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 Mother’s Heart

I haven’t written a post in quite some time – the reasons are many and I won’t bore you with them.  Suffice to say we’ve been busy and I really didn’t feel like writing.   Today I’m going down a rabbit path, somewhat away from the usual farm related topics that I write.  Today I will share my heart with you – a heart that is grateful to be a mother and even more grateful to be a homeschool mom.

I follow many homeschool families and businesses on Facebook.  There are never-ending blogs written about why homeschooling is the best option, especially if you are a Christian family or if your child is gifted or if you are just tired of the government shoving liberal agendas down your child’s throat.  I agree with many of these articles but many times will shy away from “sharing” them on Facebook because I have so many friends that are incredible, loving, dedicated teachers in public and private school.  I also realize that homeschooling is not an option for everyone.  Let me tell you our story and you may understand why I am so passionate about homeschooling – and wish that more families would take the plunge into a decidedly different way to educate their children.

My heart has always been ready and willing to homeschool.  When our daughter was of preschool age, I had already been working with her on colors, numbers, letters, etc. with varied degrees of success.  It retrospect, she did great with anything that was hands-on and activity based learning.  Try to sit her down to teach and it was almost impossible – but I digress.  My husband did not share the same ideal of homeschooling that I did, so we enrolled her in our local public school Pre-K morning program.  Her teachers were wonderful, I was a class mom and we joined the ranks of all our friends as public school parents.  Kindergarten was next, with more wonderful teachers and aides.  Another year of being involved in every possible aspect of the public school scene.  First grade rolled around and my daughter had the best possible teacher – a caring, thoughtful, wonderful woman who adored the children in her class.  By this time I was seeing some troubling warning signs in my daughter’s education.  She loved books but hated reading.  She didn’t quite get the shapes right when asked to copy them.  She had a lot of “little” bumps in her abilities that by themselves were no big deal.  Second grade rolled around and our little girl went from a child who loved school to hating school – in just a couple of months time.

What on earth happened to our happy child?  No longer did she enjoy going to school.  She had trouble focusing on assignments in class.  She was easily distracted.  She was “just making” the benchmarks every five weeks – yes, every five weeks being told by her teacher that she was “just making it.”  Now that’s encouraging to a seven year old.  She didn’t qualify for remedial reading, but they sent packets home and worked with her as they could.  We worked every evening with her on reading and math.  She struggled to learn her math facts – one minute knowing them, the next minute acting like she had never seen those numbers before.  The joy of learning had been extinguished.

During the early part of summer, I approached my dear husband again about giving homeschooling a try.  He told me that if we won the lottery, we could homeschool – because homeschooling is not always the inexpensive option.  We won the lottery – my dearest friend had a full year 3rd Grade curriculum that she let us borrow.  We had a few items that we needed to supplement, but it cost us virtually nothing.  So we notified the school district and began our homeschool journey.

We saw the love and joy of learning return.  We were able to customize her learning to her abilities and her learning style.  We were able to work with her and realize that there was an actual physical issue with her eyes that required months of vision therapy to correct.  We have never looked back.  So what, really, is our reason for homeschooling?  They are many – and I will try to articulate them without being offensive.

Reason #1:  We are able to teach our daughter (within the constraints of our state laws) what we feel is important.  If we want to spend three years studying American History, then we will.  We can teach our daughter from a God-centered perspective instead of relying on the government’s social experiments to dictate our perspective.  We can teach what is interesting to her – like basic chemistry (truly, we did that in 4th grade).

Reason #2:  We can integrate our farm life into our studies.  I’ll call that life skills that make for a well-rounded education.  She is learning how to care for animals, where her food comes from, and the work it takes to grow your own food.  She is learning about the cycle of life and death and how to deal with it.

Reason #3:  We can actively learn.  By actively learn, I mean move while we learn.  We can relax on the couch while studying Civics and Government.  We can learn math while camping out in a quilt fort or cooking dinner or grocery shopping.  We can learn about nature while being in nature.  We can “do school” outdoors on those beautiful spring days instead of being cooped up in a classroom.  We can move, which is so important to children!

Reason # 4:  We spend quality and quantity time as a family.  We are not separated from our daughter for 30 hours a week while someone else is influencing her beliefs and world-view (more if the child is involved in sports).  We can discuss current events and current trends as we come in contact with them.  We can guide her heart toward what is good and right.  We eat together, play together, and learn together.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but they are the major reasons.  We are able to fashion an individualized education for our daughter that cannot be duplicated in public or private school.  While we do have certain subject areas that are mandated by our state education department, we have great flexibility to customize her education – and that is priceless.   It is not always a bed of roses, sweet-smelling and beautiful.  There are days that we could easily throw in the towel and give up.  But it is worth every minute that we’ve been given to shape her young life.   This is a glimpse into this mother’s heart.

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.





I’m straying from my usual farm antics today into a more serious realm.  I hope you will take the time to read and think about what I am going to share.

Dictionary.com, in two of it’s definitions for redeemed, defines the word as “to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom” and  “to deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner.”  What does a redeemed person look like?  Funny you should ask.  My distorted human view of a redeemed person has certainly grown and evolved over the course of my lifetime.

As a young, raised-in-the-church Christian, my mental picture of redeemed souls involved good behavior (you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t swear…).  These pious redeemed souls also were dressed properly on Sunday for worship.  These souls knew their Bible references, knew their hymns, and knew how to act in church.  These redeemed souls were the epitome of virtue and Christian values.

As time advanced, I have come to understand that a redeemed soul is messy – not always dressed to perfection, not always behaving perfectly, someone who bears the scars of a life before Jesus.  What does a redeemed person look like?  It is the laborer who struggles with addiction but has placed his trust in Christ to purchase his redemption.  It is the lonely young mother with children that struggles each day to find meaning in a society that tells her she should be climbing the corporate ladder – the young mother who realizes Jesus brings fulfillment to her service to her family.  It is the ex-con that had to be brought to his lowest point to look up to the cross for eternal forgiveness – who bears the marks of his previous life visibly on his skin for all to see.  It is the child with a tender heart that heeds the call of the Savior at a young age.  It is the abused and abandoned that find healing in the arms of Jesus.  It is the millennial that seems to have it all put together and figured out – only to realize that Christ is the answer to life’s biggest questions.  It is all of these and more.  You see, there is no cookie-cutter picture of what a redeemed soul looks like.  Every story of redemption looks different, acts different, and grows at a different rate.  The true test of a redeemed soul is that there is growth, no matter how small or slow.

If we look again at the definition of the word redeemed, we find that Jesus purchased each person that places their trust in Him alone for salvation.  He walked this earth among the destitute, the broken, the sinners – seeking those whom He could free from the captivity of sin.

Have you allowed Jesus Christ to purchase your eternal freedom?

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.