Our neighbors have an old camper they are gutting and turning into a trailer. So, they offered us the appliances inside if we wanted them. We spent the day taking out the fridge, stove, kitchen sink, and shower basin for our school bus. We didn’t know if we would put a kitchen in our bus because of the cost, so this was such a blessing.
Our “neighborhood” is just a wonderful group of people who help each other out. There are just a handful of us, but work together to keep things moving along smoothly. Sometimes I think that is slipping away in the world, but so grateful it still exists here.
We finally got a little bit of moisture, in the form of snow.
What a difference a couple of hours makes here.
I canned apple pie filling in the fall which made it really easy to whip up an apple pie for the weekend.
We have two of Dad’s billy goats here at the moment and took on a stray black cat the girls named, Wolfgang. These two have become the best of friends. This billy goat lets Wolfgang wrap himself around his legs and the billy gentle licks and nibbles at the cat. So sweet!
Another neighbor came down over the weekend to take a look at our pond to get a plan together for getting it cleaned up and stocked. We will hopefully spend a great deal of time down here through the spring, summer, and fall. We love to hike through the trees in the winter, but the ticks are already out in full force, so this was probably our last tromp under the trees.
We worked at the pond to clear a spot for the picnic table mom and dad got for us as a Christmas gift.
We also planted some zinnias and hollyhocks. We hope to put up some hanging ferns and solar/battery lights.
When we stopped breeding and raising sheep to raise our girls, we held onto the last of our old ewes as pets. Our oldest ewe just passed away at the age of 15.
We now have Buddy as one of our oldest ewes at 14. She has lost all her teeth, so she gets to go into a special pen everyday for alfalfa, beet pulp, and sheep pellets. Keeping them into old age has been hard in so many ways, but I just love sheep. They are so lovable and personable it is worth the extra effort physically and emotionally.
The nice thing about the weather here is the fact that it is everchanging. You have very little time to get tired of the weather before it changes on you. We had snow this week and we had sunny days in the 70s. The sandplums and peaches are blossoming, so we are praying temperatures don’t dip below freezing again. We would love to have peaches from our tree this year!
The girls and I got so tired of pulling carrots in the fall that 1/3 of the raised bed still had carrots in it this spring wintered over from last summer. As we started digging them up, we realized, they were still perfectly fine. We’ve left carrots before and they have become bitter or soft in the ground, but these were crisp and sweet.
I ended up saving the little ones for the girls to munch on and canning the rest. I ended up with 13 quarts of carrots I didn’t expect to harvest.
Wash carrots and cut off top and bottom end. I do not peel, but you can if you would like to.
It is winter here on the homestead and we have gone weeks without a trip to the grocery store. Our Jersey milk cow, Lexi, is giving around 2-2 1/2 gallons of milk a day. Our free-range hens are giving around 8 eggs a day. We also have shelves of canned produced from the garden and a freezer full of local beef, pork, chicken, and venison.
With the milk, I have made cheese, such as: Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, and a Farmhouse Cheddar. We make yogurt, kefir, and lots, and lots of pudding. With the cream I make our own butter, ice cream, cream cheese, and sour cream. I also have raised two bottle calves and four savanna goats on her milk.
I froze eggs by the dozen for scrambled eggs and in twos in snack bags for baking in anticipation of our hens not laying through the winter, but that hasn’t really happened yet. However, this gives me the ability to use stored eggs and sell any excess.
We use Azure Standard for our organic feed for our milk cow and to buy a lot of things in bulk. While I haven’t gone to the grocery store, I do meet the Azure truck once a month to maintain our feed and dry good supply.
We are at the end of our milking season and hope to begin drying Lexi off in a month or so. We are looking forward to the break, but already worried about not having milk. We will freeze some in gallon jugs and make up plenty of dairy items to freeze to get us by. We are facing four months without milk and still have a bottle goat who will need fed for about two of those months. We are planning a produce pickup in the next week or so for some fresh food. We have eaten all the apples from fall picking and ready for something fresh and juicy.
It is and always will be a work in progress here. Planning and preparing ahead of time is always a priority when you are trying to grow food for yourself and cooking from scratch. It becomes a routine and a rhythm that becomes as natural as running to the grocery store is for most. The girls and I would much rather be home tending to the animals or working in the garden as opposed to driving two hours roundtrip for groceries whenever possible. It definitely calls for creativity sometimes!
We needed something portable, wouldn’t flood, could hold out the Kansas wind, and sleep at least 4 and a dog. We also needed it to be inexpensive! We looked at yurts, but the wind and rodents were a concern. We looked at campers, but too boring and expensive. We even seriously looked at a houseboat, but the logistics of moving it in was just too much for me to process. So, school bus it is!!
We took it out on the road for the first time with family and had the very best time.
It was one of the most fun days we have had in a long time. The girls absolutely LOVE their cousins and look forward to their visits all year long. Randy and I too love our time together with them.
Randy is working a ridiculous amount of overtime right now, but hopefully on nice days we will begin to convert it to a livable space. We hope to repurpose as much material as we can. I will try to post any improvements on here. It will be a slow restoration, I am sure, but initially, we just want it sealed up and cozy so we can camp in it.
For all the joy and laughs a farm and the animals that live here bring, it wouldn’t be fair if along with the snuggly pictures of goats in sweaters, kitties curled up in the sunshine, and dogs playing in the yard, I didn’t include some of the realities of our daily lives here.
Aspen had to sell one of her bottle goats, Raymond. He was a gorgeous Savanna billy, but because he was handled so much he got mean. The truth is, we didn’t need another billy goat either. So on sale day, she put on his halter and lead and walked him to the trailer herself. She hugged him and cried bitter tears, and she said her goodbyes. My heart ached for her and the sadness she was going through. I’ve been there, and I know with time that pain will lessen, but the next goodbye is always right around the bend on the farm.
Possums kill chickens.
Cats get sick.
Sheep grow old, and have trouble staying warm on cold winter nights.
Calves grow up and will one day have to be sold.
Baby lambs aren’t always born perfect.
When you love animals the way we loves animals, sometimes the losses seem too great to bear. However, with time our hearts heal, new babies will be born, and the circle of life will continue. Somedays I wonder if I have what it takes to live this country, farm life. Somedays the works seems endless and the pay meager. Most days, however, it brings me a joy like nothing else on earth ever could. I know there is nothing I would rather do with my life than give these animals the best care I can for as long as I have them, to tend to the land and grow our own food, and to have the solitude that life in the country offers. I thank God everyday he put me right where I am.
The biggest surprise on Christmas morning, and undoubtedly the girl’s most favorite gift, was their Grandma coming to visit them. We were supposed to go to her this year, but were unable to. So, she drove to us AGAIN. Words cannot express what this lady means to me and to our family. She is so much fun! Our girls loved having her here over Christmas.
The weather was so beautiful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We had such a fun time together and enjoyed being outside more than usual this time of year.
A friend delivered huge amounts of firewood to us. We are so grateful to him. This will be enough firewood for next winter and possibly longer.
There is a Mennonite thrift store in a town nearby that we love. This is the stack of books we brought home.
We also have a Christian book store that gives away their damaged (new) books for a donation. We love to go there, collect a few books, and leave a donation. Below is what we acquired this time.
We acquired a baby goat from Dad who lived on our porch for a week during the cold. Our dog sweaters came in handy.
Lovingly named, Helen, after James Herriot’s wife.
We let her out to run in the yard, so she isn’t cooped up on the porch in her tote, or locked in her little pen in the yard. So by the end of the day, we are both warn out!
Randy had some time off over the holidays. So him and a friend (same great friend who brought us the firewood) worked on the hoop house that will someday be our greenhouse and extend our growing season.
What a feeling to be able to provide your own food for your family. We sat down to dinner last night to:
homemade butter from cream from our Jersey milk cow
potatoes and bell peppers from the garden
and Home canned green beans from the garden with homemade cheese on top (thank you Lexi)
In a time when grocery prices are on the rise and shelves are bare, it is nice to know I can still provide really good meals for my family with a little preparation and work.
Behind Lexi in the picture is the beginnings of a green house we hope will stretch our growing season and allow us to grown outside of our current zone 6-7. All we need is more time in the day and longer weekends to get it up and functional.
I should also mention, I’ve always had very good help in the garden.
The weather has cooled off here, but is still unseasonably warm. This is by far our most favorite time of year. We have nearly put the garden to bed, except for a few carrots and the garlic growing for next year. The animals are all eating hay instead of pasture and have put on their winter wool and fur. The Jerseys are dark and fuzzy, the cats are fluffy and soft, and the sheep are as wide as they are tall with the deep wool they are carrying.
Our school year has begun, the hot cocoa and apple cider have been flowing, we have snuggled up with so many wonderful books together, and love dinners with a big pot of soup and a fresh loaf of bread.