A few years ago, a beautiful friend asked me to house sit for her while she and her family went away.  At the time, I was living in San Francisco, and her place is in Mendocino, so I drove up into the “real” Northern California and arrived at this spectacular coastal town.  (For the record, I’ll take the West Coast any day for the beaches and the cliffs along the water.)

My jobs there were simple. Feed the horse, feed the chicken, gather eggs.  I had no trouble with the feeding, and I probably even cleaned the kitchen.  But I didn’t gather one egg in the days I was there.

I was too scared of the chickens.

I thought of this fear yesterday, when Philip and I were working a bit in the coop.  I can’t really put into words what I was afraid of – being pecked, spurred?  I’m not sure.  But the fear was real and so palpable that I felt my heart race even when I went toward the coop.

A few years later, the farm dream firmly alive, and Dad found out about 3 “retired” chickens who needed a home.  They came with their own chicken tractor and some feed . . . and Dad knew I eventually wanted chickens.  So we took them, and they lived out their days at Bremo, an amazing place to retire.

And those three little birds – Lily, Ruby, and a rooster whose name I’ve forgotten – taught me to not fear.  They didn’t peck me or spur me. They came when I called in the morning.  At night, they clucked quietly while I shut them into their coop.  They were my fear-breakers.

Now, as I watch 16 birds scratch endlessly through the straw I threw in their run last night, I cannot wait to gather their eggs.  Two days ago, I picked up Fern to give her feet a check, and yesterday, Philip held Snowman for me so I could examine where she’s losing a few feathers on her head (molting, I think.)  Lily the Second and I have a regular chat every day – yesterday, she tried to remove the pockets on my jeans.  Fear is gone and has been replaced by love.

Here, I see it all the time now – the way my fear subsides into affection with each new arrival, each new plan, each new endeavor.  As we find success – or at least not failure and humiliation – I find confidence, faith, and a deep awareness of the fact that everything is really going to be okay.

I wonder if this is not some of what we all need to do when fear raises up – to start small with some sort of self-imposed exposure therapy.  Short moments with the things we fear, with our Dad-like back-up just in case.

If I can get behind you as you face a fear, I’d love to do that. Maybe you want to get some chickens but are fearful of the work and the ordiancnes. Maybe you’d like to move to the country but fear lack of work or isolation. Maybe you’d just like to get away to some solitude and think but fear what you might find. We hope you know you can come here, take it slow, and have us around to just back you up with listening ears and an understanding heart.  Because, well, we’ve been there.

In fact, we have a house-sitting opportunity coming up. Next summer (2015), Philip and I have an adventure with my family – we are all going to Alaska.  This has been a dream of my dad’s for a long time – to return to that amazing place – and Philip and I have dreamed of it, too.  But of course, we can’t just leave the farm for two weeks without someone to care for it.  So we’re looking for farm sitters, people to come and feed the animals morning and night, let out and put in the chickens, keep an eye on the garden and eat anything that comes ready, and generally just be a presence around this place while we’re gone. Plus, we’ll have the farmers next door on call in case you need some back-up.

During the days, you have the run of the farmhouse.  Plus, you’ll be within an hour’s drive of Charlottesville and Lynchburg, two great cities.  We have local wineries and breweries and lots of hiking trails. We’ll leave the fridge stocked for you, and you can visit our local farm market and get fresh peaches all summer long. If that interests you, comment below, and I’ll put you on the list to get details of our travel plans when they are finalized. 

And in the meantime, just come by and visit.  IN a few months, you can help me gather eggs. . . fearless together.


Just a reminder that we still have a few spaces left for our Writer’s Retreat July 18-20.  We’ll be closing the option to camp next weekend so we can be sure to have all the spaces ready, so if you are coming with a tent, get your registration done asap. 🙂