July 2012


It’s Rodeo Season!!

You can take the girl out of the country, but you definitely can’t take the country out of the girl.  I can’t help it, but I LOVE a good rodeo.  Always have, probably always will!!  I love seeing the skill of some of the cowboys; I love looking for mistakes by the riders to try to learn from them; I love watching a bronc or bull attempt to get revenge; I love the clowns, the half-time shows, and so on.  You also won’t find a better back-drop than the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo!

It just happens, we live near the home of the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo, which is a qualifier for the National Rodeo Championships.  Our main announcer is one of the top in the nation, having announced the Las Vegas finals many times, and his clown partners are great at keeping the crowd engaged.  In fact, during a downtime moment this year, the rather large (in all directions) clown accepted a dare to go crowd-surfing!  I think everyone was in shock , and I’m not sure which caused more surprise– that he actually did it, or that the crowd was actually able to keep him “afloat” and moving!  I’m sure it helped that the surfing crowd happened to be several hundred Air Force Academy cadets attending the rodeo, but still, it was highly entertaining and equally impressive!

Another plus of the rodeo for our family is the “mutton-bustin’!”  JR and M have been planning the mutton bustin’ ride for almost a year.  The day before, M began to get cold-feet, unsure what it would feel like to ride a sheep.  So, I gave her permission to attempt to ride our biggest Alpine doe, Latte’.  What a hilarious site that was!!  Of course Latte’ is quite a bit smaller than the rodeo sheep, and quite a bit slipperier (I can’t believe that word was actually listed in spell-check!).  M mounted, I let go, Latte’ looked over her shoulder, drifted sideways slowly as M’s weight pulled her, and then she just stopped.  Not much of a ride.  So, M got off, repositioned and re-mounted, and Latte’ just stood there.  Finally, I got a bucket of grain and shook it, which caused Latte’ to slowly walk toward me.   It wasn’t much of a ride, but it gave M the confidence she needed to go for it.  The following videos are JR and M’s official mutton-bustin’ ride.  JR almost qualified for the final rounds, but then got beat out by a girl (don’t tell him I admitted that!).  M didn’t have much of a chance, seeing as how she was expecting a ride similar to Latte’s, and got something more like a bucking bronc!  Here are a couple of videos:

http://youtu.be/cErX_WxfH_I

http://youtu.be/tzQZvh-qF7o

I couldn’t let S off too easy though.  So, I bribed him to ride the mechanical bull.  He did, and if I can be biased, I would say he did quite well!  Most riders that day got slung off or got too weak to hold on any longer after 30 seconds or so, but S held on, kept his legs forward and seat down, and stayed on for quite a ride!  Unfortunately, the control-man started him off pretty slow, so his leg muscles fatigued by the time the bull really got going.  Then, just as the goin’ got good, wouldn’t you know my camera card filled up from the videos of the day, just before he fell off!  The fall was impressive though, as his legs got weak, lost their grip, slipped back a bit too far, and just then the bull spun around, slinging him right off.  I was thoroughly entertained, even if it was at my dear hubby’s expense!

http://youtu.be/wuAxT52MDW0

As if all that wasn’t fun enough, we wound up waiting too long to buy our tickets, so buy the time I got around to purchasing them, the only ones left in a group that would suit our family were front-row box seats in the center of the arena, or the very back nose-bleed section.  We decided to splurge a little and go for the box seats, which were awesome!!  The kids (and me) were so excited when the animals would race by, as we could have reached out and touched them (we didn’t though).  There was more than one occasion when I pulled a kid closer to me as a crazed animal ran straight towards our box (I’ve seen far too many horror stories on the news!).  Here’s a few other random shots of the day:

At over 7000 ft. elevation, the sun can get pretty intense, even if the actual temps aren’t that high. As a result, everyone piled into the back of the van to seek some shade during our lunch-time picnic.

The Colorado Springs zoo had an educational booth at the rodeo, where the kids got to pet a baby porcupine, feel different wild animal furs, and learn about several types of animals.

 

Playing with a python at the zoo booth.

A cute little cowboy at the rodeo. A can’t remember going 2 years ago, so this was like his first time, and I think he loved it.

 

Over the last year, life just seemed to get busier with each passing month instead of slowing down.  Between raising 5 children, homeschooling, preparing for fall semester, dealing with A’s appointments and therapies, hosting the organic foods co-op for our area, organizing an organic animal feeds bulk-sharing program, teaching several animal-harvesting classes, and trying to run the farm, it all culminated with our two recent Farm Day’s that we hosted.  Fun as it all has been, we were truly exhausted.  S and I talked, and decided that it was time we re-prioritize, and have some genuine family fun for a while!  We looked for ways to cut back our work load so we could just enjoy life for a while.  After much deliberation, prayer, and discussion, I sold Bell, my Kinder doe.  It still breaks my heart, but I have peace that we made a good decision.  That means one less goat to milk (the other 2 are providing more than twice what our two does last year did–and more than enough for us), one less goat to feed in our hay crisis, and one less goat to clean up after.  Another HUGE project we recently accomplished was to have our “slash” (the dead branches on the trees and fallen organic litter on the ground) cleaned up.  The wildfires helped make this a priority.  The only problem is, in CO, you aren’t allowed to burn organic trash like this, so it has to be manually cut, gathered, collected, and hauled off.  It was a huge job, so, because of S’s incredibly limited time, we decided to hire the job done–an incredibly wise choice, if I may say so!!  With this job completed, S felt more free to have a little fun with us.  Before we move next year particularly, we wanted to be able to enjoy the beautiful state of CO and see some of what she has to offer.

Here are just a few of our recent fun times, in addition to some of the other posts you will soon read:

My mom saw how badly S and I needed some couple-time, so she gifted us a voucher to go take rock climbing lessons, and then play on the indoor climbing walls.  As it turned out, S and I were the only attendees that day, so we got personalized instruction, and then got to spend a couple hours climbing.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take many photos, as while one of climbed, the other was holding the rope from the ground to keep them safe.  The ground person can’t take their eyes off the climber, and more importantly, they can’t take their hands of the rope–to take photos for example.  I talked the instructor into taking a couple for us instead.

S getting harnessed up and receiving some instruction prior to his climb.

Me climbing the wall.

S climbing a rather challenging wall. I only made it about half way up this one, when my muscles started quivering so badly I couldn’t hold on any longer. Muscle fatigue happens very quickly!!

Remember that portable baptistry we used for JR’s recent baptism?  S volunteered to store it for the church since they don’t have room, and we couldn’t bear the thought of just dumping all that precious water after the single baptism.  Thus, we temporarily decided to re-commission the baptistry as a swimming pool for the kids.  And boy, did they have a great time!!  They were able to swim for a couple of afternoons, until the water became dirty enough that we could justify using it to water the plants instead, and then put the baptistry in our garage storage.

 

A few other random photos and activities of the last few weeks:

Push-up time! N figured out a way to keep his workout pretty low-key!

Bath time for the littles. It’s their favorite activity, I think!

 

A little evening family worship time. R is starting to enjoy the singing time, and is also starting to sing to her own tune!

You can’t have fun without a little donkey love on occasion!! Asha, the foal is getting big, and we are all having a blast working with her.

 

We recently tried our first, healthy, “green” smoothie, which consisted of a mixture of water, kale, and several types of fruit. It was, surprisingly, pretty good, despite how it looks, but I think R enjoyed it more than anyone!

18-month-old R having fun at the park.

 

M trying to give R a bike lesson. Guess it’s time to get a new tricycle for R, seeing as how our last one finally died!

Stay tuned for more of our recent fun!

It is, apparently, a well-known fact that donkeys hate water.  Absolutely, positively despise it.  Though I haven’t tested the idea, I have read in several places that no amount of bribery will make a donkey cross water if it doesn’t want to.

It is also a well-known fact that donkeys pout.  With those sweet eyes and overly-long ears, their pouty face is irresistible!  If anything doesn’t go according to their plan, they know how to put it on and milk it for all it’s worth!

Of course, if a rainstorm happens to come long, a donkey will often choose to avoid the shelter, preferring to stand out in the rain and get soaked.  While they pout about it.  This I do know, as I have seen it with not only my 2 donks, but some down the road from us as well.

Clearly they are waterproof, seeing as how they do stand in the rain by choice, and survive it.  So, recently, when I really needed to hose off Shiloh’s legs, I decided, hey, why not hose her down completely?!  I have never bathed her before,  she was filthy since donkeys love to roll in the dust, and it was a warm day.  I figured I had nothing to lose.

Have you ever wondered what you get when you hose off a donkey that hates water and pouts when things don’t go as planned?  This is what you get:

 

Yep, after realizing she couldn’t escape the water, she dropped her head, and didn’t move again.  I had time to totally squeegee her off, go get the camera, snap several photos, and still, she didn’t move.  She was ticked off!  Of course, this is one of the many reasons I have come to the conclusion that donkeys are the perfect mount for my children to learn from.  Whereas I have seen horses totally blow up from frustration when handled improperly, even the poorest rider could ride a pouting, ticked-off donkey since all they do is stand there like this!  She did the same thing the first time she got zapped by our hot-wire fence, but only after yelling curses at every person standing within hearing distance.  She also pouted the first time we hitched her up to pull a sled.  It took a little coaxing to convince her she could still walk and that it might even be fun!

Pouting donkeys could definitely be frustrating, if they weren’t so stinkin’ cute when they did it!!

 

Ever since we embarked on this “natural as possible,” “based on God’s design” journey, we have strongly believed the God’s way is best.  Learning what God’s way is exactly has been the hard part.  And I know we still have much to learn.  Nonetheless, we continued to believe that God had designed things to work a certain way.  On the farm specifically, we studied the Bible in depth, and learned things we’d never really understood before.

For example, did you know that God put plants and animals on the earth, but didn’t give man permission to eat those animals until long AFTER the fall of man?  Yet, Able was a shepherd and Cain was a gardner.  Did you ever ask yourself why?  If you read closely, it becomes very easy to see that God did not intend monoculture to be the way folks sustained themselves.  The animals were used for sacrifice, but also, and possibly more importantly, they fertilized the fields and kept the weeds under control.  When God promised the Isrealites life in the “land of milk and honey,” did you ever think of what that really meant?  Or why he would specifically choose “milk” and “honey?” as a blessing?  Think about it….If you have milk, you have dairy animals, which also means you have lots of vegetation to feed those animals enough to produce all that milk.  If they eat, they produce fertilizer.  And if you have honey, you have bees, which tend to locate themselves in an area of abundant nectar flows and pollen.  They pollinate the plants as they collect their ingredients for honey-making.  In other words, it was a land rich in vegetation and animal life!

So why on earth would I be thinking about this?  Well, as we have studied, and experimented, and tried to learn from more experienced natural farmers (like Joel Salatin, for one), we have certainly encountered our fair share of discouragement.  MANY people have voiced their opinions regarding their support for our modern mono-culture farming system, and many have asked how we can possibly “feed the world” using the farming techniques we have studied and come to prefer (not that we ever said we wanted to feed the world….just our family, with a bit left over to share).

After 7 years of studying, learning, failing, and moving on to try again, this week, finally, our efforts seem to have been blessed by God himself, and appear to be paying off.

The alfalfa field (I confess this photo was taken a couple years ago, I’m not currently there to take a current one).

For the last 3 years, we have grazed a handful of sheep on Red Gate Farm to help control the vegetation.  In the spring through fall, we lease part of our acreage to an alfalfa farmer.  After we found out too late that he used round up the first year to kill everything out and sow the alfalfa, S established the condition that he could continue to farm the land, but was to never spray any chemical on it again.  I assume the farmer just decided to harvest what he could and never even tilled the field again after that.  Sure, over the years, a few weeds have sprouted up and mixed in, but the field has always looked lush.  S then worked with his brother (our caretaker there), bought the necessary portable electric fencing to allow the sheep to be rotated somewhat and graze the alfalfa fields in the off season, which would both fertilize the field and help control the weeds.

Last year, as winter came, the sheep never had to be fed a single bale of hay, as the field was so plentiful they were able to graze it all winter long.  Originally, we assumed the drought just produced little enough snow and that was the reason.  This summer’s drought, however, has been awful.  Wells around the county are drying up; and hay fields are dying all over the county.  We haven’t seen our hay field since we were there at the beginning of June, so we assumed the worst.  We received a call this week, however, that really encouraged us for the first time!

The hay farmer reported that we had the best alfalfa in the entire county, and asked what we did to it!  S told them, NOTHING!  We let nature work, used animals to fertilize, and kept the chemicals away!  In addition, our well unexplainably filled back up recently, after having been run dry.  The only way to explain either of these is that the healthier soil on our property has more water-retention properties.  It holds water better for the plants to grow, and it releases enough water to allow the well to fill, rather than being so dry that it sucks all water out of the well.  We just find this discovery soooo incredibly exciting!!  I can only imagine once we move there and are able to rotate a better variety of animals through, and on a more consistent and intensive-management basis, how the soil will improve even more!

This whole situation reminds me of a story that farmer and author Joel Salatin told in one of his books, about how a drought had begun drying up the pastures all around his area.  Thanks to the health of his soil, though, he was able to continue grazing his cattle, while other farmers were having to tap into their winter hay stores.  One day, while he was out working in the field, a man stopped and asked why his grass was so much healthier than all the neighboring farms?  Having learned from experience that the local modern farmers didn’t care to hear about how their practices destroyed the soil, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess it just rains more on our fields!”  Later that day, the man went to his buddy’s house just down the road a bit.  The buddy had been haying his cattle for some time by then, and the friend asked about Salatin’s healthy fields that were still being grazed.  The buddy said, “Yeah, we know.  I guess he just gets more rain than we do!”

I laugh every time I think of that story, but it is becoming increasingly clear to us that God designed nature to work a certain way.  He designed man to work the fields, and threw in a bit of extra toil thanks to the sinful nature of man, but He still had a way that always works best when we let it!  I was reminded of this again recently, as I walked down an asphalt drive in our high-altitude, drought stricken, dead and brown landscape of easter Colorado.  I looked down and noticed that, despite the drought, and the death of the fields around me, there a little stalk of grass poking up through the asphalt.  God created nothing short of a miracle when He designed Mother Nature, with her infinite and unexplainable ability to heal her lands and produce, even when all environmental odds are against her.  I hope I never forget these little pieces of encouragement that remind me of that fact, and to remind me that, though it could take some time, trusting in God and nature’s abilities will eventually pay off!!

A few months back, JR was convicted spiritually for some time, and decided he wanted to ask Christ into his life.  Since then, he has developed an insatiable appetite for learning all he can about God, heaven, Jesus Christ, and other related spiritual topics.  He also expressed a great desire to be baptized.  Unfortunately, our church at the time didn’t have a way to baptize, as they were a new church meeting in a school cafeteria.  Then, last fall, we left that church for personal reasons, and began looking for a new one.  We eventually settled on a brand-new church plant near us, where a wonderful group of families gathered in the hosts’ basement each Sunday morning. Several months later, we discussed the baptism issue with the pastor, and he agreed to figure something out.

This past week, another church plant who also started small, but now has their own building, decided to donate a portable baptismal to our church.  Because the host lives in the city, however, we couldn’t put the baptismal in his yard, and he had no place to store it.  So, they asked to have the baptismal ceremonies here at our place.  This past Sunday morning, the pastor delivered the baptismal, and we prepared it for the baptism.  Everyone went to the hosts home for the normal service, then drove over to our house for the baptism and a potluck lunch after.

For those interested, here is JR’s baptism, with a brief explanation of “Believer’s Baptism”–the type of biblical baptism that we practice.  I apologize for the shaky camera, as I had a very squirmy 18 month old in my lap, and she was intent on helping me film.  There is also a bit of background noise, as we had about 30 people there, behind the camera.  I did my best.

As he mentioned in the video, JR has begun asking deep questions, and coming up with profound analogies of his walk with Christ.  It is so amazing to hear these things come from a seven-year-old!  Again, this morning, out of the blue, he came inside and said, “Mom, I just realized something….being here is like a vacation!”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

JR responded, “I mean like our home is heaven, but we are here on earth, like on vacation, for a while, and then one day, we will go back home to heaven.”

I don’t know where this kid gets this stuff, but he sure makes me think.  He is truly the picture of innocent, child-like faith, and I absolutely love it!!  To be blessed to see God working in my child’s heart and life, and see the fruits that develop as he matures in his faith and grows in his understanding, is nothing short of a gift straight from God.  I look forward to its continuance, and pray I will see the same in the lives of my other children some day!

Our second, and largest, annual Farm Day event took place this month.  This year, there were around 50 people attending, but we also had volunteers to help out this year, which was a HUGE relief for us!!  With the reduced workload on us, we enjoyed it much more than last year.  Unfortunately, no matter how many times we emphasize that parents MUST keep an eye on their children at all times, there are always parents who either trust their 3-8 year olds to behave and overcome temptations and peer pressure, or there are those parents that get so focused on the session we are teaching that I suspect they temporarily forget they have children.  Seeing as how I’ve done that myself, I can totally understand the latter!  In any case, this year we were blessed with volunteers that provided many extra eyes and ears to keep youngsters out of trouble, and to gently remind parents when necessary.  The following are a few photos taken of the day, compliments of a friend of ours…

Goat milking Session

A brave attendee trying his hand at milking.

Asha, the donkey foal, waiting her turn to play with all the kiddos.

Puppy Love

Compost Session

Bobbing for Apples

Teaching about honey bees

The baby bunny kits were a huge hit during the rabbit session that JR taught.

For the cheese-making session, I taught how to make vinegar cheese and mozzarella cheese. This is me stretching the mozzarella–a fun cheese to make!!

The “Goat Milking Simulator.” For the sanity of my real goats, only adults are allowed to try milking the real goats. Kids get to use the simulator, which is a big hit even if it is made from wood and plastic!

R and a friend keeping her out of trouble

As always, we had a great farm day, and greatly look forward to hosting more in the future.  Next year is up in the air, as we hope to be selling our house, and the kids and I will be moving back to Red Gate, and then the following year will be busy with S retiring and moving back.  Sometime that year, though, we hope to offer Farm Days once again.  In the mean time, you can enjoy the two following videos.  The first is a video of the activity that was the most popular with kiddos–the bucking barrel.  M is demonstrating how it works.  Clearly, she is an up-and-coming bronc rider!

http://youtu.be/0_dLEhzBH_4

Next is JR’s second time speaking in public, as he teaches the rabbit session at Farm Day #2.

http://youtu.be/ESgV8n9OL2g

So that wraps up Farm Day 2012!  We look forward to hosting again in the future!

Many of you probably heard about the Colorado Waldo Canyon wildfire by now.  I posted on it a few weeks ago, but what an unusual week it was!  The fire itself never really got as big as some fires I have seen.  I believe it was only around 50,000 acres at its final.  However, due to its proximity to town, I believe I heard it was the worst wildfire in Colorado history.  It destroyed around 340 homes located in 2 main CO Springs neighborhoods, plus some business structures, a number of ranches, and several outbuildings.  The famous Flying W Ranch, well-known for its historical village, native american workers and teachers, “chuck wagon suppers” and clean, family-friendly, cowboy-style entertainment completely burned to the ground.  Miraculously, however, when it was all said and done, every single cow, calf, and horse was accounted for, plus the addition of 2 new calves.  I noticed recently that they are already making a come-back, by considering hosting their famous suppers under the stars under donated tents or something like that, in an attempt to raise the needed cash to start rebuilding.

In any case, at its peak over 32,000 people had to evacuate their homes, many of which had animals of some sort.  The primary livestock facility quickly got crowded, the humane society and small animal shelters totally filled up, and animals were still in need of homes.  God worked, and we were allowed to bless a few families by taking in their animals for about a week, until their pre-evacuation notices were lifted.  So, for a week, in addition to our own donkeys, goats, chickens, rabbits, bees, dogs, and cat, we also became the temporary owners of 2 additional cats (from separate homes), a pile of chickens, and 5 llamas.  We were also able to refer some people to other farms in the network we put together.  One lady even gave us about 14 roosters and baby chicks just so she didn’t have to worry about them anymore.  She knew the roosters would become dinner, but we are now raising the chicks, hoping to get a few egg-layers out of them.  It was a crazy week, to say the least, trying to keep animals separated, happy, fed, and watered, and I couldn’t have done it without my older children helping out!

M giving some of the llamas a treat.

Some of the roosters that were given to us. Don’t worry, the ones sharing the cage were only in there for one evening, as they were harvested the next day.

I forgot to take pictures of the cats and other chicks and chickens, but it all went well with the exception of a group of 3 hens that came out.  There were 3 hens that came with the llamas, and we put them in a pen with a shelter we could lock up.  However, that evening, they refused to go near the shelter, and when S attempted to catch them, they went crazy and wouldn’t let him near them.  He feared they might fly out of the short, temporary fencing if he cornered them, so he let them be, hoping they would fall asleep and he could go back and move them after dark.  Well, with all the other incoming critters, and the busy day, he forgot.  The next morning, all that remained of the 3 hens were 3 piles of feathers.  We still have no clue what took them, though we theorize an overhead predator.  In any case, the owner was very understanding, but we allowed her to choose 3 of our chickens as a replacement, which her children excitedly did.

It was truly amazing, with the entire county under air and health advisories, our area was like a little oasis.  We had clean air, good temperatures, and were a safe haven for all the animals (except the 3 poor hens). One evening, we had a little ash falling like snow flurries, but the air quality never got worse than the a slight smell of a campfire.

There are still many fires burning around Colorado, though the Waldo Canyon fire is totally contained.  Everyone is on look out, and to my knowledge, the arsonist I previously mentioned has not yet been caught.  He almost seems to be laying low for a while.  Like much of the country, though, we desperately need rain.  We have had only one short soaking rain and 2 brief hailstorms, that lasted about 1/2 hour, in the last 3 months.  The fire also ran a lot of wildlife down from the mountain, and folks are having to be extra vigilant.  With the deer and elk, the primary danger is vehicle collisions as they wander into town looking for food.  However, the mountain lion, bobcat, bear, fox, and coyotes all pose dangers of their own.  We even had a hungry bear show up at my neighbor’s house, and it was discovered in their chick pen, eating their baby chicks.  They scared it off, but we are well aware that he could return any time.  With the drought, I fear this could be a difficult winter dealing with predators.  They are already hungry, and now that the fire has pushed so many from their homes, they are competing for the little food that is out there.  I fear by winter, our little farm may become a feeding ground for some of them!

We were thrilled to be able to help others out, and give them peace of mind with their animals.  God has truly blessed us, and it was a wonderful experience to see the willing hearts others had in their offers as well.  Now that things are back to normal (whatever that is), we continue plugging along, working on projects, discussing plans for moving next year, and preparing for the upcoming school year.

In closing, I can’t resist paying tribute to the beloved Flying W…..”Just hold it by the applesauce!”  Everything will be OK!

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