Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Haymaking and Homeschooling

"Through all the pleasant meadowside


















Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Honey Bees, Jimmy Fallon, and the Pope

Setting up the Hives
Over the years, I have learned that if I want to cause a Late April Snowfall, all I have to do is plant a lot of blueberry bushes. Somehow the act of putting into the ground tender young plants, perennials no less, with all the hopes and dreams that go along with perennials, the plans for the grandkiddies, the hope for family summer jam making traditions, all of that, causes Mother Nature to throw a snow-trum.

She's been dumping so much rain upon us lately that we have begun to feel like plants ourselves...and the desire for dirt beneath our fingernails has been ressurected in our breasts...you can smell the damp soil everywhere. I cannot politely agree with those who moan: "Ah! I wish it would stop!" not when you can practically HEAR buds opening up and bulbs pushing up and out from underneath the soil...

examining the new arrivals
Weather is one thing our modern technology doesn't seem to affect much. It's "massive sandle set on stone" reality is often crushing... always alarming us with it's wet, its cold, its warm, dry, breezy, stifling ways. In modern (wealthy) America so much of what we are exposed to is by choice. Even interaction with other (read: unpredictable) human beings is kept within our chosen spheres of twitter, pinterest, facebook, texts, instant messaging, selfies, youtube, and on and on (I'm sure I'm 5 years behind everything new that's popping up now). But weather is still shockingly uncontrollable. Inconvenient. Cheeky.

firing up the smoker
I was at a nursing home yesterday and I saw a man parked in front of a window. He sat in his wheelchair at the end of a corridor in absolute stillness and silence and watched the rain and sleet and snow come down willy nilly upon the asphalt parking lot. I watched him for a long while because at first I was wondering what transfixed him so. After only a few minutes in a nursing home, the sterility causes many people a certain amount of internal panic. One can only take so many plastic gloves, scrubs, matching armchairs, fake flowers, and caged birds. It looked very much to me like the old man at the end of the hallway was communing with the one bit of savage and ravaging reality that he experiences from time to time. Because dumping all our elderly into one place and letting strangers take care of them in a hospital-like non-home environment is not normal. It may be common. But it is not normal. So Mother Nature unleashing a storm outside the window is a potent reminder that life should be messier and more mixed.

On our way out the door we pass Ann, an tiny white little woman. She notes from a distance of 4 feet that my daughter's are small wee ones, in dresses and twirling. But she starts to sob softly muttering that she can't see them because she's going blind. She cheers up when they go and stand inches from her face...and then she smiling she asks them "Are those tasty lollipops? They sure look good!" She is like rain and sun on a misty day. One minutes smiling and chatting, the next sobbing softly. "I have been searching and searching so long for my daughter!" she cries, "but she never came." At her age, it is more and more evident that what makes Ann (and all of us) who she is (and who we are) is the love we have for people, and the love people have for us. As we leave, I hear her words echoing over and over in my head...and they sound so much like the second to last words of the late Pope John Paul II, recently cannonized by the Church a saint:

 "I have searched for you, and now you have come to

Releasing the new colony





 me, and I thank you." 

These are the words every elderly person utters from the heart whenever they are visited...

New tenants
His very last homesick words were: "Let me go to the home of the Father". Something of the same desire I see in nursing home residents, who will slowly wheel their chairs after you as you take your leave, and walk down the hallway to the exit. "Take me home! Take me with you! Let me go to the home of my daughter, my son, my granddaughter!"


removing the Queen's cage
Mr. Farmer has been trying his hand at teaching lately. He took a job with a local private school teaching High School English for 2 months for a teacher on maternity leave. One of his first experiences in the classroom involved the sudden slap up of computer screens, obscuring the faces of many of his students, in the middle of a conversation he was having with them. This ubiquitous and gratuitous use of computers in the classroom was given a pass by the board and administration in the hopes of ushering the kids into the modern world, able to effectively communicate with their fellow human beings and get into shnazzy colleges which will boast professors and colleagues who choose to communicate via the electronic mediums, ending all their notes with: "Best" and "Regards", and clearly proclaiming to all the world that they have left the archaic modes of face to face conversation (so confrontational!) behind in the interests of civilized updated life.


Sound the Alarm! Goats escape and snack on new shipment of hay.
After a few weeks of grabbing at a neighbor's physical copy of Morte'D'Arthur after scrolling frantically and unsuccessfully through their online versions of the work for the right page, many of his students bought actual hard copy books (in the same edition) and proudly showed them to him as a sign of solidarity. The stories he has of these kids rising from the ashes of "I don't know, I don't care,  Are we done yet, Talk to the Screen" ism to transifixed, engaged, and interested long after the bell has rung...gossiping about Galahad, Frankenstein, and George and Lennie's (Of Mice and Men) small farm dream in hushed whispers...are enough to make a parent/educator weep tears of joy. Young people, so often touted as the wizards of tech, i-phones, i-pads, and video games are no more (in fact even less) suited to it than old people are. The young and the old especially are in crucial and constant need of the violent and fundamental experience of human connection. The young and the old are respectively the people of first kisses, and last hugs, of creative impulse, and oral history. Hearts that beat fast, and hearts that are slowly drumming to a halt...these are the hearts that are ill-served by modern technology. Technology that isolates us, stuck in space upon its  interconnected web. 

But yes....I am writing this on a computer. On a Blog. On the World Wide Web.


Too bad though. I'd rather have you all here for tea. We could say all this face to face smoking pipes and drinking tea and whisky in front of the woodstove fire, punctuating our conversation with nibbles upon chocolate, slaps on the back, and guffaws.


Every once in a while a gifted human being, and by gifted I mean, gifted in human-ness, can create a magical moment with the aid of technology. Jimmy Fallon succeeds on the Tonight Show not because he's the poster boy of all that is new and modern....but because he's so charmingly old-fashioned, and can often be found late at night, juxtoposing new technology with old timey magic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU-eAzNp5Hw


But some of our nursing home residents remember a time when every church, barber shop, and general store boasted a group of guys who could achieve something like the same sound...And I can't help thinking (after my instant applause and appreciation) that the world needs i-pad apps now because there are fewer fallons, joels, and barbershop quartets. And I wonder which came first? The dearth of singing men, or the modern technology that has kept so many young men off the ballfields, out of the church choirs, and in their basements playing minecraft? It's very much like the advent of the tractor in farming which started with: "WOAH MA! Look how much I got plowed, disced, and planted ALL BY MYSELF!!!"

And continues with: "Son, there's no place for you on this here farm. You gotta go to the city and get yourself a job with benefits."

New workers settling in


And ends with: "The median age of the American Farmers is 65. The small family farm is a thing of the past."

Last Saturday we hived our bees. Time always stands still in Spring when we do this. Bees everywhere. Crawling in my daughter's hair, crawling over Mr. Farmer's hands, bees in the hood of my jacket. Bees clustered around their queen in such an un-American show of loyalty, foreign and fascinating to behold!
Bees are a farmer's secret weapon. They do such quiet work, bizzing here, bizzing there, pollinating crops and building comb, and making honey. They are a stunning example of industry and cooperative effort.
It was fitting that the arrival or our bees came during the octave of the great feast of Easter. Just six days earlier we had spent the evening in a darkened church, lit only by the many flickering candles everyone was holding, lit from the one flame of the Easter Candle, as Father chanted praise of God and of bees:

"On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious."



Bees bring with them the good example of what small tidbits of good industry can do, when in cooperation with others, and when sustained, to make for a heavy harvest of sweetness.
Little actions of interconnectedness, true love, small partakings of reality, small abandoments of virtual reality, and before you know it the world has bloomed:
Actions like:
examining the fuzzy body of a bee
Learning to sing a song
saying to an elderly person "I am here" rather than "I'm sure she/he will come"
making a friend by eye contact and vocal introduction rather than a click of button
Taking a walk in the rain.
Listening to your kid.
Listening to everyone.






Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Meet the Girls!

Introducing the cast and crew of our 2013  chevre production team. Step right up folks to meet our bevy of beauties. Ladies all of them, with impeccable manners, winning ways, and luscious milk!
                                                                                     ..
..
Barli
oberhasli/alpine
Barli is the "sophisticated lady" of the group. She welcomed motherhood for the first time with a graceful nonchalance, as if holding a cigarette holder, with a bored look and the barest hint of a motherly "nicker"...as if to maintain that mothers can saunter and swing pearl necklaces around too. She's shaping up to be our next Queen of the Herd. Birthed twins 3/6/2014.

status: currently raising twin does, milking
alter ego: Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey






Muffin
Nubian
Muffin is our stunning and soft-spoken glamour girl. She is Zita's daughter, born in 2012 on the farm.  She has that helpless "draws you in" quality reminiscent of a certain Hollywood bombshell of yesteryear. She's quiet, sweet, and gentle. Hoping for kids from her in early Fall.

status: currently open
alter ego: Marilyn Monroe







Mandy Mae a.k.a. "The Kid"
Nubian/French Alpine
Every gang needs a kid. Mandy Mae is ours. She was a surprise born in the summer of 2013 to our late great Nubian, Lupe. Weaned early when we lost her mother to a broken leg, she quickly demonstrated spunk and stamina, becoming everybody's favorite and most annoying goat. Her favorite trick? Waiting till we are up and milking to climb the walls of her pen, escape, and get into the grain bin. We're hoping she's just going through a phase.

status: open
alter ego: d'Artagnan, the fourth musketeer!


Angelica Rosa
Nubian
Angelica Rosa is our grande dame. She's tough as nails, a no-nonsense brawd who's been there done that. She's part of our "Nubification" program here at the farm. Nubian's are known for the high butterfat content in their milk, making them a great choice for cheesemakers!

status: pregnant
alter egos: Angelica Huston and Angela Lansbury






Lillie
saanen
Lillie is our bearded lady. At the bottom of the pecking order, she is well named. Not the most courageous of creatures, you will always find Lillie peaking over the gate trying to find her only friends...the humans! Saanens are known for their high volume milk production.

status: milking
alter ego: Hester Prynne of the Scarlet Letter



Zita
Nubian
The beautiful and affectionate Zita camed to us from our friend Pam in Michigan. Pam kept a secret farm right on a busy road, with nosy neighbors. A hidden world of Nubians, all surrounded by a high privacy fence. Driving by, you would never know a mini-farm graced her lawn. Zita is the goat, who, in a moment of tranquilty when you are admiring the fine weather, will come up to you and gentle snuzzle your face as if to say: "Hi sugar!"

status: bred for mid-summer kidding
alter ego: Dolly Parton and Mother Theresa




Dixie
Alpine/Toggenburg
Dixie is an original member of the milking crew of Little Flower Farm. She's the queen of the herd, and next to Angelica Rosa, is the eldest doe in the herd. She's all brains and all moxie. Constantly reminding the other does who is boss, she plows into any animal in her way...but is all p's and q's with her human compatriots. Dixie can open doors, work latches, find grain no matter how hidden, open coolers, and leap fences. We think she walks on all fours just to humor us.

status: bred for mid-summer kidding, water pregnancy in 2013
alter ego: Katherine Hepburn



Penny
Nubian/Alpine
Penny is all things 1980s. You can almost even see her wearing a side-pony tale and purple sweatpants. She's a belted Nubian/Alpine grade. Excellent confirmation and great attitude. She gave birth to an big buckling on 3/4/2014.

status: currently milking, raising 1 buckling
alter egos: Goldie Hawn, Meg Ryan














Bluebelle
french alpine/ ?
After losing her twin bucklings in the cold snap during the end of February of 2014, Bluebelle quickly became the darling of the dairy. She is currently supplying almost a gallon a day for our chevre-making. Bluebelle is affectionate, curious, and motherly with us. She has taken us on as her adopted kids. The is the sweet southern belle of the bunch.

status: currently milking
alter ego: Melanie Hamilton from Gone with the Wind












Ginger
Nubian/Oberhasli
Ginger is our most graceful goat. Whatever they can do, she can do better! She came to us from an Amish goat dairy in SouthWest Wisconsin. Birthed twins on 2/25/1014.

status: currently milking, raising one very big buckling
alter ego: Ginger Rogers



The new generation of 2014!
Support our Girls! Sign up for a Little Flower Farm chevre share!
    Choose a goat you wish to sponser with a share in our herd.
   
   Dorfli Share: $20/4 weeks of fresh chevre

Heidi Share: $100/5 months of fresh chevre, monthly newsletter, invite to our Fall goat lover's gathering
Alm Share: $200/ 5 months of chevre, newsletter, invite to Fall gathering PLUS 20lbs Cabrito harvested mid-summer

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Little Flower Farm back in the St. Croix River Valley of MN!

Little Flower Farm is back home in the St. Croix River Valley!
Our new location is just minutes north of William O'Brien State Park on Hiway 95:
20200 Quinnell Ave. N.
Scandia, MN 55073

Questions about our CSA offerings? Call us: (651) 433-3611
Come see us at River Market Co-op's CSA Fair this Saturday, March 8th 1-4 pm.
You can sign up for our chevre shares, grass-fed lamb, and veggie shares.

Moving day at the new farm in Scandia

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sign up for 2014 CSA Shares!

This morning we'd had the first whispered promise of Spring.
An icicle dripped. The ewes "bagged up", their udders swollen with the sign of impending lambing. The sheers clip clip clip across their bellies and backs, and Winter fleeces are bagged and awaiting washing, carding, and spinning. I heard the birds "sweetly tuning" on bough and branch: they were singing something about signing up for our 2014 CSA. Don't take my word for it...go out on your own front step and listen to em sing their blessed hearts out! The lyrics are unmistakable:
"Sign up! Sign up!"
Because here's the thing of it:
In order for a farm to inspire, it must be small. It must be the stuff we all secretly dream about from our "I wanna be a fireman or ballet dancer and eat that cookie now" days. There must be rabbits, and ducks, and hens, strutting about the lawn. There must be little twin lambs nursing at their mother's teets. There must be goat kids to jump about with. There must be hand-milking in the barn and farmers with grins and nobbly dirty hands. We must see something in the composting and the cover cropping and the greenhouse and the ground that stirs something better within the breast...

And...in order for the farm to be small it must be the work of city and country folk alike. The bare earth can only sustain for so long. A community of eager expectant willing people are waiting together for that first smell of good growing dirt, and that first forkful greens...that will sustain a farmer. Not acres owned. That's why the CSA farmer hums to himself as he sheers the sheep in the barn in the end of February. His long Winter alone with animals and watering and feeding out hay and spinning wool, and stacking wood, in short: his long Winter alone with the farm is coming to an end. His hope of real community is being born again with the Spring thaw. As the work mounts, his grin spreads wider.

Community Supported Agriculture has to be born anew every year on a veggie farm.
With a kind of faith akin to craziness, the farmer waits for folks like you, reading this, to sign up.
Together we bring a new season into being. We would not be here without you.
It's your notes about how your 4 year old scarfed down bok choy last night, and how much you look forward to each box and newsletter from our farm...you folks keep us going.

Our 2014 CSA Season promises to star the goats:
The Little Flower Farm dairy herd is larger now, due to the amazing demand in the area for our fresh goat cheese shares. We have 10 does due to freshen this year, and each one with a personality all her own. We are looking forward to introducing you to each one of the girls in the coming weeks, as they begin to kid. If you are new to chevre, consider trying a share: a month's worth of fresh cheese delivered to you for $5 per week. Goats are picky browsers, making their milk one of the most medicinal foods, filled with more vitamins and minerals than cow's milk. Then there's the delicious factor. 1/3 of our herd is Nubian, to capitalize on the higher butter-fat content in their milk, and lend it's creamy flavor to our cheese. If you are an old fan of the chevre shares, consider signing up for our "Heidi Share" which is a longer investment in the Little Flower Farm herd: 5 months of twice monthly chevre, and a monthly newsletter with recipes, news, and photos from the farm as well as an invitation to a year end "meet the girls" celebration.
Little Flower Farm Herd-Shares:
             " Dorfli share"………………….$20.00/4 weeks of our fresh goat cheese.
             "Heidi Share".............................$100.00/5 months of fresh goat cheese delivered twice monthly, our monthly newsletter, and invitation to a gathering of goat fans in Fall!
             "Alm Share"...............................$200.00/ 5 months of fresh goat cheese delivered twice monthly, our newsletter, invitation to gathering in the Fall PLUS 20lbs of Cabrito butchered mid-summer.

Grass-Fed Lamb is available for pre-order. Space is limited, so get your reservations in now.
Your check for $250 reserves your lamb. $65 will be payable to the butcher upon pick-up. Your lamb will be cut to your specifications, and will weigh in around 35-40 lbs. Fall Harvest

Your support of our small herds allow our CSA farm to be a closed circle of fertility. The sheep and goats provide us with their pelleted manure, ideal for spreading on our veggie gardens in early Spring and late Fall. They help us manage the land better, eradicating invasive species, and managing our woodlots with aplomb. A farm without animals limps. We make use of natural symbiotic relationships between the animals and the land, and the end result is a symphony of stewardship.

2014 CSA veggie shares are $600/share. Payment plans are available this year if you need to break up payments to make the share price more manageable. We want to work with you to provide the freshest produce possible for your table. This is food grown without chemicals, by fjord-horse, and hand-harvested. 2014 space is limited, so please contact us early.
We are looking for people to host drop-sites. If you are interested in hosting a dropsite for our CSA veggies and chevre shares, let us know! We'd appreciate it!

Plan a CSA info night! We love it when members take the initiative and plan an info meeting with their friends, family, and co-workers! Help spread the love! We can bring slides and samples to the meeting, as well as answer any and all questions!

Visits:
Our farm is your farm! Schedule a visit! Transparency is what you deserve, and what we thrive on!
Call ahead and plan to bring friends or family. We'd be glad to show you around, and introduce you to the Little Flower Farm family!

email: littleflowerfarmcsa@gmail.com
phone: (651) 433-3611

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent-time

There is a beautiful German folksong we sing every Advent called “Maria walks amid the thorn”. It has the sound of a clockwork chime when you sing it in harmony. We learned it from Maria Von Trapp (of Sound of Music fame,) who included it in her book “Around the year with the Trapp Family…keeping the feasts and seasons of the Christian year”.

            “Maria walks amid the thorn,
Kyrie Eleison
Which seven years no leaf has born,
She walks amid the wood of thorn,
Jesus and Maria”

It is a song about the blossoming of the extraordinary amidst the ordinary, common, and even ugly. It is the perfect welcome to Winter, when the landscape is barren and desolate…and the ground is cold and hard.  The best surprises are usually preceded by a gentle expectation of fittingness that something delightful is at hand. It is a strange thing to try and convey….because it would seem that this expectation would diminish the surprise…but it doesn’t, it cushions it…or readies the heart for it, like a mother with a set of swaddling blankets and a bassinet readies a home for a baby. Sometimes I wonder if this readiness brings the delight on…like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is always present amidst the ordinary, and it is characterized by a willingness to believe that something beautiful can come from ordinary life. I have fallen in love three times this way. Once, when I was told I would be picked up from the airport by a young man named Luke, once while singing “Red is the Rose” at a choral concert, and lastly, when a friend suggested we play a game of doubles with his tennis playing roommate. In each case I knew the end result would be falling in love, and so it was. The first resulted in tears and poetry surprising me wherever I looked, the second in two years of correspondence and soul-friendship, and the third in a marriage proposal (which I happily accepted.)

            “What neath her heart does Mary bear?

            Kyrie Eleison

            A little child does Mary bear

Beneath her heart he nestles there

Jesus and Maria”

It was the same way when we spotted the little bird’s nest on our way down to our favorite sledding hill. It was nestled in the branches of a patch of thorny underbrush. It seemed to crown the thorny canes, and was position in such a way as to have the peculiar effect of a lamp-post beside our path, welcoming us to the dip and dell which funneled us to the very best sledding on the farm. Even at a distance I knew the nest would be special…that soft “about to fall in love” fog stole over me…and over Bothilde who asked “Can we just take it down to look and then put it right back?” I eagerly assented and as we drew near we could see fluffy feathers interwoven in the outside of the nest….it was a cup of a thing, fitting perfectly in the palm of my hand…and most wonderfully of all it was filled to the brim with little red-brown nuts. The intention of it was overwhelming in the tundra-like barren surroundings. Here we were, wind whipped on a lower hillside, with not a sound of birds to be heard, and yet we had stumbled upon a little bird’s larder…and been surprised by the intent industry of a little creature made of feathers and brittle bones, with a heart beating fast beneath its stalwart breast, bearing in its beak carefully foraged fodder…it was as if she had left a note for us to read: “I will be back! Keep it safe for me the while!” We replaced it a-top it’s thorny perch. The ugliness of the branches, the nastiness of the thorns and the completely surprising beauty of a nest filled with dried berries and nuts was heartening…it made us believe that all good things came from briar patches or similar seeming desolation and ordinary ugliness.

            “And as the two are passing near,

Kyrie Eleision,

Lo! Roses on the thorns appear!

Lo, roses on the thorns appear!

Jesus and Maria”

Anyone with a spouse will understand this paradox. There are few sweeter things in this world than a heartfelt apology from a spouse that loves you deeply and has hurt you deeply. I think it’s because there is something of your wedding night in a true apology: there is gentle humility that perseveres because of a vow however freshly made or old. One minute you are fuming at the sink, with your arms up to the elbows in sudsy water, using your anger as a scrubbing pad to remove all stubborn stains, and the next you are softened and changed, dissolved in the warmth of contrition, realization, and forgiveness. It seems to be part and parcel of the roses of life that they bloom amid thorns. Even the sledding hill itself, which was murder in summer to climb when seeking a wandering dairy cow or straying pregnant goat becomes the stuff of ballads with a fresh powdery blanket of snow over it. The terrain you grumbled and grunted over not a month ago now incites fresh squeals and giggles from adults and children alike, as we fold ourselves up in little plastic sleds, grab out courage with two mittened hands and plunge down the hillside.

Given a chance, I think most everything in this funny world of ours can inspire and enthrall. You certainly don’t have to live on a farm to see this. The way light can spill in through a window all over a wood floor is enough to rouse gratitude in the human heart…and it is that gratitude that makes the atheist nervous. Because there must be someone to thank!

Before we came upon the nest, we had passed the sheep returning from their daily sojourns, grazing through the snow on the Northern slope. They paused at the remnants of the piles of hay Shane had tossed out to them this morning on the future CSA veggie field that lays just Northeast of the barn. (This is part of our Winter manure spreading…and is much easier on our backs this way, letting the droppings lay where they may in a carefully choreographed fertilizer ballet). I was tugging the girls in the big black sled and we stopped to look at the sheep, just as they stopped to look at us. Each one was different. I was transfixed by the unique face of each sheep, and what had been before “ye old herd of white blobs” was suddenly transformed into 26 funny little characters. There was freckled face “Conchita” the short squat one from Mexico, and “Madame Pierrot” the elegant one with black lipstick and a Elizabeth the Second collar of ruffled wool. “Angelica” had a soft white face fringed with pink ears, pink nose and mouth.

Yesterday we were over a neighbor’s house to see about his restored Canadian Cutter, and pulling it with the Fjords this Christmas season. The cutter was beautifully rosemalled with roses and pansies and sprays of baby’s breath. The human heart always stop short and breaths more deeply when abruptly confronted with such beautifully detailed work. Work which signifies time standing still for the artist while painting it…the kind of standing still that requires love and defies counting. Over cocoa and peffernuse he confided that he finds nowadays that he has “a lot of money and little time”. He has exchanged one for the other for 34 years of his life, and now suspects the deal too raw to continue…it was something of the same observation I stumbled upon house later when we stood in front of the flock of sheep and it suddenly struck me that the pause is what gave me the moment of recognition and nod to the wonderful individuality of the flock.
Had I not halted the march of boots through snow, I would not have known them enough to love them that afternoon. For a farmer, it is his knowledge of the farm that keeps him hanging on to it: the knowledge of where the grass grows thickest (and thinnest) and which blossoms gave the honey that flavor this year, and where the black raspberries grow, and where the asparagus hides, wild in the Springtime. Other kinds of knowledge, like how to turn a hayloft into children’s laughter, or make a hobbit hole out of a hillside, or find adventure down a woodland path not tried…those kinds of knowledge too, tie the knower to the known. Knowledge is the wool that Love is spun out of.
 If time is the measure of motion, Love is the measure of Life.



In the Advent hymn, we mutter “Lord have mercy” as we peer into the gentle mystery of the incarnation. The rose has thorns…but the rose gives the why to the thorns. Perhaps the reason why there was no room at the inn, in the ancestral town of Joseph, filled no doubt to the brim with relatives of his who could have offered at least a floor to sleep on, was because the coming of Jesus Christ into the world seemed very much to those without “eyes to see” the birth of a bastard child. But belief born of a waiting and expectant heart, eager to see in the ordinary something extraordinary and beautiful, sees the “fatherless” child fathered by a Father more Father than any, and from whom Fatherhood receives its name. The Prince of the Universe turned the world on its head when he was born in a barn, with ox and ass as courtiers. He greeted us with a baby’s coo as the “Son of He who delights unexpectedly!” Forever after giving royal dignity to poverty, and making ballrooms out of barnyards.