if it’s not working…

Change it!

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The new garden plot.

Well the last couple weeks have been all about reconfiguring. Reconfiguring our plans, our wants, the things that we truly need and, most of all, our (often times unrealistic) expectations.

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Kevin preparing the soon to be potato patch.

Truth is, things had gotten a little out of hand; stuff on the homestead had seemed to take on a mind of its own. We were trying to do so many different things, in the hopes of being guided toward that which fulfilled us and that we honestly enjoyed. On the contrary, we were each being pulled in so many different directions that we were all suffering. Oh, the perks of restructuring you life and mindset all while in your 30s, raising two kiddlets and completely overhauling one’s living arrangements. We also found ourselves drifting away from some of our original intentions which had, of course, led us to this lifestyle in the first place. We were so busy everyday that Kevin and I found ourselves with little time and, unfortunately, sometimes even less energy and patience to really engage with the kids, what with constant farm chores, three meals a day to prepare (often times from scratch), businesses to attend to and any other general tasks all of us have to do in our daily lives. We also found that we all had little time left to pursue our individual creative endeavors, those things that refill each of our respective cups, allowing us to return to the group refreshed and recharged. The environment that we were unintentionally generating was in direct contrast to how we so badly wanted to live.

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Last year’s garden partially turned back into pasture.

Late this winter while discussing this season’s upcoming pasture rotation schedule we came to realize that the front pasture we used for our garden last year would need to be reseeded and transitioned back into grazeable land. I officially started off spring feeling deflated and firmly planted behind the proverbial eight ball. After all the work and soil amending we had done on the space, with tremendous help from the pigs no less, we faced the 2013 gardening season back at square one. We also sat down and discussed which livestock groups were working here, which we would like to possible add, and those that we would rather transition away from. Taking into consideration ease of keep (especially during the winter months), upfront and subsequent feed costs, resale value and whether or not the products that each inevitably provided could be purchased from other farming friends at a reasonable price, we started laying out slightly adjusted plans for the future.

I hope these guys get to stay!

I hope these guys get to stay!

As is usually the case, the further we move forward with these new plans of ours, the more the resulting benefits become apparent. We have scaled back the vegetable garden, finally convincing my father that we would never be able to make a living from market gardening if Kevin and I were the only two working at it. However, we can save quite a bit of money if we focus our efforts on the produce that we eat all year and put our energy into growing those crops well, then preserving them for winter. The garden is now much closer to the house which makes taking the kids out with me to tend to it much easier and tremendously more productive for me (this girl of ours is a runner, a daredevil and a huge majority of my days seem dedicated to keeping her from mortally wounding herself during one of her stunts). It also seems to be much more enjoyable for the kids, thanks to their play set and other toys soon being moved near by and a new picket fence that is being erected, allowing them to play safely within its confines, without me having to chase after the littlest every two minutes (that two minutes is not an exaggeration, by the way). We have already established various fruit trees and bushes, including a large strawberry patch that Kevin and I planted on the slope of a small hill, near the new garden area. As the new layout and design unfolds before us, my creative heart is happy with the aesthetic we are achieving, as well as the resulting increase in efficiency and more realistic goals we have set for ourselves.

It's a work in progress...

It’s a work in progress…

All of this reconfiguring has also allowed Kevin and I to begin focusing on creative endeavors that before had only received a fraction of our attention while we worked mainstream jobs and before we began cohabiting and pooling all of our respective resources. Our move here was supposed to allow for pockets of time, and interpersonal support for each of us, to rekindle these talents. I am so thankful that we were able to step back, re-evaluate where we wanted to end up, accepting where we currently were and having the courage to say “this is no longer working for us, we need to change it.” Sometimes the choices are tough, other times the decisions are a no brainer, what’s important is that we realize when things are heading in the wrong directions and have the strength and confidence to turn the train around. Granted, admitting that I can’t accomplish everything on my list(s) is certainly not my strongest quality but that is why I have Kevin. He, thankfully, plays the part of my brain (which I dreadfully lack) that tells me when I have reached the reasonable limit of things that can be accomplished, figures out which of my “to dos” really do not matter in the grand scheme of things and identifies those that will need to be left until another day.

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Sunset over the apple orchard down the road from us.

I have a feeling that exciting things are on the horizon and I think we will now have the time and energy to enjoy them.

What’s new with you? Has Spring’s arrival inspired exciting changes in your neck of the woods?

baby, it’s too cold outside

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We have had quite the cold snap around here as of late. A week with temperatures feeling like they are below zero, or colder. Hence, we have only done the absolutely necessary outside (breaking water in the few unheated waters, delivering daily meals and collecting eggs), you would too if, while milking your cow, the milk was freezing to the side of the pail almost instantaneously! Instead we have been attending to indoor chores (ugh, I’m getting tired of looking at tax paperwork) and doing our best to entertain ourselves while being cooped up for what looks to be a relatively short period of time. I have never been so happy to see a HIGH of 20 in the forecast.

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The sunrise is beautiful but I would rather be curled up inside, in front of the fire, with a hot cup of coffee.

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That 6 degrees on there, it actually felt like -15.

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They have spent a lot of time staring out the windows, wondering why we won’t let them go out to play in the snow.

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When we do venture out we are constantly looking for a quick escape from the frigid temperatures, this day we linger a little longer than usual in the barn wishing that sunlight streaming in actually felt warm.

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Through it all the ladies have kept up their laying and we have been fighting to keep the coop feeling warm for them. We do come out to a few frozen and, consequently, cracked eggs everyday though.

With every challenge there comes opportunity (that’s been my daily mantra as of late after all) and with our extra time inside we have been…

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Making future plans.

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Grabbing a nap when we can.

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Taking time to play games, Trivial Pursuit for the adults, Crazy 8s or Go Fish for the younger set and Scrabble for the bunch of us.

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Cuddling up in front of here whenever possible.

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Taking the time to sit and create when the urge strikes us.

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Being warmed by the sweetness that the kids show us. PJ brought this back to me after a trip out with Nonni. I think he learned that from his daddy. I’m glad he’s been paying attention.

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Been waking up to this in the slow cooker for breakfast, hoping it will help us to warm up on these very cold mornings. Overnight Oatmeal: Steel Cut oats cooked in milk and water, your choice of fruit (in this case Ida Red apples) cinnamon and maple syrup. Yum!

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And when nothing else was able to warm us up we indulged in a glass of this (Rhubarb Tea is on the agenda for spring.) It’s delicious and if you haven’t tried it yet you should grab a bottle, your sweetie and cuddle up under a blanket, preferably by a roaring fire.

Here’s to staying warm. Cheers!

December 12th

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Trimming the tree with Nonni.

The tree is decorated and we couldn’t be happier with it. The kids bounced in and out of the room, helping once in awhile or, in Shaelyn’s case, mostly grabbing a round ornament and throwing it across the room, while loudly exclaiming “Ball.” Thankfully, I know my daughter and had the presence of mind to separate out all of my grandmother’s 60-70 year old vintage glass ornaments, along with my collection of crystal ones, and put them safely back in the attic before attempting to decorate the tree. Without those beautiful additions, I think it still turned out lovely, even if it is shaped more like a Whoville tree and less like a christmas farm tree.

Creativity was the order of the day when it came to decorating it. Putting lights on a tree with very spaced out branches was trickier than first thought and may or may not have entailed another run (or two) to the store for more lights and hanging the heavier ornaments usually took more than one try to find a branch sturdy enough to hold them (again, thank goodness all breakables were not in use.)  This tree of ours has personality all its own, much like a certain someone I know, and both, will of course, always hold a special place in my heart.

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Happy 12-12-12!

How’s your decorating coming this holiday season?

December 6th

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These are our kids and these are our kids taking holiday photos.

Every year it is the same thing. Since we like to hold true to doing everything for ourselves (we are striving to be self-sustaining homesteaders after all) I have always taken portraits and candid shots of the kids and I usually do it right before the holidays to get both gifts for the family and a photo for the cards we send out. Neither of them has ever been to a professional photography sitting. Because of this fact, it is also quite remarkable that I’m still sane, well relatively. What is it about kids seeing their parents coming toward them with a camera that makes them either turn, running in the opposite direction, or completely forget how to contort their (usually cherub-like) faces into a recognizable smile?

As they, and I, get older I am able to look past the frustration and find the humor. How else could you explain that this photo almost graced the annual holiday card last year?

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I think the caption was going to be something like “Wishing you and yours the most silent of nights!” Luckily, right before the cards were sent, I caught them both in a sweet moment, lying on the living floor together…then the earth tilted, all the planets in the cosmos aligned, and they both smiled!

With a win like that who wouldn’t have eternal hope? Heck, I even let them dress themselves for their photo shoot with complete faith that it would all turn out just fine.

It did! But you will have to wait until the new year to see those. 😉

Did or do you have any tricks for taking good photos, especially of your kids?

Oh so thankful

I have no idea where the past two weeks went! (I am beginning to think that this has become a recurring theme here.) Between a holiday that quickly snuck up on me, two littles who have seemed to hit a developmental growth spurt at exactly the same time, and just the general chores of everyday farm life, I feel as though I move from one thing to the next, at a fast pace, knowing that December, and all it brings with it, is going to be here in a blink of an eye..again.

I’m not sure how it works for others writing blogs, but for me an idea for a post usually begins with photographs I have taken and then snowballs from there. But alas, I have been so busy that my poor camera has sat lonely in the house while I have been running about. As I sat here, bemoaning my lack of photos, and trying to finish a post that had no photography to go with it, I absentmindedly began flipping through photos on my phone. I suddenly realized that I had documented a good portion of the last two weeks (except, of course, for our thanksgiving feast, apparently I was too busy then, even for Instagram) using my phone’s camera. Snippets of our busy life, caught in an instant, almost without care, and when looked at can transport me back and piece together the last couple of weeks.

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Finding the beauty in the shifting light of the season and trying to embrace the shorter days.

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We have been loving watching Bert grow bigger every day and seeing his mama turn into the wonderful and patient dairy cow that we knew she could be.

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More often than not, we have been greeted by frosty mornings. The boy awakes almost every day asking if there is snow on the ground yet.

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We pasteurized our first batch of milk…makeshift style!

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Watching the deer that hang out across the street The ones that seem to refuse to cross over onto our land.

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Making, and crafting, and making some more in anticipation of the season.

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We have been spending a lot of free time in front of our beautiful, new wood stove. It has officially erased any memory of being cold!

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Finding refuge in the van, out at a family dinner, with a toddler who has entered a developmental growth spurt. One whose patience (and mine, at moments, for that matter) has yet to catch up.

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I’m in awe of the boy my first baby is becoming, and reminding myself that he is only trying to learn who he is when his stubbornness comes out.

I just love those little red x's.

I just love those little red x’s and how, when put together, they make such a pretty picture.

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When all else fails, and the day seems like it just can’t get better, go back to bed and have a snuggle. Everything looks better after that!

For those of you who celebrated last week, I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving and for those who didn’t, that you were able to catch a few everyday moments of your own.

My goal for the month of December is to not get caught up in the “doing” and stress that the holidays ultimately bring. I want to stop and soak in the moments, the special traditions and this time of wonder when my babes are little. As it seems that this blog is always the first thing to be left by the wayside when things get crazy on the farm (in life?), I need to make a change for the season. Not wanting to leave this space idle for a whole month, I am going to set a goal of capturing those moments, with a picture, and hopefully post one every weekday until January! Anyone want to join me?
I am sure there will be a few full post thrown in. Or maybe not. We will just have to see. 

all is well here

Everyone is safe and sound here. We had high winds and a lot of rain but, thankfully, never lost power. We awoke to two overturned animal shelters, an uprooted hunting tower and a small section of shingles blown from the big barn’s roof. All the animals were wet but happy and escaped our brush with Sandy unscathed! Our thoughts are with all of those who were not as lucky as us and we hope for both their safety and a speedy return to normal.

Even though we weathered a hurricane, a mere two days ago, it’s time to get back to serious business. We have a very important holiday to attend to, at least that’s what the under 4 foot tall crew in the house has told me. Due to the storm, and the time we spent preparing for it, our Halloween activities seemed to have all been squished into the last 24 hours. Thankfully both of their costumes were completed late last week, in anticipation of a Halloween party with my in-laws. PJ’s costume request of dressing as Woody from Toy Story and his sister playing the part of Jesse felt a little to commercialized for our liking, so I decided to make as much of both costumes, from scratch, as possible. It was fun trying to recreate the outfits by repurposing things I found around the house and throwing in a few small fabric purchases (all made with coupons of course). I even went so far as to make Jesse’s hat from poster board and heavy-duty red felt. I estimate that I spent about a quarter of what store bought costumes would have cost and finished them in about three evenings, with help from my mom (she drew all those red squares you see on PJ’s shirt) and while Kevin wrangled the kids on his own giving me uninterrupted time to sew and put all the pieces together. I even went so far as to craft a wig for Shaelyn, made out of orange yarn, but she is much to terrified of it to put it on. In fact, every time we come near her with it she takes off running in the opposite direction.

It was, indeed, hard to find time for all of our usual Halloween festivities while also attending to the work here on the farm. However, looking at it now, it facilitated in me letting go. Figuring out which traditions were truly important to us as a family and letting all the extraneous things just slip away, without the worry of whether the kids were missing out. It seems, just by living a lifestyle that comes with working a farm, simplicity automatically follows. You have no choice but to let go of the unnecessary because there are always more important things to be attended to, such as animals to be moved to new pasture before they find a way to escape to it on their own, water bins to be filled, eggs to be collected, and in the case of this week, structures to be rebuilt. All of this is yet another reminder that life is good since moving to this homestead, it looks quite different and, from the outside, much simpler than the one we lived before. Truth be told, we are just as busy (if not more) than we were a year ago and we (mostly me) are learning to inhabit each moment we have together rather than getting caught up in the breakneck pace.

For now the pumpkins are carved, the seeds await roasting, the house is decorated, the apples are candied and our little monsters are ready to hit the town and gather up their treats. The mess strewn about the house, the three piles of clean laundry that need to be put away, and the bins that those decorations came out of, which are still sitting in the middle of the dining room, will have to wait until tomorrow. After all, there is more important business to attend to.

We wish you all the most frighting of Halloweens filled with only the most adorable ghosts and goblins!

The joy in just getting by

There won’t be much in the way of a blog post today. Shaelyn decided that it was party time, instead of bedtime, two nights ago and proceeded to rock it out until 6 am. Yes, 6…in the morning! You know, the usual time that farmers are already out and making the rounds, well that was the time that she was just laying her cute little head down to sleep (cute is, indeed, what keeps us laughing rather than crying during these moments.) I give the kid credit, she was all smiles and giggles the whole time, which took the edge off the sleep deprivation that was in progress and which was better than her brother ever did on one of his all night benders. Kevin and I have both been running on fumes and massive amounts of coffee, just hoping to make it through. I gotta say though, this does not seem like a promising start to our week, or to checking things off our list, a list that this blog quickly got shoved to the bottom of.

We pushed through the day, a day filled with a few mental breakdowns and many short tempers, which one might expect in a house full of strong personalities and with some of those personalities going on no sleep (ahem, yes I may be referring to myself here.) The decision was made to do all the evening chores a few hours early, in the hope of getting the kids, and ourselves, off to bed at a decent hour. When we went out, to tuck the sheep in for the night, Kevin and I found ourselves alone, for the first time that day, and decided to sit down in the pasture to watch the sheep and just be.

 

It was completely spur of the moment and unplanned. We sat talking, first about the sheep, then about grass, then about various future farm plans. Different sheep would come over to one of us, visit for a moment, and then move off to nibble on some clover or grab a drink of water. Luna, our little white lamb, always stayed close, nudging for a quick pat, just as she always does when we walk into the pasture. I’m not sure if it was the shifting evening light, or the meditative state that often accompanies sitting quietly with animals, but that list disappeared and it was just us, talking about the future. Something our more rested selves had done, almost four years ago, as our baby boy laid sleeping. Now, four years, two children, and one farm later, we are here, living our dream everyday and planning new adventures. If I have to endure a few sleepless nights, spent with my smiling daughter, and followed by a day in a caffeine infused fog as payment for these blessings, so be it.

Thank you dear sheep (and Universe) for the gentle reminder.