Grit Blogs > Transitional Traditions

Miracles from the Farm

A photo of the Sell family December 2009This past week I’ve been working many hours and late nights trying to get our annual Blurb book wrapped up. Last year, we made our first book on blurb.com and gave a sort of photo tour of our year. It was important to start our books that way because the plethora of photos gave a sort of “ground zero” for everything to come.

This year, Blurb upgraded to be able to “slurp” blogs off the internet and place them ever so neatly into the book making program. I chose this route seeing as we had so much about our farm life neatly wrapped up in our Transitional Traditions blog.

And photos. According to Blurb pricing structures, we have up to 160 pages before we hit the next cost jump and right now, we are on page 154. That is what this post is for.

I am going to give an end-of-the-year blog a little early in order to upload the book and publish it before the month’s end. Stories of our year that didn’t make it into other posts seemed like a fun way to do it.

Miracle Pears

We’ve been asked, more than once, what a Miracle Pear is. I guess the definition of a Miracle Pear really comes down to how you define what a miracle actually is. Do you feel it is something that could not have happened in the natural and therefore must be an act of God (such as a person healing from softball sized tumors overnight)? Do you see miracles as more of “everyday” things that are just amazing to behold (the birth of a baby, for example)?

We define miracles as more of everyday things. Like, the fact that last Saturday, Andy almost died in the haymow, but didn’t (more on that later). Or we’ve had a bill that’s due, and we got the exact amount of money in a check we weren’t expecting (down to the penny).

In our backyard, we have several ancient apple trees that were planted by my ancestors at the turn of the 20th century. A few have fallen and the three that are left are in serious need of revival ... or a re-graft on the roots. My mother began planting her own trees back there when I was a child and as I just started high school (or there-abouts) she got a single pear tree. I don’t know what kind it is, maybe a Bartlett, but it was a pretty little thing. Every spring it bloomed with luxurious flowers and sprinkled our lawn with whites and pinks and reds. And every summer I’d watch anxiously awaiting our first homegrown pear. This was a treat I had not experienced before! However, summer came and went, the apple trees bore their delicious fruit, and there sat the pear tree. Barren.

At first, it was explained to me that the tree was too young to bear fruit. This satisfied me for a few years, but over time I got a little frustrated. “Won’t it ever give us pears?” I’d ask. As I moved away from home in the college years, I forgot about the tree. Once or twice over the next ten years, I go take a look myself, to see if there were any fruits to be had. Nothing. That tree might as well have been a Maple for all the fruit it bore!

Then, in 2007, my parents moved off the farm and we moved in. There was no fruit that year, and we had decided that some time in our future (mine and Andy’s) we’d cut it down to make room for a fruit tree worth its space.

In the summer of 2008, we met a friend of a friend who asked if she could pray over our farm for blessing. This was a relatively new concept to us, but we welcomed the gift. She spent an afternoon walking the property and praying God’s blessings on our land and for the future of our endeavors. It doesn’t matter what you believe, or if you believe in God at all. One can still appreciate the kind gesture that this was.

Personally, we believed in the blessings she asked for and decided to take up the cause ourselves from time to time.

A few months later, Elly and I were toddling around the back yard, sampling some late summer apples and enjoying the warm grass. We happened upon the pear tree but didn’t take notice of the leaves or branches. At one point, I got this sense that I should examine the tree a little closer. I did, and I gasped.

There, plain as day, was a miniature sized green pear, growing vigorously from a low branch. I began to search the whole tree and saw another. Then another! In all, there were about 15 pears growing surreptitiously above our heads. We waited a month or so until they were ready to drop. Then I got a picker and collected every one.

Miracle Pears, 15 little beauties. Andy and I believed on the spot. An older woman, upon hearing the story a few days later, came up to me and stated, “Well, obviously someone in the neighborhood planted a pear tree and the pollen crossed. That’s all.”

Maybe that was all. But don’t you think it’s even more amazing with that explanation? I mean, for 15 years, that tree bloomed and blossomed and produced nothing. Then, the very year that we pray for blessing and fruitfulness on the farm, a neighbor’s pear tree, planted however many years ago, reaches maturity at just the right time? Forget about it! That’s amazing!

Just so you know, we got pears this year too, about twice as many. We even made Pear-Apple sauce out of them!

The Straw-Mow Scare

As I said earlier, Andy had a near-death experience last week. He was pitching down bedding for the cattle from our straw-mow. (mow rhymes with “wow”). Actually ... I’m not even sure what “mow” means. Literally, it is the cavernous space above a traditional barn that holds the hay and straw for the farm animals during the winter months. Hay bales can be pitched down holes in the mow floor into the barn area below, be it a dairy or some other animal housing structure. Likewise, straw is stored in bales and blown in loose.

The loose straw is what Andy was working with. It is the left over plant stalk after wheat (or barley or oats) is harvested. My dad and Andy collect it every summer/fall and use a special machine to literally blow it into the barn mow. There, it piles up and creates a giant mountain of straw that is about as stable as it sounds.

There is a large wall holding it back from the rest of the hay and a small opening through which the straw can be pushed. Inside the hole is an auger that propels the straw into a waiting wagon or in our case, a TMR mixer. In order to reach the straw, one has to step inside the straw mountain area and sort of pitch the straw towards the waiting hole.

Andy was doing this and had carved out a nice little dig in the side of the straw hill. This hill is about 30 feet tall, and he noticed a little movement from the top. He had this sense of “get out of there!” So, he ducked back through the retaining wall opening. He had his head, shoulders and one leg out of the straw area when the mountain collapsed all around him. In an instant, the other half of his body was fully encased in straw and he had to pull it carefully from the avalanche. How many farmers have died in their own haymows over the years? he wondered. It was a very scary moment for him, yet one to be thankful for.

I shuddered to think that when I was little, I used to chase cats in that very straw-mow, climbing up the mountain and sliding back down again. Of course, there were a lot of things I did on this farm as a naive child that made my guardian angels put in overtime.

The Doll

When we first got the store built and furnished with fridges and freezers, Andy knew it needed some country decor. We had gotten to be friends with a few homeschooling families and every spring and fall, they have a rummage sale. It’s not really a sale at all; they put tons of great items from their own homes and donations from others into one big weekend and give it away. They don’t charge a thing! If people feel led to donate money, every cent goes towards funding their homeschool projects or field trips. It’s a really great idea, and they have had the opportunity to really help some destitute families.

This May, we stopped in, looking for a few items to decorate the newly established on-farm store. Andy was looking for American country ... like chicken statues and quilted sheep, homemade wreaths or lidded canning jars. He found a few of those items and also a single doll. She was a floppy, hand-sewn girl, with a patterned dress and handmade bonnet. She was the kind that is stuffed just right in the tush so that they sit up and can be displayed. Or hugged!

Handmade doll

We put her on a shelf in the store and allowed her to greet all our customers. Elly wondered why the doll was sitting up there and not in her arms, but we explained that this doll was special and needed to let all our farm friends know that they were welcome.

This was in May. Just last week, we welcomed a new family to our farm membership and gave them the tour of the farm and store. A few days later, the wife came by with a friend. I got this Facebook message from her a few hours later:

Hey Becky! I saw the cute doll you put up on the fridge in the little store. I just had to share this with you. That used to be my doll, and I put it in the homeschool rummage sale. I actually had a hard time parting with it, but I did because it was kept in a box for years. My childhood friend made me that doll for one of my birthdays when we were about 12 or 13. Her parents were extremely strict and she was never allowed to have friends over or go to anyone else’s house. She wasn’t even allowed to be in extracurricular activities or sports. We always had birthday parties in our group of friends, but she was never allowed to go. But one year she made that doll for me. It was really special for me to see it today. I’m glad its not in a box anymore, and now I can enjoy seeing it whenever we stop at your place! Thanks for giving her a home! :) Love, Lori

I was so touched that I asked if I could include the story in our blog sometime. Lori was totally ok with it, and I am so happy I got to share it with all of you. What a neat way of having something come full circle. Is this something you’d consider to be a miracle? Maybe so.

Some Things Are Ever Changing; Some Things Are Never Changing

Christmas tree in the farm store

Last year, I ended our Blurb yearbook with a dramatic shot of the farm in December, under a fresh blanket of pristine snow. If I took a walk today to the same spot in the field, you would hardly tell the difference in the farm.

Foxwood Farms in the snow

So it is that another year has passed by, and, from the outside, very little has changed. The same machinery sits in the same field. The same cows loiter about the same out-buildings. The same garden sits dormant with the same brown stalks of summer.

But then you look harder. That machinery is lined up neatly in a row. Those cows are no longer heifers, but lactating mothers. The out-buildings are housing more and different animals. The garden has gone from one to two.

And it’s not just physical appearance. The feel of the place is different. Much more than last December ... the farm is beginning to feel like “ours.”

As we take on more of the farm projects and assume more of the farm bills, we are continuing to learn about the roller coaster that is Farming. And we are learning about ourselves. And who our friends are, and our family.

As I conclude this year in words, I have to look back and smile. Is it not a small miracle that we are even here, doing what we do? I believe it is.

Merry Christmas and blessings on your New Year.

With love,

Becky, Andy, Elly and Ethan

Sell family photo for Christmas 2009


Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward. Find her on .

todd helmkamp
1/4/2010 5:31:18 PM

Excellent stuff. You sound like my kind of folks. I wish there were more like you.


kc compton_2
12/30/2009 12:02:10 PM

Very nice. I have loved keeping up with your processes over the past year or so and am so glad you're blogging for us over in GritLand. :=] Much love to you and your family--and also blessings on the farm! --K.C.