Summer’s End

One think I love about Texas gardening, is the fact that our first freeze usually comes pretty late.  This gives us the ability to keep harvesting veggies a long time after most of the country has said good-bye to fresh Basil.  But, all good things must come to an end and the weathermen said that our end was coming Saturday night.

So, Saturday found us moving the plants that were sensitive to the greenhouse and harvesting all the herbs that were left. Now, there are a lot of herbs that are perennials and do not mind the cold in winter.  These herbs are not herbaceous- weird, huh?  Herbaceous means that the plant’s aerial parts die back in the winter and return come spring.  But, I cut them anyway.

Most of the herbs will be made into Salt Scrubs, scented oils, Bath soak teas.  I love hand-crafted bath items the quality and potency are unmatched.  A few of the herbs will become tinctures.  Tinctures are made by taking medicinal herbs and soaking them in an alcohol like Brandi or Vodka.  The great parts of the herbs are absorbed by the alcohol.  Then the alcohol is strained and the alcohol stored in a dark bottle and used  when someone is in need.  The tincture I like best is made with dandelion, it is great for any kind of winter illness and works great for Tony when he is having trouble with allergies.  We ran out this summer because of the heat and drought the dandelions said good-bye.  Finally we got some wonderful rain and cooler temps and out popped the dandelions. 

Well, the weathermen were off by one day- the first freeze came Sunday night.  I am so glad I harvested the last of the herbs.  Of course, the kitchen looks a little funny with the bundles of herbs hanging around- but it smells great!

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A land that flows with milk…..

There is a lot of excitement around the farm.  Given the time of the year, you might think it has to do with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And all though the holidays to bring lots of cheer, the excitement right centers around a creamy white liquid….
We have raw milk again!
Since the summer was so hot, I stopped milking in August.  This means we have been buying store bought milk for a couple of months.  No one has been really crazy about this fact.  The kids have been making a lot of noise about the obvious deficiencies of the processed milk.  So, while my current milk does are with a buck so that they will kid in the spring and give milk again, I have been looking for a goat in milk to purchase to give us milk today!
How can you not LOVE a face like that?
Although I love my Saanen milk goats, I have been fazing them out.  You see, Saanens are an Alpine breed- as in the Swiss Alps.  So while they come with a genetic disposition to tolerate very cold winters and all that comes with it, they do not have a genetic disposition to handle a Texas summer.  It was a hard choice, Saanens have these cute ears that poke out from their heads like airplane wings, they have been a very sweet tempered breed, and their babies are CUTE!  I am a little surprised at how much I like their look given they are solid white.  Usually I am not a girl who goes for solid white.  You won’t find a white wall in my home- yellow, blue, green, – but no white.  But I love those goats.  I have kept one, Sapphire.  My birthday is in September and my kids bought me the little goat for my birthday a few years back.  I simply won’t milk her in the summer.
Happily, I found a new milk goat last weekend.  A lovely lady had her Nubian doe and her 3 doe babies up for sale.  After Third Monday McKinney, we picked her and the girls up on our way home.  I love, love, love this goat.  She milks so easy and is so sweet.  The only problem is that her name is Windy and given that my sister’s name is also Windy this could create some confusion in future blog posts.  I love roses and am leaning towards Julia Child.  The rose of this name is gorgeous and yellow and I love watching “The French Chef”, so this seems to be a good choice.
My new milker!
I am so happy to be milking again!

Remembering

One of my magazines came in the mail over the weekend.  As I was thumbing through it- I will read it from cover to cover, but first I have to look at the pictures- an article caught my eye.  The title was something about minimizing stress over the holidays.  This peaked my interest so I stopped perusing the photos to have a quick read.

There were some really good tips.  One of those tips was to have a cup of hot coco verifying my assumption that hot chocolate will make you feel better.  However, none of the helpful bits of information really spoke to the heart of the problem- our schedules are too full to really enjoy the important things!  Now, you might think this is a post headed in the direction of a mutal lamenting over the busyness of things and giving ourselves permission to justify the busyness and change nothing.  You would be wrong.

Life is hard, there are many demands that cannot be shirked, however, there is much that we engage in that has no eternal value.  Eternal value does not only refer to introducing souls to Jesus Christ as their Saviour, however vastly important that is, but it also refers to those things that, when we are dead and gone, still mean something. I want there to be a lot of stuff left when I am gone that really means something

 There are two questions that I ask myself when deciding what goes on to my plate.  The first is one I began asking about 18 years ago with the birth of my first child- “When Cheyenne is grown and looks back at her time at home, what do I want her to remember?”  Now bear in mind, memory is about much more than singular events or activities.  It is about the memory of feelings, the atmosphere of the home, what my actions conveyed to her about herself.  Of course, as other children came to our family the question applied to them as well.  This question drove me and guided the choices I made.  So, when I have to choose between a church Christmas party or having time to make the Ginger Bread House from scratch- that is simple, we make the house, those in the Sunday school class will understand.  And if they don’t? Who cares? My children are only here for a short time and then they fly from the nest, that is what matters.  Yes, I might could have arranged things to get both items in, but what will my kids remember?  Will they remember me fully engaged, laughing and relaxed; or will they remember me tense, under presure to get it all done and irritated if they weren’t gluing on that candy fast enough?  The atmosphere means more than the activity.  That is what kids remember, isn’t that what you remember when you think back to your childhood?

The second question is one that seems a bit morbid on the surface.  “If Tony (any one important can go here) were to be gone tomarow, what would I have wished we had done today?”  Our society is really hard-wired to avoid talking or thinking about death, but in reality, it is one the few things we cannot avoid.  So, if it were to come early, what choice would I make?  If I have to choose between the Lions club meeting or hanging out watching a Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown Christmas with the family all piled up on the sofa wins out.  If I am feeling bad about missing the meeting, I will have a cup of hot chocolate.  After all, scientist have now proved it makes you feel better!  If I were to lose one of my beloved the next day, would I have been glad that I chose to make one last memory or would I still feel bad about not missing the meeting?  Making memories would be the best thing I could have done.  We need to live as if we were dying- because in fact we are.  This is when life really begins-when we treat it as a treasure that we won’t always have.

Now, obviously we all have obligations, like supporting our families, that must be done.  But what I am speaking to is balance.  The world will still function if you stop doing all the activities.  Your child will not suffer from not playing sports.  The honest truth on that one is- more than likely- your kid does not have the ability to play beyond high school.  If he does, he will excel no matter what age he begins to play, so for the sake of sanity sports can wait. And this goes for anything.  4H is something we love, but last year it just about took over our lives!  We had to scale back.

I pray as you read this post, you do not feel condemed.  I want you to feel like someone just handed you a get out of jail free card!  You can get off the merry-go-round.  But you will have to jump, it will not stop.  Enjoy the holidays, they only come once a year, make this a year to REMEMBER!

Time with Tony ranks higher than anything else on my to-do list!

That’s How We Roll

Big Rocks Park, it was getting too dark, but this is still pretty.

After all that Tony and I have been doing over the last 3 weeks with First Monday, tearing down the nursery equipment, and Third Monday Trades Days, the last thing we wanted to do last Saturday was get in the car and drive to Glen Rose.  But, we did.
You see, it is time to start thinking about the Van Zandt County Youth Expo in April.  This is the big event every 4H kid looks forward to all year long.  So, Savannah had been searching the internet looking for goats that could be her meat goat project that she will show at the Expo.  Our Awesome extension agent, Tommy Phillips, had given us some contact numbers but they had no goats.  Well, she located a pair of wethers (boy goats that have been castrated) in Glen Rose that looked good and were at a great price.  Although, we really wanted to stay home, we asked ourselves “If we don’t go now, then when do we go?”  There was no good answer given that we had Third Monday McKinney coming up and we would be setting up a new booth at Ye Olde City Antique Mall in Tyler.  So, we went.
Well, I am happy to report that we had the best time!  For one thing, Tony and I love that area of Texas.  The land really changes, the altitude really climbs – enough to make your ears pop- and there is an openness out there that is good for the soul.  So, as we drove through scenery that makes you understand why pioneers moved west, our minds began to shift into neutral.  We were without kids, which is unusual for us if we are headed to Glen Rose, so there was a comfortable silence in the truck.  We needed that kind of down time, just taking in God’s handiwork.
The folks we were getting the goats from lived down a county road that had some of the best vistas.  They were really nice people and had good quality animals.  So, we loaded up two show goats and headed home.  We stopped in the town of Glen Rose; I might add that the town boasts a lively town square with shops and a farmers market, for some dinner.
 After some great burgers with REAL French fries at The Green Pickle, we were feeling very relaxed.  The Green Pickle was just off the square and had an outdoor area for dining, for some unknown reason we were the only ones out there.  The weather was perfect, the air out that way is dry and it was neither hot nor cold, it was just right- kind of like baby bears porridge.  So, we sat under the massive pecan trees ate our food, laughed and talked.
As we headed out of town, we decided to stop by the Big Rocks Park.  This park is aptly named for the rocks that reside next to Squaw Creek.  Now, when I say big rocks you should picture boulders the size of your house piled up and down the east side of the creek.  The park is free and we have spent many an hour playing in this little river, Cheyenne and Savannah were 4 & 2 respectively  when we first started coming, now they are 18 & 16.  The crazy thing is despite how huge these boulders are, back a few years ago we had so much rain that the rivers were flooding, once the water went down, these boulders had been rearranged.
The sun was setting as we walked about the river bed which still had a bit of water running through it.  It is hard to describe the beauty that evening.  The normally white rocks were reflecting the golden orange of the setting sun, the scruffy cedar and elegant Live Oaks casting shadows on the boulders.  The water reflecting it all as it babbled on its way to meet the Paluxy.
Standing there with my love the last little bit of my soul that had been wound tight just came undone- I was for the first time in a while, completely relaxed.  It was like a rubber band that had been twisted tight, then you let it go and it unwinds to the point of being all floppy.
God is so good.  If we had stayed home, we would not have relaxed.  If you have been by my farm lately you have seen piles of this and that, fences in various states of being torn down, plants that need re-potting and fallen trees that need removing.  There is a lot of work starring us in the face.  That is how we would have spent that Saturday, not in rest.  The thing we needed was the last thing we wanted, a drive.
Tony does love a good burger!  Just the basics, beef & cheese.
Mushroom & Swiss Burger, MmmMmm Good

The White Tiger Discovery

A few months ago, I met Lisa Sanders at the Third Monday Trades Days in McKinney Texas.  She brought her ponies for the pony rides.  Of course, in July there was down time and we got to talking about her work with white tigers. I asked her if we could bring the 4H Vet Science Club to see their facilities and the tigers. 

Her boss and owner, Marcus, said that would be great.  Well, they really delivered tonight.  We were able to see the tigers, “play” with the tigers, and feed them.  You will some great pictures of the kids and tigers below.  How the tiger food is prepared was also shown to us. 

When I say the kids got to “play” with the tigers, it was of course through the fences!  One particular tiger, Guam, liked to “sneak” (as if a 900 lb animal can sneak unseen in an open space) up on the folks at the fence.  When the folks had their backs turned, he would pounce on the fence.  He got quite a reaction out of several of the girls.  He was so proud as he switched his tail.  Of course, the kids loved him.

Please check them out @  

http://whitetigerdiscovery.com

She is hiding waiting till the right time to pounce.  She doesn’t realize that she is poking out at the bottom of the log.
I am feeding Splash the Royal White Tiger
Savannah is blowing on her face and she is blowing back.  This is a friendly act.
Jonathan and Splash
Sierra is in love.

Shhh.. I am hiding.

All the hiding and pouncing business is just for show.  They are interacting and playing with the new people, posing for pictures and having fun being the center of the show.  Truly beautiful and magnificent animals, sadly the only white tigers in the world are in captivity.  They are extinct in the wild.  However, India is working to return them to the wild.  Conservation is vital to us all, who wants to live in a world without these beauties.

Welcome New Members!

A box full of happiness

Just as we planned, Tuesday morning began with a call from the post office- Our chicks had arrived.  Monday night, Jonathan has asked me to wake him up to go with me, given that the call would come before 6:30 am, I didn’t really expect to get more than a grunt from him the next morning.  I was wrong, he popped out of bed like a jack-in-the-box and was dressed in no time.

He had never been with me to get chicks before and thought the doorbell that we rang was very funny.  The nice postal lady handed us our chirping box with a big smile on her face.  I wonder how many chicks come through the Canton post office?  We get some 2-3 times a year.  This shipment contained 10 Golden-Laced Polish chicks and 25 Ameraucana pullets.  I choose the Ameraucanas because they are beautiful, multi-colored birds that lay tinted eggs and lots of them.  The Polish were choosen by Savannah because of their crazy head feathers.  These birds, when fully grown, will have the biggest affro you ever saw!

Golden Laced Polish Chick
Ameraucana Chicks- too cute for words

Not only did we get new chicks, we bought some new laying hens.  Golden Laced Wyandottes.  Wyandottes are my favorite chickens.  The have many different color patterns, a stocky body and very tight full feathers.  We have blue splash, silver laced, black, and red laced wyandottes.  I love the Wyandotte roosters for the fact that they are so calm.  Rarely do we hear them crow, but they still take care of their flocks.

Golden Laced Wyandotte Hen, what a pretty girl!

Jonathan also found his show pig for the youth expo.  A nice little Hampshire gilt (girl pig that has not had piglets)  named Blue Ribbon.  She has a really great temperment and seems to love the deep bedding in the barn stall.  However, she does not take kindly to being woke up.  I was trying to get a good picture for the blog and she let me know that she was having none of it.  I will try again when Jonathan is feeding her.

Say Hello, Blue Ribbon

All in all, it has been a very productive week for the farm.  It feels good to be growing again after such a rough summer.  Heaven forbid, but should we have another summer like this one, we have learned a lot and I don’t believe we will suffer so much loss.

Awesome Weekend!

Well, November First Monday is history- and it made history.  This month was a record setting weekend and I am so happy for us and for all the other vendors.  There had been a long dry spell in recent months. However, I must say that I am glad its over!  We are all sore and tired, but its the happy kind of tired.

Today, we got most of our customers booths torn down and put away.  Two of them had to wait until Tuesday morning due to rain and it getting dark so early.  So, I guess First Monday isn’t quite over for us yet.  But, it was a good day.  We got the title to our F250 in the mail.  All our vehicles are paid off!  No more payments is so cool to say.

While Tony, Cheyenne and Savannah were tearing down the booths, Jonathan, Sierra & I were busy with nursery business.  We cleaned out the greenhouse and brought in the banana trees, birds of paradise and other tropical plants.  Cuttings of the Cuban Oregano were taken along with basil, once those root they will be planted in cups and left to grow in the greenhouse until spring.  Sierra loved the work today, she got to drive the car up and down the hill as we moved plants into the greenhouse.  One day we will have a chuck wagon or a mule ATV to do that kind of work, but right not a little Ford Taurus works really well!

In the process of cleaning up around the greenhouse, I found a little garden snake.  For those who know me, you know that this will usually send me into a fit.  However, I must be growing past my fear of snakes because I caught it and let the kids play with it.  I did have to draw the line at Sierra sitting next to me while letting the snake wind through her fingers!  That gives me the willies!

Also, I got the email letting me know that our chicks had shipped and should arrive in the morning.  We are really excited!  Jonathan and Sierra helped  me get the brooder box ready.  We will keep them inside for a week and then they move outside to the brooder house.  All the chirping is so sweet.  They are so funny to watch.  90% of the chicks will be settled down into a corner sleeping and then one will hop up and run all over the top of all the sleeping ones, of course then they all hop up and run around.  Once the surprise has worn off they will all stop and look around like “What was that all about?”.  Then, they will settle down to sleep and it will happen all over again.

So, we worked hard again today but it felt good to get the house back in order, laundry done, and the kitchen clean.  Each month we prove the law of physics true that states that anything left to itself will deteriorate.  Even when no one is home the kitchen gets wrecked, go figure.

As you can see, it is a little snake but it is a snake all the same!

First Monday & Homeschooling

As I sit to write this blog tonight, I am certain that I can feel every muscle in my back.  What a full couple of weeks we have had.  I am so grateful to get to own a business that gives me so much pleasure.  I am bone tired, but I love every minute of it.  Honestly, we have been putting in 12 hour days but it doesn’t feel like work.  And, I get to work with my husband every day!  This may not seem like a perk to some of you, but it thrills my soul.
Of course, when you are working this hard not everything can have your full attention.  I have been worrying over the fact that the kids are only getting the basics done in their homeschooling.  For us this means Bible, English, and Math for the younger two and that plus science for the older two.   Just a five minute conversation with my brilliant sister who teaches advanced biology and anatomy in high school can have me second guessing myself in a heartbeat. My baby sister is an equally brilliant and dedicated teacher as well, but given that she teaches second grade talking with her boosts my confidence in myself that I am more than capable.  Considering that I haven’t had a second grader in two years- I should probably be embarrassed by that statement but I am not, you take encouragement wherever you can get it.  I should also note that all of us inherited and learned our teaching inclinations from our mother- who is a most fabulous second grade teacher.
But then what homeschooling mother hasn’t felt inadequate, even if they weren’t running their own business that required a lot of extra time for two weeks out of every month.  Every mom has had to deal with stress over the “gaps” in their children’s education.  Even if a mother has a masters degree in biology and can teach science until your head explodes- she will worry over her ability to teach art or English.  For those who think diagramming sentences is great fun, they worry over their ability to teach higher level math. Regardless of where the education occurs, there will be gaps- even in public school.
 I have been going over the schedule and looking at all that needs to be done trying to figure out when to work in home economics, botany for Sierra and Jonathan, along with art and some fun stuff.  Then it dawned on me, three of the four children have made at least one meal for our family this week, each person has done some laundry, and all have contributed to compiling grocery lists- if that is not home economics,  I don’t know what is.  Then there is the botany.  Well, Sierra and Jonathan have worked in the nursery for large blocks of time over the past two weeks.  We have divided, potted, collected seeds and propagated plants, on second thought I believe botany is covered.
Life is our classroom.  Not only will our children leave home with a sound education in the basics, they will leave with practical skills that will make them money should they need it.  Factor in the exposure they get at First Monday and you might even call it a liberal education!
Sierra tending to some of the nursery stock
Jonathan & Sierra painting signs for the nursery.

Peeps Are On The Way!

One of our favorite activities around our little farm is incubating eggs.  It is absolutely amazing to watch the little babies peck at the shell and finally pop out.  So, tonight we set 18 eggs in the incubator and in just 21 days we will have a fresh batch of chicks.

Last spring my mom, sisters and I went in together and bought our own incubator.  Being the good teachers that they are, they do the “egg to chick” projects in their classrooms.  My mom and sister, Windy, teach elementary age kids who simple enjoy learning the basics and watching the eggs crack open.  Sunny, my sister, teaches high school and they go way more in depth even predicting the genetic combinations that will occur based on the breeds of chickens.  Because of when Sunny’s project is due, she will be the first this year to use the new ‘bator,  I borrowed one from the extension office so I could get going on my eggs.

The eggs in the ‘bator right now are from my mixed flock.  But come Monday, I will have 25 Ameracauna
chicks arriving via the US postal service.  Due to heavy losses this summer, I needed to boost my flock numbers up.  I love the Ameracauna- also called Easter Eggers because their eggs are colored ranging from blue, green to pink.  These ladies are really good layers and very colorful birds.  I love getting that call from the post office at about 6 am.  It is a great way to start the day.  The first chicks we ever ordered were Easter Eggers.  I can’t wait!

One of our Easter Egger Chicks all grown up!
How can you not love something so cute?!

Training Your Children

Proverbs  20:11 says “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” This is a scripture that we have used with our children in training them to be people of integrity and to be productive.  We have always tried to tie in the Word of God and the end goal with the instructions we were giving to the kids.
In telling them that their actions told people about themselves, we wanted them to think about what they wanted someone to know about them and then act accordingly. The scripture in Proverbs backed that up and helped them to understand that we were speaking to them not for our own gain, but for their benefit.  Of course, well behaved children are certainly a benefit to parents!
This was made very real to the kids this past week.  It is not uncommon for us to get compliments on our children’s behavior whenever we go out or travel.  However, this past week it was really over the top.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we bought several greenhouses and other equipment and this past week had to take it all apart and haul it home.  I was so grateful to my kids and how hard they worked.  I cannot count the times the other men out there would tell us what great kids we had.  For these crusty old fellows, it bordered on gushing.  One man asked Tony several times what we did to get kids like ours.  How do you sum up eighteen years of hard work in a sentence or two?  We passed all the compliments on to the kids- “even a child is known by his actions…”
Each child comes with his or her own special gifting; I am convinced of this fact.  Another fact I am convinced of is that this gift is the child’s place to shine and succeed or – not submitted to God- is the place for the biggest failure.  As I seek to train a child in the way he should go, I am not looking to have them go my way, but the way their gifts point them.  One of the cool things about the Bible is that there is a scripture for every subject that we may encounter in life.
Savannah is my second child and she came equipped with a very high intellect, wicked if not a bit warped sense of humor, and a strong desire for action.  Couple these things with her love of the ocean and animals and she is headed to be a marine mammal behaviorist.  Without any spiritual training, those personality traits add up to a kid who loved to stir up trouble and aggravate her siblings.  To Savannah, peace in the home was boring- I know because she told me so herself as if I had not already picked up on that fact.  So her personal scripture was Psalm 34:14 “Depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”  Every time she was getting into trouble because of her unique gifts, I would have her go to the refrigerator where her verse was posted and read it aloud.  Then, it was not a battle of our wills as to how she was to act; it was between her and God.  I was just the messenger.
Savannah was not the only one with personal scriptures.  Cheyenne is a natural born leader a huge gift in her life- the flip side of that coin is that she can be BOSSY.  So, she would have scriptures pertaining to using her words carefully.  Sierra is intensely driven- the flip side to that is she can drive you intensely insane.  Jonathan on the other hand is very laid back, certainly a good thing to be when you are the fourth child with three strong-willed females ahead of you.  However, that easy going disposition makes him inclined to be lazy.  So we focus on showing him truth about hard work and what it is to be a man.
Never do I look at my kids personalities or gifts as something to be changed or done away with, I look at them as simply needing to be trained in the things of God.  I do not know what each of them is called to do, that is between them and their heavenly father.  He sent these children to me prewired with the gifts they would need to accomplish his purpose for them, how dare I try to rewrite their story to fit my desire or crush that which I do not like.   My job is to create and environment in which they can hear Him and to train them to discipline themselves so that their gifts do not destroy them.
The best tool for doing this is the Word of God.  Imagine that.  It is really the simplest way.  With a good concordance you can look up any word and find multiple scriptures dealing with it.  Once I found a scripture that fit what we were dealing with, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I typed it up on the computer or wrote it on index cards.  Then these scriptures were put on the fridge and the bathroom mirrors.  According to their behavior, sometimes these verses were read aloud a lot, but most of the time they would read them as they brushed their teeth in the morning and at night.  I did not require them to memorize and repeat them to me, but they did memorize them.
Jonathan working hard in the garden
Just the other night, we were all laughing and talking.  Something was said that I can’t even remember now, but Savannah said “I remember my verse” and she quoted it.  Then she said that she could remember another one but not its address – scripture reference.  Then Cheyenne spouted off, I can “Jeremiah 29:11 I know the plans I have for you says the Lord….” and said the whole verse.  I can’t tell you how happy I was!  If you have ever dealt with children, you know what I mean.  You feel like you repeat yourself constantly and wonder if any of the good stuff is sticking.  Well, it is sticking.  You just have to wait a few years to see it.
 
Sierra and Cinnamon
Savannah & Misty     Cheyenne & Aurora