There has been much to be thankful on the farm since our last post (I am sorry that I have not kept you up to date). First of all we went to California in the spring to meet our new Grandson Quinten. Our son Donny and daughter-in-law Melissa adopted him in April and he is a precious addition to our family. We love him and them very much. While we were there we were also able to spend time with our son Corey who is in the process of starting a new Hip-Hop dance ministry to inner city kids. He will prayerfully be relocating to Los Angeles and hopefully be opening his new studio next year (If you want more information let us know and we will tell you how to get in touch with him and/or his website). We were also able to participate in the Three Speckled Hens show in Paso Robles, California while we were there and saw many wonderful old friends. We are planning to make their spring show a yearly event, so keep your eyes on the website for details as the date gets closer.
Last spring finally came bringing with it the wonderful sound of baby goats and their mamas excited to get out into their new pasture. There is nothing like the joy and excitement of baby goats. They are so full of life and wonderment at what the world holds. We found homes for all of our babies at the end of the summer except the two that we decided to keep and add to the herd. This was the first year that we (meaning Susie) did not have to milk by hand. We got a bucket milker that works with an old Delaval vacuum pump. Susie's hands were very Thankful to have entered into the 21st century.
Life on the farm this year has been filled with adventures that we are both thankful for and learned from. Summer started with the visit of two of my Cousin's children Vitali and Lindsey.
They came to learn about what it was like to live on a farm and were very helpful around the farm and at the shows. They also learned why you do not stand up in a canoe, sending one
of my fishing poles to the bottom of the lake. We also had the chance to make many new friends at the shows and were blessed to be able to let the love of our Lord reach out to many
We were again able to go to California in August for the wedding of my niece Kendra and her new husband, Jason. It was a wonderful chance to see many family and old friends that we have not seen in many years. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful relatives (way to many to mention in this blog), but it was such a blessing to see them again. Our son Brandon, his wife Melissa,our granddaughter Promise, and our grandson to be named when he is born on December 1st are home in California and we are looking forward to seeing them at Christmas time.
This fall we were thankful that the lord enabled us to go to the east coast and spend a little over a week in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. The reason for the trip was to see family that we have not seen for many years. We got to spend time with my Great Uncle Reuben who turns 100 years old this month . He is a great man of God who influence my life tremendously. He and Judy were wonderful hosts and it was truly a blessing to see them. We also got to see my Aunt Doris, Uncle Wes and my cousin Sonja in the Bronx. It was wonderful to visit with them and catch up with what the Lord has been doing in their lives. Next we went to Maine and saw my cousin John Stiver and his wife Kim. We had a wonderful time catching up and enjoying their New England hospitality. They went above and beyond by taking us to the LL Bean flagship store late one night (it's open 24 hours) just so we could browse around. We are so thankful for this wonderful trip. We enjoyed fresh lobster in Maine and true Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia. We also got our soap in a cute little home decorating shop in the Poconos. All told we have been in 29 states this year so we have put a lot of miles on our vehicles.
This is the time of year when we pause for a moment in the midst of our busy schedules to reflect on what we are most thankful for. For our family, the one thing that we are most Thankful for is the salvation that we have through Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are also thankful for the blessing of family and friends. We are thankful for the ability to work from our farm and provide products that hopefully bless others. We pray that each of you will enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving! Enjoy lots of turkey and make sure to pause for a moment to take stock of the wonderful ways that we have been blessed each and every day.
I must say that overall we love living on a farm. There is so much to see and learn about the wonders of life and unfortunatly death. Kidding time is both fun and emotionally exhausting. Especially when you have a mother goat deliver prematurely. Susie and our daughter, Bobbie, went out to the barn this afternoon to check out some things in the milk room. Since the milk room door is still covered with snow build up, they had to go through the barn to get to it. As they entered the barn, they heard just the tiniest little bleet from the goat pen. At that point choas ensued. One of our does, Patches, had delivered twins early. We figure at least 2 weeks early. Something happened in the barn at some point to cause her to deliver before she was ready. She couldn't stand due to an injury to her front leg so although she is a very experienced and wonderful mother, she had not been able to care for her babies. One had already died and the other was barely holding onto life. If you have ever seen the new show on TLC called "Shear Madness," you can understand what happened next. Susie started yelling for Bobbie to run and get towels and me (Don). She took charge of the little buckling and was trying to get him stimulated and alert. He was very close to death. I came running and we had to seperate the buck from the herd ( which we should have done last week) and try to get Patches to stand so we could try to get some Colostrum from her. The little guy had no chance of survival without that first mother's milk. So far he is still alive although he has not been able to stand yet. His mom is too injured to take him back, so if he survives, he will be part of our family. Our first Bottle Baby of the season. Susie was warming him by carrying him inside her jacket. Her breathing and heartbeat simulates his mother as well. Our farm cat, Blaze, seemed to know he needed a little loving and spent some time cleaning his face for him. You wonder what could you have done to prevent something like this happening and the answer is almost always nothing. It is part of the cycle of life on the farm.
This year has been filled with both the joys of new life and the sadness over the loss of an old friend. In the fall we had to put down our son's black Lab Alli Baba and the 40 Fleas. She was 17 years old which is ancient for a Lab and over the years gave us many laughs and also caused a few heartaches (she was and is the record holder for chickens killed). The price that we pay for the joy that we experience with our pets, is the sadness we eventually feel when we lose them. I do believe that the joys far out weigh the tears in the end and we look back with fondness and happy memories remembering the wonderful animals that the Lord has blessed us with.
There are many lessons we can learn from life on the farm none the least is that life goes on. We do what we can for our animals to keep them fed and healthy but some things are beyond our hands. I tend to have a more cavalier attitude about it feeling that life goes on (at least when it comes to the livestock), while Susie gets broken hearted each time we have to deal with death. As I listen to a baby goat bleeting in the living room I am so thankful for my wife and her tender heart for the helpless. Each year we hope that we will not have bottle babies but our little Gomer's (I named him) mother would not take him back after such a hard and early delivery. Bottle babies make wonderful pets and 4H or FFA projects but the reality of it is that they are a pain in the neck to care for. They really tie us down since they depend on us to supply their meals for them. They also tend to think that they are human and thus have a more difficult time integrating into the herd. We usually try to find a home for them with people that are looking for a pasture buddy for their horse or for kids that want a goat for a pet or a Fair project.
On another subject.....
50 Degrees today. Finally, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel being the winter season that we are just coming out of. It is funny how perspective changes everything. Our friends and family in California cannot understand how excited we are about reaching 50 degrees. For them, that would be a somewhat cold day and at one time in our lives before moving to Wisconsin we would have agreed with that. For us now, we see Spring knocking on the door. A day for running around in a sweatshirt instead of bundling up in winter coat, hat and gloves. We burned 17 face cord of wood and are still looking for more wood to burn. I have to say that although I love all of the seasons I am thankful that this winter is almost over. The one thing that is never fun is the mud. The dogs will be muddy for the next couple of weeks until the frost is totally out of the ground. By then we should be able to put them back in their outside home and be able to reclaim our Laundry Room. (Their winter home). Any day now the Robins should return and before we know it our Barn Swallows will be back in their nests hatching babies. The Cycle of Life and death on the Farm continues. God is so good! His blessings of life are unfailing for those of us who believe. We are so thankful for the gift of eternal life that we have in Him.
Walking across the barnyard toward the barn we sense that something is amiss. Things just did not feel right as we headed out to feed and water the chickens, goats, steer, horse and Lester the half horned sheep (a story for another blog). Heidi and Abbie (two of our faithful companions) are by our side hoping that when we get the the chicken coop we will find some eggsicles. Eggsicles are a favorite winter treat for the dogs. All they are, are eggs that have frozen and cracked. The dogs love them and they are good for their coats as well.
As we continue into the barn the feeling that something is amiss has grown to a feeling that something is seriously wrong. We grab some hay and take it outside to throw to Najah (Susie's Horse) and Lester the one horn sheep. I noticed that their tank heater had come un plugged and there is a thin coat of ice on top of the water. I break through the ice and plug in the tank heater. Both are thankful for the open water but they were not real thirsty as they did not drink too long.
While I was doing that Susie headed on into the main part of the barn to start taking care of the goats. The feeling that something is seriously wrong has grown into a feeling of impending doom. All of a sudden I hear Susie scream from the barn "OH NO, Smoky (the missing companion) BAD DOG". I ran in from outside to see Smoky slinking around in shame inside the Chicken Coop part of the barn. He knew he was in deep stuff (family blog). I went into the coop but he would not come, it was his turn to have a feeling of impending doom. There were dead chickens everywhere. I finally caught him and we gave it to him Dog Whisperer style... just kidding we took the Bible seriously when it said (Paraphrased) Spare the rod, spoil the Shephard.
After some serious lessons in chicken avoidance, which included some corporal punishment and alot of yelling BAD DOG! NO CHICKEN!,
Smoky was then put into his kennel for the rest of the night. He was definately in the proverbial DOG HOUSE. He never made a peep that night. Being too smart for his own good, he knew that he was not in our good graces. I went back out to the coop to find Susie piling up the dead chickens so I starting bagging them up in old feed bags. There was alot of grumbling undertones questioning our intelligence for having so many animals and wondering about the likelyhood of Smokey's lifespan if this ever were to happen again. The final tally was 14 dead and 4 wounded (the wounded have for the most part recovered). Of the mortally wounded, only a couple had marks on them, as most of them seemed to die of heart attacks. At the time, I believe Smokey thought that chasing these chickens was the most fun that any dog had ever had. Hopefully the consequences of this little escapade has taught his that this is not the kind of fun that is acceptable by a family member.
This sadly was not the first chicken mass murder. Last summer we had a fox get into the hen house repeatedly before we figured out how he was getting in. Unfortunately, he got quite a number of chickens. However, the all time record goes to our Black Lab Alli Babba and the 40 Fleas (Alli lived to almost 17 years old but we had to put her to sleep last fall. She had gotten so frail and feeble that she just could not make it through another Wisconsin winter). Anyway, she holds the record that we hope will never be beaten. She killed 18 chickens in one day. This was an even bigger feat than it sounds, as the chickens were free ranging and had many places to hide. After some disciplinary measures on our part, she learned to leave the chickens alone and we are trusting that Smokey has learned the same lesson.
We take the stewardship of our animals very seriously. We take as good care of those that depends on us as we can. Although we tried to present this occurance in a lighter manner, both Suse and I were so devistated that this happened. We have to teach our predator animals (our dogs) to co-exist with those that would normally be their prey. Smokey is just a pup. (I know he doesn't look like it, but he is not even a year old yet). In his mind, I am sure he thought this was a load of fun. He wasn't consuming them, he was just chasing them. It is up to us to teach him to respect all the animals on our farm. I know that it is a work in progress, but I also know he will learn the lessons we are working to teach him.
I could wax philosophical and compare this tough love in terms of parenting our own children or in our own relationship with God. Sometimes discipline hurts, but it is done in love and is important to teach and to grow us into the people that God wants us to become.
I could also say that every day on the farm is full of new challenges and adventures. Some are wonderfully fun, some are not. This was one of those NOT times. We are thankful for everything that the Lord has given us here on our farm. We are thankful for the beauty that we enjoy every day. We are thankful for our livestock and our pets. We sometimes wonder at our sanity for having so many of both, but we are committed to ensuring that everybody learns to co-exist. For Smokey, a very energetic young Shepard, this is a work in progress. We love him and are determined to help him learn. We know that he will learn the restraint that he needs as he interacts with so many (to him) wonderful and curiously interesting things that need his investigation.
Bless him. We hope he survives.
Susie and I have long been thinking about starting a blog. It might be more accurate to calling it a muse, as my thoughts tend to ramble much to the wonderment of those who are listening to me. Anyway, lets give it a go.
Another winter is coming to an end. With snow fall totals and average low temperatures that have made it into the all time top 10 of the record books it is none too soon. It has been quite an adventure these past 9 years as Susie and I have been transfered from California folk to Upper mid-west goat farmers. We will talk more about these changes in future muses but for today I am going to concentrate on the transformation from winter to spring on the farm.
This winter has been on the harshly cold side which means constantly fighting to keep the pipes in the barn and the house from freezing. For the most part we won the war but winter won a few battles as we had some minor freezes in the basement of the house (first time for that but we have been as low as -29 degrees this winter on more than one occaision) and where the water comes into the barn. Fortunatley they were not more than a good old hair dryer can handle. Thank you Uncle Royce for teaching me that trick over 25 years ago.
Then there is the wood situation, we have burned over 17 face cord of wood this winter. We still have a couple months to go before the wood stove will go to sleep for the rest of the season. However, wood is a lot cheaper than propane so we are thankful for the stove.
In my romanticized view of winter, it seems a good time to slow down and sit by that roaring fire drinking hot chocolate. Although we do slow down some due to the fact that just
getting around in all this snow is sometimes problematic, winter is work! We work to keep our water flowing. We work to keep our animals warm and alive. We work to get our
products made for another show season, and we work at attemping to acclimate to a season that for us Californians is totally out of our realm of experience. For the most part we are
successful. We sadly did lose a sweet little doe due to the extreeme cold. She just couldn't handle it. We tried our best to keep her warm, however, these losses are a sad part
of the life we have chosen.
Overall, we feel blessed. One of the reasons that we have chosen to name our business Barnyard Blessing is for this very thing. We are blessed. We have been given the opportunity to live this life that most people only wish they could experience. (Maybe not forever, some would call us crazy!). We are blessed to be caretakers of some very rambunctious critters that drive us crazy at times. We are blessed to live in a very beautiful part of the country. But most of all, we are blessed by the salvation that we have through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Anyway enough from me for now. Both Susie and I look forward to using this blog to share some of the things that make our lives so very interesting each day. There is never a dull moment around here and with kidding season almost upon us, sleep will be at a premium as well. We look forward to sharing with you some pictures of the newest additions to our herd as they arrive.
Hope you enjoyed our first blog and the beautiful pictures of Winter on the farm. See you all soon.