Tuesday, November 09, 2004

If you are a visitor from Bishop Seraphim's Live Journal, greetings and welcome. I started this weblog on a rainy Sunday afternoon in March of 2002 and have been posting with varying frequency ever since. In recent months the ratio of writing to photographs has tipped heavily towards photographs. If one picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps I have kept up with my earlier intentions after all. The photographs, with very few exceptions, are my own, taken here on the farm with my trusty, but now obsolete, Olympus D-400 1.3 megapixel digital camera. Some of my favorite pictures are now scattered in the archives available on the right hand side of the weblog. I have two other web projects, both far more neglected than this one. For a while I double posted weblog entries over at this live journal site. It has been dormant for a while and I am deciding what to do with it. I also have a second weblog, The Suburban Ascetic, which I use for occasional longer pieces on Orthodoxy in the modern world. (By "occasional" I really mean "once in a blue moon.")

Please feel free to stay a while and browse. If you see a picture you like, you are free to use it. Just give me a credit and/or link back. By the way, clicking on any picture will take you to a larger version.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Sheep in the yard take a break after a hard morning's grazing.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

More llamas

Sheep and leaves

Llama against an autumn sky

Friday, October 22, 2004

Morning Cloud and Fall Color 10-22-04

Friday, October 01, 2004

Who says that poets love the mountains?
Mountains, mountains---
            I'm tired of writing about them!
Thousands of peaks and thousands of ranges
            seem to throw themselves at me.
I have to rest three hours for each hour of climbing.

When your desk is piled high
            Where can you put another book?
When your stomach is full,
            How can you go on eating?
I have no use for more green slopes
            and mountain mists---
I'll wrap them in a package
            and send them to my city friends.

(Trans. Jonathan Chaves)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Morning 9-23-04

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Skyline Drive Sunrise 9-14-04

Sunday, August 29, 2004

ram: n. a male sheep
v. to strike with violence

With dusk changing rapidly to darkness, we were down at the barn trying to herd sheep by the single light shining out into the middle pen. A gate sprung open, our eight rams had mixed in with a dozen or so ewes in the barn lot. This is not good for your breeding records, so the younger son and I were thrashing around in a waist high mob of wooly backs in a half-lit barnyard. Like some sweat-soaked, near-sighted, anti-Noah, there I was frantically trying to divide male from female so they would not go together, two by two. The sheep were being sheep, that is to say, that they were not cooperating. I was not happy and said so. At length. Using a full and varied vocabulary gained from sixteen years working with cops and criminals. We finally got the impromptu ovine singles mixer to move into a smaller pen where there was more hope of catching the rams and giving them the bum's rush back out into the upper pasture without their new girlfriends in tow. I had my back turned trying to close the gate when February, until then a favorite ram, slammed me squarely in the back. With Newtonian inevitability, I in turn slammed into the gate, throwing it back open. The younger son, faced with the sight of his father hopping around like Quasimodo and hollering like Homer Simpson showed maturity beyond his years by neither fleeing nor dissolving in laughter.

Later, when the aspirin kicked in and I stopped wondering how much freezer space the offender would take up as mutton chops, my wife assured me that it had just been a love tap. If he had been really serious, he would have hit me much harder.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

It has been a while since I updated this site. If you are reading this, thank you for still being interested and stopping by. I will endeavor to be more regular in my postings over the next month. In the meantime, here is a poem from Wallace Stevens that captures many of my evenings of late:


The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Monday, July 12, 2004

This, believe it or not, is the site approved by the outgoing town council for the location of our new Wal-Mart. The Shenandoah River flows behind the trees at the edge of the field. I once described the folks in my neck of the woods as "conservatives with something left to conserve." Less and less it seems.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Sunset over Skyline Drive July 7, 2004

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Sunset on Buck Mountain July 4, 2004

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

James H. Bell: June 5, 1932 - June 6, 2004

Monday, May 31, 2004

After the rain; sunset, moonrise

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Today the feast of Pentecost is celebrated in both the Eastern and Western Churches. The intricate cycles of the Gregorian and Julian calendars for calculating the date of Easter rotated into agreement this year so Rome, the Protestant denominations and Orthodoxy have shared a rare season of liturgical unity. We Orthodox observe the feast by kneeling at prayer in Vespers, both rejoicing in prayer at the gift of the Spirit, and returning again to the spirit of repentance that, if never completely forgotten, has been overshadowed these past weeks by the joy of the Paschal celebration.

David Melling has an instructive meditation on the prayers of Pentecost at his website. The full services are available online in a translation by Father Eprhraim at his site here.

God, great and eternal, holy and lover of humankind, who have counted us worthy to stand at this hour before your unapproachable glory to hymn and praise your wonders, be gracious to us, your unworthy servants. Grant us grace to offer you without conceit and with a broken heart the thrice-holy hymn of glory and thanksgiving for your great gifts . . . Remember, Lord, our weakness and do not destroy us with our iniquities, but in our humiliation show us your great mercy, so that fleeing the darkness of sin we may walk in the daylight of justice; and having put on the weapons of light we may persevere unassailed by any assault of the evil one, and that with boldness we may glorify you for all things, the only true God and lover of humankind. For indeed, Master and Maker of all things, truly great is your mystery: the temporary dissolution of your creatures and after this their restoration and repose to the ages. We give thanks to you for all things, for our entrances into this world and for our departures, which through your unfailing promise betoken for us beforehand our hopes of resurrection and unending life. Would that we may enjoy it at your future second Coming, for you are the author of our resurrection and the impartial judge who loves humankind of what we have done in life, the Master and Lord of our reward.

The preceeding is particularly appropriate as we in the United States remember those killed in conflict on behalf of their fellow citizens this Memorial Day weekend. We give thanks to you for all things, for our entrances into this world and for our departures. Memory Eternal.

Sheep for the shearing

Friday, May 28, 2004

Friday Morning, the view towards Hogback

Friday Morning, Buck Mountain

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Thursday Afternoon

Monday, May 24, 2004

As our sheep friends have noted, I am in the midst of a gala spring blog redecoration project. The new layout adds some complications and it will be a while before everything is sorted out and all links are back in place. I have left archived posts in the "classic" Hillside Farm format and they are now sorted by day (hence the absurdly long archive links at the bottom right of the blog). Let me know what you think!

Still not done?

Watching and Waiting . . . Is the new look finished yet?

I am experimenting with a new service provided in conjunction with Blogger. Since this is only a test, here is a vacation photo from the family's great Hawaiian adventure in February. Click on the picture for a full size image.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The view from home 5-17-04

Monday, May 17, 2004

Go here for more amazing photographs and a "virtual" tour of the Gracanica monastery, one of the beleaguered Orthodox holy sites in Kosovo.
Yes, I'm in the yard and yes, the grass is better in here and no, I'm not moving.

Morning Fog

Thursday, May 13, 2004

After a series of blog decorating disasters, I am now back to the old appearance, outdated links and all. Spring cleaning is not over yet though!
Young sheep, particularly when under the influence of the lushness and abundance of spring pasture, will do odd things. They jump straight up, all four legs like pistons, and run off at full speed in random directions. They stick their head through gaps in fences and find themselves stuck like prisoners in stocks. Even the older ones get in on the action. Some shed years and play like lambs. Some drop dead for no discernible reason, as if they just felt like doing something new. In that same vein, I have decided to adopt their brave spirit of self-destructive irrationality and make some changes to the "look and feel" of this weblog. Please bear with me until the fit passes and I make peace with the new blogger interface. If there are any designers out there who feel pity for an html and CSS challenged lawyer/farmer, drop me a line!

Monday, April 26, 2004

My Town on an April Morning

Two views of Main Street

Royal Avenue


Sunday, April 04, 2004

Here is the morning view of the mountains. Yes, that is snow dusting the ridge line of Hogback Mountain. April's sweet showers are falling as flakes in the higher elevations. Tonight the temperature drops into the twenties with high winds driving it down even further. The National Weather Service gives us the following special weather statement: WIND CHILL READINGS ARE EXPECTED TO FALL INTO THE LOWER TEENS ACROSS THE OUTLYING SUBURBS AND MORE RURAL VALLEYS...AND INTO THE SINGLE DIGITS ACROSS THE HIGHER TERRAIN IN THE MOUNTAINS. The sheep are safely tucked into the barn and I am trying to remember where I put the hammer I use to chip the ice off the water troughs.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Morning Clouds 3-31-04

Monday, March 29, 2004

We are now well into Lent as well as Spring, past the halfway point with the Paschal celebration in sight. As usual, I have accomplished less than intended, kept the fast less well than I wanted and live no less comfortably with my many faults than I did before. Still, without the annual discipline, what state might I be in? I don't have any deep thoughts about the season. For that I would recommend a work like Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent. There are great treasures in the services and the disciplines of the Fast. Still, for me it is more like one of our more mundane chores here on the farm, walking the fencelines. Sheep, like my thoughts, tend to wander off from their own pastures with small respect for boundaries or even their own health and safety. We fence them in with posts and fence rails, mesh wire, barbed wire, old stone walls, whatever is available. Some things work better then others. Even the best fence fails sometimes. Tree limbs fall at inconvenient places. Gullies wash out under wire fences leaving escape tunnels for fugitive sheep. Every so often, we need to walk the fencelines, repairing a tear here, removing a fallen tree there, piling rocks or logs to close a gap under the fence. It won't keep the sheep from trying. It won't even keep a few from succeeding in sneaking through. But, with luck and a little grace, it does keep us from waking up and finding the entire flock chewing it's way to town down either side of the blacktop. Likewise, the disciplines of Lent may not have made much of a dent in my own wayward nature, but they do remind me of where the fences are.

We are now a week into Spring, and the only signs so far on our Hillside Farm (besides the flock of disgruntled robins hopping around in last week's snow flurries) are the green spears of new grass in the pasture. The equinox is a time when light and darkness are in balance. Our weather is oscillating between warm and cold, dry and wet, perhaps seeking a balance of it's own, a kind of climatic equipoise.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Gideon Strauss put out a call last week for "Manifestos", those great declarations of principle and purpose that signal some person or group's intent to shake the world. I am, I confess, not a manifesto kind of person. Between a law practice and farm chores, I have enough to keep me busy. If you add in an ongoing effort to absorb 2000 years worth of Orthodox teaching and spiritual life, it leaves me hard pressed to figure out how I can fruitfully meddle with anything I am not directly responsible for. Since I have no crusade of my own to charge off on, here for Mr. Strauss' reading pleasure is a Manifesto from one of my favorite authors:

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

It has been well over a month since my last update. We hover on the verge of spring, warm days see-sawing with cold. Lambing is not quite over. The Hampshires in the purebred part of the flock are still greeting us with surprises in the barn every few mornings. I had intended a gala blog update on Sunday, but discovered that one of our ewes had presented us with not one, not two, but three lambs. Some ewes can raise triplets on their own, but by and large, sheep who can count to three seem to be a rarity. This ewe presents a particular difficulty. Only one of the two teats a sheep comes naturally equipped with is functional on her. With three customers, demand clearly outstrips supply. We left the largest lamb with her and fostered the other two out with a neighbor.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

In a break between winter storms, the temperature rose above freezing yesterday for the first time in weeks. The snow and ice in the barnyard melted, turning the ground into a kind of brown soup. I like changes that the seasons and the vagaries of weather bring to our place but I have to confess that having the evening feeding turn into the retreat from Moscow is not one of my favorite things. The temperature dropped back quickly after sunset and the rivulets of water on top of the melting snow flash froze into little beads of ice. Disturbed by my passage, they cascaded down the hill in a shower of tintinnabulation, tiny bells ringing over the refrozen snow.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Each morning, before putting the coat and tie that mark my role as lawyer and public servant, I dress in my hand-me-down Carhart coveralls, pick up a fifty pound feed sack and walk down to the barn. This morning I put the digital camera in a pocket next to the hoof trimmers and baling twine. It's a different crowd than you find in the Courthouse, but some days just as troublesome. This morning was a good one though. A ewe managed her first lamb without help sometime in the night and I found it strong and warm in a corner of the barn. When I was able to get mother and child together, the two of them went into a pen out of the weather for the next couple of days. The sheep pictured below are checking for the last bits of grain before heading out to the field, the llama looking on like a courtroom bailiff. The new arrival was a little camera shy, but one of the older lambs was willing to stop and pose. The ewe whose eartag proclaims her as Number 1 was not interested in modeling, but kept in a corner of the picture in case the small box I was holding turned out to have something to do with food.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Hogback Returns

High winds at dawn, first sun in days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

We keep a close watch on the flock as the weather closes in. The rams are pretty self-sufficient. They have their shed, a round bale for grazing when the grass has gone dormant for the winter, and a daily ration of grain. The ewes and their lambs are more of a challenge. With hoses and outside faucets frozen, we hand carry water to new mothers in pens. Ewes persist in giving birth in the draftiest parts of the barn, or outside in snowdrifts. The weaker of a set of twins in particularly vulnerable in these conditions. The heat lamp is hung in the basement, ready for the next chilled newborn.
Buck Mountain in Snow

Days of light snow and freezing drizzle have converted our vistas to grayscale. Hogback and the ridgeline of Skyline drive vanished Sunday afternoon and haven't been seen since.

Withered by winter
the sound of the wind--
one-color world


(Trans. Stephen Addis)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I have started a new essay on my much neglected other blog, The Suburban Ascetic. I hope to survey the situation of Orthodoxy in the contemporary global culture, starting with a look backwards to the past. I cannot promise more than a paragraph or two a night (or every other night.) Nonetheless, if you are interested, stop on by.
Cold weather can mean hard times on the farm. Most of our lambs are born at night, in the shelter of the barn. Nonetheless, a sizeable few make a daylight arrival. No problem on mild days; in some ways it is better for them than the barn. On days like these though, it is a risk and a challenge. Our daytime temperatures have been below freezing, with wind-chills hovering near zero. A lamb born healthy can get pneumonia in minutes. A lamb that needs a little extra care may be frozen solid by evening when we check the fields one last time before closing the barn. We lost two lambs last week. One, a weak twin that never thrived after being born outside in a patch of grass not quite covered by snow. The second, I found frozen in the pile of leaves his mother had left him in while she came in for the morning feeding. As I took away the small bodies, both ewes were calling, crying out to their lambs, not understanding where they went, or why they wouldn't come.

A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they were no more.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

The predicted snow never arrived, but the cold front that was supposed to be carrying it did, bringing single digit night time temperatures with wind-chills that literally take your breath away. I am getting over a bout with some seasonal virus, so took a shepherd's crook with me down to the barn to have something to lean on for a bit until my breath caught up again. I use an oak crook, cheap, heavy and shoulder high. There are better ones on the market, even a few high tech fiberglass and alloy crooks, but none that will stand up to a season with our big hampshire sheep like the old clumsy oak. As I walked, the ground was frozen so hard that the crook rang like a wooden bell as it struck with each step, my own semantron, calling to morning prayer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

More snow predicted for tonight. Today's picture is last week's snowfall, just an inch or so. It was dry and slick, more like cornstarch than frozen water. Down in the barn lot it mixed with bits of dust and soil desicated from sub-zero wind chills. Carrying the feed buckets for the sheep, I kicked up brown and white powder and watched float it in the cold air before settling again.

We are well into lambing. The barn is half full of ewes with their offspring. The intensive care ward is in its usual place under a heat lamp in the basement. This year a friend who lives nearby has taken in a few of the lambs needing bottle feeding. We gave her one to keep, and Susan tells me it is neatly diapered and living in the house. I refrain from comment, grateful for the big heart that takes some of the burden off of us as we try and get through this part of the farm cycle and still hold down off-farm jobs.