The Land, She Provides.

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sunflowerhat

Scrawled in many-a-journals lies the repetitious message that each In-Between merits authoring. I can be prone to mulling in my days, wondering what is worth it to mark with words with a document that will last throughout time. The fact of the matter is that each day we go through is significant because it is a place where we have never arrived before. The day might be wrought in pain, but it is a different pain, or confusion, or celebration unique unto itself.

Now is the time of a great In-Between for me, filled with a plethora of unknowns, frustrations, surprises, insurmountable gratitude, hope, and faith that is growing from seedling to solidifying sun grown stalk. I am the sunflower with its seed hat still cusping the tender small leaf and it is no doubt we mirror one another right now. The sunflower may be asking itself in the field, “Am I going to grow? Seriously? What if I don’t? What if my flower is weak? What if I never get a flower? And if a curious and derisive wind pummels me in a snide fury?” and the ever popular follow up question, “…then what?!” is the caboose of each question mark. And the flower says, “I don’t know. This is my first time being a flower. I still have my seed hat on. In the meantime, I’ll just get some sunshine and water, and we’ll see how it goes.”

And likewise in my own days follows the internal dialogue that of a self questioning seedling. A litany of uncertainty followed by self mentoring that this is my first time farming by myself and I will just have to give it my all, give it lots of sunshine and water, and see what happens above all else. I spend a lot of time in my own company and lately I have been instating mental laws like, “If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, then you can’t say it to yourself,” knowing that if I am going to accomplish anything flower farm wise or creatively, beating myself up and questioning if it is all going to work out or not does absolutely no good, and is in fact energetically combative.

The last two weekends have brought me my first solo farmers’ market experiences as well. I have been selling bouquets and sewn handmade goods. I have included hyacinths in many bouquets, alongside muscari, and the errant non deer chomped tulip. I coupled those flowers with some apple and cherry blossoms, newly budding branches, phlox, lilacs, sprigs of evergreen and cedar, and elements of dried grasses that still linger tall in the prairie. I felt those bouquets resembled the true world of spring. The last couple of weeks have exemplified that glorious sweet spot of spring where the whole world is in bloom and nearly each specimen in nature is first a flower before a leaf, before all else. There are pent up buds moments away from unfurling at any moment. What seems so compact and days away from emerging its wild show of color and true form only takes hours, an evening, a piece of day. You forget to check on something in one day and the following day the world reveals more of its natural progression and surprises.

Now is an especially exciting time because this farm home of mine is new. Though I visited the place contemplating buying it last summer, much was already green and leafed out. I never got to experience each living thing blossom and become. And indeed, there were many features of this land that I knew nothing about and have made themselves known to me only now. Not until spring began to thaw the fields did I know that there was a huge strawberry patch out in the field. Tonight I had the pleasure of weeding the patch of still green berries and flowers as the sun set. Two geese flew by sounding the pastel melt of night on the horizon, Venus a’glow from behind. I stood tall with old daisy flea bane stalks in hand and a clump of rogue grasses plodding soil below from its hanging stance. “Some great force is on my side,” I felt. Overwhelming peace was among me in the strawberry patch, thinking, “The land, she provides. Don’t be afraid.”

I turned to look back at the house and could see the reflection of the lingering bits of orange cream sun pastel and milky in the windows, warming the view. My ram stood silhouetted in the distance, watching with quiet. I stood awash in a gratitude resounding in my body. There in the strawberry patch lied no need for fear. “Everything you need to eat will come from this soil. Sow seeds each day, and you will be okay.”

I have not mowed any part of the land since I have moved in, and in doing so I have found many surprises that would have been dormant, unknown, and destroyed had I taken the shears to all that grows in the name of “keeping a nice lawn.” Last week revealed lamb’s ears and salvia. Today revealed many tiny maples, the beginning sprigs of a rose bush, and an entire peony eager with buds! With glee ridden bones I smiled and hollered a pleasant “AWWW!” aloud. The raspberries and blackberries are getting bushy bottom leaves. The apple and cherry blossoms are long spent and now preparing their fruits. And since many of the trees are fully leafed the air lends itself to a percussive sound that was absent in the hanging winter silence. The breeze hushes a new tune between the trees, soft harping among the leaves. I rise with dirty paws, bulbs in tow, and watch the beauty spread through the pasture with a praise that never tires my eyes with old. I could watch the silver backed leaves chime the live long day and never cease of its unexpected silver, nor would the sheen that rivers in the wind ever reside predictable.

Sunny was also sheared for the first time over this past week. He was so round appearing to have no neck. As I clipped his jacket off he appeared youthful and relieved to be unburdened by a year of wool. The wool closest to his body was a deep, silken black, saturated with a musky lanolin that I would put my nose to over and over again. I massaged the lanolin into my skin and repeatedly brought my hands to my face, breathing in. The large masses of wool clipped were placed into a bag and the smaller pieces attempting tumbles and release in the grass were tucked into the top of my summer dress for collection. My chest was coated in lanolin, grit, and bits of wool sticking to my sweat and oiled skin. It was a day that warranted a good shower at the end but I refused simply so I could go to bed smelling myself and rolling over catching scents of lanolin and sweat in the night.

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And so here I am, writing in the wavering depths of the unknown, with a sometimes alarming sense of peace. There is fear, oh there is fear. But fear has no space allowing its rule of me. I am feeling the love and support of my friends, family, and new community members I am meeting through the farmers’ market and feeling there is no option other than for good things to come on this farm. There will be trial and error, there will be failures and successes, good weather and the poorest. There will be everything, because that is living.

And to be living is so, so good.

Sunny’s Big Skip

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Yesterday I took Sunny, the little lamb of my heart, to the large animal clinic at the University of Illinois at Urbana. It was a big experience for both of us as we had never been to a vet that specializes in livestock animals. He had never been in a vehicle and I never drove a lamb anywhere. We took to the highway as an odd yet fitting couple under a cloudy morning. As we pulled out of the driveway I stopped shortly to put some grass in his basket to nibble on the way. I kept the music at a soft level and smiled when I looked over to see a long piece of grass being nibbled at the root and hanging out of the side of his mouth as we wheeled away. The cloudy light struck just enough in his eye to reveal their chocolate nature as they peered up at me.

Since taking him into my room in attempts to sustain and encourage his life to thrive we have formed a remarkable bond. He gets cozy on my chest and folds his legs underneath him, rests his chin upon my clavicle, and falls asleep making the slightest of breathy sounds. I have retired the notion that death is an option and have continued to love him deeply and nourish him whenever he cries in the night and day. I have been very pleased with his gradual improvements and caring for him is a practice in patience. I have never expected him to bounce up like a completely healthy lamb because that was not the start he was handed in life. He was handed a different set of obstacles from the beginning and so if I expected anything it was slow progress. I have been so happy to see him make improvements while continuing to research lambs, conditions they may be susceptible to, and illnesses that follow suit to the symptoms Sunny appears to hold. There were many markers of health which indicated positive growth; he had continued to gain weight, his eating had been more vigorous and steady on the bottle, and his lethargy improved bit by bit but in the most incremental of ways. The latter of which has been the prime point of my concern.

It worried me to see him gaining weight but remaining relatively still for most of the day. His joints appeared stiff and difficult to move. I began to wonder if he suffered from joint ill, polyarthritis, or a bacterial arthritis which would explain why he would get up, take a few steps, and lie back down. I have learned that some lambs suffer this condition, continue to gain weight, their joints become so stiff that it is painful and they remain lame while only getting larger. Sheep as such end up needing to be put down due to their illness. If caught early, however, a simple antibiotic treatment would prevent all of that. I felt the joints in the front of his legs which seemed to be slightly swollen and I wondered if he was in pain.

The veterinarian, students, and vet techs were all fantastic and knowledgeable. Upon entering the clinic everyone fell in love with Sunny immediately and fawned over him as they donned their baby animal cooing voices. I loved to show him to everyone as he shined so brightly and made everyone flourish with happiness. They would say, “Look at that little sprout of white hair! Little Sunny! Are you the sunshine?? You sure are!” and I would say, “I call him my little Sunshine Sprout!” and kiss him on the head. There was not one person that we passed who did not fawn over him and give him their special voice.

I brought a bottle and jar of extra milk for our road trip and brought it into the clinic with me as well in case the doctor wanted to see how he nurses. After bending his joints, feeling around, assessing his walk, watching him lie down after a tiring small walk, taking his vitals, and watching him nurse, an assessment was made. The doctor did not assess that Sunny suffered from joint ill, specifically because of the way he would lie down when tired as he would lay with pressure on the joints- whereas a lamb with polyarthritis or joint ill may lay to the side or completely abandon use of a limb. He did agree that Sunny’s joints did feel swollen, his gait was entirely stiff and guarded, and appeared to have more hampered movements of his front right leg. So, we ran some blood work to see what his vitamin levels are and how much colostrum he received from mom shortly after birth (I am still amazed that this can be assessed by blood work!), and to check for any other potential infections that may be occurring to cause his symptoms and developmental delays.

Sunny was given an anti-inflammatory for his joints and potential pain in the meantime while we wait for blood results. The veterinarian said that if he had inflammation and pain that was preventing him from walking, and contributing to his lethargy, that the medication would show immediate results within a day. I felt it imperative to write now to say that today has been Sunny’s first most healthy day which was filled with such remarkable vitality! Although he sleeps in a playpen in my room, I take him outside during the day to get fresh air and to give him the opportunity to be among his natural elements and walk around. Typically he will just lie in the grass, get up to take a few steps, plop back down, nibble around, and will not leave the area from where he was originally placed. It is as though you sat a turtle down, came back to check to see how far it had surfed 20 minutes later, only to find it moved a few feet. Today he followed me around the barn as I did chores! He would still stop to rest in little nooks as needed but he would get up and move around on his own and he would sometimes follow in a tiny gallop!

Just this weekend I said to a friend, “I hope to see the day where Sunny skips like a lamb in the pasture.” He said, “You will. Your love is keeping him alive!” That made my heart soar and buoyant with more hope as we fed him. Today was the day of Sunny’s great skip. He had a delightful little trot with momentum and gained speed. He rose energetically to follow me multiple times, wiggling his tail as he followed suit, and even braved the slippery tile of the living room to follow me entirely into the kitchen! I laughed because it delighted and surprised me to see him speeding behind me to catch up, moving with abandon of such lethargy I had been used to seeing in his movements. Simply nursing from the bottle used to tucker him out so much that he would lie flat on my thighs after suckling and immediately fall asleep. When the doctor mentioned immediate results should be seen if inflammation and pain was his issue, I thought to myself, “In Sunny-Time that means it will be at least 3-4 days to see any differences,” but after two doses of medication he is quickly becoming a spritely young fellow.

Today, Sunny turned an entirely new leaf. It warms my heart immensely to see him easing out of pain and growing into himself as a healthy lamb. The doctor said, “It seems to me that the persistent nursing and love has treated Sunny quite well, Mom,” which all felt so good to hear. I have cherished my moments with him in the rocking chair feeling in my heart that it was a special time for us, knowing that he would not always be so tiny, and knowing that in time he would be so big that he could no longer knee up on my chest, nor would he cry for me in the night to feed. He is sprouting before my very eyes and I savor exactly where we are, not wanting to miss a beat in his development. Sunny’s flowering hour is upon us. 

Love wins. It always does. Sometimes, it even gives us new legs and new leaves.  

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