Monday, March 28, 2016

Faith, Family, Friends, and Farming

Yesterday was beautiful. The weather was sunny and warm, without the wind that had been blowing for days previous. Cars were lined up and down the street that we live on. It was the annual spring auction at the equipment shop that our property borders.  I came home to flowers on my porch and chocolates for each of my kids from the previous owner of our home.
It's coming back to me. The day we moved in. The pouring rain. The family and friends who made moving day so much less painful than I anticipated. The help who packed up all my shoes and left me barefoot in my old home. They were that good! The sound of the auctioneer echoing through the loud speaker in what sounded like our new front yard.  It's our anniversary. Ashmore Acres is officially one year old.

It's funny because I often feel like we have lived here forever and on other days I can't believe it has already been a whole year. We moved in here with a plan and a dream and as of today we can officially proclaim that it's working. The plan is working. The business model is right on schedule and the dream is becoming our reality. It's really amazing and humbling when I stop and think about the last year. I sort of wish I could bottle the whole thing up and save it for forever. There is so much that has happened, so much I hope I never forget.

Like moving day when it poured, as I mentioned, and our family and friends helped us pack boxes in the moving truck, take down our trampoline, clean the house from top to bottom, blinds, oven, floors.. On the other side of town more rain, and more help unloading our boxes, hauling the piano, and arranging my kitchen. My dad taking us to lunch at the Diner and realizing that this was home.

I remember feeling so happy and so scared. This farm is such an investment. The chickens came the next week and before that Jeff and I spent nights until midnight in the barn making their new home warm and well lit. We would put the kids to bed upstairs and put on our boots to go out and work by the light of the moon and our flashlights. We would make numerous trips down the road to the farm store where it felt like every last penny we had was spent.

The day we unpacked the first 500 chicks from the boxes and into their brooder was so happy. So much new life. The post office called and told Jeff that they had some noisy boxes for him to come grab. He came home with 5, loudly chirping boxes, 100 chicks in each. We stood in the barn, with all of our kids, unpacking each little chick one by one and introducing them to water by sticking their little beaks in to drink. They were all alive and we were so optimistic about our new chicken farming venture. We took pictures and the kids held them and watched them and if we couldn't find one of our kids in the house we knew exactly where to look. People came to see. More people came to see.

The chicks grew. They ate a lot. I remember the time I went down to timbucktoo to pick up their starter feed. I was in my flip flops and when I got there it was hailing. I didn't have the check book and they didn't accept cards. So I had to rob the nearest bank, ha, not really, but I did have to go into two different branches to withdraw the amount of money I needed. Just for a little food. One ton of food to be exact.

The morning Jeff found dead chickens in the barn and came in and told me to stop what I was doing and follow him to the barn. I had to hold the garbage bag while we counted 31, 32, 33, 34 stiff and dead chickens into the bag. We were both doing the calculations in our head. Thirty four dead chickens in one day could be fine, but not if it happened again. We prayed.

Then there was the weekend we spent moving the chickens from the barn out to the mobile coop. Family style and with the help of more friends we chased them around, picked up each chicken, put them in dog crates until there were 25 in each crate, and then Braxton drove the lawn mower with the crate, over the stream and onto the back pasture where their new home sat. We didn't finish until dark.  Heavenly Father held the rain that night and I remember as soon as the last chickens were transported and the help got in their car to leave I felt a raindrop, then many raindrops. It was pouring and we were done and I looked up and gave thanks.

The blissful summer of blue berries and cherries galore. Picking and eating from sunup until sundown. People asked if it bothered me that the chickens ate the blueberries and I said no. We had enough to share. In my head the bushes were divided into levels. The chickens got the ground level, the kids got one up from that, as tall as they could reach and until their bellies were full. We adults got the top level, that was plenty. Blueberries are way more enjoyable when they are shared we discovered. And the cherries, we even used a boom truck to get the ones at the top of the tallest tree. Pitting cherries on the lawn in our swimsuits and freezing them for another day.

The garden that grew by the grace of God who only required us to plant the little seeds and He took care of the rest. We watered it when we remembered but it grew graciously and abundantly and what we didn't eat we gave to the pigs because we like our bacon made from zucchini, apples, and pumpkin. We have never eaten so many cucumbers in our whole lives and their was nothing better on those hot days than eating a fresh cucumber right out of the garden. We made pickles and more pickles and salads galore.

The pigs. Those cute little piggies that the kids played with in the pen when we first got them. Adelle reading to the pigs out in the pen, like Fern in Charolett's Web. She specially picked her princess book to read to the pigs. Then they grew big, fast, and ate a lot and fattened up nice. Braxton's job to ride the lawn mower to the Diner to get the buckets of slop, usually with a sibling or 3 and all the cousins if they were here. Bumping along in the trailer behind him, making room for the slop on the way back. Growing up and taking responsibility and pride in his work, and the privilege of being the one who drove.
The pigs who ate more than we anticipated and escaped from their pen every day for the last two weeks of their lives. Helping themselves to the apples right off the tree and the sandals my kids left strewn around the yard. My neighbor calling me while I grocery shopped at Costco to tell me the pigs were rooting up her yard.

There were the visitors who came and helped and we had work party after work party and continue to have project after project. I started to refer to my new home as the bed and breakfast because in the first 90 days of living in it we had housed quests for like 20 of those days. I had my sister do the math. We love hosting and part of the dream was having a place where people could come and we could accommodate them. Many hands make the work light and the work itself is more fun and satisfying when you aren't doing it alone. I can't start to name all of our family members and friends who helped us this year. It makes me feel so thankful and blessed. It takes a village to run a farm.

We played Full House for a month  when my sister and her kids stayed while they were finding their new home. This would prove to be the best part of my kids' whole summer. The boys spent hours by the creek and after a few days of not seeing much of them they showed us all the fort they made themselves out of sticks and branches. We let them sleep in it, Braxton, Carson, and Emmett, and then the next night Jeff and I and all of our kids got to sleep in it. It was snug and warm and when we woke up the next morning, later than usual, after seven, we found that it was pouring down rain and we hadn't felt a drop. The fort was dry and half our kids were still snoozing. We bee lined for the house in our flip flops and with our sleeping bags over our shoulders because we had to use the bathroom so bad! The rain didn't help.

It was a Friday, that morning we woke up in the fort, or maybe a Saturday. Now I can't remember which. July twenty fourth, two thousand fifteen. The day Emmett found the first egg laid by the our first flock which we eventually start to refer to as the "Bad Girls."  After all the kids woke up we went out to the back pasture to feed the chickens, like we do every morning, and the kids started lifting up the flaps of tin to check the nesting boxes. Sure enough we hear Emmett when he finds a little pullet egg and then they all eagerly keep searching and find one more. It felt like rain after a drought. After buying the birds, feeding them organic feed for 3 months, housing them for the same amount of time, we were assured that day that the fruits of our labors were coming to pass. Gone were the days of wondering if the chickens would ever lay.

Our new reality since then has been collecting eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. Eggs trickling in at first and then as flock two started to lay we went from collecting 400 eggs to collecting 800 eggs in a matter of a month or two. We collect eggs every day, no exceptions. When Jeff is at work I collect the eggs, and Gage helps me or sometimes he asks me to make him a fortress while I collect so the "tickens won't peck me!" Gage is a good farmer, he hasn't really had a choice.

Adelle got kittens, Zebra and Hunter, for her seventh birthday and they are brothers who she got to pick out before they were able to leave their mom. They are outdoor cats and we all get really excited when they catch mice and rats. Adelle gets the responsibility to feed them and make sure they have water and the kitties like her the best. The time we lost Hunter, Jeff and I weren't sure how to make it okay but the kids all prayed and looked and after three days the cat came back. Jeff is convinced it came back from the dead but either way we have two cats still.

The water line that Jeff put in himself, the 6 fruit trees I picked out for my 34th birthday, one for each member of our family and that we planted out back while being watched by a coyote in the distance.

The windstorm in November that tore about our first mobile coop. I remember walking through the coop, collecting eggs with Jeff in such severe winds I really thought the coop was going to blow away with all 500 chickens and Jeff and I inside it. It was so scary. Not to mention the condition of that first coop to begin with. A wire floor that was broke so you had to balance on the frame as you tried not to slip on the poop, while carrying milk crates stacked with eggs. Its always a good workout and a good coordination test.  The coop ultimately being destroyed and Jeff texting every man he knew, "All hands on deck!" and they came and it was dark and the storm was raging, and we moved chickens into the barn and we made the barn feasible and we built roosts and transferred nesting boxes and we saved every chicken we had that night. Friends brought their own family members and people I didn't even know were helping us save our flock.

There have been nights that Jeff and I have shoveled soggy bedding and poop and wheeled it to the compost by the light of the moon when the barn has flooded and the chickens are trying to sleep on wet ground. That smell is one that I will never get out of my nose but it's becoming easier to bare. Their are rewards along the way, the turkey that we inherited that drives me crazy but when we found the gorgeous white, speckled eggs, it made having the turkey not so bad. The dog, also inherited, that doesn't obey us but at the end of the day is the first to hunker down on our laps and fall asleep. When I came home from the store with the first bag of dog food and Jeff laughed because it was made out of chicken....

The peonies. Did I mention my home has the most beautiful peonies and I got to discover them last summer and smell them for a short couple weeks while they bloomed. And lilacs. And mint, and hydrangea that the kids set up stand and sold down at the end of the driveway along with zucchini.

There was the silo that was given to us right when we needed it and the fire pit where we spent many an evening around roasting hotdogs and mallows and singing songs if we were lucky.

There are all those nights when we have eggs for dinner because he have them and they are easy and nutritious and we need to eat them so I have room in my fridge to stock with other groceries.

The walnuts who blanketed our lawn but that we got to to soon and after hulling them and sorting and pressure washing and dehydrating, I found them to be so exciting to crack into and then so disappointing to find molded on the insides. Next year I will be ready before they fall from the trees.

I anticipate many of these memories from the first year fading as years past. Those are the parts I want to bottle up, record, and share with my grandkids one day. Bothersome chores now will most likely become less bothersome and maybe the smell of poop eventually will smell like roses. The last year changed me. It changed my family. It changed my marriage and all of my other relationships to some degree or another. I have more respect for pioneers (not to be too dramatic but I have felt like one on many occasions this past year), I have more respect for life; of people, animals, plants, trees. I have more desire and drive to work hard. More respect for money. More principals I want to instill in my kids. More love for them. I know my husband on a different level now. He's a good man and a good farmer and at the end of the day when we are both dead tired it feels rewarding and satisfying.... like the paychecks we receive for our eggs. I'm thankful for our partnership and how extremely well we balance each other, on and off the farm. Two heads are better than one most of the time and both of us have a pretty thick noggin.

Thomas Jefferson said, "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good moral, and happiness."
I love this and I have thought of it most days. In my own words though and to summarize our past year I would proclaim, "Faith, family, friends, and farming."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What foods best fuel your body?

Our Happy, Healthy Kids home learning program is ready to go and we’re celebrating with something that I hope lights up your day!
As you know, us In Balance folk are big believers of a “non-one-size-fits all” approach to life and, as well, are big fans of Laughter and Play so here is what we did . . . we created a fun little online quiz for you to figure out your body type (how you burn fuel and whether your autonomic nervous system is more sympathetic or parasympathetic dominant).
Even if you already know your body type, take the quiz anyway because I’m pretty sure you’ve never done a body type quiz that tells you what type of vegetable you are! And if you have kids, get them to do the quiz too. It’ll be super fun and helpful!
Doing the quiz means you’ll get a great reminder of the best fuel mix for your body, the best way to fit in appropriate activity for your body type AND your body type’s growing edge emotionally.
As a sweet bonus, you’ll be introduced to Carrot Top, Snap Pea and Buddy, our amazing Happy, Healthy Kids characters.
Take the quiz here.
And more information  here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Healthy Homes, Happy Families

I am so passionate about healthy homes and happy families.

The more I learn about health and nutrition the more I want to implement it. In my home, in my family, in my kids' school, and eventually in the whole community.

Check out this link to learn about the health of your home and how you can improve it. It's the little things that make a big difference.

Also, if you are striving to help your children and your family live healthier lives I am excited to share Brenda's new program. Check it out here!