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The colour of winter

Winter seems to have come suddenly. If you look outside everything is shedding its summer glory. The branches are close to bare. The grass has lost its lush green appeal. There is an abundance of mud. It litters the verges and makes great appearances at the gates to the fields. The cattle squelch through it, making a once beautiful green field, look dirty and untidy. I am beginning to get distraught at the sight of my horse’s legs. Mud. The sure-fire signal that winter is here.

The early frosts have killed off what little autumn flowers remained. My garden suddenly needs to be cleared. Soggy brown flowers lay where once beautiful colours stood in all their glory. The fallen leaves gather in every corner. Covering my grass in a thin layer of brown. It all needs tidied. Everything suddenly looks unclean. The dirtiness of winter.

It’s wet and cold. The sky carries a perpetual grey tinge. It’s dark for longer than it is light. Soon we will get up and go to bed in the darkness. Rush though our day making the most of the light. Feed the cattle while we can still see them. As the darkness threatens, I stand with cold fingers, outside the school gates. Rushing up to the stable to take in the horses as the daylight slips quickly away. Darkness falls like the flick of a switch. Sudden and unforgiving.

One side of the winter. Brown, cold, wet and dark.

You can be forgiven for thinking I dislike winter. Winter is hard. Winter is ugly. But in winter there is also beauty.

The cattle will soon come home from the grass. The cold byre suddenly filled with life. The empty will be full to the brim. The satisfying sound as they feast on the summers preserves. The golden straw laying a bed. The warmth of the gold against the cold outside. The cattle have done well off the grass this year. Well covered with healthy coats. A beautiful sight in preparation for the calving ahead. Natures beauty.

The morning frosts bring cold fingers. All around a tinge of white. A furry sparkle. Each remaining brown leaf given a covering of beauty. Looking closely, you can see each individual strand of ice. The dull converted to shimmer and sparkle. No more are they showing the ugliness of the winter.

The later sunrise means every morning I am rewarded with the signal of a winters dawn. Deep shades of orange and red streak across the hill tops. The sun climbing to its, now lower, height in the sky. Winter rewards your perseverance with a few minutes of silent beauty. I revel in the silence of the orange. The sky slowly brightening. The birds begin to break the silence with their chorus. The new day is here. Nature is firmly grounding my life into the realisation of the bigger picture. A vibrant reminder of the blessings of life. I stand in thankfulness.

The challenges of winter are head of us. A farmer’s winter is a harsh reality. Long dark days of heavy work. It is all too easy, while amongst the labour, to forget the beauty. It’s harder to see. It’s hidden deeper. It’s shorter and faster. But it’s there. Our reward for the challenge. Subtle but strong.

Sarah x

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Granda’s Squirrels

The boys love to watch the birds. We have a little feeding station right outside our sitting room window. At this time of year its full of garden birds. I fill the feeders daily. The birds flying to the fence to watch me filling up. I am no sooner finished, and they are back. Cameron especially loves the birds. Last Christmas I bought them a window feeder. It sucks on to the window, so you get a beautiful view of them feeding. The older boys take immense pleasure in seeing the cat watching the birds. She sits on the window ledge, ever so still. Then there is a thump as she jumps at them through the window. She doesn’t seem to learn that she can’t catch them. Of course, this appeals to a boys wicked sense of humour. ‘Mum, that dumb cat is hitting the window again!’ .A source of great entertainment

This year the boys have decided they want squirrels to come to the feeders. It all started when someone at nursery mentioned that they were heading out that afternoon to dump their pumpkins in the woods. Being oblivious and intrigued, I asked why. I was informed that squirrels love to eat them. I had never heard that before, ours go in the compost bin. But this sounded like a great idea. Squirrel food.

So, I headed to Dr Google to ask his opinion. I’m very glad I did. My friend was right, squirrels (and birds) love pumpkins. There were lots of ideas about chopping it up and placing it in the branches of trees and on the ground for wildlife. Squirrels will love to chew on it. I also found a great idea of turning it into a feeder. You basically stick it with skewers and hand it up, filled with seeds.

That’s what they wanted to do. Make a hanging bird and squirrel feeder. Sounds good to me. Yesterday we set out to do just that. It didn’t quite go to plan. The beautiful pumpkin bird feeder displayed on Pinterest, was far from our reality. We decided to chop it up rather than display my pathetic attempt.

This of course, lead to great discussions about squirrels. Although we live right next to woodland we don’t see many squirrels. There are squirrels out there, but we don’t see them very often. We often find nibbled acorns and other tell-tale signs of their existence. But very rarely do I see a squirrel.

When my father in law was very ill, he was in care at a local community hospital. It is located very close to woodland. Outside the window by his bedside, there were huge feeders filled to the brim with peanuts. It was at these feeder that there were dozens of red squirrels. It was a beautiful sight to see. I had never seen so many squirrels. Our Lewis still talks of the cheeky squirrels outside the hospital stealing the birds nuts.

With a promise to investigate squirrel attracting methods, we headed outside. Talking fondly of their Grandfather and just what he might think to see us today. I am sure he would call me crazy. You’ll never see a squirrel quine, you lot are far too noisy. I can just imagine his laughter. I couldn’t help the tear in my eye. Lewis, seeing my expression, hugged me and said, ‘don’t look so sad Mummy, we might get to see one of Granda’s squirrels if we are really lucky!’ You never know, we might be lucky.

Sarah x

Going it real

Its that time when your vision and the reality don’t quite line up.

I’ve had that dawning moment of reality.

Its November.
It’s cold.
It’s nearly Christmas.

Yes, that’s right, its nearly Christmas. Someone will now inform me just how few sleeps there are left. Social media is going to town on how many sleeps to go. But let’s not go there. I am not yet prepared for the gleaming white reality.

So, back to November. Its November. I haven’t yet started my Christmas shopping. I’ve said it. I haven’t started. That’s not strictly true. I have ordered one gift, which is going to be delivered to my parent’s house later this week. That aside, I have nothing else. Not a selection box or biscuit assortment. I have a few things stashed from throughout the year, but nothing worth writing about.

Problem two. I don’t have a Christmas tree.

Last year I thought I would be smart and buy myself a living tree. Yes, a living tree. It’s just like a real tree, but its rooted and you can reuse it year on year. It comes in a pot and all you need to do is take care of it. I chose a Douglas Fir, and we baptised him Dougie. In came Dougie, we found him a place in our home. Not too close to the radiator, I will tell you why I knew that later. There he was, settled in place. He was a little over a meter tall, a small lad with an average sized pot. But he looked great.

Dougie was serving us well. He didn’t drop his needles. He had a beautiful smell. He looked much better that an artificial one. I loved him. I just had to keep him alive. There lies the key. Keep him alive. He was, at this point, alive. But if he could talk I think he may well have told me he was feeling a little off colour. But his lack of voice left me oblivious. I thought he was doing just fine. The manual told me I was to put him out as soon as possible. He wanted to be outdoors. I was to ‘heel him in’ to the garden. Basically, that’s just dig a wee bit and shove him in until the ground allows us to make a proper hole for him.

All was good. Dougie saw us through Christmas and on the 30th I decided we would put him outside. Dougie was heavy, he was full of earth, and spiky, very spiky. Getting him out was no mean feat. I dragged him outside. Found a place to heel him in. I stood back and took a good look at him. Truth be told, he wasn’t that pretty. He was a little brown on one side. He had lost quite a few needles. But none the less he was outside, were I’m told he wanted to be, and he should be fine.

A few weeks later, or maybe a few months if I’m being honest, I would look out at Dougie. It wasn’t good. Dougie didn’t make it. I was disappointed. I couldn’t even keep a tree alive! This came as no surprise to Michael. He had always said I wouldn’t manage to keep him living. That I should just buy an artificial one. I didn’t want an artificial one. I wanted a living one. But, of course, he was proved right.

Now, after I’ve told you the tale of Dougie, I will let you into a little secret. The previous year I would purchase Norman. The Nordman Fir. He too was living. He too died. I had mistakenly placed him in a prime position. Beside the radiator. After a bit of research, I had realised that was my mistake. He didn’t like it too warm. I had killed him well before heeling in time. He looked awful by the 25th.

I had made a huge improvement last year. Dougie had made it to the outdoors still alive. He is no longer pretty and alive, but he had lasted longer than Norman had. I think I deserve some credit for my improvement.

This year I haven’t quite decided what I am going to do. I don’t want an artificial one. I want a real tree. I hate that they drop needles. I hate that we have chopped down this tree to make a place in our home. I really want a living one. But I don’t have the greatest track record behind me. It’s a dilemma.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sarah x

Fun in the sun

There’s nothing more satisfying than spending some time having fun with your family. Being a mother of many is by no means easy. There are times when just getting out the door is difficult. What is a simple trip to the supermarket is 5 minutes just to get into the car. Then of course all the drama when we are actually in there. We do everything as a family. Not always by choice, by need. On a daily basis. It’s most often not pleasurable. But last weekend we spent a bit of time enjoying the sun as a family.

I have to admit, I hate play parks. I hate going to a play park and sitting there getting cold. I get irritated going around the climbing frame helping the little ones climb up. I am quietly pleased by having the older ones there to help. That makes me sound terrible. But I know some of you will say the same. I’ve been going to play parks for more than 10 years, I think I’m allowed to hate them.

The weekend brought some May sunshine. No wind and a nice warm day. Avoiding they play park it was a perfect day for the horses. We now have two horses. My mare and God’s gift pony, also known as Domino. The little pony has been backed before but not ridden much. He hasn’t been ridden since coming to me so we thought we would give it a shot.

Lewis on Domino
Lewis looking proud of his pony

Now to give you a good impression, Dom is wide. Rather wide. He’s currently chubby. He was fat and I suspect he will again be fat. He seems to gain weight from air alone. He’s a lot like a cartoon pony. Spends a considerable amount of time being crazy. By crazy I mean a bit blonde. Random rearing and squealing. Rolling as you try to lead him in from the field. Throwing buckets at us. Trying to eat clothing. Not in the slightest bit malicious, just general oddness.

 So, with the adjustable saddle in hand we tacked up and decided to go for it. My mother being a worrier, was ready to lay an egg at the prospect of her precious little grandchildren riding on this crazy pony. What if he decides to roll while someone is on? She was terrified. I was more concerned about my saddle if he did! Anyway, to prevent the egg laying I would get on and give it a try first. He’s just a little lad. But none the less I would get on. He was very good and well-mannered enough. A few pony club kicks and he got the idea that I was in fact, not just sitting there as a decoration. He was responsive and the brakes were semi working. All was good.

Lead rope attached and Granda in the lead, we rode out. The children taking turns. More stopping and swapping than actual going. I think Domino was more impressed with the grass snacks along the tack at the change-over points, than the actual riding. He was well mannered and did a fantastic job. The kids were very happy indeed.

Scott on Domino
Scott with Domino and me trying to stop Arwen snacking!

 

Cameron however decided he couldn’t possibly walk any further. He had to lay down on the ground. But when I asked if he wanted to ride up on Arwen with me, he jumped up quickly, feeling suddenly much better! He was not in the slightest bit worried about being on top of a nearing 16hh TBx. Yee Haa Arwen, lets run. Maybe not! Arwen was as usual perfectly behaved when ridden. She’s not so perfect on the ground. But when she’s ridden she’s such a lovely mare. Cameron loved her. She even got a kiss from him.

Riding horses back image (2)
A favourite picture on mine, Cameron hiding up in front of me

It was a beautiful day and we all had fun. I think it may have taken us double the time it would usually take me but it was well worth it. Bikes, dogs, horses and children. A recipe for fun and laughter. Much better than any play park!

Sarah x

 

Living and Growing!

 

Being a parent means teaching your child about life. Answering their questions and guiding them into the right choices. But sometimes those questions can lead into more questions. Then even more questions.

 

At school this week the older boys have been getting varying degrees of sex education. From the proper name’s onwards. It started with Stuart. He came out of school with a peculiar expression, stating that today they had done a bit of living and growing. I suddenly remembered the email from school pre-warning of the upcoming teachings. That’s good, what was it like? His expression said it all. Emm, about proper names of the girl’s and boy’s bits. It’s a little disturbing!

 

Holding back my laughter I said that we could talk about it when we got to the stable. On the way there, with the other boys in the car, he would describe how things were and the names. Being all boys they weren’t in the least concerned about knowing what a penis was. But the description for the girls was met with much more concern. “Did you know Scott, that a girl’s bits are called a bajina.” I snorted with laugher, as did our Steven who is 2 years older. After sorting out the naming issues I explained to Scott, who is only 7, that its where the babies come out.

 

On arrival at the stable the conversation moved swiftly on to the farm. So, do cows and sheep have vaginas? Yes, they do. I explained that when I have my arm inside the sheep to get the lambs out that my arm is inside the sheep’s vagina. Laughter erupted from Stuart and Steven. Scott was horrified. That’s disgusting Mum. So, when Dad has his whole arm inside the cow, it’s in the vagina? That’s right. Wow, cows have big vaginas! By this point I had tears streaming down my face with laughter.

 

Mum? Yes Scott? So, when you had us, did the doctors have their arm inside your vagina? Oh dear, it’s all gotten a little out of hand! After explaining that humans most definitely don’t get their babies pulled out by the arms and there are no doctors putting their arms inside vaginas, the colour retuned to Scott’s face. We ended the conversations by explaining that animals and babes are born slightly differently. That the animals come out feet first and babies come out head first. I’m sure we may have opened a can of worms.

 

I think society may have taught children too much already. I certainly think children are subjected to more than they were 30 years ago. I don’t remember thinking any of this at their age. But my Mum may tell a different story. I don’t think it’s possible to shelter them from everything. In fact, I think that would be wrong. It’s great that schools are on the ball and teaching our children what they need to know. They have a tried and tested method that’s open and easy going.

 

I got plenty questions this time round and I am sure there will be more over the weeks. I might be lucky in that I can relate it back to a farm animal. Making it easy for the younger ones to understand. I know they are younger but they will talk to each other, I can’t stop that. I just need to be more prepared than I was. Especially since Steven announced that they were watching a video about the S word. It’s going to get worse!

Sarah x

 

Embracing Kondo

As a mother of many I feel I spend a great deal of time tidying up. More time that I would like. I travel though my house tidying as I go. I have a reasonably large house and by the time I get back to where I have started, someone has undone all my work. An ongoing battle. A battle with stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

Those of you who know me well will know that I have a weakness for Pinterest. Yes ok, I love it. I admit. While I have spent lots of time tidying I have also spent lots of time looking for better storage ideas and quicker tidying methods. You know what? It doesn’t work. No matter how good a tidier you are, you will never get on top of the stuff. I am a good tidier. I’m proud of my tiding. But it doesn’t get any better. I don’t want to spend my life cleaning and organising. I want to enjoy my life and my children. Many will now say; your children are only children once. Ignore the mess. But I can’t. It makes me mentally distressed. I cannot sit in a mess and feel free. There is no freedom in clutter.

The other day I stumbled across Marie Kondo. I have seen her folding techniques before and have heard of her being this minimalist guru but never really considered it. Seeing some before and after pictures of an avid readers house I decided to investigate further. ‘The life-changing magic of tidying up’ her extremely successful book. On reading the article and many more it linked to, I concluded that this girl was a little crazy. I mean come on, thanking my discarded objects for being in my life. Just a tad strange. But, since some upcoming changes may lead to a house move, I decided to give it a try. I will not move to a new house and bring all this clutter!Marie Kondo

The Konmari strategy. By following Feng Shui principles and abandoning the traditional organising tactics, she has created a onetime method. You need never repeat the extensive purge. Tidying thereafter should be quick and stress free. The basic principles are simple. Follow the plan, by the rules, and you will be clutter free. Simple. Although, she does say this could take anything from a few days to 6 months. I don’t have 6 months and I’m pretty sure I can’t do it in a few days!

 

The action plan:

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Paper work
  • Miscellaneous
  • Sentimental items

She believes by following her order you will find it easier to purge. I can see why she suggests sentimental items last. By that point, you should be well seasoned and have felt much freedom from purging, that you have the power to tackle the hardest last. Or it could be starting with the biggest burden first. I know myself and all my children have far too much clothes.

 

The method:

  • Visualise life clutter free

She asks for more than just imaging your home free of clutter. Imagine your life clutter free. What would you do if you had more space and time. For me, an easier house to keep tidy would leave me time to spend with my family without feeling stressed about mess. For others, it may be space to have a crafting area or room for a new baby. Whatever that space may hold. It’s time to unlock it.

 

  • Keep only those things that spark joy

By this she means don’t keep anything which is not needed, for any reason other than your own enjoyment. If you love an item, no matter what it is, or what others think, keep it. Endorse your love and hold on to it. Anything else however, get rid of it. She believes that by being surrounded by love your inner peace is promoted.

 

  • Keep what is needed

Although she endorses keeping for joy she also states you must keep for need. I know you don’t really love your toilet cleaning supplies, but you do need them. You must keep them. Joy sparked or not. Same goes for paper work. My collection of cattle records and calving dates certainly don’t spark joy, dread maybe, but I do most definitely need them. She effectively establishes techniques to downscale need, be it with papers or supplies.

 

  • Guilt free purging

Don’t hold on to things just because you would feel guilty to part with them. If you have a necklace that cost a bit of money but you don’t really like it. What joy does this give you? What Joy does it give the necklace? Hidden in your jewellery box where no-one can see. Kept only from guilt, not love. Give it away and serve purpose to your life and that of another who will love the necklace. (I know it’s a bit mad but stay with me)

 

  • One day I might….. Will never come

You kept the torn footstool because one day when you get time you will recover it with new fabric. You kept a dress that you once loved because one day I might repair it or adjust it. Kondo says these ‘one days’ will never come. How many of you have something that you are going to fix one day and that one day has long since passed? I know I have. She describes these as weights to our happiness. The freedom we will feel when we let go of these expectations that we will never achieve.

 

  • Tidy like items all in one place

By pulling all your items of that kind to one place you can see the sheer volume of stuff you have. I know it might sound counterproductive to make more mess by dragging all your clothes to the floor in one room. But when you get them there you discover you have 6 black dresses that you only ever wear at funerals. Do you need 6? Did you even know you had 6? Chances are that it’s a no. You will find things you forgot you had. Unloved things. Things you most likely don’t even need. Taking up space. Making clutter.

 

  • Embrace the freedom and be thankful

This is where it gets a little out there. She recommends thanking your discarded item for touching your life. Thanks for the value it gave you and wish it well in its new life. Your possessions reflect your state of mind. Many items will serve to preserve the past or act as a fear for the future. The items that we hold on to as they are reminders of our past. Be it from happy or sad times. The ones we keep for fear of the future. What if we might need to know this. Kondo endorses living in the now and letting go of the past and leaving the future to worry about itself.

Konmari quote

I don’t know about you but I am fired up for going Kondo on my house and possessions. I’m not sure I can think like my items are alive and give them thanks. But I am looking forward to the freedom she describes. Imagine a life without clutter. Amazing!

I’ll keep you posted

Sarah x

The Easter story for me this year

 

Last weekend was Easter Sunday. A day for celebration. A signal of spring. The arrival of the Easter bunny and the rebirth of our king.

 

It means different things to different people. For some the morning will bring on the Easter Hunt with the Easter Bunny having hidden the eggs for the children to find. The making of the baskets and nests and lots of chocolate eating.

 

This year after a bit of homework, the kids asked me why a bunny? Admitting my ignorance, I decided to have a look. Investigation showed me that the Goddess of Spring, Eostre, was said to have a Hare as her companion. The hare is meant to symbolise fertility. Rabbits having many large litters makes it understandable. Over the years this Hare became an Easter Bunny. The bunny laying coloured eggs in nests the children had made. Originating mainly from Germany.

 

But for us, this year more than last it, was about the Church rather than the chocolate. I was asked to talk at the early morning riverside service about my experience this year with God in my life. How have I seen Jesus’ work? My first thought was that I see God’s work every day. We live in a farming life. Creation is God’s work. Life and birth. His work and creation. The animals and the plants. His new life. To me that’s God’s work. All around me. He made us all. He gave us life. I have always seen God’s work. I just never saw it as his work until recently.

 

But I was asked about how God worked in my life, personally, for me. This year, God gave me a pony. Those of you who have been following me will know about Domino. How a friend’s need and my need came together and answered my prayer. She needed a home for her pony and I needed a pony. God worked and gave us both an answer. An answer that brought tears to my eyes. Every little girl prays for a pony. I got one!

 

But back to Easter. This year I saw the celebration. The hugs and kisses and the joy at the rebirth. He is our Messiah. He came back for us. He washed our sins away. God gave us the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his only son an earthy birth and allowed for his suffering and sacrifice. All to save us. It also stopped all this clean animal sacrificing which to me is a personal bonus.

 

My readings of the Old Testament have highlighted a few questions about Easter to me. It highlights a lot if I am honest but let’s just stick to Easter just now! I can’t find the exact quote I am looking for, but in there somewhere it describes the human birth of Jesus. That made me think. His human birth? So, he was already alive? God gave his only son. He already had a son to give. For me that was a revelation. That he had a son. With instruction from my bible study leader, Janie if you are reading this – that’s you, I was lead back to the story of creation. There was nothing. God created the earth and so on. But no, look carefully. It depends what version you read, I personally have been using the message bible, but even in NIV we see that in Gen 1:26, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. There, let US make mankind in OUR image. That means there was more than just him. His son was there. There was always the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is something else I didn’t know!

 

I already discussed how he fulfilled the Palm Sunday prophesy. But he fulfilled so many more, right though the Easter story. The whole thing really. It was all about Jesus. His (and God’s) ultimate sacrifice. All for us. It’s an amazing story. One we all know. The sadness of Good Friday followed by the joy of Easter Sunday. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (I must feel sorry for her, she’s described as the other Mary, poor girl) discovering the empty tomb. Seeing the angel. Imagine that, seeing an Angel. An Angel of the lord came down from Heaven right there in front of their eyes. Frightening, but amazing.

 

It’s all pretty amazing. The whole Easter story. It’s almost better than Christmas. I have loved Easter this year. Last year I saw Easter as about Jesus and the Church. But this year I understood Jesus and the Church.

 

Happy Easter.

 

Sarah x