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Monday, January 28, 2013


Fourteen of the last 20 days, I've been gone.  First, at my Rural Leadership seminar.  Then to visit my beloved southern family (my mom, brother, sista (my affectionate name for my sister-in-law, even though they live in the south, they are not related), and nephew.  And finally, to attend the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society's annual Winter Conference.

And although Hubby may be many wonderful things, a housekeeper he is not.

I'll spare you the graphic details, but I'll just say that I need to so some housecleaning.  Deep down, little-boy-bathroom housecleaning.  Deep down, husband-cooking-kitchen housecleaning.  I think you get my drift...

So, today I'm cleaning.

But I'll be back with news from the conference, ode to a crockpot, website information, and a rant about being a lunatic.

See?  So much to look forward to!

Until then, I'll be scrubbing...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Year, A New Quiet Time

Last year I had read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts and journaled my gifts during my quiet time. I also read Eugene Peterson's The Daily Message each day.

This year Hubby bought me a five year journal and Joyce Meyer's Love Out Loud devotional.

My focus this year is LOVE, to love better, deeper and more "felt".  Does that make sense?  Probably not.  I want those I love to FEEL loved.  Part of this is due to the fact that my husband and I have completely opposite love languages.  What would completely knock my socks off in love and adoration means next to nothing to my husband.  And I need to remember that.

Also, I need to love God.  Not just in word, but in deed.  And I need to feel His love.  To know the many, many ways He loves me.

What are you working on for 2013?

Love each other.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Thrill of Organization!

I like to have a place for everything and everything in its place.

But I married a "I can't find it if I can't see it" kind of guy.

We struggle with this daily.

One of the biggest areas of struggle was the kids' coats, shoes, hats and mittens.

Enter the Fix-It Farmwife and her trusty drill, some coat hooks and crates.  This closet used to have coats on hangers.  I don't even like to hang a coat on a hanger, so my kiddos weren't about to start.  And besides, it was five feet in the air.

And now we have a place for everything!!

(We're working on the "everything in its place" part.)

I may be just a little bit excited about this.

But so is Kiddo2...

just look at that smile!  It says "Wow Mama, now I finally have a hook for my coat!  My life is complete."

Or, maybe it just says, "I've been playing with potato heads"...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doing the Impossible

Today I'm at our state's capitol doing the impossible.  Or, rather, what is impossible for me.  I'm going to propose legislation that impacts the future of our farm.  And I'm going to battle with a friend.  Someone I've known all my life.  Someone who sits behind me in church.  Someone who is a pillar of our church and our community.

And that someone is also a state senator who took this almost-bill and is helping me get my ducks in a row.

So, some prayers sent my way today would be greatly appreciated.  Prayer that I am coherent, compelling, convincing and courageous.

When I'd rather just be in the corner knitting...but that doesn't start with C.

Monday, January 21, 2013

She's 2!!

Yesterday we celebrated Kiddo3's birthday.  She's 2.

She had homegrown ham, smoked gouda scalloped potatoes and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for her birthday.

She found her presents and opened one early.  I only found out because she came out to the kitchen to throw away the wrapping paper.

Two years ago it was this cold, but we had much, MUCH more snow.  And the day we were supposed to come home from the hospital it was blowing so bad that Hubby and the other kids couldn't come get us.  We spent an extra night with our friends on the OB floor.

In the past two years this girl has brought an amazing dimension to our family.  She is our MOST child.    She is the most loud, most happy, most active, most messy, most destructive, most smiley, most loving person in our family.  

She is an early riser, almost always the first one out of bed.  She doesn't talk much (I think it's because she's waiting to get a word in between the talk of cowboys) but when she does, it amazes us.  She knows FAR more than what she lets on.  (We can't believe she knows the word "heavy" when trying to lift mom's computer bag.)

Happy Birthday, Note!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ask Annie Volume III

As is tradition, we've got some great questions to answer this week:

1.  Do chickens have a "scheduled" laying time.  We haven't figured out ours yet.  I have the kids running out there 3 times a day to try and get the eggs before they freeze!  I often have cracked, frozen eggs.

Hubby is in charge of all chicken management and right now he's ice fishing so I'll have to pinch hit for him.  He will correct me in the comments, if necessary.  So, here it goes.

The winter chore schedule is very different than the summer chore schedule.  Hubby goes out to "chore" around 10am.  This gives the morning hens a chance to lay some eggs.  He waters and feeds the hens and Patsy.  Then he waters the flerd and then comes in.  Probably about a half hour, if he's slow.  He does evening chores around 4:30 so that everyone can drink before the water freezes.  And Patsy and the chickens go to bed early so we want to give them time to eat as well.  He gathers the majority of the eggs at this time.  We don't have a problem with eggs freezing (usually) because our hoophouse is so warm during the day.

Frozen eggs are still edible.  If we have frozen eggs, we keep them for ourselves and in a separate kind of egg carton.  And we put them in there right away, while they are still frozen.  Sometimes the crack will come back together and be practically invisible and then you can't tell them apart from the un-frozen eggs.

2.  How do you find time to garden with small children?

Well, the first step is to be realistic.  Your garden will never look like Martha Stewart's.  Your plants will be stepped on, pulled up, nibbled on, and "loved" to death.  But we're not just growing vegetables, we're growing garden-loving kids.  And a large measure of grace is to be given to mamas and kiddos.  Grace to ourselves as mamas that there will be weeds and crooked rows and mistakes.  Grace to our kiddos as they learn about the garden, what they can and can not eat, what they can and can not pull up.  You'll learn together and soon they will love the garden just as much as you do.  My two older kids can help harvest vegetables and know the different kinds.  Kiddo3 is still a bit of a terror in the garden, but the great thing is that the older two are teaching her.  Kiddo1 helped me transplant all of our tomatoes and peppers.  She loves to help plant other seeds.  Kiddo2 is good at harvest, not such a fan of planting.  The best part is all the eating that goes on in the garden!  And in just a few short years, the little ones are big enough to be a real help...until then, grace to us all!

3.  What animals would you recommend for a family with small children, a need of further farm education, and plenty of space?

My advice, and this is completely my opinion so take it for whatever it's worth, start SMALL.  So many people start farming or move to the country and buy 50 llamas and 10 geese.  And then they sit and look at each other because there is no market for llamas and the geese eat all the flowers and poop on the porch.  Read, read and read.  Talk to people.  Go to small farm workshops and classes (I highly recommend Farm Beginnings).  Find a mentor that you can ask for help when your goat goes through the barb wire fence and you're not sure if she needs stitches or not.

And then there's what NOT to do:

Do NOT, under any circumstances, start with pets.  And by pets, I mean bottle lambs or calves.  They are expensive, time consuming and rapidly go from pet to pest.  If you want sheep, buy three or four bred ewes (mama sheep who are pregnant).  Or better yet, ask around if you can "rent" some for a summer to see if you like them.  Same thing with all other livestock.  Start with a few and see how it goes.

Do NOT, under any circumstances, buy something expensive just because you have livestock.  For pete's sake, don't buy a pickup and a trailer for $65,000 to haul your three cows.  Those are the most expensive cows in the country, if you do that.  Which you won't, right?  Don't build a new barn.  There are plenty of small buildings sitting on farmsteads that can be moved or torn down for next to nothing.

Do NOT buy poultry from a farm store or livestock from an auction barn.  Order your poultry from a reputable hatchery (we love Hoovers Hatchery in Rudd, IA) and buy livestock from an experienced farmer.  You do not need registered breeding stock or even purebred, you want something that will do well for you.

After all of that, what animals should you get?  My personal favorites are sheep and goats.  (Again, NO PETS.)  Buy from a reputable breeder who will support you after you bring them home.  Sheep and goats are small enough to be handled without large equipment.  Remember, sheep and goats are herding animals and must have a herd to live with...or they will live in your herd.  I would say minimum of three.  One sheep and two goats doesn't cut it.  Ducks and chickens are good for kids to handle.  Geese and turkeys can be aggressive.  Although our turkeys have never chased our kids and they help to feed them, older turkeys (especially toms) can chase children.  We had geese a few times growing up and they are (generally) loud and destructive and messy.  Poop messy.  Everywhere.

I wouldn't recommend pigs for families with small children either.  Even though we have pigs and now breeding pigs, our kids are not allowed in the pig pen.  Not because Patsy is aggressive, she's very calm and gentle.  But because pigs are so strong and low to the ground, she would easily knock over my kiddos. And not all pigs are as great as Patsy (which is why she isn't in the freezer right now!) so we keep a close eye on our kids and our pigs.  And that goes for ANY animal.  You ABSOLUTELY do not want an animal that you can't turn your back on.  For example, we had a rooster two years ago that was aggressive and attacked me one day as I gathered eggs.  Left bruises on my leg with his spurs (toes on the side of his legs).  I came in and told Hubby "He goes in the stewpot...NOW!"  We have a goat in our freezer who was a horror to milk and a bully.  I have ZERO tolerance for aggressive animals.

I think that was our best "Ask Annie" yet!!

Any other questions for next time??

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What I Can't Live Without

Back in my wild single day during my teaching years, I had summers off.  And in my summers I worked for a dear friend of mine as a gardener.  One day a week or so, we would declare war on a part of her extensive flower gardens.  Rogue trees were dug out, waist high weeds were pulled out, landscaping was installed, mulch was laid.  You get the picture.

Cindy taught me 95% of what I know about gardening, especially flowers.  You never learn so much about a person as when you are working side by side with them.  And Cindy knows me well.

So well that she gave me this plaque for my "new" home for Christmas.

No where on this plaque does it say "iPhone" or "HDTV" or "new car" or "yearly vacations".  Which are a lot of things that my generation, in particular, believe that they cannot live without.  

Because I'm visiting my mom, I'm exposed to things like news networks.  The big news on Tuesday was the possibility of the solar flares disrupting satellite performance, and in turn all of our satellite-dependent electronic devices.  

Let's think about this for a minute.  Could you live without satellite service a day?  Some people I know would get the shakes and violent head twitches.  Could you live without it for a week?  We may soon find out.

What are the things we think we can't live without? 
(For me, I would add to the plaque above "and a goat", because I like meat and milk.)
What's yours?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

School Lunch Soapbox - They Might As Well Move In

{Fair warning:  There is no sugar coating in this post.  My blood pressure is up and my soapbox is mounted.}

Back in April, NPR did a story that flew under my radar.  Not that my radar is all-encompassing, but I didn't see or hear about it until this fall when the non-profit that I work for held a webinar with a presenter from Vermont discussing the Farm to School program.  In his presentation, he highlighted that a number of schools he works with in Vermont now have supper programs for students.

Supper programs?  What are supper programs?

Feeding programs, in schools, to feed kids supper before they go home.


I couldn't believe it.  So I looked it up.  And in the aforementioned NPR article, it states that there are supper programs in all 50 states.  I don't know which school(s) have supper programs in North Dakota, but apparently we have some somewhere.  I'd love to visit with the administrators of this school.

To say that I am incredulous would be an understatement...What's next?  Going home with each kid to make sure they do their homework and tuck them into bed at night?  Where is parental responsibility?  Why have we as parents abdicated ALL our rights and responsibilities to the schools government?

It is bad enough that the majority of schools have breakfast programs because somehow many parents cannot get it together to put a healthy breakfast on the table before school.  But now we are asking the schools to feed them supper as well.

Back in the early days of public school, the schools were only asked to teach.  That's it.  Just teach children how to read, write and do mathematics, understand the natural world, appreciate music and art.  Trust me, as a former teacher, it would be wonderful if that's all the school system had to do today.

Instead, we are teaching character traits, moral ethics, sex education, anti-bullying tactics, drug and alcohol education, and self-esteem...just to name a few.  All of these things were taught at home, by parents to their children utilizing their religious (or not) value system.  And let's not forget all the things that we lost along the way, like many art, music, home economics and physical education courses.

And, until 1946, there was no national school feeding program.

We've wondered what has happened in American education that we have fallen so far compared to previous times in our nation's history and compared to other nations.  And we've begged and pleaded that more money be spent on education.  We've promised that more money will solve the problems that have plagued our educational system.  Have we seen the results of that tactic?

Perhaps school systems need to do less and parents need to do more.

{I'll let that previous statement sink in for a minute...}

Perhaps school systems need to do less and parents need to do more.  More parenting.  More talking about sex, drugs, alcohol, character, morals, bullies, courage, compassion, love.  More teaching of life skills.  More modeling of lives well-lived.

Maybe if parents did more parenting, the schools could do more teaching.

And if they don't want to do that, then those students might as well just move in because the only role some parents are willing to assume is that of procreation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's Time!

I haven't done an "Ask Annie" post in quite some time.  So, my friends, get your questions together.  Scrounge under your van seats to find the receipt that you scrawled that burning question on.  Your options are here on the blog (feel free to post as anonymous), on Facebook or via email.

We've had such fun in the past.
I'd love to make it last.
No question too big or small.
You know I'll answer them all.

(But I promise not to answer in cheesy rhymes...)

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Classic Case of ND Guilt

As I told you last week, I was in our state's capitol for my Rural Leadership program.  And while I was there, a storm was brewing and forecasted to hit early Friday morning with freezing rain and then the afternoon with at least 7 inches of snow.

This wouldn't have been such a big deal if I was just going home on Friday afternoon.  Because once I was home, I could just snuggle in with Hubby and wait out the storm.  But Kiddo1 and I had an appointment to meet an airplane that left at 5am on Saturday morning.  The original plan was to come home on Friday, go to bed early and then leave at 3am on Saturday (we live an hour from the airport).  But with the Snow-pocalypse upon us, we knew we had to change plans.

I went home on Thursday night after our legislative social to fetch Kiddo1, her clothes, my clothes, and a suitcase of meat.  That's right.  I just said "a suitcase of meat".

I come from a family of meat producers, meat cookers and meat eaters.  We're pretty picky about our meat.  My brother and mother live in the south where they swear they can't get good meat.  So I brought some chickens, hot dogs, summer sausage and gizzards.  As well as a big jar of our local honey.  I used to have to bring a suitcase of sausage, but then my brother bought a smoker and started making his own with our great uncle's recipe.  Like I said, my family is serious about our meat!

We had deliberately not told Kiddo1 that she was going to visit Grandma because we wanted her to sleep before the trip.  So when I arrived home on Thursday night and we told her, there was much excitement for a four year old.  I told her to pack some toys in her backpack.  And, true to her nature, she packed the most random and unrelated assortment of her toys.  Mama did have to go through it and edit the toys to a few that actually made sense.  Because she would have taken a doll shoe, three legos, two wooden blocks, a birthday hat and half a bun.

So we re-packed the backpack and headed back to the Big City to spend the night.  During the night, the freezing rain began.  Kiddo1 came along to my Rural Leadership activities on Friday morning.  We stopped at the grocery store to pick up a light lunch and some travel snacks and headed back to our hotel.  I had a little girl who was VERY excited to go to the pool.

We swam for about an hour while the freezing rain turned to snow.  We finished with 10 minutes in the hot tub....ahhhhhhhh!  A nap was next on the agenda, for Kiddo1 and Mama.  Then it was back to the pool for another hour of fun before we ordered in a pizza.  It was Friday night after all!

It was a wonderful day spent with my favorite traveler!

Morning came early as we caught a shuttle from our hotel to the airport at 3:30am.  I'd like you to try and convince a four year old to take her beloved cowboy boots off and (even worse) put her beloved rabbit in a plastic box and send it into a dark hole.  And that's how going through security went at 4:15am.  Once we got on the plane, she went to sleep.  We made it through all three flights to get to Knoxville 20 minutes early!

Uncle Skip and Grandma were there to pick us up.  As Kiddo1 walked through the airport doors, she said "Mama, it's so WARM here!"  And then she rolled up her sleeves.  When we left North Dakota, the temperature was -12, we arrived to 68 degrees in Tennessee.

And as I shed my jeans and sweater for my capri pants and light t-shirt, I was guilty.  Oh-so-guilty.  I should be home fighting the cold, finding extra layers, cooking soup and knitting socks.  But instead, I'm enjoying some R&R at my mother's house.  She's cooking up a storm and I'm doing my part in eating it all.  I've got guilt, a classic case of ND guilt...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Snow-nami or Snow-pocalypse?

I am usually never one to let the weather scare me, but with a 5am flight on Saturday morning with Kiddo1...well, I don't want to spend my money on plane tickets that will never be used.  So we're holed up here at the hotel.  I have another morning of my leadership seminar, with a four year old tag-a-long.

More tomorrow and snow-nami or snow-pocalypse update!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Into the Future

It's planning season here on the farm.  Which means I have BIG dreams and plans...and Hubby has reality.

I tend to think anything is possible.  He refers to it as my "eternal optimism".  Hubby knows that anything could go wrong.  I refer to him as the "voice of reason".

And when Eternal Optimism meets Voice of Reason, that's where we find a farm plan.

For example, I think we should do 50 turkeys next year.  Hubby says 30.  Which means that it will probably be 30.  (Unless I can convince him that the hatchery made a mistake and sent 50...)

The problem with moving is that the post office doesn't forward seed catalogs so I've had to go on each companies website and request new catalogs.  As of today, only one has shown up.  So at a time when I've had my seed lists done and orders made, I still don't have a clue of what I'm doing for seed.

We're waiting on a boar for Patsy Swine.  He's an Old Spot boar and we're pretty thrilled to farrow our own pigs this year.  There's also a couple of Berkshire and Hampshire gilts available that we are talking about.

Anyone else doing planning for 2013?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's always the one who laughs

I have a college degree.  Which would lead some to assume that I have been to college.  And perhaps that I learned something at said college.  One of the most important things I learned had absolutely nothing to do with biology or geology or communication or English literature or even teaching.

Oh no.  It had to do with the Law of the Laugh.

The streets of my hallowed institution were notoriously icy.  Sidewalks were skating rinks.  One walked like a penguin if one wanted to cross a particularly nasty corner by Stevens Auditorium.

When you have an auditorium that holds 450 people, there is bound to be someone who slips and falls flat on their back, spraying books and pens, papers and phone hither and yon.  And when that poor unfortunate soul takes their slip of shame, the very last thing you should ever do is...

Laugh at them.

That's right.  Because if you laugh, if you even snicker, you, my friend are next.

For that is the Law of the Laugh.

This law was so ingrained in our minds as students that if one was unaware and let out a chuckle, a chortle, or even a snicker everyone surrounding them would take a giant step back.  We weren't going down with that ship.

Yesterday, at the grazing lands conference a different, but not altogether unrelated law was witnessed.  The Law of the Glare.

Cell phones have been around a while and still we have people who cannot remember to turn their phones on silent during a presentation.  As I sat in the back of the room, I heard an awful lot of phones ring.  And saw an equal number of dirty looks being given to owners of those phones.  But the classic moment was when the dirtiest-look-giver's phone would go off.  Oh my, the irony. The karma, as they would startle and grasp desperately at their pocket.  One poor chap even dropped it under the table.

But of course, I absolutely did not laugh...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dreams Come True

Last night and today I am attending the ND Grazing Lands Coalition annual workshop and meeting.  Learning with these folks is a dream come true for me.

But yesterday afternoon, whilst I was in the BIG city, I hit my favorite kids re-sale store for a huge sale.  50% off and then I had a coupon for an additional 20% off my entire purchase.  Yes indeed!

Kiddo1 got three pants and three coordinating shirts.  Kiddo3 got a new shirt, two new pants and a new dress.  Kiddo2 got new, tags-still-on-them, John Deere lace-up cowboy boots.  I paid $8 for them.  They're $60 in the store.  The are a little big, but should fit this cowboy when his current boots become too small.

But the biggest score was a pair of bright pink cowgirl boots in Kiddo1's size.  They even have flowers on them.  I called her to tell her what I found.  She squealed and said, "Oh Mama, I have been dreaming about something like that!"

I know, sweet girl.  And mama got 'em for $5.50.  And she's been dreaming about that.

Friday, January 4, 2013

And Not to Be Outdone

So yesterday I told you that I love my four year old because she is funny.

And then her brother had to go ahead and bump up the level of funny we have around here.  As you know, he is a cowboy.  And he talks like a three year old version of John Wayne.  Slow, with pauses and a slight drawl....he'd fit in perfectly in East Tennessee with his uncle.

Here are some of our favorites from Kiddo2:

"Dad?  I kinda think you should maybe make me some breakfast.  Yeah, I like breakfast a little bit."

His new words are 'awful' and 'difficult'.
"Mama, I can't get my pants off.  It's awful difficult in here right now."

Me:  Good morning Kiddo2!
Him:  I'm not Kiddo2, I'm Gil Favor, trail boss.

Just yesterday, my new assistant was getting into her red car.
Kiddo2 calls out to her, "Do you have a red car there?  I like red cars and I have a plan for sharing things."

And, in the category of things I'd never thought I'd have to say to my children (that I've said to him):

"Your sister is not a coyote!"

"Put down your gun so you can pee!"

"I'm sorry John Wayne, but you cannot take your gun into WalMart."

Finally, in the category of melting his mama's heart:

"Mama, you are just like Big Bill.  You make me good things to eat!"

"Mama, can you just hold me a little bit?"

When asked what his mother's name was:  "I kinda think it's Honey.  Yeah, it's Honey."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

She Cracks Me Up

Do you know what I like best about four year olds?  (Besides the fact that the crying/whining/sniveling is almost non-existent.)  The ability of my four year old to crack a joke.  On her own.

We wash dishes together at least once a day.  I wash, she rinses.  About a week before Christmas, Kiddo1 leaned over and scooped up some soap suds and rubbed it on her face.  Then she turned to me and said, "Look!  I'm Jana Claus!"  (This may come as a shock to you, but her name really isn't Kiddo1.)

I about fell on the floor laughing.  It was hilarious!

Yesterday I captured another 'Jana Claus':

She cracks me up.  And that's what I like best about four year olds.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Our New Years Tradition

Back in my wild single days, I hosted a New Years Day brunch to watch the Rose Parade.  Yes, that's how wild my single days were.  That was my New Years tradition.  After five years of no TV, that tradition, understandably, has died.

This New Years Eve, we spent doing some home improvement.  Specifically, purging our house of 40 year old carpet.  I'm not a big fan of carpet and 40 years is a good run.  It had to go.

We had wanted to do it before we moved, but that didn't happen.  We weren't sure about the condition of the floors underneath.  Dad had told us before he died that there were hardwood floors under there that Grandpa had put in around the late 1940's.

We started in the hallway.

And in just over an hour, this is what we found!

And if you think I did a happy dance right then and there you would be correct!  They are gorgeous and in perfect condition.

So we moved on to the living room.

This is our wild New Years Eve.  Wild with perfect-hardwood-floor excitement!

On New Years Day Kiddo1 and I made some pie.  Hubby bought me a french rolling pin for Christmas so my previous one went to Kiddo1.  Now we don't have to share it and she can roll her own crust.  She wanted to make a chocolate pie and she made it all herself.  Four years old and making her own pie...if you think she was pretty excited, you would be correct.  She called both her grandmas to tell them of her "very delicious pie".

And our New Years meal was Olive Garden Topper.  That will probably be a tradition as well.  

Along with home improvement and pie...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Word For This Year

I'd given up on resolutions years ago.  But I feel like my life should have a focus each year.  Just a word or phrase that gives me perspective.

This year my word is LOVE.  As in to love better.  To express love better.  To make those around me feel more loved.

Hubby gave me Joyce Meyer's Love Out Loud devotional for Christmas.  A daily scriptural reminder to love better.  He also gave me a five year journal to record those moments and be able to look back on them each year.

I am also going to start a 365 photo project.  We take a lot of photos, but I like the discipline of taking a photo a day.  I'll share them at the end of the month here on the blog.

What are you doing this year?