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Windy Meadows Farm

Keeping it Simple

Windy Meadows Farm

This morning’s walk with a dear friend found us enjoying the brisk and frosty air. The weather in our part of the Midwest has changed quickly…going from warm and sunny to downright chilly. It was 17 degrees one morning last week…brrr!  November has arrived, and as we walked we began talking about Thanksgiving and all that needs doing. There are plans to be made. The dinner menu: ham, turkey, or both? Do we truly need three pies…pumpkin, apple, and cherry pie? Side dishes…and old family favorite, Kingston mashed potatoes, are a must, but are they served alongside brown sugar-glazed carrots or succotash?

Whew…as much as I love Thanksgiving, the mere thought of all that needs doing can send me into frenzy. And while there is the inevitable debate on jelled versus whole berry cranberry sauce, this year, I’m determined to SLOW DOWN.

Like so many of you, that has been my goal all year, slowing down, keeping things as simple as possible, and keeping home as a haven and resting place from the worries outside. Alas, as many of us have found, keeping things simple is easier said than done. We all look forward to the holidays...tantalizing aromas that fill the house, a crackling fire, the post-dinner nap, board games, favorite old movies, and remembering to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy.

This year our Thanksgiving decorating has taken a turn. Yes, the pumpkins and bittersweet are still there, but also reminders of what the day is truly all about.

I'm sharing some of what we've created this year...simple and done in no time. 

Come on! Pull out a permanent marker and grab some pumpkins at the farmers market (they’re all on sale now!) and let’s get started!






Use a the lettering...just have fun! There's no right or wrong!

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Become a Beekeeper in 2017!

Windy Meadows FarmBeekeeping ... I've always been a bit curious about this somewhat mysterious hobby. My uncle was a beekeeper, and I remember growing up we were gifted many mason jars filled with delicious liquid gold. 

Several years ago my neighbor became a beekeeper, and I soon found myself enjoying the sweet rewards of her labors. Mmmm ... honey drizzled over warm slices of homemade bread or biscuits. Again, I became curious about bees, and I soon watched her (from a distance) as she worked her hives. I began asking questions.

It wasn't long before I joined our local beekeeping club and attended their beginning classes. So much to learn, so much to remember. Could I do it?

As spring rolled around, the kids began to ask, "What do you want for your birthday?" I finally said, "You know, this year I want a beehive!"

And that's how it began — scouring catalogs for a beekeeper's suit, gloves, veil, smoker, tools, and hive kit. Reading all I could get my hands on and armed with the promise that my good neighbor would mentor me, I ordered my first set of bees.

It was exciting. they were delivered late in the evening. I woke up the next morning ready to follow the steps I'd learned. It was true. I was a beekeeper!

That was five years ago, and I've since added two more hives to my first hive. I've been blessed with delicious honey that I can now share with friends and neighbors. I've learned much along the way. I've lost bees to swarms, then turned around and captured swarms. I've lost hives that went into winter full and healthy, for no reason, have been opened in spring to find not a single bee. I've battled yellow-jackets, and certainly, I've been stung a few times.

But truly, it's been a rewarding, fascinating experience. Yes, the bee suits are incredibly hot on on those 90-degree, humid, summer days, and yes, there are times when I take a deep breath as many, many bees buzz around me, curious as to who has invaded their home.

But I wouldn't give it up, and I would encourage anyone who has the desire to seriously consider becoming a beekeeper.

Read, learn, join your local beekeepers association, ask questions, find a mentor, and read some more ... I don't think you'll regret it!

copper top beehive

So God Made a Farmer ...

Windy Meadows Farm

To me, the poetic words of Paul Harvey’s, So God Made a Farmer are astonishingly accurate and timeless.

While farming dreams run deep with so many of us, the reality of the life that a full-time farmer leads is often different than many imagine. Farmers excel in courage, grit, hope, and determination. And, while I’m not one for recalling many commercials, Mr. Harvey’s words paired with a simple slideshow of inspiring still photos made this particular commercial one I’ve not forgotten. I hope you’ll take a minute to click the link and take a look and listen ... even if you’ve seen it before. And if you can make it through to the end and not tear up, you’re a stronger person than I am!

"So God Made a Farmer"

My husband grew up on a 100-acre farm: livestock needed to be cared for, hay baled and stacked (on what seemed to be the hottest days of the year), and always they were at the whim of Mother Nature. The days were long and sometimes the lessons hard, but along with such days were moments of inspiration and gratitude. Animals they thought were lost miraculously recovered; dark clouds filled with rain blew in to break what would have been a devastating drought; and, as he’s quick to tell us, he’ll never forget the laughter and closeness he felt working alongside his dad.

Harvest-time ... a season in itself that teeters somewhere between the languid days of summer and the first scent of autumn’s wood smoke. In a time when so much changes, it’s good to know that some things always endure. It’s a busy season, and we feel the subtle differences; we are gathering, gleaning, and putting by. In our part of the Midwest harvest-time is in full swing, and as I watch the combines working late into the night, I’m reminded, “so God made a farmer.”

Farmer in field
Photo by Fotolia/PointImages

Remember That Fiddle?

Windy Meadows FarmRemember in an earlier post I said I'd always wanted to play the fiddle? I'm not sure why ... something about it made my toes tap, lightened my heart, and made me smile. I am so taken by those who can play; so in awe and, to be honest, downright envious!

And so when I came upon a violin made 126 years ago, I was taken in by it's history and soon made it mine. Since then, I've brushed up on some of my favorites ... "Red River Valley," "Amazing Grace," "Old Joe Clark." And while far from perfect, it's been fun to try and try until a song finally sounds somewhat like it's supposed to. 

fiddle with flowers

The old saying goes: "Time flies, whether you're having fun or not." What have you always dreamed of doing? Living in the suburbs doesn't mean you won't be living in a farmhouse someday, and mowing that corner lot in town doesn't mean you won't be sitting behind the wheel of a tractor pulling kids on a hayride. Delay doesn't mean defeat ... dreams come true every day.

It's always good to find some quiet time and ask ourselves, "What do I truly want now? What do I truly need? How do I get it?"

I wish I could turn back the clock ... so do many of us. I would have picked up the fiddle 30 years ago, however, that's just not the way it works. And so when this fiddle came my way (and a fabulous book titled Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus — I'm not kidding!) I felt it was time to give it a chance. My daughter plays the cello and has been so helpful. Oh yes, there are still squeaks and scratches when I play, but you know what? After several weeks I've found I can play "Ashokan Farewell" ... that was my inspiration and my dream. 

I came across this quote today: "Don't wait, because right now is the oldest you've ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again."

Time flies. Come on, what adventure shall we jump into next?

Something More

Mary photo

I think I've always had a sense of history ... always been drawn to things that are old. Old houses, weathered barns, vintage signs, they all pull me in. And while few of us remember when dandelions or mustard greens were gathered on the farm, still fewer remember when milk was churned into butter, vegetables kept fresh in the cellar, or the sound of whippoorwills late at night.

veggies in basket

There's something deeply personal about those hard won memories. And while I admit only the whippoorwills are a part of my past, I often wonder if today our fast-paced, wi-fi world is simply too soft. Emails and text messages have replaced lovingly, handwritten letters. Home-cooked meals can sometimes still be found, often only on Sunday ... fast-food seems the norm, and while chatting with neighbors over the backyard fence was once so common, it has been replaced with evenings of reality TV shows and video games.

Oh, I have a love/hate relationship with technology! Certainly it's opened up new worlds; we can learn so much, and yet, I often think it's taken the place of good, old-fashioned, "getting to know you" moments.

While at lunch with my mother-in-law recently, I was saddened to see a mother and son at a nearby table — both were on their phones. I don't know if they were playing games or surfing the net, but they were completely invisible to one another. Not once was there conversation or interaction during the meal. Finally, when it was time to leave, they looked up at each other.

At another table, I noticed a two women being seated. The elderly woman appeared to be a mother to the second. She was dressed up, and looked anxious for their time together. After being seated, she tucked her walker at the end of their table. I watched as the younger woman didn't take her eyes off of her phone — again, surfing, playing games ... I don't know. But I could see the hurt in the older woman's eyes as she would talk, only to find the words simply hitting the back of the phone. She finally gave up, and her eyes wandered around the room.

Alex and tomato - smaller

Lately, perhaps simply because I'm becoming older, I find myself looking for things, for a life, that's a bit "more." More personal, more reflective, more meaningful, more handmade, more heartfelt. I want to spend my time on things that create memories, memories that grow in importance as time passes. Traditions, favorite recipes, laughter, and time together ... too often these are replaced with something of a lesser stature.

Maybe that's why we moved to a farm many years ago, and why it's been important to me that our kids have the experiences of raising chickens, goats, and honeybees. I want them to have room to run and explore, to taste a garden-fresh tomato still warm from the vine, and to be a part of canning and freezing fruits and vegetables, so that in January that peach jam is even more savory than it is now.

butterfly and bee

We can all create memories worth holding onto, whether we're living on many acres in the country, or a corner lot in town. We just have to decide what's important to us. To quote B.F. Skinner, "One fact that I would cry from every housetop is this: the Good Life is waiting for us — here and now."

Mary is a Midwest farmgirl who enjoys the simple pleasures of living in the country. "For us, living where there is plenty of room for gardens, animals, and for kids to play and explore is the best kind of life." You can visit Windy Meadows Farm here, Windy Meadows Farm.

Life Is Short So Learn to Fiddle

Windy Meadows FarmYes, we all know time flies ... somehow the days turn into weeks, then months, and before we know it, years have slipped by. And though many years (not saying how many!) have passed, I've never lost the desire to learn to fiddle.

See this?

smaller image of violin

This is a violin made in 1890 — yes, 126 years ago. I love anything old, so when the chance came along to make this mine, I was oh-so-tempted. But first, I had it looked over top-to-bottom. It had been given new strings and a new bridge, so I took it to a friend who played, ahhh, he made it sing!

I was sold, and so it came home with me. That was May, and so it's been a couple of months ... and while it doesn't exactly "sing" for me, it's a step toward one of my dreams. I'm polishing up old tunes such as Ida Red, Say Darlin' Say, and Amazing Grace.

Yes, when I play it scratches, but, it's one step closer to my goal of playing Ashokan Farewell. When I can master that, I'll be overjoyed.

And so today's post is short and sweet ... time does fly, so do what you love, you're never too old to learn something new!

Mary is a Midwest farmgirl who enjoys the simple pleasures of living in the country. "For us, living where there is plenty of room for gardens, animals, and for kids to play and explore is the best kind of life." You can visit Windy Meadows Farm here, Windy Meadows Farm.

Plotting, Planning and Wondering How to Do it All

Windy Meadows FarmI always approach spring with a topsy-turvy feeling. I love the break wintertime provides ... a slowing of farm chores and the anticipation of school snow days, a crackling fire and endless movie marathons with the kids. And although it is definitely time to do away with the dust bunnies, I wonder how I'll fit it all in ... trimming, tilling, planting, weeding, mowing, raking. How will I balance both the indoor and outdoor must-do's?

I plot. I plan. I obsess.

And yet today, as the temperature warmed up to 80 degrees, I stopped, and took the time to let it all sink in. The farmers were in their fields, and the scent of freshly-turned earth was in the air. Soon it was paired with the fragrance of just-mowed grass. Honeybees were buzzing around our peach blossoms, and as I looked closer, they were loaded down with the prettiest pink pollen.

We are so blessed to be caretakers of this farm. For over 152 years it has stood, first as a dairy farm, then as a horse farm. These days a gaggle of goats, chickens, honeybees, barn cats, and a faithful guard dog call it home.

Oh sure, there is still much to do, and the work never seems to be completely done, but my mother-in-law gently encourages me to remember, this is the best time of my life. She's right ... it's quiet moments like these when I fully appreciate what's around me.

And yes, I will still fret about all that needs doing, but for today, I dusted off my garden journal, and I'm plotting and planning a few new flower gardens around this old house.

What do you think?

flowers one

chairs and flowers

more flowers

And that, my friends, makes whisking away the dust bunnies a lot easier!

Mary is a Midwest farmgirl who enjoys the simple pleasures of living in the country. "For us, living where there is plenty of room for gardens, animals, and for kids to play and explore is the best kind of life." You can visit Windy Meadows Farm here, Windy Meadows Farm.

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