Saturday Morning Photos

Actually, this first photo is from last night. Nathan has learned how to make oven fries, and he whips 'em up at will now. Brandi's done a good job of teaching the kids some kitchen skills. There are entire meals they know how to make on their own. It won't be long until they're waiting on Brandi and me 24/7. ;-)

fries

We buy raw milk from a farm a few miles up the road from us. To get a good deal we buy it in 5 gallon buckets and then transfer it to 1 gallon containers. This morning was a milk morning.

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The kids' trampoline mat finally arrived (the original got torn to shreds after 6 or 7 years of use) and I installed it this morning. Back to bouncing, kids!

bounce

bounced

Boys To Sell Eggs

Nathan (13) and Daniel (11) are starting an egg business. They bought 25 laying hen chicks a couple of weeks ago (delivered via the Post Office) and the little gals will be ready to lay in April. They're really excited about "having a job," and they'll be even more excited once they start to see cash in their hands. They've already had to shell out $60 or so to get the hens. Got to spend money to make money!

That little flock brings our farm poultry count up toward 70 birds. Seems to me we are deep in this thing now and there's no turning back. :-) Many of our birds free range around the property. Free ranging birds are nice for pest control and essential for the most nutritious eggs, but if your'e a control freak or have grumpy neighbors you might not want to try it ... unless you have something like 20 acres of property. Chickens like to roam.

Nothing Beats Free Food

Living among a bunch of agrarian people has its perks, especially around this time of year. Brandi texted me the other day and told me that one of our neighbors brought over a lot of squash and potatoes from his garden. I asked, "How much?" She replied, "Tons!"

Nice. I actually like squash ... the way Brandi makes it.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver jokes that squash is so prolific that the few weeks of squash harvest season is the only time of year that country folk lock their home and car doors, for fear of someone foisting upon them yet another bag of squash. I'll say there's a hint of truth to that, but at this point we'll take all we can get. :-)

Saturday Morning Pleasure

As I was sitting outside a moment ago, under an oak tree, reading 1 Peter and enjoying a cup of coffee, my sweet little Abigail bounded out of the house, ran toward the barn and started picking flowers. She told me she was going to try and transplant them from around the barn to around the house. She's such a creative little gal.

I love this life.

Today's Check List

Mow 3/4 of an acre -- CHECK

Eat at the best burger place in the world* -- CHECK

Clean cat dung -- CHECK

Weed the garden -- CHECK

Assemble a telescope -- CHECK

Watch the "Supermoon" hide behind clouds -- CHECK

*We know we live in Podunk because the biggest intersection in our town boasts two businesses that are not related to each other ... and they're both called "Bubba's." Anyway, Bubba's burgers are the best ever, retire the jersey.

Guels Plus Eight

We hosted Sam and Jennifer and their children, a family of eight, for dinner last night, and we actually successfully (and comfortably!) fit 10 people around our table and four at the adjacent bar. So a dinner for 14 went off without a hitch.

It was a fun-filled evening as we have plenty in common with this homeschooling family. They're older than we are by maybe 10 to 15 years, and that makes it even easier because their older kids are really good about working with the smaller ones. All of their kids are also pleasant to be around, and completely in love with our kids (and vice versa!). Their three-year-old girl loves two-year-old Evangeline; she calls Eve her baby and always wants to hug her and kiss her and, well, treat her like a baby. Sometimes it's a little too much attention for Eve, as we discovered when she let the older gal know with a two-handed shove. We forced them to work out their differences like adults. ;-)

After dinner we all went outside (by that time it was pleasant outside); the kids ran around the property like maniacs, jumped on the trampoline, chased chickens, collected eggs, enjoyed our 16 ducks hanging out in the Duck Yard, and had an all out good time. (I even think our enormous dog jumped on Sam at one point.) Brandi engaged Jennifer in deep conversation while I eventually challenged Sam and his oldest boy to games of chess on our picnic table.

Alas, the kids were pretty petered out by the time their friends rolled away. It was a good night.

Spring Garden Time On Guel Farm

We're running a couple of weeks late, but we finally got some plants in the ground today. I borrowed a friend's tiller yesterday and tilled up our garden, so the soil was nice and fluffy today. Our soil is very sandy, so by the time I got done with the tiller the garden looked like a beach.

Here's Brandi, at the beach working in the garden.
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A bird's eye view (don't be frightened by the fake owl). The structure behind Brandi is the barn.
fake owl

This a bonus shot of the field behind our barn. You can't really tell from the photo, but it's looking pretty bushy and ready to be shredded with a tractor. Time to call our neighbor who does that stuff for us. One of these days we're going to fence it off and put some goats out there, and maybe a calf.
bushy

That's it! We've still got some more planting to do, and the kids have their own little special stuff they want to plant, so hopefully we'll have some more photos on the way.

Still Alive!

We're still alive! I've been a slacker on here, obviously, but we have much going on at our little homestead. I hope to post a proper update soon. In the meantime I'll just say we're gearing up for spring. We're contemplating slaughtering a few roosters pretty soon and tilling our garden for planting. We've got three broody birds right now (two bantam chickens and one duck hen), so we should see anywhere from 20 to 30 baby birds hatch pretty soon. :-)

Evangeline, Chickens, and Squirrels

Evangeline is so beautiful it's almost ridiculous:
eve

Things are going well enough around here. We're in the throes of winter, and we're burning through a fair amount of wood to heat our house.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that a "hen" we bought from a lady a few months ago actually grew up to be a rooster. I was agitated because extra roosters are pretty much worthless around a farm. You really only want one rooster for every dozen hens or so, and we already have a rooster! As it turns out, we now have three roosters (four if you count the bantam rooster). Hold on ... we actually have eight flippin' roosters because four of them are still not yet full grown chicks.

Once all of the chick roosters grow up, they're all dead. We'll kill them all (except for our original rooster) and use them for chicken soup. Killing and processing birds is officially no longer a big deal for us. It takes a bit of preparation, but it's definitely worth the time and effort.

Speaking of killing, there's this squirrel that's been eluding me for weeks now. I've seen the little rascal go into our chimney on more than one occasion, and by the time I get my bb gun from the house ... he's gone like Houdini. Squirrels are a big time pest around here. They eat the chicken feed we throw out; they chew on wires; and they get into all sorts of things like chimneys and crevices around the property. I can't stand those little fluffy-tailed rats. I'm glad there are no ordinances against killing squirrels in the country.

Winter's Coming

winter

I've been gearing up for winter. I've been cutting firewood, collecting kindling, and thinking about getting our chimney cleaned. :-) Last year we felt winter like never before, but it was nice being so in-touch with the rhythms of nature. (Our wood-burning stove is worth its weight in gold!) I can't believe summer is long gone.

Piper

I've always liked and admired John Piper, but within the past few weeks I've fallen in love with him. I love that guy. It's beginning to turn into a deep, heartfelt love, almost on the same level of my love for C.S. Lewis.

I've been listening to at least one sermon a day off of his Desiring God website. He's got such an ocean of information on there, you could spend years studying and meditating on it.

Thank you, John. You're a blessing.

Reproach

From Psalm 31:

My eye wastes away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body!
For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away.
I am a reproach among all my enemies,
But especially among my neighbors,
And am repulsive to my acquaintances;
Those who see me outside flee from me.
I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel. . . .
Blessed be Yahweh,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
For I said in my haste,
"I am cut off from before Your eyes";
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications,
When I cried out to you.
Oh, love Yahweh, all you saints!

Distant

Sometimes that word is what I'd use to describe God. In reality, it's more likely that the distance is something cerebral, inside of me, something that I can't quite wrap words -- or thoughts -- around. At least not precisely.

Whoever first quipped that God created man in His image and man returned the favor, had a keen (although perhaps brief) insight into the heart of man: a heart that longs, in the most inappropriate ways, to be like God (Gen. 3:5), and a heart that longs, in the most appropriate ways, to be like God (Matt. 5:48).

In the end, I think, such anthropomorphism about the nature of God has little use because He's God ... and we're human. (Of course, the caveat is He's the God who became human!) If His ways are truly higher than ours -- and, indeed, they are -- then even the God-man, JESUS the Christ, whose name means Yahweh is Salvation, should be recognized and praised as God who became man, and not man who became God. Man's never been able to figure out the trick to the latter, and, in the end, history would indicate that such a path leads to a life that offers neither God nor man, because to be truly human, I suppose, would necessitate being in communion with one's Creator -- and that doesn't work too well when you're trying to be Him.

With all that said, I don't understand God, and I never will. I read His book, and it's alive. More alive than I am. More real than I am. Only men moved (possessed?) by the Holy Spirit could write such a book.

To be literate, living in the 21st century, and to have a leather-bound Bible at one's fingertips is really a bit overwhelming. It's like playing with a Lion: it might lick you, it might make you feel safe, but it's never going to be your pet, because the reality is, it could devour you. "Our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29).

The conclusion, then, is that God, while full of grace and truth (John 1:14), is often a source of destruction (and I say that in the most positive way). In the end, I've found He burns and devours everything that's not of Him -- it's the painful part of being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

It hurts. Like hell.

Haven't Posted A Farm Update In A While ...

- We lost a chicken to a neighbor's dog the other day. Grr!

- We're currently collecting eggs (and not eating them) to have someone incubate them for us. The gal who's going to do that for us is sort of a professional chicken farmer. We'll probably give her four dozen fertilized eggs, with the idea that half of them will hatch. We want to ultimately end up with around 12 to 14 laying hens. We'll eat the remaining roosters. :-)

- The garden is producing a good amount of tomatoes and peppers. We've also got squash, melons, and even a pumpkin.

- Our duck hen hatched 14 babies about two months ago. We lost three of them to various perils, and we gave away three of them, so we're down to eight. We'll keep about three of the eight and eat the rest.

- We've got plenty of grasshoppers on our property right now. John the Baptist would be chowing down big time.

"Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree ..."

Sentence

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life itself. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many. -- 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Tonight

We went on an excursion tonight to our neighbor's place about a mile down the road from us. He's a retired fellow with a nice three-acre homestead. He was kind enough to let us dig in his garden a bit and the kids pulled out probably five pounds of potatoes plus a few onions and a bunch of squash. When we got home Brandi boiled the potatoes and cooked up some onion and squash along with a banana pepper and bell pepper that we pulled out of our garden this morning. To that recipe we added some polish sausage from the grass-fed beef we've been buying. What a meal! We savored every bite.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the kids got to ride (and steer) a 1946 John Deere tractor while they were there. They loved it. I'll try and post some photos tomorrow or Monday.

What's Up Around Here

- Our dog Bouncer got fixed today. He's a little puny right now, but I'm sure he'll perk up.

- Abigail saw a snake in our chicken coop. The way she described it, it must have been as big as an anaconda.

- We got a dozen more meat bird chicks last Saturday. They'll be ready to slaughter in early July.

- Our hens (one duck and one chicken) are still sitting on eggs. By mid-to-late next week we should be seeing some chickens hatch, and ducks should follow about two weeks after that.

- We're about to have birds coming out of our ears over here. If all of the eggs hatch, which is not outside the realm of possibility, that right there will be 26 birds. In that case, we'd have -- are you ready? -- 51 birds living on our farm. That's nuts! Yes, we're nuts. But ... out of those 51 we'll end up killing probably half of them by mid-to-late summer. Come early fall, we're going to have a lot of bird meat around here.

- We've enjoyed eating natural, grass-fed beef for the past couple of weeks. I don't think we'll ever go back to the other stuff.

What I Love About Living In The Country ... And Other Random Thoughts

- You get good thinking time when you're driving home after being in town.

- Yes, we say "in town" a lot around here. We used to think it was funny to hear our country friends say, "I'm going in to town," but there's really no other phrase that quite captures the essence of, well, going to town. Yes, we're bumpkins.

- You get a real sense for changing seasons and the rhythms of life. Spring feels like spring this year. And winter definitely felt like winter. Everything seems more pronounced out here.

- For the most part people are quiet and relaxed out here. No one seems to be stressed out or in a hurry. It's a much slower day-to-day pace.

- With so much work to do (maintaining the yard, working in the garden, working with the dog, doing various projects around the homestead, doing chicken and duck chores, etc.), you have very little time for tube-oriented entertainment. Our TV is hardly ever on -- and I love that -- and when it is on it's because we're purposefully watching a DVD or something. We don't have cable or satellite TV, and I still haven't hooked up our antenna. Television consumption has really faded in our lives, and I think we're all the better for it. For the most part the sound of a turned-on TV is irritating noise to me. The silence that comes to a house without a TV on is a warm, inviting silence -- a tranquil silence, really.

- You see a lot more wildlife around here. Everything from salamanders to woodpeckers to coyotes to owls.

- There's plenty of room to roam. I was telling my former photojournalism professor about our place and he said, "How much land do you have?" I said, "Just two acres." He said, "Who needs more than that? My wife and I lived on two acres when I was in grad school. You know, if you want to go for a walk, just walk in your back yard."

- I think for people who are used to having lots of land, two acres is paltry. But for people like us, who come from a typical .22 acre city lot, it seems like we own our own country. I guess it's all about perspective. It is nice that our property borders a 22-acre hayfield that runs into something like 50 acres of dense forest. Coyotes and all sorts of wild animals live in that forest. I doubt any sasquatch reside there, but I can always hope.

- The closest neighbors to us are to our east. I'd say their front door is about 250 to 300 feet or so from our front door, so there's a good bit of distance between us. The other day I was moving some hens around and I picked one up by its feet and hung it upside down. I noticed my neighbor watching me so I held the bird up over my head and yelled, "Want some fried chicken tonight?" He screamed back, "Bring 'em over. I'll wring his neck!" I think he was serious. And Brandi and I may end up hosting our neighbors for fried chicken because these five particular hens keep eating their eggs; they're making me very upset. Thankfully our normal layers (we keep the two flocks separated) are doing just fine.

- Our duck hen has got a clutch of roughly 9 eggs. We're hoping we'll have a bunch of ducklings here in about 40 days or so.

- Bouncer's been good. He's still learning, but he's been a good dog so far. We've had him for a month already.

- On the 30th it'll be exactly one year since we closed on this homestead. Time has flown by, and we've had so much fun!

- That's all for now.

Busy Weekend

We've officially begun the garden ... because there are actually plants in the ground! Most daylight hours both yesterday and today were spent working in the garden or doing various projects outside. Here are a few photos ...

Abigail digging a hole for a tomato plant.
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Bouncer checking out the action.
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Brandi and Abby, in a state of bliss.
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Abigail giving Bouncer a lecture.
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Bouncer doesn't receive it in love, so he attacks!
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"Woof woof! She's mine," says Bouncer. (Notice his paw; he's claiming his victim.)
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Abigail busts out a cool defensive move, going for Bouncer's jugular.
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She finishes him off with a tight squeeze, snapping his doggy neck. (Notice her face straining while she sucks the life out of Bouncer. We're going to miss that dog.)
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A bonus shot of Nathan showing the difference between a normal egg and a bantam egg.
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