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Letter From the Pig Farm

I was driving my grandfather’s old pickup to town the other day when we came upon a nanny goat standing in the middle of the road. I stopped and rolled down my window. Belle and Joe, sitting beside me, clambered over to my side to look out at the funny little goat and say hello.

I was driving my grandfather’s old pickup to town the other day when we came upon a nanny goat standing in the middle of the road. I stopped and rolled down my window. Belle and Joe, sitting beside me, clambered over to my side to look out at the funny little goat and say hello. She peered up at us with her striped face, sniffing noisily, and seemed so friendly that I decided to open the pickup door to see if we could pet her. Indeed she was friendly — no sooner did I get the door open than she hopped into the truck on top of my legs. Did she think we were hiding food in there? Did she want a ride to town?

We petted her all over (Belle and Joe were surprised at how coarse her hair was!) and then we finally shooed her out and went on our way to the grocery store while she wandered back towards her pasture.

That’s just one of the small unplanned escapades we’ve had since we’ve been at our place in Wyoming, the pig farm, for the summer. Several years ago we bought some land where the previous owners had for many years raised pigs. Although there haven’t been pigs on this property for three decades it’s still referred to as “the pig farm” by everyone in the area so that’s what we call it too.

Belle and Joe don’t have anything to do at the pig farm; at least there aren’t much in the way of planned activities. Yet somehow they’re endlessly occupied and dog-tired at the end of the day. Everything is slowed way down here, but our days seem fuller and richer than when we’re on the fast track at home.

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The three of us planted the garden as soon as we got here two weeks ago: squash, beets, corn, potatoes, carrots, onions, beans and lettuce, and since then we’ve been weeding, watering, and literally watching it grow. The plants are coming up like magic, partly since we got a whole bunch of free fertilizer from the huge stack of pig manure that’s been sitting in one of the old tin sheds for 30 years.

Other than our two dogs we don’t have any farm animals, but we’ve been able to take advantage of the fact that the neighbors have plenty. The Wilsons across the road from us have a baby kitten we got to see when it was only two days old, and they asked Belle to come up with a name which she’s still working on as it has to be perfect. Just last week one of their ewes had a lamb, a bit late in the season, though I don’t think they’ll name it. They have a new batch of chicks that are tame enough to let us hold them, and four piglets their kids are raising for 4-H. The other Wilsons, further south, have a pair of Belgian horses to pull their hay sled and the mare had a sweet little filly about a month ago that’s just all legs with a fuzzy, curly mane and tail. It comes up to the fence when we ride our bikes up, and then after a few minutes of letting us pet it will run away and kick its heels as though we’ve scared the heck out of it.

Further entertainment, especially for Joe, is provided by the giant pile of scrap wood we have from our construction projects and he’s a lot more proficient with a hammer and nail than he was a month ago. He’s also learned to crack a bullwhip, shoot a bow and arrow, and lasso a stationary object, though I’m not sure exactly how those skills will get him further ahead in life.

I’m grateful to my bones that the kids and I are able to spend part of the summer “not doing anything.” I feel so lucky to be out here in the wide open spaces of northwest Wyoming. And I’m trying to savor every precious moment of it, because I know it probably can’t last. Joe and Belle are only eight and ten years old. Surely in a few years they’ll insist on signing up for camps and lessons of some sort during the summer. Their lives will revolve around their friends, not me. Just being here at the pig farm, I’m sure, won’t be enough.

But for now, the wood pile, the vegetable garden, the stray goats in the road . . . these things are our summer. And my heaven. And I hope you have the chance to “not do something” this summer, too.



Santa, I Hope This Letter Won’t Come as a Shock

Dear Santa, I’ve really enjoyed the past ten years that we’ve been together. We’ve had some fun times. And I would never want to hurt your feelings, but I think the best way to deal with my own feelings is to be completely honest with you. So I’m sorry, Santa, but I’m breaking up with you.

Thanks for Restaurants, Bananas and Plumbing

My kids Belle and Joe and I were out to dinner with a friend and her kids recently when my friend’s five year-old daughter, Zoe, looked up from her food long enough to proclaim in her sweet little-girl’s near-whisper of a voice, “This is the finest restaurant I’ve ever been in.”

Knee Deep in Memories

I was sweeping up debris in the driveway last Saturday when my daughter, Belle, came up out of our trash can. She said, “Mama!” and gave me a look that absolutely blistered me.

School Projects from Hell

My sister-in-law was telling me recently about a school project assigned to her daughter in kindergarten. This was the cheerful instruction the teacher sent home on a sheet of bright yellow paper: Bake a cookie which represents the Great Plains ~ Bring to class on Monday!

Good-Bye to Santa?

Every year, soon after Thanksgiving, our children Belle and Joe start thinking about writing their letters to Santa Claus. What a special time of year!

Nature, Nurture, and the Occasional Stern Lecture

My friend Julie’s five-year old daughter whacked off a chunk of her hair the other day for the second time in the space of about ten days. So Julie was beside herself when the little imp turned right around and did it again the very next time she got hold of the scissors.

Retouching Childhood

I don’t think, looking back honestly, that I could be called “attractive” in any of my school pictures. Even my senior picture, the one I chose from among 20 proofs, makes me cringe when I peruse it with the benefit of 30 years’ perspective.

We're Being Watched

A few weeks ago I asked my 6-year old son, Joe, to please get the dinner dishes off the table. But it was one of our first really nice spring days, and he was already on his way out the back door to play in the yard.