We just arrived back from our trip last night.  Oh where do I start?!

 The big “first day” of vacation finally arrived on August 27!  We arose early, fed the kids, and loaded up.  Our little minivan was slam packed full!  Along with the 4 kids in carseats and large dog, we had an extra seat stored in the back, a set of bunkbeds, golf clubs, my neglected horse saddle and pads, and several other miscellaneous items that we wanted out of our garage and taken to the farm.  Then, on top of it all, we had our luggage (good thing we are light packers!), dog and kid supplies, food for the road, and even some raw milk (I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to locate any quickly at the farm).  I just wish I had remembered to take a photo of that van!  It was impressive!  After 2 days of driving and one night in a hotel, we arrived at the farm—just in time for bed!  The next day, we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves.  The kids played while S and I meandered around the farm, dreaming, planning, talking, inspecting, and taking a few measurements.  

DSCF4785On Sunday, we attended church with Grandma, then headed off to spend the afternoon with some of S’s extended family, including the little cousin you prayed for recently with Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever and staph.  He looked great, and though he was still in a wheel chair when we saw him, I just found out that he was cleared of infection and free to start walking this week! On Monday, the real work began.  We installed our gates that had arrived after S’s last trip, and S began digging a hole for his one-of-a kind “removable post.”  That’s when we learned that you never leave a hole unattended when wanna-be farm kids are running around.  When a child disappears, it is pretty easy to find them (assuming the child is taller than the hole). 

I have to wonder whose idea this really was.  At least the sheep seemed to be watching out for her!

I have to wonder whose idea this really was. At least the sheep seemed to be watching out for her!

Tuesday morning, we all loaded up and went to a friend’s house.  We talked farming and critters, as they are a step ahead of us in the animal realm of our desired lifestyle.  

Playing with baby chicks

Playing with baby chicks

Collecting eggs from the hen house

Collecting eggs from the hen house

Riding

Riding

Visiting the cattle

Visiting the cattle

I made arrangements with this friend that will hopefully work out as planned….she is going to work our schedule into her Dexter breeding program so that when we finally move to the farm in a few years, she will have a young heifer, either pregnant or with her first calf by her side for us to pick up.  She doesn’t milk her cows, but she does gentle and halter break them, so it will make my training go a bit faster.  She also has lots of grandkids, so the heifer should be used to kids as well.  I would love to be able to milk within our first year, even if it isn’t enough to sustain us.  Then again, I’ve never done this before either, so we can only hope!!  

Speaking of milk, about half way through our trip, our milk supply ran out.  The kids and I were already having some tummy troubles due to the non-organic dietary changes, and JR had contracted a bad cough.  The last thing I wanted to do was give them pasteurized milk.  So, I visited the www.realmilk.com website.  I found a nearby farmer who had Jersey milk available, and he was willing to sell me some.  I was excited to have my first taste of 100% pastured milk, and the Jersey was a bonus!  Our only source here is hormone and antibiotic free, hay and grain-fed Holsteins.  The milk was delicious, no doubt, with a deep yellow color (Ours is almost white).  I can only assume that is partly from diet, partly from Jersey.  It was so rich, creamy, and sweet!  It actually took some getting used to.  After it had sat in the fridge for a day, I couldn’t believe the amount of cream that had risen to the top.  That milk had to be 25-30% cream, at least!  I can only imagine making butter from it!  OK, back to the farm….

The next few days were spent doing various projects around the farm, with the primary focus being the fence that S started back in May.  First, we installed wood rails on the top and bottom of the wire fence, which the sheep had already stretched in just a few months.  Hopefully, this will significantly increase the fence’s lifespan and durability, and also make it more secure for the future layers and small livestock that will be in this area. 

The "before" fence....pretty, but doesn't work for smaller livestock.

The "before" fence....pretty, but doesn't work for smaller livestock.

The "after" fence (hopefully this completes it!)....2x4 no climb mesh horsewire, installed on 4 inch round posts with 6 inch braced end posts, and stapled to cedar fence rails on top and bottom.

The "after" fence (hopefully this completes it!)....2x4 no climb mesh horsewire, installed on 4 inch round posts with 6 inch braced end posts, and stapled to cedar fence rails on top and bottom.

Then, he got his removable gate post finished.

Each gate is 6 ft, and the center post is assembled in such a way that it is quite stable.  However, if we need to get a vehicle into the pasture, both gates can be opened and the post removed at ground level, creating a 12 ft. wide opening.

Each gate is 6 ft, and the center post is assembled in such a way that it is quite stable. However, if we need to get a vehicle into the pasture, both gates can be opened and the post removed at ground level, creating a 12 ft. wide opening.

Since this system is designed to be left unattended, M had to learn the hard way not to use it incorrectly.  Before we got the sturdier gate latches installed on it, we were just using chains looped to hooks on the post (a very typical set up for livestock gates).  M couldn’t reach the hook, so she decided to squeeze through.  Only when it was too late did she realize that her head was larger than the rest of her body!

Poor girl.  I heard her cries and found her like this!  I couldn't help but laugh and grab the camera.  Bad Mommy!

Poor girl. I heard her cries and found her like this! I couldn't help but laugh and grab the camera. Bad Mommy!

I helped when I wasn’t busy with the babies, and the kids occupied themselves pretty well most of the time. 

JR playing with a huge praying mantis we found in the garden.

JR playing with a huge praying mantis we found in the garden.

N and a sheep investigating each other.

N and a sheep investigating each other.

Playing in the alfalfa field

Playing in the alfalfa field

We did recruit their assistance at one point when we needed to move the sheep water trough so we could install rails behind it.  It was too heavy filled, though, but we didn’t want to dump it, as that would create mud right where we were working.   The solution?  Give the kids a couple of scoops and let them have at it!

They would scoop the water out of the trough, then go "water the grass" in another part of the pasture.

They would scoop the water out of the trough, then go "water the grass" in another part of the pasture.

S also had to saw some wood in the pasture and create temporary steps for one of our gates.

S's favorite farm pastime

S's favorite farm pastime

Bringing the sawed logs to the barn

Bringing the sawed logs to the barn

JR helping Daddy get the steps in place, while Seamus the sheep supervises.

JR helping Daddy get the steps in place, while Seamus the sheep supervises.

M did her part by collecting all the worms found as they dug.  She didn't want any to get hurt by the shovel.

M did her part by collecting all the worms found as they dug. She didn't want any to get hurt by the shovel.

As always, the kids got their much-anticipated rides on the 4-wheeler.

These rides are getting more challenging as the number of kids increases.  I think the next visit may require them to take turns with whoever is driving!

These rides are getting more challenging as the number of kids increases. I think the next visit may require them to take turns with whoever is driving!

One day, we attended S's annual family reunion, where JR and a little cousin learned the fine art of collecting frogs in a wine glass!  Good thing I don't drink, as I wouldn't want to be the next recipient of that glass!

One day, we attended S's annual family reunion, where JR and a little cousin learned the fine art of collecting frogs in a wine glass! Good thing I don't drink, as I wouldn't want to be the next recipient of that glass!

M dozed off on the couch in the middle of the living room during the reunion.  She was so precious!

M dozed off on the couch in the middle of the living room during the reunion. She was so precious!

And finally, we prepared to return to the hot west.  We had a wonderful trip, tasting our future, enjoying the mild temperatures (a nice break from this desert heat!), watching the kids, sheep, cats, and dogs frolick around the farm, and generally enjoying all that comes with country life.  I had to laugh at one thing I learned.  Remember those sheep we were so excited about having aquired back in May?  Yeah, turns out if you let Grandma care for sheep for more than a few days, she gets pretty attached.  Looks like we still don’t technically have any animals there.  She plans to take the sheep with her when she moves next door.  However, now that I have done all the research on sheep and learned of the benefits of them, I guess I will do a little investigating into a breed that might work well for us when we get there. 

Sometimes, there were moments where we watched our children enjoy that life, and wishing we didn’t have coop them back up into our current tiny, privacy-fenced yard in the middle of a big city.  This point really hit home on 2 occasions:  on our second evening there, I was outside with M.  It was dark out, and she looked up and said “Mommy, I can see lots of stars here at the farm!”  I could only agree and marvel at the beauty of God’s creation.  Then, as we traveled home, we entered our brightly-lit city well after dark.  M looked out her window and said, “I can’t see any stars here.  I guess it isn’t dark enough.”  Oh, one day, my child, one day…..

Grandma and the kids

Grandma and the kids

Advertisements