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.
Brandi said her and the kids went for a walk today and nine-year-old Daniel pointed to a sweeping field and said, "Look at that beautiful field! I'm so glad we live in the country."
That made me very happy. Our little farm and our entire beautiful rural neighborhood are like an endless kingdom to our little imaginative children.
Bouncer gives Brandi "the caring paw," as we like to call it:
Brandi holding Bouncer's neck:
Here's a photo of Brandi learning how to gut a duck. That guy who's with her was our volunteer helper who was learning how to process ducks right along with us. He knew a wee bit more than we did, and that made him very helpful.
Here's a bonus photo of the truck someone in my church gave me. Yes, it was given to me. I'm very thankful.
Yesterday was a notable day on our little farm. With a little help from someone slightly more experienced than us, we slaughtered six ducks. Those ducks were all hatched, raised, and slaughtered on our homestead. That's quite a good feeling. And it was the first time we had processed any meat on our farm (we've previously processed our birds off-site). The last duck we processed -- a hen -- was all me, baby! I chased it down, killed it, skinned it, gutted it, hosed it, and then put it in the fridge. I think the whole process of slaughtering that one bird took me about half an hour. Hopefully I can post a few photos sometime.
I can see why some people just abandon their gardens once everything starts to grow up toward the end of the season. This was our rookie effort, and hopefully years from now we won't have so much grass and weed growth after the days of harvest.
I spent a good amount of time pulling out tomato cages (that part took the longest), digging out soaker hoses, and moving various objects out of the garden. Finally, I went in there with my mower and chopped it down. Hopefully next week I can get in there wit a garden tiller. Brandi is hoping to put in some tomatoes for the fall.
Here's before and after:
This weekend I hope to mow the garden down (it's a big bush right now!) and then till it with a friend's garden tiller. I anticipate it being a pretty big job, at least for me, since I've never used a tiller before. Plus, the garden isn't exactly small. Of course, by city standards the 40 x 20 garden is enormous, but by country standards it's probably just about below average in size. Regardless, it's a jungle right now, and I've got to take care of it! (And Brandi wants to plant tomatoes.)
I think the last time I reported on this blog, I indicated that we were thinking of getting four pullets. Well we got 'em. The gal I bought them from told me the breeds they were as she was handing them to me, but the only one that registered with me was Rhode Island Red. They all seem to be pretty normal birds, and they all ought to be laying within 1 to 3 months, tops. So that'll increase our daily egg count, which badly needs a boost.
Our hen count is now 11. Well, if you count our bantam (miniature) hens, it's 13, but of those 13, only 8 are currently laying. Realistically, our family probably needs about 20 laying hens; we'll get there one day. We also have one normal-size rooster and one bantam rooster.
Our baby ducks are getting big. We've got eight of them, and we'll end up eating probably five or six of them when it's all said and done. The others we'll keep around for eggs (in the spring time) and to hatch other ducks to repeat the process. It's a satisfying feeling to know that those eight baby ducks were conceived, hatched, and raised by their mother on our farm.
I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned the fact that I love mowing the lawn. Of course, it all has to do with my riding mower! Seriously, though, it's one of my favorite chores. I mow about 3/4 of an acre, and that's our "lawn" area (our neighbor mows the other portion of our property with his tractor; the bumpkins call it shredding). I've finally got the route and routine worked out for the part that I mow, and it takes about 1.5 hours. The first few times I did it last year it took me every bit of three hours, but that was because I was having to get used to a riding mower and I didn't have a good mowing route worked out. As I was riding the mower yesterday, I thought, Winter's coming. What a bummer, I won't get to mow anymore.
So the chores I completed over the weekend were mowing, collecting hay from our field, moving some chicken tractors (cages) around, and doing some general reshuffling in our barn. Not very glamorous, but definitely very satisfying.
Speaking of hay, we learned last year that hay can turn into a very valuable commodity in the winter time. There was a time last winter when we would have killed for some hay. Some friends of ours who keep larger animals had to end up buying some hay, and the hay dealers got to the point where they were rationing how much hay you could buy. So we learned that it's best to stock up on hay while you can.
Here are a few photos ...
Brandi holding our first melon a few weeks ago:
A couple of baby ducks, and the mother hen (top right):
All eight baby ducks:
Our Livestock Guardian Dog, licking his nose:
I think we're going to buy four pullets (young hens) today. They haven't started laying yet, which means hopefully they haven't picked up any bad egg-eating habits. Last time we bought some hens that were not from our flock they were already laying -- and already eating their eggs. So we ended up eating them instead.
Right now we have seven hens from our original flock, and they're all doing well. They're giving us about 3 or 4 eggs a day. But with our family, we seriously eat as many eggs as we can get. Eggs are like tomatoes to us: The more we get the more we eat.
We also have a bunch of chicks that are being incubated for us. If all goes well, we should have around 24 laying hens within six months. Wow!
I haven't blogged here much lately. I'm not shutting this place down, but I wanted to communicate that I'm doing a wee bit of blogging over at a new blog I started, Under the Arch.
I'll be back around here for sure. I've got to post farm updates, and photos are overdue here too.
My mother-in-law gave me a belated birthday present yesterday, an ESV Study Bible. I love it!
I'm becoming more and more fond of the ESV every day. It helps that some of my favorite Bible teachers (e.g. John Piper) are passionate about the version, and that it truly does seem to be very readable, yet more on the literal side.
For various reasons I think the NKJV is far and away the best translation on the market, and I'll still use the NKJV as my primary Bible for study and memorization. I do plan, though, to use the ESV for a lot of general reading, and I'm looking forward to delving into all that the ESV Study Bible has to offer.
Time to go read.
I'm in Houston for my aunt's funeral. I'm glad she's with the Lord now.
I spent the evening yesterday mowing (always fun on a riding mower) and moving birds around. A few farm observations:
1. Keeping up with animals is a lot of work. Of course, we hope to expand what we've got, and that'll add more work, but it's always a joy. Right now we've got eight baby ducks, one mother duck hen and a drake. On the chicken side of things, our laying flock is holding steady at seven hens and a rooster. (We'll have about 24 more chickens once the new batch hatches. We have someone incubating them for us. Of those 24, roughly 12 will be laying hens and 12 will be roosters/stew meat.) We also have three bantam (miniature) chickens.
2. The garden is down to a tomato here and there. It produced well while it lasted and it was a good first try. What we'll probably do now is till the ground soon, and keep a bunch of our birds locked up in there to pull up roots and fertilize the place. We'll have to start working on our fall garden very soon.
3. Bouncer seems to enjoy his life as a farm dog. He doesn't ever seem overly anxious or barky (though he does like to bark). He spends most of the day these days in the relative cool of the barn. He's still very interested in chickens, but he hasn't killed any (thankfully).
4. We still have a big field we don't utilize. Our neighbor came over with his tractor a few days ago and shredded (mowed) it for us. Right now it serves well as a hay field, as the kids can go out there and collect tons of hay that we use for all sorts of things, but primarily chicken nest bedding. Hay always comes in handy, and we'll need a good supply of it during winter.
5. The birds pooped on me like crazy when I was moving them around yesterday. If you're going to have farm animals, you have to get used to excrement. :-(
6. There's nothing like a freshly mowed yard.
That's all for now!
That's a post I did over at Thinklings. Check it out, if you feel so inclined.
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.
You broke the bonds and You loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Took my shame
Took the blame
You know I believe it
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
The message, the music, and the passion of this song will never get old:
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!
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.
- 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.
Questions of science, science and progress, could not speak as loud as my heart ...