Archive by Author | Norma

Raising Pork With Goats Milk

 

 

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Miss Fancy, She is a yearling and only been in the rotation for about three weeks.  She isn’t entirely sure about this milking business, but she’s getting there!

 

I am milking thirteen goats each morning.  That’s what happens when you have goats and they have babies every year and you fall in love with them and have a hard time selling any!  My husband has me completely spoiled and has made everything so handy and easy for me it only takes me about 45 minutes from opening the milk barn door, to clean-up and done.  We get a little over 4 gallons of milk each milking.  After using it myself, selling a couple gallons a week, keeping my kids and our hired hand out at the shop supplied with milk, I still have A LOT left!  What to do, what to do?  Fatten a couple pigs with it of course!

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Boy do they love it!  It’s hard to pour it into their trough because they try to drink it out of the bucket while you are pouring it!   They are about 2 months old right now and other than milk, Mark also feeds them a gallon coffee can full of soaked mix grain, one in the morning and one at night.  We did this last year also and everyone comments how good our pork was.  I don’t know if feeding them milk had anything to do with it or not, I know talking to people and reading, this is what the old-timers did with their excess milk and what was good enough for them is good enough for me!

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Blowing bubbles in milk is fun!

Dad’s Hay Buggy

Since our little “farm” only consists of a few acres, we have to get all of the hay for our animals from somewhere else.  Luckily, Mark has a cousin who farms a lot of acres of alfalfa and we have been able to purchase it from him.  It didn’t take long for us to realize for small hobby farmers like us, square bales are much more practical than the big round bales, but finding square bales is not an easy task these days.  Mark found a good deal on a square baler, bought it and fixed it up so now we are able to square bale what we need.  But then, of course, those bales have to be hauled off the field, not an easy task at 75 pounds each.  We used a truck the first several years, depending on the muscles of assorted sons, son-in-laws and grandsons.  Then Mark found another bargain on a bale-wagon and we were all set to be square-bale baling and hauling machines!

Last summer, on the first cutting of alfalfa, our son-in-law Shane, son Kyle and a couple of our grandsons were helping us haul the bales on the back of our “new” buggy when Shane told Mark that in the field across the road amongst a bunch of weeds was an old hay-buggy.  Mark had never noticed it and wasn’t really all that interested because he’d already found one and sure didn’t need another one.  Several months passed, fall came and went and we were going to a pasture close to the same alfalfa field to cut firewood.  Mark headed there first to start cutting and I was soon going to follow to help him load it.  Not long after he’d left, I received a phone call from an absolutely incredulous Mark on the other end.  He asked me if I remembered Shane saying there was an old hay buggy along the road in the middle of high weeds last summer. I said, Yeah, I remembered. You are never going to believe this he said, but with all the weeds dead and gone, he could see it and it looked very familiar so he stopped and looked it over and he excitedly explained “This hay-buggy is the one my Dad built from scratch when I was a kid!  I always wondered what happened to it!”   As a young teenager, Mark had hauled many bales on it, but most importantly, Mark’s Dad had been diagnosed with cancer when Mark was only 13 or so and he died when he was 17.  So finding this hay wagon and being able to see how industrious his Dad was building something like this from virtually nothing but scraps was amazing and very sentimental for Mark.  He said he sure wished his late, older brother Walt was still here because he would have loved seeing it.  In fact, he said, Walt would have been the only other person on earth who would really have understood and been as excited as him about finding it.

The farmer who’s yard the buggy was in, decided to clean up all the old equipment he had lying around.  Mark just happened to see the buggy loaded on the guy’s truck a couple weeks ago.  He asked him what he would take for it.  The price seemed a little high for what it was, but how do you put a price on such a sentimental thing?  We decided it would make a perfect “playground” for baby goats, so we set it under a Mulberry tree and fed the Momma goats close to it.  It wasn’t long before one by one they tried walking up the spout and before long a few were exploring the floor of it.  Now what could be better than adorable baby goats playing on a hay-buggy built by your Dad fifty years earlier?  I have to admit, I wondered to myself what Mark’s Dad would have thought if someone would have told him that fifty years from now, your son and daughter-in-law are going to find this, haul it to their place and turn it into a baby goat playground!  I don’t know if he would have smiled or shook his head and wondered what on earth the world is going to turn into!  This spring, I have another plan for it.  I’m going to raise the spout to keep the baby goats off and try my hand at straw-bale gardening on top of it.  But for now, here is pictures of when Mark first spotted it and of the baby goats enjoying it today.

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Cindy

Just a couple of days after writing about how turning 60 made me stop and ponder how well I am living life, loving, cherishing family, and vowing to do better, something happened that reinforced that lesson.  Two weeks ago today, I got the news that my life-time friend Cindy had been in a horrible wreck.  She and her husband Danny were on their way to Wichita to see Cindy’s dad who was in the hospital due to by-pass complications.  The car going the opposite direction crossed the center line and hit her head-on.  The other driver was pronounced dead at the hospital they were taken to.  Cindy’s husband who was the passenger was left with minor injuries but Cindy was very critically injured.  Her heart stopped at the small town hospital as they were waiting for the ambulance to transfer her to Wichita, but they were able to revive her.  It stopped two more times in the ambulance, but again, thankfully, they were able to get it going.  Once in Wichita, in the very hospital her Dad was a patient in, it stopped, she was revived, only to have it stop again.  The attending doctor decided there was something wrong and they had to find out.  She was opened up right there in the emergency room and a quarter size hole was discovered in her heart.  All other injuries were forgotten as they repaired this devastating injury.  Her cousin messaged me they were not expecting her to make the night and my heart broke in two.  But my upbeat, positive, joyful friend proved them wrong!  She did make it through the night, but the family was warned she was not and would not be out of the woods for a very long time.

All they were able to do the first few days was keep her alive and work to stabilize her.  It was almost a week before they could safely do a cat scan to see the extent of her other injuries.  Thankfully they found she had no internal active bleeding but they did find eight broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a broken hip, a broken femur and a huge hematoma in her pelvis.  To this day, she has still not been  stable enough to have the surgery to repair any of the broken bones.  When they back off the sedation some, she will respond by squeezing their hands, wiggling her toes and trying to open her eyes.  The doctor told them,  this early in, her being able to understand and respond at all is a positive sign and literally miraculous in his eyes due to the amount of blood loss she suffered and her heart stopping five times.  Her kidneys have been a concern and she now has dialysis several days a week to help them out.  She started running a fever and it was found she had an infection in her lungs so she was given antibiotics.  Controlling her blood pressure has been an ongoing battle.  Yesterday her family, who understandably were getting scared and losing hope, had a nurse tell them she felt very good about the progress Cindy has made and feels very hopeful about her prognosis!  I know they, and all of us who love her cling to and rejoice with each morsel of good news and progress.  The entire rural area where we live is holding her and her family up in prayer.  She is never far from any of our minds.  I fully, in my heart expect her to make a full recovery.  I told her family I can’t wait till she wakes up because I want to ask her if she saw heaven.  Having died and come back five times in one day, I think there is a distinct possibility she has an amazing story to tell!

In the meantime, it has made me again think about the way I live my life, crossing to do lists off one by one each day.  I know those things are important, I have to continue to do the day-to-day chores that life consist of.  If I didn’t, we would live in chaos, but I think it is time to add reconnecting with people I care about to that list.  I have enjoyed seeing friends occasionally, most times just in passing.  Visits consist of small-talk, rarely, if ever, would I take the time to really find out what was going on in their life.  Many of my old school friends, though I get to see pictures of their children and grandchildren on Facebook, do I know how many children they have, their names, what they do, where they work.   I find it very sad how superficial I allowed my knowledge of my friends lives be.  I allowed this to happen even though I still live in the same county, as do many of my once close friends, that we went to school in.  And the population of said county is only around 5000 people.  It isn’t like we are in a huge metropolis that would have made it near impossible to stay in better touch.  After each class reunion, those of us who live close always spoke of how we need to get together more often, but we never did.  Again, as I said in my last post, I plan to remedy this.  I want to get in touch with each one of them and really listen and ask questions and find out the things that are important to them and let them know how very much each one of them mean to me.  I want to make that “we need to get together” a reality.  I daydream of us doing it with Cindy by our side, but I think I will get started early, so we can all plan a wonderful welcome home for her in the future.  Keep fighting Cindy!  Get well!  So many people love you and are praying for you and we have a lot of catching up to do girl!!!!

cindy

 

Sixty???

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Something happened a couple of months ago that I am still wondering how on earth it happened.  It has left me pondering many things and contemplating the future like nothing else ever has.  What is this momentous happening?  I turned Sixty years old.  SIXTY!!!!!!  That seems absolutely impossible.  I still feel like a kid!  How can I possibly be 6-0 years old???? But no matter how many times I subtract 1956 from 2016, I still come up with 60.  The calendar is not wrong.

The only other birthday that has ever rocked my world even a bit was Twenty.  For some odd reason it bothered me when I realized I was no longer a teenager.  Thirty didn’t bother me, neither did Forty or Fifty.  But there is something about Sixty that has really gotten my attention!  I think it was when I realized Sixty is just ten years from Seventy and knowing how fast ten years goes by.  I may not consider myself a senior citizen yet, but I am fast approaching it.  Maybe it’s that I’ve had little hints my body is starting to not work quite as well as it did in years gone by.  Nothing big, small things, like a knee that doesn’t like going up steps, feet that REALLY hurt at the end of everyday, the extra effort and thought it takes to climb into the bed of a pickup or a big truck, and feeling just a touch of fear and taking a moment to get a good hold on the handrail before I start down our basement steps.

Whatever it is, it has made me think and wonder.  Wonder about the future.  What does it hold?  What will I face in the next couple decades?  Will I lose Mark?  Losing their spouse is something many people face as they enter their later years.  We have so much fun right now, taking care of our “little farm” and raising our own food.  But as knees and backs and hearts age more, will we still be able to keep doing the things we like to do?  Whenever we struggle to do something, but succeed in getting it done we often say to the other one, someday I won’t be able to do that, but today wasn’t that day!

Honestly though, it has made me wonder even more about the past.  Have I cherished life enough?  Have I taken the time to do what is important?  Have I left kindness and compassion in my wake or have I been too preoccupied in my own little world to notice others struggles?  Do my kids and grandkids know just how very much I love them and that they are the biggest blessing God could have ever given me?  And speaking of God, am I a disappointment to Him?  Have I done anything that even matters in the sight of eternity?  What more should I do?  How much time have I wasted on things that do not matter?

I guess it definitely is not a bad thing to have a birthday come around that makes me stop and count my days, makes me want to make the most of the ones I have left, makes me think about how I am living my life and want to correct whatever I am doing wrong.  Now I need to get past the pondering and get to the doing!  Someday I may not be able to do the things I still want and need to do, but today is not that day!

You Did A Good Job Honey

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My mother is an astonishing 102 years and 8 months old.  Five years ago she still drove herself to church and to the grocery store.  Just two years and two months ago she lived by herself.  She fought fiercely to stay in her home and to keep her independence but her eyesight gave out and we finally convinced her the time had come to move in with my sister Carolyn.  A new environment combined with very poor eyesight made her much more vulnerable and fearful.  She wasn’t as sure of herself and became much more dependent on those around her.  Just a few months after she was in her new home, she came down with a horrendous case of shingles.  She had problems with her false teeth rubbing her gums sore.  Her and Carolyn were involved in a minor collision that could have been much worse.  Mother was checked over at the hospital and it was decided she had a hairline fracture in one of her vertebrae so she was in a neck brace for several weeks.  This summer, she came down with a case of pneumonia but my sister, being a retired RN caught it immediately and after several weeks in a hospital and an after-acute care facility, she was given a fairly clean bill of health.  All of these things have taken their toll on this once amazingly independent woman and her quality of life is now pretty much nonexistent.  She receives the most wonderful care anyone could ever have.  Many times I have told people, my sister Carolyn does not take care of mother, she dotes on her!  But Mother is so blind now, not only does she never wear her glasses, she never opens her eyes.  The cruel arm of dementia is rapidly taking its toll.  When I see pictures of her from just a year ago, it takes my breath away to still see the light in her eyes compared to the shell of a person she now is.  Conversation with her is pretty much non-existent.  The one phrase she does hone in on is “I love you.”  When someone says I love you to her you are pretty much guaranteed to hear her say “I love you too.”

 

Poignant moments you remember forever don’t seem like anything at the time.  It is later when you realize a certain memory will be with you forever.  I had one of those moments with mother this summer, before the pneumonia weakened her and dementia increased.  Carolyn and her husband wanted to go to their granddaughter’s sweet 16 party and would be gone till late in the evening.  So Mark and I went to stay with mother so they could go.  I had never helped or been around when Carolyn got mother ready for bed so Carolyn had written me out a list of what to do.  When it was time to get mother settled into bed we went into the bathroom to go through her nightly routine.  As we went through the list mother started getting fairly agitated and fearful acting.  When we came to one particular part of her personal hygiene routine, she firmly cried out “NO!  We don’t do that!”  A dear friend who had gone through this with her mother, told me one of the most important things we can do for an elderly parent is protect their dignity  when they no longer can. Her words rushed back to me and I said, “Mother, you know what?  I don’t have any idea what I am doing.  I need you to tell me what you want me to do.  I will only do what you tell me to and I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do.”  She immediately perked up and said, “Alright!” and proceeded to give me instructions.  We brushed her false teeth and she brushed the few remaining ones she has.  We washed off her face and applied face cream.  We washed her hands and rubbed them with lotion.  We went into the bedroom, got her undressed and got her jammies on.  I put eye drops in her eyes and gave her the very few pills she took before bed.  We got her in bed and all tucked in.  I knelt beside her and we said her prayers.  It struck me how reversed the rolls were, it used to be her kneeling beside my bed, teaching me to pray.  When we got all done, I told her I loved her and she said I love you too.  Then she reached her hand up and cupped my cheek.  She smiled and said, “You did a good job honey!”  I said, “Well, thank you!”  I thought, “How Sweet” and fought a few tears as I went back to the living room to sit down by Mark for the rest of the evening.

 

Now, after several months have stolen more and more, in fact everything from her, this small exchange is burned into my mind and I know it will become even more precious to me with every passing day.  I have had a few small conversations with her since, but this is the only and last one I remember.   I have also come to realize what took place.  Anytime I helped with her care, she became extremely agitated.  I could tell she didn’t like me helping her.  I thought it was just because I was different from her usual caregivers, but I don’t believe that was the only reason.  She looked at me different, I’m almost two decades younger than my older sisters, who are both retired registered nurses.  She accepted them and my older brother as her caregivers, but she didn’t like it when I tried to put myself in that role.  That night, at the moment I told her I didn’t know what I was doing and I needed her to tell me what she wanted me to do, I took myself out of the caregiver position and became her little girl again.  And in return she became my Momma once again.  The feel of her soft hand on my cheek and her sweet chuckle as she told me what a good job I did – Sigh – Words cannot even begin to express how precious that moment has become and  will always be to me.  It is a memory I will have as all the others, the ones of how much time has taken away from her, will fade completely away.  I am so thankful for this precious moment.  What a gift I’ve been given.

Mrs. Noble

I was raised in what some would think a very sheltered way.  Born in the 1950’s to parents well into their forties, with siblings decades older than myself, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of things other kids were.  I remember once, after having moved across the state on my ninth birthday,  my mother and I were going for a walk with cousins and they said a word I had never heard before.  Thankfully, I waited till my mother and I were alone before asking what that four letter word that started with an F was.  I say thankfully, because my cousin, who soon became my very best friend, would have never let me live it down if she would have heard I did not know the common word for passing gas!

I have to say though, bad language was  not a common thing in those days in my small town.  I don’t remember much of it anyway.  But as I entered my older teenage years, I was around more and more people from surrounding towns and heard quite a bit more colorful language, and of course started using some of it myself.  One day in my Senior year, in composition class taught by one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Noble was trying to get us to understand how to put emotion into our writing.  She said, “Think about when you are sound asleep, warm and toasty in your bed, and your Mom comes in and switches on the light and says, “It’s time to get up!”  I turned to one of my friends in what I thought was a quiet voice and said “Oh Man, that p _ _ _es me off when she does that!”  Mrs. Noble, immediately and vehemently demanded, “Who said that? Beth! (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) Out in the hall!”  I knew I couldn’t let “Beth” take what I had coming, so I said “It was me”  Mrs. Noble just looked at me for what seemed like forever, then quietly said, “Norma, out in the hall.”  Up and out I went, standing by the door, waiting for I wasn’t sure what.  After about 10 minutes, Mrs Noble came out and I steeled myself for the lecture I knew was coming.  She didn’t yell, she didn’t lecture, she just quietly said, “Norma, I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I am in you.  I would have expected that out of “Beth” but never out of you.  I think of you as a lady and it just really hurt to hear that kind of language come out of your mouth.”  I don’t remember how I responded or what happened next but I can tell you her words had a profound effect on me.  I have never forgotten them.  I’m not going to say another coarse word was never uttered from my mouth, but if one ever did, I remembered Mrs. Noble’s words and quickly felt ashamed of myself.

I am so very grateful in this day of seven cuss words in every sentence for the lesson she taught me.  When ever my husband is around a woman who has horrible language he will comment, “I sure am glad my wife doesn’t talk like that.”  I always tell him, “You have not only my parents, but Mrs. Noble to thank for that!”  And Mrs. Noble, if you happen to read this, I like to think your few short sentences that day are still changing lives, because I did my best to teach my children to watch their language and I know they are doing their best to teach theirs the same thing.  I know this is an extremely old-fashioned and some would think fuddy-duddy post.  But in this school-year beginning, I just wanted to thank a teacher who I feel made a difference in my life and remind all the teachers out there, how much of a role they can play in their young students lives.  More than you’d ever imagine!

Homemade Ornament Blessings

Was not expecting this.  Just a cold icy end to Thanksgiving weekend.  A good day to put up the tree with Christmas music playing in the background.  Just like dozens of years before.  Where once it was accompanied by tons (seemed like tons) of children, helping, laughing, fighting,  it is now peaceful and quiet.  Funny, that does not bother me.  All my children and grandchildren live fairly close and I see them often and talk to at least one  of them everyday.   I am never lonely or miss my children, they are still a huge part of our lives.  Actually, the biggest part of our lives.

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So why are these tears falling down my cheeks?  As I strategically place each ornament on the branches, just like in years past, my favorite ones, the homemade ones, receive the places of honor, front and center.  They are the ones made of construction paper and yarn, popscicle sticks and glue.  A school picture adorns the front and “To Mom and Dad” or “MaMa and PaPa” is written on the back.  They are priceless to me, probably some of the most precious things I own.  They take me back in time like nothing else.  It isn’t the pictures of my children, the ones twenty-five years plus that get to me the most.  It is the ones of my oldest grandchildren, Lexi, Brett, Kyson and Bryce.  Seeing the pictures of them when they were two or three years old, I pause and realize I now have strong hints of the adults they will become. 20151129_132957 They are such sweet, good kids.   That cute little girl is now less than a year away from the age I was when I got married.  The other night she curled up to PaPa on the couch and had a heart to heart with him about boys and life and later told her Mom, “PaPa gives good advice.”  The three boys, who range in age from almost 16 to just turning 13, have been best friends all their life.  Now they are way taller then me and their deep voices startle me when they speak.  All three of them are here in an instant if Grandma calls and says we need help.  They have cleaned out the chicken house and goat barns for us, helped mulch the gardens, hauled bales and bales of hay, cleaned the shop, and helped put brakes on semi-trucks.  I don’t know what we would have done without their help butchering chickens, turkeys and rabbits this past year.  They are all great kids, going through the usual ups and downs of teenager-hood, but I know, just like the toothless grins smiling at me from the decades old ornaments, these kids will make it to adulthood with strong character, strong faith and a deep love and appreciation for the blessing God gave them with this big extended family.  And I love them, and I’m grateful, and I’m a little sad that maybe I haven’t appreciated it enough.  I make a vow that I will start right now, even as I know life will once again take over and get in the way, and I will make the same vow a year from now.  But, I know it’s OK and I am overwhelmed with the feeling of being blessed.  And I continue to put ornaments on the tree, and I smile, and another tear slips down my cheek.