The Lowly Farmer on the Hill

Jeannie Bruenning

Tonight I find myself the lowly farmer on the hill. I have the title because my youngest offspring loves to fill every crack and crevice of her life with things she can take care of. Couple this with her desire to travel and it is why – tonight, I find myself the lowly farmer on the hill.

My other-half (better-half is up for debate and incase you are wondering, I’m winning), he is laid up with the gout – oh god it’s the gout – and is currently not very useful. With wine in one hand and list in my head, I am well prepared for what is to come.

Rain is forecasted and the chick-lets need to be moved. Chick-lets are the newest arrivals that are now somewhere between cute little balls of fuzz and big fat hens. They currently live in a small caged area that won’t keep them dry, thus the relocation. One by one I grab the small feathered frenzy and gently carry them to new safety; transfer their water and food and secure the top to avoid any escape. There is so much to think about as the lowly farmer on the hill.

Now it’s time to feed the Girls. The hen house is a bit down the hill, there’s no rush tonight, so me and my half filled glass of wine enjoy the walk. Feathers, heads, beaks, and squawking greet me. I scoop and sprinkle food on the ground for them and they respond like a bunch of old ladies at the dessert end of a buffet. I leave their quaint dwelling, secure the door, and look over to see the goat and sheep, otherwise known as The Boys. 

Buddy and Shaun have been working diligently on clearing the hill. There is an entire side that we’ve yet to explore because of the underbrush. New areas are coming to light every week and these two are making it happen. I set my glass down and determine which of the hoses is designed to reach their water bucket. They watch me and make their way over as soon as the water fills. I turn to quench the thirst of the olive trees planted along the path. I’m pleased and surprised to see they are surviving.

We have a guest on the hill and I figure this lowly farmer should say hello. She too is a writer, so we sit and talk about writing, and being creative, and life and death, and growing older, and it is delightful. We make plans to do it again. We say goodbye, and my empty glass escorts this lowly farmer across the driveway, past the Fairy Hole, and back home. 

As I walk, the night lights have all illuminated. Their glow is a blanket of peace that hovers over us. It’s magical. It makes me wonder, how did I get so lucky to be the lowly farmer on the hill…

Who gets the…

What’s the secret to a long marriage? Answer: There isn’t one. 

Marriage is an adventure. It has ups and downs. Good times and dark times. Ruth Graham, the wife of most holy Billy Graham, said she never considered divorce – murder on many occasions – but never divorce. 

Jeff and I have made it through 41 years. Secrets? I don’t believe there are any. Lessons? There are many.  Here are my top four:

1. A marriage license has little staying power. The contract that I attribute to making through those crazy years of school schedules, careers, and not know exactly how you made it through each day, was this: Whoever breaks up the marriage GETS the house, kids, debts, and possible the dogs. No legal assistance needed. If a newer model was in one of our futures, they better be ready for 2 kids, house mortgage, credit card debt, and pets – it apparently worked. 

2. Protect your differences. Jeff and I are opposite. We are so opposite that he would disagree with that statement. It took me a long time to realize how important it was to protect our oppositeness. Opposites attract – but once the oppositeness goes away, so does the attraction -opposites may even find they really don’t really like each other. 

When opposites stay opposite, the attraction remains and their hearts still skip a beat when the other walks into a room – even after 41 years.

3. You will spend more years with your children as adults than as children – so raise great adults – enough said.

4. Never lose yourself. No matter the title; spouse, parent, child, career, that is what you do NOT who you are. The titles will change – and some may even go away – you have to live with YOU for the rest of your life. 

There they are – my top four life lessons on marriage and children. Be willing to let go, protect, nurture, and always work toward being the best version of you possible…it also helps to choose a great partner!

Goodness it’s Friday

Here’s a glimpse into moments of real life when you’re generationally living…

It’s Friday evening and Jeff is at church for the Good Friday service.  I have just returned from the grocery store with food for Sunday’s dinner. I’m watching the clock because I’ve determined that I will sit down and watch the service live. It would be lovely if it were uninterrupted, but I did mention the generational thing. 

The service has started and in the movie scene in my head – I am sitting in my favorite chair with a glass of wine listening to the piano and voice I know so well and pausing to reflect on this important day. BUT Raun, our oldest, challenged me to make April a dry month and knowing it was a good idea I said, “YES”. So I sit in my comfy chair, listening to the harmonies and readings of the service streaming into my living room without a beverage in my hand. 

A short while into it, I realize that a two year old has joined me and is circling around the coffee table in the middle of the room. At closer notice, she seems to be quietly reciting something. I smile and turn my attention back to the service. I’ve attended a lifetime of Good Friday Services and of any church service this is a dark, heavy, sad, service and the music tends to be kinda durg-y . But it’s a service that remembers the darkest, heaviest, saddest day, so I understand the durginess. 

Now the two-year-old has climbed onto the round coffee table making it difficult to ignore her. She is still reciting something. She scoots her bottom to the edge, and carefully slides off landing on the floor and flops a round a little. 

Scripture is being read on the TV screen that leads into responsive reading about the arrest of Jesus. The two year old pops up from her floor flopping and begins circling the table again. There’s a lovely soprano singing a beautifully haunting song as candles are being sniffed and the two year old climbs back up on the round table, scoots on the edge, slides off, lands on the floor and I finally am able to hear what she has been reciting, “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.”

“Are you being Humpty Dumpty?” I asked. 

“Yes”, she said proudly. “I can show you how to do it!” She offers with great excitement. 

“Well, I’m listening to Hoppy…”

“But you can do it…”

“I know I can do it, but if I fell off the table it would be a big fall.”

And now the final candle is snuffed, darkness fills the screen and the harmonies of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” drifts out of the speakers and the little one climbs back up on the wall for her final fall.

Crosses, candles, Jesus, Humpty, tables, music, it blends together on this holy night and in a strange way feels as if it was destined to be this way.

The wisdom of a two-year-old

Living with a two-year-old is something you take for granted in your twenties and thirties. Having a two-year-old around in your late fifties brings new joys. 

Amelia was six months old when we moved on the hill. It was no surprise when one of her first words was, “Hi!” With six adults living here, there wasn’t room she entered without someone greeting her with “Hi Amelia!”

Amelia turned two in September. She already had a mouth full of teeth and a full vocabulary. Five word sentences, understanding concepts that are typically reserved for four-year-olds, counting, and color recognition was well under way.

Her brilliant mom got her on a sleeping regiment after realizing that this was going to be kid who fought sleep. Now, a snuggle, a story, a little song, and sleepy time is moments away. La La Lu from Lady and the Tramp is always her first request. However, this Christmas Amelia switched it up a bit. She would say, “You sing La La Lu and I’ll sing Jingle Bells.” This wasn’t easy to do – but we all gave it our best.

Amelia doesn’t waist words. When I can’t understand what she is saying, she simply slows down and over annunciates until I do.

I took notice the first time I heard, “I need a hug”. Instead of crying when she feels scared, afraid, hurt, or sad, she simply says, “I need a hug.” If mom or dad aren’t near, one of the rest of us will do. A good hug makes all the sadness, pain, or fear go away. 

The morning she and Nana found a lizard in the kitchen, they put it in a bag and set it free outside – free to find it’s mommy and daddy. Now, anytime Amelia sees someone who looks lost or lonely, she says, “He needs his mommy and daddy.” This includes Ratatouille as he is floating through the sewers, Alice as she is wandering through Wonderland, and the Grinch – who clearly needs a mommy to give him a hug. 

Empathy flows from this kid. She can immediately sense when someone is frustrated or sad and she’s there by their side, rubbing a shoulder, snuggling in close, giving a hug, wiping away tears, and sweetly saying, “It’s okay, I’m here.” 

I’m not sure we need anymore in life than what Amelia has already discovered:

  • hugs take away our fears and sadness 
  • everyone needs someone like a mommy and daddy 
  • singing before bed is good 
  • take the time to make sure you are understood

It also helps to be able to sing different songs at that the same time!


I had no idea that being a Carnivore was a thing unless you were a dinosaur or lion. But less than 4 months ago after being on a very balanced (protein, veggie, carb) meal plan I stepped off the scale and said, “I’ve got to get this under control or go see a doctor because there is something wrong.” My healthy eating (which I’m sure is wonderful for everyone else,) was not good for me and the scale was going in the wrong direction. It was going there quickly.

Within 2 hours of these word coming out of my mouth my sister texted me with a weird message that she was on the Carnivore diet. Minutes later we were talking – “what is the carnivore diet?  –  WHAT? People just eat meat? You can do that? WHY have I never heard of this before?!?!?!”

Yes, since September 22, 2019 I have been a Carnivore. In the first 48 hours these things happened:

  1. Dropped 5 pounds
  2. Indigestion and bloating were gone
  3. My energy level soared
  4. My brain fog disappeared, memory recall quickened
  5. I didn’t feel old anymore

When Jeff joined me about a month later, it took only a week before he saw a difference in his health

  1. He had way more energy
  2. Task like mowing our crazy front yard didn’t wipe him out
  3. He got tired, but the aches and pains were gone
  4. His weak ankles and flat feet didn’t hurt anymore
  5. Gout – something he has struggled with a lot in the past few years….was no where in sight.

So here we are, eating meat all day long and feeling amazing. 

I had read that within 1 month on this diet, the craving for sugar would go away – it did. I’m not talking little cravings – I don’t know what it means for something to be TOO SWEET – I can eat cake – all of it. Now, I can eat a piece of chocolate and it’s nice but one piece is sufficient. I sailed through Christmas without 1 ounce of the need to fill up on Christmas Cheer.

Weight? Yes, I’m loosing weight (at almost 60 that’s been a huge challenge for the past several years) but the weight is coming off like never before. I feel stronger then ever. Aches and pains…not part of my world anymore. Weight lose is not the priority any longer – feeling healthy is. More than weight – I’m dropping inches and it feels great. 

When I started this I committed to 1 month. After the first 3 weeks I changed it to 3 months. I’m now on a 6 month plan. Where it goes – I’m not sure cause I can’t imagine eating differently. The health benefits for Jeff and I have been above and beyond our wildest imaginations. We just may be carnivores until we die.

So here is tonights dinner – surf and turf – tri-tip and scallops in a butter/garlic aioli – how could this ever get old??

Here is some fun info…

At home – working

Last week Jeff and I set up our home office. We’re still getting used to the fact that we work for the same company. Now we’re sitting next to each other at a white folding table which houses three monitors, and two computers. This luxurious office has a great view – from our bedroom window. It’s the only place that we can close the doors and take phone calls with little interruptions. 

A year ago Jeff and I gave up our small 2 bedroom condo with an ocean view for the big house on the hill. Being confined in our old house would have been a bit more peaceful but a lot more boring. We would have most likely set up our office in the dinning room, ate at the kitchen counter and endured hours of binge watching. 

But the big house on the hill is also home of our 2 adult children, their spouses, 4 grandkids, 3 dogs, 4 cats, 15 chickens and 2 rabbits. As of last week, it’s now the home office of 4 adults, home school for 3 kids and day care for 1 wild, crazy, loud, loving and wonderful toddler. Who’d have seen this coming.

But our first day working side by side went very well!

We completed tasks, made phone calls and took part in conference calls. There were a few times the internet slowed to a crawl, but then again, there’s a lot of people up here sucking it’s energy.

The day went so well that I thought we should take an on-line personality evaluation for married couples who want to start a business together. This wasn’t easy to find and took a bit of searching. (www.ireallydidntfindsucha site.owell) The results were conclusive that both Jeff and I excel at: Making sh*t look attractive! Go figure – we both scored off the charts! But then I started thinking…

Anyone who is in retail, or management, or marketing, or mostly any other position, simply strives to make someone else’s stuff appealing, purchasable, desirable, and essential. We all just make shit look attractive. 

So here it is, our new logo.. JB (squared).inc…we’re open for business, but we already have a waiting list…apparently there’s a lot of people who’ll pay to have someone make their sh*t look attractive.