Old Stone Well Farm

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Grossvater’s Wisdom: Swiss National Day at the Farm

I cannot believe how fast the summer is flying by. As we head into August, the month starts with the celebration of Swiss National Day here in Vermont.

My father’s family is from the picturesque village of Appenzell, and so my Swiss roots are deep and dear in my heart.

This year, though, I think of the lessons I have learned from my grandparents, most of all my grandfather, who is called “grossvater.”

So join me today as I share lessons and wisdom — and information on a Swiss chicken I would love to get!! Click the video below to start our time together.

As always, it’s a joy to have you with me.

Blessings!

Donna

Old Stone Well Farm

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Summer Sabbatical

Writing deadlines are tight and I know I need to take time to breathe, to be in the God moment. But since I can’t fully do that right now, I took a few minutes to take note of the gifts all around me. I called it my “summer sabbatical” and while it wasn’t very long, it was just what my soul needed.

I share with you this day the importance of finding a pace that restores you, not wears you out. So take time to give thanks for this very moment…for it is a moment filled with beauty. (Click the video below to begins!)

Like, share, comment…and if you haven’t, subscribe and tell your friends about Old Stone Well Farm either here at Accidental Country Pastor or on YouTube — type in “Old Stone Well Farm” — and you will discover more than 100 videos there to enjoy!

I love hearing from so many of you who come, and I love seeing where in the country you are visiting from! So drop me a note!

Blessings!

Donna

A Raccoon Came to Breakfast

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And so, it begins.

This morning there was a raccoon at the chicken coop trying to get its paws inside, reaching for them. Luckily, I chased it away.

But once a raccoon has found its rural vending machine, it will come back eager to select a treat — or two or even five (the number of chickens I have). There’s not much you can do to safeguard your chickens.

The more I read about raccoons, they are smart little bastards — able to open doors, unlatch latches, reach in through wire fences and gnaw and chew on a wing or leg of a still alive chicken. The latter is actually a gruesome tale I read on one of the many chicken chat groups I frequent. Ugh. That is definitely a sight I do not want to see.

My neighbor lost all 10 of his young chickens last week. Bits and pieces were left behind, as well as the hearts, which were eerily placed in a ritualistic-looking circle. “Raccoon,” was all he could mutter to me without breaking down in tears.

My writer’s mind began narrating this spooky little story into the pages of a still unwritten manuscript I have been toying with about a young pastor stumbling upon an 18th-century homestead — that seemed to be calling for her — only to discover ghost children roaming its rooms, calling out, “Pastor, welcome home.”

The story is actually inspired by an old 18th-century saltbox house I had purchased as a new pastor moving into a rural community. The day I closed on the property and officially received the keys, I discovered in an overgrown corner of a pasture headstones from the early 1700s. There was also a shuttered window banging on the upper level of the garage one day soon after I moved in. The noise was so annoying that I ventured in the wind and the rain and climbed the rickety ladder to the loft to secure the window. It was then I noticed a child’s tea set laid out in front of the window. The hair stood on my neck. I felt like an intruder. Or maybe I wasn’t? Maybe I was supposed to be at this poltergeist playdate. “Pastor, welcome home…” (Cue spooky music now.)

Turns out, the previous owner of the saltbox had a side gig as an antique dealer. Thus, the old children’s tea set in the loft.

But I digress. Back to the raccoon.

The carnage the raccoon left behind was horrific, my neighbor said. We then just stared at the now-empty coop, both of us offering a holy, silent blessing to life — and its fragility.

I then heard him speak softly, sadly: “Watch out for your flock.”

Today, a raccoon showed up at my coop. My girls won’t be running freely today chasing bugs or inhaling worms. Sorry, ladies.

It will be a miracle if my chickens survive the summer. Luckily, I do believe in miracles. I also believe in God’s strength to help me face whatever I will need to face if said miracle turns into a massacre.

(And no, I didn’t take this picture. I was not lucky enough to capture such a funny photo.)

Old Stone Well Farm

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A Dress and a Missing Chicken

Many of you know that I love all things 18th century — food, music, architecture and clothing. In fact, for two years I have been working on sewing by hand an English round gown that would have been worn in the Colonies between 1760’s-1770’s.

I found a period-correct pattern and researched the correct material, including a cream colored under skirt with a quilted pattern. Of course, any authentic dress would only fit right with the right underpinnings. And so, I found a wonderful 18th-century reproduction company and ordered a shift and stays. Stays were a corset that laced up tightly to flatten the bosom and narrow the waist. The look of that time was a conical shape for a woman’ torso, with emphasis being on big hips and butt. So I had to order a bum roll, too. Then came the shoes, buckles, stockings, garters, cap and ribbon.

I began this dress right as the pandemic hit in the early spring 2020. And today I finished it. Not bad for someone who doesn’t follow directions well and is not a seamstress. It was a lot of fun learning about how dresses were made. For example, the pleating in the back was often fodder for petty gossip among women because if your pleats weren’t perfect, word would get around. I also had to figure out the inset of the sleeves. I kept wanting the shoulder to hit on top as our modern-day shirts do, but these 18th-century sleeves were not aligning to what looked correct to my 21st-century eyes. Then I realized, after some research, that 18th-century sleeves were set further back to pull a women’s shoulders back to give her better posture. Who knew?

As I was filming to show you the finished product, something terrible happened — so I thought. I was in the yard calling the chickens. All of sudden they were clucking like crazy. A big commotion. I was confused. Two hid in the deep thicket beyond the fence. One froze in place screaming. It all happened so quickly. I didn’t see any predator, but clearly there was one among us. When things settled down, three chickens hid, clearly frightened. One made a mad dash back to her coop. I looked around and realized PotPie was missing.

I looked at the video as the camera was still rolling when this happened, and the last I saw of PotPie she was running from the lilac bush toward the overgrown raspberries up a ways.

It was so sad. It happened so quickly. All afternoon, I kept looking out the window for her. Nothing. I had accepted that she was gone. But then my husband came home from work and the first thing he asks when he came into the house was why was there one chicken outside of the coop running around it in circles? What? I had securely locked them in the safety of their run in the coop. I ran outside (in my petticoats!) and saw that PotPie had come home! I was so relieved — and stunned.

What a day it has been here at Old Stone Well Farm! Of course all this commotion had to happen when I was dressed head to toe in 18th-century garb. I wonder what those passing by in their cars thought as they watched me running around, searching for my chickens.

Well, here’s my finished dress…and a look at the excitement as a day in the life of an accidental country pastor.

Old Stone Well Farm

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The Winds of Kindness

The winds were blowing here in Vermont, making Pentecost even more of a reality for me. As I watched the tall grass sway in my back pasture and laughed wondering if my chickens would take flight, I thought about the power of the Holy Spirit that God sent to his followers. It, too, came like a rush of mighty wind.

But as I think about how the Spirit empowers us to do incredible things, this year, I think the most incredible thing we can do is to speak more words of kindness. And, yes, that will indeed take help from God’s Spirit.

So, come. Join me. Feel the Pentecost winds and then have a seat as I share one of my many finds from last week’s trip to the Ephrata Cloister in Pennsylvania.

Old Stone Well Farm

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Foraging for Fiddleheads

Yes, only I would go foraging in Vermont for fiddleheads and ramps on one of the hottest days in May. But I have been feeling out of sorts lately and so what better place to lighten a heavy heart than in nature? Well, as wonderful as God is, I didn’t get fiddleheads and ramps. Rather, I got a basket full of God’s surprises, and a reminder how I need to “forage” for more of God when I am feeling low. What about you? What are you in need of this day? Let me know and let’s be prayer warriors for one another. Now, grab your basket and let’s forage!

Old Stone Well Farm

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Some Time Off

It’s been a busy time for me and, as many know, I struggle with taking time off. But I have, and I didn’t realize how much I needed it.

What about you? When was the last time you tossed your “to-do” list aside and took time to marvel at God’s beauty all around? The sunning shining, the birds singing, the heavenly scent of lilacs blooming…take that time today. Make that time now.

I will see you next week.

Blessings,

Donna

Old Stone Well Farm

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Resurrecting Our Dreams

On this third Sunday in the Easter season, I’ve been thinking a lot about new life and the resurrection of dreams. If God makes all things news, then why do we hesitate to embrace that newness?

A question for today: Are we grabbing our nets and returning to waters we know or are we going to listen to Jesus calling out to us to cast those nets into new waters.

So come, join me here in Vermont for a time that I pray will inspire, comfort and fill your heart with Easter faith!

And if you would like to join me for some traditional in-person worship, I will be in the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church in Broadalbin, NY, this morning at 10 a.m. Live stream on the church’s FB page@Broadalbinfirstpresbyterian.

Old Stone Well Farm

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Ashes

What do you need to let go of this Lent? How will you prepare your heart for all that God wants for you? Come to Sofie’s Hill in Vermont and join me as we remember that God is bigger than our little selves — and more forgiving, loving and kind. May we, who have been created in the image of God, reflect that to the world.

Old Stone Well Farm

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Tea, Soup…And a Short Reflection

It’s been a week of sore throats and sniffles. As I heat up the soup and make another cup of ginger tea with honey, I invite you to the farm to think about how confident are you that God is doing a good work in your life. God is always working, and that good work comes with revisions. Do you trust God? Are you flexible when it comes to embracing change? I share a video that I recently made for the opening devotion of a meeting with my ministry colleagues in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. I hope you find it a blessing. And remember, take care of yourselves. Rest. Relax. Find those moments of quiet solitude, of grace. Being under the weather has reminded how important it is to slow down.