie came happily into our lives. All our lives, as we four sisters took turns caring for our dear mother in her last years on her beloved farm, while Whoopie took care of us all.

When we told the farm good-bye for the last time, I climbed into my truck and looked at Whoopie sitting quietly on the passenger seat. I wondered if she felt as lonely and sad and we sisters did that morning. She was quiet the whole way home. It was the beginning of a wonderful life with two dogs. Both of whom came from the same shelter (we got them at the same time).

It did not take long to realize that Whoopie loved people more than she loved to wander off. She was ‘the perfect hostess’. The first to say hello, the first to say good-bye. She wanted to be sure everyone was ok. So to do that, she was nearly always underfoot! She look straight into our eyes as if she understood everything, and stood quietly while petting her soft, floppy ears. She lived to please, to love, and to be scratched on her belly.

She died suddenly just this past July 23, 2020. Without warning.

I never thought she would be the first of ‘Mom’s pets’ to go. The miniature horses are much older than she. She was one good dog. The dog that taught us the selflessness of love.

Not long after we brought her home, we moved from that place on the busy road to our current farm on a private, quiet road to accommodate both Whoopie and the four miniature horses that were also Mom’s. We also have two big horses, chickens, and miniature cows. It has been a grand five years here.

To love without complaint, to give without strings, to be faithful and true, to care beyond self, to be generous, and to make folks happy. I do not know how God in His wisdom has put that in His creations, but He surely did with our Whoopie. She lived out the Words of Scripture better than I have. She was a great teacher. Rest well you good, good dog…

What Time I am Afraid

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.

Independence Day has passed. Summer is in full swing. Though not really. Few folks are traveling, and if they are, it is mostly locally. This is good for the museum where I work. Problem is, not many folks are out and about.

Our museum just opened July 1st. We usually open the first of April. It is going to be a short season for us. Short and quiet it seems. Some of the docents are not returning for fear of the virus. I am sorry for their fear, but I understand. I especially understand when one does not know Jesus.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18.

The worries and concerns are real for our little museum. The virus is not the only thing that frets our administrator. The rise in minimum wage is another huge factor for us. This is a concern for every small business trying to get by. It is easy to feel like the cards are stacked against us.

So, what do we do? What can we do?

We re-evaluate, re-arrange, re-schedule, and for believers, most important we pray. That sounds so useless in today’s world of unbelievers. But for the believer it is the power of God. For the believer it is our strength, our fortitude, our rest. The believer knows Who has the power, and Who is in control, and we are not ashamed. Conversely, we are strengthened. Our hope rises far beyond what little man can do, and rises to the Throne of all hope and glory. Therefore, come what may, we shall not be moved.

Does that mean we are not frightened? What a joke, of course not. But we believe God’s promises to His people. So we pray (and believe) first, then carry on.

It has been said that ‘believing’ is one of the hardest things about Christianity. Consider this, every time we get in the car we believe we will arrive at our destination. Every time we sit in a chair, we believe it will support us. We believe we will receive our pay for our jobs. We trust our feet will carry us through the day. We trust our home will be safe while we are away from it during the day.

We practice belief and trust much more than we think in the course of a normal day. So why is it so hard to trust and believe God? That is a question you must ask yourself. Ask Jesus to help you. He is ready to hear your plea. We have not because we ask not. Once trust and belief has been placed in Him, the ‘foolishness’ of trusting in man becomes very clear.

Billy Graham said it very well many years ago, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.”

So as we go forward in this summer season, I pray you would look to Jesus for strength, comfort, and guidance. Even if you do not believe, talk to Him. Taste and see that He is there. The fear I see and hear in my friends and neighbors is real. These times as of late are frightful. Jesus is real too, and larger than any of our fears. Ask Him for help and strength, and tell your heart over and over:

Image

An Evening Fire

What images do you ‘see’ in your mind when you hear the word fire?

It is a love/scary word for me. A controlled fire is intriguing and beautiful. Of course, the out-of-control one is frightening and destructive. The smell of smoke took on a whole new meaning for me when years ago our farm house caught fire due to an electrical issue. It was a horribly frightful thing.

A destructive fire puts us in our place as we realize how little control we really have in this world we live in. Respect. That is what a fire always demands. Handle it with great care.

This particular evening fire we had outside in the designated fire pit was of the beautiful kind. Sitting beside it quietly watching the sparks fly to Heaven, I often wonder what everyone is thinking about while gazing into it. What do you think about?

This evening fire was a lovely end to a fine day, by God’s good grace.

As sparks fly to Heaven.

Thank You, Darlin’ Dot

Shirley has a lot to thank her darlin’ Dot for.

Dot is the professional photographer in the family at large. Shirley wrote about her earlier this year: https://bluerockhorses.com/2020/01/03/dot/ Shirley and Snoot are real proud of this talented, first Daughter-in-love of theirs.

Once again she has opened the window of photography a good bit wider for Shirley, an amateur photographer. While taking in the outdoor view on a recent visit to the farm, Dot mentioned the wonderful photos that could be captured. Then she asked Shirley the killer question—“Where is your camera?” She answered her own question, “I know, it is put away neat and tidy in your case.” How did she know that, Shirley wondered?

Opening the pantry door, Dot pointed to an empty spot on the shelf. “This is where I would keep it all the time. A camera in it’s case is seldom used.”

Before being too hard on Shirley, dear reader, it is helpful to know she is ‘a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place’ sort of gal. Neat and tidy. Sometimes to a fault.

Well, later that very day, Shirley proudly showed Dot the ‘new home’ for her camera. The exact spot Dot had pointed out to her. One more little tip our amateur photographer learned from her professional Dot—-keep the lens cap off!

Shirley says it reminds her of a verse from Scripture: Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox. Proverbs 14:4

Shirley would like to share some of the wonderful moments in time caught because of having her camera closer to hand:

Shirley thanks her darlin’ Dot for opening her photographic mind and window a little bit more.

God Meant it for Good

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…Genesis 50:20.

Do you know this Biblical account from the book of Genesis? The history of Joseph and his jealous brothers? The coat of many colors? This account begins in Chapter 37 of Genesis and goes through the end of the book. It is a fabulous story of a brave young man who loved the Lord and always believed in His goodness for his life. Through hatred, lies, and imprisonment Joseph gave God the glory through it all. Do you know it?

Someone asked on one of the blogs I follow just how has this COVID virus has effected me and my family. This is my response, “God meant it for good.”

While I cannot say, dear reader, just how or where this virus came from (though we all know it came from Communist China), I can say I feel it has been turned into a plandemic. ‘Do not let a good crisis go to waste’ is the driving force of many of the power-hungry politicians currently ruling in much of our country. It is disgusting. In our fair state of Virginia, abortion clinics are ‘allowed’ to stay open (they are “essential’), while churches and other ‘non-essential’ businesses are not. Convicts are being released from prison (give them a mask!), while the public is threatened with arrest? Is this for real? ABC stores are “essential”? Yet our sons business is not? Just exactly what is essential? It seems to me that anyone that has a house payment, or rent, bills to pay, and a family to feed is essential.

So what are you getting at you draconian politicians? More control over the people of America is your driving force is what I would say. What else could it be? To preserve the freedoms and rights for we the people? Not hardly. To keep us “safe”? Safe means control.

But here is the joy of it all. God meant it for good! Glory! I have chosen to seek the good in it. The following are some examples of the blessings in our families in these times:

1. Our one son and his wife have been the hardest hit by the edict of ‘essential’ business. Yet, in spite of it, they look wonderful! Actually, the best I have ever seen them—at peace and joyful.

2. We have had loads of more times visiting with and having our grandchildren here at the farm.

3. Gardens have been planted by our families for the first time ever!

4. Our homes have had beautiful improvements made to them.

5. We have more money in our pockets because no stores are open (which means we can give more to our community).

6. More family dinners together than ever!

7. Fishing! Lots more time spent fishing—oh yeah!

Here are some photos of the joy we have found through these past months of over-bearing politicians trying to gain their upper hand in our lives. I think they have forgotten just how resourceful and independent Americans really are.

The Wise Woman

The wise woman builds her house…Proverbs 14:1.

Happy Mother’s Day to every mother that has shown herself wise. Her own works praise her. Such a lovely time of year to celebrate mothers too. Nature seems to be singing praises as well!

My mother and mother-in-law have passed on. But there are plenty of moms that are worthy of praise. I hope you enjoy the beauty of the season in these photos as they join me in wishing each and every one of you a

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

In Focus #7—Flowers in Vase

Spring is here, in full bloom. Glory!

That means busy times here on the farm and in the gardens, regardless of any virus. Plants have no opinion about it, and go about their business in full force of the season.

It is time to bring cut flowers from the gardens into the house for Sunday meals with family. Virus or not, we have our Sunday meals together. We believe in the rich value of family, fresh air, and community immunity. Fresh air is magical.

There is little time to be on computer, as the outdoors is quite demanding this time of year. Spare moments for this primary farm operator are spent trying to catch the beautiful Barn Swallows on film out in the barn. Apparently they are camera shy, for every time I am out at the barn without my camera they are everywhere working on their homes in the barn. When camera is in hand, there is not one to be seen anywhere. I’ll catch them yet!

So in the meantime, here are a few photos of flowers in the vase on the dining room table. The floral arrangement in the second set of photos are not from the garden. I did not like the usual vase they were delivered in, so I put them in the ceramic one after the beautiful lilacs expired. The iris are blooming, I believe they will be next!

Thank you for stopping by. Hope these photos inspire the hope and joy of this Spring season in you.

Hope springs eternal. Blessings to you all.

Is there anything that smells sweeter than a lilac?
They are easy to grow as well. Which color is your favorite?
Sunday family meals are important.
I did not like the usual flower-shop vase these flowers came in.
This ceramic vase is lovely.
The iris are blooming.
They will be the next to fill the vase.

At It Again

The ‘highly educated’ are at it again. Ho-hum.

It is the same old song and dance from over thirty-five years ago. Talk about beating a dead horse. These ‘educated folks’ are tiresome with their old rhetoric of the ‘dangers’ of homeschooling.

It appears they are worried, that with this shut-down, more and more parents may realize they could teach their children at home, and indeed shall. I know of one family that is planning to do just that. Do you know of any?

This particular family sends their children to a pricey private school. Yet, I recently heard them say that even some of the things taught there did not line up with their viewpoints. This shut-down has brought to light to them the joys, simplicity and freedoms associated with homeschooling. This young family is excited about the free time they will have to travel and visit family.

It is not as hard as one may think. In fact, for the most part, it is fun. The biggest issue is to not fret. I should know. I started homeschooling our five children in the 1980’s when hardly anyone knew anything about it. In those early days, when we had only two children, we would not go out in public until after 3 p.m. because of the barrage of questions I would get. I was young and not fully prepared to answer all those questions.

It did not take long to find my voice in the matter. I read excellent materials on the subject, i.e. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s books. They put into words what I felt on my heart in regards to the education of our children. They gave me courage and a guiding light on that poorly lit path.

(1) Home Grown Kids–A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home; (2) Home-spun Schools–Teaching Children at Home-What Parents Are Doing and How They Are Doing It; and (3) Home Style Teaching–A Handbook for Parents and Teachers.

These folks knew what they were talking about. Sound reasoning may be out of style, but not relevancy. I also found other families that were on the same track as we were. Some of us, to this day, are still close friends with wonderful memories.

I had good practice in finding supporting folks. You see, dear reader, I also had most of my children at home. The most important thing I remember my lay-midwife tell me was to surround myself with positive folks that supported our decisions. Seek and ye shall find.

That is why I can say with certainty the lame excuses these ‘educated folks’ are using against homeschooling are empty, and have been soundly refuted. Behind those old arguments is an intense desire to shape and mold the minds of our children. Cookie cutter minds are far easier to teach and manage over independent thinkers.

For those of us that want to homeschool, kindly leave us alone to exercise our freedoms. For those of you that prefer government or private schools, please, stay on top of what is being taught to YOUR children. They are the hope of the future.

These books were an important help in my homeschooling days.
We volunteered at a local historic site. Our families have remained friends after all these years.
Homeschooled kids are some of the best at interacting with folks of every age.
They travel a good deal, learning about the history of all Americans.
They learn exciting skills, i.e. fishing…
Engine work. The fun of racing…
How to defend their own property (top photo), and how to defend their country.
They got used to folks taking photos of them, and answered all the questions visitors asked them.
They learned the importance of following directions well. These beautiful historic dresses earned ribbons for these girls at their county fair.
Outside makes a great classroom.
Imagination grows with free time. So do family ties.