May 2009


Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  (Matthew 19:21)

Have you ever really thought about this statement and all that it entails?  I have encountered many who wonder whether Jesus is commanding all Christians to go and sell everything they have.  But if you continue to read this passage and other passages in the Bible, it is easy to see that Jesus is not commanding this of everyone.  Rather, He is requesting it of this one particular wealthy man because Jesus knows the condition of the man’s heart. 

Even knowing this fact though, have you thought about the condition of your heart, and where your heart’s focus is?  How OK would you be if fire consumed all your material possessions right now?  If you could take only one or two material things with you what would it be?  When we were taking an adoption class a while back, we had to do a very interesting exercise.  I encourage you to do the same, but I suggest you do the exercise step by step, as you read, and don’t read ahead….

Take 7 small slips of paper.  On each slip, write 1 item that means a great deal to you.  Try to be as specific as possible (i.e. red dress vs. clothing–don’t use one word for both, as they are different).  When you are finished, you should have written the 7 things that are most meaningful in your life.  Got it? 

Now for step 2.  Pick 3 of those things and throw them away–they were just taken from you.  Which 3 of the 7 can you spare?  Which 4 do you hold onto? 

Step 3, Pick 2 more and toss them–they, too, were just taken from you.  Which 2 will you spare?  Which 2 do you hold onto?  Now you are getting an idea as to what is truly most important in your life.

Step 4, Pick 1 of the remaining 2 items and make it disappear.  What are you left with?

We found this exercise to really put things in perspective for us.  It is so easy to say, yes, I could spare this, that, or the other if I had to, but if you take this exercise seriously, and really try to see yourself in a position of loss, it can really be interesting to determine where your heart truly is.  After this exercise, Matthew 19:24 makes more sense when it states that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Sad but true.  How many people would have chosen wealth, home, spouse, or children as their final item in the above exercise rather than Christ? 

Since S and I have been training to be Money Map coaches, it has truly been heart breaking as we have begun to take more notice of those around us.  All too frequently, we are encountering people who are choosing to not follow God’s will, but rather to put money, nice homes, or high-paying jobs over quality time with family, serving God for lower pay, or sacrificing luxury.  We know of people who will uproot their entire family, leave behind reasonable jobs where they feel called to serve in order to move across the country for a higher-paying job and a nicer lifestyle.  We know of others who will sacrifice their marriage in order to hang on to possessions and material things.  We see teens rebel as they mature because their parents chose money or things over family.   We know pastors whose own children rebel from the Word because their fathers spent all their energy at the church rather than with family.  And it is incredibly heartbreaking! 

Sometimes God calls us to move across the country or world.  Sometimes, He calls to work at a church or serve others.  Sometimes He calls us to do things that don’t make sense.  But God will never contradict His word.  He gives very specific instruction throughout the Bible as to how a husband and father should treat his family, how parents should treat children, how we should handle wealth, and how we should guard against and avoid turning our focus to things other than God.  This can be such a difficult task, and in my experience, I have found that often times we must make drastic sacrifices to keep our guard up.  For example, I know I have a problem with being content.  If I see certain things on TV or in magazines that I believe will make my life easier, then I will be tempted to waste the resources God has given us to go purchase those things.  Together, and for additional reasons, S and I agreed that we would not have public television in our home.  We have a TV currently, but use it for pre-approved videos for the kids or family movie-nights.  I also discontinued my former magazine subscriptions.  Not only does this save us a small fortune, but it also prevents my mind from being tainted by secular “things.” 

In Matthew 19, this is exactly what Christ is cautioning us against.  He wants us to be aware how easy it is to fall into the trap of materialism.  As long as we are guarding ourselves against our weaknesses, keeping our focus on Christ, and we know that we would be OK if we found ourselves in Job’s position of losing all he had, then we can rest confident knowing that Christ has our heart, and our focus is right where it should be.   It is so easy to not be stressed out about our economy when you have this type of faith and confidence.  You just don’t have to worry about what tomorrow holds. Rather, we can enjoy all that God has blessed us with today!

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S and A arrived home safely last night, and I got to weed through close to 100 photos.  S brought little treats for us–a deer antler for JR (found in the front yard at the farm) and a sample of wool for M and I (he was kind enough to clean it up a bit).  I must say, it was surprisingly smelly.  Not nearly as bad as a goat, but not incredibly pleasant either.  I’ve never noticed the smell of a sheep before.  Ya learn something new every day!  So, since the kids are napping, I will try to tell the story of how this came to be, along with some photos of the week….

S was planning to take a trip back to the farm last week, and, as usual, he had told his mom to compile a list of what she needed done around there.  Over the next few weeks, as the grass began to grow, she discussed more and more about how difficult it was to keep the grass at a manageable height that would prevent the weeds from seeding and taking over that field.  She was thinking how wonderful it would be to have something grazing out there, but needed something low maintenance.  I don’t know the details, but apparently, one of the ladies she worked with had a daughter looking to cull some of her herd since it had gotten too large.  She would let S’s mom have them for a steal of a deal!  S’s mom got very excited at the idea, and began talking to us about it.  All I knew about sheep was that they had to be sheared every year, and since I knew nothing about them, I had to start researching.  We had not considered them for the farm, as we didn’t realize their potential uses.  So I spent the next few weeks researching and learning.  The more I learned, the more in love with the idea I fell.  You can milk them, they eat a lot of the clover and weeds that other livestock often leave behind, and this particular breed is very hardy and thrives on simple pasture grazing.  S was game, and decided that having our own wool supply would only help us be more self-sufficient.  So, having already decided on how we were going to fence (we were going to do the same thing for goats in the future), I just had to find the supplier.  I placed my orders, had several discussions with the current owner about what we wanted and what she had available, and then S and A left to get started. 

Part of the area intended for the sheep pasture, and later for the orchard.

Part of the area intended for the sheep pasture, and later for the orchard.

In order to try to use our limited pastures as efficiently as possible, we had decided a while back that this pasture would be used primarily for the orchard and garden, but would permanently house the laying hens.  There will be a fence down the center later so we can control where the chickens graze somewhat to help keep them out of the garden during the main growing season.  Then, seasonally, we plan to turn goats, pigs, and now sheep into that area to forage the old crops and help prepare the soil for spring planting.  How well this plan will work, I have no idea, but it sounds good for now!  Until then, the sheep manure will be very beneficial to that soil to help prepare for our plants. 

Another view of the intended sheep pasture (complete with supplies!).  The near side will be our future orchard, and the far half closer to the barn will be our garden.

Another view of the intended sheep pasture (complete with supplies!). The near side will be our future orchard, and the far half closer to the barn will be our garden.

Digging the holes.  Doesn't he look great?! (He's taken!)

Digging the holes. Doesn't he...I mean, the fence posts look great?!

Posts are in and just need to be straightened up and the holes refilled.

Posts are in and just need to be straightened up and the holes refilled.

Installing the wire, with a little help from A and my brother-in-law's dog, Sadie.

Installing the wire, with a little help from A and my brother-in-law's dog, Sadie.

I love these flowers--lilacs, I think.  But seeing as how they got fenced inside the new pasture, I don't expect them to be there when we visit in the fall.  Hopefully I can transplant the bulbs later.

I love these flowers--lilacs, I think. But seeing as how they got fenced inside the new pasture, I don't expect them to be there when we visit in the fall. Hopefully I can transplant the bulbs later.

These 4 foot area will be a gate in the future, but since the gates didn't arrive in time, S had to install scrap wire temporarily.

This 4 foot area will be a gate in the future, but since the gates didn't arrive in time, S had to install scrap wire temporarily.

While the new pasture is lined with a new, no-climb wire fence on 2 sides, the other 2 sides utilize our original rail fence.  In the future, we will replace much of this and install no-climb wire, but in the mean time, S used electric hot-wire between the rails in hopes of keeping coyote and neighbor dogs out and sheep in.  We can only hope.

While the new pasture is lined with a new, no-climb wire fence on 2 sides, the other 2 sides utilize our original rail fence. In the future, we will replace much of this and install no-climb wire, but in the mean time, S used electric hot-wire between the rails in hopes of keeping coyote and neighbor dogs out and sheep in. We can only hope.

Apparently, it can be very difficult to find someone to help work with sheep.  The previous owner of the sheep needed some assistance to round them up, seperate them from her herd, load them, trailer them to the farm, and hopefully, shear them.  She finally found someone.  I really don’t know much about the guy, but our best guess is that he is probably a former FFA or 4-H’er who was experienced handling trained sheep for show rather than barely tame sheep.  In any case, he turned out to be a very young and inexperienced know-it-all.  So, first, the guy shows up at her place with a horse to round up and “cut” (seperate them) the sheep with.  Long story short, after a bit of chasing the sheep, apparently the horse spooked somehow and ran off.  Somehow they got the sheep vetted, seperated, and loaded.  when they got to Red Gate, S was surprised to see the guy unload his horse, then turn the sheep out of the trailer.  Not sure if he was expecting to do something else or what.  So, by now, the sheep have been thoroughly traumatized, and immediately ran for the cover of the barn stall to rest in the shade and some seclusion. 

The sheep arrived.  As you can see, they are pretty dirty compared to the internet photo I posted the other day.  4 adult ewes (females) and a ewe lamb.

The sheep arrived. As you can see, they are pretty dirty compared to the internet photo I posted the other day. 4 adult ewes (females) and a ewe lamb.

 I guess the the previous owner had worked it out for the guy to sheer the sheep.  They had brought electric clippers with them.  So then, after they were out grazing finally, he decided to chase them down again to catch them to shear.  They finally caught one.  Now, mind you, I know nothing about shearing sheep.  I have seen shorn sheep at the fair, and know what the end result should look like.  However, S and I watched many shearing videos and read a ton of stuff about how to do it before he left.  So, we at least had a pretty good idea.  The way the professionals do sheep is the grab the sheep by their front feet and gently (but quickly) sit them on their rump.  Even the wildest sheep will apparently become quite docile in this vulnerable position.  Then they just lay there and hardly move while the shearer sets to work.  Everything we read and watched instructed to set the clippers as close to the skin as possible Which still leaves a good layer of fuzz when using the wool attachment on the clippers) and remove all the yucky wool from the belly area.  Then, rotate the sheep as needed to clip the remainder of the body in similiar fashion.  When done correctly, the end result is the trashy wool from the belly and tail area, and one large blanket-like section of wool called a “fleece”.   The entire process can take a professional about 2-5 minutes.

Within minutes of the process at Red Gate, though, S realized this guy was clueless.  

First, he lassoed her around the neck, formed a make shift halter and tied her up tight to a barn post.  Mind you, any animal that has not been trained to wear a halter or be tied up will struggle to get free.  She did, and she struggled a lot.  These girls were no bigger than a grown man’s knee, and there were 3 people trying to hold her still.  Then it went from bad to worse.  Turns out the clipper blades were rusted, which means dull.  When the guy had trouble clipping through the wool, he removed the sheep wool attachment, and tried using a horse attachment.  That was a useless attempt.  Furthermore, instead of clipping down to the skin in one shave, he tried to clip the wool in layers, starting with the top couple of inches (aka, the absolute dirtiest wool there was)!  This only succeeded in gunking the clippers up with dirt and lanolin oils from the wool.  In the mean time, trying to prove his knowledge, the guy began talking about how you never sheer the belly wool off or they will get infections and you don’t clip too close to the skin or it would be dangerous (neither of which was true).  Finally, after struggling like this for over a half-hour, the guy gave up.  S gladly saw him out of the barn, returned to untie the sheep from her nightmare.  Unfortunately, the guy had made such a mess of her that S was forced to try to clean her up a bit.  As we had read/watched, he flipped her on her rump.  Amazingly, the frantic sheep immediately relaxed into his arms.  He held her there for a while to just let her calm down from her torturous experience.  After a few moments, he did the bare minimum he could to prevent problems with the fleece being shorn incorrectly, and let her go. 

S was so relieved when the torture ended.  Poor girl!
S was so relieved when the torture ended. Poor girl!
By the next morning, the sheep had calmed down enough to actually eat out of S and his mom’s hand.  They are still very leary and jumpy, but I suspect with Grandma there to visit frequently, they will likely tame down soon enough. 
Mom is a one-year-old ewe, and this is her lamb from earlier this year.  Isn't she a cutie?
Mom is a one-year-old ewe, and this is her lamb from earlier this year. Isn’t she a cutie?

S had to return home, so he didn’t have time to buy a set of clippers and do them all.  After making a few calls, I located a REAL shearer nearby who was willing to do the job.  It’s what he does for a living.  He should get the girls taken care of in the next couple of weeks.  In the future, S and I will be doing the clipping.  We will invest in a set for next year, and hopefully give them a much more pleasant experience.  But then again, I have never sheared before, so we’ll see how it goes next year!

Enjoying their new pasture.  I love the one on the right.  My understanding is that she is the oldest at 3 years old, but her coat of wool just cracks me up.  It almost drags the ground.  When you realize that her body is probably 1/3 of that size, it is a rather impressive coat of wool.  I can only imagine how relieved she will be to have it sheared!
Enjoying their new pasture. I love the one in the back center. My understanding is that she is the oldest at 3 years old, but her coat of wool just cracks me up. It almost drags the ground. When you realize that her body is probably 1/3 of that size, it is a rather impressive coat of wool. I can only imagine how relieved she will be to have it sheared! The one in the front center is the poor girl who suffered at the hands of the inexperienced shearer. You can see how rough she looks!

Whether these particular ewes will stay on the farm or go with S’s mom when she moves next door is yet to be determined.  but either way, I think we are now in the sheep business, and will likely expand the flock as soon as we move there. 

I just took the kids out for a quick lunch before S and A arrive home this evening, and it occurred to me that I could actually say, “I only have 3/4 of my kids with me!”  Don’t ask why that thrilled me to say that, because I really don’t know.  Hope you have a blessed day!

After a bit of a rough day of vet care, travel, and some unpleasant grooming that did not help much, our newest farm animals are getting settled into their new home at Red Gate Farm.  According to S, they look pretty rough at the moment, but we are hoping to change that soon.  I so wish I could be there right now. 

Unfortunately, no one correctly guessed what our new additions are.  S will be returning home tomorrow with pictures in hand.  I hope to post pics of the actual lawn mowers soon.  In the mean time, I will keep you in suspense no more.  Here is an image I found online to represent ours….

Cheviot Sheep

Cheviot Sheep

Yes, we are officially shepherds!!  Funny thing is, this is the one species of livestock I did not bother researching for the farm.  I will explain more about how all this came about later when I have more time, but we are thrilled to have 5 new Cheviot sheep–4 ewes (females) and a young lamb (I don’t yet know if it is a ewe lamb or a wether (castrated male)).    I have been forewarned that our sheep will likely NOT look like the one above, as they are a mess.  They have not been shorn (wool clipped) in over 3 years, and S says they are filthy, dirty, matted, and just generally rough looking.  But, they are healthy, and as soon as we can get them sheared, they will be good to go.

I just spoke with S.  God is soooo good!  Miraculously, the ground dried enough that they were able to put tension on the fence wire, and S’s strength (and his assistant’s) held out long enough to complete the job.  Just today, they dug several post holes to use for the fence tensioner posts, got all the fence wire installed, installed temporary fence rails where one of the gates will be (when it eventually arrives), and installed a temporary gate taken from another part of the farm.  They finished installing all the hot wire and got it all hooked up to the solar charger.  It is ready for the arrival of our new additions TOMORROW!!!  I am so excited (can you tell?).   I am so impressed with what S has accomplished in the last few days (with the ultimate control being in God’s hands, of course)!  Almost makes his absence worthwhile.  Almost.  Also makes him incredibly attractive!!  I always did have a thing for the rugged, hardworking, cowboy type!

I have given him the assignment to take lots of pictures, so hopefully I will be able to post some before and after shots and miscellaneous photos from the farm when he returns.  And I told him to save room on the photo card today so he could take plenty of photos of our new arrivals tomorrow.  

OK, I would love to hear your guesses as what you think we might be getting on the farm.  And since I was just talking photos, as a former consultant for Creative Memories, I have a scrapbook Page Completion Kit I will send to whomever can guess correctly.  Not much, but I thought it could be fun!  And btw, if you are one of the very few who I actually told the answer to, don’t give the answer away!!  In the event of a tie, I will send the kit to the FIRST person who guesses correctly.  I look forward to seeing your ideas!

S has been having a great intro to farm life apparently.  Very little has gone according to plan.  He arrived with the intent of digging holes the first day, setting posts and starting the fence the second day, installing the gates and hotwire the third day, and moving in the new occupants on the fourth. 

First, it rained.  A lot!  So on day one, he got the holes dug using a power auger, but the company sent a bit that was too short for good posts, so they had to return to the rental store (a 30 minute drive one way) for an extension.  Then, thanks to the rain, the auger bit got stuck in the mud repeatedly and had to be dislodged manually each time.  They finally got the holes dug, and it started raining again.  The next day, the posts went into the ground, but the clay and mud to re-fill the holes was so sticky, they couldn’t get it back into the holes.  It just kept sticking to their shoes and the fence posts.  So it took most of the day.  When they finally got the posts set, they went to the one store I had ordered the fencing through to discover that the store had ordered the wrong fence.  Which set them back a full afternoon.  The next morning (third day), he drove into town to the other store where we ordered our gates (and who also had the type of fence we needed), to discover the car he was using was too small to fit the necessary # rolls of fencing.  Furthermore, the company, although they ordered the right gates, it was not ordered in time.  So the gates have not arrived yet, and likely won’t while S is there to install them.  So, he returned home to do some other odd jobs that were planned for later.  And it started storming.  They even had a tornado warning.  Finally, this morning, sun was predicted, so he arose early to get started installing the fence, only to discover the ground was so soggy it actually makes a sucking sound when he walks on it.  It is so oversaturated he cannot put any pressure on the posts or they will move.  So he decided to spend the day uninstalling gates in other areas of the farm to use temporarily in the new pen, and possibly trying to get the hotwire set up. 

All we can do at this point is pray he is able to finish before he has to leave soon.  God can work miracles, if it be His will, so we can only hope and pray.  At this point, he needs strength and dry ground, and time is running out.  Nonetheless, it has been an interesting introduction to working around the weather and working with farming supply companies.   There is no doubt when it is all finished, it will all be worth it (of course, that’s easy for me to say.  I am not the one doing all the work!)

I feel like I crossed a bit of a milestone today.  I ordered my first textbooks and curriculum for next year.  As I previously posted, we decided to try an official curriculum next year.  So, having gotten a feel for homeschooling this past year, I spent a month or so researching curriculums, reading reviews, and comparing the Biblical foundations of each.  S and I discussed our goals for the children in both the short and long term.  

Finally, we decided to use ABeka as our primary curriculum, and supplement that with some computer phonics and reading lessons and some other odds and ends as needed.  We also agreed that we wanted our primary focus this year to be Bible, reading, and math, with a little Creation science on the side.  So I got online, put my order together, and eagerly awaited our local Abeka curriculum fair so I could order without paying the shipping fee. 

Wouldn’t ya know both JR and M woke up pretty sick this morning.  I realized it would not only be unfair to them, but also to every other person/child at the fair to go, so I called the rep who was heading the thing up (considering we don’t really use a cell phone, I sure love having other people’s numbers! LOL).  He was so appreciative of my not bringing the sick kids, he agreed to take my order over the phone and still let me have it free of the shipping charge.  So, I placed my first order.  I am really excited to get all the stuff.  The hard part will be waiting until next school year to start on it. 

Because reading is one of our big focal points, in addition to the basic curriculum, I also ordered probably every first and basic reader they had.  We LOVE books around here, and books with a moral or Biblical lesson are even better!  I think I bought about 70 or so.   My hope is that we will complete Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons within the next month or so, and that JR will be reading well enough that the readers will take us through the summer until the official start of our new schedule.  That’s the plan. 

But then again, anyone who knows me knows how I also LOVE to deviate from my plan!

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