The dogs and I take early morning walks to survey the valley, our pastures and listen to bird song, cattle lowing, sheep bleating and the murmurings of horses. We usually are privileged to watch various bird species soar on the currents of blowing wind. Recently, a pair of golden eagles called to each other as they soared and played. They played rather lazily, using their wings, only occasionally, to push themselves up so they could drift down again. There have been times we’ve watched hawks and, more frequently, turkey vultures, do the same aerial acrobatics. As the birds soar and drift they tend to allow themselves to follow the wind currents. It may take five or even ten minutes but, eventually, they will drift from my eye sight leaving only their haunting calls to come back to my waiting ears. I’ve noticed they use this time of riding the wind currents as playtime and rarely have I seen one use this time as hunting time. Even the birds of the air seem to know there is a time for every season.
It’s been dry, no rain for more than six weeks, and is still hot even though we’ve reached our first frost date of September 15th with no temperature dip of less than low 40’s. Winter still seems a long way away but we’re due a difficult winter and the wooly worms and nut harvest bears me out. The corn harvest, used for cattle silage, has been sparse and, in some fields, so thin the standing stalks of corn may be counted individually.
We’ve put up dry hay, God’s own gift to us, and we have bought more hay. We’re ready for a hard winter if and when it arrives. Three dozen sheep and almost a dozen horses have to be fed this winter and, as you might imagine, the colder and snowier the winter, the more the animals eat. Our pastures are now so dry and barren, I’ve already begun setting out round hay bales. The animals are eating some of the hay bales but seem to realize winter is coming and would rather continue to peck at the dry and dusty piddling pieces of grass than eat dry hay. Perhaps some bit of green still resides in the pasture grasses and the animals sense they need this green to tide them over a cold, long winter.
Earlier in September I testified to members of the VA Senate Ag Committee. Earlier this year, in February, House Bill 2903 was up for a vote by the Senate Ag Committee. If passed, it would have then gone to the VA General Assembly to be voted upon. While I might be persuaded the intent of the bill was good, the wording of the bill was clumsy and, had it passed, could/would have resulted in the demise of farming in the Commonwealth. One notable passage said farmers could no longer conduct commerce across state line. When I pointed out the *meaning* and *intent* were diametrically in opposition, I was told, several times, “Well, let the bill pass AS IT’S WRITTEN (emphasis mine) and we can change it later.” To which I replied, “sign a blank check for me and I’ll let you know later how much money I got when I cashed it.”
Funny how none of us were greatly amused. Suffice it to say, the bill was killed in Committee and those same non-farmers are, once again, attempting to dictate to those of us who are farmers, how to run our farming business. This bill is coming before the Senate Ag Committee again in January; stay tuned for more details and how you can help. This February past, so many folks, farmers and non-farmer’s alike, were in opposition and *said so* both in e-mails, snail mails and telephone calls that the Senate Ag Committees’ phone lines “crashed”. I was told so many calls went into their phone lines, their system became overloaded and just couldn’t handle the volume. Also, every members’ answer service was completely full of “vote NO” messages.
A lesson to us all…never think *one* person can’t make a difference for it’s only one person who ever does make a difference.
September has been a month of extreme pleasures and horrific losses.
Jim, my Dad, celebrated his 77th birthday in good health and looking forward to his 53rd wedding anniversary with his wife, my mother, Gladys. That wonderful event is in October and we’ll celebrate Mom’s birthday as well that month.
The Roanoke NoSo Knit was this month and is always, always a time of quiet pleasure for me. Sue, Rae, Tere and their team work wonders and so many people enjoy the fruits of their labor. Many, many thanks Sue, Rae, Tere and all of you who are the cause of so much enjoyment!
In September, Matt, my sister’s step-son, was killed in a truck crash. Matt was a delightful twenty-one year old young man, full of promise and good manners and hope for the future of us all. He was just graduated, in June, cum laude from Averett College on a four year athletic scholarship. His death devastated entire communities both at home and at school and more than 600 people attended his funeral. Matt, we miss both you and the promise that was you and a piece of our lives and our love have been snuffed out as well.
The end of September draws hurriedly near. I’m on my second round of antibiotics for a sinus infection that got its start because of the dry, dusty weather. No matter the weather, the animals need tending to, feeding, watering. Some young men from the feed store, brothers James and Roger, helped me vet the sheep this month. They caught and I gave shots, de-worming medication and trimmed feet. It’s a dirty, huge job and we ate dust in great quantities, although watching James catch a sheep, is worth the price of admission. He was trained correctly and catches a sheep with little stress to the animal. “Of course,” he likes to tell me, “catching your sheep is easy because you work with them so much and they are pets.” James also commented on the beauty, thickness and quality of their fleeces. My sheep were just sheared the third Saturday in April and already their fleeces have grown around four inches. Because I like to keep stress levels down in my little flock, they reward me with incredible fleeces. Although there is this one little lamb who has the top side of his fleece worn down a bit. It looks like he’s been scrunching under a fence somewhere and his fleece isn’t as nice as the rest of the lambs. There’s always a black sheep some where, going some place he’s not supposed to, eh?
Today is Sunday, a good day for observing the Sabbath and is always a good day for reflection…what have I done right this week, what could I have done better, what plans do I have for the upcoming week. Hurricanes’ Katrina and Rita have brought us no rain and, with the rest of the country, even the world perhaps…?, our family anxiously watched the news. We wept with those who wept, we rejoiced with those who rejoiced and wondered at the meaning of it all.
Sunday is a day for me to ride the currents of the wind; to pause and reflect; to focus, primarily, on giving thanks. To know that no matter how far I may drift, I’m never out of eye sight of God and His provisions. His love is always as close and as sheltering as the east is from the west. There is no place I can, nor want to, run and hide from His love. As the Psalmist said, “His shelter over me is love” and that’s enough to carry me whether the wind blows or not.