Berkshire pork is here!

Well, we are happy to report that our order of Berkshire pork has been picked up and is now resting comfortably under guard, lock and key.  And I’m not kidding!  After having one of those pork chops, both Sheldon and I declared it to be the best pork chop that we have ever had, despite me over cooking it!

Now, think I’m praising the quality of our pork just to get you to buy it?  Nope..not even a little.  I’m praising the quality of our pork because it is so incredibly rewarding to find out that all of this hard work and literal blood, sweat and tears have produced a cut of meat our family can be proud of.  Pigs are HARD work..much harder than I would have guessed.  They are incredibly smart animals.  Couple that with them being incredibly powerful animals and you have the potential for trouble!  Our cattle are obviously bigger, but when they manage to escape the pasture, it’s a matter of leading them calmly back in with a little bucket of snacks.  Pigs on the other hand, you have to sit down and create a master strategy just to approximate getting a pig to do something your way.  On more than one occassion, our pigs told us to shove our little buckets of snacks.  Now, perhaps this is because we keep all of our animals well-fed and well-cared for, so the desperation born of hunger which can drive some stock animals never comes into play for our animals….but that means we have to constantly stay one step ahead of these canny omnivores.

So, next time you hit the local mega mart, think about what you buy.  We’re not saying that you need to or even should spend a zillion dollars shopping the highest quality meat..unfortunately, we know the food industry has made that really tough in some cases.  However, if you can spend some of your money with a local provider and get food at prices comparable to your grocery store, well, doesn’t it make sense to support a farmer whose blood, sweat and tears you can trust?  Just my two cents!

Gave it up for Lent..and so glad

I haven’t been a frequent poster here on our little farm blog in the last several months, but that has been primarily since life has become even more hectic than before.  Our little Blueberry is finishing up her first year of public school.  Sheldon seems to take on more work every day in an unending bid to see if a man can actually work himself to death.  Our farm has plugged along with everyone doing their part.  We’re coming up on butchering day for both our meat chickens as well as many of our pigs.  Our garden is still lying untending, but that will thankfully change later today.  And as for me, I have had feast and famine with consulting work, paid work and what I affectionately refer to as slave labor work (aka volunteering at Blueberry’s school)…so taking some time as a family to stop, slow down and ultimately eschew some incredibly first world treats as an homage to the sacrifice that Christ made for us when He died for our sins seemed like a good idea.

It began on Ash Wednesday.  We gave up TV of all sorts.  This meant not even watching clips on You Tube or watching the videos that are so often embedded in online news stories.  Absolutely no TV.  Day one didn’t go so well.  We were snowed in and The Blueberry was pretty high energy.  Couple that with my need to do work calls and Sheldon’s need to do work calls, and we needed a babysitter.  Enter in TV as Nanny.  Not our finest moment, but we like to keep it real here!   Other than that one time, our TVs have been dark.

In addition to giving up TV, we also gave up absolutely all sweets…cookies, cake, candy, pie, sweet breads, ice cream, etc.  That part we haven’t wavered on at all as a family. There have been times here or there where Blueberry has asked for a treat while we were out, but upon being reminded that we had given it up for Lent, she immediately withdrew her request.

It’s been about 46 days now as I write this and we are in the process of thinking about our Easter activities as Lent will end.  And let’s face it-when I think about Easter Brunch, I basically have this mental picture of the three of us eating some token food and then falling on the candy Lord of the Flies style.  I may be exaggerating, but probably not by much!

It’s been an interesting journey, and I’m not sorry one whit that we did this as a family.  However, we have learned some things that we didn’t anticipate like:

1) It wasn’t hard to give up the sweets.  Sure, there were days where emotions made us want to sit down with a bag of twizzlers (and by us, I mean me)…but we didn’t.  Instead, we sat down with hot tea, a good book (and often The Good Book), and just relaxed, prayed or talked.

2) TV wasn’t all that missed.  We were a bit worried about this..we’re actually not couch potatoes on the weekends, but after crazy, hectic days, Sheldon and I did like to veg out in front of the TV after Blueberry goes to bed.  Instead, we read, play cards, listen to music or sermons-it’s been nice.  In addition, by eliminating the morning news on TV, our mornings haven’t been any less hectic, but they have been a bit more quiet without anyone (read Sheldon) complaining that he can’t hear the news or other little people asking to sit and watch the news.  Instead, we just talk.

3) It’s kind of hard to find just a radio anymore!  We have a sound system in our “play room” but it’s downstairs and we wanted a little inexpensive radio/cd player for upstairs that we could also play things off a jump drive on.  That actually was hard to find!  We finally settled for a little system from Walmart and it’s been fine.  The Blueberry has fallen back in love with classical music often dancing around to Chopin.  I’ll take that over the earbleed of Taylor Lovato Bieber anyday!

4) The Blueberry has not struggled with this nearly as bad as I had anticipated.  Now, let’s be fair.  Unfortunately, her school does use the TV as “entertainment” during snack and when the teacher needs a break.  This doesn’t make me happy, but it’s a rant for another day.  In addition, we’re all required to provide snack one day a month.  Many of the other parents don’t define snacks the way we do, so she has gotten sweet treats at school.  Sure, we could have provided alternate snacks and heck, probably even requested that she went to the library during TV time…but..we’re not looking to punish or exclude her-quite the opposite, so we just let the school stuff ride.  However, beyond this, the kiddo has been incredibly grown up, curious and understanding about this journey without whining a single, solitary time about wanting sweets or TV.  Just a good reminder that often times as parents, we should remember that our kids can be capable of much more than we think.

And the one I didn’t really expect…

4) This has not been that hard.  I had originally suggested no sweets and then Sheldon upped the ante with no TV and to be honest, I thought he was smoking crack, banana peels or both.  I remember thinking there is NO WAY this is going to happen.  But then..it did.  And it did without drama, without difficulty, without regret.  Other parents told me we were crazy to even attempt this, but we didn’t listen.  When you begin to put perspective on all of these unnecessary things that we have put into our lives, and then take them away as a tiny first step towards honoring the HUGE sacrifice that was made for our unworthy selves…well, then, it becomes pretty ridiculous to gripe about giving up Justified when comparing that to the death of someone righteous.

Where do we go from here?  Well, I’m not entirely sure.  I had written a long conclusion about all of the things we are going to try and do, but I would rather sum it up this way instead.  We began this journey as a shared family experience to try and better understand Christ’s sacrifice for us.  Where we take it from here is really not up to us…but I look forward to being along for the ride.

From our family to yours, we wish you love, joy and excitement as we enter into the Three Days ending on Easter.  He is risen!

Prelude to giving up for Lent

My goodness…I haven’t felt compelled to blog in a long while. Life has been very busy these days! But, I thought it might be interesting to share our experiences as our family makes our first ever attempt to give something up as a unit for Lent. And because we are no slackers (well, sometimes we are) we are going big by giving up both TV and sweets. And starting it during a snow day. Yea-seems so easy, right? Gulp. Here we go into Ash Wednesday peeps…

Thank you to all of our Veterans!

Nothing much to say today other than thank you to all who have served past, present and future.  Sheldon (aka Mr. Blueberry Acres) is a Veteran and while he doesn’t like to make a big deal out of it, Blueberry and I are pretty proud of his service.  I would imagine a lot of Veterans are like that-“don’t honor me..honor the next guy/gal..they did more than me!” 

picture property of Blueberry Acres Farm

picture property of Blueberry Acres Farm

So, I say to all of our Veterans, young, old and like Sheldon, in between..thank you-your duty, honor, loyalty and sacrifice humble me.  God bless you!

A Killer In Your Fridge ~ Sweet Poison… A MUST READ

Good read!

In October of 2001, my sister started getting very sick. She had stomach spasms and she was having a hard time getting around. Walking was a major chore. It took everything she had just to get out of bed; she was in so much pain.

By March 2002, she had undergone several tissue and muscle biopsies and was on 24 various prescription medications. The doctors could not determine what was wrong with her. She was in so much pain, and so sick she just knew she was dying.

She put her house, bank accounts, life insurance, etc., in her oldest daughter’s name, and made sure that her younger children were to be taken care of.

She also wanted her last hooray, so she planned a trip to Florida (basically in a wheelchair) for March 22nd.

On March 19, I called her to ask how her most recent tests went, and…

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The cat lady

Sheldon and his assistant, Fluffy Newspaper are hard at work on a new brooder. We found that the coops we put in (but haven’t used yet) were home to ants….lots of them. And being the tree huggers that we are, we are taking an organic route to kill the ants and drive them out. But that doesn’t help our growing bunch of chicks who are ready to depart the incubator for the more comfortable climes of the brooder box. Cat lady Sheldon to the rescue!

2013 summer growing season is well..sucking.

I think I’m a little bummed about this first year garden here at Blueberry Acres. We did a lot of things wrong this year that frankly, we knew better than to do. We started late..partially because of the ridiculous May snowfall but also because we were just overwhelmed with animal activity. We also didn’t set up our garage greenhouse to start our seedlings. We started some in our kitchen (epic mistake), some in the living room and some went right into the ground as seed. Sheldon didn’t believe planting the seeds directly in the ground would work in our soil, but God proved him wrong and these little boogers grew like mad.

Then (and if you could imagine the song “Flight of the Bumblebee” here for effect) came the invading hoardes. Squash bugs, grasshoppers of all shapes/sizes, slugs, lions, tigers, bears…oh my. It was enough to make an organic gardener want to find some agent orange and blast those *%@(&$ to oblivion. Alas…we did not. We continued to manage our pestilence through DE, Neem Oil, beer (for me and the slugs), chicken buffets (Lana, our head chicken is very good about catching grasshoppers) and good old fashion squooshing.  However, I can’t be naive..we’ve been decimated.  Sheldon said that we were hit this hard once in Texas, but I don’t remember it.  I have been researching/studying/praying for ways to better manage the pests so they don’t turn into plagues for next season, but I think it’s going to take a major overhaul.

For one, I’m going to eliminate all of my raised beds save for one.  While I don’t think this contributed to my pests exactly, I can say that we had a hard time keeping up with the grass/weeds around the beds and I think that contributed to more bugs.  I think also having to spend time on the weeds around the beds meant less time for the beds themselves…ergo, more bugs.  Beyond eliminating the beds, I’m planning on razing the existing garden to the ground outside of the strawberry plants.  Every time I say this, Sheldon laughs as if this is just the insane ramblings of his crazy wife.  Butttt, no.  I plan on burning this thing down to nuthin if I can help it.  Why allow the little buggies somewhere warm and rich to live over the winter?  I plan on burning what I can, and destroying what I can’t.  When I’m done, I hope to be able to expand the width/length of our garden fence to include a garden that is about double in size of what this year’s garden is.  We haven’t had any trouble with bunnies eating our crops, but it’s fair to say that our area is absolutely loaded with bunnies, so we have taken no chances with a bunny and deer detering fence.  From there, I will plan on putting in proper rows covered in weed fabric and hopefully prelaid with soaker hoses prior to the next planting.  We have rain barrels that are cut and almost ready to go for some hose manifolds to help feed the watering needs.  I figure it’s going to take me the better part of the fall/winter to revamp the garden, but I’m convinced it will be worth it.

Well, the turkeys, chickens and dogs are in tucked in.  The cats are on patrol for some wild rabbit (sorry bunny lovers!) and I have a little more paid work to do before I call it a day.  Hope you all have a fantastic evening!