Sunday, January 17, 2016

Breakfast is served!

This past spring we bought 8 Americauns pullets to raise for eggs, but after 2 turned out to be roosters and a raccoon got in and killed 4 pullets, we decided to re-home the other 2 girls and try again.  In August we purchased 10 golden comets.  A breed that lacks beauty but makes up for that in personality and egg production.  (This breed is the friendliest breed of chicken we have ever had!)

The girls we purchased in August were born around the 4th of July, so we were expecting eggs at the beginning of November, however as Mother Nature's days get shorter, chickens don't produce eggs.  A hen needs 14-16 hours of sunshine a day to produce eggs, and where it is possible to supplement light during the winter to force a chicken to produce eggs, but that is not my style.  

I leave the egg production up to my chickens and their natural cycle.  There is a school of thought that hens actually stay healthier if they are not "pushed" to produce during the winter and even though our chickens are a food source for us and are not our pets, they are a living being and we try very hard to make sure we treat them fairly, with their best interest in mind.

Last week the temperatures got down into the low teen's and single digits, so I started turning the girl's heat lamp on for them just to keep them a bit warmer during those chilly spells.  (Before some of you start writing me to tell me heat is not necessary for chickens, I already know that.  I just feel like a little heat is a good thing when it gets bitter cold.)  Inadvertently, I must have stimulated a few hens into laying their first eggs, because today when I went out these beauties were waiting for me!

Breakfast is served!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Primal Dance

Animal care in the winter is a fine dance.  

With temperatures plummeting into the single digits, and snow flakes swirling around us, Lilly and I are diligent about making sure there is fresh water available to "the girls," and that our hens are tucked in well for the night.  

There is something peaceful about farm chores and knowing your animals are well cared for.  Some nights I sit in the garage, basking under the glow of our chicken's heat lamp, listening as the hens happily "chortle".  I get lost in the sound of their beaks eagerly pecking grain, and the rustle of straw under their feet.  

In a life where I sometimes feel as if I'm loosing myself, this primal dance brings me back and connects me to the earth.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Healing Hearts

Photo credit to Susan Johnson

Today was the day Star left for her new home, and I will miss her, but I will enjoy the break this gives me.

It feels good to know you have played a part in helping a damaged soul on to their next stage in life.
Therefore rarely, if ever, do I cry when a foster dog leaves.  In my mind, they don't belong to me, therefore they are not mine.  I don't get wrapped up into thinking that I am the best home or the only home for a dog, and I don't want to send them off on their next adventure playing off my emotions.  That would not be fair to the dog or their new owner.  

I am proud of this girl, and I know she will do well in her new home.  She has a great family who is very dedicated to helping her overcome her past traumas.  I have complete faith in this arrangement and I'm blessed that I was able to meet some amazing new people out of this experience.

I really struggled with my decision to quit rescue a year ago.  When I left I was so bitter and angry with the lack of humanity I saw on a daily basis, that I didn't look back or second guess my decision.  I have to admit though, it was nice fostering Star.  I enjoyed that instead of being in charge of the rescue bullshit and drama, I was able to just enjoy working with a dog.  Fostering for American Belgian Malinois Rescue was a dream and I would definitely work with them again.   They are top notch, and really care about the dogs under their care.  They were courteous, kind, prompt, and are the sort of folks that give rescue a good name.  It felt good to work with a group who had  the same "rescue morals" as myself.  It was perfect!

Perhaps this adventure helped to heal two hearts, the dog's and the human's.

Photo credit to Susan Johnson

Monday, January 4, 2016

To Her "Forever Family"......

Dear Forever Home,

     Soon I will be letting go of a piece of my heart, so your heart may grow.  Several months ago, we opened our home to a creature who was scared, shy, and knew little human kindness.  Today we are proud she is ready for the next step in life:  being loved by you!

     Please remember to be patient with her.  She desperately wants to please you, but fear overrides her mind frequently.  Pay attention and celebrate her small victories, for they are mountainous to her, and if you pay attention you will notice her moments of fear become less and less with each passing day.

     She looks innocent, but she's not.  Do not trust her to be left out of her crate.  I have lost a few socks because of that trick!

     She loves people and wants to be with you.  Because of that, she barks in her crate at night if the crate is not in your bedroom.  If she can see you, you will all be happier!  (If this is not an option, she does respect a citronella no-bark collar, and your house will smell fresh too!)

     She is coming to you with a solid "sit", a decent "down" and she is housebroken.  She is also coming to you well loved.  Please love her like we have loved her: unconditionally and without exception.  We have loved this girl boldly, and she is accustomed to being kissed, having her nose rubbed, ears scratched, and being told how beautiful she is.  Like most women, she especially loves to sit on the couch and eat cheese while you tell her how beautiful she is....

     Always remember, my phone number is 937-***-****.  If you ever need anything, I am only a phone call away.

     Lastly, CONGRATULATIONS!  You just adopted one hell of an awesome dog!


Monday, December 28, 2015

I will NOT be bought!

This Christmas was so much different than past Christmases.

Starting in November, 2013 we decided to attack our unsecured debt, and we did it with a "gazelle-like" intensity, eventually paying off $35,000 in credit card debt.  I had NO Christmas spirit in 2013 because we were budgeted so tight that in my mind if there were no presents, then there would be no tree, and woosh.... out the window went the spirit.

In 2014 we decided we were tired of buying absolutely nothing and we purchased gifts for our family but didn't do it in excess.  (Or at least I didn't feel like it was excessive...)  We put up a tree, loaded it with gifts, and paid cash for everything.  I was the Queen of Christmas Spirit last year!

This year was a combination of the two previous years.

I knew 2015 was going to be rough.  We were back on our budget in hopes of  knocking out the last $20,000 so we can tackle student loans in 2017.

I kept reflecting on what Christmas truly was this season and just when I would want to buy tons of stuff and be a Disneyland parent/partner/aunt, I would hear a gentle nudge saying:  "I will NOT be bought!"  Every time I prayed, reflected, or meditated I heard:  "I will NOT be bought!"  This was my mantra the entire season, and honestly I LOVED Christmas this year.

Somethings were the same:
- We were able to pay cash for everything!
-  There was no tree to stuff presents under.  (I can't be trusted to act responsible when there is a Christmas tree in my reach....)

But instead of spending on ourselves and measuring the holiday by what we bought:
-  We donated to the Syrian refugees.
-  We purchased 18 chickens for 3 families in Africa.
-  We donated to the victims of the earthquake in Nepal.
-  We were a family's Secret Santa, donating $500 in toys and gifts to a family of 3.

-  We purchased $200 in gift cards to hand out to random folks in Chipotle.
-  We donated to the Salvation Army.
-  Paid for several people's groceries.
-  Bought a criminally cute kid a set of bubbles at the Family Dollar.
-  Pre-loaded all the washers and dryers with quarters at the laundry mat.

The most precious part of the season was the time invested in ourselves and others.
-  We played Uno, Bingo and Phase 10 with our family.

-  Laughed and ate until we could hardly move!
-  The Reluctant Farmer made a Christmas dinner that was to die for, further convincing my father not to drag us to the local truck stop for his version of a traditional Christmas dinner.  (Thank honey, I owe you!)

-  Perhaps the most rare part of the season, was the fact we spent 72 hours TOGETHER!  As a family, just doing nothing except lounging in our pajamas, knitting, reading, coloring and watching Christmas movies.

As I read and reflect on 2015,  I am excited for 2016.
This is going to be our best year yet!  I want more quite time, more family and friends, and less credit card debt.

2016, I'm coming for you!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Seasonal Friendships

I have always believed there are different levels of friendship and most friendships are seasonal.  It seems most people enter your life when you need them the most, but they don't stay for eternity.

I have always been okay with this idea, not finding anything wrong with the fact that people fall out of touch and through no one's fault in particular, they aren't as close as they once were.

What do you do when you don't want the relationship to be seasonal?

My heart is breaking as I realize my relationship with a friend of mine was seasonal when I thought it would be for eternity.  This friend was more like a sister than a friend, and if I have to be honest, I feel like my heart has been ripped out.

Perhaps I was foolish for thinking our relationship was more than seasonal?
Perhaps I am just being immature?
Perhaps this has nothing to do with me?

All I know is there are no more outgoing phone calls, no more returned phone calls, and no more girl talk over dinner.

I keep waiting, hoping this person and I are just going through some growing pains, that perhaps we will recover, that she will tell me if I have done something to offend her.  (I asked...)  So far, nothing.

And perhaps this is just how it was meant to end.
It sure doesn't make it hurt any less....

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas story from a humbled, me....

I am a firm believer that God makes no mistakes, and that is why when I feel like He is at work, I try to listen.  

Tonight, The Reluctant Farmer called me while I was on my way home from work and asked me to pick up a can of chicken for a recipe she was making Christmas day.  I was was really put off by this request because she had already been to the grocery store earlier this morning AND who sends someone to the store on Christmas Eve?  Did she not understand what she was asking me to do?!

Normally, I would have gone to our small town grocery store, but for whatever reason, I decided I would take a back way home and I chose to stop at a Meijer's two towns over.  (Meijer's is a huge grocery/department store that is normally open 24 hours a day, and they are quite popular here in Ohio.)  

I grabbed a few last minute items to complete our Christmas shopping, including the can of chicken and made my way to the checkout line.  At this time it's 5:30 pm, and the store is set to close at 6 pm.  In front of me there was a couple arguing about something, and I was all about ignoring them until the husband looked at me and said:  "You can go in front of us.  She has lost our credit card, again!"  I graciously said thank you and jumped in front of them.  At this point there were 2 other people in front of me, so as I waited for my turn, I continued listening to the couple behind me and I could hear the woman say:  "I know it's here!  Just give me a minute!", as she dug through a purse the size of Montana.  "You make me so nervous!  I could find it if you would just stop pressuring me!"  At this point the gentleman turned his back to me and I read United States Army on the back of his jacket.  I could see him digging through a huge stack of paper and other unorganized chaos.  (We ladies, know the stack... This is the stack of papers that resides in the bottom of our purses.  Receipts, notes, old bills, etc...) when I heard him say:  "Jesus, how much stuff can you fit in this purse?!"  Silently, I thought to myself, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my purse..."  

Then I eyed the grocery cart.  

I couldn't see exactly what was in the cart, but I could make out a turkey, some fruit, several pies, some soda and beer, plus some clothing.  After 10 minutes of them going back and forth over how much stuff was in her purse, and the fact she couldn't find her credit card "again," I could hear Jesus speaking to me.

I called The Reluctant Farmer and did the ol' famous:  "So, I need you to move more money to my checking account and I am not quite sure how much money I am going to need."  Never batting an eye, or asking me if I was in jail, she moved money over to my account, and I spun around to say:  "How about you let me buy whatever you have in your grocery cart."  

They both quickly refused:  "No!  No, thank you!  I mean the offer is very generous, but no."

I then rephrased the question:  "Would you please allow me to buy what you have in your grocery cart?"  

Very adamantly the man says: "No!"

I take a deep breath.  Clearly this man does not realize I don't take "no" for an answer.  I then replied:  "Look, it's 5:30 pm on Christmas Eve.  Clearly, she has misplaced her credit card somewhere in her purse, and from another woman's perspective, I know you could be here for a LONG while if her purse looks anything like my purse!  There has to be a way to get you, and your groceries out of this store, and if you won't let me buy them for you, then how about I pay for them and then you can write me a check for the money that I spend?"  

The woman says:  "That's the problem.  I don't think we actually have the money in our checking account to write you a check, that's why we are putting it on our credit card.  Thank you for the offer though."

I then ask:  "Were you in our military?"

The man states:  "Yes, I was in the Army.  I was deployed and came back a little over a year ago."

I said:  "Alright, let's compromise.  I know what it's like to be proud.  Why don't you put the clothes back, and allow me to purchase the rest of your groceries.  Consider it a thank you for the fact you fought for my freedom."

The man looked at me, thanked me, and left the line with the clothes in his hand.  

I looked at his wife, who was now crying.  She said:  "Thank you so much.  Seriously, you will never know how much your kind gesture means to me.  He came home with a lot of issues, one of them being PTSD.  He means well, but is quick to anger, and I'm sure that card is in my purse, but with him standing there, I just can't find it!"  

We exchanged hugs, commiserated over large purses full of junk, and before I knew it her husband had returned.  He wrapped me in a big "man hug," and with tears streaming down his face he said:  "Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that God blesses you greatly for your kindness."

I simply said "thank you".

What I wanted to say was:  "I want for nothing.  There is nothing I need.  My job is great, my stomach is full, my house is warm, and my family is healthy.  I have been blessed, that's why I am able to help you."

As I walked out of the store, I tipped my face up towards the sky and said:  "Well played God!  Well played!  Here while I am worrying over the measly difficulties of going to the grocery store, there are folks standing before me who are worried about how they are going to eat.  Message received!"  

It took me a minute to reflect on the fact that of all the hundreds of people in Meijer tonight, God put those people right in front of me, and do you know why?!  Because God doesn't make mistakes!  Those folks me and I needed to be reminded about how blessed I truly am.

Merry Christmas friends!  May the wonder and spirit of the season shine upon you and yours this holiday season!  xo