Monday, May 31, 2021
Chapter Two: The Perfect Farm Dog
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Chapter One: Rumination
My book that is. The book that my mind is continually writing and rewriting. I write it as I fall asleep. I write it as a I drive my brood hither and tither. I write as I read other people's writings -- loving a way they captured words and hoping I can do it as eloquently.
As I move around our farm, my mind writes. It's how my brain has been wired since I was a little girl.
I write words in my head.
And if I am really focusing, I am t-y-p-i-n-g those words.
It's an out-of-body experience of sorts. My fingers fly around the keyboard, hitting the letters as my brain says the things I want to say. I picture the fingers moving as I let the words flow silently through the recesses of my mind.
I returned this afternoon from a weekend away -- some time with my childhood friend, Michelle, and her three children and husband. Her oldest was having a birthday, and my Sidge has become his good friend. So we drove the five hours to North Carolina to celebrate with him.
I returned this evening from a weekend away and was swept into the paddock nearly immediately to catch five sheep.
Catching sheep is a game. It's a chess board. There are moves you can make. And moves you can't. A bad move can put you in checkmate nearly immediately. And if you are really on your game, you might be able to win in just a few choice steps.
But the chances of success with the "easy choice" is usually poor. Tonight, I knew it. John had an idea using Jacob and Anni and myself out in the open field with only one hard fence to use for "trapping" the sheep. There were some cattle panels available, and he thought we could use those and win the battle.
It's always a delicate dance out in the paddocks ... not wanting to shoot someone else's idea down to quickly. Pretty sure an idea will be successful or trying not to be pessimistic that it's doomed from the beginning. Tonight, I told my husband I thought we'd be better off skipping to plan F. We've done this so many times, I knew what A thru E would be, and I didn't think they would work.
While we didn't skip immediately to F, we did move there quicker than normal. We spent just a few minutes taking a step at A and B and C before deciding to forego D and E and jump to F. This means taking twenty extra minutes to set up some netting. It's winning the chess game by making thirty extra moves, and your body instinctively wants to find an "easier way" to do it. You want to find the faster way or the easier way.
But the slower more deliberate choice is often more successful.
That sentence holds so many layers of lessons, I know it would take me more hours than the few minutes I have before bed to unravel them. I am sure while I am in bed minutes from now, my fingers will start flying around my imaginary keyboard, typing thoughts I probably won't be able to recall come morning.
Returning from my friend's house, I start to second-guess our life, taking my husband on an emotional roller-coaster. This farm. These sheep. Michelle doesn't have these. And her life is simple.
"It's not simple," my JB reminds me. "That was a weekend. It was not reality. Reality is real. And real is not simple. It's messy. It's challenging. It isn't fixed by getting rid of sheep or living in suburbia or quitting the real life you have been chosen."
The slower more deliberate is often more successful.
Like a sheep, I must go ruminate.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
Update on my Dad from my mom
What a great getaway weekend we have had. Sidge and Edward got to ride go-carts for his birthday, we went to Mellow Mushroom for lunch, I got to go shopping at Trader Joe’s (always a treat for this farm girl!), and I went to Fleet Feet (an amazing shoe store that helped me pick out a pair of shoes based on MY feet!)
Friday, May 28, 2021
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
- Hannah came down the stairs wearing suspenders attached to her underwear as if that was the most normal thing ever.
- Another "anonymous child" told me they couldn't figure out why their comforter wasn't drying. (It's because they kept rerunning the washer. Wrong machine.)
- We are super excited that our friends, Shane & Linda, have purchased a home down the road from us. While they are still in the military, they plan to use this as a "home base" and an AirB&B property. Super fun! Shane has been here most of the week while Linda is in D.C. securing housing for the year of schooling she has to do there next year.
- Tomorrow is our last day of the 2020-2021 school year. Summer here we come!
- I am heading out of town with three of the kids to celebrate Sidge's friend, Edward's 14th birthday. Because of COVID, Sidge has been pretty isolated from his friends so we are excited for this opportunity.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Refill your tank
I turned 44
Wednesday Wee-wind (on a Tuesday!)
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Mix and Match People Craft
I wanted to share a fun craft that my Abigail (almost 10) did with "the littles" at school the other day. Here is a link to the place we got the template from. These are super cool books that kids can make where they flip the pages to do mix-and-match people:
Friday, May 21, 2021
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
My youngest, Hannah Joy Pomegranate Kitsteiner, makes everyone her happier. She is perplexing and insightful and creative and confusing and wonderful. He is so unique, and she truly is a special kid. I really believe she is the type of person who will make the world a happier more upbeat and fun place. Here are a few fun memories of her ... all from today:
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Monday, May 17, 2021
I have returned from Florida with my oldest and youngest kiddos. We got into Tai-Cities airport (Johnson City) around 5:30pm last night.
My Dad is home and recovering. We do not know how long he will be recovering for. Lots of waiting and praying and recuperating.
My heart took a beating with my Dad getting sick, I'll be honest. COVID was so hard on us, and I felt we had finally "gotten through." So to face this again and to see my Dad exhibiting everything we had watched over and over and over again for a year with JB's patients, took the wind out of my sails.
Going to Joni's birthday party was absolutely fantastic. I honestly had no idea how much I needed/wanted to be there, and had I not been there, both Isaac and I would have missed out on some important things. These were Joni's most intimate friends, and they have followed her story since the beginning. So for them to get to see Isaac and see the story of redemption played out in a 13-year-old boy is quite a miracle.
I spoke a bit. Isaac also did too (because Auntie Rita slipped him some money to try and bribe him.) All the amazing people that have played a role in raising Bri and standing alongside Roy & Joni were there.
And it was wonderful!
I am not sleeping well and so my exhaustion is quite extensive, but most of that is because I have not shut my mind down properly so I am working on that.
I believe you can view an album of our adventures by clicking here.
Sunday, May 16, 2021
My Dad is Home
Saturday, May 15, 2021
Praise the Lord
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
My Dadio and COVID
My Dad has COVID. And he's in the hospital in Coral Springs. This has been an emotional 48-hours for our family as you can imagine.
I was already scheduled to fly out tomorrow (Thursday) with Isaac and Hannah. It's Grama Joni's 70th birthday on Saturday, and we are having a party. I wanted Isaac to attend the party as there will be some family there that has never met him. We opted to split the kids up. Leave the birders home with their Daddy who doesn't work on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. And the non-birders will fly with me to Florida.
Of course, now, I won't be able to see my Dad or Mom or my brother's family due to COVID exposure. While I'm not concerned about contracting COVID because I’ve already had it myself, we can't be sure that our kiddos had COVID, and therefore we need to be safe. We also want to keep Joni and her birthday party safe.
So, I've changed plans. I'll be staying with John's brother, Matt, his wife, Dani, and their two girls. This actually brings me joy, as I never get to see as much of Danielle as I would like to.
As for my Dad, he has pneumonia but is in very stable condition. I am writing this to remember this time in my life as this Blog is my journal. But I am also writing to ask you to please pray for my Dadio. He's very special to me and my brother and his eight grandchildren, and we have no desire to lose him. My mom will be retiring sometime in the next few years, they have bought a house here in Greeneville, and we are hoping to get to spend some great time with them in the future.
I find it ironic that the same week we finally "released" ourselves with the Kotynski's from intense quarantining from this virus, my father contracts it. My heart had finally sat down after a year of BATTLES than only the family of a frontline worker can experience ... and now, a new and much more intimate battle is waging.
Monday, May 10, 2021
We Bought a Farm: A Work in Progress
I call us farmers. But that's a stretch. My husband has a well-paying full-time job off the property that pays all our bills. He supports (nearly) nine people on that salary.
The farm is, at best, a hobby. We don't make any money off the farm. And we don't depend on it to live. Our goal, every month, is to simply break even.
That's all we are trying to do.
And in six years, we've never done that.
And yet, it is actually the fact that we don't completely depend on this farm for our income that I feel I am most able to share about our life here. This thing is soooo hard ... and we don't have the pressure of "paying the bills" hanging over us.
If we had that, the pressure would be leaps and bounds ahead of where it is now.
And yet the pressure, the mess, the pace, the push ... it is constantly present.
Every year, as summer begins to pop its head up, the pressure becomes greater. We move from one job (that isn't quite finished but finished enough to do what it needs to do) to another job. Messes are left where they are -- with promises to "clean that up" on a day when we don't have something else to do.
Except there is always something else to do.
There's a four-wheeler sitting in the middle of our pastures right now. Have you ever driven by an old farm and seen junky farm equipment sitting hither and thither? Have you ever thought, why don't they get that cleaned up?
I'll tell you why. It isn't because of laziness. It's because of time. It's because of priorities. On a farm, if you don't do the next thing, that thing might actually die. If you don't get things planted on time, they don't grow. If you don't feed an animal, it dies. If you don't deal with a pregnancy gone wrong, it's tragic. If you don't process an animal when it's "time," you lose a lot of money.
The list ...
In the midst of that, I'm homeschooling my children. And I'm not doing this in a haphazard way. I take great pride in that, and I do it well. My children have read nearly three dozen books this year. I don't say that to toot my own horn. I say that to say: we aren't going through the motions of education while actually farming. We are giving our children the best education we can.
My house is not pristine, but it's clean. Our meals are healthy. All these things require INPUT. Daily, hourly, sometimes minutely inputting what needs to be inputted to move on.
So if you drive up to our farm this week and see piles of scrap lumber, and a driveway full of half-finished projects, you would do best not to comment on why "so many things are halfway done."
It's a farm ...
... and it's always a work in progress.
The Tick: By Isaac Kitsteiner
The tick sits on a brick.
But wait, it has a trick.
When the human comes passing by,
It does not matter if it is a girl or a guy.
Upon your skin it will creep.
That hideous, blood-sucking freak.
In your skin it will embed.
You will probably end up dead.
Sunday, May 09, 2021
"A farm is a manipulative creative. There is no such thing as finished. Work comes in a stream and has no end. There are only the things that must be done now and things that can be done later." Kristin Kimball
The 48-hours preceding this picture are so numerous and so exhausting and so tear-inducing, that I will spare you the minutia.
Instead I'll summarize by saying:
Life can kick your butt.
Motherhood can kick your butt.
And it's when you feel your butt is thoroughly kicked, that your farm decides to wind up and kick you again.
We had a mother sheep randomly reject a baby at the worst possible moment -- literally as I was driving into town for a ballet/karate/graduation trio.
We have a chicken brooder that must be finished by this week ... like, it has to be because there are 500-something chickens arriving that otherwise won't have a place to reside for the first two weeks of their life.
I could give you the reasons the brooder isn't done, but it doesn't matter really, does it? I could tell you of the grand conspiracy that weather plays in your plans when you need it to most cooperate.
"A farm asks, and if you don't give enough, the primordial forces of death and wildness will overrun you. So naturally you give, and then you give some more, and then you give to the point of breaking, and then and only then it gives back, so bountifully it overfills not only your root cellar but also that parched and weedy little patch we call the soul." Kristin Kimball
That's what I was doing when this picture was taken. I was giving ... again, even though I didn't want to. It was getting dark. The rain was falling ... hard. I was already soaked through from ...
... oh wait. I didn't tell you that part.
6pm. I've just got dinner for eight on the counter ready to go, when I hear my husband calling for me. Well over 12,000 steps into my day, the men were feverishly trying to finish up the brooder, when my husband (who, shall I add, had just finished his 3rd night shift in a row and was operating on a pittance of sleep) asked me to grab a few kids and move the sheep into "The Arena".
We had five sheep that are going to the processor tomorrow morning. We are on the schedule. We have to go. (Covid has backed processors up so much!) And so we need to catch them. "The Arena"is a much easier space to catch sheep as it has hard fences. (I never knew a "hard fence" could make me so happy. Seriously. Giddy.)
So I ask Isaac to watch Hannah, and I recruit Sidge and Abigail. We jump into the side-by-side and launch off down the dirt road, the sky appearing a bit ominous all of a sudden. Moving sheep across the farm is no small task. And it becomes even harder when it starts pouring rain and the temperature drops ten degrees in a matter of minutes.
That ... was icing in the cake. Moving and catching sheep in chilly rain when you aren't at all dressed for it and completely unprepared for it.
So that's what I had just completed when JB snapped the picture of me on the steps outside our home. I had to go put the chickens to bed. It's about a quarter-of-a-mile walk. I could have taken the side-by-side, only we had accidentally blocked it in, and I didn't feel like moving a truck to get another vehicle free.
I decided to walk. In the cold, wet, weather. I had just changed my clothes to dry off from our previous endeavor and just didn't want to get all wet and rainy again. So I put my boots on without socks (because they would have required me to walk into my bedroom and that felt too difficult), threw on my bath robe, and grabbed one of the girl's umbrellas.
We can't skip closing the chickens. A predator could get into the egg-mobile and decimate our layers in one fell swoop if he/she saw fit. So walking I-a-went even though it was completely and utterly the last thing I felt like doing.
"The threat the farm has got on you, the one that keeps you running from can until can't, is this: do it now, or some living thing will wilt or suffer or die. It's blackmail, really." Kristin Kimball
To sleep I go,
Saturday, May 08, 2021
Happy birthday Isaac
Yesterday, our oldest son, Isaac, turned 13. This was the latest picture I had taken of him so I include it below for his 13th birthday:
Last year, I compiled a list about his life. I said that:
- Focused & Driven: He has become a big time HotWheels collector. This requires capital. He has started working on the farm with his cousin Gabe to make money to finance his hobby.
- Collect Hotwheels
Build LegosMake Money
- Ride rollercoasters
Play ChessPlay Wingspan with his Mom if she adequately bribes him.
- Listen to music
Play DominionGo hunting for cars in any store possible.
- Spend time with his Dad
- Watch movies
- Ice Cream
- Potato Chips
Mission ImpossibleMen in Black Lord of the RingsHunger Games
The EndgameBack to the Future
- Infinity War
- Ironman 3
- The Matrix
Thursday, May 06, 2021
Saying Good bye to COVID and hello to Katy!
Yesterday was a GORGEOUS day on the farm. The type of day that you dream about. Sixty degrees and sunny. Katy joined us for homeschool, and we had class outside to enjoy the amazing weather.
This was also our last "official" day of COVID quarantine. As we sang Happy Birthday to Isaac, (he turns 13 tomorrow!), we also sang in celebration of an end to private ballet and karate classes and only outside activities. With our entire family having had COVID, and all the adults in our life now full vaccinated, our two families, who decided to confront COVID as a team .... will now be "mostly" returning to real life.
It seems very surreal.
Dear Katy has been homeschooling with us this whole year from afar. We had planned on her being with us on the farm a lot, but COVID crushed those dreams. So instead, we zoomed a few days a week. It was good. But not the same.
Now, we are going to be able to have her with us a lot more. She is an incredible ballerina who is homeschooling to give her time to focus on her art. She is an amazing role model for my young girls, and I can't wait to have her around more.
When we bought this farm, the Lord gave us two words:
RESPITE and REFUGE.
For many years, our farm served that purpose by hosting many visitors and wwoofers. I never even dreamed we might be able to provide that to another family with two-working parents who needed help homeschooling their incredibly talented daughter. But here we are.
Just tell the Lord: I'm willing and see what asks you to do! She's blessing us as much as we are blessing her for sure!
Here are a few other videos that I wanted to share from our wonderful day in the Sun!
We Bought a Farm: Soffit Maker
Today, I added another item to my list of things I never thought I would do. #Icantbelievethisismylife. Today, I helped install a soffit. Now, granted, I didn't even know what a soffit was until I had installed it, but still ... I did it. (If I am being truthful, I am still not sure exactly what makes something a soffit and what makes it just part of a roof. But I'm going to add it to my resume just the same.)
Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Throwin' your hat over the fence
It's crunch time here on the farm. Summer is always crunch time. We have over 500 meat chickens arriving in just a few days. We have a brooder that is not finished. We must get it done before those baby chickens arrive. Like ... must. Like, not getting it done is not an option.
Which means: all hands on deck.
My hands aren't very good at building a brooder. So, instead, my job is to get other things done to alleviate the pressure on Gramps, Jacob, and JB. Things I normally wouldn't do myself on the farm, I'm trying to get done so that they don't have to worry about it. If I can solve it myself right now, I do. I leave the petty things to my own brain.
We used to school through the summer. We tried. But in the end we found that the summer is when the farm needs us. We need to be available to the farm during that time.
So, now, we will tie up our school year on May 28th. The kids are counting the days. Maybe I am too. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.
Yesterday I said to Jacob: "I wonder what I would do all day if I wasn't trying to educate my children."
I thought about it. I would read more. I would write more. I would farm more. I'd see my friends a little more. And maybe I'd watch a movie now and then. As it is, I watch zero TV or movies. If I have time, I'd rather read, or write, or sleep.
I keep wishing we didn't find ourselves in these farming predicaments. But weather slows us down. Mistakes slow you down. Other things pulling on your attention slow you down. And the truth is, a farm requires you to "up your game." You can use your own brooder forever. But it's falling apart. And it's wet. And the rats can get into it.
The fact is, a homestead, in its truest sense, is a BIG commitment. And it requires you to throw a lot of hats over the fence. You want sheep? You gotta just go and buy some. There is no going "half-in" on raising sheep.
Kristin Kimball wrote about what farming requires in The Dirty Life when she said:
“It’s never the way you think it’ll be .... not as perfect as you hope or as scary as you fear. A man we know bought up a big piece of good land nearby, a second home, and once, at a dinner, I heard him say, ‘In my retirement, I just want to be a simple farmer. I want ... tranquility.’ What you really want is a garden, I thought to myself. A very, very small one. In my experience, tranquil and simple are two things farming is not. Nor is it lucrative, stable, safe, or easy. Sometimes the work is enough to make you weep. But most days I wake up grateful that I found it — tripped over it, really — and that I’m married to someone who feels the same way.”
Monday, May 03, 2021
What's wrong with being a farmer?
However, for the last 20 years (maybe more?) our society has gradually shifted to rewarding "book learning" and placing it "above" other work. We encourage it. All kids should try to go to college. They should get jobs. Real jobs.
Who decided what a real job was?
What is wrong with being a farmer? A welder? A mechanic? Why do we somehow view these jobs as "less than" professions?
Our country is facing a chronic welder shortage. By 2024, we will be facing a deficit of 400,000 workers. This is because of welders aging out and new welders not entering the workforce at the same pace. This is because our country started encouraging everyone to go to college. The trade schools were deemed as a place where the "not-as-smart-kids" went. But welders average between $32 and 51,000 a year ... They usually make $17-$21 an hour. It isn't a shabby profession. And it requires less schooling, less debt, and guaranteed employment.
And yet, we don't encourage our children to be welders.
Kristin Kimball articulated my feelings on this topic nearly perfectly for me in her book The Dirty Life:
“I had come to the farm with the unarticulated belief that concrete things were for dumb people and abstract things were for smart people. I thought the physical world — the trades — was the place you ended up if you weren’t bright enough or ambitious enough to handle a white-collar job. Did I really think that a person with a genius for fixing engines, or for building, or for husbanding cows, was less brilliant than a person who writes ad copy or interprets the law? Apparently I did, though it amazes me now.”
What happened to learning how to cook? To forage? To build? To operate machinery? To tend animals? To kill those animals? To garden? To hoe? To fix an engine yourself? Welders. Boat mechanics. Plumbers. These are good professions.
Here's a video of my son, Sidge, learning how to drive our tractor. Sidge is a smart kid. He may want to go to college. But if he just wants to drive a tractor? That's okay too.
My husband went to college. So did his father. But his father has spent his career building and tending to homes as a contractor. They are currently using those skills (accompanied by our great friend, Jacob) to build a brooder behind our garage:
This brooder would cost soooo much more money to hire someone else to build it for them. But they don't need to because John's father has acquired skills that he has passed (and continues to pass) onto his children ..