August 2013

We all know that those new maternal hormones can cause a new mother to do some seriously crazy things.  Today, though, what I witnessed beat all.

Remember those barn cats I got a while back, that wound up pregnant very shortly thereafter?  Yeah, well, as it turned out the one just delivered yesterday.  She had an adorable litter of 5 kittens.  I had brought her inside to have them to hopefully avoid her being rebred before we can get her spayed this time.  Unfortunately, she wound up having them in the drawer under our dryer (which was off at the time).  Since I needed to use my dryer, I moved her to a box nearby, where she could have peace and quiet.  This afternoon, I went to check on her and see how the little ones were doing.


Ah, but something caught my eye.  Something just wasn’t right.  Look closely…..really closely.


Not sure?  Well, the first thing I saw was a tail that didn’t quite match the kitten next to it.


We bumped it, and it turned around to greet us.


Yes, one of my best mousers (and she really is good at her job, believe it or not!) is now raising a young mouse with her litter of kittens.  She is totally aware of its presence, as the visitor ran right under her nose multiple times as we sat there and watched.  Sarah just looked at it lovingly.  I haven’t seen it go so far as to nurse (is that even possible?), but it obviously loves to cuddle up between her and the kittens.  It is very young, probably only just weaned from its own mother.  It doesn’t seem to have a lot of fear of me yet, so when I reach in to stroke a kitten, several times, it walked up onto the kittens back to sniff my hand, and one time, it crawled right up onto my finger.  Not that I usually care to harbor mice in my home, but I confess, I’m a little curious to see what happens, so I left it in the box.  I’m not even exactly sure how it got there.  I have trouble believing Sarah went as far as to catch it, and put it in there, although I suppose it’s possible.  More likely, though, it managed to come through the open area of insulation around the unfinished window that sits directly above the box, and fell in.  Either way, I am just fascinated at what these maternal hormones have turned my cat into!




After much contemplation, I have decided to sell both my remaining goat kids.  It is sad, as I had counted on selling Latte, and replacing her with Caramel, but Caramel is just too petite to be bred this year by a standard sized buck, and Latte is my best producer.  Pride is reaching breeding age, and I was planning to use him on Mocha, who we don’t have anymore.  I guess things just don’t always work according to plan.  In any case, if you know anyone who is into Alpines, please let them know that these two kids are available.  More info can be found on our “Animals” page and our “Sales” page.


It is so amazing how God can intervene, if we but ask.  It is also amazing what a difference just 24-48 hours can make!  I spent Friday evening walking through the neighborhood with kiddos following along, trying to find a good strong guy to hire for moving hay.  I had no luck.  When I wrote my last post late on Friday evening.  I was ready for a good meltdown and just totally overwhelmed.  I prayed, I talked to my dear hubby, who basically told me to swallow my pride and call our pastor, to see if there were any folks in the church that might be able to help.

On Saturday, once chores were done, and I had spent several overwhelming minutes staring at the 160-some odd bales of hay that needed to be moved to the loft of my barn, I gave in.  Sure, I could move the hay, that wasn’t the problem.  The problem was that with the labor involved in such a task, as a diabetic on a pump who is very sensitive to strenuous activity, I knew that even if I shut my insulin off completely, I would likely have major low blood sugars for over 24 hours–not a safe risk to take.  So, I called the pastor.  I explained my predicament.  Within an hour, the pastor and his eighth-grade son showed up, and helped me lift and stack over 100 of the bales.  Later that evening, another parishioner and his son arrived.  I had evening chores that had to be done, and this guy was a farmer himself and totally understood.  He knew hay, he knew how to salt and stack it (the salt helps continue the drying process and prevents mold), and all I had to do was tell him where I wanted it and then go do my other chores.  Meanwhile, his son took my 4-wheeler and mower deck and mowed all the pasture alleys for me so I could walk from paddock to paddock without having to wade through knee-high grass.

Sunday morning, a cousin-in-law came over and agreed to help me finish my last desk-building project, so A and N can each have a school space of their own this year.  I have no doubt his experience will result in a MUCH better finished project than I could have done.

The roofers are still at it.  I can only imagine their disappointment, as the contract we agreed to was literally for an expected 3 days of labor.  I don’t know the whole situation, but apparently the shape of our roof, especially around the dormer windows, caused a lot of unexpected difficulties and delays. It has now been 7 full work days, and by the looks of things, it will be at least another 2-3.  Boy am I thankful for the contract, because I can’t even imagine the labor charges that would be involved otherwise!  I truly feel for the roofing company, but what a blessing for us, in this case!

Meanwhile, I finally found a reliable shop to tune up my 4-wheeler that’s on the fritz a bit, and I have a much-needed appointment to get the oil changed in the van.  My ailing doe, Joy, suddenly took a turn for the better last night, and ate her first grain in almost 4 days, and tonight, her milk was almost back up to normal.  After weeks of advertising, I managed to sell 2 items I had listed on Craigslist, that have been in my way for weeks.  As if all that wasn’t enough, my mom called to say she was going to come visit and help out for a while.  Seeing as how I have 3 piles of clean laundry on the couch right now waiting to be folded, one load in the dryer, and one still in the washer waiting to be transferred, I’m really kinda hoping she’ll be willing to take over my kitchen and laundry duties in addition to playing with kiddos (hint, hint, Mom!).  I have definitely had embarrassingly epic failures in those areas!!   What a relief it will be though, to be able to run errands sans kiddos, have a helper when the kids are with me, and what a blessing it will be to have an adult around to be grandma to the kids and a motherly companion to me.

I often remind myself that prayer and a good night’s sleep can really turn things around, and in this case, it has certainly held true! Hopefully I will be able to get back to regular posts soon enough.

Wow, what a week!  This week has been a bit of a rough one for me.

Roofers began tearing off our roof last week, and reinstalling the new one this week.  For a week, there is been almost constant pounding all day long.  Until the last 2 days, when most of the old shingles were finally thrown off, I kept the kiddos inside to ensure their safety.  5 kids in a 1900 square foot house on sunny day after sunny day can get a little rough–on the kids, the mom, and the house!

What my driveway has looked like for the last week.

What my driveway has looked like for the last week.

A partial new roof (the shiny part).

A partial new roof (the shiny part).

We were scheduled to start school next week, but I’m still undecided if I’m going to try, or postpone another week.  I feel so unprepared right now, and am still unpacking school supplies.  In addition, the projects I had planned for each day this week keep getting postponed due to other things.  We had the blessing of being able to cut and bale hay this week, and I have spent about 8 hours out in the field helping, learning, and heaving the hay bales into the barn.  I have over 100 currently in the barn from my tiny field, and the hay guy is bringing over another almost 50 this morning to sell me.  Now, I have to get them from their temporary location to the upstairs loft, and I have had no luck finding a good, strong young guy that actually enjoys farm work.

My hay field, with the grass in windrows.

My hay field, with the grass in windrows.



As if that wasn’t enough, I am having some issues with a neighbor that just adds to the stress, the kids are finally showing some rebellion issues due to daddy-deprivation, I have a goat with ketosis that just won’t snap out of it (even with veterinary intervention), and I have decided I am a bit lonesome with so little adult contact.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining here.  I am blessed, I am seeing dreams coming true, and I knew this time was going to be hard.  It just hits me once in a while how hard.  Like now, when I am absolutely, totally exhausted.  Yet, no matter how worn out I am, I still have to clean the kitchen every night, milk the goats twice a day, move the chickens, water the cows, and try to get a few more shelves built so I can finally finish unpacking.  Somewhere in there, I always try to find enough time for the kiddos, do the boys’ therapy, and maybe even find some time for reading a book to the kiddos or going to the park for a few minutes.  Of course, on the up side, I am still sleeping better than I have slept in years.  This type of exhaustion is total, whole body, mental, physical, and emotional, and it causes the best kind of deep sleep!

Oh, and we also have more additions (albeit temporary, I hope).  Remember Katie, the barn cat, who got pregnant within days of us getting her and before we could get her spayed?  She finally delivered 6 adorable kittens.


Remember this sweet, innocent face I showed you a few posts back?


Her name is Abbigail, and she our new Jersey heifer.  She is around 10 months old, and scheduled for breeding around mid-winter, for a late summer calf next year.  I was trying to figure out what type of bull to breed her to.


Now, remember this not-so-sweet-and-innocent face?


His name is Red Bull, and he is borrowed from a local breeder.  He is here to breed my 2 Lowline cows for 2015 beef.  I have been very careful to keep Abbigail and Red Bull separated, usually with electric wire, sometimes with several paddocks of pasture in between.  I didn’t know when Abbigail was due to start cycling, and everything I read implied it could be anytime.

I forgot to ask Abbigail and Red Bull what they thought about the separation.  After church on Sunday last week, I came home to find Abbigail in the same paddock as Red Bull and the Lowline cows.  I don’t know if she somehow contorted herself under the hot wire, or if she (un)gracefully lept over it.  My wire was all neatly in tact, just the way I had installed it.  Abbigail, on the other hand, wasn’t so neat.  No, my 10 month old heifer calf was no longer innocent.  She had clearly been bred thoroughly and repeatedly by Red Bull while we were at church.

In a panic, I called the breeder, who is far more experienced with cattle than I.  He assured me that because Abbigail is a standard sized Jersey and already stands taller than Red Bull, and because Red Bull is a very small breed bull that is well-known for throwing small calves, everything would be just fine.

Red Bull with his harem of Lowline cows and their calves

Red Bull with his harem of Lowline cows and their calves

Looks like, Lord willing, we’ll be eating that homemade butter and ice cream throughout the summer instead of having to wait until late fall!  The calf is due in May, and would be considered a Jey-low.  Heifers can turn into awesome milkers, while bull calves produce great beef.  One less decision I have to make now.  I’ll be monitoring her closely, but I have to admit, things are certainly easier now that I can house her and rotate her with the other cows now.

Abbigail with the others in the background.  She's still considered an outsider by the Lowline cows, but they are getting along OK.

Abbigail with the others in the background. She’s still considered an outsider by the Lowline cows, and I guess Red Bull got what he wanted and went back to his harem, leaving poor Abby all alone.  They are getting along OK, though.

….when you have an awesome neighbor with a huge one?

We have a retired neighbor that has a passion for growing fruits and vegetables.  Every year, he plants a massive garden.  It’s just him and his wife, though, they can’t use it all, and they hate seeing it go to waste.  This year, he discovered that our family would always take excess garden-fresh food!  Although he isn’t into organics like we are, he had decided not to use any sprays this year.  I’m not sure what changed his mind, as I know he always used Seven-dust in the past.  In addition, his sister grows corn and his brother grows blueberries, and when gathering for us, he asked about their chemical use.  What a blessing, as it turns out, that none of them used chemicals of any type this year!

In any case, he invited the kids over to do some picking in his garden.

M and A picking blackberries with the neighbor.

M and A picking blackberries with the neighbor.

R was too busy eating a popsicle the neighbor gave her to pick berries at first.

R was too busy eating a popsicle the neighbor gave her to pick berries at first.

JR hunting for the perfectly ripe, not too sour, blackberries.

JR hunting for the perfectly ripe, not too sour, blackberries.

R finally decided to ask me to finish her popsicle so she could join in the fun of picking berries.  It didn't matter if they were ripe, unripe, black, red, or green--they all went straight into her mouth!

R finally decided to ask me to finish her popsicle so she could join in the fun of picking berries. It didn’t matter if they were ripe, unripe, black, red, or green–they all went straight into her mouth!

N decided to jump to the other side to find as many as possible before the other kiddos made it over there.

N decided to jump to the other side to find as many as possible before the other kiddos made it over there.

JR found the blueberry patch, and picked anything that was even remotely ripe.  He loves berries!

JR found the blueberry patch, and picked anything that was even remotely ripe. He loves berries!

The neighbor showing the kiddos his other veggies in the garden, and how to pick the ripe ones.

The neighbor showing the kiddos his other veggies in the garden, and how to pick the ripe ones.

After almost 2 hours of picking, we came home totally loaded with buckets of blackberries, blueberries, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, corn, cucumbers, and green beans.

After almost 2 hours of picking, we came home totally loaded with buckets of blackberries, blueberries, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, corn, cucumbers, and green beans.

We added all this bounty to some of the harvest from our garden, and have been eating like royalty lately (that is, assuming royalty eats veggies!).  I told S on the phone tonight that it really is a blessing that is forcing us to eat healthy.  In his absence, my days are often full of stress and hard labor, and I am exhausted by dinner time.  It is so tempting, far too often, to gather the kiddos into the van and take them to a local diner for dinner.  No cooking, no clean-up afterward, just sit and be served.  Alas, I also hate seeing food go to waste.  With the bounty of fresh food growing in our garden and the bucket loads our neighbor keeps bringing us, it is forcing me to find a little more energy most evenings to make a good dinner.  Buttered sweet corn, steamed green beans, kholrabi hash browns, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, fresh salad, grass-fed beef in some form, blackberry popsicles, blueberry and kefir smoothies…..I admit, I have no guilt about what I’m feeding my family these days!

This was our lunch for several days this past week:


One day, we had a side of boiled eggs to go with it.  It struck me as a bit humorous that this type of lunch has fancy names.  Some might call it “vegetarian.”  Others might consider it as “Paleo.”  I suppose if fancy “diet” terminology makes a person eat healthier, good for him.  In our case, though, it’s simply known as “cleaning out the produce in the fridge and garden before it spoils.”

Have you ever been doing your thing, whatever that happens to be at the time, and just received encouragement in some unexpected way?  I love it when that happens, and, for me at least, it often seems to happen when I don’t even know I need encouragement.  Yet, I feel my spirit lift anyway.

Today, it happened twice.  First, the kiddos and I went to a restaurant after church.  When I went to pay, the manager walked over and handed me $20–enough to pay for the majority of our bill.  He explained another customer had just given it to him, and asked him to deliver the message, “Thank you for having such well-behaved children.  We just wanted to help with your lunch today.”  Funny thing is, that’s the second time it’s happened in the same restaurant.  The customers, I’ve noticed, are mostly elderly folks, so I can only assume they have a greater appreciation for manners and respect than today’s generation.

As if that wasn’t encouraging enough, I got home, and decided to add a light bar to JR’s new desk.  I had purchased this LED light bar off the internet, based on some good reviews.  I got the box all opened up, was trying to figure it out, and as I looked on the box for directions, I saw this:


In case you can’t read it, the side of the box says, “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” – 2 Samuel 22:29

Two simple choices by 2 different people, but both were such an encouragement to me today, and because of such a simple gesture (and the fact the lights work great!), I will absolutely be buying more to support this company, which by the way is called, “Lightkiwi.”

I’m making progress…in my wood-working skills, unpacking, and decorating the house.  Here’s my latest:

First, I built a frame:

Then I attached top boards, ripped to 5 inches wide:


Next, I used liquid nails, a couple of screws, and some finishing nails (yeah, a little overkill, but hey, it’s for kiddos!)  to attach trim:



I leveled the top good with a sander, filled all seams and gaps with wood putty, and sanded again:


Finally, I attached it to a backboard of plywood:

IMG_1109Wanna take a guess yet?

After that part was complete, I made 2 shelves to match and some supports to match, painted it all to coordinate with the room it was to go in, attached a light, and voila:


The shelf supports were set up to also act as book ends, and I also added more supports to the top of the desk and the top shelf:


Then, I finally got around to doing a little more organizing in the boy’s room, so JR is officially ready for school to start in just 3 weeks!


Now, to find him a chair….

Our harvest of produce has really begun around Red Gate Farm.  Although quite small this year, it’s still impressive considering how little I planted, TLC was pretty much nonexistent, and we went about 4 weeks with no rain and no watering (for fear my well would dry up, which it already did once this summer).  We’ve gotten a few smaller harvests of kholrabi, zucchini, and green beans, but last week the harvest was more fun.  The kids and I worked together to fill 2, 5-gallon buckets with onions, potatoes, green beans, radishes, and carrots.  Plus, the laying hens are finally getting over the stresses of the move, the gnats, and the heat this summer, and we’ve gone from about 6 eggs a day to about 13 some days (out of 14 hens).


Yesterday, we harvested some rainbow chard, ornamental kale, radishes, carrots, bell pepper, and corn, and I was able to throw together a delicious salad for lunch.

Now, I have to find ways to use up this bounty before it spoils!  This is so much fun.  I just love opening my fridge to see the blessings God has provided, or walking outside and witnessing the fruit of the earth growing before my eyes.  It is a beautiful thing, and brings such peace to know that we are getting ever closer to not being dependent on an economic system that goes against everything we believe in.  Natural, non-GMO, chemical- , pesticide- , and herbicide-free food, grown in nutrient rich compost, watered with well water and rain rather than chlorinated, piped-in city water……oh, what a wonderful feeling!

My first onion braid

My first onion braid





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