Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Choosing Home

I am excited to share today a fabulous project that I feel very blessed to be involved.

Choosing Home: 20 Mothers Celebrate Staying Home, Raising Children, and Changing the World is a thoughtful and inspiring collection of writings from 20 moms who stay at home. Each essay is unique in experience and reasons to choose home instead of an outside career. I am thrilled to be one of the 20 moms featured in the beautiful book. The two fabulous ladies who pulled this project together and edited, Rachel Chaney and Kerry McDonald, did a spectacular job, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to work with them. Are you ready for the great deal on this book?

For the next few days you can get your copy for FREE!!!!!

Choosing Home: 20 Mothers Celebrate Staying Home, Raising Children, and Changing the World is now available on Amazon. For FIVE days only, starting Tuesday, May 26, the book will be available for FREE. Grab a copy and enjoy twenty eloquent and thought-provoking stories of mothers who have chosen to postpone or forgo careers to raise their children. On the heels of much media attention surrounding the positive impact of working mothers, Choosing Home argues instead that mothers (and fathers) can change the world by focusing on their families.  See for yourself what the buzz is all about. Get your copy today!

Monday, May 18, 2015

That Real Food Plan

For the most part we eat a healthy diet around here. We raise all of our meat and I prepare most of the meals from scratch.

But then there are things like potato chips, cheese crackers in the shape of fish, and honey nut cheerios. To say we ate whole and real foods would be a lie.

                   *****Raw milk camembert I made a while back******

When you begin to really read the labels of packaged foods, you see that sugar is in almost everything. The problem with sugar is that it is highly inflammatory and is probably the biggest issues that leads to illness in the US.

I am not just talking about white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Those yummy fruits, like grapes, are loaded with sugar. Yes fruits are whole foods, but sugar is sugar. Honey and maple syrup? Those are better than granulated sugar, but it must still be consumed lightly.

Because I am always looking for new ways to challenge myself and to load myself down with more work. I decided to try and switch us over to more real foods and whole foods. I blame Pinterest. I saw a pin come across my feed about *real food* and it got the wheels turning.

The past week we have started our food journey. The basic premise is that you only consume whole foods and any packaged items must have 5 ingredients or less. Processed foods are out.
Now, I didn't throw any food out because that is wasteful, plus you have to sort of wean your kids and yourself off the processed food you love so much. (I may or may not be hoarding the last bag of potato chips.)

Take a look in your pantry and see how much processed foods are in there. It is amazing when you actively look for such foods, how they have accumulated into even the best diets.

So here is what we have on the menu for the week for dinner:

Whole wheat pizza
Crock Pot Chicken Tacos
Baked Spaghetti with salad and artisan bread
Braised Beef with veggies and rice
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Rosemary Encrusted Roast and Roasted Veggies
Ricotta Cheese Pancakes

Lunch has consisted of leftovers, egg salad and whole wheat bread, and sliced roast on pita bread.

Breakfast has been muffins, oatmeal, smoothies, and eggs with toast.

Sounds simple, right? Looks like I have it all figured out and organized, right? Well, let me tell you that I have one word for this meal plan: EXHAUSTING!!!!

I have been in the kitchen everyday for long stretches, and that is on top of making cheeses almost each day. My wheat grinder has been over drive and the oven has been baking foods almost non-stop.

Breakfast has been the toughest because I love having cereal around. It's simple and the kids can make it themselves. When the mornings include milking cows, a large breakfast is not something that happens here.
I did make some granola cereal and the kids loved it, however it only lasted one day. Making enough cereal for 9 people can be daunting.
I also made some flavored coffee creamer, and I will admit that it is quite yummy. I doubled the recipe and it is lasting a good while.

Lunch meat is another item to go because it is heavily processed, so I cooked a roast and sliced it for sandwich meat. I have a freezer full of grass fed beef and it is good to use it up.

Yesterday I went to the local Chattanooga farmer's market to buy strawberries, thinking I could make jam and let the kids snack on berries. Wouldn't you know that all the farmers but one was sold out within the first hour? I bought a few from the farmer who still had some, but they were overly ripe and not good for snacking. Instead I made crepes and whipped some fresh cream to add to the strawberries for a dessert. We were all thrilled with that scenario.

Awe, yes...my first world problem.

 I intend to stick with this and see it through the difficult adjustment period. Devin and I do go on *dates* once a week and I will be able to order and eat what I want (does that sandwich come with chips? Can I order extra chips?????)

So tell me, how have you adjusted real foods or are you thinking about making the switch? Ideas and suggestions are always welcome!!!

Happy Monday Ya'll!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Sorrow, The Loss

I always say that when you have great days on the farm, enjoy it. Relish it. Never forget what that great day feels like.
Eventually you will have a crappy day, and you will need those great days to keep you going.

I have suffered my share of losses, mostly chickens and calves, over the years. I have had days when it was too rainy, too dry, too hot and too cold. I have suffered through days of being unsure of my decisions and days of not knowing what the next day would bring.

There have been days when I really missed the easy going neighborhood life, the long family vacations and even the spur of the moment adventures away from home.

Some days I feel completely isolated from the *outside* world, like I have not a single friend with whom I can visit and share stories.

None of those days, however, can compare to the complete devastation I experienced yesterday. Devastation that I am still feeling today, deep in my gut and my soul. I am so sad and so full of despair at times that it is difficult to even breathe. My only solace is that I know farming and caring for livestock has its ups and downs. It is not for the faint of heart, in fact it is for the full of heart.

My sweet ewe, Lila, was not a sheep I wanted to breed this year. She was my most valuable ewe in terms of money value and heart value. Her fleece was a delicious combination of Teeswater and Black Wensleydale , and it had a soft sheen like no other I have seen. She was a dominant ewe in my flock, yet she was very gentle. Her only flaw was that she was not a good mother, therefore I was done breeding her. Her life was to be spent on the farm giving beautiful fleeces and that's it, until she decided to break from her paddock last fall and find my ram.

4 hours with my ram was all it took to make sure we would be watching her closely all spring waiting for lambs, usually triplets. Last week she appeared over due and ready to lamb at anytime, however she experienced a vaginal prolapse. The vet came to fix her up and we determined she was not yet in labor. Since then we kept a close watch on her, every 2 hours.

She was fine. She was grazing and eating and keeping with the flock, until yesterday. I noticed that she finally separated herself from the others about 7 am. She wasn't eating and she had a slight discharge. Finally, she was in labor. I removed her sutures and continued to monitor her every 30 minutes. She never seemed to be in distress and I was happy to finally get the pregnancy over and have lambs.
It only took a 30 minute time frame for her to collapse. To perish. In only 30 minutes she was no longer standing, but on her side and completely dead.
What did I miss? What did we do wrong?
It was too late for anything to be done to save her or the lambs.
Just like that my sweet, favorite ewe was gone. All hope of three babies was gone. Weeks of anticipation were replaced with utter and complete loss. Emptiness.

In that very moment I questioned everything I was doing. The sorrow, the anger, the disbelief instantly makes you wonder if you chose the right life out here on this land.

I need the great days, or at least memories of those great days. Those days when a calving goes perfectly and a cheese tastes fantastic. Those days when all the hens are laying eggs and the meat birds weigh more than expected. The days when all the hay gets stacked in the barn before it rains and all of the milking cows stand perfectly at milking time.

Today I reflect and cling to those good days, the great days, because the sorrow of losing Lila seems too much to bear. Am I being overly dramatic? Maybe, but I am not faint of heart. I am full of heart, much like most of the farmers and horse people I know.

Am I doing the wrong thing by farming? Should I give up? Maybe. You know it is hard at times, and it can feel daunting to keep up with everything at times, but I can't quit.
 I won't quit.
Deep in my gut I feel sad and powerless, but deeper still my will is strong.

Rest in Peace sweet Lila.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Under Pressure

The last two weeks here have been filled with baby chicks, foster dogs and constant attempts to keep chores caught up. Add some homeschooling into that mix and you have very full days.

My favorite ewe, Lila, has been also expecting to lamb any day now. I was not planning to have any lambs this year, but Lila snuck into the ram paddock back in December. I love Lila and her fleece is so fabulous, but she has this one issue that makes lambing difficult. She's not a very attentive mother.
Lila typically has triplets, but she will just drop them on the ground and walk off, hence House Lamb Flicka.
The last couple of weeks have been spent walking outside throughout the days and nights to check on her, to watch for signs of labor.
Lila is huge!! Her belly protrudes out incredibly from the pressure of growing lambs, and each day I think she will labor at any moment.

Just when you think things couldn't possibly get any more crazy, well, things get crazier.

Lila presented with a vaginal prolapse yesterday, no doubt caused by the incredible pressure of the lambs. Sorry for the graphic picture, but it is what it is and farm life can be quite graphic at times.

I called the vet and then proceeded to rub sugar all over it to keep it moist and to shrink the swelling a bit.

Lila didn't appear to be in pain, but she was straining and pushing.

The only thing to do is put it back in and sew her up so it cannot come back out.
I love my farm vet and he promptly came out with an assistant and a new vet grad. Together we got Lila restrained and fixed back up.

Yes, we are smiling. This type of issue isn't a life or death emergency, but rather just something that must be fixed. The youngest kids were standing by watching the vet and also had some lively comments about the procedure.

He used strong cotton tape/string as a suture material. He got it closed up very tight. Nothing will be coming out. NOTHING!

The problem is that she is pregnant and due anytime. (sigh) She has 3 lambs that will need to come out of there. This, of course, can only mean one thing!
I must check on Lila every couple of hours, day and night, to watch for any signs of labor. Mostly I am looking for mucus. Once I decide she is in labor I will remove her sutures.
No big deal, right?

Sleep and sanity are overrated.

Happy Friday Ya'll!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I Quit

Today I finally said , "Enough! I quit!!"

I was trying to finish up a quilt I have been working on for over a year. It's a beautiful quilt, but I just haven't been able to muster the energy to finish the borders or the corners (all which require lots of piecing!). This quilt has always been a big pain to me, but I guilt myself into working on it when I can.

I spent several hours last week cutting the fabric pieces out and all I lacked was the sewing.

Usually when I sew on a project I will spend all day in my studio jamming to Pandora and sipping on a sweet beverage. Today I tried.

I spent a couple of hours at my machine. I tried to love the process. I attempted to be crazy in love with this quilt.

                                                   ***Halfway finished quilt***

I tried.

I really did. I did not enjoy a single minute spent on this quilt today.

The problem is that I have 24 hours in my day. 24 hours to really work on things I love. 24 hours to be with people I love. 24 hours to truly feel passionate.

This quilt, this project just fails me. Finally I quit.

Oh, I have enough to make a nice size quilt as a throw or a table cover. So I ironed the quilt smooth, neatly folded it and placed it in a bag with backing fabric. In a couple of weeks I will give it to my favorite long arm quilter to finish.

It felt great.

What did I do with the rest of my 24 hours?

I concocted a new cheddar cheese, one with 5 peppers to spice it up!

I played with puppies and with my little boys, who also played with puppies.

Finally, I made a promise to myself to not pursue activities and projects that do ignite any sense of love or passion or spark.
Life's too short ya'll. Go make the most of these next 24 hours!

Happy Saturday Ya'll!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Accept It and Move On

It has been one of those weeks when you just feel like one thing after the other is going badly, a week when you seriously dream of living in a subdivision again.

For starters, my white female goose went missing. I am sure she was the victim of some predator, although we have looked and not seen any evidence of a goose kill. She is gone, though.

Then we lost 6 ducks over a 3 night span. This time there were sign of a kill and it looks like an owl got them. They have been out in the pond paddock, which is currently empty of livestock. I am letting that paddock rest after a winter of overgrazing.
Tonight the ducks are moved closer to the house and with my sheep nearby.

Most of the time my bull dogs are great at keeping the predators at bay, but when it is raining outside I let them stay in the house.

Rain? Oh yes, we have had several inches the last week. I was almost ready to buy a canoe at one point. Muck and mud are amplified 100x when it has been pouring rain.

The most tragic event, however, was the freezer mishap. During a storm (I can only assume) a GFCI kicked to one of my freezers. I didn't notice until several days later, only to discover 90 pounds of ground beef from our steer and 2 large turkeys from the fall ruined.

I cried. I cried a bunch. This was not only a huge loss in meat, but a waste of a steer that I respected. I truly feel guilty for letting it ruin and waste, like I did not follow through on my end as a farmer.

After several days of moping and being upset I finally did what every farmer must eventually do and that is to accept it and move on.

That's tough sometimes, truly. In fact, it is probably one of the most difficult things to do.

Accept It and Move On

The mama dog we are fostering is doing great and so are her puppies. This mama dog loves to be around people and follows me everywhere. We have moved them all up into the main house area, and we have them situated in the laundry room.
The weather has been nice so I do get them all outside some too. The mama dog is house broken now and really a sweet dog to hug.

The boys got new hats from the dealer we bought the tractor from and they love to wear them! We actually took the boys out on Monday to run errands and it was a fun afternoon out. They are both a hoot!

Finally, I collaborated with one of my dearest friends to create an art  quilt for a silent auction that will be held for North Korea Freedom Week in Washington.

It was a really fun project and I am always happy to be part of such a great event. Most of the fabrics are hand dyed and the theme is more of a positive one. I like that.

Now, the only other thing that needs to happen this week is for Lila to lamb. We have been watching her closely and I am hopeful that by tomorrow we will have some healthy babies.

Accept it and move on...because life keeps moving.

Monday, April 13, 2015


The days just get busier and busier!
This weekend we had perfect weather for working outdoors, so we decided to tackle the garden bed mess.

First we moved a raised bed to another spot, in order to make parking the tractor easier. Then Devin lifted all of the half barrel planters and dumped them into the raised bed. There was nice planting soil in the barrels and I am through with any large gardening. I will only be using my 3 raised beds and a few pots on my porch.

With the barrels gone and the beds cleaned up, it looks much nicer now. I may or may not plant many vegetables this year. Honestly I feel like I am at full capacity, as far as what I can do. I might plant some annual flowers and just patron a local farmer for vegetables.

I also finished class 3 of 4 of my Kid Embroidery Class. Rose did a fantastic job and will be hanging her embroidery art up on a wall...as soon as I can locate the picture nails.
This class was an embroidery of their handprint, a gift for Mother's Day.

When you get a call from a farmer friend wanting to sell a most beautiful and healthy heifer calf, you just say , "YES!"

We loaded her up into the back of our favorite stock trailer van and brought her home. She is a very healthy calf, born last November, and will make a fine milking cow one day.

She is the same age as our baby steer and she is happily out grazing the pasture with all of the other cows.

Saturday we burned her horns, a chore we always dread. It must be done however! Horns can be dangerous to not only other cows, but to any person who is milking and caring for the cows.

Of course this beautiful Jersey needed a name, so the kids all thought long and hard about what to name her. They decided to name her after the family cow in the show The Waltons.
They named her Chance.

Welcome to the farm Chance!!!!

Happy Monday Ya'll!!!

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