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Wow!  Another month has flown by since the last posting.  I’ve definitely gotten out of the habit.  I also wanted to take some time off of the internet, as it can impact the way one shapes their life – and I’d assume more reality once in a while.  I’ve stuck with mostly photo’s (less words) on social media.  More words to human faces.  It’s been a good season.  It’s also rejuvenated me to start again sharing my life here more.  A season of rest is a good thing.

In an effort to start somewhere, not knowing where that will be, I will start with sharing my today.

This morning we started with typical all-kids-piled-in-our-bed snuggles, followed by blueberry muffins Adyn had made from scratch.  Then on to chores; later, schooling.  This morning we decided to wean our 3 lambs (6 & 7 weeks, respectively) from the bottle.  They now spend their days with the big sheep, and are ready to graduate more fully.  By next Tuesday, our ewe lamb will live with the big girls; the boys in the hill pasture.  Segregation is a part of these fuzzy lives at this point in maturity.

As Kendra and I were leaving to art class, Adyn came and let us know that Scarlet had – at long last! – birthed a healthy baby boy out in the side field under the shady trees.  On a farm you’ve just got to be flexible.  Decked in our “town clothes” (don’t laugh, we have town clothes), we left the AC on in the car and went out to check on the two.  Scarlet looked great.  Baby needed a snip, dip, and Mama strip.  We left Adyn in charge to monitor feedings and placenta delivery.

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Oh the irony that we thought we were done bottle feeding this morning.

With a freezer full of milk, we’ll be able to use both Scarlet & Willow’s for the family after she shares her colostrum with the wee one.  More cheese.

This does leave us, however, one head over our chosen limit of sheep.  We’ll decide soon on Marley’s retirement plan and/or upping our goal for filling the freezer.  Marley has shown slight improvement in the last week and a half (we’ve battled keeping weight on her for a year and a half – she’s a heavy, heavy producer and it gets the better of her) as we’ve had one last idea to try and have been working on.  We may keep her through the milking season (or not).  Especially now that we have American Guinea Hogs coming early next week that would love the deliciousness.  We are thrilled to add bacon to our homestead meats again!  It’s feeling so much more well-rounded these days.  Especially knowing we’ll have duck & goose joining the lamb in the freezer soon.  Our chicken still comes from a farmer friend who raises it cheaper than we can.

We’re flooded in eggs right now.  Yesterday we got our first quail egg from the new hatch of girls.  Today they multiplied.  The goose egg basket is over-flowing.  Chickens are being generous.  The nettles and other spring greens are in full-swing.  I feel healthy these days.

Fresh homemade tortillas made by Kendra. Topped with portobello, onions and garlic, apples, lemon vinaigrette and wild nettles.

Fresh homemade tortillas made by Kendra. Topped with portobello, onions and garlic, apples, lemon vinaigrette and wild nettles.

It helps (feeling healthy) that this weekend I walked miles.  Miles, I tell you.  For anyone that knows me, I don’t walk.  It’s the weirdest thing in the world to me, and I’d rather be digging, hiking, hoe-ing, shoveling, exploring, planting, picking… well, just about anything other than “organized exercise.”  But this was different.  At the WSFB Leadership Conference, a fun fellow put together a Scavenger Hunt throughout a several-block radius of the hotel in Wenatchee we were staying at.  And this was no normal hunt.  It was ridiculous.  And hard.  I’d show you the blisters, but I don’t want you to get vomit in your keyboard.  I’ll spare you the clean up.  It was fantastic – and I felt really motivated to stay particularly on task with not letting my body just flop apart as I grow, grow, grow!

I’ve still been in a bit of denial.  I can’t wait to feel this little one move inside me.  Now and then I think I feel something, then remind myself that my digestive system has always been like a volcano looking to erupt.  Only it never does.  It just rumbles and grumbles like an old crotchety rocking chair, reminding me of it’s presence and control of my humiliation level.  All.  The.  Time.  More so in quiet moments.  Always when I wish it wouldn’t.  Story of my life.  Probably not the baby.  Yet.  A home doppler this round has made for every few nightly fun for the family!

I’ve been purging like mad.  Our home life has become too easy since we decided to let things go several years ago now.  I’d recommend it.  The more we give, the more we receive.  <chuckle>  And so 3 more boxes of clothes left the family closet today.  We can’t seem to keep to a minimum, and yet hardly ever buy.  I love it.  Swapping and sharing, hand-me-downs and re-gifting.  Never in need for long.  It’s a good way to live.

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Love her heart.

Late to art class due to Scarlet’s lovely addition to the farm, we stopped by to drop off a birthday gift for her instructor.  The other student had also not been able to show up, so we encouraged her to take the afternoon off, and left for errands and a girlie coffee date.  They’ll be back at it next week.  Working clay and making pottery.  I love how they continue to work all different mediums with their minds and hands.  I love how personal her classes are.  How intimate and bonding they’ve been.  How much Kendra can grow and blossom in it.

For those who hadn’t heard, Kendra submitted her first art piece to a high school level, agricultural Art Contest.  She won first place!  It was displayed over this past weekend, many asking to purchase it.  She did end up selling it to the Farm Bureau to frame and display in their state office in Lacey.  In November, it will be auctioned off to benefit young farmers & ranchers.  Prints are available for sale.  She is working on designing an online store to launch shortly.  We are beyond proud of her.  She has now also opened a banking account.  It’s awesome to see her success and potential future in a field she adores.

"Field of Dreams," painted on canvas using acrylics.

“Field of Dreams,” painted on canvas using acrylics.

As I type, a couple are on motorcycles running the track and yards.  Scott’s hard at work moving a hot tub we’ve added for fun.  Flynn is decked out in an apron and painting on an easel on the porch.  The sun is just setting leaving beautiful light.  Flynn’s playhouse solar lights are starting to pop on.  The hammock is looking awfully inviting swaying in the warm breeze.  So, so, so thankful for this quiet season.  This moment.

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Just wanted to give you an update on the homestead.  It seems like it’s been an awful long while since I posted.  And even then, it’s been sparse for a long while.  Ebbs and flows, this life.  I suppose that’s reflected in a blog as well.  The good news is: life is good.

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We’ve started Locavore Deliveries back up.  We’ve been doing this since 2004 (?), when we first started sharing farm products.  We’re doing every other week right now, and are doing bulk buys until more spring local farm fare is in.  We’ve bought a pail of real maple from our Maine farmer friend.  Many pails worth of honey from the beekeeper that only keeps her hives from Ridgefield to Woodland.  We’ve had plant starts, eggs, teas, frozen elderberries… Mostly winter goods.  We’re anticipating our first winter greens hitting Deliveries this coming one: spring Nettle.  Our farm has been blessed with abundance in this area.  A wonderful addition to this pregnancy as well.

We joined a CSA!  This is the first time we’ve been the customer of one vs. the producer of one.  We’re really looking forward to picking up the cream of the crop: veg picked moments before it’s in our hands, from a farm only a hand full of miles away.  Glad to support agriculture with my pocketbook and palette.  Especially as Clark County politics muddles through their lack of interest in it.  Speaking of, there’s a fantastic fundraiser happening Saturday that I’d encourage you all to attend.  You can click here for info on how to sign up!  It’ll be a farm dinner with farm foods and farm-friendly friends.  One of “those nights”.  You know the ones: the magical ones.  Yep.  A date night far superior to the average night out.  My favorite kind.

Though we’ve joined a CSA, we still hope to plant lots.  We paired up with a co-op and bought seeds from Baker Creek this year.  Paired with last years remaining seeds from Annie’s Heirloom  and Adaptive Seeds, we expect an entirely hybrid-free garden.  I suspect we won’t work as hard at it this summer, as we have a lot of projected things going on, but we’ll do what we can.  And we’ll enjoy it instead of stress about it, knowing we have a CSA box coming as well.  Our goal is to plant enough that we can do some seed-saving, whether or not we do a ton of harvesting.  The greenhouse and outdoor perennials are, meanwhile, budding and flowering and going crazy!

Marley & Willow have both lambed this spring.  We are waiting for Scarlet.  It will be her first.  Marley struggled with toxemia, but recovered (miraculously) and is doing well.  We’re easing her off of milking sooner than later, and will work on putting weight on her.  She’s always struggled in this area.  It’s why we kept her Scarlet – to perhaps take over where she left off in the milk line.  Marley has wonderfully long teats on a beautiful udder.  We hope her daughters will be the same!  Willow, meanwhile, is a generous milker, giving a gallon a day from her wee bitty teats (but class A udder).  She’s mellowed a lot this season, and seems to have graduated to “wise older woman” instead of “ornery hag”.

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Chores have been so easy since September, until now.  Monday we started milking twice a day.  And bottle feeding babes (a couple of lambs & a new ram lamb that will service the ladies late summer).  We have replacement laying chicks in the brooder and baby quail in the hutch.  We have two well-trained LGD (livestock guardian dog) Great Pyrenees’ on the farm for an extended stay in addition to our family dog, Sage.  We’re trying to pace ourselves, but you know, it’s Spring.  It’s a difficult task.😉

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Just yesterday we – ahem – harvested Ramsey I.  He is just at a year old, and has proven to be the kindest wether we could ask for.  His departure means a huge ease on chores, as the remaining adult sheep all eat the same, saving about 20 minutes per chore time.  We had planned on doing the deed ourselves, but I chickened out last minute.  After watching the custom slaughterer do it in less than 20 minutes, I realized that I should re-commit to next time.  Easy peasy (tho’ will no doubt take us hours).  We’re looking forward to farm-raised gyros (and the first of the filling of the freezer this year – something I note every year), though The Deed was no easy task for any of us.  It never has been.  And I suspect it never will be.  Nor do I really want it to be, I suppose. Continue Reading »

With only one cycle after our November miscarriage, we are pregnant again!  We are (obviously) ecstatic.  Scott has been specifically desiring a hundred more children especially since his hospital experience, and I’d happily accept that many more, so we’ve been quite hopeful for a while now.  Life is short.  Children are a blessing.  I love being pregnant.  Life is a true miracle, indescribable by anything but God’s awesomeness.

Because of our recent miscarriage, some advised us to keep our news on the down low until the risk of another miscarriage has passed, closer to 12 weeks gestation.  Well, we’re not good at secrets, and would assume error on the side of too much exposing more often than not.  Y’all have prayed us through our loss, and have prayed for us to be so blessed to become pregnant again, so of course we’d share.  No matter if it all goes jolly or tough.

The first one to find out was a girlfriend that had meticulously followed my cycles with me as I had never previously charted (etc) until last fall.  If this is too much intimate detail for you, well, you better duck out of my blog completely.  It was as close to “fertility treatment” that I felt comfortable with persuing (for now anyway).  I had set up an app on my iThing thanks to her suggestion, but didn’t really need it.  She reminded me and asked me if we were on the ball *nudge* when the timing was ripe (apparently my cycle was on her iThing, too).  She’s a hoot.  Frankly, it was awesome to have her.  I sent her the first faint second line I got, a wee unsure, but a lot more sure than I was last time. 

  The line has just kept getting darker.  Why yes, of course I have tested more than once.  What else am I going to do with a cupboard full of cheap sticks?!

We wanted to have a little fun sharing the news (remember last time we sent the kids on a scavenger hunt that led to a wee drawing on my belly).  This time we shared like this:

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this was addressed to daddy.

Telling the kids: During an evening movie, Scott made popcorn in the kitchen.  We used paper bowls and filled one extra, each with someone’s name on the underside.  Colby handed them out one by one, enjoying the fun of having to give specific bowls to specific family members (we usually just share barbarian style out of a single bowl… wait… do barbarians use bowls?!), then was stumped on the last.  The one with an under score and question mark.  Kendra’s eyes got brighter.  Adyn belly laughed with excitement.  Colby just didn’t get it.  Until that moment.  <3

I can't take credit for this.

I can’t take credit for this card. I found it online.  This one went to 2 of our classy-humored loves.

For one group of friends in particular, we sent a “Private Invite Only: TONIGHT” message out.  We promised ice cream and games.  Almost everyone rsvp’d yes quite quickly.  I mean, who can resist ICE CREAM!?  We started the evening out with a game of Fish Bowl, a new favorite that cousins had taught us over Christmastime vacation.  If you haven’t played it, you really should.  It’s great in a group, and great for your brain.  I’ll go into detail how to play here.  Skip past if you already know.

How To Play Fish Bowl: Everyone takes a couple of pieces of paper and writes something – anything – on it, and tosses it into a collective bowl.  Once everyone has put theirs in the bowl, two teams are formed (every other person), and someone starts by trying to get their team to guess the words on a single paper from the bowl by only using words (no gestures), so long as they are NOT the words on the paper.  They have 45 seconds to get as many correct answers from their teammates as possible.  At the end of their time, they count up their score (scorekeeper marks it down), and move the bowl to the left.  And so on, until there are no paper slips left.  Then, all of the papers go back into the bowl, are mixed up, and the play starts off where it ended.  The Second Round is that you can ONLY use gestures (NO words) to get your teammates to guess as many papers as possible, now with a time of 60 seconds.  The Third Round, once all papers have been guessed, scores have been recorded, and all have been mixed back into the bowl, is a hard round: the one sharing clues can only give ONE WORD to get their teammate to guess what’s on the paper/s for a total of 45 seconds per player turn.  No gestures.  No other words.  No props.  It sounds impossible, but by now there are usually some quirky things about each paper that people have put memories to.  You’ll be surprised.

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As you can guess, we snuck a paper in that said “we’re expecting”.  The first round was fast and furious, and people were stressed to get answers from their teammates.  There were many random & silly things written down.  So ours came and went with no real “ah ha”.  When the game went into the Second Round, Scott slipped another in that said: “Summers pregnant,” hoping to catch someone a little better.  Remember, this is the round that people can only act/gesture, no using words.  It was rather amusing.  And really fun to give someone else the chance to share the good news all the while being surprised and excited to hear it themselves for the first time.  We all laughed and went on to enjoy the rest of the evening of deliciousness and play.

And lastly (other than the fun phone calls and video chatting, dinner with close friends, etc), Kendra has learned how to do wood/lino carving for block printing in her art class, and so we sketched out and chiseled this fine looking acorn and printed cards with it to send to loved ones to share our announcement, also making a digital copy for sharing online.  We bought fabric paint to make this babes blanket with an acorn pattern from the block print as well.

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This picture below was taken over Christmastime and is only a small portion of our family.  All a bit nutty, but some of the best people I know.  I’m so thankful to call them mine!  I’m thankful, too, for my God-fearing heritage, and pray regularly for these and future generations to continue the legacy and multiply in this area.

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All silly aside, we have never really “tried” to become pregnant before.  This last 21 months – with a recent miscarriage – has been … I don’t want to say discouraging (it’d be teetering on lying).  But definitely has allowed us the opportunity to rest (dwell) more fully in giving our lives to God, once again, and to truly live in contentedness and peace – and thankfulness! – for the life we have, and the children we are so blessed with.  We have prayed often that we have more babies.  We have others close to us praying the same.  But more than praying for a baby, we all have prayed it be God’s will, if we are so blessed.

We prayed for this child and He granted us our request. 1 Sam. 1:27

This will be our second rainbow baby.  What a fitting term for a life after a loss.  What a beautiful reminder of God’s goodness and graciousness.  His faithfulness and mercy.

You Are Not Alone

Have you ever felt lonely?  Have you ever lost a someone close to you, maybe not by death?  There’s good news:  It doesn’t have to control your life.  No matter who is at “fault,” God can heal.  We’ve seen it in our lives this year, and we believe it in all areas of our life.

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Hearts are broken.  People are damaged.  Words are cruel.  There are two sides to every story.  But God is bigger.

If both people are not willing to work on the relationship, don’t lose heart!  People are not here to change hearts, God is.  So no amount of your begging, or trying, or even trying to buy affection will bring change.  If true reconciliation is desired, God will honor that and bless it.  Even if it doesn’t look like we want or expect.

Know you are not alone.  Almost everyone I know has a very sad place in their heart of missing someone they love to relational issues.

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Sometimes we have to lose people (and things) we love to see a bigger picture.

Find the good in your situation.  See how God can work on you and through you to use the situation, despite the sins of this world that allow quarreling to control relationships.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galations 6:9

People, situations, words, differences do not control you, or tell who you are.  How you respond does.

How do you respond to adversity?  Do you gossip?  Do you try to recruit ‘sides’ or try to involve others?  Do you lie?  Do you defend yourself?  Or do you keep your “side” to yourself?  Do you try to focus on the fruits of the spirit?  Do you seek peace above justice?  …But how can you have peace if someone is hurting you, you ask?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we  have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5

Whichever end of a situation you find yourself, remember:

I’ve learned … that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.” – Anna Mary Stonoff, my grandmother

In the Pacific Northwest, we get a lot of wet. Yeah, you all know about how rainy it is – and how dark and dismal. I’m not going to explain how goofy that stereotype is here, but do want to talk about our damp soils & pastures during several months of the year. With wet pastures and semi-warm weather come all kinds of parasites, specifically worms. Worms wreak havoc on farm animals, specifically sheep for this post.  Anything that eats off of the ground, really.  It’s a good reason to have an upright feeder for your livestock. We just recently upcycled one from a cute wooden crib.

pre-roof upcycled feeder

pre-roof upcycled feeder

How else do we deal with worms and other parasites? Well, we rotationally graze, for one. This way there is less likely to be a heavy parasite load in a concentrated space. Rotational grazing allows nature to keep their numbers at a reasonable growth rate. It gives our animals an opportunity at fresh pastures regularly.  And, when we’re on our game and moving our chickens around with them, provides the fowl with clean up duty – and added protein!

And, most importantly, we use dewormers. In the past, we have used injectable (and paste) chemical dewormers twice a year, or as necessary.  For over a year now, we’ve been mixing our own herbal dewormer, and have limited chemical dewormer significantly.

When we first started with herbal dewormers on the sheep in January of 2015, we didn’t do it right. Our sheep had just had their lambs, and we were happily milking away. The only problem? The milk tasted off. Just a weird background flavor no one seemed to mind too much but me. And I minded a lot. I wanted sheep milk to sing in my mouth. After a bit of sleuthing – and a knock of common sense – I realized it was the herbal dewormer. The girls were getting it in their treat box during milking each day – and it was affecting the flavor of the milk. The day we stopped is the day the music (in the mouth) began. And so now we are more careful about which seasons we use which herbs in.

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I’ll start with the typical ingredients we use: mustard seed, thyme, pumpkin seeds, wormwood, garlic, Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.), meadowsweet, black walnut, sometimes sage… It’s a similar compilation of the famous “Molly’s Dewormer” (Formula #1), with tweaks that we wanted for our own homestead specifically. While our animals are pregnant, we avoid the use of the Black Walnut Hull & Meadowsweet.  While milking, we limit garlic (and add it fresh to their water instead, diluting and reducing any potential milk-flavoring).

The chickens get it in their kitchen scrap pail daily for a week of each month. The sheep, however, get it three days a month. They’re not as fond of the flavor, and so we make ‘candy’ for them. Here’s how:

  • 3/4 cup dried herbal mix
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup slippery elm bark powder
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loosely rolled balls rolling around in slippery elm bark

We mix the molasses and dried herbs together, then form approximately 15 balls. It’s going to be messy, folks. The kids dig it. Then roll them in the slippery elm bark. Voila! One ball a day per sheep is just about the right dosage (2 tsp for full grown sheep). We make smaller ones for younger sheep, etc… This makes it easy and delicious for our critters to eat up.

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Our final 1-inch-ish snuggly rolled herbal dewormer “candy”

Making Sheep Feta

morning milking from two ewes

morning milking from two ewes

I’ve tried a few different recipes now on making feta, and this one by Fiasco Farm is my favorite at the moment, with lots of great pictures to boot!  As always, I just couldn’t follow the recipe 100%, but this time only made minor changes:

  1. I use MM100 from New England Cheesemaking company as my mesophilic culture.
  2. Instead of 1 teaspoon, I use 1/4 teaspoon of rennet.  You can generally use 2-5 times less rennet with sheep milk than goat or cow.
  3. For the brine, I use a whey base instead of water, and himalayan salt instead of non-iodized commercially marketed “cheese salt”, to stay in tune with our “use what is best” philosophy for our foods.  Our blocks are turning a soft rose color in their brine, and will continue to until they are eaten.  We won’t dip in for at least four weeks.  Gah!  Waiting is the pits!
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cheese curds in whey; heading into a feta

Feta is traditionally made with sheep milk.  Sheep milk makes 2.5 times more cheese per fluid gallon of milk than that of goat or cow.  We’ve made feta twice now, and both times have ended up with 3#’s of cheese per gallon and a half of milk.  In farmstead language, that’s a value of $60 for my 1.5 gallon of milks worth of cheese.  That’s amazing!

I heart homesteading, self-sufficiency, and living off the land!

winter storage of himalayan-brining feta's

winter storage of himalayan-brining feta’s

The main reason I’m writing this blog is to be a reminder to myself.  Not only for if I have a miscarriage again, but so that I know better how to serve others who go through the same.  I don’t want to sweep any of this under the rug.  I want to be able to support the gals in my life in the best possible way.

What I’ve learned from miscarriage:

One loses their marbles.  The week after this miscarriage, it hit like a freight train.  I was in a dense fog.  I wasn’t all-consumed with darkness (in fact, I was very thankful for many things during these days, including bits and pieces of the miscarriage itself), but was in a heavy, messy fog.  I had no idea I could fall in love with someone I’d never met so quickly, and feel the loss so deeply.  I knew in my head – and shared out loud – that the majority of my mental chaos was hormones shifting.  I never doubted God’s goodness.  But I guess I never see this mess play out so much after other births when we have the joy of holding our newborn on the other side, consuming our ever moment and thought.

It’s a birth of a child.  We shower new mom’s with food, gifts and love.  Doula’s and midwives visit for days or even weeks after birth.  We set up meal plans.  We borrow older children to give parents a reprieve.  If someone miscarries, it usually stops at “I’m sorry” and awkward avoiding of eye contact for a while… Until you know they’re “okay” (whew!).  It’s not the fault of others how they respond.  It’s hard to know what’s needed.  I’m guessing every family needs something different, too, which doesn’t make it any easier.  But I know this: I couldn’t think about many basic things, specifically noted here: food.  Meals would have been a huge blessing.  I’d have asked, but wasn’t aware enough at the time ’til it was awkwardly late in the game.  I definitely didn’t want to talk (or not talk).  I’d have just bawled.  Honestly, I probably would have made you a little uncomfortable no matter what.  Life (and death) is uncomfortable sometimes.

Healing takes time.  We all know that emotional and mental healing takes time, and with a myriad of techniques – so I’m not even going to touch it beyond sharing that God is the ultimate Healer, and walks alongside us and holds us as we walk through murky times.

That aside, a woman who’s given birth, whether to a wee one or a big one, is depleted of many nutrients.

Having a miscarriage seems so… Continue Reading »

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