Archive by Author | Norma

The Trouble With Big Extended Families Who Love You!

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Our oldest granddaughter, fifteen year old Lexi, experienced a milestone this past weekend.  She attended her first prom.  It also happened to be her very first date.  All day was spent getting her hair fixed and make-up just right.  Everything was perfect, until her two uncles drove in just in time for pictures.  Of course these weren’t just any Uncle’s, these were the Uncle’s who had told her from the time she was three years old that any boy who desired to date her would have to come through them!  And one of them is a crazy guy, who looks like he belongs on Duck Dynasty and takes his over-protectionism of her to an embarrassing whole new level!  When she saw them head her way she started protesting, telling them to stop, go away, she was going to cry, and worriedly looking down her long drive, hoping beyond hope that her date would be late.  Her protests reached a whole new peak when Crazy Uncle reached into the back seat of his car and pulled out two large hatchets.  He and his brother walked over to where Lexi and her Dad were taking pictures, handed a hatchet to her Dad and got into place beside her.  She was one worried little Miss.  Us women watching the picture-taking, were all a little worried that the tears might actually start flowing and her Prom-perfect makeup would be ruined.  We did our best to assure her, that when she was grown up, these would be her favorite Prom pictures of all times.  It didn’t take near that long.  When she realized they were only giving her a hard time and saw them willingly go in the house before the poor date arrived, she calmed right down and her smile came back.  And even though she doesn’t admit it out loud, I think she kind of likes the picture of her big bad protectors surrounding her in her very first Prom Dress!

 

More Than a Made Bed

I have noticed something that always makes me smile.  Occasionally one of my children spend the night with us.  Jamie is the only one of our children who lives more than thirty miles from us.   When she comes to visit us, she and her family stay in the same room she grew up in.  When Bryan plays in a softball tournament late into the night, instead of driving home dead tired he will spend the night here.   Kyle teaches and coaches in our home town but lives thirty miles away.  When his game gets over late, he will stay here instead of driving home.  And every time, they make the bed.2345  Every single time!   Jamie doesn’t surprise me, because in all honesty, she’s the woman of her house now and she always makes her bed.  But when I see that Bryan and Kyle have made the bed, I do a double take and have to chuckle.  These were my two teenage sons who not so long ago, continually asked me why I went to the trouble of making the beds when they were just going to be messed up again that night.  Now I tell them they don’t have to take the time to do it, but every time they still do!

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the gesture, but it makes me want to analyze this behavior.  Maybe it’s just the age-old thoughts of a parent wondering where did the time go, when did my kids all become adults?  When did they become guests in my home instead of this being home?  When did they change from teenagers who when they occupied those rooms, wouldn’t dream of making their bed every morning, into adults who if they sleep in the bed, they make it before they leave the house?  I didn’t teach them to make their bed.  If their beds were made when they lived at home, I’m the one who did it.  How does a child who wasn’t expected to do a job, become an adult who feels responsible to do it?

It is so easy to remember all the mistakes we made as parents.  We were so young, we became parents at the age of eighteen and nineteen.  The only thing I can say without a doubt we did right was love them.  We were too harsh about some things, we were too lenient about others.  But we always, always loved them.  And I prayed.  My prayer was that God would cover the mistakes we made,  where we failed as parents he would take over.   And somehow with love and prayer, we two inexperienced, unsophisticated teenagers ended up raising six great kids who turned into six great adults.  Adults who are responsible, hard-working, respectful, and loving.   Adults who are awesome parents to their own children.  Adults who make the bed after they have been an overnight guest.  It makes me stop and ponder, it fills me with gratitude, and it makes me smile.

The Grass Always Looks Greener……………..

We have four “barn” kitty’s who live outside in the shed where we store all our grain and hay.  They have a good life, we keep their shots up and they always get a cup or so of Gracie’s milk each day.  But they are “working” cats.  Their job is to keep the mice out of our feed shed and they do an excellent job!  Then I have an inside kitty named Eddie who has the run of the house, is on full feed, sleeps  in front of the fire or any piece of furniture he so desires.  When I do my book work he is either asleep on a pillow on my desk or he is batting at my fingers as I type.  In other words he has a life of ease and the hardest thing he has to do all day is figure out where he wants to sleep this hour!

Sometimes instead of sleeping, he will lay on the window sill or find something that he can be on that will let him see outside.  He will look out the window for hours.  Every now and then he will make a mad dash out the door when we go out side.  But he gets scared and hides until I finally go find him and bring him back in.  Then he is content once again to watch the outside world from the inside.

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I always wonder what he is thinking when I find him like this.  Does he wish he lived outside, does he wish he was a “working” cat instead of the privileged indoor kitty?  Does he not realize that he has it made?  Does he have any idea how cold it is out there?  Does the grass look greener on the other side of the door?  Or is he thinking, “Man I’m glad I’m me instead of one of those poor guys out there who have to work for a living!”

Straw to Snuggle in

With a harsh cold front heading our way, I went through a pile of our supply of clean, yellow straw today.  Gracie and Liddy have a nice, thick pile to sleep on.

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The chicken nests got a new soft, thick layer, because who wants a cold delivery room!

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And finally the bunny crate got a big pile for them to snuggle down into.  I wish I could do more for them , but I hope this tiny bit of effort on my part will help make the cold temperatures a little more bearable for all the my critters.

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Labor-Saving Wood Rack

The weather this weekend has been BEAUTIFUL!!  Sixty degrees or better both yesterday and today.  But the weathermen have all warned us it will be coming to a crashing end soon.  Thursday morning an arctic cold front will usher in highs in the twenty’s and lows in the teens and single digits.  So the next few days will be spent getting things done outside that would be a lot more miserable in the cold.  Today, we cut a load of firewood and we used an extremely handy wood rack that my ingenious husband made.  In fact he made two of them.  He made them out of a wood pallet, 1 1/4″ square tubing and an old cattle panel.  They measure about 4′ by 4′ and are 6 foot tall.  The beauty of it is he can lift them up with the forks on his backhoe or tractor, drive to where we are cutting wood, we load it up, then drive back to where we store the wood.  No more loading wood into a pickup and then having to handle every piece twice taking it out of the pickup to stack it.  When one of the racks is empty, we just grab it with the forks and head out to fill it up.   My only  complaint is that he didn’t think of it thirty years ago!

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The worst part of cutting wood is keeping the saw sharp!

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All full and back at the shop ready to keep us warm through the cold spell, and we only had to handle each piece one time!  Pick it up off the ground, put it on the rack and that’s it!!!  What a time, work and back saver.  No wonder I say Mark is the smartest person I know!

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A Reluctant Goodbye to Fall

I love Fall!  I love August because even in the middle of a heat wave, I can feel summer winding down.  I’m so excited because I know once August is over, we get September!  My spirit just soars with the excitement of what is to come!  The days start getting noticeably shorter and I sense the world and nature is about to change.  I love the colors – the orange pumpkins, the colorful leaves, the ripe milo fields.  I love the cool mornings and longer evenings.  I love the new crisp apples.  I love making chili on the day the first strong cold front hits.  I love curling up in my chair with my bible and a cup of hot tea.  Here are some of the other things I love about the time of year we are getting ready to say goodbye to.

As summer starts to wane, we finally get to harvest and put up all the veggies we lovingly planted, weeded, watered and waited for all summer long

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We love treating our animals with goodies from the garden.  In late September, these noisy geese honk their approval about a snack of watermelon rinds.

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As the garden winds down we open the garden gates and let the critters graze what’s left.  Gracie LOVES bell peppers and the plants!  I don’t let her eat too many at one time for fear it will make her milk taste odd.

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By early Fall the meat turkeys are fully grown and absolutely beautiful.  We ordered a dozen of the Broad-Breasted Bronze and ended up with nine Toms and only three hens, which is a good thing since we grow them for meat.  These were hatched on June 17th and by October they have grown so fast they are ready for the freezer.  I tend to put the day off as long as I can because I enjoy having them around.   I find comfort knowing that even though their life was short, it was so much better and happier than their cousins in the grocery store who were grown on huge, crowded farms.  These guys live in the sunshine and have plenty of room to run and greens to munch on.

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It seems like Fall often brings stunning sunrises and sunsets.  This is one that Mark and I enjoyed while on our morning walk.

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And finally, here is a scene we got to walk by every morning.  This season isn’t nearly long enough!  It wouldn’t bother me if late Summer and Fall lasted all year-long, but then I guess it wouldn’t be very special anymore.  It would just be “everyday” to me and I would long for the green of summer and the white of winter.  God gives all seasons their own beauty and specialness.  I’m just a little partial to this one.

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Chicken Fried Hamburger

 

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Chicken Fried Hamburger

Ingredients:

Ground Beef

Salt/Seasoning

1 Cup Flour

2 Eggs

1/3 cup Milk

15 – 20 Crushed Saltines

Oil for Frying

Form ground beef into firm patties (not too thin, not too fat),  salt and season them with your favorite seasoning.  I’ve used Lawry’s seasoned salt before, this time I used this:

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Wisk together two eggs and  1/3 cup of milk in a bowl.  Crush 15 – 20 saltine crackers and mix together with the cup of flour.  Dip the patties in the egg and then in the crushed saltine/flour mixture

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Fry in heated oil.  With the burner on high, fry one side for about two minutes, then turn it over and fry the other side.  When both sides are nicely browned, put a lid on the pan and turn the temperature down.  Let them cook for 15 – 20 minutes, turning frequently.  When you feel they are getting close to being done you can turn up the heat to crisp up both sides.

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Just to be sure they are done, you can cut one in half and make sure there is no pink in the middle

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Of course what Chicken Fried anything is complete without mashed potatoes, gravy, home canned green beans and frozen corn from your own garden!

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White Gold

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When we decided a little more than a year ago to add a dairy goat to our little farm, I had absolutely no idea how to even go about finding one.  I started out buying books about dairy goats at our local farm store.  I think Mark thought one would be enough, but when you are starting out knowing nothing, I needed all the help I could get!  I decided Nubian was the breed I wanted.  I searched the internet trying to find a breeder close by.  I did find one and started up an email conversation about the possibility of buying a female from her.  I asked her many questions because, again, I had no idea what I was doing.  I think she started worrying I wouldn’t be a very good goat owner because she sent me a message that she didn’t think her goats would be a very good fit for me.  I was about to give up the idea of getting one any time soon, when I walked into the farm store and there on the bulletin board was a picture of a Nubian goat and her 2 month old daughter for sale!  I quickly called the number, praying they were still available.  I was thrilled when I found out they were.  Bless my husbands heart, just as soon as we left the store he drove me the twenty miles to their place.  It was most definitely love at first sight!  I told the lady who owned them I only had one more question.  When she asked what it was, I asked, “Do you have some milk I can taste?”  Because if I didn’t like the taste of the milk there wasn’t any reason to shell out the $360 for the two of them.  She said sure and brought me out a mason jar full of ice-cold milk.  I took it from her, looked at it a minute and said to myself “You can do this, just take a quick drink.”  Imagine my surprise and delight when it was very good.  I could not tell the difference between it and regular milk.  I was sold!  We paid the lady and said we would be back to pick them up in a couple of weeks after we got things ready for them.  And that is how I entered into the wonderful world of goat milking.

Gracie was the mamma’s name and I liked that so we kept her name.  The little girl I named Liddy.  Buying a goat who was already used to being milked was definitely the way to go.  I didn’t have to worry about training her to jump on the stantion or train her that it was OK for this human to be touching her in such an intimate way.   The actual act of milking came easy for me, which was a blessing because I have learned that isn’t always the case.  After about a month I stopped thinking, “I am drinking goats milk” every time I drank a glass of milk.  And slowly one by one, I won over my kids and grandkids and now we all think Gracie’s milk is far superior to cow’s milk both nutritionally and tasting.

Soon, a new aspect of goat ownership came around.  It was time to have Gracie bred again.  Since I didn’t have a Billy, I borrowed a neighbors when I felt Gracie was in the mood for love.  Call it beginners luck, but I was right and romance blossomed almost immediately.  The Billy was returned home and the wait began.   Of course, being a first time owner of a bred goat, I nervously watched for signs that it had “worked.”  There is a line of numbers on the door frame of my milking room where I measured Gracie’s stomach with a tape measure every week to see if she was getting any bigger and she was!  But still I worried, was it because she was pregnant or was she just getting fat?  When she only had about a month to go, I finally decided she really was pregnant and I could stop worrying.  As she got closer though, I started worrying about the coming blessed event.  Would she be able to have them on her own, if she did have trouble would I be able to tell?  I’d read that most goats deliver between 150 and 155 days so I knew we had to be close.  One evening in late May, I went out to shut the door on our chickens and as I walked by Gracie’s stall I shined the light in and stopped dead in my tracks.  My sweet goat who had shown no signs of labor as far as I could tell two hours earlier, was standing in the middle of not one, not two, but three precious little baby goats.  I ran in to tell Mark we had triplets!!

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Of course, just like with any new arrival, calls were made to all the family to tell them of the blessed event!  If we weren’t before, we definitely were hooked now!  There is nothing more precious in all the world than a newborn baby goat!  Especially when you throw human kids in with them!

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The original plan had been to raise and butcher the youngsters for meat, but we hadn’t had Gracie and Liddy very long when we realized that was not going to happen.  Goats are extremely tame, friendly, and people loving animals.  They truly are pets.  If we sit down out in the yard, they will come up and nose their way under our hands so we will pet them.  They became a part of our family just like a dog or cat.

I didn’t milk Gracie at all the first month.  At four weeks when the babies were eating hay and grass well, we gave two of them to a nice family who would give them a good home.  I let the third baby nurse through the day, then kept them apart at night and I milked Gracie in the morning.  At two months, we took the third one to the Amish Auction and got $57 out of her.  At that point Gracie was giving 2 quarts of milk in the morning and 2 quarts at night.  Now,  four months later she is giving half of that, but that is still a half-gallon of milk a day.  More than enough for us and plenty for my kids also.  Having goats has definitely added a new and fun dimension to our little farm but it has also added one more food item that I would have a hard time eating from a grocery store.  Just like fresh picked tomatoes vs grocery store tomatoes, Gracie’s milk is so fresh and sweet and chock full of nutrition that regular grocery store milk doesn’t have.  In fact our family calls it “White Gold!”

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Reaping the Rewards

The other day I was touched to see a Facebook post where a daughter congratulated her Mom and Dad on their 38th anniversary.  She said she knew “it hasn’t always been easy, but I sure am glad they stuck it out!”  I stopped to ponder the deep meaning in her sweet message. Wedding-Rings-Trends-for-2012-1348 Her Dad was a good friend of Mark’s and they got married just a year after we did.  We were witness to some of the struggles their young marriage went through.  In all honesty, they were not just  run-of-the mill issues all relationships have.  Most marriages would have been over.  Most wives would have said “I’m done,” on more than one occasion.  But she didn’t.  She stayed with her husband through it all and her commitment to her vows paid off.  She saw her husband grow up and change into a good husband and father to their four children.  And now, she is living the rewards.  She doesn’t go home to an empty house, she goes home to someone who loves her.  She doesn’t eat alone, she gets to eat and visit with someone she has history with, someone who has walked with her for 38+ years.  As old age doesn’t seem all that far away, she gets to feel the warmth of her husband’s arm around her as she sleeps.   When her kids come home, they get to come home to both Mom and Dad together.  Their family is intact.  What a beautiful thing.

I know blog posts make it seem like everything is rosy and always has been in the author’s life.  We write about the good things in our lives.  But of course the truth is, no life is struggle free.  No marriage is pain-free.  Mark and I have most definitely had our issues over the years.  But the “D” word never entered our minds.  I can’t sit here and claim that it was because we were special.  The fact of the matter is, I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do if I would have left Mark.  When you have six children and your only job is keeping books for your husband’s business, it tends to keep you where you are at, thank goodness!

If a young couple sticks it out, I fully believe they will be richly rewarded.  Once the kids are raised and it’s just the two of you, I feel God blesses you with a life that feels like an ongoing second honeymoon.  Both of us have grown over the years, we have both learned what is important and what isn’t.  We are just naturally wiser from the years of living we have behind us.  We have realized the things that used to drive us nuts about each other weren’t worth giving a second thought about.  In fact more times than not, I’ve seen that it was me and my behavior that caused the issue.  Being older, and especially the fact that Mark has a serious health issue with his heart, makes me realize that we won’t always have each other.  One of us will more than likely lose the other and have to learn to live without the other.  That knowledge just makes everyday that much sweeter.  I don’t take a single day for granted.   I love and appreciate Mark more everyday.

I think that is why the girl’s words touched me so.  I know it wasn’t  easy for her parents, her Mom especially.  But I know how happy they are today.  I know her Mom’s decision to stick it out has paid off BIG time.  Now she gets to live the result of the commitment she made  years earlier.  “For better or for worse” are not just words, they are a promise.  There will be good times, there will be bad times.  I’m just so glad that Mark and I can be counted among the couples who managed to struggle, fight, pray our way through the bad times and now we are living the good times.  I hope and pray the same for my children and all young couples, that they can understand the bad times are only temporary, but the rewards for sticking it out will last a lifetime.