A Look Back at 2017 on Simpler Times Farm

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It’s been a great year on the farm.  We’ve had our ups and downs but God’s been good.

January – March

We enjoyed a pretty quiet beginning to the new year.  We took a family trip to the Pa Farm Show in January.  We had a great time working at the 4-H booth and helping others learn about how food is grown.  We got to relax away from the farm for a couple days and enjoy some time together as a family.

Our kidding season began in February!  We had a great kidding season.  Every year I get nervous because we’re bound to run in to problems some year but God is good and we got to mark another year down as successful.  In the end we had 6 does and 5 bucks born on the farm.  We have so much fun with frolicking baby goats around.  They are just so adorable.  The majority of our goats were born during these months but we did have one doe born in July.

April – June

Now this is when our schedules get busy!  All the baby does stay around the farm till after the fairs, when we decide who’s leaving and who’s staying.  It is also at this time that our children get their animal 4-H projects.  So this year we added to our farm baby ducks, silkie chickens, piglets, and two market goats!  Not only is that more chores but it also puts a strain on our farm budget, although our kids do help pay us back for feed when they get their premium checks.  My husband was also working a lot of long hours so the kids and I kept things moving on the farm.  Throw in there a homeschool geography fair, trips to the zoo, making hay, babysitting, finishing up school for the year, we went to a craft show, sold a good amount of goat milk soap, and got our farm name out there.  Oh ya, and we bought a camper!  Phew!  How did I ever make it through these months!  haha

July – September

Summertime!!  We enjoyed campfires, cookouts, picnics, a tractor/steam engine show, more trips to the zoo… my nieces and nephew stayed with us for two weeks, which was really fun!  July was a month that was packed full!  My children had a lot of work to do to get ready for the county fairs!  Even in the midst of summertime fun, they had to stay focused!  They walked their animals, got frustrated with them, had fun with them, kept detailed records of them, and learned so much in perseverance and made some great memories!  I tried to prepare as much as I could for the fair so that everything would go smoothly, from menu planning to making sure everyone had show clothes and everything in between.  Having our own camper made this year so much easier!  I was able to pack ahead of time.  Fair week is really our family’s vacation.  We have so much fun and I know it will be memories I will forever cherish.  We have also made some wonderful friends that have been a blessing to our family.  We won many ribbons and trophies… too many that I care to remember right now.  In the midst of all the fair happenings, my grandma passed away.  It was nice to see all the family together at the funeral, family I haven’t seen a long, long time!  Cousins that are all grown up now!  But it also put a little bit of a cloud over the fair for me and I felt bad as my dad had to go through losing his mom.  We also celebrated 3 birthdays all around the fairs, my husband and two sons.  We really enjoy this time of year, about as much as we enjoy Christmas time!  

A sad time came at our farm the end of September.  Let me back up… in, about March, we had a disbudding accident on one of our little does.  My husband has disbudded our goats and other’s goats for many years and has always had no problems, but accidents do happen.  We struggled with this goat for many, many weeks, trying to keep her alive.  She was a fighter and there were many nights we weren’t sure if she was going to make it!  My daughter learned so much through this all because while my husband worked long hours, she had to learn how to give the little goat her shots, take her temperature, and keep a close eye on her health.  The little goat’s name was Violet, born to my daughter from her goat.  She miraculously healed up pretty good and we continued to watch her closely.  She was always given tender care and although she grew slowly, we decided she should be able to handle the fairs.  So we gave her some extra vitamins and brought her along with us.  She showed really well!  The judges really liked her confirmation.  Although a few weeks after the fairs, it was apparent that she was always going to struggle with catching every sickness and was not doing too well.  We had to make the hard decision to put her down.  She was a sweet little goat, and taught us a lot!

October – December

October we had the opportunity to enjoy a week’s long family vacation!  It was the most relaxing, enjoyable time I have ever had!  We had so much fun getting away and connecting as a family.  We camped at a state park in the middle of nowhere.  We were so far out there and in the valley with mountains all around, that we had no cell phone reception.  I never knew how much I would enjoy that!  We also did a lot of hiking and exploring!  What sweet memories we made!  Then we enjoyed harvest parties, Thanksgiving with family and friends, puppies being born on the farm, and back into trapping season.  Hunting season went really well and we’ve got proof of that in our freezer!  A beef calf has been added to our farm.  He has adjusted really well and gets along with the goats good.  Our Christmas was lovely as we spent time with those we love.  

Overall, we’ve had a wonderful 2017 and we praise the Lord for His goodness to us!  Thanks for sharing this past year with us!

 

 

Winter Warmth

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Keeping warm on these cold wintery days means working together as a family.

We heat our entire house with a woodstove in our basement.  It’s a large handmade woodstove that my husband bought from someone a few years ago.  I love it!  If we pack it full then turn the draft down, it will last for about 12 hours!  That woodstove is a blessing to our family!

Chores in winter don’t seem as awful when you look over and see the smoke billowing out of the chimney, knowing that you’ll be walking into a toasty warm house.  It’s so nice to dry the kids’ coats, hats, and gloves by the woodstove.  Also I just love the smell of wood smoke that welcomes me when I come home!

Every spring we order a truckload of firewood.  It lasts us, usually, a little over a year. We also cut up fallen trees for firewood in the woods around us.  We’re always hoping we have enough wood from previous years to last us through a year without buying any.  This year the woodpile was looking pretty good so we decided to not get a truckload this year. Everything was looking fine but winter came fast and cold!  We’re a little nervous that we might not have enough.  So on this blustery December day we went out to get more wood. We always do firewood as a family and no one complains (too much) because we all like a warm house.  It was beautiful outside and we had fun working together.  When we came in we enjoyed some hot cocoa (made with goat milk, of course).

Living on a farm in the winter can be rough!  We’re out in the cold a lot and our regular chores take a lot more energy now!  Having a warm house to come in to is worth every log I carried today.  

To Train a Goat

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Yes, goats are very smart!

Each goat has her own personality and nature.  Some are playful (or more like wild…now I know why they call them ‘kids’) and some are calm and reserved, they just want left alone to eat hay, chew their cud and nap (no nonsense like milking).  Some have a sweet nature and truly enjoy your company, others don’t realize their biting or kicking habit makes me seriously consider making them leave our farm!  Some goats pick their favorite person, like my goat Fancy.  She has an attitude all her own and I just spoil her because she was one of our first experiments… I mean dairy goats.  She had to put up with our mistakes… I mean… learning.

Goats love routine!  If there’s something out of place in the barn, a stranger watching them, or anything out of the ordinary they rebel, get nervous, or react in their own unique way.  One thing that really sets them off is when they get milked out of order.  Goats are so smart that if you keep the same routine, they will too.  If twice a day, every day, I do the same thing when I come to the barn, then they’ll cooperate and chores will go quickly.

When I walk into the barn for chores, all five of my milking goats aren’t crowded at the gate to come out, only the two goats that come out first, Surprise and Daisy.  I milk them in order, then Surprise goes back first and Summer is waiting at the gate to come out next… Do you know that my last goat to come out doesn’t even come near the gate till she sees the last one come back?  They’re really smart.  My trained goats really help my chores go smoothly.

I’ve got one more interesting story to show how smart goats are…  We arrived at the fair this year with our trailer full of our goats waiting to get settled in their new home for the week.  As we got each goat out individually and led them to their pen, the older does who have come before knew right where to go and how to behave.  They settled in so quickly and really seemed to remember that we do this once each year.

Raising goats is so much fun!  I love all their personalities!

Simpler Times with Lard

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Raising Pigs = Rendering Lard

We raise about ten pigs a year.  We keep one each time and raise them for some other friends of ours.  We like to make the most of the pig.  So, about five years ago we tried rendering lard.

I love having lard to use in my baking!  It makes amazingly flaky pie crusts that I hear rave reviews about and light and fluffy biscuits, that our family loves!

Lard is also a healthy cooking fat.  Did you know that pigs raised out in the sunlight produce lard that is the second highest food source of vitamin D?

How to render lard…

When we first get our lard from the butcher, it is cut in chunks like the picture below.  We put it through our grinder so that it’s all of uniform size and cooks more evenly.  Then we cook it down VERY CAREFULLY.  The pieces you see floating are called crackling.  Crackling is the tiny bits of meat that is still in the lard… tastes so good, although very rich!  We like to save some to add to biscuits or use as a topping, or in soups.  After we skim off the crackling we pour it through a very fine strainer or filter and fill a canning jar.

This is one project we do that really reminds me of ‘simpler times’.

Perspective on the Farm

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We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.    -Abraham Lincoln

What a great quote, and something I’ve been thinking about lately.  It’s all in how we look at it.

 

Ever wake up to a rainy day and feel down?

Your plans are ruined, whatever you left outside is wet, and you forgot to roll the windows up on the truck.  Ever have one of those days?  I have, but then I look outside and see my ducks out playing in the rain and splashing in puddles.  They think it’s the most lovely day!  The rain that’s ruining my plans for the day could be the rain the farmer down the road was praying for!

Ever have a snow storm ruin your plans for the day?

We’re getting a snow storm right now.  What’s the blessing in that?  Even though I woke up knowing my plans were going to have to be cancelled for the evening when I saw the snow and forecast… my kids jumped out of bed when I told them we got snow overnight (or maybe it was because I told them we had pumpkin pie for breakfast).

When I went out to do chores this morning, my calf came walking into the barn from outside.  He loves the snow!  He went back out after he got his bottle to run around with my daughter in the snow.

For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he;      -Proverbs 23:7

Sometimes we tend to focus on the negative, on the things that bother us, on what we’d like to change but have no control over.  While we’re focusing on our own problems we fail to see all the blessings the Lord has already provided.  We don’t even notice the things we take for granted, someone else would love to have!

What it comes down to is ‘Gratitude’.

Gratitude is the discipline of a grateful heart.  It takes practice to see the beauty in simples things around us.  God’s blessings are all around us and yet we fail to see them and then we fail to praise Him for them.  It’s a sacrifice to praise the Lord!  It takes discipline to notice and give Him the glory in our lives.

So next time we begin to complain or feel down, switch your focus on your blessings God has given to you today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitality on the Farm

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Showing hospitality, even during busy seasons of life can be a well-worth sacrifice, even God-honoring.

It seems like we’re always busy on the farm.  Between my husband’s regular job away from home with long hours, homeschooling our four children, keeping up with housework, our business, farming, and so much more… it can get crazy around here.  While inviting some friends over for games and food sounds fun, so does a quiet night with an early bedtime after evening chores.

Although I long for ‘simpler times’ sometimes my life seems far from simple.

Recently I came across 1Peter 4:9 “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”  Hospitality is defined as the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.  God wants us to receive others into our homes without looking to be rewarded from it.

That means when I’m preparing for guests to arrive, whether strangers, acquaintances, old friends, or family, am I preparing the meal while thinking of all the praise I’ll get for those homemade foods that I took all day to prepare?  Am I running around cleaning my house proudly envisioning what they’ll think of me as a homemaker?  Am I cautioning my family to be on their best behavior because I desire the praise of man more than the praise of God?  Ouch… These are certainly some areas I need to work on.  That’s why I’m thankful that God brought it to my attention.

Sometimes I just feel too overwhelmed and tired to invite someone over.  I have so much on my list of things to do, I can’t imagine including more!  Although then I’m reminded of that verse.

What I fail to see is the blessing I receive from opening my doors to others.  I also need to remind myself that I need to open my doors with the right heart attitude, humbly making the homemade meal I prepared all day, knowing that a good home-cooked meal might be what this guest needs… or maybe just a bag of chips and dip and a board game is what that family needed that day.  A carefully cleaned home is a sign of a good homemaker, but it isn’t pleasing to God if I just yelled at my children to get out the way so I can have everything ‘perfect’.  It can be a great time to work together as a family!  (Although, generally, I send my boys outside to clean up the yard and around the barn… then they are out of the way and they’re helping!  haha)  A family that is real and not hypocritical but humbly invite others into their home is what the Lord is pleased with.

Between the holidays and Hunting Season, we’ve had a lot of company over, which is why this has been on my mind.  I fail many times but I’m thankful God’s working on my heart and preparing it for becoming more and more hospitable on our farm.

 

Give Thanks

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Give Thanks to God for the Simple Things

Things like…

…the freshness of the morning sunrise.
…heart-felt conversation over a cup of tea or coffee with a good friend.
…a long phone call with my sister.
…the sound of the rain on our metal roof as I go to sleep at night.
…the words “I’m full” from my teenage son!
…the quietness of the barn, only the sound of milk streaming into the bucket.
…a visit from one of my brothers.
…the smell of fresh hay.
…my children begging me to read one more chapter of our read aloud.
…the feeling of my husband’s arm around me.
…a quiet evening at home with my family.
…when my little nieces and nephews call me “Aunt Karah”.
…a date with my husband.
…the smell in the air after the rain.
…the peace of knowing where I’m spending eternity.

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the Son of God.   – 1 John 5:13

 

 

 

Our New Addition

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“You want a calf?”  

That’s what my husband asked as he walked in from work one day, secretly when our kids weren’t around.  Our neighbor raises Simmental beef cows.  They just had a cow freshen for the first time with twins.  She wasn’t producing enough milk for both of them and the little bull calf wasn’t getting enough.  They asked us if we’d like to take him and give him our goat’s milk.

“Sure!  I’m up for an adventure!”  

That was my reply!  As we sat down to eat dinner together, we told the kids about our new addition to our farm.  We let them know that this is not a 4-H project, but is the family cow to provide meat.  They were very excited to have a different animal on the farm and the boys eagerly agreed to go to the neighbor’s after dinner to pick him up.

“…in with the goats!”

While the rest of our family was outside doing chores, he arrived, wrapped in an old blanket, with huge eyes!  We put him in a corner of the barn with the goats.  While our neighbor gave us some instructions for our new little arrival, we gathered around to check him out.  Not only us, but our goats were very curious!  They were wondering what kind of goat this is!  Eventually the poor little calf got his legs to cooperate so he could lay down and we tucked some straw around him to keep him warm on that cold winter night.  Our goats kept their distance and laid down together on the other side of the barn!  Every few hours for the next few days one of us would  walk out to the barn with a nice warm bottle of goat milk for our new little calf.  He loved it!  No problems for him adjusting at all!

We named him Curly and he is almost 2 weeks old now!  He’s growing great!  Can’t wait to fill up my freezer!  Although I have a feeling I’m going to have a little bit of hard time when his butchering date arrives!  But that won’t be for a long time.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying a different animal on the farm and I love to hear his deep  “moo” when I walk out to the barn for chores!  

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

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While making family memories!

I’m beginning to realize how quickly time passes… years go by so quickly!  My children are growing up so quickly and before I know it, they’ll be moving out and my time to teach and train and enjoy them everyday will be gone.  With that on my mind lately, I’ve been thinking of how I can be more intentional.  So I’ve been trying to live each day on purpose, with goals in mind and steps on how to attain them.

We all need to learn to thank God more.

Our family is truly blessed.  God has given us so much.  Oftentimes we fail to be grateful and more than not, we’re just coming to Him with our list of things we want and need.  I am lacking in teaching my children to have an attitude of gratitude, often times by my own example.

Our “Give Thanks” Box

So I looked up some ideas and came up with this.  Each evening, as our family gathers around our kitchen table to eat, we will each write down something that we’re thankful for on a piece of paper.  Then we’ll read a Bible verse on thankfulness, pray and eat our dinner.  Then Thanksgiving morning we’ll open up our box, read through the papers, and guess who wrote each of them.  I wasn’t sure how my ‘older’ kids would respond or show interest, but they were all so excited!  I have a few other project ideas we’ll be working on throughout the month of November.  I’ll post more about them later.  I’m excited this November as we anticipate Thanksgiving, we will, as a family, work on having an Attitude of Gratitude!

Cultivating a Servant’s Heart

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We cultivate our garden in anticipation for a bountiful crop.  So we should cultivate our hearts to prepare for a bountiful harvest.

Cultivating prepares the soil and promotes growth of the plants.  In early spring our family goes out to our garden and loosens up the crusty soils’ surface to allow air, nutrients, and water to penetrate deep into the soil to allow the roots to grow.  By cultivating we are also loosening all the weeds, disrupting the weeds that have taken root, and expose them on the top where they will die.

So we must also cultivate our hearts.

Lately I’ve been thinking of how to instill in my children a servant’s heart, not expecting rewards or pay.  When my children were younger, helping others was fun.  Now that they are young teenagers, they want to earn money.  Which is reasonable.  Putting away money in a savings account or paying for your own necessities or wants is responsible.  Although I fear the thought of earning money is the first thing that comes to mind when asked by a neighbor, friend, or family for a helping hand.

How?

Since thinking this over and discussing it with my children, it seems many opportunities have come up.  God really does know our heart and He sends circumstances at times to see if we really are ready to do what we say.

So within the past couple weeks my boys have been asked to do our neighbor’s chores, two of my children are going to help my sister-in-law clean and prepare for a Harvest Party she’s planning, and we will be helping our sick neighbor unload some bags of coal for the winter.  These will be great opportunities for us to display a servant’s heart, not expecting reward or pay, just lending a helping hand.

I’m beginning to realize that the best way to teach is to lead by example.  When my husband and I display a servant’s heart with a joyful attitude, our children will imitate that.  When I take time out of my busy schedule to sit down a read a book to them, or labor over a special meal that one of them has requested, or maybe just joyfully do the dishes for my family so we can enjoy a clean kitchen, I am setting an example.  The Lord sees these acts of service and His rewards far outweigh any earthly rewards we may receive here.

So there’s just a thought for you today.  How can you display a servant’s heart today?

“With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:”  Ephesians 6:7