The Gang

The Gang
October 2008 Sweet Potatoe Harvest

About Me

I am a busy mommy of 6, seeking to be a loving, godly helpmeet to my husband and a biblical discipler to my children. God has blessed us with a child with Autism. May the lessons that the Lord is teaching me and our family be a blessing to you and yours!

My Favorite Books

  • Bible
  • Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl
  • Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
  • Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
  • Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
  • Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
  • The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Yesterday Nathan, who is 6 years old, and I went into town to run some errands. We drove past a field that had been recently manured. He took a deep breath and said, "Ahhhh! Mama, do you you like that smell? I love that smell cause I'm a country boy!"

I laughed and laughed! Hope you will too!!

Have a great day!
Friday, April 29, 2011
What happens when you take a very long heavy duty piece of used twine, tie a brick to it and swing it around.........................

It hits you in the HEAD!!

Guess which boy in the Reese House did this just a little while ago?


This occurred while I was outside hanging laundry. I lectured the boys on why they shouldn't swing these bricks, rocks, bones, and chains around! Broken windows was my main concern.

A few moments after finishing my lecture Caleb walked away from the house and proceeded to get his twine with a brick on it swinging around his head. It flopped and conked him in the back of the head. Caleb started to wince, cry, took a couple steps forward, did a little loop then landed on the ground... OUT COLD!! Yep... he passed out for about 10-20 seconds.

I got him in to the house and applied ice. He was groggy for about 30 minutes but coherent. Phil checked it out and his pupil dilation was good (he only has one pupil)... so no hospital run for us.

He has a nice bump, a head ache, and probably a mild concussion.

Thursday, April 21, 2011
A brief recollection of some of the funny moments with the kids lately:

Nathan has Wednesday's off each week. This Wednesday after the snow storm, Nathan decided to head out and play in the snow... a bit confused..... He had rubber boots on instead of snow boots, winter coat, snow pants, and a bad-mitten racket with birdie in his hand. I told him bad-mitten was for spring, not snowy days... he said, "That's alright mommy... it'll be spring soon, I just want to practice!"

Last night on our way to church, just after he ate SIX hot dogs Thomas says: "Mom I'm hungry!" Several of us in the vehicle commented "You are a bottomless pit!" Philip starts crying...... "No, I'm the bottomless pit so he can't be!" Tee Hee!

We were leaving church last night after a LONG choir/Easter program practice when one of the children mentioned that Thomas took Pastors brief case outside. We figured out that Thomas did not take it back into the church. Phil turned around to head back to the church so we could tell Pastor where it was. I commented that it looked as if Pastor was frantically looking for something as we were leaving the building. It turns out Thomas was playing "Padington Bear" with Pastors "suitcase". Thankfully our Pastor has a good sense of humor and understands Thomas's quirky ways! Thomas was yelling out the door to Pastor "Sorry about that!!!" While Phil and I had a good laugh!

Hope those brought a smile to your face!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Winter is back here and we are ready for Spring. The past month has seen lots of new births: a new heifer calf, 45 layer chicks, 150 Cornish roasters, and 11 turkey chicks. Best of all the "new birth" of Philip and Nathan, both of whom accepted Christ as their personal Savior. What a joy!

Sam is healing well and slowly getting back to a more active life.

More spring chores are getting done as the days wear on, and school work is quickly coming to a close. The garden is started in peat flats, the raspberries, grapes and apple trees are pruned.

Tulips are stretching from the earth and daffodils about to burst into golden smiles. What a perfect time to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.

We pray you will have a glorious Easter praising God for his promises fulfilled!!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Why should a family like ours try to raise our own meat, veggies, and sweets (honey & maple syrup)? One reason we want a self-sufficient farm is so that we can teach our children the value in working hard as an individual and as a family. Every once in a while.... they actually get it and participate with enthusiasm. This springs start of our syrup season has been a time when I have been so proud of the kids and how hard they are working WITH us. Phil and the kids have been going out to tap trees over the past few days. All of us have worked on gathering and cleaning over 70 4-5 gallon buckets to catch the sap. Today will start the harvest! I hope to use this time as an example to the kids of how fun it really is to have great attitudes and work together to get the job done!

Sorry, we don't sell our syrup, it is just for our family use. Each year we have people ask if we will sell some but we have never gathered enough for our own use let alone have extra to sell. Hopefully this year we'll get enough for the year for our family! We use about 10 gallons a year. I know that sounds like a lot but we try to avoid using sugar as much as possible, that is why we have honey bees and why we harvest maple sap. Phil and the kids have tapped over 50 trees and hope to have close to 70 tapped by the time they are done.

Today is the first day the sap should really be flowing. So I expect we will be cooking down our first batch tomorrow. I always look forward to the sugaring season and I'm always glad when it is over! :-) Thankfully it usually only lasts a few weeks, so we push though it so we can enjoy our syrup year round!
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Phil went down to feed Boris on Thursday night and called frantically on his phone: "Shirley get the 22 and some shells and send it down with one of the kids I've caught a possum!" I ran for the gun while Elizabeth and Caleb rushed to get their coats on. Sam and I waited in the house anxiously to hear if daddy shot the animal, hopefully without getting bit by it! He came back up to the house with the large 10+ pound male possum dead. We got to see it through the window. Sam was quite bummed that he missed out on the excitement since he is still confined to a wheel chair for another week.

After Phil disposed of it he came in to tell us that when he got to the stall and looked over the door he saw this huge possum drinking water from the calves bucket! He charged after it. The possum ran for one of the corners of the stall and ended up stuck between the stall wall and the brick outer wall of the barn. Phil grabbed it's tail and the dogs antagonized it's head from the other side of the stall! Phil was determined to show no mercy since we have lost our share of chickens to possums in years past.

Elizabeth told us later that the family she babysits for who lives just a couple miles down the road, lost 5 turkeys and 12 chickens to possums last week. They trapped and killed 3 within just a few days. We are watching our chickens and turkey's closely making sure they are secure as soon as it is dark if not before.

The little boys were disappointed they missed the fun but liked seeing the pictures and hearing the story in the morning.

The good news is the wild animals are coming out of hibernation so spring must be on its way to Wisconsin!!
Some folks read my blog to keep up with the family. Some read because they like following our farm and all that we are learning in the making of it. I'll do my best to keep both groups happy.

This blog is about the first "normal" thing that we have had happen on the farm since December. I said I'd write about our cow trauma's and this is it. In December all was going well with the adult herd, with the exception of some mild cases of mastitis (so we thought) until we lost Holly just before Christmas. She was supposed to calf on Christmas and died just a couple days before. She showed no signs of being sick. The day before she died I watched her eating, chewing her cud and got to feel the calf moving. She looked totally healthy. I checked on her last at 10 p.m. and when I went out in the morning she was dead.

In the meanwhile, the yearlings and calves started to have issues. They are kept at what we call "the other farm" or the "lower farm". There is another barn down at the other end of the dead end where our neighbors rent the house and we use the barn and most the land around the house to graze the herds. We started to loose one summer calf every 5-7 days. The first one was because we thought Caleb had thrown a bail of hay on it and killed it. The others, we weren't sure but started to guess that the bull was killing them.

Two weeks after Holly died we lost another one of our best milk cows, Kipp. She too was eating, chewing cud, drinking and had all the happy cow signs then was dead 6 hours later. This death led to us getting 2 different vets out to the farm to look over the herd. We also had all the dairy cows tested and discovered that we had a severe mastitis issue. We knew many of the cows had mastitis, what we didn't know was that it was an incurable type. You see, when our cows get sick we don't usually use antibiotics. We use natural treatments first and medical treatments as a last resort. Both the vets stated that they thought the reason for our losses was too much stress on the herd due to lack of shelter.

This fall we had hoped to get a hoop barn up for the cows. However, time didn't allow and we hoped and thought with the guidance of our landlord that the herd would do fine. We were all sad when the stress led to us loosing 2 to death, 2 others to cull because their udders were useless and probably one other to cull once she calves in April. We still don't think that it was any one thing. We think it must have been a combination of things that for some reason allowed the girls to get sick and not be able to kick it.

This story sounds bad but when I tell you the numbers...... we started with 8 milk cows and ended the winter with 4. We started the winter with 6 calves and ended with 1, and 5 heifers and ended with 4. BIG losses for a little farm.

I must confess that I didn't handle these losses well. I reached a boiling point which caused us to really talk through and evaluate what we needed to change. I told the kids: "We cannot say that we are learning if we do not change anything based on what we have learned." So by mid-January Phil and I took over all the chores and I learned how to milk the cows with Elizabeth.

Since we have made these changes we have slowly worked the kids back into chores with a LOT of supervision and I continue to milk with Elizabeth every day. The health of the animals seems to have stabilized. However, I cannot explain to you in words how anxious we were about Bonita calving. You see, we hadn't had a normal birth since the summer. We prayed and watched Bonita closely as she got closer to calving. Finally on February 24th we woke to find a nice big healthy bull calf that the kids named Boris. Bonita has been giving us a beautiful creamy 4+ gallons of milk a day!

It is hard for me to express all that we have learned this winter. But I do hope we have LEARNED which means that the changes we've made will allow for a successful winter next year.

We have since added another cow and 5 heifers to the herd to try to get our milking numbers back up to where we want them to be. When all the heifers finish calving by December 2011 we will have 13 in the dairy herd. The next cow is due any day and once again we are praying and being vigilant in watching her for any signs of stress.

On a different note... we are trying to get my Boston Terrier to mate with a local stud so we can sell some terrier pups in June. My children don't need the "birds and bee's" talks... they get cows and bulls, chickens and roosters and now boy dog and girl dog training. :-) It is a great way for us to share with them how beautifully God has designed the cycle of life.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Tuesday morning the snow was whipping while the three littles: Thomas, Philip, and Nathan, stood waiting for the bus. They waited about 15 minutes when Nathan came back to the house where Phil was shoveling out the drive. Phil encouraged him to go back down to the bus stop when Nathan said, "But daddy, there is a really bad storm over there but not here." He pointed to the mail boxes with great expression while explaining the morning weather to his daddy. Phil laughed and so did I when he told me later that morning. It is much nicer by the house because the house and barn help to block the wind.

Anyway, the boys waited a total of 30 minutes when I called the school. They told me that our bus was running behind about 35 minutes. So I made them stay out there. Another 15 minutes passed, during which time I sent Elizabeth out with a blanket and she huddled about the boys covering them with a blanket.... it was very cute inspite of how horrible it was for them to be waiting in the yucky weather. I called the bus company this time. They said it would be another 15 minutes or so until the bus made it to our place. I called the boys in and gave them hot cocoa. We waited for the bus to top the hill before sending the boys running down to the mailboxes where they catch the bus. The cocoa made the 45 minute chilly wait seem to go away for them. They were so excited they got cocoa and told their teachers so. I don't think they even mentioned that their toes and faces were about frozen off, because the cocoa made it all better. Ahhhh the life of a child! :-)
Yesterday we shipped off two cows who have been struggling constantly with mastitis which has ruined their udders. Plus we had a steer that needed to be slaughtered. Getting the animals loaded was a 1 1/2 hour challenge. The two cows decided to turn into mules. One who we call Gayle stepped up into the trailer with her front two legs, knelt, plopped her bottom down on the ground and laid her head down refusing to move. Phil and our friend Jake tried pushing her 800 pound back end into the trailer with no success. Sylvia, the other cow tried hurdling two turned over watering troughs covered with snow. Elizabeth was squashed, shoved down, and almost stepped on by one of the cows. She is nursing a sprained knee and some nice bruises as a result.

To get the cows in we finally had to sandwich them with the trailer door by putting a heavy gate on one side and lining a rope from the trailer door to the gate behind them. The gal hauling them and I pushed on the door, smushing the cows while Jake and pushed them from behind and Phil pulled on the halter from inside the trailer. Thankfully it worked. The gal doing the hauling said she has never seen anyone with as much patience as us. I told Phil later she has probably never seen a farmer have so much trouble loading who didn't use a variety of expressions to voice his frustration who instead expressed "Praise the Lord" once we got them into the trailer.

Once the girls were loaded Phil decided to try one more time to load the steer who had previously given he and Jake a cardiac workout around the cow yard. I prayed we could get him in since he was our meat. The cows were going into other peoples freezers not ours. Anyway, the steer cooperated and in a matter of minutes was loaded. We were thankful it was over and quite frozen by the end. The blizzard was starting to roll in by the time we were done loading them.

We have one more cow to cull, but since it didn't have buyers we will keep her until she calves, hopefully, in April. I say hopefully because she does NOT look pregnant. Maybe she is just one of those ladies who hide it well! :-)

I'll update you more on our winter farming adventures as time goes on. Let's just say for now, the cows have been the worst experience of the winter. The cow/steer/calf issues is a LONG sad story!!

On a side note:
We finally have figured out how to raise chickens successfully with very little losses and continuous egg production.

Pinky the family sow finally had a litter of 6 piglets.... all dead. She is scheduled to become sausage next week. We hate to put her down since she is in the friendliest 400 pound sow you'd ever meet. BUT she doesn't like Boars much. It took her 4 months with the boar before she warmed up enough to let him do his job, then her litter didn't survive. Someday, we hope to raise Berkshires again. The feeder pigs have one more month to eat drink and be merry until they will fill the freezer. Loading Pinky next week will be an adventure I'm sure. Thankfully she is a bit tame, so with a bucket of grain she will hopefully follow us like a puppy into the trailer..... if not I'll have another story to print.
I love Wisconsin weather! The public schools decided to close down for today last night because the blizzard was supposed to be horrible. This morning here is it clear with some wind still, not bad for Wisconsin though. South of us they are still being hammered with snow and high winds, but we will have a pleasant snow day with everyone home.

I'm going to let the home schoolers have a day off too. They have been working really hard lately. Our move last May caused us to end school early and thus not get as much accomplished as I wanted for the year. We finished last years stuff by Christmas and now we are pushing to complete an entire grade in 5 months. The kids are working hard and are doing well. I think for the older children going through the material faster is keeping it fresh in their heads which is making it easier to remember the facts. They complain a lot because they are doing school for 6-8 hours a day (like normal school kids). This time schedule seems strenuous to them since we usually only have to work 4-6 hours a day to get school done. It will be nice to be totally back on track by the end of May. The fast paced way we are moving through the subjects requires a lot more work on my end too. Keeping up with the grading and testing occupies most of my day. So..... a snow day is welcome!!

I'm going to bake cookies with Philip, he is star student this week in his first grade class at school and wants to take a treat to share with his friends. Then we will do some much needed cleaning.

Happy Winter Wonderland to those of you enjoying this Blizzard too!!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Hi All!!

I know it has been FOREVER since I've blogged. I now have internet 24/7 so hope to get back to it. It will take a week or two to get y'all caught up on the happenings of the gang and Promise Land Farm.

For now, we are doing well. Sam is recovering from two hip surgeries that he has had over the past 2 1/2 weeks. I'll do a blog later with the entire Sam hip story. Elizabeth is getting to be quite the pianist and is starting a heritage turkey business. Caleb is a feisty fifth grader and our chief wood splitter. Thomas is progressing in school and enjoys therapy peer plays each week. Philip is learning to read and spell, and is a ball of energy. Nathan is writing very well and getting to be so tall... he's not my baby anymore. :-(

Phil is enjoying his work with Dynamic Campus. The challenge of running the help desk efficiently keeps him on his toes. He is also very busy as a Deacon, sound man, song leader and Sunday school teacher at church.

Me... I've learned to run our milk system and help Elizabeth milk each day now. I enjoy teaching 10 piano students, playing the piano for church and until recently teaching Sunday school. Home schooling Eliza, Sam and Caleb keep my mornings and early afternoons very full. Managing the farm, animals, preparing for the garden, and helping our customers fills the spare minutes of my day.

I look forward to sharing all that has been happening here over the next several days.