Front Porch Farmgirl

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I’ve shared before that one thing I love is a good front porch (or living room or back porch or coffee shop) sit. It’s wonderful to reflect, pray, read and just be  still especially when a good view, comfy chair and cup of something delicious is involved. It’s a chance to slow down as my friend Monica at ‘The Homespun Heart’ preaches, teaches and shares on her blog and in her new book ‘Slow Lane’ that I can’t wait to get my hands on!

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Our front porch is nothing fancy or glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but it works for us. When we moved to Family Tree Farm there was an almost brand new mobile home with an overhang/awning sort of deal on the front that was built by the prior manager to block some of the afternoon sun and provide a little shade relief. We added on a deck and screened it all in and that is now our front porch.

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The porch has added a bit of living space (at least in good weather-because it leaks pretty good between the roof line of the house and the porch roof that was built prior to us moving here) and we have been working on making it a functional/useful part of our home and not a junk collecting spot. I have some pretty amazing junk, but I’m talking about the not so amazing junk like chewed up buckets and toys…

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As I’ve been picking up bits and pieces of suitable porch ‘stuff’ like places to sit and outdoor rugs and a bath tub… Yes a bath tub… we’ve been enjoying it more and more and as I’ve watched our little Buttercup grow, I think she just might love a good porch sit too.

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Sunset Therapy

Sometimes I need a little fresh air and sunshine… So, we spend most of our days outside. Sometimes I need a little alone time to recharge and breathe and take a break from the chores, mess and chaos. I am growing into a nurturing, loving mom more and more and a better wife and homemaker and all of those awesome things that I’m privileged to be, but it doesn’t come naturally. I didn’t grow up in a ‘traditional’ or a ‘Christian’ home. I wasn’t homeschooled. I didn’t play with baby dolls or pretend kitchens. My mom worked 60+ hours a week outside of the home and my dad did a lot of freelance independent  contracting work and wasn’t home much either. My 4-years-older sister was more or less ‘mom’ and with 5 of us growing up, it was pretty chaotic.

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Getting married and having children wasn’t something I desired until I was in my mid twenties and saw some pretty wonderful examples of Godly marriages. Before that, I was rather terrified of ‘settling down.’ I didn’t know what healthy relationships looked like and I certainly didn’t ever expect to have children, much less homeschool them! I didn’t even know that was a viable option.

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Now, with a strong, hardworking, Christ loving husband, a true understanding of the Gospel and the freedom and deliverance that I have in Christ and 3 beautiful children looking up to me as an example and as their caretaker, I’m thankful for the grace and mercy I’ve been given and the forgiveness I’ve received and the guidance that shows me that being a stay-at-home mom is not only a good thing and an honor, it’s a holy calling. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a hard, wanna scream, how do I do this thing. It’s an ‘is this really what I’m called to do?’ Thing. But I would not trade it for anything else in the world. I love my family and love my job and I love this awesome, sometimes slow but always full life I have.

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The thing is, no one told me how sanctifying wifehood and motherhood is. SANCTIFYING as in I’m the most selfish and proud woman in the world and I don’t want to serve and submit. Aren’t those ‘dirty words?’ No. They aren’t dirty words. They aren’t popular. They aren’t cool or hip or culturally acceptable, but I’ve been culturally acceptable and that was a hot, disgusting, filthy mess.

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So, as I’m figuring out this whole staying at home, educating and discipling my children and respecting and submitting to my amazing husband I’ve come to love those quiet and comforting moments of solace where the demands of the day melt away with the sunset. It’s a glorious thing. Oh glorious day.

Fair Trade

imageAndy’s been a beekeeper longer than I’ve known him. He’s been building up his honey market for the last 9 years and together  we have acquired a spectacular regular customer base for the liquid gold that our bees produce. In fact, he’s harvesting Tupelo this week and he said it is GOOD with a whole lotta Tupelo, whereas last year was a yummy mix of Tupelo with a splash of Gallberry. Since the stuff is gold, it’s afforded us the opportunity to barter with friends and associates for goods and services and we’ve loved being able trade all sorts of things.

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I say Fair Trade although we might have gotten the better end of the bargain on some of this stuff, but bartering has become sort of a way of life. At least it’s more normal to us now than it was when we entered our initial trade agreement. I remember that trade pretty clearly, because it involved a gallon of honey and a little cash for our first heritage sow, who was an Ossabaw Island pig named Sassafras.

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Since that initial trade, we’ve bartered for everything from doula services to coffee mugs. Even my blog logo was traded for some of our honey and homegrown food. Our CPA traded us firewood for his services and a local jewelry maker recently traded me a gorgeous copper strand/beaded necklace for some raw honey.

We’ve also traded lots of labor for goods, because more often than not we have goods and not cash money on hand. Quite frankly, if we weren’t beekeepers and farmers and growers then we probably wouldn’t want to or be able to fork out the dough for the high quality/organically grown goods that we can produce. What I mean is, if we didn’t grow it ourselves, we probably couldn’t afford it. At least, not on a farmers income… Or a bakers for that matter. We’ve tried. Nonetheless, we are able to eat like kings and queens and barter for some pretty spectacular goods in the meantime.

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Sometimes it’s easier to barter than pay cash and there is something kind of amazing about avoiding a cash exchange. If you haven’t done it, let us know what you’ve got. Maybe we can make a trade! Or come to the sweet farmers market at the crossroads of Swainsboro and meet the local artists and farmers and join the club.

XO.

Hotchickedydog

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That’s the ‘clever hashtag’ that our dear, sweet friend Ms Lois came up with after another precious sister of mine suggested a ‘clever hashtag’ for the mama chicken puppy excitement happening over here lately. I’ve been posting these cute photos on IG and FB, because they bring me so much joy and it’s hard to keep it all to myself. I love animals. I really do. I always have.

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I was the kid at the elementary school fair spending all my tickets to “Save the Goldfish!!!” from the blue kiddie pool positioned in the hot summer sun. I was the kid who brought home every stray dog, cat, bird and broken winged butterfly and who sobbed for days and days the first time a speeding car on Drayton St ran over a pigeon… I can still see it 20+ years later. Those goldfish lived about 10 years by the way and any money I earned or birthday gifts went to fish supplies… That was kind of disappointing, but no one can say I was spoiled. My parents were practical out of necessity and it has been quite a blessing for me.

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Anyway, spending just a little bit of time with the animals has been such a fun ‘get-away’ and I have loved seeing the personalities of this corner of the farm unfold. I joked with one of the puppy’s new owners that we may end up doing a buy a dog get a chicken free deal. At this rate, we just might.

XO

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‘chick’ puppy

image.jpegI went out to count calves last night, because we are in the middle of calving right now and I stopped to check on the puppies before I came in. A head count for them twice a day in necessary to be sure that no one has climbed into a  chicken food trough. I guess these pups will be more than ready to protect any chickens they meet, since they’re being raised by some awesome mamas. This makes me smile. Big time. XO.

 

Puppy Love

Our sweet and awesome Great Pyrenees, Remi(ngton) recently had her first litter of puppies. After years of failed attempts at using different dogs as livestock guardians, we are so thankful for ‘the right tool for the right job’ as Bull Frog learned to say from Andy. We’d been given dogs in the past and had some wander onto our farms and they just never made the cut. Unfortunately, we lost our hard earned investments to the paws and jaws of some of those dogs and learned a million hard and painful lessons.

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We were discouraged because our stewardship of dogs was looking bleak and poor and our resolve was quite different than the mainstream’s opinion of keeping pooches on a pedestal. We just couldn’t do it. Dogs either have a place on our homestead where they work and provide protection or they don’t.

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We can’t keep dogs just for the sake of keeping them. They work just like every other animal we have, except for maybe the silkies which are purely entertainment. Silkie’s eggs are fine, but their meat is a bit too ‘gamey’ so they are strictly for fun, but they 100% free range and we put zero effort into keeping them alive, so they stay. Dogs on the other hand need regular maintenance, care and upkeep and finally, after years of failure in the canine department (ever tried using a golden retriever as a guard dog?) we have arrived!

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My first introduction to Great Pyrenees came when I had the awesome privilege of taking care of the sweetest heart with cerebral palsy. He had this big beautiful Great Pyrenees named Tosca who you just didn’t want to mess with. She was bonded to her boy and his mom like you wouldn’t believe. Tosca has now passed the baton to George since she’s gone to the grave, but meeting her and knowing her loyalty to her bond made a lasting impression.

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I loved her loyalty, confidence, gorgeous double coat and size. I loved that when she knew you were ‘approved’ by her master then she’d let her guard down a bit and I loved that my sweet charge had this beautiful guard dog by his side and now another one.

Fast forward a few years and Andy and I are married and farming. When you’re immersed into a culture, whatever it be (church, skateboarding, rock climbing, sustainable farming, other countries, etc) you learn the ways of the culture and the how tos and what nots. When we started farming, we dove in headfirst and with everything we had. We tried everything and then some, we read books, networked, watched videos, went to conferences, you name it. With that, came the big names of farm/ranch dogs and livestock guardian dogs: Anatolian Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, Blue Heelers, etc.

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We’d done lots of research and knew we needed a breed to protect our flocks and herds. We had donkeys (and still do) for the larger animals (milk cow and now beef cows), but we needed something protecting the sheep, the chickens and even the goats (although Andy would just as soon use goats as coyote bait-not truly but he and the goats butt heads-truly).

We needed a dog that would keep the other animals safe from predators like hawks, foxes, stray dogs, coyotes and we needed a dog that would be a well rounded asset and able to be versatile on the farm/homestead. Enter the Great Pyrenees.

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Y’all this story is getting long and I’m not sure where to cut it off or how much detail to go into, but I am just ecstatic about these dogs. I’m especially ecstatic because Family Tree Farm has 2 Great Pyrenees that we found last year from two breeders in North GA and we were recently given another one, who has helped train the other 2 and brought a ton of balance to the place. Remi hadn’t even worked a farm full-time when we got her! She is just that awesome!

We picked up Remi from Rockin H farm near Athens and you’d think she’d been born here when in fact, we are third (and final!) home! After all of our tried and failed attempts of assimilating other dogs to become livestock guardians and not chicken killers, we have finally succeeded! Finally!!!

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Our goals of breeding a line of dogs that will benefit the small homestead needing a dog to lookout for a variety of animals to the family wanting a dog to lookout for their children to the large farming operation needing a dog to protect their hundreds of pastured chickens or sheep or goats is coming to fruition. With the help of a strong, healthy sire and Remi’s field partner and Remi’s awesome genetics and temperament, we have our first litter of what we hope to be a long line of fantastic farm dogs: welcome to the world little pups! We are so glad you’re here!

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It felt like yesterday

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She’s one! An entire year has gone by since we welcomed our sweet Buttercup into the world. It seems like only last week that I was pacing the farm anticipating her birth, wondering when she’d arrive and what she’d be like. 9 months of praying constantly for her safe and healthy arrival and years of research after our first born arrived via unexpected c-section and our second arrived as a repeat c-section, because our dr no longer offered VBACs and I’d been diagnosed with cephalopelvic disproportion after a strenuous labor and failure to progress the first time.

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I never shared my ‘birth stories’ before, because the bottom line was that we had 2 (now 3) healthy, amazing children. Regardless of how they were born or the years I struggled with shame and guilt of not feeling like a ‘real woman’ because the natural birth that we’d planned at a local birthing center ended up as a hospital transfer and life-saving cesarean section that completely rocked our world and made us thankful for modern medicine, because Andy could have lost his family that day, I just couldn’t bring myself to write about it all.

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I’d read so many birth stories and I know women who have had every birth experience under the sun. I know women who have lost their children during labor and delivery-Women whose children never took their first breath. I know women who would give the world to be able to carry a child in their womb regardless of how that child is delivered. I know doulas and ICAN advocates and labor and delivery nurses and anesthesiologists. I know women who have had home births and water births and csections and vbacs and vba2cs and the list goes on…

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I thought csections were unnecessary interventions-until I needed one to deliver my son. I thought epidurals were evil and dangerous, until I needed one. I thought I could give birth painlessly (even though I know it’s part of the fall for women to have pain in childbirth!), because of a book someone gave me and hearing of a first hand experience of painless childbirth, but that wasn’t my case. I thought doulas were some sort of waste-of-money-witch-doctors until we had one and she helped us get through our ‘trial of labor’ as we attempted a vba2c with our 3rd child!

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We had some healthy and not so healthy criticism and a lot of skeptics for attempting a VBA2C. We knew the hospital would be the safest place for us to deliver, because of the response time in the event of a complication and we had an incredibly competent staff of doctors and nurses and residents working around the clock during the entire pregnancy, labor and delivery for which we are forever thankful. I remember so many of their names and faces and am so thankful for their hardwork and encouragement as we worked hard to bring our daughter into the world.

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I can’t say that I was fully confident or optimistic or hopeful for a ‘successful’ vba2c.  We struggled big time with knowing that we were doing the best thing for our family. It may seem contrary to some but, when it came down to it and our sweet baby arrived 10 days after her estimated due date, larger than both of the boys had been and without a c-section involved we knew that we’d been carried through. Despite the doubts and fears and struggles and unsolicited advice from loved ones and strangers, God carried us, protected us and provided for us and had mercy and grace enough to give us a safe, healthy delivery of a beautiful baby girl. Her name means ‘Pure, Bright and Bringer of Light’ and it’s my hope that she will live up to it all of her days.