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Photo of cute pup with his goat, just because.

Photo of cute pup with his goat, just because.

I checked in my blog the other day, and realized it has been 20 months since I last blogged!  I can’t believe how time has flown once again.  Here lately, I have been really missing it.  With winter approaching, I am hoping perhaps I can find time to consistently sit down and post.  In a million years, no one ever would have been able to convince me how busy this new life would be.  I often joke that our “retirement” is far busier than our life ever was when hubby had a career in the military!

My goal will be to go back over the last few years, using my Facebook page as a reminder, and try to catch you up.  Things have come so far, and changed so much!  I can’t wait to share it with you….as usual, there’s the fun, gross, the happy, the scary, the life lessons, all of it.  Well, mostly all of it.

So, hello again!  If anyone is still out there waiting for updates, a special “Thanks” to you!

Last year, we got set up with a great team of horses and a nice passenger wagon, which was rather in demand.  Then one of the horses was injured, and we had a hefty vet bill to deal with.  Next, we had to purchase another horse to take his place.  By the end of fall, we were looking at our books and started brainstorming ideas to try to recoup some of the massive expense we had put into the horse aspect of our farm.  Sure they were the power for our farm, but unlike a tractor, they do have the potential to generate revenue in other ways.  We decided that, as much as the wagon was in demand, a carriage would likely go over very well.  After shopping around for a while, I found a great deal on a used one in Michigan.  S drove up to inspect it, and brought it home, along with a nice assortment of odds and ends for the carriage and a carriage business, as the previous owners were getting out of the business.

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We took it for a spin and loved the way it handled.  We scheduled our first carriage rides a few weeks later, and it was a huge hit!  In fact, we scheduled a 2-day, special Christmas ride event, and the slots were booked so fast, we opened two more days, which also booked up.  We were out of available dates, so that was it for 2014.  We avoided scheduling in January, due simply to the cold, but then we scheduled an event for Valentine’s Day weekend, which booked up within 72 hours!

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We are only 3 months into owning our carriage now, but clearly it is an item which offers a lot of potential for our farm income.  We have had people ask about weddings and formal events, and are still waiting on some of those to confirm.  Our struggle now is making sure that the carriage and wagon part of the business doesn’t interfere with the main part of our business–meat sales and homesteading classes, but we are enjoying having a side business that can offer something unique to our community. We’ve got a confirmed booking for our wagon already for December–almost a year from now!

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It’s also fun being able to give to the community.  Back in December, we were able to help with an event for a special, local, little girl with Down’s Syndrome, whose dream was to be a princess.  The community rallied together and literally made her Queen Elsa for a day, as she adored the Frozen movie.  We were asked to provide the transportation via horse-drawn carriage.  It was such great fun, and likely provided a day of memories this little girl and her family will never forget!!

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Over the years, we have been blessed to have some absolutely wonderful, amazing mentors to help us in our journey called life.  From veterinarians who took me under wing to teach me all they could about animal medicine, to horse trainers who allowed me to clean stalls in exchange for lessons and experience, to experienced clinicians, career meat processors, and draft-horse teamsters, we have been saved a tremendous amount of heartache and been able to decrease the slope of the inevitable learning curve.  We’ve also been blessed to have some really lousy mentors along the way.  They’re the ones that taught us to believe “there is something to be learned from everyone—even if it’s what NOT to do!”  The experience, training, and backgrounds of our mentors taught us different ideas, different reasons for doing things different ways, and so much more.  There is a saying that goes something to the effect of “If you are a day ahead of someone else, you are the master.”

We decided long ago that since we enjoyed working with and encouraging others so much, that we would try to find ways in the future to do so.  We had planned more traditional ways such as internships and apprentices, but didn’t feel ready or qualified to do that for several years.  Then this summer of trials hit us, with the most difficult being S’s arm injury.  We were forced to find help, so we started considering and researching our options.  At first, we hired help, but that can add up and deplete savings in a hurry!

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A WWOOF’er weeding the orchard.

Then, thanks to Polyface Farm’s (Joel Salatin) Facebook page, I was introduced to a program called Eager Farmer (www.eagerfarmer.com).  Joel’s daughter-in-law set up the site as way of bringing together farmers willing to teach or having something to offer, with folks wanting to learn.  Through that website, we met a young man who, interestingly, used to be an intern for Daniel Salatin, and thus could offer us just as much as we could him.  At first, we wondered what exactly we COULD offer him that he hadn’t already learned from Polyface.  As it turns out, though, he was interested in seeing farming on a much smaller scale, as well as experiencing a draft-horse powered farm.  Thus, it was agreed this young man would come stay a week in our basement.  We agreed to provide room and board in exchange for farm labor and teaching, and he agreed to share his knowledge from Polyface with us.  Let’s just say, it worked out WONDERFULLY!  We had a wonderful week, our kiddos adored him, he was an amazing Christian, and when he left, we all felt like we had learned from the exchange.  Best of all, not only did we gain knowledge, but he helped me complete a couple of major, labor-intensive projects I just hadn’t been able to do alone, which caught us up on the farm a little.

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Our “eager farmer” student working with Nick, the Belgian draft horse. He came after Nick injured his leg, so when the student had free time, he helped desensitize and work with Nick to help him relax and let us doctor his wound.

While chatting with our guest one day, he introduced me to another program called WWOOF, USA (www.wwoofusa.org).  This is website designed intentionally for work exchanges.  The idea is that no money exchanges hands.  The workers, known as “WWOOF’ers” are not employees or even volunteers, technically.  I want to clarify, they are not to be seen as “free labor” per say. They are there for a “work exchange” of some type, and come with all sorts of backgrounds and reasons.  Some WWOOF’ers are vacationing or traveling cross-country and want to save money by avoiding hotel stays and restaurants.  So, they offer their labor on your farm in exchange for room and board.  Others may have a genuine interest in learning some aspect of farming, and offer their labor in exchange for teaching them about what they are interested in.  Some are homeschool families that want to expose their children to specific aspects or farming lifestyles.  Some folks may even just want references for their future, and figure offering some labor is a great way to get that reference.  There are a myriad of reasons, a variety of WWOOF’ers, and all sorts of hosts with differing specialties.  WWOOF host farms can be anything from permaculture to western cattle ranches to hydroponics to holistic herb clinics to medicinal marijauna farms.  Yup, I said marijauna.  In those states that have legalized pot, I guess somebody has to grow it!

Let me clarify that we are NOT that type of farm!

Intrigued, we joined the WWOOF host farm network.  We very quickly met a group of 3 from Australia that were hoping to tour the U.S., learn more about the backroads, grass-roots type of Americans rather than the more city-fied, tourist-y destinations, and experience American life by living with different families.  We were the first stop on their trip.  They were only able to stay 4 days before having to be at the next farm, but it was 4 amazing days!  They worked much harder than we ever imagined they would, and again, by the time they left, we had several other projects completed.  They, in turn, had great stories to tell about playing with puppies, logging with draft horses, grooming, harnessing, and driving said horses, using a lumber mill (since one was a woodworking teacher at a high-school by profession, he particularly enjoyed that part of his trip!), and more.  Again, our kids adored them, they acted like part of the family, and we were so sad to see them go.

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2 of our “Aussie’s” (which, they taught us, is pronounced “Ozzy”) building a couple of portable chicken tractors for next season.

We have had multiple contacts from potential WWOOF’ers since then.  We are very cautious about who we accept, though.  Many are turned off when I warn them of our faith and standards on the farm.  That’s fine by us, as our children are exposed to them on a daily basis.  Because they are seen by customers, and represent us both on and off the farm, we also have grooming and appearance standards they must agree to.  If all seems agreeable, then we contact past employers or other host farm references.  If they pass that, then they must agree to our farm rules, and we go from there.  We have a girl scheduled to come from a big city for a week in December, another considering coming for the winter, and our first long-term intern/WWOOF’er planning to stay the entire growing season.  He’s actually another international, coming all the way from Italy.  He hardly speaks a word of English, so it will be challenging, but his references are excellent.  Assuming he passes his trial period, it will be wonderful to have him to help next year.  We are doubling most of our farm business, and it is going to be extremely busy.  In exchange, he will receive full room, board, and meals, in addition to learning valuable hands-on experience and farm skills as we work alongside him.

Once again, even in the midst of the rough year we had, God provided.  I am also enjoying learning how to think outside the box when it comes to solving problems.  I mean, here we needed help, and had no idea such programs existed!  What a wonderful resource for both farmers and “students.”  If you are a farmer who could use some help, and enjoy teaching, OR if you are interested in learning or experiencing farm life, then I would encourage you to check out these programs.  There is a cost to sign up and gain access, which helps keep the “riffraff” and free-loaders away, but if you meet just one person that offers what you are looking for, it is worth every cent!

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Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable and strange feeling of someone knowing way too much about you?  It’s a feeling I encounter with increasing frequency.  Most often, it’s because I run into someone–usually a stranger– who has been secretly following our blog for some time.  I have been caught off guard too many times to count, when some stranger walks up and says something like, “Sorry to hear about your calf,” or, “What was the result of your rabbitry experiment?”

With my blog being the last thing on my mind when I am out and about, I usually respond with something like, “Huh?  How do you know about that?”  Duh.  Because I wrote it and published it for all of cyberspace to see.  That’s how.

Well, it happened again.  S and I were out to dinner on a rare, childless date the other night.  Mind you, we live in a small town (around 2,000 pop.), and this was a humble little pizza shop with about 12 tables to choose from.  Another family walked in and sat at the table next to us.  One of the men at this table stood up, walked over to S, and asked, “Are you Red Gate Farm?”  (By the way, Hi Jeff!)

It happened again.  This gentleman knew all about our farm and our family, our journey from CO to IL, and the ups and downs of learning to be farmers.  Word spreads fast in a small town, but as it turns out, he hadn’t learned about us from town gossip.  Rather, as he began his own farming adventure last year, he found us on Google.  Turns out, we live a town apart!  Then, he politely let me know I needed to kickstart myself back into gear and get to writing again!

Honored to know someone actually missed me, I am taking that as my motivation to get back to it.  I will do my best to post regularly as a result.

As usual, life keeps me from blogging right now.  There is so much going on, I just hope I can catch up on the blog one day.

In the mean time, our latest news is that we are now officially, legally, in business as “Red Gate Farm, llc.”   I have decided to divide the blog up into 2 seperate websites.  I will maintain this page for my blog, adoption info, recipes, and resources, which seem to be popular.  All business- and sale related stuff will be on our new website:

www.redgatefarmllc.com

We are excited to have just sent out our first annual newsletter complete with our 2014 order form, and look forward to seeing what this year has in store for us!

 

I was recently honored to be contacted via e-mail by blog reader thebelmontrooster.wordpress.com asking if I would accept the “Very Inspiring Blogger” award.  It totally made my day that a reader found some inspiration in these pages of randomness, also known as the story of my life.  I humbly and gratefully accept:

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What was very honoring is that he wanted me to accept, even after I confessed I was unable to fulfill all the normal terms of a blog award in a timely manner, but I promised to do what I can:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.

2. Display the award on your post

3 List the award rules so your nominees will know what to do.

4. State 7 things about yourself.

5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award, as you are able.  (I can’t fulfill this one, as I don’t even follow 15 blogs!  I’m sure I’ll add blogs over time, though.)

7. Proudly display the award logo (or buttons) to your blog.

I feel terrible that he nominated me for this award almost 2 weeks ago, and I am only just now posting it.  Better late than never, right?  In any case, I guess I have to tell you seven things about myself that you may or may not already know…..hmmm…..

1.  I have been a Type 1 diabetic since I was 4 years old.  You may know that one, but the fact is, I am very blessed by the fact that God has allowed me to break every single statistic out there, as, after 29 years, I have absolutely no complications, and am perfectly healthy.  I actually HAVE gone into mild renal failure (kidney) twice in past years, but as I learned to better control my diabetes and diet, God healed me completely both times.

2.  I wrote a book.  Long time readers and friends know that one already, but hey, I might as well get a little publicity after #1. It’s called “Diabetes: Overcome Your Fears,” and is very reasonably priced on Amazon.com.  It is an easy read, and chock full of all the info I have learned about controlling diabetes and health over the years.  In fact, since I know you are now jumping at the chance to own your very own copy, here is the direct link:http://www.amazon.com/Diabetes-Overcome-D-R-Londrigan/dp/0615326145/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1316884594&sr=8-12  After you read it, please be kind enough to leave a feedback comment on Amazon.com.  If you want a signed, personalized copy, message me here.  It’s the same price plus a couple bucks shipping.

3.  I used to train horses for the mounted police department.  I worked with both the Maryland-National Capital Park Police as a trainer, and I was a rider with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Mounted Posse.  Pretty cool to have the honor of riding my own personally trained horse through the fairgrounds, streets, and shopping districts of Los Angeles County, CA!

4.  My biggest weakness is patience.  God blessed me with 5 beautiful and amazing children and then called me to homeschool, and I have often wondered why he chose to do either.  I certainly don’t feel I extend the patience I should, and feel so unworthy when people accuse me of being a patient person.

5.  Just a few short years ago, we were a typical American family.  Yup, we ate at restaurants regularly, had only a pet cat and dog, watched television daily, didn’t know anything about eating natural, grass-fed, or organic, and by all accounts, were just normal, every-day “city-folk.”  In fact, I really didn’t even know HOW to cook decent food, and I didn’t know know the difference between an artichoke and asparagus.  This blog chronicles our journey.

6.  We don’t own a television.  When JR was a toddler, we tossed the tube, and have never regretted it!  We do use pre-approved, commercial-less Netflix on the computer occasionally, I confess.  It is probably wrong how much I enjoy it when TV, cable, or satellite salesman call me or stop me in the stores to try to get me to sign on.  I LOVE to stop them dead in their tracks with a simple “Don’t waste your time; I don’t own a television.”  It leaves them speechless and stunned every time.

7.  We don’t own a cell phone and I’ve never texted in my life.  I LOVE not being tied to a phone.  I am totally ok with letting my home voicemail answer calls, and then returning them when I have a better time to focus.  We DO, however, have a Tracfone–a pre-paid emergency phone, essentially.  It’s a totally basic flip phone with no internet connections or photo storage (to my knowledge), but something we can carry with us for babysitters, travels, or safety.

OK, guess that’s it for now.  Thank you kindly, again, Belmont Rooster!

Following in her brother’s footsteps, M has been working hard to save money to buy a pet hamster.  After some extra work she did on Saturday, she finally reached her financial goal.  I took her to the pet store, and she picked out a hamster to bring home and call her very own.

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When M witnessed JR get his cockatiels, she got excited.  She decided she wanted a hamster.  At age 7, she was trying to save, but was occasionally tempted to make a spur-of-the-moment purchase.  I periodically reminded her what she was saving for and explained how unplanned purchases would delay her goal.  Other times, I let her blow it and set herself back.  Something clicked for her about a month ago, though.  I think she finally saw that she had ALMOST enough saved, so she hit the chores hard.  The girl has been a workaholic around here lately, doing all kinds of things to earn those last few dollars.  When she had almost enough, I sat down with her and introduced her to price-comparing and researching quality.  We found a hamster cage she liked, some food, and some other odds and ends, and bought it off the internet (it saved her about $15 over the local store prices).  I also bought her a book about hamsters to read while she finished saving the remainder for the hamster itself.

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It was almost surreal standing in that store with my little girl Sunday evening.  I showed her the hamsters she had to choose from, and she started spouting off all sorts of facts. “These prices are pretty good, because my book says hamsters sell for $x much.”  “I don’t think I want this type of hamster, because they are nocturnal, but these types over here aren’t, so I think I would like them more.”  Thankfully, she didn’t repeat publicly what she had told her dad previously, “I decided I want a female, because male hamsters have testicles the size of their heads, and I just don’t think I want to hold a male as much as a female!”  Such innocence on her part, but I think she totally made her dad blush!  The girl knows far more about hamsters, and JR knows a lot more about cockatiels than I ever dreamed they would learn from those books.  I cannot express to you how much I love seeing this.

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Now that they have both taken the steps of pet purchase and ownership, S and I are here to guide them, help when asked, and support as needed.  The birds and hamster are solely their responsibility though.  We have discussed at length that we will not take care of these animals.  If a cage door is left open and the animals escape, or a water dish is not refilled or feed is forgotten and the animals die, as much as I would hate to see that, we believe it will be a critical life lesson.  So far, though, things are looking good.  M has stayed pretty busy taming her new hamster, bringing it treats, and trying to make it friendly.  It seems to be working, which results in one very proud little girl!

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