Bad Weather, Communication, Community, Down On the Farm, Emotional Health, Gratitude, Neighbors, Opal's Farm, Prayer, Relationships, Seasons, Spirituality, Storms, Tarrant Regional Water District, Texas, Trinity River

Can’t Wait Until Saturday

After a couple of fits and starts we finally have power here in our little neighborhood. We set the thermostat to 64 degrees to lower our demand. There are still many Texans huddling in the sub-freezing temperatures and the dark trying to make it until Saturday. Things are supposed to return to “normal” winter days – the sixties are coming…

My step kid brought it to my attention that Texans are the butt of jokes on her social media by people from up north. I guess we have different people on our news feeds. Most of our followers for both www.gregoryjoel.com and Opal’s Farm have constantly checked up on us and offered to help in any way possible. I love our community.

The Trinity River normally

We are now dealing with the water issues that come after a long, hard freeze. Yesterday morning I found water running down the driveway. A pipe had burst in our laundry room. Fortunately, it was an easy repair and I spent most of the day wet vacuuming up water from our back room. I never imagined I’d be grateful for such a leak, but if that’s the worst plumbing issue we have then we are blessed. The news was filled with pictures of our neighbors with water filling and destroying their homes.

We lack water pressure and we’re under a “boil water” notice, but we have power and water (and lots of coffee!). My wife’s noticing that I haven’t been able to shower since Sunday. That’s okay. I’ve spent a couple of weeks backpacking in the high country. I can assure you this is nothing. It could always be worse.

The Trinity today

I’ve been able to watch the news the last couple of nights. I’m discouraged to say the least. Everyone spends their time pointing fingers and little action is taken to relieve the misery so many Texans are in. I don’t expect much from the politicians and pundits anyway. Their track record isn’t great. I’d rather spend my energy with folks who are “being” the change, with action.

That’s an update on our little cul-de-sac. Continue in prayer for our neighbors as they struggle through this mess. Please don’t stop either. My gut tells me this is going to be a hard one to recover from. When you tuck your little one’s into a nice, warm bed this evening take extra time to say thank you for that bed and let you goodnight kiss linger a bit…

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What I’m Grateful for Today…

I had planned to be posting regularly for both myself and Opal’s Farm since I wasn’t at the farm this weekend. Unfortunately, the Texas weather decided I could wait. We, along with about 13,000 other electric customers in our zip code, have been without power for almost two days. The temperature hasn’t been above freezing for the last week and isn’t predicted to be until the coming weekend. It was three degrees when the power went out and hasn’t been above twenty degrees since then.

This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to people living in more northern climes. However, Texas – statewide – is totally unprepared for this. It simply doesn’t happen here. Not like this anyway. Our power grid is not built for such extreme temperatures. I was doing late winter planting for early Spring veggies two weeks ago. Governor Abbott declared a disaster emergency for all 254 counties! We are not alone in this and my heart breaks for those who are so often overlooked and left behind.

We are fortunate. I got my generator from the farm and ran a couple of space heaters in one room – and most importantly, our coffee pot. Our neighbors have looked out for one another, our animals are safe (we had a three-dog night for the last two nights…), and our tummies are full. Our son, Paul, brought hot meals and coffee from across town (the roads are icy and treacherous) for us and our neighbors. Hardship often brings out the best in communities.

There’s been an unusual camaraderie with complete strangers – people in the same boat sharing stories, telling each other who still has power, and where the find goods in short supply. We’ve been able to charge our cell phones in my truck. I’m amazed by the network of calls that have gone back and forth between friends and family.

Being truly “off grid” has awakened a spirit in our community that we often don’t get to see. It reminds me that humans – God’s kids – aren’t designed for “rugged individualism no matter how hard we try to act like it. It also makes gratitude for the simplest of things shine through. Our prayers over the last few days have been for things like lamps that turn on with the flip of a switch, furnaces that keep the house toasty warm in the dark night, and a hot meal (and not just cold cuts!). We’re usually annoyed when our three large dogs take up so much of the bed at night. Now we offer prayers of thanks for all that body heat!

The power outage also reminded me that I don’t have to depend on the computer to write and reading by candlelight isn’t all that bad. I may not be able to post anything online, but I have lots of pen and paper. That makes writing all that much more enjoyable.

I’m not going to make this long. The power may go out yet again, just as quickly as it came on. We had a brief thirty-minute spurt of electricity yesterday before it flickered out. I just wanted to say I hope and pray everyone is warm and safe on a frigid February day. Pray for each other and thank God for the little things. You never know when you might need them more than ever.

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“An individual has not begun to live until [they] can rise above the narrow horizons of [their] particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash
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Winter Doesn’t Slow Us Down

The intended “I’m going to post every other day in 2021” hasn’t gone as planned. I purposefully avoided calling it a resolution thinking that would help. Resolutions are a set up for failure in my book. major life changes – stopping bad habits and starting new ones – rarely come to fruition no matter how strong my resolve. Besides, the little committee between my ears loves it a resolution falls by the wayside – they love to remind me I’ve failed again. I’ve learned not to give them ammunition to use against me. My brain is often not my friend…

I don’t want to make excuses, but it has been a hectic start to the New Year at Opal’s Farm. We’ve increased the production area by 66%. Planting for early Spring crops is almost completed. Evenings are filled with virtual conferences, classes, and the office “To Do” list. Winter hasn’t slowed us down. Rain is predicted for the next three days. Maybe we can take a breather…

Late last year, we plowed, tilled, and planted an Elbon Rye cover crop on a new 1/3 acre. We’ve been able to take care of a bigger area thanks to the Kubota tractor provided to us by Zimmerer Kubota and a 48” tiller implement purchased for Grow SE growers by Blue Zones Project Fort Worth. WE realized that the tractor would free us up to do an additional section. We added another 1/3 acre and have completed most of the beds. Spring is looking good.

Winter is the time to plant cold friendly spring vegetables. We already had several winter crops in that will produce through early Spring. Now we have our cilantro, snow peas, kale, and onions in. I’d still be planting onions if the Paschal High School Key Club hadn’t been there Saturday morning. The young people were a planting machine! They got in over half (approximately 1500 to 2000 onions) in less than two hours!

The Paschal HS Key Club – These 11 young people gave up another Saturday morning to help Opal’s Farm grow!

We intend to be at Cowtown Farmers Market this Saturday. Come on down shop local!

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6:00 AM on Christmas Morning

6:00 AM on Christmas morning…

The sun hasn’t yet begun to rise. The darkness is silent and still – “not a mouse was stirring”. Even the freeway sounds are absent this morning. The temperature dropped below freezing last night in honor of Christmas I’m sure. It was seventy degrees here in North Texas last Monday and the weekend promises more of the same: but that’s tomorrow and this is today. I’ll pull my coat a little tighter, have another sip of steaming coffee, and relish the quiet.

I think back to Christmas 1982. At 4:00 AM my ex (she wasn’t my ex then just so you know…) shook me awake. “I think I’m in labor”.

I turned over and asked, “how far apart are the contractions?”

“I haven’t timed them yet”.

“Oh okay. Let me know when the next one comes”, I said sleepily.

I had awakened enough to know I needed to head upstairs to the bathroom. As I walked past the picture window along the stairs, I saw the snow coming down hard. Only about half of the chain link fence was visible. “This is not good”, I mumbled. When I returned to bed, she told me she thought it was a false labor. I crawled back in bed and fell back asleep.

I awoke a couple of hours later and once again slid out of bed and headed upstairs to make coffee. As I passed the window once again, I noticed that only the pointed tops of the four-foot fence were visible. I opened the back door to check on my car. All I could see was its blue roof poking through the snow. The driveway and the alley were covered in three feet of snow and even larger drifts. This really wasn’t good…

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Adrian, our oldest, woke up and he and his Mom came in the kitchen. She put down and he promptly ran to the living room to see what Santa had brought. I poured the coffee and went into the living room. My Christmas morning excitement was tempered by the realization that my ex might really be in labor.

The snow continued to fall – and fall and fall and… You get the idea. Denver was in the middle of a “hundred year” blizzard.

About 9:00 in the evening my ex looked at me and said, “I really am in labor now”. The contractions were now seven minutes apart. I knew there was no way we could get my car out of the drive. I called 911 and explained our situation. Apparently, labor is not an emergency. It would be a four to five hour wait for an ambulance and we were told to go the nearest hospital labor and delivery rooms. I figured I’d been through one birth already. I mentally prepared to deliver a baby at home. I prayed – a lot!

There was a knock at the door about thirty minutes later. A gentleman had responded to the pleas for citizens with four-wheel drive to ferry paramedics around. Three paramedics greeted me as I opened the door.

We gathered go-bags and our son together and filed out through the path the paramedics had made to the door. They assisted my poor wife who, at 5’3”, was trying to make her way through the four feet of snow. Once to the care, the 6 of us (and all the paramedic kits) piled into an old Jeep Waggoneer. The driver informed my very pregnant wife that between contractions she would have to reach outside and keep the snow of the windshield as the wipers didn’t work. Of course, they didn’t…

We found ourselves in a strange hospital with a strange doctor who had obviously been there long past hi original shift (he was a bit cranky). We were just getting settled into the labor room when the nurse said, “it’s time”. My wife was wheeled down to the delivery room and I changed into scrubs. Less than an hour later I was holding a brand-new bundle of joy – Jeremy Alan Joel.

I slept in a nurse’s lounge that night. When I returned to my wife’s room, I was greeted with a Christmas gift that I’ll never forget – Jeremy in a red stocking with a Santa hat on.

When Adrian, my oldest son, was born, parenting didn’t seem as difficult as we thought. Then we had Jeremy. We’ve often joked (kind of…) that Jeremy made his appearance in the world with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other demanding to be fed NOW. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Sitting here on Christmas morning I’m reminded how blessed I am. For thirty-seven years I was given the gift of a son I miss dearly today. I was also given a Savior – God With Us – to walk me through the grief I have today. I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life who know what losing a child is like. I have a God that knows my grief even more so – “This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and Only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help and put the world right again” John 33.16-17 (The Message).

My son was a brilliant artist (our first home had the marker and crayon marks to foretell this), but his greatest achievement was threefold – Baillie, Izabella, and Lucas. Today I will think of the wonderful gifts he left us. The gift I offer him is honoring his gift to me.

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jeremy