Monday, December 31, 2007

Out With Resolutions and In With Godly Goals


I am not a New Year's Resolution person. When I was younger, I use to set resolutions every year. I noticed that my resolutions usually where the same every year, and that must mean that I wasn't obtaining the goal. I almost dreaded the New Year because it was another glimpse of failure for me as a person. Being the smart person that I am, I realized that I needed to make a change. I knew God must have more for me to be concerned with than making the same resolution year after year.
I started seeking the Lord concerning this matter, and now instead of resolutions that come and go I take an inventory of where I am at in life and where the Lord would have me to go in the next year. This doesn't happen only on December 31st each year. I spend some time throughout the last week of December pondering these things. Last week as Michael and I were having coffee, he asked me what goals do we want to have for 2008. We break it down in our life. We have goals for the farm, the house, and the business. We also have personal goals as well as spiritual goals. We also look at our children and find areas that we need to address in each of their lives. This is also a great chance for us to celebrate all that the Lord has done in our life over the past year.
Our farm goals are simple this year. First and foremost we want to add a steer to our herd so we can raise our own beef. Michael is wanting to start a flock of sheep for meat also. This will require fence preparations and an additional structure added so that they can keep warm. We also want to enlarge the garden beds with the addition of 5 new beds this year. We are wanting to start a bed of strawberries. We will continue clearing pasture area from our damaged woods. We will also be clearing a spot to add blueberries on our hillside. This sounds like a lot of things to do, but it will be accomplished over the course of a year.
We take the time to write our goals down on paper so we can check to see where we are at throughout the year. I also spend some time on the last day of the year with my journal and the Lord. I write down a quick list of highlights of the year. I write enough to jog my memory when I read it later. I pray and ask the Lord to show me what HE wants of me for the next year. I write it all down so that I have a record. I will also take some time today to look back at what I wrote last year. I can quickly take an inventory to see what we accomplished and what still needs our attention.
This system works so much better for me than New Year's resolutions. Instead of failure, I find that it truly allows a heart of celebration for all that the Lord has done in our life. Usually on New Years Eve, our family plays games and then around 11:00p.m. we turn on some worship music. We take the next hour and have a time of family worship, and to ring in the new year we take communion together as a family. This is one of our sweetest times as a family.
grace and peace,
julie

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Day and Holiday Come to an End



For our family, the Christmas season has come to a close for this year. We have enjoyed 3 different Christmas celebrations this holiday season. We made a mad dash to Ky to share in our family celebrations there, and then back home to our own celebration Christmas morning. It has been an enjoyable December in our home, but it is time to get back to the productivity of normal everyday life. I am just thankful that the Lord remains with us 365 days a year. There are so many people who only think about the Lord during the month of December. I can't imagine life without having that intimate relationship with the Lord all year long.

I spent my day putting our home back in order. I took down the Christmas tree and cleaned the living room. I put the furniture back in its normal location, and I was quite pleased with the accomplishment. My daughter was a bit sad to see the tree go. For her, it is still the Christmas season because she is still on Christmas break. I have always taken the tree down on December 26th. It just seems like the thing to do in my mind. However, next year I think I will talk with the children and see what each of them prefer. I could leave it up a bit longer, but it must be down before New Year's Eve! I am flexible and willing to bend in some areas to make my children happy.

When we arrived back home from our Ky trip on Christmas Eve, we had a huge surprise on our kitchen counter. Tnfarmgirl had made us a huge basket of goodies and snacks. She had left an enormous meal in our frig. complete with homemade cookies and a pecan pie. I can't tell you how nice it was to walk into our home and have a meal already prepared. She had made me her wonderful salad with homemade Raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I had some of that for breakfast this morning! The basket was full of homemade soaps and salves and lip balms. She left a dozen of farm fresh eggs and even a chew toy for our dog. Wow, that is truly a friend. I felt so special with each and every item that I picked up out of that basket. It was a wonderful way to end a rough day of driving with an overstuffed suburban and a 160 pound English Mastiff!!! Thank you Cheri, from the bottom of my heart and my stomach!!!

My day has come to a close. I am tired, but very content. My heart is filled with thanksgiving to the Lord for all the blessings that He has given us over the last year. I stand in awe of all that He has done in our life.

grace and peace,

julie

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December Moments


Our home is full of hustle and bustle here in East Tennessee. We are finished with all the "Lists of things that must be completed before Christmas". Now we are just settling in and enjoying the holiday season. There is still much left to do in our home, but the things that remain are the things that are fun for the whole family. There are still sugar cookies to bake and decorate. We also make homemade peanut brittle to share with one and all. I have several fun recipes that we will make just for the fun of it. I also must bake a banana cake to share with our out of town family.

I have enjoyed the entire month of December this year. There have been some stressful moments, but all in all I am pleased with the outcome. I believe that making memories with our children is vital. I want the time that they are all home and little to be precious memories that hold them together like glue when they are adults. I have to be honest and say that there are times that I want silence in the house. The last few days have been filled with loud laughter and fun times for 5 children. There have been a few squeals of frustration, but all in all everybody has remained happy. I use to think that toddlers where loud, and then those toddlers grew into teenagers! I love the moments that I see all of my children interacting and being together. There is something special about a 16, 14, 11, 9 and 3 year old all getting along and having fun even if it is at the expense of my eardrums!!


grace and peace,
julie

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Birthday Chicken Jake


We are celebrating yet another birthday in our home. Jacob is our 3rd son, and as you can tell by the picture he is always up to something! Here he is in the top of a pine tree smiling from limb to limb. Jacob is our son that is always eager to do farm chores. He became known as Chicken Jake in our home because he is so good with our chickens. Tnfarmgirl gave Jacob some chickens about 6 years ago, and that was the beginning of his animal care. He is always watchful for things going wrong with the animals, and he is usually more than helpful to fix any problem concerning the animals. He feeds our animals so often that they all follow him constantly. When our calf was first born, Jacob was the only one who could get near her and her Momma. He is always wanting to get new animals to add to our farm. He is usually the first to offer his Dad help in any area of the farm. I think the whole farm thing just comes natural for Jacob. I don't think he sees it as a chore (most of the time), but instead he truly enjoys it.
grace and peace,
julie

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saying Good Bye to Henny Penny

Yesterday I was making my bed when I glanced out the window. I noticed that our "Chicken Jake" was outside trying to catch something that looked a bit like a crane. I called Michael over to ask him what in the world was HIS son trying to do. I was on the verge of opening the window to scold Jacob for not being where he was suppose to be. At that moment, we saw Jacob run from the "crane" with a large rock in is hand. He was heading back up to the house to ask a question. Michael quickly opened the window and told Jacob to throw the rock hard at the crane. Jacob is a wonderful baseball player, and he used his skills quite well to hit the "crane". I was still confused at this point. (I am a bit slower at identifying birds and animals. I spent the first 6 months of my life in Tennessee thinking that guineas were turkeys. You can imagine my husband's laughter when I announced that it would be good turkey hunting in our neighbor's flock of guineas!) When the "crane" flew away, I saw our Henny Penny chicken on the ground not moving. Our chickens will often play dead when there is a threat. I have seen many a "dead" chicken get up and walk away. I yelled through the screen and asked Jacob if she was playing dead. He shook his head and said, "I don't think so. Her head seems to be missing". The "crane" was actually a hawk that decided we had a nice chicken buffet running around in our yard.


This chicken was one of the aggravating chickens. She did not like staying in the electric fence with the other chickens. She was always flying over the fence in search for something better somewhere else. Jacob and Michael had caught her many times and put her back with the others, but she always got out again by the next day. She was our most productive egg layer. We got in the habit of looking for her eggs in the barn, and she rarely disappointed us.

I hated to see that stupid chicken killed by the hawk. I was thinking about how stupid she had been. After all, we had purchased her a nice boundary fence that kept her safe, but she refused to stay there. We had a nice coop she could have laid her eggs in, but she refused to use that which was provided for her. She just had to do things her way...which resulted in her head being pulled off! That is when the Lord spoke to my heart...am I really any different than the stupid chicken? Don't I want to do things my own way instead of His? Doesn't my own way seem productive at times, but in the end it always results in disaster. Ouch, the Lord used a dead chicken to convict me of my own sin. I am so thankful that God uses real life situations to show me His ways. I will also take the time today to talk to Jacob about the folly of his beloved Henny Penny. It will be a lesson easily remembered for him as he was the one who took her dead body to the woods.

Last night, Jacob came in the house with his pockets full and a smile on his face. I asked what he had in his pockets and his smile became bigger. He started pulling out eggs. Henny Penny had left 9 eggs in the garden bed right next the safe enclosed pen. I see another Bible lesson for our Chicken Jake here!!

grace and peace,
julie

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Baking

Our home has recently been filled with holiday baking. We have made sugar cookies and several various other cookies galore. We always share some of our baked goods with our neighbors as a Merry Christmas Blessing. The kids also decorated gingerbread houses which was an afternoon of great fun for them. My intent was to post pictures of their creations, but the dog ate it. (This is no JOKE. She climbed up on the office window sill and pulled the house down).

I believe bringing the kids into the kitchen to create special Christmas goodies is a wonderful way to share special time with them. We do this all year long, but we make special efforts during the entire month of December. I wanted to share a FABULOUS recipe with you for a chocolate cookie. This cookie recipe is new to our family. I started baking them in October, and it has become my husband's favorite cookie of all time. Hope you enjoy!!!


Chunky Chocolate Gobs

3/4 cup butter softened
1/3 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped OREO cookies (16 cookies)
3 (1.75 oz) MOUNDS bars chopped
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Beat butter and shortening until creamy. Add sugars beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until blended.
Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in rest of ingredients. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Drop by 1/4 cupfuls 2" apart on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until barely set. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Yields about 2 1/2 dozen nice size cookies. (Be sure that you do not over bake).

grace and peace,
julie

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blogging with a Purpose Award

Yesterday I received a nice surprise that didn't involve the pigs getting out of their pen. I checked email and Tnfarmgirl had left me a note to check out her blog. I quickly did just that, and she had given Michael and I a blog award.





Eric Novak came out with the Christian award “Blogging with a Purpose” in late April of 2007. With so many secular awards around, Eric thought it would be a good idea to come out with a Christian award.


Rules:

1. Awarded parties must nominate five people who have not received the award.

2. The blogs that receive the award must serve some purpose.

3. In their post about the award they need to link back to this entry.

4. Awarded parties must post the award banner on their site. The banner must remain linked to this site.




Here are my picks in no particular order:



1. Ann the Pure of Heart

I recently stumbled upon Ann's blog, and it is a wonderful encouragement to me. First the beauty of her blog is outstanding. Her photographs are what caught my attention at first, but then her message caught my heart. She writes with a beautiful style of writing that touches my mind as well as my heart.





2. The Unlikely Homesteader

"A few years ago I was one of those people who curled up her nose at the idea of raising your own chickens or grinding grain. I mean they do sell chicken & flour pretty cheaply at the store, don't they? But somehow God grabbed hold of my heart and my husband's heart and led us out to the country. No one would have ever pictured us where we are. I'm just an unlikely homesteader". This is the passage that Nancy uses in her "about me profile", and it caught my attention right away. She expressed my sentiments exactly! I have loved reading her blog. She is a wonderful writer who encourages me in my walk with the Lord, my efforts in home schooling, as well as my farm life.





3. Java Dawn

Have you ever found a book that you just fell in love with the characters as well as their way of life? Those same characters words seem to leap off the written pages into your heart and cause you to stop and think...I mean really think. This is what Dawn's blog does for me. I have only been reading it a short time, but I have gleaned so much from her writings. I know that God has used her words to remind me of His ways. She is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you are sitting in the room with her sharing a nice warm cup of java.



4. Homesteading in the NW

Paula's blog is great fun to read. I have gotten great ideas about farming and homemaking from her, but more than that I have also received the Word. She posts pictures with scriptures that correspond to the photos. I love seeing her creativity shine through. She is quick to share encouraging words and honest thoughts. That is refreshing to me as a reader.





5. The Family Homestead
Crystal's blog was the very first blog I had ever read, and I have kept reading every since. There are days that I look around my home and think I don't want to clean this up again today. Reading Crystal's blog gets my fanny in gear because I am encouraged by what she accomplishes each day in her home. She has a wonderful web site that has many great articles to help ANY homemaker. She is a Godly Christian homemaker that loves her Lord, her husband, and her children.




Thanks Cheri for thinking of us! We are honored.

grace and peace,
julie

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Great Pig Escape AGAIN

Upon returning home from my 3 mile walk, I was greeted by our horse. As I was standing loving on him, I saw the pigs had once again managed to get into our pasture. I was already tired from exercising, but I knew what had to be done. I sounded the alarm to the children, called my husband at work, and we quickly manned our posts to return the pigs to their proper area. It took us just a little over an hour and a half this time around to return the 4 little pigs back into their home. One of the pigs is too fat to get through the holes. My goal for the remainder of this year and early next year is to fatten up the other three pigs!! I do know one thing that will be on our family's chore list for the weekend...installing electric fence around the pig pen. I am tired of chasing the little oinkers!!!

grace and peace,
julie

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend Happenings



The weather was perfect this weekend. It was misty and there was a chill in the air. At times, it was down right cold. Our children have been sick with a stomach bug throughout last week, and I haven't been outside as much as I would have liked. On Saturday morning, Michael decided that it was a great day to start our woods clean up project. This project is one that will take many years to see through completion. We own 17 acres of land, and probably about 10 acres of it is in woods. This would be wonderful if the trees were in good shape. Our trees had been damaged by Pine Beetles several years ago. Some of the pines are so bad that if there is a slight breeze blowing we will not let our children in the woods at all. We hear trees crashing down often in the woods. We had a forest ranger come out and look at our forest to help us know how to manage it better. His advice was to get rid of the pine trees. He spent a lot of time educating us in forest management.
Hope and I packed a picnic and we headed out to the woods on our property. Michael cut down trees and we spent the day burning them. We have waited to have any burns on our property all year long due to the severe drought. We were so cautious because we didn't want any fire getting out of control. We made sure to keep the fire small which made the actual job of burning trees go much slower. We had such a relaxing day out there. We all worked, but there was time for play as well. The children climbed and played in a tree that is close to our pasture. It was so good for me to get outside after being stuck in the house doing laundry all of last week. We only made a small dent in the work that still must be done, but it was very rewarding to see what was accomplished. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day on our farm.
grace and peace,
julie

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Best Laid Plans of Pigs and Men

The day started out wonderful. I was on track to have the entire house cleaned by the afternoon. I had decided that since things were going so well according to my plans that I would sit and read with each child. Jacob had asked me first to read with him. I had just sat down in our almost clean living room. It was nice to enjoy the Christmas tree and the room with everything in its place. Before we started reading, I remembered that I had sweet potatoes on cooking and I needed to turn off the stove. I went into the kitchen to do that task and I glanced out the window. I was looking at nothing in particular, and that is when I saw the issue. All four of our pigs were in the cow pasture which is open to all 17 acres of our farm. I sounded the alarm and each and every child available responded to the call. My husband and older boys were gone that day. How did the pigs know to plan that one? I quickly looked in my frig for any leftovers that the pigs might come for, but it was clean. I grabbed the sweet potatoes that I had just cooked for my casserole and ran out the door. We started to try to lure the pigs back into the pen. Jacob was laughing and said that I needed the camera because we had every animal on the place after us with our buckets of feed, but NO pigs. I told Hope to start feeding all the other animals in their usual places to keep them out of my hair. Whenever an animal other than a pig came my way, I yelled at Hope to give them more feed. I chased, I gently talked, I yelled, I led and quickly learned I needed to follow instead...this went on for an hour and a half. I ran up and down a steep hill so many times that I was gasping for air. The little pigs led me to the bee hives. You know I hate the bees, and I swore I wouldn't go by them again. I am the one that gets stung even in the winter. I found myself standing right beside the hives, and I was anything but happy. I called Michael at work to let him know his entire herd of pigs were heading for the hills. He told me what to do to catch them...it had ALL already been done. (I had even opened the basement door when they were headed that way hoping they would just walk right into our basement. I had opened the front door when the little darlings were on our front porch. I was inviting them into our clean living room. You know I was REALLY tired of chasing them by this point if I was trying to herd them into our home). I told Michael to wait and I would try again. We did manage to get the little darlings back into their pen. I quickly started repairs on the spot that I thought they had escaped. While I was watering the chickens, I looked back at the barn and every last pig was out again. My breathing hadn't returned to normal yet, and I was going to have to chase again!! I went into the house and called Michael. He informed me that he was almost home. (This made me feel so special. My husband knew I was having trouble and without being asked he came home from work to help me. I know he wanted the pigs back home, but I also know he did it because I was getting frustrated with the entire situation. This gift of love was way better than roses at the time)! After another hour of chasing, we had the pigs contained. All together I spent 3 hours of that day chasing pork around our farm...that was NOT at all in my plans. Needless to say, the house cleaning never was finished that day. I was tired and decided it didn't really matter if all the chores were completed. It could wait for tomorrow when I would have a new set of plans.

Later in the evening Michael asked me just how much we fed the other animals during the Great Escape. I told him I really didn't have a clue, but I was sure it was a lot. Apparently we had strung so much corn through the pasture we had every dove on this side of the mountain attracted to our farm. Michael informed me that our horse was laying down looking ill. He doesn't lay down very often and he was concerned that he had eaten too much feed. I spent the rest of the afternoon praying that I hadn't killed all the rest of the animals by overfeeding. I am happy to say that all farm animals here are doing well. The good part of the afternoon was that I became very intimate with all of our cows. We bonded together that day. I named the black cow in between my runnings, and she responded well to me. When she sees me now, she heads my way. I know that she liked the feed I kept giving her, but since we aren't going to eat her I decided we could have a nice relationship.

I wish I had pictures to share from the Great Chase, but I was a little to occupied to be shooting pictures.

grace and peace,
julie

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Little Under the Weather

Several of our children have been dealing with a stomach bug. Seth had not been feeling well, and he left his blanket and pillow in the floor. It appears he left it on purpose so Missy could enjoy some down time. He must have thought she looked cold so he made sure to cover her up all snugly.
Here was the sight earlier in the day with Missy offering moral support to the sick little guy. O.k. perhaps it is the sick little guy offering a soft pillow to Missy, but either way it made a sweet picture.

This is the same day, but much later in the day. Seth told me that Missy made him feel much better. I think he just likes her being close by.
I spent much of my day that particular day holding Seth. He was content to let Missy snuggle him when I was unavailable. If I had to do it over again, I would have named her differently. I wish we had named her Nanna instead of Missy. Nanna would be more suitable because she acts as a nanny to our little guy. I believe pets are a valuable part of a child's growing up years. I am thankful that we have a home that can support a pet. I fuss a lot about Missy's hair getting onto our things. I spend countless hours vacuuming her hair from the floor. However, seeing pictures like this make me realize that a little hair is a small price to pay for a loving companion for our children.
grace and peace,
julie

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Memories Being Made


Our tree turned out beautiful this year. This photo does not capture the beauty of the tree, but perhaps that is because it can't possibly capture the memories that go into the tree each year. There are many ornaments on our tree that just doesn't flash, but they hold special places in our heart so they will remain. One of my most treasured ornaments got broken this year when Hope was hanging it on the tree. It wasn't her fault, it was truly mine. I knew it wasn't anchored correctly on the hook, but I didn't know how to fix it. The ornament was a glass antique ornament that had been on my parent's first Christmas tree. It was down right ugly, but it had hung on my childhood trees all of my life. When it crashed to the floor, I was saddened, but not heartbroken. I knew better than to try to use a makeshift hook, but I didn't take the time to find the correct solution for the problem. Hope was horrified, but I didn't catch it at first. Shortly I glanced at my rocking chair, and I found her with tears in her eyes. I smiled and told her the mishap wasn't her fault. I don't think she believed me at first. I asked her to come hang another special ornament for me, and that was the key to her smile coming back upon her face. She knew I trusted her. I knew I had done the God thing that she needed in her life at just that moment.
It was hard to smile at her when I saw the broken ornament. My first inclination was to fuss at her. After all, I had warned her to be careful. I chose the better path. Perhaps it came because just the week before I failed in this same test miserably. I had a small shelf of Precious Moments figurines in my kitchen. These were gifts that people had purchased for me over the years. They were special because people had thoughtfully chosen ones that reminded them of me...a momma rocking a baby, a momma holding a child...well you get the point. Our second son and our little guy were playing in the living room on the love seat. The oldest was tickling the little guy, and the little guy's head hit the wall. This is the wall that divides the kitchen and the living room. Then we heard a series of crashes, and sounds of broken glass filled the air. I was angry. I didn't want to look in there, but I knew I had to. I said things I now regret. Things that sting hearts of children. Things that cause a 14 year old to come back with red swollen eyes. Things that were harsh. Things like "I can't have anything valuable in this house. It always gets broken!" In the midst of my ramblings, I glanced up on the shelf and I was amazed to see the one Precious Moment that meant so very much to me was still standing on the shelf. I have had this one for almost 20 years. He is a little Navy Sailor standing with his sea bag. This was given to me by my brother's family. Just seeing this Sailor Boy snapped me back to reality...these things are not valuable....they are nothing more than glass. The valuable things are downstairs feeling awful over broken glass. My heart was heavy and it had nothing to do with broken figurines. As I finished the clean up procedure, my children starting coming back to me one by one to offer their apologies. I made sure the 14 year old heard my heart as well as my apologies. I made sure to ask him to forgive me for the things I had said. I wanted him to know he was my valuable thing not man made stuff. He smiled, and I knew it had been made right. My other children also told me they were sorry my things had been broken. I assured them it was just stuff that really didn't matter. My soon to be 11 year old came in to tell me that he would buy me a new one with his soon to be birthday money. I smiled from deep within, and hugged him tight. I assured him that he and his siblings were my real precious moments and I didn't need any others.
Even in the midst of an angry outburst, God still whispers into my ear. I have a choice to make. Will I do it His way or my own way? I am faced with these choices many times throughout my day. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I have victory. I am growing each and everyday in Him as I walk this journey called life. I just want my children to know that they are my precious moments and they are truly my treasures in my life. Thank God that His mercies are new every morning just as the Word says.
grace and peace,
julie

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Ornaments




Here are just a few pictures of my favorite ornaments on our tree. When we lived in Florida, we had a very limited money supply. There just wasn't enough money to spend on tree ornaments. At that time my husband ran a cabinet shop so we had tools and plenty of wood. He decided to make ornaments for our tree. We took cookie cutters and drew the pattern on the wood. He then used a ban saw to cut them out. Our children sanded them to perfection, and then we painted the ornaments. Each child helped us paint, and they really enjoyed the project. Michael drilled a small hole at the top so that we could tie a small ribbon in the ornament. We made a stocking ornament for each person in our family. Our last child wasn't born until we moved to Tennessee. This year he realized that he didn't have a "sock" on the tree. I was desperate and didn't have any paint or extra stocking ornaments. I took a permanent marker and wrote his name in black on a bell ornament. For this year, it made him happy. I also had to purchase glitter and actually write his name in glitter on his real stocking. He was unhappy to see his stocking didn't have his name. He also realized he wasn't in the family picture that I have in our living room. This didn't make him happy either. I can purchase glitter and write his name on a stocking much easier than I can coordinate a family picture! I am sure we will have to have a new family picture made soon. One word of advice if you choose to make the wooden ornaments, paint both sides. It is frustrating when they get turned around on the Christmas tree and you are looking at unpainted wood instead of the pretty painted front!
grace and peace,
julie
grace and peace,
julie

Monday, December 03, 2007

Old Buildings and Thoughts

Every since I was a little girl I have loved being around old things. I can remember being about 5 or 6 when I was looking through my grandmother's barn. There were so many old treasures that I LONGED for as a child. I remember putting my hand on old furniture thinking of all the beauty that could be there. I remember holding up jars and begging my mother to let me take them home. My father did take the jars for me along with an old butter churn. He kept them for me until I had my own home to place them in. Words are not part of my vocabulary to express how I felt as a child looking at all of the old antiques and wishing I could make them beautiful once again.

During my entire childhood and well into my teenage years, I declared that I would someday purchase an old home and renovate it. Never mind the fact that I personally couldn't drive a nail in straight, I was a child and details like that just weren't important. Over the years, my husband and I did renovate an old home. We made good money on the little farm when we had to sell it. In many ways, it is still one of my favorite homes that we have ever lived in even though the ceilings were low and the floors were anything but level.

This brings me to Saturday...a friend called and asked if I would go with her to look at an old country store that is for sale right around the corner. Michael and I went and met her and her husband with their real estate agent. The store was nice, and those same feelings that I had as a child bubbled up in me a bit. However, now I KNOW the work that it takes to pull off a renovation so I kept it in check. Then came the other place... Across the street up the hill sets an old TB Sanatorium. It was built in 1900 and that was the purpose of the building. After the hospital closed, it was turned into a girls' dormitory and eventually purchased by a family that made it their home. The mother of that family died recently. She was in her 90s, and she was still living in the home. This summer the farm around it was auctioned off, and the home was put up for sale.

I walk past this home everyday that I exercise. I glance up high on the hill and wonder what it would have been like in its prime. It is a long shotgun type structure with a front porch that is really larger than it seems next to the giant of a house. I have always wanted to see the inside, and my friend had already inquired about it with the real estate agent. We ascended the big hill and opened the large back door. Quite honestly I wasn't ready for the feelings that rushed into my stomach the minute I walked through the door. I felt like that same little girl standing in my grandmother's barn so desperately wanting to make this place beautiful once again. It took my breath away, and I found myself giddy with excitement. I kept calling my husband to look at one thing after another. The doors are absolutely beautiful with the wood and the handles in top condition. I just stood and looked at the doors for the longest time. I took pictures of some of the furniture left in the home. I would love my husband to reproduce some of them for our home. I left the house with imaginations running wild, but I returned home to my comfort filled home and quickly forgot about renovating anything. Apparently my husband had not forgotten because he shared his thoughts with our three older children. Our oldest two sons are on a mission now to get us to purchase this building and turn it into a home. I think it comes from the fact that all of our 4 boys have always shared a room together!!!

I will have to keep you posted, but for now I am content with what I have. I now know all that goes into fixing an old building and it isn't the romantic notion that it was when I was 6 years old.

grace and peace,
julie

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday Scripture


"The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Brothers are Fun...sometimes

Here is a picture of me with my oldest brother. He is the one that came to visit us this Thanksgiving holiday. I will see my other brother and his family in December, but it will be at his house instead of ours. Growing up I never really appreciated having brothers. I always wanted a sister, and to tell you the truth I felt a bit slighted because a baby girl never appeared in our household. I was always very close to my oldest brother. Since I have been married, he has never forgot to call me on my birthday...even though I forgot to call him once. I think that is pretty good for 20 years of birthdays!

I have come to realize that brothers are fun now. This took me several years of revelation. When my middle brother got married, I was only 14. His wife became the sister that I had longed for my entire life. The only dilemma was that he had just joined the Air Force so they moved away from our hometown. He now lives close by the same town that we grew up in, and after the Thanksgiving week at our house I called his wife. They were not able to come and celebrate Thanksgiving with us due to work schedules. I called and lovingly suggested that they host family Christmas this year because I was a bit tired. My sister in law was thrilled at the suggestion. My mother was happy too because she was tired of traveling to Tennessee. Everybody was happy.

We will be visiting them sometime in December to celebrate Christmas with my family and then we will celebrate Christmas with Michael's family. Our families live about 5 minutes away from one another. All we have to do is drive. We haven't been back there for a holiday since my Dad died...so we have missed the last 2 years of celebrations. Our children are excited to see everybody. We will be back home to celebrate our Christmas in our own home with our children. I am looking forward to that as a low key celebration. There is something nice about opening gifts with children while you are still in your pajamas instead of rushing around making sure that the huge dinner is on tract.

My oldest brother will not be attending our Christmas in Ky event. It is too far for him to drive with his work schedule requiring him to be back home quickly. I understand, but I still will miss him. I am thankful for the time spent with him on Thanksgiving. I am also looking forward to this time with my other brother and his family. You see...brothers are FUN once you have grown up to appreciate them...or maybe it is once they have grown up to appreciate you....

grace and peace,
julie

Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Fun Starting


After all of our family left from the Thanksgiving week, I started to decorate for the Christmas holiday. I wanted to do a few decorations, but I could not put up the tree because we were hosting a church meeting in our home. There was not enough space to accommodate a Christmas tree AND 10 extra people. We will be getting the tree tomorrow, and I am hoping that Michael and sons will put up the outside lights.
I am not a shopper by nature. However for the Thanksgiving holiday I did purchase two things that made the Thanksgiving holiday MUCH more enjoyable. First, Michael bought me a crock pot. I have never been able to cook in a crock pot so I have resisted that purchase. Michael saw a good deal on a large crock pot so he purchased it. I ended up using it when our company was here to make spaghetti sauce. It was wonderful to put all the ingredients in and just forget about it. The sauce turned out great because the flavors had blended together nicely after cooking all day. I didn't even have to stir it. That was a good purchase.
The other purchase that turned out so wonderful was something that I have wanted to do for a long time. I just never took the time to set aside the money for this purchase. We have had a nice folding table for along time. We purchased it several years ago as a camping table. It is long like a nursery table that would be used in a church. We have never had folding chairs to go around it. In times past, I have used our patio chairs to place around it. However they are large and bulky and would not have worked this year with all the people. I picked up nice folding chairs to go with the table. This made room for 6 extra people to sit and eat at a table. I bought 8 chairs and spent about $79. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but it made our gathering SO much more enjoyable. At Thanksgiving Dinner, everybody had a place to sit down and eat at a table. We used the table and chairs to have another card game going while the other table was being used for Dominoes. Michael has taken that same table into his home office and used it to spread out his work papers. Then when we hosted the church meeting and dinner, I was able to again have room for everyone to sit and eat at a table. This took so much stress from me because it allowed everyone to eat their meals in the kitchen instead of on our couch or love seat in the living room. This too was a very good purchase.
I needed a quick centerpiece for our makeshift table the other evening when we had the church people for dinner. I took a pretty plate, 3 pretty candles, and some branches off a bush in our front yard. I put the branches on the plate, added the candles, and spread around some Christmas ornaments. I had a nice centerpiece that took me about 5 minutes...that included cutting the branches from the yard! You can't beat that. It looked lovely on the table, and the children enjoyed seeing the candles burn. Each candle had peppermint candy throughout. That was a novelty for the children. I hope these ideas might just help someone that will be hosting a lot of extra people this holiday season!
grace and peace,
julie

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is that a Glass Top Table and 160 pound Dog???

Missy wasn't real thrilled with being stuck outside while we all enjoyed dinner inside. She climbed up on our glass top table outside to get a better view of the food inside.
Maybe she climbed up on the table to cause us all to run outside and let her in to enjoy dinner with us. Seeing how she weighs about 160 pounds, she probably thought it would be a good attention getter.


"Help, I've climbed up and I can't get down."

We did help get her down after taking several pictures. I hope she learned her lesson!!!

grace and peace,

julie

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Additions



Our mother/daughter Black Angus Cows arrived Sunday evening. A friend had this pair that he needed to sell because of the hay shortage here in our area. I honestly don't know beans about cows, but our neighbor kept going on and on about how good of cows these looked to be. I wanted to ask what made a cow a good looking one and what made it an ugly one, but I just couldn't open my mouth one more time that day. I had already opened it twice and both times I showed my cow ignorance. The first time the farmer who brought the cow said something about the jersey heifer. I said that I wasn't talking about the heifer, but the baby cow. A sly grin came across his face and he said the baby cow WAS the heifer. (Mental note: a heifer apparently is a cow that is 2 years or younger and has NEVER had a calf. A heifer is NOT the Momma cow!!! Who came up with these rules and definitions anyway???)! The next time I opened my mouth was when I announced that I would like to eat the young cow. You know, raise it up for meat. I got both farmers and my husband looking at me as if I had 2 heads and a tail. I was then informed by one of the farmers that people do not eat their heifers...they eat steers. My thoughts are we have no steers on this farm, but we do have 5 huge eaters called children so we might as well eat the baby calf that we do have. My husband also informed me that we would NOT be eating any of our cows that we currently own because they are all females. So after all of that I just couldn't ask them what made a cow a good cow and what made a cow a bad cow. Now I am on the hunt for a cow that we CAN eat!!!

You will notice the ear tags in our cows ears. Michael and I learned from our last cow experience that you always need a way to identify your OWN cows just in case the dog scares the cow into your neighbor's herd. Yes, this happened to us and we lost our cow. Our neighbor did buy her from us, but I was more interested in raising her than selling her. But since my conversation on Sunday with the farmers, I guess we were never going to eat her either!!!

The last picture I posted was of our little jersey calf/heifer that was born on our farm this summer. She has grown a lot since then, and I think she has the most beautiful face. We did not have to tag our jersey cows because we are the only people out here that have jersey cows.

grace and peace,
julie

God's Attitude Adjustments in My Life




This morning I got off to a slow start. My husband muttered something about eating peanut butter again for breakfast. I am hoping to make some whole wheat bread later today so at least he can have homemade bread to toast tomorrow to go with his peanut butter! I don't think that is what he had in mind, but it goes better with my morning plans. I was on the verge of being grumpy myself this morning. I decided to take a moment to read some Bible scriptures while our daughter started school. She had put on a tea kettle with water to make her some hot coco. After a short time, I went back into the kitchen to get another cup of coffee. As I walked in, I smelled the stove and the coffee. It instantly brought me back to my childhood when I would walk into my grandmother's kitchen. Her stove always smelled when it was first turned on, and I knew bacon and biscuits would soon be on the table. She always took down a special coffee cup for me and poured me a cup of coffee complete with more sugar and cream than coffee. Good memories...


As I was pouring my coffee this morning, I glanced out the kitchen window. It is overcast here and the fog is heavy on the mountains which has the look of smoke on the mountains. It is truly a beautiful gift from the Lord. Then I looked at our pond and I saw all of our cows gathered at the pond getting a drink. Our 2 jersey cows were on one side of the pond, and our 2 new black angus cows were on the other side. Each pair is a mother baby combination, and just watching those cows brought such thankfulness to my heart. We have waited so long to see a farm grow in our lives. When we were first married twenty years ago, we use to sit and dream about having a farm. This morning the Lord reminded me that He is giving us the desires of our hearts right before my very eyes. This reminder from the Lord changed my whole attitude for the day. What started out as a grumpy day quickly turned into a day full of thanksgiving for who the Lord is in our life as well as what He has done in our life.




grace and peace,


julie

Monday, November 26, 2007

Birthday Celebration

Here is Josh doing something that he loves...fishing.

Here is Josh doing something else that he loves...making people laugh.
Our son is celebrating his birthday today. Josh is our child who is always good for a laugh, but he is the child that is the quietest out of the entire bunch. I have to purposely seek him out to make sure that I have spent time with him. He is not a loner, but he does like his quite times. He was like this even as a baby. He always has something witty to say...sometimes not at the best moments. He is truly like a ray of sunshine in our home with his laughter and his care free spirit. On the other hand, he is the most sensitive child that we have had. He truly cares about others and the things that they are going through. He is the child that reminds me most of my Dad. He has so many of the same personality traits of my father, and his heart is much like my dad's.
He requested for his birthday meal the following: Hot Wings, Fried Cheese Sticks, Veggie Platter (O.K. I always put that in so at least they can have some veggies for the meal), and an Oreo Cake for dessert. (Sounds like just what I need after eating with our family this past week)!
grace and peace,
julie




Monday Routines Return

The Thanksgiving holiday has come to a close for our family. The out of town family members have returned to their homes, and now it is time to once again return to our normal routine of life. I find that very peaceful. When I was younger, I use to be sad when the same old routine was thrust upon me after a holiday. It made me glum. As an adult, I take comfort in our daily routine because I know life has returned back to normal. As the Bible teaches us, there is a time for everything. I am now ready to return to the time of routines. I do have to admit it was a bit harder than normal to crawl out of bed this morning. I had slept in the last few mornings and that was a treat for me.

Today's agenda will be filled with home schooling children, cleaning up the house, LAUNDRY, and cleaning out the frig. I am sure the pigs will be happy to see that one on the list of things to do today. I am not even planning on cooking a large dinner meal this evening, but I will have to fix something for hungry bellies around here.

Off to work on the laundry I go...

grace and peace,
julie

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Fun Still Going On



I pray that your Thanksgiving holiday has been one of happiness and blessings. We are still enjoying family fun. There have been many card games and football games among our time together. It has been a great holiday, and I am thankful for a chance to enjoy family. Here is a picture of me on Thanksgiving day. I think I have taken my apron off this week only to sleep!! We have cooked nonstop and eaten just about the same. I LOVE cooking for lots of people who really enjoy eating good food.
grace and peace,
julie

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Countdown

Much has been accomplished here in our home this Weds. The house is clean, the big dog is taking a nap on the deck, and the children are all taking some time for themselves. We have all pitched in today and tons of things have been accomplished. Tonight's dinner preparations have been made. All there is left to do for tonight's dinner is to grill the Pork Tenderloin. The turkeys are setting in cold ice water in the sink to finish thawing. Mom and I will clean them out later this afternoon so that in the morning they will be ready to pop in the oven. I will also stuff one of the turkeys tomorrow. We are feeding 14 people so I bought two turkeys this year.

My brother and his family should arrive in several hours ready for dinner and fellowship. I am looking so forward to seeing everyone. I have set up extra tables so that everyone will have a place to sit while eating. This has taken up much of extra kitchen space, but it will be worth it in the end. My mom helped clean the carport so we will have a table out there for people to gather at weather permitting. I also put a cooler on the carport filled with ice and sodas. We usually don't buy sodas unless we have company so this will be a huge treat for the kids. I thought it would be handy to have them cold on the carport so people could just help themselves.

I will be getting up around 3:00 a.m. to cook one of the turkeys. My oven won't hold but one turkey at a time. Don't worry, I will be going back to bed while the turkey cooks! We will plan on eating around 1:00 tomorrow afternoon. The rest of the day will be filled with playing games and visiting and being thankful for all the Lord has done in our lives this past year. It has been a remarkable year for our family, and we are truly thankful.

grace and peace,
julie

Monday, November 19, 2007

Study Finds....

I took just a minute to glance at the news on Yahoo. I was intrigued by a study that found that men who had four or more children and lived on a farm were more likely to live to 100 years of age. The study also included that the men should maintain a healthy weight, but we don't have to go there!!! Here is a quote from the article:

"Theoretically, a household full of young kids should deplete a family's resources and undermine the longevity of parents, Mitnitski said. And yet, young dads with many children lived much longer than other men in this sample."


Imagine that!!! Some of us are well on our way to a LONG life!!! I also saw on Yahoo a couple of days ago that there is speculation that chemicals from shampoo and conditioners and other hygiene products are building up in our bodies and causing health problems. TnFarmgirl would agree with that one since she has been preaching this very thing every since I have known her!!!!! You can check her web site out for chemical free soap and shampoos. Her blog is located on our side bar.

grace and peace,
julie

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Scripture


"Enter His gates with Thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations." Psalm 100: 4-5

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thanksgiving Preperations Continued

It has been a hectic few days in East Tennessee. We are getting ready for Thanksgiving which means a lot of cleaning, cooking, and cleaning some more! Michael and I spent the day getting in groceries and finding a place for them all. I do not normally buy in large quantities, but with all the company heading our way we did just that. Where does one store 20 large rolls of paper towels and 40 large rolls of toilet paper? I am afraid that after I have tucked all of these things in many nooks and crannies that I will forget that I have all of the extras!!!

We also attended our daughter's piano recital this afternoon. It was nice to slow down for a complete hour and listen to some beautiful music. Our daughter has been taking piano for a little over a year. I always enjoy hearing the more accomplished musicians play their pieces, and I love to hear what Hope has achieved in such a short time of lessons.

My mom arrives at our house tomorrow and I still have much left to finish. I decided that tomorrow evening I am going to make Chicken Salad with almonds and grapes. I picked up some croissants at the store to make sandwiches. This should be a simple meal that my mom really enjoys. I am going to try to get the chicken cooked tonight and then get up early to assemble the Chicken Salad in the morning. I would love to have some home made cookies in the cookie jar, but I am starting to run out of steam this evening. That may just have to wait for another day!

I will begin our Thanksgiving pre cooking on Monday, and I will keep you posted on how every thing is going here as long as I have time. For now...
grace and peace,
julie

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fall Garden Update

Our fall garden lettuce bed has really taken off in the last few weeks. Here you can see the beautiful lettuce that our family has been enjoying. I planted buttercrucnch, black seeded simpson, and a mescalin salad mix. I think this has been the best tasting lettuce that we have ever grown. The other plus about fall lettuce is that you don't have the bugs that you have in the summer time. I have been thrilled about our fresh fall salads. Next year, I would like to grow an entire bed of just fall lettuce.


Here is our spinach plants. They too are beautiful, and I have been adding fresh spinach to our salads. Our children all love spinach salad so I am planning on trying a spinach salad with a Raspberry Vinegar Dressing sprinkled with some pecans and fresh strawberries (if I can find them).


Here is a picture of our collard greens. Honestly I don't think any of our children eat collards, but Michael and I sure do love them. I will never forget the first time I ate fresh collard greens. It was Thanksgiving, and Michael was in the Navy. He had to work that day and we had no family to celebrate with in the area. We had just moved to Virginia that summer so we didn't have a lot of friends at that point either. Our neighbors' son was also in the Navy and he was serving over seas at the time. That neighbor took us in as if we were family. We addressed them as Pop and MeeMee, just like their grandchildren. I was helping her cook Thanksgiving Dinner, and Pop came in the house with a mound of greens fresh from the garden. I was skeptical, but he was very proud of his collards so I knew I would be trying them at dinner. I did eat them, and they tasted better to me than any thing on that entire table! I wanted to eat the whole bowl, but I knew I couldn't be such a pig. Thankfully for me there weren't many people who ate collard greens at the meal. That family was such a blessing to me and my son during that period of living in Virginia. They shared their family with me which is something I longed for during Michael's Navy time. I felt as if I had a family of my own right across the road, and that truly was a gift sent from the Lord.

We also grew fall peas, but we didn't grow near enough. Those peas were divine. One of our sons who doesn't eat peas said that they were wonderful. He ate 2 huge helpings of those peas. Next year I would like to grow 3 to 4 beds of fresh peas. They were worth the work, and I know that they would be wonderful put up in the freezer for later uses. With the amount of peas we grew this year, we only ended up with 1 meal worth of peas. It takes a lot of peas to make a bowl large enough to feed 7 people!!!

I cannot share pictures of our fall broccoli and cabbage because the plants are just too small. I don't think they will make it, and I am aggravated with myself that I didn't go to the feed store and buy more plants. I knew they looked pitiful when I planted them, but I thought they would grow out of it. I was wrong. That is what Fall Gardening is all about for me this year... taking time to experiment and find out what will work and what won't work. All in all I have been happy with the results thus far!

grace and peace,

julie

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving Planning and Preperations

I am a procrastinator by nature. I work hard to overcome this flaw in my personality. When I was in school, I always worked much better under pressure. I would crank out a wonderful essay or project if the clock was ticking down to the last minute. I spent many long nights in college preparing assignments at the very last minute. It was almost as if having the thrill of wondering if I would make the dead line spurred me on to better performance. That is all well and fine for a college student, but it doesn't work so well for a mother. There are many factors in my life that I can't control so waiting until the last minute can become personal sabotage and failure. I find that I fall back into my old habits of procrastination when I am struggling to do something that I am not in the mood for at the time. This too is a flaw that I am trying to overcome in my life. I was mentally challenged with thinking about all the work of hosting a large Thanksgiving week of company. I am looking so forward to seeing every one, but for some reason this year I was over loaded with the logistics of it all. To add to that feeling, our second born son celebrates his birthday right after Thanksgiving. I want his birthday to be just as special as all of our other kids', but quite frankly it just isn't the best timing!!

Last night I resolved that I just couldn't put everything off till the last minute or this Thanksgiving would be a complete flop. There are too many people depending on me to let this happen. There are times that we as homemakers just can't control situations that come our way. We have to be very flexible and put our trust in the Lord. I remember one of those Thanksgivings at our house. We lived in Florida without any family, and I was VERY pregnant with our third child. I worked so hard to make it a wonderful holiday even though we didn't have other family members to celebrate with us. As I pulled the turkey from the oven, my feet were swelled and I was exhausted. The turkey was the last thing to get finished so we were very close to being ready to eat. The smell of the turkey made our mouths water. I needed to check the temperature to make sure that the turkey was done so I took out the thermometer that my mom had used over the last 20 years. I gently poked it into the turkey, and the thermometer cracked and red liquid oozed into the turkey. I was horrified. I asked my husband what that red liquid in a glass thermometer was and he informed me it was mercury. I casually asked if it would REALLY hurt us if we ate the other side of the turkey, and he was adamant that the turkey could not be consumed. I was nearly in tears when Michael said the unthinkable, "I'll just run to the store and get you another turkey and you can make another one with more dressing". Never mind the fact that the rest of the dinner was already setting in pretty dishes on the table!!!! We ate a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal that year, and it made me long to be with our family in Kentucky all the more. This was a situation that I couldn't control so we had to improvise, adapt, and overcome as the military saying goes!

Large holiday meals go a lot better with careful planning and preparation. This is something that as a homemaker I can control. I sat down last night to get my thoughts together for the holiday week. I planned out all of the meals. I made a separate page for the Thanksgiving meal menu. I made my grocery list for the entire week, and I mentally made preparations for the meal. I decided that we would move our patio table and chair set to the carport so that if it was warm enough some people could dine out there. I also decided that we could move our camping table from the basement into the dining room and that will become the food buffet area for the week. I wrote everything down that I needed to buy, and I planned all the details that I could think to plan while writing down my ideas. I then found my soon to be birthday boy and told him that I needed his birthday meal and cake choice by today. I would also include this meal in my shopping trip so I wouldn't be caught having to do a last minute grocery trip when I was already tired. The only thing that I did not plan out was his birthday gift...that will be his dad's responsibility! I then wrote down all the things that were bothering me that needed to be completed before the company came. This wasn't a list of impossibilities, but a real list of things that stressed me out. I then delegated each chore to a family member to be completed on Saturday. The backyard will be cleaned and straightened up, and the toys will be stored under the deck. One of our older boys will clean out the trash can cabinet while I bleach the trash cans. I have already cleaned the oven, and today I will be working in the laundry room. I know our company will want to be able to wash their clothes so it needs to be neat and tidy for their use. We will go ahead and move the outside table and chairs so we will be prepared if there is rain.

By taking this time to plan, I felt like the weight of the world had been taken off of my shoulders. I have a plan to work through now with help from everybody, and I do not feel overwhelmed anymore. I know the task at hand, and I will be ready when everybody arrives at our home. I know Thanksgiving is about so much more than food and a clean house. It is about the Lord and family and celebrating what God has done in our life. However, if the logistics aren't taken care of properly, the holidays can become very stressful. There are basics in life that have to be taken care of like 14 people needing to have a clean towel for a shower!! I want my home to be in such an order that other people can pitch in and help. If the laundry room is neat and tidy, others can throw in a load of towels instead of having to wait for me to dig out the detergent.

Now it is time for me to get busy tackling my thing to do list so for now...
grace and peace,
julie

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nap Time


Missy learned the only way to take a nap in this house is to contain the three year old. I think she has done a fine job of making sure he doesn't go anywhere!!
grace and peace,
julie

Caught in the Act of an Escape Plot

"Hey, Pig...Don't even think about it"!!!!


"Uh...think about what????"

grace and peace,

julie

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunday Scripture



"As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God".

Psalm 42:1

Hay...It's a Good Thing

Michael and Jacob went to town today to purchase hay. We have never bought hay for our animals thanks to our neighbor who provided it to us free of charge last year. This year he does not have enough hay for his own animals so we knew that we would have to budget hay money for feeding the cows and horses. As you can see in the first picture, our horse, Sully, is eyeing the truck full of hay. He is ready to dive into it! Our pastures are usually green enough to last us through December before we have to even think about feeding the animals hay. However with the drought this year, our pastures are bare and brown. We have been feeding the animals more grain to supplement for the lack of abundant grass, but it finally came time to purchase hay. Our county is having hay brought in from Kansas as well as other states. The hay prices have doubled from last year, and there just isn't much supply. Many farmers are selling cows by the truck load. We just made a deal with a friend to purchase a Black Angus Cow Calf pair. He has too many cows to feed through the winter. He said this is the first time he has ever rationed hay to his animals, and he is still concerned that he won't have enough to make it through winter.
Our horses couldn't wait until the hay was unloaded to start eating.


Finally, Lizzie and her calf Isabell took a turn at the hay. We had to lure the horses away with a bucket of grain so the cows could take their turn. There is plenty to go around for every body, but the cows needed a moment alone to eat without the greedy gut horses nudging them out.

Yes, indeed it feels and smells like a real farm around here. There is something so special about seeing animals eating and being content. I enjoy the beauty all around. I love the smell of fresh hay, and I love watching all of the animals. It just feels right.

grace and peace,

julie

Friday, November 09, 2007

Holiday Time (Again)???!!

The realization hit me yesterday that Thanksgiving is just 2 weeks away. I don't know where my brain has been, but I just thought Thanksgiving was much farther away than that. After all, it seems like we just celebrated the holidays. My family will be gathering here to celebrate at our home. Since all of our family live out of town, everybody will stay about a week. This year by brother and his family are renting a cabin, and my mom will stay with us. Everybody will gather at our home for meals. I am so looking forward to seeing my family. I haven't seen my mom or my brother since early this summer. I chat with my mom every day on the phone, but it isn't the same as getting to visit in person.

With all of that being said, I am going to share my heart honestly. I am not in the mood to get everything ready for every body's visit. Sometimes when we have company, I am just like Snow White or Cinderella singing while working. My heart is really into it, and it all just flows effortlessly together. Other times, I just seem like Eeyeore dragging my tail behind me. I dread the thought of cooking such huge meals and putting the house in order for guests for close to a week. I am not sharing this so that you feel sorry for me. I am just being honest and telling you that I struggle with normal issues. Sometimes when I read other people's blogs, I think they must truly be the June Cleavers of today's world. They must NEVER struggle with the way they feel, and their house is ALWAYS clean, and there is ALWAYS a nice meal on the table. (My children informed me last night that Hot Dogs with homemade relish should not be classified as dinner)!

I know the truth is that God wants us to do all things with excellence as unto Him. I know I will get everything together, and our Thanksgiving celebration will be filled with family and great food. I just have to get my flesh to line up with the Lord. I know He has called us to be hospitable, and I believe that whole heartily.

I also just want to make sure that I express that this flesh issue has nothing to do with being thankful. I am so thankful to the Lord that at times I can hardly contain myself. He has blessed us in ways this last year beyond even our wildest dreams. I have always loved Thanksgiving. It is truly my favorite holiday. I just am having a hard time believing that it is here around the corner AGAIN!!

grace and peace,
julie

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pigs Escaped (Twice)



We have had the pigs since Sunday, and on Tuesday they found a way out of their fence. Our son came rushing in to announce the pigs had escaped. We all ran to put them back where they belonged. We did not want to let them get to far from their "home". I had much funnier photos of my husband rushing the pigs. He fell in a quite humorous manner, but I was threatened with my very life if I posted that picture on the Internet. To show all of you that I am a submissive wife, I honored his request. However, he never said anything about NOT talking about the great fall!! He called me the Farm Paparazzi!~! Always looming with a camera to make sure that photographs are shot at just the right moment in time!! The pigs found yet another area to escape later in the day. They have been contained since then so I am hoping that all is well, and they will not escape again. We are always out doing a head count of little piggies. We don't want to lose any!!
grace and peace,
julie

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More Farm Surprises

I was out feeding our animals the other morning. I am trying to establish a rapport with our pigs without establishing a relationship. I want them to come to me, and do what I want when I want. However, I don't want to fall in love with them and therefore have a hard time butchering them. I know the best way to establish anything with farm animals is to give them a bit of grain. I was all alone in the barn while Michael was working outside of the barn on a fence. I casually grabbed the bucket to dip out grain for the little pigs. I noticed that none of the tops had been put back on the trash cans that we store our feed in, and I remember that one of our son's friends had fed the animals last. I didn't think anything about it until the moment that I reached into the trash can to scoop up the feed. I glanced down, and that is when I saw this thing...
I just about came undone. I screamed and gasped and jumped and ran and screamed some more. It wasn't that I was afraid of the little possum, I just didn't expect to find him in the feed can. Michael thought something major was wrong, and I think he was amused to find a small possum. However for me, I bet that is the last time I casually dip my hands into a feed can without looking first! I also plan on having a chat with the boy who left the tops off the cans...I have a word or ten to share with him!
grace and peace,
julie

Monday, November 05, 2007

Quick Thoughts on Farm Animals and Cultural Irony

It is so nice to again have pigs on our farm. They settled in nicely and began to explore their limited new surroundings. I say limited because it is not as much as we would like them to have, although it is more than they had at their previous home. They met our cows right away as the two Jerseys stuck their snouts through the fence to see what was going on. The horses sniffed from above and eventually pushed them gently with their noses. Missy, our dog simply sat from a distance and whimpered.




The animals seemed to accept them quickly and moved on like this was the way it was supposed to be. The farm is now more complete and closer to whole for both us and the animals. Our goal is to build a farm with a variety of animals, crops, and ecosystems all functioning and flowing together in balance and harmony. Many of the blogs here have the same vision for their farms and lives, but many of us wonder if we will ever achieve it. This lifestyle is a rarity in our society and is not easily acquired.



This lifestyle requires commitment and patience, characteristics that many simply do not have today. We find it hard for ourselves to maintain those traits as we are influenced by the people around us who have opted for life of instant gratification and minimal loyalty to anything but themselves. Isn't it ironic that one must work so hard and overcome so many obstacles, trying to achieve a life of simplicity?


More thoughts on this later, I must get to work now to pay the bills.

Michael

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Newest Addition to the Farm

Below are the most recent addition to our farm. More to follow....



God bless,
Michael

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Surprises for Saturday

Today has been a great day with many surprises. Michael woke early this morning to tell me that he was picking up pigs today. He had heard about a local place that sells custom mixed animal feed cheaply. He spent some time this morning planning his recipes for pig, cow, chicken, and horse feed. He went and purchased 1000 pounds of feed for all the animals. As he was headed out the door to purchase the pigs, a family came unexpectantly for a visit. We had a great time chatting and catching up on daily happenings. This was the second family to drop in for a visit today. We got to chat with another family earlier in the day. It was the first time they had been out to our home. They too have a small farm and there were many hopes and dreams and ideas to exchange! (Boy, I sure was thankful that I had cleaned the house on Friday)!!!

Earlier this morning as I was taking 3 loaves of Sourdough Bread out of the oven, the phone rang. I heard Michael tell our oldest son that I had not cooked breakfast, but there was always something to be found to eat. Shortly after the conversation, Matthew showed up with one of his friends. My kitchen table became filled with children of all ages. Our 5 children were all there, and 2 more teenage boys. In a matter of moments, 2 loaves of Sourdough Bread, 1 pint of homemade Strawberry Jam, and almost an entire batch of hot chocolate mix had been inhaled. The hot chocolate kept everybody lingering around the table laughing and talking. I enjoyed the moment immensely. I love having the kids' friends come by our home. Most of their friends feel like this is a second home to them. They eat freely in our kitchen, and they laugh and play as one of our own children. It is music to my ears because I know what they are up to. The more time I can spend with all the kids, the more I know what is going on in their lives. This is important to me. I want to be a place that they see the love of Jesus displayed in real everyday people. This is true Christianity to me. Memories are being made and lives are being changed over hot chocolate and sourdough bread!!

For dinner tonight there were 5 extra kids around the dinner table. The remainder of the sourdough bread was consumed, and there are no leftovers for tomorrow. However, I am so thankful because I know that these are the important things in my life during this season of having older kids. I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time with my kids and their friends. It is truly my ministry, and I love it.

Right when Michael was getting ready to get the pigs for the second time today, our oldest son asked him to go to a power lifting competition with him. Matthew will be lifting tonight, and he wanted his dad to come along for support. I saw Michael's face. He really wanted to get those pigs, but he also felt he should go with his son. He called the pig farmer who told him that he could pick the pigs up tomorrow afternoon. So Michael went with Matthew to the weight lifting competition. He laid down his own desires to do something for his son. I am sure they are having a great time, but I am also glad I didn't have to spend the evening watching all the events.
Maybe tomorrow we can get the pigs...or maybe God has some other plans...

grace and peace,
julie

Friday, November 02, 2007

Weekend Happenings and Honey Do List

I am looking so forward to this weekend. It has been a stressful week for me personally. I have found out a lot about myself this week. I found that I am more emotional than I realized. I am not cut out for business, and quite frankly I don't even want to be oriented in that direction. I LIKE being a wife, mother, and homemaker. The highlight of my week was spending a few hours one morning rearranging dishes on my hutch for a fall display. (Am I boring or what)???!!!

Our son will play his last football game of the season tonight. I will be on guard in prayer for a safe event for him. I have enjoyed once again watching him play football, and I would like to end the season on a good note.

We are planning a laid back weekend with little priorities on anything. I am sure Michael will find his way back into his shop throughout the weekend. I too love being down there with him especially on cool evenings. It is such a peaceful place, and I love to see how things are created. I usually sit and watch him create and listen to his heart. He shares much from his heart when he has a piece of wood in his hands. It is truly one of the treasures in my life. I can connect with my husband while drinking a cup of hot coffee and watch my children "play"/work in the shop.

I am planning a family dinner for tomorrow of Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Hashbrown Casserole, and Jacob's Salad. I am sure there will be a hot loaf of bread to go with that too. I am not so sure about a dessert, but we will see what my hands find to get into tomorrow!!

grace and peace,
julie