Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday Truth

We Bought a Farm: The Work is Never Done

There is ALWAYS a project on the farm. Living a slow life sounds idyllic. And in many ways it is amazingly simple, but it is also a life that requires many things to be on your counter in various stages of preparation. You don't produce berries all year. You produce them during a portion of the year. And if you don't store them correctly, you won't have them for later in the year. 

To be honest: I'm not very good at all the preparing/canning/packaging of food. My mother-in-law, Mary, heads up a majority of this. I am often there, following directions and helping, but it isn't my passion, and I'm not good at it ... yet. I'm sure like with everything around here, I will grow.

To live off the land requires WORK. Plain and simple.

Speaking of work, I wanted to take the time to give a FULL tour of our garden. I cannot take ANY credit for this. I've done very little. Without our wwoofer/surrogate family member Jacob, I don't think we'd even have half of what we have. He and JB work on this a lot, but with JB working full-time off the farm, there is only so much time. Jacob is integral to the success of the garden. 

Truly, seeing this just does a weary body good. I hope you enjoy seeing what some seeds in the ground have the ability to do:

Here are a few other videos that might interest you if these two did: 

    I continue to learn to love and appreciate the refuge and respite of the Bauernhof. The sis my home. And it is an oasis from the storms raging outside its walls. I'm blessed to live within it's hills.


    Monday, June 29, 2020

    We Bought a Farm: Pioneer Quest

    I'm watching a FANTASTIC show with the kids on Amazon Prime: PIONEER QUEST. The premise is simple: take two Canadian couples into the wilderness and let them attempt to live like pioneers for one year. 

    While I would never go so far as to say we are living like pioneers here at the Bauernhof, I would like to believe that the five years I have spent learning to farm have taught me quite a bit about the life they are attempting to live. 

    I honestly could write post after post after post about how this show has gotten me thinking. (You really need to watch it!) It has really resonated with me on so many levels. 

    But today I just want to talk one word:


    I can so relate to the weather. The rain affects nearly every single thing you do on a farm. You are so reliant on the weather to get work done or get crops grown properly. Rain at the wrong time. Too much rain. Too little rain. You can't predict it. And yet you depend on it. 

    Due to all the issues with COVID-19, the meat processors in our area have been very backed up. We had an appointment this morning that we could not just skip as we had waited a long time for it. But that meant catching sheep in the pouring rain. There was no choice. It had to be done. 

    And so do it, we did.

    And in the midst of that pouring rain, I made a very BIG error that could have cost us tons of time. 

    Small, little errors can greatly affect your farming day. In the midst of moving these sheep, I got distracted. When I did, I didn't close a gate properly. All the sheep that are int his chute in the video, got out of the chute. This meant we had to try to herd them back into the chute.

    We weren't able to. So we instead had to move in and catch them by hand. It cost us about 30-minutes. Not too bad. It could have been worse. My husband was incredibly gracious when he saw my eyes filling with tears. It was a mistake. We all make them. But making it in the rain seemed way worse.

    Did I tell ya'll to go watch this show?!


    Saturday, June 27, 2020

    We Bought a Farm: #Ican'tbelievethisismylife

    Sidge: "Mom there is a huge rat in the sheep enclosure."
    Me: "Okay."
    Sidge: (Holds up a big stick.) "Should I go inside and kill it with this?"
    Me: "Yeah. That'd be great."

    Before I became a farmher, I'd never ever seen a rat. I thought I had. I thought the movie Ratatoutille was super cute. But rats are way different than mice. Rats are really, really big. Massive. We have had a family of rats find our feed stash, and we are unable to defeat them. Rat traps are scary things. You worry you'll lose a finger. So we tried a different kind of trap. Sometimes we catch them. But they live on. They steal food from ducks. They find food and eat it. They are undefeatable. Period. They are like little rodent-monsters. 

    It's become such a problem that we've bought a small shed that we are waiting to have delivered. It will be more secure and hopefully will provide reinforcements in our daily battle against the rats.

    I don't like rats.

    The fact that I would tell my eleven-year old son to go ahead and stab one with a stick without thinking twice about it honestly makes me do this weird thinking things with my face. 

    The Wendi I feel I am deep down inside lives in the suburbs and has never seen a rat. 

    But this is the Wendi I am now. 

    I don't like rats.


    Friday, June 26, 2020

    A Letter from an ER Doctor's Wife


    Dear fellow member of the Human Race,

    Imagine being an airline pilot. You are flying people all over the world without any issues. No one is questioning your maneuvers or choices unless they are fellow pilots. Your customers trust you. You did the training. You know what you are doing. So they willingly get in your plane and let you fly them. They put their life in your hands.

    I liken that to how my husband feels right now. I don't brag on him often, but I'm going to for a second. He went to one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world. He was selected from an incredibly small applicant pool (less than half a percent) and joined four dozen other individuals at the Mayo Clinic.

    I spent four years of my life with these absolutely brilliant minds. We were friends. We were family.

    Pharmaceutical Representatives were not even allowed on the campus of Mayo. Ever. These medical students were the leaders of their generation and were going into various forms of medicine with the intent to help people. My husband's credentials go even beyond that. He has a fellowship in Wilderness Medicine and has, because of simply a personal interest, has studied pandemics and medicine for the "unique times."

    As a result of my husband's career choice, many of our friends are medical people. They are staunch pro-choice democrats and incredibly conservative pro-life conservatives. They are libertarians. They are Christians and Atheists. Some are not even Americans. But right now, nearly 99.9% of them are in complete agreement about this pandemic swirling around us.

    Let me restate that: every single M.D. or D.O. we personally know is in agreement on COVID-19 and its serious implications

    I'll go beyond that: every nurse and nurse practitioner and PhD I know is in agreement about this virus.

    While freedoms and vaccines and politics may be part of that discussion, when it all boils down, their chief concern is how to currently save lives. They are trying to make sure that this pandemic doesn't get out of control.

    This isn't about just saving COVID patients. This is about having a bed in the hospital when you bring your child or self in for a separate emergency.

    About a month ago, my husband and I made the decision together to step away from discussions on this topic. It was causing him too much stress and he was being physically affected by the stress of work and being a community voice. He was physically affected by this pandemic and his attempt to manage it as the director of his ER.

    But I had to make these statements here. The thoughts were keeping me up at night. I truly wish everyone would stop thinking they are a pilot. The fact that you have "researched diseases on the Internet" for years does NOT change the facts: you have agreed to let my husband pilot the plane. When you get in a car accident, you have your loved one taken to the hospital to see him. You willingly put medicine that he tells you is good for you into your body to help fight diseases.

    No matter what you think, the fact that this pandemic currently has ALL medical people (99.9%) in complete agreement means something. There are certain things that they do not agree on. (Birth control, abortion, end of life care, etc.) But on this topic, they are in agreement.

    Could you possibly consider letting them pilot the plane and not second-guessing every single decision they are making?

    Thank you.

    From a loving wife of an Emergency Room Physician,


    P.S. I've had a few people ask WHAT it is these doctors agree on. They agree that this is a pandemic. That this virus could reak havoc and that we all must work together to keep our hospitals from being overrun. That is what we are all working toward: making sure we can medically handle the virus. They also agree that they are learning new things everyday. There is no "for sure" course here. Right now: wear your mask and try to limit gatherings. It has to be done for the greater good. Be wise.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2020

    My Hard Little Hannah

    Hannah has ramped it up here in these parts recently. Talking back, not listening, finding mischief. It feels non-stop. If she was my only kid, I'd be worn-out. But she's one of four so I am SUPER worn-out. From the WOMB this child has been my hardest little lady. 

    Tonight I had just HAD IT. I put her in my room and told her just to sit on my bed with nothing to do. I said it very calmly and shut the door until I could chill out. 

    I left her there for a long time. When I finally came in, the following conversation ensued.

    Me: "Hannah, you know the reason why I had you sit in here, right?"
    Hannah: "I kind of can't remember."
    Me: "It's because you are not being a good listener."
    Hannah: "Oh. Right."
    Me: "Okay, so you can come out now. Why don't you and I go read a book together?"
    Hannah: "Actually Mama, I really like just laying here and thinking about my life and stuff."
    Me: "Okay."
    Hannah: "Yeah, I'm thinking that me and Kari are sisters and we are taking care of baby Triniti and baby Theo because I really like babies."
    Me: "So you just want to stay here in time-out?"
    Hannah: "Yeah, I do. I like just being here thinking by myself where it's quiet."

    I think that punishment helped a whole bunch, don't you? Honestly: It doesn't matter. Spankings. Push-ups. Time-outs. Sentences. She finds the fun in nearly everything and nearly nothing impacts her. 


    We Bought a Farm: Community Skills

    THIS is why we have chosen the life we have. It is not easier. And it is not actually slower. But it is purposeful. And the skills are real. My kids are getting to learn and understand things that will have lifelong importance for them.

    And I love that.

    I've also realized that this life can't exist without help. We need other people. We have the grandparents. And the wwoofers. And the cousins. And friends. 

    Two years ago, we met a gal named Anni. She actually came to an conference we hosted at our farm. She messaged me shortly thereafter to see if she could come and volunteer. We became friends. One thing led to another. And a few weeks ago, she bought seven acres of land just a half mile down the road from us!

    This brings even more community to us here at the Bauernhof. And that means more people to love my children and to guide them and to teach them. 

    Today, Sidge and Abigail went over to Anni's to build a goat-milking stand. (Abigail was doing a lot more observing than helping. This was mostly a Sidge-Gig.) 

    Sidge has recently become fascinated with building. He actually said to his Dad the other day: "Do you know that you can build anything? I mean you just need wood and tools and there is really no limit to what you can make!"

    John smiled. 

    First a few videos of the building adventure. (I love the first video with the goat getting all up in Sidge's business while he is trying to build.)

    And here are some pictures of his day learning from Anni:

    The finished product!

    Trying it out with a goat on the stand!
    Abigail is always more concerned about whether she "got the shot"  than she is with whether the wooden creation works.
    Afterwards, they decided to hook the gutter up to a water tank to catch the water! Check this out:

    And then Sidge got stung by a wasp to end up the day:

    And here is a video of Abigail to end this post:

    Tuesday, June 23, 2020

    Some Looks at our Life

    There's been a lot going on around here lately. I thought maybe the best way would be to tell about our adventures via photos:

    After socially distancing for what felt like FOREVER, this past week we opened up our lives again. For now, we are trying to just socialize "within" Greene County since we do not have any COVID-19 in our county. We are praying the numbers remain as they are. It has been so fun to hang out with some of our old friends again.

    Caught a photo of a beautiful rainbow on our farm. Rain and storms are SO weird here in the mountains. I'm not sure I will ever get quite used to them. In Florida, the rain was very predictable. Here, it can look like it is coming and disappear behind a mountain so fast.

    Isaac often tells us that the only animal her really likes are "puppies". "Not dogs. Only puppies," he will say. But when no one is looking, we catch him hanging out with our doggies. Here, he and Ritter are taking a rest. Ritter is one of the chillest dogs I have EVER met. He loves to be loved on. 

    Our little nephew, Theo, is growing like a weed and is a nice "final number" to the Two-Family Homeschool Group around these parts. Here he is with a very special little gal in all of our lives!

    While we are a homeschool family, this virus has even put OUR schooling "up-in-the-air" for next year. We aren't sure whether we will have our co-op or not so Hannah Kotynski and I have been trying to make plans for what to do IF we have co-op and IF we don't for the nine kiddos we will be schooling this year.
    The puppies are all with their "forever families" except one little guy: Jax -- whom my nephew Gabe is "fostering" until his family can get down from Vermont to get him. Arabelle, however, gave us all a scare this week when she got pretty sick. We still aren't sure what it is, and she is recovering, but this was a quick snap shot of her at the Vet. We hope it was a tick-born infection that will leave her good-as-new real soon.
    We are so excited that our friend Anni has purchased a property around the corner from us in Greeneville. She is still living in Knoxville, but is transitioning to this new property! Oh is it great to have her so close by. Sidge has been helping her with some projects around her place.

    And playing with her goats!

    Sunday, June 21, 2020

    Longview Ranch

    We just got back from 48-hours away from the farm. We drove a horribly long thirty minutes to get to Longview Ranch in Mosheim, TN. This was, by far, one of the best adventures our family has ever taken together. We had a BLAST!

    While Longview could host about 8-10 families at a time, due to COVID-19, there were only four families at their very first FAMILY QUEST, and we were all kept socially distant from each other. 

    Here was our family's schedule for the weekend:

    Listen, my husband is an introvert. He has ZERO need if he is not at work, to be anywhere but our farm. But even he was completely SOLD at how wonderful this weekend was for our family. 

    Isaac really did NOT want to go on this weekend. He, too, would rather just be at home. But he also had a BLAST! We all did.

    We had an opportunity to participate in skeet shooting, S'mores, horseback riding, canoeing, archery, hiking and be the guinea pigs on their new and amazingly fast outdoor water slide!

    Another thing: I really thought the food would be just "acceptable." But it went beyond that. I thought it was delicious and a definite step above what I envisioned camp food to be. 

    All of our food and entertainment was taken care of. All we had to do was show up with our own bedding, move into our family cabin (complete with our own private bathroom) and enjoy the weekend. 

    I truly canNOT say enough good things about this opportunity for our family. It is something we will definitely do every year if the ability presents itself. 

    This camp is a fantastic place with fantastic people. The staff was amazing. The food was great. It was clean and beautiful and peaceful and just simply a GREAT getaway for our family.

    I'll be singing their praises for a long time to come!

    Here are some bird pictures Abigail took at the ranch or right outside of it:

    Summer Tanager
    Barred Owl
    Louisiana Waterthrush
    Scarlet Tanager
    Ragged looking Pine Warbler Singing

    Red-Headed Woodpecker (Rare bird for this location!)

    Friday, June 19, 2020

    Friday Funny

    “Mama .... why do you even have these shoes? You know you’ll never wear them.” 

    True that. 

    Once a jock always a jock. Add in all our farming, and I’m hopeless. 

    We Bought a Farm: Baby Chicks Arrive

    It's always an exciting time when baby chicks arrive at the farm. While laying chickens are the most exciting because, let's face it, we don't eat them ... meat chickens are almost as exciting.

    There is something completely marvelous about receiving these tiny little chicks and eight weeks later processing them ourselves and filling up our freezers with all the chicken we need for a year!

    Here is a video of how we get the chicks out of their packaging and into the brooder as fast as possible. We want the temperature in the brooder to be close to 95 degrees. This was a cold day for June.

    You will notice that we have to:
    • Count the chickens.
    • Dip each of the chickens in their water to "awaken" them to the fact that they need to start eating and drinking.
    • Fun Fact: A baby chick has all the nutrients they need from the egg they emerged from to live 48-hours before they need to start eating and drinking other stuff. (Thus the reason you can ship them immediately after they are born.)
    • Fun Fact #2: There are two little "layers" in the brooder that you hear Abigail talking about. These are not meat chickens. These are random other birds that the company asks for permission to send to you free of charge if they have a surplus they need to disperse.
    It's especially exciting when the shipment arrives alive and thriving. When after 24-hours, the vast majority are doing great, and everything appears to be working correctly and well, we feel really good about our mad farming skills.

    Of course, not to be a pessimist, but this is farming, and we always have to be prepared for something to not go completely as planned. Shortly after getting everyone settled, Jacob discovered that we had a chick acting very oddly.You can see it in this video below. (If you listen closely you will hear our wwoofers Jake and Jacob making a few funny jokes to the end to lighten the mood.)

    Jacob and JB made the decision to put this chicken down as there is a contagious issue that it could have been. 

    For now, we have had 310 out 314 chickens alive and pecking around the brooder! They will remain in the brooder to control their temperature for two weeks before we move them out to the pasture.