These Farmhouse Bookshelves

Let’s be honest. My springtime reading looks less like reading and more like one hour spent weeding the perfect reading spot under the sour cherry tree and then fifteen minutes given to sitting under that tree watching the peonies dance and catching my book as it just slips from my lap.

So, not a great deal of actual reading.

But books are food for me and even in springtime I manage to take a few bites here and there. Lately, these quick bites have been all about the letter P: pruning, poetry, and prayer.

(You can find more information about my occasional Saturday series of book recommendations here. These posts do include affiliate links. Thank you for clicking and buying. Thank you for reading along. And thank you for sharing your own recommendations in the comments!)


if hobbits built bookstores



I learned about Lee Reich’s Pruning Book, The: Completely Revised and Updated by listening to a radio call-in gardening show. Since then I’ve seen his name everywhere (well, everywhere you might expect to find mention of a pruning expert). This is an award-winning, highly-praised reference book. It is also beautifully made, comprehensive, and a joy to browse. Best of all? It makes pruning seem easy.

If you’ve ever wondered what to do with that old apple tree (or the apple whip you recently planted), or how to keep your tomatoes from sprawling into a disease-ridden mess, or how to keep your clematis vine blooming then you really should own this book. I first checked out a copy from the library, but it only took me about five minutes of flipping pages to realize I needed this one on my shelf.


If anyone could turn pruning into poetry that someone would be Verlyn Klinkenborg. His eloquent observations of life on his New York farm are deservedly famous. The Rural Life is nature writing as poetry.

You might think you don’t have much interest in nature or country living (and I should mention that just the words nature documentary put me straight to sleep), but if you appreciate language and metaphor, if you want to learn how to see to the depths of what is always right in front of our eyes, then you should be reading Klinkenborg.

I haven’t yet read his follow-up collection More Scenes from the Rural Life but simply holding the book makes me happy. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, the jacket design and interior illustrations are perfect. Beautifully old-fashioned but also minimalist and modern. Choose this gorgeous hardcover for yourself and as a gift. It’s that kind of book.

Everyone reaches for fullness in summer, but the fullness that most of us know best belongs to the memory of childhood. What was it that made summer days so long back then and made the future seem so distant? What was the thing we knew or didn’t know? – Verlyn Klinkenborg


Phyllis Tickle’s prayer books are year-round favorites of mine, but I love them especially during the busyness of spring and summer. I don’t pray the hours (morning, noon, and night) regularly, but when I only have a few minutes and don’t even know where to begin with prayer or Bible-reading I almost always find myself reading the morning office in Prayers for Springtime.

The Divine Hours (Volume Three): Prayers for Springtime: A Manual for Prayer (Tickle, Phyllis) and The Divine Hours (Volume One): Prayers for Summertime: A Manual for Prayer are part of a three-volume set. Whether or not you are familiar with the Benedictine practice of fixed-hour prayer, I think you will find Tickle’s contemporary selections of prayers, psalms, and Scriptures easy to use either regularly or (like me) irregularly as the need or mood strikes.

I sometimes think that fifteen minutes spent sitting under the sour cherry tree observing the birds and noticing the breeze is a form of prayer. Reading a bit from this book as I sit only makes it more official.

And you? Which books are you reading on the patio as the sun begins to set?



At the End of All Our Journeys

“We thank and praise you, Lord, for the gift of your victory over death, for the gift of holy awe that comes upon us as we enter into our Easter joy. Christ has passed from death to life, may we always know you as our way through the desert, our food and drink as we thirst. You are our safe passage through treacherous waters and the home that awaits us at the end of all our journeys.”

– an Easter prayer, from God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter





Surprised By … Happiness

Are you visiting from Jennifer’s place today? You are welcome here.

I’m an English PhD who traded the university classroom

for an old farmhouse and a writing desk.

I write about dreams and desire, I write about family and faith.

I write to remember that life is magical.



Her smile is even more dazzling in person.

Which means she stands out in this family. For the most part, we Purifoys are deep thinkers and deep feelers. Quick to notice trouble and pain, more than a little inclined to grumpiness first thing in the morning.

But not this one. We all dote on her because she’s the smallest, the cutest, but I think we dote on her for another reason: she is, more often than not, the happiest. She is a candle, a bouquet of flowers, a breath of fresh, spring air. Our happy, smiley baby girl.

And there’s a story behind that. A prayer, too.

I tend to pray vague, intangible prayers. They are halting, more than a bit ragged. But I think they are my best prayers. They are so full of holes, of all I don’t know and cannot quite see, there is plenty of room for God to come and live in them.

I know this because I once prayed for happiness.


Sometimes we live with a story for quite a while before it occurs to us to share it. Sometimes we need a nudge. An invitation.

I am grateful to the writer and blogger Jennifer Dukes Lee for giving me that nudge. I am grateful for the invitation to share a story with her readers. Today, I’m sharing the story of this prayer. It was a surprising prayer with an even more unexpected answer.

I’d like to share this story with you, too.

Will you follow me here to read along?


Advent (Day 22)

A prayer for this, the fourth Sunday of Advent:


In the dark of the year

I will light a candle …


for Christmas coming soon …

for Jesus born in Bethlehem …

for the angels’ message of peace and goodwill …

for the star that leads us all to Jesus …


May the light of my Christmas candle remind me of heaven’s light.


               – from A Child’s First Book of Prayers, by Lois Rock and Alison Jay






Advent (Day 15)

We have turned a corner. Can you feel it?

The word for this third week of Advent is Rejoice. It is a word associated most closely with Mary.

Here is a prayer for this, the third Sunday of Advent.


“Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

– from The Book of Common Prayer

Advent (Day 8)

The word for this second week of Advent is … prepare.

Let the master of the house wash your feet and hands. Let him wrap you in fine clothes.

He has invited us to feast.




A prayer for the second Sunday of Advent:


Most merciful Lord, your love compels us to come in.
Our hands were unclean, our hearts were unprepared;
we were not fit even to eat the crumbs from under your table.
But you, Lord, are the God of our salvation,
and share your bread with sinners.
So cleanse and feed us with the precious body and blood of your Son,
that he may live in us and we in him;
and that we, with the whole company of Christ,
may sit and eat in your kingdom.


 (a traditional Anglican prayer)




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