SKULLY …the charmed chicken

A farm is a busy place. No matter the size of acreage, or livestock. And sometimes its  easy for the small things to get overlooked or put off until later. Around my farm,  I am notoriously known for saying “I’ll get it later”.   Apparently I say this a lot. When it comes to prioritizing what needs to be get done, I hit the big, important  things hard,  and leave some of the smaller details to catch  later. I try to prioritize as best as one can living on a farm and fighting time and animals and dead lines.

Skully is a silly little bantam hen . We bought her, and about 30 others  at our local farm . One summer afternoon  I found her  in the coop beneath the other rapidly growing chickens.  She was  literally being  pecked to death by her coop mates.  I went in and picked her up. Her head was completely picked clean. There were no feathers, no skin, all you could see was her skull. Her whole head was just bone. It was a miserable hot August day and with her skull  exposed, the minute I sat her down on the ground she ran behind me and stood in the shadows of my legs. Everywhere I walked for the next  half hour she tried to follow . I honestly did not think she would survive with her entire skull open and nothing to cover it. Needless to say…she remained in the barn for most the summer of her own choosing.  (here she is healed, her feathers never returned).

Then this past February…I went out to do chores, and after completing  them for some odd reason I decided to do a bit of house cleaning. I was moving old feed bags, collecting them to burn, and organizing and suddenly out of the corner of my eye..i saw something hanging from the front axle of  my Oliver tractor. Upon closer look it was a chicken.

Here’s where it becomes hard to believe.   I walked over to get a closer look and  IF I HADNT KNOWN BETTER…I would swear someone came into my barn and did this. Poor Skully had gotten into to string somewhere,  and she had it all twisted around her legs, with  probably about a four inches  of twine in between both  her feet. She must have been able to jump from the  ground and was going to perch on the front tire of the tractor. Whether she fell asleep or got startled I am not sure, but she must have lost her balance and literally hung herself upside down with that string perfectly  over the tie rod.   She was motionless. I gasped and pulled her up. She wasn’t moving. The whites of her eyes were all red. There is no telling how long she had hung upside down. I scurried around and found a utility knife, cut the string which was a long endeavor and I held her close to my coat  for a long time.  About 25 minutes she started holding her own head up but it would fall back down every time she tried to keep it up. Another few minutes she was holding her head finally but couldn’t walk…..more time passed. I finally set her up on a barrel away from everything and other chickens walking about the barnyard and gave her some feed to nibble on and just hoped for the best.

Two hours later this what I found.  She was still sitting on the barrel, and she was eating. Mind you she is not a pretty bird,  but her story of survival is sweet and down right encouraging.

About  a month later, …..much to my delight she came walking out of the sheep barn  with two little black chicks following close behind her. She followed me until I tossed a hand full of feed in front of her.  Apparently she has found safety in dwelling with the sheep. She eats out of their dish and drinks from their water .

This is a crazy little farm story…about a silly little black bantam hen, but happenings  like this that keep  my heart and mind alert to all the blessing that are always around me. Even the smallest details need attention in a fast paced busy world.

UPDATE 2015 (July)

Skully has survived and thrived the winter. This year she has raised two sets of baby chicks so far. She is still a very appreciative bird and doesn’t fear me at all, she is a very protective mama hen and each day I count her chicks to be sure she hasn’t lost any.  I STILL KNOW and UNDERSTAND that a goofy chicken is pretty insignificant in a world gone mad, but it still delights me that she has fought such a gallant fight , beat the odds and still here.

Skully 2015

YET…UPDATE  MARCH 2016

Skully

Skully made it through another long winter. We do not house these chickens. They are free to roam and roost in the barns.  For the last two nights when I do chores I hear a lot of clucking and I turn around to see Skully. She is waiting for me to shell some ear corn and toss it on the ground for her. She is really a charmed Chicken for sure. She is sitting on a nest already.  I believe,  she truly knows me because  she never runs from me and talks back when I talk to her.  Her skull is still bald from when I first saved her but she has sure soldiered on in the barnyard.

 

Drinking from my Saucer for my cup has overflowed.

QUESTIONS without answers.

REASONS we may never know.

Why does GOD answer “yes”, “Not at this time” or “ I have a better plan”.

Every day I try to remember to ALWAYS be grateful and appreciate all that is before me and around me. Something is always lurking in the back ground of the day waiting to steel your love, your joy, your calm. We struggle and hustle to make ends meet and pretty soon we (I) end up in what I refer to as my “Robot Mode”…where I am functioning like a machine but not living in the moments with my whole heart and wide awake.

Tragedies generally make all of us step back and reevaluate our lives. Makes us promise ourselves to slow down, take time to breathe and really be awake. Kinder, softer, more loving, easier to forgive and let go of grudges.

This last Mother’s Day, we were blessed to have our three grown children here, their spouses, and all ten grandbabies. It was a full blown loud, crazy fun filled day. We grilled out, the children played in their two story playhouse with 3 slides, the guys pulled the corn planter out of the barn and greased it up so I can plant the fields if the rain stops. After several attempts with the help of the oldest 5 grand kids, the men also ended up helping us corral the sheep. (I haven’t seen our son Thom sprint across a field since his high school days).

At the end of this day, I was presented with a VIDEO of my life. Thomas and Brandy sat down and created the most heartwarming….sweet video. There was not a dry eye in this house including Papa. And the poor little kids kept looking all around and asking “Why is everybody crying”. It was precious.

The thing is, when I was fighting cancer, I remember Brandy ( our daughter in law)  was carrying our first grandchild.  I was so sick and so exhausted (mentally and physically) from all the treatments and doctoring and existing from one apt to another for over an entire year I didn’t think I would be here to see BENJAMIN THOMAS  born. I stood in my kitchen on Sunday and though I would like to think that I am appreciate to God from whom all my blessing flow I was in complete awe that I have ten grandbabies and I have the joy, pleasure, and blessing of KNOWING and HUGGING on each and every one of them. I am so Grateful that we have been able to watch our own children grow up, to see the people they became. Strong, sincere, wise, kind, loving…. well rounded people that we would want to know if they weren’t our own babies.

Benjamin Fishing Ben …..and 9 more grandbabies since him.

Once again I realized…….I’ve done nothing here on Earth to deserve the beautiful life that stood before me and FILLED OUR KITCHEN on Sunday Evening with so much love, and warmth towards one another.

I’m drinking from my saucer for  my cup has overflowed.

I Wear His Coat

Burt & I at his wedding in 1994Burt and I at His wedding in 1994

His name was Burton . He was 37 years older than I.   He was living in our farming community the day that I was brought home from the hospital. We four kids grew up knowing Burt as the friendly kind neighbor who stopped by the farm and sold seed corn to my Dad (Amcorn) and drank a lot of coffee. I grew knowing him as the old white haired guy.

Alas, as is the story, time changes EVERYTHING.  When I was 18,Burt was 55 at this time.  He stopped by our family  farmhouse one week day  and ask if my Dad was home. When I told him he would be soon he ran to town. Burt seemed pretty disappointed. “Well.”….I remember him saying as he rubbed his chin back and forth with his large hand..” Your dad told me I could use his welder and I really need to get this part welded and back on the corn picker.”  I smile and said  “I can hook you up with the welder. ”

This act in itself was hilarious. My folks were in the middle of remodeling the kitchen and while they waited for moms double wall ovens to come in Dad had hooked up the old stove in the basement so we still had an oven. Mind you we had to go from the kitchen, through the dining room, through the new living room and down the stairs to the new part of the  basement to use it.  Allow me to just add to this hilarity that  baking cookies was an Olympic workout.

I unhooked the stove and pushed the wire up through the basement window to Burt who was standing outside in the driveway to retrieve it.   That is all there was to that story. Burt always told me it was then that he saw me as a grown person and not the daughter of that farm couple down the road.

CIRCA  1983. My husband and I had just had our first baby. A sweet little girl born on Easter Sunday. What a Blessing. I took that as a special gift from God, not just our baby girl but that she was born early Easter morn. That next week…on the way home from visiting my parents I was driving past Burt’s farm and he was walking on the road. I pulled the old diesel truck over and he opened the door, and I said “Hey Burt, look what the Easter Bunny brought us”.  OF course he made over our little bundle as do most polite people, but there was a spark in His eyes as he looked her over.  Again, here come that large hand with long over stuffed looking fingers and he so gently reached up to touch her hand and she grabbed ahold of his finger…and he beamed.

I told him he needed to come by my house sometime for coffee whenever he was in my neck of the woods. (Which was just the next town over 8 miles).  And He did.  In fact Burt came to my house at least twice a week for coffee for over twenty six years!  We were like soul mates. Best Friends. We enjoyed so many of the same things in common, and we could talk for hours and never run out of things to say. And oh what a celebration on a rainy day because that meant two pots of coffee or more.  He introduced me to photography and the world always seemed brighter when looking through his lens.

Two more babies were born, and still Burt was around.  He seemed to enjoy our children.  There was a time when my Dad had a slipped disc in his back and early mornings Burt would come to my old trailer and watch my three babies so I could run down to my dads and do his morning chores for him.  For a man that had never had babies of his own…this was a wild adventure.  We laughed about some of those moments over and over again.

In l990 Burt’s wife of 44 years passed. She was never happy on the farm in all those years and used alcohol to console her disappointment. There were no children.  She spent those  years sleeping in the downstairs of the home and Burt spent those years sleeping up stairs. Shortly after her death Burt ask me if I could help him try to clean up his house a little bit.  It had been 44 years of accumulated debris and cats and NOTHING had ever been swept or thrown away. It was a two year process. Still, no matter the dirt and mess  I enjoyed sitting in Burts home drinking coffee with him and listening to his stories of growing up on that farm. His parents owned it before he did.

In the Spring of 1994 Burt came to me and said he wanted to sell his 200 acre farm and he did not want any of the bigger area farmers to have it. He was from the old school and he loved the older way of doing things.  He knew I had no money. We truly were as poor as any church mice you could have ever come across and only GOD KNOWS how we survived.  So he told me what he wanted for the place, and offered me a land contract with a dollar down.  (Not only is that unheard of…..but it has been and will always be the best gift of in my life second only  to our babies).  Burt was to marry his high school sweetheart and he was moving to Indiana. He 68 years old.

Twenty years have come and gone since then. We took this old ram shackled house and turned it into a happy little farmhouse. Its clean, comfortable and country. When we bought the land and later had it all assessed so we could purchase some equipment they would not even put a value on the house,. It had been neglected for 44 years and over 70 cats were living in this house at one time.  When we moved into the house  (April 1994) and I  started to clean the master bedroom upstairs in order  to live in it , I carried  5 gal buckets of dried cat manure out  of the master bedroom alone.   People have NO IDEA how much physical work has gone into this house.  We hired nothing done as it was too costly. Hubby worked away and did not wish to partake of any renovations. So I learned to plaster, plumb, remove, repair, replace windows, sub floors, build decks.  I put the crops in during the spring and I harvested them in the fall.  My husband worked off our farm for a larger farmer.  Several times I was sure I would be in traction by the time I was 50. The load was staggering.

Farm 1930Farm 1990  farm 2014

The farm in 1940 (top left) then 1990 (Top Right) . Bottom …the Farm as she stands today!

As renovations and clean up were under way  Burt was drinking coffee in my house again, but it used to be his house. He loved it. And he would tell me over and over again that some of the changes took his breath away cause that’s how his parents used to do this or that. He kept saying  “I bet my parents are so proud of how you have brought life back to this old place…and I bet they shook their head at me in shame”…..

James McNutt And Gladys (Flagg) Stafford had this dream for only 10 years. Burt’s Dad died in town one day in 1946.  His mom lived her a total of 14 years and she left to live in Texas with Burtons Older brother Jim.  Burt lived on this farm from 1936 to 1994—that was 58 years. We have lived here for 23 years as of this writing.  What a privilege to share in another mans dream or vision. God Bless James M. Stafford Sr.  I pray we all made him proud.

Burt ALWAYS believed in preserving the land and while the house he allowed his wife to control, the land he kept on top of. Nutrients and such.

For 28 years Burt sent me cards and hand written letters. Filled with politics, feelings, news, opinions, dreams and wishes. I treasured those letters when they arrived and kept every one.

In 2009, Burt was terribly sick, and he wanted to come home to die. His second wife said she could not do it by herself and did not want to go through all that again as she had with her first husband. So, I promised if we could bring him home to pass that I would stay until it was over, and she would never have to administer anything and I would not leave till it was all over.

And I never did. Not even to run to the store. I stayed two weeks and was Burts HOSPICE team.  I never dreamed in all the years that we had coffee, the bonding that brought us so close together that I would be the one changing his cath bag, rubbing his nothing but bones body with lotion while he cried over and over from pain. That I would be the one administering the morphine every couple hours. The death pain is an awful one, and the suffering makes no sense to me,  I was always on one side of him and his wife was on the other. He kept calling us his Angels and he would hold both of our hands and hug us both at the same time and kept thanking us both for working together and loving him as we did. His wife was wonderfully precious and I will be forever grateful that she allowed me to be there and do that for Burton.  He kept crying and asking us “why wont the Lord just take me, I’m ready to go, I want out of this pain and suffering”.  Our hearts were so heavy as we tried to explain the Lord was just preparing the place  for him on HIS time table.

I was sitting at the end of  his bed, my hand on his shin and listening to some other men talking who were there to see Burt  when I felt the life leave his body. Finally. No more suffering for him. I prepared his body for the Coroner, I put on his clean pajamas, and held his eyes closed till they stayed on their own.  And I realize that some who read this will not understand those things you have to do. I never dreamed I would be the one to record and write his time of death on his certificate.  A part of my heart died that day. Burt had become my mother, my sister, my brother, my father, my best friend…..I will never be the same. There is a part of me that wont regrow, I wont be able to regift it to someone else, or build it back….. because I buried it with Burt. In Crane cemetery, a stones throw from this farm.  His Parents farm, His farm, Our Farm. His loving kindness, much like that of Jesus…was unconditional, nothing I earned or deserved but he never faltered in giving in and showing it to me.

Holding a hand as it slips from this world, is an entire post all on its own. I wouldn’t have missed being there with Burt for the world. I wouldn’t have missed loving him, and sharing his life and when you love and share completely..unconditionally..then you realize that it doesn’t just mean when there is an occasional rain storm…it means even IN DEATH.

Burt and I last days

 

This photo is not pretty of Dear Burt or myself. Theses were some pretty dark days, a lot of nights full of pain and broken hearts, a lot of tears and hugs, and little  to no sleep.  Some nights laughter filled the room till early morning light and it felt like a slumber party  and other times the silence was deafening. The waiting was excruciating ….death is exhausting…..  And given the choice………. I would do it all over again. For Him.

I am  a better woman today because He first loved me. Because He saw something in me and through him I saw something in myself too. What a gift he left me with. What a gift this farm has been for me, for our three babies all grown up and now our eleven  grand babies get to come here and play and walk around a farm that is still plowing the old fashioned way. Still growing corn without all the sprays and picking ear corn and off loading it into corn cribs instead of taking it to a local mill

The last couple days I have been out in the fields plowing with my OLIVER (not john deere) tractor and it takes me an entire day to get across a 20 acre field that the BIG BOYS cut through in 30 minutes.  I am in an open station, where the big boys are all in sound proof cabs with radios and computers.  But that’s ok. I hear things better, I feel the sun and wind on my face, I love the smell of dirt and diesel  and breathing in the  fragrant Spring as it comes to life.

My Oliver

And I  WEAR HIS COAT. Burt’s chore coat. Its way too big on me, generally I  have to put  a sweat shirt under it. Its as old and antiquated as my tractor, as old me too ,  no doubt.  But I wear it anyway….I wear it because this was his parents dream, then it was his dream, and now its been my dream for the last 21 years….and I am thankful that GOD saw fit to bring into my life a person that truly showed me Unconditional Love and acceptance, Grace, and giving.

I WEAR HIS COAT to feel closer to him, and I  hope somehow he can see me wearing It…and can feel how much I miss him…and how precious he was to me and always will be.

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Brutus

This is our family pet Brutus. Well actually,, I think all the animals on our farm are pets in one sense or another.  Brutus is an Australian Shepherd . (river rock-clay) is what they call his coloring/markings.  I feel very fortunate to write that all of our outside farm dogs have been great, docile, family oriented dogs. We have lost a few over the years as do all people. And they become so much a part of our lives.  No, they aren’t our children but I believe their should be a new word to describe their place in our lives/hearts because they are more than a family dog too.

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Anyway, Here is Brutus. He is so much joy for me. Especially since our children are all grown and most days its just him and I here.  There is a special iron chair that sits on the back deck and most mornings and evenings you can find him there without fail.  He sort of took over the big chair with arms that sat in the corner tight to the glass door. Out of the weather I suspect. So it was only natural to buy him a large dog pillow and make sure he is comfortable. Right.

Some mornings Brute can be found laying on the front deck, where he can watch the road and take in some sunshine.  He is a keen watch dog.

If you drive onto our farm, and you know us at all.  You only need to look for Brutus and you will know where we are. If he is sitting in the yard between the house and barn. Its a safe bet I am out in one of the barns. If He is on one of the porches. I am in the house. If he is no where to be seen, he’s with me in the back acreage. He will investigate the woods, the swamps, and will run in front of my tractor tires a dozen times, but always seems to stay out of harms way. Thank God.

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He will …if I give him the nod, or pat my leg he will climb the step on my Oliver 1750 and he will push himself against the front of the seat and sit there till I cannot hardly work the pedals with ease. When I stop and say lets go, he will sit. I climb off the tractor and try to coax him to no avail. He wants to ride.  In the fall, He wants to ride in the combine. I will not allow him to do this unless the door is shut and if I need to get out I shut the machines down completely so he or I never fall into moving parts.

He is my buddy, my friend, my protector.  When the grandbabies are here, he is between them and the house, and if they start to wonder out of their designated play area, he is ahead of them. How does he know where they are going….smart smart dog.

Alaina and Brutus
Alaina and Brutus

My cousin stopped by here once, a man I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years, when I went to the porch to see who it was he informed me that he had been by the day before….but in HIS WORDS        “You dog put me back in my truck”.        Brutus never came near him but the look  must have sent a powerful enough warning. I laughed and said  “That’s his job”.

WOW

My life is full of   WOW’s.

Three beautiful grown children that still today sometimes I stop, scratch my head and look towards the heavens and ask :  Lord, how could these great people have come thru me.”  They are truly good people. The kind of folks I would want to know more if they weren’t our children.  They love one another and treat each other with care and respect and love and that is a precious gift in itself.  WOW!

 

Ten, beautiful Grandbabies. There isn’t an ugly one in the bunch.  Haha  ( I may be a tiny bit prejudice). Each and every one is so incredibly precious, young beautiful skin, new hair, and teeth, chubby arms and thighs, twenty feet and twenty hands all moving at once when they are all here together. Beautiful laughing eyes and pools of giggling all about me.  WOW!

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A beautiful farmstead that is always in need of my attention.  Repairing, replacing, or renovating. The barns need painting, the grass needs mowing, the fields need tilling, the vintage equipment need greasing and updating.  This farm steals my time and some that i don’t even have. It leaves me dog tired at the end of my day,  worn out happy, and my heart so full it feels like it could burst . I am  grateful to be the steward of this farm and land  and I pray that i am bringing honor to the previous caretakers.  WOW!

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