Almanac of the Wheel of Life: The Farm at Mid-Winter

What does it mean to be a steward of life? It is an unspoken question threaded through my days. Each winter we carry more lives through to the hope of spring. It is the nature of a farm and a family grow, a response to a holy invitation. In our stewardship, we learn to leverage the outward death of winter to build the inner life. Roots and bones. Back to the earth in the compost of the old year, manure and trampled hay, sawdust and wood shavings, in cover crops and dormant roots, even the bones of the dead under the heap or in the earth. Those failures of the past year kindle study and deeper investigations into the principles of agriculture and life. The wheel of life rolls away as a witness to the nature of God, always redeeming death and turning it into the living.

The oblique light comes with a more subtle potency not felt in the haste of summer, illuminating details made bare by the dearth and otherwise overlooked. It is not all romance of slanting light. There is the mud and the death and sickness. There are the broken systems and the unfinished jobs, and the detritus of unclean life scattered everywhere. The butcher sighed and smiled and cried “Ahh, life!” and thanked God as he cut the throat of the lamb. It seems that to live is to accept and know death, and to die is to understand and accept life. It is a mystery that I don’t claim to understand.

“For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be Magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:19-21

On the Passing of the Age of Thor

He showed up one day at my dad’s place.  We did our diligence, but couldn’t track anyone down so we took him to our place, my wife and I.  He had four legs then.  Thor seemed like a good name….

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I always go in for ironic dog names, but he lived up to his in chutzpah, if not wisdom.  He lost his leg to a 3/4 ton diesel pulling a double axle.  I thought it might cure him- slow him down a little, but those diesels pulling trailers became his white whale.  And he was darn near as fast on 3 than 4.  Lifting his leg presented a challenge, until he realized it wasn’t there.  Sometimes he just had to lift the left one though and he’d balance on the two front ones.

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He made his mark in the world.  He was a pain in the ass, he barked at everything, pissed on everything, chased everything (excepting chickens- a mean old rooster broke that habit pretty early)…

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The hen’s wouldn’t let him forget even after that rooster earned himself the soup-pot.

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True to his kind, he always had to be where I was -unless there was something better going on…

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The coyotes are bad here, like most places in Kansas.  Usually they go after my hens, and Thor was smart enough to stay away- just made noise at them.  A whole bunch were real close for a few nights- carrying on at night like they do.  They must have been too much to resist.  The next day doing the early morning rounds, he wasn’t there.  You get the picture.  It is still a bit of a mystery- he left like he came- but I’ll remember him going in thinking he could lick the whole bunch.

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A lot of my neighbors had cause to maybe dance a little at the passing of the fierce defender of 100 yards of compacted gravel.  However, a fair number a coyotes have died since Thor went out.  Not me, I’m not much of a killer, thought not for lack of trying.    My neighbors are better shots than I, and I usually recieve a picture message of a dead Canis latrans.

My good friend Mike Schultz wrote and recorded this little song after living with us and Thor for a time.  He sent it to me just the other day and it made this post worth writing.  Have a listen…  Thor!