Mixed Emotions

Take a walk with me back to April.  Yes, April.  It’s taken me this long to be able to express in words what my mind and heart were feeling in April.

April in my area of the world is a time of renewed life – whispers of green are spreading across the landscape, daffodils and tulips are reaching through dead leaves and dirt to brighten the dull landscape.  The farm animals are enjoying the spring sunshine warming their winter-weary bodies as they lounge in the tender green grass.  April is a time of hope on the farm.  This year it was a month of mixed emotions.

Decisions were made on our little farm that were difficult – heart wrenching decisions to downsize our pig operation temporarily.  Decisions were also made on a friend’s farm that were far more painful and life-changing, but unavoidable in their finality.  There is a saying that “One man’s loss is another man’s gain.”  How true this has proved to be.

Our gain became the arrival of four beautiful Irish Dexter cows.  We bought two four-year old bred cows and two yearling heifers that belonged to our friends.  The mixed emotions emerge in this portion of the story.  Our emotions of purchasing our friends’ cows at auction were that of joy, disbelief, and excitement that our dream of gentle, docile,  well-mannered cows was coming to fruition.  Our emotions of sadness and loss for our friends was overpowering.  It was difficult to share our joy when we knew our friends were grieving the loss of more than half their herd of cows and an unplanned separation borne out of necessity.

As we moved forward on our little farm and a new normal settled in our friends’ lives, we were blessed with the arrival of the first Irish Dexter calf to be born on our farm.  A beautiful bull calf born a month after his mother’s arrival on our farm.  His curiosity, playfulness, and adorable face have moved our emotions firmly into joy category.  We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second calf – and our hope is for a little heifer calf to expand our breeding stock.

This, my friends, is a part of farming.   Joy and sadness seem to walk hand-in-hand through each facet of life on the farm.  It is a give and take – a never ending roller coaster of emotion.  A roller coaster ride that we are blessed to be on.



What a Feeling

I have had an evasive feeling of late – in a good and pleasing way.  Evasive in the deep, shadowy depths of my inner being.  Feelings of joy, contentment, and peace that I cannot put into words.

The feelings of joy hover and flit like butterflies in springtime.  I cannot capture them, yet they are all around me as I move through my days.  There is the joy of seeing piglets born.  Joy in multi-colored chicken eggs filling a basket once again as spring inches closer each day.  Joy in the purr of a cat curled at my side as I drift off to sleep.  Joy in the prancing antics of a spoiled cow as he awaits his morning hay and grain.  Joy while sitting in the hay with piglets who are intent on nibbling every last protruding object off your coat, boots, and jeans.  Joy in the glow of the warm, crackling fire in the woodstove that pushes back against the cold and damp air that chills your bones.  Joy in spending the days teaching our daughter life skills, history, math, science, animal care – knowing she is safe and happy.  Joy in baking, cooking, and laundry that whispers, “You are blessed to have a family to care for.”  Joy in visiting our neighbor’s baby goats and witnessing their immature antics.  Joy in having family close by to love.  Joy in living.

Contentment has settled deep within my heart of hearts.  Contentment in a quiet life where nature surrounds me.  Contentment in the daily routine of chores and school.  Contentment with all the Lord has so graciously blessed me with.  Contentment is not something I take for granted – it does not belong to those who rush through life.  It belongs to those who are able to slow down and savor the beauty that God created on this earth.  I am content with my place in this world.

Peace that passes all understanding.  Peace that no matter what happens in this broken and hurting world, my God is on His throne and nothing can touch me without His permission.  Peace that He is bigger than all the evil and corruption that has infiltrated our world, our country, and our communities.  Peace that soothes and comforts every day as I walk this journey of life.

I doubt I have expressed this sometimes overwhelming feeling well.  It grips my heart and dances away quickly before I can fully appreciate or express it.  I do hope, however, that you have caught a glimpse of the inner workings of my heart – a heart that is on the farm with my family and bound to the land that we call home.

A Guest Post

Today you will be reading my daughter’s description of her chore time.  Today temperatures were below zero with dangerous wind chills.  Some might think it cruel to have a 12 year old out in this kind of weather and having the responsibility of caring for livestock alongside her parents.  Let me assure you, readers, that we were toasty warm in our winter gear!  Enjoy this short guest post.

As I open the door, a big gush of cold air hits my face and I couldn’t breathe for a second.  I slowly walked out to the barn and heard a pig oink.  T-Bone, the cow, swings his large black head out from the corner of his barn stall.  He sticks his gray-colored tongue out to say, “Hi.”  When I get closer to his stall, he starts dancing and prancing around like a crazed buffalo.  It’s quite funny if you ask me.

Soon after, with a scoop of grain in my hand, I pour his feed into his big blue container and he slurps it up like he hasn’t eaten in years.  Next I give him a big pad of itchy hay.  As he eats, I scoop his large piles of poop making sure he has a clean area to rest.

I break the ice in his water trough and refill it so that he has something to cleanse his palette.  He finishes his grain and nudges my arm, licking my coat with his big sandpaper-like tongue.

I climb out of the stall to get some Wheat Thin crackers for him to munch on.  He tries to grab them with his tongue as I put them in his mouth.  I stay for a few minutes and scratch is big fuzzy body before I head inside to warm my toes and get ready for the day.


Great Expectations

As optimistic humans, we look forward to the new  year with great expectations.  We are going to eat healthier, exercise more, be more available to friends and family, draw closer to the Lord through disciplined Bible study, stay organized – the list can go on for pages.  In reality, what happens is that we enter the year charged up and our new, improved selves falter in the daily grind of life.  So in my optimistic view on this New Year’s Day in 2018, I’d like to consider what this year may hold for our family and our farm.

I used to be a very organized person.  Then I got married.  Then a baby came along.  Then the farm evolved from dream to reality.  Then homeschooling began.  Organization sadly fell to the bottom of the never-ending list of things to do.  Little by little I have been clawing my way back to being an organized person.  I can proudly say that as of this exact moment, I am organized for the year ahead.  My menu for January is complete, the groceries for the first half of the month are bought, the year-end paperwork for the farm is complete, plans are made for spiritual growth, and our homeschool plan is in place.  I have great expectations that this stellar accomplishment can continue at least into the first week of February.

Eating healthy – well, healthier food consumption is always at the top of the list.  And I have a plan for that, too.  Menu planning is helpful, portion control is vital, and having the ingredients on hand for healthy snacks and meals is key.  I am pumped up and ready to tackle those junk food cravings and win the battle of the bulge.  I hear the mega-box of mini York Peppermint Patties calling – be right back!  My expectations for healthy eating are a little below the great rating.

The farm is organized chaos – there is no way to transfer the pretty visions of idyllic dreams into a concrete reality.  There is always a plan in place for growing the farm, keeping it well-maintained and attractive, and running smoothly.  It is with great frustration that the animals choose not to stick to the plan.  Life happens on the farm – babies are born and some die.  Hay needs to be cut and the weather wasn’t notified to cooperate.  Equipment fails and puts everything else on hold while it is repaired.  Plans have been made for improving the chicken coop and run.  Plans to add a couple of small-breed cows in the spring are in the works.  Plans are forming to improve our pastures and add fencing for rotational grazing.  We have great expectations for the farm this year – I expect those plans will last until our first farrowing of the year on January 18th.

I could go on with listing all the plans that are swimming around in my head, all vying for a coveted spot in reality.  Look forward to the year ahead and make those plans.  Great expectations are just that.  We are all optimists on January 1st.




It Must Be the British In Me

Today we have seen the last hurrah of Tropical Storm Nate pass through our area.  It has been breezy, overcast, and rainy.  It has been a sullen kind of day.  And I love it.

The sky has been changing all day – from the heavy black clouds that greeted me during chores this morning to a glimpse of sunshine and back to a steel gray, ominous sky this afternoon.  While many folks will just look out the window and see an overcast view, I see changing patterns of white and gray.  I see hundreds of varied shades of steely blue-gray piling up, stretching out, and moving away.  I see intricate cloud patterns that change within moments, never to be repeated again.  I see brilliant leaves, wet with rain, splash their colors against the sodden backdrop – and it is beautiful.

I love being outdoors when the mist begins to fall.  The clouds seem to envelope our farm and wash away the dust and pollen making the fading colors pop.  The mist is gentle and refreshing, not yet heavy enough to chase the chickens and pigs into their shelters and under trees and shrubs.  The breeze whispers of brisk, cold days to come as it caresses my damp arms and face – and it is refreshing.

I love being indoors as the rain begins falling heavily and the wind tosses falling leaves into every corner of our property.  Today was a productive day of baking and canning – warming the house and penetrating the air with the smells of freshly baked bread, currant pound cake, and the spicy smell of applesauce cooking on the stove.  I love these smells that speak of home and comfort, safety and plenty.

This is my favorite time of year.  Darkness comes earlier and the coziness of that early darkness ignites a warmth and joy deep within me.  The glow of lights, the spicy warmth of mulling cider, the savory aroma of roasting meat, the pungent smell of wood smoke mixed with dying leaves all combine into a glorious patchwork of fragrance that is only surpassed by the fresh, piney smell of Christmas.

Dark, damp, cold days are some of my favorite days.  It must be the British me.


Before we entered into the realm of keeping chickens, we researched every last detail related to hatching, growing, health, feeding, and housing them.  We followed our list of do’s and don’ts faithfully (for the most part) until the chicken obsession overcame us – well, me – this summer.

I love having a variety of chickens.  After all, they come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.  I love to see the different patterns of their feathers, vibrant colors splashed against the backdrop of green grass.   Each of my ladies has her own quirky personality that is as unique as the patterns of their feathers.

Earlier this year, it became apparent that the number of laying hens in my flock was not keeping up with demand for farm fresh eggs.  With my husband’s approval, I began to search out new breeds to add to my already diverse array of chickens.  First on my list were six lovely Black Copper Marans – the ones that lay the dark chocolate brown eggs.  I happily brought these young pullets home and quarantined them in our nursery run.  You see, I knew not to mix new birds into an existing flock without a waiting period to ensure they were healthy.  I had encountered a couple of problems over the past couple of years through integrating birds too quickly, so was careful to follow protocol.

During the same period of time that the Marans were brought home, I placed an order for 15 chicks from a reputable hatchery.  I was able to add Silver Speckled Hamburgs, Speckled Sussex, Columbian Wyandotte, Whiting True Blue, and Salmon Faverolles to my diverse flock.  My littlest chicks were safely in a brooder in the garage.

Also during this same period of time, we had some folks buy chicken feeders from our mountainous stash of galvanized feed troughs.  They were local breeders and had a couple varieties that I had been looking at – so the barter system came into play and I acquired some Buff Polish and Blue Laced Red Wyandottes which happened to be the same age as the Marans.  Having run out of proper quarantine areas and because of their size compatability, I erroneously decided to put the new birds in with the Marans – which, by the way, were not cheap birds to acquire.  By the following morning, I new my error and would soon pay for it with the lives of two Marans.  You see, one of the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes had a respiratory infection that quickly attacked two of the Marans.  I have been fighting this respiratory issue for two months and I believe we have finally conquered it.  Which leads me to tell you about Lucy – the carrier of the respiratory infection.

Lucy is stunted in her growth – she is about half the size her sister Gladys.  She is the sweetest little bird in my flock.  She waits patiently for me to finish filling feeders so that she can eat her fermented feed from the scoop.  She stays close to Gladys, who watches over little Lucy all day, never straying far from her side.  Gladys is always perched next to Lucy in an effort, I think, to keep Lucy warm on these chilly nights.  Lucy does not free range with rest of the ladies (and roos), preferring instead to relax in the sun near our lilac bush.  She is never going to be a robust bird, but I don’t have it in me to end her life.  She is recovered from her respiratory illness, but will forever remain a small and somewhat fragile pet.

The coming of Lucy to our farm has reminded me again the importance of knowing where your livestock comes from.  She reminds me that quarantine is a must, not just a good idea to be followed when it is convenient.  She reminds me that good husbandry is essential to profitability and growth.  She reminds me that each animal – four footed or fowl – is a special gift to be nurtured and cared for to the best of my ability.  Lucy has become my mascot – a daily reminder to stick to the protocols of good management.

Make the Days Count

As winter is marching closer, the speed of work around the farm increases tenfold.  Suddenly, all the projects that were on the list for summer have reared their ugly heads, taunting us as we scurry like mice trying to check each item off.

Our list, while partially completed, seems to never get shorter.  It does, of course, but as typical humans, we see and save the largest projects until we are down to the wire for time, money, and ability.  The two largest projects are our winter supply of firewood and pouring concrete in the barn.  I know, we saved the best for last.

You may be aghast that it is now October and we are just getting around to cutting and splitting firewood.  Doesn’t it need to season and dry for a year before being used?  Not for us, we have an outdoor wood furnace.  Aren’t you afraid of not having enough?  Not really, we always manage to have enough, even if we are cutting, splitting, and stacking into December.  What on earth were you thinking to wait so long before doing firewood???  Well, in our defense, we did cut and drag several trees up to our processing area – and they have sat there for a month now – and I really hate splitting firewood in the heat of summer.  Farms are busy places and there is always something to do that seems more pressing at the moment.  So, now that we are down to the wire, we are processing wood after work and before dinner, utilizing every last bit of daylight – which is quickly fading faster than we can split wood.

The framing for pouring concrete in the barn is in place and ready for concrete – finally.  A barn, even an unfinished one, fills up fast with equipment, hay, and in the winter – animals.  We decided we had to stop using the barn if we were ever going to get it finished!

So, our two final big projects are underway and we are making the shortened days of autumn count – not just in accomplishing a list of tasks, but in spending time as a family.  We are building memories  while we work together to accomplish shared goals.  We are building the future of our farm – laying foundations for what is to come.  We are savoring beautiful sunny afternoons that show no hint of the cold to come.  We are living a dream that is taking shape into reality – day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year.

We are reveling in the fellowship of our family being together, working together, and playing together for you never know how quickly life can change.  How are you making the days count?

*The photo used was dated September 2nd – when we cut down the trees to be used for firewood.