Winter of 2014/2015 proved to be a challenging one for us.  It was a rough winter to begin with–bitter cold, with little snow.  We had to cancel several of our scheduled carriage ride events due to the bitter, frostbite-inducing chill, which was a little hit from a financial standpoint.  The ground was often iced over, preventing conductivity of our electric fences and risking bad slip/falls for the horses on our pasture slopes.  As a result, we spent much of our time hibernating from the chill, trying to homeschool and get some indoor projects completed.

One day, we finally got a bit of snow, and it was warm enough (finally in the double digits!), so the kids decided to go sled.  Somehow, while inspecting the kids’ sledding attire–coat, check! gloves, check!  hat, check!–I missed the fact that R was wearing tennis shoes with no socks, rather than socks and snow boots.  I decided to take the opportunity to work the horses.

I had just gotten finished plowing snow and unharnessing the horses, when I heard a blood-curdling scream from R.  About that time, I heard N say, “Her foot looks like Nick’s knee!” (referring to Nick’s injury, posted here).  S and I came running at the same time, and by the time we arrived to the sledding area, R was already up and walking, well, limping, toward the house.  A quick inspection proved that this was definitely worthy an E.R. visit.

Many hours later, we returned home, not much worse off than before.  It was determined that, in some freak way, while sledding, R had collided with a post, which wouldn’t have been all bad except that her body had slid forward, and the wooden corner of the sled had somehow wedged its way up inside her tennis shoe.  The edge, blunt as it was, somehow managed to literally filet the top of her foot off by several inches.  Thankfully, all parts were still there, and there was no ligament or tendon damage.  The doc cleaned it up, sutured the skin back together, and she was ordered to stay of her feet for a couple of days.  By the time the sutures came out the following week, the scar was the only sign of the trauma of that day.


Remember I said it was an icy winter?  Well, one day a month or so prior, we had an issue with the truck and trailer sliding down an icy hill and jackknifing.  The horses were used to pull it out of it’s quandary, which was a pretty impressive feat, by the way!  It was a Chevy 2500 pickup, in a very tight space, on ice, and the horses with their studded traction shoes, pulled that thing right out!


The incident, however, resulted in our forecart (the red work cart we hitch to the horses) having to be shoved over the nearby hill to get the truck free.  We didn’t get much of a break, when, a few weeks later, the weather finally improved enough to work the horses again.   First, I needed to get my forecart out of it’s quandary.  What happened next is a really long story, containing a few not-so-great decisions on our part, and involved chaining the rear of the forecart (the exposed area) to the horses and having the horses pull it up the hill.  Theoretically, the idea should have worked, but the worst decision was turning the break off, which in turn allowed the wheels to turn freely.  This creates an unstable mass (in S’s engineering terminology!).  When you combine an unstable mass with a certain horse we had at the time who had a lot of “GO!” and very little “WHOA!”……..well, we set ourselves up for trouble!  I, as the driver, was safely positioned uphill.  S, on the other hand, was safely out of the way until the horse sped up, the forecart became unstable and flipped quickly through the air, and S found himself trapped in a corner.  He attempted to go the only open direction he had—straight up!  This act (and a whole lot of God’s protection!) probably saved his life, but nonetheless, the forecart caught him mid-jump, scooped him up, flipped over with him and on him several times, and then dragged him up a hill.  Mind you this all took mere seconds before I got the team stopped, but when it was over, we were all shaken.  I had seen it all happen out of the corner of my eye, and feared my husband was dead.  I had no choice but to stop the horses, who were slightly spooked at this point, before they bolted and created havoc on who-knows-what-and-whom.  Once they stopped, I looked over toward S, and he gave our long-time sign of a raised hand to signal he was still alive and at least partly functioning.  This gave me the time I needed to get the horses untangled and secured, while yelling instructions to the children on how to help their father.  As soon as I could, I ran to S and my medical training kicked into high gear.  I checked him over, looking for major breaks and areas of pain.  He seemed beat up, but mostly OK, except for a very-rapidly-swelling foot and some blood coming out of his ear (not really a good thing).  We assumed he might have head trauma and the foot was severely damaged, based on the fact that something had sliced through both his boot AND his sock, though interestingly the foot itself wasn’t cut.  I ran back over, got the horses put away, called my mother-in-law to come babysit, and loaded S for the E.R.  We live in one of those remote areas where sometimes it’s a better option to drive to the E.R. than to wait for the ambulance!  Poor S was wincing in pain at every bump, railroad track, and turn we made.  He hung in there, and we finally arrived.  I ran in to tell the E.R. staff about his situation, and surprisingly, it was as if they were expecting him!  A whole trauma team ran outside with a gurney, got him onto the gurney, rushed him into the trauma room, and within an hour, he had x-rays, a CT scan, and was examined by the attending doc, a plastic surgeon, an orthopedist, and I forget who else.  By God’s amazing blessing, and an awesome E.R. staff, just 2 hours later, S hobbled out of the E.R., and headed home.  Turns out his ear lobe had been sliced, but his brain was fine.  His foot had some soft-tissue damage, but not a single break.  His torso was covered in scrapes and bruises from the gravel driveway, but nothing there was broken.  In fact, the only major damage was 3 fractures to his facial bones.  He was put on crutches and told to wear a boot for a few weeks to give his foot time to heal, as the crush was pretty significant.  In fact, he still suffers numbness from nerve damage almost 18 months later.


I learned later just God had set everything into motion to take care of S, though.  As it turned out, just before our arrival, the E.R. had been notified of a severe car accident involving some major trauma.  There was some confusion, and they didn’t know details, but all the doctors and trauma team were ready to go, and the trauma room had been prepped.  When we arrived, they thought he was the car accident victim at first, hence the speedy intake.  Don’t worry, though, we didn’t endanger anyone else, though, as we found out later that in all the confusion, the other victim had been taken to a different hospital and our hospital had been mistakenly notified.   It all worked out for the best, just as our Lord promises!

If you recall a couple years ago, I did a post (here) about Hunter, the dog we were training to be a Diabetes Alert Dog for JR.  I never told you the result of that.


Hunter was truly a fun dog!  He ran around the farm all day, helping JR with chores, and generally finding entertainment in anything a good, farm-breed working dog would.  He also LOVED having a job to do.  He bonded very closely to JR, which was great, and by the time he was just around 7 months old, he began showing signs of alerting and scent recognition.  He was well on his way to being an alert dog.


Sadly, though, as with many service-dogs-in-training, there is so much more to creating an all-around service dog than just achieving a specific task.  In Hunter’s case, he was so full of energy, he was usually like a spring just waiting to explode at any second.  On the farm, this wasn’t a problem.  In public, however, it could’ve turned into a problem.  No one in the general public had a clue, as by all accounts, he seemed to be a very well-trained pup, on his way to being a service dog.  He would calmly walk alongside JR, or lay up under a table in a restaurant, or whatever we asked of him.  The waiting however, was just more than he could comfortably bear.  As a habit, I always have a foot or leg touching a pup I am training in public, so I always know what they are up to.  In Hunter’s case, I could feel him just trembling with pent-up energy, and ready to leap out at the first temptation to play.  It broke my heart.


Some issues can be outgrown.  It is possible that Hunter would have outgrown this one.  However, there comes a time when selfless and practical decisions must be made.  First, and most importantly, I want to know that a dog is truly happy and enjoying his life–while at work or play.  In Hunter’s case, he was a naturally happy dog, but I think having to remain calm in public was not something he enjoyed at all.  Secondly, even though he could possibly have outgrown the energy, from a practical standpoint, I couldn’t risk it taking several years to have him able to qualify as a service dog.  I learned in my past training that a good alert dog should be ready and able to pass a full exam such as the Canine Good Citizen Award by the time they are about 18 months old–preferably earlier.  Hunter wasn’t even close.  So, instead, we found Hunter a farm home with other mini-Aussies, where he was able to herd livestock and play and generally exert energy to his heart’s content.  Last I heard, he was adapting beautifully, and the photos they sent showed a very happy dog indeed!

Giving up Hunter was a little harder for JR, as he was very attached.  In fact, he slept with Hunter’s dog tag and a photo for several months after he left, and there were a few nights where he cried himself to sleep.  That being said, he seemed to fully understand that it was truly the best decision for Hunter.  JR knew he wanted an alert dog, not a pet, and we couldn’t have both at that point in time.  Furthermore, we all agreed that Hunter’s presence was certainly not in vain.  He had helped JR overcome some major fears he had developed with his new diagnosis.  Since learning he was diabetic, he was always scared to leave S or I, fearing he would have a low blood sugar and not know what to do.  For many weeks, he even slept on our couch, rather than going upstairs to his bedroom.  Hunter gave him the confidence he so desperately needed to go back to living life as normal.  For that, we will always be thankful to Hunter!


I think the best place to start is to catch you up to speed on the family and farm, and go from there…..

S and I survived the retirement, moving, farm setup, and so forth, and are still happily married!  By God’s grace, we also managed to do it with 5 children still homeschooling…though I won’t deny there have been an unmentioned number of days where S had to take over school lest I enroll them in our local school system.  The kids are getting bigger, and we are just getting older.  Our bodies fight against us every day, and we often wish we could have started this farm 20 years ago, when we still had energy and youth on our side.


We’ve learned that there are only so many hours in a day, and things must be prioritized to get any of it accomplished.  As a result, the house and landscaping have been all but neglected, while we have been busy raising the children, and building the farm and the business.

The farm…..oh, where do I start?!  Our farm animals now consist of Hereford feeder cattle, horses, breeder and feeder Red Wattle hogs, chickens…..LOTS of chickens, turkeys, rabbits, ducks (well, currently, just A duck), American and French Alpine dairy goats, a few barn cats, and our livestock guardian dogs to protect them all.  We also have JR’s cockatiel and a new little house mutt we adopted from the shelter last year, after we lost our Will and Callie within months of each other.





The farm projects and additions include a new pond, the makings of our new walipini (to be explained later), a trail down into the back property, a “Paddock Paradise” track for the horses (and another in the making–more on that later), a good sized garden, mushroom patch, orchard, and berry selection for our food and our new CSA program, new structures and shelters….both permanent and portable, a renovated barn, new winter pens and paddocks, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.  It’s all stilll powered by Nick and Bud, our work horses.


Serving customers keeps us busy these days as well.  We offer almost all the above animals for meat, some of which we harvest here on the farm.  We offered a CSA produce program this year, which was a tremendous success.  We offer a variety of classes and clinics, as well as tours here on the farm, for those looking to get ideas or learn about sustainable permaculture-style farming.  Then, in our “free” time, we offer wagon and carriage rides, and participate in educational events with our team of draft horses.


So there you go….life and farm in a nutshell.

Photo of cute pup with his goat, just because.

Photo of cute pup with his goat, just because.

I checked in my blog the other day, and realized it has been 20 months since I last blogged!  I can’t believe how time has flown once again.  Here lately, I have been really missing it.  With winter approaching, I am hoping perhaps I can find time to consistently sit down and post.  In a million years, no one ever would have been able to convince me how busy this new life would be.  I often joke that our “retirement” is far busier than our life ever was when hubby had a career in the military!

My goal will be to go back over the last few years, using my Facebook page as a reminder, and try to catch you up.  Things have come so far, and changed so much!  I can’t wait to share it with you….as usual, there’s the fun, gross, the happy, the scary, the life lessons, all of it.  Well, mostly all of it.

So, hello again!  If anyone is still out there waiting for updates, a special “Thanks” to you!

Last year, we got set up with a great team of horses and a nice passenger wagon, which was rather in demand.  Then one of the horses was injured, and we had a hefty vet bill to deal with.  Next, we had to purchase another horse to take his place.  By the end of fall, we were looking at our books and started brainstorming ideas to try to recoup some of the massive expense we had put into the horse aspect of our farm.  Sure they were the power for our farm, but unlike a tractor, they do have the potential to generate revenue in other ways.  We decided that, as much as the wagon was in demand, a carriage would likely go over very well.  After shopping around for a while, I found a great deal on a used one in Michigan.  S drove up to inspect it, and brought it home, along with a nice assortment of odds and ends for the carriage and a carriage business, as the previous owners were getting out of the business.


We took it for a spin and loved the way it handled.  We scheduled our first carriage rides a few weeks later, and it was a huge hit!  In fact, we scheduled a 2-day, special Christmas ride event, and the slots were booked so fast, we opened two more days, which also booked up.  We were out of available dates, so that was it for 2014.  We avoided scheduling in January, due simply to the cold, but then we scheduled an event for Valentine’s Day weekend, which booked up within 72 hours!


We are only 3 months into owning our carriage now, but clearly it is an item which offers a lot of potential for our farm income.  We have had people ask about weddings and formal events, and are still waiting on some of those to confirm.  Our struggle now is making sure that the carriage and wagon part of the business doesn’t interfere with the main part of our business–meat sales and homesteading classes, but we are enjoying having a side business that can offer something unique to our community. We’ve got a confirmed booking for our wagon already for December–almost a year from now!


It’s also fun being able to give to the community.  Back in December, we were able to help with an event for a special, local, little girl with Down’s Syndrome, whose dream was to be a princess.  The community rallied together and literally made her Queen Elsa for a day, as she adored the Frozen movie.  We were asked to provide the transportation via horse-drawn carriage.  It was such great fun, and likely provided a day of memories this little girl and her family will never forget!!


Once again, I’ve broken my own record for time away.  Once again, I miss it, and figured I should check in.  So much has been happening around the farm, I don’t even know where to begin.  It seems to me some fun photos would be a good place to start.  We are still suffering through bitter cold and counting the days until spring.  It was a dry winter until February hit, and we finally got snow.  And the snow just keeps coming every couple of days.  An inch here, 6 inches there.  That might not mean much to you, but for me, it means I get to use the horse-drawn snow plow we bought last fall!  Enjoy!!

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Over the years, we have been blessed to have some absolutely wonderful, amazing mentors to help us in our journey called life.  From veterinarians who took me under wing to teach me all they could about animal medicine, to horse trainers who allowed me to clean stalls in exchange for lessons and experience, to experienced clinicians, career meat processors, and draft-horse teamsters, we have been saved a tremendous amount of heartache and been able to decrease the slope of the inevitable learning curve.  We’ve also been blessed to have some really lousy mentors along the way.  They’re the ones that taught us to believe “there is something to be learned from everyone—even if it’s what NOT to do!”  The experience, training, and backgrounds of our mentors taught us different ideas, different reasons for doing things different ways, and so much more.  There is a saying that goes something to the effect of “If you are a day ahead of someone else, you are the master.”

We decided long ago that since we enjoyed working with and encouraging others so much, that we would try to find ways in the future to do so.  We had planned more traditional ways such as internships and apprentices, but didn’t feel ready or qualified to do that for several years.  Then this summer of trials hit us, with the most difficult being S’s arm injury.  We were forced to find help, so we started considering and researching our options.  At first, we hired help, but that can add up and deplete savings in a hurry!


A WWOOF’er weeding the orchard.

Then, thanks to Polyface Farm’s (Joel Salatin) Facebook page, I was introduced to a program called Eager Farmer (  Joel’s daughter-in-law set up the site as way of bringing together farmers willing to teach or having something to offer, with folks wanting to learn.  Through that website, we met a young man who, interestingly, used to be an intern for Daniel Salatin, and thus could offer us just as much as we could him.  At first, we wondered what exactly we COULD offer him that he hadn’t already learned from Polyface.  As it turns out, though, he was interested in seeing farming on a much smaller scale, as well as experiencing a draft-horse powered farm.  Thus, it was agreed this young man would come stay a week in our basement.  We agreed to provide room and board in exchange for farm labor and teaching, and he agreed to share his knowledge from Polyface with us.  Let’s just say, it worked out WONDERFULLY!  We had a wonderful week, our kiddos adored him, he was an amazing Christian, and when he left, we all felt like we had learned from the exchange.  Best of all, not only did we gain knowledge, but he helped me complete a couple of major, labor-intensive projects I just hadn’t been able to do alone, which caught us up on the farm a little.


Our “eager farmer” student working with Nick, the Belgian draft horse. He came after Nick injured his leg, so when the student had free time, he helped desensitize and work with Nick to help him relax and let us doctor his wound.

While chatting with our guest one day, he introduced me to another program called WWOOF, USA (  This is website designed intentionally for work exchanges.  The idea is that no money exchanges hands.  The workers, known as “WWOOF’ers” are not employees or even volunteers, technically.  I want to clarify, they are not to be seen as “free labor” per say. They are there for a “work exchange” of some type, and come with all sorts of backgrounds and reasons.  Some WWOOF’ers are vacationing or traveling cross-country and want to save money by avoiding hotel stays and restaurants.  So, they offer their labor on your farm in exchange for room and board.  Others may have a genuine interest in learning some aspect of farming, and offer their labor in exchange for teaching them about what they are interested in.  Some are homeschool families that want to expose their children to specific aspects or farming lifestyles.  Some folks may even just want references for their future, and figure offering some labor is a great way to get that reference.  There are a myriad of reasons, a variety of WWOOF’ers, and all sorts of hosts with differing specialties.  WWOOF host farms can be anything from permaculture to western cattle ranches to hydroponics to holistic herb clinics to medicinal marijauna farms.  Yup, I said marijauna.  In those states that have legalized pot, I guess somebody has to grow it!

Let me clarify that we are NOT that type of farm!

Intrigued, we joined the WWOOF host farm network.  We very quickly met a group of 3 from Australia that were hoping to tour the U.S., learn more about the backroads, grass-roots type of Americans rather than the more city-fied, tourist-y destinations, and experience American life by living with different families.  We were the first stop on their trip.  They were only able to stay 4 days before having to be at the next farm, but it was 4 amazing days!  They worked much harder than we ever imagined they would, and again, by the time they left, we had several other projects completed.  They, in turn, had great stories to tell about playing with puppies, logging with draft horses, grooming, harnessing, and driving said horses, using a lumber mill (since one was a woodworking teacher at a high-school by profession, he particularly enjoyed that part of his trip!), and more.  Again, our kids adored them, they acted like part of the family, and we were so sad to see them go.


2 of our “Aussie’s” (which, they taught us, is pronounced “Ozzy”) building a couple of portable chicken tractors for next season.

We have had multiple contacts from potential WWOOF’ers since then.  We are very cautious about who we accept, though.  Many are turned off when I warn them of our faith and standards on the farm.  That’s fine by us, as our children are exposed to them on a daily basis.  Because they are seen by customers, and represent us both on and off the farm, we also have grooming and appearance standards they must agree to.  If all seems agreeable, then we contact past employers or other host farm references.  If they pass that, then they must agree to our farm rules, and we go from there.  We have a girl scheduled to come from a big city for a week in December, another considering coming for the winter, and our first long-term intern/WWOOF’er planning to stay the entire growing season.  He’s actually another international, coming all the way from Italy.  He hardly speaks a word of English, so it will be challenging, but his references are excellent.  Assuming he passes his trial period, it will be wonderful to have him to help next year.  We are doubling most of our farm business, and it is going to be extremely busy.  In exchange, he will receive full room, board, and meals, in addition to learning valuable hands-on experience and farm skills as we work alongside him.

Once again, even in the midst of the rough year we had, God provided.  I am also enjoying learning how to think outside the box when it comes to solving problems.  I mean, here we needed help, and had no idea such programs existed!  What a wonderful resource for both farmers and “students.”  If you are a farmer who could use some help, and enjoy teaching, OR if you are interested in learning or experiencing farm life, then I would encourage you to check out these programs.  There is a cost to sign up and gain access, which helps keep the “riffraff” and free-loaders away, but if you meet just one person that offers what you are looking for, it is worth every cent!