Sunday, March 1, 2015

Waiting Around

Our goats are 8 weeks overdue.

Ok, that's silly obviously. Most likely not overdue at all. But might as well be.

Here's the short of it: The does we were milking last year dried up (stopped producing milk) gradually, after we bred them this fall. We were hoping to milk them through January, but it was not to be. And a little break from milking was nice and needed anyway. However, the demand for our goat's milk products (and lotion especially) continued. And since I will only use fresh, raw milk in my lotions I was out of luck. Since a goat's gestation is 5 months, our goats weren't due until March. That's a long time to keep faithful lotion customers waiting. So I decided to purchase a couple more does in early January. These does had been running with a buck since August, so we figured -great- babies (and milk) in January, or at the very latest, February.

And here we are on the eve of March 2. No babies. Now, I know and trust the farmer we purchased them from, and I do know for a fact that they're bred- I can feel the babies kicking on their right side (the left side is rumen activity which can be mistaken for babies kicking). So what we have here is not an abnormally long gestation or even a case of a sterile buck. Perhaps just a buck that wasn't persistent enough. Lol.

Because we don't know the date, we've been doing barn checks every two hours since early January. Yes, every. two. hours. since. early. January. -because sometimes babies can come quickly and with little warning. I must admit though, that I don't do middle of the night checks. I mean I have, but I stopped. I have a baby that nurses much of the night. So between him, and barn checks, Mama wasn't gettin' any sleep.  However if I saw imminent signs (like those discussed below), obviously I'd do what I had to do. But really, I'm hoping and praying for daytime babies. They're just so much more convenient.
It's funny, just like I was in my ninth month pregnant with all my babies, I'm starting to think the day will   N E V E R  C O M E . 
But that's silly too. It always does.

So what signs of labor are we checking for? (And this is the part where I may lose some of you. I understand. It's not everybody's thing.)  

Here is what we check for at Dandelion's Acre Farm: 

1. A filling udder. This usually means labor is now-36 hours away. Although some udders don't fill until after birth.

2. Loose ligaments (when their tail-head becomes so soft that you can touch fingers when you grasp around it.

3. This book:
 (which I really enjoy and recommend, by the way) explains that an old way to tell if labor is coming is to feel the right side of the goat (like I explained earlier) and if you feel no babies squirming or kicking then that means that they've moved up into the birth canal and birth should be 8-12 hours away. I'm not so sure about this one, but I'm trying it out to see anyway. 

4. White discharge which could mean labor is just beginning or will begin in the next 12-24 hrs, or a string of mucous which means that you better holler for someone to bring the boiling water, 'cause it be soon.

Just kidding. No boiling water needed. Holler for molasses water instead. Mama goats like their molasses water. :)

5. Quirky behavior -when in labor, pawing, pacing, circling, or simply standing pitifully and staring morosely into your eyes as if pleading, "please do something, man, this is no fun", are all examples of the behavior of a goat in labor. Seriously though, goats are quirky creatures anyway, so who knows.

All these signs may vary from goat to goat, so really there is no foolproof way to tell (other than that lovely mucous string I mentioned previously).

I'm also convinced that a true knowing that "this is the day!" comes with time and experience. And even then, experienced farmers have sometimes been duped, which is why most goat owners watch the heat cycles of their does so they know when a buck is needed and can witness the breeding. That way they can pin an actual due date on their doe.

So we wait. And continue barn checks. And in the meantime, the  ladies I bred in the fall will start kidding this month as well. It will be a busy one. And the temperature is said to get above freezing this week, so hooray for that, at least.

And I'm just salivating thinking of all that fresh milk.


Monday, February 16, 2015


The babies are asleep at the same time, so I after making a mad dash for some coffee, I sat down to this computer. I had permaculture on my mind. Land development, sustainability, crops, fruit trees, and livestock were on the tip of my tingling (gosh, I love nap time) fingers waiting to be punched into a search engine. I'm a geek for such things.
But a headline caught my eye. A MESSAGE SIGNED WITH BLOOD TO THE NATION OF THE CROSS, showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped in Libya. I didn't watch the video. I had no desire to. I am sick over the headline alone.
Sick, and helpless.
What can I do? How can I speak of planting orchards while people are being brutally murdered for their love of Jesus? What can I do, a mother of young children still at home? What can I do.
I can teach my sons to be bold and strong, truth- speaking leaders in their home and in their community and for their country. I can teach my daughters to do right, and stand up for what they believe and be courageous in this world.

I can teach them that there is a difference between right and wrong and that it doesn't stop at our doorstep. It must be carried with them, no matter how trivial, no matter the cost, and wherever they are.

I can teach my children to grow a love for Jesus so big that they too would be willing to die for him.

And if I ever became a mother that had to witness her son or daughter die for Jesus, I pray I would choose death for Jesus over life for the world.

This is not a political blog. Although I have a great love for people, I have little interest in politics, nor do I have the knowledge required to compose a political blog that would be worth any read at all. So I'll stop there at the risk of sounding silly.
But the world is evil, my friends. And that is nothing new.

I'm going to stop writing and pray. Because that's something I can do.

Please join me.

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come." Matthew 24:14


Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day

19 (NINETEEN), years ago he asked me to be his Valentine. Whoa. Nineteen short years ago, I went to bed under my parent's roof a girl of seventeen dreaming of a blonde headed green eyed boy who had just asked me to be his Valentine. I said yes. And then I said Yes to being his bride, the maker of his home, the mother of his children, his partner for life.

And pshaw, I had no idea what that meant. I was but a starry eyed girl.

But tomorrow will be our nineteenth Valentine's Day together. Our 16th as husband and wife. For better or worse. And really, it's been mostly for better. Because he's held my hand as I've delivered his seven children, just as he's held my hand while he prays over our family at the dinner table. And how do you do better than that?

And even though it took him most of those years and many lovely bouquets of roses to figure out that I really prefer wildflowers, and even though I'm just now learning to open up and communicate when I'm mad rather than withdraw into myself and frustrate him further, and even though we still quarrel over too many of the stupid intricacies that come from raising a family and doing life together, I see a beautiful partnership in us that was not there in the beginning. The beginning when we could stare into each other's eyes for a lifetime and talk on the phone for hours. Those early, silly, fluttery, desperate-to-be-together days. We were just breaking ground then. And there've since been years of foundation laying that doesn't come easily or go together well without hard labor. Hard labor and hard laughter and yes, even victory over hard times is a great combination for a strong foundation. And although mistakes have been made and words spoken in anger that shouldn't have been, it was all just part of the navigating.

And now we're just into the getting older and familiar. We know what the other is thinking, we're comfortable and safe and feel wiser with each other (not a boring comfortable and safe, a close-ness). We forgive and move on quicker, we know how to approach sensitivities and vulnerabilities with a little more tact. We're not there yet. The there where we've got it all together. Sometimes I feel maybe we're almost there and then the pure. stinking. human-ness. of one or the other takes us back a step.

And so, because we're human, we may never get there this side of heaven.

But tomorrow will be out 19th Valentine's together. And I think that's pretty good. And I think more marriages should work harder past the foundation-building to see the beauty of the design coming together.

But I'm not here to get preachy, 'cause I don't have the answers. And everyone's marriage has variables unique to them. And I'm no expert, because in the scope of an entire life together, 19 years is a blip. So I guess what I'm saying is, Happy Valentine's Day. Love is wondrous. Hold on to it. Work for it. Fight for it. Pray for it. For better or worse.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Messy Chickens

Our project this weekend was to contain the chickens. Up until December, they'd been boarding in the moveable coop Joe built two Springs ago. But this coop isn't good for winter weather and temps in the teens and below. So we moved them into the barn with the goats. This solution was perfect. Until they realized they didn't actually have to stay in with the goats and could squeeze through or fly over the fencing anytime they chose and make an absolute mess of the rest of the barn. And let me tell you, we only have fifteen fourteen laying hens, one Cornish rock meat hen that managed to escape two years ago and has taken up quite well with her egg-laying sisters, and one big 'ol rooster who disappeared all Fall and reappeared when our other rooster kicked the bucket. But 16 chickens is plenty enough chickens for disaster.
Chickens are funny. Chickens are messy. And in no time my barn was littered with chicken poop. Poop on the milking stands (no way, Hosea)  poop on the floor, poop on the feeders, poop on the goats, poop everywhere. Hay was scattered from their constant scratching in it, even the shelf where I keep supplies didn't escape their trolloping ways. They tore apart feed bags, tipped over garbages, (did I mention all the poop?!). Every day, a new mess to clean up. It was like letting toddlers run amuck in Grandmother's parlor. Very naughty toddlers.

It had to stop.

We hmmed and hawed about just where to put these chickens for the remainder of the winter and decided on a side compartment of the barn. Three sides sheltered, one open. Not ideal, they may get cold, but we'll use deep bedding to keep them snug and happy, and out of trouble. My handyman went to work right away. Luckily we had these cattle panels just laying around, and in no time flat he had an efficient little temporary pen built where the chickens will spend the rest of their winter vacation. Not sure what I'd do without his mad skills. I pretty much just stood and directed. And played in the hay with the chickens. Oh, and we also clipped their wings (for those concerned, it doesn't hurt them a bit), so there will be no flying the coop.

 The gaps in the panels were still too large, so this man painstakingly tied wire in between each one, and in like 10 minutes. Notice the blurred hands. He's quick. I'd still be out there cursing that wire if it'd been me.
 Check out that old stone wall behind the chickens. It's just so cool to think of the hardworking hands that layed that barn foundation so many, many years ago. Mad skills indeed.
Sleeping baby Lucas. Usually he's cozy and covered with the afghan his Grandma crocheted for him. But I wanted a picture of these feet first. Perfection.

Looking out my kitchen window. Pretty snow.

Charlotte and her Mom




Monday, February 9, 2015

Prayers For a Good Day

Already, I knew it was going to be one of those days. 
I sank down behind the quiet of a locked bedroom door and the first words that poured desperately from my mouth were, "Dear Lord Jesus, please, please let this be an easy day."  

But even as they left my mouth, I knew these were the wrong words. Because in this stage of life, and in many other seasons as well, there really are no easy days. But there can always be good days.

So what came to me instead was really what I needed:

Let my prayer be for a joyful attitude. Joy for all that surrounds me, even messes. Lego messes, food messes, laundry messes, school messes, relationship messes, heart messes. All.

For patience and strength, and the wisdom to know that adversity makes me stronger and wiser, sometimes crazier, but always more dependent on Him.

For character humble and meek. Knowing that it's not always my will that's best.

For wisdom. And everyday knowing that any small victory won or lost is not necessarily an indication of my parenting ability.

For self-control. Strength to harness both my thoughts and my actions. And to quiet my tongue especially.

And lastly and most definitely, thankfulness- for it all.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015


The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

-Emily Bronte 



Every once in a while I get out of the kitchen and onto the farm, and these are my most favorite moments of all.
Well, almost my most favorite moments...


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Goals for 2015

As I walk through the every day, every hour, every minute, demands of being a mother to lots of kids, a nurse, and a small scale farmer, my mind is a slave to all that I still want to do. I have a great life. I have a hard-working husband who is strong in faith and character. I have 7 lovely children who challenge me daily with their health of mind and body, I live in an old, drafty, perfect farmhouse on a quaint little farm I've dreamed of since childhood. I have a small circle of friends and family who love, encourage, and accept me. I have little money, but learned long ago to be happy with that. And I have big plans and a sometimes grandiose imagination.

So with that, I give you my 2015 goals for Dandelion's Acre Farm:

1. Successfully raise 300 Cornish Rocks and 60 Freedom Ranger chickens on pasture, GMO-free feed, and old fashioned sunshine without going broke. Process these birds as a family while not damaging my children's psyche or my husband's sanity, and sell approximately 300 of them to happy customers.

2.Watch, and participate if needed, in the birth of bleating baby goats. Kids are due in January and March, and possibly June. Maintain herd health.
3.Happily begin and end my first season in the practice of goat "sharing". I vow to keep my customers happy with clean, fresh, wonderful milk, home-crafted soap, and a smile. 

4. Bottle-raise the kids, disbud, wether, and vaccinate, and sell most at approximately 3 weeks old as bottle babies (aka, before the two legged kids get too attached). Retain possibly one or two doelings.

5. Pastured Pigs. (that is all.) Quantity to be decided. And pasture space and fencing and pen to be decided as well. Oh dear. Pigs may be skipped this year. Or maybe just one or two for the family. They EAT (the family and the pigs).

6. Research a cold-hardy breed of laying hen and acquire approximately 20 more. We have 17. Seventeen beautiful, healthy, young, and worthless laying hens (the variety pack, they said) who apparently stop laying between the months of September and... well, still not laying. Yes, they have light, and food, and water, and shelter, and nesting boxes, and roosting bars... oh, these chickens have frustrated me. Plan to forgo beauty and go for productive. Because man, we go through a LOT of eggs.

7. The garden. The GARDEN. We planted last Spring where the pigs had been over the winter, and man, was it beautiful. Loamy, thick, rich soil it was. But we soon learned this gorgeous earth was also full of weed seeds that the pig snouts had dug under and rooted to the surface. Because Wow. Now admittedly, I had a baby in June. So, ya know, it just didn't get the attention it should have. But we mulched the rows heavily, knowing I wouldn't be so diligent in the garden with a newborn to fatten. 18-24 inches of mulch (that's many, many hours of mulching btw) and still, weeds sprang and grew overnight taller than me.
My garden has been a discouragement ever since we moved to this here weedy farm. Perhaps it be time for raised beds. So, raised beds (in bold).

8. Bees! Order them for May. Learn all you can before that. Keep them alive long enough to enjoy their honey. Harvest beeswax for Dandelion's Acre salves.

9. This blog. C'mon. It's been trying to come back to life for a few years now. Just like this old farm. They'll come together, I think. And beginning this year.