Book Review Of No Longer A Child Of Promise from Sageadderly

DSC01690I didn’t realize how emotional this story would be. Amanda Farmer writes about leaving her family’s farm and the backlash that occurred because of that decision. Growing up in a Mennonite household and community helped her form a strong relationship with God. Her family’s rejection and nastiness have Amanda looking deep within and wondering how to heal.

I commend her for trying so hard to mend ways with her family. Even when they were in the wrong, she repeatedly looked to forgive them. I can’t say I could have done the same. I really enjoyed this book. I think nonfiction readers, especially those who lean towards family drama, would especially want to check this one out.

Even though things don’t end up as Amanda would have desired, her memoir left me with a sense of peace. It was a strong reminder to treat others well and to love my family and my children unconditionally.

by SageAdderlyVirtual Book tour2016

Bull Riding

110It is a strange sport that only the hearty young wrangler tries – exclusively a farming sport. I often wonder what draws a young man to attempt to sit upon a bucking, jumping bull with the strategy of staying there for 8 seconds. Flying through the air and landing with a thud on the ground cannot possibly feel that good. After all, there is no other way to get off whether the rider makes the 8 seconds or not. And then, he has to get up and run for his life in case the bull wishes to finish him off with his head. I don’t think I have ever seen a young lady try this so it must have something to do with the daring, impulsivity of young men.104

I have never been to a live bull riding event before so when I saw the recent event in Rochester advertised in the paper, my hubby and I decided to do something different and put ourselves in the bleachers. There must be something wrong with me too as I can really get into watching these dare devils attempt their rides. I cheer for them when they make it and I cringe when they land on their heads. After all, it’s kind of bad for their spines. I can understand why the first responders have a backboard ready for use.

158The stands are already almost full when we arrive an hour before start time so apparently, I am not the only one who enjoys watching the challenge. A little entertainment by the clown, a cowboy with ropes, and some Mexican poker add to the entertainment of the evening. I had never heard of Mexican poker before. What a strange concept. Four people are seated at a card table in the middle of the arena. Interestingly, they are fitted with protective vests. I don’t think they got much card playing done before a bull was released. The object is to be the last one seated when the bull comes visiting. OK. That is not something that you would ever get me to do. The bull was turning the table upside down before the last man took off running. He leaped over the side gate like a pole vaulter as the bull snorted behind him.

160That whole scene brought back my own escape from a bull a long time ago. My father had always run a bull with the lower producing group of cows for clean-up purposes. Most of our cows were bred by artificial insemination, but there were always some cows that were very difficult to get pregnant. They eventually ended up in this group with the bull, in the hope that he could do naturally what we could not seem to accomplish the artificial way.

I had glanced around the barn to determine the bull’s whereabouts before I swung open the center gate to allow cows into the holding area. I did not want to meet him face to face. He was at the far end of the barn, so I thought that I should be safe. The center gate that divided the groups was a steel, twenty-four-foot telescoping structure. Because of its heavy weight, it was suspended by a cable from a roof truss of the barn. I pushed the gate all the way open against the end wall. Then I turned to walk back through the group of cows that were making their way into the holding area. Suddenly, I stopped and stepped back. Mr. Bull was making his way around as well. But instead of going on by, he advanced toward me. Frantically, I tried to decide what to do. I was pretty sure I couldn’t outrun him. Behind me was the wall. There was nowhere to go. Then it came to me. Climb the gate. I scrambled up, grabbing the supporting cable with my hands just in time to realize that my feet were being knocked out from under me by his huge, swinging head.

“Help! Help! Help!” I screamed over and over. I knew no one was going to hear me. What was I going to do? I couldn’t dangle from this cable forever. My screams did attract the attention of the meandering cows, though. Curious creatures that they were and are, they all gathered around to see what the commotion was all about. Sixty sets of shining eyes looked up at me. And by their response, they distracted Mr. Bull. He wandered away to sniff for a more interesting scent. I didn’t think I had ever been so thankful for a bunch of cows before.

So I don’t think that I will ever sign up to play Mexican poker.

The Short Prequel to My Published Books “If You Leave This Farm” & “No Longer a Child of Promise”

Mary Ellen's Life 001I was born in Pennsylvania in the 1950s to parents who belonged to the conservative Mennonite church. My mother was a nurse, an extremely unusual pursuit for a Mennonite woman in those days, and my father was a wanna-be farmer. I do not remember the house in which I was born as we soon moved to a small farm in York County. There my father began our family’s farming career. We attended a Mennonite church located about 20 miles from the farm.

My earliest memories are of gathering around the supper table in the evening and my father reading a passage of the Bible to us. However, I do not remember discussing it. Sometimes, we passed around a small box with scripture cards and we all chose one to read. Sunday morning was a time of frantic hurrying as we rushed to get to church on time. In spite of that, I remember always being late. I loved Sunday school and there I learned the stories in the Bible and about God’s unconditional love for us. During the summer, there was Vacation Bible School. In the early years, Mama always took us to VBS though not at the church we regularly attended. I am not sure why. Once a year, our church held “revival meetings.” These meetings consisted of nightly services that lasted for a week. Different speakers were brought in and the way of salvation was proclaimed. Even as a young child I was moved by these services and they highly influenced me. Even today, when I hear the song, Just As I Am, that goes like this, “just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd’st me come to Thee, Oh Lamb of God, I come!” I am deeply moved and the stirrings of those days come back to me.

Me about 6 or 7 years old

Me about 6 or 7 years old

One day, when I was 9 years old, I came upon by oldest brother and my father kneeling by a hay bale in the manger of the dairy barn. My brother was crying as he said the sinner’s prayer with my father’s help. “I want to do that too,” I said. And so, that day, I officially accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I wish I could say that now that I had made my profession of faith, my life would be simple and carefree.

I continued to grow physically and in my faith. I wanted to follow Jesus and serve Him. I was baptized and joined the Mennonite church at the age of 10 years. My parents, though, in spite of their verbal adherence to the Mennonite faith, in many ways did not subscribe to the faith that we belonged to and I came to realize many years later, placed huge stumbling blocks in the path of our assimilation into Mennonite culture. I think this was the beginning of the sense of shame in who I am that I have carried most of my life. We only went to church on Sunday morning or for special meetings. Dedicated members were expected to attend Wednesday night prayer meetings and Sunday evening services as well. But we were busy farmers and my father did not have time for that. I remember well about this time also being refused my request to attend VBS in the summer. I loved VBS but we were now becoming old enough that we could help around the farm. My father’s priority of work over every other activity was beginning to express itself. I, of course, did not recognize that tendency for as a child, he was my father and I simply repressed those few things that I did not understand. I loved my father and loved being with him and working with him.Mary Ellen's Life 007

We were all eager to follow his lead when he made the decision to remove us from school to work on the farm. My brothers were removed from school at the age of 14 and me at the age of 15. Around this time is when my father started looking at buying land “out west” and moving all of us there to farm together. I had no objections. It sounded like a wonderful adventure to me. Here is where I want to say to parents, your job as a parent is to teach and prepare your child to follow the bent that God has given your child. It is not to determine their course in life that fits with what you want to happen. My father came from what is called a patriarchal family in which the children are simply extensions of the father. This sets the family up for huge tensions and heartache later when the young person wants to follow his or her own path in life.

The Failure of the Country Garden

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The sun is shining brightly, the temperatures are warm, and the smell of fresh soil is in the air. If you are a farmer, you know that it is time to plant the crops that are your living. If you are a couple with a farm background and living in the country, there is a little voice in one’s head that says country people plant gardens. This country lady really wants nothing to do with the work of a garden but her country husband does. So he diligently plants rows of sweet corn, peas, tomatoes, carrots, and kohlrabi as he does every year. The patch of freshly planted earth looks full of promise.

Weeks go by and life is full of busyness. The garden is forgotten. The vegetables grow, I think, but so do the weeds – tall and obliterating to the plants we are hoping will grow. Today, I stand and gaze at the waving patch of weeds. It rained last night – about an inch – so it should be easy to pull those weeds. I cover myself with bug repellent and pull on my most dilapidated pair of shoes. I decide to start where the peas should be. As I bend over pulling weed after weed, I find a few stalks of peas. Some of them come out with the weeks. Others droop over sadly from the removal of their climbing supports. As I move along the row, the mud collects on my shoes until they look like mud moon boots and the water runs down my forehead into my eyes. Is this really worth it? I finally ask myself. An hour later, I have only removed the weeds from one row of peas and the remaining tomato that I didn’t kill earlier. I am done here. I think that is why they make stores for people to buy food from.

I like this garden better!

I like this garden better!

Looking forward to #Spring in Minnesota

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The wind blows over the snow at 20 miles per hour and the temperature hovers around 10 degrees F and I shiver. It is hard to think about spring in such conditions. I am so glad I don’t have any cattle or horses that need taking care of when it is so cold. When our daughter was at home, I gave in to those pleading words of, “Please, Mom, can I have a horse?” We had 2 horses for 5 years. I loved them in the summer when they grazed lazily in the pasture and I could basically ignore their ever present needs. But then came winter. I would ask myself, Why am I the one out here every morning feeding the horses and shoveling the snow away from the barn door? Oh yes,the child has to go to school. Then the child went off to college. The now young lady still pleads for Mom to own a horse. Oh no, this old lady has gotten smart. She sold the horses and now just has some of those little black fascinating calves in the pasture during the summer.

Black Angus calves

I made this change last year. My first idea was to buy the Black Angus calves in the spring, put them on pasture through the summer, and sell them in the fall. When I mentioned my plans to my kind neighbor who I was hoping would supply me with these animals, he told me what each of those fine critters would cost me and I said, “How about you just own them and I will feed them?” So we made an agreement. Four little calves kicked up their heels, pushed each other around, and grew fat over the summer. Apparently, they also learned how to open gates. One day just a week before we were to sell them, my husband came home from work to find the pasture gate wide open and no animals in sight. Oh dear. The price of beef had been running sky high and we had just lost 4 nuggets of black gold. Doing some sleuthing, my husband was able to follow little footprints through the grass outside the gate, around the barn, and headed down the driveway. At the end of the driveway, they turned right and headed up the hill to the main road. This is a farmers worst nightmare – having his cattle on the road. A call was made to the neighbor for help in finding our lost darlings. A little more tracking led the searchers to the neighbors feedlot across the road. There stood all 4 wanderers getting acquainted with the neighbor’s cattle. Soon, they were loaded onto a cattle trailer and hauled back home. This year, says my husband, we must secure our gates so that twisting curling curious tongues cannot flop those chains around.

How is this book different from others with farming or family topics?

Modern_John_Deere_Tractor_IMG_0401This is a story of a dysfunctional family but not in the typical sense. We had loving parents and a fairly normal, happy childhood. The problems did not begin until we were on the cusp of adulthood and attempting to farm together. The catastrophic crop failure of our first year in Minnesota triggers the underlying psychological issues of my father. So the excellent management ability which seemed normal begins to expand into a supreme need to control the outcome.

How did I come to write “If You Leave This Farm”? What was my motivation?

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I began writing this book 7 years ago during a very stressful time during which the relationships in my family of origin totally fell apart. I was seeking to understand for myself what happened to our family and I was looking for the stories of others that were similar to help me in this regard but found very little.

I also realized that real life sometimes is stranger than fiction and provides lessons that others can learn from. I want my story to be an inspiration and a lesson to others.