Friday, January 22, 2021

How a New Matters

A post JB shared on Facebook ... this is my JB ... and this is definitely our not-so-little Sidge too. 

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” – C.S. Lewis
It is hard to capture in words the exact feelings I have about an amphibian.
We all have something… or maybe we had something, in the past sense.
There were certain things or people or places that captured our passions as children. It may have been a specific toy. It may have been a specific celebrity, an actor, or a band. It may have been an amusement park.
Once we grow up, we often look back with fondness at that thing. We may even have nostalgia about it.
But the magic has been lost.
We’ve become adults, and so “we’ve put childish things behind us”.
Me? Not so much.
I am still enamored with almost the same things as when I was a child.
I was never into celebrities. I’m not a big fan of amusement parks. And while I had a few toys I was fond of, nothing captured my interest like the natural world.
Birds, trees, mammals, rocks, fish, space, coral reefs, insects, caves, reptiles, rivers, amphibians.
That was what mattered to me.
And they still get me excited.
But there are a few select animals that still get me, well, giddy, is probably the best word. I may hide the external manifestations of those emotions, but on the inside… yeah, it’s giddy.
The Red Eft?
That’s one of those animals. For sure.
I remember reading about the Eastern Newt in my copy of the Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife book given to me by my grandfather. I read through that book countless times, and I still have that book, worn as it is, sitting on my bookshelf.
But there was something about this amphibian that captured my interest. I think it was a combination of the drastic changes this animal undergoes in its life and the absolutely stunning colors it develops.
In general, newts are a type of salamander with, typically, drier and rougher skin. There are a few other ways in which newts differ from the other salamanders, but even the experts don’t have a consensus.
Specifically, the Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) lives a life of three phases.
In the first phase, they hatch from an egg in the water and live similar to frog tadpoles.
In the second phase, they lose their gills, change their color, and move to the land; this is the “eft” or terrestrial stage of life, and they live similar to lizards. As an eft, they become bright, almost glowing, reddish-orange, and are one of the most beautiful creatures on earth.
The third and final phase is the adult stage where they turn an olive green and return to the water to live a fully aquatic life once more.
As a child, I wanted to find a Red Eft about as bad as a child could want anything.
I spent hours outside whenever I could.
Growing up in South Florida, I was surrounded by lush vegetation and wildlife. I found animals of all types.
There were the relatively common Brown and Green Anoles (lizards), large Cane Toads, and Mockingbird chicks found in our yard.
There were the Eastern Mosquitofish, Apple Snails, and baby Muscovy Ducks found in the nearby canal.
Then there were also the less common animals.
For a short time I cared for (with significant help from my mother) a Mangrove Cuckoo with a broken wing, a baby raccoon (which may have actually been an opossum), recently hatched Alligator Snapping Turtles (they went back to the canal pretty quick), a Scarlet King Snake (their bites do not hurt), a Green Water Snake (their bites really hurt), a whole long list of other snakes, a Cuban Tree Frog (it loved to eat cockroaches), and even a Basilisk Lizard (yes… they really can run on water!).
But never did I find a Red Eft.
Fast-forward 30 years.
We now live on our farm in East Tennessee. We have been slowly repairing an unhealthy landscape that has been overgrazed with cattle and damaged with chemicals. We’ve been seeing a return of life in the soils and pastures. The land has started to heal.
And now I see Red Efts many times a year.
But the novelty has still not worn off.
All those exciting emotions I had when flipping over logs and wading in canals as a kid come flooding back.
In addition to my childhood interests, Red Efts get me excited for an entirely different reason. It means that our efforts to regenerate the ecosystem on the farm is working.
You see, amphibians are indicators for environmental health. They can be used like canaries in a coal mine. Historically, canaries were brought into coal mines because they are more susceptible to toxic gases, like methane and carbon monoxide, than humans. The canary would die before these gases rose to levels that would kill the coal miners. If the miners noticed the canary was dead, usually because they realized the bird had stopped singing, the miners then had time to get out of the mine before they were killed.
Amphibians breathe and drink through their thin skin, and they are exquisitely sensitive to environmental toxins. As canaries were used to monitor air quality, amphibians can be used to monitor environmental quality.
Specifically, the quality of water that runs over and through the forests, soils, pastures, and environments where they live.
In this case, that environment is our farm.
And I still smile every time I find one.
(photo of the Red Eft I found this morning in the pasture on my way into the woods)

220 pounds

 



This is a post for ME. If you want to read it, that's great, but I want to remember THIS. Now.

My whole life, I have been incredibly skinny. When I left for college in 1995, I was 6'3" and 155 pounds. I am still 6'3" but am now 220 pounds. (Actually 213 thank you very much!)

I always knew I was going to be tall. But I knew I did not want to big and tall. This is no offense to anyone who is. However, when you are already so tall, commanding an even larger presence was just something I didn't want to do.

I have never had to watch what I ate. In fact, until I graduated from college/basketball, I was constantly striving to eat more food. I can't be sure, but I think I probably consumed upwards of 6-7,000 calories a day in college. I ate everything in SIGHT and could barely gain a pound. When I graduated from college, I weighed 175 pounds. 

I don't remember all the details, but I know that at my highest pregnancy weight I was 211. I also know that prior to Hannah's birth, when I was in the throngs of a major depression, I got as low as 164 again.

Most people don't notice this on me. When you are as tall as me, there is a lot of forgiveness that goes with this.

But it is NOT okay with me. Since we have moved to the farm, I have found that I can no longer "eat anything." This correlates pretty accurately with hitting 40 years old and changing seasons of my life. I am incredibly active, but my weight is simply too high.

A normal BMI for my heigh is 200 pounds. I am 20 pounds over that. 

I have refrained from talking about it on my Blog because I don't want my daughters to read this years from now. I am very conscious to never say I am fat or to talk about body image in front of them. I am doing WeighWatchers now, and honestly, while this is somewhat about what I look like, it is more about what I feel like. It's about how easily I can get off the floor after playing with my kids. I want to feel better. And so I need to do this.

So I am posting these pictures to remember me at 220 pounds. I hope to be on here in the next six months, significantly less weight.

I am also going to be posting some recipes (below) as I come up with them, for future reference for myself! I want to be able to remember how I got to where I am going.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Puppies, puppies, everywhere!

Arabelle had her fourth and FINAL round of pups. We are so enjoying them as they close in on two weeks old ... their eyes should be opening soon!

 


Bauernhof: Selling a Ram

 


Not that anyone who reads my Blog is probably a ram buyer, but it's fun to remember what's "going on" on our farm at different times. 

Purebred Katahdin ram for sale.
$500
Developed from the Virginia Tech parasite-resistance breeding program.
He’s never needed/received an antibiotic, dewormer, or vaccine.
He’s been our back-up sire for this last season.
I have not weighed him, but I know he is over 150 lbs (probably more), and he’s got more growing to do still. His sire was the largest Katahdin ram I have ever seen in person. His twin brother is just a bit larger, and he is our flock’s main sire.
He has thrived on our less than ideal pasture with rotational grazing. No supplemental hay given, ever.
He’ll be 2 years old this Spring.
Rams really reach their prime at 3-4 years of age. Rams usually are taken out of breeding between 6-8 years.
He’s gentle... not bottle-fed gentle, but we occasionally hand feed our sheep alfalfa pellets, and he’ll follow a bucket with the flock in a second.
Located in Bulls Gap.
East Tennessee.

Thank you Peyton

 


My adorable pre-K niece, Peyton (daughter of John's brother Matt and his wife, Dani), in Florida, with her "Thank You" not for Uncle John working in the hospital ... man, this gets you!

Before Covid ... and now

 


Before I got COVID, I was running ten miles a week. I could climb my hills for hours setting up and moving sheep without stopping.
Today I just walked out to the sheep paddock and was out of breath. Knowing I needed to set up two paddocks, I sat down in the middle of our pregnant Mamas and just started sobbing.
I’m so frustrated .... I wake up wanting to go back to bed. And I have a fraction of my previous endurance. And my husband needs me to be strong right now. He can’t carry me.
I am so blessed and fortunate to not have had a worse case ... I am also blessed that God is so aware of my grief. Right in the middle of my sob-fest, a friend I don’t speak to regularly texted me to see how I was doing.
When I told her I was crying with the sheep, she told me she’d get off the phone and pray for me.
God is present ....


Covid Doubters

I received a message from a friend yesterday. She apologized for being a "COVID doubter"  before it hit her with a death and then her own parent getting VERY ill with it. Now that she is seeing it first-hand, she realizes what John Kitsteiner and I have been saying since this all began. I told her how that helps me feel I am doing the right thing ... to keep trying to educate. I love this lady and she is very special to me! But her comment also makes me wonder: Does educating help? Will doubters only be doubters? Isn't John watching this up close and personal PROOF ENOUGH?

As I spoke to my husband about my friend's insight, I told him it feels like we have witnessed the horrors of a tornado. We see how bad it is and can be, and we have run to tell our community of the impending danger.
While some of the community members hear us and listen, some say: "I don't think it is really a tornado. I think it is just a bad storm and you guys are overreacting."
And my husband, who was right smack in the middle of the tornado says to them: "No. Seriously. It's a tornado. And it is headed our way."
Can you imagine how it would feel if you have been in the middle of a tornado -- you are seeing the destruction and dead bodies and you have had to tell family members that their loved one has died and you are watching people die alone -- and then someone turns to you and says: "You are blowing this out of proportion? It isn't as big of a deal as you are making it out to be." Can you fathom how that must make John feel? How it makes me feel just being his partner in life. I honestly don't know how he doesn't rip into people. How does he stay so calm?!
John once said to me (and I summarize): "No one would ask someone coming home from a war to PROVE how tragic it was. But I feel I have to tell stories and replay grim images to get people to understand this. They want proof. Isn't my word proof enough?!"
Some people heed the warning. Some don't. Many continue to say it is just a bad storm. Then, the tornado passes over them. If it is bad, they say what my friend said: "You were right. I didn't listen." But if the tornado doesn't hit their house directly or hit it hard, they say: "See. I told you. It's not a tornado."
Just because the tornado skirts by you doesn't mean there wasn't a tornado!! To say a tornado isn't real because it didn't hit your town hard doesn't change the fact that it exists.
John has never said: "This tornado WILL kill you." Instead he has said: "There is a tornado coming and it COULD hurt you or hurt someone you love. Be prepared."
The fact is, COVID is a tornado. And not everyone in the path of a tornado dies. Some houses are missed completely! But if you still think it is just a bad storm, you are directly saying my husband is not a truthful man. It is also likely the tornado hasn't touched you personally. I don't know a single person who has lost a parent or grandparent or father or sister who is saying: "This was just a bad storm." They are shouting with us. TORNADO! BE READY!
No matter how COVID started or what the higher-ups in our country's government or the world government have chosen to do or not do does not matter at this point. What matters is that there is a TORNADO. It is NOT a bad storm. It is a TORNADO. It COULD be heading your way. It COULD pass right by you. It COULD come right over you.
This post is not about instilling FEAR. It is about instilling TRUTH and using that TRUTH to be WISE.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A story about ... birds

If you aren't a birder, you can't understand the obsession with birding. But I will try to put you into the birding mindset through this post. 

(Trust me. If Wendi-the-non-birder is writing it, you will find it enjoyable even if you barely know what a bird is.)

I am married to someone who loves birds. And I am a mother to two kids who love birds. (My other two children join me in the non-birding camp making us a 50/50 family. Although my husband is still hopeful he can sway our seven-year-old little girl over to the dark side.)

Birding is a culture. It's a wonderful community of people that meet online  and in person to see birds. It's a whole underground network of flying nature.

If you are interested in learning more, I suggest the book: The Big Year or if you aren't a reader, try the movie which stars a legendary cast of Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin. It's a fun movie and will teach you plenty about the culture.

On Friday evening, John started talking with our two mini-birders about two interesting birds. They were the 

1. Bullock's Oriole

and the 

2. White-Throated Swift

JB and our two bird-lovers: Sidge (age 12 next week!) and Abigail (age 9) have a few birding goals. 

1. See as many different birds in Greene County that they can.

2. See as many different birds within the state of TN that they can.

3. See birds anywhere in the USA that they can.

(A side note, while JB most likes to just see the birds, my kids love to photograph them.)

They aren't in a hurry to see all the normal TN birds. But all of a sudden, they got an alert (Yes! There are pages online that alert you to these things!) that there were two birds in Chattanooga, TN that are very unusual to the State. 

The Bullock's Oriole hadn't been reported within the TN border in 25 years! And the White-Throated Swift has only been recorded East of the Mississippi three times ... EVER.

And suddenly, both birds were just 2.5 hours away from our home in Bulls Gap/Greeneville within 9 minutes of each other. It would be one thing if they had been spotted in Western, TN. That's too far to drive (as you can see on the map below). Tennessee is a long, wide State. But Chattanooga .... that's not far at all from us!

However, our weekend was packed with ballet. So John and Abigail and Sidge sat around talking about how cool it would be if they could see those birds but not seriously entertaining the idea. They had been spotted regularly, in the same spot, over multiple days. One of them was on a pond. The other was in a woman's backyard. She had made it easy for people to park, walk into her yard, and see the bird! So they were sort of just pow-wow-ing about how cool it would be ... but not thinking they could do it. 

Enter their amazingly-cool-but totally-clueless-about-birding Mama. She pulls John outside for a pow-wow and says: "Why don't you go see the birds?"

It isn't easy to surprise/shock/excite John Kitsteiner. He's an even-keeled guy who makes a living staying calm (or pretending to on the outside even when he feels very uncalm.) 

But his face was totally bewildered.

(And I love bewildering him!)

I could take some liberties and tell you that he said: "This may be the nicest thing you have ever said to me." However, while he didn't really say that, his face definitely indicated that is how I had made him feel. 

Was this his not-interested-in-birds-wife who is feeling very post-COVID-worn-out telling him to drive five hours round trip to see two birds?!

(It was. Major Brownie Points for me.)

We figured it out. If they left right after ballet practice on Saturday evening, they could drive down, grab a hotel, wake up, see the birds, and drive back in time for the Sunday ballet rehearsal. (Extra points to the ballet director who figure out how to get them out of rehearsal a little earlier so buy them some extra time.)

In the end, they got to see the Bullock's Oriole but did not find the Swift. However, they managed to score another rare bird thanks to some birders who filled them in on a Pacific Loon hanging out not far away.

While I may never understand birds, I certainly can appreciate the looks on my kids' faces detailing their adventures. I especially love that JB said I must come with them sometime just to see Abigail, our shy little girl, turn into a totally different kid when surrounded by other people who get birds like she does. John said she talks unencumbered and simply is blooming in her element. (Normally, Abigail does not speak to people she does not know, like, ever ...) 

And Sidge, on our way to ballet practice, could not stop GLOWING as he showed me photos and told me about each bird he saw and ignored my ignorant questions ...

I love their passion.

Even if I don't really love birds.



Thursday, January 14, 2021

This is real life

This is me right now. Exactly as I am. 

I’m wearing my favorite Turkish pants.

(I had asked my seamstress in Turkey to recreate a favorite pair of grey pants in a different color and she picked this! They always make me laugh and remember a different time.)

Right now, outside my door, Grampa and Grama and John and the kids and our two woofers: Jake and Jacob are eating soup and bread. 

I was weary. Tired. Needing a break. Looking for a way to take a break, the husband just said: “Why don’t you just stay in here until morning?!”

And so I am. Not feeding dogs or checking on puppies or cleaning up dinner or tucking anyone in. Just being ... just me. 

It’s hard to ask for a break from mundane, normal life, when your husband is fighting for lives during a pandemic. 

I often feel guilty. 

But he reminds me, and I remind myself that my fatigue is still real despite the fact that his is real too. 

So I’m on my room, reading, and eating the cup of soup hubby brought me, and giggling a bit as he attempts to keep kids out of my room. When there are four kids and three dogs and eight puppies — controlling things isn’t very easy. 

But still. 

My room isn’t perfect. My life isn’t perfect. The world isn’t perfect. 

But tiny little moments of rest and living are still important. I value them. 

If the world is swirling around you, find a way for a moment of rest. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The kids may sneak in many times and your dresser is covered with clutter and the dogs are whining .... 

But it’s your life. 

Find the joy. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

The USA in turmoil

 

I hope someday, my kids will be scrolling through this post in January of 2020, right before the election of Joe Biden, and think: "Mom thought things were really, really bad in America. But in fact, Jesus was just about to get started helping things get very, very good."

I hope that. 

But I am really doubting it will come to pass. 

We can't know the future. We can't worry about it either. Well, we can, but the Lord encourages us not to.

Hebrews 13:14 says: "For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come."

John 16:33 says: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I believe the Lord gives us all of us a different "mission" in our life. We have different callings. I truly believe that I was created to LOVE. I have always wanted people to be happy. Some of this, is born from selfish desires. I want people to like me. I want to please man. 

But I truly have a very sympathetic heart. I think the psychiatric term is an empath. The first time I heard this word, I thought my friend was describing something mythological or ethereal. But I have since come to understand that as an empath, I am just a highly sensitive individual. I sense what people around me are thinking and feeling. I have a great deal of empathy, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense. This emotion has been with me for as long as I can remember, and it has always exhausted me. When I am with a group of people, I am thinking about what they may be thinking and feeling nearly constantly. I want them to have peace. I want them to be joyful.

But alas, I am a human. And they are humans. And I can't control what they are feeling. And they can't control what they are feeling either. 

I want world peace. I've always wanted world peace. But the truth is: this is a world of sin. Truly, as a Christian, I feel that the lack of moral absolutes our world (and specifically our country) has put into place during the last two decades specifically, will be the downfall of our country. And maybe of our world. This makes me sad. And yet I know, that Revelation prophecies about the end times. It won't be easy. There will be sin running rampant. 

Truly, as I see it, the Democrats are going about things all wrong. To the opposite extreme, the Republicans are going about it all wrong. I believe the intention of both sides is rooted in what they believe is truth. However, I believe TRUTH has lost its definition. We don't allow TRUTH to be black or white anymore. If you are living YOUR "truth" then that's all that matters. 

But it isn't.

You truth may be sin. The Bible, if we believe it is true, is full of sin. And sinful acts. There is black. There is white. It isn't all gray. In the end, both political parties are human beings attempting to save people from their own versions of sin. But those versions are very different. 

I don't believe that we are savable on this Earth. I believe we are only savable by spending eternity with Jesus Christ. My job is to tell as many people as I can about my Jesus. Not about my political affiliations or party. ABOUT MY JESUS! 

JESUS IS THE ONLY "MAN" WHO CAN SAVE OUR COUNTRY OR OUR WORLD. 

I understand that some people are called to enter the political realm. Others are called to be preachers. Physicians. Missionaries. John and I always thought we'd have some big calling on our lives. We thought we'd be overseas somewhere serving medically on the mission field. 

But God had other ideas. He has called us, to right here, right now, on this farm, serving our local community in the midst of a pandemic. I never thought God would tell me to remain on social media and continue to speak the actual truth. Not "my" truth. But the "actual" truth as we are currently seeing it in a rural ER in East TN.  John is on the front lines of a pandemic. But even more than that, we feel called to allow people to come to our farm for respite and refuge and retreat. To get rejuvenated. Reequipped. Loved. Hugged. Jesus-filled. 

While the country and world has many problems, I do think that if we all focused on loving our neighbor AS OURSELVES things would be much better. I truly feel that Republicans think that they can't love Democrats. And vice versa. And this makes me sad. I don't feel it was like this twenty years ago. I truly felt like everything has gotten worse in the last twenty years. How can we be MORE racist now than we were twenty years ago? How can we love our neighbors LESS than we did twenty years ago? How have things gotten so much worse? 

Sin? 

Social media? 

Lack of following the Word of God? 

All of the above? 

I feel that sin has created a huge divide. I pray our country doesn't break into pieces, but I fear it will. 

And if does, I hope John and I will continue to be on our 96-aces ... loving people. Loving Jesus. And loving the whole wide world.

Again, I hope some day, I look back on this post and think: that was when everything turned around for good. We feared bad but good was right around the corner. 

I pray that is the case. But right now, it feels like this has been a year of just plain ... bad. 

And that it might only get worse.

But in the end John 12:46 says: "I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him, for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken with judge him on the last day."

Puppies, puppies EVERYWHERE!

Here are some videos of our puppies:

Saturday, January 9th at 9:50am (First puppy is born -- long Facebook live video)

Saturday 6:59pm (She ends with eight -- Facebook video)

Saturday evening! (Facebook video)

Saturday evening! (Right before bed)

Sunday!

Monday!

Tomorrow morning I will take them in for their first vet appt. Our world may be in a mess right now. Our country may be in a mess. And it can be disheartening. But somehow, puppies help. Just a little bit.