P.O. Box 903
Mancelona, MI 49659

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Spring has Sprung

Well, I did it.  I came out the other side of winter, in one piece, and no frozen toes.  Cold…yes.  But not frozen.  The cabin fared well, but I will reiterate what I said last year at this time.  Never again.  And this time, I mean it.

It’s the end of May here in northern lower Michigan.  Just this past Sunday, I traveled with a snow-covered truck to church.  Awoke to the ground covered in white.  It stayed on the truck nearly the entire hour it takes to get there.  {I told one of the boys (Japheth) I had planned to toss a snowball at him if I still had enough snow on the hood upon arrival and the men were still standing near the barn before entering the church.  His blue eyes became as big as saucers…and then I assured him I would not do such a thing…especially on Sunday.  Smile… }. 
So things are back in Spring mode.  One exciting aspect is the 2-yard waste container that will be onsite until October.  Yes, we splurged.  It is emptied every two weeks, which means it gets to be filled every two weeks.  Our “never-done-farm” is shaping up. 
I’m back roaming about in the woods.  
 It calls me daily.  A solo walk in the morning starts my day.  {A walk in the evening with Russ ends my day.}  It’s so good to hear the wood sounds again.  Woodpeckers…and the beautiful trill of the hermit thrush {who always returns Mother’s Day weekend or before} and a host of other feathered companions, especially the crows.  The greenery is growing before my eyes.  I’ve been particularly interested in scouting out coyote dens.  No such luck.  But what a sight it would be to see the young coy-pups frisking about.  Last night, we came upon a big doe.  That's always a pleasure.  One depletion I’ve noticed in my favorite woodlot is a black squirrel who resided there last year.  Big as a cat.  So far, not one in sight.  I will miss that squirrel this fall – it kept me entertained during hunting season.  
Speaking of depletion…it’s been over a month since Zip left us.  
 After weeks of doctoring and forcing meds (eyes and mouth), it was apparent that life wasn’t going well for her.  Or us.  It is so hard to watch a dog suffer a malady, looking to you for comfort, knowing there is no end in sight.  We sadly made the decision to put an end to her suffering, with the gentle guidance of our vet, who has also been a friend over the years, and my employer for several years as I filled in part-time to offset our kennel expenses.  
So in April, Zip, obedient as always, meekly obeyed as she was told to “load up” one last time in her beloved truck.  Oh how our hearts broke, and tears were boldly shed.
Zip.  The Zipster.  Zip-dog.  Age 12…never wore a collar or was restrained.  Obedient and loyal.
Looking back, it was a blessing that Saturday morning, 11 years ago at the local feed store when we saw an ad for a filly.  We were going to pursue the horse, but as a side bar, I told Russ I wanted to also check out one of the dogs that were “free” and being given away at the same farm.  Upon arriving to check out the filly, I saw Zip by a tree.  {She went by a different name back then…}  Next to her was a large breed dog looming over her.  I learned later, it was a pup from her first litter, who had grown large in the last six months.  {Needless to say, we had her spayed within days of her arrival.} 
We brought the filly home, but Russ went back the next day to get Zip.  I anxiously awaited their return.  I remember him coming back to our 40 acres, with her in the front seat next to him.  Russ opened her truck door.  She jumped out, no collar, looked about at the 40-some sled dogs, nodded approval and was on our heels ever since.  I could walk downtown Chicago with her if I wished - she walked when I walked/stopped when I stopped/turned when I turned. 
She was a good dog.  An excellent companion.  A good farm dog.  A good hunter.  She assisted Russ many times in his hunts.  Or herding tasks.  {cows/goats/roosters/cats!}  On our walks in the woods, she would stop with every stop I made.  Even mid-stride.  We listened together…and enjoyed the woods immensely.  She was my “girl”.  Whenever I was gone, she waited for my return.  Russ said she would hear the truck coming, well before he would.  She would run up the lane with glee, making me nervous that she was so close to the truck tires.  Many times, if I had room in the front seat, I would stop and give her a ride the rest of the way. 
So many memories.  So much love.  So much obedience.  I learned a lot from her.  I will miss her.  I DO miss her.  And I will be writing more about her…with many more photos of her times on our farm.  She was a fixture.  And now she is laid to rest within view of all our activities.  She’ll always be here.  What more could we ask for?
How about a grandson with obedience of a different kind?  
--> This is a conversation with my 8-year old grandson, David, this April.  He and his father {son Charlie} were visiting Michigan, leaving the remaining family of 2 sisters and Mom, Kristina, back in California.  As for David and I... we broke away from a family gathering to lean on a railing, overlooking a field and marshland in northern lower Michigan at dusk.
Note:  The last time I saw David was over 4 years ago…so this was a rare treat.   

And proved to be quite an uplifting one.
It goes like this  - David spoke quietly and with conviction: 
Me:  It’s hard to believe there was snow covering the ground just days ago.  It disappeared right before you flew to Michigan.
David:  God is like that.
Me:  Yes…He is…{sputter…and amazement at his candor…}  He does amazing things.  I’m so happy that you have God in your life and know Him.
David:  I not only know Him, I trust Him.
Me:  Yes!  {…me speechless?  But before I could respond, there was  more…}
David:  He gave me the Holy Spirit.
Me:  Ahhh yes.  And the Holy Spirit helps you make decisions in life… 
David:  And I can go to heaven…
Me:  Yes…sighheaven. 
And the conversation ended there, as four deer carefully stepped out of the treeline and into the clearing.  What a beautiful way to end the day.  And more so, it’s easy to see the kind of home my son is providing for this wife/helpmeet and children {with another one on the way}.   Praise God, for the glory belongs to Him.
Until next time, Lord willing, when I will reveal what obedience we {Russ and I} have been dealing with, and the joy of knowing we are pleasing God with OUR obedience.  It's monumental, but joyful.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Patience Edna, Patience...

You blink, and months pass by.  How is that?

I think of our heavenly Father…how 1000 years is but a day.  Time.  We all have it.  We all have choices in how we use it.  How we trade it.  How we treasure it.

For example – I used to trade my time for a paycheck.  I think it’s fair to say we have all done that in our lifetime.  For me, now…being retired…I’m not trading my time any longer.  I have time.  But oddly, something shifted.  I feel I have LESS time than ever.  How is that?

Speaking of time…we were planning on moving into our well house by the end of October (2015).  See this Blog for details.  Bottom line, we wanted to be near our water source for the winter months, and see what it was like to be in a new place, out in the open, out of the woods, and have more room to roam about.  (I even put in a small dog yard to move the dogs with us.)  In the past years, I had stayed many a night in the tiny well house (known as the Wee House) and enjoyed the experience.  Still rustic living – haul and heat H20, etc. etc. etc.  But as for moving the end of October, that didn't happen, but not for lack of trying.  Then, the move crept into November.  And then perhaps a move by Christmas…and then we turned the corner of 2016 and in mid-January the realization of no such move finally hit home.  We are in the old cabin for the duration of the winter. 

The well house?  Well…it will be worked on again this summer and perhaps by next fall, we will try again.  Its “close”, {very close...} but we still need things done before we move in.  Rather…I move in.  I don’t believe Russ will ever totally exit his original cabin.   {Smile}

If you have happened to watch Braving Alaska, featuring four bush families eking out a living in the deep arctic wilderness, you will know Heimo and Edna Korth.  {If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you get your hands on a copy – we’ve watched it to the point we can narrate along.}  Being out in the bush, mail and supplies come by bush plane only several times a year.  One such time, Heimo and Edna (and then-small daughters Rhonda and Krin) are waiting in sub-arctic temps, watching for the plane.  The plane arrives and all the formalities of greetings take place between the pilot (now deceased Roger Dowding, from a plane crash on the Brooks Range), and Heimo.  As Edna cranes her neck and attempts to peek at the storage behind the pilot’s seat, she innocently asks “where’s the mail?  Where's the mail Roger?”.  Roger says…”patience Edna, patience”.  With that, Edna laughs softly, looks to Heimo and steps back to wait her delivery.   What’s a couple more minutes when you have waited 4 months or so. 

Patience.  It’s a virtue I’ve been told.  It’s also listed in the Bible as one of the 9 “fruits of the spirit”, which shows you are living a Christ-like vine-life.  {My Bible lists patience as "long suffering"...}  It's a necessity of life.  It’s also hard.  

I pray for patience.  Patience for “worldly” things that make living easier.  Patience for our Lord, Jesus, to return, ever the victor.  {I can’t wait to see that white horse!}  Patience for patience. 

As for us moving to the expanded Wee/Outer Wee/Well House, whatever you call it, it will come.  In time.  The good thing is, we choose to live mortgage free, which cascades down even further with what typical Americans buy into.  Every step in building is done by hand, with already-paid-for materials.  The wood is felled and hand cut and milled from our 40 acres.  Step by step.  We live this way so we don’t have to give up our time to go out into the world and trade it for money.  We use what we have and what is refurbished and tossed aside by others. 

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

So we may not have much, by “normal” standards, but truthfully, we don’t need much.  We have all seen where we get a new job with higher pay, only to have more bills that suck up that excess.  The key is…no debt.  When you have no debt (or very little), your money is yours.  {The Bible also instructs us in this, by telling us that the borrower is slave to the lender.  If you haven’t experienced this, go borrow money from a relative or friend.} 

As for us, we will never be “rich”, but our time is ours, and to coin a phrase from mountain man Eustace Conway…”…what do we do for a living?  We live for a living!  Money becomes something so mundane.  If you are a Foxfire reader, you may remember reading the life story of Beulah Perry.  It’s a must read.  She talks about money not being a part of the equation for a good, rich life.  Beulah lived a poor/rich life.  And of course, the Bible has lots to say about the love of money. 

So, as I work on patience and all it entails, I am dreaming about many spring activities.  One is turkey hunting.  I will get that gobbler this spring, Lord willing!  Russ is getting his new sugar shack tricked out – he now has it in our hoop house area – the best option ever. 

I’m also excited about doing what I had set out to do last summer, which is take up residence in the Bear’s Den.  I want to move some of our chickens out there, take my sled dog Malakai at night, and see just what it takes to live in a small place with books, a flashlight and some survival cooking gear.  It can only make me more well-rounded in the area of efficiency, something I seem to lack these days.  But the “bushy” winter days won’t last, and I’ve been praying a prayer of gratefulness to our Father for the warm winter.  Its perfect – lots of snow – but so far no -43 temps.  We’ll see how we fare in February and March.  And April. 

I hope you are doing well this winter.  I’d love to hear from you.  My old Blog pals have gone silent too.  It would be good to connect and hear what other farms  and families are doing. 

Blessings –

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Night Thief

It’s nearly 3 a.m.  I’m sitting on a low stool, crouched next to the woodstove, hugged by the creosote steel doors that threaten to wrap around me.  I work the fire, attempting to bring it to life.  Coals are not willing to give heed to the wood that is placed on them.  I wait…tired and wanting to be back in my warm sleeping bag.  I’m wanting to be warm.  Wanting to forget what happened just a half-hour earlier.

An hour earlier, I rose to a quiet, cold, still night.  Stars filled the sky as I stumbled out the cabin door, heading to the outhouse with Zip, our Blue Heeler, in tow.  Our cabin kitty, now living outdoors, was nowhere in sight.  She usually greets us on these middle of the night treks. 

Upon entering the cabin, I set to work on getting the stove going.  Within minutes, one of our female sled dogs, who is known for her “tattle tale-ing” set off with a frenetic warning bark.  She continued on for several minutes, not liking the fact that whatever was out there, wasn’t taking her seriously.  Realizing my best (and only) headlamp was defunct, I shined a weak light out the side window to let her know I heard her warning, and to stop barking.  She paused, but then continued with a renewed fervor.  I then told her “o.k.”…and she let out a heavy, grunting sigh, as if to say “…o.k.,  I tried to warn you.  Whatever happens, it’s on you…”

Sitting back down on the handcrafted cherry-wood stool, I fiddled with the fire some more.  Then I heard it.  I squawk…not really a squawk, but a bleat – a cry for help.  Grabbing my defunct headlamp, I slammed the batteries in, making it temporarily work, and headed outside.  I could hear the cry/squawk/bleat as it retreated from the cabin area.  Every thirty or so yards it let out a sound.  It was traveling by foot.  But not on its own accord - it was being carried.  I realized by now it was one of our chickens.  It was one of the worst sounds and situations I’ve heard.  I couldn’t image the terror of being roosted for the night only to be snatched by a coyote’s toothy grip.  Carried away, to certain death.  Every thirty or so yards, I heard it, until they disappeared into the south woods. 

I shined my light into the fenced dog yard and verbally thanked Skunk, the sled dog, for her warning, and headed back inside.  Upon sitting down once again, I hung my head in sadness.  It had to be one of the young batch, hatched earlier this summer that roosted on their own, not willing to enter the safety of the latched chicken coop door that held the flock. 

As I finally got the fire going, I also had come to a another realization.  Although taught by the Mamma hen, that young bird had made a choice to not pick the safety of the flock, and also our oversight each morning and night as we open the door of the coop to let them out, and tuck them in at night.  It had mistakenly believed it was safe out on its own.  And now it was gone, dying a frightful, confusing death.  The analogy was clear.  We, as intelligent humans, are given God’s word, in the form of the Bible – God breathed and God inspired.  Jesus tells us we are safe in His arms.  As His sheep, we are safe in the arms of the Good Shepherd.

In the book of John, Jesus tells us:  Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 

We, too, have a choice.  It is free for the taking.  All you need to do is come to the Father…the Good Shepherd.  Do you hear Him calling for you?  He leaves the 99 to gather up the one – the lost sheep.  If you are lost…seek Him.  Peace will flood your soul. 

May peace be to everyone. 

Until next time…Lord willing,


My Best Buddy

We live on a small farm on 40 acres.  Fields and woods.  We also have sled dogs.  Life is good…life is simple.  And I’m blessed to spend 1/3 of my waking hours in a blissful setting – in the woods. 

Heading into the woods, I take my “best buddy”, Ruger.  I used to go alone, but now, I always take my trusty companion.  It’s second nature.  Ruger is always at the ready for my command.   The other day, I had Ruger along as I headed out to do the morning check of our trapline.  I walked through a dense area, and came out into a clearing, overlooking a vista.  I always stop in this particular spot to peruse the land, looking for anything out of place, or perhaps some critter who is traveling through.  As I was scanning the horizon, a large coyote climbed up out of a hollow in front of me.  He also stood, looking about, scanning the perimeter.  As his head was on swivel to the left, he spotted me out of the corner of his eye.  Upon confirming me standing there, he shot off and sped across the land, making a wide arch, returning to our property, in particular the area of our sled dog kennel.  I had put my hand on Ruger upon sighting this big coyote, but my intention was to see his reaction upon seeing me.  It also gave me time to admire his thick coat, and compare it to several of our thick coated Siberians, which reside in the dog yard.  Once this interlude was completed, I headed back to the cabin to get another trusted companion – Marlin. 

Although not my best buddy, Marlin is a good companion to have in the woods.  Easy to travel with, and always at the ready.  Ruger also joins us. 

Last month, I took another companion with me in the woods – Winchester.  Even though I had new companions, I always took Ruger.  Having Ruger with me is second nature. 

Now I’ve expanded even more with my companions.  Barnett is a new tag-along.  A big boy to be sure.  But much quieter, which is nice when you are in the woods and desire solitude and silence.   Even though Barnett is a suitable companion, once again, Ruger comes along too. 

I can’t imagine not having the ability of taking my protectors along with me.  They provide so much.  Peace.  Security.  I take good care of them, and they take care of me.  They only act {or react} upon my command.  Never early, never late.  I am in control.  I like that. 

So this morning, as I returned from checking the trapline, I entered our cabin to be hit with the warmed air of the wood stove.   I was happy to have made it back home and beat the rain coming our way.  I said hello to our aging cattle dog, Zip, who was keeping the wood stove company, as I put Marlin away, and unbuckled my best buddy, Ruger, to put up for safe keeping within arm’s reach until the next time I head to the woods, a couple hours from now.  

I grabbed a cup of coffee, snagged a homebaked cookie, and took a seat in front of the woodstove, and gave thanks for all the blessing in my life.  Peace, security, and the ability to live a lifestyle I love, Lord willing.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – 
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.