Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Nothing. Everything. Nothing.

There's a line in the movie "Home For the Holidays" where the main character's daughter asks her what's wrong. She says, "Nothing. Everything. Nothing. I had a not so good day today, honey." Just before that, as she got into her car after being fired, the song, "That's Life" came on the radio. She sat there for a moment in utter disbelief and sort of just existed.

At this terribly precise moment it has been 366 days, 7 hours and 37 minutes since I heard the words, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but your mom has passed." I can distinctly picture the place in the driveway, at the exposed tree root and the gravel, where I fell down, breathless and wailing at the same time. I can still feel the grief, shock, and pain take turns squeezing my chest and my throat making it nearly impossible to breathe.

It isn't unusual - the passing of friends and family members. People die all day long, every single day. But when you learn that their death was caused by suicide, the maddening culmination of mental illness and depression, it changes things. It changes everything. It changes nothing. It changes everything.

The last words I heard from my mother were, "I love you!" And my last words to her were the same. There are days when I can remember her face so vividly it is as if we are eye to eye and heart to heart in the same room. And when the fog of grief is heavy - I can scarcely see the shape of her stunningly beautiful face - she is but a wisp, iridescent pink and white, of my heart's imagination.

Heart trumps logic in grief, this I know for certain. Every hour of every day I can tell you, intellectually, that she is gone, there is nothing that can be done about it, and that someday the sharp, icy edge of grief will be softer. But the heart rails against all logic and intellectualism. The heart sees nothing beneficial in being realistic. And just about every hour of every day I am acutely aware that she is gone.

She would have turned 60 on July 15 of 2016. She wrote in her planner on that date, "60th Birthday OMG!!"

To be continued.....

Monday, April 13, 2015

2015 Farmers' Market Schedule

He likes spinach. This is a good thing.

Happy springtime, everyone!

After a seemingly endless, cold, steel-gray and cloudy winter we are off to a start here on the farm. We are harvesting spring lettuces, spinach, kale, Swiss chard and will soon have radishes and onions. And more seeding and planting continues....

The Stanly County Farmers' Market started this last Saturday, April 11, 2015. The market will run every Saturday, 8am to 12pm, through October. In June, July, and August the market will be open on Wednesdays from 8am until 12pm as well. WIC is accepted at this market.

Then, on May 4th, the Stanly Commons Farmers' Market will open and operate every Monday from 9am to 1pm through October or November - I'm not sure they have an end date - sometimes it depends on what is available. As you can see by the graphic below, SNAP/EBT and WIC are accepted at this market.

See you at the farmers' market!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

That ONE photo.

Ever have one of those moments when you see something epic, grab the camera, and it works?

That entire seemingly impossible moment comes crashing together in one millisecond and shows up in real live color, proving that the life you are living each day is worth it.

The life proven by mud and muck and $hi! on your boots, by the cracks in your fingers and dried out, un-ladylike, fingernails. The life that puts others needs before your own comforts and persists regardless of colds, flu, sprained ankles or other supposedly more admirable obligations.

That one. The one that makes those moments of finding death and struggling to put a 900-pound round bale of hay out and schlepping 50-pound sacks of feed into barrels weekly worth every step.

This is it.

Hope Farms
December 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

About a Cow - A Story

I read this story today, as written by Nancy Petersen, and thought you might like it.

Photo by Nancy Petersen
All Rights Reserved

"About a cow:

Milking Angus

I can hear it now, “what the devil?” Angus? They are not milk cows! Well it all got started when the neighbor purchased 4 what he was led to believe were Black Angus calves from someone in a valley some distance from us. Once he got them home and observing them over the next couple weeks, it became apparent they were in fact a cross of some variety. In disgust, he offered them to us for what he paid for them, $20.00 a piece.

Anxious to get our “herd” started, being new to the country life; we bought two and some hay and put up a loafing shed. We suspected dairy cross so we named them Buttermilk and Brownie. As they grew, we hand fed them to make handling easier as we had no squeeze chutes in which to confine them. Over the next 14 months they became big pets, begging for carrots or apples as we moved through the field changing irrigation pipes and pulling noxious weeds; and coming on a dead run if you were working in the garden where carrots or pea vines lived or if we were headed toward the grain barrels.
At about 2 years of age, we had them bred to the neighbors Hereford bull. The pregnancies progressed without incident and soon they delivered two frisky little calves. But the udders on these two cows were huge. They clearly had more milk than the calves could handle. Once the calves devoured the first milk, (colostrum) I decided to see if the cow named Brownie could be trained to allow milking. She was pretty skittish at first but soon tolerated it without incident especially when her stanchion was filled with molasses flavored oats. Thus The Milking Angus was born. Her milk was so rich it formed about 6 inches of cream on the top of a gallon jug. Made us suspect Jersey in her blood lines.

Of course once the neighbors knew what we were doing, they fell down in gales of riotous laughter. That is until they saw and tasted the milk. Then they became steady customers. Buttermilk had white on her underbelly so we were thinking Holstein with her as her milk was larger in volume but less cream. An old time rancher told us that he always left the calf with the cow until he wanted a milking then separated them for 12 hrs and took his milking. It worked too, though it did get a little noisy as the calves objected mightily.

We took to birthing the calves in the early fall, as we felt the savings on one winters hay was evident before they were butchered at two years of age. After a couple years we decided we had too many mouths to feed on our small acreage so sold Buttermilk to some friends. We told them we did not have a loading chute so who ever picked up the calves would need a ramp to load her.

A couple cowboys arrived to pick up Buttermilk, only to find we had no chute and they had no ramp. They were going to leave and try to come back with another truck. Wait, we said, this can be done with a carrot. They, too, fell down in gales of laughter. I am not sure what was so funny, but they quit laughing as Buttermilk followed me and a bag of carrots up a hastily made ramp of two 2’ x 6’ boards with a few 2’x 4’ cross pieces nailed to keep her from slipping, into the back of their two ton 4’ high truck bed. She did love carrots, and the cowboys thought the local stockyard should know about us.

Over time Brownie became a neighborhood icon, folks watching as she approached calving or when she was in another field having a fit because a calf was being butchered. The man who did our field killing told us he had never seen a cow like her. She could see or hear his truck about 3/4th of a mile away, and she would meet him at the corner of our property that was ringed by the road, and run along side the truck bellowing at him constantly until he disappeared around the bend on the way to someone else’s place. We always removed her when we were butchering, but she would run right to the spot after the truck was gone and stamp on the ground and snort. It was almost enough to get you to quit eating meat.

One year, we were gone at calving time, and a neighbor on the way to work spotted the new calf. He returned home to grab some Bocee and a banding gun. After he had doctored and banded our little new born boy he trotted off to work. About 30 minutes later, another neighbor and his wife stopped by having noticed the newborn calf. A shot of Bocee was administered and when he turned the calf over to band it, he uttered, “well I’ll be, this puppy was born banded”!! Actually his language was a little more colorful than that but you get the idea.

One time Brownie developed a deep split in her hoof and it badly needed trimming and someone skilled to look at it. I called a horse shoer who would have all the tools and some knowledge of this kind of injury. When he learned we did not have a chute, he would have nothing to do with it.

We called a new young vet, asking him if he would at least examine her. He reluctantly agreed and after the exam agreed it needed trimming and cleaning. But without a chute he was not sure. Carrots, I said, this will work. Dubious, but willing to give it a go, he retrieved his equipment and I retrieved a bucket full of carrots and molasses flavored oats. Then I tied her to a fence post, and offered her the goodies while picking up her foot. He proceeded to trim, file, and clean up this nasty little hoof injury without so much as a twitch. He became the family vet and pretty enamored with Brownie, our Milking Angus.

A few years later I found her newly calved and down on the ground, awake but in deep shock and covered with frost. I grabbed some sleeping bags and covered her up while we put in an emergency call for the vet, assuming calcium or magnesium issues since she had just delivered. He arrived with the magic IVsolution, but by the time he got there so had all the neighbors, so this crowd of onlookers were pretty concerned. She did not get up after the first bottle was administered, and it took a second. By now he had broken into a big time sweat. After she got on her feet, we asked if he was ok, “yes,” he said, “There was just a lot of pressure treating the neighborhood Milking Angus”.

In 17 years Brownie produced 15 calves, and only one was lost due to severe birth defects. She was a sweet little mama, and never lost her pet like qualities with us, or the kids and grandkids. In her 17th year, she broke an ankle, and was in a great deal of pain so it was clear the era of Brownie The Milking Angus was over. But pictures still grace our albums including the pictures of her first calving. We were so excited, we sat on a near by rock pile to record the event. She in typical behavior was more interested in the possibility that we might have brought a carrot to the event."

~Nancy Petersen

Monday, September 1, 2014

On Saving Lives: Meet Miss Ellie

Meet Miss Ellie. She's affectionately been nicknamed "little dog" around here and she is so quiet and relaxed that you'd hardly know she was here if I didn't introduce you. I saved her life.


She has been here almost three months which has given me plenty of time to get to know her so that I can tell you about her.


When I picked her up, just before her "deadline," literally, I took her straight to the vet. She was tested for heartworm (negative), internal parasites (negative), and given her vaccinations (she will need her 3-year Rabies vax in June of 2015). The only thing she was treated for was what looked to be a long-term issue with ear-infections in both ears with the left ear being the most severe. This might need attention from time to time. Anti-inflammatory medications were administered and while she needs a re-check of this currently, it has not caused a significant problem. She is due to be spayed in the next week or so and her ear will be looked at also.


There are so many great things about Ellie that I think I need to use bullet points. Seriously. I cannot put them all into complete sentences or we'd be here for a solid 16 paragraphs.

I know what you might be thinking at this point: "Why is she up for adoption if she is so wonderful?"

Good question. My answer to that is this: Because at first, I desperately wanted to keep Ellie for my own. I told my mentor with the rescue that I wanted to adopt her. And then......I realized that Ellie was not 100% happy. I wanted to keep her for selfish reasons. But I knew in my heart of hearts that Ellie was meant for one special person and as difficult as it was to admit, I knew it wasn't me. So, after about 6 weeks, I told my mentor that Ellie was officially on the market and that finding her special person would be the focus. And that of course, she was welcome to stay here at Hope Farms as long  as it took.

Sweet and Kind

  • Calm - on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being as calm as they come & 5 being super energetic - Ellie is a .75
  • Sweet - Ellie is sweet to everyone: dogs, cats, children, adults - you name it. She has this thing she does when she comes up to you - she'll put her paw on you if you don't pay attention to her. So cute. 
  • Potty-trained - the only time Ellie ever had an accident was when she was not feeling well.
  • Easy to bathe - no shenanigans from this girl, she actually likes it!
  • Easy to groom and medicate - she's easy-peasy to get along with. Seriously, she's a dream.
  • Leash friendly - we are on almost four fenced acres, so a leash is rarely used here, however, it would take no time at all for her to be trained to "heel, sit, stay, etc." if someone were to spend just a few minutes a day with her on these basic commands.
  • Obedient - she knows what "no" means.
  • Content - Ellie is content to lay at your feet, inside, all day long. She LOVES to be inside, with you, all the time. A true companion dog, Ellie thrives by being with her person. My recommendations are that she be homed with a retired or home-based person that is home the majority of the time. While Ellie would be fine on her own for hours on end, even with other dogs, (here is where my heart of hearts comes in...) she is happiest when she is with someone for the majority of the day/evening. *Disclaimer: when Ellie first arrived here, she had some separation-anxiety issues. She barked and whined when we first had to leave her in her crate for the few times that we would leave the farm. She likes her crate but it is not necessary to have one for her. After about a week, she had no incidents of barking or whining. She knew that she was safe and settled down, even when we would leave the farm.
  • A healthy eater - Ellie has a good appetite but is not an over-eater. She is tickled at dinner-time and shows her excitement by a wagging tail, a happy smile and occasionally the "circle of happiness" where she turns in a few circles on her way to her food dish. I have never observed any food aggression in Ellie. I let my 9-year old son feed her and I have actually put my hand in her bowl with her food while she is eating. She's a carefree gal.
  • The perfect size: She is just over 30 pounds - give or take. She is at her mature size.
  • Young, but not too young: Ellie has been estimated by the veterinarian to be between 2 and 3 years - again, give or take. 
  • Car-Rider Extraordinaire - she LOVES to go for car rides and behaves very nicely. In fact, she loves to go for rides so much that she will just about jump into anyone's vehicle. Watch that. ;-)
  • What IS she? We think Miss Ellie is mostly Border Collie but we're not entirely sure. Her energy level and other physical and conformational characteristics tell us otherwise. She's perfect just the way she is, though, don't you agree?
If you are, or know someone who might be, interested in Miss Ellie and think that you might be a good match for her, please send an email to and request an application. 

Also, go to to their Facebook page and "Like" it. Also, invite your friends. The more folks know about rescues and how to help, the more we can bring light to the needs of the animals around us. It start with just one. After Ellie, I will probably save another life. I cannot save them all. I do get overwhelmed when I see the massive need. But it starts with one and what a difference it makes in the life of THAT ONE, yes?

If you are interested in fostering or donating, please contact Friends of Stanly County Animals via either their Facebook page or the email listed above. They could really use the help. Even if just ONE of you does ONE thing, it will help. 

Here is what this rescue organization does and how you can help:

"Friends of Stanly County Animals Rescue is looking for individuals/families who want to make a difference by being a part of rescue. We welcome you in any capacity but we are in need of fosters. We save dogs from Animal Control but we also save them from other circumstances. We take owner surrenders and very often we intervene to keep animals from going to AC. We provide the vetting, food, leash, collar, toys, and crate. We prefer our dogs are inside dogs so you would help with the potty/crate training (some come to us trained). Basically fosters are getting them ready for their forever family. You would simply give the love and attention that every animal (even humans) needs. We will work with you and find out what fits your need best...short term and/or long term. Fosters for pups, young dogs, and older dogs. Fosters for small and big dogs. Fosters are how we save lives. If you are interested please contact us at"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our Story

We all have "a story," don't we? The thing about our stories, though, is that they are ever-changing. Evolving. Progressing. Becoming refined. And not one of them is exempt from the bad and the ugly.

And the blessing, here, is that each chapter builds the next - the foundation of false starts, hard-times, and heartache all contribute to the present. Which, as you all know, is a gift.

On Saturday our friend Martha stopped by the farmers' market to say hello and that she really enjoyed reading our article in the Stanly News and Press.

Wait, what? I hadn't been aware that it was going to come out so soon! It seemed just like last week when Shannon Beamon, a staff writer for the SNAP had pulled up in the driveway, the skies threatening rain. We had met Shannon once before at a pizza night over at Fair Meadow Bakes.

While Shannon and I meandered around the farm between the garden, raised beds, greenhouse and pasture - we chatted about how this family arrived in North Carolina from California. We also explored the why, the how, and the results of our figurative detours along the way. Eventually we sat at our dining room table, with her asking questions and me answering them, while often finding myself off on a tangent. A story cannot be told in just an hour. There's a fraction of a lifetime of information to gather and organize!

As Shannon left I thought, "I hope I didn't make us out to sound like pompous asses." Even though I know we are not pompous asses, there are the perceptions of others to consider. Or, are there? Maybe a story gets its uniqueness from the interpretations and perceptions.

There are certainly misinterpreted parts of our stories. The parts where people perceive a statement one way, when really the truth is the opposite, or at least another version of the perception.

There were a few mistakes in this story, like the "motor-home" we traveled across the country in? It was a 1982 GMC one-ton dually, a 6-liter diesel, pick up truck. Slower than molasses in January. And not real comfortable to sleep in, which we did several times.

Also, I don't paint. I'm not good at it, but Captain Strong Arms painted this entire house, by himself, with one brush. Two coats, mind you. And that was AFTER he scraped, sanded, and caulked. THEN he primed it before he began painting - with that SAME brush.

It's true, I did make a lot of sandwiches. And chase a perpetually-active toddler. Most of all, I was one-third of a role in the building of our story. And I have taken a lot of photos along the way.

While we do use solar-power, it has nothing to do with the outdoor wood stove that heats our hot water and in the winter time heats our house. Those are two separate entities. And two separate stories. Like the one where we didn't have electricity for three months while we were saving our pennies for the solar panels.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed that tidbit of our story. As Dr. Who says, "I’ll be a story in your head, but that’s okay, because we’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?"

Monday, July 28, 2014

How To Ruin A Rural Farmers' Market in Five Easy Steps

1. Disagree with your Vice President, Market Manager and Board Members on everything. Accuse them of ganging up on you. Complain that local printers, local artists and local newspaper advertising is too expensive and avoid making any decisions (for years). Postpone everything until 'the next meeting.' Important: be very clear that your local products are "worth it," and that if more local folks would buy it, you wouldn't have such a hard time making ends meet. And you certainly wouldn't have to get a winter-time job.

2. Assume that "someone else" will take care of the responsibilities of the market; legally, logistically, physically and so on. Act surprised that things aren't going well. Implement rules and regulations that everyone must follow, but make exceptions on your own without notifying everyone else involved. Don't forget to make statements like, "well, we don't really have it in the budget...." when there is over $10,000 in the bank.....makes complete sense, yes?

3. Talk behind everyone's back. Ask personal questions of others in the group, that are none of your business, about the status of their mortgage (or lack-thereof), and whether or not they need to make money because they do or do not have a car payment, as well as make assumptions about every other part of their lives. Gossip as much as possible, it's what makes your world go 'round, after all. And most certainly, gossip with very close friends of the folks you hate the most - it makes everyone extremely comfortable and maintains the "team" spirit.

4. Treat the market manager like $h!t. Pretend that individual does not know what they are doing and take them for granted (for years). Pile as much work on them as possible and make them feel bad when you don't make enough money that week. Never offer to help put up signs, make phone calls, organize entertainment or hand out flyers. Do not respond to weekly emails so said manager can put a newsletter out showcasing what the market will have available. And certainly do NOT answer an email that requests a meeting LONG before the market season begins. Make executive decisions that you feel will benefit you personally, without exploring and researching all of the effects of your decision making process and at the VERY LEAST, make it a LAST MINUTE decision that causes havoc and wreaks chaos among all members of the farmers' market FOR OPENING DAY. And, by all means, call the market manager at home and scream into their ear that they made you look like a fool in front of your "professional colleague" because the manager made a decision to over-ride YOUR executive decision in order not to put the general public, vendors, or anyone else in physical danger. Be sure to hang up rudely after you bitch at their spouse, too.

5. Lastly, after the market manager resigns from their (volunteer, unpaid) position, go on as if nothing every happened, and NEVER, ever apologize for any mistakes you might have made. Ever. In fact, blame all of the problems you have on everyone else. Then, be sure to wonder how it all got done as the market is in the final stages of ruin. Look around for someone to blame.

Come on, "start a farmers' market, it'll be fun" they said.

Why I Don't Blog More Often

All sorts of funny thoughts, ideas and quips run through my mind at any given moment throughout the day. Sometimes I remember them, and sometimes they slip down memory lane without so much as a footprint. When I do manage to capture moments with a photograph I immediately have the best of intentions to share them with you, dearest, loyal readers reader.

And then: I get too busy. Or, sometimes, that can be read: lazy. After all, Captain Strong Arms DOES call me the Fair Weather Farmer. And I wholeheartedly agree.

The quotes, colloquialisms, the quips, the funnies, the not-so-funny-thoughts and sometimes downright sad, dreary realities don't get written down. They just float.

At least the photographs are recorded. Even if they just float, they still exist, they are tangible. As tangible as a file on a USB storage device can be, that is.

These things are everywhere. Who did all this?
Although this blog was intended to be a farm blog - what it really is, is a realistic representative of life when it comes to being a wife, mother, homeschooler, market-garden grower in the midst of any season - it's going to just float, too.

One of my favorite quotes is, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." ~John Lennon

In other news:

Hattie the cow is doing well. She is producing over a gallon and a half of milk, which is really nice (see biscuits I made this morning). Last Friday she got her hooves trimmed. It took two individuals pulling on a carefully and strategically placed rope threaded over and about her body to "lay her down," but it was over in about 10 minutes. No stress, no sedation (which can be really dangerous for cows - did you know that?) and her pedicure is complete. We love our vet. Dr. Amy comes highly recommended by us.

Hattie is a lazy cow. We like her that way.
Maybelle the goat is........a goat. She's a solitary goat, by the way, which I found out the hard way early this spring when I brought home a sweetie of a Pygmy goat named Butterfly, which Maybelle promptly and repeatedly butted until she hid under the milking stand. For a week straight. Butterfly has a new home now, and she just gave birth to a kid not long ago. She doesn't have any bullies butting her now. Maybelle is happy as a single goat still giving a quart of milk a day in her 16th month of lactation. I do think this fall we'll try to find her a husband. For a day. For the remaining 364 days she will harass Hattie and look at me as her BFF.

I'm not B'aaaaad. I'm just a goat.
Spencer and Deets, the resident equine lawn mowers are currently making the rounds out and about around the house. The grass finally began to grow after we received an inch or so of rain last week after almost 30 days of utter. and. complete. dryness. Phew! While they always have hay available, they like the salad bar that is the unmowed grass right now. It's pretty cool to sit here at the computer (in the air-conditioning) and look out the window as they walk by.

The boys.
Duck news: We adopted a lovely young lady named Topper a few weeks ago - she's a Pekin duck, and has now integrated herself into the small flock of three other Pekin ducks. What's special about Topper is that her mom, Suzie, found her at a large chain farm and garden store. Topper had wry neck and Suzie saved her, raised her in the house and eventually Topper lived mostly outside and somewhat with Suzie's chickens. But Topper was lonely for duck-company. So, she came to live here. What happened next surprised even me. Topper and Hattie became BFF. Topper circles Hattie's legs and catches the flies that land on her legs, belly and Hattie even lowers her head for Topper to get the flies from Hattie's face. Amazing. Just....amazing.

Chicken news: they are still laying eggs, thank goodness, even through this heat-wave/drought/humidity attack that is the North Carolina summer that we all know and love. I love chickens - that is all.

Dog news: Since I wrote last, CJ - our Aussie/Heeler boy that was born here on Thanksgiving of 2007 - has gone on to Rainbow Bridge. After his diagnosis of diabetes in January, we were never able to get his blood-sugar regulated. We injected him twice daily with insulin, adjusted his diet, tried blood-sugar stabilizing herbal supplements, as well as hydrating him with subcutaneous fluid treatments. He continued to decline. And then one day, in not so many words, he told us that he was finished with his time here. So we obliged. But we miss him every single day.

CJ ~2007 to 2014~
As an aside, we rescued a dog in June from Stanly County Animal Control with the help of Friends of Stanly County Animals - this "little dog" is very sweet and gets along very well here with everyone, cats included. Sam couldn't care less either way about another dog. She's still her own person. Er, ahem, dog.

That's all I feel like writing about for now, we'll see if I can manage another post before August comes and goes. 

Meanwhile, if you come to see us: Ring bell, if no answer pull weeds.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tranquil Tuesday

There has not been much time for writing lately, and although two full months have gone by since my last post, it seems like the celebration of the New Year was just last week. It isn't that I'm busier than usual, it's just that I've allowed some priorities to rest and some to rise above the hustle and bustle.

One thing I have been doing is taking the time to take photographs. Enjoy!