A New Beginning

It is a new year … and a new beginning. I am excited about this new blog that my dear husband has set up for me. I look forward to sharing snippets of our days with you: homemaking, parenting, homeschooling and various insights and encouragement that the Lord gives me as I seek to walk with Him in the daily things. With two energetic young boys and a very adventurous husband (think homesteading, farming, plans to build a solar powered car–someday ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย … and the desire to pack as much into life as possible), my days are never dull and are often just a bit overwhelming (ok, sometimes a BIG bit overwhelming ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Yet my greatest desire is to learn to embrace even the challenges of each day with joy, a gentle spirit and a good dose of flexibility (something that does not come naturally to me ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

So welcome! I hope you will grab a cup of tea or coffee and find blessing and encouragement in the things shared here.

Lessons from Skiing

We recently had a wonderful time cross country skiing as a family. It was the little boys’ first time, so at the beginning they spent more time down than up, ๐Ÿ˜ but they learned quickly, and we had such a wonderful time.

Life is full of lessons, if we are willing to listen and learn, and two lessons stand out to me from our time skiing together.

First, when at the beginning the boys could not go three strides without falling, and it took them a loongg time to get up, I started to feel tense. This was not going exactly as I had pictured it, and definitely was not going to be the same kind of exercise that it was for their daddy and I before we had children in tow. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But the Lord has been teaching me about the power of a smile, even when I do not necessarily feel cheerful, and when things are not going exactly as I would like them to. And as I stood there smiling down at my boys, choosing to be enthusiastic and encouraging with my words: “You’re doing it! Great job! You’re getting it … Look, you got up all by yourself that time!” … the Lord opened my eyes (and my heart) to the truth that these are the best days of our lives. Here we were, together as a family, all in good health, surrounded by a beautiful winter wonderland. I read somewhere recently, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” While it is true that as Christians we truly do have a destination, heaven, it is just as true that most of the time our “daily destinations” are just expectations that can so easily rob our joy. As I let go of my expectations and instead embraced the experience we were creating with our little boys, I could feel the joy not only in my own heart, but I could also see it in my boys’ eyes as they bubbled over, “Look, Mommy! I am getting it! This is so much fun!” Additionally, I, who often have great difficulty just sitting still (because after all, there is so much to do!๐Ÿ˜‰), found myself delighting in our stop in the woods with a thermos of hot chocolate, apples and graham crackers.

The second lesson that stood out to me from our time skiing was when Sweet-S was struggling at one point on the trail with his skiis going sideways, making him fall. Daddy encouraged him to follow in his ski tracks. At first, Sweet-S did not want to do so; he wanted to make his own path. So he kept struggling and falling. But when he finally decided to go in Daddy’s tracks, his skiing instantly became easier. “Daddy!” He exclaimed in amazement. “When I follow in your tracks, I don’t fall down … and it even turns my skiis when we come to the turns!”

I thought about how so many want to “strike out on their own path”, and so they struggle and fall into many pitfalls. “The way of the trangressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). But if they will surrender, and choose to “walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:20), then life suddenly becomes so much easier and they avoid so many downfalls.

I am thankful that God walks with us through life, and continually teaches us lessons from daily experiences, if we are willing to listen to Him.

And Our Sweet Boy is Now 6!

Sweet-S just turned 6! How can my “baby” possibly already be 6 years old?!?

We had a special birthday party for him, complete with helium balloons (that the boys had a blast using some of the helium to make their voices higher for a few seconds ๐Ÿคฃ), Grandma’s special fruit salad, hotdogs, hamburgers and shrimp (the birthday boy’s unique menu choice ๐Ÿ˜‰), a homemade castle cake, and several exciting and thoughtful gifts–including a teepee from Grandpa & Grandma!

We have been learning about knights in school. The boys have also been learning the Code of Chivalry, which the knights were required to live by. This includes such values as:

  • Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
  • Obey those in authority over you
  • Stand against injustice and evil
  • Defend and protect the weak
  • Respect the honor of women
  • Refrain from wanton giving of offense
  • Speak the truth at all times
  • Be generous and willing to share
  • Persevere and finish the task at hand
  • Pursue excellence in all you do

These are values that we are eager for our boys to live their lives by, and so we are encouraging them to “be as knights” (a very exciting concept for little boys ๐Ÿคด๐Ÿคด) … and that is the story behind the castle cake. ๐Ÿ™‚

We are so thankful for our Sweet-S, that God has given him another year, and for the things he is learning: he is very fond of math and is making diligent efforts to become proficient in reading; he recently started violin lessons; he loves to pray; and he is very generous. Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy! ๐Ÿ’“

Date Night at Home

Although we have regular “coffee dates” in our living room after the children are in bed, these are often used just to catch one another up on the happenings of the day and to make plans for the next day. I found myself wishing that we could find a way to step away from the daily busyness and responsibilities and have a special time of just being together, enjoying one another’s company. But with juggling chores 2 times a day, plus Papa Homesteader working a full-time job in town, it has been a bit of a challenge to arrange a babysitter, go to town for a dinner out, and then get home in time to chore and get the children in bed at a reasonable time. So, rather than wait an indefinite amount of time for a “real date” out, this last week we arranged to have a date night at home!๐Ÿ˜Š

On the night of our date,Papa Homesteader picked up Chinese take-out on his way home from work. I cooked a simple meal for the boys and fed them early. I then gave them a couple of special activities that did not require much supervision from us, and we lit a candle and set up our “special dinner table.” (The low light of eating by candle had the added benefit of blocking out the messes that would normally distract Mama Homesteader ๐Ÿคฃ).

After dinner, we had Bible time with the boys, tucked them into bed, and then we came down to enjoy a liesurely time of coffee and dessert together.

I was surprised to find that our date night at home was delightful, refreshing and even relaxing. I hope that with our new discovery we can make a “date night” more regular. ๐Ÿ˜Š

The Blessing of God’s Word

I remember as a young girl thinking my father was perhaps exagerating a bit when he would say, “I always get something new when I read the Word of God”. (My Dad was known as a man who read the Bible–a lot. So it didn’t quite seem possible to me he could get something new every time he read ๐Ÿ™‚).

But now, especially in the neediness of motherhood, I pick up my Bible–even if just for 5 or 10 minutes that I can find a little quiet–and it seems ALIVE (because it is ๐Ÿ˜Š), and full of NEW things, pertinent to each day’s needs. I am so thankful for a father who taught me the value of reading my Bible … and for a God who packed it full of never-ending goodness, a spring of life that never runs dry.

A Cheerful Heart

I am naturally a pretty “sober” person–I work hard and take life seriously. And this is good and beneficial in many ways. But as a Mom of two very active boys, and as a wife to a very adventerous husband, and as a homesteader-in-the-making, I am seeing that I need more of a sense of humor … to be able to laugh at the incredulous and sometimes ridiculous, to see the funny side of what could otherwise be frustrating. ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜ My goal today: no matter how many cups of spilled milk (or juice or water), no matter how messy the house, no matter how overwhelming or chaotic the moment may seem, to SMILE ๐Ÿ˜ and find at least one thing to be thankful for.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

Meet our New Kid

January has been an exciting month on the homestead: we had our first kidding, a 7 1/2 lb sweet little goat whom we named Gideon, due to his strong but gentle nature.

The weeks leading up to his birth, Mama Homesteader had been pouring over books and Youtube videos, as well as talking to the few goat owners we know, trying to figure out how to get ready for the big event. Living offsite for the winter raised additional concerns, especially since we were in the middle of the coldest winter on record for Michigan in 41 years. We prayed that the Lord would give us a clear signal when Sassafras was about to birth so that the kid would not freeze to death. Each day, we felt her tail, hoping we would be able to feel when she “dropped”, which signals that she will kid in the next 12-24 hours.

The evening of Saturday, January 6, Mama Homesteader felt a distinct difference in Mama goat’s tail, and felt relatively certain the big event was close at hand. The temperatures were in the single digits, with the wind chill below zero, so we went out every 2-3 hours throughout the night to check to see if we noticed any changes. At 5:30am, it seemed like Sassafras might be contracting, so Mama Homesteader pulled up a 5 gallon bucket to sit on and settled into the pen to watch her for awhile. Apparently, this was what Sassafras was waiting for, as within 10 minutes her water broke and she began obviously pushing. Being rather nervous about doing my first kidding alone, I called Papa Homesteader and kept him on speaker phone (he was at home with the little guys, who were snug in their beds sleeping); I was so thankful for his support and encouragement. At 6:30 am the kid emerged, wet, slippery and still in the sack. With a little suctioning, he let out a hearty cry and Mama started cleaning him off. I quickly lit the propane heater and dried him with a towel to try to minimize heat loss. While he seemed healthy and alert, I was concerned because he could not seem to stand on his own to nurse. I held him to his Mama’s teats in hopes that he would get some of the colostrum and perk up. But, alas, 6 hours later, he was still not standing well on his own and he was not sucking well. I realized something was amiss and gave a call to the vet, who was very helpful and told me that it was most likely hypothermia due to the intense cold. Even though baby goat felt warm to my touch, I learned that his temp should actually be around 102 degrees–and it was only 96.5! Having no power on the homestead meant a heat lamp was not an option, but I wrapped baby kid up in a towel and took him to the van with the heater on high. Meanwhile, I milked Mama goat and the heat perked baby up enough to drink almost 2 ounces from a bottle. I then made up a hot water bottle and put baby kid on it, while stoking up both the propane heater and a kerosene heater in the barn. Having the heaters meant that I could not safely leave, so I ended up being on the barn over 12 hours before baby’s temperature finally came up and stabilized at 102.

I had the additonal problem, however, of Mama goat trying to kick her kid whenever he tried to nurse! I was puzzled, as Sassafras had twin kids just 7 months ago, and she was such a good Mama. Praying for wisdom and insight, I finally figured out that the little dog sweater I was using on the kid smelled slightly of our dog, and this was making her nervous. So I took the sweater off, rubbed it all over Mama goat, and then put it back on baby. To my great relief, this seemed to fix the problem, and Mama finally let her baby nurse without me having to restrain her from kicking. Covered with goat muck and mud, I headed home to shower and wearily but thankfully dropped into bed around midnight, baby Gideon now standing on his own, snuggling with his Mama for warmth and nursing successfully.

We are so thankful for how God answered so many of our prayers throughout the whole ordeal. God had shown us clearly when Sassafras was getting ready to birth, had let me be there when the kid was born, had let the kid deliver successfully, and then had helped us figure out how to work through the after-birth difficulties–miraculously without loss of life to Gideon, even though his temperatures had dropped so low. Additionally, although the day he was born was so cold, the three days after his birth there was a break in the cold snap, with the temperatures in the 40’s! It was an awesome and amazing thing to watch his birth, and I feel like I learned so much through the process.

Do you know the time when the wild mountain goats bear young? … Or do you know the time when they bear young? They bow down, they bring forth their young, they deliver their offspring. Their young ones are healthy, they grow strong…” (Job 39:1-4).

Learning Responsibility on the Homestead

The other morning, Papa Homesteader and I were in the throes of trying to resolve a small homesteading crisis (our solar panels were not charging properly, so we awoke to no power … not even enougn to start the backup generator). In the midst of the unexpected delay from our other responsibilities and the inconvenience of things like the fridge and water pump for the toilet not working without power, we turned around to discover that J-Boy and Sweet-S (ages 5 and 7) had milked Sassafras our goat, of their own initiative and all by themselves! The smile that lit our hearts and faces was enough to power the whole homestead!๐Ÿ˜Š

And it was special encouragement for this Mama, who has been working with the boys to be diligent with their work. Sometimes it can feel like you are making very little progress, but then you turn around to discover sweet fruit like this and it is a reminder that we must “not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). 

Aren’t their smiles just heart-melting? ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’“

Homestead Happeningsย 

So, it has been awhile since I updated the blog, mostly because life has been so full, adjusting to life on the homestead. In many ways, it seems like the boys (Daddy included๐Ÿ˜‰) thrive in this “pioneering,” off-the-grid environment. For me, admittedly, it has been much more of an adjustment… and I feel God is using it to mold character and contentment in my heart. I am realizing afresh that contentment is not found in a circumstance, or in everything going as I think I would like it, but in Christ alone. Also, I am learning that Joy is something we choose, not just something that always spontaneously happens… and I think it springs from a thankful heart. I am seeing that taking my thoughts (and words) captive to the obedience of Christ, is key to my joy and peace, and ultimately to daily victory and success. This is true anywhere that we are in life, but it seems that it becomes even more needful when we are in unfamiliar, uncomfortable or overwhelming situations–which homesteading definitely qualifies as all of these for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

As we are out and about, I am somewhat surprised and even humored by the enthusiastic responses we get from people of all walks of life when they hear we are homesteading off-the-grid this summer. More often than not they exclaim wistfully, “Oh! That must be so wonderful! I have always wanted to do that!” As I look at a purple-haired youth who is attached to his cell phone, or an older person with obvious aches from aging, I often wonder quietly to myself, What is it about this kind of lifestyle that you have always wanted to do??? 

It is true that there are some lovely aspects of life on the homestead: beautiful sunrises and sunsets, stunning star filled skies at night, freshly laid chicken eggs, foamy goat’s milk, a classroom full of God’s amazing wonders all around us … and perhaps best of all, wide open space and freedom from the confines of city life. But just as real is slimy chicken poop, stinky billy goats, animals that need to be fed and watered two times a day, overwhelming heat–or cold (sometimes all in the same day!), heavy buckets of water to haul, the frusteration–er, challenge ๐Ÿ˜‰–of trying to figure out how to do the most basic things without many modern conveniences–like baking bread on a grill, or washing clothes in a bucket, or trying to keep food from spoiling in a teeny, tiny, tempermental fridge that somedays just decides not to work … and just the general time it takes to keep the animals fed, the homestead running, and things halfway clean … and still move forward on the never-ending “homesteading to-do list.” ๐Ÿ˜„

I am learning that I can focus on the difficulties and challenges, or I can choose to be thankful when everything seems overwhelming and chaotic, and when my body is completely exhausted but there is still more work to do. And I am humbled to realize that this attitude of thankfulness does not come naturally to me. In fact, homesteading more than any other thing I have experienced up to this point in my life,  has shown me just how much I often I lack joy, thankfulness and contentment. And while it has not necessarily been smooth and easy, I thank the Lord for the purifying and transforming work He is doing in my heart through the daily joys and challenges of homesteading to bring me to a deeper place of yieldedness, surrender and ultimately, contentment. Like the homestead, it is a work in progress. ๐Ÿ™‚

“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

Morning on the Homestead

Here is a real life glimpse into my morning here on the homestead: the chickens are out and already laying eggs, the laundry still needs to be taken off the line from yesterday, the dog thinks he belongs in my lap (with muddy paws no less ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿถ), the boys (though out of the photo) are already up and full of energy ๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿ‘ฆ … but my Bible in my lap, a cup of coffee and cookies, and a beautiful sunrise are a blessed way to start the day before all the busyness and hectic juggling begins. ๐Ÿ˜Š

We are also excited because this morning we got our first “big egg” from our chickens. It takes about 5 months until chickens start to lay eggs, and then for the first few weeks they lay very small pullet eggs (see photo to see the size comparison). 

But not only did we get our first regular-sized egg today, but it was also a double-yolker!! ๐Ÿ˜Š We celebrated with mexican scrambled eggs in burritos for breakfast, cooked in a cast iron skillet, of course.

This is a small glimpse into some of the simple joys of the homestead. ๐Ÿ™‚