Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011



Because our tiny church had kids in it this year (ours), they decided to put on a Christmas play. What fun!
Sheridan sang "Away In A Manger" and we, along with all the other grandparent-aged folks, smiled with delight to hear a young voice in our midst.
A family tradition has been to decorate gingerbread houses each year. Elliott and Oliver haven't been included in this project for years but joined in the fun under the disguise of simply wanting to eat candy.
(They both built really cute gingerbread houses though!)

Christmas Morning
Tim read the familiar story of Christ's birth from the book of Luke as a special TV channel crackled with the sounds and glow of a real fireplace.


Guns for the older boys, toys for Sheridan....



books for Sullivan....and a new farm work bike for Harrison.


I couldn't resist snapping this picture of Elliott playing the piano on Sheridan's new fairy tale princess book.
So glad we invested all that money in piano lessons for him years ago!


We had a wonderful day celebrating Jesus' birth!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Real Country Girl In-The -Making

We finished up chicken processing later this year but were blessed with such warm winter temperatures that we were still comfortable outside. Elliott has been very successful in his poultry business and processed about 3000 chickens this year.

Sheridan has been eager to join in on chicken processing days and is learning how to eviscerate. She will make a fine farmer's wife one day!

It has been interesting watching Sheridan, who, unlike her five older siblings, has only ever known farm life. Whereas the rest of us had to get used to the shock of processing chickens, (I remember Harrison as a 5 year old gagging while trying to help the first time), Sheridan hasn't been phased as chickens go from the pen to the freezer.
The younger children have been taught to treat the chickens humanely as they are moved from one station to the next and Sheridan has developed such a sweetness toward them that she is often seen talking to them and telling them make-believe stories as they await bagging while soaking in a chilling tank.
Our family shares a particularly sweet memory of one processed, reject chicken that she named "Anna-soda" who, just before heading to the compost bucket, was seen riding with Sheridan on her toy tractor.

Sheridan was very proud this year of an ordinary preschool accomplishment that she didn't realize would seem shocking to us because it was displayed in such a unique manner. While learning how to eviscerate the chickens (take all the insides out), I tried to teach Sheridan the various organs and body parts. You can imagine our surprise when later in the morning, once she had lost interest in her new job of eviscerating, she proudly showed us that she had learned how to tie a knot - in a discarded esophagus!

We have volunteers who often join us for chicken processing days. One of our regulars is a child psychologist. We often wonder what he's thinking as he watches Sheridan on processing day!

I suppose this is what it's like to be a real farm girl. I wish we all adapted to country living as easily.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Oliver!

Eighteen years ago today God blessed us with a wonderful baby whom we named Oliver. He has brought so much laughter and happiness into our lives.

Oliver's latest interest is making ice cream with the farm's organic, raw milk using our small commercial ice cream machine. We are loving being his taste-testers.


Sullivan wrote this poem, assuming the position of Oliver's ice cream salesman:


"Who wants to try some green bean flavored ice cream?

It's the newest on the menu, and as yucky as it may seem,

This green bean flavored ice cream makes you as strong as the Hulk,

And it's weight loss food too, so you can take off some bulk.

But better than that, it's affordable too.

And with organic ingredients, it's so good for you.

It can make you by far the best kid in school,

And policemen eat it while enforcing the rule.

It must be the very best flavor ever created.

I know that is true, I myself ate it.

And don't you start saying my skin has turned green,

And that my head is the shape of a bean.

Wait a second … Ow! Go call the doctor!

I'll send my complaint to Oliver, this dessert's concocter,

I knew this job as a salesman wouldn't work out,

And green bean flavored ice cream is something we could all do without."



Oliver picked the Texas Roadhouse for his birthday meal.


We couldn't resist secretly telling our waitress that we were celebrating Oliver's birthday. He didn't share our excitement when all the wait-staff suddenly gathered around him, insisting he get on the saddle so they could wish him a big "Yeehaw Birthday!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

We had the best Thanksgiving ever as we were able to see so many in our extended family. We had our traditional delicious meal at my (Joy's) father and stepmother's.
4 Generations:Nana Joy, Meredith, Margaret, and Great Granddaddy Brickhouse

Stephen, Meredith, and Margaret all met us there, along with my mother who is so graciously invited by my stepmother and father to join us at their Thanksgiving celebration each year.
(What an example they are to so many with blended families. Rather than focus on the past, they look to the future and invite all the relatives who love the children and grandchildren to gather together and share in the happy Thanksgiving memories being made.)



Because Meredith and Stephen's visit would be short, we also drove to the other set of grandparents and chatted with them for a bit on Thanksgiving Day as well.

5 Generations:PaPa Alexander, Nannie, Meredith, Margaret, and Farmerdaddy

What a blessing Nannie (94) is to all who know her.

All the girls: Pat Pat, Sheridan, Nannie, Meredith, Margaret, and Joy

We loved spending time with this precious Hammer family!


Later during the holiday break we also enjoyed a visit from Tim's mom and dad, along with my (Joy's) mom and aunt.

Oma (Joy's mom) and Margaret


Nana (Joy's aunt) brought some toys for Sheridan that her children used to play with and she enjoyed helping Sheridan put one of the puzzles together.

This picture wasn't posed. I happened to walk into the room and saw these adoring uncles and a loving preschool aunt all immersed in the wonder of one little baby Margaret.

Stephen had to get back to work after Thanksgiving but we were blessed to enjoy an extended visit with Meredith and Maggie.
We have so much to be thankful for!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fall Update

We heard Chipotle was selling burritos for $2 to anyone dressed like someone or something from a farm. We didn't have any trouble at all finding something to wear- the greater difficulty was looking a little LESS like something off the farm after rushing to the restaurant right after the evening milking.

Sheridan dressed as one of our farm's worst predators - a skunk.

The switch of bedrooms finally was completed after Meredith took all her bedroom furniture to their new home in Georgia. We decided to put the younger boys in what was the girls' bedroom and put Sheridan in the boys' smaller room. It's a perfect size for Sheridan.

I just love personalized things. The beach bag with Sheridan's name was the only splurge in her new room. Most everything else was found around the house or at thrift stores.
The younger boys' room has given them so much more space to spread out.
I can't seem to leave behind these old-looking, cotton flags when I see them in thrift stores so they're appearing all over the house and farm.
The personalized nautical boat rings were crafted easily after seeing how expensive real boat rings were online. I took a couple of green styrofoam floral rings and wrapped them in white duct tape accented with royal blue tape. The boys' ship names (S.S. Sullivan and S.S. Harrison) were handwritten on the white tape.

The bookshelves that Meredith originally created have been great for the boys' many books and Lego creations now that they've moved into the girls' old room.




Here we are working on a new family picture - a story for another day.
(Will it ever feel like a family picture when the grown and married ones are not in it?)

Friday, November 11, 2011

You're Invited

Our family would love to invite you to our farm's annual

"Day To Give Thanks For Udders"

Saturday, Nov 19, 2011

12 pm - 4pm


Farm Day Events


FREE FOOD PROVIDED BY CHIPOTLE

Yum! Come have lunch at the farm.


"FARMAGEDDON" MOVIE SHOWING

A captivating documentary about

food and the family farm.

A must see!

1:30pm in the Barn Loft


FARM TOUR HAY RIDES

Visit the cows, pigs, chickens, and all the other

farm animals.


PLANT-A-SEED STATION

The kids can plant a seed and take it home to

nurture and grow.


FREE RAW MILK

While supplies last, all farm store customers can

take home a free HALF GALLON of fresh, raw milk.


RESTORED FARMHOUSE TOUR

Come see the 100 year old farmhouse that you helped us to restore and enjoy some hot cider in the

farmhouse kitchen.


MILK THE SIMULATED COW

Try your hand at milking a cow.


FARM STORE

Bring a cooler to stock your freezer with grass-fed, pastured poultry, pork, and beef.


TRACTOR DISPLAY

Let the kids pretend they're farmers at the tractor display.


We look forward to seeing you on

Saturday, November 19th!


www.averysbranchfarms.com

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Stephen!

Sullivan (age 12) wrote this in honor of Stephen's birthday today:


There once was a soldier named Stephen,

Who was so shrewd and brave,

Every time he drove down the street,

Everyone would salute and wave.


Before he was deployed in the Middle East,

All his friends threw a goodbye feast,

And he promised them their names he would not forget,

And that he would keep up with them on the Internet.


When he was not on the front lines, leading his platoon,

From six o'clock in the morning, till six o'clock in the afternoon,

He would blow up tanks full of enemy men,

Or pick up a machine gun and shoot down about ten.


He would fight and fight and fight and fight,

He would fight in the day and fight in the night,

Until not a single enemy soldier could stand,

And their enemy commander lost his command.


And then after all he had heard and saw,

He said, “I think I've got an interest in law.”

So he finally put down his rifle and knife,

And went back home to his daughter and wife.


He started as a lawyer but then became a judge,

As he sorted out every fight, theft, and grudge,

Until he retired at the age of sixty-four,

And went to his family, which was plus eighteen more.


And as each daughter found a husband and each son found a wife,

He moved down to Dallas, were he spent the rest of his life,

And he watched his grandchildren grow until the day he went to heaven,

And they counted them all up, and he had three hundred and seven.


I hope you like this foretelling of you,

And I hope everything in this poem comes true.

Sincerely,

Sullivan Alexander

Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome Margaret Alice!

We're so excited to share the wonderful news of Meredith and Stephen's new baby girl's arrival. Margaret Alice arrived on September 13, 2011 at 4:01am. She was a whopping 9 pounds 8 ounces! She is healthy in every way. What a wonderful gift from God.
We assumed Margaret would arrive before her due date of September 10th since Meredith's midwife appointments in the final three weeks revealed she was 4 - 5cm dilated.

Wanting to be available to help with the birth, should Stephen be in the field training, I (Joy), along with Sullivan, Harrison, and Sheridan all arrived in Georgia in late August.

While we waited for Maggie's arrival, we spent our days swimming, shopping, reading, and even canning. (I brought ingredients from the garden so we could make salsa for both families.)

I was enjoying the unexpected treat of visiting with a long-time, dear friend in nearby Alabama on Monday evening, September 12th, when I received a phone call from Meredith. She told me her water had broken. It was a bit after 11pm. I quickly hurried to meet Meredith and Stephen at the hospital. We all arrived around midnight.

After an initial assessment, the nurses sent Meredith to walk the halls. At first her contractions were quite manageable. But by 1:15am they were getting much more difficult. What an incredible job Meredith did as she managed each contraction. She had been so well prepared prior to the birth by making a real effort to be well educated on natural childbirth. She handled herself like a mom who had been through natural childbirth a dozen times.

Amazingly, she had dilated to 8 cm in that short time and by 2:30am she was ready to begin pushing. In what seemed like a short time to me, (I'm sure Meredith wouldn't agree) little Margaret Alice was born.

All three of the midwives had told Meredith the baby would be in the 7 pound range so we were so surprised when the delivery nurse reported Margaret's weight at 9 pounds, 8 ounces. "Where did you hide all that baby?!" they kept saying.

We were so very thankful that the Lord worked out all the details so Stephen could be there for everything. He didn't have to miss one single part of this most memorable event of their new lives together.
What fun for the new aunt and uncles to get to be among the first to hold this precious treasure.
Harrison says he'll be Maggie's "Uncle Harry" though none of us ever refers to him as "Harry" except when he needs a haircut badly.

Margaret is blessed to have many grandparents, great grandparents, and even 3 great, great grandparents. With so many grandparent names still in circulation, I thought I'd be "Nana Joy."

Meredith brought Maggie home in the dress I made for Meredith's homecoming almost 24 years earlier.

I remember, like it was yesterday, arriving at the hospital for a scheduled induction for Meredith's birth all those years ago and carrying that long, white dress into the hospital. At the time, I didn't even know if she was a girl or boy. I remember the staff commenting on the dress, assuming it meant we were having a girl. But I told them, "I don't know if it's a girl or boy but whoever it is, they're wearing this dress home!" Timmy was thankful it turned out to be a girl!
Little Margaret Alice already adores her daddy!

Tim was able to come to Georgia after Margaret arrived. He loved holding that new, sweet granddaughter. He's going to be "Farmerdaddy."

Since Meredith returned from the hospital, she's been flooded with an outpouring of kindness from their new church family, ladies Bible study friends, and military wives. Meals have been coming in along with much encouragement from new and veteran mothers.

We are so filled with joy to observe God's extraordinary goodness to Meredith, Stephen, and Maggie. What an absolute blessing to watch God's wonderful plan for this new family unfold.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Summer Fun

What a great summer this has been.

After we returned from the trip to California, we got busy preparing to help Meredith move to their new home in Georgia.

What a blessing to go through all of the sweet dresses Meredith wore as a newborn and prepare them for her own daughter to wear. As I handed each one to Meredith, I told her the stories of the people who made or purchased the dresses for her over 20 years ago. I felt so very blessed to be able to hand down the dresses that I had loved so much when Meredith was a baby.
Some of our dear friends in Richmond gave Meredith a beautiful baby shower.
Meredith received so many wonderful things for little Margaret Alice.

The Lord blessed the garden this year and Meredith and I were able to put up enough corn, okra, tomatoes, peppers, and salsa for both of our families.

Our long time family friends in Suffolk and Chesapeake greatly encouraged Meredith with a "Blessing Shower" where the most beautiful songs, prayers, and notes were given in honor of Meredith, Maggie, and Stephen. It was so meaningful.
Between both showers, Meredith received just about everything she needed to prepare for Maggie's arrival.
After a week of canning, freezing, and baby showers, we headed to Georgia to help Meredith move into their new place.

Meredith quickly began decorating with her beautiful country-living style and in no time the entire house was transformed into a welcoming, gorgeous home.
While we waited for Stephen to arrive, we enjoyed visiting with Meredith for a week.
We went to our very favorite pastor's church in Atlanta - Dr. Charles Stanley.
Dr. Stanley's messages have given such sound spiritual teaching to our family through the years. We love listening to him as we're getting ready to go to church. His famous line, "If you're listening, say 'Amen!' keeps the Alexander family hollering out "Amen's" as we're scurrying around on Sunday mornings.
The church's bookstore displays Dr. Stanley's beautiful photography. This incredible picture of an old, rustic boat, taken at Martha's Vineyard, was stunning.
Never intimidated by a long drive, Tim drove us 4 hours to Panama Beach, Florida one day so we could play in the water, sand, and sun.
Meredith's new neighborhood has a "Cheddar's," our favorite family restaurant.
Knowing Meredith would be arriving in Georgia just 4 weeks before her due date, she was eager to meet her midwives. As it turned out, we made it in plenty of time. Meredith has seen all the midwives enough to feel comfortable about Maggie's September 10th due date.
About the time Stephen arrived in Georgia, we headed back home to Virginia. But not for long. Hoping to be available to help with Margaret Alice's delivery, the younger 3 kids and I (Joy) returned when Meredith was about 38 weeks.
Stephen showed us around the National Infantry Museum. The kids really learned a lot. Below is one of the beams from the twin towers in New York. It was gifted to the Army because of their rescue efforts surrounding the 9/11 tragedy.The happily expecting couple.
Mere at 39 weeks.
Next post.....introducing baby Margaret Alice! Thank you for your prayers for her safe arrival.