Cultivating a Dream


Our First Day as Farmers

Pauline HyltonThe sun beat down on our happy heads.

“Everything ready to go, Tom?” He made last minute adjustments to the magic green machine. 

“I reckon.”

My friend Miriam and I stood on rocks at the edge of the white plastic. The orange tractor pulled ahead, plastic rolling out the back like toilet paper off the roll. 

“Look at that! Yay!” Miriam shouted. 

That marked the first day we felt like farmers. Our “super-duper-raised-bed-builder” shoveled red clay into a 8-inch raised bed, laid irrigation tape, blanketed it all in white plastic, and shoveled enough dirt on the plastic to hold it in place.

Almost better than sliced bread.

The first beds snaked like a river but after the third try, the beds lined up like white rulers all in rows. We built 16 of them. Then we removed the plastic and drip tape and built 5 naked raised beds just for good measure.

Then it rained. And rained.

So we worked on our baby soil blocks. Tom shifted the ¾ inch plants to 2” blocks. About every fifteen minutes we walked out to the field of raised beds and marveled.

Finally, on Wednesday, it stopped raining long enough to plant.

And plant we did.

I pulled out cucumber and carrot seeds and watched YouTube videos on how to plant them. I carefully placed four varieties of squash on plastic and then couldn't remember where I put them. We plugged the watermelon holes too close together right next to the cantaloupe.

We mounted gigantic post-its in our dining room with diagrams of the beds. We soaked okra and sowed beans.

If anything grows, I’ll be amazed.

But really, isn’t it always a miracle when a tiny little seed grows into a plant? 

It makes me appreciate the Creator more. 

Besides, it’s up to Him to send rain to fill the creek that irrigates our field.

It’s raining again so I’m writing.

And waiting.

Kind of like waiting for a pot to boil, I’m waiting for our seeds to grow.

A miracle.

For a 25 second video, go to my YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjNiAw_KGWM  

If At First You Don't Succeed, You Must Be a Farmer

Our baby soil blocks 

Sometime in the next few days, Tom and I are going to cut down an 80’ tree.

We’ve never done that before, but there’s a first time for everything.

Our property borders an old garage. The owner mentioned he was afraid a rotted pine might fall and damage the roof.

“So if you could cut it down, I’d appreciate it.”

“Sure,” Tom said.

“No problem,” I added.

As the gentleman pulled away in his pick-up, Tom and I looked at each other. “How the heck do you do that?”

“Dunno,” Tom said, “but we’re gonna try. 

Our life’s been like that a lot lately. Not knowing anything but trying anyway. Like when we sat down to order seeds.

“Do cucumbers grow on a vine or a bush?” I asked. 

Tom took a swig of the ice-cold well water. “Dunno.”

“How about asparagus? Is that a summer crop or what?”

“Don’t know that either.”

We ordered anyway. Then we visited the local Farm Supply store and tried to figure out an organic mix.

We came up with a combination of soils to make our baby soil blocks.

After we planted our seeds in ¾ and 1½ blocks, we covered them up and checked on them like newborns.

We almost sent out birth announcements when some of our seeds sprouted.

Another thing we did and had no idea how was when Tom unpacked his super-duper-raised-bed-builder. It gathers dirt, piles it, lays irrigation hose, and covers it with black plastic. I understand the next model up does dishes.

Next year.

We’ve never seen one of those except on YouTube videos. Tom looked at it and put it together. And then he practiced. He’s learning.

I admire him. I tend to give up when the going gets tough but Tom perseveres.

And that’s what farming is all about. Working and not giving up.

Kind of like life.

What Does a Farmer's Wife Do?

Pauline HyltonLight filters through a bush that attracts hummingbird-sized bumblebees outside my bedroom window. I ask myself a question, "What does a farmer's wife do today?" My husband asks a similar one--namely, "What does a farmer do today?"

Coffee is a given. Lots of it. Worship and prayer happens after the second cup.

Then what?

I'll tell you about today, even though it's not quite 11AM.

Tom and I discussed our schedules. The conversation went something like this:

"What are you going to do today?"

"I don't know, what are you going to do today?"

"Not sure." Tom paused. "I could plow all the fields, build a storage shed, plant vegetables, install an irrigation system for four acres, order more seeds, join the Chamber of Commerce, or attend the tractor event. Heck, I could even try to grow something!"

These statements increased my anxiety. "I should can vegetables, mow the lawn, machete a path through the woods, order chickens, build a coop, hire another caregiver for Mom, check Sam for tics, pay the bills, cancel our Florida bank accounts, and set up an accurate accounting system." My voice volume increased as I recited my list.

Instead, we began with prayer.

Then we ate warmed-up oatmeal at the white farm table. We figured out how much seed we'd need for cover crops. Tom exited with Sam to plow the field in front of the farmhouse. I called the local seed company and chatted with an expert.

"You can try to go organic, but it's pretty much impossible," he offered. 

I pushed on.

"Do you carry hairy vetch--it's not pornographic, it's a seed."

"Sure, I can get you that."

I gave him the list for cover crops. He mentioned that oats would be a problem. 

Who knew? They were plentiful in the cereal aisle of the local grocery store.

He went on, "How much lime do you want on your field? One or two tons." 

"One ton of lime should do it." (Words I never dreamt  I'd say.) "Oh yeah, I need soil for blocks. We're going to use a mold and put seeds in it to transplant into our field." (I tried to convince him I knew what I was talking about.) "Here's the recipe from the organic seed company."

I gave him the list.

There was a long pause.

"I've never heard of that before."

We came to a compromise. A nine-bag combination: 3 bags potting soil, 3 bags black cow, 3 bags tobacco mix.

Still in my jammies, robe and slippers, I walked out to the field.

"We might have a problem getting oats. I guess it was a bad crop." Pictures of the local cereal aisle danced in my head.

Tom seemed unperturbed. "We can order something else."

I know farmer's wives aren't supposed to be in their jammies at 11 AM, But I'm new to this.

Time for more coffee.

Maybe I'll tackle the chicken coop tomorrow.

Dreams Can Come True


Pauline HyltonWe left at about 3:30 AM and arrived at our property by mid-afternoon. The 1920’s farmhouse looked the same. Quaint—but badly in need of repairs.

Tom unpacked permanently. I loaded a few days worth of clothing in the mahogany dresser that used to belong to his mom.  

Our boat sold in February. Our house sold after only one week on the market.

Gulp. Swallow.

We’re committed.

So, we’re renting the farmhouse from Tom’s sister until we move into our modular home. Now that we’ve decided on a house, it’s time to get down to the business of farming.

Our house budget cut into some of the start-up farm money, so we have to choose wisely.

We need a few more implements, irrigation, a hoop house, fencing, and of course, seeds and plants. Tom plans to spread a cover crop on all the fields and perhaps dump fertilizer on our primary field.

Our simple plan is to avoid starvation for the first year, and if we live, make a small profit the following year. We’ll try ½-1 acre with a variety of plants and seeds. Hopefully, something will grow, and perhaps one or two crops will flourish like the bread and fish Jesus served to the 5000. 

Green can’t begin to describe our knowledge. Unfortunately, green doesn’t describe our growing capabilities.

But the thought of fruit and vegetables and flowers popping out of the ground makes us giddy with delight.

Rookies.

On my last night before returning to Florida, we piled wood from our property into a newly purchased fire pit. I collected sticks and wiped off the end. Next, we stuck marshmallows and roasted them over the open fire.

We lounged in plastic Adirondack chairs and stared up at the sky as stars peeked out one by one. We talked and planned and then we fell silent. We prayed, I cried, and then we packed up.

I’m back in Florida and already miss my new home.

Trouble is, I’m gonna miss my old home, too. Not the building. The people. Saying goodbye is never easy. 

But we’re cultivating a dream.

And it’s coming true.

A question; if you were in our shoes, what would you do first?

Me and You and a Dog Named Sam

Tom hummed the well-known tune with made up words as he worked:

“Me and you and a dog named Sam, farmin’ and living off the land.

Me and you and a dog named Sam, how I love bein’ a free man.” 

Appropriate.

A dog named Sam 

Our 30-year boat business sold. Both of us are currently unemployed. But we’re working like dogs. (Although I don’t know any dogs that work.) A few days from now, we’re putting our house up for sale. The money we make is all we have to build a small house and a big dream. So we’re painting and polishing—puttying and planting. The list is endless.

Twelve-hour days are preparing me for farm work I think. I’ve noticed stubborn dirt under my fingernails. I’ve used a file. Washed my hands. I think it’s permanent. Like wrinkles.

I’ve also discovered a few other facts. I’m a wimp, I’m spoiled, and I’m naïve. 

But, I’m preparing.

Just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no whining in farming.

Hold me accountable, friend.

I'm looking forward to a simpler life. Not easier. But slower.

Better.

See you on the farm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Life

Pauline HyltonOur cell phones stopped working about half way up the mountain. Siri was speechless. After a few wrong turns, we pulled up to a driveway. 

A man with white hair opened an iron gate while three happy farm dogs followed our car until we stopped.

Tom and I assumed we were safe and ventured out to great tail-wagging. 

“You must be Kelly’s new friends. My name is Mike. Glad to have you.”

Who knew that at the 30-year-celebration for our pastor in Clearwater, Florida, we’d meet a farmer’s wife who lived about 45 minutes from our North Carolina property?

The Lord has a way of doing that.

So, after a fifteen-minute meeting and an invitation to visit on our next trip north, we entered Michael and Kelly Josey’s 200-acre parcel on top of a mountain with a view of both the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah mountains.

Breathtaking.

In a kitchen big enough to house a small movie theatre, we talked while Kelly cooked. She peeled fresh peaches and placed them in homemade piecrusts. Two chickens were slathered with butter and covered with secret spices. After the piecrusts, Kelly kneaded dough and baked several loaves of fresh bread. She cooked fresh corn and beans for sides. And did I mention we had peach pie?

And while she cooked in her big farm kitchen, we shared our big farm dream. We asked questions. We listened to advice. We laughed and we prayed.

And then we ate. As my daddy used to say, “That was a sumptuous repast. Besides that, it was good.” And it was.

After lunch, we toured their land by car. Then we ventured out on foot. We strolled along the Dan River and listened to unfamiliar sounds. River and forest sounds. No honking. No airplanes or TV’s or cell phones ringing.

We arrived back home. It was evening time, so Michael called the cows—and they came home.

We’d spent the entire day on the mountain.

The golden sun disappeared over a carpet of green trees. It was the kind of scene and the kind of day that made you smile on the inside.

I wondered if the settlers had days like that. Days where they traveled to a neighboring farm house and visited.

Really talked.

Priceless.

We’re closer to our dream. The business sold, we’re packing for Canaan, and the obligatory garage sale is Friday.

And when the house sells, we’ll go.

To a new place. To a new life. To new friends.

Friends like Mike and Kelly.

I can’t wait.

But I'm still scared.

Packing for Canaan

Pauline HyltonIt’s not often that a man calls and asks to come to your house to give you a large check.

As we sat at the dining room table discussing the sale of our boat and a business that had been ours for over 30 years, it seemed surreal.

Yet, it’s what we prayed for.

Scary.

Shocking.

Exciting.

I told my 25-year-old daughter. She cried.

I told my 22-year-old son. He asked, “How much?”

After over three decades as a fisherman’s wife, I’m transferring to a farmer’s wife.

God called us out of our “Ur.” We’re moving to Canaan.

As farmers.

That’s what faith is about. Trusting. Obeying. Sometimes pulling up everything you’ve ever known and moving.

We’re doing that.

Gulp.

Tom’s both smiling and trembling at the same time.

The house in Ur still belongs to us, but I’m thinking we’ll be in North Carolina by summer.

James Taylor’s song is running through my mind and my heart.







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