Wednesday, October 21, 2009


We’re home after two weeks away, and see a lot of changes.

The most obvious is that Mohamed, the young Somali man who has been house and animal sitting for us, rearranges things. I found the canola oil in the mixing bowls, and the cat food in the cast iron frying pan drawer. He must either have a short memory or not understand my filing system.

Morning light reveals other changes. Many of the leaves have turned yellow and fallen to the ground. The ash trees are bare as are the popple. The crab apple with it’s russet leaves and bright red apples still glows, even in the rain. Our young Somali friend was stunned by his first fall. “What happened to all the leaves?” he asked. Growing up in the middle of a war in Africa, with no formal education, doesn’t teach a person the things that the youngest Minnesotan takes for granted.

The garden froze – plants droop black and blighted. We will still be able to dig potatoes and carrots. The winter squash that had already hardened are fine. The still unripe squash will make good compost. And the brussels sprouts are still green and crisp, sweetening as the weather gets colder.

There have been changes in the barnyard too. Many of the ewes have red, yellow or orange crayon marks on their rumps (some have all three colors) – evidence that the rams have been busy breeding and that about 140 days from now we will have new baby lambs.

Our oldest ram died while we were gone. He had been lagging behind when we last moved the animals. So it wasn’t a complete surprise. Mohamed said that he hadn’t been able to get him up one evening and by morning he was dead. I mourn the deaths of sheep. But a rapid death for an old sheep is a blessing.

The changes in Dave and I after being unharnessed for two weeks, are also a blessing. Our yearly autumn trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to canoe and camp and commune with each other is as necessary to us as any other part of our lives. We talk about our goals, our schedules, our responsibilities. We try to prioritize projects and brainstorm ways to avoid becoming over-committed.

Without friends like Mohamed and the other young people over the years who have house and animal sat for us, we wouldn’t get away from the farm. Dave and I both enjoy farming, but we also remember with horror, that Dave’s Grandpa Roy, a dairy farmer, never took a vacation and left home for less than twenty-four hours when his grandson was married. Animal farming is not an occupation that allows much time off. The choices and the changes we have made from Grandpa Roy’s farm mean that we can raise sheep.

Change, a blessing.

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