“It is hard to know where God will lead us to next. But always have an open heart to let Him guide your steps in His ways.” Wise words texted to me a couple of weeks ago from a dear friend who always says what we need to hear.
The last two weeks have been really hard. We have had several things happen that have caused a lot of anxiety and stress. It took a few days to be able to step back from it all and begin to think about the next steps.
Sometimes life is just hard. Plans don’t work out, people suck, people don’t mind their own business, sheep won’t stay where they belong, family gets sick, etc. Just when we start to think we are in control and know what we are doing something happens to remind us that we are not the one in control.
Over the years, I have discovered a few things that help me to cope with situations. The first is my husband. We are a team and when life is hard, we need to be on the same page, even if it is just venting to each other at first. Taking time to talk, pray, and work through it together always helps.
Second, find some humor. Our family uses a lot of sarcasm and humor to deal with pretty much everything. It helps to break the tension and it is how we connect with each other. However, you do have to know when it is appropriate to use and when it’s not.
And third, pray, pray, and pray some more. It is hard to give up our perceived control over situations and our family, even though that is what we are called to do. God promises to take care of us. He does not promise to make our lives easy. I struggle a lot with giving up control and fulling trusting God and His plan.
I have been pondering the words above from our friend since he sent them as I try to remember to keep an open heart so I can let Him guide my steps.
Since it’s still January I think I can still say “Happy New Year!” to you all! I’ve had a blog post about goals floating around in my head for quite awhile but life has thrown us one curve after another the last few months and we completely fell off the wagon. However, I don’t think that “fresh starts” are only for January 1st. And thank goodness too, otherwise it would be really depressing if we had to wait for a new year to reevaulate our goals and start new.
I’ve tried the “word of the year” thing a couple of times but never really stuck with one. This year though, the word consistent, keeps coming to me. The last several months I have struggled with being consistent in our schooling, activities, and time spent on my relationships. As I was working on my goals last month, I realized that almost all of my goals had to do with consistentcy and self-discipline. Since the end of December, I have been trying to choose one or two habits or areas to start working on each week. Slowly incorporating new habits into my routine and our family routine makes it less overwhelming. When we jump all in and change everything at once, we tend to quit everything rather quickly.
Since it is the first month of the year, I wanted to share how Lance and I write our goals. It has taken us several years to figure out a process that works for us. What works for us may not work for you but I thought I would share it anyway.
Lance and I write individual goals, as well as family goals together. We focus on the areas of realtionships, spiritual, personal (health/habits), and financial/business. We also have several large, long term goals for our family. These smaller goals are the steps we need to take to achieve our long term goals.
If you haven’t written out any goals yet, I encourage you to take some time to prayerfully consider what areas you need to work on. If you are married, have a date night and dream big about what you want the future to look like for your family. Dreaming big can be scary and if you’ve never done it, don’t be surprised if it takes awhile for you and your spouse to figure out what you want for your family. It took us a couple of years of dreaming and talking before we came up with a clear vision. Now we know what we want and are taking the steps needed to get there. It might take several months to figure out what you both want. The most important part though is that you are both on the same page otherwise you won’t get anywhere.
Keep in mind there will still be hard times, even when you are trying to do everything right. It is inevitable that we will experience one hit after another, just when you think you are finally on the right path and getting ahead. Don’t give up though. Take some time to reaccess, pray about it, and keep moving forward. A quote from one of the books I’m reading has stuck with me over the last week, “the only way out is through.” I’ve been telling myself this when I have to drain the hose in the belowing freezing temps too 😉
The last few months of 2022 were challenging for us however, even as all of our other goals were falling apart towards the end of 2022, Lance and I stayed consistent with our date nights. Regular date nights, at home or out, have been one of the biggest blessings to our marriage. We can take time to talk and refocus on what our next steps need to be. Plus, spending some uninterrupted time together is important. If we hadn’t kept up with this, the last few months would have been even harder.
I also encourage you to never stop learning or educating yourself. There will always be more to learn on a topic. Read the same books over and over, something new will stand out everytime. Lance and I are trying to read or listen to some of the same books so we can discuss them. I will admit, it takes me much longer to get through an audiobook than it does Lance. As an insurance agent, he has a lot more time in the car to listen to books. I try to get in a little bit while I’m folding laudry or walking. Take classes or join coaching groups if reading isn’t your thing. Just don’t stop learning.
As we move through 2023, don’t be afraid to stop and reevalute if something isn’t working. It might just be a season or it might mean you are on the wrong path. Make time for prayer and your loved ones everyday. Consistent habits and self-discipline will help you reach big goals.
I’ll end today’s post with a quote from Ann Voskamp, “Just small things done consistently make the biggest change.”
Since we are halfway through the first semester of the school year, I wanted to share a little about our homeschool, the curriculum we are using, changes we’ve made, etc. First a little background, this is our third full year homeschooling. When all kids were sent home in 2021 for the rest of the year it was a blessing for our family. Lance and I loved having the kids home all the time. We spent a lot of time working together outside, playing games, and just being together. When it was time to enroll the kids in school for the next school year, we decided to keep our three youngest home and continue homeschooling. Our oldest two children wanted to go back to public high school, mostly because they love competing in sports.
We had talked about homeschooling the kids off and on for years. I had done all the research and already read several books so we had an idea of what we wanted our homeschool to look like. We just never took the leap to actually do it even though we loved the idea of it. Having all of the kids sent home gave us the chance to give it a try and realize that we loved having the kids at home as much as we thought that we would.
Our first year, we homeschooled by ourselves. There wasn’t a lot of places open or groups meeting because of the virus. Part way through the year, we did end up joining a homeschool group that got together occasionally to let the kids play together. We chose all of our own curriculum which included a lot of reading. The second year, we joined a homeschool co-op that focused on academics so we didn’t get to choose all of our own curriculum. The co-op was a huge blessing for us and it was so nice to do school with others once a week. This year we are still part of the co-op but it has underwent some changes to better fit the families that are there this year. We are currently doing our science, history, and art history at co-op.
So there’s our homeschooling background, now onto what we are doing this year!
Kinzie is using The Good and The Beautiful for language arts, handwriting, and math. We are using the McGuffy Readers for reading and Exploring Nature with Children and lots of time outside for science. She also has plenty of time to play, paint, build, just be a little girl. She also loves helping me with chores around the house right now.
Since we were able to choose all of our curriculum again this year due to changes at our co-op, I asked Lane and Colton which curriculum they wanted to use. They chose to go back to how we had done school the first year which is a mix of Charlotte Mason and classical. We do dictation, copy work, read a lot, morning time, and math at home. They also do more reading or research on various history and science topics. The boys take piano lessons and Lane is teaching himself the guitar. I have also promised the kids to do at least one field trip each month and so far I have been successful!
Lane and Colton are using Memoria Press’, Exploring the World of Astronomy for science at co-op this semester. We haven’t settle on a science topic for next semester yet. Our art history for this year is Ever Ancient Ever New Level 1 from Catholic Heritage Curricula. Surprisingly, Colton says Art History is his favorite subject! We are using Year 2 History from The Good and The Beautiful.
At home we use Salt and Light Catholic Homeschool curriculum by Jane Manka along with the Real Learning book by Elizabeth Foss as the spine for our homeschool when it comes to language arts, literature, catechism, supplementing science and history, as well as how we structured our school. I have also pulled ideas from Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. Many of the books on their reading lists come from Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. We use reading, dictation, copy work, narration, or note booking pages for most of our subjects. Lane likes writing and researching so he is always working on some kind of research paper. They also use typing.com to learn how to type correctly.
Half way through last year, I realized that I am not good at teaching math so we joined Nicole Math Lady. The boys are able to watch all of the lessons from their Saxon Math books and do the lessons online. It has been been wonderful not to have to worry about teaching math!
During our morning basket we rotate through books about church history, art history, composers, saints, holidays, etc. We just read a chapter or so a day and then move on to the next book on the next day. Kinzie also does the calendar for the day and we discuss the weather. The kids will sometimes draw or paint while listening. Kinzie’s favorite part of morning time is that I turn on The Doxology by Anthem Lights to tell them that its time to come downstairs so we can start. She loves that song!
A very positive change we made for Colton this year is the addition of note booking pages. He has never liked free writing and has fought me on it every year. I finally decided to have him start using note booking for science and history. It is amazing how much he will write about a subject after he has had the chance to watercolor a picture about the subject at the top of his page. Who knew all it took was a little watercolor painting to get him to write?!?
Something that we have done from the beginning that works great for us, especially Colton, is using a spiral notebook to write all of their tasks in daily. All he has to do is look at his list and mark off each task as he completes it. I also add piano practice and some of the chores they do regularly to their list. Kinzie can’t really read her list but she loves having a list like the big kids.
We have really enjoyed homeschooling and this lifestyle. We have the freedom to learn what and how we want to. Each child is unique and this allows us to tailor their education to their abilities and interests. The kids have a lot of time to explore their interests or spend hours exploring outside every day.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions! I love talking about homeschooling and how it has blessed our family!
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It has been over a year since I last wrote a blog post. It’s crazy how fast time goes. Life has been busy like normal and we’ve had the usual changes that happen as the seasons go by. I thought an update was long overdue so here it is!
Last summer we had our first litter of livestock guardian puppies. We ended up keeping two of them – Jayde and Maizie. Jayde is an excellent lgd however, Maizie prefers to lay around near the house. Unfortunately, we lost our male and had to buy a new one this summer. Chief is the sweetest, softest puppy ever. He is growing so fast and is just as big as the other dogs even though he’s only 6 months old!
We had our second crop of Finnsheep lambs this spring shortly after our second shearing. Parasites have been a struggle this year so we are working on building a more resilient flock. The differences in hardiness between our hair sheep and Finnsheep are still so interesting. I am very pleased with the quality of our lambs and their fleeces though. It is so hard to be patient for next spring when we finally shear the lambs!
Two of our beehives survived the winter and we will be harvesting the honey soon! The hives have very different personalities. One is calm and quite while the other will swarm and chase you as soon as you open their box! Needless to say, I don’t open their hive without my full bee suit on.
The garden is currently in desperate need of attention, mostly the tomatoes. I am planning to work on that this week. We really enjoyed the salsa I canned last summer so I need to get some done for this year. Both my flower beds and vegetable garden seemed to struggle this year. It seemed to be a combination of weather, bugs, and naughty dogs that kept everything from growing well.
Last spring, Lance and I bought an old building in town that had most recently been a restaurant. We are currently renovating it into a venue and airbnb. I love the building and all of the character and quirks that come with a building built in 1909. It has a room that is perfect for me to use as a studio for our Ranch Store. I have loved having more room to make and store all of our products. Lance and our oldest son, Cody, have done all of the renovations so far. I am always amazed at their knowledge, ability, and work ethic.
Our oldest daughter, Hailey, graduated from high school in May. I am still processing how she is already an adult and not a little girl. She is enjoying college which makes it a little easier that she is no longer living at home full time.
I am still making our Goat Milk Soap and Lotion. We only had one doeling born this year which was really disappointing for Colton. She was named Marshmallow because she is the color of hot chocolate and has a white spot on top of her head like a marshmallow. He is hoping for more girls than boys next year! Colton bought a new buck this year. His goal with a new buck is to improve the quality of his goats and add in some color variety.
The younger three kids and I started our third year of homeschooling in August. After using a few different curriculums the last couple of years, we felt like we had a good idea of what works for us, so we have used the mix and match approach to curriculum this year. I will be sharing more about our homeschool in a later post.
Over the summer, we went to several horse shows. The kids have improved so much in their riding skills. The circuit we do is great for all ages to ride in. Three generations of our family are currently riding. The kids love competing against dad and grandpa!
Since we bought the building we decided to host a fiber festival! The first annual Fiber Flurry will be held November 4-5 at Sikes Venue in Leonardville, KS. There aren’t any other fiber festivals in our area so we are hoping to have a good response. If you live nearish to us, we hope you will come either as a vendor or to check it out!
I think that wraps up the highlights from the year. My plan is to attempt to write more regularly and send out a newsletter one time a month as well. If there is anything you would like to hear about please let me know in the comments!
I have sat down several times to update everyone about what we have been up to this past fall but wasn’t ever able to get this post finished. Well, here we are in the middle of January and I finally have an update for you! This update will be told in photos because that’s the only way I can remember what we have all done!
I plan to do more regular updates this year to help everyone follow along with what we do. This will also allow us to better share our story with you.
*Lotion will be restocked on Friday! There will also be new lotion scents and lip balm added soon!
We are so grateful to all of our customers who supported us this past holiday season and we look forward to serving you in 2021!
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The pond in September. It has been dry this fall and the pond was already getting low. It is a couple of feet lower now.
We’ve had two litters of piglets this fall.
It was warm enough in September and October that Colton had to keep the pigs mud hole filled with water. They love to lay in it when it’s hot outside.
The sheep & goats do an excellent job of cleaning up poison ivy and other unwanted plants under the trees along our dam.
The goats always prefer to eat the weeds, trees, or poison ivy before the grass.
It doesn’t seem to matter if its human or animal mama’s – they just can’t eat or drink in peace!
Some of the fungus we found in an old tree stump during one of our nature studies.
We also made a marigold garland. It was pretty above the kitchen sink.
Goat Milk Lotion was added to the store in November! It will be restocked on Friday (1/15/21).
Hailey ran at State Cross Country. Hailey and Cody both had a great season in high school cross country. In addition to helping with the farm and being a full-time independent insurance agent, Lance is the head cross country coach for our local high school. He is also an assistant track coach in the spring. Yes – we are busy!
We started bale grazing November 1st. I will be sharing a post about bale grazing and what we are learning about regenerative agriculture in a later post.
Lane does an excellent job of caring for his chickens and ducks.
This girl is so sweet. She always wants a chin scratch. Finnsheep were definitely the right choice for our family.
I can’t wait to shear the sheep this coming spring and see what we can have done with all of the fiber! I’m hoping to have combed top as well as yarn made this year.
I will never tire of watch a Kansas Sunset. The top of our hill is the perfect spot to watch it.
Due to a freak accident, we had to buy a new Finnsheep ram. Lance and I traveled to Iowa to purchase one the day after Thanksgiving. He is gorgeous, both in confirmation and fleece. It will be fun to see what kind of lambs we get in the spring.
Isn’t he lovely?!?
The second litter of piglets – they are now weaned and available for purchase as feeder pigs. Just contact us if you are interested in purchasing one!
Lane’s chickens and ducks have started laying eggs. I have yet to capture a good photo of the blueish/green eggs.
I made Hailey pose for a picture after we finished putting straw out in the barns in November.
The Chicken Palace received a new sign and barn light! When it warms up the doors will also be painted.
We were blessed to be able to attend a couple of different vendor days locally. Our new lip balm will be added to the store within the next couple of weeks.
Very grateful that Lance can usually take my ideas and make it a reality when it comes to building things. I showed him a picture of a display shelf and tried to explain how I wanted to change it a little. Somehow he was able to figure out what I wanted and made these great little shelves!
At least one Saturday a month (more if cold weather is on the way) is spent replenishing straw in all of the barns. Even Kinzie helps put new straw out.
The rams were pulled out of the ewe flocks this past weekend. They didn’t want to get along at first (hormones….) so they got to spend a couple of days in a very tiny space. This allows them time to get acquainted but without the fighting. If we didn’t put them in this small pen, they would have just spent hours or days backing up to get a running start and head butting each other. We use the small pen to keep them from hurting each other.
I’ve also been crocheting in the evenings! This is a wool/acrylic blend yarn (Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick Yarn(3-Pack) Hudson Bay 640-610). I love the variegated colors and this simple, single stitch I’m using on this afghan really shows the color pattern nicely. I spent most of November and December crocheting a shawl to give as a Christmas gift to someone.
We hope you all have a wonderful and blessed 2021! Thank you for being a part of 14 Hands Ranch.
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“Who’s well done are you looking for? The world’s or God’s?” I have been mulling this phrase over in my head for weeks now. I first heard it on a podcast that I was listening to about parenting/homeschooling and then a visiting priest said almost the same thing during Mass last Sunday. Several weeks ago, I wrote it on our quote board and keep thinking about it as we make decisions about what our fall will look like.
If Covid-19 has done anything, it has given us time to evaluate what is really necessary and important to our families. When everything was shut down we had a lot of time on our hands. We had been running to activities and meetings at least 4-5 days/evenings a week, sometimes in two or three places at once. It was crazy and exhausting!
When all of that came to a halt overnight it was a big change. Like many people, we used all of the extra time to get a lot of projects done around the house and farm. As summer approached, a few things started up again such as baseball. We decided not to sign any of our kids up so that we could have a summer of “nothing” and just spend it together as a family. Since this will probably be the last summer we ever have with all of the kids home and nothing on the calendar we took advantage of it!
With summer coming to an end and school starting, Lance and I have had several conversations about kids activities and school this fall. I have thought of this phrase every time we have this conversation. I think it’s important to think about why we are committing to certain activities. Are we doing it because it fulfills us or our family enjoys it? Or are we doing it because it looks good to others or on a resume? Are we trying to “keep up with the Jones’?” Or are we doing it because we feel called to do it and it is the best thing for our family right now?
I think that most of us, at one time or another, do something because everyone else around us is doing it. It’s hard to be different. As we have made some decisions about what things will look like for our family this fall, it has helped to keep in mind that we aren’t trying to please the world. The only one that we need to hear “well done” from is God.