Category Archives: Family

Meet Roni – 1st calf 2020

Not gonna lie. This one caught us off-guard.😯 Yes – we knew calving season was approaching. But it just didn’t β€œfeel” like it was gonna be this soon, lol. We were thinking next week would be the earliest…πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ But God knew. And today we started our 2020 season with a beautiful heifer from Uno. This is Uno’s 5th calf for us. [Click here to see the post from her calf from last year.] [Click here to read about when Uno was born.]

Mike txted me this when he went up to feed hay this afternoon.

After the shock wore off, we stopped working on our current projects, made a list of things to do before we could bring them down, and got to work: cleaning up the milk house (which had recently been serving as a maple sap rendering station), creating temporary calf pens in the top of the milking barn, checking runway fencing, and hooking up some electric wire along the field up on top of the hill. An extra bonus was that Michael was home from work to be extra hands if we needed him.πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ’ͺ🏼

We’ve been getting A LOT of rain here lately, so everywhere is pretty yucky.😬 Thank You, Lord for boots that can handle wet and slimy mud!!πŸ‘πŸΌ

Uno did a great job cleaning her calf up. We decided to name her Roni. (Sounds like the end of macaroni. Think: short and slang for Corona. Because – well – that’s how my brain works – I think about what’s going on around me…πŸ˜‚)

She allowed Mike to walk right up to her to get the halter on.❀️

And off we headed out of Mordor and to the milking barn.

Uno dropped her afterbirth on the way down…

We decided to keep them both together until tomorrow, so Roni came with us into the milking barn while we did a quick check on Uno. All was well, and back out into the field, we went.

We should have 7 more calves to arrive this year. They will be spread out longer than our normal six week window, as we had problems getting our girls bred last year.

2019 was a challenging season for us. It had been another wet year, and our ground really suffered. That, in turn, had consequences in the fertility of our soil, which led to pastures that did not thrive, and health issues for both our dairy girls and our calves. It got bad enough, that we ended up shutting down our herdshare dairy in October. Severing ties with over 30 families made it an emotional end-of-milking for us, but the Lord could not have made it more clear that that chapter needed to end.πŸ˜”

So 2020 will be the beginning of a re-boot here. We’ll be reducing the sizes of our herds so we have less animals on the land. That way, we can amend the different pastures with what they are deficient in, so they can recover and thrive again. Depending on the quality and quantity of our milk this season, we’re prayerful we’ll have enough to feed our family and perhaps to even feed out a couple pigs. We sold our bull the end of October, so any breeding we do will be artificial breeding as we move forward. Our desire would be that in a few years, this land will be able to support more animals again and that we’ll be able to continue providing food for our family and others.πŸ™πŸΌ

The Lord will use t-i-m-e to show us what is next here. Something new He introduced for 2020 is the rotation of harvesting timber from some of the farm’s wooded areas over a pattern of years. Mike has enjoyed walking the woods with the forester and learning more about better timber management.🌳 (And drooling about a future sawmill some day.πŸ˜‰) This avenue fits in perfect with the firewood harvesting we do each year, and the woodworking Mike enjoys dabbling in when he can.❀️

Our prayer is that we honor the Lord with each of these decisions alongside Mike’s parents. We recognize that He is moving us in the direction He wants us to go, and we cling to Him each step of the way. There will be seasons where we work off-farm for a bit, and there will be others where we get to stay here. If we focus on what we don’t know, it can be overwhelming. But when our focus remains steadfast on Christ, He is faithful to direct our paths. We wouldn’t have it any other way! Been there, done that.πŸ˜‰βœοΈπŸ™πŸΌ

We are so grateful for the support we’ve had since day one, and we appreciate all the encouragement and prayers we continue to receive in this farming journey!πŸ₯°

Stay tuned!☺️

Four years in the making…

It all started with this picture that came up on my social media feed back in January of 2015:

I LOVED how it looked like a sewn quilt, but was actually crocheted. I did some research and I think the pattern was called Grandmother’s Flower Garden… At that time, I was looking for a project that was portable with the potential to be connected into something bigger. Also, our down comforter seemed to be losing some of its warmth, so the thought of making something functional AND pretty was intriguing.🧢

I decided to create my own pattern since I wasn’t finding what I wanted as I searched. We found some hexagon graph paper, and Mike helped me map it out.πŸ€“

After researching all about different fibers, we decided to use wool.πŸ‘

And even though I knew the cost to make it would be higher, I really wanted to use yarn from a smaller company. I was excited when I learned about Brown Sheep Yarn, and that a small, local yarn shop had it in stock.🧢

In October of 2015, we started acquiring skeins. (I could crochet 21 hexagons from each skein.) Each one was $8, so we just purchased them for the flower petals as we had the funds. We waited until we had a larger chunk saved up to purchase all the yellow at once. A benefit to this kind of patchwork project is that dye lots are really not that important. Any slight color variations wouldn’t really be noticed. We also did not assign flower colors on our graphed pattern until after I had most of the flowers done. I had no color preferences for the flower petals going into the project, but I wanted the middle of each flower to be the same yellow. I wanted the flowers to be random. (In reality, it is more like planned random, lol.πŸ˜‚) I wanted there to be enough flower colors that when I laid them all out, I wouldn’t have two of the same color next to one another.🌸

Next, I found a hexagon pattern I liked. I didn’t want something that used a ton of yarn (like the one in the original picture), or that was complicated to make. The one I settled on only had 3 rounds, and I could complete one in under 8 minutes. It was perfect.πŸ‘πŸΌ (I used a size “F” hook.)

Click here for the link to its pattern.

In September of 2018, it was nearing the time we’d need to make the biggest purchase – all the green. We learned of an online warehouse inventory sale that Little Knits was having for Brown Sheep Nature Spun yarn, so we investigated the price for the 30 skeins. To our amazement, each one would only be $2.65!! We did a quick inventory of how many other colors we needed to complete the remaining flowers, and placed an order for what we needed. It was so exciting to actually have all the supplies here to complete the project!❀️

It took 16 months from that point to finish those remaining flowers, all the green hexagons, and then connect everything.πŸ‘πŸΌ

When this project started, our boys were in their junior year of high school.😯 I crocheted as we watched their final two years of baseball games⚾️, it’s been my travel companion in the car wherever we’ve driven for the past four yearsπŸš—, and it was in my hands during many evenings of the colder Ohio seasons❄️. Many prayers, tears, laughs, and even irritations have all gone with this project. I’ve learned much about my creative abilities AND its limitations, lol. Creating the hexagons and flowers was easy. Making the flowers was easy. Connecting it ALL together was NOT. Ugh.πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ Once the connecting got to the point of long, heavier strips of blanket, it was easy for me to get lost where I was on my pattern. Straight lines became “bendy,” and well…I often didn’t know which end was up!😳 I’ll just say I’m very grateful the Lord gave me Mike to double check my work and help dig me out of messes.πŸ˜† I became an expert on how to disconnect hexagons without ruining them.πŸ™„ <For those who are not familiar with crochet – one wrong snip of the yarn and the entire hexagon could unravel.😬>

I’ll end with the funniest mistake I made the day before completion. I was down to my final group of flowers to connect to unite the two sides of my blanket. <In hindsight, with my connecting-challenged abilities, I SHOULD have just worked from left to right.> Mike helped me line up the first flower, and went to bed. Some time between picking up both sides of the blankets and getting situated on my chair to crochet it, I must have moved the flower’s position to the wrong set of green hexagons. AND I NEVER DOUBLE CHECKED ANYTHING UNTIL I WAS DONE. I had decided I was going to stay up as late as it took since the end was so close… So at 12:30am, everything was connected, all my ends were tucked in, and I was ready to lay it out and admire its beauty…πŸ™ˆ

Ugh. I couldn’t believe it.πŸ˜«πŸ˜‚

Needless-to-say, it was NOT finished that day.πŸ€ͺ I spent Sunday afternoon, evening, and late night disconnecting the entire strip, fixing all my ends, and re-attaching to the correct location.πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

Last night was the first night we had it on our bed. LOVED IT! It was toasty warm and didn’t slide off the down comforter like other blankets have.❀️ Now I’ll be on the lookout for a bed-skirt when we hit the estate sales. I think that would be a nice finishing touch.😊

I’m excited to crochet some new projects now – but I think it will be awhile before I do another BIG one, lol.😎

Might as well end with my nerdy details😏:

53 full flowers and 14 half flowers

Grand total of 875 hexagons.

875 x 7.75 minutes each = 113 hours in crocheting hexagons, and no idea how many hours in connecting everything…πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ˜‰

Thank You, Lord, for giving me the ability to crochet. What a fun activity to keep my hands from being idle! I’ll always treasure the time that was invested in this blanket. Thank You for giving me Your Word to meditate on, personal circumstances to talk to You about in prayer, conversations I was able to have with others as I worked on it, and for the activities I was able to watch while crocheting. May the warmth of Your love be felt by each person who is wrapped up in it, for however long it lasts. Amen

And just like that: we’re done calving for 2019!

2:25PM 5-2-19

I got this txt from Mike. This is Ruby – the last of our 3 heifers to calve… We knew her calf would be born within a few hours, just didn’t know if she would require assistance or not. Needed to watch and wait…πŸ™πŸΌ

2:51PM 5-2-19

I finished up what I was working on and headed up to the field to get a couple pictures for myself. She had progressed a little – you can see feet sticking out! But she was hungry, so she just kept eating, lol.πŸ™πŸΌ

4:30PM 5-2-19

Ruby was laying down and beginning to push.

We waited around/watched for the next 40 minutes or so. Got to listen to a lot of grass chewing, lol…

5:02PM 5-2-19

Ruby continued to make progress…

And she didn’t want Mike to help speed things up! The other 2 heifers: Peggy & Nat, came over to throw some interference, lol…πŸ˜‚

As I’m taking pictures and videos of all this with Ruby, all of a sudden I hear a weird noise behind me. I turn around to seeing Gluey laying on the ground and pushing for a few seconds and then she popped up and started eating again. I asked Mike if he thought maybe Gluey was going to have her calf today, too?πŸ€”πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ Time would tell…

5:10PM 5-2-19

Decided that since Ruby didn’t appear to be in distress, we would head down to get a drink and come back up in a half hour or so.

5:43PM 5-2-19

Found BOTH Gluey AND Ruby with calves, lololol…πŸ˜†

Wow. So funny how some labors take hours and others just minutes!😲 We could tell a rain shower was headed our way, so we decided to let the mamas clean their babies up, grab a quick sandwich from town, and then come back up to assess the situation after the rain rolled through.

It’s a boy! This is Ruby’s first calf for us. [Click here to read about when Ruby was born.] His name is Boy-o. A name from a movie my boys have memorized lines from. Kind of fun to attach it to a calf now, lol.πŸ˜‚

This is Gluey’s 9th calf for us – her 5th boy. [Click here to read about her calf last year.] Gluey is always cracking us up because she kinda looks like a cartoon cow – sorta clownish.🀣 We’ve often said she reminds us of Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars… Therefore, we’ve named this boy: Jarjar.😎

7:16PM 5-2-19

The rain was done & we had eaten, so we headed back up to check things out on the hill.

Both calves were pretty cleaned up, and it looked like they either had already eaten or were in the process of eating.

If you listen closely toward the end of the video, you can actually hear him sucking!❀️

We toyed with the idea of trying to get everybody down to the barn, but with only about an hour left of daylight, it would have meant that everyone would have needed to cooperate 100%. That was not happening, lol.πŸ™„

After much prayer and deliberation, we decided to allow the boys to stay with their moms for the night. With the sun going down quickly and our bodies feeling weary, we felt it would be better to bring everybody down in the morning instead. This concept is scary for us control-freak-types…😬 In this field, the herd is contained in just a single wire of electric, and there is no perimeter fence around the edges.πŸ™πŸΌ

7:49PM 5-2-19

Mike decided to add some kelp and DE to the girls’ mineral feeder in hopes of diverting their attention from the two new additions. Perhaps then the calves could bond more with their mamas in peace.πŸ˜‰

First Mike allowed Peggy to try some to see if it would entice her to get more. It worked! Didn’t take long for others to follow her.πŸ‘πŸΌ

Of course, extra attention was needed, too…😏

It was such a beautiful evening.❀️

6:29AM 5-3-19

Sure enough – BOTH calves were on the WRONG SIDE of the fence when we got up there this morning, lol.πŸ™„ We don’t think it had been for too long, though. They were quite happy to be laying together. Sure did have all the moms in a tizzy in the corner!🀣

Boy-o and Jarjar were good about letting Mike & I get halters on them. That made it easy to get them back in with their moms.πŸ‘πŸΌ

Next we wanted to start walking everybody down to the barn as usual. This is when we realized it would be nice to have an extra set of hands to help. Fortunately, Michael hadn’t left for work yet, and was able to join us for this fun.πŸ˜‰

Mike had Boy-o, and they started walking with Ruby the direction we wanted. Gluey wanted to follow, but it took a bit for her to convince Jarjar to join her…

Amidst this drama, Ruby ended up leaving Boy-o and coming back to meet up with me, Gluey, & Jarjar.πŸ™„ Mike was able to walk Boy-o to a fencepost and tied him there until we could get back to him.

Then Mike took Jarjar from me, and walked him with Gluey & Ruby toward the barn. At this point, BOTH mamas thought Jarjar was their calf, lol.πŸ™„

Michael & I were ahead of them and walked the remainder of the herd down to the barn.

Once we got them in the barn, Michael headed back out to join Mike with Boy-o and his two mamas.πŸ˜†

It wasn’t long, and Boy-o was really losing his steam, so Michael volunteered to carry him the rest of the way down the runway. Mike was overjoyed to allow Michael to do that!😏πŸ’ͺ🏼

We were so grateful for Michael’s help this morning! What a blessing that Don’s Custom Meats is so close to our home, so he wasn’t too late getting into work.❀️

Mike was then able to walk Jarjar to his stall in the barn.πŸ‘πŸΌ

Next, Mike & I headed back up to where Boy-o was waiting. He basically informed us he was DONE walking, lol.πŸ™„

Mike prepped the 4-wheeler for the trek down the runway…

He scooped up Boy-o and loaded him up. This is the pose I get when I’m supposed to be driving, but turn to take a QUICK picture, lol…😏 (Have I mentioned lately, that I LOVE this man? How in the world he can even put up with me, I will never understand…☺️)

Unlike Clint, Boy-o hardly moved at all in the drive down. It was a much more comfortable walk for Mike down the hill.πŸ‘πŸΌ

Mission accomplished! All the dairy girls were in the barn, and both calves made it to their pens. THANK YOU, LORD.✝️

We were also grateful that they both ate today. Sometimes, when they’ve been with their mamas for a decent spell, they aren’t interested in eating from a bottle for awhile. But these guys drained their bottles. ANOTHER PRAISE!✝️

11:55PM 5-3-19

Phew. What a long two days. I don’t think it’s ever taken me so long to write a blog post and get it uploaded!

Final tally for 2019 is 5 boys and 3 girls.❀️

What a season this has been, Lord. We’ve already learned many new lessons, and we know more are coming. We thank You for how You lead and teach us, and even how you gently correct us. We continue to seek Your Wisdom now as we move forward. With the Psalmist, we pray: May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – YES, establish the work of our hands! Amen (Psalm 90:17)

Rendering suet into tallow 2018

Now that all our beef for the year have been taken to the butcher shop, we’ve got suet that needs rendered into tallow. We’ve learned to do it as soon as we get it or it takes up precious freezer space for too long since there never seems to be a “good day” to plan to render, lol.πŸ™„ So – despite it being 88Β° and humid today, onward we go!πŸ™ƒ

Here are summary pictures from today and links for more details from earlier years are at the end.πŸ‘πŸΌ

(The favorite part for me is cleaning up at the end of the process with super hot water & our tallow soap!☺️)

[click here to read about our experience rendering in 2013]

[click here to read about tallow in skincare]

[click here to read about an old lesson I learned that had tallow in it]

2nd calf 2018

Last evening after work was done, showers done, and the 4 of us sat down to watch a movie together, the call comes: Gluey had her calf.πŸ˜‚ Figures, right?πŸ™„ This is always the hard part – had the girls’ been up in Grey Heaven, we would not have known she’d had her calf, so we would have found out in the morning. BUT, once we KNOW a calf’s been born, we just can’t NOT go and check on the situation…especially with a snowstorm on its way annnd Gluey’s past fiascos…😬

So Mike & I got bundled up and headed next door.

Could tell from a distance that the calf was a boy, and that he had just been born. He was still wet, and hadn’t eaten yet. Gluey has had 8 calves for us. This boy makes her count 4 girls and 4 boys.πŸ‘πŸΌ

The snow was just starting to stick, and we had about an hour of daylight left, so we told Gluey she had one hour to prove she knew what to do… If he wasn’t cleaned up when we came back out, we’d bring him inside and milk Gluey so we could feed him ourselves.

Michael randomly chose the name “Phillip” for him when we came back inside to catch some more of the movie. I thought it was kinda weird as I had no idea where that name came from, but it ended up being the perfect name…πŸ˜‰ (This will make more sense in a bit, I promise.πŸ˜‚)

So now it’s an hour later. Yes, Gluey had done relatively well at cleaning him up, they were still alone together, and he was walking around looking like eating was on the agenda. The snow was coming down a little heavier, so it was a really hard decision to let them stay together. But after much consideration and prayer, that’s what we decided to do.πŸ™πŸΌ

Came out extra early this morning to see how things were going. Found “Phillip” up by the round bale feeder with the rest of the mamas.❄️

Mike got a halter on him, but then he decided he didn’t want to walk…πŸ™„

So Mike carried him and led the way into the barn.πŸ’ͺ🏼

He’s MUCH bigger than Patty, so it was a challenge for Mike to carry him as far as he did. These bodies lack the oomph they used to have…πŸ˜¬πŸ™πŸΌ

Next Mike carried “Phillip” upstairs. He was pretty wet from the snow, so I grabbed a towel and dried him off a bit. Began to wonder at this point if he actually HAD eaten…😟

Gluey milked well, and we got plenty for “Phillip’s” morning and afternoon feeding. Got his bottle ready and headed up. NORMALLY, a calf that has been with its mama overnight is not interested in a bottle the first day with us – especially bull calves – they just lay around and pout for a day, but by the next morning they are ready to eat and do fine after that. BUT THIS GUY SUCKED DOWN ONE WHOLE BOTTLE AND A BIT OF ANOTHER. We hardly had to cooerce him at all to take the bottle. All signs to us that perhaps he really had NOT eaten with Gluey.😠

We are VERY encouraged he is doing well now and we rejoice in the resiliency of these animals.❀️ He is not out-of-the-woods yet. We’ll be watching him closely, especially over the next 24 hours. And “Phillip” is now being changed to “FillUp” in my records. Because that’s just the kind of weird-word-girl I am.πŸ™ƒ

Patty continues to flaunt her cuteness to us, visitors, and the cats – especially Junior.😻

Lord, we thank you for the gift of life. For the patience You have with us as we stumble through difficult circumstances. For allowing us to feel Your mercy and grace as we go. Continue to grant us the sustaining strength and divine wisdom we need to navigate through this farming adventure. In Your name, we pray. AMEN

Our count is now 1 boy+1 girl. Lord willing, 5 more to go…πŸ‘πŸΌ

A purple sweet potato pie

Our friends grew some purple sweet potatoes this year, and we were blessed to receive some of their harvest.☺️ [click here to read more about Ipomoea batatas]

After we brainstormed a bit for possible choices, Mike’s mom chose a “purple* sweet potato pie for her birthday “cake!”πŸŽ‚

*Some funny behind-the-scenes-trivia: we actually thought these were called “BLUE sweet potatoes,” so the whole time we were working with them, we kept remarking about how PURPLE they looked!πŸ˜‚ Glad to learn they are, in-fact, PURPLE!😏*

I have two sweet potato pie recipes in my collection. Decided to do the simpler one here, so we could get a better appreciation of the purple color. First I washed, and then boiled 1.2# pounds of taters for about 40 minutes.

After that, I ran cold water over them and started by peeling skin off with a knife but ended with just using my hands and rubbing the skin off. Came off SO easy!πŸ‘πŸΌ

Had about 50 grams more than the one pound of sweet potatoes the recipe called for, but decided to just use it all.

Added 4 oz. of our butter and was struck by the color contrast of deep yellow & vibrant purple!😍

Mixed above well, and then added the rest of the ingredients:

1c (145g) sucanat, 1/2c (4 oz.) milk, 2 eggs, 1/2t ground nutmeg, 1/2t ground cinnamon, & 1t vanilla extract. Mixed on medium speed until mixture was smooth, and poured it into the single pie crust I made before I started.

For it, I added 140g of unbleached flour to 4g of sea salt + 78g of butter and used my pastry blender to pulse it up. Added 2.5T cold water and blended it a bit more until it formed a ball. Rolled it out and formed my crust.

Baked it for about 1 hour and 5 minutes at 350Β°.

And here you can really see the purple vs. blue color next to this blue lid…πŸ˜‰

Tasted great and was fun to celebrate Mom’s birthday with this pie!❀️

Thank You, Lord, for the gifts of family, friends, harvests, sharing, and celebrations. You weave everything together in amazing ways…Amen❀️