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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ripening Tomatoes . . . and Cats

This week I set out to make a post about ripening green tomatoes

I was going to write about how I gathered all of the green tomatoes out of the garden before the first frost a couple weeks ago, about how I carefully checked them over to make sure they were all in good shape as to not spoil other tomatoes around them, and about how I have kept them out of the sunlight as suggested while waiting for them to turn red.

I was then going to mention how valuable these green tomatoes are, as I have already done one batch of 11 quarts of tomato juice from them.  I was also going to share how many quarts this last batch of ripened tomatoes produced (17 quarts). 

While I was sorting out the bright red tomatoes that were once as green as could be, my 4 year old asked me if he could help me.  Of course he could.  Why hadn't I thought to ask him? 

He edged in beside me and carefully started picking out the red tomatoes.  As he worked, he lifted up a tomato to his nose and proclaimed with a smile that it smelled like tomato juice.  He worked steadily as he clutched his stuffed cat with his other arm.
His cat. 

Two summers ago Isaac fell in love with the addition of cats on our farm.  He was 3 that summer and he spent his warm sunny days building houses for our cats. Two were gray, black, and white striped.  One was yellow. 

He had so much fun over the summer with these cats that we decided to work some cats into his November birthday. He received a little cat figure from the farm store to be added to their set of farm animals, as well as a little book with a cat that perfectly matched one of the darker cats.

His birthday celebration at home was going to be in the evening. We put the kids down for nap and rest time.  I prepared for when they were to wake up while Ethan went out to do some chores.

Not long afterward, Ethan came in quiet and long faced.  One of the darker cats had gotten up inside the truck, under the hood.  When the truck was turned on to be moved, the cat got caught in the belt.  It didn't survive. We decided to tell the kids the next day, after Isaac's birthday.

Isaac and our 1 1/2 year old spent many hours playing cats that fall . . . with their stuffed dogs. For Christmas, I gave Isaac and Jonathan each a stuffed cat.  Isaac, a yellow cat.  Jonathan, a black cat.  Isaac's favoritism soon turned toward our yellow cat, "Puss in Boots".

This summer the boys continued to smother our cats with love, as much as they could find them.  As the summer progressed, however, "Puss in Boots" started causing a little too much farm mischief.  We had gotten him as an older cat, and he had never learned to see our small farm animals as comrades, as kittens growing up on the farm would do.  It came to the point of him needing to leave our farm to live at a friend's house.

Isaac was heartbroken.

Still, Isaac and Jonathan continued to play with our remaining cat outside, and their little stuffed cats were constantly with them in the house.

This fall, while on a hayride, I spotted a small yellow kitten . . . a little yellow kitten just like "Puss in Boots". I knew the family who owned the cats cheerfully gave away kittens. With their permission, our new "Puss in Boots" spent the rest of the evening peeking out of my coat, waiting to head to its new home.

It didn't take me long once home to notice this little kitten seemed a bit lost penned up by itself as it was becoming acquainted with our farm, and our large dogs.  A quick message back to the family revealed that they did have a black kitten to match Jonathan's stuffed kitten, and they would be more than happy to add in a little calico female too if we would take it. 

And so arrived our 3 new kittens.  From the beginning, the kids have taken extra special care of them. Grabbing them up when vehicles were moving, shutting them up at night to keep them safe from larger animals, and sneaking out on the porch as often as able to smother them with attention.

Isaac's stuffed cat, now more flat and limp with love than plush, followed him around the house all the more.  I benefited from frequent hugs daily accompanied by thank yous for giving him his stuffed cat.

This past Saturday our farm hosted an all day event at our farm.  We had a group of individuals scheduled to come for an in depth tour of the farm, with 2 full meals included prepared from the produce and meats from our farm. We had been preparing all week, gotten up early Saturday morning, and we were very excited about the day ahead.

About an hour before our guests were to arrive, I continued to get ready inside.  Ethan headed out to move our truck and trailer.  And then he came in.  Straight faced.  Quiet.  A cat had ran right behind him when he was parking the trailer.  It had been hit. 

I asked him which one.

Puss in Boots.

We told Isaac.

I realize that cats come and go no matter where you are.  I realize that life is difficult no matter what you are involved in.  Sometimes, though, I just get tired of the struggles that farming, especially beginning farming, brings along.  The days that the kids feel heartache are the days that hit me the hardest.

So as Isaac hunkered down beside me, his one year worn with love stuffed kitty in his arms, wanting to help, enjoying the aroma of the tomatoes from our summer's labor, I was thankful. 

Yes, life on the farm is full of struggles.  But it is also full of lessons.  Lessons filled with the benefits of our hard work.  Lessons filled with working through life struggles and losses, knowing they will come again and come weightier as life progresses. Lessons that prepare and teach the kids how to navigate through this world.  Lessons for me in how to instil Hope to the next generation.  A Hope that sometimes needs an extra dose of patience and Faith in what is promised to come. 

The next time I have a project to do, I will try to remember to invite my little ones over to help me before they have to ask.

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