Military Life

We just traveled the long drive back to CO, but this time as a family, to celebrate S’s official retirement ceremony from the Air Force.  We stayed with friends and saw other friends, which was really neat as we’ve never really been able to travel back to a place after we’ve left.  In addition, S’s brother from South Korea flew in, S’s mother came, and my brother and parents all came for the big culmination of S’s incredible career in the AF.

S retired as a Lt. Col (0-5).  The retirement speech and certificate was presented by Full General Gene Renuart (ret), a wonderful example of a man who was and is a great leader, both in the AF and in life.  We also got to spend time with his wife, Jill, a good friend from S’s days when he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.


Presenting of the Colors



The official certificate, relieving S of his military duty

The presentation of the flag and the medals and ranks S wore throughout his career.   This was actually a fun surprise that involved a lot of coordinated efforts.  S knew he was getting the flag, flown on several of "his" aircraft.  What he didn't know until it was presented was that the flag was originally flown over the nation's capital and presented to my father for his service in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm war.  My father wanted to give it to S, so he mailed it to our friend heading the whole thing up, who then got it flown on several of S's career aircraft.  Thus, this flag has quite a story to tell!

The presentation of the flag and the medals and ranks S wore throughout his career. This was actually a fun surprise that involved a lot of coordinated efforts. S knew he was getting the flag, flown on several of “his” aircraft. What he didn’t know until it was presented was that the flag was originally flown over the nation’s capital and presented to my father for his service in the Desert Shield/Desert Storm war. My father wanted to give it to S, so he mailed it to our friend heading the whole thing up, who then got it flown on several of S’s career aircraft. Thus, this flag has quite a story to tell!

A quick moment with old friends, the General and his wife.

A quick moment with old friends, the General and his wife.

My mom managed to capture a quick family photo during all the chaos of the afternoon....well, almost.  M was missing.

My mom managed to capture a quick family photo during all the chaos of the afternoon….well, almost. M was missing.

There's M!

There’s M!

Father and dad and I.

Father and daughter….my dad and I.

Grandpa and grandsons, saluting the flag.

Grandpa and grandsons, saluting the flag.

A big hit of the event was the official retirement cake, to celebrate and symbolize S’s leaving of one career to begin another:

S's retirement cake.  Representing the Red Wattle hogs he had butchered a couple weeks prior, and his new career as a farmer.  The cake was wonderful, and when you cut into it, it was chocolate with raspberry filling.

S’s retirement cake. Representing the Red Wattle hogs he had butchered a couple weeks prior, and his new career as a farmer. The cake was wonderful, and when you cut into it, it was chocolate with raspberry filling.

BUSTED!!  (I later found out Nana had a little something to do with instigating this!)

BUSTED!! (I later found out Nana had a little something to do with instigating this!)

After the ceremony, we had a catered dinner with Roast, which is intended to roast the retiree.  There were very few embarrassing stories, though, as it was clear S was a well-loved man, friend, instructor, and professional airman.  The stories of his life, as presented by others made this fact clear.  It was a great week, spent with friends and family, celebrating S’s amazing career, and we came back home to the farm with many great memories and photos!

Strangers often ask what my husband does.  Depending on the situation and/or who’s asking, my answer might be “He’s in the Air Force,” “He’s in the military,” or “He’s a pilot.”  If ever he is TDY (military business trip), held up at work, flying long hours, or otherwise absent, folks have often made comments like, “Well, you’re a military wife, so I guess you’re used to it!”  Usually I shrug and smile, and I may make some joke.  In fact, I don’t think we ever “get used to it.”  How can we?


My dad was military, and I saw what my mom went through.  He went TDY, served 7 months in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and deployed to Korea for a year.  It was a hard life.  I swore I’d never marry military.  There is a running joke amongst military wives that “You may be his wife, but the military is his mistress.”  Well, God had other plans in store for me, and the first guy I held hands with, kissed, and eventually married, was, in fact, military.  I didn’t enter into the life blind.  In fact, S and I initially got to know each other via e-mail while he was serving in Kuwait.  During our 7 month engagement, we saw each other only 4 times, as he was PCS’d (moved to a different assignment) to another region of the country to attend Test Pilot School.  I resigned myself to being a military wife and all that it entailed.  I accepted that my duty to my God, my country, my husband, and my family was to be the best wife and mother I could be, and to support my husband, despite the circumstances the military put us in.

I quickly learned the key was to stay busy.  Idle minds are the devil’s workshop, and that makes so much sense to a military wife.  Over the years, each time I knew he was flying a new, experimental aircraft, testing it’s limits, shutting off an engine in mid-flight to check safety features, and so forth, I worried–and I prayed and made myself busy.  Each time he went TDY for weeks or months at a time, I worried–and I prayed and made myself busy.  Sometimes, he would have an exhilarating day, come home, and begin to tell me all about it.  Most of the time I listened and often times I was even amused.  A few times I had to stop him from saying any more about a close call he’d had that day.  I just couldn’t handle that picture in my head.  I kept busy volunteering–there’s always an expectation for military wives to volunteer in the community.  I kept busy finishing furniture while 7 months pregnant during an extended TDY.  I kept busy working with horses and training dogs until the children entered my life.  Due to my diabetes and S’s frequent absences, I kept busy teaching my 3 and 4 year old (at the time) how to call 911 if mommy didn’t wake up one morning.  Then the calls started.

The fact is, there are accidents.  Within months of our wedding day, one of our saber bearers (military guys who dress in uniform and hold swords for the bride and groom to walk under) and a good friend of S’s, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.  Every time news comes out about a military plane crash, we look up the names of the fatalities to see if we know anyone on that flight.  I’ll never forget the first call about a year into our marriage, when I answered and S said, “Hey, I can’t talk right now, but just wanted you to know I landed and I’ll see you tonight.”  Over time, I learned that was my clue that there had been some sort of accident on the flight line that day.  S could never tell me about it, as accident info is considered classified until public relations releases it the media.  His fear was that I would hear about something on the news and not know his status.  So, this became our little secret game.  He would call briefly to let me know he had landed, and I would turn on the news to hear the details later, thankful he wasn’t involved, and praying that it was none of our friends either.  I used to hate when curious folks would find out he was testing the CV-22 Osprey and ask, “OH! That’s the one that crashed and killed all those marines.  Aren’t you so scared it will crash with him one day?!”  Really?  I had to smile and shrug my shoulder at that stupid question so many times.  I wish I had a nickel for every time I had to defend the aircraft and my husband’s obligation to fly it.  Especially when what I really wanted to say was something to the effect of, “YES! Of course it scares me to death.  Not because it’s the CV-22, but because he’s MY husband and he’s testing aircraft that will possibly be used to defend our nation one day.  Yes, it scares me to death to think he flies a new aircraft up there and intentionally shuts off an engine, flips the plane, or sees how fast he can push it before it starts to rattle.  Yes, I’m scared!”

There were times he would work jobs requiring higher security clearances.  I often wasn’t allowed into his building unescorted or unannounced.  There were times he would leave for work one morning, I would make dinner and sometimes have plans to go out that evening, and then he’d call and I’d find out he wouldn’t be home for several days.  I had to give up my hobbies and outside-the-home activities because these days were so random it was impossible to plan for them.  I was forced to began assuming that he wouldn’t be home that evening, and then enjoy it when he was.   Can I just say to folks right here that if you encounter a military wife in this type of situation, it does NOT help matters AT ALL to start putting doubts in her head regarding her husband’s faithfulness?!  I couldn’t believe it when well-intentioned people would suggest this.

For the most part the military has done a good job trying to care for spouses and families of the troops.  There are some assignments though where the family is not included in any way.  When S took command, I missed milestone ceremonies in my husband’s life, experiences that other commander’s wives got to relish in.  Most pilot’s wives get “spouse flights,” where another pilot (never the husband) will take the wives up in an aircraft their husband flies.  Unless they are a test pilot.  For safety reasons, understandably, spouses aren’t allowed in test aircraft.  To this day, I have never flown in one of my husband’s aircraft.

There is always bittersweet feelings involved in new assignments.  With the right attitude, moves can be an exciting adventure.  Several times a year, we hold our breath, wondering if he will get picked this time, and if so, where we will be moving next.  Will we stay together, or will he be sent overseas or into battle?  Either way, it often involves uprooting our family, leaving behind our friends, saying “See you later!”, while knowing we’ll most likely never see the civilian ones again. Trying to make our old curtains fit into the new house.  Again. Trying to help the kids meet new friends.  Again.  Ensuring our carseats are legal in the next state, or if we have to buy new ones.  Again.  Once, they even sent S TDY when we were supposed to move, and I had to handle the move–complete with 2 toddlers–alone.

Oh, and those horrible planning forms!  Every couple of years, we had to sit down and fill out a form with updated info regarding what my desires would be in the event something happened to S.  For the record, this is not a military-wide requirement, but most of S’s squadrons wanted their guys to do it to avoid surprises and make things as easy on everyone as possible.  It would generally involve S and I sitting down together after putting the kids to bed and him asking me questions like:

  • “If I died, who would you want to notify you?”
  • “Would you want someone to stay with you and the kids at the house, or someone to take the kids and leave you alone?”
  • “Who do you want to help guide you through the military red-tape to take care of our affairs?”
  • “Do you want our pastor to be present, and if so, when?”
  • “Do you want someone to answer the phone for you, or would you prefer voicemail answer them all?”
  • “Do you want to notify our extended family members, or would you prefer someone else do it?”
  • “Where would we want the body sent?”

And so on and so forth….you get the picture.  As believers in Christ, who are confident in our place in heaven once we go, we are not afraid to speak of death.  However, it has never been fun to think too hard on being faced with that situation–to literally have to put myself in a situation I had never experienced, and try to make decisions on how I’d want things to work at a time like that.  And to have to do it every few years.  It just wasn’t pleasant at all to continually be faced with the idea of not having my husband here with me.  As if that wasn’t enough, S has always been pretty careful to try to give me an updated power of attorney to decrease the chance of snafu’s and hold-ups should something happen to him.  I guess the risk was often that high.  It just made him feel better to know I’d be taken care of.

As a God-fearing, Bible-believing wife, it is my duty to honor and submit to my husband.  The military is probably the hardest lifestyle offered to Christian wives in this sense.  One day, I have to be perfectly capable of being 100% independent.  In the event of an emergency, my husband is not always there.  I have to know who to call, when to call, and how to deal with common injuries.  I handle appointments, banking, groceries, and cooking.  I teach the kids, prepare the curriculum, shuttle them where they need to go.  I know how to call a plumber, an electrician, and what to do when the well runs dry.  I have to catch escaped livestock and be ready to help neighbors in need.  On Sunday mornings, I have to be able to get the kids ready, do the chores, and make it to church on time and with a smile on my face.  If I want things done, I have to be willing to use power tools.  Then, at the end of the absence, when S walks in the door, I have to totally transform from the independent decision maker to the dutiful and submissive wife, and hand over most of that independence to my husband.  Mind you, this is not a bad thing at all, and in fact, it is a way in which I very much enjoy honoring my husband.  As a military wife, though, this transformation in roles can sometimes be very difficult.  It can sometimes require a lot of prayer and faith in God on my part to ensure I never develop hard feelings or lingering resentments toward the man I love.

Please understand I am in no way complaining here.  The military offers a very unique life, and amazing experiences that most people don’t dream of!  I have personally flown a Cessna aircraft (which I didn’t crash), and I have flown a CV-22 Osprey simulator (which I crashed during every single simulated flight).  I have lived right on the beach, in the desert, and in the mountains.  I have traveled all over the United States.  As a diabetic, I have had great insurance and dental care.  Most areas we have lived support military by offering many military discounts and incentives around town.   We know people around the world, and have experienced incredible community relationships.  The military life has forced me to be independent and push myself to do things I may not have tried otherwise.

My whole reason for even thinking of this tonight was because this was one of those days where S just simply didn’t call me like he usually does while at work.  I haven’t seen him in a while, and I look forward to our phone calls.  I knew he was flying today, and I knew he was biking to his temporary home, an hour-long trip.  As the day progressed, I couldn’t help but think of the experiences we had been through over the years.  The close calls, turning on the news to hear what might have happened, the late nights or days of not returning home, the sudden and unexpected TDY’s, and the “what if’s?”.   Funny how something as simple as not calling as expected, after all these years, and I found myself once again picturing the military car, with 2 uniformed officers, driving up my driveway to deliver the news.  Wondering when we last updated that “what if?” form.  Thinking yet again how I would handle such news; how I would react; how I would tell the kids; how we would go on because we had to.  Of course, as always, I was worried, but I prayed and made myself busy.

I thought, too, about that comment I’ve heard so often, “You must be used to it by now.”  Sure I smile and shrug and joke.  But the fact is, I don’t think we ever do get used to it.  The danger, the excitement, the mystery, the known, the unknown, and the “you’ll never knows.”  The kissing him goodbye in the mornings, praying he’ll return safely that evening, and that God will bless you with one more day together.  No, we never get used to it.  We worry, then we pray and count our blessings, and then we make ourselves busy so we don’t think too hard about it.  That’s the life of a military wife.

As a military brat who married military, I am well-versed in cross-country moves.  Packing, loading up a bunch of kids, and even living in a “TLF” (Air Force acronoym for “Temporary Living Facility,” which is really just a souped-up hotel room) until we find a home doesn’t scare me in the least.  I’ve never lived in the same house more than 5 years in my life.  I’ve slept at interstate rest stops, exercised my horse and dogs in gas station parking lots, and had more adventures than I can count.  Despite my past experiences, however, I am learning that moving a farm is a whole different ball game!

R holding Caramel.

R holding Caramel.

We had to trim down the number of animals we had, so we kept our favorites as foundation breeding stock to get Red Gate up and running.  Due to unexpected events with the goats, we wound up with more milk than we can drink now, so we wound up not buying the 4th doe I was wanting so badly.  All in all, we are moving 30 animals, including the house dog and cat.

Mocha, 2 weeks.

Mocha, 2 weeks.

In order to move, we bought a truck and trailer and had to begin planning our breeding and baby-delivery dates for all critters back in early fall, based on the moving schedule.  That turned out to be easier planned than accomplished.  I think the rabbit doe is the only one who cooperated.  I had to arrange for a ridiculous amount of veterinary and state transport permits for traveling with livestock.  Here in CO, equines and cattle must have “brand inspections” to prove ownership before you travel or sell an animal.  All goats must be registered, either through ear tags or ear tattoos, and there is NO exception for 5 lb., 2-week old kids.  Caramel’s ear was so tiny when we tattoo’ed that I’ll probably have to re-do in the future.  But it was that, or an ear tag almost as big as her head.  The poultry all had to have blood work done, the rabbits had to have their temperatures taken, the dogs had to have their rabies licenses inspected, blah, blah, blah…. Several hundred dollars later, the states and federal government have decided our animals are safe to travel.

Caramel, 2 weeks

Caramel, 2 weeks

Just as things were coming together, last Wednesday, the truck’s radiator spontaneously sprung 2 leaks.  On Thursday, it spent the day in the shop getting fixed.  On Friday, we walked out to find a truck tire going flat and the spare was totally dry-rotted.  On Saturday, we discovered the tire was unrepairable and had to buy 2 new tires.  On Sunday, the radiator sprung another leak, so it spent all day Monday in the shop again.  With just over 2 days before I am supposed to be driving this truck, loaded down with a 20 foot gooseneck trailer hauling 28 of my 30 animals, we are praying it is fixed once and for all.  I’m just so thankful it happened now instead of half-way through remote Kansas!

As if that wasn’t enough adventure, we had a bought of a stomach virus that bounced around the family, landing me in the E.R.  My blood sugars had plummeted, and because of the virus, the glucose I ate wasn’t working.  As my sugars approached the 30’s, I knew it was time for S to get me to the hospital for some intervention.  A bit of Zofran to calm my stomach did the trick, and my sugars were on the rise.  They went ahead and gave me an IV of saline and magnesium though, to replenish what I had lost.  It all worked out, but I wound up missing my going-away party at church the next day.  😦

One of the most frequent questions I have received lately is regarding how we are going to accomodate so many animals of so many different species in one trailer.  So, now that the trailer is almost set up and ready, I took a few photos to show you.

Our trailer, custom made with this trip as well as our future plans in mind.

Our trailer, custom made with this trip as well as our future plans in mind.

First, I built new, large rabbit cages, which will be our bunnies’ home for at least the first few months while we figure out what our long term rabbit plans are.  I bought the wire for several cages, but only built 2 for the trip.  Each cage measures 18 inches tall x 48 inches long x 30 inches deep.  It has 2 swing-in doors for easier access, a hay feeder, and plenty of space for feeders, waterers, salt licks, nest box, etc.

Rabbit cage

Rabbit cage

One of the cages will house our mature doe and her 2, 3 month old doe kits.  In the other cage, I inserted a section of wire to divide it in half, and it will hold both our bucks.  The divider is simply held with zip-ties so we can easily cut them off when I get the other cage built, and the dividing wire is cut to a size I can use on another cage.

The same cage, showing divider section.

The same cage, showing divider section.

I filled the gooseneck of the trailer, an area roughly 8 feet deep x 6.5 feet wide x 4 feet tall, with pine shavings.  This is where the hens and rabbits will travel.

There will be a cage on each side, though I left the other one out for the photo so you can see behind it.

There will be a cage on each side, though I left the other one out for the photo so you can see behind it.

Behind the cage are, in the very front of the gooseneck, we put a chunk of hay to keep the girls busy and a hay-filled nest box for any hens who decide to lay in-route.

Behind the cage, in the very front of the gooseneck, we put a chunk of hay to keep the girls busy and a hay-filled nest box for any hens who decide to lay in-route.

There will be just enough space on each side and in between the cages for a hen to squeeze through, which will hopefully prevent any dangerous corners where the hens could pile up and suffocate each other.  There is a “calf-gate,” or gate type panel that folds up to seperate this area from the rest of the trailer.  I forgot to take a photo of it up, but you can see it hanging down in the top photo of the gooseneck.

The next, front section of the trailer has access through the man door on the side of the trailer.  The goats and dogs will ride there.  First, I wrapped a week’s worth of hay in a tarp and tied it to the center gate.  The goats can jump on it if they desire, which is why I covered it with a tarp–to protect it from being eaten or peed and pooped on.  The rest of the area was filled with shavings and some straw for the babies and Faith, who is very pregnant.  They will have a hay bag to keep them busy, and a small bucket of water.


The hay inside the tarp in the goat area.

 The rear of the trailer was simply bedded with lots of shavings for the donkeys.  They, too, will have a hay-bag and a bucket of water.  Because the donkeys are fairly small, I don’t plan to tie them in the stall.  They will be able to freely stand, lay down, turn around, and move a bit, which will hopefully reduce their stress load a little.

The donkey area.

The donkey area.

That’s the tour of the trailer.  Pretty simple and basic, but hopefully comfy, cozy, and stress-reducing for the critters.

Now if I could just reduce my stress!  I have packed about 80% of the house, and will try to finish the rest tomorrow.  We have another therapy appointment with the boys and I have to start loading the vehicles.  Another major challenge I discovered in regards to moving a farm is the fruitless efforts involved in trying to use up things that keep being produced!  For example, in an attempt to empty the fridge, we have been eating lots of eggs and drinking milk at every meal.  Just this morning, we ate 16 eggs and drank 1/2 gallon milk at breakfast.  30 minutes later, I went out to milk Joy and Latte.  I tried to use up some of the milk by feeding a pint back to each doe, and another pint each to the two dogs.  I still wound up filtering almost 1/2 gallon and putting it the fridge.  By day’s end, I will have at least another 1/2 gallon and 12-14 more eggs!  I never considered the fact that these high-production animals don’t come with an “OFF” switch to temporarily shut them down.  It’s all or nothing, and it’s up to me to find creative ways to use the bounty.  Eggs or milk, anyone?

Today is exactly 9 weeks to move day.  Still a ways, but lots to do.  I have really been packing things that aren’t needed for a while.  I have started putting our furniture on Craigslist, as we are selling several large items before we move.  As a result, my bookshelf (which is for sale) is looking bare, the canning shelves are beginning to look sparse since we are starting to use up foods, one freezer has been turned off after we combined everything that remained into the other freezer, most of the surplus bee hives and supplies has been sold, and boxes are starting to pile up in our designated box room (formerly our family closet).




School is starting to wind down as well.  The kids are on lesson 143 out of 170, so just a few weeks left.  The remaining meat is being rationed, so we are eating lots of smoothies, veggies when available, and eggs since the hens are laying well.  Five of the hens will be going to a new home sometime next week, and then the following week, the remaining 15 will all be tested for pyllurom typhoid, as required for inter-state travel.  Yesterday, my final goat supply order from Hoegger’s arrived, which contained 2 hay-bags for the trailer.  Speaking of which, the trailer should be arriving sometime in the next 2 weeks, so that is very exciting.

Hay bags for the trailer, and a few other things for the trip.

Hay bags for the trailer, and a few other things for the trip.

We did have a hold up on the sale of the house.  The final inspection, our leach field, wound up failing.  Guess we now know why it backed up on S while I was gone last year!  Now we are on very tight water restrictions to avoid filling the septic tank until they get the leach field replaced.  I also have to limit the animals’ exercise while their pasture is torn up with exposed pipes.

Our pasture with part of the leach field dug.

Our pasture with part of the leach field dug.

I leave next week for my trip to Red Gate for last minute projects.  I will be getting the stalls and barn ready for the animals to be unloaded the night we arrive (probably around midnight), the garden area readied, the carpets and all air vents and duct work professionally cleaned, and if I have time, I will also do some painting in the master bedroom.  While I am gone, Joy, my first freshener doe is due to deliver.  Now, we all know how things here on the homefront went during my trip last year, so you can imagine my anxiety on this one.  If you weren’t reading back then, you can catch up here with Part 1 and Part 2.

Upon my return, we have the final appraisal on the house, and hope to know for sure within a week of that whether the sale will go through.  On April 5th, we have a big therapy appointment for A and N, essentially our last hope for help in dealing with their multiple issues (A more so than N).  That will be followed by getting some issues with the van repaired, multiple doctor and dentist appointments, prescription refills, getting the animals comfortable with the trailer, some batch cooking for frozen dinners for the move week, a yard sale, and final packing.  Due to several “kinks” that have presented in our plans, we are still finalizing our actual move plans…I think we are on “Plan F” about now….but the current plan is looking more solid all the time.

Our house is officially under contract!  After too many phone calls and some research, we have decided to try to be proactive with this whole inspection/appraisal thing, without spending the fortune we originally feared.  We contacted a highly recommended roofer for an inspection, and got a 5-year warranty on our roof. We also had the septic system inspected and cleaned, and tracked down all our well documents, and proof of repairs, cleanings, and inspections we had done on major systems (like HVAC and electrical) when we moved in.  The idea behind these decisions being that, if the buyer attaches all these warranties and proofs of inspections to their loan application, the appraiser will hopefully see that it is a pretty good house in perfectly liveable condition, and not delay the process at all.  We’ll see what happens, but we are feeling a little less pressured at the moment.  In the mean time, the buyers have scheduled a well-water test and full home inspection this week, so that will be our first big test I guess.  We are hopeful that all will go well, and the process will just move right along.  What a relief it will be to not have a house to worry about here in CO.  Please keep the situation in your prayers.

Today marks exactly 4 months to moving day.  While we have plenty of time yet, I’m already starting to feel it.

In the last month, I have reserved the moving van (better rates when you book early), ordered boxes, shown the house more times than I can count, potty trained R, listed all sorts of extra things on Craigslist, started planning finances, hopefully finally got all 3 goats bred successfully, searched almost endlessly for a truck and a trailer, finally decided to custom order the trailer we want (still looking for the truck), trained a new host for the organic foods co-op we host, made several “final” medical appointments for the boys and still have a few more to make for the rest of us, we had another litter of rabbits born, and as of today, officially started packing some boxes.  I figured we needed to de-clutter a little and try to “stage” our house better by purging some of the items I won’t be needing until after the move.

Over the next month or two, my parents will visit, I will hand over my co-op to the new hosts, the chickens should all start laying (up to 20 eggs a day!), several of the hens will be going to a new home, the remaining hens will all be tested so I can transport them cross-country, and I have to plan my March trip to the farm.  In the midst of all that, of course, we are celebrating two birthdays tomorrow (R’s and N’s, whose actual birthdays are a week apart), and one birthday in April.  AND the goats will start kidding.

Naturally, as if we didn’t have enough going on, everything seems to be breaking and wearing out simultaneously.  Our camera has pretty much decided not to work–when I hit the “picture” button, it turns off.  I’m hoping our vacuum will hang in there, as pieces are literally beginning to fall off it and I find myself rubber-banding and duct taping it together.  Our van brake drums seem to have warped a bit for some reason and the rear door hydraulics have totally worn out.  Our printer recently decided to get as moody as the camera, and the kids are all outgrowing their clothes faster than I can replace them.

Yup, life is busy.  Just the way I like it (minus the expenses of the unexpecteds in the last paragraph!).  I have a feeling the next 4 months are going to fly by, and moving day will be here before we know it!!

Excuse my rambling for a moment….it’s a picture of how my mind is working at the moment!

A few eves ago, S and I sat down to discuss the next year’s events.  We had our calendars out so we could see how things lined up.  Long story, short, we set a moving date!!  He will move the kids and I to Red Gate Farm in mid-May.  It is such a bitter-sweet feeling.  After almost 8 years of planning and dreaming and working our tails off to prep the farm, the time is almost here!  That is a thrillingly sweet feeling.  At the same time, S will not be officially retiring until later, and therefore will not be moving with us, visiting as often as he can.  That is the bitter part.

My brain is just in a frenzy now, and my soul a roller coaster of emotions.  Happiness, dread, excitement, fear, anxiety, nervousness, joy, elation, sadness, etc.  Many of those emotions come with any move–sadness over leaving friends behind, nervousness at establishing your family in a new place, excitement at what the future might hold, and so on.  It’s just intensified with this move.

At the same time, I can’t for a moment deny how blessed we are.  For starters, we have established relationships with many of our neighbors there, and even with a church we attend each time we visit.  There are people I could call on for any need, which is such an incredible relief!  I’ve even had offers of babysitting from folks at the church should I need it on occasion.  The entire neighborhood is awesome at watching out for each other, and each neighbor knows every other neighbor by name.

On the other hand, I’m trying to not even think about the tarantula-like wolf spiders that lurk there.  Perhaps I can bribe the children to kill them for me?  Nah, who am I kidding?!…those things are terrifying!

So, you might be asking why we would move before S actually retires?  Well, here’s the deal…There are many reasons.  First, health is an issue.  Little N doesn’t have nose bleeds, and his asthma may improve back in the humidity.  A needs a good medical team that can follow him, without concern of PCS’ing (moving military) doctors.  The farm is becoming quite a burden on our care takers (S’s mom and brother) and is beginning to have some “neglect” issues.  We can grow more of our own healthy and affordable food, which benefits all of us, but especially N, A, and me with my diabetes.  Furthermore, the selling of our CO house was a big deal.  We don’t want to wait until retirement, and then be stuck with an empty house here to deal with.  We also need to free up the cash sunk into this house, so we can further improve Red Gate, not to mention buy the truck and trailer we need to move our critters back east.  We have set up a website, if you know anyone who is interested in moving to CO. Selling now by owner, and leasing back until next year would be our ideal.  If not, though, we will list on the MLS with our realtor in March, in order to take advantage of the real estate market, the incoming military moving season, and increase the chances of selling in a timely manner.  We considered waiting until the house actually sold to move, but there were several problems with that.  If we wound up with a closing date in summer, my high-desert-conditioned animals would really struggle and be stressed with a move to high heat-and humidity in the worst time of year.  Here, the summer temps seldom hit 90*, the humidity rarely goes over 10%, the animals never fully lose their winter coats, and they have never seen a lush pasture!  It is likely the honey bees would die en-route, and the goats milk supply would decrease significantly, if not dry up completely, due to the stress involved.  If we had a closing in fall, S can’t take enough time off work for helping move, so I would be stuck moving all the kids, all the animals, and the furnishings on my own.  If we waited until winter, we’re stuck paying CO hay prices AGAIN (currently around $14/per 60 pound bale of hay).  We also can’t move sooner, as S will not be able to get his official retirement moving orders until at least April or early May (the military pays for the move if we wait until we have orders).  There was one other issue, which I’d rather not mention in cyberspace, but suffice it to say, God recently blessed us tremendously with a perfect answer!  We decided it was easier to set a date and go for it.

Now, with a date set, we have started preps.  We bought enough hay to get us through the winter and up to our move date, with a just enough left over to help wean the animals over once we arrive.  We are rationing our meat supplies so we can try to avoid having to purchase any meat.  I have started the search for someone to take over my organic food co-op that I host.  We are preparing for the first of probably 2 yard sales, through which we hope to cut waaaaay down on furnishings and clutter (I hope to get rid of all baby stuff, and all “temporary-and-don’t-care-if-it-gets-damaged-during-a-PCS” type stuff purchased over the years).  JR has started deciding which rabbits he wants to move (we have limited him to 3-4 for breeding), and is selling the rest.  S has scheduled a time this winter where he will travel back to the farm to cut more lumber and start building animal structures.  I will travel back in the spring to do some more last minute projects.  Then, before we know it, May will be here.  WOW!

So now, I have to figure out the answer to 2 silly questions I just can’t decide on.  Perhaps you readers and experienced farmers can offer some advice or suggestions.  Both will affect what and how we build our structures…

First, do I take a few laying hens with me?  I am still debating whether to sell all our laying hens and just start over when we get there (which would leave us without eggs for about 6 months), or take a few hens with us to get us through until a new batch is ready (but would the stress cause them to quit laying and/or molt?)

Secondly, where do I put the milk stand?  That may seem a silly question, and it is pretty trivial, but I am curious what you think.  You see, here in CO, we seldom have rain, and I think I have only milked in my shed during a thunderstorm, once in 2 milking seasons.  Shoot, this summer, I think we’ve only had what could be considered “rain” twice since April!  So, since we are going to be using an intensive, rotational grazing system back at the farm, do we build a portable milk-shed to move along with the goats, in which case, I would likely wind up trudging out to it, and sitting in it during mid-west thunderstorms (I assume the goats would prefer this option, as it would mean less walking in the rain), or do I set up the milk room in the barn, which means I would have to trudge out through several acres of pasture, and back, at least twice (to get the goats and then to take them back out) during a thunderstorm?  I can’t decide which would be less risky and/or more comfortable?

Guess that’s it for now!  We’ll see if all works out as planned, as every military family knows that NOTHING is guaranteed!

My handsome soldier in uniform

In the military, supervisors must regularly fill out performance reports for their subordinates.  Often referred to as an OPR or EPR (officer performance report or enlisted performance report), these reports go into the member’s file and can help determine promotability, future assignments, and so forth.  Many of the notes are simply written in a bullet format. At least, that is how I understand them to work. 

Well, over the years, a collection of the bullet points has been gathered from, shall we say, less than ideal servicemen and women.  The orginal authors are unknown, but we found this particular collection on the site  After laughing until every part of our bodies ached, I just had to share.  Oh, and to my knowledge, none of them appear on my dear hubby’s OPR!  Enjoy!

  • Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.
  • His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity.
  • I would not allow this employee to breed.
  • This associate is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won’t be.
  • Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.
  • When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.
  • He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle.
  • This young lady has delusions of adequacy.
  •  He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.
  • This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
  • This employee should go far-and the sooner he starts, the better. 
  • Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
  • Got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn’t watching.
  • A room temperature IQ.
  •  Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together.
  • A gross ignoramus — 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus.
  • A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on.
  • A prime candidate for natural deselection.
  • Bright as Alaska in December.
  • One-celled organisms out score him in IQ tests.
  • Donated his body to science before he was done using it.
  • Fell out of the family tree.
  • Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn’t coming.
  • Has two brains; one is lost and the other is out looking for it.
  • He’s so dense, light bends around him.
  • If brains were taxed, he’d get a rebate.
  • If he were any more stupid, he’d have to be watered twice a week.
  • If you give him a penny for his thoughts, you’d get change.
  • If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean.
  • It’s hard to believe that he beat out 1,000,000 other sperm.
  • One neuron short of a synapse.
  • Some drink from the fountain of knowledge; he only gargled.
  • Takes him 1 1/2 hours to watch 60 minutes.
  • Wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead.

So, next time you are walking through the airport, and see a few tough-looking, intimidating soldiers displaying their firearms and seriously patrolling, you can secretly wonder if one of them is the recipient of one of these comments!

After our last hectic adventure, I got a few easier days, and then life happened and things got hectic again.  I spent the next week preparing for a Thanksgiving trip to Red Gate Farm.  I’ll do a post on that later.  Of course, in order for us to go anywhere, it means we have to leave our animals under someone else’s care. 

After the previous weeks, we did our best ensuring everyone was totally set and secure.  That’s when the next adventure began.  I needed to install additional hot wire in Stallion’s pen to ensure he would respect the fence line.  As I often do, I turned him and Shiloh out to pasture for the morning while I worked in his pen.  About half way through the job, I saw a car out on the highway slow way down and start honking.  We live in the country, and there is no real reason for that.  I got a gut feeling I needed to check on Stallion.  As I was heading to the pasture, my phone rang.  I grabbed it, to hear my neighbor saying Stallion was cruising through her yard–apparently having run up the highway to get there.  I collected Stallion, returned him to his pen, and discovered only a slight bend in the pasture fence where he had jumped out.  I installed an extra strand of hot wire at the top of Stallion’s pen, then thoroughly wet the too-dry ground, offered a tempting snack, and allowed him to bump the wire with his nose.  After a nasty shock, I felt really badly, but I was confident he was set and more respectful of the fence again.  S secured that weak spot Stallion had discovered in the pasture fence. I left the neighbors/caretakers with specific instructions on how to turn the does out, but NEVER take Shiloh out or otherwise leave Stallion alone.  I also cautioned them that our little Alpine doe, Faith was due in heat that week, and to consider not turning the does out when they observed it.  Everything was finally set, so we left on Friday morning. 

Tuesday morning, we got the first call.  The neighbor children had gone through the normal morning routine, and when they put the does out, they didn’t notice that Faith was fully in heat.  No sooner did they get the does turned out to pasture, they heard a commotion, and looked up just in time to see Stallion sail right over his fence, never touching the hot wire, run across the yard to the pasture gate, and upon finding it closed, he took a flying leap, and sailed right over it.  Mind you, we are talking a 4 1/2 foot metal livestock gate.  They said he didn’t so much as bump it!  He wasted no time, immediately breeding Faith.  Although she is 7 months old, she is a little small for my liking, so I really didn’t want her bred until late December.  So much for that idea. 

So, they called and I told them just to leave Stallion with the girls for the day, as I knew there would be no keeping him in his pen at that point.  That night, he had calmed down, she was out of standing heat, and the neighbors were able to return everyone to their rightful pen.   You’d think it would be simple answer at this point, and just not turn any goats out.  The problem we face though, is that, in order to let the chickens out of their coop, they must have a guard to protect them from the fox.  We have Athena for that purpose, but since she is still just a pup, she can’t be fully trusted yet to be alone with them.  She has to have another playmate such as the does or Will, the housedog, or she will potentially chase and tackle chickens.  So, I gave them a plan A, B, C, and D. 

Plan A was to turn Athena out with just Sara and Lilac (who are best buds and will cause their own trouble if seperated), and leave Faith in the pen where Stallion could see her.  This occurred the following day.  No sooner did they get the 2 girls half way to the pen, Stallion lept the fence again, this time with his sights set on Sara.  Now Sara was bred 3 weeks before we left, so I had really hoped she was pregnant.  I still don’t know the answer, as they never saw her stand for breeding.  Nonetheless, Stallion wound up spending the day with those two girls. 

Plan B, the less desirable resort, was used on Thursday, leaving all does in their pen, and turning only Athena out.  Within an hour, they discovered Athena running loose in the yard.  Athena has NEVER escaped, or even tried to get out of the pasture before.  When they reported this to me, I was truly shocked.  They attempted to return her several times, but each time, she escaped.  Eventually, they discovered the source of her escape (a low spot under the fence line), attempted to block it, but Athena continued to get out.  So, they managed to put the chickens away early that day, and returned Athena to the pen with the does. 

On Friday, they used Plan C, in hopes that all the commotion from the previous days would keep the fox at bay.  They released the chickens with no guard, leaving dog and all goats in their pens.  The day went well, the chickens were put away a bit early, and everything was OK. 

Fearing releasing the chickens unguarded 2 days in a row, on Saturday, Plan D was used, leaving the chickens cooped up all day.  Fortunately, it snowed that day, meaning the chickens likely wouldn’t have come out anyway. 

We returned late Saturday night.  Remember that Kinder doe I told you about long ago?  Yeah, well, for quite some time–long before all this adventure began to occur–we had committed to picking her up on our return trip after Thanksgiving.  That was Saturday.  I’ll do another post on that.  Suffice it to say, though, in the midst of all this chaos, with Stallion barely content to stay put, my brooder pen still in disarray from the wethers, and having no real choice in the matter (she lived 7 hours away), we brought the little girl home.  I had to put her with the does.  It was almost 10 pm, and the new addition got everyone riled up.  The does were all excited, which, in turn got Stallion all excited.  He paced up and down the fence line, trying his dead-level best to find a weak spot into that pen.  For some reason, he seems to respect the hot wire there more, and has never jumped into the does’ pen.  After supervising closely for about 2 hours–even getting out of bed a couple times to check on things–I felt like things had calmed down enough I could get some sleep. 

Unfortunately, Sunday was not much of a day of rest.  After Stallion escaped twice, injuring his leg a bit with one jump, and Athena escaping the pasture fence, I was forced to spend several hours re-training Stallion to hot wire (though he outsmarted me most of the time so I don’t know that it was very effective), working with Athena (I had good success with her, having no more escapes after a brief training session), and making some fence adjustments.  It’s hard to believe that just 7 months ago, we built quite nice looking pens, smartly lined with hot wire, and it was actually fairly aesthetically pleasing.  Now, in such a short time, thanks to the unexpected abuse and continuous repairs and alterations, my nice fences are beginning to look jerry-rigged, run down, and pretty poorly.  I need them to last 2 more years!

After all the unexpected adventures of late, S made some decisions about the near future of our livestock program.  Some of them I’m fine with as the changes will reduce some of my work load for a while, and will certainly reduce the stress on our fences.  Others break my heart.  He is right though.  Once again, the simple fact is, we are still military.  Life here on this little mini-farm is temporary, and we can’t practically invest mega bucks in superior fencing while we live here.  While I don’t know all the details as to what will happen at this point, in one way or another, Stallion’s days here appear to be numbered.  That’s one that breaks my heart.  He is such a sweet buck, and I had such high hopes for him as part of our herd.  Despite my research, fact is, we just were not prepared for a mature buck in rut, and what he was capable of.  It has not been in vain though, as we have learned a tremendous amount from him, and will be far more prepared in the future, once we get to Red Gate.  We are exploring our options for still being able to use him as a stud in the future, as I would still love to have his genetics in the herd.  S is also thinking he wants to sell Shiloh’s foal as soon as it is weaned.  That’s another one that breaks my heart.  Time will tell what we actually wind up doing, but I’ll admit, something has to give at this point. 

In the mean time, I am waiting to see if all my does are now pregnant, and we will go from there.

S has been having some parking and traffic flow issues near where he works.  The office in charge decided to take care of it and hired some non-English-speaking contractors to do something about it.  This was the result:

 It’s tiny, but notice which way the arrow points, then notice the “one-way arrow” sign on the column. 

After quite a bit of hassle to get someone to straighten the mess out, S received an e-mail that everything had been taken care of.  The next morning, this is what they found:

Looks like there is going to be a little more hassling required to get things sorted out!

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