Friday, June 20, 2014

Playing Catch-up and Goin' Country Updates

What stinks about this post is that there are NO pictures. Sorry folks. Coming from a visual learner, no pictures is no fun, however, I thought I'd take the time to update today.

The month of June has definitely kept this bunch busy!

Catch Up...

Lincoln celebrated his 7th birthday recently and we had a small, but fun party for him. I made him a vanilla cake with gumballs and a helicopter on top. He was stoked! This young man wants a pocket knife and this wise mama has been holding it over his head that he needs to prove maturity first. Needless to say, at the end of the day, it's customary for him to ask if he's been mature that day. I smile and encourage, even when there are mess-ups. Sweet boy.

Norah is about to celebrate her 5th birthday. My "baby" girl who is not-so-baby now. I had a misty-eyed moment last week with  my husband, thinking about her and how grown up she's becoming. Am I the only mama wanting to freeze time sometimes? Just adore her.

Isaac is our caboose for our summer birthdays. He'll be THREE this year. Our Fourth of July baby. I'll never forget holding him as he's not 24 hours old yet, starting out our hospital room window, watching the Independence Day fireworks. Such a precious moment. Now he's potty-training (slowly starting, we don't usually start until our children have hit 3 and are really ready), plays cowboys and Indians with big brother, and can scale anything in the house just about. My monkey.

Titus took his first steps on Father's Day. That was definitely the highlight of the day as we spent Father's Day packing boxes, filling in nail holes in the walls, painting, doing small home repairs, and cleaning things out. Every moment is so precious as nothing is easy with five children. There are always interruptions, boo-boos, discipline to administer, so we're feeling "the crunch for time", if you will. There have been many-a-nights up late painting and packing.

Goin' Country...
This process of moving started well over 2 years ago when we first began looking for properties. Then, to finally watch as it unfolds in its last days is almost like a dream. A dream that we often feel unworthy of, to be honest.

Our house is finished being built and is being stored away in a large warehouse (yes, they can do that with manufactured homes...pretty neato huh?) until our land clearing friend is done. We're having a 100 x 100 square foot area taken down (mostly of pine which can be dangerous if close to the house...a soft wood that can brake easily onto your  home), but I'd like to keep the actual logs for gardening beds. They'll rot away eventually, but it'll get us started and by the time they do rot away, we'll have killer soil (thanks to Molly and Mabel, of coarse).  I've never thought of myself as a "tree hugger" per se, but when Rob cuts them down one by one, I do often feel sad that such a beautiful creation has just ended its life. We're logging all of the wood to use for future firewood and garden beds though so they'll continue their life, just a different way.

Our chickens are gone. Our coop is gone. Our girls pulled SO.MUCH.WEIGHT around here that I don't know if I'll ever want to go without having chickens again. Seriously. They handled our manure perfectly and now to be shoveling and disposing it into the city dumpster just feels like a complete waste (no pun intended!). They ate our table scraps, took care of the weeds for us in the garden, and helped keep our backyard "raked over" with all the scratching they did. To feed 20 chickens (and we use Hiland's Naturals, non-GMO, non-soy feed), it's chump change to what they give you! Over a dozen eggs a day is what this family needs with the amount of baking and cooking we do. Dropping $4.00 for a dozen eggs when they're not coming from my own flock does NOT make me happy. I'm itching at the bit for new chicks. Trying to be patient. Gonna order turkeys this time also...yep, "Thanksgiving" and "Christmas".  Rob has been brainstorming chicken plucker ideas. An electronic one would be great, but we're thinking hand-crank possibly.

This house is looking empty and bare. Bitter sweet. The camper is getting fuller and fuller, but I sometimes wonder how long we'll actually be in it with the way things are slowly progressing. Our storage POD was delivered today and we pull out next Saturday. It's really starting to sink in and we're really going to miss our family, friends, and mentors beyond words. Raising our children together, worshipping the Lord together, crying together, praying together, studying God's Word and gleaning together, fellowshipping together, gardening together, just sipping sweet tea and soaking in God's goodness. Too miss our friends and family is an understatement. Thank goodness we're not moving out of state and we've already had friends promise to come and visit.

If there is anything that I've learned through this, I will say that it is to WAIT, LISTEN, and then FOLLOW.

I've been reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers lately and soaking in his wisdom.

He says...

"Whenever God gives a vision to a saint, He put him, as it were, in the shadow of His hand, and the saint's duty is to be still and listen. There is a darkness which comes from excess of light, and then is the time to listen. Genesis 16 is an illustration of listening to good advice when it is dark instead of waiting for God to send the light. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will make you in accordance with the vision He has given if you will wait His time. Never try and help God fulfill His word. Abraham went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all self-sufficiency was destroyed; there was  no possibility left of relying on common-sense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not of displeasure. Never pump up joy and confidence, but say upon God. (Isaiah 50:10-11)." (Oswald Chambers)
He goes on in another illustration to say...
"If you open your mouth in he dark, you will talk in the wrong mood: darkness is the time to listen. Don't talk to other people about it; don't read books to find out the reason of the darkness, but listen and heed. If you talk to other people, you cannot heart what God is saying. When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light. After every time of darkness there come s a mixture of delight and humiliation (if there is delight only, I question whether we have heard God at all), delight in hearing God speak, but chiefly humiliation - What a long time I was in hearting that! How slow I have been in understanding that! And yet God has been saying it all these days and weeks. Now He give you the gift of humiliation which bring the softness of heart that will always listen to God now. " (Oswald Chambers)
After meditating on God's Word for years and reading Mr. Chambers' recollections, I have only begun to scratch the surface of knowing my God and Savior.
This also speaks volumes...
"How many of us are set upon Jesus Christ slaking our thirst when we ought to be satisfying Him? Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him. It is easier to serve than to be drunk to the dregs. The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him. We are not sent to battle for God, but to be used by God in His battlings. Are we being more devoted to service than to Jesus Christ?" (Oswald Chambers)
We're so eager to sign up for this area of service, or that area of service. When do we actually ASK GOD if this is something in which we should participate. When do we meditate on His Word and wait, heeding to see what He wants? I know I am guilty as charged. Slowing down is the goal now. Slowing down to listen, modeling for our children, the next generation, how to slow down and heed.

There was a time awhile back where I had to ponder on if this move has been of God or of our own desire. In the beginning, I think it was a simple desire of our hearts. It fell in line Scripturally. A desire to be out of debt completely, space to steward His creation while providing more "real" food for our family, etc. The more I saw God working, the more we saw revelation after revelation, showing us to continue in this process. I do believe that the Lord gives us passions for a purpose. He can draw our hearts towards certain areas to serve Him, as an instrument for His glory. As we read through Hebrews 11 (one of my favorite passages of Scripture), these amazing servants for God had REVELATIONS. It was revealed to them through God what He wanted them to do (I'm sure that Noah probably wasn't in the mood to build a large vessel to defeat an earth-wide flood and we are told that Moses wasn't too keen on approaching Pharaoh regarding freeing his slaves, etc.), and when we jump outside that revelation and do what WE want, we miss the opportunity for wholeness of Christ, truly knowing Him and His divine character.
Just because there is a door open, doesn't necessarily mean we are supposed to walk through it. We are to LISTEN for the Lord, watching as He moves and speaks to us, revealing. 
In all, we have definitely seen the Lord reveal to us that this move is His will and we are thankful for that revelation.
We only hope to be good stewards of what He has given us, never forgetting what he has done. We are sad to leave, but excited for new opportunities. The next week will be a difficult one so we ask for your prayers as we continue packing boxes (with 5 cute monkeys running around), attempt to organize our camper (with 5 cute monkeys running around), keep two cows dry in a small area as it's rainy season here in Florida (we get showers almost daily for a few months), paint (with 5 cute monkeys running around), attempt to paint and show a house (with 5 cute monkeys running around), and make time to visit with friends before we pull away.

"The soul has got out of intimate contact with God by leaning to its own religious understanding. There is no sin in it, and no punishment attached to it; but when the soul realizes how he has hindered his understanding of Jesus Christ, and produced for himself perplexities and sorrows and difficulties, it is with shame and contrition he has to come back...get into the habit of steadily referring everything back to Him; instead of his we make our common-sense decisions and ask God to bless them. He cannot, it is not in His domain, it is severed from reality. If we do a thing from a sense of duty, we are putting up a standard in competition with Jesus Christ." (Oswald Chambers)

I'm not quite sure how I'll be able to continue updating as after next week, we will be without Internet service for a bit. We'll be on Facebook, so you're welcome to join me there for the time being.

Blessings to you all, sweet friends!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Titus Turns ONE!

I can't believe my little baby is ONE.
(With Great Grandma)

A newborn, little boy who by far was our most fussy baby has grown into
the most content, happy little guy. He was colicky from months 2-5 and despised his car seat, so evenings and car trips were difficult, but none-the-less, we were so thankful for a healthy, baby boy from the Lord.
He's all smiles the majority of the day, scooting and crawling around, exploring everything in sight. Still no steps, but that's just fine with this mama. {smile}

Somehow, he wound up being a blue-eyed, blond baby who's baby pictures are very identical to Daddy's. He says "Mama" and "Dada", has 6 teeth and loves to be outdoors crawling in the grass, getting dirty like all little boys do. He adores his siblings and can put down 2 eggs for breakfast each day like no one's business.

Our sweet little fella. We can't wait to see what God has in store for you as you learn and grow in this big world. So much to discover. I know the Lord has big plans for you my boy.
We're getting ready in this house for our "Summer Birthday Line Up", meaning we have 4 birthdays all in a row...Titus, then Lincoln, Norah, and Isaac pulls in the tail end on July 3. We're birthday bananas and loving every minute of celebration together.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Farming In the City
This post has been churning in me for months now. Our brains have been caught up with moving for the past year, making decisions, researching permaculture projects that would benefit our piece of land, building our chicken coop, barn and stables, etc. Our brains have been so caught up that I thought I'd take a few videos to remember our little city farm. I have officially let our garden "go" this spring and we've been in take down mode. We've taken down the cows' barn and milking stanchion. We've been brainstorming how to disassemble our chicken coop and transport "the girls".
Yadda, yadda.
So, needless to say, we're not much to look at presently, but we're still savoring each moment here. I keep thinking, "Oh, we should do this here, or put up that there", but I pass on the ideas, writing it down for our new property. My head is whirling with ideas!
The past few years, I've had a running mental list of some of the great things about farming in the city and some of the not-so-great things about it.
1.) Everything is CLOSE. You don't have to walk a few acres or take a 4-wheeler to get anywhere. You can see your cows from the living room window. You see your garden every time you get into your car or walk out front.
2.) You can have a real impact on others in your community. I know that our family has really enjoyed getting to know neighbors as we let our cows graze out front. We've kind-of become the "Lemonade House" of the neighborhood, if you will. There's always somebody stopping by to play and visit an animal. We've really enjoyed some memories of having friends help us plant our gardens. We've had neighbors come by for manure (we can bless them with manure, while they bless us with taking it away!) and we've also been known to give out fresh eggs from time to time, blessing others. When we have an overabundance of lettuce, what better than to give to neighbors? We even have a back neighbor who cares for the animals for us when we're up at our property for weekends at a times. She gets free eggs and milk, while we get the security of knowing that our animals are taken care of.
3.) You have a customer base in your front yard. What better place to sell your excess eggs, fruit, veggies, etc.? You don't have to use any gas money or time to travel to sell your products. Hooray for that! Our milk co-op supplier has to drive an hour (one way) to deliver their products. It's an entire day of driving. And that's just to OUR location. That doesn't even include other locations. You could get crazy and if you can keep a rooster (I've heard of people keeping them in garages in large cages, so it can be done), you could essentially reproduce and supply chicks.
4.) Permaculture IS possible! Check out Geoff Lawton's Urban Permaculture video below...
1.) Grass is LIMITED. Grass sustains life. It helps feed basically all animals on a farm that would give you anything. We only have so much. Molly and Mabel come out every few nights to munch grass after we've eaten dinner. You know. Some people like to walk their dogs. We walk our cows. {grin}
2.) Manure can really "pile up" if you know what I mean. HOWEVER, if you have a chicken coop or a compost bin, you're all set. There just needs to be organization to it and it can be a real blessing.
We also purchased a worm bin this past year and have had some real success breeding Red Wigglers on our back porch. No one would even know they're there, unless we pointed them out. Great for fishing and in the garden. The chickens love a treat every once and while as well.
3.) You can have some legal problems if you want to keep animals. I've even known some cities to be stinkers with people wanting to keep edible plants or a garden in their front yards. Bleh! Blast those HOAs! {Remaining composure...calm, calm}
Wanna know a secret? Here's how we "got away with it", keeping cows and chickens, I mean.
Chickens...Our city codes don't post a certain number in the paperwork, but they do have to be enclosed. Well, we have a 6-foot fence encircling our entire back yard (we do let them free range, but not every day) and we do have a chicken coop. They have been known to escape and we've found lost chickens in our front yard, but our neighbors think it's cool and they have a blast catching them and throwing them over the fence. We've kept roosters before and although we're not "supposed to" keep them, no one has ever complained. We love the sound of cock-a-doodle-doing during breakfast and so do our neighbors. Not everyone may be as welcoming however. Really know your neighbors.
Cows...Our city codes have written that "any hoofed animal may not be within 100 feet of a non-owner". Well, when you live in the city, you're most likely within 100 feet of SOMEONE. Well, my genius of a husband said (always thought he should've been a lawyer), "Why don't you just go around to each neighbor and ask them if they're "co-own Molly"? Genius. Complete genius. So, that's what we did. After dinner one night, we went around and measured with a measuring tape everyone that was within 100 feet of us. Yes. We probably looked like fools. I always tell my husband that I "keep his life interesting". He agrees. Ah-hem. Anyways...all SEVEN neighbors thought it was neato and signed. Molly came home that next week (after we got her gate back up in the back yard). We keep our permission papers laminated and stapled to our fence so that if anyone tries to cause trouble, we have legal permission posted for them to see.

A few things about Keeping A Family Cow (wouldn't own one without this book by Joann Grohman)...She states in her book, "At various times I've kept a cow in a suburban garage and grazed her on the lawn. It definitely can be done."

There's also a Keeping the Family Cow website in which I find VERY useful, especially since we're rookies!

" 'A young fellow wantin' a start in life just needs three things: a piece of land, a cow and a wife. And he don't strictly need that last.' That's an old saying that used to annoy me once. Now that I'm an old lady with a cow but no spouse I am prepared to concede at least the validity of the underlying premise. " -Joann Grohman


Gardens...Don't know what to tell ya here. If you live in an HOA, you're probably out of luck. You could garden in your back yard. However, if you don't, look up your city codes. Honestly, we never looked up anything for our garden. We originally had it out back, but moved it to the front when our backyard shade completely took over. We've never had a problem. We're generous with leftovers and that helps too! We've even had other neighbors begin small veggie gardens of their own.

Joel Salatin's Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal book really has truth to it.

4.) You won't be able to be completely sustainable if that's your goal. You won't have enough space to grow wheat, grains, or really enough food for your family. I once had a sweet friend who thought that I actually grew ALL of our veggies and produce. So sweet. {I laughed, genuinely.} No. We don't even come CLOSE. We could grow more. Much more. But we have too much shade and would have to invest in some major tree work being done to welcome the right amount of sun we'd need for that type of growing. We have a swing set/play area out back for the kids and if we wanted to keep a pig or another chicken coop in its place, we probably could, but we like having a "clean space" for our kids to play and run, while keeping our animals on our second lot.
You know, I'm not against couponing necessarily ( I personally tried it once, but lost interest when all I could buy was food that our family didn't eat), but what can you usually buy with coupons?
Junk food. Let's start applauding the families willing to grow living food to save money. Think Victory Gardens here. {grin} I LOVE this cookbook. Don't have many cookbooks, maybe 6, but this one is my "go-to" most of the time, especially when I have baskets of green beans or tomatoes that need "a plan".
I do recommend The Backyard Homestead for a good read on how to farm in limited spaces. The author breaks farms down in spaces of 1/10 of an acre, 1/4 of an acre, and 1/2 of an acre. Quite interesting and very possible to do!
1/2 Acre
1/4 Acre

1/10 Acre
So without delay, here are two videos of our little city farm. As mentioned above, it's not much to look at right now as we're disassembling and undecorated (I love having hanging baskets around our chicken coop, and flowers everywhere), but I wanted to give you an idea anyways.

So the question is, is it better to farm in the city or country? Well, it depends. If it's ingrained in you to farm, you'll farm anywhere you can. It's true. There are positives and negatives to both ways and the main point is that you start somewhere with something. Get good at it and try something new. Farming is FULL of experiments. Many times we fail. Many times we succeed. When we do succeed, SHARE with others so that they may succeed as well.  I think as a farmer, you'll always covet. You'll covet a bigger barn, a greener pasture, a larger chicken coop, etc. Being content is key.

The BEST part is stewarding God's creation.

In my mind, is it worth the hard work, sacrifice, and sweat. Yes. I think I'd farm in a New York City sky riser if I could. {giggle}

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summertime Planning...
Making the Most of Your Time with Your Children

Summer is quickly approaching, within DAYS even. This is when the homeschooling mamas breathe a sigh of relief as textbooks are put away and we can wholeheartedly focus on some different aspects of learning. Our family doesn't sign our children up for the typical "camp-after-camp, just-get-through-it summer", rather we enjoy sitting down with our children, asking them what they want to learn over the summer. What projects do they want to embark on? What character are we going to work on? What are your goals as far as habit go? I'm getting giddy just blogging about it! {smile}

It's true. I LOVE this time of year. No, not the heat, but the freedom to conquer tasks that we otherwise might not have the time for during the school year. Don't get me wrong. We've had our "unschooling days" where we engulf ourselves with books and just going with whatever they're interested in, but we do try to adhere to a Charlotte Mason approach to learning and keep to a schedule/lessons.

As the "school" year (my 4-year-old insists we call it "learning" because they don't go to "school") wraps up, we've took a 1/2 gallon Mason jar and filled it with colorful index cards, listed with activities for the summer. I have one child who has been done with lessons since last month and she's been enjoying a little more freedom with some quilting, baking, rabbit raising, and free reading. One preschooler has been reading for awhile now and although we'll touch on some reading through the summer, she's been done for weeks now also. One lad is still working through a phonics book, last math pages, and is reading to us daily (and will throughout the summer). He has some wood carving projects in mind, thus we're using that as incentive for when his lessons are completed. Still just a few more objectives to get him caught up.

Hard to believe I'll be officially home educating FOUR Bates kids next year. Yep. Isaac has a little book he'll work through and will be doing basic number and letter recognition with me, counting (although we do that daily anyway with plates, forks, beads, carrot sticks, and everyday life things), etc. He'll do some cutting for hand-eye coordination and mainly habit training. He's definitely excited about his third birthday coming up soon. Little fella wants a helicopter. He's growing
Here are a few, fun links for summertime activities that you could make a list of and check off, or put into a jar to pick out of. A list is nice because let's face it, the whole out of sight, out of mind thing is true. Although we have a jar, I'll be writing their lists on a poster board of personal habits and goals this summer to work on. I think I'll laminate it so that as we check things off with a Vis-à-vis marker, we can use it over and over for summers to come.

Lord-willing, we'll also be MOVING this summer to our property. Electricity is done. Well permits are pulled, so just waiting on the actual digging of the well to happen. It's so amazing how I didn't anticipate it would take this long, but apparently the codes departments are very THOROUGH in their inspections, paperwork, etc. THAT is what has kept us from moving sooner. 1/3 of the house is apparently done as well, so we're excited about that!

So here are a few ideas from our family to yours!

1.) Start with Charlotte Mason's Handicraft and Art page...meaningful projects without the mess of pom-pom balls and colored Popsicle sticks in which you'll throw away. Making handicrafts that are beautiful to keep and use as years come and go are such a treasure.

2.) 121 + Skills for the Modern Homesteader is always a great list to go through and check off things with your kids. Even if you're an apartment or city homesteader, go for it!

3.) You could make a poster board with lots of ideas, keeping it up all summer, checking off the exciting things you did. This list is also helpful to steal, ahem, use. {grin}

4.) If you'd like the challenge of exploring the great outdoors this summer with your children, may I suggest Hours in the Out-of-Doors by Karen Smith and Sonya Shafer (because Sonya Shafer is amazing!!).  This book's contents include:

Chapter 1: Benefits of Nature Study
Chapter 2: When to Do Nature Study
Chapter 3: What Nature Study Looks Like
Chapter 4: Keeping a Nature Notebook (my own insert...We CHERISH looking back on these!)
Chapter 5: Supplementing Nature Study
Chapter 6: Guiding Your Child in Nature Study
Hit your dollar store and collect a few butterfly nets, buckets, bug cages, etc. You just never know what you'll find out there. {grin}

5.) Habits...One important thing that seems to happen (usually right after a baby has been born) is that our good habits tend to slack and get replaced with lazy ones in which we need a re-training time to get back on track. You know, you have your kids well trained to wake up, get dressed, start morning chore charts, etc. and then when baby comes, everybody is in survival mode. And hence, retraining time begins. Summer can have this effect as well. An evening set aside to re-read Charlotte Mason's advice on Habit Training could bring much benefit to one's family. I just LOVE this link!

6.) Most of all, I hope you'll pass the temptation to keep your kids "busy" with entertainment-like activities/gadgets to instill in them a love of Scripture and a love for the Lord. Take this precious time to lay out a blanket outside in the morning (maybe with a lovely, hot breakfast) and just read Scripture and pray. We've done a few mornings of "home church" in our day (sickness, exhaustion, etc.) and those times are so precious, just sitting  under a morning sky, on a blanket in our grass reading Scripture, praying and singing praise songs to our Creator. Get to their HEARTS. Do some searching of your own regarding Biblical History, Theology, Apologetics, Hermeneutics, etc. so that you may better answer their questions.

7.) I used to be very skeptical of Pinterest. Still am at times, even though I just recently in the past few months jumped on the "band wagon" if you will.  I must have looked like a complete idiot trying to sign up for it! Took me hours to figure it out. This NON tech-savy gal struggles with things like that.
I have to pray every time I'm logged into it that the Lord would guard my heart. I think, especially as women, we love to decorate our houses with beautiful things, myself included, but when it can really take over your heart to where it can consume us if we're not careful.

God wasn't kidding when he told us in Exodus 20:17:

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

It happens. (Another example of a commandment from Scripture as an absolute standard which is good for us to practice...not coveting..., yet it's not against man's law to covet.)

We have to guard our hearts and be thankful for what the Lord has given to us and give to those who have less.

Never-the-less, Pinterest, (with hearts guarded) CAN be a great tool to find ideas, and great homesteading/farming information at that! Especially for city farmers like yours truly. Long ago, you went to a wiser farmer friend for advice on getting rid of Red-Tailed Hawks in the area (who are eating your chickens left and right), but now, we just jump on the computer. I'm looking forward to having like-minded neighbors, possibly able to help in such areas. Computers will never be able to replace human contact, relationships, emotion, and hands-on experience of getting rid of Red-Tailed Hawks. Thank goodness for that!
10.) Don't forget to purchase a National Audubon Field Guide book if you intend to identify nature. I keep one in my purse, just in case {wink}. I can't tell you how many times we've used it to reference things.

I hope this list has given you some ideas for this upcoming summer.

Blessings as you embrace time with your own precious ones, nurturing their hearts, spending TIME with them, and taking on new and exciting tasks at hand to be remembered for years!

(All photos courtesy of Google.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Going' Country...
How We Chose a Name For Our Farm
Well, it's been a little while, but I'm happy to say we officially have a name for our farm. Yep.

Vine Living Farm
We thought of a ton of names. We had multiple suggestions, and maybe it was the fact that every time we go back to our property, I spot more and more Fox Grape vines (I can't wait to grow them around our chicken coop for shade in the summer. They're pretty). Maybe it's God's way of nudging us a bit. Anyway, it feels good to have finally settled on a name. I kind-of had a "duh" moment. Yeah. Why not? It's our family verse. The name of this blog. Rob and the kids loved it, so there you go. {smile}
It's been our adventure from the start. John 15 and pruning from our Heavenly Father.

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. By this is My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you." 
John 15:1-2, 5, 8, 16
 We have been asking God to prune us in the areas where we're not bearing fruit, and He's done a lot of pruning. {grin} He has guided our hearts in such a way, cutting out things of this world that have proven time and time again not to bear fruit for our family. Certain things have been more difficult than others.

#1...Financially getting out of debt has been a long road, but it's one we're so thankful to have taken the challenge on and we know it has honored God and the earthly, temporal funds He's given us. It has humbled us tremendously. It has left our hearts open to future ministry. We don't know where the Lord will lead, but having our home paid off, low bills, etc. in the next few years (our land has already been paid off in full), definitely opens areas for ministry and service.

#2...Home education has also had its difficult days, but I wouldn't trade any of it for a chest full of diamonds. The fruit, oh, the fruit. Cutting out the priorities and activities of the world, just slowing down and enjoying some of life's most simple, but yet, important things has been such a joy. Taking in every moment for what it is, for what God intended each moment to be. Knowing that we'll never get these moments back, with our one shot at living this earthly life. I think that's why I cling to Charlotte Mason so.

#3...We've also been pruned in our parenting, cutting things out (disciplining out of anger, maintaining self control, scheduling, organizing). Parenting God's way takes work and persistence and getting back on the horse when you've fallen off and failed, but it effects the HEART.

#4...Rob really leading our family as God created the man to do has brought a tremendous amount of fruit. If there are any men out there reading, you watch and see the looks and blushes you get from your loving wife once you start really leading your family.

#5...Family worship at night has really been a complete joy to watch as we share with our children how to worship, the privilege of worship and the glory is brings to our God. It has required us to limit other outside activities, but the fruit from family worship versus baseball practice has been incomparable.

"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love; These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."  John 15:10-11

Did you hear that? We have to keep His commands to experience true joy. Full joy.

(Because every barn should be red, right?)
Do you feel as though God has something BIGGER for you? Are you tired of the daily wake, rushing around, taxi driving to school, lessons, appointments, "keeping up with the Jones's", etc.?
God does have something bigger for you, but it's going to take some slowing down, saying no, PRUNING. If we don't personally prune things out of our lives to be still and let the Holy Spirit speak, He may prune for us! The times when I've really heard the Holy Spirit speak were times of complete silence. How many moments in our day can we say we have complete silence? We have to make time for it.
John 15 revolves around Jesus' teaching in the vineyard the night before He died. Jesus wants to bring us to fullness of life and fruitfulness, but we have to let Him.
I love how Ann Voskamp lives out her life in simplicity. Being still in the moments to allow God's richest blessing to shower her and her family.
She takes time to enjoy God's most simplistic gifts in everyday things.

 Please know that I'm not insisting that everyone go out and make drastic change to their lives overnight. Certainly not. PRAYING is the first step. Be on your knees, begging for God to prune you and your family, then sit back and WATCH. Watch as He transforms your heart and mind and those of your family. He will begin to convict your heart when you truly surrender. Examine each area of your day.

Does it honor God?

Does it bring you closer to Him?

What can you cut out?

He wants to know YOU on a DEEPER level. On an intimate level.


Oswald Chambers says...

"Joy comes from seeing the complete fulfillment of the specific purpose for which I was created and born again, not from successfully doing something of my own choosing."

Ask God to show you a glimpse of what your harvest could look like by this same time next year. Journal it and thank Him for the difficult pruning (which isn't always easy) and the fullness of blessing that comes from endurance.

Titus 3:14 says...

"And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful."

I love I Peter 2:11-12 and how Peter tells the early Christians to live in such a way that the unbelievers might be persuaded to glorify God when they saw their good deeds.

What are you waiting for?

Pray that God may find favor in you and that you can begin abiding with Him, being aware of pruning and the spiritual fruit (Galations 5:22-23) about to take place.

Thanks to everyone who assisted us in helping with a name. We're so blessed to have such supportive, loving friends and family.

Now to create an entrance sign...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Raising Cows in the City...What We've Learned
I remember the night Mabel was born so clearly. It was peaceful and sweet. I remember sitting in the barn amongst hay and our two girls, thinking "Wow! We just had a baby calf born in the city, unassisted and we're in for a ride!" I knew that this was going to be a learning experience for everyone and so it was. We've been learning a lot about feed, milk supply and demand with cows, nutrition for calves, scheduling, milking cleanliness and the list goes on. So, I thought I'd share some of the things we've learned thus far, some of our down falls and how we'll do things differently next time.

Molly (mama) - As far as feed goes, we have Molly on Hiland Naturals GMO-free, soy-free dairy feed. We joined a co-op and have felt good that although we YEARN for more grass (one of the down falls of owning a dairy animal in the city...and chickens too for that matter), at least she's on good grain (aka: "cow crack"), we graze her out front when we can (good halter training practice also) and she gets a flake of alfalfa at milking as a treat (high in protein) and a basic coastal hay (from our new hometown) throughout the day. She'll easily eat 4-5 flakes a day. I'm looking forward to purchasing hay (or bartering) in the country as it's much cheaper. She also has a salt lick block as well as a mineral block. I'm looking into getting some better minerals, but for now, she's okay with the block. She also receives 1/2 cup of dry kelp in her feed as well as 1 Tbsp. of Diotemaceous Earth. She loves Spanish Nettle (a common weed here in Florida which is extremely nutritious and tastes great...yes, I've tried it, supposed to help with colds/flu when steeped into a tea or even in your salad).
(Spanish Nettle - Google)
I know that it's going to take time building up a pasture from scratch at our property and although I'm nervous about getting it right, I'm excited to accept the challenge.
Mabel (aka: baby) - Mabel started out being with mom around the clock. I wanted her to be with Molly to get the best possible nutrition and as much as she needed. I've heard stories of calves not being healthy and dying due to poor nutrition and since we're rookies over here, I didn't want to loose this little girl due to my lack of knowledge, thus we left mama and baby together for the first month to bond and give nutrition to baby. We also wanted Mabel to be nursed by mom so that we could go away on a vacation and leave mom and baby together, leaving our wonderful neighbor with feeding/watering responsibilities only. Mabel also eats hay now alongside mom and does eat some grain (same as mom). I see her nursing throughout the day, but there's no special milk measuring marker on Molly's udders that tells me how much Mabel has had in a day, so I'm clueless.
Which now leads me to milk supply and scheduling...
We started milking about a month ago (using the Surge milker we bought off of Ebay) where we would separate mom and baby at night, milking in the early morning and leaving mom and baby together during the day. Things were going swimmingly. We were getting a gallon a day and milk was coming quicker than it was going. So, we decided to sleep in one morning (ahhhh...zzzzz) and just left Mabel with mama at night thinking it would keep up milk supply. Then it turned into another morning, which turned into another morning (you get the picture) and whammo. That was all it took. We were caught up on our need for milk (we were down to a half gallon in the fridge) thus we started milking again in the morning. We hooked Molly up to the machine and nothin'. Tried again the next morning. Nothin'. And the pattern continued. After about 6 days of this, we took a break thinking she was holding her milk back for Mabel. I think at that point Rob called Molly a "jerk" one morning and threw his hat. I milked her out by hand and there were maybe 10 squirts and that was it. Her milk supply had gone down. So, it wasn't her fault after all.
I think that next time, we may try pulling calf from mom right away, getting calf on a bottle (1/2 a gallon in the morning and 1/2 a gallon in the evening is standard calf feeding) and mom on a milking schedule right away. If I'm being completely honest, I always thought that that was a little mean, but now I see why farmers do this. If you want a good, dependable milking schedule, it's what you need to do. Mabel will not take a bottle now that she is trained to nurse on mom so there's no switching this late in the game. Not quite sure what we're going to do to be honest. I wish I knew how much Mabel is getting, because that would determine what we could try to do now.  
Needless to say, Mabel is a healthy, happy girl and loves her mama. I'm thankful that Molly has a buddy now. Cows are naturally herding animals. I can't wait to get them to their 5 acres. {grin} I could be negative about the whole situation and frustrated that we aren't getting any milk out of this, however, I'm looking at this as an investment. Mabel is a girl who will someday give us milk and we want her as healthy as possible to get her to that point. At 15/16 months, she'll be bred
 (AI - artificially inseminated, unless we've bought a bull or know someone who has minis in our new town), and 9 months from then, she'll have her own little calf and be milked by us. At that point, we'll have two cows in milk and no doubt I'll be making lots of dairy products and giving away our liquid gold to neighbors, I'm sure.

{Two peas in a pod}
Mabel has been working well with us in halter training. She's not a fan on being on a lead or being told where to go, but she'll learn who's boss eventually. It's funny to take the girls out front, grazing and watch the cars that come by. They are driving, then they slow down, then they back up and roll down the window asking, "Are those cows?" We nod and smile and then usually comes the whipping out of cell phones or cameras. Some will even get out of their vehicles to pet the girls or get their picture taken with them as if Molly or Mabel is a celebrity of some sort. Like the neighborhood mascot. {smile} The kids do know quite a bit about cows and are accustomed to answering onlooker's questions efficiently.

I've been studying up the chapter on grazing and pasture building in The Encyclopedia of Country Living as well as subscribing to Graze and The Stockman Grassfarmer magazines. We have lots more trees to cut down (future firewood, fencing and furniture projects...I'm giddy with delight) and then comes stump grinding and the actual pasture building itself. The art of studying grasses is overwhelming, but exciting all at the same time. I have a feeling we'll be knocking on neighbors' doors, begging for advice on how they keep their grass so green, lush and efficient for grazing. Since we're on just 5 acres, we're planning on rotational grazing for the girls.
Being a grass farmer (or you could take it a step further and become a microbe farmer, because we all know you need good soil to have good, nutritious grass) is the most efficient, natural, cost-effective, healthy way of raising animals, but it takes work and knowledge. I can't wait to get all of our animals on GRASS. They're just healthier and happier, not to mention, CHEAPER. {big grin}

I just love watching them as I grab for their leads. They pace at the gate, excited, knowing that they'll get their greens within minutes. They plow away. Now that we're getting more rain and our rainy season is quickly approaching, we should be able to let them graze every few days just fine. Our barley fodder system was a failure due to pesky mice. We'd have to enclose the tray system altogether if we wanted to keep that going. Pricey too for the grain.

Sometimes, there's an obstacle to explore...

...or a baby to greet, but they sure do love the little bit of grass they get.
Farming in the city. I think that'll be a post in the near future. I want to remember what life was like before our move so that I'll always be thankful for the blessings we were given for more land.
Here are some of my favorite dairy posts/sites:
Keeping the Family Cow (I can't tell you how many times I've used this site)
(You're welcome to join me on Pinterest HERE for lots more.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Family Size and Quiverfull...Part 3

So, will our family have more children? I don't know. I know that I'd love to welcome more children into our home whether we do biologically or through the beautiful act of adoption, if either are His will. (Psalms 82:3-4; Genesis 22:21-22; Deuteronomy 24:17-21)
(photo courtesy of Google)
I know that if the Lord's will is to continue having children, He will give us a faith about it. He will continue to give me the physical ability of carrying them. If he so wishes to add to our family through adoption, He will provide those finances as well as open doors for opportunities. And, His will may be that we not have any more children at all and we're okay with that. We have comfort in His best for us.

Our family has been on a long, patient journey for obtaining land and we have sat back and watched the Lord open and close doors in specific ways. He has spoken to us through other believers and their advice. He has done this with many aspects of our lives and not just the land He provided. We believe He will do the same with our family's size.

I love reading Jeremiah 29:11...

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

He already knows the plans He has for us and He will reveal those plans to us if we seek Him with all of our heart.

(photo courtesy of Google)
Please know that I am not against a Quiver full family who wishes to have as many babies as their body allows, however, I would never pass judgment on a family who decided not to do so. Even if I knew their heart and if it had selfish reasoning behind their choice of family size. It's not what Jesus would do. I'm sure He could think of MANY things for us to be concentrating on (ministering to the homeless, loving on a post-abortive mother who doesn't know what to do, a person who needs groceries or someone to listen to them, etc.).

Some things that I know have crossed my mind since becoming more open to family size are:

-Natural Family Planning can be effective if well kept track of and you don't have to worry about contraptions being inserted into your body, unnatural hormones or permanent surgeries of which you may change your mind. Read HERE for some amazing stories on vasectomy reversals.
Norah - 4 yrs.old
- Just because you've had cesarean sections doesn't mean you are limited. My obstetrician has personally had patients with up to 9 c-sections without major complications. There's also a great link HERE to read a story of a mother who had 9 c-sections. I've heard many-a-story of women who's doctors said their uterine lining was too thin, but they had somehow conceived again and when they went in for an ultrasound, their lining was perfectly fine. No doubt, God was in that!

- As Christians, we are being out-populated by Muslims. I hesitate to share this video because I haven't done extensive research on the statistics, but the general objective is that we are being out populated and that our children and grandchildren are going to have a completely different world than what we grew up with, and we're moving FAST (I'm not just talking about population either. Technology has never progressed so quickly in human existence). Please note that I have friends who are Muslims and am in no way trying to be disrespectful.

- We only get a certain amount of years in our adult life to have children. I had a friend who chased the career and was so sad to learn that she had missed her chance to have children as she went into early menopause. My heart grieves for her as I know she wishes she could've changed some priorities in her life.

As I wrap up, my main goal to get across with this post on child-bearing is two-fold:

1.) PRAY, PRAY, and PRAY some more, asking the Holy Spirit for His will in your life regarding this area (and every area at that).

2.) and two, it is a heart issue.

What is your attitude towards children? Do you want to send them to their room, i-pad in hand so that you can have your peace and quiet, or do you take time to get to know their heart on an intimate level, talking, praying, and participating in their interests?
(Titus - newborn)
Ask them personal questions about their life:

What they want to be as they grow older?
Who is their best friend and what they admire in them?
What are their fears and hopes?
 What books do they like to read?
 What frustrates them?
 What do they enjoy in their free time?
What is their spiritual gift?
What is your love language?
How can I pray for you?

I hear of so many "programs" which are supposed to bring family together. We don't need anymore programs! Get your family together and just start reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Start asking and answering the hard questions. Of coarse, you need to make time for this, cutting out the unnecessary that is getting in the way of your family reaching a closer level with Jesus. Prioritize. What's more important? Baseball or Jesus? Ballet or Jesus? Violin or Jesus? I'm not saying that baseball, ballet or violin are "bad things", but do they take precedence over getting closer to Jesus in the time that you have as a family? This is a tough, but very important question to ask. 

One of the biggest reasons I believe God intended for us to "be fruitful and multiply" is for multi-generational faithfulness and discipleship to occur. (Another post I have churning and will do my best to share soon.)
(Avonlea and Lincoln)

We love having a "large" family. I think that in some ways, it's easier. Yep. Easier. My children are always playing with each other, entertaining each other, learning together, playing together, inventing together. They're best pals. It makes those "Mommy, play with me" moments special. (I don't get a lot of "I'm bored" either. (Really.)

I love holidays with lots of family, family dinners with lots of tushies in seats (or at least we attempt to train them to stay in their seats...ha!), lots of toothbrushes on the sink, and although the laundry and dishes can really pile up, we work together and somehow, pull it off at the end of the day.

Having a larger family is certainly louder and messier, but I don't mind those things. {grin} Rob and I make a point to spend one on one time with each child as much as possible. It's not really a challenge though with only five. We take them out on "Mommy dates" and "Daddy dates", just spending time, asking heart-to-heart questions. We purposely cut out outside activities for this purpose. We love eating dinner and after table chores, playing outside as a family, no ties to anyone else's schedule demands.

Are there times of complete chaos, whining, arguments over toys...YES. But I truly believe that it's our ATTITUDE as parents that chooses to resolve these times in self-control and maturity OR frustration and anger. We mess up daily, but as long as there's repentance and we are working on improving that area of our life, the Lord is so gracious to forgive. 

  Psalm 127:3..."Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."

Enjoy your children!