Friday, August 17, 2018

A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday to you! What a week we had! Getting our hay (and a flat tire) and starting preparations for our soon-to-begin twenty-first (!) year of homeschooling and celebrating a birthday and going to appointments along with all of the regular things that fill our days. Whew! I like to keep happy-busy but this past week did require a lot more time away from the homestead than I prefer.

The medical appointment that our daughter and I attended together on her nineteenth birthday will never be forgotten, I daresay... neither by us nor the medical professional involved. Such a mix of laughter and tears it was! And the appointment we had today to follow-up on that birthday appointment left us with mixed feelings and much to pray about and sort through and discuss and consider.

It all makes me abundantly grateful for the wonderful relationship this daughter of mine and I have together. So grateful!

We are thankful that she is perfectly healthy in every way... and also processing the reality of a newly discovered congenital condition that she has that will likely affect her ability to bear children one day. (I am sharing that information with her approval.) And this dear young woman has always - for as long as I can remember - said that her heart's desire is to be a wife and a mama of six... oh, how my own heart aches for her tonight, as she clings to her faith and trust in Jesus with her usual genuine cheerfulness.

Perhaps the Lord will lead me to go into her condition a bit more in this space one day as she has encouraged me to, but I think that is enough for now. It's really her story to tell, should she ever choose to share it. Thank you for praying for us and especially for her, friends, as we digest all of this and consider our/her options and lean on and love one another like we always do. {smile}

And in spite of all of that, her birthday was joyous and we had a celebration with cake and presents and all the usual fun. We do know how to party around here, ha!

Here are a few more things from my gratitude list this week~

:: five tons of hay all stacked and ready for winter ::

:: the many hummingbirds on our feeder this week ::

:: lingering wildflowers that remain in the pastures of our homestead ::

:: the mule deer bucks that we have been keeping an eye on all summer ::

And I am still savoring the moments I had to hoopdance in the out-of-doors this week. Happiness!

I am also thankful for the mundane beauty of everyday life...
online sermons...
that I chose to recover from my eating disorder...
for a cute top that I found second-hand this week...
for my dog and his never ending loyal friendship...
that it is cool outside at the time of day that I do my running...
that a friend gave us a frozen turkey...
that God will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6)...
for coffee with goat milk sipped with my hubby or my daughter or just me and my thoughts...
that my getting older cow-friend Matilda is healthy and strong...
and that my hubby still has a happy twinkle in his eye when he looks at me after all of these many years together. *blush*

Thanks so much for coming by my blog today. 💟

Wishing you a lovely weekend wherever you are~

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Coffee, Crochet, and Hummingbirds

For my birthday last January, one of our boys gave me two skeins of yarn that he chose because he thought I would like them. I do! It blesses my heart to envision him standing in the yarn aisle at the craft store choosing yarn for his mama's birthday. 💕

And the time has come for me to put those chosen-with-love skeins of yarn to use.

I have been mostly knitting lately, and thought it would be nice to switch to crochet for my next project. And I decided to make a cozy shawl for myself. Because autumn is on its way and shawls are cute and comfy. I like to wear a shawl rather than a traditional coat quite often, and shawls are one of my favorite items to craft.

And I really do plan to keep this one for myself since my boy chose the yarn just for me!

Over the weekend, my dear hubby and I took our coffee and my two skeins of yarn and my crochet hook and camera to the deck, and I scooted my chair near to the hummingbird feeder. Our homestead is along the hummingbirds' migration route and we have been seeing lots of them these past few days drinking nectar from our feeder and perched upon our fence.

Our tribe was yet asleep inside as we sat and talked and I got a few rows done on my shawl (it is a lovely start!) and I sipped my delicious dark roast coffee with goat milk. Before long, a sweet little hummingbird whizzed to the feeder for a drink.

Wow. I love these tiny little creatures. They are so cute.

I would say that the coffee and crochet and hummingbirds combination made those weekend morning moments on the deck with my man extra special. So glad we took the time to enjoy them!

Wishing you a lovely day where you are.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Our Hay-Getting Adventure

How thrilled I was when my dear hubby told me that one of his weekend projects was to be getting our winter hay supply! It thrills me nearly as much as having a full pantry and freezer to have a full stack of hay in place to keep our critters warm and cozy and fed through the winter.

We still have about a ton of hay left from what we purchased last summer. The wet spring and resulting green pastures were such a blessing and really cut down on the amount of hay we needed to feed our animals at that time.

And we have become much more diligent and careful about how our hay is stored and handled and used as bedding... and in a windy area like ours, that really cuts down on how much is wasted by blowing away.

We were pretty happy about having a ton of hay left over. That is a first for us!

So we discussed the matter and decided to purchase five tons this year, which would bring us to about six tons going into autumn and winter. That is a bit more than we may need, but we would rather err on the side of too much rather than not enough.

And you just never know when or if the Lord will bless us with the additional goats we would like to add to our farm... or maybe even another cow. Yes, we have discussed perhaps adding another cow to our happy gentle homestead should one that is just right for us become available. *Swoon!*

Hubby and helpers picked up some of the hay on Saturday. By Sunday afternoon, there was but one more trip to make to retrieve the bales from the field where our hay grower had left them for us. So my dear hubby hooked up the trailer to our family vehicle - rather than his truck - so we could all go along!

It has become an unofficial tradition, the whole lot of us going along to pick up the last of the hay. It doesn't always work out for our whole tribe to tag along, but we all love it when it does.

It was fun to romp in the field together and let our wild ones run free and explore and play. A paved path alongside the hay field made it rather easy to enjoy a walkabout and have a peek at the trail side creek.

What a lovely discovery... wildflowers and a butterfly still thriving in the shade next to the shallow water.

The men of our tribe made quick work of loading the trailer.

And Jack took it all in, sniffing and exploring the unfamiliar field and soaking up the family fun. He was so excited to come with us for this outing... I do *love* him so much!

It was a short drive to return home again. And on the way home, we got a flat tire on the trailer. Such an unexpected bit of excitement!

It is a blessing that my dear hubby is a skilled mechanic *and* we had the spare tire and all of the tools he needed *and* the flat was on the side of the trailer that was away from the road. Thank you, Lord!

We have discussed perhaps rebuilding or even replacing our old second-hand trailer. It has served us well for many a year but isn't quite what we need for our homesteading tasks. Still, this is the first time we have gotten a flat tire when getting our hay.

This was my view of the smoke shrouded mountains in the distance while we were waiting from the safety of our vehicle for the tire to be changed. After that unexpected happening, it was an extra good feeling to get home again!

My hubby and our strong and willingly helpful boys are stacking the hay behind our feed shed this year, rather than beside the garage. It is a somewhat experimental decision, but we think it will make winter chores *much* easier and it also gives my hubby a handy place to push snow next to the garage this winter.

Hard to believe as we sit here with a 90 degree (F) day that soon we will be wondering where to put all of the snow!

Matilda seems rather pleased with this year's hay crop. So happy I am! It is largely for her, after all. {smile}

So we got our hay! Winter preps have officially begun around here, that big one is finished, the bales are nearly stacked, and our hay-getting adventure had a happy ending after being much more exciting than we had anticipated. Lots to be grateful for, and we are. {smile} 🌻


Friday, August 10, 2018

A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday to you, dear friends. I am quite chuffed that we have had a week of hummingbirds bustling about the feeder and perching on the fence! They surprise me each year with their fierceness toward one another as they vie for sole ownership of our outdoor yard space and the nectar we provide for them.

Such a thrill it is to see them... one, two, sometimes three at a time... flitting about the yard and surrounding area. After only seeing one or two hummingbirds all summer it is quite a treat to enjoy all of the recent activity.

And it was such a highlight for me this week to harvest the tiny patch of grain that was growing behind Matilda's building and add it to a batch of my homemade sourdough bread! It was a bring-me-to-tears moment of gratitude and disbelief and joy to remove the loaves from the oven after dreaming of just such a thing for so many years!

I have finally baked a batch of homemade bread with homegrown grain. A teeny tiny step toward self-sufficiency and a true celebration of the simple homesteading life. And that sourdough bread with a hint of barley was absolutely delicious!

Here are a few more snippets from my ongoing gratitude list this week~

:: Minimalism. I sorted through my own clothes and drawers and even my box of headcoverings to winnow out that which was no longer my taste, worn out, or poorly fitting. How lovely to be finished with such a task and now be able to assess what I need and want to fill the gaps in my simple modest and minimal wardrobe.

I am excited about finding and making clothes for myself to fit me in this happy place my body has settled and will likely remain at, and as I mentioned here, I love being plus sized and quite enjoy my unique and thrifty and yes, rather picky, style.

And our children did the same, each of them sorting through their closets and drawers and ending up with their own piles of worn out and outgrown clothing. And then we were blessed with a bag full of hand-me-downs from a sweet friend that contained several cute things in needed sizes to replace much of what we got rid of. Isn't that amazing? God's timing is always perfect.

I have learned through the years and God's continual provision that it is silly to worry about anything. Worry is fearful, worry tries to control the outcome, worry suggests that I know how things should be. Why worry when God is in control? I take my concerns to Him and do my best to leave them there... within God's will is the best place to be, I have read and agree. He is trustworthy. {smile}

:: Sweetness. What a blessing to see two mama deer with three spotted young fawns right outside our window as my dear hubby and I sipped coffee the other morning. The cuteness... squee!

:: Books. I finished reading Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley. What a wonderful book! I'm so glad one of my girls recommended it to me. We are reading through the Little House series (again) during our daily read aloud time. Our children and I never tire of that series and I have found the books even more interesting after taking a class about the writing life of Laura Ingalls Wilder a couple of years ago. And in my personal quiet time, I am reading in the book of Leviticus.

There is a definite August feel to the air at our place now. A slight shift in the way the sky looks... a perceptible nip in the morning air. I do love it. The cozy days of autumn and the excitement of another homeschooling year are just around the corner! In the meantime, I will savor these remaining days of summer and enjoy what is right now. And what is right now, at this moment, is good.

Life on the farm is good!

Thanks so much for coming by my blog today. I wish you much gratitude and a wonderful weekend where you are.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Homemade Sourdough Bread with Homegrown Grain

Way back when, in my earliest days of homemaking and bread baking, when the homesteading bug had just begun to nip at me and make its way into my hopes and dreams, I decided that I would someday like to move to the country and eventually bake a batch of bread with grain I had grown myself.

In those thoughts of long ago, I envisioned a large stand of wheat that would supply me with all the flour I would need for my baking. The passing years and our growing family adjusted that lofty ambition a bit. And we have learned through time and experience that the twenty rocky mountainside acres that the Lord blessed us with almost eighteen years ago aren't very cooperative when it comes to gardening.

A wheat field to supply much of our large family's needs just isn't practical for us. Especially since I make all of our bread and most of our other baked things and therefore bake several times a week. We go through lots and lots of wheat and oats and other whole grains around here!

And yet... that long ago young homemaker's hope and dream of baking with homegrown grain wasn't forgotten.

So when I was puttering about the barnyard recently and discovered a tiny volunteer stand of grain growing near our compost heap I was *thrilled* beyond measure!

Did our lovely hens plant it for me as they scratched at and scattered their organic feed in the area of our compost heap? Perhaps. And the *very* wet spring we had on our homestead just may have helped it along.

At first I thought it was a wee crop of wheat... now I am thinking it is actually barley. Regardless, I wasn't going to miss the chance to harvest some homegrown grain at last and bake bread with it.

The other day, I noticed that it looked ready enough so I cut the stalks and brought them into the house to dry before something else munched them down. There have been so many beautiful deer on our property and I didn't want to share my homegrown grain with them... sorry, deer! {smile}

So as I sipped on my coffee this morning, I rubbed each dry stalk between my hands and the lovely grains fell to the table. I picked through the chaff and ended up with a teeny tiny harvest.

Then I added the homegrown grain to the purchased wheat berries that I was grinding into flour. My homegrown harvest was but a tiny part of what I milled today, but every single bit of that bounty is in there.

I made my usual five loaf batch of whole grain sourdough bread.

Ta-da! Oh how lovely they look and how delicious they smell! I could not possibly be happier with them. And I do think they smell ever so slightly of barley. {smile}

It is such a dream come true to include even a tiny bit of homegrown grain in my homemade bread, friends. And the feeling of joy and contentment I have in achieving this desire that took root in my homesteading heart so so long ago is amazingly sweet indeed.


Friday, August 3, 2018

A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday evening to you, friends! What a lovely day it was for me... our grown daughter was home for the day to celebrate her twenty-seventh birthday with us. Oh my, I can hardly believe it has been twenty-seven years since I gave birth to our oldest girl only eight minutes after I walked into the hospital!

So glad we made it in time. The doctor didn't... but those nurses were awesome. {smile} What a memory!

Here are a few more snippets from my ongoing gratitude list this week~

:: Flowers from my dear hubby. Just because... 💕 I often wonder just how I could be so blessed to be the wife of my wonderful man. He is a treasure. God is so good to me!

:: Broadway musicals. They are so interesting to me! I really love keeping up with the Broadway scene and the plays and the dancers and actors and such from afar. Traveling to NYC (or anywhere else!) doesn't interest me at all in this season of life, but I still find it all so fascinating and fun.

:: My buddy Jack. I love my dog so. much. {smile} Here he is with his tongue hanging out sitting like a good boy atop the family rock in our back pasture. The family rock is enormous and the whole lot of us... all ten of our tribe... have stood upon it together several times through the years.

:: A regular hummingbird. Each day for the past several days we have seen a hummingbird sipping from our hummingbird feeder. So glad! They have been rather scarce this year at our place.

I wish you a cup brimful of gratitude, my friends, and I thank you for coming by my blog today. Have a nice weekend ~


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What a Year

It was a year ago today that I felt prompted to resume blogging. I do find joy in sharing snippets of myself and glimpses of our large family's simple homesteading life in this space. And I am pleased that today I am still enthusiastic about it all as I type post number 503 at the beginning of this blog's second year.

Yes, 503! Added to this blog's 219 posts are the 178 posts I wrote this past year on Run Hoop Julie (which will celebrate its blog-anniversary in a week) and the 106 posts on Images of a Happy Gentle Life (my photography focused space on the blogosphere that I began last February).

I do like to write, I guess. {smile} Thank you so much for joining me in those places and this one, my sweet blog friends.

There have been many, many wonderful days and memories made in this past year. And difficulties and challenges, too. I've shared my heart and thoughts and recipes and adventures with the world. I've focused on the positive, as much as possible. I hope my blogs are a tool that God is using to shape me into all that He created me to be. They do indeed remind me to be thankful and present in my day.

Mostly, I am pleased that writing in this space and the others has developed in me the courage to be myself and what I like to think of as the superpower of authenticity. I am far from perfect, I would rather be real. Real is good. Perfect is over-rated.

As I think about homesteading, I am still excited. This summer has been one of refreshing and renewal around here... of sprucing up, of discussing our homestead hopes and dreams that remain after these many years on our land.

I want to return to some of the habits of our earlier years on the farm... to increase our self-sufficiency a bit and also just because we find it a very rewarding way of life. Simple living, thrift and frugality, made from scratch, natural and crafty and earthy. The animals on our farm sanctuary are getting older and we have been discussing just what kind of critters we want to add to our place next. We want to get more goats, for sure!

And I have an announcement to make.

After an almost three year plant-based vegan journey with all kinds of ups-and-downs, I am not going to live a vegan lifestyle anymore. This is a well thought out and prayed about decision and I am just going to leave it there without excuses. My vegan story has come to its final end. I want to be a girl who eats everything without rules or labels. I'm sure many of my vegan tendencies and habits and preferences will remain and I have great respect for the lifestyle, but I am no longer vegan.

Right now, our homestead is a farm sanctuary and these animals will live out their natural lives with us, Lord willing. I am using our surplus chicken and duck eggs for baking and eating, I want to milk goats again and make cheese and yogurt... but I do not know what the future holds for us in our barnyard.

I love animals, I want to always have lots of them around whether it be a rescue situation or another purpose... I trust God and my dear hubby's leading in those decisions. And in everything else. {smile}

Thank you for coming by my blog today friends. What a year it has been! And into the next one we go, with joyful authenticity and hearts that trust the Lord...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

End of July on the Homestead

Our loyal senior cat Stinky Winky keeping watch over the barnyard in the evening light.

A friendly moment shared between my two bestest animal friends, Jack and Matilda. 💕 Oh, how I love these two!

Dwindling wildflowers in the pasture. And a few more of them - here.

Farm fresh eggs from our well-loved hens. Using and eating surplus eggs from our homestead farm sanctuary's own hens is a blessing and does not compromise my own personal vegan convictions and beliefs a bit.

Our hens have amazing lives with us and freedom to safely roam our barnyard and they lay according to their natural rhythms. It would be silly to let their eggs go to waste, I think.

A sweet moment between Bailey and Clementine, our rescued Pygmy goats. We don't know with certainty, but it is quite likely that they are mother and daughter.

Pretty purple flowers growing atop by thriving patch of spearmint.

And the first sign of autumn's approach has been discovered on our homestead! While on a walkabout around the pasture last evening, my dear hubby and I discovered some leaves that have begun to don their fall colors.

It was a productive month on our homestead... in July we finished our painting projects and tended to some extra cleaning and de-cluttering and needed repairs around the homestead. And we managed to get away for a couple of day trip adventures and picnics and afternoons at the park, too. A rather good mix of work and play indeed!

And into August we go... 🍂

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday to you, friends. Just a moment ago, as I was preparing to begin my gratitude post and reflecting upon the goodness and blessings of this week, a hummingbird came to the feeder that is directly out the window before me. Oh, what a wonderful treat! Hummingbird sightings have been oddly rare thus far this summer, so I am hopeful that perhaps that is about to turn around and we will once again have regular visitors to our feeder before the season passes.

As I have shared with you all, I often enjoy listening to sermons online throughout the week. And I have a favorite pastor from Oregon that I especially love... his teaching style is a wonderful match for my understanding and comprehension and his messages and insights have enabled me to grow greatly as a believer.

But I have gotten a bit behind in my listening. It has been niggling at me (thank you, Lord!) so this morning I decided to listen to a sermon rather than music while I did my morning run.

And wow, just wow. You know how sometimes it is as if the words that God brings to your ears are meant just for you, and speak perfectly to your needs and situation? Well, that is just what happened to me today. I was so grateful! And the amazing thing is that I needed those words *today* so it actually was a good thing that I was a bit behind in my listening.

I truly felt washed by the word today. As though the bits of anxiety and other icky-ness that I had inadvertently allowed to creep into my thoughts were swept away and replaced by Truth. I am so refreshed and encouraged and oh-so thankful for it. {smile}

And I enjoyed a lovely run in the out-of-doors with Jack beside me and our goats looking on. It was a very good start to the day and end to my planned running for the week.

Here are a few more snippets from my ongoing gratitude list this week~

:: Deer. We are still seeing lots of them around our farm sanctuary homestead. So pretty they are!

:: Priorities. It wasn't an easy decision to winnow down my social media presence to just one platform. But sometimes such things are necessary for any number of reasons and I have such peace and joy about eliminating distractions and simply focusing on the one that I enjoy the most.

:: Blogging. In just a few days, this blog and then Run Hoop Julie will both be a year old. And Images of a Happy Gentle Life is nearly at its half-birthday. This makes me so happy... I really enjoy blogging. I like taking pictures and planning posts and writing and editing and web design. All of it!

But even more than that, I love the positive effect that blogging has on every part of my life. My blogs inspire me to notice things, to pay attention, to make-and-do things, to be creative. They help me to be organized and manage my time. They are an outlet for my thoughts and creativity and show me how far I have come and how far I have yet to go.

They contain memories and hopes and dreams. They keep me humble. They make me brave. They help me to celebrate the simple and ordinary life that I have been blessed with. My one unique and wonderful journey of being.

My blogs are a place to store recipes that my kids say they want to make someday. And to chronicle our homesteading adventures and snippets of all the wonders of daily life in this large family of ours.

And I do so love being a part of this blogosphere that is laden with lovely and interesting people who simply want to share a bit of themselves, their talents, their struggles, their stories.

If you enjoy reading any of my posts or visiting my blogs, I sincerely thank you for stopping by. Lord willing, I intend to continue my blogging endeavors for a long long time to come. {smile}

:: Compost heap wheat. What a discovery! I have a miniature stand of homegrown wheat thriving behind Matilda's building!

If the deer don't get to it first, I hope to harvest it and grind my own homegrown wheat to add to my homemade bread.

That is one of my long-time homesteading dreams... way back when, before we had even found our land and still lived in town, I dreamt of making a batch of bread from homegrown wheat. All of these years later, that dream just might become a reality!

Whether it does or not, this wee surprise has reignited in me the desire to grow some of our own food here on our twenty-acre homestead.

Thank you for coming by my blog today, friends. 💛 I wish you a lovely day and a cup brimful of gratitude wherever you are.