When Chores Aren’t Fun

Some days Homesteading is nothing but sheer joy!  Chores are not work, they are fun! I get to watch baby goats and lambs jump and hop and run around and around in circles.  I get to laugh at the chickens scratching in the dirt for the perfect morsel, at the guinea’s chasing a bug and at the Tom Turkey’s struttin’ their stuff.  I get to take perfectly clean warm eggs out of clean, straw-filled nests.  Ahhhh!  Life on a farm!  Who wouldn’t want to live in such bliss?

Other days, like today, not so much.  Today the animals still need fed, even when their lot looks like this:


After four inches of cold rain the past three days, it was a challenge to stay upright walking through this slippery mud to feed this morning.  After feeding, it was absolutely imperative that we get everyone someplace nice, dry and clean to lay down on.  The poor sheep’s shelter was hideous.  The straw we had lain down several days ago was stomped into the mud and it looked like this:


Uggg!  I couldn’t stand to even look at it.  Mark dug a path for the soupy stuff to drain, then it was off to the straw bale bin for new straw.


He has found putting a bale on a two-wheel cart to pull it to where it needs to go, is about the easiest way there is.  I know big strapping dude’s can carry a straw or alfalfa bale several hundred feet, but when you get older and knees, backs and hearts start to wear out, you work smarter, not harder!


The sheep immediately went to check out the new dry place to lay down.  It isn’t perfect, but it is much better than it was, poor things.


Goats, especially Nubian and Alpine, which is what we have, hate even one sprinkle of rain.  They will refuse to come out if just one drop is falling!  So, not only did we get them new straw for their shelters, but we also fed them inside in the feeder Mark had built for them just for days like this because he knew their extreme fear of rain.


Even though it wasn’t fun, it is extremely satisfying when you see them all dry and cozy in their shelters ready to face another day of predicted rain.


On to the next yucky job.  The rain came with lots of wind, which blew the rain into our lamb creep feeder.  Luckily, Mark only fills it a few 5-gallon buckets at a time so our feed loss wasn’t horrible.  He tipped it over and I washed all the wet stuff out with a hose.


We moved it to a better, less muddy spot and Mark carried a couple buckets of feed to pour back in it and Voila!  Clean, dry feed for the hungry feeder lambs!



Much appreciated by all the feeder lambs, but this one was the only one brave enough to stand still while the scary human took a picture!










It wasn’t easy to head out to feed in the cold rain and wind, but it was rewarding.  Seeing all the animals happy and content is worth it all.  And yes, we have a lot of mess and extra work to put up with in this kind of weather, but it makes the garden, grass, and alfalfa grow.  As annoying as it can be, I always know once it shuts off, we will be praying for the rain to come back.  So thank you for mud Lord!  Without it, we really would have a mess on our hands!

My Ingenious Husband

I tell my husband Mark all the time, he is the smartest person I know.  He truly is, I’m not just saying that.  He barely made it through high school, not because of lack of intelligence, rather lack of caring about book-learning and lack of trying since he had more important things to do.  His Dad, Walt, became ill with pancreatic cancer when Mark was thirteen years old.  Mark describes the next four years preceding his Dad’s death as a crash course.  His Dad saw the hand-writing on the wall and did everything he could to put a lifetime of knowledge about farming and fixing things into young Mark’s head.  Walt’s hospital bed was beside a large picture window in their farm home and when Mark was working on a piece of equipment, he would park it in front of the picture window so his Dad could watch and answer any questions Mark would have.  At one point, Mark was having a hard time getting a starter apart so Walt told him to bring it and the wrenches into his bed.  Together on his bed, they got it apart, leaving very grease-stained sheets behind, but more knowledge in his young son’s mind.  As his Dad became more and more ill, Mark learned to seek out other older men to show and teach him things so he could get the job done.  Having the responsibility of the family farm on his shoulders at such a young age and what I also feel is a God-given talent for diagnosing what is wrong with anything mechanical and knowing how to fix it, has served him well.

When we were in our early thirties, it became increasingly obvious that with the low price of crops and the high price of everything we had to buy in order to farm, farming was just not working out.  It seemed we went in the hole more and more every year.  Very thankful for a loan officer at an Ag-Bank who said to us one day, “Why don’t you give up the farming and start doing full-time what is working?”  Mark had started a welding/repair business to help ends meet.  It was not only putting food on our table but was supplementing the farming which did nothing for us but drained any money he managed to make.  The loan officer got us to thinking, and it wasn’t long we decided to do just what he suggested.  We moved from our farm of several hundred acres to five acres just outside of our town.  The five acres already had a home and shop building on it.  Just exactly what we needed to grow the mechanic business into what it is today.  We mainly work on semi-trucks.  Mark’s reputation for fixing things right and treating his customers like family over the past twenty-some years has allowed our business to grow and he can take life a little easier now.  Our son Bryan works for us as well as one other employee and that leaves Mark as the brains of the operation without having to do so much physical labor now that he is a little (A-hem!) older.

With new-found time on his hands, we found ourselves getting back into our first love which we were forced to give up years ago.  You can take the farmer off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the farmer.  We started out slow, with a dozen chickens and gardening.  Next came turkeys, geese, ducks and guineas, then goats, then sheep, then mini-donkeys and a mini-horse, then pigs.  Our neighbor let us fence off an additional five acres in exchange for fresh turkeys and chickens for his freezer.  We often joke we don’t know if it is good or bad we share the same hobby!

I do know one thing, I am the most spoiled homesteader there ever was!   Not only do I have the smartest husband I know, but the sweetest one also.  He literally looks for new ways to make things easier for me.  People are constantly asking how much time it takes each day to take care of all the animals we have.  It really doesn’t take long.  Mark’s idea’s and inventions and his love for the gadgets he finds online, makes things incredibly easy and fast.  I’ve been meaning to share some of the things he has made for us but haven’t gotten around to it.  This long drawn-out article is the introduction for doing that very thing.

Raising Pork With Goats Milk




Miss Fancy, She is a yearling and only been in the rotation for about three weeks.  She isn’t entirely sure about this milking business, but she’s getting there!


I am milking thirteen goats each morning.  That’s what happens when you have goats and they have babies every year and you fall in love with them and have a hard time selling any!  My husband has me completely spoiled and has made everything so handy and easy for me it only takes me about 45 minutes from opening the milk barn door, to clean-up and done.  We get a little over 4 gallons of milk each milking.  After using it myself, selling a couple gallons a week, keeping my kids and our hired hand out at the shop supplied with milk, I still have A LOT left!  What to do, what to do?  Fatten a couple pigs with it of course!


Boy do they love it!  It’s hard to pour it into their trough because they try to drink it out of the bucket while you are pouring it!   They are about 2 months old right now and other than milk, Mark also feeds them a gallon coffee can full of soaked mix grain, one in the morning and one at night.  We did this last year also and everyone comments how good our pork was.  I don’t know if feeding them milk had anything to do with it or not, I know talking to people and reading, this is what the old-timers did with their excess milk and what was good enough for them is good enough for me!


Blowing bubbles in milk is fun!

Dad’s Hay Buggy

Since our little “farm” only consists of a few acres, we have to get all of the hay for our animals from somewhere else.  Luckily, Mark has a cousin who farms a lot of acres of alfalfa and we have been able to purchase it from him.  It didn’t take long for us to realize for small hobby farmers like us, square bales are much more practical than the big round bales, but finding square bales is not an easy task these days.  Mark found a good deal on a square baler, bought it and fixed it up so now we are able to square bale what we need.  But then, of course, those bales have to be hauled off the field, not an easy task at 75 pounds each.  We used a truck the first several years, depending on the muscles of assorted sons, son-in-laws and grandsons.  Then Mark found another bargain on a bale-wagon and we were all set to be square-bale baling and hauling machines!

Last summer, on the first cutting of alfalfa, our son-in-law Shane, son Kyle and a couple of our grandsons were helping us haul the bales on the back of our “new” buggy when Shane told Mark that in the field across the road amongst a bunch of weeds was an old hay-buggy.  Mark had never noticed it and wasn’t really all that interested because he’d already found one and sure didn’t need another one.  Several months passed, fall came and went and we were going to a pasture close to the same alfalfa field to cut firewood.  Mark headed there first to start cutting and I was soon going to follow to help him load it.  Not long after he’d left, I received a phone call from an absolutely incredulous Mark on the other end.  He asked me if I remembered Shane saying there was an old hay buggy along the road in the middle of high weeds last summer. I said, Yeah, I remembered. You are never going to believe this he said, but with all the weeds dead and gone, he could see it and it looked very familiar so he stopped and looked it over and he excitedly explained “This hay-buggy is the one my Dad built from scratch when I was a kid!  I always wondered what happened to it!”   As a young teenager, Mark had hauled many bales on it, but most importantly, Mark’s Dad had been diagnosed with cancer when Mark was only 13 or so and he died when he was 17.  So finding this hay wagon and being able to see how industrious his Dad was building something like this from virtually nothing but scraps was amazing and very sentimental for Mark.  He said he sure wished his late, older brother Walt was still here because he would have loved seeing it.  In fact, he said, Walt would have been the only other person on earth who would really have understood and been as excited as him about finding it.

The farmer who’s yard the buggy was in, decided to clean up all the old equipment he had lying around.  Mark just happened to see the buggy loaded on the guy’s truck a couple weeks ago.  He asked him what he would take for it.  The price seemed a little high for what it was, but how do you put a price on such a sentimental thing?  We decided it would make a perfect “playground” for baby goats, so we set it under a Mulberry tree and fed the Momma goats close to it.  It wasn’t long before one by one they tried walking up the spout and before long a few were exploring the floor of it.  Now what could be better than adorable baby goats playing on a hay-buggy built by your Dad fifty years earlier?  I have to admit, I wondered to myself what Mark’s Dad would have thought if someone would have told him that fifty years from now, your son and daughter-in-law are going to find this, haul it to their place and turn it into a baby goat playground!  I don’t know if he would have smiled or shook his head and wondered what on earth the world is going to turn into!  This spring, I have another plan for it.  I’m going to raise the spout to keep the baby goats off and try my hand at straw-bale gardening on top of it.  But for now, here is pictures of when Mark first spotted it and of the baby goats enjoying it today.








Just a couple of days after writing about how turning 60 made me stop and ponder how well I am living life, loving, cherishing family, and vowing to do better, something happened that reinforced that lesson.  Two weeks ago today, I got the news that my life-time friend Cindy had been in a horrible wreck.  She and her husband Danny were on their way to Wichita to see Cindy’s dad who was in the hospital due to by-pass complications.  The car going the opposite direction crossed the center line and hit her head-on.  The other driver was pronounced dead at the hospital they were taken to.  Cindy’s husband who was the passenger was left with minor injuries but Cindy was very critically injured.  Her heart stopped at the small town hospital as they were waiting for the ambulance to transfer her to Wichita, but they were able to revive her.  It stopped two more times in the ambulance, but again, thankfully, they were able to get it going.  Once in Wichita, in the very hospital her Dad was a patient in, it stopped, she was revived, only to have it stop again.  The attending doctor decided there was something wrong and they had to find out.  She was opened up right there in the emergency room and a quarter size hole was discovered in her heart.  All other injuries were forgotten as they repaired this devastating injury.  Her cousin messaged me they were not expecting her to make the night and my heart broke in two.  But my upbeat, positive, joyful friend proved them wrong!  She did make it through the night, but the family was warned she was not and would not be out of the woods for a very long time.

All they were able to do the first few days was keep her alive and work to stabilize her.  It was almost a week before they could safely do a cat scan to see the extent of her other injuries.  Thankfully they found she had no internal active bleeding but they did find eight broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a broken hip, a broken femur and a huge hematoma in her pelvis.  To this day, she has still not been  stable enough to have the surgery to repair any of the broken bones.  When they back off the sedation some, she will respond by squeezing their hands, wiggling her toes and trying to open her eyes.  The doctor told them,  this early in, her being able to understand and respond at all is a positive sign and literally miraculous in his eyes due to the amount of blood loss she suffered and her heart stopping five times.  Her kidneys have been a concern and she now has dialysis several days a week to help them out.  She started running a fever and it was found she had an infection in her lungs so she was given antibiotics.  Controlling her blood pressure has been an ongoing battle.  Yesterday her family, who understandably were getting scared and losing hope, had a nurse tell them she felt very good about the progress Cindy has made and feels very hopeful about her prognosis!  I know they, and all of us who love her cling to and rejoice with each morsel of good news and progress.  The entire rural area where we live is holding her and her family up in prayer.  She is never far from any of our minds.  I fully, in my heart expect her to make a full recovery.  I told her family I can’t wait till she wakes up because I want to ask her if she saw heaven.  Having died and come back five times in one day, I think there is a distinct possibility she has an amazing story to tell!

In the meantime, it has made me again think about the way I live my life, crossing to do lists off one by one each day.  I know those things are important, I have to continue to do the day-to-day chores that life consist of.  If I didn’t, we would live in chaos, but I think it is time to add reconnecting with people I care about to that list.  I have enjoyed seeing friends occasionally, most times just in passing.  Visits consist of small-talk, rarely, if ever, would I take the time to really find out what was going on in their life.  Many of my old school friends, though I get to see pictures of their children and grandchildren on Facebook, do I know how many children they have, their names, what they do, where they work.   I find it very sad how superficial I allowed my knowledge of my friends lives to be.  I allowed this to happen even though I still live in the same county, as do many of my once close friends, that we went to school in.  And the population of said county is only around 5000 people.  It isn’t like we are in a huge metropolis that would have made it near impossible to stay in better touch.  After each class reunion, those of us who live close always spoke of how we need to get together more often, but we never did.  Again, as I said in my last post, I plan to remedy this.  I want to get in touch with each one of them and really listen and ask questions and find out the things that are important to them and let them know how very much each one of them mean to me.  I want to make that “we need to get together” a reality.  I daydream of us doing it with Cindy by our side, but I think I will get started early, so we can all plan a wonderful welcome home for her in the future.  Keep fighting Cindy!  Get well!  So many people love you and are praying for you and we have a lot of catching up to do girl!!!!




Something happened a couple of months ago that I am still wondering how on earth it happened.  It has left me pondering many things and contemplating the future like nothing else ever has.  What is this momentous happening?  I turned Sixty years old.  SIXTY!!!!!!  That seems absolutely impossible.  I still feel like a kid!  How can I possibly be 6-0 years old???? But no matter how many times I subtract 1956 from 2016, I still come up with 60.  The calendar is not wrong.

The only other birthday that has ever rocked my world even a bit was Twenty.  For some odd reason it bothered me when I realized I was no longer a teenager.  Thirty didn’t bother me, neither did Forty or Fifty.  But there is something about Sixty that has really gotten my attention!  I think it was when I realized Sixty is just ten years from Seventy and knowing how fast ten years goes by.  I may not consider myself a senior citizen yet, but I am fast approaching it.  Maybe it’s that I’ve had little hints my body is starting to not work quite as well as it did in years gone by.  Nothing big, small things, like a knee that doesn’t like going up steps, feet that REALLY hurt at the end of everyday, the extra effort and thought it takes to climb into the bed of a pickup or a big truck, and feeling just a touch of fear and taking a moment to get a good hold on the handrail before I start down our basement steps.

Whatever it is, it has made me think and wonder.  Wonder about the future.  What does it hold?  What will I face in the next couple decades?  Will I lose Mark?  Losing their spouse is something many people face as they enter their later years.  We have so much fun right now, taking care of our “little farm” and raising our own food.  But as knees and backs and hearts age more, will we still be able to keep doing the things we like to do?  Whenever we struggle to do something, but succeed in getting it done we often say to the other one, someday I won’t be able to do that, but today wasn’t that day!

Honestly though, it has made me wonder even more about the past.  Have I cherished life enough?  Have I taken the time to do what is important?  Have I left kindness and compassion in my wake or have I been too preoccupied in my own little world to notice others struggles?  Do my kids and grandkids know just how very much I love them and that they are the biggest blessing God could have ever given me?  And speaking of God, am I a disappointment to Him?  Have I done anything that even matters in the sight of eternity?  What more should I do?  How much time have I wasted on things that do not matter?

I guess it definitely is not a bad thing to have a birthday come around that makes me stop and count my days, makes me want to make the most of the ones I have left, makes me think about how I am living my life and want to correct whatever I am doing wrong.  Now I need to get past the pondering and get to the doing!  Someday I may not be able to do the things I still want and need to do, but today is not that day!

You Did A Good Job Honey


My mother is an astonishing 102 years and 8 months old.  Five years ago she still drove herself to church and to the grocery store.  Just two years and two months ago she lived by herself.  She fought fiercely to stay in her home and to keep her independence but her eyesight gave out and we finally convinced her the time had come to move in with my sister Carolyn.  A new environment combined with very poor eyesight made her much more vulnerable and fearful.  She wasn’t as sure of herself and became much more dependent on those around her.  Just a few months after she was in her new home, she came down with a horrendous case of shingles.  She had problems with her false teeth rubbing her gums sore.  Her and Carolyn were involved in a minor collision that could have been much worse.  Mother was checked over at the hospital and it was decided she had a hairline fracture in one of her vertebrae so she was in a neck brace for several weeks.  This summer, she came down with a case of pneumonia but my sister, being a retired RN caught it immediately and after several weeks in a hospital and an after-acute care facility, she was given a fairly clean bill of health.  All of these things have taken their toll on this once amazingly independent woman and her quality of life is now pretty much nonexistent.  She receives the most wonderful care anyone could ever have.  Many times I have told people, my sister Carolyn does not take care of mother, she dotes on her!  But Mother is so blind now, not only does she never wear her glasses, she never opens her eyes.  The cruel arm of dementia is rapidly taking its toll.  When I see pictures of her from just a year ago, it takes my breath away to still see the light in her eyes compared to the shell of a person she now is.  Conversation with her is pretty much non-existent.  The one phrase she does hone in on is “I love you.”  When someone says I love you to her you are pretty much guaranteed to hear her say “I love you too.”


Poignant moments you remember forever don’t seem like anything at the time.  It is later when you realize a certain memory will be with you forever.  I had one of those moments with mother this summer, before the pneumonia weakened her and dementia increased.  Carolyn and her husband wanted to go to their granddaughter’s sweet 16 party and would be gone till late in the evening.  So Mark and I went to stay with mother so they could go.  I had never helped or been around when Carolyn got mother ready for bed so Carolyn had written me out a list of what to do.  When it was time to get mother settled into bed we went into the bathroom to go through her nightly routine.  As we went through the list mother started getting fairly agitated and fearful acting.  When we came to one particular part of her personal hygiene routine, she firmly cried out “NO!  We don’t do that!”  A dear friend who had gone through this with her mother, told me one of the most important things we can do for an elderly parent is protect their dignity  when they no longer can. Her words rushed back to me and I said, “Mother, you know what?  I don’t have any idea what I am doing.  I need you to tell me what you want me to do.  I will only do what you tell me to and I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do.”  She immediately perked up and said, “Alright!” and proceeded to give me instructions.  We brushed her false teeth and she brushed the few remaining ones she has.  We washed off her face and applied face cream.  We washed her hands and rubbed them with lotion.  We went into the bedroom, got her undressed and got her jammies on.  I put eye drops in her eyes and gave her the very few pills she took before bed.  We got her in bed and all tucked in.  I knelt beside her and we said her prayers.  It struck me how reversed the rolls were, it used to be her kneeling beside my bed, teaching me to pray.  When we got all done, I told her I loved her and she said I love you too.  Then she reached her hand up and cupped my cheek.  She smiled and said, “You did a good job honey!”  I said, “Well, thank you!”  I thought, “How Sweet” and fought a few tears as I went back to the living room to sit down by Mark for the rest of the evening.


Now, after several months have stolen more and more, in fact everything from her, this small exchange is burned into my mind and I know it will become even more precious to me with every passing day.  I have had a few small conversations with her since, but this is the only and last one I remember.   I have also come to realize what took place.  Anytime I helped with her care, she became extremely agitated.  I could tell she didn’t like me helping her.  I thought it was just because I was different from her usual caregivers, but I don’t believe that was the only reason.  She looked at me different, I’m almost two decades younger than my older sisters, who are both retired registered nurses.  She accepted them and my older brother as her caregivers, but she didn’t like it when I tried to put myself in that role.  That night, at the moment I told her I didn’t know what I was doing and I needed her to tell me what she wanted me to do, I took myself out of the caregiver position and became her little girl again.  And in return she became my Momma once again.  The feel of her soft hand on my cheek and her sweet chuckle as she told me what a good job I did – Sigh – Words cannot even begin to express how precious that moment has become and  will always be to me.  It is a memory I will have as all the others, the ones of how much time has taken away from her, will fade completely away.  I am so thankful for this precious moment.  What a gift I’ve been given.