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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter morning rituals on a backyard farm

By Uncle Dale

At 6:00 a.m. the alarm rings. I am a morning person so I don’t feel the anguish that night owls understandably feel. Nevertheless, our wood heated house is chilly and it takes a moment to summon the courage to pull off the covers. I roll out of bed, pray, dress, and start to do the chores. I stir the bright orange coals in the wood stove and stoke it with logs for the day’s heat. They burst into flames. I set the air intake and damper. 

Dixie, our “Antietam Glen Frisbee Retriever”, anxiously meets me at the door with the Frisbee in her mouth. But she will have to wait until after I feed the animals. I throw on my tattered, muddied and bloodied LL Bean field coat, Muck boots, and work gloves. Outside it is dark. The frigid air stings my face but it’s invigorating. The horses snort and stomp when they hear me coming. As I walk down to the barn, the waning gibbous moon shining on the snow lights my path so I put my flashlight in my pocket. In the feed room, I put two scoops of pellets and a scoop of hay cubes in bucket for Peaches, our old Hackney pony. Rebel, our Appaloosa, is an easy keeper so he just gets a bale of hay. I fill the barn cat’s dish full of food. The watering trough is still ½ full so I head for the chicken coop. Our new flock of layers seem perturbed when I interrupt their roosting but they take interest when I empty a bucket of table scraps and top off their feed and water. They are not laying eggs yet. We are in one of those rare intervals when we are eating store bought eggs. 

I look up at the house and see lights click on as LeAnn and the boys are getting up. The sky starts to lighten a bit so now it is time for Dixie. She is rewarded one piece of dog biscuit from my pocket after each Frisbee retrieval. But more often than not she gets two pieces for a catch in mid-air.  After ten minutes and two dozen throws, she tires and I head for the house and a cup of hot chocolate.
I open the door and the heat from the wood stove is a welcome relief. The aroma of bacon and eggs, complements of LeAnn, fires up my metabolism.  Mark, our highschooler, and Nathan, our middleschooler, smell breakfast and clomp down the stairs from their bedrooms.  The front door bursts open as six other rambunctious highschoolers arrive for breakfast and early morning seminary. We all chat through breakfast and then head down to the basement family room for religious studies that LeAnn and I facilitate each weekday morning. 

I love this morning crescendo of rituals. 

Why am I not a good father and teach Mark and Nathan the discipline to do the morning chores? I enjoy the chores too much to give up. But I am not worried. My four older children rarely did early morning chores (that’s not what they remember) and all turned out motivated and ambitious.
What enjoyment do you get from your winter morning rituals?

~Uncle Dale



Wonderful post. I too have a barn coat that I will never give up.

Your mornings seem so much better than mine. This is something I must improve.

David said...

Morning rituals are a great way to start the day. Mine is not even close to yours and involves folgers in my cup but still it starts the day with familiar things.

Have a great start of the day every day.

Karen said...

This was beautiifully written. It had a calming effect. Thank you.

Mariah said...

My mornings are similar to yours in that they are filled with a welcomed ritual, even though mine are of an urban experience. I still greet the sunrise with a cup of tea outside my apartment door. I love the seemingly tedious tasks of cooking breakfast and helping my son prepare for school. I tend to get lost in these moments, not like a drone, but more like a hum. I feel like a well oiled machine and it comes so naturally that I fall into an almost deep meditative state as I perform. While my mornings don't include feeding the animals, I do look forward to each day with a sense of newness because unlike yesterday, I haven't lived the future day yet. It's all new to me each and everyday.

Shaunika said...

Well written! My mornings are a bit of a whirlwind of activities, but when started with prayer, it always seems to work out. I nurse the baby, then wake the 6 yr old to start getting ready for school. The 2 yr old who shares a bunk wakes up to the noise and light of the morning, and runs out of the room. She always has to be the first one out of their bedroom. (funny!) After children are fed, clothed, and big sister is prepped and off to school, we come back, put the baby in the swing, the 2 yr old in front of a cartoon, and I head out to feed and chat with the chickens and rabbits. I turn the hoses on to drip on the fruit trees, and then I come in, eat a quick bite, nurse the baby again and put him down for a nap. By this time it's about 8:45 or 9:00 and the day is in full swing.
P.S. Do you serve your seminary kids breakfast? That is awesome!

katiegirl said...

I'm a morning person so most mornings I'm up before anyone else. I enjoy feeding the animals and letting the dogs out and then enjoy the quiet until everyone else wakes up. Soon I'll be milking again in the mornings, and I'm looking forward to that. I'm not really looking forward to having to wake up any earlier than I am now, but at least it will be warmer out soon....well, in a few months at least!

Mike said...

Sounds awesome Dale. I can't think of a better de-stresser than spending time in the backyard farm.

Kim said...

What a blessing that you can start each morning in such a wonderful way. I'm one of those night owls so I move much slower and a bit later in the morning now that my children are older. I'm up by 7, let the dog out, fix my bed, let the dog back in, pray, feed the 'kids' (my dog & indoor cat) - my human kids are either gone to school or work. I walk the dog when it's not brutally cold out as it is now - 7* this morning, otherwise we play/train in the house. I make tea, turn on FoxNews and start with my indoor chores. I'm hoping to have a job soon so things will be starting much earlier then... By the way, I'm most impressed with your Frisbee catching dog. My lab just wants to eat frisbees haha!

-Sydney- said...

How poetic!

Dale Johnson said...

Thank you all for your comments. I enjoy reading about your rituals. I feel I can relate to your rituals.

Shaunika, We feed the seminary kids breakfast just on Fridays. It really caps off the week.

bongloboy said...

life in farm is always great, and I know it very well. we have a farm in england and there we have some Greenhouses . the morning is always peaceful there too.