New Arrivals

Summer is always a busy season on our little farm.  This summer, though, is probably the busiest I’ve experienced since I was in college.  My younger two kids and I were gone the better part of two weeks in June for Bible Bowl tournaments, and my oldest daughter and I are soon headed to Haiti (hopefully) for her first mission trip.  I say “hopefully” because Haiti is fairly unstable right now with recent rioting over the proposed removal of fuel subsidies, which would result in skyrocketing fuel prices.  Needless to say, that situation is taking up more of my brain space than I’d like to admit.

Anywho, good news is always welcome in my world, and we had some very unexpected good news yesterday.  Two fluffy chicks greeted my son with noisy peeps yesterday morning!  I love babies of almost anything (except maybe possums and raccoons…just because I know they’ll grow up to terrorize our flocks and gardens), and surprise babies are even more special.  We had a surprise chick a few weeks ago, but it unfortunately didn’t make it.  We think the roosters may have had something to do with that.

To increase survival odds of these new arrivals, we relocated them and two of the broody hens to our old chicken run, temporarily dubbing it the Maternity Ward.  They’re all tucked safely into the coop and seem to be enjoying their new space.  I get a kick out of watching the mommas try to stay between us and their babies.  Those little ones are under a faceful of their momma’s feathers more often than not!

To add to the festivities, we got a call from the U.S. Postal Service this morning to let us know the broilers we ordered last spring are in.  These little ones (50 total) take a lot more care and attention.  It took me about an hour to get them set up in their temporary residence in our garage and to make sure they knew how to drink from the nipple watering system.  Once they’re big enough, we will transition them out to a moveable coop that Farmer Dave built a few years ago.  They’ll get a fresh patch of grass every day as we pull their coop around the yard.  While they mow and fertilize our grass, they will also develop high-quality meat for our freezer.  They grow so quickly that they’ll be ready for processing by mid-September.  It’s really a pretty good system, and I’m thankful we can do it.

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With this morning’s cool temps, these little fluffballs were happy for the heat lamp once I got them home.

Life does not always bring us what we order, but there is always beauty and blessing all around.  While my days just got even busier with these new arrivals, they also got more full.  New life is a beautiful thing, and I take great delight in caring for babies.  In addition to that, we have the hope of quality meat for our freezer and more hens to lay eggs.  We can also look forward to learning new things and sharpening old skills.

Every day brings opportunities that are a gift.  There is a tendency for us to view many of life’s opportunities as burdens.  Or, we can get so caught up in our responsibilities that we race through each day as though our sole purpose is merely to meet each obligation.  The best option is to give thanks for these opportunities and allow them to grow us closer to the Lord and to the people around us.  We really do get to make a choice.

So, today, join me in choosing gratitude.  Even if you don’t feel it, speak it.  Write down your blessings if you need to.  Start a list and add to it every day.  Call out your blessings while you’re mowing the yard or rocking the baby or driving down the road.  A grateful attitude can take a sick heart and make it well.  It can breathe life into a stagnant spirit.  It can make the difference between joy and bitterness.

Choose gratitude.

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Shut the Door!

I am so mad.

It is almost 3:30 in the morning, and I can’t sleep.  My mind is whirring, my blood is pounding, and I am mad, mad, mad!

About an hour ago, I was awakened by a terrified squawking from one of our chickens.  As soon as the sound registered in my sleep-drugged brain, I slipped on my shoes, grabbed a flashlight and ran out to the barn, calling for our dog, Rosie, the whole way.  Sure enough, there was a raccoon with one of our Black Australorps.

I yelled at it while it just stared at me, dying hen at its feet.  Ugh!  We were separated by two rows of fencing, and I had nothing with which to do battle.  (Though I confess that I fought the urge to hurl Dave’s new-from-Christmas heavy-duty Maglite at the thieving varmint!)  I yelled at the raccoon again, and it slowly sauntered off…choosing to hide under the coop.

Great.  The enemy is now camping out under the very foundation of its prey.

Just as I suspected, the chickens had not been properly tucked in last night.  Despite the fact that our neighbors just lost two young birds…and it’s most assuredly peak raccoon season…and reminders had been given, we had left the henhouse wide open.

With one last look at my now-dead hen, I shut the flap door on the coop.  On a hunch, I checked the garage on my way back to the house.  Sure enough, Rosie was still cozily curled up in her favorite spot.  She had completely ignored my calls for help.  She pulled back her ears and wagged her tail guiltily when I found her, and she refused to make eye contact when I quietly scolded her.

Dave asked if I was all right as I crawled back into bed, and I briefly gave him the synopsis.  He groggily commiserated with me, rolled over and was soon snoring.

But I couldn’t go back to sleep.  I was just plain mad…and I was mostly mad at the raccoon!  It was out there right now enjoying its middle-of-the-night meal!  As the wheels in my heard turned the situation over, I wondered at my position.  Why was I so angry at a raccoon?

We had left the door wide open.

No matter what excuses are made, we were ultimately the ones to blame.  The death of that hen is our fault, not the raccoon’s.  If we’d done what we needed to do to protect our flock, that Black Australorp and I would be both fast asleep right now.

There’s a proverb that speaks to this situation:  Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.  (Proverbs 25:28)

Ahem.

We lacked the foresight, the discipline, the self-control to secure our property last night, and the result was death.  And, beyond that, the raccoons will be back.  Once they know that a meal can be had, they will diligently return in greater numbers until the flock is completely wiped out…or until we stop them.  And, to be honest, the most effective method is not just shutting the flap before we go to bed.  The predators will increase in boldness, watching for opportunities at dusk and dawn when the chickens have been released.  We must trap and kill the raccoons to stop the problem.  More death will result.

I wish I could say that my lack of self-control has only wreaked havoc in the henhouse.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  When we neglect to nurture self-control, our lives are opened up to all kinds of mayhem.  If you’re like me, you often respond in anger toward the situation before you face the truth that your own action (or inaction) have put you in this position.  Its price takes an especially high toll when the consequences are paid by the people we love.  If you think about it, virtually every broken relationship stems from someone’s lack of self-control.  Addiction.  Verbal assault.  Betrayal.  Disrespect.

We–and our entire families–are made vulnerable when we fail to practice the basic tenets of self-discipline.  That’s a hard truth, isn’t it?

It’s also hard to admit that, once we’ve opened the door just once, the opposition digs in its claws and becomes stronger.  Sin grows, folks.  Whether we’re talking about abusing a substance, watching trash, speaking harshly, spreading a rumor or overeating, sin grows.  The more room we give it in our lives, the more room it takes, eventually claiming space in the lives of the people we love.  Maybe we knew we should shut the door, we wanted to shut the door, we really did mean to shut the door…but we left it wide open.

Dear friends, what door are you leaving wide open in your life right now?  What price are you asking your loved ones to pay?  What guilty pleasure is no longer worth the cost?  The door can still be shut.  The predator can still be stopped.  The prey can still be protected.  Stop making excuses.  Stop justifying sin.  Sleep in the peace you’ve been offered.  Resolve to shut that door!

Heavenly Father, You know what doors we need to close, and You freely offer us Your strength to close them.  Please help us choose what is right over what seems easy.  One step at a time.  Thank You for the fruit of Your Spirit and for the healing You bring.

Chickweed

See this stuff?  It’s aptly called chickweed.  Chickens love it.

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Chickweed grows plentifully in the shady place behind our shed.

There may be something wrong with me, but I really enjoy gathering it by the bucketful and throwing it to our flock.  It’s easy to pull, and it’s plentiful this time of year.  The chickens suck it down like famished five-year-olds slurp up spaghetti, and I take great delight in watching them enjoy it.

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D’Artagnen enjoys a Chickweed buffet.

My kids think I’m crazy.

I respond that craziness is hereditary.  They come from a loooooong line of crazy people, and they will one day find themselves doing something crazy for their own personal enjoyment.  Maybe it will be smiling while the chickens slurp up their chickenweed.

Maybe it will be lying out in the thick grass one spring afternoon, snacking on dandelion greens and listening to the birds.

Maybe it will be running across 3 or 4 counties to find old hay and straw for deep bed mulching the garden.

Maybe it will be going against the flow in order to spend their days laughing, learning with and loving on three remarkable children.

Life is full of all kinds of opportunities to enjoy.  No need to over-complicate things.  Just do them.

 

Spurring You On to the Interesting

Here in the Hoosier State, spring is finally warming up enough to feel like spring!  Good thing, because we (as always) have a long list of chores to get done to meet our goals for a productive summer and fall.  We’ve been planting and tilling and mowing and mulching, burning brush and hauling logs in from the woods.  We are busy, but it’s the good kind of busy that makes me look forward to getting up each morning…and to going to bed each night!

Not to change the subject, but I added a new skill to my tool belt over the weekend.  For the first time ever, I de-spurred one of our roosters.  We have two roosters right now–a Rhode Island Red named D’Artagnen (whom we wanted) and a Buff Orpington I’ve dubbed B.W. (for Brian Wilson).  We didn’t necessarily want B.W., but we’ve got him.  So far, he and D’Art seem to have the whole alpha male thing figured out to everyone’s satisfaction.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

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B.W. keeps watch over a few of his girls while munching on a blade of grass.

Anyway, D’Artagnen’s spurs had grown out over the winter and needed to be removed.  I really didn’t want to do it, but for the sake of our hens (and possibly ourselves), it needed to be done.  In spite of being repeatedly assured by my brother-in-law that it was simple chore, I kind of dreaded it.  I am not into hurting things (even for their own good), and I don’t love catching roosters.  Nevertheless, I set out, pliers in hand, to expand my horizons by removing D’Art’s spurs.

My fears were completely unfounded.  (Why hadn’t I listened to my brother-in-law?)

My kids were either grossed out by or completely disinterested in the process, but I found it fascinating.  It’s worth a look-see on youtube.  God is a creative genius for sure!  Oh, the details of creation!  Amazing!  Anyway, I’m pretty sure the most uncomfortable part of the de-spurring, for both the rooster and myself, was the catching of the rooster.  When the process was over, he strutted off, no worse for the wear, leaving me with the equivalent of a cone-shaped toenail–moderately reminiscent of one of those Bugle chips we used to put on our fingertips when we were kids.  Fascinating.

Back to my kids.  One of my prayers for my children is that they refuse to live in fear of learning and trying new things.  Remaining in one’s comfort zone out of insecurity or fear of failure is a true tragedy of opportunity.  Growth happens when we stretch ourselves outside of what is comfortable.

Another one of my prayers is that, in every season of their lives, my kids will look upon this world with wonder and awe.  May they always (always) nurture a perspective of gratitude for this phenomenally-remarkable, never boring, holy-cow-God-is-amazing world in which we live.  When we allow ourselves to be disinterested by the interesting, we become less interesting ourselves.  And that really is a shame, because we bear the fingerprints of Almighty God.

I recently read a quote that said something like, “Do more things that make you forget to look at your phone”.

Yes.  Let’s do that.  Let’s live lives so full of interesting things that we lose the desire to become consumed by the things other people have done.

Chicken Chasing

Well.

Remember that big start I told you we got in our garden last week?

The chickens loved it!

That’s right.  About half a dozen of our hens, escorted by our handsome Barred Rock rooster, D’Artagnan, happily scratched around in that newly-planted section long enough to lay waste to 30 baby broccoli plants and the several rows of other goodies, like beets, lettuce, spinach and sugar snap peas.

Grrr.

That same day, while I was away at a class, two of our young dogs, Butch and Daisy Mae, escaped the confines of their pen to maul a neighbor’s chicken.  Several months ago, we discovered that Butch can open the latch on the gate with his teeth.  Yes, you read that correctly.  He can grab hold of the gates latch with his teeth and lift upward to free himself from captivity.  Once this was discovered, we solved the problem by placing a clip through the latch that he could not manipulate with any part of his body.  Problem solved, right?

Only if everyone remembers to attach the clip.

And Daisy, she is just as sweet as she can be–until she gets distracted by something to chase.  She doesn’t want to hurt the chicken; she only wants to catch it–over and over and over again.  Catch.  Release.  Catch.  Release.  I’m sure that little game was a lot more fun for Daisy than it was the chicken.

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Sweet Daisy loves to chase! Unfortunately, when she runs full-tilt, she’s hard to beat.

Since I wasn’t home, and since my children tend to communicate like their father (releasing pertinent information in intervals that may lag for hours or even days), it took me the better part of a day to piece together the whole story.  So, when my sweet neighbor asked us to be on the look-out for a wayward hen, I said I would be happy to keep an eye out for her hen.  I even shared that my daughter had spotted a fox on our property that very morning.  Wasn’t that helpful?

Oh, how I wish I could blame that fox!

The chicken had probably not even wandered onto our property (like I had initially assumed), but likely snatched it from its own flock in its own yard!  This good neighboring business is humbling.  So thankful for the grace we’ve been extended by more than one neighbor in regard to our ill-behaved critters.

Fortunately, we’ve been given the opportunity to extend some grace of our own over the years.  It gives us the opportunity to treat folks the way we want to be treated and to model forgiveness to our children.  And, when people show grace to us, that gives us an opportunity to teach humility as well as a willingness to change our behavior when necessary.  Obviously, we aren’t perfect in this, and we are slower to learn some lessons than others, but Dave and I agree these are lessons worth trying to teach.

If only our poor neighbors didn’t have to be our guinea pigs for all of these teachable moments!  Friendly smiles, fresh-baked treats and homegrown produce can go a long way in soothing ruffled feathers–well, unless you’re the chicken.

 

 

Chicken Enchilada Dip

This easy appetizer is great with or without the chicken.  It can also be paired with a salad and eaten as a meal.  It’s a great make-ahead, because it refrigerates and freezes well.

 

2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
2 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. shredded cheese
1 t. minced garlic
1 ½ T. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. oregano
cayenne pepper to taste
1 can black beans, drained (Feel free to leave these out if you don’t want them.)
4 green onions, chopped
10-oz. can chopped green chilies

Mix cheeses together; add seasonings & mix well.

Cover & refrigerate overnight.

Heat in slow cooker, in microwave, in oven or on stovetop until ingredients are warm and gooey.

Serve with tortilla chips or sturdy vegetable dippers.

September Babies

September isn’t usually a month in which we welcome babies to our little farm.  As a matter of fact, we are usually winding down our commitments this time of year.  2017 is proving to be a bit different in this regard.

A few weeks ago, Farmer Dave and I went to meet Rue, a young heifer who needed a new home.  Since Sir Loin was making his transition from our pasture to our freezer, Red Rose needed a new companion.  One early Saturday morning, I poured my coffee in a travel mug, joined Dave in the old truck and went to look at one of our options.

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We kind of went out on a limb with a local farmer (whom we had not previously known) and told him that we are relatively ignorant on what makes a good calf…and would trust him to be honest with us.  (Yeah, I know.)  He kind of looked at us for a moment and then proceeded to recommended a young heifer from his herd.  This man’s teenage son was listening to the entire exchange, and we took comfort in that the cow looked very healthy AND the son was in on the discussion.  Surely the man was modeling integrity to this boy and not teaching him to be a con artist, right?  So far, so good on Miss Rue.  She has a sweet disposition, and she and Rose are already sharing food and swatting at one another’s flies.

Last weekend, Dave and I planned a little getaway for the two of us that involved a few opportunities to hear Joel Salatin, from Polyface Farms, speak in the Indianapolis area.  I have appreciated much of Salatin’s platform for some time, and I was eager to get Dave’s take on his perspective.  Plus, we had been graciously included in an invitation for a farm-to-table dinner and roundtable discussion with Joel and other local growers and interested parties.  Little did I know that Dave and I would get to have dinner at the same table as special friends AND Joel Salatin!  During our meal, we enjoyed much laughter…and really good food!  (Thank you, Griggsby’s Station and Tyner Pond Farms!)

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, Dave was planning to use our weekend away as an opportunity to pick up another newbie for Country Haven.

Meet Liberty Belle.

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She is an 8-week-old goldendoodle puppy whom we hope to breed.  Over the past 15 months, Dave and the kids have co-invested in two females and a male in the hopes of generating income for school, farm and home expenses.  Miss Libby, as we call her, is adjusting very nicely to life at Country Haven.  We all love her.

One of the things I like least about life on our little farm is that things don’t always go the way we’d like for them to go.  We experienced this a couple of weeks ago with the loss of a couple of dozen broilers (meat chickens) ready for butchering.  It was a sad (and expensive) day, but we learned a valuable lesson in the process.  Since we had planned to tuck that meat away for the winter months, our freezer is a little light on chicken.  To fill in the gap a bit, Dave brought home 20 chicks last night.  They are a mix between amberlinks and buff orpingtons.  We will keep the hens to lay eggs and process the cockerels for our table.  Dave found them for a great price at a nearby farm store, so we felt good about the financial investment.

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There are always so many things to learn in this life, and I am thankful for the opportunities we have to learn them in a safe, peaceful environment.  Seasons come and go, but there are sorrows and gifts in every situation.