Friday, April 18, 2014

Thankful for my Dad

Today we celebrated my Dad’s birthday, and I’ve been thinking about some of the many things I am thankful for in him (and there are a lot! :) . . .

I love getting up in the morning, walking down the dark hall to the office where one light is on to see him reading his Bible and spending time with the Lord.

I love his sincere love for God, His truth, and for proclaiming and defending that truth.

I love his love for his family . . . always there, strong, protective, willing to do the hard things, teaching, guiding, and much more.

I love his smile, his laugh, hearing him whistle, his sense of humor . . . out of anyone in our family, he can probably get me laughing the easiest!

I love his desire to help us achieve our dreams and goals whether it be farm/garden things, ministry opportunities, our businesses, or simply things that we enjoy doing.

I love how he likes to spend time with us.

I love how I can always talk to him . . . share my heart, get his wisdom and counsel, hear what advice he might have.

But most of all, I just love him. I am so thankful that the Lord blessed me with him as my dad!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Family Birdwatching Outing

After a very busily full week of outdoor work and more, we were all ready for a relaxing Saturday this past weekend! We loaded up the truck with binoculars, bird books, the spotting scope and tripod, cameras, and a cooler with drinks and then headed to one of our favorite conservation areas.

One of the pools with a few Shovelers out on it . . . the trees are finally beginning to get a tinge of green to them!

This was our first time birding with the spotting scope, and it was so fun to use! Especially when there were groups of shorebirds . . . with the scope, we were able to see them in great detail and identify them. Pectoral Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plover were the two species we had the treat of seeing other than the typical Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.

Leah looking through the spotting scope

Leah took this photo of me photographing the below . . .

The flowers on this tree were beautiful!

Looking out across one of the bodies of water towards the bluffs.

Leah and Mom looking through the scope at the Black-Bellied Plovers. It took a bit for us to identify these as they were still in their winter plumage, though were just beginning to transition. If it weren't for the scope, we wouldn't have had a clue!

A pair of American White Pelicans flying over

It won't be long before this scene will be full of green! (other than the water and sky that is. :)

A path along the treeline that I walked a ways down which was so pleasant

Looking back towards the truck where Dad and Leah were scanning the water for birds

A little Western Painted turtle that was crossing the road

 Dad picked him up so I could photograph the beautiful shell underneath (which is called a Plastron.)

It was a delightful Saturday, and we're already looking forward to going back once things green up a bit more and there are more bird species migrating through!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring on Our Homestead

This past week, I have been thoroughly enjoying my favorite season and these glorious spring days! 

It was so nice to be able to spend a lot of time outdoors in the beautiful sunshine, warm breezes, and with spring awakening all around. It was also really nice being able to cross many things off of my to-do list! Such as . . .

-- tilling a large portion of the vegetable garden twice
(which was easier said than done! The ground was still quite wet making it difficult to till the first time . . . but it needed to be done as things had to get planted and more rain is on the way.)

In the process of tilling (once it was tilled, the ground began drying out quickly thanks to the wind.) It was so nice to finally get started on the garden!

-- planting over 230 onion plants, around 60 broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants which I had started from seed, and then 13 lbs of seed potatoes with my Mom and Leah (which was fun to do together!)

The onions

One of the cabbage plants

-- making raised beds for carrots that are yet to be planted

The carrot beds

-- and doing the first full beehive inspections of the season with my Dad . . . it was exciting to see that all five of the hives look great and are building up quickly. Here’s hoping we have another great honey year!

Last evening I took a walk in the beautiful evening sunlight and captured the below photos (as well as the ones above save for the tilling one) which give a glimpse into the awakening spring here . . .

I love seeing the cheery daffodils!

Some of our Boers out grazing while the sun lit everything up with its rich, golden rays and slowly sank below the horizon

One of Aurora's bucklings . . . he is really sweet!

Rhubarb growing

 The apple trees are beginning to leaf out!

This doesn't look like much (yet :), but it is the new strawberry bed which I planted and mulched last weekend. 25 Everbearers are planted on the left side of the cedar logs, and 25 June Bearers are planted on the right.

One of the growing strawberry plants

A bunch of daffodils growing in our yard

Leah was out playing with Kymber while I was photographing so I snapped this one of her. She's grown a lot since I last shared photos of her, hasn't she?!

The current chicken coop soon to be milking barn with the hens out in front, and our dairy does and their kids in the pen behind them

 Willow with her two bucklings (and the doeling was curled up right behind her, too)

It has certainly been a wonderful week!

Monday, April 7, 2014

At the Piano . . .

Last evening after chores were finished, I came inside, sat at the piano, and played and sang some of my favorite songs in the Bright Lights Let My Life be a Light song book . . .

Be Thou My Vision

In Christ Alone

May the Mind of Christ my Savior

Before the Throne of God Above

I am Resolved

Let My Life be a Light

It is Well

and more.

It was just me, the piano, and my Lord . . . I love times like these! As my fingers ran across the keys and I sang to the Lord the words of each of the songs, my heart was both spiritually refreshed and uplifted, as well as encouraged and convicted. Each song has such powerful words . . . of praise and thanksgiving to God, of telling the great things that He has done for us and His love, of service and consecration to Him, of obedience and following Him, and so much more!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reflecting the Son

The below "Apples of Gold" was shared on Facebook by The Berean Call (my very favorite ministry), and I found it to be so encouraging and convicting! I hope it will be a blessing to you as well and an encouragement in your walk with the Lord . . . .

March 23 - Apples of Gold

As we grow and mature in the Lord, we become more Christlike. We “reflect” His attitudes and we show His working in our lives. As the lesser light of the moon is just a reflection of the greater light of the sun, so we only reflect the image of the Son. Therefore, to become more Christlike is simply to conform our lives, our attitudes, and our minds to Him.

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." —Romans 12:2

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Willow's Kidding

Willow's kids are two weeks old already, and I am just now getting around to posting about her kidding! The aforementioned big project in my last farm related post is part of the reason . . . last week found us quite busy not only working on, but completing, phase 1 of transforming our chicken pen/coop into a pen for our milkers/milking barn, and phase 2 will hopefully begin soon.

We moved Willow and Dixie and all of their kids to the new pen, and the kids especially enjoyed it! But I am getting a little ahead of myself. :)

Going back to Willow's kidding . . . she went into labor two weeks ago yesterday, and with how things were going, Leah and I both had a feeling that something wasn't quite right. Sure enough, eventually there came a nose, but . . . no feet. So Leah went in while Dad and I held Willow still. There wasn't much working space inside, and it took quite a bit of patience and finagling on Leah's part to finally straighten both front legs in order to get the kid in a position that it could be delivered.

The kid was obviously quite large, and it took a great deal of effort on Willow's part (and Leah's!) to get his head and shoulders delivered and then progress stopped. Dad took over at that point and gently yet firmly pulled the kid the rest of the way out. It was a little tense there for a bit, and there was a quick whispered prayer on my part to the Lord that the kid would be able to be delivered safely . . . and a prayer of thanks afterwards when he was!

After the initial 'enjoy her new kid' moment (always fun to watch!), Willow was obviously not interested in trying to deliver kid #2 and even with me holding the buckling up out of her reach, she still wasn't. At that point, I brought the distractingly noisy buckling inside while Dad and Leah helped deliver the second kid - she needed some gentle pulling, too, as she was also large.

We had originally thought that Willow might have triplets since she was so big beforehand, but with the size of these two kids, we were sure it was just twins. (You know what's going to happen next, right? :)

We were all admiring the two kids, enjoying watching Willow with them, when Dad noticed another foot . . . Willow was going to have triplets! Now, just one foot and no second foot or head is a problem, but when the bottom of that foot is facing up, you know the kid is not in the typical presentation! It could either be upside down (more unlikely) or breech. 

Leah went in yet again, discovered that the kid was indeed breech, found and straightened the second leg, waited for Willow to begin pushing again, and when that happened, quickly pulled out another little buckling. He looked tiny compared to the other two!

All three shortly after the third kid (on the far right) was delivered

We were all so glad once all three kids were safely here! Willow was tired, but was doing her job wonderfully with each of them. One big question was in our minds . . . would she accept all three and be able to raise them all or would we be bottle feeding? And . . . she did! (and is.) That was a relief! It helped, we think, that the little guy was so tenacious. He has quite the personality!

All three kids attempting to nurse at the same time - the two in the back kept taking turns :)

Our first set of triplets!

So now we have five Alpine kids frolicking together out in their pen, and it is so fun to watch them! (And I just might have a video to share of them soon.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Recipe to Share ~ Country-Style Chicken Soup

I don't know about where you all live right now, but here it has taken a decided turn for the colder making one think that a hearty soup would make an excellent dinner on one of these cold nights!

Below is a recipe for one of my favorites which is not only delicious, 
but has the added bonus of being simple to make.

(And I think I remembered to include all my alterations, though the amounts of things tends to vary every time I make it! Which is why I don't have exact measurements on many of the ingredients. :)

Country-style Chicken Soup

--3-4 cups cooked, shredded or cubed chicken
--1 onion chopped
--approx. 3 cups chopped carrots (I always use one quart jar of our canned carrots instead)
--3/4-1 cup chopped celery
--2 tsp. parsley flakes
--1 bay leaf
--1/4 tsp. thyme
--1/2 tsp. basil
--approx. 3/4 tsp. salt
--1/2-3/4 tsp. pepper
--6 cups water
--3 cups cooked rice*

In a 4 qt. or larger slow cooker, combine the first 11 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaf and add rice. Serve when heated through.

*We bake our rice which makes meal preparation even simpler! Here's how it's done . . .

 Oven Baked Brown Rice

--1 cup brown rice
--2 1/2 cups water
--1/2 tsp. salt (if using the rice in a soup, you can omit the salt)
--1 Tbsp. butter

Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

First Flowers of Spring and a Psalm to Share

There's nothing like the first bright cheerfulness that the first flowers of the year bring 
after a long, cold winter. These ones are about a month later than normal, but 
welcomed all the more because of that!


I was originally going to post just the above today, but portions of a certain Psalm which I know in song have been running through my mind often today, and I thought I would share them here in the hopes that they would uplift and encourage your heart as they have mine . . .

"I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

"Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.

"What shall I render to the LORD
For all of His benefits toward me?
I shall lift the cup of salvation
And call upon the name of the LORD.

"To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And call upon the name of the LORD."

Psalm 116:1-2, 5-8, 12-13, 17

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Beginning of Spring on Our Farm

A sign of spring . . . daffodils slowly growing

With the warmer weather we had been having recently, I so enjoyed spending much of my time outdoors simply enjoying the beauty of my favorite season as well as cleaning up some, cleaning out under all the rabbit cages and hauling everything to either the garden or compost pile . . .

Inside the rabbitry afterwards

. . . and hauling piles of old hay and mulching with it around our fruit trees and the rhubarb . . .

Part of the orchard

With getting the fruit trees mulched, that's another thing crossed off of my March Homestead to-do list! I am loving using my Homesteading Binder . . . it has been so nice to be able to keep up with the egg laying and butchering records (the latter had it's first entries this week as we butchered both rabbits and some chickens!) and to have the monthly to-do lists of regular seasonal tasks, as well as having a running to-do list of outdoor projects.

My Dad pruning one of the peach trees

It has been especially helpful having the the monthly to-do lists. Because of those, I have been able to keep on track and not get behind or forget certain tasks!

Some things did have to be rearranged a bit, though, such as starting seeds. I had originally planned to begin that in February, but since the long-term forecast was for a continuing long, cold winter, we decided to wait a little longer (and it is a good thing we did!) Then some other tasks such as hauling compost to the garden didn't happen since everything was still very frozen.

 Some of the hens enjoyed scratching around where one of the old hay piles had been

As I/we keep thinking of more projects to do, my outdoor to-do list continues to grow! One thing that was added was starting a new strawberry bed which I did this week . . . after hauling wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of compost and sand to the new location, it's ready now to be tilled.

In progress

Finished! (except for tilling to combine the layers)

The compost was from our bins and the sand was from where our old waterfowl pens used to be many years ago - it was so nice to have everything that I needed right here on our place!

 Rich, beautiful compost - I was thrilled with how well our piles had composted!

Next to do after tilling will be to plant the new strawberry plants when they arrive the first week or so of April.

With the warmer weather, there has also been increased beehive activity which is always exciting to see. And especially this year as unlike I had originally expected last fall, all five of our hives successfully overwintered! There is still a bit of a critical time between now and when the first honey flow starts, but I think they should get through that just fine.

Four of the hives

The first pollen coming in!

Yesterday we moved Aurora and her bucklings from the barn out to the pen with the young Boer does. The little guys were so fun to watch! They were racing all around, leaping up in the air, and having a thoroughly good time.

The bucklings

And Aurora has a 'new look' now . . .

Since her horns are sharp and she has a tendency to use them on other goats, we put tennis balls over the ends of them to keep her from horning one of the other young does (a fairly common practice for horned goats in order to prevent injuries.) She looks a little comical, but I don't think she realizes. :)

The above photo goes with another big project - or projects - that we are in the process of working on . . . converting the chicken coop into a milking barn and the adjoining current chicken pen into a pen for our two milkers! I wrote out the long list of things to be done in order to reach that goal (some of which are already done!) and it includes:

--building a chicken tractor (or two) for the laying hens
--cleaning out the entire coop, removing nestboxes, and setting up all of the milking things
--reinforcing parts of the chain link pen
--building a hoop house
--building fence in order to enlarge the pen
--and more.

Leah and I are both so looking forward to how much easier and faster this will make milking time for us! And speaking of milking, that will likely be beginning in just a few weeks. It will be really nice to have our own fresh milk again!

Me with Dixie's doelings - they are both really sweet, and the darker one especially so

With the coming spring, there has definitely been an increase in outdoor work . . . and I am loving it. It feels so good be be out doing physical labor again, accomplishing so much, and enjoying these beautiful, springtime days!

In addition to all of this, Leah's doe, Willow, kidded this week as well! A post about 
that will be coming soon.