Monday, April 21, 2014

Six Chickens

The aches and pains of farm life stretch far and wide. 

Sore muscles, busted up knuckles, pulled backs, hornet stings, irretrievable splinters, all kinds of fun. 

The last few days have brought ache and pain of a different kind. 

The aches and pains of the farmer's heart.

Its one thing to butcher a healthy animal in a humane and dignified way, its quite another to euthanize an injured animal. 

I don't know that I will ever go through the motions of that process disaffected. I had to put down one of our chickens on Good Friday, after our boxer broke into the chicken coop. It was a visceral hurt, cut quick in the gut and permeating the brain and wrenching out grief you didn't know you could ever feel for a chicken. One was more than I could take. J put down the other chicken once he arrived home.

On Saturday I loaded the kids into the car and we headed out to a local farm and picked up four new hens and headed home. Quick and easy, I thought.

Thus began a weekend of trial and error.

Did you know that introducing adult hens into a flocks of other adult hens is a bad idea? 

I didn't.

Did you know that you have to quarantine the new chickens from the old flock for thirty days before integrating?

I didn't.

Did you know that the old gentle flock will suddenly turn into the bitches from Mean Girls the minute you try and move a few new hens in?

Yeah. It got ugly real fast.

Quarantine for thirty days?? Are ya kidding me?

We have a grand total of ONE chicken coop. Its a great coop, thick cement on the outside, predator proof, nice wood nesting boxes. Truly, a great coop. But it is coop, singular. J built a fantastic chicken tractor but it is by no means a long term solution if you need to quarantine chickens and keep two separate flocks. This was made abundantly clear on Monday morning. 

I made my early morning trudge to the coops with their feed bucket and met with carnage a la king. Turns out our dog was whining last night for a reason. A fox dug a hole underneath the tractor and destroyed all four of our new hens.

A heavy salve of guilt and horror was smeared over Friday's raw wound. 

I wanted to leave the mess for J to deal with when he got home. But I have four boys in the house waiting to run outside and play. So I took a deep breath and barreled through the clean up.

I knew going into this that farming would not come to us instinctually. We are sorely lacking in basic farm knowledge. But we will get it. Hard earned and sweat soaked, it will come to us. 

10 minutes later I walked inside, half defeat and half determination, if such a mixture is possible. I picked up the phone and called my favorite farmers, my Abuelos. Knowledge a plenty over there.

Abuela E commiserated with me over the losses. Six chickens in three days. Ouch. We didn't get to eat a single one. Wastefulness. Which stings on a whole other level once you have shared a home and broken bread with someone who has nothing. 

She started sharing her stories. Her false starts and her trials and her errors and her miseries and her moments of frustration. I listened and laughed and teared up a few times. I felt grateful that at the age of 30, I can still pick up the phone, call grandparents and let age old wisdom soak in through the receiver. 

I don't know how much the boys will remember of this trial and error phase of farm life.  Will they remember seeing their Mama's tears on that Good Friday when she had to kill a hurting friend? Will a hazy memory of the fox hole and the explosion of feathers ever break the surface? 

Boys, this is worth it. All this heart ache and pain. We do it because we love it, yes. But we also do it for you.

A few days ago Cubs came bounding into my room, overall-clad and freckled, sun-streaked hair and cheeks pink and sweaty from the outdoors. "I love farm work! I am a great farmer boy." 

Those words were said proudly, with great enthusiasm and joy.

 It made me want to press forward, it made me know that I could. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Farm Progress

A farm.

That has always been the dream. From our first walk on the shore of Lake Michigan the day we met, its always been that distant romantic idea of "farm life."

Once we started dating, the dream revved up. 

Once we were engaged it became the goal. 

We prayed that our will aligned with whatever God's for us was, but really…we hoped that His will included our hearts desire. 

Back in January, we closed on the dream. 

2.5 acres of dream land.

We spent a month tearing up the inside and getting the place "move in ready."

Then we had to pack the rental and unpack in the new house.

We are bone tired.

Which is saying a lot because as the parents of four boys aged 6 and under….we KNOW tired like the back of our hands. 

The compost bins are built.

The banana garden is in place.

The chicken coop is prepped and we currently have four hens laying around 14 eggs per week. 

Its just a fraction of all the things we want to do here and all ready, we are so deeply tired!!!

But I am encouraged when I see the boys help around the farm. They are so eager to work and learn. 

My heart feels so deeply grateful and thankful to the Lord for providing this place. 

J and I look at each other every day and we say the same thing…

"I can't believe we get to live here." 

In a few weeks the garden will be in full swing for staging.  I'll be attempting to make a natural fence using some of the materials on our farm.  The boys want to make a children's garden for themselves. We'll be deciding whether we raise goats or pigs on the back lot. We'll be eagerly waiting for the first farm harvests, avocados and pineapples. 

So much work and excitement on the horizon, but really I am feeling such contentment here in this day, feeling thankful and working myself to satisfying exhaustion. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014


We get a lot of comments.

Day to day, out and about, people see us and feel the need to comment.

Usually, they stick to the predictable comments we hear all of the time. Any combination of the following:

1. "You sure do have your hands full!"
2. "Are they ALL yours?"
3. "Are they ALL boys?"
4. "Any twins in there?"
5. "You must be exhausted."

While we sometimes roll our eyes at these, they are mostly the harmless declarations of people who really don't know what to say but feel the need to say something, anything.

Sometimes we get great comments. Like…

1. "What well behaved little boys!"
2. "We had four children too. Best years of our lives."
3. "You must have a lot of fun."
4. "What a great bunch of kiddos!"

At other times, we are on the receiving end of some pretty horrific statements…..

1. "Why did you have so many?"
2. "People should really have no more than two children. You need to take care of the earth."
3. "How do you do it? I hate kids. I can't even imagine what you go through."
4. "Four boys???? Yuck."
5. "Did you have this many on purpose?"
6. "Are they all your real children or did you adopt some?"

After all, children are a burden from the Lord. Oh, no wait. Scratch that. Children are a blessing from the Lord. But these days, our world tells us quite clearly, children are a burden, a distraction, a headache, a waste of time and money. Adopted kids are just something you collect, they are not even "real" children. Apparently, children are so inconvenient to some they are likened to pollution. Fecundophobia. A child created in the womb is the equivalent of medical waste. Not ready for this burden? Doctors will vacuum  it out of you, piece by torn piece, until life becomes painful death discarded.

There are days when I read the news and my heart sinks down to my toes. I look at the glorification of sinful lifestyles, war, corporate corruption, and I wonder "what have I brought my children into this world to endure?" Slimy prosperity gospel preachers like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers, truly a force of Satan in this world. Other "christians" who do everything they can to minimize Jesus and remove authority from the bible in their churches so that they can accommodate their own social acceptance and sexual desires. It is truly gut wrenching.

But then from the next room, I hear a child singing.

"It is finished, He has done it. Let your weary heart rejoice."

My weary heart. The very one that is lifted when a child rounds the corner, joy bursting from his every pore, to recite a verse or two of scripture. My weary heart is filled with peace when I think of what He has done.

These perceived burdens running around my house remind me of freedom and victory.

I look at their lives and feel a heavenly affirmation that He is in control.

They have no past to look at. Nothing to compare the current world with and say, "things have fallen apart. Where is God in this mess?" They live in the world's current state and despite man's best efforts to pollute and manipulate,  the boys still know and experience the love of our one true God.

No one can rewrite His words or His laws or His love. What He has created has value and meaning and purpose, no matter how we try to rearrange things in the name of "social progress." We do not make the definitions, we only pervert meanings.

My life may seem wasted to many. But to me, these days are precious. They are purposeful. Even if the purpose for the day is bathing my three year old for the fifth time that day and nursing a snotty infant back to health. It is done in His name and therefore it has a shimmer of His glory in it.

Which is why my heart's response is always the same, no matter what comment comes my way.

"We are grateful for all the joy and life God has blessed us with."

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Taking advantage of a late napping hour for the younger boys while the elder children play outside on this lovely day. Its been months since I have sat down to blog in earnest. I didn't want to spend time away from the children for the first half of the homeschool year. We needed space to carve out an understanding of how we were going to do this thing. I am glad we did.

I love homeschooling. Its surprised me in so many ways. I have exceeded my expectations in some areas and failed spectacularly in others. My children and I have learned how to extend grace to one another and mean it. We have felt frustration and triumph and misery and joy. I am grateful.

J and I will be starting a fresh new chapter in our lives next week. We will be closing on a house, a 2.5 acre farm. J mentioned the other night that he has been praying for a home like this, with land to work, for years. Years before we even met each other. We are so excited. We are giddy with it.

Right now all is idyllic and lovely. We imagine the chickens, goats, gardens, fruit trees, etc without the harsh reality of poop, more poop, weeds, intense labor, etc. Its similar to the weeks leading up to the labor and birth of your first child. We know the work is coming, but right now our minds are rife with pleasant thoughts of rural life.

We have all this unharnessed potential energy accumulating around the house. The boys are plotting their adventures and seem eager to dive into life on a farm. As always, they watch us intently, taking cue from our own approaches to this great life change. We've moved them around quite a bit and I can sense the bottom layer of nervous apprehension, familiar to me as I wear my own concealed layer riddled with "what ifs." I try and talk it through with them from time to time. Our focus stays on the Lord and how thankful we are to Him for providing this home.

How strange, the intense cross country journey He took us on to reveal where He wanted us to be all along. He is merciful in quickly crushing our misplaced dreams and rerouting us in a new direction. It was painful, but necessary. A good pruning.

We'll be moving in late February. Before then we have loads of home repair work to embark upon. We have little experience but eager hands, which will hopefully go a long way! Once we are settled in the next round of work begins. Clearing land and preparing the gardens and chicken coops.

We can't wait to record all the adventures our little farmers have in their new space.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Storytelling Part 2

Ok, round two. 

"The pardable of Zacchaeus."

Part 1

                                                            Part 2 (interrupted by the Babe)

Part 3


Story Telling

We love stories. Hearing them, reading them, telling them. 
Every night, the boys are tucked in their beds nice and tight. We kiss them. Recite a few verses. Turn out the lights and hit the play button on their stereo.
The stories start to play.
Sometimes its AA Milne or CS Lewis or Roald Dahl, lately its been the Jesus Storybook Bible recordings. They are read by a man with an English accent.

The Bear has memorized nearly all the stories and loves reciting them. At times he busts out his English accent, which is quite quite hilarious. 

I've never shared a video on here before, usually videos end up on facebook. But since this is a 3 part story, I thought I'd upload the story telling here.


the pardable of the prodigate son :)

Part 1


Part 2


                                                                            Part 3


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Happy Birthday Meme

An excerpt from something I posted back in January, in honor of my great grandmother's birthday today. Boy do I miss her!  

January 2013....

I've decided to learn how to knit and crochet.  Why did I choose this? Well, I wanted something to do with my hands while my boys were working at their play doh or legos or lincoln logs. A mindless busy work, but still beautiful and something I can bless others with. And because...I miss my great grandmother.

I was blessed to have her in my life for 18 years. Our birthdays were two days apart and we were known to rock a shared birthday cake at a family party or two.

We did not get along too well the first 16 years since I had an affinity for frogs, dirt, pranks and daredevil schemes. She most assuredly did not like any of the above.  Nope. No way. We did not get along. At least, I thought we did not get along….

Now that I am a mother, I look back and realize that while she did like to fuss and cluck at me…she really loved me.

I remember how nice she always looked. Hair like a football helmet. Not a single strand out of place. Nails always polished a nice peachy sheen. Pant suits. Lots and lots of pant suits. Clean, tidy, organized…and not afraid to party. :)

Every once in a while she would surprise me by doing something totally goofy and fun. She agreed to put on a clown costume one year for halloween, suggested by my mom at the last minute. Five minutes before we were to walk out the door and into the neighborhood, she agrees and dons this hideous polyester footie pajama. It came with a metallic wig.


16 years of that sort of thing. Super organized, predictable day to day order and then...the unexpected element that would put the great in "great grandma!" 

She suffered a stroke and was blind the last two years of her life. I used to jokingly say to her that she liked me better when she couldn’t see how untidy and messy I was. Because we were quite suddenly, inexplicably closer than ever. A light turned on in the darkness.

During junior year of high school I would drive an extra thirty minutes out of my way after school to the nursing home just so I could hold her hand and listen to her talk.

I learned so much about her that last year. She told me a few stories she had never shared with anyone else. I don’t know why she chose to tell me of all people…but I am glad she did.

Yeah, she loved me a lot.

I loved her too.

Have I mentioned yet that she was the craftiest person ever?

She knew how to sew and knit and crochet. She would make such beautiful things. I used to love to watch her work. She made a pair of little snowmen once for my mom for Christmas. I used to hold them every year when we took them out of storage and run my fingers over the loops and hooks.

After she died I would run my finger over those loops and feel a bit closer to her.

So in her honor, I am picking up that heavy crochet needle and learning this new art.  If I can make three things before the year is out, I’ll consider it a success.

Hand in hand with this learning of a new code and a new rhythm, I want to tell my boys all the stories I know about Meme.

So that when they run their hands over each loop and hook of my handiwork, they will remember her. Stories about their blue eyed great great grandmother, the rigidly organized party animal who would surprise her family with something zany from time to time. 

The update to this story is that I completed two pieces of work and am 80% of the way through with my third piece. 
I loved learning her art. I loved feeling close to her whenever I picked up my crochet needle. 

Happy Birthday Meme. I hope to one day rock helmet hair, pant suits, crochet needles and spontaneity just like you.