The wuthering wind howls outside tonight, whistling at the windows, worrying the chimney, whipping around the house’s corners, eaves, and shutters, whimpering at the doors, wanting to come inside out of its own cold.
I hear it rattling tree branches, rustling fallen leaves, robbing the porch of anything left loose. I see it ruffling the mane of the horses’s necks, running like lightning across the hay bales, and rippling the surface of pond.
I love these lines about the wind found in the poetic book of Amos in the Bible:
For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind
“Across the wide acres, from the church house, the schoolhouse, the farmhouse––the bell rings and sings through the air and into your soul.” c.e.hollis
When I first moved to the farm 20 years ago, it was not then a farm. It had been a farm. It had grown sorghum, corn, hay, pecans, and soybeans. Its leaning barn had stored corn, feed, hay, as well as housed cows, horses, turkeys, and chickens. When we arrived there were a couple of barred owls that haunted the barn.
The old farm acreage had been home to farmers, ranchers, oil well workers, and assorted country folk. Two pear trees below the hill were planted by a man who lived with his family in one of two small rent houses on the property. This man’s son is elderly now and visited us one day. He told the story of how Doctor Watson delivered his baby sister in their house and the doctor was paid with a Jersey milk cow. The houses have long since disappearred and now only the pear trees survive. (We still eat pears from those two trees. I have canned bushels of them, year after year.)
The farm took lots of work to clear and clean up. We had trees to cut, brush to clear, acres to mow, spaces to fence. The house needed a new roof, good windows, new doors, siding and inside, gallons of paint. We pulled up carpet and fixed plumbing, took out a wall, added one, and on and on.p
One thing I wanted after we got the place livable was a bell––a farm bell to call children from their explorations along the creek, their horseback rides through the woods and hay fields, and from the barn, to announce dinner, etc.
Ron bought me one for Christmas that year nearly twenty years ago. (It made a tough thing to giftwrap!) He mounted the bell on a sturdy square post and we added a rope to pull for its clanging song.
I love our bell and so do the children and grandchildren. It saved me a lot of yelling.
I have seen it capped with snow, dripping with rain, decorated with icicles, backlit by the sunset, and hot in a sweltering August afternoon. Every farm needs a bell and this farm/pecan orchard/cattle ranch/ homestead has a fine one. If you listen closely I think you can hear the clang-clang, clang-clang, clang-clang it makes.
“Spring comes so softly that we don’t hear her voice until we have seen her wave her green. Suddenly there is color and music and our hearts fill with each note.”
Spring Comes Softly
The daffodils, crocuses, and hyacinths are first to show up. They are “sudden” clumps of green stems and among them are hidden swellings that become the harbingers of spring––wonderful spring. Who is not waiting for her, watching for her, ready for her warmer days?
The iris fronds are shapely and green. They seem to appear like miracles though we know they are coming. We thought we were watching. We are always certain we’ll spot them––then suddenly they are there. How did that happen?
The trees begin with tiny pale green leafs that burst from buds we didn’t notice. They soon cover the limbs, branches, and every twig that survived the winter’s cold. Some dance in white or pink dresses of blossoms. Some have flowers as green as the new leaves themselves.
The grass shows up in funny patches and then is all of a sudden it is a sight that makes the boy who mows all summer sigh and wish his dad would buy a riding mower. Soon there will be enough grass and clover to blind you with green. Like an explosion––spring has begun.
Tree frogs begin their choruses along the creek bank. New calves romp in the pasture, and birds build nests. The days, still shorter than summer, begin to lengthen and hearts begin to feel the season’s hope.
Teaching kindergarten and the elementary grades was a delight to me. I enjoyed the days of watching little persons grow and begin their educations.
Elementary students are fragile and wonderfully teachable. I wanted to do the best with my students, so for me it was a season of prayer and a season of joy––SPRING!
I wrote these prayers and matched them to the sights and sounds of springtime and to scriptures from Psalms that touched my heart.
Eastern Oklahoma is cattle country. We have beef and dairy cattle and plenty of horse ranches besides. Near our farm is a buffalo range, a sheep farm, an angus bull ranch, an alpaca ranch, a goat farm, and several small chicken and hog farms. Mostly though, our area raises beef.
Ranchers keep donkeys sometimes as guards. They will protect a herd from maurading coyotes and from cattle rustlers.
I have photographed dozens of ranch gates. I find them wonderfully amusing. Once I saw a red-tailed hawk perched on one longhorn of the Allen Ranch gate! Watch my slideshow which will give you glimpses of fun ranch gates and some of the livestock I see everyday.
I love the Fox Hill Farm sign and the Allen Ranch gate. I visited the Allen Ranch years ago when they gave trail rides and groups could field trip there and have a campfire.
The Dillingham Ranch was at one time one of the largest in this part of Oklahoma (10,500 acres). It was slated to become a resort with a golf course for a while, but the deal fell though.
Our ranch is small. We call it “Holliswood” because our last name is Hollis. We have one horse and at present a herd of 14 cows. Our house, an old farmhouse is at the front of our pecan orchard. behind that are 40 more acres where we harvest hay for wintering our cows.
Take a look at my newest books. One is titled What’s Good About Home. I don’t mean it as a question but rather a commentary on the good things about it. The cover is from a photo of wildflowers and day lilies I took myself. I love flowers and I love the fields and meadows. I think you will enjoy reading stories from my farm and the lessons I learned raising my seven children here.
Life With Mama is a book of stories about my mother and my life in a large family.
The latest is a small gift book, titled The Heart of Spring, containing prayers and encouragement for school teachers.
These are avaiable from Amazon and other online book stores.
“Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark.”
Sir Rabindranath Tagore
Fog does not come on little cat feet here. It rolls in across the land––rising from creekbeds and farm ponds. It makes ghosts of winter’s tree skeletons. It hides fences and gates. It muffles sound and turns the morning into a mystery.
It waits and when the sun rises bright in the east, it sips the fog away. Only a mist is left and it lifts and disappears leaving spider’s webs spangled like a rhinestone cowboy’s dress shirt. The webs are everywhere––in the ditches, strung from tree branches, on the barbed wire fences, and from my picnic table to a lawn chair.
I watch as I drive to town. Snippets of white are still sitting in the hollows, in the dips of the road, across the creekbed and hovering above ponds. They sit still and silent like little clouds that overslept and missed the bus.
It is a beautiful sight to see. Soon it is completely gone. It disappears and you can’t tell when you might to see such a marvelous thing again.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:22:35
I love to bake bread and in the cold of winter it warms the house and gives off that wonderful yeasty smell that is so irresistable.
Cinnamon rolls are fun to make. They are made with a soft white bread recipe and divided and rolled out. I spread on the soft butter and then add brown sugar, cinnamon , golden raisins, and chopped pecans.
Roll the whole into a cylinder shape and slice off pieces. I crowd the slices in round metal cake pans and let them rise for another hour. The top left photo of a ring is done by slicing almost through the dough and placing it to bake on a round pizza pan. Shape into a ring and work the ends together. You can leave the center empty or add a slice from another roll.
When the rolls have risen nice and puffy, I put them in the 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Oh boy, do they smell good! They whole house smells of sweetness and is warmed up.
When they are browned on top I turn them out on to plates and then flip each over. Cool and then spread with a confectioner’s sugar, butter and cream icing.
Find my recipe below:
The dough is made by dissoling 4 and 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast in 2 and 1/2 cup warm water. Add 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, one egg, 1/4 cup oil or melted butter. Add 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4 cups of white flour and one tablespoon of salt. Mix and knead for at least four minutes.
[To rise well bread must have an oil, a liquid, salt, a sugar, and the yeast or levening. You may sustitute another sugar, like honey, or another oil, like butter, but if you omit any of these your bread will fail.]
The dough should be placed in a large bowl and covered with a dish towel until it rises to twice the size. Next punch down the dough. Turn it out on a floured surface and knead some more. Divide into loaves or roll out for cinnamon rolls. This recipe will make 1 loaf and two pans of rolls.
Soften butter and spread on the dough. Mix 1 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon with 3/4 cup raisins and 1 cup chopped pecans. Roll the dough up and cut in slices. Place in the pan you will bake in. Allow to rise again.
Bake at 375 degrees for twenty minutes. Turn out within five minutes. Frost with a mixture of 2 cups powdered sugar, cut with 3 tablespoons butter. Add cream to desired consistency. Spread on warm rolls.
Mama was a baker. She made wonderful orange rolls when we were kids. They were my favorite. (Once she baked them during a blizzard!) I learned to bake from her. In my Life with Mama book you can read how she refused me an Easy Bake Oven which I wanted for Christmas when I was a child. Instead gave me a cookbook, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, cake pans, and cookie sheets. She sewed an apron and put me to work cooking up a storm. Real food! Not easy bake. I have loved baking ever since. (Also read about the blizzard and the man whose life Mama saved.)
Nature is full of genius, full of divinity, so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.
Henry David Thoreau
As the year passes, we look for doors. We watch for each season to change to the next; for each door to swing open and the new and fresh to come. Late winter finds us most anxious for spring––for new leaves and blooming flowers, for color, for green grass, and new life ahead. It is the season of renewal.