Sheep Butter!

Today has been one full day.

After a few rainy days, it was our first sunny in a while.  Naturally I went outside and got filthy.  My goal was to get all potted plants into the ground, and every potted plant into a gallon size or bigger.  That means every seed we started and all of the plants we accumulated from the recent plant sales (dozens and dozens, if not close to a hundred).  Ridiculous.

newly painted pot for Flynn's patio tomato, and herbs happy to spread their roots!

newly painted pot for Flynn’s patio tomato, and herbs happy to spread their roots!

The good news is, it is finished!  The garden is filling fast!  So is our deck of potted goodness.  I’m really liking our progress on planting for this season, and am not feeling the expected rush and behind-ness that has been ever present in years past.  We were even able to even get our fava’s and bush beans in.  Our artichoke moved into the ground.  Even our figs graduated!

Last years one- and three- gallon pot fig trees have grown up!

Last years one- and three- gallon pot fig trees have grown up!

Mid-way through our work, I casually asked Colby the time, thinking it was 11:30am-ish.  One o’ clock.  Uh oh!  A quick call to our favorite mechanic proved them awesome as ever, them assuring us it was no worry that we’d be thirty minutes late to our appointment for a fluid change/check.

Rather grungy looking (we usually try to spruce up for city folk), we piled into the ‘burb and zipped along.  We dropped off the rig and hit the road on foot, Flynn on my back.  We walked through neighborhoods, passing church and on to the Dollar Tree.  Then we got some bento for a nice park picnic.  Complete with Horchata, a yummy drink I’ve only had one other time – in Phoenix with Jane.  She send me this recipe today, if you want to try it!

Well, short story long (you know how it goes with me), we returned to the shop and drove our nicely lubed rig home.  It’s driven like a champ since last summer, and I expect it will for some time to come after all of the love it got!

When we got home, I pulled out all of the milk from the fridge and took as much cream off of the top as I could get.  I ended up with over a quart!  So, for the first time in years we made butter!  I’ve been missing that!  A little pink Himalayan salt and voila – a pint of raw, fresh, sweet, SUPERB butter at our disposal.  A surprisingly huge yield.  There are those moments when my heart just feels especially full.  This was one of those moments.  The satisfaction and joy from homesteading is one I can’t make up.  I’d recommend it highly.

be still my heart

be still my heart

Back outside, Ramsey and our new ram lamb (“Mr. Handsome” until we come up with something better – any ideas?) needed a bigger shelter from future rains.  Juggling pens, they now have a nice big den inside of their “man pen”.  Mr. Handsome comes from fantastic dairy lines, and will service our ladies for January/February lambing.  I can’t believe it’s even time to think about that, let alone plan for it!  But it’s May.  Breeding time is not far around the corner!

the man pen

the man pen.

Tonight after milking we moved the girls into the barn.  Tomorrow Marley gets a hair cut, and so they’ll share a Girls Night Out in the clean-floored barn ’til then.  Marley’s done excellently at maintaining her condition, and we’re ready to milk her sans dreads!

Cheese is hanging in the kitchen.  Kids are finishing up some sheep yogurt ice cream, making way for the next batch whenever we make some (maybe strawberry!).  My feet would sure love a nice soak in epsom salts.  They may get lucky tonight.

I don’t have a lot of time to write at the moment.  Our evening is full.  But I just have to share.

Earlier this morning a need became aware to me of a family that is a member of our church.  It was a financial need, and they were asking very little (rather, the friend that started a financial-gift request), and very quietly.  I’m glad we happened upon their plea.

That they were humble enough to share their need… That they were willing to open their family and hearts to allow us the ability to do more than pray (which is enough!)… What an immense and joyful opportunity for our family, and those who shared.

Scott & I have a real heart for the young adults in our church.  Our home is often full of them.  They know they can land here anytime for a bite, a word, support, a mini Bible study series, or just some fun.  They teeter between youth and full-on responsible adult.  An often time awkward stage of people not knowing how to treat you.

We sent a message to a bunch of them, sharing this above need, asking if anyone wanted to pool together resources for this family.  A lot of times these seem like things that are for the big “adults” or “married people”, but Scott & I have always held firmly to treating young folk as adults at an earliest possible time, they step up to the task.  We’re all in this life together, after all.


Without me leaning on them in the slightest, they pooled together enough – along with the contributors on the donations page – to meet the initial goal.  I asked if they wanted to stop, and the response was No! Let’s see how much we can help them and raise!  My heart melted.  I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t cry during the few hours they did this in – several times – as I watched this unfold.  To see them be a part of something so real.  To see the JOY they gave with!

By the end of the day, this group alone doubled the amount asked for on their own.  This family will be blessed.  Perhaps as much as we all were to give.

“Kids”?  Nope.  These are the young men and women who will be the leaders of families, our church, our community.  They are in a beautiful position to reach out and help, to share and to bless.  I’m so proud of them!

We are so blessed to share our home with them, and for our kids to have them as mentors!  There are no words!

We are so thankful for you and your hearts.

Later this evening, one of the young men who contributed quoted Deuteronomy 16:17 to me, when talking about how glad he was to use his “excess” of singleness for the ministry of the Lord through his church family: “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.”

This Time of Year


I used to pride myself on concepts like these.  You know, the ones that say I don’t have to purposefully exercise because I’m a farmer…  Well, it’s been a year now since we moved to our new farm, and with last years shake up, we haven’t been as active outside.  Why it took almost a year (and nearly 10 pounds) to figure that out beats me.

Do I care that much?  No.  We’ve still been eating reasonably, even just getting back to more traditional foods.  Culturing, fermenting, planning ahead for soaking and sprouting beans, making bread, and using local and preserved veg instead of our quick fixes of meat & veg at the big box grocer that we’ve become rather surprisingly accustomed to these last 12 months.

We also have just started to dig into our cheese!  That means it’s been more than 60 days since we’ve milked our sheep and put it up for aging.  We have definitely established a nice rhythm and are loving being dairy-folk.  This week we’re picking up the lamb ram who will service our two matrons and Scarlet for beginning-of-the-year lambing.  It’s hard to believe it’s already time to prepare for that!

the girls and Ramsey

the girls and Ramsey

With lambing this past January, we kept one boy and castrated him for fall meat.  We are looking forward to putting some of our own meat in the freezer again, alongside pastured goose and chicken.  We’ll buy our favorite salmon, and perhaps an AGH from a homesteading friend.  As for grassfed beef, we’re ready as soon as the lush grass finishes up our friends’!

Last year we didn’t harvest much from our vegetable garden.  This year we’re planting oodles, with the challenge of planting at least two new things every day for the month of April!  This will keep us plenty active all summer long – and well fed with good eats!  My two favorite plant-buying events were this past weekend, adding currants, perennial vegetables, tomatoes & peppers, edible and flavorful herbs to the gardens and farm landscaping.

Our perennial herbs are doing well and started to really grow for the season.  The fig, kiwi, blueberries and rhubarb are all happily leafing – and multiplying!  In fact, the larger fig tree is covered in fruit already!  Lilac’s are blooming, scenting up the whole farm with fantastic perfume.  Other tree blooms are floating through the air from the cherry tree and plums.  The grapes are pruned and on a new, bigger arbor.  They just started budding out last week!

Some girls love shoes…

The chickens and quail are laying us eggs galore.  Thanks to a lovely neighbor down the road, we added a chinese black silkie, as well as a silver laced wyandotte hen to our wee flock of about a dozen.  I suspect we’ll end up buying laying chicks to start hatching and carry us through the winter while our current ladies take a break.  We are collecting and enjoying goose eggs, and currently have 17 Pilgrim goose eggs in the incubator.

a big difference

a big difference

Our five heritage Pilgrim geese started laying. For fun, we compared them to chicken eggs, and here’s what we learned:– The average “large” chicken egg is 3 Tablespoons.
– The average goose egg is 14 Tablespoons.

That means that one goose eggs is the equivalent to almost FIVE chicken eggs.
One of our double-yolker goose eggs was EIGHTEEN Tablespoons! That’s more than a cup of egg under one shell!They’re sure making up for their time off, being seasonal layers!Think of it. It only took 4 (or five) goose eggs to FILL a quart-sized jar!

We put up a new hummingbird feeder and mason bee hive.  We unearthed some bee boxes and equipment in the loft of the barn, and tho’ it wasn’t on the “wish list” for 2015, we wouldn’t turn down a swarm if they chose to call this place home.11169871_1999732833498618_1920266194438611202_n

We’re really feeling the blessings of Springtime abundance.  Paired with celebrating our one-year anniversary of moving to this property, we’re enjoying milestone after milestone of ‘anniversaries’ of living here.  We can’t help but see the stark difference in our life today from just one year ago for the better.  God is good!

With farming picking up – perhaps we’ll get more physical work in.  Meanwhile, I think we’ll make an effort to visit our farmer-owned gym and swimming pool regularly until we’re sure.

“you know what I’d do?  I’d take those sheep off that hill and spray

“no way!  those make for one of the most nutrient-packed wild eats
(not to mention we don’t “do” sprays)!”


he shrugs.  walks away shaking his head mumbling horror stories of
childhood rompings in the woods.

new challenge: win him over with scrumptiousness.  game on!


stinging nettles

Well, the first of 2015 preserving has begun.  It all started with 8 quart zippy bags of steamed nettles into the freezer (FREE from the wild!).  Another couple week lull, and I think it’s officially begun.  Those jars in the basement are begin the domino effect of being put to good use again!

We picked up 15#’s asparagus for $22.50 & 12#’s beets for $10 from a truck farmer from Eastern Washington the other eve.

$10’s worth of consumables went into 7 quart jars of pickled spicy spears.  We fit about a pound into each quart.  That’s $1.43 per jar.  The rest went to roasted with our favorite aioli, the rest blanched and into the freezer.

We roasted all of the washed beets at 425f for about an hour, then peeled and cubed them for the freezer.  Mostly for hot and cold salads – I’m seeing sheep cheese on most – or oranges and mint!  My 12 pounds made 2 gallons of cubed beets.

We made twelve 12-ounce bottles of rosehip soda, costing us a couple dollars of consumables at most.  It’s sweet and tangy and SO packed with vitamin C!

Rosehip Soda

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 1/3 c. organic cane sugar
  • 4 T. dried rosehips, or 1 cup fresh
  • 1/4 t. champagne yeast – Coopers is my preference so far

Simmer water, rosehips & sugar for an hour.  Strain.  At room temperature, incorporate yeast.  Let sit over night.  Bottle up in the morning.  Leave at moderate room temperature 2-3 days.  Move to fridge.

Consider using other herbs, spices, or berries!  We like to shake it up!

We put up 8 flip top bottles of kombucha, which was a gallon – and have started another.  This costs the amount of a cup of sugar and 4 T’s loose tea.  And water, if you’re purchasing.

I also revived our dehydrated filmolk.  It’s my favorite cultured dairy.  It makes for a very thicker, rich, and very sweet “sour cream” – almost reminiscent of greek yogurt.  A dollop goes on just about anything.  Cost: the price of however much milk you use.

This all means that $35 total got me:

  • 8 quarts nettles
  • 7 quarts pickled asparagus
  • 8 pounds/quarts asparagus for meals
  • 8 quarts of roasted beets
  • 12 twelve ounce bottles rosehip soda pop
  • 8 flip top bottles sweet fizzy kombucha
  • a pint of filmjolk
the first fresh & local farm-grown veg for the season!

the first fresh & local farm-grown veg for the season!

I also made soft cheese with 5 quarts of sheep milk.  It turned out almost 4 pounds of thick, well-drained, creamy cheese (about half a gallon in volume).  The return for our sheep milk has been outstanding.  My cost is a bit skewed since we’re producing it – so let’s say it cost $18 in fresh milk & enzymes.  That’s $4.50 per pound, not to mention the value of the nutrient-packed cultured whey.  The going rate at the grocer is anywhere from $18-$28 per pound for “goat cheese” that’s not nearly as tasty (in my opinion), fresh or live, local or organic.

It’s moments like these when I think eating right could be totally affordable, even if I didn’t raise it all myself.  And so very scrumptious and nutritious.  And all year long.  The other great part is that all of this was fairly low-maintenance.  So you didn’t find me slaving in the kitchen or over a hot pot all day long.  I just worked it around homeschool, farm chores and playing.  I like when a bundle of tasks go this relaxed & productively!  If only it was always how it worked… ;)

For dinner: spicy butternut & chickpea curry over rice with nettles.

hunting treasures on top of the world

hunting treasures together on top of the world

Rachael, Bethanie, Tyler, Trevor, Toby & Tarence,

It’s hard to believe that all but one of you will officially be adults this year!  Time really flies.  I remember when you were all so little.  I’m so glad I got to grow up with you most of those years, even if we had our share of sibling bickering in between the good times!  We have so many awesome memories with you all!

Over the past year, seeing that you’re all so old now (ha!), we realized we have always called you “the kids”, and have tried to break ourselves of that.  It’s such a crutch to y’all, and not very supportive of your individuality or adultness!

We’ve really missed you a lot these past years.  So much has changed since we last saw you.  So often we wish you guys were around to be a part of our family’s lives, and us yours.  We are really hopeful for the future, and pray often for this!  If it were up to us, we’d see you and talk to you all the time!  We are thankful for the bits we have gotten, and are sorry for the times we couldn’t!  We really hope you know that it is not our choice that we haven’t been able to much.  But we also want to respect the boundaries that others have set, as we understand having set some ourselves, and want to honor theirs.

We love you immensely.  Anytime you are able to visit with us, let us know.  I’m not sure if you’ve got the messages, but we’ve sent many in response to some of you asking to meet up with us, to arrange something.  We will always pray and have hope!  And look forward to whenever we can!

I often think of you when I write, and hope that you have access to our lives vicariously through the internet and our blog so you can keep in touch with the going-on’s of your nieces and nephews, and me and Scott.  At least a bit.  And will keep on sending you birthday cards (even if late sometimes!).  We’ll try to write letters and send packages more, too!

We’ve heard so many good things from others about you!  You’ve proven to continue being hard workers.  You’ve always been!  It’s such a great character quality that is hard to come by these days.  We were happy to support your hard workin’ efforts from afar by buying lots of produce from the garden you guys grew last season at the local farmers market co-op table.

We are really proud of you.

We were so thrilled to see you all flourish artistically with CYT, and enjoyed your performance last fall so much!  We were so thankful for the invite!  It was so exciting to hear the boys’ voices on stage having changed as you have become young men!  We’re thrilled that you have been able to pursue some personal interests, and fun times with the family – including going to Grandma & Grandpa’s for the first time, for some of you!  Isn’t it great?!  So many memories there!  They are pretty special, awesome people.  We are all truly blessed to have them.

Since we heard that you are downsizing as the family moves out of the area, we weren’t sure if any of you were looking for a place to land locally, or if you were all excited about starting new somewhere else.

If you’re looking for a place to crash, and it makes sense to all around, we’d be happy to help you out while you save up for the next step.  Our “skool bus” sleeps up to 6 comfortably!  It has a bathroom and kitchen, etc, so is it’s own separate [rather spacious] tiny house.  We got it as a project, and would love it to be put to use for a place for anyone who wants to be independent for an interim.  And even awesomer if that “anyone” could be one – or more! – of my “little” brothers or sisters!

the living space

the living space pre making-it-our-own remodel

We’d love to add to and support your options to help you grow independent and succeed Continue Reading »

We Can Live

I love living next to a cemetery.

It’s a constant reminder that life is fragile. That we have much to be thankful for and careful with.

I’m thankful that we get the opportunity to pray so specifically, and often.

Today I watch out my window and pray for each car that turns in to mourn the loss of a loved one. I pray they may be comforted.

I pray the children attending can be blessed, and gain by seeing a circle closed. That they can be sheltered in love, but understanding of life and death.

I pray that they are celebrating an eternal finish instead of questioning the unknown.


A year ago I got into a lively discussion with someone who was struggling with church issues.  A family close to them had left their church, and they were battling whether or not it was okay.  And if it was wrong that they personally had stayed.

I’ve thought about this a lot, and the discussion continued even still, and I’ve come up with a few thoughts.  Now remember, my blog (or anything else you read on the internet or in books, etc…) isn’t the truth.  It’s (hopefully) decently researched opinion.  So please take this post with the understanding that though I hope and pray we use biblical discernment, this is just a perspective and gleaning of our digging, not God-breathed Truth.  You know where to find that.

I asked the question of my friends: Should one ever leave a local church body?  And if so, when?

rather diverse reading about "church" - not nearly exhaustive

random reading about “church” – not nearly exhaustive

I believe deeply that the church is the body, the people and not the structure. I do know that the gathering of the people creates an environment with which we have the support of one another and are able to collaborate, communicate, to share the love of Christ and offer the laying of hands to pray and seek healing… and because of the beauty of that I know that a structured church environment can be a safe haven, a place of restoration when it is a healthy church… I found that I did not feel I wanted to invest my energy into [an unhealthy church] due to reasons beyond my control, and most of all I want my children to be surrounded by a house of love that I feel is a healthy environment, thus leaving a [church can be positive]… – Jenny F.

If God led us there, then He will keep us there, until He shows otherwise. In our throwaway and constant transient society, it carries over into all relationships, unless we guard against it. Offenses will come, but that’s where the beauty of growing together happens. Matthew 18 is clear about how Christ wants us to work things out. To leave means to go with a blessing…on to the next clear fellowship that He is drawing you into. – Jina E.

Its good to leave a church body to deepen your growth with Christ – Brittany V.

Sometimes both you and they benefit from your absence [in the local church], and both you and a new congregation benefit from your presence. It ain’t easy, and shouldn’t be done lightly. But, at times, it should be done. – Erin S.

If they aren’t preaching the gospel…good, solid teaching…then yes for sure find a place that is. Leave quietly but speak to the leadership….don’t just slink away. Make sure you note the good and valuable things about the fellowship as well. They deserve to know your concerns. Maybe it will encourage some reassessment. – Alyson S.

This can be a hard question to ask, but can be an easy one to answer. I would say yes. God said without a vision the people perish. If you find that you can’t agree with the vision, or disagree with where that particular body is headed then yes you should go. There are good reasons to go, but the truth is if God is telling you to move on, then its a good time to go. Loyalty has to be God first, then the church. If those get flipped then there is only danger ahead.  – Sena W.

While the culture of a church body is important, I think that the more important factor is how its beliefs align with yours and how the works of the church align with what you value. – Allysa H.

People grow and change, organizations grow and change. Wise reflection can lead to the best path. The best congregations teach their congregants to go/stay where they find peace. – Jessica S.

The question was “what can God bring out of me to bring to the table” no longer was a question of does the church fit me, but how can God work through me in this church.  I’m able to do God’s work, and will come to be feeding in ways that our old church fed me. So with that in mind I absolutely think leaving one church can be God guided. The [local] church is made by man, so no church will be perfect, but God uses us to grow and stretch. The story of Phillip always resonated with me. He was in the middle of the action but God told him to go down in a direction that probably sounded crazy, but imagine how many lives Phillip probably touched by talking to the Ethiopian man, and then transported him to another place to become a father and husband and was able to minister to others in that community. Sometimes you need to move to full fill purpose. – Amanda N.

Biblically, you’re going to be hard pressed to find church defined as anything except a called out congregation of baptized believers. So, technically, if you were baptized and you believed and you did those things at a local congregation with whom you aligned with doctrinally (and to a lesser extent, practically), you were essentially entering into a covenant, or at least publicly proclaiming your agreement with that particular local church. The only a few things that seem to be biblical reasons to leave would be: 1. The church closed its doors (which is not really leaving, I guess). 2. You sinned and were asked to leave (under Matthew 18) and consequently left. 3. Someone else sinned in the church and was not repentant (under Matthew 18) and did not leave but it was tolerated. 4. The church, in general, was biblically out of order (i.e., no elders, no deacons, no order in worship or study, no biblical teaching, etc. (That’s like a “come ye out from among them” situation there). All of the other stuff: how you feel, what you think the Holy Ghost is telling you, what other people are telling you, etc. really don’t matter unless they can be held up biblically. – Kurt

"What is a Healthy Church?" by Mark Dever

“What is a Healthy Church?” by Mark Dever

Here’s another list I found (John MacArthur) of “when to leave a church”:

  • If heresy on some fundamental truth is being taught from the pulpit (Gal. 1:7-9).
  • If the leaders of the church tolerate seriously errant doctrine from any who are given teaching authority in the fellowship (Rom. 16:17).
  • If the church is characterized by a wanton disregard for Scripture, such as a refusal to discipline members who are sinning blatantly (1 Cor. 5:1-7).
  • If unholy living is tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
  • If the church is seriously out of step with the biblical pattern for the church (2 Thess. 3:6, 14).
  • If the church is marked by gross hypocrisy, giving lip service to biblical Christianity but refusing to acknowledge its true power (2 Tim. 3:5).

As a youth, I was much more more loosey goosey on this, thinking one could shake off a church and find a new one – like my favorite coffee shop.  There sure are as many options in our town!

If there isn’t sound doctrine, it’s a given. Leave and find a Bible-based church.

But what if our “preferences” aren’t met? I just can’t see this being justified easily (or biblically) unless it’s so pronounced that it is a genuinely a detriment to your family/faith, or is against convictions. Feelings are deceiving, though, so I think we all have to be especially careful with this one. Running isn’t an answer. I want to continue this discussion, however. Because I CAN see unmet church preferences interfering with parenting.

It seems that Scripture leaves little room for opinion/preferences when it comes to leaving a local church body. “Gee, I’m not liking this anymore… guess I’ll leave.” (what we’ve become accustomed to in our throw-away culture) – I sure could see myself falling into this. When things get ugly, it’s easier to bow out.  And sometimes maybe you should.  But it shouldn’t be the norm.

Ultimately I think it comes down to what your view is of a “local church”, and that’s where I/others get hung up a little bit. Church can be ALL believers (it is), but we’re specifically talking about a local church body. Does the Bible address the local church AS WELL AS the universal one… Yep.

To us, and what we’ve gathered from Scripture, our [local] church is our family (Matt. 12:49-50). It’s not a choice that I have the freedom to dapple with or dispose of it once we commit to it. It also isn’t what I lay my trust in completely (only God) or idolize.

Scott & I had both extremes growing up: committed to a church longer than healthy, and leaving churches for superficial reasons. As we have established our own family, and have grown in God’s Word, it’s ever abundant how much fellowship and relationship with your christian family matters. It’s a two-way commitment and a gift to be cherished and protected.  We have left two churches since married. One because we moved across country. The other, smaller one dissipated when several other families moved out of state.

Food for thought:  If I expect my local church to be committed to me personally/biblically (teaching eternal issues solidly, financially supporting if needy, carrying burdens, celebrating joys), shouldn’t I be committed to it just as strongly?  It would be hypocritical not to, no? Continue Reading »


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