One Cow Is Nice

Way, way back, seven and a half years ago, when Maybelle, our first cow, came to live with us, we were often alone together, us two.  Being the only cow, she came to love me, as much as a cow can love, and to rely on me for companionship.  We were pretty tight, Maybelle and I.  But times changed, and we wanted more milk, and so our herd grew.  The cows had each other and wanted me less, and we had a friendly working relationship, but we weren’t really friends.  Now, there is just one again, just Sunshine, and we have that same sort of relationship already that Maybelle and I used to have, and that pleases me in ways I can’t describe.  In the evenings, when I walk out to the field to call her in, she perks up at the sound of my voice and comes joyfully to my side.  We walk together and talk together and enjoy the quiet of the milking routine together.  I can’t really think of anything more contenting than milking my one and only cow.

This is not my cow Sunshine. This is my calf Delilah. Delilah will be the mother of our future beefs, but for now, she’s just a calf.

This is not my cow Sunshine, either. This is Sunshine’s calf, Heidi. Heidi is for sale. She will be a most excellent family cow someday.

Open Doors

Barn Door

I had three cows – one milker, one heifer, and one calf – looking for new homes, and they’re all spoken for.  In about three weeks, we’ll only have Sunshine, our milk cow; Delilah, our Jersey-Angus cross heifer calf; and two steers who I might feed out to butchering size, or who I just might sell anyway.  I can’t decide.

We’re all kind of looking forward to the smaller workload.  I’m in an interesting position in that I’m still feeding eleven people, but three of them are not available to help with the work, and soon, that number will be four.  Two of my remaining people are babies, and so that leaves me with just four helpers, and that’s not enough to run this place all out.

In fact, I’m trying to get my beloved to consider moving.  We have almost fourteen acres here, and that’s about 8 acres more than we can maintain.  But we’re halfway through our mortgage, and plan to pay it off in just five more years, and the idea of owning our home outright is too sweet to him.  I try to tell him we’ll have the equity in this home to apply to our next, but he’s not quite convinced.

We’re so far off the beaten path here that we’ve had trouble getting customers for our herd share program, which is a major reason why we’re downsizing.  There’s no reward for milking and maintaining all these cows, and without the positive feedback of cash and pleasant conversations with visitors, the work gets to be an overwhelming burden.

So, since David doesn’t want to move, we’re going to turn our attention back toward a homestead type of farm, in which we try to take care of ourselves as well as we can off of the land.  That means I get to plant more orchard and nut trees, and I’ve been wanting to try some interesting growing methods in the garden that don’t even require weeding.

And this also gives me some time to pursue some other projects I’ve been dreaming of, like my photography.  When one door closes, another one opens.

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Downsizing

Penelope feeds a bottle to our Jersey-Angus heifer.

Penelope feeds a bottle to our Jersey-Angus heifer.

We’ve been milking our beautiful Jersey cows for seven years now, and we’re sorry to say it’s time for us to downsize our herd. We’ve never been very big, milking at most three cows, but it has been enough to serve twenty to thirty shareholders in addition to our own large family. Alas, with Fort Knox being mostly vacant, and our farm being located inconveniently far from anything else anybody might want to visit, we no longer have very many clients. In light of that, and the demands of our youngest two children, we’re downsizing to just one milking cow. We’ll still be able to serve the very few shareholders we have, and would be able to take on a few more if no other source is located, but we’ll also have less protection from the things that can go wrong with a dairy cow. That means that if our cow suffers an illness or mastitis or an injury, we won’t have a back-up cow in production, and weekly pickups will be affected as they never have before.

When we first began with the cows, our oldest child was thirteen and it seemed like we had forever. But children grow, and our two oldest are now out doing their own thing in the wide world. The third is getting ready to begin her own grown-up life, too, and there are always fewer hands, but never less work. It has become too much of a burden, too much of a distraction to mind the business and the children. We prefer the children, naturally, and since our only goal with the business was to feed the animals so that our out-of-pocket expenses were minimized, the children come out on top again. Anyway, feeding one or two cows is much less expensive than feeding the six, plus two calves, we have on farm this winter.

Instead of trying to run a business, we’re returning to our original homesteading vision. We have most of fourteen acres at our disposal, and I have always wanted to fill our front fields with orchard trees, grapes and berries. We’ve wanted to dabble in sheep and goats. (The goats might be useful in light of baby Henry’s dairy issues…) We might even motivate ourselves enough to actually weed and water a garden. Or maybe not. Gardening is so not our thing.

Anyway, I thought you’d like to know where we stand right now as far as the farm goes! I’m looking forward to the respite, honestly; having babies around in one’s middle-aged years is quite the adventure, and we do not need to make it more difficult than it has to be!

Kitchen Work

I have always genuinely enjoyed housekeeping and homemaking.  Well, maybe not always.  We’re each of us, after all, products of our families of origin and the larger culture, and neither one really encouraged a love of homemaking in me.  So, in the beginning, homemaking and I had an uneasy relationship, really, because I did enjoy it, and I could see the value in it, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to.  Then, one day, I met Edith Schaeffer.  My deepest suspicions were confirmed, my efforts applauded and encouraged.  On that day, I embraced motherhood and housekeeping wholeheartedly and did not look back.

That doesn’t mean it has always been easy.  My family has grown and changed, with people in all sorts of life stages demanding more from me than ever before.  The number of “hats” I’m wearing has increased drastically.  But, still, I see the value in keeping house and preparing meals, and I am most relaxed when I get to dedicate myself to those tasks.  I just don’t have as much time for it as I’d like.  Because of that, I’ve been actively working to streamline and minimize my kitchen work.  I might be mentioning a few things in coming weeks.

On the Henry front: I mentioned that he was waking in the night specifically to spit up, but really, it had more the quality of vomiting.  Spit up doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort, but these nighttime episodes were uncomfortable beforehand and the vomiting offered relief from that discomfort.  He’s been doing pretty well with that, until last night.  Last night, I had pizza with tomatoes, onions, sausage and bell peppers, and I think it might have been the peppers that caused our problems.  I blame the peppers because that was the only ingredient I hadn’t eaten in the past two weeks.  Most members of the nightshade family are highly poisonous, but a few are only slightly poisonous and more or less edible.  Maybe for Henry, he leans toward the less.

The hunt for the source of Henry’s tummy troubles continues!  By the way, there’s no particular heroism in this for me; I am inspired and energized by a good challenge!

 

O, The Irony

When Henry was a newborn, he slept too well.  I never thought that was even possible!  But he’d sleep all through the night, and I actually had to wake him up to nurse.  He is such a big baby that I was really worried about diminishing milk supply if we went that long between feedings.

And then, without me even realizing it, something changed.  He stopped being able to sleep well.  He began waking numerous times each night, sometimes just to spit-up when I picked him up.  It was getting worse and worse, and I was feeling more and more out-of-control… and exhausted.  It’s really hard to love someone when you’re sleep deprived.

All this time, in the back of my head, I wondered, “What if he doesn’t like all the milk?” His dad is unique in our family in that he doesn’t tolerate milk very well, and Henry seems to take after David much more than any of our other children ever have.  What if all this dairy I consume is making him uncomfortable?

So twelve days ago, I gave up all the dairy products, which is where the irony comes in.

I was hoping that, within the first couple of days, he’d be feeling better and sleeping better.  I was hoping that it would reduce the frequency of spit-up.  I was hoping that, if his tummy felt better, he’d be less clingy.

It was kind of a lot of pressure to put on a glass of milk and a slice of pizza.

He does sleep better sometimes, but it’s very inconsistent, and the reality is that we have also developed some bad sleep habits.  And he could use a white noise machine.

He is waking less often specifically to spit up, though he does still catch me unaware sometimes.  However, he’s an active little guy, and the problem has not diminished at all during his waking hours.  I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting for maturity of that muscle group.

And I’m his favorite person in the whole wide world.  He’d rather be with me, up in my arms, than anywhere else on the planet.  No other person is as beloved, no other arms as comforting, no other activity as intriguing as the one I’m engaged in.  The lack of dairy in my diet has not diminished any of my enchanting qualities, and Henry is still as insistent on being held as ever.

So, in the absence of miracles, we have to look at the small details.

He is happier during the day.  Almost right away, he quit crying through the evenings.  At night, when he wakes, I think it is less and less from discomfort.  He has managed a couple of long naps, too, which have been non-existent in recent months.  And the frequency of dirty diapers has unexpectedly dropped.

The dairy-free diet does seem to be having a positive effect on Henry.  And it’s not quite as challenging as I thought it would be.

We’ll keep going with this new adventure and see how it all plays out.

The Angry Internet

The internet is ugly this week.  If we kind of thought the deep divisions and angry rhetoric would die out after the election, I guess we were wrong!  It seems worse than ever out there, name calling, and accusations, and bitterness all around.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether a person was a “winner” or a “loser”.  There’s just a lot of bad blood right now, and social media is a very negative place to be.

Anyway, the most important thing is to keep our eyes on Jesus, for it’s only when we look away that we sink under the stormy waves of our worries.  I love that story, don’t you?  The one where Peter gets all excited about walking on water like Jesus, but then he notices that it’s really actually quite stormy on that little sea, and what was he thinking, anyway, walking on water?!  And as he starts to sink under his fears, Jesus reaches out and grabs hold and asks him, “Why did you doubt?”

Why, indeed.  I don’t think for a minute that Donald Trump is God’s will for the country.  Not everything that happens is God’s will; sometimes, things just happen anyway, and we have to make the best of them, or turn them to good by the power of our tiny faith in a man who could walk on water.  We can walk above this as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus.

Next up: I find myself in rather an ironic situation…

The First Monday After a Trip, and Halloween, Too

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Van Gogh is our Artist of the Month for November, and I thought we’d make this torn-paper collage of a vase of sunflowers to get us off on the right foot.  I’m really trying to work in art projects on a regular basis, you know!  We happen to have a ton of sunflowers blooming right now.  In October.  Crazy, right?  Apparently, the chickens spilled a LOT of feed out in the field, and it has all started growing and blooming and seeding, so we happen to have sunflowers thanks to the chickens.

We picked ourselves a nice bouquet to arrange inside for inspiration, but then Tommy happened to notice ladybugs in both their larval and pupal stages!  After some hunting among the leaves, we also found eggs!  So the art session became a nature study session, too.  It was fun, and we have Tommy’s excellent observation skills to thank for it!  He was the one who discovered that this strange bug we’ve been seeing is actually an immature ladybug.  He’s a smarty-pants, that one.  photo-oct-31-12-00-02-pm

If you are in the market, I highly recommend this insect observation kit.  It has three jars with magnifying lids, a larger magnifier that allows you to look at the insect from both above and below, and two pairs of bug tweezers, in case you don’t want to touch them.  We used to have some bubble-shaped tweezers picked up at Target, but, alas, those are no more!  I bought this months ago, but only broke it out today.  Lots of fun!

So, after cleaning the room, which happens to be a mess magnet, gathering ourselves for educational pursuits, and getting distracted by said pursuits, that’s all we got done today.  But it was fun, and maybe that’s what you need on the first Monday after a two week break for a road trip, especially if that Monday is also Halloween and your kids are going trick-or-treating for the first time.  (Can you say “excited”?)

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Family

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We’ve been in New Jersey visiting with my mom since Thursday, and today is our last day. Tomorrow, we go home! I love my mom, and I love my sister who also lives here, but I miss my family. I’m anxious to get back to them. My life is crazy, but it’s crazy good.

Fallish Things

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We’ve been having a busy month. First, this replica Lewis and Clark expedition boat showed up at our riverfront. The real Lewis and Clark traveled with one keelboat and two pirogues, but they only brought one pirogue on this trip. Back in 2003-2006, they used these boats to reenact the whole journey, which is both pretty cool, but also, “Do you people not have lives?” They called this their Eastern Discovery Tour, and they visited several museums, but also lots of small river towns like ours. Pretty neat, huh?

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The fellow up the hill at the encampment had a rope making device that Lewis and Clark might have had. Maybe. But theirs would probably have needed to be bigger, since their ropes were made out of elk hide. Anyway, kids love to make ropes and he loves kids, so he picked up a rope-making device and gives demonstrations, over and over and over again, to as many children as want to make ropes. We heard the same spiel with minor variations three times in fifteen minutes while waiting our turn, and he never appeared to weary of it. God bless that man.

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I just think the wood on this boat is so beautiful.

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While we were at the park, we remembered to collect some osage oranges. Rumor has it that they are insect repellent, and especially useful against spiders. We brought them home and tossed them in all of our dark, spidery corners, since this also happens to be the Large Spiders Coming Indoors time of year. For the sake of science, I also put some where spiders were actively dwelling in order to gauge their effectiveness. The spiders in question did not seem at all offended by the fruits; in fact, the one I watched most carefully seemed to be more relaxed, actually enjoying the mild, citrusy scent. Later that weekend, when I cleaned the living room, I also noted several large spiders apparently taking refuge from my vacuum behind an orange. The verdict? They are not spider repellent at all. I suspect that, generally, the appearance of the fruit coincides with colder weather and the natural spider life cycle, and they usually are dead or hibernating by now. I think it’s not a cause-and-effect, just a coincidence. But it was fun to find out.

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Also, may I just say how nice it is to have a big family? You always have people to pick up and go see historical ships with you, or to help you glean from nature’s bounty, or to carry the baby when your arms get tired. And they always do it so cheerfully.

This week, we went to an unphotographed circus, which was fun, and we also went to the pumpkin farm.

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They have a really nice playground here for the children, but there were some crazy kids on this day, and our children don’t care for boorish playmates. They tend to look at them like they are alien creatures and pull off to the side to watch disapprovingly. They have goats and ponies to pet, though, too, and that was fun, except I noticed some boorish adults hanging around the pens, presumably the parents of the ill-behaved children (the Nuts and Trees theory), and I didn’t much care for my little ones to get bored with the animals and take note of their surroundings, so we didn’t stay long.

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We did get pumpkins, though! This farm does not actually grow many of their own. The small ones are grown on site, but the jack-o-lantern sized ones are imported and artfully strewn about the field. Usually. Last year, they left the boxes out there, too.

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The other night, I remembered that there was a chestnut tree at church, and it was probably time for the nut drop. I was right! We spent a happy half-hour after Mass in the bright Autumn morning, harvesting this undeserved bounty from amidst the gravestones in the parish cemetery.

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When I dumped them all out at home, we had most of paper grocery sack full. That’s too many for us, so I packaged some up for my mom and sister. My mom and sister live in New Jersey.

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A couple of weeks ago, I woke with a weight on my heart, and as I went through the morning prayers, I became more and more certain that there was only one option. At breakfast, I said, “I think I need to go see my mom.”

Davey has lived with me for a long time, and he just nodded and said, “I think you should. Go!”

So we’re going, those of us with no obligations outside the family, which means me and five children. If you think of me in the coming days, say a little prayer for us for a peaceful and pleasant journey? Many, many thanks in advance.

Meg’s Courses, 11th Grade, 2016-2017

History and Literature: Roman Roads Media “Greeks” (Literature and history)
A full year French Revolution history and literature unit of my own design

Latin: Henle II (Memoria Press)
Greek: First Form (Memoria Press)

Math: Precalculus (Teaching Textbooks)

Religion: History of the Church (Didache)

Science: Exploring Creation with Marine Biology

Literature is included in both history courses, English grammar is covered in Latin, and writing assignments are regularly scheduled in both the history courses and the religion course, so we don’t have a separate English class.