Saturday, September 21, 2013

Summer Memories

I'm baaack!  Please forgive me for the nearly two month long blogging hiatus.  I know ya'll have been dying to know what I'm up to ;)

Turns out August and September were pretty busy months on the farm.  There were chickens to butcher for meat, tomatoes to can, cucumbers to be pickled, produce to process and freeze, eggs to be gathered (we have about 25 laying hens now), gardens to be weeded, berries to be picked, jam to be made, hogs to be fed, bee hives to be maintained... and then of course, children to care for, 3 meals a day to be cooked, laundry to be done, bills to be paid, paperwork to be filed, and houses to be cleaned (ummmm, may have slacked on that BIG time - I have the whole winter to clean my house, right?!?).  

Despite the busyness, I can truly say I'm having SO. MUCH. FUN.  There is nothing more satisfying and rewarding than a day of hard labor, which results in filling your pantry and freezer with nourishing foods for your family.  The morning chores of caring for the animals are a delight, watching content chickens peck and scratch, listening to hogs grunting out their greetings, goats calling out in delight when they see you and adorable kittens purring as they rub up against your feet. Walking through the garden glistening with dew in the morning light fills my heart with gratitude. I feel so blessed to start my day in this manner, feeling in tune with God's natural rhythms, savoring the quiet moments before the work begins.  So, yes, I'm busy and sometimes feel utterly overwhelmed by the tasks on my "To-Do List", but it is the best kind of "busy" possible.  

So let me give you a little tour of what we have been up to lately.  And lest you think we live a perfect carefree life, I want you to be reminded of what I didn't include in the photos - kids throwing fits, piles of dirty dishes and clothes, filthy rooms, piles of bills to paid and papers to be filed... you know, all those things that make life real.  But I figure, in the end, we usually remember the good times the best, so here are some photos of our "good times".   Enjoy!

Goats grazing in the pasture.  Yes, sometimes they kneel while they eat.  Yes, it looks funny.

My son hanging with the goats.  They are so gentle with the children.  

Maaahhhh!  The goats run up to the gate for attention every time they see us.  See all the trucks in the background?  We're getting new neighbors!

I like hogs.  They are delightful creatures.


Beehives facing the squash fields planted by our neighbor.

Kids helping us paint the beehives.

Freedom Ranger meat birds, ready to be butchered.  We butchered them in late July and filled our freezer with 25 delicious pastured chicken, supplemented with Organic feed.  We kept them in a movable chicken tractor (cage on wheels that is moved to fresh grass each day), to keep them safe from predators.

Blackberry harvest from the nearby woods.

Lucy the barn cat

"Tristar" Ever-bearing strawberries (they set fruit all summer, instead of one harvest, like the June-bearing strawberries).  We harvest a bowl of strawberries every few days, all summer long.   We're still picking berries in late September!

Veggies fresh from our garden!  We have veggie platters like this for dinner most nights.

Just had to share this one.  Our kids were introduced to the "Star Wars" movies and then their uncle sent them some "light sabers", which led to many days of playing "Jedi Warriors".  So cute!

Tomatoes.  Lots and lots of tomatoes.  I planted about 60 tomato plants and had to figure out what to do with all that fruit!

Lovely "Purple of Sicily" cauliflower.  I also planted lots of white cauliflower, but not a single plant formed a head.  Every one of the purple plants did great!  Next year, I'll only plant "Purple of Sicily".

Calico Beauty (my son wanted to name her Calico and my daughter wanted to name her Beauty) might quite possibly be the sweetest kitten ever.  I have a feeling we may turn her into our resident house cat...

The young laying hens are finally starting to lay eggs.  Ummm.... sometimes they are a little small at first....

My daughter with Lucy.

Peppers from the garden.  I chop and freeze them on a cookie sheet.  Then they are thrown into a container in the freezer, so I can pull out a handful as needed over the winter.  I love all the bright colors - looks like confetti!  

When I'm overwhelmed with tomatoes, I cut out the core, freeze the tomatoes on cookie sheets and then place them in freezer bags when they are frozen solid.  When I have more time in the winter, I can turn these tomatoes into soup or sauce.

Canning tomatoes.  Peeling skins off tomatoes is the perfect job for a 4 year old.

We plant LOTS of flowers in the vegetable garden each year, for two reasons: 1.  To feed the honeybees, and attract pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden.  2.  My daughter loves picking flowers and making fresh bouquets for the house.

Lest you think we are "all work and no play"....  We took a vacation with my parents at a cottage on Lake Michigan in August.   Nothing like waking up to the water each morning....

Loving the lake

Tubing is awesome!

Celebrating our Dutch heritage at Dutch Village in Holland, MI.

More fun at Dutch Village!

That's it for now, folks!  I'll try to hard to not be such a stranger...

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