Friday, January 11, 2013

Farm Show

The Mister wanted to take in not one, but both of the Pennsylvania state farm shows which run concurrently in two separate cities about twenty-five miles apart. We decided Lancaster would be home base for this two day trip, and made accommodations in Ephrata. This way, we could squeeze in a little visiting and I could shop at my favorite department store and book shop.

We do some farming on the side, but before you get images of dairy cows and produce, you should know that our crop is timber. The Mister manages his family's wood lot and does forestry type things that I don't fully understand, but certainly know more about today than when I married him.

It's been a mild winter so far, my favorite kind of winter. Still, it's cold. The kind of cold that makes me wonder what kind of people once built and lived in the old stone houses that dot the countryside. Houses constructed hundreds of years ago, without insulation and modern heating. Were those hearty souls perpetually huddled around a fire? I read once that most of the human existence has been a struggle for warmth, and I believe it.

From the quiet comfort of the car I don't mind seeing picturesque patches of snow dotting the ground and smoke emanating from historic chimneys. I appreciate the beauty of candles glowing in every window after dusk and bare branches against a gray sky. It's the history that gives a PA winter its warmth.

Come along with me...

I couldn't resist trying to capture these sunbeams shining through the clouds. There's something magical about sunbeams illuminating a landscape, like a spotlight from God. 
 


 We visited a furniture store, and on the way out I noticed this Amish school house. All was quiet, though I'm sure class was in session. 



 This friendly horse wanted to say hello. I always think I can tell a well-loved horse by how friendly it is to strangers. 

 The farm show in Harrisburg was enormous and packed with people. It resembled more of a state fair than an agriculture trade show. Square dancing, fair food, souvenirs for sale, and plenty of animals. Before I knew it, we were surrounded by show cows and immersed in a world of animal pageantry I never imagined.

"Look at that chicken. It has long curly feathers." An exploded down pillow with a beak eyed me with suspicion.
"It must be a mess when it gets dirty."
"Dirty? It probably gets professionally groomed."

Someone had a good time at the farm show getting their hands on animals.

The Keystone show in York was, The Mister informed me, for serious farmers. There was no fooling around. No square dancers, nor show chickens. It was vendors hawking their wares and having deep discussions on water treatment systems for cattle and cover crops. The Mister got serious about trailer equipment and wood pulp machinery, while I collected free pens and ate expensive mediocre french fries for lunch. Since there were no animals, I watched other stroller-pushing farm-type moms. After spending the morning surrounded by the latest in crop harvesting technology, it wasn't long before we were driving back to a place where the newest cutting edge combines sat parked in barns next to two hundred year old homes filled with ancient traditions and agricultural legacies underscored by quiet, hard working people.

I had been thinking about 1 Thessalonians 4:11And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;


Live quietly, mind your own business and work with your hands.  A timeless farming ethic for us all, to be used by everyone no matter what our occupation. I find it soothing that we are offered this undemanding and realistic goal for our lives. What a great thought to start the new year.

Picture Day

Remember picture day? Of course you do. It was the day your family hauled you off to a generic studio at a department store for a family picture to send Aunt Verna. Maybe you got your picture taken in school. If you were like my family, someone snapped an informal picture of your family at a wedding, and your growth spurt which created a too-short dress that didn't quite cover your knee socks was preserved for all time.

Let me start off by saying that I don't know how any family with more than three members manages to get out the door in one unified, pleasant-looking swoop for a photo session. It was hard enough to find a photographer, plan a date and time, select and press clothing, and make sure it coincided with a hair cut for The Mister. But then to have to get us all dressed and neat looking, out of the house with minimal fuss, and arrive at our destination unwrinkled and fresh, well, we won't be doing this too often. In the past, when I would receive a family photo with, say, some sane looking couple and their five, seven, or nine children, I would just think something along the lines of they got together for a lovely picture. How nice.

Now, I think something like, they must have had sixteen personal assistants, a military strategist, and a mission statement. How nice. I have a whole new appreciation for seventy percent of the pictures on our fridge.

It was important to me to have a few good current pictures of Duckling since all of his one-year birthday pictures were terrible, and he moves faster than my camera shutter, like a caffeine fueled kangaroo. Hiring a professional seemed like the only thing I could do at this point, so I found a lady who specializes in quality pictures that are also affordable. It's part of her philosophy, and I really like that concept.

"I scheduled a family portrait shoot for next Monday..."
"What? Why can't we just get someone we know to take our picture?"
"Oh, and who would that be?"
"Well, my Uncle Bob has a camera and takes some pictures."
"Yes, well, Uncle Bob's skills aren't what they used to be since he turned ninety, and his camera is perpetually set on the landscape setting. It's hard to communicate to him that it makes me look extra-wide since he keeps his hearing aid turned off."

The photographer had a delightful little Christmas scene set up in her studio, a decorated tree and these adorable vintage toys. She even had a little red Radio Flyer tricycle just like the one that I rode as a young girl.Unfortunately, as we awkwardly huddled on the hard floor in an unnatural pose in front of decorations that would be alien in our home, we exuded a sense of discomfort and most of those pictures did not make the cut. 


Someone isn't ready for their close up.
 Right around this time, Duckling was suffering from a perpetual cold and an increase of unsettling behavior. Not only was smiling not on his agenda, but outright frowns were the order of the day. By the time we moved the session outdoors, we found ourselves chasing him down as he attempted to run away from his crazy smiling parents. He was probably going to join the circus as That Baby Who Frowns A Lot. 

.

An hour later we exhaled and picture day was a wrap, preserved for all time. The fruits of my pressing, spraying, and motivational speeches had been digitized. Around the holidays, some loved one, somewhere, opened an envelope from us and thought...

                             ...they got together for a lovely picture. How nice.

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