Even dinosaurs like tomatoes!

None of our little tomatoes came up but one of the vendors at our local farmers market had a lovely variety of little sweeties. Even our pet dinosaur couldn’t resist them!

Observing the day of rest…not so easy!

We saw Planes this weekend and while much of it was predictable and forgettable, one line stuck with me.  “I want to do something different than what I was built for!”

Well, what are we built for?  A big part of why we moved out of the city and here to Blueberry Acres is because both Sheldon and I felt called to a life closer to what we imagine God’s will for us includes:  producing our own food as much as possible, teaching our child about the circle of life, showing care and compassion for animals and people who need it, connecting with a community that is a little less materialistic.  I’m not sure if we have achieved all of those, but it is part of our walk to be what we were built for.

Part of that walk has also included doing more to follow God’s will.  What I’m specifically talking about today is observing the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship.  Now, we believe in corporate worship and have tried to include going to church as a regular family activity.  However, we have absolutely sucked eggs when it came to allowing Sunday to be a day of rest and family time.  I know there are as many definitions of Sabbath/The Lord’s Day as there are religions, but for us, we felt called to the idea that God wanted us to have a day of rest as a family.  We were finding that we were all entering the week pretty ragged with lots of yelling and not much “good stuff” in our proverbial love tanks.  We began to realize that we can’t just follow God’s will on the super biggies..the stealing, the lying, the coveting, etc…we also need to think about the resting.  I know that I cannot know the mind of The Lord, but I believe that He knows what He is talking about…even on a busy family farm, you gotta rest!

As a result, for the last few weeks, we have started officially observing Sunday as our day of rest.  We take care of the animals basic or immediate needs, we cook/bake together as a family…but beyond that post-church, it’s kind of a PJ day.  And it’s about killed us.  Seriously.  This is harder than we thought.  Sheldon works full time 35 miles from our home, so most of our projects have to wait for the weekend and there are some things that I simply cannot do alone during the week around my job.  As a result, we’re behind on both the pig pen and the newest chicken run.  The laundry threatened to eat me alive when I looked at it earlier today.  Blueberry’s room looked like a bomb of books exploded above it.  Cats and dogs living together…mass hysteria!  Sigh.

But, yesterday Sheldon and I sat and peeled apples while talking and connecting reminding me of just how special my husband is.  Blueberry and I made pie crust with her wearing her cute new tractor apron.  We all sat on the floor and played together with lots of tickling and lots of laughter.  We didn’t make any headway on our projects, but we made memories that we would have otherwised missed.  It’s a commandment that you wouldn’t think would be hard to follow, but for us of the never ending to-do list…it is.  But of course, God is right in this as with everything else.  Our family has benefited immeasurably just in this short period of time.  Hey-in fact, Sheldon came in on Saturday afternoon in the midst of our chores and asked if we could all stop what we were doing so he could take us to the movies.  Not so bad for the guy I lovingly refer to as The Weekend Taskmaster.  I’ll share more as we better align our lives with God’s plan, but I would love to hear from my readers.  What changes have you made in your life to get yourself where you need to be…and what has surprised you along the way?  Are you living for what you were built for…or not?

Happy Homesteading!

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!

Updated: DANGHOLSTEIN!: The final chapter

For those of you who have kindly been following along with our cow follies, today the DANGHOLSTEIN! chapter of our journey comes to an end when Sheldon drives her to the happy hunting ground (aka the butcher who will process her) in the sky.

courtesy of soda head

courtesy of soda head

After she is dispatched, the meat will age at the butcher for a couple of weeks and then we will be able to pick up our cuts.  We have sold half of the cow for zero profit (should be at least break even) and will probably sell/trade a little bit more of her.  Since this was our first endeavor and not the breed that we are making a long term run with, our goal was just to fill our freezers up with grass fed beef for the winter.

While DANGHOLSTEIN! isn’t anyone’s automatic choice when it comes to beef cows, we have learned that it’s not uncommon for a Holstein to go to processing after her milking days are over.  Plus, we believe that the benefits of a grass fed cow are so incredibly strong, we have a hard time being anything but grateful for the meat that she will provide to us.  We anticipate the meat to be sweet-probably sweeter than what we have had in grass fed Angus and/or Belties, but we shall see.

We have talked candidly to the Blueberry about today’s event.  In fact, she has started licking her lips when we drive past DANGHOLSTEIN! in the pasture.  Something that creeps me out to no end if I’m going to be honest….but, I appreciate that my little pragmatic farm girl can take such a matter of fact perspective on this process.

Today in about an hour, our family will gather together to say a prayer over DANGHOLSTEIN! to thank her for her blessings on our family and wish her a speedy journey into the happy hunting ground.  For animal lovers, this may rankle, but our perspective is that we have probably provided her a much better life than she ever would have gotten in a commercial feedlot, plus her meat will provide for our family (and other families)-her life will not be wasted.  So, I guess in the end, she will not be DANGHOLSTEIN! at all, but despite the frustrations of learning to raise cattle, she will instead be known as ThankyouHolstein in our family.

UPDATED:

We heard from the Happy Hunting Ground (aka Cloud’s Meat Processing) that TYHolstein’s hang weight was 570 lbs.  While we didn’t know her live weight at time of butchering (she wouldn’t fit on my weight watchers scale…), the average percentage of hang weight versus live weight is typically between 60-63% with some range up to the high 60’s.  Taking this into account, she either had a big roll of quarters in her pocket or she lost weight from the time we purchased her to the time we took her to process.  We learned some things along the way from this, the purchase of our first feeder cow.  If we have to buy another feeder cow (hoping our #Beltie herd will be built up before that is necessary), we won’t do it during the height of summer.  Lands were dry, grasses were puny and while the cows had plenty to eat, it wasn’t the grass-a-palooza that we saw early this spring.  We also learned that we aren’t buying another heifer unless she is going to be used for some baby makin’!  For some reason, TYHolstein didn’t like our existing herd and ran like proverbial hell to get in our neighbors pasture with his Angus heifers.  Not sure why, but she never looked back and once a cow is committed, well, I think she is like a stubborn old woman-no changing her mind.  We think had we bought her younger, she would have had more time to acclimate to our herd.  I’m sure as the months/years go on, we’ll figure out what else we did wrong this go around, but at least for now, we remain forever grateful for her gifts.

Found on these blog hops:

found at www.modernhomesteaders.net.  Go check 'em out!

found at http://www.modernhomesteaders.net. Go check ’em out!