Sunday, December 30, 2012

Help. Thanks. Wow.

I am reading the new book by Anne Lamott, Help. Thanks.  Wow.:  The Three Essential Prayers.  We began reading it aloud as we drove back from Oregon and got through the introduction.  The book opens, “I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe over the last twenty-five years that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple.  Help.  Thanks.  Wow.”

What a reassuring read.  Our prayer time, whether it is my wife and I or whether it includes the whole family, does in fact mainly consist of these three categories of prayer.  “Help me be a better husband, thanks for this wonderful family, and Wow what an amazing life we have-how did we ever get here.”  I think the category we need to work on most is the Wow category. 

Wow-what a beautiful sunset.  Wow-what a beautiful child we’ve been blessed with.  Wow-we are overwhelmed.  Wow-God has been good to us.  It is good to have our prayer life challenged and enriched by such a splendid author. 

We arrived home yesterday evening after a wonderful visit with family in Oregon.  Tired from the road, we only did a cursory check on the animals.  They are all OK, but I’m looking forward to spending a little more time on them today.  Mostly our farm sitter did a fantastic job.  He’s a great young man.  Anyway, I’ll be doing some animal care this morning.  I’ll be cleaning and filling water troughs, feeding mineral to the goats, inspecting a cut near Whisper’s eye which happened before we left, fixing the lights in the chicken coop, trying to handle the new sheep, and maybe even trimming some hooves.  The list is always long.

There’s always a million things to do, but I need to just pick a few and stick with them in order to keep from getting completely overwhelmed.  I’ll probably try to get some goose hunting in this afternoon. 

Looking forward to another wonderful day on the farm.  Wow, I missed it even though it was nice to have a little break.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Merry Christmas!  We were in Oregon at my wife's family's home.  We needed some last minute lard to cook our turkey with, and we didn't have any.  We did have 25 pounds of unrendered pork fat and decided to make lard.  We chopped the fat and put it in a crockpot overnight.  Not only did it make us some great lard, but it left us with a whole mess of cracklin's.  Cracklin's are the by product of lard making. They are a crispy, salty treat.

What a wonderful visit.  We are headed off home tomorrow and back to our farm.  It'll be nice to get back to the animals, but it was also nice to have a break from the daily animal chores.  Our wonderful farm sitter handled all the chores for the few days we were out of town.

Whisper, one of our goats and one of our best milkers, injured her face right before we left.  Apparently she is fine, but I would like to see her for myself.

I hope this season finds you blessed with family, friends, and good food.  I know we enjoyed our cracklin's Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

envisioning your homestead

Wow!  Jenny and I discovered a really amazing new e-book recently. It's called, “Your Custom Homestead:  Awakening a Fresh Vision ofHomesteading”  by Jill Winger.   It is a great tool for refining your vision and the direction you’d like your homestead to be going.  Whether you are homesteading in an urban setting, dreaming of your own piece of land, or have been doing this for a while it is a really fun and productive way to spend a few hours.

The book goes through a series of exercises to help you create a mission statement, a five year plan, and long term goals for your homestead adventure.  I’ve been at this for a few years now, and I’ve always had dreams and goals, but I’ve never, until now, sat down and tried to answer questions about WHY I am doing this and what I hope to accomplish.

I’d recently been becoming frustrated with the fact that I’m not making money homesteading.  While working though this book, it became clear that I was asking the wrong questions.  I wasn’t in homesteading to make a living, at least not a financial living, but I was in it to make a life worth living.  The plan had always been to teach part time to support my homesteading vision.  When teaching became too difficult for health reasons, I tried harder and harder to make money at the farm.  In the process I just became more and more frustrated.  Reading this book and working on the exercises helped me let go of the frustration.

Jenny and I sat down and created a vision and a mission statement.  The brainstorming and mission statement didn’t involve anything about making money on the farm.  The mission statement had to do with spiritual growth, raising kids in an atmosphere of love and joy, being good stewards of our land and our animals, and growing and eating healthy natural foods.   What a freeing experience.

After reading this e-book, I started to think about writing my own e-books.  I was, after all, an English teacher for 20 years.  I know a little about writing.  I’ve been a little brainstorming about what topics I might want to write about.  I’m having fun with it.  I hope you are having fun on whatever your personal adventure in life is.


Monday, December 10, 2012


I made some venison salami over the weekend.  It turned out well.  It looks amazing and tastes great.  The texture is not quite perfect, but I can’t quite think of what might make it better.  Maybe it’s simply the use of venison instead of beef that makes it not quite like good deli salami.  I use about ½ venison and ½ fatty pork butt.  I adapt a recipe from Rytek Kutas’s book Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing.  It is sort of the sausage maker’s bible. 

I’m going goose hunting in the pasture in a little bit.  It’s 4:00 am now and I’ll probably go out there at about dawn.  It’s just so peaceful to sit in my blind and watch the sun rise.  The goose don’t really begin flying until an hour or more after the sun rises, but I just enjoy sitting out there.  There’s a little snow on the ground and the temperature has warmed up to about 30 degrees.  The last time I went out goose hunting the beef cow decided to get all friendly and cuddly with me.  Not actually such a good thing.  Cuddling with a 900 pound beef cow is kind of scary.  I eventually had to fire the shotgun into the air to get her to give me some space.  She was definitely invading my space.  I’ll make sure to feed the cows before I walk to the back of the pasture.

My wife read Psalm 139 to me last night before bed.  “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.”  The context of our conversation was that God knows us and loves us anyway.  I liked the verse, “I praise you , for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  We are indeed wonderfully made.  I need to remember that.  I was feeling a little down on myself because I didn’t spend my time alone, while Jenny and the kids were gone, as productively as I would have liked.  I had imagined that I might spend my time in work and contemplation.  It didn’t really turn out that way.

Maybe I’ll take my camera out with me this morning.  I’ve been meaning to take some pictures of the farm in winter.  I’ve been a little remiss in the photograph department.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Out of Town

Jenny’s out of town with all the boys for a few days.  It’s just me and the cows, and goats, and chickens, and cats, and…the dogs.  The dogs typically spend a lot of time outside, but the weather is awful and I like their company in the house while I’m alone.  We’ve been having “Thunder Snow” tonight.  It’s snowing, hailing, thundering, and lightning.  With 50 mile an hour winds to boot.  Anyway, the puppies are happy to be indoors. 

I like to sleep on the couch when Jenny is gone.  Our couch is incredibly comfortable and the bed just feels so lonely.  Unfortunately Oberon, our German Shorthaired Pointer, also likes to sleep there too.  He and I have been fighting over the couch all week.  He sprawls out, farting and belching, and takes up the whole couch.  If I get the couch first, he just crawls up and sits on my chest.  If he gets there first, I have to shove him around to make room for myself.

I don’t take care very good care of myself when Jenny’s gone.  Normally I eat really well and avoid coffee and sweets.  Actually, my doctor has encouraged me to abstain from coffee because it exacerbates my depression symptoms.    So anyway, I’ve eaten bacon at all three meals today, drank a ton of coffee, and eaten a wonderful chocolate bar.  I feel pretty cruddy.

On a brighter note, I keep the house fairly clean while she’s gone.  It’s only me here to mess things up, so it’s not too hard.  Well, me and the dogs.  Oberon just climbed up on the stove to eat bacon grease out of the cast iron pan.  I see he also spilled my freshly dipped cream.  I think I’ll throw him out into the storm.

Jenny and the boys are coming home tomorrow night.  It couldn’t come quickly enough for me.