Archive for ‘Walnut Ridge News’

April 2, 2014

by Cynthia
Spring Lambs on Walnut Ridge

Spring Lambs on Walnut Ridge

We had two new lambs born last week on Walnut Ridge. When I bought my first pair of sheep I named them Charlie and Maude, after my grandparents.  My grandparents had nine children, affording me plenty of names for future lambs. Our first set of lambs was a male and female. We named the female Grace, after my mother’s oldest sister. We could have named the male Hugh, after the oldest son in the family, but that might have been a bit maudlin since we ate that lamb for Easter dinner the following year.  Since Maude’s latest lambs are both girls, no one gets eaten, and they will hopefully have a long life here on the farm producing more lambs. We named them Ruth and Ina, after my mother and her next youngest sister. Hopefully Grace will give us some lambs later this year, setting us off on another branch of the family tree.

After this interminably cold winter, things are finally coming back to life. The pastures are greening up, making the goats very happy as they were tiring of the winter’s fare of cane fronds and cedar bark. The fruit trees have swollen buds that thankfully survived the latest sub-freezing nighttime temps. The Bradford pears are in full bloom all over town; their white smelly blossoms beautify the city streets and make it hard for the allergy afflicted to breathe.  The Vandy co-eds, like pear blossoms, flood the streets in the Village near my office, dressed in sheer, flowy things, sashaying about in high wedges, chirping away on cell phones, buzzing with energy. Everything wants to move, to burst out, active and alive.

This winter was so long and frigid, despair hung around in the corners like spider webs. The usual tragedies seemed more potent and relentless; deaths, illness and lost causes seemed to suffocate hopefulness and faith. The darkness and cold felt interminable. And then a few days of sunshine and green and it is as if a light turns on and the darkness melts. Just as I am despairing of seeing new life, just as I am about to concede defeat to the cutworms or the root rot or the inherent folly of humanity, I walk out to the garden and there they are, little green shoots, or fuzzy yellowish fronds, or fat celadon leaves. The seeds I planted weeks ago will have pushed their way to the surface, drinking up the sun and turning themselves into little chlorophyll factories. I’d love to be as resilient as Nature, as dogged and determined. Maybe someday I will remember that recovery and emotional healing are like the emergence of spring plants: Just when we  think that nothing we are doing is creating change, we get a glimpse of new life. Things just get easier, things fall into place and symptoms finally recede.  We have a new sense of ourselves and are ready to grow in ways we could never have dreamed were possible. We just have to hang on.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.   Albert Camus



April 26, 2013

God, Grant Me The Serenity

by Cynthia


My favorite image of Walnut Ridge is this one: newborn lambs on spring pasture. These little guys were born three hours before this photo was taken. They wobbled behind Mom on spindly legs, sniffing everything in their strange new world. I sat and watched them until they faded into wispy shadows of white beneath the cedars as the sky grew dark.

Next month the baby goats will be born. Our chicks have become gangley teens, not ready to enter the chicken house with the older hens, but restless in their temporary home in the chicken tractor.  All the fruit trees are budding and life is bursting out everywhere; birdsong and babies, buds and blossoms. The pastures are  mushy with spring rain and the winter lettuces are getting long in the tooth.

My daughter announced two weeks ago that she will have another baby this year, our third grandchild.  It’s as if new life and the promise of renewal is everywhere I turn and all I can do is drink in the joy of it and want it never to end.

Spring in Tennessee comes quickly, getting a jump on me every year. Frequent late frosts make us wary of planting before May, and then June is upon us and it’s already hot and humid. The tomatoes I had started from last year’s seed crop went into the ground last weekend. I have been checking them every day like I check the new lambs. Are they okay? Are they growing? Are they going to make it through the cool nights?

Growing your own food and raising animals can be a spiritual practice, requiring faith, discipline, and an occasional acceptance of failure. My most recent failure? The voles ate ninety percent of the peas I planted last month and my cucumber transplants have already wilted. On the upside my spring lettuce is abundant and delicious. Gardening is a constant opportunity to practice the first tenet of the Serenity Prayer; God help me to accept the things I cannot change. Like the weather. Like the voles, and the bugs, and the worms and the blight and the wilt and the myriad viruses and fungi that will attack my plants in spite of my vigilance.

But the promise of fresh, clean food right in our own backyards is powerful enough to pull us true believers back into our gardens each spring. We buy organic bug sprays. We research and consult and worry. We compost and fertilize and hoe, giving homage to the second principle of the Serenity Prayer; “God, give me the courage to change the things I can”.

Surely my grandmother with eight children depending on her garden for their very sustenance did not obsess about her plants the way I do. She hadn’t the time. She must have had years when the tomatoes all got blossom-end rot or the Japanese beetles decimated the pole beans. I suppose they ate squash when the squash was abundant and something else when it was not.

Knowing when it is time to throw a struggling plant into the weed pile and when a bit of loving care might just revive it is often difficult for me. Sometimes I give in too soon, like last year when I capitulated to the squash bugs. I ripped up the vines and threw them into the woods vowing to never grow squash again. Then there was the year I spent way too much money trying to heal my heirloom Amish paste tomatoes from a late blight.  When to keep trying and when to let go?

God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference.