“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.
Early this past winter, Lance and I made a list of projects we wanted to get done this spring and summer. I’m pretty sure that neither one of us ever expected to get very many of them completed, at least not well or timely. We have five kids and four of the five are involved in some kind of activities. Spring, especially April and May, are typically crazy for us. We should have been at track meets at least two days a week, soccer practice and games, church, 4-H meetings, Horse practice, and piano lessons. However, we all know that everything was brought to a halt in March because of Covid19. A silver lining in all of this though has been the gift of uninterrupted family time. It has also allowed us to get several of the projects on our lists completed!
The first project tackled was building three new shelters for all of the 4-H sheep and goats, preferably before we brought all of the animals home. First, all of the pens we had put up a couple of years ago were taken down so that we could reconfigure them and reuse the fencing. We wanted each shelter to have two pens off of it and have a hay/grain feeder in the middle of the shelter to divide it. I wanted a walk through gate in each shelter as well. Each shelter is held down by posts that are 2-3 feet deep in the ground so that they don’t blow away. It is important to mention that we live on a bed of limestone rock and that we do not own any kind of machinery, such as a skid steer, that could dig the holes for us. In most places, there are only a few inches of topsoil before you start to hit rock. This has made digging post holes by hand even harder work than it would be normally. Hailey and Cody have dug most of the holes by hand. They have definitely got their workouts in during school at home!
The shelters are made out of completely recycled materials (except the screws – those are new). An old hay barn had fallen down at Lance’s grandma’s house during a storm last summer. Lance and the kids took it down, went through all of it, and were able to salvage almost all of it. The tin on the shelters have a beautiful burnt sienna color (rust) on them in several places. I really do love the character it gives them! Lance also made gates that swing and latch easily. If you have ever had all of your gates held shut by wire, baling twine, or chained you will understand how big of deal this is!
After the small shelters were completed, Lance started on what we are calling the Chicken Palace. Kinzie wanted chickens for her birthday so this required building a chicken coop. We are calling it the Chicken Palace because it is a little bigger than the typical chicken coop. When Lance builds something he usually goes all out. Our Chicken Palace will have two sections in it with a hallway in the middle. From the hallway you will be able to collect the eggs from the nesting boxes by pulling open a drop down door. Kinzie and I want to put twinkle lights on it as well because every Chicken Palace needs some twinkle lights! We ordered chicks for Kinzie and ducklings for Lane a couple of weeks ago. The ducklings will be here in June and the chicks in July so we have plenty of time to get the Chicken Palace done. The best thing is that the Chicken Palace is also being built with all recycled materials!
Another major project on our list was cutting down as many cedar trees as we can. Cedar trees will take over a pasture quickly if left on their own. They also draw a lot of the moisture out of the ground and we want to keep as much water in the ground as can. We have several rows of them along the creek or that have grown up in the tree lines. While Lance has cut many of the cedar trees down there are still hundreds to go, or it at least seems like hundreds. Over the past week he has cut down a big portion of the cedar trees that lined the dam of our pond. It completely changes the view and has exposed an old rock wall that is there. Many of the trees will be burned but several have been repurposed into raised beds for my garden. We have a few other things we would like to make out of some of the cedar trees as well. I love the beautiful red color that is inside of a cedar tree. Plus, they smell wonderful!
There are still several more projects on our list but most of them require quite a bit of money. So far we haven’t spent any money and our budget is pretty small. It’s fun to dream and make plans though so we will see how many more projects we get crossed off of our list this summer. Right now, it looks like we will be home more this summer than we have been the last several years so we might get a lot accomplished!
“You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” – C. S. Lewis
I am a goal setter and planner. I am a slow decision maker though so once I finally make up my mind I am ready to go and want everything to be done yesterday. When we decided that making our farm into a sustainable business was what we wanted to do, I immediately wrote several goals. Those goals have already changed and evolved as I have thought about the direction I want to take 14 Hands Ranch.
Our idea to actually make our farm into a sustainable business and not just a hobby farm, started last summer. I have stayed home with our kids the last three years. Previously, I worked as a speech-language pathologist in the local school district. I loved working with the students but it just wasn’t right for our family anymore. Lance works full time as an independent insurance agent. A large portion of his clients are people and businesses involved in some area of agriculture. Over the last year, we would occasionally discuss what I would do when Kinzie starts school in a couple of years. I know, starting to worry about this two years in advance is kind of crazy but like I said, I’m a slow decision maker! As I seriously thought about it, I realized that going back to work as a SLP wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something in the ag community and for us it made the most sense to start here at home.
So all of this to say that I finally chose what I want to do next. I love the sheep and goats. I love being outside in the spring, summer, and fall. Winter is questionable, I hate being cold. This past fall I started making goat milk soap from the stash of milk I had in our deep freeze. Our family liked it and I had made more than we needed so I decided to sell some before Christmas. It went over well and it was kind of fun. That’s when I decided that I could do this.
So what is “this?” It’s working to make our farm sustainable while at the same time using livestock to regenerate our land. I’m not going to share all of my goals here but I did want to share a couple. The goal closest to being achieved is opening an online farm store. At this time, I plan to sell my goat milk soap and beeswax candles. More products will be added in the future. I am getting so close to opening it and I can’t wait to share with you all when it officially opens.
I also plan to add a flock of wool sheep and honey bees. These sheep and bees, combined with the sheep and goats we already have, will be a huge help in improving our soil health naturally. By improving our soil health, we will be able to increase the number of animals our land can support. I have lots of goals and dreams for our little 14 Hands Ranch and a lot of time is being spent dreaming, planning, and researching right now. It’s fun to think about the possibilities.
When we decided this was what I was going to do, I stumbled upon the quote at the top of this post. It is now on a sticky note above my desk. Sometimes we need a little nudge to follow our dreams.