So here is the deal. Fellas if you don’t already know, she is not looking forward to a crowded restaurant and cliche’ lovey dovey stuff. She wants you to think outside the box. It shows how much you care when you put some effort into it. Let us, you’re favorite farmers, make you a valentines hero. We have an amazing time planned with champagne and chocolates and cute baby lambs. Or if you prefer swing by the drug store for a card and a whitmans sampler…… See the flyer for details then email me for reservations @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Great news friends and fans of the barry farm. We are finalist for the inaugural Local Hero Awards from Edible Houston. We’d be honored if you’d take the time (2 minutes of your life) and click through and vote for us in the Farm category. thanks for your continued support of the smith family
First dinner of 2016 is open for reservations ya’ll! Please come join us at the farm for a celebration of chicken done right. Come see for yourself the process of raising chickens on pasture then taste the fruits of our labor. We’re kickin’ this year off right!
On a cold post Christmas Texas day Layla (11 years old) and I finished chores just as the sun gave its last. The trees feel cold long giving up their leaves but the animals are warm tucked into the lambing barn. The past 2 days this young lady and I worked side by side working sheep moving pigs to new pasture and much much more. This is how we are investing in the future of the family farm. One cold day at a time.
Farming has been a purposeful attempt by our family to find meaning and truth in our lives. It began simply as a quest to find safe and tasty food that we felt good about eating and has evolved into a reclamation of our family. Once a fractured collection of individuals through the labor of farming we have learned to rely on each other both physically and emotionally. I am a pretty ‘live and let live ‘ kind of guy that rarely likes to tell others what to do or how to live their lives and I don’t intend to change that with this letter to you. I do however wish to talk about my thoughts about Christmas. This time of year when most of the world is celebrating in one fashion or another the birth of Jesus, this shepherd has a very deep connection to the story and the implications. If for some reason you are not willing to let me bend your ear about what it is like to be a shepherd, father, son and christian at Christmas time, this is your off ramp. If you are willing to know me better and be more ‘with me’ then gitty up.
While I will gladly fess up here and admit I am not the best shepherd I know or could introduce you too, I will say that we spend a LOT of time with sheep. Especially this time of year, which is in the throws of our busy season called “lambing season”. Every shepherd throughout history has done this process and in so doing has endured sleepless nights, difficult deliveries, healthy lambs and sadly also has know the loss of newborns. We are basically on shifts with the very pregnant ewes close to us, awaiting their turn to deliver. The whole year rides on her ability to deliver easily, bond with and care for her newly delivered lambs. While she labors and nurses her lambs we do everything in our power to make sure all her needs are tended too. Both of them are very vulnerable to all kinds of difficulties including infection, weather, wetness, predation, parasites and even starvation for the lamb if the ewe rejects it. It is the time of year when it is the darkest, the coldest, the most danger is present and yet they require our best. Our best feed, our best attention, our best experience and our best knowledge will all be demanded during this time. There is no substitute at this time for the presence of the shepherd. The shepherd is the one with intimate knowledge of the flock AND know what to do when things go awry.
We find ourselves out beneath the cold texas night stars every night during the winter carefully keeping watch on our most vulnerable and loved sheep. For us they represent a very big part of our effort and income and quite frankly we cannot afford to be sloppy during winter lambing season. The consequence would be dire for us financially and final for weak lambs and vulnerable ewes. Today we delivered 3 new lambs in the span of about an hour. The last was born right into standing water that was near 60 degrees. Unable to stand it had no choice but to struggle to keep it’s head literally above water until the shepherd discovered it. When I found him and saw the scene I did what any one of us would have done. I took my shirt off, picked up the soaked shivering baby, wrapped him in it and held him close to my body as the ewe and I headed for the shelter of the barn. The lamb has value, is loved and worth freezing my own self to save him. Just to put you at ease, the lamb is fine and Seamus ran to the house for towels and a new shirt for dad so I didn’t have to stay cold for long. Without us taking quick action that lamb would have died of hypothermia very quickly. People often ask me questions about why we chose to be shepherds. There are many answers that include their benefit to our grasses and soil, to their value as providers of meat and their economic rewards for good shepherds but the ultimate reason is that we can do it together as a family. Other species that we could have chosen, we passed on because our kids couldn’t be right in the middle of the action while working with them. Cows, pigs, horses all have potential to be dangerous to them but the sheep even our youngest has duties expected of him. Our kids, vaccinate, ear tag, de worm, feed ,trim hooves, herd, give hay, move fences and can do most of that all on their own without fear of the sheep. We have discovered while working together that laboring together will knit a family tighter than ever before. There simply is no substitute for our presence with one another. When we are with them and rely on them our children respond in a uniquely loving and loyal way. They know real value from our ‘withness’.
The gospel of Luke in the new testament tells a story not too unlike what you just read. An angel appeared to shepherds who were tending their flocks by night. The angel to them “do not be afraid” I bring you words of joy that tonight your savior was born. Their response was to go and see what the angels foretold and found a baby lying in a manger wrapped in strips of cloth.
As a kid and even an adult I could recite that account from luke or Charlie Brown and it just rolled off my tongue to easily. I had not one single clue what any of that meant and it all felt a little like greeting card Christianity. How was a kid from the suburbs of Cleveland Ohio to have even relational knowledge to the lives of a shepherd, let alone angels and a baby in a manger. It was truly the stuff of fairy tales and while important in a religious boys upbringing didn’t stand a snowballs chance of sticking anywhere in my heart. Even as I got much older I frankly rejected the agrarian metaphors of the bible dismissing them as not for me and sought a more modern way to find the truth of who Jesus is. I was busy reading books like “the gospel according to Starbucks” instead of trying to see Jesus right in front of me. In the first century as Jesus taught his lessons he often used agriculture as a way to relate his message to people. Now those people were more often than not, illiterate and very closely involved in the agricultural activities he was describing. When he said I am the vine and you are the branches he was talking to people who worked vineyards or knew those that did. But what do vineyards, sheep, oil lamps have anything to do with me or my family? Not until I was in my early 30’s did the truth that had been there all along hit me across the face like an obvious right hook from a slow old man. Almost every story Jesus tells and even the story told of his own birth had two things in common. First, the audience for his time and words were almost always hard working, unimportant, poor, humble people. Secondly his stories have the same premise throughout each iteration and it is the story of incarnation or God with us. Jesus’s birth and teaching during his life can simply be summed up with this statement, ‘I am here with you, I missed you and it’s ok I have you’. This Christmas take just a moment of real reflection and imagine the creator of everything acting a little like your friends the shepherds. Imagine him spending cold nights with sheep in the barn. Imagine him taking off his shirt to dry and warm a lamb. Imagine him meeting the needs of protection and provision for a bunch of vulnerable lambs.
Now imagine yourself as the lamb.
Renee and I have been married for almost 13 years now and I believe are entering into the sweet spot of our marriage. It has never been more real, rewarding, intimate or functional than it is right at this moment. If you are unmarried but would like to be, please read this. If you have been married for a short time and still feel like you are honeymooning read this. If you are fighting read this. If you aren’t fighting…..well still read this too. We have people to the farm almost daily and one of the recurring themes to the ensuing questions are always along the lines of “how do just the two of you do all this?” This following is the short version.
I have become convinced that a wife who wants an intimate and best friend kind of relationship with her husband only need do one thing to facilitate it. Sure it may take on subtle different approaches from time to time but the goal is always the same. The one thing a wife must do is only to maintain her husbands ego. Simple right? Glad you think so, now let’s get about the work of discovering what that means. If I may be so bold let me help a little along the way with a real life example courtesy of the fresh from the salon smoochy faced lady in the picture.
If you spend even a brief time with me you will discover that I am a confident man and that sometimes my confidence can push the arrogance boundary. I pride myself on being a leader by example, having a strong back and a willingness to work until the job is done. Beneath the beard also resides a mind that wonders to the potential of all things around me and a very tender heart for people who find themselves in a vulnerable spot. My ego, or sense of self, isn’t very complicated and it would sound a little like this if it had a voice: ‘you are a good man who loves others sacrificially. You’re a good dad who is available to your kids and will be their first hero. You’re a strong and tender husband that knows Renee like no one else could. You’re a talented and hard worker that does something noble with his life’s ambitions’. You get the gist right? One little caveat before I tell my story here, as I can feel every woman in my life rolling their eyes at me. I am not suggesting it is a wife’s roll or obligation to OVER inflate that ego, but only to keep it on firm and positive ground. So just simmer down those rolling eyes , cocked to the side head and twisted “uh huhhh” lips.
This past week I sat in a chair and had to watch someone do a job that I used to do weekly, only he did it way way better than I ever could have done. Renee was sitting next to me all the while I sat and stewed and hoped for a miserable failure to occur at any moment. I hope for maybe like a heart attack or something to happen to the guy and the only thing that could make the show go on was me to step in and save the day. Basically I was hoping to be a hero in a Greek tragedy and stories would have had to been told about this day that lived on in history. After all I AM
SPARTA ……uhhhh i mean I AM FARMER. See how petty I am deep inside my own thoughts? Who thinks that kind of thing? Jerks think those kind of things, that’s who. I decided to open up and write about this because I think there is at least one other person who is like me and would appreciate me going first to bring it up. I do understand it isn’t really acceptable to share this kind of thing about ourselves publicly, but following cultural mores has never been a strong point of mine. This internal conversation raged on and all of it was drowning out that little voice that typically maintains a healthy ego and makes me the kind of guy you would like to be around. Just as I was entering the 7th layer of self pitty and rage fantasy, my wife puts her arm around me and pulls me closer and gives me ‘the look’. And then as if the look couldn’t break my spell she comes in with the crusher “I love you”. In an instant I was deflated and no one knew any of this except her. To anyone else in the room I have the same dumb bearded face I always had, and was hiding behind sun worn smile lines. However there is no fooling Renee, she sees right through my weak defense and knows in that moment she had work to do that only she can do. With out a big scene, Renee with love reminded me I was off track and when I go bad mental places I take her and my family with me. My ego had metaphorically gotten the twig above the berries so to speak and her actions required that I get back in the ego bubble that I belonged in. My thoughts easily changed to how lucky I was to have Renee as my partner in this life, how much Layla lights up my face when I first see her and how proud Seamus makes me as we work together. I reminded myself that my job and my farm are good things that bring healing and joy to hundreds of others. She led me to a place that was full of light and love and was not a fantasy at all but was living back in the truth of what our lives actually are. He is the good news. Every wife can do this for her husband. It is possible, free, doesn’t take much time to do but has made our marriage a deeply intimate one. Renee has taken the time to know me and I’ve taken the time to share my naked heart with her giving her the place in my life that no one else gets. Even if the noble cause of helping out your husband by maintaining his ego didn’t seem worth doing on its own merit, let me remind you that with an intact ego your husband will act in the way you need him to act the most: lovingly. A husband that is complete becomes free to act, and is not in a emotional quagmire that will suck the life right out of relationships. Plainly, he will turn his attention to you and your kids. Men, ever the fixer of problems, are relentless in fixing themselves but can only do so much without you. Once “fixed” they will move on to the real business of a marriage and that is learning to be present or together with the girl of their dreams. Now go call your wife and tell her you were thinking of her.