Archive for September, 2010

The Skirt

The other day my husband Stephen said to me, ” I need a skirt.”

Startled, I replied, ” I beg your pardon?”

“For work. I need one for work.”

Now what you need to know about my Kansas born husband is that he is a real manly man. He won’t even sleep on a  flowered comforter.

In my mind I imagine that a Kansas 10 year old has this experience with his father:

“Now son. It’s time we have The Talk.” 

 You may be thinking The Talk is about the birds and the bees, but a Kansas child learns that around 4 years old.  This talk is even more important!

“Son, you are getting to an age where you need to watch what you wear. Always wear your hat,  stick to plaid shirts, keep your boots clean, and NEVER EVER show your legs in public!”

Consequently I have traveled all over central and western Kansas —– and my new home in Virginia too!—–and have seen so many men  in plaid shirts that I couldn’t tell them apart. I started refering to them as the Blue Plaid man or the Green Plaid guy.  These men also have half and half faces. You know, tan from the eyebrows down and white from the brows up.

As for the leg business, I can vouch for the authenticityof that part. My husband is so tan that he looks like he is wearing brown leather evening gloves that reach to his biceps. 

But from the neck down—–he’s as white as a swan! He’s smart because so many farmers and ranchers die from skin cancer.  So the advice is really important but I can’t imagine ranching in 120 degree weather in boots, jeans, gloves, and a hat! 

These folks who grow our food are real unsung heroes!

My husband pulled me out of my reverie,” What kind of skirt should I get?”

“Won’t it be hard to build a house wearing a skirt honey? It’ll get in the way.”  I tried to be gentle—-maybe this was a mid life crisis.

Shocked he shouted,” It’s for the house! It’s for the house!  You know,  the part around the piers to cover the cement posts holding up the house. I’d better go ask your cousin Dave.”

He adjusted his red plaid collar, pulled his hat lower, and fled out the door!

So my friends, we have learned that a skirt is also something that covers the bottom of the house.

And to this day whenever I pass the construction site, I turn my head in embarrassment because I can just see the house trying to cover up its knees and pleading—–hurry up and make the skirt!

Breaking Rock

When we first arrived at Haven Farm  it rained.   A lot. 

And whenever the fog cleared, we could see how the water ran down the gravel drive into the basement. One time the water came so fast I thought I had left a faucet running. It was the basement filling up. The last look I had was of 3 happy frogs splashing around!

I kept muttering—-FROG means fully relying on God—–things are going to get better, but I wondered if we should consider building an ark instead of a small house.

 Our friend Lewis who grew up on the farm——the nicest man!—- advised us to try to divert the water as it ran down the drive.

So on one of the first dry and sunny days, as we waited for Dave and Val to arrive to build the house, we looked for a way to divert water. Since we knew every penny at the moment was important, we looked for materials on hand to use.

What I had thought was an herb garden was really an overgrown trailer foundation made of cinder blocks. In these pictures Stephen and I dug out the cinder blocks and threw them onto the back of the pick up. We drove  to the gravel driveway and threw them down into the low spots.

Then, using sledge hammers, we broke the rocks into smaller pieces and backed the pick up over them to pack them down firmly.

My husband is not only smart and handsome——he is really strong! He picked up his sledge hammer as if it was a toy!

BANG! SMASH! BANG!

He really had the hang of it!

I picked up the other sledge hammer and tried to immitate his movement. At first the hammer simply felt heavy……..bang……..

 but gradually I began to feel a rhythm and was able to use the weight of the sledge to put some power into my swing.

BANG!  I did it! 

We grinned at each other. We had finally begun the work to make Haven Farm a place of refuge and beauty.

It felt great to begin!

Making Hay

Mowing Part One

When I first came to Great Bend, KS in May 2008, I was just married to Stephen. That’s when I found out about his secret love affair!

Mowing.

Yep. Mowing. He loved it. And because he loves me he wanted me to have this same wonderful experience!

OK,  I thought.  Looks pretty straight forward……kind of like driving.  And an acre can’t take that long, right?

My husband eagerly sat me down at the controls and gave me a quick little lesson.  Like a proud father launching his child into the world he patted my back and wished me luck.

I tried to remember his instructions as I lurched forward into gear. Funny,  I didn’t know my husband could jump backwards so far and so quickly……..I started off and actually did find the hum of the mower quite soothing. In fact it was so soothing I almost fell asleeeeeeeeee   yikes! Suddenly I was wide awake…….

Where did all of these trees come from? Three wind breaks—-I thought KS didn’t have trees! Suddenly the trees were everywhere and they seemed to be jumping out at me!

And what was this? A shed? Who thought to put a shed in the middle of the back field! I tried to steer around the garden and compost pile to avoid the shed. Crunch! Well, maybe Stephen wouldn’t notice the little dent in the metal shed.

I was so busy thinking about the shed that I totally missed the back of the house. I should say FORGOT about the back of the house. I didn’t miss it at all. Thunk!

Stephen came  out to check on me.

He was just in time to see me turn the corner.  He had a funny look on his face that I couldn’t quite figure out.

I turned to wave at him —–thinking that I must look awfully cute on this mower!  In that split second I ran into the culvert and tipped over.

Look ooooouuuuuutttttt! Too late. Stephen ran over and helped me up. It was hard to hear what he was saying over the hiss of the deflating tire, but I think he decided that mowing might not be for me. I felt terrible, like I had let him down somehow. But I gave up my seat and watched him wheel the mower away. He kept patting the seat as if to make it feel better.

A week later, he kissed me and said ,” Honey, the tire’s fixed—-gonna mow!”  He ran out the door before I could ask for a second chance.

I started making cookies and soon enough Stephen returned. He loved the cookies, but I still felt bad about my feeble mowing efforts.

“Stephen, I am so sorry about hitting the shed and the house and popping the tire in the culvert. Can you please forgive me?”

My wonderful husband took me in his arms, scattering chocolate cookie crumbs in my hair and said,” Don’t feel bad honey. I just rode over the drip line for the trees and cut the line!”

Mowing Part Two

Well I never mowed again in Great Bend. Mostly I just carried water out to Stephen and made sure he had enough sun block on his face and arms.

Flashback 21 years………When I was 25 years old and living in Philadelphia I drove my car down an icy hill and hit a neighbor’s car.  It all happened so slowly. That sliiiiidddde and that feeling of UH OH! Then the gentle bump bump as my vehicle hit the neighbor’s car in two places—–like a slow underwater ballet.

The next morning I told my neighbor I would pay for the damages—-just get two estimates.

Imagine my shock when I read the itemized bill. Front and back panels cost A LOT of money! But then I noticed something else—–150 dollars for a hood ornament. What? But like my mom said,” Just pay it and put it behindyou. And don’t do it again!”

Shoot, I couldn’t afford to do that again!

Now you may be wondering where this post is going, but I was reminded of this when I was mowing at Haven Farm.

Yes, you read that right——mowing!

I told you in earlier blogs that these were busy times—-trying to get the garden planted and the house built before fall and look for work and volunteer at the county fair.  In the pictures that I took, I show Stephen mowing and making hay. The grass got so high from all of that late summer rain that we used the hay on our garden.

My job was to spade up a garden spot 10 x 30 feet. Then rake up about two acres of hay. Stephen and I laid the hay in between the garden rows to keep the weeds out.

Hard work, but very satisfying.

However, as the house progressed, time was tighter and tighter. One day Stephen turned to me and said,” You’re going to have to mow!”

We looked at each other fearfully. After all, we had only just managed to build the footers and floor joists amid lots of thunderstorms and mud—–what if I hit the new house?!

My husband’s voice was shaky as he gave me a refresher lesson on how to work the mower. In my mind  I called it the MONSTER! It gobbles everything in its path!

I set off for the back field. My hands were sweating and I could feel Stephen and my cousin Dave’s eyes on me. I was pretty sure they were far enough away so that I wouldn’t run them over, but I did notice that they looked ready to run  if needed.

But these were desperate times and I really wanted to help Stephen have one less chore to do after building all day long. I really concentrated and suddenly mowing was easy! And relaxing!

I could feel the sun on my face and arms and legs. It felt wonderful after being cooped up indoors in KS because of the dust storms for two years.

As I mowed, the grasshoppers exploded out of the grass and leaped ahead of me. It was almost as if they were heralding my new accomplishment!

Vicky Town is finally mowing the field! Vicky Town is finally mowing the field!

That’s when I noticed one particularly brave grasshopper. He had hopped onto the area of the mower where my feet were. And there he perched—-leaning forward like a great, wonderful, green hood ornament!

He rode with me for  about 20 minutes before hopping off to join his friends.

But the whole time I was mowing with my tiny friend, I thought,” Now that’s a beautiful hood ornament—–one of God’s creatures——a priceless treasure! ”

I looked up at the beautiful farm—-our farm! A priceless gift from God. And I knew that I was finally home.