Baling hay

Wednesday we baled hay. Square bales. Hundreds of them. Baling hay is probably the hardest and most time consuming job here on our little farm. I know this is strange but I like baling hay. Granted, I am not out there hefting these bales onto the farm wagon. I am driving the truck or the tractor and pulling the hay wagon. Sometimes I drive the tractor and bale the hay while the guys load the farm wagon coming behind me.

This time my 7 year old rode with me in the truck pulling the hay wagon while Dad drove the tractor and baled the hay. My youngest decided that his job would be to tell me when to stop and when to go. (He needs a bit more experience!) My 15 year old worked putting the bales on the wagon while my 12 year old stacked them and kept the wagon neat so as to hold as many bales as possible (and pointed out any missed bales).

I enjoyed seeing the cooperation of my kids working together to accomplish a common goal. Of course on each trip back to the barn, my 7 year old had to climb out of the truck and onto the mountain of hay bales with his brothers for the ride. There is also some unusual boy custom that has each one sticking a piece of hay in their mouths to chew on for the trip to the barn. This I never understood….

I love the rhythmic thumping of the baler. It’s a comforting sound to me….usually I hate repetitive noise. I love watching the hay elevator taking all those bales into the hayloft while the older ones stack them there. (Occasionally a child will ride a bale into the loft…giggling all the way!) It is a comforting feeling to know that you can provide for your animals come winter. Clean bedding, good food…they will be happy.

It is, for me, akin to canning food. When I look in the hayloft and see the rows of stacked bales, it is the same feeling I get when I look in my pantry shelves and see rows of colorful food lined up and ready to eat. It is seeing a job well done. It is seeing the fruits of our labors. It is knowing that we have provided for our own for yet another season by God’s grace. It is being grateful to God for wooing us here, for leading us on this journey of self-sufficiency, for His creation, and for His provisions.
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Made from scratch

People frequently ask me why we bother to make most everything we eat from scratch. This seems to bother these people. They treat me as if I have lost my way and they need to help me…or maybe it is my senses that they think I’ve lost. I can’t imagine why it bothers them, they don’t have to grow the food, can the food, freeze the food, dehydrate the food, grind the wheat, bake the bread, flake the oats, churn the butter, work the cheese or cook the meals…but it REALLY bothers them.

I’ll try to explain how we started down this path. When my second son was born I knew right away that he had a dairy allergy. If I drank so much as 1/4 cup milk, he reacted. So…for one year, I ate NO dairy products…a horrible experience I assure you. As he grew, we found he had other allergies, lots of them. This required some work, trying to find foods he could eat without getting sick. Now, some people might think this was a very bad thing. I did myself at first. But, looking back I can see how God took something bad and turned it into something very good. (Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.) God had a purpose for those allergies!

It turns out that my son is not allergic to all those foods we thought he was allergic to…it was the chemicals, dyes, preservatives etc. that caused the allergic reactions. Now, let me state that we did not buy “junk food” at the grocery store. No sugary cereals, toaster pastries, frozen dinners etc. We bought the “healthy” stuff. But when the USDA has approved over 800,000 chemicals (read that again…800,000!) for our food supply can it truly be healthy? Any of it? When a glass of milk can have traces of hundreds of different antibiotics…do you want to drink it?

Now, God is very gracious and gentle when He leads us down new paths. If God had sat me down and told me 7 years ago…”beginning tomorrow you will grow all your own food, bake your own bread, make your own cereals, raise your own meat, make your own cheese etc.”….well, as Grandma use to say “I’m just gonna lay me down and die”.

God showed us one area at a time, like a gentle parent leading a child. What a gracious God we serve! We began with a garden that has just expanded a little every year. We began keeping bees for honey. We started grinding wheat and baking our own breads. We planted an apple orchard. A little further down the road we started making our own cereals. This year we hope to add a berry patch. Each year I preserve a little more of what we have been doing and we try to add something new to the list.

How do you explain why you bake 8 loaves of bread every Monday when “you can buy a loaf of bread for $1 at the store”? (Apparently the bread thing bothers these people a lot!) Because it tastes so good! Because it is so nutritious…..because there are NO chemicals of any kind in my bread! Because I don’t have to watch my son suffer anymore with headaches that were completely debilitating or see him go through the other symptoms of allergic reactions.

The time involved in living this life also seems to bother these people. “How do you find the time?” they cry. Well, we don’t watch t.v. (an occasional family video night is the exception). We stay home… a lot . Except for church, the kids aren’t involved in lots of activities that keep us running around and take away from family time. We all work together….at just about everything.

Is it worth it? You bet it is! Our health has improved tremendously! Our food tastes wonderful and I know it is more nutritious! If there was a huge disaster, or my hubby lost his job…we’d be o.k. Add homeschooling into the mix and I get to be with my kids most of the time. Working together to accomplish common goals and playing together (family game nights are big in our house) builds strong relationships with your kids.

The kids enjoy walking through the grocery store and naming all the things we don’t need to buy anymore. It is so satisfying every time you take a little step towards more self sufficiency. It makes them feel good that they have participated in providing these things. They have extracted honey from the hives and worked the bees throughout the year. They have picked the apples and cranked the mill to turn them into sauce. They helped grow and pick the tomatoes and milled them into spaghetti sauce and ketcup.

And these people…it is so funny to me… what bothers them about our lifestyle they are quick to enjoy…”got any homemade ice cream in the freezer?”….”I love homemade bread!”….”This applesauce tastes so different”…”this chicken is delicious”…”I can’t wait for eggs in the morning”… I just smile….made from scratch!

I thank God for my son’s allergies…look what they have wrought in our lives! Great blessings!
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What’s wrong with that egg???

Norther Farmer (see link to the side) has a wonderful post today about dangerous eggs. It reminded me of when we first moved to the farm. Now, remember we were city people….we bought what the grocery store calls eggs. We moved to the farm and one of the first critters we purchased were some hens. My mom even bought a fancy little house for them to live in (another story!) They were so pretty! I loved the muted clucking sounds….such a comforting sound to me for some reason. Within a few days we had our first brown eggs! There were 3 of them. We decided to scramble them so we could all have a taste. What an exciting day! The 4 boys, my mother and I trotted off to the kitchen to sample these wonderful gifts.

We cracked open the first egg….oh no! Something was seriously wrong….we tried another…and another…something was wrong with all of them! Where was the yellow yolk? These yolks were all a very dark orange….and they stood up really high in the pan…and the whites were really thick…they didn’t spread properly….what had we done wrong? As a Mom, I was worried about letting my kids taste them….could it hurt them…poison them? Should I throw them out…..
suddenly it occured to me….perhaps this is what God intended an egg to look like….maybe we had been eating bad eggs all of our lives and this is what good eggs looked like.

A quick call to an experienced farmer friend assured us that this was the REAL DEAL! “The eggs from the grocery store were produced by hens kept in horrible conditions and therefor were anemic…go ahead and eat them”.

So we did….we were amazed….these eggs actually had flavor! GREAT flavor! Eggs on toast quickly became a favorite meal….runny yolks sopped up with buttery toast….DIVINE!

We look back now and laugh at our ignorance ….how sad that people think that what they buy in the store actually nourishes their bodies the way God designed….how sad that the majority of the population has been sold a lie by big AG and great marketing!

When we have “moderns” visit us on the farm we almost always crack open an egg and let them see the difference….the cry we always here is “Ooohhhh, what’s wrong with it…” We just smile and thank the Father for bringing us here and teaching us gently about His provisions. We pray we can do the same for others.
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Fluffy wheat bread

This is strictly a “recipe” post…just a warning 🙂 Several people have requested my recipe for wheat bread….here you go….(the applesauce cookie recipe will be another day) This recipe makes 4 loaves. I use a DLX Assistant to mix and knead the bread but I have a friend that uses my recipe with a Kitchen Aid. You might have to let it knead a bit longer…just experiment. I grind the wheat just before mixing. I use a mix of Prairie Gold and Bronze Chief. I probably use 9 cups of Prairie Gold and 3 cups of Bronze Chief berries. I grind them together. I usually need to grind at least two batches of berries to make 8 loaves. 6 cups of hot water 3 tblsp. yeast (heaping) 1 1/3 tablespoons of salt (I use Real Salt…a mineral salt or sea salt) 2/3 cup oil 2/3 cup honey (use the same cup you measured the oil into and the honey will slide right out) 12 tablespoons of gluten 16+ cups of flour. Put water in bowl of mixer and add yeast. Let proof for 5 min. (It is really important to wait the full 5 min.) Add salt, oil, honey and gluten. Add 12 cups of flour and mix on low for 2 min. or until thoroughly mixed. Turn the speed up to medium while gradually adding only enough flour to clean the sides of the bowl (I find it almost always takes 16 cups and quite often a little more) Let knead for 8 minutes. Remove from mixer and form into 4 even loaves. Place in well greased bread pans (I use Crisco in stainless steel pans) Let rise (takes about 1/2 hour on my dryer…I cover it with cheesecloth while raising). Bake at 350 for 30 min. You will have to experiment with baking times since all ovens are a little different. The original recipe called for 25 minutes but mine was always a little “wet” in the middle and would begin to ferment. I turn right around and make another batch while this one is rising. I bake every Monday morning. We eat the first loaf for lunch on Monday with fresh fruit and cheese. My boys manage to eat a loaf almost every day. We take one loaf to a widow in our church who loves homemade bread but can’t make it anymore. Don’t be discouraged. It took me years to get a recipe to make light fluffy bread. This one works really well and should only need a little tweaking. The key for me was to add 3 tablespoons of gluten per loaf of bread that the recipe made. The original recipe called for 3 tblsp. gluten period….when I read about the 3 per loaf and upped the gluten I had wonderful bread! I also used to cheat on the knead time….not any more. It requires the full time. You might enjoy the breadbeckers site ….lots of info on bread and other things. Happy Baking!
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How could you eat something soooo cute….

Invariably this is what the “moderns” say when they are visiting the farm and see the new baby chicks, calves or goats. I have heard too many tales of families selling off steers, chickens etc. because their kids couldn’t handle the thought of eating them. We have not had this problem on our farm. Our first rule…all edible animals must have food names. We made this rule to avoid the “how can we eat him” scenario. I must say that I don’t think it was necessary. Although we have had steers named T-bone, Meatloaf, Ham (short for hamburger), Taco, Burrito, Potter (pot roast) and yes even, Hershey (see the Ksmilkmaid’s recent post!), I must say now that I don’t think it was necessary.

In our experence when you have repaired the fence for the 49th time because they trampled through it (see my post “One of those days”)…when you have had to get on horseback and round up 8 rowdy bull calves from down the valley and drive them home (the great cattle drive of ’02)….when you wake up to strange noises in the middle of the night and find the calves in the yard enjoying the flowers….when you have to get up and round them up in your nightgown, coat and muck boots at 3:00am IN THE SNOW…and (the final straw) when one of them challenges you from the other side of the fence and you just know he will kill you if he gets the chance…our family actually does the happy “They are going to the butcher” dance….not once have any of my 4 boys ever expressed regret at the
thought of putting a cow into the freezer.

Nor has anybody ever hesitated to eat a meal. I have actually heard my boys make such odd comments as “so…do you think Hershey tasted better or T-Bone?” Hopefully the visitors thought they were talking about chocolate bars and steaks!
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Seasonal changes

I finally got my nose out of the canner for a wee bit this afternoon. I was surprised to find the leaves falling from our Catawba tree in the front yard. The sun was warm but the breeze was
cool. We have been out of the city for about 7 years but feel like we are just beginning to recognize some of the signs that God gives us in reference to weather and seasonal changes.
I don’t recall the weather being this mild or the leaves dropping this soon in 7 years. I will have to take a look at the horses’ coats and see if they are “wintering” up already. Help me out here folks…what should I be looking for/listening to?

I had the sweetest birthday present today…my 7 year old told me after breakfast that he had a special present for me but needed to go outside to “catch it” and it might take a long time. How could I refuse those big brown eyes (after I made sure it wasn’t a snake!)? Well, I kept an eye on him through the kitchen window. He was after a butterfly! He spent over an hour standing with a bloom he had clipped off of the butterfly bush and sure enough a beautiful butterfly landed on it and Elijah walked ever so carefully to the window to show me my present. This inspired him.
He put the bloom in his screened bug box and spent the morning catching more butterflies for me. He would race to the door…show me his catch and then set it free and start over. He truly loves and enjoys God’s creation and being outside!

Seems we get in such a rush in life…hurry to get this done and that done that sometimes we forget to take the time to enjoy the beauty that God has given us here on the farm. Isn’t it wonderful how God’s creations come alive again through the eyes of our children?!
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One of those days….

Well, Saturday was just one of those days. We were off to pick berries at a friends farm at the top of the mountains. We got off late….cows were uncooperative during milking time. But finally the whole family was in the Suburban and headed out.

Berry picking was wonderful! The weather was warm with a cool breeze, berries were plentiful and yummy. I enjoyed seeing the boys working together, baskets strapped to their waists while red and purple juice ran down the corners of their mouths.

We headed home a few hours later only to find a frantic Mom (mine). While we were gone, those uncooperative cows had planned and executed an escape. My Mom looked up and there they were, outside her living room window in the neighbors field (Mom lives on our farm in her own home). Now…Mom is 79 and pretty spry but not up to chasing cows all over creation…although she tried. She was in tears by the time we got home. She was afraid they’d “run away”, get stolen by thieves who would butcher them before we could find them or they would get hit by a car. Now in our little valley, when a cow or horse runs away, someone always calls to tell you they found it. I haven’t figured out how they do this. Somehow they always know which cow belongs to which family. People in this valley know our animals….even though we have never met these people!

Anyway, I went about putting berries in the freezer while the boys and hubby went cow hunting.
Before long they came strolling up the drive way, single file, followed by dirty boys and hubby.

Fences were repaired and everyone seems happy now. Except perhaps for Mom….I don’t think she has quite gotten over her cow chasing episode. She jokingly asked if she could move to the city….the answer was no 🙂
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Judgement and Joy

I have been reading the news about New Orleans with a sinking heart. The cruelty that man (living apart from God) can inflict on fellow man shocks me. I believe that we are beginning to see the hand of God's judgment on our nation…and we should not be surprised. We have gone beyond turning our backs on Him. We, as a nation, have made it a priority to drive Him out of our nation and out of our culture. It is rather surreal to read about the devastation several hundred miles away, yet watch the birds singing in the apple tree outside my window. Our gas prices have shot up and I hear that local people have made runs on the grocery stores….trucks won't be rolling for awhile is the rumor. Yet in the midst of all of this, life on our little farm continues without much change. Surreal. Today I have been contemplating the joy that comes from the simple pleasures He places before us if we only "have eyes to see". It is amazing when people ask me "how do you know God is real" when His handiwork is everywhere. As I have been working on tomatoes today (canning ketchup and spaghetti sauce) I have delighted to watch the hummingbirds playing and fighting at the feeder outside my kitchen window. I took my youngest boy (7 years old) outside and we peeked around the corner at the feeder…we could watch the hummingbirds drink and fly to the apple tree. As we looked closer we could see lots of hummingbirds flitting from branch to branch…the tree seemed alive with them…all colors…big ones and baby ones. My son has decided that there must be nests there and he has determined to find them come cold weather. We found one several years ago – it was about the size of half an eggshell. The joy of simple pleasures. We have also been enjoying a butterfly bush – it is filled all day with butterflies…yellow, blue, purple, orange….my youngest likes to go as close as he can, stand still and hold out a hand. Invariably a butterfly will light on his finger. His face lights up and his eyes grow wide with wonder as he looks for me at the kitchen window…he wants Mom to see this miraculous sight! The joy of simple pleasures. My favorite "simple pleasure" this week…watching my 7 year old trying to talk without his two front teeth. He hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet…I have to bite my lip to keep from giggling as I watch his tongue trying to navigate this huge hole in his mouth. Simple pleasures We got an invitation this week….to come to Florida and "do Disney" with relatives. We declined…how could "canned entertainment" ever compete with the simple pleasures God puts in our path each day.
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Welcome! Our family (3 generations) moved to this farm about 7 years ago. We were what I call “moderns” living the “normal” American life. We were city people. We were active in our church, homeschooled our boys (for 17 years now!) and lived the conventional Christian life.
Then God spoke! One of those instances when the Word just jumps out at you, dances around awhile and lands in your heart to dwell there for awhile. Scriptures that talked of reliance on God…for everything…not relying on others….for anything….and scriptures that talked of the wise man who looked to the future, saw the dangers and prepared himself against the day. We came to realize that we relyed on others for EVERYTHING!!! God began moving in our hearts to change our lifestyle…live in a more self-sufficient way that would cause us to rely on Him more. He was wooing us to the country.

So….7 years ago, we left the big city, moved to the country (a miraculous story that I will share another day) and bought a little farm. We raise almost all of our own food and medicine. We cook almost everything from scratch (another story!) and can, dehydrate and freeze our garden bounty for winter. We are so thankful to God for his provision and blessings and for taking us out of the mundane city life to this life full of wonder and excitement…where every day is an adventure…where His handiwork is evident everywhere we look.

We hope to share some of our adventures here….thanks for dropping in
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