Inspired by everything good

A brand new Charolais heifer calf was born just a few hours ago. Andy called me because he needed some help opening some gates while he carried the calf to an adjacent pasture that all of the mamas and babies are on with Frank, the bull.

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I haven’t moved our minivan since my dentist appointment on Tuesday. It’s Saturday night. The kids have had colds. I’ve been homebound. It’s good.

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When the boys and I went out to give daddy some assistance, while Buttercup napped, I was gently reminded over and over and over again why I love this lifestyle that we eat, sleep and breathe. It’s the life. The life all around that takes my breath away. It’s the miracle after the tragedy that makes me want to soak it all in.

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The LGDs watching over the 4 horned sheep in the pasture. The chickens running around chasing bugs and scratching up the field. It’s the mama cow with her new calf and the geese on the pond. It’s the heirloom corn taller than my husband’s head and the farm boys learning how to drive at 3 and 5 years old. It’s the seeds in the soil and the sunset in the sky that give me hope and encourage my soul.

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It’s the melted beeswax being poured into candle molds and the homegrown meals that are served at our homemade table. It’s the fresh food and the fresh air and the beauty of life all around. It’s the grace that follows the grave and the life that follows death. It’s the joy that comes after sorrows. We have many sorrows and heartaches. It’s part of life in our broken world. But, there is so much beauty to behold.

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Today I saw a lot of it. Tomorrow is not promised, but these glimpses of our glorious eternity give me great hope. It’s a gift from God and I’m so thankful to Him for all of it and I’m inspired by everything good.

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“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”(James 1:17)

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The Relatives Came

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One of my favorite children’s books is ‘The Relatives Came’ by Cynthia Rylant. I first discovered the book when Andy and I were interning at Brant Family Farm in SC and fell in love with the story. Mainly because it reminded me so much of my family and how we visit and hug and laugh and breathe together.

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I have a sister and a niece in VA and it is one of our favorite places in the country. The premise of the book is that the relatives came from VA and they all got to spend the summer together. I’ve been reading this story for the last couple of years at our Shaner family gatherings and it always makes me cry. I’m a bit sappy and sentimental sometimes and this book reminds me so much of those that are near and dear to my heart. So, when I pulled out the book to read to my sweet niece, she patted me on the leg and said, ‘you don’t have to cry, I’m right here.’ And my heart exploded with love and joy and gratitude for her precious little soul and her wisdom beyond her years.

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She’s 6. My sister, her mother, and I are 18 months apart and were incredibly close growing up. We were comrades in the truest sense of the word and we had each other’s back, always and no matter what. Seeing my beautiful sister, Aubrie, in my niece’s eyes and having her in my home for just a day filled my cup. I wish they lived closer. I wish our kids were growing up together as best friends. Cousins by default and friends by choice. But, for now, they live in VA. For now, I’ll wait eagerly for their visits and be thankful for the precious hours that we do have together and continue to hope for more.

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My sweet niece will have one of the Great Pyrenees puppies with her at her dad’s house. She came down and was surprised with a puppy by him. We arranged it a few weeks ago and I could hardly wait for the day. Knowing that the last puppy to be picked was meant to be hers has given me so much peace. When he contacted me to inquire about a pup, I knew it was meant to be.

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So, they drove down from VA. She met her new puppy and played with her cousins and read books and told me about her life in VA. We ate together and played games together and breathed together. And that’s all that mattered. Then, they packed up their car with a sweet puppy in tow. Another soon-to-be-mama-bear-dog in the back seat next to my darling niece. My heart melted and once again, the house felt too big and too empty…

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“Bye. I’ll never forget you.”

 

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Oh friends. They grow up too fast! I’m not even talking about my kids, because we all know they grow up way too fast! We just celebrated Pinecone’s 3rd birthday yesterday, but I’m actually talking about these little Great Pyrenees puppies that were born just yesterday! Or maybe it was actually 8 weeks ago, but those 8 weeks just flew by!

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Now the puppies are going to their new homes. That was always the plan. We needed more livestock protection here, particularly for the sheep, but we knew that the other puppies would be sold to work on other farms and  provide security just like we needed. But, now they are actually old enough to go. And the first one did. Today.

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Yesterday, we put 2 of the puppies that are staying on the farm with the new Jacob sheep that we just brought home. Today the first puppy to leave left. The farmer (that actually lives just about 45 minutes away) contacted us to inquire about a pup to be paired up with a dog that they already have working on their place. These dogs work great in teams and we had a puppy available. We labeled the puppy with her own ribbon collar when they went in for their first shots and we knew she’d be going down to Anthony’s Roots when she left here. This afternoon the Anthony family came to pick up the little girl.

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Then it stormed. Crazy-don’t-wanna-get-struck-by-lightning-why-are-we-still-standing-on-the-front-porch-storm. The storm that makes you invite a family into your messy house (because you didn’t clean up from the birthday party-that only included grandparents and an aunt), but if it wasn’t storming then they never would have seen the kiddie pool that was used to rehabilitate a duck on the front porch that needs to be repainted that led into the house that wasn’t cleaned… But, it did storm and that family did come in and they did see the dirty dishes and they didn’t judge. At least they said they wouldn’t and it was good.

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It was good because we chatted and the kids played and I was encouraged about blogging by a blogger and we talked about butchering animals and Andy offered to help, because he’s butchered them and then the storm stopped. So, it was time for the Anthony family and their new puppy to leave our farm and go to their farm where the puppy would be settling into her new role.

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So, they loaded into their van and the oldest daughter yelled to our oldest son: “Bye, I’ll never forget you!” I realized later that this was a first for us. We’ve had a thousand firsts since we started farming and this was one of them. Saying goodbye to our first LGD puppy. I’ll never forget it.

XO.

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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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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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