Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year


I didn't write much all year.  It was a hard, sweet year saying goodbye to two elders in my life, and quite consuming.  In March, to my papa, who helped me so much on this little farm.  83 is a good, long life, so we can't say we were cheated out of time with him--but I miss him terribly.  My dad really liked driving out the 40 miles from his Minneapolis home to work around the farm, building chicken feeders and nest boxes, indoor pens and outdoor chicken yard;  later, sheep feeders and salt boxes-- then rebuilding the old sheep lean-to.  He grew up on a farm, and after raising us in the city, liked experiencing the animals and farm decisions all over again.  From his ancient vocabulary came words like "Clucks"-- the name for a broody hen, and "the dead furrow"-- the furrow at the edge of a field where rain water pools, having nothing planted in it.  He enthusiastically showed us how to butcher chickens and ducks-- and how to use his shotgun for unwelcome animals. 
A picture from Dad's last visit to the farm.  My mom, their  slightly younger friend, and my dad  on the right, talking to Howard, obscured, next to him.

From my garden, I made him pickled beets; liver pate and whole roasting birds from our chicken flock; and he was delighted when we brought orphan lambs to his house, one Easter Sunday.
He wired the chicken house, the pig barn and the granary for me, being a retired electrician.  He taught me how to use power tools when he was in his 60s and I in my 40s-- and how to tie bundles of brush when you cut a tree down.  He left me his miter saw, which we used to cut up cords of small firewood together.

I couldn't use tools all of 2011 because it made me too sad.  Finally, in December, firewood needed cutting and I got out the miter saw... and it was fun to remember him while working.

The other elder I lost was my old friend, Paul, who left his life in my hands when he had a stroke 2 years ago.  He was my "job" (as his guardian) all of 2010, a sweet obligation.  In May, 2011 he died suddenly,  a blessing, considered so by his many friends.  By then, I was getting pretty good at arranging end-of-life care, and we honored him well.

All of this overshadowed the farm life-- which was full and rich on its own.  We had 36 lambs born-- the most ever.  Our four, mature finnsheep ewes  had their first triplets (3 sets) and quads (one set).  My little family worked so well together, all year.

Emily insisted we have another big vegetable garden, and we all took care of sheep, meeting the buyers, transporting sheep to new homes-- until our little flock was down to 22 again.

Now the sheep are calmly waiting until the excitement of lambs in springtime.  The gardens are all trimmed up, though curiously lacking the snow cover of a normal, January, Minnesota winter!  It's been above freezing many, many days this winter, and snow exists only in shady patches.

I'll put some photos in here soon.

Happy New Year, everyone.

3 comments:

Kelly Bartels said...

I am so sad to hear of your dear father passing Gail. The sweet things you said about him made my heart sad and warm all at the same time. It sounds as if both men were very lucky indeed to have you in their lives.
Happy New Year to you as well.

Gail V said...

Thank you, Kelly-- sad and warm-- the memories have the same effect on me. I appreciate your comment.

Nancy K. said...

What a sweet blog post Gail! I'm so sorry for your father's passing. Even when it's time, we still miss them so. Such a loving tribute ~ I bet he's proud of his girl!

Wishing you a happy and successful 2012!