Grit Blogs > Transitional Traditions

Thanksgiving 2009

A Sell Family PortraitI’m sitting here watching my dear husband cut onions for our Thanksgiving meal, wearing these hilarious goggles because the vegetable causes him to cry so bad. Next to me, Elly pretends her slices of apple are ladybugs that can fly over her head. Over the baby monitor, Ethan sleeps deeply and all we hear is the light hum of the fan in his room.

It is Thanksgiving today, and I would like to join the rest of the country in counting my blessings. Counting blessings is not foreign to me. Sometimes, it’s the only way to pick me up on rough days. Other times, it would be criminal not to smile to the heavens and just sigh ... THANK YOU!

Today, however, I’ll make a special consideration for the blessings that have been showered upon us here at the farm.

I think of the work that has been accomplished in the last year. We have come so far and have so far to go. There are so many big things that define moments on a farm.

Getting the last of the feed stored for winter.
Installing new wiring in the outbuildings to allow easier (and safer) access for electrical equipment.
Adding 18 cows to a milking barn in three months.
Getting the hay in just before the big storm.
Planting a garden late, only to see it bloom and flourish anyway.

But I’ve come to realize that though those things are important, and wonderful ... they don’t make the farm what it is.

It’s the people and the animals. It’s the small moments. The kind words. The everyday miracles. The things that are so easily overlooked. The smiles. The wonder. The gift of being able to reach out to people in ways we never thought possible.

They came to us, looking for an alternative to industrialized food. What they got ... and what we got, was a relationship and a place to retreat.

People would come out in the summer and spend an afternoon watching us work. They’d participate in the weeding of the garden. They’d sweep hay to the cows. They’d walk with us the quarter mile to pick eggs.

A young mother drove from 40 minutes away every Tuesday for a month to help me in the garden. She aspires to own a little farm and sell cut flowers directly to consumers. She brought her incredibly well-behaved 8-year-old son, and he spent the time pulling the biggest weeds, talking about video games and chasing cabbage moths out of the garden. He got to watch Andy milking one morning and asked a bunch of little boy questions.

Then he asked if the milkers on the cows would hurt them or cut the “things” off. We weren’t sure what he was talking about, so we questioned him further. We finally figured out that he didn’t know what udders actually were, nor the teats. He had no idea that this was how milk came from a cow. I was delighted to show him that the cows enjoyed being milked and that the vacuum machines never hurt the animals. And it was that morning that it began to dawn on me; we were doing something here that attracted people from far and wide.

It wasn’t the milking, per say. It wasn’t the organic gardening, exactly. It wasn’t even our open door policy. No, it transcended our family completely.

It wasn’t about us. It was something bigger. And it is growing. There is a desire in our nation to return to something real, something solid. A return to the earth and the land.

For most folks that’s just not possible at this point. But what they do have is an opportunity to meet their farmer. Become a part of a farm. And we were suddenly sitting here, offering that option unconditionally. Our mission had been to provide a food choice. Though that has not changed, our idea of how it works certainly has.

We had a mother stop by in June and wander behind the store to see us weeding strawberries. She asked innocently, “What are those plants?” I laughed, thinking she was joking. She didn’t laugh with me. “Oh,” I recovered, “they’re strawberry plants. See these white flowers? The middle part gets pollinated and grows into a big red berry.” She exclaimed in excitement that she’d never seen strawberries growing before and marveled at the tiny flowers amidst the greenery. I was blessed that day.

We offered a limited CSA to two of our good friends because we knew they would be understanding if our gardens totally flopped. Upon a July visit to the farm, I gave them a tour of the gardens growing their food. Nothing was ready to eat yet, as we planted very late, but they were excited nonetheless. I remarked that I was so excited for the tomatoes to come because we had ordered some really unique heirloom varieties. Then one of them bent down and gently grasped the tomato leaf in his fingers. He stood up, took a deep breath of his hand and sighed heavily. “I haven’t smelled a tomato plant in so many years. I love this smell! They are my favorite fruit.” I was blessed that day.

A family from nearby sent their two oldest children to help us in our garden this summer and without them, we wouldn’t have even planted. Nearly every day from June to September, we enjoyed the company of Bret and Cortnie. They helped us weed, water, plant, and harvest. But they also helped us feed and water chickens. They picked eggs. They built fence with Andy. They fed calves. They greeted milk customers. They babysat. They mowed lawn. They taught us a lot about the love of our God in heaven. Because of them, we were blessed. We were able to mentor them a little and help them through some tough situations. They were able to center us more than once on our mandate here on the farm. Youthful exhuberance and ideals, complete with a supernatural maturity on their part, caused us to step back more than once and re-calibrate. After all, we were here for people just like them. Many garden days this summer, I was blessed.

In August, we hosted a large event called a Pasture Walk. We had nearly 70 people show up, mostly curious consumers who wanted that connection to someone who was with the land. We signed up a lot of new members that day, some over an hour away. We were blessed that day.

One morning, a mother of two stopped in after working a night shift at a hospital. We live on her commute home. She didn’t call in advance. She just needed ... something. We welcomed her in and made some hot tea and let her have a little moment on her own while we prepared our breakfast. She didn’t stay long, but she left in completely restored spirits. We were blessed that day.

This fall, the mother of Bret and Cortnie came out by herself one brisk summer morning. She grabbed a mug of apple cider and walked by herself into the morning fog and down the lane towards our grazing herds. She had a morning with God out there, looking around the farm and seeing His hand in her own life. She later told us all that she’d learned in an email. We were humbled ... and incredibly blessed that day.

As we follow the Earth’s path around the sun, the seasons change and the chores differ. We come to the end of the Autumn season and brace for the bitter cold of Wisconsin. We take 7.5 minutes per child to dress them just to walk to the barn and back.

But some things aren’t changing at all. And that is our amazing place here on the Earth. Andy and I are farmers. We are homesteaders. We are homemakers and dreamers. We are a haven of peace and rest for people who need ... something. And it’s not about us. It never was, nor will it ever be.

It’s the atmosphere of a welcome mat on our hearts. We love our customers. They are more than people who stop by and buy meat from us. They rally around us when we are hurting. They bring us treats for no reason at all. They are our extended family.

And then we come to it. Thanksgiving Day today and the nation is counting it’s blessings. My heart is full to overflowing. How can I possibly count something that outnumbers the stars that shine? All I can say, to God ... to Andy ... to our family ... to you ...

Thank you. I am abundantly blessed indeed.

Elly pointing


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 .

cindy murphy
12/10/2009 5:43:39 AM

What a beautiful post, Becky. It sounds as if you certainly have been blessed, and have much to be thankful for. Merry Christmas to you and your family, and wishing you continued success in the New Year. ~ Cindy