Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Latest Farm Venture

It seems the next logical step in farming is to learn how to grow and cut our own hay to feed the livestock over the winter months when the grass isn't growing. Tim has spent countless hours studying books and attending seminars and he finally planted his first pasture on Memorial Day.

During this very dry summer, God's blessing on Tim's effort has been obvious as the 30 acre pasture grew lush and green in the fierce heat and drought-like conditions.

A visitor recently was asking how we've managed to survive the summer with the lack of rain but then she suddenly interrupted herself and said, "What's with THAT pasture over there?!" Tim's pasture was so green, it almost looked artificial. I told her there was no explanation except to say that pasture had been blessed by the Lord.The first pasture was finally ready for cutting last week but we still didn't have the equipment needed for cutting hay. Because haying equipment is very expensive and we're committed to only moving forward in a "no new debt" manner, Tim has been praying and searching for used farm implements.

God was gracious and provided the pieces we needed just in time. A hay bind was located in a county a couple of hours away. Tim was nervous about hauling a piece of equipment home that measured 12 feet 4 inches wide on roads that are only 12 feet 6 inches wide! He asked that I accompany him to provide support (encouragement - not navigational skill support!).

At many points along the journey, I closed my eyes and held my breath when the road looked too narrow to accommodate the large piece of equipment and the oncoming traffic. It seemed things were going really well until a state trooper came swirling over a hill toward us obviously in a big hurry, and Tim adjusted a bit too far to the right to make room for the speeding car. BANG! We both gasped. We hit something. Probably a mailbox. Oh no!

Because of the difficulty maneuvering the equipment on the winding country roads, we decided we'd have to come back to make amends after dropping off the implement at home.

On the ride back to the scene of the crime, we discussed what we considered fair compensation for the mailbox. Tim said we would need to compensate them well for our mistake and suggested we give them $100. One hundred dollars?!!! For a mailbox?!!! For some junky rural mailbox?!!! I cringed.

Once we arrived though, we searched the area where we knew the incident took place and couldn't find any missing mailboxes. Tim walked alongside ditches looking for what he knew was a downed mailbox. Suddenly we saw it. It wasn't a mailbox. It was a PVC curve marker - one of many that the state put in a curve. It looked like other farmers had similar incidents with the markers as most of the plastic posts were banged up and leaning in one direction or another. Relieved, we headed to find a restaurant to celebrate our newly found/kept $100!

Within a few days, Tim and the older boys finally had the implements hooked up to tractors and were only waiting for a friend to come over and give them some advice before starting up the equipment. Everyone was tense as we knew rain was coming soon and would close the window on cutting the pasture at its peak. On the day they were to begin, there was a 100% chance of rain at 5pm.
Timmy rearranged the evening milking of the cows to a much earlier time so all hands would be available to bale hay after our friend came by, but before the rain started.
I watched the weather website often as the afternoon approached. It didn't look good.

I had Sullivan take all my porch plants to the yard to prepare for the certain watering they'd be receiving when the rain arrived on the very hot, above 100 degree day.

It never occurred to me to pray because the outcome seemed inevitable - 100% chance of rain.

But as the time drew nearer, the forecast slowly changed and the percentage of rain dropped slightly which finally made me realize I should be praying.

In a scene that nearly equaled that of a baby's birth, I later stood in amazement as I watched the boys and Tim operating equipment for the first time in their lives that cut, then picked up the rows of grass, packed it into uniform squares, tied a rope and knotted it within 1/50th of a second and spit out the perfect bales in neat rows that dotted the landscape.

All with recently purchased, used haying equipment and tractors that had been abandoned at this farm and brought back to life by Timmy's mechanical skills and hard work.

The evening closed with 75 bales of hay being added to our winter inventory - and no rain.

The next day, the boys and Tim spent the morning working on the baler so that it would work properly and automatically throw the hay bales right onto the trailer instead of leaving them in a straight line like the day before.

The machines had to be worked on throughout the day to keep them going.

That evening, the rain finally came. What a storm it was! I looked out toward the pasture and worried as the guys were the only things in the middle of the open field while the thunder clapped and lightening flashed. They were driving out of the field as fast the the old equipment would allow, trying to get the trailer that was loaded with hay bales to shelter before the hay was soaked and ruined.

I knew they'd come in disappointed about the hay on the ground that had to be left behind so I warned everyone in the house to be mindful and caring when the drenched men arrived.

Surprisingly, Oliver came running in the door smiling. As he stood in the kitchen out of breath, with water dripping and quickly making a puddle on the floor, I asked if everyone was discouraged. He said confidently, "No. I'm sure we got ALL the hay the Lord wanted us to have."

Wow - what perspective.

While Tim and I enjoyed 3 wonderful days celebrating our 26th anniversary on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina over the weekend, Elliott and Oliver surprised us by baling the rest of the hay that had dried out after the big storm. Although not the same quality as freshly cut hay, it will still be useful to us.

Meredith told us, with great pride in her brothers' hard work, that they put in a 19 hour day on Saturday to bale the rest of the hay. The total count was around 350 bales when they finished and came in that night.

We continue to be amazed at the many ways God provides for us in this new life of farming. From phantom mailboxes, to 60 pound hay bales being shot onto the back of a trailer automatically, to hard-working boys, we are very blessed!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Farmhouse Before & After: Sullivan & Harrison's Bedroom

Although the work was completed quite some time ago, we're just now getting around to posting the last of the before/after farmhouse fix-up pictures.

This is the room that we fixed up for Sullivan and Harrison. During renovation of the house, this is where Sheridan took her pack-and-play naps.

We had the room painted and Elliott and Oliver removed the carpet and sanded the floors.

I found the old bedside table in one of the barns. Meredith embroidered the boys' names on the pillows.

Baskets and bins that store almost all the clothing are tucked under every bed in the house. It allows for more space, a less cluttered look, better organization for little people whose clothes are gobbled up by deep, dark drawers, and super easy packing. When we move or go on a vacation, we just put lids on our bins and load them in the van!

Farmhouse Before & After: Master Bedroom

This would become the master bedroom. I suppose it was the original living room as the home's front entrance is nearby.

Rather than take a couple of feet off the width of the room for a closet, Tim built our clothes closet in the dining room. We're careful to never go searching for clothes when we have dinner guests over and we're hoping most people think we store the fine china and collectibles behind the louvered doors.

I've had to be creative to cover those strange pipe holes in the walls. The metal pie plate thing is just not working for me. In the master bedroom, I hung a battenburg lace spread over the frame of the bed to cover the pipe hole.

Once when browsing in a thrift store, a shopper commented on an item I had in my cart. I told her we were decorating an old farmhouse. Later, she came to me with the framed, handmade lace needlepoint (in the right corner of the room) and said, "I thought this would be perfect in your home!"

My days with the beautiful handmade piece are numbered. Meredith has requested it for her new home.

The room had a vacant space that I thought could use a dressing table. I decided to open up my old flip-top sewing machine cabinet, put a board over the hole for the machine, and make a covering for the piece of furniture. It's a great place to put pictures and a lit candle.

Oliver asked why we have a boat in almost every room of the house when we live on a farm far from the water. I told him, "Never forget the ocean, Oliver. Never forget!" We miss our days on the coast (but I dream big dreams about our pond that is currently covered with algae).

Farmhouse Before & After: Elliott & Oliver's Bedroom

This would become Elliott and Oliver's room. Since several of the bedrooms didn't have any type of storage, Tim and the bigger guys built a closet that extends the length of the bedroom.

The older boys' hardwood floors were in great shape except for one terrible-looking place where the roof had leaked and left huge stains. No worry - we found a great throw rug to cover the spot.

The old flag was found in a thrift store and complements the quilts that were made more than a decade ago by Tim's grandmother - Nannie E.

Farmhouse Before & After: Foyer

This is the foyer and main entrance of the house although we seldom use it. Instead we, along with guests, all come and go through the kitchen entrance.

We had it painted, and then we pulled up the carpet, and sanded the floors. We turned this area into the family photo gallery.

The antique light fixture was in the dining room but we needed ceiling fans in all the rooms we live in (since the house doesn't have any A/C) so we relocated the old fixture to the foyer.

Tim knows that the best gift he can give me when we move to a new home is full view glass storm doors. Since they have been installed, the first thing I do every morning is open the heavy wooden doors to reveal the view of the outside through the full glass panels.

The photos are dear as they remind me of the good memories I've been privileged to make with these people God has allowed me to call my family. Pictures of vacations, newly birthed calves surrounded by children, anniversaries, and even one little fellow with his new eye glasses all bring back such precious memories to me.

All the pictures are of family members except for one. Who could possibly break through the "members only" status on the family photo gallery? Joel Salatin, the famous all-natural farmer, sticks out like a Thanksgiving turkey in the picture that the older boys treasure of a time when they were visiting with him. We are thankful for his influence both spiritually and educationally in Elliott and Oliver's lives. So for now, Joel is considered kin folk and hangs with the blood relatives.

The bouquet of dried hydrangeas are from a friend who God spared from stage four cancer. Her testimony and appreciation for life had a profound effect on me last summer when I struggled with discouragement as we adjusted to farm life in the abandoned house. I never look at the bouquet that I don't remember her kindness to minister to me when truly she was the one deserving of encouragement.

The jars of sand, with dates and locations, remind us of the beaches we've been blessed to visit in other countries while vacationing.

The black benches and matching shelves have survived several moves. I remember seeing them in a Walmart on vacation in Florida several years ago reduced to $30 for each shelf/bench set. It is nothing short of a miracle that Timmy let me further crowd our cram-packed vehicle to bring them home. In one house, where our seating was very limited, we'd all hold our breath as visitors would plop down on the benches assuming they were sturdy - they aren't!

This wall just outside the master bedroom in the foyer displays the gifts of unspeakable joy that God has given us during our marriage. I had pictures of each of the children developed in sepia tones and framed. Even though there is almost twenty years between them, time disappears in the neutral colors of the prints.

The picture on the left, a gold-branched tree dotted with jewels and framed in a glass-covered shadow box is probably the most thoughtful gift I've ever received. A dear friend, along with her artistic children and another mutual friend, created this most incredible memento after a loss we experienced through miscarriage.

The tree has a jewel signifying the birth month of each of our living children, while jewels representing our miscarried babies and the month of their home-going are interspersed and dot the branches in perfect order.

I received the gift in the mail the very day I returned from the hospital after having just added our ninth baby to our heavenly home last October. I was so overwhelmed by their most thoughtful gift and beautiful display of sisterly kindness and compassion. What dear friends God has given me.

Sullivan's Birthday

Sullivan had a great day celebrating his 11th birthday with friends at the pool. What fun!

After swimming for hours in the pool, the moms and kids all went to a nearby park. Sullivan had so much fun with all his friends.