falling apart a bit...

Well that whole day-is-over-when-the-sun-goes-down lasted a good few days. But every day it is getting darker so much earlier! So it was nice while it lasted. We'll still light candles in the evening. And Saturday night we lit the biggest candle of them all: the wood stove. It was the first fire of the season and there is nothing like it. That radiant heat is so good. Warms you all the way through.

In other news, I fell apart today.

I'm not completely sure why, but I have lots of ideas. And I'm pretty sure this has to do with that female spaghetti brain thing. Because none of these are related, and yet because I am living them, all of them are related.

I woke up this morning and told Rory that I needed to have our anniversary do-over date on the calendar so I have something to look forward to. He said he can't think more than a few days ahead or he is filled with anxiety, so he couldn't commit to anything. I get that. He has so many details to oversee right now and the stress load around here is very high. But I just wanted the date on the calendar. I'm afraid it will get lost in the mix.

We were supposed to be in St. Louis this weekend, resting by my aunt and uncle's pool. I was really looking forward to the undivided family time. It was a great disappointment to have to cancel.

Our kittens have a bad habit of climbing into the warm engine of our cars and then not getting out when they hear us loading up. I tragically killed two kittens in this horrific way just as I was to leave for a homeschool meeting at the beginning of the month. It was as awful as it sounds. Actually, more awful than you can imagine. And then this Thursday Rory told me casually that the black kitten, my favorite one and the most friendly, was in his truck engine when he left for Menards and he had already buried it in the ground. I cried and cried for that kitten. Rory is on overload, and his waffle-iron brain had already ran the equation: kitten in engine--> kitten's fault--> farm cats are not pets--> move on to next thing. But my spaghetti brain had eruptions at every site. The death of my favorite kitten tipped the scale for me.

And then this morning my goat wouldn't let me milk her. I made a mistake earlier this week and haven't been able to milk her ever since. It's sad. I'm so frustrated with myself.

So when we got to church a friend asked how I was and right there in the parking lot I began bawling like a baby. And I never really got it together. I wasn't certain exactly why I was crying. Mostly I think I am exhausted. I made a stupid little sight sitting there through all the songs, blowing my nose and wiping my eyes.

And I know these things are all just half of the truth. The other half is good and filled with goodness. Saturday we had another amazing work day. My folks and friends from church all came out on Saturday. Even a friend who had more damage on her property than we had on our own. She just wanted to help someone else for a while. A couple from the Catholic church came to help us, as well as three high school sisters who go to a Lutheran church in town. We had never met these volunteers before and they came and spent their Saturday chainsawing, hauling and building community on our farm. It was so good. Community feels so good.

And our farm is looking better and better. The helping hours logged are truly remarkable. We are grateful.

And this is true: We will celebrate our anniversary another time, we will reschedule our family vacation, kitten deaths really do suck and Darcy will eventually let me milk her again. It may just be in a year after she has her next babies. And I also can stop eating donuts. Because I ate many on Saturday and I think part of this mess of moods is due to a flat out sugar/gluten crash. But it's hard to turn down donuts when you're battling disappointment.

So that's the latest. I'll be fine. Somehow this experience has stirred up murky waters inside. I've had neighbors say the same thing and Rory and I feel it too. There's a general un-ease and sorrow hanging about. And we rejoice that all were kept safe and that our homes were kept from harm. But for some reason it still feels bad. And sad. Which is why I need to go to bed now.

the sun is down, the day is over.

We were without power for three nights and three full days after the tornado came through. And since our well house runs on electricity, we were without water as well.

I sort of loved it.

Actually, I totally loved it.  Friday night I looked out the window and realized I had about an hour of light left to clean my house for Saturday. I knew my aunts were coming and would be running my kitchen, so I had one hour to get my house ready. I worked hard. I kept looking out the window at the setting sun to see how much time I had left. Rory was gone, so at dusk I walked out to the barn and did the evening chores. When Ivar and Elsie and I got back inside, I lit a ton of tea light candles in mason jars and the day was over.

There was nothing else we could do because it was so dark. The flicker of candles was so peaceful and the conversation was so rich as we sat quietly and talked about the day.

I sent a picture of our lit candles to the Groves family and wrote: "I wonder what we will learn in heaven about dusk and how we are supposed to end our day when the sun sets. I anticipated the dark an hour before it arrived and hurried to be ready and prepared for it. And now that it is dark my day is completely over. Can't do anything. Better go to bed. Amazing."

Our power came back on late Sunday night. But Monday I pretended like it was still out when the sun began to set. I got the candles ready. I worked hard, watching the setting sun as my clock, and ended the day when it was too dark to work any longer.

The Bible promises that "He gives to his beloved rest." (Psalm 127)

I am pretty certain this is the gift he is giving us when the sun sets. We are just so quick to turn back on the lights.

Try it tonight. Be completely done with the day when it is dark and sit in candle light. You're going to love it.

so grateful

I wrote this text as an email to my friend Dorothy. I'm going to cut and paste it here because I am so exhausted. I can hardly see straight at the moment and need to go to bed....

Oh we are so thankful. Our hearts are full and touched by all of the help that showed up this weekend. And our hearts are heavy and hurting for all the loss around us. We lost six oak trees, each that was 200-300 years old. Huge, beautiful oaks. You can see the gap above our barn that used to be filled with two giant oaks, both twisted on the ground now. We have friends who lost nearly every tree on their acreage. And yet their home and garage are completely fine. It feels quite miraculous as none of our neighbors had major damage to their homes from falling tees. And yet everyone lost old, old oaks and hundreds of trees through the neighborhood.

The loss of landscape is so sad, but the truth is, Friday and Saturday turned into total parties. We never had a moment either day when there wasn't someone here. And we got so much done! Saturday we had 60 people come through, all ready to help or bringing food. Uncle Jake brought his cherry picker, Uncle Carl was on the barn building a temp roof with Rory over the stairwell, Aunt Louie and Aunt Annie brought enough lunch to feed 40, Sarah and Brooks and Jessica and Dan all came with kids and trucks were flying all around pulling out branches, moving loads to the massive burn pile. I had a friend from my homeschool group come with her family and her neighbor's came too. Our friend's Randy and Jake showed up and cut up oaks, hopped on the roof and pulled big branches with their 4 wheeler. The kids were all holding kittens and shucking corn for fun. That night we had the young adults from our church for 2 hours of help, a big shared lasagna meal and then we had barn worship in the upstairs under the stars. It was so great.

And the churches in our town have been incredible. Saturday morning I got a phone call from a friend Bonnie asking if she could bring a hot lasagna meal for dinner on behalf of Canvas Church. She said, "and how many are we feeding tonight?" I said, "well, we have six in our family..." And she said, "yes, but what about your help? Can I bring two pans of lasagna?" It was so amazing! Showed up and I was able to feed a crowd with salad and garlic bread and apple cider and brownies! 

Sunday we went to our good friends and neighbors who were the ones who lost nearly every tree. They are close friends and we decided to all stay home from church and have a house worship together on their porch. It was really special. We ate lunch together and talked through the next few days and it was just so good. And Rory and I got to take hot showers there because they had their water hooked up to the generator. Which was AMAZING. Then we came home, and I took a nap while Hattie and Alden napped. And when I woke up I was over it all. Total mood change. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. So tired. But Rory had big plans for us to lay poly sheeting on the barn floor together, getting it just so. And it wasn't our finest hour! It was our 13th wedding anniversary and I seemed to think we should be doing something a little less practical and a bit more romantic. But he is a good, wise farmer, pressing on until we have things set for the rain Monday night. 

In the end he took me to Culver's, but his parents (who were babysitting for us) saw the unflattering side of me. Tired, crabby, exhausted. And disappointed because we discussed how we can't go to St. Louis this weekend, as we had planned. So I was frustrated and bummed. And did I mention, tired? Though the power did come back on when they were here, which was great! We had gone 3 nights and 3 days without electricity or running water (toilets were the greatest challenge...)

Rory assures me we'll celebrate the big year number 13 another day. 
And now I'm off to bed.

Again, we are so grateful that we were kept safe, as well as all of our neighbors. We needed your prayers in that moment. I know that for certain. We just started saying Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And he held us.

a very scary night

There are many in our town who lost their entire barn. Many who lost many of their out buildings. This is just our property and what happened to us. I walked down our road today and saw all of our neighbor's trees on the ground and then I got very emotional. It's hard to have this happen. I still haven't heard for sure if it was a tornado, but I think it had to have been. It doesn't really matter...it was so destructive.

Also, I praise God that we are all okay. And our neighbors too. At one point last night I was in the pack-and-play in the basement, under the stairs with Elsie, Hattie and Alden. Rory and Ivar were standing right beside us. And I was trying to mentally prepare myself for laying on top of my three little kids in that little pack-and-play if things began whipping around us. That makes me emotional to type. Because it was that scary and it felt that possible.
Thankfully it didn't come to that. In the end, we lost the roof of our barn and many, many trees. We have a lot of clean up ahead, like everyone around us. But we are safe! We are still without power and at the moment my dad is watching the kids so I could get to a coffee shop to get these pictures up. I know that is so silly, but it felt important to me to get these up.
We have scripture covering the walls of the upstairs of our barn. And I loved reading them today. Each promise is as true this morning as it was last night as it was yesterday morning. God's Word never passes away.
Drop us a line if you're handy with a chainsaw. We'd be so grateful. Anytime over the next week, I'd imagine. There are so many places that need attention...
I've gotten the sheep back in their fence two times already today. And now I've given up! They can graze the garden and eat my raspberries. We have fences that need mending, apparently. And I like them wandering around. They are peaceful and quiet in the midst of all that is undone around them.
That's the half of the roof back in the woods. The other half is way further back. How in the world are we going to get that out? One day at a time. That's all I know! Rory ordered the roofing materials today and they said it will be many weeks before they come in.

Again, we are thankful to still have a barn. Thankful to have incredible neighbors and friends. My friend Jenna dropped off soup, bread and cookies at 9:30 this morning. We ate them immediately! Another friend JJ came with her kids and she watched my kids while her husband Alex started chainsawing with Rory. Rory's dad was here at 7:30 helping get the generator running. And my dad came this afternoon now. We've had neighbors stop by and other friends checking in. There is nothing like friendship and family in these moments. I feel that so profoundly right now. Thank you God for community and caring neighbors.

the third cutting

Monday morning we woke up a little groggy after a huge weekend of parades, candy, volunteering and Jesse James. Rory went to work at half day at the butcher shop where he is working part time to learn more about processing our animals. And I loaded the kids up to purchase baling twine at the Case Dealership and to pick up the fixed PTO shaft at the Foundry. We got home at the same time as Rory and it was time to hit it. I made a quick lunch of brats and smashed potatoes and we were off. Rory went to see if the fixed shaft would fit in the baler. I began putting babies down for naps.

Rory came in a bit later and said he was using degreaser to clean out the shaft...the part was too tight in there. He couldn't get it to go in. He was so discouraged. But I looked at him and said, "We are baling that field today! This is the day we're doing it. And when we go to bed tonight there will be a whole lot of small square bales piled in that barn." He said, "How do you know that? You can't actually know that." And I said, "I know it because for the next 10 hours all we are going to be doing is working on that field together." And that's exactly what we did. Eventually he did get the shaft hammered into place and then he felt a little more confident that the day may turn out well.
First we got the rake hooked up to the tractor. Attaching implements is quite the tedious job. But we got that pin slid through the holes and then Rory was off. This rake comes from the farm my mom grew up on. My Uncle Jake is letting us use it until we find one of our own. I have been wondering which of my uncles and if my grandpa used this rake. We are so grateful for it!
And then we got the baler hooked up. And it worked!!!! This is the first bale that popped out of our baler and the dancing and shouts and fist pumps made for quite the celebration. Little bale, you made our day.
 Every so often the twine wouldn't tie and Rory would hop down and fiddle with this and tighten that and then it would work great for more bales until it didn't work again. It meant that I got to help spread out the hay again for the baler to run over for another attempt of being tied into a tidy bale.

I also would like to say that at about 4:00 I went in the house and my kids were ready for a mother to come and settle a few things. Mostly their stomachs. So I made dinner while our neighbor Gary went to get more gas for us. Neighbors are the best. And I got all kids situated after blueberry pancakes. The big kids were done with the little kids, so the little kids got to come with me to help spread out the hay stacks.
They were pretty good sports about it. I just kept feeding them apples and graham crackers. And they made for fun company. They were quite thrilled to see their dad going by. (We never were actually very close to him...)
 Even the cat came along for a while.
Then it was time for Hattie and Alden to go to bed and that made things a bit easier. When I was walking the babies to the house my neighbor Maureen saw me and I told her I was so dog tired. Every part of my body was exhausted. And she hollered back, "Sweetland, Becca!" And her saying that was like a reset for me! It was so wild. That movie has the scene where the husband and wife are working together to get in their harvest. And that's what we were doing. I decided to muster up more energy. Plus it was the glorious part of the evening when the light turns everything to gold. And Ivar and Elsie still had loads of energy, partly thanks to their Jesse James parade candy...
 Ivar and Elsie played in the back of the truck and later I found a bazillion pictures of Elsie being silly.
And of me, stretching out my back. It hurt so, so bad. I lay like this for half an hour while we let Rory finish the field. And we backed the baler safely into the barn with the truck (implement detaching and reattaching) and parked the tractor so we could head into the field and gather up our bales. Our friend Jeff came at just the right moment to help load them up. Elsie and I drove in the cab and the boys worked in the back. The sky was black with stars when we were done. And another sweet memory was made.
We made serious progress this cutting! We raked AND baled ALL BY OURSELVES this time! Our last frontier will be to cut the field. The first cutting was all about learning how to drive the tractor. The second cutting was learning how to use a small square baler (our neighbor's). The third cutting was using our own rake and our own baler.


I told Ivar, "Ivar, Your dad is learning all of this so that one day you can call him up and say, 'dad, I need your help.' And he'll come figure it out with you and together you'll know what to do."