Nature’s Gym

Last fall, it became apparent that FD and I would have to deal with a dead walnut tree between the old barn and our metal storage building. Not only could strong winds and ice bring limbs down on either building, they could also fall and injure any critter that might have to occupy “Daisy’s pen” during its rehabilitation. And, the chickens are housed in the old barn, so a major storm would have the capability to bring the tree down and crush a good portion of the barn, including the hen’s roosting area. After contacting four different tree removal services, I had bids ranging from $650 to $1250 just to take the 30′ tree down, with FD and I doing the work of cutting and hauling off the wood. In light of these quotes, we decided to remove the dead tree ourselves, “Southern Style”, if you will, using our own chainsaw, a long, thick rope, and Big Green, our old Ford one-ton pickup truck.

As we began this undertaking, I was nervous. Who wouldn’t be? One wrong move and either the metal building, the barn, or Mom’s one-room guest cabin would suffer extensive damage. Using an extension ladder, FD anchored the rope around the tree at about eighteen feet above the ground and then made a notch in the trunk with his chainsaw. It was my job to pull the rope with the truck once FD gave the signal as he cut through the back side of the tree, towards the notch. Soon I heard the sound of the chainsaw buzzing, and all I could think about (worrywart that I am) was the expense we would incur if everything went wrong.  Well, the tree fell perfectly, which washed away my fears and left me filled with pride of a job well-done. Mostly, I was happy that we had saved $650 by doing it ourselves!

The mostly-dead walnut tree is in the background on the left, and the mimosa tree (with the pink blooms hanging) is on the right. Both were located between the metal building and old barn.
The mostly dead walnut tree is in the background on the left, and the mimosa tree (with the pink blooms hanging) is on the right. Both were located between the metal building and old barn.
FD attaches the rope to direct the falling tree in a safe area.
FD attaches the rope to direct the falling tree in a safe area.
Mission accomplished! The walnut tree fell exactly where FD predicted!
Mission accomplished! The walnut tree fell exactly where FD predicted!

The following weekend, we cut down a live mimosa tree that had also become a structural hazard. Not only were the limbs getting huge and capable of doing damage in a storm, but the roots were at the ground surface and we feared they would cause buckling of the cement floor in our metal building before long. Running the chainsaw at odd angles and lifting heavy wood is tough work and the wood from the mimosa had to be moved by hand because the area was fenced and provided no access for the tractor. Fortunately, FD and I were used to doing everything by hand when we first moved on this ten acres – before we could afford a tractor. Back then, working as “human tractors”, we moved a lot of cut wood and a lot of dirt using only wheelbarrows to assist!

Doing our daily chores around this place helps to keep us in shape too. We are accustomed to lifting forty or fifty pound bags of feed year-round. In fall and winter, we work in the woods clearing and cleaning up fallen trees, keeping a burn pit stoked almost every week to keep the process moving. In the spring and summer, there is gardening, which includes squatting, pulling, hacking away at soil with a hoe, and pulling 100 to 200 foot water hoses around to keep plants hydrated and alive. We take turns push mowing in spots – especially the slope out back of the house. It is a killer challenge. It takes me an hour to push mow it by myself, while only cursing it every now and then. When I finish, I’m proud. Well, at the very least, I’m thankful that for one more week I did not suffer a heart attack or stroke mowing that beast of a hill!

The wretched slope that drops off behind our house, down to the canyon into Daisy's world. It has to be push-mowed about two thirds from the top.
The wretched slope that drops off behind our house, down to the canyon into Daisy’s world. It has to be push mowed about two-thirds down from the top.

Here on the ten-acre ranch, most weekends include projects that require physical strength. Building, repairing, moving, lifting, digging, raking, cleaning, planting – keeping this place up is all about exerting the body physically. FD and I have both pulled the indoor gym stint in the past, and can attest that nature’s gym challenges us a whole lot more than any workout on machines or fancy apparatus in a climate-controlled gym.

I made three trips with the wheelbarrow full of weeds!
I made three trips to the chicken pen with the wheelbarrow full of weeds!
Mr. Toad did not budge from his shady spot, so I gave him a nudge.
Mr. Toad did not budge from his shady spot, so I gave him a nudge.

Early in the week, I decided it was time to deal with the growth of weeds in Daisy’s old deer pen. FD and I planted a wildlife food plot in one half of the pen – chicory, peas, oats, turnips, and various types of clover – but the other side had a lot of weeds popping up in the Bermuda grass. I almost pulled the mower out to cut the weeds down, and then thought more about the green goodness growing in there. So instead of getting out the push mower, I grabbed the wheelbarrow and a pair of gloves. After three trips to the chicken pen with the wheelbarrow chock full of weeds, I had cleared the pen of the pesky weed problem. My legs and derriere were quite sore, and my hands were a bit achy, but it felt good to know the weeds had been uprooted and were gone for good. A mower would not have eradicated them and, with Daisy and Spirit hanging around, chemical was not an option for me. The chickens were content to scratch through the piles of green goodness, and clucked in delight – well, sometimes there was a fight but, in the end, they all enjoyed the spoils from the deer pen!

The girls gather around to check out the yummy greens!
The girls gather around to check out the yummy greens!
Having a bit of trouble extracting the flower.
This gal is having a bit of trouble extracting the flower.
A hungry girl knows sometimes you must be clever in extracting the good stuff - just step on it!
A hungry girl knows sometimes you must be clever in extracting the good stuff – just step on it!

When I was young, I just looked for the easy way to do a job, and generally did not even take pride in doing it well. I was always in a hurry to finish, so whatever was the fastest and most convenient was the way I chose. I understand now why my parents and grandparents did so much themselves, and why they took the time to do a job right. I understand why doing a job myself is often more beneficial than hiring it done, and am always very proud to complete a project that I performed myself, realizing a lot of sweat, muscle and blood was borne from that cause.

Mostly, I am thankful for the work that keeps me healthy, both physically and of mind and spirit. Working in nature is where I flourish… and where I belong.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


57 thoughts on “Nature’s Gym

        1. Me too! Even in the night, when I have spent time sitting with Daisy deer bedded down, I look up at the night sky and think how lucky she is to have such a view and only the sounds of nature.

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          1. I love the way this story had began. the chosen words that walked me through the first paragraph made me comfortable with the subject and had me mentally invested in what was happening with the chickens, and everything else under the tree. You teach me quality over quantity.

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          2. Oh, Indya Elise, there is so much to learn from nature. It is a wonderful thing for me to share about what I learn each day. If only I would take the time to write each day like you do! 🙂

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          3. I’m learning, I have notebook diaries back to 2010, typing them and putting them on my blog like you will be my next step. I am a documenter taking as many pictures and videos to capture the moment I am living has almost became obsessive. I know I’m wondering off the nature subject my apologies. I love animals and nature simply because they have no rules or directions that guide them. They learn things visually and experimenting

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          4. We have lived in the woods at high elevation for many years. The clarity of the stars and the sheer number of them makes me feel tiny and insignificant, but happy.

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          5. Trees block much of our sky, but I love the darkness back here and the sounds of the wild in the night. Ah… we have it made when we touch nature like this, eh? 🙂

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  1. You are so right. There is no gym that is better (or even as good) as working outside, or doing your own housework, for that matter. So glad all went well with the chainsaw, though… that is where I draw the line on do it yourself chores.

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    1. Oh, I’m not allowed to use the real chainsaw, but I do use a battery-operated sawsall. I do a lot of work in the woods cutting the smaller stuff. FD handles the big stuff with the chainsaw on the weekends. Gardening always amazes me. I think that is the one that hits the body all around. I’m so sore after a day of planting or weeding and I wonder how all of those little movements made for a lot of muscle aches! Yes, you got that right with housework too!

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  2. You do get quite a workout. Glad the tree situations were resolved (nothing like a little careful planning…we had an ancient Jeep grand wagoneer – the big one – that we used in similar projects – boy, do I miss that one. )
    Surprised you had a mimosa tree there! They smell good, but tend to be fragile in wind.
    After watching my dad and his brothers, I’m thinking the secret to a long life is outdoor farm work

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    1. I used to have an old International Scout. That thing looked and drove like a tank – not a pretty piece of metal, but that thing could pull like a tractor! Isn’t it funny how we remember the vehicles that were tough? Mimosa’s grow like crazy here… kind of a junk tree. Most people don’t like them. I like them as the butterflies light on the blossoms. But they are a messy tree and the limbs grow odd angles and really do some damage when they come down. My folks always said, “Hard work never killed anybody” but I think surely some one must have died from it?!! Sometimes I push too hard (like on that slope) and I feel like I’m not going to make it. It sure feels good to finish a job like that!

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        1. Ha ha! Well, with the heat comes the stickers, stick-tites, and burrs. We hand-pull those a lot here – especially goat-heads. I really don’t like those… here I go cursing again!

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        1. I just saw them tonight! Daisy’s udder is beginning to fill. I can’t remember how engorged it got last year, but it seemed the last 3 days before giving birth, it was very large. She is also carrying them (I assume there are two again since she’s like a barrel – big on both sides) lower than last year. I have no clue when she ran off to find her buck. She gave the local buck the slip early on. She was looking for someone different – more choosy this time I guess! LOL

          Spirit is nearly a yearling and she’s just as tall as Daisy now, and very beautiful. She’s a dominant doe. I’ve observed her chasing off Scarlet doe’s twins. Daisy did a good job. Oh, and Spirit is not pregnant, thank goodness. I’ve heard a fawn, if healthy, can become fertile at the second rut. And Daisy has not run her off, so I think she’ll stick around the place too, and call it home. Next year could be mighty interesting – lots of babies around here!

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          1. You’ll have to have them all over for thanksgiving. It blows me away how quickly time is flying and your Daisy is certainly proof of that.
            The local Buck. I wanted that job but had to settle for the local yuck.

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          2. Ha ha!! Daisy has a place in the local herd, so ALL of them show up for food at night. We go through a lot of corn and deer chow here. The other night we had four bucks show up – all in velvet growing new antlers. It was awesome. No photos though because it was too dark for decent pictures. Sometimes Scarlet and her twins come around, though I don’t see Scarlet much lately. I think her last year’s twins are on their own, but they like to follow Daisy and Spirit. They’re often up top here by the house. They are not very afraid of FD and me. Then there are a couple of older does (maybe Scarlet’s mother or sister) that occasionally come. One is very old. So we get a lot of traffic on the place.

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          3. This story just gets better and sweeter. What did one deer say to the other? “Hey let’s get on up to FD and Lori’s and see if they have any corn!”
            It sounds like a great time and to have that going on in your life is so very special. I cherish the image. Thanks.

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  3. Don’t stop working like that. My spouse’s ancestors were mostly farmers, from 1760 Hudson-Mohawk Valley New York to 1880 far northwestern Iowa. They didn’t have anything but horse, mule and people power. From clearing the fields to plowing with a team, harvest was with scythes at first. The surprise was that they all lived into their mid to late 80’s. Pretty rugged folks, they worked hard physical labor from their childhood till advanced age. No heart attacks, no strokes, very little arthritis. Most of them went to bed one night and didn’t wake up the next morning. Add a simple good diet and enough sleep and you’ll live a long healthy life.

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    1. That’s the life for me then! It feels good… so down to earth and healthy. The blend of a good diet, keeping active, and plenty of rest is so important. Thanks for sharing you farm family history. It’s always fascinating to me where people live and how life varies from region to region.

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  4. When I lived on four acres in the woods, I did a lot of what you described here–especially chainsawing deadfall and clearing scrub. It did feel good to do that work, but it would kill me now. I can still appreciate it vicariously, though.

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    1. Well, you know this work is hard on me too at this age. I still plug away at it. I’ll get you out here one day and you can relive the good old days!! I promise, we’ll get to play some too!

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  5. Great job on the tree removal! I have the same problem with forking out dough on stuff I feel we can pull off. Like FD, my husband is really handy, he is a plumber by trade. Usually one of us has an idea of how to take care of whatever needs tending.
    Question about your chickens, as maybe I’ll have some soon. .. They enjoy weeds? How awesome! I knew they would be great for the garden for both insect removal and fertilizer… but didn’t know the weed thang. Cooool!

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    1. Oh yes! Chickens love weeds and grass. The only downside to that is that they scratch around a lot so if you have fancy flower beds or areas you don’t want them in you’ll have to watch that! They don’t seem to know their boundaries. And they LOVE to chase insects. They’re very good at pest control. I love chickens! Isn’t it great to have a jack-of-all-trades for a mate? Saves a lot of money, and I sure do learn a lot from FD!

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  6. I know exactly what you mean. We DO work hard us girls. I love watching the chickens eat weeds, every morning now I even mow for the pigs, until they can get on the grass they have it delivered! When john gets all useful and mows the whole yard i get so mad, i always keep the best bits with the dandelions and long good grass for the animals. Even Sheila, who is already in a fiel,d lines up for her share. I am very impressed with your tree removal skills. We have so few trees i would be chopping down the shed to keep a tree. But dead trees are a hazard. Have a wonderful day my friend.. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to get outside for the whole day again.. I resent housework at this time of year.. c

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    1. Hi Celi. Oh it’s glorious out there right now! I’m “fixin” to mow our yard. I’m making the pasture and woodlands fawn-ready this year. We are leaving tall grasses growing for cover for them and of course Daisy deer and Spirit eat a lot of our weeds, so everything has purpose. I feel really great at the end of the day. Pooped, yes, but it’s all good! Have a wonderful day… and leave that housework be!

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  7. I’m always shocked when I get estimates for tree work too…it’s crazy expensive. But you and FD make a great team, and I know how great it feels to do work yourself instead of hiring it out. (I keep trying to convince my husband of that but he’s not as handy as FD!)
    I think this is the first time I’ve seen your chickens! They’re lovely, and it looks like you have quite a few of them. Do you manage to consume all of the eggs they produce? I think I’d like to have chickens if we had a bit more space. I’ve heard they have interesting personalities.

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    1. Oh chickens are a hoot! So many personalities. These are actually my mom-in-laws chickens but I help out with them. Actually, we do eat most of the eggs, but you only need a small area for 3 or 4 chickens. Some varieties make excellent pets! I think you should look into it. If you can’t build a little coop yourselves, most farm stores have ready-made coops. There’s really not much to tend to if you only have a few chickens! The eggs are phenomenal!

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    1. Oh, they are happy! I get tickled watching them. They each have a personality all their own. Even the roosters can be quite comical. I try to give them greens every day. It’s just a few minutes of time to pull a few weeds for them, and they’re so appreciative!

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  8. This post was more wholesome than a loaf of good sourdough rye Lori. I feel positively zingy with health after reading about your work, your relationships with your animals. your health that is born of good honest soul building sweat and how satisfied you feel at the end of your day as well as tired. I am with you on everything that you shared and feel a deep connection with how you and FD want to live on and with your land. Love it! 🙂 Love that fat toad as well…sort of reminds me of Earl when I want to sweep the rug (for the 50th time that day) who “SHALL NOT BE MOVED WOMAN!” 😉

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    1. Ha ha ha! Earl knows what he wants and he’s not afraid to ask – or stand his ground! You know Fran, yesterday I remembered I had video on my iPhone, so when Daisy showed up a took a little video of her. When I played it back this morning, I was able to hear so many birds, and I could hear Daisy crunching corn and sipping water. The video seemed so alive with nature. I knew at that moment that I had finally arrived at the place I was meant to be. I walked around with a smile on my face all day today, knowing how fortunate I am that I can live here and have such a deep connection with nature.

      Fran, I feel that same connection with you that you describe. When you write you touch on so many things I’ve felt, or wondered, or done… and I feel “ok” with who I am. You’re this lovely free-spirited woman who lives life and isn’t afraid to talk about it candidly. I believe though, you can run circles around me at the end of the day. You have a lot more going on on your little piece of land! There are many things I love about you… I’m so happy we found each other!

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      1. I keep finding sisters in other lands 🙂 I have more friends online than I do in real life! I am completely and utterly with you on the connection with nature. I have always been at my happiest when I could wander around away from everyone else. I was raised on 100 acres and just wandered around between the paddocks, the native bushland and the sea and everything just made sense. Hope that makes sense? I think that was the best childhood for me, it grounded me in what is important. A connection with the earth and with nature is more important than a myriad of connections with people who are living in artificial worlds propped up by what isn’t real. Who would really want to live like that?! Give me the outdoors and indoors when Brunhilda is pumping out heat and a simple life and I am one happy camper 🙂

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        1. I so relate to this! Although I did yearn for what I thought was a better life when I first moved from home just out of high school… I thought living in a big city and doing something important would make me successful in life. I would prove to my family that there was something better than farm life. It’s funny how it’s all come full circle for me now. Life lived well is living simply, and joyfully in nature. I just had a walk with Daisy and Spirit in the woods. What woman gets to walk with deer? And because I walk with deer, other animals and birds are not so afraid of me. I have experiences every day that amaze me, and I feel connected with every bit of it. I look at the world and I feel fortunate to live a life experiencing and understanding the secret delights of nature. So many people in the world (and I think especially American’s) are brainwashed by this artificial sense of well-being. It hurts me to know some folks will never know the real gift of life and having lived.

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          1. That’s the sad thing about our modern artificial society. So many people are so far removed from everything that if they were ever forced to live how we are supposed to live they would be SO far out of their comfort zone that they wouldn’t be able to cope. We are meant to connect with the land, with the creatures around us, with the plants and the soil and the rivers, streams and the sea. If we don’t we ignore them at our peril. We aren’t really human if we don’t channel it all through our senses, we can’t remove ourselves from nature and to be honest, why would we want to? I love that Daisy and Spirit visit you and that you have an ongoing communication with them. You are right about animals trusting you. We have so many chooks here and I can see birds in the trees watching me as I feed them and gauging that I am not a threat…so far so, that I am finding blackbirds in the chook coop now! I don’t mind, the wallabies eat the grain as well 😉 At least we don’t have rats, the few remaining feral cats see to them all promptly. If we all live together a kind of cyclical harmony can evolve where we all respect each other and what we bring to the party. You can’t bypass nature and stay a healthy society. As fringe dwellers we are so very lucky to be allowed into both groups aren’t we? 🙂

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          2. I couldn’t agree more. People tend to think I’m not technical-minded or that I’m old and don’t wish to learn the “new” ways of communicating. They might think I’m an oddball and that I’m weird. I suppose some of that may be true, but the thing is, I don’t need to communicate other than I do, and I don’t enjoy television and cell phones and texting. Yes, I do keep up with some people that way because it is their way, but I don’t need it. I’m completely happy with my feet touching the earth and feeling the dirt between my toes. Nature is my haven… where I flourish. Isn’t it wonderful – this blogging world – where we find a niche with so many like-minded people?

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          3. Exactly Lori 🙂 We, the fringe dwelling crazies that talk to animals can find other fringe dwelling crazies and form a happy little crazy community 🙂 I don’t have a cell phone (Steve does) and I don’t watch a lot of television because it makes me twitch and I would prefer to listen to good music and sing out loud and dance around the kitchen and head out into the garden or the bush and watch the world go on regardless around me than head to the city. I guess it takes all sorts to make a world and I am SO glad I am the sort that got to live my life 🙂

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          4. Me too, Fran! It is also a wonderful thing to connect with so many people who feel the same way… and aren’t we happy for our mates who support our special kind of life? Each of us has our own experience, which allows us to have a better understanding of life. Sharing about that on this level (blogging) is amazing to me. It allows many of us to write and share about our experience without venturing out into society and conforming to society’s way of broadcasting.

            I like that; fringe dwelling crazies!! Perhaps we’ll actually be of some good use one day when things crumble in the world as we know it and the masses will have to rely on the FDC’s to learn survival skills as well as how to care for planet earth and be good stewards to all living beings!!

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          5. Spot on ma’am 🙂 another good thing about blogging is that sometimes people aren’t all that good with other people but here in the ether they can share and be part of a community even if they are shy etc. A great levelling platform and an amazing way to meet new, interesting and wonderful people. Have a wonderful weekend. We have the RAC man here as our car just croaked hauling a trailer load of manure up our steep driveway. Not sure what has happened to it but I can hear Steve talking to him outside. Hopefully he will tow it to our mechanics and hopefully there isn’t too much wrong with it…

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          6. Oh no! It seems we need to have a breakdown of some sort ever once in a while! Right now our truck is giving us trouble when shifting – it wants to “slip” past Drive. Alas, that sounds like a major expense to me, but we’ll see. I hope your situation is an easy and inexpensive fix. 🙂

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          7. Turns out it was flooded which shouldn’t technically happen with a fuel injected car so apparently our car is running too rich (which our mechanic had mentioned to us before) so it’s booked in for a weeks time to get serviced etc. LONG overdue I can tell you ;). Yeah that slipping past drive is a sure sign that something is amiss, might just be the drive belt wearing, fingers crossed it isn’t anything serious. I will lend you our mechanic 😉

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  9. Super LIKE!
    I have been meaning to read this for the last six days and have finally done it! Superb narration, as usual. And some ‘telling’ pictures!
    I have done some gardening in my younger days and always felt it gave one a lot of satisfaction.
    I sometimes think of youngsters these days who have not seen anything like this and will never do so, with all that modernization, technology etc. My children, for example, cannot imagine we used to play in the mud and the sand and enjoy it, even more so during a storm, chase birds, watch lizards fall from the roof, wake up to the klomp-klomp of peacocks dancing on the tiled roof, hunt game on the weekend, or destroy my grandmother’s strawberry patch.
    Those times have all but disappeared in urban India and rural life is also being affected fast.
    Every narration of yours reminds me of a part of my own childhood. Thanks!

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    1. Oh thank you! I too have fond memories of how it was back in the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was a young girl. We delighted in simple things and we had such imagination! I also remember being fascinated when I listened to my grandparents talk about their childhood lives and how differently they lived. I know time and technology move on and bring us perhaps an easier way of life, but there is also appreciation for what was. My hard work ethic is something my generation and generations since, have not passed on to our children. As a child, my mother especially, encouraged us to go outside and play. She helped foster imagination about the world that was ours to discover. And we were given chores to do to “help” out and be a part of a working family. Many parents today are content to have their children quiet and zombie-like in front of a TV watching ridiculous shows or playing video games. Others spend countless hours on computers and cell phones. Electronics gadgets are very much a babysitter in America. I think there are still many farm and ranch families here in the states, where kids grow up learning to work and enjoy nature. There is little to do to cause a shift in the way of thinking for most people though. For me, I simply enjoy what I live for my time – and I’m happy to find like-minded people through blogging who feel the same- who have enjoyed and appreciate the experience. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend, my friend? Thank you for sharing your memories!

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  10. As I have said earlier, reading you is like a time machine – it transports me back to years, decades ago! Thanks for the nostalgia!
    However, the weekend here is Bahrain is Friday and Saturday (as with most Islamic nations) and we start work Sunday! It did sound and feel strange initially but we are now used to it.

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  11. Hard work and completing a hard, physical task is very satisfying at the end, even if you wonder if you are crazy while you are doing it!

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    1. I’m kind of a late bloomer when it comes to getting on a good piece of land and tapping into my old farm girl roots, but here I am and happy as a clam! Keep dreaming and do little things to get your “horse fix”. Find a stable where you can learn to ride, and study up on horses. The internet and some great book reading helped to educate me about all of the wildlife we have taken in here. It’s an amazing life… just keep positive! 😀

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