A Big House on a Little Prairie Update: 1 Year, 1 Difficult Loss

It’s been just over a week since Farmer John passed away. I find myself thinking of things I need to ask him, or trying to remember to tell him something the next time I see him walking out to his shop… only to realize that won’t happen.

It’s been a little surreal. I’m in denial in a lot of ways – it simply doesn’t seem possible he passed away. We had too much to share with him. He had so much to help us with.

And yet day by day, I recount how long it has been since I last talked to him. Since the last time I saw him. Since his funeral.

He’s really gone.

As I realized when our daughter Harlynn died, however, life still forges ahead even after people die. That’s an equally difficult road to navigate. Everything was completely turned upside down, yet everything is still somehow going on the same as before.

Farmer John is gone, but his corn is still growing and needs to be checked now and then. Our potatoes are in the middle of his corn field, and they need to be weeded, since he won’t be cultivating rows with his tractor again.

Our garden has started to go gangbusters and needs harvested daily. The chickens are giving us a dozen eggs a day. Our chokecherry trees produced a ridiculous bumper crop this year and I won’t be able to keep up, even after 27 jars each of jelly and syrup…

Life is still going full speed ahead, even after life ended abruptly.

So I’ve been doing what I find I’m able to handle. I love being outdoors, and find every available excuse to be outside. The garden has become my sanctuary and I’m in total awe every time I step inside the fence. To see what all was started from a single seed and is now producing copious amounts of produce… it blows my mind.

It’s humbling in a lot of ways. I planted each seed, nurtured it to the best of my ability, but really had no control – or guarantee – over what would survive or produce, let alone thrive.

While we’ve had some losses and some disappointing outputs, it’s incredible to me to see these plants producing. I went from impatiently waiting for results and harvest to nearly not being able to keep up with harvesting, let alone preserving the fruits of their progress.

So far I’ve made jelly and syrup, shelled peas and frozen them (in hopes of getting enough to can later, or I might just leave them frozen), made delicious kale chips, enjoyed salad with the lettuce from the garden, served up a stir fry made only of our garden produce, harvested peppers, and will now try my hand at zucchini bread and butter pickles, since I’ve started some cucumbers fermenting for dill pickles already.

I can see the tomatoes almost ready to turn ripe. I can see the peppers growing like crazy. I am exercising so much patience in giving the beets and carrots just a little more time. I can’t hardly wait for the turtle black, hidatsa red, and Dakota bumble beans to dry on the vine so I can get them canned to serve this winter. And the pumpkins – so tiny and so cute at this stage!

I’m thrilled and excited and thankful. One year ago we had just moved in here and our friends were growing six tomato plants for us in their own back yard, since all we had was the apartment patio at the start of growing season. Now we’ve got a sizable garden, a generous potato crop planted, and we’ll have one final harvest of sweet corn planted by Farmer John.

I’m so thankful for our year here. I’m thankful every day for our home – it has felt like home since the first time we set foot in it. I’m thankful for our community, and for our neighbors. I’m thankful we had 12 precious months with Farmer John – months that have changed me for the better.

I’m thankful for our garden. For the means to grow our food and for the skills and sense of adventure enough to preserve it.  I’m so thankful for our 12 sweet chickens and their prolific egg-laying. I’m thankful for Big House on a Little Prairie, and I’m thankful to find so much joy in so many simple parts of life.

We’re in a season where mason jars are my love language and loving thy neighbor means more to me than it ever did before. I miss John more than I imagined I would. I also am flooded with gratitude not only for what he taught us but who else he brought into our lives.

I’m being intentional about being neighborly to the people around us, and not just in the nearby houses, but to the clerk at the grocery store. To the waitress at the grill. To the librarian. To the mailman. To the swim instructor. They’re all my neighbor now, and I have Farmer John and Big House on a Little Prairie to thank for that.

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