So Long, Summer!

Today feels like autumn!  I realize there are more uncomfortably hot days to be had, but I’m going to try not to think about that too much while I bask in today.  Speaking of the hot days of summer, I have some catching up to do.  We’ve had some good times and some not-so-good times this summer (which is part of the reason for the blogging absence).  I’ve been anxiously awaiting the fresh start and the routine that comes with the dawn of another school year.

Here’s a glimpse into what went on in our world since my last post:

We took a trip out to Texas to visit Barry’s cousin, Clark, and his family for a few days.  We had a blast!  They have a beautiful log home on an abundance of acreage, which also happens to be the home of a herd of buffalo.  We had an amazing time just hanging out at their house, talking, laughing, and even playing Rock Band.  The highlight, however, was getting to go with them to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. We had never been to a Renaissance Festival before, and thanks to our veteran relatives, we will definitely be doing it again soon.

Clark and Roxanne (Roxy) have 5 kiddos:  Alex (13), Sam (12), Malachi (9), Eli (7), and Macy  Jo (4).  Those kids are absolutely precious.  It was like our kids had known them their entire lives…fit together like PB&J.

Lots of this went on…kids having fun getting dirty and being kids.

On your mark, get set….even the teenagers were in on this!

Heading out on a tour of the property.

Sam and Alex – beautiful girls, inside and out.

Roxy and Clark leading the pack…looking for buffalo.

Found ’em! (Barry getting up close and personal.)

One of Clark’s many interests is making chain maille…by hand. Crazy good, right? It was super heavy. Barry couldn’t help but to try it on. Clark also made the hat.

The Scarborough Renaissance Festival!

The King and Queen

Adam “Crack” Winrich…he was AMAZING!

Macy Jo after she thoroughly enjoyed her Italian Ice.

Little boys sword fighting – no big deal.

The Whole Crew
Front: Malachi, Macy Jo, Aaron, Eli, Jadon
Back: Lauren, Samantha, Alexandra, Lindsay

I had only met Clark and Roxy once back in 2006, but I had kept in touch with them via email and Facebook since then.  I always knew that  Roxy and I seemed to be kindred spirits, but I just didn’t realize how much that entire family meant to our family until the time came for us to say good-bye.  Now, I spend my days  (seriously, at least 2-3 times per week) explaining to Jadon why we “can’t go to Texas tomorrow.”  We miss them terribly, and we can’t wait to see them again…hopefully in October for the Texas Renaissance Festival🙂

Next on the timeline, Lindsay turned 17 and she got her braces off (that was way more important to her than the birthday).  I can’t believe I have a senior this year!  She is such a beautiful girl, and she truly loves the Lord with all her heart.  She strives every day to be more like Him and less like the world.  We are so proud of her.

We took our annual trip to the beach where we also celebrated the boys’ birthdays.

Photo credit: Lindsay…don’t you just adore this picture???

On to the “not-so-good”…our garden was less than desirable.  Partly because of the drought, partly because of sheer laziness, and partly because I severely sprained my ankle and couldn’t walk for close to a month.  We were so thankful I didn’t break it, and I was extremely humbled by not being able to tend to myself and my family for such an extended period of time.  Although it was completely overrun with weeds, we were blessed with quite a few vegetables (thanks to my mom and mom-in-law for all the help picking).  We just didn’t put up the amount I had hoped to, but it wasn’t a total loss.

As far as the farm goes, there is life…and then, there is death.  Since our little hen, Ruthy, tends to go broody at the drop of a hat, we keep hatching out chicks.  We have increased our flock to 20.  Someone asked me not too long ago, “When do you have ‘enough’ chickens?”  My answer: “I have no idea.”  I guess we’ll keep letting nature take its course – chicken crazy, I tell ya.

On the other hand, Twinkle, one of our goats (Little Mac’s momma), got really sick.  Before we could get her well, the other doe, Sugar, ended up hurting her pretty badly (this is natural culling).  We ended up having to put her down, which was emotionally difficult to do.  We managed, and we miss her, but we ultimately know it was for the best.

Ok, so that was a downer.  Let’s move on, shall we?

School:  I finally have a school room!!!  Yippee!!  No more books, papers, projects, maps, and mess invading the dining room!  Since Aaron is finally old enough to climb stairs safely, we decided we could put the boys’ playroom upstairs in the loft, which freed up their old playroom.  I am in love with this space.  I still have some things I want to do, but I’m determined not to spend any money at this point.

We are looking forward to the new school year, which we’ve already begun.  Lindsay is spending her senior year working on college credit through CLEP Lauren and Jadon will be participating in a Classical Conversations community, and Aaron is learning to color and play with play-do.  He is also very fond of my dry-erase board (if I can only keep him on the board and off my walls).

Summer is on its way out, and we are ready for cooler weather, bonfires, sweaters, and fall crops – yes, even after this year’s summer garden seemed like a failure, I do want to plant a few things this fall…just not as much as years past.  I hope to keep you more informed with what’s going on in our lives, since I am slowly but surely getting on a schedule.

Thanks for stopping by!

Foraging for Yummy Goodness…and a Recipe

Growing up here in South Mississippi this time of year meant swimming in cut-off blue jeans, playing outside all day until it was too dark to see (without the fear of mosquitoes giving you West Nile virus), and eating so many dewberries right off the vine that your stomach writhed in pain and your mouth was stained purple.  I remember there were a few times that I managed to pick enough, without eating them, to actually take to my Granny.  In return, she would make a little dewberry cobbler just for the two of us, and we would eat it right out of the oven with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Besides the fact that it was deliciously sweet, the best part was knowing that I had picked them.

If you're not familiar with dewberries, they are basically wild blackberries, but they grow on vines along the ground instead of on bushes.

I had been watching the vines for the last few days and knew they should be ready soon, so the younger three and I decided to go foraging today and try to get enough to make a cobbler.  Well, we hit the mother load.  Before we knew it, we had filled about 1/2 gallon bucket, and we hadn’t even scratched the surface of what was out there.

It brought a smile to my face watching them doing what I did as a kid, yelling, “Mama, look how big this one is!”  “I found a bunch over here!”  All the while, Aaron was stuffing them in his little cheeks like a chipmunk storing up for winter.

So, after all that fun, the boys had to take naps…which gave me plenty of time to wash those juicy beauties and make the cobbler.

Here’s the cobbler:

3 cups of dewberries (blackberries will work, too) – rinsed and drained
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour (I used whole wheat flour because it’s what I had on hand)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter – melted

Preheat oven to 375.

In a bowl, toss the dewberries with the sugar and let stand for 10-15 minutes or so until a syrup forms.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and milk…then add the melted butter.  Stir until it’s well blended.  The consistency will be a little thinner than cake batter.
Now, pour the batter in a small baking dish (about an 8×8), spoon the berry/sugar mixture on top of that, and put it in the oven for about 50 minutes.
While it’s baking, the batter will rise to the top in some places and form a crust around the edge.  Unfortunately for you (fortunately for me), we hastily scooped some out before I got a picture of the finished product in the pan.  So, here’s what you get (a picture of it right before it went into my mouth):
Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Oh, and what did we do with the rest of them?  They’re in the fridge with some chopped strawberries…great for snacking…yummmm.

What do you have growing wild on or around your property?  If you have an abundance of dewberries (or wild blackberries), I hope you’re taking advantage of this delicious gift from God!

Spring Has Sprung

Once again, I’ve neglected my blog.  I promise, I’m trying to do better, but it just seems to be one thing or another keeping me from taking the time to update.  On top of the busyness of life, we spent the last two weeks with the flu…yep, all six of us.  Since we were sick for Easter Sunday, and the kids didn’t get to hunt for eggs, Grandma decided we should just pretend this past Sunday was Easter…like we never missed it.  So, that’s exactly what we did.

With springtime, come babies…and we have lots of babies around here.  Ruthie went broody again, so we put about 10 eggs under her.  Out of the 10, only 3 hatched, but they’re the cutest things ever.

She’s a good little mother – even though they’re not really her babies.  She’s always showing them how to scratch and hunt for food, and she’s very protective when we try to pick them up.

Not only chickens, but Lindsay’s cat,  Scout, had kittens…four…and they are absolutely precious.  This was our first time to witness kittens being born.  She had the first two, and that seemed to be it…I thought, “Surely not.”  I quickly Googled it and found out it could take up to 6 hours for all of them to be born.  After an hour or two, she had two more.  They were born just last Thursday, and they’re starting to open their eyes a bit today.

Although it will be hard to let them go, we’ve agreed we’ll only keep one – and this one is our favorite:

We have really been enjoying this beautiful weather we’ve been having.  After getting so much rain throughout the winter and early spring, it’s been nice to spend more time outside…of course, the only drawback is having to coat ourselves in mosquito repellent.

Cora, our Great Pyrenees,  has enjoyed our being outside more, too.  She likes to watch the kids play, and she loves to be brushed and petted.  It’s taken almost 2 months, but she is finally starting to trust us more.  I hate to even imagine the kind of environment she must have lived in before we rescued her.  She is so sweet, and we’re overjoyed to have her in our family.

And yesterday was garden planting day…here’s what we planted:

Cucumbers (3 different ones)
Yellow Squash
Tomatoes (we’re trying 9 different varieties this year)
Peppers (I dunno…several different kinds)
Peanuts
Peas
Red Potatoes
Sugar Cane
Okra
Sweet Corn
Watermelon
Canteloupe

We also planted ten strawberry plants in our gutter garden on the side of the barn…hope they do well there.

So, now we’re looking forward to a bountiful harvest this summer.

Oh, and I can’t forget…we’re finally getting out of here for a few days in a little over a week!  My parents have graciously agreed to “tend the farm” while we’re gone, so we are going to Texas to see some of Barry’s family.  We are so stinkin’ excited!  Not only will we get to hang out with some pretty awesome relatives, we’ll also be going (for the first time) to a huge Renaissance Festival.  Now that’s right up our alley!

So, what’s going on in your neck of the woods?  Leave a comment, and let me hear from you!

Mutant Carrots

Barry and I decided to try growing a few new things this past fall and winter, and carrots was one of them.  We’ve been gardening a few years now with the help and knowledge of my dad (he grew up on a homestead, and truck farming was their livelihood), but carrots was one of the few things he didn’t have experience with.  So, we just decided to wing it.  I mean, how hard could it really be?  Foolishly, we didn’t read up on it before jumping right in.

When we were planting our fall crops,  we just put a few seeds in the garden alongside the broccoli, cauliflower (that was another first-time crop that didn’t happen), collards, turnips, and cabbage.  Everything turned out great except the carrots and the cauliflower (like I said before – foolish).  The cauliflower only got about 3 inches in diameter before turning black.  Turns out, cauliflower doesn’t do very well here in South Mississippi.  The temperature has to be on the cooler side and fairly consistent.  If you live in South Mississippi, you know there is no consistency to any season down here, and we just had the mildest winter I can remember.  I’m not saying we won’t try cauliflower again, but we will probably wait until winter instead of fall, and we will most likely just plant it in the greenhouse.

The carrots, however, were a different story.  They did absolutely nothing.  We had, I think, two come up but they just wouldn’t get any bigger, so we transplanted them into the greenhouse hoping that would help.  From what I read after the fact, we probably didn’t keep them wet enough and we let a crust form on the soil before they germinated.

So, again, we thought we had the answer to the problem and we would just sow them indoors to get them started then transplant them into the greenhouse, along with those two we “rescued” from the garden…WRONG!  If you are like me and have never grown carrots, please learn from our mistake:  never, ever, never, never, ever, never, NEVER transplant carrots (from what I’ve read, this goes for pretty much any root crop).  It’s next to impossible to transplant without damaging the root structure, and this lovely mess is what you end up harvesting:

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Now, isn't this something you want to dip into some ranch dressing and crunch on? I didn't think so.

Although they taste normal, out of all our carrots, only these three looked the most normal (still not a pretty carrot):

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So, we are going to try again in the coming days to direct-sow more carrots in the garden – or possibly in the greenhouse.  After we sow, however, we will cover them with some loose, rich compost/soil and some plastic to keep the soil moist and soft until they germinate.

Have you ever had carrots turn out like this?  Was it because you transplanted?  I’d love to hear from you and gain some knowledge before we try this again!

Happy Homesteading!

The Last 3 Months

The longer I put off blogging, the harder it seems to be to get back in the swing of things.  So, I decided I will just try to put as much information into this one post as I can remember.  It has been 3 months since I posted last, and…well, obviously, a LOT has happened in the past 1/4 of a year, so I hope I can remember the highlights (fortunately, I took some photos during this hiatus, so that should help jog my memory):

A little over a week after we welcomed “Little Mac” (our first goat kid) into our world, our other doe, Sugar, kidded on Saturday evening, December 10.  Fortunately, by this time, I knew what to watch for and had been keeping a close eye on her every day since Little Mac was born.  It was a pretty uneventful delivery aside from the fact that we were “certain” she would have at least 2.  We kept waiting and waiting (not knowing at the time that there are ways to know if there is another) until she finally delivered the placenta a couple of hours later…then we knew there would only be one.  It was a little doeling, and we named her Bonnie Blue (we’re suckers around here for anything Gone With the Wind).

Almost immediately after birth, while her momma was trying to clean her up, she was suckling Sugar's ear. After I put her in the right place, she quickly started to nurse...so sweet:)

Hmmm...satisfied. Bonnie is very sweet and playful (that is, when she can get away from her overprotective mother).

The grain I ordered back in the spring finally came in.   It’s Hard Red Spring Wheat from Montana Milling.  I was so excited to get it (all 300 lbs. of it), but there was one problem…I had no way to mill it…until….my parents blessed us with a grain mill for Christmas!  Let me tell you, it is wonderful!  I had no idea how different it would be from store-bought whole wheat flour.  I don’t know how to explain it, exactly, but it seems to have so much more elasticity…it’s so much easier to knead!  And, it makes the best bread I have ever tasted.

Here's what we got...the L'Equip Nutrimill...I love it.

Barry had a birthday…

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Lauren was in a sweet Christmas program at church…it was too cute.

Lauren, Emma, and Micah going over their lines one last time.

The angels

One of our hens, Ruthie, went broody.  Since she’s a little Silkie, we only gave her 4 eggs to sit on.  Two hatched, and we are pretty sure they were from our two Ameraucanas, Pearl and Ginger…of course, papa is a Rhode Island Red, so I dunno what the outcome will be when they’re bigger.

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Here they are shortly after they hatched.

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And a few days later with their surrogate mother.

Lauren had her 1-year post op visit with Dr. Berch.  Can you believe it’s been an entire year since her surgery?  Time flies around here! Nevertheless, he said she looks great, and we are so thankful for how the Lord has healed her body and that she is now able to endure any activity she wants without becoming short of breath or having chest pain.  We will go back in a year to schedule the removal of her bar (which will, thankfully, be a simple outpatient surgery).  While we were in Jackson for her appointment, we just had to take advantage of our trip by visiting the Mississippi Children’s Museum again.  What a wonderful place…and can you believe how big the boys have gotten since our last visit to the museum?

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Dad helping the boys move logs.

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My 3 men.

Both girls went to TeenPact Leadership School (Lindsay’s 4th year for the 4-day class and Lauren’s 3rd year for the 1-day class).  I’ve said it in previous years, and I will say it again:  TeenPact is one of the best Christian student organizations around…if not the best. It has been life-changing for both girls. If TeenPact is available in your state, I encourage you to check out their website and get your kids involved as early as possible (8 years old is the starting age).

teenpact1

The 2012 4-day class.

teenpact

Luke, Lindsay, Courtney, and Tiffany. Lindsay met these 3 a couple of years ago at TeenPact, and they have become the best of friends and look forward to getting together as often as they can (although, that's usually only a couple of times a year).

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Lauren's 1-day class praying for the governor during the prayer walk at the capitol. They practice their freedom daily by praying over each branch of government.

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Lauren defending the bill she wrote while also practicing parliamentary procedure.

And, last but not least, we adopted this big baby girl:

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Her name is Cora (we named her after Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey), and she is a 1-year-old Great Pyrenees. She's beautiful and very sweet, but she is very skittish. We've only had her for two weeks, and she is still having some trust issues with us. I'm sure she'll eventually come around.

Now, hopefully I haven’t left too much out, and I will try my best to not take such a long break before my next post.  Thanks for your patience with me.  Be sure to comment and let me know what you’ve been up to!

Thankful Thursday # 74 – # 90

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life”
-1 Timothy 6:17-19
74.  the hope I find in Him
75.  His sovereignty
76.  His faithfulness
77.  the fact that I can be who I am
78.  His acceptance
79.  my family’s acceptance
80.  a husband who is quick to say “I’m sorry” and also quick to forgive (he makes me want to be a better person)
81.  a husband who loves the Lord and desires His will over anything else
82. children who are learning to love the Lord and are learning to desire His will over anything else
84.  lost cell phones
85.  heat lamps
86.  babysitting girls who watched the boys and let me nap after a long, long night when I just couldn’t go on
87.  the miracle of life
88.  collards and sweet potatoes
89.  found cell phones
90.  a dishwasher that works again (and for the hubby who fixed it)

Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord Will Provide

At 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, I called Barry to ask him to stop and pick up milk on the way home from work.  That  was the last time I saw my phone.  Sometime around 5:00, Barry and I went out to close up the chickens for the night and pull some turnips, but I honestly don’t remember if I put it in my jacket pocket or not.  Around 6:00, I realized it was missing…and it was on vibrate.  I figured it had to either be somewhere in the house or somewhere outside.

At that point, the family and I went on pursuit of the phone.  We literally turned every room in the house upside-down while calling my number and listening for the buzz of the vibration (which is not so easy when there are two loud little boys trying to help).  We went out to the barn and the turnip patch doing the same…nothing.

After the boys went to bed, we decided to give it one more attempt.  We went through the house, room-by-room, calling my number and listening quietly.  Then, in each room, we would turn off the light and call it again so we would be able to see the light if we couldn’t hear it…still, nothing.  Shamefully, I’m often very prideful in the fact that I rarely lose my phone or my keys because I “always” put them back where they belong…I was so aggravated with myself…and quickly humbled.

Just before we went to bed around 11:00, I decided to make one more trip through the barnyard and the turnip patch…hoping if it was outside I would see it light up.  When I got to the barnyard, there was Twinkle (one of our 2 pregnant does), standing next to the chicken coop in the cold.  At first, I thought she was probably standing there because Sugar, our other dominant and recently more aggressive pregnant doe, wouldn’t let her in the barn.  She had done that a couple of other times lately, and I would end up having to lock one of them up in the kidding stall for the night just so they would both be inside and out of the cold.

As I walked over to Twinkle, I noticed she looked different at the head of her tail.  Upon feeling her ligaments, I realized they were GONE!  Then, I looked at her udder and realized it was FULL (I guess I just hadn’t looked at her closely earlier in the day).  I locked her in the kidding stall and quickly went inside to get out my goat books and get on the internet to see what I could find out.  Sure enough, this was a sign of imminent labor…but how close was she?  I got everything from “soon” to “up to 12 hours.”

I decided around midnight that I probably had a few hours, so I set my alarm for 3:00 to check on her but prayed the Lord would wake me if I needed to get up before then.  Right at 1:00, I sat straight up in the bed and felt I needed to check on her.  When I found her, she was quietly moaning , streaming, and pawing the ground.  I knew then it would not be long.

I saw that the lights were on at my parents’ house, so I decided to get my mom and let Barry sleep since he had to work later.  We had no idea when these two does were bred, but we were thinking they would be due sometime late in December, so I had not even gotten my kidding supplies together.  I started getting things together, double-checking my list, when I realized that we had to get some heat in the barn since the low that night was to be 28 degrees.  Thankfully, my mom (to the rescue once again) headed to Wal-mart at 2:am to purchase a heat lamp.

While she was gone, I gathered my supplies and researched kidding more in my books and on the internet, at the same time keeping a regular check on Twinkle’s progress.  By 2:45, she was on her side having regular contractions and appearing to push, so I woke up Barry.  Right at 3:00 a.m. we welcomed “Little Mac” (named after his father, Big Mac) into the world.  Aside from the birth of my own children, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.  What a miracle!

This was taken the second he came out. We didn't even notice this until we were looking at the pictures later, but check out curious "Aunt Sugar" on the upper-right.

Twinkle inspecting her new baby.

Awwwe...mama love.

First time getting mama's milk.

got milk?

After the kids woke up, they couldn't wait to get out to the barn and get their hands on this little guy...he is just too adorable.

After things calmed down a bit in the barn, my cell phone came to mind, and I realized why I had lost my phone.  I truly believe that the Lord allowed me to lose my phone so that I would go out to the barn that late in the night.  He works that way, ya know?  There is no way I would have ever gone back out to the barn and found Twinkle in labor had I not lost my phone.  Given the fact that even though I helped dry-off and warm-up the baby with a heating pad (remember, it was 28 degrees outside), and he was still lethargic for a couple of hours after birth; I feel certain he would not have survived the night without my being there.  God is so good like that…what provision for that little baby goat.

We looked for my phone on and off throughout the day yesterday, and we even looked on eBay last night for a used one for my carrier (my phone is fairly new, so I’m only a couple of months into my contract…would cost a fortune to buy another one), but I couldn’t bring myself to buy one just yet.  Then this morning I was sitting here thinking, “Ok, Lord, you did what you needed to do…now I need my phone back!” LOL.  All of a sudden, I felt I needed to look better around my nightstand and bed.  I went back to the bedroom and woke up Barry to tell him what I was doing.  I said, “I know this may sound crazy, but I really feel led to look for the phone over here. If it’s here, then I really heard the Lord…if not, I guess it’s my imagination.”  This time, I moved my books off my nightstand and moved my nightstand away from the wall and away from the bed.  I got down on my knees and felt all around under the bed, and there it was…behind the leg of the bed up next to the wall…face down (this is why we couldn’t see the light).  Another miracle in my book!  Praise the Lord of provision, Jehovah-Jireh!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

– Matthew 6:25-34

I’m linking this post to the Barn Hop.  Join me in checking out what’s going on with other homesteaders.