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Showing posts with label farm life with children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farm life with children. Show all posts

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Babies, Babies Everywhere!

I've been rather "blah" lately.  Maybe it's the spring teaser we got in February when it was over seventy degrees for a week, and this morning it was nine!  Maybe it's this long stretch between holidays with nothing very exciting to celebrate.  Maybe it's Lent.  Maybe it's middle age.  Or maybe it's just my funky mood.  Regardless, I don't have many creative juices flowing through my veins right now, and I don't feel especially witty or interesting or profound.  So instead of talking about nothing, I thought I'd show you what life is like around the barnyard these days.  We just had another set of twin goat kids born on Friday, and there are babies all over the place.

We have baby goats.

Black goats and brown goats.

Tan and creme colored goats.

And we have baby sheep.

White sheep and gray/tan sheep.


And we have goats who ride on sheep.

I would certainly be remiss if I didn't include my favorite baby around here who doesn't live in the barn.

From the dining room/multipurpose room of the Preppy Mountain Farmhouse, I'm wishing you all a week that's not "blah."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Those Unexpected Sad Days on a Farm

This was not the topic I planned to write about this weekend.  It certainly doesn't fit my cheerful Christmas theme I've got going on for the next few weeks.  But life has a way of taking turns that we don't plan on or control, doesn't it?  Today we lost one of our best nanny goats.  She was one of our original herd caprines that we purchased back in December 2010.  Her name was Cadbury, and she has been the best mother to her robust healthy babies and a fantastic milker.  Even though she spent her days out in the pasture and her nights in the barn, she felt like a member of our family.  Our goats have always been more like family pets than livestock, and we haven't lost an adult goat or sheep in a number of years, so it was especially hard and shocking to lose one this weekend.  

So instead of writing a post on Christmas decor, food, or traditions, I am tearfully composing a picture post in memory of this beloved member of our farm family.  She will be missed very much.

We are grateful to Cadbury for all the adorable babies she brought into the world, and the milk she gave us, and the blue ribbons she won for our children at the fair, and for the laughs.  No matter how many years we have this little hobby farm, the losses are always so incredibly sad.  We're grieving today, but I promise my next post will be a cheerful one. 

Blessings to you all.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Our Life Through the Eyes of My Children

One of my birthday gifts this year was a poem written by our 14 year-old daughter about her life---our life.  This has become one of my most cherished possessions.

Where I'm From

I am from homemade bread and scalding hot chili.
From sweet smelling Dawn dish soap and almost empty cans of Lysol.
I am from long, screaming games of Zilch and hours of poker.
From green Irish signs on the wall and small Celtic crosses.
I am from piles of shoes in the kitchen and cats on the couches.  
From the blasting of Bon Jovi and endless Michael Jackson videos.

I am from sheep in the backyard and baby goats climbing over tires. 
From red and brown hair and golden eyes.
I am from the tattered books
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
and Love You Forever.
From wiffle ball and chocolate chip cookie bars.
I am from photos, paintings, and sharpie pictures on the walls.
From long walks in the forest and wading in the creek.

I am from the fallen willow tree and escaping animals.
From gigantic pine trees and sticky sap you could only get off with peanut butter.
I am from homeschooling and field trips to Asher's Chocolates.
From prayers in the evening
and soft songs and Bible readings throughout the day.

And on the crowded bookshelf in my living room,
I find lost memories and grins.
I am from these recollections,
These memories make me, me.

On the days when our life seems too messy, too noisy, rather chaotic, and I ask myself why we're living so far away from everything and should I return to work full-time so money isn't so tight, I look at this poem on our refrigerator, and I know all is as it should be.
And I thank our dear daughter for giving me a glimpse into our life through her eyes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Butting Heads: The Joys and Frustrations of Owning Goats

     My husband wants to buy another billy goat.  I am reluctant to agree to this.  We have only had five female Nigerian Dwarf goats on our farm for the past year, and there have definitely been fewer hassles.  Once we bring in another buck, I know my frustrations with the goats (and my husband) will greatly increase.  When it is breeding season (which it is right now,) we have never been successful at keeping these goats under control.  All bets are off as the male does everything in his power to get to the does, and sometimes the girls do the same.  Then there are these extremely cute babies born in late winter when we have freezing temperatures, and my entire family wants to bring them inside and raise them like house cats.  It does not make me happy.  But I have to admit that I do love seeing little goat kids jump and twist and play in the pasture, and I miss the fresh goat's milk that I turn into pudding, yogurt, ice cream, and butter.  So today I sort through the positive and negative aspects of raising goats, and maybe by the end of this post, I'll come to a decision to either concede or remain stubbornly opposed to a new addition to our farm.

     Goats have personality---way more so than our sheep.  Some are shy and stand back to watch what you and the rest of the herd will do before they come near.  Some are bullies as they are always trying to keep someone else below them in the pecking order.  There is always a Queen Bee who gets to be first at everything, even if it's something she won't enjoy, such as vaccinations or hoof trimming. Some are more athletic than others and go to great lengths to get out of the luscious green pasture you have put them in to get to the other side of the fence just to eat the same grass that they were already eating.  Some are the most wonderful, attentive mothers to their kids and never let them out of their sight.  Others want nothing to do with them and we have to hold them still just to let their babies nurse from them.  Most of our goats are extremely friendly and absolutely love to be scratched and talked to.  The queen of our herd is especially fond of my husband and acts like he belongs to her. Once we got goats, they quickly became my favorite animal to own.  They feel more like our pets than our livestock, which makes it hard to sell the surplus to others, but once they start having babies, there are just too many goats to keep.

     I forgot to mention that there is a clown of the herd too with lots of quirky habits, such as jumping into open vehicles and hoping for a ride.  This leads me to my biggest frustration with owning miniature goats: their ability to escape and their total lack of respect for boundaries.  We thought we were being so smart to use metal stock panels for fencing.  My husband moves them around our land to practice rotational grazing.  They are supposed to be escape-proof, but obviously, the designers never owned this breed of goat.  Not only can the kids squeeze right through the openings when they're little, but the adults find all kinds of ingenious ways to get out.  Sometimes they put all their weight against the middle of a panel until it bows out enough and sags down, and they either jump over it or push their way under it.  Even though we disbud our goats as kids, the bucks sometimes keep a remnant of a horn, and we have witnessed them use that horn to pull a fence panel hard enough to pop the staples right out of the wooden fence posts.  Several of our goats have been able to jump straight up and over six feet high fences.  Sometimes the younger ones get on the backs of our larger sheep and jump over the fence that way.  One of our goats can actually climb the stock panels like a ladder, as could her twin brother, who was the infamous billy goat who could always find a way to get to the girls when it was time for breeding.

     In addition to the escape methods I already mentioned, we have a few very agile goats who can climb trees.  Okay, they can't actually climb straight up a tree (at least, I don't think so) but if a tree is growing at an angle or has partially fallen, they climb it and walk on it like a tightrope until they are on the other side of the fence, and then they leap down.  When the wind uprooted this willow tree, it was like a jungle gym for some of our goats.  My husband didn't think they would do this because it was quite high off the ground, but they did.  Of course, our garden was directly underneath the end of this tree.  When one goat would do this, the rest would watch, and then one by one, they would all give it a try.  The heavier ones weren't successful, fortunately, but the ones who were did it over and over again until our son cut the tree into pieces.

     One of the best things about having goats is that they do help with keeping a couple of acres "mowed" for us, and they also eat up all of the fruit and vegetable scraps and peels that we have.  This comes in especially handy now when we are saucing and drying apples and have the cores and peels remaining.  They gobble this kind of stuff up like candy.  They are our living garbage disposals.  The flip side of this is that they also eat things you don't want them to have.  Since they are escape artists, they run to berry bushes, grape vines, strawberry patches, and young fruit and nut trees.  In the four years we have had goats, they have destroyed a rare chestnut tree, all of our newly planted pear trees and blueberry bushes, our entire strawberry patch, numerous wild raspberry bushes, and the entire row of grape vines.  Not to mention crop after crop of just about everything in our gardens.  I told my husband that he can either have goats or he can have produce, but he can't have both at the same time.  He, however, believes he will outsmart them and will successfully keep them contained.  We shall see.

     Last Halloween is a perfect example of how their culinary tastes can be a good thing and a bad thing.  While we were carving our jack-o-lanterns, the herd escaped and came straight to where we were on the front porch.  While it was great that they wanted to eat the pumpkin pulp and some of the seeds, it was not good that they also tried to eat our pumpkins.  It was impossible to get any carving done with them loose because we couldn't keep their heads out of the insides of our jack-o-lanterns. There were also no seeds left for roasting.  This is also a huge problem in the winter time when we keep 50 pound bags of sweet feed stored in the garage.  Every time we would bring in a goat to milk, the whole herd would ambush us and devour the bag of feed in minutes.  Moderation is not their strong point.

     What is one of their strong points is winning blue ribbons for our children at the local county fair.  This summer was the first one in five years that none of our children showed goats, and it was rather sad.  Because we sold our last remaining buck last fall, we had no breedings, and therefore, no kids this year at all.  Since Nigerian Dwarfs are considered dairy goats, they don't place well in a show without an udder full of milk.  With none of the nannies in milk and no kids to show, there was no goat show for us this year.  The miniature goats steal the hearts of people walking through, especially the children.

     If we purchase a new billy goat now, we will probably have kids in March or April.  Our goats typically have twins, but singletons and triplets are not uncommon, and we have even had quadruplets once, so it is possible to have as many as twenty goat kids here next summer.  That would be a lot of fun for the children, as well as give them a chance to be in the 4-H Youth Fair again.  It will mean I'll have to find homes for most, if not all, of the kids after the fair, but that's also extra income, and our children get to keep some of that.  It will mean lots of milk for us, but also the extra work of milking that someone has to do every day.  It means no vacation because it's so difficult to find someone to come and not only feed and water all of our animals, but also milk five of them daily. Even though goats are small and easier to handle than cows, if they don't want to be milked, they do everything in their power to make the task nearly impossible for you.  They chew on your hair or your collar, kick the milking pail, step in the milking pail, and even collapse their entire bodies on the milking stand so you can't even get your hand underneath them.  We had one goat that someone had to hold upright while the other person milked as fast as they could.  These are some of the frustrations I'm referring to.  Do I really want to deal with all that again?

     Yes, I think I am willing.  In an unexplainable way, these goats bring us together as a family. When our son comes running up from the barn to announce that babies are being born, we all throw on our coats and boots and go running down, ready to assist if necessary in eager anticipation of witnessing the miracle of new life.  When a smaller one looks too weak or cold to make it through the night, we take turns wrapping it up and holding it and giving it all our warmth and love and positive energy.   From youngest to oldest, we all go out to the pasture to watch the kids frolic and play with one another.  We can't resist holding and brushing them and taking lots of photographs.  As a family, we decide what to name each one because it's our tradition to name all kids born on our farm the name of a different cheese. When we expect new births, we peruse the gourmet cheese sections of the upscale supermarkets because we've used up all the common cheese names.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, when a goat gets sick, we all help take care of it, and we are praying for it as a family at the end of the day. So, for reasons that are more emotional than sensible, I think I'll suggest to my husband that we do some goat shopping this weekend.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mom's Cookies and MeeMaw Muffins as Comfort Food

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies (They're not what they look like!)

     Even though our children had a great first week at their new school, it was still an adjustment.   We all had to get used to waking up each morning by 6 AM since it is a 45 minute drive to school.  Dozens of papers were filled out and signed; four lunchboxes were packed in the morning; and there was a frantic shopping trip to numerous stores for book covers which seemed to be sold out everywhere (we ended up getting the last remaining ones at Staples.)  They were introduced to new teachers, made new friends, and adapted to a new routine.  Our youngest was such a proud first grader with real homework each afternoon that she eagerly tackled as soon as she got home.  They even made it through a week of humid, ninety degree days in a school with no air conditioning.
     By Friday, I wanted to have a treat waiting for them when we got home from school to celebrate their first week.  Although I love to bake cookies, it was just too darn hot to heat up the oven for an hour.  So I quickly cooked up a batch of chocolate no-bake cookies.  I still remember making these annually in home economics class in middle school, and they were one of the first treats I learned to make.  Okay, maybe they're not the most attractive cookie (I won't mention what my boys said the above photo looked like,) but they are yummy.  They started the weekend off right.

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups quick cooking oatmeal

Mix the sugar, milk, cocoa, and butter in a pot.  Cook on medium heat and keep stirring until it boils. Remove from heat and let cool for one minute.  Add the vanilla, peanut butter, salt and oatmeal.  Stir well.  Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper or parchment paper.  Chill in refrigerator, and if it's hot like it's been here this week, store in refrigerator too.

MeeMaw Muffins

     Our weekend continued to get better with the arrival of grandparents from out of town.  Life is always a bit of a celebration when they come to visit, and they know that our children also look forward to their grandma's big red tin of "MeeMaw Muffins."  No matter how busy she is before they leave their house, she always finds time to bake a variety of breakfast muffins: strawberry, blueberry, chocolate chip, cranberry, and brown sugar & cinnamon.  This time she surprised us with banana nut muffins for the first time along with blueberry ones.  I won't disclose her secret recipes here or they won't be exclusive MeeMaw muffins anymore.
     These particular muffins held special significance as comfort food when our weekend took a sad turn. When we awoke Saturday morning, we discovered that our tiger-striped "barn cat" had died unexpectedly in the night.  Life on a farm means we are exposed to both new life and unexplained death from time to time.  With the livestock, we expect these occasional losses, even though every life lost is mourned here.  However, it is rare for us to find one of our cats or dogs lifeless on the back porch.  Many of our cats have gone off into the woods to hunt here on our mountain only to never be seen again.  This young kitty, however, rarely left our porch because he always wanted to be the first one to be fed throughout the day, so his passing was quite a shock.  Such a seemingly small loving touch of leaving homemade MeeMaw muffins on the kitchen table actually brought some comfort to our younger children upon their sad awakening and made the morning a wee bit better.  While food alone certainly can't bring solace and heal all sadness, special foods made with the intention to share our love with others can truly be comfort food.

Any food can be comfort food if made and served with love.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Traditions #3: Shelling Peas on the Porch

Although my parents no longer keep a vegetable garden, we did always have one in the summer when I was growing up.  My sister and I were responsible for tossing out rocks (a job that we hated) and helping shell peas, snap beans, and shuck corn.  My mother would then blanch and freeze dozens of little plastic baggies stuffed full of the produce for us to consume in the winter.  I actually liked shelling peas.  We would sit on the porch and talk and sample a few of the delicious raw sweet peas while we worked.  Corn shucking was just as fun as we eagerly anticipated eating the mouth watering corn on the cob dripping with melted butter and salt later in the day.

I picked the last of our sugar peas the other day, and our youngest patiently helped me shell peas while we swung on the porch swing, talking and watching the butterflies and bumblebees retrieve nectar from the flowering bushes next to us.  Any peas that popped out of the shells and missed the bowl were played with by one of our cats as she ran all over the porch chasing and pawing at the pea like a hockey player after a puck.  It took us about an hour to shell one basket of peas, and in the end, we only froze 2 quarts.  Now this was our fourth harvesting, and we also got a meal out of all the baby sugar peas still in their pods, which are truly the best.  However, when I can buy a pound of frozen organic peas for $2, it sometimes makes me question whether it was worth the total time of 3 hours that it took me to pick, sort, shell, and bag those peas.  But how do you put a price on knowing that the food you are serving your family came from your own hands and land?  Not to mention that the childhood experience of shelling peas on the porch swing with your mama wouldn't exist if I purchased all our produce from the supermarket.  So I will carry on this childhood tradition as well and hope that my children will grow up to cherish these memories as much as I do.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Mornings at a Preppy Mountain Farm

Years ago, when we first began this farming adventure, and while we were still homeschooling all the younger children, someone asked me what our days look like.  Now that everyone is home on summer break, life feels much like it did then.  This is a glimpse into our summer mornings on a preppy mountain farm.

Walking barefoot in the dewy grass that always seems to need mowing.

Enjoying coffee and a look at the latest Country Living magazine on my porch rocker, which was a Mother's Day gift from Cracker Barrel last year.

Collecting eggs, which is now a daily egg hunt since the hens are currently free-ranging...

...and picking vegetables from the garden before it gets too hot and buggy.

Walking Tippy on one of our mountain paths.  I think she was waiting for me to join them.

Checking out growing fruit and hoping the apples will survive the chipmunk population this summer.

Playing a game of checkers or other board game on the front porch.  Note that painting our 3 porches is on the summer project to-do list this year.

I hate to admit that there is a little bit of electronic use too.

Minecraft, Age of Empires, and Pinterest are particularly popular in our house right now.

Sprucing up my middle aged feet with these cool footless beaded sandals made for me by my teenage daughter a few years ago at a summer camp.

I cherish these lazy mornings at home and fight the pressure to over-schedule our summer days with too many day trips, camps, lessons, sleepovers, or playdates.  There is some of that, of course, but I really hope our children grow up with memories of summer vacations filled with time to relax, to daydream, to even get a little bit bored.  I guess I want these summers while the children are still relatively young to feel as if they are occurring in slow motion.